Archivi categoria: review

Review: The Fujifilm GFX 50S is the Lamborghini of Medium Format

Quick history lesson. The original Lamborhini motor vehicle wasn’t the supercar you know today. They were tractors. Yes, tractors. Full-fledged farm-going vehicular tools.

Ferruccio Lamborghini always loved cars and owned Ferraris, but he hated the quality of them. Frustrated, he approached Enzo Ferrari and gave him a piece of his mind and told him how to improve his cars. Enzo’s response went something like, “Leave the car making to me, you stick to making tractors.” Batman now drives a Lamborghini Aventador.

Fast forward and cross universes to cameras. The giants such as Hasselblad and Phase One have been untouchable and left alone to rule the medium format world for some time. Sure, there’s Pentax and Leica, but it’s more like buying a Mazda Miata or a 4-door Porsche — it’s not what you think of when sports car or medium format camera comes to mind. But here we are with Fujifilm, originally a film company, pulling a move like Ferruccio Lamborghini; they’re opening the doors to somewhere that’s otherwise been locked for what feels like all of eternity.

Phase One makes amazing medium formats that few ever touch but all hope and dream of. Hasselblad is quite similar but have introduced something that seemed ground-breaking, a mirrorless medium format in the Hasselblad X1D. Now, just like Ferruccio answered to Enzo Ferrari, Fujifilm has brought out the Fujifilm GFX 50S.

Will this be a classic like the Lamborghini Diablo? Or is this a Mazda Miata in disguise? Well, I’ve got the keys and this is what I’ve learned.

Body Design and Ergonomics

I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. When you look at the X-Pro2, you think rangefinder. When you look at the X-T2, you think old film SLR. When I look at this, I don’t think retro medium format camera. It looks like an X-T2 that got a medium format sensor back permanently attached to the back of it. Now to be honest, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. This is a professional camera with professional pricing so function should take priority over form. It just feels like an area that didn’t get the attention that it deserved given Fujifilm’s recent history of creating cameras that are as beautiful to look at as they are to use.

But here’s the thing about the looks of this camera: you completely forget about it the moment you hold it and to take a shot. The grip is extremely comfortable with a generous cutout for your middle finger, and don’t even get me started on how good the thumb grip is on the back of the camera. Fully customizable buttons mean this camera makes logical sense to its owner.

Although it seemed awkward at first, the side loading battery is a really nice touch for those times you’re swapping batteries on a tripod; it doesn’t save a lot of time but it’s welcomed. The C setting on the lens is huge plus too. As much as I love the aperture rings on Fujinon lenses, sometimes there is piece of mind knowing you won’t accidentally twist it.

But on to that EVF. To be honest, this is the feature that blows everyone away when I show them this camera. No one expects it to come off because it looks and functions like an extension of the body rather than an ugly appendage after thought. Can’t say the same for other mirrorless cameras with removable EVFs.

Being able to remove the viewfinder completely, add a tilt adapter, or use it in typical fashion allows the camera to be tailored to any situation for size and comfort. I absolutely love using the tilt adapter set vertically so I can get the camera low to the ground. Of course you could use the tilting LCD but at 1PM in the afternoon on a cloudless sky, using any back LCD to judge exposure or focus is near impossible.

My only issue with the camera’s design? The neck strap mounts. This is the one part of the camera that feels retro and I wish it didn’t. While in theory, having a adapter that quick disconnects the neck strap is a great system, two issues arise. Neck straps get extremely twisted because they’re able to spin freely on its post. Secondly, if you’re using a wrist strap and connect it to one post, it puts a lot of tension on that adapter and it seems like after time the adapter is going to bend.

The Sensor

This sensor is huge, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s important to understand why this larger sensor is so awesome. It’s resolution, dynamic range, and highly subjective but always talked about “medium format look”.

Image quality. Larger sensor, larger pixels, and greater signal-to-noise ratio equals sharper images with far more detail than you could ever want. Take a look at the following image. Then take a look at the image next to it that it was cropped from. It’s one thing to make a high megapixel camera, but it’s another thing to make one that looks good when zoomed in way past 100%.

Dynamic range. Unreal is the only word that comes to mind. Really, it feels like you’re cheating. With this camera you’re able to pull out detail from the darkest shadows with no noise at all. What this means is I’m now able to shoot natural light and forego using a light for fill because there is just so much data in these RAW files. Just take a look below and see what bumping the exposure by 5 stops in Lightroom does.

Medium Format Look. Ask four people what the medium format look is and you’ll get five different answers. In my experience with this camera, my subjects look almost as if they’re standing in front of a fake background. The longer focal length lenses used in medium format compress more of the background into a single plane and my subjects “pop” out of the image in front of that background. Moving from X-Series APS-C cameras this difference feels pretty pronounced. From a Canon full-frame camera, not as much so, but it’s still there.

So in a nutshell, that’s the Fujifilm GFX 50S first impressions. Looks good on paper. Results seem to back it up. But cameras are about more than specs, pixel peeping, and this isn’t the first medium format camera. Over the past two weeks I’ve packed my schedule with a wide variety of scenarios to see how it handles and here’s what I’ve learned and experienced in each scenario.

Landscape

No, this isn’t a hardcore purist’s landscape photo but I tend to put people in them so you have a sense of size and perspective. The first thing that I felt was the weight of the camera. Similar to my old 5D Mark II, but drastically heavier than their X-Series line means it’s too soon to get rid of those; they still have a place in my backpack. For this hike I used the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L which fits a GFX, GF 32-64mm, GF 63mm, vertical grip, EVF + Tilt Adapter, and tripod with lots of extra space.

Unfortunately, the EVF + Tilt Adapter doesn’t fit in this bag while attached to the body. In fact, it didn’t fit in any bag I had at home. The height of the camera increases drastically and the EVF extends back, lengthening the camera body by a good amount. When it came to using the camera I opted to stick with the EVF just because of the sunny conditions that would make seeing the back LCD difficult. I’ve taken shots at this exact spot on many occasions and it takes a lot of adjustments in Lightroom and creative masking in Photoshop to get someone to standout; they easily become lost in the image as the background tends to consume them.

Not with the GFX though, Alicia seemed to stand out from the image more and so did the road to the right of her. The only way I could describe the difference is that the road feels closer than it used to with the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 on an X-Pro2. Aside from that, the dynamic range just saves you time. You don’t need to shoot multiple exposures and blend them with luminosity masks or use ND filters to blend exposures in camera. I can easily push the shadows slider without the image falling apart, all while maintaining a really natural image.

Backlit

Due to the lack of phase detection autofocus, this was a little trickier. The GFX really needs a contrasty spot to focus on or it won’t focus at all. However, if face detection works, it locks on confidently, but due to the heavy backlight and lack of contrast it doesn’t always do so. Besides the focus, the greatest strength lies in the shadow recovery. I can easily bump up the shadow slider to + 100 in Lightroom and all of the dark areas come back naturally with no noise introduced. Whereas on a older camera with less dynamic range, it would have shifted the image in an ugly way.

Artificial Lighting

A huge let down to many people was the 1/125th of a second sync speed, everyone said it should’ve been higher, but it hasn’t been an issue for me at all. In fact, I’ve had the opposite problem. Getting the depth of field desired could require shooting at a smaller aperture between f/5.6-f/11. In a dark environment like a forest, that could mean dragging the shutter along at 1/30th-1/50th of a second if you’re trying to maintain base ISO for greatest dynamic range. That translates to this camera needing to sit atop a tripod more often than not when shooting with lighting.

But in this camera’s defense, I’ve been able to handhold a few of those shots and get amazingly sharp images without image stabilization. The above shot was taken in a shady baseball dugout on a bright sunny day and the shutter speed was 1/100th of a second with no ND filters used. Of course if she was out in the sun, the sync speed would be an issue but that’s what ND filters are for. With HSS in the near future and global shutters on the somewhat distant horizon, lenses that lack leaf shutters aren’t that big of a deal.

Lifestyle/Commercial

Focus is so important when you’re blowing up these images large and the face detection does that so well. Similarly to the X-Pro2, I put complete faith into the face and eye detection and it nails it every time. If for some reason I can’t use it, the 425 focus points are amazing as well. I’d rather place the AF exactly where I need it rather than focusing and recomposing. Sure, it’s a lot of focus points and using the joystick on the back can be slow, but that’s where the touch screen becomes oh so handy.

I found that taking my face away from the viewfinder and tapping where I want to focus was quicker than using the joystick and slowly moving across the viewfinder to get the right AF point. However, one issue has carried over from the X-Series bodies. When my subject is just a little wider than the AF point, more often than not, the camera will focus on the background instead of my subject. Zooming in and checking focus is easy with the EVF but it’s one thing I wish I wouldn’t have to worry about.

Do You Drop Used Corolla Cash for this Camera?

I need to print large, I need more dynamic range, I have a ton of old medium format lenses to adapt, I just sold my Mom’s Prius without her knowing and I need to burn this cash before she realizes it’s missing. All valid reasons to buy a GFX 50S. Reasons you shouldn’t? I only post on Instagram, I switched to mirrorless because my SLR was causing back and neck problems, I make my living photographing Supercross, I have $200,000 in student loans from grad school.

I know that photography is about the person and not the camera, but with this camera, to a certain degree, it kind of isn’t. The dynamic range is a huge selling point and it changes the way you can shoot entirely. Being able to pull out all of that detail in the shadows with no noise at all is huge. Not only does it speed up the shooting process, it speeds up the post-processing as well. So if you’re someone who sees value in that, which should be every working professional, I would consider jumping ship from whichever brand you’re currently loyal to.

But beside the ease of use and lack of processing required, that medium format look has been a huge gain. I’ve sent some of the photos to the companies I collaborated with for these photos and they’ve asked what I did differently. Exact words were “something special” and “a different type of clarity than you normally produce”. On my end I haven’t done anything different, so if the medium format system does that much for me, I think it’s a way to differentiate yourself from others in a subtle way. You just need to decide if that difference is worth the entry fee.

Is the GFX 50S a Lamborghini?

Undoubtedly yes, it’s a Diablo. Or a Countach. The Fujifilm GFX 50S is the camera that will start to democratize medium format the same way the Canon 5D Mark II democratized film making. Focal plane shutter means you can adapt medium format lenses or full frame lenses and get crazy thing depth of field. Electronic viewfinder, 425 autofocus points, and face detection are all selling points to pull people away from their full frame cameras or their slow medium format DSLR.

Sure, there are some sore spots to some like the sync speed or lack of phase detection autofocus. But at the end of the day when you’re looking at the images on your computer you’ll still tell yourself damn, I just drove a Lamborghini.


About the author: Allan Higa is a Hawaii-based lifestyle and travel photographer. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Hands On With the New Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2

If you’ve read any photography website or stopped into a store recently, you probably know that the creative options available to photographers are as numerous as ever. One aspect of photographic gear that has seen the most rapid expansion in quality options as of late, is lens selection.

With brands like Tamron leading the way in high quality lenses, photographers are no longer limited to buying lenses from their respective camera manufacturer if they want top quality. Often times, the name associated with a brand demands a large portion of the price tag. Recently, Tamron proved to us yet again why their brand is worth looking at with their new 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 lens.

As a follow up to their ever-popular introduction into stabilized telephoto zooms, their new 70-200mm G2 not only gains the aesthetic improvements of their newer lenses, but gets upgrades to just about everything: lens coatings, faster autofocus motors, better image stabilization, and better image quality.

Tamron was kind enough to send us a pre-release copy of the lens to test out, so we put it through a few comparisons to see how it fared against it’s main competition: the old Tamron 70-200mm VC, and the new $2,800 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

We were given a Nikon mount version of the lens, so we stuck to testing it against other Nikon mount competitors so that we could use the same cameras for each test.

Test #1: Sharpness and Close Focus

This was a super simple test, but it still goes to show the improvements of the new Tamron lens. We set up a tripod in front of a table in our learning studio to photograph our subject—a small dissected point and shoot camera that shows a lot of detail.

I lit each photograph with a Profoto B2 and their small 2-foot Octabox that were held overtop of the subject by a boom arm. Each of these photos were shot wide open at f/2.8.

The most glaring differences between the lenses really show themselves when you look at the old Tamron lens against the new one. You’ll find that sharpness, chromatic aberration (that iffy, often purpleish color around high contrast areas), and the minimum focus distance of the new G2 lens are vastly improved. This means that you can get more detail in close up portraits, product, or food photos without using extension tubes or having to buy a dedicated macro lens.

The difference in the minimum focus is staggering at 3.12 feet (0.95 meters) for the new lens and 4.26 feet (1.3 meters) for the original Tamron 70-200mm. Looking at the new Tamron G2 lens against Nikon’s newest 70-200mm, you’ll see little difference, which is impressive considering the new Tamron comes in at $1,300… or less than half that of the new Nikon.

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
Original Tamron 70-200mm VC

Test #2: Portrait and Sharpness

For a somewhat real world test of the lenses, I decided to take a Nikon D810 and the three lenses along to a portrait shoot to see how they fared. It’s no secret that 70-200mm lenses are classic for portraits, so I knew they would all perform pretty well, but this test goes to show how much Tamron improved their already excellent lens.

The shoot was simple, with one light, one model, and one adorable puppy. The camera stayed at a low ISO for maximum detail. While shooting I tried a variety of focal lengths on each of the lenses and I found that, as expected, they each perform about the same from 70mm to 200mm.

Here are a few sample photos and close crops to illustrate each lens. Each shot was on a Nikon D810 with the same lighting, same aperture of f/9, and the same edits applied. And like the first test, I have trouble seeing much of a difference between the new Tamron G2 and the new Nikon.

Tamron 70-200mm G2
Tamron 70-200mm G2
Tamron 70-200mm G2
Nikon 70-200mm FL ED VR
Nikon 70-200mm FL ED VR
Tamron 70-200mm G2

Test #3: Speed

Aside from portraits, 70-200mm lenses are a classic for many sports and action related subjects. Since I wasn’t able to take the lens to a sporting event in the time that I had it, I decided to try it against the next fastest thing I could find: the new DJI Mavic Pro. The lenses were certainly being put through their paces with this test.

I put each lens on Nikon’s incredible D500 camera body, with continuous focus on a single point, trying to track the drone as it flew.

As with the other tests, we’re sort of comparing apples to apples here with the Tamron G2 and the new Nikon. As you can see with the old Tamon, the performance was not up to the others, even on the D500.

What I found was that the new Tamron and the new Nikon both had about the same number of successfully focused frames without the teleconvertors attached. But with the teleconvertor attached to the Tamron G2, the results were astonishing: Tamron’s newest teleconvertor (currently only compatible with the 70-200mm G2 and 150-600mm G2) is an amazing piece of technology.

With Nikon’s current version III 2x teleconvertor, the image quality and focus speed takes a noticeable decline and I could feel the camera and lens struggle to grab focus on the small drone. With the new Tamron teleconvertor on the G2 lens, however, I saw no real issue with focus speed, as you can see below in the sequence of images.

For someone looking for the versatility of teleconvertors, this is the perfect option.

It’s also important to note how stark the difference was between the two new lenses and the original Tamron 70-200mm VC. The old lens could hardly keep up with the drone, apart from the last few images where it just barely grabbed a handful of frames in discernible focus. That alone speaks volumes as to the new lens’ performance.

In this test, the winner is absolutely the new Tamron G2. Another thing to mention to put the price difference into perspective; if the reach that teleconvertors provide are important to you, you should consider that the new Tamron 70-200mm G2 purchased alongside the new Tamron 150-600mm G2 is STILL less than the Nikon 70-200mm FL ED by itself. I would consider ditching teleconvertors all together for that combo unless traveling light and small is a must.

Editor’s Note: Tons of images incoming. Scroll fatigue imminent.

Tamron 70-200mm G2

Tamron 70-200mm G2 with Teleconvertor

Nikon 70-200mm FL ED VR

Nikon 70-200mm FL ED VR with Teleconvertor

Original Tamron 70-200mm VC

The results from these tests aren’t exactly surprising, but I personally didn’t expect the new Tamron 70-200mm G2 to be this good. We already knew that the original Tamron 70-200mm lens was an excellent performer for its price, but the new G2 seems to have come along without compromise—a much needed competitor for Nikon’s update to an already legendary lens.

At $1,300, the new Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 is an absolute steal.


About the author: Spencer Lookabaugh is a portrait and nature photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Photographs by Spencer Lookabaugh/Midwest Photo Exchange and used with permission

Fujifilm X-Pro2 vs Leica M: Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery?

I am one of the lucky few to have grown up with Leica. It is weird to critically think about the irrational purchase of such an expensive camera as new digital models are released, but if you grew up with a Leica in your life it is very hard to let go of the brand.

For some, Leica is a status symbol like a Ferrari or Rolex, only to be admired from afar, but it is my belief that this is the result of very misguided marketing. The only way a Leica is like a Ferrari is that most owners won’t learn to fully utilize them and the only Leicas that can claim to be Rolex-like are older Leicas like the M3 because, beyond the rangefinder and dials, modern Ms are not very mechanical.

So, how does the Fujifilm X-Pro2 fit? If you saw the pictures I published, you can clearly see how similar, almost identical, the cameras are in design. The Fujifilm has a lot more bells and whistles for a fraction of the price, and a photographer can choose to limit their use if they like to have a very Leica M-like shooting experience. They only feel ever so slightly different due to the materials used to build them.

Fujifilm

Beyond 35mm Fujifilm film I never paid much attention to Fujifilm as a company, until the original Fujifilm X-Pro1; which I quickly preordered along with the launch line-up of lenses, because it reminded me of my Leica M. It was an excellent, but flawed, camera at the time and it made me yearn for a better digital M.

Today the M is somewhat unique. Leica never had any competition that succeeded, until the X-Pro1 came along. It was the first great rangefinder-style camera with great glass and a good modern sensor that provided a unique look, which is something people love about Leica.

Many loved the X-Pro1, but abandoned it for Fujifilm’s rapidly developing X camera line-up, which included a lot of great rangefinder-like cameras before the X-Pro2’s release. Yet, along the way, Fujifilm continued to support all of their cameras with firmware updates that drastically improved performance in some cases; even though many X-Pro1 owners never got to see the improvements, which Fujifilm is now notorious for. The X-Pro1 certainly attracted a lot of Leica fans like me, and built a loyal following for Fujifilm, but many lapsed fans wonder how the X-Pro2 compares to the M.

Introducing the Fujifilm X-Pro2

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 launch went much smoother than the X-Pro1 launch. The camera was fast and RAW support was very good on day one, but some experienced a minor reset bug that Fujifilm addressed relatively quickly via a firmware update. The X-Pro2 was many orders of magnitude better than the X-Pro1 it replaced, and additional manual controls were added like the ISO dial that completed the retro Leica-like feel of the camera. Yet, unlike retro cameras, the X-Pro2 does not have any functional limitations. The still unique hybrid viewfinder makes the X-Pro2 a jack of all trades and puts it in a class of its own.

The Viewfinder/Hybrid-Viewfinder

The Leica rangefinder window is widely regarded for its clarity and brightness compared to other optical finders, but the new X-Pro2 viewfinder is equally as good, and even surpasses it, because it allows the photographer to adjust the finder’s magnification. The X-Pro2 can switch between 0.36x/0.6x OVF magnification by holding the viewfinder lever on the front of the camera and Fujifilm can even improve the accuracy of their frame lines with firmware updates, which they have done in the past. When switching to EVF the magnification is fixed at 0.59x with a frame rate of 85fps that does not drop in low light with only 0.012 seconds of lag and 2.36 million dots, but the focal point can be magnified by 6x.

On the other hand, the Leica M240 is limited to 0.68x, which can be improved with a screw on magnifier. I currently use a Leica 1.25x magnifier on mine that improves my magnification to 0.85x. For reference, the gold standard is often considered the Leica M3 which had 0.91x magnification. There are also 0.7x, 1.4x, and 1.5x magnifiers widely available along with some off brand adjustable ones. On the M240 these magnifiers give photographers 0.48x, 0.95x, and 1.02x. I did not purchase the 1.4x or 1.5x magnifiers because I felt they limited the lenses I could attach to my M240 too much. I generally shoot 50mm, but I like shooting 35mm and 28mm, which cannot be done well with strong magnifiers because the frame lines become obscured.

When manually focusing a lens with a focal length of 10-75mm, the Leica viewfinder probably has an edge over other methods, but beyond 75mm, the Fujifilm EVF gains the advantage over the Leica because the EVF can be zoomed 6x. Leica also has an optional EVF that can be purchased and zoomed like live view on the back screen, but most users will never opt for it because of its low resolution and price, but it zooms to 10x.

Thanks to the ability to autofocus, photographer have the ability to have an expanded rangefinder-type experience when setting the X-Pro2’s magnification to 0.36x. This allows them too see more of the world around them, or they can choose to use a more traditional 0.60x magnification with tighter frame lines. It is a very unique rangefinder-style experience that allows photographers to be uniquely creative. Some have even used the OVF with the 100-400mm, even though it is way beyond the limitations of the frame lines that the OVF can produce. They simply point the lens and get center point focus confirmation to shoot.

X-Mount vs M-Mount

X-mount will be 5 years old soon, and Fujifilm has had some luck getting other manufactures to produce lenses for them but, beyond a few Zeiss AF lenses, most are manual focus. There are also a lot of adapters on the market that let photographers use glass from almost any manufacturer, but AF adapters for X-mount have not really materialized yet.

M-mount became a pretty standard mount after screw mount, so a lot of quality glass is available with rangefinder coupling; but prices can be very high. There are even adapters for old screw mount lenses to use on a modern rangefinder cameras, so there is a ton of quality glass for M-mount. Plus, 3rd party lenses can now be adapted for M-mount just like on X-mount, but you have to use the rear screen in live view mode or the optional low resolution EVF to focus and frame.

