Archive for '• Gear & Gadgets':
Here is the strangest gear review I have ever written.
Let me set the stage… Picture a bar scene…
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 Instagr.am.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I talked about in a previous post leading up to this review it was this night in Istanbul where it clicked for me.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I have been getting a lot of questions on my Q&A blog about misc gear and accessories that I use a lot. This also comes at a time when I’ve been asked by eBay to curate a few of my favorite things that I have found there. I figured I could go ahead and pick ten of my favorite photography items that I use a lot but don’t talk a lot about. A lot of the things I get from ebay are grip accessories like clamps and such and odd ball items like lens converters.
Zeke, from Spectral Instruments, builds some amazing cameras for space and scientific uses. I’ve always heard about these cameras and have wondered what it would be like to shoot with one in a studio or on location. Evidently Zeke has been wondering about that as well and is wondering if there is enough public interest in having them build one of these cameras for use on the ground instead of in space. I was shocked when he added my name to people he’d like to see use one if they build it. Yes please! There’s large format photography then there’s MASSIVE format photography. If you’re keen to see one of these cameras put into use by several different photographers let him know in the comments below!
Oh, if Zeke looks familiar to you maybe you’ll remember this shot I made of him in Dubai…
He’s a trooper. We were shooting at a marble factory and he fully immersed himself into the location. It was the kind of place I doubt we could take the $100,000 camera.
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…
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.
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)
I recently wrote in length about my switch from Nikon to Canon. I thought I’d update you on a few things since making that switch.
#1 – Lately I find myself predominantly shooting with the 35mm f 2.0 and 85mm 1.8. You could weld one of those on each body and I’d be set for life I think. Except that 35mm f2. When I made the full switch I kept the “decent” Canon 35mm f2 and bought the crockstar 24mm 1.4 lens. I now wish I would have switched that decision. I’m just not shooting that 24 nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ll be replacing that 35 at some point. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow because the f2 is still an amazing lens but I’ve tried the 1.4 and I know that would get welded to a camera body to never be removed. Live and learn right?
#2 – I really miss the in-camera multiple exposure feature in Nikons. I didn’t think I would but once you don’t have it you want it. Multiple exposure images are easy enough to do in post production but it takes the fun out of it. When doing it in-camera you either get it or you don’t and there’s lots of room for really interesting mistakes and WTF moments to happen that you just don’t get when doing it in post. Oh well. I don’t shoot it that often but I do wish I had it. The image above is a “triple exposure” done in post. I try to not tweak things too much. I want the chips to fall where they may as though I did it in-camera.
#3 – I thought I would shoot the 135mm f2 more than I do. I’m surprised I go to that cheap little 85mm 1.8 so often but that 135mm f2 lens is one of the finest lenses I’ve ever owned. For me I like to have a healthy amount of space to use that thing. Many of my assignments lately have had me in pretty tight quarters so it hasn’t been put to use that much but there is zero regret in getting that lens. Oh. Emm. Gee.
#4 – I do miss the D3 body but I’m still happy with my switch. Aside from that lens decision I would reverse I’m pleased with my switch. I most love having one complete system instead of two half assed systems. If I were to add anything to this kit it would be the 14mm f2.8 lens. That is a beast of a lens but I’m good without it.
And… I’m done with 35mm DSLR buying for a long time to come. Bring on the five dee mark three point two sub paragraph nine whatever. I’m good.
PS – Yes… I’m on my annual social media hiatus. I find I need to unplug from most things as we head into the darkness of winter. It’s my time to figure out what in the hell I’m doing with myself. That’s hard to do with all the noise. I’ll be blogging and despite it falling in the social media genre, I’m still on Instagr.am. Hope you are all doing well!
I made a “what’s in my bag” post in 2009 about my mixed kit of Nikon and Canon gear. I’ve recently sold my Nikon gear and have gone 100% Canon to the surprise of many including myself. I’ve fielded lots of questions on Twitter about it, many I have not gotten to, so I’m making this blog post to cover your questions and to take the time to talk about why I am doing all of this. In this post I’ll talk about my past kits, my current kit, why I made the switch, the gear on my wish list, and why none of this matters all that much. Be warned, this is fairly wordy.
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