Feeling Right

This was originally posted on October 10 2018 a couple of weeks into my ownership of the Fuji X-T3. A further five months have since elapsed and just this week I took the big step and sold my full frame Nikon D800E. It’s taken around three years but to celebrate finally “going mirrorless” I’m republishing the original article and images which were all shot as JPEGs.  I am planning on producing an updated review over the next month or so but in the meantime come back five months with me and sense the excitement of being an early adopter.

“Fujifilm’s latest X-series camera was released a few weeks ago to much fanfare and insofar as I can see much critical acclaim.  And for once in my life I find myself in the vanguard, an early adopter of Fujifilm’s latest electronic marvel even before Adobe have caught up.

Do I like it? Well, I sold the Fuji X-T20 within 48 hours of taking delivery of the X-T3 so confident was I after just one play that the older model wouldn’t get a look in unless I left the X-T3 at home; and why would I do that?

As always I will leave the technical stuff and a discussion of the cameras’s specifications to others. I’m an enthusiast photographer rather than a working pro and what matters most to me is that very nebulous quality of the user experience. 

User experience: easy to type but very hard to define largely because it will vary considerably from one person to another. 

A camera needs to feel “right” in my hand. I can’t write the exact feeling down but know it when I experience it.  The X-T3 is a little bigger than my now-departed X-T20 (a camera I really enjoyed using) although it is a form factor I’m familiar with as I already own the X-T1 which is my infrared/full-spectrum camera these days. With one of my primes attached or the 18-55 “kit” lens the X-T1 feels great in the hand. Not perfect but still very, very good. I knew therefore before I placed the order for the X-T3 that I’d be purchasing the battery grip especially if I intended expanding my focal length opportunities by buying a telephoto lens at some point in the future (spoiler alert: that future is now the past).

All images: © Dave Whenham

The X-T3 body with my 35mm f1.4 prime does indeed feel great in the hand and I’ve been using this combination a lot recently. The 18-55 likewise balances well as do the two Samyang primes in my bag (12mm and the fisheye) although the Fuji 55-200 does feel a little front heavy although this was not unexpected. The battery grip though transforms the handling from good to great. It’s good also to have the choice of travelling very light with just body and a 23mm prime for example or putting on the grip for better handling with the bigger lenses and of course three times as much battery power. As an aside, I got 1,216 images (2,432 files as I shoot RAW+JPEG) from one charge using three batteries and the grip which is pretty much what is claimed by Fuji (1,170 from memory is the claim).

The auto-focus is not strictly something many would class as handling but it does contribute to the overall user experience as slow or poor AF can be very frustrating at best. On the X-T1  focusing with the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 R can be slow and the lens often hunts especially in more challenging conditions. But keep in mind this lens is a venerable OAP in lens-terms having been first released for sale on January 9th 2012. I was therefore amazed and very surprised at the very nifty focusing achieved with the X-T3. It will never compete with more modern lenses in the speed stakes due to its older design and engineering but comparing it on the X-T3 versus the X-T1 does reveal a very welcome improvement in user experience.  Of course, this is my subjective view and I’ve not carried out any laboratory testing but at the end of the day it’s how the gear behaves in real life and not in a laboratory that really matter – at least to some of us!

What I’ve not yet had the opportunity to do is a “proper” day out complete with a tripod, numerous lens changes and the deployment of filters but that should be possible next week fingers crossed.

So, all first signs are positive. I never expected to be an early adopter but having got caught up in the excitement as a fellow photographer anticipated the release of the “T3” I found myself swept along and with an order in the basket just the day before the official UK launch. I never expected to get it within 48 hours either.  With the 18-55 attached I set off for a few days in Northumberland to celebrate my birthday not really expecting much in the way of photography but nevertheless knowing that I had a pretty capable camera should opportunities arise.

Oh, and that telephoto lens? Our journey from Elland to Northumberland took us pass the Metro Centre in Gateshead and of course the Boss decided that would be an ideal opportunity for a coffee and a break from driving (not that she drives!).  Long story short – Jessops – a few secondhand lenses – Fuji 50-140 f2.8.  I tried it on an X-T2 body (the shop hadn’t any X-T3 bodies) and knew that I was about to take another irrevocable step into the Fuji-X system. I barely took the lens off the X-T3 for the following three days.”

So, that was then. What do I think now? Well, the sale of my Nikon DSLR gives a clue … as does the fact that I’ve switched systems fully. That post is underway but it will be a month or two before it’s finished as I suspect there will be a further purchase in the next week or so.

365/500 #2

I wrote in my last post about why I have committed to a picture-a-day and how I’ve recently passed the 500th consecutive day.  

I’ve just shot today’s “insurance” image; an image taken early in the day just in case I don’t get out later for a proper walk or shoot.  In the 500+ days since I started the picture-a-day I’ve only used my insurance shot twice but I still take one most days just to be safe.  I have a list of potential images in my head centred around the Dean Clough area of Halifax. Many of my daily images have come from this historical and immensely interesting site and in addition I am there most mornings when taking the wife to work.  It is therefore also a great option for the insurance shot. Other options that I have in the back of my head are possibilities close to my home in Elland and within easy walking distance regardless of the weather.

I guess this concept of an insurance shot is one of the most important things I’ve learnt in the context of how I need to approach a 365.  Another is not to stress out about it, the images will flow if your mind is receptive, and it cannot be creatively receptive if you are stressing about the next shot.  It is a Challenge but it is not a matter of life or death after all!

For me the most important question is whether or not I’m happy with the image I post each day. For the most part I’ve been very happy. There are a couple that with the benefit of hindsight I’m not overly keen on but nevertheless there are none that I regret posting.  Indeed, the Challenge has meant that I’ve got a lot of images this year that I simply would not have made without the daily challenge.  There are numerous days when I would probably have stayed at home and not ventured out were it not for the Challenge.

365-2018-035

I spent the last few years of my working life living, breathing and even dreaming (yes, really) spreadsheets. You’d have thought I’d have had enough of them but somehow the picture-a-day project drew me back into the murky world of spreadsheets and data analysis. Thankfully not in too much depth but enough to be able to tell you that of my first 500 images just under 30% were mono/black & white which was really unexpected. Prior to starting the “365” Project only around 10% of my posted work was in colour so for my pictures-of-the-day to account for 70% was very counter intuitive. Having a regular audience (the members of the 365 Group I joined) must have subconsciously steered me towards colour. So far in 2019 around 40% has been black and white and it seems I am subconsciously trying to redress the balance as it were.

Genre/SubjectImages CountPercentage
Urban26853%
Natural History7114%
Landscape/Rural7515%
Seascape112%
People/Portraits306%
Others194%
Abstract143%
Macro/Still Life173%

The shift towards urban photography was to be expected; I cannot escape to the mountains every day after all. One unexpected piece of intelligence I gleaned however was how little I was using my full-frame Nikon D800E and it’s partner the D7100. Delving into Lightroom recently I found I had not used either Nikon for getting on six months and so the decision to fully embrace the Fuji system and sell the last of my Nikon kit was made.

CameraImage CountNotes
Other Fuji camera124Fuji X-Pro1, X-T20, X-E1 and X-T1
Fuji X100t114
Nikon DSLR100D800E and D7100 - none in 2019
Fuji X-T390purchased September 2018
Mavic Pro Drone39
Smartphone35iPhone 7 and Huawei P20 Pro
INSTA3605
365-2018-017

So,  after 500 days into the Challenge I feel I’m reaping the benefits I’d hoped for and taking images is now just part of what I do every day. Whilst I do not have the luxury of a full days shooting every day I am spending time every day with a camera.

One of the benefits I hadn’t anticipated was that I am now “photo-ready” at all times. In the past if there’s been a couple of weeks between shoots I’ve taken time to get my eye in and settle in to the rhythm as it were. Now my eye is ever-ready it seems and I am better equipped to take advantage of even the smallest opportunities for image making.

