May 27, 2012


I am still discovering, bit by bit, the wonderful tool the X-Pro1 continues to be for me. As I grow more familiar with its operation and its characteristics – and learn better ways to deal with its puzzles and pitfalls – I take the camera to new challenges.

As I am writing this, Adobe still has not released any X-Pro1 RAW support for Lightroom 4, my preferred – and in reality uniquely used – post processing utility. Apparently an early evaluation version has been available to a very restricted number of parties, and most likely the ACR crew is busy finding out the hard way how to fine tune the demosaicing for Fuji’s X-Trans color filter array. So we’re stuck with out-of-camera JPGs for now, and thank God-san these are nice and useable well above average!

I currently shoot RAW + JPG large, so I will have a RAF file to revisit when LR4 support makes it to my desktop. On a few rare occasions I used the in-camera RAW conversion function to get an ‘alternative’ JPG next to the one with my default settings.


Not only do I find the X-Pro1 JPGs of very high quality with respect to color fidelity, tone rendering and image detail, shooting with neutral to somewhat flat camera settings leaves you with base images that do quite well with common post adjustments.

The image above got a dose of Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 filtering: a mix of Bleach Bypass and Detail Extractor that I have found to like a lot. And the X-Pro1 JPGs respond rather well to such a treatment.

Recently I accepted to shoot the wedding of a good friend of the family. I was not ready – by far – to rely on the X-Pro1 as my main camera: not enough hands-on experience, no medium tele option (still waiting for that 60mm lens…), no RAW support in LR4, autofocus to be improved (at least) for fast paced events…


My trusted D700 with its 24-70 f/2.8 took good care of the formal ceremony. But the X-Pro1 played excellent as second body, and I shot it a lot more than anticipated during the more casual and private parts of the day. More than anything else the indoor, no-flash, available light images surprised me pleasantly!

The flower arrangement of the little bridesmaid was shot with the 35mm f/1.4. That JPG went through LR4 and next through Color Efex Pro 4 AND Silver Efex 2. Yes, you can combine an ‘original’ image with both a color and a monochrome treatment thereof, all three mixed appropriately within Lightroom using Perfect Layers.
Look ma, no Photoshop!


Adding a slight touch only of a plug-in filter effect to an image is something I happen to do more often lately. This shot from the main Greek Orthodox Church in Brussels (captured with the 28mm f/2.0) received a little kick from Color Efex Pro’s Bleach Bypass and Detail Extractor filters combined, each one muted using a low opacity setting. The result shows a pinch of an HDR-like effect but keeps a natural look. All starting from a single JPG file…

I can’t wait to discover the full potential of the X-Pro1 images once the gates to their RAW richness get unlocked!

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 & 35mm f/1.4

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May 3, 2012

I stand corrected

As of today, I enjoy a much clearer view through my X-Pro1 viewfinder: I finally could install a diopter appropriately correcting for my vision.
I never intended for this blog to be about technical issues, but I guess my recent ‘quest for the optimal diopter’ may be of interest to many X-Pro1 owners.
Is there a problem?
The Fujifilm X-Pro1, unlike most recent cameras, does not come with any built-in means to adapt to its owner’s eyesight. Whether that is the result of some technical limitation linked to its unique hybrid viewfinder design, or as one more way to add to the retro look and feel, who but Fuji’s engineers can tell? The end result anyway is that many people with less-than-perfect vision - and especially those keeping on their glasses while shooting – will not be able to have a uniformly sharp look through the viewfinder, be it in optical (OVF) or electronic (EVF) mode.
Adding insult to injury, those using progressive lenses face another handicap: they will see the top and bottom of the viewfinder image with a different degree of sharpness, as their glasses’ corrections vary from top to bottom as well.
And then alas, there’s more… In OVF mode, electronic information is displayed on top of the direct optical view. The Fuji engineers for some reason have decided to ‘project’ the two images at different apparent distances. Some estimate that the optical image appears at about 1.5-2 meters, whereas the electronic overlay (and, in EVF mode, the full viewfinder image) lies closer.
IMG_0315wA wealth of information in the X-Pro1 optical viewfinder
Is there a solution?
The viewfinder comes equipped with a screw-in clear protection glass with zero correction. How do I know? If you remove the part and hold it over e.g. text on a page, the image seen through the glass does not shift when the glass is moved around.
That ‘neutral’ eyepiece can be replaced by a diopter, a lens with a positive or negative correction factor just like eyeglasses. The X-Pro1 accepts a 19 mm diameter screw-in type diopter, the same type as once used by Voigtlander Bessa cameras, or older Nikon F (FE, FM, FA…) series SLR bodies. If your photography history goes back far enough, you might have some lying around in a drawer. Otherwise, you can go hunt for them at the handful of specialized camera shops that still carry or cater to (used) rangefinder cameras. As these diopters recently became a hot item overnight, you will likely find them back-ordered from the manufacturer: prepare for another patient wait… (remember the anticipation for your camera to arrive?).
What diopter correction do you need?
Correction eyepieces typically come in -3, –2, –1, +1, +2 and +3 diopter strengths (a 0-D part has no correction and serves as a replacement for a lost neutral glass).
If you know the details of your eyeglass prescription, you may try to do the math. Take into account that by design the X-Pro1 viewfinder has a built-in correction of –1, as confirmed by Fuji support sources. That value has been known to work best for the ‘average’ photographer (know any?), and also was the default with the older Nikon SLRs; Leica M-series cameras come preset to a –0.5 strength. It’s not impossible to calculate the desired correction, but nothing will work better (or at least, prove to be more reliable) than a real eyes-on test.
Better swing by your local optician and look into the viewfinder through the correction lenses they always keep handy. Test first with an EVF display (or call up the Q menu), then switch from EVF to OVF. Do this while wearing your glasses, of course, if you plan to keep them on while shooting. You will be able to verify the perceived image under different circumstances (OVF, EVF).
I myself cheated. Being nearsighted, I knew I needed a positive correction *. I recently have liberated a set of three Hoya close-up filters (in +1, +2 and +4 strengths) from the drawer where they had long retired. Every accessory I have with a 52mm filter thread has become popular again: once Nikon’s standard thread for basic prime lenses, this size is now used on the Fuji XF 18mm and 35mm lenses. So I had a set of trial diopters ready at hand (and a lot of filters as well).
* Just to be clear: nearsighted (myopic) people need a negative correction from their eyeglasses for distance viewing. For more nearby objects, that correction typically (and over age) will be weaker, maybe even zero for very short distances. Progressive lenses therefore add a positive ‘counter’ correction kicking in across the lower half of the eyeglasses. And as I want/need to keep my glasses on for shooting, I need a positive correction on top of the bigger negative one already built into them.
Where do you find one?
I ordered my Voigtlander +2 round diopter correction lens online from They are sold at an acceptable GBP 15.00 excl. 20% VAT; too bad the cheapest delivery method, signed-for air mail, adds another GBP 10.50 excl. VAT. Reported out of stock at the time of my order, the diopter still came in pretty fast and showed up at home this morning.
_DS77106wLeft the Fuji original, right the Voigtlander +2 diopter
The Voigtlander diopter looks remarkably like the original Fuji eyepiece. I would not be surprised if they shared a manufacturing line somewhere East. Fortunately, the diopter glass has a discrete reflective (in my case) +2 marking, barely visible in the above (click to enlarge) picture. The diopter has the same nice rubber coated ring as on the original: ideal for eyeglasses. Beware that the Nikon diopters have metal rings!
Do diopters work well?
Of course they do! With my diopter installed, I have a perfectly sharp view on the entire viewfinder area. Well, at least on the electronic overlay part and – when enabled – on the EVF image. Which is what I find most critical: the EVF is used for an exact display of the frame-to-be-captured, and also for macro shots and for fine tuning (manual) focus, with or without the optional enlargement. There is a small but noticeable difference between top and bottom sharpness, but of course that’s due to my use of progressive eyeglasses (there’s no progressive diopters that I know of…).
However, the OVF image showing at a different apparent distance now is slightly more out of focus. Not all too critical, since the OVF frame lines are approximate anyway, and all of the electronic data still looks tack sharp.
So I managed to reach my objectives, and finally have a super view through the super viewfinder of a super camera.
Just to be 100% convinced that I did not overcompensate with a +2 correction, I also did order a +1 diopter now (see? I should have taken a better look to begin with!). I will evaluate both options in real-life use, and perhaps one of the diopters will find another home then. Will take some time: the +1 is on back order…
Gear notes: D700, Tamron 90/2.8 – iPhone 4S
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May 2, 2012


Just two days after getting my Fujifilm X-Pro1, I participated to a Belgiumdigital Shooting Day in the southern Antwerp area. Our route partly followed the ‘Expedition Blue Gate Antwerp’ trail, a discovery tour laid out last year through a historically significant but today largely abandoned section of the old harbor (locally known as ‘Petrol South’).


The gear was brand new to me, but coming from the X100 and having read the X-Pro1 manual long before the camera arrived, the basics were well understood. Just a matter then of getting familiar with the latest toy and two of its new lenses.


What’s so special about the old petroleum harbor? In 1863, only four years after drilling the first well in the US, Antwerp already had become the largest and best equipped import harbor for oil products in Europe. It kept that status until 1927, when Hamburg and Rotterdam took over.


At the start of the 20th century, Antwerp moves its focus for oil related activities to the south of the city. An area of 100 hectares is acquired and construction work starts: a 300m long concrete pier, underground pipelines, huge fuel storage tanks…  After only one year of operations a big catastrophe happens: one of the fuel tank ruptures and ignites. Immense fires rage for twelve days and destroy the installations almost completely.
Within the year, the infrastructure is rebuilt and industrial activities resume, and with that, the first complaints about oil leaks and the resulting pollution are recorded.

When World War I erupts, the authorities give the order to set fire to the oil tanks and destroy all infrastructure. The arriving German troops will find only a small part intact. After the war, the expansion of Antwerp’s petroleum harbor resumes. By 1920, no less than 233 oil storage tanks are counted. A final extension is realized in 1934. But the area runs out of space for new plants, and oil tankers have grown to a size that the old harbor can no longer accommodate. During the same  year a first new refinery is constructed in the northern harbor. This is the beginning of the end for ‘Petrol South’…


Today, only a few oil-related companies remain active, the rest of the area is dotted with industrial antiquities and derelict buildings. But the heavily polluted site stands on the brink of a new future: a massive cleanup and reconversion effort has begun to turn this part of Antwerp’s south harbor into the place to be for new sustainable and ecological ventures.


It’s not hard to see that ‘Petrol South’ is a visually rich area and a real treat for photographers. So it did serve as an ideal playground to discover a new camera that by itself represents a unique combination of past and future.

Gear notes: Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 & 35mm f/1.4

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