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exposure & shutter speed

Discussion in 'Beginner's Corner' started by jclay, Jun 24, 2017.

  1. jclay

    jclay New Member

    I’ve just inherited a Ricoh 35 ZP, my first analogue camera, and I’m pretty clueless about the exposure & shutter speed settings. Can anyone point me towards a beginner’s guide to selecting the best settings depending on the light conditions?

    From what I have found out so far, it seems that I should select the shutter speed to match the film I buy (I’ve been recommended to buy ISO 400, so my shutter speed would be the next one up – 500). And then the exposure setting depends on the amount of light – 16 for a sunny day, going down to 5.6 for overcast/indoors. Does that sound about right??

    Like I said, I’m very new to this, so I’d really appreciate any links you can give me, or any other general tips about analogue photography!!! J
  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    You need a meter. The exposure value refers to an amount of light determined by the aperture area and the exposure time. You can double the area and halve the time, or halve the area and double the time - all for the same exposure value. The exposure value giving a correct exposure depends on the film speed - so ISO 400 film needs 1/4 the exposure value than ISO 100. Each doubling is called a stop. Aperture (F value) is measured by the diameter so progresses (approx) in square root of 2 intervals. Aperture used affects depth-of-field (also a function of distance) while exposure time affects how movement is represented. In "normal" use it is chosen to eliminate camera shake effects and render (moving) subjects static.
    jclay likes this.
  3. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    The sunny 16 rule works fine for full sunshine outdoors. It full version is more than the bit you where employing as includes guides for how to moderate it for hazy/cloudy overcast conditions. It also assumes familiarity with the interdependence of aperture & shutter speed so that a shutter speed or aperture suitable for the image desired can be set by varying the other control...

    Pete recommended a light meter, which does away with the guess work of the cloudy etc variation. There are free Aps to give that functionality so adding it to your phone is an option :)
    jclay likes this.
  4. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    .... given that one has a phone and that there is that app available for that make and model of phone. ;)
    jclay likes this.
  5. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    ...and you can afford any hardware extras that may be necessary...
    jclay likes this.
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Exposure guide for when you don't have a meter...

    Lots more about film photography on the same site,


    jclay likes this.
  7. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Hi, do you really mean Ricoh 35ZP or did you intend to type 35ZF? If the latter, and you are trying to use it without a battery, then yes using the Sunny 16 rule should work OK. Then build up with experience your knowledge of other weather/light/times of day/indoors or outside conditions.

    Keeping a written note will be essential and then carefully checking back through each frame once the film has been developed to see where things have gone well and, maybe, not so well.

    If you can borrow a meter and memorise certain lighting condition exposures that will help.

    If your camera is designated 35ZP it doesn't seem to appear on lists of Ricoh cameras but is likely to be a fully automatic model with no control or limited control over exposure settings. Just point and shoot.
    jclay likes this.
  8. jclay

    jclay New Member

    Thanks everyone! I’ll look into some light meter apps – does anyone have any recommendations for Android (if possible, free and simple to use!)? How necessary do you think the extra hardware is?

    Just to check I’ve understood correctly… I can adjust the exposure value by either adjusting the aperture area (e.g. f/16, f/11, etc) or the shutter speed (e.g 1/500, 1/250, etc), right? Does that mean that in practice you’d normally keep one of these fixed and just adjust the other one depending on the lighting conditions before taking each photo? If so, does it matter which you keep fixed and which you adjust? Or is there sometimes a reason to adjust both of these settings?

    And yes, I did mean 35ZF!! Oops!
  9. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Aperture determines depth of field for a given focal length and subject distance. To acheive a small depth of field you would set a wide aperture and short exposure time. Conversely for a bigger depth of field you would set a small aperture and a longer exposure time. You have to be mindful that exposure times that are too long make camera shake more of a problem and subjects can move even if you use a tripod to eliminate camera shake. The big revolution in digital was that you gained a third control, ISO, changeable on a frame-by-frame basis and offering more choice than available film.

    Personally I set aperture to give the dof I want (default F8) and adjust shutter speed to the appropriate value starting with a low iso as if I were using film. Only if it is too dark to get a useable shutter speed will I increase iso, so that is mirroring film behaviour. When I shot film I would often have two camera bodies - one with 125 iso and another with 400 iso film.
    jclay, EightBitTony and Roger Hicks like this.
  10. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    If it helps write on thin separate strips of paper: ISO numbers (in 'whole' ones 25,50,100,200,400,800,1600) and apertures (f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22) and shutter speeds (1s, 1/2 .... 1/500) but one of the strips needs to be in descending order. Make sure the spacing between the characters on each strip is identical to the others. (Can do this on a PC & print out the strips, btw.)

    Then just play around with them in a quiet moment at home, adjusting the strips laid out on a table against each other. For a given ISO value and quantity of light, what happens if you open up three stops to shoot at maximum aperture. See what would happen if you switched between 100ISO film to 1600ISO; would you run out of fast enough shutter speed on your camera in daylight to shoot at or close to maximum aperture for shallow depth of field. Or the exact opposite, very dull day, stormy conditions and you want something close to camera sharp as well as horizon and clouds, too, would speed of film require a very slow shutter speed.

    Once you have one ISO speed of film loaded, you will just need to make these trade offs.

    With a little bit of 'Blue Peter-style' effort, you could even make a small card exposure meter for your camera. It will enhance and accelerate your learning process to the point where it may become almost automatic.

    Also learn to measure the Sunny 16 by your shadow on the ground. Hard dark shadow, f16 - even f22 on some days, softer edge shadow f11, hardly any shadow f8. After that it gets tricky!
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  11. jclay

    jclay New Member

    Ok, I’m starting to get a better understanding of when to use a wide aperture & short exposure, and when to use a narrow aperture & long exposure (thanks again to everyone above for all the links and explanations!). But I’m still confused about how this applies to my camera in practical terms.

    If I use 400ISO film, my ‘default’ setting on a sunny day would be f16 at 1/500, right? But since those are the narrowest aperture and shortest exposure that my my camera (Ricoh 35ZF) offers, there is nowhere I can go from there. E.g. if I want to widen the aperture for shallow depth of field I can’t shorten the exposure any more. Is that just a limitation of the camera I have, or have I missed something? Does it mean that in practice if I want to go for a shallow depth of field or a long exposure, I’ll only really have that option on cloudier days?

    And if so, is that a reason to maybe go for 200ISO film instead, to give me more freedom in terms of depth of field?
  12. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    All cameras are the same. You can reduce the amount of light using neutral density filters and, on a bright day, ISO 100 film (or slower if they still make it) is the best option. It is also possible to under-expose and over-develop (push) or over-expose and under-develop (pull) film to change its effective speed though this is mostly confined to home- processing of B&W film. Colour negative film will also take quite a bit of overexposure although custom processing may be needed to recover detail - a high street mini-lab won't.
  13. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

  14. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Interesting link! I put new batteries in my film camera a couple of weeks ago and tested the shutter - seems I have 2/10 and 12/12 exposures left from 2008 - probably Fuji colour neg in the backs.
  15. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member


    Where did you get this idea that if you're using 400 film, the shutter speed would be 'the next one up' (which as a phrase is not particularly useful anyway - it's a bit like saying all the way up to 11 is one louder)?

    First off, re-read up about the Sunny 16 rule. https://www.slrlounge.com/photography-essentials-the-sunny-16-rule/

    Secondly, remember it's a 'rule of thumb' and not an outright hard and fast never to be broken edict.


    yes, if you are heading out and it's gloriously bright, clear and sunny, you wouldn't choose to put 400 film in your camera. If you already HAVE 400 film in your camera and you can't get the shallow DoF you want because of limitations in available shutter speeds to compensate for wide open aperture, then you might have to look at putting a filter on the end of your camera - look up neutral density filters.

    Fourthly - depends what your'e shooting of course. Some scenes will have a bigger range between light and dark and you may find yourself compromising at one end in order to get the other. Film is probably more 'flexible' than digital in terms of ability to drag things out of your negative in the darkroom, but depends who's making the prints.
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    "Next one up" implies ISO 400 = 1/500 second, so it's far from meaningless, but as neg films are far more tolerant of over-exposure than of under-exposure, I'd go for "next one down" i.e. 1/250.

    "Sunny 16" as linked is a mediocre rule of thumb, for the same reason, and the pretended extensions are not really a lot to do with either sunny or f/16

    Maybe you wouldn't put ISO 400 film in your camera on a sunny day, but I would. Standardizing on a single film speed makes it a LOT easier to internalize exposure. I almost never use slower films -- larger formats are a better bet -- though I do use Delta 3200 if I need to.

    Finally, an adequately exposed long-scale B+W film such as HP5 will have plenty of detail in both the shadows and the highlights. Normally, all you need is a softer grade of paper for contrasty subjects and a harder grade for flat ones.


  17. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Right, but that was the point I was trying to make. Rules of thumb rarely need to be applied quite so rigorously as the OP seems to feel they should. You have a bit more leeway than that. And although I'm not saying I would never use 400 film on a sunny day, I might not want to if I was desperate for a very shallow depth of field and the fastest achievable shutter speed was 1/500. Of course, if you're shooting with large format, you can effectively change ISO from one shot to the next depending on how many film holders you have and what you've loaded them with. Not *quite* so easy half way through a load of 35mm!
  18. jclay

    jclay New Member

    What about changing the ISO setting on my camera, without changing the film (since I'm using 35mm)? Should that ISO setting always match the film I'm using, or is that another way that I can adjust the exposure of each photo? E.g. If I'm going for a large depth of field and a slow shutter speed, could I balance this out by changing the ISO setting to, say 200, instead of 400 to match the film?

    This is good to know!!! :)
  19. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Well, sort of. But not really. What you can choose to do is to select the camera settings that would give you a 'correct' exposure (inverted commas to suggest that this is an entirely subjective notion) if you were using a faster film. This would cause all the images taken at those settings to be underexposed. You compensate for that with longer developing times, (push processing) but of course you can only develop the whole film so if you decided to do this part way through a roll of film the frames that were shot at ISO 400 would then be over-developed. With a roll of 35mm film you really have to decide what treatment you want to give the whole roll. You also have to be the one developing the film or at the very least, you have to send it someone who does more than bung into an automated machine and will actually push process it for you. Used to be done all the time - not sure if it is any more.
  20. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I can't find out anything about this camera, and need to know what adjustments the controls allow.
    Can you take a few pictures with your phone and attach them to an entry on this thread? (Any dials or controls with numbers on them.)

    Re. the ISO/ASA confusion. Set the ASA on the camera (assuming it has a lightmeter in it) to match the number on the film box, and then do not change it until you load a different kind of film. The sensitivity of the film depends on the chemical makeup of the emulsion coating on it - you cannot change this like you can with a sensor in a digital camera. One you have FIXED the ASA setting by choosing a film, you are left with TWO variables that control how much light reaches the film (the exposure). The lens APERTURE controls how much light reaches the film by changing the size of the hole it passes through, and the SHUTTER SPEED controls the TIME which the camera shutter is open to allow light from the lens to fall on the film. So small aperture + long shutter time may give the same exposure (amount of light) as large aperture + short shutter time. But the pictures will look different because the settings used will control image blur due to camera movement and depth of field. Again, an old photography book will explain these things, and explain about different kinds of film.

    The advice from other members about looking for an old book in a charity shop is perfect, and worth the trouble. Much of what it will contain will be relevant to ANY camera you later own. If you search Amazon for ' Ilford manual of photography' you can get a 1950s copy for only a few pounds, or a 1963 edition for about £15.

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