Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fuji X10 at night, hand-held (updated a lot)

[Here is my first post on the X10.]

Update: it was requested to see the size of the camera in my own hands (looks even smaller due to my being 6:4 (195cm) with hands and skull to match). It's not the camera's fault that the photo is dark, I just felt it needed a little drama.

Fujifilm X10 at night, hand-held?
This wouldn't even have occurred to me to try with any prior compact-ish zoom camera, but I thought, what the hell, let's give it the torture test. I just set it all, including the EXR pixel-doubling tech (giving 6MP pics instead of 12MP but enhancing sensitivity), to Auto, and fired ahead. I think this is a pass with honors. Better than I'd dared hope.

This certainly shores up my faith in using this as my all-round, go-to camera. The only limits I really see are the rare occasion when I want extreme tele or wideangle, or extremely blurred backgrounds (the X10 can do a bit of that, but in a limited way). 

(Click for big pic)
1/15 sec, ISO 800

1/30 sec, ISO 800

1/30 sec, ISO 3200

These are uncorrected JPGs straight from the camera except for scaling to web and slight cropping/sharpening. All taken at a wide setting, and at or near F:2.0.
The camera is said to have good image stabilization, though I haven't tested directly for that, but certainly I did not get any shaken images this night (it was midnight). The X10 is also easy to hold steady, with a soft shutter and no mirror to give vibrations.

Here is one more which tests the limits: F:2.0, 28mm, 1/17 second, ISO 3200:
Virtually no noise, dang impressive.

(I like how modern cameras recognize night scenes and don't over-expose them to make them look like day.)

Update: Ian sent an alternative crop of the first one, and points out the "2" on the post.

Stephen Gillette, noted compact-camera art photographer, wrote to me:

Yep, seems that this bad boy is about tops for small-sensor right now. I waited a long time to get an articulating LCD (shooting NEX since this past summer), it would be silly to take that step back. (But I've done sillier things.)
Of course, I'm tempted by the new 50mm f/1.8 E-mount Sony lens (with SSS), which costs half the price of the X10! Not to mention I have fast 50's up the ying-yang: legacy Minolta's (Rokkor-X and Alpha's) and Pentax.
So forget the NEX 50mm, pony up the extra $300, and get the pocketable (big pockets!) Fuji that we all would have died for just a few years back...  
After all, I have shot a LOT with my cell camera (no articulation there)
this year...
Hmmm...maybe not so silly?

Died for? I’d say *killed* for.
I also like a tiltable screen as you know. I really liked my Nikon 2400, nothing has come like it since. But sadly that one had *awful* low-light capability, hampering it.
I got a new Pen Lite for the tiltable screen. But then I run into the limits of prime lenses (if I want to *keep* the camera compact), something I keep waffling on.
For right now, the X10 is my medicine. It’s actually the camera in a long while which the most makes me *want* to go out and photograph. I’m not sure when that last happened.

Sometimes I’m hooked on ultimate image quality. (X100 or Canon 5D2.) But then I look at photos from Henri Cartier-Bresson or André Kertész, and the X10 makes better images technically than most of their wonderful pictures. And 99% of the audience seriously wouldn't see the difference anyway, even in big prints, which I very rarely make.

Good technique is helpful for communication, but it is often over-valued. Sometimes you see ads with absolutely awful technique in one way or another, and I'll bet hardly anybody notices. And for art, less so, it's all about the expression. If bad technique hampers that, it matters, otherwise not.

That may sound like I'm defending a poor camera, this is absolutely not the case. I can't imagine a better camera for the size. And if I'd seen prints twenty years ago from this likkle, X10, camera, I'd have thought they were taken by a huge, expensive medium format camera, so good is it.
Like editor/photographer Steve Hynes said to me: the rising image quality creeps up on you. He took out his old medium format (Hasselblad and such) pictures not long ago, and they were really not so hot as he had thought. I thought the same when I saw pictures from the legendary Hasselblad Superwide camera with the special Zeiss lens... they were not really all that dang sharp.

Here's another tidbit re the X10: The zoom lens is actually smaller (when collapsed at least) than the standard zoom of the Pentax Q... despite being a full stop faster, and zooming longer! Oh, and despite the body having a larger sensor. I think that's impressive. (No doubt part of it is due to the lens not being exchangeable, not a big deal for a compact.) 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11

I wish I had David's perfect native-born accent, so I could use it flawlessly like him.

Fujifilm X10 (updated again)

I just got the Fuji (I still call them that, don't know why they changed it to "Fujifilm") X10.

This is the camera in the "on" stage. You turn it off by turning and collapsing the zoom lens, which about halves the length of the lens, a nice feature.

The reviews so far (I've read a long one in the non-online (except via Zinio) edition of Amateur Photographer) are very positive indeed. And from my short tests so far, I agree.
The camera feels great, the usability seems really nice, it's quick (one forgets the "old" days where every compact camera was slow as molasses to focus), the image quality is real damn good, even in the one area you think it might be a bit weak due to the smallish sensor: low light. (The sensor is smaller than those in exchangeable-lens cameras, but larger than other compact cameras like Canon's G12.)

It's large enough for good handling, but small enough for a large pocket (a jacket pocket or a side pocket on "combat" (cargo) pants.
The manual zoom on the lens is really nice, faster and more precise than the motorized zoom used on smaller compacts.
It is not cheap of course, around $600, but rather less than the X100 at $1000, which sells well though it's more limited.

For years we have been getting closer and closer to what Mike Johnston and myself and others wrote about longingly for years: the perfect street-camera. (Johnston calls it the DMD, the "decisive moment digital", though he prefers prime lenses.) It should be compact, and fast, and have image quality good enough for exhibitions.
A camera like the Panasonic Lumix GF-2 comes very close, except one thing: due to the sensor size, if you put a zoom lens on it for all-round use, it is no longer so durn compact, don't fit in no pocket, no sir.   So, not that universal. Fuji's own X100 has the same issue: it only has a slightly-wide lens, though it is compact for its large sensor.
I have tried cameras like these with fixed-length ("prime, non-zoom) lenses, but I just miss the zoom too much. I am really the happiest when I have a normal zoom from modest wideangle to modest tele.
And the X10 has just that: 28mm to 112mm. And it's fast too: F:2.0 to F:2.8. Very nice.

So I hereby declare, admittedly on slim evidence, that the X10 might be the best all-round, street-, or travel-camera we have seen yet. It has image quality similar to larger-sensor cameras, but it has a zoom and is yet in the big-compact class. This is quite exciting for a certain class of enthusiast photographer.

The one weakness I've heard about so far is the smallish battery: only maybe 250 pictures to a charge. A very active photographer might want to bring a backup battery.  (The battery is really physically unusually small. They must really have struggled with space in this camera.) Fortunately this is not expensive.
A note: in my brief testing, the X10 has surprisingly good image quality for a compact, even at 3200 ISO. This is a big accomplishment, even the older Lumix GF-1 with a much larger sensor suffered at only 1600. And older compact-ish cameras like my old Nikon 2400 from six years ago, had awful, dreadful noise at anything over ISO 200. Even 200 was noisy. This is a revolution.

And it gets even better, due to a special sensor with 45-degree angled pixels, Fuji has a pixel-doubling technology ("EXR") which if selected on the mode dial drops resolution to a still very useable 6 megapixels, but markedly improves fidelity in low light or alternatively in high-contrast situations! (You can set this to auto, and the camera decides which setting is the most called for.) This is very useful technology.
In fact this technology is used in several different ways which all seem promising. Normally I'm one who sticks with default settings, but I think these may be worth using in many difficult shooting situations.

I admit that the advantage in using the EXR technology is not always crystal clear, and it would be smart to learn more about it. But here is a couple good examples, hand-held photos (small crops) taken in a poorly lit corner of my living room (normally I wouldn't even have expected to be able to hand-hold photos in such a dark place) :

Without EXR:

And with EXR:

Notice how the details (in the leather etc) is nicely preserved with EXR, and the photo is less grainy and sharper.
But like I said, even if you forget about EXR, this camera is probably king of the hill right now for compact cameras as regard existing-light photography.

Again strongly cropped... EXR off:

EXR on:

See the detail. (Click for big pic.)

Update: A few have had problems with white-disc shaped highlights. I just now shot at night, and even though that's just inviting problems of this sort, I only found this one, and not a bad one, hardly noticable I'd say.

Fog photos

Photos by TC[Girl] (with slight fine-tuning in Photoshop by me).

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Canon C300

Canon C300, their new pro cinema model, half-35mm frame.
What a gorgeous piece of kit, especially with these monster cinema lenses.

And now people are asking: what if anything will this mean for the hopefully imminent replacement for the ageing Canon 5DII still camera (which has very powerful video qualities image-wise, but not great handling for filming)?
(And why has Nikon never made a competing camera to it? The 700D is a brute and for a different market.)

The statically charged dog

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Overdoing addresses

Considering that every time you add a letter, you multiply the number of potential addresses by twenty-six times, (notice how short-URL sites can make addresses for many millions of pages using only around five or six letters)  I find it remarkable how some site software finds it necessary to pile on endles letters in addresses. See this one I just came across:,sPd2iUeV_5EX_JsXd3-0Ah6T4cYD1b7-JSagFaSNtfEg/3036623/1323370800/ff924e3/Bland_009.jpg

Holy mama.
(I changed it a bit since it wasn't for public access.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

H&M Uses Fake Bodies With Real Heads For Models

[Thanks to Joe]
H&M Uses Fake Bodies With Real Heads For Models, article.

I knew that magazine girl pictures are so processed that they are as-good-as artificial, but I did not know that they had started with completely computer-generated bodies. I don't see much reason why the faces won't soon follow. Is this the beginning of the end of the model profession?

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Scottish bicycle trip-out

[Thanks to Neeraj]

Pretty friggin' incredible machine handling.
I'll bet somebody will put a guy like this in a chase in some action movie, like they did with the jumper in Casino Royale.

(Bigger video)

How do they even built the bicycles to take this?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

One molecule thick

It's funny how the creative process is very different from one person to another. For example, JK Rowling has a lot of extraneous background stories, family stories, and futures which are not in the books. But William Gibson has said that once when asked "so during this book, what's happening in Denver?" he said: "I have no clue". He laughed and said "the whole thing is one molecule thick."  He apparently does not need to have revealed to him one iota more than just what is going into the book.

Gibson is also, so far as I know, an extremely intuitive writer. Whereas some writers work via an intellectual process, based on what they've learned about how stories work and so on. Some, like my old teacher Algis Budrys who died last year, work one way sometimes and the other way sometimes. He once woke up in the middle of the night with a whole long story complete in his head. He got up and wrote it all down in sketch form, which he appreciated the next day, for after sleeping he had forgotten it.