Archive for 'Shop Talk':

Anatomy of an Editorial Shoot :: Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent

I was hired by Harvard Business Review to photograph Muhtar Kent who is the CEO of The Coca-Cola company . I thought I’d post about the process of an editorial shoot from start to finish instead of just showing the photos.

The art direction for the shoot was to photograph Mr. Kent at the headquarters building in Atlanta. The editor asked for two portraits. One was to show some architectural details of the building. “Maybe with a bank of windows or something in the background.” The other shot was to incorporate something with Coca-Cola branding. The name, the Coca-Cola red, a bottle, etc. After that I was free to grab anything else I had time to which, on a job like this, means anything I can grab with the extra thirty seconds I have to work with. An editorial shoot is usually a few hours of standing around and a few minutes of taking pictures. You’ll regularly spend more time emailing with the editor then you will clicking the shutter release of your camera. I was also instructed that while they wanted a mix of vertical and horizontal images, they used a lot of square crops as well so the images needed to work well 1:1. The full process after the jump.


Fuji X-T1 First Impressions

February 24, 2014 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk
The new Fuji X-T1
Fuji X-T1

The new 56mm Fuji lens on the X-T1 (with hood reversed)

Ready for some camera p*rn? :)

Ready for some G.A.S.?

I’m now in possession of the new Fuji XT-1 and I’m about to hit the road and skies for a month to put it through the paces. My travels will be taking me to Vegas, Dubai, and Morocco. When I return I’ll have a full review ready to go and it will be living at my new site, DEDPXL.

First impressions? The EVF (electronic view finder) on this thing is amazing. I’m really not an EVF fan to be honest. I use the EVF on the x100s and X-Pro1 a good bit when I have to, but I fell in love with the Fuji X series because of that amazing hybrid viewfinder that has such a great OVF (optical view finder) in addition to the EVF. I was first introduced to the X-T1 last year on a trip to Japan to meet the fine folks at Fuji. I was shown a plastic non-working model of the X-T1 and the designers described the tech they were planning on putting inside.


David Hobby, Bert Stephani, Kevin Mullins, and members of the Fujifilm team in Tokyo.

Honestly, I wasn’t super excited about it. I was thinking it was going to be the X-E2 part 2. Do I hate the X-E2? No. It’s a damn fine camera and it’s really popular with folks. I just love the OVF and I wasn’t interested in an EVF only camera. Just give me an X-Pro2 damn it! :) Fast forward to this January and I was able to handle a working X-T1 at CES. As soon as I smashed my face against that camera and looked through the EVF I was sold. This EVF is the greatest I’ve ever seen. It’s HUGE. It’s fast. And as much as I love my X-Pro1, as much as I prefer the form of the X-Pro1, as much as I love the OVF — The X-T1 has replaced it in my bag.

Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 56mm f1.2

The Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm f1.2 lens with hood.


Fuji X-T1

Can’t test a camera without shooting a squirrel. Carl in full effect.


Fuji x100s, XT-1, and X-Pro1

The Fuji x100s, XT-1, and X-Pro1 for size comparison.


Fuji X-T1 and Lens Lineup

The image above is my new working kit. The X-T1 with the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, and the gorgeous new 56mm.


Fuji has really knocked one out of the park with this camera and the new 56mm f1.2 lens. My 60mm is hitting ebay as soon as I get home. I’m still keeping my X-Pro1 as a backup to the X-T1 and I’ll be selling my X-E1.

Best parts of the new X-T1

• The EVF. You have to see it to believe it.• Focus is the fastest of any X camera I’ve worked with.• Dedicated ISO dial. It’s not just a retro design. It’s a fantastic addition. • The front function button. I have mine set up to select AF points. • Weather sealing.• Built in intervalometer.• Wifi tethering and camera control to an iOS device is great. (Android available as well)

Worst parts of the new X-T1

• We’ve lost the threaded cable release on the shutter button.• The USB port is not standard thus the off brand electronic shutter release I used on the X-E1 can’t be used. • I wish the 4 buttons on the d-pad in the back were larger or more pronounced. I’d like them to be identical to the ones on the X-Pro1.

I know I could show a few shots of Carl and some kitschy crap from the thrift store but I’m just not interested in doing that. I want to put this camera through real world use. I have shot it on one job but I can’t release those images yet. I really can’t wait to take this to Cuba when I head down there with Santa Fe Workshops in April. (By the way, if you are interested in joining me in Cuba you need to sign up sooner rather than later so the paperwork is in order.)

First impression? The X-T1 is the new king of the hill for the Fuji X lineup. Well done Fuji. Well done. I still want my X-Pro2 though so don’t forget about that! 

More to come.


Photography Q&A :: The Book

July 12, 2013 | • Resources Shop Talk



My Photography Q&A book is here! Well, it has been “here” for about a month now but regular readers of my blog know how I roll. :)

This book is built off of my Photography Q&A Tumblr blog that I started last summer. I set a goal to answer 1,000 questions on that blog and I’ve exceeded that goal. To date I’ve answered more than 1,200 questions. I did not start the Q & A blog to make a book. Somewhere around question 700 or 800 I sat back and thought, “I think I just wrote a book.” Last November I sent an email to Ted Waitt, an editor with Peachpit and New Riders, to see if they had interest in this project — they did.  In January of this year the editing began for the book.

A lot of folks ask if this is just a straight blog-to-book sort of deal. Not really. While the content of this book was pulled from the blog, I spent a few months editing the material and adding a lot of visual components to it. I initially pulled 150 questions from the book and Ted and I culled and combined that information down to 106 that made the cut. 



Ted and I spent a full day trying to categorize the answers into sections like gear, technical, lighting, business, life, clients, etc. but we could never find a flow that worked. The Q&A blog on Tumblr is a chaotic brain dump that has never followed a rhyme or reason in the order of how I answer questions. There are times someone asks about gear but the answer turns into a discussion about business. How do you categorize that? At the end of the day, however, we did find an order. The book sort of follows the progression you find in this craft and in this business. 



Essentially I wrote a photography bathroom reader. It’s designed to be picked up and read anywhere you open the book. You can go from beginning to end or jump around. There are questions dealing with gear, shooting techniques, lighting, business, marketing, work/life balance, dealing with clients, traveling with equipment, and so on and so forth.



There’s plenty of gear porn…








There are ten sections that I call Visual Intermissions. Here I showcase images that have had importance to me during my career. They aren’t necessarily trophy images, or the best images I’ve ever shot, but they illustrate certain junctures of my life as a photographer. What I learned, how it changed how I think, etc. These are the types of events that will happen to you as a photographer and you need to be on the lookout for them.




The book begins with me asking a question to Rolling Stone Magazine senior photo editor, Sacha Lecca. The book ends with a few worksheets that are designed for you to cut out, photocopy, and fill in. These type of worksheets are helpful to organize thoughts and information as you try to build your business.


Photography Q&A by Zack Arias

Photography Q&A by Zack Arias


There are a lot of books about photography out there. Many deal with specific topics like lighting, marketing, posing, etc. I see many of those books as the bricks or tiles of your photography education. I wrote this book to be the mortar or grout that fills in the gaps and holds it all together and connects dots.

So far the book is being well received. I was nervous as hell producing this because it’s new territory for me. There are some reviews of it hitting the web right now. You can read Totally Rad’s review here. The Phoblographer review here. The Photo Brigade review here. There’s also an interview with me on the Photo Brigade review as well as on episode 50 of the Musea Podcast.

I would greatly appreciate your review of the book on the Amazon page

The Q&A book is available at most brick and mortar book resellers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK, the Kindle Store, iBooks (in certain countries), and directly through the Peachpit store. In fact, Peachpit has a bundle that get’s you the hardcopy and ebook version. If the book does well then there will be translations. That sort of thing (in addition to where the book is distributed) is sort of out of my hands so I can’t speak with authority about those kind of things. Even though I make a whole 50 cents or something more on the eBook, I highly suggest picking up the hardcopy if you can. I prefer this book in print than I do on an eReader.  

Also note… That as I am on my travels for work I stop by Barnes & Noble stores and sign the copies that they have on hand. I tweet and IG the location when I do that. 

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Q&A blog. I’m still there and still answering questions as I have time to do so. That blog isn’t going anywhere! 

For those who have read the book… if there was a Volume 2 in the future… what would you like to see more or less of covered in that? 



PS – Did I mention I’d greatly appreciate your review of the book on Amazon? I really would. Thank you. :)

PPS – I will be giving away some signed copies of the book soon and talking about someone who needs our help. It will be on the blog here once that’s ready to go.

Fuji x100s Follow Up Review :: Life Without DSLRs

June 11, 2013 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

fuji x100s street photograph

I have been DSLR free for about two months and all is well. During the past two months I’ve been to Cuba, New York (x2), and Arizona. I feel I have hit just about every type, and kind, of job I do and my little Fujis have performed flawlessly. I really relied on them in Arizona where I was shooting for Land Rover. I shot that job with a mix of Fujis and the Phase One. Everything else has been Fuji only. 

I have no clue how many miles I have put on my Think Tank Airport Security roller bag. I love that bag and it has been everywhere with me for four or five years as my main camera bag. For the past two months I’ve mainly been living out of the Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack. Here’s a fully packed bag that fits under the seat in coach. I never have to worry about it getting gate checked.


Fuji cameras

Packed in there is a Fuji X-Pro1, X-E1, x100s (x2), a Fuji 60, 35, 14, and the new 55-200, Kung Pao (Yongnuo) 560, an external battery pack for the Kung Pao (JJC), Fuji EF-X20 flash, Wein Safe Sync IR transmitter, an OCF Gear 5 meter Canon cord, a Rainbow Imaging intervalometer and remote release controller (for the X-E1), a Fuji M mount adapter, Macbook Air, external drive, and misc other bits and bobs. Strapped to the side is a Phottix 36″ double fold umbrella, and a one foot length of 1/2″ copper pipe with a small swivel adapter. That’s A LOT of gear in a small bag.

Let me go through a few things in this bag that I haven’t talked about before on this blog.

The Fuji X-E1 :: I got this to be a back up to my X-Pro1. The X-Pro is still my go to camera when I need the variety of focal lengths it gives me. A LOT of people ask me which I prefer. I prefer the X-Pro1. The optical view finder is fantastic and it feels better in my hand. It has a better balance to it and it is definitely my preferred camera compared to the X-E1. One interesting difference between the two, though, is the X-E1 has a port on it that allows a remote to be connected. I’m using the Rainbow Imaging Remote. I’m using it for its intervalometer function for time lapse and remote firing. $27 FTW.

Wein Safe Sync :: This is an IR transmitter.This little guy sits on your hotshoe and fires a light with a built in optical slave. The $73 Yongnuo flashes I’ve been using lately have such a slave and the two work together quite well. Even in bright sunlight. The reason I have this is for the x100s. Being that it can sync at stupid fast shutter speeds, my Pocket Wizard Plus III’s can’t keep up. The radio latency is too slow. Nothing beats the speed of light though so the IR sync is one way to go.

OCF Gear 5 Meter Cord :: Syl Arena started making these long TTL cords and the Canon version works great with the Fuji. The Nikon probably works as well. Because I’m not dealing with TTL all I need is the center pin to fire and both Nikon and Canon have center pins. Syl makes these things as long as 33 feet! This is here for fast syncing again. Just in case the IR goes south then I can hardwire to a flash. I’ve used this on a job recently and it works flawlessly. I’m catching my flash at 1000th – 2000th of a second. It’s also a very inexpensive alternative to using radio slaves.

Phottix 36″ Double Fold Umbrella :: In my search to build a bag that can do everything and fit under the seat in coach I’ve been trying these small umbrellas that David Hobby has long been a fan of. Count me a fan of them as well now. The 1/2″ copper pipe with a swivel adapter is basically a handheld solution to hold a light in one hand and a camera with the other. We’re talking no light stands! And questions from TSA as to why there’s a pipe in your bag. So far so good. Here’s a shot with an x100s, the Kung Pao fired by the Safe Sync, and the Phottix.


That’s 3pm full sun behind her. That’s f 2.8 with the internal 3 stop ND filter engaged. That’s 640th of a second on the shutter. 

Fuji M Mount Adapter :: The one thing I need right now is a kick ass portrait lens. Something around 90mm. I have just gotten the new 55-200 Fuji lens and the jury is still out on that one. Even though it’s a big ass lens and slow on the long end , it’s sharp as a tack and the image stabilization is great. However, I’ve yet to really run it through the paces.

I’m looking for a good prime portrait lens right now and I’m about to pull the trigger on a Leica 90mm Summarit. I’ve tried all the Leica 90’s and I think for quality / size / and price I’m going to go with the Summarit. It’s a 2.5 lens. It’s kick ass and I love the small size of it. The 90 APO is fantastic but I’m not dropping $3-$4k on a lens for my Fuji. $1k range is a little more reasonable.

I think Zeiss screwed the pooch by releasing the wrong X mount lenses right now. They should have come out of the gates with a portrait lens. The Fuji 60mm works but it ain’t great. I’d really like to see Fuji redesign that damn lens. It’s a pain in the ass when focusing. When you get it focused it’s awesome. The rest of your time you’re cussing the damn thing. I’m just going to ditch it when I get a Leica lens. If Zeiss had an 85 something or another lens coming out I’d be first in line for it. Right now they are offering comparable focal lengths to already great Fuji lenses (12mm, 32mm, 50mm). I don’t get it.

As to the other X mount lenses I have been using… That new 14mm is effing amazing. I love that lens. The 35mm is still my favorite of all of them but that 14 is a close second. A very close second.  

Fuji EF-X20 Flash :: Party flash. Nuff said. A nice little TTL / manual flash to sit on the Fuji’s when you want that hipster/scenester sort of vibe. I pulled it out of the bag at a late night dance club in Cuba. It was an awesome night. I think it was. I was told it was a great night. :)



Yeah. Get to Cuba. It’s amazing there.


I’d like to share some other images with you but alas, I have contractual embargos on them. I can’t share them until the client releases them first. I’ll do a Land Rover post once I can. That was a fun job. Here’s a shot from Cuba with the X-Pro1 and the 14mm.


Fuji x-pro1 Havana Cuba


I’ve got a whole blog post to do at some point about Cuba. OMG. The photography and art that is being made in that country is unreal.

So. The Fuji x100s. Capable on jobs? Hell yes. The AF is so much better than the first version. The image quality is great. Shooting RAW or JPG. Fuji has been working with Adobe on the RAW conversions and things have gotten much better on that front with Lightroom 4 and 5. High speed sync is fantastic. A few folks have told me recently via Twitter that they are getting Plus III’s syncing faster in HFS mode. I haven’t tried that yet. Right now the Wein and the OCF cord are working like a charm. PW’s are also a little top heavy when put on an x100 so I prefer the Wein.

Print quality is also very important when I’m looking at a camera system. My Q&A book is now shipping (blog post on that this week) and I had several images sent to the printer for tests before final layout. I had every kind of image printed from every camera I’ve shot in the last ten years. Nikon, Canon, Fuji, and Phase. CMYK is the great equalizer. I have to know that these images hold up in print for magazine and commercial clients. For the test prints, the Phase images stood out, as they tend to do, but I tell you what… from Canon to Nikon to Fuji… they all held up equally in CMYK printing. I’ve done lab tests and Epson tests and the Fuji’s stand side by side with DSLRs in print quality. 

Right now, this is my desert island rig…

Fuji x rig


Just looking at that kit makes me smile. 

I was recently asked on my Q&A blog whether I was switching to Fuji just to be different and not because they are better. I replied saying it is part of the equation. Not a large part. Not even half of the part, but yeah, that’s part of it. Who has a DSLR these days? Everyone. Moms, grandpas, clients, kids, that guy in accounting, everyone. Nikon this. Canon that. DSLRs are a dime a dozen these days everywhere you look. While everyone is chatting, talking, flaming, and trolling about this camera or another in the DSLR world, I’ve snuck out the back door and I’m not associated with any of that any longer. Bye.

Does it make a difference? It does. It’s mostly a mental departure from how I’ve done things for a long time and how much of the rest of the photography world works. It makes a difference with my clients and subjects as well. DSLRs are so generic these days that when you show up with something different like a Fuji or a medium format people take notice. They ask questions. These cameras start conversations. When I shot DSLRs I always heard about what camera my client or subject had. “Oh. You shoot Canon. I have a Nikon.” Etc. Etc. And then those conversations would take place. Not any more. “Wow. What is that? I’ve never seen one of those.” is now the opening line. Especially the Phase. Even folks who don’t know much about photography want to talk about that thing. (Meg here. Hi. He isn’t making an exercise in hyperbole. I assisted Zack on a job today and the client was ogling the Phase and Fuji’s and asked, “What kind of cameras are those?” I watched it happen!) 



Are you kidding me? I couldn’t have staged that shot above better. I damn near got ran over trying to get that shot.

Photography is as much a mental and emotional art form as it is a technical artform. We rely on a certain amount of tools to do our job. When you change those tools there’s a mental change as well. The retro styling of the Fuji cameras isn’t just for show. There’s a reason cameras have been set up like those for decades. There’s a very practical reasoning behind dedicated aperture dials on the lens and shutter speed dials. I can “feel” where my settings are. A quick glance at simple analog dials tells me a lot as I’m pulling the camera to my eye. There’s also a — how do I say it? There’s a feeling of heritage to the Fuji’s. I don’t want to call it retro. It’s a modern day digital connection to the past that feels right. That’s another reason I prefer the X-Pro1 over the X-E1.

I say all of this to say I’m emotionally connected to my Fujis. I’ve never been emotionally connected to a DSLR. Ever. That connection matters. It’s not on a spec sheet. It can’t be tested in the lab. I look at my Fuji cameras and I want to go shoot. I want to make photos. They don’t belong in a bag. They belong on in my hand. I have been pursuing photography for 16 something years. I’ve been full time for ten years. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in the last ten years. I’m now heading into my next ten. It is time for me to go deeper down the rabbit hole and evolve and grow and push and change and morph. I’m not leaving what I’ve done behind. I’m going to build on it. I want the next ten years of my photography to depart from the last ten though. Changing my tools is part of this process…. for me.

Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe it is. Not if you’re a full time sports photographer though. I recently got an email from a full time sports photographer. It was a 12 paragraph diatribe on why he would never leave DSLRs because mirrorless cameras will never be capable of shooting action like his pro bodies and 300 and 400mm lenses can do. Really? No kidding. 

I stepped on some toes when I claimed that Fuji is the new Leica. I’ve been asked over and over that if price wasn’t a concern would I shoot Leica instead? Unless any of you are offering Leica M class cameras for $1,200 new with an f2 lens then I can’t really answer that question can I? If price wasn’t a concern I’d be driving a different car. I’d live in a different house. I’d have a different studio. I have shot with Leicas. M6, M8, M9 and M9 monochrome to be specific. I’ve had a Fuji in one hand and a Leica in another. Hand on my heart… I’d chose the Fuji.

Some think I’m paid to say this stuff. Trust me. One hand on my heart and the other hand on the FCC laws regarding endorsements and advertising on blogs like this one… I’m not paid by Fuji to say this stuff. I’m not paid by them to review their gear. I have shot jobs for them. I’ve stood on their platform and talked about my experience with the cameras at industry events. That’s it. Once the images or videos are delivered to them my job is done. Just like all of the other jobs I do. Fuji didn’t pay me to sell all my L glass.



Leicas are great cameras. Amazing cameras. Their lenses are fantastic. They too elicit an emotional response when working with them. That’s part of the reason they are at the top of the gear food chain. The heritage of the Leica brand has been one of thoughtful and provocative documentary work, street photography, and photojournalism essays. Even if you weren’t shooting that kind of work simply owning a Leica could give you a feeling that you were connected to that work made by others. The working stiff photographer of old could hustle some cash together to build a Leica kit. These days the brand is that of a boutique camera company with their products glistening from within glass showcases. I’ve heard them called dentist cameras. The only docs they are shooting these days are the medical kind. :) Basically it would seem that Leica is now thought of as making cameras for people with a good bit of disposable income. Working photographers usually aren’t equated with people who have a lot of disposable income.

Exhibit A:: Leica stores. 

It’s akin to artists moving into a bad part of town because the rent is affordable. Then they make that bad part of town cool. Then people start pouring in and shops and restaurants open up. Rent goes up to the point that the people who made that place cool can no longer afford to live there and they have to go find a new place to live. Fuji is that new place to live.

In this day and age it is much more difficult for the working Joe and Jane to get a solid Leica kit together. They’ve never been cheap but they were attainable. They’ve kind of moved out of the “attainable” status. You’re a working photographer that needs to travel, shoot, and have to have the best quality you can from a small, quiet, and unobtrusive camera kit. Fuji is now that. From form to function to price Fuji is this new globe trotting documentary camera. From portraits to events to breaking news… these cameras can handle it. Need it to run double truck? Done. Want to exhibit 30×40 prints? Done. Want to run full page in a wedding album? Done again. I’ve lusted over Leica cameras and lenses many times. I could never ever ever justify the cost though. The jump in image quality over a DSLR was never great enough to even think about it. I just wanted one because they’re cool and sexy and come from good blood so to speak. 

Build a good kit with Leicas. Used M9 prices are hovering around the $7k mark on ebay right now. I’m told you can find them for around $4k from other places. I’m not really in that market so I’m not sure. Suffice it to say, the used prices on them are in the pro DSLR price range. Buy two of those. Then three good lenses. We’re talking medium format gear now as far as cash laid out. I’ll take a medium format camera any day over a Leica kit. Any. Day. Oh. In fact. I did get a medium format over a Leica system. No way in hell I’d trade my Phase for a Leica. Ever. 

Where Fuji really seems to “get it” is in the quality of their sensors, lenses, and their ability to build a solid working system with really tough cameras. I put my cameras through hell and they keep going and going and going. My X-Pro1 has hit the pavement three times in the last year without a single thing breaking on it. 

Lastly… a lot of folks asked where Pentax was in my initial x100s review. Yeah. Sorry I left her out. Pentax wasn’t at the bar. She was over at Hasselblad’s house. Poor Hasselblad. She recently went to Japan to see Sony and got some botched cosmetic surgery done by Dr. Lunar. Pentax was over there trying to console her. Pentax is a good friend. Hasselblad should have never hooked up with Sony. That was a mistake. 😉



Fuji x100s Review :: A Camera Walks Into A Bar

March 22, 2013 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

106fm DJ Esin Görür. Photographed in Istanbul, Turkey with the Fuji x100s

Here is the strangest gear review I have ever written. 

Let me set the stage… Picture a bar scene…

x100s review

There’s a distinguished looking ol’ fellow sitting at the bar. He has silver hair and laugh lines around his eyes. He’s well dressed. Well groomed. Well traveled. You can tell he’s seen a lot in his time. His classic Morgan is parked outside. There’s a pretty young girl on his arm listening to his stories of being a globe trotting documentary photographer. He sips his 50 year old Chivas Regal. His name is Leica. Yeah, he’s the world’s most interesting man. 

In the corner we have Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. They’re in a heated debate about Dungeons & Dragons or something. Sony is smart. He’s a brilliant guy. Ugly as hell. Clunky. Clumsy. Out of balance… but very smart. Olympus is more fashionable than his friends Sony and Panasonic but you can tell he’s just trying too hard. He’s cute, but sitting next to Sony shows he’s not that smart. Panasonic is just staring into his beer. A single tear drops into his IPA. He just released the GF5 and has realized it’s a total pain in the ass of a camera and wishes he could go back to the good ol’ days of the GF1.

“Remember when I created cult followings guys? Remember that? Remember?”

Sony and Olympus share glances and mumble something about the wizard losing his potion. “Hey, at least we aren’t those two assholes over there.” as they point to Canon and Nikon.

Canon and Nikon. They’re the two old men at the bar who are always arguing. You can’t tell if they’re the best of friends, brothers, or sworn enemies. Either way, there they sit… every night… arguing and arguing and arguing. One says he can drive a car faster. One says he got laid at the ’84 Olympics far more than the other. The other talks about how big his lens is. The only thing they ever agree on is they are both sick and tired of all the young kids in the bar these days taking their space. You get a feeling that if they just melded into one the world would be better for it. Please don’t get either one started about iPhone and her friend

There’s a sound of an old shovelhead rolling up in the parking lot.

A young good looking kid walks in the door. Tattered 501’s. Grease stained tee. Three days of scruff. He walks with confidence. All the ladies take notice of him. The cougar den at the table next to Sony, Oly, and Pana all perk up and freshen their lips and shorten their skirts. His name is Fuji and everyone but Leica avoids making eye contact with him. Leica turns on his bar stool and gracefully nods his head to Fuji. Fuji, knowing he’s in good company at the bar, fires a grin and a wink at the old man. Leica sees himself as a younger man in this Fuji kid. Back before he opened his stupid boutique stores and started a line of t-shirts and baseball caps. (Leica should have never listened to his old friend Ferrari.)

Fuji orders a classic English bitter and starts talking to the two girls next to him. 

Phaseone pulls the perfect pint and serves it up. No one serves it up better than Mr. Phase. Phase then tells Polaroid to take the trash out. Polaroid goes out the back door and stops to share a smoke with Kodak. Kodak asks if Polaroid could spare some change. “Sorry man. Not today.”

The young girl that was sitting with Leica heads out the door but not before slipping her number into Fuji’s back pocket. 

Fuji sips his beer and quietly tucks it deeper into his pocket so he doesn’t lose it.


And that folks… is why I say Fuji is the new Leica and the x100s is the greatest camera I’ve ever owned.




I’ve just finished three weeks of travel with the new Fuji x100s. Along side the x100s I had my Fuji X-Pro1 with the new Fuji 14mm 2.8 bolted on to it. I’ll talk about that near the end of this post. For now, I’ll concentrate on the x100s. I’ll share some photos, share some measurebating 100% crops, and share a link to an image you can pixel peep to your heart’s desire.


fuji x100s


The original x100 was my entrance into street photography. I’ve always loved this genre but I never participated in the “sport” as I call it. I’ve walked the streets with a DSLR and would shoot portraits from time to time but the DSLR either intimidated me or those around me too much for me to get into street work. That feeling of intimidation melted away when I started shooting the x100. It’s small. Dead quiet. Perfect. I just finished teaching two street photography classes in Dubai and there’s no other camera I’d rather have with me than an x100. Now that the x100s is out… that’s the king of cameras for me. It’s fast. Agile. Responsive. 


fuji x100s




After my frist day of shooting with the new S I realized something. Fuji really listens to all of us. Every single complaint that many had about the original x100 has been addressed. Everything I have seen people request in the update is there. The autofocus is leaps and bounds beyond what it was. Manual focus… get this… actually works! Image quality is fantastic. Same perfect focal length on the 23mm f2 fixed prime. It’s just an awesome camera. 


Fuji x100s


I’ve read the first reviews of the camera and many folks say it’s the same body and layout as the previous but that’s not quite right. It’s pretty much the same with a few tweaks. Here’s the back of the new x100s…




Two MAJOR improvements are here. First, the Q menu button from the X-Pro1 has arrived to the x100s. It accesses a quick menu to change a number of things on the camera like WB, file type and size, film simulation, etc without having to dig into the menu system. That’s a great addition but we all knew it would be there. The greatest update on the backside is the new placement of the AF point selection button. Previously you’d have to use both hands to change the AF point in the viewfinder. You’d push the AF button on the left of the camera and adjust the area on the right side of the camera. Now you simply push the AF button on the top end of the dial and move the AF area to wherever you want it… all with one thumb. I can’t tell you how much this one improvement has made in day to day shooting. That one change is worth an upgrade. Otherwise it is the same body as the x100 with a few tweaks here and there. One nice tweak is the exposure compensation dial is stiffer than the original. It’s not as easy to accidentally bump to a new setting. Oh, see the gaff tape on the read/write light? I put that there because I’m a left eye shooter. When I shoot it starts blinking in my right eye and that’s annoying. It also brings attention to the camera at night so I just gaff tape it. 


Esin Görür – Fuji x100s


Leaf shutter lens y’all. I can grab flash up to 1/800th of a second with a Pocket Wizard and a hotshoe flash. The image above is at 500th. The image at the beginning of this blog post is 800th! While I was in Istanbul I had the opportunity to photograph promotional portraits for radio DJ, TV host, and writer, Esin Görür. Want to hear something else that’s interesting? The small flash I’m using these days? The Yongnuo 560II. Or as Rob Milton named it… the Kung Pao 560. Yeah, that’s the name I’m going to run with from now on. I’ve put that $73 flash through workshops and shoots in the last month and it’s… awesome! Anyway. That’s for another time. David Hobby (AKA Strobist) is also a huge fan of the x100s and echoes my opinion on it being the new Leica. Check out his review of the camera and how he’s pushing sync speed further and combining that with the built in three stop ND filter.


Esin Görür – Fuji x100s



fuji x100s 



Hagia Sophia





As I talked about in a previous post leading up to this review it was this night in Istanbul where it clicked for me.

Fuji x100s


When Galatasaray beat Schalke and I found myself in a roaring crowd of football fans is when I realized that Fuji is the new Leica. Not once did I wish I had another camera with me. The DSLR is dead to me. Yes, yes, yes. I have a Phase. That’s my workhorse camera for editorial and commercial work. Other than that? Even for some magazine work… the Fuji is it. Buy Canon? Nope! Bye Canon! You see, for decades Leica was the shit for the traveling journalist, street shooters, documentary photographers, etc. They are fantastic cameras with an undeniable heritage. But here’s the deal. The folks who put Leica on the map can’t afford them any longer. They are a boutique camera company. The working stiff can’t shell out close to $10,000 for a body and a lens. Go price out 2 M’s, a 20mm ish lens, a 35mm, and a 75mm. Go price that out. Then price out an x100s, an X-Pro1, and the Fuji 14mm, 35mm, and 60mm lens. You still haven’t spent the price of a single Leica body yet. Let alone two of them. And glass. 

Would I use the x100s at a wedding? Hell yes I would. Wouldn’t think twice about it. Would I shoot it on a magazine assignment? Yes. Portrait shoot? Yep. Promo shoot? Yep. And have. 

Walking the streets of Istanbul with the x100s, an X-Pro1, and the Fuji 14mm and 60mm made me realize that so much work could be done with a tiny little kit like that. You’re traveling light. You’re inconspicuous. You’re silent. You’ve got a ton of options between these two small cameras and these three lenses.  You’ve got kick ass sun killing sync speeds with small flash. Sharp optics. Great sensors. Tough as nails bodies. My X-Pro1 has taken three major falls in the past month. I have two scratches and a shattered lens hood to show for it… oh yeah, and a perfectly working camera. The x100s has taken one good hit to the ground from a table top. It’s fine. Didn’t skip a beat.

What is the soul of this camera? It’s the styling. That’s the first part of it. Then it’s the feel of it. Then it’s that damn amazing hybrid optical viewfinder. It’s attention to details. It’s listening to the community. It’s a perfect camera. I can not wait for whatever is coming down the pipe for the X-Pro. I have no idea. While Fuji has hired me to shoot with their camera, I have not signed a contract with them nor have I signed an NDA. I have no idea. When I left Istanbul my job with them was done. They’re not paying for this review. But, yes. I got paid to shoot with the x100s. So, take that however you want. I know for some of you that paints me as a sideshow salesman. That’s fine. I get that. I’m leery of paid spokespeople as well.

I’m tellin’ you though. From my heart. The x100s is my desert island camera. 



Ok. You know what time it is! Grab the KY, fire up the forums, put your glasses on, and start pixel peeping! Let the measurebating begin!

I already see people questioning Fuji’s use of the X-Trans sensor thing in the new x100s. Some love the X-Trans. Some hate it. It is true that Adobe and others have had a difficult time trying to figure out the RGGBYBRRBGYT$SR pixel layout thing with this new sensor that first showed up in the X-Pro1. I can say that Lightroom 4.4 is really really really close to getting the RAW conversion correct. I typically shoot my Fuji cameras on jpg. I know. I know. But you know what? Fuji does it right. They always have. Anyway… I love the X-Trans sensor. It’s sharper than my Canon full frame sensors. So… here’s a picture of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Straight from camera. JPG. So yes, you are seeing a JPG of a JPG. We’ll all survive.

Grand Mosque

And the problem with the X-Trans sensor is what again? Someone let me know what the issue is because I ain’t seeing it. Am I supposed to read the serial numbers of the lights up there? Is that what I’d get from a Sony?


fuji x100s



Mmmm. Yes. I see. Hmmmmm. It IS perfectly obvious that the third millionth pixel from the left shows signs of herpes. You’re right!

No review is complete without what? That’s right. A squirrel and some kitschy shit that folks on photography forums can argue about. 


Say hello to DPreview for me!


Now, let’s go ahead and run the x100s up against a Canon 6d, the original x100, the X-Pro1, and heck, let’s drop the Phase into the mix. 


pixel peep

Click the image above or click HERE to get the FULL size comparison image. It’ll be up as long as my dropbox account is. :)

So… technical notes. Each image was shot at an aperture at a shutter speed at the native ISO of the camera used at similar but not equal focal lengths. I did MINIMAL post processing of the RAW files in Lightroom 4.4. Just color corrections. No other adjustments were made. I’ve left little notes throughout the images that can only be read at 100% viewing. Remember you’re looking at a JPG from the Interweb. Hopefully you’re on a good monitor that’s calibrated. If you’re viewing this on your mom’s PC, then, well. Anyway.

Am I happy with the image quality of the x100s? Absolutely. I’d like to see RAW conversions get better. I imagine the good folks at DXO labs will get it figured out first. If I were Fuji… or Canon, or Nikon for that matter… I’d leave the software up to Adobe. I’d give them everything they need and not worry about providing software for cameras. Especially Nikon and Canon. They suck at writing software. Just let Adobe do the job. Anyway.

Check out my 500px x100s set to see more photos from this camera. Click the image below to go to that gallery.

x100s on 500px

Would I change anything about the x100s? No. Not really. If I had any requests it would be to add an intervalometer for time lapse stuff. Including the lens hood in the box would be a nice touch. I buy third party ones on Amazon now for $12 or something. Built in WiFi / Bluetooth to connect to iOS or the like would be cool. The 6d has that and it’s awesome… until you want it to fire a @#$%#$ Pocketwizard! Jeebus! It won’t fire a trigger in WiFi mode. Seriously? Anyway. I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t need more pixels. The AF is plenty fast for me. Peaking added to manual focus is a God-send! It’s fantastic. Maybe I’d request to be able to change the color of the peaking. Currently it’s white. Maybe red / green / pink would be good options to have in the menu. But yeah, manual focus is legit now. I prefer the peaking to the digital split image.

Oh. Yeah. The 14mm on the X-Pro1? Awesome! Worth the price for sure. Absolutely. My second favorite lens for the X-Pro1 behind the 35mm. 


Fuji 14mm



My Fuji X Series buying guide.

x100s – Buy it. Done. 

x20 – Nice camera. It ain’t the x100s. 

X-Pro1 – The more I use the Pro the more I love it. It’s a perfect companion to the x100. It’s more of a “work” camera since you can change lenses. Now that the x100s has the same sensor they can be switched back and forth on a job without any issues other than the bodies and buttons are totally different. I’d love to see Fuji finalize button layout on the X cameras and make them the same.

X-E1 – Pretty much the same as the X-Pro1 but has a better EVF but it loses the optical viewfinder. It’s “slightly” smaller. I have one. It’s nice…. but…. It’s not the X-Pro1. That optical viewfinder is absolutely worth the price. 

Best performing camera in the current lineup? The x100s. Now the X-Pro1 and X-E1 have to play catch up. I have NO IDEA when that may happen. 

Is it worth it to upgrade from the x100 to the x100s? I’m with Hobby on this one. If you use the x100 a lot then yes. Upgrade. If you use it occasionally then keep it. It’s STILL a great camera. Hobby and I are asking Fuji to bring some of the upgrades to the original x100. Things like a Q menu (accessible from the Fn or RAW button) and focus peaking. How awesome would that be? Can we do this Fuji? You show that you still love your current client base and they will show you that they love you back. 

Long time.

Thanks for reading! I’ll update this review as things come up. Firmware updates and the like or if I see a lot of the same question. There’s a video in the works of my trip to Istanbul with this camera. Similar to the one I did in India last year. I’ll post it here when its up.

OH CRAP! Can’t have a review without photos of your kids! Jeez! Can the x100s deal with a three year old named Hawke Danger? Yes. Straight from camera jpgs. 

Hawke Danger


Hawke Danger


Yeah. I know. It’s not about the gear. I know. Yep. Uh huh. Damn I love this camera. And yes. All you red dot lovers… Fuji is the new Leica. I’ll meet you in the back alley and we can fight it out if you want. Kodak could use a little entertainment. 


Fuji x100s





ETA – 3/26 – I don’t think I got my point across clearly enough about Fuji being the new Leica. I’m going to be making a follow up blog post about that next week to spell out my opinion on the matter. Also! I figured out where Pentax was. SHE wasn’t at the bar. She was with another friend of her’s. It’s a sad story. I’ll update all of you on what’s going on with her and her friend. Tragic really. 

Galatasaray Bests Schalke :: Fuji x100s Bests Leica


I’m currently on a 22 hour layover in Paris. I’m on my way home from Istanbul. I was sent there by FujiFilm to give the new x100s a run for its money. I am working on a full review of the camera but until I have that up I’ll be making a few posts with photos. 

I was having a beer at a pub a few nights ago and I heard an explosion of chants and cheers from around the corner. I had already been on the streets for about 10 hours that day and I was just trying to steal a moment of solitude and rest in the pint glass of a Guinness. The sounds I heard though made me grab my stuff (including said pint) and run to see what the deal was. The “deal” was football.


Galatasaray (Turkey) beat Schalke (Germany) that night and advanced to the quarter finals. What that means to non sports people like myself is that sh!t went crazy.




As all the fans poured out of every bar they were singing, and chanting, and lighting flares. I was caught in a mob of thousands of people and not once… not for a single frame… did I wish I had another camera with me. Not once did I curse my little x100s. It did what I needed it to do. In the middle of all of this it clicked in my brain.

Fuji is the new Leica.

I’ll talk more about that in the upcoming full review of the camera.



The Fuji x100s :: Teaser Review

Fuji x100s first impression

I’m on my first day of a five day trip with the brand new Fuji x100s.

It’s no secret that I fell in love with the first edition of this camera. I called it the greatest digital camera ever made. It has it’s “quirks” for sure but I love that camera dearly no matter how much of a pain in the ass it can be.

The new one? The S? Well… I can’t give a full review yet because I’m still putting it through hell on the streets but let me say this…

They did it. It’s the greatest camera I’ve ever owned. No. Freaking. Joke. It’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.

More to come when I get home.



Fuji X100s :: 2.8 @ 60th ISO 200

Signal & Noise :: Produced for

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 12.00.34 PM

I can not believe that it has been nearly four years since I made the short called Transform for Scott Kelby’s blog. It was an honor to be asked to guest blog again this month. As Transform came from a place of things I was struggling with then, Signal & Noise follows that lead. I’ve been off social media for a little over two months now and the smoke is just starting to clear. 

Visit Scott’s Blog to read more on my progress of clearing the noise from my head. A big thank you goes to my wife, Meghan, for working on the music. Big thanks as well to Deke Spears for being instrumental (punny!) in helping with the music as well.

Visit Meg’s site to download the song if you’d like.

Feed your soul. Not your feed.



1,000 Answers Reached :: Photography Q&A

November 10, 2012 | • Resources Shop Talk

Photography Q&A

Well everyone… I’m going on break until 2013! From Tumblr. From Twitter. From Facebook. From IG. From every social media site except this blog. For the past four months I’ve been hammering away to reach a goal of 1,000 questions answered on my tumblr Q&A blog. I wanted to build something with pure signal. No banner ads. No affiliate links. No bias to one thing, person, retailer, or whatever. Just as much information as I could provide. And at 1,000 answers… it isn’t finished. There are more than 1,600 unanswered questions sitting in the inbox. I have not been paid, massaged, or cajoled into “endorsing” a product, a person, or a company. 

There are a ton of topics covered. Things like

  • What softbox to buy?
  • How to ask a photographer to assist them.
  • What lens should I get?
  • How do you archive images?
  • Best thing to own less than $100.
  • My top 5 favorite books on photography.
  • Dealing with social media.
  • Dealing with difficult clients.
  • Personal projects.
  • Growing as a photographer.
  • Marketing.
  • Networking.
  • Advertising.
  • Pricing.
  • Confidence.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Moving to full time.
  • Weddings.
  • Portraits.
  • Editorial.
  • Commercial.
  • Fashion.
  • DNG vs. RAW.
  • Presets.
  • X x X = X
  • Etc. Etc. Etc. x 1,000 

The search box on the site will do a site specific search via google. It’s a little buggy but it is FAR better than using Tumblr’s search engine which was developed in 1937, I think. I am working on compiling a list… to become… well. The average time spent on this site is about five minutes. I figure… Hey! Bathroom reader! So yeah… That’s happening! I’ll be going through the blog and expanding on some things, adding photos, samples, forms, worksheets, etc. More to come on this book project later.

Some answers are a few lines. Some are a few pages. Some are silly. Some are deep. Some get my feathers ruffled.

I want to thank all of you for hanging out here with me for the past four months and bringing a lot of great questions to the table. You all built this as much as I did. Thanks for that. I’m sorry if your question did not get answered yet. I have about 1,600 unanswered questions right now and I’m not getting back into that inbox until the beginning of next year. You can ask now… But I won’t see it for awhile. Just sayin’. 

What should you do this winter?



One thing. Can you help me with something? Help me as I cull a list of the most useful posts there. If you have any specifically book marked please give me the link in the comments below. I have my favorites. You might have some others.


PS – I will be jumping back on social media for our annual Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale for charity. Other than that though… Meg will be changing the passwords to my social media accounts and that will be that! I have a ton of work to do this winter. I want to cut out as many distractions as possible, put my head down, my hand to the till, and get it done.

We Need To Be About Our Work

July 12, 2012 | • Philosophy Shop Talk

Recently a guy made a web site touting a top ten list of things you can do to help start your photography career. I’m going on a rant and it’ll be the last one for awhile. If you care to read it, hit “more”. If not, no worries. I need to get this out of my “system” and then I should be good to go.


Wedding Photographers Deserve Our Respect.

I put a call out a few weeks ago to see if anyone would let me shoot their wedding in any way that I wished to. There’s a reason I want to shoot a wedding or two this year as an experiment. I’ll get into that in a bit but this blog post is more about several conversations this request sparked, both online and offline.

No. I’m not starting a wedding business. Just doing an experiment and having a bit of fun.

Let’s get in the WayBack machine and go ALL the way to 1999’ish. Digital was coming of age. DSLRs were now hitting the $5k and below mark on pricing and a number of photographers were jumping out of the film ship and into the binary seas. The photojournalism scene back then was dying and many daily paper jobs were being cut. Day rates for the wires were less than I was making as an assistant. Photojournalists were looking to the editorial world but rates there sucked as well. They still do. Anyway…


Street Photography :: Photography Is An Enigma

This week Complex Magazine named me as one of the top 50 street photographers right now. I’m part honored and part embarrassed by this. Part of it has confirmed something inside of me. Part of this has depressed the hell out of me. On one hand I feel empowered to go deeper and on the other hand I feel I owe a lot of street photographers an apology. If I had a third hand I owe some photographers a big thank you. Let’s see. Can I be more random? How about this. This post is best read late at night while listening to “Last Confession” by Hilltop Hoods.


Ummm. Maybe. Ummm. Yes. :: Fuji X-Pro 1 Review

April 11, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I’ve had my hands on the new FujiFilm X-Pro1 for a little over a month now and I have put it through the paces in three countries and on various jobs. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you know the deal. If you are a new reader of my blog let me explain the deal. I don’t pixel peep, shoot side by side comparisons, show images of color checkers and resolution charts, or talk about the new technology packed into whatever camera. Heck, I really don’t do “reviews” that often.

This review is more of a “how-does-this-thing-work-in-the-real-world-and-is-it-something-that-excites-me-or-does-it-just-become-a-photographic-appliance?” kind of review. Also, let me state for the record that I was hired by FujiFilm Middle East, and was paid in camera gear and cash to take this machine for a joy ride. The first thing I said before taking this gig, though, was if I was going to blog about it they needed to understand that I would say whatever I wanted to about it. The good folks at Fuji said they expected nothing less. Especially after my x-100 review. It was that review that put me on their radar in the first place and it was the good folks at Gulf Photo Plus that convinced them they should send me to India. I’ll be doing some stuff with Fuji North America as well. So, full disclosure now aside, let’s get into it after the jump…


Testing The Fuji X-Pro1 :: Quiet Hounds

February 26, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

How have I gotten hold of the new Fuji X-Pro1?

[montypython]The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft the Fuji X-Pro1 from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Zack, was to test the new X. [/montypython]

That is exactly what happened. Well, not really. The X-Pro1 isn’t waterproof. I got an email asking if I’d be interested in using the new camera since I loved the x100 so much. Will this system have the same soul as the x100? I won’t reveal that yet but as I unboxed it I think I said OMG 26 times in a row. :) I’ve never been asked to test a pre-production camera before so this is going to be fun. I’m also allowed to say anything I want to about it. I can love it, hate it, or be indifferent.

I will be running the camera and it’s three new lenses through the paces on assignments and personal work over the next three weeks and will report my findings here. If you have specific questions about this camera please let me know in the comments. Many of you have already been asking questions on Twitter. Focus speed, manual focus, ISO performance, lens performance, overall image quality, is it worth the money, is it a DSLR killer, does it eat M9’s for breakfast, etc, etc. As always, I won’t be counting pixels or describing bayer patterns or burning villages because of menu layouts. I’ll let you know how it actually works in the real world instead of a testing facility with Macbeth color charts and thrift store knick knacks. Off to find some squirrels.

In the mean time, check out Quiet Hounds. They played their first show last night to a packed house and I have to say they are one of the best new bands I’ve heard in recent history. Meg has been going on and on about them and she’s right. (She’s always right) The show was amazing. Sign up on their email list and get their music for free.99. The image above was shot under extremely challenging lighting with the X-Pro1 and the 35mm f1.4. F1.4 @ 50th @ ISO 1000. Shot B&W jpg in camera, cropped in PS, slightly sharpened for downsizing for web. (.2 pixels @ 80% @ 0 threshold) Blah, blah, blah.



Why I Moved To Medium Format :: Phase One IQ140 Review

February 4, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I’ve recently moved to a digital medium format system and I thought I’d blog about the process of choosing a system and why making this jump was worth every hard earned penny to do so. But first, let’s enter the way back machine. If you are fairly new to photography and DSLRs have been your entrance into this industry then this an important part of the blog post. Bear with me. All of it after the jump. (If you don’t see the video above just hit refresh. Not sure what’s going on with the embed code)


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