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.

Apr 042014
 

A photographic journey through New Zealand

by Cuno von Hahn

Māori: Aotearoa – New Zealand

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The beauty and grandeur of New Zealand has captured the imagination of movie-maker and photographer in the past years, and the country is a dream destination for many around the world. It is a land of majestic snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, glaciers descending to rainforest’s, fiord’s, geysers and volcanoes.There are only a few countries that have such a geographical diversity – a reason for me to travel there.

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Of course, photography in New Zealand was as important for me as traveling around. All photos from Newzealand were shot with the X-Pro1, fujinon 14mm and fujinon 35mm.

Many people were asking me, if the New Zealand photos were made in HDR . I always try to avoid shooting HDR. Firstly, it is really complex and a time-consuming process and secondly, in my opinion the pictures become better and more natural, if I use graduate filters for more dynamic range. Surely that is not enough for getting a higher dynamic range. Shooting in RAW is also necessary.

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All my pictures are carefully exposed. While shooting I am always using the histogram as a control tool. I performed almost no post production and no cropping at all. Every correction is made in Adobe Camera Raw (There are enough tools and options integrated). But my maxim is always: Digital darkroom techniques should only be used to adjust the dynamic tonal range and color balance of an image so that it more closely resembles what you saw, and that it communicates the mood of the scene.

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I was also asked if I have encountered the X-TRANS RAW conversion problem. Yes – there are still problems. 20% (low settings) sharpening in ACR and the rest I`m doing in Photoshop. That works for me very well and I get rid of the swirlies. Have a look by yourself – I think the foliage looks nice and crisp.

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If someone would like to see some more scenery images of New Zealand (also shoot with the X-Pro 1) please visit:

www.newzealand-gallery.com

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Finally, if New Zealand is not on the top of your list of countries that you want to visit, change your mind trust me!

Cheers, Cuno

Apr 042014
 

Beijing Fashion Week with Fuji XE-1 and XF 55-200

By Paolo Mercado

Hi Steve, Brandon,

I’ve been a follower of your site for about 3 years now but have only shared now. I am an occasional-but-passionate photographer. I normally take with film on a Leica MP or M7. I love my Leicas and may one day share some of my film scans. A year ago I bought an XE-1 with a Leica adapter to use some of my Leica lenses on. I was so impressed with the image quality I found myself shooting more and more with the Fuji zooms.

Last Sunday I went to one show at the Beijing Fashion Week to test out my XE-1 with the XF 55-200 lens. Here are 3 sample images I took. Before commenting on the images though, I must say that while I love taking photos with the XE-1 on manual focus peaking mode with my Leica lenses, taking on AF mode in low light was very difficult/frustrating and I missed a lot of moments. However I was pleased with a few shots I managed to squeeze through. All files are straight out of the camera, not retouched or cropped in any way (just resized for this sharing).

First shot is of the star model on the runway. I was quite pleased to have captured the details on the wire mesh head-dress on this shot. (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 2500, 156.1mm, -1 EV, f/5, 1/60).

First shot is

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Second shot is “faces in the crowd”. These ladies were seated 20 meters away from me, across the other side of the runway. What was actually happening on the runway is that one of the models stumbled painfully on the runway due to the impossibly high heals (stilts really!) that the designer insisted everyone wearing. The girl on the left is looking quite concerned. The camera captured these two glowing ladies quite well (including the tattoo on the arm of the lady on the left). (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 6400, 148.5mm, 0 EV, f/4.5, 1/60).

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Now for an outdoor shot with this charming beauty. This was a quick shot and I didn’t adjust manually. The camera took it at ISO 1000 as it took the exposure value from her black dress. This highlighted her porcelain skin quite well (and to my eye captured it quite accurately!). (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 1000, 148.5mm, 0 EV, f/5, 1/125).

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What amazed me the most about the Fuji is its wonderful ability to capture great skin tones straight out of the camera. No retouching on any of these (I don’t have the patience for retouching!). I am very happy with the IQ of the Fuji sensor and the capabilities of the XF 55-200 lens. I am thinking of getting the XT-1 for it’s speed and better handling, but I will hold on to the XE-1 for my Leica lenses as I like how small and discreet it is.

Many thanks and I hope these make it to your site!

Paolo Mercado

Beijing, China

Currently shooting with Fuji XE-1, Leica MP & M7, Leica X1

 

Apr 012014
 

Isle of Skye. My Fuji X-series review

By Ben Cherry

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A bit of background about me, I am a Zoology student at the University of Sheffield and have been passionate about photography for the past ten years with my main interests being travel and wildlife. Fujifilm UK currently sponsors me with X-series cameras but that doesn’t factor in my opinions here, as they want my honest views on their equipment.

I have already written a review of some of the gear that I took to Malaysian Borneo for Steve Huff here: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/12/31/experiencing-borneo-with-the-fuji-x-series-by-ben-cherry/

Please see more of my work and follow me through the following avenues:

http://www.bencherryphotos.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography

https://twitter.com/Benji_Cherry

My views from the previous trip haven’t change; in fact my affection for the X-series has been boosted by some hands-on time with the X-T1, 56mm f1.2 and 10-24mm f4 at the Photography Show in the UK earlier this week. For this trip I took the X-Pro1, X-E1, X100s, 14mm f2.8, 18-55mm, 35mm f1.4, 60mm f2.4 and the 55-200mm all in a Domke shoulder bag. I love compact systems purely for the space and weight saving possibilities! This trip is quite different to the last, though not in the baking tropical heat, it was still a very enjoyable experience in the relative wilderness that the Isle of Skye offers compared to the rest of the UK.

January is often a tough month at the best of times, but combined with university exams it is the worst month of the year by far. However there was an opportunity to get away to my godparents house on the Isle of Skye, which offered some sanctuary away from the stresses of revising and a much-needed opportunity to take some photos. The weather was on my side during the trip, the strong winds that had battered the west of Scotland for much of December had receded leaving the week calm and almost dry! Unlike the previous trip I brought along both zooms and the X-E1. These ended up being used extensively, with the X-E1 often using the 55-200mm and the X-Pro1 usually with the 18-55mm while driving around the island. This meant that as fleeting ‘special’ moments came around, where the weather was particularly beautiful, the opportunities were rarely missed. Straight out I am very impressed by the image quality of the zooms, for landscape work I would without hesitation use them over the primes I had with me at the time.

I enjoyed using the telephoto zoom; it focused as quickly as the other lenses (can’t wait to try it on a X-T1) and produced punchy, sharp images like the close up of the highland cattle and the sunlight over the bay.

The X-E1 performed very similar to the X-Pro1, which makes me want to try the XE2 as I assume Fuji’s brilliant updates will have struck again making it a more refined camera. All the camera bodies performed flawlessly in the cold weather and despite the fact I stated we had good weather, they still went through the occasional rain shower and sea spray (don’t tell Fuji!) with no negative effects.

Because I drove up to the Isle of Skye I had the luxury of space that I didn’t while travelling around Borneo, this meant I could also throw in my Pelican case that housed my Canon equipment. However, I found that I didn’t once want to use it; I find shooting with the X-series cameras so much more enjoyable and satisfying. The tactile design of the cameras makes the whole experience feel like you’re in control instead of responding to what the camera suggests. For me this is improved by the EVF’s that allow the instant preview of exposure compensation, which I find invaluable especially in situations where the light is constantly changing. This was the biggest surprise moving from SLRs, I couldn’t get enough of it and this made me stop chimping my shots. An example of this is the silhouette of the Highland cattle against the moody sky that I was able to accurately compensate for using the EVF.

Overall I am very happy with the X-series for my uses, as it produces great image quality; not least the jpeg presets which really pop. In my opinion raw files could still be developed better in lightroom but I’m sure improvements will continue to roll out. This negative point is outweighed by the better quality high ISOs as a result of the sensor design.

Fuji have struck the perfect balance between small, discrete gear and good enough image quality that make the system superb for travel as well as many other genres. It will be very interesting to see the performance of the future weather sealed lenses, opening up the wildlife and sports market for X-series.

I am off to Switzerland for the premier of a snowboarding film I worked on with the White Line Crew: http://www.thewhitelinecrew.com/ and intend to get hold of the latest Fuji gear to test against some action in the cold conditions. I will let Steve know if this works out and will try to put together another user review.

You can see a larger gallery from the Isle of Skye here: http://www.bencherryphotos.com/isle_of_skye

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Mar 272014
 

Initial User Report on the Metabones Sppedbooster for Fuji X

By leosilve

Fuji X-E1 Speedbooster_web

Hello Steve! Long time reader and follower of this site. Thank you for the great work. You are an inspiration to many. This article first appeared on my FB page where it was first seen by my friends, and was thus written for people of all levels of photography experience. Here goes…

Unless you might think I’m writing about some new dietary supplement, or a miracle cure for (my) aging bones… The Metabones Speedbooster is a lens adapter with an optical element at its rear end. Ok, I probably lost most of you by now. Ho hum, just another boring gear review. Yup, but to my photog friends and camera buffs, this is one piece of gear you just might find interesting. So, read on!

The Metabones Speedbooster adapters are available in several lens mounts, adapting various full-frame lenses to Sony NEX, Panny/Oly Micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. The rear optical element (made by Caldwell Photographic) is a focal reducer, shrinking the full frame image by a factor of 0.71X. This means, the lens’ focal length changes by this factor and the intensity of the reduced image causes an increase in brightness equivalent to one full aperture stop! When you factor in the 1.5x crop of an APS-C sensor, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens will have a field of view equivalent to 106.5mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster. Not too shabby huh?

From this we learn 2 very important and useful information;

1) A full frame lens’ field of view (FOV) suddenly becomes almost what it is again on a cropped sensor camera. Very useful especially for wide-angle lenses on cameras with smaller sensors.

2) An instant 1 FULL STOP aperture gain! Because the image focal length is reduced to fit the smaller sensor, an interesting “side effect” is the stronger intensity or brightness of the incoming image, which has been measured to be equal to 1 full stop! So, a f/2.8 lens becomes an f/2, an f/1.8 becomes f/1.4, and so on and so forth.

There are other amazing promises; higher MTF rating (sharpness), the “bokeh” very similar to the increased f-stop on a full frame camera… so much so that after the initial hype, skeptics felt this was all too good to be true. So was it?

Earlier this month, I won a Speedbooster (Nikon G to Fuji-X) in an eBay auction. Normally this pricey adapter retails for $429. I won it for $213! But that, is a whole other story! Anyway, I was going on a trip, and was excited when the package arrived the day before I left. I got to take it with me and play with it! The images of the two lovely ladies below were both shot on a Fujifilm X-E1 camera coupled to a Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s manual focus lens from my film days. You can see the setup in the picture with the Fuji X-E1, and the Speedbooster adapter between the camera and lens. I have set the camera to shoot RAW+JPG fine. The RAF(raw) file retains the color info. The JPG is set to Fuji B&W+yellow with a +1 exposure compensation. Other than some minor contrast tweaks, these images are both SOOC (straight-out-of-camera).

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Both images were also shot at f/2.8 (or, was it f/4?) with a 1/52 sec. shutter speed at ISO-200. I have to make a conscious effort to remember the aperture, however the shutter speed and ISO are from the images’ EXIF data. But wait! Remember the aperture gain mentioned earlier? Well, this “old” f/2 lens just became a f/1.8, amazing! Now, there are a lot of reviews online and you can read more about the MTF ratiings, if the adapter did or did not affect sharpness, if the “bokeh” did in fact look like it was shot with a full frame camera, etc. I don’t even have time to do 100% crops, so I’m sorry to disappoint the pixel-peepers. I am going to say however, that I am quite happy with the over-all performance of the adapter, and that it has lived up to my expectations. Yours, of course, may vary ;) This is about MY user experience. And although I have just started using it, I now have it permanently attached to my X-E1, which I use exclusively with legacy manual focus lenses.

There are 2 other sample pictures with this article. The first one is the colored 3-series long exposure on the beach. The second is the B&W daytime long exposure of a small waterfall. I used to lug around my DSLR’s to do this kind of shooting, but now with the Fuji X-E1 and the Speedbooster, my full frame wide-angle lenses are almost what they are – certainly wide enough for this APS-C camera. My old Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI-s lens is back to life with a FOV of 25.5mm f/2 – not bad at all! And my backpack is now much lighter with this setup. The DSLRs stay home!

Receding Waves

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There are other few things I’ve found out in my short time with the adapter;

1) Build Quality – In a word – Excellent! The adapter feels solid and mounts securely onto the camera with no play whatsoever. The adapter is heavy, but not too much. In fact the weight adds a good heft to the lighter feel of the camera. The rear optical element is made by Caldwell Photographic – ‘nough said. If you don’t know them, ask Google.

2) Since I now have the adapter on the camera all the time, the thought occurred to me that my camera’s sensor is better protected – especially during lens changes. I mostly use manual primes with this setup. So I am very careful during lens changes. The adapter covers the sensor and it is far easier and less risky to clean the adapter than the sensor.

3) I love the built-in (but removable) tripod foot. Some users remove it because they feel it gets in the way. This could be true if you do a lot of handheld shooting. I have gotten used to is as an additional point of contact thus making for a more secure hold on the camera. But I appreciate it more is because it places the tripod hole squarely in the middle line of sight of both lens and sensor. The camera tripod socket is NOT in this line of sight. Also, the solid build of the adapter with its tripod foot takes the “stress” away from the camera mount when using large heavier lenses.

