Fuji X-E1: Hands on Review


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After yesterdays post, where I admitted my love for the Fuji X series, I’m at it again. This time it’s to update you on the Fuji X-E1.

Having used the Fuji X-Pro 1 for a while I was convinced it was perfect. The button layout was spot on, nothing was ever to far and changing setting on the fly was incredibly easy, in no small way thanks to the constant knowledge that the optical viewfinder wouldn’t let me down. To my surprise I picked up the X-E1 and realised a few things I would change on the X-Pro.

Controls:

Fuji X-E1 Back View
Image via Fujifilm

Upon first glance the button layout on the X-E1 is exactly the same as the X-Pro 1, with things ever so slightly closer together thanks to the reduced size. All key elements are there, exposure comp and shutter speed dial on the top plate, fn button hidden next to the shutter, even the curved rear thumb grip holding the Q button remains intact. It was the simplest thing that stunned me. There is no lock on the shutter speed dial on the X-E1, the X-Pro locks at A and you must press the central button to release the wheel. It doesn’t sound like a big thing but when I was changing constantly from aperture priority to manual it did start to wear on my nerves. Something as simple as this omission has actually made this camera better for me. This is a very personal taste, I know some of you will be concerned about shifted settings etc.

Size:

Fuji X-E1 Silver Front View
Image via Fujifilm

The size difference is immediately noticeable. The camera weighs much less and fits my, admittedly girly, hands quite nicely, much in the same way the X100 does. In fact the X-E1 feels like an X100 with the added bonus of the X-Pro grip and button layout. This has got to be a good thing considering the success of the X100. I can’t see anyone being too put out by the smaller form factor, it’s a big decrease in size but rarely have I heard anyone have a problem with the X100 prior to the X-Pro. All in all, we’re good on this front.

The Viewfinder:

I’ll get this out of the way; I don’t mind electronic view finders. The X-E1’s is beautiful. The image is clear, bright and crisp with very little lag noticed. The simple joy is you know exactly what you’re going to get. Gone are the grid lines from the X-Pro and your left with something simple and somewhat elegant. Getting used to the focus system of the X-Pro was somewhat of a learning curve, one that I got on with very well but one that doesn’t suit everyones style. The viewfinder pretty much sums up the X-E1: Simple, elegant and with stunning image quality.

There are of course disadvantages to this EVF. If you really like the X-Pro’s optical finder, like I do, then no, it’s not quite as good. There isn’t that extra special feeling you get when using the X-Pro’s view finder, subconsciously focusing on beautiful grid lines whilst experiencing the world around you. The thing is that not even this can detract from the good points – the quality and the sheer user friendliness of the X series.

Conclusion:

I love it, admittedly I want one of each. The X-Pro’s viewfinder is worth the extra money alone. If, however, you’re after something that looks beautiful and gives you stunning images in return then you can pick the X-E1 and happily shoot away without a care in the world.

This isn’t the most geeked out review you’ll ever read, that’s because I don’t think we can talk about the Fuji X series in the same way we do Canon or Nikon DSLR cameras. Hopefully this will make you consider BOTH X series cameras, pick them up and compare them and make the decision from that. The simple fact is that both cameras are going to produce stunning images in exactly the same ways, the difference in the case is just HOW you get to that moment.

Order your Fuji X-E1 from Castle Cameras.

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Fuji X-E1 In Stock


The exciting new Fuji X-E1 is in-stock at Castle Cameras.

There is a point at which working in a camera shop numbs you to exciting new products. It’s a sad truth that almost all of us face at one point or another. Luckily, brands like Fujifilm turn up with something so special that it rekindles that small fire. With us it was the Fuji X-Pro 1. It took a little while but we got there.

When Fuji first announced it’s interchangeable system there was a bit of a fan fare amongst X100 and X10 users but again it slipped in amongst things like the Sony NEX 7 and Panasonic GX1, arguably the first ‘proper’ compact system cameras for photographers. A few of our customers were early adopters of this Fuji system, having read extensively on the subject, but there were still issues with RAW conversions and it was still first generation. Fuji did what, perhaps, needs to happen more in the world of photography; they listened to their users. Firmware was upgraded almost instantly to fix issues users had, boosting AF speed along the way and removing some bugs. We’ve since had another upgrade and the X-Pro 1’s have flown out the door.

