Equipment

Camera Equipment Storage

Posted on


A damp misty morning captured with the RX10. Damp conditions are perfect for encouraging mould.

Following my recent RX10 mould issues, I was discussing the problem with someone at The Real Camera Company in Manchester. These were the people where I sent my RX10 to the repaired and who did such an excellent job.

It appears the common approach of many photographers is to store their equipment in camera bags. Typically, the camera would be left in the camera bag between outings. A bag which would usually be zipped shut and sometimes be damp from being out in the field. What better conditions for mould to thrive than in dark, damp conditions with no circulating air.

My own approach to storing camera equipment as to keep it in a camera bag but with the top open and use silica gel sachets to limit moisture. If the bag became wet I would remove the equipment until it had been dried for at least 48 hours. Thinking about it, I decided this wasn’t good enough given the cost of equipment.

This is when my wife had a great idea and suggested this storage.

Shoe Storage Unit

This was purchased from Costco for around £20. It’s actually storage for shoes but it fits camera equipment perfectly. I can fit my Fuji X-T2 + lens in one of these compartments. I can fit all the Fuji lenses in the next and so on. I now have all my camera equipment and key accessories in this 4 x 3 unit. Everything is easy to get at, the units are semi-transparent so exposed to light and air can circulate freely.

Let’s hope this keeps mould away.

Checking my RX10

Posted on


Derwent Valley, The Peak District. Sony RX10 with 0.6 ND Graduated Filter

A few weeks back I wrote about my Sony RX10 and how it had to be repaired. The front element had a problem with mould growing on the inside and given the front element is part of a sealed unit ,the entire unit had to be replaced. Rather than use a Sony repair centre I opted to use The Real Camera Company in Manchester. These guys really know their stuff; I purchased my Bronica SQAi kit from them about a year ago.

Having received my repaired RX10, I have been unable to test it properly due to a combination of the weather, a trip to Madeira and having too much work on. At the weekend though I decided to take a walk in the Peak District and took the RX10 along in the hope of giving it a try. As it turned out, the weather wasn’t that good, clouding over quite heavily, and I didn’t shoot any great images. The image at the top of this page is probably the best.

What the trip did allow me to do was evaluate the replaced lens. In short, I’m very pleased. It’s as sharp as my previous lens and I’m confident that the results are much better. The corners are still a little soft, but the central part of the image appears excellent. The other point that I noticed is that more distant detail is now being retained better than with the old lens. Previously, you could see the finer details such as grass and rock turn soft. Now this isn’t noticeable.

I’m feeling very happy about my decision to have the camera repaired – it was certainly cheaper than replacing it. Could I do without the RX10? Yes. Do I want to? No way, it’s a brilliant camera and perfect for a walk in the countryside.

Return of the RX10

Posted on Updated on


La Rochelle, France. This is a 5 image sequence shot on the Sony RX10 and stitched in Lightroom. ISO80, f/5.6, 1/640″. Click the image to view a larger version of the file.

I previously commented on how my beloved RX10 was struck down by mould. This was on the front element of the lens and was inside a (supposedly) sealed unit. Rather than taking this to Sony for a repair I went to The Real Camera Company in Manchester. One of their engineers has now replaced the affected unit and the camera is back with me in a little over a week from my authorising the repair.

Whilst the camera has been away for repair it felt like I had lost something quite major. I had been used to taking the RX10 out on hikes across the moors where I live. The alternative was to take the Fuji X-T2 or Olympus EM5, both of which produce higher quality images than the RX10. Despite this, the inconvenience of never having the right lens on the camera at the point you want to use it, or needing to change lenses and filters frequently in the field was what can only be described as a pain in the butt.

The RX10 produces excellent detail and sharpness in the central area of the frame, but it softens near the edges and distorts a little in the corners (at the wide-angle end of the lens range). I suspect much of this is due to a lot of lens correction being applied in software. Despite this, the camera is a joy to use and produces images which have a lovely feel to them. The convenience of having a 24-200 focal length in a constant f2.8 lens, all bolted onto a 1” sensor is a great combination, especially when out walking.

So far, I have only taken a few test shots in the garden to check the camera functions correctly (it does.) I’m really looking forward to some good weather to put the RX10 through its paces. I would also like to say well done to The Real Camera company for their help and a job well done.

New Fuji Lens and a Warning

Posted on Updated on


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?

Sony RX10 Problems

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on Updated on


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.