What is this f-stop that camera nerds talk about, and why does it come up when explaining why my phone camera isn’t as good as their costly camera?
Focal-STOP AKA f-stop is the “aperture” opening of a camera lens, allowing light to come in. Clear as mud, right? For years people told me the F-stop or Aperture (why does it have two names? Just pick one) is about how much light the camera lets in. They said it like it means something and keep repeating it over and over again because the first 99 times you said it didn’t sink in, but the 100th time… I’m not still mad about it…..
Part of the confusion must be because it has two different names and then talking about the numbers being fractions even though the camera shows whole numbers. I don’t know why it’s in whole numbers vs. the factions. I can only assume it’s because most people hate fractions or because it was easier/clearer to show whole numbers on the analog camera.
Finally, it was explained to me on my second photo trip, and the clouds parted to illuminate my teacher with angels singing a heavenly song. The f-stop/aperture is about focus; the lower f-stop number, for example, 3, means the camera is only focusing on 3 points. A low f-stop creates photos with great detail on one item, like a person or flower, but the background is blurry. A high f-stop, like 20, creates 20 focal points in the photo, so the whole picture is in focus.
You now know what the f-stop is, which is half the battle, but how do you use it? On most cameras, there are preset or automatic modes labeled A, S, P, and M. The A is the aperture, the f-stop; again, I don’t know why it’s f-stop everywhere else aperture to select the mode. The aperture mode lets you change the f-stop number, and the camera adjusts all the other elements around the f-stop number you select. So go forth and use your F-stop…it just sounds like a dirty word, doesn’t it??
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