Point and “Shoot”?

Point and Shoot cameras are quite famous with occasional ‘shooters’. I was wondering about the expression of ‘shooting’ a photograph or video. When and how did this term come to be used in photography and cinematography?

Here are some really old cameras that were actually shaped like a gun. This might have started the trend of ‘shooting’ an image.


Thompsons Camera

(Thompsons revolver shaped camera)

Thompson’s Revolver camera were manufactured by A Briois, Paris, sometime in the middle of 19th century. The design was made by one Mr Thompson and is said to have been inspired from Colt revolver from that time period. The above photograph is from the camera that was made in 1862.

True to its name, the Revolver Camera looks very similar to an overblown revolver. The large brass cylinder that formed the most of the body of the camera held a circular glass plate. After each exposure the back of this cylinder was rotated through ninety degrees. Four successive ‘shots’ could be taken with this revolver camera. After the four shots, the circular glass plate had to be reloaded. Though the camera was not a commercial success, it does suggest how the term ‘shooting’ might have started evolving.


Kilburn Gun Camera

(Advertisement of Kilburn Gun Camera)

Kilburn gun camera was invented by Mr BW Kilburn to capture 4×5 pictures among the White Mountains.  The front of the camera was designed in a way so that the bellows could be detached from it very easily. The wooden stock could also be detached for ease of transportation. The camera captured photographs at 1/700 sec shutter speed. The problem with this camera was the weight which I am not sure how Mr. Kilburn managed in his treks. Secondly, there was no viewfinder. Once the photography plate (the negative) was in place, the photographer (or the shooter in this case), had no idea of the composition in front.


There were many more photography cameras that were built to look like guns. For those of you interested in such cameras, try searching for these two models on the internet-

  • Zenit Photosniper
  • Sands and Hunter gun camera

I have not mentioned about various other avatars of this concept. If you are interested in experimenting with something similar then all is not lost. There are gun like attachments available for DSLRs too, the most famous being the Tactical Camera Long Range Assault Stock which attached to the Nikon D200 body.



Fusil de Marey

(Fusil chronograph)

Invented by scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, the rifle shaped camera was first revealed back in 1882. It was made by the scientist to capture images of birds in flight, and it acquired 12 images in a second, each exposed for 1/720th of a second. That is 12 fps! The camera was made to do scientific research in the way birds flapped their wings during flight.

The camera was called chronograph and it was actually the first camera to record motion. The total capacity of the camera was for 25 frames, which was made possible by creating 25 light-proof compartments, each holding one frame.

The chronograph was made to ‘shoot’ the birds in flight. That my friends is where the term shooting came to be used for capturing motion pictures too. The camera was light in weight and could be carried around. The way it was used may well have been the first documented imaging of birds in flight and that too while using the panning technique.


Fusil chronograph image – by David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons / GFDLCC BY-SA 2.0 FR / CC BY-SA 3.0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s