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

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]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter