I hate PASM.
I think PASM is a terrible camera design idea, and I cannot understand why it became a standard feature in photography. Yes, different strokes for different folks—many people like it—but PASM is not for me. It’s probably not for most of you, either, and one thing that likely attracted you to Fujifilm cameras is that they don’t have one.
What is PASM? I’m sure most of you know, but for anyone who might not: it’s a shooting-mode knob (or sometimes a switch) almost always placed on the top of the camera. The “P” is for Program (can vary a little by brand, but is essentially nowadays ISO-Priority), “A” is for Aperture-Priority, “S” is for Shutter-Priority, and “M” is for Manual. Turn the knob to switch between the different modes. Usually the command wheels are what you use to adjust the settings, and (brand dependent) sometimes you have to dig through the menu to make adjustments.
My first experience with PASM was over 20 years ago, way back in my early days of photography. I was shooting all-manual with a Canon AE-1, and someone let me try their Canon EOS-3, which was a “modern” SLR with a bunch of buttons and a little electronic display. I was pretty lost and frustrated with the camera, and only shot one roll of film (I probably would have done less than that, but I wanted to finish the roll) before giving it back. To me at that time, I couldn’t understand the point of this “advanced technology” if all it did was complicate something inherently simple.
I didn’t have another PASM experience until I finally gave in and purchased my first digital camera, a Pentax DSLR, in 2009. I tried many different digital cameras from a number of brands (Nikon, Sony, Samsung, Sigma, Panasonic) before finally buying a Fujifilm X-E1 in 2016. While I did get used to using PASM, I always found it to be frustrating and miserable, so going back to the traditional controls found on Fujifilm cameras was a breath of fresh air. I literally said out loud to myself, “Why aren’t ALL cameras like this?!”
The traditional shutter knob and aperture ring make a lot of sense to me because that’s how I learned photography. That’s how I did photography for over a decade. The concept is simple, but it does require a prerequisite knowledge of the exposure-triangle to use them in manual mode.
You might be surprised to learn that Canon introduced the very first PASM camera, the A-1, back in 1978. It was a huge hit with “amateur photographers on a budget” due to its “ease of use” and relatively affordable cost. PASM was originally intended to make photography more accessible to the inexperienced. As time went on and PASM became more common, more and more people learned photography on it. I would bet that most people who started photography on or after the year 2000 (and probably a fair amount of people who started in 1990’s, and maybe even some who started in the 1980’s) had PASM on their first camera. Since that is what they learned photography on and what they used day in and day out, PASM makes sense to them. That’s why almost all cameras today have PASM dials.
Fujifilm is unique. While there are some Fujifilm cameras with PASM, most don’t, and instead have traditional controls. I bet that’s one of the main reasons why many of you bought a Fujifilm camera—it was for me! It’s not the only thing that’s unique about Fujifilm, but it is an obvious difference that’s clearly visible just by looking at it.
After I posted my thoughts on the upcoming X-H2S, which according to Fujirumors will have a PASM dial, I received a couple different reactions: Fujifilm needs to appeal to those who prefer PASM, and Fujifilm has forgotten what made them great.
The first point is that since most photographers are used to PASM (because that’s what they’ve always had), the traditional dials don’t appeal to them. Fujifilm cameras are intimidating, and the traditional controls are confusing. Probably more than anything, it’s simply not what they’re used to and it’s not what makes the most sense to them. In order to attract these people, Fujifilm should philosophically pivot, and make multiple models that are more appealing to the masses. While I think it’s fine to make some cameras that have PASM, I believe that instead of trying to be just like “Canikony” (a.k.a. everyone else), it makes more sense to me to double-down on what is different about your brand. What makes Fujifilm unique? Those are the things that attract people from other brands. Make those unique things the best that they can possibly be, and have a solid marketing campaign that shows the world why these unique things are something they should desire. That’s my advice to Fujifilm.
The second point is that by replacing the traditional controls with PASM on the X-H line, Fujifilm is losing its analog-inspired soul. Maybe they are. I cringe at the thought of the X-H2S having a PASM dial. But, this is just one camera. I think instead of Fujifilm losing their soul, they’re just shifting their focus for this particular model line. The X-H2S isn’t intended for you, the current Fujifilm photographer. Yes, some of you will buy it and love it, but it will likely be more like the X-S10, which was (generally speaking) a little bit of a disappointment for those who already owned other Fujifilm cameras (I know this because many have told me so), but has sold really well to those coming from other brands. The X-H2S is intended to convince Canikony photographers who aren’t completely happy with their current cameras to look at Fujifilm as an alternative. In other words, for those with a Fujifilm X-H1 who would like to upgrade to an updated version, this probably isn’t the X-H2 you’ve been waiting and hoping for.
My worry is that Fujifilm is going to have a split personality—a customer base with competing desires. On one hand, there are those who want a traditional experience, with manual controls and film simulations and such as essential aspects. On the other hand, there are those who basically want a better Canon or Sony, and they want Fujifilm to create that (somehow, despite the smaller budget). Where is Fujifilm going to focus their time, energy, and R&D? It’s an important question, because it determines the trajectory of the business, which in turns affects future camera models. Yes, there’s room for both, and probably some people sit in-between these two camps; however, I’m concerned that Fujifilm might be shifting their focus away from what matters to me (and likely the majority of you) in hopes to gain market share through morphing models to be more similar to what other brands are making. I think Fujifilm can gain market share by hyper-focusing on what makes their brand unique and better engaging the community, but I’m no expert, so my opinion might not be worth much.
I won’t buy another PASM camera. I have used many, and even currently have a few. At this point in my life, the photography experience is just as important to me as the photographs that I create. Fujifilm cameras with traditional controls are what works for me because they provide the shooting experience that I appreciate (plus the picture aesthetics that I want!). I understand that it’s not for everyone, and probably not for most people, and that’s ok. The X-H2S is not for me quite literally by design, but it is for the masses, and perhaps it will sell very well, and convince many people to try Fujifilm for the first time. That’s great if it is successful—I truly hope it is! I still won’t buy it, though, because PASM is not for me.
Photography is a hobby to me, as so a PASM dial is anti-fun, it is opposed to feeling like shooting a image by being mindful of the scene, and rather have many options that try to appeal to different sort of photographers, including those that don’t like photography, or do it as a burden to pay the rent. If I would want a PASM experience I could get a Canon EOS M with a Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 lens which being Canon I am sure is of extraordinary quality, but I chose the X100 line because it gets me mindful of the scene, and the lens is not digital efficient but has its own personality. Being myself a hobbyist the PASM dial is anti-fun, it exists to try to appeal all type of photographers, including those that have it as a work and could care less if the camera transmits any experience, and more if it has two storage cards 😂 I laugh not as disrespect to professionals with the requirements for their work, but to the idea that a PASM dial would increase the reach of the Fujifilm X line.
Fujifilm could just have another line, let’s say “EX” of Excellent Professional for sport photographers. Two or three ugly but functional cameras with efficient digital lenses. Introducing those models into the X line just will saturate the galleries with sixty almost identical scenes of the same motorbike in P mode by pros, and 30 photos by beginners with overdone HDR filters and replaced skies that, although it can be really artistic and beautiful, it starts to be more computational and the camera is just an accessory to get a source image.
PASM = misery
I think it makes sense on one hand for Fujifilm to keep the same lens and lens mount. On the other hand, perhaps Fujifilm should use this opportunity to jump into full-frame and use PASM with those cameras if they’d like? I don’t know, I think there is room for both PASM and non-PASM, but I think they’re trying “too hard” to gain market share and in the end they’re barking up the wrong tree. Love the motorbike and HDR comment–so true! I do believe that there is a place for “computational” and highly-manipulated photographs, I also think that the pendulum will swing hard towards less manipulated photographs, which will be considered more authentic.
Feel the the same, my first digital camera was the XT20 just loved the analogue feel. Now with an XT3/100V missed the XT4 because of the screen just don’t like that fully articulate screen sticking out all over the place.
I am a stills shooter no video for me.
Just waiting till next year for the XT5 to see how the XT line evolves if it’s not for me I’ll buy another XT3.
I hope that the X-T5 doesn’t have that fully-articulated screen, but is more like the X-T3. The X-T3 is Fujifilm’s all-time top selling model, so they should look closely at it when designing the next one. Thanks for the input!
I agree. I’m not upgrading unless the X-T lines goes back on the “flip back” screen. I don’t a hoot about video features.
The only thing that I like about the X-T4 screen is that it can close backwards so that you don’t see the screen. Otherwise, it’s kind of annoying how it works.
Maybe Fuji has already started going the route of PASM when they took buttons off the x-e4. The future?
Maybe so. They shouldn’t have removed the M/C/S switch.
I’m a bit baffled by this. Why object to features you don’t use? My Olympus cameras all have PASM options (and others) but I only use A and M. Having cut my teeth on an Olympus OM2. I have no personal experience of Fuji cameras but it looks like a rather faux traditional experience anyway. If you want traditional shoot film: I do.
If your camera has PASM then you must use PASM (see Nikon Zfc). But on Fujifilm PASM isn’t necessary. I would recommend trying a Fujifilm camera, because it sounds like you don’t really understand: it’s not a faux experience! I shot film exclusively for over a decade, and have on occasion for over another decade. Film is slow and very expensive (nowadays) and otherwise inconvenient, and I just don’t have the budget and patience for it anymore, yet there is something special about it that I greatly appreciate. Fujifilm cameras do a good job bridging the gap between film and digital. Give it a try!
I agree with Ritchie. A PASM dial forces you to look at the screen to make adjustments, analog buttons don’t. It is the same experience of an analog camera minus the film. My first Fuji was an X-T2 and it looks almost identical to my Nikon N2000 from the early 90s.
I think a lot depends on how one learned photography. For me, PASM is awkward and forces me to “look at the screen” as you said, which is less intuitive and less fun. But for someone who learned on PASM, it might be the opposite. However, those who prefer PASM… 95% of cameras have it, and for those who (like me) don’t prefer it… we’re limited to a very small selection. So it is heartbreaking when a previously non-PASM line is made into PASM.
I shoot 35mm film regularly (since 1988) but also own a Fuji X-T3. I bought the X-T3 because it looks and feels like my Minolta XD-11.
Coming from canon, and working in event and hospitality photography. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to second guess anything. Using your priority modes are paramount. And this isn’t to say Fuji doesn’t already have priority modes. It’s just not in an all inclusive dial. In fact it’s actually less user friendly. I currently shoot with an XT2 and an X100f. My canon cameras dead and gone. But from time to time for the sake of continued uniformity. I will from time to time use Fuji’s faux priority modes. Let us not forget also that setting your camera in any “A” mode and using an exposure dial is nearly the same thing as well. In the end, there’s a camera for everyone. And I’m sure we all understand that this particular style isn’t yours. And with a line up like Fuji, I’m sure there’s something in it for everyone.
I think it’s what you learned and what you are used to. For me it would be the opposite: PASM would slow me down, and I’d be second-guessing it. So the traditional dials are faster as I’m more confident in them. But that’s just me. I think that’s why people who learned photography with “old school” cameras like I did gravitate to Fujifilm in droves, but it’s the same thing that makes others shy away. I don’t have the answer, but I think the competing desires from users will ultimately dilute the brand as they try and please everyone. After all, you cannot please all of the people all of the time (as the saying goes). I could certainly be wrong about this, though–I’ve certainly been wrong before.
I’m not quite in agreement with your post but as you say, to each their own. As a long time Fujifilm user I appreciate the control that I have over my camera’s automatic settings as I most often shoot in aperture priority mode anyway. There are times that I use full auto but I haven’t been disappointed yet by the results.
The A-1 was far from being a relatively affordable camera in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact it was the most expensive camera in the A Series typically selling in the high $300s after a store discount. Budget versions in the Canon line at the time were the AT-1, AV-1 and the AE-1. Later Canon brought out the T-50 and T-70 which were even more automated than the A Series.
Good post though as it kick starts the brain.
I was quoting and paraphrasing a source (which I didn’t cite… shame on me! I should know better… Ivor Matanle if you are wondering). $375 in 1980 is roughly about $1,300 today, so you are right, that’s not all that cheap (but not necessarily bad either for a technologically advanced model). I used a T-70 about 10 years ago. It was gifted to me. I didn’t like it (because of the automation), so I gifted it to someone else. I appreciate the input!
My first film camera was a Canon SLR in the late 90s with a PASM dial.
Then years later I bought a Pentax DSLR with a PASM dial.
I currently own a Sony RX100 iii with a PASM dial.
I am interested in trying a Fuji camera with the traditional dials. My choice is the XT30ii. However, many reviews say the XS10 is a better camera than the XT30ii. But the XS10 has a PASM dial!
Now I’m not sure what to buy. I like some of the better features of the XS10, but I really like to try the traditional dials.
I mainly shoot in shutter priority because of my young daughter running around.
Can you please give me some advice?
The guts (sensor and processor) of the X-S10 and X-T30 II are identical. The X-S10 might be considered “better” because of IBIS; if IBIS is important to you, than the X-S10 might be the “better” choice for you. If IBIS isn’t important, the X-T30 II is (in my opinion) the “better” camera because of the buttons, knobs, and C1-C7 (instead of C1-C4). If you want the true traditional Fujifilm experience, the X-T30 II is the camera that I recommend, but if that isn’t an important factor to you, the X-S10 is a fine option. I hope this helps.
Something I hadn’t really thought about exactly and I learned my photography on a Praktica SLR with the “old” controls more than 40 years ago, Over the last 20 or more years I have spent almost every day with my subsequent modern cameras trying to second guess what my camera is going to do that I do not want it to.
I feel very similarly. Glad that Fujifilm went back to the classic designs for people like you and I. Thank you for your input!
I first encountered PASM when I bough my first digital cam. Somehow I never found them on the analogue equipment I used. I started to mainly shoot in M and sometimes in P (when I had to be fast) but A and S I never really used. I only discovered Fuji cameras when I decided to buy a system cam. From the tests I read, Fuji seemed to be the best choice for good quality pictures. When I tried out the camera I really noticed that PASM was missing. But I quickly managed to use it and I prefer it. It seems more natural to me that I can just use the camera and don’t have to decide on a mode before shooting.
So I hope Fuji will continue to produce great “old school” cams, even if they do some models with PASM. But I’m sure they will.
It’s definitely more natural to me. I never liked PASM, and I’m glad that Fujifilm made photography more enjoyable to me by using classic designs similar to what I used for many years when I shot film. Thank you for your comment!
PSAM is not for me either.
A few remarks however in the form of a little historical review.
Originally there was no mode, everything was manual, the light measurement was done with the eye (or the Sunny f16 ruler) then via an independent cell.
In a first stage, the cell was more or less integrated into the camera. This led to what, if I remember correctly, was called semi-automatic camera where you had to align a needle with an index, as on my first camera, a Canon FTb.
Then the exposure modes appeared: the A mode, operating on the diaphragm, for the Canon AE-1, and the S mode (exposure time) on other cameras. At the beginning, I didn’t see what it brought. Then camera offering both A and S modes, which brings us to the 3 modes: ASM.
In order to simplify the use, the manufacturers then introduced the P (program) mode with a refinement allowing the shifting of the couple of aperture/exposure time. Hence the 4 modes: PSAM.
All this was finally very functional but only took into account the aperture and the exposure time, the sensitivity (ISO) of the film being, at least for each roll, fixed.
Digital technology appeared introducing the possibility to change sensitivity frame by frame.
However, the manufacturers remained with PSAM even if Pentax, in particular, introduced other modes. Indeed, at the same time, the lenses had evolved with the possibility of automatic focusing but especially and simultaneously the disappearance on certain series of the diaphragm dial, probably for cost reasons. This made the use of the manual mode less ergonomic.
Fujifilm’s great idea was to go back to the source: dials for diaphragm, exposure time and ISO with an auto position (A) on each one. This was all the easier for it since it did not have to ensure compatibility with legacy lenses.
Of course, you and I who were raised with quasi-manual cameras were delighted. Moreover, as, if Fujifilm was not alone in the segment of mirrorless cameras, the camera had strong distinctive characteristics, and if we are honest a fabulous look.
Now the situation has changed. the big players are in the mirrorless segment. And with a sensor size that seems to be “better” for the general public. We can therefore understand why Fujifilm presents more cameras with PSAM modes more known.
What is important is that Fujifilm maintains in parallel its series with the classic ergonomics ie. with the four rings: aperture / exposure time; ISO and EV compensation.
That’s very interesting seeing the history. My AE-1 was capable of Shutter-Priority, but I never used it, as I shot full-manual, since that’s how I learned. The development of camera technology is fascinating, but perhaps I’m too old now, as I find myself saying more often, “Back in my day…” 🤣 Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
Hi Ritchie. In a way I’m lucky to be the age I am (nearly 80) as pre PASM days were what I knew and learned the basics of photography on (don’t think I’ve really progressed much). Then one day my wife and myself bought a new camera and the shopkeeper said “t’s got a PASM dial” I had no idea what he was talking about but didn’t say and we bought it anyway. I got used to them and they are easy to use but boring.
Recently, after retiring, I started with photography again. What a refreshing change it was to get a Fuji XT30 in silver to remind me of my nice SLR film camera in the 1970’s. Yesterday I met a chap who had a Canon D750 and he asked me if my camera was an old film camera. I’ve heard this can happen and that made it for me.
I get asked now and then if I’m shooting a film camera. It strikes up and conversation, which is good. I think the more unexpected conversations that happen, the world is a little bit better for it.
