Tag Archives: 2015

Conclusions and Decisions

Downtown Charlotte, NC from light rail overpass on Trade Street
Downtown Charlotte, NC from light rail overpass on Trade Street

I mentioned in my last post that I had rented a Fuji X-T1 for this past weekend. The last post set the stage for this one. I’ll cut to the chase and save the suspense, and say that I haven’t decided to make any changes, but I was very impressed with the camera. You can stop reading here and look at the pictures, or you can read on. 🙂

Parking garage, downtown Charlotte, NC
Parking garage, downtown Charlotte, NC

My intentions for trying out another kind of camera were simple. I had heard many good things about the compact cameras but had not had a chance to really experience one for myself. I don’t like to have multiple choices when it comes to equipment, preferring instead to have and use whatever camera I feel best suits my needs, and to use that camera for everything I shoot. It just doesn’t make sense to me to have to constantly choose between different cameras, especially where there was a clear first choice. Why, I reasoned, would I ever want to shoot with anything less than my best equipment? It just didn’t make sense.

Painted brick wall, Charlotte NC
Painted brick wall, Charlotte NC

I have been very happy with the results from my current equipment, to the point where I never really think about the gear, I just use it and it works. But I knew that if I ever did decide to change formats or brands that I couldn’t do so without trying out different options. As hard as it is to believe, the 5D Mark III is three years old, and while it isn’t close to being obsolete, that seems to be about the point in the product cycle where there is probably something new on the horizon. All of my lenses are first generation Canon lenses, and while they are certainly not obsolete, I can’t ignore the fact that three of my five main lenses have been replaced by newer technology. At some point it is likely that I am going to need to look at that, and possibly make some changes. It seemed as good a time as any to try out something new.

Lynx Blue Line light rail and Charlotte NC skyline
Lynx Blue Line light rail and Charlotte NC skyline

I decided to rent a Fuji X-T1 because I had narrowed my choices down to a Fuji or an Olympus. I have heard great things about both, but have read some really good things about the Fuji, and especially their evolving lineup of excellent lenses. I still cling to the opinion that a larger sensor is better, and reasoned that all else being equal the APS-C sensor in the Fuji would make it an attractive choice. So I plunked down my money and took my bet.

Electric meter, Charlotte NC
Electric meter, Charlotte NC

I went through LensRentals for the rental, and the whole process could not have been smoother. I reserved the camera and lens online and provided my payment and shipping information. The package arrived at my work address on Thursday as scheduled. I had the camera for the weekend, then packaged it up and dropped it off at the FedEx store on Monday. Done.

Guess what? Another brick wall, Charlotte NC
Guess what? Another brick wall, Charlotte NC

The following is not a review, and I am still evaluating as I go. But several folks have expressed an interest in my thoughts, so here I go.

First Impressions
  • While small, this feels like a well-built camera and lens. Heavier than I expected for the size and heavier than it looks, but very light compared to my Canon.
  • The top dials are laid out in a way that really makes sense, and I liked being able to adjust shutter speed, ISO and aperture with a dial instead of a menu.
  • I had a little previous experience with Fuji’s menu layout from using my X-10. The menus are very similar, and for the most part I was able to figure everything out without looking at the manual.
Roof of transit center, Charlotte NC
Roof of transit center, Charlotte NC
In Use
  • Because the camera is so small relative to my hands, I felt like I could never really get a comfortable grip on the camera, and I kept hitting buttons I didn’t mean to hit.
  • The biggest issue I had was that the battery died after about 200 frames. In hindsight I think it might have been because I had IS set for continuous (had not thought to change it) and even though I had the EVF set up for eye detection, I hadn’t thought about the fact that hanging around my neck that it wouldn’t know the difference between my chest and my eye and be on constantly.
  • The second biggest issue I had was trying to use a polarizer with the EVF. I’d be interested to hear some feedback, but I had a really hard time judging the effect of the polarizer because the camera kept adjusting the exposure – as reflected in the EVF – in real time.
  • My rental came with a standard neck strap, which was too short for me and not nearly flexible enough. It would not stay on my shoulder securely and kept getting in the way. I would definitely buy an Upstrap or a wrist strap.
Shadow on a brick wall, Marion, NC
Shadow on a brick wall, Marion, NC
Files
  • The first photos I looked at were from walking around my neighborhood at dusk, and were taken before I learned how to set up the camera. The files from the shoot on Saturday, and more from Sunday and Monday, were quite impressive.
  • The in-camera JPEGs are very nice. So nice that I could almost shoot JPEGS all the time with this camera, if it wasn’t for the next point.
  • Lightroom does an excellent job with the RAW files, and even offers the ability to mimic some of Fuji’s in-camera film profiles. This gives the ability to get the results of the in-camera processing with the flexibility of RAW files when needed. I like this very much. I could easily create a Develop preset in Lightroom and would take care of 95% of the adjustments I would make.
  • The RAW files are SHARP and show very little noise. Using the Adobe profiles for the Fuji RAW files, I needed to do very little additional adjustment. I used virtually no noise reduction on the files, even at higher ISO, and they take sharpening very well.
  • The camera seems to have an exceptionally accurate metering system, and it nailed the exposure just about every time. The only adjustments I made were for completely personal preference.
  • I did not make any prints yet, but am convinced that the files will make a 16×24 print with no problems.
Brick wall, Marion, NC
Brick wall, Marion, NC
Conclusions
  • If I were to own one, I would need to buy one of the accessory grips.
  • This would definitely be a worthy “first choice” camera when I decide that it’s time to replace what I currently use.
  • The Lensrentals experience was a good one, and I would not hesitate to rent from them again, either to try a lens I intend to buy or to just try out something I’ve heard about
  • I didn’t expect to be so “wow-ed” by a camera that it would convince me to banish my Canon gear to the closet, and I wasn’t. But it was very nice, and if I was starting from scratch I wouldn’t hesitate to consider the Fuji, although I would probably try out some of the competition.
  • I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but the files from this camera have a certain “look” that I really, really like. It isn’t sharpness or color or contrast, but something. I’m still working on it and will explore it some more and report back.
Another brick wall, Marion, NC
Another brick wall, Marion, NC
Decision
  • I’m sticking with the Canon for now (as of today at least!), but it wouldn’t take much to convince me to buy an X-T1.  If I were to buy another camera, there is a very good chance that this might be it.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC

More to come, as I continue to process more photos and think more about my experience!

Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte NC

Trying Something New

Transit Center, Charlotte NC
Transit Center, Charlotte NC
Back in the Day

Ever since I sold off my Mamiya 7 film rangefinder and its three excellent lenses, I have hoped to one day return to the simplicity of being able to carry all my gear in a small fanny pack. I used to be able to carry the equipment (and film!) I needed for entire weekend in one small bag. I love my Canon gear, and have always been happy with the results. The Canon bodies and numerous lenses I have owned over the last 10 years have served me well, but it has been interesting to note the gradual expansion in the amount and weight of my equipment over that time.

Roof trusses at Charlotte Transit maintenance building and offices, Charlotte NC
Roof trusses at Charlotte Transit maintenance building and offices, Charlotte NC

At first I was able to carry all of my digital gear in a reasonably-sized backpack. Soon, however, it became necessary for me to carry my equipment in a Think Tank rolling bag. For a while I was generally successful with the idea of making room in the rolling bag for something new by retiring something old. But a couple of years ago I finally reached the point where my bag wouldn’t hold what I had, and I started having to leave things at home. Perhaps coincidentally, at just about the same time I got to the point where I was getting tired of carrying that much stuff.

1BAC Building, Charlotte NC
1BAC Building, Charlotte NC

While having a wide variety of lenses at my disposal gives me the ability to pretty much shoot anything I want to shoot, the need to constantly make a decision about what to take or leave home distracts me from the creative inspiration to actually make photographs. I’ve been saying for a long time that the problem with carrying multiple lenses is that it increases the chances that I will have the wrong one on my camera. I found that carrying one or maybe two lenses is all I want to do, and I have gotten used to leaving the other stuff at home.

One of my regular Charlotte subjects - NASCAR Hall of Fame
One of my regular Charlotte subjects – NASCAR Hall of Fame
Recent History

I have had a number of “Point & Shoot” cameras over the years and have been quite impressed by their image quality. In fact it was a Canon G5 that convinced me back in 2004 that digital was the “way of the future.” I have been watching the evolution of compact cameras ever since with great interest, and was very excited when the interchangeable lens compact cameras came on the scene. Starting with the early Olympus “Pen” cameras in the so-called Micro 4/3 arena and evolving to a large lineup of small cameras with varying sizes of sensors, there are now many choices. My early experience in this area was when I bought Kathy an Olympus E-PL2 camera and a couple of lenses. That camera is a great size, and the lenses are amazingly small and light. I tried using that camera myself, but was never really happy with the image quality. That really tarnished my opinion of the camera and I never really gave the format any serious consideration. In hindsight, that opinion was probably a result of lower-quality lenses.

One of my regular Charlotte subjects - NASCAR Hall of Fame
One of my regular Charlotte subjects – NASCAR Hall of Fame
Fast Forward

Probably because of my earlier experience with the older Olympus camera, I have remained skeptical of the advances in quality of the compact cameras and the various photographers that have been singing their praises. The conventional wisdom, perhaps somewhat influenced by the marketing budgets of Canon and Nikon, has held that small sensor cameras just can’t produce the image quality of a full-size, full-frame, high resolution SLR. For anyone wanting to make prints larger than 13×19, it seemed that the SLR was the way to go, the larger the sensor the better. That was and still is pretty tasty Kool Aid.

Random electric meters, Charlotte NC
Random electric meters, Charlotte NC

Recently, I have been hearing and reading more and more stories, from people whose opinions I respect, who have had great things to say about the newer cameras on the market. Most of these cameras are from Fuji, Olympus and Sony, although there are others. Surprisingly, the entries from Canon and Nikon have been pretty weak and generally haven’t seemed to push the right buttons for people, and the general consensus is that those companies are not taking the market for these cameras seriously.

Random brick wall, Charlotte NC
Random brick wall, Charlotte NC
And Now

A few months ago I decided that the only way to find out how good these new cameras have become was to try one or more of them out myself. For me the choice seemed to be between Fuji and Olympus. So a couple of weeks ago, looking at a long holiday weekend off from work, I decided to try out a Fuji X-T1 for a few days to see just what all the excitement was about. I haven’t made any decisions but have reached several conclusions. The outcome of my little experiment will be the subject of my next post. For now, here are a few of the photos I have been working on from my time with this interesting little camera.

Random shadows, Charlotte NC
Random shadows, Charlotte NC