Camera Buyer's Guide

Lesson 11/15 - Other Features


Camera Buyer's Guide


Lesson Info

Other Features

So this final section here of features is kind of a quick round robin. We're gonna go through this very quickly, of other features that you should know about that are in cameras. Starting with the file type. When you take a digital picture, it needs to record it into a file. We have JPEG pictures, which are very easy to upload and transfer on the internet. But photographers who are pretty serious, love RAW images because it's the original information off the sensor. The problem is is that every camera company has their own different RAW, so you need to use the right software, which comes free with the camera, or is part of other packages like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. You get those, they have a reader in there to read all these different types of RAW systems. Now, the way it looks in your camera's menu system may be different. Canons, Nikons, Fujisl; they have their own little listings. But a good photographer is gonna probably wanna be shooting RAW most of the time. And if you ar...

e shooting JPEG, you'll probably wanna be shooting the largest, best quality JPEG you can, cause you want the best quality images. Cameras are gonna store images on memory cards. For quite a while, Compact Flash was the king of memory cards, but now most cameras are working with Secure Digital cards that come in many different sizes and options. Some cameras have room for two cards, which is really nice, cause you can back-up, and you can shoot different types of files to different cards. So obviously, you'll be paying attention to the size of the card. That's gonna determine how many pictures you get on the card. If you're into sports photography, you wanna look at the maximum speed. How fast can the card write and read information off of it? And if you're into shooting video, you wanna pay attention to the minimum speed, cause video is very intensive cause it's recording lots of data in a continual fashion. And so there's different reasons to be looking at the different settings on all the cards. When you're out shooting, most of the time, you're probably gonna be fine shooting one shot at a time. And this is what we call single shooting. And so some cameras will have silent options, or quiet options, or you might have a remote control that you see in the options of the camera here as well. All cameras will have a continuous shooting option as well. They might have a low speed and a high speed. It varies from camera to camera. Three frames per second is very common in pedestrian. 10 frames per second is fast sports photography. And then there's gonna be an option for shooting self timers. This can be handy for doing group shots, or, if you're working off of a tripod and you don't wanna use a cable release, and you just wanna let vibrations settle out while you're shooting. And so, you'll see these options on pretty much all the cameras available today. Now the camera does have a temporary built in buffer for shooting in fast action situations. You'll see this with Canon and Nikon cameras when you look through the view finder on the number on the far right hand side. Now if the camera has the ability to shoot at five frames per second, and has a 10 frame buffer, that means it can shoot through ten frames very, very quickly, but then it has to slow down to process that information. So what that looks like on a timeline is that for the first two seconds of shooting, you'll be able to get off 10 seconds, five, and then five more, and then the camera's gonna slow down. And so you wanna be careful about running past your buffer and not having any frames left in the buffer for you to shoot when you are shooting action photography. Now all of this is gonna be affected by your file size, which is gonna be affected by the format you choose; RAW is larger than JPEG, and what file size you have chosen. Most of the cases we're shooting with large, and this is the reason why some sports and wildlife photographers shoot with large JPEG; is that they're able to shoot through more pictures into their buffer, and so they can shoot very, very quickly in rapid situations. White balance. This deals with the color of light that we are photographing under. Your camera does not instinctively know what color the light source is that is illuminating the subject. And so the camera has different presets for daylight, cloudy, and shade settings. And then it has a number of settings for artificial light as well. There may be many, many options your camera has to set in here so that you can get the correct color. If you want, you can also just manually choose a number if you want. And you can also have the camera choose it for you under auto white balance. And, in most cases, the auto white balance is perfectly fine for most photographers. But you should know how to jump out of that and control this if you are getting unusual lighting on your subject. Cameras will read light in different ways, using a different metering system. Cameras started out with a center weighting metering system, which measured everything, and was kinda heavily weighted towards the center of the frame. They then developed a more precise spot metering system for people who wanted to be very precise about one particular object in the frame that they wanted to make