PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 93: P Is for Professional

Do you capture photos using your camera’s automatic modes, or do you shoot using manual settings? Jeff and Kirk debate both approaches, looking at situations where each is appropriate and clarifying which features constitute “auto” modes.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Episode 92: Sensors and Megapixels with Richard Butler

Camera marketing often leans heavily on sensor size and numbers of megapixels, because those are numbers that are easy to sell. But are they easy to understand? When does an APS-C sensor outperform a medium format one? Are larger pixels better? Should Jeff take the plunge and buy the 100 megapixel Fujifilm GFX 100S? Our guest Richard Butler, technical editor at DPReview, helps clarify how sensor sizes and megapixels affect the way you shoot photos.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Opinion: Do we really need all those buttons and dials?

My first camera, back in the late 1970s, was an Olympus OM-10. The camera body had dials to adjust shutter speed and ISO/ASA, an exposure compensation dial, and an ‘Auto’ mode. A built-in light meter helped get the right exposure, and a self-timer allowed for group shots or self-portraits. The most prominent controls on that camera were for managing the film: the film advance lever, rewind knob, and crank. Its user manual makes the OM-10 look a lot more complicated than it really was, but, like all film cameras, its settings were comparatively limited.

Today’s cameras are computers with lenses, and like computers, they have a plethora of features, far more than any film camera. As with any computer, we need to be able to adjust these many settings. There are menus that allow us to enable, disable, and tweak the many features available, and buttons and dials give us quick access.

But with many modern cameras now offering a dozen or more control points – some customizable with no obvious markings – there’s a risk of overwhelming certain users. More importantly, the sheer complicatedness of digital cameras can get in the way of taking photos.

Read the rest of the article on DPReview.

Episode 91: iOS Photo Editing Workflows

In episode 87, we explored Kirk’s workflow for importing and editing images into Apple’s Photos app. Now, we revisit the topic by focusing on how Jeff works with photos on the iOS side, using both the Photos app and Lightroom on the iPhone and iPad. And has Jeff fallen in love with presets?

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 89: Buttons and Knobs

The experience of using a camera is just as important as what you put in front of the lens. If the controls are complicated — or too minimal — you wind up focusing on the camera, not the images. In this episode, we count buttons and deliberate whether today’s cameras are helping or hindering photographers.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Fujifilm X-E 4: The Camera Designed for Prime Lenses

Xe4

I received my new Fujifilm X-E4 a couple of days ago, together with the new XF 27mm f2.8 R WR Lens. This is an ideal pairing: the slight pancake lens matches the small size of the camera, offering an acceptable focal length while ensuring that the entire package remains small enough to slip into a pocket. (“Acceptable” in the sense that it’s a focal length that can be used for a wide range of photo types.)

This new camera can be seen as an interchangeable lens version of Fujifilm’s popular X100 series. In fact, the X100F was my favorite camera ever, but I eventually sold it because the 23mm focal length was too limiting. (Yes, there are two converters available to increase or decrease the focal length, but they add bulk and weight to the camera, and the telephoto converter looks comical.)

At the time, I thought I’d be happy with a 35mm version of the X100 (that’s a 50mm full-frame equivalent), but now, with the X-E 4, I can put any Fujifilm lens I want on the camera, and still have it about the same size as the X100F.

The choice of the 27mm as the “kit” lens bundled with this camera is interesting: the company is highlighting the small size of the package. The only other Fujifilm lens that comes close in size is the 18mm pancake lens; that’s not a focal length for everyone, and releasing an updated version of the 27mm lens (with an aperture ring; finally) helps make this pairing almost ideal.

Of course, that lens isn’t for everyone, so you can use other lenses, though they’ll slightly unbalance the camera. When you get the X-E4 in your hands, with the 27mm lens, you understand the design behind this pairing; adding a different lens feels, well, different. Not wrong, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same way.

This said, the lenses colloquially called the “Fujicrons” are also usable on this camera, if you are willing to give up the pocketability and balance of the camera. These are the following:

Fujicron lenses

  • The XF 16mm F2.8 R WR is the shortest of the four lenses, but this wide angle is not ideal for everyday use, for most people
  • The XF 23mm F2 R WR is an easier lens to use, especially in urban environments. This 35mm eq. focal length is a good compromise between a normal viewing angle and a wide angle.
  • The XF 35mm F2 R WR is the 50mm eq. focal length; the “nifty fifty” that is close to what we see. It’s about the same length as the 16mm lens, and feels comfortable on the camera.
  • The XF 50mm F2 R WR is the longest of these four lenses, and definitely unbalances the camera. However, it’s an excellent lens that’s great for portraits or landscapes.

Xe4 35
With the X-E4 is that, for most uses, a zoom lens will be too large and heavy to handle comfortably. You could, of course, use any lens on this camera if you use it on a tripod, but I suspect most people buy a small camera like this to carry it around with them. One possibility, however, would be to use the XC 15-45mm F 3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens. Fujifilm created this lens for its less expensive cameras, and, because much of it is made of plastic, weighs only 135g. (For comparison, the 35mm F2 lets weighs 170g; the X-E4 itself weighs about 360g, with battery and memory card.) At around $300, it’s an inexpensive way to get a compact zoom lens for this camera, but the 3.5 – 5.6 aperture means that it requires more light than other lenses. The other “kit” zoom lens – the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS – weighs about 310g, and is quite long, compared to the X-E4 body.

So why am I going on about this? Because the X-E4 feels more like a camera designed for prime lenses. The small body may have fewer buttons and dials than, say, the X-T4, but it’s got the same sensor and processor, so is essentially the same camera inside (at least for photos). You won’t want to shoot wildlife with long lenses, or portraits with fast (and heavy) lenses, but you’ll buy this camera as a versatile device to use in most everyday situations. With the 27mm lens, you’ve get a really compact package, at a focal length that works for many types of subjects, and if you want a couple of the Fujicron lenses to give you more possibilities, they won’t necessarily make the camera unwieldy.

You may want to use a zoom lens when you’re going to be shooting in settings where you want both wide angle and telephoto shots, but if you have time, and a small bag to carry a few of these Fujicron lenses, you’ll have lots of opportunities, with relatively fast lenses (F2 or 2.8). Together, the X-E4, the 27mm kit lens, and the four Fujicrons weigh just 1,260g. As a comparison, the XF 16-80mm F4 weighs almost 500g, and the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 weighs 310g.

Personally, I can see using this camera with the the 27mm kit lens, the 16mm F2.8, and the 50mm F2 lenses. That covers both extremes in the Fujicron line, with the most compact lens in the middle. The differences between 23mm/27mm and 27mm/35mm aren’t that large, so three lenses would offer a versatile kit. Yes, it takes time to change lenses, but it will be a lot more comfortable and easier to handle than the X-E4 with a zoom lens.

As for the rest, if you already have a Fujifilm X-series camera, you know what you’re getting; just with, as I said above, fewer buttons and dials. And you’ll get used to that.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 88: That Was the Year that Was

How has the past pandemic year affected or changed your photography? Kirk and Jeff discuss not just cancelled trips and lost opportunities, but also the process of getting back into the habit of photography as we hopefully head toward a vaccinated, post-Covid reality.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 87: Apple Photos Workflow on Mac

Apple’s Photos app is the photo-editor-for-the-rest-of-us, but there are still complications that can trip up any photographer, from deciding where to import images to making sure you don’t max out your iCloud storage. In this episode, Kirk and Jeff look at Kirk’s unusual workflow for getting his photos into Apple’s Photos and editing them on macOS.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 86: Jordan Drake on Shooting Video

Your camera likely records video, but if you’ve never used it, you may be in for a surprise. DPReview TV co-host Jordan Drake joins us to talk about how shooting video on a DSLR or mirrorless camera differs from shooting stills.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 85: Film Camera Love with Dan Bracaglia

Dan Bracaglia of DPReview joins us to talk about his love of film cameras, how to get started with film in this day and age, and the enduring appeal of analog photography.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.