FZ1000 Airshow #4: Final settings, and "saved WB" bugbear

Started Sep 11, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Hatstand Senior Member • Posts: 1,612
FZ1000 Airshow #4: Final settings, and "saved WB" bugbear

I was at a truly excellent airshow last weekend, in near-perfect weather and good lighting...

It was at the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, where they flew a wide variety of types, with many rare or unique types that you are unlikely to see anywhere else. In particular, they flew one of their most historic and valuable planes for the first time in about 12 years - the magnificent DH88 Comet "Grosvenor House" - the actual plane (not replica) that broke world records in the 1930's.

This time I used mostly 1-Area AF set to a "large" box, for planes in flight. But if it's any better or worse than using 49-area, it's hard to detect - I can't tell. 1-area did seem to struggle more than 49-area when panning with a lot of "scenery" behind the plane (eg. very low passes) - but it's better to switch to the custom "horizontal line" AF area for that anyway. I'll stick with 1-area for now, based on suggestions from others.

I have now settled on a set of custom FZ1000 airshow setups (full details below), and now that I am becoming more familiar with the FZ1000 - I think they're really starting to deliver.

They intentionally produce somewhat "flat" images - but they have minimal blown highlights, and are meant to be post-processed. The final results after PP are generally rich, detailed and sharp (my panning abilities permitting O_o) ...and I am very pleased with them.

I now feel confident in saying it gives generally better results than my FZ200, even at base ISO and in good light. However, I'll still be using my FZ200 + E17ED for airshows at bigger airfields, purely for the extra reach.

I posted a whole bunch of photos from the show, in >> THIS THREAD << over on the UK Airshow Review forums. Here are a few examples:

Gladiator, a visitor from Duxford

DH88 Comet "Grosvenor House", what a beauty, and what a sound it makes

A typical "airshow" lens for a DSLR probably wouldn't have enough wide angle to take this shot...

My Settings
These are not much different to what I described in my "FZ1000 airshow #1" post, but I'll list everything again anyway, with the changes and new items shown in bold. These settings are of course, not necessarily the best for everybody - they're just what works for me!

I am using a variable neutral density filter to prevent overexposure with slow shutter speeds in daylight. It's a Hoya Pro1 Digital, 9mm thick, and I have discovered that it causes some vignetting at full wide-angle and wide open (f2.8) aperture. Stopping down the aperture a bit or zooming eliminates the vignetting. Lucky I will almost never use it at full wide angle and wide-open aperture, but if I ever have to replace it, I might go for an oversized one and a thin step-up ring.

C1 custom setup (Shutter Priority)
For propeller-driven planes. Checks before use:
- ND filter to 1-2 stops
- Stabiliser switch to "OFF"
- Drive dial to "burst"

Default shutter speed 1/250th, for “regular” propeller blur, single planes
(Change to 1/320th for formations or aerobatics)

"Standard" photo style: Co0, Sh-2, Sa0, Nr-3
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Picture size 20MP 25-400mm, or "exM 10MP" 25-560mm
Quality "JPG only", Fine

Metering mode "Multiple"
Burst Rate "H" (ie. 7fps with AFF, 12fps with AFS)

Shadow 0, Highlight 0
i.Dynamic "OFF"
i.Resolution "OFF"

Shutter type "MSHTR"

ISO limit set "OFF"
ISO increments 1/3eV
Extended ISO "OFF"

i.Zoom "OFF"
Digital Zoom "OFF"
Color space "sRGB"
Stabilizer “OFF”

Shutter AF "OFF" (for back button focus)
Half press release "OFF"
Quick AF "OFF" (for back button focus, save battery)
Eye sensor AF "OFF" (for back button focus)

Focus/Release Priority "FOCUS"

Autoreview "OFF"

Zoom Lever: "Zoom", "Stepping"

Zoom resume "ON"

1-area focus (largest box)

Live view mode 30fps (save battery)

Economy Sleep "1Min", Auto LVF/Monitor off "1min" (save battery)

Default Exp.Comp +2/3 (adjust as required)
WB custom 1 (set on the day using a DGK grey card)

Focus mode lever: AFF
Drive dial: Burst
Stabiliser switch: "OFF"
Focus/Zoom switch: "Focus"

Fn2: Image size
AE/AF Lock: AE lock
Fn3: Q.Menu
Fn4: HDR
Fn5: AF-ON

C2-1 custom setup (Shutter Priority)
For Helicopters, full-disk prop-blurs, "dramatic" background motion blur. Checks before use:
- ND filter to 2-3 stops
- Stabiliser switch to "ON" ("Panning" mode)
- Drive dial to "burst"

Same as C1 but:
Default shutter speed 1/50th
Focus Area "Custom" (horizontal "panning" line)
Default Exp Comp 0

Change to slower shutter speed if required, or 1/80th - 1/100th for helicopters

C2-2 custom setup (Aperture Priority)
For jets/gliders. Checks before use:
- ND filter to 0 stops
- Stabiliser switch to "OFF"
- Drive dial to "burst"

Same as C1 but:
Aperture Priority, f4
Default ISO 400

Let the camera find the fastest shutter speed it can.
Set ISO that gives shutter speed at least 1/800th, and preferably much faster.

To catch high speed "cross-overs", set AFF/AFS to "AFS" (Then "H" burst mode speed will be 12fps with focus fixed after first shot, instead of 7fps with AF between each shot). Set it back to "AFF" afterwards.

My Back button Focus setup
I am now using "back button focus" full time. To set up BBF, you would normally:
- Assign "AF-ON" to a button (Fn button or "AE/AF lock" button)
- Set "Shutter AF" to "OFF"
- Set "Quick Focus" and "Eye sensor AF" to "OFF"
- Set AF mode to AFF or AFC
- Optionally set AF+MF to "ON", and set the lens ring to "Focus"

Once set up, use the selected "AF-ON" button to autofocus, instead of shutter half-press. Half-press will only perform autoexposure.

  • Press and release the button... and it's like you performed AFS, and locked focus - you can recompose.
  • Keep the button pressed... and the camera will continuously perform AFC/AFF autofocus, you can maintain focus on a moving subject.
  • If AF+MF is on, keep the button pressed... and turn the lens ring in "focus" mode. Now you have manual focus. Release the button and your manual focus is locked - you can recompose, wait for your subject to appear etc.

I use Fn5 as my "AF-ON" focus button - so I use my left hand thumb to focus.

I can still simultaneously operate the lens ring with my left hand, just by sticking out my index finger. The rest of the time, using Fn5 to focus keeps my left hand well away from the lens ring. (I was finding it far too easy to move it by accident before...)

Besides allowing my left hand to do more useful stuff... using Fn5 also lets me leave my "AE/AF lock" button set to "AE lock". I like keeping that function available, and I also found that using that button as my full-time focus button was too much of a stretch for my right-hand thumb. (Fn3 was more comfortable as a right-hand focus button, but I prefer to leave that as Q.Menu).

I favour AFF, rather than AFC. AFC seems to hunt needlessly even when a scene is static. It also means I can instantly toggle AFS/AFF using a function button, when I want "true" AFS. (eg. full 12fps bursts). I never need to touch the Focus mode lever... even for manual focus.

Protecting button labels from wearing off
I anticipate wearing the lettering off the Fn5 button pretty quick using it for back-button focus, so I've (VERY CAREFULLY!!!) painted a couple of very thin coats of water-based satin polyurethane varnish on it (and the other buttons). Polyurethane is extemely tough, so as long as it adheres well and doesn't peel off - it should provide good protection.

I used Americana "Duraclear" satin varnish - it seems to have taken well, and there was no reaction with the lettering or the plastic buttons. It's meant for crafts and artwork so it's pretty safe and "inert", and you can buy small bottles of it.

If anyone else is tempted to do this, you do so at your own risk! Do NOT use solvent-based varnishes, and use the smallest possible amount of varnish the brush, so varnish will only go exactly where you put it. Only apply to the very top of the button!

My FZ1000 Bugbear: Custom white balance in saved setups
I normally set a custom WB at the start of the day, using a DGK reference grey card. I save it to "Custom WB 1". The problem with this is, the actual Custom WB 1 gets saved into my Custom setups, not just the fact that I'm using Custom WB 1.

Now, at airshows I routinely switch between:
- Aperture Priority (static scenes),
- C1 (prop planes),
- C2-1 (helicopters and full-disk prop blurs), and
- C2-2 (jets and gliders).

This means I can't just set my Custom WB 1 once on the day... and have that apply to every saved setup that uses Custom WB1. No, my custom slots store their own (out-of-date) versions of Custom WB1... so I always have to set it 4 times, and re-save all my custom setups -_-

Repeat that every time the light changes significantly... and it gets real old, real fast. This would be one of my top things to change (or make optional) in a firmware update! Right now, I am tempted to just set everything to "cloudy" WB and just take occasional photos of my grey card to tweak WB in post if needed

Red Dot Sight
I'm using a red dot sight (RDS) as my main viewfinder for planes that are in motion. I have described this (and my "odd" shooting technique for it) in previous posts, but I'm repeating here just for completeness:

The way I shoot moving planes, I hold the camera out with both hands, and neck strap taut against the back of my neck to make a "tension tripod" for stability. Then I use a hotshoe-mounted RDS as my viewfinder, only glancing at the rear screen to check zoom/framing etc.

This lets me put a plane in the frame as quickly and easily as pointing my finger (no zooming out to find the plane, then zoom back in to take the photo)... I find it easier to pan in synch with the plane... and I get to watch the show with both eyes and a full field of view, instead of peering through a restrictive viewfinder half the time.

I favour RDS with "open" design not "tube", large mirror, thin mirror frame, multiple reticles, multiple brightness levels, and red/green switching. I use a Photosolve Xtend-a-sight as my hotshoe mounting but sadly, they don't make those any more. The next best thing appears to be THIS , but it may need a shim or something to get a nice tight fit in your hotshoe, for a stable and "repeatable" RDS alignment.

Panasonic FZ1000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
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