There is a lot of quality glass for everyone at every price point but, if you can afford a Leica, chances are that money does not matter very much. M glass is highly adaptable so it is a great investment if you are not sure which mirrorless system you are going to stick with going forward.

The Glass

Leica glass is widely regarded as second to none. It is the kind of statement that no one ever challenges because it is just about always true and, even when it is not, the glass is good enough and no one would question the remark without having two completely identical shots with different lenses to compare.

Leica has a few lenses that I consider to be less desirable, but they are still better than 95% of the lenses available, even though they are less desirable to me. They do manage to offer other benefits, like being significantly smaller in design than similar glass, but I generally do not care about lens size unless it is obnoxiously big. So, the 5% of glass that photographers could make a solid argument for being better will almost always weigh significantly more and be significantly bigger. I am not going to name lens names because it will detract from the larger point, but note that I have only kept Leica glass that I consider to be second to none, because photography equipment selling at Leica prices should be second to none.

Leica’s 50mm Summilux f1.4 ASPH is an all-around amazing lens and it has been since its introduction. Basically, if it is 50mm and it is a Leica, photographers are probably not going to be disappointed unless someone sold them a knock off or damaged lens. In my opinion, the Leica Look has always been best represented by the 50mm Summilux, and it is why I spent over a year trying to get a new one when they were hard to find after the M9‘s introduction. It is simply sublime. I also really loved the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH for a while, along with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 (V1/2) (I owned both) and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM. There is a lot of superb glass for the M, but I highly recommend that photographers new to Leica limit their selection so they can develop their ability to frame a picture in their head before putting camera to eye. Getting quick with the M is generally closely tied to seeing the world through a fixed focal length.

You can buy a professional Fujifilm setup for the price of one high-end Leica lens. Let that sink in… At this time, I own almost all of Fujifilm’s glass. Even their Japanese toy lenses are a joy to shoot with. I regularly shoot with most of my lenses, but carrying around the big zooms like the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR can be a bit difficult when most of your camera bags are meant for M cameras. Fujifilm has great glass that has lots of character. They are also introducing a lot of weather resistant lenses and more small primes that are easy to carry around. Many of their lenses are the best or very close to the best at their focal length, and they are cheaper than the competition. Lenses like the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR, XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR are all phenomenal. Even the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 XF R from the launch of the X system has great character, but it really needs to be updated to focus more like the XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR.

Fujifilm has a lot of great glass and all they really need now is long telephoto glass to round out their system, which is not really what the X-Pro2 is for, but it can do it because it is a Jack of all trades. Some of their older glass could also use revision, because AF speed is very much limited by the lens attached to your Fujifilm body and it will only get worse as newer glass is released. Fujifilm aggressively releases firmware updates for their cameras and lenses for speed and accuracy, but now it is time to start updating lenses.

Considering the quality of Leica glass, most would think they should win this section, but since everything that works on an M can be adapted to an X-Pro2, and the X-Pro2 has a lot of its own great glass that cannot be adapted to the M, the X-Pro2 is the better system for glass. There is just so much to choose from at every price point and beyond the few stinkers like the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, which some people still like, Fujifilm has a very solid line-up.

The Sensor

This is not a fair comparison because the M240 was introduced at the end of 2012, while the X-Pro2 came out at the beginning of 2016. They both have a base ISO of 200, but the Fujifilm is very usable up to 12,800, while the M240 falls apart around 3200 ISO.

The M240 does MJPEG for video at 1080p24, which is decent quality, and has the Leica look, but the Fujifilm X-Pro2 uses mp4 to capture up to 1080p60 with film simulation applied. The ability to apply film simulation really propels the X-Pro2 out in front because it gives the video a very unique look that would be hard for most users to match in post.

The Leica M240 does retain the Leica look at times, but not as often as the M9 did, which made the M240 a controversial camera. The transition to a CMOS sensor in the M disappointed a lot of M fans, but there is no going back because CCD development has stalled outside of medium format cameras. Many photographers believe they can look at a photo and tell if it was taken with a Leica, or even an M9/M240, but they generally fail when tested. There is a quality to a Leica photo that is hard to describe beyond it being something about the micro contrast that pops out, but images on the M240 are just not like they used to be on film Leicas or M9s, and when images do pop on the M240 it is not as often as it used to be on an M9.

Similarly, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 has Fuji colors through and through, which people seem to love or hate. I like them quite a bit and the x-trans color profile is pleasant to me, especially with the ability to emulate Fujifilm films color profile in Lightroom with RAW files. So, Fujifilm wins the sensor battle easily because it produces a consistent image quality that the photographer is looking for.

File Quality

File quality is not important to everyone, but it is something Leica has always gotten right. DNG is the way to go for RAW files. It ensures that files can be opened easily, and that there is no wait for RAW support. I cannot remember the last time Leica launched a camera without full RAW support from the major editors, which probably is in part because, unlike Fujifilm, they use an easy to work with RAW format.

Fujifilm’s RAF format has never been well supported and it is only recently that they have managed to gain day one support from major RAW editing companies like Adobe. Their format has matured quite a bit, but the algorithm that companies like Adobe use to interpret the X-trans files can be flaky at times, which is why many photographers pick RAW developers like Iridient Developer, which will soon release an app that turns RAF files into more compatible/higher quality DNG files for Lightroom.

Both create compressed RAW files about the same size, 23-30MB, but the M240 can only recover around 2-3 stops at best, while the X-Pro2 can recover 4-5 stops. The amazing ability to push and pull XPro2 files that far comes from the sensor being ISO invariant. There is a lot of discussion about ISO invariant sensors you can read and debate about, but the XPro2 files are a lot more flexible than the M240 files, especially as the ISO goes up and the M240 starts to show banding.

The Body

The Leica M is famous for being made from brass (weighing 680g), but now there are some aluminum variants being released that are trying to reduce its weight a little. Generally speaking, I like that they are putting the M on a diet, but I think they could have picked a better metal for the price, like titanium. Aluminum is cheaper, but stronger than brass, and the Ms made with aluminum are not cheaper.

Starting with the M240, Leica began advertising weather sealing, but it was vague at best, and Leica has not released any weather sealed glass for the M or confirmed that any of their current glass is sealed. The M has never had dual card slots, which is an issue for many. The SD card/battery is not very easy to get to because the bottom needs to be unscrewed to access them, which can be difficult to grasp; but this is not a problem if you trust a large SD card with the battery, which can last all day. This is just part of the Leica charm and your trust that your camera will work, but SD cards can and do fail.

If you have seen pictures of my camera before, I have a lot of accessories on it. I like having a thumbs up on my M to help with stability at low shutter speeds, and I only use the handgrip for GPS because I like geotagging my photos. I really do not like the plastic grip, but the finger loop is nice. I also use a magnifier to get critical focus faster and more accurately at f1.4, f1.2 and f0.95. I like the feel of the M240, but the M9 was superior, and now older film M cameras feel a little too small for me. I have been shooting digital Ms back to back since the M8, so I am done with film. There is no simpler camera and, even though the M240 has added video and more over the M9, it still comes down to aperture/ISO/shutter speed.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a classic looking camera with a modern build. It is made of four pieces of magnesium alloy (weighing 495g) that are sealed at 61 points on each section. This makes it “dust-proof, splash-proof and capable of operating in temperatures as low as -10°C.” Outside of the original marketing materials, they call it weather resistant, not weather proof, so photographers just have to trust Fujifilm about how reliable their seals are; but I have read stories of people having problems with rain and Fujifilm covering the damage under warranty, so if you purchase an X-Pro2 make sure to purchase a camera with a warranty and test the seals at some point. The X-Pro2 even has dual card slots, but the battery will not last all day. Photographers will get between 200-400 shots per charge depending on the quality of their battery and shooting style. I generally recommend carrying 2-3 batteries.

The X-Pro2 does not need any accessories, but on camera GPS would be nice even as an add-on device, because the phone app does not work very well for geotagging. The camera feels great out of the box, and the only thing I used on mine for a little while was a soft release button. Once the X-Pro2 is setup how a photographer likes to shoot, it can be operated entirely without going into menus, which is impressive for such a capable camera.

The Leica M feels luxurious and unnecessarily heavy, while the Fujifilm X-Pro2 feels light and solid, yet both are well-balanced. Strangely enough, when removing everything from the body of each but the battery, the bodies feel very similar in weight and size. Part of the Leica bulk definitely comes from the mounted lens. Honestly, I feel like this is a tie because I like both bodies quite a bit; and the X-Pro2 body is more high-tech, while the M240 body seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Video

Video is one of those things that I greatly enjoy doing from time to time, but if I take on a project I almost always regret it because I do not have a good work flow. Fujifilm has eased this burden a little with their film simulation modes that let me get usable raw footage right out of the camera, while Leica files take some work. Their motion JPEG format saves them licensing fees, but costs photographers/cinematographers a lot of space and time to work with the files involved. I have seen great footage out of the M240, but I’ve never managed to capture any video worth sharing with mine.

