Rehabilitating The Reputation Of Semi-Automatic Cameras


The analogue community reveres their sacred rules highly. In the aftermath of the digital revolution, a well known meme states: Every one is a photographers until: M Mode.
There is a skepticism around people who don't shoot with manual camera settings.

It's undoubtedly true that any photographer must learn to shoot in manual mode to have complete control over their pictures. If you are stepping up and starting to work in analogue photography, you will soon realize that there is a demand for knowledge that is different from a digital workflow.

Credits: pmonroe & b2377

What is a semi-automatic camera?

Usually, these cameras are built to be aperture priority. Therefore, you select your aperture, and the shutter will work accordingly. Be aware that there isn't an unlimited shutter speed number. Many cameras reach up to 1/1000.

Starting with a semi-automatic camera can help you save some rolls from disaster since metering correctly with film is crucial to avoid losing negatives. When metering for film the rule is to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights.

For each roll of film, you will select the desired ISO like you would for any other camera, but thereafter your only concern will be your focus. Cameras like the Nikon F3, Olympus OM2 and Pentax MG are among such models.

Since your camera will meter for you, it is paramount to have a working internal light meter, or your shot will turn out to be a loss. Many cameras run with an external battery so be aware of this feature.

Credits: sirio174, ieniej, andyfreer & ejacks3

When is it worth it?

Let's consider when and why a semi-automatic camera might be right for you. What you are looking to gain from a semi-automatic is the speed at which you can shoot. Many times we have praised cameras and tools that can help you take the burden off your shoulders. With a semi-automatic camera, this is exactly the aim. Specifically, this feature is of immense help when shooting street photography.

We are well aware that in street photography capturing the right moment is everything and will make or break your photo. Think how fast you can react to a scene unfolding in front of you. With a manual camera, you must meter, adjust the shutter, the aperture, and focus. It can take several seconds to be ready and by that time the moment may be gone.

Street photography is not the only place you can take advantage of this feature. Famously, aperture priority is used in portraiture to open the lens as wide as possible and get a smooth separation between the background and your subject, enhancing the subject matter.

Credits: ariel73, lupacius, arkeetk & novotao

With a semi-automatic camera, you can focus your intention on the depth of field and use it to your advantage. Another quite popular area of photography where aperture priority can go a long way and where you need to be fast – wedding photography. This is where the world of street savviness meets the world of portraiture. More and more people are considering film photography to record their special day as a way to have a more authentic record.

There are many situations where a semi-automatic camera can best suits your purpose. Ultimately it's wise to remember that the best camera for you is always the one that will help you achieve the best photo you have envisioned.

Have you ever shot with a semi-automatic camera? What's your opinion? Let us know below.

written by eparrino on 2023-11-14 #gear #street-photography #aperture-priority #manual-mode #wedding-photography #semi-automatic-cameras #manual-camera-settings


  1. polock
    polock ·

    Great article as always! My camera once was in AP mode and I thought for a second it was broke, put it back in M and sighed relief. I grew up on disposables so I love to use them for special occasions where pictures are wanted but not the obtrusion of a 4x5 or the likes.

  2. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    Thank you @polock . Any camera is a good camera if that's all you have ;)

  3. polock
    polock ·

    @eparrino yes indeed!

  4. guypinhas
    guypinhas ·

    @eparrino Hear hear!

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