May 192016
 

Three from Me

by David Jones

Hi,

The Gent covering his face was a street shot taken in a Sheffield cafe in UK. He sat next to me and my family, ordered soup and sat with his head in his hands until his order arrived. It was taken with a Fuji XT1 35mm 1.4 lens. To me its a shot that makes me pleased that I always carry a camera.

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The shot of the man and baby was taken As I was testing light for another shot I was about to take for a personal project I had been working on. The project was called intimate-inanimate and centered upon individuals and their most personal single possession. This shot was just taken as he held his child whilst I set the lighting. It was taken on Canon 5d mk3 and 85mm 1.8.

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The landscape was also taken on a 5d mk3 and was shot In Fleetwood Uk. I was shooting a local press story but the subject was running late so I took my camera for a walk on a nearby beach and found this scene, another reason to always have a camera handy and to look for scenes and subjects you may not be originally looking for.

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Dave

May 182016
 

Fabricated Landscape

By Olaf Sztaba

We have thought about photographing the Canadian Oil Sands for a long time. Finally, this year we drove to Fort McMurray – the hub for oil sands operations. Even though we approached the subject from a purely visual perspective, what we encountered made a huge impact on us.

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This land stretches 54,826 square miles, an area larger than England. Structures such as the toxic tailing lakes are some of the largest human-made structures in the world – so large that they can be seen from space. The land has been rearranged, altered and manipulated by human activity to the point that it is barely recognizable but so visually appealing – so ugly but strangely beautiful.

As we photographed this area, we had no clue that just two weeks later Fort McMurray and the oil sands operations surrounding it, would be threatened by massive wildfires. So far this huge fire has triggered an evacuation of the entire city of Fort McMurray or nearly 90,000 people. As I write this note, the fire has been moving north toward massive oil sands operations.

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Below please find a link to the Canadian Red Cross website, which accepts donations and helps those impacted. Please consider donating.

http://www.redcross.ca

www.olafphotoblog.com

www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

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The entire project was shot with the Fuji X-Pro2 paired with the XF 50-140mm or XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S.

May 172016
 

My thoughts on the Fuji X-Pro 2

by Mohamed Hakem

Hello Steve,

I’ve been trying the Fuji Xpro2 for a couple of weeks and have real images with my final word that thought of sharing it with you.

MY WEBSITEhttp://www.hakemphotography.com  – FACEBOOK: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography INSTAGRAMhttp://Instagram.com/moh_hakem

I can now say that I’ve used the Xpro-2 in many situations: I’ve used it casually, for taking pictures of my friends and family, in professional photo sessions, under the rain and in the desert were it experienced hard dusty conditions,  What I can say is that it is the best fujifilm camera Out there. It is very responsive, fast and quick. As you have already noticed I didn’t speak much about the specs because I am not a fan of evaluating a camera by its numbers! great pictures are not taken by higher spec camera. If you understand the Fuji approach which is a camera that you will love to use and will reward you with excellent image quality rather than going into a pointless technical race. Now the Auto focus is on the DSLR level, not the pro ones but still very good, For me I will wish nothing more than that.

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The New Sensor is 24MP and this is in my opinion is the sweet spot in the MP counts. I’ve tried Higher than this (36MP and medium format) and I see no reason to have higher than 23MP. 16MP was very good and having a 24MP is the highest that I would want… for now.

I have used the camera in a photo session and the colors were absolutely amazing. the quality it produces really shortened my post processing time. Black and white out of the camera is beautiful! I bet if any one would ever retouch a black and white afterwards.

the ISO performance is fantastic, a little grainy but higher in details, it won’t give you the melted look of the extreme ISOs of the XT-1.

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for me this is the best camera and would be my primary one

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The Pros:

-Perfect Image Quality

-Very good Auto Focus

-Fantastic Buttons Layout

-Hybrid view finder is very good – still the X100T is better

-Dynamic Range is very ..very good

-The Camera is responsive – you won’t feel a difference if you are coming from a Pro DSLR

-JPEGs out of the camera are the best of all

-In Camera filters are very useful

-And of course the things that Fuji are already famous of (build quality/Size/looks/etc..)

The Cons:

– No tilting screen! the back LCD in the mirrorless world proved to be used by professionals! we were just not used to it due to the DSLR limitations. Now the tilting screen is being used in many applications. I personally use it in landscapes and sometimes in street like shooting from the hip technique.

-Battery life, mirrorless are known to have this drawback. in the XT-1 the camera made around 300 pictures per charge. with the XPRO2 the usage became more and it is around 250. To be on the safe side during assignments I usually have 4-7 batteries!

Apr 132016
 

Photo trip to Peru

by Alec Fedorov

Hi Steve,

I am an amateur photographer who has been an avid reader of your website for three years. Thanks for the great service you provide to the community of photographers.

Recently, my wife and I returned from an REI trip to Peru where we hiked the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and I would like to share our experiences with the readers of your site.

I brought two cameras on the trip: Fuji X100s and Sony RX100III, both of which are great for travel photography. My go-to camera was the Fuji because of excellent image quality and ease of use. The Sony was kept in my pants pocket and came in handy a few times.

We arrived in Cusco, where we spent three days acclimatizing to the altitude, since the Salkantay Pass is at 15,200 feet. Cusco has the population of about 450,000 and it was the historic capital of the Incan Empire until it was conquered by the Spanish in 1532. Nowadays, Cusco is a growing city, and it is a tourist hub for trips to Machu Picchu.

We arrived in Cusco a few days before the New Year and the city was full of tourists and holiday lights. The streets in the center of Cusco are cobblestone. Some intersections are so narrow that the cars have to back up half way through the turn in order to complete it!

One of the most noticeable aspects of Cusco are the stray dogs which are ubiquitous. Some of the dogs have owners but the majority of them live on the streets. This is often due to people purchasing the dogs as puppies and then losing interest as the dog gets older and the novelty wears off. In Peru, it is considered inhumane to neuter dogs, so the population of street dogs just grows exponentially.

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Cusco is a blend of ancient and modern. The food was excellent and some of the restaurants were very eccentric, the kind you would expect to find in Manhattan.

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One day, we hired a local driver to take us to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which encompasses the heartland of the Incan empire. The scenery was spectacular, with very few tourists. At the end of the day, we ran into many shepherds, bringing the sheep in. They live in primitive clay houses without electricity.

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After spending three days in Cusco, we hooked up with the REI group to begin the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. This trek is named among the 25 Best Treks in the World by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine. It is an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail. The first few days of the 6-day hike traverses through a landscape of scenic views of the snowcapped 20,574 ft Mt. Salkantay.

We spent the first two nights at Salkantay Lodge at 12,600, and hiked to the Glacier Lake at 14,500 feet to further acclimatize.

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The hike over the Salkantay Pass began on a beautiful sunny morning. As we ascended, the green valley and blue sky was replaced by the grey lifeless rock and a dense fog. Shortly after reaching the top of the pass, a lone white horse emerged out of the fog. It was a very surreal experience.

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Over the next few days, we continued our descent into the high jungle, where we took our repose at three more lodges. The only traffic on the trek consisted of occasional packs of mules and horses carrying the luggage and the food supplies. In six days, we only ran across two other hikers. Photos below are of the local man who followed behind our group with the water and medical supplies.

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On the last day, before reaching Machu Picchu, we hiked through coffee plantations, and we visited a local family business. Many of these families rely on selling coffee to the tourists as their only source of income.

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Machu Picchu, in itself, was spectacular, and the experience of getting there by foot was unforgettable!