sure was correctly exposed. Nowadays most people use a multi segment metering system. And this is something that goes by many different names. Canon calls it evaluative, Nikon calls it matrix. And what it does, is it breaks the scene up into a whole bunch of different areas, and then has an algorithm that compares and contrasts the highlights and shadows, and gives you a nice, even exposure that handles most everything. There are a few other cameras that have some other different metering modes, but these are the three most common you're gonna be using. Most valuable is the multi segment, and then it's occasionally nice to have a spot metering for those who like to get very, very precise. Flash. Some cameras will have a built in flash. Not all of them; in fact, many of the highest end cameras do not have a built in flash, cause those photographers often want a better flash in an add on, more powerful flash. But for those of you that do have a built in flash, there is often a number of built in feature settings, like a red eye reduction mode, or slow sync where it works with slower shutter speeds, or the option to hook up with external strobes. And it depends on how much you use flash photography. Over the last 20 years, I've noticed a trend in photography, and that is in general, using flash photography less. And that's because cameras have gotten so much better at shooting in low light, it's less likely that we need to add flash to it. But it is an extremely valuable tool when you are doing portrait photography. Can really help out quite a bit. And so having a good system here is gonna be very helpful to you. Cameras will also have a maximum flash speed. This is the fastest shutter speed that they can fire their flash with. And that'll generally range between 125th and one 250th of a second. And it varies slightly on the different style and prices of cameras available out there. So, if the built in flash is not enough for you, you can add on external flashes which will give you more power, faster recycling time, the ability to bounce, the ability to add a focusing light for low light situations, as well as adding additional features into that system. So if you wanna have a more advanced system that does some special effects features, you can do that as well. These are good for anybody who shoots people that are generally kinda close by. And so if you're a wedding photographer, going to a reception in a dark hall, this is gonna be something that's gonna enable you to see those people's faces much more easily. And so the main benefits of these external flashes is more power, ability to bounce off of low light ceilings, it moves the flash further from the lens for better quality light, and they do have a number of special features that are beyond the scope of what we're gonna get into right now. A feature that came to SLR cameras about 10 years ago was live view; the ability to see on the LCD what our cameras are pointed at. And so this is something that will work with Nikon and Canon cameras. The mirrorless cameras kinda inherently do this anyway. And so it's generally called live view with Nikon and Canon. And this is a great way for judging composition and just looking at your overall picture quality. I tend to use live view mostly when I'm on a tripod. It's a little difficult hand held cause the camera's not in a very stable position. But can be very handy when you're trying to get an odd angle shot; especially with those cameras with the flexible and flippable screens on the back of the camera. Image stabilization is another feature that has been fantastic for photographers. Nikon calls theirs vibration reduction, and it's included in some of their lenses. Canon calls it image stabilization; included in some of their lenses. Fuji has it; they have their own name for it. As well as Panasonic, with their own unique name on it. And I really do like these lenses quite a bit. They allow you to hand-hold the camera under lower light conditions at slower shutter speeds more easily. The other type system beyond lens based system is a body stabilization, where the sensor moves to counterbalance your moves. And so Pentax includes this in some of their cameras. Olympus, Sony, and Panasonic also have it in some, but not all of their cameras. So when you buy a system, you wanna look at, is it in the lens, is it in the body? The distinction between these two is that in general, the ones in the lens tend to do a better job for a given focal length. The ones in the body will get to work with all the lenses, and so no matter what lens you put on it, it's gonna be stabilized. And there are even some cameras that will work with a stabilized lens and a stabilized body to get a super stabilization system that does an incredibly good job at low light. And so, some of that can be combined. On other cameras it just chooses one or the other; whatever happens to be the best one. It varies from camera to camera. Another feature that has come around in the last few years is wifi connection between your camera and your phone. So now you can hook your camera up as a remote triggering device and even a remote viewing device. You could, of course, download your photos, and this has really added into the way people can creatively use their cameras where they can put their cameras because now you get to see exactly what the camera sees right there on