Apr 012014
 

Isle of Skye. My Fuji X-series review

By Ben Cherry

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

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

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

http://www.bencherryphotos.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography

https://twitter.com/Benji_Cherry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jun 122013
 

Reviews coming SOON! Leica X Vario, Zeiss Touit Lenses, Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton and Olympus E-P5

Hello everyone! It has been a rowdy week with all of the Leica news and the new X Vario camera. I know many of us (most of us) were disappointed as we were really hoping for a real “Mini M”. I think the problem was the fact that Leica teased us with the “Mini M” promo but to be fair, they all called the X2 the “Micro M” so we could have read into it any way we wanted to.

 

The Leica X Vario Camera is on the way!

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Now that the dust is settling and we now know that this is indeed the new Leica camera I have one on the way for a full review. B&H Photo is shipping me one today so I can evaluate it for a couple of weeks. Was shipped out today so I should get it within a few days. I will use it, test it and bring it along to Palouse for the workshop coming up on the 21st of the month. I have no doubt it will make for a fine daylight landscape camera, NO DOUBT AT ALL :) I feel the camera will lose its appeal for me when I take it to lower natural light. With that slow zoom, it just does not seem possible to get nice clean shots in low light. But in any case, I have one on the way for review so I am looking forward to it. I remember hating the Nikon V1 specs and then loving the camera so you never know. I will give my 100% honest evaluation of the camera so stay tuned! All site sponsor dealers have them in stock as of today for anyone feeling the zoom love. Those sponsors are always listed on the right side of any page :)

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The NEW Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton Chrome/Brass M Mount

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I am really excited to be getting my very own Chrome Voigtlander 50 1.5 lens from Camera Quest this week! This is the new M mount redesign of the legendary 50 1.5 Nokton screw mount of the past. That old lens competed head on with the Leica Summilux and the new version looks like a classic lens, made of chrome and brass and my guess is that it will be damn good. I am hoping to have mine by the end of the week so when it gets here, expect a 1st look video and snaps with a full review to follow. Camera quest has only a few left in Chrome in their 1st shipment and black is all sold out but if you ask me, Chrome is the way to go as it is limited edition and built just like they used to make them. REAL Brass and Chrome. You can buy one here for shipping this week, but as I said, only a few remain. You can also order a black for shipping in July.

Specs (hey, the lens hood is even included)

Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton Leica M mount Aspherical

M Mount

Close Focus .7 Meter

5 Groups, 6 elements

Filter size 49mm

Length 47.7mm

Diameter 53.8mm

f/1.5 to f/16

Black or Chrome (real chrome on brass)

Notice the smaller 49mm filter size compared to the earlier 50/1.5 Screw mount version. Voigtlander has apparently modified the formula slightly

Lens Hood included

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Zeiss Touit Lenses on the Fuji X

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I have also been shooting the X-E1 with the new Zeiss Touit Lenses and they look and feel FANTASTIC.

The Zeiss lenses are a great addition to the Sony NEX and Fuji X line as they feel like solid pro glass should. Amazing build and feel and while the 32 1.8 is about equal to the Fuji 35 1.4 in IQ and output, the construction is indeed much nicer. But I will have that review up very soon as well.

For those joining Ashwin and I in Palouse I will have all of this gear with me including my M 240 for anyone to take a look at. Should be a blast and I can not wait! PopFlash.com now is a Fuji X Dealer and they also carry the full line of Zeiss Touit lenses.

X-E1 and the 32 1.8 Zeiss Touit with nice window light

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The Zeiss Touit 12mm 2.8 in 111 degree heat in Apache Junction AZ :)

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BTW, I will have the Olympus E-P5 HOPEFULLY before Palouse by may not get that one until I return. Either way, it will have a full review!

Jun 022013
 

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OK, Fuji has announced some savings on the Fuji X line of cameras and lenses. Get these deals below:

$200 off on the Fuji X PRO 1 body at B&H Photo, Amazon or PopFlash.com

$200 off on the Fuji X-E1 body at  B&H Photo, Amazon or PopFlash.com

$200 off on the Fuji X-E1 with 18-55mm lens at  B&H Photo, Amazon or PopFlash.com

There are also lens deals going on when purchased with a body at up to $300 off lenses when you add the lens and camera to your cart. It appears Fuji has some new bodies coming :)

 

Apr 052013
 

Journeys with the Fuji X-E1 and Olympus OM-D by Arindam Pal

Hi Steve,

Ever since I started following you, my opinions about photography systems changed. Your articles have inspired me to move to a smaller form factor even after shooting full frame for years.

I will try to be brief with my story. I started shooting a few years back but never improved because of poor lens choices and lack of proper education. Then I purchased my first Full Frame, a Nikon D700. Coupled with a few good pro lenses, the initial IQ motivated me to gain more education in this fascinating hobby. So, even though I work as a Management Consultant, my second career would definitely be in photography where I work for myself and not The Man.

When I started reading your blog and discovered mirror-less cameras and the gorgeous Leica, I was skeptical about migrating to a whole new system. But the constant barrage of mind-blowing photos from fellow enthusiasts ignited a spark and I bought my first compact system – the Fuji X-E1 along with 35 f/1.4, 18 f/2 and a Voigtlander 21 f/4. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with considerable less load to lug around and the superior IQ that rivaled even my D700 in low light. I used the system on a trip to Maui. As you can see, the monochrome renditions and the shallow DoF when wide open were better than what I had expected from this system. Even the color spectrum looked great. It was my companion for a few months.

But then, the utterly sluggish AF posed a lot of problems in the kinds of shots I was aiming for. After reading a few comparison reports, I decided to sell the system for an OM-D with the Pana-Leica 25 f/1.4 and the Oly 45 f/1.8. Overall, I am happy with the system as I can now get sharp focus without even trying! However, I do miss the Fuji look and in contrast to what many others have said, the low light high ISO of the OM-D still does not compare to what the X-trans sensor could do. But for everyday purposes, this system fits fine and even though I was nervous in moving to the M43 format, I think there is no doubt that from a sensor that small, the IQ and the fun factor shooting with the OM-D just topples every notion of modern-day photography. My dream compact would be an updated full frame X-trans like sensor, OVF/EVF with rangefinder options for MF, Leica quality glass and snappy AF with a hybrid contrast/phase detect. Let us see what the future brings!

Cheers,

Arindam

Image 1: X-E1 with 35 1.4, ISO 250 f/2.8; 4 wheel drive in Lanai 

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Image 2: X-E1 with 35 1.4, ISO 2000 f/1.4; I loved the super shallow DoF of my wife’s eyes

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Image 3: X-E1 with 18 f/2, ISO 800 f/5.6; sunset shot but handheld – carried the least amount of gear as possible

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Image 4: OM-D with 45 f/1.8, ISO 1600 f/1.8; the rickshaw puller during a recent trip to India was surprised to see why I was shooting him

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Image 5: OM-D with 25 f/1.4, ISO 200 f/2.2; Streets of Old Delhi – the pup had decided to take an afternoon siesta on top of a parked car

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Image 6: OM-D with 25 f/1.4, ISO 1600 f/1.4; A hand pump (or tube well) that provides fresh water to the neighborhood. I liked the small area of light on this otherwise dark street

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Image 7: OM-D with 45 f/1.8, ISO 1600 f/1.8; Dimly lit room but the IQ was quite good unless you pixel peep

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Jan 302013
 

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The SLR Magic 35 T 1.4 Lens on the Fuji X-E1

by Steve Huff

SLR Magic. Fuji. One new brand on the scene with some new and different but very cool lenses and the other a well-known and respected brand who has been kicking some serious booty these last 2-3 years with a comeback of sorts and a new line of digital cameras that are arguably the best yet in the history of the company (for digital). Of course I am speaking about Fuji, a brand I actually have a ton of love for. Back in the “old days” I owned ALL of their digital and even a few film cameras. The S1 Pro, S2 pro, skipped the S3 and owned and adored the S5 Pro during a time in my life when all I seemed to do was take photographs all day long. I would head out for a drive or hike, S5 in hand and escape my daily stress by pressing the shutter button.

That S5 Pro rocked with amazing colors and quality. The body which was based on a Nikon D200 was slow when compared to the Nikon counterpart but I did not care back then because of the choices that were available in digital, for me, the S5 was it. But not everyone loved the S5. Many Nikon guys would trash it and say it was garbage and why would you spend more on the S5 than a new D200 and then D300?

Well, to those who owned the S5, we all knew what it was all about and loved it for its charm.

The last Fuji digital DSLR, the S5 Pro – I owned it and loved it because at the time there was not much else out there, unlike today where we have a multitude of options in the digital camera world. 

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But this post is not for me to sit here and reminisce about the S5 Pro as it has been gone for a few years now. After Fuji stopped the S5 Pro the word was they would no longer be producing any DSLR’s but at the time, little did we know what they had in store.

Today we have the X100, upcoming X100s and the X “bodies” the X-Pro 1 and the X-E1. To those who have read this site for a while you know that I have criticized the X-Pro 1 for its AF flaws as well as the 35 1.4 lens. As beautiful as the 35 1.4 can be, for me it has underperformed in the usability dept (in lower light) when compared to other cameras. Does this mean I am trashing the Fuji X-Pro 1? HELL NO! If you read my review of that camera I praised it for its image quality and again when I used it on “The Cruise” I praised it some more. But even with those praises I can not sit here and lie and tell everyone that the AF rocks in lower light, because it does not. So to those who are sending me hate mail and comments saying I do not know what I am talking about, think again. Because I do. I am not insulting your camera, I am evaluating it so please do not take offense if I point out the weaknesses of it. I do this with all cameras just as I did with the NEX series AF issues or the Leica RF issues, etc.

I have a long history with Fuji digital cameras and have owned and shot with them all. Like I have said in the past, the X100 is one of my all time favorite digital cameras EVER. To me, that is the perfect Fuji digital right now and the X100s will be even better because it should have accurate and speedy AF. Finally. Fuji knows they are not the best in the AF dept and it is awesome to see them stepping it up to improve upon it. I expect the X-Pro 2 to rock it in all areas and this is when we will see the usability match the IQ. My crystal ball says so :)

So with that out-of-the-way and me stating clearly that I LOVE FUJI and when it is ON it is ON! The color, snap and overall feel of the Fuji JPEGS rock, even for simple snapshots:

The X-E1 and Fuji 35 1.4 in good light rocks :) OOC JPEG.

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With that,  let me get to this SLR Magic review :)

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The SLR Magic $279 35 T 1.4 Lens on the X-E1

1st, my thoughts on the Fuji X-E1 in a super quick  “shortest review ever”

The X-E1 and 35 T 1.4

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The Fuji X-E1 has been out for a while now and it has been reviewed to death. Amy Medina has also written about the X-E1 on this very site, and she LOVES her X-E1. You can read her review HERE. As for me, I will not be really reviewing the X-E1 in a big huge review as it is pretty much similar to the X-Pro 1, just smaller and more compact and without the OVF (optical view finder). The X-E1 has an electronic viewfinder and for that I say HALLELUJAH! That is one area that Fuji really “gets”. With Sony skipping the EVF in the beautiful RX1 at $2799 we have Fuji including one in their $999 X-E1 body. Viewfinders rock no way around it which is why I have the external on my RX1. There is nothing worse than being in full sun trying to hold out the camera in front of you to frame the shot and being blinded by the sun rays.

So the X-E1 wins in its design with the built-in EVF, square retro style shape and easy controls. The camera has some quirks though like AF missing at times (with some lenses), and the overexposure issue in which most people solve by shooting with some EV comp dialed in. But why should we have to do this?

In comparison to the X-Pro 1 I prefer the X-E1. It has a nicer size, and for my hands, it feels better in my hands. It has the same IQ as the Pro-1 as it shares the same exact sensor. I still prefer the older X100 for my tastes but for those who want interchangeable lens capability this is where it is at in the Fuji X line. Unless you really want that hybrid OVF/EVF in the Pro 1, this is the one to get and you save money as well.

Overall the X-E1 is a winner as for the price you can get some deliciously amazing IQ and for me, it is the color that really makes it with Fuji. The OOC JPEGS using Velvia simply knock it out of the park with their rich Fuji like colors. The IQ from the Fuji, when it nails it is astounding. I have seen some amazing pro work done on these Fuji bodies and it excels in the studio as well. Give this body good light and it will reward you with rich images and that Fuji color and look.

In any case, I have had an X-E1 on hand for a few weeks along with the Fuji 35 1.4 and the SLR Magic 35 T 1.4. I have also had the kit 18-55 Zoom, which has been great to AF BTW. Much quicker than the somewhat slow 35 1.4 . But this review will focus on the SLR Magic 35 T 1.4 lens which comes in at $279 direct from SLR Magic. Sort of a “budget” lens for a fast 35 but it is not perfect! Read on for the details…

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The Build

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The build of the SLR Magic lens seems VERY good. When you take it out of the nice box you will be pleased at the heft, solidity and smoothness of the lens. It feels like a $700 lens as it appears solid as a rock and when you think “I paid less than $300″ you feel it is well worth the cost just on looks and build alone. Also, just to mention, I have heard from a reader who purchased this lens and his had some wobble or slop that he said caused the focus to not be accurate. I tested my lens for this and have not seen this issue. My score for build: 8 out of 10 when you consider the cost of this lens.

See the video below of this lens next to the Fuji 35 1.4:

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The Feel

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The feel of the lens is nice. Smooth to manually focus and with a clickless aperture. This is a “cine” lens by design so no clicks when you change the aperture. I like it and it is the same with mostly all SLR Magic lenses. The lens feels nice on the camera and in the hand. Hard to imagine you are using a lens that costs under $300 when you are shooting with it. BUT when you use the focus ring you do hear some slight noise as in, it is not silky smooth like you will get with premium manual lenses. Score for FEEL: 7 out of 10.

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The Image Quality

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Again, a mixed bag. Some shots blew me away and some left me wondering what went wrong. Focusing the lens at 1.4 is TOUGH. Without focus peaking on the Fuji it can be a chore to nail the AF with any kind of speed. When I look through the EVF and focus I can clearly see when I am in focus but when I fire off the shot and look at the image on my computer screen I see that I am NOT in focus. 1st I though the lens was just soft wide open but take a look at the image below which was shot wide open..bitingly sharp:

click image for larger – this was shot at 1.4 with the X-E1 and Fuji 35 T 1.4! Amazing color and detail. 

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So while some of my shots were really sharp, some were a little off due to me missing the focus ever so slightly. I found that if I stopped down to f/2 all was cured and all shots were much easier to focus. So if you buy this lens I would consider it an “f/2″ lens because if you want to nail focus 99% of the time this is where you will need to shoot it. I am happy with that :) One thing with the IQ is that the color is a bit warmer than what you get from the Fuji 35 1.4. I used to call this “dirty” as I have seen in some lower cost lenses. It is not huge but in the Fuji vs SLR Magic test below you will see what I mean.

Score for IQ: 7 out of 10.

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Bokeh Quality

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SLR Magic told me that this lens is not about sharpness or detail but more about pleasing Bokeh.  This lens was designed to give you good results in all areas but especially with very smooth Bokeh. In regards to detail, it is a huge step up from their Toy Lenses, but a step down from their premium Hyperprime series. Again, for $279 this lens seems like a winner to me as long as you are not out to capture crazy detail wide open :) As for what they told me about Bokeh, YOU be the judge. I think it looks great but everyone has their own onions as to what makes for gorgeous out of focus qualities. My Bokeh score: 7.5 out of 10 as I have seen much worse but have also seen better.

The images below were all shot around f/1.4 to f/2 – click them for larger views. The last one was at 1.4 and you can see the softness or misfocus. Focusing wide open is a challenge. 

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What about the Fuji 35 1.4 vs the SLR Magic T 1.4?

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Well, these lenses are amazingly different from each other. One is auto focus, very sharp and crisp and is made by Fuji. The other is manual focus, a bit soft wide open and is made by SLR Magic. One is $599 and one is $279. When choosing between these two lenses you have to think to yourself what you want from a lens. If you want AF capabilities, go with the Fuji. If you want superior sharpness, go with the Fuji. If you want a hefty build, manual focus, slightly softer results wide open and to pay more than $330 less, go with the SLR Magic.

The SLR Magic will give you a less perfect view of the world, the Fuji, a more perfect and crisp view. The Fuji can POP. Think of the Fuji like a new 4K HD TV set and the SLR Magic like a 1080P set. :)

But to some, that statement will not be enough. Nope, you want to SEE the difference. Since I have both lenses here I decided to do a quick and simple test and will put the full OCC shots below in JPEG (since Adobe is not compatible with the RAW files of the Fuji and I use Adobe)

Take a look at the images below and click each one for full size. The 1st one is with the Fuji 35 1.4 and  the 2nd is with the SLR Magic 35 T 1.4.

1st up, the SLR Magic OOC JPEG at f/2.8 – notice the color differences between it and the Fuji lens – both at 1/4000s

Click image for the full size OOC file

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Fuji is sharper as you can see below in the Fuji shot at f/2.8 and 1/4000.  Click it for full size OOC JPEG

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Which do YOU prefer? Remember the SLR Magic is all manual and comes in at $279 right now. The Fuji is $599 or about $330 more expensive. The Fuji is indeed sharper and crisper, no question there.

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My final word on the SLR Magic 35 T 1.4 Lens for the Fuji X mount

When Andrew from SLR Magic emailed me and warned me that this lens is not designed for sharpness I was a little worried. I figured they just bumped up the price of their toy lenses to make more profit but I was wrong. When the lens arrived I saw that it was a very well made lens that appeared to be built well above its price point. When I started shooting it I saw what he meant as it could be soft at 1.4 but at the same time, I have also gotten sharp results with it which leads me to believe it is just my focus error. By f/2 this lens is sharp  and if you take your time and focus critically you can come away with some nice looking results.

The Bokeh quality is very nice and overall when you add in the way this lens draws, with a soft fat brush instead of a thin detail brush, you will then see what this lens is about. SLR Magic has been releasing some very interesting lenses lately. The Hyperprime 35 T 0.95 and now this little low-cost wonder, the 35 T 1.4. If the image quality you see here appeals to you then you will probably enjoy the hell out of this lens.

If it is crispness and sharpness you want though, I suggest the Fuji 35 1.4 as it can provide plenty of pop and detail. For the $279 intro price this SLR Magic lens is tough to beat. As usual with SLR Magic offerings, I really enjoy it and if I decide to keep an X-E1 around, this would be in my collection of glass.

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Where To buy the SLR Magic 35 1.4

This lens can be ordered direct from SLR Magic by emailing them at [email protected]  – Andrew has told me a new website is coming, and I sure hope so. Would make it much easier to buy these lenses :)

Where to buy the Fuji X-E1 and 35 1.4?

I shop at B&H photo for my Non Leica needs and they have the Fuji X-E1 body HERE. They also sell the 35 1.4 lens HERE and the kit with 18-55 Zoom HERE.  The kit zoom is really good BTW. Much faster to AF than the 35.

More images from the lens below. As always, click on them for larger views :) EXIF is embedded in all of them as well but seeing that this lens does not record aperture to the camera this number may be off. As always, thanks for reading!

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Dec 292012
 

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Gorgeous new SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 and 35 T1.4 arrives for testing!

The “Noctlux” for your APS-C Mirrorless

The 35 T 0.95 Hyperprime ASP-H M mount Lens

So..you want a super fast, super sharp, super built, super bokeh 50mm equivalent cream machine for your Sony NEX, Fuji X or EOS-M camera? How about a 70mm equivalent for your Micro 4/3?  Want one for each system without having to buy three different lenses? I know I do..and such a lens has just arrived to the Huff Household. Yep,  UPS arrived yesterday with a huge box from SLR Magic and what the box held were two lenses I have been excited to review for a few weeks now. One of them is the premium 35mm APS-H Hyperprime (their premium quality line of lenses)  and I have to say that it is a BEAUTY.

It’s large, hefty, built like a solid brick and is a damn nice T0.95 lens, which in F stop land means about f/0.92! This is the 50mm equivalent 0.95 lens for APS-C mirrorless camera shooters! Almost Like having a Noctilux for your Fuji X or NEX, speed wise anyway :)

t0.95onnex

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This is an all manual lens designed for ALL of the popular mirrorless systems. You can shoot this one lens  on the NEX system, Fuji X system, EOS-M or Micro 4/3 system. How so you ask? Well, when ordering you just choose which system you want to use it with but the beauty of it all is that if you own 2 or 3 or all of these systems you only need ONE lens and it will be compatible with all of your cameras using an adapter.

This lens is actually an M mount design but not to be used on an M camera. Instead SLR Magic made it in the M mount because so many adapters are made for this mount. So this one lens can be used on almost any mirrorless system with an adapter. This was a great move IMO. For example, if I have a Fuji X camera and an OM-D and a NEX-6 or 7, this one lens can be shot on all of them. Awesome.

One thing I found while doing test shots is that even with focus peaking set to on with the NEX-6 this lens is a beast to focus correctly when shooting wide open. It has a massively razor thin level of DOF at T0.95 so your focus has to be pinpoint precise or else the images will be slightly soft at the focus point if you miss.

A quick OOC JPEG at T 0.95 and the Sony NEX-6  – remember this is wide open at T0.95 

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The particular lens that was sent to me was shipped with the Sony E Mount adapter so I will be testing it on the NEX-6 (see 1st three OOC JPEGS above) and then later the Fuji X system as soon as I get an adapter for it. It appears the Fuji adapter will not work correctly but there are some that will and SLR Magic will be shipping them with their own Fuji adapter that will work just fine.

Out of the box, this lens looks pretty bad ass but I can not speak enough about how large it is. IT IS LARGE. So if you are hoping for something small this is not your lens. If you want super quality Bokeh and image quality it just might be your lens. The packaging is solid this time around with the lens and adapter encased in solid foam so there is no chance of shipping damage (unless the UPS guys decide to play soccer with it). I am excited to review this one.

A couple of B&W JPEGS with the NEX-6 wide open at T0.95

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This 35mm T0.95 APS-H Hyperprime  lens will be selling for $1349 starting in February 2013 from SLR Magic and that is a decent price considering their 50 T0.95 for M mount was nearing the $5k mark (this was mainly due to the RF coupling and it being a full frame lens). In the same price range as this lens is the Voigtlander 35 1.4 in M mount. Many use that lens as their fast 35 on their mirrorless systems and love it but from what I have seen, this lens just may surpasses that one in Image Quality and Bokeh when used on mirrorless cameras. The only negative is that you can use the Voigtlander on an M camera as it is a full frame lens. Again, This SLR Magic is NOT full frame so while it has an M mount, it is not compatible with M cameras.

The soon to be released SLR Magic 35 T0.95 HYPERPRIME premium lens. (all product shots with Sony RX1)

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For those of you who have seen my review on the previous SLR Magic hyper prime, the 50 T0.95 for Leica M mount you may remember that I loved it and declared it to be just about equal to the Leica Noctilux f0.95 in image quality (in real world use) and I preferred the Bokeh of the SLR Magic. The construction of the Leica Noctilux is better (as is the resale value) but for all out IQ the HyperPrime was amazing. I never had one issue with it on my Leica M9-P or the Monochrom. It was large and heavy but it packed some serious glass. Unfortunately, as far as I know this lens is no longer shipping in the USA (the 50 T0.95) so if you managed to snag one, you have a rare lens in your collection :)

This new 35 T/0.95 seems to have rock solid construction and design, is much less expensive with maybe even better build quality and is a T0.95 35mm which will be like a T0.95 50mm on APS-C mirror-less cameras. Finally a fast and exotic 50mm for your APS-C. BUT, can it deliver the goods? I am not sure yet as I just got it so I will be shooting it in Vegas next week to give it a workout.

I will not know anything until I thoroughly use it but from the looks and feel it is impressive. This lens will come in at $1349 and will be available from SLR Magic starting February 2013. They are also offering $100 off for early buyers so keep an eye out here for info.

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The SLR Magic 35 T1.4 for APS-C

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SLR Magic also sent me their new 35 T1.4 lens to test out on the Fuji X-E1 and this lens is coming in at only $349. It is a budget lens but it certainly does not look or feel like one. This lens is also available for all other mirrorless systems but will come in whatever mount you order it in. The one that I was sent is for Fuji X and for a $349 lens this is one hell of a well built lens. Metal construction with the weight of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. This is no cheap toy lens in the construction department and the packaging is just as nice as the Hyperprime lens.

Andrew from SLR Magic told me they have tweaked their packaging and it shows.

This lens is not up to par with the T0.95 Hyperprime in the IQ department but it is not designed to be. This $349 lens is built for Bokeh it seems as it delivers a rich and creamy out of focus rendering with bit of softness to the images when shot at 1.4 wide open. The lens seems to sharpen up by 2.8 but even wide open will give you a soft etheral look.

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What is nice about this lens is the build and the fact that you can order it NOW in any mount you want. This is what SLR Magic told me about the availability of this lens:

“The 35mm T1.4 is available now. We have it for X mount, E mount, EF-M mount, and mFT mount. It is not up on our website or eBay yet but people can already order by emailing us at [email protected] to get it before it is up on our website. We have already sold a bunch for the mFT version”.

So you can order  this lens now if you desire and what is even better is that if you bought one of their older 35 1.7 toy lenses you can trade it in for a $90 credit towards this new lens (which is a much nicer lens than the toy lens in build and IQ). Also, if you order by Feb 2013 you can take $70 off of the price:

“We have two programs

A) Owners of the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7 can ship their lens back to Hong Kong for trade-in at $90 value to upgrade.

B) If bought by Feb 2012 from us we have a $70 promotional rebate program.”

So if you buy this lens by Feb 2013 it will come in at only $279. Great buy for any mirrorless camera system if you want great Bokeh and a unique quality. This lens is not a pin sharp lens when used at 1.4 or f/2. It sharpens up by F2.8. I will be reviewing this lens as well with the Fuji X-E1 so stay tuned!

A couple of OOC JPEGS to show Bokeh Quality and expected sharpness at 1.4

“Best Beer in the world Part 2″

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“Goodbyes”

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 Remember that this is an all manual lens so you will have to manually focus and manually set Aperture on the lens barrel. Much like using a Leica M lens on your mirrorless camera. Both of these new lenses also have clickless aperture rings as they are “Cine” lenses which happen to be great for videos as well.

So if you want to order this 35 T 1.4 lens for your system you can e-mail SLR Magic for details at [email protected]. My full reviews will be coming soon on both of these.

 

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Dec 192012
 

fighting

Gear Acquisition Syndrome…Fighting the addiction by Emil Cobarrubia

Hi Steve,

My name is Emil and like many other readers out there, I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now and have been using it for camera gear reference and as a window to hear/see other people’s experiences. Photography is not my profession nor are my skills at capturing images are in any way “professional”. I’m actually very new to this medium. However, it is something I’ve grown to love and feel passionate about. It’s allowed me to discover wonders in things I would’ve normally overlooked.

After becoming a little intimate with the process of capturing images, one tends to hit the forums, blogs, and review sites to get a glimpse of other people’s experiences, advices, and of course, their equipment.

While wandering around these places, it’s hard not to come by such catch-phrases as “Bokeh!”, “Leica look!”, “AF speed”, “Retro-Design!”, and “Full Frame”! Boy, what strong adjectives these are. Of course they sparked my curiosity. I found myself saying, “Wow that’d be cool to have!”

Countless threads, forums, blogs, and reviews later….the hunger and temptation grew stronger. Everyone was talking about it…… how could I ever snap another frame without the Leica look and creamy bokeh?! How could I ever capture another image without the fastest AF?!

And so, this short reflection is about how I forgot what made me happy about photography and how I made a spiraling descent into what we’ve all come to know as Gear Acquisition Syndrome :).

 

Nikon D800

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One of the big decisions for me was waiting for the next Nikon full frame camera. I had my eye on the D700 for a while to replace my then-current D90. I loved the high ISO capabilities the D700 showed and hoped that Nikon’s successor would have the same level of ISO capabilities. Then came the announcement of Nikon’s behemoth D800 with talks of even outdoing the D700 in terms of ISO. That was my chance and calling. The preorder was in and I finally had my first full frame camera. I mounted the Nikkor 24-70 and love it dearly…. but man….. is that thing heavy!

 Leica X1

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I had a backup camera, or at least a camera to compliment the SLR, since I had my D90. This camera was the Leica X1.

I remember looking at images from the Leica X1 on this site for the first time and was simply floored by the quality. I just couldn’t believe that this little machine was pumping out images similar (and better) to my then-current D90. The lens had great character, files looked amazing in B&W, and to top it off, it physically looked like no other digital camera out there. It was a fun tool to use and more importantly, I was able to freeze memories that were dear to me. And to be honest, the AF didn’t bother me because I wasn’t shooting moving subjects. If anything, it forced me to put a little more thought into the image I was capturing…..something I wasn’t doing with a SLR. Truth be told….. I was happy.

But being happy didn’t stop me from roaming the forums, review sites, and comparison videos to learn more about my new X1.

I wanted to hear other people’s experiences with the camera, see what they thought about it, see what other images the X1 had produced. And in doing so, it’s not unlikely to come across criticisms.

The more I read about how people were unhappy with the X1’s AF, low-res screen, lack of VF, telescoping lens, loose dials, the need to remove the handgrip to replace the SD card or battery, the shutter lag, lack of video recording… the more my brain was conditioned to dislike it. The delight I felt with this camera was replaced with a degree of regret.

“Did I get the right camera?”, “Is there a better one out there that offers better IQ, better AF etc. for less money?” were some of the questions I began asking myself.

And while there ARE valid and practical answers to these questions, the real question should be, “Why ask yourself such questions if you are, indeed, already happy?”.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes not as easy to come to this realization when you’ve become stimulated, curious, and excited.

Excited not about capturing your next image, but excited about capturing your next camera…….

Olympus OMD EM5

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The OMD could’ve been the answer to the X1 for me: approximately the same size, Muhammad Ali-like AF and continuous shooting, cirque du soleil-image stabilization, HFR EVF, metal construction, weather sealing, customizable controls, tilt-able touch-screen LCD, kitchen sink, butler, tax accountant etc. It really was a night-and-day difference compared to the X1. Micro 4/3 has also came a long way and started becoming close, if not equaling, to the quality of APS-C sensors. It really is a knockout.

With all the OMD’s positives and breakthrough features over the X1, for some reason, I never got attached to it.

I did end up missing the IQ of the X1. Not to say the IQ of the OMD is bad… it’s very good actually.

IQ became my priority and so, around the Fujifilm corner, word of a new firmware update came rumbling about. An update that actually made the X100 into completely different camera than when it was released. Some have claimed to rarely never miss a shot with the new AF and that the SAB problem was discretely addressed. Well….curiosity got the better of me once again and I was excited about capturing the new camera and not the next image.

The OMD? Returned.

 Fuji X100

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The experience I had with the X100 was sublime. Being a late adopter, I had no experience with the issues some have mentioned (i.e. slow AF, sticky aperture blades etc.). I felt as if this should’ve been the one I got in the first place…. instead of the X1. It had a built-in OVF/EVF which is actually quite fun and gave a very unique shooting experience. The AF, after the firmware update, was much faster than the X1 (yet a little slower than the OMD). It was something I instantly connected to.

The one thing that sold this camera for me…..the colors. I found Fuji’s color rendering to be very pleasing. The skin tones were just wonderful. Another thing I loved with the X100 is how the lens renders lens flare when shooting into the sun. The X100 is a damn good camera and I can understand why people swear by their X100s.

Once again, I was happy and there couldn’t be another camera out there that could sway me from my X100.

But…..………What’s this I hear about some X-Trans sensor with no AA filter and a mighty 35mm f1.4 that gives some Leica glasses a run for their money?

The X100? Returned.

Fuji X-Pro 1

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The X-Pro 1 + 35mm combo is beast. IQ was just a big fat “wow”. Another great camera which I adopted later on… post firmware 2.0. I didn’t experience the so-called dreadful AF speeds. One thing I did immediately noticed about the X-Pro 1 which was kind of annoying: While wearing polarizing sunglasses, the VF is black. Close to a deal breaker for me as I have prescription sunglasses and taking them off to see through the viewfinder……..well let’s just say I won’t see anything at all :)

Anyhow, like many others out there, the X100 was my point of reference when looking at the X-Pro 1. The VF on the X-Pro 1 was smaller than the X100, no diopter, OVF frame lines weren’t as accurate as on X100 etc. However, the X-Pro 1 did have some welcome features over the X100 such as the high-res LCD screen and the colors were just as good if not better than the X100. Noise was also a key difference and ISO 6400 is quite usable.

I know there are problems out there with RAW conversion and most will prefer the traditional Bayer pattern sensor for easier processing, but I feel there is some magic to be found in the X-Trans sensor.

So that’s it! I’ve made up my mind! I’m going to keep the X-Pro 1! It does everything the X100 does, and in some areas, better…..I just wish it was a little smaller…. you know….about the size of the X100.

The X-Pro 1? Returned.

Fuji X-E1 (taken with D800) – (from Steve: looks like the strap and button from my “Pimp Your X100 Article)

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Damnit.

In the End

So I’ve went on to describe my experiences and how I felt with each camera, reiterating the pros and cons you all probably know by heart. Yet I never commented or mentioned anything about the photographs………..instead I chose to share opinions about the camera I was using. I’ve embodied the consumer and I hope to come back to reality and be thankful I even have something to capture a memory or tell a story with.

A fancier word processor doesn’t make a novelist a better novelist and a Steinway does not make a pianist a better pianist.

Hopefully, by writing this, it can bring light into the whole “gear acquisition syndrome” thing. I feel it all just leads to unhappiness, uncertainty, and money loss. We can enjoy photography without feeling obligated to get the latest & greatest.

With that being said, I’m keeping my X-E1. I love it and it’s helped me freeze the moments I wanted to keep.

Like Steve said, it’s a great time to be into photography and there are some great cameras out there…. Just don’t lose focus and let it take away the passion and energy…… unless of course it’s the new M or RX1……. Just kidding ;) !

Emil

Sep 042012
 

Fuji X-Pro 1 Bundle Deals! Save up to $300!

Fuji is offering a bundle deal right now on the somewhat slow selling X-Pro 1. To boost sales and get ready for their Photokina releases (along with the new interchangeable lens fuji X100 look-alike X-E1) you can now save some big money on Fuji X lenses. Buy an X-Pro 1 now at $1699 and you can buy either the 18 f/2 or 35 1.4 for $300 off! This means that the 18mm or 35 1.4 would be $299 instead of $599. So you can literally save $300 if you want to buy an X-Pro 1 along with the 18 or 35 bringing your grand  total to $2000 for the set (normally would be $2300).

If you want to  take advantage of this X-Pro 1 offer you can do so at B&H Photo HERE. Just add the X-Pro 1 to your cart and then you can add the lens of y our choice at the discounted price. 

or buy it at Amazon – fulfilled and shipped by Amazon!

Unfortunately you can only buy ONE lens not both, so you can not get an 18 and 35 for $299 just one or the other.

 

Below is the new X-E1 said too be announced/released at Photokina in under 2 weeks!

I have high hopes for the new Fuji cameras coming to Photokina. The X-E1 below looks like a Fuji X100 with a lens mount and the Fuji F1 appears to be the X10 replacement. Hopefully Fuji has sped up the operation of these cameras because if so they will be huge hits. If they fail to perform in the usability area then I think they will not be so well received. We shall see!

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