Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HS20EXR Shooting Mode ..Manual Mode @ 16mp

I set out yesterday to ascertain just how much sensor noise was evident if using the camera with the Following settings:
Shooting Menu...Manual Mode
Image size = Large 4:3 @ 16 mega pixels.
Image quality = Fine
Film Simulation = Provia (Standard)
WB Shift = Default
Color = Mid
Tone = Hard
Sharpness = Hard
Noise Reduction = Low
ISO = variable

Dynamic Range 100% to 400% as required.

Setup Menu
Focus Check = Off (A must!!)

External menus & Buttons
White Balance Auto ( change if under lights)
AE ( Photometry)  Spot(changed as required)
AF mode= Center
AF Focusing = Continuous & Single  (for most shots)
EV = variable depending on light and location. (More to come on this)Not available in manual mode.

I have highlighted in red the settings changes seen originally here

Rather than use any of the automated shooting modes I opted for manual mode as this best met the requirements due to intense but low light angles as well as a lot of heavily shaded areas. I have found that the HS20 has some difficulty when used in these conditions and has a tendency towards incorrect exposure. Using the naked eye and the build in light-meter of the camera is often more accurate than the auto modes, as this allows the options of under or overexposing, depending upon the conditions encountered.

I took a range of photos of various subjects and exposed as I thought right using the light-meter as a guide. In almost all cases of the 400+ photos I took Spot Metering was used, with a change to average as the backup when spot didn't seem right. 
Depending upon, composition, light, shade and any other  conditions. I used a variety of aperture settings. I changed aperture and ISO settings when needed to allow sufficient light in shaded areas, and maintain a relatively fast shutter speed. Anything above 1/20sec I could manage as all images were hand held, this made me conscious that shutter speed was a priority in certain circumstances.
I leave white balance set as default. My feeling is that the Fuji cameras handle WB well. The only time I will change this is when shooting indoors or under some form of external lighting.
So that's pretty much the setup. For those new to the camera or new to this style of camera, all the above may seem a little daunting but persevere with this mode and you will find the camera is able to provide an outcome that is difficult to get using any of the automated modes.
Below is a series of shots taken with these settings and there are more to be found HERE. At the end of the images I will do a summary of the shoot.

Jun 22, 2011
1430×1600 pixels – 1795KB
Filename: DSCF2711-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/500 sec
Aperture: 11.0
Focal Length: 12.7mm

Jun 22, 2011
1200×1600 pixels – 1509KB
Filename: DSCF2746-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/1000 sec
Aperture: 4.0
Focal Length: 12.7mm

Jun 22, 2011
1600×1029 pixels – 1413KB
Filename: DSCF2583-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/320 sec
Aperture: 6.4
Focal Length: 5.4mm

Jun 22, 2011
1600×1200 pixels – 1445KB
Filename: DSCF2823-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/320 sec
Aperture: 5.0
Focal Length: 69.1mm

Jun 22, 2011
1062×1600 pixels – 1272KB
Filename: DSCF2800-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/800 sec
Aperture: 4.5
Focal Length: 4.6mm

Jun 22, 2011
1200×1600 pixels – 975KB
Filename: DSCF2557.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 1/800 sec
Aperture: 6.4
Focal Length: 14.9mm

Jun 22, 2011
1600×1023 pixels – 1604KB
Filename: DSCF2514-edit.JPG
Model: FinePix HS20EXR
ISO: 100
Exposure: 1/80 sec
Aperture: 11.0
Focal Length: 7.1mm

To summarize. 
What did we learn from this exercise?

The first thing to note is the amount of "keepers was very high". While I did have a few that weren't exposed correctly, this was more attributable to me not taking quite as much care at times as I should have.

The second thing that was noticeable was that I was able to shoot at quite a bit higher shutter speeds than I had anticipated, which meant I wasnt having to concentrate quite so hard on staying still. That's a bonus.

Thirdly I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of color and tone even using Provia (default film simulation), as previously I had felt it was a little lacking. It appears setting tone hard may have had a influence on color as well.

Fourthly, and most importantly was the lack of noise in most of the images. The majority were shot at ISO 400, but some were @100 and some right through to ISO 1600.
I cant help but think that there is some Fuji magic still being applied to images in camera, even when not set in EXR DR or Res mode, while having it set to take images at the full 16 Mp.

To finish I would have to say that the camera used in this way or EXR Program modes at 16mp returns very pleasant images. I think that the images may well be better IQ wise at this setting, the trade off will be how much noise you can tolerate although its not as horrendous as I first thought it maybe. ISO speeds and shutter speeds are definitively lifted in this mode of shooting, which is very good. Images taken with these settings respond well to a small amount of PP work, and while exhibiting a Film Grain appearance when viewed over 50% do still look good after treatment. I can see this sort of image being printed off up to 8 x 10 with no serious impediment. (I will be testing that too). Certainly even the ISO 1600 shots I took look good after processing. I will add more to the gallery as time permits so come back and have a look in the near future as I should have more examples by then.
Please note the following: 
In the Picasa Exif data the flash shows as having been fired. This is incorrect. No flash was used.
Also note that, in Picasa Exif data, the exposure mode for manual is 1: auto mode =2 or 3.
Hopefully Picasa will update its Exif reader for the new Fuji's soon. Feel free to down load the images from Picasa and use your own Exif tools if you require a little more in-depth Exif data.
Download images from Picasa albums and not from the blog. Blog images are only linked images. Do not use the save target as option but the download button in Picasa itself.


  1. I've been following your blog for couple months and I really appreciate your hard work. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and thoughts with the HS20! This is awesome!

    Your pictures in this post (specially the magnolia tree) are impressive and beautiful. I'm really pleased about... hmmm... everything that HS20 has to offer :)

    For shooting, I have used mostly medium settings (tone/colour/sharpness with "multipoint metering" and P mode), but this one is something I cant pass - I think I need to adapt and deploy some of the settings to my use.

    Thank you Ralph for your post and blog.

  2. Ralph, given your time again, would you still purchase the HS20? I’ve been considering purchasing one for some time but with all the negative opinions I’m now sitting on the fence. Your site and articles has displayed the HS20 in a more positive and balanced light allowing people like myself to see it’s potential. I own a 6500fd that takes good pictures (even in auto) but lacks a lot of features of the HS20. Do we fence sitters wait for the next Fuji release or take the plunge? Nothing like putting some one on the spot. :)

  3. Hi Sol100,
    Having not owned a s6500 its a difficult thing to judge. The short answer is yes, I would, however had I been able to keep my HS10 I think I may well have passed on the HS20. Having said that and now having the HS20, would I buy it , definitively. The ability to shoot in several different modes is like having four or five complete cameras in one body.

    My shooting preferences are Manual and EXR Res Pri.modes. Still others will like other shooting modes. That's where the strength of this camera lies. It wont ever be as good as the HS10 for video, but most of us buy for stills anyway. Just like the HS10 the more I use it the better I get with it. As I'm still a long way off being able to afford a good DSLR kit I will be squeezing everything I can out of the HS20.
    Go buy one, then prepare yourself for a sharp learning curve as you decide best how to use it.
    I will no doubt upgrade to the HS30 if it ever appears and has a larger sensor :)
    Cheers, Let us know how you make out with the fence sitting



  5. Thanks Ralph. The video is not an issue for me either if I wanted good HD video I would have bought a video camera. Video doesn't appeal to me it's very hard to capture the moment, that instant in time that’s frozen forever. After our holidays I use Roxio Creator and put together a slide show with music and effects. Everyone identifies with the pics that they recognize and get right into it. All good stuff! I think the 20 is worth a go, I'll still keep the 6500 to because it's a good point and shoot camera. I just wouldn't call it that on the Dpreview forum, too many passionate people. :)
    I did look at a DSLR, good make and not outrageously priced but to do the same as the 20 it was a two lens job. Not what I want.
    Just one more question before I disappear. Is the 20 unusable in auto as a point and shoot camera or is it a case of don't bother?
    Any way thanks for the blog it's very informative.

  6. Hello from Moscow! Thank You for this very usefull blog! HS20 has finally appeared in our stores, and I'm a happy owner of this masterpiece. So, a question - Do You use any filters / lenses (teleconv.) on Your HS20?

  7. Sol100
    No it should do well as a point and shoot. I've done a bit of that by setting it in EXR Auto. This gives you full auto with the benefit of EXR technology as well, so images are generally quieter than using the standard auto setting.
    The scene recognition software seems to be pretty accurate at assessing what its looking at. The down side of course is that there is no outside controls active so the camera does it all. You may not always like the ISO used or the way it produces some images but for the most part it does very well as a point and shoot when you are in a hurry.

  8. Karx
    Howdy from New Zealand :)
    I use a 58mm threaded Uv filter for lens protection if I'm at the beach or somewhere that could damage the lens surface coatings.Its a Kenrock Skylight 1a filter. It doesn't interfere with the light the camera receives. Thats the only filter I use. I know that others have tried Neutral Density and Polarizing filters with the HS10, but have never seen any results to date.
    Sometimes I will use these types of filters in the Post processing work when using Photoshop.
    I was wondering how well a Star Filter would go with some night photography for making streetlights look different, but the price here for specialist filters is way too expensive.

