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

 

Adobe’s Fujifilm Camera Calibration Profiles

Another new page has been added to the “Extras” menu called Adobe’s Fujifilm Camera Calibration Profiles This will be another evolving oage. Currently it has just one images with each of the Fujifilm-endorsed profiles for a quick visual comparison, and brief analysis. This is pretty heavy duty pixel-peeping stuff, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I feel little shame in being picky about the end result of my images.

I’ll add the lake and valley image seen in my X-Trans Before & After page next so we can have a close look at how landscapes and greens are handled.

Adobe’s Fujifilm Camera Calibration Profiles Compared

 

Film Simulation Modes Compared

Provia.jpg

A second subject has been added to my Film Simulation Mode comparison page. I figured the large areas of bright, bold colour against the deep shadows of the black background would make it very easy to see what’s happening between each mode.

More test subjects are yet to be added like a landscape, cityscape and a portrait, but I think next on the agenda is comparing Adobe’s Camera Calibration profiles with the in-camera rendering of each Film Simulation Mode.

Film Simulation Modes Compared

 

FUJINON XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 Review

My review of the 14mm ƒ/2.8 has now been posted. I intend to keep my individual lens reviews about making images, and less about pixel peeping. They’ll includes real world samples to help give an idea of the kinds of images that can be made with the lens.

This is not to suggest my images are of outstanding quality. Some I’m pretty proud of, while others are included to illustrate the diverse capabilities of the lens.

The 14mm ƒ/2.8 is a fantastic lens. Find out of it’s the wide-angle lens for you in my review.

On Adobe, and Lightroom for iPad

Today marked the release of Lightroom 5.4 which delivers the long awaited Fujifilm X-T1 support, and Film Simulation Modes for RAFs via the Camera Calibration panel. Awesome stuff. I plan to throughly analyze their profiles and compare them with their in-camera counterparts as soon as possible.

Today also marked Adobe’s announcement (or confirmation) that Lightroom will be available on the iPad for Creative Cloud subscribers only. This comes as little surprise, and yet I can’t help wondering what the hell they are thinking. It seems to me they are leaving money and users on the table by choosing (or sticking with) a pricing model they hope will encourage Creative Cloud subscriptions.

At the end of 2013, Adobe announced 1.4 million subscribers to Creative Cloud. That’s 1.4 million + people who will get Lightroom for iPad “for free.”1 Maybe Lightroom on iPad will keep some of those subscribers loyal,2 maybe some people will begrudgingly subscribe in order to get it.3 I won’t, and I think they’ve passed up an app pricing structure that would make them more money, make their customers happier, and be more future-proof. I’ve been pondering this morning about what that might be. One idea involves the dreaded in-app purchase (IAP).

“This app offers in-app purchases”

It’s not uncommon for top-tier apps on iPad to sell for $19.99. Twenty bucks is a fair price for an app like Lightroom, but that could be cut down to $15, $10, or even $0 because camera and lens profiles would cost anywhere from $1 - $5 each.

Done.

Things could be kept simple ($5/camera, $1/lens), but there’s tremendous flexibility in this pricing structure too. “Consumer” gear could be less expensive, “Pro” gear more expensive. Exotics or lenses with complex distortion correction profiles could also command a premium.

How many Creative Cloud subscriptions does Adobe realistically hope to gain making Lightroom for iPad subscription-only? Compare that number with how many photographers would happily shell out for Lightroom as a standalone application while being able to purchase camera and lens profiles as they see fit? I’d have happily paid Adobe $5 for the Film Simulation Modes they released for Fujifilm cameras today. Don’t want or need ’em? Then you’ve got the built-in Adobe profile already. The nice thing about Fujifilm is those same profiles would work across every camera that shares the X-Trans sensor, but let’s get back to Adobe for this post.

This model gives customers the freedom to purchase what they want, and more importantly what they actually need, something Creative Cloud fails at miserably. It’s also self-sustaining since we photographers can be a fickle bunch, generally speaking, many of us collect lenses, and we love our upgrades. Maybe Adobe would only ever get $7 less Apple’s cut from some photographers, but 70% of $7 is better than 100% of nothing.

I’d upgrade to a 128GB iPad just to have this imaginary version of Lightroom with me when I go on vacation. It would be an immediate backup of my photos to the iPad I’d have with me anyway, and I could start the selecting, rejecting, and editing process while still on vacation or on the flight home. I could see a lot of photographers doing the same for jobs.

What about Lightroom for the desktop?

Maybe it’s time the desktop version moves to a pricing structure like this one too with a reduced core applicaiton price. I’m personally not a fan having 100’s of MB of profiles I don’t need on my computer, and if DxO can implement a decent profile download system, Adobe sure can. We’d just have to hope they wouldn’t build it in Flash.

Of course the pay once and get everything model we’ve enjoyed to date with the desktop version of Lightroom would be ideal, but I’m trying to see this somewhat from Adobe’s side, and acknowledge that additional and recurring revenue might be a necessity.

The future of photography?

Perhaps most importantly of all, it protects Adobe from a potentially huge threat from Apple. Not strictly from Aperture, but from the iPhone. With any luck, Aperture for iPad is on its way. Maybe it will be announced alongside the iPhone 6 which presumably will feature an even better built-in camera. Now consider the iPhone 6 (or even a simple iOS update) allows owners to capture and manipulate RAW data with immediate support for it via the newly released Aperture. Given Apple’s track record these days, Aperture would be free. Now you’ve got the most popular camera on the planet’s RAW files editable via Apple’s competitively-priced one-time fee (or free) iPad app, and Adobe’s subscription-only app, once they get around to supporting the iPhone’s RAW files. Or, Adobe could just sell the iPhone profile for $2 to a ton of “iPhoneographers” who want to keep using Lightroom on the desktop.4

Apple isn’t known to add complexity the way adding RAW support certainly would. However, they are heavily focused on the photography market in general, and it seems there should be a very easy way to make RAW data available to users who want it via Aperture for iOS and the Mac, while keeping those who aren’t interested blissfully unaware. If photography continues to be an area Apple hopes to dominate, RAW support of some kind ought to be in their future. Just imagine all those VSCO presets being applied to sensor data rather than JPEGs.

Conclusion

I can’t be totally sure the pricing structure I outlined above would work, or if it would ultimately even be profitable after the content delivery system is in place. It’s really just musing with some griping for good measure. What I do know is Adobe’s actions are getting frustrating, and are starting to reek of hubris. I’m curious what it would take for them to wake up. Extraordinary apps like Pixelmator are already putting a dent in the once invincible Photoshop. If I wasn’t so deeply entrenched in the industry I am (advertising, marketing, etc.), I’d have dumped Photoshop for Pixelmator already.

Adobe’s apps have become uncontrollably bloated and hopelessly inconsistent. Lightroom was widely regarded as they only app they were still “getting right.” I think that sentiment will change with photographers to some degree today, and that’s a shame.

  1. Anyone who believes this needs to reassess their definition of “free.”
  2. I doubt this number is very high. Most people who subscribe do so out of necessity.
  3. This number is probably even lower.
  4. Or on Windows for that matter.
 

Fujifilm X-Trans: Before & After

I’ve added a new page under “Extras” in the main navigation for “X-Trans Before & After.” It will be an ever-evolving page showing quick screen grabs of RAFs and JPEGs with the “Before / After” view mode active in Lightroom to show just how much dynamic range can be pulled out of the X-Trans sensor, and how much JPEGs can be altered in post.

I’ll maintain this page until DxO figures out how to run their tests on X-Trans sensors. ;-)

X-Trans Before & After

Cable Releases

A few months ago I purchased three different cable releases from B&H, the Gepe GE2020 Cloth Covered Cable Release w/Disc-Lock 20", the Nikon AR-3 Threaded Cable Release, and the Pentax PECR50 Cable Release 50. I had intended to write up a comparison of the three releases, but it’s been on the back burner for the last little while. However, yesterday this happened:

That’s the Gepe GE2020. The entire plunging mechanism decided to liberate itself from the rest of the cable, and it doesn’t simply just pop back on as far as I can tell. This release has hardly seen any use—I’ve only had it for a few months—and it’s never even left the comfort of my warm home.

Because of the malfunction, the Gepe GE2020 gets my lowest rating of the three by default. Coincidentally, it would have been the release I recommended least anyhow. It’s plunger is significantly smaller than the Nikon and the Pentax, and the plunging action is actually noticeably rougher than the others.

