Camera Sensors: Need To Know How Are They Made?

Camera Sensors: Need To Know How They Are Made?

Do you ever wonder how cameras work, from fancy cameras costing up to $20K to the small camera in the back of your phone?

Let’s find out!


One technology from the 19th century has fundamentally changed how we record moments.

Joseph Nicephore Niepce, who had been working with photographic processes since 1813, was the first to create the camera in 1816.

The first image ever captured was the scene from his window at Le Gras in 1826, and it was captured on a sheet of paper covered in bitumen (a type of natural tar). Heliography is the name he gave to his method since it involves exposing light to produce pictures.

It required 8 hours to expose and produced a hazy image that, if not for the date “1826” printed in the bottom left corner, would have been mistaken for an abstract artwork.

Niépce’s work was enhanced by Louis Daguerre, whose contributions resulted in the invention of photography as we know it today, which they called a daguerreotype at that time.

Digital Imaging

Steven Sasson, an engineer with Eastman Kodak, created the first real digital still camera in 1975. A movie camera lens, a few Motorola components, 16 batteries, and some recently developed Fairchild CCD electronic sensors were used to construct his prototype.

The final camera is the same size and weight as a printer. It required Sasson and his colleagues to create a customized screen solely to see the black-and-white images that were captured on a digital cassette tape.

There are 48-megapixel and 12-megapixel cameras in the current Apple iPhone 14 series. 48 and 12 million pixels are contained in that picture. The Kodak prototype featured a 0.01 megapixel resolution. Additionally, taking the first digital picture took 23 seconds.

How Do Modern Camera Sensors Work?

In 1963, the complementary metal oxide semiconductor sensor (CMOS) was invented. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that it started to be widely employed for imaging applications. In a CMOS sensor, the charge from the photosensitive pixel is converted to a voltage at the pixel site, and the signal is multiplexed by row and column to many on-chip digital-to-analog converters (DACs).

CMOS is a digital device by default. To perform the tasks of resetting or activating the pixel, amplification and charge conversion, and selection or multiplexing, each site essentially consists of a photodiode and three transistors. Due to fabrication irregularities in the numerous charge to voltage conversion circuits, this results in the high speed of CMOS sensors, but also low sensitivity and high fixed-pattern noise.

When the Casio QV-10 added an LCD screen to the rear in 1995, the design of modern digital cameras as we know them changed. The screen measured 46mm (1.8 inches) from corner to corner.

The lens of the QV-10 may also be turned. A semiconductor memory that could hold 96 color still photos was used to save the images after they were taken using a 1/5-inch CCD with 460 x 280 pixels. Auto exposure, self-timing, and close-up macro shooting were some of the other now-standard features. The cost was $1000.

The VideoMan, the first webcam, was introduced by Logitech in 1995.

Sensor Parts


A camera sensor’s pixels are a matrix of small potential wells that gather light that comes from an image. These little discrete pixels make up the entire picture. A monitor will display the information that has been gathered, arranged, and transmitted from these sites. The pixels might be, for example, photodiodes or photo capacitors, which, by spatially limiting and storing light, produce a charge proportional to the quantity of light incident on that specific area of the sensor.

Sensor Size

The size of a camera sensor’s active area has a significant impact on the system’s field of view (FOV). When the imaging lens’s fixed main magnification is used, larger sensors produce wider FOVs. It’s crucial to note that the actual sizes of the sensors vary since the nomenclature of these standards is derived from the Vidicon vacuum tubes used in television broadcast imagers.

Frame Rate & Shutter Speed

The frame rate is the number of full frames that are created in a second. For example, a 30 frame per second analog camera has two 1/60 second fields. It is beneficial to use a higher frame rate for high-speed applications in order to capture more photos of the item as it passes through the field of view (FOV).

Next time you take a picture of your lunch, you will know how cameras work.