Mar 102015
 

Ice Hotel-10

Ice Cool X-Series

By Ben Cherry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice Hotel

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

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

Mar 062015
 

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

by Raymond Hau

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

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

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

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

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

Initial impressions

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

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

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

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

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Overlapping views

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

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

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

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

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The Kit

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

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

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All Weather Support

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

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

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

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Against the Fuji X-T1 and XF14mmF2.8 R

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

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

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

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

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Pier and Water Jet – Geneva, Switzerland.

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Palais de l’Isle – Annecy, France

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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St Pierre Cathedral – Geneva, Switzerland

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Against the Sony RX1

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

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

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

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

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Bâtiment des Forces Motrices – Geneva, Switzerland

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Prince Edward rooftops – Hong Kong, China

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Optical Stability System

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

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

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Sun Flare

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

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

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

Swiss Alps – Gornergrat, Switzerland

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Too infinity and beyond, if it gets there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, enjoy the images.

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

Feb 232015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

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

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

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

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

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

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

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

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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

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

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

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

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Color Test

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

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

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

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

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Portrait Test

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

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

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DR Test

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

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

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Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

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

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

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

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ISO 3200

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Now ISO 6400

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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Feb 202015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SONY A7s and A7II

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

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

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

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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

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

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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

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

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

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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

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

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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

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

Leica M 240

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

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

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

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

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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

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

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

Feb 132015
 

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens Quick Review

by Brad Husick

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I have been a pro sports photographer for years and I always rely on the big hardware to get the job done right. For me that has been the Canon EOS series and the Nikon D3 and D4. I have switched between them several times looking for the next advancement in IQ or speed.

When the Fuji X-T1 was announced I was intrigued by the compactness and the manual controls of the camera so I bought one and tried it out on indoor sports. The early firmware wasn’t allowing the camera to keep up and the Fuji 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 lens wasn’t fast enough to keep pace with the Nikon D4. I wrote a review here on SteveHuffPhoto at that time.

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A lot has changed since then. The newest firmware gives the camera an electronic shutter option that’s silent and super-fast (up to 1/32,000 sec). Just as important, the new 50-140mm (76-213mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens with OIS is certainly up to the task. The focusing is lightning quick and the OIS is working extremely well. I have included some samples taking indoors in very poor light. The camera was set to ISO 6400 and the distance to the subject was 11 feet, shot handheld. The zoom was set to 140mm. As you can see, everything is tack sharp even at f/11 and 1/9 second exposure – handheld. I have also included an f/22 at 0.5 second exposure and there is some motion blur, but it’s surprisingly good for a half-second shot not on a tripod or resting on a bean bag.

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I have yet to try it in a challenging indoor sports arena, but my initial tests bode quite well for this setup.
Physically, the lens is very good to hold with smooth and surprisingly short throws for the zoom and the focus. The all-metal construction looks like it would withstand the rigors of shooting and it’s weather sealed as well with 20 seals. It’s also rated for low temperature environments down to 14 degrees F. I won’t go into a lot of the specs because it’s easy to look those up.

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Compared to the Fuji 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 lens, this is a major step up. The new lens doesn’t grow larger when you zoom – the 55-200 gets to be just as long as the 50-140 when fully zoomed. The new lens is weather sealed and to me the OIS works better. The new lens has a full marked aperture ring with the A setting at the end. The old lens has a separate switch for A mode and an unlabeled aperture ring. Most importantly, the new lens is much faster to focus and it’s an f/2.8 after all. The 55-200 is $699, so it’s considerably less expensive than the 50-140 ($1599). If the 70-200mm focal length is important to you I suggest you save your pennies and buy the 50-140mm lens.

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Compared to my Nikon 70-200 f/4 VR lens, it’s almost the same size and weight (both about 2.5 pounds). The Fuji of course is giving us a full stop more light albeit in the APS-C format. To get a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in the full frame world, count on a much bigger and heavier (3.4 lbs) lens. I have included comparison photos of the Fuji and Nikon f/4 lenses side by side.

