Archive of ‘Cameras’ category

Fujifilm X-Pro2 vs. older siblings

Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS

Having used the excellent Fujifilm X-Pro2 for a less than a year I have noticed that while the camera is unmatched in many aspects by technical terms, I still awe at the photos I have taken with older Fujifilm cameras I have. Especially the X-Pro1, X100T and sometimes also the X-T1 produce something that the X-Pro2 lacks in my hands (meaning it’s not a technical fault, more likely just my stupidity). I don’t know why but when I been on location and we have taken photos with multiple cameras, the results from older cameras are often somehow better. There’s certain film-like quality to the older Fujifilm sensors, and even after using the film profiles the cameras provide (or the profiles Adobe Lightroom allows on Fujifilm cameras), the older ones still shine. In daylight, the high ISO capabilities and lightning fast focusing of the X-Pro2 still do not always win the older siblings when comparing the end results at base ISO. There isn’t a huge difference but it’s there.

Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 18-135 mm F3.5-5.6 LM OIS WR

Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF 55-200 mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

In the (awful) comparison above the difference can come from lens or thousand other things, but since I compared tens of photos taken on the same day using both cameras, I can’t help noticing a small diffecence. The colours on photos taken with the XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM are better, but colours can be adjusted in Adobe Lightroom. But there’s just more pleasure in getting the results you want without adjusting a thing in Lightroom. This is where so many other cameras fail. I see a trend where cameras getting better high ISO capabilities and dynamic range somehow lose their colours. Comparing old and new gear in base ISO is enlightening.

Did I just say that the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is worse than the older Fujifilm cameras? No, at least I did not mean that. The X-Pro2 has its moments, and it’s still my most often used camera even though I have several Leica’s and excellent lenses for them. For anyone using Fujifilm X-Pro2 I’d suggest trying the older X-Pro1 as well since they’re dirt cheap (I paid 295€ for mine a year ago). I haven’t used the X-T2, but I know that my X-T1 is accomplished camera that has the best viewfinder I’ve seen in this price category. There’s nothing that the camera lacks which would make it somehow obsolete. The newer models are supposed to have faster autofocusing and better high ISO capabilities among many other things (and they have), but since Fujifilm is very generously following the Kaizen philosophy and updating their old cameras as long as it’s practically possible, the old ones are getting better and better as well. It’s fun to have multiple cameras with the same lens mount since one can share lenses and compare results, often seeing different photos using older cameras. The limitations are sometimes what drives the imagination and choices I make with cameras, and that is what I admire among Fujifilm and Leica which are both excellent and getting better all the time.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 18 mm F2 R

I don’t sell my older cameras or lenses since it’s a hobby I love, and I’d miss the items later. I buy everything used, and there isn’t a lot of money to be made by selling gear. A fear days ago Fujifilm updated the X-Pro2 firmware, and it now has the automatic shutter speed depending on focal length I suggested them to implement. It’s not as good as on Leica since I can’t select focal length multiplier, but for most purposes, it’s excellent as it is. I wish they’d add the same thing to all their cameras since it’s completely doable (please…) While updating it, Fujifilm could add the focal length multiplier (1*f, 1,5*f, 2*f) as well.

Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS

While my Leica M9 feels like made for street photography and it’s so awesome to use, X-Pro2 is from another decade in technical terms. They both are capable of excellent photos and if anything is missing, it’s user fault. Both cameras feel like they’re made to last and Fujifilm is the one getting new features all the time – for free! Not to mention you’ll still have both of your kidneys after staying in Fujifilm camp. If I wasn’t very fortunate in my business endeavours and money was an issue, I’d probably stay out of Leica path. First you buy the M9 and you end up with having the Noctilux costing more than a new car, among many other Leica necessities. It’s nice to be somewhat invisible with a small camera, allowing taking photographs in public easier. It’s not a myth that people are scared of huge DSLR combos.

To sum things up, I’d stay that I’m very happy with just about everything from Fujifilm I have. The lenses and cameras, all of which have been very inexpensive when bought 2nd hand, are all so much better than similarly priced gear from other manufacturers. I’m not a fanboy, but I’m very pleased with manufacturers that do not abandon their product once the new model is released. It makes sense to keep everything since it’s being constantly updated (even lenses get new firmware). I still use the old X-Pro1 and the first lens made, the XF 35 mm F1.4 R, since they’re magical.

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.

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