Fuji X-T1 'wet review' at Songkran in Hong Kong

We are now about 3 weeks into our shooting experience with the Fuji X-T1 and a new challenge arose....water! Water rains down from every angle soaking everyone.

Now we all know the Fuji X-T1 is 'weather resistant'...but what does that really mean?  Quite honestly, I have no idea, is it waterproof, shower proof, dust proof....in my experience weather sealing is temperamental at best, some cameras are almost waterproof, others fail after one drop of rain goes into the top of the shutter (yes, exactly that happened to my first M9 much to my non-amusement).

Just before I explain more, I would like any readers specifically looking for X-T1 information to be aware we have recently written a fairly comprehensive review on the Fuji X-T1 camera that we have been shooting around Asia for the past few weeks, a link to that blog post can be found at this link, that will also be repeated at the end of this post for reference

Please note: All images in this blog post are unprocessed JPEGS direct from camera, which was set on 'Velvia' mode as I remember, as many people are asking to see direct from camera images.

Kids get ready for battle at the Songkran Festival.

The only people I saw that afternoon that managed to keep dry!

So, I was invited after a few beers by some friends to accompany them to the Thai New Year festival in Kowloon City Hong Kong, to see the 'Songkran' festival, or water festival as some may know it.  A detailed wikidpedia description of this event can be seen at this link.

I hadn't been before to this event, neither in Thailand nor Hong Kong and had no idea what to expect....I thought it would be a low key event with a bit of water being thrown and I didn't actually consider that it may be a camera destroying trip.....was it?...You'lll have to read on to find out....haha.

Preparing myself for the event

I had a hangover, so my preparations were quite simple....drink a fresh coconut on arrival.  Check, thats my prep done.  I was quickly adorned with some flower necklace and some talc splattered on my face and a few bottles of waters shoved down my back....right...i was quickly sober, and ready for action!

Me doing my pre-shoot preparation - 1 x coconut.

Weather proofing the camera....

Also, my technical preparation for this event was somewhat lacking, i opted for the Mark 1 plastic bag approach, zip lock food bag, with a small hole torn in the front to poke the lens through, the bag was just resting over the lens.  I figured the camera was going to get trashed so there wasn't much I could do with what I had to hand...it was a bit of a gamble with the lenses as they are definately not weather sealed and I was planning on using at least 3 of them (14mm, 23mm and 56mm), all of which are expensive lenses....I'm quite sure my hangover was forcing me to make a careless decision not to waterproof cover the lenses better, but I was more interested in getting in amongst the action and getting some shots to be honest, that's usually the way with me.

My elaborate waterproofing system...hmmm

I could already see some water fights going on close-by to where I was, with no idea of the mass of people that was around the corner all ready to soak me....I could see little troops of people with water guns marching towards a gathering point...it kinda reminded me of deploying with a camera in the Army (there were far less coconuts or wet-tshirt wearing women in Basra though), this was definitely going to be much more fun.

A lot of Thai women were around the area, covering everyone in talc.

The troops go marching on....

Never seen so many smiling faces in Hong Kong...

Theres a reason they call Thailand 'Land of Smiles...' Thai's love to be happy.

It wasn't long before I was drenched in water from passers by and locals preparing for the event, somebody threw some flowers round my neck, covered my face in talc and already the camera was covered in water.  I was starting to wonder if this was a good idea...lol.

Some local Thai ladies enjoyed soaking me...and my camera!

Covered in talc and water, having a great day!

"If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough" - Quote by Robert Capa (acclaimed war photographer)

So I saw a rather large problem with photographing this event in my usual style....basically I knew to get the type of images I wanted, I would have to work at very wide angles (typically 21mm, 28mm range for full frame camera), I know for a fact to get the most dynamic images I need to be in close.  The problem with that is for this event there was no shortage of people (literally thousands of them) with water guns, hosepipes, buckets full of ice water or any other water distributing device that had no mission other than to soak you as you came close....so I was a little concerned about the new Fuji X-T1 and more specifically the lenses (that are NOT weather sealed).

Anyway, here's a selection of images taken right in the middle of the action at the main parade event at the start of the festival in Kowloon City, these are all taken on either 14mm, 23mm or 56mm lenses from Fuji, are direct from camera JPEGs and i was just using my tshirt (what was left of it) to try and wipe off water blobs on the front of the lens, so any out of focus blobs are caused by the front elements being covered in water.

Let the party begin...

I'm loving the Fuji colour....

Its Party time...


The crowd was much bigger than I had anticipated.

Little kids snuck up to pour water into the camera....yeah thanks for that...lol!

Everyone was having lots of fun.

Shoot wide, shoot close, immerse yourself...

The crowd was getting crazy.

After the main event in the square the crowd started to move en-masse around the streets of Kowloon City, getting continuoulsy soaked by all manner of methods from every possible direction.  I took a time out for 2 minutes to check the camera, I realised at this point that when I had been wiping down the camera rigorously with my t-shirt I had inadvertently somehow switched off RAW, and was only shooting JPEGS....I figured this wouldn't matter too much and actually made this blog post easier, as I just took the files directly from lightroom to here without processing them at all.  I found as the afternoon went on, and with backlit situations around some of the streets, the RAW files would have been more useful as there would have been more opportunity to pull back highlights in some situations, but these JPEGS are more than acceptable in my view.  Here's some more shots as the parade moved around the streets.