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The lens hood on the Fuji has an interesting feature – a small removable door on the bottom that allows you to stick your finger inside and rotate a polarizing filter if you use one. It’s a clever idea and the door is held in with enough force that it’s unlikely you will lose it when attached to the hood. I do think the hood is a bit large, but I don’t know what design tradeoffs Fuji made with it. The lens cap fits tightly and has nice large grips for removing it.

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When the lens is mounted to the X-T1 and the hood is used it’s almost comically large compared to the camera but the handling is still very good and the light weight of the setup compared to a full-frame DSLR is greatly appreciated. The case on my X-T1 is the Gariz which I do recommend. It extends the bottom of the camera just enough, and if this is not sufficient then you can attach the battery grip instead.

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I must thank my good friend Tony Rose at Popflash Photo (www.popflash.com) for loaning me this new lens for this test and review. Tony earned my business long ago when Leica had some defective sensors and Tony replaced my camera long before Leica even acknowledged a problem. This is a perfect example of the difference between a great dealer and a box-shipper.

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Feb 102015
 

The Light Weight Really Matters!

By Mohamed Hakem

I’ve written before on how Fuji helped me unhinge new passion in the street photography but now I’m back with a new experience. After the switched from DSLR (Nikon D800) to Mirrorless (Fuji X-T1). I wrote before on how this switch helped me discover new genres in photography as street and people. But what I couldn’t imagine is that the mirrorless could outperform the DSLRs in landscape also! I am a landscape photographer and I’ve been a loyal Nikon user all my life. Coming from a monster in the shape of a camera (D800) made me see all other cameras as toys. Huge dynamic range and massive pixels. When I first got into the Fuji’s I was never expecting that it will one day be my main camera and replace the D800, and it did!

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People tend to look at the technical factors only; dynamic range, color depth and charts and come up with a conclusion that DSLRs are much better for landscape. Yes the D800 is much more capable on paper than the fuji, but the fuji can come to you to places that the D800 would be a burden! The Fuji can provide colors and of the nature and sand the Nikon never ever did provide!

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I was going to a hike in Mount Mousa , Sinai,Egypt. This is the second highest mountain in all Egypt 2422m above sea level and it has extremely rough terrain. Its a challenge for an unexperienced hiker like me. Its an over night non stop climb that lasts for 5 hours and you stay up there for 2 hours then come back. So you have to save your energy as everybody will go up there to rest while you will be setting up for your shots. Everybody’s major tip was leave behind all unnecessary things. for me I carried the fuji X-T1, 10-24, 55-200 and 8mm samyung lens and a small 3leggedthing tripod. As we climbed things got heavier and heavier and it was really hard towards the end but we made it.

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I never thought of climbing a mountain before as I would die if I go up without a camera and my corresponding Nikon setup would be (Nikon D800 1KG, 14-24 1KG, 70-200 2KG, tripod 3KG. fisheye 0.5KG. and a decent backpack would sum up to roughly 10KGs! All of this on my back and I could barely walk! Compare this to a 3KG of the Fuji system. So I went up, setup my equipment and was really happy with the results and they sold well on my website. If I were to take the Nikon I would have either gave up during the climb or would have reached the top with no strength to compose and shoot!

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Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Website: www.hakemphotography.com

500px: 500px.com/hakem

Jul 022014
 

Shooting The Palouse with the Fuji X-T1 & X100S

By Olaf Sztaba

Brandon and Steve,

Thank you for sharing our previous submission with your readers. It is a truly great experience to be a part of your growing community of passionate photographers. Recently, Kasia (my wife) and I travelled to the Palouse.

The Palouse is an agricultural region in southeastern Washington, which produces mostly wheat and legumes. We couldn’t find the origin of the name “Palouse.” Some sources claim that the name comes from the Palus tribe, only later converted to Palouse by the French-Canadian fur traders, which means “land with short thick grass.” Later the name was changed to the current Palouse.

It is a land like no other. The abundance of shapes, patterns and colours produces dream-like visuals, which might overwhelm your senses at first. However, if you cut yourself off from the noise of your everyday life, turn off your cellphone, disconnect from the Internet and let your senses wander, you will find yourself in awe. Rolling yellow fields against the blue sky, whirling patterns of cut hay and huge expanses of sand dune-like hills are all a feast for the eyes. While well-known parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone have their own mega-popular spots, the Palouse offers you the unknown. Every dirt road hides a visual gem for you to discover and this is what makes this place so special. We photographed this visual paradise with the Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100S, XF 14mm F2.8, XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 OIS lenses.

