Not another Fuji journey!

This was originally posted in June 2016. It’s taken around three years to move to a full Fuji system so to celebrate I’m republishing a couple of original articles.  I am in the process of writing both an updated review of the Fuji X-T3 and also revisiting this post that firs appeared on davewhenhaphotography.com.

It may just be because of my recent researches but I’ve seen a lot of blog posts along the lines of “My journey with Fuji”, “My switch from [insert brand here] to Fuji” or “Moving to Fuji – my story”.  So the virtual world probably doesn’t need another such post. But then again I figured that as my posts are read by approximately one and a half people each time perhaps it would be OK to slip this one in under the radar.

© Dave Whenham
The start of my Fuji “journey”. Fuji X100 Winter 2011.

I was as it happens a very early “adopter” buying the Fuji X100 when it first came out and I instantly became enamoured by its retro styling and the way it forced me back into a way of shooting I’d last enjoyed thirty years previously.

Coffee-and-Conversation-by-Dave-Whenham
Coffee and Conversation. Fuji X100.
© Dave Whenham
Misty Morning. Fuji X100 Winter 2013/14
© Dave Whenham
Images from a photo essay 2013. Fuji X100
© Dave Whenham
Curves. Fuji X100 2014

That however was the honeymoon and whilst I continued to use the X100 regularly as shown by the images above it’s shortcomings and quirks finally led to it being left at home more and more until 2015 when, whilst switching my DSLR kit from Canon to Nikon,  I finally decided to part company with the Fuji.

It was a difficult decision, in so many ways it was a joy to handle but it could be a frustration to actually use and despite its image quality (I won a club competition with an X100 image) the fact that it was spending so much time in the drawer meant I wasn’t getting any meaningful benefit from ownership. The major firmware update in late 2013 came too late for me, by that time the X100 and indeed Fuji were rarely in my thoughts and I completely missed the announcements. I did update the firmware before selling the camera but by then the die was cast. I cried quietly inside at how little I got for it but that’s another story.

Looking back this morning I am well pleased with some of the images I made with the X100. On those occasions when I could be bothered to wrestle with it’s idiosyncrasies I was usually happy with the results even if getting there was sometimes somewhat painful. I never used the Fuji JPEGS from the X100 but was always more than happy with the quality of the RAW (RAF) files it produced.  From time to time though after selling the X100 I did regret the decision.

Recently however I’ve been looking again at the Fuji X100, now in its third iteration as the Fuji X100T. I initially started looking at classic film rangefinders with no intention of reentering the premium large sensor, fixed prime lens digital market. However, wherever I looked the Fuji X100T kept cropping up in articles, blog posts and discussion groups. Which naturally meant I followed the threads and dug deeper. And deeper. And yet deeper still.

© Dave Whenham
West End, London. Fuji X100T

So deep in fact that the X100T entered the house and I have very quickly embraced this newest iteration of the X100. The handling is the same but the user experience vastly improved.  Using this style of camera needs a different approach compared to a (D)SLR, more akin to a traditional rangefinder, but as with everything the secret is in getting to know your kit and actually using it regularly. I’ve used the X100T daily since I got it and the mechanical side of things is starting to become intuitive; muscle memory is being formed and changing settings is becoming easier through repetition. I think that is the secret with any camera, practice, practice and yet more practice.  Several of the buttons on the camera can be customised and I’ve been through three separate formations so far, each slightly more helpful to my way of working than before.

© Dave Whenham
Oxford Street, London. Fuji X100T

Getting to know the camera hasn’t been without its frustrations of course but I’m already feeling at home with the X100T and the quality of the images who I get it right make the effort very worthwhile.  Two main things stand out art present. Firstly, the camera tends to under-expose to my taste in most situations, not a major problem as I now keep the EV dial on +1 most of the time but I do need to keep an eye on exposure.  I will experiment further with exposure modes and see if that helps in this regard.