Party people continue to soak each other.

Backlight...great for water shots.

More backlit situations, camera metered well.

we were sprayed from apartments above also.

water, water, everywhere.

So, as the parade was drawing to a close, I checked out the camera again, it was looking  worse than it was, as the X-T1 was covered in lumps of talc, lots of water and the bag I had put over the lens was ripped to shreds.....however, it appeared to be still working normally.  I was worried about the lenses, I had been changing lenses throughout the 2 hours I had been there, so there was a fear that water had got inside (although I was very careful when changing lenses, ensuring I was well protected from any flying water), but nevertheless...fingers crossed, everything seemed fine so far.  The last street I just took a few more images of a little girl that was fast becoming a star attraction as she was standing on her Dad's shoulders dressed in a mini-firemans outfit, throwing buckets of water at the police that were trying to disperse the crowds....highly entertaining :-)

Even the police got a good soaking.

The little star of the show.

Here are a few closeup shots I took of the camera just so you can see it was quite covered in talc, water and condensation had built up inside the viewfinder....I have lost one or two cameras to water damage before, so was slightly concerned, but nevertheless The Fuji X-T1 stood well up to the challenge of this event, and event without any weather sealed lens, it did a great job, close up, soaking wet, in some harsh light, really I couldn't have asked a camera to do any more than it did.

Weather sealed...

Condensation or water inside the viewfinder...oops.

Sealed from talcum powder? Seems to be...


My conclusion is simple, the Fuji X-T1 yet again has impressed me with its ability to shoot in a fast paced, harsh condition event.  I definately couldn't shoot my Leica cameras here due to weather sealing not being up to par, and basically they are much slower, more methodical cameras for me.

I took the camera home afterwards, gave everything a good wipe down with a damp cloth then dried it off.  Everything is working perfectly (Now 4 days later...and still fine), not gritiness when turning dials, no problems with lenses or condensation, its as good as new, so for sure its passed it weather sealing test for me!

I could have easily used my 5D Mark III I'm sure, but I like to keep that big boy wrapped up at the office for commercial projects only, I don't use any of my Canon gear for my personal shooting or photography workshops abroad, thats just for commercial use, big cameras impress clients for some reason, so we keep the big stuff for that ;-)

Again, as per my original blog post which is linked here as full review of the Fuji X-T1, I can only really say good things about it, if you are looking to buy in to the Fuji system, now is the time, this is easily their best yet, well done Fuji, finally its hit the nail on the head for this format.

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We also do commercial photography and videography all over Asia, please keep in touch and we hope to see you around Hong Kong or somewhere else on our adventures.

After spending 18 years in the British Army, Gary left the Army in 2007 after serving with the Combat Camera Teams all over the world and moved to Asia to set up F8 Photography from which he now conducts all his photography endeavours.  You will NEVER see Gary anywhere without a camera....

Thanks for reading.

Heres the link again for reference to my original posting on the review of the Fuji X-T1 camera.  Please share both of these links and spread the word.

Hometime for the partygoers.

Fuji X-T1 review in Hong Kong, Korea & Cambodia

Update (17th April 2014): we have now written a second review on the Fuji X-T1, specifically related to weather sealing when shooting the Thai New Year water festival...you can see that here at this link. I don’t write many camera reviews, so I apologise in advance if I miss out key features or concerns people have with this camera.  My aim here is to given my honest opinions about the things I have discovered about this system in the last 3 weeks using it, this is definitely not a technical review.

I travel a great deal with my photography business around Asia and I feel this qualifies me to have an opinion that may be useful to others who are considering this system as a travel rig.  I feel camera is worthy of mention for many reasons, hence I’m writing this first thoughts style ‘review’.

For those that can't be bothered to read my blurb and just want to cut to a quick conclusion, I'll say this straight out: The camera is fantastic in almost every sense, great image quality, very user friendly experience, best EVF by far, autofocus can still be a little laggy in low light, but apart from that, there ain't much wrong with it.  Now first here's my first few images shot with this camera, followed by my review:

One of the first images I shot on the X-T1 with the 56mm.


X-T1 on day 1 of my trial with it.


Not full frame...but certainly no problem going wide with the 14mm.


I love the look of the camera, its the perfect size for a travel camera for me, un-obtrusive, light, weather sealed (unfortunately none of the current lenses are as at April 2014 as far as I know), but at least I can shoot it in the rain and not worry too much...

The finish of the camera is great, feels like knurled leather, so its 'grippy' when holding it, something I didnt like about the Sony A7, which felt almost 'slippy' in my hand due to its glossy finish.  This feels better to me, similar to the Ricoh GR in the sense that it won't slip out of your hand.  It also has a good built in grip (this can be improved with the addition of either the battery grip or standard grip, both optional accessories from Fuji.

The only thing I don't like so far about the body is the SD card door, it seems to open itself quite often, loose fitting design, and is very flimsy in quality, feels like that will be soon snapped off the way i use my cameras....so thats a bit of a failing in my view...they've worked so hard to get most things very very right, then put on a flimsy SD card door that you open and close every time you shoot to get to the card, not a dealbreaker, just a little annoying, so much effort into other areas, why not make this stronger and more durable...


