Neill Soden
  • Small review of the X30 

    I was given the X30 to try out, but as I have hardly used the X20 and never owned one, it is hard for me to do a full comparison.  I did manage to get my hands on an X20 during this review. It will be a very quick compression and a not very scientific testing.

    At the time of writing and reviewing, I had no technical information on the camera.



    The body and layout 
    When I took the camera out of the box, my first impression was that it was bigger. When I gave it a good look-over, it struck me as a bit more modern-looking over the retro look we have come to know (and which I love) from Fujifilm. The edges seem to be more square, the corners are sharper and don’t bend as subtly as they did on the X20, while the lens looks the same to me.

    The on-and-off switch is still the same; built into the lens. They have added a function ring around the lens that can be defined to things like aperture, ISO, white balance, film simulation and continuous but can differ depending on the mode you’re in. I set it to aperture and kind of like the cool fake clicking noise when I am changing my f-stop.

    It also felt like it was a bit heaver, but not by much. 


    The size increase has also allowed them to put a bigger battery in. It is now the same as the X100 battery (NP95), so in theory you should get more shots out of the charge. However, there is the EVF, Wi-Fi and bigger LCD to be powered. The battery and SD-card are both in the same place as before, while the tripod mount is still to the left of the centre of the camera. 

    Overall the camera feels strong and solid. The only plastic I could feel and see, was the new function ring. . 

    Button layouts
    Few buttons have been moved and added. You’ll be happy to know that the Wi-Fi is there, and this can also be set as the Fn button. Unfortunately, I could not test the Wi-Fi just yet, as the app had not yet been released to the Appstore.

    What I did find and liked a lot, was how they implemented some toggles, e.g. when you hit the macro button, it toggles between off, macro and super-macro.

    View-button and drive-button has been added to the top of the LCD. There are no more buttons on the left of the LCD, allowing for more screen space.

    There is the record movie button added next to the shutter release and EV now has been increased to -3/+3.
    The toggle switch for AF-type is still on the front left, but has moved a bit to the bottom and is a bit smaller. 



    LCD and EVF  
    The tilt screen is much the same as we’ve seen on the X-A/M/T. The resolution of the screen you can see straight away is better. The text on the screen is small, sharp and crisp.

    When I put my eye to the EVF, the first thing I could see was that it is very similar to the X-T1. Big and bright with small, sharp text on the edges, not obscuring the view at all. 

    I was also impressed when I turned the camera for portrait photos. The EVF rotated, again the same as the X-T1. The refresh rate looked good, but I did notice a bit of a drop in low light. The EVF also has the adjustable diopter for your eyes.

     




    Performance has improved in the menus and is a lot better than the X20 and the AF is way better. It focuses much faster, even in low light. Again, this is all on gut feel, but it felt pretty much on par with the X-A/M1. 

    I see they have added a new film simulation called ‘Classic Chrome’, here is a sample of the simulation compared to the Provia and Astia:





    What else I noticed 

    They also allow you 7 custom presets for your menu, which I really missed when I used the X20. Focus peeking is there and one can define the colours. The sensor or the way it reproduces the jpeg at least is definitely better. I can’t tell you technical details, but you can see by these two shots of the X20 and X30 that there is a definite improvement on the noise sensitive side.




    Interval Timer Shooting option is in the menu, so for the time laps shooters out there, I’m sure you’ll be happy!

    They added the ability to connect to the Instax printer in the last menu. They had 3 auto ISO settings you can define and select with the Fn ISO button.




    Charging is with a USB cable into the camera, there is no loose charger. One can easily buy the X100 charger, though. The side flap  has the mini HDI, USB/Power and the mic input.

    In closing, I’m not sure what it will cost and hopefully fits the pocket for its class of camera. I am sure there will be far more detailed reviews out there once the official release has happened. It was nice to see a lot of the new features coming from the X-T1, and a lot of tweaks that we see come out in new firmware and newer models. Overall the camera is fast, good AF and  improved  ISO performance. Overall a great package all round, and it will be a great travel and everyday camera.

  • Fuel needed

    It has been a while since I posted one of these.

    Today, on this bitterly cold day in South Africa, as I arrived at the gas station to fill up, I was greeted with a big smile and a lot of energy by Raphadu. After quickly asking what I needed, even if there was anything in the car I need thrown out, I replied that all I need was a fill-up.



    He came around to ask if I needed any oil, water or air in my tyres. While replying to him that I was happy with only a fill-up, I noticed how nicely the setting winter sun was hitting the side of his face. 



    As he went around to my tank to fill up, I grabbed my camera and asked if I could take a few photos. While taking the few quick shots, I asked where he was from, which he replied with Limpopo.



