Aug 252015
 

Fujifilm’s Professional F2.8 zooms take on nature

By Ben Cherry

About me

My name is Ben Cherry; I am an environmental photojournalist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. I’ve been using the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm alongside the X-T1 for most of the year now. During that time I’ve spent three months in Borneo and two months in Costa Rica, where I’ll be until mid-December for a conservation research role. It is fair to say that these lenses have been put through a tropical boot camp, pushing them to their humid and heat limits. You can find more of my work via: www.bencherryphotos.com

The Lenses

Both are weather sealed with constant F2.8 apertures, these zooms are built to last with superb image quality, making them up to the ever-increasing standard of photographers that need gear to work everyday, all day. Made to complement each other, this could be a two-lens set up for many photographers who want a lightweight system that covers a wide focal length. Indeed if you’re not after smaller F-Stops, then these offer prime quality optics.

I personally do prefer to use prime lenses as I feel that they encourage me to be creative, the likes of the XF16mm have pushed me to improve my compositions. But when on the move, in hot tropical environments, I couldn’t ignore the convenience of these two lenses. The XF50-140mm is a no-brainer for me as it is the longest F2.8 or faster lens currently available. In the rainforest I’ve found that I’ve craved light more than focal length, so this lens ticked a lot of boxes (not that I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for the impending super telephoto zoom!..).

XF50-140mm-2.jpg (leaping proboscis monkey), XF50-140mm-5.jpg (play fighting pygmy elephants), XF50-140mm-26.jpg (scarlet macaw portrait), XF50-140mm-27.jpg (scarlet macaw in flight)

Certain things stand out in this 1st picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they’re not eating only have one thing on their mind.

Certain things stand out in this picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they're not eating on have one thing on their mind.

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-5

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-26

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-27

As for the XF16-55mm, this was a lens I took a little more time considering whenever it came to packing the bag light. The reason for that is it covers the same range as the XF16mm, XF23mm and XF56mm, three exceptional prime lenses with faster apertures. But again it comes back to one word, convenience. Stuck in a rather wet part of the world, whenever it does rain, it pours and the last thing I want to do is change lens. So more often than not the XF16-55mm gets the nod. Other than missing the faster apertures of the primes, I have no hesitation to use this zoom instead, especially as it is weather sealed. A lot of people are put off this lens by the lack of OIS, yes it would have been helpful… but at the same time I understand Fujifilm’s explanation, I’d rather have the brilliant image quality than compromise some for OIS.

XF16-55mm-5.jpg (Sunrise at Mt. Kinabalu), XF16-55mm-15.jpg (violet woodnymph pit stop), XF16-55mm-17.jpg (vivid Pacific sunset),  XF16-55mm-18.jpg (released baby turtles using red filtered flash so don’t distract babies.)

Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-15

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-17

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-18

Benefits

Other than the superb build and image quality, these two lenses have very snappy autofocus, especially when used with the X-T1 (the only camera which makes this a weather resistant system). I’ve captured monkeys leaping through the air, elephants fighting, and birds swooping through the rainforest. None of these were easy autofocus tasks. The X-T1 has been greatly improved by a series of firmware improvements. I am sure these two lenses will see a huge performance boost with the next generation cameras, which will have improved hardware instead of only updated firmware. To put it another way, if I was told I could only have access to two lenses then no doubt it would be these two, with the XF16-55mm just pushing out the superb XF10-24mm – please Fujifilm, make a F2.8 WR version!

What is rarely brought up is the effective focal length of the XF16-55mm, which is 24-85mm, that extra 15mm over the usual 24-70mm range is a big benefit. Expanding the uses of this lens, particular helpful for portrait photographers.

XF16-55mm-10.jpg (inquisitive young elephant)

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-10

Downsides

Because of all that lovely glass, range and build quality, these aren’t exactly light lenses when compared to the rest of the Fujifilm range. Not to say that they feel out of place though. If using the hand or battery grip with an X-T1 then even the XF50-140mm is nicely balanced. I feel like these lenses have more to give but are waiting for camera upgrades, this isn’t necessarily a bad point just one to think about. I have been in situations where I know the lenses can handle the moment but sometimes the X-T1 gets a little flustered. This occasional occurrence is massively outweighed by the general satisfaction I get from using this system over others I have tried.

XF50-140mm-6.jpg (tactile family members)

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-6

Conclusion

This system has been baked and soaked more than I’d ever admit to Fujifilm representatives… (awkward because they’ll probably read this… sorry!). But it is still working and producing images that I am very happy with. Certainly the products have more to give than I am currently demanding, this encourages me to push myself so I can reach the standard of these brilliant products. The camera market is incredibly competitive, a good thing as there are basically no bad systems out there. However, for me, this weather resistant X-Series is definitely my preferred choice. For anyone looking at camera system options, no matter your genre, I firmly believe that the X-Series at least warrants consideration, it is certainly producing the goods for me with nature photography.

Ben

Aug 212015
 

A Farewell to the Month of May, Bluebells and my Rolleiflex

By Ibraar Hussain

Hi Steve and Brandon,

Thought I’d share a few pictures with you which I took in May – a month I always love and look forward to as it’s when the weather is fantastic,  The tree’s have young leaves and everything is so bright and airy, and it’s a time when in some woods at home the English bluebells are in bloom.

I love this time of year and try to capture the Bluebells in all their glory as they carpet the clearings and patches of woodland bringing magic with them. They’re only fleeting though and after a couple of weeks they’re gone, not appearing again until the following Spring. I visited a few woods around Epping Forest, but the most amazing carpet was to be found in Wanstead park in East London which is a part of the Epping Forest. The Best time to capture these is at dawn or sunset when the sun is low and warm and illuminates these magnificent flowers and fills them with light, magic and drama.

I took my Rolleiflex 3.5F and a Rolleinar I and II close up lenses with a roll of Fuji NPH 400 Negative Film which has a wide Latitude/Dynamic range.
The Rolleinars are tricky as my eye sight isn’t the best at close up (need to get my eyes tested) and using a Waist level Finder while kneeling in bracken, brambles and stuff isn’t fun – But they’re great for portraits and head shots and give massive amounts of shallow depth in the photos when shot wide open.

I have just bought a Fuji TX-2 aka Hasselblad X-Pan II – a format I’ve been wanting to try for years, so my lovely Rolleiflex 3.5F complete with everything is having to be up for Sale to fund the purchase, and I think this was a fitting adieu to this legendary camera which I have used extensively the last few years and which has been with me to the Mountains of the Hindu kush, Karakoram and Himalaya.

One day I shall buy myself another, and for the time being my favourite Square Format photography will be performed with my Rolleiflex SLX II which I still have.

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Aug 202015
 
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From Canon to Fuji

by Stuart Cripps

Hi Steve,

Firstly can I congratulate you on your fantastic website. I love and appreciate your honesty and passion when telling us about the latest greatest stuff in the wonderful world of photography.
Real, honest hands on is so much more valuable than lab tests and pictures of book cases :)

Secondly, can I scold you for doing nothing to quell my longing for a Leica! (lol) I know I don’t ‘need’ one but I still romanticized about creating my work with one, and your site doesn’t help.

A bit about me. I’m a graphic designer by trade but my passion is photography, something that gives me a true sense of creativity and satisfaction. I started out with a Canon G9 but then made the ridiculous upgrade to a 5DmkIII about 3 years ago with the intention of improving my craft and trying to make it my career. Unfortunately 3 years later I am just getting to that point as I am held back by the most crippling of diseases… complete lack of self-confidence and belief.

Framed

I learned a lot of my 5DmkIII but along the way my recreational/hobby work seemed to lose something. It could have been the way I approached shots, too critical on nailed focus etc, maybe it was the fact the camera drew too much attention? Who knows? Either way it really felt like although my photos technically improved they lost some of their personality along the way. Which leads me to my short user review of sorts below…

Back in June I had 3 weeks before I was due to shoot my first wedding, in Paris – a real baptism of fire for me, my first paid wedding, my first time flying alone and my first time in France. It was make or break time! For peace of mind I needed a sidekick camera to accompany my Canon 5DmkIII (you never know when the gremlins may strike). I needed something that would suit my documentary/reportage style that i could easily master within my short 21 day prep window.

See-the-light

After much research and hair pulling I decided to avoid a second bulky DSLR or the risk (and expense) of buying into another lens system. Based on all the reviews and sample images the Fujifilm X100T seemed like the way to go. I have been following Fuji’s progress for some time and it seemed they had nailed it with this tiny bit or drool worthy retro skinned hardware.

Well what can I say, I was not disappointed. From the looks, to the handling to the image quality I think I may be falling in love with this new addition to my kit bag. This may be in part because it fills the gap I will never afford to fill (or indeed justify) with the holy grail of documentary, a Leica. Mainly though it’s because it is such a wonderful tool to work with.

Watergate-Bay

Stop

As much as I love my 5DmkIII I felt my photography lost a little of what pulled me in to begin with, the size, the attention it drew when I tried to shoot covert etc. The X100T rectifies all of that, it takes me back to when I started out with my trusty Canon G9. It allows me to be covert, creative and spontaneous with little to no impact on my surroundings. In essence it has brought some of the fun and magic back into the process of capturing life around me.

The-Passenger

Is it perfect? No, certainly not. Battery life is shocking especially next to the 5DmkIII. The focus can be hit and miss, especially in lower light and the menus take some getting used to, expect a few head scratching moments as you try to squeeze the best from this little gem. But with a little practice and effort you are soon rewarded and forgive the X100T it’s shortcomings and once more begin to fall in love with its raw retro charm.

Parisian-breakfast

I have only just started my journey and I am looking forward to see what images this new partnership helps me to create. The magic is back.

If you like what you see then please feel free to visit me online to see my ongoing photographic journey:

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stumacher/albums
INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/nero.creative/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/nero_creative

I hope this is of some use to you/your readers – and if it makes the cut I hope you enjoy my images.

Yours Sincerely,

Stu

Aug 102015
 

MASSIVE Fuji X-Pro 1 Clear Out/Deal – WITH two lenses under $1000!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 1.04.22 PM copy

OK guys, here is the deal some of you have been waiting for. The Fuji X-Pro 1 with the Fuji 35 1.4 and 27mm f/2.8 Lenses for only $949.85. THIS IS A crazy deal if you have been wanting a nice Fuji body. The X-Pro 1 is loved by many, used by many and has proven itself in the field, studio and in the world.

B&H Photo has this deal NOW, and is shipping NOW. To see the deal take a look HERE at the deal page on B&H Photo. 

Jun 172015
 

Houses of the Holy

By Steve Parker

Hi Brandon and Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

Quarr Abbey

Winchester Cathedral (2)

Winchester Cathedral

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

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

Regards

Steve Parker

May 192015
 
16749954303_338dbc7b63_b

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

By Thomas Rhee

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

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

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

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

“Waitress”

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

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

“Disparity”

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

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

“Juniper & The Garden Of Morning Calm”

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

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Anyways, thanks for reading and looking,

Thomas Y. Rhee

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

May 182015
 

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

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

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

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

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FUJI X-T10 SPECS:

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

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

16.3 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large 16.3 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-T10 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans pixel array, the sensor is designed with a randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the need of an optical low-pass filter for reducing moiré and aliasing. By removing this filter from the design, higher image sharpness is possible. Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are also taken into account using the EXR Processor II, which helps to automatically compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur in order to produce images with the utmost inherent sharpness.

The X-Trans sensor also works to provide highly effective noise reduction and a clean signal-to-noise ratio. This enables smoother-looking imagery that becomes especially apparent when photographing in low-light situations with an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200. Additionally, a top continuous shooting rate of 8 fps is possible for up to 8 consecutive frames, as well as a 3 fps shooting rate for the capacity of an SD card, to benefit working with moving subject matter.

EXR Processor II

Aside from benefitting low-light performance, the EXR Processor II also provides quick performance throughout the entire camera system. The camera start-up time is about 0.5 seconds, shutter lag is about 0.005 seconds, shooting interval time is about 0.5 seconds, and an electronic shutter feature allows you to use shutter speeds up to 1/32000 sec. A fast autofocus performance speed of 0.06 seconds is also enabled with the advanced Intelligent Hybrid AF system using both contrast- and phase-detection focusing methods.

Intelligent Hybrid AF

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

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

Real Time Viewfinder

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

Body Design

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

Depending on individual needs, dual command dials and an easily-accessible Q Menu provide an efficient solution for modifying some of the most frequently used camera settings, such as ISO, white balance, and file settings. For more extensive menu navigation, as well as live view monitoring and image review, a 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor is available and features a tilting design to better support working from high and low angles.

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

Full HD Movie Recording

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

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

Built-In Wi-Fi

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

Film Simulation Modes and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-T10 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. A refined Classic Chrome mode is designed to deliver muted tones and a deep color reproduction, similar to that of a dated slide film. Pulling from their more contemporary line of transparency films, Provia offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, Velvia produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and Astia gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, Pro Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while Pro Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions. In addition to the colorful benefits of these Film Simulation modes, there are also monochrome modes that simulate the look of traditional yellow, green, and red black and white contrast filters. A sepia mode is also available for producing an inherently nostalgic look.

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

 

May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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Mar 272015
 

User Report – Skin tones with the Fuji X series

By Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 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 272015
 

Back to Sony after 30 years away and why the RX10 works for me

By Chris Lamle

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What? I hear you cry… but Sony didn’t make cameras 30 years ago! It’s true, they didn’t, but way back when I was an graphic design student I had 2nd hand Minolta XG-7 (see the Sony connection?), upon which I cut my photographic teeth and learned the basics of taking photographs as well as processing and printing the images.

Fast forward a few years and there’s marriage and kids. The Minolta has long since died and I ditch my wifes’s Canon AE-1 for a Pentax compact (what was I thinking!). Sacriledge I know, but I was looking for something easier and simpler to use and that had autofocus and a zoom. I guess I was a lazy photographer.

Fast forward a few more years and a succession of film compacts, an early Minolta Dimage bridge camera (Sony again!!!), various other digital compacts and a Fuji bridge camera. All were pretty convenient and took, to my eyes at the time, pretty ok snapshots.

I had always enjoyed taking photographs but never considered myself an enthusiast and had only minimal knowledge of such basics as ISO, noise, sensor size and suchlike. I just stuck the camera in ‘P’ and hoped for the best.

It was only after briefly using a friend’s Nikon D90 that I realised that I was missing something. Well a lot really… like rich colours, image detail, bokeh, low light performance, a decent viewfinder. You name it.

So I decided that I would take my photography more seriously and started reading up. And boy did I read… magazines, websites, online reviews, offline reviews, watched video reviews and became immersed in everything to do with photography and cameras, to understand what I was missing.

So what was I looking for in a camera (in no particular order)?

Image quality
Convenience
Versatility
Usability
Quality
Shooting experience

What I didn’t want:

Bulk
Weight
Faffing about

After what seemed like months of research I came within a hairs breadth of getting a E-M5. And probably would not have regretted buying it. Then a friend mentioned the RX10. This, he said, was the Holy Grail for what I was looking for.

So I read up all I could on the RX10, including Steve’s review here. And took the plunge. A big deal for me, especially as I paid launch price for it. That was 4 times more than I’d EVER spent on a camera in my life.

The Basics:

I won’t detail full specs here as there are plenty of online reviews that go into much greater detail. For those unfamiliar with the RX10, it is basically the RX100’s big brother. The headline features are the same 1” 20Mp sensor as the RX100, but paired with a constant F2.8 Zeiss 24-200 equivalent zoom.

So why does the RX10 work for me?
Convenience.
Just 1 camera for stills and video. 1 fixed lens for pretty much all the situations that I like to shoot, whether it be portraits, street photography, landscapes, architecture. It’s reasonably compact, especially given the extra lenses you’d need to bring along from a comparable ILC system. And then there’d be the tiresome bother of changing lenses. Some people argue that the electronic zoom is slow. And it is, compared to a manual zoom. But people forget that while you’re changing out your 24-70mm for a 70-200mm, you’ve just missed the shot that I just got. And the zoom, in video mode, is pretty much silent.

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Versatility.

It’s the Swiss Army Knife or Gerber Multitool of cameras. Excellent at lots of things and just really handy to have around… need more reach and better quality than a compact? Yep. Want better video than an E-M5? Yep. Full manual controls like a full sized DSLR? Yep. Good EVF so you can shoot in bright sunshine, or because your eyesight is so poor you can’t see an LCD screen without glasses? Yep. It can’t take stones out of horses hooves, but there’s not much it isn’t capable of tackling… high speed sports and wildlife excepted.

Usability.

The RX10 scores really well here. Buttons and controls are numerous and customisable. I particularly like the aperture ring on the lens and the dedicated exposure compensation dial. Combine these with the function buttons and dials and I can easily change camera parameters without taking my eye from the viewfinder or delving into menus. And the camera isn’t overloaded with buttons.

The Sony menus seem intuitive and easy to navigate. Plus there is a Fn button that brings up a customisable view of functions that you can change quickly – like metering, drive mode, special effect, ISO, ND filter on/off. Nice.

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Quality.

I’ll divide this into build quality and image quality. Build quality is superb, as to be expected from a camera at this launch price. But it’s a really great feeling piece of kit. It features a magnesium body overlaid with high grade plastics. The Panasonic GH series cameras and entry level DSLRs are like plastic toys in comparison. The lens is a precision engineered chunk of glass and metal befitting its Zeiss badge, with the electronic zoom and aperture ring feeling very slick. The peripheral dials and buttons have that ‘hewn from solid’ feel that you know will last.

Image quality.

The pairing of Sony’s excellent 1” sensor and 24-200 Zeiss lens make a winning combination. The lens is sharp and produces punchy images. I shoot a mix of Raw and JPEG. I find the JPEG processing, although a little mushy when you’re pixel peeping, is more than adequate if I’m taking photos at a social event where the images are only going on Facebook. For landscape shoots or when I want to control the final image more, I’ll shoot RAW. There’s more noise than you would get from a bigger sensor, obviously, but at the A3 sizes I print it’s fine for me. I reckon I can recover plenty of shadow detail from Raw images – see sample of the Cabo Sao Vicente – Europe’s most south westerly point.

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I’ve also included (shock horror on Steve Huff Photo) images of a brick wall!!! I know this isn’t meant to be a hugely technical review and my comparison isn’t hugely scientific or methodical, but shows how how the RX10 stacks up against an APSC camera (in the shape of an EOS M) at ISO 200 and ISO 1600, all SOOC JPEGs. There’s a smidge more noise at 1600, but damn this 1” sensor stacks up well given it’s half the size. The image from the RX10 is actually punchier and more contrasty to boot.

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Shooting Experience

So it may have all these great features, but what’s it like to shoot with? The size is more traditional DSLR than an M4/3 system, but then it does come with a 24-200 F2.8 lens built-in. To to add that range onto a DSLR or even an M4/3 body will add more weight combined, than the RX10 alone. At around 800 grams it feels comfortable to use all day. It doesn’t drag on my neck and neither does it feel heavy to hold for long periods. The grip is a good size and feels nice and comfortable in the hand. Well my hand anyway. The dials and buttons all feel ‘right’ and in the right place. The buttons actuate precisely without any sponginess, ditto the dials which I’ve never had accidentally shift to another setting.

Being a mirrorless camera it has an EVF. Not as bright as an OVF, but good enough for me, and even better than an OVF in low light. The live view is brilliant for getting a more realistic idea of what your image will turn out. Subtle adjustments to aperture and the EV compensation and you can instantly see changes to exposure and/or depth of field. All without taking your eye away from the scene in the viewfinder.

Autofocus speed is good. Maybe it’s not as snappy as an E M5 or an A6000, but it’s good. I rarely find myself thinking ‘just bloody focus will you’. The only times have been at the tele end in low light and low contrast.

There’s also the option of the excellent manual focusing, which you can use with focus enlargement or focus peaking. I haven’t really got the hang of focus peaking yet, either that or it doesn’t work for stills. It never seems to be in quite in focus using this method. Maybe there’s a technique I’ve missed.

Tracking focus is another story. But then this camera is not really aimed at sports or wildlife, which probably includes kids and dogs. You need to take a different approach to this type of shooting, either using zone focusing or presetting a focus point, which I used in the pool shot.

So what do I think it’s good for?
Landscapes. Good dynamic range and an excellent focal length range means it’s great for anything from stunning wide vistas to detail shots, both inside and out.

