Equipment

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.

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.

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

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Fuji XT2 six image HDR
Fuji XT2. Six images at 1 stop intervals blended using HDR processing in Lightroom. The image sequence was shot using the technique discussed.

From time to time I like to shoot multiple sequences of images at different exposures. I then blend these either with HDR software or using luminosity masks in Photoshop. My Olympus EM5 makes this very easy. I call up the bracketing option in the menu, set it to the number of exposures I want and the interval. I also set the shooting mode to continuous which allows me to shoot a sequence by holding down the shooter button. When the sequence is complete there is a slight pause allowing me to release the button. This makes the entire process very easy, allowing me to hand hold.

At the weekend, I came to shoot a bracketed sequence using the Fuji XT2. This also makes shooting the bracketed sequence very easy. There is a dial switch allowing you to change from single shot to bracket. You press the shutter button once and the sequence of three images is captured with no need to keep your finger on the shutter. I found this great, until the scene I wanted to shoot required a five-image sequence at 1 stop intervals. That’s when I found out that the XT2 is limited to shooting only 3 images in a bracket. Come on Fuji, please fix this in your next firmware update. It’s basic stuff.

Now, I should stress that it’s not just Fuji that seem to have overlooked the obvious. When I also came to set up my Sony A7r at the weekend, I found a similar problem. This camera can be set to shoot a bracket sequence of 5 images, providing you don’t want to set the exposure intervals to more than 0.7EV. As soon as you set the exposure interval for a bracket to 1EV or more, you can only shoot a 3 shot sequence. What on earth are they thinking.

If you have been frustrated by this limitation with your camera, there is a simple workaround (other than changing your camera):

  • Set your camera to bracket 3 shots at 2EV intervals in the Av mode (aperture priority) and set your exposure compensation to 0.
  • Shoot the bracket sequence of 3 images.
  • Set the exposure compensation to +1.
  • Shoot a second bracket sequence of 3 images.

This gives you two sequences of three images, but across the two you will have images at 1EV intervals. These will range from -2EV to +3 EV which is what you need for HDR and Luminance blending if you want to ensure maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to hand hold using this method but hopefully it will make things a little easier.

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Free Book Relaunched

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Mastering Your Camera
Mastering Your Camera. Free Book Offer

I have been updating one of my books following feedback from a few readers. The book was called “Beginning Photography the Right Way” which appears to be misleading. Experienced photographers have contacted me to say they found it valuable and a good refresher on many points. I have therefore decided to make a few corrections/updates and re-release the book under the title “Mastering your Camera”. Here is the link to the book on Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2jCOfC1.

If you previously purchased this book from Amazon, you can download the revised version for free. Just login to Amazon and navigate to the “Your Account” page. Click the link to “Manage your Content and Devices” then search for the book in the list. You should find an “Update Available” button next to the listing. Click this and it will download the updated book. The book is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited allowing you to read it for free if you subscribe to this.

Free Book

There’s also good news if you didn’t purchase the original book as I’m giving away free copies to all my subscribers and followers to say thank you. On the 20th 21st and 22nd January the book will be available for free on Amazon. The book can only be downloaded from Amazon and it’s only available on these dates so please don’t ask me to provide copies (this is a contractual arrangement with Amazon).

A Favour

If you’re in a camera club or know someone who might enjoy/benefit from the book, please pass on details of the free download dates. My hope is that more people will learn about and benefit from my work. Perhaps they will be sufficiently impressed to leave a good review.

Don’t Have a Kindle?

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can still access the book using the free Kindle Readers. Kindle Readers are free software from Amazon that can be downloaded to your computer, tablet device or phone allowing you to read Kindle books. They support all the major platforms (Mac, Windows, Android). I have one on my iPhone for when I get stuck waiting somewhere and it’s excellent.

Here is a link to amazon page where you can download a free Kindle Reader App.

http://amzn.to/2iF7sik

I will be sending out a reminder email to Lenscraft members soon.

Fuji Lens Update

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A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer's kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.
A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer’s kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.

Back in December I wrote about how my Fuji 55-200mm lens had been returned. I bought the lens second hand from Wex Photographic a couple of months earlier but then never really tested it. Yes, I took a couple of reference shots but nothing more. It was only when I had the lens on a shoot with me that something didn’t seem quite right. By then I had passed the 30 days return period which was my own fault.

In case you’re wondering what was wrong, I had problems achieving a sharp image either hand held or at any shutter speed. Look at this example of trees (click it to see the full resolution version). The left side of the image is out of focus but the right side is much sharper. This isn’t a depth of field issue as that would be front to back sharpness.

Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right.
Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right. Click the image to see the full resolution version..

Despite being outside the return window I contacted Wex who advised the lens comes with a 6-month warranty. The lens was returned to Wex who then returned it to Fuji for repair. Just before Christmas I received a message from Wex advising Fuji could find nothing wrong with the lens and it had been returned as working fine.

I called Wex and spoke to one of the team managers who was excellent – he understood photography. He spoke to me for around 20 minutes looking over in detail the hi-resolution sample images I had provided. His view was that there was a fault, possibly in the IS.

The lens has now been returned to Fuji and I’m waiting on the outcome. In the interim, the longest focal length I can shoot with the Fuji is 55mm. I keep returning to the EM5 for long shots.

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Yet More Fuji Lens Issues

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Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. Trpiod mounted. 0.3ND grad + Polarising filters.
Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. Trpiod mounted. 0.3ND grad + Polarising filters.

Some of you may recall the problems I experienced when I bought my Fuji XT1 together with a couple of lenses. Th Fuji 10-24 was excellent but the 18-135 was quite poor. In the end, I returned the 18-135 exchanging it for a 16-55 new and a 55-200 used lens. The 16-55 is amazing but the 55-200 was a little odd.

At first the lens seemed sharp enough but I never really had the chance to try it out properly. Once I did try it out, I didn’t pay too much attention to the images but I did notice my hit rate was poor, many seeming to display camera shake. Ultimately, I contacted Wex where I had purchased the lens and arranged with them for the lens to go back for repair by Fuji (I was a good month out of the 28-day refund period).

The performance of the lens looks to have deteriorated over time even though I have hardly used it. It doesn’t matter if it’s hand held or tripod mounted and the shutter speed doesn’t have much effect on the results. It appears to overexpose a lot, lack contrast and it has soft spots, the location of which change. As you zoom to the longer focal lengths the focus issues seem to get worse but the severity varies.

To give you an example of one of the more severe cases, look at the following.

Example Image with the 55-200 Lens on a Fuji XT2.
Example Image with the 55-200 Lens on a Fuji XT2.

This is image was captured at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/10”. The camera was tripod mounted and a shutter release used. It was part of a panoramic sequence and the entire sequence has the same strange focus issue where only the top left of the frame is in focus. In some later images, the entire frame is in focus except to the top left.

Image section magnified. Click to view at 100%. Only the top left of the frame is in focus.
Image section magnified. Click to view at 100%. Only the top left of the frame is in focus.

My friend Steve has a theory about lenses such as these. He thinks that most people keep the good ones and trade the poor ones. I think he could be right. Whatever the reason, I hope Fuji can repair this.

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