Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Pressing all the Right Buttons (Part 2)

Back to the Buttons

After my previous post I'm sure you've started playing with some of the settings, or at very least have some appreciation of what functions are available. You can go through the menu instead if you prefer, but the use of these buttons is quicker.

More buttons on the rear of the Fujifilm X20

There's still a few more on the back that we haven't looked at yet, and as before I'll keep it brief and simple.

Three From the Right

We'll move over to the right hand side of the camera now, and look at the three buttons around the menu selector.

Auto Exposure

The exact function can be set in the menu, but it's use allows exposure and focus to be locked, then the photographer can reframe (or compose) the picture. Also know as centre focus and reframe.

If the camera is set to AE.AF LOCK MODE in the menu, then this button will keep the exposure and focus locked until re-pressed, or until the zoom is altered.

Using this button is like half pressing the shutter button, so you'd wonder why they provided it. But it does allow more flexibility if you want to split auto focus and auto exposure. This would result in a three stage process for taking a photo:-
  1. Centre on the object you want the camera to meter on and hold the AEL/AFL button.
  2. Centre on the main object, half press and hold the shutter too.
  3. Reframe the photo and take the picture.
Seems like a lot of work, but can help with more extreme lighting conditions and reduce the amount of manual exposure compensation twiddling you have to do.

At first this wouldn't do anything for me, but then I realised I had face detection turned on which silently overrides any exposure or focusing settings.

 Display or Back

This is another one of those buttons with multiple functions depending on what mode you're in. In shooting mode this will allow you to select the LCD display mode, and so choose how much information is shown when taking a shot. My preference is for Information2, but I also like the Custom setting with it's live histogram and spirit level function. These settings include the exposure compensation, which is handy as a reminder if you've altered the setting. (well it often catches me out!)

Another function in shooting mode (that's not obvious) is enabling silent mode. Press and hold the display button and the camera speaker, flash and auto-focus lamp will be disabled. This is great when I was taking pictures at a school show and didn't want to annoy my fellow audience members with my frequent snapping.

Lastly it's the back button when using the camera's menu.

Quick Menu

Settings are important to get your camera configured how you like it, and with the X20 there's a lot of customisation that you can do to make it better fit your needs. But although the menu's well laid out, it's pretty typical that you'll hunt a little before you find what you need. This is why many pro cameras have plenty of external controls, but it makes the camera more expensive and overwhelming to use.

The Q button effectively gives you access to 16 different options, yet still keeps the back of the camera looking relatively simple. In practice I find the grid format to be tricky to use, but that's partly because I don't use it much. Use the menu selectors to move about, and rotate the sub-command wheel to alter the setting.

Selector Buttons

Now we've got the obvious buttons out of the way we'll look at the menu selector with it's direction buttons their secondary roles.

 Auto Focus

Allows you to select the focus point in shooting mode, which will default to the centre of the frame. Use the selector direction buttons to move this, or command dial (the one at the top) to resize the focus frame. I gotta say I don't think you'll need this much. It's far easier to use the "centre focus and reframe" method, and under most circumstances you shouldn't have any focal plane shift focus problems.


Used to delete the picture currently displayed on the LCD screen. There's also a delete all option which is a good way of blanking the memory card.

You can continue going through your photos deleting with the OK button as required, and then press the shutter once you've finished.


It quickly becomes apparent that you must raise the pop-up flash before this can work, but once done this gives you access to the following modes:-
  • Auto Flash - Flash fires only when required. (the manual recommends this)
  • Forced Flash - Ideal for back-lit subjects where the flash wouldn't ordinarily fire, or in very bright light where shadows can become a problem. Most people dont think of using the flash in daylight, but in bright light this can be a real Help.
  • Slow Synchro - Captures the main subject and background under low light to try and retain some of the original lighting.
Don't forget (like I did) that silent mode disables this function. It won't tell you if you make that mistake, and it can be quite frustrating to figure out.

 Self Timer

There are two options available, plus the default off. I won't go into detail because it's pretty obvious:-
  • 10 second delay
  • 2 second delay
Find yourself somewhere to place your camera, or use a tripod and you can be in your own pictures. You can also use this to help get sharper pictures when using a tripod, eliminating any chance of motion blur.

Macro Mode

If you want to take really close-up photos then you've found the right camera. Macro mode enables to camera to focus at much closer ranges.

There's also a Super Macro mode that enables you to get down to 1cm from your subject but the following restrictions apply:-
  • The lens must be zoomed all the way out.
  • The flash is disabled.
You get the standard restrictions with macro photography, the depth of field will be quite small, and the camera will use a slow shutter speed so try and avoid camera shake. The camera's on-board flash is likely to cast a shadow at these distances, and you're advised to use the LCD screen rather than the view finder to avoid parallax problems. But I've found it works very well.