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Street shooting: the near silent shutter is a bonus, but the fact it looks more like a DSLR and the size make it a little more obvious and intrusive. But, again, the focal range means you can be switching between views and grabbing open street scenes or more intimate moments

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Portraits: subject isolation is possible at its widest aperture and a longer focal length.

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Events and social gatherings: the zoom range and wide aperture makes it great for capturing people at social events. Again the near silent shutter is great here.

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What it’s not so great for:

Basically anything requiring 200mm+ reach is out.
Fast moving subjects using tracking focus
Fitting in your pocket. This is strictly a bag only cam.
If you want ultimate low noise high ISO image quality

A few more images..

All the images have all been taken over the last year and have mainly been taken in Spain, in and around a small town in Andalucia called Olvera. Others are from my home in West Yorkshire and from a short trip to Portugal. It’s a mixed bag as you can see, with a bit of everything from food photography for a local bar, to friends and family, people and places. Sharp eyed Game of Thrones fans may even spot Missandei (actress Nathalie Emmanuel) when we did a spot of papparazzi as the show was being filmed in our neck of the woods in Spain.

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Downsides

OK, so there are some. It’s size does mean it’s not at all pocketable. So maybe I’ll get an RX100 one day as a companion. Ideal for simply popping in a shirt pocket. Battery life is barely a day. Typical for a mirrorless camera I guess. But batteries are cheap enough that it’s not an issue. The switch that alternates the clicky/clickless option on the aperture ring is prone to be activated accidentally. Again, it’s a nitpick really. You need to remember to pull the LCD screen away from the camera before mounting on a tripod, as it won’t slide out otherwise. Not sure if the focus peaking actually works properly, or whether it’s just me. The screen isn’t fully articulated, where I guess most videomeisters would prefer it was.

Conclusions

A great travel and family camera in a moderately compact form. It offers a real step up in quality from a standard P&S, and is not that far behind M4/3 and APSc. For many people it’s literally all the camera they could ever need. No need to bother with lens swapping, no need for a separate video camera. Just get it out and start taking great pictures. Yet it also enables advanced users the option to get fully creative with the manual controls, which are all to hand like a ‘proper’ camera. It’s great for both stills and video.

Talking of video… why no mention of it. Well (cough, shuffles feet), I’ve barely done any. The few clips I’ve done look excellent to me, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what it does video-wise. But it’s nice to know it’s very capable, should I get the urge to create a movie sometime. Despite the lack of 4K video it offers serious pro-level features, like a clickless aperture ring. silent zoom, headphone socket, no line skipping full sensor readout.

At the price I paid I thought it was a great all-in-one camera. At its current price of around £650 in the UK, it’s a positive steal.

Hope you enjoyed the review, and the pics.

Thanks Steve.

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B&H Photo has the RX10 for $999 – See Steve’s original RX10 Review HERE.

Feb 092015
 

The Fuji X-Pro 1..My “Soulmate” Camera

by Christina Davis

Thank you for letting me share, once again, with the readers here on this site. I am a Fujifilm camera user (X-Photographer wannabe….I can dream, can’t I?). I sold off all of my DSLR equipment and the XPro1 was my main camera. Like many Fuji enthusiasts I, too, got one of the X-T1 cameras when they came out. While I was less than thrilled with the form, the performance was as described and I happily shot away with it all spring and summer this year. In fact, the XPro1 was gathering dust and as August rolled around, I was considering letting it go. As I thought it over I remembered one photo I took this summer with it. On an outing to The Huntington in Pasadena, California, I took the XT1 and the XPro1. I put on the 18mm lens on the XPro1 “just in case”. Well, this is the photo I made with that “just in case” set up:

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That picture drew me in – it spoke to me, if you will. The tones I got out of the XPro1 that day were far and above any taken by the X-T1 on that same day. So I pondered my decision to sell the XPro1 and then I decided to put the X-T1 aside, except for shooting my son’s sports, and focus once again on using the XPro1. I have been using the XPro1 almost daily since the end of August. It just feels right and even when I do use it for sports shooting, the handling and shooting experience are much more satisfying. The set-up in camera is different and I get many fewer action shots with the XPro1, but it is still possible to shoot a soccer game with it.

On a nit-picky level, one of my biggest issues with the X-T1 was the placement of the movie mode button. I was used to changing ISO on the XPro1 with the function (Fn) button. It is quick, easy and I don’t have to take the camera away from my eye to change ISO settings while in the process of shooting. It just works for me. I can’t count the number of times, while shooting with the X-T1, that I engaged the movie mode. Even while shooting for a number of months on end of the X-T1, that reflex to change ISO with my shooting finger never went away.

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Another thing I notice is the original X-Trans sensor is just a little more….subtle? I can’t put it into words, but there is a difference in the way the original iteration of the X-Trans sensor handles the files when compared to those from the updated sensor in the X-T1. Both are perfectly fine and produce wonderful files. I just find the original X-Trans sensor output more pleasing to my eye and taste.

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Old habits die hard. How many times did I open the battery door to remove the SD card in the X-T1? Every. Single. Time. Every time I went to download the photos, I looked for the card under the battery door. Also, my SD card door on the X-T1 opened up on me constantly while out and about. Minor? Oh yes! Annoying? Yes.

