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Monday, 18 November 2013

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"Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cameras in the bag."
With all due deference to CSN, because my wife is also a photographer, we can't buy just one camera. We have to buy in pairs and our camera stall looks like Imelda Marcos' shoe closet.
That being said, we DO look for a. the best we can afford and b. the best for the money. Two years ago, in preparation for another European trip, we decided to go light and, passing on our (heavy) Canon's, we opted for 2 X-100 Fuji's.
Getting used to them was a bit of a challenge and the menu system still confuses me and Diana. BUT...the images are awesome.
Now I am caught up in another dilemma (which comes along in the digital world about every 18 months or so) and we are bargain hunting again...looking at the OM and Sony 7A or AR.
Now you've gone an thrown another Spaniard in the Works (apologies to John Lennon).
Now I have to consider the OM-D AND the Gx-7.
Wurra, wurra, wurra.

The X100s is still my hands-down winner out of these, even if I'm using it's progenitor - but I'm very, very glad to see the GX7. Panasonic flips between remarkable leaps forward and then costing for a little too long - the GF1 was brilliant, as was the LX3 and their little waterproof TS3, but the follow ons were, well, blah. The GX1 was simply a better GF1 - nice, but nothing that demanded to be used. The GX7, however, could last a body for some time - clever enough to be fun to play with, capable enough to do whatever asked of it.

Mike, what a wonderful photo, which reminds us how Capa and Rodger had a completely harmonic physiognomy of modern Knights Templars. Their iconic faces by themselves tell us the whole story.

"one of those he-men who insist that cameras are just tools and they don't give a $#!% how they look":
Gee, its been years since anyone referred to me as a 'he-man'. And any camera using Nikon glass can't be ALL bad. But as a tool, that camera has a problem. The pink color is not good for street shooting, especially in some neighborhoods- it draws attention to you- unless you also carry another shooting tool, like a .357 or .45.

One thing all this cameras miss is tracking focus when using continuous shoot mode. I am a pro and I got a X Pro 1 camera cause I love to use the OVF. But guess what. The OVF only works with fuji lenses, not M mount lenses (cause the frame are too dull and is almost invisible). Maybe I am pretty old at 46 but I don't like to frame using the back screen and I love the rangefinder style of framing cause you need to imagine the photo, not preview the depth of field or etc. For me Fuji X pro 1 is on the way but I am worrying that all are putting much attention to the X E cameras that have not OVF. I still I am waiting for the 35 mm equivalent and the 85 1.2 equivalent too for next year. I don't know why Fuji was so late to give the most useful lenses. I would like a better 28 f2 or 1.4 equivalent in this game.

Oh, thanks so much. I had just about decided to start sniping for a cheap used EM-5, since the upgrades in the EM-1 weren't enough to let it do the jobs the EM-5 can't tackle (like sports photography) and it's too new for used ones to be available at all cheap. And now you go and tell me it's a much better user experience. You're not helping!

Mike: you said "So old-timey pj's would have two bodies, and one would have a 50mm and one would have a 135mm, and neither lens would ever come off its body."

I was immediately reminded of this image http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2013/01/25/larry_burrows_1965_custom-13674c1a58c5269303616d528783ca48dd253d45-s6-c30.jpg, which I'm sure you're familiar with.

That Hello Kitty camera looks like something Panasonic might sell and is much prettier than the Nikon original.
Sorry but I just don't "get" the looks of the last two Olympus contenders, neither fish nor fowl and gruesome in the attempt. Fuji & Lumix are at least stylish looking.

I agree with Will that the Fujifilm X-E2 belongs here. Some choice words from DPReveiw's First Impressions of the camera support our case:

The X-E2 - not revolutionary, but distinctly evolved

Alongside the most obvious changes, the X-E2 adds a wide array of improvements and refinements compared to the X-E1, including a sensibly-revised control layout. The top-plate shutter speed and exposure compensation dials have been tweaked [...]

Many of [the changes] reflect users' requests for operational changes and new features; some of them count more as bug fixes than anything else. But Fujifilm has to be given huge credit for listening and actively responding to such feedback. (Full article here.)

During my previous life as a Photography Blogger I frequently complained about how camera companies just didn't care to ask their users what they wanted. I was particularly bothered that none of them were asking me what I wanted (I'm only half joking). I heartily supported the X100 (on my blog, not with my wallet, as I wanted a 50mm-e lens) and I have been delighted to see the emergence of the X system, and further still, that Fujifilm have been listening, if not to me, then to many people who share my camera ethos. Thus, as I prepare to sell all my camera gear and jump headlong into mirrorless, the Fujifilm X-E2 is at the top of my list. And not just because it's a fine camera with the type of lenses I want, but because Fujifilm is showing they care about their users by a) listening to their bug and feature requests, and b) implementing improvements not just for new cameras, but also for existing ones.

And while I'm rambling, here's an example of a company not listening to its users (yes, I'm naming names): I've shot Pentax DSLRs since I got into digital photography in 2007, and I wanted to use their unique TAv shooting mode, which allows you to set shutter speed and aperture and the camera automatically adjusts ISO for you (within a user-defined range). The glitch? The camera can't handle the extremes, so when you hit the lowest ISO in your range in bright conditions you'll get overexposed shots, and similarly you'll get underexposed shots when you hit the highest ISO in dark conditions. Furthermore, you can't set a minimum shutter speed in Av with Auto ISO turned on, so when the camera feels like it, it will lengthen the exposure, even if that means you get motion blur. Starting in 2007 I brought both these points up regularly on various Pentax forums, and communicated them personally to two people at Pentax USA, yet to this day, after 6 years and 5 generations of top-of-the-line Pentax DSLRs have been released, the changes have not been implemented (and they are extremely simple firmware upgrades). Note that the X-E2 adds minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO because many people complained about this bug on the X-E1. Now that's my kind of camera company.

It's encouraging to hear that real improvements are being made in this part of the market. I've had one toe in the water for almost two years now, but despite trying several cameras I still haven't found something that I feel comfortable using all the time. Responsiveness and ease of use have been the two biggest problems. One camera has lousy auto focus. Another has miniscule buttons. Another has incomprehensible menus that you can't get away from now matter how hard you try. They haven't got to the point where the cameras Just Work.

I assume they'll get there. Just watching the improvements to my X100 (non-S) from firmware upgrades alone has been impressive. It's a much, much better camera than when I bought it, so I can imagine the new S-version has gone even a step further. They'll get there.

Interesting that you mention the two camera setup. If I'm not using my DSLR I currently have the X100 (35mm) and X-E1 (50mm) that I use in this manner. Although I'm starting to wonder if I should just buy a zoom lens and be done with it. (The horror.)

Fantastic photograph of Capa and Rodger, by the way.

Regarding that photo of Capa and Rodger: "If your photos aren't good enough, you probably aren't close enough." Or dashing enough.

A few observations by an E-M5 (and Pen) user getting used to a GX7.

- Many folks seem to get lost in the Oly menu system - and say that's Panny's is better. Not my experience so far. Oly has more top level headings, but Panny has more submenus. Eight subpages in the Custom Menu, and no way to go through them but one line at a time is quite tedious.

My experience with both is that it can take a long time to find the setting I want.

I wonder if part of the perceived difference is simply that Panny has much larger 'print', and so is easier to see for people with less than perfect vision. As I have unusually acute vision, I prefer Oly's smaller, but crisp font, as more can be seem at once, seven entries per screen on Oly, five on Panny (Unless there is a way to turn off the scrolling descriptions on the top line, which I have yet to find.)

- Shutter shock has been a little known, but pervasive, problem with µ4/3 from the beginning, blur/softening images in a range of about 1/60 to 1/200 sec, details varying a little from camera to camera.

That neither maker would admit to it has lead to all sorts of pernicious effects. Reviews of the Panny 14-42 Z lens blamed softness in that shutter speed range on the lens, apparently leading many buyers to ditch this lens from kits, whereas the effect is the fault of the camera body and it is an optically better lens than the now standard kit lens. (It meant I got mine cheap, though.)

Oly has built in a solution deep in the menus and almost totally ignored in the manuals. Setting Anti-Shock to 1/8 sec. eliminates the problem on all but, perhaps, very long lenses. The price is slower shutter response. This has been there since at least the E-PL1, their second µ4/3 body, but remains largely unknown.

Panny has finally started maturing their products with an electronic shutter option that entirely eliminates the problem. As with Oly's solution, it has other consequences. While the mechanical shutter on the GX7 travels across the sensor at about 1/400 sec. the seqential electronic reading of the sensor takes about 1/10 sec.*

That means no flash with the eShutter. And it means any shot where the subject image moves across the sensor faster than the IS can compensate for will be subject to geometric distortion. This is a big problem for some subjects, none at all for most of mine. My tests with 300 mm lens, IS on and reasonable care in holding the camera steady show no difference in geometric shape between the two shutter options.

eShutter also limits ISO to 3200. As it takes 1/10 sec to complete an exposure, actual exposure completion is about the same as with the Oly system. With the Panny it's important to hold the camera steady longer than one may be used to.

- I'm not surprised at Mr. Weese's observation. I've found noise about the same through ISO 800. It's at about the same level at 1600, but that of the GX7 finer grained. At 3200, the E-M5 starts to develop tiny artifacts like lines, about two pixels wide (I call them worms.), very light on one side and dark on the other. They are essentially invisible until noise reduction is applied. Then they stand out, and may easily be mistaken for a result of the NR, which close observation shows has only revealed them.

I've observed this sort of artifact in every camera I've used at its higher ISOs. In this case, they show up in the E-M5 at 3200 and not until 12800 in the GX7. They are rather different looking in the two bodies, but presence or absence is the significant thing.

Since neither noise nor slight loss of detail is as obvious, and wrong looking, as these artifacts, I would expect large prints from the GX7 at 12800 to be at least as, and perhaps more, pleasing to the eye than E-M5 at 3200. Advantage, two stops to the GX7.

For someone like me, who is always fighting compromises of shutter speed, DOF and noise in deep woods, this is good news. But, of course, I then get down into the shutter speed range where shutter shock is a problem - but can't go above 3200 with the eShutter.

- I find the GX7 slightly better ergonomically in my hands, but not enough to base a choice on.

- I've not noticed the EVF artifacts others complain about on the GX7. Probably my way of working.

As photography has always been, it's about finding the compromises that least compromise the final result. Both are excellent cameras, neither is perfect.

BTW, part of the higher cost of the E-M1 is for the PD AF, to accommodate 4/3 mount lenses. Just wasted money to someone without any.

Moose

* I couldn't find any hard data on this, so I am for the moment assuming the same speed as the GH3

Oh, the GX7. I have been playing around with it in the big electronics shops. Seems about perfect for me, though I am sure if (when) I buy one, I will find some not-so-perfect things. The menu seems straightforward, it seems well-built, and it has a built in tiltable EVF. Who would have thought of that? Certainly not Olympus 'cause they couldn't charge extra for it, I suppose.

And it seems fast. Fast to use, fast to focus. The focus, even with the 20mm (the new version) attached, was about as good as I could hope for.

It's probably my next camera to replace my deteriorating EP-3. And I can buy it with a clear conscious as I know of no Panasonic scandals.

Did Capa and Rodger really use half-cases in the field?

The orginal caption for the Capa/Rodgers shot is "War correspondants Robert Capa (left) and George Rodger in Vomero, Italy, 1943."

There is a whole chapter on Capa/Rodgers together in George Rodger: An Adventure in Photography, 1908-1995 by Carole Naggar. And it's on Google Books too.

http://books.google.com/books?id=KVm-e4YcdY0C&lpg=PA43&ots=WAfjguXS6X&pg=PA112

Different battle dress American for Capa and British for George Rodger. They look pristine too.

Different cameras too: Capa has a Zeiss Ikon Contax II and Rodger a Leica. Oh, the irony of using German cameras to photograph the Second World War.

I was of the same thought pattern as most of the old timers: dials and knobs appealed to me and I thought of ISO (ASA, actually) and aperture and shutter speed. However, the X100 and then the X100s both disappointed and I am enthralled with the Ricoh GR-- a very different camera with amazing haptics. It does away with the old mind set and embraces a much better way of engaging with the camera.
I cancelled my pre-order for the Df.

"(I haven't even mentioned the best feature of the E-M1 at all.)" And you don't, in the remainder of the article.

C'mon, Mike, tell us. This is pure sadism.

[The viewfinder is actually a pleasure to look at the world through, a first for an EVF in my experience. --Mike]

Tread carefully, Mike. One of these three cameras is likely my next big purchase. I've had my eye on the X100s for a while now. Don't make anything sound *too* good...

@ Gary: "It [Ricoh GR] does away with the old mind set and embraces a much better way of engaging with the camera."

I completely agree with you that the Ricoh GR is a truly excellent camera, a real niche sleeper among the more highly marketed small camera crowd.

But, in fact, if ever there was a camera that preserved the past it's the Ricoh GR! Ricoh has made every effort to preserve the gestalt of its original GR line of film p&s cameras right through the transition to digital. I have three film film GR cameras, the GRD IV and now the GR and the continuity is like no other line of cameras in history.

@Kevin Purcell: and Rodger carries a Rolleiflex (also in a leather case) as well.

Reading "The DMD" I found that my E-M5 nailed 15 points over 17 (The two missing are Battery, on wich I've found I'm not able to squeeze more than 250 shots with a full charge, and OVF, on wich even if I come from 20 years of shooting fim slr I don't miss and prefer vastly the EVF experience)...

In regards to the comment about "shutter shock"...I'm more inclined to to believe that what people are really seeing is an over-use of IBIS, or whatever you want to call it. I'm amazed that people keep this activated all of the time. That's not what is was designed for.

X100 latest firmware (2.01) brings performance closer to X100S, especially in terms of manual focusing. Responsive with little need for focusing aids most of the time & now both have the aperture wide open when focusing manually. (I mean to me the manual focus feels really good & I had to go with Zeiss lenses on my venerable S-5 just to get manual focus that felt right - that said my default is AF with these 2). Autofocus is improved also; between the 2 cameras AF seems fairly similar - not enough difference to readily notice in most situations (well I've really covered my ass with that last qualifier, but I just haven't noticed anything remarkable there).

X100S does have a noticeably snappier processor. Battery life: I don't know - you still need to carry more than one. Maybe you'll want a bigger card too.

X100S has better EVF & LCD. X100 EVF is adequate. X100S is rather decent. My default now is to use the EVF; optical vf for some special situations only. X100S EVF does one thing I do not like: in bright sunlight it darkens down way too much & one is forced to use a special setting (somewhere down in the menus) for bright light. A real PIA (or more literally PIE). X100 seems better on this point. X100 Auto WB seems a bit nicer too.

X100S has 16MP versus 12MP sensor (X-Tran, which is still not fully realized by all/most converters versus X100 standard [for Fuji] Bayer sensor pattern). This extra resolution comes in handy for something else the X100S can do, but the X100 cannot - provide the Square format (shown as a square in the viewfinders - optical & electronic - and accurately cropped via meta-tags; this also means one can reposition [re-crop] the square in post). I love the square thanks to Rollei & Polaroid SX-70...a nice alternative to rattle one's cage once in a while - some things seem to ask for that square, too.

On the whole, both are wonderfully responsive & feel good in hand (especially with use of an addon thumbrest - I use a Lensmate one). For the most part effortless & fluid. There certainly are situations where a decision not to upgrade from X100 to X100S would make sense; and one would not be truly deprived.

But thanks for reminding me that it's time to put my X100 up on eBay.

Dear Michael B.,

So, now you have me wondering how many folks keep ANY model of camera for 40 years. I think that would be a fun question for Mike to poll the readership on:

“What's the longest that you've used any one model of camera?”

To eliminate a whole bunch of nitpicking––yes, you can have used more than one body over that time. Yes, you can have used other cameras as well. No, you can't count a series of models as one (e.g., successive Nikon F2's, F3's, F4's don't count as one model). Yes, you can ignore minor design changes by the manufacturer, so long as they kept the same model designation. No, it doesn't have to be the camera you're currently using. No, you can't count collectibles that sit on a shelf or ancient cameras that have been relegated to the back of the drawer and never get used but you never get around to getting rid of them; it has to be a camera you use(d) over the entire time span.

