Types of Camera

Camera Types

Mirrorless – has an electronic shutter and electronic viewfinder, many of the latest high-end cameras are mirrorless.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) – Has a prism and an analogue viewfinder, dominated the market until recently.

Mirrorless and DSLR cameras consist of a body and removable lenses.

Bridge – Usually smaller in size than a DSLR, has a fixed lens and usually an electronic viewfinder. Can be almost as good as a DSLR although not as flexible.

Compact – small often point and shoot, however compact cameras include everything from very cheap children’s cameras through to very expensive, professional level cameras. Some compact cameras have removable lenses

Smartphone – The cameras on smartphones are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the quality of some can rival that of high end cameras. The advantages of using a smartphone to take photographs is that it usually has a macro mode that allows you to get very close to a subject without specialist lenses, it is convenient and easy to take everywhere. However, a smartphone has a relatively short focal length, the settings will be restricted compared to a camera and apart from expensive models, the quality is inferior to stand alone cameras.

Also Film / Large Format / Medium Format / Action Cameras


Image of comparison between sensor sizes

A camera sensor will be a
CCD (Charge Coupled Device) or a
CMOS (Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor)

CCDs used to be the best sensor and were used in high-end cameras, CMOS sensors are cheaper, use less energy and are getting increasingly better and tend to be used in most modern cameras.

Sensors vary in size common sizes are Full Frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3rds. A full frame sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame (Approx. 36mm X 24mm and is used as the standard for measuring sensor size.

Don’t touch the camera sensor.
Try to shield it from the wind when you are changing lenses.
Switch off the camera when changing lenses.

For sensor cleaning:
APM Camera Repairs

Installing and Charging a Camera Battery

Install a camera battery

The majority of modern cameras are powered by a removable rechargeable lithium ion (Li-ion) battery. For most cameras, the battery is installed in a slot on the base of the camera, sometimes this may be where the memory card is also inserted.

Most cameras whether they are DSLR, Bridge or compact will come with their own dedicated battery charger. Usually the charge has capacity for one battery and a plug for mains charging. If you have multiple batteries (a second battery at the least is recommended so that you can always have power in your camera) this may not give a quick enough turnaround. 

Third party chargers are available that allow multiple battery charging and that connect via USB cable, allowing them to be used by plugging into laptops, power banks and usb adapter in a vehicle.

Some modern cameras can also be charged directly with a power bank or external adapter.

Canon / Nikon Controls Diagram Top

image of Canon / Nikon Top Controls

Camera Layout and Controls

Below are basic layouts of Nikon and Canon cameras.
The controls and settings on these cameras are very similar to the layout and settings of most manufacturer’s cameras.

It is worth the time spent to download your camera’s manual and learn what the layout of your camera is and what each of the controls do. Knowing your equipment is vitally important. 

Canon / Nikon Controls Diagram Back

Image of Nikon / Canon camera controls from back

Camera Menus

Image of a camera Menu

Accessing camera menus on most cameras is done through the menu button on the rear of the camera

The best way to learn what your menus do, is to try everything out. If you mess up your settings there is an option to reset your camera back to factory settings.

The most important menu settings to identify at the start are:
Format card
Image Quality
White Balance
Detail setting / Picture Control
Colour Space – which should be set to sRGB
Time zone and Date

Insert Memory Card

Most DSLR cameras have the memory card slot under a cover on the right side of the camera, other cameras may have the camera in a slot on the base of the camera alongside the battery. 

Take care when installing, the card should not need a great deal of pressure to install and forcing it could course damage. On most cameras the label of the memory card should be facing towards you when installing.

Always check your manual for installation instructions for your specific camera.

Image showing how to insertt a camera memory card

Format Memory Card

Format Memory Card

To remove all of the images and free up space on the camera’s memory card, the card needs to be formatted. On most cameras this can be accessed by pressing the MENU button and navigating to the MAINTENANCE menu usually indicated by a spanner. Find the option that says FORMAT MEMORY CARD or similar. If your camera has multiple memory card slots, it may ask you which slot you want to format. It will ask you to confirm. Select OK and press the OK or SET button on your camera.

SD Card Speeds

Video Speed Classes

Manual / Autofocus

Manual focus allows you to control where the camera focuses.
Autofocus gives the camera control over focusing.

Manual focus is achieved by turning the focus ring on the lens, it gives you absolute control of where your point of focus is in an image, it can be difficult to use, some cameras have a brighter viewfinder than others, in lower light conditions it may be difficult to use and if you have problems with your sight it can also be difficult to use.

Autofocus can do most of the focusing for you, however it doesn’t always get it right, there are a range of focusing modes that can increase the effectiveness.
Single point focus – focus is made on single point represented by a square that you can move around the viewfinder. You choose where you want the focus and the camera does the focusing.
Multipoint – the camera chooses the most likely point of focus.
Face recognition – Ideal for portraits, will prioritise getting a face in focus.
Animal recognition – for portraits of pets

Image of a Camera autofocus selector

Reset Camera Settings

Reset Camera Menus

Recording Media, Memory Cards and Storage

Image showing various memory cards

SD / SDXC – Secure Digital / Secure Digital Extra Capacity
Micro SD – Smaller version of the SD card, often seen in phones, drones and small cameras.
XQD / CFExpress – High end, very fast cards seen in more recent cameras. CFExpress is a newer faster version of the format.
Compact Flash – Older format still seen in some high end cameras.
CFast 2.0 – Newer version of the compact flash card.
Sony Memory Stick – Specific to certain Sony cameras, higher end Sony cameras use XQD.


An image of a camera viewfinder

The viewfinder and rear screen (in live view) of your camera will look similar to this. Using the Disp or Info button (dependent on camera) will display other types of information, but these are the most important.

Some cameras may not have an exposure meter in the viewfinder, but may have it on the screen in live view (or vice versa). If you are in the process of buying a camera, it is best to have one that has the meter in the viewfinder and on live view. The exposure meter allows you to see and adjust how much light is coming into the camera.

Image Quality (Raw vs Jpg)

RAW files are higher quality, contain more information, detail and colour. That allows the images to remain high quality when they are edited. RAW Files also allow camera settings such as white balance, sharpness and contrast to be reset after the photograph has been taken, where as with jpeg (or jpg) files, all settings are ‘baked in’.

RAW files are much larger than Jpg files and therefore need more storage space and the images need processing and converting before they can be used.

White Balance

White Balance Cheat Sheet copy

Camera Modes

Manual – All controls are manually set by the user
Automatic – All controls are set by the camera
Shutter Priority (TV) – Allows you to set the SHUTTER SPEED and the camera will calculate the rest
Aperture Priority (AV) – Allows you to set the APERTURE and the camera will calculate the rest
Program – Portrait, Sport, Landscape


Image showing Camera Lens Settings

Lenses for crop sensor – DX (Nikon) EF-S (Canon)
Lenses for Full Frame – FX (Nikon) EF (Canon)

Focal length is measured in millimetres for example 18mm, 50mm, 200mm.

Prime lenses have a fixed Focal length
Zoom lenses have a variable Focal length

A standard Focal length is 50 mm on full frame cameras and 35mm on APS crop sensors cameras.

Below the standard Focal length is classed as wide angle
Above the standard Focal length is classed as telephoto

Because of the difference in sensor sizes, APS-C and Micro 4/3rds cameras have smaller sensors and therefore lens focal lengths will be 1.6x for APS-C and 2x for Micro 4/3rds

Most cameras come with a kit lens that is around 24-70mm for Full Frame or 17-35mm for crop sensors 

Lenses – Standard

Image showing effects of standard lenses

A standard lens gives a field of view similar to the human eye. It is an ideal as a general lens for mixed subjects. Depending on the camera system a standard lens will be around 25-50mm.

Lenses – Telephoto

Image showing the effects of long lenses

Telephoto lenses allow subjects at a distance to be brought closer. They are good for portraits, as they give a flattering appearance. Telephoto lenses cause compression which makes the background appear closer to the foreground and gives a stacked appearance. This is particularly apparent in the image of the sand dunes, the compression effect has made them look higher than they actually are. This effect is exploited by press photographers to make crowds seem bigger and more densely packed.

Lenses – Wide angle

Image showing the effects of wide angle lenses

Wide angle lenses get a lot into a picture however this can cause distortion, particularly at the edges of the image. This can be exploited to create interesting images, but can be unflattering when used for portraits. It is however good for environmental portraits and establishing shots in a series of images.

Lenses – Specialist

Macro / Micro – for close up photography
Fisheye / Extreme Wide – very wide lenses
Tilt Shift – To straighten converging verticals

Additional equipment for adapting lenses:
Extension tubes – for macro photography
Reversing Rings – Also for macro photography, allows you to put your lens on the camera back to front.
Teleconverter – to extend the focal length of the lens (usually 1.4x or 2x, occasionally built into the lens).

Lens Flare and Diffraction

Lens flare is a result of light refracting off the surface of a lens, it shows up as artefacts on your images, often as blue, green or red circles, low contrast or hazy areas and it can be used to creative effect. It is harder to achieve with newer lenses which have anti-reflective coatings, but can be achieved when there is a bright light source at the edge of the lens.

Diffraction causes the Starburst effect, seen on bright points of light when the Aperture is small, the light diffracts off the narrow gaps between the aperture blades. Again it can be used to creative effect.

Focal Length

Nikon Lens Range poster

Lenses for crop sensor – DX (Nikon) EF-S (Canon)
Lenses for Full Frame – FX (Nikon) EF (Canon)

Focal length is measured in millimetres for example 18mm, 50mm, 200mm.

Prime lenses have a fixed Focal length
Zoom lenses have a variable Focal length

A standard Focal length is 50 mm on full frame cameras and 35mm on APS crop sensors cameras.

Below the standard Focal length is classed as wide angle
Above the standard Focal length is classed as telephoto

Because of the difference in sensor sizes, APS-C and Micro 4/3rds cameras have smaller sensors and therefore lens focal lengths will be 1.6x for APS-C and 2x for Micro 4/3rds

Most cameras come with a kit lens that is around 24-70mm for Full Frame or 17-35mm for crop sensors 

How to hold a camera

It may seem obvious how to hold a camera, but providing a stable platform to keep the camera as stable as possible will help to create sharp images by ensuring there is minimum camera shake.

Use the left hand as a platform to support the weight of the camera and operate the focus and zoom, use the right hand to control the shutter release. Keep the elbows in tight to the body. Feet should be apart again to create a stable position. Kneeling and using the knee to rest the elbow on, can create an extra stable position for using longer lenses or in low light conditions. 

Stabilisation, Tripods and Monopods

Image of two tripods

Tripods, Monopods and other Stabilisation Devices help to prevent camera shake and blurred images.

Some cameras have In Camera Image Stabilisation (ICIS), however it can only do so much.

Tripods are also useful for long exposure and specialist photography such as night, astrophotography and capturing selective movement in a subject.

Straight Horizons

Because we are used to seeing the horizon as flat, it is common practice to ensure the horizon is straight particularly in landscape / seascape photographs. Some cameras have a built in level that can be shown in the viewfinder, tripods often have a spirit level built in, or spirit levels that attach to the camera are also available.

Remote Releases

A remote release allows you to trigger the cameras shutter without touching the camera, while the camera is on a tripod or stabilised in some other way. This helps to prevent vibration and camera shake, particularly when using slow shutter speeds and long exposures.

There are a variety of different types of shutter release, from basic one-button types such as the one in the image. There are also releases with built in timers and special connectors that allow you to use your phone to control the camera.

Many cameras also allow the triggering and capturing of images from your camera through a laptop or desktop computer using a usb cable ( known as tethering) and images will appear automatically in software such as Adobe Lightroom.

Most camera manufacturers now also offer a phone / tablet app that connects to recent cameras, to allow downloading of images via wi-fi.

Image of a camera remote release


Image of Photography filters

Filters come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and some can be very expensive. They are not something that is necessary for photography, particularly in the beginning stages.

The most important filter is a UV (Ultraviolet) filter which can be bought relatively cheaply on Amazon or Ebay. A UV filter protects lenses from being scratched. When you are changing lenses to urgently get that shot and abandon your lens without lens caps, the UV filter will prevent expensive damage to your lenses. 

Filters come as screw on or in a slide in plates for a variety of holders that fix to the front of the lens. Screw on filters can be a little difficult to screw on and off, where as slide in filters are quicker, however screw in filters are generally less prone to damage and scratches and don’t need extra equipment to be used.

Some specialist filters that you may come across include, polarising filters (PL), graduated filters (Grad) and neutral density (ND) Filters.

Polarising Filters can reduce reflections on glass, water and can help to darken skies.
Neutral Density Filters reduce the exposure in the case of strong ND filters, so that long shutter speeds can be achieved in daylight. Graduated filters allow a specific area (usually the sky to be reduced in exposure to match other areas (the land).

Camera Bags

There are two main categories of camera bag (and then some that are in-between). Take your time choosing and don’t go for something too small, leave some space for that next bit of kit, a waterproof, bottle of water….

Shoulder – These are the traditional style of camera bag, they provide quick access for changing lenses, however they can become uncomfortable if carried for a long time, or if you have lots of equipment.

Backpack – These allow kit to be carried on your back, however they need to be removed to allow access. Generally easier to carry lots of equipment than a sling bag, great if you are walking, hiking to a photography location.

Sling / Hybrid bags – are on your back but have a single strap allowing the bag to be swung to your front.

Non-photography bags – sometimes a standard backpack, over the shoulder bag may do the job very well. These are likely to be less padded than camera bags, however they will allow you to carry other non-photographic equipment alongside your camera.

Care, Maintenance, Cleaning and protecting

Lenses – Use a UV filter to protect the front element. Use a microfibre lens cloth, gently wipe the front and rear elements, for more stubborn marks, use a standard alcohol lens wipe, available in most supermarkets and discount shops. Use a paint, or makeup brush to remove dust especially around the rear of the lens, where small particles of metal can build up from removing and installing lenses.

Camera Body – Use alcohol based lens wipes to clean down the body of the camera and the outside of your lenses.

Tripods / Monopods etc. – Tripods can get particularly dirty. Use a damp cloth to remove dirt, if necessary warm, soapy water. Make sure that metal parts are dried to prevent rust. If your tripod has been stood in sand or sea water, it is worth giving it a good rinse off as salt water can corrode not only metal parts, but also carbon fibre.

Sensor – It is inevitable that at some point there will be dust on your sensor. This usually shows as out of focus marks, blemishes or spots on your images. They will be more obvious when your lens is stopped right down (large depth of field). These dust marks become a nuisance as they take work to get rid of in post-processing. Ideally your camera should be taken to a specialist photographic repair shop. Wex photographic in Gosforth provide a sensor cleaning service.

You can clean your sensor yourself, however it is possible to damage the sensor. You can clean your camera’s sensor using sensor swabs. They can be expensive but if you can pick them up relatively cheaply on Ebay, but ensure you get the right size for your camera’s sensor (Full-frame, APS-C etc.).