The Mechanics of Your Camera — Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

The Mechanics of Your Camera

I’m back with some insightful and valuable information that will change the way you… take photos!!! As you can see I’m super eager to share this information. Why you might ask? So that more people start using those cameras sitting at home collecting dust and stop resorting to awful cell phones to capture priceless memories.

  • 1. We can all capture quality images, that aren’t the size of your thumbnail.
  • 2. Your cell phone creates images that are grainy and not of any quality.
  • 3. If you ever come across a great moment and snap a photo with your cell phone, there is no way in hell you can enlarge it without blowing up the horrible imperfections too.

Firstly, I’d like to give you a crash course on the mechanics that allow a camera to record an image and cover such things as the image sensor, the shutter, shutter speed, and aperture.

The image sensor is a thin rectangular recording device on the other end of the lens, inside your camera. This sensor has millions of tiny squares (pixels) that record light and color, which is where the term “megapixels” originates.

The shutter is the mechanical device that opens and allows light to fall onto the sensor for any given amount of time. The term shutter speed, is a measurement of time ranging from 30 seconds to 1/8000th of a second. A rule of thumb, the faster the shutter speed is the less motion will be recorded (blurred photo). However, a faster shutter means less light falling onto your sensor which may result in a darker photo. If only there were a way to increase the amount of light falling onto the sensor in that short amount of time. Ahah… a great segway on to the next topic -aperture.

Aperture is the circular opening in your lens. Light travels through this opening, past the open shutter and onto the sensor. This opening can be opened wide or closed to a narrow hole, giving the user the option to use more or less light. Aperture is measured in whole numbers with decimals, called f-stops. An F-stops range differs from lens to lens, for example my 50mm ranges from f/1.4 to f/22. These numbers correspond to the amount of light being used to record an image. You’d think the greater the number the more light used, but No it’s the exact opposite. This quote helped me to remember how this all worked, “The smaller the number, the bigger the hole” which means more light. Aperture is also used to effect the distance of what is or isn’t in focus. So here’s another quote to remember, “The bigger the number, the more of your subject will be in focus”.

Wilderness North resource staffWhen it comes to shutter speed and aperture, it’s a balancing act with light, you need to always compensate for each setting you decide to use so that you have enough light to properly expose your photo. This all tends to get confusing, so camera manufacturers came up with camera modes that helped users take quality images without manually changing the camera settings. I’ll discuss more about this next week.

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