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Thursday, 17 April 2014


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What you're describing at the end there is exactly how a Pentax MZ-5 / MZ-3 works... which is what I loved! But for the viewfinder which was a terribly dark and tiny tunnel, that would have been a great camera.


I was bearded and grumpy from an early age. Which was I couldn't see the point of autofocus so bought a Canon EF-M (rather than an EOS 1000) - with it's two dials each marked with various numbers and an 'A'.


Wikipedia on its "Pentax Spotmatic" page says:

In 1971 the Electro-Spotmatic was the first aperture-priority, electronic, automatic SLR but was only sold in Japan.[6] It success was followed by the ES sold internationally from 1972. The ES had standardized and improved circuity that addressed reliability issues in the original version.

The Nikkormat EL began manufacture in 1972 (also according to Wikipedia). They appeared pretty quickly around this time.

Wait -- you're trying to claim that way back then, male photographers actually associated with women?

Amen, brother Mike!

After three exceedingly not-grumpy weeks I'm still fumbling a bit with the X-T1 but revelling in the results — particularly the colour.

This is not the quickest camera I've ever used, and I don't think it will be even when I'm used to using it (if you see what I mean). However, I'm not a street photographer, and as a general rule I find my photographs are better when I slow down and think about what I'm doing. The X-T1 encourages me to take this approach.

In fifty years of photography I've never named or talked to a camera before (except perhaps to call it a "stupid #&%@#!" … usually when I was being a stupid #&%@#! myself), but after only a few minutes with the new Fuji I found myself blurting out "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!"

Great post - those "...beardy grumpy guys grumbled across the land" - ever since photography was invented, the Kodaks came along, 35mm film came along, Photoshop came along, digital cameras came along, 'filters' came along, Instagram came along, and on, and on, and on.....

Fuji hit it out of the ballpark with the "A" on the aperture and shutter setting dials. When I first saw pictures of the X100 I thought to myself, why hasn't this been done before? Why has no one thought of this before?

Well, thanks for answering my second question.

I started college in 1978 and the then new Canon A-1 was very popular among the photographers on the yearbook and newspaper at my college (many had stepped up from an AE-1, a camera I never understood, my brain doesn't work in shutter priority). I was using a slightly older but still pretty new Nikon FM. I couldn't understand why Canon with all their snazzy modes couldn't leave the meter on in manual mode with the A-1 (the only mode, metered manual, on my FM--unless you took the battery out then it worked like manual on the A-1).

I bought a Nikon F3 while I was in college with it's aperture priority (and metered manual) and used in in manual mode for a long time. I still don't really understand the usefulness of shutter priority, but a lot of that was that the aperture control fell right under the fingers of my left hand and could easily be turned while looking though the camera while the shutter control was awkward to move, required changing your grip on the camera and only moved in full stops.

My biggest ergonomic complaint about modern cameras is the loss of aperture rings and the biggest ergonomic success is the loss of shutter speed dials (although aperture priority mostly eliminated this problem).

I'm intrigued by controls on the Fuji cameras. I think I would like using them very much.

Haircut,eh? Something else we never bothered with, back in the day.
Something some of us no longer need to bother with at all any more.

Hi Mike,

Pentax did it on the MZ 5 and MZ 3 - very nice Cameras about 1990

To the best of my knowledge, the first 35mm interchangeable-lens SLR to offer aperture-priority automation was the Pentax Electro-Spotmatic in 1971. The qualifiers are required, because there were a large number of non-SLR "electric eye" cameras in the 1960s that offered some exposure automation, so there's almost certainly prior art.

As for the A-1 of 1978 being the first SLR to offer a program mode, I would say "yes" with an asterisk: the Minolta XD-11 of 1977, the first multi-mode SLR, had a special setting that behaved like a program mode. If you put all the controls on green (the aperture ring on the green 22, the shutter speed on the green 125, and the mode switch on the green 'S'), it would pick aperture and shutter speed on its own to suit the lighting conditions regardless of the shutter speed dial.

However, Minolta didn't call it "program mode", it called this the Automatic Shutter-speed Compensation system (ASC). And it worked very well, but it didn't tell you what shutter speed it picked, just the aperture. Canon A-1 showed you both.

The A-1 was also simpler to set and explain: just click the shutter dial to the green "P" and forget your troubles. Later Minolta models ditched the (IMHO) superior ASC system for the green P as well.

And yes, your (and Fuji's) implementation is simpler from a mechanical and electronic point of view, but as Minolta's abandonment of ASC showed, most people seem to prefer explicit over implicit, and prefer looking at one control over two (or three) to understand what the camera is up to.

Speaking of which, I don't have access to an X-T1. If you put everything on "A", does it say "P" or "PROGRAM" anywhere?

[Yes, on the viewing screen and in the EVF there's a prominent "P." However the P's are still there when the ISO is not on A. --Mike]

A few years ago I took my Rolleiflex and my son to an antique car show. The Rolleiflex exposed the film and my son operated his hand-held-meter – a Canon Rebel.

I have since bought a suitably old hand-held-meter which doesn’t completely replace my son but is less bulky. And it uses no batteries.

Konica Autoreflex T3, my first "real" SLR.
Well strictly speaking not my first. Had a cheap used Zenit but that was too cumbersome. Then a Practica LTL (I believe it was). This was made in DDR (or GDR). No TTL but it had a built in exposure meter.
But the Konica was my first experience of japanese made quality.
Had a wonderful 1.4/50 mm lens with. And a bayonet mount which meant it was easy to change lenses. At least compared to M42 mount. Kept it for about 5 years and got several other lenses and an additional Konica body, the T4, before I got really "serious" and switched to Nikon.
The first camera you come to love is hard to forget. Just like the first kiss. :-)
I think I liked the Konica because I could set the shutterspeed and know it wouldn't dip too low to handhold.

It seems reasonable that a mode called "manual" should adjust nothing automatically.

Mike, I believe that the first camera with automatic exposure control was the Kodak Super 6-20 of c. 1938. It was expensive, not a sales success, and was discontinued by the beginning of WW2. Sadly, I can't say which exposure parameters it controlled; perhaps someone else will know.

I bought an A1 with a 50mm f1.8 in 1979 as a teenager for £200 when that was a lot of money. (I was working and didn't smoke or drink). I still have it in a cupboard. Back then I was a TV (shutter priority) kinda guy. My main motivation was that my older brother only had an AE1.

This X-T1 looks like a mighty fine camera. I wondered what happened to the aperture ring when I bought my first DSLR a few years back but there it is you found it. This A-A idea is great though. (It sounds a bit like anonymous alcoholics when put like this)

Color me still grumpy.

As clearly explained in this and the previous post, the EC dial is a complication of automation--its sole purpose being to correct automated settings. That kind of thing makes me grumpy: when things that are supposed to make life (or photography) easier make life (or photography) more complicated. So instead of simply relying on your own judgement, you also have to second-guess the camera's judgement. What's more, different cameras are going to disagree.

And, yes, it's a dial that does different things in different situations (it might change shutter speed, or aperture, or if some people around here have their way, the ISO). That kind of thing makes me grumpy, too.

I think I, too, am coming around to Dave Parry's suggestion that the EC dial adjust the meter in manual mode. That's really all it does in every the other mode anyway (the automated setting(s) then follow(s) suit). That would make it a dial that does the same thing in all modes, and in a way expose (no pun intended) its only true function in any mode. An honest dial. Which would make me less grumpy.

Giving it an "off" setting (to turn off metering altogether) would make me even less grumpy; possibly even pleasant to be around. Hm... maybe I should rethink this.

You're making me miss my Canon T-90. With a 50/1.4 SSC or my 35/2 Chrome Nose it was a sweet ax. Last SLR I really loved. my more recent Nikon F2 came closest but nothing beats the Tank.

The Canon FD lenses had the 'A' mark on the aperture ring past the minimum (f/22 usually) setting. This was so the iris could be actuated to it's fully closed position, or any intermediate, as requested by the AE system and the actual lever in the camera that did such things.

The F-1N (depending on what options you had) could have both Shutter priority AE and Aperture priority. IF you selected both, you had an interesting mode where the shutter priority would work as intended, but the aperture would always get closed to it's smallest opening.

This combination was, of course, rarely the exposure you were hoping for.

Enthuse away, Mike. I've kept my trap shut lately, but knew that when you got around to checking out these latest Fujis, you'd like, nee love, what you are seeing in them. Like you, I was waiting for the digital CL to eventually come along, and my transition went from Leica CL to Fuji X-E1, with a couple of unsatisfying dalliances along the way. I could not part with the CL until the Fuji proved itself as a worthy replacement.

I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that the original Leica X1 was the first digital camera to show us the intelligent simplicity of shutter dial and aperture dial with "A" settings showed us how just two dials could control three modes.

Well, not only that, you can glance down at the top of the Fuji where it’s parked on your chest Leica-style and at a glance you know what’s automatic and what’s manual.

Ah, the good ol' days... When I started as a photographer with my father's Exakta, it was all manual, and my first lightmeter was an extinction meter. It worked quite well. I still have it, and recently, I compared it to my modern CDS meter and the digital meter, and lo, it was within a stop of each-and they were nearly a stop apart! When my father took the Exakta back, I ended up with an Argus C3, and the same meter. Still all manual. Eventually I got a selenium meter-CDS wasn't available yet- and I missed the interchangeable waist level and eye level finders of the EXakta. Doing macro became a measure, calculate and pray procedure. When in the course of time, I made enough money I bought my first Nikon FM2. I liked its advisory metering function. Similarly my Pentax 67 metering prism met my style. Further, it meant that the external meter was no longer mandatory. And that was it until I went to digital. And I found that autoexposure has its uses, but they are limited to conditions where I can't take time to set up manual. And I still use manual much of the time, for a number of uses and reasons. But the great AHA for me was the availability of the histogram on the LCD at each exposure. I can now take a test exposure, and use the histogram to adjust the brightness and contrast in the next exposure. In manual mode (usually). The one thing I still miss is the interchangeable waist level and eye level prisms of the Exakta and the Pentax. I wish Nikon would make them, although they never have, or they would at least put in a tiltable LCD, so I could do low level macro without getting bent in half-not good at my age. So technology makes progress, but it ain't perfect yet.

Love it

And for the sin of eating from the forbidden mode, mankind was eventually punished by a great flood of digital photos... :)

When I last used Plus-X film it had an ASA rating of 50, but we were a bit slower in everything then.

I think Minolta X700 was the first one to have shutter priority option built in the package.

It's funny how many people react violently against the idea of Auto ISO in M mode (never mind whether you can set EC at the same time). I think some totally misunderstand and think that a camera with this feature *always* sets the ISO for you in M mode (hint: it's just an option !) Some just huff and say, in a blustery manner, "M means manual", which brings to mind Nigel Tufnel arguing "these go to 11". And then you get those who object to the camera "making the decisions for you". "Giving up control". What they (quite astoundingly) don't get is that any time you control 2 of the 3 exposure settings (or 1 of the 2, in those days of yore) is that the camera isn't "deciding" anything. It's calculating. It's automating a task that computers do brilliantly. Given the meter reading and the exposure parameters you've chosen, there can be one and only one possible value for the remaining parameter. The ISO can't be "too high" unless you've set the other exposure parameters "too low" (or metered incorrectly).
So the moral of my story, also for those not well versed in these modes, is to not confuse "Auto" with "Program" or (shudder !) *intelligent* auto (iAuto) ! Auto is short for automatic or automation; it automates a calculation to save you time. You're not giving up any control using Auto modes, and can typically do anything in shutter or aperture priority that you can do in manual mode, provided you're looking to base your exposure on the camera's internal meter. Program, iAuto and scene modes are where you start to give up control (though even then, if you know what those modes are doing, then you can make the argument that there's a degree of control in choosing them).

Way back in the day, I sometimes used ASA 25 film to minimize grain. The ASA/ISO film speed dial was not connected to anything in pre-light meter cameras. It was used as a reminder of the film speed loaded in the camera. There were other reminders used like taping the film box lid to the back of the camera...

I don't believe I had ever used a mode before the digital age and the Nikon D70. I had the Oly OM-1 which had the Use Your Own Brain mode and nothing else, and several Oly rangefinders which, unlike the faux-digital rangefinders, had no modes and were simple to use. Now I mostly use aperture mode, or manual when I know the camera will not be able to meter the way I want it, which with some cameras is quite often.

Completely off topic, but if you still need a haircut one of our local hairdressers (about a 5-minute walk from our house) has been in a bit of a spat with North Korea and has become something of a worldwide celebrity.


Might be too far away for you though. :)

A good piece, but let's not write stuff, even in jest, that assumes that photography is a pursuit for men.

[I didn't say it was, but in my experience, men are the ones who grouch and grouse about the aesthetics of tech, where women tend to shrug, learn to use the camera, and get on with taking pictures. --Mike]

Actually there are 5 modes, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Aperture/shutter priority (with auto ISO, that some mistake for manual mode but is an AE mode), real Manual mode (you select all three variables), and finally Program mode.
Fuji does not allow proper use of the Aperture/Shutter priority auto ISO mode because you can't dial in any exposure compensation. They should fix this.

Enjoyed very much this brief history, especially since I was not walking the earth in those olden, mithological days!

I do however envy you Titans, inasmuch as you've seen simpler mode dials. My program dial has eleven (11!) modes - but AFAIK there are still, arguably, only three exposure variables. Go guess.

Slight digression: why on Earth somebody put those 11 modes on the GX7? I am sure 99,7% of the users would be more than happy with ASM and a custom one. I left out P, as everybody knows that such a little camera could never be professional...

I started with a screw mount Pentax SLR with a russian hand held meter, and after I got the hang of that, moved onto the Nikon F401S - fully auto metering, with two dials, set either at A, or it was possible to select aperture or shutter speed - just as Mike described. Hated it, went back to a manual camera..now (35 years on) happily shooting with a Fuji X100.

You could open up a whole new topic with an explanation of the difference between reflected light readings (camera meter) and incident light readings (handheld meter)
In my old UK Fleet Street days, P was known as P for Pissed - as in drunk. Used on those occasions when you turned up for work after drinking all night.......

You may recall from your time with that Pentax K-5 (was it?), AutoISO is not available in Manual mode there.

But EC compensation DOES have a significance in Manual nonetheless, on that camera - by virtue of offsetting the metering readout.

Because when you press that gott-sei-bedankt "green button", either the aperture or the shutter (as you have chosen) gets shifted to suit that grabbed metering value as corrected. Which then persists, once more disregarding the meter, as befits Manual.

Shutter-and-aperture priority (TAv) with floating ISO, is how you achieve the effect of Manual plus Auto ISO. And EC compensation works fine then.

I do see a few objections to explicit physical shutter and aperture and ISO dials, albeit with a glow of appreciation for their directness.

For one thing sometimes, at the limits of the available range of working, cameras may be wanted to grudgingly override your selected priority value: if you run out of range in the other, automated parameters which are working around that selection. Or not; since this is a configurable behaviour.

Same with e.g. the green-button Manual reset I describe above (Pentax call this HyperManual): the camera cannot change a selected value for you on demand, if that has been physically clicked in on a dial.

Pentax's excellent HyperProgram shifts you into shutter priority if you roll one dial, and into aperture priority if you roll the other dial, fluidly - going in and out of "Auto" naturally on the fly, with each of those two parameters. That would not be possible.

With a physical explicit dial, the markings act both as a control and a readout. Except: the "A" position on that dial, needs a separate readout elsewhere, and other kinds of control elsewhere too, arbitrarily partitioning the use of the camera.

Maybe instead of turning a big plain knob, we could turn a knob with a little engaged / disengaged clutch inside (like the AF/MF lens you mention), where the camera gets the ability to turn the parameter values around also, when appropriate, and visibly; so bringing the readout and the control fully into the same place.

I first got interested in photography in my teens, in the late 50s, with an old (1936) Rolleiflex that my father talked out of my grandfather, who hadn't used it for about 20 years. I could not afford a lightmeter, but eventually managed to become reasonably competent at setting exposure, at least in daylight. Indoors was more of a challenge. After I started working, I did not have much time for photography, and do not really remember how I set about it, but I always had some sort of camera, and took a few pictures from time to time. With digital, in the late 90s, I remember that I started to use aperture priority nearly all the time. Just recently I got an XP1 which also has the A settings on the lens and shutter speed dial, so I tried using full auto just for fun. Now I'm hooked - I only use aperture priority when I really want the lens either wide open or near fully shut!

I agree about the Fuji A-A implementation - it's the most intuitive method yet. I'm one of those people that despise PASM dials.

And, wasn't it Pentax that had a green button that put the camera into one-shot program mode while otherwise set to manual exposure? Basically a metering equivalent to back button AF.

Why don't people seem to understand shutter priority? I don't use it often, but for street photography and sports it is probably the best setting to use.

I thought "A" stood for "All-Weather"...duhhh
Happy Easter Mike!

I am decidedly in the "Aperture Priority" camp, since I find DOF more important to the visual characteristics of a picture than shutter speed. All else being equal and all that :-)

Consequently, when I bought a Canon S95 a few years back, I spent the first few weeks In "A" mode, constantly juggling aperture and ISO values in order to obtain the desired results - keeping the lens as wide open as possible to keep the ISO value down and obtain just a little bit of shallow DOF at 50 mm-e. Then I realised that if I set the camera to "P" and "Auto ISO", it would decide exactly as I would have decided myself. So why bother ?? I've left it like that ever since and only occasionally apply some compensation. No need to be "snobbish" about "P" mode :-)

@ Derek

Fuji hit it out of the ballpark with the "A" on the aperture and shutter setting dials. When I first saw pictures of the X100 I thought to myself, why hasn't this been done before? Why has no one thought of this before?

Kudos to Fuji for using a good idea, but they weren't the first to do it. The Leica Digilux 2 that I reviewed for CNET in 2005 used this system, and I'm sure it wasn't the first time I'd seen it, although I can no longer remember where I'd encountered it before.

And remarkably, Mike, in that review I made a guess about the august thinker who first dreamed of it. Gauchely quoting myself:

'A simple spin of the aperture ring to its "A" position puts you in shutter-priority autoexposure mode; move the shutter speed dial to "A" and you're in aperture-priority; set both for "A" and you're in program mode. This method was first conceived by Aristotle, we'd guess, and it's still the best.'

I'm chagrined to have given Aristotle credit for your idea. That's just sloppy reporting. In my defense, it's hard to keep all the great thinkers straight. Aristotle, Kant, Johnston. Which idea is whose?

My first SLR was the Canon A-1. Loved it and used it for 10 years until I upgraded to the EOS 1. I was a beginner and used the P mode in the early days. As for modes these days; I only use Aperture-priority or Manual. I don´t think I have even tried to se if P and shutter-priority is functional on my last 3 cameras (5D, 5D mkII and 5D MkIII). :-)
As you say; choice is good, it means that you can use the camera in the exact way you like, and ignore the rest.

The A-1 had a unique feature for a camera with built-in light meter. It was possible to switch off its alphanumeric display completely to leave the viewfinder free of distraction. It's a feature I'd like to see taken up again in the future.

Having recently purchased a Ricoh GR, I noticed something that they inherited from Pentax I assume. The TAv mode. And I have to say I really like it for street photography. I set the Aperture to the DoF that I want using snap focus, set the shutter speed where I want and the ISO sets itself. I can ride the EV+/- with my thumb or change any other setting and the ISO responds accordingly. This mode may well enter into future considerations for camera purchases. Of course I could just use manual and auto ISO but now I have a whole new dial setting for it.

I'm glad Eamon finally mentioned the Digilux 2/LC1 twins from 10 years ago that had rings and dial to set auto or manual use.

They handily avoided the whole ISO issue by having a tiny, noisy sensor that one probably wouldn't take off base ISO. But what a lens . . .

"It seems reasonable that a mode called "manual" should adjust nothing automatically."

This is all to common a view amongst camera designers ("Manual means MANUAL; no Auto ISO for you") e.g. Panasonic holds this view. For those of us that shoot Auto ISO in M it's a pain. If they include the feature those that don't want it could turn it off.

