Tips & Tutorials

DSLR Body & Buttons [Explained]


A DSLR camera looks far more complicated than the majority of cameras out there, but that’s actually not such a bad thing! It means that all of those buttons and functions on the body are there to help you get amazing shots. It will take a while for you to fully understand them, let alone to use them at the right time, but it will pay off in the long run!

Lots of beginners are often even afraid to touch certain functions, thinking they could mess up the settings. The whole point of Digital SLR cameras is for the user to set everything according to their needs.

Below you will find images of a popular camera, the Canon EOS 70D. What’s great is that once you understand the functions of one camera you can apply the same knowledge to other models of other brands. If you’ve never owned, or seen a DSLR then this is honestly all you need to know! Don’t be scared to jump into this “complicated” DSLR world, we all started without any knowledge and if you really want to take pictures then learning will be easy.

Front of a DSLR Body


Don’t worry if you have a different model, they all share the same features.

1. Shutter Button – The most important button of all! Almost no lag at all between pressing on it and capturing a photograph. To auto focus or see the settings, you can also press it half-way.

2. Focus Assist Beam – Helps with illuminating the subject in low light situations.

3. Lens Mount Indicator – Most DSLR cameras accept two types of lenses (EF-S and EF at Canon, DX and FX at Nikon). In our image, the red dot marks the spot for your EF lines, while the white one is where you would start putting on your EF-S lens.

4. Flash – The built-in flash that always jumps out in Automatic shooting mode.

5. Flash Button – In manual modes, the use of a flash is up to you. Press this button to make it jump out!

6. Lens Removal – The button you need to hold in order to take off a lens

7. Lens Contacts – This is how your lens communicates with the camera; aperture, auto focus and lots of other settings.

8. Mirror – There’s a reason why the mirror is hidden inside, it’s crucial for transferring the light up into the pentaprism. Try not to get any dust inside of your body when swapping between lenses.

Most of the time, you will “use” the front of your body for changing lenses. The real deal starts behind it, with all those buttons and dials.

Back of a DSLR Body


Luckily for all of us, most of these buttons are pretty self-explanatory.

1. Menu – Why make it complicated; it shows you the main menu of your camera. Functions, controls, flash control; you can change it all in there.

2. Info – Displays information depending on what you are looking at in your camera (information of a photograph and so on).

3. Dioptre Adjustment – A great adjustment for those of you who have problems with vision.

4. Movie/Live View Mode – Switch between the Live View and Movie mode with one single click. Use the start/stop button to record movies.

5. AF-ON – Whilst holding the button, your camera will not re-auto focus or adjust the settings again; it will use whatever you had prior to holding it.

6. Zoom in/Exposure Lock – Allows you to keep the exposure metering you just did, and to zoom in on any photograph.

7. Zoom out/Focus Point – If you want to manually select your focus point (or groups) then you would use this button. Oh, it also zooms out your shots.

8. Memory Card Slot – Either SDHC or CF. Some more expensive DSLR cameras also offer 2 slots!

9. Set/Main Wheel – The Set button is for accepting any changes, while the main wheel is for navigating in the menu, selecting different values etc.

10. Trash Icon – Deletes the image you are currently previewing (for deleting multiple shots at once you have to use a function in the menu)

11. Playback – What’s the point of a digital camera if you can’t see what you just photographed? Use the playback button (and zoom in/out to see multiple shots).

12. LCD Screen – A few years ago, a screen was just a screen. Now we have different resolutions, different sizes and even articulating ones (move them around). Most common features here are a 3.0″ LCD screen with over 920,00 dots, more than great for many of us.

Again, cheaper/more expensive cameras may offer more or less options, or even something totally new. That’s why there is a manual for every camera, make sure to read it! Not all of it in the same day of course, it would be extremely boring with so many expressions you’ve never heard of. Learning can be fun, but you also need to know when to stop and actually use what you’ve been reading!

Top of a DSLR Body


1. Mode Dial – Switch between different modes. Make sure to read my camera shooting modes article!

2. Top Buttons – Commonly found on more professional models, these buttons make our lives much easier! Change the white balance, select the ISO speed and so on. Each has two different values that you can control with two different dials on the body.

3. Main Dial – Used for changing the shutter speed, aperture and all other values

4. Top LCD Screen – Another exclusive feature for semi-pro and higher models, a top LCD screen will allow you to see your settings immediately. Cheaper cameras tend to do that on the LCD screen, or only in the viewfinder.

5. Hot-shoe – Attach your flash, wireless triggers and other devices here!

6. Power switch – Simple switch to turn on/off the camera.

Side of a DSLR Body


1. Viewfinder – One of the major differences between DSLRs and P&S cameras is the quality of the viewfinder. Because the light is reflected up with the help of a mirror, you’re looking at the world at the speed of light! Not to mention it’s much brighter and has lots of information about your settings inside of it.

2. Devices – Usually two slots for different types of cables or attachments. HDMI and USB are a must, while latest cameras also feature a microphone input for better audio quality!

And that’s pretty much it, a simple explanation with a couple of images about DSLR buttons. Once you actually get the camera in your hands you’ll slowly get the feel for all of this, and in just a couple of weeks you won’t even have to look at what you’re pressing anymore!

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