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Alec

Thanks,
Alec

Apr 092016
 

5

Five Reasons why I prefer Mirrorless to a DSLR, ANY DSLR…

By Steve Huff

You know, ever since the humble beginnings of this website I have been drawn to smaller, sexier and cameras that have fun factor and mojo to them. I started this site with a Leica M8 review due to my love for what was at the time, IMO, the sexiest digital camera available. It was so different from the standard DSLR’s that flooded the digital camera market for so long. It was small, but had a serious heft, feeling like it was made out of a block of stone. The viewfinder on a Leica M has always been a tried and true old school rangefinder, which offered a much more challenging experience, at first. Soon, it became my favorite way of “seeing” with a camera viewfinder.

The Leica M8 had a good run, but when the full frame M9 hit, all hell broke loose. At the time, the only full frame digital cameras were things like the Canon 5D and Nikon D700. The M9 hit and there it was, a full frame camera that was much smaller than any DSLR. The M lenses were and are tiny in comparison to DSLR lenses (due to being manual focus) and the M9 made an amazing small, but very well made (better made than any DSLR) full frame powerhouse, with image quality that could no be matched, at the time, by any camera. Even today no camera can recreate the look of the old M9, not even the M 240 which is Leica’s latest M camera.

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But this article is not about Leica, I only mention the M8 and M9 as I feel, for me, these are the cameras that were very important at the time they were released, as there was simply no other full frame offerings that could come close to the build, size and performance (as long as we had decent light of course, those early Leica’s were not so hot in low light). The M9 was huge for Leica, they sold a ton of them and it was the M9 that had Leica selling out their entire stock of M glass for months at at time. Wait lists were long, and Leica was riding the new mirrorless wave. There was a reason for this, and it is called TIMING.

LEICA T AND NEW 35 SUMMILUX 1.4 T Click it for larger.

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Soon after the M8 and M9, other companies started releasing convincing mirrorless cameras that lived up to the promise of smaller size, and more fun factor but many of them were flawed with lack of lenses, slow AF or quirky performance. Many looked gorgeous, like the Olympus EP1, but it was so dog slow, had no EVF 0r OVF and it had only a couple good lenses to choose from. Panasonic made waves with the GF1 and soon, many were on the mirrorless train, but it was a slow road. Over the years these companies were releasing body after body but the lenses were taking time. This caused the DSLR crowd to predict the demise of mirrorless … “What good is a small body if you do not have good lenses”..

Then Olympus and Panasonic started kicking ass  by releasing amazing lenses that were small and performed incredibly well. Fast primes with attractive jewel like design and stunning performance. Lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8, 45 1.8 and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the drool worthy Nocticron..today we have LOADS of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system, all we could ever want or need from ultra wide 7-14 or 8mm fisheye to 300mm fast pro primes and consumer zooms.

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Fuji was going full steam ahead as well, let us not forget about them! Fuji created TONS of excitement for mirrorless with the original Fuji X100. Many were saying “Now I can have my affordable Leica M style camera”..some were calling it a rangefinder, of which is most certainly was and is not, but it gave us the same kind of feeling as using one. Image quality was up there with the M9 even though the X100 was an APS-C camera and not full frame. Low light slaughtered the M9 and many feel the X100 was the start of Leica’s sales decline. See, Leica attracted the MASSES with the M9, unlike what they have done before (and after). The masses came out for the worlds first full frame mirrorless camera, which was the M9, there was nOTHING like it. I was getting THOUSANDS of emails over 6 months about the Leica M9 from normal joe’s who heard about it and was intrigued, even at the high price tag. When the X100 came out, that halted Leica’s mystique a bit as many saw the X100 as being like an M. While it was not, in any way – not in build, feel, shooting experience, or output, an M, it resembled one with its shape, and put out fantastic performance, so that was plenty good enough for the masses, at 1/6th the price.

Sony 24-70 G Master and Sony A7RII. Click for larger!

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When Sony hit the market with the original A7 series, I was excited by the possibilities. Attaching Leica M glass to it, shooting great full frame video, and having this full frame powerhouse taking up less space in my bag than a DSLR. While the A7 was larger than anything from Olympus, Panasonic or the other guys, it was indeed full frame. Much like the Leica M9, the Sony had the same benefits, but more of them. While the Sony was nowhere near as beautiful in design, build or feel as the Leica M9, the sensor inside the Sony was much more versatile. Able to capture scenes with massive Dynamic Range (the M9 did not have a huge DR) and even at night with low light high ISO performance that was cutting edge (unlike the Leica which suffered even at ISO 1250). Add swivel LCD’s and the EVF and video performance and you had an all in one powerhouse that was smaller than an APS-C DSLR yet full frame. Again, the weakness was LENSES. Sony had a 28-70 kit zoom that was average, and a couple of primes, the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss.

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I jumped in but over time realized the A7 series would need a lot of polishing to get up to speed and be better than most of what was out there. Soon we had more lenses, and more bodies. The A7 and A7R were replaced with the A7II, A7RII and A7S and A7SII. NOW we are talking! The MK II bodies improved the shape, build, and feel of the old A7 series. Also, the AF speed was improved quite a bit and we had a better EVF and better specs all the way around. Lenses I love for my A7RII are the Sony/Zeiss 16-35, Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, Loxia 50 and the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master which is just gorgeous. The new 70-300 looked very promising as well.

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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Today there are tons of lenses for Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony and always have been for Leica. The choice of high quality Mirrorless systems out there today is head spinning. Most looking to dive into mirrorless TODAY have a tough choice, and again, I get so many emails asking me “which one should I get” and I do not really answer those questions as a camera choice is personal, and should be made by the buyer, not me! With that said, I love them all but my faves, today are still Leica, Sony, Olympus and a couple Fuji models. After using them all, shooting with them all, for me, these brands make cameras that just fit “me”.

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Leica’s M 240 is a beautiful camera in every way but with so many other full frame offerings today (from Sony) the Leica M 240 did not sell as well as the M9. The Olympus E-M1 and PEN-F are fantastic as well, mature cameras that perform to a high standard, look and feel amazing and just “work”. Sony is on a roll with the RX1RII which I have not even mentioned yet! The RX1R for me, was a huge step forward for Sony as they created a SMALLER than Leica M full frame mirrorless with a Zeiss 35 f/2 that beat Leica’s own 35 Summicron (and the Leica lens cost more than the entire CAMERA and LENS from Sony). To me, one of the most magical cameras ever made was the RX1RII, for IQ. The new Mark II has slightly different image rendering and color but has improved the AF speed and performance. I own the RX1RII and adore it and use it for personal shots all the time.

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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With an RX1RII I could not even imagine wanting to replace it with a large bulky full frame DSLR and 35mm lens that would be 3X the size, 4X the weight and not even perform as well. The RX1RII is an amazing tool, if  you can handle 35mm. The Leica Q also rocks but is $1000 more, much larger and has a 28mm. I prefer the Sony in every way but many prefer the Leica. Personal pref, and both are two of the best most practical mirrorless cameras released in recent times with IQ that is tough to beat.

