Heritage Day In Port Moody

Heritage Day In Port Moody

Kasia and I had an opportunity to attend Heritage Day in Port Moody. Below please find a few images from this event.

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If you would like to find more info please go to http://portmoodymuseum.org 

All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2, the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 56mm F1.2, Classic Chrome (CC) film simulation.  

2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

A new life with the X-series

A new life with the X-series

When chatting with photographers I notice that many of them shy away from unfamiliar genres of photography. Some are even dismissive as is often the case when mentioning wedding photography. Too bad, because challenging yourself with a different type of photography not only brings you a wider perspective but dramatically improves your seeing. And if you think that wedding photography is not “artsy” enough or too easy, try to to do it yourself and you will gain a new perspective on the subject. 

Kasia and I noticed that each time we take on something we don’t often do, our photography benefits tremendously from the experience. This time was no different. We recently had the privilege of photographing a new baby and her joyful parents.

We always approach such assignments keeping simplicity in mind. Therefore we reached for the XT-1 fitted with the XF 56mm F1.2 and the X100S. We mostly used natural window lighting along with our favourite, highly portable Ice Light.

Here are the results.

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…and some in colour

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P.S. This week we are heading to some stunning locations and we will be shooting with the X-Pro2. Stay tuned for a slightly different review.

2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

A Don Quixote Photographer

This week Fujirumors dropped a bomb – Fujifilm is preparing an FF camera – most likely the successor to the X-Pro1. It didn’t take long for the Internet to go berserk. Immediately two opposing camps emerged. Some people reacted with outrage using words like “cheated” or “abandoned” as if the release of an FF Fuji camera somehow posed a threat to their photographic wellbeing. Others embraced the news, put their current cameras back into their boxes and started to prepare for the new arrival.

We admit this mass hypnosis affected us as well. After all, we do like the Fuji philosophy and their cameras; we use them every single day for our personal and professional work. We enjoy reading about them (here and here). We are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of APS-C and Full Frame cameras. Would we want to try a Full Frame camera from Fuji? Of course!

However, we must keep things in perspective. The occasional Internet hysteria around any camera release and us photographers’ role in it, reminds me of a famous novel, “Tilting at Windmills” by Cervantes. Like Don Quixote, who got himself embroiled in pointless endeavours, many photographers embroil themselves in imaginary battles. Instead of embracing their current tools and putting them to work to create stunning imagery, they indulge in a litany of false suppositions such as “If I only had this camera, I would take much better photos” or “If I had an FF I could…” Unfortunately, those internal struggles take away from your creativity. They could bite you so hard that you forget what this journey is all about. I know it from my own experience.  

The truth is, there will be always another camera around the corner. If this frenzy gets hold of you, however, today’s opportunity to grab your camera and find this one magic stream of light, to make a composition of your lifetime, to create a stunning photograph will be gone forever. Each time I am excited about an upcoming camera, I just grab the tool I have, go outside and let my mind and eyes wander. After all, this may well be the day to create a perfect image.

The right time to deal with a new camera will come later, Full Frame or Not.

 

And here is the imagery we just captured with the Fuji X-T1, XF 14mm F2.8 & 56mm F1.2.

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… and some B&Ws

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Getting Married with the Fuji X-T1 & XF 56mm F1.2

While we view ourselves as landscape and fine art photographers, we don’t shy from other areas of photography. Quite the contrary!

While photographing landscapes we usually travel to less popular locations, enjoy the serenity of the mornings and take our time to focus on the scene. As a result the majority of our work is being done in isolation.

While we cherish those moments, sometimes we want to challenge ourselves with different genres of photography. One of them is wedding photography. While wedding photographers sometimes receive a bad rap from their peers, we hold many wedding photographers in high regard. It is a very demanding business, which requires the highest skills, especially in composition and lighting. The part that attracts us the most is the interaction with people and seeing their reactions and emotions. So to take a break from our usual work, Kasia and I occasionally photograph a wedding.

Recently, we had the chance to photograph a stunning ceremony with the X-T1, X-Pro1, X100S and XF 35mm F1.4 and the latest 56mm F1.2 lens. In fact we took nearly 70% of all images during the day with the XF 56mm F1.2.