Prior to Photokina 2012 Fujifilm announced the successor to the X-Pro 1 with the X-E1. Smaller, lighter and lacking the optical viewfinder of it’s older brother we once again shrugged under the weight of announcements. That is, before Luke was convinced to take the camera out for a day. Followed by myself. And now, we’re sold. The X-Pro 1 is fantastic. The X-E1 shares the same guts, the same power and more importantly, the same quality as the X-Pro. All for just £729? Where do I sign.

The X-E1 has shed some weight and somehow dropped into tantalising reach. The funny thing about these cameras is that they seem to break standard rules of digital photography. You shouldn’t get the quality you do for less than £2000, I personally rate the jpeg’s from the X series far higher than I do anything from anything else. I’ve constantly likened the images from the X series to Fuji slide film, because that’s exactly what it looks like. There is so little to fault that it’s turned me into a fan boy.

With the X-E1 set to offer the same exceptional image quality in such a compact bundle it would be understatement to say that I’m excited. The only thing to left to decide is if the shop needs a ‘demo’ model or not.

Order your Fuji X-E1 from Castle Cameras.

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Post Photokina 2012: More cameras to lust after.


This year’s Photokina has rocked the photography world with more releases than one could shake a stick at. Here’s what’s happened.

Canon:

Canon put the rumour world to bed just before the show kicked off. The EOS 6D was announced as their entry level full frame DSLR, and that’s exactly what it is. Canon have also refreshed their top end compact range with the new G15, S110 and SX50 HS. With 4 new cameras come 6 new printers. For the professionals out there you’ve got a pair of new top of the range A3+ printers in the Pixma Pro-10 and Pixma Pro-100. Canon also released 3 new A4 printers to the Pixma IP range, one simple A4 photo printer and two new multipurpose units. The final new printer is the Selphy CP900 portable photo printer. Making the most of the Powershot S110’s in built Wifi the CP900 allows you to wirelessly print your images.

Nikon:

Following suit Nikon got their announcements in early. The new Nikon D600 was announced and launched within a week, joining the Nikon 1 J2 and Nikon Coolpix S800c as their new products. The D600 is Nikon’s answer to an entry level full frame camera, yet supports more features similar to their high end models than the Canon EOS 6D does. The Nikon 1 J2 is another compact system camera to entice amateur users, whilst the S800c merges smart phone technology with a big lens. The S800c is probably the most exciting of the three launched, giving an insight into the future of the compact camera market.

Sony:

Sony users have had their prayers answered in the form of the Sony Alpha 99, the worlds first full frame DSLT camera. Some may be disappointed with the lack of optical viewfinder but it is time to accept that SLT is the future for Sony. Also announced was the NEX 6, taking all the best parts of the NEX 7 and new NEX 5R, with built in WiFi, PlayMemories apps and an inbuilt viewfinder. The NEX 5R is worthy of note, if only for how quickly it got swept under the carpet in favour of the NEX 6. There was also the matter of the worlds first 35mm full frame compact camera, the Sony RX1. We posted a little video on that one.

Fuji:

The most exciting launch for me. Fuji unveiled the new Fuji X series camera, the X-E1. Featuring many of the benefits of the X-Pro 1, sacrificing an optical viewfinder in favour of a smaller form factor. With the long awaited zoom lenses available for the Fuji X system and now a smaller, more affordable body, this could be the camera to own if you’re looking for great quality without the DSLR size.

Sigma:

Announced a range of new lenses with emphasis on crisp design and stunning optics. Can’t wait to actually see these in the flesh. Top of the list, 35mm f/1.4. More info to follow.

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Canon EOS 6D Vs Nikon D600: Who gets your money?


Canon and Nikon both confirm entry level full frame cameras, but how do they stack up?

Thanks to the rumour-mill there’s been no great surprises at either of the past weeks launches. 2 entry level full frame cameras designed for every photographer to be able to pick up and shoot in 35mm glory. Now you get the decision; which to choose?

Canon EOS 6D Nikon D600
  • 20 megapixel full frame sensor
  • 100-25,600 ISO (extandable to 102,400)
  • 11 point AF
  • 4.5 fps
  • Single SD card slot
  • 1/180 Flash Sync
  • Shutter tested 100,000
  • Wifi/GPS built in
  • Launch price £1799
  • 24.3 megapixel full frame sensor
  • 100-6400 ISO (extendable to 25,600)
  • 39 point AF
  • 5.5 fps
  • Double SD card slot
  • 1/200 Flash Sync
  • Shutter tested 150,000
  • Optional Wifi/GPS unit
  • Launch price £1955

Whilst you’ll be able to pick up the Nikon D600 from early as the coming Friday you’ll have to wait until December for the EOS 6D. Neither of the cameras are completely game changing but offer a more affordable full frame camera. Neither camera is going to replace a professional DSLR but for landscape/portrait photographers, a lightweight FX camera will sound attractive despite their relative lack of clout.

Both cameras are available to pre-order through the Castle Cameras website with £100 deposit. Both lists are a first-come first-serve basis so be quick to get the first batch.

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Canon EOS 6D Preview: Little body, big sensor.


Today Canon announced the EOS 6D, the worlds lightest full frame DSLR.

Image via Photo Rumours

The EOS 6D is the answer to Nikons D600. The new DSLR boasts;

  • 20 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
  • Digic 5+ Processor
  • Magnesium alloy cover
  • Wifi and GPS built in
  • 11 point AF
  • 4.5fps
  • 1/180 Flash sync

The Canon EOS 6D is available for pre-order at CastleCameras.co.uk.

Nikon D600 Preview: I AM SOMETHING.


Following Nikon’s launch of the first ‘affordable’ FX camera, I thought I’d give a round up of who is saying what about it.

The Nikon D600 is undeniably going to be cool. Effectively a Nikon D800 (currently £2345) in a Nikon D7000 (currently £719) body, this is a FX camera aimed at the enthusiast market. Who doesn’t want a full frame camera now a days? Sony have decided you want it in a compact, Nikon have decided to give enthusiasts a chance to play too. Whilst a camera at this price point still means a lot of overtime or sacrificing a lot of kit in part exchange, Nikon have started a ball rolling for affordable high end quality. This doesn’t come without a catch.

Strobist author David Hobby has said;

“The first thing, and given recent history something not unexpected, is the lack of a sync jack. I was pissed off surprised when the D7000 didn’t include it. But a full-frame body without a sync jack? That’s just a little weird.

It has a 1/200th sync. Game over. […] True, it is only a third of a stop as compared to 1/250th. But with speedlights and daylight, that is a critical third of a stop. To be clear, this camera makes every single flash you own less effective.

Also, the difference between 1/250th and 1/200th sync is deadly when it comes to stopping action when balancing flash and ambient. 1/250th is dicey enough. 1/200th just doesn’t work.”

So no flash sync port, just like the D7000 and other ENTHUSIAST range cameras. Is this such a huge surprise? Not really. This is NOT a D800, the D600 is firmly rooted in the enthusiast range which is why there is a price difference between the two cameras. If Nikon had put full pro features in a body that’s nearly £500 cheaper than it’s least expensive pro offering then D800 owners would feel cheated. It’s just good business. More over, it makes sense. Nikon aren’t out to alienate their professional users but rather give enthusiasts the chance to up the quality of their images through increased sensor size, not a daunting full professional set up.

Using Snapsort to compare the D600 and the D800 you’ll get an idea of the differences.

Even on Nikon’s website the D600 is filed away under ‘Consumer’. This is where the camera is aimed, this isn’t a cheap pro DSLR, this is an absolutely fantastic enthusiasts camera.

Over on PetaPixel they finish their preview with;

“Still, it’s exciting that one of the trends we’re seeing this year is an emphasis on sensor sizes rather than megapixels. Hopefully one day in the near future we will be writing about a $1,500 entry-level full-frame DSLR. Too bad it wasn’t today.”

Gizmodo UK went with the headline;

“Nikon D600: A Professional Camera This Awesome Cannot Possibly Be This Cheap”

There’s a million other tech blogs out there with their own little summarisation of the camera, just Google Nikon D600 and take your pick. The common feeling is either ‘It’s really quite cheap for what you get’ or ‘It’s too expensive for what you loose out on’.

