Friday, January 19, 2007


A camera is a device used to capture images, usually photographs, either singly or in sequence such as with video cameras. A camera that takes pictures singly is sometimes called a photo camera to distinguish it from a video camera. The name is derived from camera obscura, Latin for "dark chamber", an early mechanism for projecting images in which an entire room functioned much as the internal workings of a modern photographic camera, except there was no way at this time to record the image short of manually tracing it. Cameras may work with the visual spectrum or other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Every camera consists of some kind of enclosed hollow, with an opening or aperture at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at the other end. Most cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera's opening to gather the incoming light and to focus the image, or part of the image, on the recording surface. The diameter of the aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed-size aperture.

The size of the aperture and the brightness of the scene control the amount of light that enters the camera during a period of time, and the shutter controls the length of time that the light hits the recording surface. For example, in lower light situations, the shutter speed should be slower (longer time spent open) to allow the film to capture what little light is present.

Due to the optical properties of camera lenses, only objects within a certain range of distances from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the camera's focus. There are various ways of focusing a camera accurately. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide-angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens (usually around 3 metres (10 feet) to infinity) is in reasonable focus. This is usually the kind found on one-use cameras and other cheap cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale-focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly. On some cameras this is indicated by symbols (head-and-shoulders; two people standing upright; one tree; mountains).

Rangefinder cameras allow the distance to objects to be measured by means of a coupled parallax unit on top of the camera, allowing the focus to be set with accuracy. Single-lens reflex cameras allow the photographer to determine the focus and composition visually using the objective lens and a moving mirror to project the image onto a ground glass or plastic micro-prism screen. Twin-lens reflex cameras use an objective lens and a focusing lens unit (usually identical to the objective lens) in a parallel body for composition and focusing. View cameras use a ground glass screen which is removed and replaced by either a photographic plate or a reusable holder containing sheet film before exposure.

Many modern cameras offer systems to focus the camera automatically by a variety of methods.

Traditional cameras capture light onto photographic film or photographic plate. Video and digital cameras use electronics, usually a charge coupled device (CCD) or sometimes a CMOS sensor to capture images which can be transferred or stored in tape or computer memory inside the camera for later playback or processing.

Cameras that capture many images in sequence are known as movie cameras or as ciné cameras in Europe; those designed for single images are still cameras. However these categories overlap, as still cameras are often used to capture moving images in special effects work and modern digital cameras are often able to trivially switch between still and motion recording modes. A video camera is a category of movie camera which captures images electronically (either using analogue or digital technology).

Stereo camera can take photographs that appear "three-dimensional" by taking two different photographs which are combined to create the illusion of depth in the composite image. Stereo cameras for making 3D prints or slides have two lenses side by side. Stereo cameras for making lenticular prints have 3, 4, 5, or even more lenses.

Some film cameras feature date imprinting devices that can print a date on the negative itself.


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