100 Cameras In One Hand

One of my ongoing quests under the 35hunter umbrella is finding a camera set up that’s near invisible.

Not literally invisible, but something so simple and instinctive that I can use it without thinking on a conscious level about what I need to adjust shot by shot.

Put another way, I want to find cameras that get out of my way and allow me to enjoy the beautiful immersive and even magical experience that photography can provide.

Sticking to just one camera – as I’ve done for month long experiments perhaps a dozen times now over the last few years – helps greatly in this quest.

But what if the camera you choose as your sole (or indeed soul) comrade is multiple cameras in itself?

Take the Pentax K-30 I’ve been trying to get to know better since I bought it almost a year ago.

It’s a Pentax K mount DSLR, so right from the off you have at your disposal a range of perhaps hundreds of different models of lenses made in K mount since 1975 that are usable.

With a simple metal adapter you can also use virtually all M42 screw mount lenses too, which are even greater in number than K mount lenses.

Pentax’s own Takumar range for example (when the company was called Asahi) is pretty extensive – take a look at the number of Takumar lens reviews on PentaxForums.

Add in lenses from Carl Zeiss like the 135/3.5 Sonnar, and others some consider essential, like the Helios 44 series, and the choice is vast.

That’s just the lenses.

Then you have a choice of shooting modes with the K-30.

Pick anywhere from fully manual where you set the aperture and shutter speed yourself, up to fully Auto, or with one of the preset Scene modes. With all of the semi-automated modes in between – P, Sv, Tv, Av, and TAV.

You could stick an auto focus, auto aperture lens on the K-30, and use Auto mode to treat it like a point and shoot camera, just with much better images.

Or you could shoot fully manually, with a 50 year old Takumar M42 lens, retaining control of every aspect.

Or anything in between.

Then there is an array of Custom Image modes.

I wrote more about these recently in one of my Colour Quest posts.

According to the manual, “Bright” creates “a bright sharp image”, “Natural” gives “a natural look close to the actual colour”.

More extreme options are “Bleach Bypass” to “create the look of an old picture” and “Cross Processing” which “intentionally changes the hue and contrast – the outcome varies each time a picture is taken”.

Each of these then has its own set of sub-parameters you can adjust, so with this kind of range (and more) you can go for anything from true, natural colours to far more radical and experimental images.

All with the same camera.


On top of the Custom Image modes, there are Digital Filters, such as “Extract Colour”, “Toy Camera” and “Retro”.

Some are more gimmicky than others, but some, like “High Contrast” and “Colour” (which simulates a colour filter over the lens) are more useful and don’t result in the kind of hideously artificial digital images that make one’s toes shrivel and eyelashes fall out.

If you picked up the K-30 and a standard 50mm AF lens, stuck it on Auto and left everything at the default settings, you would eliminate pretty much every photographic decision other than where will I stand and when will I release the shutter.

Or, “where will I point, and when will I shoot?”.

Which still gives us a near infinite amount of choices.

Then for each layer we’ve discussed above, we’re adding another vast – and in some cases approaching infinite – array of choices.

Which means the K-30 is no longer one camera in your hand, but ten, or a hundred, or a thousand.

Every layer you add multiplies the previous array of options by another factor.

Perhaps this is why I’m struggling to embrace it.

I seem to lack the ability to forget about all those options – and the only way I can, is if the options aren’t even there in the first place, ie if I use a far simpler camera, like the K100D.

I feel I have three options in my immediate future with the K-30.

1. Stick to my usual Aperture Priority shooting, and experiment with one of the Custom Image modes at a time, see what the K-30 can do.

2. Use just the Bright Custom Image with its standard parameters, shoot for a while and see how the images come out. Essentially, use it just like I use the K100D and K-m!

3. Use the Auto mode on the dial and let the K-30 make all the decisions for me for a while, and see how close it gets to what I might have chosen myself anyway.

Of course I’ll keep you posted on what happens next…

How about you? How do you decide how to set up a camera with multiple layers of options? Do you do this once to get a set up you like, then never adjust anything, or constantly make incremental adjustments every time you shoot?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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12 thoughts on “100 Cameras In One Hand”

  1. Ideally I’d set up my camera once before my photo walk and not change anything except if I’m indoors. Otherwise it’s f8, 500s, auto iso for street photography. For anything else, I’d play around with settings.
    Like you said, it’s much better to have everything set up so you don’t fiddle around while shooting. When your camera stands in the way it distracts you from the craft. It should be invisible, an extension of your arm they say 🙂 that’s my opinion.

    1. Auto ISO used in this way is fascinating, in that in the film era there was no equivalent to auto ISO. You were stuck with the film you’d loaded! Some films have more latitude than others, eg most consumer colour film is -1/+3 stops, so I guess you had a bit of flexibility there. But you still couldn’t just choose f/8 and 1/500s and rely on auto ISO for a good exposure in a range of lighting conditions, you’d have to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or both.

      1. That’s my normal set up but of course it all depends on the lighting conditions. That’s why i love fuji cameras, it’s all adjustable on the camera, you don’t have to go to settings and look 😄

  2. I only use film cameras but choosing the lens, film and developer is analogous to the digital choices you are discussing. My approach is to have a default (50/2.8 Elmar, HP5 Plus, Rodinal) and only depart from it when I know from experience that it can’t give me the result I want for a particular situation. More than 90% of my pictures are taken with the default choices.

    1. Doug I think this is a very appealing and sensible set up. I like the thinking that if you know from experience you can’t get what you want with that default set up, then (and only then) do you make a change.

  3. Other than having the Canon “preset” for my preferred Kodacolor imitation I don’t do much with settings on cameras. The Nikon, Fuji, and ol’ Kodak all give me results I like as-is. Most of the time I shoot in Program mode so I can pay attention to the composition and framing. Sometimes I’ll tweak things afterward if I feel it’s needed, but in general the cameras handle the tasks on their own. Yes, they have a lot of settings which go untouched. Even when I’m experimenting it’s mostly just switching into A,S, or M as needed. If I want to change a filter effect, I use actual filters on the lens.
    You can take away my film, but you can’t take away my filmography.

    1. Do you have filters that screw in, or you just hold them over the lens? Just thinking most compact digital cameras don’t have filter threads – and on many the lens retracts entirely.

      With Program mode, do you still change the aperture/shutter speed combo the camera chooses, or let it do whatever it wants?

      1. I have screw-on filters for the Canon and Nikon (which has tricky threads) and generally don’t use them for the others because they are cameras for different purpose!
        Program mode can usually be left on its own, although sometimes a -1/3 EV adjustment helps. If I want to use a specific setting I’ll change modes (I always fix ISO – an old film habit I guess).
        Interestingly one of the nice things about the otherwise aggravation ZS-60 is that in Program you can twist the ring to alter the picked exposure, going up/down with aperture and shutter while maintaining the EV. One of the nice things about that camera. It also shows the focal length!

  4. Hi Dan, when I bought my Fujifilm X-T2, I knew I needed help understanding the options and features, but I also knew that I would hate the new system if things felt overwhelming. I don’t think most camera manuals help the photographer understand what features to use when or why. So, I bought the book “The Fujifilm X-T2: 120 X-Pert Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Camera” by Rico Pfirstinger. Rico’s book helped me cut through the clutter and get straight to the “why”. Once I had read Rico’s book and had my camera set up the way I wanted and started using it, over time, I tweaked a few things to better suit my needs.

    I programmed my Fujifilm X-T2 with a few film simulation recipes created by Ritchie Roesch, a photographer who works very hard to make his Fuji cameras work like his film cameras. Most of Ritchie’s film simulation recipes attempt to mimic the aesthetic of film stock such as Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodachrome. The JPEGs are “good enough” if what you are looking for is SOOC simplicity.

    Since the Fujifilm X-T2 has dials for ISO and shutter speed, and the Fujinon lenses have aperture rings, the “Format Card” is the most used menu item followed by “Select Film Simulation”. When I shoot wildlife or sports, I move the aperture ring to “A” and ISO dial to “A” to engage shutter priority and the shooting mode to 14 frames/second. When I shoot street or portrait (rare) I move the aperture to f/8, shutter speed and ISO dial to “A”. All the other settings on the camera remain the same.

    Just in case I have to step outside those norms, I set up a personal menu, on the Fuji, it’s literally called “My Menu”, with the items I may need to change. But I rarely touch those.

    My goal is to minimise the decision making to just the composition.

    One thing that could make this setup even simpler is to add the Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR lens to my kit. While the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR zoom lens serves me well, after using it handheld on a one hour hike with my wife, my shoulder was sore. Metal tank lenses are heavy!

    And once again, I responded to your simple question with a blog post.😃

    1. Ha ha, feel free to repurpose this comment as a blog post – they are your words!

      This is an excellent idea, and I remember even before I bought a Pentax K10D, I spent considerable time looking through a thread on PentaxForums, learning about how to set it up, how to get the most from it and so on. Without that, although it’s an older camera (2006) I still would have been pretty intimidated by all the possible settings, especially trying to use it with old M42 lenses too, which requires a different set up amd approach to using native K mount AF lenses.

  5. With my K-50, I use it like your option 2 – except in my case I use my “non-muted” Muted setting where I use the Toning option to cancel out some of the things that make CMOS sensors less pleasing to me (like the excessive yellows, especially in the green tones). I do that with the K-S1 as well, but with that camera I tend to experiment a little bit more and I like to play with my custom Monochrome settings a lot.
    I can’t really stand the Bright setting in Pentax cameras, it’s just too warm for my taste… before I came up with the custom Muted setting, I would use the Natural or Portrait (which is based on the Natural) settings and do some post processing to liven them up.
    Maybe to me it’s easier to just use something in a pre-determined setting and forget about all other settings. I guess my brain just works well that way…

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