Apr 082014
 

Sony RX100: The Ultimate Everyday Family Camera

By Jonathan Acierto

Hello Steve, I’m a hobbyist photographer, DSLR owner, and a father of 2 toddlers. Ever since 2008, when I got my first DSLR (Canon Rebel XT), I’ve been looking for a pocket camera that would be a good everyday camera to substitute for the DSLR. Call me lazy, but I just don’t want to lug around the DSLR all the time with a bunch of lenses just to take photos of the kids. Since I have a Canon DSLR, I have owned various Canon compact cameras over the years: Powershot A540, A590IS, SX110IS, SX200IS, G9, and S95. I enjoyed using each one for a time, but was always missing the image quality, low light performance, and operational speed of my DSLR. Sure, my iPhone 4S takes fantastic photos too and I still take a lot of photos with it, but I still find I need a real camera for capturing photos of the kids in demanding situations (ie. low light).

Mirrorless camera systems and the Fuji X100S are excellent options available now, but I did not want to buy into another whole camera system (having kids really drains the wallet!) and the Fuji X100S was still a little bigger than what I wanted for a compact camera. If I was going to carry a camera on my shoulder, I might as well just bring the DSLR (I currently own a Canon 6D). The Ricoh GR looked really tempting with such a small package and APS-C sensor, but the lens was fixed and a little wider than I would like. The Fuji X20 at least had a zoom lens, but the sensor still seemed a little small and the camera itself wasn’t that small. I also love shooting analog. I have a Canon QL17 GIII rangefinder that I love to use and it’s fairly compact, but still requires a shoulder strap and requires money to be spent on film and developing. With that much expense, my wife would kill me if I shot analog all the time!

Then the Sony RX100 was release in 2012 and ever since then, I have been seeing nothing but praise for the camera. After reading a lot of reviews (including Steve’s), looking at a lot of sample photos, and waiting for a used RX100 in excellent condition to become available on KEH, I finally was able to buy one in January of this year.

The camera has not disappointed me. Image quality from such a small camera is excellent, light years ahead compared to my previous compact cameras, but excellent IQ seems to be a given nowadays from any camera with a 1″ or bigger sensor. What really impresses me about the Sony RX100 is the operational speed. With a DSLR, there is hardly any shutter lag and almost no waiting on the camera between shots. With all the Canon compact cameras I used, shutterlag was not a problem, but it seemed like I waited forever for the photos to be written to the card before I could take another shot. With fast-moving toddlers, this could get frustrating. With the Sony RX100, shutterlag is non-existent and I no longer have that waiting time for the photos to be saved to the card. The camera is ready for the next shot as soon as I left my finger off the shutter button. I can just keep snapping photos of the kids and the camera keeps up. Finally, a fast operating pocket camera that actually fits in my pocket!

Steve has written the RX100 is the best pocket digital compact camera ever, and speaking as a parent who needs a fast performing camera to capture toddlers, I wholeheartedly agree. The pocket camera segment is disappearing because of smartphones, but I truly think if the camera companies would get their act together and make pocket cameras as good as the Sony RX100, then regular people with families would want to buy compact cameras again. I know parents who have bought mirrorless system cameras or DSLR’s, but they only use the kit lens and haven’t bought any more lenses. Believe me, I have tried to convince them they need to get better glass! Honestly, why do they need a mirrorless system or DSLR camera when they aren’t going to upgrade the glass? Speaking as a parent, I think most parents would be better served getting a Sony RX100, or maybe the new Sony RX10 if they wanted more focal length.

Please enjoy the photos of the my kids! I may be biased, but they’re the cutest subjects in the world.

To see more of my photography, please visit my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuraislice/sets/

Jonathan V. Acierto

My daughter’s hands as she plays with her camera.

Ceci Hands and Camera

The kids eating cupcakes, I wouldn’t have been able to grab this moment with a slower camera.

Kids Eating Cupcakes

My wife holding my son

Sophia and Petey at Window

My son zoning out a little bit, love his hands in this photo
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My kids riding off into the sunset

Kids Riding into the Sunset

 

Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 182014
 

Quick updates on the Fuji X-T1

by Brad Husick

(see Brad’s initial thoughts at the bottom of my X-T1 review HERE)

I am still loving my new X-T1 and the results I am getting with Leica glass are fantastic. Here are three quick updates:

1) The new Fuji MHG-XT handgrip (the one without the battery) has arrived and I can say that although it’s fairly expensive for a non-electronic item, it is very well built and well thought-out. The mount screw is a hex and is fully recessed into the bottom to allow easy mounting to Arca-Swiss style heads. The left side (as viewed from the back of the camera) is nicely tapered and smoothed for a good feel in the hand. The front of the grip comes up just high enough to wrap your middle finger over the top. The box even comes with the proper hex key for mounting. I’d say this grip is a fantastic addition to the handling of the camera without making the overall package too large. I was worried about this when considering the battery grip.

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2) The light leak issue from inside the left door (as viewed from the back) is real. You can test this by turning on the camera and leaving the lens cap or body cap in place, then opening the door and shining a flashlight into the top portion of the ports. I have attached a photo to show this. The good news is that Fuji is fixing all the cameras with this issue and when I spoke with them yesterday they said they are taking names and addresses to send out mailing labels when the replacement parts get to New Jersey from Japan. It shouldn’t be long now before that happens. In the mean time, just leave the cap closed when shooting and you shouldn’t have any troubles.

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3) I re-ran my indoor sports shooting test (see Steve’s review article near the bottom for my section) this time shooting at f/4 and ISO 6400 with the camera set to “high performance” mode and JPEG only capture. The results were better but still not up to the level of full size Nikon or Canon DSLR sports performance. Frame rates were high (but not 8 fps) and the buffer allowed for 10 to 15 shots. I suspect that with one of the new Sandisk UHS-2 SDXC cards (280MB/sec) we would see that number skyrocket, but these cards aren’t shipping just yet. My conclusion on indoor sports shooting with the X-T1 remains – we need faster zooms (f/2.8) and I am not selling my D4 any time soon.

Brad

 

03/20: UPDATE:

The lacrosse photos were taken with the kit zoom, as was the restaurant photo. The photo of me was taken with the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH lens at f/1.4. The full frames are that – full frame. The “zoomed” images are screen captures at 100% in Lightroom. Minimal processing was done.

Thanks,

Brad

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Mar 142014
 

The Me-Foto Road Trip tripod review

By  Zev Hoover

Hello everyone! I have had the MeFoto Road Trip tripod since December, but I didn’t really see any point in making a first impressions type review, because the true test of a tripod is how it holds up over time. I have used it for almost every photo shoot since I got it, and my sister has used it for over 100 days of her 365 project. it has seen quite a bit of use. Let’s jump right in. (note, all measurements and weights are calculated by myself, not from the manufacturer)

The folded tripod (shown here with banana for scale), comes in at a puny 40cm (15.5″ish) with qr (quick release) plate. it manages to get so small by inverting the legs upwards. a really nice design I think, as it means the center column is already extended and ready for use. it fits inside carry on luggage with ease, in fact I kept it in my personal item backpack when I have flown trans-continental with it.

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It comes with a lovely orange trimmed bag, a hex key for adjusting the leg tension, and spiked feet to replace the rubber ones if needed. the extra feet and hex key come in a nice little package that fits into an inside pouch of the bag. the rubber feet that it has work alright, but because the bottom leg section can turn, there really can’t be that much rubber on the ground plane, only a small section. this is an advantage of tripods with D shaped leg sections. more rubber on the ground = more grip = more stability. as you can see in the below picture, there isn’t a hex key. this is because security in Bergamo airport (Italy) confiscated it. No idea what they were thinking, and I doubt this is ordinary procedure anywhere else in the world. anyway, you don’t really need to adjust your leg angle tension on the go, so I should have just left it at home.

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The head that comes with the tripod is really quite nice. it has separate pan and ball locks, a ball friction knob, a bubble level and very smooth movements all round. It takes the Arca Swiss style qr plate, which isn’t my favorite but is pretty much industry standard and does the job. it locks onto the ball head with a knob, not a lever. this works flawlessly, and is very easy to tighten it to a point where there is no chance of the camera slipping, without busting your fingers.

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The only real disappointments with the tripod were with the qr plate. it doesn’t have the right rubber on top, so no matter how hard you crank it onto your camera, after a shoot or two (especially if you are shooting vertical) it will be loose. not a huge issue, right? just tighten it up. well, no. for some reason it requires a key or coin to turn it. this is the reason I don’t like Arca Swiss style plates, they all seem to not have hand operable knobs for tightening them on your camera. the turning problem can be solved by buying another brand’s plate, and if you are only using one tripod system, the fact that it needs a coin to operate won’t be an issue. but for me, it was a pretty big annoyance (as I do switch systems) so I went ahead and switched the plate holder from an old Manfrotto ball head and screwed it onto the lovely MeFoto ball head. perfect.

this is the original qr plate

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the Manfrotto plate holder on the MeFoto

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hand adjustability!

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The leg angle locks work perfectly, they can be either at a normal tripod angle (30 degrees ish) and the low down 80-ish degree angle. they are not sprung, so they don’t ‘click’ into place, but they feel very solid and work very well. the leg length locks also work well. it takes about a half of a turn to lock/unlock the legs, and they lock very solidly. I have used the tripod in heavy rain and snow, with no ill effects, and occasionally in sea water, but in those cases I always have been careful to not let the sea into the leg locks, other than on one occasion but I disassembled it and cleaned it afterwards (according to this fantastic guide on the MeFoto blog. shouldn’t every product come with a disassembly guide?). the leg locks feel as smooth and precise as new (which is to say, smoooth).

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One really cool feature of the tripod is that it can convert to a monopod! just unscrew one of the legs, take out the center column and put them together! it works very well, though I don’t really have much need for a monopod. speaking of the center column, the locking mechanism on it i not as nice as the ones on the legs. it feels like it takes about 3/4 of a turn to lock and unlock it, unlike the legs half of a turn.

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the carbon fibre version I have weighs in at 1.389kg (3.0625 pounds) with head. the tripod itself weighs 1.066kg (2.35 pounds) and the head weighs 323g (0.7125 pounds). the cheaper aluminum model apparently weighs 1.633kg (3.6 pounds). I am not sure if the difference of 0.5 pounds really is worth the difference in price of $140, but that is up to you. there certainly are more budget options in the world of carbon travel pods, but the aluminum one is a very good deal. also, for some reason the carbon isn’t available in all those awesome colors, which is a shame.

the tripod has a maximum hight of 153.7cm (60.5 inches), and a minimum of 38.7cm (15.25 inches) the monopod’s max hight is 161.3cm (63.5 inches) and its minimum is 71cm (28 inches). basically, the tripod is tall enough for any travel pod use, but maybe not short enough for a landscape enthusiast. a shorter center column would be a fantastic add-on. the monopod is tall enough for really anything, and I don’t know anyone who uses a monopod at anything but full extension.

over all, it is the nicest tripod I have owned (I have had a manfrotto 294 and an old aluminum gitzo) or used. for what I do, with the qr plate holder swap, it is pretty near perfect and I can’t see needing to upgrade unless my camera system gets a lot bigger. any light tripod will blow over easier, and not be as stable as a heavier one, but that is a compromise I am okay with making.

Thanks for reading!

Zev Hoover

You can purchase the Road Trip direct from MeFoto HERE, or at Amazon HERE.  You can see Steve’s early impressions on the Me-Foto tripod HERE. 

Mar 102014
 

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The Fuji X-T1 Review. Fuji creates the Best X to date!

What a way to blow a review! I pretty much say right there in the title that yes indeed this X-T1 is the BEST Fuji X to date, even surpassing the X100 and X100s for me..finally! Many of you know that I was never a huge fan of the X-Pro 1, X-E1, X-E2, etc. I just never felt that they were mature..in fact, on more than one occasion I called them “Beta” products and we, the consumers, were the testers as we shelled out thousands for the bodies and lenses.

Well, the good thing about all of this is that Fuji seems to finally figured out everything (almost) and have now created the Body that the X-Pro 1 should have been as the X-T1 beats the Pro 1 all over and down the block and the “T” stands for “Tough”. Yes, the X-T1 is now weather sealed!

All images in this review were shot JPEG. Click on ANY image in this review for a larger version.

14mm at ISO 250 – f/2.8

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So do I prefer the X-T1 to the E-M1?

As many here know. I have been a HUGE fan of the Olympus Micro 4/3 offerings for years and the E-M1 has been my daily “goto” camera since launch for its build, speed, response, feel, control and lenses. The IQ is also quite fantastic though many dismiss it due to the sensor size. With this new Fuji many have asked if the X-T1 will unseat my E-M1 for my new “goto” camera.

To that I say…NO. As much as the Fuji is an improvement over the previous Fuji bodies, and by a large margin it does not have enough for me to buy it over an E-M1. I have a Leica M 240 which is my premium IQ camera and the Fuji does not come close in IQ, feel rendering, etc to my M, so I have no need for the Fuji. I also have a Nikon V1, J1, and new stuff on the way soon. If I bought the Fuji I would still prefer to shoot the E-M1 for its faster speed, better build, better JPEG output, 5-Axis IS and  the gorgeous lenses. IQ is a draw besides some shallow DOF effects, but for that I have my Leica which beats them both easily.

The Fuji X-T1 surprised me because when the review sample arrived I expected more of the same..which means, big claims and underperformance. BUT, I was shocked to see that this time, the new Fuji lived up to the hype and then some. While not perfect, it is one hell of a camera and the one to beat for APS-C out of the cameras I have shot with to date (NON DSLR).

If I had NO CAMERA and was starting from scratch, the X-T1 would be under serious consideration along with the 14, 23, 35 and 56 lenses. You can buy it here.

Direct from camera color – JPEG – 35 1.4 at ISO 500

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For the 1st week that I had the review sample from B&H Photo I also rented a couple of lenses. The 14 2.8 and the oh so popular 35 1.4. I also had the 18-55 Kit Zoom that I never did get to try, so it was nice to see and verify that yes indeed, this 18-55 is the nicest kit zoom I have ever shot with. It is a quality Zoom for sure.

So with all of that out of the way, let me get to the meat and potatoes. How does the camera feel, perform, respond, and how are the controls and build? Before you read, and in case you missed it..you can see my very 1st impression video review below:

The Build and Feel of the Fuji X-T1

This X-T1 feels very good. Better than the Pro-1, X-E1, X-E2. It feels ergonomically correct, for my hands at least. While not as solid or hefty as the Olympus E-M1, the grip feels just right. There is less of the “Fuji Hollowness” that I noticed with previous bodies. The bottom line? I have no complaints on the build and ergonomics. It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

The control…

One thing I love is the manual dials and controls which remind me of the Nikon Df (review here). On the top of the body we have controls and dials to set the ISO (love this), the metering (love this) and the Exposure Compensation (love this as well). You can also twist a dial and set up bracketing or continuous shooting, etc. It is all right there at your fingertips.

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On the back of the camera we have the trash button, the play button, the AE-L button, the AF-L button, a thumb dial, focus assist button (which is nice), the Q button and display button. The heart of the back is the thumb pad and MENU/OK button.

My ONE issue with the design of the back is that damn thumb pad. It sucks. Plain and simple. The thumb pad buttons for top, left, right and bottom do not feel good at all. They do not stick out enough or give any kind of tactile feedback. They are “mushy” and “soft”. If I buy this camera I will be sticking some little buttons on each directional pad. Not sure why Fuji designed it like that but this is ONE area where they dropped the design ball.

Is it bad enough to not buy the camera? No, it is just something you will wish they had designed better.

18-55 at 55mm and ISO 200 – f/4

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The EVF…

Pull up your eyeball to the big EVF and you may feel like you are at a drive in theater. Yes, the EVF will spoil you with the HUGE size. It is the largest looking EVF I have ever had the pleasure to peep through and it is pretty bad ass. I LOVE EVF’s and have preferred them to OVF’s for a couple of years now. When the Olympus E-M1 was released, that EVF was AMAZING. The Fuji is even more WOW and AMAZING to look through but it does have some quirks. Still, it puts the E-M1 EVF in 2nd place.

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When shooting in low light or going from light to dark the EVF will lag for a bit and then catch up. It also gets grainy at night. BUT, for me, it does not take away from the experience. At all. I can still frame my shots and fire away. I love this EVF. Again, not perfect but so much better than ANY other Fuji EVF to date. Makes me wonder though..why did the not use their OVF/EVF design of the X100 but make it large? Would have been even better to have the choice as many prefer an OVF over the EVF. This would have covered everyones tastes.

Still, the EVF is beautiful to look through. HUGE and almost rear LCD like. Some may even prefer to use the EVF over the LCD to view their images! I like that the camera can be set up to use the EVF without the LCD. So turn on eye detection and the rear LCD will stay off and the EVF will pop on when your face is put up to it. This is how I shot the camera, no chimping.

14mm at f/2.8 and ISO 200

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35 1.4 at ISO 200 and f/1.4

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35 1.4 at ISO 200 and f/1.4

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The SD card door, battery compartment and LCD…

The SD card door feels good and is one of those pull back and slide out designs. It locks back into place with a nice click and I encountered zero issues. The Battery door is just like 90% of cameras with the flick of the switch  to open. No issues. The other side of the camera with the HDMI port felt a little sloppy though and I thought that out could have been made to be more like the SD card door, so it would lock into place. Instead you just push it in and it feels a little mushy. But most cameras are like this.

The LCD is a swivel LCD and looks good. No complaints as it is your run of the mill 2013/2014 LCD in quality and size. I much prefer to use that massive EVF. :)

35 1.4 – ISO 640 – A creepy crawly critter found in my kitchen :)

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14mm ISO 800

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The speed of the Fuji X-T1. 

The Fuji X-T1 had to be faster than the previous X bodies. If it was not it would be an immediate fail for me. This was my #1 worry about the camera. With that E-M1 I speak so highly of..well, it is just such a JOY to use due to the speed, response, IS, etc. So I was a bit worried about the Fuji because I knew there was no way for it to compete in this area with the E-M1.

So how did it do?

Well, when using newer lenses like the 14 2.8 it was very fast. I had no issues with AF at all. Speed was great AND accuracy was superb! This started to get me excited because my #1 main niggle with these Fuji’s has been the AF speed AND accuracy! These have both been remedied it seemed. When I put on the older 35 1.4 is when I saw  the AF slow down. Faster than previous bodies but I think it is a lens limitation instead of the camera limitation. It was easily usable but the Olympus 25 1.8 smoked it on my E-M1 for speed. Still, it was not annoyingly slow or anything, just not as fast as that 14 2.8. The Kit Zoom hunted from time to time in lower light and was also not the fastest but still acceptable.

So overall I would give the X-T1 high marks just for the improvements made on the speed and response. Speaking of response, gone are the Fuji days of slow, sluggish menus and response. The X-T1 is up there with the competition when it comes to response and offers better response and speed than the Sony A7 and A7r.

So Fuji created this camera to make a statement I think. To send a message to guys like me..“WE CAN make a fast and responsive camera”!

18-55 at f/4 and ISO 200

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Compared to the Olympus E-M1. High ISO and Detail. 

Some have asked me to include this in the review since many are debating between the E-M1 and X-T1. To be honest, I also feel Fuji released the X-T1 in response to the E-M1. Same shape, design, etc. They HAD to answer to the E-M1 as it has been wildly successful. So how does the X-T1 compare?

Speed and Response vs the E-M1

The E-M1 still wins for speed, response and overall quality of build. But it’s closer now than with previous Fuji camera bodies. With the new X lenses such as the 14mm some will not even notice a difference. When it coms to continuous AF though the Fuji fails and is way behind the Olympus. For CAF, the Olympus E-M1 wins the battle.

EVF Battle

I prefer the Fuji. It is larger, more vibrant, and looks like you are viewing a large LCD up close. It is a nice effect. With that said, the Olympus E-M1 EVF is 2nd best in the market.

Controls and Dials

The Olympus dials feel more substantial but the Fuji control scheme..I much prefer. So for real world usage, I prefer the Fuji as it has the right controls in the right places. They just do not feel as solid and well made as the Olympus. I hate the Fuji rear thumb pad with a passion though.

Image Stabilization

Olympus. Easy. No contest. Period. Until you have experienced that 5-Axis IS you have not experienced IS.

Lens Selection

NOW it is getting close. With the Fuji 14 2.8, 23 1.4, 35 1.4, and new 56 1.2 as well as the nice Kit Zoom Fuji is about equal with Olympus. Almost. I prefer the Olympus 60 Macro to the Fuji Macro and I love the little jewel like Oly lenses like the 12mm, 25 1.8, 75 1.8, etc. Still Fuji has caught up and makes Sony appear to be lagging behind in the high quality fast prime arena. I am giving this one a tie because Fuji has released quite a few superb lenses in a short time.

IMAGE QUALITY

Here is where it gets tricky. Now, all of you Fuji guys and gals will tell me NO CONTEST! Fuji! But not so fast. The Olympus is amazing in the IQ department and some of my favorite photos that I have seen last year in 2013 were shot on an E-M1. It has no shortcomings in the IQ department when using it with the superb prime lenses. I have always preferred the Olympus IQ to the Fuji and Sony APS-C offerings. With the X-T1 still using the X-T1 sensor let us see how it goes..

1st up, just a normal snapshot to check for tonality and color out of camera (JPEG). To me the Fuji looks more vibrant (the Fuji colors) and the Olympus is more muted and natural. The Olympus was closer to reality but which is more pleasing? Many will say “Fuji”. You can also see the depth of field differences. The Fuji was using the 35 1.4 at 1.8 and the Olympus the new 25 1.8 at 1.8. The Fuji will give you a more shallow DOF here as it is using a 35mm lens and the Olympus a 25mm lens. The longer the lens the more shallow DOF. While both are “equivalent 50mm” in field of view, they will not give you the same DOF. The Fuji focused decently with the 35 here and the Olympus was instant.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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100% crops from JPEG. This is where the Fuji X-Trans shows some issues with JPEG. The image of the tree below looks nice. Vibrant, sharp, pleasing. When looking at the 100% crop of each camera, the X-T1 and E-M1 you can see the Fuji has a watercolor effect going on which is NOT pleasant. The E-M1 does NOT have this effect. This is straight from camera on each. The E-M1 wins on this one easily, that is, the 100% crop detail test. Trees are always a nice torture test for detail and the E-M1 won this one easily. These are JPEGS as Adobe, at the time of this review, will not process the X-T1 RAW files. To be fair though, in the past using Adobe with the Fuji X-Trans RAW files yielded watercolor effects as well. Here, to me, the Oly wins. 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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High ISO. Most claim the Fuji;s as the king of high ISO but this is not really true. Fuji always applies some level of noise  reduction as you can not turn it off, which really sucks. I always turn off NR on all of my cameras as NR makes the details look smeared no matter how much is used. It does not look natural at all. SO how does the X-T1 and E-M1 stand up at ISO 3200? We would expect the Fuji to wipe the floor and leave the Olympus in tears, but again, not the case. The Fuji is better but the Olympus crop with ZERO NR does not look bad. The Fuji is still applying some NR, the Olympus is NOT.

