Monday, January 23, 2012

Photography With The HS20EXR

As some of the long term readers will know I drive a pilot vehicle for a roadside mowing contractor. While the job isn't particularly strenuous on mind or body, it affords me a way of seeing a lot more of the countryside than I would normally have occasion to visit.
This large white flowers are always
popular with the grass flies.
Having grown up on a dairy farm I have an affinity for the rural life and as some of you will have noted this translates into a good percentage of my photographic explorations.
Its summer here now and the grass is long and dry and in need of a good mow. Some of its stands a good 1200mm (4 feet) tall. What you dont see when you drive along any of these roads of course is all the little things that live in this environment. Lately I have been endeavoring to record some of this natural activity.
Another popular resting spot for grass flies
is the Scottish Thistle's flowers.

The HS20 goes everywhere with me and takes a bit of a thumping as well. Its certainly a robust camera and that bodes well for the type of environment it works in.
I use any and all modes with this camera and may decide completely on the spur of the moment as to what mode I'm going to operate in. One of my favorite tricks however is to flip the macro setting on and use long focal lengths to create images with varying degrees of 'bokeh'. This a very handy technique as the HS20 has a very good range in this configuration and you would be surprised at just what you can shoot before having to switch back to normal focus. Some of my shots of objects are 20 meters away and taken with the camera still in macro mode. 
As well as shooting in 16:9 I have been using 3:2 mode as well as some of the images require a larger area to give balance to the shot.
Swooping down out of the fog, this
agricultural spray chopper makes a
beeline for us.

Another of the modes I have been using a lot more of late is the Black & White film simulation in camera. Its generally not too dark and contrasty which is very good as I like to adjust the tone of the images in Photoscape to tweak them to what I feel is a good balance.
The beauty of this mode is that it can lend an air of age to some of the older sheds and buildings dotted around the countryside that color really cant convey. It can also take a difficult shot in color and make a more interesting and dramatic shot like you see in the image of the helicopter heading for the tractor with the spray drift trailing behind. This was a early morning image and the sky above the trees is a very plain grey as it is actually fogged in down to the tree line. It was a bit of a scramble to get the shots before the chopper passed overhead.
Hidden away in valleys and under trees
many old farm sheds lie slowly decaying.
Time and innovation have long since
rendered these relics of a past era mostly unused.

I generally leave the camera in EXR Resolution Priority mode as its more important I capture the detail and less important in regards dynamic range. I find the the settings I use work well with the HS20 and the sensors natural Dr and tonal range even at DR100% is actually very good. Normally all that is required is an adjustment in Ev to get the shot right. If its more difficult than that I will generally opt for either Aperture Priority or Manual mode.
For shooting some of the little fast moving critters I use a combination of macro mode and burst mode set to top eight. Even with this setup those little beasties can move really fast.
One of eight frames and the only
"keeper", these busy bees are not
easy to capture standing still.

In the last two photos shown here I was actually kneeling on the lawn prior to mowing it and the bees didn't mind me being there, which was good as I was able to select super-macro mode and get to within a couple of centimeters of them.
Fuji HS20EXR @ super macro.

The HS20 has been doing very well of late, but I have been testing its limits somewhat. An improvement in shot to shot times as well as write  speed would be a big help as well as improved Auto Focus. It looks like the HS30 may not come too soon, especially as the X-S1 still looks like having the Orbs issue remaining unresolved in the short term.


  1. I just bought an hs20 a few weeks ago, and while it has its various shortcomings, it is a pretty good camera for the money. Hearing about the hs30, makes me want to get one, but ill wait on reviews on it.I usually use the same mode to capture most of my pics, seeing how the others kinda don't give the results I want. I agree the hs20 can be very noisy when you start to zoom in on pics, but that can be cleaned up in pp.

  2. Very nice shots! have not thought about the macro and zoom, will have to try.
    Keep up the great blog!!
    Rich Bliss

  3. Hi Rich,
    and thanks, it all adds to our knowledge and thats gotta be good.
    Dunno if you have seen this
    But it might also be of some help, cheers,

  4. I love your blog, Ralph!!! I'll add the link to my blog. Really great reading here. :-)


  5. Hi my name is Edd,
    I just got my HS20 EXR Digital Camera, I been havin problems when i take pictures at night (RAW) and am already try with a different settings but the pictures looks with to much noise and sharpness, dont KNOW what to do and i will appreciate if your guys can help with some ideas or a good sep up. Thanks

  6. Hi Edd.
    At this point its a little difficult to say as you haven't told us exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.

    However as a starting point I wouldn't shoot at night with RAW. Shoot Jpeg and set the camera in SN mode. You will find that in the main EXR menu.
    Try various ISO settings starting at around 400. Thats assuming what you are shooting is quite dark.
    Watch the Ev and raise or lower it as you think necessary.
    If you are doing static shots such as traffic and want long exposures make sure you have a good tripod and use the 2 second delay on the shutter.
    You might also want to turn image stabilization off when using the tripod as the sensor movement will be noticeable on long exposures.

    The other thing that can fool you, happens if the LCD brightness is set too high, say you had it set at 5 for daylight shooting, I wouldn't have it any higher than 0 or 1 for night work. Its amazing how easy it is to miss a good shot because of this.

    Always use the Histogram. I have found it to be quite accurate on the HS20 and I tend to rely on it to a large degree, especially when trying a difficult shot.

    Once you are comfortable shooting this way using Jpeg you can then switch back to RAW. The thing to remember with EXR cameras is that while the RAW file contains a large amount of data, there really isn't much more headroom with the RAW file. In point of fact most of the best images I've seen in my Flickr group are from shooting Jpeg and PP work afterwards.
    Several folks who used to shoot RAW with some of the earlier non EXR cameras use exactly the same method for image taking and Post Process in the Jpeg in the same manner as RAW.
    Anyway enough from me, experiment some more and keep us posted on your progress.


  7. Hi there Ralph,

    Just found your blog while doing my homework on whether to buy the new XS-1. I already have an HS20 EXR which I really like [down-sized from Sony DSLR plus pile of lenses]don't miss all the extra gear at all!!!
    Have been into the shop twice now to play with the new monster XS-1 and some things are indeed great. Ruggedness, big viewfinder and lense brilliant..........but I just am not convinced it is any better and the price is way out of bridge camera territory. I did a comparative test taking identical shots...wide.tele & macro using the same SD card in both cameras and to my surprize the HS 20 is mostly better........way better in macro!!!!.
    Some of the camera review site have raved about the new XS-1 so I suppose I must have missed something......wht do you or anyone else think?
    I must say I was really looking forward to buying myself a new toy. Do I hear it right that the price should plummet in a year and the invariably upgraded XS-2 will be a better camera?


  8. From talking with other XS1 owners, the general consensus seems to be that its a good build, but suffers from poor implementation, and we see this in the sensor bloom and lens barrel droop.
    To my mind its grossly over priced and there are now some very good entry level DSLR's about with 18-200mm lens available that would make a nice walk about camera.

    With careful work the HS20 & HS10 provide excellent macros, and the beauty of that is no specialized lens required.

    My money is now more firmly in the HS30's camp. I like what I'm hearing from users regarding the ergonomics and sensor change. It now remains to be seen if the IQ is a good as the HS20 or better. I think shot right it should on specification at least out perform the HS20 by a small margin.

    I too was looking forward to the XS1. Hopefully there will be an XS2 that remedies the ill's that have befallen the XS1.
    This may be the first year in a while that I don't update my current camera. I really was hoping for something akin to or better than the s100fs.