Circular snapshots from the Kodak 1
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Circular snapshots from the Kodak 1

The first consumer point-and-shoots didn't have art effect modes or face detection smile-shutters. They looked like the Kodak 1 pictured above, a leather-encased box with a key to wind the film, shutter release and not much else. Introduced to the public in 1888, each Kodak 1 contained a roll of film with 100 exposures. Once they'd all been used, the owner sent the entire camera to Kodak for processing and re-loading. Images came back as 65mm round negatives, partially in order to hide distortion at the corners of the images. 

The UK's National Media Museum owns a collection of prints from these first consumer 'compacts.' Taking a look through a set of the images is an interesting study in what was deemed photo-worthy at the time. Rather than the stiff portraits that earlier cameras demanded with their long exposure times, these snapshots offer a glimpse into a slightly more relaxed everyday existence at the dawn of popular photography. Click through the slideshow to see some of our favorites, and check out the full set of images on the National Media Musem's Flickr.