Saturday, 23 May 2020

External Battery Charger for the Fujifilm X-T4

One of the improvements that Fujifilm have made with the new X-T4 is the upgrading of the batteries used by the camera to the more powerful NP-W235 which increases the number of images per charge by 50% over the NP-W126S used in the previous generation cameras such as the X-T3, X-Pro3 and X-H1 cameras.

However, Fujifilm have decided not to include an external battery charger with the X-T4 because the batteries can be charged in the camera using a USB-C and power adapter included in the box.   

Fujifilm do have a battery charger available, the BC-W235 which charges two batteries at a time, but you have to pay an extra £59.99 for this.

Now I hear some photographers saying they don't need the external charger as the batteries will last them all day, and that is fine if you can manage like that.  However, for many professional photographers, especially for those in my line of work of sports photography, this doesn't work.  Let's take the 24 Hours of Le Mans as an example.

I will go out and shoot for a couple of hours and the return to the media centre to download the images and edit a few before heading back out.  On average I will be in the media centre for no more than 30 minutes at a time.  

Now if I need to charge any of the batteries, and I would expect at least two to be at 20% or lower, I take them out of the camera and put them on charge, replacing the batteries in the camera with fresh ones. 

If I can only charge in camera, I would need to leave the camera standing for 3 hours to recharge and in my line of work that is impossible to do.  I need to be able to have batteries on charge while I am out shooting.  This is the way all motorsport photographers work.

So last week I invested in the new BC-W235 charger, and a very nice piece of kit it is.  There is a small LCD panel giving the level of charge in each battery.  It is powered by a USB-C lead, which comes with the camera, there isn't a separate lead or power socket in the battery charger box.

There is one advantage that the BC-W235 has over the BC-W126 that came bundled with the previous generation Fujifilm cameras.  The BC-W126 has to plugged into a mains power outlet but you don't need to necessarily do that with the BC-W235.  

I have a Charmast PD 26800mAh Power Bank, which I original bought as a back up for my 2019 MacBook Pro should I get caught out while travelling. This power bank can also charge the X-T4 batteries via the USB-C port in the same time as a mains connection.  It will also power the BC-W235, so I can also recharge the batteries externally should I not be near a mains outlet.  

The only thing I don't know yet is how many batteries I can charge up before the power bank is exhausted but I can charge my iPhone11 at least 8 times off one charge, so I am hopeful it will do at least four NP-W235 batteries.  But this is something I will need to test in the future.

A word of warning, if you want to use this method you will need to invest in a power bank that has a PD (Power Delivery) USB-C port otherwise it will take a lot longer to charge your batteries.

The BC-W235 is a very nice item and the ability to use it with a power bank makes it more flexible.  I am loving the new X-T4 but I just wish Fujifilm had included an external charger with the camera instead of expecting customers to pay an extra £60 should they need one.

CLICK HERE for more information on the Fujifilm BC-W235 battery charger

CLICK HERE for the MacLean Photographic review of the X-T4

CLICK HERE for the Charmast PD 26800mAh Power Bank

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MacLean Photographic runs Photography Workshops in East Lothian and the Borders of Scotland.  
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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

VIDEO: New One Man and His Boat Titles

Today we are unveiling the new theme tune and title sequence for One Man and His Boat.

Barry Brunton has been working hard on his new fishing boat, the Lynsey B, since selling the Rockhopper of Percuel at the end of 2018.  

Delays in the delivery of the part build Cygnus 21 vessel, and then some significant changes to the regulations concerning the build, have proved to be a challenge for Barry who has been documenting his journey on his new YouTube channel 'One Man and His Boat'.

We had produced a new title sequence for his videos in 2019 with a new theme tune bought under licence from  

However the music has been removed from the website by the composer and while we were still legally able to use it, we decided to look for a new track to go with an updated title sequence.  The track we found is called "Celtic Trailer" by Valentina Gribanova.

Once we had the music, the next job was to update the video clips and match it to the track.  Because the Lynsey B is still being built I used some of the clips I had taken during the Rockhopper episodes and also the aerial shots of Dunbar Harbour.  These were mixed with the Lynsey B arriving on the trailer from the builders and shots that Barry had filmed during the build.  

Add in a bit of cinematic polishing in Adobe Premiere Pro and here is the final video that is being used for the first time today on Episode 52 of 'One Man and His Boat' -

Check out the One Man and His Boat channel on YouTube HERE and don't forget to subscribe to the channel.

Once the build is complete we will be joining Barry Brunton and the Lynsey B to film some more in-depth videos on life as a fisherman on the South East coast of Scotland.

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MacLean Photographic runs Photography Workshops in East Lothian and the Borders of Scotland.  
CLICK HERE for more details and availability. 

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A First Review of the Fujifilm X-T4

This week I am going to look at the new Fujifilm X-T4, which Fujifilm started shipping to customers who had pre ordered their cameras last week.

I have owned every edition of the X-T line up since the X-T1 was launched in 2014 and I still have an X-T2 and X-T3.  So, what makes the X-T4 worth buying?

Pre Production Testing
My X-T4 arrived a couple of days ago but, as a Fujifilm X-Photographer, I did get to test a pre-production sample in February for a few hours while I was working at the FIA World Endurance Championship event in Texas.  I was supposed to have an X-T4 for a four-day test in March at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, but, like many things recently, the Covid19 pandemic put the kybosh on that.  So, I am now playing catch up.

What I found with my short time with the camera in Texas was the layout of the buttons and dials is almost identical to the previous generation X-T models, which is a good thing. This made shooting with the camera really easy, I didn’t have to spend time setting dials or diving into the menu, I just went out and shot with it.

Physically the camera is slightly bigger than the X-T3, especially if you use a battery grip like I do, but it is not overly big and it sits comfortably in my hands.

The performance was brilliant.  For stills it just produced the goods and for video, it is a step forward for anyone who wants to shoot quality footage handheld.

Maxime Martin - no97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/30 @ f16 ISO80

Is It Worth Upgrading from an X-T3?
First off, for all you X-T3 owners out there, the 26.1MP X-Trans4 sensor and the XP4 processor are the same in both cameras and I will be continuing to shoot with my X-T3s for the foreseeable future.  However, there are some significant upgrades that the X-T4 does offer, especially if you shoot video like I do.

The inclusion of IBIS (in Body Image Stabilisation) for the first time in the X-T line is fantastic.  Fujifilm has already developed an IBIS system in the X-H1 but this IBIS unit in the X-T4 is smaller and offers up to 6.5 stop advantage.  The X-T3 was a much better video camera than the X-H1 and, to be honest, the only reason I had an X-H1 was for its ability to shoot stabilised video handheld. While I do like the larger form factor of the H1, the X-T4 does everything the X-T3 does and more, with the added advantage of IBIS.  So, it is ‘Bye-Bye’ X-H1!

So, what else does the X-T4 offer?  Here are some of the highlights that made buying an X-T4 a very easy decision for me.

A New Higher Capacity Battery
At last we have higher capacity batteries, which do last a lot longer than the original W126S batteries. Officially the new W235 batteries will last approximately 500 shots compared to 390 for the W126S.  However, as I found with the W126S batteries when shooting with the X-T3, it depends on how you use them and I was regularly getting a lot more shots per battery than the official figures quoted.

When I was shooting trackside in Texas, I shot around 1000 images in the first 90 minutes of the race. This would’ve drained at least one battery on the T3, but on the T4 I had 70% on one and the other two were still at 100% - very impressive considering I was in ‘Boost’ mode.  

Now I know some X-Series owners are a little peeved that they have invested in several W126S batteries and will have to buy new ones if they want to own an X-T4. I also have lots of batteries for my X-T and X-Pro bodies but the large capacity batteries are something we professional photographers have been asking Fujifilm for since 2015 and I am very pleased they have found a solution.  It will make my life working out in the field a lot better.

Now for a downside to this.  Fujifilm have elected not to include a battery charger in the box with the camera, you can now charge all three batteries in camera with the USB-C lead.  Sounds great on paper but for a working photographer that is a nightmare.  When we come in to download our pictures we swap the batteries out and put them on charge while heading back out to get some more shots.  When working, I can’t leave my camera to charge the batteries up.  I will be getting more batteries and a charger as soon as I can.

New LCD Screen Design
Now this is an area that has divided opinion on the internet.  Personally, I like the new screen design and the fact that you can swing the screen out and face it to the front for framing while vlogging is a big plus point.  The fact you can hide the screen by flipping it around is great for some of the environments I work it and will save me worrying about damage.

The only thing that worries me is the fact you have to move the screen to the side to see it when shooting low or high, whereas you just moved it to 90 degrees when shooting low with the X-T3.  I will get used to that but it isn’t as slick an operation when working quickly in the pitlane as it was with the previous model.

Faster Auto Focus Performance
The X-T4 boasts improved AF performance with a lightening 0.02s in boost mode.  While shooting in Texas the AF performance seemed to be quicker and locked onto the subject immediately.  While there is definitely an improvement compared to the X-T3, it doesn’t seem to me to be a massive jump forward as the T3 was already a class leader in this department.  As a sports photographer any improvements in focus is always welcome.  

Another area that has been improved is the Face Detection / Eye Focus system on the X-T4.  While shooting portraits on the grid the system really did lock onto a face or an eye quickly and accurately.

Norman Nato - no1 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 - 1/1250 @ f2 ISO160

Flag Bearers on the Grid
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 - 1/1250 @ f2 ISO160

15 Frames per Second
A new focal plane shutter design has enabled Fujifilm to increase the frames per second using the mechanical shutter from 11 to 15 frames per second in CH mode and 5.7 to 8 fps in CL mode.  

The top speed is 30fps using the X-T4s electronic shutter, which is the same as the X-T3, but the T4 can achieve blackout-free burst shooting at that speed.  I still prefer to shoot with the mechanical shutter for sport having had a bad experience of ‘bendy bats’, ‘leaning players’ and banding in images under artificial lights with my X-T2 but the times I have used the improved electronic shutter on the T3 I have been impressed.  I suppose I am a bit of a Luddite when it comes to trusting electronic shutters but will give the X-T4’s ES a try at the first opportunity.

The new mechanical shutter in the T4 is also noticeably quieter than the X-T3s shutter and on a par with the X-H1, which makes shooting in quiet conditions a lot easier.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/2000 @ f4 ISO200

Shooting Video with the X-T4
One of the major hardware changes on the X-T4 is the ‘Still / Movie’ selector under the shutter speed dial, giving you two separate camera modes and menus.  As someone who shoots stills and videos for different clients this is a brilliant move as you can set up the camera as a stills camera in one area and at the flick of a switch you have a different set up for video.

Like the X-T3 the T4 can shoot 4K/ 60 fps 4:2:0 10 bit straight to an SD card and 4K/60 4:2:2 10 bit to an external recorder via HDMI.  The X-T4 can also shoot 1080P / 240, up from 1080P/120 on the X-T3, which allows you to shoot super slow motion in Full-HD.

Here is a short test video of the 240fps slow motion.

When shooting with the X-T3 I tended to use either a tripod with a video head or mounted on a DJI Ronin S Gimbal. For handheld shots I tended to use the X-H1 because of its IBIS.  However, the X-H1 was limited to 4K/30P which had to be used carefully when shooting rally cars moving at speed.  The 60fps shooting ability of the T3 is very useful, but it lacked IBIS for those handheld shots.

So, having the video capabilities of the X-T3 and IBIS, with some added extras thrown into the mix as well, makes the X-T4 a very potent video camera for my work.

A New Film Simulation
Finally, Fujifilm have added Eterna Bleach Bypass to the film simulation menu.  This is a low saturation, high contrast simulation and as someone who uses Eterna to shoot video with, because it is very easy to colour grade in post-production, I look forward to testing Eterna Bleach Bypass soon.

The things I have commented on are the items that are important to me in my work, there are a number of other new items on the X-T4 that might be important to you as a photographer.

Due to the current Covid19 lockdown here in the UK I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot with the X-T4 ‘in anger’ yet, apart from a couple of hours trackside at the Circuit of The Americas in Texas back in February.

However, as a long-term Fujifilm user, and from the short test I did with the camera in February, I know the new edition of the X-T line will offer me several improvements for the systems I rely on for my work and I look forward to reporting back here on my findings once motorsport resumes.

For more information on the Fujifilm X-T4 visit the Fujifilm website HERE

LMP2 Battle
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/2000 @ f2.8 ISO80

Four Time 24 Hours of Le Mans Winner Yannick Dalmas
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 - 1/1250 @ f2 ISO125

Paul Dalla Lana - no98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vannage
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/2000 @ f2.8 ISO80

Kevin Estre - no92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/2000 @ f3.6 ISO160

Race Start
Fujifilm X-T4 + XF200mm f2 + 1.4x converter - 1/1250 @ f2.8 ISO100

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MacLean Photographic runs Photography Workshops in East Lothian and the Borders of Scotland.  
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Tuesday, 5 May 2020

VIDEO: How Tough is a GoPro?

GoPro action cameras have a reputation for high quality video, as well as being well built and being able to withstand a lot of punishment.  You also pay a lot more for a GoPro, with a lot of cheaper action cameras available on the market which can also shoot at 4K.  So, are you paying for the name and reputation when you buy a GoPro or is the extra money worth paying?  Well I think it is and I will tell you a story of why I trust GoPro when working out in the field.

I have been using GoPro cameras in the videos I produce since 2017 when I invested in a GoPro Hero 5 Black and a GoPro Hero 5 Session.  During last year’s FIA European Historic Sporting Rally Championship, I would place the GoPros in places I couldn’t stand to get some dramatic shots to add to the review videos I had been commissioned to produce from each event.

In May 2018 I inadvertently put GoPro’s reputation to the test during a car photoshoot.  I made two ‘rookie’ mistakes during a tracking shot, which resulted in the GoPro Hero 5 Black taking a tumble down the road at 40mph.  I will explain.

I was shooting some taking shots of a Zenos E10S sportscar and I had fitted a Fujifilm X-H1 to the rear screen of the tracking car using a heavy duty Manfrotto suction mount.  I had put a safety strap on the camera after making sure the suction mount was secured to the window.  

I would be shooting both video and stills with the X-H1 using the Fujifilm App to control the camera from inside the car.  If this shoot was on a race track I would be strapped into the back of the tracking car holding my camera close to the action, but as we were on a public road I used this remote control method to get the tracking shot legally.

I decided to attach the GoPro Hero 5 Black to the rear windscreen of the tracking car using an official GoPro sucker mount, but in my haste I forgot two things.  One, I didn’t check that the mount was secure on the window and, two, I didn’t attach a safety strap to the mount.  Both are rookie mistakes but we were ‘on the clock’ to get the shoot finished and the car back to Edinburgh.

The road we had chosen to do the tracking shot on was a very bumpy, but quiet, country road, with very little traffic.  We were travelling at around 40mph and I had already got the still images in the bag and was shooting video with the X-H1.  We went over a bump in the road and the GoPro mount detached from the rear window.  The mount and the camera bounced on the road in front of the Zenos and, luckily, went under the car and not onto the bonnet or through the windscreen.  

Here is a video of the camera coming off the tracking car (oops!) -

This incident highlights the need to have professional insurance when conducting photoshoots with expensive cars.  I was lucky and there was no damage to the car and we pulled up to retrieve the GoPro.  I was convinced that it must have been smashed to pieces, but the camera was actually still recording when it was picked up.

The GoPro frame around the camera was scratched and one of the two feet had snapped.  The front lens of the camera had a scratch across the front element, despite having a lens protector fitted.  But the front elements on the Hero 5 Black are easily replaced for £25.

After the lens was replaced, the camera was returned to service and it has never missed a beat.  Since this incident I have the utmost faith in the ability of the GoPro cameras to get the shot.  This is certainly a testament to the build quality of these small cameras.

In February this year I bought the new GoPro Hero 8 Black, to run alongside my two Hero 5s, and they were going to be used for the first time on the Rally Costa Brava in Spain.  However, the rally didn’t take place due to the Covid19 outbreak and I had to head back to the UK from Girona before the country went into lockdown.  I will be doing a blog on the Hero 8 Black in the coming weeks.  

CLICK HERE to see the images and final video from the Zenos E10S photoshoot.

Here is a short video with a quick montage of shots I have managed to get using the GoPro Hero 5 Black and Session since 2017.

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MacLean Photographic runs Photography Workshops in East Lothian and the Borders of Scotland.  
CLICK HERE for more details and availability. 

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