Fireworks Mode ON THE FUJI X-A1 OR X-M1 by Photo Fella

A friend this week asked how I took a few nice fireworks shots on my Fuji X-series mirrorless camera.  So I thought I would show how either the X-A1 and X-M1 can be used in a special JPG shooting mode specially adapted for fireworks.  Here's an example of one of the images: 

Use of the fireworks mode with the X-A1 camera at the Avalon Airshow

Use of the fireworks mode with the X-A1 camera at the Avalon Airshow

So, here goes for how to use the mode:  first off, change the dial from the P mode (I hope you are using that mode as a default - if not, check out my tips for setting up the camera on this site) and select "SP" mode for Special Program.  Then press the central MENU/OK button on the back dial and you will see the Shooting Menu.  It will come up with the last used filter option.  You need to press the select right button which is by default labelled as WB on the camera and you will now see a range of special purpose options.  Select up or down to scroll through with the toggle buttons until you find Fireworks. By default this filter will change the settings to 1.5 seconds of exposure at a really small F-stop (probably F16 or F22 depending on the lens).  

What this filter will do is make the shutter stays open for a long time so it can catch the fireworks spraying into the air. But there is no way the camera can be handheld still enough so you will need to use a tripod - or - improvise.  In the case of the photo above I rested the camera against a window ledge and this seemed stable enough even without a tripod.  This mode also makes the colours a bit more vivid and works a treat.  You then need to make sure you swing the dial around back to "P" mode for normal operation to resume.  

By the way the other filters are worth exploring as well such as a special Sunset mode, Beach mode and others. Note that this mode does NOT support RAW photography - you will end up with processed JPG images only - and that's it - "you can take it or leave it" as a friend of mine likes to say!

Here's one more shot for fun:

Fireworks in Melbourne - Moomba taken with Fuji X-A1

Fireworks in Melbourne - Moomba taken with Fuji X-A1

10 Usage Tips for X-M1/A1 by Photo Fella

A FEW USAGE TIPS

OK, now let's get using the cameras.  You can spin the knob with all the settings on it to the camera icon or the camera+ icon modes and that's it.  The camera will do what it can for you.  The quick difference between the two is that the standard camera icon mode respects your settings (eg AutoISO, exposure adjustment etc).  The Icon of the camera with the + setting will turn the camera fully automatic.  However I prefer the 'P' mode and if you have first set autoISO in step 2 above, then 'P' mode will take care of most things.  See my blog on this site for some tips on getting the best out of 'P' mode or 'A" modes which are great to shoot with on these cameras. I explain 'A' mode in my blog - it's great as well for getting nice out of focus backgrounds - but only if you have the pancake lens on, otherwise don't bother with it.

OIS+MOTION MODE

I also suggest set the camera to OIS+MOTION focusing mode which enables it to help you out when it detects fast motion by switching to a higher shutter speed.  You find this under the third red menu setting then under IS MODE.  There are several choices and the one I recommend is the first choice in the menu called Continuous+Motion.  Note that you only get this choice if the lens supports image stabilization.  If you use the pancake lens (which I love) then sorry, you don't get this mode.  Also note that this mode doesn't work if Face Detection is turned ON which is annoying.  If face detection is OFF and if you are in 'P' mode or the normal camera icon mode, then if the camera detects a fast movement such as a child or pet moving quickly then it will automatically switch to the fastest shutter speed it can use for the available light.  Brilliant!  I find it good to set the Fn button to toggle face detection on and off - that gives you full control without having to dive down into the menus.  Rico also has a great blog on face detection at: http://ht.ly/yxlSJ 

SOME QUIRKS

These cameras have some quirks you absolutely have to get used to:

  • You MUST press the shutter halfway down LIGHTLY until the camera beeps and the green rectangle of focus appears BEFORE you continue pressing the shutter all the way down.  Handing the camera to other people will usually result in out of focus shots as they simply press the shutter down hard in one movement and it simply WILL NOT focus that way.  Sorry - it just won't do it.  You must practice this to really master it.
  •  It goes to sleep sometimes and you have to power it off and back on to wake it up - just be aware that if the camera doesn't respond that's usually why
  •  The LCD screen is pretty good in sunlight but really bright sunlight will drown it.  You can press and hold down the Q button for a few seconds and it will go to max brightness.  Same again to switch back to normal brightness
  •  The top right rotating knurled knob on the right controls exposure up and down when in 'P' mode.  It is REALLY easy for this to shift accidentally  and to then find you are under or exposing the shots - and it stays in this wrong mode even when you power off and on.  You must get used to checking it is correct - it shows the under and over on the screen.  
  • It is easy to accidentally shift the colour balance.  I took many shots of a wonderful canyon in Mexico with the colour balance shifted to the red - didn't notice till we were out of the world heritage site.  Couldn't totally fix the shots.  It's a quirk.  Just be aware - I will show you how to be aware of this

A FEW EXTRA TIPS

  • Always change lenses quickly and without the camera facing up where dirt is bound to drift in. AH the lenses - they are great.  The little zoom that comes with the camera is sweet and works well and has image stabilisation.  It will not give you the nice out of focus background though.  For that you need the pancake lens set to maximum aperture f2.8 - it does a sweet job BUT it is not image stabilised so if you take shots with it in low light then camera shake will probably blur the shots a bit.  Sorry but you can't have it both ways.  Oh, I KNOW the Olympus crowd think the OMD is so great because it stabilises all the lenses.  Yep - but you've seen their shots and you've seen what this camera can do.  Yes, well. I'd rather have the lens quality and live with the quirks.
  • I was asked the other day about a little yellow symbol with an exclamation mark that appears from time to time - that's the camera shake warning trying to let you know that your shot might be blurred by movement.  You have a few options if you see this: increase the available light if you can, or you can use the flash or you can try and force a higher shutter speed despite the dim light.  You can do this by selecting the Sport mode on the dial, or shifting the dial to the Camera+ mode and seeing if the camera can work out the best settings to help you out.
  • While the flash is really quite good, I find I rarely use it - you can use it by flicking it up but if the object is backlit it often won't fire and you have to set to forced flash - not usually worth the hassle because you can push up the exposure a bit by turning the top exposure control dial and getting the result you want - particularly if you have a high setting for Dyanamic Contrast.  I give some examples in the blog on the main page on how to use exposure.

Hope these tips help you - but once again can I recommend you to master Rico for some more tips on using these lovely cameras: http://ht.ly/yxnGm 

5 Setting up Tips for X-M1 / X-A1 by Photo Fella

If you have one of these magic little cameras then you will find they are very capable.  The M1 has a slightly better sensor than the A1, but the A1 takes better movie shots.  In practice I have not been able to tell much difference between the photo quality and even the master Rico Pfirstinger seemed to find the same.  His expert corner compares the cameras and gives some great tips as well: http://ht.ly/yxlsQ 

In terms of initial setup here are my suggestions and a little bit on why:

DATE and TIME

Set date and time to your local time and use the time shift function when you travel - that way you can keep it synced with your smartphone and this enables you to easily merge photos. Speaking of phones you can use the GPS feature on the phone to send that information to your camera to ensure it knows the location and puts them onto the camera.  To be honest I don't use this feature, but you should know the camera supports it.  You have to do this every three hours however so be aware of that.

ISO MODE and DYNAMIC CONTRAST

I prefer to have this set to AutoISO with max set to 3200 and min set to 400 with min shutter speed set to 1/125.  Although the ISO can be set to 6400 I have found I get some noticeable noise so I set it to 3200.  I leave the minimum setting at 400 to give some headroom for the dynamic contrast setting.  I set the minimum speed to 1/125 and would much prefer this to be 1/500 like it is on the bigger brother X-E1.  But alas that's all we are offered.  These settings work pretty well for street shooting where you might be walking in and out of shadows and still want to capture pretty sharp images of people as you walk along.  Rico has a great blog explaining more on using AutoISO here: http://ht.ly/yxleb 

I set Dynamic Contrast set to Auto.  Sometimes this doesn't give enough of an ability for the camera to capture all the shadows and detail in the sky (e.g. the sky will be a washed out white) - if this happens try pressing the Q button for quick access to the key settings and then toggle across to Dynamic Contrast and use the back knurled knob to set it to 400%.  Don't forget to set back to Auto after you take the shot to give the camera maximum ability to help you out.

FILM MODE

Pro and semi pro photographers please tune out now!  OK - it's true: I tend to set the film set to JPG only mode when I travel for holidays.  A key reason is that it means I can transfer small files to the iPad and for sharing with other people.  I do use RAW a lot when I am back at home base.  Look, this is a very personal thing.  There is NO doubt that RAW gives you the best possible picture quality and flexibility.  But for most people it's too complicated to buy and use Lightroom or Silkypics and this blog is essentially for the newcomer.  So forgive me, but I'm going to suggest JPEG mode.  And of course let's remember that shooting in any of the camera scene modes (which the novice will do) will ONLY give you JPEG images in any case.  But I don't want a flame around this: RAW is definitely better, but the Fujifilm cameras do an AMAZING job of processing the images to great JPEG images inside the camera.  So I use JPEG mode a lot.

I set the film emulation set to 'S' rather than STD.  Here's why: A major benefit of the Fujifilm cameras is their glorious colour shots and their terrific white colour balancing.  But this takes a bit of understanding. Here we go: the standard JPEG 'film' mode on the Fuji is called PROVIA and partly emulates one of their famous early films that was called PROVIA.  On these little cameras however, it's not called Provia but is just called STD for standard. It's great for buildings and standard shots of objects. 

However If you like taking photos of kids and people which I expect you will do a fair bit, then it's a bit bland and the images lack punch (they can be fixed later to enhance them but let's try and get the initial images to how you would like).  If you wish to improve things then I suggest you switch to ASTIA film mode which on these Fujifilm cameras is confusingly called S (for Soft). This mode takes wonderful images of people.

 The third film mode I use a lot on these cameras is called VELVIA and you set it with the 'V" film setting.  I used to use this film a lot when I was young - it takes quite vivid greens and is fab for punching up the colours of greenery and reds. 

So it comes down to this.  I tend to just shoot in ASTIA (S) mode all the time now because I like to take people shots and it's great for that.  Also good for blue skies.  And the colours of greenery can be punched up later in photoshop or equivalent but usually you don't need to.

There are two other film modes (B&W and Sepia).  Pretty obvious what they do.

Paul