Getting started with a new camera in 4 steps

Getting started with your new camera

A few years ago (Maybe as many as TEN), I took the plunge and bought my first DSLR. The Nikon D5000.

My Nikon D5000 has been with me everywhere since then. But towards the early part of this year I was hankering for something new. Well, either a new lens or camera body. I opted for a new lens (the Tokina 11-16mm wide angle), satisfied in the knowledge that I’ll carry on learning with a new lens, while saving for that new camera body I’d been lusting after – the Nikon D7200.

So, my parents are kind of awesome. They were generous enough to buy me the D7200 for my birthday. A move I totally wasn’t expecting. When my mum asked me for a birthday wish list I casually shoved the D7200 on at the end, labelling it as a dream gift. Meanwhile most of the list was a list of Kindle books, things I need for work, because … that’s more birthday gift-like for someone in their early 30s, right?

Once I got the camera in my hands, I was a little overwhelmed. While not a massive step up from the D5000, the D7200 has so many more dials and buttons and features that I was feeling a little lost and wondered if I should not have pushed more for some Kindle books!

Pushed that thought aside and took some steps to get myself familiar with the camera, and here they are. I thought they were worth sharing if you’re moving up to a new camera or getting your first DSLR.

1. Read the manual

Read the manual

It’s surprising how much you can get from reading a camera manual actually. There are lots of hints and tips on getting the best out of your camera. Yes, they can be long and not the most interesting of reads. But it’s the only way to learn about all the features on offer to you.

2. Have your camera on hand when reading the manual

All those diagrams pointing at dials and settings on the camera in the manual? Make sure you have your camera to hand when you’re reading the manual so you know exactly what you’re looking at.

3. Get used to it

The D7200 is a fair bit bigger and heavier than the D5000. So it’s taken me a while to get used to the feel of it. I knew how to hold my D5000 to make sure it was steady and I was comfortable with it. Had to re-learn all of that all over again.

4. Just take photos

After reading the manual and knowing where all the adjustments and settings are that you need just go out there and take some photos. Well, you don’t really need to go out anywhere – take some photos in your own home. But just take some god damn photos. It’s all about practice! One of the main reasons I got the D7200 was easy access to all the settings without having to go into a menu – ISO, AF, exposure, metering – all available to me instantly. But did I know how to make any of those changes when I got the camera out of the box? Definitely not. After reading the manual and then taking the camera for a test drive, things got much clearer. And with more practice, it’s just got easier.


I’m still learning. I’ve had the camera for just about a month now and I still have momentarily lapses in how to adjust something or another. But that just reminds me I’m clearly not using my camera enough.

Have you got any tips you’d like to share on how to get started with a new camera?

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