Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Impression: Fujifilm XF56mm f/1.2 R APD is Insanely Bokehlicious!

Fujfilm X-T1 Graphite Silver with XF56mm f/1.2 APD. 1/2400th sec f/1.2 @ ISO 3200. Classic Chrome jpeg

I'm Japanese and I've never liked the word 'bokeh'. Yes, Japanese are famous for making up words (karaoke, emoji, cosplay, anime), some work, some are just weird. Shallow depth of field sounds a bit too technical for such a subjective 'quality', so someone had to come up with a better word. I guess 'bokeh' will just have to do for now, although I wish the Germans or Italians came up with a term first. Not only am I not fond of the word, I'm not fond of the pursuit of it, as if bokeh is somehow intrinsic to a good picture. In fact, as a street photographer I almost avoid it. I typically shoot F/8 and 1/750th of a second and I focus on composition and the decisive moment. 

When Fujifilm asked if I wanted to review the new XF56mm f/1.2 R APD lens, they assumed I would say no and I assumed I would say no as well. However, after looking at some pre-production images, I was intrigued (check out this link and this one as well). There was something about the out-of-focus area that was... should I say 'bokehlicious?' I wish I didn't type that...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Camera Video Review: Fujifilm X100T in Hong Kong

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island at night. 1/320th sec f/2.8 @ ISO 1600.

When I'm gone on vacation, my wife has been very patient with me over the years. She's use to me bringing 3 or 4 different cameras and testing out equipment and film (during my Kodak days). Recently she's allowed me to bring along review cameras and spend time testing them, and write articles. This year I've added the extra burden (for her) of shooting YouTube video reviews, with my wife as my 'Camera Girl'. 

My 3 week vacation in Hong Kong has been very difficult for me to review for both Fujifilm and Leica, write articles and shoot videos. I've decided to review the cameras and shoot and post the videos, but I'll wait until I get back home to write a full review and share pictures. For now, enjoy my YouTube videos. My latest is my video review of the Fujifilm X100T. 

This camera is great for travel and street style photography. What it gives up in focal length versatility (fixed 35mm equivalent focal length) it makes up with practical tools to help the photographer take better pictures. Is it way better than the X100S? Is it worth the upgrade? Is the new hybrid optical viewfinder with mini electronic viewfinder mode just a gimmick? Check out my review to find out what I thought of the X100T and wait for my full written review in a couple of weeks. You can still post questions here or on YouTube and I'll try and answer as quickly as possible. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bigheadtaco Goes To Hong Kong with the Fujifilm X100T, the Leica T and the Ricoh GR

Ricoh GR. Wai King Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong. 1/1000 sec f.5.6 @ ISO 100. Converted to b&w in Photoscape.

I'm finally here in Hong Kong. Actually, I've been here for 2 weeks already, but I'm here with my wife (aka Camera Girl) visiting family and taking our annual vacation. I always take this opportunity to review cameras and take pictures, but it's a matter of work-life balance, even for a street photographer. Every second that I'm free, I run off and take a few pictures, but then I have to remember this is my wife's vacation time. I haven't been able to take as many pictures as I want, but that's ok. I never feel as if I've taken 'enough' pictures. Hong Kong is an amazing city and I could probably spend a year here and feel I haven't seen everything. 

Both Leica and Fujifilm loaned me some pretty cool cameras to review while I'm here, and I have a couple of my own cameras to shoot with as well. Fujifilm Canada has loaned me the X100T, Leica Canada has loaned me the Leica T, and I have my own Ricoh GR and my iPhone. I won't be compairing sensor size, megapixels, or AF speeds. To me, these things are inconsequential to taking a great image. If you depend on technology to take your images, you will always be a slave to technology. If you depend on your eyes, your hands, your instinct, and some level of competence and skill as a photographer, you will get great images no matter what camera you're shooting with.

I was able to shoot a few videos and here's my first introduction video to Hong Kong. I'll post a few more before I leave, and hopefully post the rest when I get back to Canada. Thanks again for all your support. To keep up to my day-to-day photography, follow me on my Instagram account. For now, enjoy my latest video:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

iPhone - Smartphone Street Photography Workshops

iPhone 5S. 1/2933 sec f/2.2 @ ISO 40. Douglas Coupland's Gumhead at the Vancouver Art Gallery

I announced back in the summer that I would start doing photography workshops... and then I went silent. Not because of lack of interest or desire on my part, but because I was busy on many other smaller projects. However, I was continually teaching and running private workshops for individuals and groups. The recurring question and inquiry I was getting was how I'm able to take 'professional' pictures with my iPhone. If you look at my Instagram Feed, 95% of the pictures are taken with my iPhone and post processed using mobile applications (VSCO, Camera+, PS Express). I've been very transparent with how I take the pictures and post process, but many have suggested I start workshops to physically show people how it's done.

My website is not yet set-up for on-line registration (it will soon!) so if you're interested in my 2 upcoming workshops in Vancouver, please email me at takeatbigheadtacodotcom. I will run my first workshop this Saturday afternoon (1:30-4:30pm) at 40% discount because of the short notice ($60 per student), and next weekend (either Sat or Sun) at full price ($100 per student). I will only take 5 students maximum per workshop so I can give as much attention to each student. Thank you again for your patience and I look forward to meeting you. If there is any interest for those in Hong Kong ( I will be there late November to early December), please email me and I would be happy to arrange for either a private or a group workshop on street photography or smartphone post processing. 

Thanks for all your support and happy shooting!

Best regards, 

Take Kayo


Monday, October 27, 2014

First Impressions: The Fujifilm X-100T is a Subtle but Significant Upgrade

Fujifilm X-100T @ 23mm. 1/800th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Chinatown Vancouver

I finally have the new Fujifilm X-100T in my hands. It feels familiar, and it should. It's basically the same as the X-100S with subtle exterior upgrades. So subtle that many reviewers didn't mention some of them. However, for an X-100 shooter, it's the subtle upgrades that will help you shoot faster and with more confidence. This isn't the X-200, so don't expect any extreme upgrades. Yes, an articulating screen would have been nice, but focusing on upgrading the hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder was a good idea. Concentrate on what makes you different, and not what everyone else is doing. Almost every manufacturer is abandoning the optical viewfinder (except higher end DSLR's and Leica M rangefinders). Fuji is investing in this older technology, but improving upon it. This is good news. My first impression so far is that this is a must-have camera for those who love to shoot through optical viewfinders and also those who love Fuji X-series cameras. Let's take a quick look...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fujifilm X-30: Small But Powerful Enthusiast P&S. Can it keep up with the competition? Does it have to?

Fujifilm X-30 @ 50mm equiv. 1/250th sec, f/6.4 @ ISO 200 with EF-X20 flash @ 1/8 power

When I first heard about the new X-30, I was a bit hesitant. Did I want to review it? When I finally got my hands on it, I liked it immediately. It wasn't about image size or if it had an optical or electronic viewfinder. It was about how it felt in my hands. This camera makes you want to shoot with it, period. It feels like a compact X-100 series camera with a zoom. It's solid build quality and ergonomics makes me want to run out and start taking pictures immediately. 

There has been much talk about the smallish 2/3" sensor that is no longer considered large compared to the 1/1.7" sensor that was the previous standard in most enthusiast point-and-shoot cameras. Canon and Sony have 1" sensors, and now Panasonic has leap-frogged everyone by going M43 with the latest LX100. Can the X-30 keep up in this very competitive enthusiast market? Does it have to? Let's take a look and see what this camera can do...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fujifilm X-30 YouTube Video Review: Is the 2/3" Sensor Too Small?

Fujifilm X-30 @ 50mm equiv. 1/500th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 200. Provia film simulation JPEG

I thought I would quickly release my YouTube video review of the Fujifilm X-30 before my full written review. Not everyone wants to read through an entire article. I understand. As mentioned on my previous preview video, I really like the X-30. It handled really well and the control features are very 'Fuji intuitive'. It's everything the X-100S should have been in terms of ergonomics and functionality. In fact, I would argue the shooting experience on the new X-30 is better than the X-100S (except for the optical viewfinder option on the X-100) in a more compact, lightweight package. The only minus is the sensor size. Is it too small? Look forward to my full review for my full answer. Until then, enjoy my full review video. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Camera Preview: Fujifilm X-30. Is it worth it?

Fujifilm X-30 @ 35mm equiv. 1/140th sec f/4 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome JPEG

I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Fujifilm X-10 and X-20. I loved the concept, build quality and principle behind the design and features of the compact camera series. Manual on/off and zoom ring, optical viewfinder, larger than normal 2/3" sensor (the competition all had 1/1.7" sensors), retro styling. It all made sense. However, when I looked at the image quality, it was only slightly better than my Ricoh GR-D IV at low ISO. The X-20 added the X-Trans technology, but I still wasn't blown away. I classified the X-10/20 as an EDC (every day carry) camera, and I wasn't convinced of its place in the market place (although the camera did reasonably well and beloved by many fans). I believe that Fujifilm was targeting the Canon G series cameras, but it's a shrinking market, even for Canon. The Sony RX-100 was the game changer, and Canon had more success with their smaller S100 series cameras, which had the same sensor as the G series, but in a much smaller form factor. The industry is moving towards a 'bigger sensor in a smaller body is better' philosophy, which isn't horribly wrong. But it also needs to shoot well and have the right functions and ergonomics to make it a success. The Panasonic LX and Canon S series proves this philosophy correct, as they both have smallish 1/1.7" sensors.

However, when I heard there was a new X-30 coming out, I was convinced Fuji was going to upgrade the sensor to at least a 1" (although this means they would have to design an all new X-Trans sensor, and not just buy it from Sony). It makes business sense to keep the 2/3" sensor, I understand. Why gamble producing an all new sensor if they weren't positive that it was a growth market for them? My guess was that they were either going to shoe-horn an APS-C X-trans sensor into a compact body (similar to the Ricoh GR), or shrink the size of the camera. Fuji did neither. Instead, they added tons of new features, updated the software, and improved the ergonomics and functions while making the camera slightly bigger. Is this enough to keep up with the current and upcoming competition? Let's see...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leica Akademie Vancouver: Guest Speaker

Taken w/ Ricoh GR. 1/180th f/5.6 @ ISO 500. Edited in CS5 & Photoscape. @loiterbench (IG) in Chinatown, Vancouver.

Since starting my Youtube series, I've been getting emails from people asking if I run any workshops on street photography. As you may know, when Eric Kim was in town in Vancouver, he invited me to audit his 3 day street photography workshop and I had fun watching someone formulating how to teach this unusual photographic 'art form'. Eric insisted that I should run my own workshops and I thought a good way to start was accepting the privilege of being the guest speaker and instructor for the upcoming Leica Akademie in Vancouver next week.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Video Chit-Chat: Fujifilm X-T1, X-Pro 1, EF-X20 flash and a Green Canoe

Here's my latest YouTube video and my first video with a guest, even though he's not a photographer by trade. Kurt Dahle is a drummer for a pretty cool indie band (he's very shy about his band so I won't mention it here for his sake), but he's also a huge camera nerd like me. I bumped into him while I was reviewing some cameras a few months back (Leica T and Fujifilm X-E2), and we got along really well. I decided to invite him on my latest video since he picked up the pretty sweet EF-X20 flash unit for his Fujifilm X-Pro 1. I also complain about Fuji burying the flash compensation feature in the menus, which would be a quick firmware fix (please fix this Fuji!). The video is mostly just me and Kurt chit-chatting about nothing, as it was hard keeping this video on track. Even still, I'll have Kurt (and maybe his bandmates) back for more videos since we had such fun shooting it. Camera girl was all smiles while shooting this video, which is a good sign. She usually looks confused when it's just me nerding out on camera details. Enjoy the video and happy shooting!

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Video: Fujifilm X-T1 vs X-E2. Also water pour test on X-T1 and XF 18-135 WR!

Hello everyone, 

I've been so busy working on my different projects that I haven't had much time to focus on my YouTube videos and my articles. I'll be back in full force in the next week or so. I currently have on review the following: Fujifilm X-T1, X-E2, XF 18-55mm, XF 35mm, XF 18-135 WR, SHARE SP-1 wireless INSTAX printer. I also have some Leica cameras on the way: Leica M Monochrom and M240 and some lenses. I will be a guest speaker at the upcoming Leica Akademie being held in Vancouver so I have to make sure I know what I'm talking about before the workshop! 

So here's my latest YouTube video. I'm comparing the X-T1 and the X-E2 and help people decide which one to get, and I also do a water resistant test with the X-T1 and the XF 18-135 WR. Enjoy and happy shooting.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Street Photography, iPhones and Instagram

All images taken with iPhone 5S and edited with Instagram, VSCOCam, PS Express, and/or Camera +

I love reviewing cameras and I enjoy street photography. I only review cameras that interest me and want to use while shooting on the street. I care less about absolute image quality, but focus on what camera is best for shooting quickly and discretely, important qualities while taking street images. Funny thing, I've been spending much of my time shooting with my iPhone and using Instagram as the primary platform for my street photography work. When I upgraded my iPhone 4 with the latest iPhone 5S back in December, I saw a leap in image quality and felt it was powerful enough for me to shoot with it as a serious imaging tool. What makes smartphone cameras ideal for street photography? Here's a few things I've learned while using my iPhone and sharing my images via Instragram during my street photography project...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gear Review: Leica Brightline Finder M-24

When I received the Leica T to review for the second time, there was an odd accessory in my review package, the Leica Brightline Viewfinder M-24. The angle of view (24mm) didn't really work with the lens that was provided (standard 18-56mm zoom lens), and they included the EVF in the package why did they include it? Who cares! This is a great accessory and I wasn't going to complain. I had an awesome time playing with it and it made my shooting more enjoyable. The question is: how good can this very expensive viewfinder be? Let's just say that it destroys the competition...

Street Photography 101: Zone Focusing

Tokyo-X-Vario project: Leica X-Vario @ 18mm, 1/1000th sec f/7.1 @ ISO 1600. Zone focused to 3.5 M

There's been much talk about scale or zone focusing and I've had a lot of people asking me what the difference is between the two and the advantages of shooting this way. I've mentioned it many times in my camera review articles, so I thought I would post a quick video to explain the basics. Scale focus just means that you focus by using a scale, instead of using a focusing aid, such as rangefinder focus or split image focusing. Many older cameras used scale focusing as the only focus aid, and with a depth of field scale, most could estimate the distance pretty good.

Zone focus is more purposeful in that you choose a comfortable focus distance based on the focal length of your lens and the subject you're shooting, choose a suitable aperture that will give you enough depth of field within the 'zone' you are focusing on, and then leave your settings there. Once you get use to zone focusing, especially for street photography, it becomes a faster way to shoot versus relying on autofocus. Watch my YouTube video for more details. 

Hopefully this video wasn't too complicated. If so, or if you still have questions, don't hesitate to comment below and I'll do my best to explain further. Zone focusing is good training for your eyes, to be able to estimate distances instead of relying on a focusing aid to tell you. I hope you enjoyed the video. Don't forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel, and please check out my Instagram account and my Twitter as well for updates and extra pictures.

Happy shooting!



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Fujifilm TCL-X100 Converter Lens

Fujifilm X-100S with TCL-X100. 1/400th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 1250. Chinatown, Vancouver

When Fujifilm announced the WCL-X100 wide angle converter for the X-100 series cameras, I was a bit confused. The difference between the standard 35mm equiv (23mm) angle of view and the 28mm equiv you got with the converter was negligible. If it went to 21mm or even 24mm equiv, I would have been more interested. But I understand why they didn't go wider, since the optical viewfinder on the X-100(s) couldn't accommodate such a wide lens (although they could have been creative and added some sort of OVF adaptor as well...) When Fujifilm recently announced the TCL-X100 this spring, my ears perked up. A 50mm equiv focal length with a rangefinder-style camera... now that's more like it! When Fujifilm Canada asked if I wanted to test it out for a few weeks, I immediately said yes! Let's check out this monster converter and see how it performs on the X-100S...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Video Review: Fujifilm TCL-X100 Teleconverter for the X-100 Series

Here is my quick video review of the TCL-X100 teleconverter for the Fujifilm X-100 and X-100S. My full written review will be up soon with sample images. For now, let`s just say that if you own an X-100 or X-100S and you`ve been wanting a little bit more pull-power, this is the perfect solution. It`s an easy, screw-on adaptor, and no optical compromises (except for funny lens flare). It`s a lot of glass, and it`s heavy, but it balances well on the X-100S. At $349 USD, it`s not cheap, but if the X-100 is your primary camera, this lens is a must have. Check out my preview here, and watch my video below. Happy shooting.

New Video: Ricoh GR Limited Edition

The Ricoh GR is my favourite compact camera of all time, both film and digital. The film GR-1 camera kept up with my full size SLR`s and lenses when it came to my wedding shoots back in the day; and the digital GR-D IV was compact yet powerful so it came with me where ever I went. The latest GR has an upgraded APS-C size sensor, equalling most DSLRs when it comes to sensor size. Check out my quick overview of the GR series, as well as some quick reasons why I love my latest GR, the GR Limited Edition. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shooting YouTube Vids with Lunakiwi: Ricoh GR Family Preview

Taken with Ricoh GR. 1/320th sec f/2.8 @ ISO 250 with built in flash. My wife Lunakiwi with Fuji X-100S.

I've started recording YouTube videos around town where I shoot most of my street photo images, in Gastown, DTES, Strathcona. I've done some camera reviews already, and I'll try my best to post once a week. I'll also start doing more produced how-to series on street photography about once a month with a proper video crew. Think DigitalRev meets Mijonju meets The Camera Store. For now, my wife (aka @Lunakiwi) will be my camera-girl, and other times I'll just hold the video camera myself while I shoot (I know, video selfies look weird). So here's my latest video, a preview to my upcoming Ricoh GR review. Enjoy and happy shooting

Monday, June 16, 2014

Video Review: Polaroid Automatic 250 Land Camera and Polapan 664 Film

Taken with iPhone 5S. Railtown District, Vancouver.

Old cameras. Old Polaroid cameras. Rangefinder cameras. If you love all 3 of these things, you need to buy a Polaroid Land Camera. Not the goofy ones that came later with integral film, but the older ones that take the peel-apart 3.25 x 4.25 films (667, 669, 664, etc.). My dream is to own the more specialized models that have manual exposure control (model 180, 185, 190, 195); but the 250 is still a great camera and fun to use.

I won't go into too much detail since I have my YouTube video to explain many of the features of this camera. Basically its a great introduction to Polaroid's peel-apart film cameras without spending too much money. The 250 model typically sells for around $150-200, although it's getting harder and harder to find it with the original case, flash, and portrait lens. The more expensive models are easily in the $500 range, some go for even more (check out Mijonju's video on his 185 Classic Edwin Land). The model 250 is reasonably priced and performs well, and every camera collection should have one of these, not on the shelf, but in the camera bag!

iPhone 5S picture. Quick photoshoot with my wife. Railtown District, Vancouver

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Yes The Leica T Also Takes Great Pictures!

Leica T with Vario-Elmar T 18-56mm @ 23mm. 1/400th f/8 @ ISO 400. Main Street, Chinatown, Vancouver.

Is it wrong to care about how a camera looks? If that's all you care about, then yes. But we are creatures of aesthetics and symmetry. That's why we are attracted to beautiful things in both nature and things made by hands. How a camera looks and feels can affect how we feel, which in turn affects how we shoot. Shooting with a rangefinder feels very different to me versus shooting with an SLR. Shooting film or instant really feels different versus shooting digital. My mood affects my shooting pattern.

Leica successfully plays on this concept of beauty and style (along with function) with the new Leica T. They spent a lot of time and energy marketing this camera as such, including a 45 minute video of an employee hand polishing a T body. It's Audi design. Does all this effort in making this camera sexy successful? Yes it is. Wherever I walk around with this camera, people want to look at it, touch it, play with it. Even at Eric Kim's recent street-photo workshop in Vancouver, everyone wanted to hold and play with the T over any of my other review cameras. Moreover, if you want attention, buy the Leica T, it's worth every penny. However, do you also want to take great pictures?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My First Offical Video on YouTube: Fail?

A couple of months ago I was introduced to David and Henry who run a video production company called Second Spark Productions. After showing them my blog and Instagram account, they were eager to help me start shooting YouTube videos. They asked me to start writing script ideas and scout for locations and we would meet in 2 weeks to begin shooting our videos. You can guess what happens next. When I was free, they were busy and when they were free, I was busy. 2 weeks became 3, then 4, then it's 2 months later. That's life. Sometimes collaborations are tough to organize and coordinate. 

However, David gave me really good advise. He said not to worry about video quality at first. Some of the most viewed and liked YouTube videos are horrible in shooting quality, but heavy on content. He told me to develop my video persona and work hard to have my real personality show through on screen. I immediately started test shooting. I began taking goofy vids in my home-office, and then I finally wandered out and started shooting outside in the evenings. The video I chose to post first was just me walking back to my car after test shooting videos all evening. I was tired and wanted to go home and sleep. However, after reviewing everything I shot, this was the one I liked, minus the out-of-focus parts (the GR has no face-detection so its hard to maintain focus on me). My wife doesn't like it when I spin, but I think it's pretty cool (I know, I just learned about the 180 rule).

There isn't a lot of content, just me talking out loud about what I want to do with my future videos. It's funny how I bumped into Eric Kim over the week-end and he posted his interview of me before I was able to post my own introduction video first! So here it is, Bigheadtaco's first real video introduction. I'll try my best to post a video every 2 weeks. If you have any tips, tricks, or advise for me, please let me know. If anyone wants to help me shoot my videos sometimes, contact me. 

Thanks for viewing and happy shooting!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Being Interviewed by Eric Kim Photography

Eric Kim posing for Tarry of Revolver Coffee. Stranger in the line of fire. Taken with Ricoh GR.

It was a busy few days. Thursday night I had a meeting at Matchstick Coffee with my good friend from The Lab and a major photo industry sales rep (I won't ruin the surprise, but something cool is coming to Vancouver). Friday morning I was introducing my local Leica rep with a local coffee shop owner, Tarry of Revolver Coffee. As we were finishing up our productive meeting, Tarry told me that Eric Kim was in town and that we should try and contact him. Sounds like a great idea, but how do we track this man down? My plan? Shoot near where he was doing his workshop until I accidentally bump into him.  As I was developing my ingenious strategy in my mind, George (Tarry's son) spotted someone who looked like Eric Kim sitting on the other side of the coffee shop working on his laptop. An Asian dude working in a coffee shop with his Mac laptop? That's such a rare sight in Vancouver!! Me and Tarry decided it was Eric and so we paparazzi'd him by attacking him with two cameras each... and yes, it was The Eric Kim!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Eric Kim & John Goldsmith: Interview Video

Ricoh GR. 1/800th sec f/3.2 @ ISO 1600. Shot in Gastown.
I was shooting my first video with world famous street photographer Eric Kim in Gastown when an unexpected guest walked into the interview... John Goldsmith!! What are the chances? He said he was walking around (taking pictures I assume) when he saw two Asian dudes shooting a video. Here's a accidental small clip at the end of a much longer full interview...thanks for the happy accident Cindy!! Ha ha. 

Both Eric and myself will co-release this interview video on Youtube soon. Stay tuned for details...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Preview: X-100S w/ TCL-X100 is Leica-like

Fujifilm X-100S with TCL-X100 teleconverter attached @ 50mm equiv. 1/350th sec f/2.8 @ ISO400. Local artist and instructor Josh Hite in Gastown, Vancouver. 

I enjoy shooting with an optical viewfinder. For those who don't get it even after trying it, they will never get it I suppose. It's like trying to convince someone to ride a fixed-gear single speed bike, or drive a manual transmission on a car. Yes it's more work and more limiting, but through the limits we become better photographers, bike riders, and drivers. Sometimes, there's even advantages to the limits. For an optical viewfinder (OVF), we don't get exact frame lines of the final image, we don't get to see depth of field or exposure; but we gain something that a digital screen doesn't give us: the real world!!

Yes we get to see the world the way our eyes see it (but through a singular optical finder). When I use an OVF I find that I learn to imagine the shot which helps me visualize the final product before I shoot with it. It's the same thing many Leica film shooters have been saying for decades, the beauty of shooting with a rangefinder camera. It's true the Fujifilm hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder is technically not a true rangefinder (using dual framing windows to find focus), but it's the closest representation of one on a modern camera. When I shoot with the X-100S, I feel like I'm shooting a Leica M series camera. I can say this with confidence because as you know, I also review for Leica Canada as well. How does the X-100S shoot when attaching the TCL-X100 tele-converter lens? Let's find out...

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?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paparazzi versus Street Photographers: What's the big difference?

Taken with my Ricoh GR. My paparazzi buddy Nigel, sitting, waiting, stalking? 1/1500th sec F/4 @ ISO 400.
Spring has arrived in Vancouver and my favourite neighbourhoods are filling up with people and noise and life. The nicer weather doesn't just affect foot-traffic, but more film crews are shutting down streets and attracting spectators, especially the paparazzi. I've been bumping into a few of them lately, but my favourite is a fellow by the name of Nigel (here's a picture of him on my Instagram). He's a really nice guy and always willing to talk to me. As I look at him and then look at myself, I wonder what the difference between what he does and what I do, photographically and socially. Are we so different? Are we so similar?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Full Review: Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 10-24mm

XF10-24 @ 10mm (slightly cropped). 1/200th sec F/4 @ ISO 1600. Distortion correction in CS5.
In an ever changing world of technology, it's difficult for manufacturers to balance the desire to innovate versus listening to the demands of a finicky consumer market. It would be foolish for a company to ignore the wants and needs of their loyal customer base or the industry trends in general. However, if all you do is follow trends, you will always be a follower, never a leader. Sometimes it takes vision to foresee a need, or create one. Fuji has been able to balance both sides of this tricky equation very well. Yes, they consistently listen to their customer's needs and wants, but continue to innovate and evolve at the same time. When the first X-series camera came out in 2010 (X-100), there was no demand for a retro designed APS-C sized rangefinder styled, hybrid EVF/OVF non-ILC camera. Fujifilm basically created a category, and as the X-series evolved, the engineers listened to their loyal fans and the industry to find ways to improve their cameras.

4 years later, the Fujifilm X-T1 is the result of this balance, and this is the reason why there's such a buzz around this most recent iteration. There's lots to talk about and lots to comment on. Let's take a full look at this latest (and greatest?) camera from Fujifilm, as well as their newest addition to their ever growing line of XF lenses, the XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS lens...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Camera Preview: Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 10-24mm F/4 R OIS

iPhone 5S image. Shot and edited in-camera using VSCOcam and PS Express. Previously posted on my Instagram account.

I walked into a coffee shop in the hip part of town where the poorest neighbourhood in Canada meets industrial meets trendy hipster meets lawyers and architects zone. I prepared to sit down by unloading all my stuff from around my neck when I heard someone from behind me say, "Hey, is that the new Fuji X-T1?". I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This camera is creating a lot of buzz in the technology industry. Even people who aren't following the mirrorless trend has heard about this camera. Why all the interest? Is this camera really such a big deal?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Camera Review: Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic

All images taken with iPhone 5S camera. Ironically, both cameras are ideal for sharing images. One analog, the other digital.

I just finished reviewing the very capable Fujifilm X-E2 at the end of January, and was awaiting the arrival of the new X-T1. I had a month in between to relax and enjoy playing with the cameras I already have, or would I try and squeeze in a quick review? What was I interested in next? While in Japan, I saw the popularity of Fuji's INSTAX instant film cameras. I also saw a resurgence in interest of classic Polaroid cameras and the resurrection of the Polaroid film formats via The Impossible Project. I own a few Polaroid cameras myself (250 Land Camera, SX-70, Spectra), so I was feeling the itch.... the itch to review one of Fuji's INSTAX instant film cameras. But which one? Which camera has the features and the look that I wouldn't feel too odd carrying around (many of the INSTAX cameras are clearly and successfully marketed towards young girls) while walking through downtown backstreets? I decided to review the very retro-inspired and X-series-looking Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 90 Neo Classic. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Impression: Fuji X-T1 Has Landed!

The Fujifilm X-T1 has finally arrived! The last time I was this excited about reviewing a camera was when I first received the Leica M Monochrom in the summer... it's been a while. What makes this camera so special? Why is everyone so excited about this new X-series camera body from Fuji? Because it's the best value-performance-quality mirrorless system camera body on the market today. The best image quality mirrorless belongs to the Sony A7R, but the AF is just ok and the price is more than many full-frame DSLRs. The best overall performing and featured mirrorless is the Olympus OM-D EM-1, but the sensor is smallish (not too small for most but a bit too small for working pros). 

The new Fujifilm X-T1 lies right in the sweet spot of the market: large-enough-for-pro APS-C sensor, well priced (cheaper than the Olympus!), well featured, and performs as good or even better than it's APS-C sensored DSLR competition. At $1299 USD body only, it's reasonably priced for what you get, and cheaper than going full-frame mirrorless. To top it off, the X-series is a mature system with lots of lenses (both zooms and primes), accessories, and camera body options. Some complain its a shameless copy of the Olympus OM-D EM-1 (no pop-flash, weather-sealed, articulating screen, large EVF, lots of custom buttons and DSLR-ish form-factor and handling, etc.); but Fuji has done their homework, put their own twist to this new X-series camera and has done some innovating and improvements of their own. How good is good?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Full Review: Fujifilm X-E2 the Greatest ILC?

Image taken with Ricoh GR-D IV. 1/42nd sec F/2.8 @ ISO 125. Very simple and sleek design.

I've just returned from my Tokyo trip with my wife. I took 3 cameras with me (Leica X-VARIO, Ricoh GR-D IV, Minolta CLE) and spent a whole month shooting and playing (and testing) these cameras. It was a lot of fun. As soon as I got back home, my special order Ricoh GR Limited Edition arrived from Gastown Photo. The next day, a new camera appeared at my door from Fuji to review. Was I photographically burnt out? Was I tired of reviewing cameras? No way! I was pumped to start putting the Fuji X-E2 to the test, especially comparing image quality with the Leica X-VARIO and my newly acquired Ricoh GR. However, all 3 cameras are very diiferent, although they all have one thing in common: they all use a APS-C size sensor. How did the X-E2 compare?