How Your Digital Camera Sensor Works

Your camera’s sensors play a vital role in processing light and transforming it into an image. It is therefore important to understand your digital camera’s sensors and how it works so it will help you operate your camera better. The process of taking photographs involves more than looking at your viewfinder, clicking a button and examining the image after. The whole transformation of light into an image starts within your camera’s sensors.

digital camera sensor

Possibly the most significant thing to know is that your photograph is only converted into digital form soon after it has left the camera’s sensor. The sensor itself is an equivalent element, generating an old-school electrical signal that can be modified by electronic circuitry to upsurge the ISO, for example, increasing the signal in much the similar way as you turn up the volume on your radio.

The camera’s sensor is composed of millions of light-subtle units, often stated to as pixels, but at this stage it is more precisely called as ‘photosites’. These can be measured as bantam as 0.004mm across (almost 1/16th of the width of a lone human hair). Each one generates its own electrical signal almost equally proportioned to the brightness level of the area of the image that it covers.

These photosites though cannot see colors, just luminance. To create a full-color photograph, each photosite has a mini colored filter, either blue, red or green. A pixel used with a green filter will only register colors that have colored green light. But as colors are mixed, like green, blue and red light altogether, this still gives important information.

The camera’s sensors also makes the pixels do the work and allocate perfect colors to each pixel in the photograph. The green-filtered pixels of photosite can efficiently ‘see’ red light by applying information from adjacent blue- and red-filtered photosites. Recognized as ‘demosaicing’, this interpolation technique creates an educated guess about the color of each and every square that comprises up the image. With JPEG pictures, each pixel of photosite can record 8 bits of data, which equals to 256 varying levels of brightness.

This doesn’t amount much, but when it’s pooled with the whole color material created by demosaicing, this will generates an astounding 16.7 million probable colors. This is how important the camera sensor is, it makes all of these color transformation possible in producing an image.

The Camera sensor also plays an important role in processing ‘Raw’ images better than JPEG file formats. Raw files offer even more color element. Raw files amass 12 bits of data, equal to 4,096 distinct shades compared to JPEG’s 256. More modern camera models can also retain a 14-bit raw file, which is equivalent to 16,384 levels of brightness, which can be recorded for every bit of pixel. Regular JPEG photographs will still present a complete range of color and tones, but raw files will have the promise of a broader brightness range and slicker tonal progressions.

This is just a short explanation of the importance of camera sensors and how it works with lights and produces a collection of pixels and levels of brightness and tones to produce an image. Hope, this further acclimatize yourself with your digital camera’s functions.

Next photography lessons:

Photography basics 1: Tips to Choose Your First DSLR Camera

Photography basics 2: Understanding Camera Exposure

Photography basics 3: Understanding Camera ISO

Photography basics 4: How Does Your Camera Image Stabilizer Work?

Photography basics 5: Understanding White Balance


About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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