The Winner is…

Before the Fujifilm X-Pro2 I’d never recommend a camera over the Leica M for the pure joy of shooting. The M is love when in use by a photographer… if you want the bliss of shooting get an M… If you want to know what it’s like to miss shooting like you miss the love of your life, get an M… Fujifilm was so close with the X-Pro1 but, when I would look at the photos after a day of shooting, I had focus issues on award-winning shots that made me want to throw my monitor at my X-Pro1… That changed with the X-Pro2, now I get all the shots and the feelings…

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an amazing camera. The hybrid-viewfinder created a completely new category of camera that, very unfortunately, no one else has joined yet. The X-Trans sensor is brilliant, and the glass you can put in front of it is world-class and not over-priced, which allows you to capture some truly amazing photographs. Fujifilm even fixed their video issues and made one hell of a video camera. I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2…

Yet… here’s where you throw your hands up in the air… I find myself selling my X-Pro2… it’s love and it’s not rational, and this is mine and Leica’s problem in our dysfunctional relationship. I shouldn’t love my Leica M. The Fujifilm X-Pro 2 is the better camera for me and everyone else. Even now I’m trying to rationalize it as all the time/money/energy I have put into the Leica M, but… I just can’t. It’s a feeling. At least I’ll still have my Fujifilm X-T2 around to comfort me when I am missing my Fujifilm X-Pro2.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


About the author: Louis Ferriera is a second-generation Leica photographer that learned analog photography on a first production year Leica M3 that he inherited from his uncle. Photography has been an avocation of his for 25 years and he became involved in professional photography when the transition to digital photography began in the 90s. You can find more by Louis on Fuji Addict, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, 500px, and Twitter. This article was also published here.

Google Pixel vs. Apple iPhone 7 Plus: A Smartphone Shootout

The smartphone camera landscape is getting crowded with high quality cameras these days, but the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone 7 Plus are two of the front runners when it comes to popularity and publicity. We did a simple shootout to pixel-peep at how the cameras in these two smartphones stack up against each other.

We shot the same photos with roughly the same framing in various places and in various lighting environments. HDR mode was set to “Auto” in both native camera apps.

For any of the following photos, click it to see the original resolution version (they can be found in this Flickr album).

Let’s start off with an outdoors scene showing trees and grass under sunlight.

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Here’s a cropped section from the two photos:

Google Pixel (left) compared to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (right).

We see that the Pixel has a noticeable advantage over the iPhone when it comes to resolution and sharpness (compare the blades of grass).

In this next playground scene, the Pixel photo has more detail, but the iPhone photo is more vibrant in its colors:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Here’s a cropped section from the two photos:

Google Pixel (left) compared to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (right).

A photo of a flower with the background thrown out of focus:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Pixel may produce sharper photos than the iPhone, but it’s not without flaws. In October 2016, Pixel owners began complaining of lens flare issues in their photos. As this next outdoor comparison shows, we experienced the same thing — a circular flare under certain conditions that isn’t present in the iPhone’s shots:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

As you can see, the iPhone does have a spot of lens flare at the bottom of the frame, but it’s nothing compared to what shows up in the Pixel photo. And we didn’t intentionally try to capture the flare issue with the pixel — it showed up in casual snapshots due to the sun’s angle in relation to the Pixel.

Let’s move on to performance in low-light situations. Here’s a comparison of a baby nursery lit only by dim snowflake lights:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Pixel seems to be able to capture more detail in the darkest areas of the frame, as this crop comparison shows:

Google Pixel (left) compared to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (right).

Here’s another low-light indoor scene:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Here’s a bookshelf of children’s books in the same low-light environment, with flash turned off on both cameras:

Shot with the Google Pixel.
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

As this crop comparison shows, the iPhone seems to have produced a cleaner and sharper result — we were shooting multiple photos handheld and selected the best shot for each:

Google Pixel (left) compared to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (right)

Here’s the same scene, except with the rear flash enabled for both phones:

Shot with the Google Pixel
Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus.

And the crop comparison:

Google Pixel (left) compared to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (right)

Both the Google Pixel and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus are solid options if you’d like to make your smartphone your everyday camera.

The iPhone 7 Plus offers a dual camera with 2x zoom and a special Portrait mode with faux depth of field. In low-light environments, the iPhone seems to stack up well against (or even beat) the Pixel in terms of details, colors, and flash power.

But in daylight and other well-lit situations, the Google Pixel does seem to offer sharper photos and better image quality… as long as you can avoid the dreaded sun flares.