Dan Bailey's Adventure Photography BlogPosted on by Dan
I spent last week up in Denali National Park, tromping around in the backcountry and shooting for one of my favorite clients. Each and every time I visit Denali, I’m reminded about how much I absolutely love the place and wonder why I don’t get up there more often. It’s without any doubt one of my favorite places on earth.
I could go on and on about how much I was moved by the magnificence of the wilderness, but that might bore you. Instead, here are some photos of my trip and a few notes that describe this particular trip.
Grizzly bear. Shot from the window of the park bus. So far, I’ve seen a bear every time I go into the park, but this was the closest. I think that the park service could go so far as to guarantee refunds to people who don’t see bears in Denali.
One of the best things about riding the park shuttle busses is looking around and seeing what camera everyone has. I sometimes find myself obsessed with this activity as I try and spot all the Nikons on the bus. Makes me feel good, like I’m part of a team.
On this trip, I kept my eyes open for signs of the elusive D800. Didn’t see any, but I did drool with fond memories over this guy’s well-worn Nikon F5 that was apparently imported from the past. (The F5’s advertising tagline was “imported from the future.”) Mine is sitting in a box back in Colorado.
Anyway, this enthusiastic young fellow, who’s name is Justin, almost missed the bus in his eagerness to go exploring at every stop. He reminded me of someone I know and also reminded me of the time two years ago, when in my own eagerness, I failed to make it back to my bus at the rest stop. It, and all my gear, drove off without me. I got it all back a few hours later.
Clearing clouds, seen from Eilsen visitors center at 8:30 AM. It’s said that weather inside the park is so unpredictable in the summertime. Not so, I think. You can always count on being teased by random bits of sunshine and then given large doses of clouds, rain, fog that play tricks on you and hide the mountains from view.
I was fortunate to see Mt. McKinley on my way into the park, but by the time I got back to Wonder Lake, it had disappeared. My hopes of capturing a classic sunset/sunrise photo of the mountain will have to wait until next time.
Tundra. I love the tundra landscapes in Denali. I could tromp around on the tundra all day long. Hey, wait. That’s just what I did. Three days of exploring soft rolling hillsides, with only the sounds in my ears being wind, rushing water and the occasional spattering of raindrops on my jacket.
Whenever my energy levels dropped, I found sustenance by eating handfuls of these little blue berries. So sweet and delicious, no wonder the bear like them so much! I wonder what they’re actually called.
This one is titled “Caribou tracks and a birch tree that refuses to succumb to the McKinley River.”
Shot this one with the Fujifilm X10. In fact, I used the X10 quite a bit on this trip; I kept it slung around one shoulder with my D700 around the other.
Since the X10 has such great macro capabilities, I often used it for shooting closeups and intimate details of the park.
Also, the image processor on the X10 is so good, I find that photos shot on overcast days need less tweaking in Lightroom than RAW files from my Nikon DSLR bodies. This photo is straight JPEG with absolutly no color or tonal correction.
Changing fireweed. Macro shot made with the X10. Shot in Aperture Priority, straight JPEG mode with no adjustments. I just love the way the X10 renders colors.
Early autumn colors are starting to appear on the tundra. Yes, I know, fall is on the way. Don’t remind me, I’m not ready for summer to be over yet. Another macro image made with the X10.
Evening clearing, or rather partial clearing off in the distance. Seen from my campsite at Wonder Lake.
Dan Bailey's Adventure Photography BlogPosted on by Dan
This weekend I ran support for my wife during her ride on the Soggy Bottom 100, a grueling 100-mile mountain bike race on the Kenai Peninsula here in Alaska. I was hoping to race myself, or at least ghost ride with her during last leg, but with a cracked rib that I gave myself by riding way too fast across a wet bridge a few days earlier, I opted out on the 10,000′ of climbing and descending on mud and rocks.
Instead, I spent Saturday hanging around the checkpoints and taking pictures for fun with my Fuji X10. Up until now, I hadn’t shot a ton of action sports with the X10, so Saturday gave me a chance to see what it can really do.
As I’ve said in previous posts, the X10 in an incredibly capable little camera. The autofocus system is quite fast, and although it’s not perfect, I’ve been learning a few tricks that can help maximize its performance.
Prefocusing works great, especially when you have an idea of the distances that you’ll be working with. For this shot, I was just holding the camera as close to the bikers as I could as they raced by, which is something I do all the time with my big cameras. With the X10 on Shutter Priority mode at 1/1000 sec shutter speed, I set the focus before each rider came by. It wasn’t exact, but since it’s already close, it doesn’t have to waste time running through the entire focus range looking for subject matter; it locks onto the bike pretty quickly.
Another thing that makes a huge difference, whether you’re shooting action or not, is to just keep the camera on continuous shooting mode. This lets you keep firing and capturing minute differences in action, expression and subject placement in the frame without having to stop and let the camera write to the memory card.
With it’s fast write time CMOS sensor, the Fujifilm X10 fires at 7 fps at full resolution, and 10 fps at medium resolution, so it’s more than fast enough to capture entire sequences at shooting speeds that rival most DSLRs. I don’t have a battery grip, so 7 fps is faster than my D700.
However, let us not forget that the technical details and specifications of a camera, whether it’s a full on DSLR or a compact camera that fits in your pocket, are only tools that play a part in the telling of the story.
Ultimately, the feel, emotion and narrative of your imagery is what matters, regardless of what camera you used to make it.
What excites me so much these days is that the technical performance of today’s compact cameras like the X10 are good enough that they fit in nearly seamlessly with my shooting style.
I keep finding that for the features that it has, including the zoom, macros and full manual controls, the X10 gives me just about everything I need to tell the story of my visual fascination with the world, even when I want to go completely unencumbered.
In the past, I have always resigned myself that I’d be carrying 10-15 extra pounds of metal, glass and electronics no matter where I went in life for the rest of my life. Happily, this is no longer true. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE my big Nikons and won’t give them up anytime soon, I don’t have to carry them everywhere anymore.
As I keep learning the little tricks that help make cameras like the X10 even more usable for shooting action and adventure sports, I’m sure that I’ll be leaving the big cameras behind even more.
And it’s not like the X10 is the only high performance compact camera out there, it’s just my own personal favorite. The Nikon J1 also has incredibly fast autofocus, and the Panasonic Lumix LX5 has RAW capability, great macro and Leica glass.
More than ever before, compact cameras are seriously worth looking into, even if you’ve already got lots of big cameras.
If you missed my post last week, right now the Fujifilm X10 is on sale at B&H photo.
Dan Bailey's Adventure Photography BlogPosted on by Dan
Pick up the new Fujifilm X10 and you’ll feel like you have a real camera in your hands. Not a point and shoot. Not a digital camera. A camera. Maybe even a rangefinder, if you’re old enough to remember that term.
When I first saw the X10 last fall at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo, it was love at first sight. Eventually, I got one to try out, and by the time I was supposed to send it back, I’d already decided to buy it. After about two months of use, here’s my review and my thoughts on this fantastic little camera.
First, let me qualify my remarks. This is the first modern point and shoot camera that I’ve ever owned. The last one I had was my ice cream sandwich shaped Kodak 110 Instamatic. Ever since then, I just never justified getting a small camera. The cheap ones had too much shutter lag and low quality to be of much use, and really good ones cost more than my Nikon D700. Eventually, my iPhone became my point and shoot.
Don’t get me wrong, iPhoneography is so much fun, but in the end, it’s just not the same thing as using a real camera, much like strumming chords on the iPad is not the same as plucking strings on a real Stratocaster.
However, times have changed. Sensors are bigger. Shutter lag is gone. The age of high quality small cameras has arrived.
Continuous shooting up up to 10 fps. (7 fps at full resolution.)
Intelligent flash that can also trigger remote flashes and strobes
Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 video
Design and Feel
Like I said, the Fujifilm X10 looks and feels like a real camera, because it’s built like one. Made from die-cast magnesium and finished with a textured synthetic leather covering, the X10 carries a simple, yet rugged, classic design that makes it look much more like a Lieca than a Coolpix or a Powershot.
The top deck features a real, threaded cable release ready shutter button, (when was the last time you saw one of those?) and two metal dials, one for exposure mode, the other for exposure compensation; +/- 2EV in 1/3 stops. It also has a hot shoe that will accept one of Fuji’s dedicated flash units, the EF20, or the EF42, as well as built-in pop up flash.
The back of the X10 features a 2.8″, 460,000 pixel LCD screen with 100% coverage, two command dials, multiple button controls AND an optical zoom viewfinder with 85% coverage and diopter adjustment.
Obviously, the Fuji engineers worked closely with the design team, because in your hands, all the controls feel like there where they should be. Even turning the camera on is a satisfying event; you simply remove the metal lens cap and turn the zoom dial on the lens. As soon as you hear the smooth mechanical click, the camera comes to life.
Ease of Use
If you want to use the X10 as a fast, point and shoot style camera, it’s all there. You can turn the exposure dial to “Auto,” zoom the lens as designed and shoot away. Either use the LCD monitor or the optical viewfinder. If you’ve got a tricky lighting situation, such as snow or exceedingly dark subject matter, you can adjust the +/- EV dial with your thumb and quickly compensate accordingly.
If you need a flash, pop it up and blast away. It does TTL quite well, and will light up subjects as far away as 22 feet. When you’re ready to see your shots, hit the green “Play” button and scroll with the command dial. To delete shots, hit the “Trash” button, scroll and hit “OK” to confirm. Easy as pie with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
When you start digging in a little deeper, you’ll find that the X10 is actually a very full featured camera that has an extremely wide array of creative and technical options built right in. The Fujifilm team packed so much in there, that I’ve had the camera for over two months and I still don’t know everything that it can do. It offers full manual control in just about every single of the entire picture taking process. Here are the main features.
EXR mode is designed to optimize clarity, noise reduction and enhanced dynamic range. The camera automatically selects the exposure based on a preset series of shooting conditions, such as Landscape, Sunset, Snow, Sky, Portrat, Night, High Resolution, High ISO, etc… From what I’ve seen, the X10 does a pretty good job of selecting an appropriate scene and make the necessary exposure decisions. In EXR mode, you can also manually choose Resolution Priority, High ISO & Low Noise, or D-Range Priority, which increases detail in visible highlights.
Adv. Advanced Mode lets you choose between Motion Panorama 360, (lots of fun!!) Pro Focus, (short telephoto, soft background, bokeh effect for portraits or macro) and Pro Low Light (reduces noise.) In all three modes, the camera takes multiple exposures to combine or stitch together to create the final image.
I’ve used all of these modes, and they work great, especially the Panorama 360 mode, which lets you select the angle of your panorama (120, 180, 300 or 360 degrees) and the direction of your pan (left-right, right-left, up-down or down-up for vertical pans.)
SP Scene Position mode lets you choose between a wide variety of “auto” scenes, such as those commonly seen on enthusiast class DLSRs like Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Beach, Sport, Night, Night (Tripod) and Fireworks. I haven’t really tried these modes in real shooting applications, but I imagine that they do a fine job.
ISO: 100-3200 at full resolution in 1/3 stops. In M image size (2816 x 2112) you can shoot at 4000, 5000 and 6400. In S (2048 x 1536) you can go all the way up to 12800.) The recommended setting is 400(AUTO) which limits the ISO to no higher than 400. This is adequate for general shooting. The camera also has 800(AUTO), 1600(AUTO) and 3200(AUTO).
I found that using ISO 100 is the only way to get the X10 down to a 30 second shutter speed. At ISO 200, the max slow shutter speed is 15 seconds, and at ISO 400, it’s 8 seconds. Max shutter speed on the X10 is 1/4000 sec.
Film Simulation lets you apply a classic FujiFilm look to your images. Choices are Provia (standard) Velvia (yes!!) Astia, (softer color tones), four Monochrome modes and Sepia. The effects are subtle; it’s not Instagram, and there’s no HDR mode like some newer cameras have, but it’s enough to have fun.
WB Shift allows you to adjust the white balance of your images by making incremental steps to the red/cyan or blue/yellow axis. I haven’t found a need to adjust the WB in any of my shooting. The X10 also has a standard WB selector, much like most DSLRs.
Focusing: The X10 has a 49-point AF matrix spread across nearly the entire frame, and three focus modes: Single AF, Continuous AF and Manual. Most of the time I leave it on Continuous AF for both moving and non moving subjects, although I do like the Single AF to manually select the focus zone just about anywhere in the frame (Area mode). Single AF also lets you do auto Multi center weighted focusing. Or you can use Tracking to follow subjects across the frame.
Manual focus works, but it’s not very practical. You have to spin the command dial on the back and it takes a very long time to get from close to distant focus. The X10 also features both AE and AF lock buttons, as well as an AF assist lamp for low light scenes. Overall focus is pretty fast and plenty smart, especially for a camera of this size.
Macro: Macro on the Fuji X10 is AWESOME! It’s one of the first things I loved about this camera. There are two Macro modes, and the Super Macro mode lets you focus down to 1cm. That’s WAY close. Closer than anything I can do on my Nikon lenses. I’ve already had tons of fun with this one!!
Combined with Single AF, the X10’s great macro capabilities allows for exceptionally creative close up photography.
RAW: To shoot RAW on the X10, you simply press the RAW button the back of the camera. This designates the the next picture you take will be in RAW, or RAW + JPEG, depending on what you select in the shooting menu. The X10’s 18.87 MB RAW files are now recognized in Adobe Lightroom, but quite honestly, it’s on-board JPEG processing is so good that you’re not going to notice very much of a difference.
The X10 does have an internal RAW converter as well, which lets you process a RAW capture and save a corresponding JPEG image right inside the camera. I’ve only tried this a couple of times and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by what it can do. It’s not Photoshop, but if you are shooting RAW on the X10, it certainly saves time.
I haven’t shot RAW with the X10 very much, but what I’ve found is that the very small difference in image quality is often not worth the increased file size and additional processing and computer time. This from the guy who says you should always shoot in RAW!!
I suppose that there are situations when the additional processing might be needed, whether you do them on or off camera. However, in most cases, JPEGs from the X10 are good enough for just about anything you’re going to do with them.
Continuous Shooting: The EXR sensor on the X10 has an extremely high read and processing speed, which enables the camera to shoot at a maximum burst rate of 3, 5, 7 or 10 fps (up to 7 fps in full resolution). Remember the days of shutter lag? Gone, baby gone! That a compact camera can fire at these kinds of speeds is hands down impressive. Fast action sports with a point and shoot? You got it.
Flash: The normal mode flash on the X10 does TTL and it works fine. You also have the option of selecting Rear Sync flash as well. Depending on what exposure mode you’re using, you can force the flash to fire, or leave it up to the camera to decide when to fire the flash.
The X10 also has a Remote Flash option, which lets you use the pop-up flash on the X10 to trigger other lights. THIS IS A GREAT FEATURE! It really works too. I can put my Nikon SB-800s and 900 in SU-4 optical slave mode and trigger then remotely from the X10, and it even works with my Photoflex TritonFlash. Talk about Going Fast With Light, I could just take along the Fuji X10 and a single flash and have plenty of options.
Video: The X10 can shoot in either Full HD (1920 x 1080), HD (1280 x 720) and VGA (640 x 480) at 30 fps. It also has three high speed video modes, 640 x 480 at 30 fps, 320 x 240 at 120 fps, and a cropped screen of 320 x 112 at 200 fps. This allows for a wide variety of creative options.
Here’s an example of what it can do in Full HD.
Image quality in the Fujifilm X10 is outstanding. Fuji has implemented some amazing new technology into their EXR CMOS sensor and dual-CPU image processor that dramatically improve clarity, resolution, speed and low light performance. As I said above, the JPEGs that come straight out of this camera are simply fantastic, especially in bright, well-lit conditions. The 2/3″ sensor, (8.8mm wide by 6.6mm tall) produces high resolution photographs that are sharp, brilliant in color and contrast. When things get a little darker, or lower contrast, grain creeps up a little bit, but not too bad.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not the X100, and it’s certainly not the X-Pro 1, which costs nearly 3x as much, or a DSLR for that matter. Are there cameras out there that have better quality? Yes. That said, the shots that come out of the X10 are certainly suitable for prints, web publication and most sizes of professional print publication. In fact, they’re better than some cameras that have even larger sensors.
The Orb issue: When the X10 was first released, there seemed to be a problem with the way that the camera rendered specular highlights. Example images often showed large, obtrusive “orbs” of white light that definitely detracted from the quality of the imagery.
I have not had any issues with orbs in my exposures. Highlights have been rendered in an acceptable way, which might mean that early bugs were worked out with firmware updates from Fuji. You can see in the example below that the X10 seems to handle highlights with no problem, this overly bright spot is what you’d expect from direct sun reflecting on a shiny metal surface.
Here are a few shots at higher ISO settings. Very acceptable, if not downright impressive results with not much grain for such high settings!
ISO 800 full frame
ISO 800 cropped
ISO 3200 cropped
ISO 6400 cropped
ISO 12,800 full frame
Overall Usability and Ergonomics
Shooting with the X10 is a real pleasure. The camera just feels right in your hands and all the buttons and dials are in the right place. I especially like the incredibly handy +/- EV dial, which I haven’t had on a camera since my old Nikkormat. Even though the X10 exposure meter is very good, if you need EV compensation, it’s right there.
For the most part, the two command dials are well placed and adequate size, although sometimes I have a little trouble being precise with the the sub-command dial, especially if I’m wearing gloves. That said, I’m better with it than I was a month ago.
Overall, I LOVE the Fujifilm X10. I’m glad that I bought it. It’s by far the best little camera I’ve ever owned and I’ve had a blast taking a wide mix of fun shots with the thing. It’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, a bike bag, a backpack top lid or any other moderately small space you can think of.
For me, the X10 represents a whole new style of photography, which is taking pictures just for fun. Sketching. Playing, Creating. Enjoying. And, the quality is good enough that if I get something I really like, I’d feel comfortable sending it to a client. I’ve also used it for video. I take it on assignments, give it to the art director or someone else on the shoot so that they can just document the event. This is great for both fun and for PR and I plan to make extensive use of this in the future.
For awhile, I debated running down to Costco and getting the Nikon AW100 as my main compact camera. After all, I’m an adventure guy. Maybe someday I will pick up one, but for now, I decided that I wanted a classic style camera that I’ll feel good about carrying and that’s durable and versatile enough to use in a wide variety of situations.
As I mentioned above, the controls on the X10 are quite user friendly and for outside shooting, they’re easier to manipulate than some of the smaller cameras out there with tiny buttons, dials and touch screens. And besides, even though the Nikon AW100 only costs half as much, I feel that it’s far less than half the camera when compared to the X10.
So far, the only thing that I don’t like about the X10 is that the battery is quite susceptible to the cold. The flat-ish shaped battery has a high surface area for its size, so doesn’t do well when temperatures get down below 20 degrees F. I’ve had the thing die numerous times this winter, but I need to qualify this by saying two things:
One, it’s been a really cold winter here in Alaska, and so I’ve often tried to use the X10 in temps that are colder than 10 degrees F, often below zero. It’s rated by Fuji to operate ata limit of 32 degrees F, so obviously I’m breaking that barrier quite a bit. Also, having never owned another point and shoot camera, I don’t know if this is just the way it is with small cameras. Someone tell me, is this the norm?
Should You Buy the Fujifilm X10?
When buying anything, especially small cameras, you can easily fall into the trap of always justifying the next model up. You think, “I want a small camera, so I’ll get a cheap one.” You then convince yourself that image quality on a cheap camera is not great, so if you’re going to buy a camera, you might as well get a decent one.
You keep talking yourself up, until you’ve finally reached the level of compact cameras that cost almost as much, or more than your DLSR. At some point you have to set a limit and make a decision to stop going up.
Keep in mind that the Fuji X10 is NOT the X100. The X100 has a bigger APS-C sensor , so even though they’re both 12 MP, the X100 produces better quality images. However, it costs twice as much. ($1,200 vs $600.) Also, the X10 has a zoom lens, better video capabilities, 360 panorama, instead of 180 degrees and it’s smaller and lighter. Did I mention that it’s cheaper?
Nor is it as good as something like the Sony Nex-7. However the Nex-7 is a bigger, interchangeable lens camera system. The Fuji X10 is not; it’s a simple, classic compact camera that takes great photos and offers a broad depth of functions and creative options for a fraction of the price.
In my mind, the Fujifilm X10 is perfect for the photographer who is looking for a compact camera to take along when they leave the DLSR at home. It’s the camera that you could take on vacation, out into the street, to family functions, heck you could even do a serious photography trip with just the X10, save lots of weight and still come back with great images, especially when you consider that it offers the same or better quality as whatever camera that you were shooting a few years ago. Its idea for the travel photographer, blogger, professional, enthusiast, minimalist- heck anyone who wants big in a small affordable package.
The bottom line is that the Fujifilm X10 is indeed an awesome little camera. For me, it was love at first sight, and as I get to know it more, the affection is only growing deeper. It’s loaded with usable options, looks and feels great, has a fast, high quality lens, and it’s built to last. The X10 makes me WANT to go shoot FUN photos that aren’t WORK photos. In fact, these days, I rarely leave the house without it.
Overall, with the depth quality and features that the X10 offers, I feel strongly that it’s the best camera in its class. Sure, it costs more than some cameras, but in the end, you get what you pay for. Sure, it’s not a small as some point and shoots, but hey, the X10 is not a point and shoot.