In this fourth (and final) installment of thoughts about the settings for the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 we'll take a look at the camera's quick-access (Q.MENU) system. (Although the FZ18 had a similar menu, there are a number of changes on the FZ28.) As I previously said, this discussion is just about my own feelings about how the controls should be set. It's not a replacement for the camera's printed manual.
Start by pressing the joystick straight in for a second or so. This brings up the quick-access menu. Move the joystick left or right to move between menus, and up or down to select a particular menu item. Unlike the other menus, there is no SET button to lock in a quick-access menu choice. Just highlighting it is enough. To leave this menu system, but push the joystick in again, or press the shutter button lightly.
We'll go from left to right.STABILIZER (little waving hand symbol)
The stabilizer helps to neutralize camera shake, allowing you to use a slower shutter speed. There are three settings for the stabilizer. * 2
At this setting, the stabilizer only begins working as the shutter release is pressed. This is the recommended setting to get the maximum amount of camera-shake removal. * 1
This is the setting that I use. At this setting, the stabilizer runs continuously, but the amount of shake-removal is somewhat less. However, this setting will help to stabilize the camera when you're trying to frame the picture with the lens at a telephoto setting. * OFF
At this setting, the stabilizer is turned off. Some people feel that you should use this setting when the camera is mounted on a tripod.
But wait, there's more! There's a neat hidden feature that you can access when you're on the stabilizer menu. If you press the DISPLAY button (just below the joystick), you'll bring up a demo of how the image stabilizer works and you can measure the steadiness of your camera grip. You'll see something like this superimposed in the viewfinder:
The two bar graphs get wider when the image moves and smaller when the image is steady. The upper graph shows how steadily you're holding the camera. This is the motion that can be helped by the image stabilizer. The bottom graph shows how much the subject is moving. This motion can't be fixed by the image stabilizer, and may require a higher shutter speed. Play with this demo for a while, trying different zoom settings and subjects and you'll learn a lot about using this very important feature. AF MODE
This determines how the autofocus works, with each setting choosing where in the picture the focus system looks, and how quickly it focuses. There are a number of different patterns and speeds. I use the setting labeled MULTI as this gives the best compromise between speed and figuring where to focus.
The ones marked with an "H" are supposed to be faster, but with this setting, the camera will freeze from time to time while its attempting to focus. Setting continuous autofocus (C-AF on the camera's PRE AF menu) will greatly speed things up.METERING MODE
This setting determines which areas of the scene are used to set the exposure. The top setting (MULTI METERING) uses the whole image. It's a good all-around setting, but can fail in tricky lighting situations because it doesn't know which area of the picture is important. The middle setting is center-weighted and tends to favor things toward the center of the image.
The bottom setting (SPOT) displays a little cross at the center of the viewfinder and only measures the light at that point. This is the most difficult setting to master, but with practice will yield the most accurate exposure. You can use this setting along with the AF/AE LOCK button to first lock the exposure, then frame the picture, (More about this in a future article.)WHITE BALANCE
Every light source (daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, flash) has a different color spectrum, and using the wrong setting for the white balance can yield a picture where the colors are wildly off. (Don't panic, most of these errors can be fixed when the picture is in the computer, but you can save the extra effort by getting this setting right.)
Most of the time, I leave this on AWB
(Auto White Balance) and the camera does the right thing. (Each new generation of digital camera does this a little better, and the FZ28 is the best I've used so far.) You can play with the other settings by just cursoring up and down until you get a setting that gives the most realistic image. If this doesn't work, there are two custom white balance settings.ISO ON
This is new. It turns the Intelligent ISO function on or off. This feature will automatically select the most appropriate ISO based on the amount of light on the scene and also based on whether the subject is moving. If there is motion, it will bump up the ISO and select a faster shutter speed. I have this feature turned ON and the maximum ISO set 800 (on the camera's main menu).INTELLIGENT EXPOSURE
This is new. It turns the Intelligent Exposure function on, with three different settings. This feature will automatically attempt to increase the dynamic range by increasing the exposure in the shadow areas. I tried this feature, but couldn't see any real difference, and there was the chance of getting flat looking images. So I set this feature to OFF.ISO (Sensitivity)
This lets you choose the ISO manually. If the Intelligent ISO function is on, this menus is disabled. Lower settings give better image quality, but aren't useful in low-light situations. Higher settings are better in low light, but the images will have more noise.
I leave this set at 10M
(10 megapixels). This is the highest setting and gives you the most to work with when cropping and when you lust after large prints.LCD MODE
This is new on the joystick menu. It used to be hidden behind the DISPLAY button. The settings allow you to choose A(Auto), which automatically brightens or darkens the LCD display depending on the ambient light, and a choice to brighten the screen if you have to hold the camera overhead to frame your shot. I have this set to OFF. When the LCD is changing brightness on its own, it throws off your frame of reference if you're using the LCD to judge the exposure.
One other note about the quick-access menu. The icons at the top of the menu screen show the current setting for each menu item. Having them in a line like this provides a quick way to review your current settings.
In future posts, we'll take a look at things like getting the correct exposure and setting the white balance on the DMC-FZ28.
Meanwhile, here's some more pictures from my DMC-FZ28.