Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fuji X100s, Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D EM-5, Olympus OM-D EM-5 – My Comparison

Olympus OMD EM5
Image © Olympus

Fujifilm X-T1
Image © Fujifilm

Fujifilm X100s
Image © Fujifilm

From a previous post, you’ve heard that we sold off all out Fuji X cameras and got the Nikon Df.  We are happy to report that we are still very much pleased with the Nikon Df and use it whenever we can.
The Df is my daily carry camera – it is with me 95% of the time.  So what about the other 5%.   Those are usually those times when having  the Df is not practical.  I’ve been wanting/lusting after what the Fuji X100s has to offer.  I’ve only passingly handled the X100 and thought with all the improvements the X100s had to offer, it would be that much better.

Walking into my favorite camera store this recently, I had every intention of leaving with the X100s.  However, my friends there gave me the opportunity to use and handle the following cameras:
Fuji X100s, Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D-EM-5 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about all these cameras and I could not pass up the opportunity to work with them all head to head.

I do not have sample images from all of the cameras, as this report is not as much about image quality as it is handling and performance speed. 
If we are honest, I think we know that the Fuji will have the IQ edge, especially in the realm of the hi ISO.  We will concede to that right now.
One of my main issues with the Fuji system has always been the speed at which the camera performs.  This includes powering up, waking from sleep, accessing menu items and AF speed and acquisition.

Let us have a quick rundown of the positives.

Fuji X100s
Feels great in the hand.
Solid build.
OVF is nice, clear and bright.  EVF is a great alternative to have.
Upgraded MF(compared to the X100) is much better to use.
Great 23mm f/2 lens

Fuji X-T1
Solid build.
Fit my hands like it was custom made for me.
EVF was comprehensive and responded quickly to orientation changes.
The top dials were solid and had a nice click to them. I did not think that I would accidentally knock any of them out of their position by accident.
It seems to be the fastest responsive Fuji X camera to date(accessing menus, powering up, waking from sleep).
Very quick AF in comparison to the other X cameras.
Great prime and zoom lenses.

Olympus OM-D EM5 and EM1
Very quick AF.
Solid build quality.
Good EVF.
Nice feel in the hand.
Great prime lenses.

Now let’s talk about what everyone wants to know – which is, when compared to each other, what do I think?

We need to level set/full disclosure and let you know what the shooting conditions were.
When using an ILC, the kit zooms were used(The ones that claim “world’s fastest AF” in the ads…lol).   For the Fuji, it was the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS…the Olympus used the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3.
Images were taken/AF performance tested inside the camera shop, which had fluorescent lights.  It was dim, but probably a little brighter than your average indoor environment.

Also, this is not a scientific test.  It is my learned observation and experiences that I am reporting on.

We are going to start with the Fuji cameras since the X100s was what I thought I wanted the most and the X-T1 is what everyone is currently talking about.  The AF speed on the X100s was still about the same as the X100, maybe a little faster.  It did seem a little more sure, but it did have quite a bit of front to back shuffle before locking into focus.  Once it got focus, it was almost always 100% accurate.   Unfortunately, the X-T1 suffered from the same front/back shuffle before locking focus.  Yes, it is very fast – probably the fastest AF I’ve seen in any X camera to date….but Fuji still seems to have a way to go on getting the AF to something great and not just adequate.  I was disappointed in this behavior…which is sad because I so much wanted Fuji to be better than what it was.  On the plus side, it is nice that the X-T1 can track focus in a continuous shooting mode.

One of my biggest handling issues with the Fuji X cameras are AF point selection.  I’ve gotten so used to my DSLRs and the 4 way pad being dedicated to picking the AF point – it was one of the reasons I had for deciding to drop my X-E1.  This still is an issue here for both the X100s and the X-T1.

Both the X100s and X-T1 felt good in the hand, albeit they have different ways of gripping them.  The X-T1 is beefier and felt very natural to hold, especially coming from using a DSLR.
Moving on to the Olympus offerings of the OM-D EM-5 and the OM-D EM1.  I want to begin by saying that I was never a fan of m43 in the past.  I always had a preconceived bias against it because of the smaller sensor size.  That has all changed now that I was able to handle one and see what it is all about.

Yes, we cannot get around physics and there are just some things that a smaller sensor just cannot do.  I’ve noticed that there does not seem to be as large a dynamic range as the Nikon or Fuji cameras I’ve shot in the past.  I will say that I was impressed at just how useable the files were from the Olympus cameras up to ISO 2000.  It starts getting a little rougher around ISO 3200/6400…but if you nail exposure and don’t have a lot of pitch black areas….you can still have a good JPG to work with.

Now… getting to what really impressed me on the EM5/EM1.  The AF performance was almost instantaneous.  I mean…I could not believe what I was seeing here.  Same lighting conditions and with a slower (aperture wise) kit zoom lens, the Olympus nailed focus immediately and without any back/front dance as was seen in the Fuji offerings.  I bounced all over the place grabbing focus at different distances and at different focal lengths.  It did not seem like I could trip up the Olympus AF.  Even with the contrast detect only AF of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 it was direct, to the point and accurate.  I was surprised here…but in a very good way.  I heard people before praising the AF performance, but I did not think it to be this good.

The speed also moves over into the menu usage and boot up times as well.  The menu systems run very quick and smooth.  They are a bit deep, lots of options and they are not in any way similar to what I’m used to with my Nikon or Fuji menus.  Startup from power off to on was very quick.  Not DSLR instant, but way better than the Fuji cameras – not including the X-T1.  Fuji listened and boosted the start up time for the X-T1.  Good job on that.  

At the end of the day, what does all this mean??  It means that I walked out of the camera store with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 and 12-50mm kit.

Image © Olympus

Do I still want a Fuji X100s?  Well, yeah...maybe in the future.  However, by the time I am ready for that - Fuji may very well have a full frame X200 to replace the least I'm hoping that is the inevitable direction.
EM5 12-50/3.5-6.3
1/30, f/5.3, ISO 2000
Want more information?  OK…lets talk about it.

When comparing the above systems, the Olympus was the most DSLR like in looks and control.  The only thing that the Fuji X offerings had a resounding lead on over the Olympus was in sensor size and hi ISO image quality.  The Olympus was better in almost every respect beyond that.  And at base ISO - the Olympus m43 sensor is doing just fine.  The image examples on this page should let you see that.

EM5, 12-50/3.5-6.3
1/20, f/6.3, ISO 2000
Add to this, the fast prime lenses for the Olympus system are way smaller, and can be found cheaper never hurts.  I even preferred the EVF of the Olympus over that of the Fuji X-T1.  Yes, the Fuji has more unique features, but I thought the smearing of the Olympus was not as pronounced in the low light shooting conditions as the Fuji.  Honestly, I still prefer an OVF…but those seems to be looking more and more like a feature we will see less of as we progress into the future.
In my mind, and for my way of shooting, if I need extreme low light, super high ISO performance, I’ve got my Nikon Df/D700 to choose from.  The Olympus gives me a very responsive performance machine in a smaller package.

EM5, 17/1.8
1/640, f/2.8, ISO 100
I was honestly surprised I walked out of there with an m43 camera.  I’ve shot with it for only a few days, but I am so happy with this cameras performance at this point.  I did have a slight moment of regret at first, when I ran through an initial set of images.   For some reason, I was not getting that "pop" or "wow factor" that I expected from the images.  I thought that I was perhaps missing something as this is a new camera system to me.  After a few days of research, I did realize 2 things.  1 - optics on the OM-D matter.  The kit 12-50/3.5-6.3, while convenient and weather sealed is not the sharpest or most contrasty lens.  I noticed an immediate increase in IQ when I put on the 17/1.8 or the 45/1.8 prime lenses.  2 - for some unknown reason, Olympus gives you the OM-D cameras setup as base as possible.  I mean, they have a higher jpg compression on by default and the default noise reduction is a bit much as well.

EM5, 12-50/3.5-6.3
1/80, f/5.6, ISO 1600
Keep an eye out for a future post where I discuss how I setup the OMD EM5 to be optimized for the way I shoot.  There are quite a few steps, but once its done, you never have to do it again.

EM5, 17/1.8
1/60, f/4, ISO 640
And to end this all out - here is a random thought from me about mirrorless and the US market.   This is just my theory and is in no way scientific.
When I look at the mirrorless camera offerings, the majority of them looked a lot like the point and shoot style cameras we have been seeing for years.  I think this hurts their perception because for years "professionals" used DSLRs and they have a certain look to them.
Now that entry level DSLRs are sometimes less expensive than some point and shoots, no one wants to have their "pro" camera mistaken for a point and shoot...thus the mirrorless cameras don't get the marketing credibility that the DSLR still has here.

EM5, 17/1.8
1/1250, f/4, ISO 100
I think Olympus saw this and when they went from the PEN design to the OM-D design, they will get a lot more of the casual users accepting it a "pro" level body because of the design.  I think Fuji has understood this too and thus the look of the X-T1 will make it a more attractive option.
Once the everyday folk understand that the mirrorless camera can come in many shapes and sizes, they will be more widely adopted.  Again...just a theory, and a fraction of the reason that mirrorless is having a rough go of it here in the states.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Diana f+ Camera Has Just Arrived

After several weeks of waiting, I've finally received my Diana f+ Instant Camera.

The kit I received came with the Diana f+ camera, the Instax Mini back(adapter lens), the 120 film back(120 take up spool and spool adapter,masks for endless panorama and 12 shot), Diana Flash, flash adapters, flash gels, and manuals and close up adapter.

My first impression is that despite the camera being made of plastic, it appears to be pretty well made.  All the backs and adapters fit together well and all the buttons function as they should.  The controls are pretty straight forward.

Getting the kit seemed like the best deal.  I really wanted the instant back to potentially use with some other film cameras I have.  My thought was that if the plan didn't work out, I could still use the Diana camera with the Instax Mini film.

Instead of having numeric representations of shutter speed and aperture, the Diana camera has letters and symbols.  Below I will list the generally accepted values for the settings on the camera(culled from various sources around the internet and my own experience with the camera):

Shutter Speed
"N" = 1/60th
"B" = bulb - as on any camera with this setting, the shutter stays open as long as the shutter release is held down.  The Diana comes with a small plastic piece that can be placed into the shutter slot to keep it down during particularly long exposures.  The way I use this, is that I setup the camera in the position and aperture setting I want to use.  I leave the lens cap on, set the shutter into the down position and then remove the lens cap.  Wait for the desired time, then replace the lens cap.

Pinhole = f/150
Sunny = f/22
Party Cloudy = f/16
Cloudy = f/11

Any 120 film will work with the 120 back installed.  If using a meter to determine exposure, do so as normal.
The instant back uses the Fuji Instax Mini film.  This film is rated at ISO 800.  When the adapter lens is fitted to the camera body, behind the lens, it drops the exposure by 1 EV, so treat the film as ISO 400 when taking into account exposure readings.

My one issue with the Diana Instant Back is that it uses the not common CR2 batteries. It would be great if the camera allowed for use of AA or AAA batteries(alkalines or rechargeables).  The CR2 are expensive purchased locally, so I recommend getting them from an online retailer.  I've found them online in various places for half of what it would cost me in a brick and mortar store.

This is an all manual camera, so I used my light metering app on my Moto X to verify the what the instructions for the camera said to some hard values.  It was pretty spot on.

Parting Thoughts
Really - this is a fun camera to shoot.  I still have a lot more time I want to spend with it, but I can see me using this more and more.  Once I get the hang of it, I'll try and adapt the Instax back to other analog cameras I own to see if we can make it work with them as well.