Living with Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

I’ve been an amateur photographer since my teen age, when film was the only medium. Eventually, I …. grew up to digital and thank God I currently have a quite capable set of Nikons and Nikkors with which I practice my hobby. Unfortunately, none of my cameras is video-enabled. SWMBO has informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I should add video creation to my interests.

So, being a good husband, I decided to oblige. I started reading about video and cameras that are capable of recording video. Soon I understood that this was a whole new world, of which I knew nothing about. My investigation led me to the following conclusions:

  • The current state of video is FHD (1080p) with 4K being the emerging standard (and we all know how temporary standards are in technology). So if I was to acquire a new camera, it’d better support 4K.
  • There are several 4K enabled camcorders in the market, but a few picture-taking cameras with support of 4K video. And I wanted a camera which would be able to cover both roles, that of a still-pictures taking camera and that of a video camera.
  • 4K video enabled devices are NOT cheap.

What I had in mind was to sell one of my existing Nikons (the D300 together with my sole APS-C lens, the 18-200mm VR) to fund a new camera, which could be used for both photography and 4K video recording. It should be small enough to replace the D300 with the 18-200mm lens, and cheap enough to be funded by the money I would get from the sale of the D300 and lens. Tough proposition? Indeed!

Eventually, I selected the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 as my new camera.

fz1000I thought that this camera could become my “go-to camera”, when I didn’t want to carry the camera bag with the D700 and all the Nikkors (*).

What follows is a recording of my first impressions about the new camera, after using it for about a month. I won’t bother posting here the camera specifications, they can easily be found on the network or just follow this link. What you will read below, is my personal opinion about the camera. Since this is a personal opinion, and everyone is entitled to his, do not shoot me if it doesn’t exactly match your personal opinion, just live with it.

First approach

To start with, let me just say that this is NOT a camera for the casual, not educated user. While it has many features which will allow a novice to shoot beautiful pictures and videos, it takes an expert to make full use of it. Panasonic has gone to the extremes to make the menus easy to understand, but the combination of the camera’s capabilities together with its specs and customization options, make this camera quite complicated. There are mutually exclusive settings, which do not make much sense to the uninitiated (or even the experienced) photo/videographer. However, the FZ1000 is the only camera you can buy at this moment, which supports 4K video (in reality it’s not real 4K, which is 4096 x 2160 pixels, but UHD which is 3840 x 2160 pixels) together with FHD (1080p), HD (720p) and VGA (480p) video, 20Mpixels still pictures, and which costs less than US$ 1,000. Being on a tight budget, but needing the features of this camera, it was an easy selection for me.

So let me start by giving you a user description of the FZ1000. The camera is not small, actually its size is about the same as the entry-level DSLRs from Nikon or Canon and it is about the same weight with these cameras with the kit lens attached. So if you are looking for a pocket camera with the above capabilities, this is not the camera for you. The Panasonic LX-100 is a better alternative for you.

Against

A lot of reviewers are bothered by the fact that the camera is made of plastic instead of metal. However, I do not find this a restrictive factor, it allows the camera to be lighter while not compromising its durability, the plastic it is made of, is of high quality. A lot of reviewers also fault the camera for having the memory card slot, in the same compartment at the bottom of the camera, thus requiring you to remove the camera from a tripod (if you are using one).

panasonic-fz1000-3074Again, for me, that’s not a serious issue, since I do not plan to use the camera on a tripod (perhaps I can see a monopod in my future, but again that won’t always be the way I’ll use the camera).

The other issue about which a lot of reviewers complain, is about the size of the FZ1000 battery. And I’ll have to agree with this criticism, the battery doesn’t have enough capacity to cover a day’s shooting, especially if you shoot a lot of videos. So carrying two or three batteries with you is mandatory.

Finally, let me add a couple more points that bother me about this camera. First, the minimum aperture of its (excellent 25-400mm equivalent) lens is f8 (or f16 in full frame equivalent). I would prefer if it went down to f16, two extra stops would allow you to shoot in bright daylight without using ND filters (something the camera doesn’t have, so you’ll have to buy one or more of them).

The second issue (which has been mentioned by some reviewers) is the noise the camera produces, when it is turned on. This noise is quite strong and it is usually picked up my the camera’s microphones, during video recording. First time I switched the camera on, I was in a quiet room and as soon as I got over the excitement of my new toy, I tried to figure out what were the kids doing, which produced that hamming noise. You can hear it yourself in the following video:

This issue is the most serious issue I can find with the FZ1000. It’s easily solved though, if you are willing to invest in an external microphone, like this RØDE Stereo VideoMic Pro.

2Or this one, again from RØDE.

1So, if you are serious about your video sound, consider this a necessary investment for the FZ1000.

What I liked

With these out of the way, the camera performance, when shooting pictures is excellent. Below, you can see some of the pictures I shot, during a short trip to Kastoria, a city in Northern Greece, in November 2015.

Cosmote Advertisement in KastoriaShot at 320mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8, 1/1300″.

Cosmote Advertisement in Kastoria SHOT at 400mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8, 1/640″.

Cosmote Advertisement in Kastoria Shot at 70mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8, 1/200″.

Cosmote Advertisement in KastoriaShot at 25mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8, 1/320″.

Cosmote Advertisement in Kastoria Shot at 75mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f7.1, 1/100″, +2.5 ev exposure compensation.

Cosmote Advertisement in KastoriaShot at 164mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8, 1/400″.

Cosmote Advertisement in Kastoria

Shot at 255mm (35mm equiv), ISO 200, f8 at 1/100″.

Cosmote Advertisement in KastoriaShot at 165mm (35mm equiv), ISO 125, f8 at 1/400″.

As you can see, the Leica-designed 25-400mm lens is excellent (at least in my eyes, I never pixel-peep) in all focal lengths. So, as far as still picture shooting is concerned, the FZ1000 is a keeper.

Coming to video recording, here is a very short clip I shot yesterday at at 1080p.

If you listen carefully, you will hear the hissing noise the camera produces and is captured in the audio. An external microphone is necessary for any serious work.

The camera is quite capable video-wise, being able to capture UHD at 25 and 24p, FHD at 50 and 25p, HD at 25p and VGA at 25p. A special option, called by Panasonic “High speed video” allows you to capture FHD at 100p, HD at 200p and VGA at 300p, for those who want slow-motion video. I tried the FHD option, and it works just fine. However, the settings for the slow-motion video, are hidden at the Camera-M option of the mode selector wheel (which is typically reserved for 4K video), one of the irrational choices made by Panasonic in the camera’s menus. In order to activate the High Speed video option, for whatever resolution you want to use, you set the mode dial to Camera-M, the go to “Rec Quality”. Select the recording quality you want to use (4K/25p, 4K/24p, FHD/50p, FHD, 25p, HD/25p or VGA/25p), don’t worry about the 25p or 50p or 24p, just select the resolution that  you want and the bit rate you want. Then save it and scroll further down in the Motion Picture menu, to turn High Speed Video on. Oh, in order for that to work, you have to set the 4K Photo option to Off!

How I’ve set up the FZ1000

The Panasonic FZ1000 allows you to customize it, to an unbelievable degree. So much so, that I decided to …. leave most things the way they were. Being used to the Nikkors, I set the lens ring to act as the zoom control, while I set the secondary (or primary?) zoom control lever, around the shutter release button, to act as the exposure compensation dial. Due also to the way my Nikons are set up, I also set the AF/AE Lock button to act as an AF-On. In that way, the focus initiation and lock is done by this button, while the exposure measurement is done by slightly pressing the shutter release (just like on my D700).

Another thing I changed from the way the camera is set up when it comes from the factory, is to set AutoFocus to Off in the Movie menu. The reason for that is, because I found that the camera is “hunting” for a new focus point, as soon as you move your subject off the center of your screen. Admittedly this may happen only if you have AF-S selected, like I did, perhaps AF-C is a better choice when shooting video, but I didn’t have the time to test it.

Another thing I want to try out, is to disable the video recording button. This button allows you to initiate video recording, while being in P, A, S or M mode. This can be confusing, because the Movie menu settings can be different from the Movie menu settings you have set in the Camera-M mode. I prefer to have only one set of adjustments to worry about, so by turning the Video Recording button off, I can only shoot video when the mode dial is set to Camera-M and I have only the options for that mode to worry about.

 What I wish for

Basically, there are quite a few things I would wish to appear in a new firmware version of this camera. These are:

  1. A clean-up and rationalization of the Movie menu, so that the user doesn’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to activate high speed video, or to remember which video settings are active, when one selects A or S or P on the mode dial.
  2. The ability to use its excellent 5-axis image stabilization system (Power OIS, as Panasonic calls it) in 4K video.
  3. As it is now, the camera allows you to review the picture you’ve just shot, through its EVF. I like that feature very much, but I would like it to be extended. I would love to be able to see the picture I shot for (let’s say 3 seconds) through the viewfinder, but at the same time, I would love to see the picture I shot at the rear LCD. Actually, the picture shown in the LCD should stay there, until the next picture is shot or until the Menu button is pressed. In that way, the user can have a quick preview of the picture shot through the EVF, but if he wants to better check it, he can just move the camera away from his eye and have the shot picture appear on the LCD.

Of course, no camera is complete without some accessories. And here are the things I ordered for the FZ1000.

1. A variable ND filter. Something the FZ1000 doesn’t have and which is absolutely necessary. In video shooting, you usually use a very low shutter speed, 1/50″ is normal. According to the f/16 rule, with the minimum ISO of 100, means that you need at least f/22 to shoot video on a sunny day. Unfortunatelly, the FZ1000 lens goes only up to f/16, so the ND filter is a necessity.

2. Having used the FZ1000 for some time, I decided that I needed several batteries for this camera. So I ordered two more (in addition to the one which came with the camera, and the spare one I bought with it).

3. Having watched some filming of one of my sons for an advertisement he participated in, by a professional crew, I noticed a little device that was attached at the rear of the camera (I think it was a RED camera), and which allows you to view the LCD better. Searching the internet, showed me that those things go for at least $120. And then luck helped me. I found a used one, sold by a Canadian on eBay for something like $45. The seller had clearly indicated that the latch holding the hood down was faulty. I knew I could repair that problem, so I ordered it. I had the hood latch repaired in less than two hours (the time it took for the patty I used to repair it to dry) and that was the best thing I’ve ever bought for a camera. This viewfinder is made by Kamerar and it is excellent.

4. I soon decided that I also needed a Circular polarizer filter. I do have one for my Nikkor primes, but not for my Nikkor zooms. Some investigation proved that I needed a 77mm Circular polarizer and some step-up rings (a 62mm to 77mm for the Panasonic and my Nikkor 70-300mm lenses and a 72mm to 77mm for my other Nikkor zooms), if I was to use the filter with all my lenses. These were ordered but still haven’t arrived. To add to the complexity, the ND filter I’ve ordered was a 62mm one, but at the front end, it has a 67mm thread. So I decided to dump it and get a 77mm variable ND filter too. Oh and being the crazy person I am, I also ordered a Coking filter set in 77mm diameter! And a rubber lens shade in 77mm too! These last few items have still not arrived. Oh yes, I dug up a 77mm Nikon lens cap I had in stock, to complete the setup.

5. While the FZ1000 does have a build in flash, and I also own three more flashes I can use with the camera (two Nikon SB-800s and an old, manual, Vivitar flash), none of these is useful when shooting video. So I ordered an 160 LED video light panel, in case I need to add some light in my videos.The panel I selected uses AA batteries, which I prefer, most of these lights require a video camera battery (and the corresponding charger).

6. The first time I sat in my room to try the camera, I noticed a very weird hissing sound. I thought it was my kids viewing some stupid video on their phones, so I yelled them to shut it off. Then the thought occured to me, that the kids were not at home! The bloody FZ1000 was making that noise! After some internet research, I learned that it was …. normal. Yes, all FZ1000s make that noise. The suggestion on the net was to use an external microphone, placed as far away from the camera as possible, to capture audio. So a Rode Videomic was ordered too, together with some brackets which would allow the mic to stay at some distance from the camera body, to avoid recording the noise it produces.

7. Finally, I ordered a cheap monopod, which allows you to hold the camera steady, by anchoring the monopod to your belt.

As you can understand from the above, the dream of having to carry only a small camera instead of a large camera bag is not going to materialize. The FZ1000 bag is indeed much smaller than my Nikon bag, but still I need a bag to carry all those things with me.

So let’s move on to living with the new camera, or shall I say shooting?

The FZ1000 is a very nice camera to have. First of all it features a non-removable 25-400mm f/2.8-4 lens, designed by none other than Leica, which can cover most of a user needs! It is a bridge camera by design, featuring a large 1″ sensor (large, compared to the sensors used by most similar cameras, with such huge lenses). It has a 5-axis stabilization system, which allows you to shoot pictures with low shytter speeds, without worrying about camera shake (the stabilization system is not available when shooting 4K video though). Its lens is fast enough to allow you to use it in dim light situations. So photography-wise, it covers my needs. Video-wise though, is where this camera excells! It allows you to shoot Full High Definition (FHD) video in addition to 4K, with all the right tools to do it. It features zebra stripes (to show you which parts of your image are overexposed), focus peaking, slow motion video shooting (up to 120 fps), plus, it allows you to capture 8 Mpixel still pictures from your 4K video. It also allows you to use an external recorder/monitor, where the camera can output a clean HDMI signal, which is a major issue for professional videographers.

With the accessories I fit on the FZ1000, it became a very easy to use camera. Of course, a few things needed improving. For example, the base pad of the Kamerar viewfinder, when fitted on the camera, didn’t allow you to open the small hatch under which the battery and the memory card exist. That meant that changing the battery or the memory card (more about which later), required you to remove the viewfinder. Not good. I spend some time trimming the base pad enough to allow the hatch to open, so you can change cards and batteries without removing the viewfinder. I also trimmed another part of the viewfinder mounting system, in order to allow more room for my thumb, to press the AF-On button at the rear of the camera.

Coming to memory cards, if you are to shoot 4K video and record it on the camera’s SD card, you need to have very fast SD cards. I had several Sandisk Extreme Pro cards, from my Fuji X-100 camera (sold) rated at 45 MB/sec. Forget these, they can’t be used for 4K. You need at least cards capable to go up to 95 MB/sec in order to record 4K video internally. So be prepared to order some of these.

Is the FZ1000 the perfect camera? No, of course not. There is no such a thing as “the perfect anything”. This is a great camera, but not without its shortcomings. Like everything in life, you have to first specify what you need and then find the product that fits your needs. The FZ1000 is just a camera which cover my particular needs, mine. That doesn’t mean it is the appropriate camera for yours. What are some of the shortcomings I’ve found? Well, here we go:

There are several inconsistencies in the camera adjustments. For example, if you use one of the P, A, S modes to shoot FHD video, all shooting parameters, aperture, shutter, ISO are shown in your viewfinder. If you want to shoot 4K though (when you have to set the top dial to the camera icon), then the parameter set by the camera, is not shown. For example, if you are shooting 4K video using shutter priority, the shutter speed and the exposure compensation are shown, but the aperture selected by the camera is not. Same thing if you are in aperture priority mode, the aperture you have selected is shown in the finder, but the shutter speed set by the camera is not. If you are shooting 4K video in P mode, then neither the shutter speed nor the aperture set by the camera is shown. That’s a major omission on behalf of Panasonic, which I hope will be corrected in a future firmware update. Another thing I do not like about the FZ is that its focusing ability is severely limited in low light situations.

There are several other things like that, which can really make you climb on the nearest wall. But what matters for me, is the quality of the pictures the camera takes and the quality of the video. I am willing to forgive those stupidities, if I get the output I want from the camera.

Until the next post about the FZ1000!
 

(*) My current Nikon inventory includes a D700 with the battery pack, and the following Nikkors: 18-35mm, 24-85mm, 70-300mm, 20mm/2.8, 35mm/2, 50mm/1.4, 85mm/1.8, 105mm/2.5 AI, two SB-800 flashes etc.

Some thoughts on Nikon latest cameras (revisited?)

I have been monitoring the new Nikon cameras that entered the market this (and the past) year, mainly the D800 and D600. As I have mentioned in other posts here, I currently own two Nikon digital bodies (the D700 and the D300), which were selected very carefully to match my needs.

I have to say, right up front, that I am perfectly satisfied with my existing cameras, so my discussion here, is mostly academic, I do not plan to buy a new camera, but being a Nikon aficionado for years, I do like to keep myself informed about their new offerings. After all, you never know when you’ll win the jackpot (sure thing!!). And what I read makes me both happy and frustrated.

Why I am happy:

It appears that Nikon has a winner with their D800 and D800e cameras. The initial problems with the left-side focusing sensors seems to be resolved and the strange hue on the images shown on the rear LCD appears again to be a resolved issue. So for those looking for a very high resolution, full-frame dSLR, the D800 is the natural choice.

Why I am unhappy?

Well, the reason I am unhappy, is the other full-frame dSLR that Nikon announced lately, the D600. It’s not that this camera is a bad camera, per se. What bothers me, is the way Nikon handles its D600 customers. Ever since the first D600 reached the hands of photographers, a problem was discovered. The camera sensor got quickly covered with “dust spots” at the top left corner, which do not get removed by the sensor cleaning mechanism the camera has. The owner has to either clean the sensor himself or take it to a Nikon service center to have it cleaned. Now, this is a wide-spread issue, but Nikon has failed to (a) recognize it and (b) offer a decent resolution to D600 owners. What usually happens is that Nikon will not charge you for the first time you take the camera to them for a clean-up, but they want to charge you, if the problem persists and appears again. That is totally unacceptable.

Nikon, you know you have an issue with that model. Fix it and stop asking customers to pay for your mistakes. We pay you enough money for those cameras, to expect them to be trouble-free for at least their warranty period. The “dust spots” are not due to us using the cameras in a sand storm, they are generated by the camera itself, so stop treating them as our mistake, it is NOT, it is your mistake and you should fix it without charging the camera owners.

Hear that Nikon?

Some ideas about Nikon new cameras

Being a die-hard Nikon user, I always monitor any new announcement from that Japanese camera company. During the last few months, Nikon has announced four new cameras, the D4, the D800/D800E and the D600.

Now, clearly the D4 and the D800/D800E are professional level cameras, the first one characterized by the word “speed”, while the second one characterized by its huge resolution (36 Mpixels).  The question is: who’s the target market of the D600?

Let’s see what bothers me with the D600.

Spec-wise, the camera appears to be perfect. Nikon raised the sensor resolution to 24 Mpixels, i.e. double that of the D700 I currently own. Actually, 24 Mpixels is the maximum resolution I would be willing to upgrade (if I was looking to upgrade my D700), anything higher for me, is a waste. I do not print bill-board size prints, and even if I was, there is no reason to go any higher than what the D600 offers. It features twin SD card slots, which is a great safety feature if you are interested in backing up your pictures as soon as you shoot them. It also has two dedicated “shooting adjustment banks”, U1 and U2, which is great (why not U3 and U4?!? I would need at least two more setup banks for my kind of shooting). It also has several other interesting (read: wanted) features, but there are things that Nikon left out. What are these?

First, and for me that’s an important omission, there is no AF-On button, at the rear of the camera. Yes, the camera allows you to set up the AE-L/AF-L button as an AF-On button, but then you can’t lock exposure, per wish. Those of us who are used to using the AE-L and AF-On buttons at the rear of the camera, this is a serious handicap.

Second, all AF sensors in this camera, are gathered in the center of the viewfinder. It appears as if Nikon took the D7000 AF system (the D7000 is a DX camera) and incorporated it into the D600, which is a full-frame camera. This arrangement limits the camera capabilities to track your subject movement, if it moves outside the central viewfinder area. Not good!

Third, the camera doesn’t have a PC flash connector. For some of us, this is important. Why did Nikon left this out, is anyone’s guess.

Fourth, and this is a major one. On previous generation cameras, the AF selector at the front, allowed you to select between Manual focus, AF-S and AF-C. On the newer cameras, the selection is only between AF and MF, but in order to select between AF-S and AF-C you have to go into the menus! That’s a huge step backwards for me.

Fifth, the shutter and its flash sync speed. Not very important for me, but for some people, the difference between 1/250th of a second and 1/200 of a second is very significant. See Strobist article on this issue at http://strobist.blogspot.gr/2012/09/nikon-d600-think-twice-before-you-jump.html .

Sixth, while Nikon gives us the twin SD cards slots with this camera, one has to question the type of card used. Typically, a pro (or an advanced amateur) user of previous Nikon cameras, has a large collection of CF cards. Why didn’t Nikon stick with that standard and decided to go with SD cards?

Finally, and while I understand that Nikon had to play catch-up with Canon, the video mode. Why did Nikon included a video mode in this camera?

Well, the answer to all of the above is simple: the D600 is NOT targeted to the professional market or the advanced amateur market. It is targeted to those people who own a DX Nikon camera and want to upgrade to something full-frame. It is clear that the issues mentioned above, affect mainly professional or advanced amateur photographers, but not the consumers, not those who were very happy with their D90 or even the D7000 but want to upgrade to something more … serious. For these folks, the D600 is the perfect camera. They already have the SD cards for it, the D7000 owners even have batteries for the D600, they do not care of the flash sync speed, nor do they use PC-connected flashes, and most probably they never shoot fast moving subjects, so the AF issues mentioned above do not affect them. And of course, consumers love video, hence its inclusion in the D600 features list.

And now the obvious question is: a D700 owner, what does he upgrade to? And the answer to this, is the D800. Nikon wants people to upgrade to the D800/D800e. And for some people (pros mainly), this is the right path to upgrade to. Pros have the top Nikon lenses, which can do justice to the D800 resolution, and most of them would welcome the increased Megapixels. But what about advanced amateurs?

I for example, can not find any camera in Nikon’s new line, that would make me switch from my three years old D700. I do not need the additional megapixels, I only print up to A3 size, so the additional resolution means nothing to me. Add the fact that with such huge picture files, I’ll need a new, faster computer to process them, with more disk space than my current one, which makes the upgrade an expensive proposition.

So thanks Nikon, I am sticking with my D700, which I personally consider the camera with the best features/price ratio and which still covers my needs perfectly.

 

Cameras, or another nugging post

Being an amateur photographer, I consider it my duty to use my cameras to record instances of our life (our: meaning me, my wife and our twins and pets). Over the years, I’ve collected several nice cameras and lenses, which I try to use as often as possible. My latest endeavor are my son’s football matches. The kiddo is 10 years old, and it appears that he is indeed a talent, marking 2-3 goals in every match. So taking pictures of him is expected both from him and his proud mother.

Now having a Nikon D700 with the battery pack and a 70-300mm Nikon lens, I believed that I was well-equipped to handle these matches. I guess I may be OK equipment-wise, but I am not very well prepared technique-wise. Or maybe, my equipment is faulty? My 70-300mm lens had an accident in July, which resulted in repair being needed. Nikon replaced the mount of the focusing motor (I think) and send it back to me. Now the lens works OK when focusing on stationary items, but when I am using it on moving targets, like my son, the results are less than stellar.

The way I have the camera set up, is to use AF-C (Continuous Focus), with 51-AF Points and Auto Tracking. What I notice is that as soon as I press the AF-On button to initiate focus, the focus point jumps all over the place, in other adjacent focus points, instead of sticking with my target and following it as it moves. Yes, it does stick with my son some times, but not always. I wish someone could explain that to me.

Is it the lens that has a problem? Is it the camera? Is it me?!?!

 

Various tidbids from Summer 2012

This post, being written on the last day of August 2012, qualifies for the end-of-summer entry for this blog. So I decided to collect some thoughts and issues I faced during summer and post them here.

First of all, a Fujifilm X-100 issue, that I was aware of, but never remembered. Don’t try to use the build-in flash of the camera, with the lens hood attached. It’s a known issue, but since I store and always carry my camera with the lens hood attached, I didn’t remember to remove it, when I shot some pictures with the flash activated. Results? Bottom left corner of the pictures is significantly darker than the rest. Just remember: flash and hood do not go together on this camera.

Second, Apple Mountain Lion server has significant issues. I am now officially back to Lion server, since the new version has so many issues that I do not want to upgrade. I have spend several summer days trying to fix the issues with the Mountain Lion server, unsuccessfully, so I decided that it was about time to go back to the previous, stable, Lion server and call it a day. Thanks Apple, as if I had nothing better to do with my summer days.

Third, spending almost a whole summer month with a broken foot, is not fun. I broke a bone in my foot, as I was climbing down from a chair I was on, doing some rearrangements of my network equipment. As I was coming off the chair, my right foot stepped on my shoe and the ankle turned. I heard a “crack” and felt an acute pain at the right side of my foot. A visit to the hospital (after two days) showed a broken bone. A cast was applied for almost 20 days, which severely reduced my mobility. Not fun.

The weird thing is that at least eight other persons I know had foot issues this summer. Isn’t that strange?!?!

Fourth, vacations. We spent our vacations in the island of Crete, in the apartments of a friend, but more about that you will read in another, dedicated post, with pictures and everything. Needless to say we appreciate Spyros hospitality.

Some more thoughts on the Fuji X100

While my rants about the X100 may make visitors think that I do not like the camera, the contrary is true. I love it. The pictures I get from it, have the same IQ (and for the uninitiated that means “Image Quality”) as those I get with my Nikon D700 when used with some of my prime lenses. Only the Fuji weights about 500 gr while the D700 about 1,0 Kg.

I do use the Fuji more than all my other cameras these days, and if it wasn’t for the bad feelings I have for not shooting some of my film babies lately, I wouldn’t mind at all leaving the D700 and the D300 in the closet.

The issue I have with the X100, is just that I can’t stand some of its peculiarities. For example, why can’t focus be initiated by the AE-L/AF-L button, in all modes?!? Or why the Focus rectange in MF is not resizeable, while it is in AF-S. These things are easily fixable in the camera’s firmware, so I am wondering why isn’t Fuji fixing them.

Oh, yes, there are also some morons on the Internet, who are supposed to be close to Fuji (is that the only relation they have with the company?!?!?), who try to justify these inconsistencies with crazy excuses. Today, in another forum dedicated to Fuji X-cameras, where one of those “Fuji cameras are perfect as they are” morons frequents, a member asked this same question “Why is the focusing rectangle in MF not resizeable?”. And here is the moron’s answer:

There isn’t an AF box in MF mode. The box you mean is a magnifier frame, bit since there’s currently only one magnification setting available (16x, I guess), there’s currently no reason for an adjustable box. There’s simply nothing to adjust to. This will change once Fuji update their firmware to allow multiple magnification settings. Then, the box will change along with it. Wait until June.

He had given me the same answer some time ago, when I had asked the same question and when I asked him which area of the viewfinder is used to focus the camera, in MF, when I press the AE-L/AF-L button, he had no answer to give me. There is certainly a section of the viewfinder, that is used for focusing the camera in MF mode, and that section corresponds exactly to that rectangle, as the awful firmware 1.20 has shown to every X100 user. Except that according to this moron, that is not a focusing rectangle, it is a magnifier frame. So which is the area used for focusing, if it is not that rectangle? And this guy should be close to Fuji, because he knows that these things (or at least some of them) will be fixed in the next firmware version, which will come out (according to him) in June.

Fuji, those people are not doing you any justice. They are destroying your image in their effort to defend the issues your cameras have. If they are so close to you, as they want to appear in public to be, may I humbly suggest that you put some ice on their heads?

The X100 issues are by now well-known to the entire photographic community. Why don’t you guys address those issues and come up with a time schedule for fixing them? We would all applaud and no one will hold you liable if you are off a few days or weeks. But pretending there are no issues and having those morons defend you in public, is much worst than acknowledging them.

Another round in the X100 match

Well, yesterday, Fujifilm released the new firmware for the X100, version 1.20.

From Fuji’s web site here are the “improvements”:

  • 1. Some functions, which can be set to “Fn” button and shown as “Fn BUTTON” in SET-UP menu, can be also set to RAW button. After pressing the command dial to right in the SET-UP menu of “Fn BUTTON”, “Fn” and “RAW” are displayed and each of selectable them,
    Also, by holding down RAW button for more than 3 seconds, same type of selection menu for RAW button is displayed, just as short-cut procedure.
  • 2. By selecting in “ISO” menu in the shooting menu, either ISO sensitivity value or “ISO AUTO CONTROL” can be selected.
  • 3. When AF MODE is set to “AREA” in Single AF (AF-S) mode, active focus point is zoomed in (magnified to approx 5x) by pressing center of the command control.
  • 4. When “ND FILTER” is set to “Fn” button or “RAW” button, setting between ON (“ND” is displayed) or OFF (“ND” is NOT displayed) can be changeable by pressing “Fn” button or “RAW” button, which is set for “ND FILTER”.
  • 5. When the image is shot with vertical angle of the camera and played back the shot in the LCD, the image is displayed with whole area of LCD even after pressing “playback zoom in” button.
  • 6. When the human face is shot, the detected face is displayed during the playing back, and pressing the command dial to down, detected face is magnified during displaying.
  • 7. AE control system and AF performance including AF speed has been improved for movie recording mode.

Unfortunately, while it appears that Fujifilm did listen to some user complaints, again, in reality Fuji is taking two steps forward and one step backwards. Here is an explanation.

1. While it appears that Fuji has improved the response of the autofocus mechanism when the camera is set to AF-S mode, a lot of users are complaining about problems with the camera set at MF mode. I still didn’t had time to shoot any tests of my own, but I am sure all those complaining about these issues are NOT crazy.

2. While the ability to have some function assigned to the RAW button, at the rear of the camera was something every X100 user has been asking for, since the day the camera was launched, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Say for example you set the RAW button to activate/deactivate the ND filter the camera has. This will be next to useless for one simple reason. The RAW button (and its assigned function) gets locked, when you lock the control wheel at the rear of the camera. The control wheel is used for things like turning on the flash, changing the white balance, entering the lens macro mode, or changing the shooting mode (from pictures to video for example). All these are not changed very often, when you are out shooting pictures. The ND filter though needs to be switched on for one picture and off for the next one. That button shouldn’t get locked, when you lock the control wheel.

3. It is reported by some users that the turns required to manually focus the lens from infinity to its closest focusing distance has been reduced from ten plus, to two. If this is possible, then why not reduce the number of turns to 3/4 of a full turn? I have never seen a lens that needs two full turns to go from infinity to 30 cm. Why not reduce it even further?

Again, Fuji firmware programmers seem to be a totally disorganized team, with no central guidance or with guidance by someone who has never used any camera to take pictures. Who decides how new features are implemented and why? Who gives photographers a very useful feature (for example the ability to activate/deactivate the ND filter at the press of a switch) and then negates it, by allowing that button to be locked when the control wheel is locked? Who authorizes the reduction of turns required to focus the lens from ten to two and doesn’t understand that two full turns are way too much for a 35mm lens?!?!?

Fuji, wake up. You have in your hands a camera that has become a cult object among photographers. It has the capability to become the Leica M3 of the digital era, the revolutionary camera of our times. Assign a photographer as the head of your firmware team, someone who can understand what photographers want and need. Someone who understands how a camera is used by photographers. Fix the bloody camera and I am sure all X100 users will love you. Keep doing the same mistakes and I can see a flood of X100 being sold in Ebay.

X100 issues (continued)

I’ve been puzzled with this camera. On one hand I love the pictures I take with it, and on the other, I hate the way it works so much, I feel like selling it and forget about it.

Last issue I discovered has to do with the way the camera handles its external flash.

I already have two Nikon SB-800 flashes, but the X100 uses a special, dedicated flash (well, Fujifilm offers two dedicated flashes, the EF-20 and the EF-40, I got the EF-20) so I got one, in order to have a complete X100 system.

After trying out the flash though, it looks as if the programmers who wrote X100 firmware, have never taken a single picture with a digital camera. Let me explain to you what I mean.

With my Nikons (they both have a build-in flash, like the X100), if you mount an external flash on the camera, it is immediately ready to be used. If you switch the flash on, it will fire. If you remove the external flash and open the internal one, then the internal flash will fire. Not so on the Fujifilm. After you mount the flash on the camera and switch it on, the flash will stay there and will not fire, until you turn it on, by pressing the right arrow on the camera’s turn-wheel controller and select the “Always fire” from the menu that will appear. OK, let’s accept that, it’s one more step but you can live with it, right? Well, yes, you can, until you remove the external flash from the camera. Next time you fire the camera, the internal flash will fire!!! Ah? I do not want that, I can hear you say. And right you are, you do not want the internal flash to fire, you set the “Always fire” mode for the external flash, right? Well, not according to Fuji programmers.

Oh wait, there is another menu setting, called “Set external flash” and you can set it to “Off”, “On” or “On (Commander)”. OK, you set it to “On” and everything seems to work as it should, except that …. if the external flash is not mounted on the camera, the internal flash can NOT be used. Ah? Come again? Why the setting for the external flash affects the operation of the internal one?!?!?

No, seriously, the people who wrote the X100 firmware, have they ever shot one picture with a camera? Have they ever been sent out to take some pictures? Have they ever tried a camera from a competitor and compare it with the X100? I can’t believe that these people have written this firmware with those stupid flaws in it.

What is even worst, is that it appears that Fujifilm is very happy with the number of X100s they have sold so far, and they do not plan to come up with a firmware upgrade any time soon. They are too busy with their new camera, the interchangeable lenses X-Pro1, to worry about the X100 issues. I sincerely hope this is not true. If it is, then I believe that the X100 purchase was the worst decision I’ve made in my photographer’s life. Even worst than my decision to buy the Leica M6.

Fujifilm X100 firmware upgrade

Just one day after the message I posted yesterday, about living with the X100, Fujifilm posted a new firmware upgrade, version 1.13.

One would expect that some of the issues mentioned in the post below would be corrected in the new firmware version. Well, nope, nothing except some autofocus impovement, as some people say.

I haven’t had any issues with autofocus accuracy per se (using firmware 1.12), so I am not sure what the improvements are, but for sure they didn’t correct any of the inconsistencies  mentioned.

Too bad!!!!!