StrutType co-founder Christine Summers with her bird, Elvis

Launching today on iPhone and iPad, StrutType co-founder Christine Summers immediately corrected me when I labeled her product “Instagram filters inspired by the late 1800s.”

“This is not a camera app,” says Summers. “This is photography.”

StrutType takes the concept of Instagram and Hipstamatic, inspired by vintage Lomography and Polaroid cameras, and rewinds 100 years from there, duplicating the process of the Strut folding camera.

As Summers explains, breathless with delight, when the Strut folding camera arrived at the end of the 19th century, it became the first personal camera. Previously, family photography took place in a portrait studio where images had to be printed in a wet process. StrutType mimics the drop plate camera that used a dry chemical process to develop photos, making portability possible.

“Can you imagine? People only had portraits and then finally, landscapes,” says Summers.

The team spent seven months creating StrutType. Summers raided antique shops and her own family photos to mine for details for the app. Ever found an old photo of your great grandparents that looks like someone spilled tea on it? Summers says it’s called “foxing” and she replicated it in StrutType. Aged photos often have a funny smell, which inspired Summers to include a texture called “mildew.”

There are a total of 20 StrutType filters, including black & white, gray, sepia, greens, and cyans combined with period-inspired canvases, textures, watermarking, vignettes, light-leak effects and frames. Similar to Hipstamatic, the image develops in layers and the app costs $1.99.

When I asked Summers whether she thought its $1.99 price could hurt the bootstrapped startup’s chances — considering Hipstamatic isn’t doing well, and the free Instagram dominates the market — she scoffed, saying the introductory price is a bargain and may only be available for a limited time.

If Summers’s meticulous research pays off, StrutType can teach us something about revolutionary, forgotten technology. At the very least, it’ll have an instant audience with fans of the Edwardian era-set series Downton Abbey.