Equipment

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

Posted on Updated on


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.

Save

Free Book Relaunched

Posted on Updated on


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

Posted on Updated on


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.

Save

Save

Yet More Fuji Lens Issues

Posted on Updated on


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.

Save

Best Micro 43 Lenses for Landscape Photography

Posted on


Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 45-150mm lens. Want to know more about how this image was shot and edited? Check the video at the end of the blog.
Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 45-150mm lens. Want to know more about how this image was shot and edited? Check the video at the end of the blog.

Over the past week I have received at least four emails asking what Micro 43 lenses I would recommend for Landscape Photography. I can also see quite a few people reading a related post I created back in 2012. Given my advice has changed since I wrote the original post, I thought it was time to revisit the subject. If you would like to know more about the image above, check out the video at the end of this blog post.

Before I share my own recommendations, I believe there are a few points that need to be taken into consideration. These are:

  • Camera Ergonomics
  • Flexibility
  • Shooting Style
  • Budget
  • Quality
  • Features

You should consider these points carefully in order to come to your own conclusions. These points will also help you to understand my answers.

Camera ergonomics

Micro 43 is an extremely flexible format with a large range of available lenses. Unfortunately, not every micro 43 lens will suit every camera in the micro 43 range. The lenses may fit the camera and operate correctly, but are the two well matched. For example, the Olympus 12-40mm may feel great when used on the Olympus EM1. But place the same lens on the tiny Panasonic GM1 and it would feel completely out of place. If the lens makes your camera difficult to work with, it doesn’t matter how good a landscape lens it is.

Flexibility & Shooting Style

It’s a little difficult to cleanly separate these two areas so let’s cover them together.

Consider if you would prefer to work with prime lenses or zoom lenses. My own preference is for zoom lenses as sometimes you can’t get into position with a prime lens. I would much rather have the flexibility of using zoom lenses.

Consider the focal ranges you want to cover with your lenses. My kit covers 9mm to 150mm (or 18mm to 300mm in full frame equivalent). Would this suit your needs for Landscape? Do you need greater coverage of focal lengths or is such a large range unnecessary?

How will you carry your equipment? I use a small shoulder bag in which I carry the camera and main lens as well as two additional lenses.

Budget

The price of some lenses may be restrictive, especially if you are purchasing them new. Some lenses are quite difficult to obtain second hand so you might not have any option but to purchase them new.

Quality

Lens quality is of paramount importance to me. I want to render images that are superbly sharp and which contain lots of detail. This might not suit our style of photography or you might place other features ahead of image quality. A further example of this is lens distortion (Barrel and Pincushion). Although I say lens quality is paramount, I don’t really mind some level of distortion. If this becomes too obvious, it can usually be corrected by software during post processing.

Features

Are there any features that you need in a lens? For example, you may require the lens to be water resistant. One feature that I find important is the ability to mount filters to the front of the lens. Personally, in common with many landscape photographers, like to mount graduated ND filters on my lenses to help control exposure. Some ultra-wide angle lenses such as the Panasonic 7-14mm won’t accept such filters. The 7-14mm lens is a super performer but the frustration it caused me when trying to use filters resulted in me selling the lens.

Do you need image stabilisation in your lenses? I shoot with an Olympus EM5 which has in camera stabilisation so having a stabilised lens is not important to me. If your shooting with a Panasonic Micro 43 camera, this might not be the case. Equally, if you work exclusively on a tripod, you won’t need this feature.

How about having a constant fast aperture or close focus range? You need to think about these.

My Recommendation

Based on everything I have said, my current recommendation for the best Micro 43 lenses for landscape photography are:

  • Olympus 9-18mm
  • Olympus 12-40mm
  • Panasonic 45-150mm

These lenses are in my core kit and the ones that I take with me when travelling. All of these perform excellently, producing very sharp images and resolving fine detail. Of the three, only the 12-40mm is large. The other two are tiny for their focal range. I am prepared to accept the additional size and weight given the lens is weather sealed and has amazing optics. It also has a very close focus distance even at the 40mm end which makes it a pseudo macro lens if I don’t have room for one. In fact, the 12-40mm is such a great lens for my style of photography, it remains on the camera probably 90% of the time.

In the past I have worked with a Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens from a GF1. These are excellent lenses and available at a good price second hand. This is a good option if you don’t want the size, weight or cost of the 12-40mm lens. It’s sharp and versatile but lacks a little on the wide end of the focal range (for my preference).

If your confused by the multitude of lenses available in the Micro 43 range, consider the areas mentioned carefully before committing to a purchase. Whilst my lens choice is perfect for my needs, they may not be suitable for you.

If you like this video be sure to subscribe to my You Tube channel.

Robin Whalley You Tube Channel

Fuji XT2 First Impressions

Posted on Updated on


Fuji XT2 - The Moors above Saddleworth.
Fuji XT2 – The Moors above Saddleworth.

This last weekend was possibly a turning point for me. My XT2 has finally arrived and I’m excited. I haven’t been excited about a new camera in a long time. It’s hard to say what’s different this time but there is just something about the Fuji. The XT system and lenses is very high quality but compact. It seems to have many of the benefits of the Olympus EM5 but with improved image quality. That’s something that was difficult for me to admit at first as the Olympus has served me well for several years and is an excellent camera. Let me share my first impressions with you.

