Cameras | Experiment With ROYGBIV

There is a high quality glass prism sitting in a south window of our living room. Every sunny day it casts a rich full rainbow spectrum on the wall across the room. Briefly, it shines in a dark place 30 feet away. The redorangeyellowgreenblueindigoviolet of that distant spectrum stretches 6 inches end-to-end. It is like a colorful clock passing time as it moves through the house.


Do different digital cameras see colors of the exact same object identically?


Today, I placed a sheet of white paper on the wall where the spectrum was to pass. I gathered my three cameras to get a photograph of the spectrum with each when it was on the white paper. All images were done at the same location and magnification as near as possible.


The first is the oldest camera from 2002: Fujifilm FinePix S602z. Second is a compact camera from 2012: Nikon Coolpix S3300. Third is the newest and a camera phone from 2014: Samsung Galaxy S5.


Fujifilm FinePix S602z | 2002

Fujifilm FinePix S602z | 2002

Nikon Coolpix S3300 | 2012

Nikon Coolpix S3300 | 2012

Samsung Galaxy S5 Phone | 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 Phone | 2014



Each image was adjusted to set the surrounding dark area to black. No other adjustments were made.

The first two cameras show pronounced regions of red, green, and blue showing as distinct ovals. The third does not have those clearly defined ovals. Most consumer cameras use light sensors that convert light to electric charge called CCDs Charge Coupled Devices. A 3-colored filter of red, green, and blue is placed over the CCD to capture the components of color in the scene. If the neighboring pixels in the CCD all gather a lot of red, green, and blue, the location is rendered as white. If only red and green, then the location is yellow. Blue and green give cyan.

Most cameras have algorithms to compute the values of the neighboring locations on the CCD and blend them together into pleasing and accurate renditions of the colors of the scene. Some cameras are better at this than others. The first one above is better at that than the second one.

The third camera from the phone does the best job at this of the three. The image looks nearly identical to what my eyes saw. The blending is very smooth with no excessively bright regions. The colors are true.


Different digital cameras do not see colors of the exact same object identically.


13 thoughts on “Cameras | Experiment With ROYGBIV

  1. Smartphones now use “BSI” sensors”, “BSI stands for backside illumination, and is a method of producing a camera sensor where the photodetectors are layered above the transistors and other components. It’s a more complex method of CMOS production, but it reduces reflectivity, which in turn improves the light capturing ability of the sensor. BSI sensors are found in nearly all high-end smartphones.”-
    Is this why you think the smartphone image has a smoother blending of the colors?

    • I imagine it is. The technology is newer and the algorithms are better. I see differences in our photos. It works amazingly well in low light situations.


  2. I am amazed. My camera is a Coolpix, and this explains my frustrations with it. It just doesn’t “see” things the way I do. And my son and I have been debating about the phone…you may have just convinced me. I never thought a phone could out-perform a camera, but I have seen better photos taken with them over and over.

    • There are a lot of variables like lighting, camera settings, age of the camera, etc. It is really hard to pin down a reason why pictures come out as they do. It is very frustrating.

  3. Nice one… After a long time I got some good flavoured science and tech blog…
    Hey I do write on science and technology… Please do make some time to check out my blog… 😊😊

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