Ode to the iPhone

“The best camera is the one you have with you” — Chase Jarvis

For a long time I disliked point and shoot cameras in the era of film. Often clunky to use, poor performance or quality, this dislike trumped the reason to have them: not missing a shot. I probably missed a lot. Still, I bought an Olympus mju-2 (aka Stylus Epic) to have something in my pocket. This is a film camera, one that was the best compromise, one I could shoot slide film with, and that had a fast prime sharp 35mm f2.8 lens. This was before cell-phone had cameras.

Cell-phone cameras where horrible for a while. My Motorola clamshell phone camera was awful. This was before the original iPhone, which was the first to actually gather interest as being, at the time, decent. I didn’t get one.

In 2010, I got a Nexus One, liked the phone as a communication device, had a camera with nothing to rave about. I started using Instagram which had been released for Android. Then in 2012, I got a Samsung Galaxy Note (long story short, I won it): better camera, hated the phablet and the software. Still using Instagram. Later, in late 2013, I upgraded to the Nexus 4. Better camera, using it more, still posting Instagram. But it didn’t come close to the older 2012 iPhone 4S that my partner used. Each time I used it I fell it was so much nicer.

Taken with the Nexus 4, processed in Instagram:
Last Sunday. Habitat 67.

Later on, I got a Sony Xperia Z3c. I had a nice camera, but due to the reason I had this device I didn’t have the proper software than made the camera better. Distortion, lesser ISO performance, this made it unsatisfying, even if as is it was better than the Nexus 4.

As you can see the Sony Xperia Z3c camera has a visible pincushion:
In Montreal you have wine cellars in the subway.

Looking for a proper replacement communication device, and not considering an Android that wasn’t Google, I got an iPhone SE. It was cheaper than the Google flagship Pixel.

Why do I love it?

Like any other phone, I always have it on me. It is in my pocket, on my desk, etc. This camera, has great software: it is pleasant to use and generate good quality pictures. Better than any previous phones I have had. Quality and user experience is what make it shine ; it is a camera that is more reactive.

In 2016 I spend most of the year, commuting to work, not carrying a camera but my phone. I took few pictures with it, despite plenty of opportunities.

In April 2017, I went for two weeks to Cologne in Germany. I did lug my photo back pack with the Fuji X-Pro1 and three lenses. I ended up using the iPhone mostly to take snaps, when previously I would have used the bigger camera, I even used it to take some moves and timelapses. I used the Fuji on a few walkabout and even then I used the iPhone as a second camera, more often than before. And I felt that my yield of keepers is higher with this phone than ever. And I end up using Instagram more.

Head down

This iPhone beats hand down lots of compact cameras: quality, reactivity, lens.

Same subject, day, night. iPhone SE processed in Instagram:
To the platforms
To platform 4

Making movies

Today every camera can do movies. 1080p is the “standard”, 4k is one that few reach. Canon needs expensive DSLR for that. But the iPhone, it can do it. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel the need for 4k, but two things: 4k is where things are at right now, and 4k allow zooming for a 1080p output, which is what most people will target anyway.

The iPhone has incredible quality for a small camera. It can do slo-mo, time lapse, shoot 1080p at either 30 or 60fps, 4k at 30fps, slo-mo 1080p at 120fps, 240fps if you go down to 720p. In short, you have choice. Even with the front facing camera, which makes it practical for vlogging.

Last but not least, it comes with iMovie. “Shot, edited and upoaded on iPhone”. That’s right you have all the workflow in one device.

This is not to say an Android phone could be as good. Just that so far the one I had weren’t and, and as a communication device they get
obsoleted too quickly. Even the Pixel, that dollar for dollar, cost as much as an iPhone 7.

Smartphone have clearly evolved as a photographic and movie making tool. They are capable of doing things no one expected a few years ago. And they are clearly eating into the compact camera market.

Needle in the sky

And now the conclusion

The iPhone SE really made me tilt over using the smartphone as a photographic tool more often. I felt successfully creative with it. Not that it is a big innovation, it is just that as a whole it works better. Gear doesn’t make the photographer, but gear that you are not comfortable with (that frustrate your) is ultimately hindering your process. Ultimately I will not abandon my other cameras, but I’ll be more inclined to leave it home for circumstances where I believe the iPhone will work.

Leica M10

Once upon a time, there was the Leica M8. Then there was the M9. Then Leica called them M, with some obscure “Typ” number next to it. Now the new M-series is the Leica M10. At least that’s logic.

The Leica M10 is the latest installment of the Leica legendary rangefinder camera, digital, using M-mount lenses. Still pricey, still high-end, still with its own style.

Key features:

  • 24 MPix sensor
  • Built-in wifi
  • Revised menu system
  • No video mode
  • Slimmer than the M Typ 240

Yes they removed the video mode that was on the M Typ 240. Another new things: Leica added a control wheel for ISO were the film rewind would (there was nothing on the previous digital M). Also, the preliminary tests show a sharp increase of the image quality.

Pentax K-1 full frame DSLR

FINALLY, Pentax (Ricoh) announce a full frame DSLR.

Petapixel announcement:

Pentax is finally in the full frame DSLR game. Ricoh today announced the new Pentax K-1, a camera that it claims “offers innovations not available in any other DSLR.”

Not sure about the “first in a DSLR” gimmicks though, nothing ground breaking from this camera except that it takes K-Mount — a decade later. As mentioned on twitter by @lamlux, the innovation is HDR on knob….

WEX photographic hands-on review:

On paper, the K-1 continues the long-held Pentax tradition of delivering an excellent and well-rounded feature set at a reasonable price – very reasonable when you consider the asking prices of similar models at launch.

We’ll see.

Craig Mod reviews the Leica Q

In 2010, Craig Mod wrote the GF1 field test — 16 Days in the Himalayas, a very compelling essay advocating Micro4/3 cameras, with the Panasonic GF1 and the 20mm f1.7. And what a gorgeous location. Later in November he wrote Seeing prime, an essay reviewing the Lumix 14mm f.2.5 and photography with a prime lens.

The in December 2013, not necessarily and change of heart but more like evidence of the shift of the whole industry Cameras, Goodbye where the iPhone quality reach the one of bigger cameras that don’t have the online features — something that the author found important. A testimonial about camera phones, with the iPhone spearheading, taking over the compact camera market.

Then come his essay The Leica Q where he took the Leica Q on a field test for six month:

I now understand the limitations of this photographic instrument, of which there are few. And I trust and enjoy it more than any other camera I’ve owned.

Yes, even more than my iPhone.

Read the whole essay — six month of use in the field is quite long enough to have a definitive opinion. It feels that Leica managed to make an attractive camera priced not too insanely above of the Sony RX1 (+ EVF to compare). This echoes quite well the early reviews back in June.

Digitizing negatives

David Lam show us his rig for digitizing negative using a digital camera and explain the rational behind his choices.

Back in June, Petapixel had an article about DIY film scanning with LEGO and an iPhone, an interesting alternative approach.

At a time where film scanners are mostly things of the past – where the new models are a niche segment in which flatbed scanners reach the quality that the traditional film scanner used to have, where the old models are abandoned by their vendor whose software was so mediocre that it doesn’t run on modern PCs and where the high quality machines are so expensive, it feels like the best way is to actually use these digitizing devices called digital camera that are quite common. Everything is in the setup.

Fuji X-Pro 2 and 5 years of Fuji X

Fuji has been celebrating the 5 years of Fuji X, a line they started with the release of the Fujifilm X-100.

Yesterday, Fujifilm officially announced the X-Pro2, the successor of the X-Pro1 that was released in April 2012 and boostrapped the Fuji X-system and introduced the X-Trans sensor. I bought the X-Pro1 sight unseen and didn’t regret it, despite its flaws and quirks.

The X-system has since evolved, between the X-E bodies (cheaper X-Pro1) and X-T (improved EVF only bodies) and the range if new high quality lenses, into a really high quality mirrorless photographic system. Fujifilm has followed-up from customer feedback and managed to provide serious improvements for the various through firmware updates for the existing model — something we have yet to see from most of the competition. And it is happening again with the X-E2 getting improvement from X-E2s.

The X-Pro2

I don’t have the privilege to have access to this camera, so don’t treat this article as a review.

The short version of the X-Pro2 vs the X-Pro1, it is a bit more of everything. More pixels, more speed, more AF focus points, more manual controls, more shutter speed, more exposure compensation, etc.

