Fujifilm Filter Threads

If there’s one thing Fuji doesn’t make easy, it’s keeping the number of filters sizes you need to a minimum. I’ve had a write-up on filter threads in my drafts folder for months now, but Marco Larousse’s rant on episode 3 of the WeShootFuji podcast motivated me to not only get it finished, but to really hone the fancy new chart I had planned, which started out as a basic HTML table.

For a detailed visualization of Fuji’s filter thread diversity, and some strategies on lens kits that optimize for the number of filter sizes needed, check out my latest Extras piece, Fuji Filter Thread Sizes.

And if you’re reading this site, and don’t listen to the WeShootFuji podcast, you should give it a shot. Scott and Marco come from opposite, and outer-most edges of the photography spectrum, so they bring very different insights to all things Fuji from hardcore street, to landscape and nature photography.

Inspiration: Valérie Jardin

Of the 385 or so “Official X Photographers” Fuji have, only about 30 are women. That’s a mere 7%. Happily, another woman has joined their ranks, and for good reason. Valérie not only has a wonderful eye for clean, minimalist images, she’s also able to capture slices of life and moments of subtle brilliance. To pay small tribute to her well earned induction, Valérie is the perfect choice for a bit of inspiration. You can see much more of Valérie’s work on her website, or hear her on her podcast, Street Focus.

It’s great to see more gender variety added to an already culturally-diverse roster of photographers. Let’s hope the trend continues and that percentage cracks double digits soon.

As a reminder for Fujifilm UK, my very first Inspiration piece was on Verity E. Milligan, another perfect candidate for X Photographer status.

Man, I need to find some photographers who like colour a bit more!

Fujifilm Blog; Interview with Takashi Ueno

Fantastic interview with X-Series product planner, and certified photo master expert, a moniker that makes the fact this interview was conducted in Japanese gloriously obvious. Mr. Takashi Ueno reveals more on why Fujifilm opted for APS-C instead of full frame, and their lens strategies. Here are some highlights.

We have official confirmation on the red badge:

Yes, the red badge series are the zoom lenses intended for the professionals.

Regarding the XF 56mm f/1.2:

If the minimum working distance had been 40cm with the compromise on the image quality on the peripheral parts, then we had to extend the focus lens movable range. And as a result, the lens will be bigger and autofocus speed will be slower.

Our priority was to create a lens that has high resolution from corner to corner and that has adequately fast autofocus, so the minimum working distance became 70cm, which is enough for portrait photography – its presumed purpose.

I personally haven’t heard any complaints about the minimum focusing distance of the XF 56mm f/1.2, and in fact, it’s 15cm closer than an 85mm lens from Nikon. The impact on AF pace with closer focusing distances is interesting though, and explains the the necessity of a quad-linear motor in the XF 90mm f/2, which focuses as close as 60cm.

And Ueno’s recommend first lens for photographers new the X-Series?

I would recommend the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 as the gateway to the X series. As I said earlier, although the lens is a kit lens for starting out, it doesn’t mean that the image quality has been compromised.

While the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 is nowhere to be found in my Recommended Kits, I can certainly vouch for its quality. The image used in my masthead1 is a panoramic captured with the first interchangeable Fuji kit I owned, the X-E1 and XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens. You could do a lot worse that this kit lens. →

  1. I’ve attempted to update this image on a number of occassions, but I’m always unsatisfied with anything else I place there. I love the fact it came from my first interchangeable Fuji, and is a testament to what the first generation of X-Series is capable of.

X-T1 Ver.4.00 and the Future of Firmware

Today is the big day. If you’ve got an X-T1, you’re about to get a partially new camera. X-T1 Firmware Ver.400 adds some great new features, and refines others.

There really is only one write-up so far that needs your attention, and that’s Damien Lovegrove’s over at ProPhotoNut. Damien struggled to incorporate Fuji “New Autofocus System” into his own professional workflow, preferring instead to stick with single point AF that he adjusts as needed, however he had more success when it comes to action and fast(er)-moving subjects that can be easily isolated, but there appears to be a speed limit. I also share Damien’s theory of a foreground bias when it comes to Zone/Wide AF areas.

