PetaPixel

Ever Wonder What This Symbol on Your Camera Means?

Take a look at your camera, and there’s a good chance it’ll have this symbol: Φ — a small circle bisected by a long line that looks like a hieroglyph of Saturn. If you’ve always wondered what it means, today’s your lucky day: it’s called a “film plane mark” (or “focal plane mark”, depending on who you ask), and indicates exactly where the film (or sensor) plane is inside the camera body. One reason the mark is useful is that macro photographers often want to determine the exact distance between their subject and the film plane, and the mark can make this calculation much easier.

(via PhotoNotes.org via Reddit)


P.S. For a complete list of common camera symbols, check out this page on PhotoNotes.org.


 
  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    Thanks for that. I’ll put off  signing into the asylum a little longer. I always thought they were some sort of screw location symbol since they usually were near a screw, but this make much more sense.

  • Suman0102

    cool fact! thanks!

  • http://tambnguyen.com/ Tam Nguyen Photography

    If you just found this out now, it’s because you didn’t RTFM.

  • Yeah, no.

    As a guy who used to work in a camera store, posts like this are real RTFM moments. You know, read the darned manual? All those esoteric marks and pieces of useful information like what center-weighted metering means, and where the battery door stows when you put on a grip, it’s surprisingly ALL IN THERE!

  • SomerenV

    I’m the kind of guy that likes to figure out stuff by himself instead of reading some boring manual. When the time comes when I need to know something in particular, I will look it up. This symbol for example: I never needed to know what it is, never even thought about it. Now that I know what it means nothing really changes other than the fact that I now know this neat fact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-Ramey/100001226835467 Rick Ramey

     The first thing I do is throw away the manuals. Because I know I’m going to lose them anyway, this just saves me some time.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    I hate to be one of the negative peeps on here. But if you didn’t know what that was and think yourself a serous photographer, put the camera down.

    And as for liking to figure things out, that trick only lasts so long and you probably don’t know half the things your camera or any other object you own can do…

  • Ouch!

    So where the heck does the battery door go?! Come on man!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joey-Duncan/1111692326 Joey Duncan

    If you didn’t know what it was, then how did you know you didn’t need it? :-P

  • Drzox

    Also very useful when setting up the center of film plane rotation on a Kaidan QTVR head

  • http://www.facebook.com/sflores82 Sergio Flores

    What’s… a man ..ual? ¬¬

  • http://www.facebook.com/Calincio José Carlos Hernández

    es el plano focal indica que a esa distancia desde el centro óptico hacia adentro en la cámara, ahí se encuentra ubicado el sensor de imagen CMOS o la superficie fotosensible, llamesé película fotográfica, entre otros.

    Acá una imágen que ilustra http://foto.difo.uah.es/curso/images/p008_1_04.jpg

  • http://www.ussrphoto.com/ Vladislav Kern

    Never heard of “film plane” it’s always been “focal plane” IMHO. BTW I think I see a petapixel camera sticker on the flash cover of that camera, must be Michael’s own camera? :)

  • Drzox

    A manual is that PDF thingie you download to your ipad so you can figure out what the button on the top left is called while you are waiting for the concert to start.

  • JohnONolan

    “You know, read the darned manual?”

    Yeah, no. That’s not what that stands for.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    LMAO, I was chatting with the local cam store owner the other day and he get’s the call for a lady on her way to a wedding shoot, lookign for a 50mm 1.8so it can blow the background out on a group shot of 10 people. LMFAO I was rolling!

  • will hall

     Shame you tend to do a VR around the nodal point/NPP of a system rather than the film plane. Which isnt marked on the lens

  • https://twitter.com/#!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I always read manuals – the mark is not listed in any of the manuals for my DSLRs – the only manual I’ve ever found this mark described in was my manual for my 1987 Minolta X-700 . so you don’t need to try and be clever with “oh, RTFM!! derrp” because you seem like a total dick :)

  • https://twitter.com/#!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    everyone trying to be clever and dickish with “RTFM” … I have never found this mark in any of my DSLR manuals. I’ve only ever seen it in the manual for my 1987 Minolta X-700. A lot of people aren’t going to know what this mark is – no need to be complete assholes about it :)

  • Ouch!

     So where the heck does the battery door go?! Come on man!

  • SomerenV

    I didn’t know what it was because I never needed tot know what it was. Why learning everything there is to learn when you only need to know a fraction of it? ;)

  • Ouch!

     I agree, kind of. One the one hand, I mean what do people think “55mm” actually measures?  I think good photogs need to have a strong technical understanding of their equipment.  On the other hand, just because you can’t spell “serious” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post your comments.  :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathleen-Grace/1504717315 Kathleen Grace

    It’s not in my manual.  Geez, why the blink do people have to blast the crap out of others, there are newbies and students who pay attention to this site. And yes, I know what it is, learned it 25 years ago. But can’t you chill folks, and perhaps don’t be quite so arrogant.  There is no requirement for being a pro to read these postings.  And reminders for simple things shouldn’t be such a sore point.

