Over the next little while, I am looking forward to comparing and contrasting the Leica M9 experience with the Fuji X-Pro1, a rangefinder style camera that in many ways is the Leica M9s contemporary, yet has shown Leica the way forward. Last year, I stepped into the Fuji X-mount waters with the X-Pro1 and its been a revelation in so many ways. So, when I recently found a Leica M9-P in my hands through a surprising transaction, the opportunity to do a reverse experiment of sorts was in place. My goal here over the next little while is to seriously give the Leica a chance now that I’ve had a little over a year with Fujis, a camera system that has absolutely rocked my world and placed a series of shots across the bow of camera companies world wide. So, what I hope to do over a few posts is assemble a prospectus of sorts that describes in the context of a year with Fuji cameras, whether or not the Leica systems make sense to invest in. Will the Leica win my heart back? We’ll see. There is much to be passionate about not only the Leica performance, but also the long heritage of finely tuned cameras and optics……
I am back in Beijing. It is funny how comforting it is to be back in this massively overcrowded city with its choking traffic, near lethal pedestrian crossings and aloof hospitality industry! It has been just about 5 weeks of traveling to very remote places, meeting the warmest people ever and living in all manner of lodgings. but coming back to Beijing is something familiar and something predictable. The past few days been spent on a train. 33 hours from Xiamen in south China on the sea. The “soft sleeper” is a small cubical about 7 feet wide, and tall enough for two bunks arranged on each side. The lower bunks cost a little more and have a tray-sized shared table between them under the window. The upper bunks have no such furnishings, but do have two folding seats out in the common hallway looking out the window on the other side of the train, also a big bonus… an electrical outlet! Small pleasures! ……
Fuji has done a great job in building a robust lineup for their X-Series mirrorless cameras, but despite releasing the weathersealed X-T1 earlier this year, they hadn’t created a weathersealed lens until now. The XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R OIS WR is a wide range super-zoom lens that features Fuji’s new Weather Resistant tag, with rubber gaskets around all points of entry and even a novel ventilation system to allow air to enter and leave the lens without sucking in moisture and dust. The lens covers a great range of focal lengths, equivalent to the field of view that a 27-205mm lens would have on a full frame camera. The one big up front question with this lens is whether it’s worth the rather high $899 price of entry. Let’s take a look…..
I recently treated myself to a new camera. I’m not a camera geek. There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time poring over specs, comparing sample images and reading gossip blogs—the current incarnation of the same people who spent enormous amounts of time reading reviews in Amateur Photographer or the British Journal of Photography. Tools become cults and fetishes too quickly: programmers spend an enormous amount of time arguing the intricacies of Python vs Java vs C or Vim vs Emacs (vs Sublime vs nano vs Eclipse vs TextMate). I’ve spent far too much time listening to writers who spend more time deliberating between Microsoft Word, Ulysees, Scrivener and Writer Pro (for some people, writing about writing tools seems to be the only thing they seem to do with their writing tools). And photographers have a similar problem of extreme tool fetishism…….
So after using Leica digital M system since it became available with first M8 model and raving about it any chance I had (see my previous post here on that subject), I woke up one day and had a “brain fart”: why am I paying every few years for a rangefinder digital body so much money only to sell it 3 years after for a fraction of purchase cost (pure reality of shooting digital with any system. Basically using a computer with a lens mount. Not much, not less…)? Problem IS that Leica digital rangefinder looses value percentage wise far more than some other digital cameras, as they are overpriced to begin with (I have no idea what is going on but just check out the used prices on the net on year old M240s…) Lenses are a different story: Leica glass IS an investment. You can not go wrong with good (and desirable) Leica M lens. Over the years I acquired all lenses that I needed to complete the system. But, amount of money invested became crazy high… After all I am professional photographer, not wealthy collector. I got tired of dropping a big bag of cash every 3 years for a new Leica M body… Something had to change! ……
I was out shooting some street photography earlier today with my trusty little Fuji X-E1 and I noticed that I had taken a lot of portrait orientation shots. As I was sorting through the shots I noticed that all the vertical images paired up nicely, so I thought I’d do a set of paired images, just for the fun of it. All of these were taken around the streets of Dublin city, using a Fujifilm X-E1 with a combination of the Fuji 35mm and the 18–55XF lenses. It was a lovely fresh Autumn morning and I was there early so the city was coming to life with the fresh energy of a new day, and for some reason I just had a really good time shooting. While these aren’t award winning images by any stretch, I did catch a few quirky sights around the city. I’ll post some more shots from this shoot over on my Photoblog. Processing was done in Lightroom, using various presets as the starting point. There’s a combination of VSCO Film 01, 02 and 04 in there. The VSCO presets work really well with the Fuji sensor, especially if you want to create an authentic film look. I’ve started using VSCO 2 a bit more lately, and I’m really liking the look of the Fuji Superia film presets. I don’t think that I’ve ever shot with that in actual film……
As a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, one of the highlights of every Summer was the Air show. My Dad would load up chairs, snack and my brother and I and we’d spend a day baking in the summer sun and checking out what used to be an amazing display of aeronautics. A fond memory from one year was a massive thunder and lightning storm arriving in the afternoon and we got to hide from the storm inside a C-130 Hercules, at that moment the kid inside of me hoped it would take off to take us for a cruise, didn’t happen. Living in Vancouver, the city of Abbotsford, nearby hosts an airshow each year and this was the first time in years that I was actually in town to check it out. So my brother, 2 friends and myself packed snacks, chairs, water and other “grown up” supplies and headed to the air show. In my camera bag, simply enough, the Fujifilm X-T1 and the brand new XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. The XF 18-135 has been called the “tourist lens” due to the fact that it’s focal lengths are perfect for almost any situation, from architectural to portrait. The first thing I noticed was the amount of people that came out to camp for the full 3 days, huge expensive trailers and motor homes, lining the camp site that sat on the edge of the airport. Upon entering it was amazing to see all the young faces so filled with that same excitement I once had, and to be honest, I tapped in to that excitement again with the smell of jet fuel in the air. We were graced with perfect weather and an almost full moon as the sun went down. The XF18-135mm lens worked wonderfully with the X-T1, and as you can see the image stabilization worked wonders in very low light situations…..
The Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6-7 OIS is a good performer in relation to its price level. The results are mostly sharp in the image center. The corners aren’t quite as snappy in the upper range but let’s be fair – you don’t tend to place the main subject of your scene into the extreme corners anyway. The level of CAs is pretty good at the extreme ends with a weak spot (135mm) in between. Distortions and vignetting are taken care of by the automatic image correction. However, the original characteristics are quite a bit worse though – especially in terms of light falloff. As far as build quality is concerned, you shouldn’t expect wonders. The lens body is completely made of plastics and the build tolerances aren’t quite as tight as on the Fujinon XF lenses. The comparatively low price tag takes its toll here. That being said – the zoom action is a bit smoother than on the XF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS. The AF performs is pretty fast in bright conditions but slows down in low light – this is more an issue on the camera side though. The OIS (optical image stabilizer) works nicely but due the slow max. aperture of the lens this feature is also often needed. Compared to the XF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, we would place our bets on the XF. However, if your bank account manager starts crying, the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6-7 OIS will be a viable choice without sacrificing too much quality…..
The Fujifilm X100S is no slouch. It doesn’t have the pedigree or the history of the Leica M series cameras but at $1300, you can buy nearly 7 of them for the price of the Leica M and the 28mm f2.8 Elmarit lens. I got to use both cameras at the same time last Friday on 6th Street. A couple of days ago, I wrote about my thoughts on the Leica M with plenty of examples. This time, I’ll do the same for Fuji X100S. All photos in this post are from the X100S. Keep in mind, this is not going to be a head to head comparison. That won’t be fair. I’ve only shot the Leica M for a couple of hours, with at most, several hundred frames. I’ve had the Fuji since March and have shot close to 20,000 pictures with it. It takes a while to get to know a camera and optimize its usage and image post-processing. That said, I’ve tried to include similar photos, when possible. You can compare these images to the ones I took with the Leica M.……..