Hi folks, this is a short and concise guide on how (and why) to change the aperture on your Sony a6000 series camera.
This advice also applies to the other APS-C Sony bodies such as the a6100, 6300, a6500 and so on.
Below will be a brief explanation of what aperture (F-Stop) means along with what it can be used for (plus we’ll cover what exactly “aperture priority” means).
Let’s dive in!
How to change aperture on a Sony a6000?
Set Mode Dial to “A”
To begin, you’ll want to spin the mode dial on your camera to “A”. This stands for aperture priority.
While in aperture priority mode, the camera will allow you to manually adjust the aperture along with, if you desire, the ISO.
Shutter speed will continue to be automatically adjusted by the camera.
At this point, you can change the aperture by spinning either of the other two wheels/dials on the camera (you can customize the functions of these wheels/dials in the settings menu).
While shooting in manual mode, all other settings can also be adjusted, but full manual control is an entirely different complicated subject that we won’t touch on in this article.
What is aperture?
So what is “aperture”?
To put it in simple terms, aperture is just the adjustable opening in your camera lens that allows light to pass through to the image sensor.
If you look closely into your lens, and then adjust the aperture setting on your camera, you’ll see small blades (aperture blades) moving.
As the blades “retract”, the aperture opens up, allowing more light through.
As the blades “tighten”, the aperture gets smaller, restricting the flow of light.
What does F-stop mean?
The term F-stop (or F-number) may sound complicated, but it’s really quite simple.
The F-stop is the ratio of the lens’s focal length in relation to the diameter of the “entrance pupil” (the aperture “hole”).
In other words, the concept of “F-stop” is really just a numerical way to help photographers understand how large their aperture is. (by the way, Wikipedia has quite the in-depth history on the subject)
When you hear someone say, “shoot with a wide/large F-stop”, they mean shooting with a low number, such as F1.8.
On the flipside, a “small” F-stop can mean something more along the lines of F16 or F22.
Why would I want to change my aperture?
Low Light Situations
So when should you change your aperture?
Many situations actually, the first being if you simply need more light.
Shooting with a wide aperture (F1.8 for example) allows a large amount of light into the lens.
This allows you to work with dark environments and poor lighting without having to push up your ISO setting (which would cause digital noise thus reducing image quality).
Depth of Field (Background Blur)
The second reason is to create depth of field, also known as background blur. Adjusting the depth of field opens up entirely new creative elements.
When taking portraits of people, you generally want a blurred out background in order to create a sense of subject isolation.
This can be easily accomplished by opening up your aperture to something wider, like F2.8. In cases of extreme telephoto (shooting at 200mm for example), you can even use higher aperture and achieve the affect.
Additionally, shooting at wide apertures can create a visual effect known as “bokeh”.
Essentially, bokeh is the way a lens renders out of focus points of light.
Bokeh has all sorts of artistic potential, from emphasizing subject isolation to intentionally blurring the foreground for dramatic effect.
More in Focus
On the flipside, there are situations where you’d want to “stop down” or tighten your aperture.
A tighter F-stop allows for more of the scene to be in focus as more light is able to reach the camera sensor.
For example, when photographing something like landscapes or cityscapes, you’d want to use a small F-stop (high number) to ensure that the entire scene is sharp.
What about lenses?
Prime vs Zoom
If you’ve done any lens shopping, you’ll notice that they’ll all list certain F-stops. This is considered their “maximum” aperture.
Zoom lenses tend to have tighter apertures as a result of their construction. The zoom mechanism and variable focal length limits max aperture.
On the other hand, prime lenses are generally much brighter than their zoom counterparts.
Though there’s some variance, the stereotypical “nifty fifty” beginner lens generally offers apertures around F1.8.
It offers a versatile focal length, is razor sharp, cheap, and renders some beautifully out of focus backgrounds. Seriously, just check out the sample photos in my 5-year review.
So now that you know the basics about aperture, it’s time to practice!
My best advice would be to just break out your camera and get outside.
Adjust your aperture and watch as backgrounds blur in and out. Focus on a close object with lights in the background and see how your lens renders bokeh.
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