Sunday, May 31, 2015

2015 WARBIRDS over ADDISON, TX USA

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2015 Warbirds over Addison show of the Cavanaugh Flight museum (CFM) just outside Dallas, Texas (USA). Being the most important collection of historic aircraft in the region, CFM is a non-profit  organisation which protects America's Aviation heritage. 

The yearly show which is held over a full weekend somewhere mid May, is not a full on airshow but more like an open-door of the museum. As most aircraft of the collection are airworthy, they try to fly a variety of them throughout the day. 

On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, low clouds and rain hindered the arrival of some of the visiting aircraft that were meant to fly in from the surrounding airports, but sunny spells in the afternoon still allowed for a fair bit of flying. 

To help pay for the maintenance and restoration, some of the museums aircraft are used to give passenger rides. The day I was there, this was the case with the following warbirds: 

Bell Helicopter OH-13 Sioux lifting
At the bottom of the price scale starting with the Bell OX-13 Sioux helicopter (150,-USD),

N2S-4 Kaydet / Stearman taxying out
the Boeing Stearman Kaydet (250,-USD),

O-2A, Skymaster waiting for its passengers
Cessna O-2A Skymaster (250,-USD), 

Douglas AD-5 Skyraider
AD-5 Skyraider (1500,-USD for front seat and 250,-USD for 4 back seats),

North American P-51D Mustang leaving on a ride
and finally the mighty P-51 Mustang for 1995,-USD!

P-40N starting up
Amongst other warbirds that were flying throughout the day were this P-40N Warhawk,


F4U Corsair taxying out

F4U-1D Corsair
and a duo of Corsair F4U's...

Me-109/Hispano Ha-112
Unfortunately aircraft like this under Spanish license (Hispano) built Messerschmitt Me-109, didn't take to the skies the day I was there....

de Havilland CV-2B Caribou

de Havilland CV-2B Caribou cockpit
Years ago I logged some right hand seat flight-time in a civilian version of the Caribou. Needless to say I was interested in bringing back some good old memories... The de Havilland CV-2B Caribou is a great short field transport aircraft which was used extensively in the Vietnam war.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 UT1
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21US
A collection of interesting non-flying Russian built Mig's was kept outside. Lets hope they will eventually be restored...

I'm always keen on aircraft museums that have part of their collection in an airworthy state. Examples, I previously visited are Fantasy of Flight in FL, USA, Planes of Fame in Chino, CA, USA and the Canadian Warplane museum in Hamilton, Canada.

Even though, I somehow expected the Warbirds of Addison show being more of a full on airshow, I was still very happy to attend! The 10,-USD entry fee definitively didn't break the bank!

Douglas A-26C Invader in the maintenance shop

Aviation photography wise I have a couple of interesting things lined up next July and August; first a visit to the bi-annual Paris airshow on July 18, possibly a three day visit to Airventure (Oshkosh) WI (USA) end of July and then hopefully a visit to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden,(UK)!

For all you photographers out there, all of the images above were shot with the brand-new Fujifilm X-T10 which I reviewed in a Part 1 and Part 2. Lenses use were both the 10-24 f4 and 50-140 f2.8 Fujinon lenses.

To check out more of my Aviation Photography please click here.

BJORN









Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 22: Grassroot Super Cub flying

Well for this week Pic(k) of the week, you get an image + a video; all for the same price!

Over the last 12 months, I've been occasionally blogging images of the 1954 Piper Super Cub vintage aircraft, I co-own in Belgium... For the ones that are not familiar with the type of aircraft, please check out last years Pic(k) of the week 34: The new flying toy.

End of last month, I had another rendez-vous with my yellow mistress and managed to do quite a bit of "grassroots" flying; back to basics flying if you want. Combining this with some photography, makes it even more interesting...

A project, I've been working for some time, is a short 4 min video, appropriately titled: "Grassroot Super Cub Flying". The video was shot with GoPro cameras and consists of footage shot during different flights. 

For the best viewing experience, click on the play symbol on the video frame below. Change the Auto setting for 1080pHD and select full screen for the best viewing experience. Alternatively, go to my Vimeo site here.



As an amateur video guy, I have developed a lot of respect for the ones editing movies/videos. If you think photo-editing can be long and cumbersome, try video! Editing this little 4 min video has taken me almost a full day of work.

I mounted the GoPro Hero 3 (Black edition) on the right wing strut using a secure RAM mount system, for one of the more interesting vantage points. 

The selfie image below was shot using the GoPro Hero 3 and an iPhone 6 for wireless triggering. While the still image quality of the GoPro is sometimes lacking, I do  like the result of this particular one. Giving it a 1950's film look in post processing, has made it even more interesting. I guess holding the iPhone in my hand gives away that it was shot in the 21st century...

1950's Grassroot Super Cub flying

Image details:
GoPro Hero 3 (Black edition) 12MB Wide mode
ISO 100, 2.77mm, f2.8, 1/800s
Lightroom CC for color and contrast optimisation
Nik Analog Efex 2 to give the film look + framing

Cruising along at a leisurely 75knots (130km/h) a few hundred feet above the landscape, with both window and door open; that is pure flying!

Remember: "To most people the sky is the limit, to those that fly the sky is home".

Fly safe and click that shutter!

BJORN






Friday, May 22, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 21: Desert moonrise, Dubai

Over the last 10 days, I've been very busy reviewing a new Fujifilm camera (X-T10, review here) and a brand-new Fujinon prime lens (XF 90mm f2, review here). 

With the Summer slowly kicking in through the Gulf region, it is time to do that last bit of outdoor photography before the increase in humidity starts making it unbearable!

The image below, shot in the Dubai desert, is inspired by Ansel Adams' probably most famous photograph: "Moonrise". 

When I discovered three trees in the desert West of Fossil Rock, (40' East of Dubai) I knew there was some potential to make a photograph...

The image was carefully planned, as I wanted to capture the moon rising in a small valley of the mountain range. PhotoPills; an amazing app for the iPhone (and iPad, but not native), played a big role in the planning stage of this image.

Moonrise over fossil rock, Dubai

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 lens
ISO 200, 54mm (81mm full frame equivalent), f11, 1/5s
RAW development in Iridient Developer 3
Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for Black and White conversion

Notice that the RAW conversion has been done in for me a new software; Iridient Developer 3. Just bought it a few days ago, in order to handle some of the more demanding RAW files. At times, processing Fujifilm RAF files with Lightroom or ACR, one looses some of the amazing sharpness of the X-Trans files, Iridient seems to be doing a better job so far. I'm not dumping Lightroom at all, just experimenting with new stuff for the best image quality!

I went back to the same place to do some more exciting night-photography a few days ago. Expect at least one of the images in an upcoming Pic(k) of the week...

Meanwhile, more of my "Nature of the UAE" images can be found here.

Remember: "Aim for the moon, if you miss, you may hit a star" - W Clement Stone


BJORN


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-T10 CAMERA review ( part 2 )

As promised, in Part 2 of the FUJIFILM X-T10 review, I'll have a more detailed look at the new Autofocus system, will give you my final conclusions about the new camera and will show you some sample images. In case you missed part 1 of the review, please make sure you check it out here.


AUTOFOCUS MODES 
With the X-T10, Fujifilm is revamping the complete Autofocus system, especially when it comes to shooting moving objects.

When I made my switch from NIKON to FUJIFILM about a year ago, one of the only things I wasn't entirely happy with, was the autofocus of moving subjects.  Over the last weekend, I took the camera to the Warbirds over Addison (Dallas, TX) event; the ultimate test to see how the camera would do for my Aviation Photography.

On my X-T1, I almost never use the Continuous AF (C mode) as the results are often unpredictable. The time has come where this is about to change...

Just like all other X-series cameras the X-T10 has three Focus modes; S (Single AF), C (Continuous AF) and M (Manual AF). 


Till here nothing new, but now Fujifilm has added the Focus Point selections. These come in three flavours: Single Point AF, Zone AF and Wide/Tracking. For access, they can be easily programmed on any of the Function buttons or through the Q menu. 



Single point AF is self-explanatory and is mainly used to pin-point focus on stationary subjects. An example image shot with the X-10 in single point is below:





The new Zone AF is using multiple focus points organized in groups of 5x3, 5x5 or 3x3. One can change between the three possible options by pushing the Fn 6 (lower of the 4 point buttons) and then scrolling with the front dial. The Focus point group can be moved around the frame as desired and makes focusing on moving objects a lot easier.

A few examples of moving subjects shot during a warbird airshow near Dallas, TX last weekend can be found below:



Last but not least, is the Wide/Tracking AF option; primarily used in C (Continuous) AF mode in order to keep tracking focus while half pressing the shutter button. Imagine a person, car or plane coming towards the camera while one shoots multiple shots of the subject all in focus.



Although using somewhat different names to what I'm used during my Nikon days, it feels very similar. I won't say it's perfect yet, but it is a good step in the right direction. I'm confident that Fujifilm will be further tweaking the new autofocus in upcoming firmware updates.

For all you visual learners out there, please check out a video provided by FUJIFILM here or the AF Handbook pdf here.

AUTOFOCUS SPEED
Single point AF divides the focus area into several smaller sections for better focus accuracy. The built in phase detection pixels now have a detection range of 0.5 EV instead of the 2.5 EV the X-T1 uses with the present firmware update.

A lot of technical talk to say that it leads to faster and more accurate focussing, especially in low light and low contrast conditions. I tested the auto-focus speed with a few lenses which typically hunt in low light auto-focus. Both with the XF56mm 1.2 and the 27mm 2.8, the X-T10 showed a considerable faster autofocus speed. Look at the exif date on the image below and you'll realise that  it was pretty dark out there...

(XF56mm f1.2) ISO3200 f1.2 1/20s

Just like the new focus modes, the improved autofocus speed will also come to the X-T1 through the new 4.0 firmware update end of June.

EYE DETECTION
Face detection is not new to Fujifilm cameras but eye detection where the focus is automatically placed on the eye(s) is unique to the new X-T10.

Under the "Eye Detection AF" in the Autofocus shooting menu, one can choose AUTO, where the camera selects the nearest eye or left or right eye priority. As long as nothing is obscuring the eye, the camera detects it fairly easily.

AUTO MACRO MODE
The new AF system features an AUTO Macro function that eliminates the need to to press a dedicated Macro button before shooting close-ups.



NEW IS MODES 
No, the X-T10 does not have built in IS (Image stabilisation), but under the Shooting Menu nr 5 there are now 4 possible options in the IS menu rather than 2. Beside the existing Continuous and Shooting only, there are now also "Continuous + Motion" and "Shooting + Motion". The latter two only work when AUTO ISO is selected and allows the shutter speed to increase (through an automatic higher ISO) when moving objects are detected. Tried it and yes it works!


CONCLUSION
As always my reviews are quite critical but I realise that no camera is perfect... However my overall experience with the X-T10 has been very positive!

Since the camera has a series of functions, none of the existing X-series cameras presently has, I could easily see myself recommending the camera with the amazing 18-55 kit-lens to any starting photographer.

Even after the 4.0 X-T1 firmware will be released end of June, the new X-T10 will offer about 90% of what the X-T1 has to offer for only two thirds of the price!

My complaint about the limited grip with the longer lenses, can be easily sorted by installing the optional MHG-XT10 grip. An X-T10 with a small lens like an 18, 27 or 35mm will make for a great street or travel photographer's camera, just like it is. I might even pick one up as a backup camera for my X-T1! If only Fujifilm would be sorting out the extended bracketing (presently limited to -1/1EV) if would be perfect...

The camera should be available around mid June for 799,-USD; for 899,-USD with the new XC 16-50 or for 1099,-USD with the excellent XF 18-55 lens!

SAMPLE IMAGES
All images are shot in-camera jpeg, mostly STD Film Simulation, with normal Sharpening, Noise reduction, Shadows and Highlights.


(XF 90mm f2) ISO f8 1/200s

 (XF 90mm f2) ISO200 f8 2s

 (XF 90mm f2) ISO 200 f5 1/750s

 (XF 90mm f2) ISO f3.6 1/1000s

 (XF27mm f2.8) ISO800 f8 1/200s

 (XF27mm f2.8) ISO800 f5.6 1/300s

(XF27mm f2.8) ISO800 f5.6 1/7000s

(XF27mm f2.8) ISO3200 f2.8 1/50s

(XF10-24mm f4) ISO1600 23mm f5.6 1/60s



 (XF10-24mm f4) ISO2000 10mm f8 1/100s

(XF10-24mm f4) ISO3200 15mm f5.6 1/60s

(XF50-140mm f2.8) ISO400 50mm f6.4 1/2900s

(XF50-140mm f2.8) ISO400 50mm f13 1/70s

(XF50-140mm f2.8) ISO400 140mm f14 1/90s

BJORN

Monday, May 18, 2015

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-T10 CAMERA review ( part 1 )

May 2015 has been a very exciting month for FUJIFILM photographers; first the announcement that the X-T1 will get a complete new firmware upgrade 4.0, and then came today's double announcement: the new 90mm f2 lens and a brand-new camera, the X-T10.


As an X-photographer, I was offered a pre-production copy of the new camera, a week ago by the guys of Fujifilm Middle East in Dubai. As always, I need to highlight that this camera is not necessarily the exact same as the final product, which in the UAE is expected to be available in about one month (June 18th). The X-T10 I used had a 1.30 firmware number, while all lenses had the latest firmware updates.


WHERE DOES THE X-T10 FIT IN?
Although Fujifilm have not said so, to me the X-T10 almost feels like a replacement for the X-E2 which was announced in October 2013. Their looks however are very different; a bit like two brothers with a different dad but the same mum! The clear difference being that the X-E2 (and X-E1) has a rangefinder look, while the X-T10 looks like an old style SLR. Time will tell, whether we will eventually see an X-E3...


X-T10 SIMILARITIES TO THE X-T1
As stated before, the X-T10 looks and feels like a scaled down mini version of the game changing X-T1, which made me leave Nikon for Fujfilm in July 2014. More at Bye Bye Nikon, Hello Fujifilm.

The camera has the exact same 16.7 million X-Trans CMOS II sensor as the X-T1 and X-E2. So image quality should be on par with these two cameras as long as the same lenses are used. This is completely in line with my observations during my weeklong use of the X-T10. Just like on the other two, I regularly shoot at ISO 1600 and did not think twice before bumping it up to ISO 3200 if needed. Sample images will be posted in part 2 of the review.

Batteries: One thing Fujfilm has been very consistent in, is the choice of their batteries. Cameras like the X-A1, X-M1, X-Pro1, X-E1, X-E2 and X-T1 all share the same NP-W126 battery. A big advantage for those of us that mix X-series cameras during shoots. Having said so, battery life is still not great. Even though the manual says "350 shots", practically I count on about 250 shots depending on the amount of "chimping" (looking at the LCD screen after the shot is made). For a typical full day shoot, I've been taking a minimum of three batteries with me and it looks like the same will be needed on the X-T10.

Just like the X-T1, the viewfinder is placed in the middle; unlike the "rangefinder like" cameras such as the X-Pro1 and X-E1/2 where one finds it on the left hand side. Being a "left-eye" person having it in the middle definitively works better for me

Bracketing: the number one request for myself and a lot of other photographers that regularly do exposure bracketing, is to have the option to shoot larger brackets; e.g. -2, 0 and -2EV rather than the maximum -1, 0, +1EV. Unfortunately this has been missed again! I stand to be corrected, but I really don't see how from a technical standpoint this is such a big challenge!

Using the Camera Remote app on an iPhone and iPad, the X-T10 has the same Wifi functionality as the latest Wifi enabled X-series cameras.



X-T10 DIFFERENCES COMPARED to X-T1
Unlike the X-T1, the new camera is not weather sealed, but still maintains a good overall solid feel. The owner's manual, limits its use to temperatures between 0C and 40C, while the X-T1 is -10C to 40C. Having said this, these are likely no hard limits as I've taken images well beyond both limits with the X-T1.    

Earlier rumour reports mentioned it being a plastic camera; the body is however clearly built of magnesium alloy like the X-T1 and weighs in at 380g compared to 440g for an X-T1.

The X-T10 will come both in a silver and a black finish. The silver version is not to be confused with the Silver Graphite which for the moment is only available on the X-T1 for a premium price.


It has the same size 3 inch "tilt" LCD screen of the X-T1, but its resolution is slightly less at 920K dots rather than the 1040K dots the X-T1 and X-100T have.  Although a small difference on paper, the difference in resolution is noticeable, especially for those of you with less than a 20/20 eye-sight trying to read some of the smaller characters on the LCD. Even though, I was initially quite sceptical about tilt screens, it is something I can't live without with anymore for any of my Street Photography cameras.


Button layout at the back is similar but not identical. The two main differences are the fact that the front Fn button is moved to the backside and that there is no more dedicated Focus Assist button. Checking the focus can however still be done by pressing on the rear command dial; similar to the X-E1/2. It is good to see that Fujfilm seems to be maintaining the same configuration for most of the buttons on their recent X-series cameras.
Unlike the ones on the X-T1, the four-way buttons on the back of the new camera feel perfect! Another sign how Fujifilm is listening to their customers.

More about buttons, the X-T10 has one more programable Fn (Function) button than the X-T1; 7 instead of 6 since the front dial can also be pressed and be used as an Fn button. Beside unlike its larger brother, the function of the video button can also be changed. 

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has the same 2360K dot resolution as the X-T1 but it has a smaller magnification; 0.39,-in. instead of the 0.5,in. of the X-T1. Practically speaking one still has a 100% view but since I've been using an extended eye-cub (EC-XT L) on my X-T1 for some time own, the difference is even more accentuated. 

On the pro side, the EVF has an AUTO EVF Brightness function just like the on the X-100T.

Just like the X-T1, the diopter adjustment for the ones with less than perfect eye-sight, goes from -4 to +2. Something the X-100T with its -2/+1 diopter is lacking. Like the X-T1 there is no optical viewfinder; something I can personally live without with.


The top of the X-T10 is a bit different as well... It does not have the double dials like the X-T1 has; no more ISO setting (left) and metering mode (right) dials. Rather than having to go into the Menu, the best option is to allocate a Q-menu button for quick and easy access. On the positive side, the AUTO ISO has now three different settings (AUTO ISO 1,2,3) which can all be programmed in one of the 7 Custom settings (C1 to C7).

The X-T10 has an Auto switch (on the shutter dial, top right), which gives access to some of the automatic scene modes such as landscape, night, sports, fireworks, sunset, snow, etc... Not something I personally would be using but useful for the layman photographer.

Improved Shutter Speed dial operation: like on the X-T1, one can select T (Time) mode on the shutter dial (top right) for long exposures and then change the shutter speed with the front command dial. Shutter speed could however only be changed between 2s and 30s. The X-T10 (and X-T1 with firmware 4.0) now allows to change the shutter speed in T mode over the whole range; 1/32000s to 30s. This is especially useful if shooting in M (Manual) or Shutter Priority mode.

Exposure compensation: there is a -3 to +3 exposure compensation dial on the top right, but like most of the dials/buttons it is significantly smaller than on the X-T1 and a bit harder to move without taking your eye of the viewfinder.  


The camera comes with a pop-up flash which is very well built in. Unfortunately the flash can not be pulled backwards to bounce of a ceiling like the one on the X-E1 and X-E2.

In order to save space, the memory card shares the same opening at the lower part with the battery. This is similar to the X-E line of cameras. Unlike the X-T1 it does not take any UHS-II SD cards. 

Autofocus: the biggest difference is obviously the new autofocus system on the X-T10. I have left it out on purpose and will address it in part 2 of this review; please refer to the last paragraph of this post for more info.

Image processing: When using the CH Focus mode, both the X-T1 and X-T10 shoot at 8 frames/sec by the book. The difference however is that the buffer on the X-T10 fills up much faster on the X-T10. The difference is much larger when shooting in RAW. 

A real-life test, shooting a 5 secs burst with the exact same manual settings  in jpeg format, on a 240MB/s (write speed) SD card delivered the following results:
  • X-T1: 43 images, end of writing 14s after start of burst
  • X-T10: 31 images, end of writing 9s after start of burst (shorter end of writing time because less images needed to be written)
On a slower 30MB/s SD card the difference in the number of images shot on the X-T10 goes down considerably.

To add to the complexity, the new X-T10 seems to use less compression when shooting jpegs; on average its files are about 25% larger than the exact same X-T1 jpeg files.

Post-edit:
*It seems the card I used, (Toshiba 16GB SD HCII Write speed 240MB/s) is not fully compatible with the X-T10. While it is useable, it is not able to use its full speed potential.



HOW DOES THE X-T10 HANDLE?
As the camera is smaller than the X-T1, my main concern was that it would be too small for the average male hands. After having used it for a week with a large variety of lenses, I do feel that especially with the heavier/longer lenses (50-140 comes to mind), the camera needs an optional grip; not a battery grip but rather the handgrip I have on my X-T1 (MHG-XT) since pretty much day one. Fujifilm seems to have covered this as the manual lists the new MHG-XT10 as an available accessory.


On the contrary when using smaller lenses like the 14mm, 18mm or 27mm pancake lens, the X-T10 feels well balanced. The combination with the 27mm will do pretty much all the X-100T does, plus some extras like having a tilt-screen and a better auto-focus system. As long as one can miss the optical viewfinder of course!

NEW AUTOFOCUS...
Last but not least, the new autofocus is clearly what makes the X-T10 stand out!  Today, its autofocus is a big step ahead and it is the best autofocus I've used on any X-series camera. End of June, X-T1 owners should be getting virtually the same functionality through the 4.0 firmware upgrade.

As with all new autofocus systems, there is a bit of a learning curve involved and I'm still discovering some new items as I write this. I'll therefore explain the new autofocus in more detail in Part 2 of this blogpost. 

As this post goes live, I'll be flying back to Dubai from Dallas, TX, where I will have attended a warbird aircraft show with the new X-T10 and the 50-140 f2.8 lens; a perfect test case for the new autofocus tracking!

Expect Part 2 with a more detailed explanation about the new autofocus system, sample images and overall conclusions, to be released on May 19 around 1300GMT.


Till then, 
Happy X-shooting,

BJORN