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Feeling in hand? I like the rangefinder styling of the XPro1 over the slr styling of the X-T1. I mentioned in the first paragraph that I was a little disappointed with the style of the X-T1. It handles just fine, I don’t have any major complaints at all – just the minor ones I noted above, but it does not give me the same shooting experience, tactile experience, as I get when holding and using the XPro1.
When I jumped into Fuji I lusted after the XPro1 but avoided it for months due to higher price. I finally broke down and got one, used it and love it – then put it aside for something newer. Now, I can’t believe I actually considered getting rid of it. It is my main camera and camera of choice with the Fuji 35mm lens. I still have the X-T1. It is great for shooting my son’s soccer and football games with the 55-200 lens. I won’t get rid of it, either.

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As corny as it sounds, the XPro1 is my soul-mate camera…unless the X100T takes its place. It is a never-ending cycle of newer and better and I do fall victim to liking the shiny new toys. With the layout and style of the X100T….only time will tell.

If you like what you see, you can see what I’m up to on Instagram @cldavisphotography.

Thanks for letting me share with you again!

Best to you all,
Chris Davis

Jan 142015
 

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My short and sweet Fuji X100T review

by Steve Huff

You can buy the X100T at B&H Photo, Amazon, or PopFlash.com 

Here we are, just about mid January 2015 and I have had the Fuji X100T on hand for 3 weeks. During those three-week I have used it for about 15 days and have had my ups and downs with it, mostly ups. At the price of $1299, we are still getting the tried and true Fuji X100 formula. Retro small body, light weight, the same 35 f/2 lens and overall, the same feel and vibe as the previous X100s. This is very much still a tried and true X100.

For me though, the X100T is not a HUGE upgrade over the previous X100s. When it comes to handling, speed, AF accuracy and metering, they seem exactly the same. When it comes to feel of the body, weight of the body and controls, it is really the same.

Nope, the X100 has not changed much since the 1st original best-selling X100 except in regards to speed (the X100s and X100T are much faster and more responsive than the original) and the sensor, which is now an X-Trans sensor. The X100 and X100T share the same sensor, so IQ between the two, for me, was exactly the same.

Click any image in this review to see a larger version

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I was and still am a HUGE fan of the original Fuji X100. For its time, it was quite the show stopper. It sold in mass amounts and was touted by many at the time as a ‘Leica M Killer” (which is in no way was). Many also were confused and called the X100 a rangefinder camera when it was and is nothing like a real rangefinder camera. The X100 V1 was something to behold. Fuji colors, a sensor that rendered in a sweet organic way and class leading high ISO for the time. It is the best-selling X100 to date due to the massive BUZZ surrounding it at the time of release.

1st things 1st…Research:

You can read my original huge X100 review HERE. You can see my X100S review HERE. This T version is really the same in most ways which is why this is a “mini review” so if you want more details on the X100 in general, read those two reviews to get the idea of the X100 series and what it does and who it is for.

Back to the X100T

I loved the X100 V1 but the speed of the AF was very frustrating at times. The main drawback of the X100 was SPEED. From AF, to menu browsing lag, to respond lag. The one thing it had going for it was its hybrid EVF that switched between optical and EVF as well as the delicious color and image quality. For me, that sensor in the X100 V1 was the best of the three, but now that Fuji is  using the X-Trans sensor in the S and T we still have a wonderful small camera that is capable of gorgeous results. I may prefer the old X100 sensor but that does not mean my word is final. Many prefer and adore the X Trans sensors and thousands of others can not be wrong.

*Also, for those who are thinking of an original X100, Fuji have improved on the speed dramatically with firmware updates, so while not as fast as the X100s or T, it is much faster than it was at launch. 

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When I was shooting the new X100T I remember thinking on more than one occasion..”I do not feel or see much difference between this and the previous X100s“. IQ appeared to be the same, speed seemed to be the same (though I was missing more shots as the AF seemed to miss 10-20% of what I was focusing on) and the only thing I found to be different in real world use was the new viewfinder, which many were raving on and on about.

Me, I actually was not a huge fan of the new EVF feature that allowed a sort of “picture in picture” effect when shooting with the optical viewfinder. What it was doing was planting a live EVF view in the same viewfinder frame with the optical, but that live EVF view was so small it made it very odd and cramped. It seemed to block the VF and for me, it was more of a hindrance than anything useful so I used it a few times and then just reverted back to the old way. Then it was just like shooting an X100s. The new feature is helpful for one thing though..which I will discuss in a minute..

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So away I went, shooting the X100T and it was a nice experience. Nothing new, nothing extraordinary, nothing surprising and nothing that screamed “I MUST OWN THIS CAMERA”. For me it essentially was the same old X100s. Same body, speed, IQ and bloodlines. After shooting the A7s and A7II extensively and recently I was sort of spoiled by this massively rich full frame color and image quality. I was spoiled by using my Leica M glass on those bodies and when going to the X100T I was a little let down by the flatter files and more limited dynamic range.

Even so, I really enjoyed the X100T as I have a soft spot in my heart for this Fuji series. I adore the X100 series almost as much as I adore the Leica M series. Not because the X100 is in any way like an M but because the X100 was first to come out with a body that resembled a Leica styled body and it had the same message, which was “take me, use me, be motivated by me”. The manual dials and controls were perfect.

The X100, X100S and X100T are all cameras that will make you WANT to use it. It’s fun, it’s stylish, it’s easy to use and all controls are laid out in a super easy way. I did have MANY issues with that damn X100T exposure comp dial though. It seemed 8 times out of 10 when I went to use the camera the EV dial was turned all the way down to the highest negative setting. The wheel is just too easy to turn and it turns constantly when I do not want it to. I would think that Fuji would have fixed this by now in this third X100 version.

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As the title of this review states, this is just a “short and sweet” review as to me, I feel the X100T is just a refresh of the X100s. It’s the latest version but not so much different from the S. Besides the new EVF/OVF features, there really is not much to mention that I did not already say in my X100s and X100 review.

One thing that is also new is the “Classic Chrome” JPEG color setting. This is a cool setting and is supposed to simulate a classic chrome film, and it does pretty well. I used it from time to time but this only really works when shooting JPEG depending on what software you are using to convert the raw files.

A JEPG using the “Classic Chrome” color setting. A bit subdued but nice…

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…compared to VIVID which boosts not only the saturation but the contrast and hue as well

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So what else is new in the X100T? 

Besides the new EVF/OVF feature of having the EVF overlay, the X100T now offers something pretty useful..Manual focus parallax adjustment. This will basically allow you to use the OVF and get the shot you wanted. In prior versions of the X100 the frame would be off from what you saw in the OVF, especially for close up focusing. Now this is a non issue as what you see is what you get. The X100T will shift its window to show you exactly what you are going to capture. This is a  godsend for many. Me, I always just used the EVF portion of the VF anyway, so this is a very nice upgrade for those who prefer to use the OVF.

The LCD screen is now 3 inches with a 1.04 million dot resolution.

The shutter speed max is now 1/32,000 of a second. This is cool.

Other than those updates and the new classic chrome filter, the camera is pretty much the same as the X100s.

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Personally, if I were buying an X100 today, I would spring for THIS ONE while there are a few left. If they were sold out I would go with THIS ONE and save some cash. But if I were one who loved the X100 series and always used the OVF instead of the EVF I would go with the X100T as yes, it is the most refined and polished X100 to date. I expect Fuji to do a major overhaul of this camera in the next 1-2 years with a new body style, new sensor and possibly a new lens.

Well, that is what my Crystal Ball sees :)

On our way to Cleator, AZ, passing through Bumble Bee.

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So do I recommend the X100T?

Did it motivate me and push me to get out and shoot? Well, yes it did. Not as much as a Leica but it’s a camera that makes you happy to own it. It is a camera that will reward you with beautiful colors and images. In the right light it can be unstoppable, in the wrong light it can be a bit flat. High ISO performance is pretty much what we had in the X100s (be sure to read that review HERE if you missed it as it goes over more as does the X100 review). 

I had some issues with the AF missing its target (using center point) and I had the same overexposure issues that plagued the camera since the version 1 X100. Those who shoot the X100 series usually dials in some negative EVF comp to make up for  the slight overexposure of the cameras metering system.

X100T vs Same Price Range. Anything better?

For the cost of $1299 I would look into the fabulous and pro level Olympus E-M1 as it is a better camera in every way but size (its a tad larger/thicker) and comes in at $100 less. Of course that is without a lens but man, so many great M 4/3 lenses out there. The E-M1 for me bests all cameras up to full frame where it can not compete but I have yet to use an APS-C or smaller camera that beats out the E-M1 in 90% of situations.

Don’t hate on me now…I just call it like it is. The E-M1 at $100 less has a much better weather sealed build, is much faster, much more accurate, has 5 Axis IS, better video and is much more responsive. It’s a joy to use and own. Of course a good lens will mean you have to spend at least an extra $350 (45 1.8) but in the long-term it is a camera that will last you many years. I still own one myself. It’s too good to let go. Check out what Neil Buchan-Grant does with his E-M1. 

But be warned, the E-M1 though is like a Mini DSLR and does not stand for what the X100 series does, which is simplicity..one focal length and a camera that is nice and slim and more compact. If this is what you seek, the X100T is fantastic.

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Fuji is one of the “Big 3” for mirrorless cameras in 2015. They are going no where. We have Sony who is IMO leading the pack with the mirrorless bodies and full frame sensors as well as the tech/build and overall usability. Then we have Olympus who IMO makes amazing bodies with gorgeous IQ and the lenses from Olympus are nothing but the finest you can get in the mirrorless world for size and quality. Then we have Fuji who is pushing along with new bodies every year or so and great fast primes that many of us want. For me, these three companies are as good as it gets in the Mirrorless world. The Fuji X100T is the latest and greatest for Fuji’s X100 line, and if this camera attracts you or pulls at you heartstrings, $1299 is what it will cost you, and its worth it.

I wil not buy an X100T because I already own 5 cameras but to those who want to get into Fuji with the most simplicity, beauty and the most zen like camera of all of the Fuji’s, the X100T is your best bet!

Highly recommended.

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You can buy the X100T at B&H Photo, Amazon, or PopFlash.com 

—————

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

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Jan 122015
 

My Fuji X100T Experience

by Vasu Jagannathan

Hi Steve,

Here is my User Report on the Fujifilm X100T digital camera.

My X100T is black. It is beautiful to behold and, as befits a Compact, it is easily carried in the hand. But, as I did not find the grip to be super comfortable while shooting, I will be attaching Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 handgrip in the near future. Since that’s my only real caveat one can guess that I really like this camera!

I took it out just one day after receiving it without making any prior practice shots. As I’m one of those who never had either one of the preceding X100 or X100S cameras in the series, it says a lot for the X100T that I was able to get comfortable with it within the space of a single photo shooting session. Just by way of background, the X100T is a 23 mm (or a 35 mm EFOV) fixed-lens camera with an APS-C sized XTrans II sensor packed inside a compact body.

Picture 1 - Entrance National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0002

 

In taking the pictures shown here, I used Aperture Priority, changing the f values as needed. I also used the Auto ISO option with the range 200 to 6400. For Metering I chose the Spot option and Focus was Auto. In order to feel out the camera’s performance, I shot some pictures wide open at f/2.0 (see Pictures 3 to 6), pushed the ISO to 1600 (see Picture 5), and fired off handheld at 1/40s (see Pictures 2, 4 and 5).

 

I also switched in the built-in Neutral Density Filter for Pictures 7 and 11. All pictures were shot in Raw Mode and converted to Jpeg in Adobe LR 5. One small point. When it comes to those Fujifilm cameras that use a XTrans digital sensor, I am really not sure whether Adobe LR is really the best thing to use for demosaicing the XTrans Raw files. I haven’t yet explored using other software such as Iridient which may be more optimal for Xtrans. I believe that aspect should be taken into account when looking at the color rendering in these pictures.

By way of background information, the attached pictures were taken in Washington DC – some inside the National Gallery of Art where the use of Flash is prohibited – and some outside. I am not going to describe every picture word by word as that would be boring. Rather, I would like to point to certain aspects of some of the images that speak to the performance capabilities of the X100T camera.

Pictures 2 through 6 were taken inside the Gallery where the light is subdued mostly for the sake of preserving the paintings. More specifically, Picture 2 was a bit challenging for the X100T because it was shot in a dark tunnel between two wings of the Gallery with myriads of small decorative type of lights that went on and off.

Picture 2 – 1/40ths

 

Picture 2 - Connecting Tunnel National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0003

I must have gotten this one in the full-on cycle. The ISO was 1250. Even so, the camera took this in stride at a shutter speed of 1/40s.

Below – Pictures 3, 4 and 5

Picture 3 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0006

Picture 4 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0007

Picture 5 - Inside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0009

 

Picture 6 which shows the original Little Dancer sculpture by Degas currently on exhibit here.

Picture 6 - The Little Dancer by Degas in The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0010

The lens was held wide open at f/2.0. Among other things, I think the X100T nicely captured the Dancer’s reflections in the surrounding transparent box. All in all, the light and shadow aspects seemed to be well-handled by X100T in these indoor set of pictures.

Stepping outdoors, Picture 7 was taken in sunlight so bright that I decided to trigger the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one.

Picture 7, ND filter engaged.

 

Picture 7 - Fountain outside The National Gallery of Art 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0014

Additionally, I shot this one with a shutter speed of 1/2500s just so I could freeze the motion of the fountain’s water jets. In this situation, the X100T set the Auto ISO to 850 and captured a good quality image. In all these pictures, the actual exposure values used in developing the Raw via Adobe LR 5 are of course very subjective, being my personal choices. Someone else may have developed the light and shadow differently but I believe that the intrinsic quality of the image produced by the X100T would still have been just as good.

Pictures 8, 9, and 10

Picture 8 - Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0015

Picture 9 - The Capitol Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0018

Picture 10 - The Supreme Court Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0021

 

Picture 11 was a challenge for the X100T due to a great contrast in light (the flaring sunlit cloud) and deep shade (the Library of Congress’ Jefferson building).

Picture 11 – f/16

 

Picture 11 - The Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0022

I switched on the built-in Neutral Density Filter for this one and stopped down the aperture to its smallest f/16 value. I hope the picture is suitably dramatic as well showing a nice performance by X100T. The inspiration for the last picture, Picture 12, was the interesting cloud hovering over Union Station.

Picture 12

 

Picture 12 - Union Station Washington DC 12 Dec 2014-DSCF0024

It’s the kind of situation where a Compact like X100T comes perfectly to hand and the fact that it has a large APS-C sized sensor gives one the confidence that you can pull off a good shot with a decent workable dynamic range in the Raw file. To finish up, I believe that this camera will not substitute for a top notch full frame DSLR or a Leica M Rangefinder in situations where that type of camera is needed. But what the X100T does, it does well. While it is not a pocket camera like the Ricoh GR, still it is easily carried in one hand or in a briefcase or messenger bag.

Its greatest asset, perhaps, is that someday when you are out there and see something so totally photoworthy that it would be a shame to depend on a cell phone camera with all its inherent limitations, then out comes your X100T and, then and there, you will be able to capture a high quality image that is all yours to savor at your leisure. Yes, from that perspective at least, this camera is a keeper.

You can purchase the X100T at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE OR PopFlash.com HERE

The new Thumbs up is now available for the X100T as well, HERE.

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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