The usage issues come from incremental designs starting from the manual film camera and slowly adding additional features first with film cameras (exposure meters and automatic exposure) then with digital cameras (ISO then Auto ISO). ISO has always been a "bag" on the side of these designs because they struggle to keep modern digital cameras "like" film cameras but they're much more flexible than that. So the newer features tend to get hidden and the camera still looks like an film camera (on steroids).

The Fuji XT-1 gets the controls right for a "dials" based camera.

A "buttons and dials" camera really should have four rotary controls: A, S, ISO and EC.

Then there's the idea of limits and how you control them in semi-automatic modes e.g. why in shutter priority mode with Auto ISO does the lens go to "fullly open" then increase the ISO. Why isn't there a setting to limit the "widest aperture" in shutter priority as there is in aperture priority mode with Auto ISO where you can set the minimum shutter speed. There is no logic to omiting this limit except most people don't shoot in shutter priority (streetshooters like myself do -- we want to stop or enhance motion) so the designers don't think about it. Or those that do (like Ricoh) give you a a useful TAv mode to work around it (M mode with Auto ISO on the GRD or TAv on the GR).

Here's a more consistent idea for a digital camera user interface: provide a dial for each parameter (A, S, ISO) to control each parameter. Provide a button (or a mode dial - it would have 8 settings) to set each parameter to automatic or manual control (perhaps a button in the middle of each dial). Depending on manual or automatic setting each dial would control either the value of the parameter in manual mode or it's limit in automatic mode.

For example, in A mode the A dial would control the aperture but the S dial would control minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO (or have no effect for manual ISO). The ISO dial would set the ISO directly or set the maximum ISO in Auto ISO.

This design leaves the physical control for each parameter in the same place and lets you make adjustments that are currently buried in the menus (minimum shutter speed for auto ISO) on the fly when in a semi-automatic mode. It gives you all the current PASM modes with an without Auto ISO plus the "Pentax" modes like Sv and TAv that are added on to manual or not provided.

The problem with this better (IMHO) design is that its not like film cameras. Camera companies are really worried about making enthusiast cameras that are not like film cameras. They think they're users will get confused. If we designed computer or smartphone UIs like this we'ed still have punchcards (or virtual punch cards that could be extra flexible in certain modes).

One final point: unlike the olden days when camera meters told you when yoy had the correct exposure (but not how far off your exposure is) modern exposure meters tell you are +1.0 stops overexposed. You can use that in manual mode to fake EC ("Ah, I'm metering off white skin so make that +1 on the meter"). I wonder if that's what the designers were thinking when they turned EC off in the Fuji? They shouldn't have.

My first serious camera (ie. the one I spent my money on) was the AT-1. Loved it. Literally wore it out eventually. It was just so simple to use. Many years later when I was buying up used FD based gear when everyone has switched to EOS, I bought an A-1. Absolutely hated it. So many switches, and I was always trying to figure out what the camera was thinking.

The A-1 was for its time a technical marvel, but in my opinion, an ergonomic nightmare. But then they produced the T-90, which was a masterpiece in all respects - sadly short lived due to the advent of AF. But I do think you can still see elements of the T-90 design thinking in the latest Canon DSLRs, so all in all a very important and influential camera.


[grump mode on]I was a grumpy one ... and still am. While I have some shutter priority cameras (including the TC, which is a nice host for the Hexanon 40/1.8, a wonderful lens,) I still mostly shoot manual (OM-1, Chamonix) or aperture priority (OM-2) and my brain does the rest. I've never been comfortable with all sorts of modes. I have better things to do than read endless poorly written descriptions of endless modes that are redundant to what my brain tells me to do.
[/grump mode off (not really)]

I love the T3 reference...and my own Autoreflex T3. ...and my T2...and my T...and my A. ...and my Fuji X10. ...and probably will love my X-T1. (sigh).

Discovered your blog two weeks ago...love it! Your recent XT-1 and T3 "mode posts" and camera references take me back to the early seventies when the same companies innovated.

Memory Lane:

    1971: Fuji debuts their first SLR (Fujica ST-701 with brighter viewing, Silicon Photo metering diodes & about 10% lighter than the defacto Spotamatic choice).

    1972: Olympus usurps this "new trend" of brigther, lighter (& tougher) and introduces the OM-1

    1973: Konica introduces the T3 and the "shutter preferred" automation. The viewfinder display of shutter speed/aperture began my affliction for featuritis and questioning the choice in my hands.

By 1972, I was all of 14 and after two years of steadily consuming Keppler's monthly 'gear column' (older brother's Modern Photography subscription) ... ready to shell out a 179 smackers for the ST-701 with the fabulous 55mm f1.8 lens: Probably not the only paper route (or young teen) that partly drove the sales of MADE IN JAPAN camera industry!!!

Steve Rosenblum's featured comment is the way of working around a camera that doesn't have real TAv mode (i.e. manual with auto ISO): set shutter to freeze or capture motion and set aperture to define DoF then let the auto ISO deal with the light changes.

That's why street photographers want Auto ISO in manual modes (or a real TAv mode).

Failing that matrix metering with manual and adjusting ISO to deal with light changes when needed on the fly works OK and is fast too (you don't have to spot meter in manual).

For anyone interested in the inner workings of autoexposure, it's hard to beat Norman Goldberg's excellent book, Camera Technology, The Dark Side of the Lens. He goes in detail into how each of the early systems worked, with diagrams. Older readers may remember Goldberg as the camera reviewer who raised the standard for technical reviews of equipment to a level I've not seen before or since. His detailed dissection (literally - he disassembled the cameras he reviewed) gave readers new insight into how cameras worked, and the particular mechanical/electronic strengths and weaknesses of each model he examined. The book is a couple of decades old now, but still available on Amazon, and still interesting reading.

I have begun to see the benefits of Auto-ISO, but the camera makers have not gone far enough with it. Generally I am more concerned with depth of field and usually set my camera at the lens's largest aperture and let the shutter speed fall where it may. But sometimes, in low light, I get caught with a shutter speed too slow to hand-hold the camera still. I discovered that if I put my camera (Canon 5D MkII or Panasonic G5) on Shutter Speed priority and ISO on Auto, the camera chooses the lens's largest opening and an appropriate ISO. So, now I say "I can reliably hand-hold the camera at 1/80th, or I need 1/250th to stop action" and let other controls fall where they may. This works well, but sometimes I want more depth of field too. But neither camera will let me go to manual mode and have it work in conjunction with Auto-ISO. Cameras should do this! Why can't I set my speed at 1/80th, my aperture at f8, and have the camera auto-select the required ISO? Does anyone know of a camera that will do this? Maybe I'd go back to the old procedure of choosing a camera based on what modes it offered.

Most early cameras that offered some auto-exposure mode offered aperture priority -- because it came almost for free once you had electronic shutter control. Whereas finding ways to hack around and control the aperture automatically was hard (required actual moving parts that had to exert some force).

I learned on a meterless manual exposure camera, and then worked with that or a built-in meter but no automation for 18 years. I often wondered how people would ever learn anything about exposure with auto exposure available (which, initially, would do better than they would do manually); but note this was wondering, not being certain and ranting about it. Perhaps coincidentally, this was also all before I grew my beard.

I thought we had completely failed, so far, to really integrate the possibility of auto-ISO into our thinking about user interface, but apparently Canon has done something there (I always wondered what that weird TAv mode could possibly mean; the letters still make no sense to me). I'm not sure we've found the optimum way to integrate it yet, but I'm definitely in the camp that thinks auto ISO can be useful in various combinations with manual or automatic settings of the other two parameters. You could do three dedicated dials, each with an 'A' plus the choices on whatever they control (ISO, aperture, shutter speed).

One problem with dedicated dials: they cause trouble with user-customized modes invoked by hitting a button. If my custom mode wants auto ISO and manual aperture and shutter speed, picking it would have to spin all three dials to the right position, or leave them confusingly set wrong (completely unacceptable if you're using labeled dedicated dials).

One of the nice things in the D700 (many Nikons have this) is that the two dials which mostly control shutter speed and aperture aren't labeled. This is good since they sometimes do other things, and the actual aperture or shutter speed set sometimes is modified. (The viewfinder and the top LCD both display the value they're setting when they're active, so you have feedback, just not right on the dial. On the other hand, the dials are shallow, nothing much to see anyway, which makes them very convenient to use.)

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