Archive of ‘Cameras’ category

Fujifilm X100T review and why it is still relevant after X100F release

Fujifilm X100T with 23 mm F2 fixed lens (35 mm equivalent)

I have owned a Fujifilm X100T for a couple of years now. I haven’t written a review about it just because there are plenty of those already on the web, many of them better I would ever write. What started me with this article was the release of the new version X100F, which was said to be improved in almost every way. The X100F is technically a better camera than X100T, I don’t deny that, but let’s dig deeper. A short disclaimer about the photos I’ll post with this article: I’m writing this on flu, and it’s winter outside anyway, so it’s better to delve into old photos of my X100T. The pictures I picked are as is, without processing in Adobe Lightroom, because I’m having network trouble with my photos collection and can use only the unmodified photos taken at the time. Maybe that’s for the better as you’ll see how the X100T looks like, not what Adobe Lightroom is capable of. I have been using Classic Chrome film emulation for some of the photos and to me it sometimes really looks like the real thing, but without the grain.

Fujifilm has implemented a kind of Kaizen philosophy to their products. Kaizen means continuous improvement, but improving also includes the products they have sold, even the very old ones. Fujifilm has released firmware updates for timeworn cameras whereas some other manufacturers do not support their product after the next best thing is released. They’ll do the best they can to improve the old cameras to the point the hardware allows. I understand that they have business interests not to introduce every new invention to all old cameras also, but everything that you felt wrong about any Fujifilm camera when it was released has been more or less fixed later, only limited by the hardware (e.g. lack of phase detection points for autofocus). The best example is the X-Pro1 which is now entirely different camera compared to what it was when first released. I have not checked the current price for 2nd hand Fujifilm X100T, but I’m sure there are good deals around now that people are upgrading to the latest model. What many do not understand that releasing a new model does not render the old model obsolete, it is as good camera as it was before the new version was released, now only significantly less expensive.

The X100T has internal ND filter and both leaf and electronic shutter so you can shoot in bright conditions at full aperture if you want. I’m not a fan of ND filters you screw on your lens since these seem to cause trouble, more or less depending on focal length. Switching on the internal ND filter can be assigned to a button, so it’s very easy to use. One other as useful feature is the macro capability meaning that you get good closeups as well. Although the lens is fixed and the focal length is 23 mm, these additional features widen the capacity of the camera.

For Fujifilm X100T this means that it does not feel like an old camera, although having been released on September 10, 2014. Compared to how other manufacturers use planned obsolescence to get you to upgrade, the X100T does not feel as old as it is. When comparing technical specifications with X100T and X100F, the most important new features of X100F come from X-Pro2 or X-T2, and to be honest; you’ll do just fine without them. The megapixel race is still continuing, and unless there is image stabilisation involved, I would not put more than 16 megapixels on an APS-C sized sensor. For full frame, the sweet spot seems to be 24 megapixels like on my Leica M240. On X100T the 16-megapixel image is 4896 x 3264 pixels in size, while the newer camera has the 24-megapixel sensor. I don’t know how large your prints need to be, but for my purposes this is fine.

I am always using my X100T with a single centre focus point. Since it does not have joystick nor touch screen, I do what I’m used to with my Leica’s – focus and recompose. Autofocus speed is very fast when used in this manner, and since you have a fixed 23 mm lens, you’re probably not going to shoot sports or wildlife with it anyway. The new X100F has the same lens from what I’ve heard, and since the 23 mm F2.0 is already a bit soft at certain distances (but not too soft to be any real problem), I don’t see anything gained by adding more megapixels to the image. It’ll only mean you’ll have to use higher shutter speeds to get sharp pictures. I haven’t shot with X100F, but X100T is good enough with high-ISO and for photos that matter, base ISO is what counts to me. I don’t need 50 million grainy pixels at ISO 4 million or whatever the trend is now, and I am having a hard time thinking why should you either.

Fujifilm has always been quite good at higher ISO because the noise and grain it has tends to be monochromatic involving only luminance, which is easier to remove if you want to do so. Colour noise, however, is much harder to get rid of and usually causes the photo to be blotchy, wax-like or like watercolour. My Sony cameras are terrible in this department because every time there is noise, there is also some additional colour that wasn’t there.

Is there something you miss by purchasing the older model? Faster focusing is maybe the biggest issue, but if you’re like me and like to zone focus or use even manual focusing, that slight increase in speed might not be a problem at all. To be honest, if you’re looking for speed, why not buy the X-Pro2 or similar and have the incredible Fujifilm lenses in your arsenal as well. The X100T and the new X100F is about having a fixed focal length masterpiece with optical hybrid viewfinder making the camera unique. It’s fun to use, tiny and the battery lasts well for its size. The X100F has few interface changes and new menu, but who uses menus anyway? The ISO dial and one assignable dial are nice, but so far I haven’t missed them. Fujifilm X100T weighs only 440 grammes with battery and memory card, meaning that it’s the best thing when you’re stepping up from smartphones. I have iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei P9 with Leica dual cameras (one of which is B&W only) and while they are good and can take RAW images, there’s still so much you’ll gain by using a real camera like the X100T. There is only one thing that I miss in X100T, and that is weather resistance, or even better, weather sealing. I don’t swim with it, but the weather in Finland can sometimes be intolerant to digital cameras.

My Fujifilm X-Pro2 experience so far

Initially, I wasn’t as impressed with my Fujifilm X-Pro2
I got in August 2016. I have several native lenses for it as well as too many to count vintage lenses in different mounts. However, this article about X-Pro2 is with its native lenses, not with old lenses in any other mount. I’m primarily a Leica shooter, but since my Leica M TYP 240 and Leica 50 mm Noctilux-M F0.95 ASPH. have been in Solms, Germany for calibration since the beginning of December, I’ve been photographing mostly with the X-Pro2 due to claimed weather resistance my only Leica at home currently, the M9, does not have.

I started using the X-Pro2 in September when it was already autumn, leaves started falling, and the temperature was steadily going towards freezing point. The weather during autumn was many times not survivable by a camera that does not have any weather resistance and of those that do, like my Sony a7R, I think I’d have totalled it again. I’m so glad it has a 5-year warranty as it does need it (it claims to have weather resistance when in reality it has none, although they fix it under warranty). The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is even better in weather resistance department compared to Fujifilm X-T1 before it. It was supposed to be okay, but after some time the door hiding HDMI and Micro-USB connectors started protruding from the body and it was impossible to seal it properly. It’s a known manufacturing flaw in X-T1, and I haven’t contacted Fujifilm about it, because I fixed it by taping over the connectors behind the door, making it making as weather resistant as it was. Optical viewfinder sometimes comes handy when you simply don’t see anything in the dark with the EVF, unless of course you disable the preview picture functionality and have good EVF again. I needed to read a book to learn that. The optical viewfinder also hides the fact that since it’s been raining horizontally, none of your pictures shows anything but blur or flare. So when raining, I always change to EVF to see the result better.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 has been splendid in winter also. One thing my Sony a7R does not handle at all is low temperature. It can deplete two full batteries in a battery grip in 12 minutes (recording 1080p video). I haven’t seen any measurable drop in battery performance when using the camera in freezing temperatures, and that’s way below the Fujifilm’s promised -10 celsius. I have used mostly WR lenses, but since there isn’t a WR lens for every purpose, I’ve used the 18-55 mm kit lens, etc. as well. I don’t know what paradise island Fujifilm engineers spend their days on, but I’m living in a place that gets less sunlight than 99,7% of the world’s population (not a joke!). I’d be euphoric to see WR versions of the 18-55 mm F2.8-4.0 and the 35 mm F1.4 (maybe the t23 mm F1.4 also). Of all the zooms available for Fujifilm, only the 18-55 mm is of some use during winter. Others run out of light so quickly. The 16-55 mm F2.8 is large, and while weather resistant, it lacks the image stabilisation, so it’s unusable during winter (F2.8 means at least ISO 6400) An F1.4 lens is usually ISO 1600, depending on focal length and therefore shutter speed of course). In the city centre there is enough light to survive with “lesser” lenses, but anywhere else you’re out of luck with an F2.0 and APS-C.

Lenses are where my biggest problem lies with the Fujifilm system. I’m mainly a Leica shooter and have several lenses between F0.95 and F1.4. The full frame Leica is also very easy to use handheld, and it does not shake, producing pin-sharp photos almost always. When I was using the 16-megapixel versions of the Fujifilm cameras, I did not notice the problem of blurred photos, although different season helped there a bit also. I have noticed that the 1/f rule for selecting your minimum shutter speed is not even nearly enough to make sharp 24-megapixel photographs with the Fujifilm X-Pro2. And since the weather resistant lenses are F2.0, my photos are often at very high ISO and look awful when compared to even the old Leica M9, which somehow manages to take ISO 160 photographs in the dark. From my experience the real minimum shutter speed using Fujifilm X-Pro2 is 1/2f, and even then the focal length must be converted to full frame first. For 35 mm lens, the minimum is 1/100, any less than that and not one of your photos will be sharp. For Leica M9, the similar minimum is 1/30, or 1/45 if you have light to spare (or use M240 with the 24-megapixel sensor instead of “just” 18). Now you probably catch my point about the one stop difference in lens speed, which isn’t as irrelevant as YouTube reviews usually say. The sun rises after 10 and sets 4 hours later, and all that time it stays behind mountains and clouds, so even the brightest moment of the day isn’t that bright. Not to mention that it’s time of day when I usually have other things to do such as work.

Maybe I’m spoiled with my Leica lenses, but I’ve also noticed that the new WR F2.0 lenses (35 mm and especially the 23 mm) are softer than they should be. Even the 18-55 mm kit lens seems to get sharper results, although there’s the issue with shutter speed and lack of image stabilisation again. The kit lens is also an unfound gem since I just compared it to what Sony has to offer and it’s mindblowing how much better Fujifilm is. It’s the zoom lenses, in fact, that surprise me with their image quality more than the prime lenses. When photographing city streets, I’m using my camera always handheld, so monopods or similar are of no help. What helps is either a fast lens or image stabilisation, preferably former. I have to use the lenses wide open most of the time since there isn’t enough light. When using the prime lenses for Fujifilm, I have to crank up the shutter speed, and since it’s always dark, the ISO values go to smartphone quality territory. I’m sorry to say that I don’t see a point in increasing high-ISO values if the highest good values still hover around the same level, slightly depending on the camera. For most modern cameras it’s ISO 800-1600. Fujifilm is one of the best in this department because the image noise is monochromatic in nature, but it still does not look like the “film grain” on my M9, which should be abysmal camera by technical specifications in 2017. When photographing in low light, Fujifilm seems to miss a lot of detail in the shadows for some reason. It’s mainly the colour detail that is wrong or missing, but that may be just my RAW converter’s fault (Adobe Lightroom).

At daylight Fujifilm is excellent, and none of the native lenses for the X-mount is bad or even below overall average among manufacturers. I don’t know where you’re own quality level lies, but with Fujifilm, I have to take into account the fact that all lenses are available 2nd hand for only a few hundred euros. I know a 2500 € zoom lens for Sony full frame might be better (apart from the gigantic size) or know for a fact that the Leica 50 mm Summilux-M F1.4 ASPH. or the Leica 35 mm Summilux-M F1.4 ASPH. is a lens none of the Fujifilm lenses can hold a candle to, not to mention the Leica 50 mm Noctilux-M F0.95 ASPH. which is mindblowing at night.

Why this article if I did not have any photos to show you nor tell you anything useful? Well, I did. If you are not blessed with the sunshine like most of the planet and struggle with image sharpness on an APS-C sensor sized camera, please try using 1/2f as your minimum shutter speed. For a 23 mm lens on 1,5 crop sensor that turns out to be 1/23*1,5*2, which means on Fujifilm X-Pro2 you’ll use either 1/60 or 1/80 at the minimum. When I was using my X-Pro2 like my Leica, saying 1/40 or so as minimum shutter speed for a 23 mm lens, none of my photos was sharp, not even when standing still when taking the picture.

It takes about one year to master a new camera or a unique lens to a degree, so I’d say I’m still in the learning phase with the X-Pro2. I can’t do the same things with it I’m used to with my Leica cameras, but the same can be said about Leicas that do not have zoom lenses, for instance. Walking around with my Leica and the same lens day in day out makes photographing with it very natural, and the same cannot be yet said about the X-Pro2 just because I’m not entirely satisfied with the quality I get. It’s not the camera’s fault, it’s mine, just to clear things up. I like manual focusing a lot more than automatic since only then I have full control of what should be in focus. Photographing with wide open aperture in dark using automatic focusing makes things difficult because often you’d like the camera to focus to infinity or use hyperfocal focusing, but that’s not easy with digital lenses that have a fly-by-wire focus ring. With a manual Leica lens all that is walk in a park.

An Hour of Street Photography with Fujifilm X-Pro2

First things first

This is not a review of Fujifilm X-Pro2, because there are enough of those already. I did not shoot brick walls or measure anything, but took the camera with me to the streets. It’s no surprise to my friends and followers that I own a lot of different cameras and lenses. It’s a hobby, so I tend to take out different cameras and lenses out on a different day, depending on mood, weather and destination. My normal day consists of walking my way to work and back in the city center of Jyväskylä. My apartment is in the walking district, so all events and people are very, very close and going shooting doesn’t require a car nor bus. I walk 4 to 10 km every day (sans weekends), the average being around 5,8 km.

I carry a camera with me always. If I don’t have a real camera with interchangeable lenses, at least I have my iPhone 6S Plus. Not exactly ideal, but two rules:

  • The best camera is the one you have with you
  • A camera in the bag stays in the bag

I know it’s easy to take out a camera from your bag (or at least from mine), but you know you won’t unless there is something really special and chances are the moment went by while you were digging out the camera. This happens all the time to me unless I am holding the camera I have or have it at least on a neck or shoulder strap. Even the iPhone in my pocket won’t get used that much and when it does, it’s probably too late. I don’t “spray and pray” with my camera and most days I don’t take any photos just because there isn’t anything catching my eye or I’m too busy doing something else.

Early September day in Finland

Yesterday I had my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm 35 mm F1.4 lens with me. Nothing else, so no zooming, no huge resolution for cropping images and all the possibilities and limitations of the X-Trans sensor, which does not use the Bayer filter normally used in digital cameras today. X-Pro2 does not have an antialiasing filter either, meaning that Fujifilm is expecting the X-Trans sensor layout to handle Moiré effects. More on that later.

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The old 35 mm F1.4 lens for Fujifilm is in my opinion better than the new weather resistant (not sealed), smaller and less expensive F2 version. It does not need software correction and has a lot more pleasing quality to it (software correction does not equal good optics). It’s the first Fujifilm X mount lens ever released and its autofocus is slower than on new Fujifilm lenses, although it’s now a lot better thanks to firmware updates Fujifilm has provided. It’s not exactly first choice when people think of portrait lenses, but I’ve found it very good in that respect. I have several full frame cameras, but I don’t feel like I absolutely need a 85 mm F1.2 on a full frame to be able to shoot portraits. On Fujifilm the closest lens to that is the 56 mm F1.2, which is effectively a 85 mm F1.8 on the Fujifilm crop sensor. I haven’t bought the lens as I have several 50 to 58 mm manual lenses that are enough for the job, if needed. Anyway, yesterday I had the 35 mm F1.4, which has a field of view like a 50 mm F2.0 on a full frame camera (or whatever, looks good to me). I haven’t used the X-Pro2 a lot yet, since I had (and still have) the X-Pro1 until last week. X-Pro2 is very much like the X-Pro1, meaning that it’s easy to get good white balance and better colors. Although it’s supposed to have 14 bit RAW images, I get too many blown highlights than I’m used to with for example my Leica M9 or Leica M240. 

How to get models for portrait shooting if you’re into it? Just ask people on the street. It’s a good way to make new friends, have more social contact outside your workplace and step outside your comfort zone. Asking doesn’t hurt and it gets easier the more you do it. It’s surprising how many like a photo taken and see it how it looks like with a good camera and lens instead of a smartphone. No, I don’t ask people for portraits when I have only my iPhone with me.

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Although it’s early days of September in Finland and therefore early autumn, the days are still bright enough to be a bit troublesome for the X-Pro2 in the hands of a person who has used it only for a week. Whenever there’s sky somewhere and I don’t expose the image to highlights, the sky gets easily blown out. The photo above isn’t the best example, since it’s what is left after editing the blown out sky. I will have to practise more with this camera to get more consistent results, since I know it’s a better camera than I see now. I’m too used to my Leica M9 and M240, the first of which is very much film like and even though it does not have even near the dynamic range of the new X-Pro2, it’s still a very capable camera I absolutely love. Thankfully I don’t skimp on the back screen and look at the photos only if I have asked someone to have a picture taken and then show it. Deleting photos based on the 3″ screen is a very bad habit and it slows you down. Editing and deleting are best done on a computer, so I expect the camera act like a film camera, I see the results later.

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It’s not unusual to see events in the walking district in the center of Jyväskylä. At least during summer there is something happening almost every week and even when there isn’t, it’s still more or less full of people, being a beautiful place without cars. Yesterday it was beginning of a fashion weekend, so that gathered people even more than Pokemon Go does.

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REAGL Capoeira Jyväskylä (with Leandro Silva) was performing yesterday on Kompassi (or Compass) in the centre of walking district. I did not spend enough time there to see what other there was yesterday (or today, since the event is still continuing). Nice to see something else than below average street players or “beggars” (organized crime if you ask me) for a change.

Seeing X-Trans sensor’s ugly side

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The image above is an example of a subject very difficult for Fujifilm X-Trans sensor. If you zoom the image to 100%, you can see that the background screen is rendered in an absolutely horrible way. I used latest Adobe Lightroom to process the RAW image, so I don’t know if there is a software that could salvage an image like that. But to be honest, this wouldn’t be an easy task for any camera with enough resolution. For comparison, I took an iPhone shot of the same stage. The lights were blown out on a Bayer sensor as well and the background screen looks bad, although not as bad due to lack of resolution and sharpness.

More thoughts on X-Pro2

Maybe I should post a more thorough article about the Fujifilm X-Pro2 when I’m done training with it. I still feel like an amateur with it and do not always get the result I expect. It’s not the camera’s fault, I just am more used to my old Leica’s and manual focusing. I get even focusing and depth of field wrong more often on the X-Pro2 than I do on the Leica M240, just because it handles differently and I’m not using the X-Pro2 on fully manual mode, which I maybe should. I might update this article later with more photos, since I took plenty during the one hour shooting. I’m now just too tired to edit more photos for the web.

Update: There is a follow-up to this article released in January 2016. I will write more about my experiences with this camera now and then after I’ve got a feeling I’ve learned something new about it. After only a few months the only major thing apart from the X-Trans sensor challenges is the vulnerability to optical shake. In my opinion, this was introduced with the 24-megapixel sensor, meaning that the pixel density is causing the trouble. The way to avoid this is to use higher shutter speed, or optical image stabilisation provided your lens has it. I love my Leica’s, but when it comes to autofocus, Fujifilm is the next best thing.

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