How a Camera Lens Works (Video Tutorial)

When out on location or engrossed in the studio, even the most dedicated photographers rarely think about the functions of their cameras as they snap the machine’s shutter. But have you ever wondered how a camera is able to capture and record its surroundings so precisely? The diagrams and illustrations in this informational video provide concise answers capable of satiating any image maker’s curiosity:

The purpose of the camera’s lens is not to capture an image. Rather, the lens serves as a means of harnessing light into a clear and condensed point. The convex glass at the front of a lens causes light to refract inward rather than travel forward in parallel lines. At a certain distance, the light rays converge at a single point and create an image on the opposite side of the lens. Due to the refraction of light, the image produced appears upside down onto whatever surface it’s projected onto. If you’ve ever looked into a lens separated from a camera, you may have noticed this phenomenon yourself.

lens refraction

However, the insides of our lenses are much more complicated than housing for a single sheet of glass. Variations in differing light rays and wavelengths cause issues such as spherical and chromatic aberration, which distort the image and prevent the camera from getting a crisp shot.

The solution to these problems is simple enough—by supplementing convex lenses with concave lenses, it’s possible to reduce color bleeding and further centralize an image’s focal point. To create the best images possible, a series of convex and concave lenses are spaced inside of a single camera lens. Each piece of glass is responsible for correcting individual distortion issues. When we adjust the focus on the outside rim of a camera lens, we are actually moving a complex series of tiny singular lenses into the perfect position to clearly capture a subject.

It’s easy for photographers to appreciate and see beauty in the people and places that they encounter, yet the beauty that rests inside of their technology often goes unnoticed. The next time you grab your camera for a shoot, take a moment to consider and appreciate the incredible feats the small device between your hands is capable of.

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