Saturday, May 31, 2014

Style Wars: Fuji X-100S vs Ricoh GR Ltd Ed

Taken with Ricoh GR-D IV. 1/50th sec f/4.0 @ ISO 200. RAW image, converted in CS5.

It's been almost a year since I've had both the Ricoh GR and the Fujifilm X-100S at the same time. I love both cameras, and I knew I was going to buy one of them. Which one was 'better' was what I started off thinking; but I realized this was the wrong question to ask. 'Which one is best for me?' was what I ended up asking myself, and I chose the Ricoh GR (well, the Limited Edition kit). Although the Fujifilm X-100S is the 'better' camera (functions, versatility, technology), the GR was better suited for the type of photography I was taking.

However, I never stopped thinking about the X-100S. I love the hybrid OVF-EVF system, the top dials, the dedicated aperture ring, and the on-screen horizontal focus and DOF scale. What did I miss the most about the X-100S? I know its superficial, but I love the look!! It's so sexy!! When I had the opportunity to review the new TCL-X100 tele-converter for the X-100S, I thought it would be great to do another GR vs X-100S again...including style factor!! Which looks better? Which looks like a serious shooting tool? Which do you want to be seen carrying? Who cares?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Fujifilm XF56mm vs XF18-55mm?

Fuji X-E2 w/ XF56mm. 1/600th F/5 @ ISO200. Railtown District, Strathcona, Vancouver.

Primes versus zooms? It's the great debate among camera equipment enthusiasts, pro photographers, and camera reviewers. I remember this debate in the film era, and it still continues in our digital era. In the 1970's, primes were superior to zooms, no argument. Zooms got better in the 80's, but due to their slower speeds, those that needed fast glass still chose primes. In the 90's, faster zooms appeared, and the image quality divide between primes and zooms became narrower. How about today? Are primes still superior to zooms in the era of digital imaging, especially when many manufacturers are using digital technology to correct many optical imperfections in images? Is there a need for primes, since whatever weakness existed with zooms in the past can now be fixed post production? Let's check out the advantages of both zooms and primes even in our digital era, including the disadvantages. Let's review the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm F/1.2 and compare it with the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 R OIS lens.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preview: Ricoh GR-D IV versus Ricoh GR

iPhone 5S picture. 1/40th f/2.2 @ ISO 40.

Sensor size and megapixels, the two biggest specs that lead most consumers to believe which is the 'best' digital camera. These features are definitely important, but is it the only consideration? Are there other features or specs that are as important, or more important? Yes. To use the vehicle analogy, imagine if engine size, type and horsepower were the only specs you were considering. A vehicle with a 5.7l V8 with 350hp can end up being a minivan or a 2 seat convertible sports car. Same as a digital camera. Just because you say APS-C and 16MP sensor, you can end up with a wide range of cameras, from DLSRs, point and shoots, ILC mirrorless, compact non-ILC zoom, rangefinder styled fixed lens, etc. 

Can a professional shoot with a non-full frame camera? Yes. Is it absurd for a serious amateur to shoot full frame? No. If the pro shoots primarily for news media, then a M43 would be good enough (I know a few who use M43 as official photographers for news media events). If an amateur shoots landscapes and enjoys printing images over 20" x 30" sizes, then a full frame sensor makes sense. A pro Instagram photographer (yes, they do exist) can easily get away with shooting with his or her iPhone. Different cameras for different purposes.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Preview: Is the Leica T the Future for ILCs?

Change is strange. Some embrace it, others hate it. Some don't mind change, but it depends on what and how much. There are some things that are best untouched, while others need to change or else they will disappear (think of Latin as a language). What is the future of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs), especially the mirrorless market? DSLRs have a general layout and design familiarity between the brands (due to certain functional restrictions and preferences), but the mirrorless camera ergonomics, shape and interface is pretty much wide open. Manufactures have been testing the waters, some with more radical designs, while others have taken the more conservative (even retro) route. 

When Leica announced an upcoming and all new ILC system, we all pretty much thought we could guess how it would look and function. It would be a cross between the recent X series cameras (X1, X2, X-Vario) with a splash of old school M styling (we were all hoping for an integrated EVF though). This is what we came to expect from a reasonably traditional and conservative camera brand. Unlike Sony or Canon who could afford to have a camera or two flop, Leica is a much smaller company who can not afford to make a mistake. It would only make sense to produce a camera that was built on previous successes. Why take the risk? Then Leica announced and revealed the all new Leica T...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Leica T versus Fujifilm X-E2: Modern Art vs Retro Cool

Taken with Ricoh GR @ Matchstick Coffee in Chinatown, Vancouver. 1/250th F/5.6 @ ISO 800. Window light only.

I got the email from my local Leica rep. It was coming. Yes, the all new Leica T was on its way. The week before, I almost flew down to L.A. for the worldwide release of Leica's newest interchangeable lens system. Was it going to be M43, APS-C, full-frame? Most guessed it would be APS-C, but what would it look like? Would they go with the X styling (X1, X2, X-Vario), or more M styling? Would it have a built in EVF or OVF? So many questions... Then the Leica T was finally released... what the?

It was nothing like what I expected. It was very different, and a very bold departure from what we were expecting from a very traditional camera brand. Was I disappointed? Nope. Confused? A bit. Excited to try it? Yes!! I watched the crazy 45 min video showing how each Leica T is hand polished (with German labour!) and Steve Huff's enthusiastic first impressions video. Clearly this camera is well built, but can it shoot? More importantly, is it good for a street-style photographer? It was time to test Leica's latest, greatest camera.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Re-review: Revisiting the Fujifilm X-E2 with Firmware Version 2.0

Fujifilm X-E2 with XF23mm F/1.4. 1/85th sec F/4 @ ISO 250. Coffee Bar, Gastown.

Recently I've been spending time perusing through the comment sections on and other photo websites, just to get a feel for what's going on out there. As a reviewer, we often get immersed in our own view of how things are and should be, so its important to leave our bubble once in a while to explore the outside world. I do follow the main websites and YouTube channels to see what other reviewers are saying, but what's it like on the street?

There seems to be an US versus THEM attitude, with endless debates over sensor size (M43, APS-C, FF), and camera styles (DLSR, mirrorless, retro, modern, ILC, P&S, etc.). This ongoing 'battle' shows how segmented the market has become, even more so than in the past. This has also affected the manufacturers, trying to predict what photographers want and adjusting their product line to satisfy their market share, and hopefully increase it. This isn't always a bad thing, and Fuji has decided to add a bit of variety to their X-series line-up.

A few months back I reviewed the Fujifilm XE-2 and felt it was the best X-series body I had reviewed up to that point... until they announced the X-T1. It was quite the departure from the direction Fuji was taking their mirrorless cameras, but it was a nice change. Although the X-T1 had basically the same sensor and processor as the X-E2, the style and ergonomics of the camera was completely different. The X-E2's styling (and all other X-series cameras) is retro-rangefinder, while the X-T1 is styled like a modern mirrorless DSLR (much like the Olympus OM-D and Sony A7 series). The question that kept coming up was which was better, the X-T1 or the X-E2? I think the better question is: who is each camera for?