How Does a Camera Function?

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Traditional Cameras

  • A traditional camera functions by manipulating light much the same way a human eye does. When someone looks at an object, light essentially bounces off that object. The light goes into a person's eye, and a picture is sent to the retina. A camera functions the same way--light from an object goes in through the aperture. The aperture is a small hole located on or in front of the lens cover. It can get bigger or smaller depending on how much light you want to get in. The light hits the camera lens, which then allows a person to focus the image created from that light onto a piece of film located inside the camera body. When you "click," a button on a traditional camera, the image created from the light getting in, is essentially locked onto the film inside. You use a film advance lever to get a blank piece of film to lock another image onto it.

Digital Cameras

  • A digital camera functions much the same way a traditional camera does. It has all the essential parts, lens cover, lens and aperture. The inside of the camera has to function a little differently to generate in image, however. A digital camera actually makes an electronic recording of the image created by light entering into the camera body. A computer chip registers the information as a series of ones and zeros--just like on a regular PC computer, for example. A digital camera can translate electronic information into pixels. Pixels are simply collections of digital squares all scrambled around. You can think of pixels like pieces of a puzzle. How clear a picture might be depends on the resolution, which refers to the degree of detail that can be found in a digital image.

Video Cameras

  • Video cameras function as both a camera and recording device. A piece of videotape functions much like the film in the back of a camera--it just has more information encoded onto it, including sound. Digital camcorders do not have tape, but much like the digital camera, it translates information electronically. It takes information received from light and images, and changes it into pieces of data--those 1s and 0s and pixels that ultimately determine the level of resolution, or picture detail. Instead of recording audio separately from the light image, as was the case with older model video cameras, digital camcorders simultaneously marry both the image and sound electronically.

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