Category Archives: Reviews & Notes

Just outstanding – the Nikon V1

I confessed that my gear itch syndrome was acting up again. It’s an incurable sickness that I have no intention to find a cure to. The only problem is I didn’t have much cash on hand to ease the itch away. I so wanted to try the Sony RX100 MKII and the RX1R, or even the GX7 which has yet to reach our shores. But these are expensive gear. Just the RX100 MKII will set me back by about US$700, and that’s a compact camera without a viewfinder…The electronic viewfinder itself will cost nearly another US$500! I wanted an affordable set of new gear that has a viewfinder, bigger sensor than my current Fuji X20, and greater ISO capabilities. Thank heaven that I found that in a Nikon V1.

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The Nikon V1 wasn’t exactly new. In fact, it’s about two years old. But this “old” camera happens to amaze many good photographers around the world with its speed and colour reproduction. I knew that the price for a V1 kit set has dropped to about US$400 or so – well within my budget, and was hence quite interested to get one to play with. So I went to Qoo10.com, the site that sells almost anything, and did a quick search. It was then that I realised that miracles exist. There’s actually a seller who sells the V1 kit with 10mm lens for less than US$300…to be exact, it’s only US$250! If that’s not cheap, I don’t know what is! I wasted no time in keying in my credit card details, clicked the “submit” button, and tadah! I got my new toy three days later (or yesterday).

I think I will be bringing this cam out a lot (had to say sorry to my X20) as I simply had to check out the extent of its capabilities. Just a short day with it and I am won over by the prowess that lies within its small frame. Though it doesn’t give the Fuji look which I loved so much, it delivers the fabled Nikon dynamic range which is pure wonder for something that only has a small 1″ sensor.  To see how rich the colours can be, just look at the cow below.

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I also managed to take some shoots at night, bumping the ISO to 800. True to the reviews/feedback, the V1’s autofocus and WB are really spot on and is worthy of a thumb-up. The ISO noise and sharpness control also deserved a compliment. Will test it more in the days to come 🙂 Stay tuned.

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Just to show the X20 Super Macro mode

I was still in the process of exploring the Fujifilm X20 and one of the modes that I found interesting was its Super Macro Mode. Apparently, this mode allows you to take macros at only 1cm away. When I tried it on a USB cable, I was literally almost touching the cable itself. Loved it! Another plus side is the sharpness and clarity!

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When I cropped it to 100%. Look at the clarity…

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Just another PnS? No! It’s the Fujifilm X20!

Yes. I traded in my trustworthy X-Pro1 set and got myself a Fujifilm X20. It was a hard decision that involved nights of tossing and flipping. My X-Pro1 was a stunner and has given me hours of delights with its portability and great colors. It has incredible ISO control surpassing that of a high-end APS-C or full frame camera. The colors are iconic Fuji-style, and its black and white astonishingly striking.  But still, I’ve let it go because as great a camera as the X-Pro1 may be, it lacks a range of versatile lenses and a good autofocus system.  I did not get much choice over the past year playing around with a Carl Zeiss 35mm and a Fuji 35mm. These two are fantastic glasses, especially the legendary Carl Zeiss f/1.4, but sometimes as a photographer, you will yearn for more versatility and range.  As for the autofocus, it’s a decent one but in low light, it kinda sucks…

image taken from Fujifilm Singapore website

Of course the Fuji X20 will not be my primary system. I will be looking out for a suitable one. My heart tells me to wait for a X-Pro2, hoping with a full frame sensor and blazingly fast AF , like the XE1 or 100s. My head tells me to go for the Canon 6D.  In any case, I am not in urgent need and the new X20 will fill the void in this period.

The Fuji X20 cost me $770 Singapore dollars or about $610 USD. This is slightly more expensive than the US set which goes for 599 USD at B&H. I was torn between this, the Sony RX100 and the Canon G1X. The Sony and G1X are cameras that received rave reviews, and their prices are not exactly that far from the X20 i.e. $640 USD for RX100 and $699 USD for the G1X. But the sample images from these 2 cams lack the emotive factor which the Fuji colors give. For me, Fujifilm have a strong color character – deep and arousing. Contrast that with a Leica which has a classic and refined character. But Sony and G1X just doesn’t emit those kind of sensation though they have very high quality built and glasses, and a much bigger sensor than the X20 (X20 only has a 2/3 inch sensor, compared to a 1 inch for Sony and a 1.5 inch for G1X) Find out more about the difference in sensor sizes here.

Anyway, it is naive to assume that the X20 can match up to its big brother X-Pro1 or the X100s. But it would also be silly to belittle this beast of a Point and Shoot (PnS). Technologically,  Fujifilm has somehow managed to shrink all the great stuffs from the X-Pro1 into this handsome retro-looking box  that weights only about 300+ grams. The upside is that you get the Fuji look with a cheaper and lighter package that rivals the performance of entry DSLR. The downside are the limited ISO performance, the limited DOF/bokeh and a missing BULB mode for those long exposures.

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I just got the X20 two days ago and gave it a test run out in the field yesterday – to see its speed, IQ and ISO performance. It’s neither scientific nor professional, just your average street testing with the naked eyes. And I must say that I am mightily impressed. The autofocus performs well in challenging conditions, and the IQ was very good. The ISO performance is about the same as a mid-range mirrorless or entry DLSR (usable up to ISO3200). This is where you realised that as mighty as the Fuji sensor may be, its 2/3 inch sensor still fails to match the  ISO prowess of a RX100 or Canon G1X.  Anyway, pictures speaks a thousand words, so  here are some of the image samples from yesterday.

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I ran a few tests at night to test the ISO from 800 onwards till 6400. I find the images very usable at ISO1600. However 3200 and 6400 is more suitable for black and white given the noise and artefacts. And don’t think about ISO12,800, it’s not palatable even in black and white, unlike the X-Pro1 which is usable even at ISO25,600!

Here are some images at ISO800, under low light.

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800Here are some at ISO1600

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Here are those at ISO3200

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And finally, these are the ISO6400

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So the verdict?
Small? Checked
Light? Checked
Great IQ? Checked
Fuji? Checked
This cam is staying!

Just more word of thanks to my readers :-)

Thanks to teensurge for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award.

Thanks to Food Stories for nominating me for the Illuminating Blogger Award as well.  Such awards are really a boost to us in pushing our passion forward.

I will do my part to encourage quality blogging in this blogosphere.  The following are my nominations for both the VBA & the IBA (*sorry. didn’t keep to the 5 bloggers limit cos there’s just so many good blogs out there ;-))

1. http://denydesigns.wordpress.com/

2. http://www.f8photography.com.hk/blog/

3. http://www.benjaminheine.blogspot.sg/

4. http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/

5. http://welovetypography.com/

6. http://www.graphicmania.net/

7. http://www.iphoneography.com/

8. http://justcreative.com/

9. http://citywagon.wordpress.com/

10. http://www.petapixel.com/

11. http://terencesjones.wordpress.com/

12. http://dearphotograph.com/

13. http://the99percent.com/

14. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/

15. http://datavis.tumblr.com/

Just a note on Fujifilm X-Pro1

I thought a review on the Fujifilm X-Pro1 will bring me some traffic. But after some deeper thoughts, I realised that it was simply not possible because I do not have any of the Fuji lenses. I only have the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 which in itself is a superb lens & renders subjects beautfully. Hence even I do a review, I cannot say for 100% that the results were due to the X-Pro1.

If I only review the body, there’s not much merit since there’s many more better reviews out there. Hence, I decide to let my photos do the reviews instead 🙂  Much alike what Steve Huff & F8 Photography has done.  The only regretful thing is that my Zeiss lens is a manual lens & using it with the X-Pro1 & the 3rd party Kipon adapter at this juncture can’t give me the exif I wanted. Let’s hope Fujifilm comes up with their native adapter soon.

Just a little project for portable photo storage & editing

Finally completed my ultra low-cost Netbook Resurrection project ! It may not be a speed demon, but it will be my convenient photo backup & basic editing machine with the built-in SD slot, a 60GB SSD & two 16GB USB thumbdrive that is “permanently” fixed to it 🙂  OS? It’s free with Joli OS!!! It’s worth it if you have a old netbook & SSD lying around!

Update: after days of using it & bringing it on my trip to Cameron, it was fantastic!  The Joli OS was fast in bootup & very stable since it’s a minimal OS.  The storage was more than sufficient with 96GB of backup flash storage.  Was able to surf & upload the photos every moment when paired with my iPhone’s personal hotspot! All in all, it was a good choice.  Even better than my Gen 1 iPad.  Of course if you have the spare cash for a new iPad with the camera connector kit or a hyperdrive, then do go ahead, that’s a even better choice 🙂