Preview: The 2013 Fujifilm X-E2

_5030421 copy

The Fujifilm X-E2 is a welcome update to last year’s popular X-E1. The camera takes the innards of the X100s and puts them in an X-mount body; it isn’t the X-Pro2 that a lot of users were hoping for, but it’s a significant enough update – for those who had issues with AF speed at least – to warrant serious consideration. In fact, I was sent a list of 61 improvements the X-E2 carries; some new to the camera, some inherited from the X-M1 and others from the X100s. I personally have had a rather inconsistent experience with Fujifilm products; on one hand, I absolutely love their films – Acros is my mainstay in all formats – but was left highly expectant and then disappointed by several cameras, first the original X100, then the X-Pro1, the XF1 and finally the X20. These are cameras I wanted to love, but found lacking in several areas; ultimately, I landed up with M4/3 as my compact system choice due to maturity of cameras and lenses. Many have asked why I don’t seriously consider the X system; I was offered a pre-production prototype by Fujifilm Malaysia, and I cleared a few days in the schedule to seriously revisit the system.

Note: the camera’s firmware is not final, so there will be no evaluation of image quality yet, or full size files or crops. Also bear in mind that some of the observations may change after final firmware. Most of the images in this review are mostly SOOC JPEG; a few have minor color corrections and all B&W images were converted from colour source files.There are also more samples in this Flickr set.

I also have the X-Q1 here; I just haven’t had time to shoot with it yet.

[Read more...]

Quick thoughts on the Sony A7 and A7R


Image from B&H.

The internet is going to be full of anticipation, excitement, speculation and various forms of virtual hand-wringing over Sony’s latest announcement: full frame mirrorless. I’m sure some bloggers have already had a chance to use one, but given the local market entity’s attitude, don’t expect to see a review from me anytime soon (if at all). As interesting as it is, I simply won’t be able to get a camera. What I can do is put together a few initial thoughts. I don’t normally join the equipment frenzy, but I think this is significant enough that it warrants some serious consideration.

[Read more...]

Olympus OM-D E-M1 review updated with thoughts on RAW quality

_ET41526b copy

Now that ACR has preliminary support for E-M1 raw files – amongst a whole load of other cameras – in ACR 8.2 (available here for Mac and Windows), I’ve gone through and reprocessed a few to assess the RAW quality of the E-M1′s sensor; I expect to have more thoughts on this in the longer term after I have a chance to put the camera through a greater variety of scenarios. Sadly, my loaner went back yesterday, so further updates after this one will have to wait until my own cameras arrive in October.

The full updated review is here. MT

Lens review: The Olympus 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO

_8038915 copy

Announced and available together with the new OM-D E-M1 (reviewed here), the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko Digital PRO (24-80mm equivalent) is the first in a new line of M.Zuiko Digital PRO lenses. Development of an equivalent-grade f2.8 fast telephoto zoom was also announced, with a 2014 release. Thanks to the folks at Olympus Malaysia, I’ve had the opportunity to use this lens together with the new camera for some time now. Read on for my review.

Advanced warning: Flickr will apparently be down for maintenance for a little while on Friday 13/9, so if some images don’t appear, it’s because they’re hosted there…

[Read more...]

The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part two: some comparisons

_8038929 copy

In part one yesterday, I looked at the camera as a standalone device with few references to its predecessor or competition; today we’re going to examine some of the technical differences in a bit more detail against two benchmarks: the outgoing OM-D E-M5, and the Nikon D600. Both are 2012 cameras, and cameras that I’m intimately familiar with because I use them heavily in the course of my normal work – the E-M5 as my travel/teaching camera, and the D600 for video and backup to the D800E. The former is a no-brainer; the latter is perhaps a bit more of a stretch: not only is there a significant price difference, but the sensor goes up in size by two whole notches – it’s effectively four times the size of that in the E-M1. Surely this is an unfair fight?

Update: ISO comparison chart mislabelling fixed, and I am checking on the 12 vs 14bit issue.

[Read more...]

The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera

_8038907 copy

The late-2013 OM-D E-M1 is the successor and upgrade to the very popular early-2012 OM-D E-M5. It’s now clear why the camera was launched with a mouthful of two names: OM-D is a line of products, E-Mx is the model. In this review, we will refer to them as E-M1 and E-M5 respectively to avoid confusion. As you all probably know, I’m very familiar with the E-M5; this camera has served as my travel and teaching camera for the last year, and has now clocked somewhere north of 40,000 exposures (I also reviewed it here). What’s changed in a year? Quite a lot, it seems: certainly enough to get excited about. There’s also a new confirmed lens – the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO, available with the camera, and a matching f2.8 telephoto for next year.

