Firsts Things First: Learning How Cameras Work

Firsts Things First: Learning How Cameras Work


You just got your camera and like a kid who got their first bike you just want to dive right into it and take it for a spin. Well, let me hold you on that first because before diving into the this and that’s of photography, there are a few things you need to learn first – particularly the ones concerning your camera and how it really works.

More Than a Click

Using a camera nowadays may seem like a simple task of repeatedly pointing, shooting and uploading – ultimately neglecting true photography knowledge.
Don’t be like them – learn.

Before dwelling into further lessons about your ISO adjustments, f-stops, the rule of thirds, and all those; you must first understand what happens inside your camera. Understanding concepts such as how your images are produced or taken can give you a firm grasp of photography thus giving you great foundation as you progress.

Film Cameras

First up are the mechanisms of film cameras. Being in the essence of chronicity, it is just right to start from where it all began which is the film camera.

Film cameras look much blander than your average DSLR today. Apart from the trigger, film cameras also have two buttons for the setting – one for shutter speed and one for your ISO. These two concepts will be tackled further in the coming courses so the only thing that you need to know now is that these two elements are very basic yet important things that greatly affect the looks of your photos.

The Film

Inside the film camera, through its pane, is the one responsible for recording your images which is the film. The film actually goes across your film camera horizontally and everytime you click the shutter, the camera’s mechanism rolls a portion of your film to the side to give you another slot for another shot.

The film is made out of light-sensitive particles, crystals to be exact, clustered together to create a sheet which is the film. These crystals are very sensitive to light and any exposition to a bright source will burn it thus imprinting the image onto the film.

The Shutter

From the film, we then head on to the camera’s capturing mechanism that does the “burning” and “imprinting” onto the film.
As mentioned, the film is very sensitive to light and any exposition to it will surely make a mark –literally. With that, you would be needing a sort of gate that will allow light to pass through and this is the role of the camera’s shutter. 
Shutter allows the light to come inside the camera and penetrate the film. Remember that the more time you leave your shutter open, the more light would come inside your camera to burn your film thus this mechanism is regulated by the shutter speed.

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras are the ones used by the majority of the population today. They rely on a digital mechanism to capture the images rather than the film’s manual film and shutter partnership. Instead of having a film which gets its parts burned to create an imprint, digital cameras rely on a light sensor that also detects color.

In terms of form, the digital camera wouldn't differ much from the traditional film camera with a single lens and a body. However, instead of having a plain back pane that opens up to expose the film like a film camera, the digital camera would usually have a screen that displays what its sensors capture.

Digital Sensors

As mentioned, instead of a shutter, what you have in digital cameras are digital sensors. These sensors, instead of literally getting burned for an imprint, actually read the light that touches it and converts it digitally for your instant viewing.

These sensors can also detect color and converts it to pixels thus giving you sharper and more popped tints. Sensors also measure brightness and other more elements that make up a photo.

The two sensors that can be powering your digital cameras are named CCD and CMOS. CCD or Charged-Coupled Device is the sensor used by earlier versions of the digital camera whereas the CMOS or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor is the cheaper version of the CCD. CMOS treats the pixels individually while the former option converts signals into pixels in the chip.

The Unending Debate

Now that you are inside the world of photography, you are sure to get a taste of the unending debate that puts digital cameras up against their film predecessors. With what you have just learned from this lesson, you can join in the debate yourself!

Film cameras rely on simple mechanisms and a chemical process involving film crystals and light. Every time you click, the shutter opens and lets in the light for as long as how you have set it, ultimately penetrating the film and imprint what your lens sees. With these processes, film cameras are sure to give you a more authentic look – almost as accurate as what you literally see.

On the other hand, digital cameras are currently the popular choice today due to their convenience and speed. With the use of digital sensors in replacement to film, they can instantly read the light that touches them and they are able to convert this data instantaneously to produce the image you can view right after.

You don’t have to keep these things to yourself, so be sure to teach others and spread the course for the betterment of the art!

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