Anatomy of a Photo Camera and How Does the Camera Work

Have you ever wondered what is it about your photo camera that makes it take instant photographs of the reality around us, pixel by pixel?
Well, since we are talking about digital cameras, you should expect to find not just lenses, diaphragm and mirrors, but also electronic circuits. Here’s an image that shows you the anatomy of a Canon photo camera.
Especially the body of the camera contains delicate internal components – the ever so important sensor, which are usually well protected by the solid case. Its main component is a lightweight and durable aluminum alloy but is much more resistant to oxidation than pure aluminum, which is essential for the stability of the camera.
I won’t get into details about the sensor here, because I have already done that in a different article. You can read it here: A Guide for Understanding the Camera Sensor.
Then, before you look at the lens – which is actually a system of more lenses as you will see explained below – take a note of the fact that a bayonet mount the lenses to the body, by a bayonet connection. This is responsible for the functions of transmission of commands, such as focus or aperture closure. I can practically hear you say: Aha!
Now, if this “dissection” of the poor Canon camera scares you, here’s an enlightening graphic:

Do you know about the laws of physics that apply to the lenses of your camera?
Here is a simple explanation for you: there are several lenses and mirrors inside your camera that reflect the light that enters the “eye” of the camera when the diaphragm is open.
This light, as you can see in below image, is reversed several times on it’s way from the diaphragm and to the sensor of the camera, and the viewfinder.
The more lenses in the objective, the harder it is to obtain a clear and crisp image. Why? Because if you add more optical mediums you get more optical aberrations (such as purple fringe, distortions, vignetting, etc).

Well, that just a short explanation of how a camera really looks like on the inside and how it works, but if you are curious to find out more about how your camera works, there’s this 3 minutes video I found for you:

Moreover, if you ever experienced a camera malfunction, did you wonder what parts might be broken?
Unless you drop your camera and/or your lens somewhere, you should not experience any big issues. This is expensive equipment so I personally take good care of it and advice you to do the same.
A few people know that in time, the sensor becomes less sensitive. I have once learned that a normal sensor can help you shoot about 10,000 pictures before it starts to loose it’s performance and you get dull images.

Thing about it: the optical lenses and mirrors of a camera cannot be damaged unless scratched – but the case usually protects from scratches. Anyway, on the other hand, the sensor and other electronic circuits of the body, those are elements that usually run perfectly only for a limited time. Like all electronics in our world. This is because electronic elements, such as capacitors, have a limited lifetime and there is nothing you can do about it.

So far, however, the world has developed better cameras so fast, that your old one might reach it’s end just then a cool brand new one, much better than the old one, has been launched on the market. So you are happy to ditch the old junk and buy a modern one.

Now, I had the following problem: the bayonet mount I was talking about earlier broke and despite the fact that I could attach the lens to the body, I could not focus. So once again: be careful about handling your gear.

This article is an excerpt from Complete Technical Photography Manual
(for any camera and any photographer!)
It is an exceptional ebook available only on

To get the ebook, click here!




I started photography as a hobby in 2005, during college. My passion slowly became a more important part of my life since 2008. Because of using a combination of my photographic knowledge, with those of internet marketing, I like to call myself a "photomarketer".

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