I got printed in 3D by the Fujifilm GFX 50S

As I wrote in my previous article, it has been a very busy weekend, shooting Kyoto’s maikos and geikos on Saturday, and Tokyo’s geishas on Sunday (see my Twitter feed for previews).

Nonetheless, I rushed to Yokohama on Sunday afternoon, for a speedy visit of the CP+ 2017 before the show’s end. Don’t hold your breath, but probably more on that later. Anyway, the good news is that opposite to Fujikina last January, it was this time allowed to to record samples on your own memory card. Yeah!

CP+ 2017

The first lens I tried on the GFX 50S was the GF63mmF2.8, but the models working on the Fuji stage were too far for my liking to use this focal range (50mm in 35mm equivalent). So I asked the Fujifilm employee who was helping me to take my own portrait instead:

My portrait taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8

This shot was taken at ISO 6,400. Obviously the lighting was horrible, which emphasizes even more the fact that I am no model, but at least you see me “pop” against the blurry background, which gives the 3D feel to the image. And I confirm Japanese people pronounce it “bokeeeeeeeeh!!” and not “boka” 😉

Thanks again to all the people working on Fujifilm’s booth at CP+ 2017 for their patience with me and support! Can’t say the same with all camera manufacturers…

More to come…

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.

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 😉

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):

Fujifilm X-T2: The Good, The Hype and The Rant

Disclaimer: apart from the pictures of the X-T2, all the pictures in this blog post were taken with the X-Pro2, which remains a wonderful camera despite of all the hype you can read about other models 🙂

In my review of the X-Pro2, I concluded that if you could live without the hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro2, then the X-T2 was probably worth the wait. This was before the official reveal of the specifications of the X-T2 on the 7th of July.

The Good

X-Pro2 or X-T2? That is not the question

The official specifications of the X-T2 have only reinforced this idea, as, on paper, choosing the X-T2 seems like a no-brainer. You get the same sensor and processor as in the X-Pro2, but with a few additional perks including:

  • Bigger and brighter electronic viewfinder, with less blackout periods between shots when shooting in continuous mode
  • Refined autofocus algorithms (coming to the X-Pro2 in October via firmware update), with customizable AF-C settings (think Canon autofocus menus) to better adapt to the situation (NOT included in the X-Pro2 firmware update at the time of writing this article)
  • Video mode: 4K video recording up to 10min in-body (30min with the battery grip), with a “standard” 3.5mm mic jack (vs a 2.5mm jack on the X-Pro2), although you unfortunately will need the battery grip to get a headphone jack
  • 2 UHS-II SD memory card slots, compared to 1 UHS-II + 1 UHS-I slot on the X-Pro2 (not a biggie for me as I am mostly using the second slot for JPEGs backups in RAW+JPEG mode, so don’t really need the UHS-II speed on the second slot)
  • Last but not least, a cheaper price than the X-Pro2

On top of that, you get the differences in design between the X-T series vs X-Pro series, which to my personal taste are positive points for the X-T1/X-T2:

  • Mode selection dial, instead of a “Drive” sub-menu. Whith the X-T2, the mode dial includes this time around a much needed position for the Video mode. Why there was none on the X-T1 is a mystery, as if you were not shooting stills in 16:9 JPEGs you could not frame your video properly before pressing the record button…
  • Articulated screen. Why the X-Pro2’s screen is not at least a minimum articulated to facilitate shooting from the hip is another great mystery…

The one (and only) reason that would make you want the X-Pro2 over the X-T2 is the hybrid viewfinder. If this is something that you really want, then the X-Pro2 was designed just for you! If you can leave without it, then getting the X-T2 is a no-brainer in my opinion.

The Hype

While Fujifilm has made (much needed but still relatively) fast improvements in its camera lineup, the company has also up its game in terms of marketing, especially on social networks. Via the Fujifilm X-Photographers programme, Fujifilm has quickly caught with other brands in building a group of talented photographers who became the best ambassadors of the brand.

