Picture of mailbox




There are intentionally no GoogleAds placed here

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100:

Free online photography tutorials:

My guide to Photoshop:

Click the image below to see my photoblogs:

There are intentionally no GoogleAds placed here

Notes on the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II

As a keen photographer who is not an expert in advanced features of digital cameras, I have written this page mainly as a learning exercise.

I have tried to make it useful for other people in my position, and perhaps also for experts wanting quick access to the good information that is already out there.

The links at the right-hand side of this page (including hyperlinked icons) are a mixture of external and internal links. The internal links will take you directly to various sections of this page.

The latest updates to this page will be among those listed here.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II front view

The Sony DSC-RX100 II is very compact, but unexpectedly heavy for its size. There is so much more to it than meets the eye... (photo taken in a mirror without flash, image flipped).

BTW: My left thumb is resting on the pop-up flash unit. It does no harm to the unit if you prevent it rising, since it is lifted by a released spring. After use you click the unit back in place.

Also, a thumb (or anything else) resting in this position will normally dim the LCD display (why?).

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II front view with Richard Franiec accessory

Taken again in the mirror using the timer, showing the must-have Richard Franiec precision-made custom grip accessory (G), making the camera much easier to handle.

Also shown here is the customizable Control Ring (CR) but I use it only for manual focusing, preferring to use the Control Wheel on the back (see below) for rotating selections.

Also shown is the unobtrusive base ring for the 49mm Filter Mount (FM), which is an optional accessory. At present I use it only with a polarizing filter. The only (small) problem with the accessory is that you are advised to remove the Filter Mount (not the base ring) before storing the camera in its case.

And finally, the camera is mounted on a Hama mini tripod, which is as easily portable as the camera and works well.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II rear view, courtesy of dkameraTV

The rear view still gives little away about the extensive functionality (this view courtesy of dkameraTV - click the image if you would like to watch an interesting video of the camera (in German!).

The ? button gives you access to in-camera tips and help, depending on what you are doing at the time. It can sometimes be helpful when exploring menu options.

What made me buy this particular camera?

I bought this camera in November 2014, on the recommendation of my expert-photographer brother-in-law, who pointed me at this excellent in-depth review together with this follow-up review for the Mark II.

I found it online for a little over £300.This was about as much as I could spend on a good camera, and I was impressed by the following features in particular:

  1. Its compactness. With only one camera, I needed one that I could carry anywhere.
  2. The size of the all-important sensor, the largest in its class.
  3. The high quality Zeiss lens.
  4. The intelligence to improve pictures automatically - for example, if the image might otherwise be blurred or noisy the camera will take up to 6 images in very rapid succession, discard any unusable ones based on shake sensor data, and blend the rest together to get the cleanest result. (More about the intelligence below.)
  5. A reasonably good wide angle to zoom range. Also, you can set the camera to convert smoothly from optical to digital zoom if you keep your finger on the zoom lever, with a choice of quality on digital zoom. The camera works well at macro distances (2"), but requires no manual macro controls.
  6. A viewing screen that is much easier to see in daylight than that of my previous Lumix (providing that you know this), and which can be tilted to some degree both up and down. An electronic viewfinder is available for the Mark II camera, but its relative cost and size made it an unattractive (and for me, unnecessary) option.
  7. The ability to easily take manual control of focus and aperture where necessary - although I didn't appreciate how good some of the features were until later (more on that below).

The next version of this camera was the Mark III. That was vastly more expensive and provided extra features that I didn't need.

What could have put me off buying it?

The main off-putter was the smooth flat body, with no grip, which makes it difficult to hold securely. Luckily this is easily fixed (for about $40) with the Richard Franiec custom grip accessory, a very well-made product. See this image above.

The main remaining drawback was its relatively poor ability to defocus unwanted backgrounds. The maximum aperture reduces from f1.8 to f4.9 at 100mm-equivalent zoom, which means (for example) that the background to a person in a portrait can be distracting. This is an unavoidable limitation, one of the very few that I care about on this camera. For important pictures, I defocus the background using Photoshop, as I describe here in my Photoshop Guide.

There is no separate battery charger - you have to charge the battery via a USB lead while it's in the camera. In fact, I have come to view this as a positive advantage - the world already has too many unneeded chargers. The battery (rated for a nominal 300 shots) lasts for well more than a day on any shoot that I do. If I needed to, I could buy another battery, charge it in the camera and keep it as a spare.

Learning difficulties

The Superior Auto Mode gave me such good results on simple “point and click” that I didn't bother for some time to learn the vast amount of useful features on this camera (many of which can be used with the Auto Modes, as it happens).

Once I found the Online User Guide, it has been a matter of “learn a little, try a little”. The User Guide (improved since the Mark I version) contains much useful information, but is a little overwhelming to someone new to many of the features described.

I have tried to make the information more easily accessible, and explain the logic behind some of the rules, while I still remember what I found difficult.

Watch out...

There is no internal memory for taking photos in the absence of a chip in the camera, or when the chip is full.

Unfortunately the camera appears to take photos normally in this situation, so if you miss the clear NO CARD warning (as I stupidly did once in bright sunlight), you can be very disappointed when you eventually realize what has happened!

Clever features worth knowing about

DRO and HDR

DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization) and HDR (High Dynamic Range imaging) are both methods of improving the image where there is a range of brightness levels that exceed the dynamic range of the camera sensor, e.g. a picture of a room with bright light outside the windows.

The DRO feature improves a single image by selectively brightening shadow regions so that the final image is more balanced. The HDR feature takes 3 images in rapid succession at different exposures, and then spends several seconds combining them (as well as keeping the “unimproved” image for you).

Surprisingly, the HDR feature can produce a sharper image with a moving subject than DRO can, because the camera will use the shortest of the 3 exposures for just the moving subject!

The use of DRO and HDR by this camera is reviewed here - worth reading.

You will meet these terms again later. For now, select DRO if the delay while the camera processes an HDR image matters to you, where you are given the choice.

Multishot Noise Reduction

If the light is dim or dark and the image might otherwise be blurred or noisy, the camera will take up to 6 images in very rapid succession, discard any unusable ones based on camera shake sensor information, and blend the rest together for several seconds to get the cleanest result.

Here is an example:

Pictures on cloakroom wall

This is a hand-held shot (cropped to about half of its original width) taken without flash in a dark, windowless cloakroom. The only light was coming through a small crack in the door behind me - the room looked almost completely dark to me. It was taken with the Superior Auto (iA+) mode, described below, leaving the camera to choose its own exposure settings, which were 1/8 sec, f1.8, ISO 800.

I had to improve the automatic (AF illuminator) focus somewhat, using DMF first and then switching to MF, as described here.

As expected, the camera automatically selected Multishot Noise Reduction, which took 6 images in rapid succession and which may have deleted some “shaky” images from consideration.

Apart from being cropped and reducing the image to fit this page, this is an unprocessed image as produced by the camera.

Tracking Focus

This is the function that I find most useful for focusing on an off-centre subject that is not a face, and/or in situations where Autofocus (AF) lets you down.

This function is very similar to what happens automatically with Face Detection.

More information about this function will be found here.

The Shooting Modes, and what they do

Picture of camera mode dial Choosing the appropriate Mode from the Mode Dial on top of the camera was a learning difficulty - for example, what settings could I make in each Mode if I wanted to, and which of these would be remembered if I changed Mode or turned off the camera?

Here's what I know so far:

Intelligent Auto (iA)

Find the User Guide entry here.

This Mode recognizes the type of scene you are looking at and makes settings accordingly.

It gives you control, if you need it, of most of the Focus Modes, most of the Drive Mode/Timer Functions (excluding bracketing functions) and the more basic Flash functions. (Click the links for more information below.)

It does NOT give you control of Autofocus Areas, the extensive Exposure Functions including Metering Modes, DRO settings, or any HDR. It makes its own decisions about all of these things (except HDR, which is never used in this Mode since it requires a few seconds of post-shot image processing).

You CAN, however, easily make adjustments to Background Defocus (within the limitations of the camera), Brightness, Vividness ( = Saturation), Colour ( = Colour Warmth) as well as adding Picture Effects - see the iA+ Mode below.

However, unless you want to take shots in quick succession, you will generally select the iA+ Mode below for its additional capabilities.

Superior Auto (iA+)

Find the User Guide entry here.

This Mode has the same features as iA, but adds the multi-shot capabilities described above (HDR and multi-shot noise reduction), if required by the scene.

(The delay after multi-shot processing is the principal reason why you might want to use iA instead of iA+.)

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 rear controls

The neat thing with both iA and iA+ is that you can add Photo Creativity by pressing the down button on the Control Wheel. This allows you to make easy adjustments to Background Defocus, Brightness, Colour and Vividness, as well as choosing from a subset of the Picture Effects described here. These adjustments are temporary - they last only until you change Mode or turn off the camera - or do anything except press the shutter button to take a picture.

  • Learning difficulty...
  • Picture of Light BulbOnce I had set up the Photo Creativity adjustments, I would press the Menu button to remove the settings from display before taking a picture, because I wanted to see how the aperture and shutter speed had changed.
  • Unfortunately, doing this resets all the adjustments to their Auto setting (as does pressing the ? button if you want to do this intentionally).

Program Auto (P)

Find the User Guide entry here.

This Mode makes exposure settings automatically, but you can influence and override these in different ways and also change a wide variety of other settings.

Fn (Function) Button

A main feature of the P/A/S/M Modes, compared to iA and iA+, is that you can make additional settings from the Menu such as Autofocus Area, Metering Mode, DRO/HDR, ISO, White Balance and Picture Effect.

For convenience, you can access such Menu items quickly from the Fn (Function) button.

You can customize the Fn button as described here. My own choices (FWIW) are described here.

The Fn button can also be used in other Modes - options that are not available in a particular Mode are blanked out.

  • Icons...
  • Picture of icons At about this point, I realized that I needed to know what settings were actually in force, and which of them would be remembered if (for example) I changed Modes.
  • Since the settings are reflected in a vast number of possible icons displayed on the viewing screen, I realized that I needed to know what more of those icons meant. The icons for shooting are described here (or click the image).
  •  

DRO/HDR

Find the User Guide entry here.

The DRO and HDR features of this camera were described above.

In the P/A/S/M Modes, you can select either:

  • D-R OFF, which turns off both DRO and HDR.
  • A DRO setting of Auto, or a “strength value” from 1 to 5.
  • An HDR setting of Auto, or a bracketing increment from 1.0EV to 6.0EV.

In choosing between DRO and HDR you might find the information contained in this review helpful.

  • Note
  • The iA+ Mode makes the decision of DRO vs HDR for you (or it may choose Multishot Noise Reduction instead of HDR).
  • The iA Mode never chooses HDR, since that involves time for post-shot image processing.

Whatever you set (ideally via the Fn (Function) Button) will be shared among the P/A/S/M Modes.

I find it useful to store two sets of P Mode settings in Memory (see the MR Mode below), identical except that one has a DRO setting and one has an HDR setting (both Auto as a starting point).

Program Shift
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 rear controls

The P Mode allows you to trade off depth of focus against shutter speed simply by turning the Control Wheel, a feature called Program Shift.

Providing that flash is disabled and there is enough light, turning the wheel clockwise will increase the aperture and the shutter speed, decreasing the depth of focus (e.g. for portraits), turning it anticlockwise will do the opposite. In both cases the exposure will be kept the same.

The degree of shift is automatically maintained, if possible, if light levels change.

If the range of adjustment appears limited then it may be because of this reason. However, you do have the option of selecting a higher ISO setting.

While Program Shift is in force the P symbol at the top left of the display will change to P*.

This setting is cancelled if you change Mode or turn off the power.

Note that you can effectively do the same thing in iA and iA+ Modes by adjusting Background Defocus in Photo Creativity.

Manual Exposure Adjustment

In the same way that you can make adjustments when using the iA and iA+ Modes, you can adjust the exposure manually by pressing the down button on the Control Wheel, as described here.

Picture Effect

Find the User Guide entry here.

Although these are fun to play with, the only one that I make occcasional serious use of is Rich-tone Monochrome, which can produce some very nice monochrome images. I currently store a set of P Mode settings with this Picture Effect in Memory (see the MR Mode below).

What settings are remembered?

The manual exposure adjustment and the settings that you can make via the Fn button are remembered for all the Modes that can use them (which generally excludes the Intelligent Auto and SCN Modes which make their own decisions). Also, Manual Exposure (M) Mode will ignore any manual exposure adjustment that you make here.

Changing to one of the other “using” Modes will keep these settings, even if you turn off the camera.

If you want to start off with a known group of settings, then you have a reason to be interested in the Memory Recall (MR) Mode (see below).

Aperture Priority (A)

Find the User Guide entry here.

I don't use this Mode, which shares most features with the P Mode, as it seems that I can use Program Shift in the P Mode to do almost exactly the same thing.

The differences (to do with the range of values available) seem too small to me to be worth investigating at present - but that could change.

Shutter Priority (S)

Find the User Guide entry here.

I don't use this Mode, which shares most features with the P Mode, as it seems that I can use Program Shift in the P Mode to do almost exactly the same thing.

The differences (to do with the range of values and use of flash) seem too small to me to be worth investigating at present - but that could change.

Manual Exposure (M)

Find the User Guide entry here.

As its name suggests, this Mode gives you total control over exposure, and all the other settings that can be made via the Fn (Function) Button.

This includes, of course, setting ISO, but you naturally lose ISO Auto as an option.

Setting the shutter speed and aperture (F value)

You select shutter speed or aperture by repeatedly pressing the down button on the Control Wheel. You turn the Control Wheel to change either setting once selected. The camera will helpfully tell you how different your exposure will be to the one that it calculates is optimum.

Decreasing the shutter speed far enough will give you a bulb setting.

What settings are remembered?

These two adjustments (shutter speed and F value) are remembered for this Mode, and will return if you reselect M Mode later.

Any shutter speed you select here will also be picked up in S Mode, and any F value that you select here will be picked up in A Mode - which seems to make sense.