I think the last criterion has to be in there, because, otherwise you've got things like the rollfilm Polaroid camera that I got in my mid teens, which is still in a cabinet, because who wants an old rollfilm Polaroid?! It hasn't seen any film in probably 40 years... but I've had it for nearly 50.

I couldn't quite make the 40 year mark. I owned Pentax 67 equipment for just under 40 years… But for the last three years of that, I was no longer using it.

Whaddaya think, Mike? Good poll?


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All those bodies look cumbersome and bloated to me. Take a later day Pentax Dslr, set it Tav mode, one dial rests under your index finger (aperture) , the other dial by your thumb (shutter speed) , frame your shot, focus (either manually with left hand - it's free, or by a half press on the shutter or by using the AF button just below the rear dial), take the shot. No need to worry about ISO, let the camera do that, the creativity comes from the shutter speed and aperture in most cases and they are under two of your fingers. Camera's should disappear while you're in the zone, Pentax cameras are pretty good at that. All well and good having nice beautifully tactile buttons and switches, but if you lose a shot because they have gotten in the way, then their appeal will fade rapidly.

Lance, the X100S sports split-image & focus peak highlight manual focusing options, and contrast-detect/ phase detection AF over the X100.

The 16MP X-Trans sensor is a substantial improvement over the 12MP sensor. The conversions glitches have been addressed in Lightroom 4.4 and 5.2 respectively.

The addition of the Q Menu button replacing the useless Raw button and a much improved menu system in general are more logical and much more user-friendly.

The X100 compared to the X100S is like the buggy beta sister that never should have been released before its time.

I fully understand that the X100S is a painful reminder to buyers of the X100 of the full potential not unleashed by the original release, and that it’s exasperating to realize that a Fuji X100 buyer has pulled the trigger too soon.

I don't think the issue of dials versus buttons is as straightforward as you think. For those with certain working styles and/or visual or dexterity limitations, the button & menu solution is significantly better. I analysed this on a recent blog of my own, and came to the conclusion that the buttons/menus of the GX7 are a much better solution for me than the tiny dials of the GH2. Have a look at http://www.andrewj.com/blog/2013/buttons-or-switches-buttons-are-better/

Jeff1000:
I am aware of the differences in sensor spec - I spoke to that initially & I am saying that the latest firmware release for the X100 narrows the gap - it includes the focus peaking, for instance.
But let me be clear: even prior to the last firmware upgrade I was never disappointed with the camera's performance (OK a few niggles perhaps, but happy overall). I had a great time & got the X100S for its incremental improvements. I am remorseless. Yes the X100S is a better camera, but the X100 is not in practical terms that far behind. That's the point.

Fair enough Lance. I suspect I was thinking of John Camp’s X100 review here while I was responding to you.

I think we can agree that the Fuji X100S is a terrific camera, probably just short of the Leica M 240 which is exponentially more expensive and full-frame.

Hmm; I had Nikon FMs in my stable from 1981 through....I think it was 2002. For me that's definitely the longest.

Though, come to think of it, I don't think I shot the FMs at all during the 1987-1994 period when I had OM-4s. So really not very long at all for actual use in one stretch, with that gap in the middle.

Amen to that!

Dials are expensive.....hack, how did the old geezers manage to make money.....a F3 is all dials and switches. Anny modern electronic store sells rotary encoders for a few dollars....ad a mechanical knob with a spring and some notches to the other side and do a bit of programming and presto a knob is made.

http://nl.farnell.com/bourns/pel12d-2225s-s1024/rotary-encoder-incremental-24-pulses/dp/1857557

Marketeers and designers are far more expensive then the people who engineer stuff, Mike :).

Greets, Ed.

[Hi Ed, In the old days, dials and switches were the only way it could be done. Just like film was the only way images could easily be recorded. Times have changed.

And an F3 was expensive--$322.50 in 1982, equivalent to about $800 today. Before you call that cheap compared to a contemporary camera, consider what each could do. --Mike]

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