Wednesday 27 February 2019

X-T1 at 900

98 MissingX-A1, XF 18/2 R

I'm now up to 950 or so shots on the X-T1 after two and a half weeks of ownership. That's more than I shot with any of my previous X bodies (the X-E1 or either X-A1).

I'm still really enjoying shooting it. It's not perfect my any means, I really understand the complaints about button size, especially when wearing gloves. The drive, metering and exposure comp are a touch prone to getting knocked out of their settings, but that's very livable, especially since the settings are so readily visible (both on the camera and in the viewfinder.

I've taken to mostly shooting in the EVF+Eye Sensor mode, which turns on the EVF when the camera is at my face and leaves it off otherwise. That helps with battery life. Since the EVF/LCD mode is controlled by a button on the EVF hump, it's easy to cycle through all 4 modes (Eye Sensor switching, EVF Only, LCD only and EVF+Eye Sensor). This is true even with gloves due to the location of the button.

The big thing though is the camera just gets out of my way. It's rare that I even have to think about something with it. What's odd about that is that I've had the camera for less than 3 weeks, and it's in a system I haven't shot with in years, and with a different UI than either of the previous bodies I've owned (the X-A1 has a pretty typical single-dial interface and the X-E1 has a shutter speed dial, but otherwise fairly modern UI). The only time I have to really think about things is with the focus magnification. I think I need to find a little stick-on dot to make that button more noticeable, but it should largely go away once we get out of glove weather.

Sunday 24 February 2019

A Few Thoughts On What's Worked Best For Me

Uma Night 
E-M5, Sigma 19/2.8 DN

Looking back through my Flickr stream has shown me some interesting things. Back in 2017 I noted that I'd actually had more posted work from my Minolta bodies than the Nikon's that have been the most common film camera in my bag for the last 18 years. The quality of work posted is in a lot of ways the final arbiter of how well a camera has worked for me.

Looking back at my Digital archives, it's clear that my period with the E-M5 was the most productive period on digital I posted 234 images on my Flickr stream from it, around 10% of my total work on the stream, and those have survived 2 culls (one prior to posting, then the periodic culls that I do of my stream to remove the weaker work from it). After that the NEX-7 and D300 have produced the most lasting work (151 and 143 items respectively). The D800, D200 and A33 come next, (84, 74 and 72 items respectively). That's unsurprising, I shot a LOT with the A33, but the majority was event & bar work which never hit my Flickr, while the D800 and D200 didn't last long, but coincided with major jumps in my shooting activity. The D800 number will grow as there's 23 more shots in the backlog that haven't been posted. Honestly, if I was looking for a tripod body to complement the Fuji system for high-resolution work, I could do a lot worse than another D800.

It's when I get down to the everything else that things get interesting. The D7100 in particular resulted in a shockingly high amount of good work, with 31 items posted from less than a month of ownership across 2 bodies. That really does speak to how poor a decision to trade it in for the D600 was (the D600 only produced 23 posts from its 2-ish months of ownership). There's really very little Pentax work, but the m43 stuff and Nikon stuff dominates overall.

Oh, and the Fuji stuff previously is pretty much middle of the pack, slightly surprising given my memories of the X-E1. The X-T1 is obviously low (7 items posted), but will climb quickly, especially given I'm almost at 900 shots after two weeks of ownership and already have 1 Explore from that work.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Thoughts From the Past - Photography as Therapy

Snowy Queen St 03 
*istD, Tamron SP 28-7/2.8 XR Di

This is a repost from Sept 2007

I was having a conversation with an acquaintance today at lunch (one of the myriad of photogs I run into at the local camera stores, I work around the corner from two of the main camera stores in Toronto, so I'm in there alot) and the conversation moved to how I justify the money I spend on photography (both on kit and on expendables like film, ink, paper and chemicals).