I’m sure there will be other surprises as I spend more time with the Speedbooster. The adapter is pricey. And I’m not sure I would have bought it new, if I didn’t win it in the auction. It is not for everyone. Remember, there is no electronic communication between the lens and camera body*. There is no autofocus. There is no lens stabilization unless it is on the camera. To me, it lends itself more to an “old school” way of shooting. Its really great if you have a stable of legacy manual lenses, because now you can enjoy them again. In the end, the important thing is that it works for me. And I am happy to have and use it.

*The ONLY exception is the Speedbooster for Canon lenses that communicates focus confirmation, aperture and image stabilization. However, there is still no AF capability.

More info on the Metabones Speedbooster http://www.metabones.com/products/?c=speed-booster

 

Caldwell white paper on the Speedbooster (really techie stuff)

http://www.metabones.com/assets/a/stories/Speed%20Booster%20White%20Paper.pdf

About myself:

My Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/photosbynoel

My Flickr pagehttp://www.flickr.com/photos/cuzincali/sets/

My 500px page - http://500px.com/Cuzincali

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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Feb 272014
 

Fuji X-T1 1st Look Video! Fuji nails it!

If you have watched the video above then you know that the Fuji X-T1 is now the very 1st Fuji body that I REALLY REALLY like. It is the Fuji I had hoped to see when the X-Pro 1 was launched. It is small, solid, tough, fast, responsive, has an amazing EVF experience, amazing manual controls with dials for ISO, Shutter Speed and everything you need is very easily controlled without menu diving. It is sort of like a Mini Nikon Df in the control department, but even a little easier. While not full frame it houses the Fuji 16mp X-Trans APS-C and the out of camera JPEGS look great.

I have only had this in my hands for a day and have used it for only a couple of hours but will be using it and testing it for a full review, which should be up within 2-3 weeks.

Enjoy the video above and congrats to Fuji for improving the AF, speed, handling and everything else that contributes to enjoying the camera. It did not even overexpose like the others I have tested, so it appears that there have been some nice improvements. Looking forward to shooting the one and putting it through its paces!

You can buy the X-T1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Steve

FOUR quick JPEGS from today while checking out the camera for the 1st time:

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Feb 102014
 

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Concert Photography with Fuji X

By Piao Yishi 

My name is Piao Yishi ( aka “Park” ). I’m an amateur photographer based in Hangzhou, China. The genre that interests me the most is environmental portrait and photojournalism. My curiosity constantly drives me into the exploration of people’s lives. And photography paves the way.

I’m a Fuji fanboy. I’ve been shooting with a Fuji x100 ( my first serious camera ) for 16 months and added an X-E2 with 18-55 lens to my arsenal just two months ago. Oh, I also own two legacy fast telephoto lenses, namely Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 AI and Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-s, both of which are over thirty years old. Despite the age, they managed to contribute most of the pictures in this article.

In the hope of capturing interesting people in interesting environments, I shot a lot of events in the past months, including parties, alumni gatherings and stage performances. They’re great. But none is better than a symphony concert. Why? A symphony concert involves many people ( several dozen performers and many hundred audiences ) in strong emotions, and you don’t see one in town every day. ( Not sure if it’s the same case in Austria though. ) That is why I got really excited when I was offered an opportunity to shoot the New Year Symphony Concert in Hangzhou, performed by the Wenqin Orchestra of Zhejiang University.

Well, how do I shoot such a grand event? Google didn’t have a lot of articles on that topic. There are some good suggestions in them, but my biggest takeaway was “it’s a rare opportunity, you better get ready”.  So I packed my equipments tight and hoped for the best. Here are some of the key learnings from my first symphony concert shot.

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Arrive early.

If you arrive at the venue before audiences are allowed inside, you’ll get shots of a clean stage with all setups and some of the bigger instruments on it, you’ll learn where each instruments are located on the stage. With some luck, you’ll find the conductor sitting alone somewhere off the stage and you’re the only photographers to find it.

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Well, how do you get inside before audiences are allowed to? Be resourceful, talk to the organizer, be nice to people but don’t be shy, and hope for the best. In my case, I was refused to get inside early by one of the staffs that day. When I tried another guy five minutes later, however, I got the greenlight and a badge.

If there’s a rehearsal or a pilot performance prior to the main concert, do everything you can to get inside and rehearse your shots. How do you get in? Same as above.

Talk to people.

The better you know your subject, the easier and more profound your shot is likely to be. How do you know a bunch of performers to whom you are a complete stranger in a symphony concert? Talk to them whenever you feel they will not be disturbed. Your camera is your passport. The retro looking Fujis makes me look more of an safe fanboy and less of a hard nosed journalist. ( Sorry, DSLR guys. ) But at the end of the day, it is you who’s gonna open the mouth and talk to people.

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When I saw the conductor sitting alone far from the stage that day, I went to him without hesitations, showed one of the pictures I took him during the pilot performance two days before ( Go to rehearsal or pilot performances, and keep your best pictures in your phone! ). And guess what, he liked it and asked me to send it to him. So I knew he’s Russian and his name’s Mik. Then I asked if I could take a posed shot for him and a friend of mine who’s a gorgeous looking girl. He happily accepted. During that shot, I saw what a humorous, romantic and interesting man he is. Knowing him in person made possible some close shots of him later that day. And understanding his personalities helped me capturing the best moment of him on stage.

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Another story happened in the back stage when I was trying to photograph a college boy who plays the flute. At first, he was a bit shy and didn’t know what to do in front of a camera. I said to him, when I was in college, my “Venus” was a flute girl, but she never played in front of me, which was why I stopped at him and wanted a shot of him playing that beautiful shiny flute. Then immediately, he started playing without the slightest hint of discomfort. There you see the shot.

Go to the back stage.

Having access to the back stage will give you two advantages.

First of all, during the play, the conductor will be facing his orchestra and therefore backstage all the time. Unless in the rare moments he turn back and say thank you to the audience, you won’t get front facing shots of the conductor if you physically shoot from off the stage. And shooting from there is a big annoyance to your fellow audiences around you. It’s not a rock concert! Symfony fans are not likely to swear to or attack you, but don’t spoil their evening and let them hate you. Plus, you’ll like the beautiful side light falling on players’ heads if you shoot from either side from the back stage!

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Then, you’ll witness plenty of interesting stories in the back stage when performers are anxiously waiting for the prime time. In that tense atmosphere, you’ll see their personalities written all over their faces. And it’s a great place talking with your subjects.

Just don’t skip the back stage if you can get the access.

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Fast long lens, ISO 6400 and a monopod.

We all know a good picture is NOT about the camera. When you take pictures in a challenging situation, however, some features of equipments will make your life much easier. Photographing a symphony concert is the most challenging job I ever did, because:

The stage is relatively large  and you can’t go anywhere you want ( e.g. on the stage, or in front of the first row off the stage ). It’s difficult for the photographer to get very close or very high physically.

