As of today, Fujifilm has released firmware version 2.0, an upgrade to the internal programming of the FinePix X100 camera. The upgrade promises to improve the manual focusing and autofocus operations of the camera, as well as improving its start-up time. I will not be able to test the new firmware, because I no longer have an X100 camera; right now I am working on a new book about the updated model, the X100S. But the upgrade sounds very useful and worth checking into. Here is a link to the official release from Fujifjilm.
Today I had my first chance to try an experiment I had been wanting to do for some time — “painting” with light on a photographic image. I used a red laser pointer, which I aimed at a dark blue poster board background inside a room that was very dimly lighted. I could see enough to walk around, but all bright lights were turned off.
I had the Fujifilm FinePix X100 camera on a solid tripod, set to Manual exposure mode, with the aperture set to f/5.6 and the shutter speed set to the B setting, for Bulb. ISO was set to 200. The blue background was about 4 feet (1.2 meter) away from the lens.
I attached a standard cable release to the shutter release button and held the shutter open for 15 seconds. During that time, I attempted to trace the word “FUJI” on the background. Of course, all I could see was the bright red dot from the laser, so I had to do my best to keep tracing the letters in the right shapes. I added a couple of lines as flourishes at the end, below the letters. Here is what I chose as the best result from about 10 attempts:
I didn’t post-process this image at all in Photoshop; this is exactly as it looked coming out of the camera. I plan to do some more experiments and will post the results here if anything turns out to be interesting.
Today I continued experimenting with the Fujifilm FinePix X100 camera. I decided to try purposely blurring an image to produce a sensation of motion. I discussed this phenomenon to some extent at pages 58-59 of Photographer’s Guide to the Fujifilm FinePix X100. There was nothing particularly complicated or tricky about this process; I just set up my eagle figure on a table and set the X100 on a sturdy tripod with a moveable head. After taking one shot of the eagle with no motion (f/16.0, 0.6 second, ISO 200), I took several shots for which I panned the tripod’s head during a similarly long exposure of at least 0.5 second. I set the camera to manual exposure mode and manual focus mode. I turned on the self-timer to a two-second delay so I would have some time to get ready before I had to pan the camera during the exposure. The shots below are in order by increasing speed of the pan, to show greater motion effects. I don’t have any particular conclusion to draw from any of this; it was just a quick experiment to see what the motion blur would look like with several different attempts.
Today I had some more time to experiment with the FujiFilm FinePix X100 camera, so I can provide some more information beyond what is contained in Photographer’s Guide to the Fujifilm FinePix X100. I had been wanting to try the technique of “focus stacking,” in which you take multiple images at slightly different manual focus settings and then combine them in software to make a final image that has extended depth of field and is sharp throughout, even though the subjects are at different distances.
It can be difficult to illustrate this technique with some of the other cameras that I write about, because of their relatively small sensors and broad depth of field. The Fuji X100, though, has a large sensor and, with its f/2.0 lens, can produce a narrow depth of field, and therefore is a good candidate for using focus stacking.
I used three different bird figures — the peacock at a distance of 14 inches (36 cm), the eagle in flight at 30 inches (76 cm), and the perched eagle at 57 inches (145 cm). All of the images were taken with the Fuji X100 set to manual focus, in Aperture Priority mode, with the aperture set to f/2.0 and ISO set to 320. The exposures were each for 1/350 second. In the first image below, only part of the peacock is in focus.
Using the wide-open aperture of f/2.0 it would not be possible to capture an image with all three subjects in sharp focus. So, I took a fairly large number of exposures, starting with the one above, and then adjusting the focus farther and farther back into the scene with each exposure. I ended up using twelve of these exposures, in order to cover the whole scene with sharply focused images of the three birds. I opened all twelve of them in Photoshop CS5, using the command File-Scripts-Load Files into Stack. In the next dialog box, I selected Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images, and then the program loaded all of the files, each one into a separate layer.
Next, I selected all of the layers and chose the command Edit-Auto-Blend Layers. In the resulting dialog box, I selected Stack Images for the Blend Method and checked the box for Seamless Tones and Colors. The program then took a few minutes to blend the images together based on their content, selecting the most sharply focused parts of the various shots. Finally, I flattened the resulting image. The final composite image, below, shows the three subjects all in reasonably sharp focus, including all of the peacock’s tail.
Focus stacking is probably used more often in macro photography, when you are taking pictures of a very small subject at a very close distance, and there is no other way to achieve a broad depth of field. With the situation shown here, I could have achieved basically the same result by using a narrow aperture. In fact, the image below is an example of the same scene taken in a single shot at f/16.0.
So, focus stacking was really not necessary in this case, but it might have been needed if the light were so dim that I had to use a wide-open aperture. Anyway, I hope this post at least demonstrates how focus stacking works, for those times when it’s the only (or best) way to achieve the focus results you need.