Fujifilm X-T1—Fn (Function) Button Configuration
I have seen some discussion on the topic of how to configure the Fn buttons on the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera. It’s a reasonable topic to discuss as there are now numerous configurable buttons, a brand new array of physical controls, and with all of this new capability comes new limitations.
There have been concerns voiced about certain functionality left deep in menus while other functions are no longer quickly accessible, making their use “worse” for some photographers. I don’t intend to magically solve everyone’s problem. However, I have given a reasonably large amount of consideration to my Fn button configuration and would like to show it to you and explain the reasons. If we’re both lucky, my method will be ideal for you either in whole or in parts and possibly help you realize a solution to a perceived problem with the new X-T1 interface design.
We will begin with a slightly blurry photograph of the screen of the camera while it is displaying my ideal configuration for the Fn buttons.
Now I will go through each setting, define what it is for those who can’t recognize the icons, and explain why I chose it.
- Fn1: Focus Area is selected for the front Fn button located near the lens mount. I selected this because it’s easy to press that button under numerous circumstances and is frequently need. In fact, it’s a little too easy to press it sometimes. The nature of this operation is such that, if you press the button and engage this mode accidentally, a quick half press of the shutter will exit it harmlessly. Furthermore, the directional buttons that are required to be pressed in order to actually change the focus area and the dials that are required to be turned in order to adjust the focus area size, are both somewhat difficult to engage accidentally. So both the good and bad aspects of the ease of pressing this button are represented by the choice here.
- Fn2: Face Detection is a feature that I use spontaneously. When I find I am taking a photograph of a person who is willing to actually look at the camera, I find it’s the most enjoyable way to lock focus and exposure relative to the most important subject matter in that photograph. However, it’s uncommon enough of a situation with enough time available for fooling with controls, that it does not have to be engaged by the most convenient button. I use it often enough to want it easily accessible, so menu diving is not ideal. It is not available in the Q menu, so a Fn button is the only choice. The other reason I chose the top Fn button is the fact that the top Fn button’s behavior is overridden and fixed when in playback mode. Regardless of how you configure it for normal shooting, in playback mode it will engage the WiFi connectivity. So this button retains its default behavior by simply entering playback mode. And the narrow access to the button is not a problem thanks to the nature of my use of this feature.
- Fn3: Macro is selected, essentially, by default. I don’t use this function frequently, but, for some lenses, it is a must to get proper focus for close shots. It’s not only the 60mm macro lens that benefits. The 55-200mm lens also benefits as do some others. However, it wasn’t really my first choice. I actually chose this button last, because, I couldn’t figure out what else to put here. The reason I settled on the default was mainly that, every other function not covered by the subsequent buttons was something either I did not care to use nearly often enough to avoid menus, or was something easily accessed in the Q menu with no need for immediate access while shooting. Furthermore, Macro, while only occasionally used, is almost certainly done “in the moment” while shooting and aggravates me if I must enter the menus for it.
- Fn4: BKT/Adv. Setting is chosen to deal with one of the downsides of the physical drive setting dial. If you choose BKT on the drive dial, you are dropped into the bracketing mode you last configured with no quick way to change this. This differs from the DRIVE button on previous Fujifilm X cameras. In the other bodies, you are entered into a menu to select which form of bracketing and given the option to choose parameters such as EV variations. Since the many physical controls already cover almost everything I care to change on the fly, and the Q menu covers most of the rest, I decided to use a couple of Fn buttons to address some popular menu diving complaints related to the X-T1’s new layout. This is one. You will use Fn4 to change which bracketing mode is in use or its parameters after selecting BKT on the drive dial. If you do not select BKT on the drive dial, this button does nothing.
- Fn5: ISO Auto Settings is chosen for this button for nearly the same reason that Fn4’s action was chosen. You now adjust ISO with a physical dial which gives further separation between your choice of auto ISO or a specific ISO and the auto ISO configuration screen. Unlike the bracketing options on Fn4, this button will always enter the Auto ISO configuration screen even if you’re not using Auto ISO currently. I enter this screen frequently. If I am shooting people or moving subjects, I will raise my minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO into the 1/125s or faster range. If I am not, I will lower it to a speed relevant to the focal length of the lens.
- Fn6: Preview Depth of Field is selected in the final position, because, Fujifilm X bodies operate somewhat strangely compared to other mirrorless cameras I have used and do not faithfully maintain the selected aperture at all times. This seems to be an interesting, DSLR-alike approach to behavior and I don’t know why Fuji took it. It doesn’t usually matter. But, sometimes you just need to be sure you’re seeing the depth of field as it will be shot. Often, you are, sometimes you’re not. Pressing this button toggles the preview mode ensuring that you are seeing what you’ll get.
And that is what I selected for each Fn button and why. I hope this information is useful to someone and perhaps helps others cope with some of the interface complaints that have been vocalized about this wonderful new camera from Fujifilm.
Sunset on the Peak with High Clouds
Sunset on the Peak with High Clouds on 500px.
Last Light on Lone Peak
Last Light on Lone Peak on 500px.
Two Canadian Geese in Low Altitude Flight
Lone Peak in Winter
Lone Peak in Winter on 500px.
