Oppo A5 – EOS 700D & Raglan revisited

Being as it was my wife’s birthday this Friday just gone I thought it appropriate that we dined out in style.

Well dine out in rustic style that is. One of our favourite haunts is the “Wharf Fish & Chip Shop”. You may have seen previous articles featuring this place, and its rustic charm and simple seafood fare is what draws a lot of folks back for a return visit. We are no exception. Plus we just like being somewhere close to the sea and the fresh air. Its gives one a chance to chill out and forget about all the problems associated with Covid-19. Fortunately we are only at level 2 status and are pretty much free to go where we want so long as we observe a little social distancing and are mindful of hygiene.

It was also a really good reason to try out the camera in my new Oppp A5 smartphone. Its no camera giant compared to flagship models like my wife’s Note9 with only a 12 mega pixel main camera. However in good light it seems to acquit itself quite well. Some of the images I took with it have been printed on 5 x 7 glossy photo-paper and it is unlikely you could tell from what camera the image was taken. In fact when put alongside images shot with the 700D, I doubt that anyone is likely to tell the difference at this size and it is precisely the same even on A4 prints.

I have to say that I’m impressed with how the phone dealt with this scene given that the harsh light outside of the seating area and large dynamic range. A good many cameras fail in this situation, including the 700D, which struggled a little in this instance. In this particular instance the relatively slow aperture of the 18-55 kit lens just wasn’t really up to the task and it shows. The much faster f1.8 lens of the phone’s camera proved to be better at balancing the light values, and of course theres some fairly serious computational work going on as well. None the less it does show an area where the DSLR with standard lenses struggles to compete. Its this very reason that sees me almost exclusively have the EF-S 55-250 mounted on the 700D and I use the smartphone for closeup, wide field work or where I want a more panoramic view.

For the more traditional landscape image I would move back to the DSLR and wide lens & telephoto when needed.

Waiting for lunch…
Lunch has arrived.

The first image above is a crop @ 120%, where as the second image is a full image. I’m still not that happy with the 700D’s performance noise wise, although truthfully given the kit lens I was using and the relatively high ISO coupled with a large crop probably means I’m asking a bit much of the camera in this situation. Like it or not I have a feeling I really need better glass to get the most from this camera.

Having said that I’m not displeased with the sharpness and tonality of this image. I didnt have to do much apart from a vignette and a small crop to give the image the ambient look much as I saw it when taking the photo.

I’m having to work a good deal harder to get images I’m satisfied with the 700D. The sensor is the same as the 650D apparently, and that was a nice sensor. Where the difference lies is in the Digic 5 processor, it handles the light substantially differently to what I had become used to with the 650D and the 1000D, and is taking quite some sorting to get used to it. Frustratingly this has meant that the keeper rate has dropped off.

Another quirk of this camera is in live view, which is considerably better than the 650D. Unfortunately unlike mirrorless cameras you cant sufficiently reduce the focus area as in a good mirrorless camera, hence you get missed focus on a number of shots. The image below is a classic example of this.

I wanted the focus to be on the closet of the posts and throw everything beyond out of focus. I new it would look quite nice compositionaly with the couple just coming into shot in the background. The image had good depth of view whilst holding all but the foreground object in focus. In the live view screen it appeared that I had the focus point spot on. Unfortunately quite a lot of the mid ground became the point of focus with everything forward of that out of focus. I was using the 55-250 so was hoping for good smooth out of focus areas. That wasn’t to be.

Close but no cigar…

Suffice to say at this point the 700D is proving to be quite the challenge. I’m just stubborn enough to keep at it until I strike a setup that works the way I want it to. I will update my progress as time and conditions permit. Until then:

Happy Snappin’

The X-T200 has arrived in store.

Photowarehouse now shows stocks of the X-T200 in store. Price wise its exactly where I thought it would be at $1329.00 NZD. Its being sold with the  XC 15-45 lens. Personally I think it would be better with the XC 16-50 mm lens, but its design

x-t200_system-slide-03-300x267is for a hybrid stills/video camera  therefore it gets the power zoom lens.

For me personally I would much prefer the XC 16-50 mm lens. Having had one in the past I was always impressed with its capability and as an astrophotography lens it was very good as a starter lens.

