Fuji HS20EXR Review..Pt. 10… Manual Mode.

Fuji HS20EXR Review..Pt. 10… Manual Mode.

One of the most useful modes to operate the HS20 in is Manual mode. It gives the user the extra flexibility outside of the pre-programmed modes. This is especially useful for difficult shooting situations such as facing sun wards on a bright day. Low ratio’s tend to blow out detail you wish to capture. By stopping down (using higher aperture no’s eg: 9 or 11) and faster shutter speeds, allows the photographer to use the HS20 much like its DSLR cousins. The natural aperture range for the HS20’s lens is f2.8 to f 5.6. This means that when zoomed out the lens is quite fast, and allows a lot of light to reach the sensor. Conversely the lens is considered rather soft at full zoom (zoomed in) at f 5.6 making images less crisp and duller than at shorter focal lengths.These attributes are not great impediments to the performance of the lens but rather a physical limitation that the user needs to be aware of before taking a image. So this is the aperture range that the Fuji lens utilizes as the minimum aperture range  available to the photographer. The maximum  aperture is f 11. This is not a large range given the nature and design of the lens, however f 2.8 to f11 does give a reasonable amount of variability for the photographer to use.There are however other restrictions, primarily the starting ratio at different focal lengths. Below is a list of the starting apertures available at some commonly used DSLR lens equivalents. Think of it as using seven different lens all with different ratios.

Fuji HS20 shown with lens at 50mm SLR equivalent.
  • 24mm = f2.8 – f11
  • 50mm = f3.6 – f11
  • 80mm = f4 – f11
  • 135mm = f4.5 – f11
  • 200mm = f5.0 – f11
  • 300mm to 500mm = f 5.0 -f11
  • 600mm to 720mm = f5.6 – f11

Understanding these limitations of the HS20EXR’s lens will help in the decision as to what aperture/shutter speed combinations are available for different shooting situations. In this mode Ev adjustments are not available. The +/- button controls the aperture setting and the command dial controls the shutter speed as its primary function in this mode. Other settings such as ISO, metering, film simulation are all available to the user in manual mode. As this mode is non EXR the dynamic range is reduced with the range being as follows:

  • ISO 100 = DR 100%
  • ISO 200 = DR 100% – DR200%
  • ISO 400 to 3200 = DR 100% – DR 400%.
This range is normally good  for all shooting conditions.

This then leads to the question, when should I shoot in manual mode? There is no right or wrong answer to this as it is up to the individual to decide on what the required outcome will be. We can however generalize somewhat.

Approaching a shaded area.

I was recently confronted with a situation a few days ago where I wanted to take a photo of a flower and new flower bud. These items were in a deeply shaded area as can be seen in the picture of my wife as she approached one such area. I had the camera in EXR Res Pri mode with the camera set to 4:3 (8mp) image size (set to fine) and had lifted the EV to +2 and ISO to 400.

Image taken in EXR Res Pri Mode

ISO 400 @f4.5 & 1/250sec

Ev +2.00

I didn’t want to use a higher ISO as this would present with more sensor noise than I wanted. By changing to manual mode and leaving the ISO setting at 400, I set the aperture at f5.6 and shutter to 1/80 sec. Spot metering was used, with Auto white-balance and single point AF. When using the camera in EXR mode the camera would set aperture at f4.5 and shutter to 1/250 sec and even with the Ev set at +2.00 I still wasnt getting the right image as the camera wouldn’t slow down the shutter speed. Both images shot at the same focal length with the manual exposure being considerably brighter and better detailed.

HS20 EXR – Manual mode

ISO 400 @ f 5.6 & 1/80sec.

This is common with the HS series cameras as the HS10 also exhibited this trait in P mode, necessitating manual shooting as well.

Again this isn’t a bad thing but rather just one of the physical limitations of this camera. All cameras have there individual limitations and the HS20 is by no means unique in this.

As can be seen from the images above there are definite advantages to shooting the HS20EXR in manual mode. Does it work well? In short yes it does, within the physical constraints of the lens design, manual shooting can be immensely satisfying, allowing the photographer the chance to capture an image that otherwise may not have been attainable. It is well worth the effort to experiment and use this mode as it can yield some very good results.


Posted by R. McKenzie at 1:06 PM  

  1. … Ralph: Thanks for your excellent series. This is one that I will spend time with.


  2. Cheers Iain.
    I spent a couple of hours today at the local gardens and wound up shooting over 400 frames.
    As well as a 24 exposure film to boot 🙂
    All in manual mode , EXR Res Pri @ 16mp just to see what I could do. I will post some results in due course.


  3. Hi Ralph
    I have just bought the HS20. I have taken a few habitat shots and tried to upload them to a bird forum , that has a maximum file size of 350kbytes. The shots I took had a file size of 3.5 mbytes. I couldn’t even get the thumbnails to be enlarge on my pc. I took the shots in auto (jpeg). Any idea on how, if at all possible I can compress the shots to 350Kbytes, to upload.
    You have got a great site mate

    cheers John Belsey England.


