There's no denying that the camera is one of the most important advances in imaging. As pointed out by painter and art blogger Jim Lane in 1999, along with paper and oil paints, the camera changed art forever (with the camera obscura well before the invention of film) by teaching us perspective and creating the illusion of depth in two dimensions.
But, have you ever considered the camera as art itself? Like the automobile, it is a beautiful technology with an evolution that reflects more than functional advancements. Over time, camera materials, colors and feels changed along fashion and aesthetic lines not only to make cameras more capable, but to match contemporary design trends. Check out this link that shows the evolution of Nikon alone – and other brands like Canon, Sony, Minolta etc. evolved similarly, each both following and leading to the beauty of photo technology in its own way.
As an accidental camera collector (I didn't mean to start collecting cameras; it just kinda happened) as well as a shooter, I have cameras ranging from the rudimentary models of the late 19th century (my collection includes one of the first commercially available cameras) to the sleek, high-performance DSLRs we use today. Each has a story about who we were and who we are, not just as photographers and snap shooters, but as cultures and societies. To go with my displayed cameras, I shot this macro image of an early 1920s folding Kodak. This camera could never be created today, yet it has an elegance that modern cameras lack. Its brass, leather and steel remind us that we didn't always have plastic and aluminum (for better and worse).
It reminds us that while technology and how we express beauty with design and imaging change, beauty itself endures.