Hyper-Manual mode for Nikon & Canon

‘Hyper-Manual’ mode for Nikon and Canon

(subtitled: the episode where I finally learn now to use the Auto modes elegantly)

In my discussion of what would be the best camera in the world, I mentioned (at length) the clear advantage that Pentax cameras have because of their Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual modes. I explain these two modes in more detail in that linked article, but in essence, the modes work as such:

Hyper-Program – is a program exposure mode, but by dialing the shutter speed dial it becomes Shutter Priority / Tv. By dialing the aperture dial, you instantly have Aperture Priority / Av. Very simple implementation. And very elegant.

Hyper-Manual – is manual exposure mode like we’re used to. But you can hit the Exposure Lock button, and then when you change the aperture, the shutter speed setting follows. If you change the shutter speed then, the aperture follows. Absolutely wonderful for when you have correct exposure. You can now get a different working aperture or shutter speed, and still have the same exposure value. Less twisting of dials.

Since I don’t shoot much outside of Manual exposure mode, I don’t have experience with finessing the automatic modes. Then Eric Schwab wrote in to tell me how he implements Aperture Priority with his Nikon cameras, to get something akin to Hyper-Manual mode with his Nikon cameras. I checked on my Canon 5D, and it works the same way.

I’m sure it might take a short while for finger-memory to kick in, but I can easily see how this could be a standard way of shooting.

This might not be news to most photographers who regularly use Aperture Priority / Av, but I’d like to put the information out here anyway …

Here is what Eric Schwab wrote:

I just happened upon your website and found out that it is filled with loads of useful info instead of the usual internet garbage. However I read your post about Hyper Program and Hyper Manual. There is a feature that is VERY close to this with the Nikon’s. After I discovered this it really changed the way I shoot in difficult lighting situations. Sadly Nikon doesn’t say anything about it so it remains a mystery to most people. Try this:

I set my camera to Aperture Priority and spot metering. For this to work well I think you should set “easy exposure compensation” on and change the meter timer so it lasts for at least 30s.

Now lets say you’re inside, and you set your camera aperture at 2.8. You point your camera at someone and hit the exposure lock. You get a reading of 2.8 and 1/250s and it is locked on your camera. You take some pictures and they are a little dark.

Use the wheel that normally changes exposure compensation to adjust. It keeps the aperture at 2.8 and only changes the shutter speed. Now you’re shooting at 2.8 and 1/100s and getting a good exposure.

Now you decide that you want a little less DOF. Use the other wheel to adjust the aperture. As you change this, it adjusts the shutter speed to keep the exposure the same. Now you’re shooting at F1.4 and 1/400s. You can even drop the ISO and it keeps the exposure the same and only adjusts the shutter speed.
Walk outside and hit exposure lock again and it resets everything and now your in the ballpark for a good exposure outside without having to spin the dials a hundred times. This rules for weddings where the lighting is always changing. Pretty cool huh? I no longer use Manual for weddings except for the formals.

Let me know if this helps.

Eric Schwab

With my Nikon D3 bodies, I had to change the following custom settings:
b4 – Easy Exposure Compensation … enabled
f6 – Assign AE-L / AF-L button … AE- lock (Hold)

This last one would interfere with my way of using the AE-L / AF-L button as my Flash Disable button. So another alternative would be to to assign my Preview Button to: AE – lock (Hold)

For the Canon 5D, it is even simpler:
Custom function 04 has to be set to 0 : AF/AE Lock
This does mess with someone though who would want to use the (*) button as the back-button focus (BBF) button.

Alternately, custom function can be set to 1, so that the shutter button is the AE Lock, and the (*) still operates as the BBF button. have the shutter button be the AF-lock.

Ultimately though, the Pentax engineers still have the rest of them beat on this! :^)

16 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1V says

    I don’t like easy exposure compensation as it means the dials do diff things in M and A mode. I keep trying to do exposure compensation in M and wondering why it’s all stuffed up.

    For this tip, you still can’t walk around much right? you change your angle and the light has changed.

  2. 2Graham Wood says


    This looks very useful and I will try it, but what I really miss having switched to Nikon from Pentax is the “green button” combined with hyper manual. You may not be familiar with this as I think it was a digital innovation.
    If you know any way of doing this with a nikon I would be gratefull for the tip.

    The green button can be set to provide A S or P function. So I typically would have it programmed in A (aperture priority mode). I would have the camera in Manual mode, spot meter.

    Now I point the camera at a mid tone (skin). Touch the green button. The camera does an aperture priority auto exposure using my set aperture. I can now shift the exposure up or down as normal with exp comp as usual or vary aperture/shutter in the usual hyper manner.

    Probably wonderful weddings – I dont know as I am not in the wedding business. But absolutely pefect for band/theatre work whefe the lighting varies dramaticaly accross the stage and from moment to moment.

  3. 3 says

    Very useful tip! Thanks Neil and Eric!

    On a somewhat related note, Pentax also has the TAv mode which can be emulated in part on my Nikon via manual exposure with Auto ISO (and exposure compensation).

    Best regards,

  4. 4Roel says

    happy new year. ;-)

    Seems like a twist of mind, but it sounds like it may work. It’s probably ok for those who don’t share cameras with loved ones (read: my beloved wife-&-photographer).

    I had a big time explaining them (her) to use BBF and eventually had to give in. I can lively imagine what this would lead to.

    Anyway, interesting thinking by Eric. Even Thom Hogan doesn’t mention it in his books…

    Best regs,


  5. 5Neven says

    Just want to jump in on Pentax’ Hyper manual mode additional feature, not explained in camera’s manual (K20D). In Hyper Manual mode one can still adjust EV compensation. It seems this function is designed as a starting point for the exposure measurement in Manual mode, but it seems it has one additional feature. With your flash in TTL, if you dial in, let’s say +1 EV (without pressing Green button), in Hyper Manual this will not affect your Av and Tv settings, but rather flash exposure! It is very handy since the “real” flash exposure is buried under Fn key. Pretty cool, isn’t it?


  6. 6brad says

    Cool tip, Neven. I’m going to see if that works the same way on my K-7. That could be extremely useful for the kind of run-and-gun stuff that I do!

  7. 7Dennis says

    Hi Neil, first of all I would like to thank you for your website. It’s the only site I visit for me to learn more (I think I’m more of a widower when it comes to this art).

    About your article, I never fully understood yet the hyper modes for your ideal camera until this. I addition to Eric’s techniques, AE-L or Auto Exposure Lock is especially useful if you are using kit lens, spot metering, aperture priority like me. I have a Nikkor 18-105 and the problem with this F3.5 lens is that the aperture changes as you zoom in. With the AE-L, no need for me to worry about my exposure even if I need to zoom in (decreasing the aperture). The shutter speed will adjust automatically because I already locked my desired exposure.

    In line with flash photography, TTL, I would like to share to you another locking (hyper mode) technique. Instead of firing the pre-flash everytime we shoot, we can use the FV-L or Flash Value Lock (I set it to my Function button). We can always reset this if we feel that lighting conditions change or compensate to +1 as you most of the time advise for Nikon. I was so inspired by your Dragging the Shutter article in line with getting more juice from our flash. I think we can conserve our flash juice if we can pre-flash once using FV lock for, let’s say, 2 or more consecutive shots for a particular lighting condition.

    If you find these articles interesting and of value, thank you very much, Neil!

    About me:
    I’m a struggling apprentice in the Philippines, loves using the flash with the black foamie thing, shoots weddings and a Nikon D90 user.

  8. 8 says

    Eric and Neil – thank you for this tip. I tried it with my D300, but the problem is that when I want to reset everything (“Walk outside and hit exposure lock again and it resets everything and now your in the ballpark for a good exposure outside without having to spin the dials a hundred times.”), easy exposure compensation stays there, so I have to spin the dial to reset it to 0 again. Is this different for D3? The only help would be if I set b4 to “On (Auto reset)” instead of “On”. In this case I need to only do “normal” exp. compensation (with +- button) +1/3 and back -1/3 to reset it to 0 (or powercycle the camera :-). Am I missing something? How to reset exp.comp more easily?
    Thanks a lot for this usefull site.

  9. 9tpe says

    As a matter of fact you’re not forced to use easy exposure compensation, you can still use ordinary (with dedicated exposure comp. button) way of dealing with exposure. Everything else works as Eric wrote in his advise. Tested on d300.

  10. 10 says

    Thank you, but my problem is, that I do not know, how to reset EC back to zero without “having to spin the dials a hundred times.” – as Eric wrote. Is it somehow possible on D300? Thanks again.

  11. 11 says

    Whether you use Essy Compensation via the rear dial; or whether you dial your EC via the dedicated button … either way you have to spin a dial to get back to zero EC when you’re done.

    Neil vN

  12. 12 says

    I can’t do it on my Canon 7D in Manual Exposure Mode. If I press the (*) button and turn the main dial, only the aperture value changes. Shutter speed remain the same. I wish it is possible to lock EV while pressing the (*) button.

    As I use Manual Exposure most of the time, Pentax’s Hyper Manual is my wish list for a long time. I am not aware of this feature until I read your article. Pentax will be my top of the list when the time comes to replace my 7D. Hopefully when it is time to replace my 7D, Pentax will display the EV as well (another wish list).

  13. 13George says

    I’m a long time reader of Neil’s blog. This information is absolutely genius, I just tried it and It works excellent. I too struggled when shooting in M mode say in church, and then you have to hurry outside and spin the dials zilion times… Now All I have to do is click AE lock button ( turns off AE hold ) and camera calculates “correct” exposure in the much different light.( well, or close to it) .The absolute beauty of it also is : it leaves “background” (ambient) exposure with it’s compensation alone, say 0 or dialed -0.7 or whatever. Stays compensated on the same value after camera is done calculating new exposure in new lighting scenario.
    Another beauty of it is, after you hit that AE hold lock , you can control background “light” independently AND flash EC independently, just like in manual mode but with much less fussing with the dials when you change location, making it much more error proof. Thanks Again!

  14. 14Matthias says

    I agree, that the Pentax cameras offer some very useful features for photographers, however, since it has not been mentioned so far, I’d like to add that functions like Hyper Program and Hyper Manual can also be found on various Minolta, Konica Minolta and Sony Alpha A-mount (D)SLRs:

    What Pentax named Hyper Program is called Pa/Ps Create Program Control on the Minoltas, and it is available when setting the exposure mode to “P”. It was introduced with the Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha-7xi in 1991.
    On some cameras it is possible to “reset” the program shift by pressing a particular button, for example the flash pop-up botton, or, with more “dramatic” consequences, the “[P]” panic button. On the Dynax 7, for example, you can switch the camera back to normal P mode by press the lock button on top of the exposure mode selector, on others it helps to manually flip up and down the built-in flash for a moment. Finally, the camera will switch back to normal by itself after a while without pressing the shutter button.
    The various models differ in their exact shifting behaviour when you try to change either the shutter speed or aperture and the other parameter would thereby hit its limit (f.e. trying to choose a shorter shutter speed, while the maximum aperture of the attached lens has already been reached). On the high-end models (for example the Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha-9), the camera will assume the photographer knows what s/he’s doing and allow this, simply indicating this condition, which may result in under- or over-exposure, by a blinking value in the viewfinder. On the mid-range models (for example the 7 or 7D), the photographer would not be allowed to shift a parameter beyond the opposite parameter’s limits.
    There’s another slight difference between models: Some models will put absolute priority on the dialed-in value whereas other models with try to maintain a good exposure and start to override the photographer’s setting, if the camera is not in AEL mode and illumination of the scenery changes in a way that the “free” parameter thereby hits one of its limits. Some cameras will just indicate under- or over-exposure in this situation, whereas others will override the setting by starting to de-shift the “non-free” parameter as much as is needed to maintain a good exposure. I wished this behaviour would be configurable in a custom-function, but it is not.

    The 9xi in 1992 also introduced a feature named Manual Shift in M-mode. This appears to be very similar to the Hyper Manual mode found on the Pentax models. If you press and hold the AEL button while rotating the front or rear dial for shutter speed or aperture setting, the camera will lock the exposure and counter-shift the other parameter correspondingly. On later models, the AEL button can be configured between press-and-hold or toggle behaviour, making it even easier to work with Manual Shift.

    AEL also has another function named Slow Sync; if you press it while using a flash, the camera will allow for longer shutter speeds also in P mode so that the available ambient light will get more weight in the resulting picture.

    These functions can still be found on the newer models, including the Sony Alpha cameras, although they are typically only available with the “higher” models.

    There’s one tiny sub-feature of Pentax’s Hyper Manual implementation, which is not available on A-mount cameras, however. While you are in Manual mode, if you press the green button, the Pentax will choose a useful starting combination for shutter speed and aperture, as if you were working in Program mode. This is a nice way to quickly reset to working default parameters for unforeseen snapshots, when the illuminiation has changed completely, or when you just have dialed in extreme parameters.
    This is something that should be implemented in Sony cameras as well. I would also like to see Pentax’s TAv and Sv modes in other manufacturers’ cameras.

    BTW. The method described by Eric Schwab also works on the Minolta, Konica Minolta and Sony range of cameras, you just have to configure the dials in the custom functions, so that one dial is used for exposure compensation in A, S or P mode.

  15. 15Matthias says

    I forgot to mention one more little known feature of the AEL button in the range of A-mount cmaeras:

    If you are in manual mode and want to carry out some auto exposure bracketing (AEB), the camera will by default alter the shutter speed (it will alter the shutter speed in aperture priority and Pa, and the aperture in shutter priority and Ps, and both parameters in normal P program mode). If this is not, what you desire, you can press the AEL button while releasing the shutter, and the camera will instead alter the aperture, not the shutter speed.

    This feature is also useful in conjunction with non-dedicated flashes, where the flash output cannot be changed in a flash bracket series. Pressing AEL in manual mode, the camera will alter the aperture, and thereby it is also possible to shoot flash brackets with studio flash equipment connected via the PC socket for example.

    I don’t know if this or a similar “trick” is also available in the other systems? Anyone?

  16. 16Graystar says

    In the changes to your settings you forgot one important setting…the meter auto off. Eric Schwab suggests setting it to 30s, but I keep mine set to 30 minutes. The reason for setting the meter auto off for such a long time is to keep the exposure lock (note: Sony cameras don’t have this problem…when exposure is locked it’s locked until you unlock it. I’ve suggested this to Nikon.)

    In this way I can simply meter a reference, lock, and just shot. For example, On a sunny day I just point my camera at the grass, the blue sky, or the gray card in my pocket (yes I carry a gray card.) Then I just press the AE-L button. That’s it…exposure is done. Now I simply select my shooting mode (usually A mode) and then shoot.

    The great this is that this works with Auto-ISO. So lets say set a minimum shutter speed for sport of 1/250s. After locking exposure, I can simply shoot and change my aperture all I want. Shutter will change, but if a shutter slower than 1/250s is ever needed, ISO will increase instead. So with the turn of one dial, I can change three settings. Yet, my exposure is exactly what I want it to be because it’s locked.

    With the auto meter off set to 30 minutes I can lock exposure and then wait until I’m ready to shoot…there’s no rush. And when I do want to rush, I’ve been able to take 5 shots at 5 different apertures in about 7 seconds…all with the same exposure because my exposure was locked. It really is a much better way of controlling the camera.

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