Tag: digital photography

What you’ve all been waiting for – X-T1 firmware version 4.00 is now available!

X-T1 Part IV – Rise of the tracking autofocus

Well it finally arrived. The firmware update we’ve all been looking forward to for the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

So what does it actually change?

Glad you asked! Here’s a video by Billy from The Fuji Guys where he demonstrates all of the new improvements found in the update.

The new Firmware Update features an advanced autofocus system for incredible performance when shooting moving subjects and exciting action scenes. Users will also experience improved auto focus accuracy for still images and video, Eye Detection, enhanced shutter speed dial operation (1/3 stop increments!), Exposure Compensation control in Manual mode (using Auto-ISO), and finer framing grid lines for enhanced visibility and image composition.

But what does this mean in REAL terms?

Another great question. Thanks for keeping up. Well I’ve been using it myself for a while and really like it. I could chew your ear off about what I think about it but I’m not an actual working professional photographer, so I’m not going to see it in the same way as you might. Coupled with the fact that I work for Fujifilm, you’d expect me to simply tell you that it’s great.

So instead, here’s a selection of working professional photographers that have tried the Firmware in their own shooting environments and posted their respective findings.

Damien Lovegrove

damien2bDamien is a professional portrait photographer from the UK. He left his role as a cameraman and lighting director at the BBC back in 1998 after 14 successful years to create the renowned Lovegrove Weddings partnership with his wife Julie. Together they shot over 400 top weddings for discerning clients worldwide. In 2008 Damien turned his hand to shooting beauty and portraiture and has since amassed a dedicated following for his distinctive art. Damien now divides his time between teaching the next generation of photographers and photographing personal projects.

After a day shooting with with one X-T1 running 3.11, and one running 4.00, here are his findings and an extensive review of the new X-T1 firmware V4 including tips on some real gems of features that have not made the headlines.

© Damien Lovegrove
© Damien Lovegrove

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When I was asked for my opinions on version 4 of the X-T1 firmware I was a little scared and excited in equal measure. Excited because the opportunity to shoot in a more dynamic style is quite appealing. Scary because relearning shooting procedures is never easy. quote-icon2-e1433520259777I’ve never been one to shy away from innovation and I’m certainly not a luddite when it comes to tech so I jumped at the chance. Here are my findings.

Click here to read Damien’s review

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Jeff Carter

JCarter_Portrait-200x300British motorsport photographer Jeff Carter has been using Fujifilm cameras for his work for over 20 years, going right back to the wonderfully lightweight and versatile GA645 medium format film cameras, but it was the X100 that he bought in 2012 that changed the way he worked. Here was a small, discreet camera that allowed him to take the images he needed for his work in and around the paddock.

He took an X-T1 with FW4 to the recent Le Mans 24 Hours event and here is his account.

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© Jeff Carter

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Firmware 4.0 has transformed the X-T1. I recently tested the new autofocus at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s greatest endurance race and the biggest challenge for man and machine. quote-icon2-e1433520259777This proved to be the perfect test ground for the X-T1’s new AF system and it wasn’t found wanting.

Click here to read Jeff’s review

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Eivind Røhne

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Eivind is a professional photographer from Norway. He’s been a commercial and editorial photographer since the mid ninetees. He loves people so mostly shoots fashion, lifestyle, commercial and editorial portraits, people at work etc. and he also love lines, shapes and man-made structures, so he likes to shoot industrial subjects, architecture and interiors for commercial and editorial use.

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This time around the Fujifilm firmware buzz really hit the roof, with claims of an all new autofocus system that would practically give existing X-T1 owners a brand new camera. Bold claims indeed. quote-icon2-e1433520259777Claims not only made by those saying they had gotten hold of rogue and secret beta versions of the firmware, but also claims made by Fujifilm themselves in their marketing teasers.

© Eivind Røhne
© Eivind Røhne

Click here to read Eivind’s review

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If you already own an X-T1, I’m sure by the time you get to this point your camera will already have version 4 installed and ready to go. Hopefully you will find it as good as these guys did.

If you don’t already own an X-T1, hopefully these photographer’s reviews will be that final push to persuade you to take the plunge and try it for yourself. Hoping to welcome you to the Fuji family soon!

HOW TO: Set up for Action Photography

Following on from the last blog that covered what gear to use for wildlife photography, I’m going to explain how I set up my X-Series cameras for capturing action. Though some cameras are better than others for this type of photography, there are little ways to help yourself help improve your chances of capturing action.

High burst rate

Though using a high burst rate will eat through your memory cards space, shooting at a high frame rate will hopefully get a good selection of action shots.

