Ever thought about pointing your camera up at the sun? Your immediate reaction is probably a lot like mine. NO WAY! Well not so fast. It depends on the kind of camera you’re using. If you’ve got a digital SLR, you’ll be totally fine. If you’re using a point-and-shoot model, you might get into trouble. Keep reading because you’re about to find out why.
Allow me to draw the analogy between what this kid is doing with a magnifying glass and what you might be doing with your camera. A magnifying glass is no different from a lens. It focuses light so you can see a little closer. If you hold a magnifying glass in just the right way, it focuses the sun’s light so much that it actually creates a laser powerful enough to make things burn.
The sun puts out ridiculous amounts energy. Even when it’s not focused, it can still burn us if we’re outside for a long enough period of time. There’s no doubt in my mind that we need to exercise some kind of caution with cameras and the sun. The real question is how much.
Some of you might be thinking if you point your digital SLR at the sun, it must be focusing the light onto a single point and burning out your image sensor. It’s not quite like that – there’s a lot more going on than you might have originally thought.
For one, most digital SLRs have a mirror in the viewfinder, and it actually covers up the sensitive equipment most of the time. It also redirects the sun’s light away from the sensor and through the viewfinder. So when you’re looking at the sun through your camera, you’re only damaging your eyes. It’s not until you actually take the picture that you’re exposing your camera’s image sensor to the sun’s harmful rays.
So point one – Never look through the viewfinder of your camera when it’s pointed directly at the sun. You’ll do damage to your eyes.
The exposure time is important too (something I learned from pointing my magnifying glass at things as a kid – it takes forever for things to burn). Your camera’s shutter needs to be open long enough for the sun to do its damage, and that’s typically not the case with digital SLRs (although it is with point-and-shoot models as you’ll soon see).
How much sun exposure time does a single picture amount to, and is it enough to cause any damage to your camera? It depends on the shutter speed you pick. If you’re using automatic mode, your camera will probably pick a very fast shutter speed, so we’re talking hundredths of a second. That’s not nearly enough time to do damage to much of anything.
Unlike digital SLRs, most point-and-shoot cameras keep the shutter open the entire time you’re using them and there’s no mirror to redirect the sun’s light. The image sensor and the screen on the back are linked together. It sees what the sensor sees. So if you’re pointing your point-and-shoot at the sun for any period of time, you’re probably damaging it.
There’s a simple rule of thumb for all of this. If something is so bright that it hurts your eyes to look at it, that thing will probably damage your camera too. Protect your eyes! Avoid looking at the sun in the middle of the day (sunset and sunrise are okay but still be careful). Practice common sense, and you’ll have your camera and your eyes to enjoy it for years to come.
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'Digital Photography Secrets'