Well that's all the buttons on the camera back, although I did skip the menu button. There's still a few more controls remaining that we can look at another time, and I hope you've find this blog useful.

Part 1

Monday, 2 June 2014

Pressing all the Right Buttons (Part 1)

Can You Make it Go?

Shortly after getting my X20 I lent it to a friend, he liked it so much he decided to buy his own. But not coming from a dSLR background, (he uses it in auto mode) he confessed to not really understanding what all the different buttons do. I figure he's not alone, we're all used to modern cameras (and phones) doing everything for us, so I've put together a few notes on the X20's rear panel buttons in case you want to tinker.

Buttons on the rear of the Fujifilm X20

From The Left

This time I will limit myself to the left-most four buttons, because this blog would get too big otherwise. I'll attempt to give you an idea about what each control does, and how or why you might use or alter the setting. I'll keep it brief, so if you want more details then there's loads of good sites if you don't mind googling.

Playback Button

Let's start out with an easy one (and perhaps obvious one),... press it to view that last picture taken.

Use select left/right to view other pictures and press AF button if you want to delete. This is pretty standard and I've only included it for completeness.

Auto Exposure Button

The AE button allows you to choose how your cameras light meter works. By default this will be set to Multi but let's have a look at the options:-
  • Multi: Uses automatic scene recognition, so it should be a good general setting.
  • Spot: Forces the camera just to look at conditions at the centre of the frame, which is good for situations where the background it either much darker or brighter than the main subject.
  • Average: Takes an average across the whole frame, which can be useful for landscapes or portrait shots (according to the manual). Normally you would avoid this setting.
NB. If face detection is turned on then any faces detected in the frame will be used for spot exposure instead.

nb. In playback mode this button allows you to zoom in to the picture to examine details.

Shooting Mode (Burst Mode and Bracketing)

This button controls how many pictures are taken when you pressure the shutter, but there are a number of different modes that perform different tasks. See overview picture for the options:

The Different Shooting Modes
  • Still Image: When you press the shutter just one photo is taken. (normal)
  • Top: Takes a number of pictures as fast as it can (depending on exposure settings).
  • Best Frame Capture: Starts capturing shots as soon as the focus has locked (ie half pressed the shutter) and continues taking them afterwards. (You must select the number of images you wish to take and the camera will try to give you an even number of before and after shots)
  • AE BKT: (Exposure Bracketing) Takes three shots; one normal, one over exposed and the other under exposed. This can be useful for difficult lighting situations where you may not get a second chance.
  • ISO BKT: (ISO or Sensitivity Bracketing) Varies the sensitivity across three shots so that you can decide whether you'd like a grainy but better lit photo, or a darker less noisy photo.
  • Film Simulation BKT: Tasks one shot but processes it differently using the Film Simulation settings you have selected. If you like these inbuilt filters then you might find this useful, but it's the sort of thing you'd normally add afterwards on your PC.
  • Dynamic Range BKT: Again takes three shots but this time at 100%, 200% and 400% dynamic range. This enables you to choose afterwards how you'd like to cope with high contrast within your photo.
Wow there's a lot there, so let me summarise it for you...

We have two sets of methods here; burst mode and bracketing. Bracketing helps you cope with difficult lighting conditions, whereas burst mode enables you to capture the moment better or can increase your chances of getting a sharp photo when taking hand held photos in low light conditions.

nb. In playback mode this button allows you to zoom out.

White Balance

Remember in the old days when you took a photo inside and everyone looked yellow, or slightly green. This was because the light available was not pure white, and while your eyes will compensate for this, the camera will not. By default white balance will be set to Auto, and this should cope with most situations. But if you want to be more specific there are plenty of options available to you.

Custom White Balance: Tell your camera what is really white by taking a photo of a white object that fills the frame.

Colour Temperature: Enter the light colour in Kelvin (K). Useful if you know it, but there are a number of scales that you can use as a guideline.

Then there's various scene type options that really don't need much explanation; Direct Sunlight, Shade, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent Lighting (old fashioned bulbs) and finally Underwater lighting that removes the blue cast from aquarium type photos.

It's worth getting this right because colour cast can be difficult to fix afterwards, especially if using JPG files rather than RAW. So far I've found that the default Auto setting is absolutely fine.


What I've found is this camera really excels in Auto mode, switch it to manual and you lose a lot of what makes it great. (This was all too obvious in low light settings) But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the camera struggles, and it's here that knowing what these controls do can really help. Next time we'll look at some of the other controls and how they interact.

Part 2