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Sorry to hear you lost a camera while taking a dive. Hope your new A55 makes you happy.
My only advice is to shoot a lot in fully automatic mode first, to understand thoroughly, what your camera can
do for you. Only after having seen which images don't cut it in Auto-mode can you understand, what "help" your camera needs to get it right.
After shooting a lot of images with my equipment I'm still using Aperture Priority automatic (as the aperture determines what dof you get) and only correct for extremely dark scenes (-1EV exposure compensation for e.g. night-shots) or extremely bright scenes (+1 EV exp.comp. for e.g. snow). And I shoot with Auto-Focus all the time.
Other than that I can only recommend shooting RAW (+jpg) as you can correct things like white-balance (and exposure) much better in RAW than in jpg.
Ah, and don't get too sloppy because you have image stabilization: Even the best systems are of limited value if you don't hold the camera steady
Thomas (beware: Nikon-fanboy and moderator!) My Lens Reviews
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