Aug 262014
 

Flashback: The Fuji S5 Pro. Gorgeous color reproduction

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Many of you may be surprised but one of my favorite digital cameras ever is a camera that I feel had the best Fuji color ever, even better than what we get with the newer X series. Yep, the now classic Fuji S5 Pro was built-in a Nikon D200 body, was slow to operate (for a DSLR) and did not have the most/highest resolution BUT it was and still is a camera capable of tremendous color reproduction. My time with the Fuji was spent back in 2007 and 2008 and during this time I also owned the Nikon D300, which had a better body, was faster, and did everything better than the Fuji, well, except for the color and Dynamic Range.

Direct from camera color taken on a gorgeous fall day in Wheatfield Indiana

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Before Fuji had the X100, X-E1, Xt1 or any X camera they were using Nikon bodies and producing DSLR’s with their own unique sensor. The lens mount was Nikon so all Nikon glass would work on the Fuji S1, S2, S3 and S5. (I have owned the S2, 3 and 5). When I started doing comparisons between the S5 Pro and the Nikon D300, I preferred the S5Pro in the IQ department but loved the D300 for its speed and higher resolution. At that time I ended up sticking with the S5 Pro longer than I did the D300 but I do remember coming back to the D300 later on.

Still, as I look back at my photos on an old hard drive I noticed a few POP OUT from my screen, and then I remembered…ahhhh yes, the Fuji S5 Pro!  Today you can still find S5′s for sale used and the prices range anywhere from $300 to $550 depending on condition. After looking back at some memories shot with the S5 I may one day buy one of the used ones up for an occasional burst of beautiful Fuji color. It isn’t so shabby in N&W either!

Who here has shot with or has owned the Fuji S1, S2, S3 or S5 Pro? If so, leave a comment and let me know what YOU think of the classic Fuji digital cameras! 

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Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

Wow. It is already mid 2014. Half of this year has whizzed by faster than ever and as always we have a ton of cameras that we can choose from when it comes to photography. If we want something small that packs a punch, we have that. If we want something for low light, we have that as well. If we want something that is a joy to shoot, hold and use, well, we also have that. Do we have it all in one single camera yet? Well, not really.

There are always new camera seeing released though maybe not as many as the years past. DSLR production, as in new models, has seemed to slow down some from the constant barrage of new models that we used to see. Well, at least it seems like it. Even mirrorless offerings seem to be lasting a little longer between releases these days, and this is GOOD as we are at the point now where almost any camera will give us better results than most of us even need.

So far in 2014 we have had some cool releases and there are still fantastic cameras that were released in the past that are still perfectly usable. The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on a new camera is “What will I be shooting with it”, also “Do I value usability more than overall versatility”? “Will I be shooting mostly low light or in good light”? “Does it need to fit in my pocket”?

Once you decide what it is you want to use the camera for, be it portraits, your kids, vacations, or just an everyday shooter then you need to decide if you want simplicity in a fixed lens model or something that will allow you to choose and change lenses. The choice is yours as there is something out there to fit your needs, and I am going to talk about the cameras I like as of July 2014 with the reasons WHY I really like, if not love them.

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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Micro 4/3, Olympus E-M and E-P series

My favorite camera for ALL OUT versatility as of today is still the Olympus E-M1 or even E-P5. These cameras are beautifully made with a solid feel and gorgeous looks (in the case of the E-P5). They have some of the best lenses made for any system next to Leica from fisheye to telephoto and everything in between including some super fast primes like the Nocticron f/1.2 that is one of the best lenses I have ever used. With Micro 4/3 you have speed, you have the lenses, you have the build, you have the amazing 5-AXIS Image Stabilization and you have a smaller size. The lenses are so good, and not so astronomically priced. The color reproduction is beautiful and the B&W is not too shabby either. A camera like the E-M1 has it all and the only real weakness of this camera is that the sensor is smaller than full frame and smaller than APS-C. For this reason you lose out on some shallow depth of field and the images will be a bit more noisy at high ISO than full frame cameras.

Even so, if you shoot mostly in good light and want one hell of a system with unlimited lens choice and an all around great experience with pro image quality results, the E-M1 is still a gorgeous camera. The E-M10 and E-M5 are as well. I reviewed them all and you can read my reviews of these models HERE, HERE and HERE. Yes, you can indeed get DSLR quality and beyond with these models.

You can buy the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from Micro 4/3 – Super versatile cameras that do it all. 

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My fave camera for Point & Shoot, Vacation and SMALL SIZE!

