Digital cameras have made photography easier and more accessible for the average person with no experience in photography. With automated point-and-shoot technology and in-camera editing options, it is easier than ever to get a perfect picture without paying a professional photographer. But how do digital cameras work? That is a question that often cannot be answered even by people who have been using these cameras for years.
Digital cameras are remarkably similar to conventional cameras in the way they look, and in some of the ways they work. Both have lenses that can be moved to focus and create an image of a selected scene. A conventional camera focuses the light onto a piece of film that can later be developed into a picture on a piece of paper. A digital camera captures the light using a charge-coupled device, or CCD, that turns the light into pixels. Each pixel is a tiny dot of color that is created with electrical signals. Pixels are also what the images on televisions and computers are made of. The CCD is able to measure the brightness and color of each pixel which is then stored as a number. The various shades can have a great many numbers describing them.
Because the image is essentially stored in numeric form, it is easily transmitted to other electronic devices such as computers and cell phones. Images from digital cameras can be edited using computer software programs, or even the camera itself. Some cameras can make images brighter, change the orientation of the image, or remove the color from an image making it black and white. While the user chooses which option he or she wants, the camera alters the numbers in each of the pixels that make up a picture to bring about the desired change. With more advanced cameras and editing software, the options available to edit photographs are astounding.
Almost all digital cameras are also able to zoom in on subjects to some degree. The zoom options include digital zoom and optical zoom. For optical zoom, the lens is moved to make the picture larger when it is transmitted to the CCD. This creates a larger image that is as clear as an image taken close up without the zoom function. With digital zoom, the camera enlarges the image without moving any of the lenses. This creates a larger image but the quality of the image is poor, and often blurred.
While the technology involved in the inner workings of a digital camera is fascinating, it can also be quite confusing to those not familiar with electronics. The primary thing to remember is that, as with all forms of computer images, the images themselves are made up of numbers. Altering the image is accomplished by altering the numbers. If that is still confusing, one can just turn on the camera and begin pointing and shooting. The camera will work fine and the images will be lovely even if the user never understands exactly how it works.