Fuji; Out in the Cold

For lots more Fuji content, visit Fuji vs. Fuji, a site run by Yours truly.

Cold.jpg

Maybe it’s because I had been using fully weather-sealed (semi-)pro bodies and lenses from Nikon for the past 5 years, or simply because I live in Canada, but I don’t ever give a second thought to bringing my camera gear out in the temperatures we get during the winter.

 The forecast in Québec City. The Saturday before was actually significantly colder. Still no trouble with the X-E2. 

The forecast in Québec City. The Saturday before was actually significantly colder. Still no trouble with the X-E2. 

I was recently chatting with a few people on Twitter about using Fuji cameras in the cold. It seems there is some hesitation to do so at temperatures at around -10˚C. There were also remarks about Fuji cameras not being “freeze proof”. Fuji cameras are comparably sensitive to water and humidity for sure, but I didn’t know for certain what, if any, ill effects shooting in cold temperatures might bring.

Based on my experience, they hold up just fine in the cold. A few weeks ago my wife and I spent some time in Québec City. It was cold there. Real cold. The temperature was as low as -28˚C, and colder with the windchill. It was cold enough that after ⅔ of the day, our iPhones would shut themselves down while trying to take pictures, even with around 60% battery. My Fuji X-E2 wasn’t even phased by it.

More recently while doing a bunch of testing for another site of mine, I’ve been in the -20s for well over an hour, snapping photographs at all apertures, using the menus, swapping lenses, turning the ND filter on and off. I haven’t seen any sign of the cameras (X-E1 and 2, X100S) having difficulty. They lasted much longer in the chilly lakefront winds than I did.

Perhaps most impressively, fellow Torontonian shooter, Spencer Wynn tweeted out this kite rig photo at 250 feet, in a snowstorm, at -12˚C (without the windchill). In Spencer’s words, “worked like a charm!”

 Toronto snow storm as captured by Spencer Wynn’s kite rig, and his trusty X100S.

Toronto snow storm as captured by Spencer Wynn’s kite rig, and his trusty X100S.

I was doing some more shooting earlier this morning—once again in the frigid temps of this polar vortex nonsense—when I thought to write this post. It also occurred to me that manufacturers typically publish this sort of specification on their websites. According to Fujifilm Canada, the X-E2’s recommended operating temperature is 0˚C - 40˚C. Same goes for the X100S, and even the X-Pro1.

Given my experience with their cameras, I can only conclude Fuji are being extremely conservative on the low end, but don’t blame me if your Fuji happens to succumb to equally frosty weather. Maybe your best bet is to wait for that weather-sealed Fuji X camera to come out. ;-) Until then, not cold, nor wind chills, nor polar vortexes will stop me from shooting this winter. See you outside!

Posted on January 9, 2014 and filed under Photography.

The Billingham Hadley Small

The Billingham Hadley Small in Sage FibreNyte, Chocolate leather, and brass fittings.

Below is the story of how I arrived at buying the Billingham Hadley Small camera bag. Head straight to the review if you’d prefer.

The Story

I was in desperate need of proper camera bag for everyday use. Up until yesterday, I had been carrying my Fuji gear around in a “satchel” made by Fossil. It offered next to no protection, and it’s the reason I have a minor ding on the focus ring of my 35mm ƒ/1.4. I’d been looking for a while, but hadn’t found anything I was satisfied with.

When I first saw Billingham bags, I wasn’t 100% sure about the overall look of them. I liked the styling, but I wasn’t crazy about the standard khaki colour, and black just isn’t me. I’m much more of an earth tones sort of guy. I also found Billingham’s website pretty dreadful. It’s in serious need of a rework, and maybe they could add some, I don’t know, photos of their camera bags.

UPDATE: Fortunately, Billingham have completely overhauled their site recently.

Anyhow, I was also looking at ONA bags. They have great styling, but their bags are either a little too small (the Bowery), or a little too large (the Brixton). The Brixton was close, but it’s pricey at $269, and fairly heavy at 3.1 pounds. Then there’s the leather Brixton, at $419 and a full pound heavier. I made the mistake of getting a full leather bag before and I definitely won’t do it again. They look fantastic, but they’re much too heavy for something that’s slung over one shoulder. Your spine will feel it. Another thing I didn’t like about ONA’s bags is the clasp, and last, while Billingham’s site needs work, at least it doesn’t tell me I need to have Flash installed like ONA’s does. It’s 2014 people; time to serve up HTML 5 to anything other than iOS devices.