Removing the camera from the packaging for the first time, it feels very much like the XT1. The various dials which felt well positioned on the XT1 are all still there but with a few more options. What I liked about the XT1 was that everything seemed to be where you would expect to find it and the XT2 is very similar.

There are a few points though that Fuji should be specifically commended for:

  • The eyecup on the XT2 is just like the replacement eye cup on the XT1. This is an optional accessory with the XT1 (and worth investing in).
  • The screen protectors for the XT1 fit the XT2.
  • The battery from the XT1 fits and works fine in the XT2. Sony is the only other manufacturer that seems to adopt this approach.

Looking over the camera controls I immediate notice one enhancement. I am very fussy about where I place the focus point and the XT2 just made life easier for me. The back of the camera now has a small joystick with which you can move the point of focus. I used to have one of these on my old Sony R1 and I loved it. You can even use it with the camera to your eye.

The other enhancement that I like is the two-way articulated rear LCD. I don’t particularly find the swivel screens very useful as I tend not to get horizon skewed. With the XT2, the screen moves on a hinge but there is a second hinge allowing it to tilt either horizontally or vertically. Nice.

In short, this feels a lot like the XT1 but with a few nice features thrown in.

When I bought the XT2 I purchased it as a kit with the 18-55 lens. Although I already have the amazing 16-55 I decided I couldn’t pass up the extra lens for only £250 more. The 16-55 whilst excellent is bulky and doesn’t have IS. The 18-55 is much smaller and does have IS. Whilst it’s not wide enough for all my work, it’s fine as part of my walking kit.

This lens also allows me to use the camera with my LowPro 140 shoulder bag. I use this bag for trekking as it allows me to also use a good sized day pack. The XT2 with 18-55 lens, together with the 55-200 lens all fit into the shoulder bag.

In terms of the 18-55 performance, the results are very good. It’s very sharp and seems to perform well across the entire focal range as well as into the corners. The only problem I’m finding is that after shooting a lot with Micro 43 cameras, I keep misjudging the depth of field with the Fuji. Given how sharp the images are, it’s not something I’m happy about. I need to get used to the larger sensor.

The colours from the XT2 RAW files are excellent as is the detail. I have been looking hard for signs of water colour effect and false pattern (wiggly worm) when using Lightroom but so far none. I did spot what I thought was some false pattern in a couple of images but then realised how to avoid it. I need to consider this more with the XT1 but if I have hit on something I will share it soon.

Shadow detail is also very good and the images are clean when lightened. I could apply a substantial amount of shadow recovery to a very contrasty scene and the result were very natural. The film simulations are also very nice in Lightroom.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the XT2. I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces in a proper shoot.

Fuji XT2 - The Moors above Saddleworth.
Fuji XT2 – The Moors above Saddleworth.

Another RAW Processor

Posted on Updated on


Forest Scene. Fuji XT1 + 16-55 lens. Post processing in Ididient + On 1 Effects
Forest Scene. Fuji XT1 + 16-55 lens. Post processing in Ididient + On 1 Effects

Since I purchased the Fuji XT1 (and had the fright of my life due to soft, distorted images) I have become a little obsessed by image quality. The results I can now achieve using the XT1 are far beyond my expectations. I’m even beginning to question the need for my Sony A7R, especially as I have the Fuji XT2 on order. I need to give this some serious thought.

Anyway, back to the purpose of today’s blog post. I should stress that whilst I am using the Fuji XT1 RAW files as an example, other RAW files also see improvements. Whatever your camera, you need to experiment with alternate RAW converters.

So far I have concluded the best converters for the XT1 files appear to be RAW Therapee, Photo Ninja and Iridient. This is purely in terms of ability to render fine detail and image sharpness. If you’re not a Landscape Photographer, this might not be as important to you.

I have now returned to test Affinity Photo and have been quite impressed.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Affinity Photo is an image editor with Photoshop like capabilities. Currently it’s only available for the Mac but its priced well and includes a RAW developer module. If you are a Mac user and want an alternative to Adobe, it’s worth exploring. It also costs less than Elements and Iridient (but infinitely more than RAW Therapee which is free).

In this test, I processed the same RAW file (from which the above image was produced) and developed this in both Iridient and Affinity Photo. The conversion was done on a Mac and then the resulting TIFF files loaded onto my Windows PC. Here the two images can be seen side by side at 100% resolution.

Sinde by side comparison at 100% magnification. Affinity is on the left and Iridient on the right.
Sinde by side comparison at 100% magnification. Affinity is on the left and Iridient on the right.

The image on the left is from Affinity whilst the image on the right was converted using Iridient. The Affinity image appears sharper and with better defined detail. It does though suffer a little from my having added too much clarity. The Iridient image appears slightly more natural and softer. For the Iridient image I used the Deconvolution sharpening. If I apply a further round of sharpening using Nik Pro Sharpener (RAW) I can pull more detail from the Iridient image but not from the Affinity image. I suspect the difference in performance between the two is down to my (as yet) lack of experience with Affinity.

Something further that I noticed when doing the tests is that Iridient appears to have automatically corrected for lens geometry whilst Affinity didn’t. Overall, both packages did a great job of converting the RAW file as can be seen below (Affinity is on the left).

Side by side comparison. Affinity is on the left and Iridient on the right.
Side by side comparison. Affinity is on the left and Iridient on the right.

As I mentioned at the start, the results from the Fuji XT1 have impressed me greatly. I’m so pleased I didn’t dump the camera. I can’t wait to test out the XT2.