Optional Digital SLR Camera Features for Nature Photography - dummies

Optional Digital SLR Camera Features for Nature Photography

By Doug Sahlin

You may already own a digital SLR camera. Or perhaps you’re in the market to get a digital SLR that’s well suited for nature photography. The following options are not necessary, but useful:

  • Depth of field preview: This is usually a button on the side of the camera that when pressed stops the lens down to the selected f-stop. This lets you analyze the depth of field you’ll get with the current settings.

  • Custom settings: A camera with custom settings gives you the option to modify which functions a button performs and to enable other options like long exposure noise reduction, mirror lock-up, and highlight.

  • Register camera settings: This feature lets you save the current camera settings. It is useful when you use specific camera settings for specific types of picture-shooting tasks. For example, if you use a menu option like locking the mirror for long exposures, you can register this and any other settings. You can then call up these settings when you need them by using the camera dial or menu option.

    The manner in which the registered settings are recalled and used differ depending on the camera manufacturer and, in some instances, on the camera model.

  • Built-in flash: This is useful when you need to add a little light to a scene. Built-in flash is not very powerful, but it can be useful when you’re photographing small objects like flowers.

    If the camera you’re buying has built-in flash, flash exposure compensation is very useful. This lets you increase or decrease the power of the flash. Another useful option is for the camera to control external flash units through a menu command.

  • Dual memory cards: This feature lets you take pictures with two memory cards in the camera at the same time. The options for dual memory cards differ with each camera manufacturer that offers the option.

  • Live View: This feature enables you to compose images using the LCD monitor. This option locks the mirror up, and you view the scene through the sensor. Live View is useful when shooting close-ups.

    The only drawback to Live View is that when it is enabled, some cameras take longer to focus than when you compose the scene through the viewfinder.

  • Video recording: The capability to record video of your nature photography expeditions is another way to create a lasting memory. If you intend to record a lot of video, consider purchasing a camera that will record HD (high-definition) video with dimensions of 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720. Multiple frame rates of 24 fps (frames per second), 25 fps, 30 fps, and 60 fps is also a useful option.

  • Custom menu: If you purchase a camera with this option, you can save your most frequently used menu options to a custom menu. The capability to create a custom menu makes it easy to find a frequently used menu command quickly, thereby saving you time.

  • Self-cleaning sensor: Dust on a digital SLR sensor is a fact of life unless you change lenses in a hermetically sealed room. This option vibrates the camera sensor when you turn the camera on and off, which shakes any loose dust off the sensor.

  • Two image formats: If you purchase a camera that records images in the RAW format, the camera may have the option to record RAW and JPEG images simultaneously. This option is useful if you need to deliver processed images quickly. For example, you can post the JPEG images in an online gallery for client review, and then process RAW images that friends or clients choose for print.

  • High-speed continuous shooting: The option to capture six to eight frames per second is useful when you’re photographing wildlife on the move or birds in flight.