© Dave Whenham
Kings Cross, London. Fuji X100T

The X100T is great for candid photography and the image quality at ISO 6400, when exposed correctly, is superb. No complaints from me. The image above was shot at 1/60th second at f4 and ISO 6400 from a distance of five feet or so with the camera sat on my leg.

Which leads me to my other frustration, which I would stress is down to my handling and NOT the camera, and that is the number of blurred shots I acquired when street shooting due to the shutter speed being too slow. My bad as they say but I have been setting far too small an aperture for street candids I think. As a landscape photographer I am used to defaulting to f11 as my go-to aperture.  When shooting portraits I often use f2.8 or even wider on occasions. Out on the streets of London last week I set the X100T to f8 or f11, auto ISO (with a maximum of 6400) in aperture priority and manual focusing. Looking at the images this morning far too many are blurry and when I dig deeper I’m seeing shutter speeds of 1/15th second or less. When moving on the street I suspect that even 1/30th or 1/60th of a second might be too slow. This is NOT a fault of the camera but it is something to be aware of and for me it is a case of getting used to a smaller, busier viewfinder and keeping my eye on the shutter speed.

IMG_1625
“Now it’s your turn”. Fuji X100T

Looking back through the images, an aperture of f4 would be ideal with the 23mm lens of the X100T when shooting candids or street photography. This was indoors and 1/100th sec at f4 ISO 1600 with camera to my eye.

Last weeks experiences on the streets of London have taught me a lot about this style of shooting and also given me the confidence that insofar as I am concerned the X100T is going to be the perfect tool for the job.

But of course, I didn’t stop at the X100T as you will know if you’ve read any of my recent posts. A flurry of activity online, selling my Nikon 16-35 lens and the entire EOS M3 kit amongst other items, has provided the budget for a new Fuji X-T10 and four lenses (8mm fisheye, 12mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm).

© Dave Whenham
An iconic skyline. Fuji X-T10 with 55-200mm lens

One thing I have been very conscious of more recently is the weight of my Nikon kit. It is less of an issue when out in the fells for the day with one of my photographic partners but for a day out with the family it is frankly a liability.  However, spending five days away, as we did last week, I prefer to have some options other than just a DSLR and 24-70 zoom. But it is not practical, my full Nikon kit is bigger than the suitcase we use for a start!  So, whilst researching the Fuji X-series I realised I could put together an excellent system which would mean I could cut down on bulk and weight without compromising on versatility.

Spoiler alert: I bought the X-T10 as my lightweight alternative to the Nikons and at this stage it is not my intention to ditch the DSLRs so don’t expect a “Road to Damascus” moment later in this post because there hasn’t been one … yet.

The images above were all taken with the Fuji X-T10 on a day spent in Kew Gardens, London. I used three lenses during the day, the Samyang 8mm fisheye, the Fujinon 18-55 “kit lens” and the Fujinon 55-200mm. As you will have worked out I had a full-frame equivalent of 27mm through to 300mm at my disposal (if you exclude the slightly more esoteric fisheye) which compares more than favourably to the 24-70 I would have restricted myself to if I’d brought the Nikon DSLR on this trip.  Weight-wise I didn’t get the scales out but my shoulders reported no more strain from the Fuji and three lenses than it would have from one lens plus DSLR Nikon set-up.

© Dave Whenham
The Art of Conversation. Fuji X-T10

It is too early to make any detailed conclusions about the X-T10 although I have already fallen for the quality of JPEGs from both Fujis. I used the X-T10 mainly on a walk along the South Bank one afternoon and for a full day in Kew Gardens. It was in my bag at all times though and so did get a brief outing in the West End as the image above shows.

First impressions are very positive though both in terms of handling and in terms of image quality. I was very happy with the Canon EOS M3 I was using recently but have to say that the Fuji experience has been far superior so far. That is not to say the M3 is poor, far from it I still rate it highly, but the Fuji’s have so far provided an even better user experience so I am more than happy with my recent purchases.