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Auto focus

First of all make your focus point as large as possible: do this by pressing the AF button and zooming out as far as you can. With a moving subject it will be very difficult to keep the subject in a small selection zone, so give yourself the best chance possible. Continuous focus (This applies to the X-T1 and X-E2 as they have vastly improved continuous AF functionality) is really helpful with certain subjects, especially if they are coming towards you. For those of you with models that are best in single focus mode, fear not! Generally the Fujifilm lenses are quick to auto focus so if you’re following a subject you can focus, take a shot and then focus again or alternatively prefocus if you know where the subject it going to go. Some photographers use cameras in MF mode and use the AFL/AEL button to focus. This is helpful because you can then use the manual focus ring on the lens and see what is in focus via focus peaking. Experiment and see what method works best for you.

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This sequences was taken using the X-T1’s tilting screen and the XF56mm at F2.8.

ISO

My standard ISO setting is 800. To some this might seem high but the output from this is so clean that it isn’t a concern for me. If it’s a bit cloudy and I’m wanting to freeze the action I’ll push my ‘ready’ ISO to 1600. My philosophy is that it is better to have a sharp image that might be slightly noisy as you get up to than an image that might have some motion but has less or no noise.

Shark
A blue shark close up taken at ISO 1600

Shark close up100% close up – In my eyes the noise (or lack of it) is not a problem at ISO 1600

Aperture

For action photography you have to decide if you want to freeze a moment, capture the motion or something in the grey area. If you want to freeze the action you’ll generally want to use a wider aperture to get a sufficiently high shutter speed. The shutter speed required to freeze depends on the pace of the action, and your chosen aperture is determined by the light conditions and your ISO choice. The thing to remember is that shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all intertwined. If you want to read more on apertures then read this previous blog (it contains puppies!). If you want to focus on one, say a faster shutter speed, then this has an adverse affect on the other two factors. If you’re wanting to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed AND also have a large depth of field then you have to increase the ISO. It is also about prioritising the most important factor for you and then compromise with the others. When aiming to freeze the action I am generally in aperture priority mode, where I have set the ISO according to the conditions (usually over 800), and I then choose an aperture to obtain the shutter speed I want.

Frozen Kittiwake

Taken at 1/3800 sec, F5.6, ISO 800

If you want to capture motion blur, say through panning with your subject, then your shutter speed is having less of a constraint on your ISO and aperture so you can change these accordingly to reduce your shutter speed. One way to control this is through shutter speed priority, where you set shutter speed to what you want and then have the aperture in auto mode so it will change to keep the same low shutter speed (with the ISO previously set).

Panning moped

Taken at 1/13 sec, F16 ISO 200

Finally, another set up option for action is to set the aperture and shutter speed to what you want and then have the ISO in automatic mode. You could go fully manual but I find this can quickly lead to problems when trying to capture action, especially if there is a lot going on around you. This method can result in you missing fleeting moments.

Now that you know some action set ups go out and shoot! Let us know what your action set up is with the X-Series and share with us your action shots via our Fujifilm’s Facebook and Twitter. As ever, if you have any questions then please leave a comment below or contact me via:

Twitter – @benji_cherry

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography

HOW TO: Photograph Fog

As winter starts to set in, photographers are looking for ways to capture this cold season. For me, winter is best covered in the morning. This is a personal preference but in the mornings you have frost, a reasonable hour for sunrise and (if you’re lucky) fog or mist.

There are three types of fog,  so you need to decide what you are looking for and this will depend on your location:

  • Ground fog – In mountainous/hilly areas and cold patches you can get ground fog collecting in valleys. After a rainy night or over wet ground you can get shallow precipitation fog.
  • Sea fog – Also called advection fog, this is where warm air passes over cold sea water.
  • Sea/River smoke – Where the air is colder than the water, creating a generally shallow level of fog, this is generally restricted to water areas, hence river smoke.

When trying to photograph fog you need to use the weather forecast to understand what the evening will be like in your desired location. I was fortunate enough to visit Curbar Edge in the Peak District the afternoon before my first morning I was there to scout the location. It was just before sunset and the fog was forming in the valley below and at that point I decided to try it out the following morning to see how it would look.

The weather for my first morning at Curbar was drizzling and there was a thick layer of cloud, which meant it was pretty unlikely I’d witness much golden light, I thought I’d set out and give it a go. I am so happy I did! This was my first real experience of photographing mist and it is incredible how quickly the spectacle evolves in front of your eyes. I one point I was photographing down one end of the valley, taking some long exposures, only to look over my shoulder and see that it had dramatically changed down the other end of the valley!

I used the X-T1 and the XF18-135mm lens for my main set up. As it was a wet morning the weather-sealed kit meant that I could stop worrying about the system and focus on the spectacle. As well as offering weather sealing, the XF18-135mm meant that I had great versatility, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about changing lenses the entire time. However, I also ended up using a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor to further extend the shutter speed. This was great but because I was using a filter set instead of screw in filters it meant that the front element was exposed to the conditions. Long exposures and rain drops do not mix! Thankfully a little umbrella tucked away in my bag helped to shelter the filter.

Generally I was not bothered about using a fast/moderate shutter speed so I set up the system on a tripod and used ISO 200 (the lowest RAW compatible ISO) and generally around F8. The addition of the ND filter, which was a 10-stop filter, meant that the shutter speed required was dramatically decreased. This results in the mist smoothing out, giving quite an interesting effect. See the comparisons below (note that despite the fact the ND filter is meant to be neutral it has put a distinct colour cast on the images).

