Archive for the ‘Photography Equipment & Gear’ Category

Mirrorless Cameras

Can you take our classes with a mirrorless camera?


Mirrorless cameras are becoming more and more popular- they’re lighter, often less expensive and have some great features. Looking back a few years, we probably saw these cameras sporadically in classes, maybe one every few months but in the last year, every Using Your DSLR Camera class probably has at least one mirrorless camera user. Students approach us all the time, through email, social media, etc about whether or not they (and their mirrorless camera) are welcome in our DSLR Classes so, I decided to pose the most frequently asked questions to our instructor, George Mach.


What are some of the challenges that mirrorless camera users have over DSLR camera users in class?

Mirrorless cameras offer similar image quality as DSLR’s, but generally in a smaller package. However, the inherent design of these cameras requires that their sensors and viewfinders/ lcd screens on the back of the camera run continuously when the camera is on, so battery life is often shorter with a mirrorless camera than a traditional DSLR.

If I was in the market for a mirrorless camera, is there one brand you would recommend over another?

I wouldn’t recommend any one particular brand over another, but you should know that the various camera manufacturers offer models that have different sensor sizes relative to each other. For example, the Nikon 1 series of mirrorless cameras have the smallest sensors of most of the manufacturers. Olympus and Panasonic models have micro 4/3rds sensors which are slightly smaller than the Canon and Fuji mirrorless cameras, which have APS-C sized sensors similar to many DSLR’s. And then Sony sells cameras with APS-C sized sensors, as well as full frame sensors.
The larger the sensor size, the greater the ability to capture high quality images under low light conditions, but also the higher the cost for both the camera as well as lenses. So there are lots of considerations to take into account.

Word has it you own a lot of cameras… Do you own a mirrorless camera?

My camera count maaaaaaay be currently north of 50, but yes, I do own a mirrorless camera. It has become my main go to, simply because of its compact size – it is very convenient to carry around everywhere, without making any image quality sacrifices when compared to a DSLR.


There you have it! They’re lightweight, great for travel, often less expensive and suitable for all of our classes, including Using Your DSLR Camera! In this 12 hour introductory course, we’ll teach you how to utilize the manual functions on your interchangeable lens camera. By the time this class over you will be experienced in: manipulating ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to produce artistic results and proper exposures, as well as metering differently for specified reasons. We will also explore changing your autofocus settings and using them in the right situations, as well as navigating playback of images, reading histograms, when and why to use the various auto-exposure modes (including the priority modes), and in manipulating the white balance to alter the color temperature of your photos.

Register today!

Winter Photography Tips

Icy roads, freezing temperatures, dead batteries and unbearable wind chill are just some of the many joys we have living here, in Alberta. But once in awhile, you can’t help but look around and think how beautiful everything looks under fresh fallen snow… The way it accumulates on the branches and how it seems like you can stare off into the landscape and see white forever. Those are the days you need to grab your camera and get out and capture something that you could never capture in one of those lame tropical countries that are just boring sandy beaches all year round. (dare to dream!)


Now that I have you feeling all inspired to capture the beautiful scene around you, shooting in the winter is not without a few challenges- preparation is key.

  1. Grab extra batteries! Nothing sucks your battery power quite like the cold.
  2. Use the biggest memory card you can find so you can save your freezing fingers the challenge of changing it out later on.
  3. Be smart with your gear and don’t shock it with sudden temperature changes. Coming directly inside from a -25 afternoon feels like a warm hug to us but your camera might hold a grudge. You could wind up with condensation in your camera or lenses so, acclimate your gear slowly afterward to avoid costly problems.

camera-gear-in-winter- calgary-photography-classes

Get Creative

Ever stare at a beautiful winter scene, take a photo and realize that you just didn’t do the scene justice? It winds up looking flat and boring? A great way to add some dimension to your winter scene is to practice shooting with a shallow depth of field- if you’re unfamiliar with this, we cover it in our class Using Your DSLR Camera. Also, try adding something interesting to the foreground, maybe a splash of color or, instead of trying to capture the entire landscape around you, focus on something small.


If you’re every feeling starved for inspiration or you want to connect with other photographers, join us for a photo walk! This is a great way to practice and reinforce the principles learned in class. Have fun! Be sure to share your winter photos with us on instagram, @thecplc!


Tips for the Traveling Photographer

Preparing Photographically for Your Next Trip

Are you planning to take a trip abroad, and feel overwhelmed with preparations for what to pack, photographically speaking?  Travelling with camera gear can be stressful, so here are some tips to get you started.

First off, NEVER check your cameras and lenses.   These should be taken as carry on whenever possible.  The voyage of checked baggage is often rough, and no amount of Fragile stickers will guarantee your gear makes it safely to your destination.   Also, make sure you have enough juice to power your camera on before airport security, as some security staff may want to see it actually is a camera.

Travel Photography what to pack

What should I pack?” This question is asked all the time and the answer is, it depends. You need to pack for what you plan to do on your trip. For example, if you’re going trekking in the Alps, you want to be mindful of how much everything weighs because you need to carry it! If you plan to shoot night scenes at your destination, you will need a tripod or monopod to steady your camera. If you’re going on a travel safari and your goal is to shoot amazing, up close animal photos, then you need to long telephoto lenses. If you’re headed to Brazil to capture the Olympics, then you need to select your gear with fast action shots in mind. And for the Instagrammers and social media mavens, if your camera doesn’t have built in wifi, get a wifi enabled memory card so that you can instantly send the photos to your phone or device.  So again, what should you pack? It depends… 😉

travel photography tips

Always Bring:

•Lots of memory cards. Don’t assume that you can buy them where you’re going because chances are they’re going to expensive and often times, unreliable.

•Extra Batteries (carry these on – new aviation laws restrict lithium batteries from being checked),


•Lens Cloths.

Also, it is important to back up your photos while vacationing. If you have the option to back up to the cloud or portable hard drives using a small laptop, great.  Even without a laptop, your hotel may have a computer for you to use, or else internet cafes are another place you could download your photos via a card reader.  Some cameras may also have dual card, which you can be written to simultaneously, so if one card fails, you have a backup.

travel photography

Safety First!

•Where petty crime is a concern, avoid sporting obvious camera bags with brandnames on them.

•Pack carefully so you can avoid fumbling around for what what you need.

•Always be aware of your surroundings while photographing.

•In crowds, walk with your bag on the front of you, so you can see it.

•Be discreet.

Relax, have fun and take lots of photos!

Travel Photography tips

Shopping Tips for Buying a New DSLR Camera

Tips for Buying the Right Lenses

When shopping for a new camera, it is important to ask yourself: What am I likely to photograph? People and Pets? Landscapes? Closeups of plants and bugs?

You’re probably wondering, why is what you’re photographing so important when buying a camera? These questions aren’t so much to do with what type of camera you need, but what kind of lens you should buy. Camera stores and Big Box stores will often try to sell you both the camera and lens together, for a discounted price. It will seem like a really good deal, but take my word for it, that will be the first lens you’ll replace. We call this type of lens a “kit lens”.

The biggest issue with a kit lens is that the aperture doesn’t go wide enough. Usually they will only go to f/3.5 and f/5.6 at their lowest, where as a quality lens can go down to f/2.8 in a zoom lens, or even lower (down to f/1.4 or f/1.2 for a prime lens). Why is being able to go down to a low f/stop important? If your plan is to shoot indoors this will be essential for you. It is impossible to capture images properly, in low light, without your f/stop being low (f/2.8) unless you are using flash. It is also impossible to get a nice shallow depth of field without a low f/stop. For example, When you see a photo of children sitting in front of a christmas tree, with the lights blurred in the background, this can not be done without your aperture setting at f/2.8.

Low aperture blurred lights in backgroundlow aperture low light

You will also need to decide if you want a Prime or Zoom Lens. Prime lenses have only one focal length, however, they can be purchased in a variety of lengths that can include wide angles through to the longer telephoto ones. A Zoom lens has a range of focal lengths available within one lens. On the surface, it would seem that a “good” zoom lens would be the way to go. Prime lenses are “better glass” and better quality than zoom lenses at the focal length they are fixed at. This is the portrait photographer’s big debate and many use a variety or both. So, if you ask yourself from the beginning what you will most likely be shooting, the answer becomes specific. A macro prime lens is excellent for up close photographs. A prime lens at 50mm or 85mm is perfect for portraits of people. A prime lens of 55mm or 35 mm or a 24-70 zoom lens may be the way to go for someone who loves photographing nature. Photographing birds or animals from far away you may like a 300mm lens. Most wedding photographers would never part from their 200 mm lens or their 70-200 f/2.8 aperture zoom lens. That said, if you go from shooting landscapes to close ups of plants, you will need to switch out your lens- are you up for that? If you care less about being able to photograph without flash and having a shallow depth of field then perhaps a kit lens is okay for you. If you are going on a vacation to Italy and want a lens that can “do it all” (though not as well) then getting a lens that zooms from wide (24mm to close up… 200mm) may actually make sense for you.

Lenses investing in lenses buying lenses

The best advice we can give you, when buying a camera, is to focus on the lens. Camera bodies get upgraded many times over the years, but over ten years of photographing I have never replaced a lens. So, figure out what you’ll be photographing and buy yourself the right lens from the beginning!

Tips on Using a Diffuser & Ambient Light

For more information and practical exercises on the topics in this blog post, take Portrait Lighting Workshop and Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop at the CPLC.

Sunlight causes hard shadows

One of the things that will start to bug you more and more as you take more photos are the hard lines of the edges of shadows that come from sunlight. What makes some lights cause hard edges and others not? The answer is ‘hard light’ causes hard shadows, and ‘soft light’ causes soft shadows. The definition of hard light is a light source that is small relative to the subject you are lighting. Even though the sun is, obviously, huge, it is so far away that relative to, say, a person that the sun is lighting, the sun is actually relatively small. As such, you will see hard shadows, visible in part by the hard lines between shade and sun, as in the lighting on the woman’s face below.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes |
ISO 50, f/3.2, 1/200 sec

And here’s a closeup for a better view of the dark vs. bright area on her face.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes |
ISO 50, f/3.2, 1/200 sec

While sometimes we can block this lighting by rotating the subject’s position so that their face is lit only by sun (although this will cast dark shadows in the eyes and off of the nose), or better, only by shade, in cases such as this one, doing so would change the angle on the fence, and background, to a worse one that would hurt the composition and lines in the photo.

Softening hard sunlight with a diffuser

As such, to preserve this vision for the photo, the next best move is most often to bring out a diffuser and put it between the sun and the subject.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes |
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

From the perspective of the person holding the diffuser, this will look like you are trying to cast the circular shadow of the diffuser over the subject, so that they are entirely in the shade of the diffuser. Once this is done, the resulting image erases the negative effect of hard lighting, by replacing it with even, soft lighting.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes |
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

Again, here’s a closeup to show the softer lighting.

Diffusing Ambient Light | Edmonton photography classes |
ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/200 sec

It is soft lighting because, relative to the subject, the light source is now larger than the subject. That is, the sun hits the diffuser, and because of the size of the diffuser (and not, as is commonly, and wrongly, taught, because it is passing through the white fabric), which is relatively larger than the subject’s head, the lighting is soft, and so no hard shadows are cast on the face.

While this does take 2 people to accomplish, and might seem unrealistic to you, it is worth noting that the vast majority of photos you see in magazines, etc. are taken by teams of photographers working together, so this is by no means abnormal. Besides, it’s more fun shooting with a friend, and you can always take turns diffusing for the other person!

To put this skill into practice and get some hands-on experience, take Portrait Lighting Workshop and Ambient Portrait Lighting Workshop at the CPLC!

What is, and Should I Buy a Full Frame Camera?

Are you looking to buy a DSLR camera (What is a DSLR?) or are otherwise wondering what the difference between a normal DSLR and a full frame (or “FX” as Nikon calls it) DSLR is and what that difference means for your photography?

When you read all of this article you should end up pretty well able to talk any camera salesman’s ear off about the difference between full frame and crop factor DSLRs. Here are the highlights in a few bullet points.

The Good

  • Other things being equal full frame DSLRs are usually quite a bit better at resolving details compared to typical DSLRs.
  • Full frame DSLRs generally have less noise at a given ISO than their crop sensor cousins. However a full frame DSLR from a few years ago may not be as good as a crop sensor DSLR from today.

The Bad

  • Full frame lenses are generally 50-100% heavier than crop sensor lenses.
  • They’re generally much more expensive than the typical DSLR.
  • Lenses can cost more too, though not always.

The Ugly… err uh… I mean “The It Depends”

  • Full frame wider field of view using lenses of the same focal length.
  • A full frame DSLR will have a slightly narrower apparent Depth of Field producing more out of focus backgrounds.

If you really want to be “in the know” read on

Different cameras (of all kinds, not just DSLRs) can have different sizes of image sensors, some are very very small, others many times larger. The sensor in some cameras may only a fraction the size of a postage stamp, the one in a full frame DSLR could be 40× larger.

The size of the sensor can have a strong effect on the way your images look.

Most people don’t hear much about sensor size because most people buy point and shoot cameras. That’s not a bad thing, However with point and shoot cameras there are a lot of other features that usually have higher consideration than sensor size.

Often even if the sensor size is listed it’s in a difficult to visualize fraction like 1/2.3″ or 1/1.7″. Usually only when comparing similar cameras does it becomes a consideration.

DSLRs generally only have two sizes of sensors, full frame and… well… not full frame. Most are the smaller size often called APS-C or crop. The smaller size isn’t always the same between brands or even different models but the window of variation is small.

Often people are looking into full frame because a website said “if someone wants to be a professional photographer” (or even a serious enthusiast) “they have to have a full frame camera!” As a result people wonder if they should spend the [considerable] money and “upgrade” to a full frame camera.

Before we go any further, I do not feel you need a full frame camera in order to be a professional photographer. There ar many successful professional photographers in various specializations of photography who use non-full frame DSLRs, an not for of lack of money.

One of the reasons sensor size is such a buzz topic when we talk about DSLR cameras is because most DSLRs are built using a lens mount that accepts lenses that were designed for use with 35mm film cameras. As a result those lenses create an image inside the camera designed to cover an area the size of a frame of film.

Typical DSLRs have sensors quite a bit smaller than a frame of film. Full frame DSLRs have a sensor that is the same size as a frame of film and thus they make use of lenses with the film sized image inside the camera as they were originally intended.

Most Sensors Are Not Full Frame

35mm film cameras generally speaking produce images that are 36mm × 24mm, that means to be full frame the sensor in a digital camera must be (very close to) 36mm × 24mm, no other size should be considered full frame for a standard DSLR (in the author’s mind.) “Why so precise?” you might ask?

If you subtracted just 1mm all the way around the outside of a full frame sensor you lose 13% of the area.

The sensors in most DSLRs are called APS-C sized because the area is similar to (though smaller than) that of the “classic mode” of the now defunct Advanced Photo System (APS).

I prefer the term “crop sensor” because it is more accurate as to what’s going on, and APS failed because it was unpopular, so why use it as a yardstick when many people don’t even remember it?

This diagram shows how much larger a full frame sensor is than a typical crop sensor. The size for the typical sensor is sort of an average of the Canon and Nikon sizes; smaller than a typical Nikon, larger than a typical Canon sensor.

Typically crop sensors have about 40% the sensor area of a full frame camera.

