Jan 13, 2005

Digital Camera Image Sensors

All digital cameras record images in an electronic form. The sensor, which is at the very heart of a digital camera, records an image when you take a picture. Light strikes a sensor through the lens. In 35 mm terms, the sensor is the camera's film

There are basically two sensor types: Charge-Coupled Device and Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. We won't mention the Foveon sensor here due to it's relative rarity.

CCD (Charge-Coupled Device)

A CCD is known for it's superior image performance. It is technology that has been around for more than two decades. CCD image sensors are usually found on digital cameras that produce high-quality images. They are also used in image devices in science, medicine and industry.

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)

One of the reasons for the fall in the price of digital cameras is because of CMOS sensors. CMOS is a newer technology and cost much less to manufacture than CCDs.

CMOS sensors, initially used primarily in inexpensive digital cameras, have greatly improved in image quality and are now found in advanced and high-end cameras. These smaller sensors are easier to manufacture, faster than CCDs and don't take as much battery power.

What does all this mean for the consumer?

Not much really. Many factors, such as the quality of a lens, affect the look of a photo. Buy a digital camera based on overall image quality, not it's sensor type.