  9. Hi there, having my HS20, and trying to get into manual mode after years of 'cheating' with auto and P, this blog is very helpful. Thanks for all the hard work, i'll keep reading, and experimenting.
    I use a polariser and a couple of ND filters with my HS 20 and they work fine. I'll be getting a star effect filter, and a few colour ones for B&W shots, and i'm gonna experiment with an infra red filter too. If i remember, i'll let you know how i got on! :)

  10. Cheers MitchyK7

    I know that others has great success with the HS10 and filters so I would expect the HS20 to be similar.
    I image that a filter may stop down one fstop as with other cameras. I would be interested to know how much effect different filters have.


  11. Hi Ralph, the ND2 filter drops a couple of stops, wihch is what it i expect it to do anyway! LOL
    The circular polariser drops between 1 and 3 stops depending on where it's set. Weather here is not great, so tested indoors with grey skies outside. Will test again in clear bright weather. Will also test star filter and infra red i have coming to see how they fare.
    Also does anyone have a lens profile for photoshop for the HS20? will save me makingone, or should i do one for MY camera anyway, in case of differences?

  12. Hi MitchyK7,
    To date I'm unaware of a lens profile for either Photoshop or Lightroom. I assume from this you shoot RAW as well as Jpeg.
    I rarely ever use this camera in Raw format. I did a series of shots in both formats and when put alongside each other there was very little difference between Raw and JPEG, at least not enough to convince me that RAW is worthwhile in the HS20 as it wasnt in the HS10 either.This is due I would think to a combination of a much improved Jpeg engine for the HS20 and the natural sensor improvement as well, with EXR giving so much better results in Dynamic Range that it makes only a small difference between the two formats.

    I would be really interested to see someone conversant with RAW do a comparison and point to what if any benefit there might be. I would be happy to post the results here.

  13. I've been using RAW in some instances as i've noticed the HS20 will sometimes overexpose bright scenes, and under expose dark scenes, you'd expect it to over or under expose, but not both. It doesn't seem to be a major issue, and may just be me needing to learn the new camera. So in the meantime i shoot some RAW for important images to give me more control back at home in the digital darkroom.
    As you say the jpegs come out pretty well, but as with all fuji cameras, they have a muddy appearance on some surfaces when blown up, so i shoot raw too.
    To see what i mean do some full zoom moon shots, with jpeg and raw. I found the jpegs lost some detail that i wasn't able to recover, but in raw it was much better.
    But like i said, that may just be me and having to learn the new camera and it's differences to my others.

  14. I'll give RAW another look at some stage.
    The under or over exposure seems to be a characteristic of the HS20. It seems to do it in all of the Program modes and I now have a few samples to post. Its one of the main reasons why I shoot so much in manual mode.
    The other thing I find annoying is the small EV range. This sensor has a very big range and the camera would benefit from a couple more stops of EV control as well.

  15. Yes, considering the dynamic range and iso can go so high, it surprises me that the EV is range is that small too. I only consider myself an amateur, but even i thought that was an oversight on fuji's part.
    As for the over/under exposing, it does it most for me in EXR mode, which makes the EXR part of the camera pretty useless! LOL
    I only use EXR in DR or SN priority because of this.
    I'm still getting to grips with manual, i know what everything does, but i lack the experience of knowing roughly where to start with shutter/aperture etc in different lighting conditions. I'm sure that will come with time, and the help of your blog! :)

  16. I am having problems with autofocus when I attach my circular polarising filter. Does anyone else have that problem?

  17. Yes.
    I have seen reports from users with this problem. Because the contrast detection for the HS20 AF requires good light, some users have reported that some filters are more prone to causing issues with the AF.

    It depends on on how dark the filters are and polarizing filters, just like Polaroid sun-glasses can cause problems with the AF detection.

    I wear a pair of Polaroid sunglasses in the bright daylight. If I'm wearing them and turn the camera on its side (90 degrees) then I cant see the LCD screen. It is completely blanked out by the sunglasses. It is conceivable that you are experiencing something similar with your camera. It sounds odd but rotate the filter by a few degrees at a time and see what happens, it may help or it might make no difference.

    Post your results here, I would be very interested to hear the outcome.

  18. Seems to be worse when at the extremes of zoom. So it may well be that the light level is critical as you say. I have to remove filter for the full zoom photos of birds in trees even in broad daylight.