Quick review: the 2019 Fuji XF10

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Some camera purchases begin with much research, planning and deliberation; not to mention angst and hand-wringing. Others begin at airport duty free with too much time on one’s hands, and subsequent serendipity in locating a second hand unit. This falls into the latter category. I make no secret to being a big fan of large sensor compacts for their versatility and image quality. I liked the original APS-C GR, the Coolpix A and to a lesser degree, the original RX100; the RX0II is in my bag. You see, I had some time to kill at Heathrow, and landed up playing with some things I wouldn’t have done so otherwise. Those touch-and-try display counters are dangerous things.

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Review: The 2019 Sony RX0 Mark II, as a still photographer

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I admit to several things. Firstly, serious curiosity about the shooting experience of a tiny waist-level device (the RX0 Mark II has a flip screen). Secondly, the desire of every photographer to have hardware that’s small and of good quality. Finally, the usual healthy scepticism about the cost-to-value equation of such a device given Sony’s track record for a) price inflation and b) extremely short lifecycles. At $700, this is both the most expensive camera by volume I’ve ever bought, and one with one of the narrowest shooting envelopes (though not that far off the original APSC Ricoh GR, actually). So: why?

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Testing the E-M1 Mark II’s AF with updated FW v3.0

Back in 2017, I covered the first Let’s Rock mini concert here and when the gang returned for Let’s Rock 2 this year, I was privileged to be invited to shoot the dress rehearsal. The timing could not have been better, as the date of the shoot coincided with the release of the new firmware. I took the opportunity to test out the new and improved AF algorithm on the new Olympus E-M1 Mark II’s (as of firmware 3.0) while immersing myself in some awesome rock music. I equipped myself with the E-M1 Mark II, 45mm F1.8, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens and 12mm F2 lens but mostly used the 40-150mm PRO lens for this shoot.

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Modularity

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What do the Sigma FP and the Hasselblad CFV-50CII/907X have in common? Hint: it’s in the title. Of course, modularity is nothing new, but for whatever reasons it’s been restricted to very niche applications in the past – medium or large format, cinema, or strange mutations like the Ricoh GXR. We’ve seen the CFV backs before, of course – but this is the first one with an integrated battery, electronic shutter and full controls, plus electronic system support. It’s only in recent years with the growth of mirrorless cameras that we’ve seen the first tentative steps towards true universality – in the form of adaptors. Any lens with a longer flange distance can be used on any body with a shorter one, so long as the lens has mechanical controls and the camera has its own shutter. There are some cross-platform fully electronic adaptations, but they obviously don’t work as well as something native thanks to the protocol reverse engineering required. Still, it’s impressive that they work at all – moreso when you consider the mount mechanisms and the electronics are crammed into something as thin as a couple of millimetres, in the case of the Sony E to Nikon Z adaptor. Adaptation is now commonplace on pretty much every format – from 1″ to medium format; but read on for the reasons I think these two specific “cameras”* might be the start of something greater.

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Cheap and long: The Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 DX VR G review

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A little while ago, I reviewed the other end of Nikon’s discount spectrum: the equally-a-mouthful AF-P 10-20mm f4.5-5.6 DX VR. Together with the equally plastic AF-P 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 DX VR G, these three lenses make up the antithesis of the usual professional ‘holy trinity’. They are not fast, they are not weather sealed, they are not built like tanks, they are not bristling with switches and cutting edge features, and they’re most likely to be the first thing any hobbyist getting ‘serious’ is going to upgrade out of their kit. Hell, they’re the most likely things to be given away as promotional loss leaders in said kit to begin with. Yet – somewhat unexpectedly, I find myself rather liking them. The 10-20 is a solid lens with some caveats, but unbeatable at the price. Today’s post will examine the AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 DX VR G* – and it has even fewer caveats than the 10-20 and 18-55, making it honestly downright impressive. Read on if you feel like making your other glass uncomfortable.

*Nikon apparently couldn’t decide what to make, so we have in current production:
AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 DX G (new)
AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 DX VR G (new, this review)
AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 E VR G (new, FX version)
AF-S 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR G (old, and barely held up on 16MP FX let alone today’s cameras)
AF-S 55-300mm f4.5-5.6 DX VR G (old)
AF-D 70-300mm f4-5.6 G (very old, very bad)

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Wider please, but on a budget: the Nikon AF-P 10-20mm f4.5-5.6 DX VR review

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Most of you know me for being at the bleeding edge of hardware and being able to deploy the difference – that was true at least until my back injury last year, which has severely limited what I’m able to carry for any length of time. It has forced me to look at things I would normally have ignored; for whatever reason, in this industry light and small is usually also synonymous for ‘entry level’ and ‘cheap’. But in doing so, I’ve found some surprising hidden gems: hardware that most people pass over at face value for lack of bragging rights or seemingly ‘obvious’ deficiencies. Be prepared to be surprised, I was. This will be the first in a series of el cheapo reviews.

When I started off with DSLRs, the king of Nikon wides – DX only at the time, of course – was the AF-S 12-24/4. It was a decent performer even on the 12MP bodies, but started to fall apart with anything much more resolving than that. Distortion was…spectacular and not easily correctable. It was also very much a prosumer build lens, with light plastic everything, the slower AF-S motor and a non-prosumer whopping $1200 price tag or thereabouts. Fast forward fifteen years and we now have a successor (there was also the AF-S 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 DX, which sits somewhere between the two in price, build and optics). It takes many things away: it isn’t as long (20mm vs 24mm); it has an even plastickier build – even the mount is plastic – and it’s pretty much a stop slower across most of the range. BUT: it is $280 or so, new, from your choice of online outlet, and has VR, the new fast AF-P pulse motor, and weighs just 230g. It even covers FX from 13mm upwards, though the Z6 and Z7 will auto-crop to DX and you can’t override this. If you are not a fan of long reviews, then just enjoy the images, skim through the rest, and click the buy link at the bottom of the post.

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Long term field test: Olympus ZD 25/1.2 Pro

If I were to choose one of the three available F1.2 prime lenses from Olympus (17mm, 25mm and 45mm), most people would guess 45mm which is not a surprise considering that is my favourite focal length. However when the decision was finally made, I chose the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens instead. Of course I wanted all three F1.2 lenses but that will seriously burn a huge hole in my wallet. The choice of 25mm PRO has a lot to do with the nature of my commercial photography jobs and also practical use in street photography and most casual shooting environment, which I shall explore in this article. Bear in mind this is not a review of the lens – I published my full review in 2016 here in case you missed it.

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Review: the 2019 Olympus ZD 12-200 f3.5-6.3

Olympus has just released the M.Zuiko 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 which joins their current two superzoom lenses, the 12-100mm F4 IS PRO and the 14-150mm F4-5.6. The new 12-200mm lens has weather-sealing but is not positioned as a PRO grade lens. The existing 12-100mm F4 IS PRO (review here) is an exceptionally sharp lens for such a long zoom range. While the non-PRO 14-150mm F4-5.6 lens (article here) may not achieve the same level of optical performance as the 12-100mm PRO, it performs slightly better than basic kit lenses offered by Olympus, and has weather-sealing making it a great all-in-one solution. In this article, I want to test the newly launched 12-200mm lens and find out where it sits in the lineup.

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By popular demand: Nikon Z7 and D850 JPEG picture controls and ACR profiles

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I’m giving in to the large number of people asking me for Z7 and D850 Adobe Camera Raw profiles that are compatible with Workflow III. Now available is a supplementary pack that includes these profiles, as well as a bonus: what are arguably the best SOOC JPEG profiles available at the moment for the Z7 and D850. I’ve been looking at ways to make my own workflow more efficient for the majority of cases where I don’t need perfect files, so I can spend more time shooting (or doing other things) rather than being stuck behind a computer. Inspired by the results from the PEN F, I spent some time using Nikon’s byzantine picture control management software to make a set of curves that plays nice under the majority of situations. The monochrome picture controls were calibrated specifically for velvety rich shadows and smooth highlight rolloff; I think of it as ‘Acros Plus’ with a light orange filter; for some odd reason getting monochrome right was much more difficult than color – I put it down to the sensitivity of Nikon’s curve implementation.

Included in this pack are:

  1. Nikon Z7 ACR flat color profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  2. Nikon Z7 ACR flat monochrome profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  3. Nikon D850 ACR flat color profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  4. Nikon Z7 monochrome picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  5. Nikon Z7 high contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  6. Nikon Z7 low contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  7. Nikon D850 monochrome picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  8. Nikon D850 high contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  9. Nikon D850 low contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)

The profile/picture control pack is available to purchase here for $60.

All sample images in this post were shot with the Z7 and one of the three picture controls; PS was only used for batch resizing. More samples and notes after the jump. Expect an email from me after purchasing, within half a day at worst in case I’m not at the computer.

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Long term thoughts on the Nikon Z7 and system

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I’ve now had a few months, a few assignments and what I’d consider a decent amount of time with the Z7: long enough to be familiar with its various peccadilloes and figure out exactly where it fits in my arsenal. Think of it as an extended field test, and perhaps more important than the initial review that people seem to expect me to produce within hours of a camera’s announcement. Truth is, you don’t really know a camera until you’ve had a chance to use it as you normally would, for the kinds of subjects you normally shoot, for an extended period of time – it’s just not physically possible to cover that many scenarios in a short test. Trouble is, not many of us have the time to do that (and especially not sites that have dozens of cameras to cover every month). It also requires consistency in the way one works to provide a baseline of expectations. As usual, I preface my thoughts with the caveat that not everything will apply to everybody, and validity of course increases the more similar your photographic style is to mine. I may not cover some things that matter to you, and I may obsess over other things that are trivial. With that, and assuming we have a mature audience, let’s move on.

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