Big technology in a small package

Video cameras have been around for quite a long time now and are seen everywhere from school plays, family events, sporting events and even births. Tourists can’t go anywhere without filming every minute of their trip. How can such a small device do so much? They are easy to use and produce excellent quality visuals which is really quite incredible when they can fit into the palm of your hand.

In the last twenty years, most of the biggest technological breakthroughs have been how to convert conventional analog information into digital information. This shift has totally altered the way we handle visual and audio information and redefined what is possible. The digital camera is a brilliant example of this as conventional cameras depended entirely on mechanical and chemical processes to operate them. Digital cameras, however, all have a built-in computer and record images electronically. This technology can be seen everywhere these days, even in the Body Worn Camera that a police officer wears. For more information, visit

To take a picture and email it, you need the image to be represented in a language that a computer recognizes which is bits and bytes. A digital image is essentially a long list of 1s and 0s that represent all the different tiny coloured dots of an image – also known as pixels. Instead of having film, a digital camera has a sensor that converts light into electrical charges. The amount of detail that is picked up in an image is called resolution which is measured in pixels. The more pixels, the better the image. Top end cameras can capture over 12 million pixels.

Big technology in a small package

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The process starts by being colour blind and can only recognise the intensity of light striking its surface. To add colour to an image, most sensors use filtering to look at the light in its three primary colours. Once it has done this, it combines all the colours to create the whole spectrum. A high end camera will use three sensors, each with a different filter. Most consumer models on the market today use a single sensor with alternating rows of green/red and green/blue filters.

As with film, a digital camera also needs to control how much light reaches the sensor. For this, it uses the aperture and shutter speed. The aperture is size of the opening in the camera and is automatic in most cameras. Shutter speed relates to the amount of time that light can pass through the aperture. This can be reset electronically. These two aspects work together to ensure the correct light levels to get a good image.

Digital camera normally have an LCD screen allowing you to view your picture straight away. This is one of the biggest advantages of a digital camera in that you get immediate access to the image and take another picture if you’re not happy with the outcome. To get the image from the device, most only require that you attach a USB to a computer to download the images. The cameras have to hold enormous amounts of data and many use fixed or removable flash memory. To make even more room, most cameras will also have a compression feature to make files smaller. All in all, they pretty awesome pieces of technology.

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