Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pic(k) of the week 5: PETRONAS TOWERS - Kuala Lumpur, Malyasia

When I was last in Kuala Lumpur, about 10 years ago, the Petronas Towers were the highest skyscrapers in the world! With its 452 meter (1482ft) they have since 2010 been surpassed by the 829m (2722ft) Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE. 

Earlier this month, I was test shooting the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera in the capital of Malaysia and shot a few images of this amazing structure well after dark. Some of you might know that I'm a fan of Black and White Architectural work; something that works particularly well with the Petronas Towers! 

The image, which is a SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) jpeg, was shot handheld with the XF 16mm f.4 R WR lens at a ISO of 3200. To me the image is 100% free of any noise, while keeping its sharpness throughout the frame. 


Image details:
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with the XF 16mm f1.2 R WR
ISO 3200, f6.4, 1/25s, f6.4
SOOC, using the new Acros + Red filter Film Simulation

Overall, I'm really impressed with the just released X-Pro2 camera body. 
My first look review can be found in two parts: part 1 and part 2.

Presently in San Francisco, I'm testing another new camera; the mini X-100T, called X-70 featuring a 18mm fixed lens. Expect a "in the field review" next week! 

BJORN


Monday, January 25, 2016

BIG IN JAPAN - FUJIKINA, 5 years of Fujifilm X-series

As an official X-photographer for Fujifilm, I was lucky enough to be invited by Fujifilm Middle East, for the 5th anniversary of X-series camera series earlier this month. Once again, a big thank you guys!

First of all, for the ones that have missed my reviews of the latest photo-gear, released on January 15th 2016, please click on the links below:
While the main Fujifilm event (Fujikina) was held on January 15, we arrived with a team of 10 people (3 X-photographers) in Tokyo a few days earlier, on a direct flight from Dubai. Catching up in person with some of the other X-photographers, was one of my personal highlights of the trip! Needless to say, I feel honoured to be part of the same X-Photographer community as guys like; Zack Arias, David Hobby, Bert Stephani, Patrick laRoque, to name just a few!

Beside meeting so many other interesting people, I also really enjoyed shooting the streets of Tokyo. I have been several times to other cities in Japan, but this was my very first visit to the capital Tokyo. Oh boy, what a great place for street photography, especially in the beautiful winter light!

Below is a selection of some of the work I shot over the 4 days there;











For the ones that couldn't make it to Tokyo for the 5th anniversary of the X-series cameras, I invite you to check out the Fujifilm blog to see what FUJIKINA was about. The blogpost includes a link to a +1hr 30' video of the main presentation on January 15th.


A few months before the event, all X-photographers were asked to submit an image that would be published in the 2016 X-photographer book. I was honoured to see that my image had been selected as one of 100 images printed in large format and displayed in the Fujifilm Square gallery in downtown Tokyo!

For the ones in Tokyo over the coming weeks, the exhibition will be open till February 18, 2016. Click here for more details.

The full story of how the image, "Bridge to Luxury" was made can be found here.

Below is a group-shot of all my Fujifilm Middle East travel-mates, before our flight back to Dubai; one X-photographer is missing in the shot, as he decided to stay in Japan for a bit longer.


Lastly, as I'm back home in Dubai now, a quick plug for an upcoming great Photography event! Early February is what I personally find is the "Best Photography event in the GCC region, and possibly far beyond". If you are not familiar with Gulf Photo Plus (GPP), make sure you check out their week of amazing workshops in Dubai from FEB 5th till 11th. For more on GPP 2016, click here.

More of my Tokyo images can be found here.

PS: All images have been shot with the X-T10 and X-T1 cameras, with a variety of XF lenses.





Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pic(k) of the week 4 : A N G R Y B I R D S - Fujifilm X-PRO2

The last few weeks, I've been very busy with preparing camera and lens reviews for all of the new FUJIFILM gear that was announced on January 15th, 2016 in Tokyo. I actually was lucky enough to be to be invited as an official X-photographer for the 5 year X-series celebration in Tokyo, Japan, something I'll blog about in a separate blogpost in the coming week(s).

As part of the test shooting I did for the X-Pro2 camera body review,  (check out part 1 and part 2), I spend some time at Dubai Creek to test the autofocus and burst rate of this amazing new camera! On the Burj Dubai side off the Creek, there is an interesting place where people regularly feed the hundreds of seagulls that can be found there. 

Below are three images of the scene, bundled in a triptych. I was especially attracted to the expressions in some of the birds faces, as they come in trying to catch that piece of bread of other food; "angry birds" in action! In the image on the right, one can see a bird just about to catch his piece of lunch.

For the best viewing experience, make sure you click on the image for a full screen view.


Shooting these images was done using the Zone autofocus setting in Continuous Low (CL) mode. The keeper rate turned out to be high, which is a vast improvement compared to the older X-series cameras.

Image details:
Fujifilm X-PRO2 with the XF 18-55 Fujinon lens
ISO 640 to 1000, f4, 1/1250s, focal lengths between 50mm and 55mm  
Shot in JPEG mode, no external editing
Lightroom CC Print module to create the triptych


For the ones interested in more photo-gear reviews, please check out my review on the new Super Telephoto XF 100-400 Fujinon lens here!

Remember: "If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down".

BJORN


Friday, January 15, 2016

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-Pro2 camera review (part 2)

In part 2 of the brand-new Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera review we will have look at some sample images I shot during the few weeks I had the camera before its January 15, 2016 launch at Fujikina in Tokyo. 



If you haven't done so, please make sure, you have a look at part 1 of the review here.

SAMPLE IMAGES 
All of the images below, are in-camera jpegs, using a variety of Film Simulation modes with Noise reduction set at 0. Some of them have a +1 Shadow and /or Highlight setting. No post-processing noise reduction has been used. Click on the individual images for a full screen view.

ISO 500, 1/125s, f14, with XF 16mm lens

ISO 200, 1/125s, f11, with XF 16mm lens

ISO 400, 1/400s, f9, with XF 35mm f2 lens

ISO 400, 1/240s, f16, with XF 16mm lens

ISO 5000, 1/125s, f2.8, with XF 16mm lens (handheld)

ISO 200, 1/640s, f5.6 with XF 16mm lens

ISO 1000, 1/1000s, f6.4, with XF 35mm f2 lens

ISO 10000, 1/125s, f6,4, with XF 16mm lens (handheld)

ISO 4000, 1/125s, f6,4, with XF 16mm lens (handheld)

ISO 500, 1/125s, f11, with XF 16mm lens

ISO 200, 1/300s, f11, with XF 18-135mm lens

ISO 200, 1/400s, f11, with XF 18-135mm lens

ISO 200, 1/160s, f10, with XF 18-135mm lens (handheld)

ISO 400, 1/3000s, f6.4, with XF 18-55mm lens

ISO 400, 1/2200s, f3.6, with XF 18-55mm lens

ISO 200, 1/320s, f11, with XF 18-55mm lens

ISO 6400, 1/125s, f4, with XF 16mm lens (handheld)
ISO 3200, 1/25s, f6.4, with XF 16mm lens (handheld)
ISO 200, 5s, f6.4, with XF 18-55mm lens


CONCLUSION
As can be read in Part 1 of this series, there are very few negatives points I  could find about this brand-new camera...

Yes, I personally would have loved to see a tilt screen on the X-Pro2, but it appears some X-Pro1 users have strong opinions against tilt screens. 

Secondly I do prefer the EVF of the X-T1 as it is quite a bit brighter; I suspect that some technical challenges with a combined EVF/OVF and the lack of "prism" on a Rangefinder like camera, hinder the above. Besides, as it looks like the X-Pro2 viewfinder is fixed, adding an optional extended eye-cub will probably not be possible.



Otherwise I'm really impressed with the quality of the 24MP jpeg files and find the new button layout a great update! The fact that the camera is weather sealed and has double SD card slots, makes it ok to carry to "Pro" label!

Finally the question I often get after reviews like this one is: "Will you buy this piece of camera gear?" Well, as I'm left-eyed, the range-finder cameras with the viewfinder on the left, are somewhat less appealing for me as it pushes my nose against the LCD. After all the biggest advantage of Rangefinder cameras is that "normal" right-eyed photographers, can easily check what is going on outside the frame with the left eye, without lowering the camera. 

So for now, I'll probably be holding off and will initially wait to see if a rumoured X-T2 will be launched somewhere in 2016... 

Feel free to share this review on forums, social media, etc... 
No specific permission is needed as long as proper credit is given to Bjorn Moerman Photography.


BJORN




FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM X-Pro2 camera review (part 1)

Today, January 15 2016, I'm in Tokyo, Japan for the official 5th anniversary of the Fujifilm X-series cameras. Yes it has been 5 years since the X-100 was launched and what an exciting 5 years it has been! 

Fujifilm just announced a few new cameras and lenses of which the most notable ones are the interchangeable X-series camera body, X-Pro2 and the long awaited XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens, which is reviewed in a separate post. 





The successor of the X-Pro1 which was launched in January 2012, now 4 years ago, has been eagerly awaited and was rumoured to be coming out for a while. Well X-shooters, the waiting is finally over... 

It was the X-Pro1 which started my own X-series adventure in 2012, when I rented one from Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai! 




As an official X-photographer, I was asked to review a pre-production copy of the X-Pro2 end of 2015; thank you Fujifilm Middle East for the opportunity! Below, is my first look at that camera. 

Disclaimer: As the camera was not a production copy, the final result might be slightly different; if anything likely better rather than worse. 

At the time of publication, a camera manual was not available to me. Therefore some of the newer functionalities were not 100% clear to me; where this is the case, I will update in post-publication.

The firmware installed on my "sample" camera was 1.27; clearly a pre-production copy.

OVERALL LOOK - QUALITY - SIZE -WEIGHT
The overall feel of the X-Pro2 is very similar to its older brother; it still has the "rangefinder like" look and its weight is very close to its predecessor; 450g for X-Pro1 versus 495g for X-Pro2. Its size is almost identical; 1mm wider & higher, and just over 5mm deeper.

Especially from the front side, the visual differences are small; the most easy one to spot is the new front dial which very welcome!


The body is made of a light weight magnesium alloy and feels very solid. It is completely weather resistant (WR) i.e. dust and water sealed and is officially tested  from -10C to +40C with a humidity between 10 and 80%. I personally did take it out into a humidity of 89% in Kuala Lumpur and all was still working great!

It does not have the softer rubber panels as on the X-T1, but has kept the harder material which feels more durable; probably the same as used on the X-Pro1.

The grip feels better than on the X-Pro1; I personally do not see the need to buy the optional grip (MHG-XPRO2) if you are not shooting any of the long Fujinon glass such as the XF 50-150 and just released XF 100-400.


X-Pro 2 backside

BUTTON LAYOUT
The backside of the camera is completely redone; the main differences being the new lay-out of the buttons and the fact that the LCD screen has been moved to the left hand side. There are no buttons on the left, as they were almost impossible to get to when shooting single handed. This change in ergonomics makes it much easier to handle with a single hand.


X-Pro 1 backside


The buttons itself have a great feel; unlike the X-T1, the 4 way selector buttons are just perfect! Fujifilm please take note and use this setup if ever you plan on making an X-T2 ! ;-)

Also new to the X-Pro2, is a small "joystick" at the top right hand side of the LCD, which allows one to change focus points very easily. This is probably one of my favourite updates to the camera. One can also use the joystick to browse through the menus and images. Lastly, it can be pressed down as an OK button; so great functionality for a single small button.

Just below the hot-shoe one now finds a dedicated "photometry" button, which comes with 4 different options; the classics such as center weighted, spot and average; but also a brand-new "multi" setting. 



At first view the top looks very similar to its predecessor, however there are quite a few changes! First of all, the shutter speed dial is now integrated with an ISO dial which can be accessed by lifting and turning the main dial. Similar to how some older film cameras used to work. I can already see some people complaining about this setup, but after having used it for a few weeks, I personally like it. It looks like the programable Fn button on the top, can't be assigned to changing the ISO setting; the three Auto ISO menus can be set-up that way.

Still on the Fn button; it is defaulted to being the "video" button, however it can be changed to a wide range of items. Yes, it has video, not 4K video "yet" but if the rumour sites are correct Fujifilm will likely release 4K on the X-Pro2 in the future. As I'm not a video-man, this is pretty much all I'll mention about video here.

The exposure dial now has an extended range from +3 to -3 and includes a custom  setting (C) where one can extend the EV to +/-5. Not sure how useful the (C) setting will be.

Not really a dial, but while we are looking at the top; the hot-shoe connection has the larger middle contact which allows to power small flashes like the EF-X8 flash which came with the X-T1.


LCD SCREEN
Apparently the majority of the X-Pro1 users, did not want a tilt LCD screen for the X-Pro2 and that is what we have now... Initially I personally wasn't a big fan of the tilted screens as well, however after having used one on the X-T1 for more than a year now, I can't live without it anymore! Strangely having a tilt screen still has the stigma of being non-pro.

The screen itself is still your classic 3 inch LCD (non touchscreen) but at 1.62 million dots, it has the highest resolution of any X-series camera. When zooming in one can really see the improved resolution in the amount of detail. It "looks" however somewhat smaller than the X-T1 LCD, because it goes all the way to the edges while the X-T1 one has a black "unused" band around it.



VIEWFINDERS (OVF/EVF)
Yes, the X-Pro2 has kept its Optical Viewfinder (OVF)! It now also has an advanced hybrid viewfinder called the Electronic Rangefinder (ERF, such as on the X-100T), combining the best of both worlds. As expected using the new 35mm f2 lens (review here), the lens remained fully clear of the OVF unlike the 35mm f1.4 which partially obscures it. The OVF telephoto bright-frame, has been enlarged from a focal length of 60mm to 140mm for maximum flexibility.  

Just like I wasn't a fan of the "tilt" screen initially, I wasn't pro Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) neither... Today however, I barely use the OVF and I'm pretty much addicted to the EVF. 




The X-Pro2 EVF has a smaller magnification than the amazing viewfinder of the X-T1 (0.59x versus 0.77x both when using a 35mm lens). The difference is  noticeable when shooting one camera straight after the other; especially in bright situations. I'm guessing this might have something to do with the fact that the X-T1 "prism" can probably take a "larger" EVF than the Rangefinder like X-Pro2 viewfinder. But then again, we have the OVF for these bright situations, don't we?!

The EVF does have a faster refresh rate (85fps) than the X-T1 one (54fps). The full 85fps is however only available when the "High Performance" Power Management mode is used. Needless to say that the higher frame rate will probably eat more batteries... Luckily, one can also select Standard or even Economy to save even more power. 

For the ones without perfect eye-sight, a diopter (works for EVF and OVF) is installed with a small wheel left of the viewfinder; (-4 to +2). X-Pro1 users, no more need to buy those external screw on diopters!  

EXTERNAL DOORS (battery/SD card)
The battery compartment sits pretty much in the same position as on the X-Pro1 and uses the same  type of batteries as the X-Pro1, X-E1/2, X-T1. While we are looking to the bottom; the tripod socket sits nicely on the center of lens, rather than being offset like on the X-Pro1 and X-T1. 

The main difference is that the memory card slot has moved to the right side panel; great for easier accessibility. Even better is that the X-Pro2 now takes two SD cards; slot 1 and 2. The individual slots can be set-up to have slot 1 overflow into 2 when full (sequential), use slot 2 as a back-up or have the RAW go into slot 1 and jpegs into slot 2 when shooting RAW+jpeg. Well done Fujifilm! Only slot 1 is fully UHS-II compatible, nr 2 is a UHS-I slot.




The memory card door on the X-T1, which sits about in the same position, often is referred to as being a bit flimsy; the X-Pro2 one feels a bit more substantial and does not open as easily, which is a good thing! 

Looking at the left hand side to the terminal section, it has a HDMI micro (smaller than the mini HDMI of the X-T1), 2.5mm stereo mini connector and micro USB. Once again this door feels more sturdy than on the X-T1 as well. I'm therefore hopeful that it won't flex over time like on the X-T1. 

SENSOR / IMAGE QUALITY
Now that we looked at all of the external looks and functionalities, it is time to discuss the image quality; after all it is a camera, right!?




The X-Pro2 has a brand-new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. 

At the time of publication, RAW editing software was not available, so I all of my image quality testing was done with in-camera jpeg files. Once the RAW converter is available, I will revisit on this blog. 

Even though, I've never really felt left behind with the quality of the 16M X-Trans 2 files of my X-T1, it is often said that a 24MP sensor is the sweet spot of camera sensors. A unique random color filter delivers images with a perceived resolution far greater than the actual number of pixels used. On the launch day of the X-Pro2, several enormous prints with a width of more than 4m (>12ft) where shown to the participants; even when being looked at from a close distance, the amount of detail did immediately shut up any naysayers.  

As more pixel density often means more noise at higher ISO's, it was one of the first things I looked at when I received the X-Pro2. To put you guys (and girls!) out of your misery, it does definitively not disappoint! 

On my X-T1 I have absolute no concerns shooting at ISO 3200 and will bump it up to ISO 6400 if really needed; the same is probably through for X-Pro1 users. With the X-Pro2 this has now changed to, "no concerns to shoot up to ISO 8000 and I'll bump it up to ISO 12800 if needed". What is new as well, is that the "extended ISO" range images can now be shot in RAW format; before that function was limited to jpeg only. Because of the lack of RAW converter at the time of testing, I could however not check this functionality.

A few real life images to proof this can be found below; in-camera jpegs with Noise Reduction left at the default 0, shot handheld. No post-processing noise reduction used.


ISO 8000 f5.6 1/90s (XF16mm lens)

ISO 12800 f5.6 1/140s (XF16mm lens)

The image processor engine is also brand-new; "X-processor Pro" makes for a much faster (4x more speed) start-up time, write speed and high-speed continuous shooting speeds. Using a fast SD card, I was able to shoot significantly more images before the buffer filled up. Overal the camera feels where snappy when it comes to shooting bursts of images.

One of the reasons I left Nikon (see post Bye Bye Nikon, Hello Fujifilm), was the fact that I found the files of my 36MP Nikon D800 too large. When I heard about the higher pixel count on the X-Pro2, I wanted to see how the files sizes compared to my X-Trans 2 files of the X-T1! A great addition are the "14 bit lossless compressed RAW files" the X-Pro2 offers. I haven't developed any of these files as there were no RAW converters available before the camera was launched, but here is how some average files sizes compare:

X-T1 16MP files (X-trans II)
  • Fine jpeg 6-8MB
  • RAW average 33MB
X-Pro2 24MP files (X-trans III)
  • Fine jpeg 11-14MB
  • RAW lossless compressed 25MB
  • RAW uncompressed 50MB
So it looks like the lossless compressed RAW files will probably be my new future image size. As I'm normally converting to DNG, they might even be reduced a bit more!

In part 2 of this review, I will show a selection of images that shows the great image quality of this camera.

AUTOFOCUS
The X-Pro2 has a staggering 273 auto-focus points, with the option for dialling it down to 77 points. The autofocus is fast and is a great improvement from the X-Pro1 even with the latest firmware updates. Approximately 40% of the imaging area is now covered by the fast and precise phase detection AF pixels; something that improves autofocus speeds of moving objects dramatically. Especially when shooting action it feels somewhat faster than on the X-T1, but that is always very hard to quantify.

Beside it has all of the Face and eye detection which has been available on the newer X-series cameras for a while. Lastly all of the autofocus functionality (zone and wide tracking) that was released with the X-T1 4.0 firmware update is now available in the X-Pro2; and yes it works as good if not better than on the X-T1.

OTHER NEW STUFF
One of my top requests for the last 2 years has been an extended bracketing mode. All Fujifilm X-series cameras have a maximum -1/+1EV automatic bracketing; until today! The X-Pro2 now has a -2 to +2 EV bracketing. Eureka! Can they do better? Of course they can; rather than having the present +/- 1 1/3 and 1 2/3 which nobody will use, make it a full +/- 1, 2 and 3 stops Fujifilm. But then again, camera reviewers are never happy, are they!  




The fastest Manual Shutter speed (MS) has gone up from 1/4000s to 1/8000s; great for the ones that are frequently shooting wide open during bright daylight! 

Talking about the shutter, it creates a different shutter sound than on the X-Pro1 (and X-T1 for that matter); I'm not talking about the artificial shutter sound which can be turned off, but the actual shutter itself. I know it is hard to explain what one can like about a click of a shutter, but more experienced photographers will understand!

On the subject of bracketing, a new "Dynamic range" bracketing is now available. Obviously this only works in jpeg as it uses different DR settings. 

Flash users will love this one; flash sync speed has gone up from a low 1/180s to the "normal" 1/250s most other camera systems have. 

On one of the display options (the one with all the exif data, that does not show  the image), the battery power shows a percentage. Unfortunately this is not available in the other display modes.




The Menu setup has changed for the better! There are no more camera 1,2,3,4,5 etc... menus, etc... I'm probably not the only one who could never remember which is one is which; we now have several different tabs such as: IQ (image quality), AF/MF, Camera, Flash, Video, Set up and a new My settings. Some of them have up to 3 pages (IQ) while others are limited to a single page. I got used to the new system very quickly and now find the X-T1/X-100series menus cumbersome!

The new "My settings" can be customised in the settings menu; once done the My settings tab, will be the first one to open, each time the Menu button is pressed. This way up to 16 items can be combined with another 16 different customisable menu items of the Q button; great personalisation.

When the X-100 was launched the Film simulation modes have often been praised! Over the years, new films have become available such as the great Classic Chrome. With the launch of the X-Pro2, another new one is available being, "Acros". This new black and white simulation mode, gives even richer details and sharpness. It is available in Standard or with a Yellow, Red or Green filter. I might replace my present Monochrome + Yellow filter for my Black and White shooting!

Another new setting for jpeg only shooters is the "Grain Effect"; it adds, guess what, grain and has a OFF, WEAK and STRONG setting. Below is a quick example; click on the image for full screen view.


Grain  effect OFF

Grain  effect WEAK

Grain  effect STRONG

The X-Pro2 is also Wifi enabled; it looks to be the exact same as the X-T1 and some of the newer X-series cameras. I could not test its full functionality because the Fujifilm Remote Camera app had not yet been updated to be fully compatible with the X-Pro2.

Post-publication: On launch date (15JAN 2016), Fujifilm has updated the Cam Remote app to a 2.0 version. Make sure you update to the latest version for full compatibility.

In Part 2 of the series, you will find some image samples as well as my final conclusions on this first look review! 

Feel free to share this review on forums, social media, etc... No specific permission is needed as long as credit is given to Bjorn Moerman Photography.


BJORN