Practical settings for the Fujifilm X10 – 12Mp or 6Mp?
The X10 camera has an advanced and complicated technology with a multitude of settings and options that many find exasperatingly difficult to come to grips with. The operating manual poorly describes (if at all) the consequences of the various settings and so, in the main many of us rely on the enthusiastic investigations of forum members for information.
Most of us are only vaguely interested in the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the technology but would like the camera set up for day-to-day picture taking using the best options available. This inevitably leads to compromise, but this is preferable to consulting menus and modifying settings before every shooting situation.
Use JPG option.
The X10 produces really good JPG quality and to date no RAW converter has managed to produce significantly better quality than out of camera JPG files.
Use modes C1 and C2.
Using the custom modes allows one to pre-program the camera to differing shooting conditions.
To pre-program the camera for C1 set mode to P; for C2 set mode to P or A.
Once the settings below are made confirm C1 and C2 using CUSTOM SET in the Shooting Menu.
There are two clear programing options available -12Mp or 6 Mp
The 12Mp option
C1: GOOD LIGHT CONDITIONS. The best quality image, in respect of detail and noise, will be obtained at the lowest ISO (100) and at the L size (12Mp). However this combination requires the DR to be at least equal the ISO setting. Many would wish to set DR at 400% but this would require an ISO of 400. A compromise is to set 200 ISO and 200% DR. This ensures that shooting at C1 will always give a low ISO and a good DR.
C2: VARIABLE LIGHT CONDITIONS. In these conditions the ISO required will be variable and therefore an AUTO 3200 ISO setting is appropriate. Because of the possibility of overexposure in 'A' mode at slow shutter speeds when DR is set to Auto, the DR should be set to a fixed value. A DR value of 200% will allow an ISO setting range of 200 to 3200 at 'L' size. A DR value of 400% will allow an ISO setting range of 400 to 3200 at 'L' size. For extended DR the ISO should be higher than, or at least equal to, the DR setting. Say ISO 400/DR 400%.
(Note that high shutter speeds(1/1250 to 1/4000) are restricted by larger f-stop settings (F2.0 to f5.6))
The 6 Mp option (Size M) and EXR modes
The EXR sensor can be accessed by using the 6Mp Size M option -- so offering a little more customisation. When the DR range of the subject is high and good image quality is desired it is advisable to use the M size (6Mp) with the low ISO setting. This combination does not force ISO so that a high quality setting of 400% DR and an ISO setting of 100 is possible.
Although it might sound counter-intuitive to use 6Mp rather than 12Mp there are claims that this option does not detrimentally affect IQ; that the ability to use low ISO values with high DR settings improves noise levels (i.e. 400% DR at 12 MP requires a 400 ISO setting whereas 400% DR at 6Mp is achievable at 100 ISO)
C1: GOOD LIGHT CNDITIONS. ISO = 100; DR = 400%
C2: VARIABLE LIGHT CONDITIONS. ISO = Auto3200; DR = 400%
When using all of the above cases it desirable to use an aperture of f4.0 or greater (f2.8 and f2.0) as diffraction begins to affect lens resolution at smaller apertures.
Which to Choose?
If the aim is to make prints of one’s photographs and if one owned a large format printer and a program such as Lightroom then one would opt for the larger pixel count. 12Mp would allow a degree of cropping and allow good quality prints to 11"x14" or A4 size. Lightroom has quite good adjustments (even for JPG files) for exposure, noise reduction and highlight recovery. These controls would largely compensate for the higher ISO required for DR control.
The 6Mp option would be the choice in one viewed one’s photographs mainly on a screen or if one had smaller laboratory prints made.
On the more serious use of your photography – say illustrating an article for a travel magazine – the 6Mp option would provide ideal native files with good dynamic range and without blown highlights and be well within the limits of quality reproduction of half page or 6"x8’ pictures.
LOW LIGHT CONDITIONS. Use either the EXR S/N setting or the ADV Pro Light setting. There is little difference – there is little or no user input. The Pro light setting provides about a half-stop advantage in shutter speed terms but will lead to ghosting if there is subject movement – then use EXR S/N.
In EXR mode if a DR of 800% is chosen then the ISO is forced to 200 - when 1600% is chosen the ISO is forced to 400.
The default setting is for ISO. However, as ISO parameters have pre-programmed as above, by setting the Fn button for AF Mode one can set focus to MULTI for general work with the optical viewfinder and switch to AREA or SPOT for set up or considered situations. Firmware 1.03 allows the RAW button to be used as an Fn button; set this to Face Detect.
The 4-way controller is easily moved and to ensure that, when out and about, no unwanted settings are invoked (DRIVE or MACRO) lock these settings OFF (press and hold MENU/OK until OFF is set). This also locks up the RAW button. On the rare occasions that these settings are used it is no great hardship to unlock these controls.
Set all other variables in all modes to the defaults.
*Note that setting Face Detect to ON allows only the MULTI metering option
F.A.M.E. At the start of a photo session or when removing the camera from the bag use the F.A.M.E. check – the settings may have moved or be left over from a previous shoot.
F= focus – set AF-S
A= AF mode – set MULTI
M= metering – AE button, set MULTI
E= exposure compensation – set 0
MF - Manual focus and Zone Focussing.
Many rangefinder film camera photographers used zone focussing. This is also appropriate using the X10 optical viewfinder in situations such as Street Photography. Using zone focussing obviates the concern of misfocusing and also avoids the focusing lag. Zone focussing is only useful at short to medium focal lengths. With the lens set to 35mm and with an aperture of F4.0 use AF to focus on a subject 3m away and then switch to MF to lock the setting. One will then have everything sharp between 1.4m and inf.
See http://dofmaster.com/ for other settings.
Revisions have been made to this article in the light of experience with the X10 and on suggestions observed in the DPR Fujifilm Talk Forum. 15/07/2012
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.