Jun 172015
 

Houses of the Holy

By Steve Parker

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I’ve been a long time reader of your site and having read and learned so much from yourselves and other contributors to the site I thought I would stick my head above the parapet and contribute a few images from my ‘Houses of the Holy’ project.

I have long been fascinated by the incredible architecture of places of worship around the world and stand in awe of the craftsmanship that goes into the design and construction of these buildings. Wherever I am in the world I find myself being pulled first toward the churches and cathedrals and so, from that pull, decided to turn it into an on-going project.

The three images here are taken in my home country- England. Two are of them are of Winchester Cathedral which is to be found in the county of Hampshire. It is one of the largest cathedrals in England. The smaller, less ornate building is Quarr Abbey a monastery located between the villages of Binstead and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight in southern England. The name is pronounced as “Kor”.

As you can see, I tend to favour B&W with a dark look and feel to them but I also like to selectively ‘light them up’ a bit; sometimes to accentuate what is already present but more often than not, I just put light where it shouldn’t be! A few people have criticised me for that and have taken the time to tell me about the laws and nature of light. Whilst I do understand these laws, I don’t particularly worry too much about it. To me, it gives them a bit of a different look and, as photography is all about creativity, I’m happy with that.

With regards to equipment used, I don’t have a particular allegiance to any brand (although I am a bit of a fan of Fuji’s to be honest). Because I manipulate my images so much, it doesn’t matter too much to me what camera I use. If I recall, Quarr Abbey was shot with a Fuji XA-1 and Winchester Cathedral with a Lumix LX7. All are hand-held using available light and processed either in Lightroom or Photoshop (likely both!).

Quarr Abbey

Winchester Cathedral (2)

Winchester Cathedral

I hope you like them and if you want to see more of my B&W work I can be found at www.steveparkerphotography.com or on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsteveparker/

Thanks for the opportunity and for all that you do with this site. It’s a rare gem.

Regards

Steve Parker

Jun 172015
 

Simone & My X-Pro 1

By Jermore Santos

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Hi Brandon & Steve,

Great site you have going on, this is just a little write up on my shoot with Simone and my X-Pro 1. I decided to leave my Canon 5D Mk III with my L Series zooms and strip back my photography, my awesome talent, Simone had complete trust in that the images that come out of the Fuji with the 35mm prime would be comparable and so we embarked on a little photographic endeavour. As I adjust the aperture ring around my 35mm f1.4 Fujinon the image darkens anticipating the coming break in the clouds, revealing a beautiful golden autumn sun. My ‘guestimation’ is spot on, thanks to the camera providing real time exposure in live view.

The most amazing realisation as a photographer is how the photons bounce off objects, be it landscape, lifestyle or product. To create contours by bending the light around your subjects while framing the image to reveal only what you want around your subject. Shooting with primes forces your creativity to go into overdrive as the forced perspective creates limited options for composition onto your frame, with the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, I get a similar angle of view to a full frame format 50mm, an angle that is so similar to our eyes that this is probably why the nifty fifty is the world’s most popular prime focal length. Speaking of the 50mm, last year in I went to Japan, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to snag myself a beautiful little vintage Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens in one of those awesome used photographic stores in Japan at a fraction of the cost of what I would have paid here in Sydney. I managed to score the more expensive f1.4 at the price of one would pay for an f1.8 here in Australia. The beautiful vintage FD lenses aren’t as sterile or tack sharp as today’s lenses and they bring a warmth and some organic nostalgia back to photography, I use a cheap FD to X Mount adapter to piece it all together from eBay and the results can make any photographer giggle with delight.

We ended up getting rained out but not before catching some beautiful sun shower shots, images that you hope to get when ideas get thrown around in pre-production.

Simone

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May 292015
 
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Fuji S5 Pro User Report

By Joseph Chu

Dear Steve & Brandon,

I am a fan of your website, from beautiful New Jersey. I loved your “Flashback” post covering the Fuji S5 Pro.

Flashback: The Fuji S5 Pro. Gorgeous color reproduction. | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS

I recently put some of my pictures on a blog: chupictures. Most of my recent pictures are from my Fuji X100S & XE1. But putting together the blog made me realize that I still love the colors from my old Fuji S5 Pro. Something about that CCD sensor.

I just wanted to share some SOOC JPEG files showing the colors from my Fuji S5 Pro.

Sincerely,
Joe

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May 192015
 
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Camera? Doesn’t matter, shoot what you love!

By Thomas Rhee

I’ve been a visitor of your site for a number of years now and while it’s not the most polished looking site, the content is what speaks to me. It’s honest and down to earth.

Anyways, I’ve been into photography since my high school days starting with film, on and off again thru the years until around 10 years when I started taking it more seriously. Like you (Steve), I’m also very much into high-end audio, currently mostly Naim gear along with a Mac Mini and a Mytek 192 DSD DAC that acts as my music server.

Recently, my GF knowing how much I love photography, gave me a Fuji X100T along with the WCL-X100 wide conversion lens as a gift for my birthday. Also, my birthday gift to myself this year was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk.II,. My other cameras include the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Fuji X100, Ricoh GR Digital III and a Canon 5D Mk.II. Of course, I’ve been shooting non-stop with my two new cameras so my submissions will be from those two, all of which were taken within the last two weeks.

The first photo is a street photo taken with my E-M5 Mk.II after having dinner at a restaurant located deep inside of a few alleyways here in Seoul, Korea. The image is of a waitress getting hot coals for a table-side Korean BBQ restaurant. The alley was pretty dark but fortunately there was a light in front of her that acted as a spotlight as well as the two open doors (two different restaurants) that brought in some light. Nonetheless, the ISO had to brought up to 3200 to bring up a reasonable shutter speed with the lens wide open.

“Waitress”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Mk.II, 25MM, F1.8, 1/50, ISO 3200

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The second image was taken on Buddha’s Birthday here in Seoul, Korea. Like most other Asian countries, Buddhism is prevalent and Buddha’s Birthday is a big event where thousands come out to celebrate. This image was taken at one of the Buddhist temples here, nearby where the parade was happening. There was a homeless man surrounded by families, children on a field trip as well as devout Buddhists who came out to pray that day. The homeless man kind of stuck out from the crowd and I captured this while he was eating a popsicle although I have no idea where he obtained it from. The tree in the middle signifies to me a the disparity of how others see him as well as how he sees himself.

“Disparity”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 MK.II, 45MM, F6.3, 1/60, ISO 3200

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The third and last image was taken this past Sunday where my GF and I decided to go to a botanical garden just to have a leisurely Sunday and get away from the hustle and bustle of living here in Seoul. The place was amazingly beautiful and when I came across this scene, with a Juniper tree, decided to take a snap.

“Juniper & The Garden Of Morning Calm”

FUJIFILM X100T, 19MM (28MM EQUIVALENT), F8, 1/1100, ISO 400 (FUJIFILM WCL-X100 WIDE CONVERSION LENS)

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Anyways, thanks for reading and looking,

Thomas Y. Rhee

https://www.eyeem.com/u/tyrphoto

May 182015
 

NEWS OF THE DAY Part 2: Fuji X-T10 Announced!

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Seems we are getting treated to some new cameras this year…finally. We had the new Leica Monochrom for the B&W crowd, we had the E-M5II earlier this year and now we get the Panasonic G7 and Fuji X-T10 today. Coming in at $799, this new Fuji is pretty attractive. I love the new block like design. It is a different shape but almost appears to be an X100 style camera that takes Fuji lenses. Small, light and with the usual Fuji X-Trans II sensor, this one is sure to please Fuji fans.

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Sleek, modern, yet a bit of retro thrown in, the new X-T10 is Fuji’s answer to those who want to spend less but get more. Looks pretty nice to me, and I will be reviewing this one for sure.

You can pre-order the Fuji X-T10 at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

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FUJI X-T10 SPECS:

Characterized by its sleek, retro styling, the silver X-T10 is a mirrorless camera featuring Fujifilm’s unique sensor technology, versatile autofocus modes, and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Revolving around the 16.3 MP APS-C-sized X-Trans CMOS II sensor and EXR Processor II, the X-T10 is capable of up to 8 fps continuous shooting and full HD 1080p/60 video recording, and features an expandable sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200. Fujifilm’s proprietary X-Trans sensor uses a randomized pixel array in order to avoid the use of a resolution-reducing optical low-pass filter, therefore providing images with the utmost sharpness and clarity. Beyond the advanced imaging capabilities, the X-T10 further distinguishes itself through its ease of operation via direct shutter speed, drive, and exposure compensation dials, as well as a dedicated automatic shooting mode lever. Intuitiveness is further carried over to the Real Time Viewfinder, which features a 2.36m-dot resolution and 0.62x magnification, as well as a Natural Live View setting, to mimic the viewing comfort of an optical viewfinder with the added information control an electronic finder provides. Rounding out the feature-set is a sextet of autofocus modes that utilize the Intelligent Hybrid AF system for fast, accurate focusing with precise subject tracking capabilities. The X-T10 combines a rich array of imaging features with a classic, visceral design for both ease and enjoyment of use.

Beyond the core set of features, the X-T10 extends its versatility in a variety of shooting modes and features, including Film Simulation settings that recreate the look of classic Fujifilm films, such as Provia, Astia, and Velvia. In addition to the electronic viewfinder, a large 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor is also available for live view shooting and image review, and features a tilting design to benefit working from high and low angles. Built-in Wi-Fi also complements handling by allowing for remote camera control and wireless image sharing via linked smartphones or tablets.

16.3 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large 16.3 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-T10 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans 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 8 consecutive frames, as well as a 3 fps shooting rate for the capacity of an SD card, 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 0.005 seconds, shooting interval time is about 0.5 seconds, and an electronic shutter feature allows you to use shutter speeds up to 1/32000 sec. A fast autofocus performance speed of 0.06 seconds is also enabled with the advanced Intelligent Hybrid AF system using both contrast- and phase-detection focusing methods.

Intelligent Hybrid AF

Intelligent Hybrid AF is a quick, responsive autofocus system that employs both contrast- and phase-detection methods to acquire focus in as little as 0.06 sec. in a wide variety of lighting conditions and shooting situations. Additionally, pairing with the fast continuous shooting rate, AF-C can be used when shooting at 8 fps with advanced subject motion prediction to maintain sharp focus on moving subjects. Six autofocus modes are available for greater control over how the X-T10 achieves sharp focus:

AF-S + Single Point: A highly accurate focusing mode that allows you to choose one of 49 focus points, with a choice of five different area sizes, for basing your focus on a specific subject.
AF-S + Zone: This mode is ideal for subjects moving at a moderate pace or other instances where single-point focus may have difficulty tracking the subject. 3 x 3, 5 x 3, and 5 x 5 areas are available, as well as centrally-positioned 3 x 3 and 5 x 3 phase-detection areas for faster AF speeds.
AF-S + Wide/Tracking: For random and quickly moving subjects, this mode uses the entire 77-point focusing area to acquire focus on multiple subjects or subjects with unpredictable movements.
AF-C + Single Point: For photographing a subject with a fixed direction of movement, this mode allows you to choose one of the 49 points, along with an area size, to prioritize and maintain sharp focus as the subject travels across the frame or towards the camera.
AF-C + Zone: When shooting handheld, this mode lets you choose from 3 x 3, 5 x 3, or 5 x 5 areas, as well as the central phase-detection points, for tracking moving subjects.
AF-C + Wide/Tracking: Suitable for photographing from a tripod, this mode is well-suited to photographing unpredictably moving subjects by choosing the starting point in the frame and allowing the AF-C to maintain focus as the subject moves about the frame.

Real Time Viewfinder

An advanced electronic viewfinder has been incorporated into the X-T10’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 2.36m-dot OLED display and features a high magnification of 0.62x. This broad perspective is further complemented by the 0.005 sec. lag time, which smoothly and seamlessly renders scenes and moving subjects. To further enhance the viewing capabilities in difficult lighting conditions, Natural Live View can be utilized to display an image quality similar to as if working with an optical viewfinder, or, conversely, the viewfinder can also be configured to preview the effects of Film Simulation modes or other settings in real-time to alleviate the need to check photos after each shot.

Body Design

Characterized by a body design reminiscent of an SLR film camera, the X-T10 features both analog exposure controls with intelligent automated technologies and a quick-selection drive dial. The clean and functional body design incorporates physical shutter speed, drive mode, and +/- 3 EV exposure compensation milled aluminum alloy dials that pair well with the manual aperture rings found on many of the XF lenses for intuitive exposure setting selection as well as full use of P/A/S/M exposure modes. For a more automated workflow, a dedicated Auto Mode Switch Lever is located on the top plate for selecting a fully automated shooting mode (SR AUTO) without worrying about exposure settings.

Depending on individual needs, 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″ 920k-dot LCD monitor is available and features a tilting design to better support working from high and low angles.

Additionally, a built-in pop-up flash is available to provide extra illumination when photographing in difficult lighting conditions and a top hot shoe can also be used for pairing an optional external flash for greater, more controllable flash output.

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

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 Modes and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-T10 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. A refined Classic Chrome mode is designed to deliver muted tones and a deep color reproduction, similar to that of a dated slide film. Pulling from their more contemporary 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).

 

May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.

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In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.

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Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)

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My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.

 

Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.

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Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

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Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.

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The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.

 

A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)

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Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.

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The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.

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Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.

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Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Apr 272015
 

Destination Tokyo

By Paul Perton

Several weeks of Web research, making notes on Evernote to share between my Mac, Mac notebook and iPad accompanied by what felt like an endless round of reading and image gazing and I was just about ready to head for the airport.

Destination Tokyo.

In my bag an almost brand new Fuji X100T, my trusty NEX-7 and several Leica M mount lenses – just in case.

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Twelve days to see a city that’s been on my must-do list forever. Twelve days to collect enough photographs and information to compile InSight: Tokyo, the latest photographer’s DIY city manual.

As soon as your feet hit Tokyo’s pavements you know this is a special place. Everything works, the subterranean pedestrian malls keep you from the worst of the weather, buses are everywhere and the Metro is brilliant, if confusing at first.

Based on my reading, I’d elected to stay in Shinjuku – an excellent choice as it really is the heart of modern Tokyo. From here, there are few places can’t be reached directly by foot, Metro or bus. Around the centre of Shinjuku are shops, night clubs, a gay area and a red light district. A couple of blocks away is the unique Golden Gai – 200 of the tiniest bars you’ll find anywhere on the planet – most only seat 5 or 6 patrons.

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A kilometre away is the Shinjuku Gyoen Park – here you’ll find falling leaves and spectacular colours in late autumn. Next door is Yoyogi, Harajuku (Tokyo’s Carnaby Street) and so much more that I could have spent my entire twelve days just exploring here.

I didn’t. On my list were Ueno and it’s temples, Asakusa’s seemingly endless shopping market, Akihabara, home of the bizarre Maidcafe and electronics central for Tokyo’s gamers, manga fans and electronics enthusiasts.

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In between, the Ginza beckoned, the Imperial Palace demanded attention as did the city’s myriad of historical temples and museums, street food stalls, izakayas (chicken on a skewer yakitori bars), pubs, bars and restaurants. The more I discovered, the more I realised that I’d need to return to this extraordinary city and re-visit and experience anew.

For the photographer, it’s an absolute must. The Japanese themselves are polite, helpful and largely disinterested in a photographer in their midst. In a city where everyone has a smart phone in their hands with most using their camera as much as anything else, that’s hardly surprising.

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Many of the airlines of the world are offering once-in-a-lifetime fares to far away places just now. If you can find a return flight to Tokyo in amongst their offerings, don’t hesitate…

InSight: Tokyo is finished and joins four other city Guides; London, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Cape Town and is available from the DearSusan Web site (http://www.dearsusan.net/insight-tokyo-photo-walk-ebook-capture-mother-city/). All InSight Guides are US$7.99 and downloadable in PDF format, specifically for use on iPad and other tablets.

For further details contact Paul Perton – [email protected]

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Apr 162015
 

Artistic vs. Technical Perfection

By Olaf Sztaba

When browsing photography on the Internet it appears to be one huge quest for technical perfection. Message boards are groaning with perpetual arguments about the superiority of one camera system over another.

Then, there are thousands of photos so immaculately processed and photo-shopped that their technical perfection creates awe and envy in aspiring photographers. But many of the photos remind us of others we have seen before. They somehow feel plastic, artificial and cold. They lack emotion and authenticity.

In contrast, when you look at the images from the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado and others, you find thoughtful compositions, subtle moments and moods. Are they the most technically perfect photographs and the sharpest images you have ever seen? I don’t think so but somehow your eye feels content, your brain slows down and your visual emotions are elevated.

What strikes us is that those who produce a body of great work often don’t consider themselves photographers. They grab any camera and create art – they are artists. When Cartier-Bresson started shooting with the 35mm camera, other photographers of his time dismissed his new tool as a toy (back then only large format cameras were considered serious). But we should learn from artists. They see way beyond pixels and MTF charts. For them technical augmentation is just a distraction.

So why are we so occupied with a litany of technical do’s and don’ts? Why do we ask the wrong questions so many times: Which camera should I buy? How do I sharpen photos? How do I apply layers? Which software should I use? and so on.

Don’t get us wrong – we like photo gear and are well aware of our ‘contribution’ to this plaque. However, each time we put everything technical in the back seat and let our emotions and inner artistic self rule our photographic process the results always astound us.

Sure, it’s not easy. But the next time you think your photo is not sharp enough, your images are grainy or your camera doesn’t have elephant resolution this may be the best thing that has happened to you. Maybe it is the right moment to stop and re-focus on seeing.

All images were taken with the Fuji X100S/T, Fuji X-T1 paired with XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 50-140 F2.8.

