Month: February 2017

Friday Image No.126

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Bamburgh sunrise. Fuji XT2, Fujinon 10-24mm at 12mm, 1/7" at f/13.
Bamburgh sunrise. Fuji XT2, Fujinon 10-24mm at 12mm, 1/7″ at f/13.

I seem to say it every Friday, but this week has again been packed. One day I will finally catch up with myself (I hope). Probably the best thing to have happen was being able to track down the issue with my Fuji telephoto lens and realising it was caused by my ND Grad filters. Now I know the cause I will be able to work around it using multiple exposures and luminosity mask blending (or perhaps HDR).

For this week’s image, I’m sharing another of the images from Northumberland that I shot a couple of weeks back. I had to take around 20 shots before I got the waves just right but the perseverance was worth it. This image is exactly as I wanted it. The reflection of the low sun on the water and the wet rocks is perfect.

Have a great weekend.

New Fuji Lens and a Warning

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Misty morning in the trees at the Roaches. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens.
Misty morning in the trees at the Roaches. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you may well be aware of the problems I have experienced with my Fuji 55-200mm lens. Following some rather odd results, the lens was returned to Fuji back in November who couldn’t find any problems. Wex then returned it for a second time following a review of some test images as they agreed, there must be a fault.

The lens is still being inspected by Fuji but Wex have kindly allowed me to trade it in against another lens. This is a huge help as being without a good telephoto lens means I can’t use the Fuji kit properly and always end up taking a second camera with me. Thanks to the trade in I now have the Fuji 50-140 f/2.8 + 1.4x Teleconverter and this weekend was my first outing.

Unfortunately, the location we chose was very foggy and remained so for most of the day. The fog did lift to a certain level but generally it was too dense to use the new lens properly. I did however manage a few test shots of distant rocks which a group of climbers were scaling. I mounter the camera on my tripod and lined up the shot using both the lens and teleconverter. The conditions were still with no wind and I was using a cable release.

To my horror, when I zoomed in to check the image I could see a lot of camera shake and the image was blurred. I tried again and again but I couldn’t remove the shake. I then tried removing the teleconverter to see if it was the cause of the problem but it wasn’t. The results looked very much like those I experienced with the lens I had returned.

Below you can see one of the problem images. Notice how the shake isn’t consistent across the frame and some areas almost come into focus but don’t quite get there.

Example of problem image.
Example of problem image.

And a section at 100% magnification.

Section of poor image at 100% magnification
Section of poor image at 100% magnification

Then through trial and error I worked out the cause of the issue.  Take a look at the image below which was shot immediately after the image above. This time the image is pin sharp across the frame.

Good image
Good image

And again, a section of the image at 100% magnification.

Section of good image at 100% magnification.
Section of good image at 100% magnification.

The cause of the issue was the Lee 0.3 ND grad filter I was using. With the filter on the lens, the images were out of focus and appeared shaky. With the filter removed the images were crisp and sharp. I could repeat the result time and again with all my Lee filters.

What appears to be happening is that the filter is causing a problem for the autofocus mechanism in the XT2 and it continues to refocus as the shot is being taken. Later I turned off the autofocus and could focus manual to capture a pin sharp image. If I set the camera back to autofocus the problem occurred again. What I haven’t been able to work out is why I have only seen the issue with the telephoto lenses. My other lenses (10-24, 16-55 and 18-55) all work fine with my filters.

This is one to watch out for if you are a landscaper and use filters. I was also wondering if anyone else has experienced a similar issue?

Friday Image No.125

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Bamburgh Castle at sunrise
Bamburgh at sunrise. Fuji XT2, 16-55mm (at 16mm) Fujinon lens. ISO200, f/13.0 for 1″. 0.6ND Graduated Filter.

I know this view has been shot a million times but I still love it. There is something quite magical about standing on a beach, in front of a castle, waiting for the sun to come up. Judging by the huddle of photographers around me at the time, I’m not the only person who thinks this.

Hopefully I can shoot some more images with less well known scenes this weekend.

Have a great weekend.

Sony RX10 Problems

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Gordale Scar, The Yorkshire Dales. Three image stitch with the Sony RX10.
Gordale Scar, The Yorkshire Dales. Three image stitch with the Sony RX10.

I have owned my Sony RX10 for a little over three years, purchasing it as soon as they were launched. I had a couple of initial teething issues; the lettering around the front of the lens reflected onto my filters, the focus wasn’t quite right and the Stabilisation wasn’t very good. Other than that, it’s been a very useful camera and one that I enjoy using a lot.

In August last year I went to France to visit my daughter, taking the RX10 along. All appeared fine until I noticed on some of the images that they were a little soft along one edge. That’s when I checked the front of the lens and to my horror I could see traces of fungus inside. This was faint at the time and wasn’t sufficient to cause the softness, although that’s what triggered my noticing the problem.

On returning to the UK I made some enquiries with the “legendary” Sony Support (legendary for all the wrong reasons). I didn’t hold out much hope of help given my past experience and unfortunately, they didn’t disappoint. The response was “your equipment’s out of warranty so there is nothing we can do”. Despite my protest that a camera of this age which is well treated and stored with care should not have a problem, they just didn’t want to know other than saying they could me find a Sony repair centre.

Roll forward six months. I had tried to live with the fungus problem, not expecting it to get much worse; unfortunately, I was wrong and it had spread across the inside of the front element. I took the RX10 to Real Camera in Manchester who I have dealt with a number of times and asked if they could have their engineer take a look (if you are ever in the market for a used film camera or need repairs, Real Camera are highly recommended).

I have now received word back from the engineer and the problem is indeed fungus on the inside of the lens. Worse still, it’s not possible to clean the affected elements as the problem is inside a sealed unit where the elements are cemented in place. This means the replacement of that particular lens group. I have authorised the work as it’s still a cost-effective repair but it raises an important question, how did fungus get inside a sealed unit? I have only two possible answers in my head:

  1. The fungus was introduced during assembly which would bring into question the manufacturing.
  2. The unit wasn’t properly sealed, which also brings into question the manufacturing.

In showing no interest in my problem, Sony have, to my mind missed the opportunity to identify and correct an issue. Ultimately, I feel Sony are showing contempt for their future customers by not investigating a problem which (I hope) is unusual.

Whilst I love the results from my Sony gear, this attitude will cost them in the future. I already refuse to use Sony lenses with my A7R as I have never had one that’s sharp into the corner. All have been bitingly sharp in the centre but this makes the edges and corners worse.

I have only one thing to say; Sony, you need to wake up and put customer service first.

Friday Image No. 124

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Bamburgh sunset. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. 0.6 ND Grad and Polarising filter for extended exposure. f/10.0, 2" at ISO400
Bamburgh sunset. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. 0.6 ND Grad and Polarising filter for extended exposure. f/10.0, 2″ at ISO400

Last weekend I was up in Northumberland, staying at Bamburgh. As you would expect of any landscape photographer, I took the opportunity to shoot the castle at both sunrise (wonderful) and sunset (challenging).

The image above is from one of the rather challenging “sunsets” (there wasn’t any sun) but I still like something about it. I have experimented quite a bit with the processing, even producing the black and white version below. Despite this, I don’t think I have hit on quite what I wanted (although the B&W is my favorite) so I think it will be back to Bamburgh at some point. I will share a few of the better images in the future.

Have a great weekend.

Bamburgh at sunset through the dunes
Bamburgh at sunset through the dunes

Fuji RAW File Processing Improvements

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Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.
Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.

Many of you will be aware of my frustration over the poor results when processing Fuji RAW files with Lightroom. This apparently is a well-known problem amongst Fuji users who want to shoot RAW (although it wasn’t well known to me when I purchased my XT1). The problem seems to have spawned many different solutions among users, from trying to work with Lightroom using “quite extreme” settings to adopting other RAW converters. I personally have pursued and experimented with this last option myself, but it’s not ideal. Lightroom is a great tool and provides an excellent workflow.

Then, a few weeks back I reported here that following experimentation, I was now able to achieve improved sharpening results when using Lightroom. This involved minimising the use of the Detail and Threshold slider, then applying a subsequent Structure adjustment in Viveza. What I couldn’t rationalise though is why I was now experiencing such an improvement by holding back on the Detail slider when previously it had often been necessary to push this to 100%.

Then the penny has dropped.

I had been contacted by a couple of Fuji users who asked if I was aware of any improvements to Fuji sharpening in the latest release of Lightroom and Photoshop. Whilst I hadn’t seen anything, it made me realise that I had upgraded to the latest Adobe CC release, just before experiencing the improvement.

I have since processed a lot of XT2 RAW files and all are responding very well to a traditional sharpening and processing approach in Lightroom. In a recent comparison with my Sony A7r (with which I use with Canon L Series lenses), the resulting images are similar except the Sony has slightly larger dimensions and is slightly sharper at full magnification. Both images produce an excellent print where you can’t see any difference.

Here is an example comparison at 100% magnification. The image on the left was captured using the Sony A7r whilst the image on the right is the Fuji XT2.

Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2
Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2

I wondered if this was just an effect when sharpening the XT2 RAW files, so I returned to my XT1 files and tested some of these. The results are also much improved. Comparing the results from Lightroom to the same file processed using the Iridient RAW converter, the gap has narrowed. The Lightroom results now appear much closer to those from Iridient when applying just Capture Sharpening. The Lightroom results can then be improved by applying Selective Sharpening in Lightroom as well as Structure adjustment with the Nik Tools.

Due to the workflow in Lightroom and my use of other cameras (Olympus EM5 and Sony RX10 & A7r) I suspect I will be using Lightroom for most of my Fuji RAW conversion. I may have occasion to venture into Iridient or RAW Therapee but where I need to work fast I think Lightroom is now up to the task.

I’m interested to hear if others have any similar experiences to share.

In Praise of the Shoulder Bag

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Northumberland coastal sunrise. Fuji XT2, Fuji 16-55mm Lens, Lee 0.6ND graduated filter.
Northumberland coastal sunrise. Fuji XT2, Fuji 16-55mm Lens, Lee 0.6ND graduated filter.

When I first started to become interested in Photography I bought a second lens for my SLR. This also meant I needed something to carry the camera and lenses so I purchased a camera bag. It was a LowePro Nova 3 which I still have.

After this, I quickly decided that I needed a backpack to carry my now rapidly expanding equipment. Just counting around my office, I now seem to have 5 backpacks but I’m sure I have a couple more somewhere. I quickly forgot about the Nova 3 and relegated it to storing my XPan film camera.

This weekend I was away in Northumberland (which is why there was no Friday Image) and decided to take the Nova 3 with me. Don’t ask me why after all these years, but it seemed like a good idea. I could carry my Fuji XT2 together with three lenses, filters and cable release. What made it ideal is that I could stand in the sea and work easily from the bag on my shoulder. It wasn’t too large or too heavy; in fact, it was joy to use and allowed me to move around much more freely than I would otherwise.

If I were to criticise the Nova 3 at all, it would be because it didn’t have a weatherproof cover. Looking quickly on Amazon today, I can see that it’s no longer available. Instead it seems to have been replaced by the LowePro 180AW which does feature a weatherproof cover. It’s also the same price as I paid for the Nova 3 all those years ago.