Ambient light can be dim. And you are not allowed to use flash. The lighting conditions can vary wildly among different venues. In the pilot performance, with f/2.8 and 1/160 seconds, I was able to get away with ISO 800 most of the time. In the real show however, I constantly needed ISO 6400 for similar shots on the stage. Without a light meter, the performers confirmed they felt the same. I heard one of the venue staffs saying they intentionally dimmed the lighting to prevent details blown out on players’ faces.

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The stage is extremely crowed. With limited point of view options, it requires good observation and creativity to get interesting compositions unless you have shot such events numerous times.

On the stage, you’ll make a few wide angle shots, but not too many, because you can’t get close. Telephoto lenses with big aperture are your friend. Use more than one focal lengths for varying FOV and potentially more interesting shots. For the stage shots, I used the two legacy lenses mentioned earlier. Their 35mm equivalent focal lengths are 158mm and 270mm. They’re all sharp enough wide open. ( In my bag, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-s’s main use is astrophotography. ) I felt they were adequate for the stage that evening. I’m sure there will be larger or smaller stages so adjust accordingly. A 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom will do a better job if your wife plays ball.

And a camera body with usable ISO 6400 is highly recommended. Fuji XE-2 does that very well. I used a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds whenever lighting conditions permit when shooting the stage. In the pilot performance, I found that 1/160 seconds couldn’t freeze the conductor’s fiercest hand motion completely.

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Even if you have all the low light equipments recommended above, you’ll still find occasions where the shutter speed drops below 1/200 or even 1/50. ( I used Fuji’s auto ISO feature. ) I found a monopod extremely useful for such a job. It helped stabilizing my shots and making my arm and shoulder less stressful. Most importantly, it gave me a pivot for experimenting different composition ideas and pull out the best one.

With my legacy lenses, I had to live with manual focus. I didn’t find it a huge obstacle though. Fuji X-E2 has a usable focus peaking feature. ( But add more color options to the peaking pixels, Fuji! ) And during the play, your subjects don’t generally move towards or away from your camera, but remain in more or less the same focal plane no matter how fast they move. Auto focus lenses are definitely more convenient to use. But with those legacy lens, I was able ( and forced ) to shoot more slowly and care for every detail without breaking the bank. A compromise I have to live with, and perhaps a good one. Some of the my pictures ended up not in perfect focus for pixel peepers, but overall most of them are acceptable, IMO.

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Oh, the Fuji X100 always stayed on my neck. This beautiful non-threatening creature is still my best friend for storytelling in those behind-the-scene shots, all of which I shot one-handed. And when I need a wider field of view, I used Fuji XE-2 with 18-55mm on 18mm.

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Shoot long lenses with a wide-angle mind.

For a whole year after I stepped into the world of photography, Fuji X100 was my only camera. It’s a small camera with a fixed 23mm f/2 lens ( 35mm in full frame equivalent ). I had to live with its fixed and wide view of the world, which turned out to be a good thing. It taught me to observe, care for and make use of the connections between subjects and the background. It’s just too wide to ignore the background or the connections between things and just point and shoot.

Back to the super crowded symphony stage, yes, you can play with that shallow depth of field. What you cannot do, however, is simply ignoring, blurring or blackening out all the surroundings of your subject, because they’re too close together, lighted too evenly and you can’t get your camera very high.

Fellow violinists playing together covering each other’s heads? Notebooks in the front blocking your view of the subjects on the other side? None is gonna make a good solo composition. But who said solo compositions are better? Think about how to live with and make use of all things in the field of view. Search for the connections between them. Capture eye contacts between the conductor and his players. Search for moments when the conductor’s baton and violinist’s’ bows point to the same direction. Use the darker audiences as a backdrop for players at the edge of stage, even if you can only see her back. Don’t be afraid to crop tight and try out impossible ideas when composing the shots. Be creative and bold.

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Looking at the show through those long lenses, I felt a sense of similarity and familiarity, because it felt so much like viewing though my X100’s 35mm lens. If you didn’t take good care of the background and connections among different things, you’d spoil the shot. But If you did, you’d be blessed with a chance of getting a more interesting shot than most 85mm f/1.4 portraits.

Leave late and get to know the performers.

The performance lasted more than two hours before the audiences stood up and applauded with the Radetzky March. It was time to pack the bag, right? I didn’t think so. There must be interesting stories going on after the show. And I really wanted to get to know the performers better, get their contact information and send them their pictures the next day.

It turned out they appreciated it. A flute player who has played the new year concerts for seven consecutive years later told me, that all flute players were grateful for the pictures featuring them, because on the stage they sit in the back and normally don’t get much attention. And the violinist who got her back captured said she was very excited to see her picture on the homepage of a local website, even if it was only her back.

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All players are college kids. It was the peak of their life so far so they overreacted, didn’t they? Well, I know a professional model who, after seeing my pictures of those kids’ symphony concert, told me that she was moved and regretted how few pictures she had kept for her own performances. She said normally photographers didn’t care to give the pictures to her after a show. It may or may not be a license thing.

Those kids have stories. The more I know about them, the more I’m confident that I can take my storytelling and photography to the next level in their next performance.

As a storyteller, I’ll make sure I can give away my pictures to my subjects, because what I did is merely freezing, capturing and presenting a split second of their lives. They own their lives. The more they feel the pictures are important to them, the more successful I am as a storytelling photographer.

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Jan 062014
 

New Fuji 56 1.2 Lens. An 84mm fast portrait prime!

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I have to hand it to Fuji..they sure do know what lenses we want and with the release of their recent 23 1.4 and now upcoming 56 1.2 it is making Fuji even more and more tempting. I am just waiting for the perfect X body before I ever commit to Fuji though they have gotten much better since the original X-Pro 1 was released. Now we have the faster X-E2 and with these new lenses the possibilities are delicious. In my opinion, Fuji has changed the game with their new lens offering, specifically the already mentioned 23 1.4 which will give a 35mm 1.4 equivalent and the new 56. Add in the existing 35 1.4 and you have a perfect set of 35, 50 and 85  - all fast primes that will deliver sharpness, shallow DOF and nice Bokeh.

Now c’mon Fuji..release an X-Pro 2 with a build and responsiveness that it deserves :) 

You can now pre-order the new 56 1.2 lens at B&H Photo HERE at $999. They also sell the 23 1.4 AT $899.

PopFlash.com sells Fuji now and the 23 1.4 is in stock HERE and the 56 1.2 pre-order is HERE as is the 10-24 pre-order.

PS – I will be doing a full review of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 soon and will review the 56 1.2 as soon as it is released. 

