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Interesting article over on DPReview this morning titled: Do We Really Need All Those Buttons and Dials?

 

It's a good question that was apparently prompted by Fuji reducing the control complexity on its new X-E4 vs. the X-E3 that it replaced. My personal opinion? Less is more, except when it isn't. For years, I have listened to photographers I have met while traveling who proudly state that they only use full manual mode. Many of them were carrying expensive DSLRs that while bristling with dials and buttons, contained state-of-the-art computer technology that could in milliseconds analyze a scene, adjust exposure using a combination of ISO, Aperture and shutter speed and focus at the push of a button. I often asked why they didn't take advantage of the automation and the reply was usually some variation of "real photographers don't need those things". I do a lot of DIY projects and I will say that I seldom meet a fellow woodworker that sneers at a powered saw, pneumatic nail gun, orbital sander or router. Granted, some woodworkers take pride in using the simpler tools of past generations and can produce beautiful things, but with considerably more time and effort invested. The technologies built into today's cameras are miracles of analytical processing and are meant to make capturing a well-exposed in-focus image easier. They are tools. To me, using a modern digital camera in full manual mode is like unplugging an orbital sander and using it like a sanding block. Over the years I have settled on Aperture Priority mode with Auto-ISO as my go-to default. Improvements in tech have allowed me to limit ISO to a "safe" maximum and set the minimum shutter speed that will trigger a bump in ISO (eliminated my need for S-Mode) but those are nice-to-haves and even before digital, A-mode was my preference. I will use manual mode when I am in a static environment that needs little or no shot-to-shot adjustment, like with night sky photography or when using studio strobes, but that is a rare exception. I would think that the majority of photographers find the use of partial or complete automation liberating and very handy when shooting in variable lighting conditions with diverse subjects like we all encounter while traveling. As with the primitive woodworker, I respect the photographer that uses manual-only as a way to focus their creativity but for me, exposure automation and a plugged in sander are a better choice. Both philosophies can produce quality results and both can be fun and satisfying. On the subject of buttons and dials, my shooting preference requires few on-the-fly adjustments beyond exposure compensation, so having a camera with myriad buttons and a forest of dials isn't all that appealing to me. Personally, fewer external controls and a more compact frame would be a plus.

 

On a side note, I have matured over the years and seldom roll my eyes when I hear the phrase, "real photographers". Seldom...

 

Happy shooting...semi-automatically or otherwise!

 

 

Dave

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For years I used my Canon Rebel as basically a point and shoot camera because I didn't know how to use all the dials and buttons.  I got some pretty good pictures, but I felt like I was missing something.  So I took a zoom class through my hometown university (for free) that was hosted by the former official university photographer.  I learned so much.  Now I shoot in Auto ISO and play around with f-stop and aperture.  I'm still learning how they all interact with each other, but I'm really liking more of the shots I do take.  I'll still use fully auto sport mode if I'm trying to get pictures of my son swimming or (if I ever get back to Alaska) whales breaching (easiest way to capture a full breach from nose up to tail down).

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19 minutes ago, olemissreb said:

For years I used my Canon Rebel as basically a point and shoot camera because I didn't know how to use all the dials and buttons.  I got some pretty good pictures, but I felt like I was missing something.  So I took a zoom class through my hometown university (for free) that was hosted by the former official university photographer.  I learned so much.  Now I shoot in Auto ISO and play around with f-stop and aperture.  I'm still learning how they all interact with each other, but I'm really liking more of the shots I do take.  I'll still use fully auto sport mode if I'm trying to get pictures of my son swimming or (if I ever get back to Alaska) whales breaching (easiest way to capture a full breach from nose up to tail down).

 

I use Aperture priority to give me control over the depth of field. Shutter speed is seldom an issue but when it is , I adjust the minimum shutter speed in the auto ISO settings (not all cameras have this). 

 

A while ago, I wrote an article on low-light shooting that spends a fair amount of verbage on the interaction between ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. This is referred to as the Trinity of Exposure and while it seems like it would be very complicated, once you get the hang of how they relate, it will help you choose the right setting for various situations.

