Between the Line of Film and Digital

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Sony A7R Mk II. RAW files edited in Lightroom.

Recently I had noticed something when I switch between shooting film and digital camera. When I shoot on film, usually I will end up with a roll or two rolls of films after each walk, and I will get them developed by a local lab and once done, I’ll scan the pictures, clean some dust spot, follow by minor adjustment on level and curve and that’s about it.

When I shoot digital, I’ll probably start by selecting good pictures from all I have shot, then edit them to taste. I’ll probably spend more time experimenting things like HDR, playing with colours and HSL, deciding whether to convert one to monochrome and so on.

Dakota Crescent. Shot on Fujifilm X-Pro1. Straight out of camera JPEG.

Based on the way I work on film and digital, there are a few notable differences that interest me:

  1. Obviously, I will end up with less picture and, in a way, more keeper when shooting film. Less picture means less to be processed.
  2. There will usually be a gap from the day I took the shot until the day I get the processed film back in my hand. Hence, I’ll have some time to “cool down” myself before processing them. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Usually I will process the digital files very soon.
  3. I’m more lenient when it comes to flaws on my film picture as compared to digital. I can accept some degree of out of focus, or some minor dust or scratches on them. But when shooting digital, I’ll try to strike for “perfection”.

Reflecting on both mediums, it seems that shooting digital is a more “tedious” and time consuming process for me, and it certainly defeats the purpose for those who wanted instant sharing of their works on social media.

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Zeiss Ikon and Ilford Pan 400. Scanned and slight adjustment in Lightroom.

I certainly enjoyed the process of shooting and editing my film pictures more. So does it mean I should shoot more on film instead of digital? The easy answer is yes, as instant sharing isn’t really something that I really need. But why don’t we look at it from another angle, can I simplify the digital process to be as close as the process I have while shooting film?

Perhaps it’s possible, and that’s something I’ll try out and see how things unfold eventually. Shoot with smaller capacity SD card maybe, be more critical on the shot I take, let my pictures sit for awhile before working on them, don’t be too fancy with post editing and so on. Sounds about right. Hopefully by simplifying my digital workflow I will get to focus more on shooting instead. Till then.

Rangefinder Camera vs Fujifilm X-Pro Series

Came across this article the other day on the internet. It’s an article shared on Fuji Addict website which compares Leica M to Fujifilm X-Pro 2. The author talks about the similarities and the difference between the two cameras, the pros and cons for both, and ultimately what are the factors that made him decided to use or to keep his camera. At the same time, YouTuber Matt Day has shared his experience on why he sold his Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and bought a Leica M Typ 262 instead.

These two posts have actually garnered a whole lot of discussions, debates and even flamewars from the netizens. Well, this has always been the case since the introduction of X-Pro 1. People tends to compare the Fujifilm X-Pro series cameras (X-Pro in short) with a Leica M (rangefinder camera, in general) because it looks like one. However, X-Pro is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t rely on rangefinder mechanism to focus, instead it basically performs focusing through the lens and on sensor phase / contrast detection. Hence, it isn’t really a “rangefinder” camera, it just looks like one. And honestly, it isn’t really “fair” to compare these two different types of camera head on as they are pretty much a different camera on their own. However, I’ll share a bit of my view and experience in why I decided to make the switch.

I have owned the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 before and had used it a lot especially during my trips oversea. I have sold it and now I’m using the Leica M-P Typ 240. I didn’t purchase the X-Pro 2, but I get to play around with it on a few occasions. Both systems have enough lens selections to cover your shooting needs, and both cameras performed admirably to create great pictures. Of course you get to use auto focus with the X-Pro and electronic viewfinder was built in the hybrid viewfinder, but on the other hand the experience of using the optical viewfinder is much better on a rangefinder camera.

I sold off my Fujifilm system and went for a rangefinder camera instead. One of the reason was that I prefer to shoot with the optical viewfinder of a rangefinder camera as opposed to the hybrid viewfinder offered by X-Pro. I had never managed to master on how to make full use of the optical viewfinder of X-Pro, hence ended up using the electronic viewfinder all the time. To me, this is perhaps the biggest deal breaker which influenced me in getting a rangefinder camera over the X-Pro. The former gives a more engaging experience when using the optical viewfinder.

For rangefinder, you get to see the focus patch at the center of the optical viewfinder, hence you can focus and recompose your shot on the go and get your shot right easily. With the X-Pro, there are a few boxes showing you roughly where is the focus point, but they are often not accurate. To be fair, you will get used to it after sometime and you’ll be able to estimate roughly where the auto focus will hit, but still, the hit rate is not that encouraging, at least for me. With X-Pro 2, you get to trigger an additional electronic viewfinder window at the bottom of the finder (electronic rangefinder or ERF) in order to confirm where the focus point hits. This sort of mitigated the issue mentioned earlier, but it introduces another problem. My eyes will be wandering around the viewfinder to frame and to check the focus point. I was a little annoyed by the trouble and “disconnection” in the shooting process, hence degrading the overall shooting experience.

Everyone has their reasons in choosing and using one camera. We just need to learn to respect their decision and get over it. Something that suits you doesn’t mean will suit others as well. There is no need to start a flamewar over it. Stop being a fanboi and start shooting more pictures. Anyway, I really wished Fujifilm can continue to refine their hybrid viewfinder and improve on the experience of using the optical viewfinder. Who knows one day the hybrid viewfinder on the X-Pro might become so good that I am willing to go for it and make it my main camera system. Till then.

 

My 2 Years Journey with Fujifilm

I started photography with a Canon PowerShot G12, followed by G1X and later EOS 50D. As time goes by, my photography hobby was sort of like on the edge of giving up as I just don’t feel like going out and shoot with my gears anymore. The issue is mainly due to the heavy gears and also I’m not joining many local community to go out and practice photography.

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X-E2

After much consideration and observation on the camera released by Fujifilm, such as X100 and X-Pro1, in December 2013, I bought the Fujifilm X-E2 to replace my whole Canon system. I must say getting the Fujifilm camera has reignited the joy and passion for photography, and I believe many would agree with me on this. The reason I jumped into Fujifilm is simple: the rangefinder design, compact and light weight system paired with the small prime lenses, the intuitive control layout and the film simulation which gave them the best JPEG output in the camera market.

Later on I got myself the X100S as my “everyday camera”, but sadly ended up selling it after few months of usage. I’m fine with it’s “compactness”, but the deal breaker for me was the camera’s operation was rather slow, and it’s actually different as compared to my X-E2 (AF switch button is at the opposite direction, for example). It’s frustrating and irritating at the same time. Not to mention the lens was soft at wide open and I need to constantly stop down in order to get better sharpness. I’m not saying it’s a bad camera, it still performs pretty well in general when you work within it’s limitation. But I have to say I bought it on impulse, and after much consideration, it just doesn’t suit my requirement.

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X100S

The X-T1, which was a SLR designed camera, was released later on and I traded my X-E2 for it. It’s a fine camera that packed a whole punch of features and technologies inside. However, at this point of time, competitors had already catch up with the like of Sony releasing their A7 lineup. Fujifilm is no longer the only player, and others were catching up in a fast pace and even surpassing them in many areas. For me, I still like shooting with Fujifilm camera, and I love the lenses that I owned such as the XF18, XF23 and XF56. Even though X-T1 is not as feature rich as others, the price is not that cheap either, but I still decided to stick with it as I enjoyed shooting with it.

But ever since the release of X-T1, the lens lineup for Fujifilm has changed quite a bit. The coming lenses like XF16, XF18-135, XF16-55, XF50-140 are all huge and bulky. Even though they are “optically superb” and weather sealed, these lenses just don’t fit into my requirement. Well, to be fair I already owned all the focal lengths I needed, but it just made me feel that Fujifilm has forgotten it’s “roots and heritage” of releasing compact system camera with small and superb lenses. I’m not against Fujifilm from releasing their “pro” line of lenses, but it’s just that at the same time I felt that my needs for a compact and light weight system has been abandoned by them. Later on, I got myself the X-Pro1 as a second body to shoot for my trip in Japan. I wrote about it in my previous posting that there are a lot to like and hate about this camera, and this is where I found myself in a dilemma.

