Thursday, March 29, 2012

X-Pro 1 Tips and Tricks: The Basics

Kuvia 1

I got a few requests for a "how-to" article on the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. When I started to write one, it quickly got out of hand. There's a lot to say about this camera. Too much for a single post. I think such an article is needed, though, because this is a bit of an unusual beast, and going by the talk on the DPReview forums, there are a quite a few people who are somewhat confused by it.

So I decided to write not one, but several articles. I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing the others, but here's one, anyway—the basic approach to getting to know the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. If you're considering this camera, this might be worth a read too, because it might turn out it's not the camera for you after all. It is a special-purpose instrument which excels at one thing and can handle a quite a few others, but there are cameras out there that are better suited for almost any of those other things.

If you're looking for a camera for situational shooting—discreet photography of human-scale subjects at moderate distances in their natural surroundings, where the limitation is usually precise timing—then read on. For most other purposes, you'll probably be better served by something else.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is the X-Pro 1 for you?

Fire! Fire!

There's a lot of anxiety about the pros and cons of the X-Pro 1 in that abode of hungry ghosts, the DPReview forums. I think most of that anxiety really boils down to one question—is it the right camera for you?

Thom at Sans Mirror:
Fujifilm X-Pro1 or Olympus E-M5? Still a little early to call, but initial impressions say E-M5 hands down. The X-Pro1 is a big camera, as big as a Leica M9. It has a limited (and expensive) lens set. It has poor autofocus performance. It has a large, eccentric sensor (APS, non-Bayer). It has a retro design with a hybrid optical/EVF viewfinder. The E-M5 is a smaller camera than it looks in photos. It has an extensive lens set. It has faster focus performance. It has the best of the m4/3 sensors so far. It has a very usable EVF. The problem I have with the Fujifilm is that it is really only great for one (slow) style of shooting, and it's doesn't take advantage of the size benefit that removing the mirror gives you. The hybrid viewfinder is fine, but it's a bit of a gimmick. A good EVF is enough, which is exactly what the E-M5 has. Bottom line: for less money you get a smaller camera that has a huge lens arsenal and very good autofocus performance.

I almost agree... even if I think I can smell a whiff of irrational bias there. How is a 'large, eccentric sensor' a disadvantage?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rust, Concrete, and Test Shots

Guerrilla Knitting
Guerrilla Knitting, Fuji X-Pro 1 with 35/1.4.

The light really wasn't great today. Bit of a waste to go street shooting, too, since there was barely anybody out there, plowing through the melting snowbanks.

But I did make another excursion, this one towards Suvilahti, the old industrial zone in the process of being converted into a culture hangout kind of place. I figured that all that rusting metal and flaking paint would at least look suitably grim on this gray, wet day. Those are in my Least Photogenic Day set too.

Gas Bells 2
Gas Bells 2, X-Pro 1 with 35/1.4.

The Least Photogenic Day in Helsinki

Cannonball!—The 35/1.4 on the X-Pro 1. Shutter priority, 1/250, grab shot. Click through for all sizes and more samples. All the shots are straight out-of-camera JPEGs in Provia film mode. I'm too lazy to faff about with them anyway, since Lightroom support isn't in yet.

My pageviews are through the roof. Wow. Welcome to my blog, new readers, and I hope you find something you like here. Since this place is a bit eclectic, may I direct your attention to the handy tag cloud at bottom right; you will be able to find things that may interest you by clicking on promising tags there.

Since I presume most of you aren't here for the Buddhism nor the politics, here's more camera pr0n! Note that this is emphatically not a review; these are near real-time impressions of the camera as I'm figuring out my way around it. There might be something approximating a review later, but not yet. Remember that I've had the camera for all of three days at this point, and I didn't have time to do any shooting with it yesterday.

I've taken two short walks around the neighborhood with the beast today, one with the 35/1.4 and another with the 18/2.0. This has got to be the least photogenic day of the year in Helsinki, what with light rain, the snow halfway melted leaving everything covered in a thin coating of poo, of which copious amounts of the dog variety are appearing from underneath. So, not ideal for going out there to get gorgeous photos. Nevertheless, I'm having a lot of fun with this. Planning to do some semi-controlled off-the-tripod test shooting next, but in the interim, here's how I feel about it at this point.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Camera pr0n: The Fuji X-Pro 1 - First Impressions

Onions. Straight out of camera JPEG.

Update: If you're only arriving here now, please note that I've got two other posts up about this camera already, including some semi-controlled lens test shots.

Time for a break from the heavy Buddhisty type stuff I've been posting about lately, 'cuz I just bought a camera.

I've been without a "big" camera since I sold my Canon EOS system a few years back. I loved everything about the 5D except the bulk—it's a heavy and very visible piece of kit, and as compact cameras improved I eventually reached a tipping point where the 5D just stayed at home. It was too nice a system to keep gathering dust, so I sold it.

In the interim, I've been using a Canon S90 compact and a Panasonic GF1 with the 20/1.7 pancake. These get the job done well enough, but nevertheless have some limitations that I kept bumping into. The Canon is fantastic for a pocket camera, but neither the optics nor the electronic image quality are as good as on a larger camera; the Panny was capable of superb results in the right conditions, but I was missing the viewfinder, and I was pretty often bumping against its imaging limits too—specifically, in bright light I would tend to blow out the highlights, and in poor light I would struggle with noise.

Somebody finally built the camera I've been waiting for since the digital revolution—a thoroughly modernized re-invention of the Leica CL. This would be the Fuji X-Pro 1. I finally got mine, and since this is a new model that has evoked a quite a lot of interest, I'll be blogging about getting to know it. I've only had it for a day, so this post represents very preliminary first impressions, which are usually all about being tremendously excited. So be warned.

Friday, March 9, 2012

More on identity matters

Soft Granite

I've been mulling these identity issues I mentioned in my previous post a little. I had a thoughtful conversation about it on Twitter with NellaLou and Mumon, and Mumon posted about it on his blog a bit later, and then Barbara O'Brien picked up on it. Funny how that sort of thing happens; I didn't think that particular post would be particularly interesting to anyone, as it was more of a somewhat self-indulgent post-zazenkai mind-state dump than anything thoroughly considered.

Also, Barbara pointed out that what we called jukai isn't what's usually called jukai in Zen; the ritual that was actually performed is usually known as fusatsu.

Yet the identity issue did come up—even if peripherally—in Kanja sensei's talk, and she did most definitely call the ritual jukai. I also read up on jukai on Wikipedia (and some other places), and it's clear that usually this is the name of the ceremony associated with receiving the rakusu--that little bib Zennies sometimes like to wear. As far as I've gathered, the procedure for getting the rakusu in our tradition is very much as Wikipedia describes the preparation for jukai, and I believe there is a ritual associated with actually receiving it too.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Community, Jukai, and Zazenkai Rambling

Make Capitalism History
And End to War and Poverty / Make Capitalism History, Helsinki, 2005

If there's one major development in 2011, it's got to be the rebirth of civil society. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movements, people have been getting together to get stuff done in a way that hasn't been seen since, well, the 1960's, perhaps. This has been messy, and not all of the communities being built have been exactly nice—for example, I'm not too thrilled about the emergence of reactionary populist movements in Europe, even in Finland. But you gotta take the bad with the good. It's all part of the same ferment.

The emergence of communities is a fascinating process. There's an illusion of making something new; then an illusion of participating in something stable and persistent; perhaps eventually an illusion of something that seemed to be stable and persistent suddenly disintegrating. Communities are like onions, or like stews; there are layers within layers, chunks among chunks. There are strictly orthodox revolutionary vanguards; there are big-tent mass movements; there are communities of communities. There are cliques, hegemonies, orthodoxies, disputes, overt and covert infighting, competition for status, respect, power. We humans are really all about community. Without it, we're nothing, or almost nothing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cold Remedies


Over the past two weeks or so I have, as a friend of mine eloquently expresses it, been beset by the crud. That is, either a particularly vicious cold, or seasonal influenza. Unpleasant in any case. I'm mostly over it by now, but my wife has it. This has given us ample opportunity to experiment with a variety of cold remedies. None of them, alas, have cured the crud, but many have made it a good deal more tolerable.

I haven't discovered anything new, but have tried out a whole bunch of old remedies. These worked for me.