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April 01, 2009


I always read the fine manual backwards. Read the troubleshooting and advanced settings first. If you've had a camera before it's all you should need. If I read it from the front I get sidetracked checking "what's in the box" and making sure all those bits of plastic and wires that I'll never use are actually there. Now you got everything out you might as well start playing :)

Never used a Canon, so I don't know about them, but one thing I like about my Nikons is that shutter speed is always the rear dial and aperture is always the front dial. Using the menus can be slow and confusing sometimes but WB, ISO, Exp Mode, Picture Format (Raw, JPG etc), Bracketing, Exp. Compensation, Flash Compensation, Autofocus Mode and a few more are at most one button push and one dial tweak away.

It's a minor thing of course, but I like that the Pentax cameras allow you to assign both control dials any way you want in either mode.

But I like even more the "combined" mode, where you're normally in "P" mode, but if you turn one control wheel you effectively go into Aperture priority, with that wheel controlling aperture; and if you touch the other wheel you get shutter speed priority in the same way. Ever since I discovered that feature (yes, it's in the manual...) I've basically stopped using Av and Sv modes on the mode dial altogether.

Gordon, the reason we don't read the frickin manual is because we expect our equipment to be designed by people with common sense that know how to build things right, the first time. And they can also read our minds.

So it's only people without common sense and who haven't had their minds read by the engineers who should read the manual, not us. We're smarter than that.

Janne, this in not a minor thing in my book. How we control a camera is one of the most essential things. It is no coincidence that the simplicity of the Leica M user interface is so well regarded: aperture on the lens, shutter speed on the dedicated dial. Even directions of these controls matter a lot, because eventually you should be able to operate the camera without thinking.

Now the Canon oddity: sorry Gordon, but as I see it you have to operate a high end DSLR like a point and shoot using your method, making the presence of two control wheels redundant. Btw, I hate the stubborness of the Canon engineers (or the people who command them) refusing to provide a real PRO solution like Pentax, which is only a software thingy, grrr.
So back to the start: this is no minor thing in my book.

Besides I fully agree that everyone should read the manual in the first place.

"as I see it you have to operate a high end DSLR like a point and shoot using your method"

I'm sure you realize that many if not most photographers use their DSLRs as high-end point-and-shoots, regardless of which particular exposure or focus mode they use. My only point was that, depending on what you're used to, some methods are more convenient than others, that it's nice to have a choice, and that if I had simply read the manual I would have been aware of this choice sooner.

But make no mistake: I would definitely be happier if Canon offered the option of assigning whatever control function I preferred for the front and rear control dials. This option is available on my Canon EOS 1n film camera. I don't see why it shouldn't be available on my EOS 30D or any of the later models. On the other hand, it's not such a big deal that I'm willing to switch to a new camera system over it.

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