Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 11: MARINA BAY AT DUSK, SINGAPORE - Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f2.8 lens

Singapore, sometimes referred to as "The Switzerland of the East", is a small island state in Southeast Asia which became independent in 1965. Just about 100 km North of the equator, it has a tropical climate with a very high humidity throughout the year but still is one of my favorite cities in the Far East.

Earlier this week I spend just over 24 hours in Singapore; just enough time to test the new Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f2.8 ultra wide angle lens, which I'm presently testing for Fujifilm Middle East. One of my favorite places in Singapore for cityscapes is the Marina Bay Area which is dominated by Marina Bay Sands, an integrated resort, casino and shopping mall. Some might have seen images of the amazing infinity pool on the rooftop of the hotel. 

The lotus shaped ArtScience on the right houses 21 gallery spaces and was designed by Israeli-Canadian Architect Moshe Safdie. 

The colorful 280m long footbridge on the left is the Helix bridge and makes for an interesting compositional element. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF 8-16mm f2.8 lens
  • Single exposure (no HDR); ISO 160, 13sec, f11, 11mm 
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • Photoshop CC for perspective correction
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex pro 4 for optimal contrast 

I also shot a few panoramas covering more of the Marina Bay Area; one 10000 pixel wide one, can be found here

Time permitting I hope to write a short review about the new XF8-16mm f2.8 lens before the end of the month. 

Remember: "The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo" - Desmond Morris




Friday, March 8, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 10: DESERT AERIAL - DJI MAVIC 2 PRO

Earlier in the year, I picked up my first drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Being an avoid Aerial photographer, I've been shooting from aircraft, helicopters and balloons, but as the cameras on the smaller prosumer drones have become decent it is time to include "modern" technology in my Aerial photography. Some shots are hard if not impossible get from an aircraft while others can pretty much only be done with a drone; there is a place for both platforms!

In the image below, I was attracted to the scene of people getting out of their car and enjoying the beauty of a sunset over the desert. I love how the tire tracks lead the viewer into the center of image and how the distinct pattern of the footprints in the warm desert sand, add to the image.



Image details:

  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Hasselblad 10.26mm lens 
  • 1/320s, f4.0, ISO 100
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development 
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro4 for optimal contrast
I'm pretty happy with the image quality of the 1 inch sensor mounted on The Mavic 2 Pro. Would I love to have an even larger sensor? Of course, but being a small compact drone everything is of course about compromises! 

More of my portfolio Aerial images can be found here

Remember: "Take only memories, leave only footprints"


BJORN

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

COMPARISON REVIEW: FUJIFILM X-T30 a MINI X-T3 !

On February 14, pretty much exactly 2 year after the release of the X-T20, its successor, the FUJIFILM X-T30 was released by Fujifilm Japan.



When the X-T3 (review here) was released 5 months ago, it didn't go unnoticed in the photography community! Personally I believe the X-T3 is probably the best featured camera in the X-series line, as of today. 

Immediately after the announcement of the X-T3, some people started speculating whether a scaled down version like we had after the X-T2, would come out. Since the X-T1, Fujifilm has followed the tradition to bring out the small brother of the X-Tx line about 6 months after initial launch. 

Early February and courtesy of the great guys of Fujifilm Middle East, I was given a black box with a brand new X-T30. Yes, given is a big word. Unfortunately I need to return the camera!

It obviously comes with the usual disclaimer that the image quality and camera firmware might not be final; the hardware did however look pretty close to the final product as did the packaging. I'm an X-Photographer (brand ambassador), but what is below is my own opinion and not that of Fujifilm. I'm not paid by Fujifilm to write what is below.


HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE X-T20?
While the X-T20 is available in two colors (black and silver) the X-T30 will also be selling in a new "Charcoal Silver"; the one I tested and probably the colour I would get myself! 

SENSOR AND PROCESSOR
While some changes are clearly visible from the outside, the most noteworthy are not. The "old" X-Trans III sensor has been replaced with the new 26.1Mpx BSI X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor which also be found on its larger (and more expensive) brother. The base ISO has come down to 160 while the new extended ISO starts at ISO 80 and goes all the way up to ISO 51200. Unlike some other cameras, the Extended ISO can be used in RAW. I personally don't even think twice to shoot at ISO 6400 and will increase slightly beyond that if needed. Compared to the X-T20 (and the older X-Trans III sensor), the amount of noise is about the same. I do find that the recovery of dynamic range in post-processing is better on the BSI (Backside Illuminated) sensor. See Image quality below for more.

Similarly the X-T30 also has the new X-Processor 4 which gives the camera a lot more horsepower. Personally, I find the new processor a bigger change than the new sensor. The only caveat is that the full potential of the new processor might not be seen because of having a single UHS-I card slot versus two faster UHS-II slots on the X-T3.  



There are a large variety of fps (frames per second) settings available to choose from when using CH and CL modes. In Mechanical Shutter (MS), one can shoot at 8fps (versus 11fps on the X-T3). Using the Electronic Shutter (ES) up to 30fps (yes, that is right!) is available when using a 1.25 crop setting. At the full 26.1Mpx resolution, the camera can be shot at a blazing fast 20fps.

As the sensor read out is 1.5 times faster than the previous generation processor/sensor combo, the rolling shutter problems when using ES have largely disappeared. Even when panning fast action like fast moving car the ES does a good job. Needless to say that 8 fps and shooting the MS, is still plenty for most as well!

For high speed action there is a new Sport Finder mode which only is available in Mechanical shutter mode, and uses a 1.25 cropped image (limited to 16Mpx). The crop is indicated by a special frame on both LCD and EVF. This way one can see the action enter the viewfinder before the actual (cropped) frame is entered. A bit like when using a Optical viewfinder which of course this camera does not have. 

Another function that sport and other high speed shooters will like is the Pre-Shot function which is only available in Electronic Shutter (ES). This starts shooting images as soon as the shutter button is half pressed, constantly loading the last 20 into the buffer, initially not onto the card. When the shutter is fully pressed the last 20 images are then transferred from the buffer onto the SD card on top of the actual images made while pressing the shutter. This improves our changes when shooting fast action photography, where we are sometimes just a split second too late. The image below, is an example where this comes in very handy!



Only thing, we need to remember is to half-press the shutter a little before the actual shot is expected. 

Lastly, the new sensor now has 100% phase detection auto-focus coverage rather than the slower contrast detection focus points we used to see on the outer side of the frame. This makes for faster Auto-focus, especially in focus tracking (AF-C mode). Face and Eye detection is also vastly improved!




Like all of the recent Fujifilm cameras, the X-T30 has Bluetooth functionality for integration with the Fujifilm Remote app which will see a major update in less than a month. 






BUTTONS AND DIALS
The top plate of the X-T30 is identical to its predecessor. On the backside, the 4-way D-pad button set-up has now made place for a joystick; Fujifilm calls it the "Focus lever". The 4-way controller functionality is now available via the touchscreen interface; similar to the X-E3. While getting used to the new set-up takes a little bit of time, for me it works well on the smaller bodies like the X-T30 line as it frees up more real estate at the back. However, please leave the D-pad on the larger bodies like the X-T3, Fujifilm! 

What I initially didn't like about the new camera was the new position of the Q button on the small thumb rest . I bumped it quite a few times with my thumb; something that got gradually better towards the end of the testing period but which nevertheless remained an annoyance. For info I have medium size male hands.   

EVF AND LCD
The 0.39 inch EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) is almost identical to its predecessor; with its 0.62x magnification factor it is less than the 0.77x of the X-T3. The only difference is that the refresh rate cam be increased to 100fps when using the boost mode. 

The 3 inch LCD tilt screen on the back is also the same; the only difference is that it sticks out a little less and therefore making the camera a fraction slimmer than its predecessor.


ELECTRONIC LEVEL
Like the X-H1 and X-T3, it features a two axis (pitch and roll) electronic level. I prefer to use one of the 4 touchpad functions to be allocated to the electronic level.

INFORMATION CONTRAST ADJUSTMENT
Likely something I won't use that much, but there are four different contrast settings for all of the information text displayed on the LCD and EVF. Part of the screen set-up, this changes only the text in the EVF and LCD, unlike a change in brightness that is still available for both EVF and LCD. The latter one, changes the brightness of the image as well as the surrounding text symbols. There are 4 choices; standard contrast setting, High, Low and Dark Ambient Lighting. The last one provides you with red text only, which will protect your night vision when out and about in the dark.




WHAT IS MISSING COMPARED TO THE X-T3?
First of all, one gets pretty much a mini X-T3 for about 500-600,-USD less. Lets have a look at what we are missing in the new camera compared to its older brother!

While shooting the X-T30, one of the first obvious comparisons to the X-T3, is that the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) is not as bright and large. It is very good and fast enough but once spoiled with the X-T3 EVF, it is really hard to go back. Having said so, the price difference needs to show up somewhere of course. 



Not immediately obvious but important if you are an all weather shooter, the X-T30 is not weather sealed. The X-T30 is 30% lighter (539g versus 383g), which is of course significant! 


While it has a nice tilt screen (unlike the X-100F and X-Pro2), it isn't a 3-axis tilt screen like on the X-T3; for myself not a big deal but a nice feature to have. 


Something that is not that obvious is the fact that the eye sensor is not automatically disabled when the LCD screen is tilted; something the X-T3 does do and which can be a bit of an annoyance when using the touchscreen with your finger hovering in front of the EVF. Likely something that can be fixed in a firmware update I guess? 

I do highly recommend using the metal hand grip if shooting with the larger lenses such as the XF50-140 and XF100-400. The Metal Hand grip, MHG-XT10, for the X-T10/X-T20 also works fine on the X-T30. Another advantage of the MHG-XT10 is that is place the tripod mount below the lens; something the X-T3 does natively. 



The camera does not have a dual memory card slot; because of the more limited space! Like the X-T20, both the battery and memory card live together at the bottom right of the camera.

The smaller brother of the X-T3 does not have a dedicated ISO dial, but one can of course tailor some of the function buttons to the ISO function. Personally I used the front command dial for that function and this worked fine for me. 

Unfortunately the camera does not have the 1/8000s maximum mechanical shutter speed of the higher end cameras. The Electronic Shutter does however allow for shutter speeds up to 1/32000s.


Autofocus wise, the X-T30 is pretty much on par with its big brother. At release date, it is even slighty ahead of the X-T3; face detection is meant to be 30% faster and one can now select a face on the screen when the camera has identify several ones. Changing the autofocus from far to close (and vice versa) has also become faster and last but not least the sensitivity of the touchscreen has improved. Now, X-T3 should not panic; all of this will be become available in the 3.0 firmware update in April 2019! 

VIDEO
Well I'm not a video shooter... but for the price point the camera has decent video shooting capabilities, including 4K shooting; but only up to 30fps. I'm sure that vloggers would have loved to see a fully articulating front facing LCD screen but there are some robust video features. Although the camera only shoots 8 bit 4:2:0, 10 bit 4:2:2 is available through HDMI. A external headphone can be connected through the new USB-C connection on the left side (third party). 

Internal Super Slow motion at 120fps is available at 1080p. 

IMAGE QUALITY 
Practically spoken the image quality of an X-T3 and X-T30 file or virtually identical as both sensor and processor are identical. After having shot the X-T3 for more than 6 months now, I've started to appreciate the full potential of the X-Trans 4 image files. 

Especially when shooting in RAW, I'm impressed in how files behave when opening shadows in a RAW converter. Although this is something I would rarely need to do in my own type of photography, but when pushing the shadow slider to the max, there is hardly any noise or artifacts added to the image. The image below is an example of this; left with the shadow slider pushed to right, while the image on the right is the basic unedited RAW file.



BLACK AND WHITE TONING
Both for standard Monochrome as well as in Acros Film simulation modes, the in camera jpeg files can now be toned.


As part of the Image Quality tab, there is a warm and cool tone setting of +/-9. Especially when being used at the smaller settings (max 2), this makes for some nicely toned black and white images. Just get rid of the Sepia Film Simulation Fujifilm and give us something useful instead! 

ETERNA
In order to have a nice "cinema" look and allow for easier grading in video, the Eterna Film Simulation is now also available on the X-T30. It makes for soft color and rich shadows. 


COLOR CHROME 
When expressing colors such as red, orange or yellow in high contrast, high brightness tends to exist. If contrast and brightness both reach their peaks, there is no longer room for tonality. As a result, the image becomes flat. Color Chrome Effect uses this to create tonality while maintaining high contrast. As a result, an image is achieved without losing its depth. This used to be done with the creation of  special "fortia" film. Today in can be done in camera.

It is something we first saw in the GFX50S Medium format and which is now also available with one of three settings; OFF/WEAK/STRONG. With the previous X-Processor Pro there was about a 1s slowdown whenever the effect was being used. Users were therefore asked to preferably use it post shooting as part of the in-camera RAW development and not while shooting. The newer processor in the X-T30 is however perfectly capable to apply the effect while shooting. Whenever you are shooting reds and yellows in high contrast situation, think about this setting! 

WHITE BALANCE LOCK
Sometimes things are being implemented and one thinks, "why has nobody before thought about this"? This is the case with the White balance Lock function. Just like one can press a button to lock the exposure (AE-L) or autofocus (AF-L), we can now do the same for a given white balance by dedicating a Fn button to the AWB lock. This is especially useful when different lights in night scenes constantly change the WB.  Yes, we can enter a custom WB but this is so much easier. All the points for innovation Fujifilm!

SAMPLE IMAGES
I'm a photographer and not a pixel peeper. The images below were shot and edited as I normally do. A careful viewer might find out that some of the first images show up as X-T3 files; this is because the RAW file converter wasn't available yet and I tricked Lightroom into believing they were X-T3 files. As the sensor and processor are identical this will of course not effect the image quality. 

I shot the X-T30 over a 3 week period at a variety of locations; from the desert of Dubai, through a ski holiday in the Austrian Alps and a few flying trips for the day-job to Paris and Nice, France. 

I have downsized the images to maximum 3000px wide in order to have a reasonable loading on this webpage. 

Post edit: Image were initially wrongly uploaded at 300px i.s.o. 3000px. This has now been corrected. Sorry for the inconvenience.


ISO 800, XF18-135mm lens


ISO 200, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 200, XF50-140mm lens

ISO 400, XF50-140mm lens

ISO 6400, XF27mm lens

ISO 320, XF27mm lens

ISO 6400, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 160, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 640, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 200, XF27mm lens

ISO 160, XF27mm lens

ISO 160, XF27mm lens

ISO 200, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 160, XF27mm lens

ISO 125, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 160, XF27mm lens

ISO 160, XF27mm lens

ISO 400, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 1000, XF18-135mm lens


ISO 500, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 320, XF18-135mm lens

ISO 200, XF18-135mm lens

CONCLUSIONS
First of all my usual question; "Who is this camera for?". Well I guess the answer is not that straight forward. I see a few main markets; first of all, it is definitively a camera I would recommend to somebody who is either new to photography or to an experienced DSLR user who wants to have a lighter mirrorless camera for travel and street photography.

Secondly, I can see some Pro-shooters looking for a back-up body which is cheaper and smaller than their main X-T3 camera. 


Last but not least, I really see the X-T30 as a near perfect "Street Photography camera"; pair it with a 23mm f2 (or 35mm f2 if you prefer) and you pretty much have the perfect fit. Want to go even smaller; throw a 27mm f2.8 pancake lens on it! I especially like the touch LCD and
 the improvements of the Electronic Shutter (ES), for candid street photography!





What would I have like to see different on the X-T30? There are two things that come to mind here... The position and shape of the Q button being the first; even after several weeks I still occasionally bump the Q button inadvertently. Secondly I would like to see an eyecup for the camera like on the X-T1/2/3 series; either directly fitted or sold as an accessory. 

Expected launch price is 899,-USD, the same when the X-T20 first came out. Both the black and silver colour should start hitting the shelves towards the end of March, while the new Charcoal Silver is expected to be available in June. Overall, I do give the X-T30  a "Recommended" tag!


The above review can be shared on Social media and Blogs without prior approval, as long as credit to Bjorn Moerman PHOTOGRAPHY (www.bjornmoerman.com) is given.  



BJORN




Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 9: SUPER MOON RISE OVER THE ALPS - Fujifilm X-T30

Readers who follow me on Instagram probably have recently seen some images shot during a weeklong ski trip to Austria. Although it was mainly a family holiday, I used the opportunity to shoot some test images with the Fujifilm X-T30. A separate blogpost about my recent experience with this brand-new camera will be online within the next few days. 

One of the images, that stood out, was the one below from a supermoon rise over the Austrian Alps. I had just got back from a full day of intensive skiing when I looked outside my hotel bedroom and saw a beautiful moon rise over the surrounding mountains. The warm glow of the sunlight reflecting on the snow covered mountains, made it for an iconic image.


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF18-135 lens
  • ISO 200, f8, 1/200s, 135mm 
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development + NEW Enhance details function
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro4 with Color Contrast filter

More of the images shot during the ski trip to Leogang, Austria, can be found here

Remember: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land amongst the stars". 


BJORN

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pic(k) of the week 8: ANOTHER SUNSET - ANOTHER FUJIFILM CAMERA

Last week, FEB 14, Fujifilm announced a new camera which I have been testing for over a week now. Due to work and family commitments, I wasn't able to release a full review by the release date. Meanwhile, I'm writing this on a ski holiday in Austria; yes, with the new camera! So, while the review is definitively in the making and will likely come out end of February (or early March), I would like to share an image shot with the new camera as my Pic(k) of the week!

As the camera has the same new sensor as the Fujifilm X-T3 (review here), there are no surprises with regards to the image quality. The image below was shot at "Dubai Creek Harbour", my favorite location to shoot Dubai skyline images. I was lucky to be there during a nice cloudy winter evening, making for some great sunset light. I especially like how the sun-rays were reflecting into the middle of the image. The image was shot as single frame as I wanted to show the beautiful light as I witnessed it without fancy image blending techniques.

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T30 with the XF50-140 f2.8 lens
  • ISO 200, f11, 1/180s, 66mm focal length
  • RAW development in the latest 
During the Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) week in Dubai on FEB 08, Fujifilm held their first X Summit (full video here). The first edition of a new type of event where a number of Fujifilm managers on stage were explaining some of the new developments and asked the audience for advice on lenses and possible firmware functionalities. I attended as an X-Photographer for the brand and at the very end (1h47') of the video, can be heard asking a few questions about the Fujifilm Remote App and Geotagging. Meanwhile, we have learned that a brand-new Remote app will be coming out by the end of March which is great news. Let's see if it will allow to be used in landscape mode and if transfer of video files will be possible? 

Back to skiing now!

Remember: "Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn" - Ralph Waldo Emerson