General English


  • A device for producing photographic images. Most optical telescopes are used with a camera of some kind and many, like Schmidt telescopes, are cameras only. Photographic methods completely altered astronomy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly because photographic exposures can be collected over many hours while the eye can only collect images over a very short period, allowing far more detail to be obtained. Film also provides a permanent record. The world of astronomical recording is now being revolutionised again by the move to digital data recording on tape and discs, and by charge-coupled devices (CCDs), which allows computer processing of data as received Cameras used in astronomy are at the edge of the technology, sharing with espionage the fastest films, the longest exposures and demands for information to be gathered in infrared as well as visible wavelengths.


  • A device which converts images into electric signals.
  • A device that converts images formed by lenses into electric signals. A photosensitive surface in the contained camera tube serves as the transducer which converts the optical image into electric video signals suitable for broadcasting, recording, or the like. Also known as TV camera, video camera (1), or telecamera.
  • A device which focuses light from a viewed image onto a light-sensitive material, such as film, so that an image is recorded.

Media Studies

  • noun a device for taking photographs by letting light from an image fall briefly onto sensitized film, usually by means of a lens-and-shutter mechanism
  • noun a device that converts images into electrical signals for television transmission, video recording or digital storage


  • noun a machine which takes photographs, especially in printing, a machine which takes photographs of the made-up pages of a book

Origin & History of “camera”

Latin camera originally meant ‘vaulted room’ (a sense preserved in the Radcliffe Camera, an 18th-century building housing part of Oxford university library, which has a vaulted roof). It came from Greek kamárā ‘vault, arch’, which is ultimately related to English chimney. In due course the meaning ‘vaulted room’ became weakened to simply ‘room’, which reached English, via Old French chambre, as chamber, and is preserved in the legal Latin phrase in camera ‘privately, in judge’s chambers’.

In the 17th century, an optical instrument was invented consisting of a small closed box with a lens fixed in one side which produced an image of external objects on the inside of the box. The same effect could be got in a small darkened room, and so the device was called a camera obscura ‘dark chamber’. when the new science of photography developed in the 19th century, using the basic principle of the camera obscura, camera was applied to the picture-forming box.