I’ve decided not to compose yet another rundown of what the new firmware update includes since most of that can be found in my X-T10 review. What’s interesting to me is what was excluded, and where I think Fuji should take their firmware in the future.

UI Inconsistency

First and foremost, I don’t want this to come across as looking a gift horse in the mouth.1 I absolutely love what Fujifilm are doing with their firmware upgrades and appreciate it immensely. I wonder, though, if they could do things in a different way that would ultimately be better for Fuji and their customers.

The strangest thing about Firmware Ver.400 for me is that the user interface on the LCD of the X-T1 has not been updated to match not only the X-T10 and X100T, but the UI in the X-T1’s own EVF, which is especially strange since it was the X-T1 that delivered this new UI to begin with. It has resulted in many of the screen items (histogram, exposure compensation, dynamic range, etc.) appearing in different locations on the X-T1 LCD, the X-T1 EVF, and the X100T’s LCD/EVF.2

I have other gripes about the overall consistency of the user experience with these cameras, especially when moving between multiple Fuji cameras, but this UI weirdness exemplifies it perfectly.

One Firmware to Rule Them All

In a recent post, I wrote about how the firmware for each camera is handled by a different team. This, in my opinion as someone who has never actually worked for a camera company before, is the crux of the problem. Imagine if Fuji treated their camera “firmware” as what it actually is, an operating system. In this imaginary world, Fujifilm X-OS, as I’ve dubbed it, would be consistent3 across every camera they make, and available to as many cameras as possible. What I mean by that is the UI can change and evolve across all their cameras, all current cameras would be consistent in their overall user experience, but more processor intensive features like maybe the new AF system would not be available on older cameras that can’t handle them.

Does this approach to operating systems sound familiar? It should, it’s Apple’s. Apple runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to iOS upgrades, and Fuji could do a lot worse than emulate them to the letter when it comes to updating theirs.

This would result in Fujifilm X-OS upgrades to all eligible cameras at the same time, bringing all cameras in line with the same consistent operating system, meaning less of an overall investment in development resources across the various body types so things like no Classic Chrome for the X100S could be avoided, as it would be bundled with the overall OS update.

I’m probably over-simplifying, and could very well be overlooking a ton of logistical nightmares this strategy presents, but it would be awfully nice for Fuji to bring this kind of consistency across the camera line-up, and it seems like it would be worth it in the long run. Maybe the next generation of cameras can usher in a new era of camera OS from Fuji. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the awesome update Fuji has given us for the X-T1, and patently awaiting that X100T update.

  1. What a bizarre phrase.
  2. The X100T has its own problems like the histogram being in different places in the OVF vs. the EVF.
  3. At least, as consistent as possible. Concessions would need to be made for cameras with more dials, and those with fewer, but it’s a design problem I’m very confident could be solved.

The Wide Angle Primes

Work on my comparison between Fuji’s 3 widest angle primes, the XF 14mm f/2.8, the XF 16mm f/1.4, and the XF 18mm f/2 is almost complete. If you’re interested to see how Fuji’s newest weather sealed wide angle compares to their other wide fixed focal length offerings in sharpness, bokeh, handling, and more, this page is for you.

XF 14mm f/2.8 vs. XF 16mm f/1.4 WR vs. XF 18mm f/2

Lightroom 6.1 / CC 2015.1

Adobe Lightroom.png

I originally set out to write up a quick blog post about the relatively marginal differences in how the two latest versions of Lightroom handle sharpening. We’re still in limbo while Adobe “collaborates with Fujifilm in investigating methods to improve fine detail rendering and overall edge definition,“ after all.

It somehow morphed into what I hope was an interesting exercise in confirming what the optimal methods of sharpening in Lightroom are (Amount vs. Detail, which slider will emerge victorious???), the difference between Clarity and the new Dehaze feature, as well as whether or not Lightroom is best tool for the job of extracting detail from RAFs.

If you’re up for a fairly long post detailing subtle differences via loads of fancy new before and after slider images, check out my latest Extras piece. It focuses on detail for now, but I hope to add an examples of the “reduced colour blur” once I find a suitable image.

Lightroom 5.7 vs. 6.1 for X-Trans

The Evolution of Mobile

Fuji Fujifilm Camera Remote App and the X100T.jpg

Fuji’s Camera Receiver app was pretty cool when it came out. Being able to email a street photography subject’s photo to them on the spot is awesome. Then the Camera Remote app arrived, and that took things to another level. I’ve used that app to capture images for this site1 and for work. It’s so much easier than going to and from the camera to adjust settings, set the timer, run back to the front of the camera, repeat. It’s a fantastic app when it works (most users have no trouble, a few have all kinds).2 With that written, I hope Fuji are putting serious development time into the app, and mobile connectivity in general.

Here’s What I’d Like to See:

  1. I want to be able to push the WiFi button on my camera, launch the app, and be connected. No selecting networks (or at the very least, ask to disconnect me from my current network), accepting the connection, etc. It should just work. Additionally, I’d love the option to have photos pushed to my phone without user interaction via some sort of tethering.3
  2. Remove the limit of 30 photos at a time, and give me an option to import all new photos. The task of tapping each image and being restricted to 30 at a time is tedious.
  3. Allow me to swtich between Functions (Remote, Receiver, Browse, Geotagging) without disconnecting the camera, which results in a power-cycling and reconnection juggling act.
  4. I’d love to be able to pair the app with my camera to sync/backup and restore my camera and custom settings for all my cameras. Those custom settings banks, by the way, should be nameable, and transferable from camera to camera too.
  5. All the available in-camera processing should be available in the app. Whether the rendering happens in-camera or on the device (more on that in a minute), I don’t really care for now. I just want access to real Fuji colour, curves, profiles, and film knowledge in post, on my iPhone.
  6. For new flagship cameras, a touch screen that allows us to make these adjustments on the rear LCD of our camera (until editing on our device is possible), and then push it to our phones via that tethering is another possibility. Fuji should not be like all those “Smart TVs” and connect directly to our social networks, offer us weather info, stock prices, or play Netflix. We have devices that do that well already.

Connectivity is going to be as important a feature as whatever next generation sensor is in Fuji’s cameras. They’ve nailed image quality, colour, and optics. They need to nail the ease of use customers expect from devices that capture photos. Being able to connect via WiFi is great, but it’s not as seamless as it could be. I leave photos on my camera with the intention of connecting later,4 and I often forget until I copy photos over via the SD card reader in my Mac, like an animal. Maybe I’m just the lazy exception, but I doubt it.

Here’s Why

Since I started shooting Fuji, like many others, I’ve largely abandoned RAFs for my workflow. For a while, I was shooting RAW + JPEG, but more often than not — I’m talking 90% of the time — I would end up deleting the RAF. Part of this is being satisfied with how JPEGs are rendered in-camera, and the other part is a shift in mindset from “RAW tinkerer” to “shoot and (mostly) be done with it.” I still enjoy post-processing, but I really like being able to do it on my phone wherever and whenever I want.

Workflow

Due to this shift, I’ve been in workflow limbo for the last 18 months. Vacation photos have been copied to Lightroom and forgotten about, while daily photos are sometimes left on my SD card for weeks on end. What changed recently is Apple’s Photos app. I’m attempting to move away from Lightroom for my daily hobby shooting,5 and my SD card stays in my camera as photo transfers are done using the Camera Remote app. This is why the 30 photo limit is getting painful. I’ll still capture RAW + JPEG when I’m out to “make a picture,” but for the most part these days, Film Simulation Bracketing + iPhone editing gets me most of what I want. It’s great, but I want more.

Instant On

This is also why I want it to be as quick and easy as possible to connect my phone to my camera. There really ought to be two taps, the WiFi button, and launching the app. Even better, make the app intelligent enough to be “paired” with whatever Fuji cameras are owned, and connect auto-magically when the app is launched.6

RAF Processing

The next level is for the app to see RAF files, and prompt me to choose my Film Simulation mode via taps on screen. Then, I should be able to make selections on all image aspects that are currently handled in-camera — Dynamic Range, White Balance, Noise Reduction, Highlights, Shadows, and Sharpness — followed by a “Done” button that pushes the resulting JPEG to my iPhone’s Camera Roll. Again, the actual processing could still be handled in-camera7 if Fuji can’t or don’t want to port their secret sauce to another platform for some reason, all the more reason to make connecting flawless.

Conclusion

Fuji has been on quite a tear with their X-Series system. The hardware release schedule continues to astonish and they’re well on their way to becoming the preeminent mirrorless camera company. For Fuji, or any camera manufacturer to continue to be reached for instead of the “good enough” smartphone, they need to put serious resources against mobile connectivity to make it as easy as possible for users to get their superior photos — selfies, eggs benadict → and all — off the camera, and into their social world.

Perhaps what I’m asking for has already been considered, maybe even attempted. Maybe it’s impossible. I have a feeling it just hasn’t been a high priority. If it was, the app would probably be optimized for iPhone 6 Plus by now. I hope app development hasn’t stalled completely.

  1. If only it was around when I made my Versus image.
  2. For those having trouble, here’s how I’ve had success with iOS devices:

    1. Tap settings > WiFi, then push WiFi on your camera
    2. Your camera should show up in the list of available networks. Tap it.
    3. Once your phone has connected to the camera as WiFi, launch the remote app, either select a function (Remote, etc.) and/or tap connect, you may then need to accept on the camera.
    4. You should be good to go from here, but you may need to hit the “OK” button on the camera in order to establish the initial connection. A prompt should pop-up on the camera’s screen.
  3. This could even be a notification saying the app has detected new photos on my camera, and asking if I would like to import them. Bluetooth may be required for this sort of communication.
  4. That happens much more in the winter when I don’t want to take my gloves off to fumble with devices, but if I could hit a button, tap an app, or just accept a notification and be done, I’d be much more likely transfer photos sooner.
  5. Whether or not this ultimately works is another story. I intend to write a post dedicated to this in the near future, but I’m already finding challenges, namely, being able to quickly and easily view all the photos captured with a particular device or lens.
  6. Connectivity could go even further. Photos could bypass internal storage of any kind entirely, and move straight from the buffer or a cache to a mobile device with adequate storage, then up to the cloud.

    It’s not hard to imagine a day when our cameras become “dumb boxes” with exquisite lenses attached to them that capture and push sensor data to a mobile device where vendor (Fuji)-specific demosaicing and post processing algorithms can be applied to the images before being saved to the camera roll. Maybe one day.

    Oh, and Apple could really help out by making their damn SD card reader compatible with their own phones.

  7. RAF process can currently be done in-camera already, but the process is, clunky.

The New Autofocus System and the X100T

Fuji’s new Autofocus System is sure to be a big hit with X-T10 owners, and sooner or later, X-T1 owners and even X-E2 users. The next obvious question in my mind is, what about the X100T? What I’ve heard so far is that nothing has been announced or even talked about yet, but it “probably will come.”

The reason comes down to how Fujifilm operates. Each camera moniker (X-E, X-T, X-Pro, X100, etc.) has its own team, so the feature set of the X-T10 and X-T1’s firmware are done by the same team, whereas the X-E2’s firmware update would be implemented by another.

Originally I thought the optical viewfinder might be the reason for the delay, but apparently that’s not the case. There does seem to be some technical limitations to the OVF,1 however multi-point AF, Zone, Tracking/Wide are not among them. If Zone and Tracking/Wide are going to be added to the X100T though, the number of selectable AF areas should also be increased.

Currently, only a 5 × 5 grid is selectable for autofocus in the optical viewfinder as compared to the EVF/LCD, both of which offer a 7 × 7 grid of AF points. In both cases, the central 3 × 3 grid of AF areas are Phase Detect enabled.

Fuji Fujifilm OVF EVF LCD AF points.png

Now, the new autofocus system uses an 11 × 7 grid. Based on what I understand about where the Phase Detect points land relative to the Zones,2 and some guesswork, I’ll assume the new autofocus system would overlay something like this:

My guess as to how the new autofocus grid overlays the 7 × 7 grid of selectable AF points

My guess as to how the new autofocus grid overlays the 7 × 7 grid of selectable AF points

This means that 5 × 5 Zone and Wide/Tracking would behave almost the same when the OVF is selected unless single area selection remains a 5 × 5 grid, and the new autofocus system uses an expanded 11 × 7 grid in the OVF. Either way, it would present a UX nightmare or be even more confusing than having different numbers of AF points available between the EVF and OVF.3 The obvious solution is to expand the number of AF areas in the OVF to the same 7 × 7 grid for consistency.

How the 5 × 5 Zone would overlay the X100T's OVF

How the 5 × 5 Zone would overlay the X100T's OVF

Fuji has to be working out a solution to this though if an X-Pro2 is going to have an optical viewfinder, and arrive with at least as sophisticated an autofocus system as the X-T10 has. OVF users won’t want their preferred method of composition crippled, so hopefully one of those teams gets things figured out soon. I’m missing the new autofocus system on my X100T already.

  1. Face detection isn’t visually represented in anywhere close as user-friendly a way as it is via the EVF, and I suspect Eye Detection would be another challenge due to draw limitations, but I have yet to confirm.
  2. While being briefed on the X-T10, I asked specifically if the 3 × 3 Zone aligns with the 3 × 3 Phase Detect grid and the answer was “sort of.” As can be seen in my assumed grid graphic, there is some overlap.
  3. For an idea of why it’s confusing, select any of the outer most perimiter AF areas while composing via the EVF. Now hit the lever to switch to the OVF, then back again, and note which AF area is now selected. ಠ_ಠ

Fuji X-E2 Firmware Update

fuji fujifilm x-e2 xe2 firmware ver4.jpg

The choice between a new X-T10 and the X-E2 has become a little more tricky. At least, it will be sometime soon-ish. Fujifilm has confirmed another firmware update for the X-E2. In my comparison, I posited that the X-E2 was probably end-of-life as far as firmware upgrades are concerned. Turns out I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

My Versus piece saw a minor update to reflect the firmware news, and will be overhauled once the firmware’s feature set is at least officially announced. What’s of particular interest to me is how early days this is. All Fuji has said in any sort of on-the-record format is they’re planning an update, and will determine what is included in the update based on requests from users. I think it’s pretty safe to say the new AF features (multi-point, zone, wide/tracking, eye detection) will be included, but what about a UI update? Or a rotating EVF UI? Can Fuji please, for the love all that is good and pure, make the left and right function buttons customizable, and set playback to the LCD even when EVF-only has been chosen for composition?

Timing

While the early nature of this announcement pacifies X-E2 owners and gives them something to look forward to, it also leaves us with no sense of when this update will be available. Most of the internet seems to think Fuji will intentionally impose a long delay as they will not want to cannibalize sales of their new X-T10, but I think a bigger reason for the wait will come down to the engineering resources Fuji has to put on the project. Would Fuji really be disappointed if people buy one Fuji camera body over another? Hardly.

Pricing & Decisions

As of this writing, the X-T10→ is preorder only for $799 (USD), while the X-E2→ can be had for just $699 (USD). Either way, buyers today have a bit of a wait in front of them. The purchase decision will in part come down to format preference (rangefinder-style vs. DSLR-style), but also which immediate gratification is most enticing:

  1. Having an X-E2 today with an untold wait time for the latest features at $100 less.
  2. Having an X-T10 in a few weeks with the latest features, and a few additional hardware niceties (tilt screen, dials and buttons) for $100 more.

It’s nice to have these kinds of tough decisions.