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RTFM

When I’m not working, messing around with research projects or playing games, another pastime I enjoy is photography. A couple of years ago now I invested in a Nikon D80 DSLR camera which since then I have augmented with a couple of different lenses to expand my photographic envelope.

When I first started I really knew very little about how cameras worked, and was ignorant in the mystical ways that aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, depth of field and exposure worked; but since then I have gradually been learning and while I am the first to admit I am no expert, I like to think that I at least have a firmish grasp of the fundamentals and how the key parameters and controls interact.

Now being something of a geek the camera technology itself interests me just as much as matters of composition and lighting, not just every page of the rather good manual that came with the camera has been digested but also many magazine articles and books have been consumed in my quest to understand.

The upshot of all this is that while my photographs rarely turn out as well as I might hope, if they are under/over exposed, out of focus or blurred I at least understand why that is the case and how I may have chosen different settings to remedy the situation.

How did I get onto this subject? Well I was on holiday recently walking amid some stunning mountain scenery with the trusty D80 and found I was not alone – one of the other members of our happy little band also had a D80 but turned out to be a fairly recent convert to the DSLR camp and confessed he had not as yet had the time or inclination to learn just what it could do. At the risk of being branded the group bore we chatted about the cameras and I showed him some of what I consider to be it’s most useful features – essentially though his plan was to leave it on ‘landscape’ preset mode and use it simply as a point-and-shoot device, a task that could have probably been accomplished more capably by one of the many excellent compacts now on the market at a fraction of the size and at a fraction of the cost.

Now I’m not attacking my camera toting comrade here – he bought the camera with the full intention of making use of it’s facilities but just hadn’t had the time as yet, but it did get me thinking about how many of the DSLRs now being bought are actually being used to even a fraction of their potential?

With the introduction of enthusiast and now entry level DSLRs, more and more people are opting for them I suspect under the misplaced or misinformed belief that they will somehow take better pictures than they would have with a much cheaper compact. Sales assistants in camera stores no doubt have more interest in selling you a £500 DSLR than a £90 compact, especially when you factor in the lenses, cases, filters and other assorted paraphernalia that they can then also load Joe Punter down with, but for this I believe they should be simply taken out and shot.

If you want a point and shoot camera then buy a compact – it’s designed to do that and will do it better than most if not all DSLRs even when they are used in full-auto mode. If you are buying a DSLR then do so because you want to get involved in the photographic process, you want to or already do understand how aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance interact and you want to have a say in just how the picture looks rather than just trying not to cut peoples heads off.

In summary it’s the right tool for the right job – and if you do decide to spend your take-home on a DSLR and you do so because you want to get involved then I applaud you and welcome you to the club. There is a wealth of information out there on the net to help you get started and to start realizing the potential of the amazing bit of kit you just bought.

Don’t you dare just point and shoot

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