One of the more annoying limitations of the cheaper point and shoot film cameras, or low-end compacts, is that most of them lack the ability to manually override film ISO settings.

Progress often has drawbacks, as… well, somebody probably said it at some point or another. Obviously, as users of film cameras, many of us probably have a somewhat troubled relationship with progress anyway.

One of the advantages of the more modern point and shoot film cameras, is that they automated many of the more tedious aspects of film photography. For example, film is automatically loaded and rewound, focus is a no-brainer and metering is taken care of. Another setting that is usually automatically dealt with, is the ISO speed setting, which is essential for the proper operation of the built in light meter.

Obviously, this is only relevant for more modern compact point and clicks, and not the older rangefinder style compact cameras such as the Canonet, QL19 and QL17 model, or even older autofocus cameras such as the Yashica Auto Focus, which require ISO settings to be manually set.

In the more modern automated point and shoot film cameras, ISO is usually set by reading DX codes on the side of commercial film canisters. These codes specify what speed the internal light meter should treat each film as. All of which is great, as far as it goes.

The downside of this is that many point and shoot film cameras only ‘understand’ limited film speeds. For example, the Ricoh RZ-728 only deals with 100 and 400 ISO settings. Other cameras might have the ability to read a far wider range of ISO DX speeds – for example the Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 130 ED can read 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 ISO film DX codes. What generally happens, if a camera can’t read a certain DX code, is that it defaults to 100 ISO.

For example, I recently wanted to use some Ilford Delta 3200 in my Ricoh FF-7, but realised that it could only understand DX codes up to a maximum of 1600. All of which would be fine if it defaulted to 1600 ISO. However, the Ricoh FF-7, not understanding 3200 DX codes, would probably default to 100 ISO, which would provide very unsatisfactory results.

Some of the ‘premium’ point and shoot film camera, do have manual ISO override functionality. But these cameras are generally very expensive to buy – even now, many years after they went out of guarantee. So not really an option for me.

Oh well, another reason to keep hold of my Olympus mju II and dozens of other compacts.

Posted by P&SFC