Archive for October, 2009

The importance of knowing one’s camera

Monday, October 12th, 2009

This is a somewhat embarrassing tale, but an important lesson for me.

I have a Canon EOS 300D Digital SLR. I’ve been very happy with it since I acquired it second hand some years ago. However, recently I’d been having trouble with it focusing. It had got so bad that I’d found myself resorting to using manual focus and I was convinced that something had gone wrong with the camera. It seemed somewhat inconsistent — sometimes it would apparently focus correctly and at other times I’d end up with an out of focus image or the camera wouldn’t focus at all.

This had been going on for some months (although as I live and work in two different countries, I tend to use the camera only about once a fortnight).

Recently I realised that only one of the seven AF spots seemed to be lighting up in red when half pressing the shutter release. (As I’m partially colour blind I find it difficult to see the pin point red flashes, but I slowly became convinced that only the extreme left point was flashing.) Slowly, I recalled that I may have read something in the manual about being able to select the AF spot, but had no recollection of what buttons needed to be pressed to do this. Of course, one never has the manual with one when one needs it, so another photographic opportunity was messed up until I had an opportunity to search through the manual. Yes, indeed, one can select the AF point (or all of them) and the manual explained which button to press and the universal control wheel then goes through the AF points (and all of them). Resetting this to use all of the AF points made the camera autofocus work properly again. I suspect that if it had been the centre AF point I might have gone on for a long time without realising that the camera was set to use just one point, but in fact it was the extreme left point which would often cause the camera to focus well behind a subject that was in the centre of the frame.

The important lesson from this is to read the camera manual, and ideally keep it with you. I have to say that I’ve never become as fluent in the use of this camera as I used to be in the days of an all manual minolta film SLR. I really am not sure whether the ergonomics are poor or whether it just doesn’t suit me. I also find it a little odd that such a setting is preserved through powering off the camera. It doesn’t seem a natural setting that one would like preserved.

This has made me even more aware of the common advice on buying cameras that you really need to handle it, and preferably be able to borrow one and try it for real.