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Getting to Know Your Camera

When you unbox your digital camera, some assembly will be required.

Your camera will most certainly come with a camera body, a battery, and a battery charger. It may also come with cables to move photos from your camera's memory storage to your computer.

This lesson will help familiarize you with your camera and provide some tips on getting started on the right foot.


The Manual

Reading the manual to anything sounds like a terrible way to spend a few hours, however, those little booklets are packed with useful information about your camera.

The camera manual includes all of the technical information that explicitly outlines modes of operation on your camera. It seems unbearably boring, but time with your camera's manual is one way to get acquainted with the features at your disposal. Even if you consider yourself a camera pro, you'll be surprised when you learn about a feature you've never used on your camera buried deep in the manual.


The Battery & Battery Charger

Your digital camera will most likely have been shipped with a proprietary battery designed to fit inside your camera. Some cameras will take standard sized batteries, like AA and AAA sizes, however, they are becoming less available as cameras become more technologically advanced.

To charge the battery, plug the battery charger into the wall, and match the battery's contacts with the charging points inside the charger. It will only fit into the charger one way, but it varies brand to brand.

I recommend buying at least one additional battery for your camera. This way you can always be charging at least one as a backup. Or if you are travelling on a trip and anticipate a lot of shooting in one day, it’s handy to carry a spare. The worst feeling is when you are trying to capture a moment, and the little dead battery icon flashes on, and you know have a finite amount of time left to take pictures.

The life span of camera batteries varies greatly camera to camera, and replacement camera batteries usually can be found at reasonable prices if you don't purchase a name-brand battery.


Memory

Most cameras will not come with memory, so you will have to purchase the class of memory designed to work with your camera. SD type and CF type are the most common kinds of camera memory, but occasionally microSD or others could be used, so be sure to check the manual.

The compact computer within the camera needs to record each image onto the memory card inserted into the camera. I recommend getting a card with at least 16 GB of storage, as a good all purpose card. It can store lots of high-quality images, and if your camera also shoots video, the card has the capacity to save a few short clips.

When you are transferring images from your camera to a computer, you will need to use a memory card reader plugged into your computer's USB port. Your computer may have a card reader built into it. Some cameras will come with a cable to transfer images directly from the camera without using a card reader, but I find that using a card reader is easier and less cumbersome.

These days, depending on your camera, there are even WiFi capable types of memory. These WiFi memory cards often have to be used with proprietary apps, software, and cameras - so be sure to check the manufacturer's guidelines that your camera can use a WiFi card, and which brands your camera manufacturer recommends for use.


The Lens

Now that we have met the operational needs installing our battery pack and memory card into the camera, let's take a minute to understand how cameras turn light into pictures.

Within the lens tube of your camera, there are series of convex and concave lenses that can articulate within the cylinder to refract a focused light onto your camera's sensor. As the lenses are moved further apart by extending the lens tube, aka 'zooming in', the resultant image is magnified.

It is important to take good care of the optical glass of your camera. A trip to the beach can be a real lens-killer if any grains of sand get into the mechanism. The zoom rings will begin to crunch, and slip - if this happens you will need to send your camera out for repair.

You can keep the surface of your lens pristine with a lens care kit. Specks of dust on your lens can create unwanted sun flare or wacky light diffractions in your image, and all lenses need regular cleaning. Even your smartphone's camera lens should get a hearty wipe-down regularly. Pretty much every time I pull out my phone to take a picture I start by giving my lens a quick swab with my shirt.

If your camera lens can accept a filter, look into getting a UV filter to protect the optical glass. I was shooting in a crazy windstorm when I was still living in Reno, and a rock flew into my UV filter and cracked it, but at least it didn't chip the lens! There are other creative lens filters that you can use to render pretty artsy effects too.


The Sensor

We can liken a camera's sensor to a fixed piece of film that we never have to take to a photo processing lab, because the sensor is the developing lab. The sensor captures light data that has passed through the barrel of the lens tube and then turns that information into a digital image file that can be reviewed and saved.

The sensor is the most delicate part of your camera. If you are shooting with a point and shoot, you will most likely never see this part of your camera, because a fixed lens is always protecting it. With DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the sensor is accessible via the lens mounting port. Be careful when swapping lenses so that the sensor does not accumulate any dust or particulate while you are changing lenses.


The Shutter

The shutter refers to the light blocking curtain between the lens and sensor. The shutter button is what you push so that the curtain sweeps open and allows light to enter your camera.

Photographers will often talk about shutter-speed, which is the amount of time the shutter remains open to allow light to hit the sensor. Shutter speeds vary, and can range from a thousandth of a second all the way to a few hours, depending on what you are trying to capture. If you are using your camera in automatic mode, the camera has a built-in light meter that will determine how long the shutter should be open every time you depress the shutter button.


The Viewfinder/Screen

I can't think of a contemporary digital camera that doesn't have at least one display. Some nicer cameras will have an LCD screen for reviewing images, as well as a second LED screen that displays exposure information.

If you are working with a DSLR, there will be a button to activate live view so that you can see what the camera is capturing. The live view button flips up the mirror that is directing light to the viewfinder, and instead directs that light into the sensor, allowing you to view your subject through the LCD display.

Getting a screen protector will ensure that your display will be protected from scratches that can dull the screen over time. It's much easier and cost effective to replace a scratched screen protector rather than have to send your camera in for the display to be serviced after it has been damaged.


Protecting Your Camera

Camera soft cases come in all shapes and sizes, but it really comes down to personal preference, and what type of bag is right for your body. Backpacks are great for holding lots of stuff, or a mix of camera gear and personal items. Shoulder bags are versatile as long as they aren't too weighty. A camera bag is one of the few items I recommend you go to a store to try on. If you are going to put your gear in a bag, you want to make sure that you like the way the bag is designed to protect your equipment, as well as determine the comfort of the carrier on your body.

There are hard cases available, like Pelican Boxes, that are designed for rugged all-weather use and heavy travel. Often these hard cases have rubberized gaskets to prevent the elements from leaking in, as well as an egg-crate foam to hold the gear in place while in transit. Hard cases are awesome because they are pretty much bust-proof, I watched my former photography professor drive over his pelican case with a VW van to prove a point one time, but they can be clunky and cumbersome.

More often than not, I keep a small soft case inside my backpack to protect my mirrorless camera, but can easily transfer that small soft case to another small purse or bag.


Exploring the Camera

Before you get serious about taking pictures, spend a few hours poking all of the buttons and wheels on your camera. By familiarizing yourself with where features are located on your camera when scrolling through all of your camera menus, you'll be able to determine where options for image adjustments are located.

Some cameras even have a way of 'favoriting' most your used functions, and you can create a custom menu of the settings you adjust the most.

Familiarizing yourself with the camera menus will help you use the camera as a tool in a more efficient way. Like any skill, photography takes some dedication to get through the completely monotonous part. We will go over this more in our Camera Settings lesson.


Quiz

{
    "id": "quiz-1",
    "question": "What part of the camera is likened to a piece of film in an analog camera?", 
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "the shutter.",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "the sensor.",
            "correct": true
        },
       {
            "title": "the memory.",
            "correct": false
        }

    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-2",
    "question": "What does your camera record photo data to?",
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "the shutter.",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "the sensor.",
            "correct": false
        },
       {
            "title": "the memory.",
            "correct": true
        }

    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}
{
    "id": "quiz-3",
    "question": "Your camera's lens only needs regular maitanence if it is a mirorrless or DSLR camera.",
    "answers":[
        {
            "title": "True.",
            "correct": false
        },
        {
            "title": "False.",
            "correct": true
        }
   
    ],
    "correctNotice": "That's correct",
    "incorrectNotice": "That's incorrect"
}

Class Project

Take your camera for an adventure, and go for a photo walk. Consider your camera both tool and toy. Share an image from your walk in this class, be sure to include a story about your photo.

CLASS PROJECT

Share a photo of your finished project with the class!

Nice work! You've completed the class project