your phone in a portable device that you can use; not a huge distance, but a fairly large distance from your camera. A few cameras are also offering GPS coordinates in the camera. It records your GPS data, tracks where you have been with the camera. You can download the information on the supplied software that comes with the camera. It'll out little pin points on the map, and then it'll even show you in programs like Adobe Lightroom, a pin on a map, and you hover over that pin, and it shows you the photos that you took from that location. You can download routes that you can see. You can see onscreen on the left hand side, I was down shooting at the park, and you can see everywhere I was roaming with the camera, wandering around taking photos. And you can have all of that part of your photos. And when you look at the meta data in your photos it'll tell you the latitude, longitude and elevation of where you were at for many of those cameras. Now it doesn't work well in buildings and in areas that GPS does not work real well. And for those of you familiar with good GPS systems, these are fairly weak systems; they don't have a really powerful signal cause they're very small in the cameras, and so they're not like a really good GPS system on its own. Cameras are having more and more customizable function buttons. These are generally known just as function buttons. And this is the Fuji XT2 which has a lot of function buttons that you can go in and customize and program. Many of them come pre-programmed to do something that the manufacturer thinks is handy, but you get to jump in and say, hey, wait a minute. I need this other feature, and I need it at quick access. I encourage you, once you get a camera, to go in and re-program these to make the camera work exactly the way you want it to work. And the more function buttons it has, the better it is in my book, because then I can really get the camera tailored to the way I like it to work. So it's something you really wanna look for on a camera if you wanna have a lot of personal hands on control with it. All cameras will have custom functions. These are fairly minor, little tweaks that you can make to the camera so that the camera works exactly the way you want it to. It's just something that I got through in my fast start classes in detail on each of the different cameras that I have. And each camera will have, potentially, pages, and pages, and pages of these custom functions. It's not critical that you go in here, but if you wanna get the most out of your camera, and I bet that you folks who are watching this class all the way into here, you probably do want to get the most out of your classes. So this is something that you're gonna wanna spend an evening, sitting down on the couch, going through, figuring out what these things do, and getting your camera set up for your needs. All digital cameras are basically software in a regular camera, and there is software that occasionally changes. And so, like the software on our computers, there are updates. But because our cameras are not connected to the internet at this time, directly, you need to go to the manufacturers website, and look up your camera and see what the current firmware is, and then go into your camera's menu system and see what firmware you have loaded on your camera. They will then have instructions on how to download that firmware and install it on your camera. And there are a number of cameras that I've had over the years where the manufacturers have made notable and significant upgrades to the operation and features of the camera, months, years after I had the camera. And so, take a look at your camera's firmware, look it up on the internet, see if it is the most current firmware. If not, you can upload it for free. Just follow the instructions. There are a number of SLRs, Canon and Nikon cameras out there that have depth of field preview. When you press down on this button, what it does is it stops the aperture down so that you can see what the working aperture of the lens looks like. This will show you how much you get in depth of field. How much depth of field do you have in a particular shot. It used to be a top notch professional feature, but now it's on pretty much all the cameras out there. This'll go by a lot of different names. I call it development modes. Normally when you shoot a photo, you're gonna get kinda basic colors when you shoot your RAW image, but if you shoot it in JPEG, the camera needs to develop it with a certain color, and contrast, and sharpness, and look to the whole image, and you can go in and choose what that looks like in one of these development modes. So what it's doing in here is it's adjusting the color, sharpening saturation and contrast. And if you wanna go in and manually tweak it yourself, you can do that. Most of these cameras allow you to go in and adjust the sharpening to make that a little bit more or less. Or a little bit more or less on the color, or any of those other features. If you shoot RAW, this isn't real important, because you're going to be doing that after the fact, on your computer. There are a number of image enhancement modes on any given cameras. One of the most common is one where the camera will generally brighten up the shadows so you can see into the shadow areas more clearly, and it's gonna limit the highlights from going too bright. This is one