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Chapter 2. Inside a Digital Camera >  Making Sense of Sensors

Making Sense of Sensors

Understanding how sensors operate can be important, because, ultimately, the resolution and quality of your digital image is largely determined by the solid-state capture array. Certainly, the lens that focuses the image on the sensor has an equal role, but optical technology is fairly mature, dating back to the invention of the first magnifying glasses (used for reading) in the 13th century. Even fairly recent developments, such as aspheric (non-spherical) lenses and optics created especially for digital cameras, involve little more than refined application of well-understood principles.

Digital sensors are a whole new ballgame. The first CCD sensors were created around 30 years ago, and Kodak introduced the first megapixel sensor (with an incredible 1.4 million pixels) in 1986. The technology has improved in several directions, the most important of which for digital photographers is the increase in resolution that has come hand in hand with a huge reduction in price. We now have sensors with 16 million pixels or more, and the cost to produce them has dropped enough that cameras that can capture 6 or more megapixels can be purchased in the $1,000 price range. During the life of this book, I fully expect the pixel counts to double while the cost is cut in half.


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