The Camera Overview


The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners


Lesson Info

The Camera Overview

The camera, obviously very important to the photographer, and there's a number of different types of cameras that are being used out on the market today, and I wanna talk about three of the most popular. The single lens reflex, the point and shoot, and the mirror-less camera. Now the favorite camera for about the last 50 years for most serious photographers has been the SLR, now the D-SLR. And this has two main reasons for it, number one is the viewing system, and then the image sensor size, and we'll get into the sensor size in a later section, but I wanna concentrate on the viewing system used in these cameras. So, a D-SLR, well SL stands for single lens. We have one high-quality lens that you get to look through and take pictures with, in each of the lenses is an aperture unit that can open and close. It never completely closes, but it can change in size to control the amount of light coming in the camera. Now the R part stands for reflex, and devices that have a mirror in them are ...

reflex devices, there could be a reflex telescope or a reflex camera, where we're using the mirror to actually see what's going on. So when you're viewing, the light is passed up to a focusing screen, and there are some old cameras that people used to have, and used to use, where you would look straight down in the camera, and that's what you were looking at, and it was a very compact size, but it was really hard to photograph birds in flight, because as they flew this direction, they were going the opposite direction, 'cause it's a mirror, and it was really hard to pan around and follow subjects that moved. So in order to make it easier for everybody to see what's going on, light goes up through the prism system and out the viewfinder. So when you have an SLR, this is what you're looking at. Now when it comes time to take a photo, you press down on the shutter release, the mirror needs to get out of the way so that light can get back to the image sensor. Now before it gets to the image sensor, it needs to get past the shutter unit, and the shutter unit has two parts. Traditionally they were called curtains, 'cause they were actually cloth curtains, but now they're metal blades, and the first curtain is blocking the sensor, but it's gonna open up and it's gonna let light into the sensor, and this is our exposure time, our shutter speed right here, and that's our exposure, and then the second curtain comes in and blocks it off. And it works in the sequence so that each pixel is exposed for exactly the same amount of time. The mirror returns and then you get to see what's going on. Now one of the key things to remember when using a SLR is that you can't see what you are shooting when you are shooting, you have to anticipate the moment. There is a little bit of shutter lag, and so if you're photographing baseball and you're trying to get a shot of a baseball player with the ball like right on the bat, you need to anticipate that slightly, and it's gonna be a little bit different for each camera, and that's why you have to really get used to your camera and know the feel and the timing of each particular camera. So if you saw it, you missed it, remember that. Anticipation. Alright, so that's the SLR, now some of the benefits of using an SLR in my mind is that it is a sharp viewing image that is, it's as clear as your eyes, 'cause you're just looking through a mirrored system. You get to see right through the lens. They have a very good auto focus system, and this isn't inherent in SLRs, but they have a system that they've been working with for over 30 years now, and it's a highly developed, tuned system and so if you go to the Olympics, if you go to any of the big sporting events, pretty much all the photographers are shooting with SLRs, because those are the ones that can really trap the action. But this is a technology thing, and that's gonna change in the future. These are established systems, the main systems we're talking about here, for the most part, are Nikon and Canon, and they have been around making interchangeable lens cameras for about 50 to 60 years now, and so if you want a fish-eye lens, you want a tilt shift, you want an 800 mm lens, they're some of the only systems you can get these things with. You want an underwater housing, any sort of direction you wanna go, they're gonna probably have that type of equipment available for you from them. Now the SLRs are not without their own little faults. This large mirror box, which we'll talk more about in the next item, which is mirror-less cameras, does make the cameras a little bit bigger. Now when we talk about this being a large camera, I know Ansel Adams is rolling over in his grave, alright. There's a lot of photographers that had horse drawn carts full of camera equipment that say, you think this is too big? And so, it's always nice to have something smaller, so we're always lookin' for something smaller. But it is a little bit on the chunky side for some people. The viewfinder doesn't show the final image. Now you get to see the world with your own eyes, which is great, I love looking at the world with my own eyes, but when I'm taking a digital photograph, I wanna see what the digital image is going to look like. I wanna see what my white balance is set, I wanna see other information, and you can't really do that with the final image in here, because you're looking at a mirror, you're not looking at the final image in here. And finally, these new cameras that we're gonna talk about next, the mirror-less cameras, have a lot of heads up displays like a fighter pilot, where you can have the horizon line, you can see graphic information about your exposure, all this information right on screen. If you don't want it, you can turn it off, but you can turn it on and see it right there where you want it. And so you don't get that with most of the SLRs. There's a few of them that are starting to add some of that in there, but they don't have some of the latest, greatest technology in my mind. Next, let's talk about the point and shoot, and if you want, you can throw your phone in in this category as well, 'cause it's kind of similar. These have better controls and they have better lenses as well. But the way it works here is we do still have a single lens system, light comes in through that lens, and it goes straight back to the image sensor, and it's sent back to the LCD on the back of