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Fuji X100 ~ Review: A Love Returned, Nostalgia Reclaimed

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Fuji X100 Review


I really only want to write once about the amazing Fuji X100. I will satisfy that intention by approaching it from two aspects:

  • As somebody who recently moved from an SLR system; replacing his setup with just the Fuji X100 (most of the technical comparisons are against my previous Canon equipment, some might consider this the wrong approach as the Fuji X100 isn’t an SLR replacement, but it is what it is).
  • As somebody who wanted to get back to the simplicity and joy of using a rangefinder camera (this was after having previously flirted with a number of them over the years, in particular a pair of Contax G2’s).

Image by Flickr User Nokton

So you’re reading this, there is no doubt you’re already well informed about the Fuji X100. Especially if you have been a regular reader of this blog. I’ve posted so much news, reviews and general information about the Fuji X100. I’ll dispense with in-depth tests, image results, pixel peeping and weighty comparisons. You will have read them elsewhere. I’ll re-post some of the links if I feel I can’t add anything to what has already been published.

As we all know, the excitement started in September 2010 at the Photokina Trade show. When I first saw the X100, I thought it could give back to me a bit of my nostalgia for handling a film camera, while at the same time I also thought, finally this is what many photographers have been asking for; a digital sensor wrapped around the beauty and character of a rangefinder camera.

Image by Flickr User Tingan Bow

It didn’t surprise me that it would be Fuji who were bringing a digital rangefinder to market. Fujifilm were always a little different with their innovations, releasing cameras now and again that were a bit odd; making us sit up and think for a moment. They did it with the GF670 (medium format film camera) and the Fuji W1 (a 3-D camera).

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Fuji X100 ~ Weekly Round Up 2

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Yesterday I placed my order for the Fuji X100. I’ve also ordered what some reckon should be included with the camera; the lens hood. Yes, if you didn’t already know, the lens hood or ring adapter isn’t included. Anyway, I have a 2-3 week wait on my hands. I ordered through Calumetphoto. Delivery is only £7 and Calumet are an official Fuji dealer but sell it for £899 like Amazon UK.

Anyway, with the amount of photography I’m waiting to do with this thing, I can’t wait. :-)

Until then, I’ve been doing some light reading and research with a collection of reviews, discussions and equipment alternatives to share with you all.

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Sigma 24-70 f2.8 HSM Part 1 (Introduction)

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For some photographers, only Canon glass will suffice, 3rd party lenses will never be a consideration. But Canon gears requires huge investment. Of course, there are other options for those photographers on a budget. Third party companies such as Sigma, Tokina and Tamron to name a few, offer lenses with similar features and capabilities. Though these alternatives are regularly updated and refined, some of these lenses are known for being heavier, louder and maybe not as well polished as the Canon version.

Perception of Performance

Have you heard the story about the back focusing problems with that Sigma lens, it needed to be returned three times by the photographer until he ‘had a good copy’? Yeah I heard that one as well. Maybe it is a true story, but there is a lot of noise online about quality issues with third party lenses. While I’m sure some of of these problems exist, the Internet has a habit of magnifying negative news over the positive. Canon isn’t perfect, but there isn’t the same kind of quality issues associated with buying Canon. Third Party manufactures still have a steeper hill (in terms of reliability) to climb in order to convince customers to buy their lens.

That aside, I needed a new lens and I couldn’t afford to buy Canon, I’m surrounded by other Canon shooters, it’s all too easy to stick with what you’re comfortable with. Having owned a previous version of the 24-70mm L by Canon, I was on the hunt for another and I always bought a pre-owned lens rather than paying full price. This time I couldn’t even afford second hand. Instead I bought the new Sigma HSM 24-70 f2.8. It was 25% cheaper than a second hand Canon 24-70mm L! Being a student forced me to consider the Sigma as an option, would I regret it?

In Part One. I want to introduce you to both lenses, illustrate their differences and in the following parts of the review, go over those silly old technical things such as image sharpness, bokeh, vignetting, and depth of field. I’ll also throw in Canon’s 24mm f1.4 L prime for some of the testing just for fun.

Hardware Compared

It’s use is legendary, a number of photojournalists have one in their camera bags. Christopher Morris from VII Photo, regularly uses one, as does James Nachtwey, Anne Lebowitz, Lauren Greenfield and Brent Stirton. It’s reputation is therefore well known in the pro photo world. Canon have updated this lens once before, the mark one (mk1) version use to be 28mm on the widest end. The mk2 which I’m reviewing here has better optics, updated lens coating, better weather sealing and improved autofocus mechanism. If you want a review and discussion of the first and second iterations of this lens then click here, here, here and here.

No illuminating introduction towards Sigma’s alternative because it’s so new to the market. Nobody famous can be linked to it, giving it the same sense of credibility as the Canon. Also a second version, with a review of the first one found here. I have used the previous copy myself and it is noisy, slow to focus and larger than the new version. It was about as large as the Canon 24-70 L lens I’m reviewing here.

The newer version is also improved; a complete redesign with new HSM focusing mechanism, faster, smaller, lighter. Here are comparison pictures before you read the following parts!**

Canon 24mm (left), Sigma 24-70 (centre), Canon 24-70 (right)

As you can see in this first picture, the Sigma is much smaller than the Canon version. Almost as small as Canon’s 24mm prime lens when retracted.

Sigma (left), Canon (right)

At this point it has to be mentioned that when both lenses are retracted, the Sigma is at the 24mm end while the Canon is at 70mm. The Canon differs because it’s designed (when used with the lens hood) to cover all its focal lengths in exactly the same amount from flaring. That is how I understand it so please correct me if I’m wrong. With the lens hoods attached, the lens doesn’t grow or shrink. The lens stays the same length within the Hood, the Sigma extends like any other lens would as the following pictures demonstrate. Both lenses twist in opposite ways. When twisting, (selecting the focal length) I find the Sigma has a little more resistance to it than Canon’s.

Hoods attached, lenses retracted.

Hoods attached, lenses extended.

Both lenses extended, without hoods.

Just the hoods.


Hoods attached.

The Sigma is immediately more portable, it’s lens hood is tiny compared to the Canon and the Sigma doesn’t curve outward making the whole barrel of the lens bigger than what it actually is.

Attached to a Canon Body.

Included in this introduction are some pictures which show the sizes of the lenses attached to Canon’s pro bodies, luckily I have two of them for the comparison shots.

Tidbits worth mentioning.

Focus selection button.

At this point I will say I prefer Sigma’s focus button, though not as sleek as the Canon, it does stick out more and I find I can safely switch between modes without taking my eye off the view finder to make sure it is doing as it’s told. The Sigma version sticks out a bit more and is bigger.

The slider while more refined, it is a little more difficult to operate.

Bigger, uglier but easier to operate.

Used with a Rayflash Ringflash.

I regularly use the Rayflash Ringflash, one thing I noticed is the I can fit the Rayflash over the Sigma lens with ease due to its size. Not so with the Canon because of its lens hood. In order to get it onto the camera I have to take that hood off. I’m not blaming Canon, but this has cropped up during use and I thought it might be of interest. You could say don’t use the hood but unless you want the ring flash to distort your images its required when used.  The manual focus ring is also partially obscured during use.

Ray Flash with Canon 24-70.

The Rayflash fits over and around the barrel of the lens.

You have to remove the hood to get the Rayflash off.

Ray Flash with Sigma 24-70

But everything isn’t perfect with the Sigma either, it too has a problem coupled with the Ray Flash. When retracting the lens, the hood will catch on the Ray Flash. Some adjustment is required  to get the lens back in. The manual focus ring is also partially obscured, but it is a small thing.

Sigma with Ray Flash

Lens Cap

Just one small last thing, I like how the Sigma lens cap is easier to remove because of its different design. It’s easier to get the Sigma cap off because the grips are on the front of the lens cap and it doesn’t interfere with the lens hood. Not true with the Canon, sometimes it’s quite hard to get the cap off if the hood is attached. I tend to remove the lens hood because I can’t always take the lens off with the hood attached.


A conclusion already?  Yes, just a small one, to concentrate primarily on the physical attributes of each lens.

I prefer the weight and the smaller size of the Sigma along with the little touches such as the focus selector and the lens cap. A Canon pro body with a Canon 24-70 (950g) is a heavy thing to hold for 6 hours a day. The Sigma (790g) doesn’t bother me so much. Yes, 160grams makes a difference to me. The Canon is weather sealed when coupled with a 1D series body, the Sigma won’t be.  I’m sure adding weather sealing would have upped the cost and weight of the lens. It might be a deal breaker for some. It’s also a reason why the AF mechanism is uglier than the Canon one. Canon’s is further integrated into the body so there is less chance of letting the elements in.

I’ve also little about the HSM and USM focusing systems until now. Having used the Sigma regularly I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference in speed or suffered with the focusing. I would say it’s the same as the Canon version so well done to Sigma, because not only do I feel I’m not missing the USM focusing, it is also huge improvement over the older type of focusing the previous 24-70 employed. I don’t have the means to test the speed of both focusing systems, you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m entirely satisfied with its performance.

I had more issues with focusing on the 5D than I did with my 1Ds. I had more focusing issues when I used the 5D with the Canon 24-70. The type of body you use is important and probably why I don’t notice anything when either lens is being used with my Canon 1Ds mk2.

*At the time of writing, UK prices stand at Canon’s zoom lens being £800 and £1400 respectively while the Sigma version can be found for £600.

** The HSM stands for Hypersonic motor, much like Canon’s USM version which is uses a Ultrasonic motor.

The Canon 50D

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Bah, we all know that we want the low down on a 5D mark2 of full frame goodness!  (Only because I want the low down on Canon’s next full frame sensor :)).  Canon know how to annoy their followers, those who bought the 40D could feel bummed about an update coming out already and the legion of Canon fans want their Nikon D700 nemesis announced!  

Instead we get nothing.  Canon are playing their cards close to their chest and I guess Photokina is when they are going to release something about it. Notice the lack of plausible rumours for a 5D mk2?  The 50D rumours have been flying around for a while and they were pretty spot on.  Yet nothing, not a whisper for the 5D replacement.  Scary.

At least we know the specs of the 5D mk2 are going to be higher than the 50D.

Written by jonathanjk

August 26, 2008 at 09:21

Panasonic Lumix/Leica 25mm f1.4 (Part 1)

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First impressions and quick comparisons

First off you can get a sense of the quality, simply by holding it. It’s heavy but not too tiring to handle; it’s actually lighter than the 12-60mm Zuiko lens, the construction is solid. My doubts with spending £558/$1116 were cleared as I fastened it to my camera. I bagged this lens on eBay from a very reliable seller, the seller can be found here. The technical specs of these lenses can be found in the links I’ve provided which I’m not going to go into here, I’m simply going to show test images for other peoples benefit as there is a lot of talk about.

The Panasonic Lumix/Leica lens was something I was after ever since I got hold of the Olympus E420, I always want to keep noise down as much as possible by staying away from high ISO. I love my fast primes; I’ve owned the Canon EF 50 f1.4mm in the past and the Canon 50mm FD f1.2mm, these are also great lenses to own. I could have got the Olympus pancake lens but I wanted something faster than f2.8, that for a prime is kinda poor, granted it is a very small lens.

For Bokeh there would be no comparison either :).

In this first part, I’m offering a size comparison between these two lenses and including a Sekonic light meter to help with scale incase you haven’t seen either lens first hand, I hope this helps?

Pictured below are the two lenses. Notice how much extra in length the Panasonic/Leica is, simply with the addition of the lens hood. With the hood down it is shorter but it reminds me of Dark Helmet (also oversized) from Space Balls, the lens itself is quite big but with it attached to my camera, it is still compact for an SLR. It’s much smaller and lighter compared to my 5D with the 50mm lens attached as well.


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