This trip is something of an important chapter in my timeline as a travel photographer, as it’ll be the first time that I leave my heavyweight DSLRs home. I’ve traveled before with just a Leica M9 and the Fuji X Pro-1 (as to Guatemala last month), but this is the first photo expedition-workshop that sees me DSLR-less. I’ve tested the Fuji X-T1, the new addition to this group of non DSLR tools, in the streets of New York City and over the past two weeks, found it reliable and responsive, and I believe it’ll perform well in replacing my aging Canon 5 Mark II. The Fuji X-T1 has its drawbacks and quirks, but from my past experience with the X Pro-1, these are mostly caused by my being unfamiliar with its minor idiosyncrasies……
We left Singapore and boarded the relatively short flight to Bali. We have both wanted to visit Bali for a long time after hearing so many great things about it from friends. We were certainly not disappointed! We started our 10 days there with a 7 night stay on the south east coast in an area called Nusa Dua. This small bay is lined with luxury hotels and white sandy beaches. It was the perfect place to relax and unwind after the madness of the wedding planning. Whilst staying in Nusa Dua we took a couple of trips up to the west coast of the island visiting Kuta and Seminyak. Kuta was very lively and is a big hit with backpackers. There was plenty of bars and the big waves offer great surfing conditions. We saw an incredible sunset whilst there, which we enjoyed with many others from the beautiful sandy beach…….
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 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! ……
We have just got back from a few days in London which was a present for my 50th from the better half. It was a few days of excessive eating and drinking with a little bit of walking and photography, in fact we really blended in with the 1000’s of typical tourists. I shot all the time with my Fuji X-Pro and the XF 18mm f2 except for a few of the night shots where I used the XF 18-55 f2.8 and then processed them with SilverEfex as I felt the B&W contrasty feel gave the look I was after. shot both day and night and the X-Pro performed great, I really love this camera the quality of the raw files is top notch even at iso 3200…..
Finally I got time to compare raw output from Fujifilm X-PRO 1, Sigma DP2M and Nikon D800E. The test below is very much unscientific, it was conducted just out of my own curiosity. All three cameras are totally different beasts and putting them side by side might be not fair, but I as many others was wondering how uncommon CFA (X-Trans and Foveon, APC-S) sensors stack up against leading 24×36 Bayer.
All cameras were set to: AWB, RAW, on a tripod with self-timer, aperture @ f/8, auto-focus
Nikon D800E: lens Nikkor AFS 50/1.4, post processed in ACR 8.6
X-Pro1: lens Fujinon XF 35/1.4, post processed in Iridient Developer 2.4.3
DP2M: lens Sigma 30/2.8, post processed in SPP 5.5.3 ……
So after scouring the internet I discovered this little beauty… The Helios 44M 58mm f2, it is a m42 lens and I picked it up attached to a mint Praktica MTL-5 SLR, on eBay for under £15. Bargain. So after a little play I have some sample shots for you to check out, yes I know I didn’t have a cool model to hand today, I didn’t get to shoot anything particularly interesting. It rained hard when I got to the city centre and I don’t particularly get on with the rain! But I think these samples prove a good point, this lens, as with many other great legacy lenses, is well worth a punt if you can hack manual focusing. With the X-Series cameras I like to use peak highlights to help me out. I do think the XT-1 that I have is better for focusing manually but then the X-Pro1 is better, in my opinion, than my Nikon D600 for manual focus. At least to me it’s clearer. Well check the shots out… look for the out of focus areas in particular, the bokeh. That’s the point of this lens……….
Chettinad, the name reminds one of tasty spicy south Indian food loaded with chilly and peppers guaranteed to set your mouth on fire. Ask most people and they will be hard pressed to point out Chettinad on a map. It does not exist. Chettinad is the name of a `group of villiages sourrounding the town of Karaikudi in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Villages such as Athangudi, Devakottai, and Kanadukathan located in the heart of Chettinad have a large number of traditional homes. The Chettiar community who inhabit this region are a wealthy group of businessmen who made their money in banking, trade and business. Starting around the late 1800’s and early 1900’s their prosperity and fame grew and over time they moved out of Chettinad to larger cities such as Chennai and overseas to Singapore and Malyasia with the aim of expanding their business. Having hear so much about the lifestyle and the homes of the Chettiar community, I decided it was worth a trip to see for myself and make some photographs of a dying lifestyle. Armed with a X Pro1 and a 18~55mm Fuji f2.8 lens I set off. The Fuji X Pro has been with me a short while but I hadn’t really found my way around the various controls. Most pictures were are ISO 400 and for the dark interiors pushed to ISO 1600. I could not hav dreamed of using such high ISO on my now ancient Nikon D100…..
… more pictures by Ashok: