What is a VGA Camera?

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VGA cameras are still useful in several applications.
Image Credit: KayTaenzer/iStock/Getty Images

Digital cameras are typically identified by a megapixel rating that denotes the highest resolution of the images they can capture, in pixels. Visual graphics array resolution is 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels high. While most digital cameras and other electronic devices that contain cameras no longer use the outdated VGA display standard, there are still a few applications in which it remains useful.



VGA was originally developed by in 1987 by IBM as a means for its PS/2 personal computers to display higher-resolution graphics on a monitor. It was replaced in the early 1990s by the super video graphics array standard. Although VGA is no longer used for standard PC displays, it is still used today in some mobile and handheld electronics.


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Digital cameras, including those using VGA, store their images directly inside the camera's memory or on a memory card. The images can then be transferred to a computer for printing or sent to a TV screen for public viewing using wireless Internet, Bluetooth or a USB cable.



Images produced by VGA cameras do not take up much space, so most VGA cameras have a very small amount of internal memory. A 640 by 480 image is appropriate for viewing and sending online and remains clear and crisp if printed as wallet-sized. It will look distorted if printed on a full page, however.



VGA cameras are cheap to make, so their most frequent use is in lower-end mobile phones and Web cameras. Toy cameras intended for children also predominately use the VGA standard. With the advent of high-megapixel cameras, mainstream digital cameras no longer use the VGA standard. Other devices that contain small hidden cameras, such as binoculars, glasses or novelty "spy cameras" may also make use of the VGA standard.



The VGA rating refers only to size and not to clarity. A 640-by-480 pixel image is about the equivalent of a 0.3 megapixel image. The issues of distortion and clarity loss only occur when the image is either enlarged beyond its original parameters for printing or is viewed on a screen that uses a larger resolution.