Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cor, the Fujifilm Finepix X100 is bloody brilliant!

I’ve been concentrating a fair bit on my Sigma DP2M ( with good reason) and had kind of forgotten the immediacy,  ease of use and generally great look that the files from the X100 have. I just had to satisfy my craving for taking some photographs whilst on my lunchbreak and so went up onto the roof of my office to catch some nice warm Indian sunshine and to look around for some photographic subjects… I only have the X100 with me today so….

It’s my belief that with a bit of thought , interesting images can be made almost anywhere except perhaps inside a uniformly coloured sphere…

So I just went and, as my Indian friends say, ‘clicked a few images’ and then came back and had a quick looksee in LR4. Considering all I did was check the ISO and aperture, the images are just great, perhaps not the most compelling subject matter but technically, amazing considering the harshness of the light. I’m still seriously impressed with my lovely black X100 and can’t imagine it not being at the very forefront of my photographic arsenal for some time to come. I know its been said before but the colours and the overall ‘glossy’ look of the files continue to please me very much, especially considering the form factor and the almost point and shoot useability. I’m not sure what those people who say that this camera is full of quirks are on about tbh, it just works for me.

I’ll have a play with these files when I get home tonight and add a couple to this post if there are any of interest.

One thing about India is that during the day ‘low light’ just doesn’t happen, it’s bright!

Tomorrow I’m photographing the works gardens in a semi-official capacity, again, the light is not going to be great, the direction of the sun, the mist/haze and the dust but I have free reign of these  gardens which are fairly huge and so I’ll be disappointed if I can’t make some interesting images and, perhaps more importantly from the perspective of this blog, interesting comparisons. I’ll have the DP2M and EOS 5D3 with my Zeiss glass, should be fun…..

Got home tonight and had a play with some of my X100 files from today:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Those DP2M RAW files....

Nipped out onto the factory roof to take a few pictures this lunchtime, its still very hazy and of course the middle of the day so the sun beats down from a whitish sky, hardly ideal conditions. I converted to TIFF in SPP and exported to LR4. My first comment would be that the photographs look, as ever, astonishing and there is, as some users have noticed a thrill when opening a file for the first time. The detail, man oh man it is almost like magic.
The sky has pale green patches, nothing horrible but slightly unnatural. I must fiddle with SPP white balance….
The dried grass under harsh sunlight is definitely ‘crunchy’ , Again, looks like I need to wind back the sharpness in SPP as many people have suggested.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pimping my DP2M

OK, I admit it, I do like to pimp my cameras, so long as the cost gives actual benefits ! And the DP2M, being such a ‘basic’ camera does need a few additions….

I already have a lens hood as I figured that was really an essential for landscape photography and I have actively considered an OVF but so far have had no problems framing with the LCD so I’m going to hold off on that.  I hoodman loupe would be nice tho’….. No, the real necessity is an L-Plate and grip and as my tripod and head/pano bracket are RRS , I’m looking at their offering, it’s the most expensive ( sigh) but it looks very nice and if it’s on a par with their other stuff then it will be beautifully made and extremely durable. It’s a shame that dealing with them is so bleedin’ hard; talk about two nations divided by a common language…. I find it really hard to get them to answer my questions, maybe it’s me! They always respond promptly and courteously  but every response requires a clarification from myself.
Whatever, an RRS L plate and grip will be ordered shortly when I can finally get a quote for the shipping out of them.

Then there are filters, nice that the thread is 49 mm, making it compatible with my X100 for which I already have a red, UV and IR filter. I need to add an ND or two, a circular polarizer and maybe an ND grad. 

A bubble level for the hot shoe will round that all off I think.

In an ideal world I’d have a leather case made that fits the camera with the L plate and grip and that has a hole for battery and memory card, next time I’m in India, I may see if I can get this done.

Now,  some photography I think……

Monday, January 28, 2013

Colour shift and resolution issues

Reading through the long DP2M on FM looking for more tips on processing Foveon RAWS, I have very much reinforced the impression that I have long carried that I absolutely lack a good colour perception.
I have worked with printers for many years and have been left baffled by their ability to say if a print or proof is ‘good’ or bad’.  Now, looking at the work some people are doing with the DP2M I’m seeing the same judgements made.  What I am fairly sure of however is that outside of the community of graphics art professionals ( or very keen amateurs) the majority of people who look at a photograph are entirely unaware of ‘colour shifts’ or ‘jpg artifacts’ they simply see the image and react to that.
Similarly with sharpness, this maybe due to the fact that my eyesight is far from perfect combined with the hyperbole that some people use when discussing this subject ‘obviously way over sharpened’ often looks fine to me, but then what do I know…? If a colour shift is really obvious, like on some of my DP2M HDR efforts then OK, I can understand, but some of the comments I see about photographs being 'ruined' by shifts that are so subtle I cannot even detect them no matter how hard I try make me scratch my head.

Now there are a couple of significant issues here which I have found with images from any large high resolution sensor and they are the questions of resizing or down rezzing  and display media.

DP2M files especially, look unbelievable at 100% but reducing the size to fit on any normal sized screen ( I have 13 and 22 inch) reduces the impact that the shear resolution at 100% has. So I’m reading up on down rezzing and it looks like I’ll need two work flows and two files saved, the original so that I can process for printing and a file processed specially for screen display. It’s a learning process for me that DP2M ownership has bought into sharp focus if you’ll forgive the pun.

Also very interesting to read about the use of the fill light slider in SPP, it seems that overuse of this can produce some interesting semi-HDR/Topaz – like effects that people either like or hate, from what I’ve seen I’m going to like it, so watch out for some ‘over processed’ pictures from me very soon….

Some comparisons

I've put together a rough and ready table of comparisons between an assortment of my cameras together with some comments and conclusions.

Canon EOS 5D Mk iiiFujifim Finepix X100Sigma DP2 MerrillRicoh GRD3Canon Powershot G1X
Weight 860g Body only286g355g188g534g
LensInterchangable23mm f2.0 ( 35mm ff equiv)35 mm 2.8 ( 45mm ff equiv)28 mm f1.9 ( ff equiv)Zoom 28-112mm f2.8-5.8 (ff equivalent) 
SensorFull frameAPS-CAPS-CTeenyApprox APS-C
Resolution22 MP12MP46MP or is that 15MP?10 MP14 MP
EgonomicsWonderful 9/10Average 5.5/10Good 7/10Excellent 8/10Poor 4/10
BuildSolidAll metal but a little delicateLike a laboratory instrument. Solid.Solid, metal.OK, metal and plastic
Start upVery fast!Slow!FastVery fastFast
NoiseWhat noise?Noisy at ISO 800 and upNo noise at ISO 100Noisy at ISO 400 and upExcellent, easily usable at ISO 800, good at 1600
AutofocusFast and usually accurate ( lens dependant)A couple of seconds, not always accurateA couple of seconds always accurateFast and accurateSlow!
Manual focusDead accurate using live viewOK ishOK ishNot really possibleHopeless
Image stabilisationLens dependantYesNoNoYes and extremely effective
ViewfinderExcellent 100%Novel hybrid, very goodNo viewfinderNo viewfinderRubbish
Metering accuracyAbout 0.3eV overSpot onAbout 0.3eV underAbout 0.3eV overAbout 0.3 eV over
Battery lifeFantasticRubbishAppallingExcellentOK
Sharpness of RAW filesMushy! But respond amazingly well to LR4 sharpeningAverage, LR4 sharpening drastically increases noiseUnbelievably sharp, no need to sharpen furtherGoodOK but come good with LR4 sharpening
Colour of RAW filesRich and accurateSlightly washed out but accurateStunning but not nessesarily accurateWashed out Fantastic, rich and accurate
IssuesBig and heavyLack of resolution is an issue but only if making large printsNoisy over ISO 400 ( apparently)Quality of files OK for tiny sensor but cannot compare to the others hereNo macro
Encumbered with worthless bloatwareErgonomics not great, particularly fiddly 'enter' buttonSome weird Foveon artifacts on high contrast edges and colour blotchiness on skiesHesitant AF
Complex autofocus systemMessy GUI but OKNeeds special software ( Sigma SPP)Pathetic OVF
LikesUnbeatable general purpose image making deviceFull of character, discrete, charming, I have taken some of my best photographs with this little beautyStunning, jaw dropping resolution and 'pop'. Images have a definate character, scream 'Foveon'Minisule, pocketableFantastic image quality
ConclusionRespect for this camera, I doubt I'll ever buy another DSLR, for telephoto and macro indispensable, fast and easy to use.As indicated above, it has some minor issues but these don't really detract from it's charm. Enables me to take wonderful pictures which is what it's all about, end of the day.A 'one trick pony' but OMG, what a trick! Images have a magical quality that defies description. Astonishing and bewitching.A solid and tiny little camera for those occasions when there is not room for anything else, amazing macro capabilities, fast lens is good for low light and files look nice in monochromeAs a small general purpose camera that makes superb quality images its fine, not as bad as many people make out as it is saved by the extraodinarily high quality of the files it produces.