The Kaizen Contention – Final Thought

While it remains to be seen whether the storm about Fuji’s Kaizen philosophy was warranted or not, there is one important takeout from this heated debate.

In fact, it was Charles, one our readers, who made this point first: “If nothing else it does show that people are watching and do care.” Indeed, one of the most remarkable outcomes of the Fuji philosophy of continuous dialogue with photographers was the creation of a very passionate community. During our travels, Kasia and I meet many Fuji shooters who are deeply involved in the Fuji community, who care about the future of the X-series and do not shy away from stating their opinions. Ultimately, we believe it is a remarkable achievement and a huge asset for Fuji. After all, those photographers and artists are ambassadors of the Fuji brand.

We would like to thank everyone for keeping this online discussion cordial and free of personal attacks. We as artists may and should differ, but we shall always strive for passionate but courteous debates.

On another note, Patrick of Fujirumors.com published a post about his charity work in Cambodia. Kasia and I are very impressed by his dedication and commitment and we urge all of you to support his noble cause. You can do so by buying the really awesome fair-trade X-shirts (you can buy them here). We did.

To stay on topic, we would like to share with you images Kasia shot during her charity trip to Senegal. All photos were taken with the Fuji X-E1 coupled with the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 OIS lens.

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Here is Kasia with a baby boy.

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Three more images from this trip.

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Next time we will take you to Nelson, Nevada.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Crying Wolf

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Fuji X-T1, XF 50-140 F2.8

As most of you know, almost all the images presented on this blog have been shot with the X-series cameras. Since we got our first X100 and then the Fuji X-Pro1, we have become independent ambassadors of the X-series system. Many readers have bought Fuji cameras because they like the imagery we present here.

Given that the Fuji X-series is relatively new and is still evolving, we have been paying close attention to every development. As early adopters, we have been pleased with the Fuji approach of receiving feedback from photographers and making appropriate changes or improvements in the form of software updates – an approach marketed by Fuji itself as Kaizen.

Recently, however, Fuji has sent numerous signals that it would end this philosophy – no more major software updates for older models! We cannot hide the fact that we are deeply disappointed by this news. Here is why.

It was Fuji that introduced the idea of Kaizen, promoted it and marketed their cameras along with it. We believe this philosophy, along with the photographer-friendly design of Fuji cameras, among other factors, distinguished Fuji from other manufacturers and contributed to the rising popularity of the Fuji X-series. Therefore, we have no doubt that this change, if confirmed, would have a negative impact on the brand – at least among its keenest proponents.

But there is a solution. Some of our fellow photographers have suggested that Fuji could start charging for such major updates (don’t confuse it with fixes). We certainly wouldn’t mind paying for major improvements. It’s an idea worth exploring!

The signal to abandon the Kaizen philosophy is one thing but we recently picked up more news from Fuji that makes us a little bit concerned. There is a lot of talk about improvements in video and delays in the development of the highly anticipated Fuji X-Pro2. In regard to video, please don’t bother; we are not at all interested. In fact, the majority of photographers we know who shoot X-series are not interested either. There is still a need for simple, photographer-friendly cameras with excellent viewfinders and an improved menu system. Please, don’t turn the X-series into a “do-it-all” camera system.    

Then there is the X-trans sensor. It is already a few years old and we haven’t seen any material improvement to it since its introduction. We only hope that Fuji is delaying Fuji X-Pro2 to pack some new sensor technology into it (a dramatic improvement in the X-trans technology or organic sensor).

We express this litany of concerns out of care for the brand that we enjoy so much. The X-series is still our favourite line of cameras and lenses. We hope that our unease about the future direction of the X-series cameras will turn out to be unwarranted and upcoming products will show that this fulmination proved to be nothing more than crying wolf.

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Fuji X100T.

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Fuji X-T1, XF 14mm F2.8

 

2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Babblings About Fuji X-Pro2

Given that our last post took on the Internet obsession with technical issues, I thought writing about a camera that is still in development would be odd, to say the least. Our intentions are not to start another discussion about the superiority of one camera over the other but rather to share our personal thoughts about the rumoured specifications of the highly anticipated Fuji X-Pro2.