The answer? It's still cheaper than a good shrink. And it's true. My job is relatively high-stress, I'm on-call 24x7 for the most part. I'd have burnt out long ago if I didn't have some good stress relief that didn't cause cancer or liver disease. And photography helps me stay sane. It does so in a number of ways:

1. Retail Therapy. Buying stuff is fun. Buying stuff for yourself can help cheer you up and take your mind off of stress. Yes, this works. If in doubt, ask your girlfriend's purse collection ;-)

2. Meditation. For me, the mindless rhythm of developing is good meditation. It's one of the reasons why developing doesn't annoy me or seem like a waste of time (unlike doing RAW conversions). And the slow pace of working with a MF camera on a tripod is also meditation (I suspect LF is the photographic equivalent of Yoga, gotta get into LF one of these days).

3. Escape. Photography is a great escape from the pressures of life. I don't have time to think about work when I'm out shooting. I can only think about the shooting itself.

It's interesting that 12 years later, this really still applies, although it's become less effective for me. I think that's because I've not done as much of #2 and #3 since I went back to school in late 2008.

Friday 22 February 2019

Looking Back on 10 Years of Mirrorless

In The Snow 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

I bought my first mirrorless camera in January of 2009, a Panasonic G1. Since that time I've also owned Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony mirrorless bodies, one Sony SLT and a number of Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus DSLR's. I'm a constant horse-trader, so these have mostly been purchased used with the proceeds of a previous sale.

Mirrorless is ideal for the way I work. The small sized bodies are around the same size & weight of the classic manual focus SLR's I prefer for film work, as are the lenses. The focusing experience is much better than AF DSLR's for manual work and I generally don't care about Continuous AF performance, which has always been the weak point for mirrorless. They're also small and unobtrusive, always a bonus for street & cityscape work.

As to the cameras:

The G1 worked very well for me initially, but I always had some challenges with its weakpoints, really with low light shooting which is what I was mostly doing in 2009 and 2010 when I owned it (it's still in the family, but the replacements have moved on).

The Panasonics have mostly worked pretty well for me. I've also had the G3 and GX7 and I purely loved the GX7, however it was the nadir of my shooting and I sold it off because I just wasn't really using anything at all. Frankly, if I'd kept the GX7 I might still be shooting it today, it really was a pretty good fit.

Olympus has always looked good on the initial experience, but come up short over time. With the E-M5 and E-M1 it was a combination of fiddly buttons and the camera getting in my way, I really liked the results and as long as the camera came out of the bag in the mode I expected it to be in. That said, IMHO the best work I've shot in the last 10 years on digital was with the E-M5. The E-PM1 was a nice bag camera and while it was useless in low light, I did like it in better light, especially when paired with the PL 25/1.4.

Sony was a mixed bag for me. The NEX-5's produced great images, but have terrible handling and all the limitations of a viewfinderless camera. I mostly loved the NEX-7's for street/walkabout photography, but they were useless on a tripod. The A7II went from mild like to mild dislike over time, I loved the ability to nail focus, especially with the ZF.2 85/1.4, but everything else slowly annoyed me, although never by very much. I really could have kept it if I had a reason to.

Fujifilm is interesting. I loved the X-A1's, my favourite viewfinderless camera. But it never worked as a primary for me. The X-E1 in 2014 was just not workable, the RAW conversion issues and speed were just too slow. It probably could be a successful alternative to the X-A1 as a bag camera though. Given my experience so far with the X-T1, I really wish I'd stuck with the Fuji stuff the second time around and added an X-T1 then, or even the first time and just shot JPEG until the RAW issues were solved.

The reality is looking back I never should have got out of m43 until the X-T1 showed up, and even then probably not. I would have had a much better experience if I'd just stayed the course rather than chasing the dragon. My basic m43 kit with the E-M5 covered all my real needs. Even today, I'd probably be just fine with an E-M1 or later GX series body and a handful of primes (12/2, 15/1.7, 25/1.8 or 25/1.4, 45/1.8 or 42.5/1.7, 60) And I could easily have put that kit together over the years. The same really goes for Fuji the second time through. It's clear than Sony and I don't get along.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Red Sky Over St Clair West

Red Sky Over St Clair West 
X-T1, Nikkor 200mm f4 AI

Pretty much the first actual shooting with adapted lenses I've done with the X-T1. Transferring buses at St Clair & Ossington on my way home let me see this gorgeous sky at dusk. Took a few shots with the 16-50, but I just couldn't get what I wanted. So I took a gamble by throwing on the 200/4 and it paid off in spades. Caught the red sky reflecting off the tracks and two of the new Bombardier Streetcars eastbound. I'd thought about trying the 50-135/3.5 instead, but decided on the extra reach and I'm glad I did.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Workflow Thoughts

Girl Pop Suckers 
Maxxum 7, Sony DT 35/1.8 SAM, Neopan 100SS in Rodinal

I've been spending a lot of thought on my workflows of late.

I currently have two separate workflows for very different roles.

1. Camera RAW's imported to desktop, processed in CaptureOne 12 and then uploaded to Flickr
2. Camera RAW's developed in-camera, transferred wirelessly to the phone as JPEG, processed in Snapseed and uploaded to Instagram.

The first workflow is my serious, highly-curated workflow for serious work. The second started as me playing with the wireless capability of the X-T1, but I'm enjoying it as well. The photos I'm selecting for Instagram are largely cityscape shots, although I expect it will largely mimic the sort of work I post to Flickr, just in a more off the cuff, less curated fashion.

I'm still working on coming up with a workable mobile processing workflow for Flickr posting that is independent of my desktop. That is a major goal for this year, and I have some ideas but I'm not really there yet. I suspect the Gnarbox might form the core of the answer, if it will let me edit shots on my iPad directly off it.

I hope the Gnarbox workflow would be:

Import RAW images from SD card (in the field or back at home/hotel/etc), edit on iPad with some RAW conversion software, save to OneDrive, upload to Flickr/instagram.

Then on arrival at home, the Gnarbox could be sync'd to the PC for archiving and/or further work in C1.

What would make this work best would be if we got an actual C1 Mobile app. Lightroom CC Mobile is a non-starter due to the poor Fuji conversions and pretty much everything else uses Apple's built-in RAW conversion (which is at least better than Adobe's for Fuji stuff).

I also wish the Fujifilm wireless app would transfer RAW's, so I could do a better job of conversion (the in-camera conversion is quite limited, I only use it because that lets me pick the Film Simulation right before transfer rather than prior to making the image).

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Goals - 2018 and 2019

St Clair on the Go 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

I'd set 3 Goals for 2018
These were:

1. Produce 365 high quality images for posting on Flickr. That's 1 a day for a 1 year period.
2. Raise my average daily views on Flickr to 1500. Right now I'm averaging around 1000.
3. Photograph 6 completely new locations.

And while I didn't actually list it, I had also wanted to exceed the 5224 images I shot in 2014.

How did I do?

1. Successful, while I didn't post 365 images, I did produce them. Goal achieved
2. Near miss. I was trending at 13-1400 views a day and since I came back to activity on Flickr, I've been averaging well over 1500 views.
3. Fail. I got 2 for sure (Niagara Falls and the Niagara Parkway) and can probably say 1-2 more from some other shooting. But at best that's 2/3rds of my goal.

And for the unofficial goal, the 5491 images I took in 2018 did exceed my 2014 numbers.

For 2019, this is what I'm looking to achieve Photographically.

1. Create 365 high-quality images for Flickr, and post 3-5 images to Instagram per week
2. Increase my engagement on Flickr, Instagram and Fred Miranda, especially within the Fujifilm communities through regular image posting and interaction with other's posts.
3. Photograph 6 completely new locations.

The volume goal this year is the 7220 images I made in 2013.

While the first 3 goals are really the important ones, as they drive what I actually want to achieve with my photography, the volume goal is largely there to push me to get out with a camera and shoot. I can't achieve the other goals if I'm not shooting, and my endgame is to get back to making 10,000 images a year, with a 5% or so hit rate (ie 5% of my images make it through the editing chain to become postable images). Honestly, I need to increase how selective I am with my work, but if I want to also achieve the daily posting goals that means shooting more. I think this is achievable.

Monday 18 February 2019

Just Getting Along

Leaf on Stone 
D90, 16-85VR

The D90 was a camera I just never got along with. on paper, it was exactly what I wanted from Nikon when the D300 came out, and I eventually owned one when I went back to DSLR's in 2016. I'm not sure if I was spoiled by the D300 or if it was something else, but I just never clicked with the D90 and that put me off shooting with it. Unless I was really feeling the shooting bug it stayed home, a situation that changed almost immediately when I got the D300 to replace it. These cameras never last long, but the issue may occur for a couple reasons. Either I don't get along with the camera, or I get annoyed with the post-processing workflow or both. The A7II slowly slid into this category because I never could get the colour I wanted from it in post, the X-E1 got there quickly largely due to the X-Trans post issues that were a major barrier back in 2014 and the D600 got there due to my annoyance with the body's handling and reliability.

A camera I click with will make me want to take it out and shoot with it. The D300's definitely been one, and that's one reason why I expect my current D300 will stick around until it eventually expires. Even with just the 16-85VR, it's just a delight to shoot, even if it really is too big & heavy for my uses these days. Other cameras that have been that for me were the GX7, NEX-7, the A700 and the D800.

Sometimes I end up with a camera that I just don't much like for one reason or another, but it's also not getting in my way. They don't make me want to shoot them, but they also don't make me not want to shoot them. The E-M5 and E-M1 both fell into this category for me (as have most of my m43 stuff), and the A7II mostly was as well.

The X-T1, with just shy of 500 shots in the first week of ownership, seems to be falling into the category of 'makes me want to shoot it'. It's also very much a camera that just gets out of my way, largely because it handles like the FE/FM/FA bodies that I've spent so much time shooting over the years, and where it doesn't, the changes make sense. It's fitting very well, although I won't be sure until I'm out of the New Toy zone, which I expect will be in the next couple weeks, and hopefully through the Equivocation zone as well (My 3 zones of camera ownership are defined in the post 1101 Shots In). At the rate I'm shooting I should be well into the Comfort Zone by mid-March.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Fuji Thinks Different

 X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

I've had a thing for the Fuji X system since they day it was announced. I've shot it twice in the past during my endless cycle of chasing the dragon and it always comes up when I look at mirrorless systems. That's because Fuji's approached the modern camera system with a very different take than anybody else and most of their take speaks directly to what I like and what I've been searching for.

They've done 3 things different. Two of those I very much like, one of them I'm ambivalent about (and used to be quite against). What are they?

1. Camera UI. Fuji, unlike pretty much everybody else, decided to try and combine classic manual focus camera UI with modern needs. A couple other makers have tried this, specifically Leica with their digital M's and Nikon with the Df. Leica succeeded because they basically ignored as much of the modern camera as they could (even in one case dropping the LCD and image/setting review controls). Nikon failed because they just stuck traditional dials on top of their current UI and paid very little attention to the interactions between the two UI's.

Fuji however has largely seamlessly integrated the two sides so they compliment each other rather than fighting like they do on the Df. Additionally their bodies, especially on the X-Pro and X-T series, handle like classic pre-AF cameras, specifically Rangefinders and Manual Focus SLR's. The X-T1 is basically the same size as an FA and handles much like the FA (the FA features a removable foregrip which its FE2/FM2n siblings lack, said grip is actually quite similar to the one which comes with the X-T100).

Since Fuji includes aperture rings on their XF lenses, which are the majority of their lens line, you can actually shoot an X-Tx or X-Txx body just like an FM or FE body. Or you can get all the automation you desire, or anywhere in between. I've already found myself shooting the X-T1 close to how I shoot FM's, but letting Auto-ISO assist.

2. Lens line. One of the enduring failures of most of the APS-C camera lines has been the absolutely terrible native lens lineups. All the old SLR makers in this space (and Samsung's first effort) relied too much on their already existing 35mm lens lines.

Even Pentax, who made the biggest effort here, ended up with a positively strange selection of native lenses and depended far too much on old, often obsolete, FF lenses to make up the difference (Pentax never offered a 35mm-e for example, the only choice was to find a long out of production FA*24/2, which was CA prone, large and expensive).

Fuji on launch day had a 28, 50 and 90mm macro in 35mm equivalents. That's all the basics covered on day one. Contrast to Sony who launched E mount with a 24/2.8 prime, a 27-85 kit lens and a 27-300 do-everything kit lens. Samsung launched the NX mount with a 45/2 and a set of 27-85 and 75-300 kit zooms. Samsung did make a serious effort to round out their line over its short life, but never quite got there.

m43 mount, which is the other really well rounded sub-35mm lens line, didn't have a fast normal for 2+ years (Jun 2011, with the first body in Sept 2008) and didn't get a consumer-priced one for another 3 years. For something Fuji had on day 1.

Fuji came out of the gates with a basic set of lenses ideally suited to their camera, and published a roadmap which at launch had an 21mm UWA, a 43mm f2.8 pancake, a 35mm f1.4 fast prime, a 15-36mm UWA zoom, a 27-85 fastish zoom, and a 85-300mm fastish zoom, all of which were delivered within 18 months. While late to the mirrorless game (beating only Canon to the sub-35mm Mirrorless game), they actually had a fully rounded out system quicker than anybody else, in some cases even before the systems who had beat them to market by years.

And Fuji has continued to build out that line with a consistent focus, providing a complete, consistent and well rounded selection of primes (at this time they have 21/2.8, 24/1.4, 24/2.8, 28/2, 35/1.4, 35/2, 43/2.8 pancake, 50/1.4, 50/2, 75/2, 85/1.2, 85/1.2 APD, 90/2.4 macro, 120/2.8 Macro, 135/2, and 300/2 primes plus zooms from 12mm to 600mm in consumer, prosumer and pro lines). There's still a few holes in the lineup, but they are steadily filling them out.

Given my preference for shooting with a selection of small, mid-speed primes, the 'Fujicron' line of 24/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 and 75/2 primes just fits.

3. The third thing Fuji did different was their X-Trans sensor. This was a mistake and has limited sales from day 1. Out of the box the X-Trans cameras were crippled by the lack of a functional RAW converter and it took a long time before there was a really good workflow for Fuji RAW's. X-Trans uses a different colour matrix over the sensor sites that improves the high ISO data stability (reducing chroma noise) but in turn gives up some colour resolution at base ISO. That's a decent set of tradeoffs, but the RAW converter situation gave the X bodies a reputation for workflow trouble very quickly, and one they've never shed.

I experienced this with the X-E1 and it made me very hesitant to buy back into Fuji for a long time. My experience so far with the X-T1 and CaptureOne 12, as well as the recent availability of CaptureOne Express for Fujifilm, suggest the workflow problems are gone, even for those on a budget, but the reputation remains. The X-A line, with the regular Bayer sensor, proved that Fuji could deliver their signature colour without X-Trans and really show that X-Trans was a net negative for X series sales.

I don't see X-Trans going away anytime soon though, and today the issues are entirely reputational, not technical. It was a great idea, but the lack of RAW conversion options, and most especially Adobe's complete unwillingness to fix the issues in their engine for years (7 years later they finally have a solution, which takes 30-60 seconds per image...) really limited the growth of the system. A lot of folks are significantly more closely tied to their workflow than to their cameras and Fuji did not take that into consideration. The good news is that unlike Sigma's horrifically bad Foveon sensors (which are limited by physics to producing high-resolution messes of bad colour metamarism and circa-2006 noise), Fuji was actually able to deliver competitive IQ in JPEG all the time, and once the RAW converter situation caught up, in RAW as well.

So 2 of these approaches really work for me, and the third has become a non-issue over time. Getting back to shooting Fuji ends up making a lot of sense today.

Friday 15 February 2019

A Few More Thoughts on the X-T1

Green With A Curl
D300, 70-300G VR

The image in the last post has hit Explore on Flickr, always a nice bit of recognition.

I'm up to 150 shots on the X-T1 so far, mostly on my walks to and from work. 130 of that has been with the XC 16-50 OIS II.

I'm really digging the dial UI. It does leave the X-T1 with a bit of a split personality in terms of shooting with gloves on. As long as you are interacting with controls on a physical dial, the X-T1 is an outstanding gloves body, surprisingly so for its size. That covers Shutter release, shutter speed, Exposure compensation, ISO, metering, AF mode & drive mode, as well as Aperture with a manual or XF series lens. The control wheels and buttons are the opposite story, they're pretty buried and the buttons are basically unusable with larger gloves. Due to weather I've not really had much experience with gloves off, but the X-T1 is definitely the best camera in its size class that I've shot with for gloves on, I'd have to move up to a D300-size body to get better gloved handling. Note in comparison to the A7II, the X-T1 is definitely better as long as I'm just interacting with the core controls. Both are equally bad in terms of little fiddly buttons both suck, the A7II was a touch better though due to a bit better rear button layout.

One issue I've been having is that I keep hitting the metering switch when changing shutter speeds (I've been using Manual exposure with Auto-ISO as my AE mode, as that reduces the need to tweak auto-ISO settings). It's a touch annoying, but acceptable.

Back Button AF is a real miss here though. Fuji does have the ability to BBAF in a pre-defined mode from Manual Focus mode, but when in S or C, I cannot decouple the AF from the shutter. Normally this would be an issue for me, but given the small, somewhat hard to find AF-L & AE-L buttons (one of which becomes AF-On), it's a mixed blessing, as there's no easy to find by feel BBAF button. I understand things have evolved some on newer bodies (this is a 5 year old body and Fuji's first SLR-style body with any real action shooting capability).

Focus assist in manual focus mode is a little weird. Peaking works right up until you half-press the shutter. I need to get out of the habit of half-pressing the shutter constantly when working with manual focus. The Focus Assist button does magnification, and is well located. Only caveat is MF lenses need the camera to be set to M mode for things to work correctly, you can't just throw them on in S or C mode. The same mostly goes for XC & XF lenses. Will definitely take some getting used to.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

A Handful of Musings

The 63 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

Got out for a bit of real photography on my way home from work yesterday. It was refreshing to be looking at the world from the perspective of a lens again and considering how things would look as a picture. Got some good stuff, and I'm finding that CaptureOne 12 is doing a very good job of getting things right, pretty much straight from the camera.

Today's experiment was alternate workflows. I've got the Fujifilm Camera Remote app, which will connect with the X-T1 via WiFi. That functions as a remote release (why I installed the app), but it can also pull JPEG's from the camera in a couple ways (but not RAW files). It really is a lousy app, clunky, takes forever to connect to the camera, requires a mix of inputs on the camera and phone, et al. But it does let me take an arbitrary JPEG, suck it into the phone then post directly to Instagram/Facebook/anything else that can take a picture from Gallery (or Photos on iOS). I've got a couple posts on Instagram already from that, and plan on keeping using it.

On the gear front, Fuji is expected to announce a pair of lenses and a body on Thursday. I've no interest in the body right now (it's the X-T30,  the mid-range SLR-like body) however both lenses are interesting.

The first is a 16-80/4, which is quite compact at 16mm. This weather-sealed, OIS equipped zoom would be ideal as a do-everything lens in my future. It's the right size, the right range and the right aperture. Could totally see replacing the current 16-50 kit lens with this at some point in the future.

The second lens is a 16/2.8 WR prime, similar in form to the Fujicron line of f2 primes (23, 35, 50). It makes an ideal extension of that lineup on the wide end (and frankly, I'd like to own all 4 of those plus the 18/2 and 14/2.8). My preference is for mid-speed compact primes and the Fujicron's are exactly what I like. In a lot of ways Fuji could be listening to my brain (add a 70/2.4 and 135/2.8 and I'd be set).

Getting back to workflows, I'd like to work out a proper mobile workflow, between grabbing a JPEG straight off the camera and shoving it through Instagram and heavy lifting on my desktop. Ideally that would be on the iPad Pro (as I have one on long-term loan right now) and not involving any Adobe software. Will have to think about it, it's really a software question as I have the SD Card to Lightning adapter which is considered to be the best all-round way to get photos onto the iPad. I also need to start looking at what my next-generation desktop workflow will look like, my current desktop is 10 years old and starting to show it's age (it is pretty amazing that it's managed to work well for that long with only the addition of a new GPU and some disk)

Monday 11 February 2019


Ice and Concrete 
Fujifilm X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

Took a quick photowalk around the block before my day started on Sunday, to try the X-T1 in some actual conditions. Came back with a handful of winter detail shots, of this was one of the first.

Ran them through CaptureOne 12 to quickly discover that the core struggles I'd had with the X-E1's files have clearly been solved by CaptureOne at least. There's a couple niggles in the workflow, but nothing that couldn't be solved with the combination of some ICC profiles and different default sharpening. Really, I'm pretty happy with this, although I do want to see results with actual foliage even if that has to wait a few months.

As to the blog, the last post was my 100th post here, over the slightly more than 5 years I've had this blog (Dec 5th, 2018 was the 5 year anniversary). That's really not a lot of posting, and frankly activity has been intermittent given my struggles with motivation around photography. Here's hoping that I can get a handle on regularly posting new content here in 2019, and who knows, we may even see post 200 this year.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Fujifilm X-T1 - Am I Nuts?

The Grove 
Fujifilm X-E1, XF 18/2 R

I did NOT get along with X-Trans when I had my X-E1. The X-Trans sensor and the difficulties in processing images from it were the primary reason why I sold the X-E1, which otherwise was a decent but not exceptional camera.

So why would I buy a camera with the same basic sensor 5 years later? The short answer is that while I'm still not sold on the benefits of X-Trans and still think the #1 improvement Fuji could do for its line is to switch to Bayer across the board (right now only the inexpensive X-T100 and X-A5, and the high-end GF medium format bodies are Bayer, everything in between is X-Trans). The reality however is that if you are not using Lightroom, you can get quite good results from X-Trans today as the workflow challenges are largely gone. Yeah, Lightroom/ACR still have issues with the green channel, but CaptureOne and most of the smaller options all support X-Trans pretty well.

On the flip side I was looking for something decidedly smaller than the D7100. I went into the store to return the D7100 and look at 3 different cameras, the D3500, the X-T100 and the E-M10 III. The D3500 was my fallback choice. Smallish viewfinder, cheap build, limited AF, but it would have got me a 35/1.8DX as well as the kit lens in a package I know I could work with. The X-T100 was the camera I was hoping would work, as I generally like Fuji's ergonomics, but was quite ambivalent about the new 15-45 OIS Powerzoom kit lens. I just don't really like power zoom lenses. Finally, the E-M10 III with the non-PZ kit was what I was mostly expecting to settle on, as it would let me also get the excellent little 40-150R telezoom.

A quick handling test confirmed I would be fine with the D3500. It felt cheapish, but has a remarkably good grip and every control was pretty much where I expected it to be. Only real downside is Nikon is still using that ancient 11 point AF unit that originated with the D200 well over a decade ago. Really, just in terms of parts rationalization, this should have been dumped for the 39 point unit from the now 9 year old D7000.

I took a quick pass by the Sony section. They had some cheap NEX-6's and a good deal on the A6000. But nothing that really snagged my attention, and I really did want something a little more SLR-like in terms of handling.

I then tried the X-T100. Nice body, handles much like an FE2 or FM2n. The PZ lens was gimmicky, but I could live with it. No real warts at all.

I briefly tried the E-M10 III, I'm not sure if there was a settings problem or what, but the EVF was unusable in the store due to standing flickering. It actually hurt to look through. Pretty much instantly killed any interest in that body (they did have an E-M1 and an original E-M5 at prices I could work with, but I've owned both and wasn't interested in owning either again for various handling reasons, lets leave it at both have button layout issues in my opinion)

Then I noticed a used XC 16-50 OIS sitting next to a used X-T1. I'd missed this pair in my first pass around the store. I had to try that. I compared the size to the X-T100, and while it's larger, it's not significantly so (mostly it's taller, although the 16-50 is also longer than the 15-45 in powered off condition, the PZ lens extends on power-on to be about the same size as the 16-50). I had to try it. When the X-T1 originally launched I thought is was simply the best laid out digital camera I'd seen, and while time has shown it has a couple issues, it's still very well laid out, fits the hand nicely and has an excellent EVF (a touch better than the A7II IMHO). The downside was the 16MP X-Trans sensor, which I had not gotten along with the last time I'd owned one, 5 years ago. That said, after a few minutes of playing, I made the call that the X-T1+16-50 worked better than the X-T100+15-45 combo. I was really impressed with the X-T100, it is quite good for what it is, and I could easily see myself owning one alongside a higher-end X-T body. I liked the 15-45 much less (the X-T100 is available body-only, but Fuji no longer kits the IMHO better 16-50 lens). The other aspect was the used X-T1 was less than the body-only X-T100, so I could add a spare battery (always a must for mirrorless) and come out ahead on my return credit. Still have $20 in credit which can help pay for a grip or 3rd battery or whatever.

PS, it was the Zeiss 85/1.4 that paid for all of this. Brilliant lens, but big, heavy and a focal length I've just never been entirely in love with (I've come to realize I prefer the 28/50/105 or 21/35/105 combos to the xx/85 combo). Got $25 less in credit than I paid for the lens, so effectively I rented it for about $8/year plus taxes.

Saturday 9 February 2019

The Cursed Camera

Snow Cone 
Nikon D7100, 16-85VR

I've owned two D7100's. Collectively they've spent less than 3 weeks in my bag. Neither time was I ever actually unsatisfied with the camera itself, there simply were other external reasons for returning it.

The first time was due to an unexpected sale allowing me to get a new Open Box D600 at an insanely low price. I returned the D7100 and got the D600, which I later sold due to the combination of problematic handling (it actually caused me cramping issues in my arm) and some problems with the camera (it was behaving oddly in the cold). I really should have kept the D7100 that time (it does not have the grip design that caused me pain on the D600).

The second time, I'd traded a lens last week for the D7100, and after a week realized that what I really needed was a smaller light carry camera, not the larger sized D7100. So back it went today and I came home with the much smaller X-T1 and my third XC 16-50 OIS (I'd previously owned the lens with both X-A1's I'd had).

As to the D7100, it really is an excellent camera as long as you do not need a particularly deep buffer, and don't try and rescue shadows 5-6 stops down. It's responsive, the UI is excellent and the IQ excellent even by current standards. I definitely recommend it for somebody looking for a lower-cost but high performing DX/APS-C crop body.

Oh, and after taking a 6 month break, I'm back shooting. Yes, I did sell my A7II during that period, while it performed decently, I never quite gelled with it.