Sunday, 28 February 2021
Z5 Up and Downs
Saturday, 27 February 2021
A Change in Directions
Sunday, 21 February 2021
X-T2 as a Manual Focus Body
The image above is straight out of the camera, Acros film simulation with simulated Red 25 Filter and H+1, S-1 and Sharpness +2 for a bit of extra punch. Cropped down to 1:1 and slightly less than full width.
This is part of why I still love the Fuji's, especially for B&W and cityscape work. The film simulations just give a great starting point to get a great image. I took the X-T2 out with a bag full of primes, native & adapted, and just had some fun shooting in the city.
I've largely settled on how I'm going to approach my kit for now. The Fuji's will stay and will be paired with manual focus lenses and mostly be used in the city. The Oly will be primarily zoom-based and backpacking/rough weather kit. The 12-40 replaces the XC 16-50 and a 40-150 Pro will replace the departed 55-200. I'll still need a UWA for the Oly, likely a Laowa 7.5mm f2 as I'm just not sure I want to spend on a 7-14 Pro with its lack of filter compatibility and likelihood to just get used at 7.5mm. Maybe I'll look at a zoom when Oly releases their new f4 option (they have 2-3 f4 zooms known to be coming, all of which are interesting to me)
So the X-T2 will mostly get used with the inexpensive Chinese manual focus lenses I've been buying. I really do find manual, mechanical lenses more fun to use than zooms on the Fuji bodies. I've ever liked focus by wire that much and the more I rely on just the physical controls, the more I like the Fuji's. The only physical control I never really liked is the M/S/C AF switch on the front, and shooting MF glass makes it irrelevant. I suspect I will continue to add inexpensive MF lenses to my Fuji kit, but right now I don't really see adding any AF lenses, although that could change, Fuji's primes are excellent and I could totally live with an all-prime Fuji kit if the Olympus kit handles my zoom needs. That also saves me from looking for a second Olympus body, as I'm quite conflicted as to what would be interesting there. No smaller body has battery compatibility with the E-M1.2.
All of this will let me use the two kits at what I like best about them. Oly colours for landscapes, Oly tech for landscape & long exposure work, Oly sealing for rough conditions. Fuji Film Simulations for B&W and night work, classic Fuji handling & big beautiful finders for manual focus lenses and taking advantage of the fact that most manual focus crop lenses are designed for APS-C use (Laowa's MFT lenses being some of the rare exceptions).
This also lets me continue to focus on the inexpensive lenses that I so enjoy, without giving up performance by settling on 3 higher-end lenses for my landscape work, where I need the absolute quality.
This won't stop me from shooting landscape on my Fuji's, especially while my only UWA option is on that system (I sold my Nikkor 20mm and my Laowa 15mm Macro is already spoken for, eliminating my UWA FF options, outside of my 7Artisans 12mm on Fuji, all my other systems are limited to 24mm-e at the widest for now). I ill just prioritize using the Oly when I have to go somewhere I don't want to carry 4+ primes to.
Friday, 19 February 2021
One Week With The E-M1 Mark II
Sunday, 14 February 2021
E-M1 Mark II - Second Try
With a properly working body now I'm very impressed. The handling is very much the E-M1's handling, improved. The grip is a little bigger and fills the hand better, the buttons are a little better positioned and the firmware is a fair bit more capable.
One very nice thing is there is a neat Quick Sleep mode, this sleeps in 10 seconds when using the body in EVF-only mode. Now that does mean you need to manually switch in and out of LV mode on the rear LCD, but the battery life is improved immensely. I've shot over 300 images and not dropped below 60% charge. That's seriously impressive battery life for any mirrorless body, and especially for the BLH-1 which is of the smaller 'big' batteries in the mirrorless world.
The gloved handling of the body is excellent. MUCH better than the Fuji's, with nice large and easy to find buttons and easier to activate control dials. I was surprised with how much nicer the dials are than the X-T1 or 2. Still love the Fuji's classic layout for basic controls, especially when using manual primes, but the Olympus beats it hands down for AF/Zoom handling
Capability-wise, it's very impressive. That said, it's very complex as well. Lots of neat functions but lots of menu options to configure them, and very lousy explanations, especially for stuff that's iconography.
The real surprise for me has been the m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro. I've looked at this lens several times in the past and always chosen to go with the less expensive 12-50 EZ, which is quite a solid lens, but much slower. There's a couple things that makes me wish I'd bought this lens long ago. It's very well built, quite small and the close focus performance is very impressive, at 0.2m for all focal lengths. That's much easier to work with than the macro mode on the 12-50. Plus of course it's f2.8 and extremely high performance optically. I'm extremely happy with the lens so far, great range, fast, close focusing and optically excellent.
Friday, 12 February 2021
One Body Leaves, One Body Enters. Sort-Of
So my D300 has pretty much shuffled off its mortal coil. Control dial failure on the front control dial is the cause. This is the body I've owned the longest of any digital body, at about 4 years ownership at this point. Not bad at all. I only shot about 1500 shots with this body, as it was my backup Nikon body for most of that time. With D300's in general I've shot almost 20,000 frames over 3 bodies.
I traded in 3 lenses Wednesday, the Fuji XF 55-200 and XC 16-50 along with my Nikkor 20/2.8 AF to get an E-M1 mk II. Sadly, this body is going back due to failure, it has major lockup issues. I will be coming home with another one though, as I was impressed with what I got when the body wasn't locking up. Acceptably sharp shots at 1s handheld and 105mm actual focal length (210mm FF equivalent) is outstanding. The IQ in quick tests was significantly better at higher ISO's than the 16MP E-M1 & E-M5II. Only real issues I had was I couldn't figure out how to set the Fn level to select AF/MF and focus peaking required a button press and couldn't be tied to MF mode.
EVF is not on par with the X-T1/2, but better than the A7II and closer to the Fuji's than the Sony. Grip ergonomics are excellent as is button layout. I don't like the on/off location but can live with it. Battery is much larger, but suffers from the fact it can be inserted backwards, although it won't seat. That's something I dislike on every body without shape-keyed batteries (Fuji's equally guilty, the NP-126 has the same issue)
The menu is the usual messy and overly complex Olympus menu system with excessive iconography. I still don't know the difference between one fish and three fish, or what functionality that setting relates to. But unless you use all sorts of oddball functions regularly, once setup you really don't have to menu-dive for much more than card formatting.
I've arranged a body exchange for tomorrow, so I should be up and running one that's done.
I've still got my Fuji bodies, and all my primes for them. We'll see how things play out long term, but I see the Fuji's getting used with manual lenses in the city and the Oly gear being my hiking & backcountry setup with occasional crossovers to stretch things out.
Postscript: One Fish/Three Fish is apparently a function that when assigned to a button toggles powerzoom lenses between the widest and longest zoom positions, it's for underwater housing use where you can't easily control the zoom. Totally makes sense in context, but as usual for Oly, there's absolutely no context in the menu system for their iconography. At least there are no Invalid Operation buttons.
Tuesday, 9 February 2021
Taking a Look Back - My Time with the E-M1 + E-M5 II kit
This made several things clear.
1. I prefer Olympus colour to Fuji colour for landscape work, by a fair margin. In the city it's a wash, but for landscape Olympus simply delivers the blue tones I can never quite get with any other system except Nikon.
2. I miss shooting 4:3 aspect ratio. I simply like it better than 3:2. This is not really news, I've liked squarer formats ever since I was introduced to them.
3. I do miss Olympus IBIS performance. It remains the only IBIS system I've shot that I've really found effective.
4. Fuji's LCD setup remains better. Dual-tilt beats flip/twist beats single tilt beats fixed, at least from a photographer's perspective.
5. I'm less convinced now that the extra malleability of the Fuji files are winning me anything, since I have to push them more to get close to what I want as compared to the Olympus files. Full Frame is still better, but not by that much. I've never been sold on X-Trans anyways.
6. I'm unconvinced I would be happy with 16MP as a primary body in either Fuji or Olympus.
7. E-M1 II prices are now down to a level that I consider very reasonable. And they're USB-C but not USB Power/Charge, X-T2 is USB Micro-B 3.0, but does do power/charge. The 20MP m43 sensor is supposed to be a real improvement.
8. E-M1 II handling is MUCH better gloved than the X-T2, even with the bracket and marginally better ungloved.
9. m43 lenses are getting cheap.
What does this mean? Probably another system switch for me, and possibly something of a draw-down in my overall setup. Notionally I'd ditch the X-T2 and the 3 AF lenses, but keep the X-T1 and all my manual lenses. That would get me into the E-M1 II, another 12-50 and maybe either a 25/1.7 or a 40-150 R, rounding out my personal favourite cheap yet decent kit for m43.
I'd sell my Laowa 15mm f4 to fund a proper UWA (9-18 or a 7.5-10mm prime) and possibly sell off some Nikkors, keeping the 55/3.5 (a gift from my Aunt) and probably the 105/2.5 as well (such a good lens) long-term. Then troll the used market to add a 45/1.8, 17/1.8 and a 12-40 or 12-45and wait for the rumoured 45-200/4 Pro that's supposed to match the 12-45/4 (maybe a matching UWA zoom too?)
