When I got my first dLSR 4 years ago, I remember getting very frustrated and confused when I read the manual. Frustrated because I couldn’t understand the relevance/importance of the features as described by the manual. So the first things we are going to do is introduce ourselves to our camera and get acquainted with it. There will be many features that will be available but we are going to just explore the absolute minimum necessary to start our journey. As we go further along I will start bringing in additional features as and when it is necessary to know about it. For this introduction, you need your manual.
Any camera, whether it’s a cheap basic digital compact, a cameraphone or a dSLR will consist of the optics (lens), the sensor and a trigger mechanism. If we look at the very early cameras like the pinhole cameras, the optics is merely a hole the size of a pin (optics), the file plate (sensor). The trigger mechanism is the simple act of uncovering the pin hole to let light in and then covering it back up. Fundamentally, every camera works in this manner.
Take a look at your camera now (you can skip this if its too simple)
The trigger mechanism (or more appropriately- shutter release) should be where your index finger rest when you grip it. Press the button and you activate the trigger mechanism, the hole is uncovered and then covered in a split second and voila, you’ve taken a picture. At this point in our journey, dSLR or digital compact camera’s will work in the same manner. This is so simple that all of you should already have used it before but we don’t call this the beginner’s beginners for nothing.
Take a look at your camera optics now (don’t skip this one. Its important and will help you with the next lesson).
Optics For digital compacts
Digital compacts work roughly the same as dSLRs except that you make things bigger or smaller (or zoom in or zoom out) by pressing 2 buttons often marked as T (telephoto) or W (wide-angle). If you look through the viewfinder, you will see the picture change. Things get bigger and smaller as you press either button.
Optics For dLSRs
Unless you opt not to take it, most dLSRs comes with a kit lens. In the Canon range, the consumer kit lens is the EFS 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 (please let me know the kit lens from other manufacturers and I will update this). The only numbers relevant to you at the moment is 18-55 and you can ignore the other numbers (will cover that some other time). On the barrel of the lens will be 2 rings, the focusing ring and the zoom ring. For our moment we’re not going to mess around with the focusing ring. Find the zoom ring. Find the zoom rings and you can see for yourself how the image changes. Look at the lens and it will have numbers, which will start at 18 and go along to 55. There will also be a marker to indicate what number you are using. When the marker is at 18 you are at the equivalent of W and when at 55 you are at T.
One of the fundamental differences between dSLRs and digital compacts is that you have the ability to change lenses. Why do we want this? Same reason why I have 7 lenses. Because we can and because each type of lenses will give very different results and understanding these different results will dramatically improve your portrait work and I am going to cover these different results in the next few articles. Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to buy 7 lenses if you have a dSLR because I am going to show you how your kit lens is actually at least 4 lenses in one.
Another key feature in digital compacts is this thingy called digital zoom. What I have just described to you is the optical zoom, which I defined simply as zooms that comes from glasses in the lens. Digital zooms are zooms which result from digitally processing the pictures and making it bigger. Look through your manual and find out how to switch the digital zoom off because it is of no use. Why? Because you can achieve the same result in your computer with not much hassle.
What you should do now is to take your camera for a spin. We are going to take some pictures of anything.
Before we start, let me say that unless otherwise told, you should set your camera to P (which stands for Program) mode. This applies for both dSLRs and digital compacts. P has the advantage of deciding everything for you except for what to take and how big you want to take it. At this moment I don’t want to focus on the hard stuff and want to focus on quick results and immediate improvement. We’ll cover what makes P works (and the other letters of the alphabets that you can see next to it) later on.
Find a bright area in the house or in the office (in P sometimes the built in flash will activate- if it does move to another location where its brighter). Look for an object and stand about 3 meters away. Place the object smack in the middle of your picture. Make sure there’s no wall behind the object. Try to make sure you have spacious background. Find the zoom button or focusing ring and start at 18 or W and gradually work up to the end. You have to remain in the same spot. If you want to take more than 5 pictures that’s ok too.
Upload the pictures to the computer and I want you to just look through the pictures.
Oh by the way, once you’ve done this, consider yourself properly introduced to your camera.
This should take your 5 minutes but the lessons will last a lifetime……
Go to previous section
Pictures for this exercise can be found here…
The debrief of this exercise can be found here…..
The next lesson will be uploaded on 5th Nov 2007