This review will be in three parts for ease of reading (this part is already north of 4,400 words) – the camera itself, today; a relative comparison with two other benchmarks, tomorrow; and a review of one of the two lenses announced with the camera shortly thereafter – the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO. A quick note on testing methodology: a range of lenses were used for the review, including the new 12-40, the 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD for 4/3rds, the 12, 45, 60 and 75mm primes, and the Panasonic 14-42X. You won’t find full size images here due to image theft/ IP issues; go by what I say not what you see – there’s an enormous difference between a small web JPEG that’s been attacked and oversharpened by Flickr’s downsizing algorithm and a full sized one or a RAW file in any case, plus of course the monitor matters. There will be 100% crops where noted, however.

A set of images shot with the E-M1 will be here on my flickr page, and continuously updated as I use the camera more.

Review updated 18 September to include comments on RAW file quality, post ACR 8.2 release.

[Read more...]

Tilt shift world cup: Korea vs. Japan: Rokinon/Samyang 24/3.5 T-S vs Nikon PCE 24/3.5

_5027040 copy

In the left corner: the Rokinon (a.k.a ‘Samyang’, in some parts of the world) T-S 3.5/24 ED AS UMC, from Korea. In the right corner: the Nikon PC-E 24/3.5 ED. One weighs in at a hair under $2,000, the other, closer to $850. I have to be honest, the Samyang has only come onto my radar because of the enormous difference in price – I admit curiosity as to what we’re really giving up for the delta. The only real uses for these lenses – other than bragging rights – are to shoot architecture; Putrajaya’s Putra Mosque plays host to us for this testing session.

Technical notes: During this test, I shot both lenses from the same tripod position with the same settings on the barrels – distance, tilt, shift, aperture. Nevertheless, there are still some slight differences, which I think are a combination of sample variation and lack of precision in the focusing scales of both lenses; infinity to 1m are barely five millimeters apart on the barrel – about seven degrees of travel, by my reckoning. Live view was used to match subject sharpness as closely as possible. Testing was done on a D800E body, at base ISO with self timer used at all times, on a locked down solid tripod – a Gitzo 5-series carbon systematic and Arca-Swiss Cube head. Whole-shot sample images were shot using the Nikon; in the A-B comparisons, the Rokinon is always the warmer image.

[Read more...]

Ultimate tripod heads, part two: the Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball

_5027068 copy

The P0 Monoball; Manfrotto 394 RC4 QR plate is for me to standardize my connectors across heads, and also because the QR version of this head costs nearly 50% more than the standard one – you can buy the adaptor AND a lot of spare plates for the difference. I’ve since replaced it with an Arca-style clamp I found on eBay for about $25 - surprisingly well made, and cost-efficient, too.

Today’s conclusion of the two-part review (part one covering the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube is here) covers the much simpler, cheaper, but no less well built P0 Monoball. They aren’t direct competitors or replacements for each other; to be honest, there’s ample room in a gear bag for both since they fulfil very different photographic needs.

[Read more...]

Ultimate tripod heads, part one: the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube

_5027057 copy
Arca-Swiss C1 Cube with D800E mounted via universal L bracket.

Arca-Swiss are known for two things: producing excellent precision photographic gear, and having spotty availability – probably due to very small production runs. This two part review is going to cover what I think are two of the best tripod heads currently available – the P0 and C1 Cube. I picked up the P0 from B&H as a lightweight travel head during my trip to New York earlier in the year; I’ve been using it since – more often than I’d imagined I would. After being very impressed with the little one, I requested a C1 Cube as soon as it finally became available; both out of curiosity, and also to see if the hype was true.

[Read more...]

Film diaries: Shooting with the legends

_6001544 copy

Warning: what follows is an unashamed post about gear. Yes, Ming is writing a gear-centric post. There will be no photography in this article beyond the obligatory camera p***.

Imagine, for a moment, this is an automotive blog. In fact, the precise segment that comes to mind is Richard Hammond’s recent series in Top Gear on driving the classics; every month we see him wrestling his boyhood poster fantasies with a silly grin on his face. After re-reading that sentence, I realize that sounded very, very wrong. I can’t claim to be anywhere near as popular as Hammond or the rest of the Top Gear trio, nor does my enthusiasm for photography extend that far so far back as for me to have boyhood fantasies about it, but I do distinctly remember lusting after a lot of (then) out of reach gear in the early days of my obsession. I admit that one of the high points of this job has been having the opportunity to fulfill those desires. I may never get the opportunity to drive a BMW 3.0 CSL, let alone a 250 GTO SWB or a Bugatti Veyron Supersport, but a 903 SWC is still feasibly within reach…

What follows today’s article is a little mini-series; I wouldn’t really call them reviews, because the context is very different and they’re not really that relevant as current products.

[Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 23,838 other followers

%d bloggers like this: