I had dinner at the Columbia Mall last night between shifts at work. At one point leaned back in my chair and looked up to see that there were still strings of Christmas lights hanging from the roof. Of course, I had to make a picture.
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Market analysts still predict that Olympus will go belly up, as early as this year, despite the fact that their sales figures are up, and they expect to turn a profit for the second year in a row, according to an article on The Phoblographer. To that point, the new Olympus OM-D EM-1 is the hottest selling mirrorless camera on Amazon.com.
Meanwhile Samsung, who continues to be mysteriously absent from these reports, have announced that they’ll be shipping the NX30, replacement for the NX20 model. The Phoblographer has a “first impressions” review up, and it’s certainly an intriguing camera. Samsung have also announced a series of new, high-end, “S” lenses.
If these companies are indeed going to go away, it’s certainly not going to be quietly.
An article in the New York Times claims that only Canon, Nikon and Sony will be able to survive the current economics of the camera market. I’m not entirely sure I agree.
This and other articles blame improvements in cell-phone cameras for eroding the DLSR market. That’s just not true, as the customer base is simply not the same. I’m sure that great cell phone cameras are hurting point-and-shoot camera sales, and to that end, some manufacturers have dropped many of their lower-end models. That makes good sense.
Further, while companies like Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony continue to create innovative designs and push technology forward, Canon and Nikon continue to market decidedly “me too” models that are barely upgrades from previous models. This, coupled with really disappointing efforts to meet the innovation of other makers in the mirrorless markets, make Canon and Nikon increasingly irrelevant in a changing market.
Another area the report claims that Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic fall short in is the addition of wireless connectivity to their cameras. In truth, all of the manufacturers save one are slow to add WiFi and the ability to easily upload pictures to Facebook and other social media outlets. The manufacturer leading in that area isn’t even mentioned in the article at all: Samsung, with their Galaxy NX, offers this capability across all sectors of the market.
Of course, only time will tell who will remain players in a difficult-but-slowly-improving economy. But I wouldn’t count anyone out at this point.
If you’re looking to make the move to the Fujifilm X-series, this might be a great deal for you!
While supplies last, you can get an X-E1 body bundled with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lenses. This is a great kit, as it offers the stellar image quality of the Fujifilm X-trans sensor and two excellent multi-purpose lenses. Note that this is “last year’s model” for the body, and there are a couple of caveats. For instance, if you do a lot of low-light shooting, this may not be the camera for you — instead, you might want to spend the extra money for the X-E2, with it’s new X-trans II sensor and EXR-II processor, which improves low-light performance in auto-focus response. Image quality between the two is almost identical. The only other “big deal” differences between the cameras is the rear LCD (on this camera, it’s a nice 2.8″ 4:3 LCD, and on the new model, it’s a higher resolution 3″ 16:9 screen) and the EVF. While the resolution of the EVF is the same on both models, the newer model has increased performance in low-light situations.
I was sitting at the kitchen table after breakfast this morning and glanced out the kitchen window. The sun was blasting through the melting ice on the tree in our back yard, and I had to make some pictures. As usual, I reached for the Fujifilm X10 — there was no thought of using the Sony — and headed out onto the back deck.
Our back deck is completely screened in, so I was forced to shoot through the screens, creating a little bit of a “star filter” effect in some of the images.
Way back in September, I posted a few shots from a belly dance event that happens regularly at our favorite little coffee shop, Birdies Cafe. In that post, I commented that the Fujifilm X10 struggled a bit in the low light without a flash. By the time we went again, I had purchased Fujifilm’s simple and inexpensive EF-20 shoe-mount flash. The lead shot for this post was taken with the X10 and the EF-20 flash. The image is straight from the camera with no editing, except for the usual prep for web.
The rig I used to make the shot is shown to the right — nothing more than the camera and the flash! I should note here that Liz has extremely large pupils all of the time, and it’s nearly impossible to get a flash photograph of her without a lot of red-eye. It even happens on near-profile shots. Since in-camera red-eye reduction is typically rather annoying with its burst of flashes designed to close down subjects pupils prior to the exposure — and given that it’s generally pretty ineffective anyway (at least on other cameras I’ve used) — I had that turned off. Imagine my surprise when I glanced at the the LCD screen on the back of the camera and there was no red-eye! The only thing missing is a little catch-light in the near eye.
As you can see, there’s not much to the EF-20 flash. It’s compact, it bounces, and it has just three buttons. It’s TTL-auto flash only, but does allow for really easy flash exposure compensation by pressing the center “EV Adjust” button. Flash power can be adjusted up or down by on stop in half-stop increments. It’s hard to see, but there’s also a little flip-over diffusion panel that softens the central 75% or so of the flash head. The price is great, too: right around $100.
I’ve recently added a few “Strobist” items to my little kit. I now carry a small piece of white plastic card; a small piece of diffusion gel; small pieces of 1/4 CTO, 1/2 CTO, 1/4 CTB and 1/2 CTB gel; and three rubber bands, all in a small resealable plastic bag. The plastic card can be used with the flash tilted up to push some of the light forward towards the subject to fill in shadows and add catch-lights in the eyes. The colored gels are great for matching the flash to ambient lighting (although the AWB setting on the camera does a pretty good job of figuring things out, as you can see by the lead image), and the little piece of diffusion is great for softening up the flash a bit.
I haven’t had occasion to use the flash since these items went into the bag, but I’ll set up some shots with these items and post them soon.
Recently, Samyang have asserted that their complete line of lenses and accessories will be made available for Fujifilm X-series cameras. That includes the forthcoming 10mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens. The sample images on the Samyang site are quite impressive — there’s remarkably little distortion at the edges, especially considering the short focal length. The price is expected to be around $590.00 when it becomes available (the lens was first shown at Photokina in 2012, so it’s be a while in coming).
It’s our second “winter weather event” of the week, and this one kept us both home from work all day. Between driveway shovelings, I walked out and made a few photos.
I used the little Fujifilm X10 to take the pictures, and brought them into Lightroom for pre-processing. I then moved JPEGs of the resultant images to my iPad mini, where I processed the images using either Repix (only to add frames) or the iOS version of Snapseed (to add a black-and-white HDR effect or frames). For some reason, it didn’t really occur to me to move the images directly from the camera to the iPad using either the Eye-Fi card or the direct cable import — not sure what I was thinking…
A long time ago, when I got my first film SLR, I had three prime lenses: 50mm f/1.8, 24mm f/2.8, 135mm f/2.8. And that, or something very similar, was the standard kit of a huge number of photographers of the time. The big difference between my lens selection and most other photographers was the wide angle lens; where I used a 24mm, most others had a 28mm lens. So, I thought it might be interesting to see what it would take to emulate that setup today, in either an APS-C or micro four-thirds rig.
Since most people are shooting APS-C DSLR cameras these days, I figure this would be the place to start. For these cameras with a “crop factor” of about 1.5x, we need to cover the range from about 16mm-90mm to get lenses with an equivalent angle-of-view to my three-lens setup.
16mm wide-angle: There’s really only one non-fisheye 16mm lenses out there, and it’s a manual-focus Samyang SY16M-C 16mm f/2.0 (it’s also available as a Rokinon- or Bower-branded lens, but in each case, they’re manufactured by Samyang), which sells for about $479.00. In addition to most regular DSLR mounts, this lens is also available for Sony’s NEX mirrorless cameras, as well as Fujifilm X-mount cameras. Most of the reviews I’ve read of Samyang lenses are pretty good. The only big caveat that I can see is that on most cameras, focusing may be difficult. This is not really a fault of the lens, but rather, because most DSLR and mirrorless camera systems are severely lacking when it comes to manual focusing aids. It should also be noted that this is a large, heavy lens at almost 4″ long and weighing about 20oz.
30mm normal: For a “normal” 30mm lens, again, there’s really only one choice for DSLRs. This one is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 which is, by all accounts, an amazing lens that sells for $300-$500, depending on the lens mount. You could also use a 28mm or 35mm lens designed for full-frame cameras; most major manufacturers offer 35mm f/1.8 lenses that are small, light and fast at similar prices:
90mm telephoto: The only actual 90mm prime lens that I’ve been able to find is the Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8, which is available for most DSLRs. It’s an incredibly sharp lens, and is quite versatile — it can be used as a general telephoto lens, a true 1:1 macro, and it’s a great lens for portraiture as well, and this versatility makes the $500 price tag a little easier to cope with. However, because the macro lens is designed to focus very accurately at close range, the gearing of the focusing mechanism is such that autofocus can be fairly slow when used for non-macro photography. Depending on your use, that may not matter at all, and the versatility of the lens may outweigh the slow focusing.
If you need faster focus, and don’t mind giving up a little bit of “reach” from the telephoto and close focusing capability, there are a number of excellent 85mm lenses available at very attractive prices — or much higher prices, depending on the model. 85mm f/1.8 lenses make excellent portrait lenses.
There aren’t many zoom lenses for APS-C DSLRs that cover the range we’re looking for. If you’re a Canon shooter, there is the Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AF DX II, available for about $250. As near as I can tell, it’s a discontinued lens, and it was never all that great. It’s also a slow lens, which means that getting nice, soft backgrounds for portraits may be an issue, depending on the shooting conditions.
Micro Four-Thirds Compact System Cameras
Choices for Micro Four-Thirds 3-lens kits are a bit more limited, but the available lenses are all excellent and compact. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive. An advantage to the micro four-thirds format is that one lens fits both “DLSR-style” and “rangefinder-style” bodies, so if you want a “big rig” and a “stealth rig”, you don’t have to buy a complete set of lenses for both. In the micro four-thirds format with it’s 2x “crop factor,” the focal length range is from 12mm to 67.5mm. There are generally two manufactures of micro four-thirds lenses: Olympus and Panasonic, and lenses from both manufacturers are of excellent optical quality. Olympus and Panasonic happen to also be the only current manufacturers of micro four-thirds cameras, and there’s one major difference between the two — Olympus uses in-camera image stabilization, and Panasonic handles stabilization in the lens. Let’s move on to our lens selections.
12mm wide-angle: As I mentioned, options here are limited. For a 12mm lens, the only option is the $800 Olympus 12mm f/2.0 at nearly $800. Image quality from the lens is stellar, and the construction is top-notch. As it’s an Olympus lens, there’s no image stabilization in the lens. Switching from auto-focus to manual focus is as easy as sliding the focus ring in or out. At f/2.0, it’s a fairly fast lens, and it’s a great one for photographing the “grand landscape” or for street photography in tight quarters.
25mm normal: Olympus doesn’t have a 25mm lens, so for the normal lens, the option is Panasonic’s Lumix G Micro 4/3 LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm f/1.4, which will set you back about $530. While there’s no image stabilization in this lens, the fast f/1.4 aperture features seven curved blades for exceptionally smooth bokeh and nice, creamy-soft backgrounds when used under the right conditions. There are also special optical coatings to all but eliminate flare and other optical aberrations.
67.5mm telephoto: The closest thing currently available to a 135mm-equivalent lens would be the Olympus 75mm f1.8, which works out to a 150mm equivalent. This is a pricey lens, too, at $900, but it’s really the only prime lens in its class for micro four-thirds cameras.
You’ll notice that I haven’t suggested any zoom lenses, and there are reasons. Zoom lenses that cover a range from very-wide-angle-to-medium-telephoto are always compromises in at least one area. Almost always, they’re slow, and that all but eliminates the chances of getting good control of depth of field. Also, they tend to not be as crisp as prime lenses at the extreme ends of their zoom ranges. In micro four-thirds, where the sensor chip is even smaller than APS-C, you need every bit of depth-of-field control and sharpness you can get. However, the point is moot, as there are no micro four-thirds lenses available that cover the range we’re looking for.
You’ll notice that I made very little mention of the Fujifilm X-series in this discussion, and that’s because while there are some great lenses available for the Fujifilm cameras, it’s quite difficult to match up to the focal lengths I was looking for. It is possible to mount various lenses to the Fujis via adapters, and some folks are being very successful doing this, but I was really wanting to use lenses that, for the most part, just fit. As it is, there is an excellent 14mm F2.8 and 35mm F1.4 to cover the wide-angle and normal ranges. However, there really aren’t any medium telephoto primes out there for the Fujis yet. I’m sure that will be rectified in the relatively near future.
The zoom lenses that Fuji have made so far are excellent and relatively fast, too. So far, there’s a 18-55mm f/2.8-4 that’s available with the X-E2 kit, and a Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 that I’m told is extremely impressive. I could definitely see the combo as a nice, two-lens system for a quite decent price. Somehow, the magic within the Fujifilm boxes delivers unexpected depth of field, given the APS-C sensor size.
So, there you have it. My off-the-cuff attempt at finding a way to replicate my favorite kit from 1979 using today’s gear. It’s obviously an expensive proposition and there are a number of compromises involved, but it could be done.
A few days back, a user on dpreview.com posted an interesting comparison between a Sony Alpha A900 (23.4mp full-frame) and a Fujifilm X-Pro1 (16mp APS-C), using lenses with an “equivalent” focal length — a 35mm Minolta Maxxum lens on the A900, and a 23mm Fujifilm lens on the X-Pro1, for the purposes of comparing depth-of-field and bokeh. He was careful to also calculate and use “equivalent” apertures in his comparison.
You can view the full comparison by clicking here, or on the image at the left.
For those who are contemplating a move to a full-frame or to the Fuji system, the results are certainly interesting and compelling.
Spoiler alert: You’ll be hard pressed to see a difference.