If you're someone who's just started getting into videography or photography, or someone who's even had years of experience under their belt, I'm sure you've taken notice of the Auto switch. Now different layouts may vary for different cameras and image quality as well, but it doesn't matter if you're using something of the likes of an A7iii like I have here, or any other camera you might have at your disposal, I can assure you every camera has an Auto mode.
But if you've had the time or knowledge to learn manual exposure settings, an understanding of correct white balance and global shutter angles, then you must have complete confidence in your capabilities in every possible situation thrown at you. Or are we wasting our time nitpicking on settings while cameras such as our phones, have little to no manual control at all and yet we rarely complain. So in this little experiment, we're going to take a look and compare images when you set everything in Auto, or whether spending countless hours (maybe even years) to master your camera makes any difference at all.
So for those who are here to learn a quick crash course on manual exposure, there's only 4 main factors to consider which you would likely be able to control despite whatever camera you are using. But if you're super knowledgeable already, just stick around for a bit before we start or you can just fast forward to the real world test if you're keen to see how this experiment pans out.
#1 - Global shutter angle / Shutter Speed.
This setting is dependent on the frame rate you set. For instance if you're at 24/25 fps, you'd want the shutter speed to be double the frame rate. So 25fps times 2 equals 50. So set your shutter speed to 50. This is to sync frequencies of lights that might be around you to avoid flickering, but also to have that cinematic effect of motion blur. Again, another topic that is way too long to explain why 25fps and not more or less than. If your camera is capable of shooting high frame rates of 100/120fps, then apply those same rules. Double the shutter speed, and you should be getting the right outputs.
#2 - Iris/Aperture
Again, basic information here, the more light you allow into the sensor the less ISO you would need to determine how much darker or brighter your image will be. But if you're out on a sunny day and have no ND filters to tone down the sun's brightness, you'd want to increase the aperture so you allow less light in. But if you're in a dimly lit surrounding, do the opposite and lower it down. This also affects how much depth of field you get depending on your lens' f-stop, as faster lenses that can go down up to say an f/1.8 will give you more bokeh/depth of field increase the aperture say up to f/10, you get everything from the background and your subject evenly focused.
#3 - ISO
ISO setting is to determine the sensitivity of your sensor. So depending on how much light you allow in from your aperture, images will look clearer and sharper when set to the lowest possible setting (especially for low light situations) as you'd want to avoid noise or grain.
#4 - White Balance
This is to ensure the warmth or coolness of your image depending on the light available to you. So the warmer the image, the higher your white balance needs to be and vice versa. This is also highly important to determine skin tones and by far the hardest to fix in post if you've got the settings wrong like how I did in my examples in the A7iv review. So click on that if you'd want to see how even professionals like myself still get things wrong every now and then >
Which is why I've had the need to see if you could just let the camera do all the work FOR you. After all, if you're looking into making this into a profession or even just a hobby, there's so many factors to consider in getting your image just right. Especially if you're in a run-n-gun type of shoot like we usually have here on the channel, or if you're just a one person shooter like I am and could use the extra head space to focus on other parts to make a decent video.
From my discovery in this experiment, the likes of prosumer cameras such as my A7iii performed better than I expected. With some minor faults of not retaining shadows in bright daylight situations and underexposing some parts of the image during my low-light tests.
Considerably the least exciting test I've conducted but surely a lesson I would apply in my future shoots. Allowing the camera to do the work for you in daylight settings is the best, as uncontrolled environments would usually shift through natural weather changes and drastically change the look of your image. The only gripe I had with Auto Mode was it's White Balance settings, keeping the overall colours coming off too warm in some situations. Nonetheless, it was a fun experiment and worth the watch in the video above.
Written by Fitri Aiyub