Patrick of Fujirumors.com has been working very hard to provide us with the latest bits of information about future X-series cameras and our preliminary thoughts are based on the rumours shared by his sources.

First of all, we are pure photographers and we cherish simple cameras with direct controls (knobs!). Despite some early quirks, we enjoy shooting with the X-series cameras (especially the Fuji X100/S/T). We have worked with the Fuji X-Pro1 extensively and in general we like the design. Rumoured specifications point to the following:

  • Improved 24MP X-Trans Sensor – great but it doesn’t really matter for us – the current 16MP count is enough for our needs. Much more important is low-light performance and improved processing.
  • Dual SD card slot – it’s very important! We go a long way to capture some images and the thought that we have only one card slot (therefore no backup) in our cameras makes us shiver.
  • Tilt screen – don’t really care.
  • Video (4k or not) – we don’t know anyone who shoots with the X-series cameras (and we do know many) who would care about or need video. We certainly don’t need it and we don’t want it. The simpler the camera the better – we want fewer menus, fewer buttons and fewer features. We like the Leica philosophy here – I wish Fuji would refrain from adding features that are not related directly to photography.
  • Weather sealing – yes please – we shoot in the rain and in snowy conditions.
  • Size and mechanics – we like the size of the Fuji X-Pro1, its external controls and general feel. No revolution needed here.
  • EVF – this is crucial – we would like to see the largest and the best electronic viewfinder possible.
  • Improved AF – we usually do “slow photography.” However, we wouldn’t mind faster AF.  
  • Battery – needs improvement, especially more accurate information about usage.       

That’s all for now about Fuji X-Pro2.

One more thing! Fuji, please keep improving the X-series line and forget full frame (it is so crowded in that field). However, PLEASE BRING US A MEDIUM FORMAT RANGEFINDER CAMERA and three HIGH-QUALITY prime lenses. We will be the first ones in line.

Enough is enough. It is time for photography. Here are the images we took during our recent trip along British Columbia’s Highway 97c. The Highland Valley Copper mine – one of the world’s largest open-pit mines – and the area around it, offer truly stunning scenery. A passing winter storm arrived right on time as we started shooting with the Fuji X-100S and Fuji X-T1 coupled with the XF 56mm F1.2.

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Copyright © 2015 Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Artistic vs. Technical Perfection

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When browsing photography on the Internet it appears to be one huge quest for technical perfection. A plethora of websites deals entirely with photo gear and its evaluation. Pixel peeping has become an obsession for many. Message boards are groaning with perpetual arguments about the superiority of one camera system over another.

Then, there are thousands of photos so immaculately processed and photo-shopped that their technical perfection creates awe and envy in aspiring photographers. But many of the photos remind us of others we have seen before. They somehow feel plastic, artificial and cold. They lack emotion and authenticity.

In contrast, when you look at the images from the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado and others, you find thoughtful compositions, subtle moments and moods. Are they the most technically perfect photographs and the sharpest images you have ever seen? I don’t think so but somehow your eye feels content, your brain slows down and your visual emotions are elevated.

What strikes us is that those who produce a body of great work often don’t consider themselves photographers. They grab any camera and create art – they are artists. When Cartier-Bresson started shooting with the 35mm camera, other photographers of his time dismissed his new tool as a toy (back then only large format cameras were considered serious). But we should learn from artists. They see way beyond pixels and MTF charts. For them technical augmentation is just a distraction.

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So why are we so occupied with a litany of technical do’s and don’ts? Why do we ask the wrong questions so many times: Which camera should I buy? How do I sharpen photos? How do I apply layers? Which software should I use? and so on.

Don’t get us wrong – we like photo gear and are well aware of our ‘contribution’ to this plaque. However, each time we put everything technical in the back seat and let our emotions and inner artistic self rule our photographic process the results always astound us.

Sure, it’s not easy. But the next time you think your photo is not sharp enough, your images are grainy or your camera doesn’t have elephant resolution this may be the best thing that has happened to you. Maybe it is the right moment to stop and re-focus on seeing.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Early Mornings – When the God of Light Smiles on Photographers

I have to admit I love mornings especially at the weekend when places and people are still asleep. Waking up when it is still dark doesn’t bother me, in fact quite the opposite. Excitement and the unknown light, conditions, places and even the people I might encounter keep me on the go.

Whether you shoot in colour or in black & white, the early morning hours (especially at this time of year) provide you with all elements of a great photograph: changing and often diffused light, fog, dramatic clouds, mystical atmosphere. It is amazing how many times Mother Nature surprises me with yet another show of light, colours or patterns. In our previous post we shared with you images taken while dense fog dispersed into clouds. Today we would like to share more images shot in Vancouver but this time in colour.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Lenses First, Camera Second

When someone is starting out in photography and asks us a question, it is almost always which camera to buy. Indeed, it’s an important question! However, we are rarely asked about lenses, as if they were just unimportant accessories.

It is well known that amateurs get excited about cameras while professionals care more about their lenses. It makes sense. Everyday we see high-resolution cameras on people’s necks with crappy, cheap lenses attached to them. What’s even worse, for many newcomers the first lens they buy with a camera is a do-it-all super zoom (we are preparing a post on how to start up in photography – the right way – so stay tuned).

That brings us to Fuji. Our adventure with Fuji started with the X100. It was a camera that we encountered by accident and since then it has been our camera of choice. Then we expanded our gear to the Fuji X-Pro1 and now the X-T1. But our decision to go to an interchangeable system with Fuji was not based merely on their cameras. It was the quality of the lenses that won us over.

Right from the start, Fuji concentrated on prime lenses. In a relatively short time, Fuji has built a large selection of glass for all sorts of needs. Most importantly, almost all the lenses are well-built, metal and super-quality glass. In fact, it is hard to find a bad lens in the X line-up. With the recent announcement of the upcoming XF 120mm F2.8, XF 16mm F1.4 and XF 100-400 super telephoto (get more info here), it appears that Fuji is nearing the completion of building the entire line-up.

For some it is difficult to choose which lens to get started with. We chose the Fuji X100 – therefore the 35mm field of view (in FF terms). However, for some of you it could be a classic 50mm (an excellent XF 35mm F1.4). Then we expanded into the XF 14mm F2.8 wide angle, which we always have in our bag. Finally, we completed our prime team with the XF 56mm F1.2. In fact 99% of our photography is done using the XF 14mm F2.8 lens (mostly landscape), Fuji X100S – therefore 35mm (everything, from landscape to street photography and people), and XF 56mm F1.2 (landscape and people).

To summarize, cameras come and go and sensor technology is changing quickly, so most likely in a year or two you will need to replace your camera. However, lenses will stay with you for years. When choosing a system, the first question you should ask is: “Is there a great selection of HIGH QUALITY primes?” If the answer is NO, forget about the camera. After all, your Ferrari is no use if you use cheap tires and keep your windshield dirty.

All right, it is time for images. In our previous posts we wrote how difficult it is to photograph the place if conditions are not right. Usually we scout locations in advance and wait for the right conditions to arise. Deep Cove, North Vancouver, BC is a beautiful place but we couldn’t get it right for a long time. We visited the place many times but never encountered the conditions that we had envisioned until…now.

All images were shot with the Fuji X100S, Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 56mm F1.2.

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Next time… 

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Dispatches from Misty Vancouver

While the usual January weather in Vancouver means rain and… more rain, this year has been nothing but unusual. We’ve had numerous days of intense fog in the morning and beautiful sunshine in the late afternoon. As you may expect, such conditions have kept us awake and sharp-eyed, especially in the morning.

I notice that I enjoy photography the most when I leave my house with the Fuji X100S/T as my only camera. There’s something liberating in this approach that is hard to describe. Somehow, our creativity is flowing, our seeing is enhanced and our senses are tuned to the surroundings.

Sometimes I also take the Fuji X-T1, our favourite wide-angle lens XF 14mm F2.8 and super sharp XF 56mm F1.2 lens. In fact, I notice that these three focal lengths meet 99% of my visual demands. The longer we are involved in this art of seeing, the less and less equipment we need.

So when you start in photography, start with one lens and one camera. Master one focal length and only then add another perspective. Three prime lenses are plenty, four is abundance and five is a superfluity.

But enough of these incoherent ramblings; here are the images.

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P.S. We have joined Instagram! Follow us @ olaf_photo

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

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