The larger plunger on the Pentax PECR50

The larger plunger on the Pentax PECR50

The Pentax and the Nikon are both fantastic. I’m pretty sure they’re just rebranded as they are identical with the exception being the Pentax is 20 inches and the Nikon, just 12 inches. I prefer the extra length of the Pentax, but I keep the Nikon in my Billingham because it’s shorter.

The Pentax PECR50 and the Nikon AR-3 are identical aside from length

The Pentax PECR50 and the Nikon AR-3 are identical aside from length

So there you have it, between the three, I can recommend either Pentax or the Nikon. Decide which length is better for you. I recommend against the Gepe entirely. Not only is it lacking in the durability department, it wasn’t as nice to use either. The Pentax and the Nikon have significantly smoother operation. There are plenty of other options out there, but either the Nikon AR-3 Threaded Cable Release, and the Pentax PECR50 Cable Release 50 suit me fine.

 

“Why full frame?”

My last post has generated some great feedback, and questions about whether or not I want Fujifilm to produce a full frame camera, and why. I started responding to these questions in the arena in which they were asked, but the length of my response quickly got into blog post territory so here we are.

“Do you want Fujifilm to produce a full frame camera?”

I sort of alluded to this in my previous post, but for clarity, my position on full frame is I don’t think it is necessary (yet), but I wouldn’t be disappointed if they did. Again, this is because I believe the current lineup of XF lenses is already (or soon will be) very complete. I don’t think we are missing much in the prime world now that the 56mm ƒ/1.2 has been released. The “high speed wide angle prime” will be gravy. We still need a line of pro/weather sealed zooms. Happily, they’re on their way.

“For what purpose?”

This is a more interesting question to answer, and the differences may seem minor. It’s sort of *“last 10%”* sort of thing. There is a real difference in what ƒ-stops mean on APS-C sensors as it relates to depth of field, but beyond that, the added light-gathering of a full frame X-Trans would be phenomenal, and I suspect dynamic range would also improve.

When I made the move from my Nikon D300 to the D700, the difference was huge. APS-C sensors have improved dramatically since then, but so have full frame sensors. Just imagine what Fujifilm’s noise reduction algorithms could do on 24 megapixel full frame sensor.

Full frame = bigger

If the X-Pro2 does go full frame, I expect it will stay within the same size as the current X-Pro1 (which is smaller than Sony’s A7), with a few modifications to bring it in line with the X-T1.2 Physics dictates that lens sizes may need to increase, but if you look at the size of previous lens generations from Nikon (AI-S, AF-D) or even Leica and Voigtländer, it quickly becomes apparent that much more compact full frame lens designs are possible.3 Who knows what sort of engineering trickery Fujifilm Japan have up their collective sleeves.

A second lens line up?

If they did release a full frame line of cameras, then yes, I would expect a full line of full frame lenses. Canon and Nikon have been trying to execute that plan for years with varying degrees of success so why not Fujifilm? Remember, digital started with cropped sensors and full frame lenses, and it stayed that way for years before the full frame sensor came out. In fact, Nikon still hasn’t had a full frame digital camera available for longer than it only had an APS-C camera available. If anything, Fujifilm at least have the order right.

Conclusion

My previous post wasn’t meant to outline what I want or what my expectations are. It was largely idle speculation, what I think could happen based on what we’ve already seen Fujifilm achieve—a complete camera system in about 3 years.

I don’t quite understand why some people are up in arms about this though. APS-C-sized cameras aren’t going anywhere. Fujifilm will no doubt continue to iterate on them, and will almost certainly keep releasing firmware updates for them. The torrent of new lenses may slow to a trickle, but once again, I don’t think that’s a problem. I would much prefer to see Fujifilm continue to innovate and push boundaries rather than slow down and start resting on their laurels. If they do decide to stun us with an impossibly small full frame camera system that we can decide to buy (or not), how is that a bad thing? Either way, I’m looking forward to their next big announcement.

  1. More on that in another post.
  2. I fully acknowledge those lenses are manual focus only and/or are driven by the camera so they don’t have the circuitry found within Fujifilm’s lenses. All this demonstrates is more compact lenses then say the latest generation of primes from Nikon is possible.
 

Fujifilm and Full Frame

Discussions around the X-Pro2 being full frame are heating up fast. For a long time now, I’d been thinking that moving to full frame would be a mistake for Fujifilm, but something occurred to me today. Take a look at the current FUJINON lens roadmap. Now think about what’s missing. I’m not talking about niche or crazy exotic lenses, I’m talking real voids in the line up.

First, let’s look at primes:

We have the 14mm ƒ/2.8, 18mm ƒ/2, 23mm ƒ/1.4, 27mm ƒ/2.8, 35mm ƒ/1.4, 56mm ƒ/1.2, 60mm ƒ/2.4 Macro already out with a “high speed wide angle lens” on the way (my money is on 16mm at about ƒ/1.4). Save for an 85–90mm portrait lens to cover off the 135mm equivalent, and maybe a 1:1 macro lens, I don’t see any major holes.

Second, let's look at zooms:

We have two “pro” ƒ/2.8 zooms on the way covering 16-140mm, and an ultra-wide fixed-aperture 10-24mm zoom. Then there are variable aperture high-end consumer zooms covering 18-200mm, a weather sealed 18-135mm variable aperture zoom due out shortly, and affordable consumer zooms covering 16-230mm. Finally, there’s also a mysterious “Super Telephoto Zoom lens.” Let’s pretend it’s also a “pro” lens covering something like the equivalent of 200-400mm on 35mm. Again, we aren’t left with any major holes.

Now we’ll look at timing:

The X-Pro1 was announced in January of 2012. By the end of 2014, we’ll have all the lenses listed above. The pace is downright staggering, and it’s astounding how thoroughly Fujifilm have humiliated Nikon in terms of having a complete APS-C lens line up.

So what’s next?

Enter full frame:

Imagine a full frame X-Pro2 is announced on January of 2015 along with 3 lens, and is available in March of 2015. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Fujifilm have shown that they can crank out a very capable, complete camera system in about 2 years. What’s stopping them from doing it again?

These last two years have shown Fujifilm are in the mirrorless camera game to come out on top. Maybe I’m just tired from staying up too late getting my 60mm ƒ/2.4 Macro vs. 56mm ƒ/1.2 article done last night, but the more I think about it, the more I think a full frame X-Pro2 is a very real possibility, and maybe even the obvious next step.

Conclusion

Now, this is all just speculation. I am in no way suggesting that it’s something Fujifilm has to do or that we need a full frame camera in order to produce images that compete with the DSLRs, but if Fujifilm have their eye on cornering the mirrorless market, having a complete system in both APS-C and full frame formats does make some sense. Canon and Nikon have been operating in a similar fashion for quite some time now with their DSLRs.

There will always be folks who balk at the notion of using a smartphone as their primary cameras (I do), but the reality is “Consumer” cameras are dying fast. The high end is where the money will continue to be for some time yet, and if that high end can be served by Fujifilm, I won’t complain.

Fujifilm could simply continue to iterate on the system they’ve got, but recent history has shown that outside of Japan, mirrorless cameras aren’t gaining ground like anyone would expect. The addition of “full frame” with the other marketing bullet points will draw more eyeballs towards Fujifilm and the mirrorless market in general.

If you’re happy with APS-C, you’re already in really good shape for lens selection. There’s a lot to choose from, and there’s no chance Fujifilm will abandon the format anytime soon. If you’re waiting for a complete, compact, full frame system, it’s possible you’ll have it in a little over years after the X-Pro2 is released, provided it is in fact full frame. Fujifilm have already shown they can do it.

 

60mm ƒ/2.4 Macro vs. 56mm ƒ/1.2

After weeks of testing, the most thorough “Versus” article yet—the battle of the medium telephoto—is now online.

I’m finally approaching the standard I’d like to set for all the Versus content I post on Fuji vs Fuji. This is going to mean some revisions and additions to existing articles of course, and that means more comparisons.

I’ve been holding fast to shooting real things as opposed to test charts, brick walls, and staged comparison images. This keeps the image content fresh, and the testing more interesting.

This has also been the toughest comparison to make recommendations against. There are really good reasons to own each lens. Ultimately it boils down to your specific needs and your wallet.

Read more.