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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Getting to know your camera

The first part of this project involved going through my camera’s manual

The main camera I will be using for the course is a Cannon EOS 450D DSLR. I also have a small digital compact that I may use as a backup or when using the SLR is less practical to have with me. Although I’ve had it around 5 months and have experimented with a lot of the settings before, I thought this would be an opportunity to revise my knowledge so far.

As I went through the manual I made some of my own notes in a small book creating a sort of aide memoir that I can keep in my camera bag rather than carrying the whole manual around with me, I also wrote it in an easy format that is easy just for me. Also to make use of the learning log I’ve also added some main points/notes that I learnt from then manual and what I discovered as I went through it with the camera.


I found that that my sensor has a ratio of 3:2 as a full frame camera would, however because my sensor is smaller (22.5mm by 15mm) than a standard 35mm full frame (36mm by 24mm) then it will make the focal length of the lens look like it has increased, thereby making the angle of view less. The manual stated that this increase would be by a factor of 1.6. I think this means that for example a 50mm (focal length) lens on my camera would have an equivalent angle of view as an 80mm lens on a full frame camera. However From reading ahead this theory can be tested in the first exercise of the course: Focal length and angle of view.

From the course notes it was called ‘equivalent focal length’ but I’ve also seen it referred as ‘field of view multiplier’, ‘crop factor’ and as the ‘focal length multiplier’ in other references.


My camera has 2 shooting zones; the basic mode zone, which is fully automated and the camera does everything for you, but also has various settings for specific situations, Portrait, Landscape, Close ups, moving subjects (sport) and night portrait. There is also the ability to disable the flash. Essentially a point and shoot mode.

The other zone is the manual mode which is where all the creative controls are used. I went through these to check my understanding of them against the manual.

P – Program A/E (Auto Exposure)

Camera sets the shutter and aperture automatically. Something I discovered while looking at this was that I could manually increment through the exposure ‘stops’. I also found that my camera was incrementing as half-stops. (It can also be changed to third-stops according to the manual, but I’m leaving it at half-stops for the time being)*

As I changed each stop (or half stop in my camera) I also noticed that the camera maintained a balance between the shutter speed and aperture to keep a constant exposure.

As the aperture got smaller I found the shutter speed got longer/slower

f/4.5 f/5.6 f/6.7 (Aperture value)

1/8 1/6 1/4 (Shutter Speed)

Filling a bath with water

(*) My understanding in photography is that Shutter and Aperture settings are measured as Stops and the f/stop numbers are calculated from dividing the focal length of the lens by the diameter of the aperture, so from left to right (large to small) the standard numbering is;

f1, f1.4, f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22, f32

Each standard stop increment = half or double the amount of light reaching the sensor/film. I found some useful references on the internet, as well as a quick scan through some of my books that I had a quick read through to revise the meanings.

I’ve always liked an analogy to explain how the aperture and shutter speed controls light reaching the camera sensor…

  • Opening the tap more water = opening the aperture
  • The longer I leave the tap open = longer shutter speed
  • The water filling up in the bath = The light reaching the sensor
  • To fill the bath I could open the tap a little and it would take longer to fill = small aperture/longer exposure needed
  • To fill the bath I could open the tap a lot and it would be quick to fill = large aperture/shorter exposure needed

I know it’s quite simplistic, (it wouldn’t explain all sorts of the different effects)but it’s how I learnt a long time ago and I never forgot it.

TV – Time value (Shutter speed priority)

In this mode I found I’m able to use a dial increment stops (half with my current setting) of the shutter speeds. The camera will control the aperture to get the exposure.

AV – Aperture Value (Aperture priority)

In this mode I found I’m able to use a dial increment stops (half with my current setting) of the f-stops. The camera will control the shutter speeds to get the exposure.

M – Manual mode

From this setting I could change the aperture and shutter speed independently of each other (although in the half stop increments my camera is currently set to)

A-DEP – Automatic Depth-of-field

I’ve never used this setting before, mainly lack of knowledge about it, but after reading the manual I found it’s an automated mode that will set the appropriate focal distance required to maximise the depth of field for an image. To be honest I would prefer to learn how to do that manually first! However I will give it a go and report back on the blog of my findings.


This is a setting that can change the sensitivity of the cameras sensor to light. I found that my camera has an auto setting but can also be manually set in a range from 100 -1600. I’m not going to go in detail at this time, however will bring it up as necessary throughout the course.

Other setting

There were plenty of other settings on my camera that I revised from the manual during this section;

  • Autofocus settings
  • Single shot/timer/continuous shooting
  • Picture styles
  • Exposure meter settings
  • Exposure compensator settings
  • White balance settings
  • Etc,
  • The list goes on!

However this is the ‘Art of Photography’ and not a guide to my camera; if it becomes necessary to explore these settings as part of the course then I will mention them at the time of doing so.

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