Frank Petronio photographer

Fuji X100f Notes

Brockport, last night, X100f

I’m ambivalent about the new Fuji X100f. The size and weight are nice, it’s a great camera for carrying around all day, as I might during a two-week trip to China that’s coming up. I like the looks too, strangers will compliment it (which belies the stealthy streetwise purpose ~ I’d steal it in a heartbeat). Compared to the earlier versions (I tried a X100s and owned a X100t for a couple of months) its user interface and speed is improved. Having the joystick for setting focusing points is a boon, as are moving the control buttons to the right side of the LCD. However the camera still lacks a dedicated or programmable “back button auto focus” as most professional camera do (and I really like having). And while there are a lot of programmable buttons and dials, it is easy to forget what you set them to. If Fuji flashed which function you were accessing when you hit the button, or readily showed us a control map it would be helpful. 

On Instagram I mentioned that the biggest con for me was that the files didn’t compare well to my D810. Random Fuji fanboys from around the world jumped on this, “How dare you compare a little Fuji to a big Nikon!” and said that I must be a stupid and incompetent photographer to be so harsh on the poor Fuji. Well in my world those are the two cameras I own so they’ll get compared… and I have to weigh, literally, carrying the D810 with a large Zeiss lens to the flyweight Fuji versus image quality and usability concerns. Of course the Fuji sensor has a lower resolution and dynamic range than the D810 (even though the Nikon sensor is three years older). With the Fuji it is very easy to clip the highlights and there is little headroom in editing. Likewise I’ve been spoilt by the D810 files that allow me to open shadows and pull back skies better than any other small format camera. With the Fuji you try to nail the exposure as there simply isn’t the leeway to adjust in post ~ this means shooting extra frames, paying attention to the histogram and image review. 

To me the Fuji files feel like editing old D200 files from ten years ago. Granted I can shoot to ISO 1600 or 3200 with the Fuji where the old D200 wasn’t comfortable above ISO 800. With the shorter dynamic range and a B&W film preset for previewing I can see why photographers like the Fuji for black and white ~ there is a nice snap to the photos, inky blacks and just watch to hold back the skies by riding the easily accessed exposure compensation dial. And this is probably the way I am going to use it since I’ve sworn to stop buying cameras and returning or reselling them shortly later. I’m going to keep this one through the Summer at least and see how I feel after shooting longer term. But I think I’m going to carry the D810 and heavy 50/1.4 Zeiss through China and hand this little guy off to my wife and daughter who will more appreciate its size and style. To my 14-year old it’s a cool hip retro accessory that she can use then hand back to me (lest it disappear into the swirling cyclone disaster she calls her bedroom, with all the batteries and accessories lost to the void). My wife still uses an Nikon D5100 with the 16-85DX zoom that is probably on par with the Fuji quality-wise, especially since she only shoots jpg. 

A friend asked why I didn’t try the Sony A7-series since they are getting popular? They do look attractive but my distant first impressions are that they have an awkward user interface, sluggish operation, short battery life and they are made by a giant uncaring company that may decide to abandon photography next week. Also I really like the snappy auto-focus and superb tracking of the Nikon 300/2.8 lens and there is nothing for Sony that comes close. And if they did make a competitive lens it would be 3x the price of my used Nikon. But really I’m prejudiced against Sony because of an early Sony digital camera that I bought in 1999, it was atrocious and support was worthless. I know that was almost 20 years ago but it set me against the brand forever. (Not that my experiences with Nikon have always been positive but there is an inertia factor.)

Other cameras I considered? I’ve already had a Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A. Neither were pleasant with their 28mm equivalent lenses (it’s nearly impossible to make a mid-length or closer portrait with such a distorted view) and dated sensors. But I might have tried an updated Coolpix A as a stop gap. I’ve already had several Panasonic m4/3 kits but the image quality will never be up to snuff because of sensor size, which also rules out the 1” sensor cameras. I actually considered getting a brick of film and a clean Leica M6 and Summicron but I talked myself down…. Right now I think something like my wife’s Nikon D5100 or 5300 with the excellent 35/1.8DX would be the best bang for the buck in a lightweight carry camera. In fact something like that may follow this X100f at the end of Summer if love doesn’t bloom. They are all compromises… still I wonder why Nikon doesn’t have anything better in this space? A good mirrorless compact with EVF and a pancake lens for under a grand. 

The funny thing about cameras is that like cars and colleges, people feel obligated to “colorfully” defend their decisions. Admittedly I do have some troll-like qualities with my social media so I tend to exasperate and inflame… but the internet is only electrons and pixels and such good fun!




Weihrauch

We’ve had a windstorm knock down several large trees, then a flooded basement after two sump pumps failed, followed by two weeks of rain and mud. It’s all a bit overwhelming and grey. This used to be my airgun range, it’s mostly a muddy mess right now. 

Air rifle is a Weihrauch HW30s tuned by John Thomas, it shoots smooth and true and is light and easy to cock. A huge step up from the usual Walmart airguns. The blurry sight picture is sort of what I see now that I use reading glasses, I’m not yet that bad but getting there. 





Blossoms

My wife and daughter are really into Harry Potter so last week we were going around Universal Studios/Orlando where we did a little side jaunt through the Dr. Suess section (my favorite). Couldn’t help but think that these blossoms were rather Suessian themselves. 

These were made with the Zeiss 50/1.4 Milvus lens on the Nikon D810. I really like this combination, I find it easier to focus the longer manual focus lenses (it’s hard to tell when a 21mm is in focus by simply looking through the finder). For super critical work I will switch to Live View and tripod mount but for most things I can follow along with traditional focusing. 


Beehive

Five frame panorama from Nikon D810 with Zeiss 50/1.4 Milvus lens. It’s hard to display really wide pans (this is 6:1) but if you go full screen on a large monitor (like an iMac 5K) it looks fantastic. 


Sigma 135/1.8 ART Lens Samples

So I took this lens to Universal Orlando and these are simple grab shots. It is very sharp, has pleasing bokeh, excellent build quality – and this is key – fast, accurate auto-focus thanks to a more powerful ring motor. It burns my ass that a $1600 pro Nikon f/1.4G lenses have pokey mediocre auto-focusing. I tried the Zeiss 135/2 ZF2 shortly beforehand, that is also a superior lens but it is manual focus only.

Still I’m not in love with the 135mm focal length so I’m selling it along with the Sigma USB dock (which is very useful! I wish other companies had similar products). 

Harry Potter and amusement parks… meh, my familial duty and it put joy in the hearts of the women but I feel for the working class stiffs obligated to take their kids to these overpriced amusement parks in the same way they save up for outrageous college tuitions. Both are huge rip-offs. 

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