  4. Apologies for the late reply. Been rather busy of late.
    I would run them through a program that allows you to pick the output resolution you need. I generally use Picasa at limit the size on the longest side of the image to 1600 pixels, that equates to about 800kb. There are other options for smaller sizes so if you have software that will do this thats what I would do.
    I use Picas because it intergrates well with the Blog software, plus it has some useful tools as well.

    You could also use Microsoft Office Picture Manager as well and do a batch resize. Its a handy program for doing just that, plus it has a basic editing suite as well.

    Let us know how you got on.



  5. Hi Ralph, I think I now undedrstand the relationship between telephoto length and shutter speed, but for specific fast action shots is it possible to set or force
    infinity focus with the HS20? I struggle achieving this even in manual mode. Any help much appreciated. thanks Frenchie


  6. Hi Frenchie.
    Short answer is no. Manual focus is inherently unreliable in both the HS10 & 20 when trying to focus at infinity. Best I have done is gone for as crisp a focus as I can get on very distant object. I do this for astrophotography by sighting on one of the very brightest stars. Even then depending on metering mode (spot or average) that can become unreliable. Your best option is to use tracking AF. You dont need to lock onto the target, just half press and hold the shutter on the object you want and full press the shutter when you have the image composed as reuired. This is how I shoot motor racing and even the horse races at Xmas.


  7. how to adjust aperture in a manual mode on hs20 exr.?.


  8. Hi Paul

    With the HS20 set in manual mode (M on the mode dial) simply press and hold the Ev (+/-) button on top of the HS20 and rotate the command dial to the required aperture. When you release the +/- button it then goes back to the shutter speed adjustment.

    Hope that helps



  9. Hi Ralph,

    I’m very new to cameras. When shooting in manual with my HS20, I’m having a hard time determining the level of exposure and how the end result will look. The LCD doesn’t reflect what the actual picture is going to look like. I’ve learned that the sliding bar on the bottom right in manual mode gives an idea of exposure, but it’s only a representation. I use that to determine what the camera thinks is correct exposure, but that’s not what I always think is right. Is there any way to “preview” exposure or do I have to get a “feel” for how the pictures are going to look and just snap shots? I wish the LCD screen got darker or brighter depending on the aperture/shutter setting, like it does when you use the EV button at the top of the camera. I like to use the EV button to tone down my pictures when I know the camera is overexposing in P mode, but obviously that doesn’t work when in manual.

    On a side note, great site you have here, everything I’ve learned about my HS20 I’ve learned from you! You’ve become pretty much the de facto source on the web when it comes to shooting with this camera. No one else has the level of explanations and detail you have.



  10. Thanks Adam.
    Its always nice to know someone is getting a little from my ramblings.

    You are right about the lack of feedback in manual mode via the LCD. Its a little annoying but as a rule of thumb I have found the camera is pretty accurate.
    What I do is use the histogram to check that there isn’t a large swing to the right (overexposure) and set the camera accordingly.

    Using these steps:
    Allow the camera to set the aperture(initially) and press the Ev button to check the histogram.

    Adjust the shutter speed so that it is dead center in the slider meter and take the shot.
    If exposure is under /over exposed adjust the shutter speed accordingly. I rarely if ever change the aperture, unless I have a good reason to do so as the camera does this pretty accurately anyway.
    I mainly use manual mode when poorly lit scenes just wont come out right.
    The other thing to watch is that the metering mode is appropriate for the shot (tele = spot & wide = average) as a general rule. If shooting under lights remember to check your white balance settings. Sometimes the Auto White-balance doesn’t always get things right either.

    When you have done all that, sit down, have a cuppa tea and ask yourself why you want to be a photographer 🙂



  11. Thanks for the advice Ralph. More questions. Does the metering mode matter when in manual? Are there any other hidden tricks the camera has (besides the histogram) that can help determine exposure?

    Going from a point and click camera that takes adequate vacation photos to something more in-depth like the HS20 certainly requires a lot of learning, but it’s fun to be able to turn what would be a so-so picture into something better by manipulating the camera’s controls. Thanks for all the work you’ve done on this site to allow me to do that.




    1. Yes metering matters immensely, in all modes, and even more so in manual mode as you cant adjust the EV as you would in the camera’s other modes.
      I don’t know if you have seen this article but it gives you an idea of just what the differences are.

      The beauty of using modes like EXR is you can vary the metering, ISO, Ev combinations to suit the conditions. At times manual mode can actually be restrictive as well as useful.

      I’m in the process of doing another article along these lines that will combine all of the above with the use for the AE/AF Lock button, which I will be posting in the next couple of days.
      Stayed tuned and have fun, the HS20 is quite a camera and the learning curve is steep.


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