When I was in college, in New Mexico, the question you were always asked when eating New Mexican food, was “Red or Green?” Meaning, do you want red chilis or green chilis on your meal?

So, at another point in my life, I was selling cameras. It wasn’t in one of the big camera stores that were pretty common in the day – it was a small shop, that actually did a big part of it’s business by developing film. We sold a few cameras too – and one of the nicest ones we carried was the Canon AE-1. At that time, cameras didn’t come with both aperture priority and shutter priority like is common today. It was a pretty new feature to have one or the other. The AE-1 was roughly a contemporary of the Nikon FE or EM, even though the AE-1 was a year or so ahead of the FE and EM. Nikon also had an aperture priority Nikkormat EL earlier in the 70’s that may have been a closer match to the AE-1.

Nikon’s auto exposure cameras all started as aperture priority auto exposure, while Canon chose to start with shutter priority auto exposure mode. There was quite a lot of discussion about which was better – and I remember customers not wanting to buy an AE-1 once they found that it was a shutter priority camera.

This was short-lived because it wasn’t too many years until the major companies started building cameras that allowed either mode to be used.

In my opinion, the aperture priority model was technically easier to accomplish – the same lenses could be used without modification. In the shutter priority model, your lens had to have an “Auto” setting so the camera could decide how far to stop down the lens during exposure – basically a new mechanical mode for the lens. In the aperture priority method, you set the shutter speed dial to auto, and you controlled the aperture of any lens that worked on your camera to properly expose your image, all feature changes were in the camera body only. I suppose it could be argued either way, but I always felt the shutter priority method was a bit more complicated because the lens had no “smarts” itself, it had to be coupled to the camera to do anything. Plus, it required an entirely new lens design to make it work.

With the advent of the digital age, f-stops were no longer controlled mechanically on the lens barrel, but were controlled electronically through the camera body, like every other setting. The only thing on our modern lenses that are lens specific settings, are things like auto focus and stabilization. At least on my Canon, there are switches on the lens barrel to enable/disable those functions. Technically though, I supposed those too could just be a setting on the camera body.

Something made me connect aperture priority/shutter priority to red or green chili… not sure what, but I thought you’d like a crazy analogy like this on a Friday afternoon. You’ll probably never have to worry about deciding if you want an aperture priority or shutter priority camera, but if you’re ever in New Mexico, be prepared to decide if you want “Red or Green”.
I hope everyone has a great weekend.

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