Category Archives: Equipment

Reader Question: Sony Versus Fujifilm

Today I am sharing  another reader question and my response. This one came from “Greg” in a response to a post on my Facebook page:

Hi Dan, have heard good things about the Fuji cameras. Have also heard good things about the SONY cameras. Both are mirrorless, but the SONY is a full-frame while the Fuji is APC/1.5X. Is there a reason you would choose the Fuji over the SONY – you indicated in the article you have been using the  X-Pro1 and will be moving up to the  X-Pro2… Illuminate me on the subject

That is a great subject to consider, Greg. Both Sony and Fujifilm are making some very fine mirrorless cameras these days, but for my purposes the Fujifilm is a better fit than, say, the Sony a7R II full frame mirrorless camera that Greg is thinking of. (Small correction: I have not been using the X-Pro1. I have used the X-E1 for the past three years.)

Before I explain, I must acknowledge that the Sony is an excellent body, and another photographer may well find it to be the choice choice for his/her needs. The Sony a7R II is, as you point out, a full frame body and the current version has a 42MP sensor rather than a 24MP sensor. The sensor is known for its low noise and excellent dynamic range. Sony has some native lenses, but lots of folks are using their Sony cameras with a range of third party lenses, including those from their Canon and (now) Nikon DSLRs.

So, with all of those positives, why Fujifilm? Continue reading Reader Question: Sony Versus Fujifilm

Reader Question: 5Ds/5DsR Print Quality

Reader “Tom” writes to ask:

I’ve read your reports on the 5Dsr.  I assume by now you have one?  Maybe you have different thoughts now, but you seem to point to the new body being good for large print/detail, but maybe not so great for fine art print. 

If that’s still the case, what would you opt for if leaning towards fine art prints, large, maybe a heavily cropped slice measuring say 16″ x 72″ or so? Minus a mf body. 

I’m looking to switch bodies and thinking the 5dsr or possibly the Nikon d810.  Just curious what your thoughts might be if you ever had time. Thanks.

Canon EOS 5Ds DSLR
Canon EOS 5Ds DSLR

It has been a while since I’ve written about the Canon 5DS and the 5DsR cameras here, but since you asked I’ll share more based on my extensive use of the 5DsR over the past months. I have used it to photography everything from landscapes to people to wildlife. I think I see several sub-questions here, so let me respond to each of them.

Are the 5DsR and  5DS good for large prints? Continue reading Reader Question: 5Ds/5DsR Print Quality

New Fujifilm X-Pro2 — and X-Pro1 Discounts

Fujifilm announced the new X-Pro2 digital mirrorless camera today., The announcement provides very interesting opportunities for photographers — one being the new camera itself and the other being an extraordinary low price on its predecessor, the X-Pro1. (The X-Pro2 is now available for pre-order at B&H.)

The New X-Pro2

Fujifilm X-Pro2
Fujifilm X-Pro2

The X-Pro2 is the updated successor to  XPro1. The newer camera will feature:

  • A compact rangefinder style mirrorless design
  • 24 MP 1.5x cropped format sensor
  • Improved autofocus capabilities
  • A hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder
  • Manual controls for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, more
  • Wifi equipped
  • …and more
  • Body-only price is $1699 — preordering now available..

The X-Pro2 is now available for pre-order at B&H. I’m almost certain to upgrade to the X-Pro2 from the  X-E1 that has been my primary street and travel photography camera for the past three years.  (The current updated equivalent of my camera is the X-E2.) Since I’m sold on the Fujifilm system — bodies and lenses — the X-Pro2 will bring features that I’ve wanted for some time.

(See a Fujifilm press release for the X-Pro2.)

The Old X-Pro1

Fujifilm X-Pro-1
Fujifilm X-Pro-1

The announcement of the X-Pro2 brings a very special opportunity for folks who could use the X-Pro1.  The X-Pro1 provides

  • The same compact rangefinder design
  • An excellent 16MP 1.5x cropped format sensor
  • A hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder
  • … and more
  • a very low price of $499 for the body-only!

While the X-Pro2 most certainly brings useful  advances, the X-Pro1 is also a fine camera, and at this very low $499 price (it was originally $1299) it is a tremendous bargain right now. If you poke around a bit at the B&H website, you can find it with a lens for $699.

Other New Fujifilm Gear

Fujifilm also announced several other new products including…

This website has an affiliate relationship with B&H Photo. Your purchases through website links return a percentage of the sale price to this website — but your cost remains the same.

One More Thing

Regarding Fujifilm cameras, a quotation from Fuji X-series senior product manager Takashi Ueno in the British Journal of Photography says a lot:

“We are in a very good position to make a medium format camera, as we make camera bodies, sensors and lenses. We already make the lenses for Hasselblad, so we have that expertise.”

  1. Fujifilm, a company with a history of producing some excellent medium format film cameras, is becoming more open about their interest in medium format digital. (Note that they have not actually announced a product. Yet.)
  2. If you have wondered why those of us using the Fujifilm system are so enthusiastic about the beautiful Fujifilm lenses, re-read the quote if you missed it the first time and note whose lenses they currently make.

BJP article here, with the medium format discussion on page 2.

Continue reading New Fujifilm X-Pro2 — and X-Pro1 Discounts

Morning Musings: Canon and Mirrorless Cameras

(It has been a while since I’ve written a “morning musings” post, but since I’ve been “musing” about Canon and mirrorless cameras over the past few days and learning a few things about the subject, it seems like time for another such post.)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few years you are aware of the introduction of so-called mirrorless cameras by several manufacturers and of the increasing sophistication of these cameras. Their features typically include:

  • smaller and lighter bodies that may be reminiscent of older rangefinder film cameras.
  • the ability to allow use of smaller lens designs, due to the shorter distance between the lens mount and the sensor.
  • electronic viewfinders (EVFs) that can incorporate additional useful tools and information into the viewfinder display and which have advantages in low light.
  • designs and features that increasingly appeal to serious photographers.

There are still issues with these cameras, and while much progress has been made and will continue, they still lag behind DSLRs is some areas:

  • battery consumption rates tend to be quite high by comparison to DSLRs.
  • AF performance is uneven and in some cases quite slow.
  • EVFs have latency issues.
  • Not everyone is fond of looking at an EVF monitor instead of the “real” image on focusing screen.
  • With some systems (notably Sony) using a wide range of lenses will likely require the use of third-party adapters.

I’ve been using a Fujifilm X-trans mirrorless system for my travel and street photography for nearly three years. (Mine is a discontinued model, but if I were buying today I would get the Fujifilm XT1 or perhaps the Fujifilm XT10.) Virtually all of my street/travel photographs of the past two years were made with my Fujifilm camera and lenses.  For this photography, the small size and excellent quality of the system compensates for the slower AF speeds and the battery consumption issues.

More recently the Sony A7r and A7rII cameras have gotten a lot of attention. When first introduced, the A7r came with the highest MP full frame sensor then available. The cameras can use (with varying degrees of compatibility and functionality) a wide range of non-Sony lenses, and they have a number of the other pluses associated with mirrorless designs. Several landscape photographer friends use the A7r and A7rII bodies for their tripod-based, manual focus photography, and I know several street/travel photographers who like the system a lot.

Sony and Fujifilm are not the only companies moving in this direction. For example, Olympus and others produce some very fine small mirrorless cameras.

All of which leads to the question: “Where is Canon’s mirrorless offering?” (Or, “Is the EOS-M the best Canon can do?”) Continue reading Morning Musings: Canon and Mirrorless Cameras

Photographic Myths and Platitudes: The Best Camera! (part 1)

Three manufacturers companies now produce widely available full-frame digital cameras with features that are attractive to folks who photograph landscape subjects, among other things. Two of them recently released new models that are getting a lot of attention, and plenty of photographers are interested in their relative merits and perhaps in choosing among them.

The three I’m thinking of are:

Three Full Frame Digital Cameras
Nikon D810, Sony A7rII, Canon 5Ds R

Here is a statement that a thoughtful, experienced, knowledgable photographer who has looked at the options carefully and selected one of them might make:

I chose this camera because it exemplifies the continuing evolution and improvement of digital cameras. It introduces useful and powerful improvements that offer the potential of a range of image quality improvements. The camera has the ability to produce photographs with outstanding image quality in a wide range of conditions and circumstances, and photographers who use it are going to be very pleased with what it can do. It has its pluses and minuses, and other cameras may be a bit stronger or weaker in various areas, but on balance it is a first-class and powerful tool that works extremely well for the most demanding photographers. I recommend that other photographers take a look at it!

The question: To which of the three (and a half?) above-listed cameras does this statement apply?

If you have paid a lot of attention to the passionate and hyperbole-filled discussions and “tests” that inevitably accompany the release of new cameras, you have read proclamations that any one of those is “the best” or even that it will transform your photography.  And it is possible that “the answer” is already obvious to you, and you are certain that one surpasses the others in obvious ways. You might even have come to the conclusion that a photographer choosing one of the other options is making a mistake, is probably unaware of the significance of the error,  and that his/her photographs are likely to suffer as a consequence of this flawed decision.

With all of that in mind, the answer is… Continue reading Photographic Myths and Platitudes: The Best Camera! (part 1)

Photographic Myths and Platitudes — That Sensor Noise is Awful!

Let’s say you are looking for a new camera. You want to make a smart decision, especially since you are sinking your hard-earned money into the purchase. You sure don’t want to make a mistake and end up with deficient gear. So you do the smart thing — you do some research. You look around on the web, find some articles, and you discover that there is a lot of contradictory information. Some tell you that Product X is wonderful, while others are adamant that Product X is pathetic and that Product Y is far superior. The Product X fans point out that Product Y is deficient in other critical ways by comparison to Product X.

You have some unanswered questions.

I keep hearing that Camera X has terrible noise compared to Camera Y. In fact, I found some photographs that demonstrate how bad this noise is. Why in the world would anyone get Camera X?!

Both sides provide “evidence.” Photographers love evidence, especially evidence of a failure to achieve divine technological perfection, and double-especially when the failure is demonstrated in a brand they don’t own. They get a little testy though, when the “evidence” makes their product look weak! (For a fun detour, look up the term confirmation bias on the web. Also, this is an important time for a reminder that photography is about photographs, not about cameras.)

I want to construct a little story for you based on “evidence.” We’ll start with evidence that makes a particular product (one that I rely on) look particularly bad. But before we start, you need to promise to read the whole thing. I’ll try to make it worthwhile.

OK, I promise to read it all, and with an open mind.

Good. Here we go.

Lots of people are concerned with the related issues of dynamic range (the camera’s ability to record image data from both light and dark sources in a single photograph) and noise (non-image artifacts that are, in a rough sense, sort of like “grain” on film).

I’ll begin with an example of noise in a photograph I made using the the new and very expensive Canon EOS 5Ds R, a 50.6MP full frame DSLR that Canon released recently.

045DsRPushedAbsurdly100PercentCrop
Example #1

Man, that is awful! That 5Ds R obviously produces terrible noise. It is so bad that the photograph is unusable, at least for anything other than an article demonstrating how bad it is! And the color is pathetically bad, too!

Yes. That image looks absolutely horrible!

Astute, critical thinkers are already wondering what went wrong here. Let me explain. Continue reading Photographic Myths and Platitudes — That Sensor Noise is Awful!

DSLR & Mirrorless: Flexibility and Adaptability

(Note: This is one of those occasional posts adapted from something I originally wrote elsewhere. This one came from an online discussion of the relative merits of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras and their abilities to work with various lenses and photographic subjects. I have edited the original slightly for its re-use here.)

With all of the recent (justifiable!) interest in new mirrorless camera developments from Sony, there are factors that may persuade some photographers to go slow on giving up DSLRs for mirrorless. (It may also convince them to do what I did — I augmented my DSLR system with a second mirrorless system.) As good as mirrorless cameras are becoming, in particular the full frame Sony A7r and newer A7rII, they have their pluses and minuses when it comes to real-world photography. They can do some things quite well – there are advantages in some cases to the electronic viewfinders, Sony sensors provide state-of-the-art dynamic range, the bodies are compact, and more. They do some things less well — native lenses are few, other lenses require adapters, the autofocus systems are slower than DSLRs, there are still latency issues with the viewfinders, and so on.)

In this context, I recently realized that one of the nice things about the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Lens and the newer Canon bodies (like my 5Ds R, which is very similar to the 5Ds)  is that they now autofocus (AF) quite well at f/8. The 100-400 len’s maximum f/5.6 aperture at the long end is no longer a barrier to getting 560mm out of the lens by adding the TC.

I’ve only tried the combination on one occasion so far, when the opportunity to photograph wildlife came up on a recent photography venture along the California coast. I put the 100-400 version II and the Canon 1.4x TC on my 5DsR and photographed two wildlife subjects, elephant seals lounging on a beach and pelicans doing everything from flying past to landing to sitting still. (For those who want more information than I can provide here, I wrote about the initial results in a another article.)

While I do not recommend that people whose primary photographic focus is birds in flight rush out and get a 5Ds or 5Ds R, a 100-400 v2, and a 1.4x TC as their primary setup, it does work decently and in some cases extremely well.  Most importantly, it means that my primary landscape photography setup and can also work very effectively with non-landscape subjects, including wildlife — a task that will severely challenge the best current mirrorless options.

The Landing
A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

The combination focuses well and provides good resolution, even with moving subjects — though, obviously, not as well as using something like a 1Dx with a 300mm f/2.8 prime. It is good enough that I can track birds in flight and catch sharp photographs of them in motion. Continue reading DSLR & Mirrorless: Flexibility and Adaptability