  • SomerenV

    Yes, because someone not knowing this symbol is a bad photographer? As for figuring things out by yourself: it’s way more fun than reading some manual. I’m also using most of the features my 550D offers and guess what: the manual is still in the box it came it. How can that be!? :O

  • Thefotogod

    Who ever RsTFM?

  • Thefotogod

    I’m pretty sure it’s a labor thing

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003139626733 Christopher Michael

    I thought it was in front of the lens…LOL   

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Very observant :) Yes, that’s a flash sticker on top of the camera, haha

  • http://tambnguyen.com/ Tam Nguyen Photography

    What’s your camera make and model? I bet I can find it.

  • http://tambnguyen.com/ Tam Nguyen Photography

    You sound like a VERY nice guy, you must own a Canon 5DM2. Here’s the manual for it, stating where the focal plane is, page 16: 
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/lit_files/101.pdf

    An example of a Nikon D7000, page 100: http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/kie88335f7869dfuejdl=-cww2/D7000_EN.pdf

  • http://tambnguyen.com/ Tam Nguyen Photography

    What’s your camera?

    Maybe I’m acting like a dick, but some people really deserve it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/slimspidey Spider- Man

    it’s the British spelling, yeah, that’s it! ;)

  • Jake

    Nobody deserves it, you just have no other outlet for your misanthropy and low self-esteem (or is it too high perhaps) than to belittle other people like a 3rd grade bully.  
    And for the record, most manuals I’ve read are incredibly vague and do a minimal job of explaining what features do, and almost nothing to explain how they work or why one would need them.  They’re written for people who already know what they’re doing, which those ignorant to the focal plane indicator may not.And thanks, Michael Zhang!

  • Chris

    Yes you are being a dick “Owner of a DSLR”, do you think everyone who visits this site is a ‘serious’ or pro photographer?  There are plenty of us who are just enthusiasts who enjoy photography.  I read my manuals but am not going to commit things to memory that have no affect on the way I shoot.

  • Mr.New

    Wow. Suddenly, I am taking much better photos. Thanks for the info.

  • reef1234

    God I would personally hate to work with Tam Nguyen Photography.   Is it like:  
    “You don’t know how to pose.  RTFM!”  “Did you just blink????  Its right here in the manual, page 100!  You do not blink when I take your picture.”  lol   :) calm down

  • reef1234

    I bet Tam read the manual on trolling…    Page 100: Insults for fun and profit.

  • Drzox

    As i remember from setting up my first rig for VR we needed to know this point to mount the camera then there were calculations and what not to center the node point. http://cias.rit.edu/~gravure/tt/pdf/others/TT3_1_Jon.pdf

  • http://profiles.google.com/drfealko Daniel Fealko

    What DSLRs do you own?  I’d be surprised if it wasn’t mentioned in their manuals.

  • Ninpou_kobanashi

    That and your camera is beyond you (^_^)
    Jab, jab, poke, poke.

  • Ninpou_kobanashi

    Haha, I’m the opposite.  I have the hard copy for the bathroom, PDF for the computer and iPad for reference… ;)

  • JohnONolan

    Wow, “Spider- Man” you are so smart and clever – I wish I was as cool as you are, and could come up with witty anecdotes which are totally unrelated to, you know, anything.

  • Ninpou_kobanashi

    Film plane is where the film lays.  In a digital world, there’s no film, so maybe it should be updated to be called the sensor plane?
    Focal Plane != Film Plane

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joey-Duncan/1111692326 Joey Duncan

    Ya it wasn’t in my Rebel XT manual either. Not sure about my 7D. I know what it is now so I’m too lazy to look. 

    I think somebody told me before and I just don’t remember. 

  • Graham Case

    Just searched through a PDF copy of a 20D manual (the only digital camera I own). Definitely not there, or at least not attached to any keywords I can think of (mark, focal, plane, film, etc.)

    People saying to RTFM on this one can STFU.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I said “described in” sure the mark is pointed out – but it’s never described or gone into any depth. It’s like “here it is! but figure it out by yourselves” – I know it’s obvious to some – but it’s not obvious to others

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathleen-Grace/1504717315 Kathleen Grace

    You know, I used to work in a camera store too, and I’ve read many manuals and half the time didn’t remember everything I read after a few months.  This symbol was something I learned in photography class way back when, and never saw it in a manual, which by the way, doesn’t appear in any of my manuals.  Reading the manual is important but most newer camera are coming with smaller and smaller manuals and not everything is in there.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Felipe-Carlos/1336044314 Felipe Carlos

    The film/focal plane mark was on all my film 35mm cameras, but not all dSLRs have it (D50 for example) although my D300 has it. I originally thought of it as being a bit obsolete (being a “film” plane mark) in digital cameras, but i guess measuring distance to the sensor plane could be handy… although I’ve never done any measuring between subject and this mark, so it’s just a bit of trivia to me.

  • BadTog

    Tam Nguyen Photography, saw your shots on flickr and they blow major ass. Please stop being a dick if you cant back it up. Even if you read a thousand manuals your pictures will still look SO cliche. Just stick to making Pho.

  • http://www.WeddingPhotographyofSydney.com.au/ KS

    Been shooting for 12 years + and never knew this :) 
    Cheers.