Every camera obviously has controls and parts to enable it to function. Without some form of user input, it won’t take pictures. In order to do this, the user needs to know what each part does, and how to use each part. Below you will find pictures of the main parts of your camera and an explanation of what they do.


The BODY, is the shell of the camera.  All components are housed in the body. Most camera bodies are either plastic or metal, cheaper models being made from plastic, with aluminium being the metal of choice for more expensive models.


The main visible parts on the front of the camera are the lens and the flash unit. Lenses can be either Zoom Lenses, or Fixed. Zoom lenses move in and out and magnify the or get closer to the subject. An entry level camera usally has a 3X zoom, which means it magnifies the subject up to 3 times, though zooms of up to 42 X can be found .on modern cameras. 1X is no magnification (also called Wide angle). The lens moves through several focal points up to it’s maximum zoom. The focal length is often referred to in Millimetres and relates to the zoom range of a 35mm film camera. The lower the number, the wider the angle (the more you can fit into a picture) and the larger the number the larger the magnification (the less you fit into the picture or the closer you can zoom in, called telephoto). A typical wide angle of a compact camera is around 28mm, though can be as low as 24mm.  At the high end, a 3X zoom is around 84mm and a 15X zoom equates to around 420mm and a 36X zoom 1008mm. The telephoto length is simply the wide angle length multiplied by the zoom magnification factor, thus a camera with a wide angle of just 24mm and a 10X zoom would have a telephoto length of 240mm. The more you zoom in, the more camera shake appears. As you keep the camera steady the image jumps around. Most cameras have some form of image stabilisation to correct this. Optical stabilisation is better than digital. High zoom cameras use optical as at, say for example, 15X camera shake is severe.  


The flash unit is what illuminates indoor or night time shots to give enough light to properly expose the picture.  Most cameras will use a focus lamp (larger circle to left under flash) to judge the exposure. A light is bounced off the subject and the distance between the camera calculated. A typical compact camera’s flash range is about 15 ft, though some models have a range of well over 20 ft.  Some cameras have a pop up flash that folds into the body when not in use.


The top of the camera will usually be dominated by the shutter button. It may be surrounded by the zoom control as in this picture. Also on top will be the power button. This could be a button you press or a switch you slide. It may be small so as to be hard to accidentally turn off.

 As well as these controls, there may be a Mode Dial as well. This switches the camera between the different modes. Most compact cameras don’t have a mode dial. Instead, modes are selected through either the menu, a dedicated button, or a push of the 4 way navigation pad on the rear of the camera. The mode dial allows the mode to be changed when the power is off. However some cameras have an off position on the mode dial that acts as power on off. The icons on the dial will are explained in Camera Modes.

The rear of a digital camera is usually dominated by the LCD screen, which displays the images, and also the camera menus for changing the settings. Older models had 1.5 inch Screens, but about 7 years ago years, 2.5 inches became the norm. Today, most screens are either 2.7 or 3 inch. This increase in size has led to the demise of the viewfinder. These are now only found on bridge cameras or top end compacts. LCD’s are made up of pixels, just like a laptop screen. Cheaper models will have about 237,000 pixels (often refffered to as 230K screens), whilst many high end models will have 460,000 pixel screens (460k) which give a brighter sharper display, Don’t be fooled into thinking that the sharper an image looks on the LCD the better quality of the image taken by the camera.

The other main feature on modern cameras is the Circular D pad (directional) with a button in the centre, which usually says Menu/OK. My first Digicam with a screen didn’t have one, and it was the hardest camera I’ve owned on which to change settings. You use it by pressing it up, down, left or right. It will have icons on it. For example, in the picture a right press will display the flash settings, and the up and down buttons will cycle through the options. Just pressing OK will select that setting. When its in menu mode, up/down will scroll through the items, and left or right will scroll through the options for that item. OK will usually select it for you. You’ll notice other buttons on the back. Here, for example, we have a display button, a menu button, a record button and a function set (OK) button. You’ll find explanations for all these on our Icons page.  Many cameras, have several buttons, my Kodak has 6 on the back and 4 on top, whilst my bridge camera has 5 at the rear and 3 on the top. No two major manufacturers seem alike in the placement of buttons. To find out what each individual button and Icon represents visit our Buttons and Icons page.

If a camera’s zoom control isn’t surounding the shutter button, it’s on a rocker switch in the top right hand corner. Pressing it to the left zooms out, and usually either three trees or a manifying glass with a minus sign is on or by that side. A press to the right zooms in and the synbol is either a single tree or a plus sign in a magnifying glass. In playback of an image, zooming in zooms in on a part of the image, up to 8X on most cameras, whilst zooming out or pressing OK reurns to the whole image in view. The letter W indicates Wide or 1X (zero) zoom and T is Telephoto (full) zoom.

Where most manufacturers do tend to agree is on the camera’s bottom. This is where the battery and nemory compartment is, and a small screw thread for a tripod. Different cameras can take different batteries. To open the cover, just apply light pressure and slide the cover out in the direction indicated by the arrow on the cover.Some take AA, some AAA and some will have their own unique lithium battery. For more information see the battery page

The tripod mount is usually located in the centre of the bottom of the camera to ensure even weight distribution when pressing the shuter, so as not to overbalance. A tripod is a useful accessory if you are shooting outdoor night scenes as without one, camera shake may occur when using night modes. It’s a standard sized thread, one size fits all, even film and video cameras

Also present on the body, but in varying positions from camera to camera, is a microphone, which usually doubles up as a a speaker, and a focus assist lamp to give better focus in low light conditions. As video mode uses sound, any noise the lens makes zooming in is picked up by the microphone. To combat this, some digicams put a microphone on the top or at the rear, whilst those that have the mic at the front have the optical zoom disabled whilst recording video. The focus lamp fires a beam of light that bounces back from the subject giving a better focus. Not all cameras have a focus lamp.

Those are the major controls and parts on a modern compact camera.  I hope the mystery surrounding what each part does has been lifted and given you a better idea of how your camera works.

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