Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 35: STAMPE SV-4B ( V42 / OO-WIL ) AT SCHAFFEN FLY-IN

It's no secret that most expats try and escape most of the hot and humid summer weather in Dubai. This year I was lucky enough to have three breaks between June and early September; top season in Europe and the US for airshow photography. I'm actually just back from a great warbird airshow near Los Angeles, called "Wings over Camarillo". Time permitting, I might blog about the event, but meanwhile be sure to check out the gallery link here.  

While airshows are normally quite popular with the general public, aircraft Fly-ins are often less popular. A Fly-in is an aviation event where a number of aircraft are being flown to a certain airport (sometimes very small) for the day (or weekend). While the pilots hang out together and talk about each others flying machines, the public is almost always welcome as well, most of the time for free. A great way to discover the joy of aviation and meet some interesting people!

My home country is one of Europe's smallest countries, but over the years has developed the tradition of having weekly fly-ins all over the country almost on a weekly basis; starting early July and often going till at east mid September.

Belgians largest fly-in is the International Oldtimer fly and drive-in at Schaffen-Diest , east of Brussels. The 35th edition of the event this year was held during the weekend of 11-12 August in near perfect weather! As the name implies it mainly concentrates on attracting old vintage aircraft; a perfect opportunity to fly our 64 year old Piper Super Cub to Schaffen for the event! The "Drive-in" part, is all about a large number of Oldtimer cars that show up on both days; a great way of attracting more people and after all both vintage car and airplane owners seem to be thinking largely along the same lines! 

Back to the Pic(k) of the week; one of the many aircraft that was there was a Stampe SV-4B biplane built in 1952; registered OO-WIL (OO- stands for all Belgian registered aircraft) the aircraft is part of Belgians Aviation heritage.

First flying for the Belgian Airforce as a primary training aircraft (registration V-42) based at Wevelgem it eventually became a civil aircraft and remained for a large part of its history at both Wevelgem and Moorsele; the two airfields where I did pretty much all of my training as a pilot and still do all of recreational flying. As I know the aircraft since I started taking my first steps in the early seventies, it is needless to say that she is close to my heart! 

Since 2008, she's in great hands and is co-owned by my aircraft mechanic, Raymond Cuypers (RAR) and Inge Daems.

When I saw the aircraft sitting in the beautiful sunset light at Schaffen the other day, I spend a few minutes thinking what she must have gone through in those 66 years... after a bit of day-dreaming I eventually clicked the shutter! 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm XF10
  • ISO 3200, f16, 1/320s
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
I'm often asked how to best shoot a sun star burst; well it is actually very easy; start with selecting a small aperture (large number, f16 here) and position yourself where the sun just sits on a hard edge; in this case the nose section of the aircraft. It is defentively something that is much easier to do on a mirrorless camera compared to an old fashioned DSLR, as one sees the resulting image before the shutter is pressed.

The review of the ultra compact camera (Fujifilm XF10) the image above was shot with, can be found here.


In a few days, on September 1st, I plan to participate at another great Aviation event; together with about 35 other planes we will be landing on the beach at Le Crotoy (France), where in 1913 the brothers Caudron had the Worlds First Flying school. Beside my own Piper Super Cub, the SV-4B in the image above, is also planned to be there.



Remember: "Life is a journey, enjoy the flight".

BJORN







Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 34: MYSTERIOUS WINDOW REFLECTION - FUJIFILM XF10

The average attention span most people are looking at a single image is probably less than a few seconds. Whenever we can engage the viewer longer, we know we have the potential for an interesting image!  

A way of extending that attention span is by adding some mystery to your images. I've said it before, a good Street Photograph is an image that creates more questions that it provides the viewer with answers.  

While seeing a scene develop in Street Photography remains of course very important, occasionally one is lucky and some visual illusions present themselves unexpectedly. Such was the case when I shot the image below, while walking the streets of Antwerp, Belgium. It was only when I looked at the image on my computer that I saw the full potential. 

To me, there are at least 3 intriguing things happening in the image; the first one that stands out the most is the red face of the child on the right. What is going one there? Has the face been painted red for the birthday party? Well no exactly; my wife was wearing a red sweater which happens to reflect just on the face. Secondly I really like how my hands, holding the camera, enclose the face of the woman walking by in the background. Lastly, look at the mobile phone on the left; the colour of the table has transferred partially to the phone; likely due to the angle the glass reflects. The fact that those three elements are on a triangle, is of course the cherry on the cake!

I'm interested to hear what "you" see in the image? Let me know in the comments or on social media!


Image details:
  • Fujifilm XF10 using Snap Shot mode at 2 meter
  • ISO 4000, f 8, 1/320s
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC using Classic Chrome film simulation
  • Lightroom CC to burn some of the distracting elements
Whenever shooting window reflections, I normally try not to be part of the image; however in the image above, I find that my hands add to the picture. As always in photography, rules are there to be broken! 

For the ones that missed it, the image above was shot with the brand-new Fujifilm XF10; to check out my First Look review published last week, click here

Remember: "The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery" - Francis Bacon

BJORN




Friday, August 17, 2018

FIRST LOOK REVIEW FUJIFILM XF10

A month ago, Fujifilm announced their latest "compact fixed lens" X-series camera, the XF10! As an X-Photographer, the fine guys from Fujifilm Middle East borrowed me a sample version, for a weeks of test shooting in different environments. Below is my first hand experience using it. Although not a production copy, it looked very close to what an XF10 customer will see once the camera becomes available over the coming days.

WHATS IN A NAME?

For the ones that are familiar with Fujifilms naming conventions, until now "XF" stood for the higher end X-series lens line. Now it also seems to be a new camera line... Yes, I know there was an XF1 6 years ago, but I guess most have forgotten about this outsider. After the confusion between X-100T and the recently announced X-T100, there seems to be more confusion on the way! Did the person responsible for naming stuff at Fujifilm have one sake too much? 😉  




X70, SUCCESOR? 

When Fujifilm announced the X70 just over two years ago, it got the attention of a lot of existing X-series shooters. Was this the camera that a photographer would always take with him/her whenever the big camera was staying home? Well this small fixed lens (18.5mm focal length) camera could easily be placed in a small pocket. Just before its release in early 2016, I took an X70 on a two day trip to San Francisco; click here  if you want to go back more than 2 years in time! 

The X70 wasn't perfect and over the last year or so, a lot of photographers have been speculating on an upcoming X80! What I personally was hoping for was a new 24Mpx sensor, faster processor providing better autofocus in low light and maybe an optional hotshot mounted Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). The rest was pretty much perfect on the X70!


Well, the fact that the camera wasn't called the X80 probably already says enough... Although it has a lot of similarities it doesn't feel like an X70 successor to me! 





DESIGN

The overall design appeals to me; it feels well built and doesn't feel plasticky. It has a small thumb grip which given it is a very light and small camera, feels just about right for the average hand. It comes with a (fake?) leather hand-strap which I did find quite useable. It does however only come with a single strap point on the right hand side; connecting a standard strap will need to be done through that single point and/or by using the tripod connection at the bottom.     

The XF10 is available in black and "champagne gold" colour like the X-T100; personally I'm not a fan of the new colour but taste obviously various. 
If one wants to blend in for Street Photography, black is the way to go! 


Compared to the X70, it is virtually the same size; the only difference being the depth, which is 3mm less on the XF10. At 279gr the new compact weighs in about 20% less than the X70.


BUTTONS AND DIALS

Like on the X-T100 (review here), the old D-pad (4-way controller) is replaced with the new flick gesture controls on the touchscreen; something I actually don't mind for a small compact camera. Beside the camera has the popular and well designed, "joystick".

The button layout at the back has been simplified quite a bit, making for a cleaner interface. 





The top plate has seen the biggest overhaul... no more shutter and dedicated ISO dial but instead a PASM dial and a function dial on the right that can be used for Exposure compensation or shutter speed when in Manual mode; a set-up similar to the X-T100. 



The PASM mode dial also has a variety of automatic modes such as Night, Sport, Portrait, and a clever SR Auto mode where it automatically recognizes scenes and subjects. Not something I would personally use, but fun to test!  

I'm a strong believer that anybody who wants to seriously learn photography, is better off by using semi-manual modes like Aperture and Shutter speed priority; needless to say that these modes are obviously available as well.

There is no front or back dial, but they have included a dial around the shutter button which acts like a front command dial; this can be used for changing  aperture or shutter speed depending on the shooting mode. Yes, it is right, unfortunately the manual aperture ring we had on the X70 is also gone! A great loss if you ask me. 


What has remained is the front of the lens, which has a rotatable control ring; depending on the mode you are in and how you program it, it can control Advanced filter settings, ISO, White Balance or activate the Digital Teleconverter.  The last one allows one to digitally zoom in with the fixed lens to either 35mm or 50mm; this function only works in jpeg mode. The whole thing does some kind of a pixel magic (non-official technical term), while maintaining the 24Mpx file size it degrades the image quality slightly but provides good useable images; similar to upscaling an image in Photoshop.  



