The F-Stops Here (Let`s start at the beginning!)

The F-Stops Here
(Let’s start at the beginning!)
by Steve Kozak, M. Photog, CR,
PPA Certified
The F-stop, or “aperture” is the control in the lens that “opens up” or “stops down” the
diaphragm inside the lens as a way to control the amount of light that reaches the film or
sensor. The whole f-stops are:
1.4
2
2.8
4
5.6
8
11
16
22
32 ...
The f-stops on your lenses may not be numbered exactly the same as these, but they
will be close. These are considered to be “whole stops”. There may also be “half stops”
and “1/3 stops” between each of these. F-stops are a unit of measure that refer to the
size of the lens opening. They also continue on past F32.
You really should commit the listed f-stops, in order, to memory! Memorize the numbers
as listed rather than those on your lens. We will learn to interpret the numbers on your
lenses, later.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
My teaching experience tells me that
many people have never actually
used their camera in manual mode,
so let’s take a few moments to get
acquainted with your camera.
First, set the
camera dial to
Manual Mode
(M).
Next we are going to need to figure out how to set these four items: Shutter speeds,
f-stops, ISO and White Balance.
On the display at right, “60” is the selected shutter speed
and “5.6” is the selected f-stop. On most cameras, there
is a dial very near the shutter button that will change the
shutter speed. This same dial may also change the f-stop
when used in conjunction with pressing another button
which activates the f-stop selection.
This button may be located on the back of the camera or even on the front of
the camera near the lens. It may be marked with a symbol that looks like this:
Check the instruction manual for your camera to determine how to change the
f-stops and shutter speeds.
In the image at left, you will also see the buttons that set the White Balance (WB) and
the ISO. Again, pressing the WB button while moving the dial near the shutter will
change the white balance settings and pressing the ISO button while moving the dial
will change the ISO. Again, refer to the instruction book for your camera to figure out
how to changes these settings.
White Balance
This control on the camera is used to correct the color casts that come with
photographing in various types of lighting conditions. This control uses a series of
several icons to represent various lighting sources and the photographer can simply
choose the icon that matches the light source being used.
There are also “custom” white balance options which can be used in
tandem with other tools to set the white balance of a given scene.
Some cameras also offer a “K”, or “Kelvin” setting that allows the
photographer to be even more selective in how the white balance is
controlled. Use of the “K” setting requires the photographer to
access the menu to manually choose the Kelvin temperature setting
desired.
For now, we are only concerned with matching up the icon for the
appropriate lighting conditions. For example, if you are
photographing with the sun, use the sun icon. If you are indoors with
traditional tungsten light bulbs, use the light bulb setting.
ISO Numbers
The ISO number of the film is a way of rating a film's or sensor's sensitivity to light.
The higher the ISO number, the more light sensitive it is.
The smaller the ISO number, the less light sensitive it is.
In other words:
The higher ISO’s such as 400 and 800, are quite light-sensitive and are capable of
recording in low-light situations such as indoors with no flash or even outside at night.
The lower ISO’s such as 100 and 200 require more light, so they are used outside
during daylight or indoors with a flash. We will work a bit more with ISO’s later on.
Find Your Way Around Your Camera
Now that we have looked at ISO’s, white balance Icons, f-stops and shutter speeds,
let’s see if you have everything under control. Please practice setting up your camera
up in Manual Mode as follows:
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
ISO 100, F11 @ 125, White Balance set to “cloudy”
ISO 400, F5.6 @ 500, White Balance set to “sunny”
ISO 1600, F16 @ 30, White Balance set to “fluorescent”
ISO 200, F8 @ 250, White Balance set to “shade”
ISO 800, F22 @ 60, White Balance set to “tungsten”
ISO 100, F5.6 @ 1000, White Balance set to “flash”
ISO 400, F11 @ 15, White Balance set to “cloudy”
ISO 100, F5.6 @ 125, White Balance set to “sunny”
ONE MORE THING
Many DSLR’s allow you to make a custom change to your camera to control the way
you scroll through the f-stops and shutter speeds. Most cameras come “out of the box”
set up with the f-stops in 1/3 stop increments. Frankly, because we are moving over to
becoming “Manual” photographers, I would prefer that you set your camera up in ½ stop
increments. This can be done at the menu level in the “Custom Functions” settings.
Canon cameras usually refer to this setting as “Exposure Level Increments” while Nikon
may refer to it as “EV Steps”. For other camera brands, refer to your manual.
With your camera set to 1/3 stops, write down all of the f-stops that your camera shows
between F4 and F22.
F4 ____ ____ 5.6 ____ ____ 8 ____ ____ 11 ____ ____ 16 ____ ____ 22
Go into your menu and change your camera from 1/3 to ½. This will eliminate some of
the “clutter” on your dial and make it easier for you to dial through the f-stops and
shutter speeds. I think this is a VERY HELPFUL option if your camera allows this. Don’t
be sad if you camera does not allow this.
Now, write down the new stops between F4 and F22.
F4 ____ 5.6 ____ 8 ____ 11 ______ 16 _____ 22
You do not really have to memorize these “1/2” stopsIjust know that they exist.
NOW COMES THE TRICKY PART ABOUT F-STOPS!
1.4
2
2.8
4
5.6
8
11
16
22
32
The smaller the F number, the larger the lens opening.
The larger the F number, the smaller the lens opening.
A large lens opening such as F4 will let more light reach the sensor than a small lens
opening such as F22. As a matter of fact, there is a relationship between each of the fstops:
Any time you move your lens from one f-stop to the next smaller f-stop,
the amount of light that reaches the film DOUBLES.
EXAMPLE:
F5.6 lets in twice as much light as F8.
F4 lets in twice as much light as F5.6.
This pattern is the same throughout the f-stops.
To look at this on the other hand:
Moving the lens from F5.6 to F8, cuts the light reaching the sensor, in half!
Moving the lens from F4 to F5.6 cuts the light reaching the sensor in half!
And this pattern continues.
So in summary:
1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16 - 22 - 32...
Larger Openings <-------------> Smaller Openings
More Light Reaches the sensor <-------------> Less Light Reaches the sensor
Move One F-stop, Light Doubles <--------------> Move One F-stop, Light is cut in half
Changing the lens opening from one f-stop to the next will either double the
amount of light that reaches the film or cut it in half, depending on which way you
move it.
1. Which line has the “full” f-stops in the correct order?
A. 1.4 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 16 - 22 - 32...
B. 1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.8 - 8 - 16 - 22 - 32
C. 1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16 - 22 - 32...
D. 1.4 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16 - 22 - 32...
2. What does the ISO of the film or sensor tell us?
A. What f-stop to use
B. What shutter speed to use
C. Its’ sensitivity to light
D. Which lens to use
3. What f-stop allows more light to reach the sensor?
A. F4
B. F5.6
C. F16
D. F22
4. What f-stop allows less light to reach the sensor?
A. F11
B. F8
C. F16
D. F2.8
5. What ISO is best used in sunlight?
A. 400
B. 800
C. 100
D. 1600
6. What ISO is best used in low light?
A. 100
B. 1600
C. 800
D. 400
7. If you move the f-stop from F5.6 to F8, what happens to the amount of light that
reaches the sensor?
A. Decreases
B. Increases
C. Stays the same
8. How do you properly use the WB icons?
A. Select the icon that represents the lighting conditions you are photographing with
B. Choose the sun for best results
C. Always use AWB
D. Select the icon that matches the lighting conditions in which your photos will be
viewed
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