Getting To Grips With Your Digital

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While every camera brand designs digital SLRs in their own way, there are many similarities in the control layouts of most models. We've highlighted the key functions that you should get to know as soon as possible, as understanding how your DSLR works will help you to capture great pictures with ease

Press the shutter release button halfway down to activate the autofocus and exposure systems then fully to take the picture.

This is an important exposure override, usually designated with a +/-symbol. Use it to increase or decrease the exposure in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments.

The exposure mode determines how scenes are captured. Full Auto is ideal for beginners, but you should aim to shoot using one of the semi-auto modes.

The range of the built-in flash is limited to a few metres but is ideal when taking pictures of friends and family. Most models include a number of flash modes.

The integral flash is very useful for nearby subjects but, when extra power or features are required, the solution is to slip a flashgun on the hotshoe.

Some cameras sport a Fn (Function) button for fast access to regularly selected functions, such as ISO rating, White Balance, AF modes or the drive function.

Inside a DSLR

IMAGE SENSOR At the heart of your camera is the image sensor, which boasts millions of light-receptive pixels that make up the image. Most budget DSLRs have between ten and 12-megapixels.

SENSOR CLEANING There is a risk when changing lenses of dust entering the camera body and settling on the sensor. Anti-dust systems vibrate the sensor and shake any particles from its surface.

8) MAGNIFIER BUTTONS

When reviewing your stored photos, you can zoom into the image to check sharpness. By using the four-way control, you can move from one area of the magnified image to another.

9) MENU BUTTON

The on-screen menu system allows access to the majority of a camera's functions and is quickly activated by pressing the MENU button beside the LCD monitor.

10) LCD MONITOR

This is the information centre of your digital SLR, allowing access to most of the camera's settings, as well as the chance to review and edit images and, with many models, shoot in Live View.

11) VIEWFINDER

The viewfinder image comes via the lens and the reflex mirror, which bounces the image up into the pentaprism. A hood cuts out stray light to provide a clearer, brighter image.

12) INPUT DIALS

Use these to change settings such as apertures and shutter speeds. They're usually found on the handgrip, on the rear where your thumb rests or, on some models, in both positions.

DSLRs offer multi-point AF systems and you have the options of leaving all AF points active, individually select the central point or choose one of the surrounding AF points.

13) FOUR-WAY CONTROL

This handy control, found on most DSLRs, offers an up, down, left and right control and allows you to quickly navigate through the various menu options that appear on the LCD monitor.

14) MEMORY CARD SLOT

DSLRs require memory cards boasting big capacities (you should aim for 2GB-8GB). CompactFlash, SD/SDHC and MemoryStick cards are able to hold several gigabytes of information.

A choice of metering patterns helps you deal with difficult lighting situations. Most models offer multi-zone and centre-weighted average, as well as either spot or partial.

IMAGE STABILISATION Stabilisers built into lenses (Canon and Nikon) or the camera body (Pentax, Samsung and Sony), allow you to shoot handheld with reduced risk of your images being spoiled by blur from camera shake.

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