Oct 122012
 

Sony week Wrap Up and more thoughts on the Sony RX1

So here I am in my hotel room at the Carmel Valley Ranch on my last day with the Sony team and I have to say that this week has been incredible. When Matt from Sony told me it would be “EPIC” he was not kidding. Sony knows how to launch new cameras and they do it with style and substance like no other but how others should.

This was considered a “press event” so there were about 15 or so of the top Journalists in America here for this week where we all raced cars, flew in helicopters, at lunch at vineyards, photographed kite surfers at Waddell Beach, and hiked around Big Sur. Some of us also put on bee suits and worked with bees. We also drove down the coast to see some amazing sights as well as made many new friends and had some great times. Sony even had a contest at the end of the week and I won the “best photo” category with the following RX1 JPEG shot which was shot a f/2:

The whole purpose of this trip of course was so that Sony could “officially” launch their new cameras and letting all of us try them out all week shooting what we wanted and when we wanted. We chose what we wanted to shoot with and we did not have any restrictions or instructions. All Sony asked was for us to share our honest opinions, good and bad. This was very refreshing because some companies do NOT want you to share the bad, and when you do they start to snub you. I could name names but won’t. :)

I had a great time with some of the guys here including Chris Gampat from The Phoblographer, Photo John from Photography Review and Amadou Diallo from DPreview.

Chris Gampant from The Phoblographer as we were testing the Sony 500mm on the NEX-6 – shot with the 10-16 on the NEX-6

So let me say it was great to meet ALL of the guys who attended this event and if I head to Photo Plus in a couple of weeks I look forward to chatting more.

The RX1 – Final Thoughts on my 1st Look 

As for me, I am happy I came as I had quality time with the hot camera of the week, the Sony RX1. In fact, it was extra special because there are only 11 RX1′s in the world and only 4 of them were here. I want to thank Sony for letting me use one for a few days to put it through it’s paces. I made a video with it in my room even though I had bad lighting and I added some video samples in the video as well (taken with the RX1).

I found that during my time with the RX1 I really liked the size, the build, the lens spec, the QUALITY of the lens which is sharp corner to corner and the ISO performance in low light, which is the true test of ISO performance. Sony is climbing a little but of an uphill battle with the RX1 due to the cost of the camera because the “masses” are not into a fixed focal length lens. Many enthusiasts are, and these are the ones Sony made this camera for.

I know many who shoot with a Leica M9 and 35 Summicron. Just from the little I have seen I have no doubt that this RX1 can exceed the Leica M9 and 35 cron in quality, low light and even detail once I can process RAW files. The quality is there and it even hadles B&W conversions amazingly well. Below you can see a 100% UN scientific comparisons of simple JPEGS between the two, same focal length and same aperture.

The Sony RX1 at 2.8 – converted to B&W

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Below, the Leica Monochrom with 35 1.4 at 2.8

Sony puled out the stops on the RX1 with superb quality video as well. When shooting video it has rich color and a 3D pop if you shoot wide open. I am hoping  to explore the video side more when I get a review unit with final firmware. I am also excited to process the RAW files as all I have seen are JPEGS. The RX1 is an exciting camera and in regards to quality of build and files it is top notch. $2799 is pricey sure but so is a full frame Canon 5DIII (which I would take an RX1 anyday over a 5DII or Nikon D800..more on this below) or Nikon D800 or Sony A99!

The RX1 can not be compared to a DSLR in any other way except amazing full frame image quality and in fact the results I was getting from the RX1 beat the A99 in overall IQ because you do not have  to depend on the lenses and hope they are sharp. The 35mm f/2 built into the RX1 is perfectly mated with the sensor and it shows. I am not writing hype, I am writing fact as I always do. When a $2799 coat pocket full frame camera can match any of the big guns, for me, that is pretty special.

If someone offered me a FREE 5DII, Nikon D800E or RX1 and said I had to pick one..for me it would be the RX1 simply due  to the fact that I personally can not stand huge heavy cameras and lenses! The fact that the RX1 is up there in quality of these two with their best 35mm lenses means no contest for me. Those who say “you can get a 5DII for that money” really has no clue what they are saying as this camera is not for someone who wants a DSLR. It is for those who DO NOT want a DSLR but want kick ass DSLR full frame quality that is small and light.

Remember that to see the images the way they should be seen you have to click on the image below. It will open up a larger version. The shot below is just a snap of all of us hanging out while waiting for the rain to pass.

The RX1 is not an action camera though. If you shoot action or wildlife then go to the DSLR. The RX1 is for those who want high quality anywhere they go. Portraits, street shooting, candids, landscape, etc. This camera excels in any of  those situations much like a Leica does. In fact it even has some soul much like Leica and makes many other cameras (including the NEX series) seem flat and lifeless when looking side by side.

The RX1 is a serious tool and it does have a shutter speed dial on the back (seems to have been some confusion with this) by your thumb next to the playback button at the top. It has a dedicated EV dial, aperture dial on the lens, can focus as close as .2 meters and the detail, color and DR of the sensor is at the top of the heap.

Manual Focus and shooting in 50mm with the Sony RX1

BTW, Manual focus also works GREAT with this camera. Was a joy to MF using focus peaking and never had an OOF shot using it . The RX1 also has more tricks up its sleeve with its focal length multiplier. With the press of a button you can shoot in a 50mm focal length (cropped) and the samples look good and sharp in my quick JPEG tests. This is not just a simple “digital zoom” but instead the camera actually crops the photo and re processed the file to make sure it is nice and detailed.

A quick JPEG at f/2 in standard mode using the 35mm lens as it should be..in 35mm – ISO 800 as it was actually dark out though it appears to be light in the image. I am ONLY demonstrating the crop feature here, not IQ.

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and with a press of a button I turn on a 1.4 multiplier and get a 50mm equivilant

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and if you want to go to around 75mm press it again and get it

So while you have a native 35mm lens on board you can shoot in 50 or 75 equivalent modes without losing much of anything.  I will test this with portraits when I get the camera again (which I hope is soon)!

Bokeh

With a fast f/2 Zeiss lens there will be Bokeh to be found but remember this is a 35mm lens, not a 50 or 90 so the out of focus backgrounds will not be extreme like you get with a 50 Summilux Leica. You will get full frame depth of field with the RX1 though and the Zeiss Sonnar f/2 does a great job IMO.

35mm, f/2 ISO 2500 – taken to show Bokeh and DOF of the 35mm lens on the full frame sensor

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ISO 800 to show DOF and Bokeh – YOU MUST click the image to see the image how it is meant to be seen

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ISO 1000 at f/2

What I do NOT like about the RX1

Well, Sony asked me to be honest and of course the RX1 is NOT perfect. I wish they would have included a built in EVF and even added a tilt LCD.  I also wish it had a built in ND filter like the Sony X100 did as the max shutter speed at f/2 is 1/2000s. It is not a real issue as you can get an ND filter for $50-$70 and be done with it but would have been nice to have one built in. The price is a bit high but Sony has spent an incredible sum to develop this camera and it shows. If you want the quality of a full frame DSLR with an amazing fast lens and incredible quality sensor that will fit in your coat pocket and go with you anywhere then this is the ONLY game in town

I am sad to leave the RX1 but hope to see one soon for full review. When I do get one expect some crazy comparisons and full testing of the camera. I have a feeling the one I pre ordered will remain pre-ordered because once I test the RAW performance  this could very well be my one color camera while I hang on to my Leica monochrom for my serious B&W work. (though the RX1 is pretty damn good at this as well).

You can Pre-Order the RX1 at B&H Photo HERE

You can Pre-Order the Sony RX1 at Amazon HERE

BTW, I was told the RX1 will start to ship 1st week of December but they are making sure to get them out BEFORE Christmas :)

PS: I will be heading home this weekend so the site schedule will go back to normal with guest posts, daily inspirations, and the next installment in my Leica Monochrom review as well as an Olympus 75 1.8 review. STAY TUNED and as always thank you for reading my site. I appreciate each and every one of you who do.

Oct 092012
 

Night Time Street Shooting with the Sony RX1..AMAZING High ISO Samples.

Ok guys, I promised more and more and more on this hot camera so here is MORE! Just returned from a late night walk and am BLOWN AWAY by the high ISO and usability of the RX1 on the street late at night. The camera is fast, responsive, silent and shooting at ISO 25,600 in B&W is IMO..beautiful.

I will keep this post short in text as I have to get some sleep as I have an early and VERY long day tomorrow (when the official shooting begins with the new Sony cameras) which will be jammed packed shooting from 7am to 10PM. (am writing this at 1am).

So with that said I just want to share some photos from the late night walk. Things I like about the RX1 after a day? Size, weight, speed, lens, and build quality. I will admit that shooting in low light at night did result in a few AF misses but it was not any worse than most other cameras when shooting in the dark. On a few occasions the camera hunted when the light got REAL low and a couple of times focused on what was behind my subject. When I put it into MF mode using focus peaking it worked VERY well. Remember this is NOT final firmware so maybe Sony can improve on this. They say they are improving the IQ some as well so we shall see.

EXIF is embedded on all shots below and you must click them for a larger view. Also, when I get home next week I will write more in-depth on the RX1 with crops and processed shots as well. After that Sony should be sending me one soon for an “official review”. The thoughts I am posting now are just my 1st look thoughts and samples.

After tonight’s walk it made me really get excited again about this camera because it does low light/night VERY well. The high ISO is nothing short of astonishing and just think, every image here is an OOC JPEG without noise reduction. ISO 25,600 is VERY usable for gritty B&W street shooting. Pair that with the super sharp and soulful Zeiss 35 f/2 and well…where did I put that spare $2700?

BTW, San Francisco is AWESOME and I hope to come back really soon when I can spend some quality time here.

ISO 6400 direct from camera JPEG – click for larger – Noise Reduction turned OFF!

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With an f/2 lens you really do not need higher ISO when you have light so this was the lowest ISO of the night, 160 – OOC JPEG in Standard Color mode..

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ISO 5000 – OOC JPEG – NR OFF!

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ISO 2500 – NR OFF

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ISO 8000 – YES, 8,000 – NR turned OFF

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Now we get down to business…ISO 25,600 – NR OFF!

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ISO 25,600 – the lens and sensor combo are stunning…ZERO NOISE REDUCTION! and this is a JPEG direct from camera!

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ISO 25,600 – Direct JPEG, NO NR!

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25,600

And a color shot at ISO 25,600 – retains all detail and sharpness – NO NR, direct from camera JPEG!

Pre-Order the RX1 at Amazon

Pre-Order the RX1 at B&H Photo

Sep 242012
 

New York City seen through the Leica M Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE

Hello, all of my photo friends. Photokina 2012 has come and gone, and it’s been a whirlwind of news from a gear front. Huge announcements have come from Sony (RX-1, A99), Canon and Nikon (with full frame entry level cameras), Fuji (XE-1), and of course Leica (with the M and M-E). In this day and age, gear gets discussed as much as the photos that it takes, and today’s glorious gear rapidly becomes yesterday’s news. So here I am, hoping that you’ll pay attention to an article about a piece of gear AND the photos that it took in my hands.

It’s easy to forget that just a short few months ago, Leica announced the much ballyhooed M Monochrom to the public, a camera of many firsts for Leica: It was the first digital black and white-only rangefinder camera. It was the first Leica digital RF camera with impressive ISO capacity expending well beyond previous ISO tolerances of digital M bodies. And with the release of this camera, public debate opened up and opinions were volleyed back and forth regarding the merits and necessities of such a device…a black and white only digital monstrosity…Why create such a camera when the Leica M9 and M8 before it are capable of wonderful B&W, further augmented by the fact that one can selectively adjust color channels to get a plentitude of B&W looks. Why lock oneself into one way of seeing? I too had many such questions as I hesitantly put in a pre-order of my MM.

Sadly, Leica has been slow to release the camera to the public. I have yet to get my own MM, due to shortages of supply here in the U.S. Thankfully, a very good friend here in Seattle was one of the first to receive a copy of this camera, and he was generous enough to lend it to me for a trip to NYC. Wow, what a friend, huh?

As a quick aside, I wanted to thank the community here of enthusiasts for truly brightening my world with their knowledge, expertise, skills as photographers, and generosities. As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite parts of the enthusiast community is meeting so many wonderful people in the real world, and making virtual relationships on Facebook and various forums into lasting friendships in the real world. I can count so many good people as just such friends, including Steve Huff himself and so many others. It was just such a friend, whom I once knew only virtually on the forums, who has become a great friend and photo buddy in the real world, who was gracious enough to insist on lending me his $8K MM to take and shoot. So thank you, Matt D, for your generosity. You rock, my friend!

 

Okay, back to the essay at hand…that is, how did I find the MM in practice? In a word, “fascinating”. Exhilarating may be another word. “Challenging” may be a third…ultimately, I would suggested that the camera was thoroughly satisfying.

The MM, for those of you who don’t know, possesses a black-and-white only sensor with substantial dynamic range, particularly in the mid-tones….It forgoes the Bayer color filter array and receives its inputs directly onto it’s sensor without ever “seeing color”. In doing so, the sensor becomes more sensitive to light, and the MM has a minimum native ISO of 320 and a maximum ISO of 10,000 (higher than even the maximum ISO of 6400 with the coming Leica M)…One issue that was reported widely is that it’s quite easy for the MM to blow out highlights, which then cannot be rescued, due to lack of color channels to do so. Areas of pure highlight that show up as clipped on the MM’s histogram are truly lost, so one must care to exposure (or should I say, underexpose) to save those highlights. Beyond these subtleties, the MM’s imaging sensor is essentially the same 18 MP CCD sensor that can be found in the M9, without an AA filter. Body, build, and finish echo the M9-P, though the matte black paint job and blackened lettering lend an aura of stealth to the camera. The MM is a niche camera within a niche rangefinder market, but this niche is capable of amazing results…but if you guys are reading this, you know all of that. So how did I find the MM in practice? Much like the M9, I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable camera to use in the real world.

First up, the challenges? Given that the MM produces a B&W representation of the captured image, it can be said to be comparable to film in the way one may consider conceiving the image or subject matter prior to even taking the image. In a sense, with the MM, color filters, famous and long used in B&W photography for the looks that they generate by selectively filtering out certain parts of the visible spectrum, become instantly relevant on the MM. This was a challenge to me, as someone who’s done most of my photography in the digital age. With the MM, I had to familiarize myself with filter choice and appropriateness. For example, Red filters often add drama to an image by darkening a blue sky and enhancing contrast, but don’t necessarily make for the best people photography. On the other hand, green and yellow filters are very nice for capturing people, but their effects on the MM’s image is much more subtle.

The second challenge to the MM comes in its sensitivity to light. The MM’s base ISO is 320, though images can be pulled digitally to ISO 160 in camera (this is a software fix, from what I have heard, similar to the ISO 80 on the M9). In broad daylight, shooting lenses such as the 35 mm or 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph becomes challenging, and one must stop down. Thankfully, using color filters lessens the transmission of light through the lens, and shooting wide open may be enabled in some circumstances. Ultimately, if one chooses to work wide open with their lenses in broad daylight with the MM, a neutral density (ND) filter would be a reasonable investment. I didn’t have a ND filter for my trip, so I simply stopped down a bit when shooting…in a sense, yet another challenge, in seeing the world a different way and focusing and learning about the elements of each composition rather than simply blurring them away by shooting wide open.

The third challenge with MM comes in achieving appropriate exposure. The MM’s image carries a dramatic amount of information in the mid tones and shadows, seemingly at the sacrifice of details in the highlights. Thus, in using the camera, I tended to underexpose by 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop to attempt to save highlights. Thankfully, given the detail present in mid-tones and shadows, such adjustments come fairly easy to the MM’s files, and I was satisfied to adjust myself in this manner.

The final substantial challenge to using the M, in my eyes, was the post processing workflow. I had a preview of this challenge by editing the photos made available a few months ago by Jono Slack (for those of you who don’t know Jono or his work, you owe yourself a favor to go to his site, http://www.slack.co.uk/ , or strike up a conversation with him …he is a true gentleman-scholar in the Rangefinder community). Jono’s files showed me the tremendous detail capable of being captured by the MM. His images showed the depth of dynamic range present in the mid-tones, which provide a unique challenge on deciding how to use this information in the post processing workflow to achieve the image that you want. In a sense, the detail and dynamic range in the mid tones made available by the MM’s sensor provides the photographer with far more choice and flexibility on how to render skin tones and mid tone detail in the post-processing process. While this grayscale information yields a base MM file that can be described as flat, I found that the files are quite flexible and don’t break apart (i.e. banding, radically increased noise) that I have seen with color files from various cameras, including the M9. This process of playing with, and push/pulling mid tone details is in reality quite fun, and allows the MM shooter to envision his or her images in novel ways….

So off I was, to the streets of Manhattan, equipped with my friend’s MM. What could I achieve, using my own style of shooting and my own processing? I found, in practice, that the MM was quite fun to use. I’d typically use a yellow or green filter (green seemed to transmit less light and was preferred for broad daylight) to render people, and I’d occasionally grab a red filter to add drama to a scene. To me, it was the use of these color filters that made the biggest difference to using the MM on the streets. I could presumably use the MM without color filters, but part of the fun, for me, was to see the effects of such filters on the rendered image. Otherwise, shooting the MM encouraged me to see the street in new and exciting ways. Instead of trying to see and highlight color, I focused more on light and shadow play as well as composition. I thought more about scenes and depth of field, since the MM’s light sensitivity often necessitated stopping down (and as you all know, I enjoy shooting wide open). I thought quite a bit about preserving highlights and how to properly expose a scene in a meaningful way, so as to focus and preserve details in the areas of my particular interest. All in all, I feel that the MM provided a new challenge, one that I hadn’t experienced in many years, really since the purchase of my first rangefinder, the Leica M8.

To me, the challenges of the Leica M Monochrom represent its strengths. It forced me, in my brief 5 days with it, to see in new and creative ways. It forced more attention to detail in how I chose to compose or perceive a particular shot. In post processing, I learned much about the camera, its flexibilities, and its eccentricities, and I have found the images produced by the camera to be full of hidden treasures.

To boot, the Leica MM is a remarkable image-making machine. It captures detail in a way that I could only have dreamed previously. The detail is preserved through much of its ISO range, though personally, I’d avoid ISO’s about 6400 unless you wish a very grainy look. At base ISO through ISO 1600, the images render very cleanly and are quite flexible to post-processing and extensive pushing and pulling. At ISO 3200, the details of the images remain preserved, though noise becomes a factor, particularly if the image isn’t perfectly exposed and requires a bit of processing. At IS0 6400, the images remain useable, but noise starts to overwhelm detail. Beyond ISO 6400, I generally found the camera’s results to be unacceptable…. still, to have a camera capable of producing sharp, detailed images at up to ISO 6400, has to this point, been a dream for Leica shooters…. Kudos to Leica for making this dream a reality.

So if you wish to check out the entire set of images, including those shown here, just link over to my  flickr site.

All in all, I found the Leica M Monochrom to be a fascinating experience. Will I still be getting one? You bet. I found that the camera has much to teach me yet, about how to visualize an image and focus on the core elements of the image without necessarily getting “distracted” by color. I once thought that converting a file to Black and White was an easy cheat to making an unremarkable image suddenly pleasing. This is no longer the case, as the MM is a far more challenging camera to use for the average RF shooter compared to the M9. I accept that challenge and hope to learn more….Now, if Leica could just deliver one to my dealer soon ;)….

Aug 242012
 

Taking Photos in “The City of Light” – The Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone. It’s been a few months since my last post, though I have been quite busy, photographically speaking, trying to travel as my job and personal life allow and take photographs along the way. One observation that I have made, and this may be purely my perspective, is that people tend to take more photos with their newly purchased gear, and recently, the release of new gear has slowed down, as companies ready for big camera announcements at Photokina. The past year has seen the release many wonderful cameras have been introduced this year, many of which Steve has covered, including the fantastic Olympus OM-D, Fuji XPro-1, Sony RX100, Panasonic GX-1, Nikon D800, and Canon 5D Mark III. With Leica, there was this May’s announcement of the Leica M Monochrom, which has yet to see the hands of paying customers but a represents a camera full of promise. While new gear is always fun to try out and test, we shouldn’t discount tried and true gear as tools to channel our collective photographic muses. The release of newer products does in no way invalidate yesterday’s cameras of choice. Thus, while Photokina may see the release of a Fuji X200, Olympus EP-4, Leica M10, a professional Olympus OM-D, and many other tasty tidbits, the Fuji X100, Olympus EP-3, Leica M8 and M9, and OM-D will remain as amazing tools for capturing photos.

M9

XP-1

M9

I wanted to take the time to celebrate my longstanding favorite camera, the Leica M9, and one of my new favorites, the Fuji XPro-1, as amazing photographic tools by which to grow my photographic skills. I used both cameras extensively during my recent visit to Paris this past July, and the exercise of photographing this city for a week validated my vision for the city by capturing it in the way that I saw it. We currently live in a golden age of photography, where cameras are truly fantastic tools for creative expressionism. Every camera will have strengths and weaknesses, and one should choose a camera that suits their needs and style, and go out and make images. For some, it’s the iPhone that suits their needs the best. For others, tech cameras with medium format backs are necessary to capture the required image. For me, over the past 6 years, the digital rangefinder has been the camera that suited my needs, and in particular, the Leica M9 was an digital realization of the ideal rangefinder camera. Remember that while the M10 may soon replace the M9 at the top of Leica’s supply and production food chain, the Leica M9 remains and will continue to be a fantastic tool for those who love rangefinder photography. Similarly, the Fuji XPro-1 is a fantastic option for people liking cameras in a smaller form factor, with rangefinder styling. It is far from perfect, with quirky autofocus being its primary issue, but the images acquired from its innovative sensor have the potential to wow both the photographer and his or her audience. Let me talk about my experience using these cameras, while walking the streets of Paris….

 

M9

 M9

M9

During my visit, I used the M9 about 75% of the time, preferring its responsiveness and build, and I used the Fuji XPro-1 about 25% of the time, particularly when the lights dimmed in the city. I found the XPro-1 to be wonderful for the street, but a bit challenging with faster moving subjects (even in street life with the motion of peole). The M9 in contrast, rarely, in the way… I have become so accustomed to the rangefinder way, that this, in large part, was why I used the M9 more. It’s a camera that I have grown intimately comfortable with, through travels in Egypt, Venice, India, and other far away places. It’s through the M9 that I have grown to be comfortable with the 35/50/90 mm way of seeing the world. That being said, once one learns its quirky and at times exasperating focus system, the Fuji XPro-1 will reward you duly with wonderful images. I have provided you with my perspective of this camera as well, in a separate article. In practice, the XPro-1 takes a bit more planning to use as a street camera. With both the M9 and the XPro-1, one must practice seeing the image before it actually happens. That being said, the autofocus of the XPro-1 can hold one back when capturing the decisive moment, in certain times when acquiring quick focus is necessary, but if you get the hang of pre-focusing with the camera, that is locking in on a field of focus by holding half way on the shutter release to capture the point of intended focus, you can then find your moment and capture it. Just pointing and shooting with the XPro-1 can be dicey as a way of shooting, so it forces a new way of setting up and capturing your shot. The M9, for me, was an easier tool to use, partly due to my familiarity, probably because I didn’t have to rely on autofocus to nail my intended plane of focus and quickly snap my image. I found that using both cameras at the same time was disconcerting, and I decided that a better way to use these cameras was to choose one to take out and use it for both its strengths and its limitations. Thus, on my trip, the M9 became my daytime camera, while the XPro-1 was often used later in the evening and night or when AF would be helpful. Ultimately, I feel that one should travel using a camera that they are comfortable with. In this way, the camera will not get in the way. For me, the M9 never got in the way, and when grabbing the camera out of the bag, the M9 came out ¾ of the time, compared to the XPro-1, which I had slightly less comfort with.

M9

 M9

And yes, Paris, J’taime (I love you!)….what a great city it is….For any of you whom haven’t had the privilege of visiting Paris, please do. Paris is a city of great history, cultural diversity, and a vibrancy in its people and visitors that breaths a literal life into the paved and picturesque cobblestone streets . Many writers, photographers, philosophers and poets and travelers have romanced about the city for years. I myself visited the city as a youth, now nearly 2 decades ago, and have carried with me many fond memories that have added to my own romance with the city. It’s a city of its people, its coffee shops, its wonderful croissants and wines, its young couples in love, its museums and art, its glorious architecture, and endless activity. It’s a city of quiet alleyways, ageless cemeteries tucked in the midst of a bustling modern city, and grand churches full of gothic splendor. It’s the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and Sacre Coeur. And through the sum of its parts, it is much more. Go yourself, and you enjoy discovering this for yourself. To describe Paris doesn’t do it justice.

M9

M9

M9

I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Paris this past July, as I have family members who live and work in the heart of the city. What an opportunity to travel and have a local guide (family, again) to show me the inner workings of the city. I’d almost always recommend this. If you know someone locally, see if they’d be willing to show you around. You’ll see so much more and get a feel for much more than if you stick to tourist routes. It’s been a longstanding desire to shoot the city using a rangefinder, which for me is a perfect “street” camera. I mean, if Henri CB earned his chops here, what better photographic playground could there be for a rangefinder nut like me. So off I set to “the City of Light”, M9 in hand. Along with the M9, I decided to pack my Fuji XPro-1, a relatively new addition, in order to test it out as a “street” camera. The XP-1 also offers the photographer amazing low light capacities, far superior to the M9 sensor’s ability in this venue, so I thought that the XPro-1 would be a nice tool for lower light work.

M9

XP-1

Lenses, you may ask? What did I bring? Well, along came a 21 mm Super-Elmar, 35 mm Summilux FLE, 50 mm Summilux asph, and 90 mm APO-Summicron. All of this fit comfortably in my Fogg-B-Laika bag, which is an AMAZING bag for all you small camera nuts. It is discrete and has the capacity to carry a lot of gear. This was the bag that ended my “bag acquisition syndrome” a couple of years back…I wish it cured my “gear acquisition syndrome (GAS)”, but I haven’t been quite so lucky on that front.

Once I arrived, it was immediately off to walk the streets. I had the great privilege of having family members, including my brother Pree and his fiancé Hadley (who writes a fantastic blog regarding life in Paris, http://laviemaraisienne.com; go check it out!), escort me around town so that I could gather the lay of the land.

M9

XP-1

M9

XP-1

M9

 

XP-1

Our journey began in the Marais district, where family lives. Le Marais has historically been a center for Jewish culture in the city, and has gone through many phases of evolution. In its present incarnation, it is a beautiful district of fantastic squares (le Place de Vosges), streets bustling with commerce and cuisine, and sleepy nooks where Parisian life really takes place. Le Marais was my home during this drip, and it served as an incredibly convenient starting place from which to see many of Paris’ sites. While thoroughly travelling through this district, I was able to visit many more places, primarily by foot. Paris is well known for its metro and bus routes, but it is a city best experienced by foot. For those who enjoy cycling, Paris has one of the most unique and well developed public cycling commuter establishments, with citywide access to drop off and pick up points for these bikes. One can easily rent these bikes by hour and experience the city by wheel (much less frustrating than Paris’ infamous traffic).

 

M9

 

XP-1

My journeys by foot, bus, and metro landed me all over the city. I visited all of the typical sites (Eiffel Tour, Monmartre, Notre Dame, les Invalides, the Latin Quarter, le boulevard Saint Germain. Along the way, I frequented many patisseries and boulangeries, visited expansive cemetaries, and saw the city from its alleys and from great heights and elevation. I sampled many baguettes and croissants, a crepe here or there, wonderful local and ethnic cuisine, and even 2 orders of escargot! So tasty! All of this, I saw in many instances, through the viewfinder of the M9 and XPro-1.

Here, I have posted a summary of my pictures taken and edited for you all, from the trip. I hope that you enjoy them:

SET: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/with/7558740324/

SLIDESHOW: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/show/

What I present to you beyond my words are my images. I hope that they motivate you to take your own photos, visit places both near and far, and enjoy the process of making your own images. Sith whatever gear you own and use. New cameras will come and go, but what remains are memories and the images by which you captured them. For me, the visit was a reminder of what wonderful cameras we already have, and what great tools they are to use to capture and preserve these memories right here, and right now!

Until next time, my fellow Huffites, farewell, and I hope that this post sees you well!

All the best,

Ashwin

P.S. A few more pics for your viewing….

 


Aug 142012
 

Many of you have been emailing me asking about the street strap I wrote about a while back. Well it is Back in stock at Amazon HERE for anyone interested! It looks quite a lot like the Artisan & Artist silk strap but it is not silk. The cool thing is that it is fulfilled by Amazon so it is a hassle and worry free purchase for those interested!

Jul 162012
 

Camera Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop worrying About the Sensor and Love the Camera – by Craig Litten

A user report on the Nikon V1

Lightening the Load

I’ve always loved small cameras. Back in the early 1990’s while attending my second photo school I wanted a Leica M6 with a 35mm Summicron (f/2.0) lens, but unfortunately it was way out of reach for me. Many years later, while a staff photographer at my second daily newspaper, I purchased the amazing Contax G2 with the Zeiss Biogon 28mm f/2.8 lens. But unfortunately by this time digital photography had already begun to take over—all of my newspaper gear was already completely digital (the lovely tank-of-a-camera 2.2 megapixel, $11,000 Canon D2000). Back then we never even imagined that digital would be as good as it is now, and that film would all but disappear within 10 years.

I took a photo trip to Alaska back in the early 2000s and agonized for weeks over what gear to bring along. I finally settled on the Contax G2 with the 28mm lens and nothing else, not even a back-up body. My friend took all of his pro Canon gear (film) complete with a 500mm f/4.5L (big white) lens. He struggling the entire trip carrying all his gear, and I never regretted my decision. My love affair with small cameras was solidified.

 

Who am I Anyway?

Hello, my name is Craig Litten and I’m a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was 15-years-old, and have been shooting professionally since 1991. I have been a staff photographer for four different daily newspapers, have won state, regional and national photography awards, taught workshops and lectured to college photography students, been published in several hard cover books including America 24/7 and Florida 24/7 by Rick Smolan, have shot for major U.S. and international clients, have photographed U.S. presidents and movie stars, and have covered more than 7,000 photo having over 10,000 of my photos published in newspapers and magazines (not including the Web).

 

Prelude to the Nikon V1

My first compact digital camera was the Canon G2. Many of you are familiar with the Canon G series; now up to the G12. When the newspaper I was working for bought it, I quickly latched on to it. I though I had myself a Leica (tongue in cheek). Early on I took the G2 with me to a football game on the road at Clemson University, and I decided to cover the pre-game with it. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but digital was still very new at the time and not many people owned digital cameras yet, let alone a smart phone with a digital camera in it. What I discovered as I shot all around the stadium, was that I was almost completely ignored. Who takes tiny cameras seriously anyway? Almost nobody. But tiny cameras are now capable of serious pictures. The G2 was small, light, fun and the image quality was “good enough.” I was hooked! Unfortunately though, I had to wait about 10 years for technology to catch up to my vision.

 

Along Comes the Nikon V1

Like Steve, who called his original Nikon V1 review: The Camera I Expected to Hate, I originally dismissed the Nikon V1. But I kept reading about it and was intrigued. Before purchasing the V1 though, I purchased and owned three different mirrorless camera systems, and have since sold them all. Each one had its positive points, but there was always something that I couldn’t live with. If you are looking for the perfect camera, it doesn’t exist and never will. Even the mighty Leica M9 has negative points (from what I’ve read even on this site). Is the Nikon V1 for everyone? Of course not! But it’s tiny, powerhouse-of-a-camera that is worth a second, or in this case, third look.

 

Nikon V1: The Noisy Cricket of Cameras (see: Men in Black)

I love the V1! It’s dynamite in a small package. It’s fast, responsive, has almost clairvoyant auto focus (really) and has a powerful processor. But most of all, it’s incredibly fun to shoot with! Fun, isn’t that why we all take photos? Since purchasing mine in March 2012, I’ve taken more than 13,000 photos with it. It hasn’t blinked, flinched, misfired or failed me once. It has served me well so far and I love it. I can honestly say it’s my favorite digital camera to date bar none, and I’ve owned and used many, many different digital cameras since 2000 when I want completely digital for work.

Not everyone’s needs are the same, but for me, I needed a digital camera that had good enough image quality to be published. Many of the current mirrorless cameras do. I also needed a camera that could perform and handle the stress that I would put it through. This is where a lot of other mirrorless cameras fall short

 

The features I needed most in a mirrorless camera are listed below in order of importance.

•Completely Silent Shutter – The V1 has a mechanical shutter, that has a pleasant sound and is fairly well dampened (not too loud), but it also has a an electronic shutter. Not many photography forums talk about this feature, but it is completely silent. The shutter makes no noise at all when you take a picture. For the type of photography I do, and for all of you who do street, documentary or photojournalism, this is a huge, huge plus. It allows you to shoot a scene up close and personal, and not be noticed (at least by your shutter giving you away). A silent shutter also lets you shoot more photos of any given moment without worrying that your subject will think you are totally nuts for shooting so many pictures of him.

 

•Incredibly Fast & Accurate Auto Focus

Steve, and many others, have already written about this, so there is no need to elaborate. The auto focus is so fast, that I thought I’d test it out on a high school football game. High school football is very challenging to photograph, especially as the light is dropping. Shooting Pro football is a total breeze next to shooting high school football (I covered NFL for 8 plus years). The V1’s auto focus kept up (not my best work but you get the point). See them here.

 

•Responsiveness

The V1 is super fast–pro camera fast. Enough said. It will keep up with what you shoot. It never lags behind when viewing images, writing to buffer, etc., even when shooting RAW. It’s always alert and ready.

•Small Size Including Lenses

Because of the smaller sensor size, the Nikon 1 series lenses are very compact, lightweight, but very well built.

 

•Huge Battery

I can get about 800 shots, maybe more, per battery charge. This is important to me. Also, the V1 takes the same battery as the Nikon D7000 and D800 (and most likely the upcoming D600 and the rumored D400). This is very cool and very unusual. Same battery, same charger as my other gear, nice! Most of the time there is no need for a second battery.

 

•EVF

Several cameras now have EVFs (electronic viewfinder). The V1’s is excellent, as is its LCD screen. I also like that it’s very low profile with a nice, built-in cushiony rubber eyepiece. I don’t use it exclusively, but when I need it, it’s there. I live in Florida, a state that has bright sun year round, which necessitates an EVF. An add-on EVF is too bulky and can easily get broken off. When figuring the cost of the V1, remember that add-on viewfinders usually cost about $200 and up.

 

•BONUS

It’s expandable and takes my pro Nikkor lenses (if I want it too) via the FT1 Mount adapter. Cool, shoot the moon!

 

The I.Q.

As you may have noticed, I never mentioned image quality. IQ is important to me but it’s not the most important thing. I’ll put it this way: the Nikon V1 is light years ahead of the $11,000 Canon D2000 camera that I used for three years a one of the newspapers I worked for. While initially testing the V1, I went back through a lot of film scans that I shot over the years to compare quality. I can honestly say, although film has a different “feel” to it, the V1 many times surpasses the film scans. What more are we looking for? Do I wish it had the IQ of a Canon 5D? Of course. But I have no problems with its IQ at all. In fact, I actually like the very tight grain that the files get at higher ISOs, it’s pretty and ‘more’ film-like to my eyes. I almost never sharpen them either, but had too on both my 5D and 5D MkII. Bottom line: The V1 image quality is very good. I shoot exclusively in RAW and the images are amazingly sharp. Also, the V1 RAW files will take just about any post processing that you can throw at them. I use Lightroom 4.

Currently I am working on a documentary photo project shot entirely with the Nikon V1 and the 1 Nikkor 10mm (27mm equivalent) f/2.8 pancake lens. I’m photographing daily life on a 100-year-old fishing pier along Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I’m hoping to get the project published into a hardcover book when finished. I’ve shot at the pier 23 times so far since June 1st. I believe that the Nikon V1 image quality is good enough for a hard cover photo book. I’ve also used the V1 for certain daily newspaper assignments. Here is a sample. Pro golf shoot with the V1 here.

I did a V1 enlargement test on the mighty Epson 4890 Pro Photo printer. I made a 16”x20” print and the file held up beautifully. Rarely in my entire career did I ever enlarge a print larger than this. Personally I think that a 12”x18” print is the perfect size to frame and hang on the wall. So again I ask the question? “Just how large of sensor do we need?” I dare say that most of us do not print a lot of photos these days anyway, but view and share our photos on a screen. Technology is changing rapidly and it’s exciting. See: Nokia Pureview 808 smartphone or the new Sony RX100 reviews and be prepared to be wowed by small sensor cameras. Probably the one major disadvantage for the Nikon 1 for some photographers is the large depth-of-field the small sensor produces. It’s much harder to achieve nice, shallow bokeh with the one inch sensor. For the type of shooting I do I don’t mind. New, fast lenses will help in the future.

 

Daily Use

Believe it or not, the Nikon V1 allows me to get photos that no other camera of any kind has allowed me to get. Since I first started using auto focus back in 1986 (Minolta 9000), I have exclusively used only Center Point auto focus (the first AF cameras only had center point by the way). Even with all the pro Nikon and Canon cameras that I’ve used and owned, with their 51 AF points, etc., I only used and trusted the center point. When you make a living with photography and have to get the shot each and every time, you tend not to take many chances because it could mean losing your job. The Nikon V1 changes this. I have my V1 set to Multi-Point AF all the time with face recognition turned on. Again, it’s absolutely clairvoyant, or nearly so. Steve talked about the V1 being the only camera that he has ever tested which nailed the focus every time. This is a true statement. Can it miss? Yes, but very, very rarely.

Another thing I’ve been doing with the V1 that I have never done before is occasionally shoot without looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD. Yikes, did I just say that?! It’s true. I’ve gotten pretty good at framing without seeing. The amazing auto focus and responsiveness of the camera including the large buffer helps with this a lot. You are probably wondering why I’m Hail Marying with my V1. It’s mostly related to the fishing pier project I’m working on. The pier is not very big and has water on all sides so sometimes it’s impossible to get into position and raise the camera up to frame without being noticed. Also, if you’ve ever asked someone if you can take his or her picture, you already know that whatever moment or expression you saw seconds before has vanished. You got to be quick and again, this is where the V1 shines!

Why Shoot One Frame When You Can Shoot Five or More?

I do believe in the decisive “moment” and have made my living capturing just that. But now technology allows me to capture decisive moment(s) with my Nikon V1 (and without the distracting clanking—to the subject–sound of the shutter). When shooting in low light with my DSLRs, many times I will shoot multiple frames of the same moment to ensure that I have at least one good, sharp image. The speed of the V1 allows me to do this too. Experience has shown me that the slight movement of a hand, the mouth, eyes, body, etc. can turn a good photo a great photo. So again, the V1 shines for it’s speed and high frames per second rate to capture not only a sharp image in low light, but the decisive (peak) moment.

 

I love my Nikon V1 and feel that its simplicity is one of its greatest strengths. It doesn’t have some of the custom control or bells and whistles of other mirrorless cameras, but it has one of the best and easiest to navigate menu systems of any digital camera in my opinion. I purposely didn’t focus on the V1’s weaknesses though. It has a few things that a firmware update could change and make better, but none these bother me during daily use, and none of them are deal breakers. Steve’s two reviews of the V1 cover all of them pretty completely. Or you can easily find them somewhere online. I rarely bump the mode dial, nor toggle the aperture, but it does occasionally happen. My original Canon 5D wonder camera would get turned off all the time when I was carrying it, and I paid over $3,000 for it. My Canon EOS 1D MkIIn would rack focus sometimes at very crucial moments and I’d miss a touchdown play or something important like that. The RAW write times in an Olympus I once owned were excruciatingly slow. The buffer of my $11,000 dollar Canon D2000 would fill up right in the middle of a huge crash at the Daytona 500 and I would miss the peak action. My old $5,000 Nikon D2H looked horrid at anything above ISO 800. And my old top-of-the-line Nikon D4s would only take one film speed setting at a time. So when I had a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 in the camera and walked into somewhere with low light, I had to rewind the film mid-roll and put in some fast (then) ISO 800 FujiPress. Get the picture?

Full Size Samples:

1. Dusty plant shot at ISO 640. It’s an ugly pic but it shows the fine detail and sharpness at higher ISOs.

2. Greeting card shot at ISO 1600, 1/5th of a second with image stabilizer of the 10-30 lens. This is a great example of the beautiful, tight film-like grain which reminds me of Ralph Gibson’s work shot on film of course – http://www.ralphgibson.com/

ISO 640 – click it for full size

ISO 1600 – click it for full size

 

Chase Jarvis said “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” This is true. A former photo professor of mine, Gary Monroe, said, “You take better pictures when you’re photographing than when you’re not photographing.” Also true. I say, “There is no perfect camera” but the Nikon V1 comes pretty close (for my current needs anyway). A camera is a tool to capture the world, not an idol to be worshipped. Give it a try; great photos are waiting. Did I mention that it’s fun to use?