After reviewing our material, we both agreed that this is the best, sharpest X-series lens from Fuji ever, and one of the best we have ever shot with. But see for yourself.

All the images are JPEGs straight from the camera. Notice the beautiful skin tones, bohen and colour rendition. For the father’s portrait we used Westcott IceLight. All images below, except the groom getting dressed (X-Pro1 & XF 35mm F1.4), were taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 56mm F1.2.

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2014 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography.

No More Excuses – Fuji X-T1 review

Taking photos with the X-series cameras certainly has its flavour. One of them is walking into an SLR crowd. What an adventure it is! On one of our photo trips we arrived at a popular location and met a huddle of photographers. In bulk, they usually split into two camps setting up their tripods and cameras close to each other, of course along camera-brand lines.

As everyone waits for the morning light, stirring and chatting begins. It is almost a ritual to check out your neighbour’s camera just to make sure you are in the right spot. Of course, there is not much to be excited about. Sure, some people are proudly sweating after carrying a whole backpack of cameras and lenses while others occasionally gasp with envy at the sight of the entire camera store in one bag. In general, however, the atmosphere is non-combative. After all, there are only two teams on the playing field – Nikon and Canon – and the outcome is guaranteed.

And then, this heavenly mood comes to an abrupt end. Unfortunately for me, I am the cause of this disruption or rather my camera, to be precise. First I noticed a sea of onlookers secretly scanning every inch of my photographic tools. “Is this the new Fuji everyone is talking about it?” someone whispers to his neighbour. Others, visibly agitated, start listing some Internet gossip about why this new camera is no match for an SLR, loudly enough to make sure I can hear. The guy with the full bag of gear is especially upset, as no one is paying any attention to his expensive collection any more.

Then there is a break. Some brave soul comes up to me and asks, “How do you like this new camera? How does it compare to Canon or Nikon?” In such a partisan crowd it is close to impossible to answer such a question without the risk of causing a riot. The best course of action is to turn the discussion to the scene and politely make a point about how this camera helps a photographer to see and create great imagery.

Then others join the discussion. “If Fuji cameras had a faster AF…” someone shouts in my direction. “Did you hear about problems with the RAW files conversion…?” His friend fires another round of ammunition. Then to my surprise, those that found the most reasons why this camera is inferior to an SLR ask me to hand it over for a quick evaluation. Once the camera gets into people’s hands something interesting happens. Suddenly their eyes light up as if they are holding a camera they have always wanted but never thought existed. They enjoy the lightness, touch the knobs, adjust physical controls, play with the aperture dial on the lens, dive into the viewfinder and… I know their photography world is turned upside down.

Fortunately for me, the sun is coming up. The sky turns red and everyone sticks their eyes into the viewfinders. It is completely silent now – no more rumours, no more innuendos. No more bragging. Even the guy with a ton of equipment takes a photo, packs up and heads toward his car.

Fuji X-T1 & XF 56mm F1.2, processed in Iridient Developer.

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You could be mistaken about how often I have witnessed a similar scene since I started shooting with the X-series cameras. It appears to me that after years of SLR-like cameras, many people have stopped asking for more. We all thought this was how it’s supposed to be. You go with Nikon or Canon, dive into a plethora of buttons and menus, carry a heavy bag, shut up and try to focus on photography. For me and many people I have met in the last few years, the Fuji X-series cameras changed it all.

There is a reason why so many photographers abandon their heavy, full-frame SLRs and “downsize” to the Fuji X-series cameras. From e-mails we receive, one word stands out – JOY. “My joy of photography is back.” “I never thought photography could be so engaging and fun.”

Why does shooting with the X-series series cameras connect so strongly with photographers?

I think part of the reason is that these cameras are designed to complement and work in tandem with a photographer, not to replace one. It is a tool that connects with you at a level unmatched by the SLRs.  

Have you noticed how the latest SLRs come with so many automatic modes, so many functions and high-tech gimmicks to the point that creating a photograph has become a secondary endeavour? At the same time, the most important controls are hidden behind buttons and menus. Many SLR owners ask me to set up their SLRs so they don’t have to touch any settings again. It is frustrating and confusing for them. Many of them will never have a chance to learn the basic photography skills such as adjusting the aperture or changing the shutter speed.