A “365” won’t be for everyone but I’m intrigued to see how far I can go with it!

365/500 #1

Back in October 2017 I embarked upon a challenge to take a picture a day every day. Said pictures to be shared to a dedicated Flickr group as soon as practical, ideally on the same day but no pressure if not. I  initially set out to create a daily image for the 63 days that remained in 2017 in the hope that it would give me the experience needed to attempt my first full 365 in 2018.  Back in February 2015 I’d attempted a picture a day for 28 days and whilst I made the 28 images it was not a success, I even resorted to photographing the contents of the car boot at eleven pm one evening with my phone as we checked into a hotel. However, I recently passed the 500 image mark, that is over 500 consecutive daily images! I’ve been reflecting on the experience and am going to share these reflections over a couple of posts; this one and another in a day or two.

The image that started it all back in October 2017

Why did I do it? I certainly asked this question on more than one occasion over the last 500 days! It’s definitely been a challenge, both creatively and logistically but there is no doubt it quickly became a habit, just part of my normal, daily routine. There is also a huge amount of personal satisfaction as each milestone ticks up. A week, one month, 50 days, 100 days, six months, one year … each milestone provided a further goal to aim for, to aspire to. It’s a useful motivational boost as each milestone is passed.

I use a spreadsheet (more on this in part two) to catalogue each image noting how many are posted on the day and other factual data. I also make a point of writing a short (well, usually it is short) caption for each image. I belong to a dedicated 365 group on Flickr, we limit ourselves to around 50 members at any one time, and by being part of the group I get a sense of community, support and of course some welcome encouragement and feedback. Feedback can be motivational or constructive and is often both. A simple “like” can lift the spirits and I just wish I was able to comment on more images from my fellow members every day.

Image 58 from the 63-2017 project

On a practical level I quickly learned to carry a camera at all times. My smartphone made a good substitute early on but I soon got into the habit of dropping one of my smaller cameras in my bag or pocket whenever I went out. The Fuji X100t has been the workhorse for this project and in fact is now stored in my bag permanently. I have however used every digital camera I own, or have owned, during the past 500 days a fact I have also tabulated in part two.

One of the infamous medication at Christmas images – see below

I vowed at the start that pictures of my breakfast or arty shots of my Americano in Costa Coffee would be taboo. Whilst some of the everyday shots of life in Elland are bordering on the banal, they are to me slices of social history (I don’t mean to sound pretentious) whilst pictures of my coffee would by my reckoning be simply lazy although I totally get that for some people it’s an important part of the documentary process. It depends on your personal objectives I guess. The most difficult couple of days came over the Winter of 2017/2018, less than five weeks into the challenge. I contracted pneumonia and spent the next three months on steroids, antibiotics and under virtual house arrest to avoid hospitalisation. I kept the 365 alive with macro images shot in the back or front yard or still life set ups in the spare bedroom. Numerous images taken from the bedroom window tested my creativity. There were two consecutive days when I physically couldn’t manage even these simple activities though but on both days I made it downstairs long enough to snap pictures of my medication hanging on the Christmas tree – surely the most banal images I’ve snapped during the challenge but still they tell a story (see above for an example). Many images during this period were shot on a full frame Nikon D800E digital camera which, as is revealed in the next instalment, [spoiler alert] has largely been replaced in my day to day photography by Fuji X-series cameras.

Whereas in the past photography was a specific activity that I planned in advance I now find that photography is just something that I include in my daily routine. I often take my wife to work at 7am and rather than turning around and coming straight home I have taken to spending ten or fifteen minutes taking photographs before going home. I don’t miss the fifteen minutes in the context of my daily chores and I exercise my photographic muscles in the process. Some days I drive in, noting the light and by the time I drop the wife off I know exactly what I am going to photograph and from which vantage point. I created a very pleasing series of blue-hour images in this way none of which would have been taken in the past when photography was a specific something that I did. I now photograph as part of my routine daily functions such as breathing, eating and sneezing.

On days when I have chores at home I regularly take a short walk early afternoon, partly to stretch my legs and get some fresh air but mainly to give me the opportunity to look for images. I always carry a camera and whilst I may not come back with that day’s image every time it has proven a very fruitful activity and greatly increased my knowledge of my local patch and it’s possibilities.

Bokelicious: image 365-2019-083

So much of what is needed for a successful 365 seems to come down to your state of mind I feel and how you approach or think about things:

  • I carry a camera all the time – even when walking down to the newsagents for the daily papers;
  • I look AND see, noting what might make a good image and under what circumstances – greedily storing away opportunities for the future;
  • I do not rely on photography “trips” – every time I leave the house is a photographic opportunity – it’s a state of mind;
  • I make opportunities out of my daily routines;
  • I no longer worry about what other people might think of my images – I photograph anything that takes my eye, that moves or amuses me – if others like it then that is a bonus;
  • Train yourself to look beyond the obvious – floral portraits have been a staple of my back yard photography in the past but there are also shapes, shadows and the play of light on the steps if I look AND see;
  • Don’t Panic! If you are really concerned about capturing that day’s image then try to take an “insurance shot” before breakfast – it’s amazing how that frees you from worrying and sometimes it turns out to be better than you’d anticipated;
  • Embrace the location, the weather, the light – cameras also work in the rain and the dark – in fact dark, rainy nights in town can make some great images – just get out there;
  • Sounds counter-intuitive but stop thinking about the daily image – free your mind from the worry and your creativity can come to the surface – sounds a bit “New Age” thinking but it does work – trust me.
  • And before anyone thinks I’m implying this is easy – I am not. It can still be hard work but by approaching it with the correct mind set and incorporating it into part of your daily routine, rather than a standalone activity, it is possible to ease the burden and more importantly really enjoy the process whilst expanding your skills and competency at the same time. 

    Win-win.

    Oldie360

    My side project blog, Oldie360, has been closed as I start to simplify my online presence. As an enthusiast photographer I really didn’t need the additional complexities of managing more than one “brand” on social media. I am keeping the Oldie360 Instagram feed in order to separate the 360 images from my usual stuff but any blog posts will in future appear here.

    I have salvaged a couple of blog posts from the Olde360 site and posted them here after suitable tweaking but whilst the username lives on the blog is no more!

    What the FFormat?

    Something has been “bugging” me recently.

    “35mm Full frame equivalent”

    If you are into photography you know what I mean. If you’re not then you won’t care I guess.

    Fuji XE1 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 lens (82.5mm FFE)

    Why do camera magazines in particular and also many enthusiasts feel the need to convert the focal length of lenses used with their (non full-frame) cameras when captioning their images? For anyone who has never used a full-frame camera it is probably meaningless or at least not something they can visualise easily. I suspect that many readers really don’t give a FF and that those to whom it matters will be knowledgeable enough to work it out for themselves.

    I came to digital photography from film SLR cameras so it could be argued that I come with baggage as it were. Turns out that those film cameras I used for 30+ years were full frame all along. Who knew? Based on this arbitrary standard therefore my newly acquired Canon 400D had what was called a “crop sensor”. Clearly I had a lot to learn as I transitioned from analog to digital.

    I took up digital photography around 2002/2003 and certainly do not remember converting to “FFE”, it just wasn’t a thing back then – and I really don’t think I was worse off for it not being a thing either. But now it seems to matter. Why?

    So here’s my point. I suspect that many people coming to photography these days have never shot with film and more likely than not started their photographic endeavours with what are now known as crop-sensor digital cameras. For them there is no FF baggage, no FF background as it were. If they are in the majority (and I have done zero research on this) then wouldn’t it be more logical to caption images captured on a FF camera with the APS-C equivalent? And if so which standard – 1.5x, 1.6x, 2x? Or should we just let those who are interested work it out for themselves? It’s hardly Olympic standard mental arithmetic after all.

