The World’s First Handheld Movie Camera Was Shaped Like a Gun

By Jamie Condliffe on at

You may have expected the first ever portable motion picture camera to be housed in some form of stuffy box — but in fact it was shaped like a rifle, which lends a new accuracy to the idea of shooting some film.

Invented by scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, the Fusil Photographique — that means photographic rifle if your French isn't so hot — was first revealed back in 1882. It was made to capture images of birds in flight, and it acquired 12 images in a second, each exposed for 1/720th of a second.

The length of the gun's barrel was adjusted to change focus, before it was — quite literally — aimed at animals to shoot 12 images. Interestingly, because this device was light enough to carry by hand, Marey was able to track his subject as it moved. In a way, then, the scientists accidentally invented the concept of panning. [The History of The Discovery of Cinematography via DIY Photography via Peta Pixel]