Personal Project: Photobook on my Vietnam Trip

As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for business purpose, and I was able to squeeze out some free time to travel  around Hanoi and it’s nearby provinces during my short stay there in April. Since then, I had compiled some of the pictures and my writings into this book. It’s more like a sharing of my thoughts, feelings and emotions while travelling to Vietnam for the very first time.

And again, I would like to apologize that this book was written in Chinese instead of English. As with my other personal projects, I’m more comfortable to write in Chinese, as I felt that I can express myself better through this language. For those who are interested to check it out, please feel free to click on the link here to download and read on your own leisure. Hope you enjoy this book of mine. Do drop me a comment if there’s any.

Thank you and have a nice day!

Goodbye Fujifilm GW690III

Fujigilm GW690III with Kodak Portra 400

“What was all the hype on medium format?”

That’s the question I had awhile ago, and in order to answer it, I got myself the Fujifilm GW690III, a medium format fixed lens camera. It shoot film at 6×9 ratio, probably the largest you can get, completely manual for both focusing and exposure, built like a tank, and works like a charm. I wanted a taste of medium format myself, so instead of buying a digital back with interchangeable lens system, I decided to just keep it simple.

The Fujifilm GW690III was a great medium format camera. But why I decided to sell it? Well, my issue was not too much on the camera itself, but rather on handling of film. As the negative was so huge, it’s hard to get it flatten for a proper scan, and you really need a good scanner to extract the very best bits of it. Hence, I can’t do the negatives justice, and getting them scanned by the lab cost a bomb.

Fujifilm GW690III with Ilford HP5 Plus 400

So is medium format really worth the hassle? Well, it really depends on what you want to use it for. For landscape, hell yes. The amount of details you can extract, the huge print you can enlarge and make, it’s really jaw dropping coming from full frame. The same advantages go to shooting still life products and portraitures. Everything else? Well, I personally don’t see a need but you will be your own judge.

Looking beyond film, currently there were a few high megapixels full frame digital cameras that offer similar advantages at a much lower price point, hence eating into the pie of medium format cameras. However, digital medium format still has some other advantages (such as tonality) that position them better, but that’s a whole different story that I’ll not go through today. All in all, I really enjoyed using this camera and shooting with medium format, but it’s not what I need at the moment. So it’s time to say goodbye and hopefully someone will make better use of it. Till then.

It’s been a year…

Yup. It’s been a year since the last time I actually touch my Leica M camera. Did I lost my love to it? Well, not really. I bet I will still enjoy using one when I pick it up. Life has been busy and fast paced that I don’t really have time to “slow down” myself. I had been using mainly my Fujifilm X100F for the past one year. Is it a better camera? Well, certainly not. There are so many shortfalls on this camera that drove me nuts at times, but then again, as you worked around its limitations, you will still be able to live with it. Each camera has their pros and cons to begin with.

So why am I not using it more often? For the things I shot for the past one year, they are mainly activities and events surrounding my study, which either was fast paced or require the use of flash. Can a Leica M shoot fast pace subject? Of course it can. Can a Leica M shoot with flash? Of course it can. On the first point, I would probably put the blame on myself for not being able to use the camera fluently. On the second point, I’m still new to using flash, and I don’t think I can juggle between focusing, composing and setting up flash at the same time.

There are limitations on me, and certainly there are limitations as well on the camera. But when it comes to making a decision on which camera to use, I had decided to walk the easier path: go with automation. For my personal stuff I can afford to make mistakes and not getting the shot, but for things that I need to deliver, I will have to use something that I’m more comfortable with in delivering the required result, and in this case, I have chosen to use my X100F over my M.

And then I started to ponder again whether I should still keep my Leica M. For me, what I enjoyed the most is the experience of shooting with a rangefinder, not a Leica. Perhaps I should just use my Zeiss Ikon when I wanted to fiddle with rangefinder camera. But that brings up another question to ponder… should I still continue to shoot film? I sold off my Fujifilm GW690III Medium Format Film camera recently, I had enough fun with medium format, and the problem dealing with medium format film was a pain that overweights the joy of using one. I’ll talk about this more in a separate post.

I still has an affection to analogue photography. I’ll continue to shoot film for the time being, but as my favourite films are being axed from the production one after another, I may stop shooting film eventually. As for my Leica M? I’ll probably need to pick it up for a spin again someday and asked myself what to do next. Till then.

Style vs Spec

Day after day, more and more products are gearing towards “lifestyle” products that are essentially blend into your life, making it apart of your routine, something that you can’t live without, something that resembles you, something in style that fits your personality, look and character. It’s not hard to see these products are getting more attention and sales as compared to “traditional” products that compete with specifications and reliability.

An easy example that can be drawn will be Apple. Apple had never produced any products that are superior in terms of specification. However, people used to say “it just work” on Apple products, and that their design aesthetics adhered to what they are looking for: simple and minimalist. Apple has a huge crowd of followers, and I’m one of those who purchase their product, though I don’t classified myself as their cult follower as I don’t appreciate every single thing they produced.

