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Top of camera controls (left)

On the top left-hand corner of the camera there's a well-populated mode dial. Just below this are the Menu and Disp buttons that access the menus and change the view mode in both playback and live view.

Exposure modes

Position
 
Mode
 
Auto Program Exposure

This is essentially the camera's "point and shoot" mode. When you select this mode various settings return to their defaults (with most defaulting to 'auto'). However unlike other digital cameras in Auto mode they are not locked and can be adjusted.
P

Program Exposure

Program exposure mode on the cannot A550 can be shifted, so you're stuck with what the camera chooses.

A

Aperture Priority

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the shutter speed for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Aperture is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and the LCD monitor (if recording display is enabled), turn the control dial to select different apertures.

S

Shutter Priority

In this mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the correct aperture for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Shutter speed is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and the LCD monitor (if recording display is enabled), turn the control dial to select different shutter speeds.

M

Full Manual Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the shutter speed (and additionally Bulb shutter). Again by default the front dial controls shutter speed, but this can be changed using the custom menu. As you turn the dial the EV scale on the recording display and the viewfinder status line indicates how close the selected exposure is to the metered exposure (+/- 2 EV).

Flash off mode

Suppressed flash mode is a variant of 'Auto' mode but, as the name suggests, one that will not resort to using flash. Instead it will just keep trying to use longer exposures in low light. Useful for situations in which flashes are forbidden.

Scene exposure modes

Most of the settings in any of the scene exposure modes are the same as 'Auto' mode, that is Auto ISO, Multi-Segment metering etc. However there are obviously other parameters which vary with each mode, including the Creative Style mode, metering and white balance. You cannot change the Creative Style mode in any of the scene exposure modes.

Position
 
Mode
 
Portrait

Selects large apertures (small F numbers) to reduce the depth of field and make the portrait subject stand out from the background.
Landscape

Selects small apertures (large F numbers) to enlarge the depth of field and ensure more of the image appears to be sharp and 'in focus'.

Macro

Tends to select faster shutter speeds to avoid shake at high macro magnifications (although does tend to try to maintain an aperture of around F5.6).

Sports

Selects faster shutter speeds to capture moving action, also engages continuous drive mode. Uses Continuous AF and Continuous (burst) drive mode.
Sunset

Selects small apertures (large F numbers) to enlarge the depth of field and sets the white balance to preserve the warm colors.
Night view / portrait

Uses slow shutter speed and exposure / color settings suited to night photography. The difference (between night view and night portrait) is that one is without and the other with the flash.
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