Interesting word,”manual”.

And one where a bit of disambiguation is called for, I think. I quite often hear students say “I am on manual”, or even “I am on automatic”, without understanding what this means.

OK, I am repeating myself – but I think I should, because this is such a misunderstood subject – and so often.

There are, you see, many meanings of “manual”, and they are not at all the same – not even close. They are in fact not even related. First, manual refers to a handbook, or even a hand.

And in cameras, we have:

  1. Manual exposure mode. This is the big dial on your camera. This turns the setting of your camera’s Aperture and Shutter Speed to manual (you set them, not the camera). But note, flash is still fully metered!
  2. Manual focus. This means turning the lens yourself to get accurate focus.
  3. Manual focus spot selection. This means you select the focus spot for autofocus – not the camera.
  4. Manual flash power. This  means no TTL metering occurs, but instead you set the flash to some power level you determine (like 1/4 or 1/32nd)
  5. Manual flash zoom. This means the angle the flash distributes its light across: it is normally automatic but you can also set it by hand (“35mm”, or “70mm”).
  6. Manual ISO (as opposed to “Auto”)
  7. Manual White Balance (e.g. a predetermined mode of degrees Kelvin,like 3200K).

None of these have anything whatsoever to do with any of the others. They are independent and unrelated. So never say “manual” without saying manual what. A sentence like “my flash is fixed power, because my focus spot selection is on manual” is meaningless, as is “autofocus does not work because my metering is on manual”.

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