Parts of a Digital Camera

Get to know your digital camera.

There are several different digital camera parts hidden inside its body. Knowing how they work together to create digital images can help you choose the camera that best suits your needs and price point.

Digital Camera Parts

It takes hundreds of bits and pieces to make modern digital cameras work. Expensive DSLR cameras, have components that allow at least some user control but in digital compact models, they function largely on an automatic basis.

The following information reveals which parts work automatically or semi-automatically, and which parts work via user input:

Lens

The camera lens works by focusing incoming light onto an image sensor. It is the optical component of a digital camera and performs automatic or manual functions. Major parts of a camera lens include:

  • Aperture: The aperture controls the amount of light admitted into the lens.
  • Shutter: A shutter is a mechanical device that opens and closes to control the timing of photographic exposures.

Sensor

The image sensor converts light from the lens into electrical signals and passes them to an A/D (analog-to-digital) converter. The A/D converter turns the signal into binary numbers, which result in digital images that are processed and stored on a memory device. Two common types of image sensors that work in similar ways are the charge-coupled device (CCD) and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS).

Viewfinder

Most modern digital cameras offer one of three viewfinder types:

  • LCD: An LCD (liquid crystal display) is a window that provides a real time example of exactly what the lens sees as an image is composed. Most compact digital cameras feature an LCD and, depending upon the model, may also provide a separate viewfinder.
  • Electronic: This type of viewfinder functions similarly to an LCD in that it provides a real time "though the lens" point of view as an image is framed. The difference between it and a LCD is that an electronic viewfinder is located behind the camera lens.
  • Optical: An optical viewfinder is the most common type used in digital cameras. It functions in compact models by way of a basic optical system that runs parallel to the main lens. In the more sophisticated DSLR cameras, the optical lens works by using a mirror that slides out of the way as the shutter release is pressed.

User Controlled Digital Camera Parts

It's important to learn how you can help your camera perform better and enhance your photography skills. The following digital camera components are manipulated by the user during standard camera operation:

  • Power Button: This feature turns the camera on and off.
  • Menu Button: Menu buttons are usually located on the face of the camera near the LCD or viewfinder. It allows the user to access options such as flash settings, macro settings, and shooting modes like programmable, portrait, sunset, landscape, and action photography.
  • Shutter Release Button: This button is typically located on the top of the camera. Once an image is composed and framed, pressing this button records the photograph.
  • Timer: Most digital cameras feature a timer switch or button that provides a set length of time between pressing the shutter release and shooting the image. This allows users to take a self portrait or a group snapshot.
  • Flash: The flash component is usually placed above the lens and is controlled via the camera's menu. It provides extra illumination when taking photos in low light settings.
  • Zoom Controls: This mechanism allows the user to get in close on his subject without physically moving to do so.
  • Battery Door: Located under the body of the camera, the battery door lets the user easily swap old batteries for new.
  • Memory Card Door: Occasionally, removable memory cards are located within the battery compartment, but often they occupy a separate compartment accessible through its own door.

Camera Body and Strap

Although they seem insignificant, the body and strap provide valuable protection. The body protects the delicate inner components of the camera and the strap allows the user to maintain a sturdy grip while shooting pictures.

Different Cameras, Different Layouts

There are an array of digital cameras on the market, including increasingly sophisticated smartphone cameras. Therefore, the layout and components included will depend on the digital camera you select. Check your user manual for more information about your specific model.

Parts of a Digital Camera