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How Cameras Work

Author: Ted Isidor 

Editor: Kyra Wang and Chiara Chen

Artist: Leo Li

In recent years, cameras have become integral to daily life. Whether it’s capturing a wholesome moment during a family gathering or taking a quick photo of notes, cameras have evolved into immensely helpful technological tools. But how does the modern digital camera work? How is it able to capture a snapshot of our daily lives and store it as pixels?

In a basic sense, cameras capture images by redirecting light from the subject onto the image sensor through the lens. Light bounces off the subject of the photo to the camera, where the lens redirects the light so it hits the image sensor. This image sensor transforms the light into a series of electrical signals that are converted into lines of numbers to display pixels as an image on a screen. This photography technique is vastly different from the traditional film camera, where the film is coated with a special chemical to recreate the image. Instead, modern methods enable faster photo processing, making images easily viewable on devices like phones or TVs and printable for physical copies.

In photography, camera lenses play a key role in the final product, as varied lenses emphasize distinct characteristics in the photo. Lenses affect factors such as the magnification and perspective of a photo. An important characteristic that differentiates lenses is their aperture, or the extent to which the lens can widen or narrow to regulate the amount of light entering. By letting in more or less light, a photographer can manipulate the sense of depth in their photo, highlighting the significant role lenses play in a camera's image quality.

Cameras are invaluable tools due to their ability to capture and preserve images. The marvel of this instrument is amplified by the science and technology enabling it to function, leaving us to wonder what lies ahead for the next generation of cameras as technology continues to advance.



Canon. “Canon : Canon Technology | Canon Science Lab | Lenses.” Canon Global, 2020,

“Understanding Camera Lenses.”, 2019,

Woodford, Chris. “How Do Digital Cameras Work?” Explain That Stuff, 29 Sept. 2018,

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