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Camera

The photographer's tool.


The choice of cameras is seemingly endless, but all function on the same basic principles.
The choice of cameras is seemingly endless, but all function on the same basic principles.

All cameras are fundamentally the same - a light-tight box containing film or a digital sensor, with a hole that will let light in to strike the film or the CCD and thereby record an image.

A home-made pinhole camera costing pennies and a sophisticated, top-of-the line model costing several thousands of dollars both work on these principles. The differences between them are in how well they perform this function.

The pinhole camera is the simplest design, and the least versatile. As features become added to its basic design, the resulting improved cameras progressively provide the photographer with less restrictions and greater ability to take better pictures under a wider variety of circumstances.


Basic design improvements over the pinhole camera include:

(1) a means of aiming the camera that will also allow image composition (a viewing system);
(2) a light-bending optical device fitted into the hole to focus light from subjects at various distances onto the film’s or image sensor’s surface (a lens);
(3) a mechanism to move the lens closer to or further from the film or sensor so the lens can sharply focus near or far subjects onto the film/sensor (focusing control);
(4) a mechanical device that adjusts the size of the hole (called the aperture ) so more or less light can pass through it (aperture-controlling diaphragm);
(5) a light-blocking gate that can be opened to let light reach the film/sensor for a predetermined and very precise time, and then shut to keep light out(a shutter); and
(6) for conventional cameras, a film-changing mechanism that enables several pictures to be taken in succession (film advance system).

Most cameras possess all of these basic features.

Design improvements have brought the modern 35 mm camera to the point where the best models can almost take pictures by themselves. Fortunately, the human mind is still needed to determine the subject and compose the image.
Design improvements have brought the modern 35 mm camera to the point where the best models can almost take pictures by themselves. Fortunately, the human mind is still needed to determine the subject and compose the image.

Camera design has come a long way since the original Kodak Brownie.
Camera design has come a long way since the original Kodak Brownie.

Just as a child’s basic bicycle can be compared to a state-of-the-art Harley-Davidson motorcycle, there are many makes and models of camera available in a wide choice of designs suited to the photographer’s needs and picture-taking conditions.

Modern cameras can be divided according to their viewing system into four basic types:

  • the viewfinder
  • single-lens reflex (SLR)
  • twin-lens reflex
  • view camera.

They are often categorized according to other criteria, too, like the size of the film they hold – the most common types being 35mm, medium-format, large format and APS cameras. And, of course, we can't overlook the digital camera, which uses no film at all.


This section of PhotographyTips.com discusses camera types and features in detail, explaining which camera type works best for certain picture-taking conditions and why, and describing advantages and disadvantages of the various types. Pointers, tips and hints are provided along the way to help you to determine what is the best camera for your intended uses, and how to operate the new camera you acquire or to better operate the one you already have.

Click a link below to get started.



Further information...

View camera

Viewfinder camera

Single-lens reflex camera

Twin-lens reflex camera

The camera's controls

Buying a camera

Loading film into a 35mm camera

Unloading film from a 35mm camera

When the camera is open

Pot-pourri of camera tips

Pinhole camera
Related topics...

Focusing

Digital cameras - how they work