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So there you have it, even when the E-m1 has the NR turned OFF it is not far behind the Fuji which as NR on the lowest setting. The Oly is also sharper showing more detail in the crop. I prefer the Olympus here for the 100% JPEG crop and the high ISO comparison at 3200. I also prefer Oly color as you can see from the shots here that are all with the E-M1. Also, proof that the E-M1 can be used and is used for Pro work that looks AMAZINGLY beautiful in color, DR and sharpness. SO many discount the Olympus just because they own a Fuji or Sony without any valid reasons. All of them are great in their own ways. What you choose is up to you for your own tastes.

ISO 1250 with 18-55 Kit Lens

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More about the X-T1

The Fuji X-T1 has the same menu style as previous Fuji bodies including all of the different JPEG color filters such as Velvia, Astia and Provia film simulations. Do they look like the film counterparts? No, but they can be nice for those who want to shoot JPEG as they give vibrant, contrasty and more punch to the files if that is what you seek. Basically this is like an X-E2 on steroids in an all new body shape. It shares the same sensor as the X-E2 so we still have the X-Trans “Look” that many love and some do not love so much :)

The Battery life is good, the EVF rocks, the control scheme/layout is fantastic and everything is right there on the camera to control. NO MORE menu diving. If you decide to go for the one with the kit zoom it is indeed a great Kit Zoom. Not as sharp as the primes and not as fast, but still…for an 18-55 Kit Zooom it is the best I have tried even including Image Stabilisation.

Below are some images shot with the kit zoom, exif is embedded on each but most were shot wide open between 18-55. 

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The X-T1 specs and features:

16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large 16.3MP APS-C CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-T1 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans bespoke pixel array, the sensor is designed with a randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the need of an optical low-pass filter for reducing moiré and aliasing. By removing this filter from the design, higher image sharpness is possible. Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are also taken into account using the EXR Processor II, which helps to automatically compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur in order to produce images with the utmost inherent sharpness.

The X-Trans sensor also works to provide highly effective noise reduction and a clean signal-to-noise ratio. This enables smoother-looking imagery that becomes especially apparent when photographing in low-light situations with an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200. Additionally, a top continuous shooting rate of 8 fps is possible, for up to 47 consecutive frames, to benefit working with moving subject matter.

EXR Processor II

Aside from benefitting low-light performance, the EXR Processor II also provides quick performance throughout the entire camera system. The camera start-up time is about 0.5 seconds, shutter lag is about 0.05 seconds, and the shooting interval time is about 0.5 seconds. A fast autofocus performance speed of 0.08 seconds is also enabled using the advanced Intelligent Hybrid AF system using both contrast and phase-detection focusing methods.

Intelligent Hybrid AF and Enhanced Manual Focus

Intelligent Hybrid AF is a quick, responsive autofocus system that employs both contrast and phase-detection methods to acquire focus quickly in a wide variety of lighting conditions and shooting situations. Clear focus can quickly be attained to aid in catching fast-paced movement more easily. Three focus modes are available (AF-S, AF-C, and M) for greater control over how the X-T1 achieves sharp focus. When working with autofocus, the AF area is divided into a 49-point matrix in order to gain clear focus of any type of subject matter. Additionally, a built-in AF assist lamp is available for aiding the focus system when photographing in low-light situations.

When working with manual focus, two additional features can be employed for enhanced critical focusing in a more controllable manner. By using the phase-detection pixels located on the imaging sensor, Digital Split Image technology is able to assist in acquiring precise focus through the implementation of four striped focusing aids; akin to a rangefinder focusing method, once these stripes have been lined up, sharp focus can be ensured. Also contributing to manual focus accuracy, Focus Peak Highlight has been integrated and enables a more objective system of focusing by way of highlighting sharp edges and lines of contrast, using one of three colors, once they are in focus.

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Multi Mode Real Time Viewfinder

An advanced electronic viewfinder has been incorporated into the X-T1′s design to support clear eye-level monitoring along with a host of unique viewing features to better support a more efficient overall workflow. The Real Time Viewfinder is comprised of a 2,360k-dot OLED display and features an exceptionally high magnification of 0.77x, along with a 31° angle of view. This perspective is further complemented by the 0.005 sec. lag time, which smoothly and seamlessly renders scenes and moving subjects.

Beyond the technical aspects of the viewfinder, an adaptable graphical user interface has also been designed to increase efficiency during shooting. Four different viewing modes are available:

FULL: This mode takes advantage of the high magnification ratio of the viewfinder and produces an image that fills the majority of the viewfinder in an unobstructed manner. Shooting information is presented at the top and bottom edges and does not interfere with the image frame itself.

NORMAL: This mode enables you to focus on the composition at hand while still having an in-depth understanding of camera settings and shooting conditions.

VERTICAL: When the camera is held in a vertical orientation, the information display automatically rotates so it is facing upright for easier reading of camera settings. When working in this mode, images can also be reviewed in the vertical orientation.

DUAL: Serving to benefit those working with manual focus, this mode presents a split screen view of the scene where you see both a regular view as well as the Focus Assist View (Focus Highlight Peaking and Digital Split Image) at the same time, allowing you to concentrate on the image composition as well as critical focus accuracy.

In addition to the four viewing modes, the shooting information displayed within the viewfinder can also be customized to suit one’s needs. 19 different settings can be toggled on or off depending on preference.

Classic Camera Design

Featuring a body design reminiscent of SLR film cameras, the X-T1 exhibits a meshing of both analog exposure controls along with intelligent automated technologies. The clean and functional body design incorporates physical shutter speed, ISO, drive mode, AF mode, and +/- 3 EV exposure compensation double-deck precision-milled aluminum alloy dials that pair well with the manual aperture rings found on many of the XF lenses for intuitive exposure setting selection. Depending on individual needs, six customizable buttons, dual command dials, and an easily-accessible Q Menu provide an efficient solution for modifying some of the most frequently used camera settings, such as ISO, white balance, and file settings. For more extensive menu navigation, as well as live view monitoring and image review, a 3.0″ 1,040k-dot LCD monitor is available and features a tilting design to better support working from high and low angles.

Furthermore, the magnesium alloy body also features approximately 80 points of weather sealing to protect itself from dust and moisture, as well as temperatures as low as 14°F, for confident use in trying conditions.

Full HD Movie Recording

Full HD 1080p video recording is supported up to 60 fps, with other frame rates and formats also available. Full-time AF tracking is available during recording with subject tracking capabilities for ensured sharpness when either the subject is moving or if the camera is moving, panning, or zooming. +/- 2 EV exposure compensation is available during recording as well as the use of Film Simulation settings.

An HDMI port enables high definition playback of movies to an HDTV and the inclusion of a 2.5mm input supports the use of an optional external microphone for enhanced sound quality.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is built into the camera and allows for instant sharing of images directly to an Android or iOS mobile device. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app allows you to browse the image contents of your camera from your mobile device and transfer both videos and photos, and the entire sharing process is further expedited by simply pressing and holding the dedicated Wi-Fi button to begin transferring immediately. Remote camera control and monitoring is also supported through the use of the app, which enables Touch AF, shutter release, exposure settings adjustment, Film Simulation modes, white balance modes, macro, timer, and flash controls to all be adjusted from the linked mobile device. Location data can also be embedded into image file’s metadata for geotagging.

Film Simulation Mode and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-T1 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. Pulling from their line of transparency films, PROVIA offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, VELVIA produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and ASTIA gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, PRO Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while PRO Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions. In addition to the colorful benefits of these Film Simulation modes, there are also monochrome modes that simulate the look of traditional yellow, green, and red black and white contrast filters. A sepia mode is also available for producing an inherently nostalgic look.

Eight Advanced Filters are also available to creatively enhance the look of imagery, and include: High Key, Low Key, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple).

Other Camera Features

An in-camera RAW converter lets you record your images in 14-bit RAW and process them prior to computer-based editing procedures. This process enables you to modify the exposure, white balance, and other controls directly through the menu interface. Additionally, for more thorough processing of files, RAW File Converter software is included for RAW image processing on your computer.

Interval shooting is possible with intervals of 1 second to 24 hours for up to 999 frames.

Compatible with UHS-II memory cards for fast transfer speeds during shooting.

Multiple exposure mode gives you the ability to overlay imagery in-camera. When working in this mode, subsequent exposures can be paired and the final appearance can be previewed on the LCD or in the EVF before making the final exposure.

Motion panorama mode allows you to record expansive views up to 360° wide in a seamless, sweeping manner.

The included EF-X8 shoe-mount flash has a guide number of 26.2′ at ISO 100 and provides additional illumination to imagery for photographing in dark conditions. A sync terminal is also available for use of additional optional external flashes.

Four different auto bracketing modes are available: Dynamic Range, Film Simulation, AE, and ISO Sensitivity.

The included NP-W126 battery enables approximately 350 frames to be recorded per charge.

Blown Highlights? As with previous Fuji cameras I find them easier to blow highlights than my Leica M, my E-M1 or the Sony A7 or RX1. The 1st image below shows this. I had Exposure Comp dialed back to help avoid the blown highlights. The rest of the image is exposed correctly (face) yet his shirt is blown as is the background walkway. This was with the Kit Zoom in the harsh Mid Day AZ sun.

ISO 200 – 18-55 at 55mm

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14mm at ISO 200

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14mm at ISO 640

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35 1.4 at f/1.4 and ISO 200

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14mm at f/2.8 and ISO 200

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Pros and Cons of the Fuji X-T1

Pros

  • The ergonomics and feel are great
  • The EVF is the best I have used to date
  • The Body is weather sealed
  • The AF is now pretty fast and is the fastest AF of any Fuji body to date
  • Many fast primes are now available for the X system
  • Fuji colors!
  • Controls are just as I like them. Available and easily found. including ISO dial.
  • Direct button for Manual Focus aid when using manual lenses
  • Swivel LCD
  • 350 shots per battery charge

Cons

  • T stands for “tough” but body does not feel as tough as the Olympus E-M1
  • EVF gets grainy at night/low light
  • JPEG’s are not so hot, especially at 100%
  • AF speed depends on lens used, 35 1.4 still on the slow side
  • Back thumb pad is horrible – mushy and not very tactile
  • Movie/video quality not so hot, Fuji still lags behind here
  • No way to turn off Noise Reduction which causes issues
  • Skin tones could be better

My Bottom Line Real World No BS Conclusion on the Fuji X-T1!

Here we go..the final word..MY final word. Not all will agree with me here but I always tell it like it is, regardless of politics, favoritism, or any nonsense. In the past I have been hard on Fuji X Bodies. I have loved the X100 and X100s, and still do but was never a fan of the X-Pro, X-E1, X-E2, etc. They were and are good cameras that can make beautiful images in the right hands but I always saw something in the files that did not draw me in and I never was a fan of the lackluster body performance. I remember saying back in the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 days that Fuji will one day release a camera that will put those to shame in the handling, speed and control department.

Is the X-T1 “that camera”?

I feel it is. While not perfect, it is THE Fuii X Body to get if you love Fuji and want a responsive, fast, easy to control and set up body that feels great in the hand and is super high on the usability factor. The EVF rocks, the LCD rocks, the feel and handling rock and the IQ is the same as the previous X Bodies. If that is your thing, the X-T1 will feel like a masterpiece to you.

I do have to say that I had a couple of issues with the review sample. On three occasions on my last day with it it would not wake out of sleep. I had to turn it off and on again to get it to wake up. Also, my friend Ashwin Rao purchased one after seeing my video about it and it died after 2 or 3 shots. DEAD. The store had to take it back and order him another.

So there may be some buggy X-T1′s shipping but as usual, I am sure Fuji will be on any issues with Firmware updates as they are the best when it comes to this. Without question.

I own a Leica M 240 with a 15 and 50mm lens. Love it to death. The IQ can not be reckoned with by anything I have seen but one camera, the Sony RX1. I also still own one E-M1 (had two) and a couple of lenses. I have a Nikon V1 and J1 and something new on the way in April/May. I will not be buying the X-T1 as it does not fit in to my kit anywhere. I can not justify spending $3000 on an X-T1 and 2-3 good lenses when I already own amazing cameras. I just would not use it and I prefer the skin tones out of the Olympus over the Fuji sensor.

If I were starting new with NOTHING, the X-T1 would be high on my audition list with a 23 1.4, 35 1.4 and 56 1.2.

The X-T1 is a beautiful but not perfect camera, but then again, NO CAMERA is perfect and I do not think one will ever exist. I have to hand it to Fuji, they kicked ass with this release and to me, it is the best APS-C camera solution on the market today. if you are a Fuji fan, this one is a no brainer.

WHERE TO BUY

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 and BH Photo at this link HERE

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 at Amazon HERE

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 at PopFlash.com HERE

I also recommend the 14 2.8, 23 1.4, 35 1.4 and 56 1.2 lenses for this camera. The 55-200 is also a nice telephoto zoom to have if you own one of these cameras.

35 1.4 at ISO 200 and 1.4

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35 1.4 at ISO 1250

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ISO 2500 – 18-55

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More thoughts from Brad Husick who tested his Fuji X-T1 to shoot indoor Lacrosse:

I took the Fuji X-T1 and the Fuji 55-200 lens to shoot an indoor lacrosse game. I was the team photographer for the Washington Stealth for three years, logging tens of thousands of shots on Nikon and Canon DSLRs. I have seen some promising results on the web of the X-T1 shooting horses and car races, so I was hopeful the X-T1 could stand in for these large DLSRs on game day.

Exposures at this arena were metered at ISO 3200, f/4.5 and 1/160 sec, so the lighting wasn’t ideal by any means. The camera/lens combo had some difficulty locking on focus initially and also had some problems keeping up with moving players. Shot speed was quick, but not anywhere near delivering 8 frames per second. This maximum spec speed can only be achieved under ideal bright lighting conditions. Image stabilization in the lens worked quite well. With a 90Mb/sec. SDXC card the camera had no trouble saving short bursts of images. I did not try to fill the buffer as that doesn’t match my shooting style for indoor lacrosse.

In my analysis of the X-T1 as a sports shooter, I must conclude that the Nikon D4 (my primary sports camera) and the Nikon 70-200 f/4 lens have nothing to worry about. I won’t be selling my Nikon kit any time soon if I continue to shoot sports. Full size Canon outfits also measure up significantly higher than the Fuji. It’s hard to be too disappointed with this result as Fuji has designed a superb all around system at an affordable price. They weren’t gunning for the D4 or 1DX (at $5000 and up) so the results are not a surprise. For slower sports or more predictable positions of the players I think the X-T1 will be a fine tool, and is significantly lighter than the pro DSLRs.

One surprising and pleasing experience I had in this test was the normally difficult white balance setting under a mixture of mercury vapor lamps. Depending on the age and condition of the individual lamps the color temperature they output can very quite widely. This presents most cameras I have used with a real challenge. The Fuji X-T1 shows you the effect of WB choice on the fly, full frame, and also lets you tune the settings on a 2×2 grid. In short order I could match the gray color of the concrete floor on the camera’s screen to what my eyes were seeing. I have never before been able to so easily and quickly get the right WB settings in indoor sports arenas.

Based on what I see in the X-T1 I believe if Fuji set out to compete with the likes of the full size DSLRs for sports shooting they have the expertise and technology to do so with a future product, but this would be a huge mountain for them to climb as Canon and Nikon are so deeply entrenched in the pro sports shooting world. I don’t expect them to put their money into this battle any time soon.

I’ll be keeping the X-T1 for many reasons but the days aren’t numbered for my D4.-Brad

35 1.4 at ISO 200 – click all images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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Mar 032014
 

11 cities minus one in 15 days in Europe with OMD-EM5

By Ramon M Flores

Warm greetings from LA!

I’m an avid fan of the site. It’s one of my sources to better my photography. I’ve learned a lot from all his postings and enjoyed viewing all the images shared.

I thought I might as well share some of my images though reluctantly because I still find my photography way below par as I want it to be. I’m a ‘point & shoot’ shooter who happens to have a Nikon D700, a Fuji x100 and an EM5. This reluctancy delayed my decision to share. I have been thinking of emailing Steve as early as September last year. Then I thought, this set of photos (though quite ordinary) might be something different because of the story behind it. So here it goes.

July-August last year, there was an opportunity for me and my wife to accompany our daughter to her school band’s Europe trip. She plays the trumpet and their band performed in 4 cities during that trip. I was so excited that I brought with me almost all of my camera gears. It’s a 15-day Europe trip to 11 cities and we jump-started in Paris where we spent 3 days & 2 nights. Took a lot of pictures including some snapshots of the last leg of the Tour de France. My mind was all set and already fixed to a photo trip adventure while still in Paris.

…on the 3rd day, we left Paris. And this is the sad part – I lost my Nikon D700 & Fuji X100 cameras to a thief in Brussels, including my Nikkor 50mm 14.G & 14-24mm 2.8G lenses, and Fuji X100 WCL, hence I lost all my photos taken in Paris during the first 3 days of my trip. I therefore have no photo documentation of our stay in Paris.

Anyway, lesson learned.

All of these photos were taken using my Olympus OMD EM5 with the 12-50mm lens kit which survived the remaining 12 days of the trip. This camera is hanging my neck almost the entire trip. I had then the opportunity to play around quite a number of its feature. What a fantastic camera. It compensated or at least eased my sadness in losing most of my gears. My realization is that, with this camera, I don’t need my other gears in the first place. You may call it ‘justification’. This is my second attempt to share some of my pictures with Steve. I did not get lucky the first time I guess. Hope this time around, my photos would merit his attention. It’s an inspiration to move on with my hobby on photography with the likes of your dad around unselfishly sharing his love for photography.

Presently, I’m still shooting with my OMD and haven’t thought of adding gears though I’ve acquired a 45mm & 75mm lens for my OMD.

The photos below is a sampling for each cities we’ve visited (minus Paris of course). All photos shot at base ISO 200 and aperture priority unless indicated.

Thank you and my warm regards.

Ramon M Flores

http://www.pbase.com/monflores

Brussels ‘bikes for rent’

14mm, 1/200s, f/6.3

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Brugge ‘color block’

12mm, 1/6000s, f/5.6

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Amsterdam ‘the red is on’

12mm, 1/100, f/5

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Heidelberg ‘hand held night shot’

12mm, 1/3s, f/3.5

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Hague ‘experimenting on presets’

dramatic tone preset

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Goar-Bingen ‘river cruise’

Pop art preset

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Bavaria ‘from the castle’

36mm, 1/80s, f/5.7

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Cortina ‘open door’

12mm, 1/80s, f/3.5

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Innsbruck ‘my daughter’s trumpet’

37mm, 1/125s, f/5.7

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Venice ‘open canal’

12mm, 1/320s, f/8

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Feb 272014
 

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One year with the Sony RX1

by Raymond Hau –   http://jkspepper.tumblr.com    -    http://www.flickr.com/photos/_dhermes/

 

My setup used to be a Canon 350D with various good lenses, then I decided I needed an upgrade and so, after many a umm’ing and ahh’ing over which full-frame Canon model to upgrade to I went and bought a Sony RX1 instead.

That single action brought about a complete change to my outlook on photography and my photographic equipment needs.

Refreshing

The RX1 concept was different to anything that had existed before it and in my view rather refreshing; to provide the best photography output in as simple as manner as possible… and make it small.

It’s not for everyone, the fixed 35mm lens and lack of a viewfinder will be sure to put off hardcore gear addicts and the price will put off everyone else but for those that really know what they want out of a camera, out of photography, will never let go of this marvel.

Prince Edward

I shot manual film SLRs from my early days, had a break of 5 years or so and then ventured back into photography with both feet firmly in the digital camp with the 350D. I used it for a while and then I kinda. just. stopped. I had gradually lost interest; digital with all its technological advancements was exciting but something was missing, I loved photography but strangely I didn’t love this.

I picked it up again a few years later and rekindled an interest but it wasn’t until I set my hands on the RX1 that I realised what I was looking for and it was refreshingly simple.

Simplicity

The RX1 is in essence a simple device, it does not have a zoom; it does not have a viewfinder; it has neither the ergonomics nor an AF system that works; and it does not even have a battery charger (!). What it does have however is a wonderful lens mated to a superb sensor and that is all I needed.

Mongkok Flower Girls

The tactile feedback from the all metal construction, the well dampened focusing ring and the reassuring click of the aperture ring around the lens gives quiet confidence when your AF is failing and the battery is about to die after only 300 shots, because you know that when you go home and upload your 300 shots, each one will be as beautifully rendered as the next and just how you intended to capture that scene.

I didn’t care that the AF enjoys the hunt because like a Mountie, he always gets his man (most of the time anyway and don’t even bother trying when anything is on the move). I learnt never to rely on AF in certain circumstances and resorted doing things the old-fashioned way.

The Old-Fashioned Way

One could argue that I’m a little bit backwards; why move from a system which gives perfectly acceptable AF, flexibility of focal lengths and adequate cost for something that offers none of that? I had to focus with my feet, manually twiddle the focus ring and lighten my wallet by a fair few G’s (in HKD that is).

But that was the epiphany, the eureka moment, the realisation that I enjoyed it (well, I would certainly enjoy it more if it hadn’t cost me an arm and a leg but I digress).

What was missing from shooting with digital SLR systems (be it Canon or Nikon) was the process itself, I was no longer enjoying the physical process of taking photographs, it didn’t matter whether the output was good if I didn’t care to take the time and effort to get out there with a camera.

More Gloomy Clouds over Hong Kong

It is a slower process, I would even say a more considered one but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t need the ability to snap a gnat doing a reverse somersault in the tuck position off a cat’s back from 200m at a moment’s notice lest my family starve from lack of income; I’m just a guy, standing in front of a camera, asking for an enjoyable experience.

The Review

When I evaluate a camera during the first few weeks of purchase, I focus on the negative aspects of the camera; once I have a handle on what I don’t like I can then decide whether I can live with it. If I can, I will love it and keep it, if I can’t it’s gonna go; you can see this when I reviewed the Sony A7R.

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However, with this “One year in review” I will focus instead on the positive aspects of the camera, what I have found to be the highlights after owning the RX1 for a year.

35mm

I love the 35mm focal length. You either do or you don’t I suppose and I do. I’m naturally a wide-angle shooter and lengths from 50mm upwards are awkward for me; I’m always too close to the subject, perhaps I have no inhibitions about getting in close or feel that I lose the intimacy or interaction when shooting people. Oh, and I love landscapes and the close 20cm focus distance when in macro mode is also a boon for those inevitable food photographs.

Smooch @ f/2.0

Carl Zeiss

Consider me a convert to the Carl Zeiss clan; before the fixed 35mm f/2.0 attached to the front of the RX1 I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Zeiss glass, only hearing about them and not giving them much thought. Now I am a true convert and have already amassed a collection of 4 (if you include the one on the RX1). I had never seen the famed Zeiss ‘3D pop’ before now and in good sunlight it is truly evident and a marvel to behold.

3D target

The glass is sharp wide open and right across the frame, the colours are pleasing and at f/2.0 is fast enough and beautiful enough (bokeh!) for me to indulge my creative side. It’s so effortless I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s not perfect, there exists slight distortions and vignetting which can be corrected in post but for the most part can be considered immaterial.

I have read reviews and musings from the world-wide webs which go on to proffer the argument that this could be one of the finest lenses ever produced, I do not doubt them although having the lens mated specifically to a sensor with micrometer precision obviously has its benefits.

Exmor

The Exmor CMOS sensor is amazing and I am not using that term lightly. I have had access to and have regularly used a number of cameras over time and now also owning the Sony A7R, Fujifilm X-E1 and X-T1, I can empirically say the 24MP sensor housed within that tight metallic body is the best I’ve ever used. Its dynamic range (DR) and noise characteristics are exceptional.

Bar

It’s the only file where I can shoot straight into the sun and then pull every slider in post (using Adobe Lightroom) without breaking the image. It’s the only file where I can create HDR images with only one image (instead of the usual 3-plus images). It’s the only file where I never, ever, worry about artifacting in post and lets me really fire up my creative juices. The A7R and Fujifilm files are not even close on this one, like I have already said, this camera makes taking pictures easy.

Size

This thing is tiny; it’s an engineering marvel how they have managed to fit a full frame sensor inside that body. It’s by no means pocketable (unless you are a giant or like wearing trench coats) but it is vastly superior to its full frame brethren. It means that I can carry it anywhere and everywhere I go and I often do; during the last year it has been to clubs, bars, restaurants, functions, parks, hikes, events, trips; Hong Kong, England, Japan, Cambodia, India, Korea, China, Italy and more.

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It’s non-invasive, not attention worthy (especially with black nail polish over the trademarks) and not intimidating. It’s the perfect stealth camera which to many may look like an older 1990’s era point and shooter, obviously the fast and silent leaf shutter helps too.

Cambodia Boat Kid

I’ve been with friends and to people’s houses where they remarked why I hadn’t brought a ‘proper’ camera like their large Canon or Nikon systems. I merely shrug and say “I make do with what I got”, little do they know…

Shutter

It’s a leaf shutter, fast (1/4000s max, although speed limited to 1/2000s when wide open up until f5.6 if I remember correctly) and silent (it really is). It will sync flash at any speed you would want, especially useful for wide open shots during day light.

Viewfinder

There is however one thing the RX1 doesn’t give you and it’s something I know I couldn’t live without and that is a viewfinder; I was so used to optical viewfinders in all my previous cameras that it was a given that I would want the same again. Shooting using the LCD screen just didn’t give that same feel or enjoyment so I almost immediately started to look at the Sony OVF.

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I tested one and was amazed by how large and bright it was; then I saw the ludicrous price tag and decided that it was ridiculous sum of money to pay for a piece of glass so I started looking elsewhere for third party designs from Leica and Voigtlander. What I saw underwhelmed me enough for me to eventually consider the electronic viewfinder (EVF) as I was not willing to spend so much money on what was essentially a dumb piece of glass. Let’s just say that I am now a convert to the EVF world; would I still prefer a large bright digital SLR OVF? Sure. But EVFs do offer some advantages and I can live with the negatives.

Street Meat Vendor

The Sony EVF is a joy to use and only now when I compare it to the EVFs from the A7R, X-E1 (rubbish) and X-T1 that I realised I had started out with a really good example of one. I’m not sure whether the EVF for the RX1 is the same as that built into the A7R but I swear the RX1 EVF is slightly better and is enjoyable to use even alongside the large and bright EVF of the Fujifilm X-T1.

One Year In

I love the RX1. I already know I will not sell it, exchange it or need to upgrade it. When it comes to 35mm, the RX1 is all I need which is why after one year and three additional bodies I still only have one 35mm focal length in my collection and that is the one attached to this camera.

It has changed my whole outlook, my philosophy and my equipment needs.

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City life trams

I want them to be small and manageable; I want that tactile old school feel of an aperture ring; I want a single focal length to keep things simple; and most if all I want to really enjoy using it.

What I would really want is a collection of RX1-type cameras at differing focal lengths; an ultra-wide (~18mm), wide (35mm), normal (50mm) and short-telephoto (85mm). One camera for one task, no changing lenses in the field and if I didn’t bring the right camera with me, I’m not going to stress over missing a shot. Simples.

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The end.

Raymond Hau

Feb 202014
 

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Fuji X100s User Report

By Nicola Bernardi

I finally had the chance to lay my hulking hands on the beautiful Fujifilm X100s, the camera over which I have been drooling night and day for the last year or so. The camera that I always wanted but couldn’t absolutely afford (25 years old freelance photographer here, remember?). The camera that one of my favorite photographers of all times, Zack Arias, described as the “DSLR killer”.

The camera that would surprise the hell out of me, but of course I didn’t know it yet.

On January 9th, Fujifilm Italia agreed to be the main sponsor for my next big project, unCOMMON:Wheels , and I’ll be using only Fujifilm cameras while biking from the southernmost to the northernmost point of Japan starting from March 5th. They also agreed to send me a Fuji X100s a couple of months in advance for me to get acquainted with their system and cameras. Needless to say, I felt like a kid on christmas morning: the freaking happiest I could ever be! And with this new toy in my hands, I did the only thing someone can do when they are in such a hype : take selfies in public toilets with it!

Kidding aside, I’ve been using the Fujifilm X100s for almost a month now, and these are my thoughts about it.

  • This camera is BEAUTIFUL. I mean, I’ve always had a thing for cameras, but this one brings it to a completely new level: it’s the kind of camera that makes you turn when she passes next to you, the kind of camera you go home and tell everyone about, the kind of camera you would invite out to dinner, fall in love with, marry and have wonderful camera babies with. Seriously!

 

  • They say dogs are men’s best friends and most loyal companion. Well, they lie. Truth is, the fujifilm X100s is a man’s best friend and most loyal companion! In the last month, not only have I never left home without it, but I have hardly left the ROOM without it! It’s so light, compact, practical and ready to shoot away at all times, that it becomes a natural extension of yourself. You wouldn’t leave the room without, let’s say, your arms, would you?

 

  • It’s so damn versatile: it doesn’t care whether you are in bright sun, in a candle-lit pub at night, or in a club shooting a concert. For as long as the camera is by your side, it will make you shoot wonderful photos.

 

  • Last and most importantly, it’s FUN. It MAKES you wanna capture the things around you, the people you are with and the life that surrounds you in every moment. It was a feeling that, I have to admit, it was long lost for me.

 

  • But, as weird as it sounds to me now (where I got completely used to shooting with this camera only, when it’s not commissioned work), it wasn’t love at first sight. In the first week especially, I had a hard time getting used to its fixed 23mm ƒ2 lens (35mm equivalent) as it is the ONLY lens range I NEVER USE. With my Nikon, i bounce pretty easily between my fixed 20mm and my fixed 50mm and having to get used to such a range proved itself to be though work. So in the beginning, I was unhappy with the photos I was taking not because of the camera, but because I couldn’t get my eye to “think” and compose for that focal length.

The second reason I was VERY UNHAPPY with the first days worth of photos, is that the raw files of this camera are different from what I normally work with. Don’t get me wrong, the X-Trans sensor produces very good files, and handles the colors, highlights and shadows in a great way! The problem was that I found myself processing the raw files in the same way I usually do with my Nikon files, and the results were noticeably different. It took me some time, but in the end I started to realize that it was my workflow that wasn’t correct for the camera, not the opposite.

Since then, and a few more dozen hours spent shooting with this camera after, I can now say that I fell in love with it and that I completely understand why Zack Arias said “this is the first camera with a SOUL”. Being a portrait photographer, I obviously tried shooting portraits with it and the results are extremely pleasing, granted that 35mm is (in my opinion) NOT a good lens for tight portraits, and it’s suited for a more environmental portraiture. I’ve never been much of a black and white guy, in fact, most of my portraits, concert photos and street photos are densely colorful, but this camera makes me wanna shoot in black and white: it renders shadows, midtones and highlights in such a great, detailed way!

Final Verdict:

The Fuji X100s really has something inside of it that makes you wanna take more pictures, that pokes your creativity. It takes away the burden of carrying a heavy camera and leaves you with all the freedom in the world to shoot anything you want, at any time! I really, REALLY like this camera! And here’s some other photos for you to check. Obviously, all shot with none other than the Fujifilm X100s

www.nicolabernardi.com

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Feb 182014
 

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A Year in “M” Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao

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Hello, my friends, the time has come to reflect upon a year seen primarily in black and white (and many, many shades of gray, which really is life, now, isn’t it ?) through the eye of Leica’s amazing Leica M Monochrom. I have previously written about my experiences with the “MM” after 6 months of use, and following journeys with the camera in Paris, Italy, New York City, and the Palouse. In this world of constant camera turnover, where every M9 is replaced by an M240, with Sony and Olympus seemingly staking their claims to fame in the digital camera world in place of Canon and Nikon, and with Fuji surprising and delighting us with every turn, the MM is now a venerable camera that remains unique as the only current mass-produced camera with a black and white sensor. The camera’s sensor, stripped of any ability to see in color, rid of the capacity to block moire, ends up being a photon eater, proving and incredible tool for capturing light in its many presentations.

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While it has not yet been around long enough to be deemed “legendary”, the MM is already ascending that ladder, and for those whom have had the privilege of using it, you’ll see that glimmer in their eyes of the prize that rests in their hands. So come along with me for my ride, should you choose, in words and images, of this camera that is destined for legend.

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Over the past year plus, I have taken over 15,000 shots with the Leica MM. I can truly and honestly say that the camera has delivered me the most joy of any camera that I have owned. The camera’s incredible CCD sensor that seems capable of coaxing the very best out of nearly any lens that you could put on it. In particular, the sensor seems to play particularly well with older rangefinder lenses, which in some cases were designed and coated for black and white photography. It provides a rich modern look with today’s aspherical glass, almost providing “shockingly real” views of the world, which I have yet to see from any camera. For me, the look of the MM with most modern glass is almost surreal, and I have thus primarily stuck with using older, “cheap” rangefinder lenses with the camera to great satisfaction. What’s interesting to me, and what I have heard increasingly from users of the camera, is that the camera’s sensor itself seems capable of coaxing something special out of these lenses, even when the M9 and M240 may not be able to coax the same look, clarity, or detail.

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Seeing in Monochrome

First and foremost, the Leica MM is a tool for image capture, as is really any other camera that the photographer may use. However, the sensor’s capacities and limitations have forced me to change my creative perspective. As I began my journey with the MM, I had to accept the challenge of only “seeing” the world around me in black and white. Color was no longer an option, and could not be used as a crutch or a tool ton lean upon. Having converted many of my M9 images to black and white, I initially did not see an issue with the process of only seeing in black and white, but after using the M monochrome a few times, I suddenly realized at what I had given up. Shooting in color offers its own creative possibilities and limitations, and when I suddenly forced out of this option, I found myself jarred. I decided to re-calibrate and try my best to see the world around me in black and white, before I even composed or took the shot. In a sense, I began to focus on light and dark, highlight and shadow, essentially in luminosity. I began to “ignore color” to the best of my abilities and focus instead on the remaining elements of any scene that I wished to capture Over a few months, what first was a challenge soon became inspiration and motivation. I was starting to see the world in monochrome. Just as switching from the AF-10FPS SLR’s to rangefinders is freeing to many photographers who are stuck in a rut, shooting with the M Monochrom re-invigorated me to explore the world around me in new ways. I called it “Going back to finishing school.”

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Monochrom magic?

There is just something about the MM’s sensor that seems magical to me. I know that this may come off as overly dramatic, but for me and for others out there with whom I have discussed the camera, it is true. The images that I have been able to capture seem to defy my own meager skills as a photographer. Lenses that were forgotten or passed aside on the M8 and M9 suddenly took center stage in the manner of how they interacted with the MM’s sensor. Let me say a few more words about this (The following is entirely theoretical, so feel free to disregard)

I have said in many instances that the MM seems to play particularly well with older lenses. Many vintage lenses from Leitz, Canon, and Nippon Kogaku were designed and used in an area of black and white photography, where color options were rare, limited, or non-existent. Thus, such lenses utilized coatings and design that was suited to capturing monochrome images, or so I have gathered. Whereas some of these older lenses’ coatings provide poor color reproduction on digital cameras, they seem to offer subtleties in tonal capture that modern lenses of aspherical design, aimed at gathering maximal contrast and detail across the frame, seem to miss. I have noted than many modern aspherical designs seem to limit the M Monochrom’s abilities to capture shadow detail, in particular, while older lenses, which tend to capture much lower macrocontrast, save these shadows, and instances, highlights as well.

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Second, I suspect that some of the MM’s magic in interacting with old lenses actually may have come from within. When I consider photographers that have inspired me, I have tended to prefer the “look” of the works of the early Magnum photographers, Sebastio Salgado, and others who shot in an era where my “vintage” lenses was their modern options. In a sense, I learned to prefer a way of seeing in black and white in the manner that was reflective of their gear…i.e. older lenses.

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Third, the MM’s sensor seems to be unique in being able to hold incredible detail with post-processing. This seems to be due to the dynamic range that MM images seem to possess in the mid tones. The MM has been roundly criticized for its tendency to clip highlights, and this is absolutely a reasonable criticism. What is often not discussed, however, is the incredible detail and flexibility of tone that preserved in the midtones captured by the camera, as well as the shadow detail that the camera preserves. When I first used the MM, I was enamored by the near infinite shades of gray captured within the RAW file, and as a result, my initial images with the camera tended to look generally grey. Over time, I found myself exploring these greys more and more, and using Adobe LR and other post processing tools to extract the contrast and detail that I desired from this more “boring” grey. One can push and pull the images in any number of ways, and MM files will not fall part, especially those captured at ISO 3200 or less. When used in “decent light”, the camera does just fine at ISO’s as high as 5000, capturing fine detail and suppressing noise appropriately (not really like film, though, but still pleasing).

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Finally, there may also be something to the M Monochrom’s naked sensor that coaxes the most out of vintage lenses. Lenses such as the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, which seem soft and washed out on color rangefinders, simply sparkle on the MM, both in detail and tonal rendition. I was surprised in particular, by the amount of detail and resolution that some lenses, over 50 years old, are capable of capturing when paired to the MM. I theorize that the lack of the low pass filter and Bayer array allows for optimal capture of unfiltered detail. No blur or image loss is imparted upon the captured image, as light does not have to pass through any barriers.

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The journey from new to old

So here I am, a year later, a year older and hopefully a year wiser, and my journey with the MM continues. The MM continues to be my favorite camera and my preferred way to see the world around me. My aspherical lenses continue to be relegated to my M9, while the MM continues to be mated to classic rangefinder lenses. I feel that for me, what was a casual experiment with vintage lenses has turned into a serious enterprise in how I prefer to see the world around me. It mates the rangefinder experience with a unique way of seeing the world around me and brings me closer to my own idols in the photographic world.

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Onward and Upward

The journey continues, and I hope to report back to you as I gain even more experience with this wonderful camera. Obviously, I can no longer wow you with reports of impressive specs, more megapixels, and quieter shutters. I hope to bring you more images, as my explorations with the camera, its files, and my use of processing, continues. These are exciting times for many of us, as photographers. Gear these days is so excellent that it’s really up to you to choose what tool suits you best. For some of you, it may be the camera phone that is always on your person. For others, it’s the latest greatest offering, with ever improving dynamic range, color reproduction, detail capture, and camera performance. For some, it’ll be the increasing capacity of cameras to deliver images and an experience that can be instantaneously shared. For me, it’s the simplicity of a camera that’s not capable of any of this, not even capable of seeing in color, that will continue to inspire and challenge me to grow my photography in new directions and to new summits. All the best to you all in your own journeys, and I’ll be sure to check in again soon!

Yours truly,

Ashwin Rao

February, 2014

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Feb 122014
 

Using the V1 for shooting an ‘Open Stage’ school event

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I teach at a secondary school in Belgium. At school I often shoot pictures during extra-curricular events for the for the school archives, and more importantly for the official school website and social network. Last week, the annual ‘Open Stage’ took place: students aged between 12 and 18 can show off their talent on stage to a wild crowd of enthusiastic fellow students. It is the most anticipated and fun event of the whole school year. Mostly, young kids take the stage in their debut rock bands, playing covers; some impressive street dancing, a blossoming singer-songwriter, it ‘s all really varied… this year, we even had an illusionist who had quite some tricks up his sleeve.

Ideally, when shooting this kind of event, a full frame camera and a really fast lens, something like a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, would be the camera of choice. I don’t have that kind of pro-gear. Last year I used my 550D/T2i with a non-stabilized Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens. (Soon, I found out that was not good enough, so I swapped it with the ‘nifty fifty’ EF 50mm f1.8 and did some serious cropping in post.) The pictures turned out quite fine, back then.

But this year, I decided to take a risk. I decided to use my Nikon V1, which has a smallish one inch CX sensor, mounted with the Nikon 1 10-100mm VR Power Drive Zoom. I love this little combo for video shooting (https://vimeo.com/85671971), but I knew that in low light, with an aperture of 4.5-6.5, I was taking quite a risk. I do own the faster 18.5mm f1.8 as well, but as this lens is pretty wide, close-up shots would be out of the question, and cropping them in post doesn’t make much sense either, as the V1 only produces 10 megapixel size pictures.

So there I was, holding the V1 and the 10-100mm PD Zoom and the bands started playing loud! I was shooting raw, in manual mode, exposure set at 1/40 or 1/60 with iso at 3200, and aperture as wide as possible. I used no flash, and to make things even worse, a fuse had blown, so only half the staging lights were properly working. I was a bit worried, because I knew that with these settings, I really was pushing the V1 beyond its comfort zone (being iso 1600). Autofocus, usually lightning fast, was now struggling a lot, and there was a lot of hunting, and I did miss quite some good pictures because of that.

So when I got home, I felt quite uncomfortable. After import into Lightroom 4.4, I did a first selection. From the 360 pictures I had taken, I had to throw away about two-thirds, for the usual reasons: bad framing, motion blur, bad composition, closed eyes, out of focus, boring etc. Mind you, in the 120 pictures I kept, there were still some that were slightly out of focus, but hey, these kids don’t care too much about this! As long as they can show off with them on their social networks!

Of course, when zooming in on these iso 3200 pictures in LR to the 1:1 level, detail and sharpness is horrendous. I decided to leave it to the standard LR treatment, without any tweaking, and instead to quickly move on to Google’s Nik Collection Plugins. I really love them and I still have 12 days of trial left. I used the Analog Efex Pro module, and went for one of the ‘Vintage Camera’ presets. There, I would fine tune some of the settings. I love to tweak the light leaks, the bokeh and the frames which come with the plugin. When done the tif-file would be saved. Back in Lightroom, I would then export to the jpeg format, which is suitable for distribution.

Late into the night, I uploaded the ten or so pictures picture I processed through Nik Software to one flickr set, and I uploaded the 120 ‘regular’ pictures to another set. I then posted both sets on our school’s Facebook page and the school’s website. Then I went to bed. The next day, I enjoyed watching the stat counters going up, and the ‘likes’ on Facebook growing. Sometimes, being a teacher can be very rewarding!

This is my personal flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,

Ivan Lietaert

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Feb 122014
 

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Olympus E-M1 takes Manhattan!!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Just before Christmas I sailed from Southampton to New York on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner for the 3rd year running. This time I had with me two beautiful models, one was the London-based print model Irina Sosnova and the other was the Olympus OMD-EM1. My objective was to come back with some shots depicting the loose narrative of a beautiful woman crossing the Atlantic alone to be with her man in New York.

Along with the EM1 body I had with me a bag of Olympus lenses including the 12mm, 17mm (f1.8), 45mm, 60mm macro, 75mm and 12-40mm f2.8 Pro. I also had my Leica DG 25mm Summilux and a Leica M 35mm Summilux ASPH (non FLE).

The weather was pretty bad for most of the journey. We managed to get out on the deck for only 15 minutes during the whole trip. During this mini-shoot the winds were so high Irina was convinced her false eyelashes were going to blow right off! As we shot, passengers and crew were forming an audience and were running a book on how long it would take for her flimsy silk dress to do the same! I was using my Olympus FL50 flash on manual but was still managing to wildly overexpose many of the shots. Everything felt so rushed with the winds, we could hardly hear each other talk, it was both frantic and exhilarating! Fortunately I shoot RAW so managed to save the files but I really need to try to get to grips with flash this year:)

The rest of the journey we spent indoors, moving around the ship looking for interesting light and reasonable backdrops. By the end of the week we knew exactly where to go for the best light at any given time of day. Night time shooting was not easy but I did find some wonderful diffuse light in the doorway of the perfume store, thanks to the huge perfume display lighting. But as I keep reading in Gregory Heisler’s new book, things would be so much easier if I could crack the ‘off camera-flash mixed with ambient light’ thing! I will do one day but even on manual, I seem to get big variances! Anyway, I pressed on with my reflector disc and what comes through the window.

We arrived in New York with unusually balmy, warm weather. Within 3 days it dropped about 25 degrees. It started warm and rainy and we had a terrible first day of shooting traipsing around Soho looking for opportunities in the rain along with our NYC based make up artist Gil Aldrin who very wisely as it turned out, wore uber-fashionable Wellington boots!. The next day we awoke to clear blue skies, it was colder than a well-diggers ass, but brilliant sunshine. We were joined by a New York model TJ Fink who does a sideline in stand-up when he’s not smiling for the camera. We shot a few scenes near the Brooklyn bridge where it seemed extra cold by the water. I had remembered from my first year in New York that around 2pm the low winter sun lights up 6th Avenue and creates a monumental drama at around 56th street. So we headed over there and popped out the reflector which Gil kindly wielded for me. I’m not accustomed to shooting more than one person at a time and even newer to shooting peoples’ ‘legs’. Combined with the Christmas traffic and having to dive inside nearby cafe’s and hotels just to warm up it made for a challenging but rewarding day!

I also brought out a Sony A7 to use with my Leica M 50mm Summilux lens. I thought perhaps a full frame option would be useful. It’s a breakthrough camera there’s no doubt but I have to say, I found it slow and unresponsive in actual use. Reviewing images was a drag. The images I was able to capture with the fast AF of the EM1 were turning out more accurately focussed than I could do manually. Of course the A7 with that lens has a little more subject isolation but its not enough of a difference to make me want to pick it up in place of the EM1. I ended up shooting very little on the A7 even though I took it along every day.

The last proper day of shooting was even colder but we lifted the mood with a trip up to the top of the rock which was surprisingly warmer than on the street! We got there about an hour before sundown and it made for some nice reflector shots wide open and closed down. I normally have my standard prime glued to the camera but as I wanted some context, I used wider lenses a great deal. The 17mm was a great performer wide open and still gave me a very pleasing background. The 12-40 zoom was a great lens to use too, sharp, contrasty and handy in its range of immediate focal lengths. But the EM1 body was simply the most intuitive camera I have ever used. Ive been using it since September and it just works. It feels solid and secure to hold without weighing me down and it produces lovely clean files in low light. Adjusting the exposure in real-time in the viewfinder, using exposure compensation is now for me the only way to shoot. No numbers, no calculations, no guessing, just visualising the shot, dialling it in and seeing the end result appear before I even push the release.

So here are my favourites from the shoot. I’ve processed these with Photoshop, Lightroom Silver Efex Pro 2 and Colour Efex 4. Of course as some of you may know, I do have a working relationship with Olympus but I have to say, I’m a very willing evangelist (or ‘fanboy’ as I think is the popular vernacular:) I sold my M9 recently and I have a strong feeling that I’ll be selling my M lenses soon too!

More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens Olympus FL50 flash ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 60mm Macro lens ISO 1600

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm pro lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 1000

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (31mm) ISO 320

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 640

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6th Ave Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (17mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 320

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 1250

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Times Square street portrait, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux lens ISO 1600 (grain added for effect in post-processing)

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Williamsburg Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40 Pro lens (15mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Top of the Rock, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica 25mm ISO 200

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Times Square – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12mm lens ISO 1600

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Top of the Rock , Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Times Square street portrait – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 400

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica M 35mm Summilux lens ISO 250

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This was shot handheld at 1/5th of a second thanks to the OMD EM1′s in-built stabilisation system. Taken on the very cold open air rooftop bar of the Peninsula Hotel off 5th Avenue (which you can see below filled with last minute Christmas shoppers!)

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Top of the Rock,Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Feb 112014
 

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My trip to Japan with the Nikon V1

by Brandon Huff

Hello to all readers of this site! I am Brandon Huff, Steve Huff’s son. Last year in I went to Japan and I used my Nikon V1 for this trip 100%.  I just wanted to share some of my photos with all of you as well as my experiences I had along the way with the little Nikon.

When I was deciding on a camera for my trip I wanted something small, something light, and mainly great quality.  The Nikon V1 seemed to match up to what I was looking for and I am happy with my choice.

In this photo I was experimenting with night photography and long exposures. This is my Step-Brother Kyle in the desert a about a week before I headed off to Japan.

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Kyle and I left in the early morning to arrive at San Diego California, It is about a 6 hour drive from Phoenix Arizona, here are a few a photos from when we were in California.

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 About a week later, I parted off from my family to join my new family for two weeks, the People to People group. This is a bunch of High school Students, Elementary school students and Teachers where we go off and explore many areas of Japan as well as visit with a home stay family for two days. Here are a few of the pictures from Japan that I snapped:

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I have to say that when traveling to another country and having to carry a camera over 8 hours a day the Nikon V1 turned out to be much easier than I first imagined. The battery life is great, easy to just point and shoot quickly when needed and overall a wonderful experience with the camera. Japan was a great and beautiful place and the people of Japan are really kind and are happy to smile for the camera when asked.

Thanks for reading and looking at my pictures. BTW, the lens I used was the 18.5 1.8 which gave me a fast 50mm equivalent.

Brandon Huff

Feb 102014
 

M240 NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

By George Sutton

A recent post showed some photos taken with an M240 in New York at night. It generated a lot of comments, some quite snarky. There appeared to be a problem with skin tones and many commenters declared the camera useless for shooting under artificial lights while declaring their Nikons, Canons and Sonys would do a much better job. I own both a M240 and a Canon 5DIII with Canon’s best L lenses and my experience has been very positive shooting both cameras at night. The only difference I see is slightly better star effects from the Leica lenses, which may be due to the absence of an AA filter. Low ISO performance is excellent with each camera.

I perviously owned an M9 and it was a great camera but the high ISO performance was noisy, much more so than the M240. The following photos were taken in Cologne, Germany last December at the Christmas market held next to the Cologne cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most magnificent in Europe. Cologne is in an industrial region and I suspect air pollution has badly stained the outside of the cathedral. In daylight it is very dark and doesn’t photograph very well but illuminated at night it is spectacular. Below are two shots taken with my M240 on a tripod set to auto white balance, one at ISO 400 and the next at ISO 2500. Following is another photo I took at ISO 400 in the market next to the cathedral. These are the colors as they came out of the camera. Judge for yourself if the camera is up to the job.

Leica M240 with 18mm Super Elmar at f4, ISO 200, 8 second exposure:

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Same shot at ISO 2500, .5 second exposure:

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ISO 400, f8, 1.5 second exposure:

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Again, none of these have been color corrected. This works fine for me. The Canon would do as good a job but not better and would be harder to carry around. I carry my Leica in a small backpack. I also tried a Sony A7r and it took a great photo but not better than the Leica or Canon and I returned it, mostly because the autofocus was poor and more of a hinderance than a useful feature.

Jan 242014
 

USER REPORT: Olympus OM-D E-M5 for Landscape Astrophotography

by Jensen Chan

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Hi Steve and Brandon. First of all happy 2014 to you (and all the readers out there too)! SteveHuff.com has grown tremendously and as an avid reader I’d like to say big congratulations on how far the website has come and how you’ve been able to truly pursue your passion. It must have been a fantastic journey for you, and it has been a true joy for me reading all the wonderful articles and thoughts. I will surely be frequenting your website for many, many more posts to come!

Much of the recent posts coming through your website feed have been beautifully showcasing lifestyle/portraiture photography and new camera gear. What with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Sony A7/A7r and Nikon Df taking centre stage, 2013 was an exciting year indeed. Today I’d like to offer a “mini-flashback” to the humble Olympus E-M5 and share my emotions and work from this extraordinary piece. The Olympus OM-D E-M5, while not the newest toy in the neighbourhood anymore, is the first camera that truly inspired me to appreciate beauty around me like never before.

The E-M5 is the first camera that I bought for myself (thanks to your overwhelmingly positive review Steve!), and I have to say that the experience of getting this camera is akin to the classic story of meeting that mesmerizing lady in the bookstore. You see her at the counter through the window of the store. Her beauty catches your eye so you take the step into the store. So enchantingly beautiful, but yet you’re shy that you couldn’t walk up to her. Rather, you walk around the store pretending to do something else and occasionally take a gaze at her, listening to the guys around talking about her. After a good half hour you take a deep breath, suck in your belly and walk up to the store man and see if you could be introduced to her. He happily brings her in front of you, and as you meet eye to eye for the first time, you connect immediately. Your minds click, conversation flows and every thought and emotion she shares with you is mesmerising and out of this world. She clearly has a wild heart. She yearns to see the world and she has you just as captivated as her to do the same.

Long story short I said goodbye to her that day, read Steve’s review that night, and next thing I knew, I now have her with me as a travel companion. I cannot imagine my travels any other way without this little gem.

Having the E-M5 on my desk begging to be taken out for a trip, I spend every weekday at work eagerly waiting for the weekend so I could go out somewhere in the wilderness to take in all the beautiful scenery Australia and beyond had to offer. I yearned to go out. I couldn’t wait to hold the beautiful E-M5, especially when paired with the 12mm f2.0 or the 75mm f1.8 lenses.

What started as daytime scenery photo shooting slowly evolved towards sunrise and sunset sessions as they were the most beautiful times of the day. As I went more towards the extremities of daylight hours, I eventually fell in love with taking night sky shots. Here’s what the camera can do in a dark sky.

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The E-M5, my friends, is a camera as powerful as it is beautiful. Steve has covered a lot of its functions and powers here. Needless to say it is a camera that is capable of doing bucketloads of things. What I think many E-M5 owners have not realised, however, and that many reviewers do not mention, is the sheer amount of detail this sensor can take in when capturing in RAW format. If you were to take these photos in out of camera JPEG you may be disappointed by its capabilities, but the true power is in its RAW files. The sheer number of stars, tiny to the tiniest of pin pricks, can be captured by the sensor, even for stars that may be invisible to the naked eye. It might not show much in its JPEG photos, but with the RAW files given some tickling and massaging in softwares like Lightroom, the results can be astounding, all in shots that last between 15 to 45 seconds!

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Gear-wise, I don’t use much. I mainly use just the camera and a light hand-me-down tripod from my dad. No remote control, no star tracker. A simple combination of gear can be minimal but powerful, and it’s precisely the form factor of the E-M5 that inspires me to explore and not be weighed down by bulk. People who travel a lot with their SLRs, lenses and tripods will know very well! The E-M5 is by no means the best camera to capture night sky shots (which I will explain later). There are cameras with better sensors, better noise control, and with wider and faster lenses. But the best cameras for the job would cost a ton, weigh a ton and would not have inspired me to go to places like the E-M5 did. To go to these secluded places dark enough for night sky shots, you’ll need to fill your bag with food and water supplies, warm clothing, flashlights, your camping gear IN ADDITION TO your regular camera gear. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. If I had any of the SLRs instead of a smaller one like the E-M5, it’s not that I won’t have the camera with me in the wilderness. I wouldn’t even BE in the wilderness!

The E-M5 is not without its shortcomings, however. The more I shot the more apparent the weaknesses of the E-M5 became. For one, the noise levels from the sensor gets unbearable at high ISOs, even starting form ISO 640 onwards. Noise grains will start competing with the stars and the photo becomes as busy as a flea market. I have to always keep it below ISO 800, and preferably below ISO 400, which puts the camera at a significant disadvantage. With low ISO you need longer exposure times to compensate, and if exposure times are too long, you start having star trails which is not what I’m after. I can compensate with a star tracker on my tripod, but this will add weight, and the interest at this point is to take both sky and landscape together.

