Category Archives: Reviews

My reviews of camera gear

Quick Thoughts on the Sigma Dp2 Quattro

I was able to get a test  Quattro camera from Sigma. I didn’t have time to use it thoroughly because they only gave 3-4 days to use it. I was going to take it to one of my shoots, but I decided not to. Why? Because it’s super slow. 

I was very curious about the Sigma Quattro and its Foveon sensor. When I got the camera and picked it up, it felt weird in my hand. I wondered why they chose an awkward design.

I snapped a few shots and saw it was about the same speed as my Fuji X-E1. And that was fine. But I noticed it was on the JPEG setting. So I switched it to RAW because I only shoot RAW. What happened? It took about 1 second for the camera to write the image to the card. I couldn’t shoot again until it has finished writing. I was using a Extreme PRO UHS-I 95mbp/s card too, which they provided. 

That is unacceptable for me. For my style of shooting, I need something more responsive. When the model is flowing, I need to be able to capture them at the right moment. With a camera this slow, there was no way I could do it. I thought about bringing this camera to my next shoot, but I felt I couldn’t risk it. 

Also, the low light performance sucked. It’s definitely not like my Fuji cameras (or any other modern cameras for that matter). The image looked like a noisy mess around ISO 1600. I don’t like to go that high in my shoots, but what if I had to? Heck, I probably can’t go over 400 with the Quattro. 

I’m sad to say, I didn’t get to use my Quattro enough to get an objective opinion about the image quality and such. With only 3-4 days to use it, I felt I couldn’t take it to shoots I wanted it to. Oh well. 

I think with the Quattros (or the Merrills), you have to treat it as a film camera with ISO 400 or below film. Perhaps some people will like that. You have to shoot deliberately, one shot at a time. Heck, with its write time, it’s like winding the film every time you shoot since you have to wait. You can’t shoot too many moving objects either. 

I’m disappointed with Sigma. I was excited about their innovative sensor. But their handling and speed need to be on par with the rest of the newer cameras. This camera was release in 2014! There is no excuse for it to feel like a 5 year old camera. 

 

Quick Fuji 60mm f/2.4 Review

I just got my Fuji 60mm lens. Thank goodness for the current lens rebates. I got a used one for super cheap. 

From snapping random things around my house, I noticed a few things. The AF speed isn’t that bad. Maybe I’m too used to the Fuji X-E1’s sluggish AF. There were some times where it felt dreadful. But most of the time, it felt fine. I think I can manage in model shoots. But I’ll see when I use this one on a model moving and posing. 

The sharpness is shocking. It is one sharp lens. I was shooting it wide open all the time, and I couldn’t believe how sharp it was. 

Hopefully, this lens will perform adequately. If it does, it could be one of my favorite value lens. 

Capture One First Impressions

I was impressed by Capture One’s rendering of Fuji’s RAW files in my previous post. Since I had 60 days to try it out, I decided to put it through the paces with my recent shoot.

Obviously, since this is my first time with Capture One, there will be a lot of growing pains. There will be some getting used to with UI and its quirks. Maybe after my 60 day trial runs out, I’ll do my final thoughts on Capture One and see if I want to buy it.

Session vs Catalogue

Capture One has both sessions and catalogues. Lightroom only has a catalogue. If I’m understanding them correctly,  sessions are contained in its own box. So you can move sessions around from computer to computer if you wish. So each shoot can be a session where you can edit in different computers if you wish. Catalogue will just keep your entire photos in one place. I do like the session concept.

Workflow

As expected, my workflow was slower in Capture One. My Lightroom workflow was so fast. And that’s just me being unfamiliar with Capture One.

One of my main gripes was the Photoshop workflow. Lightroom and Photoshop were best buddies, since Adobe created both. But It’s not in Capture One.

I had export my files as PSD (or TIFF) and then open them up in Photoshop. After I make my edits in Photoshop, the PSDs don’t show up in Capture One! Is it suppose to? So it’s not part of my session. I had to create a batch action in Photoshop to get my photos processed to JPEG to publish. I need to figure this out.

My Favorite Feature Not on Lightroom

It’s the keystone feature. Man this is the best feature ever. Lightroom should add this in instead of trying to do it automatically. This makes straightening images better.

Other Quirks I noticed

I can’t pull up the darkest shadows in the curves function. That is weird. I had to use levels to do it. Maybe that’s the intended use.

I also miss my black slider and the white slider in Lightroom.

I’m not sure what the brightness slider does. I guess it’s decoupled with Exposure somehow.

I wish I can read tutorials about Capture One instead of watching videos. I know watching someone do it can be more helpful, but sometimes I don’t want to watch a video to learn how to do something.

 

So Far…

It’s weird. But it’s only because I’m not used to it. I think after 60 days, I should have a better idea and can make an informed decision.

Capture One vs Lightroom vs PhotoNinja vs Iridient for Fuji X-Trans Portraitures

We know that everyone complains about how Adobe handles Fuji RAF files. There has been alternatives such as PhotoNinja, Iridient, and Capture One. So I decided to try them and see how they handle RAF files for portraiture. Why portraiture? Because that’s the style of photography I do. I want the best RAW processor to get the best out of the X-Trans sensor. 

This isn’t just a pixel peeping exercise. Sure, certain software can bring out details better. They also render colors differently. So you have to figure out what gives you the best possible look that you’re going for.

Sample Images 1

The samples are straight out of the camera with no adjustments. These are at its default settings. Sure, maybe if we fiddle with stuff, we can get almost identical outputs. But I want to see what gives me the best starting point.

Since my trial license for PhotoNinja expired, I had to take a screen shot. So keep that in mind.

The following images are shot at f/4.0, 1/125 sec, at 200 ISO with my Fuji X-E1.

Capture One
Capture One
Iridient
Iridient
PhotoNinja
PhotoNinja
LightRoom
LightRoom

Right away, you can tell these are different.  They all have different tones to the image.

Let’s See These at 100%

These are screen grabs from each software. You can click on them to get a bigger size. For PhotoNinja, I had to take a screen shot again. Hopefully, you can still tell the difference.

Capture One
Capture One
Iridient
Iridient
PhotoNinja
PhotoNinja
Lightroom
Lightroom

It looks like Iridient captures the details better. The other three are about the same at its default settings. I  can’t get over PhotoNinja’s weird colors though.

Sample #2

The settings for these are f/4.0, 1/250 sec at 800 ISO using my Fuji X100s. This is lit using a flash. Once again, these are straight out of the camera using the software’s default settings. 

Capture One
Capture One
Iridient
Iridient
PhotoNinja
PhotoNinja
Lightroom
Lightroom

At 100% 

Once again, you can click on them to get a better view.

Capture One
Capture One
Iridient
Iridient
Photo Ninja
Photo Ninja
Lightroom
Lightroom

Wow, for these images, Iridient looks the worst. It looks weird. Is it the noise reduction that Iridient tried to give? I like Capture One’s output the best. It looks the most natural.

PhotoNinja’s version looks pretty good too. But I still can’t get over that weird tint the image has.

What Is My Favorite?

Capture One wins. The skin tone looks better compared to the other software. Detail wise, Iridient seem to pull more out. But Capture One does a great job. 

I like the look of Lightroom as well. But I think that’s because I’m so used to seeing Lightroom’s renderings. It looks  “normal” to me.

PhotoNinja’s output looks okay. The screen-grabs are accurate. There is no funny business going on. I just don’t like the weird tint in the images, especially in the first image.

Iridient is funny. For the first set of images, Irident seems to have the best output. For the second set, it gave the worst output. I’m thinking it’s the noise reduction since the second image is at ISO 800. I can’t believe it makes that much difference. Or maybe Iridient can’t handle the X-Trans II sensor of the X100s.

In the end, Capture One is my choice. It’s better than Lightroom for sure. Too bad it’s so expensive though.

It’s all personal preference. For Web viewing, all four softwares can give you a decent image. You need to do your own investigation on which look you like better.

What do you guys think? Which software gives the best look for your Fuji cameras?

Fuji X100s vs Fuji X-E1

I got the Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Yes, I broke down and got a new camera and lens. I couldn’t handle using my X100s anymore for portraiture. I needed something longer (that’s what she said). 

At first, I was skeptical if 23mm vs 35mm would be big difference. Well, it’s not, but it’s enough of a difference in perspective and most importantly, speed for me. That extra stop of light made a whole world of difference in doing night time shots. 

Anyway, I want to compare the Fuji X100s and the X-E1. Using the X-E1, it made me appreciate the X100s a lot more. I believe the X100s is almost the perfect camera for all around use. Sure the AF could be faster, and the price is on the expensive side, but everything else about the X100s is perfect. 

That said, the X-E1 is growing on me big time. When I put it through the paces last night at a shoot, I was loving it more and more. 

At first, I was turned off by the loud shutter sound from the X-E1. I’m so used to the silent shutter of the X100s, I was shocked by the loud shutter sound by the X-E1. But as I shot the X-E1 more, I got used to the sound and didn’t bother me much.

I hate the pop-up flash on the X-E1. It’s not “intelligent” as the X100s’ flash. When I played with the flash, it seemed to blow out the subject on occasion. Others have reported decent results with it, so I’ll play with it more. 

I’m worried about the low sync speed of the X-E1. Since I rarely use strobes it shouldn’t cause problems for me. They should up it to 250 like the other cameras though. Then again, I haven’t used it during daytime, and I use fill flash on occasion; so I don’t know how this is going to work. I’ll probably have to rely on my reflector more. 

The body of the X100s and the X-E1 is the same size. Of course, the lens on the X-E1 is much bigger. So I can’t go super-minmalist and carry it in my pocket like I can with the X100s. That is one major advantage of the X100s—the size. 

The sensor is the same so it gives great images out of both cameras. Also, both of their low-light capabilities are awesome. The photo below was shot on ISO 3200. 

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The AF is a tad slower than the X100s. The X100s’ AF speed is over-hyped anyway. I’m sure the AF on Fuji’s new lenses for the X-E1 will be on par with X100s since I’m using the ancient 35mm lens. I even did a semi-scientific comparison at my house where I focused on different objects with both cameras. The speed was about the same. 

The focus peaking doesn’t seem to be as good as X100s. I haven’t had a chance to use MF that much though. Speaking of which, the MF of the 35mm is okay. It’s not as bad as the original X100’s, but it’s not as good as X100s’ MF.

I couldn’t tell the difference with the EVF. The lag never bothered me. I don’t usually have my eye stuck to the viewfinder all the time. I look at a scene, bring my camera up, and snap. I don’t move around with the camera glued to my eye. Also, I found myself using the LCD monitor more and more than using the viewfinder. It helps with my composition better since I don’t have to bend down or get into other uncomfortable positions. 

The X-E1 is growing on me, and I still love my X100s. The X100s is my first baby. I’m going to use the X-E1 on portraiture and the X100s for more of a do-it-all camera.

Upgrading to Fuji X100s if You Already Have the Fuji X100

I don’t think it’s worth it.  

I don’t want to give a detailed review of the Fuji X100s. I’m late to that party already. You can probably find a ton of reviews of the Fuji X100s on a ton of sites.

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At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to upgrade to the Fuji X100s. The improvements did look tempting: faster AF, better MF, updated X-trans sensor, etc. 

After rave reviews by a lot of people I respect who use the Fuji X100, it seemed like upgrading was the right choice.

Whether you respect me or not, my opinion is: don’t believe the hype. 

Autofocus

The Autofocus isn’t that fast compared to Fuji X100. In broad daylight, I did notice some improvement. If you don’t recompose, you get instantaneous AF lock. Also, if you keep the AF box at the largest size, it seems faster. But I like to keep the AF box the smallest size to be more precise with my focusing. At the smallest size, the AF speed didn’t seem improved.

In low light, I couldn’t tell a difference. The X100s still uses contrast-detect AF in low light and felt no faster than my Fuji X100. Also, the AF wasn’t more accurate since it still failed to lock on in certain conditions. 

So the AF hype? Overrated. Don’t believe it. It’s about the same as the Fuji X100 in its latest firmware except in certain situations. 

image

Image Quality

Honestly, unless you pixel-peep, I couldn’t really tell. They look like the same quality pictures to me. And to 99% of the people, the quality will look simliar to Fuji X100. 

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Manual Focus

Now, this is where it gets good. The manual focus has improved a lot. I love it. You can go from infinity to 1 feet in like half a turn of the MF ring. Also, the focus peaking is a lifesaver. 

So when the X100s can’t lock focus, you can now use MF with confidence. 

Other Improvements

Fuji made other small improvements in the UI, the menu, the EVF, and others. They do feel more convenient but not life changing.

Overall Impression

You can say that the improved MF is worth the upgrade. Is it? I’m not sure. I do love the MF improvement. But I’m not sure if that’s enough to shell out the cash for a new Fuji X100s if you already have the Fuji X100.

If you don’t own a Fuji X100, get the Fuji X100s. It is an awesome camera. 

For people that own the Fuji X100 series, I think the main thing is to follow the iPhone upgrade scheme—upgrade after every other iteration. So if you have the Fuji X100, I would wait until the Fuji X200. For me, since I have the X100s, I would probably wait until the Fuji X200s. 

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My Obligatory Fuji X200 Speculation

Everyone has one, and these would be mine on what more Fuji can do to improve the X100 series. As it stands now, I have no idea what Fuji can do. Maybe they can actually make the AF noticeably fast.

Also, they can make MF better by making the split focusing feature better and giving more colors for focus peaking. Right now, the only color available is white. They should add red, blue, and others. 

I’m not sure how much the X-Trans sensor can push the APSC-sized sensor. So for X200, maybe they can move up to the full frame or APS-H sensor. 

They can attach a faster lens—maybe 23mm/1.4 or 1.8. Or they can keep the same 23mm/2.0 but make it sharper at all apertures

Even though I love prime lenses, maybe they can attach a zoom lens. Perhaps a 28mm-50mm/2.0 equivalent zoom. If they can attach a fast zoom lens with the same IQ, that would be incredible. That would remove the need of the WCL-X100.

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A Short Review of the Gary Fong Lightsphere

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I am not going to write a technical review. I’m too lazy to do that. This is just my opinion about this thing.

Why Did I Buy This Thing?

I bought the Lightsphere because they have a good marketing team. Also, at every photo shoots and events I went, all the photographers seemed to use them. 

I shot at events before as an amateur. They were usually indoors in dimly-lit places. I used my bounce flash, on camera flash, or even no flash at all since my Fuji X100 has great low-light capabilities.

I was going to a photo shoot at the Havana Club. I decided to look like a real photographer and got the Lightsphere. Besides, I was curious to see what it can do.

How It Works

It’s like a bounce card. Except it works like a lamp and emits soft light everywhere. 

image

See the picture up there? It does look like a little lamp. I can read a book next to it. Well, not really. I couldn’t see a thing since the flash only lit me for 0.001 second.

Basically, it bounces the light to the ceiling (or wherever) and emits a soft light towards your subject. 

PROS

I got the Lightsphere Collapsable. It collapses into a tiny shape. I carry a small camera bag because my Fuji X100 is small. I was worried that it wouldn’t fit in the bag. I was relieved it fit into my bag no problem. The collapsable shape makes it easy to carry.

They advertise it can fit onto many different flash units. That is true. It fit on my Fuji EF-20. The flash slid right in.

When I tried to fit it into my Yongnuo YN 560, it was very tight. I had a hard time squeezing the flash into the Lighsphere. But it eventually fit. I think most people will use this size flash with the Lightsphere. Well, prepare for a tight squeeze. Too bad you can’t use lube.

At the Havana Club, Mandi had a Sony HVL-F20AM, I think. It didn’t fit onto that. The Lightsphere was too big for it. So, if you have that dinky Sony flash, don’t get this.

Cons

It does give soft light, but you have to be standing about 3-4 feet away from the subject. Otherwise, you can’t really tell the difference between this and regular bounced flash. I mean, it is a small light source. It’s not a giant soft box. 

If you have a weak flash like mine, the Lightsphere is going to give it a workout. You lose about 1-3 stops of light. So the flash has to work extra hard to give off the same brightness. If the place has tall ceilings, black ceilings, or both; the flash is gonna have a bad time. Maybe you can carry extra Eneloop batteries. It caused me to slow down because I had to wait for my flash to charge back up. 

It’s too expensive for what it is. It costs around $50. Honestly, a simple bounce card would be the best choice. 

Final Thoughts

Like I said. Just use a simple bounce card. Otherwise, it’s overpriced. Maybe if it was $25, it would be a better value. It does work, if you stand close enough. 

Overall, I give it a “meh” rating. If this was Amazon, it would be 3 stars. 

Well, here’s a random picture I took with the Lightsphere at that club.

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