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In Program mode, when you half-press the shutter button to meter, the camera calculates an exposure, and displays the resulting shutter speed, and aperture, and ISO, if ISO is set to Auto, but there are many reciprocal combinations of those exposure parameters that all yield the same overall brightness, This is all explained in Foundations of Photography: Exposure. Program shift is a feature that allows you to automatically cycle through all reciprocal combinations for any given metering.
So with this feature, you can meter to get an exposure that gets you the proper overall brightness, and then use program shift to change to an exposure combination that serves up that same overall brightness, but with the motion stopping, or depth of field that you want. Program shift on the Mark III is very easy; it's just the main dial right here. I turn it, and I get reciprocal options off of my normal metering. Now, nothing's happening right now, because I don't have a metering; there are no options off of nothing. So I'm going to meter here, and the camera has decided 125th at f/4, and ISO 125.
If I turn my main dial, then I get all the reciprocal combinations that the camera can muster that will yield that same level of exposure; that is, that same overall brightness. So let's say, for example, that I meter, and I see that the camera has chosen f/4, but I want deeper depth of field than that. I've decided that I really want a nice deep depth of field, so I'm going to dial the program shift control out to f/11. So that's going to give me deep depth of field at the cost of motion stopping power. Now, notice that it's chosen a 15th of a second at f/11 after I'd program shifted my way down, but now the meter just timed out.
So if I re-meter, I'm back to the original metering. So when you do a program shift, it's not really locked in in any way. As soon as the metering timer goes away, then you're back to whatever your default metering is. So if you're working slowly, like I am right now, you've got to really keep an eye on these settings as you use program shift. So in this case, I was program shifting to get a different aperture. I could do the same thing to dial in a particular shutter speed. It's a really great, easy way of having some manual control without having to leave Program mode.
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