Although all DSLR cameras provide similar basic playback functions to a sophisticated compact digicam, their displays are usually more informative and provide a wider range of shooting data and other information photographers can use to improve their picture-taking. DSLRs will usually provide more options for fine-tuning camera settings, often in special Custom Function menus.
They may also offer better image management facilities and greater control over playback and quick review displays. For example, when captured images are displayed on the camera’s monitor after a shot is taken, DSLR photographers can usually determine how long they wish the image to remain on the screen.
Most cameras – both enthusiast and professional – provide the following standard playback options:
1. Playback with magnification. This allows you to magnify part of a displayed image to check focusing and scroll around the image by using the arrow pad keys. A dedicated button is often devoted to this function.
2. Image playback with shooting information, which usually includes the image quality and size settings, the image file number, the date and time the shot was taken, the shutter speed and lens aperture, the ISO and colour space settings, the metering and white balance modes and any corrections or adjustments to parameters like exposure, flash output or white balance.
3. Playback with histogram. All DSLRs provide brightness histograms and many also give separate graphs for the red, green and blue components of the image, making it easy to detect colour casts in the shot.
Playback with magnification lets you check the subject is in focus.
4. Playback with highlight/shadow alert. In this mode, any over-exposed areas in the subject will blink when highlight alert is selected, while underexposed areas can be made to blink by choosing shadow alert. The degree of over- or underexposure is not shown but photographers can use the EV adjustment control to change exposure settings and then re-take the shot and re ¬check highlights and shadows once more.
5. Auto rotation of shots taken vertically so they display upright during playback, both on the camera’s LCD and when the images are downloaded to a computer. Manual rotation is also supported in most DSLRs.
6. Index displays allow four, nine or 16 shots to be viewed simultaneously on the LCD screen. This function is used for seeing the images already stored on a memory card or locating wanted shots among a large number of files. To display a single image at full screen size, you select the shot using the arrow pad and press the playback or magnify button.
The standard playback options, which are accessed by toggling the Display button. The sequence is as follows: Single image display, Single image plus image-recording quality, Thumbnail plus histogram and shooting data, Thumbnail plus histogram.
7. Jump displays, which allow you to jump forward or backward by 10 or 100 images. This option is handy when you have to scroll through a large number of files on a memory card. Some cameras allow the jump function to be used with the magnified view, maintaining a pre-set magnification size and position throughout the jumps.
8. Auto playback as a slide show. Many DSLRs include a slideshow setting that automatically plays back all the shots on a memory card in sequence. Each image is displayed for roughly three seconds.
9. LCD brightness adjustment. Even entry-level DSLRs allow the brightness of the LCD screen to be adjusted. This can make the screen easier to view in normal lighting but may not provide significant improvements in bright sunlight, where all LCDs become difficult to ‘read’.
In-Camera File Management
All DSLRs include a variety of ways of tracking and organising image files and it’s important to understand how they work. Two file numbering methods are common in DSLRs: continuous and auto-reset. Selecting the wrong one can cause images to be over-written and you may lose valuable shots.
Selecting the continuous option ensures the files are numbered in sequence. When you load a new card (or a card from which previously-captured shots have been transferred), the first shot you take is numbered sequentially from the highest file number in the last batch of shots you took. This prevents images from having the same file number and makes it easier to manage images on your computer.
When the auto-reset function is selected, the camera will automatically start numbering images from the first file number in the folder (e.g. 100-0001) each time you insert a new memory card. In some cameras, earlier files on the card are detected and the file numbering starts from the file with the highest number.
Index displays can show four, nine or 16 frames simultaneously so photographers can see the recent shots they have taken.
The Jump display lets you scan quickly through a large number of image files on the camera’s memory card.
Where image files are likely to be replaced, the camera (or your file downloading program) should warn you and give you the opportunity to download the files to a different folder or change the numbering system. Some applications will do this for you automatically – but the end result can be confusing. The most common result is images from two or more different shooting sessions mixed up together in the same folder on your PC.
Always check the camera’s file numbering system before you start using a new DSLR. We recommend using the continuous setting as it makes file management much easier in the long term.
All DSLRs include systems for erasing and protecting image files and tagging shots for automatic printing. The control that erases image files is usually identified by a ‘rubbish bin’ icon. In most cameras it’s a dedicated button, although you may also be able to erase files through the menu system.
