Muggy Summer

This summer has been very hot and muggy. Blame global warming I guess, but if I’m going that far I may as well blame the sun while I’m at it…..

I’m gearing up to accept a second sports photography gig for the school year. Here goes….

I’ve been shooting street, working full time hours at my day job, and launching a few other business ventures. I’ve also resumed investing in my potential retirement. Here goes….

Single again. Here goes…..

Summer means scooting around on my Harley. I’ve been doing that a lot. If I wasn’t so busy maybe I’d combine my rides with street shooting….

The next big purchase for me is the Canon 1dx II. Then after that I’ll try to get the 300mm 2.8 IS II…..

Besides that shit is real. Keep banging….

Exit.

CAMERA REVIEW: The FujiFilm X100F

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Introduction:

The fujifilm X100F is nearly flawless for its intended uses. This camera is the real fucking deal here folks. It may not be the “all time greatest” compact mirrorless camera, but it is the second best of all time, behind a certain Leica camera I will not mention by name…

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The Fujifilm X100F…

Many of us have been shooting with DSLR’s, and though they perform very well and are ubiquitous, a lot of times we wish we had something equally as powerful but a hell of a lot smaller. I’m a street photographer. I shot with a Canon 70D and then a 5d Mark III in the streets. This was great as far as autofocus speed and lens choices are concerned, but those are some big bitches, those cameras. Coupled with a 135L and then the 50 1.2L…it was a chore to carry those kits around. It got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was like: fuck it, I need something smaller.

Smaller historically has mostly meant “image quality compromise” when it comes to camera selection. For example, the image quality available from a huge $50k Hasselblad will be better (in theory) than the image quality I can get from a Nikon D750 (nothing against the D750). This is due to the sensor size (medium format vs full frame) of course. When looking at camera choices, I immediately realized that even though I wanted something powerful, I needed to go as small as possible if I was going to actually use this new camera every day and not just when I felt like it. That was my first consideration: I wanted to buy a camera (or camera system, more on that later) that I would actually carry with me everywhere I travel daily. A secondary thought when making that consideration was whether or not I wanted a “point and shoot” style unibody, or did I want a small camera system with small lenses, such as those expensive cameras and lenses the Germans make. This consideration took a few months to sort through.

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My Harley in ACROS…

The next consideration was price. A camera too cheap will be so inferior to my Canon system that I will feel buyers remorse, and a camera that is too expensive will be like carrying a huge diamond with me in public. I’d be paranoid about losing it and would dread having to replace it. Don’t let people bullshit you: price is definitely a factor in these decisions and not just the “can you afford it?” calculation. The proper way to express that calculation is: can you easily afford to replace it? 

So I decided to get the Fuji X100F here, and made a big fucking deal of it, as if my decisions matter in the scheme of the planet. With no further bullshit…here is my review!

Image Quality:

Let me cut to the chase. The image quality from this cameras is very very good. I totally prefer the X100F jpegs over the jpegs coming out of my Canon 5d Mark III. These Fuji jpegs are superb. As of this blog entry Adobe hasn’t updated camera RAW so I can’t process RAW files in Lightroom without doing a bunch of bullshit workarounds. Fuck that. I’ll wait.

Are there some issues that suck about the images I get from this camera? Maybe. Really it’s an issue with Fuji X-Tran sensor cameras in general, and is summed up in three words: waxy skin jpegs. That’s it. Other than the fact that at higher ISO’s (above 800), white people look like they are made of plastic when you shoot color jpegs, there are no issues to speak of.

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Waxy Skin Jpegs…

Notice I’m leaving out specs here. Fuck specs. The camera has an APS-C sensor and around 24 megapixels of resolution. If you want more specs then google them.

The high ISO performance of this camera is pretty good to my eyes, with fine grain appearing prevalent around 6400 or so. The grain (which can be included or excluded artificially) from this camera is decisively unlike the color crazy “noise” you get from your run of the mill DSLR at higher ISO.

You can hand-hold this little fucker to about 1/60 with no problems and get images that are crazy sharp. The camera doesn’t have image stabilization, like that unmentioned Leica does, but mirrorless cameras don’t have a slapping mirror to complicate the process and work against the hand-hold-ability of the camera using slower shutter speeds.

The camera has a noise reduction engine which is weirdly cranked up by default. I suggest turning it down (to between -1 to -4) before you take your first jpeg photo.

One of the coolest features in the history of digital cameras is the film simulations offered by Fuji cameras (including their new GFX medium format camera). These simulations are sublime. I use ACROS, which is a contrasty black-and-white sim. Most people use ACROS and the faded color look called Classic Chrome (and by most people I mean everybody)….

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Classic Chrome

Bottom line is: if you have a big ass DSLR and are afraid switching to Fuji will hurt your Instagram follower count… it wont. Buy the camera. You’ll be fine…..

Build and Handling:

When the pretty counter-girl at Service Photo in Baltimore handed me the Fuji X100F box on February 23rd 2017, I stood there stunned at how miniature the camera was once I unboxed it. The camera is TINY. My iPhone 6S+ is both wider and longer than the X100F. My iPhone doesn’t weigh more though. The X100F is meaty, and holding it betrays the fact that the intended use for this camera is heavy street and travel work. There is a lot of tech packed into this little weapon, and you can feel it when you hold it. I opted for the all black version, but it also comes in hipster-grey, or whatever it’s called. Regardless of color scheme choice, the camera itself is an analog throwback celebration of dials and switches, but is as well the peak of modernity with its glass LCD screen and high-tech hybrid viewfinder (more on that in the autofocus portion).

The lens, which I have not mentioned until now, is the same lens that has been on this model of camera since its inception with the original X100 (or at least the X100S). In my opinion the lens is fine. Pinned against the body is a 1/3 of a stop clicking sliver of an aperture ring that is thrilling to turn. Next, and I have to say this: that “control ring” is some bullshit. It spins too freely and is wasted in jpeg-only mode, where it controls stuff like the built in teleconverter (35, 50, and 70mm options–all at 24mp) and lets you choose between the film simulation modes, in addition to two other options I cant remember. Enabling Fine (jpeg) + RAW disables these annoying choices and returns the control ring to its intuitive function of being a focus ring. In Fine + Jpeg the control ring is also a parallax correction ring, when you are shooting stuff that is very close.

The camera comes with a strap which I will never use. I got one of those trendy rope straps instead. If anybody wants a free Fuji strap then hit me up (I’m lying).

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ISO 1600. ACROS

I am a bit confused as to how to affix a 49mm clear filter on the front of this puppy. Thats the filter size. The X100F comes with a lens cap that pops on and off and looks terribly awesome.

This may be the best looking camera on the market today. There are simply no bad angles about this camera.

Handling is fine unless your phallus beaters are particularly large. The button layout on the back of the camera is a bit tight on the right side, and some users have complained about the placement of the Q button. It’s also easy as fuck to bump the exposure compensation dial off the zero setting, so be mindful of that as you toss the little camera about.

Autofocus:

That Leica camera I promised not to mention is fast as shit to attain focus and fire. I tested it and was blown away. Amazingly, this little Fuji is almost as fast if not equally so. It’s quick. I can use one hand to attain focus, fire with professional precision, and keep it moving all in less than a second and a half. The camera does take a nervous second or two to wake up, but I have a feeling this has more to do with the time it takes the “eye detection” function of the viewfinder to kick in than actual wake-up time. I probably just need more practice with this particular camera. My number one personal focus is speed.

There are the standard modes of autofocus. Continuous, Single shot, and Manual. Choose whichever one you prefer. I refrain from the continuous shot mode because, honestly, I shoot Canon and these little mirrorless jobs are not on that level yet as far as tracking swiftly moving subjects are concerned. This isn’t a sports camera by any means, but it can nail a shot here or there of something in fast motion that will surprise you.

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Shot out to the ambassador of Street Photography Eric Kim. That guy. The more I get into this street photography thing, and become a God at it, the more I realize that kid knows exactly what the fuck he’s talking about. In this case I’m speaking about using the LCD to shoot. With a Canon 5d Mark III, it isn’t practical to use the LCD to shoot. It’s possible but not practical. With this Fuji X100F I use the LCD by default. It’s fast and brilliant. I’m in my car and I see something and BAM. I can shoot it without having to guess or manually switch shooting/viewing modes. I see the final exposure right there on the screen. Now I see why many shooters go for the Ricoh GR.

As for the viewfinder, here is where novelty meets practicality. The EVF I would rate as average. It doesn’t seem as fast or nice as the one in that Leica camera, but it does the job well. There is a bit of a lag though, but it is a practical and useful EVF. The OVF function is very nice, but it seems sort of novel and unreliable as far as your certainty of nailing focus. It’s addictive though, and is great to use for we Canon/Nikon monkeys who already know how a photo will turn out exposure-wise because of our settings. I’d say the OVF is more for advanced photographers and the EVF is the easier viewfinder mode to use, just slower. I use the OVF and the LCD, for the record….

The AEL/AFL button is maybe an 8th of an inch too far to the left. It works fine if back button focus is your thing. I said I would start using a half-shutter press once I got this camera and that’s what I have been doing. I use 100% back button focus on my Canon. You can set the AFL to any of maybe 8 buttons on the X100F, so no need to fret if your hands are poorly sized for this camera. If you got those Donald Trump sized hands though you’ll be fine…

Video:

What is that?

Battery and Storage:

The X100F has one SD slot. The card slot is sketchy to me (it gave me an error the FIRST time I tried to reinsert my SD card after dumping images with my card reader) so now I tend to upload images using the USB cable. It comes with a charger, the camera does. You can also charge the battery using the USB cable by plugging the camera up to a computer or any USB charger, which is super fucking dope awesome. This camera takes the same battery as the X-Pro2 and the X-T2. You get maybe 300-400 shots on one charge. Not bad really. I have 2 batteries but have yet to need the second one. If I were using this camera for a wedding (as a 2nd body) I’d likely have maybe 3 batteries and one in the clip, totaling 4.

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Price:

The Fujifilm X100F costs $1299 new. You get a lens already anchored to the body. That’s important. You see, guys like me with GAS would buy 6 lenses if the X100F didn’t have a lens already rooted onto the front of it. This is important as it takes much of your temptation away. To this day I randomly log into Amazon to look at cameras before realizing I don’t really need anything……

Alternatives: 

In this price range? The Ricoh GR reportedly has better image quality and is cheaper to boot. No viewfinder though. More expensive? That Leica camera and the Sony RX cameras are luxury greatness. Other than that you have to get a whole new camera system and scout for lenses and troll over DXO lens sharpness tests and all that bullshit. With a compact camera all you have to do is shoot.

Conclusion:

Buy the goddamn camera.

Exit.

Rainy Days are Sunny Days for Street Photography

I ride a Harley Davidson. I love riding and I try to get out there and rip it up every chance I get. Since I became a biker I have also become something of a weatherman. I often look weeks in advance at weather projections and forecasts, sorting out which days look good to plan a ride and which days may be a long shot at best. Projected sunny days make me giddy days in advance of riding. Looking ahead, I plan all sorts of riding scenarios. Normally though, the riding scenarios consist of me taking my camera gear with me when I shoot sports. When the day arrives I race from one game to the next, splitting traffic and gunning it hard as I go. It’s exhilarating. On the other hand, a day where it is projected to rain is a non-starter for riding. No riding will happen that day. Steady rain, no matter how lightly it falls, is not the ideal condition in which you want to operate your bike. This doesn’t mean that on rainy days I sit around trolling the internet and bemoaning not living in my dream city of San Diego or the always sunny Phoenix however. I have a car as well as a Harley and on rainy days, even though I can’t ride, I get to pursue street photography.

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Wet Puppy

I don’t have kids or friends who like to ride shotgun in my car, so my normal riding buddy is my 5d Mark III with a 50mm 1.2 lens on the front. My street gear and I usually hit my favorite street photography spots in town, as well as run my usual errands. I don’t exactly get as excited as I do for riding my Harley, but I do get pretty excited to go and shoot the streets, especially when it rains.

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Slick Street

The reasons I like shooting in the rain is firstly because the photos just look dope. Rain adds another element to record on your sensor. If you use a higher ISO and higher shutter speed, you can actually freeze the rain and see individual drops falling, if that’s your thing. For me, rain adds additional texture to a shot. I also like the look of wet rocks and streets.

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Those boots look edible…

Secondly, besides the overall look of the photos, I like the fact that people are either using umbrellas when it rains, which always looks good, or they are bare-headed and that can look even better. Also, people are less likely to see your camera when it’s raining. I can raise my camera to my eye and compose a photograph how I wish and a subject probably wont notice me doing so. Of course, having a weather sealed camera body and lens is a big help. If you don’t have a weatherproof setup then you can use an umbrella, even though it might mess with your speed when composing and taking photographs. I wouldn’t recommend putting a plastic bag over your camera and attempting to shoot the streets however. You may accomplish keeping your gear dry but you will also accomplish looking like a complete douchebag.

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When will they invent an umbrella you don’t actually have to hold?

I love sunny days. I get to ride my bike and shoot lacrosse or field hockey under the warm spring or late summer sun. When it rains however, this is when the sun shines on street photography. To me, street photography is second best when it rains. The only time the rain is bested, element wise, is when street photography is shot during a blizzard. Nothing beats snow shooting in the streets, but you’ll have to wait for winter to read that blog post. For now, when rain is in the forecast plan on grabbing that damn camera you paid all that money for and actually using it. Pull your hood over your head and get the hell out of your car. Always remember, when you’re out there in the pouring wetness, stay low and keep shooting. 

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Dirty Snow

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