Crossing the boundary - analogue universe, digital worlds
Crossing the boundary - analogue universe, digital worlds

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Crossing the boundary - analogue universe, digital worlds

4.11.1 Digital still cameras and camcorders

These devices are now widely and (fairly) cheaply available. There is no film. You point your camera, take your shot and get a compressed digital image that can be transferred straight onto a computer, where it can be edited or printed. Digital still cameras usually compress their images into JPEG format and store them on a tiny, removable memory card inside the camera; the latest digital camcorders can record in MPEG format, stored on a special tape. Both devices work by means of an electronic chip called a charge-coupled device (CCD).

A CCD is basically an array of tiny cells, vaguely similar to the receptors in the eye, that respond to light by generating a tiny electric charge. The amount of charge depends on the intensity and colour of the light falling on the cell. Each cell then maps onto a pixel in the image being stored, so the CCD behaves just like a bitmap. Obviously then, the larger your array, the higher the definition, and thus better quality, your image will be. The best non-professional digital still cameras now have CCD arrays of 5 million or more cells, giving superb-quality bitmapped images. Software inside the camera converts the bitmap into compressed format.


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