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It has been just a couple weeks since I bought an old Nikon D40X after using a Canon SX120IS for a year. The only things I miss so far are the ability to fine adjust the exposure using the back display and getting as close as 1 cm to the subject.

That said, what are some common mistakes I might make and what are some things I can do now that I might not know I can?

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This question is somewhat subjective but useful, and an answer would be a list of possible problems that would benefit from collaborative editing, especially when there are answers that are intended to be added to one master answer. Flagging for moderator to make community wiki. –  DragonLord May 20 '11 at 15:48
    
When they must be somewhat subjective, individual but intended-to-be-comprehensive answers are best. Collaborative editing of answers with no individual ownership doesn't improve them. If it's not subjective, CW is great for list-based answers, but if it is subjective, opinions should stay attached to the people they belong to. Take a look at the list of guidelines here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective –  mattdm May 20 '11 at 18:49
    
I suppose the question could be edited to make it less about my specific situation, but I don't think it is very subjective. It meets all the guidelines with the possible exception of #5. –  bob May 21 '11 at 21:21

3 Answers 3

I'll also add:

  • Being afraid of not taking it everywhere. Since is not as compact (d'oh), specially if you have many lenses and a flash. Try to get a bag (maybe one to put a tripod as well) and go explore!

  • Don't forget to enable RAW!. I don't know if you used CHDK with the Canon, but if you didn't, try to explore the capabilities that the RAW format brings you. If possible have more than one large-sized (8gb or more) memory cards.

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Not using the RAW format is not necessarily a mistake, for a beginner, using RAW exclusively would probably be the mistake as it would cause far more time to be spent in front of a computer fiddling with images digitally rather than going out and shooting more images. Getting to learn how to get it right in the camera plays a very important part in learning photography before delving into the digital darkroom... –  Roland May 20 '11 at 20:42
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I don't usually use raw unless I know I'm going to need to do some post precessing or if I absolutely cannot live with myself if I don't get that shot right. So far, I haven't really needed it much except to correct harsh shadows. The extra color depth in the JPEGs has made it so I rarely ever come across those ugly squares anymore. –  bob Jun 6 '11 at 5:36

I would add:

  • Inattention to focusing. The DSLR has a bigger sensor, and in most circumstances will have a much shallower depth of field than the compact camera. This requires attention to your focus. At the very least, pay attention to which autofocus sensor the camera thinks is in focus, and think about whether that's what you want. You may want to set your camera to always use the central AF point, or another specific AF point, instead of letting it pick from all of them. The depth of field can be so shallow that "focus on the face" may not be good enough. You usually want to focus on the eyes of people and animals. Photographers coming from compacts usually aren't used to worrying about whether the focus falls on the nose, eyes, or ears.
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Suggest this as an edit to Matt Grum's answer. –  DragonLord May 20 '11 at 15:46

Potential mistakes include:

  • Overreliance on zoom. Many compacts have huge zoom ranges. People get used to this and either struggle when given a limited zoom range or prime lens, or they go out and buy a superzoom lens with inferior image quality.

  • Being afraid to change lenses. This relates to the last point, people aren't used to changing lenses or are afraid they might get dust in the camera. The ability to change lenses is one of the biggest advantages to the SLR system. It allows you to have a large range of focal lengths without compromising image quality.

  • Using the SLR just like a compact. Some people think that merely possessing a DSLR will make their pictures better. To improve you need to use your camera differently. Such cameras offer new opportunities but you have to actively seek them out in order to really improve.

  • Using the pop-up flash. Whilst (almost) all the same lighting options are available to compact owners, 99% of people use the built in flash, to save carrying an external unit. If you have an SLR plus lenses with you there's probably space for a hotshoe flash which will allow much better lighting by bouncing/diffusing/getting the flash off-camera.

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