The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Removable Lens Cameras – House of Hacks

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Removable Lens Cameras


In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows all the things that are in the typical beginner's removable lens camera. Interchangeable lens cameras have a few more items to them than a point and shoot camera that may confuse a beginning photographer. After this introduction, the novice photographer should understand the various things that came with their camera.

This is the sixth episode of Vlog Every Day in August 2017 (aka #SSSVEDA2017).

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For a written transcript, go to The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Removable Lens Cameras.


So I was supposed to go live today and I was having technical difficulties. So I recorded directly to my hard disk and I continued to have technical difficulties that I didn't realize until after I'd listened to the video.

So the audio is a little bit "Alvin and the Chipmunks" sounding and I did misspeak in one place. I said "megabytes" when I meant "gigabytes."

But it is what it is and hope you enjoy the content even though it's not technically perfect.

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to talk about the Absolute Beginner's Guide to Your Removable Lens Camera.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

I help out a friend of mine who does adult ed classes for the local university here as kind of a teacher's assistant. I help out with answering student questions during labs, help them get through what they need to get through.

In the course of doing that, the last time somebody came up after class and had a bunch of things in her hand and said "what are these?" She'd bought a new camera and there were a bunch of things in the box that she didn't really understand what they were for.

So that prompted the idea in my mind that... sometimes as people that are really familiar with a certain industry, in this particular case photography, we take for granted a lot of super basic information. So that gave me the idea that let's just go over everything you get in a box when you buy a new camera and just go over every little detail. Hopefully I won't forget anything. And just take a look at them and explain what they are. So this is a really, really super basic beginner's introduction to what comes in a new camera box.

This was supposed to be a live stream but I ended up with some problems with the stream in testing things out and I couldn't get them resolved. Just some technical difficulties that I still need to resolve. This last week has been really crazy and I didn't get as much time to prepare for this live stream as I was hoping to and so I'm going to do this as if it's live streamed but it's going to go to my hard disk and then I'll just upload it. So it'll just be a single take as if it was live streamed, using all the live stream software, just locally instead of going out over the web as it happens.

So that's what's happening today. Hopefully this next week will be a little bit less crazy and I'll be able to figure out all the little technical details to be able to get the stream to work live properly for next week.

So anyway, let's dig into it.

This isn't for any one particular camera. This is just kind of for removable lens cameras in general will have pretty much all the stuff I'm going to talk about. So I'm not getting into the specific details of this models that I'm working with here. But just to kind of give an idea of what you can expect regardless whether you're buying a mirrorless camera or a SLR camera, whether it's Canon or Nikon or Fuji or Sony or Panasonic, they're all going to be pretty much the same at the level of detail that I'm going to be looking at today.

So first off, just some miscellaneous items. Usually they all come with a carrying strap. This is a strap that you attach the ends to your camera and you just put this over your head or your shoulder. I have one that I use for my stuff so this is a new one that I've never actually used.

You also get just some paperwork for registration and, you know, don't leave it out in the wet that I always just ignore.

One very important piece of information is the manual. These have all the information that the manufacturer thinks you need to know and it's really good to sit down and go through this. Spend a couple nights in the evening and just read through it so you get really familiar with all the features of your particular camera.

It looks pretty intimidating, pretty thick. But this is three languages. This has English, French and Spanish in it and sometimes I've seen up to like five or six languages in one so they get pretty thick. But, you know, it's only a third of it in this particular case. So it's not anywhere near as long... and there's lots of pictures and diagrams. So it goes pretty quickly. But it does help to really understand what's going on inside your camera.

Some other miscellaneous things. You'll get a battery charger typically. Usually these are things that just plug into the wall and you also get a battery for your particular camera. And each camera usually they're relatively unique for each camera. Sometimes different models within a certain manufacturer might share a battery style but you do get usually a battery charger and a battery for your camera. You do usually need to charge these first thing. So when you get it, open it up, put the charger in, throw it on the wall so you can be taking pictures as soon as you can.

The next thing we'll talk about is the lens. Now this particular body... when I bought it, it didn't come with a lens. So this is just kind of a... this is another lens I happened to have but it's representative of what would come with your kit. They typically have a lens cap. It goes over the front element to kind of protect that and it's just a round disk, usually there's little clips, buttons on the sides that you press to just snap it on and press to take it off.

But it also has a cap on the back. Called a lens cap or back cap that protects the back element of the lens. It just twists on and twists off.

Coming with the lens also is one of these things. Sometimes they're flat all the way across. Sometimes they have these scallops. These are called lens hoods and what they do is they protect the... they keep the light from the side from hitting the lens, bouncing around inside and causing light flares. And so usually they have just clips that... they snap in and rotate to lock them in place. And that helps. Generally they go this way for landscape so, if they do have scallops, the larger sections go on the top and on the bottom and the shorter sections go on the sides. There are sometimes red dots in this particular case that tell you where to put it on to line it up and they go on like so. Usually with zoom lenses... zoom lenses are usually the ones that are flat all the way across. Long zoom lenses like my 70 to 300 the lens hood is just flat all the way across. It's usually the wider angles that you start seeing the scallops on them. Also, they can be put on in reverse to make them more compact but keep them with the lens so they are like that for storage purposes so they don't take as much space in the camera bag.

Another thing that sometimes comes with the lens is a bag. It's just a round, usually drawstring, bag. That's just for storage of the lens so you can keep it... kind of as a dust... keep the dust off it while it's in storage. I've seen this come more when you buy a lens individually than when they come in a kit with a camera. But someone in class said they got a bag with their camera, which was interesting. I'd not seen that before.

And the last thing that comes in the box typically is the body itself. And they have different options and different features but generally it's just a camera body like this. And also has a cover for the... it's called a body cover. And it covers up the hole where the lens goes on when there's no lens on it. And it just twists on and twists off. It mounts just like the lens does. So it comes off and the lens can be put on by taking the back cap off and the lens just snaps on the front of the camera.

Now in terms of mounting the lens, usually if you look on the front of the camera, there's a red dot and on the side of the lens there's also a red dot. Hopefully you can see that. There's a red dot. And those two red dots line up when you put it together and you twist. Canon they twist clockwise. Nikons they twist counter-clockwise. So be sure to... I'm not sure which way Sonys and Panasonics lock on but I do know the Canons and Nikons are reversed from each other. As far as the lens goes with the body there's a switch, or a button, on the side that you press to release the lens and then you can rotate it back and then it comes off. It should always be real easy and smooth to go on and off. If you have to apply any force whatsoever then something is wrong, don't apply force. It should go on and off really smoothly, really easily.

Before we get into the camera, let's look at some of the features on the lens. So we've already talked about the hood. There's a ring, typically on the front that adjusts focus. I'll put that up so you can see it. That adjusts the focus of the lens if you're going to do manual focus. And if it's a zoom lens, it has another ring on the back that adjusts the zoom. Some lenses as you can see in this lens, the front element moves in and out as you zoom. Other lenses don't have any movement, all the movement will be internal. You won't see any movement as you zoom in and out. There's also two switches. One or two switches, depending on your model of lens. Most lenses have something called AF which is auto-focus or MF which is manual focus and that switches between... if it's in AF, the camera will try to focus when you press the button. If it's in manual focus, then you're responsible for focusing before you press the button. So if you're taking a pictures and they're always out of focus, or they're mostly out of focus except for occasionally, you might want to check that switch. If you're expecting it to be in auto-focus and it's in manual focus. I've had that happen more than once, people are wondering why their images are fuzzy and it's because they're expecting it to be auto-focus and it's in manual focus. And then there's many times another switch called either image stabilization or vibration reduction, IS or VR, and that usually either just on or off. And that controls some electronics inside that help stabilize the image as you're taking the picture. Not all lenses have that but now probably most of them do. I think that covers it for the lens itself.

Oh, one other thing on the lens. There's also some threads, you can't see them in this image, but there's some rings around the front, sorry, some threads around the front of this element that allow you to thread on various types of filters. This particular filter is just what's called a UV filter. It filters out ultraviolet light and is used quite frequently just as a protection for the lens. You can get other filters that add special effects to your image if you want to use those but there are threads on there. And they can get damaged. They're a little bit fragile so if you're lens gets knocked around a lot they can get damaged. So it is a good idea when the lens is in the camera bag or not being used to make sure you have the lens cap on; it helps to kind of protect those threads.

So getting back to the camera, we have the hole in the front where the light goes through, the lens gets mounted to that. And we also have the button that always on the right, the right side. It's usually a pretty large button. That's your shutter release and that's what's used to actually take your picture. There's usually two levels. There's a half-press and that half-press does special functions depending on how your camera is configured. Typically that half-press will do two things. It will cause your lens, the auto-focus to kick in on your lens and it will also adjust, figure out the exposure you need for your image. So you do a half-press and you get focus and if your camera is configured to do this, it will sometimes give you a beep and then when you have your image composed you press the button down the rest of the way and it will release the shutter which will cause the image to be captured.

There's a bunch of different buttons, depending on your camera model, there will be a bunch of other buttons that allow you to change different functions of your camera. Enable things. Disable things. Adjust parameters. That kind of thing. I'm not going to get into any of those details because those details are very specific from one model of camera to the next and that's where you manual is real important to read that so you can understand all those things.

Working around your camera, we have a viewfinder on the back and that's what you look through if you want to take a picture, you put that up to your eye to do your framing, or if you're right eye dominant, you put it this way. And in that there's almost always what's called a diopter and on the side, I don't know if you can see that, but there's a little knob that's on the side of the viewfinder and that adjusts focus for your eyesight. It's basically kind of like reading glasses for the viewfinder. And usually it has a center position and then you can adjust it up and down. It's not a whole lot of adjustability, like if I don't have my glasses or contacts in, it doesn't adjust enough for my uncorrected vision. But it does adjust for needing reading glasses to be able to see the image. A good way of being able to adjust that is look at the things that the camera shows around the edges of your viewfinder. The numbers that indicate exposure value and the meter and those little things that it decorates the image with, get those in focus because if your image itself is out of focus you can adjust this all you want and you'll be fighting the fact that the lens itself is out of focus. So look at the edges of your viewfinder when adjusting the sharpness on your diopter.

On the back, there's also a LCD display. In this case it flips out and it can turn around and be like that. Other cameras if they don't flip out they may just be fixed and you always see the LCD display. That display, depending on your camera does different things. It allows you to preview... not preview, post view your images after you've taken a picture. If you have a live view you can use it as a viewfinder also in addition to the small one on top. You can go through all the images on your memory card. You can adjust options and change features on your camera. You can do a lot of interaction through that.

Continuing around the camera, there's a mode selector switch and depending on the model of the camera, sometimes it's over here on this side, but this controls the mode the camera is in for shooting in. And typically you have manual mode, M. There's an automatic mode called Av on... I think it's Av on most models, which is aperture priority, it may be Ap on some models. There's another one that's Tv or S on other manufacturers and that's the shutter priority mode. I won't get into any of these modes, that's a whole other video in and of itself. But just be aware that they're there. Then there's usually a P mode and that's a mostly automatic mode but where you can override things. There's usually a green icon, sometimes it's a square, sometimes it's an A, but usually it's colored green and that's full auto mode. The camera will make all the decisions when making a picture. So that's a good mode to start in before you've learned all the various nuances of the exposure triangle for example. And usually there's a bunch of other settings that are automatic settings for use from night scenes to underwater and daylight and close-up and all kinds of different things. Depending on your camera model, there may be a dozen, two dozen, different settings on there. And usually they are controlled also in conjunction between the setting on this knob and the menu settings on the LCD.

There's an on/off switch somewhere. On this particular model it's back here on the back. Sometimes they're on the front. You have to read the manual and find out where the on/off switch is.

Most modern cameras now have video mode. And video mode is controlled by... different places on different models. Some models you put it in video mode by rotating the mode selector around. And some models they have a separate switch that you switch it into video mode.

On the sides there are mounting points for the strap that I showed first and they just slide in there and loop around.

Looking around the bottom of the camera, there's usually a hole in the bottom that's always a 1/4-20 thread hole designed for mounting on a tripod. And there's a lot of things that use that 1/4-20 thread in photography because it's kind of a ubiquitous standard for mounting things.

There's usually a place to put the battery. Usually it's on the bottom. Sometimes it's on the side. And the batteries just slide in, they slide in just one way. And then the door closes and the camera's got charge.

There's a door to put the memory in. Sometimes there's multiple memory slots, depending on your model of camera. One important point is that memory, I don't think I've every seen memory come with the camera. You always have to buy the memory separately. And so be aware of that when you're buying a brand new camera that you do need to buy memory for it separately. These days, I wouldn't get anything less than 32GB. 64 or 128GB would be good sizes to get just so you have plenty of memory to work with.

There's also other connectors on the side, depending on your particular model of camera. There are extra connector slots to be able to put in HDMI connectors, to put in USB connectors, sometimes remote control connectors, other types of video, microphones. And again the features that those come with... that come on your camera will vary model to model. Again, read the manual. Very important.

Let me look at my notes here and see if there's anything else. Oh...

One thing about all these different buttons for controlling your camera, many times they're... they have multi-select mode where a particular switch, particularly the switches that roll or spin. They do one function if you aren't pressing anything or if you're pressing one of these buttons, and then switch it, it'll do something completely different. And you may have, like in this particular case, three different buttons. Depending on which button you press, rolling this will do different things. So again, be sure to read the manual. It's very important to understand how your camera works.

I think that's everything I wanted to cover in this particular episode. If this had been a live episode, I'd open things up for questions, but since there aren't I'll just explain what's going on this next week.

Monday through Saturday I'm going to be releasing some fairly short videos that talk about the why of House of Hacks. Some of the philosophy behind why I'm doing House of Hacks and, yeah, that kind of thing.

Next Sunday, which is again supposed to be a live show, and hopefully I'll have all the kinks worked out and it really will be a live show, I'm going to be talking about what you need to do to take your first photo. So tune in for that if that's something you're interested in.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!