Here are a few images, mostly JPEGs (Velvia film simulation) straight from the camera (only minor contrast adjustments). We have also included some photos using the new Fuji film profiles in Lightroom 5. They are identical to what the X-series cameras produce, but offer some extra room for adjustment.

Regards,

Olaf Sztaba

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

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Jun 232014
 

Void decks

By Ying Kit Tham

Howdy Brandon / Steve!

I am sharing part of a series of photographs on void decks. Common sights in Singapore, the ubiquitous void decks are experienced by many but for most people, they are transient ones at best. Void decks host a variety of activities, items, moments and everything in between. They are like blank canvases on which the artist does his magic and always taken for granted. This series was built on this perception and examines the things which manifest themselves in these urban spaces. The photographs titled “The elevator”, “The floor games” and “The path which leads to nowhere” are taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens.

Greetings fron Singapore

Ying Kit Tham
www.arkitecturalphotography.com

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the path which leads to nowhere

May 202014
 

Some Fuji x-t1 Images, A User Report

By James

Hi Steve,

Just thought I’d share some images I took the last week with the Fuji x-t1. I rented the body and the 56/1.2 lens for a trip with my daughter to Ashland Oregon. I own an x100 but it rarely came out of the bag this trip as the x-t1 was just too much fun to put down. Also it was raining quite a bit so I thought I’d give a test to the x-t1’s weather resistance, it performed great. The AF speed was surprisingly quick with the 56mm even wide open and I had very few misses. Still trying to figure out how to incorporate this rig into my pro (Canon) setup but getting an assortment of new lenses might prohibit that.

I shot in RAW+jpeg and just bounced back and forth from the Provia and BW with green filter settings. This was easy to switch on the fly with the Q menu. The jpegs looked so good I didn’t need to use the RAW files. These images here are pretty straight from the camera with just a few Lightroom tweaks, the BW images were done in camera and the color images were all shot with auto WB. I think the Fuji amps up the color a little on its jpegs but they look gorgeous straight out of the camera.

James

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May 122014
 

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People, Places and Things… and Neil Patrick Harris. A Review of the Fuji XT-1

By Amy Medina

So I’ve been a Fuji XT1 owner now for a few months. I decided to sell my x100 and XE1 both to help fund the purchase, two of the biggest reasons being the new EVF and that weather-sealing is something that comes in handy when I shoot in the rain and snow often. The latter actually leads to one of my biggest gripes with the camera, of which I have very few, and in the grands scheme of things, isn’t much of a gripe at all… at least not yet.

But let’s get it over with. I’m not completely convinced the weather-sealing is all that solid on the XT1. The SD card door doesn’t seem to slide-snap into place as solidly as I’d like, and it’s easier than it should be to accidentally open it. This is the biggest point of weather-sealing weakness, so it seems. Also, when I was researching to buy this camera, I was having a hard time finding an answer — for sure — whether that the kit lens that came with it would be weather sealed or not… and of course, now I know it’s not. Call it a minor annoyance, but I found it irksome that a newly weather-sealed body was sold with a lens that wasn’t equally weather-sealed, especially when there’s no other weather-sealed lenses available yet. I ended up almost immediately trading the kit lens for the SLR Magic 35mm.

Fuji XT1 + SLR Magic 35mm

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Fuji XT1 + SLR Magic 35mm

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So lets take my gripe with the new weather-sealing out of the equation for now (since there’s no real way to test it)…

When I first held the camera, I was otherwise pretty impressed. The camera feels more solid than the XE1, because it weighs just a bit more and is ever-so-slightly bigger. It has a magnesium alloy construction and a rubberized exterior that have a nice feel in heft and which looks nice in design. The dials are not wishy-washy — I often found it was too easy to accidentally knock the exposure compensation dial out-of-place on the XE1, but that’s not the case at all with the XT1, where each position snaps into its setting firmly. The camera fits in my hand nicely, and I love the small molded “grip” that is part of the front of the body, and combined with the molded thumb rest on the back, it just makes for a really comfortable fit holding the camera. Occasionally, I found the XE1 a little too small, so the faintly larger size of the XT1 is actually a nice one — and if you know me, I like a small camera, so by no means is the XT1 “big”.

There’s been a little talk in the Fuji community about “mushy” buttons on the back. I find them to provide mostly, a good experience to use. Lets face it, we often have to use these buttons blind, because we don’t want to take our eye off the viewfinder. I don’t find it difficult to do. However, I would suggest they could provide a little more tactile feedback… especially the AF Assist button (see below) and the Q.Menu button.

Image quality on the camera is outstanding. If you’re familiar with the XE1 and XE2, you won’t be disappointed with the XT1, as the sensor is essentially the same. Color and contrast are deliciously good, and it’s startling how sharp the files can be. Performance of the XT1 however, beats other Fuji’s easily, simply because there’s no contest when it comes to autofocus speed, EVF refresh rates, and continuous focus tracking.

Since many of the X-Trans cameras and XT1 share the same sensor, the reason for upgrading is really going to be focus speed and EVF improvements (and hypothetically at this point, the weather-sealing). The focus speed is much improved over the XE1… In operation, it’s a noticeable difference, not one only measured in labs. In fairness though, I didn’t find I missed all that many shots with the old Fuji either, and for me it was more the improved EVF that drew me to upgrade; I shoot quite a bit with manual lenses like the SLR Magic, and Leica and Voigtlander M-Glass.

Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

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Yes, the new EVF is as amazing as you’ve heard from others. The bigger eye-cup is nice, and the fact they offer an even bigger one as an accessory is a nice option. It’s a bit of a dust magnet though, so I’m extremely happy with the ability to snap the eye-cup off for cleaning. With the XE1, the lag time that was sometimes present in the EVF could be a real displeasure, so having nearly a lag-free experience with the XT1 has been a delight. The image your see when looking through the EVF is large and immersive, and from someone who has become accustomed to EVF cameras, it’s clearly the nicest one I’ve worked with. For those of you with glasses, it does offer diopter adjustment, and in my opinion, it sits in a better spot than it did on the XE1, which I seemed to accidentally knock out of position constantly.

Manual focusing is such a pleasure with the Fuji XT1. With the bright and clear image from this amazing new EVF and the multiple options for focus-assisting — different peak colors and levels, or digital split image — it’s just a great experience. I was manual focusing with the XE1 back before Fuji even offered peaking or split image, and I was always able to get the shot with the “jaggies” trick that a lot of Fuji users are familiar with, but now with peaking and split image, I never have to strain-and-pray or guess to get a shot in focus.

I tend to use focus peaking the most, set to “white” and “high”, but the split image option is an interesting one, giving an almost rangefinder-like experience. In split image, the focus patch in the middle is black and white, and you have to line up the vertical lines of the item you are trying to focus on. You can also switch between the different focus-assist modes by simply pressing and holding the Focus Assist button. A nice feature indeed.

Of course, this does lead me to another little gripe though. On the Fuji XE1, the thumb wheel on the back was also a toggle button. So when manually focusing, you simple had to press the wheel to magnify, then could move your thumb to turn the wheel to increase/decrease magnification. This isn’t the case with the XT1, where Fuji decided to separate this functionality. There is now a dedicated “focus assist” button you press to get the magnified view, and then the separate thumb wheel will increase or decrease your magnification. This is a minor hassle to me, since I loved the way it was on the XE1 previously, being much more intuitive all in one, easy-to-find-by-feel, point of control. Separating it into two seems counterproductive for us manual-lens shooters. However, over time, I have found I don’t increase magnification all that often, so it’s really just a quibble. More importantly, Fuji if you’re listening, make the Focus Assist button a little easy to find, not so flush with the body!

Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

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Most of my “issues” with the camera come down to minor things like this, and interesting ergonomic choices that Fuji decided to make.

Let’s talk about the ISO dial. This is a feature I wanted to love on the XT1, and I often find myself switching ISO quite a bit when I’m shooting. Annoyingly, the dial is the type that locks, with a center button that you have to press in order to turn it. Some people love it. For me, it makes switching the ISO a whole lot more finicky. Personally, I would be enjoying the ISO dial a whole lot more if it were similar in operation to the exposure compensation dial, but at the very least, it should have had the option to lock the dial, similar to how the mode dial on the Pentax K3 can be locked for button-push-required-turning, or unlocked for free-turning.

I know a lot of you will say “well just use auto ISO”. That’s fine and I’ve tried it, but it doesn’t fit the way I like to shoot, as I’m not always looking for the lowest ISO possible. Sometime you just need the shutter speed to be faster, and the camera can’t always make the smartest choice for you. I don’t want to always have to be changing the minimum shutter setting in the auto ISO menu either. The way I had the XE1 set up, I could switch ISO pretty quickly with it assigned to a function (Fn) button. Because of the locked dial that requires the button to be pushed to turn, I can’t say I find it any quicker with the ISO dial, which really, should have made it simpler.

There are lots of customization options with the additional Function (Fn) buttons though, which is great. There is one on the front of the body, one on the top, and four on the back, and all can be customized with a variety of different options. I love customizable buttons. I use them often, and set them up for how I like to shoot. For example, the one on the front, I have that set to focus area, so I can very quickly move the focus area box around.

Fuji XT1 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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With the Fuji X Cameras, there are so many choices for image settings, and I often have people ask me what settings I use. Let’s get it out of the way and state again, the X-Trans sensor is capable of SHARP images. Really sharp. Sharper than you’re likely used to if you haven’t shot with a Fuji before, or if you’ve never shot a camera without an AA filter.

So, I tend to shoot with sharpness at -1. I also keep noise reduction at -1 or -2. And highlight-tone (H-Tone) is at -2 and shadow-tone (S-Tone) is at -1. I start with the Astia (Soft) preset and customize from there. That’s typical, but I sometimes adjust the shadow and highlight tone to 0 depending on the shooting conditions. All of this gives me a more-than-decent out-of-camera jpeg to then work with.

Why don’t I shoot RAW? I’ve never been a big RAW shooter. I’ve always been a JPG shooter in general. And since I can still take my JPGs through ACR just fine, and since Fuji has done such an amazing job with it’s JPGs, there’s just no benefit for me to shoot RAW with this camera. Seeing is believing when it comes to the Fuji JPGs. I’ve had large amazing prints on display in shows and in New York museums, so it’s not something I’m concerned with. And before you start commenting and yelling at me that I’m ridiculous, please note it’s my choice only. You’re welcome to shoot RAW if you like; Just be very cautious using Lightroom or ACR for processing the Fuji RAW files, because from what I’ve heard, they don’t play nice together since Adobe can’t seem to, or doesn’t want to, figure out a new algorithm for dealing with X-Trans files.

Fuji XT1 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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The image quality straight out of the camera is nothing short of exceptional.

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‘ve seriously been enjoying the flip-up-flip-out LCD. It’s been a while since I’ve had a camera with this feature. As someone who has primarily shot Leica, Fuji and Pentax in the last few years, most of the bodies I’ve chosen didn’t seem to also offer a nice articulating LCD… until now. I’ve been known to contort myself into some pretty bizarre positions to try to get the low shot, or climb up onto my car to get the high shots. As someone who is now in her forties and who can’t carry a step-ladder everywhere, I so appreciate not having to do that. LOL

The LCD is big and bright and wonderfully clear, and the fact it will flip down so I can shoot over my head, or flip up so I can get down real low is a delight.

Fuji XT1 + 27mm Pancake

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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The overall performance of the XT1 has been splendid for me. I don’t find the camera getting in my way when trying to take a shot. I’m not fumbling with menus or waiting for the camera to respond. It just take pictures the way I need it to. This seems like a simple thing, but there are a lot of cameras out there, and many of them require menu-diving or are ergonomically awkward, are too big and heavy to carry everywhere or, simply aren’t fun to use. Fuji hits all points for me… small, light, and enjoyable to shoot with, and rarely do I have to dive into a menu.

With most cameras produced in the last couple of years, you are going to get very good high ISO performance. The Fuji is no exception. While I’m not someone who has to utilize high ISO all that often, it’s certainly nice to not have to worry when the need arises. When you’re in New York City, you just never know when you and your family might have the opportunity to meet a celebrity outside a dark Broadway theater at 11pm, so being able to use ISO 6400 with a fast enough shutter speed, while holding the camera up high over the crowd… well lets just say it comes in handy. And yes, my daughter got Neil Patrick Harris’ autograph.

Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake at ISO 6400

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake at ISO 6400

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake at ISO 6400

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Overall, I’m someone who has been a huge fan of the Fuji cameras. I got into them with the x100 and I really enjoyed it. Then I bought the XE1 and used it religiously all last year, to the point I was wearing off the silver finish at its edges. And now I’ve spent my hard-earned money on the Fuji XT1. I absolutely love what Fuji is doing with its cameras. They are pretty close to being about as perfect a mirrorless camera body as it can be. I’m also exceedingly impressed with Fuji’s ability to listen to it’s customers, to address issues that arise, to provide fairly quick service, and to strive to continue to produce an even more-perfect mirrorless as times goes on. They certainly are committed to producing a camera that not only provides a good experience, but a fantastic image.

Some of my minor hair-spliting aside — which I only hope all of you and Fuji will take as constructive — I’m predominantly a very happy customer, and someone who will keep using the Fuji X-Cameras as long as they stay on this path. For a long time, I’ve had this dream camera in my mind, and so far, the Fuji XT1 comes closest to fulfilling my fantasies… to being the type of small camera body I’ve hoped for all along. We’ve often had to make compromises in buying these small, mirrorless bodies, and this one makes me feel like there aren’t any.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come with mirrorless in just a few years, and I’m excited about what the future holds, especially with Fuji.

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Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Notkon

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake

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Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

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Fuji XT1 + SLR Magic 35mm

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake

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Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

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Fuji XT1 + Fuji 27mm Pancake

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Fuji XT1 + Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

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Apr 172014
 

The Real Digital FM3? Nikon Manual Lenses on the X-T1

by David Nash

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Hi Steve and readers.

Not being as young as many of you I still have a soft spot for small metal cameras with lots of dials (even if I don’t actually turn them) – and a bundle of Nikon lenses including one or 2 old bought cheaply at our local camera shop (yes we still have one in a city of 500,000!). So like many I was desperate to get my hands on the Nikon Df – and I did. But I was a bit underwhelmed and when it had to be returned because of an AF fault I took a refund rather than a replacement.

With the money I got back I’m now the delighted owner of a Nikon 24mm 1.4 and, arriving yesterday, a Fuji X-T1. And it’s definitely not going back…. But being a bit slow on the uptake I hadn’t up till now thought about using Nikon manual lenses on Fuji X cameras (I had an X-E1) and immediately ordered a Nikon fit adapter that arrived this morning. So I spent a couple of hours this afternoon shivering my way round the streets of Edinburgh with my brand new X-T1 and a 135mm f.3.5 Nikon that I picked up for less than £100. As you’ll see in the photo it’s really quite small for a 200mm equivalent focal length – but very solid and well made and quite sharp (though not in the same league as the 90mm Elmarit which I will be trying out next).

Here are few photos of bits of some of our local buildings. What I really enjoyed about using the X-T1 with the manual lens was how well the focus peaking worked (in most circumstances) and how easy it is to magnify the focus area with the focus assist button. You need to focus at max aperture to get the best result but it’s no hassle to stop the lens down a few clicks if you need some depth of field. But what I particularly like about using the X-T1 with a longer lens like is that if I turn the ISO dial to auto (yes I do actually use the dials a little) and the shutter speed to 180th of a second the camera will automatically change the ISO as I (manually) change the shutter. That way I can keep a high enough shutter speed and have complete control over the aperture. Smart! Oh, and I think you all know anyway that the Fuji sensor is rather good at high ISOs. And I did I remember to say the viewfinder is brilliant??

So – as many others seem to be saying – is this not what the Df should have been?
Thanks
David
www.davidnashphotos.co.uk

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Apr 142014
 

Fuji X-T1 Ergonomic DYI Improvements

by Ronald Grauer

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I will not talk to you about the quality of the camera, we all know it’s a good camera with some little problem like every camera has. Of course, I couldn’t do anything about what’s going on inside, but I could do something about 2 of the major problem I’ve found on it:

- The eyecup is to small and not deep enough. Mostly when shooting in bright light. And also after 3 years with the Sony Nex camera (Nex 7 than Nex 6), I missed a bit the left side EVF found on the Nex Camera

- The rear 4 pad, which has been discussed on every single review on the net… Almost a shame to design such a pad.

So If you want to try this little fix, feel free…

For the eyecup I used a Nikon dk-4. But I think most of the wide, round rubber eyecup should fit. Plenty of them on Ebay.

The eyecup is glued on the plastic base from the original Fuji eyecup. Unscrew the 2 screws to remove the Fuji rubber eyecup.

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But you need to use the Sugru material (I have nothing to do with them…!) or any other similar material. Cause just the glue won’t be enough. I’m not a glue expert, but I tried different very good glue, nothing could hold it. The rubber material is a porous material so you need to shape something on top of these 2 elements. And this will make them more homogeneous for the look.

It’s called ”Sugru”, www.sugru.com

I’ve also used this amazing product to customize the rear 4 pad.

It’s made in England.

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You have an hour or so to shape this “king of rubber”. Let it dry for 12 hours and it will keep the shape and have some elasticity. As sugru says, this material sticks to 99% of the material in the world.

It has been awarded as one of the most amazing material invented in the last years…

It cost around 15 euros for 8 little package…

Hope this post will help many other users…

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I’ll finish by telling you that after all, I’m a passionate photographer.

here is my website link: www.ronaldgrauer.com.

Keep with what you’re doing.

Regards,

Ronald.

Mar 262014
 

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Fujifilm X-T1 User Experience

By Kelvin Ng

I never do a review for any camera. I also never know how to write a proper review for a camera that I used. I am going to make an exception for this Fujifilm X-T1. I want to share some of my “user experience” about this camera. It is not a technical “review”, but it is rather an “experience” to share. Anyway, I was one of your Daily Inspiration #439 with the Fujifilm X100s.

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Some History About the Gears I Owned…

My first Fujifilm mirror less camera was the X100. That was the time (2011) I sold all my DSLR gear, and bought the X100 to pair with my Olympus EP3. I have never regretted and missed my DSLR since then. I just hate the size and look of a DSLR. I found the X100 and EP3 was really suited for a non-pro photographer like me. I enjoyed traveling with the lightweight and small size of these cameras in a small camera bag.

I know most of the people complaint about the autofocus of Fujifilm X100. I was the one who complaint it too. When looking at the retro out look of the camera, and also the photo came out from the X100, I tried to compromise the slow autofocus with the retro look and the photo quality.

I purchased the Fujifilm X-Pro1 in 2012, but I sold it after a month of usage. I just can’t justify the cost that I invested into this system with a very slow autofocus in return. Hence, I got myself an Olympus OMD EM5 instead. I also have tried the Fujifilm X-E1 in a short period of time, and sold it with the same reason I found with the X-Pro1.

I bought the X100s in 2013. I skipped the X-E2. Until recently in 2014, I got myself the Fujifilm X-T1.

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What I found?

I will not talk about the full X-T1 specification here. I find no point to talk about it since the camera specification can be easily obtain from Fujifilm official website. I am quite satisfied with the Fujifilm X-T1 performance, but several points I wanted to share here. I found this are the point worth mention.

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a) Autofocus of X-T1

I think the autofocus of X-T1 is the main concern for many people who want to buy into this system. I have tried Fujifilm X-Pro1, X-E1, and Olympus EP3, EM5. If I rate the autofocus of Olympus OMD EM5 as 10 out of 10, then the X-T1 will be 8.5 out of 10. The X-Pro1 is much lower than that. I would say the autofocus of X100s are on par with the X-T1. I have full confident on OMD EM5. It never misses when I press on the shutter. The X-T1 pair with the 35mm f1.4, I still miss some shot. The lens tends to hunt a bit before lock into the subject. It could be the 35mm f1.4 lens characteristic? Other factor? I found the same with the 14mm f2.8 too. However, it is not being hunt at very horrible stage, it has improved very much since the X-Pro1. If you have come from the Olympus OMD EM5 family, you will get frustrated and feel less confident about the autofocus of the X-T1. I believe time will help to get use to the X-T1 system. You will be very happy if you are upgrading from X100, X-E1, or X-Pro1. For me… I just hope the autofocus of this X-T1 can be improved further to compete with the Olympus OMD.

