Understanding How Your Camera Works

DSLR Components

  • Body – housing for your camera

  • Lens – eye of the camera

  • Sensor – records digital exposure

  • Flash Card – storage of images

  • Battery – self-explanatory

The Body

  • It’s important to choose a camera that feels comfortable in your hand.

  • If it feels awkward to make dial adjustments, you may want to consider a different model.

  • You should test the camera fit to make it feels right before making a costly purchase.

 The Lens

  • Not all lenses are created equal!

  • Two different types: prime and zoom

  • Prime lenses are fixed focal length, lighter, smaller and cheaper.

  • Zoom lenses are variable focal length, larger, heavier and more expensive.

  • Focal lengths: wide (<35mm), standard (35-50mm), medium (60-100mm), telephoto (>100mm), ultra-telephoto (>400mm).

The Sensor

  • The sensor captures the light exposure filtered through your lens and sits behind the mirror.

  • Sensor size does matter!

  • Larger ones provide better low-light performance, depth of field and higher resolution images with less noise.

  • The more megapixels on a sensor doesn’t always produce higher-quality images.

The Flash Card

  • Flash cards come in different sizes and types, typically SD or CompactFlash (CF) variety.

  • Pay attention to the speed! Cameras are very fast and the card needs to keep up.

  • Point-and-shoots use SD cards. Look to buy a Class 6 card with a high write speed.

  • Higher-end DSLRs use the larger CF cards. Pick up a card rated at 233x or higher for video.

The Battery

  • Most DSLRs use a battery that will last all day.

  • Consider carrying backup(s) if you’re using a point-and-shoot camera.

  • When judging battery life, keep in mind what scenarios you’re using the camera.

Understanding Shooting Modes

Shooting Modes

  • Shooting modes range from full automatic (beginners) to full manual (advanced).

  • Six different shooting modes:

  1. Full Automatic

  2. Program

  3. Shutter Priority

  4. Aperture Priority

  5. Full Manual

Program Mode

  • Program sets your aperture and shutter speed automatically.

  • Provides control over other settings like ISO.

  • ISO is the rating that affects how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light.

  • Higher ISO levels result in brighter images with the drawback of more noise. Use Auto ISO if you’re not sure about all this noise.

Shutter Priority

  • Allows you to set the shutter speed and ISO but automatically sets the aperture.

  • This mode is useful when capturing motion or long exposure photographs.

  • Increasing the shutter speed exposes the sensor to more light and causes motion blur. Useful in low-light conditions. You may need to use a tripod for shutter speeds higher than 1/60th second.

Aperture Priority

  • Allows you to set the aperture and ISO but lets the camera set the shutter speed automatically.

  • Aperture is most important for depth of field.

  • A lower number (f/1.8) represents a wider aperture, allows in more light and results in a shallow depth of field. Useful in low-light conditions.

  • A higher number (f/22) denotes a narrow aperture and provides a deeper focus but lets in less light.

 Manual Mode

  • Manual mode lets the photographer control aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings.

  • This is a more advanced mode and especially useful during shoots in low light.

  • Don’t confuse the shooting mode with Manual Focus. They’re completely different.

  • In manual mode your camera will let you know if you’re over- or under-exposed by providing a meter at the bottom. Your goal is to get the pointer in the middle.

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