of the most common problems with just average photos. It's the shadows are too dark, and the highlights are too bright. And so it goes in and makes that change. If you don't like it, you can disable it, or you can set it to any particular setting of that degree that you want. Another image correction problem that the camera will take care of is vignetting or darkening of the corners. Cameras will know how much vignetting a particular lens has on it, and can automatically correct for it by brightening those pixels on the outside. Another problem with lenses sometimes is distortion. This is where it's curving things just a little bit. And we don't necessarily want that curvature, and the cameras can automatically fix this via software right in there. This is a feature that you can turn on and off. Another lens issue is chromatic aberration. And this is where you have a bright background, and the light rays don't hit the sensor in quite the right way, and it causes this glow of magenta and green around solid objects. The cameras can go in and automatically fix that automatically on your JPEG images if you have that feature turned on. It's a nice feature to have. All cameras will have an exposure compensation. What's different is how much you can change it and how easy it is to change it. Some cameras you have to dive into the menu system in order to change it. Some have a nice, easy to use dial right on the outside of the camera. And I like those because this is a common type of adjustment. You might wanna make your picture a little lighter, or a little darker. For those who do a lot of exposure compensation, you'll be interested in the bracketing feature that many cameras have. And so this is where the camera automatically shoots a series of photos at different exposure levels so that you can have a series of photos from dark to bright, and then you can pick later, which one works best for what you're trying to do. And the cameras will have a number of controls over this. At the very least, you'll be able to control the number of frames. Most people do three or five, but some cameras will go up to nine frames. And then you'll have the exposure increment. How big a difference is there from one frame to the next? And so it's a nice feature to have for those landscape photographers, and potentially real estate architectural photographers where getting the exposure is a little tricky, and you can cover your bases if you're shooting subjects that are not moving. Whether you're using a built in flash or an add on flash, you can use something called flash exposure compensation. When your flash fires, it tries to balance the light through an automated system called through the lens metering. And sometimes it doesn't always get it right. With flash you often need to power down the flash so it's not overwhelming your subject. And so, if you want to power down the flash, you wanna look for your flash exposure compensation setting, and dial that back a little bit. And all the better cameras will have that feature in there, and it'll be readily, easily available so that you can make that change very quickly. Some cameras will shoot HDR; high dynamic range. This is where the camera shoots in multiple photos and then combines them into one photo for situations that are, exposure-wise, difficult to shoot. They have dark areas, and they have very bright areas. And so if you have a situation where you're shooting dark shadows and highlight areas, you can put your camera into an HDR mode. You do have to be careful about moving your camera, and photographing anything that may be moving in the frame, because the camera is shooting multiple photos to do this. I am not a big fan of this mode because I have found that by just simply shooting a RAW image, and adjusting it in post production, it'll generally do as good a job as any of the HDR in camera processing options. There are external options that you can get; software for your computer, that can do a pretty impressive job with HDR images. And so if you are into HDR, I would probably look at the bracketing feature I talked about earlier, and then using external software for that. Another fun feature that has been included in more and more cameras now is the interval timer. And this is where you set the camera up to shoot a photo about every five or ten seconds, and shoot though like, 300 of them. And then you take those resulting photos, work 'em in a appropriate software program, into a final video. And so, this becomes a time lapse video and it's kind of the opposite of photography where a photograph is one moment in time; this is a large moment in time, compressed. And so, there's a lot of great, fun things that you can see with an intervalometer that you just can't see with your own eyes. And so it's a nice feature to have. Not everyone uses it. But it's nice to have it built into the camera, rather than having to buy an external device to enable your camera to do it. This is from Constantine, who said, what would you recommend for a family photography kit? He has a camera with two lenses, like an 18 to 55, and 70 to 300 millimeter, or a camera with a single lens, 18 to 140. So those are actually pretty close systems right there. And there is that whole lens switching issues. And at first, people tend to like, not wanna switch lenses, cause it takes time and a little bit of effort, and it's very convenient to have that one lens on. And if it's really what you want, then go with it. I have found that having two lenses gives me a little better quality. Usually it's a little bit better light gathering as well, and so if you're shooting under low light, that can be very handy. And so there's definitely a bit of a compromise, and it's so hard for me to recommend one thing or the other. But I can just tell ya, the main benefits, and whatever one is most in your camp, that's what you wanna go with. All right, so pretty much all the cameras out there can shoot video, which I think is fantastic because now I don't have to go out and buy a video camera if I just wanna take a few little clips of video while I'm out shooting still photographs. But there is a big difference between all the different video cameras and how well the still cameras work in the video mode. The first thing you wanna look at is resolution. The hottest thing right now is 4K video. And so, all the latest, greatest cameras seem to be shooting 4K, but there's a few exceptions to that, and if that's really important to you, you wanna look as to whether it's doing that. Most people, when they're looking at videos, are looking at HD videos. But this is something that is going up in resolution over time, and in a number of years, we'll be talking a about 8K, and 16K video. But 4K is kind of the cutting edge right now. There are different frame rates that you can shoot. For instance in the United States, 30 frames per second is normal. Hollywood movies are often shot at 24 frames. There's other different frame rates for other reasons. A good camera that handles video will have a multiple of rates for you to choose from. There are gonna be different types of file formats. Some are a little bit more simplistic and easy, some are gonna hold a little bit more information. It depends on how into video you are. There'll be different compression standards that you might wanna take a look at, if you are strongly into video. There is different compression types that you have as to how it's compressing the video data. And one of the things you wanna think about here is how much time do you wanna spend editing your footage? Are you gonna be editing to the second, or to the frame? And that might determine what type of data you wanna be shooting with in your camera. There's gonna be a different bit rate, which is the total information that you're recording. That could come in handy, knowing that when you're buying memory cards, cause you're gonna wanna buy faster memory cards if you are shooting at a very large bit rate. There are different systems for different regions of the world. Europe and the United States have different video systems. And then there's the whole audio. You want good video? You need good audio. And so there are different microphones and external microphones that you can connect up to these cameras. And if you wanna get into focusing, some cameras are better at auto-focusing, some are better with manual focusing, with the right type of lenses on it. And then there's also a maximum recording time, which is usually gonna be limited to about 30 minutes on these cameras. So if you're shooting a full sporting event, or some long documentary event, it's gonna have to create a new file every 30 minutes. These are cameras that we're talking about in this class that are primarily designed for still photography, it's just that they also happen to be pretty good at video. And there are some that are better than others. Another important factor is something called rolling shutter. And that's because of the digital silent shutter that is working in video, and as you pan the camera from side to side, you'll see straight lines become kind of jello like, and this is one of the areas where the SLRs and the mirrorless cameras are not so good. Some cameras are better than others and it's an important point for people who are strongly into video.

Class Description

Buyer's guide will be your guide to figuring out the best digital camera for your needs.

Gear expert John Greengo dives into the major brands and lenses that are currently on the market.

John breaks down some of the more confusing aspects of mirrorless and DSLR's from focusing systems to sensor size; you'll get a better understanding of what the gear does so you can make an informed decision.

At the end of the class, John gives his recommendations for different types of photographers from the aspiring student to the filmmaker and everyone in between.


Samantha Locadia

John is a great teacher, and I've learned allot in this lesson. I already had an idea what camera I want to buy next but happy to know it was also what he recommended (for my field). Really love his free classes by the way where he talks with other photographers and discusses photos of viewers. Awesome!

Michael And Dawn

John has a very good way of explaining things to make them both simple and complete. His makes great use of visual graphics in his explanations. I highly recommend any of his courses, the material presented is well thought out and flows very well.

Kevin Li

Amazing course. So much education provided in these free classes. I will definately be taking more. I am so glad I watched these before jumping in and buying a camera. This is a much watch for all people who are new to photography and are looking to buy a camera.