How I've set my NEX, and why. Share your settings !

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by nianys, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Since the family seems to be growing fast, with a lot of enthusiast members, I thought we could all benefit of seing how different people set their cameras, and why.

    In this post I'm going to go briefly over my typeof shooting, how I set my NEX 6, and why. Please feel free to share your settings, but don't forget to explain how they work for you and why you picked them over something else.

    After spending two months with the 5N I was happy to upgrade to the 6, which offered a couple of additional features that were important to me.


    As many of you know, I shoot 95% portraits, and 98% manual glass. During those rather dark winter months, most of my shooting happens in my dimly lit living room. Because I'm long gone beyond the "available light only" fad (which is, in my eye, only a reluctance and fear to learn lightning), flash is essential to my photography. Getting a standard hotshoe I could mount any old normal flash on (including my faithful SB-600, which just died on me last night, but that's another story).

    For many, many years, I was an Aperture mode shooter. Coupled with Auto ISO, that's a pretty painless what to go. Pick an aperture, and let the camera handle the rest. Except... Except meters can be fooled, or simply make exposure decisions you're not entirely happy with. That's what exposure compensation is for, right ? Wrong. On the NEX cameras, exp. comp. is a PITA. You need to first press the bottom end of the thumb wheel, which enters a stupid little screen of its own with a virtual +/- wheel represented, you then need to turn that fiddly thumb wheel, then a half press of the shutter will bring you back to your shooting screen with real time exposure compensation shown. WAYyyy to quirky and annoying for me. So, I just decided to set the 6's mode dial to M. Using older lenses, you set your F stop directly using the lens' aperture ring. Meaning that leaves the useful and well dampened secondary control wheel (the one below the dial mode) to instantly change aperture. And if you have Setting Effect ON in the Live View Display menu, whatever exposure change you make by altering shutter speed is shown instantly either on the screen of in the viewfinder. That's the end of ill exposed picture, forever !!

    The catch here is that you lose Auto ISO. So folks lobby for this feature to be available in M mode. I beg to disagree. We don't need no Auto ISO, that's just another crutch we can do without. 1) since you have real time exposure feedback, any ISO choice is immediately displayed and easily adjusted. 2) ISO are pretty straightforward to chose anyway, it's far from rocket science. Getting to make sensitivity decisions is excellent for budding photographers, it encourages them to take over them shooting settings.

    Since I do use the built-in flash (bounced) quite a bit, I've set the AEL button to trigger enter the flash compensation screen. I button touch, wheel the compensation in. Easy.
    My Fn button calls a menu set as such : WB, Creative Style, Picture Effect, AF area, Flash mode, D range.
    I'm likely to swap Picture Effect with something else, since I don't use it.
    I chose WB as the first item in this menu (despite having it set to my lower soft key as well), because, if I ever happen to use an AF lens in multi spots, the soft bottom key is now dedicated to entering the AF point selection screen. Being a JPG shooter nailing WB is critical for me, so I want to make absolutely certain I can access this function easily at all times.
    Creative Style is super important for me as a strict JPG shooter. For color, I shoot Landscape mode with -1 contrast. I find it respects proper DR while givng a lot of color pop. I leave sharpness untouched, and only add a tad in post if needed. For monochrome I use the regular B&W option with zero fine tuning. It makes for a slightly flat rendering, which I boost a bit in post later (please don't ask me why I shoot jpeg if I do PP afterwards, it takes me a about 50s per picture and I'm happy with it).
    Picture Effect will most likely get off my Fn menu as I really don't use it. It was fun to experiment with Miniature for a couple of shots, but I'm really not fond of the effects so I'll soon assign that item to something else.
    AF area is a pretty important setting, even for an almost strict MF shooter such as I. There's always a time that I'm likely to swap my 18-55 in a hurry to handle the camera to someone else, of if I know for a fact I'm gonna need the wide angle end. In this case, I want to be able to chose where my AF point will be, though chances are it's gonna stay set to Center Point (if I AF, I focus/recompose a lot).
    Flash Mode. This one is important. I mostly use rear, but I want other options is needed, without having to dig in the menus. Rear allows you to have immediate flash, without any the annoying pre flashes of the other modes.
    D Range. Also something I want to be able to access without too much diving, even though so far I've never changed my DR1 setting. It lifts shadows *just* right without looking unnatural.
    So this is my Fn favorites. I think I might swap one of the unused items for Metering Mode soon. I normally use Center Weighted average as default, but it's an important setting enough that I want to keep it close at hand for those times I'd get out of manual mode.
    The top soft button calls menus by default no way to customize that, as well as the right end of the thumb wheel calls ISO.
    I mostly use Kelvin for WB settings, at 4200 or 4300 (with amber/green and or blue/amber fine tuning if needed) when using flash, outdoors I set it to Auto, and inside in daylight Auto with +1 amber

    My Focus Peaking settings are yellow in daylight, and white for artificial light. I usually use Medium, though some lenses will call for Low or High, depending on their native level of peaking.

    So I think that's it guys, I have my settings covered. I hope some of you will find it helpful, and feel free to ask questions or add yours :) 
  2. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    I'm gonna check mine out and get back to you on that, but yours seem pretty similar, althoug I have thus far been allergic to flash. If i keep the 7 i may have to learn!
  3. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    That's an allergy you'll eventually want to cure ;) 
  4. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    Yes, when I overcome my ignorance! :eek: 
  5. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    The best photographic investment I EVER made was my first speedlight (a Canon 430 EX at the time) and time to learn t use it.
    Life changing...
  6. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    Oh dear..... I spy further adapters in my future then, given the 7's proprietary hotshoe.
  7. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    It seems with proper research you can find a functioning hotshoe adapter. Once you get that, manual flash is actually super easy.
  8. christilou

    christilou TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 26, 2012
    Surrey, UK
    Thanks for all this info. I shall digest it bit by bit! I've been deathly afraid of flash because all the on board flashes I've ever used have given such terrible results, probably due to my ineptitude in the first place!
  9. WT21

    WT21 TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 7, 2011
    I've been learning flash and enjoying it quite a bit! I've got an 430 EXii. But really, with that flash, if I'm going on-camera, I need a body that holds that flash, so it's the 5Dc, not the NEX (or any other pocket-camera). If I'm going to have that weight, I want the body, lenses and AF to go with it!
  10. nianys

    nianys TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Believe it or not I've even shot the tiny XZ-1 (a compact cam) with my SB-600. Not comfortable to hold or pretty to look at, but the beauty of manual flash is that once you understand the concept, it works for ANY camera.
    My SB-600 went on my NEX6 without any problem (and on my GX-1 as well, both cameras are nearly identical in size. A little unbalanced, but nothing I can't live with. It is dying now (intermittent contact with the AA's inside), so I just ordered a FL-36 (Olympus). It won't work in TtL, which I absolutely don't care about since I *always* use manual flash anyway. The plus of this flash is its smaller size, while retaining tilt, swivel, and manual control of output in small increments.
    I remember being totally paralyzed at the idea of using flash. It's actually funny because now its become so natural I hardly even bother taking it off, unless there's really a lot of light.
    If anybody is interested in bounce flash Manuel settings just let me know, I'll gladly share.
  11. teefin1

    teefin1 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    At some point Claire, I'll be glad of a tutorial! I have hardly any knowledge of camera/exposure, let alone flash. I'm such a dork; have been messing around tonight with the flash (bounce positions) and now have lots of pics of toy dinosaurs and tigers :) 
  12. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    I now leave my camera set to RAW all the time. I like the simplicity of that approach for shooting - I worry about tone curves, colors and eventual storage format later on, after the light and/or subjects are gone. ;) 

    I usually use manual exposure because it forces me to pay more attention to all 3 parameters (aperture, shutter & ISO). Nothing like realizing I've had my ISO and shutter way too high for the last 30 minutes. :rolleyes:  I do use aperture priority for certain things: lens tests and probably future tripod macro work (any time I'm changing apertures a lot and don't want to be chasing that all over the place with the shutter dial).

    I usually use manual focus with peaking set on "low" (get enough OOF mistakes that way - why make it more vague). I have the AF/MF button assigned to kick in MF Assist. I have that button next to the shutter assigned for focus settings which in manual mode allows me to pre-position the MF Assist magnification area.

    I also have buttons assigned for WB and flash comp. The "custom" menu has metering mode, flash mode, focus mode, AF mode and face detection (other AF stuff comes up in that "focus settings" menu I keep handy by the shutter). I use most of these infrequently but they're handy just in case...

    That's about it for me! HTH
  13. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    I shoot M all the time. Also I don't use flash even in the darkest conditions because I'm shooting my baby most of the time and I don't want to blind her and it's a whole lot less obtrusive anyway (she is learning to ignore me, but usually not for long even now). Maybe as she gets older.

    The real advantage of auto ISO in M mode for me would be to have mid stops between ISO 1600 and 3200 - I'd like a halfway point between there as the noise would still be acceptable to me, but definitely not at 3200 - somewhere around ISO 2000-2400 in my experience with auto ISO. It goes without saying that the lack of ability to cap ISO manually is the only caveat to this, because I'm not happy with 3200 JPEGs and I don't really want to make the leap to RAW just for that (which I know for a fact is fine at ISO 3200). So M mode but Auto ISO with greater control of bracketing its range would need to come as a package.

    While I have my NEX customized for manual lenses, the most effective custom layout for native lenses is totally different for me - and changing this on the fly is not possible on the 5N as far as I can tell (someone please correct me if I'm wrong), and so I often just switch my camera to iAuto for E-mount lenses and use them as point-and-shoots. It's tempting me to get a second body (a NEX 6), but I have to wait at least 6 months and then make a big decision when all the current stuff on the horizon is out and I can judge where I want to go from here (Zeiss 32/1.8 or SEL35/1.8, or RX1, or NEX 6, or NEX-7-successor, etc.)
  14. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    90% of the time I am in "S" mode as I am using my manual lenses and they all have aperture rings.

    I have my custom buttons set as "ISO," "White Balance" and "Creative Style."
  15. Rich

    Rich TalkEmount Veteran

    Nov 20, 2012
    Salisbury UK
    My NEX settings are the same as the settings on all my other cameras, simple, simple works. (I'm a simple person)

    Set to RAW, aperture priority, fixed ISO 200 or 400 occasionally 800, centre focus AF. The only change I make other than ISO is to tap the screen of my 5N to shift the focus point occasionally. I only have two lenses, 19 and 30 Sigma primes. This combination of simple settings and limited lens choice means I don't have to "consciously" think about taking pictures, I just take pictures!

    This works really well for me, I find I am taking more usable and saleable pictures than I ever have.

    I really love the simplicity of my little NEX kit.

    Edit. Sorry, meant to say that these basic settings give me all I need to produce finished pictures in Lightroom and CS5 later.
  16. eno789

    eno789 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jan 1, 2012
    NoCal, USA
    I use a 5N.

    I'm a RAW shooter - this let me focus on things important at the time of shooting, such as composition and DoF. Things like WB, and even exposure within +/-1 can be adjusted in PP easily.

    I shoot 95% manual focus adapted lens. My main shooting mode is Aperture priority. I've made "changing ISO" easily accessible (right key). So basically I turn the aperture ring for aperture, let the camera do stop down metering, review the displayed shutter speed. I may turn up ISO if I want a faster shutter speed. (I think in some recent model, the right key is fixed for ISO and can not be customized).

    Soft Bottom Key: Autofocus Mode. With MF lens, this key will automatically become magnifying MF assist. I often use the touch screen to change the magnifying area.

    Soft Center Key: Custom
    1. Metering Mode
    2. White Balance
    3. Autofocus Area
    4. AF/MF Select
    5. DRO/Auto HDR

    I use the menu for "Change shooting mode" and "Format".
  17. ChangshaNotes

    ChangshaNotes Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2012
    I'm a novice shooter with a NEX-7

    I have the Function Button (next to the shutter button) set:

    1. Focus Settings
    2. Custom Settings: Metering Mode, Quality, White Balance
    3. Creative Style Settings
    4. Not Set

    Function Settings - Top
    Menu Start - Previous
    I like to keep the menu at Peaking Colour

    Soft Centre Button - Shoot Mode
    I don't set any custom settings here
    Click Wheel Right - AF/MF Select (usually set to DMF)

    Soft B Button - Flash Mode

    AEL - Toggle
    AF/MF Control - Toggle

    I mostly shoot in Aperture Priority but I'm often changing as I'm trying to learn and understand. I'm usually in Flexible Spot for focus and switch between multi and spot metering (I use the AEL lock often)
  18. mobias

    mobias TalkEmount Regular

    Nov 4, 2012
    Shoot in Aperture priority mode pretty much as standard. I almost religiously don't shoot in anything other than 100ISO (I hate image grain) and use ND filters if I need longer exposures.
    I'll shoot in RAW sometimes. I'm quite happy to shoot in JPEG too though if i can trust the conditions. I'll use the cameras on board HDR function sometimes but none of the other 'effects' options, most of which you can do in photoshop if you really wanted them.
  19. Nubster

    Nubster TalkEmount Veteran

    Jan 5, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
  20. BJW

    BJW TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 30, 2011
    Thanks for taking the time to do this. I was hoping someone would that understood the system.
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