Camera 101 – you’ve just got a new mirrorless camera. Now what?

Scott AntcliffeTecnologia e know-how01 mar 2024Lettura di 5 minuti

The first four steps to kickstart your photography journey, plus the difference between DX and FX cameras, and how to nail aperture, shutter speed and ISO

DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras dominated the photography world for decades, but recent years have seen the rapid advancement of mirrorless cameras technology. Removing the mirror that sits in front of the sensor in a DSLR allows for a smaller and lighter camera and less vibration shake. The benefits of mirrorless cameras are endless: the Z mirrorless system boasts near-silent operation, lightning-fast burst speeds, hybrid autofocus, electronic viewfinders, plus the latest EXPEED processors, not to mention endless Z mount lenses options. Read on to make the most out of your latest mirrorless.


DX or FX?
In digital SLR cameras, the camera’s format refers to the size of its image sensor. Nikon offers both full-frame FX sensor and cropped-sensor DX sensor mirrorless models to fit diverse needs. The key difference comes down to physical sensor size within the camera. FX models carry a larger 36x24mm full-frame sensor which is approximately the same size as 35mm film, while DX-format sensor is smaller, at 24x16mm.


Understanding crop factor

The DX sensor produces a 1.5x “crop factor.” Crop factor is the ratio of a camera sensor’s size to a 35mm film frame. This 1.5x crop factor allows the camera and accompanying NIKKOR Z lenses to be smaller and more affordable. For example, if you put a 50mm lens on a DX camera, you will actually get the angle of view and magnification similar to an 75mm lens on an FX camera (because 50 x 1.5 =75).


The image below was shot using a Nikon Z 6II and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S with a focal length of 70mm.

Scott Antcliffe
What’s in my kitbag?
Understanding crop factor and focal length asset for Nikon magazine.
Nikon cameras 

At time of publication, there are three DX cameras and eight FX cameras.


DX cameras:


FX cameras:

Nikon Z8 USDD Ambassador shoot series
How to unbox and set up your camera

Getting a new camera can be a little overwhelming. To help, read the camera’s manual, scroll through articles online or browse YouTube. Below are four key steps you should take when unboxing your camera for the very first time:


  1. Charge up

Be sure to fully charge your camera’s battery first before turning it on. Insert the battery and give it adequate charging time per the manual.


  1. Insert memory card

Depending on the type of camera you have, your camara may take SD cards, CFexpress cards or XQD cards. Major brands like SanDisk and Lexar recommend using cards rated as U3 and V30 for best camera compatibility, these are cards intended for higher resolution videos such as 4K or 8K, with a minimum write speed of 30MB/s. I use two ProGrade 512GB CFexpress Type B memory cards in the dual slot.


You’ll also use the memory cards to help you upgrade the camera’s firmware. Firmware plays a crucial role in ensuring the proper functioning and performance of the camera.


Read more: Firmware update v.4.10 brings new bird and airplane detection to Z 9


  1. Configure your settings

When first powering up your camera, take some time navigating the menus and toggling various core configuration settings to your liking before photographing. Adjust things like time and date, sound volume, screen brightness, and battery/power options at minimum. Check out Nikon Europe on YouTube to be walked through settings, their purpose and how to get the best from them


  1. Learn buttons and controls

Spend time getting to know what all the various external controls, rings, and buttons do on your particular model by reading the manual and experimenting with each function while safely at home. This knowledge will help greatly in confidently using the camera once out actually photographing.

Nail the exposure triangle

Now to dive deeper into core photography concepts, starting with the “exposure triangle” of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Master these three settings through practice to properly expose and artistically capture any general scene or portrait.

ISO sensitivity

The ISO setting controls the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light, with a lower number meaning less sensitivity and finer image quality, while higher ISOs permit photos in darker places. However, the closer you get to the highest limits of your camera ISO values, the more digital ‘noise’ is introduced to images and they become grainer. Ideally a lower ISO would be much more beneficial. On a nice, sunny day you could go for an ISO of 100 but at night or in low light environments such as a concert, you would need an ISO of at least 1600.


Aperture & depth of field

Aperture is represented by a f-number, controlling how wide the lens opening permits light through to the sensor. Wider apertures (lower f-numbers such as f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4) create a shallower depth of field while narrower apertures (f/6 or f/11) provide sharper focus across more of the scene. Lowering apertures down to f/2.8 or f/1.8 also allows for faster shutter speed (and therefore less camera shake blur and better subject freezing).


For landscape photography the sweet spot can be around f/11, for concerts and low-light environments as low as possible (f/2.8 or below) and for macro photography you may go up to f/22. It all depends on the subject you are photographing, your lens, and, of course, your ISO and shutter speed.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed indicates how long your camera’s shutter remains open exposing the sensor to incoming light during each shot taken. Using faster shutter speeds are critical when photographing sports or wildlife in motion to crisply “freeze” action without blurring, while slower shutter speeds can artistically smooth movements like waterfalls or clouds with purposeful long exposure motion blur effects. You could extend these times even further with the use of ND (Neutral Density) filters and the use of a tripod.


That covers the key essentials, so grab your Nikon mirrorless Z series and get out there capturing images! Don’t aim for perfection from the start but do actively practice manipulating ISO, aperture (f-stops), and shutter speed over a session to get more comfortable controlling the look of your images. Revisit the user manual whenever needed and enjoy unleashing your photography creativity through this capable system. The power is now in your hands!


Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year, Scott Antcliffe is writer and photographer living in Sheffield, England. He photographs weddings, live music, wildlife, sport, and landscapes and switched to a mirrorless Nikon Z 9 in February 2022, after years of using a Nikon DSLR. Follow along on his journey here.

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