Category Archives: Gear

Who Do You Trust?

Almost all photographers suffer from GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. We buy cameras, lenses, tripods, flashes, bags, filters … the list goes on and on and who knows where it will stop?

Most photography blogs are really good for giving you GAS too.  Bad reviews seem rare to me.  Now in part that’s because most equipment from the bigger companies is rarely bad. Some stuff is better than others of course but to a certain, general, vague extent, it’s all good.

But then there’s that other extent, where it’s all GREAT!!!!!! I suppose some people get excited by everything, but some want to keep their suppliers happy and others want you to like it so you’ll click on an associate link and buy it.  Some people test more thoroughly and scientifically than others.  I suppose at the end of the day it’s where it needs to be – read as much as possible and make up your own mind.

Today’s case in point is the relatively recent Fuji X100s.  I read all the reviews of this camera with great interest because if I could afford one, I’d buy it today. But I can’t afford one.

Now Zack Arias is a respected professional photographer. He makes great photos. He loves his new Fuji X100s.

Fuji is the new Leica and the x100s is the greatest camera I’ve ever owned.

The DSLR is dead to me.

Would I use the x100s at a wedding? Hell yes I would. Wouldn’t think twice about it. Would I shoot it on a magazine assignment? Yes. Portrait shoot? Yep. Promo shoot? Yep. And have.

I’m tellin’ you though. From my heart. The x100s is my desert island camera.

I love the X-Trans sensor. It’s sharper than my Canon full frame sensors.

My gosh, that’s a pretty powerful endorsement. And the photos that accompany his review are also amazing.

And he’s not the only one.

From the I-think-very-popular Fro Knows Photo:

As much as I loved my Fuji X100, the X100s is that much better and is quite possibly the best camera I own.

I’m not sponsored by Fuji. I have nothing to gain by singing their praises, but man, I am shouting from the mountaintop because the Fuji X100s is amazing.

For me, it’s the perfect camera.

If you search around, you’re going to find a whole lot more reviews like those.

So maybe I’m feeling a bit of sour grapes. Because, as I said, I think I’d like to have one but I can’t afford one. Is it something I truly need or is it GAS? I suspect it’s more the latter. But, under the heading of “seek and ye shall find,” there is at least one person with a web site not jumping on the Fuji bandwagon any time soon.  Diglloyd.

Here he writes:

Sure it has a faster AF and higher resolution sensor, but most of the design warts seem to have been cemented in, with no real improvements in usability.

I know the Fuji X100s has all the right checkbox-list of features in the marketing materials, but these days I’m looking for intelligent design; sensors are getting so good that what really makes the camera is the ease of use and well thought out features: less is more and more is less. Good design is about the right overall feature set with every little detail nit-picked and forced through a rigorous usability filter. The X100s fails miserably in this regard.

And here he writes:

Fuji ostensibly designed this sensor to avoid moiré. But the cure is worse than the disease: more digital artifacts, not fewer

The lens looks to be poorly corrected at closer range, exhibiting a glowing halo effect.

I expect to see more negative posts from him in days to come.

So who do you trust? Do you trust the guy who says it’s the greatest camera he ever owned or the one who says it fails miserably?  Arias’s photos are great but he’s a great photographer and I think there’s a dozen other cameras out there that would have given him the same results. Diglloyd takes close-up shots of burlap bags and tree trunks to illustrate his concepts, which they do, but who takes those kinds of photos in the real world?

Of course the truth is likely somewhere in between.  The X100s is the bestest camera ever this month and next month everyone will jerk off to the spec sheet for the Ricoh GR.

Me? I’m hoping to get rid of this GAS. Or maybe get a raise at work …

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I Went for the RX100

I spent days, if not weeks, thinking about the choice of a second, “every day” camera and couldn’t reach a decision. Finally decision time was upon me when my Olympus OM-D was sold.

Checking the photos that were on the memory card in the Olympus, I noted that it was almost two months since I’d last shot with it.  Let’s face it, as wonderful a camera as it is – and it is indeed wonderful – once a lens was on it, it was almost as big as my regular DSLR so I’d end up just going out with the D800 with a 50mm or 35mm on it instead. When the guy I was selling it to was checking it out, I realized as he was checking to make sure the touch screen worked that I had forgotten it even had a touch screen!

Some people told me to consider the Panasonic LX7 (or the Leica D-Lux 6, essentially the same camera). The smaller sensor put me off. Then for awhile I was considering the new Fuji X100s, which is getting some really strong reviews. I love the ergonomics and control on the Fuji, not to mention the hybrid viewfinder, but finally the combination of single fixed focal length lens and the price put me off.

So then I thought, what about the Fuji X20? “Over 50 improvements over the X10” goes the hype, and most of the reviews I’ve read on it said to believe the hype. Again, great controls. Optical viewfinder now with some actual useful information displayed in the viewfinder.  No anti-aliasing filter. And a zoom lens that is at F2.8 at the telephoto end.  I’d had the X10 for a brief period and ended up really disliking it. Of course a big part of the dislike at the time was the inability of Adobe products to properly handle the RAW files, something that has finally been resolved.

But in the end I came back to the Sony RX100. The major deciding factors for me were the larger sensor and the fact that it is small enough to fit into pants pockets.  And I admit I was swayed by the Sony’s 20 megapixel sensor vs. the Fuji’s 12 megapixels, even though I know that the two sensors are technologically quite different.   Last was the fact that I was able to get a good price on it. The list is, if I recall correctly, HK$5390. One shop offered it to me at HK$4980 and I almost said yes. Then I went to a shop where they know me and managed to get it – full box set and Sony warranty – for HK$4450.  (At the moment the asking price for used ones on DCFever is HK$4200, so I think I came out okay here.)

Anyway, I got home late, it’s crappy weather, and after I charged up the battery just fired off a few random test shots in P mode with auto ISO.

 

This shot is ISO 320, 1/30th of a second, f1.8.

And here’s Bogey ….

 

This is 800 ISO, f1.8, 1/30th of a second. To be honest, I did do a bit of processing in Lightroom to this. Here’s a crop:

 

I think the sharpness is there though there’s a bit more noise at ISO 800 than I expected.

Well, the weekend is here and hopefully I’ll get out of the house a little so I’ll try to find something interesting to shoot over the next couple of days.

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My Next Second Camera?

I’m selling off my Olympus OM-D tomorrow. Now I have to think about a replacement.

I know that some people think I’m crazy for selling off the Olympus. It’s a wonderful camera. But my financial situation changed soon after buying it (used) and I am not going to be buying a series of Micro Four Thirds lenses, especially when I already own around 10 Nikon lenses.  The other reason is the size.  Yes, the body is a lot smaller than your standard DSLR.  Even so, once you slap a lens onto it, it’s big enough. And by that I mean big enough that I needed a camera bag to carry it around, rather than slip it into a coat pocket. It got to the point where I started leaving it home and going out with my D800 with a 35mm or 50mm lens on.  And that meant it got to the point where I was leaving it home and not using it.

So as wonderful as it is, it just doesn’t make sense for me to own a camera that I don’t use.

So the question is, what next?  There are two cameras that I’m looking at, and they’re very different from each other.

The first is Sony’s RX100. It’s a true pocket-sized camera with a large sensor and a decent zoom lens. There’s no optical viewfinder and the maximum aperture on the zoom lens goes down to F4.9 once you’ve zoomed in a bit. The control layout is a bit odd, I have never liked Sony’s menu system, and you have the charge the battery in the camera.

The second is Fuji’s X100s.  It’s twice the price of the Sony. And it has a single fixed focal length lens. I loved shooting with the X100 but was frustrated by the slow auto-focus and by Adobe’s inability to deal properly with the RAW files.  All of that is said to be fixed now.  And it has the same APS-C sensor as the X-Pro1 now.  But double the price.  And jacket pocket sized rather than pants pocket sized.

Right now I really don’t know.

Some have suggested the Panasonic LX7 (or the equivalent Leica D-Lux6) and I know the Nikon Coolpix A is getting some good reviews but so far neither of those seem that appealing to me. I’ll try to take a closer look at them.

I know some of you have commented on this recently.  Any newer thoughts?

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Stuff I’m Selling

I’ve just posted ads over on DC Fever for a few items but if you see something listed here that’s of interest, feel free to contact me directly.  I’m only selling these in Hong Kong and not willing to ship them – especially not to your son who’s a medical student in Nigeria.

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera with M.Zuiko 12-50mm  f3.5-6.3 kit lens
  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 ASPH lens for Micro Four Thirds
  • Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens
  • Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens
  • Nikon AF-S VF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED lens
  • Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens

Out of all of these, it pains me the most to sell off the Nikon 14-24mm.  It’s part of what some refer to as the “holy trinity” of Nikon’s f/2.8 professional zooms. It’s an amazing lens but I don’t use it that often and need the cash more right now.

I’m also rather sad to part with the 105mm lens though truth be told, I’m hard-pressed to recall the last time I used it.  Selling it will leave me without a macro lens but I don’t seem to shoot macro.

And that Panasonic Leica. As others have noted, the lens is so good that it almost justifies getting into M4/3 just to be able to use this lens. Except I’ve found the Olympus to be too large for my purposes and I am not in a financial position to start investing in a whole series of M4/3 lenses so that’s pretty much that.

As I said, please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in any of this gear or share with your friends if you think you know someone who might want some of this.

 

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Great Editorial About Nikon

As followers of this site are aware, I’m no longer really posting photo news or links to other sites.  But now and then I come across something so good that I have to bring it to your attention. Here’s one of them, an editorial written by Nasim Mansurov over at Photography Life about Nikon – about great products, bizarre product decisions and bad quality assurance.  The article makes several key points and I’m going to post some excerpts here but you should really read the whole thing.  The first bit is about some of the features on the D7100 vs. the D600.

By using the 51 point autofocus system on the D7100, Nikon demonstrated that it costs nothing to use a high-end autofocus system on any camera. So using the lower-end AF system on the D600 was intentional, similar to the 1/4000 shutter speed or the 1/200 sync speed limits. Nikon clearly did not want the D600 to compete with the D800, so it crippled the camera by stripping off important features. Did you really think it was a move to keep the cost of the D600 low? You would be very naive if you thought so. Even if there is a cost difference, it is very minor. Not in the hundreds or thousands of dollars that Nikon wants you to think.

The small buffer limitation of the D7100 is also equally intentional. When the D7100 was announced, I made a hasty statement that it possibly marked the death of a high-end DX line. After I discovered the buffer limit on the D7100, however, I reconsidered my thoughts. Why would Nikon intentionally cripple the D7100′s buffer capacity? Another ingenious game by Nikon’s marketing – get plenty of attention to the D7100 so that a lot of people buy it, but cripple it enough for sports and wildlife photographers to either have them switch to the expensive D4, or wait until a D400 comes out (if it comes out). Do you really think that extra buffer memory is going to cost a lot of money? Of course it doesn’t.

But I think the part that really grabbed my attention and made me want to share this post is further down, his “lessons learned.”  They include:

  • Stop pre-ordering gear
  • Use your camera until it dies
  • Don’t pay attention to new product announcements

 

and a couple of other bits as well.

Me, I’m trying to get off the whole consumer merry-go-round thing.  I look back at some of the insane moves I did – things I bought too quick or sold too quick to buy other things – and I’m trying to change my ways. I admit that in no small part this is enforced by my budget, which means thinking more and trying to act less impulsively.  Stay tuned, we’ll see how it turns out.

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