The Aperture-Priority Mode


Under the aperture-priority mode, you select an aperture and the camera chooses an appropriate shutter speed. The main purpose of using aperture-priority mode is to control the Depth of Field.

An aperture value is written in a form of Fx.y. The larger the F value the smaller/narrower the lens opening. For example, an aperture value F5.6 has a smaller lens opening than that of F2.8. For each focal length, Coolpix 950 provides you with only three possible aperture values. The following table shows the available aperture values of three focal lengths. Thus, if you use the shortest focal length (i.e., 38mm), you can only use F2.6, F4.4, or F7.4. Comparing with a 35mm SLR camera, this list of choices is too short.

Focal Length
35mm Equivalent
Possible Aperture Values
38mm F2.6, F4.4, F7.4
75mm F3.1, F5.2, F8.7
115mm F4.0, F6.8, F11.4

Selecting the Aperture-Priority Mode

To use the aperture-priority mode, the first step is to enter the M-REC mode by turning the mode dial to M-REC.

The Mode Dial and Shutter Release Button

Now we are in the manual mode. The next step is to select the aperture-priority mode. To do so, hold the MODE button (below left) while turning the command dial (below right).

The MODE Button The Command Dial

When turning the command dial, the letter in the lower-left corner of the control panel and the LCD monitor will change (see the figure below). The possible letters are P, A and S for program mode, aperture-priority mode, and shutter-priority mode, respectively. Therefore, once A appears, the camera is in aperture-priority mode. Once the camera is in the aperture-priority mode, you can release the MODE button.

You can use the same procedure to go back to the program mode.

Selecting an Aperture

When the camera is in the aperture-priority mode, turning the command dial selects an aperture. As the command dial is being turned, an aperture value in the form of Fx.y appears on the LCD monitor and on the control panel replacing the number in the bracket. Once the desired aperture appears, stop turning the command dial and the camera will use that aperture value for the next exposure. The corresponding shutter speed also appears on the LCD monitor so that you can determine if the aperture and shutter speed combination is an appropriate one. If you are satisfied with the combination, release the shutter to take a photograph; otherwise, turn the command dial for a new aperture setting. If the camera is in the aperture-priority mode and turning the command dial does not cause the aperture to change, press the MODE button again and turn the command dial.

Why the Aperture-Priority Mode?

The use of aperture-priority mode is basically for controlling Depth of Field. The larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. A shallow depth of field makes the main subjects standing out. The following images were taken by zooming all the way in (i.e., focal length 115mm, 35mm equivalent). The aperture values used were F11.4 (smallest aperture), F6.8, and F4.0 (largest aperture). The sharpness of the left image, from foreground to background, does not change very much. As the aperture becomes larger, foreground and background start to blur. In the right image below, which was taken using F4.0, the background becomes reasonably blurred so that the yellow flow in the middle is isolated from the background. Note also that the flowers in the foreground are also blurred. Therefore, when you need to isolate your subjects from the background/foreground such as a portrait shot, use larger aperture.

F11.4 F6.8 F4.0
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The following images show another example of the relationship between depth of field and aperture.

F10.7 F5.4 F3.9
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