As with P Mode, any settings that you can make via the Fn button are remembered for all the Modes that can use them (which generally excludes the Intelligent Auto and SCN Modes which make their own decisions).

Memory Recall (MR)

Find the User Guide entry here.

You can store up to 3 combinations of Shooting Modes and Shooting Settings (as described here) and then recall them using MR. If you record settings from P Mode, for example, and then recall them later, you will termporarily replace any previous settings that you had for P Mode.

So long as the Mode dial is set to MR, you can continue (in this example) as if you were in P Mode, changing settings as you want. However, if you then turn the dial back to P, you will find that most of your previous settings for P have been restored (a notable exception being any manual exposure adjustment that you make).

I use MR as a way of starting with a known group of settings (particularly DRO/HDR, focus and metering settings), in my case for P Mode (although other Modes work too). I can then change those I want, remembering that these changes will mostly be lost if I return the dial to P!

If you are in MR, make changes, and then want to recall recorded settings, the only way I know is to turn the Mode dial away from MR and then back to MR again.

  • Picture of Light BulbEvery time that you change the Mode dial, you may find it irritating to have a screen come up that tells you about this Mode.
  • In the beginning it is helpful, but you will eventually want to get rid of it - and you can. See my section on Useful Customizations.

 

Film frame icon with running horse

Shooting Movies

Find the User Guide entry here.

The intention is that you can start and stop recording video by pressing the MOVIE button on the back of the camera, whatever the Mode dial is set to.

Unfortunately, the MOVIE button can easily be pressed by accident, so that you are suddenly recording video without realising it while thinking that you are taking normal pictures. There is an option to prevent this, discussed in my section on Useful Customizations.

If you want control of shutter speed and aperture when shooting movies then see the User Guide entry here.

 

Film frame icon with running horse

Sweep Shooting (Panoramic Images)

Find the User Guide entry here.

This is quite easy to use, and the User Guide is quite clear. Basically the camera assumes a scene type of Landscape and makes settings accordingly, although you have control over some settings. As with Movies, the best way to quickly check the less obvious ones, and change them if necessary, is via the Fn (Function) Button.

You have options to change the default size of a panoramic image to one even wider and to sweep in different directions (left-to-right (default), right-to-left, up and down).

If you stop the sweeping motion early then image-taking will complete, and you will have a grey area in the unused part of the image (which you can crop out, of course).

You also have a very nice facility to scroll panoramic images for display, which is a great way to view these images at maximum size on a TV or monitor, or to check them out on the camera. Panoramic images taken on a different camera may not work, though - but see here.

There is also free software available to scroll any panoramic images on your computer, including screensavers - see here.

  • Picture of bugs“Let's be safe out there...”
  • As with all software downloaded from the Internet, I recommend checking anything (especially freeware) for viruses and spyware before running it.
  • For the latter, my computer shop recommended the free version of SuperAntiSpyware which they use themselves, and I have had reason to thank them several times!

 

Choices of scene type

Scene Selection (SCN)

Find the User Guide entry here.

This is much like Intelligent Auto (iA or iA+), except that you start by selecting the kind of scene rather than let the camera work it out for itself. You also have a few extra choices of scene (such as Gourmet or Pets/Moving Subjects).

You do, however, hand over almost all further control to the camera, including losing manual exposure adjustment.

Like many people, I understand, I am not a fan of this Mode. Instead of Hand-held Twilight, for example, I get exactly the same results (so far as I can tell) with the iA+ Mode.

I note that the other night-time scene types are best used with a tripod.

There seems no special point in the Macro setting. The other Shooting Modes which you would normally use for close-up work allow Manual Focusing (which is almost always needed) and work fine for me.

When changing Modes, you may have become irritated by the Mode Dial Guide screen that comes up each time, and decided to turn off this feature (see my section on Useful Customizations). Unfortunately, SCN uses this guide screen to allow you to choose your scene when you press the Control Wheel's centre button to dismiss the guide.

You then have a choice between reinstating the guide option, or using Scene Selection on the Shooting Menu p5 to select your scene type.

Notes on some camera functions

Diagram of Sony Control Wheel

Control Wheel

Find the User Guide entry here (or click the image).

The User Guide appears clear, but there are some features that I managed to miss.

The wheel has 4 buttons underneath its rim (up, right, down and left).

Gear wheel iconThis symbol below indicates that the function of that button can be reassigned (more about that here and here).

For Shooting Mode these buttons have the following functions:

Display (Up Button)

Pressing the Up button repeatedly gives you a different display on the viewing screen.

I managed to miss that one of these displays was a level indicator. The green arrows light up when the camera is level.

You can add a histogram as one of the cycled displays, via the Custom Menu p1.

Gear wheel icon
Flash (Right Button)

The Right button gives you flash settings, as is fairly obvious. Depending on what you select, these flash settings are remembered for (and shared between) any of the different Shooting Modes that can use them (generally all Modes except Movies and SCN).

Flash settings that I am less familiar with and would like to explore further are:

  • Slow Sync. This uses a slow shutter speed to bring up the background as well as the main subject.
  • Rear Sync. This is the other way round to the normal flash mode. It starts an exposure and then triggers the flash before the exposure completes. The effect should be to produce a trail (e.g. car tail-lights) behind a moving object.

I also note a separate adjustment called Flash Compensation, available on Shooting Menu p3, which lets you reduce or increase the amount of light from the flash unit falling on the subject.

Exposure and Creativity Adjustments (Down Button)

The Down button lets you make manual exposure adjustments for P, A, S and Movie Modes, which are remembered even if you change between these Modes.

For iA and iA+ Modes, it lets you make temporary adjustments to Background Defocus, Brightness, Colour and Vividness, as well as temporarily choosing a subset of possible Picture Effects, as described here.

Gear wheel icon
Drive Modes, Timers and Brackets (Left Button)

Drive Mode, as you will see here, actually provides a wide range of Single/continuous shooting, Timer and Bracketing Modes.

Timer Modes include one that will shoot multiple frames after the timer expires.

  • Picture of Light BulbThe 2-sec Timer is a useful stabilization aid for hand-held shots, particularly in low light levels. It gives you time to brace your hands/arms after the disturbance caused by pressing the shutter.
  • In some situations it can also be similarly helpful with a tripod, allowing any slight movement after shutter press to die away.

Single/continuous shooting Modes include a Speed priority continuous mode that remembers focus and brightness settings from the first shot in order to save time later.

Bracketing Modes include White Balance brackets as well as Exposure brackets, with adjustable spreads.

All of the settings made via this button are “camera-wide”, meaning that they are remembered (and shared) among all Shooting Modes that can use them (although some may not be available in some Modes)... a good reason for being familiar with Group 2 of the Display Icons!

Sun icon

LCD Screen Brightness

Find the User Guide entry here.

The viewing screen has a tiny, almost un-noticeable light sensor, at the top left of the screen. If you block it or shade it, for example as my left thumb is doing in these images at the top of this page, then the screen will go dim!

The viewing screen can be set really bright in sunlight, using the Sunny Weather menu setting.

 

Focused and unfocused butterflies

Focusing

Although Autofocus (AF) often works fine, there are many situations where it doesn't.

A good description of when it doesn't (or mightn't) is Using Autofocus: 9 situations when AF will fail you.

Moving beyond simple Autofocus involves quite a few features of the camera. To begin with, there are the various kinds of Focus Mode (Single-shot (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), the oddly-named but useful Direct Manual Focus (DMF), which is a mixture of automatic and manual, and Manual Focus (MF)).

Then there are the various kinds of Autofocus Area (Multi, Center and Flexible Spot), which determine which part(s) of the scene the scene the camera uses to focus.

As an alternative to those there is Tracking Focus, a feature which keeps the focus on a subject that you select when you move the camera, or when the subject moves, plus some Face Detection features that do the same thing automatically for faces.

And finally, it really helps to see clearly what is actually in focus if you use the Focus Assistance Features (FAFs). These magnify the image when turning the Control Ring (CR), and emphasize outlines of areas in focus.

All of the focus settings are “camera-wide”, meaning that they are remembered (and shared) among all Shooting Modes that can use them (Movies will always use AF-C)... a good reason for being familiar with Group 2 of the Display Icons!

Focus Mode

Find the User Guide entry here.

I set the Focus Mode via the Fn Button.

  • “SB½”
  • I use the abbreviation SB½ below to mean pressing the Shutter Button halfway down and holding it there, since this important action is referrred to many times.
Single-shot AF (AF-S)

Before you press the Shutter Button, the camera will be trying to maintain focus according to the current Autofocus Area settings (and will also be trying to maintain exposure according to the current Metering Mode settings).

The Tracking Focus feature is available, but the Focus Assistance Features (FAFs) are not.

SB½ will lock both the current focus and exposure, even if you move the camera to recompose your shot.

A green spot and a beep will confirm your focus, and green focus bracket(s) will confirm the area(s) being used to focus.

Alternatively, if the AF Illuminator is required, a dotted rectangle appears instead of focus bracket(s).

Press the Shutter Button to take a picture at these settings, or release and try again.

Continuous AF (AF-C)

This mode is really intended for Movies, but can also be used for shooting moving subjects in P/A/S/M Shooting Modes (although Tracking Focus may often be a better alternative for that, and is available in more Shooting Modes).

SB½ locks exposure and starts the camera continually trying to focus. Green focus brackets are not used to confirm the areas being used to focus; instead ((●)) indicates an OK focus, (( )) indicates focus lost.

Direct Manual Focus (DMF)

This is a quick way of setting focus near where you want it, and then fine-tuning focus manually using the Control Ring (CR) - especially good for close subjects. It also provides Focus Assistance Features (FAFs), and reduces battery drain compared to AF-S or AF-C.

In this mode, SB½ will lock the exposure and cause the camera to try to focus according to the Autofocus Area settings. It will also highlight the in-focus areas using the Focus Assistance Features (FAFs).

Importantly, releasing the Shutter Button at this point will leave the focus setting where it is (unlike AF-S, where focus attempts will continue).

While in SB½ you could fine-tune the focus by turning the Control Ring (CR), which will magnify the image using the Focus Assistance Features (FAFs), but I find this to be ergonomically a very awkward combination of actions.

If you release the Shutter Button and turn the Control Ring (CR) you will fine-tune the focus more easily, but then you won't have magnification for clarity.

The best sequence that I have found is to get your first focus using SB½, then release the Shutter Button, then use the AF/MF Toggle (see below) to switch to MF. You then have full MF facilities to improve the focus. Don't forget to switch back to DMF afterwards if you need it!

Manual Focus (MF)

Starting with the focus as last established (often by DMF), this mode allows you adjust the focus using the Control Ring (CR). The Focus Assistance Features (FAFs) (see below) make it easy to be precise.

Rotating the Control Ring (CR) clockwise, as seen from behind the camera (i.e. moving the top of the ring to your right) brings the focus closer to you. When the intended subject isn't close to the camera this may not be as obvious as it sounds.

AF/MF Toggle

Find the User Guide entry here.

This function switches Focus Mode from AF-S, AF-C or DMF to MF, while leaving the current focus distance unchanged.

If selected again it switches from MF back to the previous Focus Mode.

Gear wheel icon This function can be assigned to the Left, Right or Center Button of the Control Wheel (follow the links for guidance).

Because the Center Button is useful for so many things (including Tracking Focus) I never assign different functions to it.

Ergonomically, I find it best to assign AF/MF Toggle to the Left button. This means that this button no longer changes Drive Modes, Timers and Brackets, but I do that infrequently and they are easily set via the Shooting Menu p2.

Focus Assistance Features (FAFs)

This collection of features make it easy to be precise when focusing manually using DMF or MF, especially at close distances.

They are MF Assist and Focus Magnification Time, which magnify the image when turning the Control Ring, and Peaking Level and Peaking Color, which emphasize outlines of areas in focus (follow the links for guidance).

Magnification (when in operation) can be increased still further using the Center Button of the Control Wheel, which also removes outline highlighting, and is cancelled by SB½.

Because magnification can be cancelled easily, I use No Limit as the setting for Focus Magnification Time.

AF Lock

The User Guide makes reference to this function, but doesn't document it.

AF Lock on this camera is actually quite complex, with some methods of achieving it also locking exposure, and others not. See all the references made here to SB½ in AF-S, AF-C and DMF.

Autofocus Area

Find the User Guide entry here.

This setting determines which part(s) of the scene the camera uses to focus.

You can't choose this setting in Shooting Modes iA, iA+ and SCN, since these make their own Autofocus Area decisions.

I set the type of area via the Fn Button. You may notice a reference in the User Guide to the apparently non-existent AF Lock function, described above.

Multi

A good general-purpose setting.

Center

Good for when you want to use the (badly-documented) AF Lock facilities to recompose a shot after focusing, provided that you realise that these may also lock exposure.

A better alternative may be Tracking Focus (with AF-S and AF-C only, not DMF or MF).

Flexible Spot

This is an alternative to Tracking Focus, for focusing on an off-centre subject without “AF Lock”.

Unlike Tracking Focus, it can't be used with iA or iA+ or SCN Modes.

Tracking Focus

Find the User Guide entry here.

This is the function that I find most useful for focusing on an off-centre subject that is not a face, and/or in situations where Autofocus (AF) lets you down. It effectively provides “AF Lock” but without locking the exposure.

This function is very similar to what happens automatically with Face Detection.

It is available for most Shooting Modes, but not when using either of the Manual Focus Modes (DMF or MF).

When the function is available, a message saying so will usually appear in the lower part of the viewing screen. It is activated by pressing the Center Button of the Control Wheel, positioning the target frame over the subject, and pressing the Center Button again.

The shot can then be recomposed, or the subject can move, and the camera will try to maintain the focus frame around the chosen subject.

Exposure is not established (using the current Metering Mode settings) until SB½.

You can take several pictures in succession since the focus frame will stay on the selected subject, until Tracking Focus is cancelled deliberately by pressing the Center Button again.

 

Dark and light butterflies

Controlling Exposure (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO)

This camera generally makes an excellent job of selecting a combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO setting to give a correct exposure, obtaining its brightness information from the current Metering Mode.

