Sample Research Paper on How a Camera Works

Sample Research Paper on How a Camera Works

Table of Contents

Abstract 2


1.1 Background to the study. 2

1.2 Brief history of cameras. 3

1.3 Statement of the Problem.. 4

1.4 Importance of the Study. 5

1.5 Definition of Terms. 6

1.6 Thesis Statement 6


2.1 Ordinary Film Cameras. 7

2.2 Digital Cameras. 8

2.3 Mechanics of Camera Components. 10

2.3.1 Lens. 10

2.3.2 Aperture. 11

2.3.3 Shutter 11

2.3.4 Image Plane. 11


3.1 Conclusion. 12

3.2 Analytical Summary. 12

3.3 Recommendations. 13


Camera is a very important device in human life for communication, preservation and education. Even though majority of people understands this and own or use cameras, few of them understand how it works. There is a huge talent gaps in terms of application and understanding the mechanism of a camera. This research was conducted investigate and discuss how cameras work. The result of the study has revealed that the two types of cameras, the ordinary film and the digital cameras, use the same principles which can be understood easily. To understand how a camera works requires one to understand the mechanism of each of these components.

Keywords: Camera, Film, Digital, Photography, Image, Lens, Pixels


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the study

A camera is by no doubt one of the most important invention in human history and it has played significant roles in photography as well as brought new meanings to ideas of painting. The development of cares started with the old-style film cameras and lately into the digital cameras which has significantly revolutionized the industry. The primary function of a camera is to capture and record still as well as moving images of everything around us. In essence, cameras are designed to store images as long strings of numbers thereby giving instant photos that can be edited, printed, as well as shared using various means. Even though it is possible that every person has either used or seen a camera, few have little understanding of how it works. With a focus on the digital type, this research paper is written to investigate and discuss how a camera works in order to give a deeper understanding of this important tool in our everyday life.

A camera is basically an optical instrument that is designed to capture and record images. Cameras record images as still photographs or video, which is as simply a sequence of still images. In addition, cameras are developed to remotely sense objects without having to be physically contacted by the user. Cameras functions in a similar manner to human eyes (North 99).

1.2 Brief history of cameras

The occurrence of natural phenomena, camera obscura also referred to as “dark room” led to the development of photographic cameras. This natural phenomenon occurs especially when image of a scene is projected through holes thereby falling on the other side of the screen. People who observed this phenomenon thought of making a device that can copy an image to a screen, which led to the development of ordinary cameras. The Chinese philosopher started using this principle in 470 BC. With further developments, an Arab physicist by the name physicist Ibn al-Haytham performed an experiment in 11th century by passing light through a small hole, which led to the development of lens.

The prospect of developing cameras was further enhanced by the discovery that some substances such as silver salts become dark when exposed to sunlight. Following this, series of experiments were undertaken by leading scientists such as German Johann Heinrich Schulze demonstrating that the darkening of silver salt was caused by light. Later, scientist Thomas Wedgwood used this chemistry to create images, a discovery that resulted in the development of ordinary cameras. In 1826, Joseph Nicéphore developed the first photographic camera that used the chemistry of substances darkening when exposed to sunlight (Stieglitz et al 122).

1.3 Statement of the Problem

Cameras have become one of the most important devices in human life for what it is able to do, that is, take still photos or videos of events. Both videos and still photos recorded by cameras are used in three crucial aspects of life: communication, education, and preservation of history. Today, many people own and use cameras in their daily life for recording various events such as wedding, parties, ceremonies, sports, and lifestyle among others. Some people also use cameras for professional purposes such as digital photography and news reporting among others. In education, photographs and videos taken by cameras are used as learning tools in various educational institutions. Other people use cameras to create and preserve memories of some important events for historical purposes.

Despite the widespread use of camera in almost all aspects of life, majority of people do not understand how it works. Further statistics indicates that even professional users of cameras do not understand how it works, in fact, they are only trained and skilled on the application of cameras. The greatest problem we have today is that majority of people are only interested in learning how to use a camera not how it works. In fact, this culture has greatly contributed to the talent gap in the industry, which is characterized by few individuals who are able to repair and offer maintenance services for cameras: there are few people who understands how cameras works yet majority owns it. This is a clear that there is a dire need to increase the understanding of how a camera works (Langford and Lucy 204).

1.4 Importance of the Study

It is hoped that is research paper is going to help various non-technical camera users, both for commercial and personal purposes, best understands in the simplest way how a camera works. By properly understanding how a camera works, they are going to improve their usability by developing new and better meaning to the functionality of each relevant camera parts. As started in the thesis statement, majority of people use cameras in their everyday life but not have a glimpse of even the simplest overview of how it functions. This creates huge problems in that even the simplest issues they cannot fix. In addition, they cannot use some functionality of their cameras because they don’t understand how it works.

This research paper is very essential because it attempts to close the existing gaps between technical and non-technical users of cameras. Technical users have better understanding of how a camera works and they can fix some technical and mechanism issues using the knowledge they have garnered. However, non-technical users do not have such knowledge: majority of camera users are non-technical. In addition, this research paper is important because it will create awareness the roles of cameras in our daily and the significance of understanding how it works. This research can be used to benefit society in a number of ways, for instance, it may be used to create educational programs on how a camera works, which will benefit schools, teachers, as well as both personal and commercial users.

1.5 Definition of Terms

Aperture: A variable-sized hole that controls the amount of light admitted to a camera

Film: A long pool made of flexible plastic coated with light sensitive compounds such as silver salts and is wrapped inside a light-proof cylinder to prevent it from spoiling due to exposure to light

Lens: A transparent optical device used to converge or diverge transmitted light and to form images

Pixels: The smallest discrete component of an image or picture on a CRT screen, which usually appears as a coloured dot

Shutter: A mechanical device on a camera that opens and closes to control the time of a photographic exposure

1.6 Thesis Statement

With the understanding that majority of the people use cameras everyday but they do not know its mechanism of operative, this paper was written to examine particular details on how a digital camera works.

2.0 How Cameras Work

2.1 Ordinary Film Cameras

Ordinary cameras are the first types of cameras to have been developed and used by man for capturing and recording still images. This old-style camera was developed to use a component known as film. Even though their production has significantly reduced since they are being replaced by digital cameras, they are still available in the market and understanding how they work is very essential. The film in the ordinary camera is basically a plastic pool coated with special compounds such as silver salts that reacts when exposed top light. The film is them wrapped inside a light-proof cylinder to prevent it from spoiling due to exposure top light.

The working of an ordinary camera depends on its ability to record and store images on the film when exposed to light. When the button for taking, a photograph is pressed, it operates a shutter to briefly make a hole (aperture) in front of the camera thereby allowing light to pass through the camera’s lens. When the light reaches the film, it cases causes a chemical reaction on its surface thereby recording an image of the picture in front of it. However, the process does not end here because the captured images have not been stored permanently: when the film is exposed to light, the recorded image might disappear. The next step is to take the film producers to process the image (White and Timothy 102).

Figure 1: Ordinary film camera

2.2 Digital Cameras

Digital cameras are more advance and use a different process and technology but based on the same principle of light. Even though they work differently, in terms of technology, design, and development, they look very much like ordinary cameras. First, unlike ordinary cameras, digital cameras do not use film.

When the button for taking photos is pressed, the aperture in front of the camera is opened allowing light to pass through the lens just in a similar manner the film camera operates; however, from this point onwards, the digital camera assumes a different process. Instead of using a film, a digital camera has electronic equipment that is designed to capture incoming light rays from the aperture – after capturing light rays, the equipment transform them into electrical signals. There are two types of electronic equipment for detecting and capturing light namely CMOS image sensor and charge-coupled device (CCD).

When light rays strike a sensor, it returns an electrical current of the incoming light, which is used to form an image of the object. A digital camera produces and returns varying amount of electrical current that depends on the amount of light that hits the sensor. Other innards of the digital camera combines the different currents produced in order to form a composite pattern of image that represents the object being captured.

In a digital camera, when light from the object being photographed pass through the lens, it hits an image sensor chip which subsequently breaks up into millions of pixels of the “picture” captured. In this case, the works of the image sensor chip is to measure the brightness as well as the colours of each pixel produced then store it in terms of numbers. This process makes a digital photograph to be a long string of numbers that describes the exact detail of each pixels produced. In this process both the colour and brightness of the pixel produced are stored as binary numbers, which is basically a pattern of zeros and ones (Busch 88).

Figure 2: Digital cameras

2.3 Mechanics of Camera Components

Be it ordinary or digital, cameras consist of various components that use different mechanisms, which when collectively combined together lead to the capture and storage of images. Some components such as lens, shutter, and focus among others appear on both digital and ordinary cameras while others are specific to the type of camera being used. This section of the research study discusses various essential components of a camera and their mechanisms of operation. Both ordinary film and digital cameras all use a similar process to produces a photograph whereby light travels in a similar path and they also consist of a lens, aperture, shutter, and an image plane where the picture is recorded. The difference only comes in the image plane on how the image is recorded – unlike ordinary cameras, digital cameras record images electronically (Haverich 78).

2.3.1 Lens

A lens is actually an optical device that has an ability to bend light depending on the nature of its shape, that is, convex or concave; it is made up of crustal, glass, or plastic. In both ordinary and digital cameras, light first enters through a lens which subsequently bends it towards the image plane for recording pictures. Each lens has a certain number of optical elements that are arranged in groups. A lens can have either a fixed or movable elements to allow the photographer to effectively control the focus. In fact, majority of modern cameras comes with movable elements; the elements are designed to enhance precision of focus on the image plane by changing the position. The focal length of a lens determines its field of view; some lenses have fixed focus length while in others it is adjustable.

2.3.2 Aperture

Technically, an aperture is a part of the lens; it is a small opening in front of the lens that allows light to pass through it and the lens. In many designs of both ordinary and digital cameras, the aperture comes with variable diaphragms to allow easy control of the amount of light passing through the lens. The in-built blade in the diaphragm expands or diminishes the size of the aperture to attain the required value; however, some cameras comes with fixed apertures thus cannot be adjusted.

2.3.3 Shutter

The work of the shutter is to open and close in order to allow and disallow light into the camera’s lens through to the image plane. The shutter only allows light to pass through the lens into the image plane for only a predetermined amount of time, usually few seconds. The mechanism of the shutter is similar to the closing and opening of an eyelid; it uses a complex mechanical as well as electrical system in order to achieve this functionality.

2.3.4 Image Plane

An image plane is a place on the camera where the photographs or videos are processed. It makes the first difference between ordinary film cameras and digital cameras. In ordinary cameras, it consists of a film that contains light sensitive compounds while in digital cameras in consists of electronic equipment (digital sensor) that transforms light rays from the object into electrical signals stored in binary forms.

When light rays have passed through an aperture, it is allowed to travel through the open shutter and then strikes the image plane where it creates the picture depending on the technology being used, that is, ordinary film or digital.

3.0 Conclusion, Summary and Recommendations

3.1 Conclusion

For more than a century now, cameras have been serving essential roles in both social and professional aspect of human life thereby becoming one of the most important and commonly used devices developed by human beings. Over the last three to five decades, the use of cameras in professions such as medicine, biology, astronomy, and media has greatly increased due to its ability to record and save pictures and videos for later references. Besides that, millions of people use cameras daily for recording important social events in their lives such as birthdays, parties, weddings, games, and ceremonies among others.

Despite the increasing possession and use of cameras, it is apparently vivid tat majority of the users do not understand how it works. Understanding how a camera works is one of the most important things that people can do today in order to improve their resourcefulness and deeper knowledge of the gadget (Long 214).

3.2 Analytical Summary

A camera is one of the commonly used devices ever developed by human goings but few people, especially the non-technical users know how it works. There are two types of cameras, the ordinary film cameras and the digital cameras, both using the principle of light. An ordinary camera uses a film to record images while a digital camera uses electronic equipment (digital sensor). Both ordinary film and digital cameras have similar components namely lens, aperture, shutter, and image plane, all of which work using the same principles except the latter. To understand how a camera works requires one to understand the mechanism of each of these components. A digital camera is more advanced and stores images in terms of pixels, which enables it be used with other devices such as computers and digital printers.

3.3 Recommendations

This research paper has revealed that a camera does not work through a complex process or mechanism.  The mechanisms of a camera are simple and can be understood even by a lay user, thus, it is recommended that everyone who use a camera should make an attempt to understand how it works. The learning materials can be easily accessed through the internet and other books and written materials such as this paper. Also, the camera manufactures should include in the package a booklet that express in a simple manner how a camera works. When people read such booklets, they will enhance their understanding of how cameras work.

Another recommended is to encourage people to read and watch the available tutorials on the internet teaching how a camera works. There are numerous useful tutorials on the internet which can help people understand how cameras work. This can be done through the help of sellers and distributors of cameras. Whenever someone buys a camera, he or she should be encouraged to search the internet and watch the available tutorials in order to increase their understanding of the device.


Work Cited

Busch, David D. Digital Slr Cameras and Photography for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley, 2014. Print.

Haverich, Beatrice. Photography: How to Take Awesome Photos. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press, 2011. Print.

Langford, Michael, and Lucy Lidell. The Single Lens Reflex Handbook. New York: Knopf, 1980. Print.

Long, Ben. Complete Digital Photography. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

North, Michael. Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Stieglitz, Alfred, Pamela G. Roberts, Frédéric Maurin, and Gabriele-Sabine Gugetzer. Camera Work: The Complete Illustrations, 1903-1917. Köln: Taschen, 1997. Print.

White, Ron, and Timothy E. Downs. How Digital Photography Works. Indianapolis, Ind: Que, 2007. Print.