I remember the first time I took the Fuji X-100 in my hands, it immediately felt different. I could change the aperture on the lens, turn a compensation dial and see all the changes in the viewfinder before I took an image. How engaging and liberating it was! Fuji carried this philosophy to the X-Pro1, XE1/2 and recently to the Fuji X-T1.

This latest addition to the Fuji X-series leaves no questions unanswered. 

I have been shooting almost daily with the X-T1 for the last few weeks and in this review I am going to touch on the most significant developments purely from a photographer’s perspective. You will find plenty of technical details on other websites. All I care about is how this tool helps me to create beautiful imagery. Therefore, I will focus on aspects that, in my view, are most important in photography.    

There is nothing more important than seeing. After all, we may sometimes forget that it is what you see, how you see it and how you feel when you see it that makes you a photographer. Pushing a shutter button is the end of this process, not the beginning.

JPEGs straight from the camera, XF 10-24 F4 R OIS, Velvia film simulation.

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VIEWFINDER

One of a kind, period! Many photographers, including myself, had rough beginnings with the EVF technology, and for good reasons. Early EVFs were slow, offered poor quality and acted more like technical trickery rather than being a real help. With the X-T1 Fuji took the concept of the viewfinder into a new era. In fact this is the first electronic viewfinder that could make optical viewfinders obsolete. First of all, it is huge, bright and superbly clear. There is no delay even when moving your camera. The EVF is of such size and quality that it provides a fundamental change in the way you compose and create a photograph.

First of all, you see your final photo before you take it. That’s not all. Any changes you made (exposure compensation or film emulation, etc.) you immediately see in your viewfinder. I found that the time spent checking out the final image on the back screen of your camera is gone. Once you get used to this kind of comfort, you never want to go back to the old ways.

This is especially crucial for students of photography. You focus on composition, light and your subject, and cut out the distraction of checking your final image on the back screen.     

The design of the X-T1’s viewfinder has made headway in allowing photographers to pay attention to visual artistry.

CONTROLS

The importance of marked physical controls that can be seen and adjusted at glance is paramount in the process of creating an image. All major dials are manual and are placed at your fingertips. When I take photos, I limit the amount of information displayed in my EVF to a minimum. I want to focus my attention on the composition and my subject. Any distraction, even when I have to look at the bottom of the screen, takes away from my vision. Therefore I found having physical controls for exposure compensation, shutter speed and aperture not only useful but also obligatory. There is no excuse for hiding that crucial apparatus inside the menu.

CAPTURING LIGHT

Here is something for the techno-loving crowd. Yes, the X-Trans sensor is superb technology. On the Internet you will find tons of information about the design of this sensor. One of the advantages of this design is the ability to capture light even if there is very little of it. The ISO performance of the X-T1 is superb and exceeds many full-frame cameras in its capabilities. And yes, the detail is there.

LENSES

You may ask, “Wait a minute, but is this a camera review!?” Any camera system must be evaluated as a whole and lenses are an essential part of this equation. A camera of such high image quality requires superb glass. One of the main reasons why we have started shooting with Fuji is their first-class prime lens offering. In a very short time Fuji managed to release lenses that are not only considered among the best in the industry but they are relatively inexpensive for what they offer. Get a superb 14mm F2.8, 35mm F1.4 and the latest gem 56mm F1.2 and that’s all you need to create stunning imagery. Your friends with super heavy “pro” zooms will have a hard time understanding how you got such a sharp photograph in such low light with so little equipment.     

JPEGs

I have been a RAW shooter for a long time. I never thought I would come back to shooting JPEGs. Along with digital technology came the whole spectrum of image processing, which has advantages but it also carries a heavy burden, which for many kills the joy of photography. Recently, one gentleman introduced himself as a “Photoshop junkie” and I respected him because he was aware that he was not interested in photography per se but rather in digital alterations. Unfortunately, there are many people who are not aware of this addiction. We have moved away from observing and creating photographs to creating artificial “photo Frankensteins.” Of course, everyone needs to draw the line for him or herself.

The reason we didn’t shoot JPEGs before was they were never good enough. This changed with the Fuji X-series camera. This is especially true for photographing people. Fuji’s JPEGs not only look stunning straight from the camera but their skin tones are unmatched. On a few occasions I have tried to emulate the beautiful look of the skin in Lightroom 5 and it took me a very long time to get there. What’s the point if you can do it in-camera! Indeed, the JPEGs engine Fuji managed to design is state of the art.

JPEGs straight from the camera, XF 56mm F1.2, Provia (STD) & Astia (S) film simulations.

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WEATHER SEALING

For some people it’s important; for others unnecessary. Given Vancouver’s tendency to rain for weeks without a break, this is a desirable feature. It also gives the camera a very tough feel.

BUILD, DESIGN AND QUALITY

I have to admit, I pay a lot of attention to design and quality. I think there is no excuse for any manufacturer to produce plasticy cheap products. If you think you bought something cheap, think twice. When you hold the Fuji X-T1 in your hands, it exudes superb quality and excellent materials. I am also glad to see a camera carrying the “Made in Japan” sign. For some reason it is always reassuring.

JPEGs straight from the camera (minor adjustments in Lightroom 5), XF 56mm F1.2, Provia (STD) film simulation.

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CARE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHERS

When working with Fuji cameras and following industry developments you have a sense that Fuji actually cares about real photographers. I have always believed that great customer service is the best advertisement.

Fuji is the only camera company I know that provides major improvements for discontinued cameras through software updates. Also, by following the history of those updates, it is clear to me that this company is all ears when it comes to photographers’ feedback. I trust that Fuji will maintain this care, even if their camera unit grows much bigger. For me as a photographer and a consumer, a great product always comes with a helpful live person along with it (not a machine).

Like any other camera on the market, the Fuji X-T1 has its shortcomings. But keep in mind this is my own grumbling; in fact for others some of those things could be positives.

I am a proponent of simple cameras. I wish Fuji would simplify X-T1 even more. There’s no need for video (sorry videographers). I wish menus were simpler too. For example, wouldn’t it be nice if when you choose to shoot in the RAW format only, all JPEG settings conveniently disappear? Also, double card slots would certainly ease my obsession with file security. Some buttons are quite small and operate a little bit stiffly for my taste but it could be the side effect of weather sealing. Finally, I wish the battery life were better and at least on par with many professional SLRs (an available battery grip solves the problem pretty well and is highly recommended).

JPEG straight from the camera, XF 56mm F1.2, Velvia (V) film simulation.

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JPEG straight from the camera, XF 10-24 F4 R OIS, Velvia film simulation.

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SUMMARY

I have met many photographers who would like to transition from SLRs to the X-series cameras but somehow they are afraid to do so. Part of the reason could be gossip going around the Internet about certain issues such as the AF speed or file processing. Yes, with early Fuji cameras those who wanted to shoot hummingbirds playing hide and seek may well be better off with an SLR. Fortunately, the X-T1 addressed those issues. Another reason could be the unfamiliar look of the Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1/2 for photographers who are used to shooting with SLR-like cameras. For them, the X-T1 offers a familiar look, superb handling and the best EVF on the market.    

Most importantly, the “engaging and fun” factor has already far surpassed a traditional SLR. I am confident that if you give the Fuji X-T1 enough time, you will never go back to a traditional SLR.     

Looking around, there are many photographers who once again find joy in photography by returning to the basics. Fuji proved that a modern camera doesn’t have to be a high-tech mess with a list of functions that have nothing to do with the art of seeing. The appeal of the X-T1 comes from a fusion of classic-style but proved-to-work controls with cutting-edge technology, which complements your photography process rather than complicates it.

Try it. After all, there are no more excuses.

 

JPEG straight from the camera, XF 10-24 F4 R OIS, B&W+R film simulation.

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

The Dream Team – Completed! Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R review

The last few years have been an exciting time for digital photography. New cameras are coming on the market faster than ever; websites, blogs and Internet forums are busy comparing technical specifications and the latest sensor technology (we take some of the blame). When we meet people interested in photography, they almost always ask me the same question: Which camera do you shoot with? Which one would you recommend?

