Apr 042014
 

A photographic journey through New Zealand

by Cuno von Hahn

Māori: Aotearoa – New Zealand

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The beauty and grandeur of New Zealand has captured the imagination of movie-maker and photographer in the past years, and the country is a dream destination for many around the world. It is a land of majestic snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, glaciers descending to rainforest’s, fiord’s, geysers and volcanoes.There are only a few countries that have such a geographical diversity – a reason for me to travel there.

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Of course, photography in New Zealand was as important for me as traveling around. All photos from Newzealand were shot with the X-Pro1, fujinon 14mm and fujinon 35mm.

Many people were asking me, if the New Zealand photos were made in HDR . I always try to avoid shooting HDR. Firstly, it is really complex and a time-consuming process and secondly, in my opinion the pictures become better and more natural, if I use graduate filters for more dynamic range. Surely that is not enough for getting a higher dynamic range. Shooting in RAW is also necessary.

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All my pictures are carefully exposed. While shooting I am always using the histogram as a control tool. I performed almost no post production and no cropping at all. Every correction is made in Adobe Camera Raw (There are enough tools and options integrated). But my maxim is always: Digital darkroom techniques should only be used to adjust the dynamic tonal range and color balance of an image so that it more closely resembles what you saw, and that it communicates the mood of the scene.

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I was also asked if I have encountered the X-TRANS RAW conversion problem. Yes – there are still problems. 20% (low settings) sharpening in ACR and the rest I`m doing in Photoshop. That works for me very well and I get rid of the swirlies. Have a look by yourself – I think the foliage looks nice and crisp.

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If someone would like to see some more scenery images of New Zealand (also shoot with the X-Pro 1) please visit:

www.newzealand-gallery.com

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Finally, if New Zealand is not on the top of your list of countries that you want to visit, change your mind trust me!

Cheers, Cuno

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 :)

 

Feb 142013
 

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A Day of Deals: Fuji X-E1 and X-Pro 1 Body and Lens Discounts

I usually do not post TWO camera deals in one day but I was just informed that B&H Photo is running a couple of Fuji deals on the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 bodies and I know many of you appreciate when I point out these specials as it saves you money. When you order a Fuji body at B&H you can also bundle lenses with them at a pretty substantial discount. For example, buy an X-E1 at $999 and you can add a variety of lens packages saving up to $913 if you go all out and buy the 35, 18-55, 60mm and 18mm. They have a few bundle options to choose from. How do you see them?

Click HERE to see the X-Pro 1 and link to available bundles

CLick HERE to see the X-E1 and link to available Bundles

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When you get to those pages you will see the text “Click Here to Save up to $913.85 with Lens Bundle…” – click that to see the available bundle offers for each body.

These deals expire on March 31st 2013, so they are good for the next month and a half.

BTW, also noticed they have lowered the price of some of the Macbook Pro Retina display models…

Dec 192012
 

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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

Dec 172012
 

Street Shooting in Iran

by Nate Robert – See his blog HERE

Hi Steve,

I wanted to make you aware of my journey to photograph the streets of many countries around the world. Very recently, I spent a month in Iran. A country that is very misunderstood, and quite mysterious to most. Of course, what I found is that street shooting in Iran, is just like anywhere else on Earth. Why? Because as the song goes – people are people. It needs to be said that Iranians are the most friendly and welcoming people I have encountered, and I’ve been to 37 countries so far (and counting), all in the name of cultural experience. The people of Iran hold no animosity towards Americans, or Westerners in general – they really do see the issues of governments as totally beyond the control of the citizens – whether that be their own government, or the US government. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together, right?

I’m traveling the world indefinitely, and at this point, I’m only using a single camera, with a single lens. The Fuji X-Pro 1, and the 18mm F2. This combination is in my opinion, the best travel camera set-up available. I’ve gone from a Nikon DSLR, to a Leica M6, to the Fuji. When you’re traveling, you need a light-weight setup – so that rules out DLSR’s. I love film, especially black and white, but it’s a chore to constantly be finding places that will develop my work when I’m in a foreign place. A digital Leica M would be nice, but it’s out of my budget. In my opinion, the IQ of the Fuji, combined with the shutter dial/aperture ring/exposure compensation adjustments and the optical viewfinder, make it the best camera for me. Of course, the X-Pro is not without quirks, and not for everyone.

I found it difficult to shoot street photography at first, not knowing what photographic regulations I needed to adhere to, nor knowing how the people would react to me. However, I slowly got into the groove, and a month later I had a small portfolio of images that I can look back at again and again, to remember such an incredible country.

If any of your readers would like to follow the journey, I think they would find it interesting – one lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go, and try to do a new set of street photos every few weeks or so.

Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it. (Thank’s Nate)!

Nate Robert

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Sep 212012
 

Hello to all and happy Friday! As many of you know I have been on a cruise ship for the past week as part of the 1st ever Steve Huff Photo Cruise! I have survived with absolute minimal internet connection as well. Most of the posts that went up last week were scheduled posts but today I have found a Starbucks in Newport Rhode Island so I can finally give an update!  Whew…what a week!

Those who have joined me on this cruise have been wonderful and from all over the world including France, Belgium, Germany, and  Switzerland! We have seen sights across the east coast and captured many memorable moments in photos. The cruise ends tomorrow morning and tonight we plan to go over photos we all captured along the way. 

Our group in St Martins – shot and processed by Ingo on his X-Pro 1 using a fisheye Rokinon lens (which ROCKS)

From left to right: Ingo, Me, Debby, Autumn, Todd, Jean Francois, Tania, Martine, Jean, Peter

I have been shooting with the Fuji X-pro 1 all week. Using the Fuji 35 1.4 and a Leica mount 60 1.2 Hexanon the image quality, as always with Fuji, can not be denied. The photos I am showing here are all straight from camera pretty much as I do not even have Photoshop on this machine I am using. So what you see is what I got :)

I shot for two days with the last firmware for the X-Pro 1 and the rest of the week with Version 2.0. I wanted to shoot both to see if I noticed a speed difference when it came to AF. There is also another guy on the cruise with me shooting the X-Pro 1 and we both updates the cameras at the same time and then we went out to shoot. We both agreed that the speed increase is not huge at all but minimal. Still, even with minimal increases it is better than no speed increase.

It seems to focus about as fast as my NEX-7 right now but when compared against the very 1st firmware Fuji shipped the camera with it is almost night and day. When I first reviewed the X-Pro 1 I nicknamed it the “X-Slow 1″ due to its sluggish AF performance and overall speed. Today when shooting the X-Pro 1 it feels much snappier all the way around. It is still not a camera meant for any kind of action shooting but it is comparable to other cameras on the market. Some are faster, some are slower so the X-pro 1 is right in the middle.

Testing the Voigtlander 15mm on the X-Pro 1 – No red corners, no issues. The X-Pro 1 does well with most wide-angle Leica mount glass. 

So overall I have grown to really like the Fuji X-Pro 1 because with the latest speed enhancements and features (which include better magnification options when Manually focusing and higher ISO when using Auto ISO) it is a great tool and has given me no problems all week besides the occasional missed shot due to low light focusing not being so hot.

As for the cruise, we have been having a great time with nightly dinners together in the main dining room with some fantastic food and desserts. I will make a post soon with photos from everyone who attended as soon as I am able to get some shots from them.

So that is all the time I have right now as we have to go explore Newport! Below are some of my shots from the trip using the X-Pro 1! I will be back home and back to regular updates starting Monday!

Enjoy your weekend!

Peggys Cove – Halifax, Nova Scotia – X-Pro 1 and 35 1.4

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At the gravesites of those who died on the Titanic

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St. Martins  - my favorite stop on this cruise. Beautiful and scenic and FUN! 35 1.4

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Todd and Autumn Hatakeyama enjoying some home made Ice Cream! 8mm Fisheye

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Hugh Jackman even joined us on the ship :) 35 1.4

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Great scenery and I believe that is Ingo in the lighthouse getting some shots – 35 1.4

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We all know that Fuji is known for its colors…this one POPS. 35 1.4

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Last chance – 35 1.4

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Jean Francois getting some shots…

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CRACKED! 35 1.4

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Bar Harbour Maine – A pooch waiting for his owner – 35 1.4

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Boston – A man shooting US with his Fuji X100

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Inside Starbucks – 35 1.4

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Here I am in an old 1600s cemetery – shot by Todd 

My favorite stops have been St Martins, Boston and Bar Harbour.  Before I sign off for now here are a a few behind the scenes shots…more to come! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!!!

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a couple from Ingo!

Sep 192012
 

I chose the X-pro 1

by Alex Friberg

Hi Steve!

Congratulations on a successful and inspiring blog!

I am a huge fan and checks for updates daily! My name is Axel Friberg, I’m from Stockholm, Sweden and I have been following your site for about two years. About the same time I got my first camera, the Nikon D5000. When I got the D5000 I knew very little about cameras or photography. But I loved it! I brought the camera and the 18-55mm lens to a concert (I think it was Teddybears STHLM) and started shooting. A guy behind me in the crowd, apparently also interested in photography, asked which camera and lens I used. Then he recommended the 50mm f/1.8, which he claimed was THE LENS to get for a newbie like myself. And it would be fairly cheap too! – Like I said, I knew very little about photography at the time. I looked it up on Amazon and started reading specs and reviews etc. I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to tech-specs. And that is how I learned about Bokeh, crop-factor and how aperture regulates DOF. Somewhere around “Bokeh”, I stumbled upon your blog! I think you had just been testing out the 50mm Voigtländer f/1.4 or something-rather. Like many, I like your real-world reviews and has been a follower ever since.

Pretty quickly, I felt that my DSLR was too bulky. If you want to bring a camera with you at all times, you really can’t with a DSLR. I started looking for smaller options. A few months after I got the D5000, Nikon released the successor to the D3000, the D3100. I understood that Nikon would do the same to the D5000, so I quickly sold my camera before it lost too much in second-hand value. I had been looking at the Canon G12, but that buy never happened. In a very short period of time, there were a lot of new cameras being released. Somewhere along the way, I got a crush on the Lecia M series. – Now, I had made some serious progress when it comes to photography. I only shot manual and loved it, but to be fair, a M-seires Leica was still too good of a camera for me. And too expensive!

So I looked at the Leica X1. – Still too expensive. Then, a miracle! The release of the Fujifilm X100. So I started saving. Then, while saving up for the X100, more cameras captured my attention. During a year, I think i changed my mind on which camera to get, about 5-6 times. Now we’re in the first quarter of 2012. Olympus announces the OM-D. I am 100% sure this is the camera I’ll get. Great specs, great IQ, excellent lenses and very compact. A couple of months later, I got to try it in my camera store. I wouldn’t say it was a let-down, because the AF was so fast and 5 axis-IS worked really well, but i felt it was a bit small in my hands. To sum it up, I went for the best possible IQ in a compact camera and chose the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens. (My budget was around 2500 dollar)

Some might argue and say that the Leica X2 has better IQ. The first picture in Daily Inspiration #350 by Sharookh Mehtasure looks amazing!

I’ve had the X-Pro1 since June and I kind of like it. On the positive side, The IQ is amazing, even when using high ISO like 3200 and pictures are extremely sharp! You could crop a photo and still have a nice image (See picture of the flower). I would say ISO 6400 is fully useable in B&W with f/4 or smaller like f/5.6 etc. The menu-system is great, the buttons and dials are placed where they should and hybrid VF is a joy to use. On the negative side, the AF is a bit slow. I don’t experience it to be as slow as some of the reviews say it is, but it is unfortunately too slow to use on moving subjects. So the AF is not quick enough for street-photography. One could apply zone-focusing, but I think that it is difficult to do with the 35mm f/1.4 which I experience has a very shallow DOF when your subject is 1 or 1,5 meters away. Moreover, Fuji developed the X-Pro1 as a competitor to the Leica M9. They have even released their own dedicated M-mount adapter for Leica and other manual-focus only lenses. Despite this, it seams Fuji forgot to add a working manual focus system, like Sony’s focus peaking. One can of course press the scroll wheel on the back to “zoom in” 100% on the selected focus area, but it is not fast enough for street-photography either. I’d rather use the AF.

However, I am excited about the upcoming release of the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R lens! I think it could be a good lens for street-photography and zone-focusing with a deeper DOF than the 35mm f/1.4. I’m also excited for the new firmware update which is said to be released 2012-09-18. They say it will improve AF-speed in low light conditions, among other things. Also, I really hope Fuji will introduce a better manual focus system in a future update. When they do I will consider buying a Leica lens.

(UPDATE: The new firmware v 2.0 is out and it does improve the speed)!

Now, there are rumors that Fuji will release an X-Pro2 in the first quarter of 2013. I highly doubt that. It is more likely that Fuji would release the X200 if they are going to announce a new camera at that time. Some believed, including myself, that the X200 would come now, this fall. Instead we get the X-E1, which is a cheaper version of the X-Pro1. But do not abandon hope. The X100 will have a successor. I’m sure of it. The X-E1 comes first so that Fuji can maximize their sales of their XF lenses. I.E. the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. Also, if I was about to buy a camera now and the choice was X-Pro1 or X200 (which would probably have the same EXR-sensor as the X-Pro1), I’d choose the X200. So right now, customers have three options: The “old” X100, the fairly new flagship the X-Pro1 or the cheaper version capable of utilizing the excellent XF lenses, the X-E1. Sales of the X100 are still good. There will be some X-E1′s sold and a lot of XF lenses. The X-Pro1 sales will go steady. For now.

Anyhow, I am glad that I bought my Fuji. Colors are great and it suits my kind of shooting well. I’m going to New York this fall to visit my aunt and I am really excited about that. Hopefully I’ll get some lasting pictures! In the pictures I sent you this time, you see my girlfriend’s dog, A tree outside my window at sunset and my much younger half-sister. All of them are straight out-of camera except the one where Alexandra is holding the bags filled with recyclable, where I did some minor edits in Lightroom. Hope you enjoyed!

Keep up the passionate work Steve!

Sep 142012
 

On my way to “The Cruise 2012″ & Testing Fuji X-Pro 1 with 60 Hexanon 1.2!

Hello to all! I am currently on a flight from Phoenix to New York with my fiancee’ where I will meet up with Todd Hatakeyama and his wife for dinner before we board the Princess Cruise ship tomorrow for the 1st annual SteveHuffPhoto.com Photo cruise! I am excited to meet those who signed up and we should all have a great time. It’s all about relaxing, having a blast, taking photos, hanging out, meeting new friends and enjoying the scenery as we travel the entire East Coast and Canada on board a luxurious cruise ship. Tonight we will be at the Loft Hotel in Brooklyn and I can not wait to check in :)

We all board the ship tomorrow and I will try to meet up with everyone so we know who is who. Then we have an at Sea day Sunday and plan on making our 1st outing on Monday when we hit Halifax Nova Scotia. The photo opportunities should be a plenty!

So what did I bring along with me? Well, since Fuji is releasing the hot new X-Pro 1 firmware next week I rented an X-Pro 1, 35 1.4 and Leica adapter. I want to give the Fuji another shot because last week I met up with Ashwin Rao for dinner in Phoenix and when I shot with his X-pro 1 it seemed much quicker than when I had one for review due to the last firmware update Fuji put out. I also never did get to test the M adapter so I can now do this. Todd has some amazing Leica glass so maybe he can let me use a lens or two for review purposes..hint hint :)

Ashwin with his X-pro 1 decked out with leather case and strap :)

So with the new firmware 2.0 almost here and promises of huge AF speed increases I thought it would be fair to test the Fuji again since when I reviewed it I dubbed it the “X-Slow 1″ due to the awfully painfully slow AF. With the 35 1.4 on it now I already am liking it much more and I have not even gotten 2.0 yet.

I also have with me (Thanks to Ashwin Rao and Ed Tan) a rare jewel in the exotic lens world..the 60 Hexanon 1.2 M mount lens. I will be shooting this on the Fuji to test out how it performs. This lens has gained legendary status by those who own it and it is indeed a rare find. I was surprised by how small it was when compared to a Noctilux. The shot below is one Ashwin took of me on his X-pro 1 whide open at 1.2 at night while we took a quick walk.

Yours truly shot with the 60 Hexanon 1.2 on the X-Pro 1 wide open – BOKEH BALLS!

I have only managed to shoot 3 shots with this combo so far, all three of then taken in the airport. BUT I already have fallen for this lens and the main reason why is because there is simply nothing like it. It’s much smaller and lighter than a Noctilux yet gives a similar rendering. It is built wonderfully well and jewel like and focuses smoothly and with a short throw. The size, build and optical quality is up there with the best but I look forward to shooting it on the X-Pro 1 and eventually a new Leica before I have to return it (or make an offer to buy) to its current owner.

The 60 Hex at 1.2 in the airport. I didn’t realize the restaurants now served dogs as well :)

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Hexanon at f/2 – Fuji X-Pro 1

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one with the Fuji 35 1.4

While in the ship I will try to update the site as often as I can. There will be slow internet so I will post what I can and when I can!  My next full workshop will be an amazing team effort with Ashwin in the Palouse but not for a few months…will keep everyone posted on that one as it will be EPIC! Enjoy your weekend everyone!

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!

Aug 242012
 

Taking Photos in “The City of Light” – The Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone. It’s been a few months since my last post, though I have been quite busy, photographically speaking, trying to travel as my job and personal life allow and take photographs along the way. One observation that I have made, and this may be purely my perspective, is that people tend to take more photos with their newly purchased gear, and recently, the release of new gear has slowed down, as companies ready for big camera announcements at Photokina. The past year has seen the release many wonderful cameras have been introduced this year, many of which Steve has covered, including the fantastic Olympus OM-D, Fuji XPro-1, Sony RX100, Panasonic GX-1, Nikon D800, and Canon 5D Mark III. With Leica, there was this May’s announcement of the Leica M Monochrom, which has yet to see the hands of paying customers but a represents a camera full of promise. While new gear is always fun to try out and test, we shouldn’t discount tried and true gear as tools to channel our collective photographic muses. The release of newer products does in no way invalidate yesterday’s cameras of choice. Thus, while Photokina may see the release of a Fuji X200, Olympus EP-4, Leica M10, a professional Olympus OM-D, and many other tasty tidbits, the Fuji X100, Olympus EP-3, Leica M8 and M9, and OM-D will remain as amazing tools for capturing photos.

M9

XP-1

M9

I wanted to take the time to celebrate my longstanding favorite camera, the Leica M9, and one of my new favorites, the Fuji XPro-1, as amazing photographic tools by which to grow my photographic skills. I used both cameras extensively during my recent visit to Paris this past July, and the exercise of photographing this city for a week validated my vision for the city by capturing it in the way that I saw it. We currently live in a golden age of photography, where cameras are truly fantastic tools for creative expressionism. Every camera will have strengths and weaknesses, and one should choose a camera that suits their needs and style, and go out and make images. For some, it’s the iPhone that suits their needs the best. For others, tech cameras with medium format backs are necessary to capture the required image. For me, over the past 6 years, the digital rangefinder has been the camera that suited my needs, and in particular, the Leica M9 was an digital realization of the ideal rangefinder camera. Remember that while the M10 may soon replace the M9 at the top of Leica’s supply and production food chain, the Leica M9 remains and will continue to be a fantastic tool for those who love rangefinder photography. Similarly, the Fuji XPro-1 is a fantastic option for people liking cameras in a smaller form factor, with rangefinder styling. It is far from perfect, with quirky autofocus being its primary issue, but the images acquired from its innovative sensor have the potential to wow both the photographer and his or her audience. Let me talk about my experience using these cameras, while walking the streets of Paris….

 

M9

 M9

M9

During my visit, I used the M9 about 75% of the time, preferring its responsiveness and build, and I used the Fuji XPro-1 about 25% of the time, particularly when the lights dimmed in the city. I found the XPro-1 to be wonderful for the street, but a bit challenging with faster moving subjects (even in street life with the motion of peole). The M9 in contrast, rarely, in the way… I have become so accustomed to the rangefinder way, that this, in large part, was why I used the M9 more. It’s a camera that I have grown intimately comfortable with, through travels in Egypt, Venice, India, and other far away places. It’s through the M9 that I have grown to be comfortable with the 35/50/90 mm way of seeing the world. That being said, once one learns its quirky and at times exasperating focus system, the Fuji XPro-1 will reward you duly with wonderful images. I have provided you with my perspective of this camera as well, in a separate article. In practice, the XPro-1 takes a bit more planning to use as a street camera. With both the M9 and the XPro-1, one must practice seeing the image before it actually happens. That being said, the autofocus of the XPro-1 can hold one back when capturing the decisive moment, in certain times when acquiring quick focus is necessary, but if you get the hang of pre-focusing with the camera, that is locking in on a field of focus by holding half way on the shutter release to capture the point of intended focus, you can then find your moment and capture it. Just pointing and shooting with the XPro-1 can be dicey as a way of shooting, so it forces a new way of setting up and capturing your shot. The M9, for me, was an easier tool to use, partly due to my familiarity, probably because I didn’t have to rely on autofocus to nail my intended plane of focus and quickly snap my image. I found that using both cameras at the same time was disconcerting, and I decided that a better way to use these cameras was to choose one to take out and use it for both its strengths and its limitations. Thus, on my trip, the M9 became my daytime camera, while the XPro-1 was often used later in the evening and night or when AF would be helpful. Ultimately, I feel that one should travel using a camera that they are comfortable with. In this way, the camera will not get in the way. For me, the M9 never got in the way, and when grabbing the camera out of the bag, the M9 came out ¾ of the time, compared to the XPro-1, which I had slightly less comfort with.

M9

 M9

And yes, Paris, J’taime (I love you!)….what a great city it is….For any of you whom haven’t had the privilege of visiting Paris, please do. Paris is a city of great history, cultural diversity, and a vibrancy in its people and visitors that breaths a literal life into the paved and picturesque cobblestone streets . Many writers, photographers, philosophers and poets and travelers have romanced about the city for years. I myself visited the city as a youth, now nearly 2 decades ago, and have carried with me many fond memories that have added to my own romance with the city. It’s a city of its people, its coffee shops, its wonderful croissants and wines, its young couples in love, its museums and art, its glorious architecture, and endless activity. It’s a city of quiet alleyways, ageless cemeteries tucked in the midst of a bustling modern city, and grand churches full of gothic splendor. It’s the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and Sacre Coeur. And through the sum of its parts, it is much more. Go yourself, and you enjoy discovering this for yourself. To describe Paris doesn’t do it justice.

M9

M9

M9

I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Paris this past July, as I have family members who live and work in the heart of the city. What an opportunity to travel and have a local guide (family, again) to show me the inner workings of the city. I’d almost always recommend this. If you know someone locally, see if they’d be willing to show you around. You’ll see so much more and get a feel for much more than if you stick to tourist routes. It’s been a longstanding desire to shoot the city using a rangefinder, which for me is a perfect “street” camera. I mean, if Henri CB earned his chops here, what better photographic playground could there be for a rangefinder nut like me. So off I set to “the City of Light”, M9 in hand. Along with the M9, I decided to pack my Fuji XPro-1, a relatively new addition, in order to test it out as a “street” camera. The XP-1 also offers the photographer amazing low light capacities, far superior to the M9 sensor’s ability in this venue, so I thought that the XPro-1 would be a nice tool for lower light work.

M9

XP-1

Lenses, you may ask? What did I bring? Well, along came a 21 mm Super-Elmar, 35 mm Summilux FLE, 50 mm Summilux asph, and 90 mm APO-Summicron. All of this fit comfortably in my Fogg-B-Laika bag, which is an AMAZING bag for all you small camera nuts. It is discrete and has the capacity to carry a lot of gear. This was the bag that ended my “bag acquisition syndrome” a couple of years back…I wish it cured my “gear acquisition syndrome (GAS)”, but I haven’t been quite so lucky on that front.

Once I arrived, it was immediately off to walk the streets. I had the great privilege of having family members, including my brother Pree and his fiancé Hadley (who writes a fantastic blog regarding life in Paris, http://laviemaraisienne.com; go check it out!), escort me around town so that I could gather the lay of the land.

M9

XP-1

M9

XP-1

M9

 

XP-1

Our journey began in the Marais district, where family lives. Le Marais has historically been a center for Jewish culture in the city, and has gone through many phases of evolution. In its present incarnation, it is a beautiful district of fantastic squares (le Place de Vosges), streets bustling with commerce and cuisine, and sleepy nooks where Parisian life really takes place. Le Marais was my home during this drip, and it served as an incredibly convenient starting place from which to see many of Paris’ sites. While thoroughly travelling through this district, I was able to visit many more places, primarily by foot. Paris is well known for its metro and bus routes, but it is a city best experienced by foot. For those who enjoy cycling, Paris has one of the most unique and well developed public cycling commuter establishments, with citywide access to drop off and pick up points for these bikes. One can easily rent these bikes by hour and experience the city by wheel (much less frustrating than Paris’ infamous traffic).

 

M9

 

XP-1

My journeys by foot, bus, and metro landed me all over the city. I visited all of the typical sites (Eiffel Tour, Monmartre, Notre Dame, les Invalides, the Latin Quarter, le boulevard Saint Germain. Along the way, I frequented many patisseries and boulangeries, visited expansive cemetaries, and saw the city from its alleys and from great heights and elevation. I sampled many baguettes and croissants, a crepe here or there, wonderful local and ethnic cuisine, and even 2 orders of escargot! So tasty! All of this, I saw in many instances, through the viewfinder of the M9 and XPro-1.

Here, I have posted a summary of my pictures taken and edited for you all, from the trip. I hope that you enjoy them:

SET: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/with/7558740324/

SLIDESHOW: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/show/

What I present to you beyond my words are my images. I hope that they motivate you to take your own photos, visit places both near and far, and enjoy the process of making your own images. Sith whatever gear you own and use. New cameras will come and go, but what remains are memories and the images by which you captured them. For me, the visit was a reminder of what wonderful cameras we already have, and what great tools they are to use to capture and preserve these memories right here, and right now!

Until next time, my fellow Huffites, farewell, and I hope that this post sees you well!

All the best,

Ashwin

P.S. A few more pics for your viewing….

 


Jun 072012
 

New Fuji X-Pro 1 Firmware Update Available!

Fuji has released their X-Pro 1 firmware update and it can be found HERE at the Fuji website. The new Firmware details are below:

 

The firmware update Ver.1.10 from Ver. 1.01 incorporates the following issue

  • 1.New function for “FUJIFILM M mount adapter” is added to the shooting menu.
  • 2.The MENU name “FOCAL LENGTH SETTING” is changed into “MOUNT ADAPTER SETTING”, and new correction menu is added.
    DISTORTION CORRECTION,
    COLOR SHADING CORRECTION
    PERIPHERAL ILLUMINATION CORRECTION
  • 3.Even if “LENS 5″ or “LENS 6″ (adjustable focal length) is set, the Bright Frame can be displayed on OVF in accordance with focal length.
    (Recommended lens focal length for OVF to check the Bright Frame: from 18mm to 60mm)
  • 4.In MF (manual focus) mode, sharpness of live image at 10x magnified operation (by pressing the command dial) is set to high and focusing point can be much easily confirmed.
  • 5.When FUJIFILM M mount adapter is connected to the camera body, the following issues are effective.
    • (1)By pressing the function button of M mount adapter”, “MOUNT ADAPTER SETTING” menu is displayed quickly.
    • (2)”SHOOT WITHOUT LENS” is automatically set to “ON”
    • (3)”Distance indicator (Manual focus indicator)” in “Standard display” mode on EVF/OVF is automatically set to “OFF”
    • (4)3 types of correction menu (DISTORTION / COLOR SHADING / PERIPHERAL ILLUMINATION) are activated.

For operation of each correction menu with M mount adapter effectively, please check the following URL in detail.

The firmware update Ver.1.01 incorporates the following issues:

  • 1.Reduction of chattering noise from iris of lenses in shooting mode.
  • 2.Improvement of phenomenon that parallax compensation does not work under condition of manual focus with OVF bright frame mode.
  • 3.Improvement of phenomenon that OVF quality as low visibility due to too bright OVF under the condition of power save mode during pressing the shutter button halfway.
  • 4.Improvement of phenomenon that delete function does not work after viewing continues shooting mode images.

For activate above issues completely, firmware update for XF lens is also required.

Please update the firmware of XF lens.

 

May 082012
 

Another take on the Fuji X-Pro 1

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE

From Steve: Most of you have seen my review on the X-Pro 1. It was a positive review and I enjoyed the camera but ultimately it was not for me do to the slow AF in lower light (which caused me to miss MANY shots when street shooting). I felt the IQ of the X-Pro 1 was astounding though, and I had to send it back to Fuji before I was able to even try processing a RAW file or even use a Leica adapter with Leica glass. No worries though! Ashwin has been shooting his X-Pro 1 and he wrote up a nice article on the camera as a 2nd take. His photos are AMAZING with this camera so read and enjoy! As you read this I am on my way to Berlin for the May 10th Leica event, so will post when I arrive!  - Steve

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Hi, everyone. It’s been a while since I shared here, as I have been busy trying out new gear and straying away this time from the M system, which has and will continue to be my primary camera system as the only true production digital rangefinder available today…

That being said, this year has seen the development of some revolutionary and evolutionary cameras, including the NEX-5N, NEX-7, D800E, and the OM-D EM-5. May’s Leica announcement brings even more interesting cameras into the fold. To me, the most interesting camera of the batch, the one that caught my eye, spirit, and creative muse, has been the Fuji XPro-1. As Steve has implied in his reviews of the camera and comparisons, it is a flawed camera….the flaws are inherent to the XPro-1’s slow autofocus, likely due in part to it’s fly-by-wire AF system. It has shutter lag, and it’s optical viewfinder is quirky and inaccurate. But at the end of the day, it’s output is the closest to the Leica M9 as any camera that I have ever tried. Add that to an adequate (yet slightly underwhelming) EVF, and robust, lightweight build, and it becomes something very unique.

I have been asked a few times on various forums, about why I would consider duplicating the M9 system with the XPro-1. Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel that the duplication is complete. There’s overlap, and for the time being, room for both systems in my kit. Here are a few reasons why.

While the Fuji XPro-1’s design and form factor are an intentional duplication of present and past rangefinders, it is in fact not a rangefinder at all, but a camera equipped by autofocus. It’s optical viewfinder comes close to the Contax G sytem in terms of it’s method of detecting focus and framing, and there are adjustable views and frames for each lens. I am personally very interested to see how Fuji’s hybrid viewfinder evolves, but this, in and of itself, distinguishes it rather dramatically from Leica’s offerings.

The second major pro, for my life, is something I call “the Hand-off factor.” The fact that I can hand this camera to a friend to take a snap, compared to the M9, which has a far larger learning curve for even quick implementation, and this is a huge factor for social gatherings. With the M9, I am inevitably (and often by choice) behind the lens and camera, and with the XPro-1, I find myself handing the camera off more. I thus have more pics of myself using this camera.

Ultimately, the IQ of the XPro-1 is what keeps me coming back for me. Fuji’s X-Trans sensor simply friggin’ Rocks. It’s not perfect. Highlights can be blown at times. It’s wonderful high ISO capacities are hampered by the camera’s sluggish low light autofocus, making this an immature camera for low light shooting. It’ll get there, I hope, but the XPro-1’s AF is quite a limitation to its overall full spectrum use at this time.

One other reason that the camera excites me is due to its future. Fuji has committed many resources to this system and the X100, and I suspect that they will support the system well. The X100 has been vastly improved from it’s initial implementation, thanks to Fuji’s technical support, and I very much hope that Fuji will do the same here.

Finally, the other major reason that I plan to hold on to the XPro1, is the future of the system. With 28-70 and 70-200 mm zooms planned for later this year and next, there are some very interesting lens options coming to this system. I’d also love to see the optics of the X100 ported to ths XPro-1, and I suspect that a 35 mm equiv lens will be here soon enough…Personally, I’d love to see Fuji implement a step zoom feature on it’s zoom lenses, so that optical viewfinders may still be used (Fuji, are you listening?)

Pros and cons, you ask? What comes next are my current expository thoughts on the camera:

Pros for the XPro-1

1. Layout and handling: great, just like the M: I love the RF form factor, and while the XPro-1 isn’t really a rangefinder, it feels like one in hand and inspires me in much the same ways. That does mean something in terms of my creativity. It’s also a smallish system, so it works well not to startle people (helps that it’s all black, which I love)

2. ISO: The XPro-1 kicks the pants off the M9 in this department. I am waiting for RAW support, but the JPEG engine is great

3. Out of camera JPEG’s: This is one camera where I have been thrilled with JPEG output. While I look forward to RAW, and shooting JPEG’s without hesitation using standard Fuji profiling

4.Image qaulity: Close to the M9 in most, if not all respects. Fuji really must be applauded for their X-Trans sensor. It needs to find its way into more cameras, period. M lenses have a bit more character than the Fujinon counterparts, but that’s not to take anything away from the Fuji. The Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph is a favorite lens, and the 35 Fujinon comes close, in terms of sharpness and OOF creaminess. The 35 mm native focal length adds some distortion, but you get closer focusing.

5. Hand off factor: Much better than the M9. The XPro-1 can be handed to a novice, and a sharp, focused image will result. Someone on the interwebs said it well that for the average point and shooter who takes on the XPro-1, their images will be elevated to art just by the mere fact that the Fuji lenses are remarkable, and the AF, once locked, takes great crisp images…

6. AF accuracy once locked. The camera, once it locks focus, is amazing….thus, AF accuracy is near perfect, though AF implementation is sluggish

Cons

1. Cropped sensor: Lose some depth of field, but in real life, as long as you make the focal length adjustment (18=28, 35=50, 60 = 90), it’s no biggie, not a deal breaker.

2. Shutter lag: Gosh, I wish Fuji fixed this…not sure if it’s possible, but I’d rather see and snap rather than see, wait a few precious milliseconds, and then snap. The pause in image acquisition is due in part to slow AF and part to shutter lag, and Fuji needs to iron this out before carrying on with other system improvements.

3. SLOW AF: TO me, the X-Pro-1’s focus speed, particularly with the 35 mm lens, improved with it’s “anti-chatter” firmware, but compared to the competition (even the middling NEX series AF), the Fuji is slow to focus. It’s better in daylight, but can be horrendous in mixed low light….If Fuji could do one thing for the camera, it’s improve AF. Some have argued that in isolation, the XPro-1’s AF is fast. Others have argued that they can focus the XPro-1 far faster than they could manually focus an M9. Well, given 6 years or regular practice with the M9, I must say that the M9’s shutter lag (minimal) and my manual focus capabilities FAR outshine the XPro-1, and I’m trying not to be cocky. If they could do 2 things, it would be to improve autofocus and shutter lag.

4. Inaccurate frame lines,/optical viewfinder. The Fuji’s optical viewfinder is a great idea…in theory. The merits of the OVF have been discussed in detail, and there’s no reason to get into the details here, other than to say, in concept, that offering multiple optical VF’s for various focal lengths, is a great idea. But in its current implementation, this system is flawed, and Fuji should/could fix it. When using the XPro-1’s optical viewfinder, frame lines are quite inaccurate when subjects are close.. this leads to 2 issues. When I use the OVF, I have regularly gotten inadvertently cropped images (tops of heads chopped off and the like) and AF has misfired. What the photographer expects to see via the framelines and focus confirmation presented is not what the photographer always gets. Thus, the camera may be chosing the wrong AF point, due to frameline inaccuracy. I find the OVF to be inaccurate for close up subjects, and thus I avoid using it in those circumstances.

5. EVF ‘s slow refresh rate. This may be an improvement that has to occurin the future. The current EVF’s refresh rate is slow. What this means is that with fast-moving objects viewed viat the EVF’s, there’s choppiness and motion artifacts present. The NEX is far better with its EVF…this is readily noticeable at night, where the Fuji’s lag really shows up.

6. Adaptability with M and other lenses. The EVF has no focus peaking, and the 10x magnification is actually too large to maintain framing when focusing and composing images via the EVF

7. Red channel: The red channel can blow out at times, as it is overly sensitive. I have seen similar behavior, albeit worse, with the Pentax K5, but it’s present here at times.

XPro-1 and 35 mm lens, blowing out the reds and magentas

Special Section: A couple of captures with the SLR Magic 50 mm f/0.95 Hyperprime lens.

Overall, this revolutionary lens that’s just now becoming available, works very well on the XPro-1, who’s EVF, compled with the lens’ miniscule DOF, makes for a lovely camera in practical and low light use. Here are a few examples, but more to come later.

Conclusion

You may say that I have presented quite a few cons to go with my pros regarding the XPro-1, and you’d be right….Overall, I am sticking with the Fuji over the OM-D (and even the NEX-7) due to the file quality that this camera and its lenses. I continue to use and enjoy the NEX-7, but it feels more like a consumer electronics gadget to me than a true camera. There’s something that flows in the XPro-1’s veins (i.e. its design) that really sings to me. I can live with the occasional quirks given that its IQ is something to write home about. It’s as close to the Leica M system as I have ever seen. Sure, it forces a new way of shooting to cope with its quirks, but if Fuji’s history of support is anything to write about, they will keep tweaking the XPRo-1 until it’s great, or at least, better. Further, the XPro-1’s body is not M9 priced, and may thus be somewhat easier to replace/upgrade without burning a hole in the wallet and/or the stomach….with time, and popularity, the system will evolve to provide the sensor and lenses with a better body to provide the system more maturity…that’s my hope and suspicion, at least….

Overall, you may say that this is the picture that summarizes my overall feelings of the Fuji XPro-1

 

Pro

Image Quality (a revelation, really)

Low light ISO capability (another revelation, really good)

Build (light, especially the lenses) but robust. Grip adds weight and makes the camera feel more like a Leica M

Lenses (35 mm and 60 mm are stunning, 18 is solid and focuses faster)

Button & Dial Layout and menu access

Hand-off factor

Con

Low light autofocus performance

Shutter lag

Occasional AF inconsistency, more so with optical viewfinder

Inaccurate optical viewfinder frame lines

EVF refresh rate is slow

Manual focus implementation lags FAR behind NEX series camera, due to lack of focus peaking and slower refresh rates

Learning curve: one has to re-learn to shoot in a way that the camera can handle

 

Should be improvable via firmware

AF performance and accuracy with optical viewfinder

DNG RAW file option

Menu items don’t all reset with each firmware upgrade (even lenses)

 

Must be improved in future iterations of the camera

Higher resolution EVF with faster refresh rate

Lenses that use methods other than fly by wire

Lenses or body with image stabilization

Sample Images

May 062012
 

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital Camera Review by Steve Huff

Micro 4/3 finally matures..for real.

Well here we are in May of 2012 and Olympus has now released a new line of Micro 4/3 cameras,  fittingly called the “OM-D”, which is actually a homage to the little “OM” of the film world.  The OM series has sort of a cult following and for good reason. Those little film cameras were so good, so small and so solid that even today many are still in use. The original OM series film cameras are highly recommended if you want to get into some low cost film shooting.

My original Olympus OM-1 that belonged to me for many years – was a GREAT camera and the 50 1.4 that I shot with it was also very good..and cheap! I think I paid $125 for the entire set.

But as for today in this digital world the 1st camera in this new OM-D line is called the E-M5, and the specs and details of this camera looked amazing when it was announced by Olympus. Everything that was missing from the already great E-P3 (my review here) was now included in the E-M5. A built in EVF, weather sealing, tillable LCD screen, better video quality without any jello effect, improved high ISO quality, a new button and control layout and even an optional grip that can not only be used as an additional handgrip with extra dials and buttons (which are nice and solid) but you can also add on an extra battery pack to the grip if you want more stamina. It all seemed so perfect… but I was wondering if the camera would live up to the hype, because they rarely do. I mean, this E-M5 has been hyped and marketed like mad so does it live up to all of  the hoopla?

The OM – DIGITAL – Same classic looks with that special old school charm

**NOTE:  for reference you can see my Olympus E-P2 and E-P3 reviews.**

Well…

I have been using the E-M5 for over 3 weeks now and have found the camera to be an absolute joy to use. Micro 4/3 has now really matured and Olympus has answered many of our concerns, needs, and wants and seriously, I am not sure how much better the Micro 4/3 format can get but keep in mind, this is still Micro 4/3 and will not give you the depth of field or richness of an APS-C or full frame sensor.

OM-D TIP! BEFORE YOU SHOOT THE OM-D E-M5 I recommend to TURN OFF the warm color setting in the picture IQ menu! Otherwise your images will all have funky warm colors! Many of the JPEGS in this review were shot with the warm color set to ON. I prefer it set to OFF..

This review will go over the usability, speed, ISO, image quality, lenses and just about everything that has to do with real world use of the E-M5. This is not going to be a tech head scientific review as anyone who knows me will know that I do not test cameras in that fashion. If I did, this would be a rather boring review.  I prefer to focus on the way we use the cameras – the way they handle, the controls, the joy of use. Does it inspire you to get out an take pictures? Will it put a big fat warm smile on your face? Will the image quality be really good and satisfy our needs?

THESE are the things I like to look for.

Also note, 75% of the images in this review, just like my E-P3 review, have been shot as JPEGS. So what you see here are mainly images that came right out of the camera. Olympus has usually been great with JPEGS and at the time I started writing this there was no real RAW support for the OM-D just yet. RAW support did become available after I was 3/4 of the way done with this so you will see some RAW shots here in this review as well. All images are marked either as JPEG or RAW.

So with all of that said..let’s get started!

Olympus E-M5 and the Olympus 12mm f/2  - A man and his wolf – OOC JPEG

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Sexy thing that E-M5 …Weather and Splash proof. It can take rain and cold but do not dunk it in water :)

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Is the E-M5 a Game Changer?

So right up front…is the Olympus OM-D E-M5  a game changer in the world of digital mirror less cameras? Well, not really. Sure it has a great body, great controls, and it has all of the stuff we wanted to see but at the end of the day there is nothing really revolutionary about it. It doesn’t have any magic fairy dust sprinkled inside nor does it have anything amazingly special. The image quality is pretty much on par with other Micro 4/3 cameras.

Basically, it is a souped up and hot rodded E-P3 that beats any Micro 4/3 to date in regards to usability and fun factor. There has been no Micro 4/3 to come before this that I liked better so while it might not be an overall game changer it is a game changer in the M4/3 world!

The PEN series has always been super fun to shoot. I loved and still love the E-P3 though it’s high ISO performance is lacking a bit. ISO 1600 was and is about the max you want to go to when shooting the E-P3. The E-M5 can shoot ISO 3200 and be fine and even 6400 can be used if you need it, even in low light (and yes, this guy can focus fast in almost any light). The ISO improvement in real world scenarios has been improved without any doubt. When you add in the other new features and the new 5-Axis IS then it is a no brainer to go for an E-M5 if you want a M4/3 camera today. It appears Olympus just lowered the price of the E-P3 to $799 which now makes it about $300 less than the E-M5 kit but the E-M5 is well worth the extra $300 just for all of the improvements (EVF, 5-Axis IS, swivel LCD, new sensor and better low light, better video, etc). I have spoken to some OM-D owners who said they would pay double for this camera just because it does so much right. That right there says quite a bit.

In many ways, shooting this little camera has reminded me of the Nikon V1 (see my review of the V1 here). The speed, accuracy, and lack of any problems or quirks was refreshing. The way it should be when we plunk down our hard earned cash for a new camera. What I mean by that is that if I spend $2500 or more on a digital camera setup and it gives me hassles, issues, missed shots or can’t do what I need it to do then to me, it is worthless. If a camera can be responsive, do things it is designed to do without hassles and give me output that I can live with then all is good. The E-M5 is one of these cameras where ALL IS GOOD.

The OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 25 1.4 – WHAT A COMBO!!

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But it is Micro 4/3, the sensor is too small!

Many have this complaint about the M4/3 format and some shooters always will I guess. I hear it all the time. “The sensor is too small, it limits my depth of field”. Well, that used to be true but not today..well, sort of. With lenses like the newer 25 1.4, 45 1.8, and upcoming 75 1.8 even those who crave shallow DOF will have little to complain about. NO, you will not get the full frame super creamy DOF look but you can get nice results with the right lenses. Even with the new Voigtlander 25 0.95 and 17 0.95 it gets even better (if you are looking for a unique look, more on that below). This camera no longer has all of those limitations many associate with Micro 4/3.

Why? Well, because it has a fantastic sensor and when you add those amazing lenses it does just about anything you need it to do.

The Olympus 17 2.8 is a bit softer on the OM-D than the other lenses, but i is also the cheapest and offers a 35mm view

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The 75 1.8 is sharp and with great color, fast AF and nice video performance – a little pricey at $899 but if this focal length is your thing..a steal.

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The Voigtlander 17 0.95 up close – from RAW

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The new 16MP sensor – It’s good :)

Have no fear! The new 16MP sensor in the E-M5 is a nice improvement over the E-P3 sensor, again, mainly in the area of ISO. The files are nice, the color has the typical Olympus quality and yes, the overall quality is there. The files are also bitingly sharp if need be. I have had no complaints with the new sensor and many suspect it is the same one that is in the Panasonic G3. This has not been confirmed though and there are those who say it is not. Me, I do not know the truth but I do know I really like this sensor and I have mainly been shooting in JEPG for the bulk of this review!

I do know that this new 16MP sensor (new to Olympus) is capable of very large prints and sharp output so in reality, this is as good as most people will need for their everyday photography, actually, even better. I have said it before but it’s all about the lenses and now you can have your choice between many quality lenses.

Check out the amazing detail at f/4 with the 17mm – from RAW – YOU MUST click image for larger view and full crop!

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Check out the following images with 100% crops embedded  - click them for larger views and true crop – from RAW

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This one was at f/4 – from RAW

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With the 25 1.4 from Panasonic

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The Specs of the OM-D E-M5 – What Olympus says and What I say. 

Here are the specs and features of the camera, or at least what Olympus has to say about it…followed by my thoughts

Intuitively Designed Electronic Viewfinder

What Olympus Says: The OLYMPUS E-M5 is the first Olympus interchangeable-lens camera to incorporate a 120fps refresh rate, high definition electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor to seamlessly switch the display between the tilting 3.0″ touch screen OLED and the electronic viewfinder for ease-of-use. It features a 100% field of view, maximum 1.15x magnification, and an eye point of 18mm for fatigue-free viewing. Camera setting information, such as shutter speed, is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder so photographers can concentrate on framing shots and take full advantage of an EVF’s ability to display the effects of various exposure adjustments and Art Filter effects – all without having to take the eye away from the viewfinder.

What I say: Well, the VF is great. No complaints. It seems to be crisp and clear and when you put your eye to the EVF it automatically switches on. Again, no complaints. In real use it works just fine. It is basically their newer VF-2 but since the camera is better in low light with less noise, the EVF has less noise than you would have found if using the VF-2 on the E-P3. No complaints. The EVF switches formats to whatever you switch to: 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, etc.

Superior Image Quality

What Olympus Says: The Olympus E-M5 uses a 16.1 megapixel High-Speed Live MOS Sensor offering improved performance and exceptional clarity and speed in all aspects of image capture. Olympus’ TruePic VI image-processing engine dramatically improves image quality in low-light environments. The camera’s sensor allows for a maximum ISO of 25,600, and the dynamic range has been expanded for more faithful color reproduction

What I say: WOW, I was impressed by the high ISO performance of this camera. It is a big leap up from the E-P3 so BRAVO to Olympus. The camera will still not give you X-Pro 1 ISO performance but up to 3200 ISO it is VERY usable and actually very close to the X-Pro. I recommend to turn OFF Noise Reduction. Dynamic Range does indeed seem to be better as I have not had any issues with blown highlights. Overall, the image quality of this camera is damn good. Again, the best M 4/3 quality I have seen to date.

Panasonic 8mm Fisheye on the OM-D

Unprecedented 5-Axis Image Stabilization

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 is distinguished by the world’s first 5-axis image-stabilization mechanism capable of reducing the effects of camera motion and image blur from five directions on stills and video, even including motion blur caused by the photographer walking or running. Previous IS mechanisms compensated for camera shake by addressing only two kinds of movement along the vertical and horizontal axis. However, camera shake can actually be caused by five different kinds of movement: horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, as well as the yaw and pitch. While some technology has attempted to correct for camera blur by building the Image Stabilization mechanism into the lens, the Olympus E-M5 IS mechanism is incorporated into the camera body itself so that all lenses mounted on the body can take advantage of this sophisticated technology, whether shooting stills or HD video.

What I say: I LOVE this 5-Axis IS. Simply put, I have never seen IS in a camera as good as this. Video almost seems “steady cam-ish”. For images it works just as good. Again, BRAVO to Olympus for this as it is another 1st that Olympus brought in. Remember when Olympus designed and created the dust shaker? Now almost everyone uses some form of automated dust remover.

Blazing Speed

What Olympus says: Focus and shoot faster with record-breaking autofocus speed and imaging processing. The Olympus E-M5 employs the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system, introduced in the PEN E-P3, but with even greater speed. The 16Mp Live MOS chip drives image data off the sensor at a blazing 240 frames-per-second, a 2x speed increase in Continuous Autofocus, with reduced image blackout enabling photographers to track fast action. Maximum frame rates in sequential shooting have also increased more than 2x with a max frame rate of 9fps in Single AF. A new 3D tracking AF system can follow the subject through the X-, Y- and Z-axes to dramatically improve focus on moving subjects.

What I say: The AF is faster than any mirror less camera I have shot with to date…in fact, faster than just about any camera I have shot with.

Creative Freedom

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 features a 3.0″ tilting OLED touch-screen to enable photographers to get up high or down low for any shot. The touchscreen interface offers intuitive focus and release of the shutter and review and enlargement of images in playback with the touch of a finger. The Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the OLED screen at pre-set intervals during long exposures and enables the user to preview continually unfolding action such as fireworks or waterfalls and adjust the exposure time accordingly while capturing the image at the desired moment. An innovative new interface, EVF Creative Control, produces a tone curve overlay on the viewfinder screen to enable separate adjustment of highlight and shadow brightness, white balance, magnification and aspect ratio can also be manipulated via the EVF.

What I say: The tilting LCD is very useful. I often wished Olympus would put this onto the PEN series and now they did, but on this OM-D. I have used this much like I would shoot a hasselblad kit, at my waist and looking down at the LCD. Works great. The controls on the OM-D are good but I do have one complaint though. The buttons on the back are way small. For example the play button is so small, those with large fingers may have trouble. My fingers are small and I sometimes have problems with the smaller buttons on the back.

Powerful Portability and Rugged Durability

What Olympus says: The striking, iconic design of the Olympus E-M5 is more than just looks; its magnesium alloy body is rugged enough to stand up to severe environmental conditions like heavy rain and blowing sand. The Olympus E-M5 employs internal seals extensively and, when the optional M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50 mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens is attached, this combination delivers an integrated dustproof and splashproof camera system. The electronic viewfinder section of the body is also made of magnesium alloy to ensure durability, and the FL-LM2 Electronic Flash that ships with the camera features the same dustproof and splashproof construction

What I say: Again, BRAVO to Olympus! The fuji guys are not going to like me for  this one but I tell it like it is…the Olympus build quality is fantastic and with the weather sealing beats the Fuji build. When you add the 1st part of the external grip the camera feels really solid and comfortable. It feels like a camera well worth the $999 price. Then again, adding the grip will add $299 so you do have to add that to the cost if you want that solid comfy feel I speak of.

The OM-D E-M5 and 12mm at f/2

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The OM-D and Voigtlander 17 0.95

Compatible with All Micro Four Thirds-Compliant Lenses

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds-compliant lenses, including two lenses that Olympus will introduce later this year: the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f/1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f/2.8 macro. The 75mm lens is a high-quality metal design with fast aperture settings for portraits and indoor sports shooting, while the dustproof and splashproof 60mm lens features 1:1 macro and a closest shooting distance of just 7.5 inches

What I say: YES! I am so looking forward to the 75 1.8 as I have heard it is going to be awesome. The metal build and quality construction will make it a popular lens. The 60 macro is also a welcome addition. Yes, Micro 4/3 has matured and it is finally an AWESOME choice if you are looking for a new system that is QUALITY. The 12mm, 25 from Panaosnic, the Voigtlanders, the 45 1.8 and upcoming 60 2.8 macro and 75 1.8 lenses really show that this format is here to stay. Even the cheap zooms such as the Panasonic 45-200 are fantastic, and CHEAP!

Cross Process Art Filter – Olympus 75 1.8 at f/4 – OOC JPEG. Click it for larger!

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The Olympus OM-D and 17 0.95 at f/4

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and t he 45 1.8 at 1.8 – OOC JPEG at night.

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My 1st impressions after Delivery of the camera. 

So after all of the hype..after all of the excitement and after all of the waiting for this camera to be released I finally had one come in thanks to Robert Jagitsch (e-mail him here) who managed to get me one the first week after the cameras were shipping, so THANKS Robert! When the package arrived it came along with the 12mm f/2, 45 1.8 and the grip. I am so glad I bought the grip though as it makes the camera feel SO much better as I feel it is a bit on the small side without it.

So with the grip attached and the battery charged I went out to snap a few quick snaps to see how the camera performed. I mean, I was excited to see if it lived up to the hype after all.

When I turned it on in my kitchen I heard a whirling purr..a sound that reminded me of a sea shell humming in my ear. What was this? I assumed it was for the new 5-Axis IS so I turned it off and it was still there! Hmmmm.

The only time it turns off is when you shoot video, and then the camera is silent. You can hear this sound in my 1st look video I posted to youtube…but keep in mind it sounds louder in the video due to it being right up to my microphone.

My 1st look video on the OM-D E-M5

So after I started shooting with the camera the sound disappeared. It is not noticeable when you are out shooting so it is not an issue. I have to say that after my 1st couple of days with the camera it felt like an E-P3 with an improved sensor, an EVF and nice handling. I liked it and after shooting it side by side with a Fuji X-Pro 1, I personally preferred using the OM-D to the Fuji. Why? Because quirky cameras frustrate the hell out of me, especially when you spend well over $2000 on them. So usability was high with the Olympus but I wondered if the IQ would hold up to the Fuji because this is where the Fuji struts it’s stuff’. (See my X-Pro 1 review HERE)

Overall, I was happy with the OM-D E-M5 though I felt it was on the small side without the grip. I also found the buttons on the back were a bit small, especially the playback button. Even my little thumb seemed to big for it.

All in all I was impressed with the OM-D E-M5 when it first arrived. It is pretty much what I expected and my 1st snaps looked really good though I knew that the IQ would not really match the X-Pro 1 I had shot for the few weeks prior. With that said, the IQ is really good and will satisfy most peoples needs very well. In fact, some who shoot this camera will rave about how amazing the image quality is. Now that I think about it again…in the right hands this camera could produce gorgeous results (I have seen it).

In regards to handling, this camera feels really good in the hand but without the grip feels a but too small. Almost like a mini camera. In my opinion, you need the grip for this one to feel good in your hand. With the grip it comes into its own. Also, button placement is really good. The dials on the top are solid and we have one for changing the aperture.shutter speed and one for EV. They are solid, and click into place nicely. The buttons on the back are a little small though, but not a deal breaker.

The OM-D with the fantastic Voigtlander 25 0.95 wide open. Again, this lens is sharp, contrasty and renders beautifully on the OM-D. I prefer it slightly to the new 17 f/0.95. When shooting at a distance the rendering is gorgeous .Up close it can get a bit creamy dreamy but the shot below shows what it can do. This is an OOC JPEG, click it for larger.

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The 25 1.4 from Panasonic/Leica  - The best lens for this camera, period!

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The Voigtlander 17mm  f/4 – OOC JPEG

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The Panasonic 25 1.4 wide open

What Micro 4/3 has going for it..THE GLASS!

Well what is a camera system without GREAT glass? Not much, and even Sony has been getting a bunch of complaints about the lack of good lenses for their NEX system. People used to complain about M4/3 as well, until the last year or so when Panasonic came out with the SUPERB 25 1.4 and Olympus released the 12 ands 45, which I feel are two of the best M4/3 lenses available and they are beautiful to look at as well though I feel they should also be made in black for those of us who do not like black bodies and silver lenses.

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Voigtlander Super Fast Nokton Lenses for Micro 4/3. The 17 and 25mm f/0.95

We also now have others in the M4/3 glass game – Sigma and even Voigtlander are now making lenses for this format and that is a good thing. I picked up the Voigtlander 17 and 25 f/0.95 super fast lenses to test with the OM-D and have sort of mixed feelings on them. They are beautifully made and have the Leica M glass kind of feel. Focusing is smooth, and the lenses are all metal and solid. The only issue is that they are large and heavy! If you got into this system to stay small and light then these lenses throw all of  that out of the window..then again, even with the 25 0.95 on this is still s much smaller setup than a DSLR with fat lens.

After shooting with them for a few days they started to feel really good on the body with the grip attached (I do not have the battery part of the grip on, only the grip) and it looked pretty bad ass..just big. I think I prefer the Panasonic 25 1.4 to the Voigtlander though. It is sharper and has a more “Leica-Like” rendering. The Voigtlanders are nice but render a bit flat, which is how I usually find Voigtlander glass.

Another thing is that these two lenses both have that signature “Voigtlander” look that I just spoke of so if you like that rendering then you will love these lenses. If you dislike this look, you will NOT like these lenses. Also note that these are not coded or chipped so when you shoot with them yo will NOT be able to see what lens you used or for aperture info in the EXIF. Kind of like shooting film so if you want to remember, you have to log it.

Shooting them in manual focus (they are NOT auto focus) is easy and quick and even without peaking I shot the images below without magnification or any help. You can easily manually focus just using the EVF. See some samples below from these two lenses. Yes, the EVF and LCD are good enough to nail focus without any assistance, at least they are for me.

One unique feature of the 17 is that you can configure it to have aperture clicks or set it to be clickless if you want to use it for cine or video. THIS is a nice feature and it is easy to switch using a dial above the aperture dial. VERY nice feature. Gives us a choice.

So bottom line on these lenses? If you don’t mind the size, they are really good for this format and better than plopping on a $6k Leica lens with a shoddy adapter as I feel Leica glass is best used on a Leica M body, period. They are full frame lenses and only when used on a full frame camera will you see the true beauty of the them. So to save some cash, if you want to buy a new fast lens for your M4/3 body, try out one of these Voigtlanders. They provide the build quality, silky feel and weight of Leica glass for a fraction of the cost and on a crop sensor, you really do not miss out on IQ.

The 1st three images are from the 25 f/0.95 Nokton – click for larger – OOC JPEG

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Another OOC JPEG but shot with the “Toy Art Filter” which gave it that old school look

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and one in square format..OOC JPEG

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The next three are from the 17 f/0.95 -1st 2 are  OOC JPEGS, the dog was converted with Alien Skin 4

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The fun little SLR Magic 11mm 1.4 Toy Lens

This little $169 lens is fun. I have not shot it since I did my review of it a while back but it is a blast when shooting in square format. It is not sharp, it vignettes and it has a very dreamy “holga-like” look but this is what makes the lens. I like it and am glad I pulled it back out to shoot on the OM-D E-M5. Again, no issues with focusing this manual focus lens and it could be fun to shoot if you want to do some creative styled portraits even.

All are OOC JPEGS shot in 1:1 mode with the SLR Magic lens

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OMD TIP: Turn off face detection and just focus on what YOU want to focus on. Sometimes it will miss or focus on another part of the face. It can be set to focus on eyes specifically but I suggest turning it off and shooting without it. 

The Olympus 12mm f/2 and 45 1.8 – superb glass

These two lenses are sharp and have no real issues of distortion or vignetting. They give a more “perfect” rendering than the others but have less character as well. If you want a modern look with sharp images, great color and minimal distortions this is where to look. They are also really small and light compared to the Voigtlander beasts. To me, these lenses are some of the best of what the Micro 4/3 world has to offer. The 12mm is a bit on the pricy side but is made form metal and has the manual focus snap feature. It is a GREAT street lens.

The 12mm is great for interior and natural light as the f/2 aperture opens it up nicely – OOC JPEG – My mom making lunch

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The 12mm will give you a wide 24mm equivalent – great for quick grab shots or group portraits – AWB did not nail this but got close!

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Great bite and contrast even at f/2

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The 45 1.8 at night – JPEG

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The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens rocks as well! The Color!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 5-Axis IS and the  HD video quality of the OM-D E-M5 

When Olympus started marketing the E-M5 they were touting this new revolutionary 5-Axis IS and how it will give you the best results yet for hand holding in low light. What I did not realize is how awesome it would be to use for video when shooting with movie compatible lenses like the 12mm and 45mm. WOW. When shooting with the 12mm it is almost like you have the camera attached to a steadicam!

Not only does the 5-Axis IS compensate for yaw and pitch, but also for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rolling motion. This does wonders for macro shooting.

The video quality is also so much better than it was with the E-P3 and  there is NO jello effect! Check out the video sample I made below to show the quality of the video this camera puts out. Amazing. I also enjoy my NEX-7 for video but it always overheats after 5-6 minutes which frustrates me on many occasions. The OM-D has not overheated on me at all yet. Hope it doesn’t.

Some will notice the OM-D E-M5 does NOT have an Audio Input for an external mic but the camera aid compatible with the Olympus SEMA-1 that attaches to the hotshoe of the camera. This allows you to plug in an external mic with a mini jack (not XLR of course).

The Olympus SEMA-1 external mic adapter is compatible with the OM-D E-M5

Shooting RAW – Better than JPEG? Yep!

As you can see almost every image in this review so far has been shot using standard JPEGS. I did so because RAW support was not available yet and honestly, many people love to see what these cameras can do with standard JPEGS. But after I was about 3/4 of the way done with this review, RAW support was released from Adobe so I suggest anyone shooting the E-M5 to shoot RAW as you will get better and richer file quality than JPEG. No question.

When shooting JPEG you will get nice results, but images may be a little flatter. Shooting RAW allowed you to enhance your image by changing your settings after you shoot. The works well to bring certain things out and make your image pop more.

All images below are converted from RAW with the E-M5

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HIGH ISO Performance of the E-M5

I immediately noticed an improvement over the E-P3 when shooting low light and high ISO. NOW, FINALLY, this is usable in low light. The files stay sharp and what you see below are all samples from ISO 3200-12,800 processed from RAW with ALL NOISE REDUCTION TURNED OFF! So imagine how good these could look with a little NR.

OMD TIP: I suggest turning OFF Noise Reduction wether shooting JPEG or RAW. If RAW just dial it down using the sliders in your RAW processing software. You will get a little more noise but your file will retain the sharpness and detail as well. 

I prefer the NR off to keep sharpness and detail and ISO 3200 is still really good by M4/3 standards.

ISO 3200 – from RAW – No Noise Reduction at all – click image for larger view and full 100% crop

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ISO 6400 – same thing as above

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ISO 12,800 – same settings as the two above

Even ISO 12,800 seems usable if needed. The high ISO capability is superb and is no longer a weakness of this format.

Here are a couple of shots at ISO 3200-6400 in B&W – straight OOC JPEGS with NR turned off 100%! Shooting in this mode could yield impressive results when shooting street or when you want to add some mood to your images. I can’t believe how good ISO 3200 is now with M4/3!

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ISO 6400? No problem

AF Speed

The AF speed is about the same as it is on the E-P3 in real world use, which is really fast. Olympus says it is a bit faster though and I can’t argue as I really have had no delays or hunts at all. What is really cool is using the touch screen to touch and shoot. One touch on the back and you not only get instant focus on what you touch but the camera will then fire and take the shot. I made a video showing a comparison in low light with the Fuji X-Pro 1. If you are a Fuji X-Pro 1 user and are happy with it, I suggest you do NOT watch the video. The bottom line FACT of the matter is that the Olympus focuses MUCH faster than the X-Pro 1, especially in low light where the Fuji does indeed struggle. On the flip side, the OM-D can’t compete with the Fuji in the IQ department.

So overall I have no complaints with the AF speed of the OM-D. I did NOT try shooting fast action or sports so can not really comment on the speed of the tracking. I would guess that it would snot compete with a upper end DSLR though. Still, for M4/3, this is about as fast as it gets and it blazes past the Fuji’s and Sony offerings.

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The Art Filters -Great for fun JPEG shooting

One more thing the Olympus offers is the Art Filters that have been in every camera since the E-P1. Now we get quite a few filters but I still really only enjoy the Grainy B&W, Cross Process and sometimes the Dramatic Tone in B&W (the pic above was shot in this mode). You can access any art filter by pressing the OK button and quickly going to the picture style choices.

The Pinhole Art filter will vignette the image and richen the colors

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Grainy B&W

The included filters include soft focus, pop art, key line, dramatic tone, grainy B&W, sepia, light tone, cross process, pale and light color and pinhole. There is not much to say on these as I have talked about them in the previous pen reviews and they are basically the same.

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Compared To…

Being added May 16th-20th, come back and check!

Olympus E-M5 pros and cons

Pros

  • Small size but great feel and build
  • weather sealed and splash proof
  • Built in EVF
  • Swivel LCD
  • Much improved high ISO performance over previous PEN cameras
  • Super fast AF speed
  • Much improved HD video quality
  • 5-Axis IS works extremely well
  • Price is right at $999 for body only
  • Grip accessory makes the camera feel REALLY good
  • Has all of the same Olympus color, art filters and features
  • Touch screen LCD works amazingly well for shooting
  • There are some amazing TOP NOTCH lenses available for the system
  • Image quality is excellent as is dynamic range
  • Shoot in different aspects and EVF will show these aspects as well
Cons
  • Some buttons on the back are a bit too small
  • Slight hum when camera is on, but only heard when you are in a quiet room
  • camera can feel too small without grip
  • Grip is $299 – wish it was $199
  • Battery life is about 300 shots which is low compared to some other cameras

My Bottom Line Conclusion on the Olympus E-M5. 

So here we are at the end of this 6300 word review. The OM-D has impressed me and met all of my expectations. It seems Olympus has been getting better and better with each new release, so they have been listening to our wish lists. I have loved all of the PEN series cameras even though when I look back at the E-P1 it was seriously crippled in comparison to what we have to choose from today. The E-M5 is a serious camera with serious capabilities. When you shoot it with some of the quality glass you feel like you are shooting with a quality tool, and that is because you actually are.

I like to say that if a camera motivates you to shoot that is a huge step in the right direction. This camera motivates me to want to shoot with it, much like the little but extremely fun and useful Nikon V1 did when I reviewed it. I have not had this much FUN shooting and reviewing a camera since the E-P3 :) Yep, these camera are not only serious but fun as well! Do not confuse that with me calling it a toy as it is not, and anyone who says it is a toy is either a full frame fanatic or has never used the E-M5. Besides, cameras do not make the image, the Photographer does.

If you want something easy to shoot that can grow with you over time, the E-M5 is a great choice. It is amazingly versatile as well and it no longer has limitations of the 1st gen Micro 4/3 cameras as the sensor is now capable of great low light shots using higher ISO. The AF is blazing fast and accurate though I did have a few missed shots using the 45 1.8 where the camera focused BEHIND the subject. To be fair, the NEX-7 does this all the time with the Zeiss 24 and  the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1 did it as well.

Even so, this camera rocks. No, it will not give you full frame quality. You will not get that Leica look nor will you have the capabilities of a Nikon D800. BUT if you want a small little well made powerhouse that does almost no wrong, the E-M5 is one of my TOP picks right now in the smaller camera/larger sensor market. In fact, I bought mine and am going to keep it to replace my E-P3 that I sold a little while ago. BTW, The handling without the grip is a bit on the small and cramped side, but with the grip it is fantastic.

If you want a small system that offers fast AF, great metering and offers just about everything you could ask for including super HD video, the best IS system of any mirror less camera to date and well, a camera that just plain works, then take a long hard look at the E-M5.

To all of those who feared M4/3 in the past, fear no more. The E-M5 is versatile, capable, fun, serious, well built and offers everything we can ask for in a take anywhere camera. BRAVO OLYMPUS! I highly recommend this one guys as I can not imagine anyone not liking it (as long as you have at least one good lens). Yes, Olympus  has paid tribute to the original OM series with the E-M5 and they did it well.

My recommended lenses for the OM-D E-M5

The Olympus 12mm f/2 – At $799 it is not cheap, but it is quality all the way. Superb lens for this camera system. This is a 24mm equivalent. (see more shots in my E-P3 review)

The Olympus 45 f/1.8 – Great for portraits and shallow depth of field. This will give you a 90mm equivalent. $399 (quick review here)

The Panasonic 14 f/2.5 – Want a less expensive wide angle prime? This one is just about as good as the 12 for MUCH less! (review here)

The Panasonic 25 f/1.4 – A Panasonic/Leica collaboration so it has to be good right? A 25 Summilux for your M4/3. $539 but worth it though the lens is larger and rattles the aperture when you are powered on. (quick review here)

The Panasonic 20 f/1.7 – The original and classic! This is a great lens and if you can find it, buy it! (review here)

The Panasonic 45-200  – (for those who want a good quality tele zoom on the cheap) (see it in use in my G2 review)

The Voigtlander 17 f/0.95 – This one is big, it is heavy, but it gives you the speed you sometimes need!

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More samples

Below you can find more snaps I shot while I was reviewing the camera. They are a mix of JPEG and RAW and with various lenses. This camera was so much fun I found myself snapping shots of almost anything :)

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Apr 252012
 

Great Fuji X-Pro 1 Review by a street shooter…

and some ramblings.

By Steve Huff

Hey guys! Check this out…I stumbled upon this review today from Rinzi Ruiz on the X-Pro 1. I met Rinzi at my LA Workshop and was drawn to his style of shooting. At the workshop he was shooting with a Fuji X100 and even while I had my Leica M9 he out shot me on the streets with his little X100, which goes to show once again, it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer. I do not claim to be a street shooting pro so I learned a bit from watching him that weekend. He waited for the right light. He calculated all of the details in his head before firing the shutter. I loved the way he used light to get his shots..which in fact created a style for him. Like I said, he has shot the X100 for a while and still owns it but now he seems to be loving his X-Pro 1. if you want another take on it besides mine, check out his real world shooter review of the camera HERE on his blog. He seemed to find the same issues I did with the lens chatter and slow AF but it didn’t stop him from loving the camera. Nice read and just how I like my reviews…non technical. 

I’m still shooting the X-Pro 1, and yes, I like the camera

It seems the last couple of Olympus articles i posted stirred up some controversy from one or two Fuji shooters who said I was  being unfair to the X-Pro 1 by comparing video to the Olympus. When I do these things I do not think of “fair or unfair” – I think “Hey, both cameras shoot video, let’s see how it goes in the same situations” and then I post my findings here for all of you to read! It not only entertains myself, but many of you as well and the best part is…it’s all free! Lol.

No need to get mad if I prefer camera A to camera B. These ramblings are just my thoughts after all and a camera is a personal choice. I am like a movie reviewer. You may not like what I like, period. Even though I say that, I do like the X-Pro 1 and have considered buying one on a few occasions just because of the IQ. The Fuji does have some soul and it is a unique kind of soul. Which is good. I just wish it was a little less expensive. I am happy Fuji has released the FW update though as it shows they are serious about getting these little quirks ironed out.

The rendering and color of the OOC JPEGS are so nice…this is with the 35 1.4 wide open

With the X-Pro 1, it is all about the IQ and great sensor.  If you can look past the sluggish AF in lower light or for fast action then you are good to go. To be clear, I have zero complaints with the IQ of  the X-Pro 1 and am happy Fuji fixed the lens chatter issue with the last FW update.

The Olympus OM-D review is coming!

The OM-D. Yes, I have really been enjoying using this camera. Why? Because I have yet to find any flaws besides the small cheap-ish buttons on the back. You can not get the same look IQ wise that you can get with the Fuji but like I mentioned in a previous article, choosing a camera and sensor is like choosing film stock. The little Olympus seems to have a lot going for it. Build, speed, lenses, feel, and IQ. It even does fantastic in low light and high ISO, more than I could ever need. SO what would hold someone back from the OM-D? Well, the fact that cameras like the NEX-7 exists for about the same cost. Which do I prefer? I won’t say here but you will see a comparison of the two in my review. The Zeiss 24 and NEX-7 against the OM-D and 12mm f/2. Not the same focal lengths of course but closest I can come to it. The sensor in the new E-M5 is so good for M4/3 but even so you will not get that overall “richness’ that you get from full frame or good APS-C’s. With that said, this is the best feeling mirrorless camera to date for me when it comes to actual use and usability. Review will be soon as I am taking a week-long vacation next week to visit family in Illinois and will be taking it along with me :) So far, so good.

an edited JPEG converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure – 45 1.8 at 2.8 – OM-D – click for larger

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Dramatic Art Filter in B&W – OOC JPEG

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OOC JPEG Color

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