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DSLR Camera Simulator (Updated)

by Philippe Dame on May 30th, 2011

Although it’s “free” to take digital photos, it can still take a lot of experimentation to learn the right combination of camera settings for a particular situation. I recently came across a fun utility that can shortcut some of that learning time for DSLR newbies.

CameraSim is a DSLR camera simulator that let’s you experiment with the settings any and all DSLRs will have. It gives you a sample “scene” that has virtual depth and movement and then lets you see the effects of:

  • Lighting
  • Distance
  • Focal length
  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • Shooting Modes (e.g. Aperture Priority, Manual, etc.)
  • Tripod Use

You can set the virtual camera in one of three modes: Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or Manual. When ready, you literally snap the photo and see what you get.


Try it now:

Here’s the guidance they provide for each setting:


Lighting is the single biggest determinant of how your camera needs to be set.  With only a few exceptions, you can never have too much light.  Use this slider to experiment with different indoor and outdoor lighting conditions.


Use this slider to simulate how close or far you are in relation to the subject.

Focal length

Moving this slider is the same as zooming in and out with your lens.  A wide, zoomed out setting creates the greatest depth of field (more things are in focus) while zooming in creates a shallower depth-of-field (typically just the subject will be in focus).


The exposure modes of an SLR let you control one setting while the camera automatically adjusts the others.  In Shutter Priority mode, you to set the shutter speed while the camera sets the aperture/f-stop.  In Aperture Priority mode, you set the aperture/f-stop while the camera sets the shutter speed.  Manual mode is fully manual—you’re on your own!  Refer to the camera’s light meter to help get the proper exposure.  Although every real SLR camera has a “fully automatic” mode, there is not one here—what’s the fun in that?


ISO refers to how sensitive the “film” will be to the incoming light when the picture is snapped.  High ISO settings allow for faster shutter speeds in low light but introduce grain into the image.  Low ISO settings produce the cleanest image but require lots of light.  Generally, you will want to use the lowest ISO setting that your lighting will allow.


Aperture, or f-stop, refers to how big the hole will be for the light to pass through when the shutter is open and the picture is snapped.  Lower f numbers correspond with larger holes.  The important thing to remember is this: the higher the f number, the more things in front of and behind the subject will be in focus, but the more light you will need.  The lower the f number, the more things in front of and behind the subject will be out of focus, and the less light you will need.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is how long the shutter needs to be open, allowing light into the camera, to properly expose the image.  Fast shutter speeds allow you to “freeze” the action in a photo, but require lots of light.  Slower shutter speeds allow for shooting with less light but can cause motion blur in the image.

If they keep improving the simulator, I hope it includes exposure compensation, a flash and flash exposure compensation. This should be paired with more “difficult” scenes such a snowy landscape (i.e. scenes that fool a camera’s internal metering and require you use dial in exposure compensation).

If you know of any similar interactive utilities, let me know. Enjoy!

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