As soon as I acquired my first camera with multiple settings – I think it was “I” and “T” for Instant and Time – I followed the practice of setting it wrong, and then changing my mind and correcting it, and then going through the cycle again several times. Increasing numbers of controls and possible settings multiplied the chances for folly, and I am proud to say I took advantage of every opportunity.

I held little contests with myself, starting with a cold, dead camera and running against a time clock. I started it up and then made every possible adjustment in every possible combination until I either completed the exercise or the battery exploded. So far my best time was 14 minutes and if the manufacturer had not brought out the Mark II model just then and distracted me, I believe I could have broken the 13-minute mark.. Someone said you could also take pictures with cameras but I find it hard to believe – I mean, when would you find the time?

All this to introduce my experience of fiddling with the little old Fujifilm X-10. While this Fujifilm camera does not have the X-Trans sensor of the more sophisticated models, it does have an EXR command for its Bayer-type sensor. It would appear that this is a sort of super-automatic program that analyses the scene for more than just exposure and sets the camera accordingly. It seems to know when a macro setting is needed or some extension to the dynamic range. I find this amazing, as I rarely know these things myself.

However it works, it works. I got some of the best social pictures of my life at a restaurant – just family stuff – but as good as anything I’ve done deliberately with far bigger equipment and far more trouble. It is a sure encouragement to leave it on the EXR setting for the future and only shift it off when a deliberate technical reason presents itself.

Note for other camera users: I suspect this sort of thing lurks in many modern compact or mirror-less cameras – dig out your camera’s instruction booklet and see what the automatic setting will deliver. You could pleasantly surprised. Great images sometimes do not need extensive dial twiddling.

As an aside, you may be forgiven, as I was, for not knowing what the acronym EXR means. Camera makers label things on their products with more abbreviations than a NATO operations report. You need to soak in the instruction manual before you venture into some of the menu spaces. Avoid the one that says CCFH as this means the camera catches fire in your hands.

Note also that the EXR, Auto, or whatever you have is perfect for handing a camera to a member of the party who then takes your picture as part of the group. If you can set the focal length to give enough air about the subject you can post-process the image flat  even if they always take their shots with a list to port. Be aware that they may alter this auto setting – jump on them if they do.

It is somewhat of a nervous time – handing over a camera to a stranger. There have been numerous stories about doing this in dodgy parts of the world and seeing the helpful stranger vanish into the crowd while their confederates block your pursuit. If this also describes your family holiday lunches keep the photo gear attached to you via a wrist strap and have a sharp fork handy.

If you are handed a camera by someone to do them a favour, exercise all your skill. You’ll never see the result, but they will recognise your professionalism as you take the time to pose them and shoot multiples. Their camera may or may not be set at a suitable exposure – don’t try to determine this…just let the auto-focus do what it will and hope for the best. Don’t – whatever you do – alter the exposure settings to make it better. You may destroy their entire artistic look.

And finally a restaurant tale. Many years ago I took my surgery staff out for a smorgasbord dinner at Miss Maud’s. For some reason I had a Voigtländer camera with a 35mm lens on it and one of the dear old Metz 45-Cl1 flashes attached. I posed the staff and family at one of the tables to get a record picture…and when I was finished another diner came up, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me to come and take a picture of his table. So I did. Group, couples, and a couple of singles. I took his details and told hm the proofs would be in the post.

So they were – I used to do all my own processing so the proof sheets went out next day. I mailed them off to him with a cover note on surgery letterhead and said I’d be pleased to print up any that he fancied.

Never heard back…


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