So what do I think? I think Nikon have made the first move, it’s big, it’s bold and it’ll have repercussions around the industry. The main thing to remember is this is about image quality. If you want the highest image quality possible then you put your hand in your pocket and get the best you can. The D600 is the first in a new generation, eventually this could lead to a D3200 with a FX sensor going for £500, it is a possibility. You will, however, still be stuck with a tiny body designed to be simple. There is a reason the D300s is still in the ‘Professional’ category despite it’s DX sensor. FX sensors are not professional, they’re just big.

The D600 is set to be a fantastic camera to use, offering the best in consumer image quality. When I get my hands on one I’ll make sure to post a review that explains the differences better, and in less words.

Sony PlayMemories Preview


Sony launch PlayMemories teaser site.

Image via Sony PlayMemories

With the announcement of the NEX 5-R and the impending NEX 6 came a new line of Camera Apps. Whilst Nikon and Samsung are producing Android OS inspired cameras, Sony have done what Sony do best, build their own. If you’ve got a PS3 or you’re using a Sony smart phone then you’ve probably got an idea of what the PlayMemories service will offer.

Sony NEX 5-R image via CameraDiner

Wifi or 3g internet connection in a camera has got to be cool right? Images of Angry Birds whilst waiting for a bride to slip into her dress come to mind, or Instagram filters attached to 30mb files straight from a D800. By combining a phone with Android or even iOS (you never know) this could be possible. Sony are, however, going the other way and offering you what THEY think a smart camera should be about.

No doubt controlling a camera from your phone, uploading straight to facebook or flickr and cutting out the middle man is a dream. Sony’s PlayMemories teaser suggests all these things are possible, download the apps you want, add all the post processing effects you can think of in-camera and then upload whilst your sat in your favourite coffee house. What is yet to be seen is wether third part developers will be able to submit apps like Apples Appstore or the Android market place.

Image via PlayMemories

Either way we’ll keep you updated when we can get our hands on the new NEX 5-R and NEX 6.

You can check out the PlayMemories teaser site here.

Fuji X-E1 Preview


Fuji have announced the Fujifilm X-E1.

The follow up to the highly acclaimed Fuji X-Pro 1, the X-E1 boasts many of the same features with a price tag more suited to the amateur photographer.

Image via PetaPixel

Featuring the same CMOS sensor as the X-Pro 1 the X-E1 sheds the hybrid viewfinder first introduced on the Finepix X100 and instead opts for 2.3megapixel electronic view finder, that’s one of the highest yet seen. The APS-C, think Nikon DSLR, sized 16.3megapixel sensor combined with an expandable ISO rating of 200-6400 (maximum 25600 ISO) guarantees excellent low light performance. The X-E1 also features a pop up flash and 2.8 inch LCD screen.

Fuji have cut the weight of the X-E1 down to just 350g, heavier than your compact but very much lighter than the 444g X-Pro 1. The usual modes and menus from Fuji’s other cameras make a welcome appearance, including the inbuilt Film Simulation modes that let you pick between Velvia, Provia and B&W film types.

After Fujifilm revealed that they were stopping Velvia 100 production, good news is very welcome just now.

With pricing and availability TBC you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled here and on the Castle Cameras website.

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Gear Review: Lowepro Field Station Review


Lowepro Field Station (photo copyright James Coombes)

We’ve got a couple of Spring themed gear reviews and tests coming up for you guys. Themed is the word. We’re kicking off with one of latest releases from Lowepro; the Lowepro Field Station (£79.00 current in stock at Castle Cameras – Bournemouth). The Field Station represents the entry into Lowepro’s Optics range, designed specifically with the bird watcher in mind.

Specification:

Interior size: 8.5W x 4.1D x 9.1H in / 21.5cm x 10.5cm x 23cm

Exterior size: 9.3W x 7.7D x 10.6H in / 23.5cm x 19.5cm x 27cm

Fabric: 210d Nylon, 600d Polyester, Airmesh.

Weight: 1.6lbs / 0.7kg

Overview:

Lowepro have aimed this bag squarely at the light weight birder. The bag is small, neat and organised, with room for the essentials; 1x pair binoculars (up to 8×42) field guide, notebook and (very) small personal items. You can replace your notebook with an iPad or similarly sized tablet device should you wish, more on this later.

