For most aspiring photographers one of the biggest challenges is understanding the technical stuff especially if you are taking pictures to scratch your creative urges. Understanding some technical information will enable you to deepen your knowledge and make the whole digital world less of a mystery.
Digital means the 0s and 1, black or white or on or off. As you are probably aware digital cameras only record in B&W but they output in colour.
Bits and Bytes.
Bit stands for a binary digit: 0 or 1. 1 byte = 8 bits
A byte (or 8 bits) can therefore represent 256 different states; 2^8th power. Generally speaking there are 256 shades between black & white and this is what your camera will record in. Most of the digital world operates on 8 bits including your monitor and inkjet printer.
This is why you don't want to print a B&W image on an
inkjet printer using just black ink. The printer would only be able to provide 256 shades of gray, from black to white and these are not
nearly enough for a decent image. Instead you should print using colour
inks as well, which means that all three primary colours (Red, Blue and Green) will be mixed together to create 16 million shades of gray (256X256X256). More than enough.
As you can see from the diagram one of the biggest advantages is the smooth gradation of the tones that look more natural and are easier on the eye. The less tonal information that you have the less memory it will take up although the extra memory is a false economy if you are trying to achieve a natural and professional looking result.
This is a 'byte sized' version of the subject of bit maps, yes I know but I could not resist, and will hopefully have answered a few questions.