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b) Button & Menu

I found the button is nicely place on the camera. Once I set up the camera, I have not looked into the menu for other setting. I can change the setting with simple turn of the dial. Even the in camera advance filter, it can be access by turning one of the dial.

c) EVF

The EVF is large and clear with a lot of information. No complaint except the EVF can be very noisy under dim light condition. Make focus peaking a bit difficult.

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d) Battery Life

Not a good one. The battery dies suddenly without warning, even though the indicator shown half of the battery life. I would say 350 shot average per charge.

e) White Balance

It can be very hard to control the white balance. The output tends to be very pinky or magenta in some occasion. I notice the red color on the subject never be the red. I might be wrong, but I have noticed it since the X100s.

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How I Process the Photo from X-T1…

There is no RAW support as of this writing with Lightroom 5. This is how I set up the Fujifilm X-T1, when I want strait JPEG photo out from the camera. Here are the settings:

Highlight -1

Shadow -2

Color 0

Sharpness 0

DR Auto

Noise Reduction -2

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The entire photos shown on this page were shot with the above setting. I made some adjustment in Lightroom for Saturation, Contrast, White Balance, Dodge & Burn, and Sharpness. The black & white photo was converted using the pre-set in Lightroom 5. Several reason that I have the X-T1 set to the above setting. This is the experience that I have gotten from when using the X100s. I found the X-T1 produce decent and unique JPEG output with this setting.

• The noise grain. The grain is so nice at ISO 800 and above. I just hope it will be completely turn off the noise reduction. I have the noise reduction set to -2.

• The highlight clipping. I found it is much easy to blown the detail of highlight. I have the Highlight set to -1 or -2.

• The lost of detail in shadow. I notice when the shadow is set to 0, some of the shadow will become very dark, and cause lost in detail. I have the shadow set to -2, and increase the contrast during post processing in Lightroom 5. I found this approach is much more satisfied.

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Worth to Upgrade?

If you ask me about my opinion, I would say the following:

If you need an X system with interchangeable lens, then it is a yes. If you are X100, X-E1, or X-Pro1 user, then it is a yes. But, I don’t see the need to upgrade if you are a X-E2 user, unless you need a weather shield camera body. For X100s user, if you can live with the fix lens, then no point to upgrade. For other mirror less system user, please check on the autofocus of X-T1 before jump into it.

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Am I satisfied with Fujifilm X-T1?

Certainly, there are more pros and cons. Overall, Fujifilm X-T1 is quite suited for my style of shooting (Street or Vacation). The autofocus is improved very much compare to the X-Pro1 that I had two year ago. With the uniqueness of Fujifilm photo rendering, it is good enough to justify the investment into the X-T1 system. I always build my system with focal length equivalent to 21mm, 35mm, and 50mm. Similar to my Leica MP system, the Voigtlander 21mm f4, Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, and Leica Summicron 50mm f2. Now I have the Fujifilm 14mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, and X100s to complete the range of focal length that I needed. I would skip the Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4R lens.

The Fujinon lens is excellent. Not only in build quality, the Fujinon lens produce sharp image even shooting wide open. I tend to use the 14mm f2.8 quite often on the street, and the 23mm focal length on my X100s next. The Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 is less, only one or two occasion for portrait shot. The photo that I share here is not the best, but it represents what the X-T1 is capable to produce. JPEG out is nice, with Fujifilm color signature.

I am sure the RAW file from the X-T1 will be the same as other X Trans sensor. Some people hate it and some people like it. I found the RAW file can be very flat or dull sometime. As what Steve mention before about Fujifilm X Trans Sensor, the file can be nice with good light. I don’t want to comment further on the X-T1 RAW file yet, but I believe it will be the same for all X Trans sensor. However, it is not a problem for me.

Yes, I am satisfied with the Fujifilm X-T1.

My blog: www.kbphotographyblog.com

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Mar 182014
 

Quick updates on the Fuji X-T1

by Brad Husick

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

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

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

handgrip

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

lightleak

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

Brad

 

03/20: UPDATE:

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

Thanks,

Brad

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