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.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fujifilm Photography, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Appalachian Mountains, Fujifilm Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fujifilm Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Full Moon Madness

 

Bonfire at Cascade(Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

I love traditions. Sadly, I’m old enough to have seen many that I once enjoyed come and go. It often seems that few survive more than 10-15 years until people either “outgrow” them, the government outlaws them, or sensibilities change, leaving them behind. Sometimes their passing makes sense, and I have little regret. There are however, those wonderful traditions, that once lost, are greatly missed.

Happily, some traditions still survive. Just outside of Lake Placid New York,  Art Jubin and his family run The Cascade Cross Country Ski Center, where my family and I are frequent visitors.

Cascade is one of my favorite destinations in the “high peaks” area of the Adirondacks. The resort consists of a large central lodge, with, a number of cozy hostel-type bunk rooms in the basement, and on the first floor, a full service Nordic ski shop and service facility. My old friend Terry Watson is the cross-country ski instructor.

The Fireplace at Cascade(Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

There is a large  casual high-ceilinged bar and restaurant facility, with a huge stone fireplace, that can be a great comfort after a long ski on a cold afternoon. Most days in the winter they offer a nice lunch menu, very appropriate to the winter season. The dining room faces huge glass windows, with an absolutely breathtaking view of Algonquin, second tallest of the Adirondack’s high peaks. Though Cascade certainly serves many visitors to the region, it is also definitely a gathering spot for a certain local crowd.

I came to know Cascade in the late 1990s when I first visited one December afternoon for “apres’ ski” in the company of the irrepressible Dick Hall, well-known in the winter sports industry as one of the pioneers of “Telemark” skiing. I was immediately taken with the place.  To this day, it remains a hang-out for somewhat eccentric Nordic skiing aficionados (sorta like me), as well as characters from the nearby Olympic cross-country, ski jumping and bobsled facilities. To visit there, particularly  on a Thursday or Friday afternoon is to enjoy the company of some very unique and fun people.

Carrie at the Bar (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

The facility sits on  some of the most beautiful property in the region. Though it is closed in the summer,  it is generally open between late November and late March. There are many kilometers of well-groomed cross-country ski trails that access a wide variety of natural habitats, and spectacular vistas. Over the years, many times images from Cascade have been featured in articles on the site. It’s relatively easy to get nice images there.

Our winter trips to Lake Placid stereotypically occur in mid-January and early March. Every so often, if we get lucky, our travels there coincide with their signature event known as Full Moon Madness. This event, much-anticipated in the region, occurs 3 times during the winter, each time on the Saturday closest to the full moon.

At the Door (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Art’s daughter Jennifer tells me that the family has run this event continuously since the early 1980’s. It is a well-regarded and very popular local tradition. On “Full Moon” night, cars not only fill the large parking lot, but extend a mile or so down Route 73 in both directions. For a modest sum, it’s a lot of entertainment.

Getting Ready (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

On that evening, the trails are illuminated with Coleman lanterns set up to guide skiers and snowshoers to several large bonfires built on the trail system. There a visitor will find draft beer, and hot dogs to be cooked over the open flames. It is not necessarily elegant, but it sure is festive and convivial.

Cooking (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mmf1.4)

Cross-country skiing in the dark can be a challenge . Mix in a little beer or wine and it becomes even more so. A head lamp is very helpful particularly if it is cloudy. Novice skiers should think about snowshoeing to the bonfires, so to avoid being tangled up in the balsams, or mired awkwardly in the trailside snowpack.

Getting Started (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Round about 9:00, live music begins in the bar/restaurant and the crowd there slowly swells, as the trails begin to empty out. Some diehards stay out in the woods all night.

Living in the Adirondacks for the winter requires a hardy spirit which is evident as the dance floor fills with my fellow aging hipsters. The “enthusiasm” continues to the wee hours, when one generally observes a line of cabs queuing to pick up somewhat “tired” partygoers.

The Dancing Begins (Fujifilm XE-2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Important safety tip: If you visit Cascade on the post-full moon Sunday, do not in any way irritate the otherwise pleasant staff. Not only is Full Moon is exhausting to set up and run, but cleanup extends into the pre-dawn hours. Regulars tend to tread lightly the day afterwards for fear of verbal abuse, if not bodily injury.

Though Art Jubin Sr. remains in overall command, it is a relief to me to see the next generation of the Jubin family, particularly Art Jr. and now his younger sister Jennifer, embrace this unique institution and  this wonderful winter event. I would hope to ski and visit there for many years to come.

This is one tradition that I would sorely miss should it be lost.

 

As usual, images in this article can be viewed ful size at henrysmithscottage@.smugmug.com in the gallery: Winter 2014-15

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some Thoughts on my new XE-2 vs. the XE-1

 

The “Campaign” Trail (Fujifilm XE2, XF 18-55mm f2.8)

Earlier this winter, while trying to organize my photographic camera gear, I noticed a lot of equipment that had seen little  use(my RX 100) or had been funtionally replaced (my D 600).   As is my practice, I posted them on eBay; happily they sold fairly quickly and for reasonable money. This always makes me feel fiscally responsible (which is probably delusional), and more importantly, makes my wife happy. It also makes her more sanguine when days or weeks later, the UPS driver pulls up and hands her a new, camera-sized box, addressed to me.

By far the most heavily used equipment in my collection is of course my Fujifilm gear.  The newest camera in the system that I owned until recently is an X100s, which I have no desire to trade. The two latest Fuji bodies (the XE-2 and the XT-1) have newer processors, supposedly improved auto focus capabilities, and WiFi , which enables a variety of interesting functions. It occurred to me  that I out to try one of these.

 image by Fujifilm

XT1 (image by Fujifilm)

The most celebrated of the new bodies is the XT-1. The huge view finder and weather sealing make this a compelling choice for many people. Body-only, they are available for about $1100 now, and I considered buying one. However, what first attracted me to the Fujifilm “X” series was the rangefinder-like, compact form of these cameras. Because of this, they tend to be less intimidating to my subjects, especially while street, shooting. The XT-1 is not particularly large, but it looks like an SLR, which to me would not be nearly so stealthy.

Although the weather-sealed body of the XT-1 would seem to be an advantage for someone who works mainly out-of-doors, I rarely find photography opportunities when it is raining hard enough that I am reluctant to use my camera equipment. I  have used (with appropriate precautions) my current Fuji film equipment in light-to-moderate rain  or snow without any issues.  I always have my Nikon gear for use in truly adverse conditions.

XE2 (Image by Fujifilm)

XE2 (Image by Fujifilm)

 

Given all of this, as always, I elected to cheap out, and obtain a XE-2. This was available new for about $700, a significant savings over the XT-1. Thus I benefit from almost all of the newest Fuji capabilities (and the exact same sensor) in what for me is a better form factor.

This is obviously not a new model and has been reviewed multiple times in multiple publications.  I will not at this late date, add another. I offer this article as a comparison of the XE-2 to my two current interchangeable lens Fuji’s the X Pro 1, and  and the X E-1.

For this purchase I selected a black version, so, that in my camera bag I might easily tell it apart from the Almost identical  XE-1, which I have in silver. On arrival, it immediately struck just how plebian the packaging was, compared to elegant boxes that enclosed the original X100, and X Pro 1.

The XE-2’s construction is almost identical in quality to its predecessor. These cameras are perhaps slightly less robust than the upper models in the premium “X” line, but are still nicely built.

There has been some revision of the buttons on the body of the XE-2 compared to the XE-1. The “Q” button has been moved from its place handy to your right thumb, to a position just above the posterior view screen. Some people may think this is more ergonomic, but I was used to the previous set up, and this is more of an annoyance than anything else.

Twilight in February (Fujifilm XE2 , XF 35mm f1.4)

Eight of the various buttons can now have their function specified from the camera menus. This can be handy, but it can difficult to remeber which button now has which function (not much room for labels). I continue to believe that the urge to change control positions on newer devices, needs to be tempered by respect for the users familiarity with the previous control layout. This is something that Fuji tends to screw up (the variable location of the focus point selector on different Fuji cameras comes to mind).

There is a slightly larger rear viewscreen,  with more pixels.  More importantly, the view finder  with the latest software update, has almost imperceptible lag, similar to the XT-1. This is important to me, as I really rely on the electronic view  even on the Fuji models that have an electronic/optical hybrid viewfinder.

There are definitely some other significant improvements. First, the auto focus seems significantly upgraded. Fujifilm claimed that the XE-2 had the world’s fastest autofocus, when the camera was introduced. I’m not sure this was, or is, true but it is certainly quicker than previous Fuji’s. Comparison to earlier bodies also makes it clear that one can definitely acquire focus in situations where previous cameras would struggle. This to me is a real reason to upgrade.

Related to the autofocus is the availability of face detection. This has proved to be a very useful feature to the point where it has me considering an upgrade of my X100s to the “T” model which also has this feature. It can be set up to toggle on and off with a “function” button. It will quicly find focus and set exposure for multiple faces in a scene. unfortunately, it defaults to a fixed central focus point in the absence of a face(rather than a movable focus box) and thus needs to be turned on and off as conditions change. Could this be a future firmware fix?

Scott and Ashley (Fujifilm XE2, XF 23mm f1.4)

I was very interested in the utility and usability of the Wi-Fi feature. The Sony RX 100 mark III was the first camera. I have owned with this feature, but it has proved difficult to link that camera with, for instance, my Samsung phone. In the case of the XE-2, I downloaded the Fujifilm app and was easily able to link to my phone. The remote control feature seems fairly well-designed, allowing control of focus point, aperture, exposure compensation, and a variety of other camera controls. I’m not sure what I will use it for, but it works well.

The camera has essentially the same sensor as my X 100s and the newer Fuji’s. So, image quality is essentially unchanged from any of the previous “X” bodies. Fine, I am satisfied with that. It does apparently output 14 bit rather than 12 bit RAW files which is a theoretical advantage for post processing.

Back of Fountain Lake (Fujifilm XE2, XF 18-55mm f2.8)

So, I have a new camera body. I may sell the XE-1 or use it alongside the newer camera. Given my love of the Fujifilm prime lenses, it’s always nice to have a variety of bodies available so that you can travel about with multiple focal lengths mounted and ready.

I am however, waiting for the flagship X Pro 2, which is rumored to finally have a higher-resolution sensor, and a smaller body than its predecessor. I would assume it will have weather sealing, Wi Fi,  and some of the other positive features of the XT-1/ XE-2. Depending on the quality improvements in the sensor, it will likely be a tempting upgrade.

It just never ends, does it?

 

Posted in Appalachian Mountains, Fujifilm Photography, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment