Archive of ‘Cameras’ category

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.

_DSF9210

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.

_DSF8130

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.

_DSF8170

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.

_DSF8217

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

_DSF9032

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.

Protecting Your Camera Gear Against Theft

Protecting your gear against theft is important. I know that you know that, but how can you be more protected against theft? Home insurance is probably covering the gear unless you use it professionally and even then there may be problems in valuation and overall coverage. It’s best to check from your insurance company what exactly the insurance you have will cover and how is the value calculated in case of theft, accident, fire or natural events. In my case the insurance company is covering all photographic gear against theft, accidents etc. and the value for vintage gear is estimated from current 2nd hand prices. The new cameras and lenses are valuated using a formula that lowers the value every year by certain percentage, which is in my case was about the same rate as in real life. Not having an insurance for your gear is playing Russian roulette. The insurance doesn’t cost that much at least here and it covers theft, accidents and events like fire.

But how about gear that is unique, or gear that you really would like to get back instead of buying a replacement the condition of which may not be the same as yours was? Making a list of your gear and their serial numbers is helping a lot in case of theft, because in case the thief is selling the gear, the serial number is something one can’t hide and one does, it automatically means the source of the gear being sold is questionable. I have once bought a cheap lens via Ebay from a real store and months later when making a list of my gear noticed that the serial number is melted away somehow. I contacted the store and they were surprised and guaranteed that they will check their incoming gear more thoroughly for cases like this. I will not buy stolen gear and feel sorry for the previous owner of this particular lens. But there is nothing I can do, because I don’t know the previous owner. I hate thiefs and theft like plague and am angry for the fact that for example in Finland you don’t really get any real sentence for theft, unless you steal from the government.

You can make a list of your gear in text file using Notepad/TextEdit, or in Excel if you are more advanced. But I have even better way of making sure you have your gear list saved and serial numbers registered. There is a free website named Lenstag to which you can enter your cameras and lenses along their serial numbers. The real kicker in the website is that you have to verify your gear by sending a photograph of each of the serial numbers on your gear. So the list is not only a good one, it’s verified that you really owned the gear you have listed. Here’s a copy of the Frequently Asked Questions on Lenstag:

What is Lenstag?

Lenstag is a project with three main goals:

  • Prevent the resale of stolen cameras, lenses & video equipment.
  • Significantly reduce the risk of theft.
  • Maintain the privacy of users and allow pseudonymous ownership.

How much does it cost?
It’s free.

How does it work?

Lenstag works like this:

  • Sign up & add your cameras, lenses & video equipment to your account. It’s totally free.
  • Verify that you’re in possession of each item by uploading a picture from your phone or computer of each item’s serial number or something else that shows you own each item (warranty card, etc.).
  • If an item gets stolen, immediately flag it as such and we’ll create a public page to help you get it back.

Bonus feature: if you sell or give an item to someone else, you can transfer the record to them using Lenstag and save the next person from having to re-verify.

Why should I register my gear before it gets stolen?

The first few hours after a theft are absolutely critical to getting the word out & preventing resale of the stolen gear. If your gear is already registered, then you just have to sign in & flag the items as stolen (and optionally provide additional information).

If you wait until after your gear is stolen, you’ll have to add the gear, verify it with something else other than a picture of the serial number and wait a day or two for someone at Lenstag to approve the verification request. By then the gear has probably been pawned or sold and the chances of successful recovery are substantially lower.

How can I tell if a camera or lens is stolen?

Do a web search for ‘stolen’, the serial number of the item and ‘lenstag’ for good measure. If the item’s page shows up, there’s a good chance it’s stolen. If you know something about the item (location, craigslist post, etc.) please type it into the box and leave your email address (optional) so we can follow up.

Also, here’s a list of all the gear flagged as stolen on Lenstag. Please let us know if you come across any item on here.

I have listed all my gear on Lenstag, verified them and delivered the printed list to my insurance company. I don’t know a better way to make it easier to catch the thief than this, because most probably the gear is being sold on Ebay or your local similar service on Internet (in Finland there are two similar services). If you see your kind of gear being sold, ask the serial number in case it is not shown on the pictures. If the seller refuses to give the serial number, it’s an alarming thing. If the seller has multiple gear for sale all of which you had and the seller refuses to give serial numbers, I’d contact the police with the verified list from Lenstag and the sellers listings.

Using Lenstag is easy. First you add your gear one by one:

add-serial-number

After that the gear is added to your gear list, but it is in unverified state, meaning that you haven’t verified your ownership yet.

new-entry

Clicking the Verify button opens a new dialog to which you can upload a photograph of the serial number:

verification-dialog

After uploading the picture of the serial number it takes a day or two for your gear to change status to verified.

That’s all it takes to make a good list of your gear and have it being verified by 3rd party. The only thing I miss from the service is the ability to see the pictures of the serial numbers you sent later. As of now, unless you save the images yourself, you don’t get to see the real photographs, only the fact that the site has verified your ownership of the gear. But to me that is good enough and having a list of serial numbers makes selling the stolen gear more difficult, which is a great thing.

1 2 3 4 5