I've prided myself on my ability to shoot a Leica M3 or Hasselblad 500C/M with no meter, no auto-focus, and no auto-exposure. Who needs it? Real photographers certainly don't! Plus, being fully mechanical means that the cameras require no batteries and should be repairable forever. It's a badge of honor.

Except, and maybe I'm getting lazy in my old age, I've grown to like letting the camera do at least some of the work. In fact, I prefer it. They've gotten pretty good at it and if I'm honest they do things better than me most of the time.

I guess it depends on the camera. For example, the big 4x5 cameras are slow, deliberate beasts, so having to adjust things just so is part of the experience. On the other hand, when just walking around with a digital or 35mm film camera, I want something fully automatic. Since most of the time I'm in walking-around mode, this means that most of the time I want to let the camera do the work.

The realization that I now prefer automation came to me after I bought the Leica M10-P. The Leica of course has a meter and aperture-priority exposure. But it needs to be focused manually. When I must manually focus, I love using a Leica's rangefinder, but unless I'm range-focusing in bright light there's no way I'm faster at it than I am with a modern auto-focus camera. Also, it takes two hands and sometimes it's better when I can just lift a camera to my eye and press the shutter.

Manually focusing a camera is a pain I simply don't feel like dealing with.

So, I'm finding that although I have my dream camera available, I most often pick up the little Ricoh GRIII. The Ricoh is much faster to use and, honestly, the images are comparable to the M10-P (shhhh, don't tell anyone).

The same thing has been happening with film cameras. I stopped using the fully manual, no-meter-having Leica M3 and M4 and started using the M6. I wanted a built-in meter. Even more surprising is that lately I've been grabbing the big old Canon EOS-1v or Nikon F100 instead. Those cameras don't have anything approaching the soul or joy of use of a Leica, but I kind of just want to point and shoot and move on, ya know?

I don't know if this slow drift away from manual cameras is just a mood swing or if it's permanent, but it's changing how I think about shooting.