Who Needs A Real Camera…?

So this week I purchased the newly released iPhone 11 Pro. I bought an iPhone XR about a year ago, together with Moment telephoto and wide angle supplementary lenses, and although I thought the quality of images from this combo was great, it was always a bit of a ‘faff’ to take a lens out of my bag or pocket and fix it in place. Also, the special phone case that was needed to fit the lenses did make for a rather bulky setup. Consequence was that I didn’t really end up using them that much.

I was excited, to say the least, at the announcement of the new iPhone 11Pro with its 3 built in cameras – wide, super-wide and telephoto, and further improved processing capabilities.

iPhone (portrait mode)

With a holiday imminent, I decided to take the plunge and grab one as I saw they were available direct from Apple if I moved quickly. So, £1400 lighter for a 256gb version and Apple Care, I had it all set up in a couple of hours and good to go.

First impressions? – amazing! The wide lens is about the same focal length as the single lens on my iPhone XR, ie about 26mm (35mm equivalent) which is pretty wide anyway, the super wide is a staggering 13mm equivalent, while the tele lens is a useful 52mm, great for portraits. The super wide has to be seen to be believed – it’s not just the ability to get much more into landscape shots, it’s about being able to get so much more in the frame where space is tight. There’s a whole lot more I won’t go into in detail here, such as the ability to automatically apply perspective control to fix converging verticals – suffice it to say the imaging and processing rivals a ‘serious’ camera and dedicated computer…

iPhone (tele lens) – verticals corrected

So what are the images like? – in a word ‘fantastic’…! OK, from a tiny sensor and lens combo you are never going to get definition and clarity to match a dedicated APS-C or Full Frame camera, so mega size prints are out of the question. But let’s face it, how many of us non-professionals use our photos on anything larger than an iPhone or iPad screen anyway? What impresses particularly is how close the output matches what you thought you saw when you took the photo – whereas my Sony camera often needs images tweaking to get back to ‘as it appeared at the time’ the iPhone seems to hit it bang on, straight off!

iPhone (super-wide lens) – cropped slightly

So where does this leave my ‘real’ cameras? – the SonyA7iii with its zoom and prime lenses, and my quite recently bought Fujifilm X100F? The Sony is smaller than good old fashioned DSLRs, but still quite chunky when fitted with its 24-105mm lens, and the whole kit needs a decent sized rucksack to carry it all. I find I go out with it less and less these days just due to the weight – my back is no longer up to trekking around the countryside with camera and lenses, filters and tripod!

The X100F is pretty small by comparison (but still a whole lot bigger than an iPhone) and has no interchangeable lens facility. I bought it as an ‘everyday’ carry around camera, thinking it would offer quality close to the Sony, but in a compact form. As you would expect, with its much bigger sensor it’s much better than any smartphone, and I’ve achieved very acceptable 30″x20″ prints from the earlier X100T version. BUT, it’s definitely not pocket sized, so not quite sure what it’s place is going to be – if I want absolute quality, and can cope with the weight etc, or want maybe a proper telephoto lens, I’ll use the Sony; if I’m prepared to sacrifice quality for sheer convenience, then it’s the iPhone… The X100F is an expensive piece of gear to hold on to if I’m not going to use it…

iPhone (tele lens)

Guess I’ll see how it goes – if, as I suspect, the Sony kit proves in the next year or so to be just too big and bulky to take out, then I may just give up on having a system camera altogether, or get something a bit smaller like a Sony A6xxx series outfit which would save maybe 40% of the weight without too much loss of image quality or functionality.

For now I guess I’ll concentrate on learning how to get the best out of my shiny new iPhone and then decide!

Hello Again…

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Neil Diamond’s song ‘Hello Again’ from the Jazz Singer film is an expression of enduring love – a need to keep restating loving emotions.  My relationship with the Fujifilm X100 series is more of an on/off love affair – an itch I can’t stop scratching, and here we are again…

I bought my first X100 camera, an X100S (’S’ for 2nd generation) back in 2014, largely as a result of seeing Todd Gipstein’s wonderful 1 Mile, 1 Year, 1 Lens video presentation. His 15 minute monochrome picture show was, as the title suggests, a series of photos all taken within the space of a year, and within a mile of his home. I suppose I thought that with a camera like that, I should be able to shoot great photos, unencumbered by lenses and filters and stuff – what I may just have missed is that Todd is a brilliant photographer, and the location for his photo set is the very varied and photogenic New England coastline…

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X100S – Poppies, London

Nevertheless, even with my much lesser talent, I did take some photos I was pleased with, and it was a very portable option when I wanted to travel light.  I kept the camera for about a year, then let it go when I wanted to get a wider range of lenses for my then Fuji X-T1. After about 6 months, I really missed that little camera’s portability and relative simplicity, so picked up what was then the latest 3rd generation X100T. Looking back, I see I only kept it for a couple of months – I had in mind that having a second body that I could fit my lenses to was going to be more useful than a fixed lens camera, so it got traded in.

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Colwyn Bay – X100F launch day

Fast forward a year or so, and all the Fuji gear had gone, and been replaced with Olympus – a mistaken belief that I could get similar image quality from a smaller camera and lens collection. I got talked into going to the launch event for the new 4th generation X100F in early 2017, and although I rather liked it, wasn’t really tempted to spend the £1200 or so it was priced at. Then in 2018, having dumped most of the Olympus kit in favour of Sony, I borrowed an X100F for a family holiday in France – I was still looking for the best possible quality in a camera smaller than my Sony A7iii with it’s rather large lenses. The X100F was marginally better than the Olympus Pen-F I still had, but rather than get the X100F, I went with the nearest Sony equivalent, an A6300 with a couple of lenses – logic being that these Sony lenses and bodies were all interchangeable up to a point.

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X100F – Ibiza

And that’s more or less where I was until a few weeks back when I realised that this search for a ‘perfect’ setup of larger camera for landscapes and ‘serious’ photography, and a smaller more portable system for travel was taking away all the enjoyment I was getting from photography – I was acquiring more and more gear, and then stressing about what to take with me (my previous blog post highlights this…) I was definitely heading for a complete photographic meltdown and it really was time to get a grip…

So decision made, and hopefully one I will stick with – I’ve slimmed down the Sony A7iii kit to the minimum, and will be keeping that just for landscapes etc, and particularly for locations where I am close to the car – it all still weighs a fair bit!  The A6300 and lenses has gone now, and in its place is (you’ve guessed it) an X100F!  Nearly new, it came at a good price, and is complete with filter adapter and a rather nice leather case. With a couple of spare batteries and a polarising filter, it’s a great everyday/travel option.

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X100F – Shrewsbury

I took it to Ibiza last week (and left the A7iii at home) and was more than happy with it. It’s definitely portable, and the results are very good indeed. I’m getting back into shooting mono and street photography, and really enjoying it – who knows I may yet sell the Sony full frame system and indeed revert to being a ‘one camera, one lens’ guy – not so much a ‘photographer’, more a ‘man with a camera’.

That’s quite an appealing thought!

 

 

No Tripod Allowed

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London Eye – Fuji 50-140mm

A combination of illness and family commitments means my Fuji cameras haven’t seen much action over the last month or two, but a couple of weeks ago I was booked on a Light and Land ‘Impressions of London’ workshop with Valda Bailey (Twitter – @tanyards) and Doug Chinnery (Twitter – @dougchinnery) and really didn’t want to miss it. Although I have been taking photos for over 50 years, and feel pretty confident with landscape and urban subjects, I’ve sensed my photography was in something of a rut lately and wanted to try a different approach. So off I headed to London, slightly intimidated by the joining instructions that stated that tripods were not allowed and would be ‘thrown in the Thames’! The reason for this became obvious fairly quickly – this workshop was all about experiencing different techniques like Intentional Camera Movement (ICM), Multiple Exposures and Zoom Pulling, and without the ‘straightjacket’ of a tripod, and the front-to-back sharpness that most photographers are programmed to produce, there would be ample opportunity for creativity and abstract impression. And, boy, was it a different experience!

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Tate Modern Café – iPhone 6

From the outset, it was clear this was going to be a great day; the weather was kind – mainly sunny with cloudy intervals; the location was great – the South Bank near Tate Modern; Doug and Valda were great tutors, and it was a small but enthusiastic group, keen to learn new techniques. After our initial briefing, where it became obvious that my Fuji X-T1 would have some shortcomings (more on this in a moment) we all worked individually to try and capture images that broke all the conventional rules, but still worked.The instructions were clear – experiment, take lots of photos, look for unusual angles, textures, colours and combinations.  Try to build up images from different elements that complimented one-another in some way.  Overlay patterns and abstracts on defocussed main images, and think about how images could then be further worked on via post-processing.

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Trees, South Bank – Fuji 16-55mm

So the start point for me was multiple exposure images and this is where the limitations of Fuji cameras compared to Canon and Nikon DSLRs became apparent.  Some of the Canon cameras can take up to 9 shots to create a single image.  Not only that, but each is created as a RAW file, the individual shots making up the image can be saved individually, and there are multiple modes for blending the images together (like the layer blend modes in Photoshop). The Fuji cameras (X-T1 and XT10 anyway) are much more simplistic – only 2 exposures, a single ‘general’ blend mode, and the only image saved is a JPG of the multiple exposure itself – no original files to go back and have another go with at home… Although this was clearly limiting on the day, I did nevertheless manage several multiple exposure images I was pleased with. Maybe more sophisticated multiple exposure options could feature in a future Fuji firmware upgrade?

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Millennium Bridge – Fuji 16-55mm

Next was Zoom Pulling – twisting the zoom ring during a shot. I found that exposures around 1-3 seconds worked best for this technique – too short an exposure meant there was little effect, while too long an exposure meant all detail was lost.  This is a pretty well known and often over used technique, so to my mind needs to be used with care. First time I think I’ve used it though, and some interesting results, especially with quite bold subjects.

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South Bank Apartments – Fuji 50-140mm

Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) is exactly that – moving the camera side to side, up and down, backwards and forwards, or twisting it, all during the exposure.  This can create weird and wonderful shapes, with these images used alone, or as part of a multiple exposure final image. One interesting thing I found was when using my 50-140mm lens with the image stabilisation switched on. During exposures of 2-3 seconds, providing the camera was not moving too quickly the IS would ‘lock on’ several times during the shot, giving the appearance of a multiple exposure – quite a pleasing result in some cases.

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Golden Jubilee Bridge – Fuji 50-140mm

These techniques (and Valda is a master) are becoming popular, as evidenced by the fact that this month’s UK photo press are carrying a couple of articles about it, so its definitely here to stay.  We were of course mainly shooting architecture and urban views, but I can see it would work equally well with landscapes, nature and even macro. What is rather good is that you don’t need to carry a complete bag of gear (as I did!) to capture these images – a mid range zoom lens is sufficient, and no real need for the highest resolution sensor either. I did find that switching filters to get the correct long exposures during changeable light was tricky – I think a variable ND filter would probably be quite helpful here.

So, I have several hundred images from the day – a few of which I am happy with as they stand, and a good number that can be worked on, either individually or combined in Photoshop.  I can’t wait to get out and try these techniques again – its not often you learn something new after 50 years of doing pretty much the same thing!

Thanks to Doug and Valda (and Light & Light for their great organisation) for a super day out, and a new creative angle for me to further explore!

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South Bank – Fuji 35mm f2

Fujifilm 50-140mm f2.8 – first impressions

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Fujifilm X-T1 with 50-140mm OIS WR lens

Although this lens receives rave reviews, I’ve always held off buying one – until now that is… Fuji prime lenses are superb – no two ways about it, but sometimes the convenience of a zoom lens is what’s needed. Quick changes of focal length, or tricky conditions like salt spray or rain mean a zoom is just so much more practical, and to be fair, the image quality from Fuji zooms is not far off that of primes. But the 50-140mm is seriously big – almost 1kg in weight, and 176mm long – that’s almost twice the weight of my 55-200mm lens. The constant maximum aperture of f2.8, and reputed image quality have been a draw, but that bulk and weight have always put me off – not to mention of course a fairly hefty price tag!

But somehow, the 55-200mm hasn’t been working for me – the one I’ve been using is the second I’ve had, and despite the excellent OIS and its excellent reputation, shots I’ve taken have never been quite as crisp as I expected. I don’t think its a faulty copy of the lens – it just doesn’t match the sharpness of my other lenses. I also have the stunningly good 90mm f2 lens, but there are just times when only a zoom will do. I had the opportunity to look at and handle a 50-140mm lens during a recent trip to Scotland, and somehow it just felt ‘right’.

XT105771So, a combination of a bundled deal with the new 1.4x converter, and a hefty discount at last week’s Photography Show was too much to resist, and I came home with one! Unboxing it did reveal just how ‘chunky’ this lens is – it reminded me of my 70-200mm f2.8 Nikon lens, albeit still quite a lot smaller than that brute. Mounted on my X-T1 though (without the detachable tripod foot) it’s beautifully balanced, and the controls are so smooth. The effect of the image stabilisation is obvious even just looking through the camera viewfinder, and the focussing is really fast.

XT105782A combination of lots of other things to do, and poor weather this week means I haven’t been outside yet with the lens, but these are a couple of shots taken indoors. They are wide open (f2.8 of course), 140mm, and 1/125th sec, which is usually ‘marginal’ for getting a sharp photo at this focal length, but you can see just how sharp the images are.

So first impressions are very positive. I can see me using it whenever I am going out with  my ‘full’ kit, either for landscapes or events – it fits neatly in my ThinkTank backpack, or a larger shoulder bag. If I’m travelling and need to keep the weight down, then I may have to leave it at home and take the 90mm instead – I had thought I might sell that, but it really is too good a lens to sell! Hopefully some better weather later this week should allow me to get out and test the lens more fully, but so far, I’m impressed!

Doors…

X10A5728Our little village in France (Montréal, near Carcassonne, in the South West) has a history dating back over 1000 years to Cathar times, and has a pretty eclectic architectural heritage. The Collégiale, or main church, dates back to the late 13th century, although it is thought a primitive church existed here several hundred years before that. Much of the surrounding village was burned to the ground by the Black Prince in 1355, and the next 400 years saw the village repeatedly attacked as a consequence of the religious strife that dominated this part of France. As a result, many of the older houses in the village date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and these sit alongside houses that have been modernised since, often in a haphazard fashion.  There are barely a handful of completely new houses in the main part of the village – all the new development has been carried out further afield.

X10A5653The somewhat diverse architectural styles in the village are reflected in the doors – not just to the Collégiale and the grand houses in the village centre, but all the smaller houses too. Every time I walk around the village I marvel at the sheer variety of styles of door on show, so for a bit of fun decided to do a mini photo project, recording as many of the different doors as I could. Camera used was (as it often is these days) the Fujifilm X-T10, this time with the 18-55mm zoom. No special technique here – just walk up, select a nice view of the door/doorway – often from the side as the streets are too narrow in some cases to use even the 18mm front-on. Photos are all RAW images, imported into Lightroom with a little ‘punch’ added, and some judicious cropping and further adjustment where needed. Here are a few of my favourites from my mini-project.

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At last, a Fujifilm Trouser-Pocket Camera…

To quote an old saying – ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’. For most of us the camera we usually carry around is the one in our smartphone, and to be fair, they are pretty good these days. But for us self-styled photographers, the tiny sensor and limited functions in smartphones just don’t cut the mustard.  We want a sensor that will support at least a high quality A3 size print, a superb quality wide aperture lens, RAW file capability for editing, and of course high ISO sensitivity without image noise that looks like marbles. And a few other features would be nice too… No smartphone offers all this – the tiny sensor and limited space for processor chips just makes that a no-no.

Sure, there are plenty of compact cameras that offer the larger file sizes and options, but find one that has the required image quality, and is still genuinely pocketable? No – either the image quality isn’t there, or they are just too big to slip in a trouser pocket… so they get left at home. There are so many occasions when I wished I had a decent camera with me instead of it being on a shelf at home.  For me, the closest to this elusive beast is the Ricoh GR Digital (actually, in days gone by, I had a GR film camera and that was truly special) but I was put off buying a GR because of their reputation for dust ingress – no point in having a super-pocketable camera if you have to keep it in a bulky case all the time to protect it is there?  I had a Fujifilm X100T camera for a while, but  it was just a little too big to be properly pocketable, so again, it frequently stayed home.

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The new Fujifilm X70

So yesterday,  Sarah from Cambrian Photography loaned me the newly launched Fujifilm X70 camera to try for a few hours while we wandered around Liverpool on our Fujiholics Photo Walk. The camera has been described in the photo press as a ‘cut-down’ version of the X100T, and it definitely has Fuji genes – it does indeed show a marked similarity to the X100T, but in a smaller form factor and without the viewfinder.  All the other Fuji X-series hallmark features are still there though – the superb APS-C sized sensor that powers the X-T1 and X-T10, combined leaf and electronic shutter, processing engine and AF from the excellent X-T10, a newly developed 18mm f2 lens, and Fuji’s excellent build quality. It feels like a Fuji camera. Ah, and did I forget to mention, that LCD screen on the back can flip right round to 180° AND is a touch screen – not only can you adjust the AF target point using the touch screen, but you can fire the shutter too – very handy. This isn’t a detailed review of the camera and all its features so I won’t bore you with the whole specification – here is the link to the Fuji website.

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Cool but still retro – a black X70

I have to say my first reaction when I handled the X70 was a little muted – it wasn’t quite as small as I had imagined it was going to be, and the first few times I shot with it, I raised it to eye level before realising it didn’t have a viewfinder – just the LCD screen on the back. Not sure how my less than perfect eyesight was going to manage that (there is an optional optical viewfinder that fits in the accessory shoe, but I didn’t fancy that). It definitely fits in jeans or jacket pocket though… But, it felt good in the hand, all the controls and menus felt familiar, the AF is quick, very quick, and like all Fuji cameras, when it does find focus, it is deadly accurate. Even reviewing my first few shots on the screen, I could see they were going to be sharp.

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Happy chappy!

The Photo Walk in Liverpool was all about street photography, capturing those little cameos of people and the city but without drawing attention to yourself, and I found I was increasingly reaching for the X70 rather than the X-T10/35mm combo I had with me. I could reach into my pocket, switching the camera on at the same time, and be ready to shoot immediately. I found I took quite a few shots from waist level, using the flip screen, and that too worked well.  For some shots the 18mm lens of the X70 was a little wide, but mostly I preferred it to shooting with a longer lens, and with 16Mp, there is the option of cropping and still getting a great image. (The camera has a ‘crop’ image option, but I didn’t try that on the day..) Another feature I loved was the electronic shutter – switch to that and turn the other camera sounds off, and its completely silent – great for close-up candids.

Of the 60 or so shots I took during the day, there wasn’t one where the exposure was significantly wrong, and the 3-4 shots that weren’t sharp were down to subject movement  or me ‘snatching’ as I took the photo. All the images (I didn’t even change the base settings on the camera, so all were colour JPEGs) were bright and crisp and useable straight from camera. The lens is definitely very sharp, and there is no obvious vignetting or quality fall off at the edges. With that lens, sensor and processing engine, any images are clearly going to be of comparable quality to those from an X-T1, X100T or X-T10 so no compromises there. Handling of the camera is great, and while the lack of a viewfinder may be a problem for some, the flip/tilt LCD screen is a very useful feature. The field of view of the 18mm lens is incredibly useful, and the ability to focus as close as 10cm is great too.

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Girls out on the town

So during the day, the camera grew on me, and I went from ‘nice, but not for me’ to ‘when can I have one’. The launch price of £549 is pretty much to be expected for the quality and features on offer, but I would expect some softening of the street price over the next few months. Expect to see it at maybe £475 to £499 by the end of this year, at which its a definite purchase for me. Don’t forget to carry a spare battery though – the battery in mine was flat after a day’s shooting.

Here are some more images from the day (and BTW, I’d definitely recommend trying one of the Fujiholics Photo Walks – great fun, great company, and FREE – and you don’t have to use a Fuji camera either, although you’ll probably end up buying one afterwards!)

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Fuji X-Pro2 – Start of a new Generation

When the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was launched back in 2012, mirrorless cameras came of age. A combination of robust build, compact size and a revolutionary hybrid viewfinder all combined with some excellent quality lenses to provide the first real alternative to the DSLRs favoured by professional and serious amateur photographers.

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Pre-production X-Pro2 (thanks Matt!)

In the four years since launch, the X-Pro1 has had its firmware updated a number of times to improve its AF speed and add new features. But for over a year now, Fuji aficionados have been anticipating a major update to a camera which has recently started to look somewhat dated, and which has had its performance surpassed by newer Fuji offerings and by competitors.

The specification and features of the expected new model were well leaked, so it was no surprise to learn that the X-Pro2 has a new 24Mpx sensor, massively faster AF performance, and twin SD card slots. The revolutionary hybrid viewfinder from the X-Pro1 has been further improved, and the camera now boasts weather sealing with over 60 seals. Amongst other new features are a brand new film simulation, up to +/-5ev exposure compensation for HDR fans, and a brand new processing engine that improves performance around. All these new and improved features add up to a camera that is truly unique, AND can match anything that any DSLR can do.

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Photo – Fujifilm Corporation

Thanks to Matt Hart (www.lighttraveler.co.uk), I was able to briefly try a pre-production sample on the very day the long awaited  X-Pro2 was announced. While this camera didn’t have final firmware etc, it was truly impressive.  Paired with the new 35mm f2 lens, even in very poor light the AF performance was both fast and accurate. The new viewfinder was simply amazing – clear and bright in either optical or electronic mode, and the omission from the earlier model of diopter adjustment has been rectified – there is now a handy little knob, just like the X-T1 and X-T10 cameras. Fastest ‘regular’ shutter speed is now 1/8000th second, and there is also the option of a purely electronic shutter up to 1/32000 second. There is a certain ‘heft’ to the camera – it feels solid and reassuring in the hand, just like the X-Pro1 did, and this will please pro photographers who expect their cameras to take real punishment.

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X-Pro2 showing larger LCD and control layout

I for one am looking forward to getting my hands on a full production model of this exciting new camera! I can’t see how I will be able to resist buying one…

Inevitably, the talk now is of an upgrade to the X-T1 model – while its a brilliant camera in pretty much every regard, landscape photographers would certainly appreciate a step-up to a 24Mpx sensor, let alone some of the other features from the X-Pro2. Will this happen too in 2016? Exciting times…

Fujifilm X-T10 – the ‘pocket rocket’

91npjD2GO8L._SL1500_When the X-T10 camera was launched in late 2015 it was dubbed by many as a ‘cut down X-T1’, stripped of many of its features.  Having bought one a few weeks ago, that seems to be far from the truth!  Sure it is smaller, it doesn’t claim to have the weather proofing that its big brother has, and both the LCD and viewfinder screens are a little smaller, but it really is an exceptionally good camera, at around half the price of the X-T1!

The autofocus is very good indeed, better than the X-T1 at the time the X-T10 was launched, although the X-T1 autofocus has now been brought up to the same level.  The sensor and processing is virtually the same as the X-T1 and other current Fuji cameras so img_main03no issues there – the image quality is identical. There are the full range of image quality and shooting controls, a tilt LCD screen, face detection and continuous AF, and even a built-in flashgun. Apparently the time to store a burst of photos is slower, but as I see it that is really only an issue if shooting sport or similar.

What I really love is just how tiny the camera is – put one of the smaller Fuji lens on it, like the new 35mm f2 or the diminutive 27mm, and the camera is little bigger than a compact – yet offers full ‘DSLR’ type performance and image quality. It’s now my ‘everyday’ camera, and will definitely be my first choice for street photography as it is so inconspicuous.  Nice one Fuji..

Here’s one of my first ‘serious’ photos taken with the camera. I’ll be adding more images in due course.

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Fuji X-T10 with 10-24mm lens

Fuji 10-24mm – I got there in the end.

pic_02Much as I love my Fuji prime lenses, particularly the 14mm and 23mm, there are times when a nice wide zoom would be so useful. Sometimes 14mm just isn’t wide enough to get everything in shot, and there’s no opportunity to step further back. Likewise you may want to stay close to a foreground subject and get more background in. And there’s the ‘zoom’ thing – its all very good saying ‘ah well, don’t be lazy, just take a moment to change your lens over’, or ‘stand further back’ – that’s not so easy if you are standing in the middle of a mountain stream. Likewise if its blowing a gale you don’t want dust getting into your precious camera body, or to faff around switching filters over from one lens to another. If you are a documentary rather than landscape photographer, those few seconds changing a lens can mean missing that shot.

So the Fuji XF 10-24mm f4 lens seemed the answer to my prayers – 10mm is an awful lot wider than 14mm, the f4 max aperture won’t cause me any problems as I’ll mainly use it for landscapes and buildings, and the OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) means I can shoot hand-held photos at a much lower shutter speed than usual – handy when using a tripod isn’t an option. A good number of my landscape photos are taken with my 14mm and 23mm lenses, so this should cover me for a fair proportion of what I do.

The lens is bigger than any of my other lenses, but you’d expect that – after all it’s a zoom and there’s all that OIS stuff inside as well. It weighs around 410gm instead of the 235gm of my 14mm, but that’s no big deal – this Fuji kit weighs so much less than good old-fashioned DSLRs. It actually balances quite well fitted on the X-T1, but perhaps a bit front-heavy on a smaller body – no problem when its on a tripod though. It all works nice and smoothly, with those little switches to turn OIS on and off (turn it off when on a tripod for best results), and to switch between auto and manual aperture.  The zoom ring is maybe a little stiff to operate, but it does mean the lens doesn’t ‘zoom itself’ when pointing downwards as some do.

81I2zew1seL._SL1500_Ah, the first real problem… The 72mm filter size does mean I can fit my Lee Seven5 filter system on, but alas, at anything wider than the 14mm setting there is vignetting – i.e. the edges of the filter holder come into the edge of the shot – its then pretty much unusable with the Lee polariser fitted. Not great, but not the end of the world, as there’s always the option to use round 72mm filters – more money and more to carry around, and of course no graduated filter option.

I’m used to all my Fuji lenses being bitingly sharp, so when I saw the first images I’d taken with the 10-24mm, I figured it was poor technique on my part. They were ‘ok’ in the centre, but my shots had detail out towards the edges of the frame, and the edges were definitely ‘not right’. Compared to my very good 14mm and 23mm lenses, this lens falls way short – from 18-24mm, it’s also not as sharp as my ‘kit’ 18-55mm lens, with most of the issue at the edges.  This is completely contrary to what I was expecting – no zoom is likely to equal the sharpness of an equivalent prime lens, but all the reviews I had seen of this lens were so good – surely this wasn’t right? Checking around, it seems that while most copies of this lens are indeed good, there is some variability, and without doubt I had one of the poorer copies, so back it went.

There is a happy end to this tale though – after thinking it through, and deciding I really did need the flexibility of this ultra-wide zoom, and with the incentive of a cashback deal from Fuji, I bought another copy.  Running it through the same tests, the results were like night and day. Even wide open, at the edges this lens is pretty good – in the centre its excellent, and stopped down to f8-f11 where I’m most likely to use it, its darn good.  There is virtually no lens distortion, what there is is very well controlled by the camera’s own software, unlike for example my old Nikon 16-35mm lens which had horrible barrel distortion. Be aware though that the extreme angle of view will mean that objects near the edge of the frame will appear elongated – this isn’t distortion, it due to perspective.

All in all, this lens is good enough for me to want to keep, and consign a couple of my other lenses to eBay.  It was definitely worth persevering to get a better copy! I’ll post some images taken with the lens in an update soon.

Why I love Fujifilm….

I switched to Fuji around two years ago after being a near-lifelong Nikon photographer. The reason why? Well, it was mostly about the bulk and weight of the new generation of DSLR cameras. My (extremely good) Nikon D800 weighed almost 2kg with its zoom lens, and all the other lenses I had for it were pretty big too. I found I was increasingly reluctant to go out with – it was just too heavy to want to be bothered with if I was going to be any distance from the car. If I was taking ‘people’ photos, this bazooka sized camera and lens was often off putting – discrete photography was out of the question.  I wasn’t ‘knocked out’ with the quality of some of the lenses – sure the camera itself was awesome with its 36 million pixel sensor, but both my zoom lenses distorted horribly and were not good for landscapes.

91npjD2GO8L._SL1500_Mirror less cameras seemed to offer a good alternative – much smaller and lighter, and ‘good enough’ image quality, and I was impressed by the reputation Fuji had, so decided to take the plunge with an X-E1 and lens.  Weighing only around 550gms, it was a delight to carry around and certainly not intimidating to potential subjects.  Sure it was a different experience – a fully electronic viewfinder and far less capable autofocussing, but the image quality from the 16Mp sensor was, and still is, outstanding. Everyday JPEG images are sharp and contrasty and the colour saturation is amazing. With some post processing in Photoshop or Lightroom, the RAW images rivalled the photos I was getting from the Nikon, all from a camera a fraction of the size, and far less expensive.  I’ve invested in several more lenses (all superb, and a fraction of the size of Nikon) and now have 2 camera bodies and flash units etc…… I don’t claim it’s a perfect system, but it works for me, and it’s restimulated my love of photography. I rarely go anywhere these days without a camera, and now take far more photographs than before. I’m exhibiting a selection of photos for the first time, and have another exhibition planned later this year – I couldn’t have envisaged this a year or two ago.

But there’s one more thing that really sets Fuji apart from the other camera manufacturers, and turns my enthusiasm into real love, and that’s it’s support for the model range. With Nikon (and the others..) you buy a camera and that’s it. It never gets any new features or improvements – you wait a year or so and then there’s a new model that makes yours obsolete.  Fuji is different.  Very different. Every few months there’s a free firmware update that makes performance improvements and adds new features. And this isn’t just for the latest model – Fuji provide these updates (to the extent they can) on models that are several years old.

img_main01Today Fuji announced a radical upgrade to the auto focus system of the X-T1, which will address many of the requests users have asked for to make their cameras function more like a conventional DSLR camera.  Chief of these is the implementation of dual Wide and Zone tracking modes which will allow better focussing of moving subjects.  Also included is Eye Detection AF which will detect and focus on human eyes, a major benefit if using wide aperture lenses that have limited depth of focus. Other features/improvements include Auto Macro Mode, better Movie AF, improved shutter dial operation, and additional Exposure Compensation capabilities.

I’m really looking forward to this upgrade, due for release in June – it will be like having a new camera!