You know what a DSLR camera is, right? Those are those big (usually), expensive, clunky digital cameras ‘real’ photographers use, the kind with interchangeable lenses. And even with advances in cell phone camera quality, millions of DSLRs are still being sold – 175,000 per month on average in a recent year.
With so many in use, have you ever wondered what goes into making them, what the manufacturing process is? Let’s take a look, starting with what a DSLR is.
What’s a DSLR?
DSLR stands for Digital Single-lens Reflex. So what’s that mean? Digital means the camera is using a fixed, digital sensor to record the image. And because the camera is using the same lens to frame, focus and take the picture, it’s Single-lens.
Reflex means a mirror is sending the incoming light and image up to the viewfinder. Pushing the button flips the mirror up, so the light is going to the sensor where it’s recorded. Simple, right?
And that’s just DSLRs. Different types of digital and commercial cameras – like mirrorless and the SWIR InGaAs camera – use other ways of getting the light to the sensor.
What’s in a DSLR?
Start with glass in the form of the primary mirror, a secondary mirror, and a pentaprism. Next, add a digital imaging sensor and an autofocusing sensor. Throw in a mechanical shutter that opens, letting the light reach the sensor.
And you need circuit boards controlling all of the camera’s menus, functions, and settings. So now you need a frame, maybe magnesium in the best DSLR camera, to mount all of that on.
On the outside, you need control knobs, pushbuttons for various functions, a monitor, a control panel, a lens mount, and a flash mount.
So far, you’ve got electronics, metal, glass, and plastic. And, of course, all of these need protection. So you’ll need a rugged, easy to hold and handle case made of rubberized, weather-proof high-impact plastic.
What’s the DSLR Manufacturing Process?
With all of the precision parts going into a DSLR, the photography industry has developed separate manufacturing lines creating all of the different pieces. Manufacturing all the individual parts takes place separately using several processes and then sent to the final assembly line.
The glass mirrors and lenses require pouring, cutting, grinding, and polishing. The digital sensors and LCD monitors are manufactured. Metal is cast and machined. Miniature circuit boards are wired and fitted with all the components for operating the camera. Injection molding produces plastic parts which are then sanded and machined. Finally, the rubber case is molded.
Once all of the components are ready, assembly takes place in a dust-free environment, with constant calibration and testing along the way. Finally, at the end of the line, the cameras are sealed and packed, ready for shipment.
Take a Picture
As you can see, building a DSLR isn’t easy, and it isn’t just one manufacturing process. Plastics, metal, electronics, circuitry, glass, and rubber parts are all made separately and then assembled. Complicated, but the end result is a marvel!
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