Fuji announces the X-E2

Earlier this year I tested and fell in love with the Fujifilm X-E1. Today Fuji announced the latest camera in the series, the X-E2. With a 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor and serious upgrades to it’s autofocus speed and video capabilities the X-E2 looks like a winner.

The Fujifilm Canada release is here.

B&H Photo has announced they expect to receive stock in November and are accepting pre-orders. If you’re looking for one, please consider using the links below – I receive a small commission if you purchase that way.

Fujifilm X-E2 Digital Camera (Body) – Black

Fujifilm X-E2 Digital Camera (Body) – Silver

Fujifilm X-E2 Kit w/18-55mm Lens – Black

Fujifilm X-E2 Kit w/18-55mm Lens – Silver

Nikon releases a waterproof Nikon 1 system

This morning Nikon Canada announced the release of the world’s first waterproof (up to 14.9m) and shockproof (up to 2m) interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon 1 AW1. The camera will feature a 14.2 megapixel CX-format CMOS sensor and a built-in GPS. They are also releasing two waterproof lenses. Products are scheduled to be available in October 2013.

The Nikon 1 AW1 kit with a 11-27.5mm lens will have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $849.95.

The Nikon 1 AW1 two-lens kit with the 11-27.5mm and 10mm lenses will have an MSRP of $1,049.95.

The 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 lens will have an MSRP of $329.95.

Nikon is in the process of developing the SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight to compliment the system.

Firmware 2.00 for Fuji X-E1

One of the things I love about Fujifilm is that they continue to add features to their cameras years after they are released. Yesterday they released firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 and corresponding firmware updates for their lenses.  (Yes, you read correctly – Fuji releases updates for the CPUs in their lenses as well as their camera bodies.)

In addition to improving autofocus speed and accuracy, firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 adds an incredibly cool feature: “Focus Peak Highlight”. In manual focusing mode, as the subject comes into focus, it is outlined in high contrast – the edges appear white, as shown in this brief video from Fuji:

This great feature makes it much easier to manually focus using either the rear screen or the electronic viewfinder. In addition, pressing the “Command dial” activates image magnification, and turning the dial allows selection of 3x and 10x magnification. Keep in mind that while in manual focus mode you can press the “AE-L  / AF-L” button and the camera will autofocus using the currently selected point of aim (by default the center of the viewfinder, but it can be moved around as you desire). Focus Peak Highlight provides an instant visual confirmation that your desired subject is in focus.

While testing the new X-E1 firmware I also noticed a feature I missed in my initial review. In addition to displaying the current distance for which the lens is focused across the bottom of the viewfinder (a vertical red bar across the green distance scale), the X-E1 also displays depth of field information by expanding or contracting a white highlighted area on either side of the red bar. This area takes into account focal length and aperture, clearly indicating the range of distances that will appear in sharp focus.

This combination of features makes manual focus on the X-E1 easier to use and more accurate. My usual technique is to leave autofocus turned on, half-press the shutter to focus, and then recompose my shot. It’s a habit I developed shooting with SLRs because it’s much faster than moving the point of aim around manually. However, with the new X-E1 firmware a better technique for portraits may be to place the camera in manual focus, aim at your primary subject, press the AE-L/AF-L button to focus, and take advantage of Focus Peak Highlight to make sure you get the shot you want.

Online SLR Simulator

Sometimes the best way to learn is to play, and Canon has done a fantastic job with their SLR simulator. You can try various modes (manual, shutter priority, and aperture priority), experiment with shutter, aperture, and ISO sensitivity controls, and see simulated results online. They also have a great page that explains the controls.

While this simulator is by Canon, the same basics apply to all other cameras with manual controls.

Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Fuji X-E1

With summer vacations rapidly approaching, many of us are considering the annual question: What camera gear will I take this year?

I love the image quality from my SLR, but the size and weight of my gear means it is often inside the hotel or back of my truck instead of on my shoulder. This year I’m taking a look at some alternatives for travel.

Panasonic DMC-GX1

The Micro Four Thirds format has become popular over the last few years as a compromise camera. The larger sensor means much better quality than smaller point-and-shoot cameras, while remaining smaller and lighter than SLRs. The Panasonic DMC-GX1 is an excellent example.

gx1

The GX1 specs include a 16 megapixel micro four thirds sensor, HD video (1920 x 1080) to AVCHD or MP4, a variety of jpeg sizes and compression, RAW shooting, and a long list of features that appeal to photographers of all levels. In automatic modes it behaves just as friendly as a point-and-shoot. Advanced photographers will appreciate full manual controls, but keep in mind that zoom and manual focus are through buttons, not lens rings.

In addition to the better image quality, the main advantage of the format is the interchangeable lenses. Panasonic offers several, and the GX1 is compatible with micro four thirds lenses from other vendors. I tested the camera with Panasonic’s 14-42mm lens (28-84mm equivalent in 35mm format) and found it to be a pleasant lens for general everyday photography. Panasonic also offers a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (40mm equivalent in 35mm format) for those looking for a fast, compact prime lens.

The GX1’s larger sensor gives it another major advantage over point-and-shoot cameras: Superior low light performance. For example, this image was shoot indoors at ISO 6400 on automatic. While the colours could use a bit of tweaking, the ability to shoot indoors without a flash is huge.

_1050613

For those looking for a step up from a point-and-shoot to better image quality and interchangeable lenses, the DMC-GX1 is a strong candidate. Image quality approaches what I have come to expect from my SLR. I did find the autofocus a bit slower than what I’m used to, but overall I was quite pleased with the DMX-GX1 and recommend it for travel and casual photography.

Fuji X-E1

I’m going to say this up front and get it out of the way: I am completely blown away by the image quality and handling of the Fuji X-E1. If you love photography, you will love this camera.

xe1-front

The X-E1 uses Fuji’s 16 megapixel X-Trans CMOS sensor – the same as in their top-end X-Pro1 model. This sensor is the same size used in popular consumer and enthusiast SLRs, but with a twist: Fuji’s X-Trans sensor uses a highly random pixel array, eliminating the need for an optical low-pass filter. In theory, this should give the X-E1 an edge over other products with a similar size sensor. In practice, the results are stunning. DSCF0062

This jpeg is straight out of the camera. X-E1 with a 35mm lens. ISO 400, f/4, 1/500s.

The X-E1 offers automatic and fully manual controls, jpeg and raw images, and shoots HD Video (1280 x 720 pixels at 24 frames/sec) with a limitation of 29 minutes in length. It also includes some great features including ten film simulation modes. Miss the saturated look of Fuji Velvia, the skin tones of Fuji Astia, or the crisp blue skies of Fuji Provia? Just dial them up!

The X-E1 is loaded with features and the specs are great. But what really sets this camera apart from the competition is image quality and handling. I couldn’t be happier with jpegs from the X-E1. Yes, shooting raw will give you a slight advantage in difficult lighting conditions, and if you’re going to post-process in Lightroom by all means shoot raw.  I’ve intentionally overexposed images and pulled out highlights that most cameras wouldn’t record.

As someone who loves photography, handling the X-E1 is a delight. It has a solid feel with controls where you’d expect them on a rangefinder. Aperture is on the lens and shutter speed is on the top dial beside the exposure compensation dial. A programmable function button can be configured as you like – I prefer it set to bring up the ISO setting.

Consciously absent is a mode dial for automatic, aperture priority, etc. It simply isn’t required! Both the aperture and shutter speed have automatic settings. Set them both to automatic and you have the equivalent of “program mode”. Or set them both manually. Or leave one on automatic. Simple, elegant, and intuitive.

Fuji was kind enough to lend me three lenses to test along with the X-E1. The XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 with optical image stabilization most often bundled with the camera puts other kit lenses to shame. It’s a great all-around lens and the equivalent of 27-83mm in 35mm format is a nice range for most applications. Fuji’s XF 35mm f1.4 (52mm equivalent) is tack sharp and a great option for those who enjoy using a normal prime lens. Finally, for landscape enthusiasts, Fuji’s XF 14mm f2.8 (21mm equivalent) is spectacular.

I’m also expecting to test their new 55-200mm in the near future, and Fuji’s newly announced 27mm pancake lens (anticipated in July) looks like a great option for lightweight travel photography.

The Fuji X-E1 is not for everyone. It’s a bit larger than the micro four thirds cameras and those who just want to take pictures in automatic mode (as opposed to use the features the X-E1 provides) might want to look at a lower end model. Autofocus is not quite as fast as professional SLR lenses, but in practice I found it fine for photographing children and pets.

The XE-1 is a game changer. It’s smaller and lighter than most SLRs, yet produces superior images. It won’t fit in your pocket, but with a small lens it is practical to carry almost anywhere. For travel and general photography the Fuji X-E1 is simply hard to beat.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4 Released

Attention Fuji X Series owners: Adobe has released Lightroom 4.4 which contains updated RAW image processing. You’ll definitely want to upgrade now!

As an aside, I’ve just received a X-E1 loaner from Fuji along with an assortment of lenses to test for an upcoming feature on travel photography. Also being tested is the Panasonic GX-1 and I’m waiting to hear back from Sony about their competing products.

12 Weeks to Better Photography

For several years I’ve offered a free online course: 12 Weeks to Better Photography, or as many knew it on Twitter, 12WBP.  A lot of you have asked for the course in ebook format instead of weekly emails, and I’m in the process of reworking the material.

I’m looking for a few volunteers willing to read the final draft and provide frank feedback. Please let me know if you’re interested!

Canon PowerShot G15

product image
I carried a Canon PowerShot G11 for years when I my SLR was too big, and while not pocket-size, the G series provide a great compromise between size and image quality.

The specs of the new Canon PowerShot G15 include a 12.1 MP sensor, 5x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom, and the multiple exposure modes that keeps many of us coming back to the G-series.