Digital SLRs and compact system cameras use focal plane shutters and these have a design limitation – there is a maximum speed at which the whole sensor is exposed at once. This is the maximum flash synchronisation speed. Beyond this, the sensor is exposed in a moving strip, which is no good for flash.
This is a big topic! It hardly needs saying that cameras are complex in design terms and filled with complex technology too. Inevitably, then, this list of topics related to camera features is very long indeed and extends over several pages.
Programmable hardware inside the camera (somewhere between hardware and software) that handles the camera’s controls, functions and features. Camera makers sometimes release firmware updates to fix bugs or add new features.
Digital cameras automatically give each photo a unique filename, usually consisting of a series of letters and then a number. There is one key option to be aware of – you can have the camera start renumbering from scratch each time you erase/format the memory card, or you can have it continue from the last […]
Used to adjust the camera’s automatic exposure setting to make the picture come out lighter or darker. Camera meters aren’t foolproof and sometimes you do need to make adjustments. Doing it this way is quicker than swapping to full manual control.
A tiny blind in the viewfinder eyepiece that stops light entering and upsetting the exposure (normally the eyepiece is covered by your eye). It can be useful for long exposures or other shots where you’ve stepped away from the camera. Some cameras come with a small viewfinder cap fixed to the shoulder strap.
Some cameras can simulate the effect of exposure adjustments on the LCD screen or electronic viewfinder (this is not possible with an optical viewfinder), making the image lighter or darker as you adjust the exposure. It’s not a precise guide to exposure but it can be useful.
This controls the camera’s operation, from fully-automatic (the camera controls everything), semi-automatic (you can choose the shutter speed or lens aperture) to manual (you choose all the settings).
Taking a series of shots at different exposure settings in quick succession so that you can choose the best later or combine them in an HDR (high dynamic range) image. See also: Top 12 HDR tips
Essentially, this is a tiny LCD display seen through a magnifying eyepiece. They’re used on some bridge cameras and high-end compact cameras, and on many mirrorless cameras. They replace the optical viewing system you get with a DSLR.
Some cameras now offer electronic shutters which start and stop the exposure digitally rather than with a mechanical shutter. These are silent and can offer very high shutter speeds, though most use a ‘scanning’ process which makes them unsuitable for action photography because while the exposure time for any particular strip of the sensor is […]
Many cameras offer a range of special image effects, usually taking over some or all of the camera controls and using in-camera image processing too. Examples include vintage sepia toning, tilt-shift ‘miniature’ effects, toy camera or cross-processing effects.
Camera makers quote two megapixel figures. The bigger, ‘gross’ figure counts all the photosites on the sensor, but many of those around the edges are used for calibration and other technical purposes, so makers also quote the ‘effective’ pixels, which are the ones actually used to make the image. This is the important figure.
A feature on some cameras which expands the range of tones the sensor can capture. It works by using a higher baseline ISO setting but then holding back the ISO amplification for brighter areas. The darker areas of the picture are well exposed but the camera holds on to the highlight detail too.
This controls what happens when you press the shutter release. In regular single-shot mode the camera takes a single photo. In continuous mode, it keeps taking pictures for as long as you hold down the shutter button. You’ll also find a self-timer mode and other options.
Software correction carried out either in the camera during image processing or later on in software to correct bowed edges caused by lens distortion.
Zoom function that comes from blowing up the central part of a digital image, not by increasing the magnification of the lens. Digital zooms produce lower resolution and less detail, despite what the makers say.
Usually you view the scene with the camera lens wide open and it only stops down to your chosen aperture the moment you press the shutter button, so it’s hard to judge just how much depth of field the final photo will have. The depth of field preview stops the lens down to the taking […]
Most advanced cameras offer a custom settings menu for changing the behaviour of the camera’s controls to better suit the way you like to work. For example, you might want to change the direction of the control dials, or the order in which bracketed exposures are taken.
You own the copyright in any photo you take, though if you photograph a model or an important building, you may not have the right to use your photos commercially without their permission (or ‘release’). Some cameras can embed a copyright message automatically in each photo’s metadata.
A wheel on the camera body which you turn with a finger or your thumb to change one of the camera settings. The control wheel’s function will depend on the mode or function you’ve selected. More advanced cameras have two control wheels for quicker adjustments.