Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Long Legs & Short LegsWith my ownership of the Fuji X-E1 approaching 6 months, I thought I’d do an update post to let you know what I think now that I’ve had the camera for more than 5 minutes. You can read my original post a few days after purchasing the Fuji X-E1 here.

I’m not regretting it – that’s for sure! That was my biggest worry. Would I miss the features and speed of an SLR?

In a word – No.

It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m able to operate the little Fuji X-E1 with the same speed as my 50D. The only real problem is the issue of using the camera on full manual control (see below). I almost always now set the camera to AUTO ISO 6400, auto shutter speed and control aperture with the aperture ring. I then adjust the exposure using the exposure compensation wheel.

X-E1 vs X-Pro 1

Did I make the right choice? I don’t know for sure and can’t objectively state one way or another. I’ve not missed the OVF and if it’s pouring down outside I’m generally not going out in it for me, never mind my camera! Weather proofing therefore is not something I’ve missed. Locking shutter speed dial and a slightly smaller LCD screen are things I just haven’t noticed missing. I’ve not owned the X-Pro 1 so I can’t tell definitively, but I really cannot seen how the X-Pro 1 would have been a better choice for me.

Manual Control

Right. The problem with this is that the minimum shutter speed as decided by the camera is too slow for my hands. It’s as simple as that. In poor light, the camera will set its minumum shutter which seems to be the reciprocal of the (adjusted) focal length. This is 1/50sec for the 35mm. A simple ability to set the minimum shutter speed in AUTO mode would be of great help. This feature is oft asked for in Fuji forums so I’m not alone in this.

So why am I not shooting in full manual like I did on the Canon? It’s far too fiddly. Aperture is fine on the barrel of the lens. Shutter speed is annoying to change and physically awkward if you’ve got the camera held to your eye. The dial on the camera top is also in full stops which doesn’t give a lot of fine control. You can adjust in 1/3 stop increments, but that uses the controls on the back of the camera. Full manual control also means loss of the Exposure Compensation wheel.

On my 50D, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed were all controlled easily via two thumb wheels that could be set to move in 1/3 stop increments. I could have the camera close to my eye and make 1/3 stop adjustments to either shutter speed or aperture very easily. It’s just not that easy on the Fuji X-E1, and it’s not something I can get used to. I can, however, live with it.

So How Would I Fix This?

In an ideal world, and assuming Fuji techs read this and think I’m awesome…

  • Keep aperture control on the lens barrel. For all lenses, also allow aperture to be controlled by the rear horizontal scroll wheel (like it does for the 27mm)
  • Keep shutter speed where it is, but when it’s set to a non-auto speed, allow the Exp Compensation wheel to adjust the shutter speed in smaller increments, don’t just disable it!
  • Allow the user to set a minumum shutter speed for any lens so that ISO will ramp up to compensate in Auto-ISO mode

This would make full manual shooting far quicker and less cumbersome than it is at the moment. It would also make it more usable in fast moving situations (street photography, events etc)

Other Changes

Other than the difficulties of manual control, the camera is a dream to use. It’s physically a lot smaller than the 50D and beefing this up with a thumb rest and a case that has a built in grip has really helped! I’m toying with the idea of a Sugru modification, but haven’t got round to that yet. The addition of a shiny red soft release has helped my fat fingers find the shutter button more easily too.

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

The whole package is far lighter than my DSLR setup, and for landscape and street work, it’s wonderful. I’m not regretting the loss of all that weight. In terms of user-friendliness, I’ve found the menus more intuitive than my Canon and changing settings and formatting the memory card are a lot quicker.

JPEG vs Raw

I’m not good enough to shoot JPEGs. It’s sad but true. I often need to tweak White Balance or adjust highlights. Having the Raw files often helps with this and is far more forgiving than trying to alter a JPEG. So I’m back to Raw shooting. I did shoot Raw + JPEG for a while but ended up discarding the JPEGs if I needed to adjust in Lightroom. the whole thing became a bit of a faff, so now I just shoot in Raw.

Another downside of shooting Raw is that those wonderful in-camera JPEG presets are lost (unless you shoot Raw+JPEG). On the upside, there is a chap who is working on a whole bunch of Lightroom presets to emulate film. His Filmbot site is here. His plan is to keep these presets Open Source (i.e. Free!) so these could be a good place to start if you’re missing the JPEG presets. Personally I find the Filmbot Velvia emulation to be very different to the in-camera Velvia emulation so I do plan to have a look at creating some LR presets to try and replicate the in-camera modifications, but that’s a job for another day!

The Lenses

The primes (35 & 14) are awesome. I used to own a 10-20mm for my Canon 50D, and did wonder whether just moving to a fixed 14mm would be a problem. It isn’t! I can manage just fine with the single focal length. As to the 35mm, I’ve found that I think  I prefer that focal length (it’s an effective 52mm) as opposed to my old 50mm f1.4 which was effectively 80mm on my old Canon.

I’m also beginning to love the 18-55 too. I tend to have it set on auto aperture to avoid accidents with the aperture ring, which is good, because the 18-55 is my “I don’t-know-what-lens-I-need” lens. For walkabouts it’s fine.

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

I did get annoyed by the lens hood on the 35mm. It doesn’t reverse, it has a tendancy to slip off, and you can’t use a standard lens cap with it. It looks cool though which is why I persevered with it for a while. In the end though, I plumped for a cheap 52mm screw in hood that allows me to use a proper lens cap and doesn’t fall off in a stiff breeze. The cool factor is still there.

The Prom

#2 Daughter's Prom

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm, f1.4, 1/60sec, ISO200

I shot #2 daughter’s prom on a mix of the 35mm and the 18-55. Most of the problems were due to faults between the floor and the shutter button. The Fuji X-E1 isn’t a fast camera for me, and I don’t have steady hands! AUTO ISO was a bit of a let down and caused generally low shutter speeds all around until I set the ISO to a fixed 800 which pushed the shutter speeds in general up. There were a few blurred shots though.

Panic was also a factor, with little time to get the shots off. In all honesty, I don’t think I did as good a job with #2 daughter’s prom as I did with #1 daughter 2 years ago shot on the 50D with a 24-105. However I think that if I were to shoot it today, I’d do a much better job now that I know the nuances of the Fuji X-E1 better. I’d also have shot in Raw which would have meant better results in post processing. The Grandparents were happy with them though so it wasn’t a disaster!

Overall Thoughts Fuji X-E1 vs DSLR

Yep. For me, the change was well worth it. More and more threads are cropping up these days with people asking what it’s like to downsize to the Fuji X system. There is no true answer to this, other than to say that some people (including me) have changed and absolutely not regretted it. I can take just as good a picture on my X-E1 as I ever could on my Canon. And as I said in my other post. I enjoy it far more these days.

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Brent Lane, Crowton

Brent Lane, Crowton. Fuji X-E1 w/35mm f1.4 Lens. Flickr Explored, September 2013

Thanks for reading!

Today’s post is all about trying something a bit different. This Fauve technique I found in a magazine a few years ago is quite cool and can add impact to an image that might not be quite up to par. I’m fairly sure this technique will work on all versions of Photoshop from CS3 up to CS5. I’m not sure about Elements but as it requires Layers, I suspect that it’s Photoshop. Lastly, if you’re just interested in what to click and aren’t interested in the commentary, you can just skip to the list at the end.

So this is what it looks like before and after. It’s not the best image I could find to work with, and if you’re planning on doing this, try it with an image that’s got some big colours, and lots of things going on. The blurring of the technique means that if you have a plain expansive landscape, this won’t add anything. Find an image that has lots of things going on, and also has lots of nice bright colours. If necessary, take the image into Photoshop/LR beforehand and really saturate things similar to what I’ve done with my “before” image above.

Step 1: Find Edges

fauve_step1

 

Begin the process by duplicating your base image (CTRL+J). Click on Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. This should give you a detailed map of all the lines and edges in your shot.

Step 2: Threshold

fauve_step2

 

Add a new Threshold layer to the image. Play the slider back and forth so that you have a reasonable amount of detail in your image. If you find that there’s either too much or too little, you may need to tweak your edge layer. To do this, go back to your “Find Edges” layer (Layer 1 if you haven’t changed anything) and apply an extremely small (1-5px) Gaussian Blur to the layer.

Step 3: The Fauve Bit

fauve_step3

 

You have to do several things here.

1. Highlight your background layer and duplicate it (CTRL+J)

2. Drag it to the top of the layer stack.

3. Change the Blending Mode to “Multiply”

4. Reduce the Opacity to whatever feels right for you. It will depend on the image.

5. Add a Filter>Noise>Median to this multiplied layer. Your aim here is to remove any distinctiveness/definition from the objects within the lines. Your “Edges” layer has provided the definition, the blur here is just putting colour and shape within those lines. The amount of noise you add here is up to you and will depend not only on your preferences but on the px size of the image.

6. (Optional) Use the move tool to shift the colour layer a few pixels up and right (or down & left, or any combination thereof!!)

And that’s about it! Simple!

To recap (and for the tl;dr people!)

– Duplicate your image

– Filter>Stylize>Find Edges

– New Threshold Layer. Adjust to taste. Add blur to Edges layer above if necessary.

– Duplicate Background image again. Move to top of layer stack. Blend mode to Multiply, Opacity reduced to taste (start around 65%)

– Filter>Noise>Median to Multiplied layer. Adjust to taste.

– Move tool to shift the multiplied layer off-centre (start at 3px vert & horizontal)

Playing around with the various sliders is obviously going to garner different results. Here are some I did earlier, and thanks for reading!

Ian.

 

Joy Division, NME Anniversary SpecialIf you’ve seen Twenty Four Hour Party People, then you’ll know that it’s considered that the Sex Pistols’ gig at the Free Trade Hall in 1976 was a key moment in British music history. New Order were there, as well as some other music-to-be legends. If you’ve ever seen that front cover of the NME, then you’ll have seen the work of a photographer-to-be who was also at that gig. His name was Kevin Cummins. I never read the NME – I though it was too pretentious, and all my peers read it, so Sounds was my magazine of choice. I also didn’t properly appreciate art. I was a teenager.

Joy Division were a massive influence in my life, even though I was born a shade too late. I was only just turned 11 when Curtis died in 1980. The album “Closer” though was my teenage anthem album with the haunting ‘Martin Hannett’ drums at the beginning of Atrocity Exhibition hooking me within the first few moments. Music aside though, my only real visual connection to Joy Division has been through the photographs of Kevin Cummins, Bernard Pierre-Wolff, and through the very stylized graphic design of Peter Saville.

This article isn’t about Joy Division though.

Part of doing an A Level in Photography revolves around research. So it was research that drew me to Kevin Cummins’ work. When faced with topics and themes to shoot, it’s easy to begin by looking at the work of big named photographers like Bresson, Adams, Avedon, Erwitt or Parr. Photography is art, and art is all about appreciation. There are rules, guides, recommendations and theories, but at the end of the day it’s all about what you think and/or feel when you look at an image. That’s how it works for me anyway. Do you like to look at it?

Kevin Cummins was really the focus of my first research based project and the photographs in his book are subjectively brilliant. It’s not so much a picture book about Manchester, but more a trip down memory lane for me as a dedicated Peel listener. “This is what life was like”, I tell my daughter as we leaf through black and white images of Hulme in Manchester. When we get to the image of a lad in a crowd, with a can of evo-stick in his hand and a spaced out look, I pause. Another drug of the late 70’s. Glue. I’d forgotten about that. The shot of the Happy Mondays’ Bez later on in the book continues in this vein of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. As Stuart Maconie puts is in his piece speaking about 1986: “Rampant privatisation meant that you couldn’t even rely on a bus to get you out of town, though you could count on the cheap brown heroin coming up and down the West Coast main line to get you out of everything else.

These aren’t just rock photographs. This is a book of social documentary. And it’s not just the “It’s grim up north” crowd that will appreciate it. The book itself through from the mid 70’s to the mid noughties which is a whistlestop tour over 30 years in 380+ pages – it’s a weighty tome, and it’s not all about the pictures. Commentary from the likes of Paul Morely, Stuart Maconie and even John Harris (of Sounds fame!) really add some wrapping to the photographs themselves. Even the Afterword supplied by Tony Wilson, three days prior to his death, has a poignant part in the book.

© Kevin Cummins, William Kent Crescent, Hulme, 1981

Taking the book apart, it’s broken down into four sections. Each section heralded by a writer speaking about that era. The first “Phase” starts at the beginning and covers a time period of late 70’s to early 80’s. Iggy Pop, The Fall, The Buzzcocks, and of course, the iconic Joy Division shots. Wooden floored rehearsal studios, grey concrete housing and overpasses covered in snow. Cummins worked with what he had and looks like he shot exclusively in B&W. As he states in the forward “I rarely shot more than one roll of film. I couldn’t really afford to.” This was “My Manchester”. By the time the mid eighties arrived, I wasn’t fussed for the Smiths or the Happy Mondays. I was 5 years behind everyone else and listening to my extremely thick vinyl copies of “Still” and “Closer” mmixing it up with “Three Imaginary Boys” and the Stranglers’ “No More Heroes”. We’d moved “dahn sahth”. I was no longer a northerner and I was probably more than 5 years behind everyone else…

And that’s where the second “Phase” of the book begins. Covering ground from New Order, through the Smiths, the Mondays and the Stone Roses. In fact the next three “Phases” cover these bands as they age, moving into the “Britpop” 90’s with Oasis lest we forget.

Taking the book as a whole, and leafing through a 30 year career, it’s easy to see how Cummins has progressed and improved as a photographer. It’s also easy to see that he’s not lost his touch on/back stage (or out front!) managing to capture the musicians with some remarkable portraits in undoubtedly difficult shooting conditions. Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain is a real slice of Manchester over the course of three decades. This isn’t a “rock portrait” book, and it isn’t a Manchester promotion. It is what it is. One man’s view through the lens, of a city, as it created what would turn out to be some of the biggest influences on modern music. I’m glad I’ve seen the world through Cummins’ eyes.

Having recently been released in soft cover (I’m fortunate to have a hardback copy) this is an absolute steal for £13 at Amazon (September 2013) and would grace the shelf of any photographer with an interest in music or Manchester.

© Kevin Cummins. Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus @ the Russell Club, Hulme, 1979.

© Kevin Cummins. Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus @ the Russell Club, Hulme, 1979.

 

The smaller the attendance, the bigger the history. There were 12 people at the last supper, half a dozen at Kitty Hawk. Archimedes was on his own in the bath!

Tony Wilson speaking about the Free Trade Hall gig

You can see more of Kevin’s work here or you can have a look at the video below. Be warned though, it contains strong language (it has real live Mancunians in it) and may not be safe for work!

Ian.