I think for those who learned photography on classic manual controls, the Fujifilm setup makes so much sense and is highly intuitive. For those who learned on PASM, I’m sure that makes the most sense to them, and Fujifilm cameras might not be the most intuitive for them. Fujifilm is one of the only places to find the classic controls, as PASM is pretty much everywhere nowadays.
I appreciate your comment!
Having taken photographs for around 60 years I don’t see why someone would have such prejudice against a particular camera layout. Both systems are very easy to use and inflexibility of this kind surprises me. Using a shutter speed dial in no way makes you a “better photographer” and unless the man with the camera is using completely manual exposure and reading the light with the skill of Cariter Bresson, there is a significant chance of self-delusion.
Both systems require you to adjust aperture, ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to suit the subject – what dial you use to make this happen is immaterial. Rather than feel self-important that you have a dial to fiddle with, you should look at some of the amazing images taken with smartphones where generally, people concentrate on the image rather than the “box” it is taken with.
PASM isn’t intuitive or fun for me. The process is easier and more enjoyable for me without it. Why is that bad? Why should I be forced to use PASM (which seems to be your argument)? Why do you assume things about me (prejudice, inflexible, self-delusion, self-important)? This comment is not appreciated, and is very troll-like. It speaks more about you and your character than anything else, and you made it clear for everyone who reads this. Why do you feel the need to tear down a stranger? Is it because of how you feel about yourself?
BTW, I have a cellphone camera app, so I know a thing or two about mobile photography….
Also, please don’t visit this website again, because you are not welcome here. Go to DPReview or PetaPixel or those other websites where the trolls roam free. I don’t put up with it here.
It seems that you missed the point.
PASM is a legacy that has no more reason to be, as digital camera have not 2 but 3 settings(*) that control the exposure: aperture, exposure time, and ISO.
As it has no reason, its presence complexifies camera use. That is not a big deal for us as we understand what is under the hood. But, it creates difficulties for new comers. How often do we see question as “What mode is the best for …”. To answer such question, you need to explain the basics AND PASM.
Anyway, the crux is not PSAM, but the 3 dials, one for each exposure settings.
These dials are not only cognitivly convenient, they give a direct knowledge of the main camera settings, allowing to preset it when it is turn off.
*) not counting Exposure Compensation
Exposure compensation dial.. another debatable concept 🤷🏻♂️
Well, if there wasn’t an “A” on the shutter dial, aperture ring, etc., there would be no use for the Exposure Compensation dial. Since the “A” is there, the dial is necessary. I get lazy nowadays, and shoot full-manual less than I used to, and I use the dial rather regularly. But if I shot in full-manual all of the time, the dial would be pointless. It would be interesting if Fujifilm ever made a camera without any “A” options….
For me, the main issue with PASM is when it comes to using full manual mode.. it’s just not as tactile and intuitive. It also requires command dials, and flipping between two uses of the same dial or learning new control wheels in different locations on the body. Fine if you just want to shoot aperture priority or shutter priority.
I hear that soon they are going to let cars do the driving.. sure, we can choose our destination and route, but I enjoy the process and interaction with direct mechanical control… hmmm.. though I suppose we can take pics out the window 🤔😏
That’s exactly it. I have no interest in self-driving cars, and I have no interest in PASM. 😀 Seriously, though, it’s not as tactile and intuitive (as you so well put it) for me, so it’s less enjoyable, and at this point in my life, the process is just as important to me as the images. Thank goodness for Fujifilm’s classic controls!
I won’t buy any camera, Fuji or other, that has PASM. I chose the X-T line for a reason.
I absolutely agree! I’m done buying PASM cameras, they’re just not for me.
Glad you put this article out there. I am in full agreement with you. I switched to Fuji because I felt that (finally!), there was a camera I would enjoy using. I came from analog as well and the digital dials took all the joy out of photography (I had two digital Nikons before I switched to Fuji). I think Fuji is doing their core market a huge disservice. They are trying to compete in a very crowded space (all the other digital cameras including iPhones) while walking away from a very loyal niche market. If they move to the PASM standard, why would I choose Fuji any more? It is a slippery slope. If they want to have some video-centered cameras, I don’t see why not, but the fact that they have taken the dials out of the X-H line AND the GFX line makes me worried. I will hold on to the cameras I have (the X-T2 and X-H1) and grabbing a GFX 50R while I still can.
I agree: Fujifilm is putting their very loyal current customer base at risk in hopes of grabbing market share in what is an overcrowded segment. Money would be better spent engaging the community and demonstrating why their cameras are unique and why those loyal photographers prefer it. I might grab a GFX 50R, too… if I can ever afford one…. 🙂