EVF and LCD SCREEN
Like the X70, the XF10 has no Electronic View Finder (EVF); this is obviously why the camera can remain so compact. Connecting an external optical viewfinder for shooting in very bright conditions, is not possible since the hotshot mount also been removed; unlike the X70. 

The LCD consists of a nice 3 inch 1040K dot screen, with touch screen functionality but with it is fixed! Yes, that is right no flip/tilt screen on the XF10... I know there are still a few people out there that don't care for tilt LCD screens, but to me this is the biggest showstopper. A year ago, I decided not to buy any camera anymore that does not have one. Since the size of the X70 is virtually the same I have a hard time seeing why a touchscreen was not included. The only reason I can potentially see is because of the lower price point. I would happily pay 100,-USD more to have one!  

The XF10 has the new flick gesture controls, we first saw being implemented on the X-E3 but now can also be found on the X-T100. This allows a left/right/up/down swipe to be programmed to specific menu items and which actions like an on screen D pad (four way controller).

Like most of the newer X-series cameras (including the Medium format GFX50), the touchscreen can be used to select the auto-focus point and/or function as shutter button. I did find the touchscreen probably just a little less responsive compared to the X-T20 and about the same as the X-T100; possibly because of the slower processor installed in the camera.




MENU 

The camera has the older style menu system; similar to the X70 and X-T100; something that is more than likely linked to the slower processor. Not a deal breaker for me, but as I have stated before, I much prefer the newer interface seen on the X-T20, X-T2, X-Pro2...

Something I really like on this camera is the new Snapshot mode; for the more experienced photographers it is basically zone focussing using the hyperfocal distance. One can choose between Snapshot OFF, 2m or 5m. In simple words, it is a manual focus mode, where the focus is preset to either the 2 or 5 meter point and a certain aperture is automatically selected; f8 for 2m and f5.6 for 5m. This way, everything from respectively 2 or 5 m till infinity will be in focus. It looks like this is something Fujifilm has "borrowed" from the Ricoh GR system. 


Especially for Street Photography this is a great way to have more keeper images. I do however wish to have at least one more selection; Fujifilm please add 1m and possibly 1.5m to the set-up like the Ricoh GR has through a firmware update. Lastly having the Snap Focus mode like the GR, would make it perfect! This would allow one to use the new Snapshot mode whenever the shutter button is fully pressed without waiting for the AF mode to kick in. The best of both worlds. 


Another first, is the Square image mode; clearly aimed at Instagram users, with the press of a programable Function button, images will be taken and stored in square mode; something that does not work when RAW only is selected. 

Some other items which were first seen on the X-T100 in the drive menu are now also available in the XF10; the two that stand out are a 4K Burst mode and Multi Focus mode. Both are using 4K Video for still images. The first one records a short 4K clip (at 15fps) and allows the photographer to choose a specific frame after the burst is taken. Needless to say that the output image is limited by the 4K video and will not be a full 24Mpx image. 

Multi Focus mode, takes several images at different focus distances in a 5 second video clip and then blends them together. One needs to use a tripod in order to have reasonable results with this. Especially for close-up shots, this is something that might come in handy, although it doesn't always seems to do a great job. I personally prefer to do the focus stacking myself in post-processing in order to use the full resolution of the camera. As you are basically shooting a video file, it will only work if you have a fast enough shutter speed; faster than 1/15s. When this is not the case and your lens is wide open (largest aperture), bumping up the ISO is the only other option. The processing of the final image takes a considerable amount of time; easily more than 2 mins for a single image. 


Yes the camera does shoot video, but needless to say it is mainly a still camera; especially since it does not have a tilt screen... 4K Video is available but limited to 15fps, which is ok if you are videoing your granddad in his rocking chair but too slow if shooting your kids at a soccer game. There is of course 1080p (Full HD) which is plenty for most (if not all) consumers. There is a 2.5mm microphone jack, but where do we put it since there is no microphone jack?





SENSOR AND PROCESSOR
The camera has the same sensor like the X-T100; a 24Mpx APS-C CMOS sensor. While most of the other X-series cameras have the X-Trans sensor technology which is supposed to have a higher "perceived resolution", the X-T100 has a classic bayer pattern sensor. I understand this was done to reduce the drain on battery while it also allows for a slower processor to be used. Again not a showstopper as the new 24Mpx non X-Trans sensor does a good job! 

