Category Archives: Tech
I’ve had my X-Pro1, along with the XF 35mm & 18mm lenses, for a little over a week now. I’ve taken it though the preliminary testing through a full day’s pro shoot (more on that later)… So let’s just get this out of the way: THIS THING ROCKS.
In order to afford this puppy, I sold my bread ‘n butter 5DMKII rendering an entire kit of L-glass useless. I also got rid of my Fuji X100, which left me without an axe. Needless to say, I was quite anxious for the 2+ months between the CES announcement and US release of the X-Pro1.
During this time I read LOTS of foreign reviews, pre-production tests, and bogus reactions from bloggers and forum trolls. Of these reviews the results were generally positive noting the fantastic image quality, amazing high ISO performance, and build quality. Trending negatives were often focused on price, auto/manual focus, and aperture chatter.
When I finally got the cam and lenses (the 60mm is still backordered) I had a list of things I wanted to confirm, debunk, or return the camera. First I had to charge the battery, OK, I cheated here and stuck in the spare I bought to begin testing! But hell, they’re LI-ion not the old Ni ones that actually have a “memory” anyways. But I digress, back to da bidness…
Aperture Chatter: NON-ISSUE
People have been making a lot of noise over a very subtle, insignificant clicking sound in changing lighting conditions. It is impossible to hear outside, and only audible for the shooter in the quietest situations.
Auto-Focus: Fine / Manual Focus: Bad
Like I said earlier, my two previous cameras were the 5DMKII and the X100, so obviously I’m not shooting sports. I guess I’m just not very demanding of my AF performance, because a lot of folks are nuts about this. I tend to shoot slowly and deliberately. That said, I’m a pro and require professional results, reliability and speed.
The X-Pro1 & 18mm is much faster than the X100, but the 35mm is only slightly faster. The X-Pro1 tends to be about even with my 5DMKII, which was prone to hunt in low light, but is definitely NOT as fast as the 7D.
The X-Pro1 really looses respect when it comes to manual focus. That said, fly-by-wire isn’t the whole problem. The Canon 85mm f/1.2L is fly-by-wire, and that’s one of the best lenses ever made. The X-Pro1 fails because there is no turning speed/focus throw relationship (let alone adjustment). It’s a crap shoot every time you try to use it. Sometimes it takes 5-7 turns, but others a slight turn will make it jump.
I find MF useful only for macro (of stationary subjects) and for minute zone-focus tweaks (major adjustments made with at AF/AE button).
People may scoff at this, but it’s true. Who cares what it costs if it: Does the job? Helps make better photos? Gets out of the way while you concentrate? Everyone answers these differently, but for me the X-Pro1 does it all.
ISO Performance: Best Ever!
Much better at 6400 than the 5DMKII… Hands down. Low light? Bring it on, even without a flash!
AUTO ISO has two major flaws: The user needs to be able to set the Minimum Shutter Speed, and it should go up to 6400 instead of just 3200… Listen up Fuji!
Image Quality: Awesome
I am blown away buy the power of this sensor. The files take whatever I throw at them in post. I am no pixel peeping scientist, but I think the AA filter is a thing of the past. I haven’t seen a trace a moiré. I haven’t gotten much of chance to edit RAW files yet. Adobe doesn’t support the X-Pro1 RAW format yet and SilkyPix is garbage…
Ok, enough of the spec nonsense. This camera is great. Its snappy and discrete. Great for shooting events of any kind. People just don’t react to this cam like a DSLR. Most don’t even know its there. A couple people have even thought I was shooting film. Film is cool, but dead, sorry hipsters…
X-Pro1 as A-Camera: Standing up to the Pressure
Last week I shot PAX East for a big-time game developer. I intended to use the 7D and maybe play with the X-Pro1 a bit after I got the shots I really needed. No way, after an hour of using the Canon, I switched to the Fuji and the 7D hung out in the bag (killing my shoulder) for the rest of the day. The X-Pro1 was perfect in the crowds and no one even batted an eye when I stuck it right in there face. I never realized how intimidating the DSLR w/ zoom lens is until I saw people’s [non] reaction to this camera.
I accidentally shot half the day on RAW only (instead of RAW+JPEG) so I was forced to use the Silkypix RAW converter that comes bundled. This could have been horrible, but I just exported the files as uncompressed TIFFs and finished them off in Lightroom, which actually worked well.
When it came time to work with the JPEGs I noticed the red had gone to an overexposed pinkish, fuchsia hue.
This must be due to the in-camera JPEG conversion because the reds were red in the RAW converted TIFFs. Anyways, this seems like an easy firmware fix. I have provided an example, but not a great one (sorry). It is very apparent sometimes, but I’m at work and dont have access to my stuff… *SEE UPDATE BELOW*
I love it, but its not going to cut it on all shoots. I will still be getting a 5DMKIII (when the issues get worked out and when my funds recover). The DSLR is just too fast, too reliable, to versatile to die this easily. Also, the X-Pro1 won’t play nice with zooms and doesn’t have a great flash equivalent to the 580EX, making it hard to use in a photojournalistic way. For weddings I can see it being more appropriate, but again these gigs are usually too important to fool around and the Fuji can slow you down.
But that is EXACTLY what the X-Pro1 is great at: slowing you down to rethink things, and plan it all out instead of just smashing frames at the situation. It’s definitely a niche camera and that’s a good thing. If you are completely happy lugging the DSLR kit around, then great. But it’s nice to just grab a small bag and be done with it without sacrificing quality. My next step is to get a EF-20 flash unit and see what it can do. Maybe then the big boy kit will get even more dusty between big boy gigs.
I mentioned originally that I thought the reds were being terrorized in JPEG conversion and that this might be a firmware bug.
Adam, a faithful reader, brought up the fact that I was using ProNegS and suggested trying Standard/Provia. I did a test for all Film Simulation Modes and compared them together and against a RAW file converted (without editing) in SilkyPix…
What I found is that ProNegS does tend to turn your reds a bit pink, BUT Standard/Provia seems to as well (with a bit of additional saturation & contrast). So, I happily retract my claim that there may be a “bug”…
ProNegH seems to be the winner, with Astia in close second. But all-in-all I just hate shooting JPEG and can’t wait for Adobe to release RAW support!
Thanks, Adam for pointing this out.
Finally got my new cam… So pumped! It’s a really great camera. So satisfying to use, and just “gets outta the way”, letting you do your thing.
Not even gonna talk about the good and the bad. Leave it to the Queen. Here are some shots from a couple hours of shooting before, after and a few during work today….
So, this past weekend while I was in Maine, where I lived as a child, I went rooting through my grandmother’s storage. What I happened to find was my first computer: a Macintosh Plus, which in 1986 cost a mere $2599 and had 1MB of memory (expandable to 4MB). The Mac Plus was an “affordable” all-in-one personal computer that needed only power, its included keyboard and mouse (a la the iMac). It was a revolution in personal computers. So I decided to get it runnin…
After I found all the parts, untangled the endless phone cord style mouse and keyboard, found an outlet and plugged her in, I flipped the switch. Sure enough the damn thing made its start up sound (not the new chime that everyone has come to know so well, but the crude “beeeeep” of old.
Alas, there was no picture… So I said, “Oh well, she’s been stored for 14 years in an unheated garage. This things a fossil”.
After getting stubborn, I gave her a whack, which seems to fix everything, and boom the screen flickered. Laid her down and but some pressure on it and sure enough, I got the monitor to stay on.
Pops tells me to let her sit for a bit, so after a smoke I come back and try again. This time I set her upright and flipped the switch. BOOM! There it was, the good ole “sad mac face”. So I found my System 6 disk and tried again. After 3 or 4 attempts I finally got the thing to boot to the System 6 desktop.
After all that, one mouse click would cause the old “system bomb”… But hell, I call that a successful resurrection.
Well its been months of waiting, but last week I finally received my Fuji X100.
A fine camera that has a few quirks and glitches (Menu button size, slow auto focus, RAW button programming, film modes switched, startup/write times, battery life, raw flash being stuck in red-eye mode) that you can find well documented across the internet. Hopefully all will be addressed by firmware updates, but for the most part these are vastly overshadowed by the amazing useability of this camera.
After a week plus of shooting I can say this, the only HUGE problem is that it freezes A LOT requiring you to pull the battery. This is a big problem because it causes missed shots or running the battery down by turning off Power Save Mode. My only other issue is that the camera “forgets” certain things (macro mode, focus point size, nd) after power save. Oh, the provided strap SUCKS!
But like I said, the positives far out way the negatives. The build quality is far better than my old D-LUX4, and feels much better than the GF2 (a well-built plastic body). The ISO performance is spectacular. The flash packs the perfect punch. The OVF and EVF are both awesome in their own ways. Video mode is great (could use aperture and manual focus while rolling).
I can’t wait to see what Fuji gives us via firmware (soon please!).
When I first got my iPhone 3GS I was utterly disappointed with the camera. Being a photographer, my expectations were not exactly high, but I did expect on having a usable camera in well-lit situations. On first inspection I immediately wrote the “3 megapixel auto-focus camera” off as nothing more than a gimmick. For months I seldom used the camera for more than MMS, which was cool for pranks and what not but nothing worthy of Flickr.
Recently I have been pushing the iPhone further trying to squeeze some quality out of its nanosensor. It actually is quite good if the right tools/technique are used. The trick to the iPhone is holding it steady. Darkroom (free) is a great app that uses the accelerometer to shutter release when the phone is steady. Also know that the iPhone’s shutter fires when you lift off the button not when you press it.
The App Store as many free or cheap apps to post-process your iPhoneography. My favorite is Photogene, which really is the closest thing to Photoshop for the iPhone (sorry Photoshop.com Mobile). Photogene ($1.99) is the one stop shop for exposure levels, RGB levels, crop/straighten, and sharpening. Sharpening is probably the most important aspect to processing iPhone photos. The photos are always soft.
Is the iPhone a toy? Yes and no, it does toy-like things and smart-phone things, but the camera really is a toy. Toy cameras have always been the smallest, cheapest, most quirky cameras around and they produce fantastic one of a kind results. The iPhone is similar to a Holga or Lomo in that you never really know what your going to get. For more creative aspects of iPhoneography check out CameraBag ($1.99), which offers many toy camera filters, Polaroid borders, and other one-touch effects.
The all-in-one app is Best Camera, whose slogan says it all, “The Best Camera is the one thats with you”. The guys at Best Camera hit the nail on the head, the iPhone is excellent for being unnoticed. Paul Strand used to use trick lenses so his subjects didn’t know he was photographing them. Regardless of whether or not this type of photography is exploitative or dishonest the iPhone is perfect for this. Street photography is about timing, confidence, and speed/preparation. The “problem” with street photography is that once your subject sees a camera pointed at them the scene is often lost. The iPhone allows you to snap photos of people unknowingly anywhere. People are so accustomed to seeing iPhones they don’t think twice about it. Best Camera ($2.99) offers exposure filters, creative effects, and crop/border tools.
That said, the iPhone 4G camera should have some obvious additions. I would like to see a quicker controllable shutter, 5 megapixels would be nice, ISO control, and if possible a larger sensor (yeah right). There are other more gimmicky things I don’t really care for. Likely additions are a flash (a sensor that small will always be useless in low-light), auto-focus tracking, or even a front facing camera for video chat, digital zoom (a one way ticket to horrible photos). Who knows? I am looking forward to see what Apple comes up with.
Another strobist experiment that came out better than expected. Just took umbrella with flash on light stand outside, position Ciera in front of flash, and stopped down enough to underexpose ambient (street lights, et cetera…).
Yesterday I took the new light kit out for a spin around town. A friend and I went to an old train depot in Mid City to find a more industrial setting and plopped the gear down right on the old tracks. Setup in about 5, snapping with a good mix of ambient/strobe in 10… What I really enjoy about strobist lighting is the speed and freedom it allows. Each light weighs ~5lbs and can be easily moved with one hand while shooting with the other.
The results are o.k., but nothing spectacular. The shots are noticeably “lit”. Like a lot of strobist/HDR work, it has a very “unnatural” feel. Our eyes/brains are familiar with natural lighting and these techniques create situations not found in nature. This is not to say this looks “bad”, but I don’t care for it. My goal will be to get familiar enough with these strobes that I can use them sparingly to fill, accentuate, replicate natural/available light.
It doesn’t get much better than a rainy day. Most people consider a day like this drab at best. I can’t get enough of the rain. Rain is one of my favorite times to shoot. Some people wait for a sunny day, F that, the only thing better for photos than rain is SNOW…
In other news, I got my Canon 5D back from the Canon Authorized Service Center in New Jersey today. I had sent it in because the mirror fell off last week (not a great experience during a Mardi Gras shoot). All I can say is WOW! They replaced the mirror and added mirror reinforcements. But wait, thats not all. Canon also relaced the focus screen, mode dial, CF door, and cleaned the sensor and viewfinder. My camera is at least a year and a half out of warranty but it was all FREE… My 5D got a serious makeover, which might calm the 5D Mark II twitch I have had recently.