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How Digital Cameras Work


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digital camera ccd You know that you can instantly view your photos, and you can also download them to your computer and print them out instantly.  But have you ever really thought about how a digital camera works?

Just like traditional cameras, light passes through the lens of a digital camera.  But unlike traditional cameras, images are not transferred onto photographic film.  Instead, they are focused on an array of very small components called charge-coupled devices, or CCDs.  The array includes light-sensitive diodes, which create electrical currents depending upon the brightness and intensity of the light that hits them.

Transistors make up the pixels of the image.  What is a pixel?  Loosely translated, it is the minimum amount of visual information that can be captured or displayed.  The more pixels an image has, the better its resolution and the clearer it is.  A pixel can comprise as little as one transistor for black-and-white images, or can have several transistors for color images.

digital camera cutaway
Digital Camera Cutaway

The transistors are responsible for generating an analog electrical signal that goes to an analog-to-digital converter, or an ADC.  The ADC then translates the signal into digital information.

The digital information is sent to a digital signal processor, or DSP, which then turns the information into photographic images.  The DSP is responsible for adjusting the details and contrast in the image, compressing the data so it takes up a minimal amount of storage space, and sending the data to the camera's memory device.

The digital camera usually has internal flash memory or a removable flash memory card, where photographic images are stored until they can be downloaded onto your computer.  In order to move photos from the camera to your computer, all you need is a USB cable and the correct software.  Most digital cameras use flash memory cards that can be removed from your camera and plugged into your computer as well.  The photographs can then be downloaded to your computer hard drive or to a CD-ROM, from whence they can be processed with a photo editing tool such as Adobe Photoshop.  A digital camera makes it very easy to take and store photographs in large volumes, and also makes it possible to have instant access to them.

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How Digital Cameras Work

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