The lovely Devon Coast. Shot hand held with an APSC fixed lens compact.
I was travelling through Dartmoor today and spotted the lovely river from the roadside. I really only had a few minutes and no tripod but always prepared I had a small camera with me. As I’m travelling JPEGS only I’m afraid but looking forward to processing some of these later. Posting from my smart phone I hope they render ok.
Which do you think works best?
I was inspired to write this after stumbling upon various so called long term tests, I couldn't find one that ran longer than a few months! Crazy. Sure those reviews tell you what the writer might think of a given tool (camera) over a few weeks or some just hours but they dont really tell you the answer to what I think is the most important question.
If I buy this, how long will it last?
This question is vital, it's about long term durability which we don't seem to consider anymore in the throw away society. We spend thousands so we want the kit to last right? How reliable are they mechanically? how good are the electronics long term? This also helps us when we are looking at used kit, which cameras are solid enough to still be a good used buy at 3 or 4 years old. Very important of course if making photographs pays the bills
A subject that is missing all too often in the photographic world because models change so quickly we are expected to change them. Fujifilm continually update firmware for longevity, but what about the hardware??
So to start with my bench mark will be my Nikon experience. I had owned D200,300,700,800 and 800E DSLRs. I have dropped my D700 so hard the lens mount sheared yet the camera still shot fine. I have bought used Nikons from 5 year old D90s to 30 year old Film SLRs. All worked just great. I have high expectations.
So what about my Fuji stuff? I do have plenty of experience here. I got into the brand early doors when a certain Mr Damian Lovegrove showed me the original X100 at a Christmas meal we both attended I think in 2012. We sat next to one another and Damian allowed me to play. I had been flirted with, Nikon was at home and I had been tempted, I was weak, seduced by the styling and talk of 'film like' output. I felt a bit special, like I was in an exclusive club because back then few used Fuji seriously and I was about to be one of them. After a little thought I went behind the D800s back and bought my own, an X-E1 with kit lens to dip my toe into mirrorless Fuji magic. Sshhhhh!
It was great, I loved it and the Sexy one helped me make some images I am still proud of today. I went on to try the rest. Her bigger sister the X Pro 1, which was great too. Later I was I introduced to a pre production X-T1 for a few weeks by another Fuji X photographer. (I was beginning to feel press ganged, set up) That was back when the XT1 was a bit dizzy with an awful back D button and it would stop shooting once it hit a certain frame count. But Fuji sorted all that with upgrades I was still very much a fan and ended up switching over to the system for all my work. I shot weddings, portraiture and commercial and gained done funny looks with my little cameras. Like I said before, back then we were few daring to parade as paid Photographers with these toy like cameras. In 2014 an image shot on my little APSC Fuji became a finalist in Landscape Photographer of the Year and went into the book, now it was standing with the big boys. I went on to try all the lenses too at one time or another, accept the large super zoom. I did own the XT2 but that wasn't around for long.
Today I still own that XE1 which is now over 4 years old. I also still have one other XE1 an XT1, an X20 and an X100s. I have owned X Pro 1 and an XT2
So there is my Fuji CV. Pretty thorough I hope you can agree. I feel confidently qualified to speak here.
So how are they holding up? LONG TERM.
Let's start with the XE1 and cut to the chase, how has age and plenty of use affected it? Well it's tired, battered and worn, I mostly use it for street. It's main ailment is the on/off switch which sticks. It takes quite some force to push it in either direction so mechanically there is a weak spot. But, everything else works. These days it's a play camera usually fitted with some sweet legacy glass. It's stood the test of time, for the most part, but that on/off switch will fail sooner or later, then she will be dead.
The XT1. Now this is a little more frustrating and again it's mechanical and it's a control instrument issue. Firstly like the XE1 the on/off switch has become hard to move. More concerning however is the shutter speed and ISO dials which have become stiff, sticky even. Rough to turn and kind of crunchy. This suggests dirt ingress maybe, on this weathersealed body? My prediction is that this will be the one main fault to look out for in the future with this camera model. I wonder how the press lock system will bear up over time on the XT2 also? On the XT1 I had two tiny screws on the base dissapear. Likely they worked loose and have just fallen out, now that's not good.
Many reviews state that Fujifilm mirrorless bodies have tank like build? Well I suggest that is premature advice, give them a few years and report back.
Other than that to be fair they are shooting fine and the IQ is still excellent and using them remains fun.
The X100s has no issue to date, that's a wonderful camera a classic in all its forms and no doubt the latter versions even better but I can't afford to upgrade. The on/off switch did break early on but Fujifilm fixed that under warranty.
I wont go into lenses here but many of them are a little delicate. Where a Nikkor AIS can take a dropping or two from low heights (it of course shouldn't but does happen) the Fujinons cannot. They break a little too easily, my 60mm just fell apart from a 12 inch drop onto carpet. My 56mm looks tatty as the black paint scratched off easily just through normal use. 'Fragile' is s fair word applied to Fujinon X lenses. As would be 'excellent' when we talk about optical quality to add balance.
So that's my brief summary. There are a few long term mechanical wear and tear things to look out for and improvements that could be made before they can stand up against my older Nikons. And built like a tank should be a phrase used carefully if you don't have real long term experience with these cameras. Even Tanks break, often, trust me I know because my brother drove them for years.
My Nikon F3 will outlive me, my old D90 still shoots like a well oiled machine gun and holds a battery charge for months. My fuji's on the other hand, apart from the X100 are near dead, the eldest just 4 years old.
I love the fujifilm gear, especially the performance of the glass but I guess you just can't have style and substance. So my final word on fujifilm build long term durability is that it is very 'questionable'
Maybe Fujifilm might read this and find it useful? Few bloggers have owned and used fujifilm X system as much, as diversely and and long as I. I have quite literally worn their cameras out and I'm happy to swap them for new ones in the name of R and D ;)
My final word? I will soon need to replace my main cameras. Way before I would have expected to. What to I don't know but some are pushing me the Sony way, my gut shouts go back to Mrs Nikon. I have had a wonderful affair with fujifilm X series but I don't think I be keeping this love alive. It was a mid life crisis thing this affair. That's what Fujifilm gear is, a cure for a temporary itch. The XT2 was set to change me but it just didn't, it was well, vanilla and I couldn't see it being more durable. It still wanted to go out every Friday with its mates and not settle down. I just need more reliable, tougher wearing gear that won't begin to fail after thorough use. A partner that will weather all storms. It's all great in gentle hands I'm sure but I use my tools, I don't gush over them.
I may may just slip out on the sly with the X100 every now and then, though. ;)
I hope I helped
Well I take back what sometimes I say about kit, that it's not all about your gear. Sometimes the odd item comes along which stands out, feels and works differently. Just feels special.
I recently sold much of my equipment and went back to basics. Mostly out of necessity, not choice. But this move was an ephifiny, a cleansing if you like. I was forced to revert to adaptors and legacy lenses firm the 60s onwards and a couple old mirrorless bodies that were too tatty to sell on.
So I entered A tough process of having to shop around for lenses of useful focal lengths but with a quality that can meet or even exceed that of what I am used to.
After much research, I bought these. Now note, not one lens cost me more than £65, some were £25 or less.
They are in order from left to right.
Helios 28mm f2.8
Meyer-optic Gorlitz Lydith 30mm f3.5
Jupiter 8 50mm f2
Pentacon 50mm f1.8
Mamiya Sekor 50mm f2
Ziess Jenna 50mm f2.8
Now I won't keep all the fifties they were just so cheap I could buy and try. As things look I'm torn between the Jupiter and the Mamiya. But there is a star of the show. The Meyer-Optik 30mm. Wow this lens is stunning in build and performance. I wasn't ware of the history and quality of Meyer-optik lenses before I did my research. They are East German and to many experts come second only to Lieca and Voightlander in quality, even before Ziess. The lens feels like a £1000 lens that should be on an M6. In fact the company is making this lens again, I note there is a kickstarter and I'm told the price will be in excess of £2000!! This original copy in near mint condition cost me £65.
There are also a couple of 50mm lenses which boast incredible 'bubble' bokeh if that floats your boat. There is also a telephoto worth looking at, a 135mm I think that has legendary status in the old lens expert world.
My opinion however is if you find a Lydith, buy it as for the money you can't go wrong. If you are ok with manual focus and exposure you can benefit from superb colour rendition, sharpness and micro contrast with this 30mmlens.
A real discovery.
Continued. So I took a quick stroll along the river here and made a few more test snaps. All JPEG straight from camera, no tweaking. I'm interested if you think this is as good as any modern lens, if not better in many cases.
Mounted to my mirrorless APSC camera this was around 45mm which is actually a lovely focal length to use. Apologies for the mundane images.
No excuse for the flower detail shot sorry ;)
and not forgetting skin tones.
A few samples from my recent revival of film. I love shooting film but more so the journey of developing and scanning at home.
A few family snaps for practice. I need a decent way to scan though.
Suggestions welcome ... please.
In recent years, I have been very aware that I had if only minor a dose of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). Even two years ago I was looking back at the amount of gear I used to have and asked .. what was I thinking? why did I do that? did I even need all that stuff? And again today I have even less gear again than I did two years ago. I will go further and tell you that as of this week, I own one 3 year old DSLR with three lenses, One point and shoot and two old 35mm film SLRs. I don't even own a camera with fast autofocus.
Now let me put that into perspective. 6 years ago I had and used a full Nikon DSLR set up with D800 as my main body and a D700 back up with a full set of pro glass and lights and so on. I carried two camera bags and a Peli case around for jobs. I needed an SUV to truck it all around. However, today with just the small set of stuff I listed above, my Photographs are better than they have ever been. Becasue I have grown and that it the key to emergance.
OK, so this is no revelation but I needed to shout out that am cured! I feel great about it. Life circumstances played a role as I did need to sell some kit so it wasn't all voluntary but to be fair I wasn't using the kit, I did had too much. I have now changed the way I think about Photographs and how I make them. For example, I take many less frames. I find myself looking through the viewfinder and not hitting the shutter. I shoot film a lot more, develop at home and scan. I feel after all these years that I am finally crafting my photographs and not just taking pictures. I no longer pixel peep, what a waste of time that was! and I have started to really think about the image and its content because artistic value trumps pretty resolution every time.
So .. from this day forward my gallery will change. I will leave some older works here of course because many have history and have been successful in their day. I will be true to what I love and my eye rather than shoot what I think the world would like to see. I wont compete anymore, I will do what I is feel is art. Im moving away from the boring picture post card scenery, blue and green, land and sky and will shoot and publish more black and white which is really where my heart is.
I have run the course, and seen the light. Its time to show MY photography, MY art. If you like it great, if not, there is plenty of boring saturated post card images out there.
Here's to the future.
I recently returned and here are a few quick JPEG edits.
Now, I do a lot of reading online of Photography related subjects. I also watch a lot of YouTube. Over the last year or so I have been somewhat agasp at some of the 'statements' I read in the comments sections. So here are a few actual comments I have recently read, let's deal with 3 porkers right here that struck me this week.
1) 'No real landscape potographer shoots hand held'
Yes this was actually a statement. Let me assume the poster means one should always use a tripod if one is to be a 'real' landscaper. Well that's just plain wrong. The way I view the use of a tripod is like I view any other decision making process. I ask myself 'Will using [insert item here] improve this image or enable me to achieve what I hope to? If the answer is no, then I leave it out. In my case I would say that of 90%+ of published shots, the use of a tripod would not have added anything, in fact it's often a hinderence. By example, all of the shots in this post are hand held.
I personally mostly shoot handheld, heck I don't even use a camera strap. Why? I do not like the restriction of a tripod. This is just my MO. I use one when I need to drag the shutter at lower speeds than modern cameras and lenses allow but that isn't often. Moreover I like to move around, flow and merge with my surroundings. Get my feet into it, feel it. This brings me closer to the subject figuratively speaking, and I have more flexibility and speed with composing. It's not stiff and planted like tripod work is. Modern advancements like image stabilisation etc mean I can shoot as slow as 1/15th second hand held, and sharp! Maybe my past military trading in the use of a rifle helps, I can stand and shoot very steady but this can be learned by anyone.
I am not alone in this either. In 2014 I managed to become a finalist in U.K. Landscape Photographer of the Year and that years winner, Mark Littlejohn, shares this view and practice of avoiding the tripod. My image from that competition is below and was shot hand held, ISO 1600, f8 @ 1/125 sec helped by image stabilisation.
2) 'Good images need hours of post processing'
This is just silly. Of course one can spend as much time as you like editing but depending on the image five or ten minutes can be plenty. If the RAW image has potential the editing phase can be just about pulling out the beauty and making it pop. If you need much more time and assuming you aren't merging or blending then perhaps you are making changes that could have been considered during the making of the exposure? Remember editing should never replace good craft so try to perfect your camera craft maybe. Check out my YouTube channel for some examples of quick editing.
3) APSC (crop sensor) digital cameras are not suitable for Landscape work.
Hmmm. Of course they are. The sensor size has little effect on the image real terms. By real terms I mean the technical qualities of composition, moment and feel which are to me the 3 key elements of a great image. Crop sensors of today's quality can give us images which can be printed big enough and the greater depth of field that can be achieved with a crop sensor can in fact offer advantage.
As a reminder here are the sensor size relationships
And by means of example, the image below was taken with my iphone. Thats the smallest sensor shown above.
A few hand held made images taken on APSC cameras with just a few minutes post processing.
Well, I have been meaning to find the time to write a little more here at the blog. Im thinking hard about content, what do people want? Do they want to learn? or just to look? Maybe as a start, please tell me in the comments below, I appreciate all suggestions.
My journey in Photography started young, I begged Mum for a cheap film camera around the age of 12 i think. One of those old 110 types that looked like a TV remote and the canister type film inside.
Those early attempts were awful of course. But i was already bitten by the bug, a cross between the technical which I find fascinating and a love of form and imagery.
Ultimately I do this as a means of expression, I want you all to see how I see things, often differently, sometimes in sync. Why do you do it?
We took a family trip to the Zoo today to celebrate my son Seth's 1st Birthday.
My daughter Millie loved Flamingos so I was keen to get her a hero shot, my son is a little Monkey so that works out and Rebecca loves Rhinos. I used a telephoto zoom lens for these, probably a wise choice for the Zoo. Please leave a comment on which of these three you like best.
Wildlife photography is hard work, big respect to those who excel at it.
Many people prefer the familiar, so classic post card type images have a place. See the new section in 'work'
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