28
Dec
2012

Using Shooting Profiles and the Quick Menu

by Rico Pfirstinger

An “expert” column about the X-Pro1, the X-E1 and other Fujifilm X-series cameras? Isn’t it okay if we just read the owner’s manual? After all, it briefly documents all of the camera’s functions – including features that I (and probably most of you) won’t ever use. There’s something missing, though: background information and practical tips based on experience. What’s the best way to activate a function? Which setting should you use in different circumstances? Why is the camera exhibiting a certain behavior? And what functions don’t work the way you would expect them to and how you should handle them?

So yes, you should definitely read the owner’s manual. But you may also find this column somewhat useful, because (like my book “Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro1” which it is  based on to a large extent) it picks up where the manual leaves off. I’ll try to include personal experiences, tips, and background information – not only from me, but from other photographers as well. After all, the Internet is full of knowledgeable people and valuable advice. It would be unwise to ignore this wealth of information.

Using the Quick Menu

Let’s get started with something so basic that’s it is mostly ignored: using shooting profiles and the Quick menu. As you will probably know, the Quick menu (aka the Q button) are part of Fujifilm’s efforts to enhance the (not so perfect) electronic user interface of their X-series cameras. You can currently find different iterations of the Quick menu in the X-Pro1, the X-E1 and the X10.

Let’s be clear: The Quick menu isn’t yet another menu to expand the contents of the Shooting, Playback and Setup menus. Instead, it’s here to make frequently used functions (that are buried in those other menus) more accessible. It’s just a shortcut, nothing else.

While your camera is in shooting mode, you can open the Quick menu by pressing the Q button. This allows you direct access to 16 of the most commonly used camera features: select custom settings (aka shooting profiles), change ISO settings, dynamic range settings, select a white balance setting, set noise reduction, image size, image quality, film simulation, highlight tone, shadow tone, color, sharpness, the self-timer, AF mode, flash mode, and change the viewfinder/LCD brightness.

Qmenu1

Use the four selector (arrow) keys to navigate to any of the 16 functions and then use the command dial to change the settings for the function of your choice. You can apply any changes you make in the Quick menu using one of three buttons: you can press the Q button once again, you can press the MENU/OK button, or you can depress the shutter button halfway.

The X-Pro1 and X-E1 allow you to create up to seven custom settings or shooting profiles, which you can bring up and select in no time with the help of the Quick menu. To create a new shooting profile or change the settings of an existing one, hold down the Q button for a few seconds. This will bring you directly to the menu option EDIT/SAVE CUSTOM SETTING in the shooting menu, where you can either save your current camera settings as one of the seven profiles (SAVE CURRENT SETTINGS) or manually set and save values for ISO, dynamic range, film simulation, white balance, color, sharpness, highlights, shadows, and noise reduction for each profile.

While in the Quick menu, you can use the command dial to shuffle rapidly through the seven shooting profiles. As you do this, you will be able to see a live image on the camera’s display depicting the settings of each profile. In other words, you not only see which one of your up to seven profiles is currently selected, you also see all of the actual camera settings that are associated with that profile. You can of course use these predefined profiles as a starting point and then use the Quick menu to make further adjustments to the settings. Any changes you make to each profile’s baseline settings will be indicated with a red dot.

 

Qmenu2

In this illustration the first shooting profile is selected (C1), but the values for the dynamic range (DR100) and color (–2) have been manually adjusted. The camera indicates these changes with a red dot. These changes won’t be saved with the shooting profile; they are only active until you overwrite (change) them again or select another shooting profile. To make permanent changes to a shooting profile, hold down the Q button for a few seconds or select EDIT/SAVE CUSTOM SETTING from the shooting menu.

What about the BASIC setting in the upper left of the Quick menu? I have seen some confusion about in a few photography forums, so here’s the deal: While it’s clear that C1 to C7 are labels for the camera’s custom shooting profiles 1 to 7, BASIC simply means your current, active settings. So once you select one of the seven shooting profiles and then confirm your selection (with or without making any changes), those settings immediately become the camera’s new (= current) BASIC setup and there won’t be any more red dots indicating any changes you made to a previously selected shooting profile. In other words, BASIC simply shows the settings that you and your camera are currently working with. Whatever you do in the Quick Menu – once you close it (by pressing the Q button once again, by pressing the MENU/OK button, or by halfway depressing the shutter button), the settings you left it with become the BASIC settings.

Using Custom Shooting Profiles

The X-Pro1 and X-E1 have a plethora of settings options: ISO, DR function, white balance selection, film simulation, color, contrast (highlights and shadows), sharpness, noise reduction. Excluding ISO and DR, the remaining settings are also referred to as “JPEG settings”, as they do not affect what’s in the RAW file.

You may be wondering, “How am I supposed to define all of these settings quickly when I’m ready to snap an image? I want to take pictures; I don’t want to stand around fumbling with my camera!”

Here is where the seven custom shooting profiles come into play. They allow you to program each variable independently and then save them together in a bundle. Then you can switch back and forth quickly among your predefined profiles.

Examples of Custom Profiles

Which profiles should you save? Only you can answer this question for yourself – photographers not only have individual requirements and aims, but they also have their own stylistic preferences. This is exactly why the X-Pro1 and X-E1 feature so many different programming possibilities. If there were one “optimal” universal setting, Fuji could have done away with many options. Nevertheless, here are a few recommendations for potentially useful custom shooting profiles:

  • General profile: In this profile, I save the settings that generally apply to everyday situations and quick snapshots. My typical settings for my all-around profile are automatic white balance, auto ISO, auto DR, ASTIA or PROVIA, and occasionally a decreased noise reduction set at medium low.
  • DR100% profile: This is a variation of the general profile with the dynamic range setting fixed at DR100%. This profile allows me to use the live histogram for correcting the exposure and target the brighter areas of my image more accurately when defining the exposure settings.
  • Black-and-white profile: Any time I imagine an image would look good in black-and-white, I use this profile, which includes the black-and-white film simulation and increased contrast settings. The electronic viewfinder gives me a practical (black-and-white) preview of my subject.
  • Special profile: I generally reserve one profile for special situations, such as shooting in a studio or taking infrared images, when it is practical to shoot with a color temperature setting predefined in Kelvin.
  • RAW shooter” profile: I use this profile when I know in advance that I will probably want to expose the image very carefully so that I can develop and edit it with an external RAW converter.

A JPEG Profile for RAW Shooters

Yep, no kidding: a JPEG shooting profile for RAW shooters. While JPEG settings have no effect on RAW files, they do affect the image you can see in the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and on the LCD display. Moreover, the data for the live histogram is derived from the image that appears in the live view – in other words, it too is affected by your current JPEG settings.

What does this practically mean? If you select VELVIA as your film simulation, for example, not only will you have a brightly colored JPEG; you’ll also have a brightly colored live view preview with pronounced contrast. This image preview is reflected in the live histogram as well, and the Velvia simulation will cause the peaks of exposure to shift to either the left or the right limits quicker than if Provia were used instead.

The same goes for the contrast settings (HIGHLIGHT TONE and SHADOW TONE): if both parameters are set to HARD then the highlights and shadows will shift beyond the right and left limits of the histogram faster than they would if both were set to SOFT.

As I’ve already said, the RAW file itself isn’t affected by any of this – it collects all of the image information that the sensor is capable of capturing. Conversely, JPEGs rely on only a portion of the RAW data. The objective here is setting the JPEG parameters in a way that allows you to see the largest possible portion of the RAW data – because this is the information that interests us as RAW shooters. We want to squeeze everything possible out of our camera and its sensor – to get the absolute maximum and to leave nothing behind. We want to explore the limits of the dynamic range and expose as close as possible to its borders. And we want the live histogram to inform us of where these limits are as precisely as possible.

The JPEG settings influence how we expose and adjust our images because we make our decisions about exposure using the information we can gather from the histogram and the live image. As a RAW-only photographer, you will be typically shooting with ETTR (Expose To The Right). We are therefore looking for JPEG settings that produce the softest contrast in order to obtain a histogram that reveals the most useful information about dynamic range for RAW files. Here are my recommendations for this profile:

  • DYNAMIC RANGEDR100%. The live histogram supplies meaningful information only with this DR setting.
  • FILM SIMULATIONPROVIA. This is the most neutral film simulation and also has the softest contrast. This setting will prevent highlights and shadows from unnecessarily being cropped at either end of the histogram.
  • HIGHLIGHT TONE(–2) SOFT. The RAW format of the sensor has an exposure reserve of approximately 0.4 EV in comparison to the processed JPEG format. You can access this reserve with an external RAW converter. The live histogram should be set to SOFT at its edges to prevent RAW shooters from exposing their images too conservatively.
  • SHADOW TONE (–2) SOFT. When you use DR100% with high-contrast subjects (in order to use the live histogram to base your exposure on the bright areas of your image), the dark areas often end up appearing as blocked-up black areas. This SHADOW TONE setting of (–2) SOFT counteracts this problem, since it brightens the dark tonal values in the viewfinder (and in the live histogram).

What’s next? Obviously, there’s much more to say about using the live histogram, the camera’s exposure modes or about how to use ETTR. In fact, one could easily fill a book with all this stuff, so that’s exactly what I did. It took me about a year to finish it, and you can have a look at 65 pages of reading samples by clicking this link for the German and this link for the English version of “Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro1”. Or you can actually buy the book at Amazon by clicking here for the German or here for the English version.

As X-PERT CORNER is supposed to become a weekly column here on FUJIRUMORS, I have already identified over 20 topics I could write about. Here’s a pretty random pick of three of them:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

So what’s it going to be next week? You decide by answering the poll! Till then, I wish you a happy New Year – and have fun with your Fuji X-series camera.

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (german version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems.

Follow Me
  • Grittymonkey

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading the next episodes of this weekly rendez-vous.

  • Aldo

    quando sarà possibile applicare i Picture Style ai Raw? perchè non mi danno la possibilità di applicare un Velvia ad un Raw?
    grazie
    Aldo

    • Malik

      Perchè il formato RAW, contiene solo i dati grezzi provenienti dal sensore SENZA nessun tipo di elaborazione da parte del firmware della macchina fotografica.

  • nxxo

    thx you very much for sharing good new x-pert corner

  • springtian

    This x-pert tutorial is very instructive and makes things about the Q menus much clearer!

    Thanks!

    Happy New Year!

  • Markus

    Looking forward to the next episode, already subscribed to the rss of the site. Great work, thank you.

  • Stav

    Great Column!!

    Another column idea for you: discussing when the live-view will reflect the various settings (this happens in some shooting modes but not others) and will the live-view be the same both on the evf and lcd screen?

  • Ray

    Nice job. Thanks.

    Although not on the poll, I believe a primer on AF would be a sensible topic. Many new owners to the X-Series cameras come from dslr backgrounds and are turned off by the “slow” autofocus. There are tricks on improving things and different shooting conditions call for different approaches.

  • Henry

    Thanks so much for this valuable information. Well written and easy to understand.
    Future idea: Explanation of what White Balance Shift is and how it works.
    How does it affect the pictures?
    During raw in camera conversion is there any way to see changes live time?

    Thanks again- Looking forward to next weeks information.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Henry and Ray, there is a large chapter about using the AF in the book. White-balance shift is also explained and illustrated with an example.

      The Engish version of Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro1 will ship in a few days, and there’s also a Kindle version due for 13JAN. The iBook version is due 15JAN.

      You can see the result of your internal RAW converter edits anytime by pressing the Q (or RAW) button while editing a file. If you like what you see, confirm with OK, if not, press CANCEL and carry on editing exactly where you left off.

      Stav, live view is covered on various occasions in the book, including implications when shooting in low light or using adapted lenses.

      Aldo: Film simulations are JPEG settings and have no effect on the RAW file. You can, however, apply them to a JPEG when you develop it in-camera with the internal RAW converter.

    • Henry

      Thanks! I have ordered your book today!-

  • Hanseberhardt

    Terrific that there is Rico’s X Pert column at Fuji Rumours! Most helpful for X E-1 users. Thanks.

  • Ivan Morales

    Very well written! Thank you!
    My column sugestion:

    A) Third party lens selection
    B) thrid party flash selection for xpro1

    Thanks again andthe best of lucks for 2013

  • Gunnar

    Thanks Rico – I learned something new today.
    Will order your book when available @ kindle

  • rio

    Hello Rico,
    ETTR seems not as valuable as it described. http://chromasoft.blogspot.tw/2009/09/why-expose-to-right-is-just-plain-wrong.html

    • http://lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Rio, ETTR is quite valuable if you apply it correctly, and yes, Sandy is certainly correct with his assessment of ETTR. And of course, there’s a chapter about ETTR in my book that’s basically saying the same with less words (my book is intended to be very practical, so there’s less theory involved). The essence is that ETTR (for a RAW only shooter) means that you have to manually emulate (in your RAW workflow) what D-Lighting, DRO or Fuji’s DR function are doing more or leass automatically when they expose an image and develop a JPEG from its RAW file: saving highlights and re-establishing shadows by compressing (at exposure time) and later decompressing (when processing the image) dynamic range.

      ETTR (as we understand it) simply means to expose the RAW file in a way that minimizes artifacts that are associated with the decompression of tonal values.

      Luckily, things have improved since 2009 (when Sandy wrote his article) and pretty much all state-of-the-art RAW converters now offer some kind of “lighting” function to do just that. Silkypix 5 has an HDR and a Dodging slider, Capture One 7 has two “HDR” sliders, Lightroom 4 is doing it with their Highlights and Shadows sliders, DxO Optics Pro 8 offers “Smart Lighting” etc., heck, even the Russian RPP 64 converter (which is based on DCRAW, here’s the developer’s blog: http://raw-rpp.livejournal.com/) offers a box where you can enter “compressed exposure”, which is just another term for applying a tonal curve correction that keeps the highlights and boosts shadows and midtones to different extents.

      Nikon’s D-Lighting and Sony’s DRO are actually a black box hardware/software module called Iridix from Apical, a London based outfit that likes to remain in the shadows and keep their trade secrets in order to make what they do appear like magic. There was a time, though, when Apical did actually publish a few white papers on dynamic range compression, adaptive ISO and the likes, which I happen to have read. Those are all gone, but there’s a small feature on dpreview (also from 2009): http://www.dpreview.com/news/2009/3/18/apical

      Fuji isn’t using Apical, of course, they use their own tonal compression scheme (so does Canon, btw), which is wise given Fuji’s tendency to feature unconventional sensor layouts. As you can imagine, Iridix would not work out of the box with an EXR sensor, so Fuji needs to control their own tonal value compression/decompression scheme in order to make it work the same way over their entire product line of cameras, which includes EXR, Bayer and X-Trans sensors.

      In any case, when shooting RAW only, ETTR means to disable any DR/DRO/D-Lighting function (aka set DR100% on your Fuji camera) and expose in a way that sets the important highlights to the right of the histogram. With experience, you can expose more precisely than Fuji’s built-in DR function, which only works in rather coarse 1 EV increments (DR200%, DR400%).

      Ironically, if you keep choosing “extended ISO” as the topic of our next article, you will actually hear about how the camera is using “classic ETTR” to achieve ISO 100, just like Sandy has described it in the article you have linked in your comment.

      • http://sir-rio.com rio

        Rico, thanks for your elaboration on ETTR! You and the newly released Capture One Beta make me feel proud as a x-pro1 user!

  • Gaffman

    Great article! I found the explaination about changing jpg settings when using histograms as a RAW shooter to be very helpful. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  • jimd

    Rico,
    Thanks for the great article/s. You have the ability to discuss complex issues clearly while providing straight-forward ‘receipes’. Jpeg settings for Raw shooters cuts is very helpful.
    Cheers,
    Jim

  • http://WWW.BLUERIDGEWORKSHOPS.COM ELLIOT

    I have been waiting on your book from Amazon for quite some time. They sent me another notice that is not available yet so I canceled it. What’s the deal?

    Thanks

  • Jorge

    I purchased your (Kindle) edition book a few days ago on Amazon and a few moments ago started reading the Fujirumors.com site. What a surprise when I started reading x-pert corner, and actually recognized some of your wording; I quickly went to my iPad and saw that you are the same person!
    I love the book. Very informative since I just got the camera last week and am still learning it. The Fuji supplied manual just has the “basics” and not much else.
    Thanks again!

  • Florence Griffith

    I don’t own an X camera…but did…and hope to get the XT-1…this little tutorial on the Q panel is very well done and easily understood…even by me

  • Iñaki M.

    Hello Rico, thanks for sharing your knowledge, I just looked for your book in the iBooks store and it is only in German, will it be an english version any time soon?

    Regards.

  • Bjarte K. Frønsdal

    Thanks for the information about the BASIC only showing the settings that you and your camera are currently working with! It was about to drive me crazy!
    A question; I have one setting adjusted for street photography, and because I want to shoot using Black & White (with yellow filter) I want to shoot in RAW. But that is not possible to save in the custom settings. Is this really so? Do I have to change it in the Q-menu each time I use the settings for street photography?

    • jc

      Oh yuck! Bjarte you found a sad truth it seems. I just checked and you’re right that even though they are visible in the Q menu it doesn’t look like the file quality/format settings (i.e. RAW and FINE) can be saved to a profile. What a weird dissapointment.

      Overall I’d say that there’s an important point missing from this article, which is the massive volume of settings that are missing from the shooting profiles tool. IMHO things like format, flash mode, AE mode, AF mode, AE-L/AF-L button function, drive mode, PREVIEW EXP IN MANUAL and others should all be part of this system.

      For RAW shooters the shooting profiles is almost useless as most options only apply to JPG, and many settings I can see myself changing for e.g. a “manual flash” profile require diving in and out of menus :S

      I can see how it would have been a lot of work for Fuji to get this perfect, and I’ve read that other manufacturers have to make similar compromises (having profiles only affect ‘shooting’ options and not ‘setup’ options), but it seems like they really failed to make this tool as useful as it could have been. Certainly having the file format (RAW) be part of this would just make sense, as well as the other missing items that are present in the Q menu (AF mode and flash mode).

      Can we dream of a firmware update that fixes this? Probably not :P

      • Bjarte K. Frønsdal

        My wet dream these days……A firmware update….. :-)