Unlike film, image sensors are VERY expensive to make, and size greatly effects the cost per unit. A sensor of twice the size is said by some to cost three to four times as much. In order to make digital cameras affordable and portable manufacturers use these smaller sensors.

When DSLRs were first introduced they were edging in on the 35mm film SLR market, so they had to use the same lenses and handle similarly. That would allow people invested in one brand of SLR to use a DSLR from the same manufacturer without buying new lenses. Now days most manufacturers make lenses targeted at DSLRs. These lenses are smaller, lighter, and cheaper.

These new digital only lenses cover only the small image sensor and not a full frame. Canon calls these EF-S lenses and Nikon calls them DX lenses.

You may or may not be able to use them on your full frame or film cameras, and with some brands and lineups of lenses doing so could even damage the camera and/or lens or using a full frame lens on your crop sensor camera may damage it. But not with all lenses, and not with all cameras.

The following picture was taken with one of these “digital only” lenses designed for a crop sensor but used on a full frame camera.


Not all crop sensor lenses have this same limitation, some produce only darkened corners called vignette.

Why Are They Called Crop Sensor Cameras?

If you put a 50mm lens on a full frame camera and took a picture, then put the same lens on a crop sensor camera and took a picture from the same location the crop sensor camera will produce an image that looks like it was cropped out of the center of the image from the full frame camera.

The following image demonstrates the difference in image that would result if you were to set up a camera in the same location using the same lens and took a picture using a full frame camera or a crop sensor camera.


The crop sensor camera produces an image that looks as though it were cropped out of the middle of the full frame camera’s image.

Although the wider field of view looks like it would be “better” for this landscape photo in reality the crop sensor camera user could have just backed up a little or used a wider angle lens to get the same result.

Equivalent Focal Length

As you can see the cropping of the image inside the camera caused by the smaller sensor makes it seem like the lenses are longer (they have a longer equivalent, or effective focal length. Or using inaccurate layman’s terms are “more zoomed in.”) Thus a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera is said to behave like a 75mm or 80mm lens would on a 35mm camera.

Most of the time this is not really important because we compose our shots after we’ve selected our focal length. If you need a wider field of view, you need to back up or use a lens with a shorter focal length, regardless of the platform you’re using. If you need a narrower field of view you can get closer or use a lens with a longer focal length or just crop closer on the computer.

Sometimes the small sensor making your field of view narrower is good when getting physically closer isn’t allowed and you don’t have a longer lens.


So the same lenses having a wider field of view on a full frame camera is largely moot. You would not all of a sudden start taking head and torso pictures of people instead of just head shots because you switched to a full frame camera, you’d simply move closer, or zoom in more.

What Does Full Frame Do For The Look?

The real fuss comes from depth of field and detail. This is the reason full frame cameras are worth the extra cash for many people. Most people find a photo that’s otherwise the same, but taken with a larger sensor (or film) to be more pleasing… to a point. Given the same aperture and field of view (the picture being framed the same regardless of the focal length of the lens) a larger imaging area will have a narrower Depth of Field. The narrower DoF will produce softer, more pleasing, out of focus area such as the background behind the subject. Notice that in the picture of the turtle the sand in front of and the background behind the turtle are out of focus, that makes it easier to appreciate the turtle.

Also larger imaging areas will generally be able to better resolve detail. More detail is better, right? If detail weren’t good we’d all use $7 disposable film cameras right?

The following comparison image was very generously provided by Edd Nobel, be sure to check him out on Flickr.

This picture compares images taken with a full frame camera and an 85mm lens (top) and a crop sensor camera and a 50mm lens (bottom) of the same subject using lenses with approximately the same field of view.

Notice how the background of the image on top is softer and more pleasing? Especially look at the plants in the background and the front edge of the white table cloth. You can click the image to see it larger.

I Heard That Was a Myth, and That The DoF Was The Same!

Look at the picture above and contemplate that until the practical truth hits you… the background on top is more out of focus, as is the foreground.

You’ll often see web sites claiming the DoF being narrower isn’t true, and that’s sort of correct. If you set up a typical DSLR, point it at something a fixed distance away, and take a picture and then replace the body with a full frame body and do not adjust anything else, the DoF will actually be the same. However the field of view will be wider. Nobody takes pictures like that. If you want the narrower DoF get the full frame DSLR. We don’t pick our focal length and position arbitrarily without considering framing.

Low Light / High ISO Shooting

Full frame cameras often have good high ISO performance and dynamic range. Basically dynamic range is the range of light and dark the sensor can capture at the same time. However those aspects are both technological points and if you compare an old full frame DSLR to a new crop sensor DSLR you may find the noise and dynamic range are superior on the newer crop sensor DSLR.

Illustration of Dynamic Range

Notice how you can’t see detail in the shadows because they drop off to black and the highlights because they blow out to white? The noise is also more prominent.

Get Ready To Spend

Sadly the leading edge costs money, lots of money. Some the fuss we hear about full frame is simply because people like to talk about the latest most expensive gear.


It’s not a scam, they simply contain more raw materials, and the companies sell more of them. Compare these two similar setups.

If we compare the high price end of the APS-C market to the low price end of the full frame market using lenses with similar fields of view (they take photos with similar coverage) we can compare cameras with similar handling (buttons and such) but different prices and image characteristics.

A Nikon D300s with 17-55mm f/2.8 lens runs you about $2,688.76. A Nikon D700 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens runs you about $3,836.47. The full frame setup in this instance costs $1,147.71 more, or about 43% more.

I realize that neither camera is new, and in months of writing both with be replaced. The point is the price difference, not that they’re the leading edge of technology. Besides everyone knows the Canon 5D Mk II is better than the D700… right?! hehe.

Should I Buy A Full Frame Camera?

I’d love to just say yes or no but that depends on the reality of your goals and constraints. The CPLC has staff who use full frame cameras, and those who don’t. Cost and portability big factors for most people, you have to consider not only the cost and weight of the body but also the lenses.

Might your money be better spent on photography classes? Might it be better spent on more lenses? Might your money be better spent on plane tickets to somewhere interesting so that you can take some interesting photographs?

Technically stunning photographsof the same old same old are going to just be the same old same old photographs… but technically better… huzah I can’t wait to see them.

Weight is also an important factor. The weight of the bodies isn’t actually that different. Adding all those dials, buttons, and switches adds weight, so it’s not fair to say full frame cameras are heavier. High end crop sensor DSLRs are heavy also. The sensor itself only makes up a small portion of the weight of the camera.

However the lenses do tend to be much heavier, larger sensor needs more glas. If you don’t demand the narrower DoF, higher image quality and frankly more prestigious image you might seriously want to consider a crop sensor camera, particularly if portability is an issue. You can expect the full frame lenses to weigh 20-40% more, with the 40% end being more realistic than 20%.

The Professionalism Factor

It's okay… I'm a pro!

Relax… I’m a pro!

One of the big reasons for a pro to buy a full frame camera is simply so that other people will see that you have one. It sounds horrible but the fancier your equipment the more the average person will take you seriously.

I know, I know! It sounds terrible and I almost didn’t write it, but it’s true and a reality that effects your photography and your profitability. That is if you’re a professional… if you’re not a professional you can probably just skip this section.

Put yourself in the place of a client for a moment. Imagine you’ve hired a photographer to do a romantic couples portrait session to send out with your wedding invitations. This session is costing you $200 plus prints. Then the photographer shows up with the same $699 camera your goofy Aunt Betty has… You’d feel at-least a little unsure of this person’s skill… after all Aunt Betty’s not exactly a pro, she just bought that camera with her tax refund. You might second guess the photographer, project distrust making them self conscious and ruin the photos. You may not even not cooperate feeling you were taken advantage of by an inexperienced person trying to pose as a professional. Even if it weren’t true.

When your subjects don’t trust and respect you as a photographer it’s flat out going to have a visible impact on your photographs. Projecting the image of professionalism is an important reality in the business of photography. If you’re serious you may want to show that you’ve invested in your tools. That’s a sign of your commitment as a professional to your craft.

Will the full frame camera produce better photos for clients? Yes… to a point. Images with lower noise and narrower DoF will generally be more pleasing to your clients.

However the respect may have more of an impact than you might think, not just in their subtle expressions and willingess to buy prints. It’s going to impact their word of mouth. Nobody wants to tell their friends they hired a great photographer knowing that if that friend does the same the photographer is going to show up looking like an amateur. Nobody wants their friends and family to think they hired an amateur… even if the person is an outstanding photographer. They don’t want their friends and family to experience that moment of “is this person an amateur” doubt they experienced.

God help you if you show up for a shoot and the customer turns out to be a newly interested amateur photographer and they turn out to have considerably better gear than you do… you’re not getting any cooperation unless you’re a master of interpersonal dynamics.

I mitigate this issue of image by blacking out all the identifying markings on my gear with black cotton tape. When people ask what kind of camera I have I say something cheeky like “I don’t know what it’s called… I just know the sound it makes, when it takes a photograph.” (it turns out Tropic Thunder was popular enough that saying that actually gets laughs.) Incidentally this usually turns into a nice way to explain to them that the kind of camera you have doesn’t have as much of an effect on your photography as your skill and experience. If you do this you should tell them to invest in some photography classes… from The CPLC of course.

Have Your Cake And Photograph It Too

It's cake… eat it

Many DSLR owners also own a point and shoot camera. It’s often not desirable to take a large DSLR somewhere, and the issue is only magnified with a larger heavier full frame DSLR. Thus a larger number of your photos will end up being taken with a point and shoot than would be the case if you had a lighter camera setup. That isn’t so bad, a good point and shoot still make great small prints.

My recommendation for a point and shoot is the Canon S95 or the Canon G12, or whatever the latest versions of them are, regardless of if you’re not a Canon DSLR user or not. Of course something better might come out tomorrow, but those two are really solid. The G12 has great controls but is is hardly pocket sized so I’d opt for the S95.

Full Frame Fraud?

Often people will claim some cameras are full frame when they are not. The best example of this is when people are selling APS-H sensor cameras on the used market. APS-H sensors have around 63% the surface area of a full frame. The following cameras use sensors larger than APS-C sensors and are often claimed to be full frame by mistaken, or unscrupulous people selling them used. It doesn’t make them bad cameras, just not full frame.

  • Canon EOS-1D
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark II
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark II N
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark III
  • Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
  • Leica M8
  • Leica M8.2
  • Various Kodak DCS SLR bodies have various sensor sizes, only some are full frame

How To Remember Full F-Stop Numbers

The aperture size on your camera is designated by f-number or f-stop (they’re the same thing) for example f/22 or f/3.5 the smaller the number the bigger the aperture and the more light. Sometimes in photography it’s very useful to remember what the full f-stops are, but that’s hard because they’re what seem to be irregular decimal numbers. Here is a chart of all the full numbers from f/1 to f/32 very seldom will you encounter something outside of that range (for a variety of reasons we’ll talk about some other time.)

f-number 1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22

Today we’re going to share a little secret with you about how to remember these. This little trick only works for f/1 to f/32 because after that the numbers on some cameras go wonky, but since you’ll probably never use them, it doesn’t really matter.

The Big Secret

Just remember 1 and 1.4, and then double them.

1 doubled is 2
1.4 doubled is 2.8

2 doubled is 4
2.8 doubled is 5.6

4 doubled is 8
5.6 doubled is 11.2

Wait a second, 11.2, shouldn’t that be 11?!
Now here’s the second part to remember, double digit f-stops don’t have decimals so we use f/11*

8 doubled is 16
11 doubled is 22

16 doubled is 32

Easy as pie!

*However this decimal dropping business generally only apples for writing the numbers. f/11.2 becomes f/22.4 and f/22.4 becomes f/44.8 which gets marked as f/45… Not that many people are going to uses f/45.

What is ISO?

ISO refers to the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. That is, ISO is one of the three factors which affect exposure (along with aperture and shutter speed).

The higher you set your ISO number, the brighter your image will be; provided that your shutter speed (the time the sensor is exposed the light) and the aperture (the size of the hole the light goes through) remain the same. Likewise the lower you set your ISO number, the darker your image will be; provided that the aperture and shutter speed settings remain the same. In automatic or priority modes your camera will compensate for higher or lower ISO settings on it’s own to provide what it things are the best settings given the ISO and other factor(s) you chose.

These 3 photos demonstrate what happens if you increase the ISO from 400 to 1600 and then 6400 while maintaining the same shutter speed and aperture settings.

ISO 400 1.3s f/8 no compensation for increased ISOISO 1600 1.3s f/8 no compensation for increased ISOISO 6400 1.3s f/8 no compensation for increased ISO

Usually you will set a higher ISO when your camera is choosing too slow of a shutter speed due to a dark room. Having too slow of a shutter speed can cause moving people to blur or the motion of the camera to cause the whole scene to blur. Using a higher ISO will make the sensor more sensitive so you don’t have to expose it to the light for as long thus allowing you to freeze the motion.

However, you need to be careful setting a higher ISO because increasing the ISO will increase the noise (grain) in your images as well as reduce the contrast and make the colors less lifelike. These pictures demonstrate increasing the ISO from 400 to 1600 and then 6400 while reducing the shutter speed to compensate for the increased sensitivity. Try to observe the loss of contrast and poor color in the ISO 6400 vs the ISO 400 images.

ISO 400 0.8s f/8 base exposureISO 1600 1/5s f/8 shutter speed decreased to compensate for increases ISO to maintain proper exposureISO 6400 1/20s f/8 shutter speed decreased to compensate for increases ISO to maintain proper exposure

Learn More About Exposure

To learn more about ISO consider taking our Using Your DSLR Camera course where we will discuss ISO, aperture, and shutter speed as well as preform many hands on activities related to each.

What is a DSLR Camera?

You may have heard the term DSLR or SLR before, but what is it? Well It’s a kind of camera. No doubt you’ve seen them, even if you didn’t know what they were called. They look like this:


DSLR or dSLR is short for Digital Single Lens Reflex. The Digital obviously means it’s a digital camera, and not a film camera, before the days of digital you just bought an SLR. But what is this SLR part?

SLR again stands for Single Lens Reflex. What that means is the camera has only a single lens to see through and take the picture with. The reflex part means that there is a mirror behind the lens which bounces the light to a place for you to view it. Most SLRs That mirror flips up to let light to the sensor when you take a picture.

When light enters the DSLR from the outside world it goes through the lens and hits a mirror in front of the sensor, that mirror is at an angle which bounces it up, and it goes into a special box above the lens that flips the image over and shows it to you in a little hole you look in called the view finder.

DSLRs are generally considered higher end cameras because the large sensors and optics tend to lead towards higher image quality. Most professional photographers shoot with some variation of a DSLR. They are popular primarily because you can change the lenses on them. Different lenses provide different abilities. For example with a wide angle lens you might be able to take a picture of an entire room at once. With a super telephoto lens you could take a picture of a bird in a tree across the street. Many DSLR owners purchase multiple lenses as well as other accessories which give them greater creative control to achieve the look the want. Shown below is a fairly typical DSLR owner’s collection of accessories including the camera itself on top of the gray bag (a DSLR camera with no lens is called a body) as well as 3 lenses, some filters, and other accessories.

Further Details For Camera Geeks

It is often erroneously claimed that the reflex refers to the mirror moving out of the way of the sensor when you take the picture, however understandable, this isn’t true. Prior to the invention of the SLR for many years (up until around the 1960 or 1970s) TLR or Twin Lens Reflex cameras were very popular, one lens you looked through using a mirror and the other took the picture. You may have seen them, they looked like this: