Posts Tagged ‘Fuji’

Fuji or Olympus?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

This is the question I’ve been asking myself for some weeks or months. For a year or so I’ve been finding a camera bag full of Nikon gear too heavy to carry for the length of time needed to cover events in London. It’s mainly standing around that I find a problem so far as my health is concerned, and I have to remember to either sit down or to keep moving to stop my ageing veins becoming inflamed. Walking is a little better, though I do get tired much more quickly, and while I used to walk for the length of a working day and perhaps cover ten or a dozen miles, now I get tired and give up in half the time.

I can still run when I need to, though not quite as far or as fast as when young. Last Saturday when I saw a march going down Whitehall from in front of the National Gallery I ran to catch up with the front of it, around 600 yards in the fastest time I’ve done for some years. But still slow compared to my youth, when before smoking took its toll I recorded some decent but not outstanding times. I once won a quarter mile at the local youth sports in a world record time and at least fifty yards ahead of the next runner. The timekeepers ran up to me pointing at the time on their watches, and in a perhaps stupid fit of honesty I told them that the race officials had put the finishing tape in the wrong place. I was very annoyed as the conditions had been perfect and I would surely have recorded a personal best on the day over the full distance.

But no I feel a great need to cut down the weight I carry, and the Nikons are only for special occasions (the D810 is now my slide scanner – more about that one day in another post.)

For some years my holiday cameras have been Fujis. I started with the fixed lens Fuji X100, then went on to an X-E2, followed before too long by an X-E3. I swapped my Leica M8 with a friend for an X-Pro1 because I wanted to work in colour without all the fuss that the M8 needed. All of these Fujis were good in their way – and if I could be satisfied with just a say 28, 35 and 50mm equivalent lenses I would have been happy with the X Pro1. But I really got serious with Fuji with the X-T1.

I tried working with the X-T1 and one of the Nikons. It was still a fairly heavy combination, but the X-T1 was pretty good (if occasionally mystifying.) Its 10-24mm wideangle zoom was an improvement optically than the Nikon 18-35mm that I’d bought when the 16-36mm gave up the ghost (it remains on my desk with an equally almost certainly beyond economic repair D700 as an expensive paperweight) though sometimes a little slow to focus. It was good to have the extra wide angle that its 15-36mm equivalent provided – I sometimes found the Nikon’s 18mm not quite wide enough.

But things were still too heavy. And when I saw an Olympus OMD M5 II selling new for just over £400, Micro Four Thirds seemed to be the answer (as one of my colleagues had been telling me whenever we met.) Along with the body I bought the absurdly small and light Olympus 18- 150mm, also going cheap. Just over 3 inches long and only 10 oz. I don’t own the Nikon equivalent, but it is half as long again, weighs almost three times as much and costs over twice what I paid for the OM lens.

And using the M5 II usually turned out to be a great experience, except for a few quirks – the most serious of which was perhaps the ease with which the main control dial could be inadvertantly moved. Working in shutter priority it is far too easy to find yourself taking pictures at 1/8th rather than the 1/250th you have consciously selected. Though with its effective in-camera stabilisation the pictures were still usually sharp unless anyone moved.

I don’t make a great deal of use of long lenses, but this August I spent some time testing the Nikon telephotos I do have, an elderly 70-300 and a couple of shorter zooms (one a DX) against the Olympus. Despite the much smaller 4/3 sensor, this gave the sharpest images and I could see no difference in the amount of detail.

For the past months I’ve been working almost all the time with the Fuji X-T1 and the Olympus M5 II. I’ve bought an expensive Panasonic Leica wide angle zoom for the Olympus, and can chose either camera for wide-angle or telephoto use, and can’t quite decide which I prefer. Both cameras have their quirks and neither is as straightforward to use as the Nikons. And winter weather and working in poor light have made some limitations felt, particularly with the noise in Olympus images at ISO over 3200. The D750 gives noticeably better results at ISO 6400 and focuses better in low light.

Of course the X-T1 is quite an old model by now – and the M5 II is now being updated as the M5 III. It would be easier to work with two cameras from the same marque, and I’ve been wondering which way to go. The M5 III seems only a minor upgrade on the II, and annoyingly takes slightly different batteries. I’ve been thinking of getting a second M5 II instead of waiting for the III, and the price is now even slightly lower. The X-T30 looks much more of an upgrade on the XT1, and is even lighter than the Olympus, but is not weatherproof, and I have more Fuji lenses… With some special offers and rebates the difference in cost isn’t great…


Solidarity with Palestine

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

As someone born as World War II was finishing it isn’t surprising that I grew up with with a great deal of sympathy and support for the young state of Israel, which had won its freedom from the British mandate by a number of terrorist attacks, most notably the King David Hotel Bombing, a massacre which killed 91 people and left around 50 badly wounded.

I was too young to know anything about it at the time of the attack, but in later years the Zionist underground organization the Irgun  was the first which I heard some call terrorists and others freedom fighters. Around 15 years later when I started a real interest in politics and free cigarettes at the local young socialist meetings in the Co-op Hallit was certainly the latter view that prevailed, not least because many of those in the Labour movement were Jewish.

Then we believed the lies that were told about Israel occupying a largely empty land and making the deserts bloom. Since then we have become aware of the properties and land stolen from the Palestinians, many of whom were forced out as refugees, and of the shrinking map of Palestine and the attacks on Gaza. The Zionist Israeli government has become increasing right-wing, violating the human rights of the Palestinians and international law over the years, setting up an apartheid system in Israel, making it impossible now not to support the Palestinian cause.

The protest on 11th May came at the start of the week remembering the Nakba and called for an end to Israeli oppression and the siege of Gaza and for a just peace that recognises Palestinian rights including the right of return. It urged everyone to boycott and divest from Israel and donate to medical aid for Palestine. Many of those on the march carried keys, some those of properties they had been forced to leave back in 1948, others simply as a reminder of the dispossession.

Among those marching was Palestinian teenage activist Ahed Tamimi, arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier in December 2017 after soldiers had entered her home and severely injured her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed. It wasn’t easy to photograph her on the march as stewards kept photographers outside the area in front of where she was marching holding the banner at the head of the march.

I wasn’t able to get close to her, but had to photograph with a long lens from a distance. With the 14-150mm lens on the Olympus E-M5 Mk II I managed to get a decent image with her filling much of the frame. The lens is equivalent to a 28-300mm, and for this picture I was using it at its extreme and at f5.6 and 1/250th at ISO 1250.

I think the result is rather better than I would have expected using a Nikon, thanks to the stabilisation of the OM body. And I would probably only have been carrying a lens with a maximum focal length of 200mm, so would have had to crop to get a similar image, thus losing some of the advantage of the larger sensor. I think the autofocus is almost as good as the Nikon, close enough to show no real difference in speed, and face detection is sometimes a help. And as a final point, despite weighing half as much, the Olympus lens is I think a better performer.

As well as the Olympus, my second camera was a Fuji X-T1, with a 10-24mm lens (15-36 equiv) that is also a fine performer. It doesn’t have quite the advantage in size and weight over Nikon that the Olympus has, and the camera somehow feels a little less responsive. I bought it when I was hoping that a Fuji system could replace my Nikons, but now I’m more likely to move to Olympus, keeping a Nikon only for the larger file size when used with bellows and a macro lens for digitising negatives and slides.

As with most events showing solidarity with Palestine it was joined by several Jewish groups, including the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta  and also opposed by a small group of Zionists. You can see pictures of both on My London Diary, along with coverage of the rally close to the BBC before the march. I left and went home before the rally at the end.

More pictures at National Demonstration for Palestine.

Pure Colour

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

I’ve long been something of a fan of Joerg Colberg’s Conscientious Photography Magazine though I often find myself arguing with his opinions and sometimes wondering why on earth he bothered to review some publication. But it’s always good to see some critical thinking about photography, even when I feel he has got it completely wrong.

His review of Pure Country by Bill Sullivan is perhaps a good example of what both interests me and to some extent infuriates me. Colberg begins with a rather interesting discussion of colour in photography, considering 25 reproductions on-line of William Eggleston‘s ‘ The Red Ceiling‘ (aka Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973) a picture that if you have any interest in photography you are doubtless familiar with (click on the link to see a not very convincing version of it on Wikipedia should you need a reminder.)

As Wikipedia reminds us, this is a picture about which Eggleston himself has commented “I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction” and I suspect he may be even less convinced by most of the reproductions online. As well as viewing it on-screen, I also own various reproductions of it it books and magazines, as well as having viewed the “original”, Eggleston’s approved dye transfer print, at various times in exhibitions.

Colberg reproduces not the picture, but 25 versions of it averaged out into a single colour, with 25 slightly different red tones, and he asks what is the proper colour. Actually in this case the answer is fairly clear, and implied in Eggleston’s answer – it is the colour of the dye transfer print.

And at least dye transfer prints are pretty stable, though they will like anything else look different depending on the illumination they are viewed by. Eggleston went on to talk about the ‘blood-red’ of the original print, so if you want to know what it should look like, you might just prick yourself and compare.

I don’t actually consider Eggleston a good guide to colour. Most of the images in my 1989 copy of ‘The Democratic Forest‘ appear to me to have a colour cast, usually a slight yellow or perhaps pale orange. Many of his actual prints – the C-types rather than the dye-transfers – that I’ve seen in exhibitions seem to have degraded a little over the years even further in that direction, I imagine they were printed on Kodak colour papers which don’t generally age well.

Back in 1985, when I largely moved from colour transparency to colour negative in my work, part of the reason was that Fuji had come out with new and improved colour papers, giving cleaner colour reproduction and promising longer life. They also enabled you to control printing more easily, allowing burning and dodging with no colour shift.

Colour has both a scientific and a subjective, personal and emotional aspect. We can measure accurately in terms of hue, saturation and brightness, look at the spectral distribution of reflected light and use measurements such as these to determine how accurate the reproduction of colour is through particular materials and processes. But accuracy of reproduction isn’t always the goal, and there are always colours which are outside the range of any particular reproduction.

Personally in my own work I like to aim for reasonable colour accuracy and try to avoid any colour casts, though I don’t always succeed. There is always a temptation to make things just a little on the warm side and I normally succumb. I generally don’t like photographs that clearly distort colour, something practicised by some photographers to achieve a personal style.

Colberg goes on to state “Maybe it all comes down to the fact that there really isn’t such a thing as the world in colour. There’s just what you make it look like, plus there are basic facts such as women being able to see more colours than men.

Objectively I think he is wrong, confusing colour as a measurable, physical property describing how objects interact with light, with our subjective experience of colour. What I see in my mind as red or blue may be nothing like what you see as these colours, and we may have very different experiences and emotional reactions to them. We may even use different words to describe them – I often argue with my wife over whether something is blue or green, and while we all still talk about the rainbow having both blue and indigo, it is a distinction that has been lost since someone first coined “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain”.

Colberg goes on to discuss Bill Sullivan‘s book Pure Country, which I’ve not seen. From his review and the page images on the publishers web site, I suspect it is not something I would like and certainly not something I’d fork out $80 plus shipping for, although the included “74 page pictorial index called the Pure Country Graphic Index 1659-2018 people, countries, color photography, worlds fairs & expositions, paintings, Suprematism & The Bauhaus. The index functions as a graphic timeline of dates, information, and images that inform the book set along an historical timeline with a major focus on the evolution of color image-making and photography spanning the last five centuries” does sound mildly interesting and at least in the couple of pages shown reproduces its images in more or less correct colour, but it appears to lack any real depth that might make it useful.