Friday, May 27, 2016

Rented An X-PRO 2 For A Week; Here Are My Thoughts



Railroad to Nowhere (click to enlarge)
Fuji X-T2, 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 140mm; 1/100th sec. @ f/8; ISO 400
Recently, I rented a Fujifilm X-PRO 2 body for 7 days.  I have been patiently waiting for the Fujifilm X-T2 to be introduced.  If and when it will be introduced is still speculative at this point.  Being a bit impatient, I wanted to find out for myself how much improvement I would see in various capabilities and features found in the X-Pro 2 that I find important and would use in my particular types of photography.  I thought I would share my thoughts with you.  This is not a review of the camera, just my thoughts for my types of photography after only a week of use.  This won't be long but to the point.  Your photography may be completely different and your needs and opinion may vary widely.

Initial thoughts upon first holding the camera

Upon first opening the shipping box, I found the X-Pro 2 very nice looking, a bit larger than the X-T1 and a camera with a good substantial feel. Remember, haptics and feel are a big part of liking or disliking a camera.  This camera feels good in my hand.  Metal construction. It feels well built and well engineered. The finish is excellent with a soft sheen to the black paint.  The letters and symbols are in white and easily read.  The rubberized grip on the front right is a bit shallow for my large hands, but usable.  That is not really an issue.  The control labels are, for the most part, consistent with my X-T1, so no real re-learning needed.  I love the sound of the shutter!  It is much different and more pleasing than the sound of my X-T1 shutter.


The memory card door latch is a bit more substantial.  The battery compartment and door is essentially the same.  The exposure compensation dial is just a bit larger making it easier to turn than on my X-T1.  I am thankful for that.  I find I have to use a thumb and forefinger to change the dial on the X-T1 but am able to use only my thumb on the X-Pro 2.  Nice change.  Little things like that make a difference in the real world.


Fuji X-T2, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens @ 55mm; 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200
All in all, my first impression is that this is a very nice and substantial piece of gear that is well made and worth the money.

 The menu system is very different from my X-T1 as are many camera controls on the back.  But it only took a short while to find and get used to everything. Most everything is easily found.  

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a bit smaller than X-T1's.  But the resolution of the image inside the EVF is excellent.  The optical viewfinder (OVF) takes me back to my Leica rangefinder days.  I never rally warmed up to rangefinder–type optical viewfinders.  They aren't my preference.  There is too much loss of the viewfinder's image in the bottom right quarter due to lens barrel intrusion. Any lens larger than a small prime lens obstructs that part of the viewfinder.  Telephoto and zoom lenses can obstruct even more of your view of your subject.  There is a reason almost all Leica lenses are small primes.

I very much like the joystick for moving the focusing point(s).  How come no one had put one of these on a camera long before?

I've read lots of hubbub about the ISO dial being within the shutter speed dial, but I've owned several film cameras with the same feature.  Much ado about nothing, in my opinion.  Nitpicking, in my view.  

All that said, nothing unexpected from reading about the camera online.

Optical Viewfinder/Electronic Viewfinder


The way Fuji has implemented the combination optical/electronic viewfinder, with all the data visible in both, is very complex.  The frame lines enlarge or shrink as you zoom in or or out.  They also move on horizontal and vertical axes to compensate for parallax error that is inherent in optical viewfinders.  The focus points do the same.  Well done Fuji! I've never quite seen anything quite as complex on a camera before.  Hats off to their engineers for creating an amazing combination.  I guess that is the primary reason the body costs as much as it does.

As soon as I pressed the optical viewfinder to my eye, it took me back to my years using a Leica rangefinder.  Even though I primarily used a Leica for several years, I never really preferred a rangefinder over a single lens reflex.  Realistically today, I would have limited use for the optical viewfinder.  In my case, my main interest in the OVF was to test it using 8 fps and tracking fast moving subjects.  I did so with a couple of Amtrak trains at 79 mph.  The EVF in my X-T1 cannot keep up with 8 fps and panning with fast moving subjects.  I have to anticipate or guess where the subject is as I pan trying to follow it.  I found using the optical viewfinder in the X-Pro 2 is a good workaround.  The other use for me would be street photography.  One of the things I liked about my Leica rangefinder was the ability to see what might be moving into my frame before it does.  The OVF in this camera serves the same purpose.  Other than that, I prefer the EVF, which is smaller than on my X-T1, but not by much and very usable.  To me, Its slightly smaller size is not really a drawback.  I suspect it is smaller due to form factor and the incorporation of the OVF. 

Fuji X-T2, 18-55mm f/2.8-5 lens @ 23.3mm; 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 800
All in all, the OVF/EVF is an amazing piece of engineering. It zooms when you zoom your lens.  It moves according to how your focus distance changes.  The focusing points reposition themselves according to how far from the camera you focus the lens, etc.  Fuji really did an excellent job with the engineering on this camera.

But I don't really need it unless the X-T2 doesn't solve my problem with the EVF being fast enough to keep up with panning on fast moving subjects.  I would rather have just a larger EVF for my purposes.

Image Qualities (plural)

In short, if you are happy with the image quality of your current Fuji camera, you will be even more pleased with the X-Trans III sensor's capabilities.  I was very pleased with resolution, color, contrast and saturation.  I ran some of the same tests on the same subjects photographing green foliage and very small details (such as small bare branches on distant trees or gravel in a roadway) and I'm happy to report that I really didn't see any of the mushy greens or outlines around the small details.  Whether it is because the 24mp sensor with its finer resolution counteracts those issues or Adobe has been quietly improving Lightroom's conversion of the X-Tran's files, the amount of detail in greens as well as lack of "outlining" of small non-green detail is heartening.  I am very pleased.


I'm not ready to proclaim mushy greens and outlines no longer exist as I only had the camera for a week and really didn't get to put it through its paces long term, but what I did see is very encouraging.

During my week with the camera, I photographed a family event that was held partly inside and partly outside, in and around an open as well as an enclosed structure.  For those of you in the U.S., you will know what I mean by a garage with a carport attached. The terminology may be different in different countries, however.

What challenge I most encountered was how to balance the bright outside background while people stood under a roof or even inside in deep shade.  After editing the images, I was able to easily bring down the brightness of the sunlit outside and balance it with the inside light so the people I was photographing looked proper.  For most of the images I made, I calculated this difference to be about 5 1/2  stops difference in basic exposure between outside and inside.  Some were even more widespread.  Couple that with highlight detail outside and shadow detail inside and you have a very wide spread of light values.  The dynamic range of the sensor and the ability to recover highlights and keep shadow detail was excellent.  Almost as good as my Nikon D810, which is still kind of the king of dynamic range, measured at 14.8 stops (DXO).

Fuji X-T2, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ 400mm; 1/7th sec. @ f/16; ISO 200
Now this is startling.  I found not a single instance where the RAW image was better than the accompanying JPEG in any of images I made during the week I used the camera. Even in the extreme when trying to balance outside and inside brightness from the family event I photographed, the JPEG was able to equal the RAW.  In fact, at high ISOs, the JPEG was better than the RAW due to the in-camera noise reduction the camera applied. 



Now, I only made 307 (+307 accompanying JPEGS) images, but they were made under a wide variety of conditions. Unfortunately for me, due to a week of excessive rain and a major family emergency, I wasn't able to use the camera more.  However, I suspect if I continued to use the camera for a much longer period of time, I probably would find some occasions where the RAW was superior. But, for the few hundred of images I made, I find it remarkable the JPEGS are as good as the RAW images.  We've come a long way in digital imaging.

Closely examining my image files, I came to the conclusion that even with noise reduction turned all the way down in the camera (-3), Fuji still applies quite a bit of noise reduction to the JPEGs in-camera.  But, it is implemented very well.  I'm not complaining, I'm complimenting.  At high ISOs (5000-6400), noise in the JPEG files is minimal but fine detail is still present.  Its better than I've seen it for in-camera noise reduction at high ISOs.  I was generally not able to better the noise reduction for my RAW images in Lightroom as applied in-camera to JPEGS.  If I were to own this camera, from my experience which is somewhat limited, I would probably utilize the JPEGS instead of the RAW image files for high ISOs.  Even at ISO 400, I can see better JPEGS than RAWs when it comes to detail and noise.  They are that good, in my opinion.

I also tested no sharpening versus my standard +1 sharpening to the JPEG files to see if they were better than the sharpening that is applied to the JPEGs in my X-T1.  The problem I have with the sharpening in my X-T1 is that there is that telltale white line next to the edges that I don't like to see and can't use if I send an image off to my stock agency (they want no sharpening applied).  I think the Fuji engineers turned up the Radius setting too high causing the excessive width of the white line.

In the X-Pro 2, JPEG sharpening is implemented in a much better fashion.  In fact, I could not or just barely match the in-camera sharpening (at +1) with sharpening applied later to the JPEGs in Lightroom.  With the X-T1, I keep the sharpening at -2 and sharpen in Lightroom.  That gives me a better result.  With the X-Pro 2, I think the opposite is true.

Autofocus

The autofocus seems to be faster.  How much faster?  I really don't have a feel for that but my impression is that it focuses and locks on a bit faster than my X-T1.

The continuous autofocus doesn't seem to hunt and pulsate nearly as much as it does in the X-T1.  I could detect a small amount.  The green focusing box would turn green, then turn white, then turn green, then turn white, etc.  Not as obvious in the X-Pro 2 as the X-T1.  I think Fuji is using contrast-detect autofocus at the very end of the focusing sequence when using continuous focus and that causes the pulsation—even when using the phase-detect autofocus points.  Other manufacturers, when utilizing the center phase-detect autofocus points, keep with the phase detect all the way through the process.   The lack of significant pulsation is welcome news as I never quite knew if my X-T1 was or was not in focus as it followed a moving subject.  There is no definite visual cue, however, it seemed to always be in focus when examining the resulting image.  Maybe a non-issue or only one of minor annoyance?


Extreme Test;  There is a 7 2/3 stop difference between the correct exposure (middle gray) for outside in the daylight and
inside in this garage under a couple of fluorescent lights..  I was amazed at how well the image could look considering
adding about 3 more stops for the bright highlights outside above middle gray and 3 stops darker than middle gray for the
shadows inside. It is not a great image but it shows what you can get out of a file if necessary.   (click to enlarge)
I set out to really test the continuous autofocusing.  Using a single focus point, the X-Pro 2 locked on perfectly on 4 of 6 images of an Amtrak train coming almost directly at me at about 79 mph (127 kph), which I thought was good.  It just missed the other two by a small margin.  At normal viewing magnification all 6 of the images looked sharp, but at 100% you could see the camera just missed but a little bit on 2 of them.  It is easier to lock on subjects going left or right, but coming almost directly at me at 79 mph was admirable.  I think that is an improvement.  Also, using OVF, I was able to easily pan with the train as it got closer (too close in fact!) as I recomposed the image.  No problem.  

On another test with a similar moving train, I stood about 30 degrees away from the train's direction and utilized the zone focusing.  The camera didn't do as well as with the single focus point.  The problem was that at a good distance, the camera chose a focus point (out of the six in the zone) that was on the side of the train's locomotive instead of the front.  It did that for several of the images.  Only when the locomotive took up the majority of the viewfinder, did it capture the front of the locomotive in sharp focus.  The images were in focus, but not exactly where I wanted them to be.  To be fair, I was panning with the train, zooming out as it got closer and trying to keep the zone focusing frames on the front of the engine/train as it approached.  I may have some fault in not keeping the focus point fully on the front.  At this point, I don't know.  It was quite a test. As far as the number of frames in focus, 80% of them were in sharp focus on the front of the locomotive when looking at the images at 100%.  I'll take that for that kind of test.

Menus/Controls

I liked all the controls on the right side of the LCD.  The height (relief) of the buttons above the camera body is a bit better than on the X-T1 in the fact that they protrude from the body a bit more.  That being said, I used Sugru to raise the level of several of the buttons on the X-T1 and I would do the same for this camera if I were keeping it.  The 4-way pad and buttons are so much easier to find without taking one's eye from the viewfinder when raised a significant amount.  I haven't found that I accidentally pushed them due to the extra height.

The menus are significantly different from the X-T1.  I expected they would be.  The Format function to erase my memory card is buried much too deeply into the system where you have to really try to remember where it is.  Nikon allows users to simultaneously press two buttons on the camera body to reformat your memory card. You can't do it accidentally, but you can do it quickly when you need to reformat your card.  Fuji could take a cue from that.  I used a Lexar 64gb 2000X card for all my photography with this camera and experienced no issues whatso


Acros Conversion; 4 stop light difference from sunlit outside to shade
(click to enlarge)

The rest of the menu items seem more complicated and deeper than with the X-T1.  I could get used to this menu system, and I would if I were keeping the camera, but it seems to me the X-T1's menu system is a bit more straightforward.  The Q function is pretty much the same, and that is a good thing.  The Q function is very useful.

The LCD is only about 75% of the size of the LCD on my X-T1.  The X-Pro 2's LCD is 4.5 square inches. The X-T1's 6 square inches. That is a pretty big difference.  Additionally, the X-Pro 2's LCD does not articulate in any way. These two things are problematic in two ways for me. First, all of the symbols, numbers, words, aperture designations, shutter speeds, etc. are much smaller and more difficult to read.  Second, I utilize the tilt feature (up and down) to move my X-T1 LCD quite frequently. When out photographing with the X-PRO 2, it immediately becomes inconvenient not to have the tilting LCD feature.  I guess I didn't realize how much I utilized it.  I understand why Fuji did not include it as this camera body is targeted toward street photographers and not nature and landscape photographers.  I believe I read an interview with a Fuji manager who indicated a tilting LCD was not a high priority for the target audience for this camera.  Most of all, I don't care for the smaller size as it sometimes takes more than just a glance to see shutter speed, aperture, etc..

I'm so used to using the 4-way buttons to change focusing point positions on my X-T1 that I would often reach down with my thumb to move the focusing point on the X-Pro 2. I would forget about the joystick. However, as soon as some menu item appeared instead of the focusing point moving, I would be reminded that I pressed the wrong control.  I love the joystick and found it was much easier to use than the 4-way buttons.  Also, the ability to press the joystick straight in to recenter my focus point worked very nicely for me.  I can't believe it took manufacturers this long to implement something this basic.  I think the two new Nikons, the D5 and D500, have this feature as well.

I don't care for the AF-L or Q buttons right under my right thumb.  I realize real estate on the camera back is limited, but the AF-L button is an important button for back-button focusing, my preferred method, and needs to be to the left of one's thumb so one can easily press it without moving one's grip.  That was an engineering mistake, in my opinion. The only redeeming aspect of that is that you can swap functions with the AE-L button, which is in a much better position to press without taking your eye from the viewfinder or altering your grip.  If Fuji is catering to professional or advanced enthusiast photographers, many of them use the back button focusing methodology.  They should keep that in mind.

Dislikes

I don't have any significant dislikes to report.  The only things that I would like Fuji include would be an LCD that articulated and possibly a touchscreen LCD.  But those are personal preferences and don't take away from the overall satisfaction of creating images with this camera.

Overall

As I stated earlier, if you have a need for an OVF (I'm hoping Fuji follows Sony's cue and creates an EVF without any blackout when using 8 fps so one can easily track a fast moving subject) as it adds expense, like the rangefinder form and want even better image quality than with your current Fuji camera, buy this camera.  There have been several substantial improvements to the camera, controls, etc., that I found worthwhile.  

Will I buy one?  If for some reason the X-T2 will be delayed significantly (can anyone say earthquake and destruction of Sony's sensor plant?), I would probably buy this camera. After all, what is the most important thing for which we ultimately buy a camera?  Image quality.  This camera provides excellent image quality. It feels good to use and, although having some personal drawbacks for me, is still worthy of my money.  I was very, very pleased with my time with the X-Pro 2.  Now, I can't wait for an X-T2!

Lastly, if anyone is interested, I rented the X-Pro 2 body through www.borrowlenses.com. This is the second time I rented from them and both times the experience has been excellent.  I will rent from them again when necessary.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 


All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

More Serendipity

Window Dressing; (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens @ 30.2mm; 1/350th sec. @ f/ll; ISO 200
As promised, here are a few more images from my friend and my few hours together wandering around and looking for serendipitous images in and around Yorktown, Virginia. Earlier this week, I posted some other images from the same outing here..



Tree over pond, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 @ 106mm; 1/450th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 400



White Picket Fence, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 @ 94.5mm; 1/400th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200

Corner, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 @ 11mm; 1/300th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200

The Schooner Alliance detail, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 @ 10mm; 1/400th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200

The Schooner Alliance detail
Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 @ 20mm; 
1/950th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200
Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Serendipity

Picket Fence, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 @ 140mm; 1/210th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Serendipity is one of my favorite words.  I think I like it for its meaning and how serendipity makes many of us feel and for the sound of the word as well. Here is a simple definition according to the Merriam-Webster online reference I found:


 "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for" 

I like to refer to serendipity as an unexpected pleasant find; those things you find through happenstance that make you smile.

Symmetry, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm f/2.8-3.5 @ 25.4mm; 1/250th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Serendipity is one of the reasons I practice the types of photography I most enjoy.  I love wandering around with no particular preconceived notions, just keeping my eyes open looking for an unexpected and pleasing subjects, i.e., serendipity.

Corner, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 @ 11mm; 1/300th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
These images are examples of just that. Last week a friend and I got together for the morning to walk around a nearby historic town and battlefield to first, spend time together as friends sharing conversation and a common interest and second, to see what we could find photographically that was serendipitous. The images in this post are a result of that morning.


There is much made of having photographic projects and how projects will be good for your photographic growth.  I'm a bit of a contrarian as I like to go out without any preconceived notions to wander and be surprised by what I see that most others never take the time to notice.  Those little noticed juxtapositions, repeating patterns, contrasts or compliments of color, contradictions, even humorous subjects, etc. that most will walk by and never see.  Those are the ones I most enjoy.  That is not to say that I don't engage in projects as well on occasion.


Back Road, Yorktown, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 @ 140mm; 
1/20th sec. @ f/8; ISO 2500 (handheld!)
I will post more on Wednesday.  In the three or so hours my friend and I wandered around, I found several pleasing images.  Pleasing images seem to be all around us, if we only took time to "see" them.  Come back on Wednesday for several more.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Picture Within A Picture

Tree, Roots, Moss and Ferns, Beartown State Park, West Virginia, USA (click to enlarge)
This is a 10% crop of the entire frame.
Nikon D800E, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 70mm; 1/10th sec. @ f/8; ISO 400
If we actually take time to really 'see' what is before us, sometimes we can find images within images.  For example, the last time I was visiting Beartown State Park in West Virginia I made the image below.  But I also saw the scene above knowing that I would also extract that small part from the overall image as a separate image.  It so happens that I like the smaller section of the overall image much better than the original composition.

Don't neglect pictures within pictures.  Don't just look at what is before you, take time to actually see the possibilities before deciding what you will photograph.  To do so you need to slow down, practice seeing and have gear that is capable of providing excellent image quality and sufficient detail (mp) so as to be able to potentially 'pull out' small areas while retaining high quality. 

In the example of this image, the 24-70mm lens was the longest lens I had with me and could not zoom in on this smaller part of the overall image.  Thankfully, I was using a Nikon D800E with 36mp, which gave me piece of mind for later cropping.


Entire frame (click to enlarge)
Just sharing some things I've learned during my long photographic journey. Take time to 'see' and not be rushed.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Back Button Autofocus With A Fuji X-T1

This is a 100% crop of the image below.  Just another reason I love Fuji lenses! (click to enlarge)
Fuji X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 115mm; 1/40th sec. @ f/8; ISO 400
When I primarily used Nikon digital SLR cameras, I had gotten used to using what is called "back button autofocus."  If you are not familiar with that term, I'll explain it.

To me, back button autofocus is the best of all focusing worlds.  In a nutshell, It separates the function of focusing from the function of pressing the shutter button.  Instead of the camera focusing when you depress your shutter button halfway, pressing the AF-L button (on the Fuji X-T1, AF-On on the Nikons) on the back of the camera causes the lens to autofocus.  Now, here is the best part.  

If you set your camera (again specifically referring to the X-T1, in this case) in Menu 1; AUTOFOCUS SETTING; INSTANT AF SETTING to AF-C instead of AF-S, Then set your Autofocus selection switch on the front of the camera to "M", you can achieve back button autofocus.  By setting up your camera this way, you have all three focus modes, AF-S, AF-C and Manual, instantly at your disposal.  No need to change any settings or switches to change focusing modes.

First Example; Photographing with which you would use AF-S Mode

If you have a static subject, one with which you would normally focus in AF-S mode, you would half-press the shutter and hold it (to lock focus and exposure values), then recompose if necessary before full depressing the shutter to make the image. With back button autofocus all you have to do is place your focusing rectangle over the subject you want in focus, press the AF-L button and release when focus is achieved.  The camera focuses and locks in.  When you release the AF-L button, the camera will not change focus as the front switch is set in the manual mode.  Now you can focus and recompose repeatedly without worry that the camera will refocus when pressing on the shutter button for every shot. You don't have focus, hold and recompose between each shot.  In other words, you press the button and release and if your subject doesn't move, you don't have to worry about refocusing again.  It would be the same as if you were photographing with an old manual focus lens and film camera.  Once you focus on a static subject, you don't have to worry about refocusing before each subsequent shot.

Second Example; Photographing when you would use AF-C Mode

If you have a moving subject, press and hold the AF-L button and your camera will continuously focus on the subject as you follow it in the viewfinder.  Just hold the button in while tracking your subject and press the shutter at the optimum time as you hold in the button.  Your camera stays focused on the subject as long as you hold the AF-L button in while you make multiple exposures. One aggravating thing is with Fuji (X-T1) cameras on continuous focus, they still pulsate.  Try to ignore that.  Even though they do that, the lens always seems to be in focus when I press the shutter.  I've never seen that pulsating in any other camera, over multiple brands, and I have no idea why the Fuji engineers don't engineer that out.  As I said, it is aggravating to me.

Third Example; Photographing when you would use Manual Focusing Mode

If you want manual focus, just focus manually.  By not pressing the AF-L button, the camera just stays in manual focusing.  Nothing to switch or change.  Just don't press the AF-L button.  Your focus assist settings still take effect.  

Additionally, by using this method, your camera's shutter will fire a bit faster as the camera doesn't have to search for correct focus before each exposure and then release the shutter.


This is the entire frame of the image above (click to enlarge)
All of this being said, and I'll only speak for the X-T1 but other Fujifilm cameras may act in a similar manner, but this process is quirky compared to other camera systems I've used.  One additional bit of quirkiness, other than the pulsating, is that when pressing the AF-L button to focus (and having the camera set to manual focus), any focusing assist you have enabled will show.  For example, if you have the red highlights enabled, when the image is in focus, the red doesn't go away.  That, to me is again, distracting.  Personally, I use the standard method as the highlights in red, blue or white, are too distracting to me.  Your mileage may vary.

CAUTION:  Don't reset your camera to focus in this manner and then go out to photograph something important as you may not have gained sufficient muscle memory to engage this method when needing to photograph quickly and without having to think bout what needs to be done.  Practice, practice, practice.  Then when it is second nature, set your camera in this manner.

One other setting I have changed on my X-T1 is to swap the positions of the AF-L and AE-L buttons.  I find it more natural, when using my thumb to press a button for focusing, to use the button marked AE-L as its position feels in the right spot as opposed to being almost directly under my grip.  There is a menu item that allows you to swap their functions.

If you haven't tried this method, you may want to do so.  You may like it or it may not be for you.  I find it useful to have all three focusing modes available instantly to me instead of having to change switches, etc.  Additionally, I like my shutter button to be separate from my focusing function.

Thanks
for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Paradox Of Small, Mirrorless Camera Systems

Shiloh School, Northumberland County, Virginia (click to enlarge)
Fujifilm X-T1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens @ 18mm; 1/350th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
Many times in this blog I have written about why I had switched primarily to mirrorless cameras.  As I age (I'm in my mid-60s now), like many of you, I find carrying full frame digital cameras and especially those big, heavy full frame lenses for long periods of time to be taxing beyond what I now care to endure.  I want to carry a versatile camera kit but be comfortable doing so.  I transitioned to mirrorless because the gear is smaller, lighter, less bulky but maintains excellent image quality.  Mirrorless is my formula for comfortably wandering around with a very lightweight bag containing a camera body and a couple of lenses and enjoying the experience.  So what's the paradox?

The paradox for me, and from what I read and see for others in "What's in my bag?" types of Internet posts and You Tube videos, is that I've gone smaller, lighter and less bulky but I seem to want to stuff more gear in my bag because of it!  I call it Gear Creep.  The smaller gear allows me to carry much more of it and I gain nothing!

When I routinely carried around my large Nikon D700, 800E or now the D810, I tended to take the body, three zoom lenses and a fast, normal prime lens and sometimes also a 90mm f/2.8 macro lens.  When I realized I needed and wanted to downsize a few years ago, I downsized my big f/2.8 zooms to the smaller f/4 zoom lenses and gave up those much larger and heavier bazooka zooms that all the pros say they have to have.  I had come to value lessor weight and smaller size over a singular extra f/stop.  I carried one extra battery (those cameras easily approach 1000 exposures per battery if not more), two filters, a cleaning cloth and that was about it.  Still too heavy to carry for a long day's comfort.

Recently, after walking around with my Fuji gear most of a day, that old feeling of uncomfortableness returned due to the excessive weight of the bag I was carrying over my shoulder.  But I was carrying my mirrorless Fuji gear which is lighter and less bulky?  What gives?
Urbanna, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 44.4mm; 1/680th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200

I think there is a subtle psychological tendency that creeps in without notice and affects us as photographers and probably others in other situations as well.  I think the tendency is that because we are carrying smaller, lighter gear, we subconsciously tend to stick more stuff in our camera bags.  You know, all of that extras stuff, "just in case" we may need it.  I see it on the Internet all the time. A photographer is using mirrorless and still carrying a huge bag with everything but a refrigerator stuffed inside. Carrying all that gear neutralizes the argument for mirrorless being lighter weight and more comfortable.  This seems to be an insidious syndrome.

When I first switched to mirrorless, I carried one body and three zooms.  I even bought a much smaller and lighter bag to carry my gear.  I had two filters and a couple of thin, aluminum step-down rings (I only carried a variable neutral density and a polarizer), an extra battery (even though we now get less than 400 shots on average), a cleaning cloth, etc.  Small, lightweight, functional.  No frills.  Does what I need it to do without excess.

Recently, when I took stock of what I was carrying, I was amazed how "Gear Creep" had sneaked in while I was not paying attention and was now causing me to switch everything to a larger bag as I couldn't any longer carry everything in the smaller one.

I found myself carrying an X-T1 body with an L-plate, a 10-24mm lens, the 18-55mm lens, the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens, the 1.4X tele-converter, four extra batteries, the battery charger, 2 lens cloths, a lens pen, 4 filters with some adapters, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff, etc.  In reality, I'm back at, or have even exceeded, the weight of my full frame kit!  How did that happen?  The paradox of gear creep.

I've decided to pare down again to regain that weight and bulk advantage.  I've also decided to try a different strategy.  I've now placed ancillary gear in a secondary bag that can stay in the trunk of the car and, if I need something specific, I can get it from the car. 

I've decided to typically carry what I call my travel kit:  the X-T1, the 14mm f/2.8, the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm lenses as well as 3 filters (I added the Nikon 6T for closeup work), two extra batteries, cleaning cloth, etc.  I don't think I need to carry a refrigerator, kitchen sink, and something to take care of every contingency I may find. After all, in my long years of experience, those contingencies only poke their heads up very, very rarely.  If I was on a once in a lifetime trip, I would take more.  But for routine wandering, I think I can keep things small, lightweight, simple and comfortable.  Small bag containing only essentials and I'm good to go.

I was heading down the path of a driver who would carry three spare tires all the time in his car, just in case.  How often do you get three flat tires at the same time?  Rarely.

Gear Creep is real!  Beware!  

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Update On Fuji X-T1 Malfunction With The Lexar 2000X SDXC Card

Split Rail Fence (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 140mm; 1/100th sec. @ f/8; ISO 400
I am pleased to say since I last brought this issue to light a couple of weeks ago I have not experienced any further malfunctions with the X-T1 and the Lexar Professional 64gb 2000X SDXC card.  I have been using the camera daily with the Lexar and other cards and all is well.    Whatever was causing the malfunction when this particular card was initially used in the camera has ceased.

I can only speculate as to the reason I've experienced no more issues so I won't.  I can only say that since reformatting the card several times and interchanging it with other cards and using the camera, the problem seems to have gone away.

If the problem again arises, I'll report back.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The More I Use My Fuji Gear The Better I Like It!



Japanese Dogwood blossoms (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 55-200mm lens w/Nikon 6T dual element achromatic filter @ 55mm; 1/50th
@ f/16; ISO 800
The title says it all.  No matter what I ask of my X-T1 and wonderful set of Fuji lenses, the gear performs admirably without complication and in a seamless manner.  I really enjoy using the gear but even more, I really like the images I make with it.

If Goldilocks would have had a choice of cameras after the porridge, chairs and bed, she would would have chosen the Fuji as "just right!"

Just sayin'...

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fuji Photographers; Even If You Are A RAW Only Photographer, Here Is One Excellent Reason To Set Your Camera To RAW + JPEG Instead Of Just RAW

Knockout Rose blossom for illustration (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 18-55mm lens @ 55mm; 1/125th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 800
Overall image is 4896 X 3264 pixels or almost 16 megapixels
Even if you have shot only RAW with other brand cameras, there is one excellent reason for you to use the RAW + JPEG setting on your Fuji X-Trans camera.


This is the maximum magnification you see on your LCD when you shoot RAW only.  It is the equivalent
of about 15% of you total image.  (click to enlarge)
The RAW only maximum enlargement on your LCD gives you an image about 1966 X 1311 pixels,
or about a 2.5 mp image. (these are approximations, but very close)
When you set your camera to record only RAW images, you cannot get a 100% view of your image on the LCD to check for critical focus.  You have to set it to RAW + JPEG to get that 100% view.  Here is what you see on your LCD when you only make a RAW image of the subject matter above.  I've approximated the view as closely as I could.


When you shoot RAW + JPEG, the camera gives you a view equal to about 2% of you overall image.  This is much better
for judging critical focus.  (click to enlarge)
The RAW + JPEG maximum enlargement on your LCD gives you a view that is about 733 X 489 pixels,,
or 0.35 mp (again, this is an approximation,)
Now, here is what you see when you take the same scene and use the RAW + JPEG setting. As you can easily see, your ability to judge precise focus is exponentially better when you use the RAW + JPEG setting.  You may not be able to judge it properly at the much lower magnification.  Again, I've approximated the view as closely as I could.

If you have no use for JPEG images and use LIghtroom, you can set Lightroom to treat the RAW and JPEG as one and, instead of importing the RAW and JPEG images, Lightroom will only import the RAW images and ignore the JPEGs.  Go to Preferences and under the General tab, uncheck the box that says, "Treat JPEG files next to RAW files as separate photo."  JPEGs will not be imported with your RAW images.  Kind of the best of both worlds.  

Have them in-camera for their usefulness, then don't import them if you don't need them. Of course, Fuji JPEG files are extraordinary, in my opinion, and I use them often and only revert to using a RAW file if I can't get out of a JPEG what I need, which isn't often.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, May 6, 2016

JPEG Versus RAW Versus HDR With The Fujifilm X-T1

Bracketed DNG file created in Lightroom CC (click to enlarge)
Recently, I was out wandering around the countryside of southeastern Virginia looking for interesting things to photograph.  As I passed through a familiar location, I stopped to see what had changed with an old railroad depot I had photographed a number of times earlier.  As expected, it has become more dilapidated and continues to deteriorate.  I believe the current use of the building is that of a makeshift warehouse of some sort for a nearby feed company.

It was bright, sunny spring day with a gorgeous sky and I wanted to make the most of this type of day, since we don't get many with the puffy, white, cumulus clouds nicely spaced on a day with low humidity and bright sunshine.  I stopped to make some record photos of the old depot as it gives me an idea, year to year, at its rate of disintegration.

Since the day was so bright and the shadows were very deep, I thought I would three exposures a stop apart so as later have the ability to combine images and capture the detail of the shadows while retaining the full beauty of the bright white clouds and blue sky.  The dynamic range of the image was quite wide and I wasn't sure the X-Trans II sensor could capture all of it in one exposure.  It turns out, I needn't have done that as when I started editing the images, I was able to fully pull out all of the detail from the shadows as all of the highlight detail from the clouds—amazingly not only from the RAW image but from the JPEG as well!
Single RAF file (click to enlarge)

When I returned home, I started editing my images.  In this particular view of the front of the old station and the nearby tracks and surrounds, I chose three of the images I made 1 stop apart and used Lightroom CC 2015 to merge them into a 32-bit HDR DNG file.  I then edited that file to my taste.  All of the detail in the shadows and highlights were captured as I visualized at the scene.

As an experiment, I decided to see if I could replicate the three merged image file with the single RAW that was part of the three exposures.  No problem!  Wow!  My need for HDR just lessened.  I then tried editing the accompanying JPEG that I made (I have been using the RAW + JPEG setting) to replicate what I did with the merged DNG as well as the RAW file.  To my great surprise, I was able to pretty much exactly duplicate the three merged HDR image as well.  I think that is amazing.

Single JPEG file (click to enlarge)
In the end, I was able to produce three basically identical files (they are not totally identical since I didn't want to spend a lot of time finely tweaking every color, etc., setting but they are very, very close and work well for this illustration) from a 32-bit file created by merging three RAW images, a single RAW image (from one of those three) and the JPEG that was created along with the RAW.  Simply amazing compared to what was available to us as digital photographers only a few years ago.


This is another one of those posts that illustrates why it is important to thoroughly know your gear so when pressed or in a fast-moving or high stress situation, you don't have to guess what your gear can and cannot do.  For example, if I wanted to capture a moving object in a very high contrast scene, I may be hesitant to do so since I may have assumed that the X-T1's sensor couldn't possibly capture the entire dynamic range, when in fact, it could.  Now I know its capabilities.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.