I was in Aden Camera not too long ago, and I noticed the “Sage” (green) Billingham Hadley Pro with “Tan” (light brown) leather behind the counter. Now we were talking. Green’s definitely my colour, but sadly, they didn’t have a Hadley Small for me to compare. I wanted to be sure I was buying the right size.

For the next little while I obsessed, as I do, reading reviews, watching videos on YouTube on the size differences between the Hadley Pro and the Hadley Small, and posting on forums about my desired configuration. After briefly considering the Pro, I was leaning heavily towards the Hadley Small; I wanted a smaller bag. Then I spotted it online somewhere, the Billingham Hadley in Sage with “Chocolate” (dark brown) leather. That was it. That was the bag. I had to have it.

There are a few Hadley Pros available on eBay in this colour at the time of writing, but the seller is ripping folks off with the price. I tweeted Aden; no luck. “It’s a new colour they (Billingham) just released,” they told me, and it would be months before they got more in stock. I decided to try Rob at rangefinderstore.com again. I tried to deal with Rob last year, but he was tough to get a hold of as he was often away on workshops. He’ll always offer to ship, but since he’s only about 35 minutes away from me, I wanted to deal in person so I could see what I was buying. As luck would have it, he had the Hadley Small, in Sage and Chocolate in stock, and would be in his studio the next day. Off I went.

Rob had a bunch of bags out for me when I arrived. He’s a super nice guy, and it was great to chat with him for a bit. I’d have loved to have stayed to nerd out longer, but my wife was waiting out in the car so I had to hurry. I hardly even looked at the green Pro he had. Not only was it too large, the tan leather simply would not do now that I’d seen the Chocolate. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to buy the shoulder pad add-on for an extra $40. Rob said folks love them, but he finds them frustrating. I typically find those shoulder pads annoying too. They never stay put, and don’t ever seem to be where you want them. Plus it would be added weight to an extremely light bag, and the weight of the contents wouldn’t necessitate a shoulder pad so I passed. I will say though, that it looks cool and for $40, I may just have to pick one up anyhow. I left Rob’s studio the proud new owner of a Hadley Small in Sage FibreNyte (Billingham’s synthetic canvas material that makes their bags so light), Chocolate leather, and brass fittings. Perfect.

The Review

There you have it. The story of how I ended up with my new everyday camera bag. It’s the right size, holds the right amount of gear, at 1.5 pounds it’s the right weight, and most importantly, it’s the right colour. Now I’ll write a little bit more about how the Hadley Small in use.

The Billingham seal of approval, and serial number. What other camera bag comes with a serial number? Billingham know their target.

Size

As mentioned, this is the perfect size bag for me. The Hadley Pro is too large to be an everyday bag. At that size and with the amount of gear it can hold, I’d want a backpack. I’ve carried around too much weight on one shoulder too often, and it can very quickly cause pain, even when I’m not carrying a bag. If I could take one thing from the Pro, however, it would be the top handle. It would definitely come in handy.

In this video review, the bag is shown with the camera packed front to back. This is important as it’s the only way you can have additional gear on either side of the camera. The ONA Bowery seems to be too small for this, but the Hadley Small works well.

Gear option 1: Fuji X-E2 with FUJINON XF 23mm ƒ/1.4 mounted above Fuji EF-X20 flash, FUJINON XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 and FUJINON XF 35mm ƒ/1.4 down the left, and Sony Playstation Vita and eyeglasses down the right.

Gear

I am astounded by how much gear this bag can hold. My current setup is the Fuji X-E2 with 23mm ƒ/1.4 mounted in the centre compartment on top of the little EF-X20 flash. The 14mm ƒ/2.8 and 35mm ƒ/1.4 in one side, and either my glasses and Vita, or my X100S in the other side. Then there are the two front pockets for batteries, mechanical shutter release, wallet, keys, etc. An iPad can slip in between the bag and the camera insert, but I will rarely if ever use it for that. It just stiffens up the bag, adds weight, and I’m not much of an out-of-home iPad user. Still, nice to know I can. It’s also possible to squeeze another small lens like the 27mm ƒ/2.8 pancake or even the 18mm ƒ/2 next to the flash and under the camera. This results in a bulge on the top of the bag from the camera. Three lenses is also possible on one side if you use a second divider, and the lenses aren’t too large.

I wish I was able to get my Sennheiser PX 200-IIi’s in one of the front pockets, but as you’ll soon learn in a forthcoming review, I’ll be using the PX-200s much less now so it’s not a huge deal. I typically wear my headphones around my neck when I need them anyhow.

Once the FUJINON XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 comes out, this will be a perfect, prime walkabout kit.

Weight

Just 1.5 pounds or 700 grams. I found the weight on B&H as Billingham’s own website doesn’t have the weight of the Hadley Small listed, just the Hadley Pro, which is strange. The Pro is 2.1 pounds or 1,010 grams. Another reason for wanting the Small.

Colour

Maybe the most important part. Billingham have a well rounded selection of colours to choose from now. My favourite just happens to be the new release. I’d have been really frustrated if I bought green with tan leather before I found the chocolate.

Gear option 2: Same as option 1, but replaces the glasses and Vita with an X100S. In this case, I even have a Really Right Stuff L-plate mounted on the X100S. It would also slide further down, I left it up for the photo.

Style

Remarkably, my wife didn’t particularly care for the look (this is remarkable because she typically likes anything that looks as though it could be from England and days gone by). She also said it looks like a fishing bag, which is pretty funny (Billinghams, of course, once were fishing bags). I think the colour combination I chose makes the bag a little more to her liking. I personally love it.

Water proof

Last, I love that I can wander about in the snow at our next FujiTuesday, and not worry about my gear getting wet.

The Conclusion

To sum up, after a couple days of use, I love the Billingham Hadley. I’m happy with my decision to go with the Small and I’m really happy I managed to get my hands on the colour I wanted. If you’re after a small bag for a mirrorless or rangefinder camera setup, I highly recommend the Billingham Hadley Small.

Posted on January 1, 2014 and filed under Photography, Reviews.

Fuji X-Trans; False Detail

For lots more Fuji content, visit Fuji vs. Fuji, a site run by Yours truly.

Thomas Menk recently linked to an article on the so-called “false-detail” produced by Fuji’s X-Trans sensor. The example provided (courtesy of DP Review) certainly demonstrates the effect well, but it isn’t exactly a real-world example of photography.

I happened to be looking through photos of scenes I might use for testing on Fuji vs. Fuji (I promise, more content is coming) and, on a hunch, had a look at some of the high contrast diagonal lines in the images to assess the false detail situation in a photograph one might actually make. 

Here are the images.

And here is a crop of the buildings. Notice how the lines on the building are broken (aliased), and they're starting to look a little like the checkerboard pattern shown in the test chart example.

Aliasing and moiré are noticeable on the building, but artificial detail isn’t produced.

Both the aliasing a moiré are even more pronounced, and the aliasing is creating a weird pattern, especially in the top-middle area of the image.

The lack of an Optical Low Pass Filter is also producing a little moiré on the building – more so near the tree – but it’s still fairly well controlled.

Conclusion

The false detail does seem to be a real thing, but from what I can tell, it isn’t going to appear in much real-world photography. This building image has to be on the bad end of the spectrum, and I haven’t noticed anything like this at all in other images, and I’m just shy of having created 5,000 images on X-Trans sensors. For me, it’s an acceptable trade-off for the kind of shooting I do, and all the benefits the sensor brings. If you’re a heavy-duty architectural shooter, you might want to give this some consideration, but this is truly the only time I’ve noticed this behaviour.

With that said, I am a little concerned with the trouble the X-Trans seems to have with rendering subtleties in green detail. Landscape photography is something I really enjoy, but have yet to spend much time with any of the landscape images I’ve captured with an X-Trans sensor that have a lot of green in them.

Posted on December 1, 2013 and filed under Photography.

FujiTuesday

Despite “people” being a bit of an unofficial theme of the night, I couldn’t pull myself away from some wide-angle colour.

Just 9 days ago, I got a random tweet from a guy called “OT” in response to me asking Aden Camera about their stock of the new Fuji 23mm ƒ/1.4 lens. He assured me that I’d love the lens, and then asked if there was a Fuji X Series group in Toronto. Next thing I knew, I was creating one with him.

After a few days of communicating via Twitter, sorting out lens and Fuji X-E2 purchases (in black, of course), we got on iMessage, spoke once on the phone, and cranked out a Squarespace website for Toronto’s very own Fuji group, FujiTuesday.

Every 3rd Tuesday of the month will be our official meet day. Yesterday marked the first outing when a group of fellow Fuji nerds got together outside Aden Camera, mused about photography, strolled through the city making pictures in the street, and then warmed their camera hands inside along with some food and drink. All told there were 10 of us out which is remarkable given how recently FujiTuesday was conceived, and how cold it was last night. Our next event will be held on December 17, at the Distillery District.

I have to say I’m pretty proud to have been a part of starting FujiTuesday. It almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without OT’s partnership in it. I also never would have guessed that tweeting “Love this idea.” would lead to what we’ve started. We hope to take the idea as far as we possibly can, and maybe even expand beyond meet-ups.

