Sunday, November 23, 2014

The forgotten firmware update for Fuji X-Cameras

Ever seem like the time from when the little Fuji battery full indicator shows its first sign of depletion until the time it actually turns red and drops dead is short enough to be up for contention as the new definition of a nanosecond. If you have ever been using your X-camera in the field and see the little battery symbol display its first indicating bar showing it is getting empty, you know you don't have much time before it will be completely depleted. One thing you had better have with you at all times when using a mirrorless camera with its power-hungry display is a spare battery or two.

Seems like the time it takes to go... almost instantaneous.

For anyone reading this column regularly, you know that I am a big fan of the Fuji mirrorless X-camera system and see it as an emerging alternative to pro DSLR camera systems. Fuji has been most responsive to user requests for fixes, but for some reason this one has slipped through the cracks of the latest firmware update scheduled for December 18th release.

Maybe I am asking for something that cannot be done through a firmware update. Nonetheless, I thought I would mention it in a blog post in the hopes of having it wend it back to the observing ears of Fuji tech support.

Am I asking for too much? I don't think so. Most camera systems I use show a gradual decline in the batteries depletion image, and many also include a percentage of battery life left.  Even my cell phone does this.

Sure wish Fuji would provide an update for this -- hint, hint.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The new firmware update for the X-T1 makes it almost a new camera

Fuji's latest firmware updates for its X-camera lineup are due out on December 18th.  The X-T1 received the lion's share of the changes -- so many that it seems like a whole new camera.

The updates are expected to be available on December 18th, just in time to be an early Christmas present.

Here is Fuji's list of improvements to be implemented with this new update:

1. High-speed electronic shutter with a maximum speed of 1/32000sec.
To aid photographers who want to take advantage of fast aperture lenses in bright sunlight, the camera is now equipped with a fully electronic shutter offering a maximum shutter speed of 1/32000sec. The mechanical shutter will not operate at all when any speed for the electronic shutter is selected, which also delivers a completely silent shooting in 1/3 steps from a range of 1sec to 1/32000sec.

A  handy improvement allowing the use of apertures of even f/1.4 in bright sun without the necessity of resorting to a neutral density filter.

The shutter sound can be muted if desired. With the “SHUTTER SOUND” and “SHUTTER VOLUME” options in the setup menu you can choose the type and volume of the sound the shutter makes.

This feature is important for applications where it is important to keep the camera silent, as during a wedding ceremony.

2. Classic Chrome Film Simulation mode added
The new Classic Chrome effect delivers subtle colors and beautifully muted tones reminiscent of vintage reversal film. Using Classic Chrome on cityscapes, for example, will give shots a historic feel, while fashion photos gain an emotive, nostalgic look.

The Classic Chrome effect can already be applied through the new camera RAW update in Photoshop and Filemaker for users who shoot in RAW.

3. Natural Live View function
One of the great benefits of an electronic viewfinder is that 'what you see is what you get'; the final image is displayed in real-time so any Film Simulation modes or other effects can be checked while shooting. But users sometimes need to see colors close to how they're viewed with an optical finder, or to focus on shadow detail, which some high-contrast effects block out. To aid this, the Natural Live View function has been added and, when "PREVIEW PIC. EFFECT" is turned Off in the menu, an image close to the naked eye is displayed during live view.

4. EVF / LCD Color Control
“EVF COLOR” and “LCD COLOR” options in the setup menu to adjust the hue of the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

5. Direct selection of AF area
The update will let users select the focus area using the 4-way controller, without pressing the Fn key.

This update was able to me manually implemented with the current camera by re-defining the controller buttons with the menu. I had already set my camera to do this.

6. Unlocked AE-L / AF-L Buttons
The function of the AE-L / AF-L button is currently locked, but will be interchangeable, depending on the user's preference.

7. Variable Focus Area during MF
When working in Manual focus mode, the update will enable changing the size of the focus area during Instant AF with the AF-L button.

8. Direct selection of Macro mode
In Autofocus mode, the update will enable the Macro function to be turned on or off, without accessing the pop-up menu screen.

9. Q. Menu customization
To make the Q Menu (used for quick access of frequently-used items) even more efficient, the update will allow its items and layout to be changed to the user's preference.

10. New Video Frame rates (50P / 25P / 24P)
As well as the existing 60fps and 30fps selections, 50fps, 25fps and 24fps options will be available with the update. 50fps and 25fps allow video editing in the PAL regions, such as Europe, without converting the frame rate. 24fps offers a cinema-like view.

Video abilities of the Fuji-X series cameras has been lagging behind the standards available with other cameras. This improvement is a step to rectify this short-coming.

11. Manual Shooting in Video mode
The update will enable ISO sensitivity selection prior to shooting videos, as well as the ability to adjust aperture and shutter speed during movie recording.

12. Phase detection AF support for Instant AF
In Instant AF mode, which is operated by pressing the AF-L button during manual focusing, the update will enable Phase Detection AF, providing faster focusing speeds.

13. Interlocking of Metering and Focus areas
Users will be able to interlock the AF area position with the Metering area when Spot Metering mode is selected.

14. Expansion of shutter speed in Program Shift mode
In the current Program Shift mode, the slowest-speed setting is 1/4sec, but this will increase to a maximum of 4secs.

15. Add “Flash compensation”, “Shutter type”, “Preview Pic. Effect”, “Preview EXP. / WB in Manual mode” and “Lock” in Function setting

16. Instax Printer Print

Photos can be directly sent from the camera to the Fujifilm instax SHARE Smartphone Printer to instantly print on Fujifilm Instant Color Film “instax mini”.

17. Lock Function
Add software lock function.
The update will let users prevent from the unexpected dial / button operation.

18. Three Custom White Balance
Expand the number of CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE from one to three.
By registering different conditions in advance of the shooting, users can change white balance conditions quickly.

19. Expand EVF / LCD displaying types in manual exposure mode
In manual exposure mode, the EVF / LCD are displayed with previewing set shooting conditions.
To display, along with a mode of ignoring exposure condition, users will be able to select a mode of ignoring white balance condition.

The update will let users expand variations of external flash photography especially with modeling lights of different color temperature.

By registering the function to the Fn button, users will be able to change settings in quick operations.

20. AF+MF
“AF+MF” function enables seamless manual focusing. After half pressing the shutter to autofocus on the subject, fine adjustment can then be made using the manual focus ring.

This change should be very helpful in macro, close-up shooting when cameras typically hunt for focus, and also handy in difficult to focus situations, as when light is dim or low in contrast making it difficult for the camera to obtain focus.

21. PC tethered shooting support
New HS-V5 software (optional accessory) allows users to tether and control the camera from the PC and transfer images shot on the camera over to the PC automatically.

Very important upgrade for more exacting, commercial applications.

And what about the other Fuji X-models?

The X-E2, X-Pro1, and X-E1 will receive only some of these improvements, most notably:

1. New Classic Chrome Film Simulation
2. Interval timer shooting
3. Enhanced wireless function for shooting from your smartphone or tablet devices
4. AF+MF

As stated in the annoucement, "Fujifilm is striving to keep the level of technology offered on this model as up to date as possible so that purchasers of X-series cameras will have greater longevity of use."  Although I own the X-T1, I still have, and continue to use, my original X-Pro1. It is one of my favorite cameras. Nice to know Fuji continues to support it with updates. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fuji announces Macro Extension Tubes for the X-mount cameras

Fuji continues to expand the professional abilities of its X-camera series with product and software enhancements coming out before the end of the year.

There are two different tube lengths available the MDEX-11 at 11mm and the MDEX-16 at 16mm, Macro extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the camera body and increase the distance between the lens elements and the sensor enabling users to focus on subjects much closer to the camera.

A chief advantage of using dedicated extension tubes is that they have pin contacts to pass information between the camera and the working lens. This means being able to use auto-focus and transmit aperture info to the camera while the tube is attached.

On the plus side, extension tubes have no optical elements to interfere with the optical quality of the original taking lens. On the minus side, the extra extension will increase the exposure somewhat. Expect about a 25% loss in shutter speed with the 16mm tube attached.

The chart below shows the magnification changes possible with each extension tube:

The sample images below illustrate what this means in practical terms using the XF35mm lens alone and with each extension tube.

Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens

Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens plus 10mm extension tube

Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens plus 16mm extension tube
Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens with both 11mm and 16mm extension tubes
Extension tubes can also be used in tandem for even greater magnification. Used together the 11mm and 16mm would be a 27mm extension. 

For comparison here is what a 1:1 Zeiss Touit 50mm macro looks like:

Zeiss Touit 50mm Macro

And just for fun, here is what that same macro looks like with both the 11mm and 16mm extension tubes attached:

Zeiss Touit 50mm Macro with both 11mm & 16mm extension tubes
The MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 will be available for $99.95 around mid-December. A similar set made in China by Folga is available for immediate delivery for $49.95 on Amazon.

A similar set, the Fotasy FXME Auto Focus Marco Extension Tube 10mm 16mm 26mm for Fujifilm X Mount, is also available on Amazon for only $35.95.

I am probably not going out on a limb by expecting the Fuji product to be made to a higher standard of precision. Then again, at a much higher price. 

Chasing light and shadow with the Fuji X- T1

It happened quickly. A bright, cloudless day.  Low on the autumn horizon the sun's late, golden afternoon rays ricochet off the city windows and find a path into my apartment. I search for a way to capture the fleeting light and settle in on some old globes I have that can be quickly placed to intercept it.

I always have the Fuji X-T1 conveniently nearby. Grabbing it and mounting the Zeiss 50mm macro lens on it, I took the following photos, all at an aperture of f/2.8.

Photography is all about chasing light and shadow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camera RAW 8.7 for Photoshop and Lightroom 5.7 are available

The final version 8.7 of Camera RAW for Photoshop and Lightroom 5.7 are now available for download. For Nikon these versions include support for the Nikon D750, and 20mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens. For Fuji support is now available for the Fuji X100T, X-T1 Graphite Silver, and X-30 cameras. support is also included for the Leica M-P.

If you have been waiting to try the new Classic Chrome camera profile for your Fuji X-camera, it is now part of this version of Camera RAW.

This sample shows the difference between processing a Fuji X-T1 image in Classic Chrome (on the left) and Provia/Standard (on the right). Download larger version of these files by clicking here for Classic Chrome and here for Provia Standard.

You can update Camera RAW directly from Photoshop by clicking on the Help menu --> Updates, or download it directly from one of the links below:

Camera RAW plus DNG converter for Windows can be downloaded here.
Lightroom 5.7 for Windows can be downloaded here.

Camera RAW plus DNG converter for MAC can be downloaded here.
Lightroom 5.7 for MAC can be downloaded here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rainy night, New York

Pitch black, middle of the night, raining, and the sky soaks up the late lights of the city. I grabbed these two shots of the Empire State Building silhouetted against the lighter rain clouds and the Chrysler Building peaking out from behind an apartment building. Both were taken with the Fuji X-T1, 18-135mm zoom, a 1.2 second exposure at ISO 400. Only a few people see the city at this late hour. It truly is the city that never sleeps.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Late autumn leaves photographed with a Fuji X-camera

It is that time of year again where I pay homage to Thoreau. He wrote an essay entitled, "Autumnal Tints" in which he talks about walking through the woods in late autumn after the all the leaves have fallen and the brilliant colors of the season have faded, and begin to shrivel up into brittle brown arthritic shapes. Thoreau saw their final stage of life for its sculptural beauty and wished that humans could learn to pass their final years with such dignity.

I began photographing this series over twenty years ago and have continued every year since. In the beginning I was photographing the leaves on film with a Hasselblad 500C. Today I am using what I sometimes refer to as my new Hasselblad, a Fuji X-camera. A Fuji X-camera allows me to see the image in black & white and square, very similar to the Hasselblad, and I find that the results of the Fuji camera -- in this case an X-T1 with a Zeiss Touit 50mm macro lens-- have a film quality to them very reminiscent of what I achieved with my old Hasselblad.

Thoreau finalized his essay on the final passage of autumn leaves in 1862 as he lay dying from tuberculosis. If you care to read the inspiration for this annual photographic event, here it is:

"It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! how gently lay themselves down and turn to mould!--painted of a thousand hues, and fit to make the beds of us living. So they troop to their last resting place, light and frisky. They put on no weeds, but merrily they go scampering over the earth, selecting the spot, choosing a lot, ordering no iron fence, whispering all through the woods about it,--some choosing the spot where the bodies of men are mouldering beneath, and meeting them half-way. How many flutterings before they rest quietly in their graves! They that soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again, and are laid low, resigned to lie and decay at the foot of the tree, and afford nourishment to new generations of their kind, as well as to flutter on high! They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as gracefully and as ripe,--with such an Indian-summer serenity will shed their bodies, as they do their hair and nails."