I'm often asked by my friends who are shopping for a new camera, "What do all those confusing letters and numbers mean???" Above is a listing on Amazon.com for the Canon Rebel, which is a great entry level camera for anyone wanting to upgrade from a point-and-shoot. All those numbers can be confusing and read like a foreign language if you don't know what all the abreviations stand for. I'll break it all down for you here so you'll be more informed while you're shopping.
stands for Electro-Optical System and refers to the optics and lens mounting system on Canon’s current line-up of DSLR and old film SLR cameras. EOS is comparable to Nikon’s “F” series and other autofocus SLR systems from other brands.
This is the model number of the camera. Canon’s model numbering system doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. I’m sure there’s some kind of rhyme or reason to how they choose to name their camera’s, but I have yet to figure it out. The bottom line is, Rebel is their entry-level consumer line of cameras and should be just fine for any beginning photo enthusiast, student, parent or Real Estate agent. Just be sure to read the specs for each model (read on for more details)…
MP stands for megapixels. Unless you’ve been living under a rock I’m sure you already knew this. But how many megapixels does one need? That is the golden question. This particular camera’s sensor resolution of 12.2 MP will create images that should print up to a small poster size, so, unless you’re planning on blowing your photos up for use on a billboard, you don’t really need anything bigger.
CMOS stands for “Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor”. This refers to the type of sensor used to capture light inside the digital camera. In the “olden days” images were recorded on a light-sensitive substance on film inside the camera. With a digital camera, the light is captured via a digital sensor and recorded on a memory card.
What does DSLR mean, anyway? DSLR stands for “digital single-lens reflex”. If you really want to get into what that means you can Google it. The most important question is, why do you need one? With an SLR you simply have more control over how you create your image and the quality output of that image. Compared to a point-and-shoot camera, a DSLR generally has a larger sensor, interchangeable lenses, faster shutter speed, etc. which all result in better image quality. Granted, compact digital cameras are getting better and better. Some even come with interchangeable lenses now.Whatever you choose, make sure your camera has a manual mode, which allows for better control.
Digic 4 Imaging
Digic refers to Canon’s proprietary image processing system. While the sensor of the camera is compared to “film”, the image processor is what “develops” the film and converts digital data into an image.
This stands for “Advanced Photo System type-C” and is often referred to as “crop sensor.” The crop sensor is used in entry-level DSLR’s and is smaller than the more expensive full frame cameras. They have an aspect ratio of 3:2. In terms of old film cameras, think of a crop sensor as a camera that uses a smaller negative than a full frame camera, which is compared to a 35mm film negative. Why is knowing whether or not your camera has a crop sensor important? It will affect the image quality (bigger sensor generally equals better quality) and focal length of the lenses your choose to buy.
ISO stands for “International Organization for Standardization” and is taken from the Greek word “isos”, meaning equal. In the days of film photography, the ISO referenced the film “speed” or sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO the more sensitive your sensor is to light and the better image quality you will get in low light situations. Digital cameras these days have some amazing low-light capability.
Canon EF and EF-S Lenses
EF stands for “Electro-Focus” and is the lens system used in Canon’s EOS line of cameras. EF-S refers to the smaller mounting system specifically made for crop sensor cameras. You can use both the EF and EF-S lenses on a crop sensor but you cannot use EF-S lenses on a full frame. So, if you plan on upgrading to a full frame camera some time in the future, you might consider only investing in EF lenses. However, keep in mind that if you use an EF lens on a crop sensor body, the focal length of your lens will be altered. Are you thoroughly confused yet????
63 Zone Dual Layer-System
This refers to the metering system that helps you create a proper exposure and color profile. It involves a bunch of complicated math that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about!
9 Point AF
AF stands for “Auto-Focus”. This particular camera has 9 points of focus you may choose from when composing your image, or the auto-focus will choose for you. This is bare minimum, as my Canon EOS 5D Mark III has over 40 focus points. I think 9 is plenty for a beginning photographer.
FPS stands for “frames per second”. Kind of self-explanatory, but this is how many images the camera will capture per second when in continuous capture mode. This is not particularly important for portraits or landscape photography, but it is very important for a sports photographer or someone wanting to photograph motion or their active young children. The higher the number of FPS the more images you'll be able to freeze in time per second.
I think any of the Canon Rebel camera bodies would be a fine camera for any beginner. But what lens should you choose? I would advise against going with the “kit” lens that often comes with a camera like this. In fact, everyone would be better off to spend less on a camera body and more on a higher quality lens.
For someone photographing architecture, landscape and tight interior spaces (like a Realtor), a wide angle lens is needed. I recommend the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM or the more affordable third party Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Super Wide Angle Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras. For portraits, a 50mm f/1.4 prime is a wonderful lens and not too expensive. Aha! More confusing letters and numbers. What do they all mean?
"mm" stands for millimeters and refers to the focal length of the lens. The smaller the number the wider the focal length or the more “zoomed out” of an image you can create. The higher the number, the more “zoomed in” your image will be. 10mm is about as wide as you can get. In my opinion, you’ll want to avoid a fish-eye lens, since it distorts the image too much. Wider angles (10 to 24mm) are great for landscape and architecture. 50, 85 or even 200mm focal lengths are better for portraits.
These numbers refer to the aperture capability of the lens. Think of the aperture as a retractable opening in the lens that allows more or less light to enter the camera. It’s like the pupil of your eye dilating or closing as you enter a darker or lighter room. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture (confusing, I know!). So, a camera with a 1.4 aperture has the capability to let in more light and generally costs more money. For a Realtor, a smaller aperture like 3.5-4.5 is fine because they generally aren’t freezing motion in their images and can use a long exposure if needed.
This stands for UltraSonic Motor on Canon lenses and Hypersonic Motor for the Sigma lenses and it’s a good thing! The USM/HSM lenses focus faster and more quietly than the non-USM/HSM lenses.
As mentioned above, the EF-S lenses are made specifically for a crop sensor camera. DC for the Sigma means the same thing.
I hope this handy guide helped clear up some of the confusion for you. If you've finally made your new camera purchase and want to learn how to use it, I recommend the <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=1391375&c=ib&aff=262517&cl=187248" target="ejejcsingle">SLR Lounge Photography 101</a> course. It's over 7 hours of video tutorials for beginner to intermediate photographers and you can watch it on your own time and reference it over and over again.