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It hardly seems like anytime at all since the digital camera took off. Change in digital technology is so fast paced that it can be hard to understand what the technology does. There’s much more to digital cameras than just the Megapixel count – the sensor, image processor and memory cards all play a big part in digital camera performance. If you are used to shooting on film, all these terms are probably new to you  … You Connect’s two-part series on digital camera basics offers an overview of what digital technology is, and how it translates to the language of film.


What a digital camera offers is a new way of recording the image. Light entering the camera is focused not on a piece of film, but on to a light sensitive sensor, which contains a specified number of pixels (short for picture element). The more pixels a sensor features the greater its resolving power. This is just one way of determining what a particular camera might be able to offer you. Even the most basic digital cameras these days are likely to offer a minimum of 1.3 Megapixels (or million pixels), while a top of the range professional model, such as the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, comes with a sensor packed with an awesome 16.7 Megapixels.

An image sensor is typically a monochrome device, and it needs a colour filter to produce a colour image. Each primary colour – red, green and blue – is capable of being recorded by an individual pixel, and the colour filter then filters out all but the chosen colours for that pixel. The camera then combines the coloured pixel with its neighbouring pixels to produce the final image.

Sensors come in a variety of sizes. The majority of digital cameras contain a sensor that is smaller than a 35mm frame of film. With self-contained compacts this is not a major issue, since the lens will be designed to work with this, and will offer either standard lens coverage or a wide to medium telephoto zoom range, in exactly the same way as a film compact would.