Digital Cam eras - Christopher Welte

The Crutchfield Guide to
Your New Digital Camera
The Crutchfield Guide
to Your New Digital Camera
This guide represents knowledge that
Crutchfield has gained over many years. It also
represents input that our Product Support staff
has received from millions of shoppers. I am
very proud of the work that our editors and
writers have done in putting this information
together. Because of their hard work, I am
confident that this guide will provide you with
the expertise needed to get the most out of
your new digital camera.
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Table of Contents
Getting Started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Know your camera basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Opening the package . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Shutter speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Sensitivity (ISO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Ways to set exposure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Using Your Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Using a Digital SLR Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Taking your first pictures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Common camera features you’ll be using . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Beyond Auto: Shooting modes and scene modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Portrait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Night & Night Portrait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Action or Sports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Beach & Ski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Fireworks or Candlelight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Face Detection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Movie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Viewing, transferring, and deleting images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Using the LCD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Focal length, sensor size, and 35mm equivalent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Manual control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
RAW mode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tips for Better Photographs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Choosing & Using Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Printing, Sharing & Storing Your Digital Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Making photo prints that will last . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Enjoying and sharing photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Storing your photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Controlling the Exposure of your Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Glossary of Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Copyright© 2008 by Crutchfield Corporation. All rights reserved. Crutchfield ® is a registered
trademark of Crutchfield Corporation. Although all reasonable attempts are made to verify the
accuracy of this information, it is presented without warranties or guarantees of any type due to the
constantly changing nature of this information. Any person or entity using such information does so at
his or its own risk.
Crutchfield recognizes all manufacturers’ trademarks contained herein and disclaims any proprietary
interest in their use.
The photographic triangle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Aperture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Getting Started
Today’s digital cameras offer a wide range of features and capabiliViewfinder
ties. Some of these features may be familiar from other digital
cameras or film cameras, while others may be brand-new to you.
In addition, there may be aspects of storing, reviewing, editing
and using your photos that you’ve never explored.
That’s why we’ve developed this guide. In it, we’ll walk you
through the basics of using your digital camera. We’re also going
to look at some of the advanced features found on many cameras
today. You’ll find shooting tips to help you take great-looking
pictures in some common, but hard-to-photograph, settings. And
finally, we’ll give you plenty of pointers on how to safely store, print,
and share your photos.
Check the glossary
We’ve put together a
glossary for many of the
terms used in this book. If
you’d like a definition of an
unfamiliar term like “SLR,”
“viewfinder” or any of the
other camera words we
use, check out pgs. 21-23.
Know your camera basics
Whether you have a compact “point-and-shoot” camera, or an
advanced SLR model, there are some basic terms that are good to
know. These terms will be used as we get started in this guide, and
are often also in the owner’s manual for individual cameras. We’ve
explained some of the most common below. To the right, you’ll see
a diagram of some of the key camera parts we’ll be mentioning.
• LCD: The screen on the back of the camera that lets you review
the photos you’ve taken. In most cameras, it will let you frame
shots as well.
• Viewfinder: The little window you look through to frame a
shot. (Some cameras lack viewfinders entirely these days, so
you simply use the LCD to frame shots.)
• Shutter button: The round button you push in order to take
a picture.
• Mode dial: Sometimes called a command dial, this circular
dial lets you select camera functions as well as some common
shooting and scene modes.
Mode dial
DC input
USB jack
card slot
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• Zoom: This feature often takes the form of a rocker switch
or a circular dial that can be used to extend and retract your
zoom lens. It’s usually marked with a “T” or “+” at one end
for telephoto (zoom in), and a “W” or “–” at the other end
for wide-angle (zoom out).
• Power button: Many cameras have a power button for turning
the camera on and off. (Some particularly slimline models are
powered up and down by manually sliding a faceplate open or
• USB jack: Where you’ll connect the camera’s included USB
cable in order to transfer photos to a computer.
• DC input: Where you’ll connect the power cord in order
to charge the camera’s battery or power the camera directly.
(Not all cameras offer a direct power connection, and many
use a separate battery charger to refresh the battery.)
• Memory card slot: The opening where you can slide a
memory card into place. The memory card is where you’ll
store most or all of the photos you take before transferring
them to a computer.
Opening the package
We recommend starting off by checking that what’s actually in the
box matches the list of included items sent by the manufacturer
(it’s often a part of the manual, although it may be a separate piece
of paper). Though it’s rare for there to be a discrepancy between
what the manual describes and what you actually find, it’s useful
to know as soon as possible.
The most common items found in the package are the camera
itself, a battery or batteries, a USB cable for transferring photos to
a computer, an audio/video cable for displaying photos and movie
clips on a TV, a battery charger or power cord, a wrist strap, and a
software CD-ROM. Some packages may also include a low-capacity
memory card. And with higher-end cameras and SLRs, you may get
even more things, like a separate lens, a lens hood, and a neck strap.
Next, follow the manual’s directions on getting your camera
set up and ready to go. Most manuals recommend the same basic
series of steps: charge the battery, insert the memory card if one is
included, and set the date and time.
By the way, although charging the battery can take a few hours,
it’s not always a necessary first step — some cameras don’t use
rechargeable batteries, while others come with the battery mostly
or fully charged.
Using Your Camera
Did you know?
Forgetting to switch back
out of “playback” mode is
one of the most common
problems folks experience
when using their new
camera. So if your camera is
on but won’t take pictures,
always check that you’re not
in playback mode first.
Once your camera is powered up and your memory card is in place,
you’re ready to start snapping photos. It’s amazing how little effort is
involved to capture your first photograph with your new camera.
Taking your first pictures
First, make sure the camera is turned on. Next,
move the mode dial so the camera icon or the
word “Auto” is in the selected position. If your
camera has a separate switch for “Camera” mode
versus “Play” mode, make sure it’s set to the icon
of the camera, not to the triangle.
Point the camera at your subject, framing the
shot using the viewfinder or the LCD screen,
and push the shutter button. The camera will
briefly autofocus on your subject and then snap
the picture.
Your LCD screen should show you the resulting image for a few seconds. And there you go
— you just snapped a picture with your new
digital camera.
When you choose
“Auto” mode,
your camera sets
exposure and focus
for you — you just
point and click.
Many cameras
need you to switch
to “Camera” or
“Shooting” mode to
start taking pictures.
Common camera features you’ll be using
Did you know?
There are two kinds of zoom
— optical and digital. We
recommend always sticking
to optical zoom, because
digital zoom degrades
picture quality. See the FAQ
on page 20 for more info
on optical vs. digital zoom.
A picture taken
with no zoom at all.
A picture taken
with 2X zoom.
Even if most of the pictures you snap are taken with no more fanfare
than aiming the camera and pressing the shutter button, there are a
number of features that you’re likely to use before you take a picture,
while you’re shooting, and after you’re done with a shot — even
if you usually use pure automatic shooting mode. We’re going to
discuss those features below.
These days, just about every digital camera has some amount of
optical zoom. Almost all of them have at least 3X zoom, but some
go up to 6X, 10X, 12X or more.
If you’re wondering what the
number actually means, it’s pretty
straightforward. 3X zoom will get you
photos that are three times closer to the
subject, visually, than when you stand
in the same spot and use no zoom at
all. At left, you’ll see some photos that
illustrate different levels of zoom. (You
can do this same calculation with focal
length, which we’ll discuss more on
page 15, but the zoom ratio number
is more commonly found on digital
cameras — especially those with a
built-in lens.)
A picture taken
with 5.5X zoom.
Every digital camera today offers an
autofocus mode, and that’s what most
people use for everyday shooting.
With autofocus, the camera looks for
contrast in the scene before it, makes an
educated guess at what the subject is, and adjusts the lens for a crisp
focus on the subject it has selected. Most cameras offer more than
a single, central point of focus, so that you can shoot subjects that
aren’t dead center with ease.
In general, your camera will look for a subject and set focus when
you’ve pushed the shutter button down halfway. If this causes too
long a pause for you, though, you can probably set your camera to
“continuous AF” mode. In this mode, the camera constantly assesses
and resets focus. Continuous AF shortens lag time between pushing
the button and snapping a picture, but it can use up your battery
power faster.
One trick folks often use when shooting with autofocus is to
push the button halfway down to focus when aiming at a scene or
subject, and then hold their finger there until the perfect moment
arrives and they’re ready to snap the picture. This is particularly
useful when you and your subject are going to be staying in the
same places, and you’re simply waiting for the right facial expression
or event before you take the picture.
Setting resolution
Resolution is the term used to describe picture quality in a digital
photograph. Your camera’s maximum resolution is determined by
the number of megapixels of its image sensor. Most cameras offer
a range of resolution options for JPEG files (the type of picture files
that your photographs are saved as), from very low resolution settings to high-quality settings that max out your camera’s capabilities.
Today’s cameras come with ample resolution for large prints —
historically one of the most demanding tests of a digital camera’s
resolution. If you’re not planning on making large prints, you may
wonder if you should bother to take pictures at a higher resolution,
especially since each high-resolution photo takes up more memory
than the same picture snapped at a lower resolution.
However, given the relative affordability of memory, and the fact
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Resolution and Print Size
Type of image
Web Image
Minimum resolution
Megapixels needed
640 x 480
1-megapixel cameras* and up
4" x 6"
2048 x 1536
3-megapixel cameras* and up
8" x 10"
3072 x 2048
6-megapixel cameras and up
16" x 20"
3264 x 2448
8-megapixel cameras and up
* Top counts of 1, 2 or 3 megapixels are mainly seen only in today’s cell phones
and camcorders.
that you can transfer photos onto a computer, clear your memory
card, and start over, we recommend shooting at one of the highest
resolution settings your camera offers. That way, you will never take
a photo that you’d like to print, but can’t, because it’s just too blocky
and pixelated on paper.
There are a couple of situations in which you might choose to go
with a low photo resolution.
• If you’re running out of space on your memory card. If
you’re far from a computer and you don’t have much space left
on your memory card, setting your camera to take photos at a
lower resolution will give you more pictures before you fill up
your space entirely.
• If you’re taking photos for a very specific use online (where
you can get away with a lower “web-friendly” resolution of 640
x 480 or 1600 x 1200). Just don’t forget to switch the camera
back to a higher setting when you go out for a hike or head to
that family reunion.
If you’d like to know how your camera performs at its specific
resolution settings in advance, we suggest you shoot the same scene
at each resolution, then look at the photos on your computer, and
(if possible) print them. You likely won’t see huge differences on
your computer screen, especially when comparing similar resolution
settings, until you zoom in on the details. But the lower settings
should look quite a bit different from the higher settings when
printed as 5" x 7"s or 8" x 10"s.
Some cameras — notably digital SLRs — can also shoot in RAW
mode. This mode often uses no compression at all, but requires
additional processing after the picture has been transferred to a
computer. You can read more about RAW mode on page 16.
Beyond Auto: Shooting modes and scene modes
Along with Auto mode, your new digital camera offers a range of
shooting modes and scene modes to let you take pictures in specialized settings. We’ll run through the most common here, but please
keep in mind that each camera is different. Your camera’s manufacturer may have included additional modes, or named some of these
modes a little differently. The owner’s manual should offer useful
details about what your exact options are.
• Macro mode: Lets you capture photographs of small objects with a level of
detail that’s not possible in standard
automatic mode. It’s good for closeups of flowers, insects, leaves, and
other small items. When you switch
into Macro mode, that tells your
camera you’re going to be focusing on something very close to
the lens, and it adjusts the focal range accordingly. Some macro
modes let you shoot objects as close as a half-inch away.
• Continuous/burst mode: Good for shooting fast-moving
subjects like pets and toddlers. Continuous shooting mode
lets you press and hold the camera’s shutter button to capture
a series of shots in rapid succession. Along with its helpfulness
when getting great shots of high-energy kids, pets, or sporting
events, it’s a nice option if you want to make sure you don’t
miss the exact moment your nephew is handed his diploma.
Did you know?
A few digital SLRs also
offer the ability to shoot
TIFF files. TIFF files use
“lossless” compression
and are a great way to
capture extremely highquality images, although
they take up a lot more
storage space than JPEGs.
Check the glossary
We’ve put together a
glossary for many of the
terms used in this book.
If you’d like a definition
of an unfamiliar term like
“aperture,” “shutter speed”
or any of the other camera
words we use, check out
pages 21-23.
• Manual mode: Many point-and-shoot digital cameras
offer some manual control over your shooting. You
might have full exposure control (which lets you set
aperture and shutter speed yourself), or helpful features like
aperture or shutter speed priority modes, or a combination
of these options. All digital SLRs offer full manual control
of your photography, along with an automatic shooting
mode. (To learn more about manual control of exposure,
see pages 10-14.)
In addition to shooting modes, many cameras offer what are
called “scene modes” — settings optimized for the demands of
certain kinds of photographic scenes or subjects. Here are some
of the most common:
Portrait mode was created to give
you great photos of people. The
camera focuses on a central subject,
and blurs the background. That way,
your attention is drawn to the person
being photographed, rather than the
scenery behind them.
When you’re using Landscape mode,
the goal is not to have artistic blur in the
background, but to capture the entire
scene with maximum detail. As a result,
the camera sets exposure to achieve
clarity and focus from the front to the
back of the scene.
Night & Night Portrait
When you try to take a photograph
of a cityscape at night, especially with
people standing in front of it, it’s not
unusual for your camera to leave the
background dark and overexpose
your subjects. That’s why most
cameras offer one or more modes
for nighttime shooting. In general,
the camera slows shutter speed down
in order to capture the background as well as possible, but also sets
off the flash in order to capture a crisp and realistic photo of your
subject in the foreground.
Of course, there are a few minor sacrifices when using such
a mode. The main drawback is that hand shake is more likely to
produce a blurred final image. If you find that your images look too
blurry, just try using a tripod or resting the camera on a stationary
Action or Sports
Shooting fast-paced sporting events
or other action-filled scenes is tricky
in regular Auto mode. If your camera
has an Action or Sports mode, it will
increase sensitivity (also known as film
speed or ISO) so it can capture crisp
shots of intense action without blurring
the subject. It may also activate a “burst”
or “continuous” shooting mode to let
you snap several photos very quickly. The higher sensitivity setting
can mean more graininess or “noise” in the picture, but unless you’re
also shooting in lower light, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
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Beach & Ski
Because snow and sand reflect so much
light, many photos taken at the beach
or on the slopes end up with backlit
subjects whose faces are darkened and
unreadable. To avoid this problem, the
camera adjusts exposure to accurately
render both the subjects in the foreground and the clear skies and blinding
snow or sand of the background. Sometimes these are two separate modes, in which case the Ski mode may
make an additional adjustment to avoid the bluish cast that can be
pervasive in snow scenes.
Fireworks or Candlelight
Some cameras offer this option as one
mode, but a few offer these choices
as two separate modes. Generally, in
this scene mode, flash is disabled and
exposure is adjusted to capture atmospheric shots of bright lights in a dark
or darkened setting.
Face Detection
One slightly less common feature that some cameras have is face
detection technology (check your owner’s manual to see if your cam
has it). Switching on Face Detection mode gives your camera the
ability to recognize when there are one or more human faces being
photographed and set focus accordingly. For example, with regular
automatic shooting, a potentially cute shot of the kids peeking at
you from between fence posts may be marred because the camera
insistently focuses on the fence posts and leaves the faces blurry.
With Face Detection, the camera zeroes in on the faces instead.
With face detection off (left), the camera focused on the window rather than
the intended subject. With face detection on (right), the girl is sharply in-focus.
Most point-and-shoot cameras offer one or more Movie
modes that capture short videos and their accompanying
audio as digital video files. Though these Movie modes
can’t replace the video capabilities of a full-featured camcorder, at
their highest setting they record decent, watchable video. They’re
a great way to capture a moment that you just don’t want to miss.
As you use your Movie mode, keep the following in mind:
• a higher resolution setting means better video, but will also
take up more space on your memory card
• zooming while shooting in Movie mode usually involves
only digital zoom, with the result that your video will rapidly
become blocky and pixelated. (See the FAQ on page 20 for a
discussion of the merits of optical zoom over digital zoom.)
Viewing, transferring, and deleting images
Most digital cameras are set up so that as soon as you’ve snapped
a picture, the image appears on the LCD screen for a few seconds
before disappearing. However, it’s usually best to enter Play mode
in order to review all of the photos stored in your camera’s memory.
To do so, you’ll generally hit a button or flip a switch marked with
the universal “Play” symbol of a triangle. On some cameras, you
may turn the command dial to enter Play mode.
Did you know?
If you want to be sure you
don’t accidentally delete
an important photo, check
to see if your camera can
“protect” individual images
from deletion. This feature is
usually represented by a key
icon, and can be very useful
if several family members
are using the same camera.
Once you’re reviewing your photos, you can usually call up information about the camera’s settings
when a photo was taken, review videos, and even
zoom in on a single photo. Your camera may also
have different view modes, letting you see more than
one photo at once, so you can jump through your photos faster.
Some cameras also offer a slideshow mode, and you can use this
when simply reviewing your pictures on your LCD screen, or when
your camera is connected to a TV screen. Finally, Play mode is also
a chance to apply any in-camera editing features your camera might
possess, such as red-eye reduction, and to protect or “lock” photos
to avoid accidental deletion (see left).
Transferring photos to a computer
A typical USB connection.
Digital cameras come with a built-in USB jack and an included
USB cable for connecting them to a computer. In most cases, this
cable has a standard mini-USB connector on one end, and a regular,
full-size USB connector on the other, although some cameras use a
proprietary jack and connector for their USB connection.
It’s worth noting that there are two different types of USB ports
— full-speed USB and high-speed USB — and your computer may
have either one. The cable included with your camera should be
compatible with both types, though the camera may or may not
take full advantage of high-speed USB’s faster transfer rate.
In most cases, your computer should have the tools to immediately recognize your camera once it’s been connected and turned
on (the camera may also have to be in Play mode). The details of
the transfer process will depend on whether you’re using photo
management software that came with your camera or software
already present on your computer. It’s up to you. Whatever you
do, make sure your photos have been successfully transferred and
are intact on your computer before you delete any files from your
memory card.
Deleting photos
The most-used symbol for deleting photos is an image
of a trash can. Camera manufacturers have made
an effort to prevent you from accidentally deleting
photos, so you’ll usually have to identify a photo as
one you want to delete, and then confirm your choice
again before the camera will remove it from the card. Some cameras
will let you identify a group of photos you want to delete, but you’ll
still need to confirm your selection before it will remove them.
Reformatting your memory card
While deleting photos is a good way to quickly clear space on your
camera’s memory card, it’s important that you reformat your card
regularly as well. When you reformat your memory card, you wipe
away any lingering data that may have remained after photos were
stored and then deleted. Our experience has been that cards that
are regularly reformatted are less prone to file corruption, and a
resulting loss of photos, than cards that are never reformatted at
all. You can learn more about safely storing photos on pages 18-19.
Controlling the Exposure
of your Photos
No matter what your experience level with photography, you’ve
probably heard the terms “underexposed” and “overexposed.”
Chances are you also know that an underexposed photo is too
dark, while an overexposed photo is too bright.
With that in mind, then, it’s easy to understand that on the most
basic level, good exposure means taking a picture where there’s a
good balance of light and dark, so details are retained and color and
lighting are realistic. (A successful exposure can also break away
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from a traditional look — such as a clearly lit face on a subject
— in favor of interesting and mysterious shadows, for example.)
When a camera is in automatic mode, it checks light and dark
levels in the scene before it, and makes an educated guess at what
the “exposure value” should be. Most of the time it gets it right.
But automatic mode is optimized for the most common shooting
situations — which makes it harder to use when shooting a dramatic
scene with carefully preserved highlights and shadows.
Using different exposure settings can result in more interesting
or engaging photos. Even if your camera doesn’t have full manual
control, chances are it offers some options for specialized shooting
with adjusted exposure. So in this section, we’ll explain the basic
principles of exposure, and then discuss some of the common
camera controls that will let you make exposure adjustments.
The photographic triangle
When you take a picture with a digital camera, light enters through
the lens via an adjustable opening called the aperture, and strikes
the image sensor for as long as the camera’s internal shutter remains
open (the shutter speed). Therefore, the size of the aperture, the
length of time the shutter remains open, and the sensitivity (how
much light energy the sensor can absorb) all determine the ultimate
exposure of the photograph.
Now, because both aperture
size and shutter speed have an
effect on the amount of light that
enters the camera, they need to
work in sync with one another
to get a properly exposed photo.
If you have a small aperture,
not much light is getting into
the camera from moment to
moment — so you’ll need to
have the shutter open a longer time for the sensor to absorb enough
light. Or, if you have the aperture set very large, a lot of light will
come in — and the shutter only needs to open for a tiny fraction
of a second in order to get enough light for a good exposure.
Though sensitivity may change little from photograph to photograph, it’s also a crucial partner. Higher sensitivity settings can make
low-light photographs possible that wouldn’t be an option by just
adjusting aperture and shutter speed.
Now, the combined art and science of setting exposure is a larger
topic than this guide can cover — in fact, there are many excellent
books available that discuss exposure alone. But we’ll give you a
few examples of typical exposure settings, so you can start experimenting. We’ll also show you how you can achieve the same amount
of exposure in different photos of the same subject, while getting
markedly different effects.
If your camera
has manual control of aperture,
or you look at
your camera’s
specs and what
kind of aperture
it can set automatically, you’ll
see a range of
numbers associated with specific
aperture sizes, or
“f-stops.” Some
common ones
are 4, 5.6, 8, 11,
The picture at left was taken with an aperture setting of
f/2.8, while the one at right was taken with a setting of
f/22. You can see that the large aperture of f/2.8 resulted
in a very narrow depth of field, while the small aperture
of f/22 kept most of the scene in focus.
Did you know?
Along with the “full stop”
numbers we’ve described
for aperture and shutter
speed, there are additional
“one-third stops” that some
cameras now offer, to give
you more options for
and 16 (also denoted as f/4, f/5.6, f/8, etc.). Because these numbers
originate in fractions, the smaller the number, the larger the opening
actually is.
Another thing to remember is that from one f-stop to another,
you are either halving or doubling the amount of light permitted
to enter the camera; f/4 permits twice as much light as f/5.6, and
f/8 permits only half as much light as an aperture of f/5.6.
What does changing aperture give you? Generally, it gives you
control of “depth of field” — that is, the depth of the area where
the picture is in focus. Using aperture adjustments, you can take
a picture in which there is only a narrow band of in-focus subject,
and a blurred foreground and background — or you can capture
a picture in which
focus extends from
the front to the back
of the scene.
Shutter speed
Shutter speed is
notated in fractions of
a second or seconds
(1/500, 1/250, 1/125,
1/60, 1/30, 1, 2, 4, 8,
etc.). Most cameras
denote the fractional
shutter speeds using
only the second number, so if you select
1/250, the number
250 will show up on
your LCD. The shutter
speeds expressed in
seconds are denoted
The top picture was taken with a slower shutter
speed of 1/60 of a second, while the bottom photo
was taken at a faster shutter speed of 1/250 of a
second. The faster shutter speed made it possible
to capture the moving subject more crisply.
with quotation marks following them, so a shutter speed of one
second will appear as 1".
Just as with aperture settings, shutter speeds halve or double the
amount of light as you move from one setting to another — at 1/500,
the shutter remains open for only half as long as it does at 1/250, and
so on.
What does changing shutter speed give you? Mainly, photographers use shutter speed adjustments to control how their photographs record objects in motion. A slower shutter speed will let you
record a moving subject with the blur of its motion intact; a faster
shutter speed can freeze the moving subject in crisp detail.
Sensitivity (ISO)
In film cameras, sensitivity, or ISO (sometimes also called ASA), was
an indicator of the film’s sensitivity to light. Photographers generally
chose their film based on where they would be shooting — if they
were planning on taking pictures in bright light outdoors, 100 was
fine, but for indoor photography with the occasional help of a flash,
they would often opt for 400 or higher.
With a digital camera, the same numbers have stuck around, but
they now reflect the sensor’s ability to record light. It’s not unusual to
see 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 in the range of sensitivity settings,
even on cameras that are fully automatic. And as in the past, a less
sensitive setting can be used when the camera is receiving ample
light. Finally, as with aperture and shutter speed, you’ll notice that
the sensitivity settings available tend to halve or double as you step
up and down — 100 is half as sensitive as 200, while 400 is twice as
sensitive as 200.
What does changing sensitivity give you? Generally, a higher
sensitivity setting offers an increased ability to capture properly
exposed photos in indoor or low-light situations, often without
a flash. One additional note on sensitivity: because an increased
ability to absorb light is achieved by amplifying the sensor’s output,
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The picture on the left was taken with a sensitivity setting of 1600, while the
picture on the right had a setting of 100. The colors are more vibrant in the
left-hand picture, but the right-hand photo has less graininess and noise.
a side effect of using a high sensitivity setting (such as 800 or higher)
is increased “noise” in your photos. Practically speaking, this can
mean a much grainier look to photos taken at such settings.
Ways to set exposure
Some cameras don’t offer any user control over exposure; they set
aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity themselves. However, most
cameras offer some ways to adjust exposure to achieve certain
effects, along with offering full autoexposure. Here are some of
the most common ways to control aperture, shutter speed and
sensitivity. Check out your camera’s manual to see what it offers.
Full manual control
With full manual control, you can set aperture, shutter speed
and sensitivity independently. Most cameras require you
to switch out of Auto mode and into Manual mode to set
exposure manually.
Many people rely on their camera’s built-in light meter to ensure
that they’re exposing the picture properly. A light meter measures
the scene and offers recommendations on which direction to adjust
aperture and shutter speed in order to achieve an “ideal” exposure.
Even if you don’t always follow the light meter’s recommendations,
it can be a good guideline to use, especially when you’re learning
how to manually set exposure.
Your camera may also offer a histogram view. A histogram is a
graph that reflects the levels of brightness and darkness in a photograph. If your camera has a histogram mode, it will probably appear
for photographs you’ve already taken, though it may also be visible
for shots you’re framing and have not yet recorded. In general, in
a properly exposed shot, the histogram will show the data grouped
together in the middle, without too much emphasis on the left-hand
(or dark) side, or the right-hand (or bright) side.
Priority modes
Check the glossary
We’ve put together a
glossary for many of the
terms used in this book.
If you’d like a definition
of an unfamiliar term like
“sensitivity,” “exposure”
or any of the other camera
words we use, check out
pages 21-23.
Most cameras include priority modes, even if they offer full manual
control as well.
• Aperture priority mode (often marked as AV or A): In
aperture priority mode, you set the camera’s aperture,
and the camera selects an appropriate shutter speed to
go with it. This approach lets you determine depth of
field — that is, whether your background is blurry or in
focus — without requiring you to find the appropriate
shutter speed to ensure a properly exposed image.
• Shutter speed priority mode (often marked as TV or
S): In shutter speed priority mode, you choose a shutter
speed and the camera sets aperture to match it. Shutter
speed priority mode is a good option when you want
to control how the camera captures movement — for
example, whether a galloping horse is a blur of motion,
or frozen mid-stride with a blurred background — but you
don’t want to try to set aperture correctly at the same time.
EV compensation
EV, or “exposure value,” compensation doesn’t let you achieve the
artistic depth of field and blurring effects you might get from setting
aperture or shutter speed manually, but it is a quick way to adjust
the overall exposure of your photos. If you find that your camera
is taking pictures that seem under- or overexposed, you can use the
EV compensation button to tell the camera that you want your next
photos to be a little more or less exposed than the previous ones.
Almost everyone encounters some kind of shooting situation that
their camera’s Auto mode just can’t make sense of, so this is a great
way to adjust photos while you remain in that environment. Generally, you can play with this option and review the results on your
LCD screen until you get a sense for how much EV compensation
will work best.
Using a Digital SLR Camera
Almost everything we’ve discussed so far is true for both automatic
“point-and-shoot” cameras and SLRs, but in this section, we’ll
discuss some functions and features that apply only to SLRs.
An SLR, or single-lens reflex, camera usually consists of a camera
body and one or more detachable lenses. It’s called “single-lens
reflex” because its viewfinder uses the reflection of a 45° angled mirror to let you see your subject through the camera’s lens while composing your picture. The mirror lifts out of sight briefly when you
press the shutter button, allowing the sensor to capture the photo.
But what SLRs are really known for is their ability to shoot topquality pictures and accept plenty of different lenses. So let’s jump
into some of those details.
Using the LCD
First, let’s look at how using the LCD is different with a digital SLR
than with a point-and-shoot camera. Due to the internal construction of an SLR, these kinds of cameras can’t preview your shot on
the LCD — you’ll be framing your photos with your viewfinder.
There are a few SLRs that let you use a Preview mode, but there’s
a downside to this mode: it results in the same kind of lag time that’s
common to point-andshoot cams, but almost
unheard of on SLRs.
Our suggestion is to go
ahead and get used to the
viewfinder as your main
method of framing a shot.
Along with preserving the
responsiveness that SLRs
are known for, shooting
with your viewfinder up
against your face also prolongs battery life, and adds
stability (and a resulting
decrease in blurred shots)
to your photography.
At top, you can see how light passes through
an SLR while you’re framing a shot.
At bottom, the mirror lifts out of the way
and the shutter opens to expose the sensor.
Thanks to its ability to accept different lenses, your
SLR gives you much more
flexibility. You can choose
to use a lens that does a
lot of different kinds of
shooting well — this kind
of lens often comes in an
SLR kit, as a good “starter” lens. Or you can specialize and choose a
lens that excels at extreme close-ups, a lens with massive telephoto
power, and a lens just for portraiture — to name just a few options.
Choosing new lenses
If you’re in the market for additional SLR lenses, you’ll need to make
sure you’re only looking at lenses that are compatible with your SLR.
Be sure that they will work with your specific camera’s lens mount;
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otherwise, you could end up
with a lens compatible with
many cameras by your brand,
but that doesn’t offer full functionality with your specific
model. Your owner’s manual
should tell you what kind of
mount you have.
This zoom lens has a focal length
Once you’ve started browsing
of 55-200mm and a maximum
lenses, you’ll see that they’re typiaperture range from f/4 to f/5.6.
cally identified by their focal length
and their maximum aperture. If they offer any kind of image stabilization, you’ll usually see that indicated as well. (If it’s a zoom lens, it
will show a focal length range and two maximum aperture numbers.)
As you compare lenses, you’ll find that as their optical quality and
speed increases (that is, their maximum aperture), so does their
price. The advantage to a “fast” lens is that you can more easily take
photographs in lower light, without a flash or a tripod, than you can
with a similar lens with “slower” glass. You may be able to find some
inexpensive lenses that are still quite responsive, though. Although
these lenses will probably not offer the heft and precision that pros
look for in lenses costing thousands and thousands of dollars, they
can be an affordable way to increase your experience level and
shooting options — and they’ll still provide excellent photos.
To the right, we’ve included a chart to show you some focal
lengths, and what a lens with that focal length is generally used for.
Using older lenses
Your new digital SLR may also be able to accommodate older lenses
that you or a family member used on a film SLR. However, these
lenses often lack the built-in motors or electrical contacts that
permit present-day lenses to do autofocus as well as manual focus.
That doesn’t mean they’re broken — it just means that you’ll have to
shoot with manual focus only when using these lenses.
There’s one other thing to consider when choosing lenses for your
SLR, and that is what their 35mm equivalent is. Read on to find out
about what 35mm equivalent means for you and your SLR.
Typical Focal Lengths & What They’re Used For
Best used for
< 20mm
Super Wide Angle
Dramatic shots of large scenes
24mm - 35mm
Wide Angle
Large scenes or groups of people
Normal Lens
Everyday shots; portraits
80mm - 300mm
Everyday shots of people & objects
> 300mm
Super Telephoto
Shots of extremely far away objects
Did you know?
If you’re not sure whether
or not your camera is an
SLR, there’s an easy way
to find out. If the owner’s
manual has instructions
for removing the entire lens
and attaching other lenses,
it’s probably an SLR. If not,
it’s a regular point-andshoot digital camera.
Focal length, sensor size, and 35mm equivalent
Focal length is another situation where a standard for measuring
that originated with film cameras must be adjusted to apply
to digital cameras. With a film camera, focal length is the distance
from the optical center of the lens to the film, when the subject is in
focus. Film photographers came to be very familiar with focal length
measurements and how much they reduced or magnified a scene.
However, the equation behind this measurement depends on the use
of 35mm film, and the sensors in most digital cameras are smaller
than 35mm. (A few top-quality SLRs do offer full-size sensors, so
there’s no need to calculate a 35mm equivalency for them.)
As a result, the “true” focal length for a digital camera can be
misleading on its own, whether the camera is a point-and-shoot
or an SLR. For instance, an SLR may come with an 18-55mm lens,
which could mislead a traditional film photographer into thinking
they would gain super-wide-angle capability with that lens — but
when used with the digital SLR’s smaller sensor, the practical focal
length, or 35mm film equivalent, is actually 28-90mm.
Check the glossary
We’ve put together a
glossary for many of the
terms used in this book.
If you’d like a definition
of an unfamiliar term like
“focal length,” “wideangle” or any of the other
camera words we use,
check out pages 21-23.
To help avoid confusion, manufacturers usually publish a 35mm
film equivalent for a built-in or included lens. (You can also do this
calculation yourself when buying a new lens or using an older lens
on your new SLR; see the FAQ on page 20 for details on the equation you’ll use.)
Manual control
While some point-and-shoot cameras offer manual control of exposure settings, as we discussed on pages 10-14, all digital SLRs offer
this kind of manual control — and they tend to offer a wider variety
of settings, too. Even if you start off shooting in automatic mode, it’s
worth trying out manual shooting to see if you have a knack for it.
One tip: you can use your SLR as a photography teacher. Every
time it snaps a photo, it stores info about the settings it used, even
when shooting in automatic mode. By looking at that info, you can
duplicate the settings and retake the shot in manual mode, then
adjust slightly and see what happens. This kind of hands-on exploration is one of the best ways to get a feel for manual photography.
RAW mode
Though a few point-and-shoot cameras offer RAW mode, it’s
more commonly found on digital SLRs. RAW mode stores mostly or
entirely uncompressed photo info to your card before any in-camera
processing can take place. Saving your photos as RAW files gives
you the potential for better image quality and more creative control
than you get with the JPEG format. And compared to TIFF, a lossless method of compressing image files, a file shot in RAW mode
takes up only about half the storage space.
However, shooting in RAW mode has one disadvantage — to be
seen as photos, these files must usually be processed on a computer
later, using software specific to and provided by your camera’s
manufacturer. For that reason, RAW mode is generally only used by
professionals or very serious enthusiasts.
Tips for Better Photographs
Want to learn how to take better pictures? We’ve put together these
tips to help you. With these tactics, you can start snapping photos
that are more compelling and lifelike, without adding expensive
accessories. Ready to set your sights on better-looking photos?
• Remember the “rule of
thirds.” This is guideline
that you can use when
composing your shot.
It’s based on the idea
that photographs are
more aesthetically
satisfying and visually
interesting when your
The fence posts line up with the rightsubject isn’t located in
hand intersections, not the center of the
the dead center of the
image. Instead, you can image, for a more intriguing picture.
think about any shot as
being broken into nine equal-sized squares by four intersecting
lines. By aligning key elements of the shot with the lines, and
especially with the points of intersection, you may end up with
a more dramatic or creatively balanced shot. Explore what this
guideline means for your photos, but feel free to center your
subject if you think that delivers more impact.
• Get close to your subject. If you’re taking a photo of your
family in front of the Pyramids, you probably don’t mind if
the people are almost too small to see — after all, the point is
the location. But when you’re photographing people and you
don’t need to capture a famous landmark behind them, use
your camera’s zoom to get close for a more compelling photo.
• Take candids. Capturing candid photos, instead of posed shots,
may result in some of your best photos. Yes, we’ve all taken
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pictures of people
standing stiffly,
aiming their best
smiles at the
camera. But a
photo of the same If you’re trying to take a
picture of people, get close.
group cracking
up afterward
will likely prove a
much more memorable shot.
• Get down on their level. When you’re shooting kids, animals,
or even people sitting down, get on their level and shoot from
there for a much more personal, natural view.
• Let people group naturally. If you
need to take a posed group shot, let
your subjects sit or stand naturally. A
row of people with their arms at their
sides isn’t that engaging, but a cluster
of people standing around in a more
relaxed way, some with their hands in
their pockets, can be very pleasant.
• Don’t photograph people with harsh
sun on their face. Sunshine might
Using a flash in the photo
seem key for great outdoor photogra- below helped compensate
phy, but direct sun can actually result for the harsh sunlight.
in stark photos of people squinting.
Instead, take advantage of cloudy days
for good people photos — or, when
the sun’s out, position your subjects in
the shade and turn the flash on. Then
you get the benefit of the sunny scene
around them, but they look more
natural and comfortable.
Choosing & Using
Did you know?
Although you don’t need a wide array of accessories to start shooting with your camera, there are a few things you may want to add
to your photographic arsenal after you’ve gotten to know your new
camera and your shooting habits a little better. In this section, we’ve
discussed some of the most common accessories, and why people
choose to add them.
• Memory cards. It’s not unusual for folks
to find that the memory they started
out with just isn’t enough. That’s partly
because today’s cameras take such highresolution photos that you can’t fit lots of
them onto a memory card — and partly
because using a new camera seems to
generate increased enthusiasm for picturetaking in a lot of the people we talk to.
Fortunately, memory cards have gotten remarkably affordable.
See the chart below to decide how much memory makes sense
for your shooting habits.
Using your camera’s zoom
to get closer to people,
rather than walking up to
them, can give you more
flattering portraits. A portrait
taken without zoom can
result in an unflattering
rounded effect. Using zoom
is also a great way to get
candid shots of cameraaware kids.
Average Number of Photos Per Card
Picture resolution
• Batteries. Most cameras come with batteries, but having extras
on hand makes a lot of sense. If your camera takes “AA”-size
Did you know?
Using your viewfinder can
mean less camera shake,
especially if you don’t have
a tripod. That’s because
holding your camera
against your face, as well
as in both hands, adds an
extra level of stability.
Using a tripod can help you
get sharp, blur-free photos,
even in tricky low-light
batteries, we recommend investing in some NiMH rechargeables — they’re a bit more expensive than regular alkalines, but
they’ll save you money in the long run. In a pinch, you can also
use “AA”-size alkalines. If your camera uses a model-specific
rechargeable battery, then you may want to think about getting
a spare to carry with you, especially if you anticipate long days
of shooting without time for a recharge, or access to electricity.
• Camera bag. Although many cameras are small enough to
slip in a pocket, a camera bag makes sense if you do a lot of
traveling and want to make sure your camera is protected
from bumps and jostles. It’s also a great way to keep your
charger, spare memory cards, and camera all in one place.
• Tripod. Even for casual photographers, a small, lightweight
tripod can be a helpful thing to own. Along with being ideal
for taking group photos with your camera’s self timer, a tripod
is invaluable when shooting low-light scenes, when the shutter
speed slows way down. Most people can’t hold their hands
steady enough to avoid blur during these long exposures,
even with image stabilization and Night scene mode technology. Tripods are also handy for folks who plan to do a lot of
telephoto shooting.
Printing, Sharing & Storing
Your Digital Photos
Thanks to digital photography, it costs virtually nothing to shoot
innumerable pictures of a beautiful autumn day, birthday party,
or vacation. The inevitable result, though, is that many of us have
hundreds or thousands of photos crowding our memory cards or
our computer hard drives — and we’re not necessarily doing what
we need to do to enjoy them to the fullest, or save them for posterity.
Making photo prints that will last
Although there’s no way to guarantee that photo prints will last for
centuries, it is certainly possible to make an excellent print that can
last between five and fifty years. Here are some tips on how to make
great prints and protect them:
When using an ink jet printer:
• use the highest-quality photo paper compatible with your
printer; archival-quality “lightfast” paper is ideal
• if possible, use pigment-based print ink, not dye-based
• let ink jet prints dry for as long as possible before touching
them; waiting 12 hours is a good idea
When using a lab or photo service:
• look for a lab that uses high-end professional printers, not a
customer-operated kiosk, to print your photos
• try more than one lab until you get the results you want; the
service on digital prints can vary greatly
No matter how your photos are printed:
• always put prints behind glass or plastic to better protect them
from moisture, chemicals, and light
• avoid placing photos in direct sunlight, even if they’re framed
You may have noticed that we didn’t discuss dye-sublimation
printers. These printers are prized mainly for portability, bright
colors, and continuous tone; their prints fade about as fast as prints
from an inexpensive ink jet printer. However, you’ll still get longerlasting dye-sub prints if you follow our last two bullet points above.
Enjoying and sharing photos
One of the nice things about digital photos is that you’re not limited
to prints when it comes to enjoying the pictures you take. Here are
some of the things you can do:
• View photos on your computer. You can use a digital photo
as a background on your computer’s desktop or set up a photo
slideshow as a screen saver.
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• Enjoy photos on an MP3 player. Many of today’s MP3 players,
including the latest iPod models, can store and display photos.
In order to load them on the player, you may need to add them
to your player’s software and let that software convert them to
the appropriate format. Some players can also be connected to
a TV for large-scale playback of the stored images.
• Use a digital photo frame. These frames vary in price, style,
size, and screen resolution. But they all use built-in memory
or a memory card to store digital photos,
which they then play back as a slideshow.
Some can also play short clips of video and
audio. Digital photo frames are great gifts
for family members who’d like to have
access to current family digital photos.
• View photos on your TV. Most cameras can be connected
to a TV via an included A/V cable, so you can view the photos
stored in the camera on your TV. You may also be able to use a
wired or wireless network in your home to send digital photos
from a computer to your home entertainment system, so you
can watch slideshows of your photos on your TV (see right).
• Use a website to share photos or create works of art. You can
start a photo blog or upload images to photo sharing sites to let
distant family and friends enjoy them. Most photo-sharing sites
offer free photo storage, plus a range of pay options for creating
calendars, greeting cards, photo books and more. You can also
use digital scrapbooking sites or software to build beautiful
scrapbook pages, print them, and put them together in a book.
Storing your photos
When people are asked what items they would rescue from their
house if it were on fire, one of the most common answers is “my
photos.” And yet many people are not doing what they need to do
to protect their digital images for the future.
Here’s the bottom line. Memory cards can break, get lost, or
become corrupted, and hard drives fail eventually — and if they have
photos on them, those photos may not be recoverable. Our staff has
heard sad stories of lost photos from our customers, and we don’t
want that to happen to anyone else. That’s why we’ve put together
these recommendations for safe storage of your photos.
1. Use a hard drive to store photos from day to day. We suggest
using a backup hard drive, since your computer’s main hard
drive gets a lot more of a workout and is more likely to fail.
2. Burn copies of your digital images onto CDs or DVDs. Copy
your photos onto CD or DVD (a DVD will hold more photos
than a CD) on a regular basis, and store those discs somewhere
safe, cool and dark.
3. Check for intact files before deleting the originals. Remember
to check that files moved to a hard drive, CD, or DVD were
stored successfully before you delete the original from a card
or your computer’s hard drive. Sometimes, accidents happen
in transfer that result in corrupted, unreadable files.
4. Consider a safe deposit box. It’s not ridiculous to consider
storing backup hard drives, CDs, or DVDs in a safe deposit
box, if you have one. After all, if you’ve switched entirely to
digital photography, those files may be the only record of a
wedding or a child’s birth.
Of course, even recordable CDs and DVDs aren’t permanent
— though they haven’t been around long enough for us to know
for certain, chances are they will become hard to read in a decade
or two, assuming there are still devices that use CDs and DVDs
when that day comes. So we suggest re-copying your images every
five years or so, just to be on the safe side.
Even if you don’t carry out every recommendation listed above,
following most of these tips should help you keep your photos safe
and usable for years to come. And that’s exactly what we want for
our customers and their pictures.
Did you know?
You’ll find more tips for
printing, sharing, and
safely storing your photos at
Did you know?
You can use a Media Center
Extender, or video game
system like the Xbox 360
or PS3, to wirelessly access
digital photos stored on
your compatible computer
and display them on your TV.
Frequently Asked Questions
the difference between optical and
Q What’s
digital zoom?
Optical zoom uses the camera’s lens to zero in on a
subject or scene. Digital zoom, on the other hand, is
a digital technology that takes a real optical image and
“zooms” it by blowing up each pixel and using interpolation — essentially, adding fake blocks of color to fill
in the gaps that result, based on what colors it thinks
would have been in those spots.
For the most part, digital zoom results in an instant
decrease in an image’s clarity and sharpness. Images
rapidly become blocky and pixelated as you continue
to zoom. For that reason, if you’re interested in sharp,
crisp close-ups of faraway objects, always use your
camera’s optical zoom, not the digital zoom.
My camera has image stabilization, but I still
get blurry photos sometimes. Does this mean
the image stabilization isn’t working?
With image stabilization, the camera moves either the
lens elements or the image sensor to compensate for
camera movement. Image stabilization is especially
useful for maintaining crispness when it comes to
long-distance zoom shots or pictures taken in low
light, where the camera’s shutter speed slows down.
However, image stabilization can only do so much.
For instance, if you can’t hold the camera steady, due
to handshake or because you’re shooting from a car
or other moving surface, you still may get blur in your
photos. (By the way, one of the best ways to correct for
hand shake when taking a picture is to use a tripod.)
there’s a pause between when I
specks on the photos I take
Q Sometimes,
Q Iwithkeepmyseeing
push the shutter button, and when the camera
digital SLR. They’re always in the same
actually takes the picture. Is there anything I
can do to get rid of this pause?
Many cameras experience this kind of lag. In general,
it’s the result of a point-and-shoot camera trying to
assess proper focus and exposure and take a shot, as
quickly as possible. Scenes that require more complex
focusing or a major adjustment of shutter speed and
sensitivity — such as low-light or action scenes — are
especially prone to this problem.
This lag can be particularly irritating if it causes you
to miss out on a great shot. Fortunately, once you get
to know your new camera, you’ll have an easier time
adjusting for lag. There are also some cool tricks for
getting around it. Many cameras offer a “continuous
shooting” or “continuous AF” mode. When you turn
this mode on, your camera constantly adjusts autofocus for whatever is framed, so that when you push the
shutter button, it’s ready to snap a photo.
You can also get in the habit of pushing the shutter
button down halfway, and holding it there. That way,
the camera stays focused and doesn’t have to pause to
focus once you push the button. This is great if you
know your subject is going to stay in the same basic
place and you’re just waiting for the right moment to
capture your shot.
place. How do I get rid of them?
Because it’s electrically charged, your image sensor
can attract dust particles. Some cameras have a sensor
cleaning mode you can use to remove these specks
— your manual will walk you through the specific
steps involved. But if your camera doesn’t have such
a mode, we recommend against cleaning the sensor
yourself. Specifically, you should never touch the
sensor with anything, no matter how soft it is — a
few specks are better than permanent damage to your
camera’s sensor. Camera repair stores can often do a
quick clean-out very inexpensively.
do I calculate 35mm equivalent when
Q How
matching lenses with my new digital SLR?
You’ll need to know the focal length of the lens in
question, and the size of your sensor in millimeters
(your camera’s manual should tell you, and may even
give you the info you need to skip the formula below
and just do some basic multiplication).
The formula goes as follows:
A = 43.3mm (the diagonal of 35mm film)
B = the diagonal of your camera’s sensor
C = the focal length multiplier
Once you have the focal length multiplier, or FLM,
you can multiply your lens’ actual focal length with
the FLM and get the 35mm equivalent focal length
for your camera.
Free Lifetime Product Support: 1-800-955-9091
Glossary of Terms
35mm equivalent
See focal length.
A/V outputs
Video or audio/video outputs are found on most digital
cameras; they let you send an image to a TV for easier
viewing. A video output only sends images, while an A/V
output will also let you send sound.
A camera’s aperture works like the iris of your eye,
expanding and contracting to adjust the amount of light
that passes through. Aperture is measured in “f-stops.”
A higher f-stop number equals a smaller opening, which
admits less light. Aperture settings are directly related to
exposure, which permits you to control the amount of
light that reaches your camera’s image sensor. Some cameras offer manual aperture adjustment; others offer an
aperture priority mode for changing exposure settings.
CCD sensor
A CCD sensor, or “charge-coupled device,” is one of
two types of image sensor commonly found in digital
cameras (the other type is a CMOS sensor).
CMOS sensor
A CMOS sensor, or “complementary-symmetry metal
oxide semiconductor,” is one of two types of image sensor
found in digital cameras (the other is a CCD sensor).
Digital zoom
The ability to magnify an optical image digitally, using
interpolation. Digital cameras can come with quite high
levels of digital zoom, but the image quality suffers
noticeably as more digital zoom is applied. (Generally,
you’ll want to stick to optical zoom to ensure a crisp,
detailed photo.)
Effective pixel count
Film speed
See sensitivity.
Flash memory
Flash memory is the form of digital file storage used
by today’s digital cameras. Although some cameras offer
small amounts of built-in flash memory, most people end
up using flash memory cards to store photos.
There are two different ways to think about the pixels
on a camera’s sensor. “Actual” pixels is a simple count of
every pixel present on the sensor. “Effective” pixels, however, is a count of all the pixels used to record an image
and it’s almost always a tiny bit lower than the “actual”
count, because some pixels on a sensor aren’t used to
record picture information. Effective pixel count is widely
used as a measure, because it’s a much more accurate way
to assess a camera’s maximum image resolution.
Focal length
Digital SLR users must be especially attentive to 35mm
equivalent focal length when it comes to pairing lenses
with their cameras, because a lens that was an 18-135mm
lens with an older film SLR may well be a 28-200mm lens
with their digital SLR. (See our FAQ on page 20 for info
on calculating your SLR’s 35mm equivalent focal length.)
Exposure refers to the amount of light to which the
camera’s sensor is exposed. Three factors go into exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and sensitivity. By adjusting these factors, either separately and manually, or by
using predefined exposure settings, you can affect the
way your digital camera handles photos taken in unusual
settings (such as pictures taken of people running or at
twilight). Different digital cameras have greater and lesser
levels of control over exposure settings.
Focal length is a measure of the distance (in millimeters)
from a camera’s lens to the focal point, which is located
on its image sensor. Because digital cameras’ focal
lengths are measured differently than traditional film
cameras, manufacturers usually give a “35mm equivalent” focal length in their specs. A digital camera’s 35mm
equivalent focal length might be 27-105mm, although the
lens’ actual focal length might be only 18-70mm.
With a long focal length, like 300mm, a camera is better able to capture far-off subjects (such a lens is known
as “telephoto”). With a short focal length, like 28mm, a
camera can capture the scene immediately before it more
completely (this kind of lens is considered “wide-angle”).
Focus (auto & manual)
Nearly every digital camera features some kind of autofocus capability, a technology which lets the camera focus
automatically on a subject in the frame as you press the
shutter button. Many offer multipoint autofocus, which
makes it easier to take off-center portraits. Multipoint
autofocus uses several points (often between 3 and 9) to
assess a framed shot and set focus. Selectable multipoint
autofocus gives the user control over which point is used
as the focus point.
More sophisticated cameras may also offer manual focus,
either as a set of predetermined focus settings, or as a
manual focus ring. Manual focus gives you increased control over the detail and clarity of your photos, especially
if you plan on taking non-traditional shots and close-ups.
LCD viewscreen
Color LCD viewscreens are the norm on today’s digital
cameras; they can operate in place of, or in addition to,
viewfinders. Most cameras’ LCDs measure between 1.8"
and 3.5" diagonally, with resolutions between 100,000 and
240,000 pixels. The higher the LCD’s resolution, the more
clearly you will see images and menus.
Macro mode
Many digital cameras offer a “Macro” mode. This mode
changes the focus setting to let the camera focus on
subjects that are very close to the lens. Macro mode is
perfect for shooting close-ups of flowers or insects.
See aperture.
One million pixels. The more megapixels a camera has,
the higher its maximum resolution — and the better its
potential picture quality.
Image sensor
Movie mode
All digital cameras have an image sensor, either a CCD
or a CMOS sensor. The sensor’s job is to convert light
to electrical energy, which can then be stored in digital
form in the camera’s memory. A sensor’s photo-capturing
power is measured in pixels, and will usually be seen
expressed in megapixels. (Sometimes, you may see two
slightly different pixel counts listed for the same camera’s
sensor. These numbers represent effective pixel count
and actual pixel count.)
See sensitivity.
Most digital cameras, with the exception of digital SLRs,
let you record video either as an MPEG movie or a
Motion JPEG movie. Most record audio too. Although
these movie modes cannot replace the high-quality video
and versatility you get from a good digital camcorder,
they can be another fun way to capture faces or events.
Optical zoom
The ability to magnify a subject for close-ups, by adjusting the camera’s lens assembly (thus the name “optical”).
Most current digital cameras include an optical zoom
lens of some kind. The amount of zoom commonly
varies between 3X and 18X, 3X being less zoom and
18X being considerably more. Although optical zoom
specifications may look low compared to digital zoom
specifications, remember that optical zoom is preferred
because it doesn’t result in image degradation.
Short for “picture element.” A digital camera’s image
sensor consists of millions of pixels, each one building
up a tiny charge of electricity in response to the light
it “sees.” The more pixels a sensor has, the higher the
camera’s potential resolution.
Priority modes
Aperture and shutter speed priority modes are a shortcut to easy exposure adjustment. To set exposure manually, you would need to separately adjust aperture and
shutter speed settings. With priority modes, when you
adjust aperture, the camera automatically sets shutter
speed appropriately — or vice versa.
The number of pixels used to capture an image.
Resolution ranges from low (640 x 480) to high (2592
x 1944 and up). High resolution makes for sharper
pictures; however, high-resolution photos take up more
flash memory than lower-res photos. See pages 6-7 for
more info on resolution settings and which ones are
appropriate for different uses.
Free Lifetime Product Support: 1-800-955-9091
With traditional film cameras, sensitivity, also known
as ISO or ASA, represents the film’s sensitivity to light.
A lower ISO number means that the film needs more
light to take a picture than film with a higher ISO.
Because digital cameras do not use film, manufacturers
created “sensitivity” settings. Most digital cameras use
100 as their standard ISO sensitivity setting, and offer
a range of other settings from 200 to 3200, or more, to
mimic the effects of using film with speeds of 200, 400,
800, 1600, etc.
Higher sensitivity settings can be very useful in low-light
shooting conditions. However, because higher sensitivity is achieved by amplifying the image sensor’s output,
they can result in an increase of visible “noise,” giving
your pictures a somewhat grainy look. Some cameras let
you adjust these settings manually; others will only do it
Shutter speed
The speed at which a digital camera’s shutter exposes the
sensor to light. A shutter speed of 1/60 means that a sensor is exposed to light for 1/60th of a second. Faster shutter speeds are good for “freezing” fast-moving action;
slow ones allow you to intentionally blur the movement
of your subject to emphasize motion, such as water traveling over a set of falls. (These types of shots may require
a tripod, since the human hand cannot hold a camera
steady for very long.) Simple digital cameras may have
very little shutter speed adjustment; more sophisticated
cams often have between 9 and 15 shutter speeds. Many
cameras also offer shutter speed priority mode.
Single-lens reflex (SLR)
An SLR, or single-lens reflex, camera is named for its
picture-taking mechanism. In an SLR, the viewfinder
uses a 45°-angled mirror to see through the lens; that
mirror snaps out of sight quickly when you open the
shutter, to let light enter and strike the image sensor.
SLRs are used by photography enthusiasts because they
permit the use of many different specialized lenses and
flashes, and provide faster response time and higher
continuous shooting speed than most point-and-shoot
A telephoto lens makes it possible to capture crisp,
close-up shots of far-away subjects. The longer the
camera’s 35mm equivalent focal length, the more telephoto shooting ability the camera has. For example, a
38-300mm equivalent lens has more telephoto power
than a wide-angle lens with a 28-140mm equivalent
focal length. (Often, digital camera users refer to optical
zoom measurements, not focal length, to indicate a camera’s telephoto ability.)
USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a “plug and play” interface
commonly used on digital cameras, because it allows for
quick, easy transfer of digital photos between a camera
and a computer or printer.
A viewfinder is the small square on the back of a camera
that the photographer holds up to his or her eye. Using
the viewfinder is the traditional method of framing
photos prior to shooting. Many digital cameras offer
an optical viewfinder, just like the ones found on film
cameras, although a few cameras have electronic viewfinders that use a small color LCD, and some cameras
have given up the viewfinder altogether.
Although a viewfinder doesn’t provide as big an image
as an LCD, it may be preferable when shooting outdoors
in direct sunlight, which can wash out the image on an
LCD. Using a viewfinder can also provide greater freedom from camera shake because the camera is being
held against your face for added stability.
White balance
White balance is the electronic adjustment of light levels
to remove unrealistic color tones or hues, so that objects
that appear white in person are rendered white in your
photo. This process helps recorded images to retain their
true colors. All digital cameras offer automatic white balance, and most feature some additional levels of manual
white balance adjustment as well.
A wide-angle lens can capture an extra-wide view of the
scene immediately before a camera. This allows you to
more easily photograph panoramic landscapes, for example, or take big group shots without forcing everyone to
squeeze together. The lower the camera’s 35mm equivalent focal length, the more wide-angle shooting ability
the camera has. For example, a 28-140mm equivalent
lens has more wide-angle capture ability than a telephoto
38-300mm equivalent lens.
Our highly trained Product
Support Specialists stand ready
to answer your camera questions
— from basic setup to everyday
use — for as long as you own
your gear.
Use this space to
keep important
information handy:
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support from our highly trained Product
Support Specialists, available 16 hours a
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What’s more, you get this exceptional
technical support for as long as you own
your camera. You can call for setup help
the day your camera arrives, when you
buy a new photo printer three years later,
and when adding a new lens six years
after that.
or call 1-800-955-9091
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