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Mar 062017
 

The Fuji X100F Review. The Fourth Generation of the Fuji is “The One”

By Steve Huff

Order the Fuji X100F at B&H Photo or Amazon.

The X100 series from Fuji has long been dear to my heart. In fact, it is one of the cameras that has taken the ride with me on this journey of life for the last six years or so (see this post from a week or so ago), on and off. It has given me memories of these last six years of my life with some great personal moments (most never published) that quite frankly, no other camera has. As I sat and browsed my thousands of photos taken with the X100, X100S, X100T and now even the X100F I kept saying to myself “wow, I have more personal photos that I love taken with this camera than even my Leica M cameras”. Well, maybe not really but it sure seemed that way as my head got lost in a time machine of memories. Seeing my son younger, and remembering the times we used to have taking all day adventures or even seeing memories from other areas of my life that were important to me. Those moments where I seemed to have a X100 body over anything else.

X100F OOC JPEG using the “CHROME” color preset – Click it for larger

and this one, 10 seconds later – from RAW

I even did this comparison back in the day, an X100 vs Leica M9 and the X100 did very well, if not portraying the images in a somewhat “flatter” way..but at 1/7th the cost, we have to give a little somewhere, right?

Then I sat there and wondered why that was, why I had an X100 body over a Leica or Sony or whatever I was using at the time, but then it hit me. The X100 was easy to carry, always easy to bring with me, always easy to USE. Sure, the 1st one, that original, had some slow focus issues, and some response issues. It was the 1st, and the 1st of anything is usually never perfect. Hell, even the new F is not perfect but it’s still an X100 through and through and for that I am pleased as punch because the X100 to me represents the ultimate take anywhere camera when you just want to capture your life, and with great quality and color to boot. But I took that X100 with me as it was a joy to use and the output of that 1st version (without the Trans sensor) was beautiful.

X100F with the perfect strap I have found for it. The Tie her Up “Snake”  I use the 125mm version as I prefer the strap across my chest. 

Now, of course there are other cameras that do this very well. A Leica M is fantastic for this, and has usually always been my “Go To” for these things. Small, slim, tiny lenses and a joy that comes from manual focus and nailing those shots. For me, lately, my eyesight has been degrading (comes with the territory when you hit mid to late 40’s and I am 47 now) so manual focusing a RF has been tricky lately. When I fell in love HARD for the new M10 I realized it was harder for me to shoot as I never wear my glasses when shooting (though I should). I would now need diopters for using an M reliably. Then I remembered that I never missed a shot with the Leica SL due to its huge picture window EVF. Then I realized…”HEY, I never missed focus with the last two X100’s using the AUTO FOCUS”…lol, even better.

X100F, f/2 – Must click to see larger better version

So with my 47 year old eyes fading and me not liking the whole “shooting with glasses” experience just yet I decided to delve into the new X100F with a thought that this time I may keep this camera instead of selling it. I bought it from Amazon when up for order and had one on the day of release. Sometimes I buy a camera for review, then sell it if I do not feel I want it. To be clear, I have a stable of cameras here and being a camera and lens reviewer allows that. I always keep my faves on hand for comparison sake. Today, in March 2017, I keep the Sony A7rII, An Olympus EM1 MKII and PEN-F, A Leica SL, A Sony A6300 and various lenses. These are the bodies that I enjoy and get the most use from right now, and I doubted if there was a place for the X100F but then I realized there most certainly was. I do not own a Fuji right now, and I need one. The Fuji colors, the newer Acros B&W mode that delivers (IMO) beautiful B&W images out of the camera and the small size mixed with the retro design that always made this series beautiful. I have nothing like that in my stable right now besides the PEN-F and while these two have some similarities, they are quite different. So yea, I will add the X100f to my shelf of favorites, and if that was a spoiler, I apologize :)

I went with the classic Silver and Black model because to me it just give the X100F that vintage look and style, and I already have the normal black SLR style body filled with my other cameras ;)

IF YOU MISSED IT, MY FIRST LOOK VIDEO OF THE X100F


FIRST THINGS FIRST

So first things first. What does this X100F offer than the X100, X100s and X100T did not? Well, as with all of these Fuji releases most improvements have been incremental and each new model brought forth improvements in auto focus speed and capabilities, response time and in the case of the X100F, the new things or improvements over the last model are listed below:

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor and X-Processor Pro

“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. Additionally, the sensor is paired with the X-Processor Pro image processor to yield smooth, low-noise results, an extended sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200, and quick performance speeds throughout the camera system, including an 8 fps continuous shooting rate, Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps, an AF speed of 0.08 seconds, 0.2 second shooting interval, 0.5 second startup time, and a 0.01 second shutter release lag.”

My Brussels Griffon, Olive. X100F, Acros Mode in full sun in my yard. 

Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder

“Both optical and electronic viewing means are incorporated into the unique Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder, which provides both the simplicity of an OVF with the technological advancements of an EVF. Switching between both viewing methods is done with the dedicated OVF/EVF switching lever, enabling quick transitioning between both modes. The OVF has its benefits in providing a clear, unadulterated view of the scene you’re photographing and reduces the shutter lag time to a minimum. For fine-tuning of focus, exposure, white balance, and other camera settings, the EVF gives you the ability to monitor all of the applied settings prior to making the exposure.

An enhanced optical viewfinder now incorporates an electronic rangefinder mode, harking to traditional mechanical rangefinder cameras of which this camera gains its appearance from, and permits refined and comparative manual focusing methods. The magnification of the electronic rangefinder can be adjusted to 2.5x or 6x for improved precision, and real-time parallax correction also enables more accurate framing and focusing in manual focus mode.

In contrast, the high-resolution 2.36m-dot EVF provides you with 100% frame coverage along with the ability to utilize electronic focusing aids for precise manual focus control. By using the phase-detection pixels located on the imaging sensor, Digital Split Image is able to assist in acquiring precise focus by showing comparative in and out of focus areas of the image. Also contributing to manual focus accuracy, focus peaking has been integrated and enables a more objective system of focusing by way of highlighting sharp edges and lines of contrast in a clear manner.

When working with the EVF, you can also utilize Shooting Effect Reflection settings in order to preview and utilize selected camera effects, such as Film Simulation modes. When this setting is turned off, the image will revert to a natural view, void of any exposure or camera settings applied, to better suit working in darker conditions and to greatly reduce any display lag.”

May have been Velvia mode, JPEG – X100F

Body Design

*Rear 3.0″ 1.04m-dot LCD monitor for image playback and review, menu navigation, and for live view shooting.
*A physical ISO dial has been incorporated within the shutter speed dial to allow for intuitive, direct switching of sensitivity settings – This is something cool, and in use I like it. I normally keep my ISO on Auto but here I can easily switch ISO (much like the new Leica M10) and it is very easy to lift up and adjust from Auto, to an actual number or a low or high setting. 
*Focus lever has been added to lens to improve manual focus adjustment – A nice touch here. 
*Rear focus lever is available for intuitive selecting and switching of AF points – A welcome addition. I love the joysticks on cameras, and use it all the time on my Leica SL. Here it is now on the Fuji X100F. 
*The physical exposure compensation dial now features a C position to permit an expanded +/- 5 EV range when working with the control dials – This is also new and nice to have. 
*The majority of the camera’s control buttons and dials have been placed on the right-hand side of the body to enable easier one-handed use – In use this works out very well. A nice clean layout and all on the right side. Perfect. 

91-Point Autofocus System

“Utilizing both contrast- and phase-detection methods, the hybrid autofocus system employs 91 total points, which can be divided into 325 total areas for a high degree of focusing accuracy in a variety of lighting conditions. Approximately 40% of the frame is covered by 49 phase-detection points in order to provide fast AF performance to suit working with moving subjects.”

Film Simulation Modes

Now with the new B&W simulation “Acros” which delivers stunning out of camera B&W images.

Two with the Acros B&W film simulation. I love this mode and will use it for all of my B&W images. Click them for larger. 

More Features of the X100F

*Built-in Wi-Fi lets you wirelessly transfer images or remotely control the camera from a linked mobile device.
*Integrated three-stop neutral density filter benefits working in bright light conditions with wider aperture settings or slower shutter speeds.
*An electronic shutter function affords high shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec.
*Auto Macro focusing mode lets you focus on subjects as close a 3.9″ away.
*Digital Teleconverter settings let you simulate the look of a 50mm or 70mm lens.
*Advanced Filters: Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key, Low Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple).

CLICK FOR LARGER

Shooting with the new X100F vs the old versions…

When the X100F arrived I was excited to use and shoot with the latest version. I was curious as to what Fuji could do to improve upon it from the T or even S. To be honest, I was not a huge fan of the T as I felt it was very similar to the S. Small changes made that really did not affect me at all with it. But this new F, for me is the one that finally surpasses the original for IQ and everything else. To me, this new F is “The One” when it comes to the X100 series. ]

It now uses the same battery as the X-Pro  system so we get better battery life, and the body still stays slim and trim. The body to me feels a tad more beefier in weight though, which is a good thing as I always find Fuji camera too feel hollow and almost too light when compared to other cameras makers. Sony, Olympus or Leica. But this X100F feels great, just as it should. Not too light and not too heavy. It’s fantastic in feel and form.

I basically just took mine out with me wherever I went even though these last two weeks have been filled with personal things I had to get done for life in general, as well as some sickness issues and even losing my passport before a huge out of the country trip and stressing to find it (so far without luck). So while I have been stressed and hectic with life, I managed to evaluate the X100F anyway ;) Truth be told I try not to let myself get stressed out too much, ever, and shooting the X100F seemed to help me forget some of the stress I have been getting thrown at me this week.

Shooting it has been a smooth experience. No lag, no missed Auto Focus shots, no problems with over exposure as I used to get with the older models. Now I seem to be getting a tad but of underexposure which is strange for a Fuji but I usually shoot with a little exposure comp set in to avoid highlights blowing out. Something I became used to with the original Leica monochrome. With the X100F I do not need to do that as it seems to expose the scene perfectly for my worries and the dynamic range is there, as it is with all cameras made today (the good ones).

The EVF is still nice, and how I remember it. Fuji has improved it yet again but in reality, in real use, it is pretty much the same as I remember from the last three. You can shoot full on EVF or use the optical VF that mimics a rangefinder (though not really). So if you like optical, it is here. Like EVF? It’s here as well. I always seem to be drawn to the EVF as I am able to see just what I am getting out of it. If I shoot in Acros mode I can see what the image will look like, and even be exposed like. With the OVF you do not get these luxuries. The EVF is good, but not a “WOW” EVF. For the cost of the camera though ($1299) Fuji has packed in loads of useful features and given us all kinds of goodies. EVF/OVF, the fantastic Fuji Film sim modes, the enhanced AF speed, Better Video (though I still would not use this as a video camera), silent shutter with 1/32,000 speed, they kept the built in ND filter for sunny days when using the mechanical shutter, and an overall package that is just such a joy to use and attractive.

This is a beautiful camera in every way and to be honest, I have fallen for it as it made me remember more than any before it, the good times and memories I made with the original X100 and to some extent the ones that came after it. I have decided that to me, this camera is perfect for making life memories. Even more so than a Leica. It’s cheaper, it’s fast, it’s easy to use yet advanced enough for the geek in us or even a backup for some pros, it has a wonderful sensor as well. Many know I have not been thrilled with the last two Fuji X Trans sensors but this one, I like it. A lot.

No more smudges when using Adobe software, and some of that “flatness” has gone away as well. While not as “deep” as a Leica SL file, what we get for our money here is IMO unmatched in a camera of this type.

X100F, all at f/2 and Acros mode (LOVE this Film Simulation)

The Competition for the X100F?

This camera is a fixed lens 23mm lens camera. This 23mm lens is an f/2 lens and gives us the illusion of being a 35mm lens due to the magnification of the APS-C sensor. This is not a full frame sensor camera and will not give us the huge shallow depth of field we can get from a Sony RX1R system, or even the Leica Q. But those full frame single lens cameras? They run from $3800 to $4300 where this Fuji is $1299.  So with the Fuji we get a similar vibe body for $2500 less money and the X100F actually has more features and things going for it in general over the other two BUT, and this is a huge BUT, the RX1R and Q systems will indeed offer better, richer IQ. The Fuji will offer a tad flatter image, and I still do see some of that “flatness” in this latest X Trans sensor but overall, it is closer than ever.

The Sony will be slower in AF than the Fuji, and the Q is fastest of all. The Sony will offer the best IQ of all three IMO, then the Q, then the X100f. All three are FANTASTIC cameras with the Sony being the smallest form factor in some ways, though not as thin as the Fuji due to the HQ 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens attached. The Q is the largest.

To see my reviews of those cameras, check them out here. Sony RX1RMKII, Leica Q and the older Sony RX1R

To be honest I love all three of those but the Q is priced out of my rage for what I would pay for a camera of this kind. The Sony, I love and adore..but it is not the speed demon that the Q is. That leaves me with the X100f. It’s the cheapest, it’s one of the smallest and it offers quite a bit like the unique OVF/EVF experience and the Fuji color and Fuji cilm simulations that can, in the right hands be delicious ; ) I have not exploited this camera for all it can do just yet. But again, this camera can not compete with the Sony for IQ so if IQ is your all out be all end all, I’d say go with an older Sony RX1R (not the MKII) and you can get one for much less than the MKII and it’s output is gorgeous.

The original Sony RX1R…IMO gives a more smoother cinematic vibe due to the full frame sensor. 

Other cameras, like IC cameras are not really competition for this camera. If one is pondering an X100F, I doubt they are pondering something like a Leica M or Sony A7 or Olympus PEN because all of those are so different from each other. This camera, you can not ever change the lens. So when you buy one, get ready to set into the 35mm state of mind as 35mm is the equiv focal length you will shoot at with this guy. All the time! No 50, no 75, and now 21. Just 35. So if this is scary to you, you should be looking at an interchangeable lens camera.

The Olympus PEN-F on the left with the AMAZING 25 f/1.2 lens. The X100f on the right. 

The closest IC camera to this one is the Olympus PEN-F. It’s look are similar, and the feel is similar and even the PEN-F has a cool Tri X B&W film simulation mode ;) IN fact, since I have both here, let me compare them a bit, B&W mode to B&W mode ;) I will use the 25 1.2 lens on the Olympus (closest I have to the 23mm lens on the Fuji). With the APS-C of the Fuji this brings us a 35mm magnification. With the Olympus and the M 4/3 sensor that doubles and gives us a 50mm effective FOV. I do not have one of the 17mm M 4/3 lenses on hand to do a 35vs 35 thing but either way, the Fuji is a 23mm lens, pure and simple. The Only is a 25mm lens. So they are close and this will be a WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET comparison…

SHOT 1, Fuji X100F vs Olympus PEN-F – Acros vs Tri-X

These are OOC JPEGS from each camera using their own B&W film simulations. The Only does Tri-X (though I turned off grain for sake of comparison) and the Fuji does Acros…let’s see if they differ and how..

Immediately I see the Fuji delivers a softer less contrasty look to the conversion. The Only looks a little more “WOW” but that is due to the higher contrast of Tri-X  so it is going for that look. Also, the lens on the Old delivers a tad more pop due to the f/1.2 aperture. The Fuji was shot at f/2 and the Only at f/1.2. both wide open to show what you get with each camera and respective lens (23mm on the Fuji and 25mm on the Olympus). The Only has a 2X crop so that 25 will look like a 50 where the Fuji is APS-C. The Fuji’s 23 will appear as a 35mm in regards to FOV. CLICK THE IMAGES for larger.

FUJI

OLYMPUS

In the 2nd image I see more DR with Fuji out of the box for these JPEG’s as well as a more even tonality to the B&W look. Again, Acros vs TriX but I see that more grey look much like the original Leica Monochrom. This gives us a more unique B&W look IMO, at least for my eyes. I prefer the Fuji here. While the Only is doing the shallow DOF thing better it appears to look a tad more digital. THOUGH I have to say, I like both and would use both. If I wanted a more harder look like TriX can give, I’d choose the Oly. If I wanted softer beautiful portraits I would choose the Fuji. Of course, each can be edited to taste as well. These are right out of the box. 

FUJI

OLYMPUS

How about color? The Olympus has a Slide film emulation and the Fuji has Velvia..let’s see how they look

The Fuji has more glowing color and here the Old is a but more subdued. Again, both wide open and since they are around the same focal length we get more shallow DOF from the f/1.2 of the Olympus over the f/2 of the Fuji. THIS IS NOT A sharpness or detail comparison, just color and to show what we can expect from each combo wide open. 

FUJI

OLYMPUS

and one more…

FUJI

OLYMPUS

So to me, I slightly prefer the Fuji renderings for the B&W and for the color, I prefer the Olympus color tones (Velvia vs Slide) in these modes but also look at the OOC DR of the Fuji vs Olympus. Interesting. Of course if these were shot in RAW I could have adjusted the Olympus to be just fine but the SLIDE FILM emulation would have left, so these are all what you see is what you get out of camera JPEGS.

HOW ABOUT VS A FULL FRAME? 

Just for fun I pulled out the Leica SL and a 35 Zm f/1.4 Lens to shoot a test image of Debby with each. How would the X100F compare against the big SL which is a $10k combo? Yep, a just for fun $1300 vs $10k combo comparison…heeheehee.

Here the 1st one is from the Leica SL and the 35 f/1.4 Zeiss ZM Lens. A $10k combo, or just under. ($7500 for the SL, $2300 for the lens) – Click for larger to see them correctly!

X100F with Standard color

Now while I feel the SL blows the Fuji away here in all areas, I have to say..this Fuji, especially at 1st glance gives us the impression that it is not far behind the SL with Zeiss lens. Yep, the aging 23mm f.2 on the Fuji vs a true 35mm f/1.4 on the Leica yet the Fuji is  holding its own. While the SL is in another league in build and feel and control, the X100F has the IQ, and for some that is all that matters. I will say the color is closer from the SL than the Fuji (to reality) but both are lovely. This makes a good argument when spending our hard earned money…do we go for what we WANT or what we NEED?

Now, the SL is a pro camera and can be used in all pro situations. It beats the X100f in all areas and you can use any lens you desire on it, almost. Even Canon and Nikon. It’s a versatile beast and it also has amazing video quality. The X100f is a cheaper made smaller take anywhere camera that can slide in any bag, or be grabbed running out the door. No muss, no fuss. Pick your poison and cost : )

MY BOTTOM LINE CONCLUSION ON THE FUJI X100F

Fuji has delivered yet another X100 camera, the fourth one since 2011. That is a new X100 every year and a half on average. This version is absolutely the best of the X100 models and the reason why is because it is fully matured, it feels better than ever, has a good battery system for its size, has a wonderful EVF/OVF hybrid and has beautiful color from the standard presets or the custom film emulations. It has wide dynamic range and the lens, while aging, offers a bit of classic and modern thrown in. Not bitingly sharp but pleasing and beautiful in its character.

Many wanted Fuji to release this with an f/1.4 lens but that would have made it larger, and most likely slower. It has taken Fuji 6 years to get this lens to be pretty quick in AF as it is, adding a new bigger lens with a wider aperture would probably have been clunky and slow, and for me the X100 series is about having a beautiful take anywhere capable camera with one 35mm equivalent lens on it to you anywhere you need to go, while learning how to “see” as well. A 35mm lens (or equivalent as we have here) will teach you more than using a zoom for a year and when using a camera like this, day in and out, you will learn how to get the most from the focal length and this can result in better images through time and getting comfy with the system.

ISO 6400 at night, one small table lamp to my right. ACROS mode. NR was at -3

The X100F is a camera you can bond with and while never perfect, and not for everyone, for the money there is nothing that beats it. That is important to know..FOR THE MONEY. If you want a fixed lens camera this and the two full frame beasts, the Leica Q and Sony RX1R series are the only game in town. This one is much cheaper and if you can deal with less shallow DOF and an escape from the richness of a full frame sensor then you will be ecstatic to save $2500 or so on the Fuji X100F over the other two. For those who want all out IQ and pop and wow, the Sony and Leica would be your best bet but it will cost you. For me, I am very happy with the X100F and have decided to keep this one on my shelf to add with my other cameras that have stood the test of time in my house. A good way to have a take anywhere no muss or fuss camera companion and a great way to have Fuji color when I want it without having to invest in lenses for another system.

A WIN/WIN. 

This is the best Fuji X100 to date, and you can take that to the bank. I recommend setting your noise reduction to -4 though as these cameras (Fuji’s in general) have a tendency to really be aggressive with NR if cranked up.

WHERE TO BUY?

My top recommended dealers are below. You will never get screwed over by them and I have used these shops forever. Class A all the way:

B&H Photo Fuji X100F Info and Order Page

Amazon Fuji X100F info and order page

PopFlash.com Info and Order page

CameraQuest Fuji X100F Page


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Jan 082017
 

Quick Shot: Sony RX-1

By Caesar Lima

I always carry a small full frame camera with me, sometimes a Sony RX-1 sometimes a Leica Q. I started shooting some behind the scenes and “making of” images with these cameras and more and more of my clients ask me for permission to use these images, I guess the combination of the wider angle and the shallow depth of field makes them unique and a little more spontaneous (less posed) which I think is pretty cool. I ended up building a site with images shot with these portable full frame wonders. Please visit www.puffybrain.com to see more samples

Thank you

Caesar Lima

Dec 302016
 

Film, Sony, Fuji to the Leica Q. Documenting Protests

by Q Oliver

Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on my new favorite camera with all of your readers. Your blog has certainly helped me with gear decisions in the past. I, like many others out there, have been on the hunt for that perfect photographic companion. With 2016 being such a turning point in our social and political climates, one could argue that having the perfect camera to document such a profound time is equally as important as having the right car in a snow storm or gas crisis. The camera that you can pick up for just about ANY situation and be happy to trust your vision to.

Now, I’ve shot 35mm and medium format film for most of my short twenty-eight years in this world and maybe I’m a bit set in my ways but I can never seem to settle on the “right” digital camera. My little AE-1 seemed to be all that I needed throughout high school but after graduating, I threw myself into a certain “art” school which gave students a Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 f/4 lens as a part of the tuition. Within just a few months of using the Canon, I traded it for a Leica M6 TTL and a couple of lenses and never looked back. My professors were anything but pleased with my decision as the school had moved completely away from film and required students to submit EXIF data with each assignment. Being the bullheaded young artist that I was, I left art school and started my career as a fashion photographer (or at least I thought I would end up in fashion). Though I knew that sooner or later, the digital age would catch up to me.

(35mm-1) Leica M6 TTL + 50mm Summicron + Fuji Velvia 50

(35mm-6) Leica M6 TTL + 35mm Summicron + Kodak Portra 160

Fast forward to 2015 and I found myself flirting with the idea of taking digital cameras seriously. Despite my Instgram handle being @film_god and people calling me by that name on the street, I needed more modern workflow. Of course, we can argue film vs digital all day long but the truth is that now, as a professional, there really isn’t much of a choice in the matter. That year, I spent a bit of time in India with the Sony A7R II, which proved to be an absolutely remarkable little camera and travel companion. Not a hulking, clumsy mess like the DSLR’s many would have you believe are superior while still packing twice the punch in the resolution department and with quite respectable auto focus capabilities. The problem was that, for me, there was a very obvious “sterile” quality to the pictures. It was as if the Sony was TOO good! The pictures it produced were technically astounding but they just didn’t FEEL like anything to me. Also, of course, once you pair it with amazing lenses like the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 or current Zeiss 50mm f/1.4, it loses it’s size advantage. I needed a camera that was small and functional but more than just a tool that I shared no emotional connection with. Something that produced pictures that I didn’t feel needed to be heavily processed in order to get my point across.

(Sony-1) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8


(Sony-3) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8

(Sony-5) A7R II + Zeiss 55mm f/1.8


(Sony 2) A7R II + Sony 28mm f/2

After quickly losing interest in the beast that is the A7R II, I was faced with what seemed to be a life or death decision; What camera could I use definitively as my go-to camera to tell the stories I sought to share with the world? Well, I’m not a rich man by any means, so investing in a proper Leica M digital body was out of the question. There was, however, a “distant cousin” if you will. The Fuji XPro-2. A camera for those who can’t get enough of that iconic rangefinder street style but aren’t willing to sell the house, wife, and kids. I, of course was hesitant in selling my powerhouse full-frame partner in crime but I just couldn’t deal with the almost soulless and clinical rendering from the Sony. Based on everything I had read or watched, it was Fuji that could give me back that SOUL that I enjoyed while shooting film- or something close to it, anyway. The day it wen’t on sale, I got a call from my local camera store saying that a little Fuji had arrived. I rushed to the store like a kid running for an ice-cream truck.

It was a match made in heaven. Fujifilm’s lenses are fast and small, the ergonomics of the camera were something I was familiar with, and that 24mp x-trans sensor with it’s beautiful Acros processing… I couldn’t have asked for more. That is, until my city erupted with protests in response to this year’s consistent and tragic trend of police brutality against black people in the US.

(Fuji-1) XPro-2 + 16mm f/1.4

I’m a father, a husband, automotive enthusiast, and typical young black man in America- but above any of that, I am a photographer who has an affinity for photojournalism. When my city rose up to protest the way young black men have been treated by the justice system, I felt it was my duty to photograph the events regardless of any of my personal feelings and I was so glad to have the little Fuji by my side. I remember sitting on my couch in front of the TV with what was supposed to be my dinner one day when I got the phone call from a friend; “Hey! Get down here! There is a huge protest!” I left my dinner cold right where it sat, threw on my boots and darted out of my apartment with Fuji in hand

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I feel that the photographs I made that night may be some of the most important that I’ve made thus far in my career but there was one problem. A big problem that hadn’t really bothered me until the sun went down and the protests continued into the night. You see, the little Fuji was great until the lights went off. The APS-C sensor just couldn’t hold up in low light. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the Fuji is by no means a slouch, but when it came to documenting and accurately depicting the events of those nights, I can honestly say that I had been spoiled by the full frame flexibility and clarity of the A7R II. Skin tones and shadows fell completely apart with the Fuji and I had to push those RAW files to the absolute limit to retain detail in shadows. I spent a great deal of time hating the pictures I made at night during those protests because of the diminished image quality at high ISO. I still hadn’t found “the one”.

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Some months went by and I continued to grit my teeth and attempt fall back in love with the Fuji. I felt that I had truly been let down by what seemed like a great camera on paper. The love never really came back and just when I had given up hope on finding true love with a digital camera, a friend of mine calls me up with a few magical words. “Hey Q! I’ve got a Leica Q and it literally has your name on it. Come by and check it out!”. Well I know when not to say “no” to a good thing so I immediately headed to Wings Camera in Atlanta to drool over the little red dotted point and shoot.

The very first picture I made with the Q while driving home from the camera store

The owner, Mike, agreed to let me test it out for a while as I was not too keen on selling ANOTHER camera just to be disappointed by what I hoped was an upgrade. Ironically enough, only a few days had gone by before Donald Trump was announced as president and Atlanta erupted with protests once again. What a fitting occasion to put the Q through it’s paces. I mean, it’s a $4,000 point and shoot. Even if it is full-frame, there’s no way it could be any better than the Fuji, right?

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Boy, was I wrong!

You really do get what you pay for with that camera! Pretentious piece of jewelry or not, the Leica Q was everything I needed and more. If you’re not aware, shooting protests at night can be difficult. With all of the different temperatures of light- fires burning, street lamps, police lights, and vehicle headlamps the Q’s auto white balance handled everything beautifully. On top of that, ISO 6400 was as smooth as butter next to the Fuji’s messy, smudged files at ISO 1600 and up. Even in the darkest areas of the city, the autofocus was spot on every time and I never missed a picture. On top of that, the files required little, if any, post processing work to really translate the drama and tension we all felt during those nights. I was holding my dream camera in my hands and with a fixed 28mm lens at that! A focal length that I had never seriously entertained, let alone considered permanently living with. I felt truly at home with the Q and would be willing to go into just about any situation with that camera by my side.

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At this point, you may be thinking “he’s just a Leica fanboy” and the truth is, maybe I am (and I’m not ashamed of that) but I will always call it like I see it. I’ve used the Leica M240 I can’t justify spending $6k on a body and another $6k on a 28mm Summilux lens, despite available cheaper used options. $4,000 for the equivalent in the Q doesn’t seem too bad, though. Is it something that I would be willing to get rid of every other camera I own for? No.

Actually, I ended up selling the Fuji setup and going back to Sony for versatility’s sake but I have to be honest and say that after using the Q, nothing is really the same. The Sony collects dust on my shelf for weeks at a time between uses while my old trust Leica M7 has been my daily carry… at least until another Q finds its way into my bag. Now, if only I could get Leica to sponsor my photographic endeavors. -cough cough- but seriously, it’s pretty clear to me that Leica isn’t just about gimmicks. There really is some magic in there somewhere and it shows.

Nov 222016
 

Cool Leica Gear and Deals at PopFlash.com

Was checking out PopFlash.com this morning and saw some great used deals there on some very cool Leica gear. Many of you know when PopFlash says “USED – MINT” it is truly just as new ;) Below are some of the deals I enjoyed seeing, and that SL is a great buy right now! The holidays are near!!

Leica SL Deal

I still feel the Leica SL is one of the best mirrorless cameras ever made, if not the best as of Nov 2016. The build is 2nd to none, the feel is amazing, the EVF is the best I have seen or used, the IQ is deliciously amazingly good and the colors from it are some of the most enjoyable to my eyes. The menus, the controls, the confidence. I love the Leica SL and my tools of choice to go with it are a 28 Lux, 50 Lux LE and 90 Cron. At this price it is a steal…would make probably the best Christmas gift a Leica fan could get this year!

I will have a one year SL update soon but my original review can be seen HERE. 

Click here or below to see the deal at PopFlash with full info

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Leica 50 APO, the best 50mm lens in the world

The Leica 50 APO is to me, the best 50mm lens ever made. Some may not like it’s near perfect rendering but I do, and what I love most about it is what it does to the color of the M 240 or even SL. When using this lens, your M 240 will start looking like medium format files. The richness of color, the contrast, the bokeh, the across the frame sharpness are all just right for me. Too bad it costs so much, but hey if you want the best, and the smallest to boot, this is the lens for your M or SL that will seriously give you some amazing IQ. I stuck with the 50 Lux as I always have (due to cost only) but this lens is stunning.

My review can be seen here. Part 1 on the M. Part 2 on the SL. 

Click here or the image below to go to the 50 APO page at PopFlash.com 

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The Leica Q

The Q is the best selling Leica camera out right now and for good reason. It took on the mighty Sony RX1RII and in some ways beat it at its own game. The 28mm Summilux lens on this Q is not at the level of the Stand alone 28 Summilux M lens that costs $6200 but it is a great lens and mixed with the Q’s sensor this camera delivers IQ like no other Leica made right now. It has snap, pop, deep contrast and rich color (the reds are beautiful) and in a larger body than the Sony RX1RII but also a better feeling body as the RX is a tad small for larger hands. The EVF is nice, and the camera is speedy. It delivers full frame magic and if you could be OK with just a 28mm, this camera delivers the goods. This is also a great buy on the Q.

My Leica Q Review can be seen HERE. Ashwin Rao’s Q Review is HERE. 

The Q at PopFlash

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Leica MP 0.72 Film Safari set with Silver 35 1.4 Summilux. 

While I do not see this as a deal I do see it as unique. The MP 0.72 Safari film camera is one hell of a great camera. To me the film MP is the best film camera one can buy, if you still want to shoot 35mm format film. It’s discreet, small, and feels like a million bucks. The silver 35 Lux is also a gorgeous lens that is without competition in the 35 1.4 world, at this size and level of build quality. But for this unique set you will pay a price, and a hefty one it is.

My old Leica MP Review is HERE. 

Leica MP Film Set in Safari with a silver 35 Lux

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So there ya go! Some very cool Leica offerings from PopFlash.com that they have up RIGHT NOW! Go check ’em out and the other deals on their main page…HERE. 

Oct 192016
 

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PRESS RELEASE: The New Leica Q Titanium Gray Offers a Perfect Synthesis of Camera Technology, Design and Features

October 19, 2016 – With the Leica Q Titanium Gray finish, Leica Camera offers an alternative design option for its high-performance, full-frame compact camera with a fixed, fast prime lens. In contrast to the discreet black paint finish of the standard Leica Q, the new color option stands out with the titanium-gray lacquer finish on the camera’s top, back and baseplate. The look of precious metal and contrasting black elements, such as the leather covering and lens, lend the camera its uniquely refined and premium style.

In comparison with its counterpart in black, the Leica Q Titanium Gray has other unique characteristic features not found in the standard model. Such features include the feet scale and the focal length number engravings on the lens detailed in red, and the included carrying strap made from a strong material typically used in climbing ropes.

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The Leica Q Titanium Gray will be available mid-November 2016.

The technical specifications of the Leica Q Titanium Gray are identical to those of the black model, which continue to stand out with a quick and intuitive operating concept and an especially fast lens. The Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens of the Leica Q makes it ideal for available light situations and has an angle of view that reproduces scenes with natural perspectives and proportions, making it the perfect camera for street, landscape photography and day-to-day life. In combination with a 24 megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor precisely matched to its lens, the camera delivers richly detailed images with low noise in optimum quality at ISO sensitivities of up to 50,000. The Leica Q offers a great level of creative freedom for realizing even the most demanding photographic ambitions, thanks to the practical option of switching between macro, automatic and manual focusing.

To ensure that the decisive moment is never missed, the Leica Q full-frame compact camera has the fastest autofocus in its class, and offers precision focusing near-instantaneously. The image processor from the Leica Maestro II family processes the data from the sensor at an incredible speed; enabling continuous shooting up to ten frames per second at full resolution. To ensure the user’s reliable control of subject composition at this speed, the Leica Q also features an integrated viewfinder with a resolution of 3.68 megapixels. Even the finest details of every exposure are displayed cleanly and quickly, without any noticeable lag, as soon as the camera is brought up to the user’s eye.

