The Empty Bedroom, five years on.

 

 

 

Graduates ( Fujifilm XE-2 XF 55-200 f3.5-4.5)

 I am re-posting this article I wrote almost 5 years ago, about the life event of having your first child leave the nest, and attend college.
Now my daughter Brigid has been graduated from Penn State University with a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering.
In a week or so she will head to Seattle for her new career with Amazon.
Two summers ago, she was an intern there, and loved the company, and the city. She already has an apartment, and three friends for roommates. 
Cathy and I could  not be more proud and happy for her.
Seattle though, is a long way from home.
Never been there.
You know what… it looks pretty photogenic. 
From  5 years ago

 

Brigid’s Room (Nikon D-700, Nikkor 50mm f 1.8)

I have been remiss in posting for a little while.

A lot has been going on.

For one thing, a week ago, my wife Cathy and I dropped my daughter off at college for her freshman year.

This went well; the unloading day was very well run, she has a big dorm room and a lovely roommate. They seem to be getting along well, which I am told can be problematic for first year students picked to be “roomies” by the school.

I’m proud of her. She’s quickly landed a job at the school’s computer help desk and seems to be adapting well to college life. I think she is savoring her independence, an attitude which can be slightly nerve racking for college newbie parents. She doesn’t call as much as I would like. Much of what we know comes from texts to her brother.

My wife and I, like innumerable couples before us, are adjusting slowly to the change. It’s a little sad to go into her bedroom at home. Before she left it was an unorganizable mess, jammed with an accumulation of mementoes of her childhood, and more recent artifacts reflecting the “garbage brain” approach to life that I think she inherited from me. My wife always pushed for her to keep it neat, but never recently was that truly accomplished.

Like most teen bedrooms, it was usually a complete mess.

Posters covered the walls, and the carcasses of old computers she had cannibalized for parts, or salvaged when abandoned, were everywhere.  Along with computer gear,  there were piles of CDs and DVDs without sleeves(that drove me nuts) on her desk along  with generations of IPods which she had collected and filled with music. The bed was rarely made. The floor was covered in clothes. Parents, does this sound familiar?

The bookshelves overflowed with diverse reading, some from school, some of her own choosing.  She had a penchant for changing the room layout including the furniture, about every three weeks, an obsession which I never really understood.

Now, with most of the debris gone, her mother’s organizational skills are winning the day. The bed is made and the room is becoming a tidy space. Eventually, it would make a very a nice guest bedroom.

Except I already have one of those.

Happily, Brigid will return for a summer or three, and the room will temporarily devolve once again.

We obviously understand that ultimately, for her as well as her brother to succeed, they will have to leave us permanently… except of course for holidays, and hopefully, visits someday with their spouses and our grandchildren.

I’m cool with this.

I just wasn’t quite ready for it to start happening so soon.

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the Gear that I Use: the Fujifilm WCL-X100.

 

Fishing in April (Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

As I have previously explained, I am not intuitively a wide lens shooter.

I do own a variety of short focal length lenses for the various camera formats in my collection, but I admit they are among the least utilized. These days I tend to prefer the so-called “normal” focal lengths (35 to 50mm equivalent).

I used to shoot more with zoom lenses. When I would put my eye to the viewfinder I would generally first view the scene first through the widest angle setting, prior to twisting the zoom ring. If I liked what I saw at say, at the wide end of my 17-35mm Nikkor, I might just acquire the image. Now that I tend to shoot primes, I never see that image,  because, for me, the middle range primes are more versatile, and thus more likely mounted to the camera.

Along with my Fujifilm X 100t, I have been playing with what will probably be the final accessory I purchase for the X100 line, the WCL-X100 wide converter lens. This was the first converter lens designed for the X100 line. It converts the 35mm field of view of the X 100 lens to 28mm, a modest widening at best. At US $399 it always seemed too pricey, and as I like shooting the native lens, I avoided it.

Spring Barn in Black Creek(Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

Then I bought the TCL-X100 and loved using it. It was pretty easy to take on and off, and particularly if you could remember to change the camera to the teleconverter setting in the menus, it provided wonderful image quality. I had a great time with my X100s, now at times sporting a 50mm field of view in London last winter. On returning home from that trip, I saw its wide-angle counterpart was now offered for US$200-250 on Amazon. I snapped one up.

Fujifilm X100t with the WCL-X100 (Sony RX100 Mark III)

 

 

Like the TCL -X100 teleconverter it is a beautifully finished product, which comes with a soft pouch, a lens and a back cap. It was cleverly designed with the same filter threads, as the native 23 mm fixed lens of the X100’s allowing it to utilize the same filters and lens shade. It is significantly smaller than the tele-converter and it alters the balance of the X100 type cameras far less. As with the TCL, it offers its field of view alteration with the same f2.0 maximum aperture of the native lens. Together with the X100t and the TCL, it provides a very compact street shooting kit covering all of the classic focal length equivalents.

Bail Bonds (Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

 

The additional field of view offered by the converter  is to me , noticeably wider than the native lens as you can see here (The distortion that you see is in part because I was shooting uphill).

Scene with Native Lens

 

Scene with WCL-X100

It does allow for more of the surroundings  to be seen in portrait work.

Amber at Work (Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

You can get more of that “Yellow Brick Road” look with the far objects looking more distant than they appear to the eye.

Scene at Baltimore County Courthouse (Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

 

This can be useful for separating foreground objects from a lackluster background.

 

Tulips in Towson (Fujifilm X100t,WCL-X100)

Truth be told, I could easily use the X100t with the converter lenses for 85-90% of my shooting. The camera focuses well with both converters ( slightly better I think with the WCL as opposed to the TCL). I like very much that I can change focal lengths on the X100t without exposing the sensor to dust. And like the TCL it retains the sharpness for which the native X100(s, t) lens is renowned

I knew that at its original  $400 price, the WCL-X100 was for me an extravagance. But at the prices at which it is currently offered, it  becomes a reasonable purchase, offering a 28mm field of view to the ever evolving X100 line of cameras.

I just have to learn to think “wide”.

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The Gear that I Use: The Fujifilm X100t Review

 

 

 

Beaver Display, Nescopeck State Park (Fujifilm X100t)

I was taken by surprise by the introduction of the Fujifilm X100t.  The previous model, the X100s was a mature product, without glaring deficits . It didn’t cry out for upgrading, especially before the replacement of the venerable X Pro 1 was accomplished.

When the X100t was announced I remember reviewing the new features:

Better autofocus: They always say that.

Face detection: Hell, my RX100 pocket cam has that.

Better manual focusing aids: I rarely use the manual focus

Wi Fi: Big deal. Gimmicky.

Closer aperture and and shutter stop increments on dials: Maybe helpful.

Ultra high speed shutter without flash functionality: teats on a boar.

Oh, and it has the same sensor and processor as the X100s? So at the time, I decided to pass.

Then I upgraded my XE1 to the XE2 which came with similar technology. Using that camera, I realized that he autofocus really was better, that face detection was useful, and that Wi Fi functionality had its uses. Then Fuji announced that there would be no further upgrades to the X100s, which given the same hardware, might well have benefitted from upgraded firmware.

I felt manipulated, but I placed my order.

The X100t is another evolutionary step in the X100 line. The body is of course very much the same, but different. The LCD is larger, the buttons are smaller, and the scroll wheel is better. They changes some button positions (the “Q” button) for what seems like no good reason.

The Last Catkin (Fujifilm X100t)

What is useful is that almost all of the buttons are programmable. For instance, I can finally set things up so that the down button on the 4 way controller now controls the autofocus box, just like on all of my other “X” cameras. Unfortunately the buttons are programmable and thus they are left unlabeled. It can be hard to remember which ones which. Perhaps a pictograph could be created(to be summoned when necessary) to show current button assignments.

There has been a lot of talk about the little video screen available in the optical viewfinder that shows a close up of area covered by the focus point for manual focusing. Problem is that it’s little. I can’t really see detail very well in it. I still think that the so-called “jaggies” in the electronic viewfinder are the best focus aid, and they are now available in multiple colors.

Barn and Ladder (Fujifilm X 100t, TCL-X100)

When I first started to use the camera, I thought I noticed something odd about the“t” model’s autofocus behavior. When  using the electronic viewfinder, the viewfinder information (which you can select) along with the focus box, only appears with a half press of the shutter. My  previous X cameras showed the information, as well  location of the focus box without a shutter press.  This was annoying and meant a delay in shooting while you wait for the focus point to appear. Oddly enough, none of this was true for the optical finder and the LCD, which behaved as before.  Then I figured out that the “Back/display” button  will only program the display that is active at the time. If you press it while looking through the EVF, the issue is solved. Frankly, give all of the Fuji X series cameras I’ve owned, I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t know this.

Face detection is better than on the XE2, as, in the absence of faces, it defaults not to a central focus point like the XE2, but to a movable focus box. This is much better, and hopefully retro-programmable to the XE2. I find that face detection is useful for party and event shooting, mainly for posed images. It’s not so good for street shooting, especially with the lens wide open. In that situation it seems to detect the narrow depth of field, and  arbitrarily picks one face for attention. Often this is not the one you had in mind. Its function can be assigned to a button however, making it easy to switch off and on.

Lacy tree ( Fujifilm X100t)

Autofocus is otherwise clearly better. It is not only obviously faster, but significantly more reliable in low light and low contrast situations, again, like the XE2. It also now focuses pretty well through the TCL-X100 which was a problem on the X100s.

Wi Fi is fun. The phone app mirrors the view screen and allows you to frame and capture discrete images for instance, on the street. and also to frame in the outdoors with the camera at an inconvenient position, where using the LCD or viewfinder would be difficult. You can change a variety of settings by remote control, and select the focus point by touching the image on the phone’s LCD. I believe this will prove very useful.

As you might imagine given the same lens, sensor and processor, image quality is largely unchanged, which for me is OK. Perhaps jpg quality is better, but I shoot mainly in RAW. Then there’s the “Chrome”  (ie: Kodachrome) film simulation, available when shooting jpgs  as well as in the RAW file converter. It’s interesting… but I was always more of an Ektachrome kind of guy.

Bobcat Display (Fujifilm X100t)

 

So am I happy? Yes and no. The X100 series has tended to be the most heavily used equipment in my bag, and thus smaller improvements do mean more than in other gear upgrades. Autofocus performance is among the most important attributes in a camera, and it is significantly improved here. I also think the WiFi feature is worth having.

Also, I bought the “t” model at a discount, and received a good price for my X100s on eBay, so the cost of the upgrade was not outrageous. I do think however, that the autofocus upgrade could and should have been offered to X100s owners, which in my mind would have reduced my desire for the newer device. Thus, I feel a little “used”.

But just a little.  It’ll pass.

 

 

 

 

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Late March Ramblings

 

 

March Snow at the Honeyhole Farm (Fujifilm X100t)

It has been a tough spring this year. A very tough spring. Temps have remained February-like. The only thing melting the snow, which is now dense from the tepid freeze-thaw cycles, is the strong late March sun.

We haven’t even had the pleasure and pain of a 2-3 day warm period teasing the future season, inevitably followed by the disappointment of a cold front and snow. No, this year we just seem to get the latter.

It’s kind of sad to hear the valiant spring birdsong in the morning, delivered in temperatures and scenery more suited to the silence of January.

So we persevere. Some people console themselves with “March Madness”, others with a trip to Florida for “spring training”. St Patrick’s day as always, provides a brief distraction from the early spring weather.

Late March Skiing( Fujifilm X100t)

Spring Conditions ( Fujifilm X100t)

 

Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, there’s still decent snow at higher elevations.  I try to revel in the novelty of cross-country skiing this late in the year, no matter how funky the conditions become. I think of starting to prep and put away my snowplow and snow blower, but understand how truly foolish before late April, that would be.

Late March Morning Mist (Fujifilm X100t)

Another form of consolation: I have acquired a Fujifilm X100t and begun to shoot with it. Perhaps I was influenced by the Fujifilm announcement in the previous posting.  I will post an article with my experiences, but so far, I’m pleased enough with it that my X100s is on EBay.

So we press on. Warm days are inevitable, and one hopes that they burst upon us with vengeance, as repayment for our current dismay.

Hopefully soon.

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The Death of Kaizen? A Change in Fujifilm’s Update Strategy.

 

Greenhouse Plants and Vases (Fujifilm X100s)

It’s hard to remember now, but was actually back in September of 2010, that Fujifilm, abandoned the hybrid Fujifilm imager/Nikon body template that it had been following since the early 2000’s, and introduced a new and intriguing digital camera that hearkened back to rangefinder cameras of the past.  This camera, known as the X 100, was introduced as a premium product for the discerning photographer.

It was a beautiful camera, and its design evoked an emotional response from older photographers, who could recall an earlier age when camera settings were set by turning dials, and aperture rings.   It featured, a fast , sharp fixed focus lens, and an excellent imager.   It had the effect of reducing photography,which had been increasingly complicated by burgeoning technology, back to its essence.

But it was a deeply flawed product at its introduction. It was slow to start-up, and slow to autofocus (if it did at all). There were serious handling problems. Manual focusing of the camera was difficult at best. I bought one of these with the original firmware; it was very frustrating.  I remember watching a podcast where Scott Kelby and his cohorts at The Grid spent half of the broadcast mocking the new “wunder camera” for its failings.

Happily when I bought mine there was already a firmware upgrade  available that mitigated many of its worst characteristics. Subsequent upgrades have transformed that camera into a truly useful tool, and established the Fujifilm philosophy of “kaizen”, or “continuous improvement”, which up to now Fujifilm has applied to the rest of its “X” camera line. In the case of that original X100, a rather sweeping upgrade was offered, even after its successor the X100s (which I currently use) was introduced.

This has, I think, has fostered fierce owner loyalty among the admittedly small (by market share), but enthusiastic group of Fuji shooters. It has undoubtedly contributed to the numbers of photographers that have abandoned their Nikon/Canon DSLRs to shoot with Fuji products confident that the gear will, when possible, be upgraded to a higher specification.

Recently in an interview conducted by The Imaging Resource, Makoto Oishi, a Fujifilm Marketing representative, announced that there would be no further firmware upgrades for the X100s, which has recently been superseded by the “t” model. The X100t has some improvements which may be software based such as autofocus improvements, and face detection. There are  also some definite hardware upgrades, including a USB charging function, split image viewfinder, and WiFi. All of this was compelling enough to me as an X100s owner that I  ordered one.

Now as regular readers know, I am not one to upgrade lightly. Some of the desirable features of the newer camera were clearly impossible to apply to the older models, so I, like many others, pulled the trigger. However, one suspects some improvements , perhaps the new autofocus algorithms, and the “classic chrome” film simulation, might have been included in an upgrade for the “s” model without tarnishing the desirability of its follow on model (they share the same processor). This kind of support for older models was SOP with Fuji up to now.

There certainly may be reasons why Fujifilm is changing its practices.  They are after all small-volume producer of camera gear, good as it is. Given the  burgeoning number of models in the “X” line , it may no longer be fiscally feasible to maintain this practice. Also  it is true, as time has gone on, that newer cameras are introduced now in a much more mature state, and no longer really beg for upgrades. (Patrick, at Fujirumors, has a nice essay on this).

Still, from a marketing standpoint, I think that Mr. Oishi’s statement was an “unforced error”. I also think it is one from which they can easily recover. All they would need to do is to issue an upgrade to the X 100s as suggested two paragraphs above, and then say no more.  Clearly this is technically feasible. As many people have reported, well-known Fuji shooter, and applied light master David Hobby, has used a X100s courtesy of Fuji, with the “Classic Chrome” film simulation  enabled.

Companies cannot make a living giving things away for free. To those of us who have invested in the Fujifilm system, it is in our best interest that the company’s  consumer photographic division remains viable.

On the other hand, if Fujifilm largely abandons the “kaizen” philosophy, it will be abandoning an attribute that made it distinct from its more mainstream competition. That I think, would be a mistake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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