Why ON1 Photo Raw may be for me.

In the list of photo management and editors, ON1 Photo Raw has been under my radar for a while. Although I disregarded it for years when it was still called Perfect photo suite because it lacked any kind of photo management (DAM) and raw processing, in 2017 the company released its first version of the Photo Raw software. There has been (and still is) a lot of publicity around the software, many reviewers criticised the bugs, the slow speed and the lack of features that left it clearly behind the industries standard editor which is Lightroom.

Fast forward a year and a half, I read that the Photo Raw 2018.5 was a usable piece of software so I gave it a try.

Testing these new programs has enabled me to think about was I need and expect from my photo editor. I have used Lightroom/Photoshop for years and have a nice workflow in place. I still can’t use photoshop very well, and to be honest I have very few ideas on what to do to transform my photos. I watch videos on youtube from time to time to learn and I see people take a drab landscape to a 500px winner in what seems to be a lot of time and a lot of steps… I couldn’t do that, I lack the imagination I think and anyway, all the landscapes on 500px look the same…

So what photography do I do and what do I need? I encourage you to think about this as well, it can help to simplify and streamline the processing and save time as well.

  •  I take street photography mainly but on my memory card I will also have some family photos and some other genres depending on my mood and the places I go to (architecture, macro, travel photography…). I want to import all my raw files and keep them together but export my family photos in a separate place from my personal photography.
  • My street photography is in black and white. The software I use needs to do that properly : I want to modify the colour response and contrast globally, manage the structure, dodge and burn locally, add a vignette and odd little things.
  • I need little for my family photos, some quick adjustments, straighten and crop.
  • I used the Nik Software/Google plugins from photoshop for a long period and that covered anything I needed for my landscapes, portraits and architecture : some precise contrast adjustments, adjusting colour contrast is fabulous etc… I never really learned how to do this in photoshop without plugins so I need to have some kind of equivalent if I want to replace photoshop/lightroom.
  • My street photos go on Flickr, Instagram and google+, I sometime publish to 500px as well.

That is it .
I don’t need much from my software then.
Lightroom/Photoshop with plugins cover my needs.
Photo raw 2018.5 is the first piece of software that can do this on its own.

Let’s edit a photo and I’ll make a few comments on my workflow, the things I like and the things that are missing in Photo Raw. All the images here are screenshots so the definition will not be that of the real files.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.19.11

The importing is simple enough and I can do the same as in Lightroom : I put all my photos in subfolders classed by year/month/date. I rename the files starting by the name of the camera then the capture date and time. Lightroom uses a more flexible editor and I can get a name like : Sony-A7r3-2018-08-16-10h01min51s.arw
The same file in ON1 will look like Sony-A7R3-20180816-100151.arw
The extra hyphens, min, h, s are missing and I don’t see that I can add them in.

Once the photos are imported, you can get to work pretty fast. Here is the original file I’m working on. The raw conversion is very good. Highlight and shadow recovery work very well.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.21.44

The picture was taken quickly as I was walking past, it is not straight. Lightroom will have an auto correct that works really well. In the develop module of Photo Raw, there is a transform module. I used the keystone feature.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.24.44

I clicked apply and cropped the result a little.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.30.02The result is pretty convincing. The niggle I have is on the crop tool. By default it is in “Freeform” but I like to keep a 3:2 ratio for 99% of my pictures. You have to select the “original” mode to keep the crop aspect.

In the develop panel there is lens correction module that recognises my FE 35mm f/2.8 lens (one of the first lenses ever created for the sony a7 line) but it does not have a profile to correct for the vignette, distortion and aberrations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.43.01

How bizarre… lets carry on then. I did very little in the develop module : a slight boost in exposure, a small adjustment in the white/black points and a bit of sharpening.
The adjustments in the black and white points in Lightroom are great. Stay pressed on the option/alt key and the screen goes black to let you adjust with precision. In Photo Raw, you press option/alt J to see the underexposed pixels in blue and the overexposed pixels in red. Not fancy but it works.

The magic happens in the Effects panel, which for me replaces the round trip to Photoshop and its plugins.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.57.31

The black and white conversion tool is very good, you can control the colour response, add grain, control the overall exposure, shadows, highlights and contrast without going back to the develop module. You can also do split toning to change to sepia, cyanotype…

I added a vignette and a bit of contrast with the dynamic contrast tool.

There are local adjustments possible too like in Lightroom with very good masking tools and what they call a “perfect brush” which is the same as edge detection in LR. You can make gradients, ovals, and a luminosity mask.
In this photo, I just added a bit of exposure to the faces. It was quickly done.

The last thing to do is to export. I make a jpg copy of my edited pictures in the same folder as the raw files and a copy to another drive. There are lots of options for the export (file type,size, location, sharpening…) which you can save into a preset like LR.
I’d like to export quickly using the right mouse button but it doesn’t work.  Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.05.40

I can export to Flickr from Photo Raw which is cool but there is nothing for google+, 500px or Instagram. I now use the ifttt.com website (If this then that) to publish from flickr to 500px and Googe photos but I need to upload to instagram manually.
LR manages the publishing better because you can see all the photos you have already uploaded and you can put them in the appropriate service but publish them later.

The effects panel has quite a few additions. I haven’t used them all yet. To each his own!

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.11.01

There is one last Panel I’d like to mention. There is a layers panel where you can add layers that have different processing and merge them with masks. You can also merge different photos (like sky replacement). If my understanding is correct though the process is done in a tiff or psd format and you lose the non-destructive workflow. I think I need to watch a few tutorials before I try.

Conclusion : likes and niggles.

I could use this software!

  • It is fast enough (comparable to editing in Lightroom).
  • It is being improved regularly so features are being added and niggles are being improved.
  • The image quality is very good.
  • Using a single application is very comfortable and the effects added to the photos are in the non-destructive workflow. This is a big improvement on using photoshop plugins. No more tiff files hanging around!
  • I’d like a better import module that gives more flexible file renaming.
  • I’d like a better export module that gives a one-click export using several recipes (like in Capture one) and that keeps track of what photo I have uploaded to what service… and I need more social media services.
  • The masking features are very good, and complex enough to make me want to learn more to use them better.
  • There are blending options like in Photoshop for each effect and local adjustment. I feel I can learn how to use this software whereas photoshop seems too complex.
  • I don’t understand the pricing. I have seen offers at 49.99€ up to 129.99€ for a pro plus plan with free updates. On the site, they say it is a non subscription program but it is only written “perpetual licence” on the the pro plus plan. Yearly updates seem to cost about 70€. Adobe LR/Photoshop costs 11.48€ per month that is 137.76€ per year.
  • I have had a few crashes, it is annoying. LR has not crashed on me for a very long time.
  • I don’t understand the advantage of cataloging a folder under photo raw. I used the browser to edit my first photos then I catalogued my raw files folder. I can’t see the difference. If I take a photo in b&w on the camera, the embedded jpg is b&w. It therefore appears in b&w in Photo Raw. When I open the develop module, it turns into colour because it is reading the raw file. This takes about 5-10s (quite long then). I’d like an option to render my raw files when catalogued for them to open faster in the develop module. I could launch this at night maybe if it need to take a long time.

The Covered Passages of Paris.

The covered passages of Paris are a early form of shopping centres. They were built in the early part of the 19th and at one point Paris boasted over 150 of these passages. The architecture generally consists of a steel and glass ceiling, beautiful geometric floor tiles and shops one either side. These passages were pierced through other buildings and connect the streets on either side of a block. It would have been possible in the 1850’s to cross a great part of the right bank of the Seine through these passages.
Nowadays few remain, some are in a state of disrepair, others have been taken over by cafés and tea rooms or antique shops. One of the passages, Passage Brady, has quite a few Indian, Pakistani and other wonderfully exotic shops.

The challenge for a street photographer is finding an interesting spot, a street scene and good light. I spent a day walking through all the covered galleries but unfortunately the sky was overcast. In most of the galleries however, the light is diffused at best or quite dark if the glass roof doesn’t cover all the passage. Some passages don’t have a glass roof and are lit by lamps.

Here are some of my better shots from that day, all taken with a sony a7r3 and the sony 35mm f/2.8 lens. Edited in Lightroom and Skylum Tonality.

 

In a café
A stationary shop
Le Gardien
The passage
Walking past.
Walking past.
Leaving
Leaving
Pigs and books
Pigs and books
Phone call
Phone call
Quick break
Quick break

 

 

 

Installing Skylum Tonality plugin in Lightroom Classic

I recently added Skylum’s Creative Kit Tonality to my workflow. It is an excellent tool to create black and white photos. I had been using the Nik Software Silver Efex Pro but Tonality is so much cleaner. The Photoshop plugin  installed without a hitch but I couldn’t get the Lightroom classic plugin to install. The option was greyed out. I contacted the customer service and I got a very quick answer from a guy called Konstantin. He sent me some links and the instructions to install the plugin manually. I’d like to share the method with you here.

First of all, close Lightroom.

The first file to download is the .lrtemplate file: here or here 

The second file is the .lrplugin file : here or here

 

Open two instances of the finder (right click : new finder window). Go to the downloads folder on one and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/External Editor Presets/ and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrtemplate file from the download folder to the new one.

 

In the same manner, with the two instances of the Finder application open, leave one pointing to the downloads folder and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Modules/  and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrplugin  file from the download folder to the new one.

Now launch Lightroom classic and it should be possible to edit photos in Tonality straight from Lightroom using the Files/Plug-in Extras menu.

 

The method on Windows must be similar if the plugin doesn’t install, you just need to find the correct path to place the two downloaded files.

 

 

Sony 70-200 f/4 vs sony 70-200 f/2.8

Image link to camera size.com : http://j.mp/2nyYCXO

Having just got back into sonyland with the a7r3, I’ve been looking at the standard telephoto zoom offerings namely the 70-200 f/4 G lens  released in 2013 and the 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens released in 2016. The choice between the two is not that obvious and here are a few of my thoughts.

The price point is very different to start with, the f2.8 GM costing around 2800€ whereas the f4 G costs less than half at around 1300€. The f4 lens weighs around 840g vs the huge 1480g of the f2.8.  The f4 lens is also smaller at 80x175mm, the f2.8 measuring 88x200mm.

The f2,8 GM lens is touted as the ultimate professional lens and it does have some clear advantages in the specs. The close focusing distance is smaller giving a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.25x whereas the f4 G lens is given at 0.13x. This is quite a difference already. With the sony a9, the professional lens in compatible with the 20 frames per second mode, the consumer lens reputedly gives between 10 and 15 fps. This means that the autofocus/tracking should be better in the pro lens. The f2.8 lens has an rounded aperture with 11 blades versus 9 for the f4 lens, giving a better bokeh on paper.

I had a chance to try out both lenses one after the other recently and honestly I found the difference minimal. Both lenses are very sharp on a 42 Mpx camera. I have some 100% crops to compare if you are interested. I felt no difference in autofocus speed, but I wasn’t photographing a wild boar running at me. I feel the pro lens has more contrast and a slightly colder color temperature.

Here is a 100% crop of a full-face portrait both lenses wide open at 200mm. This not being a scientific test, both photos were taken hand held and I and the subject moved a bit between the shots. I haven’t shown the entire pictures for privacy reasons. If anything, I find the pro lens a bit soft at this distance. I wonder if it is a characteristic of the lens or if it is a poor copy.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.48.31

100% crop at 70mm. This time the f2.8 lens looks a bit sharper. Notice though that the iso settings are higher on the f4 lens as in the previous photos.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.48.57100% crop in center of frame. Both lenses at f/4. Shooting distance of around 2 meters. The textile gives a good idea of the contrast and details.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.47.32

100% of a wall that is about 50 meters away. Focus is at infinity. I can’t see much difference.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.46.48

My takeaway is quite simple really. I don’t imagine getting a teleconverter (that is only compatible with the f/2.8 lens) and for me, the difference between the lenses is negligible. I am sure there are real differences, Dxomark says the f4 lens can resolve 35mpx and gets a score of 35. The f2.8 lens can resolve 38mpx and gets a score of 39. In the 30 minutes I had of playing around with these lenses, I did notice one great advantage to the smaller f4 lens and that is the weight! I got a sore arm very quickly with the f2.8 lens.

As I intend to take my lens everywhere for street, travel and landscapes, portraits, whatever, I imagine the pro lens would be a burden more than a bonus. I think I’ll go with the f4 lens. All I need to do is find a second-hand pristine copy. There must be some about.

 

From the Fuji X-T2 to the Sony A7r III

I have a quick story here to tell about the switch I recently made from Fuji to Sony. I had been using the Fuji mirrorless system (x-e1,x-T1, x100T and x-T2) since 2012. The camera bodies have slowly improved over time giving fast and precise autofocus, a joystick (on the x-T2) to change focus point, a great picture quality and most of all easy access to all the necessary controls : shutter speed, iso, aperture… I must also stress the quality of the lenses, the XF16mm1.4, XF35mmF1.4 and XF90mmF2 are stellar prime lenses and the XF50-140 is a great zoom, sharp at all apertures and all focal lengths.

So why  change ?

Well, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence of course… I won’t try to convince anyone or try to justify myself (I’ve had so many cameras and lenses over the years, I gave up on that). I thought it might be interesting to show why the sony a7r III can help me move forwards in my photography and why I now think it is the ultimate (as of today) street camera.

But I like to think I am a little bit rational even if G.A.S is always a factor. First of all, image stabilisation is something that has creeped into a lot of systems and it is not a gimmick. I do a lot of street photography and I also use my macro lenses quite a bit. I own a Nikon 105 AF-D lens, which can be adapted on any mirrorless body, fuji or sony. There is no stabilisation in the lens so the in-body stabilisation is a great thing to have. The difference is huge between a stabilised and a non stabilised lens. I could have gone for the new fuji XF80mmF2.8 macro lens, but I really like my Nikon lens and I also have the laowa venus optics 60mm macro lens in Nikon mount which is really very good.

In street photography, my dream is to be able to walk around, shoot without stopping, getting anything I want in focus. I often pre-compose the picture before shooting, but I need to be lightning fast to put the focus point in the right place and shoot. This is where the Sony A7r III really shines, and where the A7r II does not work for me. The new joystick to place the focus point is a direct copy off fuji. It works well, but is often not fast enough in the street. The touch-screen allows me to place the focus point much quicker.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/500s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

Now a bit of sony magic : when the screen is tilted out, the viewfinder detector is deactivated. Let me explain : on all the other camera bodies I have used, when the rear of the camera is too close to your body, or when you move a finger in front of the horizontal screen, the screen switches off… and you lose your shot. Not on this Sony camera. A simple thing to program maybe, but whereas I have been very critical of the ergonomics and haptics of the sony a7 series so far, I must admit this is brilliant.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/800s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

The nail in the coffin for my Fujis is the way the sony can autofocus for my street shots. I have been a long time user of the af-s, flexible spot focusing for all my photography. Af-c has been for specific shoots : my dog, some cars and not much else because I don’t do a lot of wildlife or sport. The sony a7r III (and some other bodies before this one) have a flexible spot lock mode in af-c. Watch a video on you tube if you need to but I’ll explain briefly. When you press the shutter half way down, the small flexible spot focuses on the subject it is on and then stays locked on even if the subject moves around the viewfinder. Forget AF-S and use this! You see a subject in the street, put the focus point on it with the touchscreen, press half-way on the shutter and wait for the subject to get into the position you want, compose while you are doing this and them click! Photo done! Everything tack sharp, even if you are moving because that stabilised sensor really works. I use a shutter speed of 1/250s on my 35mm and it works fine. 1/500s if the subject is moving really close to you.

I have often said that the superiority of full-frame is over-rated, and I keep this opinion. It is an added bonus to have full frame because I can use my 50mm vintage lenses again at their intended focal length. The fall-off between the sharp in-focus areas and the out of focus parts in really smoother with full frame. I don’t give a damn about the number of pixels on the sensor, I really don’t. 16MP was enough, 24MP was great. 42MP is what it is at on the sony, so be it. The raw files by the way are slightly smaller than on the fuji X-T2 which is a bit strange and the rendering on Lightroom is noticeably faster.

Taken with the Nikon 105mm on the sony. I can see a beautiful transition from sharp to out of focus. Better than app-c here for me.

 

Where I stand to lose is on the size, weight and quality of the lenses. I now own the 35mm f2.8 and the 85mm f1.8 lenses. The 35mm is very compact and light. I bought it second-hand so it wasn’t too expensive. It lives on the camera body, it is a great lens, but if someone makes a compact. f1.8 or f2 lens, I’m on it straight away. Full frame is all about subject separation is it not ? The 85mm is sharp but has strange bokeh. In my mind the 56mm f/1.2 fuji lens is better quality. I think I could make a quick article on that later.

 

 

Close-up with a wide angle lens.

I’ve been trying out the fuji 16mm f/1,4 lens recently which is a wide angle lens (equivalent 24mm in full frame terms). It has a minimal focusing distance of 15cm (from the object to the sensor) so in real life you can pretty much put the lens a couple of centimetres away from an object and get it in focus.

fuji-X-T2-2017-07-26-16h55min27s

The effect is interesting, I believe, on natural objects and much less on people where the distortion can be very unbecoming.

The lens opens at f/1,4 and most of the photos in this article were taken at this aperture. The lens is very sharp wide open. Plenty sharp enough to get good details.

www.nwinspeare.com

Fujifilm gives the 16mm lens a 1:0.21 maximum magnification at the closest focusing distance. This means that at this distance the size of an object photographed will be 21% of its size on the sensor. A real macro lens is 1:1 that is to say that the object is the same size on the sensor as it is in real life. I take this as an indication of how big things will appear on the sensor. As the XF16mmF1.4 is a wide angle lens, this gives plenty of space around the subject even if the lens is very close. In the previous photo, I had my camera right up against the pink flower.

www.nwinspeare.com

With so much space around the subject, the quality of the out-of-focus areas becomes very important. As you can see, thankfully everything is very smooth and the colours are great.

The depth of field is very small at this wide open aperture. I used a depth of field calculator, and the result was 0.44cm! That is half a centimetre! Thankfully the x-t2 I was using focuses accurately and swiftly, even at this distance.

fuji-X-T2-2017-07-26-17h21min03s

I tried to add an extension tube to the lens. I own the mcex-16 which is just a 16mm long tube that goes between the body and the lens. An extension tube enables a lens to focus even closer. Unfortunately, the mcex-16 does not work with the fujifilm XF16mm. The focusing distance becomes lesser than the length of the lens. I tried anyway on a flower head and here is what I got.

www.nwinspeare.com

On the fujifilm website, it says that the mcex-11 works with a magnification of 1:0.91. The distance between the end of the lens and the object is only 1cm though. It may be nice to give it a try!

This wide angle lens, undeniably useful for landscapes, architecture and such, has become a lens I always keep in my bag. I have been taking it out on my macro excursions recently. It allows me to find new angles and new compositions.

fuji-X-T2-2017-10-04-18h03min30s-Edit

The cover photo is a stack of 5 images, all focused at different parts of the mushroom. Photoshop aligned the layers and focus-stacked everything automatically for me. I just went into Color Efex pro 4 to do a bit of work on the colours.

fuji-X-T2-2017-10-15-10h24min36s-Edit

Just to compare, this is the same mushroom, taken with a 60mm macro lens.

fuji-X-T2-2017-10-15-10h19min29s-Edit

What do you think ?

 

Weekly challenge: Waiting

I found out today that wordpress offers a weekly photo challenge here. This comes to me today as an idea for working on themes especially in street photography where inspiration comes sporadically.

These three photos come from my archives but I think I’ll try and give these challenges a go and try to publish at least one photo taken in the week.

Light and shadow
Fuji X100T @ 1/4000s + F/4 + ISO 200

This first photo was taken in London in the Canary Wharf area. I liked the contrast between the light of the sun and the shadows of the buildings around. I also liked the smiley bag. I took a first shot, the lady saw me so I went up to her to explain why I took the picture. She didn’t seem offended so I pushed my look and asked her if I could take another. I wasn’t sure the first one was framed properly because I took it so quickly. She accepted and you can see that she is smiling and relaxed.

Sitting around
X100T @ 1/640s + f/2.5 + ISO 200

This was taken in front of our local library. The dark box on the left hand side of the photo is a post box to return your books when the library is closed (which is most of the time in my opinion). I had the camera linked to my phone through the fuji app so this is a sneaky photo taken ninja style. The guy was looking peaceful and I thought the geometric lines would make a nice photo. When using the app, you have to stop to take the photo because there is quite a lag between pressing on the shutter in the app and the picture being taken. It is no good for moving subjects, they are out of the frame before the camera reacts… unless you can anticipate, which I’m trying to learn how to do.

Rest in the shade
Fuji XT-2 + XF90mmF2 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

 

This third and last one is from Lumpini park in Bangkok (the one with the Komodo dragons). It was very hot that day and this lady was sitting in the shade. I love the shape on the table and benches with the lady making an asymmetrical composition.

The “waiting” theme is a great one for anybody starting out in street photography. Walk around any town, city or village and you will see plenty of people just hanging around. I often wonder what kind of life people I see in the streets live and that is what is great about street photography. When you go home and look and the photos you took, you can take the time to choose the best ones and erase the poor ones but when that is done, take the time to think about the people in the shots.

 

 

Powerlifting

In April this year, I was introduced to the sport of powerlifting. My friend Tim (hi Tim!) asked me if I wanted to see some of the powerlifting competition in the local gym. I thought it would be a bit of fun and an opportunity for some photos so we all went, his family and mine. There was no entrance feee and once in the gym it looked like any local competition : rows of chairs with the families and friends of the competition, a snack bar and in front an area where a guy was lifting an impossibly heavy weight! The place smelled of testosterone and sweat…. like most sporting events.

If I count correctly, there a three 25kg weights and one 10kg on each end of the bar, that is 170kg plus the weight of the bar. I couldn’t lift the thing a centimetre…  The part of the competition we saw was the squat. The lifter starts more or less standing up, lifts the bar of the rack, must then squat and stand up again. There are two other movements in a powerlifting competition that I did not witness : the bench and the deadlift. There is a team of three helpers to ensure the safety of the lifter throughout the whole process. At the end of the lift, the judges show a white or a red light to validate or invalidate the lift.

There is a difference between powerlifting and weightlifting as I have recently discovered. The most obvious one is that weightlifting includes the snatch and the clean and jerk, two different ways of lifting. Powerlifting is also done at slow velocity. I looked at some world records (regardless of weight category) and I found a lift of 500kg for the squat. For the clean and jerk in olympic weightlifting, the record seems to be around 250kg. Powerlifting is certainly a different sport!

The sheer physical effort is impressive and shows in the expressions on the faces of the lifters.

As often there is a fashion code amongst the people in and around the sport. Here, the rule seems to be long beards and tattoos.

We may only have spent less than an hour in watching the lifts but I really enjoyed it. There is an atmosphere to the proceedings that is unfamiliar to me and that I tried to capture with these few photos. For the photo geeks, I used my fuji x-pro2 with the 23mm/f1.4 and 56mm/f1.2 lenses. All photos processed in Lightroom using Acros G film simulation and split toning.

I can give a few links to the web pages I read to prepare this post :

I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on this sport and I’m sorry if there are any errors in my comprehension of what I observed. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the section below!

 

Fuji vs Leica : a street photographers dream.

This is a short article to address the question of what camera to choose for street photography without taking cost into consideration. I own and have used fuji cameras for street photography (I currently have the x-pro 2) and I recently tried a couple of leica rangefinders : the M240 and the new M10.

Many would say the comparison is unfair or that these two cameras and completely different beasts in philosophy and in use. I now disagree with this since the salesman at the leica store in Paris gave me the same arguments to buy the leica as those I gave to myself to get the x-pro2. I’ll be going through these arguments.

Argument number 1: The Leica M10 is compact.

Yes, it is a feat of engineering to get some much into such a little package. Here is a view from the site camerasize.com . I have on the left the fujifilm x-pro2 with the 23mm f/2 lens attached. I bought this lens because of its comact size compared to the 23mm f/1.4. The package weighs 675g. On the right is the leica M10 with the summilux 35mm f/1.4 On this view it looks about the same size but in reality the leica looks smaller. It weighs more though at 980g. Compact but heavy! The is quite a lot of brass in the leica body whereas the fuji has an magnesium shell. The construction of the fuji is very good but the leica is like a brick.

compare_xpro2_m10

If you sacrifice the f/1.4 aperture to go for the summicron 35mm f/2, the size difference is greater still.

compare2_xpro2-m10

In conclusion for this part, for the same focal length and same maximum aperture, the leica is more compact. The explanation is twofold. First of all the leica lenses are manual focus so there are no motors or focusing mecanisms in leica lenses. This makes them thinner. Secondly, the sensor in the leica is deeply recessed into the body whereas it is closer to the lens in the fuji. This makes the lens designs shorter for the leicas. I’ll get into comparing the sensors later. Bear with me!

Argument number 2: You can change/check the settings without switching on the camera.

Here is the second reason I like fuji cameras. The lenses have aperture rings, there is a shutter speed dial and an iso dial. (This is new on the leica m10 compared to the previous digital models.) The fuji has a small advantage here with the exposure compensation dial being on top a verifiable. The leica has a wheel for the exposure compensation on the top right hand side of the back of the body, easily accessible with the thumb.

Argument number 3: The image quality is sensationnal.

Well I tested both cameras and I have to agree. The fuji images a great, I love the colours and the x-trans sensor gives very acceptable photos up to 12800 iso. The pictures that come out of the leica are better. Many would argue that the lenses are very special that there is some leica magic. I do not dispute this although I find it difficult to test. The fact of the matter is that leica puts a larger sensor in a smaller camera and with a lens that has a larger aperture, the difference can become huge. Just think of it : f/2 on the crop sensor x-pro2 gives more or less the same depth of field as f/3 on a full frame (that is just over 1 stop). With a summilux f/1.4 lens, that is another stop. Where it is difficult to get a good background blur on the fuji 23mm for a subject at 5-10 metres away, the leica can manage. Lets look!

Fujiflm x-pro 2 with 23mm f/2 at f/2 at 1/950s at ISO 200.

fuji-x-pro2-2017-02-24-13h06min46s

Leica M10 with summilux 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4 and 1/500s. ISO 100

leica-m10-2017-01-21-18h37min21s-2

Notice the better subject separation in the second photo, what they call the 3D pop?

Question number 1 : What about focusing?

I have used a manual rangefinder camera twice in my life for a total of 30 minutes. I find it great fun but difficult to nail exact focus. The two previous photos were taken out of a shop window with people walking across the frame.

With the fuji, I frame first, place a focus square where I want the passer-by to be and then wait and shoot. The advantage is that the fuji x-pro2 focusing very fast and accurately. The difficulty is choosing the focus point correctly. Although the little joystick is fast and easy to use to move the focus point, in the heat of the action it is not fast enough. Here is a 100% crop:

fuji-crop100

With the leica, I focused on a spot of the pavement at a distance I estimated a person would walk through. Then I composed the photo and waited. The difficulty is choosing the right distance to focus. The advantage is that you can take to person wherever you like in the frame, the focus is already correct. Here is a 100% crop.

leica-crop100

The focus is not bad but not spot on. The photo was taken at 1/500s, plenty fast enough to freeze rhe action.

The question is : does precise focus matter? The more I take photos, the more I feel that focus and noise are not important. The main factors that make a photo are the composition and the subject. Depth of field comes into the composition, colours do too. How many photos from the masters of photography like Henri Cartier Bresson do not have the exacting focus digital cameras give us now? What do we get out of pixel peeping? I think that good focus is important, exact focus is not. But I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t do fashion.

Question number 2 : What else ?

The leica doesn’t do video, I don’t either. The lens frames in the viewfinder go from 28mm to 135mm. I like the 24mm lens for landscapes and I use the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom occasionally (for concerts and portraits for example).  The x-pro2 has extensive menus enabling Multi / Spot / Average / Center Weighted exposure control. It has an hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, it has manual shutter up to 1/8000s and electronic shutter up to 1/32 000s which is great in bright light. It has dual SD slots, a very wide selection of focal lengths for the lenses you can mount with zoom lenses that leica does not provide. It is a complete package that works extremely well and provides the controls for a very varied number of situations. In street photography, I use a simple setup and few of these bells&whistles but I like keeping my options open.

The leica, although not a one-trick pony (you can mount a wide angle lens and use liveview), is an exercise in restrictions. But restrictions can be liberating can’t they? Is less more?

I tried out a summicron 50mm f/2 recently too and I’ll post a comparison with the fuji 35mm f/1.4. The results should be about the same shouldn’t they?

 

 

Photoessay : The art of Tango

I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of Argentinian tango recently. The event took place in a dimly lit concert hall. There was a band on the stage and the chairs had been removed to make room for a space to dance. The musicians were lit with spotlights but the poor dancers had to make do with overhead neon lighting.

Tango 2
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

I took some photos of the band (click here), then some photos of the dancers. I sat cross-legged on the floor and did my best to capture the essence of the dance. This kind of tango is not acrobatic and not a show, it is about the relation and emotion between the dancers.

Tango

I used my fuji x-t1 and the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom lens. Focusing was always going to be difficult in this light with the dancers moving at quite a speed around the room. There were some instances where the couple was moving slowly and this is when I tried to grab some shots. I took the photos in bursts and cut down my collection of over 200 pictures to a select few.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h25min15s-edit

I edited in black and white in Lightroom because I love black and white photos and I think in this case it helps bring out the essence of the dancers.

Tango 3
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

The camera reacted very well, focus was fast and precise. Very few photos were out of focus or blurry. I culled my collection to keep the few I preferred. The 50-140 lens is excellent with lovely rendering and a very good sharpness.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h20min07s-3
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

As you can see, the photos are all taken at 6400 iso, the maximum the fuji x-t1 can take in raw. The x-t2 and x-pro2 can go up to 12800 iso with a usable quality. There was no way to slow the shutter speed below 1/125s because of the movement of the dancers. Sensor stabilisation is useless in this kind of photoshoot too, so the high iso capability of the camera is a great thing to have.

fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h31min16s
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

This XF50-140 f/2.8 is a keeper, it is versatile, fast, precise and built like a tank.

Tango
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400
fuji-x-t1-2016-02-27-23h31min25s-edit
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400