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Guess the camera... (review incoming)


j-oc

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Let's play a game of guess the camera - I'll drop a full review when someone comes up with the right answer.

I went to Swedish Lapland over the holidays and it was a unique experience. There are only fours hours of daylight and we spent our time riding snowmobiles up a mountain and drinking coffee in a pristine arctic wilderness. I took a little camera with me and this is the result - a mixture of 25P/30P re-conformed. Aside from one clip with a white balance change and another with an exposure tweak this is all SOOC. It's not art, but hey, it's the holidays.

 

 

 

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Cold thus far...

 

3 hours ago, jonpais said:

What I'm seeing is extremely limited tonality, crushed blacks, little detail in highlights, and oversharpening with halos, so I'm not sure I really even want to know what camera was used here. :( 

This seemed weird so I took a look at it, and sure enough, the Vimeo version was totally different to original file. I uploaded a new export to YT and it looks much better - not exactly sure why Vimeo is choosing random black levels:

 

 

 

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Fuji something recent and not entry level?       That is just a guess from your profile (a stills camera).    It seems to have some shallow depth at times so it does seem like APSC too.

With at least in part a 23 1.4? (many Fuji lenses have 9 blades and some have 7 and this had 7 at least part of the time).

Just guessing.      Could be a phone to for all I know but it seems ok and put together well..

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1 hour ago, josdr said:

 P.S Why do people still upload and pay for vimeo... It can't stream to save its life and I dispute that the end result is better than YT.. Even if we had a little better colours here and there ,chopy videos are not going to win any favours..

Because there are no ads and the visual noise of youtubes other clips that inevitably comes up.

JB

 

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17 hours ago, noone said:

Fuji something recent and not entry level?       That is just a guess from your profile (a stills camera).    It seems to have some shallow depth at times so it does seem like APSC too.

With at least in part a 23 1.4? (many Fuji lenses have 9 blades and some have 7 and this had 7 at least part of the time).

Just guessing.      Could be a phone to for all I know but it seems ok and put together well..

Ding!!Ding!!Ding!! Noone wins the prize! Would you like an AM clock radio or the cuddly toy? No? Ok, well you can have the X-Pro2 review anyhow...

 

_DSF1084.jpg

 

I've owned an X-Pro2 for about a year now and it is my main stills camera for just about everything that I do, which is headshots/portraits, performance, behind the scenes reportage and documentary weddings. I've always done video on the side of this as it is nice little extra when a client says to you, "you're doing our promo images, could you also produce a trailer / do an interview / record this rehearsal for us?" Until now, I've kept a DSLR system as well as my Fuji's to use for video and the more tricky movement-based stills stuff - but after bringing along the X-Pro2 to a number of dance and theatre shoots this year and seeing how capable it is, the less and less I am seeing the justification to keep the Nikons. It is simply the best stills camera I've ever owned, but this is not the point of the review. 

On the video side of things, I've never been wowed by the Fuji's quality but neither did I put any serious effort into testing it out. Going on holiday last year I would normally have brought the X-Pro2 and the 35/1.4 with me but instead brought the 18-55 so I could give the video a whirl. Nothing fancy, just larking around and having fun. 

 

_DSF1085.jpg

 

And you know what, in it's quirky, strange little way I kind of loved it. The biggest thing about it is that it completely changed my attitude to sufficiency in shooting video and how I want to work in the future. That said though, we need to run through some basics about the machine to get to the conclusion. 

 

The Good

The video quality - this is much improved over previous Fuji's, which had so much moire as to be pretty much unusable. There is still some moire present, you can see a some at 0.24 on the suitcase and 0.28 on the horizon for instance, but it is not too bad and manageable unless in extreme situations.

I really like camera's colour reproduction. I was using a Pro NEG Std preset that I use for headshots and it looks just great to me. The other film simulations are cool and will likely cater to your taste. It isn't a realistic colour palette per se, but rather it looks very classic. I don't want to use the term flim-like, because that just about means anything to everybody because it is so overused, but the colours from this camera look very familiar and recognisable, no doubt because the socialisation process we all go through when we grow up looking at movies, photos, tv etc. Yeah, that's a fancy way of saying it looks nice.

You absolutely do need to deal with the issue that straight off the card the files have a wonky black level. In Resolve, this is easy enough - just change the data level in the Clip Attributes screen to Full.

Untitled.png

Once you've done this, all of the detail return to the shadows. It is still 8-bit footage so you can't push it around too much in the grading, but I think the point I'm making is that you don't really need to from an aesthetic point of view.

 

The output is really sharp - possibly a bit too much, provoking some aliasing. I didn't do any tests to see if turning down sharpness works when recording video, anyone tried this? 

Raising the ISO above 1600 loses detail quite fast, although the noise is not very distracting so you can get away with it. It seems quite fine and monochromatic as opposed to the sort of red/purple noise you get with Canon DSLRs for instance. IIRC the first two clips in the car were at 1600 and it looks perfectly usable to me.

 

The build quality - really, really good. It is mostly metal and feels very solid and tightly put together. The loose and cheap feeling shutter release that the X-Pro1 had, has thankfully been replaced with a much better one. Funnily enough, I didn't consider whether taking the camera out in -25C weather for a week was going to be good for it until I was on the way home but the camera didn't skip a beat. I just took the lens off and battery out when I got in to prevent any condensation damage and it was all good.

 

The lens choice - Fuji's lenses are just great optically. I've owned or used the XF18, XF27, XF35/1.4, XF56, XF90, XF18-55 and XF50-140 and they are all optically great and solidly built. Even the XF18 and XF18-55 which the internet seem to dump on are great lenses for the sorts of prices they command used. I used the 18-55 exclusively for the video above the stabilisation is great. Even with my crappy technique it was perfectly possible to get useful handheld footage. If you are getting a Fuji for video, you are going to want to get this lens. One caveat I will put out there is that most of the XF lenses focus by wire as opposed to hard manual rings. I think it is the XF14, XF16 and XF23 are the outliers here. The focus mechanisms are dampened and pleasant to use but obviously you can't use follow focuses etc.

 

The looks - I won't wax lyrical but it is a fine looking camera. Beyond the venality of this, it does come in useful if you work in the way I do and value an unobtrusive camera that can also be a conversation starter. I bumped into a photographer acquaintance of mine at a bookstore and she was convinced it was a film camera. Many times with the camera to my eye recording video people have assumed I'm hipstering it up with an old rangefinder and ignored me.

 

The Bad 

The feature set - 4K, IBIS, headphone jack, LOG profile, HDMI out, audio meters etc etc - yep, this camera doesn't have any of that. It is just about as basic as it gets in terms of what you get for your hard-earned. 15m max record time.

 

The price - linked to the above, this is not a cheap camera. It's about £1250 brand new right now, and you are going to want to spend £300 or so on the 18-55 as well. There are a lot of other options in that kind of price bracket.

 

The ergonomics - this is the real killer. The camera's tactile controls and multiple viewfinders are a pleasure to use when taking photos but translate very clunkily to using video. The OVF and hybrid finder work perfectly for taking stills but feel very off for video. The concept of seeing out the frame becomes less useful as the tab which shows your exposure and focus is often too small to be useful.

The worst culprit though is the rear wheel that is used to trim shutter speed.

_DSF1086.jpg

In a big step back from the previous model, this is much easier to knock with an errant thumb. I normally turn this off when shooting photos but you can't when shooting at 24P/25P because the top wheel stops at 1/60!

To top it off, Fuji has made some very strange choices about what you can and cannot change and access whilst recording. So, you can change your shutter speed (and you will, many times and always accidentally) but you cannot change ISO. Yep, the ISO ring does nothing whilst recording so if you are walking between inside and outside for example you are out of luck. Eventually, I gave up and shot everything in 30P, disabling the rear wheel.

Also, you can't access a histogram or the focus peaking tools whilst recording. Why? No idea...

This adds up to a fairly cumbersome shooting experience until you get used to it, although it is a bit easier on a tripod for a static scene. 

 

So what does all this add up to?

_DSF1082.jpg

  At the end of each year I ponder at length what has gone well, what needs improvement and where I want to focus my energy in the next year. It quickly became clear to me that the video side of what I do is very much an after thought but demands an extraordinarily high amount of kit.

After looking at the holiday stuff, it struck me that for all of the flaws and gimme's of this camera, it is absolutely sufficient for what I need: a nice 1080P image, the ability to get handheld footage and a form-factor that suits my documentary style. In fact it is way better and more enjoyable than lugging around a D750, two pro lenses, a big-ass tripod and a Video Assist. I feel much better about pushing myself to do good stuff with this machine than relying on a load of gear that ultimately weights me down. I'll still be able to do the quickie Youtube vids / interviews / casting tapes that my clients ask for, just do it in a more fun way.

The point of sufficiency has been reached. For me this has been a great lesson that more isn't necessarily better and that learning to use what you've got will make you better at what you do. 

So, the Nikon stuff is now on sale: http://www.eoshd.com/comments/topic/21355-fs-studio-sale-nikon-blackmagic-and-sachtler/

 

Should you get one?

 

I'm aware this a video forum so people's needs are going to be different to mine but here is how I feel about it:

Do you shoot mostly video? No, get something else.

Do you do half and half and are looking for a second system? Maybe, rent one and try it out.

Are you a photographer who wants to do a bit of video and likes the rangefinder style? Seriously consider it. 

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