Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Digital Camera Sensors

You don’t need to know enough about it to build one yourself, but a little knowledge of how digital cameras actually work can help improve your photography game. So if you’ve got an extra 13 minutes at your disposal today, watch this wonderful explainer of how a camera’s sensor works.


The video, hosted by John Hess of Filmmaker IQ, starts off with a crash course on how traditional photographic film used to work. But it also covers how an electronic sensor is able to convert captured light into a digital image, the differences between CCD and CMOS sensors, and the pros and cons—both technically and artistically—to each engineering approach.

There won’t be a test afterwards, but you’ll definitely be more camera savvy.

[Filmmaker IQ via ISO 1200 via PetaPixel]

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That was pretty good. I’m an engineer and manager at a CMOS image sensor manufacturer who has been working in the field since the mid-90s. Whenever I see a popular explanation of CMOS image sensors and CCDs I usually cringe. He did quite a good job in this one though.

There are global shutter CMOS sensors that don’t have the rolling shutter artifacts. Unfortunately they come with the trade-off of higher noise, and currently the technology doesn’t scale to very small (cellphone type) pixels. We are making improvement though, so in the future you can expect low-noise, global shutter sensors with small pixels.