I'd keep the X-T1 around with the 12/18/25 primes and probably add a 35 and 55 for fun. That's just a great street shooting kit and cheap but fun. Eventually I'd want a compact body for m43 to share lenses, but that can wait. And if I sold off most of the Nikkors I'd be less tempted by another FX body.
Some Thoughts on Micro-4/3rds
I think there is a real niche out there for OM Digital Solutions, the new successor to Olympus Imaging. That niche is severe conditions/backcountry photography. OM cameras are small, tough and can do certain things handheld that require a tripod in all other systems (live ND mode on the E-M1 III and E-M1X especially). The lenses are outstanding as well. That's perfect for situations where you're size/weight limited, operating in all conditions and cannot miss the shot.
They do need to do some work to get there, mostly on the lens line. All of their mid-range lenses need to be sealed. The f1.8/2 primes and the 9-18 most notably. Oly should only have 2 unsealed lenses in the lineup, and that's the 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses for the E-M10's. I do find it slightly ironic that Fuji, with no sealed mid-range bodies has a full set of sealed mid-range lenses and Oly is in exactly the opposite situation, having the bodies but not the lenses.
Monday, 8 February 2021
The Last Frame, Revisited
About 18 months ago I posted The Last Frame, my goodbye to my first X-T1 and a short summary of what I thought Fuji needed to do.
I noted 3 issues in their lens line.
1. The XC 50-230 is too expensive - Still true today, and more so now with the space getting more aggressive. Fuji needs to drop the price, the XF70-300 will result in a flood of used XF55-200's which will make the XC50-230's pricing even more difficult to sell at.
2. Consumer UWA. I said the 10-24 needed a WR update, which arrived last fall, and they needed a cheap UWA option. With used original 10-24's coming down and a plethora of cheap 3rd party options around 12-14mm, I think this is much less critical although I still want an XC10-xx zoom for ~400USD
3. No consumer Fast prime. The XC35/2 solve that a year ago. Fuji too the other option from what I suggested, cloning the XF35/2 into a cheap barrel rather than doing a slower 35/1.4
In addition I noted they needed a 80-300, a 135 and 300/4 prime and a 200-600. We got the XF70-300 and a 150-600 is now a strong rumour, which will cover the zoom side of things. I still think they need the telephoto primes as well.
In addition we got 2 lenses that I happen to think were a complete waste of time and effort.
The XF50/1.0, which has not been well received. It's clearly a good lens, but it's not exceptional and the price is, and Fuji dropped the ball badly when they decided to change track from a needed XF33/1.0 to an unneeded XF50/1.0. They'd have been much better off doing a WR/AF update of the well loved XF56.
The XF27 updates a lens which is beloved and ignored. The original lens was optically excellent and quite liked by a small but vocal group of users. The rest thought it too expensive for a lens without an aperture ring (it is the only XF lens like that), too large for a f2.8 APS-C pancake and/or too slow for a large APS-C pancake. Fuji's updated added WR and an aperture ring, but didn't solve the fundamental issue with the lens for many, it's too big for its speed, or too slow for its size. I'd rather have seen it either become a 27/2 on the same size budget or be tiny and an XC27/2.8.
The 10-24 and 27 updates now set the expectation that Fuji will be updating or replacing their older XF lenses. And I agree they should. But not all of them.
1. The primes - all should get WR and AF drive updates. The 23/1.4 probably should get a full redesign. I'd like to see the 35/1.4 keep its optical design and Fuji should launch a XF 35/1.2 WR to deliver that fast modern lens. Note we already know that a XF18/1.4 is coming that will replace the XF18/2
As noted above, I want to see a 135 and 300, I think Fuji needs a 70/1.8 or 70/2.8 and a 180-200/2.8 as well on the long end (a 500/5.6 PF would be amazing). They also need some work on the wide end, a 8-10mm prime would bring some real love in an area Fuji has mostly ignored for years.
2. The zooms need some work too. As I noted above, I think Fuji needs to get a consumer UWA out. The 150-600 is even more important as telephotos remain Fuji's weakest area system-wise.
What else I'd like to see:
XF18-55 and XF55-200 need either an update or a price drop. The XF16-80 and XF70-300 functionally replace them for the higher-end user, but the older 2 lenses are still smaller, faster at the wide end and cheaper, but they aren't cheaper enough for non-WR lenses.
I'd like to see an XC100-400 as well, say f4.5-7.1 or 5.6-7.1 and compact. This is a 'nice to have' as for many the XF70-300+TC14 will cover this need. But if they can get this really small, it will sell.
I'd also like to see an XC18-135, essentially the same idea as the XC35, stick the current good optics into a cheaper barrel.
The idea here is largely building the right lens options for the X-S10 user.
On the Body side, Fuji has 3 issues that I see.
1. No consistent UI. There are 5 current X bodies, the X-T4, X-T30, X-Pro3, X-E4 and X-S10. There are 5 current UI variants in that line. You cannot buy 2 different model bodies and have consistent UI unless you buy a body and its predecessor. Fuji only has bad choices here, but I can't help thinking that it's going to settle out with the X-Pro series + the X-S series. As much as I love the UI on the X-Tx series, when I look at how I use the cameras I'd get much more use of a camera laid out like the X-S10 or GFX100s and having real Custom Settings banks. And I'm probably about as close as you can get to someone for whom the X-Tx is perfect for in terms of UI.
2. No WR bodies to match the lower-end WR XF lenses. It's interesting as Olympus has the exact opposite problem, no WR lenses to match their mid-level WR bodies. One of the X-S10, X-T30 and X-E4 replacements needs to be WR. The X-T40 is the obvious one, as the X-T30 has really lost its relevance in the current lineup, it's not small like the X-E4 but it's not got the ergonomics or IBIS of the X-S10.
3. The $850-999 model jumble. This was bad enough when it was just the X-T30 and X-T200, now it's 3 bodies targeting the same pricepoint. That really should be one consumer body or two wider spaced models. Killing the X-T30 would largely solve this, as there's enough price and capability gap between the X-S10 and X-E4 to make them make more sense. The big issue is that the X-T30 competes against both the X-E4 and the X-S10, while those two bodies are so different that they only sort-of compete on price.
I can't help but think that Fuji needs to get back to the two line split. I'd like to see one of two model lines:
X-S1, X-S10, X-S100, X-Pro3
or X-S1, X-S10, X-Pro3, X-E4
I don't see Fuji going back into the low end of the market now that the X-T200 and X-A7 are done and Fuji has dropped their relationship with the 3rd party that was doing those bodies for them. So the second line makes more sense.
I would be sad to see the X-T line die, but as much as I love those bodies, the X-S UI style would let Fuji grow their system. I think that Fuji would have introduced custom setting banks
I'd like to see it play out like this. X-T30 is quietly discontinued. X-S1 or X-H2 is released with an updated sensor, improved processing and GFX100s-derived ergonomics, but with a flip/twist screen for the hybrid shooters. X-T4 soldiers on until sales dry up or relative sales vs the X-S1/X-H2 show the market doesn't like the change.
Fuji could then either treat the X-Tx line like the X-Pro line and make it a specialty body (a X-T5 that's reverted back to a pure stills-oriented body at a premium cost and with the double-tilt screen returning could work alright, as long as it is a niche body like the X-Pro3)
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Playing Some More With The A7II
I've had the A7II out a couple times more, and have been having fun with it and my Nikkor manual focus lenses. It's just a solid platform for those uses and somewhat nicer than the Fuji's for adapting old 35mm lenses. This is for a couple reasons.
1. Field of view. Because there's no crop factor, the lenses have the same field of view as they do on film. Since my current selection was largely built with FF in mind (film and the D800 and/or D750 I bought them for) this works better than they do on crop like the Fuji's, or even my D300
2. IBIS. Yeah, the A7II's IBIS is nothing to write home about, giving at best 2 stops of stabilization. But it's there and it does save shots.
3. Better handling in winter. Bigger buttons beat dials when you tend to leave things in Aperture Priority and are wearing gloves. I do retain a preference for Fuji's ergonomics when ungloved, if only for the joystick (Need a Mark 3 on Sony to get that).
It's not perfect though, the big issues as a MF platform are:
1. No focal length written to EXIF. This is key for figuring out which lens you used where. Even my X-T1 has this even though it gains no functionality beyond EXIF from that.
2. Over-sensitive EVF eye sensor causes inconsistent LCD/EVF switching when using the LCD tilted. The Fuji's suffer from this too, but much less due to a better tuned sensor
3. Crap battery life. The main issue this time is self-discharge. the Fuji's sit better with a battery in the camera and their batteries self-discharge slower when sitting. You always have to charge the Sony batteries if the camera has been sitting for a while, not so much with the Fuji's.
All in all, I'm really looking at a platform for shooting FF manual lenses, and it's GOT to be mirrorless this time. Need to be patient though, as a work award I received may result in a free camera (usually it's a trip, but this year they can't really do that, the question is how are they going to handle alternate prizes)