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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OH! I totally forgot this article was titled “Five reasons why I prefer mirrorless to DSLRs”..so before I start on another long ramble, lets get to that:

  • THEY ARE SMALLER, PERIOD. Even the larger mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 Mark II series, are smaller than even APS-C DSLR’s while providing performance that trounces them in many areas. Low light, Dynamic Range, Sharpness, EVF over small OVF, and very good AF performance. Add something like a Voigtlander 40 2.8 to an A7 series body and you have a small powerhouse (and you can not use this lens on a DSLR). Add a HUGE 24-70 G Master lens and the fight gets closer for size but even so, still smaller in the body, which is the part you HOLD. The part that must be comfy in your hands. The Sony wins in size over ANY FULL FRAME DSLR, to which it must be compared. Take a 5DII and 24-70 and it will be larger and heavier than the Sony yet we lose the EVF, swivel LCD, and that nice Sony sensor DR and ISO performance. There is a reason Sony leads in the sensor department, they make the best. So I will choose the Sony over any DSLR due to size, features (did I say 5 Axis IS inside)? Make no mistake, the Sony A7 Mark II series may have some large pro lenses but as a whole, it is still smaller and more enjoyable for me to use over a full frame DSLR and  those large pro lenses? For me they beat the Canon and Nikon equivalents in IQ and build, so why not use them on a smaller body? Hmmmm. Take on a Olympus PEN-F or Panasonic GX-8 or Fuji X100 and you are at a whole new level of small, light and with amazing IQ. Mirrorless wins the size game every time.

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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  • LENSES! There are now plenty of lenses to choose from! No excuses now! Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Leica all have great lenses available for their mirrorless systems. Some are tiny like the Sony full frame 28 f/2 and 50 1.8, some are large and some are small and incredible (almost any prime from Olympus).
  • FUNCTION! EVF, Tilt LCD and something like 5 AXIS IS inside are things you will not see in a mirrored DSLR. While I appreciate that MANY prefer a good OVF to a good EVF I think many OVF die hards have not shot through an incredible EVF yet. Something like the Leica SL offers an EVF experience that beats ANY OVF, hands down. It’s incredible. Using a Sony A7 or Olympus E-M1 or even a Fuji X-T1 offers more function and is more versatile than any DSLR I have ever shot with. Things with Olympus like Live Bulb, Live Time and Live composite is changing the way we shoot astro. Things like this we do not see in DSLR’s.
  • ABILITY TO USE 3rd PARTY LENSES: These new mirrorless cameras work very well with Leica M lenses these days, any M mount lens in fact. I can buy a used M lens for $300 and get amazing shots with character when mounted on a Sony, Fuji or even Olympus camera. Can’t do that on ANY DSLR (mount a Leica M mount lens to it). I love shooting my Sony with a 50 Jupiter or even 50 Noctilux. We can now use these incredible lenses on something other than a $7k Leica.
  • PROGRESSION: Never have I seen technology in digital imaging move so fast. Mirrorless is moving ahead with new innovations, new designs, and new tech. EVery year we have some kind of new progression in mirrorless while DSLR’s remain pretty much the same in looks, style, function and everything else. In my eyes, DSLR’s today are getting stale. Mirrorless today is energizing so many with the size, tech inside and the things we can do with them in a much easier way than ANY DSLR. (something like shooting the night and seeing your exposure develop in real time using Olympus’s LIVE TIME)

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There are more reasons like being able to pick up something like a Fuji X100 or Sony RX1 and just be UBER light. No lenses, no bag needed. But you will come back with impressive high quality shots. The mirrorless world is growing, and sales are strong for some, stronger than DSLR’s in some cases. I remember 10 years ago (or so) going to disneyland and seeing so many with big DSLR’s around their neck (I had a Leica M7 and 35 Lux) and thought “WHY would they do that”! Today if I go to Disneyland I see MANY with small mirrorless cameras, but mostly all use their phones or even iPads for their photo and video. THIS is why DSLR’s are also losing steam with the average Joe’s of the world. While Fuji and Sony helped slow Leica’s M sales, I see the phones slowing DSLR sales. See, the mass public used to walk into Best Buy and say “I want to look like a pro”, and they would buy a DSLR and then realize that simply buying one will not make them a pro! They end up using it for a few weeks and then sitting it on a shelf due to size and disappointment. These days, the masses use their smart phones so while a few still go to Best Buy and buy those DSLR’s they have on display, as they know their phone can not compete, that number is MUCH lower today than 10 or even 5 years ago.

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Today many have been trained by their phones (for small size and ease of use) and when they go to buy a real camera, they want something SMALLER, something FUN, not a huge DSLR. They see cameras from Sony and Fuji and think “WOW, this is smaller and looks great”, this is why the original Sony A6000 did SO WELL and sold in huge numbers. So for most of the public, the smart phone is the way to go. For most Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, Mirrorless is the choice. For most PROS who shoot weddings, Sports or wildlife, DSLR’s are still king but that is starting to also go the way of mirrorless. While many predicted the doom of Mirrorless years ago, I will say here now that I predict a continuing downward slide for the DSLR over the next few years. Eventually, Canon and Nikon are going to have to give in and create a kick ass mirrorless system. Otherwise they face the reality of even more shrinking sales over the long term. I guess time will tell but the way I see it is that mirrorless gives us smaller size, more function and features, an experience which is more fun that using a DSLR.. and today, IQ is no longer a compromise as it was a few years ago. We can have it all and then some with mirrorless today, and that is a good thing.

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

As I sit here in a Sony “Rountable” meting with all of Soy’s top people telling me about the past, present and future of their digital imaging business, things are looking very good for Sony. Sales are up, profits are solid and they are dedicated to releasing high quality premium digital imaging products to those like me and you, who love quality cameras, lenses and also camera that are fun to use, functional and provide us with the capability to create our own visions using a tool we enjoy and love.

Ever since Sony released the original NEX series, the 3 and 5 (my review here) I have been smitten with their unique out of the box thinking and while I have not loved or even liked every camera they have released (as I feel many have been a rehash of the same designs), I have adored a few of them and feel that Sony is now, without question, the one camera company that I feel is innovating and doing the most to push imaging tech forward. During  those early NEX 3 and 5 days, many dismissed mirrorless and for good reason. They were slow, sluggish and not very “user-friendly”  – but man how things have changed in a few short years.

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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While Sony IMO is the one doing the most innovating, this does not take away a thing from others who are also innovating. Companies like Olympus are doing great things with every camera release, and trust me, they have something really amazing planned for this year. I feel it in my gut!

Then we have companies like Leica who are trying very hard to release unique cameras that are different from anything else out there. Think the T, the SL and even the super popular Q (all have been reviewed here in detail). Sure, Fuji, Sigma and even Canon and Nikon who are also releasing amazing cameras but to be honest, what I see from them is more of the same..less innovation in every release and while something like a Fuji X Pro 2 is a beautiful camera (that I actually do indeed really like) it is Sony who just keeps pushing and creating cameras that can do more.

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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While I feel Sony could have a redesign of some of their bodies, and even be more aggressive in what they are doing, I think they are on the right path and honestly, I can see them leapfrogging over Nikon in the near future. Sony is on a roll, sales wise and their popularity in the camera business is growing quickly and steadily for them.

Look at the brand new just announced RX10 III. I did not even review the Mark II version as I felt it was pretty much just like the Mark I (though it did have upgrades). I did not feel it was worth an upgrade to the II from the I and did not even want to do a review as I like to spend my time on cameras that I feel are really great and worth a purchase. It has to excite me these days to get a full long review and as I look back at my recent reviews over the past two years, the largest ones have been from Sony, Leica and Olympus.

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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I will state right here, that these three camera companies above are my faves . Each of these are doing things that most others are not. Technology is getting quite amazing, even with something like the new Sony 4K HDR video, which looks so amazing. Yes, video in HDR 4K…think MASSIVE Dynamic Range instead of the cheesy HDR look of some images when they are overdone. But back to the new RX10 III. With its all new high quality 24-600mm f/2.4 – f/4 lens. Yes, f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the long end, of 600MM. With this comes incredible opportunities for shooting. Macro, video, telephoto… it’s something that has never been done, which is what I am talking about here. I mean, who has made an all in one camera with a 24-600mm lens, a HIGH QUALITY lens no less, with a starting aperture of f/2.4? No one. Add to that the impressive video capabilities of this new offering. It will be a great solution for so many.