Selecting a file for erasure usually calls up a warning screen that checks whether you want to delete the file. The default setting is ‘Cancel’ so if you wish to trash the file you must select ‘OK’. Many cameras allow you to delete all files on a memory card by providing an additional ‘delete all files’ option. Another way to delete all files is to format the card. This is always done through the camera’s menu system.
Some cameras provide settings for erasing individual images or selected shots through the menu system.
Deleting individual or tagged files is simple. Select the Delete setting from the playback menu and use the arrow pad to select the displayed file or files. This is not the same as formatting the card.
Tagged files can be readily identified by icons on the thumbnail. For example, protected files are identified by a key icon. Photographers can tag JPEG files (but not raw files) for automatic printing using DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) tags, which can be ‘read’ by most automatic printers (including photo labs).
The Print Order menu in some cameras can be used to order index prints and imprint the date and/or file number on prints. Note: The print settings are applied to all images tagged for printing so if you tag one image for date and/or file numbering, it will appear on all prints. The memory card must also be the card that was used to capture the shots; you can’t download a set of pictures to a spare card and print from them with this function.
Direct Printing from DSLR Cameras
Most DSLR cameras support PictBridge direct printing, which was introduced in 2004. When the camera is connected via USB cable to a compatible printer, PictBridge allows users to:
* Print one or more images selected from the camera’s monitor display;
* Automatically print images tagged using the DPOF specification;
* Produce an index print of all images;
* Print all images in the camera’s memory.
Many DSLRs allow users to tag images for automatic printing, either as single shots or as index prints – or both.
Images that have been tagged for printing are easily identified by a tick mark on the top left corner.
Once again, only JPEG images can be printed via PictBridge (and other proprietary direct printing systems). Direct printing systems have limited value for photographers because they restrict the adjustments you can make to shots before printing. In addition, the only way of viewing the image you want to print is on the camera’s monitor, which is usually too small to make accurate assessments of colour and sharpness.
More sophisticated DSLRs include some interesting in-camera controls that allow users to trim shots, adjust brightness, contrast and saturation and convert images to B&W or sepia tone. Red-eye correction for flash shots and dynamic range adjustments may also be provided, along with tilt correction to straighten vertical lines that were distorted by shooting with a wide-angle lens.
Downloading Image Files
Image files can be copied to a computer’s hard drive by either connecting the camera to the PC via the USB cable supplied with the camera or removing the memory card from the camera and inserting it in a card reader which, itself, is linked to the PC via USB cable. Both work equally well, although downloading via a cable-to-computer link draws power from the camera’s battery as the camera must be switched on.
Card readers are convenient if you have several cameras with different types of memory cards or if there are two or more people in a household using the same computer. Turn the camera’s power off before removing the memory card.
The software supplied with many cameras includes automatic file management facilities that recognise image files and automatically organise them in folders, which are usually identified with the current date and time. These automatic cataloguers can be convenient but they vary greatly in how well they work. While some are efficient, others can be downright frustrating to use and folders can sometimes be stored in parts of your computer that you may not normally access.
Most DSLRs are supplied with video cables that allow them to be connected to a TV set so you can view the shots on the memory card. The cable plugs into the Video-In terminal on the TV set. Both camera and TV should be switched off when the cables are plugged in.
The camera’s video format must be set to match the TV display standard (PAL for Australia for standard definition). A few recently-released cameras support connection to HDTV (high-definition TV) sets, although you may need to purchase the required cable separately. Expect to see this facility becoming more popular as we transition from standard to high-definition TV broadcasting.
Selection of shots for display and moving from one shot to the next is done with the camera’s controls, using the playback button and arrow pad. At the end of the show, switch both camera and TV off before disconnecting the video cable.
The following websites provide additional information on the topics covered in this article.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PictBridge outlines the PictBridge direct printing standard.
www.canon.com.au/about/press_room/story_830.html has a ‘white paper’ on PictBridge as a photo printing solution.
picasa.google.com.au/ links to Picasa, a free image downloading and organisation tool that includes basic image editing and viewing functions.
Canon. Advanced Simplicity. Visit canon.com.au for more details.