Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Six Camera Settings to Check Before You Start Shooting

Performing these checks each time you pick up your DLSR takes less than a minute and can prevent missed shots and unexpected results.

The current setting for some of these controls is shown on the Control Panel on the top of the camera. Even more appear on the monitor on the back. I have a D7000, so will use Nikon terminology and describe the controls for that camera body.

1. Focus Mode Unless you are planning to focus manually, make sure AF (autofocus) is selected on the camera and attached lens (sometimes labeled on the lens as M/A). This is usually set using toggle switches on the front of the camera and the base of the lens.

2. Autofocus Mode Check that the Autofocus mode is set to what you want, i.e.,
AF-S (Single) – locks the focus when you press the shutter half way
AF-C (Continuous) – continues to focus while the shutter is pressed half way
AF-A (Auto) – focus mode is selected automatically based on whether the subject is stationary or moving

3. Release Mode If you use the Self-timer, Remote Control, or Mirror Up mode, be sure to set the release mode to S (Single frame). Otherwise you may miss a shot while you wonder why nothing happens when you press the shutter release. (I’ve done this more times than I care to admit). You can check this on the monitor, but it’s faster to just take a peak at the release mode dial (under the mode dial).

4. Metering Forgetting to check the metering option (either on the monitor or control panel) won’t make you miss a shot, but you may not get the exposure you are looking for.
Matrix – meters most of the frame and determines the exposure based on such factors as the content, tone, and colour
Center-weighted – meters the whole frame but gives more weight to what appears in the centre
Spot – meters a single focus point, which can be off centre, to determine the exposure

5. Exposure Compensation This control adjusts the exposure in increments above or below what the camera believes to be “correct”. Forgetting to check and reset compensation settings (they appear on the monitor but not the control panel) can result in under or overexposed images. I use this a lot, so I find it is important to check this before almost every shot.

6. Vibration Reduction Nikon lenses have a VR “On/Off” toggle switch, plus an “Active/Normal” toggle. In my experience you are unlikely to change one of these accidentally, but you may forget to switch them to the desired setting. Canon calls this “image stabilization”, Tamron calls it “vibration control”, but all flavors of this feature help to minimize blurriness caused by unsteady hands, wind, moving objects and other factors. I’ll leave it to Thom Hogan to explain Nikon’s VR system and advise on when and when not to use it. You might be surprised at what he says.

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