Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pic(k) of the week 14: LEFT BEHIND - OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND

One advantage of being confined to our own living space for several days is that there is plenty of time to think and reflect on things. I'm obviously talking about being on some kind of a lock-down due to the existing worldwide Covid-19 outbreak. 

While it limits what we can do with our photography, these things are often the start of a new documentary photography project.

Having been a UAE resident for close to 18 years now, one of the things that I do not like here, is how certain people get rid of things by just throwing them out in nature and hoping somebody else will clean up after them. Yes, even in some relatively remote places, cleaners can often we seen with a big plastic bags, collecting somebody else his Coke can or empty fastfood box. 

Living in a desert environment, unfortunately also means that blowing sand often hides all the junk being left behind after just a relatively short time span. 

Especially after a period of rain, it is not uncommon for certain items to come back to the surface; even after having been left behind several years back. I would like to think it's nature revenge!

Outside my villa compound, there used to be quite a bit of construction going on over the past 5 years or so and recent rain has now revealed plenty of construction related items left behind! A perfect start for a new project which I would rather not have to shoot; titled LEFT BEHIND - OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

Below is a selection of items which I all found within 1km from my home. I hope this project can eventually create at least some awareness and hopefully make people think twice before kicking something out! 
Left behind
For now the project is entirely shot on the Fujifilm X-100V using Classic Negative Film simulation. The small fixed prime lens camera is great for this kind of documentary work.

Remember: "Waste is only waste, if we waste it".



Keep your social distance and keep well.




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Pic(k) of the week 13: CAMEL SUNSET - FUJIFILM GFX50R and GF45-100 lens

Since a couple of days, most of us here in the UAE, have to stay home (call it a lockdown if you so prefer) and avoid any social contact with others from a different household, due to the worldwide Covid-19 outbreak. Right now it feels the situation is under control here and we obviously like to keep it like this!

We personally have been practicing "Social distancing" for a couple of weeks now, but at the time we were still regularly going out to remote places in the desert for a break. Obviously this has now stopped. 

The image below was taken 5 days ago (before the lock down), while testing the new medium format GF45-100 f4 lens. While driving on a remote sand track near Love Lake, Dubai, I bumped into a few camels grazing in great sunset light on the side of the road.

Underexposing the camera by several stops, I immediately envisioned a camel silhouette against the setting sun.  

Image details:
  • Fujifilm GFX50R with the GF45-100 f4 lens
  • ISO 125, 1/250s, f14, 100mm 
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • DxO ColorEfex Pro4 using Color contrast and Brilliance and Warmth filter
Every time I use the GFX system (do not own one), I'm astounded with the amazing image quality. Obviously the biggest compromise one has to make is the size and price of using such a system.

After the whole Covid-19 crisis is passed, I'll look into printing the above image. Possibly with a few more shot the same afternoon. Click on the following links to check them out: image 1, image 2, image 3.

I've also added the image to my "Nature of the UAE" collection; check it out here

Last but not least, I'm urging all readers (wherever you are!) to practice Social Distancing and respect your local Covid-19 guidelines. If you want to shoot or see more great images like the ones above, we need to work all together! 

Remember:"Corona can only multiply, so we are the ones that need to divide

Keep your social distance! Keep well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Pic(k) of the week 12: SOCIAL DISTANCING - Fujifilm X-100V

Pretty much all of the world news over the last 7 days, has been dominated by the COVID-19 virus that can now be found almost all over the world! 

While some countries are taking more drastic measures than others, all of us will eventually be effected, both from a health and economical standpoint. 

Just like a lot of the general population, it took me a while before I started to realize how serious the situation really is. At least for the moment, we are still doing OK here in Dubai; potentially because of the fact that restrictive measures were taken early on... 

One of the buzzwords we started hearing in the last week is the term "Social Distancing"; something I had never heard of just a short while ago! It is however crucial that we respect keeping a healthy 1 to 2m distance from people we are not sharing the same household with. I'm a strong believer that this the number one thing we as private individuals can do to help the situation! 

Last week I made an image of two very different trees while walking around Dubai. Needless to say that the image makes me think about "Social Distancing". Not sure why the two very different trees are so close to each-other?




Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-100V 
  • ISO 800, f5.6, 1/400s
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) - no editing
On a side note, I find the X-100V very responsive when it comes to capturing the right moment of a person's stride in Single shot mode. Something that is often lacking when compared to a Leica range finder camera.

I'm personally started shooting some image around the house... Make sure to follow me on Instagram to see them! Click here to follow.  

Remember: "Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time"

Keep your social distance! Keep well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Pic(k) of the week 11: LIFE GUARD ON DUTY - Fujifilm X-100V

For the first time in a long time, I've been reviewing two new Fujifilm cameras in parallel; the entry level X-T200 (first look review here) and the latest X-100V Range finder like camera.

I will be posting an in the field review of the X-100V in the near future, but can already share that I haven't been excited as much about a new camera since the launch of the X-T2! For me it is easily the best looking Fujifilm X-series camera ever produced. 

The image below, was shot while relaxing at one of the many Dubai beach hotels and illustrates that always keeping a small camera with you, often comes in handy. While I initially framed a few images of the Burj al Arab hotel by itself  including the Life guard on duty, gave the image a good sense of place. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-100V
  • ISO 320, 1/480s, f16
  • RAW file development in LR CC
  • DxO ColorEfex PRO with Gradient and Skylight filters
The image is edited slightly but shows the good dynamic range (using the RAW file) of the X-Trans 4 sensor. 

For more of my Architectural images shot in Dubai, check here

Remember: "The best camera is the one you have with you" - Chase Jarvis


Sunday, March 8, 2020

FIRST LOOK REVIEW: FUJIFILM X-T200 - ENTRY LEVEL X-SERIES

About 18 months ago, Fujifilm launched a new camera line which came in between the X-A5 and X-T20 cameras; check out my review of the X-T100 here.



The new series was mainly created as an entry level X-series for the new photographer that wants more manual control, a larger sensor than when using a smartphone and a viewfinder. Today it sits between the recently announced X-A7 and the somewhat older X-T30. 

I used the camera on a ski-trip in Austria as well as on a few other occasions around Dubai. It comes with the typical disclaimers that the camera was a “sample” and that the firmware was not final; it actually had a version v71 installed. 

It came with the XC15-45 f3.5/f5.6 Power zoom Optical Stabilized lens (OIS) lens: a lens that came out with the camera’s predecessor, the X-T100. 







DESIGN
First thing that stands out is how light the camera is; 370g to be precise. This is likely because of the use of plastic in most of the body parts of the camera. The built quality is in line with the market segment. It is undeniable that it does feel less expensive compared to the "Pro" bodies like the X-T3, X-Pro3, X-100V, etc... 

Like the X-T100, the camera is small; when being used with the smaller lenses (like the XC15-45) and will easily fit in the average lady purse and most coat/jacket pockets. It comes in three colors; Silver (like I tested), Dark silver (my preferred one) and Champagne Gold.

While the X-T100 came with an additional grip that could be screwed onto the body, the new camera has a larger built in grip which actually is pretty good. Given the small overall size of the camera, ladies (and guys with smaller hands) will likely feel more comfortable shooting it for longer periods.

If this is important to you, the camera is made (read assembled) in Indonesia. 



BUTTONS AND DIALS
Although the overall form factor is similar to the X-T100, buttons and dials have changed a bit; mostly for the better! One does not need to forget that this is a really small camera; buttons therefore will always be a bit harder to press given the available space on the body. 

In line with virtually all newer X-series cameras (except for the recently announced X-T4), Fujifilm has left the D-pad (4-way directional pad) out and had it replaced with a nice joystick as well as two additional touch buttons on the LCD screen; more about this later. Personally I don’t mind this.

Two of the Function buttons (including the X-T100 Q button) on the back have lost their label (good thing) and can now be changed to pretty much anything you want. Given the LCD is wider, there is not a lot of space right of the screen, which means that part of your thumb will occasionally rest on the screen. I did however not have any accidental presses. The bottom right, DISPLAY/BACK button is more recessed than the MENU button just above which again is a good thing as it makes for an easier tactile feel. 

The top plate has seen a few differences as well. The shutter button is now no longer linked with the ON/OFF switch, but has received a command dial around it; similar to the medium format GFX 50R. A hard habit to change when switching on the camera, especially when using different camera bodies together. There is now a small ON/OFF button just behind the shutter button.

On the firmware I tested, the video start/stop button could not be programmed as a Function button. One can start/stop video with this button, without even being in video mode on the mode dial.   


EVF /LCD SCREEN /MENU
When it comes to the LCD screen, I have both a good and a not so good comment... First of all it is nice and large; 3.5inch at 2.67 million dots, with a brightness of 1000 nits; great for a camera at this price point! It has a 16:9 aspect ratio which is great for video and leaves two small black bands on the side it shooting still images at the usual 3:2 aspect ratio. 



Next is something which video people and especially vloggers will like and this is that the screen is a flip screen (fully articulating). This means if one wants to just tilt the screen for some candid hooting from the hip, that the screen comes out to the left, virtually doubling the size of the camera. Personally as a 95% still shooter this is not something I'm a fan of. I do heavier understand that people that shoot a lot of video will be excited about this. 



The LCD is touch enabled and actually very responsive. Unlike some of the more expensive X-series cameras even the menu's can be browsed through with touch. For beginner photographers, the sides of the LCD have some virtual buttons such as white balance, Film simulations, exposure compensation, depth control and a few more. Things are kept simple in this "beginners menu"; e.g. depth control is really a control of the aperture; which new photographers might not be 100% comfortable with yet. Not a bad set-up. The standard Q menu is still available as well for more experienced photographers. 

The Electronic Viewfinder is the same as on its predecessor (X-T100) and the one we find on the X-T30; a 0.39inch, 2.36M dots OLED EVF which has a 0.62x magnification factor. Not the best EVF on the market but ample for a camera of this price point and definitively better than a X-A7 which doesn't have an EVF. 



SENSOR AND IMAGE PROCESSOR
The 24Mpx is a standard Bayer CMOS sensor unlike the X-Trans sensor variations we see on the more expensive X-series cameras starting with the X-T30 line and up. The advantage is that one will not see the occasional artifacts in the RAW file when using Adobe Lightroom. 

Unlike its predecessor, the X-T100, it has copper wiring and therefore less rolling shutter effects in both video and when using the EL (Electronic Shutter). Higher Noise performance is also about a stop better than on the X-T100. Overall I'm happy to shoot the camera at ISO 6400 without thinking too much. The max native ISO is 12800, which is useable but obviously slightly noisy.   

Unfortunately the camera does not allow to shoot in “lossless compressed” RAW like on the X-Trans 4 cameras (X-T30, X-T3, X-Pro3, X-100V). This make for large RAW files; larger than a 26Mpx file on my X-T3. 

Fujifilm does not specify the image processor of the camera which definitively means it does not have the last X-Process 4; not unexpected given the price point. The fact that the processor is not the latest and greatest, becomes obvious when shooting at the max frame rate of 6fps, as the buffer fills up fast. Otherwise the camera is responsive enough and has a series of Colour and Black and White Film Simulations including Classic Chrome but unfortunately Acros (black and white) and Eterna, which is great for video is missing. Not sure if these were left out on purpose or if there it is not psychically possible due to the slower processor.



AUTOFOCUS
Autofocus is significantly better than on its predecessor since it is now using on sensor phase detection pixels across the sensor. I mainly used the kit-lens (XC15-45mm) throughout the Autofocus tests and Eye and Face detection is good when there is not too much fast movement; especially for a camera of this price point. Using Face-detection with very fast moving subjects, the keeper rate went down but remember this was on "non-final firmware". If you want fast subject tracking, I would look at the X-T30 or above which come with AF-C Customisation. 

When using manual focus, the "focus peaking" is some of the best I've seen on any X-series Fujifilm camera. It seems better than on my much more expensive X-T3. Using the older lenses like the XF35mm f1.4 on newer bodies like the X-T3, X-T30, X-Pro3 (all X-Trans 4), one can see a remarkable improvement in faster Autofocus speed. On the X-T200, this is however not the case. If you want a prime lens on this body, I would personally use one of the newerl f2 lenses like the XF23f2, XF35f2 or XF50f2.  

VIDEO
Once again, I’m primarily a still shooter. Unlike its predecessor which had a laughable and unusable 15fps 4K mode, this one has pretty decent 4K video functionality; allowing to shoot up to 15mins at 30fps in 4K and 30mins at 60fps in HD. 

Unlike its predecessor it had a 3.5mm microphone jack, while the USB-C port allows for audio monitoring through a provided USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter.

The 16:9 (widescreen) flippy screen is obviously great for shooting video.

As a first the camera comes with a "digital gimbal" function to reduce large amounts of camera shake; this however crops the image slightly. It doesn't support shooting in F-Log but this is clearly beyond the scope for a camera at this price point. 

BATTERY
Like its predecessor, the camera uses the now very common NP-W126S battery. It is rated for 270 shots when using the LCD; I personally found it was capable of doing better in standard temperatures (not so near freezing). The battery can be charged through its USB-C connection and does not come with an external battery charger. 

IMAGE QUALITY (IQ) - SAMPLE IMAGES
The IQ is good. I personally prefer the X-Trans 4 sensor as it has a bit of a different look, but only experienced X-shooters will probably notice that difference. 

Below are a series of images shot  all handheld, in jpeg and with minimal to no editing. EXIF data shows up below the respective image. Click on the image to check out the full size view. Images have been reduced to 3000px wide for faster loading. 


with XC15-45mm, 15mm, 1/17s, f11, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 15mm, 1/5s, f10, ISO400

with XC15-45mm, 15mm, 1/10s, f9, ISO3200

with XC15-45mm, 21mm, 1/400s, f11, ISO800

with XC15-45mm, 39mm, 1/400s, f10, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 16mm, 1/400s, f10, ISO500

with XC15-45mm, 26mm, 1/400s, f9, ISO2000

with XC15-45mm, 15mm, 1/400s, f9, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 21mm, 1/400s, f5.6, ISO1250


with XC15-45mm, 25mm, 1/400s, f14, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 45mm, 1/400s, f8, ISO400

with XF27mm f2.8, 15mm, 1/1400s, f8, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 30mm, 1/1400s, f4.7, ISO200

with XC15-45mm, 41mm, 1/3s, f16, ISO200, tripod

with XF18-135mm, 20mm, 1/900s, f9, ISO400

with XF18-135mm, 135mm, 1/400s, f11, ISO400
CONCLUSION
As stated at the start of the review, I see the X-T200 mainly for people that want to take their smart phone photography to the next level and grow their photography. 

As an entry-level camera it provides the new photographer with a retro style X-series experience with most of the bell and whistles of the higher end cameras, all for a reasonable price. People that are into vlogging, will like the X-T200 for the good video functionality and the flip screen. 

The fact that the camera has a slower (and cheaper) processor than the more expensive X-series cameras, does affect the overall shooting experience; especially if you have something to compare it to. But then again, the price difference is there for a reason. With regards to image quality, I'm impressed with this standard Bayer, non X-Trans sensor. 

Personally I'm not a real fan of the XC15-45mm power-zoom lens, however I must admit that the image quality is pretty good; especially in the center of the frame. If you want a better shooting experience with the X-T200, consider getting the XF18-55 lens or even one of the f2 prime lenses (XF23, XF35 or XF 50 f2). You won't be disappointed! 

So, overall this camera is a great camera for novice users, especially given the price point; 699,USD body only and 799,-USD body+ XC15-45 lens. It should be available in your camera store over the next few weeks. For more experienced photographers, I would recommend looking at the X-T30, which is 200,-USD more expensive.


BJORN