Fujinon 16mm 1.4

 

This lens was somewhat of a surprise to me. Generally, I avoid wide angles like I avoid aubergine. However, I really grew to like the lens, which turned out to not be like aubergine at all. Unlike the 14mm, which I just could not get to like, this was different. 

Aperture ring moves with the nice, elegant clicks we've gotten used to on the 56mm, and have the manual focus quick pull-back, like on the 14mm and 23mm.

It feels a bit bigger than the 23mm in hand, and is not shy in length next to the 56mm, with a ring size of 67mm.  Being weather sealed, that's no surprise.

I have always wondered why you would use f/1.4 in a wide angle, as for me this is more of a landscape lens and you would normally shoot f/8 and above. But only having been able to use it for ±4 days, which is only really a few hours of shoot time between normal day to day stuff,  I had to get creative and getting close to the subject is not a problem.

I could not find the focus distance limit, so yeah, the f/1.4 is great. (Yes, I know it's not a 'true f/1.4', but who cares, it looks good.)

Getting very close 

Getting very close 

I'm not sure what else to say about the lens. Keeping in mind that I am no expert when it comes to wide angles, I can't fault the lens.  If you've  been waiting on the edge of your seat for this lens, I doubt you'll be disappointed. I wish I could have gotten out to try some landscapes, but sadly I wasn't able to fit that in to an already packed weekend. You'll also notice that 99% of the images are shot in f/1.4, that depth of field is just so nice!

All in all, this lens is great for your collection of prime lenses. I had loads of fun with it.

 


Gallery below of the images I was able to get in the limited time 

The X100T

About two weeks ago, I received a sample copy of the X100T from Fujifilm South Africa. In this time, I have truly enjoyed the updates they have added to the camera.

I will not be going into too much of a technical review, but will mostly just talk about the changes I came across in the features and functions that I use.

At first glance, it looks much the same as the previous models. One can only notice the changes when you look at the back of the camera; with button placements that's been moved and improved. I am sure these changes have come from a lot of feedback that Fujifilm has received by its users and X-Photographers.

I can not fault the placements of the buttons, although it took a little getting used to, since I'm used to my X100S. The directional buttons are one of my favourite changes, we saw the similar change on the X30.

Much like the X-T1, the directional buttons are function buttons. So they can either be defined to your liking from the predefined list, or as focus point adjustments. As the latter, you just hit any direction and it starts moving your focus point around. This is how I have and like it.

My Fn-button near the shutter button, is set to ISO. While the new Fn-button that is under the Trash button, I've set to ND filter. The Wifi function button I left as is. I welcomed the additional function buttons with open arms. It allows you to customise the camera even more to your liking. 

The side panel has the added mic input. I did not test this, but I've heard one can now charge the camera via the USB. This makes it handy to use and keep powered.
 

I'm certain you've already seen or heard that the EV-dial now allows compensation from +3 to -3. 

Power-up did not appear to be any faster. However, the overall operation of the camera is a lot more snappy. 

The LCD has grown a bit in size, and the font is now small and crisp like the X-T1, with more info that's been added to the info screen. 

Wifi is great, works just like that of the X-T1 and is a really welcome addition to the X100. I found I used this far more than on the X-T1, due to how I use the X100 as an everyday carry-around camera.

If there is one thing that completely sold me on this model, it has to be the viewfinder. I wear glasses and have found the viewfinder of the X-T1, and now the X100T, really great. I have found that with glasses, there are always small blind spots around the edges of the older models. With the bigger viewfinder and smaller font in OVF, there is less clutter in the way of framing and that really helps me. Also, with the EVF, the information jumps to portrait-mode with you when you turn your camera, which is also great. Again, much like the X-T1.

The switch between the OVF and EVF is much faster and feels just right. With the add-on of the third view, which is OVF with a small EVF in the corner. At first I thought this was something I would not use, but over time I found it very useful. 

The electronic shutter...now this is really great. Here in the African sun, we've been itching for something like this. Allowing us to shoot wide open (f/2.0) in bright mid-day light. I set mine to MS+ES, which is mechanical shutter till 1/4000 and then it goes into the electronic shutter at anything higher than that. I can’t say I could fault any of the images shot higher than 1/4000. When the shutter is in ES, you can't even hear that a photo was taken. The X100 was quiet already, now it's deadly silent

The images below are just examples of the capabilities of the electronic shutter at midday, when the sun is at its brightest and worst here in South Africa.

The new electronic shutter, combined with the built-in ND-filter will make this camera get even more love than its older brothers. The only drawback I discovered was that you could not enable the flash in any modes, unless you put it back to MS mode only. This could be a limitation of the current sample firmware though, so don’t hold me to it. 

The auto focus is definitely better and faster than the X100S. 
The last thing I found, was that the aperture ring is not limited to f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, etc. But you now have all the increments in between.  f/2.0 f/2.2 f/2.5 f/2.8 f/3.2 etc.

In the end, the things that I really loved was the improvements to the viewfinder and the addition of the wifi. The X100 has been my favoured and most loved camera of the X-series, not just because of its look, but because of the size and what I am able to do with it The tweeks and changes done really make this camera complete in my eyes. 

Now, I know that there is a lot more to the camera, but I won't bore you to death with every little detail. Here is the thing: if you've never owned one and are looking at getting one...just get it! If you own DSLR gear, get it! It is a great compliment to any gear, and is that camera you always wanted, because it allows you to drag it along to every family, friend and social event.

Would I upgrade? Yes, in heart beat! Do I have and need to upgrade? Probably not.


Electronic Shutter X-T1 Graphite Silver

I have just received a sample of the X-T1 Graphite Silver from Fujifilm South Africa, and want to give a quick shout about the electronic shutter feature.

I am very excited about this, as Africa has a lot of harsh sunlight to deal with and this feature will come in very handy. You set the electronic shutter to kick in after 1/4000, and you can hear the “fake” shutter sound go, much like the X100/S has.

X-T1 Silver 56mm | ISO 200 f/1.2 1/14000

X-T1 Silver 56mm | ISO 200 f/1.2 1/14000

X-T1 Silver 56mm | ISO 200 f/1.2 1/7000

X-T1 Silver 56mm | ISO 200 f/1.2 1/7000



Small review of the X30

I was given the X30 to try out, but as I have hardly used the X20 and never owned one, it is hard for me to do a full comparison.  I did manage to get my hands on an X20 during this review. It will be a very quick compression and a not very scientific testing.

At the time of writing and reviewing, I had no technical information on the camera.

Here is the X30

The body and layout 
When I took the camera out of the box, my first impression was that it was bigger. When I gave it a good look-over, it struck me as a bit more modern-looking over the retro look we have come to know (and which I love) from Fujifilm. The edges seem to be more square, the corners are sharper and don't bend as subtly as they did on the X20, while the lens looks the same to me.

The on-and-off switch is still the same; built into the lens. They have added a function ring around the lens that can be defined to things like aperture, ISO, white balance, film simulation and continuous but can differ depending on the mode you're in. I set it to aperture and kind of like the cool fake clicking noise when I am changing my f-stop.

It also felt like it was a bit heaver, but not by much. 

The size increase has also allowed them to put a bigger battery in. It is now the same as the X100 battery (NP95), so in theory you should get more shots out of the charge. However, there is the EVF, Wi-Fi and bigger LCD to be powered. The battery and SD-card are both in the same place as before, while the tripod mount is still to the left of the centre of the camera. 

Overall the camera feels strong and solid. The only plastic I could feel and see, was the new function ring. . 

Button layouts
Few buttons have been moved and added. You'll be happy to know that the Wi-Fi is there, and this can also be set as the Fn button. Unfortunately, I could not test the Wi-Fi just yet, as the app had not yet been released to the Appstore.

What I did find and liked a lot, was how they implemented some toggles, e.g. when you hit the macro button, it toggles between off, macro and super-macro.

View-button and drive-button has been added to the top of the LCD. There are no more buttons on the left of the LCD, allowing for more screen space.

There is the record movie button added next to the shutter release and EV now has been increased to -3/+3.
The toggle switch for AF-type is still on the front left, but has moved a bit to the bottom and is a bit smaller. 

Portrait views

Portrait views

LCD and EVF  
The tilt screen is much the same as we've seen on the X-A/M/T. The resolution of the screen you can see straight away is better. The text on the screen is small, sharp and crisp.

When I put my eye to the EVF, the first thing I could see was that it is very similar to the X-T1. Big and bright with small, sharp text on the edges, not obscuring the view at all. 

I was also impressed when I turned the camera for portrait photos. The EVF rotated, again the same as the X-T1. The refresh rate looked good, but I did notice a bit of a drop in low light. The EVF also has the adjustable diopter for your eyes.

 


Performance has improved in the menus and is a lot better than the X20 and the AF is way better. It focuses much faster, even in low light. Again, this is all on gut feel, but it felt pretty much on par with the X-A/M1. 

 

I see they have added a new film simulation called 'Classic Chrome’, here is a sample of the simulation compared to the Provia and Astia:

Provia

Provia

Classic Chrome

Classic Chrome

Astia

Astia

What else I noticed 

They also allow you 7 custom presets for your menu, which I really missed when I used the X20. Focus peeking is there and one can define the colours. The sensor or the way it reproduces the jpeg at least is definitely better. I can't tell you technical details, but you can see by these two shots of the X20 and X30 that there is a definite improvement on the noise sensitive side.

X20

X30

Interval Timer Shooting option is in the menu, so for the time laps shooters out there, I'm sure you'll be happy!

They added the ability to connect to the Instax printer in the last menu. They had 3 auto ISO settings you can define and select with the Fn ISO button.

Charging is with a USB cable into the camera, there is no loose charger. One can easily buy the X100 charger, though. The side flap  has the mini HDI, USB/Power and the mic input.

In closing, I’m not sure what it will cost and hopefully fits the pocket for its class of camera. I am sure there will be far more detailed reviews out there once the official release has happened. It was nice to see a lot of the new features coming from the X-T1, and a lot of tweaks that we see come out in new firmware and newer models. Overall the camera is fast, good AF and  improved  ISO performance. Overall a great package all round, and it will be a great travel and everyday camera.

The X-T1

It feels a bit like I am cheating on my much loved X-Pro1, but this camera is such a huge leap for Fujifilm. It has so much aesthetic value in its appearance and usability.  

DSC_7523.jpg

It looks just like a baby SLR with all the controls out of the golden era of photography. Following in the footsteps of all the other Fujifilm models, the X-T1 has the emotion and nostalgia, adding on the extra dial for ISO and the more modern switches right under the shutter speed and ISO dial. They have now added the Fujifilm text on the front of the camera, so it is made very clear that this is a Fujifilm camera.

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The camera certainly is beautiful, being weather-sealed and with the ability to add the optional battery pack.

The battery pack only allows for one extra battery, while the other lives in the body. I am guessing there will be some who will not like this. A nice touch is that the battery indicator displays the charge of each battery independently. The controls on the battery pack pretty much cover what I have seen on your current DSRL battery packs.

DSC_7534.jpg

When I hold the camera in my hand it absolutely has the right feel. It fits nicely, its weight feels right and the extra thumb and hand grip is perfect. The weight and size is very similar to the X-E2, but it is smaller than the X-Pro1. I also love that they decided to put the slot for the memory card on the side now, and not squashed into the bottom with the battery anymore. Hopefully this becomes the norm for all future models.

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DSC_7404.jpg

Most of the function buttons are placed in the perfect spot for me and I was able to customise it precisely to my needs. The focus assist has been moved to a dedicated button on the back, where in the past you used the back command control wheel to zoom in on your picture or for manual focus. Each directional button is also customisable. There is a love/hate relationship between me and the Fn-button on the front of the camera. I have set it up to quickly change my custom settings, however while this makes changing it easy, it is also very easy to bump, and I find it accidentally changes back to Custom 1 very easy.

The sub-dials right under the shutter dial allow you to quickly set the metering type, while under the ISO you have an array of options that used to be in the DRIVE menu: BKT, CH, CL, S, multiple exposures, advanced filters and pano.

The ISO dial is great, even though initially I wasn't sure I liked the lock that you have to press to move it. But as I got used to it, I found it was not too much of an annoyance anymore. They did add an ISO "L", which makes it 100. I have not tried this out yet, guessing it may come in handy when you need to go beyond the 1/4000 limit on the shutter. 

The EV-dial is the one thing I absolutely don't agree with or understand why they felt the need to make it so much bigger than any of the other models and requires two fingers to adjust. I personally think they should have used the one on the X100/s, to me that size and rigidness is perfect. 

Like the X-E2, there is a top Fn-button for Wifi, which can be defined, but has been moved to below the shutter button. 

The shutter button can not be controlled by cable release anymore, but there is a very cool remote control app available on Android or iOS, more on that later. Right next to it is the record-button for movies, but I've found this placement a little annoying, as it used to be the place of the well-used Fn-button for ISO, and there's been a few times I've actually put it in movie mode accidentally. The people that are into making movies, might find this placement useful. 

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DSC_7544.jpg
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The View Mode-button is back and sits on the right site of the prism, while on the other side is the adjustment dial for your eyesight.

The EVF...it's just beautiful. Filling the eye with a very wide view and it's nice and bright. I can compare it to my experience of upgrading to a retina screen on a Macbook, there is so much wow factor and it puts a smile on one's face. They also decided to move away from the rangefinder position on the left, that I personally loved. It is now more to the centre, like your traditional SRL. The frame rate is fast and I could not pick up any delay, even in low light it is smooth and clear. All the information you need is there and out of the way.

Lastly, the image quality is just breathtaking, and the AF is a huge, huge improvement, even over the X-E2, but I think they've still got a bit of a way to go before one can use this for shooting things like sport. It is not impossible though, as you can see by some of my MX and bicycle shots in the brochure of the X-T1 and advertising.

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There is a lot more I can talk about, but there are a lot of other detailed reviews out there. For now, I want to use my time with this camera and try the 2 lenses I have on review: the very much anticipated 56mm f/1.2 and 10-24mm f/4 and will cover more on the AF-performance accompanied by these lenses.

I would just like to thank Fujifilm South Africa for the opportunity to work with them, for the use of the X-T1, and for the placement of my photos in the brochure and promotional material for this camera. It is such a pleasure and huge honour to work with you.

Fuji X-E1 review

A couple of weeks ago, Fuji South Africa contacted me and asked if I, as a photographer would like to review their X-series cameras. I was really excited to look at it, as this was something I was ready to buy for myself.

Basic Technical Info  

  • 16 MP
  • APS-C “X-Trans CMOS (Crop Sensor)
  • FUJI-FILM X mount

For more technical info, you can browse all over the net, and here.

How I Feel About the Camera 

I am absolutely in love with it, the look and feel sold me the day I saw it online. Everything on the camera is cool; the dials, the metal, the retro look, even down to the aperture ring on the lens. I have never shot film or experienced that era of cameras, but it just felt authentic and there is a certain romance about it.

It has the old feel and is all metal, the lens feels expensive and is well-built . 

X-E1 with 18-55mm 

X-E1 with 18-55mm 

Coming from the bulky DSLR side, I like the size. It's nowhere close to being able to pocket, but it can be put in a small carry bag, like my wife's handbag. However, it can be deceiving and when you put it next to an entry-level DSLR, it is not that much different. I am not going to split hairs here over lens types when you compare the size.

What you need to look at more, is the benefits you get out of the camera. Like the low noise is great, and I can not say this more: the great image quality is just mind blowing!

D3100 vs X-E1

Wagon wheel in Parys

I was supplied with the standard 18-55m lens. Personally I perfer prime, fixed focus lenses, but I was very impressed with this “kit lens” when you compare it to the 18-55mm lenses of DSLR cameras. The advantage it has, is that at 18mm you can open it up all the way to f/2.8, great for depth of field and low light. Unfortunately not the greatest for faces, as they will distort a fair amount, which one can fix to a certain degree in post-edit.

With the sensor and the exclusion of the anti-aliasing filter, you can effortlessly get sharp images even at shutter speeds as low as 1/15. 

Shutter speed 1/9, no mirror to create vibration.

Shutter speed 1/9, no mirror to create vibration.

One of the things that would make me get a camera like this, beside the carry-around size, is the image quality you get out of it. It can firmly stand its ground next to a pro-DSLR any day. It is an every day camera, even with its quirks. It has Fuji's splendid film simulations, with some custom settings like highlights, shadows and colour. This results in very little to zero editing on a big percentage of my images. You can take the JPEG and post it as it is. As much as I love the editing process, I find there is a certain amount of gratification in taking the photo and getting it out straight away without the editing.

I ended up mostly shooting in RAW+JPEG mode, to better see what the camera did with the photos while using the film simulations, mostly jumping between Velvia, Astia and black-and-white with a yellow filter. 80% of the time, when the lighting and exposure was on my side, I kept the JPEG. 

The camera was usually set on aperture priority and I adjusted the exposure with the EV-button. It was much the same as a DSLR, but the difference was the sub-dials one finds on the DSLR-body. What was delightfully different, was the old-school aperture ring on the lens where you set your F-stop and set the shutter dial on the top to 'A' if you need shutter priory. To do the opposite, you set the aperture ring to 'A' and now adjust your shutter on the top dial. It's easy enough to just take both out of 'A' and you're in full manual. 

ISO was easy to adjust with the Fn button and you could set a static ISO or AUTO ISO, but sadly could not tie it to a minimum shutter speed like on the X100S.

The biggest issue floating around on the net is the controls for the AF control. To set the focus point, you need to use your left thumb to enable it, then your right thumb on the directing dials to move it. It is a tedious process and often make you miss the focus you were looking for. 

I've heard there is a firmware update coming out at the end of July that will allow you to assign this function to the Fn button on the top of the camera next to the shutter button.

The Q-button soon became my best friend, as it allowed me to quickly change the important settings like ISO and film simulation. But even better was that it had 7 pre-sets or custom settings that I had set up to allow me to jump around between some settings quickly. 

 

Menu under the Q button

Menu under the Q button

Controls

Flash 

Beside being able to mount an external flash, there is also a pop-up flash. I found I was able to mount a SB900 on the camera and it would trigger the flash with no problem. You do however have to set everything manually on the flash to control your light, there was no TTL option that I could find. I was also able to remote trigger the SB900 with the pop-up flash. 

Even though I found this handy, it is not one of my personal requirements for this type of camera. Besides, it surely does look very silly with the huge SB900 on it!  

Speed 

Here lies the biggest issues and most quirks of the camera. 

Auto-focus is not the fastest, but as firmwares come out it gets better. I was working with 1.06 coming from the speed of DSRL and you do notice it when you first start using the camera. Though, with my style of shooting it did not bother me too much. Where it became harder was single/solid colour and dark areas, but with the help of the AF-assist lamp it was better in the dark if my subject was close enough.

The speed when jumping from the back LCD to EVF can be annoying and slow to change with eye sensor. I found the best was to set it to EVF only and change to LCD only when I need to look at the menus. The way the screen and EVF works and switches can be customised. 

It sees in the dark, ISO 2000.

  
Green in winter.

Green in winter.

In the end, I really like this camera. I love the feel, the look and the retro controls. The issues with speed are being addressed with firmware updates, and I can live with the AF-button in the wrong place. The only thing that would hold me back is the Electronic Viewfinder. I would prefer the option of the Optical that comes with the Xpro-1, which comes at a higher cost and is also a bigger camera. Personally, I would also prefer the 35mm f/1.4 lens over the 18-55mm.

While writing this article, this news was released: "Focus peaking and one handed focus point change are coming to the XPro-1 and X-E1” here.

You can find more photos on my Flickr account  .

All this is a very much a personal opinion, there are a lot of pro's and amateurs that use this camera and they are happy with the way it performs and deals with these issues and quirks. It all boils down to what you want to do with the camera.

This is a camera for the amateur, the street photographer, the enthusiast, the photographer who wants a Leica but can’t afford one. It is just a different feel and style to a DSLR, but with all the quality when it comes to the image and build. I loved using it.

Neill 

X100s and X-E1

I have ordered my X100s from Fotofirst Fourways, and awaiting stock, I am hoping by this evening or tomorrow I will have it in time to compare it to the X-E1 I am currently reviewing for Fuji.

Why the X100s over the X-E1? If I could, I would have both. But there is some practical thinking here, I'll let you know in my review of the X-E1 soon. 

Power to the sun

Roof and light