Written by Amy Berge
I am the proud owner of two point and shoot film cameras, an Olympus Stylus Epic (also known as the Mju II in Europe) and the Yashica T4 Super. The Yashica T4 Super was a hand-me-down from my father-in-law, and I still can’t believe my luck that he happened to have this sweet camera in his stash (and that he gifted it to me!). The Olympus I bought from a local seller (natcam.com) back before the point-and-shoot “rage” began, so I got it for the modest price of $60. (You can read my more detailed review of the Olympus Stylus Epic here.)
These cameras are perfect for those on-the-fly shots and my kiddos appreciate them because they know when I’m using a point-and-shoot I won’t be telling them to stand still while I fiddle with my settings and focus. These things are literally point-it-at-your-subject-and-take-their-photo cameras.
The Biggest Drawback of Point and Shoot Cameras
Clearly, I love my point and shoot cameras, but they have one glaring limitation: many of them don’t allow you to choose your own ISO. How am I supposed to overexpose my Fujis a stop when I can’t change any settings? Or, you know how I LOVE to push film? Well, I can’t change anything to allow me to do that! And to me, this has always been the biggest drawback with these automatic cameras.
Using the DX Code to Change ISO
After researching online for far too long, it dawned on me that I could alter the DX code on my film roll to trick my automatic camera into thinking I was shooting film with a different ISO.
What is DX Coding?
DX coding is the markings on a roll of film that tell a camera the film’s speed (ISO) and how many exposures are on the roll. You can see the DX code in the image below, where the top row shows the film’s speed, and the bottom row shows the number of exposures and the film’s exposure latitude.
Hacking the DX Code
Once I realized I might be able to manually adjust the DX coding myself, I looked through my film stash, recorded what the different DX codes looked like, and used a blade and some gaffer tape to try altering the codes on a few rolls of film. And guess what? It worked! Keep scrolling to the end of the article, and you can see a video of the process!
I was able to test the DX code hack with my Nikon N80. The N80 has an automatic ISO function that can read the DX code of the film and shows me what it is on the display panel on the top of the camera.
DX Coding Chart
The top row coding (by “top,” I mean when the film is turned to line up with my drawings) affects the ISO, the bottom left tells the camera the number of exposures, and the bottom right tells the camera the exposure tolerance.
Since only the top row changes ISO settings, we will only discuss altering that row in this article. This is why you’ll see the bottom rows grayed out, because you can ignore those and only fiddle with the top rows.
By imagining the rows divided into rectangles, you can see the current code of your film and use a blade and gaffer or electrical tape to change the code to your desired ISO from the chart.
Any rectangle in the chart that is white represents the exposed metal, so if it’s covered up by black, you will need to scrape off the black portion with some kind of blade. Conversely, if a square is black in the chart that means you will need to make sure it’s covered on your film roll with gaffer or electrical tape so no connection is made between the film and the camera.
When following the chart, you can change the ISO of your film to whichever ISO your heart desires!
You can also check out my IGTV video talking about DX coding and showing you how I change the code.
Thank you so much, Amy! Amy is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, including tutorials on how to develop film at home and how to create light leaks!
Leave your questions about DX code hacking below in the comments!