Saturday, July 07, 2018


Earlier I made this comment about the Nikon 1 J1:

A post shared by Tamara Keel (@tamarakeel) on

Which in turn spurred this...

For those who haven't been bitten by the shutterbug, "PASM" (or an anagram thereof) has become a quasi-standard array of settings on the control dials of cameras that offer the photographer control over some of the basic camera functions.

  • "P" = Program: The camera analyzes the scene through the lens, references the current light sensitivity setting of the sensor (or film speed, in the old days) and sets what it thinks is the best combination of shutter speed and aperture diameter to get a good image.
  • "A" = Aperture Priority: The photographer sets the aperture diameter, which gives them control over the depth-of-field (how much is in focus) and the camera then adjusts the shutter speed to get a good image.
  • "S" = Shutter Priority: The photographer sets the shutter speed, most likely because they're worried about freezing motion, and the camera adjusts the aperture to let in enough light for the shot.
  • "M" = Manual: The photographer takes full manual control over shutter speed and aperture diameter.

There's also a setting, usually colored green, that's labeled "auto" or has a little green icon of a camera or similar. In that setting, the camera takes control of pretty much everything, including ISO (light sensitivity) and turns your DSLR into a two-pound Point & Shoot the size of a shoebox but with the potential for really good image quality if you accidentally point it the right direction when you press the button.

It's generally an indicator that a camera has pretentions to being used by serious hobbyists when these settings are easily accessible via a control dial on the camera and it was one of the things for which Sony's higher-end NEX series of mirrorless cameras caught some flak. They had well-laid out controls and all the technical chops to be serious hobbyist cameras, but switching back and forth between, say, Program mode and Aperture Priority mode required a dive into a menu.

This was understandable with Sony because maybe the guy who did the camera interface had just gotten transferred over from the DVR remote control or car stereo head unit division the week before and only knew cameras as an added feature of his cell phone.

But the "PASM" dial on Nikon's 1 series was initially buried one layer deep in the menus, too. And Nikon doesn't have an excuse, since they practically invented the modern serious camera interface, or at least stole its various components and integrated them.