2.1 A FEW TIPS TO GET STARTED
This chapter will cover the actual operation of the X100. I’ll address the functions and attributes of the camera that are listed in the Owner’s Manual, and I’ll also include my own tips and personal experiences. I’ve tried to structure this chapter so you can get started as quickly as possible—the lessons that are not fundamental come later in the book. Ordering the book in this way has its limits, of course, as each photographer has his or her own preferences and unique prior knowledge. In any case, before we get too far into the detailed features of the camera, I want to point out a few quick tips that may save you some frustration later. I’ll touch on these tips briefly at first, but you’ll find more involved discussions of them later on in the book.
The following are a few characteristics of the X100 that you should know about from the start:
- Unfortunately, the X100 doesn’t let you use any button while images are being saved to the memory card. Get your hands on the fastest SD card you can find as soon as possible.
- Since the optical viewfinder and the lens sit on two different optical axes, the image that your eye sees in the optical viewfinder won’t perfectly match the actual exposed image or its preview on the LCD monitor. This phenomenon, which is called viewfinder parallax, should be familiar to photographers who have used rangefinder cameras. Furthermore, this means that the autofocus area is shifted, so you won’t be able to focus exactly on the image detail that you see in the view-finder. Viewfinder parallax is especially significant for close-up photography. When shooting subjects close to your camera, use the LCD monitor or the digital view-finder to focus (p. 14).
- The camera’s autofocus uses contrast detection, which means you should not let objects that are at different distances from the camera take up the same space in the autofocus frame. Instead, take measures to fill up the autofocus frame with only the object that you want to be in focus (p. 44).
- The camera allows you to simulate different types of film. Have a quick look at the different choices to find out which you prefer (p. 86).
- The X100 demonstrates excellent performance with regard to noise at fast ISO speeds. Avail yourself of the practical ISO AUTO CONTROL setting (p. 63).
- The OK button is unfortunately a little difficult to press. In many cases, though, you can also depress the shutter-release button halfway to select a menu option.
- If you would you like to make prints of your pictures and you are working with the JPEG file format, you should switch the camera’s color space to Adobe RGB before you begin shooting (p. 114).
- When using the camera’s playback mode, press the COMMAND CONTROL to enlarge the image and examine the level of focus (p. 24).
- The charge indicator of the battery is not reliable; it takes a long time before a low charge warning is indicated, and after that the battery loses the rest of its charge rapidly. Be sure to pick up a second battery so you can have a fully-charged backup to carry around with you.
- The camera has a quick start mode. With this option enabled, the camera is ready to shoot in 0.7 seconds instead of 2.2 seconds, which is the normal boot-up time. The battery charge pays slightly for this feature, but since speed isn’t one of the X100’s strong suits, I recommend using the quick start mode (p. 169).
2.2 THE LCD MONITOR AND THE HYBRID VIEWFINDER
Since the display capabilities of the X100’s hybrid view-finder are unique, I’d like to start this part with the operation and capabilities of the camera’s viewfinder and monitor. The X100 offers three different display options in shooting mode: the large LCD monitor on the back of the camera body and the viewfinder that can function both optically and digitally. To switch between the different display modes, use the VIEW MODE button and the VIEW-FINDER SELECTOR. Pressing the VIEW MODE button cycles through the three following modes (figure 2.1):
- Display on the LCD monitor
- Display on the LCD monitor with active eye sensor. This means that the viewfinder activates (and the large display screen deactivates) when you move the view-finder up to your eye.
- Display in the viewfinder
Figure 2.1 Live image display
By pressing the VIEW MODE button, you can decide to view the live image (1) only on the LCD monitor (2) on the LCD monitor with active eye sensor (viewfinder), or (3) only in the viewfinder.
With the help of the VIEWFINDER SELECTOR, you can toggle between the optical viewfinder and the digital view-finder when you are in shooting mode and the viewfinder is activated (figure 2.2).
You can also fine-tune the optical power of the viewfinder with the DIOPTER ADJUSTMENT CONTROL. By turning the small wheel to the left of the viewfinder, you can adjust the optical power anywhere between −2 and +1 dpt so you don’t have to wear your glasses.
Figure 2.3 Display indicator options
The DISP/BACK button allows you to switch between three display options. You can control the information that is indicated in the custom display in the SHOOTING MENU under DISP.CUSTOM SETTING. The detailed option provides a ton of useful information, but it doesn’t include a live image, so you should use it in combination with the active eye sensor.
In all three of the camera’s display modes, it’s also possible to decide between the standard and custom (user-defined) information. The LCD monitor offers yet a third option: the detailed display. Since the detailed view doesn’t include a live image, you should use it in tandem with the active eye sensor (figure 2.1). Control the display indicators with the DISP/BACK button (figure 2.3) and customize the user-defined indicators by accessing DISP. CUSTOM SETTING in the SHOOTING MENU.
The camera saves your personalized settings for each of the display options separately—you can set up the display of the LCD monitor, the optical viewfinder, and the digital viewfinder independently of one another. You can, for example, choose to have the standard display settings for the optical viewfinder and the user-defined settings for the LCD monitor. So don’t be surprised if you can see the virtual horizon indicator on the LCD monitor but not in the digital viewfinder. In this particular case, a photographer would have chosen the custom display for the LCD monitor and the standard display for the digital viewfinder.
When is it best to use each of the display settings? This is again a matter of personal taste, but you’ll discover for yourself that some display settings lend themselves better to particular situations.
You can choose your own distinct display settings for the LCD monitor, the digital viewfinder (EVF), and the optical viewfinder (OVF).
THE OPTICAL VIEWFINDER
The optical viewfinder provides a clear image and can be programmed to include a number of photographic indicators, such as a histogram and a virtual horizon (figure 2.4). Some situations—bright sunlight, backlit exposures, and contrast-rich scenes—make the optical viewfinder especially valuable, because the eyecup blocks any light and prevents it from washing out the screen. The lens coverage is slightly larger than the image frame you see outlined by a white rectangle in the viewfinder. This helps with framing successful compositions.
The optical axis of the viewfinder is not identical to that of the lens, however, which can lead to a variety of optical problems. This phenomenon is called parallax, and its implications can be demonstrated with a simple experiment. Hold your index finger a short distance from your nose and alternate between looking at it with one eye closed and then the other. You’ll see that your finger will appear to move to the right or the left because you also have two optical axes. Now repeat the experiment, moving your finger farther and farther away from your nose. Once your finger is an arm’s length from your nose, you’ll see that the difference between the right and left eye becomes substantially smaller.
The X100 has the same optical problem because the viewfinder is on one side of the camera and the lens, through which the exposure is ultimately made, is more toward the center. The image field indicated by the white border in the viewfinder won’t perfectly match the final frame of the exposure. Additionally, the autofocus (AF) frame is slightly askew in the optical viewfinder, which means that under some circumstances you’ll end up not focusing perfectly on your desired subject.
These problems are especially pronounced when your subject is close to your camera, as the experiment with your finger showed. They’re negligible, however, when your subject is yards away from your camera. Firmware update 1.1 is useful for dealing with the problem of the shifted AF frame, as it allows you to overlay an additional frame by selecting CORRECTED AF FRAME from the SET-UP MENU. The corrected AF frame, an incomplete rectangle, shows the farthest AF frame that would be used by the camera with close-up shots. The fully enclosed rectangle that is always present is the AF frame that the camera uses when the object is far away. When you depress the shutter-release button halfway, a green field indicates the part of the image that is actually being focused on. This field could be identical to one of the frames, or somewhere in between, depending on the distance of the focused subject to the camera. The difference between the optical axes is also why the camera will only allow the use of the digital viewfinder in the macro mode.
Figure 2.4 A look through the optical viewfinder
The optical viewfinder presents a bright, clear image and can also supply a variety of indicators such as the battery capacity (upper right), a virtual horizon (middle), the exposure settings (bottom), and a live histogram (bottom left). The large white rectangle demarcates the image area that will be exposed. Sometimes the position of the rectangle will change after focusing because the image frame is dependent on the distance between the subject and the camera.
THE DIGITAL VIEWFINDER
The digital viewfinder works well when the conditions are bright and the LCD monitor is hard to see. It doesn’t have any of the problems that the optical one does because it reproduces the image that the lens lets through to the sensor. In other words, it matches the actual exposed image exactly, making it just as reliable as the LCD monitor and more reliable than the optical viewfinder. Everything you see through the optical viewfinder will look properly illuminated and focused because our visual sensory system processes what we see. However, what matters to a photographer is the image that is seen and captured by the camera, which is not the same as the image we see with our eyes (through the optical viewfinder). Human vision possesses a much larger dynamic range than a camera sensor and is accordingly capable of capturing a much larger brightness contrast than a camera. Eyes always depict subjects in focus, of course, because they focus directly on whatever they’re looking at. This is how on a sunny day you are able to see details in the shade and the clouds in the sky simultaneously, and, on top of that, everything is in focus.
The digital viewfinder not only reproduces a live image of the actual exposed image, but also reflects your JPEG settings (p. 86). This means that your camera will display a contrasty image if you have your JPEG settings tweaked for a contrasty image, for example. In this sense, the live image is actually a preview of the exposure; it reproduces reality as it is captured and processed by the camera. This is a definite advantage (amid several disadvantages) of the digital viewfinder in comparison to the optical viewfinder of a mirrorless camera or, in part, also to a DSLR camera.
In the field, you’ll find that neither the optical nor the digital viewfinder is perfect for every situation, but that the hybrid option is an ideal solution because you have the best of both worlds. I often look at a subject with the optical viewfinder first, then switch to the digital viewfinder when I’m ready to release the shutter because I can focus better and have a more exact sense of the image frame.
The LCD monitor shares the advantages of the digital view-finder, and it is also larger. In situations with bright ambient light, its utility is compromised because the screen is barely discernable. Its uses are many, however—when you want to snap people who should feel unobserved, for example, or when you need to take a photo over a tall fence or wall, it can be a great help. Above all else, it’s indispensible when shooting with a tripod, especially when you want to focus on a specific area of an image using the manual focus mode. The detailed display and the active eye sensor make for a powerful combination that allows you to check all of the important indicators and settings on the LCD monitor and examine the image frame with the viewfinder.
To view exposed images on your camera, press the PLAYBACK button (figure 2.5). As mentioned in the caption for figure 2.1, you can view images either on the LCD monitor or in the digital viewfinder. Press the VIEW MODE button to choose between the two. Note: the camera stores your display settings independently for the shooting mode and for the playback mode. For example, you can program the camera to use the LCD monitor for shooting and the digital viewfinder for playback, and vice versa. Although this approach makes practical sense, jumping back and forth between shooting and playback modes can be a bit bewildering at first.
The X100 stores your display preferences for both the shooting mode and the playback mode. For example, you can store the EVF (digital viewfinder) for shooting and the LCD monitor for playback.
The camera offers various views for playing images back. Use the DISP BACK button to choose between the views (figure 2.6). In playback mode, it’s not possible to program the viewing details for the LCD monitor and the digital viewfinder independently, as it was in shooting mode. If you have the playback on the LCD monitor set for full frame viewing, for example, this will be used in the digital viewfinder, too.
The exposure view indicates the exposure settings that the camera used to make whatever picture is currently displayed. To view images in full screen and hide all indicators, select the full frame view. You can rate your pictures in the favorites view by assigning them one to five stars. The detailed view includes a histogram in addition to a number of other indicators.
With the exception of the favorites view, you can press the COMMAND CONTROL to the left or right to access additional information about the exposure (figure 2.7). This recalls the playback views of common DSLRs. Through this method, you can access a full screen of detailed exposure settings or a full-frame image with its autofocus point indicated by a green cross.
Figure 2.7 Other playback display views
While in the playback mode, press the COMMAND CONTROL to the right or left to access different display views. These views include detailed exposure settings as well as a full-screen playback that includes an indicator showing the exact point of focus.
To zoom in and out on an image, use the buttons marked with a magnifying glass (the secondary function of the AE and AF buttons when in playback mode; figure 2.8A). Each time you press the ZOOM IN button, the perspective will change and the image will become larger and larger. The COMMAND CONTROL is another option for zooming (figure 2.8B). If you press the middle of the button, the exposure’s active autofocus area will immediately be enlarged to the maximum zoom level.
I use the second method almost exclusively because the clarity in the focus point is most interesting, and you almost always want to zoom in to the maximum depth on the small display of the camera (as opposed to a larger computer monitor) to get a real sense of the image. You can move the visible playback area by manipulating the COMMAND DIAL up, down, left, or right (figure 2.8C).
To enlarge an image in playback mode, press the center of the COMMAND CONTROL. This will automatically zoom in to the maximum level of detail on the area of the picture that the AF frame focused on during the exposure.
Figure 2.8 Zooming in and out in playback mode
A) With the ZOOM buttons, you can enlarge or reduce a section of an image. B) The zoom function activated by pressing the center of the COMMAND CONTROL works even better than the method described in A; this will cause a direct and maximum enlargement of the focus point (if the camera wasn’t moved after focusing). C) After you’ve used either method A or B for zooming in on an image section, you can use the COMMAND DIAL to move within the magnified image.
You can get a good overview of all the saved images when you press the ZOOM OUT button in playback mode (figure 2.9). There are several gallery views that can show up to 100 images at the same time. If there is a group of pictures that were captured in burst mode, this will be indicated by a green border and only the first image of the series will be displayed. Access the full screen mode by pressing the ZOOM IN button.
Figure 2.9 Gallery views
By pressing the ZOOM OUT button, you can cycle through various gallery views which can display up to 100 images at once. To return to the full screen view, press the ZOOM IN button as many times as needed. You can move left, right, up, and down to select the picture you want in the different gallery views.
To delete pictures in playback mode (while a single image is displayed), press the COMMAND DIAL upward twice, and then confirm by pressing OK. Alternatively, you can select DELETE in the PLAYBACK MENU. This method also allows you to delete multiple images at once if you select the SELECTED FRAMES option. When doing this, mark the pictures you want to delete by pressing the OK button, then press the DISP BACK button and confirm the deletion.
2.3 EXPOSURE: THE PLAY OF APERTURE AND TIME
In addition to selecting a subject and lighting, aperture and exposure time are a photographer’s most important technical means of design. Landscape photographers often want to have their entire images sharp (image 1) and need a narrow aperture (large f-stop), while portrait photographers who may intentionally play with blur need a wide aperture (small f-stop). If you want to capture flowing water, you can achieve this photographically by making use of a long exposure time (image 2), but for sports photography, you’ll want the fastest shutter speed available to capture the action sharply.
The high-aperture lens is one of the features that makes the X100 such a special camera. The next sections cover the different exposure modes of the camera. The X100 offers different methods to control the exposure similar to those of most professional cameras. You can switch between aperture-priority AE, shutter-priority AE, program AE, and manual exposure.
Image 1 Depth of field
The use of a relatively small aperture (f/8) allows for a sharp foreground and background.
Image 2 Long exposure time
With the help of the camera’s built-in neutral density filter and a narrow aperture, you can elongate the exposure time so water appears like a flat plain in an image.
These work intuitively, requiring only the APERTURE RING and the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL (figure 2.10) to control them. Both of these controls have a red A to mark the automatic setting.
This exposure control setting allows you to choose a definite aperture. The camera will select a corresponding shutter speed to make a successful exposure. To shoot using aperture-priority AE, set your desired aperture and then turn the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL to automatic (setting A). The shutter speed will then be determined by the camera. After defining the aperture with the APERTURE RING, you can use the COMMAND CONTROL to make the aperture wider or narrower in increments of 1/3 EV. This means in addition to the apertures engraved on the aperture ring, you can also use settings in between (in 1/3 EV increments). If you have the aperture ring set at f/8, for example, and you press the COMMAND CONTROL once to the left, the aperture will be decreased by 1/3 EV (f/9.0). Pressing it twice to the left will decrease the aperture by 2/3 EV (f/10). If you press the COMMAND CONTROL once to the right, the aperture will increase by 1/3 EV (f/7.1); two times to the right will cause an increase of 2/3 EV (f/6.4). I use this exposure control setting most frequently because I use wide and narrow apertures as a means of image design.
When using this exposure control setting, the camera selects a fitting aperture based on the shutter speed you select to create a combination that will achieve a correct exposure. To use this control, first set the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL to your desired speed and then adjust the APERTURE RING to the A setting. You can use the COMMAND DIAL to increase or decrease the exposure value in increments of 1/3 EV, allowing you to make use of the shutter speeds in between those engraved on the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL. In this setting, if the aperture can’t be adjusted to a wide or narrow enough setting to properly expose the image, the f-number will appear red in the viewfinder (p. 37).
To shoot in the program AE mode, adjust both the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL and the APERTURE RING to the A setting. The camera will automatically regulate the exposure by choosing an aperture and shutter speed. If you are not satisfied with the automatic aperture and shutter speed selections, you can tweak the shutter speed with the COMMAND CONTROL, and the aperture with the COMMAND DIAL. This function is called program shift. It only works, however, when the flash, the ISO auto control, and the dynamic range auto control are disabled and the histogram on the LCD monitor or in the digital viewfinder is activated. (You won’t find this information in the official Owner’s Manual!) Since these restrictions are significantly limiting, I use program AE and program shift rarely.
Program shift only works when the flash, ISO auto control, and dynamic range auto control are turned off and the histogram on the LCD monitor or in the digital viewfinder is turned on.
Figure 2.10 Exposure modes of the X100
Using the APERTURE RING and the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL, you can switch between the various automatic exposure modes as well as the manual mode. You can also tweak the shutter speed and the aperture in increments of 1/3 EV by using the COMMAND DIAL and the COMMAND CONTROL respectively. This means that you can choose shutter speeds and apertures in between those engraved into the camera’s controls.
In this exposure mode, both the shutter speed and aperture must be set manually. To choose the manual exposure mode, set the APERTURE RING and the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL to settings other than A. A white M on a red background will appear near the bottom of the display to indicate that you are in the manual exposure mode. Unfortunately, the histogram will not display your exposure results in this setting, so check the exposure scale on the left edge of the display to see if your image is under- or overexposed (figure 2.11).
Figure 2.11 Exposure indicators in manual mode
In the manual exposure mode, the histogram cannot depict the distribution of tones in an image. Instead, you can check the image on the exposure scale that appears on the lower left side of the display (circled).
In the manual exposure mode, you can’t rely on the histogram to proof your image; instead, you’ll need to orient yourself with the exposure scale.
The camera offers two options on the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL for taking pictures with long exposure times: the T setting and the B setting (figure 2.12). When shooting in the T setting, you can use the COMMAND DIAL to set an exposure time between 0.5 and 30 seconds. The B setting allows you to keep the shutter open for up to 60 minutes as long as your finger or a remote release keeps the shutter-release button depressed. A lockable remote release is a useful tool when it comes to photography with long exposure times.
Figure 2.12 Long exposure times
When you turn the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL to T, you can use the COMMAND DIAL to choose an exposure time between 0.5 and 30 seconds. Turning the SHUTTER SPEED DIAL to B allows you to expose an image for up to 60 minutes with a remote release.
The camera conveys information about the aperture and/or shutter speed settings by displaying the exposure setting indicators in different colors. As you will see below, these color codes have different meanings depending on which exposure mode you’re using.
In this setting, the manually selected aperture will always appear .
exposure less than 1 second: exposure OK
exposure between 1 second and 30 seconds: exposure OK
exposure 30 seconds: exposure not OK
correct exposure can’t be achieved at selected aperture: exposure not OK
In this setting, the manually selected shutter speed will always appear .
a functional aperture can be selected by the X100: exposure OK
a functional aperture cannot be selected: exposure not OK
aperture and shutter speed
automatically set values: exposure OK
aperture and shutter speed
program shift in use: exposure OK
aperture and shutter speed
image is under- or overexposed: exposure not OK
aperture and shutter speed
user-defined values: status of exposure indicated in the exposure scale
exposure time between 1 second and 30 seconds: status of exposure indicated in the exposure scale
exposure time is too short for this aperture: status of exposure indicated in the exposure scale
The camera is only capable of using the short exposure time of 1/4000 second if the aperture is set at f/8 or smaller. A shutter speed of 1/2000 second becomes an option starting at aperture settings of f/4, and 1/1000 can be used at all aperture settings. It’s possible to get around these limitations in manual mode (the shutter speed indicator will be red), but you’ll end up with undesirable image artifacts. It is best to avoid shooting when the shutter speed indicator is red, even though the camera allows you to. It’s possible to use a wide aperture in bright conditions with the use of a neutral density (ND) filter (also called a gray filter). This reduces the exposure by 3 EV. To activate the ND filter, access the SHOOTING MENU and select ND FILTER (p. 164).
When shooting in the manual mode, be careful not to shoot when the shutter speed indicator is red, as image artifacts will occur.
If the exposure time is greater than 1/30 second, a camera shake warning in the shape of a yellow camera icon will appear (figure 2.3, middle image).
Previously we looked at how the X100 selects a shutter speed to complement your manually selected aperture in the shutter-priority mode in order to create a properly exposed image. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t actually know what a properly exposed image is—it’s lacking the standard, so to speak. You can get a sense of what this means by photographing a black or white wall. Automatic light metering systems will render both walls as a more or less middle gray tone. Camera manufacturers have developed various methods of light metering in order to get around this limitation so their cameras can produce well-exposed images. Each method has benefits and drawbacks that depend partially on your skills and abilities. The X100 offers three metering methods: multi, spot, and average. (The closely related subject of ISO, or light sensitivity, is covered in the ISO section starting at p. 57.)
This metering method is the most modern and the most complex. The camera measures 256 zones within the entire picture to collect data about composition, color, and brightness distribution. This data is then compared to data from saved templates of typical subjects and scenes in order to determine the proper exposure. As a rule, this method produces good results and is especially useful when you don’t want to give any thought to exposure. In reality, no one except the engineers at Fuji really knows what the camera measures in this setting or how that information is used to determine image exposure. When using this metering method, you can assume that the camera is responsible for attaining a good exposure.
When using spot metering, the camera will measure the exposure of a small area in the center of the image that accounts for about two percent of the total image area. It’s important to note that the spot that is metered is in the exact center of the image, not the autofocus frame! With this in mind, you should remember not to use spot metering in combination with the optical viewfinder when shooting at close range because of the problems created by viewfinder parallax (p. 18). With that said, spot metering is great when you want to ensure that a specific part of your image is exposed correctly at medium brightness. The X100 treats this focal spot as though it is a gray card that reflects 18% of the light that falls on it. You’ll find this method especially useful when you’re taking a backlit portrait, for example, or when you’re shooting in the manual exposure mode and want to measure the brightness of different subjects in the scene.
If your target subject isn’t located in the center of your image, first set up your shot by positioning your subject in the center of the image frame. Depress the shutter-release button halfway, and then redirect the camera to the correct position while continuing to hold down the shutter-release button. Then expose the image by pressing the shutter-release button the rest of the way down. Many professional photographers prefer this method because it is the only metering process in which the photographer has total control over the metering of his or her image. The other two methods—multi and average—are controlled to varying degrees by the camera itself and are not entirely predictable. This means, of course, that the burden of responsibility for properly exposing an image lies entirely on the photographer and his or her abilities.
Figure 2.13 Light metering methods
This figure illustrates how each of the light metering methods works. The multi metering method (left) rendered the statue and the forest too dark, while the sky doesn’t have much texture and is somewhat overexposed. In the image exposed using the spot metering method (middle), the statue is adjusted to middle gray and looks good. The forest behind it is a little too bright, though, and the sky lacks definition because it is overexposed. The average metering method (right) underexposed the entire foreground but depicted the sky’s details well. The multi metering method probably recognized a main subject in the foreground along with a contrasty landscape in the background and ultimately decided on something in the middle. The spot meter treated the statue as an 18% gray card, and the exposure was regulated accordingly. In the image on the right, the large, bright area of the sky distorted the average brightness of the picture, causing everything besides the sky to be underexposed. (This image is actually exposed pretty well; it’s just in need of some post-processing. This subject will be further explored in the section on dynamic range.)
This metering method attempts to do the entire image area justice by analyzing the brightness of the entire image area and settling on a middle or average value. This method is especially advantageous when shooting landscapes. However, large areas of an image that are especially bright or dark will skew the average brightness for the entire image and will cause the final picture to be under- or overexposed (overexposed in terms of dark and middle gray tones in the image). The advantage of this method is that you’ll hardly ever get images with clipped highlights, which is good. It is rather easy to adjust those by brightening up dark and middle areas (while you can’t restore clipped highlights). You’ll learn more about this in the section on dynamic range (p. 115).
When to use each metering method depends on your purposes and habits. Anyone who doesn’t want to worry about metering will find the multi metering method helpful. The spot metering method is the most difficult and demanding method because it requires you to pay attention to the brightness distribution in the entire image area. The average metering method is easier to correct (with the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL) than multi metering because the mode of operation is more transparent. It’s still not without technical drawbacks, however.
You can switch between the multi, spot, and average metering methods by pressing the AE button (figure 2.14) and simultaneously turning the COMMAND DIAL or pressing the COMMAND CONTROL to either side.
There are additional ways to optimize an image’s exposure that will be explored later in this book. The next section covers the X100’s EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL, which you can use to tweak automatically defined exposure settings.
The camera will select an exposure setting based on the metering method that you choose, but there are situations that require you to assist the metering technology. A classic example is when you are shooting a snow landscape. The camera ascribes a middle gray value to the snow, causing the entire image to be underexposed. These situations can sometimes be remedied by using exposure compensation. The X100 features an EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL located on the top of the camera, near the shutter-release button (figure 2.15). At a time when some cameras have more and more buttons and knobs that serve multiple purposes to accommodate an abundance of features, it’s refreshing to have this simple dial that serves a distinctly useful purpose. Rotate the dial to correct the exposure in 1/3 EV increments, from −2 to +2 EV. You can also view the exact exposure compensation value on the camera’s exposure scale, which is shown in figure 2.11. The exposure compensation would be –2 EV in the top image and + 2 EV in the bottom one.
CORRECT EXPOSURE WITH THE LIVE HISTOGRAM AND EXPOSURE COMPENSATION
One good way to achieve an optimal exposure is to use the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL in tandem with the live histogram indicator, which displays the distribution and frequency of tones in an image just before you snap a photo. The values on the left side of the histogram represent the black tones and those on the right side, the white tones. The values in the middle correspond to the spectrum of dark and light gray tones. This indicator enables you to quickly analyze—and, if necessary, correct—the results of the camera’s light metering before you actually take the picture. (Remember, though, that the histogram indicator won’t display the brightness distribution when shooting in the manual mode.) If the histogram indicates that there are overexposed tones in your image, you can decide if the details in the corresponding areas of your image are significant (a white sky, for example). The same goes for underexposed areas. I usually use the multi or average metering methods, check the histogram, and then make adjustments accordingly.
This routine is more or less impossible with a DSLR camera. At best, a DLSR offers a live histogram with its live view option. When you sight your subject in a DSLR’s viewfinder, you’re looking at the subject directly rather than at a preview image. There is no way to preview the exact image that the camera sensor is going to capture, which is why there is no live histogram to analyze. Only after the fact can you look at a histogram for the picture. If the circumstances allow for a second take, you can use the histogram from the first image to set up the second shot with appropriate exposure correction; however, it can be rather cumbersome to apply an exposure correction on single-lens reflex cameras. You’re often required to hold down a plus-minus button while simultaneously turning a control dial. In other words, the combination of the exposure compensation feature of the X100 and the live histogram is a real advantage, and you should definitely use it. With a little practice, you will get exciting results quickly.
2.4 SHARP IMAGES: FOCUSING WITH THE X100
The X100 offers two different autofocus modes: single autofocus (AF-S) and continuous autofocus (AF-C). Aside from these two options, you also have the ability to focus your lens manually (MF). The camera uses contrast detection technology for the autofocus modes. This sets it apart from most DSLRs, which typically use phase detection systems to determine a subject’s distance from the camera. How does contrast detection work? Imagine you’d like to take a picture of a chessboard. If the board is not in focus, you won’t see the defined edges of the white and black squares; you’ll see a grayish blur with vague dark and light spots. If the board is in focus, the black and white squares will be distinct. This is exactly the sort of information the camera uses to focus; it attempts to achieve the largest possible contrast between objects, and when it does, the image is sharp. The contrast between black and white, for example, is much greater than the contrast between light gray and dark gray.
A disadvantage of the contrast detection system stems from the camera’s inability to know at what distance from the camera the maximum contrast level will occur. To figure this out, it slowly goes through a process of over- and underestimating the distance to the subject until it finds the optimum point of starkest contrast. This process can be costly in terms of both time and battery power because the camera’s sensor is involved. Additionally, there is a minimum level of contrast that needs to be present in your subject for the process to work at all. The upshot, however, is that the focusing system is precise.
What else should you pay attention to? When two objects that are different distances from the camera both happen to be in the autofocus area, you can’t select which object the camera uses as the target for the autofocus. It simply begins its process of focusing on one of the objects, and once it maximizes the contrast, it will stop focusing. In other words, you can’t determine whether the foreground or the background of your image will be sharp in this situation.
For this reason, avoid placing the edges of objects at different distances from the camera in the autofocus area; instead, try to fill the entire focus field (in single autofocus) with exactly what you want to be in focus. This object should have distinct contrast lines. When I’m shooting a portrait, for example, I always focus on my subject’s eyes. You’ll have the easiest time filling up the autofocus frame in this way when the frame is as small as possible (p. 51).
The most accurate—but time-consuming—way to focus is manually. So in situations when sharpness is paramount and circumstances allow, consider focusing the camera on your own. The same goes for situations where the autofocus doesn’t perform well, such as in dark environments and with low-contrast subjects.
To switch from single autofocus (AF-S) to continuous autofocus (AF-C) to manual focus (MF), use the slide switch located on the left side of the camera (figure 2.16).
Single autofocus is the most common method of focusing. It works by isolating and focusing on a target object in the autofocus frame. Focusing begins as soon as you depress the shutter-release button halfway. As long as you hold the shutter-release button halfway down, the focus will be saved. In contrast to this method, the continuous autofocus mode isolates the object in the middle of an image and updates constantly if that object (a moving car, for example) or the photographer moves. Depressing the shutter-release button halfway freezes the focus, as it does in the AF-S mode, and the focus stops updating. Single autofocus enables photographers to shift the focus frame so it doesn’t have to be in the direct center of the image. In the manual focusing mode, you decide for yourself what part of your image you want to be in focus. This is the most precise, but also the most time-consuming method of focusing.
MANUAL FOCUS (MF)
In comparison to DSLRs without a live view feature, the X100 has the advantage of being able to display enlarged selected image areas in the digital viewfinder or on the LCD monitor for focusing. It also lets you do an initial automatic focusing—despite being in manual mode—to approximate the correct focus point. Use the following directions to focus manually (figure 2.17):
- Hold down the AF button while using the COMMAND DIAL to move the green focus frame to the part of the image on which you wish to focus (figure 2.17 A).
- Press the COMMAND CONTROL to enlarge the selected image area in the digital viewfinder or on the LCD monitor (if you’re using the optical viewfinder, the camera will automatically switch to the digital). This function is an enormous help in situations when sharpness is critical (figure 2.17 B1)
- Press the AFL/AEL button to use the camera’s autofocus briefly in order to jump to a focus distance that’s close to your desired one. This trick of approximating the correct focus quickly is helpful, and I haven’t seen it work the same way on other cameras. Since it can take a long time to adjust the FOCUS RING on the X100, this method can save a lot of time (figure 2.17 B2).
- Finally, use the FOCUS RING to fine-tune your focus (figure 2.17 B3).
Figure 2.17 Workflow of manual focusing
A: Press the AF button to bring up the focus frame on the camera’s display and use the COMMAND DIAL to adjust its location on the screen. B1: Press the center button of the COMMAND CONTROL to enlarge the focus area on the display (you can deactivate this function in the SETUP MENU under FOCUS CHECK). B2: Press the AFL/AEL button to have the camera automatically focus on the selected area. B3: Find the optimal focus by adjusting the FOCUS RING.
Focusing manually with the FOCUS RING can take a significant amount of time; the process can’t be compared with focusing a DSLR. This is all the more reason to use the AFL/AEL button to get roughly in focus, and then use the FOCUS RING to handle the final minor adjustments.
There is another tool that is useful when trying to approximate the distance of your subject from the lens: the distance indicator (figure 2.18). This indicator can be used in all three display modes (figure 2.1). The white band on the blue distance indicator scale shows how far the depth of focus extends based on the selected aperture and the set focus distance (the larger the f-stop and the distance, the larger the white band). The red vertical line indicates the distance of the camera’s focus point. This allows you to tell quickly if the selected focus point jives with the distance of your subject. If, for example, you’re trying to take a picture of a bride and groom who are standing right in front of you, but the red line is all the way at infinity, you’ll know you haven’t focused correctly. With just a little experience you’ll find that you quickly develop a good sense for distances, and you’ll be able to avoid wayward focusing most of the time.
Figure 2.18 Distance indicator
This scale provides information about the depth of focus (the white band) as a function of the selected aperture and subject distance, as well as the focus point of the camera (vertical red line).
If you’d like to change the FOCUS RING’s direction of rotation, select FOCUS RING from the SETUP MENU and define your preferences. You can also change the units of the distance indicator from meters to feet by selecting FOCUS SCALE UNITS from the SETUP MENU.
SINGLE AUTOFOCUS (AF-S)
When using this focusing mode, your camera will automatically focus either on an area of the image that you select (AREA) or on the subject with the starkest contrast in the image (MULTI). I recommend using the AREA mode because your subject won’t always be the most contrasty part of your image, and there is no way to override the camera’s decision in the MULTI mode. But be sure to give both modes a try to collect your own experiences. You can switch between these two modes by accessing the SHOOTING MENU and selecting AF MODE.
To select the area of the image on which you want to focus, hold down the AF button and use the COMMAND DIAL or the DIRECTION KEYS to move the green focus frame (figure 2.19 A). When using the LCD monitor and the digital viewfinder, you have a choice of 49 focus points, but when using the optical viewfinder you only have 25. Pressing the COMMAND CONTROL to the left or right (holding the AF button) will reduce or enlarge the focus frame, respectively. If you press the middle of the COMMAND CONTROL, the focus frame will return to its original size (figure 2.19 B). This feature isn’t possible in the optical viewfinder.
If you’re used to focusing on a DSLR, you’ll need to develop a different routine for the X100 because it uses contrast detection autofocus technology instead of phase detection (which is the autofocus technology of choice for most DSLRs). You shouldn’t attempt to frame the edge of your subject in the autofocus area; instead, fill up the entire area with the object on which you’re focusing.
Figure 2.19 Defining the location and size of the autofocus frame
A: Hold the AF button down while using the COMMAND DIAL or the DIRECTION KEYS to set the location of the autofocus frame. B: By pressing the COMMAND CONTROL to the left or right, you can change the size of the autofocus frame.
When using the AF-S mode to focus, it’s best to use the LCD monitor or the digital viewfinder so you can use a small autofocus frame.
If there is more than one high-contrast subject in the autofocus frame, the camera has no way of knowing which one to focus on. With this in mind, it makes sense to use the smallest possible autofocus frame.
As previously stated, you should exercise caution when focusing with the optical viewfinder because viewfinder parallax can create undesirable shifts in the location of the AF focus frame—a problem that is most noticeable with close-range photography. As an upshot of firmware update 1.1, you can enable a second, green AF frame to be displayed after depressing the shutter-release button halfway. The green frame indicates the area on which the camera is focusing (p. 19). To do this, go to the SETUP MENU and enable CORRECTED AF FRAME. You’re only able to check whether this area matches the area you’d like in focus; you can’t adjust it yourself. Another drawback of using the optical viewfinder for focusing is that you’re unable to change the size of the focus frame, and you have less precision when choosing its location because there are only 25 focus points instead of 49.
CONTINUOUS AUTOFOCUS (AF-C)
In this mode, the camera continuously focuses on the center of the image (the crosshairs). It does this automatically without ceasing and without needing to be activated by depressing the shutter-release button. You should use this method of focusing when you’re trying to shoot a moving subject. This continuous operation drains the battery faster than the single autofocus mode because the camera is constantly measuring the distance between the subject and the sensor and readjusting the focus accordingly. Again, it’s best to fill the entire area of the crosshairs with the focusing target of your image so that the camera doesn’t inadvertently focus on the wrong subject. This focus mode also lends itself to situations with dim lighting because it doesn’t stop working after alighting on the first result, and it improves your chances of taking a successful image by continually updating. Furthermore, the autofocus auxiliary light best illuminates the center of the image, where focus is measured in AF-C mode.
FOCUSING IN THE DARK
Focusing in dim lighting often trips up the X100. Contrast lines are not as marked in the dark, and the occurrence of image noise tends to exacerbate this problem. One remedy for this is the camera’s autofocus auxiliary light, which offers some redress for objects that are at close range. Since this auxiliary light points directly in front of the camera, you should make sure the autofocus frame (AF-S) is also positioned centrally. If you want to disable the auxiliary light, open the SETUP MENU and find AF ILLUMINATOR to save your preference. As previously mentioned, the continuous autofocus is more adept in poor lighting situations. Another trick for focusing in the dark is to use the distance indicator, which provides a quick assessment of how realistic the selected focus distance is.
AFL and AEL stand for autofocus lock and auto exposure lock, respectively. This button (figure 2.20) allows you to save the focus and/or exposure settings so they can be used for more than one capture. When you focus on a subject and measure the exposure by depressing the shutter-release button halfway, both values are saved as long as the shutter-release button is held down halfway (and also in the moment it’s pressed down all the way), even if you move the camera. The AFL/AEL button extends the potential for exploiting this feature as it allows you to save the focus and exposure settings even when you let go of the shutter-release button. These exposure settings can then be used for additional exposures as long as the settings remain saved. You can set up the AFL/AEL button to save these values in two different ways. You can either have the camera save the values as long as the AFL/AEL button is depressed, or you can program the button to work like an on-off switch. If you choose the latter, the values will be saved the first time you press the AFL/AEL button and will be erased when you press it again (figure 2.21).
The AFL/AEL button can be set up to save only the exposure settings, only the focus information, or both. To program the button, open the SETUP MENU and select a setting from the AE/AF-LOCK BUTTON menu (figure 2.22).
Figure 2.21 AE/AF-LOCK MODE
Here’s where you define how you want the AEL/AFL button to save information. You can program it to function only when it is depressed, or you can program it as an on-off switch. In the latter case, the first time you press the button the values are saved, and the second time you press it the values are erased.
A certain quantity of light must land on the camera’s sensor in order for a digital picture to be created. Three factors influence this quantity. Aside from setting the aperture and shutter speed, which both control how much light reaches the sensor, you can also affect the exposure by changing the sensitivity (ISO) of the sensor. More specifically, the signal that enters through the camera’s lens can be amplified so that even if the signal strength (incident light) is low, a proper image will still be captured. (Technically, the ISO speed defines the required quantity of light that is controlled by the aperture and the shutter speed.) This signal boost makes it possible to use faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures than you’d otherwise be able to use.
In most cases, you will increase the ISO speed so that you can use a fast enough shutter speed (<1/30 second) to avoid camera shake. You can also avoid having to use the flash by employing a fast ISO speed. Higher sensor sensitivity also has its drawbacks. High sensitivity settings will lead to increased image noise, or wrongly colored pixels and a loss of detail. Although all camera sensors create noise at high ISO speeds, the noise behavior depends on the type of sensor, the size of its pixels, and its temperature. Smaller pixels that are more densely packed make noticeably more noise. This point is so important that many professional photographers can’t shoot with cameras that have small sensors (since in this case, even slow ISO speeds can create significant image noise).
One of the greatest advantages of the X100, in comparison to almost all other viewfinder cameras, is its APS-C image sensor. It uses the same sensor format (size) as most DSLRs and performs excellently with regard to image noise, thanks to its large sensor pixels.
What’s the relationship between pixel size, noise behavior, and ISO speed? There’s actually a simple physical explanation. The noise at different pixels corresponds fairly closely to the square root of the signal. If a sensor has larger pixels, it will receive a stronger signal when exposed for the same amount of time as a sensor with smaller pixels because more photons per pixel will be absorbed. As an example, consider two sensor pixels, one with a surface area 10 times the size of the other. If each pixel were to be exposed to the same quantity of light, the larger one would receive a signal 10 times larger than the smaller one. If the larger pixel were to receive, for example, 10,000 photons, the smaller pixel would receive only 1,000 photons. The noise value for the former case would be 100 (the square root of 10,000), and in the latter case, 31.6 (the square root of 1,000). The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) would be 100 and 31.6 for the two cases respectively. The ratio for the larger pixel is substantially better, which amounts to less noise.
What does this have to do with ISO speeds? Using the same example, increase the ISO speed from 200 to 800 and reduce the number of photons by a factor of 4. The large pixel would now collect only 2,500 photons (corresponding to an SNR of 50), while the smaller pixel collects only 250 photons (corresponding to an SNR of 15.8). Image noise becomes visible at a certain SNR threshold for both small and large pixels—this threshold is reached much earlier with smaller pixels, though. The smaller pixel would produce visible noise even at slow ISO speeds. With a pixel size of around 5.5 μm, the X100 possesses very large pixels and is accordingly equipped to produce relatively noiseless images even at fast ISO speeds. This is how it can produce decent images even at ISO speeds as fast as 6400 (figure 2.23).
Figure 2.23 Noise behavior
The X100 and its APS-C image sensor can produce great images even at fast ISO speeds. Using the default settings, there is hardly any visible noise at ISO speeds up to 800, and even at the faster ISO speeds (1600–6400) the results are pretty good. Each image was shot with the same aperture (f/4).
A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from:
The best image quality is achieved by using the slowest ISO speeds possible. You should only up the light sensitivity if your aperture and shutter speed settings don’t leave you with any other choices. I don’t mean to say, though, that you should always resort to using the widest aperture before deciding to go to a faster ISO speed.
In addition to the illustrated ISO speed of 6400, you can also select the ISO speed of 12,800 when shooting in the JPEG format. However, I’m of the opinion that this setting will cause your images to suffer a significant loss of quality. As a matter of fact, the camera actually only changes the sensitivity of the sensor—or, more precisely, its signal amplification—within the range of ISO 200 and ISO 1600. This means that for the ISO speeds of 3200, 6400, and 12,800, the actual ISO that’s being used is 1600. Since the sensor only receives low exposure at these fast (theoretical) ISO speeds, the camera generates underexposed images and then uses software (for JPEG files, in the camera; for RAW files, automatically in the converter) to correct them.
For example, say you’re taking a picture of the guests at a wedding in a church. Even after you increase the sensitivity to ISO 1600, you’re still getting images with camera shake because the exposure time is relatively long at 1/8 second. You decide to increase the ISO speed to 6400 in order to shoot with an exposure time of 1/30 second. In this example, you’ve really only altered one of the three factors (aperture, shutter speed, and sensitivity) that affects exposure: namely, the shutter speed. The camera still used the ISO speed 1600 (or an analog signal amplification up to ISO 1600) to shoot at the 6400 ISO setting, so what you actually ended up with is a picture that’s underexposed by two f-stops. This underexposure is then processed digitally after the fact.
Before you go kicking and screaming back to your camera store to complain about this unspeakable piece of technology, you should know that all camera producers handle high ISO speeds in a similar or worse way. Noise already starts to increase when you bump up the ISO speeds between 200 and 1600. Fujifilm simply decided that their process for handling high ISO speeds delivers the best results. Additional analog signal amplification above ISO 1600 would produce worse results than digital post-processing of an underexposed image. When you examine the results that the X100 produces with this process, you see that the right decision was made. Fujifilm’s process has the advantage of still being able to produce a high level of detail in bright areas of images exposed with an ISO of 3200 or higher (because the image is underexposed and the signal is not simply multiplied by the same amount for every part of the image, but is handled differently in dark and midtones as compared to highlights). This isn’t the case with the cameras of other manufacturers, which simply multiply the signal, thereby discarding image data in the light areas.
You may be wondering, what is the point of using an ISO speed faster than 1600 at all? The answer is simple. If you didn’t use these high ISO speeds on your camera, you would have to underexpose the image manually (to get shorter exposure times) and then use a post-processing software or RAW converter afterward. Editing of this sort is quite possible with RAW files, but that’s not the case with JPEGs. JPEG files are end products that have lost significant amounts of image data (p. 70). This makes it practically impossible to adjust the brightness of a JPEG afterwards (figure 2.30). When shooting in the JPEG format using a fast ISO, the camera creates a corrected JPEG from a RAW file and saves it.
So, in situations that matter, use the higher ISO speed—just be aware that your image quality suffers at fast ISO speeds. In the JPEG mode on your camera, you can also shoot with ISO 100. Here again, though, the camera actually captures the image with ISO 200, thereby creating an image that is overexposed by one f-stop, which is in turn post-processed and darkened digitally. Since this process results in a loss of data, the use of ISO 100 is also not advisable.
To define the ISO speed for your camera, open the SHOOTING MENU and select ISO (figure 2.24). Here you can choose between ISO 200 and ISO 6400. When shooting in the JPEG mode, the range of sensitivities spans from ISO 100 to ISO 12,800.
Figure 2.24 ISO settings
To set your camera’s sensitivity to light, access the SHOOTING MENU and select ISO. There you can choose ISO speeds between ISO 200 and ISO 6400. Additionally, when shooting in the JPEG mode, you can select ISO speeds between ISO 100 and ISO 12,800.
One very practical function of the X100 is ISO AUTO CONTROL. When this feature is activated, the camera will automatically raise the light sensitivity of the sensor in dim lighting so the exposure won’t last longer than a predefined maximum limit. In addition to setting this maximum exposure time, you also input a maximum ISO speed. This sounds a little more complicated than it actually is. A rule of thumb states that the longest exposure time that won’t create any camera shake problems is roughly the inverse of the (35 mm-equivalent) focal length (though this of course depends on the person taking the picture). So the 23 mm lens on the X100 has an angle of view equivalent to that of a 35 mm lens on a 35 mm full-frame camera (1.5x). Following this logic, you shouldn’t shoot with an exposure time longer than 1/30 second. If you were using the ISO auto control (in either P or A mode) and the lighting circumstances required that the exposure time extend beyond 1/30 second, the camera wouldn’t slow the shutter down; it would increase the ISO speed.
In my personal settings, I set the exposure time to 1/40 second, just to be on the safe side, and the upper limit for light sensitivity to ISO 1600. This setting will depend on how steady you can hold your camera and how much image noise you can tolerate. Since the use of a tripod obviates the problem of camera shake, it doesn’t make sense to use the ISO auto control when you’re shooting with a tripod—it will only lead to an unnecessary increase in the ISO speed. Another point to remember: the ISO auto control only kicks in if the camera attempts to push the exposure time above the defined limit. It does nothing to affect your default ISO setting. So if you’ve set your camera for ISO 800, that’s the setting your camera will use until the exposure time would otherwise extend longer than 1/30 second (or 1/40 second, whatever your settings are). When using ISO auto control, it therefore makes sense to choose ISO 200.
The ISO auto control will also function when you’re shooting in S or M mode and your exposure settings (regardless of the exposure time) produce an underexposed image. Put your camera in S mode, for example, and choose an exposure time of 1/50 second. If the environs are dark and the aperture can’t open any wider to let in more light, the camera will adjust the sensor’s light sensitivity. Your ISO auto control set shutter speed only has an effect when the camera is in a mode that chooses the exposure time automatically. In general, the camera will attempt to use this automatic system as little as possible. The flash has a similar setting, which is addressed later.
Figure 2.25 ISO AUTO CONTROL
Navigate to the SETUP MENU and select ISO AUTO CONTROL to set a maximum light sensitivity and a minimum shutter speed. This is also where you can turn the ISO AUTO CONTROL on and off. When this function is turned on, it will activate if the shutter speed slows down beyond the defined value or if the selected exposure settings would create an underexposed image. The feature doesn’t change the ISO speed that you manually select as your default (figure 2.24), so you should always set your default at ISO 200 when using this automatic feature.
You won’t be able to find ISO AUTO CONTROL in the SHOOTING MENU, which is probably where it should be. It’s actually located in the SETUP MENU (figure 2.25). The choices for the maximum light sensitivity setting are ISO 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. For the shutter speed limit, you can select times between 1/4 second and 1/125 second.
Thanks to the X100’s excellent noise behavior at high ISO speeds, ISO AUTO CONTROL is a very useful function that I almost always have activated on my camera. It prevents unnecessary camera shake in many cases and still produces high-quality images.
The ISO auto control does not deactivate the light sensitivity selection that you’ve set as your default. If you program your settings for a high ISO speed, for example, the ISO auto control won’t lower those settings; it will only raise them if needed.
Photo editing software is capable of reducing the image noise that is inevitable when shooting at high ISO speeds. JPEGs can be adjusted by the camera, but RAW files need to be edited on a computer with a RAW converter or photo editing software. Unfortunately, a side effect of this process is a reduction of image detail—the stronger the noise reduction, the greater the loss. Since this sort of compensation is a matter of personal taste, the camera offers various settings of noise reduction intensity. You can choose HIGH, MEDIUM-HIGH, STANDARD, MEDIUM-LOW, or LOW. In my opinion, STANDARD and MEDIUM-HIGH strike a good balance. Again, noise reduction only applies to JPEGs. As is virtually always the case, the camera achieves very good results when generating optimized JPEGs (figure 2.26).
Figure 2.26 Noise reduction of JPEGs
By comparing unedited RAW files with JPEG files that have been through the camera’s standard noise reduction process, you can recognize the excellent internal noise reduction capabilities of the X100. A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from:
Figure 2.27 Noise reduction
You can adjust the strength of the camera’s internal noise reduction system if you are working with JPEGs. The LOW setting preserves most of the image details. You can see this most clearly in the light stars, which are obscured by noise at the higher ISO speeds but still retain clear borders. The HIGH setting reduces the noise markedly but also causes the details to become less distinct. The STANDARD setting provides a good compromise. A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from:
To activate the noise reduction system, open the SHOOTING MENU and select NOISE REDUCTION (figure 2.28).
2.6 IMAGE QUALITY: CONVENIENCE OR FLEXIBILITY?
You can choose whether you want the X100 to save your exposures in JPEG or RAW format. To create the JPEG files, the camera extracts data from the RAW files. The question of whether photographers should use JPEG or RAW files is a philosophical discussion that has amateur and professional champions on both sides. The answer for you will depend on your workflow and what you intend to do with your images after you’ve taken them. Following is a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of both file types.
The RAW format corresponds to the film negative of analog photography. It contains all the information that the sensor absorbed during the exposure in its raw form. This affords a significant advantage because it allows you to take on the interpretation of the data yourself by using a so-called RAW converter, such as Adobe’s Camera Raw and Lightroom. By using these types of software programs, you have the power to control white balance, highlights and blacks, contrast, lens and color corrections, brightness corrections, and so on. Furthermore, you can undo any edits you make at any time, and you can create multiple interpretations of a single image without taking up (much) additional space on your hard drive.
The X100 saves RAW files with a color depth of 12 bits per color channel. This means that each color channel has a brightness value between 0 and 4,096. This matters most when it comes to post-processing. RAW files give you a much better chance of recovering data from significantly under- or overexposed areas of an image (figure 2.30) when working with them in a converter program.
Photographers who opt not to save their images in RAW format have to trust their cameras to process the vast amount of image data that the sensor collects correctly. They also have to accept a loss of image data for every image, and in some cases, they have to accept that some images are entirely lost—for example, due to an improperly set white balance.
Many of the positive qualities of this format are also disadvantages. Since RAW files are not ultimately usable as image files, every file needs to be reworked after the fact. RAW files are also significantly larger than comparable JPEG files. So the tradeoffs for quality and flexibility are the costs of additional labor, memory space, and the expertise (and software) required for post-processing. I personally only work with RAW files because they lead to the best images. I don’t trust the camera to assess each situation properly (even though you can almost always trust the X100). By the way, you can use your camera to turn RAW files into JPEGs with your own personal settings. You’ll find additional information about this in the section titled “Image Editing with the X100”(p. 171).
Some things to keep in mind when you save RAW images: After you snap an image to be saved as a RAW file, you can see a preview of the image directly following the exposure as you would with a JPEG. What you’re looking at isn’t actually the RAW file. Since RAW files aren’t viewable as images, the camera converts the RAW data into a JPEG that then appears on the camera’s monitor. The JPEG is generated based on the camera’s settings. This in turn means that there is no guarantee that the colors, contrast, sharpness, and especially the histogram for this displayed image will match what you see when you view the image in a RAW converter. If the JPEG conversion were to adjust the white point, for example, you might be under the impression that your image is exposed correctly, even though you may have actually been able to use the next widest f-stop without any problems. There’s unfortunately no perfect solution for this problem. It would be better if the camera were to preview RAW files with a naked JPEG that hadn’t been edited in any way.
The best possible JPEG settings for RAW images are discussed later on in the section titled “A Profile for a RAW Shooter” (p. 111). These settings make it so the histogram and preview of a RAW image are at least a little more informative than they otherwise would be. (None of the settings affect the RAW data.)
When the camera saves a file as a JPEG, it interprets and converts the raw data collected during the exposure. The number of useful and practical settings for the conversion process has grown, reducing the work that the photographer has to do. In addition to the standard correction measures, such as adjusting the contrast and the white and black points, the camera can also make corrections for undesirable lens effects, including chromatic aberration, vignetting, or distortion (the latter is not done by the X100). Photographers can also select various color or film simulation settings, and they can define how the camera handles contrast, shadow, and highlights during the conversion process. Several cameras, including the X100, also feature an increased dynamic range.
Some of these editing processes are impossible, or at least very difficult, to effect when working in a RAW converter. The X100’s various film simulation settings provide one example of this. JPEGs are exposed with 8 bits per color channel, or in other words, the camera saves only between 0 and 256 output levels for each of the three color channels (red, green, blue)—a disadvantage when it comes to post-processing. Since editing processes generally lead to a reduction of image data, this means that if you start with an image that has a color depth of 8 bits per channel, you’ll end up with an image that has fewer than 8 bits per channel for printing. In comparison, if you start with a RAW file, which has a color depth of 12 bits per channel (4,096 output levels!), or a TIFF or PSD file, you’ll be able to edit the images and still end up with more than 8 bits for printing. The best-case scenario is that the camera sets the white balance and exposure correctly, interprets all the image data intelligently, saves the JPEG with all of the relevant data (deleting the irrelevant), and essentially completes the post-processing for you. If you’re willing to take a risk and accept that the best-case scenario won’t happen every time, and you’d like to obtain finished, edited images as soon as possible, then JPEGs are the right choice for you. It should also be mentioned that choosing between the JPEG format and the RAW format depends partly on how sophisticated the camera is at creating JPEGs. The X100 makes fantastic JPEGs. Shooting in the JPEG format with the X100 is a real joy—one that makes even committed RAW photographers (including myself) doubt whether they’ve made the right decision.
Here’s what you need to know about working with JPEGs: As was just discussed, processing JPEGs after the exposure reduces image quality and in some cases is not even possible. You can’t, for example, convert a black-and-white JPEG into a color image. For these reasons, always make sure to take pictures with the correct exposure (p. 43) and white balance (p. 78), and use the best JPEG settings (p. 86). Decide as soon as possible which of the film simulations you like best (p. 86) because adjusting this setting is difficult or impossible. Always save JPEGs with the highest quality and size possible (p. 75) and with a 3:2 aspect ratio. You can always reduce an image’s size, crop its frame, or reduce its quality later on your computer.
JPEG AND RAW
Besides the choice between JPEG and RAW, you have the additional option of saving an image in both formats simultaneously. This setting offers photographers who want to have a finished image right away and the highest-quality image at their disposal the chance to have both. This setting also may appeal to JPEG photographers who are anxious about the X100’s automatic conversion—saving an image in both file formats enables the photographer to delete the RAW file in cases when the JPEG is satisfactory. This setting comes with a catch, of course: saving two files will take up significantly more memory space and eventually will create more work when it comes time to transfer the image files to your computer and organize them. When you save the same image both as a JPEG and a RAW file, you’ll have two images that have the same name, except for their filename extensions (RAWs are saved as .RAF and JPEGs as .JPG). This poses a problem for some software programs. Light-room, for example, will only import the RAW file, unless you’ve taken the time to rename the JPEG file before importing it.
Figure 2.29 Differences between RAW and JPEG images
If you open a RAW file in a converter program, you will see an image still in need of editing. Conversely, when the X100 generates a JPEG (using the standard settings), it adjusts the contrast, sharpens, corrects the vignetting, and adjusts the color. Even (rarely occurring) chromatic aberration is fixed (not shown).
Figure 2.30 Correction of exposure and white balance in JPEG and RAW files
These examples, though somewhat extreme, illustrate the difference between JPEG and RAW files when it comes to correcting exposure and white balance. The highlight areas still show little detail in the corrected JPEG images, but the RAW files show that it is possible to recover these areas. The same is true for the dark areas: after correction, the JPEG image still has shadow areas. This proves that RAW files not only provide a better opportunity for rescuing over- or underexposed images, but also they can accommodate a larger dynamic range. If the white balance is set incorrectly with a JPEG, there is no way to fix the color afterward. A RAW file, in comparison, doesn’t have this problem because the white balance isn’t applied until the file is opened in a converter. Setting its white balance, in other words, is tantamount to interpreting its already-exposed image data.
When shooting in the JPEG format, you also have the option of defining the quality of the images. You can choose between NORMAL and FINE. Although there might be special cases when it makes sense to use the NORMAL setting (for example, if you’re taking pictures for the Internet), I strongly recommend against using it as your default setting. This setting results in smaller files, but it also drastically reduces the image quality. To put it bluntly, there’s no reason to buy this powerful (and expensive) camera to shoot reduced-quality images.
To choose between the file format options, go to the SHOOTING MENU and select IMAGE QUALITY, where you will be able to choose FINE, FINE+RAW, NORMAL, NORMAL+RAW, or RAW (figure 2.31).
One of the other variables to define when working with JPEGs is the image size. I have the same advice about size as I do about quality: namely, take the largest images possible in order to achieve maximum quality. If you ever end up having the need for smaller images, you can always reduce their size later.
You can select one of three different image sizes: large (L), medium (M), or small (S). Additionally, you can choose between two different aspect ratios: 3:2 or 16:9. All images are actually exposed at a ratio of 3:2, since those are the dimensions of the camera’s sensor. If you select the 16:9 option, the camera simply crops the top and bottom of the picture accordingly.
Figure 2.31 IMAGE QUALITY
While in shooting mode, press the MENU button to open the SHOOTING MENU. Within the menu, navigate to IMAGE QUALITY. You can choose between JPEG (FINE and NORMAL), RAW, or both file formats at once. To make your selection, press OK or move the COMMAND DIAL to the left.
Press the MENU button in shooting mode to open the SHOOTING MENU and select IMAGE SIZE (figure 2.32). When an image size is selected, the number of pictures that can be saved at that image size in the remaining memory space is indicated to the right. In the bottom-left corner of the screen, you can see the dimensions of the picture measured in pixels (width x height) as well as the total number of pixels in millions indicated in parentheses (at the highest resolution, 12 megapixels). The size of RAW images cannot be changed because a RAW file by definition comprises all of the data absorbed by the sensor at its full resolution (see above). This is why the menu option IMAGE SIZE will be gray, and you will not be able to select it if you are saving your image as RAW data.
Figure 2.32 IMAGE SIZE
You can change the size of the images saved to your memory card, provided you are saving them as JPEGs. Select IMAGE SIZE from the SHOOTING MENU and choose between large (L), medium (M), and small (S). You also have the option of changing the aspect ratio, which can be set at either 3:2 or 16:9. The camera’s sensor has an aspect ratio of 3:2, which means that the only way to make use of the camera’s full resolution of 12 megapixels is to use the setting L 3:2. All of the other formats only use a portion of the maximum pixel count and should be used only when absolutely necessary.
The X100 is equipped with a RAW button that allows for the quick enabling and disabling of the RAW function (figure 2.33). The effect of this button depends on the quality setting; it will produce the following results according to how the camera is programmed to save images:
Programmed save settings
Save settings after pressing RAW
NORMAL/FINE + RAW
NORMAL/FINE + RAW
After pressing the RAW button, only the next image you take will be saved in the temporarily overridden target format. The camera then converts back to the originally programmed save settings, so any ensuing exposures will be saved accordingly. I think this button has the greatest use for photographers who shoot in JPEG format. It gives them the possibility of quickly and easily collecting RAW data for important exposures. The button is also useful for photographers who shoot in RAW format, because they can opt for a JPEG when propitious circumstances arise. Although I primarily shoot in RAW format, I occasionally snap a JPEG when I don’t want to do any postprocessing on an image and I have no plans to print the image, as is often the case with souvenir photos.
Figure 2.33 RAW button
This button allows you to quickly change the settings for saving your images by toggling whether RAW data will be saved. Pressing the button will enable an override for one exposure only. The camera reverts back to its original settings after that.
2.7 SHOOTING WITH NEUTRAL COLORS, OR HOW TO SET YOUR WHITE BALANCE PROPERLY
In order to depict environments in their natural colors, or neutrally, the camera requires information about the color temperature of the ambient lighting. A gray environment, for example, would appear orange under the light of a warm incandescent light bulb or bluish under the light of a flash. This balancing of colors can be regulated by the camera itself or defined by the user. To accomplish this by compensating for the color tones of different light sources, you can select white balance settings calibrated for different sources of natural and artificial light. Using the correct white balance is essential when working with JPEGs because it is often not possible to correct white balance problems after the image’s exposure.
Since setting a correct white balance is so critical, you can change it directly while in shooting mode without having to open the camera’s SHOOTING MENU. To bring up the different settings, press the WB button (figure 2.34) and use the COMMAND DIAL or DIRECTION KEYS to navigate up and down. Press the OK button or tap the shutter-release button to make a selection. The effect of the highlighted white balance setting will be visible in the camera’s display immediately, making judgment of a proper setting easy.
Figure 2.34 White balance settings
If you are in shooting mode, you can quickly access the white balance selection menu by pressing the WB button. Once you are there, use the COMMAND DIAL or DIRECTION KEYS to move between the different options. As you do this, the camera will update its live display to reveal the results corresponding to each setting, helping you to decide which setting is best for the specific circumstances of the shot. Once you’re ready to select a white balance setting, press the OK button or tap the shutter-release button.
To enable the camera to detect the color temperature of the ambient light automatically, select the AUTO setting from the white balance selection menu. As a rule, this setting works well and should be used as the default setting.
The X100 comes equipped with several preset white balance options designed for the most common lighting conditions. If you’re going to be shooting in direct sunlight or in overcast environs for a while, you should change from the AUTO setting to SUNLIGHT or OVERCAST, respectively. This will reduce the potential for the camera to misinterpret the quality of the light and will lead to more natural color reproduction.
The three FLUORESCENT settings are designed for different grades of fluorescent light: (1) daylight, (2) warm white, and (3) cool white. If you’re not sure which setting best suits the specific cast of fluorescent light in a scene, be sure to preview each of the options by cycling through the settings menu (without actually selecting one). Observe the differences on the camera’s display and choose the setting that reproduces color in the way that you prefer.
To correct the warm light of an incandescent bulb, use the INCANDESCENT setting, and to correct the bluish light characteristic of underwater photography that you encounter in an aquarium, use the DIVING option.
To prevent unfortunate white balance settings, closely examine how each white balance setting reproduces color on the camera’s LCD monitor or in the digital viewfinder—both depict the image that the camera will actually expose and save. Don’t forget to return the white balance setting to AUTO after using one of the other presets.
In addition to these presets, you can also measure the color temperature or, if you know what it is roughly, you can set it manually. This is the purpose of the CUSTOM and COLOR TEMPERATURE settings. When you choose the CUSTOM mode, an exposure area will appear on the camera’s display. To measure the color temperature, fill up this exposure area with a color-neutral object (figure 2.35). It’s best to use a gray card designed for the purpose, which you can trim down to a small size and carry around with you in your camera bag. You can buy a gray card from most good camera shops or on the Internet. If you don’t have a gray card handy, look around for the most color-neutral object in your surroundings with which you can fill up the entire measuring frame. Ideally the object would be gray, but white subjects will also do. The object can’t have a reflective surface—matte objects work best—and it should be uniformly illuminated. Focus doesn’t matter when measuring white balance, so you can get close to your color-neutral object. Depress the shutter-release button entirely until you receive notification that the measuring was COMPLETED, UNDER, or OVER. If COMPLETED is displayed (figure 2.35), press the OK button to set the white balance. If UNDER or OVER appears, raise or lower the exposure compensation accordingly and repeat the process.
Figure 2.35 Custom white balance
After selecting CUSTOM, an exposure frame will appear on the camera’s display. Fill this frame with a color-neutral object and press the shutter-release button. Since sharpness doesn’t play a factor here, you can bring the subject up close to your lens. After COMPLETED displays on the screen, press the OK button to select the newly measured white balance.
With the COLOR TEMPERATURE option, you can define a temperature directly by selecting a value between 2,500 and 10,000 Kelvin (K). Light sources such as candles or incandescent lamps have temperatures of roughly 1,500 to 2,500 K; daylight is about 5,000 K; and a blue sky is around 15,000 K. Selecting a temperature like this has practical advantages. If you’re working in a studio, for example, you’re probably already familiar with the color temperatures of the lamps you use. Choose the corresponding temperature and select it with the OK button. This process will facilitate the consistent reproduction of colors for different photo shoots, something that is especially important for advertising photography. Additionally, photographers who are experienced with color temperatures can assess the ambient light and select values with the intention of making the exposure warmer (by choosing a higher temperature than the actual light) or colder (by choosing a lower temperature than the actual light). I recommend you experiment in different lighting conditions to get a feel for assessing color temperatures and to appreciate the effect of images that are too warm or cold.
Finally, it should be said that the correct color temperature is not necessarily the best. Ultimately, it is a matter of taste and a method of design. The decision to depict a tunnel with its natural orange light or to correct the light to appear white, for example, is up to you. The camera’s white balance settings are also saved with RAW files, so your RAW converter can carry over your desired settings.
This setting, which can be found in the shooting menu, enables you to adjust the white balance settings. Another way of describing the effect of this function is to say that it allows you to tweak the colors of your JPEG to your liking. To do this, you shift the colors using two axes: the first controls red and cyan, and the second, blue and yellow. Since this is a correction, all JPEG images will be affected by these changes. Even the different profiles (p. 109) will be affected by this correction. In the illustrated example, the same three pictures are displayed with different color treatments showing the types of adjustments that can be made with this feature (figure 2.36).
Figure 2.36 White balance shift
In each of these pictures, the color balance has been shifted. The first number indicates the shift in the red/cyan scale, and the second number indicates the shift in the blue/yellow scale. Since this feature allows for a shift between +10 and −10, there are too many combinations to illustrate in this figure. I chose the value of 3 to provide a clear example of the effect of this feature without exaggerating the results. The simulated film here is PROVIA. In my own photography, I often use standard settings for certain genres. For portraits I use +3/0 (i.e., an amplification of red) and for landscape and nature images, 0/+3 (i.e., an amplification of blue). Photographers who shoot both portraits and nature images should use 0/0. This setting only applies to JPEGs and does not affect the white balance information that is saved with RAW files. A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from:
To adjust the values to your own preferences, open the SHOOTING MENU and select WB SHIFT (figure 2.37).
Figure 2.37 WB SHIFT
To shift the colors in your images, open the SHOOTING MENU and select WB SHIFT. Since this is a correction function, any changes you make here will apply to all profiles (as long as you’re shooting in JPEG format).
The JPEG settings establish the process that the camera uses to interpret the RAW data of exposed images. None of these settings affect how images are actually exposed. Their purpose is to make it possible for the camera to generate images corresponding to your personal preferences. (The subject of JPEG settings came up in the section on noise reduction, but it actually fits better with the content related to ISO settings).
These settings are extremely practical—in most cases, they obviate the need for post-processing—but they need to be used with caution. On one hand, they will help you to create the best possible images in the shortest amount of time. But on the other hand, every specialized preference results in a loss of flexibility and increases the risk that you’ll end up with a picture you cannot use. For example, if you take a picture in black-and-white, it is not possible to create a color image from it. Similarly, amplified contrast settings are very difficult to reverse after the JPEG has been created. The same applies to images treated with excessive sharpening.
JPEG settings are, in other words, a double-edged sword: you receive nearly finished images without any effort, but you also have to accept a significant reduction of image data and the loss of flexibility that this entails. The X100’s profile capabilities can be helpful in dealing with this tradeoff (p. 109). It’s prudent to be conservative when defining your JPEG settings. You can always plan on touching up images that require it on your computer afterward.
In analog photography, the type of film used plays a role in a photograph’s final appearance. Different types of film exhibit different qualities with regard to saturation, contrast, and highlight rendition. Fuji, who also happens to manufacture analog films, has brought their repertoire into the digital age with the X100. When snapping JPEGs, you can choose a film simulation effect in the shooting menu. These effects are applied digitally after images are exposed. You may discover that one simulation works especially well for landscape images and another works better for portraiture. This is again a question of personal taste. In addition to choosing between the three film types, you can also choose to work in black-and-white and/or apply different color filters (these aren’t actually built in to the camera; they’re applied to images after exposure). You can also take monochrome pictures with a sepia cast that makes images look aged.
Figure 2.38 Film simulations
These examples illustrate the differences between PROVIA, VELVIA, and ASTIA. The saturation and contrast are markedly higher with VELVIA, and ASTIA produces results that are between the other two. Comparing ASTIA with PROVIA, you’ll see that the former displays higher contrast in dark areas (have a look at the areas between the leaves in the bottom images), but the contrast in the bright areas is more or less identical. Although most people are partial to the ASTIA simulation, the choice of which simulation to use depends on your personal taste and the subject of your picture. A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from: www.rockynook.com/X100/figures
The X100 includes three color film simulations: PROVIA, VELVIA, and ASTIA. PROVIA’s contrast and saturation characteristics are the most understated. VELVIA is high contrast and displays rich color saturation. The simulation for ASTIA film has similar contrast behavior to PROVIA, but displays higher contrast in dark image areas and exhibits a saturation between the other two film types (figure 2.38).
Since each film simulation tends to work better for different types of shots, here is a comparison of nature, landscape, and portrait photography to demonstrate the differences between the film types in each setting. If I were to choose one of the film simulations for my default setting, I would choose ASTIA because I think its results are best in most situations. Aside from nature shots, I don’t use VELVIA. PROVIA is similar to ASTIA, but slightly blander. Since ASTIA (to a certain extent) and VELVIA (to a greater extent) increase an image’s contrast, you should only choose these settings when you can be satisfied with the end results exactly as they are. In other words, use these simulations when you’re taking pictures as JPEGs (not in RAW format) so that you won’t have to do any post-processing on a computer. If you’re shooting JPEGs because you want to save memory space and you’d still like to be able to edit your pictures after the fact, use PROVIA. This simulation is the most conservative and provides you with the most flexibility for post-processing. As already mentioned, the selection of a film simulation relies heavily on personal preference. Take a look at the images and decide which ones you like the best. You also have the option of taking a picture as a series of images with all of the film settings (p. 141).
Figure 2.39 Nature photography
VELVIA excels at shots like this one because its high contrast and rich saturation are ideal for natural subjects. Colors and contrast fall off a bit with the ASTIA setting, and PROVIA is a little too flat for this sort of subject.
Figure 2.41 Portrait photography
ASTIA also makes the best impression for portraits. The skin tones are natural and the contrast is agreeable. The baby is a touch too pale with PROVIA and a touch too colorful with VELVIA.
In addition to the color film options in the FILM SIMULATION menu, there is also an option for black-and-white (MONOCHROME) photography. If this setting is activated, the X100 treats contrast as well as light and shadow behaviors as it does when simulating PROVIA film, only without color. Furthermore, you can opt to apply color filters to intensify tone images exposed in black-and-white mode. Color filters work by brightening a specified color and simultaneously darkening the complementary color. A red filter, for example, brightens the red but brings down cyan and other nearby colors (figure 2.42). This particular filter is used often in analog black-and-white photography for landscape exposures in order to darken the sky and achieve a more dramatic result. Digital photographers can make use of this effect for black-and-white images without having to screw different filters onto the lens. The X100 is capable of weighting the respective areas of color in an image (from the red, green, and blue color channels) in such a way that simulates a variety of color filters. Afterward, the color is drained from the image to create a black-and-white version.
Figure 2.42 Filter effects
The camera converted the top image into a black-and-white image and applied a red filter and a green filter. The red areas were brightened with the red filter and darkened with the green filter. You can see the differences most clearly in the steps and the middle beam. Conversely, the green areas are somewhat darker in the left image compared to the right one (though the effect isn’t especially marked, since the image doesn’t feature pure green).
- Yellow filter (brightens yellow, green, and red; darkens blue, cyan, and purple)
- Red filter (brightens red, purple, and yellow; darkens cyan, blue, and green)
- Green filter (brightens green, yellow, and cyan; darkens purple, red, and blue)
The red filter is great for darkening the sky in landscape images in order to create a dramatic mood. The green filter darkens the red tones of skin and is suited for portraiture. The yellow filter is a mix of the first two—it darkens the sky but also brightens green tones, for example. In general, as long as you understand how a filter works, you can use it for whatever purpose you wish. There’s no reason you can’t use a green filter for a landscape shot too—you may, for example, wish to brighten the green areas of the image.
Figure 2.43 Filter effects with landscape images
The X100 is capable of taking both color and black-and-white exposures with the added option of applying color filters. At the top of this figure is a color image along with the corresponding black-and-white picture that was taken with the MONOCHROME film type. Below them, you can see the effects of the various filters (the bottom row shows an enlarged excerpt of the image). The yellow filter darkened the blue sky somewhat and brightened the green areas such as the forest, the meadow, and the tree leaves. The red filter had a darkening effect on the sky, which was stronger than that of the yellow filter, and also caused the green areas to darken. The green filter brightened up the green areas, didn’t have an effect on the sky, and darkened the red tones (though you can’t see this effect in this particular picture; see figure 2.42). The red filter imbues the image with a dramatic quality. In general, it should be used whenever you wish to darken the sky a little. The green filter can be used for landscape images when the green areas should be slightly brighter. The yellow filter’s results approximate a mixture of the effects of the other two.
Figure 2.44 Filter effects with portraits
When shooting portraits, the green filter is of particular value because it darkens the skin, bringing out shades of color that don’t show up if the skin is too bright (as you can see in the enlarged baby face on the bottom right). The red filter, and the yellow filter to a lesser extent, have the opposite effect and are better left unused for portraits.
These filters are effective, provided they’re used correctly. Images can be ruined by the misguided use of a filter, so make sure you get to know how filters work and how they affect color before you use them.
Sepia toning is actually a process used in analog photography, whereby black-and-white images are chemically treated to increase their durability and to develop a warmer color. Many digital cameras, including the X100, make it possible to replicate this effect digitally by giving black-and-white images a brownish cast. Nowadays, photographers are fond of using this method to make images appear old-fashioned.
Figure 2.45 Sepia
Sepia toning is another one of the X100’s film simulations. It gives images a vintage quality because the color is associated with an analog photography process that makes black-and-white images more durable.
The MONOCHROME film simulation works exclusively with JPEGs. If you wish to convert RAW files to black-and-white, you need to do so in a RAW converter or in a photo editing program on your computer. JPEGs can also be converted to black-and-white after the fact. However, the opposite is not possible, so you should only use the MONOCHROME film simulation when you’re positive that you won’t ever need a color version of the image (when in doubt, shoot in color). As is the case with other JPEG settings, this setting has the potential to save you a lot of time and, when used properly, can generate excellent results; but it also comes with the cost of losing a great deal of flexibility for further image editing.
To choose a film simulation or filter, open the SHOOTING MENU and select FILM SIMULATION (figure 2.46).
Figure 2.46 Selecting film simulations and filters
Open the SHOOTING MENU and navigate to the menu option FILM SIMULATION to select a film type and a filter. When you highlight an option, a description of the setting will appear in the lower left of the display.
While selecting a film type affects a number of image qualities at one time, you can also adjust settings individually. These additional JPEG settings work in combination with the selected film type. For example, you could select VELVIA as your film simulation and, because you love intense colors, you could additionally increase the saturation levels. The figures from this point forward were shot using the ASTIA film simulation because I like the results of this setting best.
Figure 2.47 Saturation
This setting enables you to increase or decrease the color saturation of your images. The setting works in addition to the film simulation effects (provided you have selected a color film type).
This setting allows you to change the color density and saturation by making the colors weaker or stronger. To adjust the color density of your images, open the SHOOTING MENU and select COLOR (figure 2.48).
An image will appear sharper if you increase the light/dark contrast of its contours (at the pixel level) because you can see the details better. In actuality, though, the smallest details are lost through this process. A measured sharpening can noticeably improve the appearance of an image, but if the effect is used intemperately, it will create visual artifacts and will cause the image to look artificial. Many low-priced digital cameras have the sharpness set too high, which causes the images to appear unnatural. Figuring out how high to set the sharpness always depends on the viewing distance between the observer and the print (or monitor). The larger the distance, the higher you may set the sharpness setting. In instances when you’re not sure, use the general rule of thumb: less is better because you can always resharpen the image later on your computer.
Figure 2.49 Sharpness and sharpness artifacts
Sharpening an image causes the contrast along its contours to increase, which makes the image appear more defined (top row). The process actually causes a loss of detail, though, which you can see more clearly by enlarging the image (bottom row). This illustration shows that the high sharpening level causes white seams to appear along the dark contours of the tower. The mast looks sharper when viewed from a greater distance because its contours are better defined.
To set the sharpness level, open the SHOOTING MENU and choose SHARPNESS (figure 2.50).
Figure 2.50 SHARPNESS
Open the SHOOTING MENU and locate SHARPNESS to choose your desired level. As always, the X100 does an excellent job with sharpening. I personally use the STANDARD setting, which offers a good compromise.
The areas of an image can be roughly grouped into three tone regions: shadows, middle tones, and highlights. When the contrast of an image is increased, the highlights of an image are made brighter and the shadows darker. The most well-known and commonly used method of increasing (or decreasing) an image’s contrast is the use of a tone curve. You’re no doubt familiar with the application of tone curves from working with Photoshop or other image editing programs. The advantage of this method is that the tonal values don’t all need to be treated uniformly; you can identify specific regions of tone that you would like to be brightened or darkened. For example, you may wish to increase the brightness for some of the highlights in an image, but not all of them. You can customize the contrast setting so the least bright areas are boosted more than those that are brighter, and the brightest areas aren’t changed at all. If you didn’t have this level of control over the process, you’d end up losing information in the brightest highlights, which should be avoided at all costs. The same applies for shadows, too. When you wish to increase the contrast of an image, you should use an S-shaped gradation curve. Conversely, when you wish to decrease the contrast, use a reverse S-shaped curve, which will darken the highlights and brighten the shadows.
With the help of the next two options in the SHOOTING MENU, you can control how highlights and shadows are influenced through the application of a tone curve. This method establishes the contrast of an image, but the light and dark areas can be regulated separately.
This setting allows you to control how the camera will process and display image highlights, or the brightest tonal values of a subject. Based on your selection, you can choose to leave the highlights unchanged, to brighten them, or to darken them. The STANDARD setting creates an image that corresponds roughly to the look of an unedited RAW file (linear gradation curve). The SOFT setting darkens the bright areas, and the HARD setting brightens them.
Figure 2.51 HIGHLIGHT TONE
This setting regulates the rendering of the highlights, or the bright areas of an image. SOFT darkens the highlights (the sky), STANDARD retains the brightness, and HARD brightens them. Since the effects are considerably strong, you should use this setting with caution.
A measured brightening of the highlights should not result in any clipped highlights (overexposed areas), nor should it make clipped areas worse. The HARD setting sometimes does just that, however. For this reason, I do not recommend using the HARD setting. In many cases, the SOFT setting also produces negative results, since images with darkened highlights often look a little unnatural.
To determine how the camera renders highlights, navigate to the SHOOTING MENU and select HIGHLIGHT TONE (figure 2.52).
The counterpart of the HIGHLIGHT TONE menu is the SHADOW TONE menu. The options of this menu let you define how the camera renders shadows, or the dark tonal values. Again, you have the choice of leaving them unchanged, brightening them up, or darkening them further. STANDARD corresponds to an unedited RAW file, SOFT perceptively brightens the shadows, and HARD produces even darker areas (figure 2.53).
Figure 2.53 SHADOW TONE
This setting controls how the camera renders shadows during the creation of JPEG files. SOFT brightens shadows, STANDARD leaves the shadows unchanged, and HARD darkens them. Since this effect is quite powerful, be careful when using it.
To define your selection for rendering shadows, open the SHOOTING MENU and select SHADOW TONE (figure 2.54).
The range of possibilities available for the camera’s internal handling of highlights and shadows is greater than normal contrast settings usually offer. This is because each area of tonal values can be regulated independently, allowing for detailed rendering options. Choose the SOFT setting for both areas of tonal values to create an image with weak contrast, or the HARD setting for an image with strong contrast (figure 2.55).
Figure 2.55 Contrast
By using both HIGHLIGHT TONE and SHADOW TONE, you can increase or decrease the contrast of an image in traditional ways. To do this, set the corresponding settings to HARD-HARD or SOFT-SOFT (or MEDIUM-HARD, and so on).
Since this setting produces drastic changes to your images, it’s best to avoid using the extreme settings and to plan instead on editing your JPEGs afterward if needed. This is especially true for images with stark contrast because the tonal values in the highlights and shadows can be damaged in such a way that makes them irrecoverable. The X100’s JPEG settings make taking pictures in the JPEG format a real joy, since the images correspond to your personal preferences and the camera’s internal processes create excellent results in all respects. Play around with the various settings and figure out for yourself which settings you like the best. As always, however, err on the side of being too conservative so you’ll still have the option of readjusting your images on your computer later. I personally find that the standard settings in most cases produce admirable results. The one exception is the film simulation: I prefer the ASTIA simulation over the PROVIA. As a rule, I hardly ever use any of the extreme values, opting instead for the STANDARD or one of the other intermediate options between STANDARD and the extreme choice.
Since the same settings aren’t always optimal for the circumstances of different photo opportunities, the X100 allows you to create and save profiles. For example, you probably won’t use the same settings to take a black-and-white image as you do to take a color one. Profiles offer the opportunity to save a number of settings that can be instantly recalled whenever you need them. The following settings can be saved in a profile:
- DYNAMIC RANGE (p. 115)
- FILM SIMULATION
- WHITE BALANCE
- HIGHLIGHT TONE
- SHADOW TONE
- NOISE REDUCTION
With the exception of the DYNAMIC RANGE option, which will be described later, all of the other options have already been discussed. The settings work in tandem with each other. For example, if you select the film simulation PROVIA, which has soft contrast to begin with, and then also set the HIGHLIGHT TONE and the SHADOW TONE to SOFT, you’ll achieve an image with even weaker contrast.
You can save up to three profiles. If you select one of your profiles and decide to override one of the settings (e.g., in the example just described, if you change the SHADOW TONE to HARD), it will stay changed until you load the profile again, at which point the settings will revert back to their original definitions.
Open the SHOOTING MENU and select EDIT/SAVE CUSTOM SETTING to create or change your own profiles (figure 2.56).
Figure 2.56 Profile
The X100 allows you to create three unique profiles. Open the SHOOTING MENU and select EDIT/SAVE CUSTOM SETTING to save or edit a compilation of your preferred JPEG settings. After you have defined your settings, save them by navigating to SAVE CURRENT SETTINGS and using the left DIRECTION KEY. Confirm by pressing the OK button.
To switch between your saved profiles, choose SELECT CUSTOM SETTING from the SHOOTING MENU (figure 2.57).
A PROFILE FOR A RAW SHOOTER
Yes, you read that correctly. After I’ve already mentioned that these JPEG settings don’t affect RAW files, I’m now earnestly suggesting that you create a JPEG profile designed for RAW files. What’s this about? As discussed, the camera creates a JPEG file after saving a RAW file so that a preview can be played back on the display (you’ll remember that RAW files aren’t finished image files and need to be converted to JPEGs in order to be displayed). The playback preview is generated using the actual JPEG settings. For example, if you have the VELVIA film simulation selected, the RAW preview (which is a JPEG) will be colorful and high contrast. What’s more, the exposure preview on the camera (known as the live image), which you see either on the LCD monitor or in the digital view-finder, also reflects the JPEG settings. You may still be thinking, “This is all fascinating, but what does it mean?”
Imagine that you are using the film simulation VELVIA and you have the HIGHLIGHT TONE and SHADOW TONE set to HARD. The resulting image will exhibit extremely high contrast, with the dark areas darkened yet further and the light areas strongly brightened. The live histogram and playback preview of an image taken with these settings would cover the entire range of tonal values, from black to white, and the highlights and shadows often extend beyond the limits of this range. This is true even if the recorded scene actually has a range of contrast that is smaller than the one that can be captured by the camera. Conversely, if you select low-contrast JPEG settings, this won’t be the case. In fact, all of an image’s tonal values may be positioned somewhere between the white point and black point, not covering the whole range of the histogram (figure 2.58).
Figure 2.58 Histograms with different JPEG settings
The various JPEG settings that you can program on your X100 influence both the live image displayed on the monitor or digital viewfinder and the histogram that is displayed in the shooting and playback modes.
The same image was exposed twice here, once with JPEG settings designed to achieve a soft contrast and once with settings that produce a hard contrast. If you chose low-contrast settings, such as PROVIA for the film simulation and SOFT for the HIGHLIGHT TONE and SHADOW TONE, you would see a histogram with an obviously narrower range of tonal values (top) than if you had chosen high-contrast settings, such as VELVIA for the film type and HARD for the HIGHLIGHT TONE and SHADOW TONE (bottom).
This means that the JPEG settings have an effect on how you choose or readjust (EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL) your exposure settings. What do the optimal settings look like for photographers who work in RAW format? For technical reasons, which I’ll go into later, you should expose RAW images as brightly as possible without overexposing them. The upper histogram in figure 2.58, for example, should ideally be shifted further to the right—as far to the right as possible, so long as the tonal values don’t extend beyond the right limit. This is most important when the dynamic range is large and the shadows are exposed darker than necessary. It is therefore good to use low-contrast settings for shooting RAW. These settings will also gives you the advantage of having a better feel for how the highlights and shadows look in your image. My JPEG settings for shooting RAW images look like this:
- DYNAMIC RANGE DR100
- FILM SIMULATION PROVIA
- HIGHLIGHT TONE SOFT
- SHADOW TONE SOFT
The remaining settings are not changed.
Since I’m pretty sure these aren’t your settings of choice for shooting JPEG images, too, don’t forget to change your profile after you’re finished taking RAW images. On my camera, the three profiles I have saved are this RAW profile, a profile optimized for JPEGs, and another that I change constantly (e.g., a profile of my preferred settings for shooting in black-and-white).
The X100 allows you to save your images in two different color spaces: sRGB and Adobe RGB. Different color spaces are distinguished by the number of colors they can accommodate. A smaller color space, such as sRGB, has fewer colors than a larger one, such as Adobe RGB. Saving your images with the colors available in sRGB will cause a loss of color information that otherwise could have been retained by saving them with the colors of Adobe RGB. Despite this, sRGB is still sometimes the better choice. Why? The reason is that different methods of viewing images, such as in an actual print or on a monitor, are not equal in terms of their ability to reproduce color. If you use a color space that’s smaller than the range of colors your method of reproduction can produce, then you’ve unnecessarily lost color from your picture. If your color space is too great, you reproduction won’t include all of the image’s colors. It is pointless to save your images in Adobe RGB if you only ever view them on a computer screen or TV, because these monitors are not capable of reproducing all of the colors (leading to wrong colors). Conversely, your printer and your X100 are capable of producing more colors than are available in sRGB.
The color space that you choose will ultimately depend on how you intend to use your images. If you plan to use monitors or projectors, you’re better off using the sRGB realm. If you plan to print your images, or have them printed, Adobe RGB will serve your purposes better. If you’re not sure, opt for Adobe RGB because it offers the greater color space. When necessary, you can always change from Adobe RGB to sRGB afterward. This setting only affects JPEG files, not RAW files.
To choose your color space setting, open the SETUP MENU and select the submenu COLOR SPACE (figure 2.59).
2.9 ACCOMMODATING A LARGE DYNAMIC RANGE
DYNAMIC RANGE WITH JPEGS
The dynamic range function is one of the camera’s most interesting ones. You may be wondering what it is and what it does, so before I get into a technical explanation, here is a simple account of its applications for JPEGs. Every camera, or more precisely, every sensor, is capable of capturing a defined range of contrast—in other words, a defined range of f-stops, or better yet, a range of exposure values. The X100’s range of exposure values is around 9.5 EVs. (This value is relatively large, owing to the large size of the camera’s pixels. At high ISO speeds, the range decreases because the pixels can no longer make use of their full photon exposure capacity.) This means that there is a minimum threshold of light required to be absorbed by a sensor pixel, and any amount of light below that level will not register, creating a black pixel. Similarly, there is a maximum threshold over which light overwhelms the sensor’s exposure capacity, producing a white pixel. There are about 9.5 exposure values between these two points.
There will always be occasions when a subject exhibits more exposure values, or a larger range of contrast, than the camera can accommodate. This is when the X100’s DYNAMIC RANGE (DR) function comes into play. The DR200 setting increases the dynamic range by one exposure value, and the DR400 setting increases it by two exposure values. This tool allows you to capture an increased range of contrast.
To do this, the camera uses exposure settings to protect the brightest areas of the image from clipping (this will result in a darker image than if the same picture had been snapped without using the DR function). So, you end up with images of high-contrast subjects that still contain the highlight information. Since this will cause the middle and dark tones to be underexposed, however, the camera lightens up these areas afterward. This is how the camera manages to squeeze an extended dynamic range into a JPEG. (The actual dynamic range of the camera doesn’t change, but the JPEG results serve as a suitable workaround; figure 2.60.) The cost of this method is a loss of detail in the image’s shadows because these areas suffer a reduction of tonal range and an increase in noise.
When should you use DYNAMIC RANGE?
You should use the DYNAMIC RANGE function (either automatic or manual) anytime you’re shooting a subject that has a larger contrast range than the camera is capable of capturing. The upshot of using this function is you get images that display a greater range of contrast without giving up a natural look. Once again, the X100 produces excellent results with the creation of these JPEGs. Additionally, AUTO DR is programmed well so that it activates when it is needed and mostly stays inactive when it’s not.
The answer is decidedly No. If the DYNAMIC RANGE function is ever active when you are shooting a subject that has a range of contrast less than or equal to what the camera sensor can accommodate, the result will be a reduction of image quality. This has to do with the fact that the DR function, when activated, causes the camera to underexpose these images by one (DR200) or two (DR400) f-stops, in comparison to the same pictures taken with the DR function deactivated. The camera will then expose images on the technically weaker side of its range: the “dark side.” The signal-to-noise ratio is always worse in the low-lit areas of an image, causing the noise level to increase (and the tonal range to decrease; see below).
What are the weaknesses of AUTO DR?
With AUTO DR activated, the camera assesses the dynamic range of the subject and uses this information to choose one of the DR settings: DR100 (equivalent to not using the extended dynamic range), DR200, or DR400. There are images, however, in which the highlights are not significant. You may find yourself photographing a subject in front of a bland white sky that lacks any interesting detail, for example. Sometimes, in cases like this, it’s better to let the highlights wash out. Another example: As the wedding couple enters the church through the main door, they are substantially darker than the light spilling around them. In this case, you just have to accept that the highlights will blow out in order to capture the important details of your shot. You have to appreciate how the camera interprets a scene when using AUTO DR and learn to accept that it won’t always make the right decision about how to expose an image, which is always a risk when you use any automatic settings. The DYNAMIC RANGE function and AUTO DR are nevertheless great innovations for photographers who want to avoid as much post-processing as possible and who wish to allow the automatic internal camera systems to have free rein.
ISO SPEED AND THE DYNAMIC RANGE FUNCTION
To use the DR200 setting found in the DYNAMIC RANGE menu, the camera’s light sensitivity must be set at ISO 400 or higher. To use the DR400 setting, the minimum is ISO 800. The ISO AUTO CONTROL mode works with all dynamic range settings. These minimum values exist because the ISO speed defines the amount of incident light. The ISO speed needs to be raised in order for the camera to create a darker exposure than it normally would. Normally, an increase in ISO speed also entails a signal amplification (which is analog from ISO 200 to ISO 1600 and digital above that), but when the DR function is activated, this boost is omitted. This is how the camera creates underexposed images that are in turn processed internally by the camera to create an image that looks natural. Another way of thinking about this process is to imagine that when the camera exposes an image with DR200 enabled, it anticipates that the signal strength will be doubled post-exposure. This doubling, however, never happens, which prevents the highlights from being clipped.
DYNAMIC RANGE WITH RAW FILES
When shooting in RAW mode, the DYNAMIC RANGE function may need to be set up differently. The reason for this is illustrated in figure 2.60. In this situation, the subject has a larger range of contrast than the camera can adequately capture (figure 2.60 A). Regardless of how bright or dark a point in the image actually is, the camera will assign a tone value somewhere between black and white to that point. This means that there are three possible options for exposure. The first option is to make middle gray (which is indicated by a vertical black line in the figure) correspond to middle gray in the image (figure 2.60 B1). This often mirrors the normal exposure methods of the camera. The disadvantages of this option are that the dark gray tones will show up as black and the light gray tones will show up as white. Information in the highlights and shadows is lost completely.
If instead you choose to expose the image so that black corresponds to black and dark gray corresponds to dark gray, the result is that middle gray is almost white (figure 2.60 B2). This method has the benefit of retaining a good amount of detail in the low range, but the highlights are totally blown out and the image is unusable.
The third method calibrates the exposure based on the highlights of the image (figure 2.60 B3). The brightest areas of the subject are reproduced by the camera as white, but the middle gray areas are dark gray, and the dark gray areas are black. This isn’t an ideal situation, but it’s the best possible outcome given the limitations. You’ll have much less luck trying to rescue an image from overexposure than you will bringing some detail back into underexposed shadows. This is exactly what the X100 attempts to accomplish with its DYNAMIC RANGE function—rescue the highlights at the direct expense of the shadows.
When shooting JPEGs, this isn’t where the story ends, of course. In order to restore the image to a natural appearance, the camera completes the last step of the process, called tone mapping (figure 2.60 C). The gray values are redistributed so that middle gray corresponds much closer to actual middle gray, and dark gray is restored to dark gray. Tone mapping is accomplished by the camera brightening the darker areas of an image while leaving the lighter areas unaffected.
Figure 2.60 Shooting high-contrast subjects
Every camera is capable of capturing a defined range of contrast. If the range of contrast of a subject (A) is larger than the range of contrast of a camera’s sensor, there are three possible ways to handle the exposure. B1: Expose the image so that middle gray (represented by a vertical black line) corresponds to actual middle gray. The problem with this is that dark gray areas in the subject will appear black, and light gray areas will appear white. B2: Expose the image so that black corresponds to black. The problem with this is that dark gray areas of the subject will appear in the middle gray region, and middle gray areas of the subject will appear light gray. Additionally, large areas of the image will be overexposed. B3: Expose the image so that the lightest area of the subject corresponds to white in the image. The rest of the image will appear dark because of this, causing dark gray areas to appear black. The third option is how the DYNAMIC RANGE function works. It exposes according to the brightness of the highlights. If you are in JPEG mode, the camera will take the additional step of applying a tone mapping process (C), which brightens up the dark and middle tones of the image to correspond closer to reality. If you shoot in RAW mode, this last step must be manually executed in a converter.
When you open a RAW file in one of the common RAW converters, you will find an image that is underexposed by one (DR200) or two (DR400) f-stops, in comparison to the same image taken without the use of the DR fuction. You will need to correct its exposure and readjust its rendering manually (as of December 2011). The result of this postprocessing will be an image that corresponds to figure 2.60 B3. One exception is Fujifilm’s own program, the RAW File Converter EX, which recognizes the DR function and has an option to automatically readjust the image. This function of the program, however, is extremely inept and simply raises the exposure, which defeats the purpose of attempting to retain the highlights of an image. Perhaps manufacturers of other RAW converters will figure out a better process one day, but until then, you’ll have to make this adjustment by hand.
Should I use the DR function when I’m shooting RAW images?
This depends on how you plan and take your pictures. Do you consciously think about the optimal way to expose an image, or do you trust the modern technology of the camera and work with the assumption that the camera knows best? If you actively give thought to the unique circumstances of each exposure, you don’t need the DR function. If you already know to expose in relation to the brighter areas of an image, you will be able to achieve a more precise result than the automatic features of the camera can.
For example, imagine you would like to take an image of a landscape that exhibits a large range of contrast. The foreground consists of a green meadow and brown fields that lead up to a small forest at the horizon. A blue sky with intriguing cloud formations makes up the background. You use the MULTI metering method to measure the light of the scene, but you notice when looking at the display screen that the details of the fascinating sky aren’t being reproduced. Instead of seeing textured clouds against an intense blue, everything is more or less white. The histogram confirms your observation: large areas of the image would be overexposed with the current exposure settings. To reduce this effect, you turn the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION DIAL until you discover that the sky regains its detail and there are no overexposed areas when the brightness is adjusted by –1 1/3 EV. Satisfied, you snap the image. Later, when you finally have a look at the image file in your RAW converter, you discover that the meadow and especially the forest are perceptibly darker than you remember them. To remedy this, you need to apply tone mapping to brighten the dark areas of the image and restore the natural impression of the landscape. By following these steps, you have accomplished exactly what the camera’s DR function would have done, except with more accuracy. If you had used AUTO DR, the camera would have either selected DR200 or DR400 (or maybe even DR100). If DR200 had been used, parts of the image would still have been overexposed. If DR400 had been used, no parts would be overexposed, but the exposure would have been darker than necessary. These images would need post-processing attention in your RAW converter anyway.
So is it never advisable to use AUTO DR when shooting in RAW format?
If you don’t want to have to think too much about an exposure, AUTO DR is recommended, since it saves the highlights by aligning the exposure with those areas. As soon as RAW converters become more sophisticated in rendering these images, AUTO DR will become even more useful.
Why can’t I manually underexpose images when I’m taking JPEGs? Why do I need the DR function at all?
For JPEGs shot in DR200 or DR400, the camera uses the RAW data for tone mapping prior to generating the JPEG. If you attempt to correct the exposure by hand, you will end up with a JPEG that has no clipped highlights but is too dark in the midtones and shadows. This is nearly impossible to correct in 8-bit JPEGs. So the problem with manually underexposing is that you cannot use the RAW data for tone mapping anymore, and you end up with a JPEG “end product”. The order of events is problematic, in other words, and this is exactly why the DR function exists. Since the options for editing JPEGs after they have been saved are limited, using the DR function in JPEG mode to photograph contrasty scenes is absolutely necessary. Photographers who work with RAW files, however, may not find its use as critical. You can sum it up like this: If you work with JPEGs, you should unquestionably use the DR function for images that have a large range of contrast. If you work with RAW files and you don’t want to worry too much about exposure settings while shooting, you too should use this function. Finally, if you work with RAW files and you generally prefer to define your exposure settings by hand, you’re better off not using the DR function, and you’ll be able to achieve the best technical results. (If you are in this last group, be sure to review the best JPEG settings for photographers who shoot RAW images.)
EXPOSE TO THE RIGHT—A QUICK ASIDE
This is the perfect place to make a small digression about a tangentially related topic: namely, the best way to expose RAW files, regardless of the size of the dynamic range. General wisdom says to expose an image as far to the right as possible (in regard to the position of tonal values on the histogram). In other words, expose your images as bright as possible without clipping the highlights. Sometimes this practice of exposure is called ETTR (expose to the right).
Why does it make sense to use ETTR? Why does it even matter if my histogram is on the right, on the left, or in the middle? Don’t I just need to make sure that the camera captures the entire dynamic range?
The answer is technical. The X100 can expose images in RAW format with a color depth of 12 bits, or 4,096 (=212) different tonal values. These values are packed into around 9 exposure values. Since each step down from the maximum exposure value reduces the brightness by half, the brightest exposure value comprises 2,048 (=4,096/2) tonal values. The second brightest exposure value has only 1,024, and so on until the last exposure value, which is capable of recording only 8 tonal values. This means that if you expose your images as brightly as possible, you’ll be able to make use of higher number of tonal values. This doesn’t have a huge effect on how your images will look, but it gives you more flexibility for post-processing.
A second, more important reason has to do with the noise behavior of the sensor. Noise distortion is worse in shadows than it is in highlights because the signal-to-noise ratio in shadows leaves something to be desired. It would be better, for example, to expose a black crow on a black street as though it were gray and to adjust the exposure in a RAW converter later. More tonal values will be available, and there will hardly be any noise in the image.
After all this discussion of the theory behind dynamic range, here are a few pictures to illustrate the points and to make them more meaningful for your practice. In figure 2.61, you see the advantages of using the extended dynamic range when shooting in JPEG mode. Without the use of this function (DR100), the clouds and sky would be profoundly overexposed (the red areas) and would lack any definition. DR200 offers a great deal of help already. The clouds retain some of their detail definition, and the sky has a natural color. The field and the meadow in the foreground are also reproduced naturally and are not perceptibly darker than the image taken with the DR100 setting. DR400 rescues the sky and clouds entirely, and maybe even makes the sky a little too dark. The result is nevertheless very good, and the tone mapping did a great job. Every object in the image has its usual brightness, except the sky, which was successfully darkened. There is no denying that the camera again performs well in the JPEG mode, this time with the DR function.
Figure 2.61 DYNAMIC RANGE
Shooting in JPEG format with the DYNAMIC RANGE (DR) function extends the dynamic range of the camera (for bright areas) and puts the camera in a position to rescue image details in highlight areas. This image was exposed once without use of the DR function (DR100), once with DR200, and once with DR400. The top row of images shows the resulting pictures. The bottom shows the areas with clipped highlights in red. You can clearly see that the image detail in the highlight areas increases dramatically, while the rest of the image appears practically unchanged.
Now we come to the downside of this function—or the dark side, in every sense of the phrase—which also unfortunately cannot be denied. You can see in figure 2.62 that the DR function once again was successful at saving the highlights, though the blown-out areas in this particular image play much less of a central role than the sky and clouds of the previous example. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the shadows have lost quality, both because of an increase in noise and a loss of defined detail (figure 2.62, top and bottom enlargements). Even rather bright areas, such as the post, show significant artifacts. Don’t forget that you have to brighten dark and middle bright areas in order to achieve a natural tonal value. This illustration demonstrates why you should only use the DR function when it’s actually necessary. Otherwise you end up with an unnecessary loss of quality—you’re no longer “exposing to the right,” you’re “exposing to the left.”
Figure 2.62 The dark side of the dynamic range function – JPEG
This image also displays clearly what the extended dynamic range can get you in terms of rescuing information in the highlights, but these areas don’t feature as prominently in this picture as the sky does in figure 2.61. Unfortunately, if you look at the middle tones and the shadow areas of the image, or the areas adversely affected by the DR function, you can see a clear increase in noise (both in the top and bottom enlargements). A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from: www.rockynook.com/X100/figures
To select an option from the DYNAMIC RANGE menu, navigate to the SHOOTING MENU and find DYNAMIC RANGE (figure 2.64). As already mentioned, the camera can only use DR200 if the light sensitivity is greater than or equal to ISO 400; for DR400, the sensitivity must be set to ISO 800 or greater. If you select DR400 and the camera is already set to ISO 800, for example, you don’t have a problem. If you then reduce the ISO speed to ISO 400, the DR will automatically jump from DR400 to DR200 until you raise the ISO speed again. When this happens, the camera will display DR200 in yellow in the SHOOTING MENU and on the display to indicate the camera has automatically changed the setting.
Figure 2.63 The dark side of the dynamic range function – RAW
If you use the DR function when shooting in RAW format, you will still need to edit the images you open up in your RAW converter by brightening the shadows and middle tones to restore a natural appearance. With a little practice, you’ll be able to do this easily. The top row shows images that were exposed with DR100, DR200, or DR400. The red again indicates areas of overexposure. The bottom row shows the same images after editing the dark and middle tones in Lightroom. Since RAW images often capture a larger dynamic range and have no contrast applied to them, the overexposed areas are somewhat smaller here than they were in the JPEG images. With the use of DR200 and the help of the converter, the highlights are totally reconstituted. In the enlargements, you can see that even with RAW images, a loss of detail in the shadows because of noise is inevitable. A digital version of this figure can be downloaded from:
This shows that the camera prioritizes the ISO speed, not the DR. You can also opt for the ISO AUTO CONTROL setting (as long as you set the upper limit at a minimum of ISO 800 when using DR400). This enables the camera to select an ISO speed automatically, which it will do when the DR function is activated. So, in ISO AUTO CONTROL, DR gets priority over ISO. In principle, this camera setting makes sense, but it can also be confusing at first. In the menu for DYNAMIC RANGE, you can choose among AUTO, DR100, DR200, and DR400. DR100 is equivalent to not using the extended dynamic range at all—it’s the same as turning it off. DR200 should be used with subjects that have a range of contrast that is slightly larger than the camera’s dynamic range, and DR400 should be used when the subject’s range of contrast is clearly larger.
To get a sense of how contrasty your subject is, have a look at the histogram. If the tonal values represented there span the entire range from left to right and are truncated on the right, you know that image areas are overexposed. If these blown-out areas are important (as they were in figure 2.61), you should use the DR function. The difference between the subject’s visual qualities and the camera’s range of contrast will determine whether you use DR200 or DR400. It’s not easy to define a rule for when to use each of these settings. In situations when you’re not sure, it’s best to try out different settings and collect your own experiences. Alternatively, you can pass the job onto the camera by using AUTO DR, which analyzes the contrast of the subject to determine whether a particular shot would benefit from the DR function and enables it accordingly (only, however, when the ISO settings are suitable).
Figure 2.64 DYNAMIC RANGE
Here you can switch among DR100 (which does not make use of an extended dynamic range), DR200, and DR400. You can only select these options when the ISO speed is above certain thresholds or if ISO AUTO CONTROL is activated. When using AUTO DR, the camera analyzes the subject and decides for itself if the DR function should be employed. AUTO DR also requires that the ISO speed be set appropriately.
By pressing the inconspicuous DRIVE button, you can access a number of the X100’s useful functions. For example, you can enable continuous shooting or you can choose from a variety of bracketing methods. The following options are accessible through the DRIVE button:
- SINGLE EXPOSURE
- CONTINUOUS SHOOTING (BURST MODE)
- AE BRACKETING (BKT)
- ISO BKT
- FILM SIMULATION BKT
- DYNAMIC RANGE BKT
- MOTION PANORAMA
To select one of the options, press the DRIVE button when in SHOOTING MODE (figure 2.65).
Figure 2.65 DRIVE
A: You can change your camera’s operating mode by pressing the DRIVE button. For example, you can take pictures in burst mode, or you can use the ISO bracketing feature. B: The camera’s display indicates the current selected mode at the top of the screen (circled) and uses the same icons as those in the actual DRIVE menu. In this illustration, the camera is currently in continuous shooting mode.
In the following sections, you’ll find brief descriptions of the individual functions for each of these operating modes.
This is the standard operating mode of the camera. The camera releases the shutter and exposes one single image, using the settings that you define.
When shooting in this mode, you can take a series of images in a short window of time, as long as the shutter-release button stays down. In JPEG mode you can take up to 10 shots, and in RAW mode you can take up to 8 shots. The exposures are first saved to the camera’s memory and then written to the SD card. This saving process can take awhile, and during this time you won’t be able to use the camera. This again is a reason to use the fastest possible SD card with the X100.
You have two choices for the shooting rate: 5 frames per second (fps) or 3 fps. You can only use the faster shooting rate when the shutter speed is 1/100 second or faster, and you can shoot at 3 fps when the shutter speed is set to 1/10 second or faster. The exposure settings for the first image are adopted for each subsequent shot. Focus and exposure, for example, are not reset for each frame.
Pictures taken in burst mode will have a different file name than those saved as single shots. This can cause some confusion when looking at the data for anyone who doesn’t sort the images by date. In PLAYBACK mode, the camera only reveals the first image of a series, and the rest of the images are previewed in a small flipbook-style subscreen (figure 2.66 A). This means that you don’t have to browse through the entire series picture by picture, which is an advantage. If you do want to examine each individual frame, press the DOWN key and browse by using the RIGHT and LEFT keys or the COMMAND DIAL (figure 2.66 B).
Figure 2.66 CONTINUOUS SHOOTING (BURST) MODE playback
A: In the playback of a series of pictures, the first image will appear large, and the rest of the series is previewed in the lower right corner (circled). B: Press the DOWN key when playing back an image series to review each individual picture. In the example, image 1 of 4 from the series is displayed (lower right corner).
AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKETING
This function enables exposure bracketing. You can choose a correction step of 1/3, 2/3, or 1 EV away from the baseline exposure in order to create an underexposed and an overexposed image. If you were to select ± 1 EV, the camera would first capture an image with normal exposure settings, then expose one image overexposed by 1 EV, and finally, another image underexposed by 1 EV.
The different exposures are regulated exclusively by aperture and shutter speed. If the aperture is fixed or if the camera is in manual mode, the shutter speed will change. Conversely, if the shutter speed is fixed, the aperture will change. With ISO AUTO CONTROL activated, the light sensitivity will adjust if the manually set shutter speed and aperture would create an otherwise underexposed image. The camera determines the ISO speed based on the original light metering for the first shot. The camera applies this setting to each image in the series, as opposed to remeasuring the light before each individual shot. All three images are exposed with the same ISO speed.
Bracketing is useful for many circumstances. Photographers traditionally use this technique in situations when it is difficult to determine the best exposure settings. Taking a flight of three images at different exposure settings gives you a better chance of capturing a difficult scene than if you were to take only one shot at one exposure setting. Another use of bracketing is to use images created with different exposure settings to create an image with a high dynamic range (HDR image). In this case, the images would require substantial post-processing.
In theory, ISO bracketing is similar to exposure bracketing, but in practice, its results are much worse. This function also allows you to snap a baseline image and two others—one exposed brighter and one exposed darker by 1/3, 2/3, or 1 EV. The problem, however, lies in the fact that the camera actually only takes one exposure and then interprets that exposure three different ways. Only one exposure using one ISO speed occurs, and the other two ISO speeds are digitally simulated. ISO bracketing has less to do with using multiple images to achieve the best result, and more to do with figuring out which ISO setting delivers the best result. For example, once you discover that images created at ISO 800 look the best, you will set your ISO speed to 800 and exit the ISO bracketing mode. This function is only available when shooting JPEGs because the process would require three different exposures when shooting RAW images. I have never used this feature, and I’m not sure that I ever will. Based on how the function operates, its purpose is a mystery to me.
As you already know, the X100 allows you to use three different film simulations: PROVIA, VELVIA, and ASTIA (p. 89). With the help of FILM SIMULATION BRACKETING, you can create three JPEG images demonstrating each of the simulations. All three images are generated from the same exposure (i.e., from the same RAW data). This function will be useful for photographers who wish to take JPEGs and who are relatively unfamiliar with the various film simulations available. This feature will help you quickly figure out which film simulation works well in specific situations. Photographers who wish to work with RAW images will find no use for this function.
DYNAMIC RANGE BRACKETING
Though this setting has a couple weaknesses, you are likely to get some use out of it. After you’ve selected DYNAMIC RANGE BRACKETING, the camera will again produce three images: one exposed with DR100, one with DR200, and one with DR400. You will immediately be able to see the benefit of using the extended dynamic range function. The downside, however, is that each image will be exposed at ISO 800 (or higher, depending on the ISO setting). The image taken with DR100 is a normal picture exposed at ISO 800, whereby the incident light that lands on the sensor receives a corresponding analog amplification. The image exposed with DR200 only receives a fraction of the signal boost, namely 1 EV too little, and the image exposed with DR400 doesn’t receive a signal amplification at all. The X100 internally edits and processes the images created at the DR200 and DR400 settings so that they have a natural appearance.
I prefer to use ISO 200 in tandem with DR100 and ISO 400 with DR200. Only for DR400 do I normally use the same setting that the camera requires you to use for dynamic range bracketing, namely ISO 800. These dynamic range bracketing presets result in an unnecessary increase in noise with DR100 and DR200. If you conclude that DR200 covers the whole dynamic range and produces the best quality, you should take the picture again after exiting the bracketing mode and use ISO 400 in combination with DR200. If DR100 happens to produce the best results, I recommend reshooting this image as well and adjusting the light sensitivity to ISO 200.
This function of the X100 empowers you to create a panoramic image with an angle of up to 180°. To do this, the camera takes a series of images while you pan it horizontally or vertically, and then assembles and processes these images to create a large composite panorama. You can create images that range from 120° to 180°, and you can choose to pan the camera from one side to the other or along a vertical axis. Additionally, you can select the direction of the pan—right to left, left to right, top to bottom, or bottom to top. This allows you, for example, to capture a horizontal subject such as a landscape with the short or the long edge of the sensor (figure 2.67 A). The panorama is composed of JPEGs, which you can only control using the menu options ISO, IMAGE QUALITY, DYNAMIC RANGE, and FILM SIMULATION. All of the other settings, such as IMAGE SIZE, are preset.
As with the other bracketing techniques, the camera establishes the exposure settings for each of the shots required to create the panorama while creating the first image. It’s best to keep the yellow line (which indicates camera position) as close to the cross in the middle of the display as possible to optimize your results. You also don’t want to pan too quickly or too slowly. If you are after more professional results, you should use a tripod with a head that allows you to rotate the camera horizontally.
Another factor that will influence your panorama is the distance of the camera to the subject. If this distance remains more or less constant while panning, the end result will appear much more natural. In the opposite situation, when the distance between the camera and subject tends to change drastically while panning, you’ll end up with a highly distorted final image. The relative distance between you and your subject while you pan the camera changes much more drastically when the object is in close proximity. For example, if you wish to take a picture of the side of a long building from a distance of about 2 meters, you might start your panorama shot pointing the camera to your left. At this point, the distance between the camera and the building might be 10 meters, but as you turn the camera to the right, the distance between the camera and the building will only be 2 meters when you are shooting directly perpendicular to it. The distance between the camera and the building will again grow to 10 meters once you have panned all the way to the right. Your relative position to the wall changed by a factor of 5 during the panning (figure 2.67 B). Such changes in relative positioning are barely perceptible if the subject is far enough away (figure 2.67 C).
Due to the nature of creating panoramic images in this way—the process of assembling several pictures into one larger one—a variety of visual artifacts can occur. Moving subjects such as a car or the leaves of a tree, for example, are especially problematic (figure 2.68 A). The only way to prevent this from happening is to examine the scene closely before exposing your image and to wait for the exact right moment. You can alternatively correct these problems in your photo editing software.
The process of overlaying and blending the images together is another source of small image defects, especially near the seams of the individual images. These can mostly be prevented by panning the camera steadily at a good speed. When shooting an important panorama, always take a few shots to increase your chances of creating a flawless picture. You can delete the inferior versions later on your computer, after viewing them at full size.
Yet another problem is vertical stripes in the image that stem from the slightly different exposures of each individual image. These crop up mostly when the camera uses a very fast shutter speed (figure 2.67 A and 2.68 B). Apparently, the shutter speeds for very short exposure times are less accurate. You would do well to use a narrow aperture on bright days, so you can use slower shutter speeds to get around this problem. (You unfortunately can’t use an ND filter when shooting in panorama mode.) Since I’ve adopted this method, none of my exposures have been compromised by these unwanted vertical stripes.
Be careful not to use extremely fast shutter speeds when taking a panoramic image. These very short exposure times can unfortunately lead to vertical stripes in your finished images.
FIGURE 2.67 MOTION PANORAMA
A: Since you can configure the panorama mode to function in a variety of directions, you can, for example, capture horizontal subjects in portrait format—or, in other words, with the sensor vertically oriented (top image, portrait; bottom, landscape). B: If the relative distance between your lens and your subject changes drastically while you pan the camera, your image will be distorted. C: For subjects that are farther removed, this distortion is substantially less noticeable, and the scene will be rendered naturally.
Figure 2.68 Artifacts
Since a panoramic picture consists of several individual images that are merged together, a number of visual artifacts can occur. A: Moving objects such as cars can appear incomplete or show up multiples times in an image. Your only way of preventing this is to wait for just the right moment to snap your photo, or to edit your image on your computer. B: The camera appears to work less precisely at fast shutter speeds, leading to vertical stripes that indicate the frames of the individual images. To prevent this sort of problem, try to use a narrow aperture so that you can use a slower shutter speed.
The X100’s panorama function is a lot of fun and works surprisingly well. Experiment with this feature, be sure to pay attention to the shutter speed, and you’ll end up with great results. When playing back a panorama on your camera’s monitor, you can press the DOWN key to view the entire panorama as a movie.
Since this book is about photography, I’m only going to touch on the subject of filming with the X100, which can create movie clips with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The high-aperture lens makes filming with the X100 very interesting. With the aperture set wide, you can create movies that have a shallow depth of field. Since you can’t do this on most camcorders, these film clips recall the look of movies in the theater. The camera’s fixed lens has a focal length of 35 mm, but you can shoot with a digital focal length of 105 mm by pressing the magnifying glass (AE) button.
In recording mode, the camera automatically sets the focus and exposure settings. You may choose your own white balance settings, however. Even when AF-S is selected as the focusing mode, the camera will override this setting and use continuous autofocus to record a film. If you are using the manual focus mode, you will only be able to control the sharpness of the image before you start recording. Once you do start filming, this focus setting will be used throughout the duration of the film, a function that won’t be useful in most instances. Aperture and exposure compensation also must be defined before recording starts; these can’t be changed after you start filming. Finally, by pressing the MENU button, you can choose the film simulation (for example, ASTIA) setting. All other options are missing in the menu.
2.11 MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY
You can also create images at close range with the X100. The MACRO mode enables you to approach subjects up to a minimum distance of 10 cm without having to sacrifice focus. This means that you can depict small objects as large subjects in your images. You must activate the MACRO mode to be able to do this, however. Since the differences in perspective between the optical and digital viewfinders are exaggerated at close distances due to parallax, you can only use the LCD monitor or the digital viewfinder in this mode. Correct focusing is especially important for macro photography. Even small shifts in the shooting distance can create blurry images, so you should use a tripod when possible and use the manual focus with the enlarged preview (p. 47). Take your time when focusing a macro shot—avail yourself of the manual focus’s fine gradations to adjust your focus slightly forward and backward until you achieve the best result.
Figure 2.69 Macro
You’ll be able to create striking images with the X100’s MACRO function. Since precise focusing plays such an important role in close-up photography, you should use a tripod and the manual focus option. This will allow you to preview an enlargement of your image and to fine-tune its sharpness. In the illustration, the camera focused on the center of the rose. Other elements that are a little farther away are no longer in focus.
The MACRO mode has more applications than capturing diminutive subjects. It is also applicable for many everyday situations, since the camera’s minimum distance for normal operation is pretty large (80 cm).
You can use a shortcut to activate the MACRO mode: press the LEFT direction key twice and then depress the shutter-release button halfway. In many instances, the shutter-release button can be used as an OK button (such as in DRIVE mode) and is easier to operate. Here’s another tip to activate the MACRO mode quickly: slide the FOCUS MODE SELECTOR to MF with your left hand and use the AFL/AEL button to focus. (You do not have to activate MACRO mode in MF mode to be able to focus at short distances.)
Figure 2.70 Macro mode
A: Pressing the LEFT direction key while in SHOOTING MODE will give you the choice of activating or deactivating the MACRO mode. B: A yellow flower icon on the display indicates that the camera is in MACRO mode (circled).
2.12 USING FLASH WITH THE X100
The X100 has a small integrated flash, but you can also attach external flashes to the camera’s hot shoe. The camera’s flash technology, Super-Intelligent Flash, attempts to retain the ambient light while also illuminating the main subject of your image correctly.
To determine the ideal flash output, the camera sends out an initial test flash and measures the reflected light. This information is used along with the distance information that the camera collected through its focusing process to calculate the ideal flash settings to illuminate the subject. All of this happens so fast that you won’t even notice it. This method is possible because the camera uses a through-the-lens (TTL) system that enables it to base the flash output settings on the amount of incident light (from the test flash) that reaches the sensor through the actual lens. This process is only possible with the camera’s internal flash and with two external flashes manufactured by Fuji: the EF-20 and the EF-42. This flash control means the camera won’t have to use more flash than is necessary to illuminate a given scene. If the camera has the option, it will widen the aperture and increase the ISO speed and exposure time (depending on the selected mode) in order to prevent the use of flash or at least minimize its intensity. If you wish to shoot an image using flash with a fixed ISO speed, ISO AUTO CONTROL should be deactivated.
The camera offers several flash modes which depend on whether you’ve selected the programmed automatic exposure or manual exposure, for example. The various settings and the exposure modes in which they can be used follow:
- auto flash /
- forced flash /
- suppressed flash /
- slow synchro flash /
The same options are available to you when you use external flashes built by Fuji. The only difference will be the flash output. You will also have the possibility of using indirect flash if you use an external flash.
This option is only available when you use the programmed automatic exposure mode (P). The automatic flash illuminates objects within the picture frame that are inadequately bright. The camera determines when flash lighting is necessary. Before resigning to use the flash, however, the camera does what it can to adjust other exposure settings with the goal of avoiding its use entirely. The camera will first attempt to widen the aperture and slow down the shutter speed. If the automatic ISO is activated, the camera will also try to increase the ISO speed—the camera prioritizes the ISO setting over the flash. If these measures—a large aperture (f/2), a shutter speed of 1/30 second, and the maximum ISO value allowed based on your customization—still don’t permit a correctly exposed image, the camera will use the flash.
This flash setting is available in every exposure mode (P, A, S, and M). The flash will discharge for each exposure, even if there is plenty of ambient light. The camera chooses the brightness of the flash with the purpose of correctly illuminating the main subject (needless to say, if the flash output is not strong enough to effect this, the subject won’t be illuminated properly). If you are using programmed automatic or aperture-priority settings (P, A), which allow the camera to adjust the shutter speed automatically, it will try to use an exposure time not longer than 1/30 second. This is what distinguishes forced flash from slow synchro flash. In forced flash mode, aside from special cases when the exposure time would be longer than 1/30 second (A, P) or the aperture would have to be wider than f/2 (S, P), the camera behaves as though it isn’t using a flash at all. It gauges the shot’s exposure and uses this information without considering the flash (except for when the manual exposure mode is selected and you define the exposure time and aperture yourself). The use of a flash doesn’t result in an overexposed image, though, because the camera’s TTL measuring system calibrates the flash output accordingly. This type of flash is often referred to as a fill flash. You will find more information about this flash mode below.
You can use this flash setting in every exposure mode. It simply turns the flash off. The flash won’t fire even if the entire scene is underexposed and the camera has to extend the exposure time greatly (longer than 1/30 second).
SLOW SYNCHRO FLASH
This option is available anytime the camera can regulate the shutter speed automatically—so, in other words, when you’re using either the programmed or aperture-priority exposure mode. The difference between this option and forced flash is that here, the camera will use whatever shutter speed it needs to expose the image correctly, even if the exposure time ends up being longer than 1/30 second. For example, if you are taking a picture of a friend in front of a city skyline, the camera will base the exposure settings on the skyline but will also discharge a flash to illuminate your friend in the foreground. Both the skyline and your friend should be illuminated correctly. Since the shutter speed can become rather slow with this setting, you should use a tripod.
The flash is programmed to fire at the beginning of the exposure window. This has significance if the subject in the foreground moves. A classic example that illustrates this is a moving car at night. Since long exposure times are needed at night, you usually can only see the traces of light from the car’s headlights in a picture. With the flash, however, you can also illuminate the car itself to make it visible in the exposure. If the flash fires at the beginning of the exposure, the car will appear in a different location than it would if the flash had fired at the end of the exposure.
Every flash mode (that actually uses a flash) allows you to turn on RED-EYE REMOVAL. The red-eye effect that is often visible in portraits is caused by the reflection of the flash’s light off the retina and the blood supplying this reflective surface. Reflections such as this occur when the optical axis of the camera’s lens is close to the path of light traveling from the source (flash) to the subject, which is the case with every camera’s internal flash. External flashes are much less problematic, especially if they are remote or if they are not directed directly at the subject.
Two things happen when you activate RED-EYE REMOVAL. The camera emits a preflash that causes the pupils of the people in the picture to constrict, which reduces reflection from the retina. The disadvantage of this method is that the people in the picture will have small pupils, which some consider less attractive. The second effect of activating RED-EYE REMOVAL concerns the creation of JPEGs. When the camera saves JPEGs, it digitally corrects any red-eye effect that still persists despite the preflash. (If you don’t trust the camera to make this correction and would prefer to make it yourself, you can deactivate it by accessing the SETUP MENU and selecting SAVE ORG IMAGE.) To turn red-eye reduction on or off, navigate to the SETUP MENU and select RED-EYE REMOVAL (figure 2.71).
To choose between the various flash modes, press the RIGHT direction key while in shooting mode (figure 2.72).
Figure 2.72 Using flash with the X100
A: Press the RIGHT direction key when in shooting mode to define how the flash will be used. The display for each option will look different depending on whether RED-EYE REMOVAL is activated. (It is deactivated in the left image and activated in the right.) These options will remain the same if you use an external flash made by Fuji. These flashes behave identically to the internal flash, but provide stronger flash output and allow for indirect lighting. B: In the shooting display, you can see an icon representing the selected flash mode (circled), provided you are using the custom display option and you included flash among your displayed settings.
USING THE FLASH CREATIVELY WITH THE X100
Thanks to its central shutter, the X100 is capable of flash synchronization times that are as short as 1/2000 second. This means that you can use your flash at extremely fast shutter speeds and still be able to illuminate your subject fully. In this regard, the X100 is superior to DSLRs, which can only accomplish this by using special flash units.
Why is it noteworthy and why does it matter that I can use the flash for short exposure times?
In general, short exposure times are useful when you have to freeze fast-moving objects or you need to use a large aperture in bright conditions. Bright circumstances aren’t typically when you need the flash, but short synchronization times are useful for just this reason. They enable you to adapt the ambient light to your specific needs and use a flash to brighten up your main subject. As long as your flash is strong enough, you won’t have to worry at all about the exposure of your subject, and you can intentionally manipulate the backlighting by thoughtful adjustments to aperture and shutter speed.
For example, imagine you are taking a picture of a bride and groom standing on the beach right as the sun is disappearing into the ocean behind them. Without using a flash, you have two options: you can either set the exposure based on the sun, which would leave only a black silhouette of the couple, or you could set the exposure based on the couple, which would result in an overexposed background—the sun wouldn’t be visible at all. If you use flash and short exposure times, however, you could define the exposure settings to capture the sunset (or let the camera determine them automatically by using the average metering method, for example), and then use the flash to illuminate the wedding pair. To give the image a more dramatic flair, you could also underexpose the sun and sky in the background or make them slightly brighter, depending on your needs (figure 2.73 B).
It goes without saying that you would need a powerful external flash for the situation just described, but even these have limits (the greater the distance between the subject and the flash, the stronger the flash output has to be). Nevertheless, short synchronization times give you a chance to get creative with your flash, and you can employ them for a variety of purposes. A clever application is to use the forced flash as fill flash to brighten your main subject subtly. This method works best when the flash brightens the shadows slightly in such a way that is undetectable when looking at the image (figure 2.73 A).
Figure 2.73 The creative use of flash
A: The forced flash was used here to illuminate the plant in the foreground (right image). This didn’t have a perceptible effect on the exposure of the surrounding areas (the backgrounds of both the right and left images are identical). Since the camera determines white balance based on the light of the flash, the clouds in the flashed image are slightly warmer. There is nothing that can be done about this, though, because different light sources influenced the image. B: I manually dropped the exposure settings to create a darker background in this image, and then I used the flash to illumine the plant. A wedding couple at the beach were hard to come by, so a chili plant on my roof had to serve the purpose.
In the SHOOTING MENU under the selection FLASH, you can adjust the output of the flash in use to meet your needs. The range of adjustment is +/− 2/3 EV (figure 2.74).
This option is especially valuable when using fill flash. In these cases, I set the flash output to –2/3 EV with the goal of keeping the fill flash effect as subtle as possible. External flashes made by Fuji (EF-20 and EF-43) retain this functionality when affixed to the X100.
A modest fill flash (set to –2/3 EV) can have a positive effect on portraits, since it eliminates pesky shadows.
You can also use external flashes that are not manufactured by Fuji with the X100. You can attach some external flashes directly to the X100’s hot shoe with appropriate cables, or you can set up a remote slave flash that is optically triggered. The optical trigger for such a remote flash would be the X100’s internal flash. (Make sure the preflash is disabled; otherwise the remote slave flash will discharge too soon.) Before you attempt to attach a third-party flash to the X100’s hot shoe, do some research to figure out if the camera is actually capable of communicating with that particular flash model. It is unfortunately beyond the scope of this book to test and enumerate all of the various external flashes and connection cables. Your best bet is to survey the experts or to do some Internet research.
Regardless of whether you decide to attach a non-Fuji flash directly to the X100 or use a remote flash system, you should know that the TTL automatic flash technology of the X100 will no longer function and you will need to set the exposure manually. (The menu option EXTERNAL FLASH is only available when a third-party flash is attached to the camera.) This means that you can’t use an external Fuji flash as the optical trigger for a remote flash. When you manually adjust the flash output correction for a hot-shoe Fuji flash—either EF-20 or EF-42—this adjustment works in combination with the internal flash settings of the camera. In theory, you could choose to reduce the flash output on the camera by 2/3 EV and then increase the output directly on the flash by 1/2 EV. This would result in a flash output correction of –1/6 EV.
While in the SHOOTING MENU navigate to EXTERNAL FLASH to program your camera to use third-party external flashes that either connect directly to the X100 with connectors or are triggered optically from a remote location by the X100’s internal flash (figure 2.75).
Figure 2.75 EXTERNAL FLASH
This gives you the option of using external flashes developed by other manufacturers. Open up the SHOOTING MENU and select EXTERNAL FLASH. When you choose ON, any flash attached to the X100’s hot shoe directly or with cables will discharge, and the internal flash will not fire. By selecting ON (COMMANDER), the built-in flash will fire to trigger remote flashes optically without using a preflash. (A remote flash must, of course, be capable of being optically triggered.) In both cases, the TTL system will not function, so the flash output must be manually set. The menu option EXTERNAL FLASH will be disabled if you use either of Fuji’s external flashes: EF-20 or EF-42.
2.13 LAST BUT NOT LEAST
This section discusses a miscellany of features that are functional and have a worthy purpose, but don’t fit in elsewhere. You may never use them or use them only rarely, but they’re certainly important enough to know about.
Fuji built a neutral density (ND) filter into the X100. You can toggle the filter on and off to decide whether you want to reduce the exposure value by 3 levels. Why would you need this? First, an ND filter allows you to work creatively with your camera because it enables you to use long exposure times even under bright circumstances. This is the classical application of a neutral density filter. The second, and more important, use of the ND filter has to do with the shutter’s inability to close fast enough when large apertures are used. When shooting at f/2, for example, the X100’s fastest shutter speed is 1/1000 second. There will naturally be times, however, when you want to shoot with a wide aperture in direct sunlight (e.g., portraits). By activating the ND filter, you can reduce the incident light by 3 EV in this situation, use a wide aperture, and still expose your image correctly.
Open the SHOOTING MENU and select ND FILTER to activate the filter (figure 2.76).
Figure 2.76 ND FILTER
To switch the ND filter on, call up the SHOOTING MENU and select ND FILTER. This built-in filter will reduce the incident light by 3 EV, allowing you to use large apertures on sunny days (even though the X100’s fastest shutter speed for the largest apertures is 1/1000 second).
When you engage the self-timer, the X100 will expose an image for either 2 or 10 seconds after you depress the shutter-release button entirely. Group pictures in which the photographer also needs to appear are the most common occasions for needing the self-timer. The self-timer also comes in handy for shots that feature long exposure times. Sometimes pressing the shutter-release button can cause a small amount of camera shake; using the self-timer obviates this risk. I often use the 2-second self-timer option when shooting with a tripod to minimize the chance of camera shake. The self-timer will stay engaged until you turn it off or you turn the camera off. This often isn’t the case with cameras from other manufacturers, who design this feature to last for only one shot. I prefer the X100’s behavior, because it means I don’t have to reset this function when I’m taking the slow-shutter shots I just described. To activate the self-timer, navigate to the SHOOTING MENU and select SELF-TIMER (figure 2.77).
One of the X100’s very useful features is the Fn button (figure 2.78), which functions as a “wildcard” button in that you can program it to serve many different purposes. If you change your ISO speed frequently or switch between your film simulations often, you can program the Fn button to take you directly to these menu options without needing to navigate through the various camera menus.
You can program the Fn button to have the following functions:
- PREVIEW DEPTH OF FIELD
- IMAGE SIZE
- IMAGE QUALITY
- DYNAMIC RANGE
- FILM SIMULATION
- ND FILTER
- AF MODE
- DYNAMIC RANGE
The range of options that appears after you press the Fn button corresponds exactly to the specific menu of the function that you have set. The only difference is, pressing the Fn button immediately opens the corresponding menu on the display. These functions have all been discussed, with the exception of PREVIEW DEPTH OF FIELD. If you program the Fn button for this particular use, the camera will display a preview of your image and its depth of field given the aperture you’ve selected. The normal method of creating this preview is to use the widest aperture (i.e., f/2) even if you have selected another f-stop or if a different f-stop is used to take the image (e.g., f/11). This approach is called the working aperture and serves the purpose of providing the camera with as much light as possible to create the preview.
To define the Fn button’s purpose, hold it down for three seconds. This will bring you to the selection menu (figure 2.79). You can alternatively assess the SETUP MENU and select Fn BUTTON from that list.
Figure 2.79 Fn BUTTON
To program the Fn button with a specific function, hold it for three seconds or open the SETUP MENU and select Fn BUTTON. After choosing a function, you can recall your choice with a quick and simple touch of the button.
The X100 offers a quick start mode which boots the camera up and gets it ready to shoot in less time than normal. The camera’s manual states that it shortens the start-up time from 2.2 seconds to 0.7 seconds, but it also zaps more juice from the battery. I use this function because a faster boot-up is more important to me than a longer-lasting battery.
Open the SETUP MENU and find QUICK START MODE to activate this feature (figure 2.80).
OVF POWER SAVE MODE
This feature gives you the option of saving battery power and doubling the number of pictures that you can take on one full battery charge. This gain comes at the expense of the speed of the autofocus. The ability to see the histogram in the optical viewfinder is also a cost of this feature (though the box where you can usually find it unfortunately still remains). Since the X100’s autofocus is already sluggish in comparison to a DSLR, I don’t use this feature (opting instead to purchase a back-up battery). This feature seems analogous to driving your car on the freeway at 20 mph because that’s the speed at which it gets the best gas mileage. It’s nevertheless a plus that the camera offers this feature. Situations can come up on vacations, for example, when you don’t have a chance to recharge your battery. In cases like this, it makes sense to conserve battery power.
Access the SETUP MENU and select OVF POWER SAVE MODE to enable this energy-saving option (figure 2.81).
Figure 2.81 OVF POWER SAVE MODE
This function extends the life of the X100’s battery—something that might be useful on vacation if you find yourself in a place without electricity or you don’t have the appropriate power plug adapter. The drawback comes in the form of a reduction in the autofocus’s speed and the loss of the histogram in the optical viewfinder. Navigate to SETUP MENU and select OVF POWER SAVE MODE to enable and disable this option.
If you have exposed and saved your images as RAW files, you can use the camera to process them and save the processed files as JPEGs. You can also exercise full control over which JPEG settings are used during the process. This may sound undesirable at first, but this has utility for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the X100 creates amazing JPEGs.
RAW files that were exposed with the DR function provide a good example of a situation that lends itself to the use of this process. As previously described, these images require post-processing in order to restore their natural appearance. Another possibility is to start with one RAW file and create multiple JPEG versions from it, using various film simulations and other JPEG settings to learn about your own personal preferences. This is actually a very powerful function of the camera that is very useful for a multitude of applications and was a huge help in the creation of this book. I was able to let the camera interpret RAW files in a variety of ways. I learned a lot about the inner workings of the camera and could also create illustrations very easily.
To edit a RAW file in the camera, first copy it onto the memory card in the subfolder that contains (or used to contain) your images. This subfolder could be named, for example, MEMORYCARD>DCIM>106_FUJI>. The number before FUJI reflects the number of pictures that have already been taken with the camera, so it will likely be a different number in your case. Next, switch to the camera’s PLAYBACK MODE and press the RAW button when the desired image is displayed (figure 2.82).
Figure 2.82 Creating JPEG images from RAW files
By pressing the RAW button in PLAYBACK MODE, you can create JPEGs from corresponding RAW files with your personal settings. These variations will be saved as copies in addition to the unchanged RAW file.
You can apply the following JPEG settings (figure 2.83):
- PUSH/PULL PROCESSING
- DYNAMIC RANGE
- FILM SIMULATION
- WHITE BALANCE
- WB SHIFT
- NOISE REDUCTION
- HIGHLIGHT TONE
- SHADOW TONE
- COLOR SPACE
PUSH/PULL PROCESSING gives you the option of digitally applying a change in exposure value between –1 and +3 EV—or, in other words, underexposing the image by 1 EV or overexposing it by up to 3 EV. All of the other settings have already been discussed.
You can apply each one of these settings to your image. You could, for example, select a dynamic range setting of DR400, a film simulation of ASTIA, and a color space of sRGB, and then create the corresponding JPEG. The default settings for editing RAW files are the JPEG settings that were used at the time of the exposure. If you adjust several settings but then wish to revert back to the original JPEG settings, you can do so by choosing the REFLECT SHOOTING COND. option. This action reverts all of the values to the original settings.
Figure 2.83 RAW CONVERSION
With the help of the X100, you can create JPEGs with custom settings from images originally saved as RAW files. You will have the option of adjusting several settings before initiating the conversion. After you have defined all of the settings, press the RAW button to create the corresponding JPEG. Next, you’ll receive a preview of the picture. After you supply confirmation by pressing OK, the picture will be created.