Most Leaked Fujifilm X Camera Announced – the X-T1

Fujifilm X-T1 is finally announced today on the 28th January 2014
Fujifilm X-T1 is finally announced today on the 28th January 2014

Finally, it’s official announced – to not much surprise though, since the new Fujifilm X-T1 camera is one of the most leaked cameras, with photos and specs well available to the general public over the past few weeks.

It’s significant that a Fujifilm X camera is touting operational speed among its many attributes, as most of the X cameras so far aren’t speed demons. The X-T1 has also gained the SLR-esque hump that seems to be all the rage now, heralded in first by the 2012 OMD-EM5 and followed on by the OMD-EM1 and the Sony A7 and A7R. Continue reading Most Leaked Fujifilm X Camera Announced – the X-T1

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Wither the Best Camera?

As the year wind down to a close, here is one guy’s confession about the year of 2013 in cameras.

Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road - the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.
Christmas Eve countdown celebration at Orchard Road – the weather sealed Sony A7 and kit lens was severely tested in the foamy frenzy.

David: When I bought the Leica M9 sometime in August of 2012, I thought I’m done with cameras – this would be the ultimate rangefinder camera that will carry me for many more years, a culmination of my years of rangefinder experience with the venerable Leica M6 (and for a short while, the meter-less Leica M3), the pinnacle of photographic experience never reached since regrettably selling both my film Leicas thanks to the lure of digital photography. And even though in my history of photography since 2002 I have used quite a few digital cameras, the window finder way of seeing and shooting, along with the habit of using cameras only in manual exposure mode, remain with me even till today.

My Leica M9 setup - shot with a X100
My Leica M9 setup – shot with a X100

The M9 was supposed to set that straight – to restore parity to my photography with my own favoured and preferred way of seeing and shooting. And it did – over 15,000 exposures later. It’s much more than that in reality – my Lightroom crashed a few months ago and I didn’t backup the catalog, so I’m still rebuilding the catalog from past work, but even halfway through the rebuilding process, M9 exposures alone are more than 15,000…..

With the M9, I travelled to Japan and even had my own exhibition in 2012, and was also exhibited at the Leica Singapore gallery in a joint exhibition in 2013.

So even though I flirted with a succession of cameras since I bought the M9 – namely a Ricoh GXR, the Ricoh GR and briefly with the Olympus OMD E-M5, none came close to replacing the M9 as my main go-to camera, though I must say the Ricoh GR was a thoroughly enjoyable camera and excelled on the streets.

Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road
Japanese buskers performing along Orchard Road – Sony A7 with CV 50 f1.5 ASPH II
I call this intersection, Singapore's own Shibuya Crossing
I call this intersection, Singapore’s own Shibuya Crossing
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 - this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?
Double rainbow sighting after I bought my A7 – this was in fact the second rainbow occurrence I sighted after getting the A7. A sign?

OK, here’s the confession: In November of 2013, I broke down and got the Sony A7 with 28-70 kit zoom, despite my reservations about the Sony brand, intrigued by the possibilities of mounting my Leica and Voigtlander rangefinder lenses on it as a second body. I’ve never been a person who likes to change lenses, and always preferred shooting with 2 bodies. The Sony A7 was an interesting proposition. I had not put my name anywhere nor placed any deposit but when I called MS Color in the initial frenzy of the launch – there was one set available. Someone had decided to let go of his reservation.

Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.
Migrant workers at Orchard Road instead of Little India after the riots of 8th Dec.

I had never owned a Sony camera personally, nor bought anything from MS Color in over 12 years. That day, both records were broken. And one month later, the M9 has hardly come out of the bag.

For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
For a month my new Sony A7 went with me wherever I go, high ISO ready for any situation, including personal memories of favourite people like this one.
Dancing queen - manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Dancing queen – manually focusing using peaking was no problem for the A7.
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 - it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9
Off centre focusing using M mount rangefinder lenses on a full frame sensor since the M240 – it was a breeze on the A7, and a welcome capability to complement the M9

There will be a full review of this full frame tiny wonder at this site for sure, (and hopefully we can get our hands on the 36 megapixel A7R too for evaluation) but right now, I’ll say this – if I didn’t have any Leica, the A7 would be my main camera, such is the ease of adapting lenses, particularly Leica lenses to it. Yes I know there are still corner smearing and colour cast issues with wide and ultra wide angle lenses, but my widest M mount lens, my most used 35mm Summarit had no major problems with it, and to me, that’s enough. Curiously though, because of the fact I love shooting with 2 bodies, I have been using the excellent Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 ASPH version 2 lens on the A7 and I’ve gotten so used to the 50mm field of view that I miss the 35mm much less now.

Helping the kids - shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
Helping the kids – shot with the Sony A7 and CV 50 f1.5 ASPH
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn't too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The kit lens of the Sony A7 isn’t too bad, and definitely handled most situations with aplomb.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.
The A7 met the prime minister of Singapore and his wife strolling down Orchard Road in an impromptu visit.

The Sony A7 is the Leica M240 that I couldn’t afford (not new, anyway. My M9 was a second hand unit too) – 24 megapixels capable of ISO up to 51200 and more, high resolution EVF with excellent peaking modes for manual focusing, off centre focus magnification placement, weather sealing, small, lightweight and more importantly, allows me to use my M mount lenses. In those respects, it is more than the M240, and a perfect complement to my M9. Not to mention the great wireless options on the A7 – the picture below was uploaded directly from the camera (at the time of writing, this image was shot about a hour ago) to Flickr by connecting to a wireless hotspot:

Cute Whisky - this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.
Cute Whisky – this image was uploaded directly to Flickr from the Sony A7.

To be honest, I still focus faster with the rangefinder patch of the M9 compared to peaking and I do find the images of the M9 at base and low ISOs superior still due to the lack of the AA filter, but the A7 opens up new avenues (or re-open old ones to be precise) in the area of high ISO shooting, something I was used to with Japanese DSLRs all these years.

What's in my bag mostly now - the Sony A7 with the CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 with the Summarit 35mm f2.5
What’s in my bag – the Sony A7 + CV 50 f1.5 and the Leica M9 + Summarit 35mm f2.5

I’m done with cameras with these two. I think.

 

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Large Sensor, Long Zoom – The new Sony RX10

pSNYNA-DSCRX10~B_main_v786

Imagine taking Sony’s excellent compact camera the RX100, retain its 1 inch, 20 megapixel sensor, sticking a long 24-200 F2.8 Carl Zeiss lens in front, and bulk up the camera with a quasi-DSLR shape, and you get the new Sony RX10 – announced today to much fanfare.

The new Cyber-shot RX10 camera adds a high-zoom model to its premium line of Cyber-shot RX series cameras. The original RX100, and the subsequent RX100 II, if you aren’t already aware, is an excellent compact camera with a largish 1″ size sensor producing excellent 20 megapixel images rivalling those of low end DSLRs. The new RX100 upped the ante by providing a zoom that goes from a wide angle of 24mm (35mm equivalent) to a focal length of 200mm, useful for birding, zoos, stage work, concerts etc. Continue reading Large Sensor, Long Zoom – The new Sony RX10

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Fuji Announces XF 23mm f1.4 R lens

XF 23mm f1.4 lens
Fujifilm’s new XF 23mm f1.4 R lens

Finally, the lens long anticipated and awaited for the Fuji X mount system, the XF 23mm f1.4 R lens is finally here – the hallowed focal length of 35mm, a common and highly popular moderate wide angle focal length is now available with this lens on any X-Mount camera (currently the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-M1).

When Fujifilm launched the X-system with the X-Pro1, I was disappointed they did not include any lenses with an equivalent focal length of 35mm in its initial launch, opting instead to go with a 28mm, 50mm and 90mm equivalent set of lenses (the 18, 35 and 60mm XF lenses), though admittedly the 28, 50 and 90 combination is also a very widely popular set of focal lengths.  I can only assume Fuji wants to sell the X100 still, so to protect sales, the 35mm focal length was left to the X100, and later, the X100S.

All is now forgiven with this lens. Reading the press release, here are a number of stand out features:

– Lens distortion has been reduced to the absolute minimum using only optical rather than digital correction, thereby delivering the highest possible picture quality. This means the lens itself has an optical design that is purer and follows traditional optical design principles of getting it right in the lens – instead of some sloppy modern lens designs (I’m looking at you, Olympus and Panasonic lenses) which depend on software-based in-camera lens correction or worse, in-house raw converter lens correction. Score one for this new Fuji!

(YS: Hey hey, it’s a legitimate design for the digital age if you ask me, provided there is enough resolution to deal with the corrections in the first place.)

– The rounded seven-blade diaphragm ensures smooth bokeh even when shooting portraits or product shots at a medium aperture to maintain reasonable depth-of-field. This means bokeh is probably going to be good!

– All lens elements are treated with Fujifilm’s multilayer HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) which delivers enhanced durability and ensures an even spread of light across the sensor. Similar to Nikon’s branding of their nano-crystal coat and Canon’s sub-wavelength structure coating, Fujifilm has caught on and brand its new coating with some fancy marketing name designed to induce a level of awe.

– The FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R features a camera-to-subject distance indicator and a depth-of-field scale on the barrel. Both are useful when manually pre-focusing to capture a fast moving subject, or minimize the shutter lag to capture a fleeting moment. Score another one for this new Fuji XF lens – a real depth of field scale and an actual subject to distance scale allows quick zone / hyper focusing without looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD, and is a great asset to working on the streets.  One quick glance down at the camera and one twist of the lens barrel is enough to achieve the desired zone of focus without even bringing the camera to the eye.

This lens is announced at a time when I’m contemplating an X-Pro1 to complement my Leica M9 as a medium telephoto solution using M mount lenses. If Fujifilm keeps getting things right such as this lens, I’m going to have to build a secondary system based on the X-mount!

X-Pro1 with XF 23mm f1.4R lens
X-Pro1 with XF 23mm f1.4R lens

 

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5 Stones Photo Relaunched With New Design

5 Stones Photo Blog
5 Stones Photo Blog

YS and CK have kindly consented to me posting this shameless self plug, so here goes – my own photography blog 5 Stones Photo, a personal blog where I post pictures and anecdotes about the photographic life, has been relaunched with a new site design and look – basically a wider design with more breathing space and more room for 800 pixel wide images to be posted.

Sunset at Shibuya. From Tokyo Dreaming
Sunset at Shibuya. From Tokyo Dreaming

More importantly, this coincides with my dive into full time photography and also the launch of a new series of articles on my personal trips to Japan – Tokyo Dreaming, a long term project looking at life on the streets of Tokyo and the visual documentation of this mega-city. Part 1 and Part 2 has so far been posted this week.

Do visit and support my blog!

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One Guy’s Thoughts: The New Ricoh GR

The new Ricoh GR, with almost the same dimensions as the GRD IV, with a much bigger APS-C sized sensor inside.
The new Ricoh GR, with almost the same dimensions as the GRD IV, with a much bigger APS-C sized sensor inside.

Ricoh stunned the world this week with the announcement of the impending availability of the world’ smallest APS-C sensor compact camera, the Ricoh GR, and naturally most of the major news sites went gaga over the next few days with previews of the camera. I’m not going to rehash many of the points already mentioned and dispense with the superlatives that have been associated with this new camera. As the owner of a Ricoh GXR system with the 28mm module with a APS-C sensor, I already knew the potential of a small camera system equipped with a APS-C camera, even if most previews and writeups of the camera seem to conveniently forget the fact the GXR with 28mm module actually exists.

The back of the new Ricoh GR - they managed to squeeze in one more extra external control!
The back of the new Ricoh GR – they managed to squeeze in one more extra external control!

What I’m instead going to write about here is the raison d’etre of such a camera – I’ve read previews and comments online commenting on the commercial viability or even photographic need for such a camera, with some also alluding to the fact that the Nikon Coolpix A was already on the market, and the Ricoh was merely copying the design. A few previews tried to dissect the camera based on specs, measuring auto focus speed and comparing with the Nikon Coolpix A. Some bemoaned the lack of a built in viewfinder, and some questioned the “slow” aperture of f2.8 for the lens. All have missed the point. Continue reading One Guy’s Thoughts: The New Ricoh GR

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Sigma releases 4 new lenses – 30mm f/1.4 DC, 19mm f/2.8, 30mm f/2.8 DN and 60mm f/2.8 DN

At the start of the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2013 this week in Yokohama, Japan, Sigma Photo announced 4 new lenses. First lens is a redesigned version of its original much heralded and popular Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM lens for DX cameras from Nikon, cropped sensor DSLRs from Canon, and of course Sigma’s own lineup of DSLRs. The new 30mm f/1.4 is also compatible with Sigma’s new USB Dock, which will enable firmware updates and focusing adjustments, is expected to be available in coming months. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 gives cropped sensor DSLR users an additional option for fast standard focal length lenses (about 45mm equivalent).  Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN

The 60mm f/2.8 DN is a completely new lens for the Micro 4/3s mount as well as the Sony E system mount. Featuring a 120mm f/2.8 equivalent on Micro 4/3s cameras and 90mm f/2.8 equivalent on Sony E-mount cameras, this lens complements Sigma’s own line of short fast primes for the m4/3 and E mount systems, which now comes with redesigned 19mm f/2.8 DN and the reworked 30mm f/2.8 DN lenses. On m4/3 cameras, the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN features an equivalent focal length of 38mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 gives an equivalent of 60mm f/2.8. On Sony E mount cameras, the 19mm gives a very versatile 28.5mm f/2.8 equivalent and the 60mm f/2.8 gives an equivalent of 90mm f/2.8.

Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

Sigma 19mm f2.8 DN

All these lenses are redesigned under Sigma’s new “Art” line of lenses. According to Sigma:

“Sigma is organizing all its interchangeable lenses into three product lines; Contemporary, Art and Sports. Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression. Developed with the maximum emphasis on artistic touch, they are designed to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome above compactness and multifunction. Along with landscapes, portraits, still-life, close-up and casual snaps, they are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. Ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture, starry skies, underwater shots and many other scenes.”

Availability dates are not known at press time.

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On Fujifilm’s new X100S…

X100S
Image Courtesy of Fujifilm

David: News of Fujifilm’s new X100S, a seminal update to the venerable game changer (IMHO) hit the web a few hours earlier than the NDA scheduled due to a uhmmm… accidental leak on Fuji’s UK website (riiiigghhht), but rumors of it have been floating around the net a few days before, so it wasn’t a complete shocker to me.

But what a camera…. what an update. Rather than go through all the specs laboriously one by one (other sites do it better, e.g. Fuji’s own X-series website), as a X100 fan and active user, I want to highlight the key features of this update which may have eluded those of you unfamiliar with the X100. This is NOT a news update, but think of it as my ode to one of the most enjoyable cameras I’ve ever used. So, here goes…..

Continue reading On Fujifilm’s new X100S…

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Olympus introduces another fast prime

Olympus today announced the latest fast prime addition to their already impressive lineup of micro four-third lenses – the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8. (to use their official lingo for this lens). Essentially, this lens gives the time honored and very popular 35mm focal length field of view (34mm to be exact if you are picky, but who’s counting?) in a fast package with a large bright aperture of f1.8.

What this means, essentially, for me at least, is that the world of m43 has suddenly become more interesting for traditionalists / photojournalistic types / fast lens aficionados   like me who like fast single focal length lenses. Yes, of course I’m aware that Oly has had the 17mm f2.8 pancake for a while already with the first introduction of their Pen cameras, and also gorgeously built 12mm f2, and the equally superlative 75mm f1.8 and not forgetting the 45mm f1.8, a beautiful portrait lens. But the 35mm field of view has long been the mainstay of photojournalists and documentary photographers, and while the 17mm comes close, at the widest aperture of f2.8, it is neither fast enough for low light work without bumping up ISO, nor does it give the depth of field separation I crave with the f2.8 aperture on a m43 sized. sensor.

Panasonic lovers will now be up in arms for my failure to mention the 20mm f1.7 panny lens, but the 20mm gives a longer 40mm equivalent field of view, and as a Panasonic lens, it doesn’t play well the in-camera lens corrections on Olympus cameras (I’m looking at the OMD). Finally, we have a native Olympus 35mm equivalent lens with a fast bright aperture, and not only that, one that is built to the same standards as the rest of what I call the super prime family – the 12 f2, 45 f1.8 and the 75 f1.8 – solid metal construction (albeit only in one color – chrome), with a depth of field scale nicely revealed when one pulls back on the manual focus ring – this action also activates manual focus and one can turn the manual focus ring ala lenses of old for manual focus, with a damped focus mechanism complete with end stops for focal travel, that feels as solid as any old manual focus lens, even if the focus is really electronic.

Essentially, for documentary photography, one can now have a solid body – the OMD, with a complete set of lenses replicating the traditional focal lengths of 24mm (the 12 f2), 35mm (17 f1.8) and 90mm (45 f1.8) with a longish lens thrown in for good measure (the 75 f1.8), all at fast bright apertures of f1.8 to f2. This is a formidable combination – many of the iconic images seared into our minds over the history of photography have been taken with lenses with focal lengths ranging from 24mm to 90mm of which this set of Oly lenses now adequately cover, and by extension, the m43 system.

For official sample images by Olympus, check out their official page.

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Leica Singapore “Das Wesentliche”

Leica Singapore's Das Wesentliche event at Ion Sky
Leica Singapore’s Das Wesentliche event at Ion Sky

Leica’s “Das Wesentliche”, which first premiered on the eve of Photokina 2012, came to Singapore last night at the fabulous Ion Sky Tower, where the new Leica M, Leica M-E, Leica S, the Dlux 6 and the Dlux 4 were shown for the first time in Asia outside of Japan. (A little known fact is that the Leica Akademie program is also available Singapore, and only in Singapore for the continent of Asia).

Continue reading Leica Singapore “Das Wesentliche”

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