It’s my belief, that if you want to be able to manipulate your tools to the best of your ability, then you should have some good understanding of how they work. This applies to any number of things, from cars to cameras.
I remember learning to drive stick as a young teen, and my very particular brain, that likes to know everything about a process before beginning, couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea of balancing the clutch and gas pedal, or double de-clutching. What was I trying to balance? Why? Should the pedal movements be equal? Why does double de-clutching require a pump of the throttle in neutral or with clutch depressed before re-engaging?
Explanations from my uncles and grandfather helped and I could drive, but it wasn’t until actually seeing a transmission diagram, and then in real life, did I fully understand what was going on, and it made my ability to drive that much better. I understood the limits of the car, to some extent, which meant I could control it better.
The same sort of thing, I believe, works for cameras. Anyone can click the shutter release button of an SLR and get a basic understanding of what’s happening, and sort of envision it in our minds. We know the mirror locks up, the shutter opens, light hits the sensor/film, and then shutter closes, and the mirror returns. Easy. It begins to change and matter a bit more when you’re getting into high shutter speeds, and I’ve often found the need for a physical demonstration with paper when explaining high flash sync capabilities.
Once you pass a certain shutter speed, the shutter doesn’t behave the same way by fully opening then closing. Instead, one part goes down and another part follows closely behind it, leaving an open sliver where light can get through to the sensor, a little at a time.. That’s the only way to achieve those really high 1/4000 and such shutter speeds. In the video below done by The Slow Mo Guys, you can see exactly what I’m talking about, and really get an understanding of how your shutter works. They film the shutter mechanism of their trusty Canon 7D at various speed with a Phantom 4k at 10,000 frames per second.
You’ll start to understand the limits of high speed sync, why we have rolling shutter effects in video, and with the speed the camera locks and slaps into place, you’ll see why sometimes it’s really beneficial to manually lock up your camera before taking the shot.
You can find out more from The Slow Mo Guys on their YouTube channel.