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Fujikina 2017 in Kyoto: hands-on with the Fujifilm GFX 50s

Fujifilm was holding at the end of January in Kyoto the second edition of their Japan-based event celebrating the X-Series… and now the GFX series as well. They are calling it Fujikina, as an echo to the Photokina that takes place every 2 years in Cologne, Germany. This was both a good excuse to spend the week-end in Kyoto and an opportunity to touch & try Fujifilm’s first foray into the world of digital mirrorless medium format cameras, so i did not miss on this opportunity.

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I love Kyoto. I would rather live there than in Tokyo if I had the choice. I have been to Kyoto many times in the past, and I am quite glad I did because quite frankly the higher number of tourists every time I come back makes the experience less pleasurable than what it used to be. I guess I should not complain as I am a tourist in this city myself… but at least I am not running around wielding a selfie stick in the middle of other people’s pictures to take my own. Hmmm, I digress already. The weather was not really clement anyway, but I did manage to go to the Heian Jingu as the sun was rising, in order to avoid the flocks of tourists and enjoy a small patch of clear weather.

Pano of the sunset at Heian Jingu shot with the Fujifilm X-T2

I also spent a night in Gion photographing the geikos and maikos of the district on their way to entertain their patrons, but this was more of a scouting job, as it is a subject I would like to delve into, giving it the time to study it deserves. Maybe more on that in 20 years?! 😮

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Anyways, the main reason for me to be in Kyoto was Fujikina. Fujifilm had set up 3 different exhibitions in 3 separate places but having used (if not owned) pretty much all the existing X-series cameras, I was only interested in the one place that was offering to touch & try the upcoming medium-format GFX 50s.


As usual with Fujifilm Japan, the people working at the event were passionate about photography and Fuji cameras (sounds stupid, but for example they know how to operate on their own the exposure compensation and ISO dials when you hand them over your camera to take your own picture… nothing complicated but yet very revealing). Unfortunately, where Fujifilm shines with its people it lacks with its exhibition setups, as I always point out at CP+. A few of the sample images that have been released since the camera was announced had been printed in big size and were being exhibited in the gallery, but not only the prints were poorly lit but the quality of the prints was also underwhelming… which is mind-boggling for a company trying to showcase their brand new 51.4 megapixels medium-format sensor. Fortunately, one of the photographers whose work was being exhibited (and was present at the event as a speaker) was able to show me the original file of his picture on his laptop and zoom in on it. And quite frankly I was blown away: absolutely gorgeous details. Splendid!

Next step was to get my hand on the beast. And when I did, I was immediately surprised by how light it is, especially as I was carrying an X-T2 with the battery grip and its extra 2 batteries with me at the time. Even though the camera is light, they did not use it as an excuse to go small on the grip: it is big, for easy and comfortable handholding with one hand. The positioning of the ISO and exposure compensation dials will be very familiar to the X-T2 users, and so the buttons layout will. The one thing that I did not feel natural as an X-Series user was the location of the playback button. It is located above the back screen, as on the X-T2, however it is not on the same vertical plane as the screen: it is almost horizontal, so you need to reach it from above. This will probably make sense for people shooting on a tripod and looking at the camera from above, however it seems like a poor design decision for those shooting handheld. For sure, you can customise one of the buttons that you can access with the fingers of your right hand, but that means giving up on a customisable button, and therefore this should not be considered an acceptable solution given the importance of the playback function.


The “touch &I try” area for the GFX 50s was further highlighting the progresses that Fujifilm could do when setting up such events: while they thought to hire a model and makeup artist and provided them with some stylish traditional Japanese clothes, they forgot the lighting part. This led to my first surprise: when I was given the camera the ISO was set on 12,800… which made sense given given the poor lighting conditions, but you would imagine that a camera manufacturer would rather have you not have your first experience with their new product at super high ISO. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to use your own memory card to check the file later (which is a real bummer for a camera that is available for pre-order… in my opinion if you are ready to take people’s money you should be ready to let them take your files… just saying), so difficult to really judge the quality of the result from the back of the screen. From what I could see in this context, it seemed very good for such a high ISO, but, since you won’t let me look at the file, instead of praising the high-ISO performances that you seem to be capable of I will just reserve my judgment. The funny thing is that when you zoom on the JPEG displayed on the back of the camera and  look at the way it handles the noise at high ISO, it does feel very familiar with the JPEGs we know from the X-Series cameras.

In terms of handling, the autofocus did its job, not with the fastest speed but with reliability,  which is actually not bad if you remember where the X-Series started from. In any case, the GFX 50s with its big files was not built to be a speed monster. When shooting in “RAW + JPEG”, I would have the time to take one picture and chimp at the back of the screen, and the green light indicating that the camera is writing into the memory card would still be illuminated for a fraction  of second. And that would be for just one single image (begs the question of the speed of the memory card they had put in the camera… maybe next time let me use mine, you know, just saying…). I feel like there is some room for improvement there in the next iterations of the GFX series. Similarly, phase detection autofocus and a faster flash sync speed (only 1/125sec max) already sound like logical hardware improvements for the next version. And of course it will also take time for Fujifilm to deliver on the GFX lens roadmap, delays are not unheard of. So whether you are a professional who will make a living off this camera or someone with really high disposable income, just be aware that you are falling into a product line with several “early adopters” warnings. But then again, when you see those gorgeous files and how light and easy to use this camera is…

CP+ is this week-end in Yokohama, and will provide another opportunity to test the GFX 50s for those interested. I usually go to CP+ every year and I will try to do so this year as well, but timing might be tricky this time, as I am doing a day trip to Kyoto on Saturday for a festival, and then I am shooting a different event on the totally opposite side of Tokyo on Sunday.

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2017, year of the rooster

A happy new year to all my readers. May 2017 bring you happiness and take you one step closer to your goals.


As per the tradition in Japan, I started the year with a visit to the shrine (Hatsumōde), in order to get blessed for the year of the rooster, and bring back my lucky charms from the year of the monkey 2016 so that they can be burnt by the shrine.


I will be in Kyoto on the 21st of January for Fujikina, with the opportunity to touch and try Fujifilm’s upcoming GFX 50s medium format mirrorless camera. But more importantly I’m just looking forward to the trip to Kyoto, even though unfortunately for me Kiyomizu Dera’s famous main hall will just have been covered for renovation works that are expected to take place until 2020.


Talk to you soon 😉

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Must-read articles from the archives if you are new to the Fujifilm X-Series

So, with the Fujifilm now officially released, you have decided to take a leap of faith and jump into the X-Series, and you slowly start to realize that you leaving your DSLR at home more and more often. While mirrorless cameras have been trying to catch up with DSLRs in terms of performances, there is still a lot to get used in terms of interface, including some benefits: for example, thanks to the electronic viewfinder that you can magnify, you don’t need to afraid of using manual anymore… As Todd would say, hooray! Anyway, here is a list of my previous articles/videos that you might find useful if you are new to the X-Series:

  • Manual focus tutorial

  • How to use the Fujifilm remote app on your phone

  • Why you should use a UHS-II SD card rather than UHS-I with the cameras that are compatible

  • Take a look at the Instax Printer SP-2

As always, stay tune for more 😉

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Product shots of the Fujifilm X-T2 and the X-Series family (and a few sample shots)

After 2 months of intense hype, the X-T2 has now officially joined the Fujifilm X-Series family on the 8th of September, as it finally shipped across the globe. I received mine on Thursday, along with its battery grip. I won’t do any unboxing video this time, as there are already plenty to be found on the net. I will also take the required time to put the X-T2 through its paces, especially the new autofocus system (rethought algorithms + Canon-like customizable settings), so I will not rush any review. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the X-T2 (mine), which kept a similar design as its predecessor, although just a tiny tiny bit fatter. Anyways, I still would like to share some pictures OF the X-T2 along with its siblings, because it still looks gorgeous. So, without further ado, here is… the Fuji X-T2!

 

And the battery grip (or Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT2 as Fujifilm calls it) that comes back on steroids:

  • 2 extra battery slots instead of 1 (for a total of 3 batteries including the one in the X-T2)
  • can be used to charge 2 batteries at the same time thanks to the AC adapter that comes with it in the box
  • includes a headphone jack for video shooting
  • has its own AF joystick for shooting vertically
  • also improves the grip when shooting horizontally

When compared to the X-T1, you can see that the X-T2 is a little bit bigger, although the difference is barely visible. The main difference in design visible from the front is the taller ISO and shutter speed dials:

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Comparing the X-T1 and X-T2’s grips, the size difference is more obvious given the additional functionalities of the XT2’s grip:

However, the X-T2 (without battery grip) still feels more compact than the other X-Series camera sharing the same sensor and image processor, the X-PRO2:

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And here are the first few sample images I took with the X-T2 (JPEGs from the camera with the Velvia film simulation):

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Dear Peter, don’t click on this link if you are looking for a review of the Fuji X-T2

This post is in response to a comment posted by a reader called Peter on my previous article. I could have replied in the comments section too, but I have a feeling this might be a long paragraph, so I figured I might as well make it into its own blog post…


Dear Peter,

First, I would like to thank you for leaving a comment on my latest blog post. As you can see, I don’t get that many. I don’t get that much traffic either, even though you seem to find my titles similar to clickbait honeypots. I am truly sorry if you felt misguided by the title of my previous article. It looks like you got onto this page several days after I published it, which could explain why. Note that I published this article a week BEFORE the X-T2 was officially released (or even shipped), so I never intended for this article to look like a review (in which case this article would have probably been called “Exclusive X-T2 review one week before the launch!!!!”, the likes of which you can find on the net by the way, and that you can call clickbaits if you so desire).

Like hundreds of people I had some hands-on time with the X-T2 many weeks before it was released (there were many opportunities to do so in many countries, nothing out of the ordinary), and yet I did not spam glorious definitive opinions like others did after shooting at cars “zipping from around the corner” from a parking lot. In fact, I did not even talk about it actually. That would have made for many “clicks” though, as Fujifilm had not yet started to tour the US photo clubs and camera stores, so I probably should have.

But you are right, there is a conspiracy theory behind this article, so let me share it with you. To tell you all the details, this article initially had a different “working title”, because, when I started to write it, the point I wanted to make was different: I wanted to reply to X-Pro2 owners who were crying like babies because the X-T2 had better specs, by writing a post reducing the X-T2 to a beautiful dream, as opposed to the good time I was having shooting with the X-Pro2 during the time  those people were spending complaining from behind their keyboards. However, there was actually more than a month between the moment I started to write the article and the moment I actually finished it. The reason for that is that – when I was not busy working – I was indeed outside enjoying my X-Pro2, instead of typing the blog post as I had originally intended. I even filmed an entire VLOG episode about the initial topic with the X-Pro2, to show that it could also shoot good video footages even though not in 4K (I was eventually too lazy to edit all my footages, while I realised I was speaking too much in the video and I would have bored every potential viewer with my French accent, so I came back to the idea of writing a blog post instead).

As time passed though, the topic on which I wanted to write also evolved, as getting to roughly a week before the release I had gotten fed up with almost 2 months of publi-advertisement without any contradiction allowed, since only people chosen by Fujifilm had the camera.

Now here comes the dreadful truth. The dirty secret. At the same time as I was getting back to finishing this article, I was actually (re-)watching Sergio Leone’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the umpteenth time. Just love this movie. It’s one of my favourite movies of all times! And that’s how I got to structuring my article the way I did and choosing this title. It’s as simple as that. But it’s true that the Internet can some time be wilder than the far west, I will agree on that.

By the way Peter, I received the X-T2 and its battery grips on Thursday this week. I have used it for a few hours since, hence the time it took me to reply to you. Don’t expect to read any review about the X-T2 here anytime soon, as I don’t think that a few hours are enough time to do so (I used to try to create content quicker in the beginning of the X-Series, with the X-E1 for example, because at the time nobody else would care doing it, so writing about them was useful for the people looking for information, but nowadays there are hundreds of Fuji blogs). When I finally put up a review on this blog, I can guarantee you I will call it “Fujifilm X-T2 review”, so that you will know exactly what you will get when you follow the link. To be sure not to missed it, make sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow me on Twitter @greenbalbo 😉

Sincerely yours.