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While I was not a HUGE MASSIVE RX10 fan, I did enjoy the 1st one (see my review here) but this one changes the game of this series of camera. It could be an all in one for almost any personal, family or every day situation. So Sony is innovating constantly and this is what I love to see.

Some call me a “Sony Fan Boy”, Some call me an “Olympus Fanboy” and some even still call me a “Leica Fanboy”. I find these terms amusing as I am not a fanboy of anything, I just love quality. I love good build, consistent focus, smaller size, great lens choices, even is using a third party lens with adapter to get my vision out there.. and each of these brands offer all of that and more.

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With that, I am thrilled to see what is happening in digital imaging these days. It seems we are getting more and more QUALITY offerings for those of us who enjoy these things (ME AND YOU) and while most of the world already own a camera in their smart phones, there are some of us who want more..a real experience and you just can not get that from a phone. At least I can’t. The feeling of holding something like a Leica M or Olympus PEN-F or Sony RX1 and using them is so much more satisfying to me than using a phone, or any DSLR.

Today, in 2016 we have choices. We can go DSLR and get great results. We can go tiny and get great results (Sony RX100) and we can go enthusiast and get amazing results with something like a Leica M, SL or Sony A7RII or A7SII.

While the death of the point and shoot is upon us, or past..the mirrorless revolution has just begun, and it’s getting so so good. Stay tuned my friends, there is so much to come this year.

Steve

Mar 182016
 

The handcrafted JB Camera Designs Grip for Fuji X Pro 2

by Jason Boucher – His website is HERE

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Last week I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma to ride the Landrun 100 gravel road race & ride, pics can be found here. While there I got to see one of my closest friends’ businesses, JB Camera Designs. JB Camera Designs makes hand crafted wood camera grips and accessories that are aimed to improve ergonomics and add protection to cameras.

They are hand crafted right here in the good ol’ USA out of beautiful hard wood, bambo, plastic and/or machined alloy. On top of that, all three employees are photographers and the two primary craftsmen are also engineering students. What a cool college job.

While I was there, JB and crew (Ean and Eli) were putting the finishing touches on their new grip for the Fuji X Pro 2. In fact, the grip being produced in the photographs below is now mounted to my very own Fuji X Pro 2. I shot all these images with the X Pro 2 with either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 in RAW + JPEG with the JPEG setting to Acros with medium grain. I thought it fit the handcrafted nature of the grips. All these images shared are from JPEG as I have not processed any RAW files yet from the X Pro 2 but I find the JPEGS more than pleasing so it hasn’t been a big deal for me.

Below are some shots from my time at JB Camera Designs while they were making their new Fuji X Pro 2 grip, recently launched and available for pre-order at Amazon. I grouped the images into some of the steps. These grips are a labor of love. All the details of the how and what happens at each step are not really mine to share so I’ll just share pics. I can tell you that the grips I am using on my Leica M and my Fuji X Pro 2 are really beautiful, fit perfectly and in my opinion have improved the overall shooting experience. I especially like the new grip with my larger Fuji lenses and especially with the 90 f2. It has really helped me improve my grip to stabalize my shooting with this longer and heavier prime.

A couple of notes before moving to pictures…

My friend JB did give me this grip. I just want to be up front and honest here. He’s a close friend and this was a gift. I am thankful. I make no money from this nor any affiliated link. I just enjoyed the experience and wanted to support my good friend. I like the pics too!

So with that out of the way, let’s get to pics of the new Fuji X Pro 2 grip.

Wood selection and initial preparation

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Cutting, shaping, smoothing, sanding and prepping

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Branding, finishing and adding alloy barrel grip

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The finished product! I love it.

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I wish I had a studio to shoot images of the final product installed on my X Pro 2 but I don’t. But…Here is a shot taken with my little Fuji X70 for you to get an idea of what it looks like on the camera. I took this on the way home from Oklahoma. I had 12 hours of driving that day and needed a nice espresso! I snapped a few pics and then hit the road. Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but it’s all I’ve got.

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Thanks again JB. Great seeing you and meeting your crew!

You can purchase the X-Pro 2 JB Grip at Amazon HERE

See ALL of the JB Designs GRIPS HERE

(FROM STEVE: I loved my JB Designs grip so much I invited them to be a sponsor for this site over a year ago, and they now are. These are high quality grips priced right. Love all of my JB grips ;) HIGHLY recommended for those who like a grip for added..well..GRIP!)

Mar 162016
 

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A Fuji X-Pro 2 Real World Review from a Fuji Fan

by Amy Medina

Since the purchase of my first Fuji back in 2012, I’ve been an enthusiastic user of their cameras. Having owned several of their bodies and being such a fan, there were a few new features the X-Pro2 promised that convinced me to jump in as an early adopter, and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

First, let me start off by saying that this isn’t going to be an overly technical review, since those aren’t the type I like to write. These will just be some examples and practical thoughts about a camera I was excited to buy because of the specifications promised in their January announcement. There were three main things that excited me about the prospect of buying the X-Pro2 when Fuji announced it to the world: The new sensor, the weather-sealing and overall improved performance.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Should I start with my complaints? Let’s get those out of the way first…

Let me just say that in today’s day and age, there’s absolutely no reason to make a camera that doesn’t have an articulating LCD. In my travels around the internet, I’ve heard it said that Fuji insinuated that “professionals” don’t need an LCD that rotates or pivots. If true, that’s a ridiculous assertion. Anyone who puts their camera on a tripod or needs to get their camera up high or down low benefits from an articulating LCD. Here’s one example of professional use that the X-Pro2 will not able to do for me: Quick, high-vantage point photography. I’m often on job sites where I need to take photos using an elevation pole, where the camera is a good 10-20 feet above me. I have to work quickly and can’t fumble around with the phone app in one hand and the elevation pole in another… I need to set the camera on intervals of 8 second shots and walk around and take the photographs with the camera way out of reach… and the only way to frame the shot is with an LCD that can be pointed down at me. With the X-Pro2 I can’t do that. Isn’t it ridiculous that the inferior, inexpensive XA1 can accomplish something the more professional X-Pro2 cannot?

Like it or not, it’s a poor decision Fuji made to not include an LCD that rotates in some fashion… and it really really irks me. I think it’s my biggest complaint.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Rokinon 12mm f/2 (and PS… being older and having joint issues, this shot would have been so much easier with a rotating LCD!)

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The EVF.

This isn’t a big complaint, but it’s one I seem to remember being an issue when the XE1 was released… that it had a better electronic viewfinder than the pro-level X-Pro1. That seems to be the case, at least in some regard, with the X-Pro2 vs. other Fujis. I haven’t studied the spec sheet on all their bodies, but the EVF is smaller than some of the other Fuji cameras (like the XT1), though there are improvements like a much better frame rate and less blackout time after each photo. I’ve personally had a problem with the EVF’s brightness, which was never an issue I remember with any of my previous Fuji bodies, at least that I noticed. I did end up turning off the auto brightness feature in the settings and that has helped, but I’ve still run into issues where I was straining more to see the image and I can’t exactly explain why. Coming from the XT10 where I never thought the EVF was an issue, I don’t understand why the X-Pro2 is giving me a harder time in this regard… but it is. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Fuji’s top-of-the-line, pro body, well it should have the very best-of-the-best and biggest EVF shouldn’t it?

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Another complaint I have is in regards to specific ergonomic choices. Fuji’s placement of dials and buttons and the fact they are highly customizable is one of the reasons I think many of us enjoy using Fuji bodies more than others. I don’t understand how buttons or dials can become “worse” in a new body.

The thing I noticed immediately as compared to my much smaller XT10 was that the thumb dial/button is way more recessed on the X-Pro2 — FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I don’t know why Fuji made a choice to do this, but it’s much more flush with the body, making it much harder to use. This is the dial/button that also controls magnification when manually focusing, which I do a great deal of the time, so I noticed it immediately. I’m getting used to it, but honestly there was absolutely no reason to make this dial/button so much more recessed. I’ve heard similar complaints from other X-Pro2 users with regards to this and other buttons, like the AFL and Q buttons. I don’t use the Q button a lot, but it is quite flush with the body and hard to detect by feel alone. I’ve noticed that there seems to be less customization options as well, and there are certainly a few that would be welcome, like the new joystick they added (which in general I love). It would be amazing to be able to customize the joystick’s center click to activate magnification for us manual-focusers, or to let us customize the front-dial to ISO settings (like I had it on my XT10).

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation — No Grain

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The old-style ISO dial as I mentioned above leaves a lot to be desired, partially because there’s no other way to select a specific ISO. In theory, it seems like a neat idea and such a cool throwback to cameras of yesteryear. Look, I’m a big fan of the antique camera bodies Fuji uses as its inspiration, but sometimes there’s a reason certain design details get replaced. The pull-and-turn ISO dial is one of them… it’s not easy to change without taking your eye off the viewfinder and it feels a bit fiddly even when you’re staring right at it making changes.

However, as I also mentioned above, this is much less of an issue in practice because of the three customizable auto ISO settings that can be assigned to a funtion button for easy changing. I’ve set up three distinct choices for myself from very wide to very narrow settings, and assigned one of the various function buttons to get to those settings quickly. It helps. It would, however, be a welcome change to have an ISO override setting so you don’t need the dial at all. Not all Fuji bodies include an ISO dial and I know some love it on the XT1, but that’s a dedicated ISO dial, not one combined with the shutter speed dial. I feel Fuji was trying to cram this feature in and I would have welcomed it being either more like the XT1 or XT10.

It Only Gets Better from Here! On with the gushing…

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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The Hybrid OVF/EVF viewfinder is one of the things Fuji fans will gush over because it’s so unique. There’s nothing quite like it out there in the digital camera world, and it’s probably about as close to a true electronic rangefinder you’re going to find that isn’t actually a rangefinder.

With its bright frame-lines and electronic details overlay, plus the “ERF” (electronic rangefinder) mode, you’re going to get a really cool modern-retro experience, and that wonderful optical viewfinder, outside-the-frame view. Your focusing patch can use two levels of magnification and can focus either by standard, peaking or split image assistance, and it’s easy enough to toggle between them (though would be easier if that darn thumb dial wasn’t so recessed). This Hybrid Viewfinder is something so completely unique to a handful of Fuji bodies, it’s one of the reasons many will choose the X-Pro2 over others.

The body itself is physically the largest in the Fuji arsenal. It’s weather-sealed, which was one of the items on my own personal checklist of necessities. Compared to my previous XT10 though, it feels massive… but of course it’s all relative. I was in love with shooting with my Leica M8 for a long time, and I’d compare it in size to that body, so it certainly isn’t what I would call “too big”. If you put it side-by-side with something like the new Olympus Pen, the Fuji will look downright giant, but compared to a Nikon D500 it seems quite small. Having used it now for almost two weeks and generally being a big fan of small mirrorless bodies, I don’t feel like the X-Pro2’s size will be something that bothers me, either in weight or physical dimensions.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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The X-Pro2 certainly seems to have a spotless build. It feels absolutely solid to hold and like it was machined in an impeccable manner. It claims 61 points of weather sealing against water, dust and cold. The two SD card slots are a welcome addition, and I’m glad they are separated from the battery compartment (a pet-peeve of mine with other bodies). However, we’re still using the same Fuji batteries as with all other Fuji bodies, which is a plus and minus. It’s great I didn’t have to go out and replace all my extra batteries… however, I think this body could have seriously used a bigger, more powerful energy source. Not exclusively Fuji’s issue… it’s always a problem with the more compact mirrorless bodies: the batteries are smaller, the cameras use more power and ultimately don’t last as long.

The new focal plane shutter with maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 is also part of what drew me to the X-Pro 2. That and the electronic shutter option allows for more flexibility in a variety of shooting situations, including shooting wider apertures in brighter weather conditions. The electronic shutter option is also great as someone who does timelapse as part of my job — I feel more at ease with using the camera for extended timelapse shoots without fear of putting tons of mileage on the shutter.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Overall performance is so much better with the X-Pro2 than with any other Fuji camera I’ve used to date. One of my gripes with my XT10 (and the XE2, XA1, XE1) was the “wake up” time when it was sleeping… I often found it a little frustrating. With the X-Pro2 it’s not an issue. Everything is just faster… startup time is fast, there is virtually no shutter lag, autofocus is much quicker, continuous shooting speeds are improved, even the speed in which the camera writes to the SD card is faster. With previous Fuji bodies I sometimes felt like operational speed occasionally got in the way of getting the shot I wanted, but I haven’t run into that feeling with the X-Pro2. The camera performs so fast that I’ve been shooting a bit in film-simulation bracketing mode because there’s almost no lag in the camera taking/processing the three shots at once.

Ergonomics are a mixed bag. It’s still a Fuji, and there’s no doubt that Fuji knows how to make a camera suited to a photographer’s needs when it comes to style and function, but like mentioned the push-pull ISO dial is a bit wonky, and that recessed rear dial annoying. Of course the Q “quick” menu is great for a fast settings change, and I like that it’s customizable. The dedicated photometry/metering button is a nice addition, and it’s great to have all the customization options Fuji offers for the others buttons, but they need to expand some of this to include the front and rear dials, and the Joystick center button.

And lets talk about the new Focus-Point Joystick.

This is an absolute pleasure to use and such a welcome addition! I use manual focus lenses a great deal of the time and I like to move the focus point around to the appropriate spot, but lets face it, sometimes that can be a hassle and we end up doing the focus-recompose thing. Well not anymore! The joystick makes it so incredibly easy to move that point around that there’s no reason not to use it. I cannot go on enough about how cool this feature is other than to say all cameras should have it… it’s genius, whether for autofocusing or manual focusing. My only gripe with it is what I said above… I wish I could customize the center click to be magnification (and then a different button to be the “re-center” option, or maybe click and hold to re-center).

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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Now, getting down to it, the real reason I jumped on buying the X-Pro2 for it’s fairly substantial price-tag is the new sensor, and I suspect this will be the reason for many. Fuji seems to have been “stuck” at 16mp for a long time, so finally jumping up to 24.3mp with their new X-Trans CMOS III sensor was very welcomed, especially for someone like me who shoots a lot of landscapes, seascapes and architectural stuff. I never was, nor am I a megapixel chaser, but the increased detail is absolutely welcome.

Now, mind you, I’m a huge fan of the Fuji’s X-Trans way of doing things. I find I prefer their color and sharpness over other bodies, and I’m a big fan of their film simulations as a starting point for my own creativity. For the short time I gave up my Fuji gear in favor of Sony, I ended up missing it and going back, and though Sony makes some very nice cameras, I just prefer what Fuji is doing so much more — from their bodies and lenses to the image file quality. I wish it was something I could easily quantify and put into words, but it just isn’t. To me, in additional to just having really high quality files with great tone, Fuji also has a little bit of magic going on that others are missing. Of course, some of that is just personal taste and quite subjective.

The Fuji X-Pro2 produces more of what Fuji fans have come to love… excellent files, and now with a little more resolution. I suspect if you weren’t a fan of the X-Trans files before, you might not be a fan now, though some of the “waxy” skin features people complained about (that I never ran into) seems to have been resolved. I can’t answer your questions about RAW files since on my Fuji cameras I shoot JPG exclusively. I love what I’m getting out of the XPro 2 so far.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + 18mm f/2

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Noise performance seems on par with what the XT10 and other Fuji bodies was doing, maybe slightly better, so if you like shooting things in low light, you won’t be disappointed.

With expanded sensitivity turned on, you have the option to shoot from ISO 100 to 51,200. I’ve had absolutely no issues with shooting up to ISO 6400 and keep my primary auto ISO settings with that set as my maximum, and even ISO 12,800 is usable. I’ve always found that I liked the way Fuji balances its handling of noise with less detail smearing that other cameras, and the noise it does produce is a very fine “grain-type” of noise. You’ll hear similar proclamations from other Fuji users, the general consensus being that Fuji does a great job when it comes to reducing noise in low-light-high-iso situations, and doing it in a pleasing way. It’s really more of the same with the X-Pro2. I don’t think there’s any big jump in low-light performance from previous bodies, but there’s no step backwards because of the increased resolution either.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — ISO 5000 (starring my granddaughter!)

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I’ve also had a lot of fun shooting with the new Acros film simulation Fuji has included in the X-Pro2. You can shoot it straight or choose a Red, Yellow or Green filter and you can use no grain or add weak or strong grain. I enjoy sometimes shooting B&W right in the camera and this new film mode is done really well. It has really nice contrast without being overdone (and you can always add more in post processing to taste), and the tones are just so good. It’s probably one of the nicest black and white film modes I’ve seen in a digital camera.

The grain itself has an interesting, artistic quality to it. As someone who actually still shoots film, I’m not sure I’m convinced it really mimics that look … though when combined with high ISOs the noise and grain mix really well and give a VERY good film-like grainy look. At lower ISOs, it reminds me more of a pen-and-ink drawing in it’s perfection, but I find the overall texture really pleasing.

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation — No Grain

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation — Grain: Weak and ISO 6400

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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100% Crops of Acros with Grain

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In Conclusion…

In reality, in today’s day and age most modern cameras are capable of excellent results. We aren’t going to be limited by equipment, at least not in 2016. A lot of what we decide to buy when we pick our camera-of-choice comes down to a subjective opinion on the photo-files, the way we will use the camera day-to-day, the style and ergonomics of the camera itself, and what we feel inspires us most to pick it up and take it with us. At least those are the things that matter to me. I picked Fuji because of the rich and smooth colors with outstanding detail sharpness and because I can customize the settings in-camera to exactly what I want… like picking the film I’m going to use. I enjoy the way the camera feels in my hand and hanging on my shoulder. I love the ability to use that fantastic Fuji glass and also my Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss and even Minolta lenses. For me, Fuji strikes the right balance of flexibility, fun, form and function.

The X-Pro2 continues to give me all these things with some new added advantages. I’ve been incredibly happy with the results I’m getting, and the improved performance overall is a pleasure. As someone who takes photos every single day without fail, I’m glad the X-Pro 2 is quickly becoming my go-to camera.

You can purchase the Fuji X-Pro 2 at: AmazonB&H PhotoPopFlash.com 

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More from Amy

Website: www.DangRabbit.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DangRabbit
Instagram: www.instagram.com/DangRabbit.Photography

More Fuji X-Pro 2 Samples:

Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon — Acros Film Simulation

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2 — Acros Film Simulation Red Filter — Grain Weak

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Rokinon 12mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Fuji 18mm f/2

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Fuji X-Pro 2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

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Mar 142016
 

From Fuji to Sony and back again

By Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

I have had the pleasure to be on your site a couple of times with my Fuji x100 and x100s.

2 Months ago I decided to jump over and buy the Sony Rx1rII. To make this possible I had to sell my camera’s and so I did. The specifications were great and I could not wait. Something I had to do because the delivery was postponed with 3 weeks in Holland. When it finally arrived I started making pictures. Almost right away I felt insecure about my skills.Not that I am a professional but I have experience.

I could not get a sharp image out of the camera.Not as sharp as I was used to with the Fuji’s .

After one month I returned the camera to Sony because I was sure the camera had a failure. 5 Weeks later the returned it and said it was completely ok and I could get pictures of the testing. I  was not interested.I wanted a camera that I was happy with for the 3500 euro. To make a story short.. I went to a store..returned the camera and exchanged it for the Fuji Xpro2. Financially a bad trade but happiness is all I have now.Beautifull images and the sharpness I really love.

Almost no need for raw shooting because the jpegs are so nice. Also the acros and monochrome settings are nice. I promised to my Fuji camera I will never try to fall in love with a different brand again ;)

Here are some images of the xpro 2

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Feb 212016
 
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Vancouver Moments with the Fuji X-Pro 2 and ACROS film simulation

By Olaf Sztaba

The mission was simple: take the Fuji X-Pro2 with the XF 35mm F1.4 and head downtown to capture some Vancouver moments using the latest ACROS film simulation from Fuji.

We have already had a chance to experiment with this new film simulation w and we really liked the new ‘weak’ grain effect (there is also the ‘strong’ grain option).

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For those of you who would like to read more about the ACROS film simulation and its inner-workings, you can find more information here

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

 

Feb 192016
 

Friday Film – Leica M6, Summarit 35, Lincoln memorial

By Vikas

Hello Steve & Brandon,

This is the first time I am submitting pictures to your awesome website. I have been shooting casually digital format with Fuji and before that Nikon DX formats. Recently I took plunge towards film (to reminisce my father’s old Agfa). From your site I get to know Mr Ken Hansen and had extremely pleasant experience. I received nearly mint Leica M6 classic and 35 Summarit 2.5 expeditiously from him before my trip to DC this past summer.

The experience of rangefinder camera is awesome and am still getting used to it. I am submitting few pictures of Lincoln memorial shots taken around dusk, wide open. The film used is TriX 400 and was developed commercially (planning soon to start developing myself).

Thanks and love your blogs and reviews.

Best,

Vikas

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Feb 172016
 
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A Tale of Two Lenses: The Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 ZM and the FujiXF 56mm f/1.2 – Fuji X-T1

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Hi Brandon & Steve!

You’ve kindly featured some of my photos here before, I thought it about time I shared something new with you.

Last year I sold my well used Olympus OM-D E-M5 to buy a Fuji X-T1, and I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM (Leica Mount) alongside Fuji’s highly regarded XF 56mm f/1.2. Whilst the two offer a similar price point and focal length they deliver very different images and user experience. Both are superbly made, solid lenses with the manual focus Zeiss being far more compact even with an adapter.

The huge viewfinder in the X-T1 and innovative focusing aids make using manual focus lenses enjoyable, easy and accurate. With its 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor, both lenses become short-telephoto portrait lenses (around 75mm and 84mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). I won’t get into technicalities, This is really a ‘just for fun’ comparison.

As for my own conclusions, I tend to like lenses that exhibit distinctive, interesting bokeh and falloff. To my eyes the Zeiss has the more unique patterned bokeh with the Fuji being smoother. The Zeiss just nicks it for me, but it’s subjective and everyone’s opinion will differ.

Zeiss ZM Sonnar

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Fuji 56mm

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Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM

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Fuji 56mm

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Zeiss Sonnar ZM

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Fuji 56mm

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Incidentally, the switch from Oly to Fuji was purely to try something new after several years. I loved the Micro 4/3 gear and feel it offers unrivaled quality at such a compact size. I was won over by the design of the X-T1 though and have not been disappointed at all… but that could fill another article! I’ll sign off here and leave you with some images, have a great day!

http://www.jpstevenson.co.uk/photography/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamespstevenson

Thanks – have a great weekend.

James Stevenson

Feb 082016
 

Editing Fujifilm RAW files with Iridient Developer for more WOW

By Axel Friberg

Dear Brandon and Steve,

It’s been a while since I wrote you last. As of today, I still shoot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and edit my pictures in Lightroom CC. I might upgrade to the X-T2 when it comes, this summer. The Fuji RAW files are still not fully supported by Adobe, which is a drawback. As I’m sure you are aware, some details like foliage for example, will looked smeared. Inspired by the amazing photographer Olaf Sztaba, I decided to download the trail version of the photo editor Iridient Developer and gave the Fuji RAW files a run for its money. Let me tell you, the difference is real. Like going from 480p to 1080p on Youtube. I used Olaf’s settings in Iridient Developer, choosing the unique sharpening method ‘R-L deconvolusion’ and setting the radius slider to 0.5 and the Iterations slider to 30.

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Then I exported the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer to Lightroom and compared it with the same Raw file edited in Lightroom only, where I had set the sharpness to 33, radius to 0,8 and detail. to 100. Additionally, I also set both pictures’ contrast to +15 and clarity to +10 in Lightroom and exported the same cropped part of the picture to emphasis the difference in sharpness of the pine tree’s needles. To me there is a massive difference. The pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer are crisp whereas the same pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Lighroom almost look like they have been painted. Hopefully, you will be able to see what I mean in the pictures I’ve sent you!

The photo was taken with the Fuji X-Pro1 and a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 (via a Metabones adapter) @1/250 s, f/5.6, ISO400.

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Now both crops..

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Jan 192016
 
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A trip to the top of the mountain with the Fuji XT-1

by Mohamed Hakem (NOW THESE ARE GORGEOUS FUJI IMAGES! BRAVO to Mohamed’s beautiful eye and skill – Steve)

Hi Steve! I am back again with another adventure! I decided to climb the highest mountain in Egypt with my Fuji XT-1

First please visit my website http://www.hakemphotography.com
Follow my FB page on http://facebook.com/hakemphotography
Instagram: http://instagram.com/moh_hakem

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People who go Hiking knows what it means to have a heavy backpack on a rough mountain climb. The Hike here was up to the top of Mount Moses in Saint Catherine Mountain in Sinai, Egypt. Saint Catherine Mountain is not the toughest hike in the world, it is 2422 meters up, you have to walk 8 KM ion extremely rough grounds. The place is magical and full of culture and history that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. They first built a city in the shape of a fortress at around 1000m high it as part of the road from Egypt to Jerusalem. This area was then converted to the famous Saint Catherine Monastery which has tons of religiously important heritage for Christians, Muslims and jews. There is also a place during the climb where it is believed that this was the place God talked to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
To prepare for such climb, the first thing you think of is weight you hold as a burden on your back. you take minimal things, energy bars and water, you should not take anything else. but what about us photographers!? the answer is simple, it was impossible for me , a man with moderate health and stamina to lug around a DSLR body, tripod and two lenses that would be around 4-5 kilos minimum, My D800 was 945g+ (14-24)950g +70-300 (700g) + a big tripod = a break in your back!
to solve this problem I took with me the XT-1, the 10-24, 8mm fish eye and the 55-200 lens + plus the 3leggedthing punk tripod. all of these combined did not cross 2.5 kilos.

The path is rocky and extremely rough but its not dangerous. We took 3 hours to finish the main stage then 1 hour to climb what the bedouins call the stairs, vertical rock formations that forms natural stairs. Its not easy at all but its doable. Your second enemy other than the gravity is the Cold! it really was cold. We were all wearing heavy coats but the thing is during the climb your body becomes sweaty, so whenever you stop you instantly feel the cold to your bones!. reaching the top! after finally reaching the top,we had two hours till sunrise so we took the most uncomfortable nap in the world. Your sweat is freezing inside and you really can’t wear anything more. After waking up extremely tired and cold I packed my equipment and went for the sunrise. Sometimes I couldn’t feel the camera in my hands, I wanted to press the shutter button but I can’t feel my fingers! somehow after managing and warming up you begin to see the magic! a sunrise that you will never forget! Stunning sky colors, stunning rock formations, the place really touches your soul! every minute the colors change and the scenery changes magically until you see the sun and all your problems are gone! you instantly become warm and energetic.

The experience was never to be done without a mirrorless camera. I sometimes held it on my neck to capture on the go, it was never doable with a DSLR. as for the quality I will leave the judging to you.

That is me on the top of the mountain (shot by a fuji X100)

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Note the Bedouins below…click images for better versions!

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Saint Catherine Monastery

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Jan 152016
 

Fuji X-Pro 2 Unveiled. Finally. Here is the lowdown.

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Pre-Order the X-Pro 2 at my fave and most trusted dealers: B&H Photo or PopFlash.com. Amazon is clearing out the X-Pro 1 at $499

FINALLY! The all new long awaited Fuji X-Pro 2 has now been announced with full specs, images and details. What has Fuji delivered this time as an upgrade to their 1st huge mirrorless, the X-Pro 1? Well, I will predict that this will be the coolest, hippest and most desirable APS-C camera available today. With its sleek rangefinder-esque appearance to the hybrid viewfinder giving a unique experience, to the much much faster AF and low light capabilities, the new X-Pro 2 will be huge for Fuji as Fuji fans have been waiting for this one. I was a fan of the X-T1 more so than any other Fuji camera but the X-Pro 2 looks  to be even better with the new sensor and speed and capabilities. I look forward to reviewing it with some of the latest Fuji lenses. Now, let’s take a look…

Well, here is what it looks like. To me, it looks like a more refined X-Pro 1. It keeps the same design but the new 2 has a more polished look about it. 

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The Specs:

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor
X-Processor Pro Engine
Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder
3.0″ 1.62m-Dot LCD Monitor
Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
Built-In Wi-Fi, SHARE Printer Compatible
273-Point AF with 77 Phase-Detect Points
Up to 8 fps Shooting and ISO 51200
Weather-Sealed Design, 2x SD Card Slots
Film Simulation and Grain Effect Modes

My Thoughts?

I am happy to see a new Fuji, and I have been waiting for the Pro 2 to see how far Fuji would go. Would they make it full frame? I already knew this was a NO but what they did do was up the Megapixels to 24 with an all new X-Trans III sensor, up from the 16 of the X-Pro 1. They have improved everything from the 1 and the new 2 has everything any Fuji fan would want. The AF will be blazing compared to the X-Pro 1, which is good as I remember my review of that one and having some focus issues…not only speed but accuracy. Fuji has really stepped up their AF capabilities over the years since the original X100 and Pro 1. So AF will be great here. I expect Fuji fans to jump on this body as it will be the best Fuji digital yet. I will be reviewing the X-Pro 2 as I enjoyed the X-T1 quite a bit and while I have moved on to Full Frame with Sony and Leica for my personal use, there are THOUSANDS out there who love their Fuji’s, so stay tuned for a full review soon!

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MORE DETAILS ON THE NEW FUJI X-PRO 2

The long-awaited successor to Fujifilm’s first X-series mirrorless digital camera, the X-Pro2 sports a high-resolution X-Trans CMOS III sensor and redeveloped X-Processor Pro, along with the tested rangefinder-inspired design now synonymous with the X-Pro system. Now weighing in at 24.3MP, the APS-C CMOS sensor incorporates the proprietary X-Trans technology and its randomized pixel array to afford a high degree of sharpness and accurate color reproduction, along with high expanded sensitivity to ISO 51200. When paired with the X-Processor Pro, the camera is capable of recording stills at up to 8 fps and Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps, along with quick focusing and overall performance speeds. Unique among camera designs, the X-Pro2 is also heavily characterized by its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that blends both optical and electronic viewing methods into a single, switchable finder, giving you the best of both worlds in regard to clear viewing and the ability to preview exposure settings prior to shooting. Cementing its place as a professional tool, the X-Pro2 also features a robust, weather-sealed body design accented by a range of physical controls for intuitive handling in any condition.

Besides image quality, the sensor and processor combination also avails a highly precise, versatile autofocus system that is comprised of 273 points and uses both phase- and contrast-detection methods.

The phase-detection system covers nearly 40% of the entire image frame with 77 points, which is beneficial to subject tracking and fast overall AF performance, while the majority of the frame is then covered by contrast-detection areas for accurate focusing from edge-to-edge. The imaging attributes also contribute to creative control over the look and feel of photos, such as through the use of Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes that replicate the look of specific film types, as well as a Grain Effect mode to mimic the textured appearance of film photos. Rounding out the feature-set of the X-Pro2, its design also incorporates a range of customizable function buttons along with a 3.0″ 1.62m-dot rear LCD for image playback, live view shooting, and menu navigation, and built-in Wi-Fi lets you wirelessly share images to mobile devices, remotely control the camera from a smartphone or tablet, or wirelessly send images to the optional instax SHARE Smartphone Printer for on-the-go printing.

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor

Utilizing Fujifilm’s unique, randomized pixel array, the 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor affords a high degree of image quality and sharpness due to the omission of an optical low-pass filter. Versus conventional pixel patterns, the X-Trans design more closely mimics the organic nature of film in order to produce nuanced colors and smooth tonal transitions, while also reducing moiré and aliasing.

When paired with the X-Processor Pro, the sensor is also capable of producing clean image quality with reduced noise values, along with a native sensitivity range up to ISO 12800 that can be expanded to ISO 51200.

X-Processor Pro

Aside from benefitting the low-light performance, the X-Processor Pro also contributes to fast performance throughout the camera system, including a start-up time of 0.4 seconds, shutter lag time of 0.05 seconds, shooting interval time of 0.25 seconds, and AF speeds of up to 0.06 seconds. Coupled with the on-sensor phase-detection AF, up to 8 fps continuous shooting is also possible with full-time motion predictive AF for tracking fast-moving subjects while shooting. The ability to record compressed raw files also helps to expedite file transferring for longer continuous burst shooting, and both a fast top focal plane shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. and a flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. further contribute to shooting versatility.

Beyond stills shooting, the X-Pro2 also supports recording Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps with a 36 Mbps bit rate, along with the ability to work with 50, 30, 25, and 24 fps frame rates for greater recording flexibility.

Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder

Both optical and electronic viewfinder types are incorporated into the unique Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, which lets you select from the simplicity and familiarity of an OVF as well as the versatility of an EVF. Changing between viewing types is quickly performed via the dedicated finder switching lever on the front of the camera body.

The optical viewfinder provides a clear, lifelike view of the scene for easier composition and subject tracking. Its enhanced design incorporates an Electronic Rangefinder function, which mimics the functionality of a mechanical rangefinder, and simultaneously overlays information from the electronic viewfinder on top of the optical viewfinder for comparative manual focus control. The OVF is also benefitted by a Multi-Magnification function that automatically switches the viewfinder magnification according to the mounted lens’ focal length and a Bright Frame Simulation function, which simulates the varying angles of view from different lenses to confirm which focal length is needed, prior to switching lenses, for the composition in mind.

In regard to the electronic viewfinder, this sports a high 2.36m-dot resolution along with a fast 85 fps playback speed to reduce lag for smoother panning and tracking movements. The EVF lets you preview exposure settings prior to shooting and has a customizable display, for configuring the amount and type of information shown in the viewfinder.

Intelligent Hybrid 273-Point Autofocus System

Blending both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods, the X-Pro2 is capable of acquiring focus both quickly and accurately. The entire system is comprised of 273 points, of which 77 are phase-detection points for faster performance that is beneficial to photographing moving subjects. Approximately 40% of the imaging area is covered by phase-detection points, too, to offer greater compositional freedom without sacrificing fast autofocus performance. The majority of the frame is then also covered by an apt contrast-detection focusing system that has been quickened by the camera’s refined processing power for more versatile control. For refined manual focusing control, a Digital Split Image function is available, that simulates traditional rangefinder focusing, as well as Focus Peaking to highlight lines of contrast in the scene to more objectively determine sharp focus.

Body and Interface Design

In addition to the Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, the X-Pro2 also features a 3.0″ 1.62m-dot rear LCD screen for clear live view shooting, menu navigation, and image playback.
Supporting its use in harsh climates, the durable weather-resistant body design is constructed from four pieces of magnesium alloy and sealed in more than 61 places to protect against dust, moisture, and cold temperatures down to 14°F.
Dual SD card slots allow for a more flexible and reliable means of storing imagery, and the first card slot is compatible with UHS-II standards for fast transfer speeds.

The top plate incorporates a series of milled aluminum alloy dials and levers for fast, intuitive adjustment over exposure settings, including a shutter speed dial that offers a mechanical shutter speed range from 1 to 1/8000 sec., as well as bulb and time settings. An ISO dial is also incorporated into the shutter speed dial, for confirming the sensitivity setting without having to turn the camera on. The exposure compensation dial lets you choose +/- 3 EV in 1/3 steps, and a command dial position expands the range to +/- 5 EV for further control.

Front and rear command dials integrate a push function for easier use and settings selection and six different function buttons can be assigned to control a range of settings.
A dedicated Focus Lever provides faster, more intuitive control over selecting specific focus points while shooting.
An updated graphical user interface features a My Menu section, where you can register up to 16 items to quickly access. This pairs with the Q Menu, which also provides shortcuts to 16 oft-used settings, bringing the total up to 32 distinct functions, settings, or other controls than can be accessed in a quick manner without having to delve into a more intricate menu system.

Film Simulation and Grain Effect Modes

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the XPro2 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. For monochrome shooting, the Acros mode offers smooth tones, deep blacks, and fine detail reminiscent of the Neopan 100 Acros film type. 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 simulating specific film types, a Grain Effect mode is also available to replicate the look of old film photos with an organic textured appearance, which is especially noticeable when printing.

Other Camera Features

An electronic shutter function permits using shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec. for working with wide aperture settings in bright lighting conditions.
Built-in Wi-Fi enables wireless transferring of imagery to linked mobile devices as well as remote control over camera settings and the shutter via the free Fujifilm Camera Remote app. Additionally, this connectivity enables the use of the optional instax SHARE Smartphone Printer for wireless instant printing via the instax Share app.

An interval timer permits recording time-lapse sequences and can be configured to record up to 999 frames in time spans ranging from one second to 24 hours.

Multiple exposure mode gives you the ability to overlay imagery in-camera. When working in this mode, subsequent exposures can be paired and the final appearance can be previewed on the LCD or in the EVF before making the final exposure.
Additional Advanced Filters can also be used to creatively enhance the look of imagery in-camera, and include Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key, Low Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, and Partial Color (Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Purple).

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