In terms of usability the X-T200 is a step up from the X-T 100. In the AF performance, number of focus points, updated sensor, outstanding LCD and greatly improved video capability, theres not a lot to dislike about the X-T200 other than the lens, which in its defence does get a generally good review by early adopters of the XC 15-45 mm lens. Personally on an ILC camera I’m not a fan of having power-zoom lenses. It should be noted that this lens can operate in a semi manual way and may be how some folks will want to use it. I just prefer a fully manual zoom for those occasions when I need to very rapidly switch focal lengths.

The dislike I have for power-zooms comes from having had cameras in the past equipped with this type of lens and I can only say that the number of missed opportunities for getting a shot was very high when compared to a standard lens. This holds true for all the smartphones I’ve used to date as well and includes our Samsung Note 9 which for a $1800 dollar smartphone should be a little quicker in focusing than my ageing power-zoom Fuji s5700. Often its not. I intend to tryout the X-T200 in-store to begin with and will report back as to how it performs, but at least for now I remain unconvinced as to the XC 15-45’s abilities. I’d also like to try it with the new XC 35 mm lens as I think that and the XC 50-230 telephoto lens could be a very handy kit if you wanted something a little different. More to come on this, until then,

Happy Snappin.

Finally the perfect entry level camera from Fuji?

Enter the FujiFilm X-T200

Click on this image to see DPreviews first hands on review.

 

So far all the preliminary views and hands on previews would suggest that Fuji may just have the best entry level mirrorless camera on the market. Sound like a big call? Perhaps but to date everything I have seen about this camera screams buy me.

x-t200_system-slide-03-300x267

While it doesn’t sit inside the $1000.00 NZD budget camera zone I think that its pricing is pretty good. To date I’ve seen it advertised here at $1329.00 NZD with the 15-45 kit lens. I’m expecting the new XC f2 35mm lens to be around $300 NZD. DPreview suggest that the new lens should be a real winner for those wanting a prime lens to add to their budget kit.

The arrival of the new XA7, which has pretty much identical specs minus the EVF was a good indicator as to what the X-T100 replacement was likely to look like , but I have to confess I’m astonished at the amount of camera they have produced.

The closest Fuji model to the X-T200 is the X-T20/30. The cheapest X-T20/30 I have found as of the time of this article is $2000.00 NZD making the X-T200 a very good starting point in the Fuji system.

While camera snobs will no doubt belittle the construction & build quality of the new 35mm lens as well as the XC 16-50 & XC 15-45 as well as the XC 50-230, I have no doubt that plastic construction or not, the lack of dedicated aperture ring, these lenses acquit themselves extremely well.   And all of them have image stabilization apart from the 35 mm f2, something that a good many of the more costly lenses dont have. For me thats a no-brainer, I wouldn’t ever consider an XF lens that wasn’t stabilized. Why? After a workplace fall I now suffer from varying degrees of vertigo and as a consequence my hands can be a little shaky, this is true for a lot of us for a huge variety of reasons, not to mention I’m now almost 65 so my stability isn’t as good as it used to be. However a light weight XC f2 35 mm, I would be prepared to use in the right setting. Astrophotography anyone?

By way of example see the image below.

Is it the perfect lens? .. no there are obviously better lenses but at a substantially greater prices. For everyday photography the XC lenses perform far above their price bracket, another example this time from the XC 50-230 mm telephoto lens.

Taken with the XA2 and the XC 50-230 telephoto lens.

In every way I can think of the X-T200 is the camera I would have liked to have purchased when the XA2 was first announced. To date I haven’t been overly certain about the XC 15-45 lens as I’m not a fan of power zooms but having seen the X-T200 with this lens in operation I may well have to re think that.

Having never really wanted or desired any of the higher level enthusiast/pro level Fuji cameras the new XA20, XA7 and the X-T200 have all grabbed my interest. The XA20 is only listed on the China Fujifilm website but its predecessor has been for sale here in new Zealand ( The XA10 ) for a couple of years now, and for those not interested in processing RAW files or going deeper into photography this is a very useful camera.

It doesn’t have the newer sensor found in the XA5 and up as its the older 16 Mp sensor found in previous versions such as my XA2. Not that its a bad sensor, in fact its very good as the images above show, but the newer sensor does provide better resolution and the ability to crop images deeper while maintaining good quality.

Come its release date here in New Zealand with the bigger camera stores, we  should see the pricing a little more stable. Like always I will wait a few months before grabbing one, hopefully the pricing will have dropped a little by then. I’ve come to the conclusion that like it or not a single lens setup for now at least is not readily an option in the mirrorless world. I would love to see Fuji produce a 16-200/230 focal length lens as a general purpose walk around unit, but that may just be wishful thinking, at least for now.

Dont forget to comment on this. Is it for you? Or is Fuji going down the wrong path with its current level designs?

One lens is all you need.

As the title suggests one lens is all you need right? Well yes .. maybe.

Theres a school of thought and any number of YouTube videos that suggest the same thing and it got me thinking.

This is the Pentax version of the Chinon f1.19 that I have for my Pentax film cameras and its a good lens.

In the film days when 35mm SLR’s were the in camera, most came with a 50mm lens attached. Depending upon the model they generally ranged from f1.4 to f 2.8, were manual focus  and manual aperture.  This changed with the arrival of  auto focus cameras and the introduction of consumer grade short telephoto lenses usually in the range of 28 mm to 90 mm ( today’s versions would be 16 -50mm or similar.) and were generally inferior in the optics that they used. Thats not to say they were totally horrendous but merely of lesser quality than the standard 50 mm prime that normally arrived with your SLR.

Thinking about this brought me to my favourite style of shooting images. I like flexibility, but I dont like having to swap out lenses all the time, nor do I like having to tote around a bag full of lenses. What I want to do is capture the image. This is what attracted me to the manual focus Fuji bridgecameras like my HS20. I was happy to trade a bit of image quality for the convenience and flexibility a single telephoto lens could provide.

However as time went by I found I didnt always need the long end of the lens and was often a little let down with the resulting images. Having had DSLR’s in two or three lens combo’s I found that although I had traded up on functionality and image quality I had gone backwards on my desire to be unencumbered  from having excess weight in my gear-bag.

Until I decide and have funds available to purchase what may be my forever camera, I traded the digitals apart from my HS20 for a couple of Pentax SLR camera bodies, namely the MZ-6 and the MZ-30. Depending upon circumstance I will normally have the 50mm on the MZ-6 for everyday photography and the MZ-30 for road trip work as the MZ-30 sports the well regarded Tamron AF aspherical xr di ld if 28-300 mm macro. (Note this is the 35mm film version not one of the later versions that you see on some DSLR’s .)

The Beauty of the Tamron is its range. It is considerably heavier than a lot of lenses but the ability to give a large all in one option is very handy. By contrast the MZ-6 with the 50mm onboard is feather light and just right for those occasions where you have lots of people around or perhaps you just want a lightweight option for the day.

So are you limiting yourself by considering the one lens option? I’d argue that you arent, especially when you consider that the average smartphone has a single focal length and people  love the images they get from these short focal lengths. Its only in the higher end phones that we see more options focal length wise. This video shows some of what you can achieve using just a 50mm lens.

Do yourself a favour and try this as an option on your next photo excursion. You might just be surprised at what you can do.

 

 

Fuji Releases the XA-7

With very little fanfare Fuji has released the latest XA camera, the XA-7.

First impressions are that this is what the XA-5 should perhaps have looked like. With a new 24 megapixel APSC sensor and a 3.5 inch 16:9 format full tilt and swivel screen this is what many of the Fugi faithful have been waiting for.

Click on this image to see the preliminary impressions from DPreview.

After looking over the specs and viewing current limited video reviews theres nothing to dislike about this camera if you have a modest budget, want excellent photo imagery, good if not stellar 4k video.

As some have stated, in some areas it borrows from the XT30 and in others it out points it as in the 2.7 meg oled LCD. Oh and it has a touch screen as well, plus it has the inclusion of the joystick in place of the older four way control pad on the rear of the body. A very grownup feature.

As a former XA-2 user this is the first XA camera that could entice me back into the Fuji fold. Recently I have gone to more budget friendly camera gear, not because I no longer like Fuji gear but simply because it was becoming beyond my budgets reach to entertain having even well used Fuji camera gear and theres a lot I miss from no longer having my Fuji camera in the APSC class.

The introductory review video from Lensvid.com covers a lot of the main points about the new camera. If this trend  is continued within the XT lineup of cameras we are looking at the start of what could be a whole new design philosophy and design concept from Fuji going forward into new generations of cameras. In many ways I see this camera as considerably more rounded and geared towards people who are less concerned about specs and more concerned with making decent videos and being able to take great images, share them quickly and shoot them off to their favourite print house for some great printed photos.

This camera just seems to shout  “Use Me”. Theres an element of what smartphones have been bringing to the consumer in terms of sheer usability and results, something that few camera manufacturers have truly brought to the market as yet. Once again Fuji may well have stolen the show with this seemly innocuous and understated camera … but full  sensor cover phase detect auto focus points, in a entry level camera sounds very good to me.

Happy Snappin’

Canon EF-S 55-250 IS ii

The new (to me) Canon EF-S 55-250 IS ii arrived in the post today fortunately all in one piece.

It was advertised as lightly used and in mint condition. I can report thats exactly what it was. I had the opportunity to have  a small play with it. Right from the outset it showed promise and it quickly became evident that this was going to be a nice addition to the equipment list. The photographic shelves are looking a little better stocked as of today.

The gear rack
Top row left to right — Pentax SF-7 with speed-light, Pentax MZ-6, Canon 1000d, Fujifilm s5700, Fujifilm HS20EXR. Bottom row filters & remote for the Canon, Pentax 100-300 lens, Pentax 28-80 lens, Pentax F1.8 50mm lens, Canon EF-s 55-250 & Canon  EF 75-300

It would be nice to see the Fuji XE3 on the shelf but thats a ways off at the moment. Back to the new lens. It does have a tendency to hunt, but I’ve found that it seems to perform best using the centre AF point rather than using the auto multi point for AF. Coupled with the metering set to evaluative this seems to work best.

I was then presented with one of the toughest task you can get, namely photographing a Fantail.  These native birds never sit still for more than a couple of seconds. Even when you think they are still, snapping off a few images will prove that to be not the case, they are almost constantly on the move. This is a tough ask for this lens as it really needs an f2.0 lens or better to really get these little birds crisply in focus. Fast glass equals faster shutter speeds and higher ISO.

I’m also noticing that the 1000d’s sensor really isn’t as crisp as some of it heirs when pushed hard. I’m finding that is many cases the 1000d has plenty of detail but the output is similar to  a high quality 35 mm SLR. Perhaps a 1200d body or similar may well be the next shelf item.

However I did mange a few that I will deem keepers for now until I get better at using this lens and finding the various sweet spots it has.

So far it looks like its money well spent and I’m pleased it turned up today as it will be going with us tomorrow on the photo expedition.

Hand straps….make your own or buy one?

Strap Types

I have never been overly fond of camera straps, most of the neck straps included with your camera are not particularly comfortable and I hate having a one to two kilo brick hanging around my neck, its just plain uncomfortable. Nor do I like wrist straps for the same reason.

My preference is for a hand strap often called a hand grip, which it is not. A hand grip is part of the camera body or an additional piece put on the body to make it easier to hold.

However marketers seem to inevitably label these hand straps as hand grips, therefore if you are looking for one online you need to search both types. There are many varieties of straps and harness gear for photography so theres plenty to choose from.

Inexpensive straps.

Theres a number to choose from at varying prices, your local camera shop will also have some available as well but I have found these to be generally expensive for what they are and often all you are really paying for is brand name. Shop online for better results.

 

Click the images above for a larger view. All the current prices are shown at the bottom of the images.

Even the $6.50 version looks reasonably substantial, but at that price it is likely to be made of inferior products compared with the more expensive leather based options. However you have to pay more for the leather versions. Note prices dont include freight if buying online.

For large DSLR’s all of these items would be good to have, however I’m not sure that the bulkiness of some of the hand straps would be something I would enjoy using, and getting it on and off could be problematic, although the surety of keeping the camera in hand with the additional thumb strap could well be worth it.

Make your own straps.

If like me you have a bunch of old camera straps around, now’s the time to make your own. I have half a dozen surplus straps from various cameras, the best of which are the two below. 20180331_113827.jpg

The Fuji strap is 30 mm in width and the Canon is 40 mm in width. Both are a woven strap laminated to a leatherette backing making for a very durable strap. I decided on the Canon strap which I think gives a better fit and feel.

From the following images you will see that I used the existing eyelet straps for the top connection point while cutting the strap to the required length and punching a hole sufficient to tightly press the D-ring screw through the strap and attaching it to the tripod mount point. I used a flat washer slightly larger in diameter the the head of the D-ring screw to add extra lock-down grip to the strap at the bottom mounting point.

If you are wondering about the use of D-ring screws, its simply a matter of ease of use. Rather than have to carry a screwdriver with me, the D-ring screw is easy to remove if I want to use a tripod mount, and saves me from having to completely remove the strap from the camera. On the larger DSLR one could incorporate a small carabina clip on the top connection for fast and complete removal of the strap. Total cost for the two camera straps is $7.50 and that was for the two D-ring screws plus the freight, which works out at $3.75 for the strap. Thats New Zealand dollars of course.

Pictured below is my EOS 1000d and my Pentax MZ-6, both now sporting the hand straps I made this morning. Pentax users may want to look away 🙂

I will endeavour to find a good Pentax strap at a later time.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

 

Both these cameras are going to be used quite extensively tomorrow on a photo expedition, therefore I will be able to report just how well they do their job.

 

Introducing the Fuji XA2

We opt for the Fuji XA2 as the new camera to replace our aging Fuji HS20EXR.

While it was not the first choice for a replacement as we really were hoping for a updated HS50, Fuji announced that they were withdrawing for the immediate future from the super-zoom market especially models with a manual zoom, something that is a must for a serious photographer.

With the arrival of the new Sony RX10 Mk3 24mm to 600mm bridge camera, it seemed like the RX10, although very expensive could be a long term replacement. Sadly its not to be. No manual zoom, only a powered zoom,  and a wide to tele zoom time of 4 seconds, this camera will never be a fast enough to adapt to quick changes in shooting environment. It’s clear that all of the manufactures are leaning towards video as a prerequisite for the new generation of bridge cameras, ( with powered zooms ) with stills taking a secondary roll.

Therefore its back to a twin lens situation, and the three cameras we looked at were the Sony a6000 twin lens kit, the Panasonic G6 twin kit and the Fuji XA2 twin lens kit.

All three cameras are fine stills cameras, capable of some very nice imagery.

So what were the main factors for going with the Fuji?

Essentially price when the Sony was considered as well as the problem of the a6000 and its siblings all tending to overheat when shooting video. While there are a range of E-mount lenses available, most are expensive and tie the user to a limitation unless using adapters for Sony Alpha lenses.

With the Panasonic, the overriding caveat was not wanting to change to a 4/3 camera. Although very good image and ergonomically, the Panasonic lens line up was a little too expensive and more importantly were quite limited in range, as were the Olympus lenses. Video production was very good in both the Sony & Panasonic, but this wasn’t the primary reason for buying either.

Fit and finish were very good in all three cameras, but the size and layout of the control on the Fuji are very good. Couple that with a well known user interface and system and its not hard to quickly come to grips with the XA2 settings. The 16-50mm standard kit lens is very very good. The telephoto 50 – 230mm zoom lens is also very good if a little slow aperture wise. However coupled with the right ISO and shutter settings and this lens too aquits it self very well. Both lenses could well be all you need if the need for a specialist lens isn’t needed.

The Fuji lens range is large and getting larger with a good range of lenses priced from reasonable to very expensive those being excellent  primes.

So what came in the box? This camera was bought as part of a package deal. Register the camera with Fuji and you receive a XF27mm F2.8 pancake lens, leather case, extra battery & cleaning kit. The lens on its own is worth $689.00NZD , which makes buying this camera a No-Brainer for anyone who likes Fuji X series cameras or wants to change what they are currently using.

The range of lenses are compatible with all Fuji X-mount cameras so no issues worrying about what lenses work on what body.DSCF3576

Check out the first images shot with the XA2 in the XA2 gallery.