Dec 312013
 

Steve Huff review – Experiencing Borneo with the Fuji X-series

By Ben Cherry

A bit of background about me, I am a Zoology student at the University of Sheffield and have been passionate about photography for the past ten years with my main interests being travel and wildlife. First of all I must thank Fujifilm UK for sponsoring me with some X-series cameras for my six-week trip to Malaysian Borneo. I approached Fujifilm because the X-series cameras offered a compact, yet high quality system that is ideal for travelling especially when weight and space are at a premium.

The cameras allowed me to take photos I wouldn’t have otherwise taken with my 5DIII, simply because I could take them everywhere, much more than an SLR. This especially applies to the X100s, as it’s so pocketable. Being a second-generation camera, it felt very refined, with my keeper rate being much higher than the other cameras. Walking around with these discrete cameras, I was at more ease than with my SLR; this isn’t a reflection of Malaysian Borneo, where the people are charming. The Fuji cameras allowed me to relax more and focus on taking photos. When walking with my SLRs I am always aware how obviously they stand out and how much I’ve invested in them! An example of how the X-series blend into surroundings is when I attended the Hungry Ghost Festival in Kuching. The big event had ten press photographers covering it for national newspapers. I left my SLR at the hotel and photographed the amazing spectacle with the X-series. With the big press presence I simply slipped under the radar with most people oblivious to my photography. This allowed me to capture more candid shots that I would have otherwise.

The versatile X-series lenses allow this system to capture photos that would require a much heavier set of equivalent SLR lenses. I love the fact that they initially focused on a strong series of prime lenses. I only took the 14mm, 35mm and 60mm with me on the trip. I had the option to take the two zooms available at the time plus the 18mm, but because of weight restrictions and equivalent zooms for my SLR, I decided to leave them behind. Despite the lack of telephoto lenses I was able to attain a good variety of shots with these three lenses. I used the 14mm and 60mm lenses the most, in conjunction with the X100s. This collection was brilliant for street photography, as well as pretty much anything else I threw at it. Even some wildlife!

Now I’m not saying I’m getting rid of my 5dIII just yet, as there are some things these cameras can’t quite cope with. Focus tracking is the main problem I have with the current X-series, it simply doesn’t work. Other than the slow writing speed of the cameras, I have no other quarrels. What I have found though is you can work around all of these problems, adapting by pre-focusing (where possible) and using selective bursts can counter these problems. The bonus of Fujifilm is that they seem to really listen to their users, making the X-E2 sound very interesting with its new and improved auto focus system.

A benefit of this compact system that I didn’t anticipate is the usability of the EVF. Having that real-time preview of what exposure compensation does to an image is invaluable when you’re trying to capture that fleeting moment. Yes, people will say “well with experience you know what to compensate”, probably a valid point but being able to see an accurate representation of what the end product will look like is extremely helpful to me, although the EVF does massively drain battery life, in an already short duration battery compared to SLRs. It’s one of those annoying things, having to carry around so many spares but at the same time it’s understandable as the small compact systems have proportionally smaller batteries too.

Regarding the build quality of these cameras, they stood up to hostile conditions deep in the Borneo rainforest where the humidity levels left me with a constant layer of sweat. I didn’t have a single problem with the cameras or the lenses. It’s worth pointing out that they were out of a camera bag much more than my 5Diii, as they were used generally a lot more.

The X100s is superb for flash use because of its leaf shutter and has actually got me out of a sticky situation where I was photographing a Bearded pig foraging on a beach at sunset, the little inbuilt flash came to my rescue and gave just enough filler to bring out the pig’s detail against the wonderful orange sky. I haven’t used the X-pro1 enough with flash to comment on its usability. Unfortunately it does have quite a slow flash sync but I’m still excited to try this out in the future.

Looking ahead, I think it’s an exciting time to be an X-series user/in the camera market in general. The lens road map has one lens that really stands out, the 56mm f1.2 as well as the recently released 23mm f1.4, which will be really interesting to try alongside the X100s. This combination of lenses will be truly mouth-watering for portraits. The already mentioned X-E2 and the future X-Pro2 will have important improvements, like the X100s over the X100, maybe the next round of improvements will make me seriously consider the Fujis as my main travel cameras, certainly have all the foundations to really become a legendary system. I’m not sure if this system will ever be able to really attack wildlife photography but then again would we want it to? Instead should it stick to the path its currently on and continue to make important improvements that make Fujifilm one of the brilliant camera companies that really listens to its users when creating future generation cameras as well as regular updates to firmware.

All in all I’m hooked on these cameras and really don’t want to give them back to Fujifilm UK! Below are some photos that I’ve taken with with these delightful cameras.

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Oct 172013
 

Fuji X-E2 arrives with worlds fastest Phase Detect AFFuji-X-E2-cameraFuji Steps it up!

Finally! Fuji has just a few hours ago announced the new X-E2 which they tout as having the “fastest phase detect AF in the world”. This is a bold claim because if it is as fast as the Olympus E-M1 then we finally have something here. It appears that they took the technology of the X100s and put in the X-E2, which is something I have been begging them to do ever since the X100s!

So, will this finally make the X-E Series FAST, ACCURATE and RESPONSIVE? My guess is yes because Fuji knew that was their weakness and they knew it had to be improved.

While many criticized me for speaking the truth about the slow and sometimes inaccurate focus of the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 it was something that had to be said, and without myself and many others saying it Fuji would not have made it a point to improve on it so much to the point of now calling it the fastest AF in the world.  I bet those same people who attacked me for speaking the truth will now be raving about how much better the X-E2 is over the X-E1 due to being faster with AF.

But the good news is that the Fuji X-E is finally in its 2nd generation with improvements that will make it much more enjoyable to shoot.

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I would have liked to see a beefier build and enhanced design but it appears that has stayed the same, and that is OK.

A fast X-E2 = yet another amazing camera release for us to choose from. I should be able to check it out at Photo plus next week and if so expect a hands on report soon after. I will also eventually do a full review of the X-E2 and a comparison with the E-M1 and eventually the A7r :) It is scheduled to ship on November 20th. I am curious to see how it performs with the 35 1.4 in the AF department.

You can pre-order the Fuji X-E2 at B&H Photo at the links below:

Pre-Order the Fuji X-E2 Body Only in Black

Pre-Order the Fuji X-E2 Body Only in Silver

Pre-Order the Fuji X-E2 and 18-55 Kit Zoom – $1399 – Black

Pre-Order the Fuji X-E2 and 18-55 Kit Zoom – Silver

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Also available at Amazon!

 

More details on the new Fuji X-E2:

16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large, 16.3MP, APS-C, CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-E2 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans bespoke pixel array, the sensor is designed with a randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the need of an optical low-pass filter for reducing moiré and aliasing. By removing this filter from the design, higher image sharpness is possible. Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are also taken into account using the EXR Processor II, which helps to automatically compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur in order to produce images with the utmost inherent sharpness. The image sensor also integrates over 100,000 phase-detection pixels into the sensor’s design for improved autofocus performance without affecting image quality.

The X-Trans sensor also pairs well with the EXR Processor II to provide highly effective noise reduction and a clean signal-to-noise ratio. This enables smoother-looking imagery that becomes especially apparent when photographing in low-light situations with an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-25600.

EXR Processor II

Aside from benefitting low-light performance, the EXR Processor II also provides quick performance throughout the entire camera system. The camera start-up time is about 0.5 seconds, shutter lag is about 0.05 seconds, and the shooting interval time is about 0.7 seconds. Additionally, this processing power provides enough speed to capture full resolution images at a continuous rate of 7 fps for up to 28 consecutive frames.

Intelligent Hybrid AF and Enhanced Manual Focus

Intelligent Hybrid AF is a quick, responsive autofocus system that employs both contrast- and phase-detection methods to acquire focus quickly in a wide variety of lighting conditions and shooting situations. Clear focus can be attained in as little as 0.08 seconds to aid in catching fast-paced movement more easily. Three focus modes are available (AF-S, AF-C, and M) for greater control over how the X-E2 achieves sharp focus. When working with autofocus, the AF area is divided into a 49-point matrix in order to gain clear focus of any type of subject matter. Additionally, a built-in AF assist lamp is available for aiding the focus system when photographing in low-light situations.

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

Classic Camera Design

Featuring a body design reminiscent of film cameras, the X-E2 exhibits a meshing of both analog exposure controls along with intelligent automated technologies. The clean and functional body design incorporates physical shutter speed and +/- 3 EV exposure compensation dials that pair well with the manual aperture rings found on many of the XF lenses for intuitive exposure setting selection. Four different buttons are customizable depending on individual needs and an easily-accessible Q Menu provides a one-touch solution to modifying some of the most frequently used camera settings, such as ISO, white balance, and file settings.

For live view monitoring, image playback, and menu navigation, both a bright, clear 2,360k-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a 3.0″ 1,040k-dot LCD monitor with reinforced glass construction are available.

Full HD Movie Recording

Full HD 1080p video recording is supported in multiple frame rates up to 60 fps with a high bit-rate of 36Mbps. Full-time AF tracking is available during recording with subject tracking capabilities for ensured sharpness when either the subject is moving or if the camera is moving, panning, or zooming. +/- 2 EV exposure compensation is available during recording as well as the use of Film Simulation settings.

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

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is built into the camera and allows for instant sharing of images directly to an Android or iOS mobile device. The Fujifilm Camera App allows you to browse the image contents of your camera from your mobile device and transfer both HD videos and up to 30 photos at a time between devices. Sharing of imagery is further expedited by simply pressing and holding the dedicated Wi-Fi button to begin transferring immediately.

Film Simulation Mode and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-E2 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. Pulling from their line of transparency films, PROVIA offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, VELVIA produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and ASTIA gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, PRO Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while PRO Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions. In addition to the colorful benefits of these Film Simulation modes, there are also monochrome modes that simulate the look of traditional yellow, green, and red black and white contrast filters. A sepia mode is also available for producing an inherently nostalgic look.

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

Other Camera Features

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

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

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

A built-in Super Intelligent pop-up flash provides additional illumination to imagery for photographing in dark conditions. Additionally, a hot shoe is available for use of optional external flashes.

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

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

Oct 042013
 

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Crazy Comparison Part 2: Fuji X-M1, Leica M 240, Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GX7

Woooooooo! It never fails, ever! Every time I have done a crazy comparison (and I have done many over the years) people get all kinds of bent out of shape. Anyone who knows me or this site will know I do these comparisons FOR FUN. They are real results, posted for all to see but these are cameras that are not even meant to be compared! The X-M1 is the budget Fuji. The GX7 is the top end Panasonic and the Leica..well, we all know what that is.

But it is fun sometimes to put underdogs in a race to see if they can get close to winning. It’s a classic game really. Does anyone not remember the tortoise racing the rabbit in old Saturday Morning cartoons? So to all of you getting all bent out of shape and the Fuji owners feeling like they need to attack and defend, relax. All I am doing is showing real results from all cameras. I was motivated to do this because so many trash Micro 4.3 as a system when they have zero clue about what it is, what it does or the results that can indeed come from it. It’s just as capable as APS-C as i have always said but in many ways MORE SO. Why? Because you will never miss a shot due to dodgy AF. You will have a solid well made machine that inspires you. You will have a selection of some of the best fast primes available. But a camera is a personal choice. We all have different likes, different passions and different opinions.

So as I showed in the 1st test, Micro 4/3 can hang with the big guys, and it appears I ruffled some Fuji feathers with my own opinions on the Fuji build and AF. I have been saying it since the X-Pro 1 launch and it still remains. The Fujis need work to be exceptional. I strongly feel Fuji is working on this and in 2014 we may see something special from them. Then when everyone upgrades and says “Wow, it is so much faster to focus and I never miss a shot“…well, then my honest comments on the current X bodies will prove to be true :) It will happen. Watch and see.

When you own a camera system and are dedicated to it there is something that happens along the way. You forgive it for its shortcomings..you bond with it and you have no idea what other cameras can do because you shoot your camera. I do that with the Leica! I like shooting it so much that I forgive it for its off-color in some lighting, I forgive it for being $7000 and I forgive it for having a slow clunky EVF :) Many feel the way I do about their Fuji or Olympus or Sony or Panasonic as I do about my Leica. But whatever we do, we should never lose track of WHY we use what we use. Because we love it, enjoy it and it makes us want to go out and photograph. Whatever that camera is for you it is the right one :)

In fact, we should not even worry about new cameras or new tech as long as we are happy with our current camera. But we live in a “Disposable Society” where we buy, sell, buy sell and buy and sell. Sites like mine do not help this either! Believe me, I am well aware.

At the same time, many of us love technology. We enjoy using new cameras, testing them, trying out new lenses. It brings us joy as it is apart of our passion. So in many ways it is perfectly fine because we only live once, might as well enjoy it while we can.

What I am getting at is that these comparisons are called “Crazy Comparisons’ for a reason. Have fun with it and take it for what it is, a comparison of mismatched cameras. :)

I will always stand by my word though as I do not lie or make up nonsense for  the sake of it. I report my true feelings so if I say the Fuji bodies feel cheap to me, that is what I mean. If I say the Pansonic GX7 has a cheap feeling dial it is because I feel it does. If I say the Leica is overpriced it means I feel it is. None of this means camera A, B or C is crap. They are all fantastic in their own way.

In any case, enjoy the next set of comparisons which will include a high ISO test and another image shot at f/2 with each camera.

BTW, to those who say I hate Fuji, I do not. The fuji X100 and X100s are some of the best cameras you can get and the X100s focuses as a Fuji should. It is one that Fuji improved and they did a great job. They need to do this in a new X-Pro 2 and X-E2 and then we will be getting somewhere.

HIGH ISO TEST

For this test I am testing ISO as I ALWAYS have for the past 5 years, so those who want to complain about it I suggest you do not even look at the results. 

I test cameras in a real world way, always have, always will. I take a camera and use it as 99% of buyers would. I turn it on and use it. I do not set the metering to match another brand of camera, I use the cameras metering as is. ALL cameras have different ISO discrepancies. ALL of them. What is ISO 1600 on one camera is not really 1600 on another. Just how it is. But when I use say a GX7 I am not trying to set it to meter like a Sony RX1. No, I use it as it is. So this test will be done with each camera metering how  they meter at any given ISO so you see WHAT YOU WILL GET from said camera. Real world. 

So each camera was set to ISO 3200 for this test as that is as high as most of us ever will go and many will not even touch that high of an ISO these days. But for the sake of testing, ISO 3200 sounds good.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let us take a look at three cameras with three different sensor sizes and what to expect from ISO 3200 with each one in a normally lit home environment. Testing high ISO with studio lights is ridiculous. Who shoots high ISO in a studio light environment? No one. Again, real world because with less light we see the true ISO performance when we will really be using high ISO. 

YOU MUST CLICK THEM FOR FULL SIZE and The Olympus E-M1 was delivered just as I was setting up this test so I included it in this ISO test!

Leica M 240 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Fuji X-M1 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Panasonic GX7 ISO 3200 – f/8

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and the Olympus E-M1 which was delivered just as I was setting up this test! - ISO 3200 – f/8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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100% crops to make it easier

100crops

The CLEAR winner at ISO 3200 is the Leica – richness, color, noise..all beats the other three. The Fuji is next in line with a sharp image (all were shot at f/8 on a tripod) and some noise where the Micro 4/3 are still looking good IMO and up there with many APS-C cameras. In print or web size, you would not even see the noise and this is at 3200! Even so, the Leica is VERY far ahead here IMO, as it should be for that kind of premium :)

One more image from RAW test (Olympus E-M1 was not in my hands for this one)

Leica M 240 – 50 Summilux at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger/full size

leicadebbyf21

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Fuji X-M1 – Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger size

fujidebbyf2

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GX7 – Nokton 25 at f/2 – from RAW – resized – MUST click it to see it correctly

gx7debbyf2

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So there you go. You can take a look at the samples and see for yourself. They are all good at producing lovely looking files. :) Me, I prefer the GX7 and M 240 as I find the Fuji to be off color and not as good looking of a file. If this were taken in Studio light, the Fuji would have shined. But in natural light, the other two, to me, do a better job.

Steve

I will leave you with one from the GX7 and 25 0.95 wide open and up at the closest focus distance. Some funky color PP here as well :) 

close

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Sep 192013
 

The new Fuji X-A1 – Minus X-Trans Sensor. Good or Bad?

My thoughts, though you may not like them :)

Fujifilm-X-A1_front

So yes, I am aware this camera was announced days ago but I had to sit down and think about this one for a couple of days because my 1st impression of it was “Man, Fuji are pumping out lower end bodies pretty quickly, and they are all lacking in something compared to the original X bodies..THE EVF and OVF”!

I tried out an X-M1 a couple of weeks back. I liked it for what it is, a TINY “X20 sized” APS-C Fuji X  body that delivered that Fuji look and image quality. The issue I had was that I found with most lenses attached it was awfully unbalanced and odd to shoot with. Bottom line: For me, it was too small to be an IC camera with larger lenses. Yep, it was sort of point and shoot style with big lenses. It also offered the usual X-Trans look to the images that so many love and adore but at the price, and after using it, I realized it was nothing I would buy for my own use. Just too many other options out there that I like better. I would take an X-E1 before the X-M1 but I am one of the few who are not 100% on the X-Trans sensor. I have been hoping for a year that Fuji would release something with a sensor that is NOT an X-Trans sensor.

Well, now they have in the new X-A1. Yippee! 

Fujifilm-X-A1_top

The X-A1: It look small-ish, it looks nice and modern, and for me, this would be the Fuji IC camera I would buy..if it had an EVF or OVF or even the X100 combo VF! Hey, it even comes in my all time favorite color! BLUE. So what is the deal? Fuji became popular and made headlines DUE TO THE FACT that they were making cool looking and beautiful cameras WITH built-in viewfinders that delivered superb IQ. They do not sell or even offer a wonky external VF because their X cameras always had one in it!

Now they are releasing bodies MINUS the VF when so many of us PREFER using one! I understand they want to offer a basic camera but adding in an EVF would increase sales regardless. It would NEVER hurt.

81YY5AUMNyL._SL1500_

I can only guess that an X-Pro 2 or X-E1 is on the way and that those will have an EVF, but I am sure those will use X-Trans. I am interested to test this X-A1 just to see how the sensor performs. My guess is that I will prefer it to the other X bodies in that area. I am also hoping the AF is quicker than the previous X bodies.

My fave Fuji currently is the X100s though I prefer the IQ of the X100 the speed and refinements in the X100s put it up at #1 for me in the Fuji world. 

When I see the blue body of the X-A1  it reminds me so much of the early Sony NEX cameras when they offered them in all sorts of cool colors. It’s a gimmick really, to appeal to those who like a splash of color in their camera. When looking at the X-A1 I am not a fan of the new finish of the body, to me it looks a bit “carbon fiber” but in a fake sort of way. But this guy comes in at $599 WITH kit lens, so it is priced right. It is a sweet spot price.

So the good news is that Fuji released an APS-C for those of us who dislike the X-Trans. Me, I am a fan of the original sensor in the X100. I found it to be lacking in no area whatsoever. Rich beautiful ORGANIC files. To me, the X-Trans lacks the “Organic” and I have tried and tried and tried to love them but unless you have perfect light, for me, they always fall flat in comparison to other cameras and sensors. If you have magical light, they are tough to beat by anything.  Anytime I say this I get attacked, but I will never quiet my thoughts here, as I always say what I feel. My opinion my not be yours, remember that.

If this X-A1 had an EVF or VF of some sort, I would be pretty excited about it. Fuji is pumping out some nice glass and are gaining big time steam in the mirrorless battles going on between Sony, Olympus and Fuji (the three main players in Mirrorless).

When I look at a camera like the Olympus E-M1 I say “Wow, Olympus nailed it. This has everything I could have ever wanted in a small mirrorless body, and all the glass I could ever need”. Olympus has the build, the speed, the accuracy and the lenses. The E-M1 feels like a pro camera but it is the size of the OM-D with grip. It is a serious tool, and some of those M 4/3 lenses are GORGEOUS. Next to full frame, I am a Micro 4/3 fan no question about it. I have seen files from Micro 4/3 that look, feel and appear better than many APS-C images from any manufacturer. Add in the amazing usability, speed, performance and the fact that the E-M1 is like an extension of your hand and brain when in use and you have a combo that is quite special.