PS: Don’t be a hater, keep the comments positive ;-)

From Steve: Thanks Craig for this GREAT article on the V1! For all of the readers, do not forget to head over to youtube and enter my Nikon V1 set giveaway! 

Jun 302012
 

A question I get several times a week: Can a small mirrorless camera replace a DSLR? 

With the trend in digital photography today heading to the small powerhouse bodies with larger sensors many have dumped their DSLR’s for the likes of  a Sony NEX camera, an Olympus OM-D, a Leica X2, Nikon V1 or one of the many other small mirrorless cameras that are now flooding the market.

It seems that ever since digital cameras started being produced, photography has taken a turn of some sorts. Today, for many, it is just as much about the device being used as it is the images themselves. Many shooters today get more enjoyment out of the GEAR than they do the PHOTOS. This is a true fact, and I try to keep a balance myself as I love the gear but I also love and am passionate about photography. But what is the most important is that people are gaining joy from all of this and if buying a Leica X or Sony NEX makes you happy, then why not?

I feel it is important to use a tool that you can bond with..learn with and thoroughly enjoy. I have had a love affair with smaller cameras over the past few years because I was so tired of lugging a huge backpack around whenever I wanted to go out and shoot.

Back in the earlier digital days DSLR’s were everywhere as we did not even have a choice if we wanted small AND high quality. I remember going to disneyland about 6-7 years ago and seeing everyone with a large DSLR. I remember thinking ‘how could you lug that around Disneyland AND still enjoy your day”? Made my back and arms hurt looking at some of those rigs.

When I was there at DL I waltzed around with a Leica M7 and a few rolls of film and it was no problem though I do remember worrying that the rides would jar the rangefinder out of alignment but even after 3 days there and many rides the RF was fine and even with water splashing on the old M7 I had zero issues. I would not try this with an M9 though as it somehow seems more delicate due  to all of the electronics inside that can have water leak onto them since there is no weather sealing in an M camera. Yet.

Yea, those days with the old M7 were fine indeed. No worries. Compose, snap, shutter and wind. But before I go on a rant about remembering my easy days with the M7 I have to stop myself because that is not what this article is supposed to be about!

Many readers e-mail me and ask me if a small mirrorless can replace a large DSLR. That is a very common question I get these days but you have to remember that these small cameras are usually not as versatile as a DSLR. For example, if you want to shoot sports action, a DSLR will usually be the best bet, though someone like me and a few others would use an M9 without worry, lol.

For sports the only mirrorless choices are really the Olympus OM-D as it has the speed, the lenses, and the high quality and ISO performance that almost matches a nice DSLR. Something like an X2 would not be good for sports with its limited 35mm lens and slow operation. A Nikon V1 could do sports but with the slow zooms available you would need REALLY good light. The AF is good enough as is the IQ if you keep the ISO lower. The Sony NEX series is great for sports as well as you can use some kick ass manual glass to do so.

While the cameras mentioned can do great, a DSLR will still be the sports shooting king so if you are a sports pro a mirrorless would/could not replace a DSLR just yet.

But what about Street? Portraits?

For street I feel a Leica M is king. That is MY opinion as I can shoot a Leica M faster than I can AF with most when on the street. I do not consider myself a street photographer though I do enjoy it and find it to be a great exercise to get your confidence up. Street Photography is nothing more than recording and capturing moments of real life as they happen. This is easier said than done but some people out there are very good at it while others are awful at it. It seems that in the past 2-3 years “Street” has become popular and it has brought out some great photographers but it also seems that there is a lack of REAL street shots with impact, even from old pros who call themselves street shooters because they shoot every week. I think I see maybe 1-2 really fantastic street shots a month from the slew of guys on flickr and Facebook who shoot street every day.

Like I said, I do not call or consider myself “street shooter” though I do shoot with an M and have shot street. I have tried my hand at it with MANY cameras and the Leica M just works. I had a hard time with the original Leica X1 but with that camera and the new X2 you can set the camera to manual focus and use Zone Focusing to shoot quick and easy so they also can work well. The Fuji X100 is also a great street camera as is the Nikon V1 (I have an upcoming Guest article with samples and they have def have impact). The NEX series can also do great with street and I had fun with the NEX-5 and 16mm a year or so ago so just about any mirrorless made today can do street well if you learn the camera and features and best way to shoot with it while out in the urban jungle.

Bottom line? For street I would say a mirrorless is MUCH better than a DSLR as DSLR’s are too large and scare people away. 

How about portraits?

Today I was sitting in my office reading e-mails and noticed I had a slew of cameras around me. A Leica X2, a Sony A57 DSLR with 16-50 lens and a Nikon V1. I also have a Fuji X100, Sony NEX-7 and NEX-F3 here as well (the F3 and A57 are here for  testing right now). I have heard and seen great things from the Sony A57 and 16-50 lens as this lens is super sharp even at 2.8 wide open. It also will keep the 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range, so this is one of the premo Sony lenses.

My nephew is here visiting so I called him in the room and asked if I could snap 2-3 shots of him with a couple of cameras. I was not even going to post these but after viewing them I was impressed by what the Sony did with that 16-50 Zoom lens at 2.8. The camera seemed to put out a nice file. When viewing the file from the Leica X2 I was also pleased with what I saw. There was that Leica sharpness and detail but it also had a different color signature. The Nikon V1 could not match the richness of the two larger sensor cameras but it can do a good job, but the color is not as good or rich due to the smaller sensor.

First the A57 file with the 16-50 Zoom at 2.8

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The Sony A57 puts out a beautiful rich file but with the camera and zoom lens attached it is MUCH larger than a Leica X2 (but much more versatile, faster, and with gorgeous video) The Sony combo will cost you $1650. $650 for the body and $750 for the lens (and this lens is superb but don’t take my word for it, read the reviews at B&H). The 16-50 lens is a quality lens, easily used for pro work.

The Leica X2 is a small little powerhouse. A little slow when compared to the competition but it is indeed a powerful imaging device put into a small body, that is the one thing that is certain. If you can live with the 35mm focal length and only the 35mm focal length then it is a viable but expensive option. Below you can see the shot from the X2..

Both of those images were shot as RAW files and converted using ACR.

The A57 seems like it has a richer and smoother rendering while the Leica retains that Leica signature. For in studio portraits, as in..if I were a portrait pro, I would choose a nice medium format camera for the absolute best quality. Either that or a Nikon D800 DSLR because in the studio you need all of the quality you can get and even shallow depth of field, which is the weakness of cameras like the Nikon V1 and in some cases Micro 4/3.

1st image is from the Leica X2 and the 2nd is from the Nikon V1

So while a mirrorless like the X2, Nikon V1 and X100 or OM-D can do studio, for more versatility and overall quality cameras like a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D III would be better.

A Sony NEX-7 also works well in studio especially when you mount Leica glass.

The new mirrorless cameras that are available today ALL make for amazing every day cameras. You can take them anywhere, capture anything you want and do it without looking like a big dork with your DSLR, 70-200 and sun visor and fanny pack on. A Leica X2 or Nikon V1 or Fuji X100 can be taken with you where a camera like a Nikon D800 would most likely be left at home. So for capturing life’s little moments smaller is always better. For pro work like weddings, sports, action or even studio a DSLR would give you more versatility and quality.

With all of that said, I would take a Leica M9 anywhere and shoot anything with it :)

Jun 052012
 

Great cheap goodies for your lenses – Soft micro lens pouch is a GREAT buy.

I had to let you guys know about these as my buddy Todd makes and sells these and I have been using them for the past month or so and LOVE them. They are called the “Micro Lens Pouch” and are made for smaller camera systems and the lenses that we pay so dearly for. The is a great way to protect your glass and offers much more protection than just throwing them in a bag. I have the 3 pack here and the small fits a Leica summarit or summicron type of lens, the medium fits my Panasonic 25 1.4 or equivalent size and the large even fit a Leica Noctilux. The lenses are super soft with great cushion and protection. The great thing is you can buy all three for $29.95 and they are sold at Amazon, and shipped by Amazon.

While Todd makes and sells these I am not writing this because I know him or because he paid me (he did not). I am writing about them because I feel they are truly a great buy. Ive been using them almost daily for a while now and they have held up well for me and even helped protect my little 50 Summarit when I dropped it out of my bag.

You can buy each size separately or the get the three pack of various sizes for $29.95

The three pack can be found Here on Amazon

You can also just buy the Small, Medium, or Large for just over $10 each. Highly recommended!

Also available in a 2-Pack, small and medium!

BTW, I might as well add a plug for the 2012 Photo Cruise since the guy who makes these pouches is also going to be joining us ! I still have a few cabins remaining and if anyone is interested I need to know before July 1st! Check out the cruise page here, but imagine a full week on the seas and photography at every stop! Of course guests are welcome and can participate in all shooting! Will be a blast and free lens pouches for all :)

and…Don’t miss the street strap!

The street strap is also a very cool strap that I have attached to my new black Fuji X100 and it is a black cloth strap that looks similar to the A&A Silk cord strap, but this is not silk and it is longer so you can wear it around you. This is also on Amazon and shipped by Amazon so no dealing with 3rd party vendors. I like this strap and I also like my Barton strap and A&A strap! Just like with bags and cameras, all personal preference. But if you have been wanting a nice black strap that is comfy and long enough to strap around your body when carrying your camera this one is great. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

Jun 022012
 

Some fun low light shooting with the Fuji X100, Olympus E-M5 and Leica X2

Here I am, wide awake. It’s early Saturday morning, around 2AM. I have been up at my computer for the last 2 hours checking out some photos I shot last night in Phoenix at “first friday”. I drove down there to see if there would be any cool photo opps and to test out the Black X100 , OM-D and Leica X2 in low light, night-time situations. Mainly I wanted to see how the AF did with all cameras in challenging situations so why not? I had nothing else to do and it WAS Friday!

My 1st shot of the night was with the X100 and I did not nail the exposure perfectly but it came out nicely anyway. The camera focused FAST..much faster than it did when I reviewed it long ago. The new firmware did indeed fix a few things like AF speed, menu speed, and overall gave it a snappy feel. I am impressed with what Fuji has been able to do. Click image for larger. It was shot at ISO 1600.

If you saw my post from yesterday you would have seen I had a black Fuji X100 kit arrive to my house. Yes, I caved and bought one after dwelling on it for months. With all of the talk of the new firmware greatly enhancing the speed I had to give it a shot. I also wanted to see how it did side by side with the Leica X2 and seeing that the X2 is brand spanking new I figured it would trounce the X100, but that was not the case. But in reality, the X2 focused amazingly well in the dark. MUCH better than the X1 but IMO it still did not beat the X100. They are about equal in IQ (with the Fuji possibly taking the lead) but the X2 did impress me with its new-found speed and high ISO performance. ISO 3200 wasn’t a problem, even in low light. It is indeed a nice improvement to the X1 in regards to AF speed and high ISO performance when using it for taking photos :)

The X2 at ISO 3200

As I sat here at my desk and reviewed the photos I shot I was amazed at how far these small cameras have come. It has gotten to the point now where you can literally take a small and light camera like and X2 or X100 with you anywhere and anytime and get AMAZING results, even at night. Fast AF, great low noise performance and overall amazing designs. I applaud both of these cameras for night low light use. I did prefer using the VF on the X100 though and felt a bit odd holding the X2 out (did not bring the EVF) at arm’s length.

Another ISO 1600 X100 shot. I focused on the barrel in front so she would be out of focus with the flame in the sky. I like this one.

I was having so much fun shooting the “X” cameras that I forgot I brought along my little OM-D powerhouse. On the camera was the Panasonic 25 1.4 and I have to tell you, this combo seems like they were made for each other. Fast AF, no rattlesnake noises and superb sharpness/bokeh, even when wide open.

OM-D E-M5 ISO 640 with 25 1.4 at 1.4 and then 6400! – click for larger

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even adding noise to this ISO 1600 image looks great. BTW, this is the girl who was breathing fire in the images above..

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and ISO 6400 on the little Olympus? No problem..the next 4 images were all shot at ISO 6400 on the E-M5. No way the E-P3 could have pulled this ISO off. Also,  THIS WAS the fastest focusing setup of the night.

So while I only shot about 30 shots in all, I had fun with all three cameras because they all performed without fail. They all focused quickly and gave me great results and they all have their own kind of user experience and file quality. Yes, I have been talking quite a bit about these cameras lately but I believe in not only talking about my experiences but also showing images from my experiences so you guys can see what comes out of these new cameras.

Take your pic. They are all good and yes, It’s a good time to be into photography. :)

In case you missed them, you can see see my original reviews of the Fuji X100, Olympus OM-D and Leica X2

OM-D at ISO 1250

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X2 at ISO 320

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X100 at ISO 1600

May 252012
 

Hi Steve,

I recently came back from travels in Asia and Asia minor and am sending you a few shots from my Istanbul leg of the journey.
Istanbul was cold, grey and bitingly cold (winds, rain, snow) but after Istanbul Kerala in India awaited with tropical heat and humidity. On top of that I decided to go on this three-week trek with just a small piece of hand luggage. I have to say that my beloved Leica M8, Summilux 28mm and iPad proved everything I needed for the trip.
Here are some of the shots, more on www.igornovakovic.com/istanbul/
May 172012
 

To celebrate the release of the new Olympus OM-D I thought I’d take everyone for a trip down memory lane with a selection of snaps from my precious Olympus OM2n with the Zuiko MC 50mm f1.8 lens For those who haven’t had the pleasure of handling the OM2n, it’s a gem of a camera.

The OM philosophy was (and now is again) (in my own words) to create a high quality, beautifully engineered, precision photographic instrument with sharp quality optics in a compact size. The OM2n is certainly that.

The OM2n runs on a small watch type battery which lasts for years – this powers the (fairly accurate) meter and enables Aperture Priority operation, It’s widely available and isn’t one of the more sought out versions of the single digit OM series,That honour lies with the OM3Ti which is a fully mechanical camera and as rare as hens teeth!

The most advanced version is the OM4 and OM4Ti, these feature a revolutionary multi spot metering system which was and is highly regarded.

What I love about this camera is the fact that it looks superb and feels superb, strolling around the streets of London with it in my hand and around my neck, winding the film crank, and hearing the satisfying trip of the shutter, it attracts a lot of attention, it oozes class and sophistication, something Leicaman thinks is exclusive to him, but us Olympians know better!

The optics are also readily available, check out http://www.ffordes.co.uk who are brilliant when it comes to used camera equipment at bargain prices. I just love the Zuiko lenses, they’re small, compact, beautifully made and are a joy to use and focus smoothly, and most importantly produce crisp, contrasty pin sharp results (if you have decent eye sight as they’re all manual focus).

Well, if you’re used to Auto focussed fast DSLR’s with tunnel like viewfinders, or Micro 4/3rds compacts, or even Range Finders with quirky focussing – you’ll be surprised and pleased with using and playing with the OM series, with the HUGE bright View Finder (the only 35mm sized camera I’ve ever seen or used with a larger brighter Finder than this huge one on the OM is the peerless VF on the Contax Aria) the SLR design, and i’m going to get a LOT of flak for this, is better than a Range Finder design for making photographs and visualising – as you see what the lens see’s! (my personal opinions, so feel free to disagree).

For those purchasing the OM-D who have never used a classic OM – they’re affordable and worth investing in! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beauty and bright view finder, and for those complaining that Micro 4/3 cannot get you the shallow depth of field an APS-C or full Frame gives you, well, the 35mm Film is larger than either, so you’ll get as much shallow depth as you like!

Anyway, is the OM series worth getting in this day and age? Yes it is, as for the price of a cheap digital compact you can possess a beautifully made SLR with tack sharp lenses, which will serve you for many decades to come.

Anubis, the British Museum, OM2n 50mm @f1.8. Fuji Neopan 400.

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Kid at the Beach, OM2n 50mm f1.8  Agfa Precisa 100

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Coffee Break. Fuji Neopan 400 50mm Zuiko f1.8

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Kids At the Beach, 50mm f1.8 Agfa Precisa 100

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My Nephew Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Fuji Neopan 400

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Street vendor and Donkey in a Sarai Alamgir slum, Punjab, 2009. (this is either the 28mm or 50mm) Agfa Precisa 100 followed by a village girl 50mm Zuiko f1.8 Agfa Precisa

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Three is Company. Sheep under the full moon at dusk, Brecon Beacons. Kodak tri X 400, hand held. 50mm Zuiko f1.8 (cropped)

May 112012
 

My one hour  with the new Leica Monochrome by Steve Huff

Hello and here I am once again writing from my hotel room in Berlin. I just ordered room service as it is pouring rain outside and I just returned from an hour long walk Sean Reid who e-mailed me this afternoon asking if I would like to use the M Monochrome that he has with him since I did not get a chance to shoot one at all from Leica. Very cool of him. He did already post a review of the M Monochrome and the X2 at his subscription site if you would like to check it out. So I thank Sean for letting me use the camera for an hour or so. Without that, I would not even have been able to really check it out at all.

1st, MY thoughts on this Leica event and how I would have done it differently

I have to first thank Leica for inviting me to this event. I was invited to the 09/09/09 event but could not make it out that time but I always said that when they announce their next set of cameras, I AM THERE! So I was excited to be here and enjoy the whole “Leica-ness” of it all. As we all knew from the rumors there was a dedicated  black & white camera coming from Leica and possibly an X2. Both of these things were indeed true.

No WiFi at the event

When I arrived to the event I walked in and was asked for my invitation (glad I didn’t forget it)! After handing it over I entered the building and noticed that there were MANY people there. It was a packed house, full of suits, dresses, and a few people I recognized. After talking with a few of the Leica people I made my way to the stage area and had a seat. I pulled out my laptop as I assumed there would be wifi there for the bloggers and press that were in attendance. NOPE.

If this were MY event, I would have wifi setup. No questions about it. The fact is there were many of the big players here and it would seem that Leica would want the press and live coverage. I was all set to do live blogging and was disappointed to find out that would not be possible. Sure I could have paid for some sort of card but I was told there would be wireless there so I didn’t.

No cameras to try out at the event

If this were my event, or if I were in charge of it I would have made sure to have a few cameras to pass around to the blogger guys/girls. The thing Leica wants and needs is coverage of these new cameras. I would have handed out one to every major blogging person and said “use it for the day tomorrow”. That would have been great. We would have all been able to shoot with it, evaluate it and write about it. But no cameras were to be found. I was able to stare at them through a glass case though and did eventually get to fire off 4 shots with Jonathan Slacks camera he has been testing. I shot 4 shots only because I wanted to take a quick look and Jono kindly handed over the camera. (Thanks Jono, his photos from the Monochrom can be seen here)!

No real WOW factor

I hate to say it as I love Leica and the guys that work there but I have to say the event was a bit on the dull and lackluster side. Sure there were drinks, food and people to mingle with but the overall presentations were lacking. Not a big deal but I remember a few occasions yawning as it dragged on and on it seems. We were all there for the announcements and the way they were announced was also a bit on the dull side.

IS Leica HIGH?

OK. I have to mention it. $7200 for a Leica 50 Summicron ASPH APO. I have to admit…when I heard that I was like..”MAN OH MAN..I AM DONE WITH LEICA”! I thought it was ridiculous and borderline insanity to price the new lens like that. I mean, a SUMMICRON for more than the legendary 50 Summilux? Really? We all know how amazing Leica glass is. That is their main claim to fame. The GLASS! But pricing the new lens at $7200 US is really alienating 75% of Leicas new users.

I know for a fact there have been thousands of you who read this site, who are NOT rich, who went out and bought an M9 even though they really could not justify or afford it. Many of us, myself included, stretched our budgets to be able to purchase the camera and one or two lenses max. Why? Because while we may not have all of the money in the world, we have passion and we want to shoot with what our heart tells us to shoot with. For me, it’s usually Leica.

There were so many new Leica users over the past three years and Leica has been enjoying this success. When they release a lens for $7200 and it is a 50 Summicron ASPH APO..well, I am afraid they just went and priced MANY of us out of the market, which may be what they want.

I know for a fact I will never ever buy the new lens, no matter how good it is. Why? Because the 50 Summilux ASPH is astounding, and cheaper. The old 50 Summicron may have some character flaws to some, but you can buy them used pretty cheap. $7200 to gain some sharpness and micro-contrast?

On the other hand I have a feeling they need lenses like this for their M10 which I think is coming at Photokina. I think the sensor in the M10 will be so high res and so capable of crazy detail that they needed a new lens to showcase it. I also have a feeling many changes are coming with the M10. I have no inside info, Leica tells me nothing… but my crystal ball thinks so.

I get releasing a new lens like this for those that want absolute perfection and beauty. Those who can afford it, and there are many, will buy the lens. I just do not see them selling them in any kind of mass quantity, which again, is probably what they want.

I happen to know the lens is amazingly beautiful in its design, size, and rendering. The samples I have seen from it blew me away. I am just disappointed in the price point as they knocked so many out of the game here.

But I assume they know what they are doing and maybe they just want to go after a specific market for their new cameras and lenses. Either way, I can not deny the fact that the new Monochrome M and the new 50 are gorgeous and this lens may be the best lens they have ever made. I will give them that for sure. I would love to do  full review of it using this new Monochrome so maybe one day I will get to try it out and let you guys know how it is. :)

My one hour with the Leica Monochrome

So as I started this article writing about how I finally managed to spend an hour with the new Leica Monochrome camera I will now talk a little about this camera and my 1st impressions after spending just under an hour with it. The images you see embedded here were all shot with the Monochrome and the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 Hyperprime lens.  Click on any image for a larger view.

So it was raining, it was grey and it was all kinds of dreary but I headed out for an hour with the new Leica Monochrome in Berlin, which is a beautiful gorgeous place to shoot. The people also seem friendly as no one had an issue with me taking their images. Had a great time for that one hour for sure!

It’s just like shooting an M9

The Monochrome is just like shooting an M9 or M9-P except you have no color available. It’s all black and white. Monochrome (that sounds cooler). You can read the techie reviews for the details on the sensor but basically, in real world terminology this sensor will yield better dynamic range and high ISO capabilities over the M9 or M9-P.

If I can be honest, I am strangely attracted to this camera even though it is priced at $8000, the same cost as a Leica M9-P. I remember years ago people on various forums were asking for a dedicated B&W sensor Leica M camera. It made sense right? Leica has always been known for classic B&W photography. So many of us shoot B&W with our M cameras or even shooting B&W film. So why not a dedicated B&W sensor camera? With the Monochrome you get better high ISO and beautiful B&W capabilities.

I know that as soon as I knew this camera was coming, I wanted one. I even came up with an idea to travel for a few weeks and shoot only B&W. Do a huge project. Take my time. Just me and the camera as one. Ahhh, sounds so good huh?

It’s true. B&W has a way of tugging at your soul, your heart, your brain. It’s simple. It’s basic. It’s real. No, it’s not real as in what we see with our eyes but for some reason when I view classic B&W images I can see deeper into the image. It has more emotion and soul. I LOVE B&W. The problem has always been that traditional digital cameras usually sucked with Monochrome imaging. Sure we can use plug ins like Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin but imagine a simple camera we could have that just allowed us to be pure. To be MONO. Yep, this new Leica allows us to do that and gives us superb IQ, great sharpness, and the ability to capture that real emotion that so many of us love to see.

Shooting B&W takes me back to the time when I had my M6 or M7 around my neck with a roll of Tri-X loaded. For some reason that camera inspired me to get out and capture people on the street. I lost my fears and was motivated to shoot. Holding that Leica Monochrome in my hand, knowing its potential, well, that was enough to motivate me and get me excited to shoot today. It’s a funny thing these Leica cameras. They almost are like some alien life form that sucks you into wanting to shoot. Always happens with an M around my neck.

I walked and I shot and shot and shot, maybe about 75 images total. Not too many really and I knew that I would not get any great shots or amazing artistic images but I knew that shooting this camera for even an hour would let me judge it’s capabilities. Again, it is the same body and menu as an M9 or M9-P with a couple of minor things added. So if you have shot an M before, you will feel right at home shooting the Monochrome. In a way, reviewing this camera is easy as it is only about the images, the tonality and the high ISO performance. Notice in the title image how many tones you can see in the sock. Gorgeous.

$8000!

When I found out this body was $8000 I immediately said “WHAT”??? I mean, many will see this as a crippled M9! No color? Well, those are the people who either are not really into B&W photography or just do not get what this camera is all about. I know for a fact that I can not afford $8000 for this camera, but maybe if I scrimp and save and save some more than maybe I would be able to swing it, though I’d have to sell my M9-P to do so. I am NOT a rich guy :) Yes, this blog gets loads of traffic but that also means much higher costs to run it.

So after my one hour with this lovely camera I asked myself…”would I sell my M9-P to buy an Monochrome”? Well, I wouldn’t want to… but yes I would. Because after viewing my sample images I do see a difference between this output and what comes out of an M9 with conversions. Yes, $8000 is INSANE and much to expensive (it really is) but damn Leica, you always have a way to get to my heart and soul, and I feel that the Leica Monochrome, even at $8000, will eventually become a classic due to its simplicity, design, feel, use, and beautiful output. I do not think they will have a problem selling this one though I also do not think they will sell as many as they did the M9.

When I get more time with this camera I plan on spending MUCH more  time testing it with landscapes, studio portraits, and more street photography as well as some travel stuff. So c’mon Leica, send me one along with the new X2 so I can get started! :)

A few more samples during my one hour with the camera…exif is all embedded. I hope you enjoyed  this quick one hour walk with me :) Also, I have to say that this SLR Magic 50mm t/0.95 Hyperprime is GORGEOUS. Be sure and read all about it HERE. (UPDATE: Funny how there have been NO MORE reports of lens failures of this lens after  the 1-2 who went on the attack? Yep my friends this was a Leica calculated attack on a lens they were afraid of (I know because someone high up told me). I know of many who still own and shoot this lens without issue in focus or build and they all call it a masterpiece in image quality and build. Remember, I had an $11k Noctilux fall apart TWICE while using it professionally. Never did the SLR Magic do this. Think about it for a few…)

BTW, you can now pre order the M Monochrome for $7995 at the following sites:

B&H Photo – M Monochrome Pre-Order, 50 Summicron ASPH APO Pre-Order, Leica X2 Pre-order

PopFlash Photo – they are all on the main page!

Ken Hansen has a list going as well – E-Mail him HERE - he will ship worldwide

and a higher ISO with crop

and an ISO 10,000 – yes, it’s got grain

 

May 082012
 

Another take on the Fuji X-Pro 1

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE

From Steve: Most of you have seen my review on the X-Pro 1. It was a positive review and I enjoyed the camera but ultimately it was not for me do to the slow AF in lower light (which caused me to miss MANY shots when street shooting). I felt the IQ of the X-Pro 1 was astounding though, and I had to send it back to Fuji before I was able to even try processing a RAW file or even use a Leica adapter with Leica glass. No worries though! Ashwin has been shooting his X-Pro 1 and he wrote up a nice article on the camera as a 2nd take. His photos are AMAZING with this camera so read and enjoy! As you read this I am on my way to Berlin for the May 10th Leica event, so will post when I arrive!  - Steve

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Hi, everyone. It’s been a while since I shared here, as I have been busy trying out new gear and straying away this time from the M system, which has and will continue to be my primary camera system as the only true production digital rangefinder available today…

That being said, this year has seen the development of some revolutionary and evolutionary cameras, including the NEX-5N, NEX-7, D800E, and the OM-D EM-5. May’s Leica announcement brings even more interesting cameras into the fold. To me, the most interesting camera of the batch, the one that caught my eye, spirit, and creative muse, has been the Fuji XPro-1. As Steve has implied in his reviews of the camera and comparisons, it is a flawed camera….the flaws are inherent to the XPro-1’s slow autofocus, likely due in part to it’s fly-by-wire AF system. It has shutter lag, and it’s optical viewfinder is quirky and inaccurate. But at the end of the day, it’s output is the closest to the Leica M9 as any camera that I have ever tried. Add that to an adequate (yet slightly underwhelming) EVF, and robust, lightweight build, and it becomes something very unique.

I have been asked a few times on various forums, about why I would consider duplicating the M9 system with the XPro-1. Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel that the duplication is complete. There’s overlap, and for the time being, room for both systems in my kit. Here are a few reasons why.

While the Fuji XPro-1’s design and form factor are an intentional duplication of present and past rangefinders, it is in fact not a rangefinder at all, but a camera equipped by autofocus. It’s optical viewfinder comes close to the Contax G sytem in terms of it’s method of detecting focus and framing, and there are adjustable views and frames for each lens. I am personally very interested to see how Fuji’s hybrid viewfinder evolves, but this, in and of itself, distinguishes it rather dramatically from Leica’s offerings.

The second major pro, for my life, is something I call “the Hand-off factor.” The fact that I can hand this camera to a friend to take a snap, compared to the M9, which has a far larger learning curve for even quick implementation, and this is a huge factor for social gatherings. With the M9, I am inevitably (and often by choice) behind the lens and camera, and with the XPro-1, I find myself handing the camera off more. I thus have more pics of myself using this camera.

Ultimately, the IQ of the XPro-1 is what keeps me coming back for me. Fuji’s X-Trans sensor simply friggin’ Rocks. It’s not perfect. Highlights can be blown at times. It’s wonderful high ISO capacities are hampered by the camera’s sluggish low light autofocus, making this an immature camera for low light shooting. It’ll get there, I hope, but the XPro-1’s AF is quite a limitation to its overall full spectrum use at this time.

One other reason that the camera excites me is due to its future. Fuji has committed many resources to this system and the X100, and I suspect that they will support the system well. The X100 has been vastly improved from it’s initial implementation, thanks to Fuji’s technical support, and I very much hope that Fuji will do the same here.

Finally, the other major reason that I plan to hold on to the XPro1, is the future of the system. With 28-70 and 70-200 mm zooms planned for later this year and next, there are some very interesting lens options coming to this system. I’d also love to see the optics of the X100 ported to ths XPro-1, and I suspect that a 35 mm equiv lens will be here soon enough…Personally, I’d love to see Fuji implement a step zoom feature on it’s zoom lenses, so that optical viewfinders may still be used (Fuji, are you listening?)

Pros and cons, you ask? What comes next are my current expository thoughts on the camera:

Pros for the XPro-1

1. Layout and handling: great, just like the M: I love the RF form factor, and while the XPro-1 isn’t really a rangefinder, it feels like one in hand and inspires me in much the same ways. That does mean something in terms of my creativity. It’s also a smallish system, so it works well not to startle people (helps that it’s all black, which I love)

2. ISO: The XPro-1 kicks the pants off the M9 in this department. I am waiting for RAW support, but the JPEG engine is great

3. Out of camera JPEG’s: This is one camera where I have been thrilled with JPEG output. While I look forward to RAW, and shooting JPEG’s without hesitation using standard Fuji profiling

4.Image qaulity: Close to the M9 in most, if not all respects. Fuji really must be applauded for their X-Trans sensor. It needs to find its way into more cameras, period. M lenses have a bit more character than the Fujinon counterparts, but that’s not to take anything away from the Fuji. The Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph is a favorite lens, and the 35 Fujinon comes close, in terms of sharpness and OOF creaminess. The 35 mm native focal length adds some distortion, but you get closer focusing.

5. Hand off factor: Much better than the M9. The XPro-1 can be handed to a novice, and a sharp, focused image will result. Someone on the interwebs said it well that for the average point and shooter who takes on the XPro-1, their images will be elevated to art just by the mere fact that the Fuji lenses are remarkable, and the AF, once locked, takes great crisp images…

6. AF accuracy once locked. The camera, once it locks focus, is amazing….thus, AF accuracy is near perfect, though AF implementation is sluggish

Cons

1. Cropped sensor: Lose some depth of field, but in real life, as long as you make the focal length adjustment (18=28, 35=50, 60 = 90), it’s no biggie, not a deal breaker.

2. Shutter lag: Gosh, I wish Fuji fixed this…not sure if it’s possible, but I’d rather see and snap rather than see, wait a few precious milliseconds, and then snap. The pause in image acquisition is due in part to slow AF and part to shutter lag, and Fuji needs to iron this out before carrying on with other system improvements.

3. SLOW AF: TO me, the X-Pro-1’s focus speed, particularly with the 35 mm lens, improved with it’s “anti-chatter” firmware, but compared to the competition (even the middling NEX series AF), the Fuji is slow to focus. It’s better in daylight, but can be horrendous in mixed low light….If Fuji could do one thing for the camera, it’s improve AF. Some have argued that in isolation, the XPro-1’s AF is fast. Others have argued that they can focus the XPro-1 far faster than they could manually focus an M9. Well, given 6 years or regular practice with the M9, I must say that the M9’s shutter lag (minimal) and my manual focus capabilities FAR outshine the XPro-1, and I’m trying not to be cocky. If they could do 2 things, it would be to improve autofocus and shutter lag.

4. Inaccurate frame lines,/optical viewfinder. The Fuji’s optical viewfinder is a great idea…in theory. The merits of the OVF have been discussed in detail, and there’s no reason to get into the details here, other than to say, in concept, that offering multiple optical VF’s for various focal lengths, is a great idea. But in its current implementation, this system is flawed, and Fuji should/could fix it. When using the XPro-1’s optical viewfinder, frame lines are quite inaccurate when subjects are close.. this leads to 2 issues. When I use the OVF, I have regularly gotten inadvertently cropped images (tops of heads chopped off and the like) and AF has misfired. What the photographer expects to see via the framelines and focus confirmation presented is not what the photographer always gets. Thus, the camera may be chosing the wrong AF point, due to frameline inaccuracy. I find the OVF to be inaccurate for close up subjects, and thus I avoid using it in those circumstances.

5. EVF ‘s slow refresh rate. This may be an improvement that has to occurin the future. The current EVF’s refresh rate is slow. What this means is that with fast-moving objects viewed viat the EVF’s, there’s choppiness and motion artifacts present. The NEX is far better with its EVF…this is readily noticeable at night, where the Fuji’s lag really shows up.

6. Adaptability with M and other lenses. The EVF has no focus peaking, and the 10x magnification is actually too large to maintain framing when focusing and composing images via the EVF

7. Red channel: The red channel can blow out at times, as it is overly sensitive. I have seen similar behavior, albeit worse, with the Pentax K5, but it’s present here at times.

XPro-1 and 35 mm lens, blowing out the reds and magentas

Special Section: A couple of captures with the SLR Magic 50 mm f/0.95 Hyperprime lens.

Overall, this revolutionary lens that’s just now becoming available, works very well on the XPro-1, who’s EVF, compled with the lens’ miniscule DOF, makes for a lovely camera in practical and low light use. Here are a few examples, but more to come later.

Conclusion

You may say that I have presented quite a few cons to go with my pros regarding the XPro-1, and you’d be right….Overall, I am sticking with the Fuji over the OM-D (and even the NEX-7) due to the file quality that this camera and its lenses. I continue to use and enjoy the NEX-7, but it feels more like a consumer electronics gadget to me than a true camera. There’s something that flows in the XPro-1’s veins (i.e. its design) that really sings to me. I can live with the occasional quirks given that its IQ is something to write home about. It’s as close to the Leica M system as I have ever seen. Sure, it forces a new way of shooting to cope with its quirks, but if Fuji’s history of support is anything to write about, they will keep tweaking the XPRo-1 until it’s great, or at least, better. Further, the XPro-1’s body is not M9 priced, and may thus be somewhat easier to replace/upgrade without burning a hole in the wallet and/or the stomach….with time, and popularity, the system will evolve to provide the sensor and lenses with a better body to provide the system more maturity…that’s my hope and suspicion, at least….

Overall, you may say that this is the picture that summarizes my overall feelings of the Fuji XPro-1

 

Pro

Image Quality (a revelation, really)

Low light ISO capability (another revelation, really good)

Build (light, especially the lenses) but robust. Grip adds weight and makes the camera feel more like a Leica M

Lenses (35 mm and 60 mm are stunning, 18 is solid and focuses faster)

Button & Dial Layout and menu access

Hand-off factor

Con

Low light autofocus performance

Shutter lag

Occasional AF inconsistency, more so with optical viewfinder

Inaccurate optical viewfinder frame lines

EVF refresh rate is slow

Manual focus implementation lags FAR behind NEX series camera, due to lack of focus peaking and slower refresh rates

Learning curve: one has to re-learn to shoot in a way that the camera can handle

 

Should be improvable via firmware

AF performance and accuracy with optical viewfinder

DNG RAW file option

Menu items don’t all reset with each firmware upgrade (even lenses)

 

Must be improved in future iterations of the camera

Higher resolution EVF with faster refresh rate

Lenses that use methods other than fly by wire

Lenses or body with image stabilization

Sample Images

Apr 102012
 

The Panasonic GF-1. An old friend Re-visited –  by Colin Steel

 

fellow photo travelers and camera junkies, like most of you I love reading Steve’s site to hear his thoughts on the latest kit, I can hardly wait for the Olympus OM-D to hit, it just looks sooo cool. In the meantime I got to looking out all of my M43 gear, in addition to the original Kit zoom (Kirk Tuck seems to like) I have the 45 mm f2.8 Leica designed macro, a recently acquired Samyang fisheye and my old favorite, the extraordinary little 20mm f1.7. This of course becomes what appears initially to be a bit of a weird 40mm equivalent focal length which puts it in no mans land between the favored 35 and 50 mm standards. I don’t know why but somehow this focal length really works for me and I find I can shoot all day on it.

 

Rather than be some strange sort of outcast from the traditional primes family, the 40 mm length somehow combines the best features of both the 35 and 50. It’s reasonably wide but can still be used for closer people or street work if you need to. You could argue that this makes it a compromise, but its a good one.

Similarly with the 45mm which gives a very nice 90 MM focal length. There is a big weakness in this otherwise lovely lens though and its the slowish aperture when used with the GF1. I have never been entirely happy in using the GF1 at anything above 400 ISO and despite the inbuilt lens stabilization, the need for shutter speeds in the 1/100th second range for good sharpness means that the lens needs decent light to work at its best. Having said that, it does focus close and delivers good results. I tried to capture the beauty and dignity of dying flowers in this shot which required getting really tight to the Frangipani flowers.

 

Back to the GF1 and I have to say that I have probably used 3 cameras in my time that I have gotten really close to and this is one (I will talk about the other two in a future post) Let me tell you why.

About a year ago in an attempt to further develop my skills I signed up for a camera course. Because of this exercise I forced myself to learn every intricacy of the GF1 and I could manipulate it instantly to do what I wanted without much conscious thought. I would anticipate a scene, have the camera already set up for the environment and often spot meter from something that looked right to get the exposure – guess what ??? I firmly believe that my photography took a leap forward.

I almost exclusively shot with the 20mm, nearly always wide open and my framing and exposures improved dramatically. I wandered around Singapore and had an absolute ball just shooting in rhythm. I know that this is why so many people like Leica M9′s, the process becomes different and the camera craft is much more aligned to thoughtful shooting and I believe that the GF1 and its simple, mainly manual interface allowed me to find my own approach in similar way.

 

Like the NikonV1 that I have been using extensively recently, the GF1 is a very discreet and quiet camera in use. It lacks the blistering speed of use of the V1 but I still believe that the RAW images at ISO below 400 are better and need less work. It’s add-on viewfinder is stone age by comparison to the V1 but it still allows basic composition although there is no subtlety at all about it.

 

Again, like other small cameras I own, I found that I carried it more as well, and through my familiarity with it this led to me getting more instantaneous, unplanned shots than normal for me.

 

I also traveled extensively with the GF1 and had a particularly good time with it in Bali where I got a nice series of shots of the ferry at Kusamba Beach.

 

 

I firmly believe that the simplicity of use and familiarity I had with the camera helped me enormously to move around shooting high and low to get the subjects above or below the horizon depending on what the shot needed.

 

If you ever get a chance to go to Kusamba Beach it can be a little tricky to find this particular location so its best to take a taxi and ask him to take you to where the salt farmers are. You need to be there very early, well before sunrise in fact if you are to get the best shooting light and activities. There is something I like very much about the quality of the light there and I think it’s partly to do with the black volcanic sand, white surf and early morning light. I de-saturated these photos for a particular look that I was trying to achieve so it doesn’t accurately reflect the actual lighting – in retrospect I should have left them alone :)

 

It’s astonishing to watch people board these ferry’s and very often the porters have to carry passengers through the surf.

 

Anyway, enough of this reminiscing, I have worked up sufficient enthusiasm to charge the battery and get shooting with this lovely camera again (there’s also a sneaking urge to try a GX1….)

 

Well that’s it for this short post guys, I am very interested to hear from anyone else that has a love affair with the GF1, please leave a comment or pop me a note.

Cheers,

Colin

Be sure to visit Colin’s site here for his latest reports and images!

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