Where possible, it uses Scene Recognition information and/or Autofocus Frame informaiton to select a combination of aperture and shutter speed with appropriate depth of focus (larger aperture = smaller depth of focus). Unfortunately, the ability to defocus an unwanted background (except at close distances) is one of the few relatively weak areas of this camera, as noted here.

You can change the depth of focus, without affecting exposure, using Program Shift in the P shooting mode, or by a similar adjustment in the iA and iA+ Modes, or by using the Control Wheel in the A Shooting Mode.

If you need total control over exposure then you can use the M shooting mode (see here). This mode keeps its own exposure settings independently of anything you do in other shooting Modes.

If you want to lock exposure to the one currently set via the Metering Mode, then you have a number of alternatives:

  1. AF Lock as described above (which also locks the focus).
  2. AEL Toggle, described below, which locks the current exposure (but not the focus), and which is particularly useful in combination with Center or Spot Metering, also described below.

Before moving on, you might like to try this very useful exposure-calculating tool, especially if you are going to experiment with ISO settings:

Exposure Wheel

Light Meter

Metering Modes

Find the User Guide entry here.

These Modes can be chosen (ideally via the Fn (Function) Button) to determine which (part(s) of the scene are used for calculating exposure.

You can't choose these Metering Modes (unlike Focus Modes) in Shooting Modes iA, iA+ and SCN, since these make their own metering decisions.

Multi-Pattern Metering (Multi)

The default, and very effective in many situations.

Center-Weighted Metering (Center)

Gives most weight to the brightness in the centre of the scene.

Spot Metering

The Mark II camera provides a small circle on the display, and only takes notice of whatever is in that circle.

In order to set exposure for a small object with great contrast to its surroundings (e.g. the Moon) place the circle over the object (and then use AEL Toggle if you with to recompose the shot while keeping the exposure unchanged).

Padlock with E

AEL Toggle

Find the User Guide entry here.

This function turns Exposure Lock on and off. Turning it ON locks the current exposure and displays * at the bottom right of the viewing screen.

Gear wheel icon This function can be assigned to the Left, Right or Center Button of the Control Wheel (follow the links for guidance).

Because the Center Button is useful for so many things (including Tracking Focus) I never assign different functions to it.

Ergonomically, I find it best to assign AEL Toggle to the Right button. This means that this button no longer changes Flash Settings, but I do that infrequently and they are easily set via the Shooting Menu p2.

Exposure Lock remains in force until you toggle it OFF or change Shooting Mode.

You can still use Manual Exposure Adjustment to make changes to the locked exposure.

In Manual Exposure (M) mode, locking the exposure seems only to remember the current exposure as the camera's “optimum” setting. You can still make changes to the shutter speed or aperture, but the difference indicated will now refer to the locked exposure, not to what the camera currently calculates is optimum.

ISO Settings

Find the User Guide entry here.

This function is unavailable in the “automatic” Shooting Modes (iA, iA+ and SCN).

ISO numbers serve the same purpose for digital camera sensors as for emulsion film.

For film, common ISO numbers were 100, 200, 400, 800. Each doubling of the number halved the amount of light necessary for a proper exposure with a given shutter speet and aperture, at the expense of reduced image quality.

Digital cameras use the same meaning for ISO numbers (e.g. ISO 200 means the same thing in digital and film), but in digital the range of numbers is greater, the ISO number can change from shot to shot and the image quality can be greatly improved at higher ISO numbers compared to film.

Instead of ISO 100 which was the “high quality” end of the films that I used, this camera chooses ISO 160 as its default lowest ISO value.

The default ISO Mode of the camera is ISO Auto, in which Mode the camera will pick a value in the default range of 160 to 3200 to suit each shot. I have been quite satisfied with the camera's performance at these settings - however, you can change the default range for ISO Auto if you wish. You can also pick a specific ISO number, and you can (in some conditions) choose a special setting of ISO Multiframe Noise Reduction, as described below.

For convenience, I make ISO settings (when I need to) via the Fn (Function) Button.

ISO Multiframe Noise Reduction

This ISO Mode forces the camera to use its magical multishot noise reduction and anti-blur feature.

It is intended to be used in low light conditions in P, A or S Shooting Modes with flash disabled.

Any HDR function selected (e.g. HDR Auto) will become inoperative while this ISO Mode is selected.

You can set this ISO Mode as follows:

  • To ISO Auto, i.e. make an automatic choice of ISO within the current ISO Auto range. This is what the iA+ Mode would normally do anyway in such conditions - for an example, see my picture here.
  • To one of a number of specific settings from 200 to 25600. The values at the upper end of this range will probably only be used for experimental purposes!

I have not so far found it necessary to use this ISO Mode for real, since the automatically-selected equivalent has always worked well for me, but I can imagine that it would be very useful in some circumstances.

 

Images of lamp with different colour warmths

White Balance

Find the User Guide entry here.

This function is unavailable in the “automatic” Shooting Modes (iA, iA+ and SCN).

Any settings made in the other Modes will be remembered and shared among them, apart from the M Mode which as usual maintains and remembers its own settings.

I have almost always found the AWB (Auto White Balance) setting perfectly satisfactory.

However a wide range of settings and fine adjustments are described in the User Guide. These can be accessed via the Fn (Function) Button, but if you want to calibrate the Custom WB setting using a white or grey surface, then you need to use the menu option [Custom Setup] from the White Balance entry in Shooting Menu p3, as described here.

In practice, I found it more useful to occasionally use the WB Bracket function (one of the Drive Mode options, but available only in P/A/S/M Modes).

Since for me the AWB setting is usually very close to the “right” one, if it isn't completely “right”, using WB Bracket with this setting is an easy way to get a satisfactory image.

WB Bracket actually takes only one shot, but then generates 3 images with a “low” or “high” White Balance spread. The spread is based on whatever White Balance settings you have in force. The User Guide's description of this function seems a little garbled to me, but the function works well!

 

Memory Card

Memory Card and Setup Functions

Find the User Guide entry here.

Information about suitable memory cards for this camera will be found here.

Although the camera has apparently been tested with 64GB cards, I am personally cautious about going over 32GB (at least for the time being), as this has caused problems for some software.

With prices continually falling and performance continually rising, it makes sense to buy a large-capacity, fast memory card, especially if you are planning to shoot video.

Even in the UK, I was able to buy a Toshiba 32GB Class 10 SDHC 30MB/s Memory Card from Moby Memory for £10.69p (free delivery) in November 2014. No doubt even better bargains are now available!

If you import image files onto the memory card from elsewhere, or get corruption problems, it is recommended that you recover/rebuild the memory card's image database. It is possible that this may also allow you to display imported panoramic images using the scrolling facilities described above.

  • What we take for granted...
  • Gigabytes of cheap, compact storage...
  • Instead of images, the illustrated tiny card would hold conservatively something over 50,000 eBooks, each of which probably took someone at least a year to write, making a collection that would take well over 100 years to read at a rate of one book a day...
  • Just saying!
  • (Some more thoughts on this subject here, if you're interested.)

 

Gear wheel icon

Useful Customizations

This section summarizes some useful (and not-so-useful) customizations that can be made via the Custom and Setup menus. It is by no means a complete list, and those menus are worth exploring.

Preventing the MOVIE button inadvertently starting to take a movie (Custom Menu p3)

The intention is that you can start and stop recording video by pressing the MOVIE button on the back of the camera, whatever the Mode dial is set to.

Unfortunately, the MOVIE button can easily be pressed by accident, so that you are suddenly recording video without realising it while thinking that you are taking normal pictures. There is an option on Custom Menu p3 for disabling this button if you aren't in movie-taking mode, which was introduced in the Mark II camera.

I suggest that you choose this option, at least during periods during which you don't plan to shoot video. If you do choose this option, then to take movies you will first need to set the Mode dial to the Movie setting. What happens next (described here) depends on whether you have also disabled the Mode Dial Guide screen (see the next customization below).

Disabling the Mode Dial Guide Screen (Setup Menu p1)

Whenever you change Shooting Modes, a helpful (but sometimes annoying) screen pops up to tell you about that Mode - and you can get rid of it.

Doing so, however, causes problems in two Shooting Mode situations:

  1. In Movies, it becomes a little harder to select the desired movie-taking mode. See the previous customization.
  2. In SCN, you lose the ability to select the Scene Type from a list of options using the Control Wheel, and instead have to select the Scene type from the Shooting Menu p5.

Customizing the Fn (Function) Button (Custom Menu p2)

This is most definitely a good idea.

My choices for the first 6 slots are Focus Mode, Autofocus Area, Metering Mode, DRO/HDR, ISO and White Balance. I leave the 7th slot for a variety of other functions as required.

Customizing the Control Ring (Custom Menu p2)

I suggest that you do NOT do this. I use the Control Ring (CR) as a Focus Ring, and since the CR has no detents it is ergonomically poor for making rotating selections.

Customizing the Control Wheel Left, Centre and Right Buttons (Custom Menu p2)

While I wouldn't consider customizing the Centre Button, the other two buttons can usefully be customized. The original function of those buttons is described here, and the customizations that I have made are described here and here).

Returning to the Menus where you last visited them (Setup Menu p1)

You can either return to the Menus where you last left off, or always return to the first item of the first Menu. I generally prefer the former option. The latter option is the default.

 


  • The other half of the story...
  • Mask You might be interested in my Beginner's Guide to Photoshop, a major section of this site.
  • It contains stuff that you might find useful even if you don't have Photoshop.
  Back to Top