    I guess if you are paid by the word though you might consider the extra wordage necessary?


    47 Comments

    I have repurposed here a post from a previous blog in order to preserve it as I am closing the blog it is from this week.

    I saw an innocent-sounding question online recently:

    “Can anyone throw light on the best 360 camera … high resolution and clarity … easy on editing?”

    When I came across it there were 47 comments (hence my title) but it was increasing even as I read some of the replies. My favourite was:

    “This question gets asked once a month. Just start reading backwards.”

    Which kind-of highlights the problem with new(ish) technology. In its early days it is progressing at such a phenomenal rate that each new device is virtually obsolete before it comes to market. It becomes virtually impossible to keep up to date with the new information and specs let alone actually having the most up to date technology in your bag. In the very few weeks that I’ve owned my INSTA360 One the price has dropped by almost 20% and a newer model has been released.

    (C) Dave Whenham

    So, what to do? Jump straight on the upgrade treadmill or stick with what I have despite knowing that it is no longer the best I could afford?

    Well, that’s a simple one in reality. There is absolutely no point in upgrading for at least two generations in my view as the technology is changing so rapidly it does not make sense to constantly upgrade. It’s different in a mature market but generally available 360 photography is still a nascent technology with all the volatility that brings.

    It’s not just technology that’s evolving though. My understanding of the camera’s capabilities is also improving each time I use it. The more I play the more I can see opportunities for exploiting the technology. Hence sticking the camera up amongst the branches of a small tree in a car park! Also, the more I look at other peoples work the more I realise that there is lots yet to learn.

    (c) Dave Whenham

    So, it makes sense to me to work with what I’ve got until such time as I am genuinely held back from achieving what I visualise by the limitations of the technology. Sometimes it makes sense to push to the back of your mind how the technology is evolving and concentrate on making images!

    The 9-day veteran!

    I have repurposed here a post from a previous blog in order to preserve it as I am closing the blog it is from this week.

    Originally written on 6th October 2018 when I was indeed a 9-day veteran of this little camera. For the record I’m still using it regularly six months on.

    Being a veteran of 360 camera ownership (OK, it’s been nine days) I thought I’d share my initial thoughts starting with the purchasing decision itself. As this blog is something for me to look back upon when my fast-ageing body gives up the ghost so if it feels a little self indulgent then you know why.

    © Dave WhenhamSo, my weapon of choice for this latest venture was the INSTA360 One. It wasn’t cheap (£275 at the time I purchased it) but then again it wasn’t the most expensive on the consumer market. There’s a lot of choice, ranging in cost terms from £50 to £600 at the time of writing but it has to be said the quality does vary considerably as I discovered from reading and watching the numerous online reviews.

    I chose the INSTA360 because it seemed to offer a decent all round package for a beginner with some ability for manual setting if required. I watched/read a lot but my takeaway from all that research can be distilled into a few words – good but not spectacular in all areas and easy to operate for the raw beginner with a little scope for manual operation as their skills develop. There, that little gem has saved you hours of research!

    To be honest, I was a little concerned at the “good” label for image quality, video quality, stabilisation and all round usability. In my regular stills work I use a high end Nikon DSLR and also the Fuji X-T3 which I think is going to become one of the all-time best crop sensor cameras. So while settle for good when other 360 cameras were offering far better performance? The answer is probably two-fold.

    • Cost. I was loathe to commit £500-600 on something I had no previous knowledge or experience of. Equally I didn’t want to buy a very cheap one and be frustrated within hours of powering it up. £275 (its come down to £250 since I bought it) is still a decent sum of money but is easier to justify to the Boss than £600!
    • Image Quality. I was finding through my research that some cameras excelled at one element of 360 photography whilst underwhelming in others. This was particularly true of those in my price bracket it seemed to me, even allowing for some glaring disparities in different reviewers opinions. As I was, and still am, unsure which discipline would become most important, I opted for a good all-rounder and the fact that many reviewers commented on its suitability for a beginner tipped the balance.

    It’s too early for me to write with any modicum of authority on handling or image quality. I’m still learning in terms of the physical operation of the camera and these considerations will of course impact on ultimate image quality.

    © Dave Whenham

    What I can say though is that it was a breeze to set-up and I was able to start taking photos immediately. There was even an SD card inserted and a decent battery charge when I took it out of the box. I have shot with the camera held in my hand, on a selfie stick, sat in its little stand on the car roof and also with it attached to my iPhone. All work and I particularly liked having the screen to view “live” when attaching it to my phone. I also used the phone to trigger the camera via bluetooth but this proved problematic for a fumble fingers like me with the iPhone behind my back. Plus the range seems very limited and it seems to need a clear view of sight making hiding the phone a challenge especially as you are shooting blind!

    So, for what they are worth these are my initial thoughts.

    More to follow!

    Seventh Heaven

    By way of a visual introduction to what I’m about I have repurposed here a post from my previous blog – for me the blog will always be about the images, even when I take a detour and have a rant or a ramble!


    We decided to break our journey home from a week in North Wales last October with an overnight stop in Liverpool.  Asking for a quiet room we weren’t surprised to be up on the seventh floor, but weren’t expecting the half decent view though!  I think I used every lens I had with me and all three cameras shooting from, or should I say through, the window. 

    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3 Processed on the iPad using Snapseed as were all but one of these images
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-100t
    © Dave Whenham
    INSTA360 One – the camera grabber was present on the seventh floor too!
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3 with Samyang 8mm fisheye (uncorrected)
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3
    © Dave Whenham
    Fuji X-T3
    © Dave Whenham
    Armageddon outta this blog post!

    From fisheye to telephoto, from 360  to long exposures I made the most of the very limited opportunities this seventh floor window provided.

    Seventh heaven – if only the window had been cleaner!


    Reposted from davewhenhamphotography.com

    The 360Journey Begins

    I have repurposed here a post from a previous blog in order to preserve it as I am closing the blog it is from this week.

    I hit 60 last year (I know, you all thought I was about 12) and wanting to buy me something a little different my wife plumped for the INSTA360 One camera. The clue is in the name – it shoots 360 video and stills. Now, we are not taking DSLR image quality here and at a point when I’ve just upgraded the little Fuji X-T20 for the X-T3 it seems counterintuitive to be buying a camera with some serious limitations in respect of image quality. But, and this is important, the purpose of buying such a camera, for me, was not to produce 20×16 inch exhibition prints, but to have a bit of fun. At present the biggest audience for 360 images is to be found on social media.  The tiny 24mb/4K sensor in the One is more than adequate for the purpose and indeed obsessing about image quality is to miss the point of owning this camera.

    The small, very simple to operate, 360 camera gives me access to another outlet for my photographic exploits. Up until now I’ve not been using it “seriously” as I’m enjoying the fun of creating little selfie-worlds but whilst playing I’m learning. I’ve already realised that using my phone as a Bluetooth trigger is a little limiting so have ordered the small, but relatively pricey as it has to be bought from abroad, INSTA360 remote trigger. This can be used discretely in the hand or if using the selfie stick it can be attached to the stick itself.

    I shall write more about this new photographic offshoot over time as I get to grips with its idiosyncrasies but in the meantime you can also find me  on Instagram.

    Me. Selfies. Who’d have thought it!

     

    Hello world!

    Welcome to Dave’s Place where I shall soon start sharing my thoughts, on photography mainly, but be prepared for the occasional bout of senior rambling … I’m of that age!

    This isn’t my first blog but I’ve decided to start from scratch simply so I can learn to use WordPress.org and the joys of managing my own hosting. Expect some up-cycled material however as I settle into the rhythm again, especially as my last blog post was November 2018.

    Also expect  plenty of photographs – it’s my main passion after my family and you may also see the occasional gear review especially as I finally, after nearly three years, fully transitioned to a Fuji system just this month.

    Mainly though it will be a potpourri of writings largely based around my wanderings with a camera.