Regimental Division,
Office Chief of Signal

United States Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, GA
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Military man with camera Some soldiers have jobs as photographers. They use digital cameras and camcorders to produce photos and videos for their commanders.

How cameras work

A camera is a machine that records a picture. With film cameras, the picture is recorded on film. With digital cameras, the image is recorded on something called a charge couple device. Motion picture cameras have film, which is kept moving with a tiny motor.

Cameras work on the same basic principles. Cameras are made up of a light-proof box with film inside and a lens at the front. There is an adjustable hole, or aperture, where light enters the box and is focused. There is a shutter that controls how far the lens opens and for how long; a track or motor for moving the film after a picture is taken; and a viewfinder that shows the photographer what the lens sees.

The lens most of the time is glass, but it can also be plastic or any transparent disk. A lens refracts, or bends light. Light passes through the lens, and the light is bent to a common point, or focus. A lens also has a set focal length, where the light will always come to the same focusing point. That point is where the object you’re taking a picture of looks clear and sharp – "in focus."

When you open the shutter by pushing a button on top of the camera, light goes through the lens and hits the film. The film reacts chemically to the light and is "impressed" with the image you took a picture of. When you have your film developed, the latent image on the film is brought out and made into pictures.

A digital camera is where the camera is "married" to the computer. The digital camera works the same way as a film camera, except when light enters the lens, instead of imprinting on film, the image is collected as tiny dots of light and color called pixels. Pixels are recorded on a computer chip called a charge couple device. Each image can be made up of more than a million pixels. The digital camera stores each image on a small disc drive. When you are done taking pictures or when the disc is full, you can hook a digital camera up to a computer and download the images.

A motion picture camera and camcorder are similar types of cameras. They come in many sizes, from the small ones that almost fit completely into your dad’s hand to the big ones Hollywood directors use. Film goes through the camera but stops quickly to expose, or imprint images on, each frame. Frames go through a camera very fast, at 18 or 24 frames a second. The shutter spins open and close as you "roll the film." A little metal thing called a claw hooks into holes on the film’s edges, pulls the film into place, retracts while the frame is exposed, and does the same thing all over again for the next frame. All this is powered by a tiny electric motor.

Digital camera exterior
Click above to see a drawing of a digital camera.

Camera parts illustration
Click above to see a camera's parts.

Light going through the lens onto the film
Click above to see how light enters through the lens. The lens brings the image into focus onto the film. The aperture regulates how much light enters the camera. The shutter controls how long the light that comes in through the lens and aperture falls onto the film. The film receives the image and records it.

Movie film on reel
Click above to a reel of movie film, divided into frames.

 


Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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