All functions of the Leica Q are clearly laid out and logically located to guarantee perfect ergonomics and ease-of-use. Its clear and logical menu system provides rapid access to all essential functions, and enables users to program personalized settings.

The Leica Q also delivers video recordings in full-HD quality. Depending on the scene and subject, users can choose between 30 and 60 frames per second for video recording in MP4 format. The camera also features an integrated Wi-Fi module for wireless transmission of pictures and video to smart devices and remote control via Wi-Fi from a smartphone or tablet. The Leica Q app can be downloaded free from the App Store on iOS and Google Play Store on Android to utilize these features. In addition to a wireless triggering function and remote display of the viewfinder image, the app also allows the setting of photographic controls such as aperture and shutter speed remotely from the connected device.

Leica Dealers: Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, B&H Photo

Oct 142016
 

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A Trip Through Xīnán with the Leica Q and ARAX 60

by Torsten Spiller – His website is HERE

This year I did a trip with my Chinese wife through Xīnán, the southwest of the People’s Republic of China. Xīnán includes the municipality of Chongqing, the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou, and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Unsure because leaving my M9 at home, the Leica Q turned to be out once more the perfect universal photographic tool. Being light weighted and somehow compact, it gave me the flexibility to use the EVF in situations where I had the time for proper framing my subject on one hand and on the other hand to shoot with the LCD in situations where there wasn’t the time to move the camera to the eye or for shots from special angles. The lighting fast autofocus was my insurance for sharp images and made my work much easier. The Q did a fantastic job as a camera for street, landscape and even for portraits.

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I’ve to admit that I brought also a camera brick with me.

I couldn’t resist shooting some medium format pictures since I like the outcome and the shooting experience. My choice of weapon was an ARAX 60 which is a modified version of the Kiev 60 with the Carl Zeiss Biometar 2.8/80. This is most probably one of the cheapest cameras you can buy new for entering the medium format world. The biggest advantage is that you can use all the fantastic lenses made for the Pentacon Six mount. Beside the Biometar 2.8/80 I own also the Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/180 and Zeiss Flektogon 4/50. Both are legends and deliver amazing results for incredible small money. I think I paid for the camera with all lenses less than others pay for a used Hasselblad body only. I shot several medium format cameras in the past like Rolleiflex SL66, TLR, Super Ikonta, Hasselblad, etc., although I can’t explain exactly why, but I love the ARAX beside my Super Ikonta which is still unbeaten when it comes to size and weight of medium format cameras. Just recently I published a love letter – sorry, I mean short review about the ARAX 60 on my homepage.

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But let’s start with the trip….

Chongqing – the mega city

Our trip started on the 27.06.2016 from Nanchong in Sichuan (my hometown in China) with a 2 hours HSR (High Speed Rail) train ride to Chongqing. Chongqing is also reachable through the international airport or by HSR from Chengdu. Surprised by the size of the city, I checked the internet and found out that Chongqing is the largest city of the world. Chongqing which is usually quite unknown outside of China has approximately the size of Austria and a population of unbelievable 35 Mio inhabitants. While usually the weather in Chongqing is subtropical hot and humid, we arrived there on a rainy day. We spent only one and a half day in the city and visited first the old loading docks at the Yantze river and the Hongyadong Riverside Block. The latter one is a business block and scenic spot built on mountains by the “stilted building” of Chinese traditional architecture features.

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The next day we took a taxi to the Zhazidong prison, a must visit place for domestic Chinese tourists due to the historical importance. Original a coal mine, the site of Zhazidong Prison was covertly set up in 1943 by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) with the help of the Sino-American Cooperation Organization (SACO) and is located in the Gele Mountains. Communists were massacred and tortured by Nationalist Party during the Chinese Civil War between 1945 and 1949.

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In the evening we did a walk through the city. Like in all cities in China I really love the fact that elderly people enjoy almost every evening dancing, playing music, gym and other activities in huge groups at public places instead of staying alone at home.

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Kunming – the spring city

Because of massive rain and through landslides blocked railway lines, we had to change our original route twice and ended up in an aircraft to Kunming, the spring city due to its yearlong mild climate. To reach the city we took the bus since the airport is quit far away from the centre, the taxi seemed to be too expensive and the metro connection was still under construction. Early morning, we visited the wholesale market for fruits and vegetables. As expected there was a lot activity in this area and a good location for taking photos.

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After, we took a taxi and drove to the Yunnan Ethnic Village. The park is an ethnographic display of the architecture and ways of life of Yunnan’s minority population. The park itself was quiet with not so much activity and visitors. However, it was very relaxing doing a walk there in the beautiful nature without too many people around.

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We finished the day with a walk to the nearby Dianchi Lake, the “Pearl of the Plateau” and a trip with a cable car to the Western Hills which stretch along the west bank of the lake, creating a lovely view of water, mountain, and sky.

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Dali – the historic city

As a former train driver and still employee of the German railway – DB Engineering and Consulting, I enjoy always using the train. Especially sleeping trains are a really comfortable and reasonable way of transport in China. Therefore, we took the night train from Kunming to Dali arriving early morning after a seven-hour trip. The train station is located in the new town which required a taxi to bring us to old Dali, several kilometres away. The taxi driver recommended us a hotel which turned to be out brand new for a very reasonable price of only 100 RMB per night. The Dali area was formerly known as Jumie. The present old town was organized in the late 14th century under the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Although a little bit tired, I couldn’t wait to see the old town and begged my wife to go for a walk with me. After a view minutes we reached the city wall with a nearby monastery. Luckily we arrived in Dali exactly on the day where local women from the city and surrounding villages having their annual celebration of the monastery. Everywhere around the monastery people in their colourful traditional dresses could be seen dancing and making music with old Chinese instruments. The monastery itself was covered in big clouds of smoke which burned in the eyes caused by women putting paper in fireplaces and lighting smoke sticks to thank for the past and for good luck in the coming year. In one corner one man was blowing a traditional trumpet and from time to time a small orchestra of about 10 people started playing the typical Tibetan music with mainly percussions and catcall flute sounds. Slightly tired and overwhelmed of the scene, it took some time until I could dive fully into the crowd to see with the lens of my camera.

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The whole city Dali was occupied by mostly elderly women and men singing and dancing anywhere where enough space was available.

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As very common in China at touristic locations, the main road was crowded and full of shops offering souvenirs and food. However, the number of people was still much less compared to the masses traveling during the national holidays. It is highly recommended to travel in China outside the national public holidays. During the holidays it feels that whole China is traveling and everything is overcrowded which has also an impact on the prices for transport and accommodation.

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On our last (very rainy) day in Dali we did a walk to the three pagodas. To attract more tourists, a whole new park and monastery has been built around the pagodas. Since the rain didn’t stop and the whole area gave us more or less the feeling of being somehow a fake, we decided to walk back to the city and enjoy the remaining time by walking to the streets and capturing the street life. In the evening we took the sleeping bus to Shangri-La. The first time that I took such a bus. Already by entering the bus I felt that the interior dimensions were based on the average of a Chinese. With 1.93m being the contrary, I just fit through the corridor to reach my approx. 1.70m long bed. However, since the 5 hours’ ride wasn’t so long and laying was better than sitting, I enjoyed the new experience. If you are ever planning to take an overland bus to travel in China, try to avoid toilets at the locations the bus is doing stops. Usually, bus drivers are having some deals with local farmers which are providing very basic and unfortunately mostly very dirty washroom facilities. My advice: stay away (if possible)

Shangri-La (Zhongdian) – the lost horizon city

We arrived in Shangri-La at 2:00 a.m. and checked-in in a hotel close to the old city centre where most parts have been destroyed in 2014 by a huge fire. Luckily, most of it was already repaired and/or rebuilt. In the second half of the 20th century Shangri-La was called Zhongdian and was renamed on 17 December 2001 as Shangri-La after the fictional land of Shangri-La in the 1933 James Hilton novel Lost Horizon, in an effort to promote tourism in the area. Same like in Dali, the old town is full of souvenirs and food shops. The architecture of the typical big local houses with their massive wooden beams is more than impressive.

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ARAX 60 with Zeiss Jena Biometar 2.8/80 on Fuji Neopan 100

The first thing we did after my wife recovered from the impact of the height, was a visit of the 5 km away located Tibetan Buddhist Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling and Guihuasi. Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace. Rewarded by an amazing view it took us some time to climb up the stairs to the monastery because of the height of about 3,200 m. Gold plated roofs, and statues as well as colourful pennants and paintings are visible everywhere in the monastery. As per Buddhism believing, walking through the halls has to be done clockwise only.

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The next day we took a taxi to the nearby blue mountains where a cable car brings you up to the hill to a height of 4,500 m. Since the height could be problematic a can of oxygen which can be bought at local stores is very advisable. The cable car as well as the touristic facilities gave the impression that the peak of touristic activities was some years back. The same we experienced at the Xiagei Hot Springs with the nearby natural rock bridge. However, both are beautiful spots and worth to visit. The view from the mountain into the large green valley was breath taking.

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After we returned from the mountain we decided to walk back to the city instead of taking the public bus for only 1 RMB. Our way led us through a village where we had the chance to drink Tibetan tea, made out of yak butter and tea, which was served together with a local pancake.

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After the break we continued our walk to a place where locals offered horse riding and other traditional activities.

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Short after we’ve been on the road again, we got picked up by a local with his car who just finished his work and brought us back to our hotel.
Our last day we rented an electric car – as far as you can call the vehicle a car.

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Not having a Chinese driving license, I thought this would be the safest way to visit close by areas without being dependent on public transport. And indeed the vehicle brought us save to the Xiagei hot springs with the natural bridge formation and a huge green valley with a lake and grazing yaks.

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Chengdu – home of the Pandas

With our flight the next day back to Chengdu our trip through Xīnán was almost over. Since Chengdu airport is my usual gate to China, I know already most of the places in the the city. However, before taking the train back to Nanchong we spent another day with visiting the Wenshu Yuan Monastery and Jinli pedestrian street. The latter one is always a good spot for street photography.

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However, it turned to be out that a simple walk to the railway station for buying the train tickets to Nanchong gave fantastic opportunities for street shots.

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General Information

Hotels in China are quite reasonable. If you don’t need a five-star resort and happy with a clean room and bed, you find usually hotels in the price range from 100 RMB – 250 RMB per night. It’s common in China that you can check the room before the actual booking to ensure that it suits your expectations. We got the best value for the money in Dali while we experienced the friendliest hotel owners in Shangri La. Due to security reasons, a passport is always required for booking train, bus or air tickets as well as in hotels. Taxis are always a good way to travel in cities beside other means of public transport. While Taxis are usually equipped with Taximeters, caps in Kunming and Dali might be not equipped and the price needs to be negotiated before (!) the trip with the driver. Trips with the Chinese railway are a very comfortable and reasonable means of transport. HSR, sleeping/night trains as well as normal trains are usually clean and punctual. It’s recommended to book hard-sleeper compartments, which are equipped with padded berths (six to a compartment), sheets and a blanket. Since the majority of Chinese does not speak English, a Chinese tour guide or even better a Chinese friend is more than helpful. There is an amazing variety of food available on the streets. Don’t be afraid if the cleanliness is not matching western standards. I had never a problem with the food beside the fact that it was sometimes really spicy (double burning – you know what I mean). If you don’t try the street kitchens, you’ll miss a great Chinese experience. Highly recommended are always noodles, barbeque and in Shangri La the Yak Pizza and butter tea. The butter tea was very tasty and really a surprise. At least once you need to dry the national dish hot pot. Taking photos of people was in general no problem at all. The only problem which I had was the fact that it was sometimes difficult to hide myself in the crowd as a 1.93 m tall westerner surrounded by only Chinese. People approached me asking if they can take a photo with me, the stranger from abroad. Especially the younger generation likes to practice their English knowledge since they usually don’t have many opportunities. Never ever book holidays during the time of public Chinese holidays. Everything will be overcrowded and getting tickets for hotels or transport will be very challenging and expensive.

Aug 152016
 

The Leica Q and a Model

by Riswan Christianto

When I bought a Leica Q (see review here), what I had in mind was to replace my Sony RX1R (review here) which I mainly used for travelling and family photos for its being small and compact to carry with professional results.

I have never used it for a studio shoot or for a model, including portrait. However, that changed when I was trying to play around during my shooting session. The in body crop frame in 35mm and 50mm were quite easy to use and helpful. The details give me some confidence to shoot even more and put the M body aside for a while.

I enjoyed it so much to my surprise, and during the processing in Lightroom, I was over my head with the results, here are some for justification:

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Buy a Leica Q HERE.

Aug 112016
 

Leica Q, in stock, Amazon prime.

Since I have been shooting and appreciating the Leica M-D and 28 Lux lately, I have grown more fond of the Leica Q as well, with its 28mm Summilux lens, gorgeous color and loads of snap to the images. I have been seeing some gorgeous results with the Q, (A nice post on the Q will be up tomorrow) that are quite different from what I see in the M and 28 Lux. Not better, not worse, just different. Today we have so many choices and even in this area we have the lovely Sony RX1 MkII that sort of goes against the Leica Q.

Some prefer the Sony, some prefer the Leica but I feel it comes down to 28mm vs 35mm and Sony sensor vs the sensor in the Q, which is not from Sony. Both offer different looks, rendering, color, DR and low light performance.

The Sony wins on DR and low light but I feel the Leica wins on AF speed and color and of course that “Leica look”, which the Q has all over the place.

In any case, MANY are still drawn to and purchasing the Leica Q , and if you want one tomorrow, Amazon has one in stock via PRIME:

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Man, I could order in the next 3 hours and have one at my doorstep and for $8000 less than an M-D and 28 Lux. That makes the Q look like a steal of a deal to me.

Of course I could also email Ken Hansen at [email protected] and have one tomorrow as well. Yes that was a plug for him, but well deserved and warranted!

Other places to get a Leica Q? PopFlash.com, and B&H Photo. 

Aug 022016
 

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User Report: The Leica Q at Cannes Lions – Low Light

By Simon King – Website HERE

(From Steve: I welcome Simon to this website to deliver his thoughts on some of the coolest rangefinder and mirrorless cameras from Leica, Fuji, Sony and Hasselblad. He is like the London Ken Hansen ;) I am happy to have him here to write from time to time and if you are near his shop in London, be sure to check it out)

Before owning the Leica Q my “go everywhere” camera was the RX1 by Sony. The RX1 accompanied me across the globe to New York and Rome, as well as staying by my side day to ay in London; on walks through the city and surrounding countryside, at bars and nightclubs, and everywhere in-between.

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As such, I used it for a lot of low light shots, and when I purchased the Q this was one of my main concerns. Considering the manufacturer of the Q CMOS sensor was unknown at the time, it was quite the leap of faith to go for another fixed lens compact, rather than heading for a low-light beasts such as the A7S or Sii.

Long story short: the Q surpassed my expectations.

Short story long: The Leica Q accompanied me to the Cannes Lions Advertising festival, 2016. This is known for its late night beach parties, and ambiguously lit events, so it was a great opportunity to put the Q through its paces.

As a Mirrorless camera, the viewfinder (missing from the RX1R) was my main concern. I wear glasses, so getting a good view often can be tricky. However, I found that in all lighting conditions, the Q viewfinder was superb.

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In low light, the focus peaking, and magnification are magical. The bokeh from the faux Summilux is severe enough that when a line is in sharp enough relief for the software to pick it up – without fail. Combined with the autofocus that, moving from the Sony, was lightning fast; I can’t say I missed a shot due to focusing issues. Compared to the focus by wire, and sluggish AF of the RX1R the focusing of the Q is perfect.

One small thing I miss from the RX1R is the soft shutter screw mount on the trigger, which the Q being a Bluetooth, NFC, and Wifi enabled machine does not have. Still, the RX1Rii keeps this, despite sharing those features and it would have been a nice throwback to the M heritage to include it.

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My Q has travelled with me to Cannes and Monaco, has been used for fashion shoots and street. It has survived kayaking, heavy rainfall, sand and (unfortunately) a few drops on concrete. You can read anywhere on the form and durability of this camera, its well crafted hoot and grip (which I choose to augment with the Thumbs Up), the smooth buttons and dials and beautifully implemented macro ring. I wouldn’t want to comment on these without first consulting a poet, and a psychiatrist.

The 28mm focal length is not that foreign from the 35mm of the RX1, requiring only a step for the same framing. The crop function is not something I used at all, I prefer instead to edit down in Lightroom.

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If I feel I need to be closer for a portrait then I step in. Despite the wide angle lens, the rendering and classic Leica-lack of distortion make this a very interesting offering for portrait. For landscapes I step away. The crop feature, while novel, does not offer anything I haven’t already implemented in my workflow.

The sensor, in terms of dynamic range, is wonderful. When raising shadows I don’t feel as if I am limited. The combination of lens and sensor resolves fine details, which makes cropping feel natural and smooth. Almost every shot shown in this article were cropped in some way.

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Low light performance is simply magical. Setting the ISO to 25,600, leaving the aperture open and handholding at 1/60th you can get a keeper 90% of the time. Spot metering works best for making sure you hold your subject if you leave things on auto ISO.

And when set to B&W there are no noticeable defects that aren’t rendered with an organic film-like speckle.

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My auto ISO I have topped out at 10,000 which I feel is more than enough to deliver near perfect images that can easily be touched up and de-noised. The Q adds its own noise removal to certain photos, as well as applying its own recipe to the RAW files which deal with things like cropping corners down from the more circular image the camera actually captures.

The Leica Q is available to order from our website www.theclassiccamera.com, and you are always welcome to drop into our London store for a consultation.

Kindly,

Simon
@theclassiccamera

May 262016
 

My thoughts and photos: Leica Q

By Alejandro Ilukewitsch

(If you want to submit a user report, email Steve at [email protected] with your idea)

I have been shooting extensively for the past days with the Q. I can only say that it is really a great little camera. There are some positive and negative aspects I can highlight. First the bad ones:

· High iso – is not a high iso camera. Actually even the Sony A7ii which was not good, might have been better.

· Banding – if files are pushed, and only a few steps, banding will appear. I read that this was also a problem with the M, that was solved with a firmware update. I hope the same will happen. It is not a big issue if you don´t tend to over-edit your files, but it does happen.

· Auto Exposure Lock – it doesn’t have a well implemented function. If you want to lock exposure you need to leave the button pressed. That means that you cannot use AEL with the Exposure compensation wheel. Ex: Lock exposure, and then use Exposure compensation, since you must leave your finger on the AE button pressed. Horrible design.

· There is no way to disable the back screen and only use it to see settings or playback. You can use auto switch, which leaves the back screen all the time turned on, and turns it off when you put the camera on your eye, or use EVF only, which turns the screen off. But all needs to be done through the EVF. Shame on Leica for this, it seems it was designed by engineers who never shot a camera. Hope is also corrected via firmware.

· The Buffer is limited, but who said this was a machine gun kind of camera:)

· Playback of images is slow. I don´t really chimp, but when is needed there is a slight delay.

It might look like a lot of bad things, but actually the camera is a joy to shoot.

· Auto focus in AFS is incredibly fast, like a dslr, and it is 99% on focus, (better than a dslr).

· The lens is a beauty: sharp, colors – yes it´s software corrected, but who cares.

· The camera is fast, everything works just right, (with the exception of chimping).

· The Sony RX1 v2 might have better image quality, but shooting with the Q is fun. It gives excellent results, and most of the time doesn´t get in your way. It feels like a camera, not a computer, even thou I still prefer an ovf. (Comments based on my experience with the RX1 v1 and A7ii).

Some images from the last week, (all images shot in Bucharest):

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My blog, website, and flickr…(thanks for looking)
ailukewitsch,wordpress.com

www.ilukewitsch.com

flickr.com/malabito

Apr 262016
 

Twenty Four Hours with the Leica Q

by Andrew Gemmell

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I’ve been thinking of buying a digital camera suitable for street photography recently. I’ve been using film for the past 2 years and it does grow a bit tiresome after a while and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to shoot, adjust on the run and keep going knowing you won’t be up for film processing costs!

I was fortunate enough to be offered a Leica Q to borrow for a day. The owner had a window open so I grabbed the opportunity to see what the hype was about. The first thing I noticed, even though it’s not a rangefinder it was very Leica like with intuitive and simple controls. This camera really does make the process simple. Limited menu’s and certainly less controls than most other options in this class.

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Control – ideally as photographers if we can control our shutter, aperture, ISO and focusing it’s really all we need. The Q lets you do this very easily for the first three of those and as for focus the AF was fast and hit the spot 9 out of 10 times. Granted I didn’t use this camera during the evening so couldn’t comment on performance in very low light. Having used the Monochrom in the past it was like using a rangefinder, minus the rangefinder!

Features – the macro I tried a couple of times and I could see it being a feature you could call on from time to time. The frame selector down to 35mm and then 50mm was easy to apply on the run and personally I could see myself using the 35mm though rarely the 50mm.

Lens – Can’t complain here. This lens is superb and at 28mm is ideal for street photography and to an extent broader documentary photography. I usually prefer 50mm as a focal length. I did find this lens does force you to move closer to your subject and with that think about that challenge more as you walk through the streets. In that respect I genuinely think it could really help people, like me, to bring yourself into the moment more than I have in the past. If I’m learning then that’s a good thing.

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Conclusion

All in all it’s a very nice camera. I’ve used the Leica Monochrom, the original Fuji x100, the original Olympus EM5 and on pure specs, simplicity and suitability for street this would be no.2 for me behind the original Monochrom (Though even I admit that is an apples vs oranges comparison)! It’s now “getting on” in this fast paced world, so will be very interesting to see what Leica do next with the Q. I can’t comment on the x100T (improved alot from the x100 from all reports), Ricoh GR or RX1R as direct competitors and no doubt they’d all have there own strengths and weaknesses.

All images in this post were shot with the Leica Q.

Thanks Steve and Brandon for continuing to run a great photographic reference site.

Regards

Andy

Buy the Leica Q at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon

Apr 072016
 

Camera love from Ricoh GR to Leica Q: confessions of a philanderer

By Denis Sauve

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This is the confession of a 28mm aficionado who loves cameras, mostly pocketable ones, and who has been cheating on his Ricoh GR since 2006.

Like many of us, I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I’ve had more than 25 digital cameras, including gems like the Nikon D700, D800 and DF, a (so primitive) Leica Monochrom, and in my favorite style of compact, no less than 6 Ricoh digital GR cameras. In my relationship with the GR series, I have been like an unfaithful married man, cheating over and over again on his beloved wife.

The GR was my soul mate and true partner. She was the most ergonomic camera I had above all others, including professional DSLRs. I had the GRD1, the GRD2, the GRD3 and the GRD4. Since the Ricoh team succeeded in inserting a APS-C sensor in such a small body with the rebranded 5th “GR”, I bought two of them — love abuse killed the first one.

The GR is not an electronic device that happens to make pictures, like most modern digital cameras, but a real photographic tool, visibly made by photo lovers for photo lovers. Even the Nikon D800 has inferior ergonomics and handling. The extraordinary level of customization, and the prodigious level of fast adjustment we can make with the GR without even entering the menu system, all with one hand, is absolutely insane. I took thousands and thousands of pictures, travelled many times only with one GR, for over 10 years.

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In the long Canadian winter (which lasts 25 months per year!), this camera is always comfortable in any coat pocket. It is a fantastic B&W shooter, either in JPEG out of camera or from raw files. The raws are in the standard DNG format, not like all the proprietary raw format out there. The GR family is a legend in Japan. Look in Flickr, and you will find Japanese GR street shooters who’ve been making B&W pictures since the GRD1, and I suspect this unrecognized camera (in the Western world) had been very important in the digital B&W trend, and in street photography popularity, since 2005.

But I was tempted and strayed! Forgive me, dear GR.

I cheated on her with the Panasonic LX3, the Sigma DP1, the Nikon J1, the Sony-RX100-III, and others. I had one of the extremely rare early Fujifilm X100 units made before the Japan earthquake. Later, I succumbed to the sexy Sony RX1…before the APS-C Ricoh GR was announced: then I returned to the beloved GR!

Later, I had the Leica Monochrom disease, which is an other kind of GAS syndrome, another level of madness, soooo hard on the bank account!

Like a sex addict, I had to try them all. The desire was stronger than my willpower. Yet over and over again, I came back to my GR.

This was before the Leica Q.

When this model was announced, within a few hours, I knew once again I could not resist. I knew I would try it, have fun, lose a ton of money, and come crawling back to my faithful GR after a few months. It was my destiny.

But this time the story changed: the Q became my new wife. The level of shooting pleasure I have with it, and the proportion of “keepers” I found among the pictures taken with this device, are unequaled in my whole life. I lost my Q (really: I LOST IT !!) three months ago, and even as I wait for my second Q, the GR sits on the shelf. Sorry, GR, my heart has gone away. I decided to sell all my equipment, including a collection of professional Nikon lenses, to be able to afford another Q. It is such a marvel.

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I hope some of my pictures show the magic “glow” of the Q Summilux lens and the pleasure I have taking them.

Notes about the Leica Q vs Sony RX1 debate

About focusing
The Q is for real 28mm shooters, for real wide angle composition. The 35mm point of view offered by the Sony RX1 (and now the RX1R mark II) is kind of midway between wide angle and standard. I consider genuine wide angle shooters see the world in 28mm or below.

If your subject is almost in the center of the image, the RX1 may be great as well. But if your composition includes often plural subjects, or a subject in a context, like in a lot of successful wide angle pictures, it is another story. If you want the focus to be on a element in a corner or somewhere else in the rule of thirds, the RX1 is very frustrating. You cannot focus and recompose in order to change the framing, since the field curvature is too important. For instance, the element focused in the center becomes out of focus if you move it a little bit on the left. For this purpose, the use of the tracking function is too slow. Off-centered composition is a pain with the RX1 especially when using open aperture. I don’t see how this may have changed with the mark II.

In this department, the touch screen focus feature of the Q is so a marvelous function. I compose the frame, touch the focus point desired, et voilà: I have my perfect shot with a perfect focus, even wide open. I don’t have problems with focus and recompose either, since the curvature field of the Q lens seems to be less a concern than with the RX1.

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About the Leica “glow”
The RX1 lens is great. I understand some people may prefer it to the Q’s 28mm Summilux. I remember one or two pictures I really love from the RX1’s Zeiss. But when I see pictures from the Q, its “glow” is so strong! But it can have an undesirable side effect: even bad composition and bad subjects make almost good pictures. This “glow”, with the pure pleasure of taking pictures with the Q, makes me shoot uninteresting things like walls or hydrants, and like the result, which is a bad thing somehow. I have to prevent myself becoming a bad photographer because of this too great camera.

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About pocketability
The Ricoh GR is a real pocket camera. It can even fit in a jeans front or rear pocket. I tried to carry the RX1, like the Fujifilm X100 before, in one of my big canadian parka made for minus 100 degrees, and I always felt like I was carrying a dictionary inside my coat. You cannot be comfortable and look normal with such a big camera in your pocket. Same thing with the Leica Q.

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For more than 10 years, I’ve been hoping for a real pocketable (read GR) full frame camera. In the film era, we had the Contaxt T, the Nikon 35 Ti, the Ricoh GR, the Leica Minilux, the Rollei 35, the Yashika T4, the Minox 35 and so on. In digital era, now, the RG is the only one of this kind with a APS-C sensor. I even wrote to Ricoh about my dream of a full frame GR, but I don’t think it will happen, since modern lenses are so big

About pleasure
This is more of a personal preference: I prefer 28mm to 35mm, I enjoy wide angle composition and I love the Q more than great 35mm lenses cameras like the X100 or the RX1.

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When I read that the Sony RX1 is “better” than the Leica Q, it’s like an insult to my wife. No, I reply, no way: my wife is the best woman on earth. She is so marvelous, I even stopped playing around with other cameras! The RX1 is another big electronic gadget which makes photos; the Leica Q is a delight, helping me to see the light and the magic of this world.

But don’t buy the Leica Q. She is all mine. I want to keep her for myself!

Flickr

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Buy a Q: Ken Hansen (Email him: [email protected]), PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or Amazon 

Jan 302016
 

Using the Leica Q for street photography

by Stephen Swain

Dear Steve,

I submitted some images to you almost exactly a year ago (back stage with the x-pro 1), which you kindly placed on your site. Since then you have had some really valuable reviews of various new camera models, and the one that tempted me most was the Leica Q, so much in fact that I put my name down on the pre-order list!

I must say it has not disappointed…it is an ideal tool for the type of street pictures I like to take.

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As you see from the images here I like to work very close to the subject, but at the same time to keep “invisible”. I am not a very patient person, so I try to squeeze interesting images out of the mundane, and I thrive on very busy streets where it is easy to blend in and not ne noticed.

The 28mm lens on the Leica is ideal for me as it creates a feeling that you are “in and amongst” whatever you are shooting, which you do not achieve if you are zooming in (I think this gives a more voyeuristic feel…which is fine if it is what you are after). The very quiet shutter is perfect and nobody has heard me yet…which used to happen sometimes with the Fuji, and I also have the option of the silent electronic shutter. The EVF is perfect and shutter lag is virtually non-existent.

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Focus wise it is a game changer. I use three different settings for focusing depending on the situation, zone focusing and face detection auto when I am shooting blind, and manual focusing when I am shooting using the viewfinder. The face detection mode is very fast and has allowed me to get shots I would not have been able to catch manually (the girl wearing a blue hat is a prime example of this) Granted sometimes it focuses on the “wrong” face, but this is a price worth paying for when it works as you wish. It also allows you to shoot blind with a wide aperture and throw the background out of focus…even with the 28mm lens.

Thanks again for all of the great work you put into your site. Do let me know if you would like any more information.

Best wishes,

Stephen Swain

www.capturethemoment.co.uk

Dec 282015
 

Heavy Metal Leica Head. The Leica Q in Concert. 

By Daniel Ciric

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Yes that`s a term .. at least for me. I love Heavy Metal and all types of music that go in that direction. I also love Leica Cameras. So what’s the best way to combine that? Correct, music (in this case concert) photography with a Leica (Q). It’s very rare to see concert shooters walking around with expensive Leicas, especially at Metal or Hardcore shows, as these concerts get pretty intense sometimes and when you end up in the moshpit you definitely don’t want to have big, expensive and fragile camera equipment with you. The Leica Q is a good compromise. I am a tall and “beefy” guy and I know how to use my elbows, plus the Leica Q is so small that its easy to stay in the pit, shoot photos and not get your camera knocked out of your hands.

My Settings for a Concert on my Leica Q:

First of all .. GO MANUAL! It’s technically not possible that the camera understands what shots you want to get, especially at a concert.

Aperture

Wide open. The Q offers here an incredible 1.7 Aperture!

ISO

I usually start at 1600 and adapt according to the show. When the light gets super bride I take advantage of that and go down to around ISO 400 and if I have bad luck with the lighting I can always go up to 6400 without any trouble.

Shutter speed

Similar story. I start at 1/100 and adapt to the movement of the artists. Some hardcore bands move and jump around like crazy and when I want to capture that properly and freeze the action I have to go up to at least 1/200

Metering Mode

I personally switch around between the three modes on the Q as the light is always changing and is totally different at each show.

Autofocus

You have to go with AF-C (continuous) and it works great on the Q!

White balance

I always shoot auto white balance. With concert photography white balance has to be fixed in post. That’s my opinion at least.

RAW (DNG) or JPEG?

With the Q I always shoot DNG-JPEG. I love to have control of a RAW (DNG) file. I personally don’t need the JPEGS, which annoys me a little bit, but I think/hope that Leica will fix this with a firmware update so I can shoot just DNG files.

OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation)

In my case of (really, really crazy) concert photography I leave it off. I tried to use it with OIS on, but for me personally I get better results when it’s turned off.
Why the Q for concerts?

I LOVE the simplicity! I also shoot with a Sony a6000, which has so many gadgets and settings that no serious shooter needs. The Q has exactly what I need. No less and no more and I just love that! Some people don’t care about these things, but I do. Maybe because of my Media Design background where I also try to be as efficient and simple as possible. The switch from single to continuous shooting is so amazing and easy going. It can be turned on without looking, which is very good and bad lighting at a show. The singer starts to jump around and you want to capture more photos to get that „one shot“ and I just pull a little bit with my finger and there you go! The Shutter speed dial is also super good to use in bad lighting conditions. At a concert you have to use your camera without moving it from your eye and the only time I have to this with the Q is to change the ISO, which is totally fine and an „alright“ compromise. I personally work a lot more with the shutter speed during a show. Using the Q at a Metal show is so intuitive, that it almost hurts me when I have to use my Sony (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the a6000 and I will keep it until it dies, but the Q just makes more sense to me).

To quote Steve “This camera just makes me want to go out and shoot photos”. Of course I do have my requirements like a full-frame sensor, wide aperture and stuff like that, but when a camera makes me get off the couch and go photograph some crazy metal heads is a good camera to me. I am a Sony freak and I always used Sonys, but no Sony I was ever using gave me that feeling. If my finances would allow it I would replace all my Sonys with the Leica SL with some lenses to never lose that “I wanna get something done” feeling. Maybe that’s why I sometimes go out to shows JUST with the Q without the backup of one of my Sonys.

Sony, please don’t hate me .. I will always be your friend! :)

What I also love is the crop button. Of course the photos are just cropped when you use it, which you could do easily in post, but it really gives me the feeling of having 3 lenses with me. I also don’t need to mention the quality build. „Made in Germany“ .. I think that says it all. It just feels so amazing and just RIGHT to hold it and use it as much as I can. I just love that camera.

I found some blogs, where editors say that Q is not for everyone, which is true. It has a 28 mm lens, which is not very common and many people don’t know how to handle that I guess. There are also some smaller flaws, which are pretty easy to fix with a firmware update and hopefully it will come at some point! All in all it’s THE PERFECT CAMERA for me as a concert photographer and someone who loves to have a small, black and sexy camera with a red dot on it to capture the life on the streets as well.

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