The biggest complaints against digital cameras are their hyper-realistic, artless rendering of a scene, the often true-to-life but boring colours, and the menus that take so much time to change when out making photos. Some cameras have overcome the first two faults, and I hold up the Fujifilm X-T3 as an example of a camera that makes good looking photographs right out of the box. Unfortunately, there are a lot of buttons and menu items that can make the camera seem more like an electronic torture device than a camera. Fujifilm introduced the Q button on their camera bodies to put commonly used menu items in one convenient place, but it’s still a menu that you have to navigate through to change film simulations, image quality, tones, and so on.

But Fujifilm gives photographers the ability to customise the many buttons and dials on the camera. A few days ago I sat down and organised the functions of all the buttons on the body. Changes to ‘film’ are now all on the back where you would once insert a film cartridge, and less often used but important functions I assigned to the slightly harder to reach buttons near the top of the camera or the front.

There is only one function button on the front of the camera and I assigned it to turn on the self timer, where it traditionally is on a mechanical camera body. Muscle memory often brings my pointer finger there when I need to delay the shutter release.

The function button on the top of the camera is the only one actually marked ‘function’ and is the hardest to reach on the camera body because it’s in the tight space between the shutter speed dial and the exposure compensation dial. I’ve assigned this to turn off/on face detection. I usually leave this off unless I’m in point-and-shoot mode. Otherwise, the wide autofocus mode can be fooled by things that look like eyes, such as two windows in a building.

I wanted to assign something to do with exposure to the AE-L button next to the viewfinder and settled on the RGB histogram. I normally have a small, unobtrusive histogram on in the viewfinder display but sometimes I like to turn on the larger one to see if all channels are within the range of the camera’s sensor. I don’t use it that much, which is why I assigned it to a slightly difficult button that requires a stretch of the thumb to reach.

To the AF-L button I assigned AF mode; Single Point, Zone, Wide, and All. I don’t quite understand what Zone focusing is and my camera isn’t set up to take advantage of the All function. From what I remember from the user manual, All allows you to quickly change from one AF mode to another with a command dial, but I can’t be arsed to find out how to use it that way. Anyway, I don’t need it. I only change from single point autofocus to wide autofocus when I’m chasing the cat or I’ve set up the camera to point-and-shoot mode.

The directional pad on the back of the camera sits within easy reach of my thumb and that’s where I assigned frequently used functions that change the look of my photographs. Pressing the left button changes the film simulation; pressing the top button changes the image size (3:2, 16:9, 1:1); the right button changes the grain effect; and the bottom button changes the colour chrome effect.

That’s all fine and dandy, but sadly Highlight Tone and Shadow Tone (i.e. contrast) can’t be added to any buttons, which is an annoyance. I put them in the top row of the Q menu for faster access, but I wish there was a way I could switch them more quickly using dedicated buttons. I suppose it doesn’t matter since I generally leave both of those settings at 0 anyway.

I am happy with my camera setup because (almost) everything I need to change is on a button and I don’t need to go through menus when I’m making photographs. Newer Fujifilm cameras seem to be losing the direction pad, which is a shame. Maybe Fuji think that the Q menu is good enough for changing settings quickly. I disagree, but I’m not on the committee that makes these decisions . . . .