A camera is a device that records and stores images. These images may be still photographs or moving images such as videos or movies. Cameras may work with the light of the visible spectrum or with other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. A camera generally consists of an enclosed hollow with an opening (aperture) at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at the other end. A majority of cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera's opening to gather the incoming light and focus all or part of the image on the recording surface. The diameter of the aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed size aperture. Most 20th century cameras used photographic film as a recording surface, while the majority of new ones now use an electronic image sensor.
The still camera takes one photo each time the user presses the shutter button. A typical movie camera continuously takes 24 film frames per second as long as the user holds down the shutter button, or until the shutter button is pressed a second time. From its inception, the camera has been instrumental in the recording of still images from then present surroundings, and further modifications led to the development of motion picture sequences in the late 19th century. Cameras and the exhibition of camera captured images are widely used in both professional and consumer settings in the 21st century for both mass and interpersonal communication purposes.
Traditional cameras capture light onto photographic film or photographic plate. Video and digital cameras use an electronic image sensor, usually a charge coupled device (CCD) or a CMOS sensor to capture images which can be transferred or stored in a memory card or other storage inside the camera for later playback or processing. Cameras that capture many images in sequence are known as movie cameras or as ciné cameras in Europe, those designed for single images are still cameras. However these categories overlap as still cameras are often used to capture moving images in special effects work and many modern cameras can quickly switch between still and motion recording modes. A video camera is a category of movie camera that captures images electronically.
The lens of a camera captures the light from the subject and brings it to a focus on the film or detector. The design and manufacture of the lens is critical to the quality of the photograph being taken. The technological revolution in camera design in the 19th century revolutionized optical glass manufacture and lens design with great benefits for modern lens manufacture in a wide range of optical instruments from reading glasses to microscopes. Camera lenses are made in a wide range of focal lengths. They range from extreme wide angle, wide angle, standard, medium telephoto and telephoto. Each lens is best suited a certain type of photography. The extreme wide angle may be preferred for architecture because it has the capacity to capture a wide view of a building. The normal lens, because it often has a wide aperture, is often used for street and documentary photography. The telephoto lens is useful for sports, and wildlife but it is more susceptible to camera shake.
Due to the optical properties of photographic lenses, only objects within a limited range of distances from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the cameras focus. There are various ways of focusing a camera accurately. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens, usually around 3 metres (10 ft) to infinity, is in reasonable focus. Fixed focus cameras are usually inexpensive types, such as single use cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly.
The size of the aperture and the brightness of the scene controls the amount of light that enters the camera during a period of time, and the shutter controls the length of time that the light hits the recording surface. Equivalent exposures can be made with a larger aperture and a faster shutter speed or a corresponding smaller aperture and with the shutter speed slowed down.
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