Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
Customizing your camera for high-ISO photography
 - The Artist's Muse, lit by her camera's LCD - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
The Artist's Muse, lit by her camera's LCD
Panasonic DMC-FZ28, 1600 ISO 1 sec@ F3.2 handheld, some histogram adjustment Taken about one hour after sunset.
It was so dark that my camera's LCD was completely black.
My Minolta A2 was the first digital camera that I owned that offered customizable settings. You could take your favorite settings for a particular situation and have the camera remember them. The Panasonic DMC-FZ18 had a CUSTOM setting on the mode dial that brought up a menu so you could choose one of three sets of custom settings.

The DMC-FZ28 has a new position on the Mode dial, freed up by moving the Record/Playback function to a slide switch on the back of the camera. The FZ28's Mode dial settings for Custom are now C1 and C2, which allow a total of four custom sets. C1 brings up the first custom set and C2 brings up the same sort of menu as the FZ18 had, which allows you to choose C2-1, C2-2, or C2-3. The C1 setting is for your most-used set of settings. There is no menu to navigate, so it's a little faster.

High-ISO photography gives a perfect reason for learning about custom settings on the DMC-FZ28. In order to use ISO settings such as 1600, you'll also want to change things like the noise reduction and sharpness settings. The bad news is that these are buried deep in the camera's menu system, so they're not exactly quick access. In addition, there may be other settings you want to change such as the ISO, Intelligent Exposure, Contrast, etc.

Here's how to do it. As an example, we'll set up custom set C1 for high-ISO shooting.

1. Go through all the menus and choose the value for the various settings you want for high-ISO work -- ISO at 1600, Noise Reduction at +2, Sharpness at +1, Intelligent Exposure (it's in the joystick menu) to full on, etc, etc.

2. Press the Set button to bring up the camera's menu system. Press the left arrow button, then the down arrow button, then the right arrow button, and now you're in the Setup menu.

3. Cursor down until you see CUST.SET MEM. and cursor to the right. You will see a list of custom settings names, beginning with C1 and ending with C2-3.

4. Let's set C1. Press the Set button and you'll see "OVER WRITE CURRENT CAMERA STATUS AS CUSTOM SET 1 ?" Cursor up to YES and press the Set button.

Now, every time you move the mode dial to C1, you'll get all of your high-ISO settings. What if you want to change something in this custom set, for instance the amount of sharpening? Just turn the mode dial to C1 to restore the high-ISO settings, go into the menu system, change the sharpening setting, then go back to step #2 above. It looks complicated, but after you've done it a couple of times, it's not too bad.

You might want to program another of the custom settings for something like black and white photography, or some other special set for your favorite photographic situation. It's unfortunate that the custom settings can't be labeled, so you'll have to remember what C1 and C2-3 stand for.

When you're done entering your custom settings, put the camera's mode dial back to P and put in your everyday settings. This is what you'll use most of the time. But when the situation calls for something special, just set the Mode dial to one of your custom settings, and away you go.

Although these instructions are specific to the DMC-FZ28, most other digital cameras use a similar interface for storing and recovering sets of custom settings.
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