Before continuing to read my article I want to provide you with a bigger picture of how far thedigital camera technology has gone. The term is not referring only at those handheld devices we use to take pictures and record short videos, but also at those built into cell phones, cars, web cameras and even astronomical devices such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
One physical characteristic that differentiates them from the analog photo cameras is the LCD display you can watch the landscape on, before taking the picture, or on which you can select those photos you want to delete at a later time.
Digitizing refers at the conversion of analog information consisting of fluctuating waves, into 1 and 0 bits, and if analog cameras worked based on chemical and mechanical processes, digital models do it electronically, recording images on light-sensitive sensors.
First Camera Invented
First concept design, first prototype or first commercial digital camera? Let’s see!
The first concept came from Eugene F. Lally who demonstrated how to digitize signals from an array of discrete sensor elements, using a mosaic photo sensor. This project was destined for astronauts and should have provided onboard navigation data during missions in space. This system should have recorded still pictures of space objects together with stadiametric information.
While this happened in 1961, it took 11 years more for a camera patent without film to be published. In 1972, Willis Adcock came out with this new design, but no one has heard about it since then.
3 years later, in 1975, Kodak Eastman’s engineer Steven Sasson, tried to build a digital camera working with a CCD sensor provided by Fairchild Semiconductor.
The patent describes a 3.6Kg weight for a camera that could record black and white images on a cassette tape, at a resolution of 0.01MP, with 23 seconds capturing time. Again, it was an innovative idea that didn’t go into mass production, remaining at the prototype level.
The first camera invented, and here I am referring at the first model capable to record as a computerized file, came out in 1988 and was introduced by Fuji, under the name Fuji DS-1P. It featured 16MB SDRAM memory card made by Toshiba, a battery, 400K CCD, 16 MM f/5.6 fixed focus, and 1/60 to 1/2000 second shutter.
In 1990 people had the chance to buy the first commercially available model, 1990 Dycam Model 1 aka Logitech Fotoman, which had a CCD sensor, storage space and PC connectivity.
During the next years there appeared several other models with improvements including professional digital cameras, such as Kodak DCS-100 with 1.3MP and a high price of $13,000,Casio QV-10 with LCD display, Kodak DC-25 with CompactFlash, and the Ricoh RDC-1 with video recording.
How Does a Digital Camera Work?
The process is as follows: as you capture the image the light strikes the digital sensor array ‘like CCD and CMOS’ which is made of millions of pixels, laid out in an array of rows and columns (example: 3000 x 1500 pixel resolution).
These tiny dots of light forming the image get through color filters above the sensors and then the sensor chip converts the image from light waves into analog electrical signal, which is then sent to the Analog-Digital Converter. Other electronic filters adjust the white balance, color and other parameters, after which it gets compressed and pixels that are in plus are dumped. Next, the digital image is stored in the buffer memory until it gets full and then written onto the storage media.
In the history of the camera, developing companies have tried to add more and more features to create the perfect model, and nowadays we find cool designed cameras, compact, lightweight and with innovative technologies such as the smile detector, which can be set so that your device to capture only when people’s smiles are detected.
When choosing a digital camera model, there are several factors you should take a look at first. These include the use ‘if you need to take professional artistic pictures or just to capture the funniest moments of your trips’ and you’ll have to check SLR cameras which are bigger and more expensive. They can shoot fast-moving subjects allowing you to capture multiple images in a second. More megapixels means that the image printed on paper will be bigger and sharper. If you’d have to capture at long distances you’d surely need some model with larger zoom range, which makes the angle of view wider, allowing you to capture the subject or landscape closer. I am talking here, of course, about the optical zoom. The digital zoom lets you zoom more, but when you use this one, the picture quality lowers.
Sometimes, in bright conditions, you can’t distinguish the image on the LCD display, so a model with viewfinder is a great solution for this.
The ISO feature refers at how sensitive the camera is to light and the lower the ISO setting, the better the pictures captured in bright conditions are. In other environments you’ll need to adjust it and higher it, if the camera permits this. It is important to test the camera before you buy it and see how much it damages the resulting pictures when the ISO is too high.
One of the most important decisional factors is the image stabilizer. Don’t buy a digital camera that doesn’t feature it, because you won’t be able to get perfect pictures when your hand is shaking. You need blur-free pictures so try to look for image stabilizer or modes like Sports, Fast Shot or Burst.
On the same first place of importance is the shutter delay. When you press the button don’t wait a few seconds for the image to be captured. It has to happen in maximum 1 second and a half in daylight.