I look forward to many more meets in the future. Be sure to check FujiTuesday.com for write-ups and images from the big event. It’s an exciting time to be a Fuji X Shooter.

Posted on November 20, 2013 .

Fstoppers represents everything that’s wrong with the internet.

dfw50mm_med.jpeg

In his recent post about the Nikon DF, Lee Morris has contributed an awful lot of nonsense to the internet. Probably to generate page views, but the absurdity is too great to let pass by. Let’s have a look.

First, the headline. It is so blatantly obvious that this is pure click-bait—and why I chose to mimic it—that Lee actually inserted a paragraph in bold, all but acknowledging that fact. Shameless. 

“I’ve never heard a professional photographer complain that a camera was too big or too heavy.”

Right. I have two professional photographer friends who are both really interested in buying Fuji cameras because of the form factor. And I guess he’s never heard of Zack Arias to name one of many. 

“There is also no way that holding this camera with your fingers will ever be more comfortable than a full-handed grip on today’s cameras.”

Whoa! Lee has access to a pre-production unit that he’s handled, and with which he can judge the ergonomics of for every human being on earth? Really looking forward to reading the exclusive early review. Yeah.

“The one thing that does intrigue me about the Nikon DF layout is that ISO and shutter speed are on physical rotater knobs.”

So not quite everything that’s wrong with photography then. 

“You could make the argument that these physical knobs are easier and faster to deal with than a digital LCD and I might agree with you.”

 “Could” and “might.” Sure.

“Obviously I won’t know until I try...”

Sort of like those ergonomics we talked about just up there?

“If physical knobs were faster, they would be in use today right?”

The fact he disregards every other possible reason for moving from dials to buttons is telling. I have a sneaking suspicion that plastics or rubber buttons cost a little less to manufacture than quality metal dials do. Beside that, speed isn’t always paramount. If it was, the DF would share all its internals with the D4, not just the sensor. Every single one of the DF teasers highlighted—hell, beat us over the head with—slowing down, considering our photographs, taking time to select the right places to turn those glorious knobs. This is not meant for sports photographers who want every means possible of not having to take their eye from the viewfinder. 

“I wish that they could have made all 4 of the major settings (SS, F-Stop, ISO, and WB) all physical knobs”

Please make up your mind, Lee. 

“...a simple shutter release cable has now become the next trendy thing to use to look fashionable”

There’s also the fact you can buy one for about $3 vs. $100+ for some of the fancy wireless ones. I realize if you can afford a DF you can probably afford more than a cable shutter release, but suggesting the only reason to use them is to be a hipster is a tad myopic.

“It doesn’t matter what your opinion on video is, the fact is that removing features from a product does not make a product “revolutionary.”

Here’s a fun game, open Nikon’s press release page for the DF and search for the word “revolutionary.”  Perhaps he’s referring to other internet pundits’ claims, but even a quick search will show F-stoppers and one other site as the only two who really state the DF is intended to be “revolutionary.”

I don’t care about video and if he considered what I think the point of the camera might be (smallest FX form factor, removal of features for simplification and improved user experience, D4 sensor in a camera that’s not $6,000, etc.), Lee might understand why video isn’t in there. 

dftop_med.jpeg

Why is he excited?

In his past paragraph, Lee tries to reconcile why we should collectively reconsider if and why we’re excited for this camera. I’m going to unapologetically draw upon anecdotes on this one. My wife and I recently got a Fuji X-E1 and X100S respectively. Since getting those cameras, we’ve taken more photographs in the past few months than in the last couple years for me, and in the last 4 years for my wife. That’s all down to the user experience. The X-E1 isn’t a great deal simpler in terms of functionality than the D60 my wife had before, but it makes sense to her and is simpler to use, in no small part because of the dials. Some of this is comes down to it being what she grew up with, but I think more of it is down to it being easier to use.

I personally learned photography on my Dad’s Pentax K1000, but I didn’t really get into it until I purchased a D70s. So while I was used to the DSLR way of things, I enjoy and prefer the way my X100S operates much more than any of the largely button-operated Nikons I’ve owned over the years. So much so that I recently abandoned the DSLR altogether and what little “professional” photography work I’ve done for the time being. That’s why I’m excited by the idea of the Nikon DF.

At $3,000 I’m not sure it will be in my future. One point I totally agree with Lee on is the notion of sticking a giant pro 2.8 lens on the front of the DF. Sort of defeats the purpose. I think Nikon needs a separate line of Fuji XF-style lenses for me to really be interested. Imagine a reintroduction of AI-S quality lenses with AF capabilities. That would get me really excited.

Posted on November 6, 2013 and filed under Photography.