FUJINON XF 10-24mm f/4 vs. Primes

After much too long, my comparison of Fuji’s excellent 10-24mm ƒ/4, and the prime lenses its focal range covers is finally online. If you’ve been wondering which way to go, zoom or prime, this should really help you out.

Pitting one lens against many has resulted in one monster of a comparison, but I kept things as clear and concise as possible. I think you could easily bypass the pixel-level scrutiny entirely and still come away with a great understanding of how these lenses perform. For those of you you like poring over the 100% crops, you’ll definitely have your fill. Enjoy.

FUJINON XF 10-24mm f/4 vs. Primes

XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

What a handle. Fujifilm have announced their XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, and they’re getting a little carried away with the initialisms in their product names. We now officially have a new one, one whose purpose has been amended in the marketing materials, and another that’s been updated.

“WR” Weather Resistant

20 points of sealing, but Fuji are once again conservative with their language, and playing it even more safe. Weather Sealed sounds safer to me than Weather Resistant does, but Fuji state their latest lens features a “…dust-proof and weather-resistant design…”. I guess that air ventilator inside the bottom of the lens barrel is what allows them to make the dust proof claim. Does this mean the end of dust inside the the front and rear lens elements? Dust proof sure makes it sound that way. I’m interested to experience the improved feel and smoother operations the air ventilator also provides.

“LM” Linear Motor Technology

Not new technology, but based on the press release, this looks to be responsible for “near silent operation,” and not much else. Previously this feature was noted as being responsible for the 18-55mm’s compact size and fast autofocus. Perhaps the 18-135mm isn’t small enough to warrant the first claim, but I think copywriting may have let them down on the second. Anyhow, I don’t recall ever finding the 18-55mm, or anything other Fuji lens particularly noisy, so it will be interesting to see what kind of difference this newly described tech makes. Likely none.

OIS

Image Stabilization is now up to 5 stops thanks to high-precision gyro sensors with quartz oscillators. Fancy. If Fuji have actually achieved that, it’s an impressive feat. I remember getting excited about a mere 2 stops not that long ago. It makes me wonder what sort of handheld shutter speeds we’ll be able to get out of this lens.

Impressions

I have to admit that I’m not super excited about this lens. Its release has only made me more anxious for Fuji’s forthcoming FUJINON XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8. The 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 starts out pretty slow at the wide end, clocking in at just under ⅔ a stop slower than the XF 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 at the wide end, and just gets slower from there. About the only thing that excites me about this lens its weather sealing (or resistance), and what its new features should mean for yet to be announced lenses.

If you shoot landscapes in poor conditions, a good strategy might be to buy the 18-135mm now, use it for 6 months until the 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 comes out, and then sell it privately. You’ll lose a little bit on it, but it could be considered an extended rental. It also might be a decent option for those looking for a single, rain-or-shine lens solution. For travel it could easily be the only lens you need provided you aren’t shooting anything that’s moving quickly in poor light.

If you do decide to purchase the FUJINON XF 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, please consider using one of the links below for your preorder. You won’t pay a cent more, but it helps support the site and keeps me testing. Thanks!

 

Heavy Issues

I tend to get a bit obsessive when it comes to weight. I’ll agonize over things like bag purchases because of what material they’re made of and, as a result, how heavy they are. When it comes to tripods, carbon fibre wasn’t a possibility, it was a certainty. I employed the same methods when building a bike and ended up with a ride that goes everywhere with me, lest it get stolen.

Image courtesy of Fujifilm

Image courtesy of Fujifilm

Size and weight are the two main reasons I switched from DSLR to mirrorless, and while Fuji’s clever marketing graphic doesn’t perfectly illustrate the evolution of my gear, it captures the sentiment perfectly for me. I have evolved into a more nimble photographer thanks to “downsizing” my camera system, which also allowed me to downsize other things like my tripod.

The reduction in weight means I’m much more willing to bring my gear with me. I had become a vacation and special events photographer when it came to personal photography with my DSLR. Now I find myself with a camera and shooting much, much more.

Find out how much weight can be saved by going mirrorless in my article, Heavy Issues, Mirrorless vs. DSLR weight.

FujiCloud

Now that I’ve had a couple days to consider Apple’s WWDC announcements, I put together some thoughts on how they will, or could, impact us as Fuji photographers. Perhaps the initial response is one of dread, doom, and gloom. Yes, Apple is opening up the iPhone’s camera API to allow for manual control, but as I’ve stated elsewhere on the internet, we are a long, long way from a smartphone becoming my primary camera. I use my iPhone for photography when it’s all I have or for less important images like pictures of prices and dimensions of furniture or images headed directly to one social network or another. Smartphones are perfectly capable of producing great images, but I don’t enjoy using them as a camera, and will always have that nagging feeling that the image could be better if shot with a proper camera.

 
 

The things I think will be interesting for Fuji shooters are Apple’s cloud offerings, and the potential for Fujifilm within their app. With the iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Drive announcements, even more people could switch over to using an iPad as their primary photo management and editing platform, complete with remote backup of all your photos.

Initially this might mean shooting JPEG as iPads and RAFs don’t exactly play well together where editing is concerned.1 Even that might be ok—since switching over to Fujifilm, I’ve been shooting JPEG a lot more—but this is where Fuji needs to step in. What’s stopping them from giving their iOS app the ability to process RAF files the same way their cameras do? In fact, now that I think of it, why doesn’t it already?2 Fuji could also conceivably let users shoot “tethered” wirelessly to an iPhone or iPad. JPEGs get pushed merrily along, complete with GPS coordinates to the Photos app and then to the cloud, RAFs sit in the app waiting to be processed out to JPEGs. RAFs could also be stored on your iCloud Drive,3 or deleted when you’re done editing or your device runs out of space. Making use of extensions, our photos will gain access to VSCO filters via their iOS app which is considerably more affordable than their desktop alternative. That’s just one example of photo-editing.

Even if the idea of using an iPad exclusively doesn’t sound appealling, iCloud Drive offers some great potential features. Go on vacation, shoot for a day, then copy all your photos to your iPad. They’ll be backed up, and waiting for you to edit back home on your Mac.

In short, I hope Fuji have their devs working hard on adding as many iOS 8/Yosemite/iCloud features as possible, as soon as possible. Getting my photos onto my iDevice needs to be even faster and easier than it is now. There are too many hoops to jump through, too much back and forth connecting, reconnecting. I want to open my Fujifilm app, select my camera, and start mucking with images. I want to edit on my devices with real Fujifilm X-Trans demosaicing algorithms and Lens Modulation Optimizers.4 This, in my opinion, is how Fuji will come away from the smartphone camera slaughter as unscathed as possible, and ahead of their competition. By embracing it.

  1. There should be no trouble storing RAF files on your device, and iCloud via Fujifilm’s app.
  2. Manually processing photos in-camera is not fun.
  3. At $3.99/month for 200GB, this is a decent-sized photo library and isn’t a bad price for a remote backup of all of it. Now if only Fuji offered lossless compression of their RAF format.
  4. Not Adobe’s reverse-engineered Camera profiles.

Zeiss X-Mount Deal

I’m not normally one to do deals posts, but this just landed in my inbox. If you’re looking to round out your X-Mount prime collection, now is the time to do it. B&H Photo have Zeiss’s Touit 32mm ƒ/1.8 and 12mm ƒ/2.8 lenses on sale as a kit for $919 USD. That’s the cost of the Fuji’s 14mm ƒ/2.8 on it’s own right now. It’s better than a two for one deal.

I don’t have experience with the 32mm ƒ/1.8 yet, but my tests comparing the 12mm ƒ/2.8 lens to the 10-24mm ƒ/4 and 14mm ƒ/2.8 are showing it to be a worthy opponent. It’s not quite as sharp as the 14mm ƒ/2.8, but those extra 2mm make a remarkable difference. Wide-angle nuts will appreciate Zeiss’s offering.

Buy the Zeiss Touit 32mm ƒ/1.8, 12mm ƒ/2.8 package from B&H

For my fellow Canadian Fuji fans, this deal might be even better. Remember that “photographic lenses” are duty free. You can happily order from B&H and only pay the taxes and a few other very minor fees. It ends up being about $1,060 USD, or $1,150 CDN total with taxes 2-6 day shipping if you let B&H handle customs clearance. That’s $100 less than the 12mm alone before tax here in Canada.

Already have one of the Zeiss lenses or either the 14mm ƒ/2.8 or 35mm ƒ/1.4 already? You can grab either Zeiss for $200 off which isn’t too shabby.

Filters for “Protection”

I remember buying my first expensive lens—Nikon’s 18-200 super zoom—like it was yesterday. It was hopelessly out of stock just about everywhere, but I stumbled upon one at “Japan Camera” in my once sleepy local mall, and snapped it up. With that lens mounted in my trusty D70s, I was ready for anything. Soon after, I walked into Henry’s1 to inquire about a Circular Polarizer. The sales-guy asked, “For what lens?” As I proudly swung my camera ’round to show off my new baby, the sales-guy gasped and exclaimed “You’re running that thing ‘naked’?!?”

He totally got me. While I knew I could probably find a “protective UV filter” online for less money, I didn’t want anything to happen to my precious before I got it. The sales-guy hammed it up, carefully placing the LCD-side of my camera on a cloth, took out his Rocket Blower, and gingerly puffed what little dust might have found its way on the front element like he was performing heart surgery. Out I walked with a genuine Hoya Super Duper HMC Deluxe filter with about 8,000 coatings and 99.999967% light transmission or whatever.2

I bet a lot of you reading this have similar stories or have seen sales-people in action, preying upon an unsuspecting lens purchaser with a filter to protect their “investment.”3 I heard the “protective UV filter” line at Exposure just this past weekend and couldn’t help but cringe.

I’ve learned a lot since that filter purchase. First of all, that 18-200 was pretty terrible, optically. Secondly, if I want constant “protection” for my lens, I’ll use the hood, which can improve picture quality, rather than degrade it. For those of you who want to keep your lens as compact as possible and hate the idea of sticking a huge hood on the end of your lens, leave it at home, leave the filter locked up behind the counter, and take some care not to smash the front of your lens into tree trucks.4

Now before you pop open a new tab to search for that example of some dude who dropped their expensive lens and was saved by their $100 filter that smashed into bits, I’ve probably already seen it. Yes, accidents can happen. I myself dropped my Nikon 24mm ƒ/1.4 lens on a hard tile floor, denting the front filter ring. That is not an inexpensive lens, I was careless, and it cost me. The repair was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250. Ouch. It would have been fine if I had the hood on. It might have been fine if I had a filter on, but you know what? I haven’t bought a “filter for protection” for any of lenses I’ve owned since then, and I’ve owned a lot of lenses. There is no doubt that I’ve saved significantly more not buying filters for all those different lenses5 than I’ve spent repairing lenses due to lack of protection.

Of course there are other reasons for attaching a neutral clear filter6 on the front of your lens. Some hate lens caps, preferring a filter in their stead. Others shoot at company parties where cocktail spills are a certainty, not just a slim possibility. Totally understandable, but if you’re not in hazardous conditions and you’re after absolute lens acuity, shed that filter with impunity, never mind dust, get yourself a Rocket Blower, and put your hood on to reduce flare and really protect your lens.

 
  1. The largest photography chain in Canada.
  2. No matter how good the glass is, at certain angles it will refract light. This is another problem I have with putting a piece of glass that doesn’t alter my image creatively in front of a very expensive lens. If you have to protect your lens, get a hood.
  3. Unless your lens appreciates in value, it isn’t an investment.
  4. See video.
  5. Step-up rings will only cover so many sizes, and having to swap lenses is already a pain. I can’t imagine having to swap filters too.
  6. This is the kind you want, not a UV filter which doesn’t nothing for digital cameras outside of degrade picture quality and cost more. I personally like Hoya’s HD line of filters for anything that’s not neutral density where I go for B+W’s 10-stop “3.0 1,000x” filters.

X-T1 Autofocus Speed

A disappointing showing from the Fujifilm X-T1 in The Camera Store’s “Great Mirrorless Camera Autofocus Shootout,” in which they pitted the X-T1 against the Sony A6000, Olympus’ OMD E-M1 and the Panasonic GH4.

While Chris Niccols assures us that they they’ve chosen the best glass available on each platform, I don’t think the variable aperture FUJINON XF 55-200mm has any business being in an AF speed challenge of any kind, and I have a feeling Fujifilm would like him to redo this test once their FUJINON XF 50-140mm ƒ/2.8 hits the market. It’s tough to fault The Camera Store for choosing the 55-200mm though, as the only other option for them would have been the “consumer grade” FUJINON XC 50-230mm, which is likely to perform even worse. Still, a disclaimer or two might have been appropriate.

Another thing I think they should have touched on in the video, is that the GH4 has an MSRP that’s just shy of 50% higher than the X-T1 or the E-M1. If I were spending another $600 on top of the X-T1’s price, you better believe I’d be expecting better AF speeds. Then there’s the A6000. At half the price it shouldn’t be able to leave both the X-T1 and the E-M1 in the dust, but that’s exactly what it did. Impressive. The big surprise for me was the E-M1’s poor single point performance. Every time I handle that camera, I almost marvel at how quick it seems to lock on focus.

Most remarkable is that the GH4 apparently held it’s own against the D4S. That is astounding considering you could get every mirrorless body in the comparison for the price of a D4S and pro zoom. Twice.

The key takeaway is that mirrorless cameras have caught up to, and surpassed DSLRs in their price-point. This has to make you wonder what just about any camera manufacturer1 could do with a $3,000+ mirrorless camera body—let alone one that costs $7 grand—and it makes me excited to see what the X-Pro2 will be capable of.

 
  1. Aside from Sony’s A7r, but that full frame sensor eats up too much of the MSRP to afford much opportunity for blazing AF speeds.

The ONA Bowery vs. The Billingham Hadley Small

For a change of pace from my usual “versus” articles, I finally got around to writing up my thoughts and comparisons of these two highly sought after bags. One is from ONA and the other, Billingham. Both bags are fantastic, but which bag comes out on top? Read on to find out.

The ONA Bowery vs. The Billingham Hadley Small

The X-T1 is ready

There were a couple of issues that plagued the release of the X-T1. The first that most already know about, was the light leak. The second, slightly less well know is this, the directional pad of buttons (or D-pad) used for menu selection was mushy, somewhat unresponsive, and quite unsatisfying to use.

I want to state early in this post that for any of you who have been reading my thoughts and comparisons of the X-T1, and are concerned about the crummy buttons, you can now safely buy a new X-T1 that has a much better D-pad than those found on the pre-production units, and the the initial run of manufacturing.1 If you’re buying from a store, you can easily tell if you’ve got a good one through the plastic baggy that the camera ships in, so if the dealer is reluctant to crack the Fujifilm sticker-seal, it’s no problem. Just test the buttons through the bag. If the buttons click like this, you’re good. As we know the light leak issue has also been addressed, and clicky buttons also seem to indicate light tightness.

Taking responsibility

Fujifilm came forward pretty quick, acknowledged the light leak, and offered a fix for owners with afflicted cameras. With the D-pad, they have been pretty tight-lipped about the problem. I can only surmise this is because the earliest D-pads, while crappy, do technically work. They’ve also been somewhat cagey about whether or not rumours about X-T1’s going in for service for the light leak, and coming back with a better D-pad are true. 2 I’ve heard from at least two other owners that cameras sent in for light leak repair—with the D-pad noted on the bill of service—have come back with the D-pad marked as having “no fault.” This was also my experience. Again, while technically true as the buttons can be considered as not having “fault,” and work as originally designed, the fact remains that manufacturing has been quietly adjusted. X-T1’s are hitting the streets in high quantity with substantially better buttons on their back sides. This isn’t luck of the draw.

The bad news

Unfortunately some early adopters are being left out in the cold. I actually went to the extreme of selling my launch X-T1 privately,3 and buying another. For many, this won’t be worth the loss on the retail price, but it was for me. I can now use my X-T1 without mild feelings of contempt.

The good news

A silent tweak to manufacturing is better than no tweak at all, and that tweak means my biggest, and really only major gripe about the X-T1’s handling has now been addressed.

For those of you still waiting to place your order, now is the time. The more time I spend with this camera, the more I like it, and the more I feel it is the interchangeable Fuji body to own. I’m about to download and install the X-E2 firmware, but I’m confident the X-T1 will still be my primary body, rain or shine.

Fortunately, Fujifilm don’t have a history of releasing X-Series camera bodies with manufacturing issues like these. I don’t think we’re in a “wait and see” position when Fuji release their next camera (yet), but I’m hoping to see better QA with their next release.

 
  1. I’m not positive, but serial numbers of cameras with the poor D-pad seem to approximately coincide with up to and including the light leak range of serial numbers. Possibly a little beyond. For instance, my X-T1 that suffered both issues was had a starting serial number of 41A05. My new X-T1 is 41A09. My undestanding is ≥41A06 have no light leak.

  2. The official response I got was “Our technicians check all aspects of the camera.”
  3. For the record, I noted in my listing that it was a launch unit with a poor D-pad. Fortunately I was at least able to say it had no light leak.
 

X-T1 vs. X-E2 vs. X-Pro1

Another complete overhaul. This time, it’s my X-T1 vs. X-E2 vs. X-Pro1 page. It is still getting a remarkable amount of traffic, so I figured I would remove the rumour content. I didn’t stop there though. I’ve added a bunch of comparison images, and written up some impressions on how the overall handling of each compares to the others. I also cleaned up the table, which can still be found towards the bottom of the page.

What is perhaps most interesting about these three cameras now is how well the X-Pro1 still holds up, and how the X-E2 has faded away slightly. It’s still an extremely good camera, but it might be the overlooked middle child of the Fujifilm family these days.

X-T1 vs. X-E2 vs. X-Pro1