Photography is undoubtedly one of the most important inventions in history -- it has truly transformed how people conceive of the world. Now we can "see" all sorts of things that are actually many miles -- and years -- away from us. Photography lets us capture moments in time and preserve them for years to come.
A fully manual single-lens-reflex camera
The basic technology that makes all of this possible is fairly simple. A still film camera is made of three basic elements: an optical element (the lens), a chemical element (the film) and a mechanical element (the camera body itself). As we'll see, the only trick to photography is calibrating and combining these elements in such a way that they record a crisp, recognizable image.
There are many different ways of bringing everything together. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll look at a manual single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera. This is a camera where the photographer sees exactly the same image that is exposed to the film and can adjust everything by turning dials and clicking buttons. Since it doesn't need any electricity to take a picture, a manual SLR camera provides an excellent illustration of the fundamental processes of photography.