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.
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.
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).
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