In a Little Over My Head Here.


TPF Noob!
Sep 17, 2010
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Im in a little over my head here with all the settings on my SLR. Could somebody inform me on what all these settings are and what they do? like whats an F-stop, what does shutter speed do and how to use it, same for exposure and those kind of things. The camera is a minolta maxxum 400si with a few lenses. i know its dated but its what i have to use untill an upgrade.
Let me try to be simple and short.

F-stop is the hole size through the lens and it is adjustable.

Shutter speed is how fast the shutter opens and closes and it is adjustable

Lets put it all together The shutter opens and closes and allows the light to pass through the hole in the lens.

As you no doubt have noticed the shutter speed and the F-stop or (aperture or hole size) is adjustable. Light changes so you need a camera that can change to adjust to the changing light. Hence the adjustable feature of your camera. The adjustments also have a name called "stops"

You need to adjust the camera so that it gets a proper amount of exposure to the amount of light that exists.. If you want to learn what the proper exposure is for a new lighting situation then put the camera in automatic and note what settings the camera selects. You can take photos and never leave the auto setting quite fine. If you have no auto setting you no doubt have a meter needle or similar. Just see if it says it is a good combination of shutter speed and f-stop.

If you can use auto setting quite nicely then why all the settings. A few reasons

1) The auto light meter wants to make everything gray. Thus to make white snow white and not gray you override the auto setting and allow more light in to get the white snow back to white. The same for dark objects except you let less light in to keep the object dark

2) You may want to favor the extreme end of shutter speed to avoid blur

3) You may want to favor the extreme end of F-stop to take advantage of the depth of field phenomenon Or in other words control how much is in focus.

4) The meter has limits. You can't meter for a midnight dark of the moon shot of tree leaves. Thus the camera has a long long shutter speed setting called bulb where you open and close it per your wild guess.

5) You need to set shutter speed to properly work with a flash unit.

That is about it. All those pretty picture dial settings do is to arrange to set the camera per the above description of the basic functions I described.

Read the manual here
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thanks. So when i change these settings it changes what i see thru the glass right?
thanks. So when i change these settings it changes what i see thru the glass right?

The only difference you will see through your veiwfinder is the field of veiw based on your focal length and in/out of focus. I recommend alot of reading both on photography basics and your camera's user manual. Remember the best way to learn is to practice! There is loads of useful videos on youtube as well.

Post your photos on this forum for critique just don't get pee'd off if you get comments you don't like. Some members can be harsh with their comments. Good luck!
I have posted a few times on here before with the sony but i only got one or two comments. none actually telling me what i need to do to improve the shot. But i will continue

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