Whether or not it becomes a DSLR-killer remains to be seen. I am not even going to entertain the idea of ditching my Nikons until I have used the Fujis for a good six months, which takes us into 2017.  I feel confident enough with the X-T10 though to have invested in a Lee Seven5 starter kit and will be testing the system out on my next couple of landscape shoots. If all goes well I will take both systems to Skye in November and use the Fuji for those days when the walking is mostly steeply upwards. But that is jumping head.

At present my introduction to the Fuji X-series has been a very positive one. From having mixed feelings about the X100 in 2011 I find myself in 2016 with an X-T10 and X100T feeling very positive about the system and looking forward to exploring the Fuji X-world further over the coming months.

Normal service will be resumed …

… when we work out was normal is. Well who can resist adapting a Douglas Adams one-liner in the morning?

Blogging has been a bit erratic recently due to an unusually heavy load of domestic commitments followed by a two week holiday but normality, whatever that is, is slowly returning. I’m sat in a backstreet cafe in Halifax with a small black coffee awaiting my scrambled eggs and pondering on matters photographic. This should be the “blue hour” but is rather a dismal “grey-several-hours” so a spot of breakfast is called for.

©Dave Whenham
Fuji X-T10 Classic Chrome preset

The main thought occupying my mind is Fuji vs Nikon. And not the brand wars crap indulged in by so-called enthusiasts that I hate with a passion; both systems are brilliant and to my mind each has a separate place in my kit bag. Or at least that’s what I’m starting to think. I used Canon for over thirty years before deciding to have a change and switched to Nikon for no other reason than I wanted to experience more than just one system in my lifetime.  I think both systems are fabulous and for the large part equal to each other. I miss my Canon 24mm tilt and shift lens and the 5x macro lens but am having great fun getting acquainted with a new system and the 14-24 f2.8 lens is a photographer’s delight. The [insertbrandhere]-haters should try using a different system for a year or more, it should make them ashamed of such pettiness.

But, not for the first time, I digress.

When we packed for this two week holiday, visiting friends and family in Wales, England and Scotland, I decided to pack light photographically. The Fujis were the logical choice and I managed to pack all three bodies, all five lenses and my filters in a small photographic backpack that long ago got banished to the cupboard for being too small for my DSLR kit. Most days I just took a small shoulder bag out with me containing two bodies, two lenses and my filters and on several occasions just the X100T in my coat pocket. For those days when a tripod was called for I either took a small table-top Manfrotto tripod or a travel tripod made by MeFoto.

©Dave Whenham
Fuji X100T B&W[r] preset
The bottom line I think from two weeks travelling is that at no point did I feel I’d compromised on kit or that I had missed a shot. Arguably in fact there were shots I did get that I would never have attempted with a big DSLR, such as the portrait of the young couple taking a selfie in Bourton-on the-Water. I challenged myself over the two weeks to work differently, to use less kit and to think differently. That day in Bourton-on the-Water was one such example. I took the X100T and a spare battery. Nothing else. Just me, the camera and a location. It’s a tourist hotspot even in October and I practised my street skills. The X100T is superb for this, something I had already found out in London but reaffirmed last week in a different location. I still shoot RAW+JPEG but the RAWs are just for insurance really as the out of camera JPEGs continue to astound me. The fact that the RAW file can also be processed in-camera using the same JPEG presets is a fabulous bonus and I was able to shoot in B&W[R] knowing that I could produce a colour JPEG to post to Facebook if the mood took.

img_1234
Fuji X-T10 Standard preset

The bulk of the landscape work was done with the X-T10, the 18-55 “kit” lens and the aforementioned MeFoto tripod. In keeping with the travelling light ethos I took a Lee Seven filter holder with a two-stop hard graduated filter and a Little Stopper with me most days although on the days when I packed the Samyang 12mm lens I also took a full-sized Lee filter holder and three 100mm filters as I’ve found that the smaller filter kit vignettes even given the 67mm filter thread of that lens. I initially thought that restricting myself to just one body and at most two lenses would inhibit my shooting but in actual fact it made me work harder and I’ve come away with some images I might otherwise have missed.

© Dave Whenham
Fuji X100T – Sweep Panorama (ND grad added in post-production)

One function on both the X100T and X-T10 that I’d overlooked was the sweep panorama. I found it unexpectedly useful and with a little practice could even anticipate the composition and predict the final image. It only produces JPEGs and I’ve not yet looked at them on the computer but those on my iPad look just fine. My guess is that they will be good for blogging or posting to Facebook but may not stand up to scrutiny when printing or displaying at larger sizes but I’ve not tested that theory as yet.

The third camera I took was an X-Pro1 that I picked up shortly before leaving for the princely sum of £150. It has been a revelation, images shot with the 35mm f1.4 were so sharp I almost cut myself on them [OTT Alert!].

Prior to using the X-Pro1 I was lusting after the newly released, SLR-styled X-T2, but no more. The X-Pro1 feels so much more natural in my hand than any other camera I’ve ever used (I know, that’s a very bold statement). During our holiday I met up with a friend who had the X-T2 with him. With the battery grip attached and the 10-24 lens it is an impressive piece of kit with the dials laid out perfectly at first glance. But in terms of size and weight the body plus grip is not materially different to my Nikon D750 and certainly compared to the X-Pro1 it’s a relative brick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera and at first look it seems to me that it would be a great DSLR replacement for someone wanting to downsize slightly and there’s no doubting the image quality from the images that I was shown that day. I just felt with the two cameras in my hands that for me the form factor of the X-Pro1 suited my style of shooting better. I now need to get my hands on an X-Pro2 although I suspect that when I do my X-T2 lust will be replaced by X-Pro2 lust!

© Dave Whenham
X-Pro1 – standard jpeg

I might write about Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) another day!

So, a very enjoyable two weeks despite all the driving. I managed to spend some quality time with my Fuji kit and am pleased to say that it never once disappointed and often surpassed my expectations. Using the X-T10 handheld in a storm photographing waves crashing over the sea wall was exhilarating and whilst I was careful to keep it as sheltered as possible it handled the conditions well. In fact it’s diminutive size meant that I was able to cover most of the camera and lens with my two hands whilst shooting, a benefit I’d not anticipated. I always carry a tea towel in my shoulder bag and dried the camera and lens immediately after I’d finished shooting.

I’m away to Skye in a few weeks and will be taking the full framed Nikons along with the stunningly sharp trio of f2.8 lenses I saved so hard for (the so-called Holy Trinity of 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200). My fellow traveller that week is also a Nikon shooter and we often share gear plus I enjoy using them and whilst I still have the strength to carry a larger load I will do so. I sense that the weather will call for heavier tripods too so we definitely won’t be travelling light! Following the success of this trip though I shall find a place for at least one of the Fuji cameras and may even take a small kit with me to see how it feels working alongside the bigger cameras.

Watch this space as they say!

Cold hands and warm colours

Six-fifteen am is not an unfamiliar time for me, although I’m usually sat on the settee with a cup of tea and the iPad and not tiptoeing down a hotel corridor with tripod in one hand and camera bag in the other.  But that is exactly where I was this morning.

(c) Dave Whenham
The evening view from the hotel room

We are staying in Swansea for a few days and our hotel is on the waterfront. I had already taken a couple of pleasing images the night before but retail therapy was planned for the new day and therefore serious photography would be confined to before breakfast and/or after dinner. It was chilly to say the  least at that time of the morning but as I stepped out into the morning darkness I noticed the sky to my left just starting to infuse with some lovely warm colours. Was my early start to be rewarded? It certainly looked as if it might.

We are away for a couple of weeks, visiting family mainly, and as part of my ongoing exploration of the Fuji system I have travelled very light. The Fuji X-T10 is joined on this trip by the newly acquired Fuji X-Pro1, the 35mm f1.4 and the manual Samyang 12mm lens. I have packed the two “kit lenses” along with the 8mm Samyang fisheye but these stayed in the hotel room this morning.

(c) Dave Whenham
I wasn’t tempted to take a dip!

This is the first time I’ve used the MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod when the sun hasn’t been shining and I have to say that whilst it’s an excellent piece of kit my ungloved fingers struggled slightly with the twist locks in the morning cold. Not a major issue but I will need to ensure I have gloves with me I think when I use it tomorrow morning. The tripod is smaller than my usual Manfrotto but considerably lighter. Fully extended it provides a very comfortable working height and in particular it was high enough to enable the camera to clear the railing around the tidal lagoon.

(c) Dave Whenha
Sunrise and silhouettes

The images here are all JPEGs with final tweaks done on an iPad using the Snapseed app. Both cameras handled well and I’m looking forward to getting the RAW files home in a couple of weeks.

(c) Dave Whenham
A promising start

The colours of the sunrise were largely confined to a strip along the horizon but were very intense, enhanced by the Velvia setting on the X-T10 which I had forgotten to reset to Classic Chrome when I put the camera away the previous day. The onboard RAW processing of the X-T10 however means that I can produce alternative JPEGs on the fly which is a very useful feature.

(c) Dave Whenham
I can never resist a monochrome

Post-sunrise however the light show was curtailed, the blank, featureless sky lacked the drama pre-sunrise and I therefore explored the area further. Walking back to the hotel I remembered the Little Stopper in its tin nestled in the bottom of the bag. I can never resist black and white for long and after thirty minutes of working with the  pre-sunrise colour I slipped easily into mono-mode. The light turned out to be very nice for black and white work and I returned to the hotel with very cold hands but a huge smile on my face.

(c) Dave Whenham
Swansea Marina

So, I am very happy with the image quality from this mornings exercise. The JPEGs looked fabulous and I have the pleasure of playing with the RAW files to come.  I mainly used the X-T10 and on the whole it handled very well. Focusing with a manual lens in low light was a challenge but the focus  definitely helped. I set the JPEG mode to B&W(yellow) which seems to provide better clarity and of course by shooting RAW+JPEG means I still have the colour information, which was vital for such a fiery sunrise.

All in all a positive experience, the first time I’ve shot with the Fuji’s in the dark and cold of an Autumn morning. I’m not quite ready to give up the big Nikons but I used my full-sized graduated filters with the Little Stopper very happily and as with the big DSLRs practice and familiarity will make things easier.

Out and About

I went back to one of my regular haunts on the River Calder this afternoon. I’d planned to shoot some video on the canal for the “My Patch” project but harsh light scuppered those plans. Fortunately I knew the little beach alongside the river would be in shade at this time of day.

It was an opportunity to experiment. I used the Nikon D750 to reshoot a couple of sequences for My Patch. I am thinking of re-editing the River Calder section in the light of ongoing learning. I’ve already mentioned that I will probably reshoot all of the voice over files too for the same reason.

© Dave Whenham

My main objective was to try out a few ideas which involved dunking the GoPro Session and then the Nikon AW110 (above) in the river. I should have taken a towel and some water to rinse my hands off after dipping them in the river – noted for next time.

© Dave Whenham

I had also packed my Fuji X-T10 and Samyang 12mm lens so took the opportunity to try out the video function on the camera avoiding the schoolboy error from earlier in the day when I’d shot three video segments with the camera in black & white mode!  I also managed to capture a couple of long-exposure compositions that I’ve had in mind for a while now (see above).

I ended my visit sat on some tree roots recording a “reflective” piece on the Fuji (forgetting I’d put the camera back in black & white mode for the long exposures) and also pacing along the rivers edge speaking into a Lavalier microphone attached to the Zoom H2n which was in my pocket all afternoon.

I also hooked the Rode mic up to the newly-acquired Tascam recorder to capture some ambient audio to play under the video sequence. I’m looking forward to checking the audio quality at some point this week.

All in all I covered a lot of ground this afternoon and hopefully when I’ve had time to reflect properly I will also have learnt a lot!

Rough Edit

I was going to title this POV-POC but thought that was too cryptic even for me.

So what have I been to to? Well, playing of course.

© Dave Whenham
Calder & Hebble

I recently acquired a GoPro Session video camera with the vague idea of complementing my blog posts periodically with some behind the scenes video or time-lapse footage as I go about capturing images on my camera.

I’ve been wondering how best to present the footage and one idea was to mount the GoPro on my camera’s hotshoe and film as I line up and take an image. So, what you have here is a proof of concept video for a point of view style photo slideshow.

I think I can develop this over time to include footage of the wider scene captured on a tripod and who knows even get around to trying the video capabilities of one of my digital cameras. Would you believe that I have not shot any video with either my Nikons or Fuji cameras? I dabbled with the Canon 5D Mark III before my move to Nikon making updates for my course work as a visual diary but nothing since then.

It was raining for quite a bit of the time yesterday when I went out so photography and videography is largely completed one handed as I had an umbrella in the other hand!  If you listen carefully you can hear me groan when I have to kneel for the final image.

I can already think of lots of things to improve upon this idea but considering this was the first time I’d used the GoPro and therefore the first time I’d used their editing software I am pleased with the start. If nothing else it gives me a good basis to move the idea forward.

Now, to find a narrator for the next masterpiece!!

_________________________________

Update: Monday evening I added a short narration to the original video.

 

_________________________________

Video footage shot with a GoPro session mounted in the camera hotshoe. Camera was a Fuji X-T10 with 18-55 lens. All images, moving and still © Dave Whenham.

Music: “Easy Lemon (60 second)” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Sidetracked – again!!

Someone commented on the OCA student group on Flickr some time ago that they often get side-tracked when researching and sometimes it’s a day later that they realise how much of a tangent they took. The same happens to me regularly – but the outcomes are often very welcome!

One such tangent a year or so back ended with me seriously researching the work of Bill Brandt for the first time.  I had purchased a copy of “Bill Brandt Photographs: 1928-1983” sometime earlier and for the first time sat down and read that in full. Before I knew it I’d ordered two more books (must cancel my amazon account – too easy to buy books) and spent several hours reading articles from the internet and watching videos on You Tube including the BBC’s Master Photographers programme broadcast in 1983, the year that he died.

I then became interested in the way his work was actually presented particularly in Lilliput magazine  and as well as looking at examples on the internet I found myself on eBay where I purchased a few Lilliput collections in book format so I could see them for myself in-situ and in context. Looking at one of these again  this morning I was taken by how often images were presented as contrasting or complementary pairs which is something that Brandt himself also did at times.

© Dave Whenham
An alternative view of “that” snicket (bottom right)

Many interesting facts were elicited and bit my bit I was able to build up a picture of the man to complement the photographs I was looking at. A small item on the BBC news website for example included a quote from David Hockney: “Brandt’s pictures survive and enter the memory because they were constructed by an artist.” Brandt was not averse to creating the right scene, often getting friends to pose for him and for him the initial exposure was only part of the story. The print itself was extremely important in realising Brandt’s artistic vision and he routinely made physical alterations to prints to achieve the desired effect.

I came away from all this extra-curricular research with a real appreciation for Brandt’s work and also the distinct impression that as Hockney says he was more than a photographer, he was an artist. His photographs seem to me to sit between social documentary and pictorial representations. Images such as The Snicket (yes, I’m back to that photograph) can be read as a comment on the social conditions of 1937 Halifax, an allegory for the uphill struggle of the poor or as a pictorial representation of an otherwise mundane scene.

© Dave Whenham
The Brandt connection is no doubt part of the reason why I revisit the Dean Clough area so regularly.

Why am I posting this so long after the first tangental diversion into Brandt’s world? Well, I’ve gone off-tangent again this morning revisiting Brandt’s work after spotting a chance reference to him on YouTube whilst looking for GoPro reviews!

To be honest I’m quite happy with that. He is a photographer whose work I really enjoy and I never tire of revisiting his work.  It doesn’t help with the backlog of images to process on my computer though, which is worse than usual because of my new-found interest in the Fuji-X series! At this rate my backlog of images will still be unprocessed in the year 2525 (to reference Zager and Evans … oh dear! I sense another Google-tangent into 1970’s music coming up!).

All images © Dave Whenham