Monday, January 26, 2015

Fuji X100S for Family Photos? A Candid Assessment

The Fuji X100S has been out for a while and there are already plenty of reviews for it.  Instead of being a general review, this user review will focus on the X100s' suitability for family and candid photos.  I will first discuss how a 35mm* lens is useful for candid shots.  Next, I will discuss how the X100S is different from other 35mm lens/camera combinations.  I will then discuss how the X100S performs.  Of particular concern is whether it can capture fast-moving subjects (e.g. kids and pets).  Lastly, I will also list some possible alternatives for those who are interested in this camera.

*By "35mm" I mean a lens and camera combination that has the same field of view as a 35mm lens on a full frame 35mm (36x24mm) sensor.

Yes, that's a shot of my daughter on a swing.  But you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that the X100S is good for candid action shots.  Because the truth is that capturing fast action on the X100S is possible but only under some circumstances.

Note: unless otherwise noted, the sample shots here were taken in raw, then converted in Lightroom, with minimal adjustments.  Shots of the X100S itself were taken with the Stylus 1.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How Does It Feel To Find Your Work Stolen?

I've read several posts for a few famous photographers/bloggers who found their images used without permission on other webpages. I sympathized with the cause, but I never knew how it felt ... until yesterday.
A friend of mine pointed me to a link on facebook, and I found the following:
The stolen photo
As you can see, the page owners STOLE my image from my 5D Mark II first impressions post, and used it to advertise for ... guess what ... a photography course. The astonishing thing for me is that I felt quite furious. I didn't think I'd be bothered that much, especially with a "small fry" page like this one, not that I am an important person or anything, but I did.
Anyway, I posted the comment you see above and sent it in a message, but I got no response. So today I filed an IP infrigment claim through facebook, and will wait and see what happens. I might as well give them a call.
The funny thing is that when I visited, I found that they state at the bottom of the page that "All copyrights are reserved - Graphics Academy 2014". So it seems at least they know of something called copyright ... at least their webpage designer does. I wonder if they teach people how to steal others' work. We'll see how it goes.
The copyright statement at the bottom right on their webpage

Monday, January 19, 2015

Vintage Mercedes Sewing Machine

Today I want to show you a few pictures for a vintage sewing machine that was gifted to my wife. I was fascinated when I saw this machine, with all the beautiful artwork and colors, that I quickly decided to shoot a few quality pictures. My online search for such machine returned very few results, with mediocre quality pictures at best. It also looks more like a piece of artwork than the other industrial-looking sewing machines. Click through to watch the other pictures.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Olympus Upgrades Your Stylus 1 to a Stylus 1S* for Free!

Reciprocity.  Stylus 1

At the end of October, Olympus released a Japan-only successor to the Stylus 1 (reviewed here and here) called the Stylus 1S.  In terms of hardware, the Stylus 1S was almost identical to the Stylus 1, differing only by the grip texture.  However, the Stylus 1S had several improvements in its software, including a step zoom that addressed one of my chief annoyances with the otherwise capable Stylus 1.
Today, Olympus announced a major firmware upgrade for the Stylus 1.  The firmware upgrade gives the Stylus 1 the same functionality as the Stylus 1S*, including:
  • the focal length now shows the 35mm equivalent focal length instead of the silly zoom magnification (WOOHOOOOO!!!!).  Alternatively, you can display the actual focal length (e.g. 6mm at the widest), or stay with the zoom magnification.
  • a 9-step zoom to switch between popular focal lengths (YES!!!!).  The focal lengths for the step zoom are: 28, 35, 50, 70, 85, 100, 135, 200, 300.  Note that the Stylus 1 has two zoom levers: the one near the shutter and the other one on the side of the lens.  You can choose to assign the step zoom to one or the other or both.
  • focus peaking for manual focus (Awesome!)
  • a smaller AF point is now available for more precise focusing
  • interval shooting (potentially useful also for family portraits...)
  • time lapse mode
  • compatibility with a new wide angle converter (WCON-08X) that gives the Stylus 1 a 22.4mm equivalent focal length at its widest setting, still at f/2.8.
  • compatibility with the O.I.Share app v. 2.5 (for remote shutter release via your smartphone's wifi)

*no free grip though. :)

These are seemingly small but very useful improvements to an already good camera.  You can update the firmware through the Digital Camera Updater.  Thanks for listening to your users, Olympus!!!

CAUTION: updating the firmware will delete all your custom settings (similar to resetting it to factory defaults).

I shot with the Stylus 1 quite a bit lately and will be posting about those shots soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: MFT Adapted Canon FL 55mm f/1.2

Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 on my E-M1

How many f/1.2 or faster portrait lenses can you get for MFT? If we're talking about lenses available with a MFT mount, then these are the ones I know about:

  • Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 - $1,500: the best you can get, the sharpest lens of all at f/1.2, auto focus, gorgeous bokeh, and the most expensive, large and heavy.
  • Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 - $1,000: an even faster aperture, manual everything, not as sharp as the Nocticron, but able to produce some spectacular results, large and heavy.
  • ZY Optics Mitakon 42.5mm f/1.2 - $400: lowest price, manual everything as well, smaller than the others, wide-open performance is not that bad according to this review.

But what if you don't want to pay that much to get f/1.2? That's what we'll talk about today.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Parrot Teleprompter Funded!

The Parrot teleprompter allows you to use your smartphone as a teleprompter for your DSLR, interchangeable lens camera, or almost any camera with a lens that can take a filter.  Unlike some teleprompter kits that place your smartphone beside the lens, this one uses a beam splitter to display the text in front of the lens just like professional teleprompters, so that your subject can maintain eye contact with the camera, while the text is invisible to the camera.

This teleprompter could be useful not just for shooting home videos, documentaries or school projects, but may also be good for taking photos of babies and young kids -- you can show pictures or movies on your phone to get them to look at the camera. :D
It's available for preorder through Kickstarter for delivery in May (free shipping anywhere).  With 6 days to go, the project is fully funded and has even reached its stretch goal of $50,000, which means they will include the teleprompter app for free.  If they reach $65,000 they will include a remote (to pause or adjust the playback speed) for free. 
The Parrot will retail for $150 but is available for preorder for $100 (with one lens adapter of your choice) or $90 (with no lens adapter).  It's not very cheap but it is quite reasonable compared to other teleprompter kits that are currently on the market.  A DIY alternative is a teleprompter mirror (beam splitter) which currently costs $70 shipped on eBay, and is made of glass so it's more fragile.  I preordered the $90 version and ordered adapters separately on eBay.  If you order the adapter separately you'll need to find one that adapts your lens to the 77mm filter thread of the Parrot.
Note: Please note that I'm not affiliated with Kickstarter or the project creator, and I ordered one with my own money and at my own risk. This is a Kickstarter project which means there is no guarantee that the product will be produced.  The creator guaranteed that the product will ship in May and has offered a refund if the project is delayed (a unique guarantee for Kickstarter projects).  But ultimately, backers simply are trusting the project creator.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Family Portrait Walkthrough

We recently did a family portrait.  In this post, I'll go through the process of how I took the shot.