    Once I had fired a few shots, I showed him and his colleagues. They joked that I would have his picture on a billboard next to the highway where the gas station is located. 



    After sorting out the payment, I drove off with the promise of bringing him a print when I pass there again in the next couple of days, which seemed to make his day as much as he had made mine. 

    ** To all my international readers who might be confused by this, in South Africa we have attendants at all gas stations and never need to fill up ourselves. This helps to create jobs for a lot of people, like Raphadu.

  • TCL-X100 50mm for the x100/s

    Well, here it is: the 50mm converter I’ve been waiting for for some time has finally arrived. I had very high expectations of this converter.




    First off, I hope the next versions of the cameras and converters will have some sort of contact that tells the camera you’re putting either the wide or this-tele converter on. I found it quite a hassle to have to use the menu to tell it when it is on or off. In my case, the converter was constantly on and off, so while I used it, I changed my function button to set it to the correct converter. 

    The converter does not seem to lose any quality or light when used. Much like the wide angle, it performs great and the results are absolutely nothing to complain about.

    I did find that the AF performance dropped slightly when used, but it was still workable in most cases.



    When attached to the camera, the EXIF data sees it as a 33mm  (±50mm equivlent ). The converter does add a bit of weight and size to the X100s, as you can see in the photo above. 








    I found that having to screw the converter on and having to keep setting it in the menu, was not the quickest. So if you need to get a shot in a hurry, it is not the handiest set-up.

    The TCL-X100 and the wide-angle converter will make your x100/s very versatile, though. And, with the size and portability, a  perfect travel companion for your x100/s. 

  • I’ve been working on getting my images more in the direction of fine arts, not sure just yet wether I’m getting the results I’m hoping for. I have also been playing with the square crop and it’s growing on me.

    Would love to hear what you think of the images and the square crop. Drop me a note in the comment section below and let me know!

  • Traveling with an X100S

    I’ve never done a review of the X100S. Even though I’ve been meaning to during the year or so that I have had it. So let’s go ahead and call this a review, even though it is not really about the buttons and dials on the camera, as there is a lot of those out there already.
    We have just returned from a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium for a bit of travel, so I thought I would put the emphasis on how great this camera was for carrying around. I hope I can put in words how it really saved my shoulders and arms. 



    Most of my photos are not something to publish in a travel magazine, keep in mind that the trip was about a friend’s wedding, a bit of time away from work, routine and home.

    The focus, which my wife had to keep reminding me, was about experiencing a new country, seeing things, enjoying myself and taking photos in the process, not going out to get the perfect picture. The result in the end was a great bunch of pictures of a trip that we both loved and enjoyed immensely. 



    I took with me the X-Pro1 + 35mm 1.4 and the X100S with the wide angle converter. I had forgotten that there is so much light in Europe this time of the year, we are used to the sun going down the latest 7:00  here in Johannesburg, South Africa. We both loved this for the extra time it allowed us to take photos, as well as longer days = longer holiday.

    I found that I used the X100S the most, just because it was so easy to carry with me. Easy to pull in and out of a simple shoulder bag, no camera bag required. The other small reason was that my wive was mostly shooting at 50mm, and in the end we would both get the shot of the same stuff, so a different focal length will give you a different view for that building or scene, and it forces you to see it differently. 




    Slinging it over my back while cycling around the Dutch countryside was easy and I didn’t even feel it. (Though taking photos while cycling may not be the smartest move, luckily it stayed on top of the bike, as did I.)



    Hiding it, or covering it under an arm or a pullover while it was raining was simple enough, even hanging over my neck under an umbrella was trouble-free. Plus a one hand operation while holding an umbrella was easy.



    Walking into places like churches or cathedrals, the camera is so silent, you feel a bit braver and can get away with more discreet shots. Including quick shots of people on the trains or in the streets. 





    When traveling, one also has to experience the local food and drink, so out comes the X100S!




    The ND-filter came in handy as well. One can not always plan visits to new places around the best light, so having it built-in is great and takes away the hassle of having to carry and fiddle with ND-filters.

    The wide-angle converter was great, and can get you really great results. 




    I wasn’t sure I would actually use the wide-angle converter, but I have about a 100 keepers in my library taken with it attached, so it was worth taking it along.

    Sadly, I could not get my hands on the teleconverter for the 50mm equivalent before leaving. If I did have it, I think I would have left the X-Pro and 35mm at home.

    Yes, there are times you wish you had a little bit more focal length or some other accessory, but then one remembers how easy this camera is to carry with you, and when you get the results, all doubt just falls away. Even if you have a good DSLR setup, this X100S is a great compliment to your gear, and you will find that it gets used just about every day. 

  • Colour film

    I’ve been looking for film like Kodak Portra and Fuji 400 around the country. In the meantime, I bought the cheap and widely available Fuji Superia 400 for two reasons:

    First I gave the Pentax K1000 to my wife so she can try film, as I was given a Nikon FE by a good friend, and second to check if the Nikon works. 

    Sadly the Nikon failed on me before I could even get to use it, I think was playing around with it too much. I took it in to get repaired, which they did, but now the light meter is stuck in the middle, so I’ve been metering off my X-Pro1 or an iPhone app. It’s not perfect at all, but it’s what I have. When I get back from our Europe trip I’ll take it back to get fixed once more. 



    As I stated, this is cheap film and I really rushed through it to get to the results. I am not crazy about this film, it does not look too good on skin tones or in bad light and when you combine the two, it’s even worse. However, I am somewhat impressed with my metering work-around. It is nowhere near perfect and a bit frustrating, but it’s working.



    To top off the issues, the viewfinder is missing the rubber ring, and as the metal is very sharp, I always worry that I scratch my glasses. I am struggling a bit to get used to the focus; the camera has a focus-split system, which looks cool, but I think it’s a bit harder with my bad eyesight.






    In the end I don’t have too many usable frames, but with all the hurdles and the rushed test, I am happy to have learnt more about film. It’s was the first roll of film this camera has seen in years, and first colour for myself.

  • Public Holiday

    It was a slow day and needed to get out of the house and take some shots in the gorgeous autumn light.

    I thought of the spot that I used for my X-T1 review. It has some great rolling hills in the distance and the sun sets right into them, ending the day with the most beautiful light.



    After a rough little drive on the rain-flushed terrain, we arrived at the spot. Some of the grass has burnt in patches, but luckily most was still nice and long. The sun was very close to the perfect spot, I grabbed the camera and started to shoot.





    By now the sun was behind the hills and the light was looking good. At this time of year, we have maybe 20 minutes to work with. As always, my wife is my favourite model. 




    To finish off, I was just taking out the X100S to get a wider view when this bird flew right in my direction. Totally the wrong camera for this, but hey, it’s what I had in my hand. And look, there is even a tiny little moon there too. :)  



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  • How “Unacquainted” started for me

    Near the end of 2011 I was out with my wife taking a morning drive and being on the look-out for some photos. Winter was just nearing its end. It was early, cold and damp and we were struggling with the brown and dull landscapes, together with the fields that always burn down in our dry Gauteng winters. We had stopped on the dirt road and found a dam with some cows and had hoped to find a shot or two. With little success, we started heading towards the car when this old man walked past us on the road. 

    I pushed all my hesitancy aside, walked up to him and asked if I could take a photo. I could see he was uncertain as well, or could not understand me. There is also a  good chance he could understand, but could not respond in English. But I showed him my camera and he gave me a nod.



    I thanked him and he walked off with his bicycle.



    It took me another 2 years before I really started doing something similar with all the other images you see in this series.  It also only happened after I moved to the Fujifilm cameras. This was still taken with my good, trusty Nikon D200 and the nice and cheap 50mm f/1.8.

    To be honest, it wasn’t just the switch to Fuji’s X-Series, even though the size certainly helps as it is less intimidating to strangers. It’s not the gear, one can do this with any good camera brand out there. It really came more from a personal growth in my photography and skill and confidence in my own work.



    I was busy cleaning and merging my Lightroom catalogues, when I stumbled upon these images again. I did a quick re-edit with my “2014” skills and thought I would post it. Sadly I could only find the jpeg versions of these images so far.

    Having taken this picture back in August 2011, I would never have thought I would be were I am today in my pursuit of photography. I have really enjoyed the journey so far and I am looking every day for people that may have a small story behind them.

    Maybe one day, when the time is right, I’ll be able to make a book and publish it. 


    See some of the other stories below 


     

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  • Grass for brooms

    I was out looking for some shots, and came across these two guys. Both of them are from Zimbabwe. I asked them where they were walking to, and the big fellow told me how they walk to this part of the bush to collect grass to make brooms. They then sell them at the nearby squatter camp called Diepsloot. 

    I took a few shots on digital to check the settings for my film camera, of which currently the light meter isn’t working. Fortunately, the digital images came out nicely for black and white.

    I currently have colour film in my film camera, so I will have to wait and see how they come out. In the meantime, here are the images I got with the Fujifilm X-E2.




    I’ve been playing with a bit of home printing this last week or so, and I was so happy with the outcome of these shots, I just had to print them. I am hoping to find these guys again on the same road at some point to give them a copy as well.