This is a two part review or a review with two parts – you be the judge.
The first part is about this picture. The second part about the data capture device used to make the image.
In taking or making this image, I became conscious of several things – both in the process of making it and then, in reviewing the initial take just after the event. There was nothing special about the event. Nothing was set up, just a bunch of guys playing cards in the backyard. Hapstance, circumstance and whatever played a part in the making of this image and the sequence of which it is a part but, this story is for another time.
As the moment unfolded, wondered if it was worthwhile photographing. The gear I had with me was newly acquired and I wasn’t too sure if it was up to the task. The moment soon became compulsive – these guys were so engrossed in their game, the lighting was as perfect was it was going to get and … the moment needed to be photographed. This was the result.
Off the top and looking at this image later, I was reminded of van Gogh’s Potato Eaters. So much so, I had to get on to the Internet to get some background information on van Gogh’s work. As much as I admire this particular piece of art and this for a long time, I’m not too about running parallels between this particular image and van Gogh’s work. On reading Wikipedia’s commentary associated with the work of art, van Gogh is given to say he wanted to depict peasants as they really were. In further commentary he says, “I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours – civilized people”. I guess at this point, this is where Mr van Gogh and I differ somewhat. I was not so much interested in seeing, capturing and/or depicting something different from myself. Rather, I see myself as being witness to a moment that was local to where I was at the time.
If there are any parallels between what I do and anything van Gogh ever did, is that we are “impressionists” and this after a fashion. While I may react to an event or moment in what to me is a now a predictable fashion, still don’t and may never know what affect or “impression” this or any of my other images may have on other people. Seems like van Gogh was very aware of the “impression” he was making even if he appeared to be somewhat non-chalant in whatever he was doing. From this side, I just take pictures.
Taking this picture.
Now, if I sound a little ambiguous – this regarding things digital and gabbling on about “data capture devices”, it’s this – my Leica M-3, my Canon EOS-1V, a Contax 645 and the Hasselblad 500 CM are all real cameras. Anything digital is a data capture device, NOT a camera. These electronic devices will never be anything else. They capture data which, in turn, is then transferred to a computer where thereafter, the digital image data is converted and images are thus made. Nothing else and nothing less.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s look at the technology that went into making this image. Recently I purchased a Fuji X-E1 together with 15-88 mm zoom lens. Initially had mixed feelings about buying this gear. Much of the recent digital work I’ve been doing has been done using Canon gear, more lately using a full frame Canon EOS 5D MkII plus prime lenses. Thus, wasn’t too sure how the Fuji was going to stand up to the “quality” that I was pulling off and thus had come to expect from the Canon gear.
Looking at this image I needn’t have worried. Now, I’m not going to run a full blown review on the X-E1. There are enough reviews out there on this rig, some of which are very comprehensive. This is just a personal impression and it comes down a few words – I’m seriously impressed with the quality of the images coming out of this device.
Starting with the lens, other reviews make quick mention of the fact that the Fuji lenses are as good as if not better than equivalent Leica lenses. This may or may not be the case. But and as I as I see it, my Leica lenses resolved for film and not for digital capture. The newer Leica lenses – costing a measure more than I paid for the Fuji gear in total – may yet tell a different story. Still, not sure if I would bother acquiring of these Leica lenses and this to just prove a point. A quest for another time perhaps.
On the topic of Leica lenses, specifically their resolution and resolving power, these things made a difference while using film. Film and digital are not the same thing. Digital is whole different medium. A bit like oil paints and their equivalent in acrylic media – while you can make paintings with both media, the finished results while perhaps nonetheless pleasing, are very different.
Which brings me back this image. To put it mildly I’m astounded by the results. I’m not a JPEG shooter. Most of the time I shoot RAW or, in this case, using Fuji’s RAF. I prefer making my own JPEG’s as opposed to doing this in camera. The image here is a JPEG off the “processed” RAF file. How I got the image to be this way is a story for another blog feature.
Back the data capture device. Much has been said about of Fuji’s X-Trans unique filter array pattern and one that foregoes the use of a low pass filter and, in the process, supposedly providing better image resolution. I’m not going to go into the details here as something more thorough can be found elsewhere. From a subjective point of view, Fuji’s 6×6 RGB filter array format seems to make more sense than the standard Bayer’s 2×2 colour filter array. Also, I’m not going to suggest here that this image is proof of the pudding. Far from it, this is only one image. What I’ve captured here comes close to what I had initially envisaged when making this image.
As for the hardware and as stated earlier, this is a data capture device, not a camera. As an affirmation of this fact, this device appears to be more plastic than it is metal. And what metal there is, it’s a little thin. Put another way, this is no Leica – even though other reviewers seem to have been quick to draw on similarities between this device and Leicas. My Leica M-3 is almost as old as I am. The half life of this device, as with any digital capture device, is the usual 18 months – this before the technology becomes redundant. If this and any other data capture device lasts a year or two more, you may be lucky.
Fair comment has been given to the “retro design” and all the knobs and dials all over the body. For the most part they seem vaguely redundant as most of the technology is found in the software and this via the LCD screen. More on this later.
If there’s anything Leica-like on this piece of gear, it might be the viewfinder. While the Leica’s viewfinder is optical, the X-E1′s one is electronic. The first time I came across an EVF was on Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-R1. There it was slow and lagged a lot between shots. By comparison this EVF almost glows in real time with the exception of the image previews that pop up for a second or two while shooting. However, this device’s EVF is not a “both eyes open” focusing device as is the case with Leica. But, I’ve sort of got used to it. Like most other data capture devices, the in-view info is a bit jet fighter like but, it doesn’t really distract or detract while shooting.
A useful adjunct to the shooting process is the rear LCD viewing panel. This can be used in place of the EVF. A bit more data is shown on the LCD panel, the most useful of which is the spirit level. This has proved useful when doing ground or over head shots.
Eschewing all good things that others have said about this piece of equipment and much of which I may concur, there are a few items which niggle and irritate me enough to say that they seriously piss me off. One is the macro button/switch. Almost every time I work with this device, especially in the vertical, the joint in my thumb seems to activate this feature – and I have smallish hands.
The other item that’s annoying is the hunt around the menu system to get the flash to work. Yes, while there’s a button to pop up the flash, that’s it – nothing further happens. You need to go into the menu system to set up the flash and then, and only then, you next need to find SILENT MODE to actually switch on and activate the flash PLUS a whole lot of other useful functions. And yup, there you were thinking that SILENT MODE was to there to turn off the pseudo camera click sound as well as that annoying beep-beep sound that every point and shoot camera seems to have acquired. No such luck, it also activates the flash.
The other thing I found, and this quite by accident, is getting a slight tingling electric shock via the tripod socket when the camera is tethered to my laptop while transferring images to it. My laptop was attached to a docking station and this via a wall socket plug that’s not earthed. Not exactly a fault but its there nonetheless.
So all in all, an interesting if not amazing technology – as in Fuji’s CMOS chip and lens combination – wrapped up in a cheap body that doesn’t really do the imaging technology any particular justice.
And that’s it. In a future blog I’m hoping to discuss the workflow that was used to make this image – this for another time.
Take care and enjoy – Rogan.