Have I gotten to be a lazy photographer? And, by the way, what controls do you normally use?

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
This AM I got a “thanks” on one of my posts -- https://www.photographerslounge.org/showthread.php?t=31640&page=4&p=198070#post198070 – and I was rereading it when I was struck by the following phrase: “In fact, lack of straightforward accessibility to controls is kind of a universal problem with all the cameras I own . . .”

It got me to thinking about how I used to shoot with 35mm film cameras and how I shoot now. A lot of the difference is driven by camera design and sensor size.

My Pentax had a 35mm fullframe sensor size (film!) and three readily available controls: aperture, shutter speed, and focus. You chose your ISO by what film you loaded, and fiddled aperture, shutter speed, and focus depending on your desired depth of field, desire to freeze or blur action, and decision of what should be in focus. Exposure compensation was managed through the aperture ring. All this was moderated by what the film required for the desired exposure.

My first digital camera, the Olympus D550, allowed virtually no manual control except for macro focus, focus on infinity, or normal auto focus (and flash on or off). Ironically, I found I was getting more “keepers” because for the first time ever, I could see what I was getting while I was getting it.

For both the Panasonic FZ150 and the FZ200 the most readily available control is the PASM wheel and (in my view) better-than-average manual focus, but aperture and shutter must be accessed, depending on which mode is selected, through the thumb wheel on the back of the camera. ISO is accessible through a button on the back of the camera. Because of the small sensor, everything from the tip of my nose to Proxima Centauri tends to be in focus. The upshot: except for special situations, which I have programmed into saved settings, I tend to shoot in P mode (that stands for Professional, right?) and the only thing I tend to manually fuss with consistently is focus for getting wildlife behind foreground objects, and work-arounds for producing bokeh.

The Canon G12 also lives in P mode when I shoot. Readily available controls include a PASM wheel, ISO (which I rarely adjust), and exposure compensation which I use a fair amount, particularly when photographing the sky. Manual focus is abysmal, controlled by a wheel around the four-way controller on the back of the camera, and I have learned to avoid it, for fear of inadvertently invoking one of the other functions on the four-way controller.

So I have become a lazy photographer, happily snapping away in P mode. What will be interesting to see, as I move forward and acquire a camera with readily available aperture, shutter, and focus controls, is whether I will become a better photographer as a result. Or will I revert to P mode?

Now it’s your turn: what controls do you most often use on your camera and how readily accessible are they?

EDIT: it occurs to me that one interpretation of the above is: Jock, you didn't know what you were doing when you had full control of the camera; you're better off letting the software make the decisions!

Cheers, Jock


Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
I hardly ever use anything other than aperture (for DOF and sharpness control) and exposure compensation. Oh, and ISO if the camera I'm using is one of those incredibly lame things with a very low auto ISO ceiling, or if the camera insists on using too slow a shutter speed.

Sometimes I use fill flash, self timer, or drive mode. Very occasionally I shift into macro mode or change the autofocus point (I usually just focus and recompose).

There, I think that's all I ever do when shooting.

As for how accessible these controls are: basic exposure settings are very accessible on the X100, decent on the Samsung EX1, crap on the rest (with special mention of the Sony NEX-C3 which I bought super cheaply as an experiment; its exposure settings are among the least sensible I've ever seen, and overriding them isn't very easy).
Flash is pretty accessible on all of them; the other functions are usually hidden in some menu, although the Fuji does a good job of making them accessible, apart from drive mode.


supernatural anesthetist
Sep 9, 2011
Cumbria UK
I have started using program exposure mode and use the shift function combined with compensation. Program shift means I'm already good to go when I switch on rather than getting an under or over exposure warning if my last aperture set wrong.
Program shift is in fact aperture and shutter priority depending on the way you choose to rotate the dial. Ex comp is always set to -1ev and ISO is set to auto. (With no upper limit)
Point and shoot basically . Very lazy ? No , just less to worry about. I can then concentrate on focus and composition.
Jul 24, 2013
Memphis, TN
I learned to drive in a vehicle with manual transmission. Automatic transmission sort of took over and I went with the flow. I truly wouldn't mind a romp in my 1st purchase, 69 GTO with 4 on the floor just for fun, but I have gotten used to automatic transmission.

Cameras have more bells and whistles now and some of the auto modes work quite well. I don't think it lazy to move in that direction. I think of it as a shift in energy. Instead of concentrating on adjustments you use or shift that energy toward composition, framing and such.


Hall of Famer
Aug 7, 2011
Jersey Shore
I started in the film era, with my first SLR a 100 percent manual Minolta SRT-200 in the mid 1970s. With the dawn of the digital era, I got along with most cameras just fine. But lately, I must admit any need to go menu diving generally results in my bypassing that control. Bracketing? Who needs it? But I will use the PASM dial to access aperture and shutter priority, and I will use exposure compensation. Focusing? It's pretty much spot focus and recompose. I really should buy either the Panasonic LX100 or the Fuji X100T.


Hall of Famer
Jan 7, 2013
Cheshire, England
Martin Connolly
On my RX100 - Auto mode almost exclusively.
On the DP2m - Program shift mode with exposure comp (the controls are probably the best I have used, everything is intuitive and falls easily under my right thumb).
On the X-E1 Aperture mode, plus spot metering for backlit subjects.
The manual vs automatic transmission analogy is very apt. I too started out with manual cars (couldn't afford the extra for auto, plus auto was bit rubbish on most to be honest). But now I find the VW DSG box is so good I can't imagine going back to manual. I finally understand what LJK Setright used to rant about for all those years!


Hall of Famer
Jun 20, 2012
Hood River, OR
It depends on the light and subject for me. In good light and with a static subject, the XT is in generally full auto, and all I tweak is which of my 7 presets I'm shooting in, plus the EV comp knob here and there. When the light gets tricky, though (too bright, too dim, odd colors) then I start taking over control. I find myself often manually focusing, which on the XT is just a twist of a knob on the front that I can easily do without looking. I generally like how the camera decides on ISO (as low as possible), so I find myself splitting my time between the Shutter and Ap controls, either because I care about motion or depth of field. Shutter speed is always easy on the XT, with a marked knob up top. Aperture on most lenses is also very easy, unless I have the pancake 27 on. Then I have to roll a thumb wheel, invariably in the wrong direction first, and I have to look at the screen to see what it's on. Usually when I'm dictating an aperture, I want "wide open," but on the 27, it goes A -> 22 -> 11 etc, all the way down eventually to 2.8, so I have to scroll alllll the way there and then alllll the way back when I'm done.

With most XF lenses on an XT-1, the package is pretty compelling. VERY easy to go from not caring to suddenly CARING, and back again.


Dec 20, 2013
Depends. Shutter or aperture priority on the rx100 depending on the situation, sometimes manual.

Aperture priority on the E-M1, manual with floating ISO on the A7r in poor light, aperture priority in good light. Aperture, shutter, ISO and exposure comp are used a lot, and autofocus selection is 100x easier on the olympus than on te Sony cams. Sony really needs to out touchscreens on their high end models - it's by far the best way to set AF points.


Mar 24, 2013
Greater Manchester, UK
I use a range of settings but mostly full manual, followed by aperture priority auto (use this a little more than I used to) and sometimes various auto modes too - especially on my Fuji XF-1.

On my SLR's defo mostly manual and sometimes aperture priority.


Feb 3, 2013
Devon, UK
But now I find the VW DSG box is so good I can't imagine going back to manual. I finally understand what LJK Setright used to rant about for all those years!
I don't want to think about how long it has been since I saw LJK Setright's name mentioned, anywhere...!:eek:
I was beginning to think that I'd imagined reading all those articles on cars and motorcycles during the late sixties, and early seventies...:)


Aug 9, 2013
Bakersfield, CA
Aperture priority for me too as I'm typically either wide-open or f/8, depending on what I want. Focus I do both ways. Obviously with my Leica (M Monochrom) its all manual focus, all the time, ditto with my Nikon FM film SLR. With the Nikon Df it goes with the lens, with AF lenses placing me in AF and of course vintage Nikkors manual focus. I VERY rarely focus manually with an AF lens, but I actually prefer manual focusing. When I do use AF, I keep it simple and stick to center point only, even on my point-and-shoot (Sony RD100m2). Its always focus, recompose, shoot.

Exposure compensation is the other control I use frequently on the Nikon and Sony, while with the Leica I usually will switch to manual mode if I don't agree with the meter.
Jan 31, 2011
Newcastle, Australia
I'm an auto mode shooter, except when I'm not, and often when I'm not, I go all manual. I find that circumstance tells me what to do. High winds, and I want to shoot something and keep it still? Shutter. A bit dark? Aperture. Rarely shift off a low ISO except on auto. I used to use Tav but not so much lately. I've rediscovered the joys of having a lens on which I can set aperture on a ring, yet have autofocus. I like.

Lawrence A.

Hall of Famer
Nov 8, 2012
New Mexico
Lazy? I don't know. If you are not getting what you want and still keep it on P, maybe. I shoot manual exposure most of the time since I got the E-M5 and adjusting the shutter speed and aperture are so easy with the two top dials. If I take it out of manual, I almost always use aperture priority auto. Again, on the E-M5 exposure compensation is extremely easy. One of the reasons I gave up on the Pens and went to the OM-D series is that taking full control is easy for me (don't know anyone else's experience with the camera) in a way it wasn't with the E-P2. I typically shoot the Pens A-auto, but even then I found exposure compensation fiddly.

However I did put the E-PM2 (when I had it) on i-auto for an afternoon, had a blast, and got some good pictures. But - yeah - mostly I like making all the decisions and shoot my digital cameras a lot like I did my film cameras, glad for the image stabilization and the good low light performance, the custom white balance controls, but leaving a lot of the whizz-bang stuff alone. When I'm thinking in terms of the basics, I seem to do better; oddly, it liberates my "seeing". Otherwise, I find myself doing snapshots.


Sep 20, 2014
Alkmaar, The Netherlands
Peter Bakker
When I became interested in more enthusiastic photography (just a few months ago) I wanted a pocketable camera with manual controls and the option for shooting RAW. So I ordered the Olympus XZ-10 I started shooting in M mode and RAW. But then I discovered that I could tweak a lot of camera settings to make the OOC JPEGS are good enough for me and easy to post-process with Snapseed.

Now I shoot in A mode most of the time and try to keep my aperture around f4 which seems to give the best results. I often adjust the tonal curve a bit to enhance/reduce the highlight/shadows based on the blinkies on the LCD. For special things I use sometimes a scene mode or P mode with auto-iso (set to 1600 max, which still give usable pictures when converted to B&W for sharing on the web).

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