How do Digital Cameras Work?

Ever wondered how those magical little boxes we call cameras actually work? In the following short and humorous overview, British TV personality James May gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of digital cameras:

On a basic level, digital cameras work much like their film predecessors—light is focused through a lens and controlled by a shutter and aperture, except photosensitive film is replaced by a light-sensitive sensor chip that records all the data digitally and very quickly.

“While the microprocessor revolution started to transform many parts of our lives from the 1970s onward, the digital camera was a relatively late invention, arriving after the video camera, the mobile phone, the laptop computer. This was because the technology that lies at the heart of it—the sensor chip—is unbelievably complicated.”

The sensor is covered with tiny light-sensitive cells (or pixels); each measures the amount of light that falls on it. As technology has advanced, the number of cells on each sensor has increased, which has given us cameras that create high-resolution images. While early digital cameras offered only a single megapixel of resolution, today we’re commonly seeing 16 and 20 MP consumer models.

digital camera megapixels

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