All photography was originally monochrome, or black-and-white. Even after color film was readily available, black-and-white photography continued to dominate for decades, due to its lower cost and its "classic" photographic look. The tones and contrast between light and dark areas define black-and-white photography. It is important to note that monochromatic pictures are not necessarily composed of pure blacks, whites, and intermediate shades of gray, but can involve shades of one particular hue depending on the process. The cyanotype process, for example, produces an image composed of blue tones. The albumen print process, first used more than 150 years ago, produces brownish tones.
Many photographers continue to produce some monochrome images, sometimes because of the established archival permanence of well-processed silver-halide-based materials. Some full-color digital images are processed using a variety of techniques to create black-and-white results, and some manufacturers produce digital cameras that exclusively shoot monochrome. Monochrome printing or electronic display can be used to salvage certain photographs taken in color which are unsatisfactory in their original form; sometimes when presented as black-and-white or single-color-toned images they are found to be more effective. Although color photography has long predominated, monochrome images are still produced, mostly for artistic reasons. Almost all digital cameras have an option to shoot in monochrome, and almost all image editing software can combine or selectively discard RGB color channels to produce a monochrome image from one shot in color.
In 1981, Sony unveiled the first consumer camera to use a charge-coupled device for imaging, eliminating the need for film: the Sony Mavica. While the Mavica saved images to disk, the images were displayed on television, and the camera was not fully digital. In 1991, Kodak unveiled the DCS 100, the first commercially available digital single lens reflex camera. Although its high cost precluded uses other than photojournalism and professional photography, commercial digital photography was born.
Digital imaging uses an electronic image sensor to record the image as a set of electronic data rather than as chemical changes on film. An important difference between digital and chemical photography is that chemical photography resists photo manipulation because it involves film and photographic paper, while digital imaging is a highly manipulative medium. This difference allows for a degree of image post-processing that is comparatively difficult in film-based photography and permits different communicative potentials and applications.
Digital photography dominates the 21st century. More than 99% of photographs taken around the world are through digital cameras, increasingly through smartphones.