Interestingly, most people never ask about lenses as if they were just an accessory. I am not surprised, though. After all, it has been known for a long time that amateurs get excited about cameras and professionals about lenses. Fortunately, since the start of the X-series, those who care about the art of seeing have had plenty of reasons to be excited.

In the last few years we have witnessed a number of new camera systems. While some of them offered quite capable cameras, the majority of them had one thing in common – they lacked prime quality lenses. You don’t need to look far. Even old players such as Nikon, a company that you would expect to rule, lacks high quality prime lenses for its APS-C offering.

Fujifilm with its introduction of the X-series took a different route. It not only offered innovative cameras but paired them with a truly superb lens line-up. One of the first and finest lenses was XF 35mm F1.4 R. It immediately won us over with its quality, bohen and sharpness, approaching lenses five times its price. Then, Fuji introduced its wide-angle 14mm F2.8 R, which has become our choice for landscape work. Again, it’s a truly beautiful piece of glass. It is fully optically corrected; it has eye-catching sharpness and excellent workmanship. It was followed by the XF 23mm F1.4 R, which we reviewed here.

As a prime lens photographer – I learned to see and compose in three focal lengths – 14, 35 & 56 (21, 50 & 85 FF equivalent) – that’s all I need and indeed that’s all most people would need to do serious photography. But there was a problem. The 85-90 offering was missing. Sure, there was the 60mm F2.4 R lens but with slow autofocus and other mild shortcomings it was never a match for the XF 14mm and XF 35mm lenses. NOT ANY MORE!

Fujifilm just introduced a brand new XF 56mm F1.2 R lens. And what a piece of glass it is! The first time we paired this lens with the X-T1 and got it to work, we knew immediately – THIS IS IT!

Not only is this a very fast lens but its bokeh (blurry part) is as creamy and delicious on the eyes as my grandmother’s cold cream. One thing that immediately strikes me with this lens is its nearly three-dimensional veneer – unlike any other lens I have had the opportunity to shoot with. Part of it could be the brand new Fuji X-T1, but this is only my suspicion. With the X-T1 help or not, the look this lens produces is stunning. Even wide open, the lens holds very strong. After shooting a large number of images I would risk saying that IT IS THE SHARPEST LENS in the X-series line-up. In fact it is bitingly sharp.

As with all their other lenses, its physical build is superb. It’s all metal, sturdy and confident in the hand. Aperture markings are nicely done and work with just the right force.

I could write a lot more but I would probably lose all my credibility as a lens reviewer – that’s how much this lens has impressed me. After using this lens on numerous assignments I decided to share with you more images than usual over the next few weeks. They include landscape shots, street photography, portraits and weddings. 

In sum, my bag currently holds the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 35mm F1.4 and the new addition XF 56 F1.2. That’s all I need.* Three different lenses, three focal lengths, three dimensions of seeing.

The dream team has finally been completed!

*My fourth is the Fuji X100S (23mm F2), which I use extensively.

All the images presented here are JPEGs straight from the camera (some images had only minor adjustments in Lightroom 5). Note the sharpness, beautiful skin tones and dreamy bohen.

Velvia (V) film simulation

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During our stay on the Vancouver Island we took a few images of our friends with their beautiful daughter. This lens truly excels here. 

Provia (STD) film simulation

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 2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

   

Fuji X-T1, XF 10-24mm F4 OIS & XF 56mm F1.2 reviews at work

The Fuji X-T1, XF 10-24mm F4 OIS & XF 56mm F1.2 are here. Thank you Fuji.

We have already started shooting with this gear. This weekend we are leaving for Vancouver Island, first on the list of great destinations planned for this month. Hopefully the weather will cooperate since many of you know March can be quite a wet month in Vancouver. Stay tuned for full reviews of the X-T1, XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS and bitingly sharp XF 56mm R F1.2.

In the meantime, here are our first images shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS.

All B&Ws, processed in Iridient Developer & NIK Silver Pro.

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Here are some JPEGs straight from the camera, Velvia & B&W+R film simulations. Minor adjustments in Lightroom 5.

XF 10-24mm F4 OIS

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XF 56mm F1.2 – look for portrait samples in our upcoming posts

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.