In the past twenty years, most of the major technological breakthroughs in consumer electronics have really been part of one larger breakthrough: converting conventional analog information (represented by a fluctuating wave) into digital information (represented by ones and zeros, or bits). This fundamental shift in technology totally changed how we handle visual and audio information -- it completely redefined what is possible.  The digital camera is one of the most remarkable instances of this shift


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Essentially, a digital image is just a long string of 1s and 0s that represent all the tiny colored dots -- or pixels -- that collectively make up the image. This can be done by sampling the original light that bounces off the subject, immediately breaking that light pattern down into a series of pixel values. Just like a conventional camera, it has a series of lenses that focus light to create an image of a scene. But instead of focusing this light onto a piece of film, it focuses it onto a semiconductor device that records light electronically. A computer then breaks this electronic information down into digital data. 

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Instead of film, a digital camera has a sensor that converts light into electrical charges. The image sensor employed by most digital cameras is a charge coupled device (CCD). Some cameras use complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology instead. Both CCD and CMOS image sensors convert light into electrons. A simplified way to think about these sensors is to think of a 2-D array of thousands or millions of tiny solar cells. Once the sensor converts the light into electrons, it reads the value (accumulated charge) of each cell in the image. This is where the differences between the two main sensor types kick in:

CCD and CMOS: Filmless Cameras


CCD and CMOS: Filmless Cameras

A CCD transports the charge across the chip and reads it at one corner of the array. An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) then turns each pixel's value into a digital value by measuring the amount of charge at each photosite and converting that measurement to binary form. CMOS devices use several transistors at each pixel to amplify and move the charge using more traditional wires. 

CMOS Sensor



Pro’s And Con’s of The Two Sensors
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CCD sensors create high-quality, low-noise images. CMOS sensors are generally more susceptible to noise. Because each pixel on a CMOS sensor has several transistors located next to it, the light sensitivity of a CMOS chip is lower. Many of the photons hit the transistors instead of the photodiode. CMOS sensors traditionally consume little power. CCDs, on the other hand, use a process that consumes lots of power. CCDs consume as much as 100 times more power than an equivalent CMOS sensor. CCD sensors have been mass produced for a longer period of time, so they are more mature. They tend to have higher quality pixels, and more of them.

Although numerous differences exist between the two sensors, they both play the same role in the camera -- they turn light into electricity.

CCD vs. CMOS Sensors CCD cost
expensive to produce because of special manufacturing methods employed consumes upto 100x more power than CMOS

inexpensive because CMOS wafers are used for many different types of semiconductors low power consumption

power noise maturity

high quality, low noise images susceptible to noise produced for longer period; higher quality images, more pixels less mature but equal in low and middle range resolutions to CCD other circuitry easily incorporated on same chip

technically feasible; other Extended chips are used functionality

Digital Camera Resolution

The amount of detail that the camera can capture is called the resolution, and it is measured in pixels. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can capture and the larger pictures can be without becoming blurry or "grainy." Some typical resolutions include:
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256x256 - This is 65,000 total pixels. 640x480 - This resolution is ideal for e-mailing pictures or posting pictures on a Web site. 1216x912 - This is a "megapixel" image size -- 1,109,000 total pixels 1600x1200 - With almost 2 million total pixels. You can print a 4x5 inch. 2240x1680 - Found on 4 megapixel cameras. Prints up to 16x20 inches. 4064x2704 - A top-of-the-line digital camera with 11.1 megapixels. You can create 13.5x9 inch prints with no loss of picture quality.

Capturing Color
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Unfortunately, each photosite is colorblind. It only keeps track of the total intensity of the light that strikes its surface. In order to get a full color image, most sensors use filtering to look at the light in its three primary colors Once the camera records all three colors, it combines them to create the full spectrum.

Capturing Color

The highest quality cameras use three separate sensors, each with a different filter. A beam splitter directs light to the different sensors.  Each sensor gets an identical look at the image; but because of the filters, each sensor only responds to one of the primary colors

Capturing Color

Another method is to rotate a series of red, blue and green filters in front of a single sensor. The sensor records three separate images in rapid succession. This method also provides information on all three colors at each pixel location; but since the three images aren't taken at precisely the same moment, both the camera and the target of the photo must remain stationary for all three readings.

Capturing Color

So basically a camera captures each image on a separate CCD array.


A pixel is a contraction if the term PIcture ELement. Digital images are made up of small squares, just like a tile mosaic on your kitchen or bathroom wall. Though a digital photograph looks smooth and continuous just like a regular photograph, it's actually composed of millions of tiny squares as shown below.

On the left the full image, on the right the area in the red square magnified to show individual pixels


 Each pixel in the image has a numerical value of
between 0 and 255 and is made up of three color channels. So for example a pixel could be 37-red, 76green and 125-blue and it would then look like this  If it was 162-red, 27-green and 12-blue, it would look like this  There are over 16 million possible combinations using this scheme and each one represents a different color Each color in this scheme can be represented by an 8-bit number (byte), so the color of each pixel is defined by three color bytes. 

What is Autofocus?

Autofocus (AF) really could be called power-focus, as it often uses a computer to run a miniature motor that focuses the lens for you. Depending on the distance of the subject from the camera, the lens has to be a certain distance from the film to form a clear image. In most modern cameras, autofocus is one of a suite of automatic features that work together to make picture-taking as easy as possible. These features include: Automatic film advance Automatic flash Automatic exposure

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There are two types of autofocus systems: active and passive. Some cameras may have a combination of both types, depending on the price of the camera. In general, less expensive point-and-shoot cameras use an active system, while more expensive SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras with interchangeable lenses use the passive system.

Active Auto Focus:
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In 1986, the Polaroid Corporation used a form of sound navigation ranging (SONAR), like a submarine uses underwater, to bounce a sound wave off the subject. The Polaroid camera used an ultra-high-frequency sound emitter and then listened for the echo. The Polaroid Spectra and later SX-70 models computed the amount of time it took for the reflected ultrasonic sound wave to reach the camera and then adjusted the lens position accordingly. But It has its own limitations. Active autofocus on today's cameras uses an infrared signal instead of sound waves, and is great for subjects within 20 feet Infrared systems use a variety of techniques to judge the distance. Typical systems might use: Triangulation Amount of infrared light reflected from the subject Time

The Advances…
A Casio employee displays the digital camera Exilim EX-S880 during a press conference. The camera features a pre-installed YouTube Capture software to easily upload videos to the Web site.

GPS Photo Taggers…
GPS photo taggers let you mark the location of your photo and if you upload your geotagged photos to Flickr, other people can see them and where you took them.

Instant Photo Printers…

Polaroid is teaming with its spinoff company to make an instant, ink-free mobile photo printers. See what you can do with an iPhone camera next.

Security Camera within your Camera!

Watch out! Who knows who or what is watching you with that seemingly unattended iPhone. An iPhone security camera is built right into your iPhone, but requires some hacking. See how the police use security cameras next.

Cameras to solve Crime!

CBI technicians use these camera setups to photograph recovered fingerprints to use in comparison and for running through the AFIS system.

High Speed Photography…
The sound of a gun firing the bullet actually triggered the flash for this photo, not the photographer. High-speed photography can be used to investigate events such as car wrecks that happen very quickly.

This photo shows a water balloon just as it bursts. Notice how the background of the photograph is completely dark; a brief flash of light is the only thing that catches the image.

Cameras to Drive at Night

BMW's Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection system allows drivers to see what (or who) is down the road -- even on the darkest nights.

The EYE Camera!

Stanislavs Bardins of Munich's LudwigMaximilians-University demonstrates the prototype of a video camera controlled by the eyes. The camera could be used in application fields of psychology and market research.