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What is a camera?

From: Foundations of Photography: Exposure

Video: What is a camera?

Your digital camera is a marvel of 21st century engineering, but if you could somehow strip away all of the automatic features that are just there to make it easier to use-- autofocus, autometering, the LCD screen, the electronic shutter control, all the rest of that stuff--you'd still be left with a functional camera, because at the most fundamental level, camera technology has not changed since the 1850s. All cameras are built on the same fundamental chassis, a lightproof box with a hole in the side.

What is a camera?

Your digital camera is a marvel of 21st century engineering, but if you could somehow strip away all of the automatic features that are just there to make it easier to use-- autofocus, autometering, the LCD screen, the electronic shutter control, all the rest of that stuff--you'd still be left with a functional camera, because at the most fundamental level, camera technology has not changed since the 1850s. All cameras are built on the same fundamental chassis, a lightproof box with a hole in the side.

One of the earliest such devices was the camera obscura, a darkened room with a hole in one wall. Now, because of the physics of light, a scene outside the room is projected through the hole upside down on the wall opposite the hole. Of course, the camera is no good without a way of recording an image, and with a camera obscura, this was pretty easy. You just stuck a Dutch master in the room and he traced the projected image onto paper. With the invention of chemical photography, it became possible to shrink the camera obscura down to the size of a box, and that's what I have here.

This may look like just a cardboard box that's been wrapped with black electrical tape, but it's actually a camera. This is a pinhole camera, which I made by taking a cardboard box and wrapping it with black electrical tape. It's a completely lightproof box, and in the back I've placed a piece of film. This is one of the things that's kind of a drag about a pinhole camera is that you take a shot when you want to take another, you got to open it up and put another piece of film in the back. On the front, I have a shutter just like in my normal camera. It's a little flap that I can open and close, and I've got a piece of aluminum that I punched a pinhole into.

Now again, this is just something to do with optics. When I open the shutter, light gets passed through that little pinhole and projected upside down onto the back of the box. So to make an exposure, I set the camera up, and I have to try and guess where I think the framing is, and I have to calculate an exposure by hand, and once I have done that, holding the camera very still, I lift the shutter up, and I keep it open for a long, long time. The pinhole camera can be greatly improved on with the addition of lenses and all of the other automatic stuff that you get in a normal camera.

The lens gives you shorter exposure times, the ability to focus more light, the ability to shoot in lower light. This, of course, is how film cameras have worked for the last 150 years. With digital cameras, the piece of light-sensitive film that's inside the camera body was replaced with a light- sensitive image sensor, and a lot of fancy gear was stuck to the outside of the camera. But the basics of exposure in your digital camera remain exactly the same as they do in a basic pinhole camera. As you discovered earlier, exposure is the process of controlling how much light hits the image sensor, and your camera has two mechanisms for controlling light: the shutter and the aperture.

We're going to look at these in much more detail throughout the rest of this course.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Photography: Exposure

64 video lessons · 84555 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 8m 44s
    1. Welcome
      1m 56s
    2. What is exposure?
      4m 8s
    3. A word about camera brands
      2m 40s
  2. 9m 32s
    1. What is a camera?
      2m 53s
    2. The shutter
      3m 53s
    3. The aperture
      1m 33s
    4. Exposure defined
      1m 13s
  3. 13m 50s
    1. Modes
      2m 7s
    2. Pressing the shutter button
      2m 54s
    3. Autofocus
      5m 22s
    4. Light metering
      2m 3s
    5. White balance
      1m 24s
  4. 29m 26s
    1. Shooting sharp images
      1m 58s
    2. Noting shutter speed
      4m 3s
    3. Taking control of shutter speed
      1m 30s
    4. Stop defined
      2m 50s
    5. Shutter priority mode
      4m 34s
    6. Exercise: Shutter speed
      40s
    7. Reciprocity
      3m 13s
    8. Controlling motion
      7m 8s
    9. Shutter speed increments
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Go work with shutter speed
      1m 9s
  5. 26m 3s
    1. Depth of field
      1m 53s
    2. How aperture is measured
      2m 42s
    3. Aperture priority mode
      4m 57s
    4. Lens speed
      53s
    5. Shooting deep depth of field
      3m 53s
    6. Shooting shallow depth of field
      2m 50s
    7. The depth-of-field preview button
      4m 24s
    8. How shallow should you be?
      2m 47s
    9. Exercise: Go work with aperture
      1m 44s
  6. 16m 26s
    1. ISO: The third exposure parameter
      6m 27s
    2. Assessing your camera's high ISO
      5m 32s
    3. Shooting in low light
      3m 32s
    4. Exercise: Shooting in low light
      55s
  7. 14m 30s
    1. White balance controls
      5m 37s
    2. Adjusting white balance manually
      4m 25s
    3. Shooting raw
      4m 28s
  8. 6m 3s
    1. How light meters work
      1m 47s
    2. Why are there different modes?
      4m 16s
  9. 33m 59s
    1. Exposure compensation
      4m 0s
    2. Intentional overexposure
      2m 40s
    3. Intentional underexposure
      1m 42s
    4. Controlling tone
      2m 31s
    5. The histogram
      10m 4s
    6. Real-world histograms
      5m 49s
    7. Tone and color
      2m 16s
    8. Auto exposure bracketing
      3m 58s
    9. Exercise: Go work with exposure compensation
      59s
  10. 12m 56s
    1. Dynamic range
      2m 24s
    2. Exposing for highlights
      4m 15s
    3. Fill flash
      3m 11s
    4. Three solutions to the same problem
      3m 6s
  11. 12m 26s
    1. Manual mode
      2m 6s
    2. Manual mode and light meters
      4m 52s
    3. Manual exposure exercise
      5m 28s
  12. 12m 1s
    1. Custom modes and A-DEP
      1m 39s
    2. Program shift
      3m 52s
    3. Exposure compensation with program shift
      1m 58s
    4. An exercise in reciprocity
      53s
    5. Scene modes and in-camera processing
      3m 39s
  13. 8m 16s
    1. Shooting with post production in mind
      3m 46s
    2. Exposure strategy
      3m 51s
    3. Goodbye
      39s

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