X-T2 : Finally!

I sort of stopped writing this blog a while back, the X-T2 was released and I was in a “no kit investment year” (I run my kit spending cyclicly where I have a year of investment, then a year where it all has to pay for itself before I invest again). Once the X-T2 was out I kind of realised that nobody really wanted to read about my using the older cameras so I put the blog on hold. (If thats not the case, let me know!).

Now we are into a new year, an investment year, and the first of those investments has just arrived following a good deal from Calumet‘s Jamie (and the help of a friend – Mike). I have added an X-T2 plus grip and a lovely Millican bag (that I will use for wandering with a single camera).

This morning I went for a wander, adding a 16-55/2.8 and the old 55-200/4.8. This was not really a test, more a “lets get to find out a little bit about you”. I’m a sucker for monochrome as you probably know so I set it to JPG and ACROS simulation. Heres a cross-section of images – mostly straight out of the camera, just cropped (unless I specify otherwise in the caption).

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55, blacks pulled down slightly. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 16-55 , shadow and hi-light pushed in camera, SOOC. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.16-55 clarity +4. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Shadows lifted and whites pulled up. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity, curve adjustment. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. 55-200, Hi-lights and exposure recovery. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, medium clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017.55-200, Levels adjusted, slight clarity. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

X-T2 Walk around test at Worthing, UK, 01/04/2017. Picture by Julie Edwards

 

There is nothing groundbreaking in these shots but they were all testing aspects of the kit and helping me get used to the new controls layout. I used the 55-200 because I wanted to see if the new AF made this lens more useful – it does, it kept up with the birds better than my pre-coffee panning technique. I am pleased with the ACROS simulation and how it handles edits (to the hi-lights and shadows). This afternoon I will use it on a proper job but for now I can sum up my likes and dislikes:

Likes:

  • Focusing – the tracking is far better.
  • Joystick – moving the focus points is a breeze
  • Landscape / Portrait AF pattern – having different points selected in the 2 camera orientations is brilliant (Firmware 2.0)
  • Speed – A far more responsive camera
  • ISO adjustment on the front command dial
  • ACROS

Dislikes:

  • Back button focussing – my Tracking / Single shot trick (see this article) no longer works, BBF is less useful

So thats overwhelmingly positive then!

Now I have current kit, I will be writing a lot more again so make sure you head back. More thoughts to follow (and you can expect posts on the 150-400 soon also). Thank you for visiting.

X100

Fuji  have brought out a new version of the first Fuji camera I brought – the X100F. The Mk1 was the camera that started me on this journey from big DSLR’s to mirrorless  and so I’m torn.

This morning I went for a wander, and reminded myself how much I just love this little camera, going back to basics just like shooting with a ‘trip or such like as I did as a teenager.

 

I’m not sure if I can build  business case for the new little un or not….

 

 

NIK collection away for free

I know a few have asked about my processing of monochromes…

Well today Google have announced they are giving the NIK collection away for free and that includes my beloved Silver Efex Pro…

Today we’re making the Nik Collection available to everyone, for free.

Photo enthusiasts all over the world use the Nik Collection to get the best out of their images every day. As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile, including Google Photos and Snapseed, we’ve decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free, so that now anyone can use it.

The Nik Collection is comprised of seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities — from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects, to image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details, to the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images.

Starting March 24, 2016, the latest Nik Collection will be freely available to download: Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine. If you purchased the Nik Collection in 2016, you will receive a full refund, which we’ll automatically issue back to you in the coming days.

We’re excited to bring the powerful photo editing tools once only used by professionals to even more people now.

https://www.google.com/nikcollection/

Thoughts on the XF 1.4X TC WR teleconverter

This week I have borrowed the XF 1.4X TC WR teleconverter for use with the 50-140 Zoom. (It also works with the newly announced 100-400 ).

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I needed to find out how the lens with converter would work in “not ideal conditions” so I took an X-T1 with the lens and converter mounted out early on a dark stormy morning before the sun had fully risen. There are plenty of technical reviews, in perfect conditions, with nice blue skies, I need to know how it performs in the poor light and conditions I am likely to get. If it functions in these, it will function on a nice bright summers day.

So, these test images are all straight from the camera shot at either 6400 or 3200 iso, slow shutter speeds and mostly slightly underexposed. Not a case of getting pretty images but a case of “what can I get away with”. All the images are taken at “Full Zoom” i.e. 140mm (200mm).

Starting with our local pier.

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50-140 Native at 140mm

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50-140 with Converter at 140mm

This shows the difference in the reach of the lens with the converter against the lens alone.

At 1:1 these images look like:

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Native. 3200iso, 1/300, F2.8(F4)

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With 1.4x. 3200iso, 1/170, F2.8(F4)

Firstly it’s obvious (or should be) that as with all teleconverters there is light loss, in this case approximately 1 stop (shown here by the variation in shutter speed).
Secondly in these conditions there is no real difference in image quality. Great.
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Native. 6400iso, 1/350, F2.8(F4)

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With 1.4x. 6400iso, 1/180, F2.8(F4)

Remember – straight off of camera JPG, only cropped here.

Testing the optical image stabilisation:

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With 1.4x. 6400iso, 1/58, F2.8(F4)

So yes! Thats 1/60th with an equivalent focal length of 300mm, The OIS seems to work fine! I was also testing the focusing at this point and the tracking did track the cyclist ok (ok, not that fast but I don’t do sport).

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With 1.4x. 6400iso, 1/150, F2.8(F4)

I could also track this flying bird ok although acquiring the subject was a little harder/slower so I would say the focusing is defiantly affected (it would be due to the light loss) but the effect is acceptable for my work. If you shoot sports I would check for yourself.

 

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(Shop Window) With 1.4x. 6400iso, 1/120, F2.8(F4)

 

But that is not everything. There are issues:

Firstly, mounting the converter: The convertor is shaped it slides up within the barrel of the 50-140. I am sure this enables the high image quality to be delivered but it did mean I felt I needed to be far more careful mounting the converter on the lens. My routine was:

  • Lens off of camera
  • Converter onto lens
  • Finally mounting the combination back on the camera body.

Far slower than a face-to-face mounting and meaning that the body is open with an exposed sensor for a longer time than I would like.

Secondly, reported focal lengths and aperture values: When using a converter on my Nikons. The camera (and EXIF data) would report the resultant aperture (i.e. F4 opposed to F2.8) and focal length (i.e. 200 opposed to 140). The X-T1 was not doing this (tested in Firmware 4.0 and 4.20), the EXIF information reported was for the lens alone. This is addressed by ensuring that not only the camera body is running the latest firmware but also the lens. It turns out that during my testing, my lens was not running the latest. I am assured the correct data is reported when all is updated.

So to sum up:

I am fairly sure the performance under conditions I would use it are fairly acceptable with slight degradation in focus performance and an imperceptible difference in image quality. I suppose one big question is “How does the performance compare with the 55-200”. My gut feeling is it out performs it but without measurable back-to-back testing thats difficult to say.

The big lesson of the day is:

Always ensure that both the lens and the body are updated to be running the very latest firmware as there may be issues that are not apparent whist using the kit that may affect the data further down the line.

X-Pro2 : A quick Hands on

Today I got my hands on an X-Pro2 for an hour. I was not really looking at it with a view to buying one now, more as a view to “where are Fuji going” and “what can I expect from the next generation X-T”.

You will not find photos of the camera here, there are plenty of them around!

It feels nice in the hand, very nice. The slight increase in weight gives it a more solid feel, the change in grip shape on the right hand side means a nicer, more solid grip particularly  when holding single handed.

The joystick  is really nice, making it much easier and quicker to switch focus point. Although I grew up with film cameras I was slightly concerned about the “lift-up” iso dial but it works fine;  its not the fastest but is still quite easy to operate with the camera up to your eye. Whilst I am on the subject of having the camera to the eye, the new EVF is noticeably smoother than that in the X-T1.

One thing you do quickly notice though is the sound. Oh it sounds so nice. No, that should not be important but it does give you this warm feeling that this camera will be nice to use.

Mounting a flash on the camera and having it fire at the full 8fps with the jpg’s streaming into my cheap SD card in slot 2 with no delay or pausing was a relief. I did get the feeling I could put this camera into service right away and if I were shooting a job on prime lenses I would probably opt for this over my current X-T1’s.

I have not posted any full size for the pixel peepers but here are a few images I shot:

To Sum up:

Will I be buying one now?

No, I do not have a business case for one. However it does give me a really good feeling about the next generation X-T. If this camera is anything to go by the future is really bright.

I have the feeling that at some point I might move my current X-Pro1 and X100 on and replace both of these with a single X-Pro2 because it just feels so nice, nice in the same way that the original X100 did.

Looking Forward

I’ve waited a week into the new year before posting this as my feed has been filled up with “my best photos of 2015 blogs”.  Although I have blogged a “best of” for the past couple of years, this year I did not want to, I wanted to look forward…

This is mostly a “Fuji Gear” blog so with that in mind, what am I looking forward to?

First I am expecting to review/test the 1.4x Extender for the 50-140 zoom. Yes I know this has been out for a while but I have not seen it nor tested it yet having held off because I’m pretty sure I would decide I need it (due to the lack of long lenses)..

Which brings me to what I am really looking forward to. The XF100-400 zoom (rumours are it should be quite soon). It’s quite clear from earlier posts that a “long” is what I am missing (for those “Royal” jobs, the music gigs from the sounddesk, the long shots at conferences). You can view the Fuji X Les Roadmap here… I’m pretty sure (assuming it performs as well as the other lenses) that I will be purchasing this fairly quickly.

The new X-Pro2 is due to be announced shortly, the specs look good and it should be an good indicator on how Fuji is developing, particularly in the area of sensors and auto-focus. Rumours are there will be a new X-T2 announced in the summer. My plan is to review these bodies and see how far forward a step they are before committing.

So thats camera gear. One of my photographic aims this year is to shoot more formal / creative portraits (most of the news work I do is informal so it would be good to get back to working with lights more). Therefore I will be looking more into speedlights/strobes vs continuous and (my favourite) LED’s. I started looking at LED’s a few years back and really like the light (I have a couple that I use for monochrome work). However the price being charged for systems with a good constant white (high CRI) was just too high along with the output being too low meant they could not become everyday tools. I am hoping that has changed. If not, I’ll have to continue with the speed lights (I like portable!) ..

Well, those are my plans, what are yours?

 

 

New Announcements and Rumours.

So, rumours are rife and announcements are expected. In fact Nikon announced new shiny cameras yesterday.

I’m a member of many so-called “professional” photography forums and yet after the announcement all the discussion was about the features, what cards the cameras took, OVF vs EVF vs Flipscreen. How many mega-pixels….

These are NOT the important questions a freelance photographer should be asking themselves:

THESE are the questions they should be asking!

“Will it enable me to deliver better product to my clients”.
“Will I be in a better position to compete with this compared to my existing kit”
“How much more money will i be able to make by investing in this? What will the pay-back time be”?
This is business, not play time!

Making Waves

If I see another 10 Stop, dreamy, long exposure seascape I’m going to scream! It’s been done! Move on! Try something new!

Well this is the antidote to that, the anti-long exposure seascape.

From my last post (and if you have looked at any of my previous work on my website) you will see I photograph a lot with shallow depth of field. In fact I probably do it too much. At WOMAD I was playing with the 56mm wide open (F1.2) in the bright sun. I thought I needed to play with it more, to see what was possible, maybe I could use it in other circumstances, so, I did what I always do when I want to test and play, I headed to the beach. Of course it helps I live 2 minutes walk from the sea but it does mean I end up with far too many photographs of seaguls and kite-boarders (testing focus tracking) and seacapes (well, because thats where I live).

The tide was comming in and the waves were breaking quite nicely. Set the ISO to 400, Aperture Priority and F1.2.

Full frame:

Worthing Sea: X-1T, 56mm, F1.2 @ 1/32000

1:1 Crop:

1:1 Crop from Centre (and rotated)

Look at the patterns, the droplets and overall the detail! I’ve of course photographed waves breaking at fast shutter speeds butnever this fast! The electronic shutter opens up new possiblites that was only possible using flash in the past. I’m sure that the speed effects themselves are going to add much to my day-to-day work in itself however the fact that I can now shoot wide open at almost any time without filters is a huge benefit.

As for the anti-long exposure seascape? I love something about this; just the single groyne post sharp. Even Classic-Chrome has it’s use sometimes….

Breaking Waves: X-1T, 56mm/F1.2 @ 1/15000, Classic Chrome

WOMAD: Rain, Sun, Rain & 50-140

As mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend at WOMAD where it tipped down for one day, was sunny the next and finished with more rain on the third. I was covering it with my Fuji kit plus a borrowed 50-140/2.8 and in these conditions they got a thorough workout!

First up, apologies for mixing monochrome and colour images in the same post – it’s something I hate but they do all demonstrate points.

The thing about festivals is they really do feature a very wide range of photography; from covering artists on stage, to posed portraits out and about along with unposed “atmosphere” portraits and general views. Add to this mix the weather and the weekend was a real test: for both the kit and myself!

Unpacking kit on my desk. The most important item for Friday was the chamois cloth!

Unpacking kit on my desk. The most important item for Friday was the chamois cloth!

One of the great things about switching to the Fuji system is I can totally fit my “out and about” kit on my Think tank belt. I use 2 “Skin Body Bags” filled with an 2 X-T1’s with the 56mm on one and the 55-200 on the other. Additionally I carry the 35mm in the pouch and the 14mm attached to a x-1Pro. For the weekend I replaced the 55-200 with the 50-140. Unzipping the pouches to their full length enables the camera and lens to sit inside perfectly with the hood fitted, ready to shoot but with the flap closed and fully sheltered from the heavy rain.

Rain is always worrying, we (press photographers) have no choice of the weather conditions we work in, we can’t wait for perfect conditions (& in many cases – the conditions are an important part of the story). Like many others I have had cameras get too wet, refuse to work, flash systems blow up, buttons and dials refuse to work so it’s always a worry when the conditions are as they were.

Waiting in the rain. X-T1, 50-140mm.

I’m pleased to say, the cameras did not miss a beat. Seriously, not a hitch. I was obviously careful, as I would be with any kit, making sure they were covered as much as possible, leathered down as much as possible when under cover but when out in the rain, they got wet, they got very wet but carried on working, focusing and enabling me to get shots such as this. I can’t say I like working in the rain but it can produce wonderfully atmospheric images.

Saturday was the opposite, lovely sun and clouds. The morning consisted of the usual walking around, capturing the atmosphere before heading to the stages in the early afternoon.

Ester Rada on the main stage. X-T1, 56mm @ 1/17000/F1.2!

Ester Rada was very photogenic but did not venture too far from the mic stand. Having the job in the bag in the 1st song (on the long) I thought I would break out the 56 and see if F1.2 would isolate her from the mic stand. With my cameras permanently set to MS+ES mode, opening the lens wide just means they switch to the electronic shutter and use what can only be described as daft shutter speeds. The fact is that the distance produced too great a depth of field even at F1.2 but the mic is (just) out of focus and she is sharp! A side effect is that the ES  produced an effect on the electronic backdrop, one that I quite like and which adds to the picture I think.

As the evening arrived the light was fantastic and just screamed “atmosphere” so a colleague and I headed out to chase the light.

Climbing Trees. Manual Focus 56mm @ F1.2

I wanted to isolate this boy climbing in the trees. It was tricky and the AF system could just not get a lock on his face. I switched to manual and as I twisted the focus the EVF automatically zoomed in (I did not know I had that set up – I just thought it would focus-peek) that with the peeking enabled me to isolate him very quickly.

Picking other images from this walk-around is just so difficult. The light was glorious and we both had a whale of a time picking the locations and shots, shooting into and across the sun… A couple of my favs (one mono, one colour).

Chair-O-Planes. So much in this image, the detail, the expressions, the light! X-T, 56mm.

The 56mm again. It handles shooting into the light quite well. X-T1, 56mm @ 1.8 & 1/22000

Sunday and it was back to the rain!

Wet! X-T1, 50-140 @ 140mm/F2.8

I’ve not really mentioned the 50-140. Basically it was faultless. The first thing I did was remove the tripod mount and I have to say it was still a bit front heavy on an X-T1, something I think will be countered by adding the battery grip to the body. The zoom ring is really smooth and overall it just worked (which is all you can wish for), the AF was fast and as you can see above, the image quality is great with lovely rendering of out of focus areas.

Tashi Lhunpo Monks. X-T1, 50-140 @134mm, F16 & 1/30th OS.

With the monks I wanted to capture their stillness whist adding the movement of the drums. Shooting from the side I engaged the OS and dropped the shutter to 1/30th. The monks are perfectly sharp whilst the drums are blurred. Exactly what I wanted and I’m very impressed with the OS.

Overall, I was vey happy with the performance of the cameras and especially the 50-140. As always happens, I did get one or two comments from other photographers about the fact that I have switched to using only these cameras but when they saw the results… well, the results speak for themselves.

More soon…

Starting at the beginning: Journey to Fuji (s)

Maybe the best place to start this new blog is at the beginning. Why did I start using Fuji’s and what has led me to this point.

I’m not going to try to explain why these cameras are able to produce such high quality images from what seems comparatively small bodies and lenses, if you want to know that, read this interview with Optical Device & Electronic Imaging Products Manager Takashi Ueno. This is just a potted history of how I came to switch from DSLR’s to Fuji mirrorless cameras.

My journey started in November 2011 and the original X100.

The earliest ‘commercial’ image in my library taken on the X100  – A sing-a-long of Grease at the Prince Charles Cinema in London

The first big step with it was a trip I made to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2 months later in January 2012. It was a trip to document some of the work by CARE International in the region and I traveled with DSLR’s as well as the X100. Of the 496 images I came back with, 83 were from the X100. Considering how long I had owned it and how “raw” the camera was, the quality and type of images I came back with from it was a revelation.

X100. 23/01/2012: 2 children hold each other on a street corner in Goma, DRC. In 2002 a volcanic eruption destroyed approximatly 30%% of the city. Many buildings and roads are built upon the lava flow.

This trip led to me giving a talk in Brighton later in the year where I was introduced to the X-1Pro. I could see it fitting in but could not really see what it would offer me over the X100 at that time. After all I could not really see either camera being anything other than a lovely tool for personal work, occasional ‘stock’ and maybe adding some value to client commissions as an ‘Alternative view’. I finally succumbed a year later, in Sept 2013 I purchased an X-1Pro along with the 35/1.4 and 18-55/2.8-4.

I shot my first gig on it in the October. Katie Melua plays The Roundhouse on 02/10/2013.

I continued with these 2 Fuji cameras supplementing the work I carried on on my Nikons. In the summer of 2014 I took a look at the X-T1. It was clear from the first time I handled it that it was not a replacement for the DSLR’s – It was not fast enough, but it was faster then the X100 & X-1Pro and it handled more like an SLR. Hmmm.

In 2014 I covered 6 main music festivals and the last one was planned to be Festival No.6 at Portmerion, a place I know and love. This festival is quite laid back and I had agreed that our cover of it would be more quirky, more laid back, more documentary style. Hmmm.

I managed to lay my hands on an X-T1 along with a wide range of lenses from 14mm to the 55-200. I did pack a Nikon but left it in the car knowing it was there if all failed, planning to cover the festival with only the 3 Fujis. You can read about my weekend here and see the a sample of the work.

X-1Pro, 3200ISO, 14mm.28. Drumming Corp SPARK! perform amongst the crowd .

Basically I was hooked. No it was still not fast enough, there was the flash issue (a later blog), focusing was not the best, but the colours and the quality of the files. “That was one of the best sets of images this year” (from one of my Picture Desk editors).  It took 3-4 months to convince myself that the X-T1 was a viable proposition and at the beginning of this year I purchased one along with the lenses I used most at No. 6: The 14/2.8, 56/1.2 & 55-200.

Roll on to June this year and the update to the X-T1 known as Firmware 4.0. With this firmware the focusing became ‘almost’ as responsive as my DSLR’s. Yes there are knacks and yes it needs practice as well as carefully setting up but this was the nail in the coffin for my DSLR’s. By switching I could carry more options (lenses and lights) due to the size and weight, I could fit the kit easily in my scooter, built in WiFi enabled fast social media posting and sending for the clients to whom this was important! Yep it was time to change and a second X-T1 was purchased.

Thats the history lesson and us up to date.

This weekend it’s WOMAD and I have managed to lay my hands on a 50-140 (80-200 equivalent) to test (I always test new kit on a job before buying). More to follow….