the camera. Now I like this system, because I like using two eyes to look at images. I'm a better judge of horizon lines, I'm a better judge of composition, and just the overall look of an image when I get to look at it with both eyes, but as anyone who's used a phone in bright sunlight knows, these screens wash out in bright sunlight. And the other thing is, is that it's really hard to see fine detail. If your lens was just a little out of focus, you'd never notice it just looking at that back screen, not until you got home and looked at it on a large monitor would you know that it's out of focus, and so it's not the ultimate viewing tool. It's very, very limited. Now these cameras usually employ a leaf shutter aperture combined unit to save space and money in these cameras, and so what happens is it goes through a lot of rigamarole to shoot a photo because it has to be open so that you can see what's going on on the back of the camera. Now when it's time to take a picture, it needs to close so the sensor can charge and get ready to take a photo, and then it opens, this is your exposure time, and then it needs to close so the sensor can turn off, and then it needs to turn on again so that you can see to take the next shot. And so there's a lot of opening and closing when this is going on. Now these are small. and they're light weight, and they're very, very convenient, but for serious photography, they have some pretty big limitations. And so, obviously their size, their weight, and their cost is what makes them very attractive, and as a pocket camera, a travel camera, and as I say, your phones can go in this category as well, they're nice for little simple devices, you know. If you meet a friend at a restaurant and you just wanna take a picture of the two of you and it's not any sort of fancy picture, yes, use your phone, use your point and shoot camera, it's gonna be fine for that. But when you wanna start taking more control yourself, you're gonna find the shortcomings here. The small sensor, I've had to change the terminology, because I used to say that it didn't have enough resolution, and the fact of the matter is that they, many of them have 20 megapixels, and they have more than enough resolution, but with a small sensor comes less performance. Whether it's in low light, high resolution, dynamic range, it's just not as good as a larger sized sensor. The no viewfinder is a big no go for me. I am done with cameras without viewfinders. It's too hard to work with things, out in sunlight, and in variety of conditions. I need a viewfinder for me to work, that's just me, but you'll find that most people who are pretty serious have to have a decent viewfinder to work with. And there is limited manual options. I remember I was so excited when I got my first digital camera, this is just when digital was getting started, and I got a little point and shoot, 'cause I just wanted to start small and simple, and I was like, this is pretty cool, 'cause it's got manual on it. And I went to go change the apertures, and the aperture range, it had two apertures, it had 4.8 and 6.5, and that was it, and I was used to 1.4 to f32, it just didn't have the range that I expected. And so, you can manually operate these, but I've found that it just doesn't do a lot of good in most cases, and so it can be very frustrating for anyone who has that type of device. Alright the mirror-less cameras, they've actually been around since about the 1920s, it all depends on what you consider a mirror-less camera, but they've had a resurgence, a rebirth, a reboot thanks to the Four Thirds System, now it's the Micro Four Thirds System, and an unusual thing happened. Two camera companies, Panasonic and Olympus, did something that is just unheard of, and this is really strange, listen to this. They decided to work together. Very unusual. Two companies working together, and the idea is that you can take Olympus lenses and put it on a Panasonic, and vice versa. And so they created this whole Micro Four Thirds System that was mirror-less and it was a little bit smaller in size. Now they actually sent out invites to all the other camera manufacturers, saying hey we'd like you to be part of this, make cameras and lenses that work with our system, and everybody said, nah we don't wanna come to your party, we're gonna throw our own party and do our own thing. And so sometimes those will be referred to as Electronic Viewfinders that have Interchangeable Lenses, which has a very cool acronym, but none of the companies have gone on that. So there's all these different mirror-less cameras that have different interchangeable mounts and they have their own battery systems and so forth, and this is kind of a combination of both the SLR and the point and shoot that we just talked about. So we have interchangeable lenses, some great interchangeable lenses here, we have an aperture unit, just like that in the SLRs, and the light comes into the sensor kind of like the point and shoots, where it just comes straight in, and you get to see that information on the back of the camera. Now there is a shutter unit, just like in the SLRs, we're not gonna talk about that right now, but then it sends the information to the LCD on the back, so it's just like the point and shoots, but most, not all, but most of these have an electronic viewfinder. Now in the early days of electronic viewfinders, they were only black and white, and then they were color, but they were really low resolution, and then several years ago, they got above a million pixels, and they started to be fairly decent, and now they're at two and four million pixels, and they're pretty good. I mean they're not better than an SLR as far as sharpness goes, but they're more than usable for everyday, regular photography, and these have all sorts of benefits about seeing the final image right there even before you shoot a photo. And so, with an SLR, there's something called chimping, have you guys heard of chimping? You guys know what chimping is? Oh my gosh, they don't know what chimping is. So chimping is when photographers would shoot a photo and then they would look at the back of the camera and they would go ooh. And if you shot a lot of photos, you'd go ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, and that's your chimping. And 'cause you wanna see, this is what it looks like in my eyes, but here's what it looks like in digital form. Well these other cameras that have electronic viewfinders, I can just hold it up to my eye, and I can