Friday, March 16, 2012

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.

Quirks and hand-wringing

First, a couple of issues causing much anxiety and hand-wringing on the DPReview forums—the auto-focus and the aperture chatter.

I have had no problems whatsoever with the AF. I mean sure, there's the occasional case of missed focus, but no more than with any other camera I've used. Seriously. The aperture chatter is a very peculiar thing to latch on. It's there, for sure, but it's not like it's continuous, distractingly loud (other than to you, maybe), or impedes the shooting process in any way. And no, I have not noticed it introducing any perceptible shutter lag.

Second, quirks. Yeah, there are quirks. Some are clear firmware bugs that I hope will be addressed at some point. Others are just weird decisions that may or may not be addressed. Nothing is serious enough to significantly impede the shooting experience, but they're undeniably there. So far:
  • Three different ways to select an option from a list, and it changes depending on context: with the jog dial, with the left and right arrows, and with the up and down arrows. Like, WTF?
  • With AF lock set, turning the aperture ring does nothing. This looks like a bug, as I have set it to lock AF only, not AE.
  • Sometimes things just fail to appear on-screen, before I hit the MENU button again or do some other random frobbing of the controls. I think the camera can't make up its mind whether to pop it up in the viewfinder or on the LCD, and just gives up, poor thing.
  • Yeah, the aperture chatter. But shut up about it already, it's not that big a deal.
  • The antireflective coating on the LCD and viewfinder is a real fingerprint magnet, and it doesn't antireflect very well when it's all smudged up. They would've done better to put a more reflective but oleophobic coating on it, like on smartphone touch screens IMO.

Continuing overall impressions

With that out of the way, my overall impression remains extremely positive—despite the quirks, this is a very straightforward camera to shoot with. The auto-exposure and auto-white-balance are really good, it's fast and responsive, and I love the control scheme. And nope, no issues with the auto-focus, at all.

What's the plural of "narcissus?"
What's the plural of 'narcissus?' – Check out the tones on this one: that fluorescent orange is a real bastard to render well, and the Fuji makes it look easy. Also, bokeh, such as it is.

And the image quality. Or should I say, IMAGE QUALITY! Because holy mother of God, it is gorgeous. The color, tone, pixel-level detail, high ISO performance and film-like quality of the little noise there is, and especially the highlight roll-off. This is a whole another level of performance, even compared to the EOS-5D I had. So, wow. It really is everything they say about it.

Cappucino, with the 18/2.0. Check out the high-key tonality on the cup and the crema. Nothing blown out! Click through for all sizes.

The 35/1.4 lens is gobsmackingly wonderful optically. I'd even say that if you're at all a lens type of guy or girl, it's worth buying the camera just for it. It's like Fuji copied the Leica Summicron 50/1.4 and threw in the camera for free. It's pin-sharp in the center at all apertures, the bokeh is gorgeous, and stopped-down it's as close to perfection as these things get. And the Internet is moaning about aperture chatter?

The 18/2.0, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. The contrast and color are great and it's very nice in the center at all apertures too, but the edges are noticeably worse, enough that it makes a difference in real-life shooting, not just test shots. There's noticeable coma and chromatic aberration of the purple fringing variety, and it doesn't completely disappear even stopped down. This is unimportant for situational shooting, and indeed it makes for a really nice close-quarters lens, but more landscapey types might want to check it out before taking the plunge, or wait for the upcoming 14 mm to see if it's better. I'd rate the Canon 24/2.8 I shot with as better overall, although I think the Fujinon is contrastier and has better wide-open center sharpness (and it's a stop brighter too, natch).

What, Finns, pale?
What, Finns, Pale?, with the 18/2.0. Shutter priority, 1/60, f/2.8.

Also, the sensor is merciless; it doesn't forgive any faults, optical or in technique.

Here are a few torture test type shots of the 18/2.0, wide-open and stopped-down. They're hand-held, which may make the graffito one look a bit worse than it would ideally, but not all that much, I think. Click through for all sizes:

Graffito, wide-open
Graffito, wide-open.

Graffito, stopped-down
Graffito, stopped-down.

Branches, wide-open
Branches, wide-open.

Branches, stopped-down
Branches, stopped-down.

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