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X-T1

I had always fascinate about shooting with a rangefinder camera. In many ways, I enjoyed shooting with the X-Pro1 more than the X-T1, but the performance of it leaves much to be desire. X-Pro2 is no where to be seen, and on a side track I got a taste of what real rangefinder is like after I acquired the Leica M9-P. The optical viewfinder on X-Pro1, although beautiful as it is, it just isn’t a rangefinder no matter how much it tries to disguise. Perhaps it’s just me who can’t work with the optical viewfinder of X-Pro1, but I believe most if not all are using it with electronic viewfinder instead, which defeats the purpose of having it there in the first place. X-Pro1 ended up as the second most short lived camera for me. It’s a shame, really. As a camera it sure offers a lot of great user experience, but being a flagship that contains specification that is even lower than current entry level, it simply makes no sense to pay for the premium price for it unless you are buying used or in dirt cheap promotion price.

And there came a chance for me to shoot for my friend’s wedding, and I decided to shoot with the X-T1. I loaned the XF16-55 and XF56 APD from Fujifilm Singapore and shot the wedding day with it. This was the first time I shoot for a wedding, and I had made a couple of mistakes throughout and ended up not getting results that I wanted. But when I looked back, the performance of the whole system is still… has a lot of room for improvement. I have been shooting for hobby all this while, hence such issue never surfaced to me before. But once I get myself into the run and gun situation, how I wished I have a DSLR with me. “DSLR is dead”, that’s what mirrorless users loved to say. I can assure that they are completely wrong and DSLR will stay relevant at least for now.

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X30

The AF system for X series camera is still unreliable at times. The focusing speed is reasonable, but the accuracy is what frustrate me most. The dynamic range for the sensor is still limited compared to competitors. When underexposed, there’s little room to pull back the shadow without introducing noise. And I still can’t find a good way to process the raw files of Fujifilm. Some of these issues can be my own problem, but when I can harvest better result with the same process with other camera, it makes me wonder why I need to torture myself for it. In the end, I had been shooting and using Fujifilm’s JPEG files most of the time.

Keeping the X-T1 also means that I need to continue to keep a whole lens line up just for it. As my M mount lens will not be in the same focal length when I adapt them on it due to the sensor crop factor. As my goal has always about downsizing and streamlining my gear, I had made the hard decision to sell off my whole Fujifilm system. Yes, it’s a hard decision. I try not to hop around systems too much but when things aren’t work out for me anymore, is time to let go. Emotionally I’m still attached with Fujifilm’s camera, even those from Canon. Canon cameras had nurtured my photography basics for 3 years, while Fujifilm cameras had accompanied me through the learning and growing phase for another 2 years. As much as I’m being objective and not bias to any brand, I can’t helped but to get a some emotional attachment to the things I used.

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X-Pro1

At this point of time, the Sony A7 series  camera seems to be a good fit to streamline my equipment as I can literally use the same lenses I used on my M-P on them, hence I’ll be shooting with them and knowing them better. But I still feel that something is missing on the A7 series which is decisive enough to hold me from jumping into it. Perhaps it is “soulless” like what many others are saying. I’ll continue to keep a lookout as I’m not in a hurry to expand my current line up. I should be able to live with my M-P and the four lenses I have for quite awhile. There’s still a X30 lying around in my house as it belongs to my girlfriend, so I can still technically shoot with a Fujifilm camera whenever I want to.

Goodbye Fujifilm. I really enjoyed using your camera, but as time goes by, it seems like we have parted in our directions, philosophies and goals, hence I have no choice but to let you go. Hopefully someday you will be able to wow me again with a great camera like how the X-Pro1 did in the year of 2012, and I will be more than happy to embrace you again. Till then.

Year in Review 2015

This is going to be a long post to close the year of 2015, so please bear with me. This year marks the 5th year of my photography journey, and this year has been a roller coaster ride for me. A lot of changes in terms of gear that I’m using, and there are a lot of things that I learnt throughout the year.

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This year, I managed to get a real taste of shooting with a “real” film camera… the Nikon FM3A. I shot quite a number of rolls ranging from colour film such as Kodak Gold 200 and Pro 400H, to black & white film such as BW400CN, T-Max 400 and Neopan Across 100. The experience of shooting with film camera has been very enjoyable, and I get to understand more on the roots of photography, like how the classic metering system works, manual focusing, focus and recompose and so on. I also get to appreciate different types of film and their output, and to train myself to become more precise in executing a shot before triggering the shutter. Eventually, I have sold the camera off and yes I’m regretting on this decision.

The year of 2015 marks the beginning of my journey through the world of rangefinder. I’d always been curious and eager to try out a rangefinder, but the price of the camera has always put me off. It’s not cheap and I don’t feel comfortable to just asked for one from my friend to try and shoot for a period of time. There came the opportunity for me to buy over a Leica M9-P from my friend at a very attractive price. I bought it over, battled my way with the rangefinder and eventually fell in love with it. Later on, I decided that I “need” the better performance from the new Leica M Type 240, and so ended up selling the M9-P and got myself the Leica M-P Type 240. Actually both are brilliant cameras, but I’ll talk about it a little more next time on the story surrounding this change.

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And last but not least… the year of 2015 also marks the end of my 2 years journey with Fujifilm cameras. Yes, from X-E2 to X100S, from X-Pro1 to X-T1… I have sold them all (technically speaking I still have a X30, which belongs to my girlfriend). There are many reasons why I decided to do so. I still can’t seems to harvest all the greatness of Fujifilm RAW files, and the fact that new lenses are getting bigger and heavier were a big let down to me as well. Of course there are many other things which brought me to this decision, but most of them are just my personal opinion. I’ll talk about those next time in a separate post. For now, the only Fujifilm camera left that I might still be shooting with will be the X30.

Gears aside, I’m glad that I’d been shooting more frequent than the year before. Almost every weekend or every other weekend I’m out to shoot, to learn more about my camera, to practice more about what I have read from books or forum and to see things and visualize them in different perspective. Perhaps I’d planned too many projects with too little time to complete them. Anyway, I managed to complete a couple of small projects like the “50 Shots with my Zeiss Planar” and “Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive”. The “to do” list is still pretty long, and I’ll see what can be done in the year of 2016 to materialize them.

The year of 2015 has been a fruitful year in terms of traveling and photography. I managed to cover Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara), Hong Kong and Cambodia (Phnom Penh), and I’m glad that I managed to grab some shots that I like from these trips. It’s always nice to be able to travel to some foreign places, it feels refreshing and gets you excited and wanted to just go out all the time to look, see, experience and shoot.

So what’s there for 2016? For a start, I’m planning to revamp my flickr account, though I’m not too sure how to do it, I’ll just try and see if I can keep them organized better. Blog post will continue over here, and I’m actually planning to shoot lesser for 2016. I’m toying the idea of revisiting my archive of images and relook into some of the forgotten gems and process them all over again. I have not been improving much in terms of post processing, hence I would certainly hope I can do something about it in 2016. Photo project wise, I’ll be downsizing and only be selecting a few projects that I’m really keen to work on. And last but not least, a lot of money has been spent on gears in 2015, so for 2016, I would like to spend more on developing my skills instead. I’ll probably grab some useful books or attend some workshops, we’ll see how everything unfolds. Besides that, hopefully I can embark on a solo trip as well for next year.

Gear wise, I don’t think there will be any major changes moving forward. It’s likely that I’ll grab a camera to replace my X-T1 as a AF-driven system alongside my Leica M System. Perhaps adding a film camera body if I can get something cheap to play with? Lens wise, at most I can foresee is getting a 28mm lens or “upgrading” one or two lenses in my current line-up. Otherwise, nothing much that I can think of for now. Oh well, we all know how the G.A.S. strikes out of nowhere, no one will be able to predict what camera you will be holding next anyway.

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All in all, 2015 has been a pretty good year for me in terms of photography. I learnt a lot, get to know a lot of new friends and fellow photogs, get to explore more places and above all, get to take some nice pictures that I’m happy with. Hopefully 2016 will be another great year ahead for me and my photography. Till then, Happy New Year.

3 Weeks Without My M9-P

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It has been 3 weeks without my Leica M9-P by my side as it was sent for sensor replacement on the sensor stain (a.k.a. sensor corrosion) issue. As a result, I have been shooting with my Fujifilm X-T1 and X-Pro1 a little more. A couple of questions came to my mind:

  • Is the M rangefinder really a camera that I want to continue to shoot with?
  • Am I enjoying the rangefinder experience, or the Leica experience?
  • How can I integrate the M9-P into my current Fujifilm camera system line-up?
  • Will the M9-P become my main camera? Or it will just be a fun camera rather than a work horse?
  • Can I live with manual focusing as my main focusing method moving forward?

Well, I might not have all of the answers yet. Hopefully I can find out once I get it back from the service centre and start shooting again. Till then, happy shooting 🙂