Finding your way around the controls and functions on your DSLR camera is your first step to photography beyond simple point-and-shoot. Here’s our guide to the essential parts of the camera and what they do. (Reported by: Ryosuke Takahashi)
F1: Shutter Button
Press this button to release the shutter. The shutter button press has two stages: Half-pressing the button activates the AF function, while pressing it down fully releases the shutter.
F2: Red-eye reduction/self-timer lamp
Red-eye reduction: If red-eye reduction is enabled on your camera, half-pressing the shutter button will light up this lamp when you use the built-in flash.
Self-timer: When you set the self-timer, this lamp will blink for the duration of the timer until the picture is taken.
F3: Lens Mount
This is the section that connects the interchangeable lens to the camera body. To attach the lens, you line up the lens mount index (see F3) on the lens with the corresponding one on the lens mount and turn the lens clockwise until you hear a click.
F4: Lens Mount Index
Align the mark on the lens with this mark when you are attaching or detaching a lens.
Red index: For EF lenses (Can be used on both Canon full-frame and APS-C DSLRs)
White index: For EF-S lenses (Can be used on Canon APS-C DSLRs)
Find out more about the different types of lenses and their key concepts in:
In Focus: Lens Basics
F5: Lens Release Button
Press this button when you want to detach the lens. The lens lock pin retracts when the button is pressed, enabling you to turn the lens freely. Before shooting, lock the lens into place by turning it until you hear a click.
The mirror is unique to DSLR cameras. It reflects light from the lens into the viewfinder, which lets the photographer see the shot through the viewfinder in real time. The mirror flips up immediately right before shutter release (the shot is taken).
This is a built-in microphone for capturing the audio sound during movie recording. The microphone used may be monaural or stereo depending on the camera model.
F8: Built-in Flash
When needed, you can fire the flash to capture a shot in a dimly-lit scene. The flash may be automatically fired in some modes.
Here are some tutorials on how to use your built-in flash to achieve interesting effects:
Flash Techniques #1: How to Deal with Harsh Shadows Caused by Backlight
Flash Techniques #6: How to Create Magical Bokeh Circles on a Rainy Day
V1: AF Point
Indicates the position of the focus during AF (autofocus) shooting. The selected AF point will be highlighted in red. You can choose to select an AF point automatically or manually.
V2: Shutter Speed
Indicates the time interval during which the shutter is open. The shutter speed value is denoted in the "1/parameter" format. However, only the parameter value is shown in the viewfinder. Increasing the parameter value shortens the time interval the shutter remains open. Shutter speeds slower than 1/4 second are indicated as, for example, 0''3, 0''4, 0''5, 0''6, 0''8, 1'', or 1''3. In this case, 1"3 means 1.3 seconds.
Find out more about shutter speed in: Camera Basics #2: Shutter Speed
V3: Aperture Value
This value indicates the extent to which the aperture blades inside the lens are open. A smaller value means the aperture is more widely open, which allows more light to be captured. The selectable aperture value range varies according to the lens in use.
Learn more about aperture in: Camera Basics #1: Aperture
V4: ISO Speed
The ISO speed setting varies constantly when the Auto setting is selected. A higher ISO speed makes it easier to capture shots of a dimly-lit scene.
You can find more information about ISO speed in: Camera Basics #5: ISO Speed
The eyecup prevents external light from entering when your eye is in contact with the eyepiece. A soft material is used to reduce the burden on the eye and the forehead.
R2: Viewfinder Eyepiece
The viewfinder eyepiece is a small window on the camera which you look through in order to compose your photo and establish focus on a subject. When shooting using a viewfinder, external light is reduced. This allows you to put full attention on the subject right before your eyes, which in turn makes it easier to track moving subjects.
Read more about viewfinders here: Camera Basics #12: The Viewfinder
R3: LCD Monitor
In addition to the shooting settings as shown in the illustration here, the captured image as well as text information such as the menu can also be displayed on the LCD monitor. Also, you can magnify the display image to check the details. Some camera models have a Vari-angle LCD monitor, which allows you to alter the angle of the monitor during Live View shooting, making it easier to capture low-angle or high-angle shots.
R4: MENU Button
Use this button to display the menu for adjusting the different camera functions. After selecting a menu item, you can adjust the camera settings in greater detail.
R5: Playback Button
This is the button for playing back images you have captured. Pressing the button once displays the last image you captured or showed on the LCD monitor.
R6: Wi-fi Lamp
This lamp indicates the wireless connection status.
Lamp on: Wi-fi connection is on
Blinking lamp: Camera is waiting for connection/reconnection
Intermittent rapidly-blinking lamp: Connection error
Rapidly blinking lamp: Data is being sent/received
R7: Access Lamp
The lamp appears blinking when there is data transmission between the camera and the memory card. Do not open the card slot or battery compartment cover while the light is blinking. Doing so may cause the camera to malfunction.
R8: SET Button/Multi-controller
The Multi-controller keys are directional buttons that allow you to:
- Move between menu items
- Move a magnified display to a different point during image playback
- Move the AF point during AF point selection
In shooting mode, the functions of the keys switches to the ones indicated by the icon on it. Meanwhile, the SET button confirms a selection.
R9: ISO Speed Setting Button
Press this button to adjust the sensitivity of the camera toward light. ISO speed is an international standard that is determined based on the sensitivity of negative films.
R10: Quick Control Button
Pressing this button displays the Quick Control screen (further explained in the section "Settings on the Quick Control Screen"), which allows you to confirm various camera settings at one glance and adjust them.
R11: Display Button
By pressing the DISP button, you can:
- Turn the display on/off
- Toggle between different information displays in Image/Movie Playback mode and during Live View shooting
- Display the camera’s major function settings when the menu is displayed
R12: Erase Button
Use this button to erase unwanted images.
R13: Focus Point Selection Button
Use this button to go into AF point (autofocus) selection mode during AF shooting. You can then select any of the AF points manually using the Multi-controller keys.
R14: Live View Shooting/ Movie Shooting Switch
Use this button to turn on or turn off the Live View function. Pressing the button once displays the Live View image on the LCD monitor, and the camera is ready for Live View shooting. To record a movie, set the shooting mode to “Movie Shooting” on the mode dial (T6), and press this button to start recording. To stop, press the button again.
R15: Dioptric Adjustment Knob
Use this knob to adjust the clarity of the viewfinder image according to your eyesight. To do so, turn the knob while looking through the viewfinder.
Settings on Quick Control Screen
QC1: Shooting Mode
Displays the text or icon corresponding to the shooting mode you have selected as you turn the Mode Dial.
QC2: Shutter Speed
Displays the time interval during which the shutter is open. Increasing the parameter value shortens the time interval the shutter remains open.
QC3: Battery Level
Displays the remaining battery level with an icon. The illustration here shows the state when the battery level is still full. The icon display changes as the battery level decreases.
QC4: Shots Remaining
Indicates the number of remaining shots that can be captured. The number varies with the capacity of the memory card in use as well as the image-recording quality you have selected.
QC5: Image-recording Format/ Quality
Displays the image-recording quality that is currently selected. The icon here indicates that the camera is set to record in the Large JPEG format.
QC6: ISO Speed
A higher ISO speed makes it easier to capture shots of a dimly-lit scene. Generally, ISO 100 is used as the standard setting. In the ISO Auto setting, the optimal value is automatically selected according to the scene. You can also choose to set the ISO speed manually.
QC7: Aperture Value
This value indicates the extent to which the aperture blades inside the lens are open. A smaller value means the aperture is more widely open, which allows more light to be captured. The aperture value is also known as the f-number, which varies with the lens in use.
T1: Focus Mode Switch
Use this switch to set the focusing mode to Automatic (AF) or Manual (MF).
Audio sound of a recorded movie can be played back through the speaker. During movie playback, turning the Main Dial allows you to adjust the volume level. Not only so, you can also select and play back the background music from the menu screen.
T3: Strap Mount
Pull the end of the strap through the eyelet, and secure it firmly while ensuring that the two ends of the strap are well-balanced.
T4: Hot Shoe
This is a terminal for attaching external flash units. Data is transmitted between the camera and the flash unit through the contacts. Maintain the contacts in a clean state to ensure proper firing of the external flash when needed.
T5: Power Switch
Use this switch to power on or power off the camera. When the power of the camera is left on for a prolonged period of time, it switches automatically to the standby mode to conserve power. For some cameras, the power switch comes with a Movie icon as shown in the illustration, which allows you to switch to the Movie shooting mode directly.
T6: Mode Dial
Turn this dial to select a shooting mode according to the scene you want to capture. The shooting modes are largely divided into two different zones, Creative and Basic.
A: Creative Zone
The Creative Zone modes allow users to select and set functions according to their intended purpose.
B: Basic Zone
In the Basic Zone modes, the camera automatically selects the appropriate settings according to the selected scene.
T7: Flash Button
Use this button to pop up the built-in flash. In the Basic Zone, the built-in flash may pop up automatically in some cases according to the function in use.
T8: Main Dial
This is a multi-purpose dial that allows you to perform tasks such as adjusting the value of the shooting settings (usually aperture/shutter speed/exposure compensation) and jumping through playback images.
T9: Zoom Ring
Turn the zoom ring to alter the focal length. The selected focal length can be identified from the numbers and index marks at the lower end of the lens
T10: Focus Ring
When the camera is in the Manual Focus (MF) mode, turn this ring to adjust the focus. The position of the focus ring varies according to the lens in use.
S1: Remote Control Terminal, Audio/Video OUT/Digital Terminal, HDMI Mini OUT Terminal, N-Mark
A: Remote control terminal
This is a terminal for connecting the camera to an external device. Before you do so, make sure that the device is compatible with the camera, and connect them properly.
B: Audio/Video OUT/Digital terminal
C: HDMI mini OUT terminal
These are terminals for TV output and data transmission, as well as for HDMI mini output.
Touching the N-mark against an NFC-compatible smartphone will initiate pairing between the camera and the smartphone.
B1: Card Slot, Battery Compartment
Load the supplied battery here. Insert the battery with the orientation of the battery terminal aligned with that inside the camera.
Insert the memory card for recording images into this slot. The type of card usable varies with the camera model.
B2: Tripod Socket
This is a socket placed at bottom of the camera body for attaching the camera to a tripod. On most DSLR cameras, this socket fits the 1/4-20 UNC standard screw thread size, which is used by most commonly-available tripods.
And there you have it—these are the key parts of a DSLR camera and what they do. The next step is to start shooting: Check out our Tips & Tutorials in the menu above for some ideas on how to start. To continue reading about key concepts and theories, you could also check out our Camera Basics or Lens Basics series.
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Born in Aichi in 1960, Takahashi started his freelance career in 1987 after working with an advertising photo studio and a publishing house. Photographing for major magazines, he has travelled to many parts of the world from his bases in Japan and China. Takahashi is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS).