The Aperture setting dictates by how much the shutter opens and so how much light gets to the sensor. In the days of film this was important because some films were designed to work in low-light or with fast shutter speeds. Aperture is usually described as f-stops and the lower the F number the better - ie an F2.8 lens is faster than an F5.6 lens. Fast lenses are ideal for sport or working in low-light conditions.

Aperture Priority

This is a semi-automatic option where the user decides the size of the aperture and the camera chooses the correct shutter speed to ensure a well-exposed image.

Electronic ViewFinders (EVF)

Electronic ViewFinders are digital displays that replace the old optical viewfinders usually found on film cameras. They are positioned in the same place and show you the exact image that will be taken but, whereas the old viewfinders bounced off an internal mirror and looked straight through the lens, the EVFs are purely electronic. This means that they are also able to give useful information about the camera settings. Although they can be easier to use than the LCD backscreens, the new cameras are moving away from viewfinders.


This is how bright or dark your picture is. A correctly exposed photo looks just as it would in real ife - all the colors looking right. Overexposed pictures are too light, underexposed are too dark.

Depth of Field

This is all about focus. A wide depth of field means that everything in the picture is sharp, a narrow depth of field will focus on a single point or plane in the photo and everything in the foreground and background is blurred. Landscape shots usually have a wide depth of field, Portraits often have a narrow one.

Image Stabilization

This tries to counter any movement of the camera at the point the picture is taken. There are two main types: Optical or Digital. Optical works inside the lens and is the preferred option. Digital is slightly less effective and takes place in the camera after the picture has been taken.


ISO, or ASA, was the old way of rating film speed. The lower the number, the better the film - more detail and better saturation. However, lower rated films had slower reaction speeds, so higher speed films were used for action, sport and low light scenarios. Typically portraiture might be done on 100 or 200 ISO film, whereas sport might be done on 800 or 1600 ISO film. Whilst the term is anachronistic - digital cameras don't really operate like this - it is a useful way of understanding how flexible a camera can be for action or low light photography.


This is a compression format for images. Ideally pictures should be compressed for storage and transfer purposes. Although compression will always affect the quality of the original image, with the right settings it can be negligible.

Macro lens

Macro lenses let you get very close to the subject to take highly detailed pictures - far more detailed than if you shot from further away with a larger lens.

Memory card

Whilst some cameras have some hard disk storage, most pictures or video will be kept on a memory card. There are various types, but the important things to consider are capacity and processing speed. Capacity starts at around 2GB and can go up to 16GB. Processing speed is important if you want to shoot video.


Noise is the grainy effect you see on photographs when they have been taken in low light or shot on very fast film. Early digital cameras were beset by noise, even at relatively low ISOs, and so Noise Reduction became a benchmark for the manufacturers.


(organic light-emitting diode) is a light-emitting diode (LED) in which the light comes from a film of organic compound. It has two advantages over the usual LCD: It is more flexible and can show contrast much more effectively.

RAW files

Raw files are files that have not been processed by the camera. They are usually very large and so take time to transfer and a lot of storage space. They also often need specific software for processing. Most cameras will offer the opportunity to save pictures as JPEGs, which are a lot easier to handle.

Shutter speed

This is the length of time the shutter is open and so how long the sensor is exposed to the light. With film cameras it was one of the three most important settings and was relevant to every shot. A longer shutter speed can give you more detail and depth of field. However, if you are shooting action and you don't want any blur, you need to shoot on a fast shutter speed.

Shutter priority

This is a camera setting that prioritizes the shutter speedĀ  (important if you are shooting action for example). The camera will then automatically change the other settings (usually ISO and Aperture) to get the correct exposure.

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