Planet Neil's Neil van Niekerk recently started blogging about the features he would characterize as being essential to the mythical beast known as "the best camera in the world." Not only did Neil laud the Pentax "Hyper" system as one of his defacto requirements for such a camera, but he gave one of the best real world descriptions for how Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual actually work (outside of the Pentax Forums):
"When Pentax brought out the Pentax Z-1 / PZ-1 in the early 90’s, they had re-thought the way a camera’s exposure modes should to be implemented, in a most inspired way. They had the usual range of exposures modes we all know, such as Shutter Priority (Tv) and Aperture Priority (Av). But Program mode became Hyper-Program; and Manual mode became Hyper-Manual. Sure this sounded gimmicky, until you handled the camera and realised what they achieved.Neil goes on to explain how this translates into saving you time from fiddling with the program dial:
Hyper-Program worked like Program mode, except that if you dialed the shutter button, it would immediately change to Shutter Priority (Tv), as you change to specific shutter speeds. Similarly, if you dialled the Aperture dial, then the camera instantly changed to Aperture Priority mode (Av), as you set the aperture. No need to switch mode dials on the top of the camera. You just turned either the aperture dial or shutter speed dial to change between the modes at will. And if you wanted to return to the usual Program mode, you just hit the * (star) button. Intuitive and simple. (And no, this is completely different than Program Shift.)
Hyper-Manual worked a similar elegant magic in how you controlled the camera’s manual exposure mode. Let’s say you rely on your built-in meter in this scenario. If you use any other camera in manual exposure mode, you have to dial the shutter button and aperture button to get to the correct combination for proper exposure. With Hyper-Manual, you just hit the * button, and the camera entered a combination of settings for you, depending on where you pointed your camera. This combination of settings could be according to a Program-mode line, or according to the shutter speed your camera happened to be at; or the aperture your camera happened to be at. (This was set deeper in the menu according to your preference.)"
"Let’s say you knew you’d be working at f2.8 ... then you’d just hit the * button and the appropriate shutter speed was entered for you. Perfect for working with the camera’s spot-meter. If you’ve ever tried to spot-meter with a long lens on your camera while hand-holding it, AND looking at your metering display .. then you know how tough it is. But with Hyper-Manual mode, you just hit the * button while looking precisely where your spot-meter is aiming. Much faster. You just hit one button with your thumb, and you’re set.
Now, should you decide you have the correct exposure, but want to change your shutter speed or aperture, then you hit the Exposure Lock button, and change either the aperture or shutter speed .. and the other setting will follow in relation to the metering value that was entered.To learn more about what Neil looks for in his "best camera," be sure to read the rest of his post at his blog. Highly recommended.
With any other camera, let’s say you have 1/500th @ f2.8 but you want 1/200th @ f4.5 ... then you’d have to turn both dials by the same amount of clicks. But with Hyper-Manual mode, you lock the exposure combination, and just change the one dial. Either one. Doesn’t matter.
The way these two modes work is such an incredible stroke of genius, that any camera that doesn’t have those two modes, is severely hampered already. The Best Camera in the World needs to have Pentax’s Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual modes."
Pentax Hyper-Program on the K10D, from Pentax Digiichi
The current Pentax DSLR camera (as of April 2009) that uses the most sophisticated incarnation of these features is the K10D/K20D. For more information about Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual, the Pentax Digiichi site has two special introductions to the features written by Izumi Taniguchi: Master Hyper Program Operations & Master Hyper-Manual Operations.