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The PhotoNotes.org Dictionary of Film and Digital Photography.

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Complete listing of common camera symbols.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of looking at a new camera for the first time and wondering what all the strange cryptic symbols and acronyms mean. Perhaps you bought the camera second-hand or perhaps you’re borrowing someone else’s.

In any event this list contains some of the more popular symbols and acronyms found on many Japanese automatic cameras. It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a fair number of common symbols are included. Note also that although I’ve listed certain manufacturer names when I know that the company in question uses a given symbol, this does not mean that other makers don’t also use it.

Many acronyms are also contextual. Some manufacturers - Canon in particular - go out of their way to ensure that the same acronym isn’t used with two separate meanings on their gear. But other makers, such as Nikon and Minolta have fewer qualms and sometimes reuse the same acronym two or three times on the same device. In such cases you’ll have to figure out the likely meaning by context.

A

1. (Nikon, Minolta) See aperture priority auto-exposure mode.

2. (Minolta) Automatic autofocus.

3. (older Canon EOS cameras) Activate (ie: turn on) camera.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(ac icon)

AC (household or mains) power input. This symbol is commonly seen on power packs and plug adapters.

Entry last updated 2002-04-17.

A-DEP

(Canon) Automatic depth of field exposure mode. See A-DEP.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AE

See automatic exposure (AE).

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(aeb icon)   or   (aeb2 icon)

(Canon, Minolta) Automatic exposure bracketing. See bracketing.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

AE-L

(Nikon, Konica) Automatic exposure lock. See AE lock.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AEL

(Minolta) Automatic exposure lock. See AE lock.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AF

See autofocus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AF-L

(Nikon) Autofocus lock.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

AF/MF

(Canon, Minolta, Pentax) Autofocus/manual focus. (AF/M on some older Canon EOS lenses) See autofocus, manual focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AF-ON

(Nikon) Activate the autofocus system. (ie: AE start)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AI FOCUS

(Canon) AI Focus. Mode which chooses between one-shot and AI servo modes automatically.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AI SERVO

(Canon) See AI servo. Mode in which the camera continuously tracks for and predicts focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(aps icon)

Indicates that a camera uses APS film.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ASA

American Standards Association. (now obsolete) See film speed and ISO.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(assist icon)

(Canon) Assist button.

Entry last updated 2002-04-17.

(asterisk icon)

(Canon) Varying meanings depending on the specific camera model. On some cameras this indicates partial metering, on some it indicates AE lock, on some it indicates flash exposure lock (FEL) and on some cameras it means all three. Consult your manual.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

A-TTL

(Canon) Automatic through-the lens flash metering. See A-TTL.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

AUTO

Usually automatic exposure (AE), but on some cameras can indicate a fully automatic operation mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

(focusbracket icon)

(Contax) Autofocus bracketing.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Av

(Canon, Pentax, Contax) Aperture value or aperture priority auto-exposure mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(backlight icon)

Turn on LCD backlighting/illumination.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(barcode icon)

(Canon) Bar code program mode. Camera operating mode in which the camera can be programmed by means of a barcode reader.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

(batteryok icon)

Battery is OK.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(batterylow icon)

Battery is nearing depletion.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(batterydead icon)

Battery is dead or installed incorrectly. On some cameras this symbol appears if the battery is near death and blinks when the battery is truly dead.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

BC

Battery check. This can be a button you press to check the battery or it can be a message on an LCD screen informing you that there’s a problem with the battery. Some Canon cameras also use the code BC to indicate hardware failure on the part of the camera.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(beep icon)   or   (beep2 icon)

Beeper on/off. Such beepers are used for self-timer countdowns, in-focus alerts, camera-shake warnings, etc.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

BKT

(Nikon) Exposure bracketing.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

B

See bulb. This is a long time exposure setting - shutter stays open for as long as you keep the shutter release button held down.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

BULB

Also “buLb.” See bulb. This is a long time exposure setting - shutter stays open for as long as you keep the shutter release button held down.

Entry last updated 2002-04-26.

B/W

Abbreviation for black and white.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

C

1. (Nikon, older Canon EOS cameras) Continuous shooting winding mode.

2. (Minolta) Continuous autofocus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

CAF

(Contax) Continuous autofocus mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(shake icon)

(Canon, Minolta) Camera shake mode or camera shake warning.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

CARD

Digital storage card present or absent.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(ce icon)

(EU) Conformité Européenne. Camera conforms to applicable European Union radio-frequency interference directives.

cf. EMC, FCC, interference, VCCI.

Entry last updated 2002-04-20.

(centre icon)   or   (centre2 icon)   or   (centre3 icon)

(Canon, Minolta, Nikon) See centre-weighted averaging metering metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

CF   /   C. Fn

(Canon, Contax) Custom function. See CF, C.Fn.

Entry last updated 2002-04-19.

CL

(Canon) A viewfinder symbol in some early EOS cameras when in manual exposure mode. CL means “close (stop down) the aperture” because if you don’t the image will be overerexposed. Later EOS cameras use the + symbol or a simulated matchneedle display.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(cloud icon)

1. A shutter speed setting intended for use outside on a cloudy day. (assumes a certain film speed, such as ISO 100)

2. (Canon, Nikon) See white balance for cloudy outdoor conditions.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(continuous icon)

(Canon, Minolta, Pentax) Continuous frame advance shooting mode. (camera shoots pictures continuously if shutter release is held down)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Cs

(Nikon) Continous silent (low speed) shooting winding mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(csa icon)

(Canada) Canadian Standards Association. Camera meets safety regulations established by the CSA, a Canadian non-profit organization.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

CSM

(Nikon) Custom Setting Menu.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

CUSTOM

Usually a custom function or custom program.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(cwb icon)

(Canon) Custom white balance. Adjusts the presumed white point for digital cameras.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

DATE

Date printing operation.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(delete icon)

(Canon, Nikon) Delete image from digital camera.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

DEP or DEPTH

(Canon) Automatic depth of field exposure mode. See DEP.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(dioptric icon)

(Nikon, Canon) See dioptric adjustment. Allows near-sighted or far-sighted photographers to adjust viewfinders such that they can be used without glasses.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

DISP

Typically display activation.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(dpof icon)

A digital camera which supports the Digital Print Order Format system. See DPOF.

Entry last updated 2002-04-18.

DRIVE

Change film-winding drive modes.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

DX

Film speed information is read from a 35mm film canister using the DX code.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

[  ]   [+]

(Nikon) Dynamic AF or single area AF focus modes.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

E or ERR

Typically an error condition of some kind.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

EL

(Nikon) Exposure lock. See AE lock. Also sometimes AE-L.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(emc icon)

(Australia) The EMC “C tick mark” (“check mark” in North American English) indicates that a digital camera or other electronic device is in conformity with Australian Communication Authority EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) radio-frequency interference regulations.

cf. CE, FCC, interference, VCCI.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

(evaluative icon)

(Canon) See evaluative metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(compensation icon)   or   EXP.COMP

Exposure compensation - adjust current exposure settings to be more or less than the camera thinks you should use. See exposure compensation.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(fcc icon)

(USA) FCC. Camera complies with applicable US government (Federal Communications Commission) radio-frequency interference regulations.

cf. CE, EMC, interference, VCCI.

Entry last updated 2002-04-20.

FEL

(Canon) Flash exposure lock. See flash exposure lock (FEL).

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(film icon)

A roll of film is present in the camera. Usually indicates film rewind complete or film not wound correctly when blinking.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

(filmplane icon)

See film plane mark. Indicates the precise position of the film plane inside the camera body.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Ø

Filter diameter of the lens. (ie: the correct diameter of a filter that fits the filter threads on the end of the lens) Common filter diameters include 49mm, 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm and 72mm filters.

Numeric measurements in mm not preceded by the Ø symbol indicate the focal length of the lens, not the filter diameter.

cf. filter, filter threads, focal length, length printed in mm on lens.

Entry last updated 2002-04-18.

(fine icon)

(Canon) Fine digital image quality. (versus normal)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(firewire icon)

Digital data output via a FireWire connector. See FireWire.

Entry last updated 2002-05-07.

(flash icon)

See flash. Also, flash ready.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(flash-off icon)

(Minolta, Pentax) Either flash disabled or flash cancel.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(fec icon)

Flash exposure compensation - adjustment of flash output.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(fluorescent icon)

(Canon, Nikon) Adjustment of digital white balance for fluorescent lamp light sources.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Length or lengths printed in mm on lens

Numeric information printed as mm (millimetres) on a lens indicates the focal length of the lens if it’s a prime (fixed focal length) lens or the focal length range if it’s a zoom lens.

For example, 85mm means that the lens is a prime lens with a focal length of 85mm. 70-200mm means that the lens is a zoom lens capable of zooming from a focal length of 70mm through to 200mm.

If the Ø symbol is printed before the numeric information then it’s an indication of filter diameter, not focal length.

cf. filter diameter (Ø), focal length, prime lens, zoom lens.

Entry last updated 2002-04-20.

(focuspoint icon)   or   (focuspoint2 icon)  etc.