Unlike most of the other recent X-series (except X-A5 and X-T100), the XF10 does not allow for lossless compressed shooting in RAW, likely also because of the slower processor. I consistently use lossless on all of my cameras as I don't see a difference in quality and makes for a much smaller file size.  A quick comparison using the same scene and settings shows a 43.5MB file size for the XF10 versus 26.5MB for a lossless compressed file on the X-100F/X-T2. 


Using a 240MB/s Toshiba SDHC II card, I was able to shoot the following number of RAW only shots before a slow down:


- at 3 fps 16 frames

- at 6 fps 11 frames

For you jpeg shooters, the X-T100 comes with most of the great Film Simulations like; Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg Hi and Pro Neg Standard, Monochrome (with different colour filters) and luckily Classic Chrome; my favourite Street Photography colour  Film Simulation. Unfortunately the great Acros Black and White is not available as more powerful image processor is needed to create these. 

  
LENS AND AUTOFOCUS
The fixed 18.5mm lens, which is the same as the one found on the older X70, becomes a 28mm in full frame equivalent. For some Street Photographers this might feel wide compared to the 23mm they are likely used to, but it is something one will get used to quickly. Like the X70, the lens still suffers from a slower autofocus with the occasional focus hunting, whenever shooting in low light. This is where the new Snapshot mode comes in handy. 


BATTERY 
The XF10 comes with the smaller NP-95 Lion battery (same as on the X-100 series, except X-100T, X30 and X70); it is good for more than 300 images; a realistic number I managed to easily achieve myself, even when leaving Bluetooth on all the time. Somehow I have a feeling, that the classic Bayern sensor draws less power than the X-Trans sensors but that is definitively not academically proven.  



Interestingly enough the camera does not come with a separate battery charger, but with a small wall USB to camera charger which works just fine.

WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY
A camera like the XF10 will mostly be used by the younger generation, which has been brought up in the social media era. Good connectivity is a must and the camera doesn't disappoint. Like the top of the line X-H1 and X-E3, low power Bluetooth is used to pair the camera with smart phones and/or tablets, while the actual image transfer is still done through WiFi. While life Geotagging (embedding the present position in the image file) is available, I didn't find it to be always 100% reliable. It would occasionally drop out, needing to restart the Fujifilm Remote app on my phone in order to receive updated positions. What I'm really looking for is a one stop solution where one starts the Remote app once you go out and end when the shoot is finished. Although much better than initially, there is still some work in process here Fujifilm on making the geotagging more stable and reliable. 



The camera also works very well together with the Instax Share printer line. 

IMAGE QUALITY AND SAMPLES
Overall I'm happy with the image quality of both Jpegs and RAW files. Although the more expensive X-Trans II sensor is slightly sharper and has a little bit better high ISO  and dynamic range performance, the differences are becoming marginal. Like the X-100 series cameras, when shooting close to the minimum focus distance (10cm), the edges of the frame become really soft. I don't see this necessary as a negative as it can be used creatively; refer to the "69" image below to see what I mean. 

I'm perfectly fine shooting the camera at ISO 6400. Shooting at higher ISO (max native 12800) I reserve for those moments where it is absolutely necessary. 

Please click on the individual images below to see a full screen view. 



1/90s, f8, ISO 6400 
1/50s, f11, ISO 6200 


1/200s, f7.1, ISO 200 


1/400s, f8, ISO 200 


1/400s, f5.6, ISO 1000 





1/45s, f8, ISO 6400 
1/320s, f8, ISO 1250 

1/800s, f8, ISO 200 


1/320s, f16, ISO 3200 


1/320s, f11, ISO 2500 


1/320s, f11, ISO 400 




1/320s, f11, ISO 1000 

CONCLUSION
Well by now you probably know that I'm disappointed that the XF10 does not have a tilt screen. For me this is the main drawback when it comes to new camera functionality with the lack of a hotshot a close second. Some might say that the form factor and its small size don't allow those features to be installed... Well, the X70 did have them and its size is virtually the same, right? Was it done in order to keep the costs down? Maybe since the cost is 200,-USD cheaper than when the X70 was launched. At 499,-USD the XF10 camera does offer a lot of camera for the price; there is no denying here.

I do doubt experienced photographers will be rushing out to buy the XF10 as their "take everywhere camera"; something I was hoping for myself. Or maybe we will eventually see an X80 with the missing items? No, I do not have any inside info here. If that is the case however, I'll buy it in a heartbeat! 

Now, who is the XF10 then for? Fujifilm is likely aiming at people that only use their Smartphones (no tilt screen on a smartphone 😜) and are looking for a larger sensor. Those will likely be happy with their purchase. The second category might be the small group of die-hard "tilt screen haters" that want a small back-up for an X-100 series camera. 

Lets finish with a closing question: Is the XF10 a bad camera? Obviously not since image quality, form factor and overal design are very pleasing. But, yes it could have been a "great little camera"!   

On a side note, today I discovered that my blog is part of the TOP 10 DUBAI PHOTOGRAPHY BLOGS - thanks to all the readers for your continuous support! More about the Feedspot blog competition can be found here.

BJORN





Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 33: LIGHT BULB MOMENT - HELIOS MC M44-4 vintage lens on FUJIFILM X-T2

Over the years Fujifim has continuously expanded their lens selection for the X-series cameras. Upcoming new lenses are announced months in advance through the "X mount Lens Roadmap"; something Fujifilm has been consistently doing for several years and which greatly helps photographers make an informed decision on what next lens to buy next in the future. 

Apart from maybe having a 400mm f4 lens for my Airshow photography, I'm not really missing anything specific on the present Lens roadmap. I have however recently played with some older vintage lenses mounted on my X-T2!

Non-native lenses typically have a different mount and will need a specific lens adapter to be mounted on an X-series camera. A popular older mount was the  M42 mount. I therefore have picked up a K&F Concept M42 to FX converter for 23,-USD. A great bargain in order to have some fun with vintage glass on a modern mirrorless camera! The only caveat with these is that the lens will be "manual focus", but then again after all it is vintage! Call it part of the experience.

For the ones new to using "adapted" lenses, I can recommend the Helios M44 line of lenses; built in the ex-Soviet Union (USSR), they are one of the most mass produced "standard" lenses ever made and are known for their interesting bokeh (quality of the out of focus area). 

Until a year or so ago, one could pick up a copy of a Helios M44 lens for less than 15,-USD; popular demand has however driven the prices up somewhat to around 50,-USD now; still cheap for some interesting vintage glass! 

The image below was shot with a MC M44-4 version of the lens. 

  

Image quality:

  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the Helios MC M44-4 lens
  • SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) jpeg no editing

Before anybody asks for the Exif (Meta) data... Well given the lens does not provide any electronic data to the camera, nothing shows up in the file. I remember having shot at f2... the rest will remain a mystery forever! Guess we have to revert back to the film days, where we used to write the Exif data in a small notebook straight after the image was made. 

My curiosity into vintage glass is growing and I'll likely do a bit more once I find some other interesting glass... But no need to panic; I won't be selling off any of my great Fujinon lenses as this adventure is merely a creative out to have some fun! 

Remember:"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up" - Thomas Edison 




BJORN


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 32: FINE ART AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - Somme Bay

Officially known as one of the most beautiful bays of the world, the Baie du Somme (Somme Bay) is an amazing natural site. A large estuary in the Picardie region of Northwestern France, its characterised flat areas of marsh and sand especially come to life during low tide. 

The bay drains six rivers into the Channel and takes up a total of 72 square kilometers. The reserve shows most of its natural beauty from the air and is my biggest playing ground for aerial photography!  

To most the colours and patterns in the image below might look somewhat unreal, but I can tell you that beside an overall contrast adjustments nothing has been added or deleted. One could almost think it was shot from space since it provides the viewer with a lot of mystery. The image was shot from my vintage 1954 Piper Super Cub on a trip from Belgium to Normandy at 1000ft (300m). 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with XF50 f2 lens
  • 1/2400s, f5.6, ISO 400
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • Nik ColorEfex pro4 with Colour contrast filter
The image is definitively one that needs to be printed large as a "fine art aerial photograph"; preferably on Dibond since the amount of detail is jaw-dropping. Meanwhile, I've also added it to my new Aerial Portfolio section on the site. 

People interested in purchasing this or other large prints of Aerial images, can contact me here

Lastly, on September 01, I plan to take part in the 110 year celebration of the Worlds very first Flying school at the Le Crotoy (France) beach. In the middle of the Somme Bay, this small village was the stomping grounds of the french brothers Caudron where people to fly on the same beach we plan landing 30 aircraft on in a few weeks... 

Remember: "It is amazing the things you find if you bother to search for them" - Sacagawea 


BJORN