 

PPTPhoto.com - Low Light

 

Hope it helps.

 

Dave

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I tend to use Program mode most of the time - with the two command dials providing program adjustment [trade aperture for shutter speed] and exposure compensation. [with a live histogram in the viewfinder]

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I use basically the 4 primary 'control' modes - P, A (Av), S (Tv), and M - each has its best use scenario for me and each offers a level of control over my shots combined with a level of automation that offers speed and convenience, yet all override-able if I decide to.  I've never been a fan of FULL auto, just because I don't like that it doesn't let me set some of the parameters that the 'auto' uses - things like focus area, metering area and mode, white balance override, etc.

 

I come from film SLR days, learning to shoot on SLRs in the late 70s, so I had to learn all the various properties to set and control the shots.  I continue to do so now, but I enjoy taking advantage of what digital cameras can do to speed up the process, AND the control, to get shots that would have either been impossible, or required a good amount of chance and repetition, in film days.

 

I've always found the Fuji cameras to look quite attractive and very retro cool, but overall I just find less controls while still having control worked better for my shooting needs and style.  There have been arguments for as long as there have been digital cameras, and especially mirrorless, over 'not enough controls', but most of those arguments seem to be coming from personal bias, or inexperience with other models, or just arguments for arguments' sake...I have full control over any shot I want to take, if I want it, and even when using automatic features, you can STILL control the shot - the exposure, DOF, motion blur, background blur, sharpness, etc can all still be set and fine-tuned even in a P mode if you want to.  It could be some are just more used to setting everything for every shot and don't feel comfortable giving up that control dial, while some types of photography can really flourish when the camera has the ability to automate, or program variables, to free the photographer to then concentrate on other important factors (as a wildlife and bird photographer, I find I can get much better shots when I don't have to continually set a shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV range, focus point or area, locking shutter or exposure, AND still focus and pan and frame).

 

So I've always been a proponent of using whatever mode and whatever controls work best to get the results you want and need.  For landscapes and architecture, I'm usually in A mode.  For some wildlife shooting such as birds in flight, I'm usually in S mode.  For long exposure and tripod night shooting, I'm usually in M mode.  And for general walkaround photography, and for birding NOT in flight, I'm usually in P mode.

 

I'd probably enjoy fiddling with all the dials and controls on some Fuji bodies, when I have the time to take leisurely landscape or scenic photography...but wouldn't enjoy it as much when I'm doing action or bird in flight photography.

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Interesting  use aperture mode for most.. ISO either 100-200 and shutter speed to suit and use tripod if needed....  I still think a bit in the film days.... 

So i use only about 10% or less of the functions on the camera

 

On a side note a look at the remote for AV amp  50 Buttons !!   I use about 5 on them, same for the TV  47 Button and use at the most 10.....

 

Welcome to the world of Buttons,,,, it is the Button Age

 

Don

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I'm a picture taker not a photographer. I'm still learning how everything works on my new to me Nikon D7500. I use mainly the P & auto mode but do play around with all modes just to see the different results. I did get the book, "Nikon D7500 for Dummies"  to help me understand the different modes & options in the menus.  

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Posted (edited)

It been a long time since my last post.  Thanks Dave for you post on this subject.  I agree that too many buttons can confuse me.  I need just two settings "A",95% and "M", 5%.  With "A" the I use the "-/+" to correct for problems I see when checking files on the fly.  "ISO" when needed is also used.  "M" is use when I want consistency between images, planning to stitch or focus stack.  I try to keep the menu area at my default to keep things simple.  I hate it when I change something in the menu then forget it until it messes me up next time I use that camera, 'old age on my part'...  Now lets talk customizing the buttons.  Many button can be programed to be different that what it was, sadistic?

 

framer, retired  

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Just reading the original post and had a little smile at ‘have settled on Aperture Priority’… that’s my default also. It got me thinking though; Why the preference for Aperture priority? In my case it’s because my  first SLR with any auto capability was a Pentax ME which was aperture priority. The other popular camera of the day was a Canon... which was shutter priority. I often wonder if I’d opted for the Canon if my default preference would be for shutter priority. 
Of course Auto ISO was only a ‘twinkle in the photographer’s eye’ in those days.  It was Kodachrome 25 or 64 or Ektachrome for a change. 

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2 hours ago, Ranchi said:

Just reading the original post and had a little smile at ‘have settled on Aperture Priority’… that’s my default also. It got me thinking though; Why the preference for Aperture priority? In my case it’s because my  first SLR with any auto capability was a Pentax ME which was aperture priority. The other popular camera of the day was a Canon... which was shutter priority. I often wonder if I’d opted for the Canon if my default preference would be for shutter priority. 
Of course Auto ISO was only a ‘twinkle in the photographer’s eye’ in those days.  It was Kodachrome 25 or 64 or Ektachrome for a change. 

I used to sell cameras back when the Canon A1 and AE1 Program models represented state of the art for advanced amateur bodies [at the end of the FL/FD mount generation]. Customers looking for auto exposure reported their best results with Program mode [both shutter and aperture set to 'auto'] except when using flash [typically Vivitar 283 or 285 auto flashes].

I was still using my old FTb and Pellix bodies - no auto anything.

A few years later, I updated to the EF mount with an 'EOS Elan' - this was Canon's first model with a rear control dial for program shift. I've found program mode to be quite useful for the majority of available light photos.

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I know I do. The way I use a camera is in Manual mode. I like having separate dials for Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. I like them all at my right fingertip to make all the adjustments I need. I'll manage the camera size for the ease of use.

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Aperture mode is to control #1 depth of field and #2 the amount of diffraction I will except. If
I need to control the  shutter speed I step up/down the ISO setting.  Every lens seems to have a sweet spot for sharpness at a particular aperture. 

 

framer

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On 5/7/2021 at 12:59 PM, pierces said:

 

I use Aperture priority to give me control over the depth of field. Shutter speed is seldom an issue but when it is , I adjust the minimum shutter speed in the auto ISO settings (not all cameras have this). 

 

A while ago, I wrote an article on low-light shooting that spends a fair amount of verbage on the interaction between ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. This is referred to as the Trinity of Exposure and while it seems like it would be very complicated, once you get the hang of how they relate, it will help you choose the right setting for various situations.

 

PPTPhoto.com - Low Light

 

Hope it helps.

 

Dave

Thank you!  I'll read it and start practicing!  :)

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With today's incredible state of the art cameras why not let the camera do 'some' of the work. Plus the mode you use will likely be determined by what you are shooting. 

 

I used to think manual manual manual was the only way to go but seeing I shoot weddings and things change in an instant using manual during a wedding is ridiculous IMO. For the armature at a wedding where your snapping a few choice shots it's no big deal but today's wedding pros routinely shoot 1000-2000 shots in a wedding day ..... you really rely using the semi modes.

 

Landscape photogs love manual or AV. 

Sports photogs use S mode

Wedding pros use AV or P modes and program with required minimum shutter speed, usually 1/250. I'll shoot manual when I using flash .... lots of flash. I have used up to 5 off-camera flash units and one on-camera controller. Off camera flash is manual  ... on-camera is always TTL.

When I shoot birds I use S mode as I like a fast shutter ... when your at 600mm I always shoot at a minimum what my reach is  ... another words 600mm and I'm at 1/640 at a minimum even when their not flying. In flight I'm at 1/1600 - 1/2500 depending on the species of birds. 

 

Fortunately I own some fast glass so it helps to keep my ISO down but again with today's incredible cameras I have no issue going up to 6400 and sometimes higher. The key to shooting at high ISO's is not to be under exposed ... better to shoot a bit on the hot side.  

 

OK  .... shared enough  .... the point is there is no one way to use a camera ... it all depends on the subject and your personal abilities.

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