Phew, I managed a new post without waiting a whole year! The truth is, I would like to put my work out into the world, but I’m not quite sure how to go about it. Social media, a blog.. Still working on this.
However, this was not what I wanted to talk about.
Ever since the Fujifilm X-E1 was launched in 2012, and I sold my Canon 5Dii, Fujifilm has been my main camera system. New generations of camera’s have been presented every few years, with the recently the newest of the family, the Fujifilm X-H2(s). Two cameras that are the ultimate in speed (X-H2s) and resolution (X-H2). As I’m mainly shooting with the X-H1, which is ancient in camera terms, being announced in 2018, and is still only a toddler in autofocus speed, I am sometimes tempted to upgrade to a newer, faster camera. The X-H2s, with a stacked sensor, is the speed king, but is way too expensive for me. The X-H2, which is slightly more affordable, is no slouch either. Both have a larger grip, which I have come to prefer over the years for professional use, and have an autofocus system which is more than sufficient for what I use my cameras for (let’s be honest, the X-H1 is already managing quite nicely). What’s keeping me back for now are the costs, and the fact that both cameras have a fully-articulating rear display instead of the excellent flipscreen that the X-H1 had, and which I prefer for photography.
What this mental discussion about autofocus speeds and megapixels is clouding, however, is that for most situations, those things are not necessary. I’ve managed perfectly well for many years with the X-T1, X-T2, and X-H1, with both of the latter cameras still very much in use! To drive this point home to myself, for the past few days I’ve been taking the original Fujifilm X100 with me on my daily walk. This camera was launched in September 2010, and has become something of a classic. Its a tortoise compared to modern hares, it misses many of the handy upgrades Fuji has added to the ergonomics in later cameras, but it is still a solid camera, and, handled well, it is still capable of taking great photographs. If anything, the process of photography is even more enjoyable, because you are not helped by ai-processing and eye-tracking, but have to think for yourself (there are some, as there are for any camera brand, that maintain that the Fujifilm X100, like for instance the original Canon EOS 5D, has some magic sprinkled over its sensor, and that the images from this camera have something special over their successors. This might be a result of the fact that these older sensors usually have a lower resolution, and therefore slightly larger pixels?).
I don’t know if this is the case. I know that in some situations I can enjoy the files that come out of a Fujifilm X100 very much, and that there is a certain feel to these first generation files that later cameras do not give me. Mind you, only in certain (wel lit) situations. Does this mean I’m not tempted by the Fuji X-H2 anymore. Of course not, but I’ve enjoyed this trip down camera lane very much, and my resolve to wait has certainly been strenghtened (at least I should wait until the announcement of the X-T5, which may bring back the flippy screen instead of that fully-articulating monster).
I’ll not bore you further, but will share some of the photos I’ve been taking the past few days.
It has been a bit quiet on this Blog this year. My apologies for that. I have taken a lot of photographs this last month, but not much that I considered worth sharing. Yesterday, however, was a day full of snow. Snow! Last year we got a little sprinkle in Januari, and that was it. This year it’s a full 20 cm in the garden, and the cold weather is expected to last for at least another 6 days. The word iceskating is on everybody’s lips. The Elfstedentocht has been cancelled in advance because of Corona, but the expectations are rising. I could not resist this opportunity and went into the city centre yesterday to document the wintery landscape.
I was looking for a mix of snow, ice and lamplight to give it a bit more ambience than just a white blanket over the streets. Therefore I had to get there early. The added advantage is that you are mostly the first at the scene and are not hindered by large groups of people or snow that is already disturbed. As I couldn’t sleep I was even earlier than the alarm clock and I was out of the front door at 5:15. The main roads had been cleaned somewhat and I had no problems navigating the snow with my bike.
[Geartalk] In my enthusiasm I may have brought a bit too much gear. In addition to my main camera these days, the Fujifilm X-H1, and 2 weather sealed lenses (16-55, 50-140 mm) I brought a wide angle 12 mm lens. Because I really like how the lens renders nightscapes I also brought the Voigtlander 15 mm f/4.5 Heliar in a last minute decision. I also took along the Fujifilm X-T2 as a second body, and to top it all of the Leica M9 and Fujifilm X100 just for fun. It turned out that because it was snowing (and blowing) the entire time, I did not use the non weather sealed lenses. I did end up using the non weather sealed 15 mm Voigtlander. A lot! It worked magically!
First stop: the Leidse Sterrenwacht, or Leiden Observatory. To render the lights in the photographs as ‘sunstars’ I wanted to photograph at a smaller aperture. The voigtlander has the most beautiful stars of any lens I ever come across (one of the main reasons for me to take it along). Because of the hard wind and snow I ended up changing lenses as little as possible, with the 16-55 and 50-140 on the X-H1, and the Voigtlander stuck to my X-T2. I took several shots at the observatory at f/16, ISO200 and a shutter speed of 2 minutes. This long shutter speed also caused the water to ‘glaze over’. A visage not dissimilar to ice, although a more thorough glance would probably fool nobody.
The next stop was a small alley off the singel with a lot of old houses and traditional lamps. A very nice spot, but with the hard wind and horizontal snow, the 16-55 soon got issues with water on the front lens that even the most thorough wiping could not remove. It was also a bit useless to clean the lens if 2 seconds later it would be wet again by new snow. Photographing at larger apertures was useless at this stage, as the flare on these droplets was horrible. The voigtlander curiously appeared unaffected by the snow. I switched to a larger aperture on the X-H1 and zooms, but kept the small aperture and sunstars on the X-T2.
The Rapenburg, one of the famous canals of Leiden, was only a few minutes walk away, but there the winds were funnelled through the streets and even my 50-140 mm with its massive lens hood managed to get its front lens wet in seconds. I did capture a good example of the snowdrifts through the canal though.
My main aim of the trip was the Burcht and Hooglandse Kerk, a medieval fortification and church on the other side of the city centre. I hoped to arrive there around dawn, so that the light would be better, but the streetlights were still on to give me the ambience I was looking for. Planning this was a bit tricky, as my watch was hidden under 4 layers of clothing and my phone did not work through two layers of gloves, so my only indication of time were the church-bells that rung every half hour. Very old fashioned! En route to the Burcht I came across a few other interesting locations: the Pieterskerk, het Gerecht, de Breestraat and the Koornbrug.
By the time I reached the Pieterskerk it was becoming obvious that it was getting closer to a time a regular guy gets out of bed, as a group of students almost managed to position themselves for a selfie in the middle of my photograph. I offered to take the selfie for them if they could just wait 40 seconds until my photo was done, and continued on to the Breestraat. This usually busy shopping street was white and deserted at what I’m guessing was around 7:30 AM. A very surreal view!
Finally around 8:00 AM I reached my final destination, the Burcht. By now dawn was fully here, but with the snow still falling the light was filtered and still not fully there. I took several photographs from my favourite location outside the Burcht, then headed in for some more shots. By this time people were starting to appear who had the same idea, and I had to manage my shots carefully to avoid disturbance. Mind you, the 1 minute shutter speed with the Voigtlander helped in this regard. As long as people would not stand still, they would still not appear in the final image. When I descended the stairs to the plaza below the street lights cut out, and I could congratulate myself with timing it well, and look forward to getting home, getting warm and getting coffee.*
I hope you have enjoyed the photographs and story. For me it was a great morning, albeit a cold one!
*The bike ride back along paths not cleaned was a workout..
Someone I met today on a photography forum said it quite eloquently: ‘Yikes, soo many settings!’. He was speaking about the new Fujifilm camera, the Fujifilm X-S10. I don’t know anything about it, and don’t feel the need to. I have given up on the numbers and letters Fujifilm uses to give all it’s camera-lines a name. Names which are evolving and changing as well, so it is difficult to keep track of. Each new camera has a slightly different set of features to distinguish it from its neighbour. We should make a flowchart! Does it have a flip-up/down screen, follow the arrow to the T section. Is it weather sealed? Follow the arrow to the T-single digit section, that sort of thing. One thing, however, is shared by most, if not all of these new cameras . The abundance of settings!
I admit I did not grow up at the height of the digital era. We got our first computer when I was about 12 I guess, and I got my first mobile phone when I was 16. It was not a very smart phone. It could switch its cover, you could somehow get it to use an mp3 as ringtone, and you could text and call. After that, progress began to do its thing, and before long I was the proud owner of an iPhone 4, a laptop, a digital camera, and all the rest of modern necessities. I consider myself to be quite tech-savvy, in that I can usually operate these digital devices without much trouble. This is especially true for cameras, of which I have owned many, from many brands, and as such can usually find my way around quite easily. As I have been using Fujifilm as my camera brand for almost 9 years now, I can navigate their cameras blindfolded, helped by the fact that their design philosophy is quite tactile, so long as you don’t need to dive too deep into the menus. Every new generation has been thus been welcomed with open arms, and the menus were quickly explored to set up the camera to my exact needs, and to make the most of new features possible. Until now.
I can sympathise with the comment made by the anonymous guy at the photography forum (a Fuji forum, no less, with visitors used to Fuji cameras). Because I also recently bought a new camera. Not the X-S10. I bought the X-T4, whose simple naming I can understand, as it is the fourth generation of the T line. I have owned the X-T1 and the X-T2 before the X-T4, therefore the naming was familiar. The settings, however, weren’t. Somewhere between the time I bought my X-T2 (January 2017) and the X-T4 (June 2020), Fujifilm somehow found a bunch of extra settings lying around that they thought would fit perfectly in their new camera. It is not just that there are more things that you can set, it is also that those settings can be set, and tweaked, and even different settings that are set can then be sub-set. It’s like navigating the labyrinth of The Maze Runner. Or, for those of less youthful persuasion, the Minotaur.
A good example is the continuous autofocus. Even my first Fuji X-E1 camera, back in 2012, had continuous autofocus. It is set by the switch on the front left of the camera, and this switch has not moved since. It was there, very familiar, M, C, and S, when I took my Fuji X-T4 from its box. Continuous autofocus was always a bit of an adventure. It could go well, and you would love the results. It could also go horribly wrong, delivering a heap of pictures that were al out of focus and could go straight into the trash. They have worked on this since the X-E1, and now you can set your continuous autofocus to custom settings, of which there are 5. Each setting for a different kind of movement. Great. And then there is the 6th setting, where you can sub-set all parameters for your own kind of movement. And the continuous autofocus is just one setting that you can tweak. Then there are the video settings, ranging from HD to 4K to 24.95 frames per second to 59.9 to F-log recording and who knows what else.
All of this makes the X-T4 (and I guess the new X-S10) a very flexible and capable camera. It is probably one of the best cameras out there, and certainly the best camera Fuji has produced up to this point. At the same time it is the reason I have not used any of these settings. I fully admit I am of the generation that never reads a manual, and without this, there is just too much menu to navigate to fully research, find, and adjust all the settings that are possible on this camera. I have had this camera now for 6 months, and I have not even looked at most menus. Maybe, somewhere, sometime, I will have no choice to take the manual, and go through all the settings one by one. See what they do, see what fits best with my shooting style, and create my own continuous autofocus settings. But for the first time since I have owned cameras, this is a thing.
I’m sure that most of these settings will be very useful to some, and maybe there is even someone out there who will use it all. I think however, that 97% of users do not. Nothing wrong in this, of course. Better to have it, and not use it, than need it and not have it, though you do feel this multitasking capability in your wallet.I bought my X-T4 for two main reasons: the image stabilisation, which I ‘need’ for video, so that I don’t need a dedicated lens with stabilisation, and the photo-video switch, so that I can quickly switch between photography and video, something that is very handy during assignments. Aside from that, for what I do, the video features in the X-T2 were good enough and I think I may never get around to tweaking all things in the menus.
The good thing about all this is that even without doing all of that, the X-T4 remains a great camera. You don’t need to tweak settings you’ve never heard of to have a great shooting experience, and I’ve even found two more reasons to justify having bought it. The fact that you can name focal length and lens manufacturer to non electronically coupled lenses so that they appear in the exif data, and the shutter sound. Or rather, the lack thereof. The shutter has become my favourite feature since I had to photograph a defence ceremony where you could hear a pin drop, but not my camera!
Last but not least: this complicated digital beast of a camera makes me appreciate the simple experience of shooting with the old (old, it is barely 8 years since it was announced) X-Pro1. You can not choose between electronic of mechanical shutter, there is only mechanical. Too many focus points to focus quickly with the joystick? Not a problem, there is no joystick, and very few points. Video settings? It doesn’t even have a dedicated video button. And yet, this simplicity gives a sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction that you don’t need to think about settings. The satisfaction that you can just shoot, and all other things go away. The satisfaction that you don’t need to find your way out of the maze: there is no maze!
I hope everyone is in good health in these strange times. Keep happy, keep shooting. As I’ve not added any photographs to this post, I promise to post some images soon 😉
Over the years I have acumulated quite a lot of gear. While I will probably never stop lusting for new shiny cameras and lenses, with my current collection I can fulfill any project to my, and my clients, satisfaction. From photography to videography, from macro to landscapes to watersports, it is all there. As the mirrorless photography world matures, upgrades are less interesting each year, and I will keep working with what I have for the foreseeable future.
Where the new modern models and lenses start to loose their attraction, the vintage photography world does not. Over the years I’ve bought and sold quite a few old vintage lenses, ranging from the 50s to the 80s and to modern non-autofocus products. When I started out with my very first dslr (the Canon EOS 1000D, for those interested), manual focussing was something from the stoneage. Outdated and obsolete. I’m from a generation that had never seen cameras without autofocus. As such, it was hard to imagine the tactile feeling of focusing a lens, and the joy that this can bring. It took me a while to get into the idea of using vintage lenses on modern bodies, and that this could give a different experience from using autofocus lenses. Not necessarily always better, but different and pleasing nonetheless.
Over the years since my first MF lens, the Samyang 12 mm f/2 (which I’m still using professionally, in favour of the Zeiss Touit 12 mm with autofocus), I’ve collected quite a lot manual (vintage) lenses, and it is not seldom that I step out of my front door with a bag that contains more manual focus lenses that native autofocus lenses.
A distinction must be made here between vintage and non vintage manual focus lenses. Some manufacturers still make modern lenses without autofocus (Leica, Voigtländer, modern companies like Samyang), which are manual focus but specially designed for modern digital bodies. These lenses are made with modern machinery and contain the newest coatings, and therefore deliver optimal image quality on a digital body. Vintage lenses are designed for analog cameras and are usually made without the newest developments in lens technology. As such, the usually have characteristics that would not be tolerated in mondern lenses: flaring, colour shifts, abberations. Some older lens designs cause less sharpness than we are used from modern lenses. Others are just as sharp, but are less contrasty than we are used to. Every vintage lens is different and has characteristics that you can like or hate. The results you get are not perfect, but that is not the point. An images does not need have the perfect image quality to be a good photograph, as our veneration of the old photography masters proofs.
A few months ago I bought another vintage lens that is legendary in vintage photography circles: the Helios 44M-4. This lens is a 58 mm f/2 lens that, together with its brother, the Helios 44M-2, was produced with an M42 mount in the Sovjet Union from 1958 to 1992 on a massive scale. It is one of the most widespread lenses in the world today, and because of this, it is quite affordable. The main attraction for many is the ‘swirly bokeh’ effect that this lens offers (instead of perfect round bokeh balls in the out of focus areas, the bokeh has a circular pattern to it, with squashed ‘cats eye’ bokeh). On modern lenses, an inexcuseable effect, in vintage lenses hightly sought after. I was curious what the fuss was about and got one. And hated it..
The lens itself is ugly. I used it a few times, got other projects, and put it in my lens drawer with the intention to sell it again. Not helping was the fact that the 50-ish focal length is the most found focal length in my lens drawer. Nor did I really manage to create the ‘swirly bokeh’ effect that I expected (a full frame sensor would probably help in that regard). Recently I was looking for something different and gave it a second chance. I put it on the Fujifilm X-T4 for a few walks in the neighbourhood, and this time I did fall in love. I have the suspicion that the M42-Fx adapter that I use has a slightly wrong thickness, as the lens is very good at close focusing, but does not reach infinity unless you stop down to f8. This allows you to photograph quite close up, giving you smooth and beautiful bokeh (not necessarily of the swirly type). As I love close focusing lenses, this one has just climbed my favorites ladder and has surpassed the Voigtlander 50 mm f/1.5 Nokton, which is stunning to look at and delivers excellent image quality, but can not focus as close, and was 10 times its price. Also surprising was the resolution this lens delivers, details are clear even at high magnification.
I will continue to put the lens trough its paces, and will also check the drawer for other forgotten gems (like the 50 mm Meyer-Optik Oreston f/1.8 that I haven’t used in ages but has the same close focusing strengths and is razor sharp). Some results from this lens are below.
In our current society there is an odd, but perhaps understandable, obsession with stuff. Especially new stuff. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of electronics. Every so often a new iteration of the iPhone, or any other smartphone for that matter, is launched, with ever more new features that we are told we absolutely need. It is the same in camera-land. Every other year (or more often) camera manufacturers launch a new camera, a new lens, a new feature. Users start reading reviews (or viewing them, in this youtube-fueled age), and it is often easy enough to convince yourself you need this new camera, these new features. I am, by no means, immune to this.
I’ve done this often enough. I’ve bought enough cameras, lenses, bags or accessories in the past few years to finance a few expensive holidays. Partly I can excuse myself. I’m a professional photographer, I need stuff to work. And I would be right. But as Kevin Mullins, a professional wedding photographer from the UK, writes on his blog: ’there is stuff that you need. And there is stuff that you want.’ The line between those two things is easily blurred. Recently I’ve been trying to ‘unblur’ the line, and have started to get rid of some of the things I thought I needed (and it is surprising to see how many things you find out in hindsight to be unnecessary). In recent months, cameras, lenses, and accessories, have been flowing out of the house in a steady flow. It is not just that I find that I don’t use some of those things, it is also that by reducing the number of choices I have, I make my photographical life much simpler. I’m not a minimalist, and probably never will be (I still have 2 choices for a 35 mm lens, not to mention the 5 50-ish lenses I have in my drawer), but I am slowly reducing my quite extensive collection (because that is basically what it is).
‘New gear doesn’t help you take better photographs, but the right gear does!’
Now you might think that reducing my photographical clutter would also involve not getting new stuff into the house. And that is correct, up to a point. However, with the motto ‘New gear doesn’t help you take better photographs, but the right gear does!’, I decided, that for my professional work, I needed one more thing. Replacing the sold X100, X-E3, X-Pro2 and second X-T2…, is the new Fujifilm X-T4. A brandspaninking new camera. I have been testing it for several days now, and must admit I’m not yet over the moon about it. It is an electronic powerhouse, don’t get me wrong. The menu mentions items I’ve never even heard of. The autofocus is so fast I’m not even seeing it lock on. It shoots fifteen frames per second. And maybe that is one of the things that feels wrong about it. It is just a bit too glib, too silent, too subtle. I liked my X-T2 better. Then again, I don’t need to be over the moon about it. I just need to use it for assignments, and in that field the X-T4 will probably deliver in spades. So here I am, back to ‘just’ 4 cameras.
I’ll keep my Fujifilm X-T2 as a weather sealed back-up, and I will keep using the old X-Pro1 and X70 for personal photography or projects. And that is it. There are still a drawer of lenses and a cupboard of bags to slowly empty (to a non-photographer, they will probably still look ridiculously filled). For now I think I’m on the right path, and I will be content with the stuff I have (speak to me again in a year).
In all this there is the unusual situation that I now own Fujifilms first X-mount interchangeable lens camera, and their latest. It is an odd comibation to have next to each other, and a testament to how far the camera world has come in just eight short years. On the one hand the (in modern sense, it was launched in 2012) ancient X-Pro1, with it’s slow minimum shutter speed of 1/4000 seconds, it’s limited amount of AF points, its sometimes hunting or slow autofocus, its clunky shutter sound. And on the other hand the recent, top of its class, X-T4. With lightning AF speed, a fully articulating screen (I need to get used to that by the way), a focus joystick, more AF points that my fruit tree has lice, and soo soo many more functions. The coming days and weeks will show which of these – the dinosaur or the tesla – I will enjoy shooting with more.
My apologies if I seem to be rambling a bit. I’ve been wanting to post something on the update cycle of electronic products, the cleaning up of my photography clutter, the rediscovery of the X-Pro1, and the purchase of the X-T4, and somehow all of these things wound up in the same post. Maybe I’ll try to do separate posts on these topics later! Hope you are well and happy photography.
months ago I bought a secondhand Fujifilm X70. This little brother to the X100
had been on my radar when it was announced in January 2016, but back than I
decided it was not something I could genuinly use. If you would categorise
stuff into things I need for my photography job and things for fun, this would
mostly fall in the fun category. Fast forward a bit: September last year we
were hiking in the hills around lake Lugano, Italy, when we encountered a
German hiker using the X70. Curiosity piqued, I asked to try it and got a
chance to play with it a bit. Back on the radar it was. It took a few months to
wait for a great deal on Marktplaats, but in January 2019, 3 years after it was
announced, and 2 years after it was discontinued by Fujifilm, it entered
my photography bag. As a ‘fun’ camera, but also as a great backup professional
option for events (it shares the same 16 megapixel sensor of my old
Some specs of the camera The X70 features the same 16 megapixels APS-C sized sensor of the X-T1 and X-E2s. The lens is a wide-angle 18.5 mm lens that is newly designed for this camera. There is no viewfinder, but the screen is a flip-up screen that can tilt 180 degrees and is therefore selfie-friendly. While the 18.5 mm lens can be argued to be somewhat restrictive, digital teleconvertors to 35 and 50 mm are available in camera.
Fast forward a month, and we’re in Löf, Germany. My girlfriend and I decided to take a long weekend away from work in a hotel in this small town on the bank of the river Mosel. As I didn’t want to be bothered by a big camera bag and the need to change lenses all the time, it was a great opportunity of testing this newest acquisition. I had with me the X70 with hood, a few spare batteries and a gorillapod tripod, carried in an old Billingham f4.5 bag.
My experience using the camera Keep in mind that when I use a camera I tend to remember things that I find annoying, and take the great things for granted. This is also not a technical review, just a sum-up of the things I noticed on this camera that I consider to be good, or in need of improvement.
what was it like to use it? Well, it has its foibles, but in general, this
little camera is quite nice to use. Its small size is definitely a plus on this
kind of outings. It fits in a small pocket of the Billingham, it’s quick to
take out and quick to use. During hikes I generally left it in my jacket pocket
to keep it protected from the rain and keep my hands free. Taking it out and turning
it on is a matter of seconds. As it is a fixed lens camera, an advantage is
that you don’t need to think about focal length. It’s 18.5 mm, and that’s it!
Autofocus is quick, but not superquick. Mostly it was accurate in finding
focus, with maybe 10% miss (unscientific guess).
Fuji X70 is the first camera that I use that has a touch screen (not
counting a week with the OM-D E-M5 a few years back). I set it to
‘touch-to-focus’, and this works great. I was surprised how quick I got used to
this, and how often I would try it on my X-T2 before realizing it didn’t work
on that camera! This ‘touch-to-focus’ is unfortunately one of the few
things that does not work in single-hand operation, as the left side of the
screen cannot be reached by your fingers. Using one of the buttons for AF point
selection as backup solves this, however.
of the things I found I missed was a built-in ND filter. While of all the
camera’s that I have owned, only the X100 has it, it’s really great for
creating longer exposures of things like waterfalls. I didn’t have an ND-filter
with me, and there were times I really would have liked a built-in one. No
deal-breaker, but it would have been great!
thing that I really found annoying, is that when using the built-in electronic
telecovertors (aside from image quility using this feature, which is not
great), is that you first have to switch to Jpeg, than dive into menu’s to
switch to the teleconvertor. All this takes a lot of time, and is an annoying
process. I would rather see that you can select this function using a
function button, and that the camera switches to Jpeg automatically. Now, the
function is not available if you shoot RAW.
first impression of the lens hood was that is was ugly. However, it is
extremele functional and protected the lens from water droplets perfectly. I’ve
grown used to it, and now I find it quite ok!
separate charger for the batteries came with the camera, but you can
charge the batteries in camera. I decided to try this, and left my own charger
at home. A decision I regretted after the first day. I had to juggle charging
all the USB powered electronic devices (phone, watch, camera) with just one USB
charger, and an external charger for the camera would have been very useful.
Mind you, had I thought about this a bit more I could also have taken with me
more USB chargers. I still think, though, that it is more useful to charge
batteries outside of the camera (which also allows you to keep the camera safe
on a tabletop, instead of dangling from a USB cable near a power outlet).
capabilities are ok. With 18.5 mm is not a focal length usually associated with
macro, and with reason. I’ve used the camera for several close-up photos of
mushrooms and leaves, and while the images are decent, it is difficult to get
great separation between the subject and the background. Focusing can be
acchieved as close as 10 cm away from the lens, but unfortunately Fuji haven’t
given the camera a macro button/focus limiter. You just have to find the
closest distance that works.
Image quality While it was a joy to use during the weekend, the results on my computer were a bit disappointing. Maybe I’m just pixel peeping and overly critical, but I would have expected more from this image sensor. The images were somewhat flat, and when zoomed in sometimes not very sharp. It goes to show that image quality is definitely not related to the sensor alone, but to the sensor and the lens combined. Maybe this lens is just not on par with what I’ve come to expect of Fujifilm. Sure, it is almost certain, beforehand, that the XF 18 mm f/2.0 lens, which I love, would give me better image quality, but that the difference would be this large I didn’t expect. As Fujifilm tried to jam as much quality in a very small camera and lens, it should perhaps not have been surprising that they had to compromise some.
Conclusion I had hoped that maybe I could take the Fujifilm X70, together with it’s wide-angle adapter, with me on our planned hike of the West Highland Way (8 days of hiking through the Scottish Highlands). It would have been ideal, considering its low weight and size. So the real question would be: do I still consider this camera good enough in image quality to take it on this trip? The answer, I’m afraid, is no. While this camera is very suitable for a weekend off with little hassle, seeing the images from the X70 before me on my computer screen convinces me that the image quality is not good enough to take with me on a journey from which I would like to take home stunning landscapes en great astrophotos. To do that, I will have to take with me more weight and choose for the X-T2, 12 mm samyang and 18-135 mm lens.
So, it is a bit of a mixed bag. A joy to use but a slight disappointment in image quality. Will I keep it? For the moment I’ll let it earn its place in my photographybag. It’s size, weight, and portablity make it an ideal camera to bring when you just want to do some casual photography or when you don’t want to bring a bag along. Image quality may be just a bit disappointing, but is good enough for these kind of occasions.
Last week my girlfriend and I travelled to the city of Umeå in northern Sweden. Because she is going to live there for a while, most of our baggage space was used for her stuff, but I did manage to cram some of my equipment into the Loka used as cabin luggage. My small insert was filled with my XT-1, the 16-55 2.8, and the 12, 18 and 35 mm primes. A small table top tripod was hidden somewhere in the bag. As it happened, I could have left the primes at home, as I didn’t touch them during our stay.
Photographically speaking, my intentions were kind of vague. I wanted to enjoy the weekend together and not focus on my camera the whole time. I also wanted, if I got the chance, to test the 16-55 a bit in terms of quality, versatility and handling. And I wanted to come back with a few keepers. Turns out I did all that.
My original intention was to bring a full sized tripod in our main luggage, but since both our packs were already close to their maximum weight, we decided to leave it at home at the last minute. Imagine my feelings when on Sunday evening we found out (after consulting several apps and a local facebook group) that it was the perfect moment to try and see the northern lights. After waiting until it was completely dark we walked a short distance to the nearby lake (Nydalasjön), where we imaged the best view would be. And boy were we rewarded.
I had been in northern Sweden before, but cloud cover spoiled every chance of seeing the Aurora on that occasion. This time we hadn’t really prepared, but were just lucky. From the frozen lake we had a beautiful view of the northern sky and from the moment we were there to the moment we left (some 90 minutes later), we were mesmerized by the array of colours displayed. I thanked my impulse to bring the table top tripod with me and managed some decent shots. It was a beautiful night.
Apart from some nice ice sculptures caused by melting, I didn’t really use the camera much the next days, until during my flight home (sadly having to leave my girlfriend in Umeå) I had an eight hour stopover in Stockholm. Here I could focus on photography, but the keepers were elusive until I reached the royal palace in the Gamla Stan. Pools of water had formed in front of the palace’s façade and it was a nice photographic puzzle to combine the reflection of the palace with the guards in front of it. I ended up with a few keepers. This was also the first time I used the Fuji profile ‘classic chrome’ extensively, and I enjoyed the results.
So, how fared the 16-55? Well, the image quality was superb. There is not much to say about it, other than that, since I used it at smaller apertures most of the time, the 18-135 and 18-55 probably could have made similar images. I did enjoy the wider view of 16 mm though, and this was definitely a pro. One of the main reasons I chose the 16-55 instead of the 18-55 (which is, let’s be honest, a lot more portable) is the weather sealing. This could be a huge bonus in the cold and wet north of Sweden, but on this occasion I didn’t really need it.
I used the 16-55 with the large XT-1 grip, so the whole package was rather hefty. I didn’t feel much of a difference with the 18-135 though (although if you weigh the two options, you’ll probably find a few hundred grams difference), and it never became a problem or even a bother. If you really want to travel light, the 18-55 would be a better option, but the relatively slow aperture at tele and the maximum wide angle of 18 mm would be a drawback. If I can find a relatively cheap 18-55 I may decide to add it to my lens collection, since the light weight and compact form make it the ideal travel lens when little space is available (for instance my trip to Rome in june).
Did I miss the 18-135? (I had to sell that lens to finance the 16-55). There were a few times I missed a bit of reach (while photographing wild reindeer in the fields north of Umeå the 135 mm would have come in handy), but all in all: no. The image quality and the 16 mm wide angle (which I found I used more than extreme tele) were to me enough to warrant the switch.
So, a nice stay in northern Sweden, some nice keepers for the collection, mixed with the sad feeling of missing my girlfriend for some time. And the northern lights as a bonus!
Although I have owned the Fujinon XF 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 ‘superzoom’ for almost a year now, in my mind it never really found its place in my camerabag. While I have used it frequently for my watersports photography, I usually left it at home when I went out for fun or for other – non water related – assignments.
Recently however, it has begun to grow on me a bit. In the past I have stated often that I would rather take my three small primes on holiday than the one big heavy (relatively speaking, that is) superzoom. And the three small primes (18, 35 and 60 mm) were a perfect combination during our trip to Sicily last year. This year, however, our annual holiday was to Curacao, a much more humid climate than Italy. As a result, I somewhat dreaded changing lenses and the 18-135 mm stayed on my XT-1 for most of the time to protect the sensor that is otherwise exposed during lens changes. In addition, the weather sealing of the 18-135 was extra protection.
How did this turn out? Well, to be honest, quite well! While the images of this lens are not as sharp or clean as those obtained from my primes, for most subjects (non-moving, landscapes, portraits, etc.) the image quality was quite acceptable. Having gotten used to the large apertures of the primes (the 60 mm is ‘slow’ at f/2.4), where the 18-135 has to make do with f/3.5-5.6, I had to get used to cranking up the ISO to get the shutter speeds that I desired. On the other hand, the more than excellent image stabilization made sure much longer shutter speeds could be used than would be the case with the primes.
In the evening, when light faded, I still had to grab my primes to get some decent shots, but on the whole, almost 80% of my shots were done with the 18-135 mm. Using this lens reduced the amount of camera gear I had to carry during the day (after two day’s I didn’t even take my primes with me out in the field any more), reducing the weight of, and space in, my camera bag. It also meant less time wasted changing lenses, which certainly came in handy during our exhaustive climb to the top of the Christoffelmountain.