The various improvements are, without specific order:

  • 24 Mega pixels X-Trans (vs 16 on the X-Pro1)
  • The same hybrid viewfinder improvements than the one found on the X-100T
  • More AF focus point – with phase detection AF
  • Faster shutter speed (1/8000) and fast flash sync (1/250) with the new focal-plan shutter
  • Mechanical dial for the ISO
  • ±3 stops exposure compensation on the dial and up to ±5 in C mode with electronic controls
  • Front selection wheel and improved grip
  • Diopter for the viewfinder
  • 2 SD-cards slots
  • More precise battery meter (but quid of the battery life)
  • Built-in wifi with remote control
  • More film simulation modes
  • Weather sealing

The expected price of USD$1700 is in the same range as the original X-Pro1 and to be available in February 2016.

Let’s see what is being reported elsewhere:

I still have questions. A major one is about the battery life. Since the X-Pro2 uses the same NP-W126 batteries, I’m not sure if it will not plagued by the same problem. I have trouble filling up a 16GB card in RAW with only 4 batteries ; so imagine with two 32GB cards…. in this dual slot setup. Not that the dual slot is useless, but it is not useful for just extended capacity as you’d end up switching batteries even more.
Update: Garrett told me over twitter that the X-T1 that use the same battery is already much better for battery life. There is hope.

The other question is how long it will take to have RAF support in the various applications, given how much of a joke is the application that come with the camera, at least with the previous ones. If only this was documented…, but I digress.

While it sounds like a good time for me to upgrade, I will wait for the things to settle first.

Other announcements

Also announced, the X-70, a refresh of the X-E2 named X-E2s, a new XF 100-400mm lens and a new flash EF-X500.

The X-E2s is a refreshed, aka slightly improved, version of the X-E2 with better high ISO and a few other software perks, that will also be delivered through a firmware upgrade for the X-E2 users. It is great to see Fujifilm committed into improving existing model with software when it is possible.

  • The X-70 is like a X-100T with a wider angle and slower fixed lens 17.5mm f/2.8 and an EVF a flip LCD screen instead of the hybrid. With the promise of an expensive hot-shoe mounted optical viewfinder. In short a competitor to the Ricoh GR.
  • The XF 100-400mm is a f/4.5-5.6 tele-zoom with weather sealing and optical image stabilizer.
  • The EF-X500 is an auto TTL flash for the X-system to be released in May 2016.

Edit: the X70 doesn’t have an EVF. Edited accordingly. Sorry about that.

Leica Q

Leica announced yesterday the Leica Q (Typ 116). It is their take on the Sony RX1 product segment: full-frame sensor fixed and fast wide angle lens camera, not in the lower price range either. Unlike the Sony, the Leica has a built-in viewfinder ; the 28mm lens is half a stop slower (f1.7 instead of f1.4) and it has a higher price tag. By ~$1k if you factor in the cost of the EVF for the RX1.

Size-wise it is bigger than the RX1 (no EVF) and smaller than the Leica M.

The camera include a fast autofocus system, that can be controlled from the rear touch screen, and proper manual focusing capabilities, as the lens has a know like on the M lenses and the EVF has focus peeking ; this will make rangefinder users happy. And the others will probably like that too.

The camera is “Made in Germany”.

Early reviews:

  • Ming Thein: “I can’t help but wonder if the Q is the harbinger to the end of the M system in its current guise.”
  • Jay Cassario: “…this one stands out and might be the first to end up staying in my bag.”
  • Jonathan Slack: “The Q is a little larger [than the Sony Rx1r], but it seems to be superior in pretty much every other respect”

Note: This is just news and not a review as I haven’t had it in hand.

Fuji X round up

Zack Arias take on the Fuji X-T1: Yep. It’s A Fuji.

Conclusion… I have zero regrets about selling all of my Canon gear and going Fuji. Zero regrets.

I have to admit, I’m not a pro like him, ie I don’t shoot for a living (also I’m less talented), but since I have my X-Pro1 I haven’t used the Canon much nor even lusted on any piece of gear for it.

Last week I have had my hands shortly on the X-T1 and the EVF is absolutely so much better than the X-Pro1. Non-withstanding the other advantages. If only I could try it longer.

Also don’t miss his Mystical Marrakech video (on YouTube) that he did for Fuji: