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Vancouver and the Fujinon XF 27mm

I ordered the Fujinon XF 27mm pancake lens at the beginning of April when Fuji was having their latest round of lens rebates. Unfortunately, the lens has been backordered since that time and I wasn't going to have it for our trip to Vancouver. Since I was hoping to use the XF 27mm in Vancouver as a general purpose, walkaround lens, I decided to rent one.

Having read numerous reviews, including this one at photozone, I knew that the XF 27mm was a well regarded lens amongst Fuji X users. Now having spent a week with it, I must admit that I too am quite impressed with this nifty little lens. In fact, the XF 27mm was on my X-T1 most of the time during our trip. I only switched to the XF 14mm or XF 35mm when I needed to go wider or wanted images with a more shallow depth of field. Essentially, I used the X-T1 and XF 27mm combination in the same way I normally use the X100S. 

In all honesty, I didn't really miss the X100S (which my wife was using) during our trip. On a few occasions, I would've liked to have the built in ND filter on the X100S or to be able to shoot at f/2. But in general, the X-T1 and XF 27mm worked out very well as my light, general purpose, walkaround kit. To give you an idea of what I used the XF 27mm for, here are some of my favorite images shot with it from Vancouver. If you'd like to see more, check out the images in my Granville Island and Lynn Canyon Park posts, which were all shot using the X-T1 and XF 27mm.

San Francisco and the X-T1

As I mentioned last week, I sent back my first X-T1 because of the light leak issue. Well, thanks to a timely post on Fuji Rumors, I was able to order a second X-T1 in time for our trip to San Francisco. The X-T1 I received from Amazon has a serial number higher than the ones noted by Fuji here and I confirmed before our trip that the light leak issue has been fixed, at least for my camera. In addition to fixing the light leak issue, I was pleased to find that Fuji seemingly addressed the issue with the 4-way directional pad buttons. While there is no confirmation of this from Fuji, the buttons on the directional pad of the camera I received have noticeably more feedback than the original X-T1 I returned. I wasn't able do a direct comparison since I sent back the first X-T1 before ordering the second, but I definitely find changing focus points less challenging.

With that, I'll leave you with some images from our time in San Francisco shot with the new X-T1 and XF 14mm, 35mm, and 60mm lenses . By the way, all of these were edited in Lightroom 5.4 using the newly available Fujifilm camera profiles. I'm really liking the new profiles so far and I have a feeling I'll be using the VSCO Film presets less and less going forward. If you haven't updated Lightroom yet, I suggest you head on over to the Adobe website to download the update now. 

Fujifilm X100S and Sony A7 Comparison

With my X-Pro1 out of commission and my X-T1 headed back to B&H because of the light leak issue, I thought I would shake things up a bit by renting the Sony A7 and FE 35mm f/2.8 lens. To make things even more interesting, I decided to compare the Sony A7/35mm lens combo with the Fujifilm X100S. Not a scientific comparison based on sharpness and resolution, but more of a real world comparison based on how and what I shoot.  

Each pair of images below were shot back to back with me standing in the same place. I also tried to compose each pair of images to be identical, but this turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. All the images were shot in RAW and then processed using Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film 04. While I didn't use the same VSCO preset for all the images, I did use the same Fuji and Sony variations of the selected preset for each pair of images. 

X100S - 1/640 seconds at f/2 (ND on)

X100S - 1/60 seconds at f/8

X100S - 15 seconds at f/8

X100S - 1/60 seconds at f/8

X100S - 58 seconds at f/8

A7 - 1/2000 seconds at f/2.8

A7 - 1/80 seconds at f/8

A7 - 10 seconds at f/8

A7 - 1/60 seconds at f/8

A7 - 30 seconds at f/8

As you can see, there are noticeable differences between each pair of images. Most notably the white balance selected by each camera's auto white balance meter. This is especially apparent in the final pair of images. The other difference is more subtle, but expected. And that is the slight difference in field of view due to the 23mm lens on the X100S versus the 35mm lens mounted on the A7. While both setups yield a 35mm full-frame equivalent focal length, the wider lens on the X100S does result in a bit more of the scene being captured within the frame.

So what conclusions have I drawn from this comparison? Mainly that for how and what I shoot, the APS-C sensors on the X100S and X-Pro1/X-T1 are good enough. Based on the results of my completely unscientific comparison and the fact that I rarely make large prints, I really can't find any reason to consider a move to Sony. It's not that the Sony A7 (and A7R which I haven't used) aren't great cameras. It's just that for my needs and preferences, the Fuji X Series cameras and lenses simply suit me better.

The Fujifilm X100S for Travel Photography

Over the past six months, the Fujifilm X00S has traveled with me to San Diego, Seattle, Paris, London, and New York. During these trips, I've used it to shoot everything from snapshots to long exposures. Having used the X100S extensively as a travel camera, I wanted to share my general impressions on using it for travel photography.

London Eye sunset long exposure - London

London Eye sunset long exposure - London

What's Good for Travel Photography

I shared my thoughts on the Fujifilm X100 a year ago, and all the things I loved about the X100 also hold true for the X100S. The small size, the excellent image quality, and the ease of use are all things that made the X100 an excellent travel camera. With the X100S, Fuji has managed to make a good thing even better. The speed of the camera has been improved all around, the resolution of the electronic viewfinder has been increased, and the sensor has been upgraded to an X-Trans CMOS II sensor. Each of these improvements have made the X100S an even better travel camera than the original X100. 

In addition to all the technological goodness, there are two other reasons why I find the X100 and X100S to be ideal for travel photography. The first is the simplicity that these cameras bring to my photography. By limiting myself to one focal length (sometimes two with the Wide Conversion Lens), I am able to focus more on the images I create and less on the gear I use. This in turn makes it easier for me to be in the moment and enjoy the places we visit. 

The second reason these cameras make ideal travel companions is because the leaf shutter they use are nearly silent. Without having to worry about the sound produced by a traditional shutter, I can capture images that I would normally pass up. Since the X100 and X100S are so small and stealthy, I find that I am also able to get quite close to my subjects without really being noticed. 

View of the Eiffel Tower - Paris

View of the Eiffel Tower - Paris

What's Not Good

As great as the X100S is, there are still things that need improvement. The first of these things is the accuracy of the battery indicator. While I can live with the subpar battery life of the X100S, I find it much harder to live with the accuracy of its battery indicator, or lack thereof. Just the other day, the battery on my X100S went from what appeared to be full to empty in less than 30 minutes. To avoid situations like this while traveling, I make it a habit to fully charge my batteries each night, regardless of what the camera's battery indicator says.

The other thing that I would like to see improved is the focus accuracy. Even though the focusing speed of the X100S is improved, I find that it still has a tendency to miss focus. This is especially apparent when the background is brighter than the subject. In these instances, the X100S will almost always focus on the background even though the focus indicator says otherwise. For this reason, I would love to see the face detection system from the X-T1 incorporated into the next version of the X100S. As gimmicky as face detection may be, the system on the X-T1 seems to work quite well and would likely reduce the number of out of focus images of people (especially when the camera is handed to someone not familiar with the X100S).

Final Thoughts

For me, the original X100 was the camera that made photography fun again. It had plenty of quirks, but once I learned to live with those quirks, I was rewarded with amazing images. The X100S very much embodies everything the X100 was, but with fewer quirks. Sure it's not perfect, but no camera is. As a travel camera however, the X100S is as close to perfect as I have found. It is small enough to fit in a coat pocket, yet capable enough to handle almost any photographic situation I throw at it. To give you an idea of it's versatility, here are a few images from my travels with the X100S thus far.

Chihuly Garden and Glass museum - Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass museum - Seattle

Seattle skyline long exposure - Seattle

Seattle skyline long exposure - Seattle

Abbesses Metro station - Paris

Abbesses Metro station - Paris

View from Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris

View from Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris

9/11 Memorial - New York City

9/11 Memorial - New York City

Brooklyn Bridge sunset - New York City

Brooklyn Bridge sunset - New York City

Long Exposures with the Lee Seven5 System

I added the Lee Seven5 filter system to my long exposure photograph kit in October of 2013. Previously, I used round Neutral Density (ND) filters that screwed on to the front of my lenses. While these filters worked well for extending exposure times, I found myself struggling to get them off my lenses whenever I needed to refocus or recompose my shots. This problem was even more apparent when I was using a round 10 stop ND filter because I had to take it off to recompose nearly every shot. 

Having used the Lee Seven5 system extensively, I wanted to share my thoughts on using it with my Fuji X series cameras. For those unfamiliar with the Lee Seven5 system, it consists of a filter holder that can hold two filters at a time, various resin and glass filters, and adapter rings with thread sizes between 37mm and 72mm. There is also a circular polarizer and lens hood available. The items I purchased included the filter holder, the 10 stop Big Stopper, the 3 stop (0.9) soft edge grad ND, and the 58mm and 49mm adapter rings. I use the 58mm adapter ring with my XF 14mm lens and XF 35mm lens (requires a 52 to 58mm step up ring) and the the 49mm adapter ring with my X100S. While there is an adapter ring designed for the X100 and X100S, I opted for the regular 49mm adapter ring because it works with the adapter ring I use for attaching a UV filter and the Fujinon Wide Conversion Lens I rent periodically. 

Here are a few images of the Lee Seven5 system mounted on the X-Pro1 and XF 14mm lens.

As you can see, the system is relatively compact. This is because Lee designed the Seven5 system to be used with compact system cameras like the X-Pro1 and X100S. By reducing the filter width to 75mm, they were able to reduce the size of the filter holder and the other accessories as well. 

To give you an idea of how the filters can change the look of your images, here are three images I shot at the Newport Beach Pier using the system. 

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 1/8 seconds at f/8 (no filters)

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 1/8 seconds at f/8 (no filters)

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 1/8 seconds at f/8 (3 stop grad ND filter)

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 1/8 seconds at f/8 (3 stop grad ND filter)

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 180 seconds at f/8 (3 stop grad ND filter and 10 stop ND filter)

X-Pro1 with XF 14mm - 180 seconds at f/8 (3 stop grad ND filter and 10 stop ND filter)

The three images were shot one after another and only minor adjustments were made in Lightroom. From the last image, you can see that the 10 stop Big Stopper shifts the white balance and causes some vignetting with the XF 14mm lens. Having used a round 10 stop ND filter in the past, I can tell you that these issues are not specific to the Lee Big Stopper. For this reason, I almost always shoot in RAW when using ND filters because it lets me fix these issues easily in Lightroom.

Another potential issue to be aware of is caused by the white letters on the front of the Fujinon lenses. When using the Lee Seven5 system with the XF 14mm lens, I have seen reflections of the white letters show up in my images. This, in my opinion, is more problematic because it is much harder to fix after the fact. To deal with this problem, I have used black gaffer tape to cover the white letters on the front of all my lenses, including the X100S. 

Overall, I am really impressed with the Lee Seven5 system. Everything I have purchased is well designed and well constructed. While using the system does require me to carry a few more items, I think the benefits make it worthwhile. The ability to easily slide the filters in and out means fewer dropped filters and the ability to use graduated ND filters means less blown out skies. Since there are alternatives which require less of an investment, I can't recommend the Lee Seven5 system to everyone. But for those that want to move past traditional round ND filters, I think the Lee system is a good option to consider.