There are so many different cameras with different features available now that it can be hard to know which one is right for you if you’re just getting started. That is why we decided to focus on novice and amateur photographers and tell you a little about how the camera works and what is important to know at the very beginning of the journey.
The camera, like an organism, consists of various parts, but we will not unscrew it and talk about each microcircuit, we will simply consider those parts that have a direct impact on the result, that is, on the photo.
The camera body, or body, is essentially the camera itself. Its main role is ease of use, settings and management. Things like the display, the layout of settings and buttons affect the shooting process.
The lens is the eyes of the camera and it is responsible for our final image. Each lens provides different features, so it’s important to know the differences and choose your lens carefully for everyday shooting.
The Matrix is a digital analogue of the film, on which everyone was filmed en masse in the decade before last. Like film, the matrix captures the light that enters the camera through the lens, records it and saves it to flash memory (usually a memory card). The size of the matrix is fundamentally important for the quality of photography.
A flash drive is our memory, it is the space where photos are stored. A novice photographer, as a rule, does not pay much attention to her, right up to the first work “in the field”. However, memory cards differ not only in size, but also in the speed of writing / reading. For a hardened reporter, for example, such moments can play a very important role. And for different shooting purposes, of course, you should pay attention to different types of cards.
Battery — As in any device, the battery provides immediate life and operation of the camera. This seems simple and obvious, however, later in this lesson we will explain why sometimes a smaller battery capacity can work.
As mentioned above, the body affects the convenience of shooting. First of all, it is the size. It is not always convenient to carry a huge camera with you in order to catch the right moment. It is not always convenient to deal with a small case. The choice of the appropriate size depends, for example, on the hands, the length of the fingers, etc. The easiest way to find out if a camera is right for you is to hold it in your hands, take pictures with it. In short, take a test drive.
The size of the camera, of course, affects both the location of the buttons and the ease of operation. Small soapboxes, for example, use a very simple layout because they have fewer controllers and buttons. Already on small SLR cameras, the difference becomes noticeable. And on flagships and professional cameras, all the buttons are located so that the user can reach them without making unnecessary movements. But then again, everything needs to be tried. For example, select manual settings and check what each one does. If you have already encountered shooting, immediately refer to the settings that you use most often. If you are new to this business, try and try to find the best option.
Of course, the most important button does not have the last role — and its location varies on different cameras. For example, on the top of the case, or on the front.
Each situation is good for a certain lens, so it is especially important to understand the difference between different models. The first and main difference is the zoom lens (variable focal length lens) and prime lens (fixed focal length lens). The zoom lens will allow you to enlarge the image or reduce it. They tend to be more expensive, larger and heavier than prime lenses. But they provide more options. Prime lenses won’t let you zoom in, but they’re cheaper, lighter, and smaller. In the cheap segment, it often turns out that prime lenses give higher clarity. But among expensive lenses there is no such difference.
The second classification of lenses is wide-angle, standard, medium, telephoto, and ultra-telephoto. All these subspecies are based on the focal length of the lens. It is measured in millimeters and, in fact, means the possibility of increasing. The lower this figure — the further you can reduce the picture, the more — the further you can increase it. Each type can be described in more detail:
wide angle lens
As a rule, any lens with a focal length up to 35mm is considered to be such. The wider the lens (and the shorter the focal length), the more the lens can see. The widest are fisheye lenses, they usually have a focal length of 8–10mm. The usual width has indicators of 14–28mm. Wide-angle lenses not only accommodate more objects and space, but also distort the image, creating depth and giving some sphericity to space. Depending on the circumstances, this effect can play a plus or a minus. Some lenses correct for distortion.
The focal length of a standard lens is 35–50mm. Such a lens, in fact, catches the image as close as possible to what the human eye sees. While other lenses distort or flatten the picture. Standard lenses are called standard lenses for a reason — the photos taken by them seem normal in size and familiar to the eye. More often than not, the 50mm lens costs the least, while still delivering the good quality that expensive zoom lenses can provide. Standard lenses are also a compromise between different types of glass, although there are of course situations where other types of lenses need to be addressed.