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The ND filter extended the shutter speed so much that I had to use the bulb setting, as the required shutter speed was longer than 30 seconds. For this I used the remote trigger that allowed me to hold down the trigger (lockable) to keep the shutter open for as long as required. The X-T1 shows the length of the shutter speed on the back screen, this is very helpful. There is something to consider thought when using long exposures: the processing time. As soon as you go beyond 30 seconds, the processing time dramatically increases from seconds into minutes, this isn’t a problem but is something to be aware of when trying to photograph a scene that is evolving constantly.

To make sure I didn’t miss any moments while the X-T1 was processing and to get some different shots, I used the X100s with ISO 1600 to produce a fast enough shutter speed to allow me to use the camera one handed. Picture the scene: a wonderful valley filled with fog unfolding in front of me, one camera on a tripod; my left hand sheltering it with an umbrella; photographing the scene with the X100s in my right hand at the same time! Who says photographers can’t look cool…

Mist-15 Mist-16Mist-14

The three above photos were taken with the X100s using the monochrome + red filter jpeg preset.

The reason I chose Curbar Edge is because it provides a high vantage point. This is really important to optimise your chances for good mist photography. It generally means that you should be hit by the early morning light and so should warm up faster! This is a valid point to consider on crisp winter mornings, not that it happened this time around. A high vantage point allows you to see for a greater distance, hopefully providing you with a greater number of layers to your picture. At the top of a valley, Curbar Edge allowed me to see for miles along the valley, which offered both valley fog and river smoke. The ability to then use a telephoto lens to zoom in on particular areas can result in some quite striking shots.

Mist-5

But also having the ability to instantly zoom wide was a great asset to try and obtain a variety of photographs.

Mist-3

The colour photos were all taken with the X-T1 and I used the Classic Chrome camera calibration in Lightroom which produced wonderful colours in my opinion. I have only just started using this camera calibration and I love it.

Mist-17

Though on this occasion the sun didn’t break through the thick cloud cover, the spectacle was nevertheless remarkable and I can only imagine what it would have looked like if sun rays had broken through.

The second morning

Despite being very happy with the previous morning I decided to give it another go as the forecast suggested there was a better chance of a proper sunrise. This time round I decided to not focus too much on lengthy shutter speeds, but instead the details in the fog. What I didn’t expect was the amount of fog!

Mist-2

Mist
Mist-10

The range of the 18-135mm meant that I could capture the grand scale of the fog at 18mm, with the car in the first of these pictures giving a sense of scale. Then using the longer end of the lens I pulled out particular parts of the landscape, such as the little cottage that looks like it should be in Harry Potter and the hilltops surrounded by a sea of fog, turning them into islands. As well as the incredible amount of fog, the sun did make a bit of an appearance too. Despite this it was a very cold morning, producing a wonderful frost. I was very happy to have packed a hat and pair of gloves.

Mist-4

Mist-13

I positioned myself so part of the hilltop was between me and the rising sun, creating a backlighting effect on Curbar Edge, which brings the fog alive.

Mist-8

Because of the brighter sky this time round I needed to use a ND gradual filter, where unlike the filter I used during the first morning, this one changes from one end to the other, as the name suggests. At one end it is darker (you can buy filters at different stops, depending on how dark you want to make part of the image), while at the other it has no effect on the light. I use these when I am photographing something with a sky that is much brighter than the ground below. With the above image I used a filter which didn’t stop down the light enough to correctly expose the sky but I like it nevertheless because of the frost (it get particularly difficult to expose correctly when the sun is in the image). While the picture below is a slightly better example of a ND gradual filter in use.

Mist-7

I hope this has proved helpful and now it is your turn to get out there and photograph the wintery conditions. Let us know how you get on.

My love affair with EVFs

When I first started using the Fujifilm X-Series last summer I didn’t realise how helpful electronic viewfinders (EVFs) can be. Being able to see a live view of the exposure and then adjusting this via the exposure compensation dial means that I am more efficient. When using SLRs it is often difficult to get exposure compensation exactly right the first time around, this often means you take a photograph multiple times to get it just right. With X-Series cameras you are able to see how an exposure adjustment will effect the exposure of the image before you take the photo. This is especially helpful for fleeting moments, especially in quickly changing light.

The exposure compensation can be adjusted in post-production but I feel the live view produced by EVFs has helped me improve my photography. This makes my editing workflow shorter, which is always an advantage.

I found this feature particularly helpful when taking silhouettes, such as the images of Chesterton windmill in the gallery below.

EVFs are also very helpful with non-Fujifilm lenses or using Fujifilm lenses in manual mode as they can accurately show when the focus is correct. Even with the X100s and X-Pro1, which have hybrid viewfinders, I use them almost exclusively in EVF mode instead of OVF mode because, for me, it offers more benefits.