How Cameras Work – Answers from the Camera Experts

How Cameras Work – Answers from the Camera Experts

Cameras are one of the greatest inventions in the world and we are more in love with them than ever before. In fact, most of us probably use a camera more often today than we did 30 or 60 years ago.

The way that cameras work has significantly changed over time. And while they have been around for well over a century, most camera owners don’t have any idea how these small yet complex gadgets work.

Whether you have to have the latest and most high-tech digital camera on the market or enjoy the simplicity of using an old film camera, we can all agree that our lives would be very different without the option to capture our favorite memories.

Here are the facts about how cameras work and how the traditional film cameras compare to today’s digital options.

From Film to Digital – Learning How Cameras Work

old and modern cameras

Digital cameras have helped to change the way that we capture our favorite moments. Instead of having a collection of out of focus photos taken with bad lighting, we all have the opportunity to take high-quality, high-definition pictures that are perfect.

And if they’re not perfect, we can just delete it and try the shot again.

Although digital technology has been a game changer for how cameras work, we shouldn’t forget how innovative traditional film cameras were when they were first invented.

The technology behind these now outdated devices is still something to marvel at even in the 21st century.

Understanding How Film Cameras Work

vintage film camera

The idea of capturing images has been around much longer than you may think. As far back as the 4th century BCE, the Chinese came up with the concept of camera obscura.

With drapes covering a dark room, a hole would be placed in the drapes and that would cause an image to project of the outside world onto a distant wall.

For those who don’t understand how a camera works - camera obscura may not seem to have anything to do with the image capturing devices we have today. However, it actually has a lot to do with how cameras work.

Old-style cameras like the 35mm models were very advanced for their time. Some had excellent zooming capabilities, various flash settings, and automatic film winding that could save you some time while taking important shots.

But these cameras, whether you purchased the most expensive model or the most affordable, were all useless if they didn’t have one common component, the film.


Film is flexible plastic that is coated with chemicals that are sensitive to light. That is why it is always contained in a plastic cylinder or other type of container to protect it. To take a photo, you would have to load the film, and wind it to the first exposure.

Then press the button known as the shutter. Pressing the button causes a hole, or the aperture to briefly open. This is located at the front of the camera. The hole allows light to enter through the camera lens. The light causes a reaction with the chemicals on the film which stores the image captured by the aperture and lens.

Once you have taken all the images that your film cartridge allows (usually 12 to 24 exposures), it is time to have the film developed. To do this, you would drop the film off at a location such as your local drug store or retail store.

The film is placed in a machine where it can safely be exposed. It is dipped into chemicals that cause the images to show up on negatives. The negatives feature a ghost-like reversed color image of what your actual photograph is. Once the negatives are made, they are used to create prints of your photos.

It would usually take several days to get your prints back. However, in later years 1-hour photo development was offered at most locations.

The Complex Changes of Digital Cameras

digital camera

The invention of digital cameras helped change the way that we enjoy taking photos forever. We no longer had to limit ourselves to only taking a handful of photos at special events. We didn’t have to wait for days to find out how our pictures turned out or pay extra just to see the final result.

With a digital camera you could take as many pictures as your memory card would hold. You had the advantage of previewing images so that you could get the perfect shot, and there was no longer a need to purchase film or have photos developed.

While we do have the option to have prints made from digital images, we don’t have to rely on a local business to do that for us. And we no longer have to have film developed just to see how our pictures turned out.

digital cameras and parts

With all of these benefits, it is no surprise that digital photography has become so popular with all types of people. But it wasn’t always this convenient.

When digital cameras were first invented, they were very limited with their features. But that still didn’t stop companies from selling these revolutionary products at ridiculous prices. At first, very few people could afford to own a digital camera since they cost several thousand dollars.

But the price soon came down to a reasonable amount and even models that were priced between $300 and $500 were considered a great investment for families and individuals who loved the idea of taking an endless number of photos.

Making Use of Digital Technology


Digital cameras may look similar to film cameras, but they work in a very different way. When you press the shutter to take a picture, the aperture opens in the front and light goes through the lens, the same as a traditional camera. But after that occurs, the technique drastically changes.

Since there is no film inside a digital camera, a small piece of equipment is used to capture the light rays and transfer them into electric signals. This light detector can be one of two types of equipment, a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a CMOS image sensor.

To understand more about how digital cameras work, you need to learn about pixels. Most people are aware of what pixels, especially if you own an LCD TV or computer monitor. They are tiny little squares that come together to form the big picture. The electronic equipment inside your TV switches the colored pixels on and off at a fast rate, that allows our eyes to see our favorite shows.

With digital cameras, light from the subject you are shooting goes into the camera lens. The photo you are capturing makes a connection with the image sensor clip. This breaks the image into millions of tiny pixels.

digital camera sensor

The camera’s sensor then measures the brightness and color of every single pixel and stores each one as a number. A digital photo is essentially a very long string of numbers that detail what each pixel contains.

Once the photo is stored in its numeric form, you can save it on a memory card, upload it to your computer, make edits using image software, print it, share and store it. You can use software to remove red eye, change the filter, or zoom in on your subject.

There is an endless amount of possibilities for every photo that you take using a digital camera. And that has helped make photography a much more popular hobby now than ever before.

Do I Still Need a Digital Camera if I Have a Smartphone?

digital camera, smartphone and a laptop

Digital cameras have helped change the way that we take photographs, but are they already going out of style?

With smartphones becoming more advanced every day, we now have the ability to take high-quality photos using our phones. Many people have captured impressive sunsets and family vacations using only their phone as a camera, so do we still need to carry around an additional digital camera?

While smartphone cameras can produce great images, they still don’t compare to the quality of image sensors that are in the latest digital camera models. While you can get an iPhone with an impressive 13 megapixels, it’s hard to compare that to the 30-plus megapixels you can get with professional-grade digital cameras from brands like Canon or Nikon.

Canon has recently introduced a DSLR camera that boasts an incredible 120 megapixels. It is capable of taking crystal clear images that may be printed as a full-size poster. While most people don’t have a need for that many megapixels, it is a good choice for professional photographers or anyone who loves getting their hands on the latest high-tech gadgets.

Which Digital Camera is the Best Choice for You?

The best thing about digital cameras now competing with smartphone devices is that it has helped the price of high-quality cameras drastically fall over the years, making them more affordable for both expert and novice photographers.

The right digital camera for you will have all the features that appeal to you most. Take advantage of the lower prices and purchase a quality digital camera for your next family trip or special event.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here