Smartphone camera sensor at night

“Magic is the only explanation

It’s the genius who is Steven Sasson that we have to thank for the advances in digital camera sensor technology. Steven is an American electrical engineer and the inventor of the first self-contained (portable) digital camera when he used to work for Kodak 👀 that used a charge-coupled device image sensor back in 1975. FYI, it wasn’t until 1988 that the first ever digital camera was produced by Fuji and available to consumers across the world.

To understand the wizardry exactly; you’ll need to be well-versed on light energy itself, how focus works within a lens, the photovoltaic effect, the Bayer filter array, and maybe something called pixel quantification too. However, the most succinct version we could come up with to explain one of the most complex, misunderstood, groundbreaking technological advances in recent history, is:


via Gfycat

The process of making a digital image from light

1. Light is converted into electrical energy
Each individual, light sensitive pixel on a digital smartphone camera’s sensor converts energy received by light waves into electrical energy, commonly known as – the photovoltaic effect.

2. Pixels interpret the light into greyscale
The individual, light sensitive pixels then interpret the light energy in greyscale like varying degree of brightness, intensity etc., which translates the information received into forming a digital image.

3. RGB colour filters translate the image
To then register an image’s colour, pixels needs to understand the differing red, green and blue light in the scene and does so by placing coloured filters above each pixel and determines the amount of RGB coloured light wave absorbed (the Bayer filter array).

So that’s how it’s done – a little photovoltaic sorcery

It’s just the conversion of light into electrical energy and how that’s interpreted. Who’d have thought? The breakthrough in camera sensor technology has been irrevocably impactful on society. Digital cameras, especially in smartphones, have opened the world for all to see without a corner being documented visually.

Social networks like Instagram have given content creators a sustainable income through photographic expertise, given the rise of smartphone photography accessories like Moment lenses and DJI’s mobile stabiliser. Sensor technology will only continue to improve with the best smartphone cameras in 2018 taking photographs that are indistinguishable from professional cameras.

A former mental health professional, now focusing on behavioural psychology in the workplace, Charlie believes all problems can be solved when they start with honesty. Failed his first attempt of circumnavigating Mont Blanc on a mountain bike. Next attempt, Autumn 2019!

Editor Picks


Eco-serious, powder obsessive Chamonix residents – ZAG Skis – have been producing some of the most innovative, high performing freeriding …


To say Diana is a lover of the ocean would be the understatement of the year. Inspired by her lifelong …

Nikolai Schirmer on top of an Oslo mountain in Endless Winter II (Black Crows)

Was it a coincidence that the day after the UK declares a climate emergency, Black Crows Skis drops the second …