Sunday, 13 January 2019

Fujifilm XT3 Sharing My Views On Fuji's Latest and Greatest APS-C Camera (In H2 2018)

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To folks who don't know much about cameras: 
The Fuji XT3 is one of the best hybrid cameras (i.e. ideal for camera for still pictures and video, for parties keen on taking good quality 4k video) out there right now. If you want to have both good quality stills and video and are fine with (i) APSC sensor [smaller than full frame and the benefits that come with that for iso, dynamic range with higher resolution options and potential disadvantage of being bigger and heavier] (ii) buying into the Fuji X system (price of body and lenses you want to use and accessories), than it's definitely a very good option out there right now. 


From a Pole Shoot [3 shots below with 16mm f1.4]
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Kinda looks like a big pole too :) 
[experienced a Lightroom issue which causes worm, wormy artifacts to happen in pics that are sharpened. but easy way to deal with it noted below]
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For readers who have done some level of research already:
You are probably taking a hard look at the cameras that are getting more focus as cameras of the year from many of the usual suspects i.e. youtube reviewers . 

The Sony A7iii and the Fuji XT3. Now I have different cameras from both brands and used a number of bodies in both brands line-ups. I recently had hands on with the XT3 but I have not had hands on with the A7iii. It doesn't matter though as the A7iii looks to be a great camera at a great price with excellent features and considerations of buying that would be similar as what was noted above eg. do i want to buy into this system or do they have the lenses I want at prices that I am fine with etc. but let's set that aside for now :) we are talking about another camera.


Fuji XT3 shot with the GFX50s
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The mirrorless APSC camera of the 2018 has gone to the Fujifilm XT3 for good reason noting it's specs for video and photo. I am not going into a long article or review on it and it's specs but will just point out a few things from my use of it: 

(1) It's eye AF and overall AF is very good 

(2) It's got a high fps and decent buffer so you can get many shots in a second and choose the ones you want

(3) If you're a video person you already know it has 4k 10bit 4:2:0 internal (up to 30p and 4:2:2 external) which is an amazing feat. for me not being a huge video guy I don't have fast enough PCs to deal with the highest quality video that it can take. I can probably do 1080p well and maybe lower end 4k 24p 100mbps files. 

(4) Very good image quality jpgs and excellent colors science and film emulations. 

(5) Possibly the best lens offerings / range for an APS-C system 


White Tiger at the Singapore Zoo doing some camouflaged maneuvers
[both shots below with 90mm f2.8]
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Cheetah in motion [experienced a Lightroom issue which causes worm, wormy artifacts to happen in pics that are sharpened. easy way to deal with it noted below]
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Some of the things that hold me back from the XT3 for it's price:  

(i) IBIS: It would have been great if it had IBIS. As it is, if there is no rush and one has other bodies, you could consider waiting for the next gen of APS-C bodies and select the one with IBIS. Eg. XT30 maybe? Xpro3? and if those don't have it the XT4 possibly with IBIS and maybe a flip out screen or XH2 with all the improvements from the XT3? Choice then is which body type, EVF and LCD, dials and features, form factor you prefer. 

(ii) Lens system comprises mostly Fujinon lenses and some Zeiss lenses. These lenses are excellent but the fast ones are pricey and there does not look to be more 3rd party lens manufacturer options coming for the X mount. Also the Fuji lens design means the irises step in video which may matter to video shooters (this is not a consideration for me but just noting it so folks know what they are getting). 

(iii) Personally I would really like to see faster FF equivalent glass. Eg. if I want a 35mm f1.4 equivalent on APSC, it needs to say f0.9 or f0.95 on the APSC lens. f1.2 on the apsc is more equivalent to f1.8 on the 35mm and the f1.2 glass can be pricey compared to other full frame system's f1.8 lenses. [Note: For the GFX I would also like faster glass or more f2 lenses as noted in the post where I share on my use of the GFX but the price may be prohibitive]

(iv) X-trans raw processing issue with Lightroom (Lr) - So from playing with Lr and sharpening files across multiple brands and formats in a very quick manner, my finding is that the wormy artifact just happens in Lr for all raw files from all brands BUT it seems the issue is more pronounced for the Fuji APSC file (cheetah pic above) vs other brands and formats to my eyes. 

Possible options/workarounds:

(1) Only sharpen RAWs in PS and not LR. Press alt down and tweak each sharpening slider to get the right level of sharpness you want. This is something I can work with noting what I have now. [I could stop here but let's have a look at some other options :) ]

(2) Well if you want to go tethered and get better raw conversions for Fuji - based on what a lot of folks say, purchasing Capture One Pro 12 (C1) for SGD438.70 (Incl. Tax) is the way to go. Price is for the full version supporting multiple brands which makes more sense to me. [Negative impact - I will also have to change from my current LR and PS workflow to C1 and PS. I will also need to spend US$47 for a Lr preset to C1 style converter as I need my Lr presets. so outlay will be about S$500ish for me to go this route]

(3) convert RAF files to TIFF with X-Transformer [cost of 145.20 SGD] and do sharpening in PS. This because x-transformer supposedly converts fuji raws better. but you still gotta do sharpening in PS. [Not required for me as i can sharpen the fuji raws in PS direct which should be ok]

(4) edit from Fuji JPGs [Negative impact - reduces ability to maximise dynamic range and overall work you can do on the file. of course if the file is beautiful as it is then not much more work may be needed :) ]. 

So Option 1 for me for the Fuji APSC camera I pickup in future :) 



A stroll in the gardens by the bay [first with 16mm and second with 90mm]
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My Conclusion... for now

I will look to 2019's Fuji APSC offerings noting the above considerations or may go back to holding a smaller fixed lens Fuji. As I already have my portrait camera with the GFX50s, I would look to the APSC offering I pickup to cover wildlife, sports, street photography and the XT3 is a strong contender but I will wait a little more to see what comes (with all the other goodies* one might look for). 

That's it for now and thanks for reading :) cheers, raph

*Goodies - (1) Eye-AF (2) Speedy AF and good in backlit focusing cases (3) IBIS (4) Side flippy screen to allow for mic (5) high FPS with a good buffer (6) ISO [needs to be good to 6400] and dynamic range (7) User interface - dials, buttons, user friendly menus (8) EVF (no blackout is nice) and LCD quality in sunlight (9) strong lens lineup [native / 3rd party / ease of use with adapted lenses for AF and MF] 

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Well till I make a decision... coffee daily [shot with 16mm]

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Monday, 24 December 2018

Shooting the Leica M10P and M246 Monochrom in Cafe Leitz

The Raffles Hotel Leica shop reopened recently and I managed to pop by to check it out (Uhm a few times). I love Leica cameras of course [have had previous blog posts on their bodies and lenses] and have owned some of them (M6, M8, M9, T) have tried some for a few days to weeks (M7, M240, SL, S Typ 007) still own and love the M6 and have had hands on with other bodies like the M10P and Monochrom which I took some of the below shots with. (Some of the pix below with the iPhone too). 

The Leica Gallery has also reopened next to the retail space but a wonderful new addition is the uber cool Cafe Leitz! One of 3 in the world, the others being in Wetzlar and Thailand. The gallery has some wonderful images by Thomas Hoepker on display right now and it is great to enjoy them as well as checkout the photography books and magazines there over a nice cup of coffee and yummilicious petits fours from the patissier. I had the delicious Jade Mirror which is a pandan chiffon sponge with kaya cream and mousse and the Ho Ho Horlicks which is a horlicks creme brulee (salivating again thinking about it) washed down with a flat white prepared by excellent barista from the alchemist, who will be running the coffee bar ‪till 31 Dec‬ after which it changes to another coffee company to run for a time. 

On the gear, the M10P is very quiet and nice, the new shutter being firm yet having a lovely soft sound. The M246 Monochrom is a cool camera that shoots just black and white without Bayer color RGB filter array and has better high ISO performance than it's M240 brethren and have better b/w tones. It is a very cool camera. M10P shots below taken with Summilux 28mm and Monochrom shots taken with Summilux 50mm (both current versions). 

So sharing some snaps around the shop and of course I highly recommend folks who love Leica to head down too. Going down equals ownself poison ownself though ;) Ok on to the pix. Cheers. 



Thomas Hoepker on display at the Galerie (shot with M10P)
  
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Contact sheet from a Thomas Hoepker book I was reading at the cafe (shot on iPhone)


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The lovely M10P (shot on iPhone)


  
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Leica be selling watches now too (shot on iPhone)

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Cafe Leitz! (shot with M10P)


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Yummy mini confectionaries (shot with M10P)
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Yes I would like more coffee (shot with M246)
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Some dried flowers around the counter (shot with M246)
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Taking a break (shot with M246)
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Always happy with a good cup of Leica coffee (shot on iPhone)

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Wednesday, 19 December 2018

State of the Watch World End 2018 and All I Want for Christmas ;)


A Paul Newman Daytona
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So in the past I did wishlists for end of the year but as I haven't written about watches for a time, let's have a quick look at where things are at right now. 

Things are crazy right now!
  • Patek Nautilus for S$60+k (what in the hell...)
  • Richard Milles for silly money [the i have made it watch now for the young and rich$$$]
  • AP Royal Oaks (being hot as they should be)
  • Sports Rolex becoming more exclusive and hard to get. Super hot piece now being the GMT
  • Modern Tudor doing well
  • Vintage sports Rolex and Tudor getting hotter and hotter. Even recent pieces are going for silly money now... [Auction houses playing this up big time too]
  • And the rest of the brands playing catch-up 
A RM
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Another RM
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Another RM 
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make it rain RMs!
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Another... 
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The way many are approaching watch purchases now is to buy to flip. Set aside funds to buy and sell pieces and they might enjoy some of them for a while but most or all are not meant to be keepers, they are meant to be flipped. 

It seems slightly bubble-licious but a lot of new money coming in and somehow a lot rich people popping up in China and all over buying up luxury products like it's going out of style ;) Amidst this buying frenzy all i can say is I will steer clear. I know what are reasonable decent buys right now and i'm not breaking the bank for silly premiums because of the crazy herds out there. 

So my wish this year is to buy back all the watches I sold at super low prices for those same prices now! :) haha ain't gonna happen but i think it's echoed by many people who sold off what are now pieces that are going for double, triple of what they had sold them for. Have a good new year you consumerist bunch of flippers ;) [Some pix of hot pieces below]

Would you like some AP with your Nautilus sir? 
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Another Paul Newman Daytona
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More Paul Newman Daytonas
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It's Raining Paul Newman Daytonas
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Some vintage Rolex
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A vintage rolex
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Another
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More
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Gimme more
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I just can't get enough I just can't get enough
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I just can't get enough I just can't get enough
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1665 DRSD double red sea dweller with Mark 1 dial
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The Best Digital Camera [for me :) ] The Fujifilm GFX50S An Owners Review

So there are all kinds of photographers out there who do all kinds of photography. Wildlife and nature, landscape, cityscape, weddings and events, interiors, architect, drone/aerial, commercial (including product, fashion), fine art, dance, stock, portraits, lifestyle, video/vlogging too, etc etc etc

So for me, i love shooting people. Be it portraits, fashion, street, dance etc as long as there is person in the pic I'm up for it :) [Side note: I do want to expand more into other areas of photography but there is no rush as photography is a lifelong passion] and the camera that is the best for the types of photography I do right now and I am most happy with is the Fujifilm GFX50S. [FYI, I have owned and used a lot, a lot of different digital camera systems]

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First thing to note is medium format (MF) cameras are of course not good for all types of photography. Fast action, and any type of photography where both fast autofocus (AF) and a high frames per second with autofocus between frames is needed, then this is not the camera for it. Photography requiring super long zooms would not be the best suited too so shooting wildlife and sports would not be the best noting this.

On AF, my hope is in future iterations it does become better and faster, so then it will be able to do more of what the high-res full frame cameras out there can do on this front and then better it in the image quality department. Also it may be about time a new sensor comes out as the base sensor is a bit long in the tooth now (first used in Pentax 645Z in 2014). So with a new sensor image quality (IQ) gets even better? OMG! (in a good way)

A bit more on IQ

A lot of folks talk of high-resolution (let's say those with greater than 40mp) full frame cameras and speak of the IQ being similar to the digital medium format mirrorless cameras and the statements that come up with is usually 'oh the sensor is not that much bigger' and 'it's not the same size as film medium formats in the past' and those statements are true to a degree.

They are not as big as the film 645 size [56 x 42mm] which is already a smaller size for the film MF cameras but they ARE bigger than FF and can capture more of everything good, generally speaking :) as you can tell, i am well versed in technical terms. [Signal to noise, micro lens array, backside illuminated, gobbledy goobledy geek]

To my eyes, the pictures produced by Fujifilm GFX50S are some of the best image files produced by a digital camera out there right now (native glass to native glass at equivalent settings) and folks who want the best IQ should spend time with these cameras and realise how impressive the image quality is from these MF beasts.

The 51.4MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor in the GFX has the base sensor from Sony which is also used in the Pentax 645Z, Hasselblad H6D and X1D, some Hasselblad and Phase One backs. The DIFFERENCE though is magical Fuji micro lenses on the sensors optimized for 'light gathering performance and image resolution to deliver images that precisely reproduce the subject’s texture, three-dimensional feel and even the atmosphere of each scene.' excerpt from Fujifilm literature and they speak the truth! :)

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The GFX RAW files are amazing and gives the user a lot of latitude for cropping and adjusting highlights and shadows (i.e. YUGE dynamic range). These files are just that bit more future proof too e.g. what if you had to print an image wall sized one day or someone wants to buy your pic and needs it big for your art gallery showing right? [ok maybe significant what-ifs but you never know :) ]. Not only capturing a lot of info but the quality of the capture with the excellent native Fujinon lenses is there. These all come at a price of course but isn't that normally the case for the better/best things out there? ;)

Mirrorless benefits 

The benefits of mirrorless are significant too for MF and because this sensor is not so much bigger than FF, some 35mm glass can be mounted onto adapters for use on this body with minimal to no vignetting. This opens up the possibility of mounting a lot of available 35mm glass. Right now, it's mostly dumb adapters out there but techart have a smart Canon adapter which autofocuses those lenses on this body and that is soooo good ;) I have been using dumb adapters with manual lenses so far but may consider going the Canon route for glass if I want to keep costs down. What is important of course is to get good Canon glass which would also be pricey but won't be near the GF lens prices for those lenses that I am eyeing.

Other benefits of mirrorless is EVF and solid manual focus magnification and peaking aids for manual focusing. You can also switch on exposure and white balance previews so WYSIWYG.


No shutter slap means better shutter speeds can be used as compared to the mirror/DSLR style MF cameras.

Price

Speaking about price... The GFX50R is coming out at an amazing steal of a price for medium format (especially the bundle deals. In Singapore it is S$6,999 for the body and add in the GF63mm f2.8 for S$499. That's S$7,500 only for digital medium format quality). So if I was on the fence in the past, I would dive in for the R if I am into the rangefinder style body.


Alternatively, GFX50S pricing on the first hand and second hand market has come down too. So folks who prefer the S style and grip and other differences could look to pick them up for less (than when it launched) too. Brand new now is S$8,499 (down from original $10,099 price) and that's with the tilt adapter and hot shoe. The second hand pricing will of course be even better and not ridiculously far off from the high end full frame cameras too. In the past other than the Pentax, the rest of the medium format offerings were asking crazy sums of money. What Fuji has done is make a very good (possibly one of the best in it's range) MF platform attainable to many vs the $20+k entry points of the past.

What would I want improved on it? 

- Better AF - Better eye AF as the current one sometimes misses the closer eye. Better low light AF and better AF in challenging strong backlight situations and faster AF is always welcome too [Note: GFX100Mp will have Phase detect AF]
- Newer and better sensor (perhaps with BSI)
- IBIS (why not)
- 4K video
[Uhm most of the above may be offered on the GFX 100 megapixels camera but thats 100mp. hmm may have to start saving my pennies for upgrading PC, storage, if I decide to get that beast]
- Faster lens options eg. in a focal range between 50mm (the current 63mm f2.8) and 86mm (current 110mm f2) would be great eg 75mm f1.4 or f1.2 equivalent in 35mm terms

Naysayers be saying: Oh but it has a slow 1/125 flash sync speed
Answer: High speed sync baby. I've shot thousands of photos on HSS and the following are just 2 with shutter speeds above 1/125
To keep costs down, I've used Godox and have been happy with it



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In the end... 

This review/writeup is not meant to say this camera is definitely the best out there for what it delivers and for it's price and it's not to tell you to go and buy one. What works for you may be something else entirely.

This writeup is just to share from an owner's perspective who has done A LOT of shoots with it for more than 18 months, what an absolute joy it has been to have this camera with me  [acquisition article link]. With just the 63mm on mine, I use it for street photography too and take it out for casual outings without concern of it's weight and size in my small sling bag.

From all the great shoots I have done with it, all the way to winning prizes with images taken with it [Blessed with multiple-award wins LINK ~ All winning images shot with the GFX and 63mm, 110mm, 23mm lenses], it has been a great camera, a great tool companion and I look forward to many many more opportunities to shoot with it and enjoy it. Thanks for reading.  
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PS. Appreciate your follow and likes on IG too LINK where you can check out a lot a lot of pix done on the GFX amongst other cameras. Cheers.

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