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DOP decreases with longer focal lengths. This means you would want to stand further away from your subject and zoom in, instead of standing close and taking a wide angle shot. The macro mode is still a good idea, though.
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Not sure where you're seeing "P", but this abbreviation is often used to designate "Program", and contains auto settings for various lighting conditions. I don't see this on the Fuji site or in reference to their camera's at all, though it is used on Sony digital cameras.
You're trying for what's called a narrow depth-of-field (DoF).
DoF is controlled by three factors: the aperture of the lens, distance to the subject, and the focal length of the lens. This has nothing to do with any particular design, it's simply physics.
The wider the aperture (smaller the f/number), the narrower the DoF. The A1200 does not have an Av mode which would let you control the aperture directly. However, it does have a Portrait mode, which is supposed to give you a wider aperture.
The closer you are to the subject, the narrower the DoF. This suggests that you get as close to the subject as practicable. However, in general you don't want to get too close for portraits as this tends to exaggerate certain facial features, like making noses look bigger.
The longer the focal length of the lens, the narrower the DoF. This suggests that you back away and zoom in. Yes, this conflicts with the previous paragraph.
Unfortunately, it's the actual focal length of the lens that matters here, not the "35mm equivalent" often quoted in the spces. The lens on the A1200 zooms from 5mm to 20mm. Landscape photographers like to use 24mm lenses on their 35mm cameras because that gives them practically infinite depth-of-field, from the flower in the foreground to the mountains in the background. The lens on your camera is shorter than that, so you're going to have a hard time blurring portrait backgrounds.
The best I can recommend is to put the camera into Portrait mode, put as much distance as possible between the subject and the background, get as close to the subject as possible, and zoom in to the longest focal length you have (remembering that the last two are in conflict).
Has it been serviced before? I remember one A200 with a very similar problem. There was a flex cable broken inside - the owner had given it to another technician before me and he managed to brake it. I think it could be a bad connection or some liquid damage. I have worked in a Sony service center and I don't think this is some kind of a factory problem. Anyways, you will have to give it to a camera technician. The camera has to be taken apart to see what's what.
You're trying for what's called a narrow depth of field. DoF is controlled by three factors: distance from camera to subject, lens focal length, and lens aperture. The closer the camera is to the subject, the narrower the DoF. The longer the lens focal length, the narrower the DoF. The larger the lens aperture, the narrower the DoF.
Get as close to the subject as practical, and use as long a focal length as practical. I realize these two aims conflict with each other. For portraits, you want a focal length in the 50-90mm range and move in to fill the frame.
You want to shoot with as wide an aperture as you can. Unfortunately most lenses are not at their sharpest wide open. Also, the 18-55mm lens doesn't open up all that wide, f/3.5 at 18mm and f/5.6 at 55mm. To get the widest aperture, you can shoot in the P or A modes. If you don't want to leave the point&shoot modes, try using the Portrait mode.
Since you're not paying for film, I suggest you experiment with the different settings and shooting setups, moving closer and farther from the subject, using different focal lengths, and using different apertures, and see what results you get.
What you want is a limited depth of field. There are three factors that control the depth of field: subject distance, lens focal length, and lens aperture. The greater the distance, the wider the DoF. The shorter the lens, the greater the DoF. The smaller the aperture, the greater the DoF.
One problem with compact cameras is that they have very small sensors. This means that they have short lenses. And short lenses mean they have wide depth of field. This is often an advantage, in that more of the scene is in focus. Unfortunately, this works against you when you don't want a wide DoF.
At the short end, the S2's lens focal length is 6mm. This will put just about everything in focus. Even at the other end, the focal length is 72mm. With a 35mm film camera, most portrait photographers use lenses at least 85mm in focal length in an attempt to minimize DoF to draw attention to the face and blur the background.
Unfortunately, the best you'll be able to do is to set the camera to the portrait mode, get as close to the subject as possible, and zoom in as much as possible. I realize the last two conflict with each other, you'll just have to find the proper balance for whatever you're photographing.
"Depth Of Field" (or DOF) is the amount of distance both in front and behind the point of focus that is also in focus. If there is a very short distance or range of an area that is in focus, it is said to have a shallow depth of field. This shallow DOF is achieved by setting the aperture or "f stop" to the wider or lower number settings. The smallest f stop number will provide the shallowest DOF. The DOF will become broader ir deeper with each increasing f stop setting.
Shallow DOF settings are often used in portraits where the background is desired to be blurred. It is also used in macro (extreme close up) photography, and anywhere a blurred foreground / background is desired.
The down side of this is that the shutter speed will increase proportionately, to maintain a properly exposed image. If you are trying to convey a sense of motion - by allowing the subject to be blurred slightly - you'll have some trouble due to the fast shutter speed. Neutral density filters fixed to the lens can correct this. The other side of the coin is in an indoor and evening outdoor photography. If you're not using a flash, you'll likely have to be shooting more towards the "open end" of the lens (more towards the lower number aperture settings) which while allowing enough light for an good exposure - will also reduce the DOF. Some people or objects in front of and behind the focus point will not be a sharp as a result.
The best thing to do is experiment. set a number of object on a surface - 2', 3' 4' 5' and 6' away from the camera. A tripod or other solid surface can help a great deal. Set the camera up for a "normal" exposure in a full manual or Aperture Priority Mode of the middle object 4 feet away. Take a picture. Next, open the aperture (make the number smaller) and adjust the shutter (if in manual) to expose properly again. Take the picture. Keep doing this both BOTH directions for the aperture from the first "Normal" exposure. Compare the results to see exactly how the DOF changes. Tinker with shutter speeds - or don't change them. Notice that with each time you open the f stop, the shutter must speed up to compensate for more light entering the camera due to the wider aperture setting (and vice versa).
I hope I understood your question correctly and that this helped.
Auto Picture-selects on of the picture mode such as landscape(mountain), macro(flower), sport/action(running man) mode, etc.
P-sets shutter and aperture. You set everything else.
happy face- sets shutter, aperture and everything else.
The shooting modes are described as follows:
AUTO (Factory default setting)
Auto mode is used for regular photography. The camera automatically makes the settings for natural color balance. Other functions, such as the flash mode and metering, can be adjusted manually.
Portrait mode is suitable for taking a portrait-style picture of a person. The camera automatically sets the optimal shooting conditions.
Night scene mode is suitable for shooting pictures in the evening or at night. The camera sets a slower shutter speed than is used in normal shooting. If you take a picture of a street at night in any other mode, the lack of brightness will result in a dark picture with only dots of light showing. In this mode, the true appearance of the street is captured. The camera automatically sets the optimal shooting conditions. If you use the flash, you can take pictures of both your subject and the night background.
Scene mode enables you to select one of the following scene shooting modes available in the menu.
Landscape + Scene shooting
Landscape + Scene shooting is suitable for taking pictures of landscapes and other outdoor scenes. This mode produces clear, sharp pictures with excellent detail, making it ideal for shooting natural scenery.
Landscape + Portrait shooting
Landscape + Portrait shooting is suitable for taking photos of both your subject and the background. The picture is taken with the background as well as the subject in the foreground in focus. The camera automatically sets the optimal shooting settings
Quicktime Movie mode lets you record movies. The focus and zoom are locked. If the distance to the subject changes, the focus may be compromised.
Landscape mode is suitable for taking pictures of landscapes and other outdoor scenes. The camera automatically sets the optimal shooting conditions.
Self-portrait mode enables you to take a picture of yourself while holding the camera. Point the lens towards yourself, and the focus will be locked on you. The camera automatically sets the optimal shooting conditions. The zoom is fixed in the wide position and cannot be changed.
Enables you to make settings manually and register them in the mode dial's mode so you can call up your own shooting mode whenever you want.
Program shooting (P)
Program shooting allows you to shoot using an aperture and shutter speed that the camera sets. You can set the flash, white balance, or other functions manually.
Aperture priority shooting (A)
Aperture priority shooting allows you to set the aperture manually. The camera sets the shutter speed automatically. By decreasing the aperture value (F-number), the camera will focus within a smaller range, producing a picture with a blurred background. Increasing the value will let the camera focus over a wider range in the forward and backward directions, resulting in a picture in which
Landscape + Portrait
Beach & Snow
Self Portrait + Self Timer
Under Water Wide
Under Water Macro
Shoot & Select 1 / U Shoot & Select