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Interactions of Camera Components

By Scott Tustin
At the push of a button, a
single moment can be
permanently captured with a
camera. A digital camera is a
recording tool that utilizes light
to reproduce multiple identical
images that exist as visual
elements. In 2017,
approximately 1.2 trillion
photos will be taken by the
worlds population. This value
has been growing at an
extraordinary rate, as seen in
Figure 1. Approximately 10
percent of all photos have
been taken in the last year2.
This might be due to the fact
that the first camera was Figure 1: The Dramatic Growth of Photos Taken
created in the 1840s. The
general mechanics of the process have not changed; but, the methods used to permanently capture the
image have changed. Today, there are numerous parts that have been developed to affect how light is
captured. These tools include a viewfinder, lens, shutter, aperture, and an image sensor as seen in
Figure 2.

Camera Components

Memory Card

Image Sensor




Viewfinder on
Reverse Side
Figure 2: An Exploded View of a Smartphone Camera3

The viewfinder (seen in Figure 3) shows a preview of the current image the lens
frames. Cameras can contain a digital viewfinder, analog viewfinder, or a combination of
the two. The digital version of the viewfinder will simply place the framed image on a
screen. The analog version of the viewfinder utilizes two mirrors to reflects the image
the lens that is seen through a glass window. Figure 3: Viewfinder4


The lens (seen in Figure 4) is where light enters the camera. It may be
permanently fixed or interchangeable to the overall body of the camera. Each lens has
its own focal length. Focal length is the distance between the point where light meets in
the camera lens and the image sensor. A larger focal length is helpful to magnify images
from greater distances away, which is why lenses are interchanged. The lens also houses Figure 4: Lens5
several important aspects that affect the image.


One of these aspects is the shutter release, which is a mechanism that

determines when the shutter (seen in Figure 5) in the camera closes and is associated
with the lens. The length of time a shutter is open determines the amount of light that is
let into a camera. The more light let into a camera, the more exposed an image will be.
Exposure is the length of time light hits a lens which results in brighter images. There are
Figure 5: Shutter6
two types of shutters used in cameras today: the leaf shutter and the focal-plane
shutter. A simple leaf shutter pivots a wide plane to cover or uncover the lens. A more
complicated leaf shutter contains multiple shutters and closes around each other like a diaphragm
would. The focal plane shutter contains two planes that cover either end of the lens width. The plane to
the left will move right. The right plane then moves to the left pushing the left pane away. This pane
movement will determine how much light is let through.


The aperture (seen in Figure 6) is a tool that changes the

diameter of the lens opening and is numerically expressed as a f-
stop. The larger diameter of the lens, the more light that gets
through. The f-stop value that represents the larger diameter is
indicative of a smaller f-stop number. This has a similar impact on
exposure as the shutter release. The aperture can also impact the
focus of an image. This is characterized by Depth of Field (DOF).
Figure 6: Aperture Ranges and impact on DOF7
The larger the DOF, the more focused the foreground will be
compared to the rest of the image.
Image Sensor

The image sensor (seen in figure 7) converts the image produced on the back
of the lens into an electrical signal. Photons of light hit the sensor, and the sensor
creates an electrical pulse. This electrical pulse is measured, and it is converted to a
matrix of ones and zeroes that represent the image. There are two types of sensors,
Complementary metaloxide-semiconductor (CMOS) or Charge Coupled Device
(CCD). CMOS are considered to be a better sensor; but, the CCD is a cheap alternative
Figure 7: Image Sensor8
that is used for beginner cameras. The signal is sent to a memory to be permanently
stored. Now, the image can be reviewed, reproduced, or edited. The quality of an Image sensor is
identified as ISO. High values of ISO indicate a more sensitive image sensor. High values are important
for a subject that is not well lit, however, this causes the image to become grainy. The grainy quality can
be combated with a tripod and utilizing the high ISO for stationary objects.

Memory Card:

A memory card is the piece of hardware that contains the permanently stored
image. They are comparable to a USB drive. There are many forms of these memory
cards including Secure Digital (SD) Memory Cards, micro-SD cards, Xd picture Memory
Cards, and Memory Stick Duo Memory cards. The general type of card that is needed
will be determined by the camera. Important features of note are the speed
classification and capacity because they impact the ability to take, and transfer photos. Figure 8: SD Card9
A read speed determines how fast the data from the image sensor is saved. The faster
the time, the quicker the next photo can be taken. Write speed determines how quickly data is retrieved
from memory card. Speed classification has been based on two systems. The first system, the
Commercial x rating, contains the multiple X 150 KB/sec or the original CD-Rom. The class rating
describes the absolute minimum transfer rate and places the value into a class of 2, 4, or 6. Some of the
largest sized cards are 120 GB.

Complete Cycle for a Digital Camera

A complete cycle is shown in the user generated Figure 9.

The shutter opens The sensor then

the lens to allow light takes this The image can now
Release button is to converge at one information and be reviewed,
pushed, begining the point and then fall on converts it into an reproduced, or
process to take a the sensor. The electrical signal and edited at any time
photo. shutter closes and permanently saves it from the memory
stops light from as a photo file on a card.
entering. memory card.

Figure 9: Complete Cycle

Works Cited