Rui-chan Miko Cosplay

This is a brilliant marketing technique, because it means that during the (long) time between the X-T2 announcement and the actual release of the camera, the Internet buzz around the camera will be filled by people who:

  •  are not professional reviewers: they write about their personal experience with the camera but can’t draw any comparison with a wide variety of competitors
  • have a relationship with Fujifilm that would not be appropriate for a reviewer
  • even when forgetting about this relationship, they are a biased sample: they are Fujifilm users, which means they have already chosen Fujifilm over other brands for personal taste/reasons (well, of course anyone’s opinion on anything will be biased, but in this case Fujifilm selects them for their bias)
  • write all these previews and stories for free! What more could you ask for?

The downside of this strategy is that if you overdo it you can inflate a hype bubble – with the winds of “fastest auto-focus ever” and “finally better than DSLRs” – that could eventually backfire when the final product gets released, and the embargo on REAL reviews gets lifted. In my opinion we are getting close to the over saturation with he X-T2, I feel like they gave a pre-production version of this camera to way more people than they had ever done. You would think it is already out (fun fact: my X-E1 review is the most read article on my blog, because most of the photographers we hear praising Fuji today would not care to write about it at the time – with the exception of the few ones who jump into the boat from the start with the clunky X100). I do read all those previews, not because I want to hear how much better the ***insert any new camera here*** is, but I actually appreciate many of the X-Photographers for their personality (always nice and welcoming when you I met them despite of tight schedules) and their outstanding work. I would not love them less if they were not shooting Fuji.

But irrelevant to how much sympathy I have for them, their daily job is to produce beautiful pictures and not to review cameras (they will be the first ones to acknowledge that themselves when they write a preview). Consumers deserve real reviews to make an informed decision, and for their protection I would always call for professional and balanced reviews to be available earlier since the camera is already available for pre-order. Remember that when the X-T1 it had mushy buttons that had to be changed on the next batch of production. Something that you could (only?) read here before the release of the camera (and real reviews), amidst a sea of X-Photographers praising the X-T1 as a DSLR-killer (hum, sounds familiar).

Potential buyers who are being enticed by the HEAVY focus being put on the video capabilities of the X-T2 have nothing to lose waiting for real world balanced reviews to be out. No, the camera is not going to be out of stock forever if you don’t preorder. The video quality of the X-T2 might be awesome. I have no idea. But given the sub-par quality of the X-T1, there is no reason to blindly believe Fujifilm when they say they have suddenly  found the magic formula for video with the X-T2. Until the final camera is in the hand of independant reviewers, caution is advised.

Rui-chan

The Rant

Again, I love the work of X-Photographers, I am just saying that consumers need to take a precautionary pinch of salt against the hype, and keep their expectations realistic. However, there is one thing that drives me crazy: reading interviews explaining that this camera did not get this feature available on another camera because the photographers using this camera told Fujifilm that street photographers don’t use this or that while this camera is targeting them… and then couple years later when this feature finally makes it on the successor of this camera the SAME people will write posts on how much this is fantastic!

This idea that you can put photographers in hermetic silos depending on what they shoot is plain stupid. If your camera designer does not want to put an articulated screen on the X-Pro series for design/cost reasons, obviously don’t put one. But if you are not doing it based on the fact  the tiny sample of street photographers you talk to never shot on a camera with one, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons: if they don’t want to move their screen, they can just leave it the way it is! Meanwhile different people could use the option extensively.

The current example of that is the lack of a touchscreen on the X-T2. Brainstorming meeting in Fuji HQ with a small sample of X-Photographers:
– Shall we put a touchscreen in the X-T2? 
– Nah, touchscreens are for amateurs and we are so scared that we could change a setting with our nose touching the screen that we cannot be bothered to turn the option off for ourselves while letting it available for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Fast forward to 2018, the X-T3 will come out with a touchscreen and the same people will start their previews on their blogs by saying how the touchscreen is a revolution and so intuitive because we have been using smartphones for 10 years…

Just a bit more patience

Anyway, in a week from now the wait will be over and the hype will slow down. The X-T2 will be shipping to my home. I have been using the X-Series for many years now, so my expectations are based on the previous products I have used. I am not expecting a game changer, a DSLR-killer, the fastest auto-focus in the world, etc… No camera is perfect, and spoiler alert the X-T2 won’t be. Just a camera… Find a brand/system that you like, whichever is good for you, so that you can only focus on what really matters. Shoot portraits, shoot landscapes, document your travels… Just focus on enjoying whatever camera you have and on having fun with it. Well, until it is time to fancy on the X-T3, and round and round we go 😉

Shiba Aura