Thursday, 3 April 2014

Playing with Advanced Filter Modes


As a way of getting to know the camera better I delved into the Advanced Filter modes to see just what the X20 could do. Much of the effects show here can be done external processing, but some settings (to my surprise) use multiple exposures. I picked out a few samples, and posted them here without any post processing, other than scaling them down a little.

Pro Focus

Intended for portrait photos where the background is blurred out to make the subject pop, and it does a pretty good job (here using natural light). The camera claims to be able to use multiple shots (here using just one) to create the a better soft-background image.

Pro Focus (this time clean faced Shiela)
It's a nice photo but I'm not seeing any nice boke in the background. Maybe I'm expecting too much of the little lens!.. but it is the sort of shot I'd get from my SLR. The depth of field is not too shallow so that his ears are still reasonably sharp. Also nice detail on the little chap's freckles and catchlights in the eyes. There's also sharp definition on his shirt, but the door in the background has slight amount of noise if you zoom in.

This next picture had the effect turned up full,and shows much more blur in the background. You could hear the shutter firing three times and even though the camera was hand held it looks great.

Pro Focus (Level 3)
The bookshelf and flowers in the background appearing very soft, but the foreground still nice and sharp. I'm not sure what magic's going on here but it's all clever stuff.

Motion Panorama 360

I was quite intrigued by the panorama mode as I've often used a panorama app on my iPhone to capture scenery on holiday. Here's the start screen which assumes you're going to pan to the right.
Display in Panorama Mode
After pressing the shutter button the camera starts clicking multiple times per second, and then you sweep right using the yellow centre line to keep it straight. It does a much better stitching job than my free phone app and if you go all the way round you'll get a seamless 360 degree photo.

Panorama Photo
When viewed on the camera you can play them (as if they were videos) and they auto-pan across the image. 360 images will keep going indefinitely but partial ones stop when the reach the far edge.

Partial Color (Red)

These partial colour photos are nice, I think the first time I saw this effect was in the Schindler's List film. My son's Nikon S3300 also does this and you can select red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple. The colour really jumps out but there's no adjustment over the set colours or thresholds.
Partial Colour Effect
Here's my wife's array of Mother's Day cards and nick-nacks as made by the kids. The red in the apples didn't show, neither did the more orangey reds.

Super Macro

Not really and advanced filter mode this one, but I wanted to see how the super macro feature would work. Again it's using compact fluorescent lighting (which generally gives quite a strong yellow cast) so it's maybe not quite as sharp as a natural light shot.

Macro shot of my Harmony Remote Control
To give you and idea of scale, that "zero" button is just 8mm across, and to take it the camera lens was almost touching at the bottom edge. I didn't buy the camera for this ability but it's just another string to the X20's bow. It might come in handy from time to time.


I'm guilty (like many) of treating my camera just like a tool, trawled out for special occasions and days out. But it really doesn't have to be that way. Fuji have provided some real fun with their Advanced Filters (and there's plenty that I haven't mentioned), so it really does provoke a desire to experiment. Photography can be a really fun rewarding hobby and I'm starting to feel that spirit again, like when I got my first SLR back when I was 16 years old.

Early Frustrations

Taking Over

I can't fault the quality of the photos, but I'm starting to get this feeling that I'm not totally in control. While playing about last night I really struggled to get the flash to fire as the override control on the menu wheel was just failing to do anything. I think this is the main difference from the D70 where you have absolute control, this camera's smart and won't let you do things that it doesn't think makes sense.

The X20's Perfectly formed flash

Initially my problem was that I'd put the camera into silent mode, which also disables the flash. My brighter than average seven you old son soon pointed this out to me, but rather than pop up a reminder when you press the button it just does nothing. Not something I'd expect from what the manual calls "Super-Intelligent Flash". Later I'd set the camera set to aperture priority and it also refused to respond to the flash control. In fact it seemed to only work in Advanced SR Auto mode, but then I tried again later and it worked in Aperture priority for fill-in flash (so I wonder if it was too dark earlier)

Maybe this makes sense, but as a noobie to the camera it's annoying to restrict the actions and not tell me why.

The other thing I found was turning the face detection on is buried in the menu, which is different to most other cameras I've seen with this function. If you turn this on is does stop you from altering the focus points, but that kinda makes sense. I did find however that you can remap the function button as a quick way of turning this on and off but in the long term I might find the default of ISO is more useful. Face detection can be a real boon in point and shoot scenarios, so maybe I can set it up in one of the custom settings.

Going Manual

I played around a little bit using manual focusing, using the sub-command dial (the spinny wheel control around the menu controls) and while the auto-zoom in and focus peak highlight makes it easy in low light conditions it requires lots of turns. The manual suggests pressing the AEL/AFL button to roughly set the focus first. It's slightly tedius and not as intuitive as an SLR, but it does work well.

X20 Menu controls and sub-wheel.

OK, I'm being picky now because I haven't read the manual yet. And how refreshing it is to see that the camera industry is keeping the practice of supplying a good quality manual alive. From what I've seen the Fujifilm X20 can do some really great stuff that my SLR can't, so maybe I'll prepare some demos and we'll look at some of those next time.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hello X20

Taking the Plunge.

After spending two or three weeks reading camera reviews and ultimately deciding which retro camera to buy, I found myself in the electronics shop today looking at the Fujifilm X20. As a looked at the display model there was something very familiar about it, like I'd already owned it but had lent it to a friend.

I have an old Nikon D70, but typically when we go out I tend to leave it at home. It's starting to get a little long in the tooth (I bought it second hand 7 years ago), and although it takes great pictures I find it a little too bulky and obtrusive for everyday use. Then I saw the Pentax Q10 and the current crop of retro styled cameras and fell in love. In my eyes these are what cameras are supposed to look like. Just like the ones we grew up with. But ultimately the range finder and the great reviews for Fuji's X20 swung it for me.

The Fujifilm X20 alongside my D70

First Impressions

If you read a few reviews on the X20 you find yourself reading over and over again how the weight is just right and how nice it feels to hold. And after removing mine from the box I can see why, it feels solid and sturdy, with quality machined controls, plenty of quick setting buttons (like I'm used to on my Nikon), yet weighs a modest 350 grams. I won't go into all of the technical specs because there's loads of good professional reviews that probably do a better job, but here's a few test shots to show off what it can do.

My First Test Shots

Macro mode:
Camera set to 28mm at F2 gives these great shots in normal macro mode.
Macro Mode

This shot shows off the great colours in natural light. There's also a super macro mode that enables you focus down to 1cm from the object.

There's a neat little pop up flash to the right of the range finder although there's also a standard hotshoe mount for a full size flashgun.

Flash Photo

This photo was from about about one and a half meter away and shows no signs of over exposing or red-eye.

Fluorescent Lights:
To give an idea of how the camera handles auto-white balance I asked my son to take my photo under the kitchen strip lights.

Fluorescent Lighting

Seems to show a pretty good skin tone despite the hash lighting, again doing a good job of setting the right exposure and producing a sharp picture.

(NB. All of these photos have had the minimum of tweaks so you get a good idea of how the camera handles the different shots.)


Well I can't find anything bad to say about it so far. It's taken some good photos without really trying hard and didn't break the bank. It's got plenty of manual controls for camera geeks who are used to SLRs, yet my seven year old son was able to use it without problems. I can't wait to start taking more photos and exploring what it can do. What a fantastic little camera!