Nov 242014
 

I have now had the Nikon Df for several months and have travelled quite a bit with it. The Nikon Df is the simplest full-frame Nikon in terms of features, but the design point of this camera is a retro throwback to the “good old days” when cameras took pictures, period.

Nikon Df + Sigma 24-105 f/4 DG A Lens

As such, the Nikon Df sports old school touches like a threaded cable release which allows for the use of soft-release buttons (aka “softies”). Other customizations I added were a Gordy Strap and a Gariz half-case in black. Why is this important? While the camera is indeed a tool, it is a tool that can inspire and elicit emotions in some owners. Part of the craft of photography is getting comfortable with your gear so that is becomes an extension of your hand and eye. Modern camera designs have done ergonomics to death, so much so that modern cameras all look fairly alike and follow the same design trends. Retro style camera harken back to the days when camera makers wanted to have their cameras distinctive and recognizable on sight. Cases, straps, soft-releases and the like helped make the camera your own and Nikon captured this ethos very well with the Nikon Df.

Unless I am traveling for a photo shoot, I like to keep things simple. A one or two lens kit, a small flash unit (I despise pop-up flashes), a smallish bag (I have medical supplies that have to travel with me all the time) and a device to let me review/upload my photos back home (more on that later). For this review, I selected the Sigma 24-105 f/4 OS DG A lens and Meike 310N flash gun. 

Me and Doc Brown

The Camera

The Nikon Df sports the same sensor as the Nikon D4 pro level body. This is a 16 megapixel full-frame sensor with excellent low-light capabilities. The high ISO is so good, that I never needed to use a tripod, even for the night shots. It’s that good. Here are some samples:

Universal at night

CityWalk

DJ & Hard Rock

London

M.I.B.

This camera excels at street photography and capturing nightlife. The shutter is very quiet even with the camera held up to my eye (which usually sounds like a .38 Special revolver going off). The raw files produced by the camera are very flexible and contain lots of leeway when post processing. Here are some samples that required a bit of massaging:

UM - Campus Life

Chariots of Fire

Belen Hispanic Heritage Festival 2014

Gringotts Bank II

Happy Halloween!

Tarrytown Reservoir

UM - Lake Osceola

Cape Florida

For the record, all of the panoramas are hand stitched using Adobe Photoshop. The Nikon Df lacks any fancy art modes or built-in panoramas. You want to do fancy stuff? You have to do it (new) old-school. 

The Lens

I went with the Sigma 24-105 f/4 DG OS lens for a couple of reasons: it out scored the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4 G VR lens over at DxOMark (which intrigued me) and Sigma was willing to lend me the lens (as opposed to Nikon). That being said, the lens is a hefty beast, weighing in at 885g (31.2 oz), and feels solid in the hand. Fit and finish are on par with top-of-the-line lenses from the Big Three. Here are the MTF charts and the lens construction diagram (if you are into that stuff):

635 24 105mm f4 angle 150dpi

635 mtf chart

635 mtf chart 2

635 lens construction 0

Suffice it to say that the lens is sharp, sharp, sharp! The relatively slow speed of the lens (f/4) is compensated by the camera’s excellent ISO performance. The optical stabilization system is very good as is evidenced by the night shots I took. At $899 retail, this lens is a steal!

It also makes a sweet portrait lens:

A Class Act

Part of the mystique of the Df (as was heavily promoted by Nikon) is that it is a camera dedicated to photography. I know that sounds a bit stupid, but if you consider that modern cameras always come laden with a zillion scene modes, art filters, panorama functions, as well as video capabilities, the Df is very simplistic. The mode dial has four settings: PASM. That’s it. Yes, it has DRO and some in-camera profiles, but it is a minimalist design (even more so than a Leica M Typ 240 which has video but no AF). The fellow above would probably appreciate that in a digital camera.

The lack of system accessories like battery grips may put off some buyers, but it keeps the camera small.

Conclusion (and Scorecard):

The Nikon Df is the first full-frame camera I have reviewed that would be considered a travel camera. Paired with a pro quality lens like the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS lens and a small flash you have a travel kit that is a tad heavier than the mirrorless systems I have previous tested but provides you with plenty of wide angle performance, great low light/high ISO images, and a camera design that does not get in your way.

Camera System Type Image Quality Carry-ability Overall Score
Sony NEX-7 Mirrorless CSC 5 8 6.5
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless CSC 5 9 7
Fujifilm X-E1 Mirrorless CSC 8 9 8.5
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mirrorless CSC 7 9 8
Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless CSC 9 9 9
Nikon Df FF DSLR 9 7 8
Jun 262014
 

Fujifilm’s X-Series of cameras have set new standards for mirrorless camera systems. Combining a retro look and feel with cutting edge technology in an attempt to marry the old and new schools, Fuji’s latest entry, the Fujifilm X-T1 adds weather sealing, an industry leading EVF, truly outstanding lenses and pro level accessories packed in a small retro SLR package. Has the mirrorless camera finally gone pro?

My Fuji X-T1

To be honest, the idea for the retro styled mirrorless camera really goes to Olympus with the OM-D series. I have owned and tested both the OM-D EM-5 and EM-1 and both are very well built, but Fuji came along and ate their lunch with the X-series of cameras starting with the X100, the X-Pro1, X-E1 & 2, and now the X-T1. My review will not cover the technical features of the camera. There are plenty of those already out on the web. My review will be on real-world usage of the camera both in studio, out in the field and while traveling.

DISCLAIMER

These are my opinions and observations. I was not hired, aided or abetted by Fujifilm for this review. I purchased the camera with my own money (I don’t have credit cards anymore) along with lenses and accessories in order to really give a workout on my own terms. If you like this review or not, please help me out by clicking on the donate buttons to the right. This will help me greatly with getting the gear I need for my next review.

HANDLING

The X-T1 feels solid in the hand. This is due to its magnesium shell. The controls are fairly well placed and easy to learn. Following the retro design of the X Series of cameras, Fuji has opted for more traditional controls (dials, aperture rings, and switches) instead of more modern designs. The combination works well, but if you are coming from the DSLR world, you have to adapt to a couple of things:

  1. There is no mode dial. If you want Aperture Priority: take the lens off of A mode (switch), turn the shutter speed to A mode. Optionally, you can leave the ISO on A mode for Auto-ISO. Reverse for Shutter Priority. Set both to A mode for Program Mode. Take all off A for Manual Mode.
  2. There are locks on the dials, but they are inconsistent. Both the Shutter and ISO dials have locks (small buttons in the center that you have to press to turn the dial), but they operate differently. The shutter dial lock only applies to A mode. To get it out of A mode, press the button and turn the dial. After that, the dial turns freely. The ISO dial lock applies to all settings. You have to press it and hold it for all positions. This can get in your way if you are trying to manually set things in a hurry. Just underneath the ISO dial is a secondary dial that switches drive modes. This secondary dial has no lock. When fiddling with the ISO dial, fat-fingered me switched the drive mode to one of the “art modes” and all of a sudden my shots where in “Toy Camera” mode. This doesn’t help you look professional in front of customers, so double check all secondary controls after you modify the primes.
  3. Short battery life. The X-T1 is a small camera with a small battery. Fuji claims the battery is good for 350 shots but that depends on how much chimping you do. This is far cry from the battery life in my D800e + Grip or the Sony A99 + Grip that I have used professionally. I purchased the battery grip not only for my big, fat hands but for the additional battery it provides. You can pick up 3rd party batteries cheaply on Amazon or B&H. Wasabi and Watson are good brands.
  4. Electronic Viewfinder. This only applies to Canon/Nikon users as Sony users have been using EVF’s for a couple of years now. The X-T1 EVF does indeed live up to the hype. For general situations, you will be hard pressed to switch back to optical viewfinders. Give this technology another iteration or two and you will wonder why you ever used an OVF. That said, there are some more extreme lighting conditions where it performs OK but loses ground to the more traditional OVF. Like I said, give it another iteration or two and it will be a dream come true.

The camera can be a little on the smallish side as most mirrorless cameras are. The optional VG-XT1 battery grip ameliorates this and adds a second battery extending operating life. The Fuji X lenses are all very well made and their optics are superb. Fuji has opted for lens-based optical stabilization instead of sensor-based stabilization like the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

One other accessory that I like to add to small cameras is a soft release. This is an oversized button that usually screws into the shutter release button’s cable release threads and makes it easier to depress the shutter release without introducing shake. The snag here is that for all of it’s retro design cues, the X-T1 doesn’t support cable releases (unlike the rest of the X cameras). Enter a new company called Lolumina which has designed a soft release for just such cameras. Using an all aluminum design and some 3M VHB (Very High Bond) adhesive, the Lolumina soft release makes a perfect addition to the X-T1.

IMG_20140512_0102

SHOOTING

The X-T1 focuses very quickly and accurately. It may be a hair slower than the AF Champ (OM-D E-M1), but is no slouch. Odd was the shot that missed the focus. The hybrid AF system (phase and contrast detection) works.

Fuji uses their X-Trans sensor design in the X-T1 as well. This uses a 6×6 matrix of red, green and blue filters to gather color information instead of the traditional 2×2 Bayer matrix. This still gives some RAW file converters fits (most notably DxO who have not included any X-Trans sensor support to date) but Capture One 7, Apple Aperture, Adobe Camera Raw & Lightroom, Irident Developer and Photo Ninja all support the X-Trans sensor. Fuji also incorporated their knowledge of film formulation to include some rather excellent film emulations in camera. Velvia, Provia, and Astia plus a bunch of filtered and unfiltered monochrome modes are at your disposal. They can even be applied in-camera to RAW files after the shot. Very nice. The X-T1 has a very usable panoramic shooting mode.

IMG_20140425_1954

A Day at the Beach

One of my vertical panos is hanging in the Coral Gables Museum.

Biltmore Hotel Vertical Pano

The X-Trans sensor does rather well in low-light and contrasty situations. The RAW files it produces are very flexible and can tolerate a lot of post processing. Here are some samples:

Biltmore Hotel Lobby

Parliament of Clouds

IMG_20140424_1901-Edit

IMG_20140424_1904

IMG_20140425_1986

Wooden Expression

All of these images are shot handheld. The combination of optical stabilization and great high ISO performance leads to a lot of keepers. Even non stabilized lenses benefit from the X-Trans great low-light capabilities:

Eighth at Sunset

This was shot with the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 lens for Fuji X-mount (courtesy of Carl Zeiss AG).

IN THE STUDIO

Professionals do not always work outdoors. Sometimes work happens indoors in our fancy-shmancy studios. (I am working on a fancy-shmancy studio. Right now, my studio is in two bags that I haul out to my patio.) Fuji wants this camera to be picked up by pros, so I decided to give the once over in the studio environment.

Track Star

This shot was inspired by the works of Joel Grimes. As such, I shot the background separate from the subject. The background image was shot handheld and processed in Topaz Adjust to bring out the colors. The subject (my son) was shot in my patio studio with a white backdrop, a monolight + softbox aiming up at 45 degrees and a second fill light with a beauty dish lighting his hair. I processed his image with my usual sauce plus some clarity to bring out the skin details.

To make this happen with the Fuji X-T1, I had to dive into the menus and change some settings. Most notably, I had to deactivate the exposure preview in manual mode. The awesome electronic viewfinder tries to preview the shot in the viewfinder, but since we are in manual mode and the camera has no idea that strobes will be adding light to the shot, the EVF will display inky blackness instead of the image. By turning this feature off, the EVF display what is in front of it regardless of settings. The other challenge to studio work is the X-T1’s rather slow sync speed of 1/180th of a second. Most of us are used to speeds of 1/200-1/250th of a second and even faster with High Speed Sync (HSS), but the Fuji has none of this. Hopefully your strobes will be enough to freeze any motion.

TRAVEL

The X-T1, like most other mirrorless cameras are quite a bit smaller than DSLRs. This makes them ideal for traveling. Here are my two cameras side-by-side:

D800e vs XT1

Some stats:

  • Nikon D800E is 13% (17 mm) wider and 37% (33.2 mm) taller than FujiFilm X-T1.
  • Nikon D800E is 75% (34.8 mm) thicker than FujiFilm X-T1.
  • Nikon D800E [1000 g] weighs 127% (560 grams) more than FujiFilm X-T1 [440 g] (*inc. batteries and memory card).
  • Nikon D800E dimensions: 146x123x81.5 mm (camera body only, excluding protrusion)
  • FujiFilm X-T1 dimensions: 129×89.8×46.7 mm (camera body only, excluding protrusion)

See more at: Camerasize.com

The X-T1 weighs less than half the weight of the D800e and this is before you mount lenses on them! This may not seem like much when you are filled with youth and exuberance, but as you succumb to the ravages of time, it will. That, or always have an obedient, exuberant youth handy to carry your DSLR kit. Just remember, exuberant youths can eat their body weight of food daily, so factor that into your travel budget.

The most flexible lens configuration for travel with this camera (if money is no object):

Three Lens Kit:

  • FUJINON LENS XF10-24mmF4 R OIS
  • FUJINON LENS XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS
  • FUJINON LENS XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

Two Lens Kit:

  • FUJINON LENS XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS
  • FUJINON LENS XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

One Lens Kit:

  • FUJINON LENS XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

This last lens is a new arrival despite the fact that it was announced with the X-T1. It is a great lens for a one lens travel kit with an effective focal length of 27-206 mm and is weather resistant which activates the weather resistance on the rest of the camera (the camera has weather seals, but it’s kind of pointless if the lens does not and this is Fuji’s first weather resistant lens). The lens is optically stabilized as well.

X T1 Front Left 18 135mm WhiteBK

CONCLUSION

At the start of this I asked whether mirrorless has finally gone pro. With the X-T1, it has mostly. Yes, the launch was plagued with some light leaks and quality control issues, plus some folks complaining about the D-pad on the back not having enough tactile response and don’t get me started about the truckers’ strike in the Port of Vancouver gumming it up for a bunch of us who were trying to take advantage of some sweet deals from Fuji Canada and favorable USD-CAD exchanges.

But what exactly is a pro camera? Is it one you make money with? Yes. Does it have to be super-expensive? No. Does is have to be able to keep up with what you are doing? BIG YES. Does it need weather sealing? Depends on what you are shooting. Does it need two card slots? That is always a plus so you can have a backup of the shots you are being paid to take, otherwise, you will have to have a bit more discipline in your workflow (and probably an assistant).

The Fujifilm X-T1 pretty much hits all marks except for the dual card slots. I have used it successfully in the field and in the studio. Gotten paying gigs with it and even have four photos taken with it hanging in a museum this summer. So to answer the original question, “has mirrorless finally gone pro?”

To me, it has.

Well done, Fuji.

Mar 252014
 

The Canadian Container Truckers Strike continues with no reasonable end in sight, so I have cancelled my order with Henry’s Camera. I have placed an order with PopFlash in the USA and my X-T1 ships out today. There are no grips available yet in the USA, but I expect that to be rectified shortly. On a positive note, Really Right Stuff has posted a pre-order page for an L-plate for the X-T1 + Battery Grip – a first for compact system cameras. Carl Zeiss was also kind enough to loan me a Touit 12mm f/2.8 lens for my review. This should be fun!

VerticalGrip
Mar 072014
 

Photo review sites are always going on about cameras and lenses. Very few take the time to review some of the other gear that enables you to get the shot. Major photographic retailers have been taking advantage of the global marketplace and expanding their product lines with in-house branded accessories. Adorama graciously sponsored my site with a pair of neat accessories from in-house Flashpoint line:

The Flashpoint Glow Hexapop 24” Off Camera Softbox and the 3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fiber Fold Flat Tripod.

Fpsbsm24hpFp3pp4cfh 10
[DISCLAIMER: Adorama has provided me with the equipment used in this review. I have been instructed by Adorama to review them honestly and not hold back. Their funeral.]

Continue reading »

Feb 262014
 

Just a quick update. I have an order placed for a Fuji X-T1 for review. Originally, I placed the order with Amazon, but later cancelled it and ordered with Henry’s of Canada.

Canada?

Yes, despite the fact that I live in Miami, FL I ordered from a Canadian camera store. Why, you ask? Well, Fujifilm Canada seems to have better marketing sense than Fujifilm USA. If you buy a Fuji X-T1 body from a Canadian dealer, you get the VG-XT1 battery grip for free. Yep, free. Plus, the exchange rate favors the USD (1.079 CAD to 1 USD) so even with the expedited shipping ($12.95 CAD) I ended up spending a lot less. I just have to be patient and wait for Henry’s to get their first shipment in and pray that enough people jumped ship from the pre-order line ahead of me so that I can get my camera on the first batch.

Cross your fingers.

X-T1_Front-Left_VerticalGrip_BlackBK

Feb 052014
 

For the E-M1’s travel test, we headed off to where all Cubans go to experience snow: Gatlinburg , TN. I was asked by some friends of our who own a cabin to take some nice photos of the property to update their rental website. More on that later.

Gatlinburg, TN
 5 shot panoramic shot with the panoramic assist function.
 
Carry-ability
The E-M1, like the X-E1, is small and easy to carry. Unlike the X-E1, the E-M1 sports more robust construction including dust and weather sealing. Please note that not all of Olympus’ M.Zuiko lenses are weather sealed. Neither camera caused me any neck or shoulder pain during the trip. As I previously noted, the E-M1 is almost 19mm taller than the X-E1, mostly due to the E-M1’s OM SLR heritage.
Em1vsxe1
 
Recently, Fuji Introduced a new camera in the X line: the X-T1 which sports the Retro SLR look as well (it looks like a mini Contax RTS to me) and here is a size comparison:
X t1 vs e m1 front
 
As you can see, they are practically the same size. Looks like someone started a trend. Expect my X-T1 review in March (I am not Phil nor Steve so I don’t get early access – yet). 
 
Handling
The E-M1’s ergonomics are very well designed. A generous grip provides easy hand holding without resorting to add-on grips. If you are planning to use large legacy 4/3 lenses, you may want to spring for the optional HLD-7 battery grip which also sports a complete set of controls for easy portrait shooting. Olympus included their best-in-class 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and improved it by allowing it to work with all lenses including legacy glass from film lenses mounted via an adapter. Fuji uses optically stabilized lenses (of which there are currently three with two more on the way).
 
In the Field
The OM-D E-M1’s sensor is a Micro Four-Thirds 16 Mp affair similar to it’s older sibling, the E-M5 (don’t ask about the numbering scheme, no one is quite sure). However, the similarities stop there. The E-M1’s sensor does not have an anti-aliasing filter, leading to increased image sharpness. The E-M1’s sensor is usable to ISO 3200 (with post processing) whereas the E-M5 was usable up to ISO 1600. The E-M5 sensor has phase detection AF (PDAF) sensors built-in, while the E-M5 had only contrast detection AF (CDAF). While the E-M5’s autofocus speed rocked in single shot, the E-M1’s AF rocks even harder and the addition of PDAF sensors has fixed that pesky AF tracking issue.
 
OK, so how does this compare to X-E1 (the point of this story)?
 
The E-M1’s AF crushes the X-E1 to powder. It is not in the same league. The X-E2 and X-T1 are equipped with much better AF systems (including PDAF), but how it compares to the E-M1 remains to be seen (by me). Both the E-M1 and X-E1 lack anti-aliasing filters, so good glass will be stressed to the fullest (along with your photographic technique). High ISO on the X-E1 is clean all the way up to ISO 3200, whereas I am willing go up to ISO 2500 on the E-M1 with a little post-processing. YMMV.  Still, the E-M1’s combo of IBIS and fast glass rendered most high-ISO situations pretty moot as it compensated nicely and helped keep the ISO values down.
 
Here are some night shots (all handheld):
 
IMG_20131228_0142
 
IMG_20131228_0133
 
IMG_20131229_0163
 
IMG_20131229_0166
 
IMG_20131229_0172
 
IMG_20131229_0173
 
IMG_20131229_0178
 
IMG_20131229_0181
 
IMG_20131231_0301
 
IMG_20140102_0669
 
Moving targets
As I mentioned, the tracking AF on the E-M1 is much improved over its predecessor, the E-M5. Is it perfect? No, but it’s pretty close. We took the kids tubing up at the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort and gave the low budget 40-150mm f/3.5-5.6 R II lens a workout. Here’s what I found: the E-M1’s abundance of AF points (which pretty much cover the screen) can also get squirrelly and start locking on to objects that pass in front of your subject! How to combat this? Reduce the AF area to allow the camera to better track the subject. This will require a bit of skill on your part to keep the subject with the receded AF array. The 10 fps burst rate helps but actually using the 6 fps setting got better results.

IMG_20140102_0608

IMG_20140102_0543

IMG_20140102_0363

Well, that’s about it for now. I will be wrapping up this series with the next installment. Take care and please leave comments. Also, if you want to help out the site, please donate (we accept Bitcoin now) or click on the ads from our fine sponsors. Take care and keep shooting! 
Jan 142014
 

In our last episode, I wrapped up my final thoughts on the Fuji X-E1, a very capable camera (sans a few AF quirks that have been dealt with in the new model) with an excellent form factor for travel. Now I move on to the second half of this protracted review: the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

My OM-D E-M1
 
Here is my E-M1 decked out with a Gariz half-case and strap. The lens is a classic OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 I got off eBay for $70.

Continue reading »

Nov 302013
 

With travel preparations complete (aided in no small part by my wife, who is a closet travel agent), we boarded our Air Berlin flight and made our way to Vienna. The netbook that I mentioned in the previous installment was not placed in my camera bag, but travelled in another carry-on bag. Putting that little guy into my Think Tank Retrospective 10 would have sent me to the chiropractor. It usually traveled via suitcase and stayed in our hotel room awaiting our return at night.

I am not going to bore you with the details of the trip (I have tortured enough relatives already, no point in harming innocent bystanders) but I will go over my findings and back them up with images.

Carry-ability

Mirrorless cameras’ major selling point is small camera size with big camera images. Fuji scores well in this area. The X-E1 is pretty small. Here is a comparison to the Leica M (courtesy of camerasize.com):

Mvsxe1
 
Now to be fair, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 does well in this category as well. Here is the same comparison to the Leica M:
 
Em1vsm
 
And now, I am obligated to show the two contenders side-by-side:
 
Em1vsxe1
 
So, aside from the SLR-style viewfinder hump, the X-E1 and E-M1 are very close in size generally. Here are the two cameras compared to my main camera, the Nikon D800E:
 
Em1xe1vsd800e
 
It’s actually much more pronounced than that because I have the MB-D12 battery grip permanently bolted on the bottom of my D800E. So, I can safely conclude that both cameras are much more carry-able than a mainstream DSLR. On the trip, I had no issues carrying the Fuji X-E1 for extended periods of time. I must mention that I am generally averse to camera neck straps. I prefer to attach a wrist strap to the smaller cameras or a hand strap to the larger bodied ones. For the Fuji X-E1, I ordered a custom wrist strap from Gordy Straps. These are excellent, hand-made leather straps that are durable, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. I paid around $35 for the one I used.
 
Now I have fairly large hands. One thing I had to do on the Fuji was to add a grip. Fuji offers one, but it covers the battery/card door and that adds a step to the entire process. Good for ergonomics, bad for workflow. ReallyRightStuff sells a grip/L-plate combo that adds Arca Swiss style rails to the camera and bulks up the grip while maintaining access to the battery/card door. RRS gear is top of the line and their prices reflect it. Sadly, that put them out of my budget. However, eBay came to my rescue in the form of the iShoot Grip. The iShoot Grip also included Arca Swiss style rails, all metal construction and maintained clear access to the battery/card door all at nearly ⅓ the cost of the RRS grip. Ka-ching! Since the X-E1 sports a rangefinder style body, it also inherited some other design quirks from it’s parentage. Most notably, a place to put your thumb and a relatively small shutter release button. These two issues were solved by adding a Lensmate Thumbrest and a soft release. There are several makers of soft releases, but I chose one from newcomer Artisan Obscura. The AO soft releases are made out of wood; furniture grade exotics like Blood Wood, Ebony, Olive Wood, Cherry Burl and Figured Walnut to name a few. The soft release screws into the cable release threads and increases the diameter and height of the shutter release allowing for smoother operation and therefor, less camera shake. In the end, my X-E1 ended up looking like this:
 
My Fuji X-E1
 
 
On the other hand, for the OM-D E-M1 I have ordered the following: A Gariz Design leather half-case and a matching Gariz Design Wrist Strap. The OM-D E-M1 has sufficient grip already that a leather case and wrist strap was all that was needed to complete it. This says something for the design engineering that goes into these cameras.
 
Garizdesigncaseem1
 
Garizdesigncaseem1 bottom
 
Garizdesignstrap
 
I fully expect the E-M1 to be just as carry-able as the X-E1, but for now I can conclude that the X-E1 was much more carry-able than my D800E. The ergonomics are OK, but when you add all of the extras, it becomes very comfortable to use. Granted, if you have smaller hands, you may not encounter these issues, but this is what I had to do to make it work for me.
 
In the field

As the trip progressed, I discovered a couple of things about the X-E1: First, the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) in the kit lens is very, very good. This combined with the excellent quality of the lens, and the X-E1 lack of an anti-aliasing filter led to some pretty amazing captures (with my photographic skill being the main limitation). Second, the X-E1’s high ISO performance is only exceeded by pro level DSLR’s like the Nikon D3 & D4. These two factors combined allowed me to shoot most all of my night shots hand held.
 
Grand Canal
 
Il Campinario di San Marco
 
St. Mark's after Dark
 
Santa Maria della Salute
 
Lido Noir
 
Salute Noir
 
The only reason to use the tripod with this camera is include yourself in the picture (assuming there is no one around to take the shot for you). That’s it for this installment. In the next article I will cover some of the features of the X-E1 that I really found useful.
Nov 252013
 
This article began back in May 2013 as I was taking notes of my experiences with the Fuji X-E1. My family was planning a three week trip to Europe to celebrate my daughter’s quince (she wisely chose to travel instead of having a blow-out party) and I thought this would be an excellent test of the X-E1 as it’s size and weight lent itself to being a top-notch travel camera. Budgetary and weight restrictions forced me to settle on only taking one lens, so the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens was my best choice. I also packed a GorillaPod Focus for my tripod needs (which, it turns out, were very few).
 
Fuji X-E1 + GorillaPod Focus
 
For storage, I packed several SDHC cards in 16GB & 32GB sizes. The cards were the fastest I could afford (Sandisk Extreme Pros for the 16GB cards and Transcend Class 10 32GB cards) but I wanted to back them up in the field. For this I grabbed an old netbook (remember those?) and loaded it up with Linux Mint 15. The Cinnamon desktop GUI lent itself to such a small screen and I toted along a USB powered external hard drive (500GB) to back up my images to. Being a “belt and suspenders” kind of guy, I would also FTP the day’s files to my server at home as well. I installed Lightzone v4 (a kick-ass open source RAW converter that implements Ansel Adams’ Zone System) to allow me to browse and review my images (the Atom 450N processor of the netbook wasn’t quite up to heavy duty raw conversion). 
 
With my storage needs and paranoia satisfied, we hopped on an Air Berlin flight in late June and winged our way to Austria.
Aug 132013
 

IMG_20121220_5133_DxO_edited.jpgAfter a lot of time in the studio I am now ready to provide you with Part Two of my Sony A99 review – A99 at Work. To recap, the SLT-A99V is Sony’s flagship SLT camera. SLT stands for Single Lens Translucent which describes the pellicle like mirror used in the camera. Don’t let this fool you. For all intents and purposes, this is a mirror less camera. The fixed, mostly transparent mirror only serves to redirect a small portion of the light to a 19-point PDAF sensor. The main image sensor is what feeds data to the electronic viewfinder and there are 102 additional PDAF sensor points in it as well.

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Mar 012013
 

Phase One of Denmark makes arguably some of the most lust-worthy medium format digital camera equipment known to man. Rampaging mob of perfectionists that they are, they couldn’t settle for letting someone else handle processing their RAW image files (which currently go all the way up to 80 megapixels in size), so they created their own RAW file conversion tool – Capture One.

Boxshot

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Dec 272012
 

My Sony Alpha A99 (officially Sony SLT-A99V) arrived about 3 weeks ago. After a period of acclimatization, I began to use the camera in earnest and wrote down a few notes on what I found. This article is a result of those notes and is the first in a rolling review of Sony’s flagship SLT offering.

IMG 20121220 5133 DxO edited

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Aug 052012
 

Olympus’ latest offering in their Micro Four-Thirds camera lineup takes it cues from the venerable OM line of SLRs instead of the more compact PEN series. The result is a small easily handheld camera that feel solid in the hand and is light enough to be used all day. Coupled with a brand new sensor, weather-sealing, an optional (but really necessary) battery grip, the OM-D E-M5 scores a home run for Olympus.

OM-D E-M5 + OM Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 Macro

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Dec 262011
 

Sony has finally started shipping its NEX-7 compact system camera. Not being one of the big fish, I got mine the old fashioned way: I got on a waiting list and waited.

Patience paid off and I was graced with a UPS box a week ago containing a Sony NEX-7 body and a spare battery. No lens. I am still waiting for this to arrive. Fortunately, I had planned for this and acquired a couple of lens adapters allowing me to fit legacy glass on my shiny new NEX-7.

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