The sun setting on Lone Peak in Utah after a Winter storm has cleared away.
A Moment With the Fujifilm X-T1
I had a chance to play with the Fujifilm X-T1 today. Honestly, it wasn’t for long. Maybe 20 minutes and it was inside a store and the only lens that was on it the whole time was the 10-24mm. (and real quick aside, I was so interested in the camera itself, I failed to pay much attention at all to that lens. I was fine with its size. I’m really tired of people thumping on the idea that every single aspect of a mirrorless camera has to be as tiny as humanly possible. Ridiculous. Anyway…).
There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t been said all over the place, but, I’ll clarify a couple of things.
First, I want to say that the EVF was shockingly large. I had not expected it. In magnification terms, a tiny difference in the numbers can really come out as an impressive difference visually. It was like looking through peephole into a theatre. And the responsiveness was noticeably better than the X-E2 or any other EVF I’ve used. It remains the same resolution as the EVF in the X-E2. The size increase comes by way of optics alone. I am fine with this. I’d love more resolution of course, but, it looked just fine. One step at a time.
I really like the dual image MF mode in the viewfinder. It’s so cool. You know, the mode where you can see the full frame and next to it in a separate little video feed is the zoomed in magnified view which shows the split prism, focus peaking, or simple magnification assistance for manual focus. It’s the best idea in this realm since the introduction of EVF’s on stills cameras.
Some bloggers have whined about difficult to press buttons. I’m here to lay down the facts about this so you can understand what’s going on. They aren’t wrong. They are just terrible at explaining it. There are five buttons that are “hard” to press. Not hard as in “oh I can’t believe they produced this camera” but hard as in “oh, I missed it. I didn’t expect to. I will have to pay closer attention in the future when I use this button” hard. The five buttons are the four directional buttons plus the top Fn/Wi-Fi button. There are two reasons for the difficulties. The top button’s reason is that it’s jammed between two dials and there is not much space to stick a finger in there. The solution to this is simple: don’t put anything you want to use while shooting. Remember, there is a front programmable button where many DSLRs have their DoF preview button. That’s new and very easy to use (maybe too easy if you’re new to the camera) and makes the concern about the top button a non-issue.
As for the four direction buttons. They are hard to press because they are just too shallow and recessed. They are too flush with the surrounding plastic, especially the right directional button because there is a rubberized bit right next to it to catch your finger on. But after five minutes I was using the directional pad just fine. It just required a tad bit more precision than the older button pads. My thought on this? I bet someone clever can come up with a very simple DIY solution. Just some very small sticky piece of rubber or something to put on each of those directional buttons to make them taller. Non-problem solved.
So that’s out of the way. Another concern I’ve read in several blogs is how flimsy the door over the memory card slot is. I didn’t find it to be any worse than any other random flippy door on any other camera. It’s not as tightly bound in as doors on some of the heavier duty DSLRs. The Sony A7/A7R have a more complex hinge on their card door. But the door is at least as sturdy as the one over the cable ports on the X-E2. One thing I noticed was that it was a little tough to slide it open. This is for the best. It’s weather sealed and probably one of the only actually meaningful points to have such weather sealing. So that gasket makes the door slide a little stiff. That said, while open, there’s plenty of thumb space for toggling out that memory card.
The grip! It’s just deep enough for me to hold the camera by my finger tips. As in, hanging the camera on my finger tips with the grip. I like this, because, I don’t use a neck strap. I carry the camera with a wrist strip and my preferred “relaxed” carrying method is to let the grip hang on my fingertips as I walk. It’s perfect. However, it’s not as deep or grabby as those on the Sony A7 or even NEX-7. For this reason, as well as the off-center tripod mount and the fact that the first party add-on grip has a built-in arca plate, I will almost certainly be buying the adding grip. Not the vertical grip, mind you, but the addon that gives just a little extra depth to the hand grip as well as a little extra height on the camera where it also provides a nice wide arca plate. This: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I44EU5K/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00I44EU5K&linkCode=as2&tag=oblivious09-20 It will still be a very small camera. I usually keep an L-plate on my cameras anyway. This isn’t an L-plate but there is a handy little generic arca L-plate that Kirk photo sells. I think I’ll get that and just leave it on my tripod.
As for size and weight. It’s heavier than the X-E2, sure, but not noticeably. It feels very very good in hand. More comfortable to hold, by a large margin, than the X-E2 or any other Fuji X camera, frankly. Remember that the size of this camera is almost the same as the X-E2 except for the part of the hump that sticks up over the top of the camera. There is maybe an additional 1mm or so. But from the look and feel, it is nearly identical to the X-E2.
That is to say, the size feels comfortable to use and hold. It is absolutely notably smaller than any DSLR. However, it’s not the smallest mirrorless camera and gives no indication of attempting to be. It truly feels like the future of the DSLR. And honestly, with Sony adopting a similar form factor and also Olympus (though theirs is distinctly different in all the OM-D releases, one way or another) it is quickly becoming the mold for the future of digital ILC cameras, I think. And yes, I recognize the model is essentially a smaller version of the classic long-lived SLR design. It works well. It’s a practical design. And while there is no need for a mirror, the EVF requires space for optics as well as some electronics and cooling apparatus for that little display in there. So that space is entirely necessary, even if it’s not used for a prism.
