Fuji and Mr. Action

Third Kozara MTB marathon took place yesterday organized by Austronet-procycling club from Prijedor who commissioned me to cover it. I was a bit nervous knowing the limitations of my equipment and on edge to borrow some different camera just in case. But… I didn’t. I decided to try out my Fuji and to find out how big are my own limitations. Anybody who ever tried to shoot with Fuji X-Pro 1 had to notice it’s superb quality but in the same time it’s lame AF performance. Fuji did a great thing by upgrading camera firmware constantly but still… X-Pro1 isn’t made for action and sports photography. Or maybe it is…? I’m quite satisfied with the final result. I relied on a well known recipe: scout a few locations few hours before the start, calculate your time well, get out of the way, set some lights, make test shots, PREFOCUS (this was the most important part), and wait. One cyclist – one shot. I didn’t used burst mode. So, the final result is here. 1 camera (Fuji X-Pro1), 1 lens (23mm – or 35mm if you like) and 1 strobe (Vivitar 285HV – just on one location).

New approach to theater photography

For last two months I’ve been working with director from Prijedor city theater Darko Cvijetic on a new play called “Phoenician women, materials”. It is experimental kind of play at least for Prijedor’s theater. It is a concept, without predefined monologues or dialogues. Play about women, suffered from war (any war) and by its aftermaths. Five stories about women who have lost a brother, who were raped, who gave birth to a warrior, who  played for a soldiers, who are searching for a grave, who are waiting in vain…

“Phoenician women” by Euripides was taken just as a idea not as a background. But if you search just a little bit about Theban war and stories about king Oedipus you will find out that no war is different no matter if it is some mythical ancient war or some modern Bosnian, Syrian, Ukrainian or who knows which war.

Here in Bosnia, even 20 years after the war, people are still unsettled and restless. PTSD is in its full potential and no category is exempt. We are society of destroyed marriages, youth grown up without fathers, abandoned children. Violence on women and children is more present then ever. And many wounds are still unhealed… But nobody is taking care about it. It is like a taboo in a society burdened by national identity, criminal privatization, stale democracy and trash culture.

My series of five portraits “Theban women” started as a side project but became a significant part of a story and visualisation of a play itself.

This is my ode to women:

Mirela/Antigone
Tatjana/Mistress
Tatjana/Mistress
Phoenician women_Wife-7
Sabina/Wife
Jelena/Helene
Jelena/Helene
Zlata/Jocasta
Zlata/Jocasta

For a play itself, I made 5 photo essays or 5 photo stories trying to correspond with each story but not in an obvious way. My storytelling is not narrative and banal. My intention was not to show anything that actress will already do or say but to amplify emotions. It is hard to paraphrase the play. Hopefully, in a few days, there will be a full video of “Phoenician women, materials” online and I will be able  to post a link here so you could see for yourself.

Here are my photo-essays. Each video is minute and few seconds long.

All portraits and all images in photo essays are made with Fujifilm XPro1 camera and XF35mm f1.4 lens.

Fujixperience and things…

I’m using a Fuji X-pro 1 mirrorless camera for almost a year and I LOVE it. And I HATE it. But then again… I LOVE it!!!

When this camera was released back in 2012, I must admit, I fell for looks of it. That was my firs impression not knowing how it performs. Loved that rangefinder style, compact size and OVF/EVF combo. So… these were my thoughts before I even read some reviews or seen some image samples.

I’ve done my research and Zack, David and Bert (among many others) were convincing enough to decide to purchase one for myself.

Metal lens hood and a Lance strap
Metal lens hood and a Lance strap

First of all, I bought mine at B&H photo (great service, very satisfied with them since I’m living in Bosnia – I’ve got a package just a four days after purchase).

After first ten minutes of looking at the camera and touching it, playing with OVF… (that was the thing I was eagerly awaited for the most – that OVF… but I’ll get there), I realized that lens hood that was provided with a lens I bought (35mm f1.4 Fujinon lens), even if it doesn’t look so bad on a lens has a terrible hood cap (with that kind of lens hood it was impossible to use a lens cap since shape of lens hood attached is square). That lens hood cap was falling off  without any force engaged to it. It was falling off while carrying camera around, putting it in a bag, or if you succeeded to put it in a bag while cap still on a hood it will fall off for sure when you grab your camera out of  the bag. Next day – I bought a metal lens hood with a cap on ebay for a few bucks.

I think, having a small lens hood on every lens will provide you some extra protection against accidental direct hit in a crowd or in narrow spaces.

Next thing I did was to order that great looking (and even better feeling) Lance strap.

OK… enough about fashion… lets talk about photography

I was blown away when I transferred those first test images on my computer. Most of them were low ISO, wide aperture JPGs. I will not post any kind of low ISO – high ISO comparisons –  since there are dozens and dozens of samples over the internet. But… I was a long time DSLR shooter and sincerely was surprised by the quality. I knew that X trans sensor can produce high quality images and I expected a lot since it is an APS-C size senzor… but I didn’t expect that level. Dinamic range of RAW images I took later was even better. I don’t do a lot of PP on my images but it is good thing to know that most of your images will retain a high level of details in both blown or under exposed areas.

Great dinamic range and high level of details
Great dynamic range and high level of details

And… lets HATE it a bit…

Initial firmware on my camera was 1.0.0 or 1.0.x as well as a firmware of a lens. I knew also that AF is an issue that many photographers pointed as drawback from buying a Fuji at all. O man… it was truly bad, shitty and disappointing experience. Camera couldn’t lock focus almost anywhere except in high contrast scenes. I shoot mostly with 1 centered AF point and recomposing. OK… initially… I realized that there is no way I will get that speed I had with a Canon. I tried with multiple AF points but I could’t find a pattern camera was using of how to choose AF point and I just ditched it. Luckily I get used to it very fast. Realized that I have to plan my shot more carefully and also to find more alternative angles or positions in case that AF starts with glass disco. Not long after I bought a camera, Fuji released a firmware update 3.0.0 (and latter 3.0.1) with many improvements concerning AF as well. Situation is much, much, much better now. AF is more precise, focus peaking is improved so you can finally help yourself with manual focus… etc. But still… AF is nowhere close to a MFT or a DSLR camera. But I must say… I never missed focus. I was in a situations when camera hunts a lot but when it locks it is precise.

situations like this are piece of cake for Fuji's AF. A lot of contrasts.
situations like this are piece of cake for Fuji’s AF. A lot of contrasts.

And… that would be all of me hate this camera… or not…

That OVF/EVF combo thing was a true revelation for me. I’m using OVF 99% of time and the greatest feature is to be able to see image you made right after the shot in your viewfinder. I know most EVFs have this feature by default but as I said I’m using OVF most of the time. Why I like it so much? Being able to see beyond my image border line is great and helpful in anticipating your next shot. Since there is no mirror I can see what is going on during the exposure. It’s bright! Downside is that since you are not looking through the lens there is no way to know if your focus is accurate until you take a shot. But it is a learning curve, and it is easy to get used to it. Of course there are very helpful things like double AF point (if you are using single AF point) – one for closer focusing and another for further ones.When your object is somewhere not far away but also not close enough just aim in between those AF points (at least it works for me). Also there is frame line correction since there is parallax involved because your line of sight is different from lens. But there is one thing that is completely useless for me. It’s a focus area scale or zone focusing scale or DoF scale. They made it so narrow on every aperture you choose that it is impossible to rely on it. But I believe it will be possible to correct in next firmware.

Double AF points. Lower one is for focusing at closer distances.
OVF view. Double AF points. Lower one is for focusing at closer distances.

Of course, depending on which lens you are using, you can change frame lines inside your OVF as well as zoom in or out for more or less space on the sides. Using EVF on this camera is unpleasant for me. There are situations when it is needed (while focusing manually or in extreme low light when only thing you can see through OVF is pitch dark). Most of reviews are affirmative to Xpro’s EVF but I still didn’t find a way to like it. Sorry! Lag is present but not intrusive. Maybe if I bought XE1 instead of Xpro1 and maybe if I didn’t looked through OVF I would be satisfied with EVF but… I didn’t.

LCD on the back is beautiful. High resolution, clear and natural colors, sharp enough to see your result.

X Pro 1 has aperture ring on a lens (lenses) and it is very natural and there is no effort at all to get used to it – especially if you have experience with film cameras and older lenses. Exposure dial is on top of the body and you can use it without moving your eye from a viewfinder since you have information you need in it, but still you have to move your finger from a shutter button to change exposure value.

I like to shoot with flash (off camera flash) and I’m disappointed with the flash sync speed (1/160). I managed to get a 1/200 sync but since there is no such value on exposure dial I had to use EVF and change the value through quick menu. Compensation for slow sync speed are great lenses. Because of that, I can use different ND filters (both quality and some cheap ones) to get the desired effect maintaining relatively slow sync speed. (Even for the exposure value of 1/160 you have to cycle through quick menu because exposure dial is classic full stops dial. Thereis no exposure value between 1/125 and 1/250 on a dial. 1/160 is a sync speed according to Fuji’s manual but as I said I did manage to push it to 1/200. I tried also with 1/250 but at that point curtain was visible.)

35mmf1.4 I found it to be great for portraits. Hehehe... like I discovered something new... :)
35mmf1.4 I found it to be great for portraits. Hehehe… like I discovered something new… 🙂

In general, I enjoy using this camera. I have only one lens for it (35mm f1.4). It changed me a lot. During my DSLR period, I was taking a lot more pictures during an assignment and I was using wide angle a lot. I still do love wide angle shots so my next purchase will definitely be a 14mm lens. But now, I shoot lot less images during an assignment. I’m planing more carefully. I think more intensively and I’m stealthier then before . I’m not a wedding photographer by default by I do weddings from time to time (maybe once a year 🙂 ) and last time I did it, I was using this camera backed up with old and reliable Panasonic Lumix GF1 (several images can be found in my previous post). First of all, I noticed that people truly weren’t aware of me at all. I was just a guy with two small cameras going around – no big deal. Even the bride and the groom were suspicious of what kind of result they can expect. At the end, they were VERY satisfied. 🙂

full high res image. Open it and see the amoun of details X trans sensor can produce
full high res image. Open it and see the amoun of details X trans sensor can produce

Fuji X Pro 1 is packed with many more features… like… double exposure, panorama mode, film simulations, hd video, etc. I shoot mostly RAW, even, OOC jpegs are great, I like to punch my photos with contrast a bit in PP. I tried video mode once and… strange, but… I found that GF1 produces much better video then Xpro1 but it was just a marginal test so maybe I was wrong. I almost never shoot video so I truly don’t care about a quality of it.

Fujinon 35mm f1.4 lens is nice piece of glass (and some metal too). It is 53mm focal lenght in terms of full frame so you could say this is a normal fast prime. No distortions at all (at least I didn’t noticed any), so ideal lens for merging photos (panorama or Brenizer kind of stitching). Sharp lens! I’m not a pixel peeper so I don’t care a lot if my lens isn’t razor sharp at 1.4 or reasonably sharp at 2.0 or lacking sharpness on the edges bla, bla, bla…. It is SHARP lens(end of story)!  Only criticism I could address to Fuji concerning this lens is why they didn’t make it similar to Olympus 12mm lens in terms of manual focusing. Both are focus by wire but Olympus made it  stop at minimal focus distance as well at infinity. On Fujinon lens you can turning it endlessly in both direction. But it is not something that should discourage you from buying this lens.

I would like to try other Fujinon lenses on my camera but it seems to be that I’m the only one in Bosnia (and maybe wider) owning this camera (not to mention that there is no way you can buy it here in a camera store or to find a representative of Fuji). If I’m wrong, please let me know.

Vertical panorama made of 7 images
Vertical panorama made of 7 images

Who should buy this camera… Photographers of course! It has everything you need to make great photos – a body, lens mount, sensor and a shutter (ok… maybe you should consider buying an SD card or two… but that is all you need).

Feel free to ask anything you like… about Xpro1, why my photos are so incredible 😉 … anything.

P.S. I’ll post my view at Panasonic Lumix GF1 in few days. That is a camera that no photographer can stay indifferent to. Believe me.

Fujifilm X-pro 1 recent work

I own this camera for almost a year, and honestly I can say that it is a piece of equipment that is at the same time admirable as well as frustrating.  Will try to explain it in next post. It will not be a classic camera review. It will be a completely subjective view to a gear with image samples.

Since I sold out all of my DSLR equipment I was forced to choose what and how to shoot on a different way. One camera, one lens and a lot of  patience.

Here are some images I did with it.

First set is a featured work, dedicated to first street mural in Prijedor as a result of COMPETITION for the annual international award “Paola de Manincor” for the best mural in Prijedor.

I cheated a little bit… some images are made with Panasonic Lumix GF1 (those two composites) 🙂

Second set is a wedding. I don’t do weddings very often but I find it to be very challenging and creative if you are devoted and not obstructed by some crazy wishes of drunk uncles and not so pretty aunts. 🙂 Sanja and Srdjan let me do this on my own way but with some reasonable wishes and suggestions. If you are confused by the images from the rock – that is the place they met so I decided to make a series and included it in their album.

Ok… I sneaked a few made with GF1 again… couldn’t  help myself (I simply love that camera) 🙂