Thursday, 31 October 2013

Street Photography in Tokyo

I have been going through the images I took during my recent 10 day trip to Japan. I still have images to post from Tokyo and this shot of two Japanese bikers riding through the Harijuku shopping and entertainment district of the Japanese capital caught my attention.

Fujifilm X100 - Fujinon 23mm f2 - 1/45 @ f5.6 - ISO400

The shot was taken on my Fuji X100, which is the perfect street camera.  I heard the Harley Davidson before I saw it and I was ready to take the shot as they appeared, the riders weaving through the busy, narrow street.

The camera was set on a low shutter speed to capture some movement in the bike and I converted the image to mono in Silver Efex Pro to give it more of a timeless feel. I also added a vignette in Color Efex to focus the viewers attention on the bike.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sand Storm on an East Lothian Beach

The weather on the east coast of Scotland has been sunny but a bit breezy of late.  A walk on the beach at White Sands yesterday was best described as 'bracing'.  The beach changes with every tide and this is not just due to the waves, the wind plays a large part as well.

While we walked along the sand the wind picked up and streams of sand were being blown across the beach. I decided to try and capture these patterns on the X100 and I think this image has done the scene justice.

Fujifilm X100 - 23mm f2 - 1/90 @ f8 - ISO200
I also aimed the camera towards the sand dunes into the wind and into the sun to give a backlit scene.

Fujifilm X100 - 23mm f2 - 1/350 @ f8 - ISO200
The blown sand had caused the shells at the waters edge to be coated in sand and the wet beach had formed a beautiful textured finish which I tried to capture with this image.

Fujifilm X100 - 23mm f2 - 1/40 @ f8 - ISO200
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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

COMMENT: X100 Firmware Upgrade: A PR Masterstroke by Fujifilm?

Sometimes you can be forgiven for thinking that most of the large manufacturers take their customers for granted and want to wring the last penny / cent out of them without giving anything back. 

I'm not just talking about camera manufacturers here, I am talking about the whole world economy.  There are big, faceless corporations who don't seem to give a stuff about customer service or customer loyalty and are run solely to make a profit for their shareholders.  

They tend to forget, or don't care about the fact, that it is easier to keep a customer than it is to find new ones and in this age of the internet, someone's bad experience can quickly turn into a PR disaster.  

When money is tight and customers have a choice on where to spend their 'hard earned', the customer service experience can play a big role in helping someone decide to part with their cash.

However I am happy to report that this is a lesson that one Japanese manufacturer has learnt and is actively looking after its customers in a way that had me thinking 'wow, that's impressive.'



Eleven days ago Fujifilm announced a firmware update (2.0) for the X100. 

'So what's so impressive about that?' I hear you ask. The X100 was replaced in March by the new X100S and so Fuji are providing continued support for a model that has been superceeded. Most companies would be pushing their customers towards the new version, not providing free improvements to an older model that could potentially hit sales of the newer, more expensive camera.  

The Fujifilm X100, which was launched in 2010, was replaced by the X100S earlier this year, with improvements in several areas that I have gone into on this blog.  Some of these improvements, mainly in start up time and manual focus operation, have been incorporated into the latest update for the X100.  

The upgrades don't quite match the performance of the newer X100S because of the limitations of the older hardware technology, but 2.0 does improve the day-to-day operation of the X100 significantly.

Now providing updates for a discontinued model will stop some customers upgrading to the newer camera. In these tough economic times the bottom line on the accountants balance sheet is a very important factor to any company, large or small. So this decision by the Fuji management in providing a free upgrade could be seen as misguided at best, or corporate incompetence at worst, by the accountants.  

But I think Fuji are playing the long game. Looking at the comments being posted around the internet on forums and blogs has shown that what this upgrade has done is turn some customers into loyal customers, even some of those who don't actually own an X100.

This is because Firmware 2.0 for the X100 has demonstrated that Fuji care about the people who have invested a significant part of their disposable income in one of their products - remember this camera was £999 when it was launched.  Even though the camera is a discontinued model, the owners are still important to the company and Fuji will look after them. 

The halo effect from this sort of publicity is significant.  Fuji has reinforced its position as a company that listens to, and cares about, its customers. That is something that will have the cash registers ringing and, ultimately, that will keep the accountants and shareholders happy.

When it comes time to replace the camera I am sure many customers will look at Fuji first, and some existing customers will now only buy Fujifilm products because of this decision to upgrade for free a discontinued product.

I work as a public relations consultant and photographer I am confident this decision by Fuji will reap dividends in customer loyalty for years to come.  I for one applaud the company for their forward thinking.   




Key Features of New X100 Firmware v2.0

Improved Auto Focus
  • Approximately 20% faster AF speed and enhanced focus distance compared to the previous firmware version
  • Close-up focus distance shortened by 30% before needing to switch to macro mode
  • Improved Manual Focus
New Focus Peaking function assists in manual focusing by enhancing the outline of the subject in high contrast
  • Improved focusing via the EVF or LCD when using wide apertures
  •  Improved Operability
The camera start-up time has been shortened by approximately 0.2 seconds.*1
  • Pressing the AF button now toggles the focus area selection screen and the area of your choice can be selected
To download the new firmware and instructions on upgrading your X100 camera, please visit:
http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/

*1 QUICK START mode [OFF]

CLICK HERE to see the press release on the Fujifilm website

CLICK HERE to see the report and comments on the DP Review website


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Monday, 28 October 2013

Autumn Colours

A stroll in the woods near our home in Dunbar gave me another opportunity to test one of the four Fujinon prime lenses that came with the Fuji X-Pro1, this time the 14mm f2.8.



A couple of days ago I reported that the 18mm f2 lens (27mm equiv) was the surprise wide angle of choice for the new camera.  I didn't mean that I didn't like the wider 14mm (21mm equiv), it was just a more considered choice.  However taking images of the autumnal scene in Link Wood, the wider 14mm lens proved to be a good choice.





All images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Fujinon 14mm f2.8 lens

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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Review: Initial Impressions of the Fujifilm X-Pro1

Well here it is, the new addition to the MacLean Photographic arsenal, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 Compact System Camera and four lenses.  After nearly a year with the superb Fujifilm X100 and a three month trial with the X100S, I now have the opportunity to test the X-Pro1 with four prime lenses.


The first thing I noticed about the X-Pro1 was the size.  Even with the optional hand grip fitted to the camera, the X-Pro1 is like an over grown X100, the same proportions, just slightly larger in every department. 


However when you compare it to the Nikon D800, fitted with the MB-D12 grip, it suddenly hits you how much smaller the X-Pro1 is compared to a DSLR and this is one of the many reasons this camera appeals.    



Sensor
The X-Pro1 comes with a 16mp X-Trans sensor, the same as the one employed in the X100S I reviewed this summer.  This is 4mp larger than the sensor in the X100, but, as I have written many times, more megapixels do not equal better quality.  Having said that the 16mp X-Trans sensor is one of the best on the market and produces professional quality images time after time.

Fuji X-Series Family
The Fuji X-Pro1 is a familiar camera to anyone who has used any of Fuji's X-Series range.  

The large analogue controls are mainly in the same place as my existing X100, with some of the secondary functions in slightly different locations but I easily found them.  This is a hands on photographic tool and everything is typically Fuji - beautifully made, very tactile and ergonomically superb.  This is a professionals dream camera.



Shutter Noise
The first thing I noticed when I used the X-Pro1 for the first time was the noise of the shutter when the release was pressed.  I use my X100 on silent (all electronic shutter noises turned off) and the leaf shutter is whisper quiet; it is a real stealth camera.  Because the X-Pro1 employs a focal plane shutter it makes a louder noise, even with all the electronic noises turned off, it is the nature of the beast.  Now it isn't a loud noise, especially when you compare it to a DSLR with the noise they make when the mirror mechanism operates. However, even without the need to have a mirror mechanism, the X-Pro1 is still louder than the X100 - but I am sure I will get used to it. 

The advantage of a focal plane shutter is you can use all of the shutter speeds available (up to 1/4000s) at all apertures - the X100s leaf shutter limits the shutter speed when the lens is wide open from f2 to f4, which can cause the camera to over exposure in bright light and is one of the reasons the X100 has a built in 3-stop ND filter.


X-Mount Lenses
The advantage of the X-Pro1 is the ability to change lenses and the kit I have comes with four fast prime Fujinon lenses - 14mm f2.8 (21mm in 35mm terms), 18mm f2 (27mm equiv), 35mm f1.4 (52mm equiv) and 60mm f2.4 macro (90mm equiv).  

Fuji do make two professional zoom lenses, an 18mm-55mm f2.8/f4 and a 55mm-200mm f3.5/f4.8, but I decided that this camera deserved the best prime lenses Fuji had to offer. This isn't to say that I wont add a zoom lens in the future but I decided prime lenses was the route my photography was taking me at the moment. 


I will be posting my thoughts on the various lenses over the coming months but I have already given my initial thoughts on the 18mm f2 and the 60mm f2.4 macro and you can read these initial reviews by clicking on the links.

The four lenses have superb build quality and the results they produce are top draw, as you would expect from a professional level system.  All of the lenses have an aperture ring (do you remember those?) and, unlike the 23mm f2 lens on the X100, the ring can be set in 1/3 stops.  

Manual Focus System
I have also tried the manual focus system on each of the lenses and while it is still a fly-by-wire electronic system, it is a big improvement over the X100, which I found to be fiddly and the worse item on an otherwise superb camera (though this has been improved with the recent Firmware 2.0 upgrade that Fuji have brought out).


Camera Controls
As I said above the control layout is very familiar and the X-Pro1 includes the Q or Quick Menu button that found its way onto the X100S.  This brings up the quick menu and, as the name suggests, it allows the user to find the items that are used the most in one easy to use menu.  

The main menu layout is also very easy to use and almost identical to the one I used on the X100S in the recent test.  It is almost the same as the menu on the older X100 but it has more tabs to find items quickly without having to scroll through each page as you have to on the X100.

The one item that isn't as good as the older X100 is the command dial.  The dial on the X100 is a wheel, like Canon use on their DSLRs, which makes scrolling through images or the menu a doddle.  On the X-Pro1 the command dial is four buttons, like Nikon use, and this is slower to operate as you have to press the button to move to the next item.  I'm surprised that Fuji didn't use the same command dial as the X100/X100S.



Conclusion
My first impressions on picking up this camera were it was everything I expected it to be.  I have owned an X100 for 12 months now and that camera took my photography in a whole new direction and made it fun again.  Now the X-Pro1 is another step up from the X100.  It gives me the same superb quality images in a small package but now I have the option of swapping lenses.

My X100 will not be sold, it will be a companion to the X-Pro1, and will certainly compliment this new camera outfit.   I will be reporting back on a regular basis on how I am getting on with the Fujifilm X-Pro1, so please keep checking back as I familiarise myself with the X-Pro1.

CLICK HERE to see some sample images from the X-Pro1 on the MacLean Photographic Flickr gallery

CLICK HERE for the previous review of the Fujifilm X100S

CLICK HERE for the previous reviews of the Fujifilm X100 Black Limited Edition

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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review: Tyningham Beach with the Fujinon 18mm f2

I recently acquired the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and a quartet of prime lenses.  Of these four - 14mm f2.8, 18mm f2, 35mm f1.4 and 60mm f2.4 macro - I thought the moderately wide 18mm f2 (27mm in full frame terms) would be the lens that would stay in the camera bag the most and the 14mm (21mm equivalent) would be the wide angle lens of choice with this camera.

However the reality is this is the lens I have actually taken more shots on since getting the X-Pro1.  I think the reason for this is the 14mm is physically bigger - about twice the size of the 18mm - and because of the extra angle of coverage, it is a more considered choice when out and about.   The 14mm is also an F2.8 and one stop slower than the 18mm which is an f2. Not so much of a problem on a sunny day but in low light conditions without a tripod than one stop could make all the difference.



Today was a good example when we visited Tyningham Beach for a walk.  This wasn't a photographic trip, it was a walk out with my wife to get some fresh air and I took the X-Pro1 along for some shots while strolling along.  I did take some images on the 14mm and the 60mm but I kept swapping back to the 18mm as it is wide enough but also not so wide that it makes features  in the middle distance look too far away, as the 14mm tends to do. 



Don't get me wrong, all of the four lenses are superb and each have their unique characteristics, but I've found the 18mm to be a cracking all round lens! More of my thoughts on the X-Pro1 and the Fujinon lenses on tomorrow's blog.
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Late Evening Reflection


Another beautiful sky at sunset was the inspiration for this shot.  After heavy rain there were lots of puddles on the track as I walked back to the car.  The sun had set and the trees were silhouetted against the bright sky.  The reflection of the sky in the puddles contrasted nicely against the dark track and trees producing a very two tone image.  

This shot was taken on the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Fujinon 14mm f2.8 lens.  The exposure was 30 seconds at f8 with the camera set to ISO200.  To keep everything steady I used the Slik tripod.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Ravensheugh Sands Fungi Macro



On the way out to Ravensheugh Sands there is a small copse of trees next to the track and the area is excellent for fungi, lichen and moss.  This provided the perfect subject to test the 60mm f2.4 macro lens on the Fuji X-Pro1 compact system camera.


The 60mm f2.4 Fujinon is already proving to be an extremely versatile lens having been used for landscape and now for macro images in the first week.

The equivalent to 90mm in full frame terms, this short telephoto is extremely well constructed and is sharp across the lens at all apertures from f2.4 to f22. The aperture is also slightly faster than my Nikon on 105mm f2.8 micro and is less than half the size. However the Nikon does benefit from a vibration reduction system that does increase the size of the lens.

I can see this lens being used on a regular basis for a lot of my work. Besides the landscape and macro the Fujinon 60mm f2.4 is also the perfect focal length for portraits. More on the new X-Pro1 system on Sunday's blog.



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Thursday, 24 October 2013

REVIEW: Expert Shield LCD Protectors Revisited

I do get asked to review a lot of items, some useful, some not so useful. The proof of the pudding is when I ask myself 'would I buy this with my own money?' 

In July I was asked to test the Expert Shield LCD Screen Protectors for my Nikon D800, Fuji X100 and the Fuji X100S I had on test at the time.  You can review my findings HERE but to save you looking I can say I was very impressed with these items.



Fast forward to October and I now have a Fuji X-Pro1 and my first thought was to protect the LCD screen, which is rather vulnerable.  A colleague had severely damaged the screen on his Fuji when it accidentally came into contact with grit and dirt,  so I wanted to protect the screen on my model.  It was a no brainer, I went to the Expert Shield website and ordered the protector for £6.95.  I actually ordered two (one as a spare - well you never know!) so I received free postage.  The items arrived the next day - how impressive is that?

Fitting was a doddle, as it was with the D800 and X100, and it took less than 2 minutes to apply.  Now my X-Pro1's screen is covered I feel a bit happier taking it out onto the beach for landscape images.

CLICK HERE to view the Expert Shield UK website.



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The Perfect Cure for Jet lag!

My first day back in Scotland after ten days in Japan was spent fighting to stay awake with the jet lag. So I decided the best remedy was to grab the camera bag and head out to Ravensheugh Sands for some late evening photography in the bracing conditions.

The day had actually been very miserable and I suspected the rainy conditions that we had in Japan for race day had followed me half way round the world.  But as 4pm approached the rain stopped and the clouds parted to give some sunshine for the final couple of hours of the day.

Taking the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Fujinon 60mm f2.4 and 14mm f2.8 lenses I was able to capture the following images of the scene at Ravensheugh, there was no one else about. It certainly kept me awake for a few more hours.

Fuji X-Pro1 + Fujinon 60mm f2.4 - 1.7s @ f20 ISO200

Fuji X-Pro1 + Fujinon 14mm f2.8 - 25s @ f20 ISO200

Fuji X-Pro1 + Fujinon 14mm f2.8 - 1.2s @ f20 ISO200
Another Milestone Reached
This blog post is the 300th I have produced since the 1st January 2013 and I am on course to reach my goal of 365 posts this year.  

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to visit and read my daily updates and please continue to visit the MacLean Photographic blog to see if I can get to the 31 December with an average of one post per day in 2013.

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Zojoji Temple in Tokyo

After visiting the area around the Tokyo Tower we walked across the road to the Zojoji Temple, an oasis of peace and relaxation in the centre of bustling Tokyo.


The Daiden (Main Hall) at Zojoji

Founded in 1393 as a fundamental nembutsu seminary of the Jodoshu School in east Japan, Zojoji later became the family temple of the Tokugawa shogunate.  The wooden gate of the temple remains as the original architectural reminder of the early 17th century and is designated as an important cultural property of Japan.



CLICK HERE for more information on the Zojoji Temple (in English)












Images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 +  14mm f2.8 or 18mm f2 lens and Fuji X100 with 23mm f2 lens

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

High Rise Tokyo

The final day in Japan was spent back in Tokyo, with a whistle stop tour of some of the sights we missed last week before we headed to Narita International Airport for the flight home.

The modern buildings in Tokyo are amazing and I had to point my Fujinon 18mm f2 and 14mm f2.8 lenses upwards to capture the amazing skyline.



First stop was the Tokyo Tower before taking the subway to the Shiodome SIO-SITE and the walking to Ginza, Tokyo's equivalent to Oxford Street in London or Champs-Elysse in Paris.








Images taken on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 +  14mm f2.8 or 18mm f2 lens

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