After spending a lot of time with the Fuji X10 I have developed a few short cuts and settings that I feel bring the most from the camera. The settings I use are related to the C1 and C2 modes, EXR DR settings, assignment for the Fn button and settings for the display. Of course you may prefer some other combinations of settings. In truth there are no magic formulas and best thing is to learn and understand the camera.
If you have just bought a Fujifilm X10 it is nice to have some good starting recipes.
My experience is based on the Fujifilm X10 and it’s bigger brother Fujifilm X-E1. Some of these ideas and suggestions might fit other camera in the Fuji line-up, but you have to test them. I really love the X10 camera and think that it can deliver very good results, at least as long as one does not have expectations to behave like a full-fledged DSLR.
what is so special about the Fujifilm X10
It is important to understand a bit the peculiarities of the X10. Everything below is easily found in the manual, but the effect on pictures is harder to understand. Best way is to experiment!
Fujifilm X10 uses a custom EXR sensor. This is a special design developed by Fujifilm that adapts somewhat to the shooting conditions. It can behave like a normal 12 mega pixels sensor in normal conditions (daylight, shade or interiors, not too much difference in light levels in the scene) or it can split the sensor in two 6 mega pixels sides that combine in the JPEG engine to produce better results.
the EXR sensor
The EXR sensor in the Fujifilm X10 offers a few special modes. The one I use most is the EXR DR mode. What the X10 does is expose one half of the sensor normally and underexposes the other half. The final effect is an HDR image that offers increased dynamic range. It doesn’t look like some of the HDR images on the web as the effect is more subtle. It is somewhat hard to explain, so the best way is to test it yourself.
Shoot a high contrast scene with DR400 enabled and disabled. The effect, while subtle, should prove the advantage of using this mode sometimes. Example scenarios are dark alley in a city and washed-out sky, or a high contrast landscape containing deep forest and open vistas. Fuji X10 with DR400 mode enabled can help with these cases.
I find the Fujifilm X10 an excellent camera for trekking and mountain climbing, and this is the mode I use.
A second EXR mode helps with lowering digital noise in dark images. While the noise is not a problem up to ISO 800 (I find even at ISO 1600 the noise to be acceptable) once you reach ISO 1600, and the scene is badly lit or with conflicting light sources, the noise becomes more apparent Because noise is random, what the EXR SN setting does is shoot 2 different pictures each with a 6 mega pixels half of the sensor and averages the pixels. Probably the algorithms are a bit more complex but the principle is to get rid of the noise by cancelling it out between frames. It has the same effect as shooting two frames and combining them in Photoshop, but of course it is so much easier to have the camera work for you.
I did not find the EXR noise mode in the X10 very useful. Photoshop and Lightroom do such a good job at killing chroma noise that I never thought noise to be an issue. I think that pictures that look bad at high ISO do so because of bad lighting more than because of noise. This is one reason that processing in black & white makes things better. if you want colour low-light photography – give the EXR SN mode a try.
The last useful expanded mode for the Fujifilm X10 is the EXR auto on the main dial. This is a good way to play with the different algorithms and see what you like, and which mode you feel it is useful for you.
how I set up my Fuji X10
I set up my C1 custom mode with medium fine (6 mega pixels , expanded dynamic range 400, shadow -1, highlights -1 and either Aperture mode or Program mode, velvia or provia film simulation. This is my default mode for difficult light conditions but I feel comfortable with it as an all-day shooting mode. I personally feel that in prints up to A3 the 12 mega pixels are less helpful than the expanded dynamic range. This is a personal choice, so please judge it for yourself.
I keep C2 as the BW street shooting mode on the Fuji X10. I find it a bit easier to compose in BW, instead of post processing. I do have to say that I do not use this mode that often though. I keep it on dynamic range 400, medium fine jpeg, black and white. The shadows and highlights are left 0, but I like to play with them. Sometime BW images look better with harsh contrast.
the dynamic range expansion on the Fujifilm X10 – two approaches
Fuji actually has two modes to do this. The above setting is the “hardware” setting – in which the sensor take two separate exposures, each with half of the pixels. It is activated by selecting DR400 and 6 mega pixels size (medium fine jpeg). If you only select DR400 – and keep the full size 12 mega pixels resolution – the camera bumps base ISO to 400 and does the composite by underexposing one frame at ISO 100. The problem with this mode is that in good light pushing base iSO to 400 is not a good idea. The cost does not justify the increase in dynamic range on the Fuji X10. This second mode is the one implemented on the Fujifilm X-E1 and the X20, but it appears to be somewhat more advanced. I am not yet comfortable in saying how well it does on the Fujifilm X-E1 yet.
You can also read about the differences between Fujifilm X10 and the newer Fujifilm X20 »
easily changing settings on the Fuji X10
The menu, and using it to make often changes, on the Fuji X10 is very slow. Once you do a firmware update, the RAW button becomes a quick menu button. What this does is bring a quick short-list of settings on the screen, that can be easily navigated with the directional arrows. changing the parameters is also way easier. Updating the firmware (if you have not done so) has the greatest impact on usability for the Fuji X10.
You can get the FUji X10 firmware (version 2.0 is the current one) from the official Fuji support page »
setting the Fn button
The X10 (like its brothers the Fujifilm X20, the X-E1, X100 and so on) has a button that can be customized with one often used function. I think the most useful setting is quick access to ISO. The other usage I found is to activate face detection. If I give the camera for someone, it is so much easier for them to work with face detection enabled. The Fujifilm X10 does a good job at recognizing faces, and takes the chore of focus-and-recompose from people that are not very camera-oriented.
I found this especially useful at concerts, when I have to be quick to catch the expressions of people enjoying the show. While not a speed monster, the X10 does a very nice job as a concert camera. And because of it’s small size it is generally accepted at music venues.