What does the mode dial (PASM) do on my camera?

This is the command dial for the camera’s operating modes. However it is only present on high-end devices. On some models, the rotating knob is replaced by a modes menu on the rear LED display.

PASM modes knob on a Panasonic (Lumix) FZ1000

Click to enlarge: PASM modes knob on a Panasonic (Lumix) FZ1000. Image: Panasonic

PASM designates the 4 main shooting modes:

  • P= Program – Both the shutter speed and aperture are automatically set by the camera;
  • A= Aperture Priority – The aperture (lens opening) is selected manually and the shutter speed is automatically set by the camera;
  • S= Speed Priority – The shutter speed is selected manually and the aperture is automatically set by the camera;
  • M= Manual Mode – The aperture and shutter speed both must be selected by the photographer.
Click the name of each function above to access the corresponding article (available soon).

On cameras made by some manufacturers, the PASM letters are replaced by other codes (or symbols) that are the equivalent.

In addition, most cameras provide several additional and specific modes, that are different for each brand and even models. Please refer to your camera’s instructions manual (yeah, I know, most of them suck!), to know the specifics.

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