No DX Coding? No Problem (Maybe)

51975668069_5e988fd43e_bDX coding (the black and white squares) on 35mm film cassettes make it unnecessary to manually set the film speed (ISO) on an auto-exposure camera that can read the code. Some of these cameras, including my Nikon N65, have no other way of setting the film speed in the camera.They typically default to a setting of ISO 100 with an uncoded cassette.

Not all current 35mm film cassettes have DX coding. The Ferrania film above is an example. And most bulk loading cassettes also have no coding. Does that mean that the only uncoded cassettes that can be used in a camera like the N65 are those with ISO 100 film? Not necessarily. 

Like many auto-exposure film cameras, the N65 has an exposure compensation control. The exposure can be changed all the way from minus three stops to plus three stops in steps of half a stop. In effect this is the same as changing the camera’s ISO setting. 

For example, setting the camera ISO to 100 and setting the exposure compensation to minus 1.0 halves the exposure, which is the same as setting the ISO to 200. This means I can put an uncoded cassette in the N65 and effectively set the auto-exposure ISO to anything from ISO 12.5 to ISO 800 as follows:

Setting the exposure compensation to -3.0 equals  ISO 800,  -2.5 equals  ISO 560,  -2.0 equals  ISO 400,  -1.5 equals  ISO 280,  -1.0 equals  ISO 200,  -0.5 equals  ISO 140,  0.0 equals  ISO 100,  +0.5 equals  ISO 70,  +1.0 equals  ISO 50,  +1.5 equals  ISO 35,  +2.0 equals  ISO 25,  +2.5 equals  ISO 18, +3.0 equals  ISO 12.5.

Note: The intermediate ISO values above are not exact. They are the nearest values shown on a typical exposure meter.

6 thoughts on “No DX Coding? No Problem (Maybe)”

  1. DX coding was a good idea for those with limited knowledge of film speed. When something like the Nikon 35Ti (an expensive camera for its time) had no ISO adjustment, it was very short-sighted: what were they thinking?


    1. Unlike today’s auto-everything cameras that offer multiple ways to do almost everything the high tech cameras of earlier times had a lot of features but fewer choices for the user to make. The newest 35Ti is now over 20 years old.


      1. I have a 35Ti with the 3 position flash control as per the 28Ti, it still works exceptionally well. I did hate the non adjustable ISO, I got around it by sticky aluminium foil and black marker pen.
        Still use a Nikon F and F4, but my Nikon Df gets a lot of use now. Non-Ai, Ais and Af lenses work equally well on it.


      2. The N65 is my only auto-exposure Nikon that doesn’t let me manually set the ISO. It is almost always used with ISO 400 film so the exposure compensation is permanently set to -2.0 and I don’t even think about it.
        Nikon lens compatibility is another interesting topic. Fortunately my most used Nikon, a prism finder F, works with any Nikon (D)SLR lens with a real manual focus ring.


  2. Happy to help. Unfortunately the increasing popularity of these older auto-everything cameras combined with users being unaccustomed to manually setting the ISO can lead some to blame the camera for badly overexposed negatives, given the prevailing preference for faster films.


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