The pocket layout is well thought out. To get in the case you use the YKK rear zip entry that allows quick and easy access. The inside of the bag contains a central pocket with foam insert to hold your bin’s nice and central, with a buttoned padded flap to aid security, whilst retaining enough space on either side for a sandwich or similar. You could even fit a small folding umbrella in the same compartment. Behind the binocular pouch is a divider which houses the sliding notepad holder. This section of the bag suits a field guide and notepad to identify and jot down your days sightings, in our test it held a moleskin notebook beautifully and was easy enough to slide in and out for quick access.

The Field Station has 2 pockets either side, an Air Mesh pocket with elastic sealing to hold anything you want easily to hand, about the size of your fist and perfect for an orange or two. The opposite pocket has a sealing flap and is perfect for a mobile phone or compact camera. Both side pockets are neatly covered by 2 extra waist support straps making it a little harder to grab at your gear but also less ‘knickable’. The Field Station finishes off with a zipper pocket on the front of the bag, in this instance the perfect size for a couple of Cokin P series filters and a holder, although once the bag was fully loaded this did become a little trickier to get gear in and out of.

For me, the best part of this bag is the waist strap. Personally I’ve never had much luck with waist straps, they tend to either be uncomfortable, don’t fit (I’m a little on the skinny side) or just haven’t offered the support they’re supposed to. Lowepro have really nailed it on this bag. From either side of the case protrude a padded, yet grippy waist belt that clips together using a plastic clasp. On the outside of each of these straps is another support that uses the same Nylon fabric as the case and is joined to the bulk of the case. Each of the four supports is independently adjustable, allowing you to create a truly custom fit. The genius lies in the outside straps; as they’re connected to the main body of the case they hold the whole thing snug against your body, the case doesn’t flop from the top when loaded nor jump around when empty. The padded straps offered all the comfort found in Lowepro’s popular Street and Field series and the level of finish is excellent. I wouldn’t worry about using this bag over years of birding and many trips.

The bag is finished in a dark olive green that fits in with it’s intended use.

Lowepro Field Station (photo copyright James Coombes)

Real world Test:

I managed to take a sample on a trip to the RSPB nature reserve at Arne, just outside of Wareham, Dorset. The bag handled my Steiner 8×42 Skyhawk Pro binoculars and all the camera gear I’d taken with me; Cokin P series filters, Filter Holder, Lightcraft variable ND filter, Gorilla pod and even a backup Panasonic TZ30. I managed to keep a rain jacket (great british weather expert) attached to the bag by looping it around the waist strap.

All the Lowepro advertising images show the bag worn on the front, like a 90’s bum-bag (think Mr Motivator). I couldn’t bring myself to walk like that so instead wore the pack around the small of my back for comfort. Whenever I needed to dip in and out of the pack, which was pretty infrequent, I managed to ease the waist straps slightly and spin the bag to my front. I was amazed at the comfort of the pack immediately. We got in a fairly quick 2.5km route through the reserve as light was fading and the carpark closed at dusk. I felt no discomfort with the pack, even having enough confidence to go wading gung-ho style through a bog.

It took seconds to adjust the velcro on the binocular compartment to make a perfect fit for the Steiner’s, and getting the bin’s in and out was quick and easy. The rest of the bag held the car keys and a modest wallet with no complaints, as well as making use of the notebook pocket for the purpose of this review.

Summary:

I’m not a twitcher, not even a closet one in denial. I am however obsessed with gear and anything that can carry what I want, when I want it, without me noticing it is a win. The Lowepro Field Station represents on of the most thought out and successful pieces of equipment I’ve used in an age. If you’re a bit of a part time birder, like taking a pair of binoculars on a photo trip or simply want something that keeps your hands free and your stuff safe then this is the bag for you. At £79.00 it’s not the cheapest bag in the world but this is more than offset by the features of the bag and the comfort and confidence it inspires.

Who’s it for:

The part-time or light weight birder. The techno savvy (remember the iPad sleeve?) birder. Anyone who wants a light weight and comfortable carrying system for short treks and walks.

Who’s it not for:

Wildlife photographers would be hard pushed for space unless they don’t mind carrying their body and lens all day. If you prefer using a scope or bigger pair of binoculars then you’ll want to look higher in the Lowepro Optics range.

Rating:

8/10. The bag is excellent, for what it’s designed for it’d be incredibly difficult to better it. The price point is a little tough, but the features and comfort justify it.

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