Advanced Tutorial 9
If there are going to be regular shooting occasions where you will need the same range of settings every time, one great advantage of your digital camera is its programmable function buttons and custom settings. This tutorial looks at how to set everything in advance, ready to be recalled at the touch of a control.
Making the most of function buttons & custom settings
Every photographer develops their own shooting style and makes different demands of their camera. And every manufacturer has different setup options and places the features and mode buttons in different places on their camera products.
Realistically, there is no way any single manufacturer can design a camera that will be perfect for everyone. This is why most modern digital cameras come with a number of programmable ‘Function’ buttons and ‘Custom Memory’ settings to provide flexibility for users.
Using function buttons
The function buttons on a digital camera usually come pre-assigned with a particular mode or feature, but they can be reprogrammed to operate an entirely different function, in order that the most commonly used controls for that particular user can be customised to suit their shooting style – or simply to place them in what he/she considers a more convenient position on the camera for their use.
The first thing to do is familiarise yourself with the pre-programmed functions of your camera. Very soon it will become clear that there are those features you use regularly and those function buttons that you are rarely using at all. So, the obvious thing to do is to re-programme any seldom-used buttons to a more commonly useful function.
All cameras will have slightly different ways of doing this, but illustrated below is the LUMIX G6 method.
All LUMIX models’ function buttons are labelled with ‘Fn’ and a number. The LUMIX G6 offers seven programmable function controls – five physical buttons on the camera body and two function tabs on the touch-screen display (as shown above).
To assign functions to these, go to the ‘Custom Setup Menu’ and select ‘Fn Button Set’; you then have the option to set function buttons for use in the ‘Record’ or ‘Playback’ modes. Remember you will find a different, but hopefully recognisable procedure on different camera models.
Any one of up to 37 functions can then be assigned to each numbered ‘Fn’ button. You can also ‘Reset to Default’ any of the keys at any time, if you want to revert to the factory setting. You may find yourself playing with the possibilities this feature opens up over some period of time, as you get accustomed to using the camera and find your own style and the sorts of shoot you undertake most often.
Using custom settings
In addition to being able to change the function of certain mode buttons in order to customise your camera’s controls, it is also possible for you to store shooting parameters and features in the custom memory. This means you will be able to quickly change the settings of your camera to suit a range of regularly used shooting scenarios.
For instance, my wife makes painted glass ornaments that she displays on her website. I position and photograph each item for her, using a light box so that they have a consistent lighting level for when the images appear together online. I always use a small JPEG image with the same aspect ratio – ideal for a website – and the same ISO and white balance settings, and I shoot with ‘Exposure Bracketing’ to give me an option of the best exposure.
I have set all these parameters into custom memory no.1 on my camera so that, no matter what other settings I have been shooting with in the interim, I can quickly change back and shoot away happily each time, knowing that the camera setup will be back to how I want it for that regular job.
Most cameras offer at least two ‘Custom’ memories and these are normally found as options on the mode dial. Here you can see custom modes C1 (as chosen) and C2 on the LUMIX G6.
Setting the custom memory
Accessing the custom memories is one thing, but first you have to set them up to your own preferences. So again, using the G6 as an example – but bearing in mind your model may vary somewhat: with the mode dial set to your chosen C1 or C2 position, go ahead and set the camera up exactly how you need all its various settings to be for the particular shooting situation in question.
Then, find the ‘Save preferred settings’ menu screen.
Select ‘Custom Setup Menu’ and pick the custom memory number that you want to apply the settings to, here C1.
Apply the current camera settings that you have chosen and confirm you want to overwrite the previous memory settings – the manufacturer’s defaults, or any previous setup you may have been trying – and you are done.
You can of course repeat this with different options selected on the camera, in order to set up the other custom memories. Then, the next time you wish to use a familiar setup in a regular shooting scenario, you will be quickly ready to shoot simply by rotating the mode dial.
It might be a good idea to keep a note of the settings and where you have saved them, until you get used to your preferences.
The LUMIX Advantage
As you can see from the menu screen shots in this tutorial, LUMIX G cameras offer multiple custom memory options – four, as shown, in the case of the G6, while the GH3 and GH4 models have even more.
Another benefit of LUMIX G is that the function button assignment can be combined with the custom memories – so that you can even have customised button functions according to different shooting scenarios.
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