Focus point selection.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(green icon)

(Canon) “Full auto,” a kind of point and shoot mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

FUNC

Function. Typically switching between settings.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(high icon)

(Canon) High-speed continuous shooting.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(hss icon)   or   (hss2 icon)

(Canon, Minolta) FP or high speed sync mode flash. See high-speed sync.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

(honeycomb icon)

(Minolta) Honeycomb-pattern multiple zone metering.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(infinity icon)

See infinity lens focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(ir-remote icon)

See infrared remote control. Usually enables remote-ready mode, whereby the camera is ready to receive commands from a handheld remote control.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

INT

(Canon) Interval timer. See intervalometer.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ISO

ISO; in the context of cameras, film speed settings. See film speed.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

JCII

See JCII, PASSED.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(landscape icon)   or   (landscape2 icon)  etc.

See landscape basic mode. (ie: automatic settings intended for taking pictures of landscapes and scenery)

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

(l icon)

(Canon) Lock. This is essentially a power-off mode - the camera controls do not respond.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

L

1. (Nikon.) Shutter speed/aperture lock button.

2. (Canon) Large file size.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(low icon)

(Canon) Low-speed continuous shooting.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

M

1. (Canon, Contax, Minolta, Nikon, Pentax) See manual exposure mode.

2. (Nikon, Minolta) Manual shooting mode.

3. (Canon, older EOS-compatible lenses only) manual focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(macro icon)   or   MACRO

1. See macro basic mode. (ie: automatic settings meant for macro or closeup photography)

2. Some indication of closeup photography capabilities. Sometimes used to indicate the close-focus distance, for example.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

M, A, S, C

(Minolta) See manual focus, automatic autofocus, single-shot autofocus, continuous autofocus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(matrix icon)

(Nikon) See matrix metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ME

See multiple exposure.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

MF

See manual focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

M. FOCUS

(Minolta, older Canon EOS cameras) See manual focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(rewind icon)

See midroll rewind. Film will rewind when button or buttons is/are pressed.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ML

(Pentax) Memory lock.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

MODE

In various senses - mode switching. (ie: switching from one operational mode to another)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(monitor icon)

A digital camera which supports output to a computer monitor - often using the VGA or SVGA standards.

Entry last updated 2002-04-18.

M, S, C

(Nikon) See manual focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(me icon)

See multiple exposure. Multiple images can be exposed on the same frame - the motor drive will not advance in this mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(night icon)   or   (night2 icon)  etc.

See night mode photography basic mode. (ie: automatic settings meant for taking pictures at night. Typically slow sync flash)

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

(normal icon)

(Canon) Normal digital image quality. (versus fine)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

NTSC

See NTSC. North America & Japan standard TV video.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Numeric ratio printed on lens

Numeric ratios printed on a lens (eg: 1:1.8, 1:3.5-4.5, etc) indicate the largest (maximum) f-stop of which the lens is capable.

For details, see the section on f stop ratios.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

0

(Zero.) Off.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

I

(One) On.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ONE SHOT

(Canon) See one-shot mode. Mode in which the camera locks focus once it has been achieved and does not track focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

ON / OFF

Usually power on or off to the camera. Note, however, that sometimes ON and OFF are printed next to specific controls to enable them or disable them. In this case, confusingly enough, the switch affects just that control and not the whole camera.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

oo

(Canon) A viewfinder symbol in some early EOS cameras when in manual exposure mode. oo means that the current metering is correct. Later EOS cameras use the +- symbol or a simulated matchneedle display.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

OP

(Canon) A viewfinder symbol in some early EOS cameras when in manual exposure mode. OP means “open up the aperture” because if you don’t the image will be underexposed. Later EOS cameras use the - symbol or a simulated matchneedle display.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(open icon)   and   (closed icon)

Invasion of the 1980s videogame characters! These goofy-looking icons are used on some cameras - mainly point and shoots - to indicate open or closed positions. They’re commonly used for marking sliding levers which operate lens covers, battery doors, etc.

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

P

(Canon, Contax, Minolta, Nikon, Pentax) See program AE mode. Basic automated exposure mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

PAL

See PAL. Western European (except France) standard TV video. Video output from a digital camera to a European TV.

Entry last updated 2002-04-30.

(partial icon)

(Canon) See partial metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

PASSED

Gold oval-shaped stickers reading PASSED and JCII indicate that the camera has passed quality control inspections by the JCII (Japan Camera Industry Institute).

This practice of applying the JCII stickers seems to have stopped at some point in the late 1980s. Gold stickers merely reading PASSED are probably just slapped on by the manufacturer to make you feel good since they do not indicate inspection by any reputable third party.

cf. JCII.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

PC

See PC socket for flash.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

#

(Canon) Personal function - a user-definable custom setting.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(portrait icon)   or   (portrait2 icon)  etc.

See portrait basic mode. (ie: automatic settings intended for taking portraits of people)

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

(protect icon)

(Canon, Nikon) Protect. Lock digital image against accidental erasure.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

P, S, A, M

(Nikon, Minolta) Exposure modes. program AE, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, manual exposure.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

P, Tv, Av, M

(Canon, Pentax, Contax) Exposure modes. program AE, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, manual exposure.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

R

Usually film rewind, especially on older manual cameras.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

RAW

See RAW (unprocessed) digital file output.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

REAR

(Nikon) See rear-curtain sync flash. Flash which is triggered shortly before the shutter closes, not immediately after the shutter opens.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(redeye icon)

See redeye reduction. A lamp or pulse of light from a flash tube which is meant to force a subject’s pupils to contract, lessening the risk of redeye.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(remote icon)

Remote control (shutter release) socket. For wired remote controls.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

RGB

Red-green-blue. See RGB.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

S

1. (Nikon, Minolta) See shutter speed priority AE mode.

2. (Nikon, older Canon EOS cameras) Single or one-frame advance.

3. (Minolta) Single-shot autofocus.

4. (Canon) Small file size.

5. In exposure counter windows used by roll cameras, S means that the film in the camera is wound to the start - either it has just been loaded or it has been rewound or is empty.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

SAF

(Contax) Single autofocus mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

S, C, Cs

(Nikon) Camera winding modes. Single or one-frame advance, continuous shooting, continous silent (low speed) shooting.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(scsi icon)

Device which plugs into a computer SCSI connector. Typically film and flatbed scanners.

cf. SCSI.

Entry last updated 2002-04-17.

(curtain icon)

(Canon) See second-curtain sync. Flash which is triggered shortly before the shutter closes.

Naturally, if the first triangle is filled in rather than the third triangle then you’re looking at a control which sets first curtain sync flash. In this mode the flash fires immediately after the shutter opens.

Entry last updated 2002-05-01.

(timer icon)

See self-timer. Engage a countdown timer which runs before the camera shutter opens. Sometimes associated with time values - eg: 2 or 10 second countdowns.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

SEPIA

(Digitally) simulated sepia tone image.

Entry last updated 2002-04-24.

SERVO

(Canon) See servo. Mode in which the camera continuously tracks but does not predict focus.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(shade icon)

(Canon, Nikon) A setting which performs white balance for shaded outdoor conditions.

Entry last updated 2002-04-20.

Shutter speed printed in red

A shutter speed marked in red or orange on a shutter speed dial is probably the X sync or flash synchronization speed, especially if it’s 1/60 sec or 1/125 sec.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(singleshot icon)

(Canon, Minolta, Pentax) Single frame advance shooting mode. (when the shutter release is pressed, only one photograph is taken regardless of how long the button is held down)

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

SLOW

(Nikon) See slow sync. Flash fired in association with slow shutter speeds.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

SLOW SYNC

(Minolta) See slow sync. Flash fired in association with slow shutter speeds.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(annotate icon)

See sound annotation of a digital image.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(sports icon)   or  (sports2 icon)  etc.

See sports mode basic mode. (ie: automatic settings meant for taking sports or action photos)

Entry last updated 2002-05-09.

(spot icon)

(Canon) See spot metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(spot2 icon)

(Minolta) See spot metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(spot3 icon)

(Nikon) See spot metering mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(smiley icon)

(Pentax) Standard program AE or point and shoot mode.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(sun icon)

1. A shutter speed or aperture setting intended for use outside on a sunny day.

2. (Canon, Nikon) Daylight white balance.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(s-video-out icon)

A digital camera which supports output in the S-Video standard for certain TVs and VCRs. S-Video splits the black and white and colour information into two separate channels in order to ensure higher picture quality.

Entry last updated 2002-04-30.

TTL

See TTL. Through the lens exposure or flash metering.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(tungsten icon)

(Canon, Nikon) Configuration of digital camera white balance for tungsten light sources.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

Tv

(Canon, Pentax, Contax) Time value or shutter speed priority auto-exposure.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(ul icon)

(USA) Underwriters Laboratories. Camera meets safety regulations established by the Underwriters Laboratories, an American non-profit organization.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

(usb icon)

Digital data output via a USB connector. See USB.

Entry last updated 2002-04-17.

(vcci icon)

(Japan) Voluntary Control Council for Interference by Information Technology Equipment. Camera meets Japanese VCCI radio-frequency interference regulations.

cf. CE, EMC, FCC, interference.

Entry last updated 2002-04-20.

(video-out icon)

A digital camera which supports standard video output (usually composite video) for certain TVs and VCRs.

Entry last updated 2002-05-07.

WB

See white balance. Adjusting the presumed white point for digital cameras.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

WL

(Minolta) Wireless flash control.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.

X

Related to flash synchronization.

1. PC sockets for electronic flash are marked with X on older cameras.

2. On some cameras the shutter speed equivalent to the maximum flash synchronization is marked with an X, often in orange or red.

3. On some automated cameras X is an AE mode which locks shutter speed to the maximum X-sync of the camera.

Entry last updated 2002-04-16.


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