Understanding your Digital Camera

If you want to become a good photographer, first you need to know your camera. In photography world you might often hear technical terms like aperture, SLR, focal length etc. If you know what these mean then it will make your life easier.

Parts of a digital camera

Every digital camera is made from several parts, but there are few that every photographer must know. Before getting  deep, let’s look at an overview.

  • The body of the camera is the housing of camera. Having a sleek body increase usability of camera.
  • The lens is the camera eye. It’s the second most important part of camera after image sensor. It’s a complex system and highly susceptible to damage if carelessly used.
  • The sensor is heart of digital camera. It replace the position of film in old film cameras. Image sensor is the maker of digital photograph. Light entering through lens, hits the sensor and sensor records this exposure as digital image.
  • Memory card is where camera stores its images. Most people think only about card size when buying. But there some other factors that affect the overall performance of camera like speed ratings of memory card. We will get into this later.
  • Battery has an important role in photography. A good battery will make you tension free  and help you to concentrate more in photography rather worrying about how long the charge will remain.
Now let’s get into details.

Camera body

A good and compact Camera body increase usability of camera. Peoples with small hands will find it difficult to hold bulky cameras. Similarly, those who have large hands find smaller cameras difficult to operate. So if you are planning to buy a camera, always take a few pictures with it so you know whether it fit in your hand comfortably or not.

Camera size determines the locations of buttons and command dials, which you have to touch when you are taking pictures. If you are going to buy point and shoot camera, then locations of buttons won’t bother you since there only a few buttons. But if you are going for SLR cameras or high-end cameras, there will be a lot of buttons and dials to operate. So before purchasing a camera always make sure that you can operate its button’s conveniently and effectively.

Most of the cameras in market are designed for ease of use. But if you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate go for another model.

Camera Lens

Camera Lenses

Camera Lenses

Not all lenses are suitable for a every shots. Each lens has its own purpose and will provide better results if used at the correct scenes. So a photographer should know about lenses  and their classification. First category is Zoom and Prime Lenses. Zoom lenses will let you to zoom in and zoom out. But they are generally more expensive, costly and bulky. Prime lenses on the other hand, don’t have zoom capability. They tend to be smaller, lighter and cheaper. Prime lenses at lower cost often provide the same or better image clarity than zoom lenses. Then you may ask why should some one buy a zoom lens. Answer is simple. Prime lens don’t allow you to zoom. If you want to take a long zoom photograph, they have to use high zoom lens. For example if you are a wild life photographer, you need a long zoom lens because your subject may far away from you and you need a closer shot.

Other classification of camera lens is Wide angle, Standard and Telephoto Lenses. Lens are classified according to their focal length. Wide angle lenses are with a focal length of up to 35mm. Wider the lens, lower the focal length. Wider lens have a large depth of field. Fish Eye Lens is an extremely wide angled lens with focal length around 8-10 mm. A regular wide-angle lens will have focal length of 14-28 mm.  A wide-angle lens capture more area in  a scene and may distort space making it look like spherical. Some times this distortion may be unwanted. High end, costly wide-angle lens can correct this distortion.

wide angle lens

Image taken using wide angle lens

Standard lenses are 35-50 mm focal length lenses and can fulfill normal photographic requirements. As we said earlier, wide-angle lenses distort the space, telephoto lenses some times flatten the space. Standard lenses stand between Wide angle and telephoto lenses, producing  more realistic pictures. A 50 mm prime lens will give you better quality at  low-cost. There is also another category called Medium Lenses, with focal lengths of 60-100 mm as some prefer 60 mm and 85 mm for portraits.

Telephoto lenses will help you to take a closer shot of far away subject. They have a focal length greater than 100 mm. Telephoto lens magnify the subject helping you to get a closer shot. If you are taking a long zoom shot then go for a tripod. Otherwise your picture may be blurry. You can also try image stabilization in your camera, if available.

Telephoto image

Image taken using telephoto lens

Camera Sensor

Camera sensor is the heart of camera. It captures the image. Size and make of image sensor determines clarity of image. Normally larger sensors will capture more light and give good low light performance. They also provide high-resolution images compared to smaller sized sensor.

Most of DSLRs have APS-C sensor. APS-C sensor is half the size of 35mm film and generally magnifies by a factor of 1.6x. So using a 35mm lens on DSLR with APS-C sensor is identical to 56mm lens on  a regular 35mm camera. This is an advantage in telephoto lenses. But in wide-angle photography, it may be a downside. A 10mm Fish eye lens in APS-C sensor DSLR produces images like 16mm wide-angle lens. Some high-end cameras come with full frame sensors, closely equivalent to 35mm film.

Sensor design determine the image quality. There is only one way to determine the image quality, see some sample pictures. Sensors capability is often expressed in megapixel. Megapixel determine the resolution of image produced by the camera. Higher megapixel may not always give better image quality. For normal use 8 to 10 megapixel are more than sufficient. Don’t just buy a camera because it has more megapixel count.

Memory card

Memory cards

Memory card may have different sizes and speeds. There are also different categories of memory cards like SD card, Mini SD, Micro SD. These name suggest the size of memory cards. SD card is the most common type of card used in digital cameras. Speed of the card is also important. Nowadays cameras are very fast and memory cards should also operate in  a speed matching with the camera else it may deteriorate the camera performance.

Most digital cameras are equipped with video recording and these action require high-speed memory cards. Class 6 is sufficient for most of the point and shoot cameras, but if you are recording HD videos in your DSLR, you might need class 10 SD cards.

The battery

Good battery life helps you to operate your camera conveniently, without the need to recharge after every few shots. Most DSLR batteries last for all day. Consider longevity and cost when choosing battery for your battery. If you don’t want to miss important shots be prepared with one extra battery. It won’t cost you that much. LCD panels consume quite bit of energy. So use view finder if you have. This will lengthen your battery life.

This is the an overview of general parts of a camera, that every photographer should know. You can find more information here in this blog. Thanks for reading.

Filed in: Latest, Photography Basics

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4 Responses to "Understanding your Digital Camera"

  1. SLR Photography Tips says:

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