Late again – New Brunswick 2010
The Reasons Why
There are generally trade-offs to be considered when setting up your camera, particularly when you want to go to the limits its design specification. In this post, I am going to share with you some of my current thinking about the use of Jpg files to speed-up digital camera capture. I am using my camera settings to give me more visual art and shorter post-processing times.
The topics discussed will be 1) A Large Single Centre Focusing Area 2) Face / Eye Detection 3) Auto ISO 4) Dynamic Range 5) Dynamic Range Priority 6) Drive Burst Mode 7) There is less need to Chimp.
Experience is a great teacher in getting the balance of controls right for you. Unless you try something for yourself new ways of photographing cannot be tweaked to get as near perfection as possible. New or different camera settings are a means of experimenting with your photographic vision and practice. You won’t get a brilliant new idea no one else has done before in a vacuum of creative thought.
An ideal outcome would be, you could become confident enough to not to have to Chimp after most shots. This may come about if you are sure your camera is set up to handle a wide range of tricky lighting, exposure and focus situations. This is what I am currently doing with Jpg files instead of my normally preferred Raw files up until now.
Being Ready – A Guard at Didcot Railway Centre
As the camera becomes more autonomous to help speed up capture times creativity can also move on. Once you are confident the camera will do as expected, it leaves the photographer to spend more time looking for pictures. This also gives time for anticipation before reacting to the unfolding action.
Just because your camera is set to take pictures at an extremely high Burst Rate or continuously does not necessarily mean the exact moment is caught. Much of the good candid photography we see is based on imagination and anticipation. Unfortunately, however, spontaneity is not fool-proof.
I will not be discussing Zone or Tracking Focus System settings. This is a huge subject and could be the subject of a blog post or two on its own.
For those of you who missed part 1 read it here.
Being ready – a fleeting gesture – Tintagel 2018
The offered suggestions to speed-up capture are in no particular order. Just for clarity, the terms used in this series refer to Fujifilm camera settings. Hopefully, the Fujifilm camera menu references given in this post are reasonably consistent across different Fujifilm X-T cameras.
I have not given camera Manual page numbers because they will not be consistent over a range of different cameras. The manual for the XT-30 has 299 pages and the X-H1 289 pages.
Being ready – a lorry going North on the A7 in Andalucia
1 Large Single Centre Focusing Area
Without treading into the bounds of Focus Tracking, a large focusing area may be the most practical for fast focus accuracy. The camera is looking for contrast as a means to lock focus. Therefore, the bigger the area the greater the chance of finding and locking focus.
On the other hand, a minute focus area will pinpoint focus very accurately but this will take time and there will be a need to either move the focus area or re-compose the picture if the focus area is in the centre.
To give yourself more options, you may find that easy access to the Focus Area, Focus Mode, Face Detection and AF – Continuous Custom Settings will be an advantage if you are in a hurry. If you own an X-T 1/2/3 or an X-H 1, these controls can be allocated to the 4 custom function buttons around the Menu Button on these bodies.
To set up access to these focus controls go to The Spanner > Button & Dial Settings > Function (Fn) Settings. I have set my cameras to
Fn 3 – Focus Area
Fn 4 – Focus Mode
Fn 5 – AF – Continuous Custom Settings
Fn 6 – Face Detection
Hot Hint – Allocate Focus Controls on Function Buttons
2 Face / Eye Detection
The first thing to say about Face / Eye Detection is when it is on it may cause other normal operations to be disabled. Back Button Focusing comes immediately to mind. So, treat Face Detection with a little caution, only turn it on when it is necessary in my view. If the faces are moving you will need a fast-enough ISO and Shutter Speed to help this function work effectively. Furthermore, the closer the face is to the camera the better it works.
The Face Detection setings can be found either in Auto Focus Menu or in the Quick menu.
3 Auto ISO – On
Auto ISO is a great function if used with a sense of what you want and what is technically achievable. By this, I mean Auto ISO cannot go beyond the limits of the relationships of the Exposure Triangle and the exposure programme built into its software.
Most cameras will have two or three customisable Auto ISO settings where the parameters are similar to
1 ISO Base – 200 to 12800 ISO
2 Max Sensitivity – Up to 12800 ISO
3 Min Shutter Speed – Auto, ¼ to 1/500s
To personalise the Auto ISO Setup go to Shooting Settings (Camera icon) > ISO Auto Settings
Taking each of these parameters in order
Depending on the shooting situation requirements (what you want) your choices of settings will alter.
1 ISO Base – 200 to 12800 ISO – What lower ISO rating will provide a Shutter Speed fast enough to freeze the action if that is what is required?
2 Max Sensitivity – Up to 12800 ISO (in Auto Mode) – Know your upper limit of ISO for the control of Noise for your photography. Colour workers will generally have a much lower threshold to Noise than mono photographers.
3 Min Shutter Speed – Auto, ¼s to 1/500s. Auto for Fujifilm cameras means a Shutter Speed approximately 1/ the focal length of a Fujifilm lens. With care this Shutter Speed should be fast enough for most photographers, However, If, you have a problem with camera shake for whatever reason set the Shutter Speed manually – see below.
Non-Fujifilm manual focus lenses may work in the same way with Auto ISO. Although the X-H1 knows the focal length of a manual focus lens for the In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) to work effectively, I think this information is also used for Auto ISO purposes.
Aperture Priority with Auto ISO
1 Set the ISO Dial to A, 2) set the Shutter Speed Dial to A, 3) Select an F stop on the lens say f8, 4) the Auto ISO will calculate the corresponding ISO for the given 2 parameters the best it can.
Shutter Priority with Auto ISO
1 Set the ISO Dial to A, 2) Set the Shutter Speed Dial to say 1/125s, 2) Select A on the lens, 3) the Auto ISO will calculate the ISO for the other 2 parameters the best it can. By selecting a Shutter Speed on the dial this overrides the choices made in the Auto ISO menu settings.
Manual Exposure with Auto ISO
1 Set the ISO Dial to A, 2) Set the Shutter Speed Dial to say 1/125s, 2) Select an F stop on the lens say f8, 3) the Auto ISO will calculate the ISO for the other 2 parameters the best it can.
An alternative to setting a manual Shutter Speed is the Speed Dial is set to T (Time) and then use the Rear Command wheel to select a Shutter Speed. I find this method quicker and easier than using the Shutter Speed Dial.
With Fujifilm cameras when using Auto ISO, the Max Auto ISO is displayed in the viewfinder when the shutter release is pressed halfway down, not the calculated ISO. To check what Auto ISO has been used you will need to go to the Playback. This is frustrating but unfortunately the way it works.
ISO on the Rear Command Wheel – note for Fujifilm camera users
Another option to easily change the ISO without going to the Menu or Quick Menu is to allocate the Rear Command Wheel to change the ISO. If you set Mechanical + Electronic Shutter you will be able to select the complete range of ISO’s available including Auto. The wheel will still zoom-in to check focus and playback when pressed if you use manual focus lenses as I do. I always have the Exposure Compensation allocated to the Front Command Wheel. To make this setting go to The Spanner > Button / Dial Settings > Command Dial Settings > Rear Command Wheel > ISO.
4 Dynamic Range
Dynamic Range is a method of contrast control for tricky lighting situations. These controls only apply to Jpg files. With a Raw file, only the pure data is transferred to the computer.
Dynamic Range controls are found in Image Quality Settings > Dynamic Range
There are 4 basic parameters:
Auto – choice of DR100% or DR200%
DR200% – 320 – 12800 ISO
DR400% – 640 – 12800 ISO
Lower values increase contrast, higher values decrease contrast. In the camera manual Fujifilm suggests lower values for shooting indoors or under overcast skies. Higher values for sunlight and deep shadows.
My current choice in most situations is to use Auto Dynamic Range.
5 Dynamic Range Priority
My old-fashioned take on Dynamic Range Priority is it controls contrast by steepening or flattening the curve in response to the Dynamic Range of the brightness values.
Dynamic Range Priority controls are found in Image Quality Settings > D Range Priority
Auto – Contrast is adjusted to current lighting conditions.
Strong – 640 – 12800 ISO Adjusts the Dynamic range by a large amount for very high contrast scenes.
Weak – 320 – 12800 ISO Adjusts the Dynamic range by a smaller amount for moderately contrast scenes.
Auto Dynamic Range Priority seems a sensible choice.
6 Drive Burst Mode Settings
I like to have the option to shoot a burst of shots if the situation warrants it. For most of my snaps it doesn’t but I still like the choice. Bearing in mind the X-H 1 has a very light Shutter Release. So, I played around with the Continuous Low (CL) settings to see if I could shoot a single shot with a single press of the shutter release. I found with the 4 and 5 frames per second (fps) setting I could not get a single shot, the lowest number of frames recorded was two. When the CL Burst Mode is set to 3 fps I am in control and a single shot can be saved.
Continuous Low CL – 3, 4 or 5 fps.
Continuous Medium CM – Approx. 6 fps.
Continuous High CH – 8 fps with a single battery, 11 and 14 frames per second with a Battery Grip and an Electronic Shutter see Shooting Settings > Shutter Type.
7 There is less need to Chimp
After allowing time for these new settings to bed in, I would hope with practise you gain enough confidence in them to forego most of the Chimping you do. For me, the primary purpose of Chimping is to check accurate framing, focus and exposure. These Jpg settings reduce contrast in-camera to make a file that is readily enhance-able even in extremely contrasty situations. In this post, I have been thinking holistically about the photographic process, before, during and after picture taking. As I said in the introduction, the point of a more autonomous camera is to allow you the photographer to look for pictures and instantly react to what’s happen in front of your lens.
All of these technical settings and stuff is only the servant of your artistic vision, not it’s master. Camera settings are only the side-show negotiation to the real event of making visual communications. Photographer Anders Petersen put it this way
“Photography is not about photography”
Perfect Practise Makes Perfect
If you change your camera setup based on the suggestions above, please make sure you can quickly operate the camera with the new setup without thinking about it. Remember “opportunities do not make appointments” to quote the entrepreneur Tim Fargo. Practise using a new camera setup when it does not matter – go to the Learning Zone to build up your confidence. There is no value in changing camera settings that you do not fully understand or know when it’s appropriate to use them. That is a recipe for disaster. If in doubt ask.
Here is a summary of the camera settings I have suggested to speed up digital camera capture.
1 Large Single Centre Focusing Area
2 Face / Eye Detection – On when it is appropriate
3 Auto ISO – On
4 Dynamic Range – Auto
5 Dynamic Range Priority – Auto
6 Drive Burst Mode Settings with a single frame option
7 There is less need to Chimp
Facebook Account Cancelled
As you may realise you have not seen me on Facebook for probably at least a year I have cancelled my Facebook account. I feel I am not a product to sucked dry by any means possible at any and every possibility. This means that I will not be posting Blog posts on my fan page.
See you next time for more inspiring and interesting episodes of the Andy Beel FRPS Blog.