Fuji has a couple of great lenses, but many lack in AF speed, in build and a few other areas (when compared to others). So while I still think that the Fuji X cameras are still not fully matured I do like that they are offering options like the X-A1 and I look forward to see what they come up with next for the enthusiast or pro. I will give the X-a1 a go soon. So yes, it is a GOOD thing IMO. When these are full matured cameras I expect them to be jaw droppingly amazing because there is much more to a camera besides high ISO or overall IQ. It has to have the entire package.

I will say it again. Any semi serious camera you buy today will give you amazing results. I have been very impressed lately with the Samsung NX300 and 30 f/2 lens. That little camera nails the White Balance every time where my Leica has all kinds of trouble doing the same. If the NX300 had an EVF it would be in my top 2 for APS-C mirrorless. It has a solid nice build, attention to details, is fast, has an OLED touch screen display, swivel LCD and impressive IQ. All at a $650 price point with lens. It does not have the “entire package” because it lacks an EVF but it is still a great camera.

There are so many cameras today, we are all lucky to have such a selection and let me tell you, there is much more on the way in the future and I will be here to write about them and use them ALL.

Steve

You can pre-order the Fuji X-A1 at Amazon HERE.

Fuji Press Release on the X-A1

New X-A1 offers entry into the premium X-Series while delivering outstanding image quality, modern design, sharp 3” tilting LCD screen and wireless image transfer

Valhalla, N.Y., September 17, 2013 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation today announced the new FUJIFILM X-A1 compact system camera (CSC), the fourth interchangeable lens system camera introduced within the award-winning FUJIFILM X-Series. The ultra-light X-A1 gives consumers an affordable entry point into the X-Series line of digital cameras and delivers outstanding image quality using its large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, easy operation and wireless image transfer for quick photo sharing.

The FUJIFILM X-A1 kit will ship with the FUJINON XC16-50mm (24-76mm)*1 F3.5-5.6 OIS zoom lens. The XC16-50mm is a versatile lens that is ideal for a wide range of photographic subjects, including clear low-light scenes, beautiful portraits and vivid landscapes. The lens consists of 12 all glass elements in 10 groups including 3 aspherical elements and 1 ED element. The lens features seven round-edged aperture blades, which offer 17 stops in 1/3 EV increments for precise aperture control.

“The lightweight X-A1 and versatile XC16-50mm lens combination gives consumers extraordinary value and the opportunity to experience the outstanding image quality that the X-Series is known for,” said Manny Almeida, senior vice president and general manager, FUJIFILM North America Corporation. “Together with a high definition tilting screen and wireless image transfer, consumers of all skill levels can capture truly memorable images that can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter quickly and easily.”

Large 16.3 Megapixel APS-C sensor and EXR Processor II

The FUJIFILM X-A1 uses an APS-C sensor and powerful EXR Processor II that captures rich tones, breath-taking dynamic range and stunning low-light images using its extended ISO range of up to 25600. With the X-A1, users can set the sensor sensitivity from ISO200 to as high as ISO6400 in 1/3 step increments, to obtain remarkably clear images even when shooting indoors and at night.

Together with the EXR Processor II, the X-A1 also gives customers fantastic speed with a start-up time of 0.5 seconds*2, a shutter time lag of 0.05 seconds and a maximum burst speed of 5.6 frames per second (max. 30 frames*3).

Compact performance and advanced features

The X-A1 CSC combines advanced features in a go-anywhere design. The X-A1 weighs just 11.6oz*4 and is about a third of the size of a traditional DSLR body. With a slim profile of 1.3” at its trimmest point, the X-A1 is easily carried anywhere.

The X-A1 also features a 3” tilting high resolution LCD screen with 920,000 dots for easy image viewing and framing at various angles. The 3” LCD monitor tilts at variable vertical angles, facilitating both low-angle and high-angle shots whether on or off a tripod.

The X-A1 uses a built-in high precision flash, with the guide number 7*5, and Super Intelligent Flash technology that uses scene recognition and automatically controls flash strength to reduce highlight clipping.

Easy Image Transfer with WiFi® button

The X-A1 includes a WiFi button that lets users transfer high quality photos and movies*6 to social media sites for easy sharing from the camera to smartphones, tablets and computers.

To connect the X-A1 to a smartphone or tablet, users can download the free dedicated “FUJIFILM Camera Application” to their iPhone™ / iPad™ or Android™ smartphone or tablet device to transfer up to 30 pictures at a time from the X-A1. The app also lets users download movies, expanding the range of options available for enjoying pictures taken with the camera.

Intuitive design and easy operation

The X-A1 has its key operation buttons and dials positioned on the right side of the camera’s rear panel for easy use and quick picture taking. The Mode Dial for selecting the optimum setting for each scene gives access to the Advanced SR Auto function, which automatically recognizes each scene and selects the best settings for sharp and clear images.

The Advanced Filter function and Film Simulation modes give users a range of creative filters and film effects to apply and achieve unique and artistic looks.

FUJINON XC50-230mm (76-350mm) F4.5-6.7 OIS

 

Aug 302013
 

Leica M9 vs Fuji X-E1 with Metabones Speed Booster by Christophe Carlier

Hi steve,

Firstly I want to thank you for putting my daily inspiration on your site.

I recently received a Metabones Speedbooster ring that allows me to get my Nikon F lens on my fuji X-E1 while keeping their 24×36 angle. A 50mm is a 50mm, a 35mm is a 35mm ….. and the more it will keep the effects of depth of field.

Manufacturing side of the ring is good quality, well-built. Its size is limited (see photo below) and reasonable weight 200 grams.

_0011358m

_0011348m

_0011354m

  • The weight of the whole XE1 + SpeedBooster plus 35mm f2 about 740 grams
  • M9P + 40mmf1.4 about 820 grams and FM2 + 50mmf1.8 about 740 grams.

The results photos, first 3 pictures are taken at 35mm (fuji XE1 SpeedBooster + nikkor 35mm f2 afd, facing M9P + Voigltander 40mm f1.4 at 1.4),

Image on the left image will be with the X-E1 – right side is with M9-P – MUST click them for larger version

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm III

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm II

The following 3 images are at 50mm (XE1 fuji SpeedBooster + nikkor afd 50mm f1.8, facing M9P + canon ltm 50mm f1.2 at 1.4).

the pictures left XE1 and right M9P – again, you must click them for larger

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm II

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm III

All pictures are taken in jpg, and only to compare the bokeh from each camera and lens.

What do you think?

Sincerely,

Christophe

www.christophecarlier.com

 

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