Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works

Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works

When it comes to starting or improving your photography, one of the most important things you need to learn is the basic parts of a camera. Learning each part and how it works will allow you to understand the camera itself better. This basic understanding is vital when you begin to learn more in-depth techniques in photography. This article will look at the individual parts and what they do.

12 Basic Parts of a Camera and Components

Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works 1
Basic Parts of a DSLR Camera

1. Camera Body

The body of the camera is the base of the camera itself. It is the part you hold and houses many of the significant components. When it comes to DSLR cameras, the body is what most people refer to as the “camera.”

Related: Types of Digital Cameras Used in Photography

For example, if you look at a Nikon model D5300 DSLR camera on sale somewhere, the D5300 is the camera body. Everything else that may be included, such as lenses or flashes, are accessories that are interchangeable and not part of the camera proper.

Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)

Camera Body – Mirrorless Fujifilm XT2

2. Camera Lens

The lens is essentially the most crucial part of the camera. Photography is all about light, and the lens is what manipulates the light to allow us to create stunning photos.

Lenses are made from pieces of glass that have been shaped and polished to direct the light in a specific way. Since they are just a collection of glass, many  professional photographers will refer to lenses only as “glass.”

Fujifilm XF10-24mmF4 R OIS

Camera Lens- Fujinon XF10-24mm F4

Some cameras have fixed lenses that are built into the body of the camera — most compact-style cameras have this kind of lens. Larger cameras such as the DLSRs used by professional photographers have interchangeable lenses. Being able to change the lenses allows photographers to use different types of lenses to create different effects or techniques.

Related: Types of Camera Lenses Used in Photography – In-Depth Guide

3. Camera Lens Aperture

The lens aperture is located inside of the lens and adjusts to control the amount of light that passes through the lens and into the camera. The aperture has different levels, which are called “f stops.”

The smaller the number of the f-stop, the larger the opening, and the more light passes through the lens. A small f-stop would be f/2.8 to f/4.

Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works 2
Lens Aperture – from wide to small

The larger the f-stop, the smaller the opening, and the less light can pass through the lens. A large f-stop would be f/11 to f/16.

Related: Aperture in Photography (F-Stop Chart CheatSheet)

Aperture also determines how much of the image is in focus vs. how much is out of focus, which is known as “Depth of Field.”

4. Camera Shutter

The shutter is located inside the body of the camera. Its job is to block the light coming into the camera through the lens from reaching the camera’s image sensor.

Related: What is Shutter Count?

The shutter release button controls the shutter. Once you press this button, the shutter opens, allowing the light to strike the image sensor and capture the desired image.

5. Image Sensor

The image sensor or camera sensor is located in the body of the camera. The sensor detects the light and records it to create your image. The sensor measures the intensity of light hitting the sensor as the shutter opens. The sensor is made up of individual units, which are called pixels. Each pixel measures the intensity of light by detecting the number of photons that reach the pixel. This information is relayed to the camera as a voltage value which can then be recorded by the camera.

Digital Camera Sensor
Digital Camera Sensor

6. Image Processor

The image processor is located in the body of the camera and is the component that takes all of the information from the camera sensor and uses it to create a visual image that we see. Without the image processor, all we would have is a bunch of coded voltage values that would not look anything like the picture we took.

7. Viewfinder

The viewfinder is the device that allows you to see your subject through the camera and compose your image. There are two main types of viewfinders, electronic, or EVF,  and optical, or OVF.

An electronic viewfinder (EVF) shows you what the camera is seeing. The camera pulls information from the camera sensor to display on the screen. An EVF gives you a better representation of the photo you will capture since the data comes directly from the sensor.

Lensmate Thumb Grip for Fujifilm X-T2 (Also fits X-T1) - Black

The OVF allows you to look through the lens at your subject and gives you a clearer, high-quality view. However, the OVF does not show you what the camera is seeing, only what the image looks like directly through the lens. The optical viewfinder is preferred by sports and wildlife photographers due to its clarity of the image and no lag.

Parts of a Camera: Viewfinder , LCD Screen, Flash, User Controls

8. LCD Screen

Most newer model cameras come equipped with an LCD screen on the back of the body. The LCD screen serves three primary purposes.

First, the screen allows you to adjust the settings and see the current settings. It also shows you helpful information, such as histogram to give you additional information about what the camera is seeing.

Related: Best Lightweight Compact Cameras for Hiking

Second, the screen acts as a viewfinder allowing you to see your subject and compose your image.

Third, the screen allows you to review your photo after you have taken the picture. Seeing the image as it was captured will enable you to make sure the image is the way you want it. It will also let you see if the photo is exposed correctly or if the camera settings need to be adjusted.

9. User Controls

The controls of the camera are what allow you to adjust the settings and manipulate the various actions of the camera. Some cameras will have individual knobs, dials, and buttons to control the setup, while others will have menus that have to be navigated using the LCD screen.

Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works 3
The user controls of Fujifilm XT2 Camera

10. Flash

The flash is used to cast light on your subject when you take a picture. This can be for lighting the subject in darker environments or to freeze motion and allow for sharper images.

Related: Fujifilm xt3 vs xt30 – Comparing Two Best APS-C Cameras

There are two types of flash, built-in and external. External flashes can be either camera mounted or stand mounted separately from the camera. Moving the flash allows you to manipulate the lighting more than a built-in flash. Another advantage to the external flash is the extra power over most built-in flashes. You can adjust the power level of the flash, and you can use multiple flashes to improve lighting or create specific effects. For this reason, a lot of higher-end cameras do not have a built-in flash because professional photographers will always use external flashes.

11. Memory Card

The memory card is where the camera stores all of the data from the images it captures. The card can then be removed and the data accessed by a computer.

SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card - C10, U3, V30, 4K UHD, SD Card - SDSDXXY-128G-GN4IN

Most cameras will use what is known as an SD card, which Secure Digital Card. An SD card is a small removable memory card that emerged out of a group of memory cards that hit the market when digital cameras first came of age.

Related: How to Select the Best Memory Card for Your Camera

Choosing the correct memory card is essential and is often overlooked by new photographers. Choosing a card with sufficient speed is necessary to prevent you from shooting faster than the camera can transfer the data to the card.

12. Tripod Mount

The tripod mount is a small threaded plate that is built into the bottom of the camera body. This mount is where you will connect a tripod to the camera by screwing the male threaded connector on the head of the tripod into the female threaded connector in the base of the camera.

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The quick-release tripod plate is connected to the tripod mount

For landscape photography, the tripod mount is an essential component. Often when shooting broad open vistas and other outdoor scenes, you need the stability of a tripod to get crisp and sharp images.

Related: How to Choose the Best Travel Tripod – A Practical Guide

Conclusion | Parts of a Camera

While it can seem like a lot to learn, it’s important to remember to take it slow. As you work through different techniques and continue to learn, knowing the camera parts will help you understand how the camera works.

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by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

2 thoughts on “Parts of a Camera. Understanding How Digital Camera Works”

  1. As f numbers confuse a lot of people I explaine it this way. Think of those numbers as fractions, so f4 equals 1/4″, f8 would be 1/8″,


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