Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Fuji X-100S is Stylish but Powerful

1/280 sec F/8 @ ISO 800 using Motion Panorama swept vertically and 120 deg

FUJIFILM Holdings Corporation, Japan 

The camera industry is fast moving and brutal. Trends come and go, and if a company invests in the wrong trend or stays in one too long, you can see your company exiting the photo industry, or merging with a larger firm very quickly. That's what happened in the 60s-70's when the Japanese SLR industry overwhelmed the existing rangefinder industry. Many European brands went out of business, famous brands (like Contax) were bought out by newer unknown companies (Kyocera), and even Leica had to team up with Minolta to create a success SLR line-up (Leicaflex was an utter failure). The same thing happened again in the early 2000's with the digital revolution, with household names such as Kodak, Konica, Minolta and Polaroid going from something to nothing overnight. Other companies seem to adapt well to changes, investing in the right thing at the right time, often leading the industry with innovative design and/or technology. Enter Fujifilm.

Yes, the official name still has the word "film" in it, and yes Fuji still produces a wide range of really great films. Coming from the wholesale photofinishing industry, when I think of Fuji I think of their industry leading photo labs and photo paper, solid machines, solid paper. However, in the minds of most consumers, Fuji makes really cool looking digital cameras. What most might not know is that Fuji has a very long history of well designed and innovative cameras, including some very unique medium formats (the first autofocus compact rangefinder 645) and a full frame 35mm panorama cameras (re-labelled in N.America as a Hasselblad XPAN). 

What's trending right now in the photo industry? For the first time in history DSLRs are outselling point and shoots, completely changing the camera shelves at our local electronic retailers. How are companies adapting their R&D and sales focus amid this new retail landscape? Some have focused on the highest volume to survive (Canon has 56 DSLR kits selling at B&H), while others have ventured into new territory by creating new categories, such as  the mirror-less market, including micro 4/3, Sony's NEX system, and Fuji's X series. This new category of no more than 4-5 years old has exploded, and has lead to another new category: high-end, mirrorless point and shoots with large sensors. Welcome the Fuji X-100S. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Upcoming Review: The Fujifilm X-100S

1/500 sec f/5.6 @ ISO 800 and adjusted in Photoscape (DR, toning)

I've been working on my review of the X-100S the past few days and I've been comparing it in my mind with the other cameras I've recently tested. It's like when parents say they don't compare their kids with each other, we know its a lie. Yes, parents love their children equally, but they always have a favorite right? I happened to test the X-100S, Ricoh GR and the Leica X-Vario all at the same time, so each camera review is in relation to the other cameras I tested. Which did I like best? I like all three equally...ok, I'm lying! Of course I had a favorite. I'll reveal my favorite in my X-100S review. I can say though that each camera had their strengths (and weaknesses), and depending on the style of photography you shoot, you may choose a different camera over the next person.

I thought I would post this teaser for now. I scale focused this image (1.5M), cropped, HDR toned and converted to b&w in Photoscape. I had fun shooting with the X-100S. It's a solid camera, and I can see why so many street photographers have made the switch, and why this camera is sold out everywhere. Stay tuned for my full review in the next few days...

Full review of the Leica X-Vario posted here.

Full review of the Ricoh GR V posted here.

Finally, full review of the Fuji X-100S posted here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bokeh Test: iPhone, Ricoh GRD, Fuji X100S

I've been testing different cameras recently and I've been talking about depth of field and the importance of it in certain types of photography. The more the better if you're shooting food or products, especially if you're trying to keep everything in focus (which is usually the case). Let's begin by taking three different cameras with 3 different sensor sizes: iPhone 4 with a 1/3.2" sensor, Ricoh GR D IV with a 1/1.7" sensor, and the Fuji X100S with a APS-C size sensor.

I've taken the same image and tried to see how much of the food is in focus from front to back. I'm sure the waitress thought I was crazy, but hey, it's sushi. It's not like it's going to get cold! I focused all three images on the salmon skin rolls on the bottom left, and see how much depth of focus we can get by looking at the fruit in the middle, and the raw tuna and salmon on the top left. Alright, let's take a look at these pictures!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Ricoh GR D IV still a Great Camera!

Taken with new Ricoh GR (V)

Why am I doing a review of a discountinued camera? Aren't people still reviewing old and discontinued film cameras, like the Ricoh GR21? I know, the old Ricoh film GRs are pretty much all cult cameras, but I reckon the recently discontinued Ricoh GR D IV will become one day soon. In addition, the GR D IV is now selling for $200-300 less than when it was a current model, and about half the price of the new GR V. So is the recently discontinued GR worth $400? It depends on your needs, but for me, I think it is, and this review is to explain why. Let's start with the pros and cons first:

-high quality construction, solid buttons and dials, solid feel.
-well thought out controls and ergonomics (single handed operation)
-the most customizable point and shoot, more than most ILCs
-advanced control over camera functions (manual flash control, white balance compensation)
-advanced features (level and tilt with calibration, skew correct, dynamic range, interval composite)
-amazing 1.23 million pixel LCD screen. It's enjoyable just looking at your images.
-advanced focus system: dual AF system, snap focus, dual shutter focus-type selector
-great jpegs and DNG RAW files. Highly customizable jpegs.
-really good battery life, compact charger, cheap and generic batteries, AAA back-up
-sharp lens even wide open at F/1.9
-super close 1" macro mode. Perfect for product and food shots.
-truly pocket-able, unlike GR V, which is only slightly bigger,but just a bit too big (for me)

-compared to big brother, small 1/1.7" CCD sensor (although there are advantages to small)
-VGA video (although for me, I could care less about video)
-expensive when it was a current model (although the price has dropped significantly)
-non zoom lens (although this is a matter of opinion. I'm fine with 28mm equiv for EDC camera)
-after turning on in play mode only, you can't jump into shooting mode. You have to cycle off! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Ricoh GR V: A Compact APS-C Monster

1/350th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 400
It was 1998 and my wife and I were about to embark on our honeymoon in Vegas, which would include a scenic drive to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. I was already dragging 2 SLR bodies, 3 lenses, 2 tripods, and lots of film. However, I didn't have a point and shoot camera. I wasn't going to drag an SLR to dinner or a show, so I needed something that would satisfy my need for optical quality and image control, versus compact size. Enter the original Ricoh GR1. 

I loved my Ricoh GR1. During that honeymoon, I actually put more rolls through that camera than the other 2 SLR's combined. I even started loading it with black and white film and used it for my wedding jobs, and many of those images became the most loved pictures of the entire wedding!

The Ricoh GR family has a short but prolific history, beginning with the GR1, GR10, GR1S, GR1V, GR21, GR Digital, GR D II, GR D III, GR D IV, and finally the current GR (V). What makes the current one so different than the past 4 digital GR's is that it has a much larger APS-C size sensor. Is this a big deal? It's a modern technological accomplishment, as the new Ricoh GR is the smallest APS-C sized compact point and shoot on the market.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Keys to the Streets: Public Pianos Downtown

Taken with Fuji X-100S, ISO 400 @ 1/2000 sec  F/5.6

I was walking along a busy part of DT Vancouver and I heard a piano playing outside. I thought to myself that this guy must be a pretty hard core busker to drag a piano out into the street. After listening to his bluesy playing for a while, I asked him how he got the piano in the middle of the city. He told me it was one of many public pianos left out throughout the city. Anyone can play it, as long as you close the lid once you're finished, and you share if someone else wants to play. What a great idea. Supposedly this project has taken root in bigger cities throughout the USA and has made its way to Vancouver.

The project is called Keys to the Street and its hosted by City Studio, a non-profit organization committed to making Vancouver a Green City. I don't know what that means exactly, but I guess they want people out of cars and onto the street more and partake in community activities, such as playing music publicly. I think its a great idea. I know if they left guitars lying around, people would just take them, so a piano makes sense. What's next? How about a harp? A double bass? Will this be competition to professional buskers? Do they mind some free competition? I think there's enough space for everyone to play music publicly. Rock on Piano Man!

Image taken with the Fuji X-100S. Check out full review here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Leica X Vario. Who is it really for?

1/1000 sec F/6.4 ISO 800 at 70mm equiv

Let me start off with a story. Imagine someone offered you a chance to test the new Porsche 911 Turbo S. As a German car fan, you're pretty excited. However, when the day arrived, they deliver a Porsche Boxster S instead. I mean, a Porsche is a Porsche, you wouldn't complain; but you can't help but be a bit disappointed. Back to my story. I was told I was going to get the Leica M 240 to review, and my anticipation and excitement was almost unbearable. When I was handed the X Vario instead, I was slightly disappointed. But a Leica is a Leica right? It's still made in Germany, and it's a brand new camera, and its the first in its class to be built. So with a smile I started my review. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Zone Focus Street Pics with Leica X Vario

On a previous post I mentioned how much I enjoyed using the Leica X Vario for street photography, and I meant it. I was gathering images to use for my upcoming review, and I realized I had too many street shots to choose from. In the end, I decided to post the overflow here for your viewing. Here are just some of the overflow...I actually have more!

All these images were taken using zone focusing, anywhere between 1.5 to 4 meter distance. Once you get use to eyeballing distance, it's pretty easy and fun. Just shoot high ISO (800-1600), stop down to F/5.6 to F/8 and make sure you're shutter speeds are 1/500th sec or faster. You'll be surprised how many good images you can get when you're not worried about focusing, or even shutter speeds and aperture.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wife, Leica X Vario, Fuji X-100S, Ricoh GR

Taken with Ricoh GR D IV @ ISO 80 1/68th sec F/1.9

My wife dropped me off DT today so I can finish my quick review of the Leica X Vario. As a thank-you, I took her out for breakfast at my favorite Acme Cafe. While waiting for our food to arrive, I decided to start setting up the 3 cameras for testing: Leica X-Vario, Fuji X-100S, Ricoh GR (V). Don't forget the camera in my hand that took this picture as well, the Ricoh GR D IV. This is exactly how our table looked before the food arrived. My wife is very understanding. Thanks babe. I still have the Fuji and the Ricoh for a couple of weeks, so this was a good-bye breakfast for the Leica. 

Below I've attached an image I took of my wife with the X VARIO before the food arrived. I shot it at full zoom 70mm, and as you can see, it makes a nice portrait. Even with this reduced image size, you can tell it's a sharp, sharp lens, and I love the Leica colours. Very nice indeed. 

Thanks to Eric Kerwin of Leica Canada for lending me the camera even before he could play with it himself. Hopefully I can have it back for one more week sometime in the future...

Check out my full review of the Leica X Vario here.

Check out my review of the Ricoh GR here.

Check out my review of the Fuji X-100S here.

Taken with Leica X VARIO @ ISO 800  1/250th sec F/6.4 at 70mm equiv