The average lens has a focal length of 60–100mm and is generally not suitable for everyday use. Of course, some photographers prefer 60 or 85mm for portraits, but more often than not, this distance is included in the size of the zoom lenses, where it can be simply used when needed. There are standard lenses with focal lengths ranging between 28mm and 70mm.
Telephoto lenses or telephoto lenses, as they are briefly called by professionals, come to the rescue when a strong increase is needed. All lenses with a focal length of more than 100mm are already included in this class, but focal lengths of more than 400mm are already ultra telephoto lenses. These lenses are heavy due to their size and are not cheap. They are used when it is not possible to get close to the object. They have their drawbacks — they are more prone to image blur and are not that strong in low light. Accordingly, those lenses that are lighter and have higher characteristics, such as image stabilization, will be much more expensive than simpler versions.
Telephoto lenses are a necessary item in the arsenal of a reportage photographer, when shooting concerts, sporting events (football matches, etc.), in addition, they are used by paparazzi in order to be able to discreetly shoot a character from afar.
Matrix and CPU
If we try to formulate the function of the matrix simply, it is responsible for the “filtered” light that passes through the lens, so as not to confuse ourselves, let’s call this light an image. The type of matrix and its size (larger or smaller) determine the result that we get — a photograph.
First of all, it must be said about the matrix that size matters. In miniature soap dishes, for example, the matrix is small, so this factor is not so significant when choosing a soap dish. When it comes to cameras with interchangeable lenses, such as SLR or mirrorless, the sensor is crucial. The larger size provides better low-light performance, more control over depth of field, and more resolution in the final image with less noise.
Most DSLRs use an APS‑C sized sensor. APS‑C typically increases lens capability by 1.6x. That is, a 35mm lens on an APS‑C SLR camera is practically a 56mm lens on a regular 35mm camera. This works well with telephoto lenses, but is not very useful when working with wide-angle lenses — not every one of them will give the promised width on an APS‑C sensor. A 10mm fisheye will give the same result as a 16mm lens. For most photographers, this doesn’t matter, but it’s something you need to keep in mind.
Some expensive cameras (like the Canon 5D Mark II) use a full frame sensor. It is equal in frame size to 35mm film, while in APS‑C the frame is equal to half of it. A full-frame sensor gives you all the benefits of a larger sensor, but loses 1.6x magnification. In fact, it gives the maximum proximity to analog shooting.
It is also important how many megapixels are in the matrix. Here, the inverse proportionality just works — the more pixels, the more noise is obtained in the picture. Therefore, the ratio of a small matrix — a lot of megapixels — this is not what you want from a camera. 6.3 or 8–10 megapixels is more than enough for an average camera. But again, do not forget to test, consult and look for a ratio that suits you.
So we got to the different types of memory cards: they differ not only in size, but also in speed. Most cameras now use either SD/microSD or less commonly CompactFlash cards. The speed of the card is important because the speed of the camera itself is important. The card must keep up with the camera, for example, when shooting a large number of photos in a row, and especially when shooting video. In the case of an SD card, it’s best to use anything faster than 15Mb/s, CompactFlash is 133x.
Volume is always important, especially for those who shoot in RAW format. Such photos weigh more than JPEGs and allow much more freedom in post-processing.
So, most DSLRs include a battery that will easily last a full day. But compact cameras, on the contrary, are far from always able to allow such a luxury to the user. If you’re looking for a compact camera, it’s best to consider both the capacity of the main battery and the cost of a spare. Sometimes the camera includes everything you need, but its battery is not powerful enough, and a spare will cost much less than other options for similar cameras.
With a SLR camera, as a rule, everything is more complicated — the battery will be more capacious, that’s a fact, but there are also options that can be used to extend its life. For example, on older DSLRs, you can use either the viewfinder or the display, and the former will last longer.
Now there are more and more new points that need to be taken into account — the display, the touchscreen, the frame rate per second and much more. However, the main parts remain the same and now you can get a little better understanding of how your camera works.