say, oh that doesn't look right, I need to make a change. I don't even have to shoot a photo, I know before I shoot whether it's right or wrong, exposure, white balance, or some other factor that I wanna change. And so that has sped up the photography process, in some ways shooting with these cameras. And so I see a big advantage to these going forward, and this is the future of photography. I believe so, most people in the industry believe, this is the future of photography. We're gonna probably see less SLRs, and more of these in the future. So let's a look. So the things that I think are great about these mirror-less cameras is it's a relatively compact size, and so these are not totally equal cameras here, but they're not too far apart. And you can see the mirror-less camera is quite a bit smaller than the SLR. As I said, they're not totally equal, but they're pretty close, in their lenses and what they can do. The final image preview that I was just talkin' about, like to be able to see that before I even shoot the photo, and that electronic viewfinder has so many capabilities. A number of the cameras just have some really cool technology running in them that'll show you how much depth of field you have, show you what's in focus, it's fantastic. Alright, they are not without their little cons as well, and so the EVF is not as sharp, and so if you like to manually focus, you have to do something where you have to magnify in on the subject, or use some other piece of technology to make sure that you're focusing properly. So if you like to shoot portraits with really shallow depth of field, you can't just take what you see right there, 'cause the viewfinders are still not sharp enough for that critical manual focusing capability. They still do have fairly short battery life. With my SLR, I can head out for probably two days of shooting on one battery. With the mirror-less cameras, I usually wanna bring two batteries for each day of shooting, and so, it's because that electronic viewfinder uses more power. And it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's something you need to be prepared for. And finally, they have limited systems. All of these mirror-less systems have been developed over the last less than 10 year range, and so there's just not as many underwater housings and fish eye lenses and tilt shift lenses and 800 mm lenses and so forth. And so, for some of that esoteric material, you're not gonna find it quite as easily, it's not impossible, on some of them you can get adapters and you can work with a lot of other lenses, which is one of the other nice benefits to it. But this is the direction of photography in the future, and it's gonna slowly change, but there is still a place for all of these different cameras. Alright folks, I know you brought cameras here, so this is the time to get your cameras out. I just wanna see how you hold your cameras. I want you to pick your camera up, and show me if you were gonna be shooting my photo up here, how you would be holding, don't worry about turning your cameras on, just put it in two hands and hold it up like you're ready to shoot a photo, and I wanna see. And I see good, bad, good, that's good, good, good, good, a lot of good technique here. Okay, so one of the general ideas is your right hand is obviously on the grip of the camera, and your left hand can either be thumbs up or thumbs down. Guess which one is good. Alright. Thumbs up is good, and I'll show you why. Instinctively, I would probably grab a lens like this myself, alright, that's how a lot of amateurs grab the camera, but the problem is, is it leaves your elbow out here in the wind, without any support. By turning this around, thumbs up, you get your elbow into your torso, and now you have your camera supported down here, on your hand, on this hand, on this one, and then right up against your forehead right there. And so that's gonna be a more stable place. The more stable you are, the less likely you are to have blurriness in your photos, 'cause your camera's moving. And so you wanna make sure that you're holding the camera properly. Alright, so that's our first section on cameras, and this is where we wanna check in with questions and so if there's any questions that you might have about the type of camera you have. My question is about the optical viewfinder versus the electronic viewfinder, because I know a lot of professionals buy an optical viewfinder for their mirror-less camera, 'cause they don't like the electronic viewfinder, but you're saying just the opposite, that's it has a lot of controls, it shows you the preview. It gives you a lot more tools to work with, and a person's personal preference, well that's their choice, but the unusual camera I think I have here, this is the Fuji X-Pro2, and this has a hybrid finder. So it's optical and it's electronic, and so I can choose by flipping a switch whether it's optical, and I'm just looking through this, and this is just glass, I'm just looking through, I can see all of you right now, even though the camera's turned off. And that has kind of an advantage, this is kind of like a Leica camera, where I can see outside the frames, and you know, I can see somebody over here who's not actually in the frame, but maybe they're moving into the frame and I wanna shoot it before or after that. And this is more comfortable to shoot with, because you're just using your own eyes. When I flip it over to the electronic, then I have a small TV screen an inch in front of my eye, and that is lights in front of your eyes, and looking through that for a long period of time could be a little bit wearing on you, but it gives you all the tools. And so it depends on how much you use your camera and in the manner you use it. I love this where it has the hybrid, where you can use one of either. Hopefully that answers that question. If you were to suggest a camera for more landscape photography versus portrait photography, do you have a preference, or do you just think that they're the same? For landscape photography, I think you could do that very well with either system. I think that there is a little bit more of an established system with the SLRs, and so you probably find that most professional landscape photographers are working with Nikon and Canon SLR systems, because they have all these, a huge choice of lenses, and it's a very well established system out there. But I think somebody with a mirror-less system could be doing work that is on par with what everyone else is doing.

Class Description

“This is a great starter class. I thought I understood how shutter speed and aperture worked together, but this class made it come together in a matter of minutes. I'm already taking better pictures and this is just the beginning!” -Jennifer Manley, CreativeLive Student

Learn how to take the kind of photograph you’ll want to print and pass on to the next generation. John Greengo is back to teach this updated photography for beginners class. You’ll learn the principles of good beginner and intermediate photography and get the skills necessary to create amazing photos. 

Advanced cameras are available at modest price points, but learning how to use them takes an investment.

  • Learn the the most essential functions of your camera 
  • Gain confidence in putting new functions into action 
  • Get the swing of basic photographic terminology 
  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes 
  • Gain a solid understanding of must-know lighting and composition techniques 
  • Lean to position yourself and your subject to capture the best photo possible with the camera you have – no additional gear needed 
If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, or the great outdoors then this photography for beginners class is for you. Learn how to make average pictures amazing photographs and gain the ground necessary to continue your photography education.  

“This is a super introduction to photography for anyone who really wants to learn how to understand and begin to use the camera to its full extent. John is an excellent teacher, very easy to follow, with great graphics and examples.”  -Sarah, CreativeLive Student  


Kanoelani Patenaude

I am a pro photographer in my dreams, where I know the in's and out's of my camera; however, reality proved differently, as real life would tell you, I was a deer caught in headlights just looking at my new 7D Mark II. I am a photographer enthusiast without the skills, but a lot of love for the moments one, or the profession/hobby of it can capture. I mostly shoot my husband, friends, and community surfers in the lineup, and of course, my children, who rarely sit still. Thus, I switched from Nikon to Canon, venturing on the 7D Mark II for the grand reviews of how stellar of camera it is for action shots (surfing, and kids, this was a no brainer). That said, and overwhelmed with the way beyond my skill set, but noted desire and aspiration to grow, I made the purchase, and sought help rather quickly as I wanted to feel confident with what I was utilizing to capture the best memories possible. I came into this John's courses knowing the "on/off" button, and "auto" shoot mode. I came out of the course feeling like the pro in my dreams, and ready to shoot manual. John's teaching style is on point, and his detailed visuals are a huge plus. My first shots post this photography kit course, I thought were great for my first educated shoot, and shockingly, I even received and email from one of the sponsors of the surfers I captured, asking if they could use my image for their sites and publications. Not bad for a newbie. Though, my intent was never a business purpose, I did not know if I should charge a small fee, or give it for free. I don't mind free as it's not my business, yet I don't want to ruin it for any professional photographers in town doing the same thing that are charging. Perhaps another course to help me with that. I highly recommend courses by John Greengo! Thank you so much, John!

Megan Wagner

John is extremely articulate and is a great teacher with lots of visual aids and metaphors to help understand photography. I have been doing photography for a few years now and this class was a tremendous help in boosting my knowledge and refreshing my memory in multiple aspects of photography. The graphics that John uses are helpful and he even goes through images and asks which settings would be best to use and will go through the why. He makes things easy to understand and is very clear about the information he provides. I am so glad I took this course and I would highly recommend it even to an experienced photographer. Thank you John Greengo!