Experienced photographers only need basic camera settings of focus, metering and exposure. It is necessary to master these fundamentals, but additional features and technologies make our life much easier. Here are ten that I need. What are yours?
Designers are sometimes wrong
A few years ago, not far from where I live, a new high school was built. It was a beautiful, modern, open-plan design. Only a few weeks after using the building, they discovered an error. They had not made a confined space for the students to take the exams. (Examinations are very important here in the UK.) A little further back in time another school was built and they forgot to include cupboards for the janitorial staff to store cleaning supplies.
Likewise, if you look at, say, Canon’s line of beginner cameras, of the six or so digital SLRs, each lacks certain features that the others have, making the choice difficult, especially for a novice. These are features that the newbie might soon miss and be forced to switch models. This, of course, is bad news for the photographer and the planet. Nikon was the same before, but they reduced their range to just three camera models under $ 1,000. Most other brands only have one or two interchangeable lens cameras with viewfinders in this price range, and they tend to come with more features; they do not miss the wardrobes of the janitor.
Even if it’s there, you might have to look for it
I recently helped a novice photographer with his beginner camera because in Av mode the shutter value did not change when the flash was out. Therefore, in low light, the shutter still read for about a second. This was the default setting. Changing the behavior as most learners would like – i.e. increasing the shutter value up to flash sync speed – was buried deep in the menus.
However, bad features and missing features aren’t limited to beginner’s cameras. Even some advanced models are lacking in the areas of design and functionality that I would like in any camera.
Features I couldn’t live without
For landscape and macro photographers, an articulated Live View display is a godsend. It lets you shoot at awkward, low angles and see what you’re shooting without crawling across the floor. I use it when I’m wading in the sea or the river and want to shoot near the water.
There are two types of articulated screens. The former tilts from top to bottom, so that it can be seen from above or below. The other hinges fully to the side, so it can open and rotate to face forward, up, and down. Both types are good for low level shooting. The fully articulated version is best for times when the angle of view is difficult, or you are recording video and want to see the screen in front of the camera.
One downside to the fully articulated display is that it can be obstructed by cables, such as the microphone, when twisted to face forward. However, I use a separate digital recorder for video, which gives much better audio results, so for me that’s not a problem.
In the days of movies, I used a mechanical trigger cable, which screwed into the top of the trigger. I had one where you would push a button on one end of a cable and a pin stick out from the other end, and another that had a pneumatic bulb to squeeze. Things have come a long way since then.
Being able to connect your camera to a phone, tablet, or computer without dragging cables, so that you can see what your camera sees on that device, and then shoot from a distance, is a godsend. I mostly use it for long exposures at night, so I don’t jog with the camera pressing the shutter button, and in the studio when taking product photos. I also used it for the birds in flight, pointing the camera on the bird’s flight path towards the feeder while I remain hidden.
A recent project required me to photograph a huge antique map in sections and then stitch the photos together in Photoshop. The map was flat on the ground, so I had the camera hanging over it on a pole. I was able to check the composition, exposure and even the light distribution of the studio flashes on my phone. Without this technology, filming would have been impossible.
I have big hands and long fingers. I once thought that having a bigger camera would be better for me. However, years ago, when I walked into the camera store and picked up the Canon 5D Mark III that I had my heart out on, my fingers couldn’t find the buttons, the socket. hand was clumsy and my nose was resting uncomfortably on my back. of the camera.
This is, of course, is a personal thing. Someone with short, stocky fingers and a stocky nose can find the perfect 5D to use, and a lot of people do. However, he stresses the importance of trying out a camera before buying it. Ergonomics are everything.
Light and compact
Speaking of ergonomics, many full frame cameras and most cropped frame cameras are much larger and heavier than the older 35mm SLR cameras I have in my collection. I actually have TLRs that are smaller and lighter than some DSLRs. I had neck and back pain after wearing such a DSLR and large telephoto lens all day. Therefore, a major factor for me now is the brightness of the camera. I’m relatively fit, cycle and train most of the time, and far from retirement, but I really don’t want to lug around huge amounts of heavy gear.
Nonetheless, I am not getting any younger and as the population ages, lightweight and smaller systems are becoming more and more popular with older photographers for whom big and bulky systems are literally a pain. That said, smaller, lighter cameras aren’t just for older shooters. Many young photographers also want this convenience.
Exposures longer than 30 seconds
Many of my seascape photos are taken at night or with a ND1000 filter attached. Often I watch poses lasting tens of minutes. Many cameras have their maximum shutter time limited to 30 seconds, except in bulb mode. It is insufficient. My cameras allow me to see the long exposures gradually develop over several minutes on the Live View screen, or on my tablet. But just being able to shoot 60-second exposures, instead of just 30, makes a big creative difference.
Two control dials
Does your camera have one or two dials for changing exposure? If it only has one, you’ll need to press a +/- button to apply exposure compensation in aperture and shutter priority modes, or to switch between aperture and shutter in manual mode.
With almost all of the images I take, I apply exposure compensation because TTL metering is easily fooled by predominantly light or dark subjects. It is also a creative tool that I use a lot. Having two dials is faster and easier to manage. I have the rear dial to set the aperture and the front dial to set the shutter, or exposure compensation if in aperture priority mode.
On the mode dial above my camera are three custom sets. Each of them is programmed with the settings I would usually use for photographing subjects that I usually shoot. Of course, these settings are just a starting point, and they are changed with each shot: C1 is set for landscapes, C2 for birds in flight, C3 for long exposures.
So if I photograph a landscape and spot a flock of passing swans, a quick turn of the mode dial and I can capture them. Or, if I took long exposures during the blue hour, when the sun comes up, I can turn the dial from C3 to C1, and I’m good to go.
Of course, if I’m shooting a wedding, family portraits, or client products, I can save my settings on my computer, change them in the camera for that shot, and then reload my usual settings later.
Image stabilization in the body
To write this article, I thought about putting an old 200mm lens (400mm full frame equivalent) on my camera and seeing how well I could hold a slow shutter: I managed ½ second. Being able to shoot handheld in low light conditions is essential for me, especially when shooting weddings and parties when a flash is not possible.
I made the leap from DSLRs to mirrorless in 2015, and I will never go back. Being able to see the histogram inside the viewfinder, or turn up the brightness, so I can see through an ND1000 filter, and have a 100% field of view – many DSLRs crop what you see in the viewfinder – makes a huge difference.
I have lost count of the times my cameras have been splashed, submerged or sandblasted on the beach. I have not yet had to make an insurance claim.
Your favorite features
Of course, these characteristics are personal to me and the type of photography I do. If you only work in the studio, your needs may be very different from mine. It would be great to hear what your additional essential features are, or don’t you have any?