I am looking for books about the physics of DSLR, including modern photography optics and sensor electronics. If I already have some books on optics and electronics, I have found fairly hard to find good resource for these fields taking photography as a basis, with examples taken from photography and chapters dedicated to lenses optics for instance.

So far what I have found is either too generic, or, if dealing with photography, lacks the physical expertise I would like to get (I mean books with equations. Everybody loves them.)

Good books for physics of photography exist, but they are quite old, the last good I have found were written by Kingslake in the 70s and definitely miss the non-optical part, and the optical stuff is a bit old-fashioned now (but very nice books BTW).

To sum up, I would like:

  • Very technical references
  • Dealing with physical issues specific to DSLRs and modern photography, such as diffraction limits, image stabilization, properties of coatings, noise correction - whatever you can think of actually...

EDIT: Based on the first results and a quick glimpse at the references given, I would recommend:

Not to forget the Cambridge in Colour website, wonderful resource.


4 Answers 4


Books by Henry Horenstein are very technical, but are unfortunately more to do with film photography.

Thom Hogan (bythom.com) writes a lot of technical information about sensors. Well technical to most people, not a lot of equations. He references the book Manual of Photography by Ralph Jacobson - "the highly technical and math-filled volume that defines much of the state-of-the-art". Sounds like it might be what you're looking for.

  • That looks just perfect.
    – drolex
    Jul 18, 2011 at 8:44
  • 1
    The ninth edition of Manual of Photography is by Ralph Jacobson, but it seems that the tenth edition (2010) is by Elizabeth Allen & Sophie Triantaphillidou and it is "… completely reworked to include the latest research on digital imaging." Jul 18, 2011 at 9:03
  • 1
    Took a look at Henry Horenstein's books: nice but a bit too aimed at practical aspects and not enough theory for what I was looking for. A good pick if you want good explanations of phenomena without too much in-depth physics, I think.
    – drolex
    Jul 18, 2011 at 11:43

the book Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting 3rd Ed by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua does specifically focus on the "lighting" aspect of studio photography but it it is well researched and gives you a clear description of the optics and physics involved - check it out it may fill a few gaps in the information you seek.

More than once it has explained to me the "why" details of a lighting effect that I thought should have worked differently or shouldn't have been on the film to begin with - they are particularly good at explaining what happens to light on different surfaces and why.

I've had and used the 2nd ed for years and I see that the 4th edition is about to be published in Sep of this year

  • Yeah, I have come across this one, but didn't find the time to really take a look at it. I'll give it a try, thanks for the review.
    – drolex
    Jul 18, 2011 at 8:43
  • I recently borrowed up a copy of this book from my local public library and I agree that this text will do more than just give a few pointers to help a novice. I can see that it would easily find a place as a reference for a growing studio-minded photographer. I like this book enough that I'll purchase a copy for my personal use.
    – smigol
    Jul 19, 2011 at 5:57

I don't know of many books, but Cambridge in Color has some of the best tutorial/technical information you will find anywhere, and its free. Written by an engineer who took up photography while studying at Cambridge, the author takes pains to instruct not only how, but why certain principles occur in photography. Also great info on sensors, etc in digital photography.

Cambridge in Colour

If you want to see an example of this tutorial and tech info, here is a good example, regarding sensor size:


About the author: Sean McHugh

  • Really nice website, I still find it a bit shallow for what I would like, but thanks for the reference!
    – drolex
    Jul 18, 2011 at 8:42

I've used

"Applied photographic optics: lenses and optical systems for photography, film, video, electronic and digital imaging" by Sidney F. Ray

"Scientific photography and applied imaging" by Sidney F. Ray


  • Thanks, real academic books, that means they are both well suited for my needs and pretty expensive :). I remember having tried to find the first, which looks definitely good, could you develop on it? I already knew the second one - if I was honest I would find it is the best match for what I wanted - but I didn't like the way it was written: going very fast in-depth and jumping to another subject, more like a collection of papers than a real book (to me). The third looks nice for sensors and better than the one I have (CMOS/CCD Sensors and Camera Systems) for photography.
    – drolex
    Jul 19, 2011 at 19:03
  • I had to borrow both books through inter-library loan so I didn't have much time with them. I used the second book more, and don't remember much about the "Applied photographic optics" book. I do wish I had copies of both books.
    – JMD
    Jul 19, 2011 at 22:50

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