New Year in Japan

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As has been the case every year since I moved to Tokyo, I started the year with the traditional visit to the shrine in my neighborhood (when in Rome, do as the Romans do…).

With so many people doing the same thing at the same time, the queue to pray can grow exponentially, so you really don’t want to arrive after 11:00AM (which does not sound so bad, but we are talking 1st of January here… 😉) or be ready to wait for hours if you chose a popular shrine.

2016 is the year of the monkey (according to the Chinese calendar), so more people than usual come the Hie jinja to pray at the monkey statues of the shrine, with some bringing bananas tob. Hopefully this is a good omen for this blog 😉

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Bonus: This is what the X-Pro2 might have looked like

For a presentation of all the products officially announced by Fujifilm this week, click here!

Before releasing the X-Pro2, Fujifilm has worked on many prototypes, which eventually evolved into the final version of the camera that has just been unveiled to the public. Exceptionally, Fuji is showing some of these prototypes to the public during the event celebrating the 5th anniversary of the X-Series.

Interestingly, the first of these prototypes looked thinner than the X-Pro1. However it seems that the feedback Fuji received from test users was that they preferred dimensions closer to the ones of the X-Pro1, as can be seen in the next prototypes and the X-Pro2 itself. Another key difference with the X-Pro1 was the addition of a diopter adjustment dial (around the viewfinder, while the one of the final version is a small dial on the side).

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The newt prototype seems to have been focused on a better thumb grip, with also some experimentations with dials on the back of the bod that did not make it to the final version.

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In the final prototype displayed, we can see the appearance of an ISO setting dial on the back of the body. Also, the “Menu/OK” seems to be usable as a joystick (or maybe a trackball?).

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And of course, here is the (much more polished) final version that was officially launched. Note that all the prototypes displayed at this event have buttons on the left of the screen, so the (good) idea of moving all the buttons to one side seems to have been a recent one.

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Hands-on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and more!

To see what the prototypes of the X-Pro2 looked like, click here!

Happy birthday X-Series!

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A 5th anniversary was definitely worth a special event! If you go to the Fujifilm Square in Tokyo Midtown this week, you will have the opportunity to listen to live talks from many worldwide famous X-photographers (think David Hobby, Zack Arias…) and see 100 wonderful pictures taken by anonymous users of Fuji cameras (the print quality is fantastic, wish my entry had been selected 😦 ).

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But you will also have the opportunity to put your hands on all the upcoming products that Fujifilm announced during their special event yesterday:

  • X-Pro2: the much anticipated update of the X-Pro1, correcting the flaws of the original model (AF comes first to mind…) and boasting a brand new sensor (now 24 Megapixels) and new processor
  • X-E2s: minor tweaks in terms of ergonomics but mainly firmware improvements that will also be made available to the X-E2 owners
  • X70: a fixed focal compact camera, a sort of smaller X100 (I can see great usages for it if I am given one, by to be honest I don’t see anyone going to a store with the idea of buying a camera ending up choosing this one, sounds like a very niche product to me)
  • XP90: new iteration in the Fuji rugged camera line, with what seems to be a minor update
  • Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6: the ultra-zoom promised on the XF lenses roadmap
  • EF-X500: a new flash with TTL and for the first time in the Fuji lineup High-Speed Sync (HSS), to be released in May

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The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the X-Pro2 is that it looks very familiar: the external design and the dimensions remain very close to the ones of the original X-Pro1. However, beyond first looks, many (much needed!) changes have been made in terms of ergonomics.

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The buttons on the back of the camera have now all been moved to the right of the body, allowing operations with one hand only. Holding and using your camera with your right hand only is further facilitated by the extra care that has been put into the thumb grip at the back of the body, allowing a firm grip.

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The addition of a thumb-operated joystick is a small change in terms of design, but a massive improvement in terms of user experience when chosing your focus point (I have always claimed that the original AF point selection method on the X-Pro1 and X-E1 was cumbersome and a design flaw). Speaking of AF, the phase AF area is now much wider. It still does not cover the full screen (roughly half in fact), but at least it now covers the areas that matter.

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The ISO selection is now made via a dial that is incorporated inside the shutter speed selection dial. You just need to pull this dial, and then when you turn it will rotate the ISO dial. Having a dedicated mechanical ISO dial is one of the reasons why the X-T1 is my favorite of the current cameras, as having to go inside a menu to change an ISO is just painful and takes you out of your thought process while shooting, in my opinion.

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There are obviously many more changes to the X-Pro2 (dual SD card slots, weather sealing, new sensor, new processor, etc…) compared to the X-Pro1, but I will stop the comparison there for the moment.

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On another note, I also tried the upcoming ultra-zoom XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6. In the grand scheme of ultra-zooms, this lens is small and light, but it is always shocking when you see it for the first time, as it looks huge compared to the body. I will be renting (it will be the most expensive XF lens when it comes out!) this lens for birdwatching when it comes out to see how it performs in real life.

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I am also looking for May when the EF-X500 is set to be released, as I have been eagerly waiting for HSS. I can confirm that when this flash comes out, there will be a firmware update at the same time that will enable HSS for the X-T1 (not sure about older models).

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That’s it for now in Tokyo, I am now waiting for David Hobby’s presentation to start at Fujifilm HQ, which will be followed by Zack Arias’ one 😉

Talk to you soon.

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2015 in review as we head into 2016

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Happy New Year everyone!

It’s that time of the year again! As we jump into 2016, let’s look back at the best of 2015 🙂

My favorite Fuji gear launched in 2015

And the winner is… the XF90mm F2 lens!

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This is somewhat ironic as I don’t own this lens, but it is hands down the best portrait lens for the X-series cameras in my opinion. This lens is an amazing performer, and if you shoot portraits all day long (which is not my case) you want to make some room for it in your bag.

My most used Fuji gear of the year

Body-wise, there is no contest, I almost exclusively shot with the X-T1 this year, and if I used anything else at some point it is because I have an X-E2 as “second body” when I need one. But that was a given anyway, to me this is the best form factor of all the X-series bodies, and it is weather-resistant.

Much to my surprise, the lens I used the most this year was the XF16-55mmF2.8. This lens came out early this year, and I was not particularly excited about it. In fact, I still believe this lens is not amongst the best Fuji has made for the X-Series, and the lack of image stabilization is a real bummer in my opinion… and yet I shot the most with this lens in 2015 because it has been with me everywhere this year. it is just so convenient for me to just grab the X-T1 + XF16-55mmF2.8, especially on occasions for which I would not have bothered packing and carrying a camera bag, but still needed a weather-resistant combo able to take a minimum of beating if necessary. In the end, I have used this lens during all my trips in Japan and abroad, on assignment or on holidays, shooting anything from portraits to landscape, or even monkeys taking a hot bath.

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My most anticipated Fuji gear for 2016

According to Fujirumors, Fuji will announce the X-Pro2 in a couple of weeks. I am curious to see the performance of what is likely to be a new sensor, and if Fuji has made any progression the video department, but mostly because we are then likely to see this sensor in a potential X-T2, which remains my favorite form factors. To me it is still the best mirrorless camera in terms of ergonomics.

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Meanwhile, we are getting close to the end of the current X-mount lens roadmap, so we are due an update. From what we know, Fuji will launch the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 telephoto at the end of Q1 2016; and the XF120mmF2.8 macro lens at the end of 2016. My most anticipated gear for 2016 (given what we know at the moment) is actually the XF100-400mm. Not that I want to buy one (just like the XF90mm, I don’t think I would need it often enough to justify buying it), but I can’t wait to rent it and take it to the bird sanctuary of the Kasai Rinkai Park I mentioned previously on this blog.

My #1 “Only in Japan” moment of 2015

I have to give this one to my trip to Oarai and the Isosaki jinja. Even the shrine is covered with tributes to the characters of “Girls und Panzer”, a manga in which schoolgirls learn how to fight with battle tanks… Yeah, definitely only in Japan…

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My “it was about time” moment of 2015

I finally got on board with Instagram. Yes, I know: about time! It has more than limited communication functionalities, but it is all about images, so if you are into photography there is basically no reason not to make the plunge. To follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/balbo42/

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Thanks for your support this year and look forward to what is coming next

I already have a backlog of recent trips that I still need to share on the blog, which I will be releasing through the first couple of months of 2016. In particular, I will be talking about some famous events of the Japanese history, a topic that I am willing to explore further in 2016. Of course, you can also expect more non-sponsored reviews of Fuji gear, a few surprises and most likely a rant or 2 😉

Happy new year!