Two other things to mention that I noticed are the excellent macro capabilities and the sometimes rather ugly bokeh of the lens. During our trips on Curacao we often stumbled upon dozens of lizards (and sometimes larger specimens like the Iguana). These sometimes posed for us and we could get quite close. At 135 mm the closest focus distance was less than a meter, which I would consider quite good for general photography. On the other hand, the bokeh obtained (greatest at 135 mm f/5.6) was (not unexpectedly) much less pleasing than I was used to with the primes. It is not a reason not to use this lens, but something to consider when using it.
Will it be on my camera more than before?
Maybe. While the image quality may be good enough for holiday ‘snapshots’, for more serious photography that doesn’t require the weather sealing I’d still use the primes. It’s also quite a heavy beast, and much larger than for instance the 23 mm f/1.4 that is usually attached to my XT-1. It is a bit of a workhorse compared to the refined primes. For another holiday like this one, I might take only the 18-135 and the 23 mm f/1.4 and leave the rest at home (but then again, I might lug it all with me again).
Al lange tijd stond het op mijn fotografie actielijst om een keer wat dieper in te gaan op het gebruik van filters, en met name de uitgebreide filtersystemen zoals Lee en Cokin. Deze systemen gebruiken vierkante filters in filterhouders in plaats van ronde filters die je voor je lens schroeft.
Het voordeel van zo’n filterhouder is dat je hem kunt gebruiken op al je lenzen. Het enige wat je hiervoor aan moet schaffen is een adapter voor elke lensdiameter in je arsenaal. Daarnaast kan een filterhouder meerdere filters tegelijk bevatten, zoals bijvoorbeeld een grijsfilter, een grijsverloopfilter en een polarisatiefilter, wat mooie effecten kan geven wanneer je ze combineert. Ronde filters zijn hierin beperkter, omdat het stapelen van dit soort filters al snel kan resulteren in vignettering.
Koning van de filterwereld is qua kwaliteit waarschijnlijk het merk Lee. Qua prijs helaas ook. Voor een instapsetje betaal je al gauw zo’n 200 euro. Daarnaast zijn er goedkopere systemen zoals Cokin, waar je voor een filterhouder en een aantal filters ongeveer 50 euro betaalt. Verder vond ik wat websites waar voor nog minder geld filters aangeboden werden (we spreken dan over zo’n 7,50 voor een grijsverloopfilter). Wat de kwaliteitsverschillen dan zijn, dat weet ik niet. Ik vermoed dat een groot verschil zal zitten in de term ‘Neutral’ van Neutral Density filter (grijsfilter). Hoe donkerder een grijsfilter, hoe moeilijker het is om zo’n filter daadwerkelijk neutraal te houden en geen kleurzweem te genereren.
Sinds een paar dagen heb ik een aantal onderdelen van Cokin in huis. De filterhouder, een filterkap (een soort lenskap voor over de filters, een 52 mm adapter, een circulair polarisatiefilter wat in de houder past, en een drietal ND filters (ND2, 4 en 8).
Na wat snelle experimenten is mij opgevallen dat de ND filters van Cokin in ieder geval níet ‘neutraal’ zijn, maar een duidelijke kleurzweem hebben. Jammer, maar gelukkig is dit redelijk makkelijk te corrigeren met behulp van een grijskaart (of in mijn geval een A4’tje uit de printer).
Hieronder wat resultaten. Alle foto’s zijn genomen met mijn 18 mm lens, op ISO 200 en f/16:
Hoewel het teleurstellend is dat de Cokin filters niet kleurneutraal zijn zoals de naam wel aangeeft, maar gelukkig doen ze hun werk wel. Het is wel zaak om altijd een grijskaart bij te hebben om de witbalans handmatig aan te kunnen passen!
Sinds kort ben ik in het bezit van een drietal ‘soft shutter releases’. Dit zijn kleine knopjes die je op de ouderwetse ontspanknop van je camera kunt plaatsen als deze een schroefdraad heeft.
De theorie achter deze knopjes is dat ze het indrukken van de ontspanknop subtieler maken, waardoor met langere sluitertijden nog scherpe foto’s gemaakt kunnen worden. Of dit ook nog werkt bij moderne – niet mechanische – ontspanknoppen is nog ter discussie. Door in plaats van je vingertop je tweede vingerkootje te gebruiken voor het indrukken van de sluiter schijn je het in ieder geval te verminderen.
Ik ga het binnenkort testen, want ik heb er nu drie. De resultaten volgen.