The Verge: Fujifilm X-T20 Review: Love, Rekindled

https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/26/16019768/fujifilm-xt20-camera-review-price-release

“… The Fujifilm X-T20 is everything that is good about technology. It’s a throwback to the days of necessarily rugged metal bodies, optical viewfinders, and entirely physical control schemes replete with satisfying clicks and clunks from mechanical switches and dials. But it elevates those laudable aspects of old-timey film cameras with judicious use of modern technology, including an electronic viewfinder, the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor as inside the higher-end Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-T2, and a reliable autofocus system that’s also very amenable to manual adjustment….”

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Great News! Director/Cinematographer Mike Figgis Has Redesigned The Legendary, Innovative Fig Rig Video Camera Rig

Just as I was wondering if we would ever see the likes again of movie director Mike Figgis’ innovative, legendary Fig Rig, welcome news arrives of the Fig Rig’s redesign for more contemporary video camcorders and hybrid cameras courtesy of The Guardian newspaper’s culture webchat with the creator of the Fig Rig himself, Mr Mike Figgis

First version of the Mike Figgis-designed Fig Rig, made for the HD and SD camcorders of the pre-4K DSLR and DSLM digital moviemaking era.

Here is the relevant extract from the webchat:

artmod asks: Do you still use your Fig Rig?

Mike Figgis, 19 June 2017 1:17pm: Good question. I use it all the time. And have spent the last two months redesigning and updating it, based on using a 15-mm bar system, combining it with bits of equipment acquired cheaply from the internet. And it has been a revelation.

I’m using it with a Canon C300 and the new Nikon D5, adding follow focus and a 7-inch monitor and it is working beautifully.
I’m talking to Manfrotto about relaunching it and if not them, would love to find a small British company and stay local.

Great news indeed and I hope that Mr Figgis finds a good new manufacturing and marketing partner for Fig Rig version 3 – Manfrotto made and marketed Fig Rig in its first and second, Sympla, versions – or hashes out a great deal with Manfrotto ensuring that Fig Rig 3 will be affordably priced, well distributed and better marketed than its predecessors.

Although I have not had the pleasure of seeing and trying out a Fig Rig, and one was not available for purchase when I was searching, the short movie above showing Mr Figgis using a Fig Rig version 1 reveals its uniqueness as a camera-supporting solution, one based on the human body and natural human movement in a way foreign to better-known movie camera stabilization solutions such as shoulder-mounts, gimbals, Steadicam and the like.

Mr Figgis shared that he has been using Canon’s Cinema EOS C300 camcorder and Nikon’s D5 DSLR lately and so has based his Fig Rig redesign around them.

It is likely that Fig Rig 3 will function equally well with other mid-sized camcorders and cinema cameras such as Panasonic’s AU-EVA1 Super 35 Handheld Cinema Camera and smaller DSLM cameras such as Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5 Super 16 hybrid with or without camera cages, battery grips, audio or video recorders and the like.

If so, colour me very excited indeed.

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Image Credits:

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

Will Fujifilm Release Its Long-Awaited X-E3 Rangefinder-Style EVF Camera Later in 2017?

Rumour site Fuji Rumors is one of the more interesting sites of its type on the Web alongside sister rumour sites 4/3 Rumors, SonyAlpha Rumors, Canon Watch and Mirrorless Rumors. Of the five, I read 4/3 Rumors and Fuji Rumors the most, on a daily basis, and a recent scan of the latter reminded me of how much both mirrorless camera systems I use have in common. 

The article that got me thinking is a rumour about Fujifilm’s X-E3 being announced if not released later in 2017. 

Fuji Rumors recently published an article about the APS-C rangefinder-style EVF camera the Fujifilm X-E3 being announced later in 2017.

Fujifilm’s X-En – with n standing for a number – rangefinder-style camera series is not one that I have seriously considered until recently. I have yet to look at one in a camera store much less try one out with the prime reason being the X-E2 and X-E2S’ sensors remaining at 16.3 million pixels when the X-Pro2 and X-T2 are at 24.3 million pixels.

Although pixel counts as such can be overrated, as the previous decade’s pixel wars proved, the 50% pixel jump from 16MP to 24MP comes in handy when producing images for gallery shows, an indulgence in which I engaged during the analog era and may well revive in digital form sometime soon.

Anything over 20 million pixels

Anything over 20 million pixels is a serious moderately large exhibition print contender in my book and now the GFX 50S and its successors have really captured the mega-high millions pixel end of the market.

Then there is the X-En series’ current lack of a joystick, a feature essential to speedy use of contemporary digital cameras that Panasonic has now adopted for the GH5 and no doubt all its future high-end cameras. The X-Pro2 and X-T2’s joysticks have been a joy to use.

I can’t speak about other possible issues with the X-E2s and X-E2 due to my inexperience with both but the X-En series possesses some clear advantages, most especially its rangefinder-style form factor ensuring easy sighting through its viewfinder with the right eye while keeping the left eye open to observe the wider scene ready for the moment approaching objects, or people, are about to hit their marks.

In this the Fujifilm X-E2S matches the Panasonic Lumix GX8 with its similarly rangefinder-style design, a camera I bought as a more affordable backup for my GH4 than a second GH4, primarily for shooting video.

I quickly discovered that the GX8 is also a terrific stills photography camera with its 20MP sensor, exposure zebras and most especially its brilliant tilting EVF.

Panasonic’s rangefinder-style Micro Four Thirds stills and video camera the Lumix GX8 is one of my favourite cameras for both uses and is unique amongst digital cameras for its tilting EVF.

Zebras, PLEASE!

Every camera, including those made by Fujifilm whether for shooting stills, video or both, must be equipped with zebras for achieving perfect exposure under the ETTR – expose to the right – principle amply explained by Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming at his Leeming LUT One website.

Quite why Fujifilm has not added accurate ETTR capability to its X-Pro2 and X-T2 flagship cameras via exposure zebras remains beyond comprehension.

Zebras-based ETTR on my Panasonic Lumix cameras continues to get me out of sticky stills and video lighting situations where high values burn-out is a very real risk.

I quickly grew to love my Lumix GX8 and when I add a GH5 to my Super 16 documentary moviemaking kit, the GX8 will double as a third 4K camera for three-camera interview set-ups while remaining one of my prime Micro Four Thirds stills cameras.

Panasonic’s MFT cameras should not be underestimated as small, portable, responsive documentary and photojournalism cameras. For me, they are our digital equivalent to analog’s small 35mm hand cameras while delivering image quality equivalent to or surpassing the 120 format in its 6×4.5cm frame size.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 and X-T2 flagships are, in my estimation, our digital answer to 120 format in the 6x9cm frame size with the GFX 50S matching or surpassing 4″x5″ fine grain sheet film in its image quality.

X-E3, the natural stills companion camera for the X-Pro2?

When production of Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success is well underway I will be in need of a second APS-C documentary stills camera and it will, of course be made by Fujifilm. But which one?

The X-T2 is an excellent EVF companion for the X-Pro2, but both remain without exposure zebras even after the latest firmware updates. While the Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder-equipped rangefinder-style X-Pro2 is unique and has a permanent place in my heart due to that, the X-T2 is something of a curate’s egg, mostly very good but a little annoying too, promising but the risk it may not fully deliver on that promise, as outlined by Paul Leeming in his letter to Fujifilm.

Will the rumoured coming Fujifilm X-Tn “super camera” be the DSLR-style Super 35 video/stills technical camera hybrid I would have loved the X-T2 to be? Might the X-E3 be a more affordable wider and longer prime and zoom lens companion for the X-Pro2 which works best with prime lenses in the 18mm to 56mm focal length range?

If Fujifilm grants it some essential professional features then it may well be. At time of writing, the black Fujifilm X-E2S is priced at around AUD739.00/USD699.00 and the black Fujifilm X-T2 at around AUD2199.00/USD1599.00.

An X-E3 with a feature set attractive to professionals and priced in similar ratio to the X-T2 would make it extremely tempting as a back-up or companion rangefinder-style EVF camera.

My Fujifilm X-E3 features wishlist

  • AFC-C custom setting presets – same as the X-Pro2.
  • Hand grip – an essential for all Fujifilm cameras in my experience, and a mystery as to why Fujifilm has not produced one for the X100F.
  • Dials and buttons – situated wholly on the right for consistency with the X-Pro2.
  • ISO/shutter speed dial.
  • Joystick – a must for all future cameras of any brand.
  • Rangefinder style – a given, especially as my default camera design preference is exactly that and not DSLR style. If DSLR-style then such cameras must have fully-articulated monitors while a rangefinder-style camera can do without, though I do like the GX8’s fully articulated rangefinder for video.
  • X-Trans 24.3MP sensor – essential in order to match the X-Pro2’s image quality.
  • Same viewfinder options as the X-T2 – dual, full, normal and vertical, with dual my favourite of them all.
  • Small and light – compared to the X-Pro2, just like the GX8 in relation to the GH4.

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Image Credits

Header image created in Macphun Luminar and Affinity Photo using a Fujifilm press photograph while the two in-body photographs were created in Luminar.

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Is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Poised to Make Waves in the 4K Video World?

Olympus Australia and digiDIRECT held a launch event in Sydney for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds/Super 16 hybrid digital camera recently. I am often asked when I am going to try out and write about various cameras, lenses and accessories of interest to independent digital filmmakers and stills photographers, so the launch was a rare chance to see the OM-D E-M1 Mark II in the flesh, as it were, along with some of Olympus’ reputedly excellent M.Zuiko Pro professional lenses

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I am also often asked for the best advice I can give stills photographers and moviemakers just starting out as well as long-established professionals in both fields. Opportunities to see and try production hardware are few and far between here so my ability to provide that advice is limited by that, but one colleague in particular wanted to know my opinion of the Olympus OM-D cameras and Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional lens series.

He is considering revamping his production kit now that small camera 4K movie production has become an affordable reality and wanted to know which lenses he should buy and what camera system in particular. He prefers primes over zooms but is happy to use zooms when he needs to.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds/Super 16 Hybrid Camera

I did not have an opportunity to try out the OM-D E-M1 Mark II at the event so the best advice I can give is to check out the plethora of product reviews and information available online.

If a review loaner is available sometime soon I will be very keen to put the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s 4K video and other capabilities to the test.

One thing I was told about the OM-D E-M1 Mark II was a standout – it is equipped with a button on the front of the camera that is allocated to custom white balance, crucial when shooting video and yet one that makers of other video-capable hybrid cameras often seem to forget.

The Olympus Micro Four Thirds M.Zuiko Pro Lens Lineup

Left to right, the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional lens lineup as of January 2017, including the 7-14mm f/2.8 wide-angle zoom, 8mm f/1.8 full-frame fisheye, 12-40mm f/2.8 standard zoom, 12-100mm f/4.0 travel zoom, 25mm f/1.2 prime, 40-150mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom and 300mm f/4.0 prime telephoto lens.

For the work my colleague does, a fast 25mm prime lens – equivalent to 50mm in 35mm format – is a mainstay so he wanted to know what I thought of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro especially in combination with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II for shooing video.

My moviemaking colleague has other cameras to which M43 lenses can be attached without adapters, including those made by Blackmagic Design or via adapters such as Digital Bolex‘s D16 CCD sensor global shutter Super 16 cameras. So any new lens purchases need to work with a range of cameras, current and future, mostly in manual mode but with autofocus when advantageous.

He is a documentary cinematographer so matched manual cinema lens sets such as as those made by Veydra are not in consideration, though they certainly would be were he a feature filmmaker or specialized in the sort of pre-planned, focus-pulling style of cinematography that Veydra primes suit perfectly.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro

One of the two most recent M.Zuiko Pro lenses to appear, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro is the second prime lens to join the Olympus professional lens collection.

m25mmf12_stand_mf_rotated_1920px

Although the 25mm focal length, equivalent to 50mm in 35mm format, is not one of my favourite local lengths of all time, 25mm most certainly has its uses when shooting stills and video. It is useful for full-length and half-length portrait photography, covering events conducted in available darkness as this product launch was, and is a much-used focal length in documentary and feature filmmaking.

I like 25mm lenses for face-to-camera interviews, interviewer-and-interviewee two-shots and product shots when I don’t need the immersive deep space feel better suited to extreme wide-angle lenses.

Although slower 25mm lenses have their place especially when breaking into video and stills photography, fast 25mm primes are invaluable when faced with a range of lighting conditions such as the one under which I shot the photograph below.

With aperture set at f/1.2 and my Panasonic Lumix GX8 at A for aperture priority and auto ISO, I manually focussed the lens on the eyes of the Olympus Australia staffer in the centre, allowing everything else in the image to fall into defocus aka bokeh.

One of the unknown pleasures of the GX8 is its clean HDMI-out 4:2:0 8-bit 4K video, non-DCI for sure but great for documentary moviemaking as a lightweight but powerful rangefinder-style camera, a well-kept secret that only filmmakers like Rick Young of Movie Machine seem to appreciate.

Invest in the coming Leeming LUT One for the GX8, set your camera up as recommended, shoot ETTR (expose to the right), apply the LUT in your NLE, rinse and repeat. Do the same for your other cameras. Doubtless a Leeming LUT One for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II will appear soon enough.

One of the several joys of Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro professional lens collection is their clutch manual focus. Draw the focus encoder ring back towards the camera, spin it left and right, watch critical detail snap into focus with focus magnification or focus peaking, then shoot.

Under this focussing system the encoder ring goes from close to infinity in a quarter turn, perfect when focus-pulling or needing to snap from one focussing distance to another and back. Count me as a major fan of this form of manual focussing in contrast to manually focussing via encoder rings that spin and spin and spin.

My colleague tells me he is in the market for a fast wide-angle prime lens in the region of 12mm, and is considering the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Aspheric lens as he is very happy with his Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Aspheric Power OIS lens. I wonder if Olympus is planning on expanding the prime lenses in its M.Zuiko Pro collection soon?

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 Pro

Although I had all bar one M.Zuiko Pro lens on my mental list to try out at the event, that exception being the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro that I have had for a while now, the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.o Pro travel zoom was second on my list.

olympus_m-zuiko_12-100mm_f4-0_pro_lens_1920px

My interest in the travel zoom lens category had been piqued when trying out Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR zoom lens last year. Given the long focal length range travel zooms encompass, there will be compromises in optical correction and the same applies to the lenses’ maximum apertures.

I managed to snap off a couple of frames before the lens was needed the other side of the room, but in the image below one can see a slight amount of optical distortion in the white columns and ceiling.

This barrel distortion can be corrected automatically with in-camera JPEGs – I rarely shoot them as I much prefer shooting raw files only – and in correction-savvy raw processors and image editors.

Optical distortion when shooting video is another matter again though. Optical correction in non-linear editors (NLEs) would be far too processor-intensive and so one must grit one’s teeth and bear it. Hence the curved parallel horizontals and vertical one often sees in television shows.

This lens is in interesting proposition, with its long focal length range, slower maximum aperture than the M.Zuiko Pro collection’s other zoom lenses, relatively small size and low weight for its reach, and Olympus’ very first attempt at in-lens optical image stabilization (OIS).

The OIS in this lens reportedly works in conjunction with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s 5-axis IBIS (in-body image stabilization) though I would prefer to test that out in practice. The big question for Panasonic users is, will this lens’ OIS also work in conjunction with the IBIS in the GH5?

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro

Older than the other two lenses I tried out, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro was also on my wishlist of lens tryouts. Fisheye lenses are a low priority – I have resisted the temptations of the GoPro camera range – but this lens has potential for special situations like time-lapse stills and video in tight, poorly-lit spaces, or extreme close-ups.

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The outstanding feature of this lens is a much higher maximum aperture than other full-frame fisheye lenses of which I am aware, and its good light distribution with lack of noticeable fall-off though I was using it in poor lighting.

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The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro is definitely one to try again in future.

Snapshots from the Event

Conclusions

I managed to achieve two out of three goals that night, briefly trying out the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 Pro zoom lens. My short play with the  Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro was an unplanned bonus.

Other than the  Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro which I already own, I want to give the 7-14mm f/2.8 wide-angle, the 40-150mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom and perhaps the 300mm f/4.0 prime telephoto lenses a go.

The same applies to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, the ostensible star attraction at the event but one which I did not manage to spend enough time with. From its specifications list, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II looks like it is a Super 16 hybrid video camera to be taken very seriously indeed, especially given Olympus has got it right with the small but essential things like custom white balance.

I look forward to learning more about the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s video production features soon. This year is already a very interesting one for 4K video and the question now is which new camera and which range of lenses to consider investing in.

Image Credits

Header image by Carmel D. Morris.

Tech Notes

Colour photographs made with Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera using three Olympus lenses, the M.Zuiko ED 8mm f1/8, 25mm f/1.2 and 12-100mm then processed with ON1 Photo Raw 2017.

Monochrome event photographs made with Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens, then processed with ON1 Photo Raw 2017 using the Bogart Cool preset.

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