Second problem is that there isn’t a wide enough/fast enough lens available in the micro four thirds category for landscape astrophotography. It’s a niche market I know, but the 12mm f2.0 is the only lens that is wide enough and fast enough for this use. I can’t help but wish for something wider and just as fast, if not faster. This brings us to the third problem, the 12mm f2.0 lens. In manual focus mode when you bring the dial to infinity, IT’S NOT ACTUALLY INFINITY. It actually goes past infinity and you’ll realise that the stars becomes out of focus. You have to bring it back a notch until the red line points between the infinity mark and 3m mark for it to be truly infinity. Moving the camera constantly in pitch darkness makes life a little fiddly having to check the focus ring every single time before I press the shutter.

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But given the current capability of the E-M5, I am extremely happy with it If I had the money to spare, would I get another camera system to take better landscape astrophotography photos? I’m not sure. Beyond imaging capability, a camera also has to give you inspiration, an intangible pull, to go out and do the things you normally don’t have the motivation for. The E-M5 did just that. Sure it may struggle a bit under extreme conditions, but this is the camera that first brought me out to the beautiful world to enjoy. It’s a camera that made me want to trek my way for kilometres to the darkest areas and reach the best views I could find, and spend hours under the stars enjoying how majestic this world (and universe) could be. By giving it the right attention and right conditions, it’s a camera that can undoubtedly thrive and I cannot imagine doing this with another camera.

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Back in September Olympus Australia ran a small competition for OM-D lovers to make videos to show why they love their OM-Ds. Made one myself in my bedroom with nothing but a flashlight for lighting. This video didn’t win me anything but it’s a piece of work that shows my love for this camera. Hope it resonates with some of you too.

Jan 212014
 

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24 Hours with The Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. A quick review.

by Steve Huff

This is not really a “review” of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 but more of a report on using the camera for 24 hours. The X-E2 is VERY similar to the X-E1 and there is not much more to say about the X-E2 besides talk about the AF speed improvement and the overall response time. Has it improved from the X-E1? Read on to find out as I write about my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 14!

Here we are in 2014 and Fuji is still continuing to pump out X body after X body with another new one supposedly on the way at the end of Jan 2014. For now I will be talking a bit about the Fuji X-E2 which is the replacement and update to the X-E1, which I found to be a good camera but a little slow to focus.. With that said, the X-E1 had the IQ behind it even if I have not been a fan of the X-Trans sensor for various reasons (I am in the minority here, I admit). Nope, I have always preferred the X100 sensor above all of the Fuji cameras as it just a had a tad of magic behind it that I preferred. The X-E2 continues with the X-Trans sensor but these days the support for processing these X-Trans files has finally grown and one can now use Adobe products to process the RAW files without any issues.

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This makes a difference or course and helps to removes some of the “flatness” and odd artifacts I saw in earlier reviews or earlier X-Trans cameras (when using Adobe to process). In fact, I am now really liking what I see coming from these X-Trans sensors and I do not have to download special software or software that I do not enjoy using to get fantastic results.

Fuji X-E2, 23 1.4 at 1.4 and ISO 320

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The Fuji X-E2 looks and feels like the X-E1 though it feels better and more solid when in use with the new and fantastic 23 1.4. Thanks to B&H Photo I was able to shoot one for a few days or so and while I originally was not going to review or do a report on the X-E2 I decided to give it a shot as I really wanted to check out the new 23 1.4 lens, which I knew would rock. Fuji makes some fantastic glass and all of their lenses have been stellar even though a couple of them have had focus speed and accuracy issues. Overall they are solid in the IQ department even beating out the Zeiss Touit designs.

ISO 3200 – 23 1.4 wide open

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With the X-E2 Fuji brings in a few improvements

For starters the sensor is still 16Mp but is now named the X-Trans CMOS II and the processor is also version II. The AF is also quicker and now included phase and contrast detect AF, which indeed does speed up the focus from the snail days of the original firmware X-Pro 1. The X-E2 adds the gimmicky face detection and the LCD has grown by a smidge as well as the resolution doubling (LCD). Same battery, same charger, same everything else but the body is now $999, same price of the X-E1 at launch. Basically it is what the X-E1 SHOULD HAVE been from the get go! But Fuji is learning and I give them the award for most dedicated support because n other camera company has been as dedicated to firmware updates for their cameras. Fuji improves the performance of their cameras with each and every firmware update, and they are not shy about releasing them like some companies (Leica for one).

In use the X-E2 is indeed an improvement over the X-E1!

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Size and Weight

The size of the X-E2 remains exactly the same as the X-E1. In fact, besides some button changes the bodies are almost 100% identical. So the X-E2 feels the same as the X-E1, which as I reported before is a little on the hollowly side of neutral. Both the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 feels more solid in the build department and in fact, the X-E2 is bigger than both of them, even the full frame Sony A7! The X-E1 is nice but not quite there yet when it comes to build quality but there has not been any issues reported with the X-E1 or X-E2 so this really means nothing when it comes to shooting and bringing home the image. Just know if you are coming from Leica, Sony A7 or the E-M1 that your 1st impression may be “this feels hollow”. ;) If Rambo were to shoot a mirror less I see him more as a Leica guy…

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What happens in Vegas..gets reported about HERE. Under certain light the Fuji’s always give me this pinkish tone/hue. Talk about bad taste…they do not call it “Sin City” for nothing!

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Vegas Baby!

When I decided to give the X-E2 a try a decided I wanted to take a drive to Vegas and shoot the camera. I brought along the X-E2 and 23 1.4 as well as the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1, both with 35mm (or equivalent) lenses. All I had with me was one focal length and that was 35mm. I wanted to shoot all three and see which one I preferred shooting. Would I enjoy the X-E2 the most or would the E-M1 slaughter them all for usability? For me Usability is very important because if a camera mis focuses, can not focus or is slow to start-up or just plain giving me hassles I will HATE it. That is one reason the X-Pro 1 bothered me so much with the 1st shipping firmware. By now Fuji has surely fixed all of the teething issues..at least that is what I told myself.

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The good news is that during my 24 hour stay in Las Vegas I had 3 missed shots with the Fuji out of 100 due to not being able to focus due to low light. This is a huge improvement over when I reviewed the X-Pro 1. I also missed a few from the camera taking so long to wake from sleep mode. By the time it popped back on the subject and photo pop was long gone so beware if you are attempting to shoot on the street when you need all of the speed you can get. When the camera goes to sleep it can take a couple of seconds to wake up. Other than that I had only TWO shots that mis-focused out of the 100. So again, a huge improvement over the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 (in my experience).

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This is more like a modern day camera :)

The color was typical Fuji and if you love Fuji and know Fuji then you know exactly what I mean. Fuji has a way of rendering colors that can be very pleasing. They can pop, they can give a feeling of “wow” and they can be very contrasty as well. Throw that Velvia setting on and shoot JPEG and you will have some rich and contrasty vibrant shots and IMO a bit too much. But some love the JPEG presets and they are well known to be that “Fuji Look”.

Rich Fuji Colors will explode from the X-E2. These are colors that do NOT come out of a Sony or Olympus. If you like it you buy Fuji.

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Shooting it with the A7 and E-M1..which did I prefer?

While I was having fun walking around Vegas and looking for a shot or two I was taking turns shooting between the X-E2 and Sony and Olympus. For starters I can say that the fastest and most complete feeling experience came from the Olympus E-M1. To be honest, it feels and shoot with such speed and grace and feels so good doing it many would never need anything more. It does lose quality as the lights get low though and the Sony and Fuji was able to keep plowing through. Still, the 17 1.8 on the Olympus was able to shoot without issue in any light and remained fast in doing so no matter if it was dark or light. The Fuji and Sony slowed down in the AF department when the lights got lower but as stated, the quality stayed high.

So it is a give and take and all depends on what you desire more..speed and usability or the best IQ in all situations. All cameras delivered images for me that I was 100% happy with. None of them left me wanting anything more. I enjoyed them all.

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Auto Exposure..a quick comparison

As a quick test for my own curiosity I wanted to shoot each camera and lens wide open with Auto ISO set to ON. The 23 1.4 at 1.4, the 17 1.8 at 1.8 and the 35 2.8 at 2.8. What exposure and ISO would each camera choose? How much higher would the Sony have to go in the ISO dept to get the shot? The results are below. Be sure to see my full size file comparison of the X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 HERE.

First the Fuji. Set to 1.4 the ISO chosen by the camera was ISO 1600 and the Shutter Speed was 1/60s.

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The Sony was set wide open to f/2.8 and the camera chose 1/60s and ISO 6400! Yes, ISO 6400. Due to the slower lens  the ISO had to be jacked up. As you can see the Fuji DOF looks the same as the Sony but the Fuji need a 1.4 lens to match 2.8 on the Sony. If I threw a f/1.4 on the Sony it would have been much better with a lower ISO, more shallow DOF and more pop. 

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And the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 at 1.8. You would think the Olympus would fail here but it chose ISO 1600 and 1/30s. A little more noisy but still looks great considering the circumstances and low light. This shot has the MOST DOF for obvious reasons. 

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The thing to remember here is that I had an f/2.8 lens on the Sony. If I brought along the 50 1.5 Voigtlander or the Sony 55 1.8 the Sony would have the most WOW factor and neither the Olympus or Fuji could have touched it. for sharpness, noise or 3D pop. In other words the Sony can do better as it has much more in the reserve tank but the Fuji and Oly are maxed out to their limits here.

To sum it up..

To sum it up..the Fuji X-E2 is the BEST fuji X body at the time of this writing. I may still prefer the X100 and X100s but if you want interchangeable lenses then the X-E2 gets my nod for best body today (until the new X-T1 arrives at $1700 US). At $999 it is a good buy and fairly priced for what you get. Many like to claim that the Fuji’s have the best IQ of any camera today. I do not agree with that at all but can say that these Fuji’s have a look all of their own and can pump out fantastic beautiful quality images that have the Fuji signature stamped on them. If you happen to adore that signature then there is nothing better than the X-E2 to get you there.

Fuji is pumping out quality fast primes as well. The 23 1.4 is the best lens from Fuji that I have shot with and the aperture dial on the lens is the icing on the cake. I think ALL camera manufacturers should do this as it just adds to the whole shooting experience.

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Today we have choices like we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica are just a few that come to mind when I think of high quality small mirror less. Each one of those manufactures have a solid offering that can deliver images that rival just about anything out there, and imagine..it WILL be getting better in 2014 and beyond.

My only niggle with the Fuji X-E2 is that the auto white balance can be pretty off in some lighting where the A7 and Oly did fine. I sometimes get a pinkish and harsh hue in low light situations (see the nuns above of the table balancer below) which I have only seen in the X-Trans sensors. Other than that I had no problems with the Fuji X-E2.

So yes! I can highly recommend the Fuji X-E2 and especially the 23 1.4 lens.

Where to Buy the X-E2 and 23 1.4 Lens.

X-E2  - B&H Photo

23 1.4 – B&H Photo

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X-E2 – PopFlash.com

23 1.4 – PopFlash.com

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X-E2 at Amazon

23 1.4 – Amazon

More images below from my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 1.4! Enjoy!

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Full size from the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. EXIF is embedded. Right click and open in a new window to view correctly.

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