Regards,
Olaf Sztaba

www.olafphotoblog.com
www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

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Apr 132015
 

FUJI X-T1 STARS

By Mohamed Hakem

Dear Steve,

I am back again with another topic Fuji’s X-trans sensor for night and stars

My Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography
My Website: http://www.hakemphotography.com

Before the Fuji time I was a Nikon Shooter..  Fuji allowed me to become more of a travel photographer who does and love environmental portraits but every now and then I return to my passion shooting landscapes and specially stars and night shots I wrote on that before on this very site: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/12/13/mohamed-hakems-user-report-idea-by-mohamed-hakem/ so I decided to Give the Fuji XT-1 a try in night and stars photography. To be honest I wasn’t expecting the APS-C sized sensor to deliver night shots as the full frames. I guess this is the only situation that I will be saying so because the sensor size does not differ to me at all.  I used to do stars and milky way shots with the D800 and 14-24 F2.8 and I have to say it was a beast. It was the all time best combination for astrophotography at its time. So I gave the XT-1 a try, it wasn’t Milky way time but still lots of stars, high altitude clouds and shooting stars.

I had to say the results were far better than I thought. First of all it was terribly easy shooting with an iPad as a remote shutter using Fuji App. I sometimes set the composition and sit on a rock couple of meters away with my iPad doing all the settings on the spot. Secondly using the focus peaking I was able to nail the focus from the first time Compared to just focusing to infinity and then increment backwards,the technique I used with the Nikon. It could literally take an hour to nail the focus.

The results were very good. shots were taken using extremely high ISOs (we’re talking 2500 and 3200) and still the noise was handled nicely.It comes out to be that I didn’t miss on shooting stars as I thought I did, on the contrary, it was easier moving around with the smaller body and an easier focusing method. the final results were not as clean as the FF but still were very good.
All the shots are taken by the Fuji XT-1,  using either the 8mm F2.8 samyung or the Fuji 18mm F2. I think If fuji made another big aperture wide-angle it would be even better.

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Mar 272015
 

User Report – Skin tones with the Fuji X series

By Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve,

I am back again with another experience with the Fuji since my switch. See my 1st post HERE 

My Website: http://www.hakemphotography.com
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Camera makers usually speak about skin tones. People always debate whether Canon is the best in rendering skin tones, some say that Nikon is better in ambient lights,some consider Lieca to be the best. The problem here is that all camera makers target their sales for Asia, Europe and the US. This makes life a little bit harder for people in the Middle east, South America, India Africa and all the countries with darker skin tones, so all the reviews and camera makers who are famous with their perfect tones are not for me

DISCLAIMER: I will be using terms like “Dark,Black, Brown skins”: I come from Egypt and we have a mix of all colors who lived in peace since the beginning of time! We in the middle east don’t even know what color racism is. So please don’t get offended in any way!

Having a camera which renders correct skin tones for all skin colors was a dream for me. I usually use natural lights and the results were always fine for pale, white and tanned skins. But as I said in Egypt we have a wide mix of colors, nearly every family have all colors. What I always experienced during my Nikon time was that it was a real challenge to capture the Brown, Dark brown and black skins. Not only you need a camera with a wide dynamic range to capture a dark skin in a highlighted background,  but also you need to capture the correct tone. For me I never found anything better than the Fuji color rendering. Maybe its the X trans sensor or maybe just the algorithm that Fuji uses but believe it or not it was never a pain to get the correct skin tone on most of the exposures, Some time you have lovely glowy white eyes, Shiny Teeth and a near black skin with a very bright background. I never got these kind of shots with my Nikon. I used to do tons of post processing to adjust the white balance AND exposure. Thumbs Up for Fuji and another reason for me to love it. Its the first camera that nails the correct skin tone for all the colors. Below are some pictures captured in Egypt.

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Mar 172015
 

titlebjarke

2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (www.zeppelincph.dk), + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (www.oneofmanycameras.com), here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: www.oneofmany.dk and www.polaroid.com

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.

***

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

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January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.

***

February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200

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Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.

***

March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

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I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.

***

April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

Picture 521

Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.

***

May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

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I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.

***

June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

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Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.

***

July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

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Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.

***

August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid

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Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.

***

September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

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Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.

***

October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

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One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.

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November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

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Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.

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December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

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Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 102015
 

Ice Hotel-10

Ice Cool X-Series

By Ben Cherry

A little about me: I’ve written two previous reports for Steve Huff Photo, it is also a pleasure to be involved with this fantastic site. I describe myself as an Environmental Photojournalist with a bit of a travel addiction, so when Untravelled Paths Ltd got in touch about going to photograph an Ice Hotel in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania I jumped at the chance. You can see more of my work through the following links:

Websitewww.bencherryphotos.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/Benji_Cherry
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography
Instagramhttp://instagram.com/benji_cherry/

This was my first international assignment using only the X-Series, having recently moved away from a Canon + Fujifilm set up to purely a Fujifilm set up. One of the main reasons for switching to this set up is the compact design of the gear, allowing me to keep much more gear in my carry-on bag without having to store any electronics/glass in the hold (a no-go for me because of the increased likelihood of damage to equipment).

Conditions were cold, as you can guess as it was an ICE hotel, but thankfully the gear didn’t skip a beat. Windchill factor in some instances must have been well into the minus teens celsius.

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For much of the trip I was using two X-T1 cameras with the following lenses: 10-24mm, 23mm, 56mm and 50-140mm. These are some of the best lenses I have ever used: fast, sharp and just a pleasure to use. The recently released 16-55mm would have also been helpful because of the weather resistance and the up and coming 16mm looks to be another gorgeous low light prime. I have very few negative words to say about any of this kit, the one thing I wish was different was that the 10-24mm had some weather resistance. Generally I had the 10-24mm on one X-T1 and the 50-140mm on the other. When I was outside in relatively heavy snow and a very sharp wind I was a bit concerned about the lens but it survived!

The other thing that I wish was different is the ability to fire a flash signal to external flashes/triggers in the continuous shooting modes on the X-T1. This would be really helpful when using quick recycling flashes to photograph scenes which are evolving quickly. After all, the camera should only have to send a signal to fire the flash, even if this was just for manual flashes initially it would be helpful. These two criticisms are made not to spit the products, as I love them to bits, but because I know this will make its way to Fujifilm and they will consider it in future developments. It is refreshing to see a company really take constructive criticism and often implement suitable changes to further the development of already very successful products.

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I really enjoyed the different film settings available, it meant that I could quickly change the look of the photos I captured when the conditions changed. However, most of the time I used Velvia as I loved the strong colour saturation, especially when the sun was shining or I was photographing indoors with LED lights imbedded into the ice.

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As well as the X-T1s I also had my ever-present X100s with me. This is such a great camera (yes I know the T is out and is a big improvement), so small and discreet, it is brilliant for taking shots in almost every situation. Here is an example where this elderly gentleman didn’t speak any English but we managed to just about communicate, using this little camera he was happy and at ease with me taking his portrait.

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A large proportion of the shots required were of the buildings interiors. For this I used two Godox V850 manual flashes for large rooms such as the Ice Church. The advantage of these flashes is that they run on lithium rechargeable batteries which are equivalent to 12 AA batteries, this was a major advantage because it meant that I didn’t actually have to change batteries once, even in the cold conditions. However, more often than not I was using the Nissin i40 flash, a brilliant compact TTL flash that really proved its worth on this trip. Being able to use this with a TTL cable and a shoot-through umbrella meant that I could efficiently get through the twelve unique bedrooms in a few hours. The importance of this was being able cope with the cold! Being relatively motionless in a building made of ice for a long period of time means your body temperature quickly falls. Thankfully the six layers I had on at the time kept me working for those few hours.

The X-Series has allowed my photography to really develop over the past two years of using it. It gives me back control through the dials which encourage creativity and certainly makes me think more before shooting. I find myself not missing my old equipment or the full frame sensor aspect, all in all I am very happy with the Fujifilm set up and its ability to cope with harsh conditions.

Mar 062015
 

The Zeiss 16-35 FE F/4 lens on the Sony A7r

by Raymond Hau

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Sony’s A7R is great little camera in some respects, not so in others and that is especially true when it came to a native wide-angle offering. For the past year, my A7R has been running the FE55mm and an adapted ZM50 Classic Sonnar and all was good as the RX1 and X-T1/E1 paired with the excellent XF14mm lens catered for anything wider. But sometimes that is not enough.

With the release of the new Zeiss FE16-35mm offering, the A7R finally has something to offer.

I run two brands of camera equipment, Sony and Fujifilm, and for a long while now Fuji has had a few native wide-angle offerings with the XF10-24mm being the closest to the Zeiss FE16-35mm. At an equivalent of 15-36mm focal length, with f/4 minimum aperture and with optical stabilisation it is on par with the FE16-35mm. Priced at HKD $6,500 being two-thirds the cost of the FE16-35mm (I paid HKD $9,700), an aperture dial and reports of it being extremely sharp and distortion free makes this doubly attractive; so why did I end up with the Zeiss FE16-35mm on my latest trip to Europe?

Simple, there are no aperture dial markings. It is a ridiculous reason but it is something that I know will annoy me to no end and I knew I could not live with it. I would love to say that the Zeiss won on merit but I had initially wanted the XF10-24mm, then eagerly awaited a Zeiss Loxia wide-angle announcement before deciding, the day before I flew to Europe, that I needed something wider and so settled for the FE16-35mm.

Not the greatest of starts but will see how it fares.

Initial impressions

It is made of metal, rather large and wide compared to every other lens I own at the moment and looks like any other wide-angle zoom. It is impressively well made and as expected has a very large front element, the first thing I did was to put a B+W filter on it. It was a large expensive but seeing nothing that seemed obscene for the money.

The images coming out of the lens didn’t wow me, it appears to lack a bit of contrast and the colours are subdued with a cool temperature cast. It does feel like a Zeiss over done.

Below you can see the FE16-35mm (at 35mm) compared to the Zeiss FE55mm on the left and Fujinon XF14mm on the right. At 16mm length, the front element moves out from the front of the barrel.

I was also impressed by the hood, it is part plastic and part metal and clicks reassuringly into place. This will not come off unless you want it to.

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Overlapping views

I like primes, it keeps my shooting rhythm simple, it is manageable and it suits my style. I have 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, 55mm, 85mm focal lengths and that is the way I prefer to shoot. I’m not a working photographer and so do I worry much when I don’t have the right focal length.

I generally pick a camera, pick a lens and then go shoot but with the introduction of the Zeiss FE16-35mm in my bag I now have a dilemma, I have overlapping lengths on different cameras bodies. Whereas once I would take either the Sony RX1 (at 35mm) or a Fuji with the XF14mm (at 21mm), I now also have the A7R with FE16-35mm as a single option.

I was intrigued to find out how these compare although I will not perform any ‘scientific’ testing – that stuff bores and for anoraks but I will at least try and provide some images for comparison. All that I need to satisfy me is to use them all in the field and see what happens.

Sony A7R & FE16-35mm and Fujifilm X-T1 and XF14mm in the snow (shot with Sony RX1)

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The Kit

For my week-long Europe (mini) road trip, I took the Sony A7R, Sony RX1 and Fujifilm X-T1 and for lenses the Fujinon XF14mm F2.8, the Zeiss FE55mm F1.8 and the Zeiss FE16-35mm F4.

I also took the Gitzo Systematic Series 2 tripod with the Markins Q10i ball head and various ND filters, Triggertrap cables, batteries and other miscellaneous items all contained within a Lowepro backpack. It is the first time I have travelled with such a large equipment bag but since this trip was to test out these cameras together it worked well.

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All Weather Support

This lens isn’t advertised as weather-proof, I’m not if any of the Sony system is. It’s advertised as “Dust and Moisture Resistant Design” which basically means it’s okay if it sits on the shelf for a while.

Anyway, this lens has so far been used in the wet and rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures. In the cold and wet, my Apple iPhone 5S actually died before the camera or lens gave any indication of following suit. The battery of the iPhone actually gave out, turning back on when I warmed it back up later.

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Mountain landscape taking of the Alps, 10,000 feet above sea level – Gornergrat, Switzerland (shot with Sony RX1)

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Against the Fuji X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R

Some shots of the FE16-35mm at 21mm as compared to the Fujinon XF14mm.

Initial impressions are that the A7R and FE16-35mm combination gives a cooler image. Obviously much for fine detail close-up given that it is 36MP versus 16MP of the Fuji but the images are a little flatter.

Obvious differences to note are the changes in field of view between the two combinations.

The Zeiss FE16-35mm images are at the (top) with the Fujinon XF14mm images at the (bottom).

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Pier and Water Jet – Geneva, Switzerland.

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Palais de l’Isle – Annecy, France

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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Against the Sony RX1

Images of FE16-35mm at 35mm as compared to the RX1.

Again, there is a slight difference in field of view (or whether the focal lengths are exactly equal) but the overall image is similar. Obviously the 36MP of the A7R gives more fine detail close-up than the RX1 at 24MP but overall sharpness appears to be largely similar.

The last image of Hong Kong rooftops was one of the very first images taken with lens immediately after purchase. The FE16-35mm appears softer than the RX1 image but after more investigation and use over time I suspect the lens is back-focusing. Using auto-focus does not guarantee an image that is in focus, I have found that I need to manual focus-peek to obtain perfect sharpness. I have somewhat confirmed my suspicions over the course of this trip as even at f/8 to f/11 on a tripod shooting the Matterhorn I have been getting some soft images on auto-focus.

The Zeiss FE16-35mm images at the (top) with the RX1 images at the (bottom).

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Bâtiment des Forces Motrices – Geneva, Switzerland

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Prince Edward rooftops – Hong Kong, China

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Optical Stability System

So I went to CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider. Before the tour, there was an exhibition of the called the Universe of Particles, in the dark. I took this; 16mm f/4.0 ISO 32,000 at 1/10s handheld. I have also given a 100% crop of the centre of the frame showing lettering on the far wall to illustrate how well this works if you also have an extremely steady hand. It doesn’t work miracles as out of the three images I took in this situation, only two came out perfectly as sharp as this.

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100% crop of the above shot took at 1/10s handheld ISO 32,000.

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Sun Flare

So I was on top of the Alps, Gornergrat home of the Matterhorn and it was a gloriously sunny day. I took a shot into the sun at f/22 – this is the sun flare and it is good. The FE16-35mm handles sun flares far better than the XF14mm and slightly better than the RX1.

This compares the Zeiss FE16-35mm to the Fuji XF14mm. The Zeiss gives a sun burst effect, the Fuji doesn’t. Simple.

The Zeiss images are at the (top) with the Fujinon images at the (bottom).

Swiss Alps – Gornergrat, Switzerland

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Too infinity and beyond, if it gets there

Whilst I was up in the Swiss Alps, I noticed that the Milky Way was positioned in such as way as to show the central mass. I could not miss the opportunity to attempt some long exposure astro photography, living between London and Hong Kong does not present much of an opportunity to see let alone attempt to photograph it.

The FE16-35mm was being a royal pain in the ass.

I really do not like electronically coupled focus rings with no hard stops. I had no idea where infinity was because it was definitely not where the OSD says it was. Getting infinity focus on the stars was a hit and miss affair and more luck than anything else. This is where the Fuji lens really shines, hard stops with distance markings on the barrel – I know where infinity focus is all the time and it works.

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Trying to find infinity focus is so bad that I may be thinking I have a bad lens; coupled with the back focus issues on AF and I think I may have a bit of a lemon.

Out of the 29 shots I took of the Milky Way, the one focused to and around infinity according to the A7R on screen display were extremely out of focus. Through trail and error, the one focussed at 11m (according to the Sony on screen display) was in focus. Extremely annoyed, go figure.

This is a 100% crop of the out of focus image at infinity. Just stupid. I hope so as I can then get a better copy from Sony.

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I’m still unsure what to think of this lens. It’s not a bad lens, it does what one should expect and the price, although expensive, is not that offensive. I can’t put a finger on it, perhaps it is the size dwarfing anything else in my bag, perhaps it the infinity focus issue (I will get this checked out with Sony when I get back to Hong Kong) or perhaps that it’s a zoom and I prefer primes.

I can not say I love this lens and I wanted to, while it has not given me the initial wow factor of all the others lenses I have purchased over the last couple of years, it does the job and works as it is suppose to. It is something that gives me my wide angle craving – if Zeiss ever decides to release a 18mm or wider Loxia, I would be tempted to switch but until then, this just works.

Would I be tempted to take this over a Fuji & XF14mm or the RX1? For sheer convenience I would but it hasn’t won be over as a conscious choice always to reach for the FE16-35mm. I think I will need a little more time.

Until then, enjoy the images.

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See Steve’s 16-35 FE Zeiss quick review HERE.

Feb 232015
 

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MIRRORLESS BATTLE! Micro 4/3 vs APS-C vs Full Frame!

E-M1, X-T1, A7s – 8 side by side tests

This was a blast to do, and shows the STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES of Micro 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame cameras, specifically the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s. Even I was surprised at some of these results and I did each test fair and square according to my rules below, which have been my comparison rules for seven years because it shows REAL WORLD shooting (not nonsense that no one does when shooting an not pro studio or lit images from a shooter who is sponsored by a camera company). This is as close as I will ever get to a “scientific test” while keeping it “real world”, and yes, it is what it is. Even so, whatever camera “loses” this test will have the fans of that brand attacking me, no matter which one loses. Should be entertaining in that regard as well. :)

Images and test descriptions will speak for themselves. Just how much difference is there between Micro 4/3,  APS-C and Full Frame when using the same or equivalent focal length? Sharpness, IS, color, detail, B&W conversions and more are tested here. 

  • I let each camera choose exposure. 
  • I am using the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s for this test so take it as just that. 
  • I set the aperture on each camera to match DOF of the smaller sensors the best I could for some tests.
  • For one test I will use each lens wide open to show DOF differences.
  • I shot each camera in the same way for each test, either hand-held or tripod.
  • ALL images are converted straight from RAW, WYSIWYG
  • Used the 25 1.4 on the E-M1, 35 1.4 on the Fuji and 55 1.8 on the Sony
  • I will pick my personal preference winner after each test based on the test itself. Score will be tallied at the end. These will be my preferences and may not be yours, which is OK. 
  • I used Adobe Camera RAW for ALL conversions which is what 95% of us use for our RAW files. No jumping through hoops to help any brand.
  • Was going to use A7II but it has many more MP and I had loaned it out to a friend for a few days so I did not have it. The A7s is the Sony Flagship in the A7 line, and is closest in MP to the Olympus and Fuji.
  • As this is a test of cameras in real world use, I let cameras choose exposure and used AWB so we can see what to expect in the real world. When we go out to shoot these cameras 95% of us use them in this way..auto exposure and auto white balance. So what you see here is what you can expect to get from each systems flagship camera. For detail shots all cameras were set to same ISO and Aperture. 

With all of that out-of-the-way, remember that the tests here are all dependent on lenses used. Some lenses on some systems will render differently when it comes to sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I used a well-regarded lens for each system, lenses that have had rave reviews. OLY: 25 1.4 Panaleica. FUJI – 35 1.4 Fuji. SONY – 55 1.8 Zeiss.

Hand held test at 1/60th s. and basic overall IQ.

My pick for best IQ here at 1/60th is the Olympus E-M1 for sharpness and color. Right click on each image and open in a new tab or window for full size files.

The reason the E-M1 did so well and WON the 1st test below? The 5 Axis IS kept it steady letting me shoot in lower light at a minimal ISO. The other two bumped ISO but also were stopped down a little more. ALL were at 1/60th S. If each image was sharp, it would almost be a wash here and would have to go by color preferences. I still prefer the E-M1 color here as well but what is important is it shows how useful the 5 Axis can be, even for 1/60th s.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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Tripod Test Stopped Down for DETAIL – Same aperture on each camera.

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

Here I stopped down each lens to F/4. NO, I did not stop down the larger sensors more as this is in no way a DOF test, it is a detail test and each lens should be at the same aperture to be 100% fair. So the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.4 was set to F/4, the Fuji X-T1 and 35 1.4 was set to f/4 and the Sony A7s and 55 1.8 was set to f/4. All were ISO 200, all were shot from a tripod that was in the same exact position for each camera.

YOU MUST CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THE LARGER VERSIONS AS  TRUE 100% LARGE CROPS

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

For me, there is no substitute for Full Frame if you want shallow DOF, but some will prefer a little bit of a larger DOF that you get from Micro 4/3 or APS-C. The reason being is that with the Olympus, you can still get some shallow DOF but you image will be sharper with more detail in most cases, if using a good lens. Same with APS-C in most cases. With full frame you can miss focus easily due to the shallow DOF. BUT if you nail it with FF the results are indisputable. For this reason, I choose the SONY as the winner here as it has the most capability for SHALLOW DOF or LARGE DOF and  this is a shallow DOF test :)

 BTW, the most detail at 100% came from the E-M1 but for shallow DOF, nothing beats full frame. The differences you see are from the lens focal length, not the sensor. The wider the less the larger the DOF (less blur), the longer the lens the more shallow DOF (more blur). Olympus used a 25mm, Fuji a 35mm and the Sony a 55mm. All give the same equivalent field of view but each lens has an effect on Depth of Field which is why you see a more shallow DOF on the Sony. As you can see, the difference between the DOF with the APS-C Fuji and Olympus are actually slight. Nothing to stress over.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

I did a crazy comparison test once showing how the E-M1 could replicate the Leica Monochrom to some extent, when it came to tonality (not detail) so how will this test go for B&W conversion between these three powerhouse cameras? For this test I shot in color and then converted to B&W using the same exact Alien Skin B&W filter for each file. Many claim Fuji has an amazing capability for B&W conversion, above other standard cameras. I never noticed this at all, so  let’s see how that holds up…

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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For me, and my tastes, I prefer the Olympus rendering the most. To me, it resembles the Leica Monochrom more than the others, and that is a camera I consider to be the best B&W camera ever made (next to film of course). In fact, this E-M1 file looks eerily similar to a Monochom file. There seems to be more grayish tones and more black details which is preferred, especially for post processing. The Fuji is 2nd place for my tastes and the Sony 3rd but they look the same as any camera B&W conversion. For the most grey tones, the Olympus somehow gets it.  You can see more details when clicking on the images for larger sizes (as long as you are not viewing on a phone).

But let us see another B&W example…CLICK THEM TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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Again, here I slightly prefer the Olympus but ALL are great. I see none here that are a huge step above the others though the Olympus has the most detail yet again. Interesting huh?

SCORE SO FAR: So far we have Olympus with 2, Sony with 1 and Fuji with 0. Let’s keep on moving.

Color Test

Just to show how each camera renders colors. These are all from RAW so any in camera color choice will not come into play.  Shot outdoors in natural direct light to give all cameras the best chance at showing their stuff. This will be 100% personal preference as what I like in color you may not. I did three color shots and chose three different winners, so this one is a draw as color can be quite good from all of these cameras.

The 1st sample is for color accuracy only. After looking at the crayons with my own eyes and looking at these images I feel the Sony comes closest to reality, with Olympus being 2nd and Fuji 3rd. 100% crops are embedded when you click on the image for a larger view. 

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Another color test and this one was between the Fuji and Olympus with the edge for me going to the Fuji. I feel Olympus is equally as good but the Fuji shot has a teeny bit more something that I like. Either are superb. The sony has a yellow cast here so it gets last place. 

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Finally another color shot in beautiful morning light. My grass, up close. ;) This time I much preferred the Olympus shot with the color, the light and the highlights all working for me. Then the Fuji. The Sony here is a bit dull but that is only in direct comparison. Many may prefer the Fuji or Sony here.  All from RAW. There is no “winner” – just preference. 

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Portrait Test

Many of us love portraits, so how will each camera do with a basic portrait? Let us see which YOU prefer. I prefer the Olympus as the Sony AWB really screwed the pooch creating a much too cool image. The Fuji is a bit overdone with color and INCORRECT color IMO while the Olympus strikes a balance that is most pleasing to me. This was just a simple indoor natural light test shot and nothing more. I am not a huge fan of the rendering of any of these to be honest as it was a quick indoor portrait with no good light, but it had to do.

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Here they are converted to B&W using the VSCO T-Max Preset. Click them for larger 1800 pixel wide versions to see the detail and rendering better. The Fuji has the most contrast here,but it looks better than the color version. The Olympus stays nice and neutral and the Sony looks much nicer in B&W due  to the color being off in the original. But one is Micro 4/3, one is APS-C and one is full frame. NOT that huge of a difference. 

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DR Test

Dynamic Range is good from all three of these cameras, and the Olympus E-M1, contrary to popular belief has is about equal in DR to the Fuji X-T1 with 12.7 stops of DR. The Fuji, in RAW (it is less in JPEG) can do between 9 and 13 stops of DR and the Sony has 13.2. So all are similar but the Sony has the most (as you can see below). The Olympus is quite amazing for its smaller sensor to have 12.7 stops but in the real world, the full frame sensor shows its stuff. Here is a shot that was blown out. I recovered the highlights the best I could for each file.

Below is the Sony file AFTER I brought back the highlights that were blown to shreds. The SONY has the most DR hands down, which is what I figured due to the full frame sensor and big fat pixels. 

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Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

Sony Wins ISO, no contest. ;) What is interesting is that Olympus had the most detailed file at high ISO. For some reason the Fuji, even though tripod mounted and focus point selected manually, looks very soft (and yes, this is the sharpest part of the Fuji image) and that may be due to the NR Fuji applies that you can not turn off. The Sony looks softer but this is due to DOF even though I stopped down the Sony. It also appears that the Fuji RAW files are also doing some sort of Noise reduction even when turned off, which also loses detail. Me, I much prefer detail which is why I turn NR off on all cameras that allow it. (Fuji does not).

It seems here that the Fuji is even or slightly better than the A7s, but remember, the A7s allows you to go above and beyond most cameras with 102,000 ISO capability. Shooting at ISO 32,000 on the Sony provides usable and nice files. Not possible on the Fuji  or Olympus.

The Fuji, as I said, is applying NR to the RAW file and the Sony and Olympus are not. So not a fair test as the Fuji does not allow removing all NR. You can see the noise is smeared. The TRUE winner for high ISO is the Sony A7s. The winner for most detail at high ISO is the Olympus E-M1. The CA in the OLy shot is a result of using a Panasonic 25 1.4 which is an awful performer for CA.

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Now ISO 6400

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Again, (many do not read what is written above the tests) the Fuji has NR as it can not be turned off, which is why you see the noise is actually smoothed and smeared. So in the above examples the Fuji has NR and the others do not. The Fuji is also the softest (which some has to do with NR as it robs details) – a shame you can not turn it off on the Fuji. It is even applied to RAW files.

My Final Thoughts and which camera I prefer out of all of these..and WHY.

Moral of this story? Anyone who tells you Micro 4/3 cannot hang with larger sensors is 100% incorrect, as I have said for years.  Also, what was not mentioned yet is the fact that the best made and designed body here is the Olympus E-M1. It is built to a higher standard the the Fuji X-T1 from solidity, quality of dials and buttons, and unlike the Fuji  – ZERO hollowness and zero cheap feeling parts without much extra weight at all.

In other words, I found the Fuji’s build quality to be the lowest of the three from body to dials and switches to the D-Pad, etc. This is not just talk, it is fact.

The E-M1 feels and operates like a pro camera, the Fuji *feels* more toy like (though it is NOT a toy, at all). The Sony is solid and hefty without any cheap feeling parts but again, the E-M1 slightly beats it in build quality and feel and control. The new Sony A7II stepped it up and is now about equal to or better the E-M1 in build.

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Of these three cameras my money would be spent on the Olympus 1st and Sony 2nd (and it was). I would skip the Fuji for my tastes. Just not my cup of tea from feel, focus, usability, speed and IQ in most lighting scenarios. For me the E-M1 has it all from build, speed, looks, feel, features, In body IS, lens selection, IQ and capabilities. The Sony A7s is a low light champ and works great with 3rd party and Leica glass but overall, the best all around general use every day and pro camera *of this lot* is the E-M1 by Olympus, and I say that without hesitation.

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So take this for what it is, a few tests with a few cameras using one lens each, all 50mm or so equivalent. Any IQ discrepancies there may be with Micro 4/3 (and there really are none besides shallow DOF possibilities of full frame) are easily over ridden by the amazing tech in the body and the features, usability, and overall quality of the images. It’s not only a superb camera to use, but it is a very FUN and enjoyable one to use. Many times the Fuji, again, frustrated me (dials would move too easily so settings were changed just from placing the camera in my bag, the way to change the drive mode is odd, with a cheap lever that also switches way too easily…overexposure on many occasions…etc). The Sony was fine besides a few AWB issues that I never noticed until doing these side by sides. So seeing the files next to each other and handling each body one after the other told me a lot.

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At  the end of the day these cameras can all do a great job, but it will be personal preference as to which one is best for you. Do some PP and the images can go to the next level, so remember that as well.

So for me, I love these two plus the Leica M, which will always have a place in my heart.

At the end of the test, here is the score with my eyes on all of the tests: Olympus with 6 wins, Sony with 4 wins and Fuji with 1 win. Your score may be different of course, as this is not a cut and dry thing. It is personal preference. So for you, Fuji may win or Sony may win. That is the beauty of it. It is not about WINNING or LOSING it is about WHAT YOU PREFER. 

Even though this test is what it is..some owners will come here to defend their choices, which is fine. But it doesn’t change reality. Also, no need to say ‘Fuji needs Capture 1, Fuji needs EV comp set at -1, Fuji needs sharpening, Fuji is light and hollow feeling  because of weight, Fuji needs a special technique for AF, etc etc”. To me, these are all excuses and we should not have to fly through hoops to get the best quality from our cameras. It should NEVER be “work”. All cameras were tested the same with no special treatment to any of them, that was important. Enjoy ;)

REFERENCE: See my Olympus E-M1 Review HERE, my Fuji X-T1 Review HERE and my Sony A7s Review HERE.  For the record over the past seven years I have been called a Leica, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Nikon and Pentax fanboy. Lol. Why? Because I love many cameras from all of these manufacturers. 

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Hello to all! For the past 7 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 dedicated 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.

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Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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Noctilux

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35 Cron

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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