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While I do have a basic understanding of the concepts of photography, it would be great to also understand the theoretical background behind the optics and the engineering of modern cameras. E.g. to learn what actually happens within the camera when a higher ISO setting is chosen.

Is there a book or a website focused on the theory rather than the practical applications? Perhaps some sort of an open university course in photographic theory?

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The The Manual of Photography (formerly The Ilford Manual of Photography is in its tenth edition after more than a century of publication. Ignore the equations and it provides a high level discussion. Investigate the equations and it provides a reasonable introduction to the science of photography. While the book is not inexpensive, it is cheaper than many photographic accessories and any new DSLR system lens.

Marc Levoy's Lectures on Digital Photography is a more breezy and less technical series of videos, but very informative. The presentation benefits from Levoy's experience as a teacher and from his vocation as a leading edge photographic researcher.

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One of the very best (now out of print) available on the web is Kodak Digital Photoguide. Lark Books 67 Broadway Asheville NC 28801 by Michael A Guncheon.

Can't go wrong with this one. Short but chuck full of stuff you want. About $15 on the internet used.

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