Monday, July 6, 2015

BYE BYE NIKON, HELLO FUJIFILM - 1 YEAR AFTER THE SWITCH

Exactly one year ago I blogged "BYE BYE NIKON, HELLO FUJIFILM"; a very  popular blogpost in which I explained my recent switch of camera systems. 12 Months later, it is the perfect time to revisit that big decision! 
Once again, I would like to highlight that the switch wasn't (and isn't) about the two specific brands, but rather about a complete change of my photographic philosophy.

Today, all of the original blog content is still very much valid. If you haven't read it, I suggest you first check it out here

WEIGHT AND SIZE DO MATTER!
As a Travel photographer, the number one advantage of using a mirrorless system is clearly the saving in weight and size. With the worlds airlines implementing more restrictive rules for hand luggage, this has become even more important today.

Marina Bay from across the Bay
As I'm planning for a few intercontinental flights over the next few weeks, I know that I'll be able to take all of my Fujifilm gear while easily staying within the max hand-luggage limits. Having the ease of mind knowing that all of my camera equipment is save, is already worth the price of admission!

Bagan silhouette at sunset

Just over six months ago, I took my Fujifilm photo-gear on a two week photo-adventure to Myanmar (former Burma) and likely made some of my most iconic travel images in my photographic life. Even though some of the photos could have been easily shot with DSLR cameras, the fact that I was travelling light made for a much more intimate and personal type of photography; especially when it comes to photographing people in remote villages that have never seen anything larger than a cellphone camera.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug


I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE SWITCHING!
Well, obviously everybody is different and I fully respect people that elect to stay with the DSLR camera system. After all we need to make up our own minds and see what is the right tool for the right job! The movement of switching to mirrorless systems seems to have definitively accelerated over the last 12 months. Browsing the net, I see more and more renown photographers making the full (or partial) switch to a mirrorless system. 

A few switchers to Fujifilm that showed up on my radar are:

Blue forest, Kemmel,  Belgium

FUJIFILM REVIEWS
When I switched mid 2013, the number of Fujifilm lenses was still somewhat limited. Over the last 12 months the company has however released new lenses faster than I could review them! X-shooters now have a complete high quality lens selection from 10 mm to 200 mm. Only counting the XF (pro-quality) lenses, there are 16 of which 10 are primes. Sony A7-users please take note!

As an official X-photographer, I've been very lucky to work closely with the fine guys of Fujifilm Middle East and have done a large amount of reviews on new gear. The most important ones for me being:
Unlike other camera/lens manufactures, Fujifilm regularly updates their customers on the planned new lenses by issuing what they call, a lens road map. 

One of the main outstanding lenses, which will make Sport and Wildlife shooters happy, is the 100-400mm, to be released early 2016.

For me the lenses that had me most excited over the last year, are two new Weather Resistant (WR) lenses; the XF50-140 f2.8 and the brand-new XF16mm f1.4 prime.

Baking bread in Deira, Dubai

FIRMWARE 4.0 UPDATE - THANKS FOR A BRAND NEW CAMERA
Fujifilm is renown for regularly updating their existing cameras firmware and this way releasing functions that are only available on its newer cameras. These updates often go back to cameras that are several years old and create great loyalty to the company. A typical example is the complete overhaul of the X-T1 "autofocus system", which has just been updated to the brand-new X-T10 standard (review here). All of this by a simple firmware update, called 4.0 (released end of June 2015). 

While other camera manufactures would launch a complete new camera model (Canon and Nikon, take note!), it really is like receiving a brand-new camera for FREE.

Douglas AD-5 Skyraider extending its wings

As I personally have not got enough exposure to the new autofocus system, I won't go into details but will rather refer the readers to a dedicated Fujifilm AF site explaining the new Autofocus! Click here for more info.

I am very excited about the new AF as it made a great first impression while testing/reviewing the X-T10. End of the month, I plan on attending the worlds largest Airshow in Oshkosh, WI (USA) and hope to put the new system through its paces. 

IS IT ALL PERFECT?
Of course it isn't! I've always tried to be fair and honest in my camera and lens reviews and will continue to do so! 

The good news is that after having used the X-T1 for over a year in harsh conditions; temperatures ranging from well below freezing to +50C, in sandstorms and downpours; the camera has not missed a beat. 

I do however have some concerns about the quality of some of the plastic and rubber parts used; the left side-door has expanded somewhat and doesn't close properly anymore; not desirable for a weather sealed camera! 

Oxen plowing in Mandalay (Myanmar)

Secondly some of the rubber parts on the backside of the X-T1, are slowly letting loose. Both of these are probably the result of regularly operating the camera in very high temperatures and humidities, but will need to be addressed in future updates. 

To be fair, all of my Nikon cameras (and lenses for that matter) had the same issues with the rubber getting loose but then again Fujifilm needs to do better! I'm presently looking into replacing some of the rubber parts with new ones which is more of an inconvenience rather than a cost. Having being exposed to the same environmental conditions, all of my lenses are still in a pristine condition.

O-14 building Dubai Business Bay

Even though, Fujifilm is clearly listening to its customers and is giving them frequent new functionalities through firmware updates, there is always room for improvement... One of the main outstanding concerns for me, is the lack of decent "exposure bracketing"; Fujifilm Japan", we need a minimum of +2 and -2 stops (preferably 3) on the AE bracketing. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to see it wasn't included in the X-T1 4.0 update.     

Lonely tree in a Dubai sandstorm


RAW FILES IMAGE EDITING: LIGHTROOM CC 2015 versus IRIDIENT DEVELOPER
The Fujifilm X-trans sensor and more specifically the newer X-Trans CMOS II sensor used on cameras like the X-E2, X-T1, X-T10, X100S and X100T, is revolutionary to say the least. The image quality through its non-standard pixel array, equals or even surpasses some of the full frame sensors. For more technical info click on the following link.

The problem is however that some of the RAW file converters are not really keeping up with the latest and greatest image sensor technology. Lightroom for example, was known to struggle with some of the more demanding Fujifilm RAW files. 

Prison break - Loos, Lille (France)

For RAW files which contain a lot of foliage or other fine details, I do use Iridient Developer. This stand alone software made by a small company, is for me the best Fujifilm RAW file image editor

There is however light at the end of the tunnel; both Adobe ACR and Adobe Lightroom (which are basically the same RAW file editors), have updated their RAW file converters in the latest CC (Creative Cloud) versions to be more compatible with the new X-Trans technology. Some files still show better detail in Iridient Developer but the gap is definitively closing... 

Even though editing the RAW file in Iridient and then continuing the rest in Lightroom is not that hard, staying in a single application is obviously more desirable. Right now I tend to do about 80% of my RAW file image editing in Lightroom.

Looking up! Carrer de Milans, Barcelona

CONCLUSION
Overall I definitively have no regrets having made the move to Fujifilm. Not a single time did I miss not having a DSLR during the last 12 months.

Just like most Fujifilm shooters, I'm obviously interested in what the company will release next... Rumours seem to be predicting a possible 1.3 crop factor (closer to full frame) higher resolution camera (X-Pro2?) which will work with all amazing Fujinon XF glass. I guess time will tell! 

To me it has never been a more exciting time to be a photographer. 

Remember: "Life is like a camera, focus on what is important and you will capture it perfectly" 


BJORN

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 27: B R I G H T O N : UK's Street Photography paradise

Always find it kind of strange, how some cities seem to work much better for Street Photography than others... Outside Europe, New York and Hong Kong are my two favourite places to document the streets. 

When it comes to large cities in Europe; Amsterdam and Paris are probably the highest on that list. 

However, on a smaller scale, I recently have become a fan of another interesting place: Brighton, a town on the South coast of England, about 1 hour by train from the capital, a full of Street Photograph potential!

After the railway started reaching the coastal-town in 1841, it quickly became a destination for day-trippers from London; something that still is valid today.

Some might also know Brighton as the Gay capital of the UK or the place where some famous music bands were discovered... Either way, the town has definitively somewhat of an eccentric feel to it. Perfect for good old Street Photography!

Brighton, UK Street Photography paradise

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 56mm f1.2R Fujinon lens
ISO 800, 56mm (84mm full frame equivalent), f4, 1/1250s
RAW file development in Lightroom CC 2015

I'm particularly attracted by the somewhat crunchy feel of the scene and find that the viewers eyes are kept well inside the frame. A highlight in the colour version of the image, is clearly the red hair of the person in the centre of the frame. To check out a Black and White version of the same image, click here.

More of my Black and White Street Photography shot throughout the UK, can be found in a gallery called: "Shooting UK streets".

Remember: "The whole point in taking pictures, is so that you don't have to explain it in words" - Elliott Erwitt

BJORN


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 26: The bridge to luxury - Burj al Arab (Dubai)

Two buildings dominate the Architectural scene in Dubai; the first one being the World's tallest building "BURJ KHALIFA" and the second one the "BURJ AL ARAB", known as the Worlds only 7-star hotel. 

The latter has dominated the Jumeirah beach for more than 15 years and hasn't lost its popularity. The hotel sits on a small man-made island and is connected to the mainland with a 300 m long bridge.

I'm often asked about the "tennis court" on the top of the building...Let's break the myth. The round structure at the top of the 320 m tall (same height as the Eiffel tower) building, is actually a helicopter platform. It was changed into a one of tennis court in 2005 when Roger Federer and Andre Agassi were invited to play a few rounds. A video of the event can be found here.

Over the years, I've shot the Burj al Arab (Tower of the Arabs) from a variety of angles, but shots with the bridge in the frame are a bit harder to get.

I owe it to shooting smaller mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X-T1, in order to get images like the one below. Doubt it, that a bulky DSLR mounted on a full size tripod, would have been allowed at the same spot...

The bridge to luxury, Burj al Arab - Dubai

The image which I captioned, "The bridge to luxury", consists of three shots blended together through Luminosity masks in Photoshop CC. A technique I've started learning as a summer project, with the help of the guys at goodlight.us . 

The technique allows for a much more realistic look compared to a classic HDR development. As the sky turned purple/orange for a very brief moment during the blue hour, I shot the darker frame which then allowed me to edit the photograph as I personally witnessed it!

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF10-24 f4 lens
ISO 200, f11, 11mm (17mm full frame equivalent)
3 shot bracket with varying Shutter speeds from 1/10s to 5s
RAW development in Iridient Developer 
Photoshop CC 2015 for image blending through Luminosity masks
Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to add some more drama to the scene

Even though, I've seen the Burj al Arab hundreds of times, it remains a building that never bores me. A collection with some of the images shot over the last 13 years can be found here.

It is quite rare for an image to make it directly into my portfolio, but I believe this one deserves a place in the ARCHITECTURAL section. 

Remember: "We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us" - Winston Churchill.

BJORN



Monday, June 22, 2015

PARIS AIRSHOW 2015 - The Worlds Oldest Airshow

Last week, I attended the Worlds Oldest Airshow, officially called the "Salon International de l'aéronautique et de l'espace - Le Bourget", it is often referred to as the "PARIS Airshow". 

To me the show is much more an "Aviation fair", rather than a classic airshow; it is all about the business side of aviation rather than the pure love of flying which is often seen in classic airshows... Having said that, it is still a happening and interesting event.

Top floor of the Airbus chalet

The weeklong show is held every two years (odd) at the end of June, with the first 4 days being reserved for professionals. The last three are open to the general public and have a more varied afternoon flying display. 
A350 landing, B787 ready to go

The first Paris airshow was held in 1908, only 5 years after the Wright brothers first flew. Beside a few obvious breaks during both World War I and II, the show has been held pretty much non-stop every second year and was on its 51st edition. 

Also taking place during the odd years, another similar event is held in my neck of woods; the Dubai Airshow which this year takes place between the 8th and the 12th of November and has been growing exponentially since its start in 1989.

During the even years, two similar shows are being held in both Berlin (Germany) and Farnborough (UK). 

Airbus A350 in-flight
With over 2000 exhibitors and more than 350.000 visitors, the Paris Airshow is the second largest aviation event by visitor numbers. Airventure-Oshkosh taking first place with more than half a million people on the grounds during the weeklong event. Beside, Airventure is of course a very different type of event and is rightly called; "The Worlds Greatest Aviation celebration". If all goes well, there is a good chance I'll make it back to Oshkosh (WI) this coming July!

Dassault Falcon 2000 
As stated before, it is all about the business side of Aviation in Paris; with most companies working in the Aviation field being represented, from the large manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus to the smaller companies making aviation springs, bolts and nuts; the Paris airshow has it all!

New aircraft types are frequently first shown at Paris and announcements of new project launches are often made during one of the many press conferences.

A few of these firsts this year, were the Bombardier CS300 airliner, which is still in its initial flight test phase,
CS300 prototype

the Airbus A350 Hushliner,
Airbus A350 nose section

the Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner,
B787 flightdeck

and the Scorpion light attack and reconnaissance aircraft built by Cessna.
Cessna Scorpion

Airlines often officially order their new aircraft at shows like Paris and are then sometimes rewarded by the manufactures showing their new hardware at the show in the respective airline livery. This was the case for Qatar airlines which had a Boeing B-787 and both an Airbus A350 and A380 at the show. Great marketing!
Qatar dominating Paris airshow: B787, A350 and A380 tails

As the show is also a military event, a lot of the worlds governments come to Paris to check out what the latest and greatest from the aviation defence side.
NH90 preparing for demo flight

F-16 and Boeing P-8 Poseidon

A-10 nose section

Unfortunately the weather wasn't that great on the Thursday I was there, making for a "limited flying display" and some challenging photography. Having a weather resistant camera and lens (FUJIFILM X-T1 & XF50-140 lens) definitively helped!
Airbus A380 coming in to land

PARIS AIRSHOW 2015

The Paris - Le Bourget airport, where the show has been held since 1953, is also the home of the "Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace", one of the worlds greatest Air and Space museums. A gallery with images I shot at the museum earlier this year, can be found here.

Time for a smoke

Merci Paris et au revoir,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 25: Shooting for the Stars - Dubai desert

Yesterday I reviewed Collier's Guide to Night Photography; likely one of the best (e)books on shooting the night skies! 

Sticking to the theme, this weeks Pic(k) of the week, is the direct result of reading the above book and going out there to shoot... 

"Shooting for the stars, - Dubai desert", was shot at the same location where I shot, " Desert Moonrise" end of May. I was looking for a simple star trail image with a  

The image consists of just over 1 hour of 30sec exposures to create the star trails and a single frame for the foreground. As I'm not 100% happy with the blending of the foreground image with the star trails, I will likely rework the image some more over the Summer months. 

Shooting for the stars, Dubai desert

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujinon XF 14mmF2.8R lens
  • 130 images for star trails shot at ISO 800, f4, 30sec 
  • Foreground exposure ISO 1600 f2.8, 60sec
Comet like Star trails made in Photoshop CC using the technique explained in Collier's book above.

Foreground image blended together with the combined Star trail image in Photoshop CC

More of my "Nature of the UAE" images can be found here.


Remember: "The sky is filled with stars, all invisible by day" 


BJORN