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02 - How a Camera Works

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The fundamental principles of photography are relatively straight forward. Light enters through a lens and hits a sensor which records all the detail in the light, as well as detail in shadows and colours. The diagram below shows how light travels through a DSLR. It first hits a mirror, then travels through a prism until it is reflected back out through the viewfinder to your eye. When you take a photo, the mirror flips up and the light travels directly to the sensor where the image is recorded.


Mirrorless cameras don't have mirrors, which is one reason why they are much smaller, lighter and cheaper to manufacture than DSLRs. Cameras require batteries to power them and memory cards on which to save and store your photos. Most batteries are removeable and rechargeable. The most common memory cards are compact flash cards, which are used in some DSLRs, and SD (secure digital) cards, which are found in compacts, mirrorless, DSLR and bridge cameras.



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