Sony takes it here for me with the new advanced pocket rocket, the RX100 III. 

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The new Sony RX100 III is a hell of a camera in almost every way. It is small, made very well, has a pop up EVF, tilt LCD and stellar IQ for a small pocket camera. It’s a handsome camera as well and gives us an f/1.8 to f/2.8 lens from 24-70 (ff equiv). What is not to like? The color is great. the files are nice and I have seen some do amazing work with the RX100 version 1 and now Version III improves on that model in every way. This is, hands down, the best pocket camera I have ever seen or used, ever. Video is good as well. It does it all but will not give you the all out versatility or IQ of something like a Micro 4/3 or full frame model. For what it is though, it is the perfect camera for every day shooting, vacation, kids, family, events, etc. Whoever buys an RX100 III will not be disappointed. It is the real deal. I have been able to use one for a but thanks to B&H Photo but have not had serious time yet with it. Will be doing that this week. You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo or Amazon.

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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The Leica M, any of them from film to the M 240 or Monochrom take this one for me in a huge way. These cameras are ones that you cherish and create an emotional bond with. For those who think that is nonsense, then you have never had that bond with a camera, and yes, it is real. The Leica M is a masterpiece of design, build, and usability. All manual focus using a rangefinder it is a very precision tool that actually can teach you a think or two about photography, framing and exposure. It is a tool one can use for a lifetime if you choose a film model, as they last forever. While the price is off-putting to many, think about it in a new way. This is a camera that will give you the most enjoyment from any camera ever..well, it has for me and not everyone is the same. From the moment you take it from its box all of your regrets of the money spent fade away.

The Leica M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, M240 and Mono will give you that Leica experience that no other camera will give you. As for IQ, others can meet or exceed the Leica in that area but nothing can beat it for usability or for creating that emotional connection. You can buy a Leica from many places these days but my faves have always been Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop and Leica Store Miami. These guys will treat you right.

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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You guys know how much I adore the Sony A7s and while it is not the most versatile (only due to lack of native lenses when compared to others such as Micro 4/3) camera it is indeed quite powerful. There is no low light situation that this camera can not tackle, period. When used with the 50 0.95 Mitakon I can see in the dark and when used with the native Sony lenses such as the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 the camera will even AF in the dark. Amazing. The A7 also has better color performance than the A7 and A7r , better AWB, faster AF and better M mount lens compatibility. You can read my review here to see what it is all about but I now have one of these bad boys with a few lenses and love it to pieces. As I said in the review, the A7s is probably puns for pound, dollar for dollar my favorite camera that I have ever reviewed.

Low light shooters, this is a must try or own. The camera also is excellent in daytime shots and video. If more native lenses were around it would be unbeatable for me as of July 2014.

You can buy the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from the A7s, 1st one using the Voigtlander 35 1.2 wide open and a 100% OOC JPEG. 2nd one is from the Mitakon 50 0.95 and third and fourth is from the Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5. 

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Runner Ups

The Fuji X-T1 and Leica T are also very cool and very capable cameras. The Leica is different than other cameras in its interface and joy of use. It is a Leica and gives you the Leica style of IQ and pride of ownership. The Fuji is still a lightweight in the build but for Fuji fans, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

Of course these are not the only cameras I like, but they are my faves as of July 2014. The Sony, the Leica, the Olympus..all superb in so many ways and unlikely  to leave anyone disappointed as long as you use them with good glass. The key is to get out and use them (for me it has been tough since it has been 110-112 every day and me and extreme oven like heat do not jive well for more than 5-10 minutes) and have fun using what you do own. The key is you more than anything, not the gear..though I admit..it is very fun to test and try new cameras!

Jun 302014
 

An Indian Wedding – one body, one lens, no flash pictures

By Arindam Pal

Hi Brandon and Steve,

How have you been doing? I have been quite busy settling down in a city in my home country for a while. Fortunately, I found some respite from the humdrum when I attended one of my brother-in-law’s wedding in New Delhi. Then I thought, why not take this golden opportunity and challenge myself to a strict rule – shoot the wedding with one body, one lens and no flash. Wedding photography without artificial light – was it even possible? Wedding photography in India is yet to take off for the masses – barring a few, most of the photographers are underpaid for the amount of effort they put in and the shots are mostly about the thousand or so people who attend, the various religious ceremonies and so on. No emphasis on smaller stories and the quintessential mood of a vibrant Indian wedding. But they do carry strobes and monos that I could leverage if I position myself correctly. Instead of trying to shoot what they would capture, I chose to pursue a different PoV. So, out came the trusty Fuji X-E2 and the outstanding 35 mm f/1.4. Many folks complain about missed focus on the X bodies. Even when shooting at night at higher than average ISOs, I never had a problem. I left the OM-D E-M1 back home because I knew I needed the Fuji’s insane sensor to allow for 99% night shots. The E-M1 is great but I wanted to minimize noise as much as possible. Ever since I heard about the Sony A7S, I have been waiting for your detailed review to come out. Maybe, that has the prowess to fill every gap that I find lacking. Here are some of the stories that I wanted to highlight:

1. The groom was sweating profusely in the intense Delhi summer. The photographer wanted a picture of the two brothers without the sweat showing up – so, the groom’s brother (my other brother-in-law) quickly takes out his own kerchief and wipes the sweat off his brother’s face. I thought this would be the best position for me to show the real camaraderie between two brothers. It was a challenging shot because I was looking straight at the bright light on the left. But the ISO 2500 DR from the X-E2 was good enough to retain some details even in harsh lighting conditions. EXIF: f/1.8 1/500 @ISO 2500

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2. Leading lines and symmetric split? And I knew no one was going to shoot the decor, the thousands of dollars’ worth of real flowers. I could have shot at a smaller aperture but the idea of one rose bouquet fading into another was just appealing. EXIF: f/2.8 1/420 @ISO 2000

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3. The bride and groom’s first dance together. I would normally focus on the couple as they venture into a new life together. However, the story here is not about the couple alone but on all the others around, showering blessings and cheering for them. So, I chose it be out of focus – critics will surely disagree. EXIF: f/1.4 1/420 @ISO 800

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4. An archetypal wedding portrait. My sister in law was all decked up and I wanted to see how well the 35 mm would hold up in the ambient magenta cast light. I opened up the door just a wee little bit to let the natural outdoor light seep through. At ISO 1600, there was hardly any noise creep. EXIF: f/2 1/70 @ISO 1600 EV -0.7

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5. And what Indian wedding is complete without showing some application of Henna tattoo? I got a small one made for meJ. This one shows one of my sisters-in-law waiting patiently as the Henna dries out and becomes permanent for a week or so. In the intense heat, 30 minutes was enough. EXIF: f/2 1/45 @ISO 2500

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6. The final one tells the story of the bride leaving her parents’ home to be with her partner for life. While everyone was focused on her, I was thinking of how my bro-in-law was feeling. He surely did not know how to react to his newly wed wife all in tears in her mother’s arms. A pinkish magenta light distorts the WB but according to me, the vivid color shows nothing but the confusion in his eyes! EXIF: f/1.8 1/70 @ISO 800

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Follow me on Flickr@

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ap_works/sets/

Thanks,

Arindam

Jun 022014
 

Zeiss Touit Deals BACK IN STOCK NOW! ACT FAST!

 

See the bundle deal for Sony - The Zeiss 12mm and 32 1.8 for $919!

See the bundle deal for Fuji - The Zeiss 12 and 32 1.8 for $919!

BACK IN STOCK NOW BUT WILL GO FAST!!! 

Both of these lenses are superb and are a steal of a deal at $919 for the set. Deals like this one rarely come around, so if you have been wanting a sweet lens for your Sony or Fuji X, these are both fantastic. But do not wait too long…

The Zeiss 32 1.8 on the Sony A6000 is one hell of a lens (my review here). B&H also has the 12mm Zeiss at a special price as well. Details and direct links below on these new in box lenses!

Click here to see all of the Zeiss Touit Deals at B&H Photo NOW!

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B&H PHOTO IS also advertising this INSANE deal of the two tout lenses, the 32 1.8 and 12 2.8 for Sony or Fuji for $919 TOTAL. That is $800 off the normal price. 

See the bundle deal for Sony

See the bundle deal for Fuji

IN STOCK NOW!

May 202014
 

Some Fuji x-t1 Images, A User Report

By James

Hi Steve,

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

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

James

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May 012014
 

One is not enough – using both the m43 and X sensors

By Arindam Pal

Hi Brandon and Steve,

It’s been over a year I sent something to you. Those were pictures taken during a short visit to my native land in India. A lot has changed over the year, both personally and professionally. Last year, I was shooting with the OM-D E-M5 but did not much like the noise response and preferred the Fuji X Pro, in spite of it being slow.

Steve’s review on E-M1 was up by October of 2013 and I placed an order along with the 17 1.8 and 45 1.8. The E-M1 is a great addition to the family. It has improved upon the E-M5 in many ways. Love the large EVF, snappy autofocus and the rugged, all-terrain look. I was quite happy with the results, although I found low light noise to be an issue. I understand people have different preferences and opinions. Many would prefer the slight noise that the E-M1 produces at ISO 1600 and above. However, I personally find any amount of noise distasteful. Coming from a D3S, it’s a challenge to accept it.

So, I decided to get another body and ended up buying a lightly used X-E2 body along with the 23 1.4 and 14 2.8. I could not be happier. Now when I shoot in low light and want high quality noise free images, I use the Fuji and when I need a faster response, I just carry the OM-D. Both are equally fun to use. I also bought a Nikon adapter to use my existing Nikon primes. I found that the 85 1.8D Nikon lens goes very well with the Fuji.

Must say, I am tempted by the upcoming Sony A7S with its practically noise free images but hope Fuji or Oly will come up with something extraordinary very soon

Sending a few pictures chronologically. Hope you would like them enough to post them on your blog. I did not bother much about the technical details when I was shooting these – but they show the passion I have for my newly grown family! Please feel free to use any or all of them:

E-M1 and 45 1.8 @f/1.8 ISO 400 1/4000 with -1 EV to create the silhouette

The 1st one is of wife 36 weeks in pregnancy

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 X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1000 1/70

The 2nd one is our first daughter, Aarwen celebrating her 1st month on this Earth

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 E-M1 and 45 1.8 @f/1.8 ISO 400 1/200

The 3rd one – Aarwen again, holding on to her mother

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 X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1600 1/160

The 4th one – Aarwen with her first plaything

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 X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/2 ISO 1600 1/25

5th – she likes to talk to Mommy

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 X-E2 and 23 1.4 @f/4 ISO 200 1/170

6th one is from my recent visit to Bangalore, a street vendor selling fresh young coconut water to beat the heat

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Thanks so much,
Arindam

Apr 262014
 

Turkish fisherman with the Fuji X100s

By Howard Shooter

I must be strangely attracted to fisherman:

The last post of mine you very kindly published was about the fishing town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk, England. In stark contrast I now find myself relaxing in a wonderfully self-indulgent week of all-inclusive heaven, in Dalaman, Turkey with my wife Karen and my three gorgeous kids. What I needed was ironically a week of no photography and some serious “R and R”, after an enjoyably punishing work schedule.

As a food photographer, I decided to leave the beloved Leica M240 at home, with all the lenses, filters etc, I needed a break from manual this and aperture that… Instead I took just a small Canon (for the kids shots), and my conflicted Fuji X100s. My Fuji conflicts with me because I am magnetically drawn to out-and-out quality over everything else and I was thinking of flexing the plastic, one more time to invest in the Sony RX1R. The quality of the Sony is Leica-esque and it’s cheaper than the 35mm Summilux. or Summicron. But the story doesn’t end there; the Fuji X100s must have been designed by a photographer. It just works beautifully. I would argue that the Fuji is more ergonomically designed than the Leica in some respects, mainly the exposure compensation dial, and it is a total pleasure to use. The quality, once stopped down by a stop or two is lovely, could be sharper, with a better dynamic range, but the information is there if you want to fiddle and faddle. (I made the word faddle up btw). On an all-inclusive I expected the usual anonymous beaches, impeccable cleanliness and lack of soul or character, hence no reason to Leica up… The hotel we’re staying at is wonderful and is more than we could have wished for actually.

… and then my family, after a day of rain, went to look at the views on the beach. These Turkish fisherman were so friendly. I approached them today and just took about ten shots of each man over a three-minute period. The Fuji performed incredibly well. It’s so unobtrusive that I didn’t feel like I was violating their private space. The dual viewfinder is just perfectly implemented and the 35mm is such a flexible focal length. The shutter lag is almost non-existent and the camera feels very intuitive and responsive. Suffice to say I don’t feel so conflicted now. I shall be putting my plastic to better use. The Fuji is an excellent companion and probably got me more hits than if I would have had the Leica with all those nets flying around. Oh well… the buffet beckons!

The shots were taken in raw and have been converted to black and white in Lightroom and the blue channel has been increased just a little.
Many thanks for looking.
Howard Shooter

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Apr 142014
 

Fuji X-T1 Ergonomic DYI Improvements

by Ronald Grauer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s called ”Sugru”, www.sugru.com

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

It’s made in England.

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

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

It cost around 15 euros for 8 little package…

Hope this post will help many other users…

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

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

Keep with what you’re doing.

Regards,

Ronald.

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/

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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
 

fujiX

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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