In the world of photography, it has always been a race of superiority in terms of specifications. With every product launch, you will only hear about how many stops of dynamic range, how many frames per second, how large is the buffer, how fast the camera auto focuses and so on. There was once a megapixel war, followed by mirrorless versus DSLR war and so on. Much of it still revolves around the technical aspect of the product. Well, it’s hard to deny that as we are actually talking about a rather technically engineered product here.

However, there were those who seek to breakthrough and go the other way. Leica was one of them. Their camera has never been “the best” in any class of specification that you can think of, unless you are saying highest price is one of the attribute you are looking at. But still, Leica managed to develop a cult of followers that believes in their philosophy and approach in photography, hence they are able to continue to survive until today. Moderate specification that command premium price tag and yet still able to sell. They are selling “feeling” and “lifestyle” more than anything else.

Another company that kind of follow this approach was none other than Fujifilm. Their camera has long been accused of copying Leica’s rangefinder design. Seriously, looking at the X100 series and the X-Pro series, it’s hard for people to say they are not. Fujifilm has never been the “best” in any of their specification. They were late in the digital camera business, they were late in the mirrorless craze, but yet, they managed to develop a group of cult followers that believed in their “passion for photography”.

My point of view is, Fujifilm has been pretty successful is differentiating themselves and building their own group of followers. They started off with retro design on their camera bodies, differentiating their camera with “X-Trans” sensor technology, adding in dials that provide tactile control resembling those from the film cameras and so on. They did gathered quite a lot of interest, but in order to continue to grow further, apparently it’s not enough.

Sony on the other hand has always been a company that focus only on specifications over form and functions. Sony cameras in particular has always been leading the edge in some key development areas, particularly those surrounding the imaging sensor. A7 has revolutionized the mirrorless camera line by bringing full frame sensors with it, followed by the recent launch of A9 which wiped out most of the advantages that DSLR holds against mirrorless. Their camera has never been a looker, but their performance will keep you wanting to go back for more.

It’s been pretty clear that lately Fujifilm has emphasized more on specs lately and started to detour themselves away from their retro-ness. They started to adopt top plate LCD, they talk more about specification than anything else, they started to venture into videography business for their X-series camera line-up and so on. It does make business sense for these decisions. However, the current state of of products from Fujifilm makes me feel that they are not sure where to go. The GFX and X-H1, to some extent are good initiatives from Fujifilm to grow their product lines. But the fact that they tried to innovate but at the same time still kind of afraid to let go of their retro styling, makes the GFX and X-H1 look just weird. I believe they could have just gone all out with both of these camera and ditched all the dials if they were to incorporate the top plate LCD, just make them with futuristic design to differentiate from the existing retro styled offering. I believe they had built a strong enough cult followers for their retro cameras, is time to move on with something more modern that opens up a new market segment for them.

It seems to be that all manufacturer has bowed to specification over style. Even Leica has been busy with a slew of “modernized” camera like the SL, CL, TL and Q. It remains the be seen whether this will be the way moving forward. I would really want to see if any manufacturer can strike the balance of the two (the Hasselblad X1D is pretty close in my opinion, but I have yet to see or try one in person for myself to comment). Anyway, I’m just contemplating on this while I’m thinking about where should I move on next in terms of my photography gear. Style or spec? Let’s wait and see what else 2018 has to offer for us. Till then.

Upgrading your TCL-X100 and WCL-X100

Alright, after a few posts ranting about 2018, it’s time to get back to business and talk a little about photography!

Fujifilm released TCL-X100 II and WCL-X100 II together with X100F. Essentially, the Version II is the same as Version I (physically and optically), with the only difference being the Version II has built-in magnet that allows the X100F to automatically detects the conversion lens and apply the necessary picture profile directly.

For those who owned the Version I conversion lens, or you do not wish to purchase the much more expensive Version II lenses to couple with your X100F, there’s a workaround that was shared by glueing magnets to the inside of the conversion lens. This is a dirty and gritty method that not everyone is comfortable about (at least I’m not). There’s another “cleaner” and “safer” method that you can use. This company called “Larry Gadget Supply” from China has made a simple solution for you to convert your Version I lens to Version II.

What’s in the box is essentially a metal ring that has magnet embedded inside. What you need to do is just to locate at which position (should be somewhere near the f2.8 area when you turn the aperture ring all the way to Auto) the magnet ring will trigger your camera to detect it and register the profile. There’s a video tutorial showing you what to do, just follow it and you’ll be fine. Once located, just stick the metal ring onto the back of your conversion lens and you are done. The camera will now detects your conversion lens automatically!

So, for those who owned the Version I conversion lens or those who don’t want to spend extra for Version II, feel free to use this cheap method to get the same result. Till then, happy shooting!