I do believe that in time, there will no longer be flappy mirrors in any interchangeable lens cameras except an extremely small niche for the final holdouts willing to spend $8000 on a camera. Imagine the Canon 1D-X and Nikon D4S model ranges. I think they will be the only cameras left with this flappy mirror model in another 6-10 years. The feel and performance of this X-T1 is just a precursor of proof for that prediction.
Someone commented on some pointless blog that the camera somehow felt cheaper than the X-E2. In particular they referred to the dials. I can assure you that the opposite is true. The dials are the best feeling dials on the Fuji series so far, imho. It’s true that the EV comp dial is a bit large but there is good reason for that. The dial size translates into leverage effectiveness when turned. It’s still tight enough that it won’t get bumped randomly, but, when turned properly, it’s easier to turn than the X-E2. It’s a good compromise.
The rear dial also no longer clicks in like the X-E2/X-E1, etc. I suppose this is related to the weather sealing, but, I don’t know. All I know is that all of that functionality shifted to the new “Focus Assist” button, including resetting the focus area size (which is still changed with the dial) and instantly zooming to 100% in image preview. That’s a part of the setup I expect to throw me off for the first few days.
I couldn’t test continuous AF performance in any meaningful way. I’m convinced that the 10-24 isn’t fully supported by the firmware for hybrid AF yet based on how it was acting. It could’ve just been the low indoor light, but, I’ve seen a review/preview commenting on the lack of performance related to this when using that lens. So what? It’s an ultrawide. It does not need hyper fast tracking AF. That said, focus was just fine. It was at least as good as the X-E2 with the 18-55, but, in AF-C mode I had a few missed frames which is pretty typical of contrast detect continuous AF. That’s the basis of my guess that there is incomplete support for the hybrid AF on that lens with this camera.
I liked the eyecup. Holding the camera to my face felt comfortable for both eyes. I really liked the EVF rotating the info display when I rotated the camera into portrait orientation.
The flip-out screen is firm. Firmer than the Sony flipout screens. It seems less likely to be flipped out accidentally, though, I never had that problem on the NEX cameras I owned. I really do like having the flip-out screen. I see so many weirdos complaining when a camera has this feature. I don’t get it. There is no reason to dislike this feature. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want. It’s unbeatable for hip level shooting and above the head shooting. The only thing better is fully articulated LCD but that would really increase the size of the camera. I get it. I’m super glad to see this feature come to a serious Fuji camera.
It was hard to say for sure, but, I think that the shutter is a little quieter, perhaps due to there being simply “more camera” around it. I doubt it’s a new shutter mechanism given that it has the same performance stats as the X-E2. I mean sure, it can pump out 1fps more and do AF at the same time, but, I’m confident that those capabilities are entirely due to a faster processor. My guess is that while they call it the same processor code name, it’s probably just boosted in clock speed. It’s likely that moving the EVF into the hump allowed more efficient cooling overall and that allowed for a faster CPU clock. Just my guess, but, it fits the narrative.
I am a “soft release” user on my X-E2. So it was naturally mildly concerning that there is no screw tap in the shutter release. I am happy to say that I had no trouble physically finding and using the shutter release. Sure, the “knuckle” trick won’t work, but, there is a very simple solution: use a continuous shooting drive mode and consider your first shot a throwaway. Another non-problem solved.
It is slightly awkward to adjust the ISO dial since you have to hold the lock button while turning the dial. I think I’ll figure out the right kung-fu for this eventually, but, yeah. I noticed that. I almost always use Auto-ISO so I doubt I’ll care. I do occasionally shift ISO to something deliberate, though. Also, I’m a little sad I can no longer put the ISO setting in my custom presets. But, at least the face detect setting can go in there now which is probably a fair trade. One of my custom presets is for portraits (one for found light and one for flash) and I had to manually switch on face detect in that mode before, separate from the custom presets. Now I’ll have to switch ISO settings. Not any more effort. Just one of those things.
So as I said, my time with this camera was brief. I can’t comment on image quality or AF performance (beyond the tiny bit I already said), but, I have found no reason to believe it will be anything but an improvement over the already excellent X-E2. With a faster processor available, it’s possible that some of the JPEG processing could be slightly better. I don’t count on being able to detect any difference visually. Other sources with the camera have already demonstrated that AF-C is effective at the full 8FPS with performance on par with the D7000 I owned. I am sure I’ll give it a go on my own when I get the camera. I’m not worried about it.
Now I just have to put up with waiting… what, 3 weeks? Feels like forever. Never mind the additional month or two before the 10-24/4 and 56/1.2 ship.
P.S. I’m impressed you made it this far. Pat yourself on the back. This post was epic.
Closer View of a Peak in Sunset
Closer View of a Peak in Sunset on 500px.
Sunset on the Peak
Sunset on the Peak on 500px.
Lone Peak in Overcast Evening Light
Lone Peak in Overcast Evening Light on 500px.