Several times each day I’m asked about some aspect of the way I use my Fuji X series cameras via social media (Twitter: @damienlovegrove, Instagram @damienlovegrove, Facebook: damienlovegrove ) and now that the firmware has settled down for the X-T1 The time is right to share my settings and more importantly my way of shooting with you. Note: The new autofocus engine developed for the X-T10 is coming to the X-T1 via a major firmware update in June 2015 but as I always shoot in AFs mode this will have no affect on my settings or on the way that I use the camera.
My Fujifilm X-T1 settings
There are several ways of shooting with digital cameras. With SLRs I used to set up my LCD to mimic a simulated final processed image. This was punchy, vibrant with deep blacks and peaky whites. The image on the back of the camera was very different from that of the real world projected on the focussing screen in the viewfinder. However I have adopted a completely different approach to setting up my viewfinder and LCD with my Fuji X system. I have established the optimum camera jpeg settings to give me a viewfinder image that shows exactly what is recorded in the raw file. The jpegs produced with my settings are somewhat flat or calm and are not always representative of my finished photograph. Anyone who has shot raw video footage will know just how it looks prior to grading. That’s what I like in my stills camera too as it allows me to accurately assess the image exposure while I’m setting shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Here are my settings and why I’ve chosen them.
I’ve parked Face Detection over on the left because at some point in my life I expect to need it and I’ve always struggled to find it in the main menu system. When the camera is switched to AFs it is greyed out as shown here.
Then there is BASE I leave it alone because I’ve not had a reason to programme C1 – C7 yet. The fact that you can’t name the custom settings makes them unusable for me because I’d never remember what one does what.
The Macro function had to be moved here because it used to be switched on or off via the top button of the four selector/ function buttons arranged in a circle around the Menu/OK button. I have set all those selector buttons to FOCUS – focus area. This allows me to quickly move the focus point around. More on that later. (I’m not sure the Macro function does anything anyway. I certainly never use it)
White Balance is on the right. This is nearly spot on however I would like to be able to see and adjust the ‘K’ setting once highlighted in the Q menu from the front command dial rather than have to assign the White Balance to the function 2 button. The white balance is critical for me as it is one of the settings that gets saved to the RAW file and carried through to Lightroom. I don’t like having to faff about with white balance in Lightroom, I like to get it right in camera. I only use three white balance settings, Sun, Cloudy and K. K gives me the control I want in mixed light or when I’m colour shifting. Being able to preview the colour effect while changing the K value is wonderful.
Row two of the Q menu starts with Noise Reduction. I’ve no idea why I parked it here as I always leave it set to Minus 2. If I could switch it off altogether I’d do it. in camera noise reduction is the single most evil thing in the Fuji menus. NR set at any level above minus two kills detail. I have my Lightroom defaults set to zero too.
Next is Jpeg size and aspect ratio. I always leave this set to L 3:2 and I have good reason to do so. The jpeg image that is saved embedded in the RAW file on a Fuji camera is just 50% in size and that means when shooting RAW only the playback is limited to a 50% view. This isn’t enough so I end up shooting large fine jpegs too just to get a decent image to review in camera. I throw the jpegs away in computer. Some say that if your card fails you get two chances of having a non corrupted file as either the jpeg or RAW are likely to be okay. I’ve never had a corrupted SD card so I’ve no way of verifying this. I use the UHS2 type cards by Sandisk with a 280mb/s write speed. These are the cards the X-T1 was designed to use.
File type RAWF is my permanent selection for reasons discussed above.
Film Simulation is my most accessed Q menu item. I mainly use Pro Neg S but I also use Bg. Pro Neg S delivers an image on screen that is calm and natural. It looks flat to most people but it gives me the chance to assess the digital file dynamic range precisely. Bg ‘Soften skin tones in black and white portraits’ as the user manual describes and I happen to agree with them. When I get my images into Lightroom I have to remake these film simulation choices but they are so worth it as the “Adobe Standard” camera profile is not great.
Highlight Tone I set this to minus 1. In conjunction with Pro Neg S this lets me see exactly the limits of highlight recording in the RAW file. I can accurately set my white level where I need it. I often find myself shooting white clothing into the light and I want to know just how white it looks. I’m not one of those photographers who is scared of white and makes everything a shade of grey but I am very tuned in to where I place my white point threshold in the scene.
Shadow Tone I set this to minus 1. This allows me to see every last bit of detail being recorded in the shadows. With the film sim set to Pro Neg S and the tone end stops set to minus 1 I can see exactly what I will see in the RAW file in Lightroom. It’s like previewing what highlight and shadow details can be recovered with the adjustment sliders without having to guess. Once the image is in Lightroom it builds it’s own preview completely ignoring these tonal settings. That’s fine by me.
I leave Colour set to zero as the Pro Neg S film simulation doesn’t exaggerate or reduce saturation.
I set the Jpeg sharpness to minus 1. I do this so that the screen image on my LCD or EVF isn’t giving me an over confidence. I hate seeing an image in camera that looks acceptably sharp even when viewed at 100% only to discover that in the computer it it looks slightly blurred because of the onset of camera shake etc. I want sparkling pictures in print and with sharpness set at minus 1 I regularly shoot another frame after image review that I would have not bothered to do with sharpness set to zero.
Self timer is useful so it’s there on my Q menu.
Shutter Type is always MS for me. I regularly use flash and I don’t want issues with flash timing plus I work under artificial and fluorescent and light sources that ‘beat’ with the ES leaving banding in the image. The mechanical shutter in the X-T1 is perfect.
Flash I use this to toggle flash on or off. I’ve never used rear and I expect someday we will be able to use commander mode when the Fuji flash system is released.
LCD and EVF brightness. I set this to zero as it gives me an image exposure I can rely on.
That one press saving when moving the focus zone around is vital in speeding up the camera shooting process plus it means I never switch on macro or some other function by accident etc. This is a game changer for me.
Focussing regime: I always move my focus zone to where it is needed before I take the picture. This is because the Fuji X system lenses are flat field meaning a focus reframe method of shooting doesn’t work with subjects off centre in the frame [see note below]. The added advantage of doing this is when I check for blinks on playback and zoom in using the instant access 100% playback It goes straight to where it’s needed and not some arbitrary middle position.
Note: Fuji lenses are flat field meaning if you point one at a brick wall 2 metres away and set it wide open focussed at 2m it will create a sharp shot edge to edge and corner to corner even though the edges of the frame may be 3m from the lens. The focussing distance changes as you pan away from centre. That’s why focus and reframe system of focussing doesn’t work. Incidentally it’s also one of the main reason SLR users get back focus issues. With an SLR only the centre focussing areas are sensitive due to the way the prism operates. With the Fuji X system all the focus zones are sensitive even right into the corners and that is why focusing errors are a thing of the past.
The other things to mention are my accessories. You will see in the top picture that I have the Fuji deep eye cup optional extra. I have had to trim it down a bit on the top right using a Dremel to fit my left eye. You can also see that I have a base plate and grip. The L section of this base plate and grip unit is badly designed and restricted the tilting screen access so it has gone. When I am out shooting landscapes I now take my trusty three year old Fuji X-Pro1 with it’s fabulous Really Right Stuff L plate and grip. I never use camera straps as they get in the way of the lens or restrict my movement with the camera.
Please feel free to discuss these settings. Bear in mind there are many ways to set up an X-T1 and what works for me may not be ideal for you.