Photographers who have used 35mm film SLRs will mostly feel right at home with a digital SLR. The basic ergonomics, body design and control placement of most digital SLRs is quite similar to their film-based siblings. The buttons and dials used for attaching a lens, changing shutter speeds and apertures, checking depth of field and setting focus and exposure metering on D-SLRs remain basically unchanged from familiar 35mm camera body designs.
Of course, new digital features change some of the landscape, particularly on the back of the camera, where the LCD now takes considerable space. And with the digital features, new buttons and controls are added to provide quick access to them.
Camera manufacturers have made a determined effort to simplify the transition from film to digital SLRs by making as many of the frequently used digital settings accessible without sifting through menus on the LCD. And they’ve made improvements to the LCD-based menus as well. Today’s typical D-SLR, while loaded with sophisticated technologies, is designed to be rather intuitive in use for the experienced film photographer.
The Nikon D70 shown above provides a good example of the controls that you’re likely to encounter on most D-SLRs. Though control placement varies among models and manufacturers, many of the icons used are similar or identical from camera to camera.
If a compact digital camera will be your first camera or a replacement for a 35mm point-and-shoot, you may be overwhelmed at first with the myriad dials, buttons and switches staring back at you from all sides. Fear not. It’s possible you won’t use many of those buttons on a regular basis anyway. Once you’ve found the power switch, mode dial and shutter button, you’re ready to start taking photos. The rest will come in time and practice.
For more experienced shooters, you’ll find that compact digital cameras offer an amazing level of quality and control that you might not have expected. While easy to use for quick snapshots, these certainly aren’t “point-and-shoot” cameras. Switch the mode dial from Auto to Manual and you’ll have access to pro-level features such as exposure compensation and bracketing, manual focus, exposure and focus lock, selectable autofocus points and more. The high-end compacts are in many ways more comparable to a D-SLR than they are to the entry-level compacts that share their basic form factor.
Whether you’re a new or experienced digital camera user, we recommend you take the extra minutes and read your owner’s manual. These cameras often are so laden with features that it takes a read of the manual just to discover everything your camera is capable of doing. The Canon PowerShot G6 here is typical of the more advanced compact cameras in terms of features and control placement.
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