Archive of ‘Gear’ 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 XF 56 mm F1.2 R vs. Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

This is not a review of either lens, but just some notes I’ve made about both lenses while using them. Only some of the photos are taken at the same night at the same location, because at the moment my Noctilux it being calibrated at Solms, Germany. Please bear in mind that the photos I’ve taken with Noctilux are not perhaps the best the lens can do since it’s out of calibration and needs servicing. The cameras used were Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Leica M240. I might do a followup to this article once I get my Noctilux back if there has been a lot of interest in this.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R and Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

How do they compare

One thing to note is that due to APS-C crop sensor on Fujifilm, the effective field of view is 85 mm with the Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2. The crop factor also affects the depth of field which is around F1.8 on the Fujifilm. The crop sensor does not, however, change the exposure, so the F1.2 is F1.2 regardless of the sensor size. Because of different effective focal lengths, it’s not easy to try to replicate the same image on both cameras at least on a busy street. Shooting 85 mm lens is somewhat difficult, and the sometimes slow autofocus does not help there. It’s easier to focus the lens and use zone focusing manually. You probably guess that focusing the Leica at F0.95 is not easy either since the depth of field is quite shallow, especially at close distances. All photos I selected for this article are shot wide open for comparison. They are not manipulated in any way apart from some vignetting correction on Noctilux. Depending on the scene the Noctilux vignetting can be severe although it’s part of the magic if you’re shooting people (let’s see how my travels go after saying that aloud). Noctilux is truly F0.95 only at the centre of the frame and for comparison the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.. is not that bad because if is sharper and does not vignette wide open at all. There is still some magic to the Noctilux photos that is not just some single value or even a few. It’s the surprise factor that comes from getting pictures that look different from what the human eye can see, and this is something the Fujifilm completely lacks even at F1.2. To be honest, the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. has more of that special mojo wide open than the Fujifilm, but maybe that is because comparing F1.4 and F1.8 the Fujifilm effectively is. On full frame camera, the F1.2 seems to be the aperture where this magic starts appearing, although nothing I’ve tried beats or is even near the Noctilux apart perhaps another Noctilux (the F1.0 version). The old Canon LTM 50 mm F1.2 is also close to magic but in a different way. Luckily I have the first revision of the lens that does not suffer from back element hazing or lack of contrast the second revision has. I haven’t tried the F0.95 version of the Canon LTM myself, but it’s said to be magical also. I should have bought the lens when it was still inexpensive as it is nowadays totally unacceptable in price at least when I have the Noctilux.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Should I purchase one

Don’t even think that these are the best examples of what the Noctilux is capable of. I chose similar photos for comparison just because for most people money matters, and the Fujifilm is the only affordable choice no matter how much better the Noctilux is. Let’s not forget that we’re comparing lenses that cost 1100 and 10995 euros new. There is a tenfold difference, and it’s everyone’s own decision whether this is the difference is worth it. The same tenfold difference remains if you buy the lenses used. If you’re not deciding things by price but with personal properties alone, the Noctilux well be a natural choice for you, especially if you are not concerned about the price.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

The difference in maximum aperture means that the Leica is allowing lower ISO values. When I purchased the Noctilux, the Leica M10 did not exist, and even if it did, the high ISO looks terrible in all cameras, regardless of manufacturer. Fujifilm X-Pro2 is one of the best, but I can assure you I will pick the 2009 Leica M9 ISO 160 photo every time just because a photo with total lack of noise is something to marvel at. Fujifilm does not look the same at ISO 200. The Leica M240 is closer, but I still love my M9 enough to never part from it. The M240 has its moments and is in many aspects a way better camera, but M9 it is not. If I had to replace either, I’d buy M10 to replace the M240. But there’s nothing wrong with M240, so why upgrade. Camera prices fall quickly, lenses do not.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Where does the money show

Now back to comparing these lenses. Noctilux is sharp, but I don’t think it can match the Fujifilm at full aperture. I’m not even sure if it when stopped down a bit, but Noctilux is not about the absolute sharpness. The F1 version is not as sharp as the F0.95, and for many, it is the better lens for their taste. Sharpness is maybe the most overvalued aspect of photography because of pixel peeping. If you see the photos in web or printer, you won’t see the difference unless it is huge. Fujifilm somehow lacks the same colour that comes out of the Noctilux pictures, and I don’t think it’s the camera causing the difference. I could have tested the Noctilux with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Leica M-mount to Fujifilm X-mount adapter, but seeing how bad the Sony is with adapted lenses, I feel it’s fair to compare lenses with their native mounts. What you often see with Noctilux and don’t see in Fujifilm photos is not something you can add in Adobe Lightroom using vibrancy slider or similar. There is also some telephoto effect going on with the Fujifilm lens which is, of course, missing from the 50 mm Noctilux.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

My sincere wishes to Fujifilm

I wish Fujifilm would release a 35 mm F1.2 or F1.0 lens that is reasonably priced and also has some of that mojo you miss with almost every other lens than an original Noctilux. The 50 mm focal length is my favourite and there the 35 mm F1.4 lens Fujifilm has is very good, but not at all comparable to a Noctilux. Fujifilm has introduced weather resistant versions of their lenses and at the moment there are 23 mm, 35 mm and 50 mm lenses available. I heard the term “Fujicron” attached in conversation about these lenses, similar to F2.0 Summicron series Leica has. I wish they’d introduce a lens or two to the other end of aperture spectrum for available light photographers like me. A Noctilux is like a door to Narnia, and I wish Fujifilm had something similar because while magnificent, the Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 still isn’t in the same category. I have a feeling that most of you who don’t live up here near the Arctic Circle don’t understand at all what the fuss about fast lenses is about. I’ve seen multiple times that why to buy the F1.4 versions of Fujifilm lenses when the F2.0 versions are simply better. No they aren’t if the sun sets at 14:30 and there isn’t enough light to take photos even at ISO 12800, and when they barely make it, they still look abysmal just because of the level of noise. People here see less sunlight than 99,7% of the world’s population. There’s your answer to why F2.0 lineup is not impressive at all. At F1.4 one has one full stop more light, and at F1.0 one would have two full stops, meaning that the ISO 12800 photo is suddenly ISO 3200 and might look worth something. So, Fujifilm, where are your 23 mm and 35 mm F1.0 lenses? It’s dark out here.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Shooting in the dark

In the film era, fast lenses were a necessity just because ISO values maxed out at 1600, or 3200 if you pushed your B&W film. Consider me old, but I’m still stuck at a time when maximum usable ISO is 1600, and that is why I like my Leica M9 so much. It’s like a digital film camera if you don’t skimp. For those of you who can’t resist skimping, Leica has made a special version of the camera with no screen at all, but it comes at a price. Just buy the M9, forget that there’s a screen and be done with it. With fast enough lenses ISO 1600 is enough for just about everything and on a well-lit street at night you can shoot at ISO 160. Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 is one of four Fujifilm lenses I’d choose from for a night shoot, the others being the Fujifilm 16 mm F1.4, the Fujifilm 23 mm F1.4 and the Fujifilm 35 mm F1.4. Of all these, the 56 mm makes the most magical photos. I don’t mean that in the sense when people say that your oven makes good food because, in the end, it is you who takes and makes the photos, not the lens nor the camera. It is just a fact that with some lenses the success rate is higher than with others and every lens has its pros and cons.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Great alternative for Noctilux

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 is an excellent lens, but not without its flaws. The focusing is very slow, maybe the slowest of all Fujifilm lenses I’ve tried myself (so that excludes the old 90 mm and 60 mm lenses which are said to be on the slow side as well). It also needs very high shutter speeds especially if you are shooting handheld, in the dark and with the 24-megapixel sensors. As I said in an article maybe a month ago, the APS-C sensor needs higher shutter speed than the rule of 1 / focal length would generally assume. For the 56 mm lens that means that the 1 / (56 * 1,5), which is 1/85 seconds, isn’t enough. Instead, you’ll need to calculate the speed using the full frame equivalent focal length in place, making the slowest speed for this lens around 1/125 seconds. I don’t know why that is, but I noticed the problem after upgrading to 24-megapixel X-Pro2. Maybe it is because of the higher pixel density or the smaller size of the sensor, but once I use the values calculated this way, I get good results. With my Leica, the 1/f rule still stands, and the camera itself is made well enough not to introduce any shutter shake, and it also is very stable in your hands when handheld. For 50 mm Noctilux, that means a minimum shutter speed of 1/50 seconds, meaning that at F0.95 you can take photographs in such dark conditions that the problem is focusing, not shutter speed.

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.

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