Its already well documented that the lenses from the Fuji X-Series are all pretty damn good, I would go as far as to say most of them that I have used are SPECTACULAR.  The lenses I am using on this system are 14mm, 18mm, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm equivalent to roughly 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm.  That covers everything I would ever need.  My favourites so far are the 14mm for close up street photography, the 18mm for 'normal' street, the 23mm for environmental portraits, the 35mm for general photography and the 56mm for portraiture and isolating subjects in the street....As you can tell from that statment which started as 'my favourites so far'....ALL of them are my favourites, I have enjoyed using each and every one of them for my own reasons and I will post some images here below sampling each lens which should help clarify how they fit into my compositional eye differently each time.

14mm.  With this 21mm view, perfect for street shooting.

18mm.  Also great for close up shooting.

23mm. Great environmental portrait lens.

35mm.  50mm equivalent, great general purpose lens.

56mm.  Fuji's latest epic portrait lens.


If you just want to keep it very simple, I would say the 35mm 1.4 (equivalent to 50mm) is a great start off lens for general purpose usage if you don't usually get very close to your subjects (by close i mean touching close..lol)....the 18mm is also great and very small (these 2 are also the cheapest of the lot, so not a bad starting point for a portrait lens and a wider street use lens), that said, the 56mm is sublime, probably the best lens I have ever used for portraiture, especially on a 'non full frame rig', amazing quality in every sense, the 14mm is unmissable if you are wide angle street shooter (with its clutch allowing you to quickly manual focus also)...and the 23mm (35mm equivalent, is great, although larger and heavier, probably that would be my choice if someone said you could only have 1 lens.

23mm. Great for environmental portraits...


23. Also great for wider street shots, the best all purpose lens perhaps...


I am not a massive fan of shooting JPEGS, I like RAW. I was able to get hold of a pre-release version of Adobe Lightroom 5.4 which supports the Fuji RAW files including allowing you to use the camera profiles (Astia, Provia, Velvia, Pro Neg, etc, etc) directly onto your RAW files.  This was a very very cool addition to the RAW workflow.  Rumour has it that LR 5.4 also has a different way of dealing with the Fuji RAW files in the sense that they are better quality than previously available in Lightroom.  I think this is true, before I found Fuji files to look 'smudgy', I don't see that with these files, they are very very very good, and I haven't once looked at anything below ISO3200 and thought 'its nowhere near as good as my Leica', its all good, so anyone looking at this camera worried about whether the IQ is good enough, my advice is: Yes, it most certainly is good enough...For example, I made 15 A3+ prints the other day, 8 from the Fuji XT1, the other 5 from my Leica M240, i showed 4 different professional photographers the images, they all guessed wrong as to which cameras produced which files, testament to the Fuji, once a file is shot on a good lens and processed, its not so easy to tell them apart from higher end cameras, in fact, I would say extremely difficult...apart from the fact that the Fuji colour is better than any other camera on the market....which brings us onto the next point...

Image quality in low light is excellent.  The 56mm lens excels every time.

direct from RAW, mixed light, ISO2500, 56mm, meter had no issues.



direct from camera RAW (Velvia).


direct from camera RAW (Standard Fuji B&W)


Spectacular, I have shot this camera in Hong Kong in artificial light, same in Korea, then in Cambodia in harsh light and amazing sunsets, and I can honestly say, I can't remember having even once touched the custom white balance tool in Lightroom to fix white balance, its delivered literally perfect white balance in every situation...something I have become quite unfamiliar with using Leica cameras in recent years, the Fuji is simply astounding at getting white balance and colour bang on, straight out of the box.  That paired with the ability to use the Fuji colour profiles for Velvia, Astia, Pro Neg, etc is really a very, very cool thing in my view, post processing has never been so easy for the colour files.

Metering and colour under articial light mixed with daylight.  NO problems.

Again, Fuji colours direct from RAW under mixed artificial light...no issues whatsoever, never need to adjust.


accurate colour in low light - easy work for the Fuji X-T1.

direct from camera RAW with Velvia mode.56mm. Direct from camera RAW with Velvia mode for strong vibrant colours throughout.


metering is easy for the X-T1, accurate under all sorts of light.

23mm. Direct from RAW with Astia for a softer colour look.23mm. Direct from RAW with Astia for a softer more natural colour look.

56mm.  Direct from RAW with Pro Neg Std profile, good for portraits.

23mm. Direct from RAW with Fuji BW preset.

even in very mixed light (daylight,car headlights,street lights), it balanced it well.

Colours were accurate to the scene in very mixed artificial light.


I've been very happy with my black and white results from this camera, I'm not a big fan of the custom profiles in this regard (B&W red filter, Green filter and Yellow filter), simply because I prefer to process my files much more harshly in this regard, more grit and grain, the RAW files are basically too clean (as is normal for all cameras), so i still prefer to pull them over to Silver Efex Pro 2 to get the look I want.

14mm.  Black and white conversion through Silver Efex Pro 2.

56mm.  SEP2 conversion.

14mm.  SEP2 conversion, ISO6400.

I have made a video tutorial on how I do my black and white with the X-T1 and any other camera for that matter, which includes flattening the image even more before going across the SEP2, the video link for that workflow is here:



The camera has quite a few 'toy' modes, I won't go on about them, i don't use them, things like 'remove all colour except red', fake tilt shift, fake HDR, etc.  I just tried it a few times, for fun with your friends, maybe...for serious photographers, doesn't need to be there...

Fuji X-T1 image with toy mode that removes all colour except red.

The panoramic feature is something quite cool thats been there since the XPro1 though, if you need a quick stitched JPEG that is very easy to do, this one i shot on a moving boat with the 56mm in almost darkness and it came out just like this, can't complain with that feature.

Panoramic JPEG direct from XT1 first attempt.


As far as shooting the camera goes, I love it.  I find the autofocus to be absolutely fine in good light, more than fast enough (not as fast as some full frame cameras or the OMD EM-1, but definately more than fast enough for most things (except sport - in fact if you want this camera for sports photography, stop reading now, and go and buy an OMD EM-1 or a D4s, its useless at tracking very fast moving subjects - I tried and failed badly shooting a basketball match and a soccer match, useless continuous AF for that....for someone walking or cycling down the street that you want to shoot however, its more than adequate.

56mm. Continuous AF had no problem tracking a cyclist.

Subjects not moving too fast were easy enough to catch.

The AF is fast enough to capture a quick kiss...

The light meter dealt well with tricky scenes.

fast AF in good light allows capture of natural reactions easily.

Metering is also very good with the Fuji, i shot in many situation where the light was difficult or backlit, and the meter generally coped well, and the exposure compensation dial is right there at your fingertips should you need it (and its stiffer than on previous Fujis so not easy to accidentally knock), as is the AEL button easily to hand to lock exposure.  I have had absolutely no issues with getting the right exposures with this camera.


I would say I have no issues shooting anything up to ISO6400 with this camera.  Above that its not great, certainly useable, but I have also had no need to go above 6400 and i do shoot quite a lot in low light so for me its no problem for this camera at all.  The only thing that suffers in low light is the autofocus becomes a little laggy (a continuing Fuji curse), nevertheless I do believe its still quite a lot better than all the other existing Fuji cameras out there as at April 2014.

ISO6400 direct from camera, perfectly useable.


A fair few people I know from the Leica crowd have been asking me how the camera performs with Leica or M mount lenses.  I have only tried a few lenses on there, the Leica 50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH, the Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 ASPH, the old Canon 85mm 1.9 LTM and a Leica 35mm Summicron 7 elements.  All of the lenses I have tried have worked perfectly well.  The various modes for manual focus are EXCELLENT, you have focus peaking in a variety of different colours and strengths (red low/high for example), you have split prism focussing ability (my personal favourite with manual glass), you can zoom in for focus assist at the tap of a bottom should you require a zoomed image to focus if you have vision like a mole (do not underestimate the EVF in this camera, its like watching your first 42" plasma screen TV if you have come from EVFs that were developed a year or so ago...it really is a positive experience using this EVF (and as I've mentioned before, i used to HATE EVFs...this has changed everything.  There is even another mode where you can have 2 images showing at once, your main view and a magnified smaller view of your focus point, all very cool, and you can't help but think whoever developed these features is really thinking about the photographer and what they want.  Here's just a few samples from M Mount lenses with the Fuji...basically it just works with these lenses, it works well!


Portrait of me taken by good friend Dean on the Leica 50 lux ASPH.


Good friends Patrick & Ruth shot with the old Canon 85mm 1.9 LTM.


This is nothing short of spectacular experience on my iphone and ipad, i can connect instantly to the camera with one push of the wifi button, the app is very fast and responsive, for either downloading JPEGS to the phone/ipad (you must be shooting in RAW+JPEG to do this, it won't work with just RAW), so i can quickly send files to people I've just photographed or upload/email, etc.

The remote shooting part of the app functions perfectly, you can just connect by one press of the wifi button and then you have live view on the phone/ipad and can just use that to touch the screen and focus, change settings, looks, aperture etc, shoot stills/video, whatever you want, all without touching your camera, just works, and its the first wifi app that I've personally used that does work as it should.


The weakest link of the camera.  I carry 4 batteries around with me, if you use the camera a lot, you will need a minimum of 2 batteries for a days shooting (that would be a bare minimum in my view, but I do shoot a lot), if you want to use the wifi app, be prepared for mega consumption of battery....I would recommend to any travel photographers to carry at least 3 fully charged batteries with you to ensure you don't miss any shots, it seems to show the full battery bar, then 1 bar less then all red, once red, you have about 10-15 shots and its gone....so for me the battery life is crap, don't quote me on this, but I think (not 100% sure) its the same battery as the X-Pro1 and XE-1, etc, with far more processing power and much better EVF, its normal that its going to suck up way more power, so i hope they either release some higher capacity battery or do something in the firmware that at least gives you a better warning...I also tried a third party battery, that was twice as bad as the Fuji ones, so at least try to stick with Fuji batteries if you can.


-Best EVF I've ever used (in fact the only one I like). - Fast shooting rate (8fps or so, more than fast enough) - Love all the options for manual focus (assist zoom, peaking, split prism) - Weight - the camera is light, as are the lenses (less 23mm and 56mm) so its great for travel, small, light and unobtrusive. - Styling, the dials on top look good, they feel good, Fuji are much better at styling their cameras than Nikon or Sony.


- SD card door flimsy quality and easily knocked open, very prone to breaking I think. - Battery life is pretty crap (need at least 2 batteries for a long days shooting). - rear dial buttons are a little small and inset, so people with sausage fingers might find that annoying, no problem, just a minor glitch.


So, I think that just about sums it up for me, I'm a very happy teddy bear when I use this camera, I can honestly say its 'fun' to use, fast, responsive, feels good in the hand and apart from the minor gripes that I have outlined above, its easily my favourite mirrorless autofocus camera to date.  Some people will be confused as to why I preferred this over the Sony A7, thats a no-brainer to me, its not just about image quality - I agree the Sony is better IQ for sure, however, the ergonomics of the Sony are junk, the sound of the shutter on the A7 is useless for close up street shooters who want to be quiet, discreet and unobtrusive, the menu systems in the Sony are confusing (I'm easily confused by the way...), and the complete lack of available lenses (the 2 that are available are good of course), makes the decision between these two cameras an easy one for me, the Fuji is simply a complete system option, much like the 4/3 systems that are on offer, although I believe the APS-C sensor is the way forward for these size cameras, everything is in proportion, lenses, body, etc, etc, and not enough lack of quality from full frame for it to be an issue.


If you want to stay in touch, join one of our photography workshops in Hong Kong, Cambodia, India or elsewhere, keep track of our images, or even just to say 'hi' please check us out at the following link on our public facebook page:


or at my commercial website:


Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion.

Gary Tyson

Update (17th April 2014): we have now written a second review on the Fuji X-T1, specifically related to weather sealing when shooting the Thai New Year water festival...you can see that here at this link.

EXCLUSIVE: SLR Magic 35mm 0.95 lens - FIRST LOOK on XE1 & OMD

I was recently approached by SLR Magic man Andrew Chan with regards having a play with one of his new lenses, namely the 35mm 0.95 lens....of course I was keen to have a look at it, especially knowing that nobody else has used it, so I would be getting the first 'hands on' usage for stills photography and using the new Fuji XE1 to shoot it. One thing I've hear A LOT from people is how you can't get decent BOKEH (background blur) with these smaller sensor cameras.....well ladies and gentlemen....just look at the image below, shot from about 1.5 metres away.....and then redefine your beliefs....because if thats not bokeh-liscious...then nothing is....

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 1600. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 1600, click image for full size direct from RAW to JPEG. (Thanks to Steve for posing, his photography can be seen here

This lens fits cameras from APS-H size and down, so fits perfectly with adaptors on Fuji XE1, Xpro1, and Olympus OMD.  I am unsure if it will fit onto an M Mount camera and perform correctly, if you want to know that, contact Andrew directly, I only know about it working on the Fuji and OMD as those are the two cameras I have tested it on.

Here are a few images shot by my friend Brad on his Sony RX100 of the lens on the OMD and Fuji so you can see the size of it in comparison to the camera bodies (remember this is a prototype lens, so some things will change on final versions, this should be just giving you an idea of size)

(SLR Magic 35mm 0.95 lens on the Fuji XE1, hood out.  Remember XE1 is smaller than XPro1)

SLR Magic 35mm 0.95 on the Olympus OMD)

Also to note that this is not a technical review, but simply a selection of images with links to some high res versions that show what the lens can do.  I have used the previous 0.95 50mm hyperprime from SLR Magic, and I was a fan, although it was very expensive and very heavy.  Of course this is normal for an extreme low light lens, but this lens is much lighter, shorter and although I am not sure of the final price yet, I am confidently informed that it will be in a much more price friendly bracket than the 50mm version. (Update: Introductory price will be USD$1249)

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 800, click image for full size direct from RAW to JPEG.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 640, click image for full size direct from RAW to JPEG. (Thanks to fellow photographer Sean for posing, his work can be seen at www.sdbphoto.com

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 400. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

On the Fuji sensors the lens performs as a 50mm (roughly) anyway, so for me this is great, I can get a 50mm view, at a lower price, and still get bokeh that knocks the competition out of the park.  Happy days!  On my OMD it gives me a 70mm portrait lens with crazy bokeh also....again...happy days! This image below shows the lens performance on the OMD....I personally believe the lens is better suited to the Fuji.....I need more time to justify that, as it may just be that the XE1 sensor is better than the OMD 4/3 sensor...but having discussed it with a few friends when we examined the images, we agreed that the bokeh looked very creamy on the Fuji and a little 'nervous' on the OMD, although this image below shows it looks great on the OMD...so maybe it was due more to the fact we were using the OMD with it in lower light...not yet sure.

Olympus OMD, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 500. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Olympus OMD, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 800. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

As its a prototype lens, I cant comment on final build quality, all i will say at this point is it was a solid lens, a few things I dont like are that the aperture ring and focus ring are reversed, i.e. aperture ring is closest to camera, focus ring at front....felt strange at first, after having used M lenses before, however the focus ring is put at the front so it is easier to rack focus for cinematographers using follow focus systems.

There are no aperture ring clicks as its designed as a cinema lens...this is not an issue for me.  The hood doesnt lock out, it pulls out and pushes in easily, i would prefer a hood that tightens by twisting or similar...not sure if that will be remedied in the final version.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 400. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Another thing thats cool about this lens is the minimum focussing distance, which is 23 centimetres....this image below demonstrates that close focus ability...the person walking past from left side of frame in blue shirt is about 1.5 metres away....and is blown to bokeh-bits....any background in that shot is basically unrecognisable...and creamy smooth.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 800. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

This is a very solid lens, I hope the final versions will live up to the same quality of this lens. The main thing that concerns me when I use a lens is image quality.  I can honestly say that this lens is AMAZING when coupled with a mirorless camera, in particular the Fuji XE1 or XPRO1.  Here are more samples shot over the last few days (please bear in mind that I have only had the lens for a few days walkabout, so most of the pictures may be uninteresting subject matter...I am just trying to show how the lens performs wide open at this stage).

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 800. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 400. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 400. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 1600. Click image or 'save-as' to get the hi-res image. (Thanks to Rob the 'Events Man' for posing, his site is www.eventsman.com)

Here are a few shots taken on the Hong Kong MTR (underground train), for reference when judging distances the woman in the shot thats in focus is sat 3 places down from me.  The second shot is just across to the other side of the train, focussing on the bar in the middle of the train from my seat, the third image i just tried to focus on her watch, check the full size image....I think that gives a good idea of how it can throw out the background so easily.  All files can be clicked to access the RAW to JPEG full size shots that are unedited in any way.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 1600, click image for full size direct from RAW to JPEG.

Fuji XE1, SLR Magic 35mm 0.95, ISO 1600, click image for full size direct from RAW to JPEG.

UPDATE FROM SLR MAGIC FOR AVAILABILITY: Our lens volunteers can order ahead of time in December 2012. For the public it will be  available from February 2013.  Introductory retail price is USD$1249.

To summarise my experience over a few days, I can honestly say it seems great, some won't like the fact that its manual focus only, this is not a problem for me as I am well trained with Leica rangefinder systems so I don't see that as a problem, and fine tuning focus at such apertures is essential anyway, so I'm not sure an autofocus lens at 0.95 would be any use.

If you are interested in this lens, download the high res files and just take a look.....it is what it is......nothing more, nothing less.....I like it, and if it comes down to me buying an ultra fast lens that I can use for mirorless cameras (manual focus only), then I'll take this any day of the week.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and photography and video training workshops, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Olympus OMD goes to Cambodia

(Gary in the railroad village with the locals outside Phnom Penh with OMD and Mamiya 7ii)

So here we are again, back to the glorious backdrop of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this time bringing a different camera system - The Olympus OMD for a 4 day field test.

This blog post is not an all out review of the camera system, I'm not a techno-phobe, this is a real world usage review and highlights of my thoughts on the camera system in a fast changing environment and for close up street and travel photography...you won't find any MTF charts or detailed lens analysis....just images that I shot and my thoughts on them :-)

The last time I visited Cambodia I shot only the Leica M9, as I had shot here several times with full Canon DSLR systems and wanted a smaller rig to shoot travel photography with, and the Leica was a perfect fit...albeit the seriously expensive option.

The Leica system is hard to beat (some say impossible), so the bar was set very high, I have achieved some fantastic results with my Leica M9, therefore I already had an unfair comparison level in my mind...but I thought if a camera is going to succeed in 2012 and beyond, it needs to raise the bar and match some of the already outstanding options available to us.

With this in mind, I wanted to test some other rigs out to replace my Leica rigs for street photography and lightweight travel photography.  I had tried the Fuji XPro-1 a few months ago, and have written some positive thoughts on that camera system, but after extended use I must admit I found the autofocus to be a little slow and inaccurate at times for my liking, even though the image quality was great.  Therefore that camera was moved on and I was back to using Leica again.

Anyway, the only remaining system that attracted me was the new Olympus OMD, with a selection of the already proven prime lenses available from Olympus and Panasonic.  So the day before we flew to Cambodia I picked up a kit, camera, grip, 12mm f2, 20mm 1.7 and 45mm 1.8.  I figured this should cover most of what I need, and I tend to shoot a lot very close up, so I assumed the 12mm lens (24mm equivalent) would be spending most of its time on the camera.

One of the features that I was initially unsure of with the Olympus OMD was the touchscreen for shooting....At first I thought this was a bit of a gimmick, as I'm a traditional style photographer who likes to look through a viewfinder (I don't care much for EVF either....), so I didn't think I would like the touchscreen feature, especially for shooting.

However, I am a changed man, the touchscreen shooting feature - the ability to compose, focus and shoot almost instantly using only the screen has completely revolutionised the way i shoot with this type of camera.

(using the touchscreen to shoot...image shot below)

I learned the cameras menu systems, and setup it all up how I wanted on the 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, without the manual (I never read manuals), so that was easy to do, this helped me warm to the camera once I had it all set up how I wanted, disabling a few features, and programming others to the function buttons to suit my needs.

(First image I took on the OMD, 12mm)

This first shot above was the first time I had tested the touchscreen, which allows you to literally just press wherever in your composition you wish the camera to focus and then shoots....this happens almost instantly, so its a great way to capture a scene or a portrait without having to raise the camera to your eye...its kind of like shooting using zone focussing from the hip...except you take away all the problems that method has (misfocus, composition issues, etc), so in reality this could be the perfect street camera for me.

Because there are very few cameras with this technology currently, I believe that nobody at any stage during my trip there actually had any idea what I was doing when I was shooting in this way....even if I approached them and requested to take a picture, once I was done they would still stand there waiting for me to start....I like that, as then I can capture a more natural image with no barriers.

(local villagers on Silk Island, 45mm) (elderly lady on Silk Island, 45mm)

Using the longer lens (45mm - equivalent to 90mm) was also great fun, as I had the same control as with the wide lenses to capture tight portraits without having to raise the camera.  Another thing that has amazed me, having only used this system for 2 weeks now is how sharp the lenses are.  I am used to Canon gear for work, which is great...and Leica gear for travel/street which can be phenomenal if you get the right lenses....however...in all honesty for the price of these lenses (some as low as only a few hundred US dollars) their performance is amazing...I couldn't ask for sharper images, and that coupled with super fast and super accurate autofocus...i just love this camera more every time I pick it up.

(school kid hiding under a desk, 45mm)

(local school in Phnom Penh, with super friendly staff and kids, 45mm)

However, as mentioned earlier, I am happiest shooting close up with a wide lens (normally a 24 or 25mm lens, so the Olympus 12mm (equivalent to 24mm) was always going to my new best friend on this camera, and to be honest, this lens was the reason I bought the system in the first place...).

Below are a further selection of images I shot there over a 4 day period with the various lenses.  I think as this was the first week I had used the camera, I was more than happy with how it performed and the quality it produced.  The main thing is that I haven't missed using the Leica, despite it being my workhorse camera for the last several months....this tells me something....I'm not saying one is better than the other, as I still think the Leica M can produce amazing photographs, however if you want a system that can give you a lot of the portability and loads more technical gucci features than any Leica....and you don't want to remortgage your house to afford the system....then maybe the OMD is worth a very serious look.

(using touchscreen again and getting nice and close with the 12mm lens)

(on boat roof on way across the Mekong River, 12mm)

(children on Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, 12mm ISO 6400) (sleeping child, railroad slum, 12mm)

(railroad slum, Phnom Penh, 12mm)

(monks at the riverside, 12mm)

(Pagoda Boy, 12mm)

(Rush hour, early morning, 45mm)

(villagers on Silk Island, 20mm)

(102 year old female temple minder, 20mm)

(railroad slum kids, 20mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(Our little gang of photographers, L to R: Giles, Steve, myself and Dave, 12mm)

Guest blog posts on this trip from Steve who accompanied us can be read here:

Guest blog posts written by Dave who also came along can be seen here:

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Tsim sha Tsui at 0.95 in low light

(The back alleyways on Chunking Mansions, great light always) Note: All shots on the Leica M9 with SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 hyperprime.  All processed with VSCO Film Presets in Lightroom 4.

Tsim sha Tsui is one of my favourite places to shoot in Hong Kong, you have the diversity of rich and poor all in a very tight community, with alleyways connecting the designer shop streets the the drug dens and everything in between.

I have been testing the SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 lens for a few weeks now, and am thoroughly enjoying the experience, and again this was my weapon of choice on the M9 for some nice grungy low light portraits and street images around this interesting part of Kowloon for a few hours last night as I tried to escape the mayhem and overspill from the Rugby 7s tournament on Hong Kong Island.

(A very friendly gentleman with his grandson)

The characters around this part of town range from the super rich, shopping along Canton road, laden with bags from Gucci, Dolce & Gabbanna and the likes...to the homeless and everything in between.  This is a normal reflection of Hong Kong life in most parts of the city actually, this diversity makes shooting on the street very appealing, I love how I can be shooting a model outside a store, then 10 seconds later I'm haggling with sinister looking characters in a back alleyway over whether they should allow their portrait to be taken (every time I do that, I have so far had no problems at all, I even take these guys prints back and they are actually very friendly towards me - like everything in life, its all about perception, if you act scared or threatened, generally people will react accordingly, reassure them and yourself that you are doing nothing untoward, and you won't go far wrong...just keep a friend close by to keep an eye on you ;-)).

(Becky and Rocco looking for images around Chunking Mansions)

(Practicing fast focus at 0.95 on a passing taxi...this is how I fine tune my focussing speed :-))

Anyway, more about the lens....I am using it almost daily now, and am finding that I can nail the focus even wide open most of the time, this comes about simply by shooting several hours a day, so I am getting plenty of practice, and am out shooting at every available opportunity with my M9.  I have noticed no focus shift on this lens whatsoever, at any aperture, and once stopped down past f2 it is way sharper than my summilux lens was before (i owned a non-asph version), which was sharp, but I cannot compare with the latest version.

(Gentleman in the alleyway doing boxing training, super friendly guy)

The only downside to this lens as people who have seen it will know is the weight, its a big piece of glass, but thats the compromise for 0.95, need a big hole to suck all that light in, and for me its no problem, I would rather carry this lens and have that option.

 (This giant of a man approached looking wary, after a quick chat, he became a new best friend)

These few pictures show how this lens comes into its own territory, shooting in dark alleyways with only the odd small streetlamp to work with, it just sucks up all the light and gives me fast shutter speeds even at low ISO and makes shooting in this low grungy light a simple task.  None of my other lenses even get close, the M9 is renowned for not having great high ISO quality, so for me this is the answer at night.

(Friendly character inside Chunking Mansions spent 10 minutes telling me the best places to shoot in Delhi!)

I have heard some people mention on my blog about 'purple fringing'....If the focus is off, then sure, you will get that with any lens when shooting into light with high contrast subjects around the edges, you can see from the colour samples here, I have done no 'fringe removals' of any kind, I have simply used '1 click' presets from VSCO film presets for lightroom 4 to give me the tones I desired from the M9 RAW files, I have not retouched the images in any other way.

(Nice chaps from Ghana, happy to pose for me inside Chunking Mansions)

Below is a portrait of Becky, one of my friends who was out shooting with us around the area, I just love the way this lens renders, to me it is a classic style, and it really copes well when shooting into the light and gives lovely lens flare effect that I do not find distracting at all, this is my opinion only of course, but from all the lenses I have shot, I really don't see any problem with this effect here.

(Becky posing with her trusty 5D II, her weapon of choice for photography)

The hub of activity around Tsim sha Tsui gives a photographer so many opportunities, I was actively looking for scenes like this one below last night, trying to find something quirky through glass, using the shallow depth of field to my advantage to help separate the subjects from the background and foreground.

(Shooting candids through the windows)

(Shooting candids through the windows)

Even late at night, all the restaurants are busy and full of activity around Hong Kong...I tend to shoot a lot of stuff at night, theres more shadow and contrasty light around, and usually easier to find interesting 'characters' to shoot around town.

(Chef on a break outside his restaurant - he cheered up immensely when I showed him the image)

After a couple of hours round the back alleys, I headed back to the Star Ferry along Nathan Road, which is always full of interesting characters aswell, whether its someone trying to sell you a copy watch or handbag, to the interesting characters just going about their lives, normally I have had no problem with shooting people in this area, just smile if they see you, and I almost always then engage them in conversation, exchange business cards and send them their photographs, makes getting out and shooting a very social and enjoyable experience, this is my therapy, it keeps me sane!

(Sitting on the fence - again, he grinned ear to ear once i showed him the image)

(Interesting outfit - passer by on Nathan Road)

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 on M9 daylight samples

(Leica M9,  1/750th, F0.95 @ ISO 400) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

So, I've been using the SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 lens for about a week now, mostly in low light situations in with plenty of neon and street light, and it performed really well so far, however, I wanted to try it out in daylight also to see how it looks.

The weather in Hong Kong has been pretty bland the last week, so i didn't need to use an ND filter with this lens, even wide open during the day (its really that dark here!), so I could shoot at ISO 160 or 200 during the middle of the day without a problem and still get 0.95 at around 1/1000 or 1/2000th of a second.

(Leica M9,  1/200th, F0.95 @ ISO 400) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

I have posted links to larger size files below the images this time (as I've just figured out how to do it on wordpress), so feel free to click the links and download a higher resolution file to check out the details if you so desire.

Again, as stressed in my other posts, I don't care for technical details, when I use any lens or camera I just care what the files look like coming out the other end, and in this case, I can honestly say, I have a new found love for bokeh!....I haven't used a Noctilux 50mm, but I know several people who have and who own them and we have compared some of the files, and in my opinion, for the price that this lens will sell for, there is ZERO competition, this thing just performs, plain and simple.  I am not sponsored by SLR Magic, nor am I paid to say these things, I will tell you how it is, good or bad.  I have used the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 lens, and as nice as it can be for the price, the way it renders out of focus areas is not comparable to this lens, it looks like paintbrush bokeh, where as this looks like 'cream'!

(Leica M9,  1/4000th, F0.95 @ ISO 200 - no adjustments whatsoever to this image, straight from RAW) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

I have noticed shooting at night a few issues with colour fringing when shooting directly into artificial light, in my experience, this is completely normal for a fast lens, and I had worse issues with my Canon 85mm 1.2 lens wide open.  I have noticed more issues on the Fuji XPro1 with this lens than with the Leica M9, the M9 has been quite minimal, and these daytime shots show that there is no problem, the above shot was taken around midday, and this one in particular I was really lucky enough to nail the focus bang on, if you look at the full size file, this has been untouched, just exported from RAW to full size JPEG, and really it shows the capability of this lens well in my opinion.

I have also put a few lower light shots from either inside a shop or at dusk so you can really see that fringing is not a big problem at all with this lens, again these images have had no manipulation.

(Leica M9,  1/1500th, F0.95 @ ISO 400 - no adjustments whatsoever to this image, straight from RAW) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

(Leica M9,  1/350th, F0.95 @ ISO 400 - no adjustments whatsoever to this image, straight from RAW) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)


(Leica M9,  1/180th, F0.95 @ ISO 600 - no adjustments whatsoever to this image, straight from RAW) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

Shooting directly into the sun at the 'golden hour' can be a problem with any lens, so i thought I would try that also with this one and see how it performed, the following 2 files were shot that way, were very hard to focus for me due to using a rangefinder shooting into the light, but these particular 2 were pretty much there i thought, i love the combination of this lens and the M9...the colour rendition was superb and especially in the light at this time of the day, they looked great to me straight from camera.

(Leica M9, shooting directly into backlit sun, 1/2000, F0.95 @ ISO 400) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

(Leica M9, shooting directly into backlit sun, 1/1500, F0.95 @ ISO 200) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

The remainder of shots here were shot just before the sun went down, so there was a great light around the area I was shooting.

(Leica M9, 1/1500, F0.95 @ ISO 640) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

(Leica M9, 1/2000, F0.95 @ ISO 400) (click here to open large size image, or right click 'save as' to download)

Of course the focussing is very difficult to get right every time with such a fast lens, but I feel I am well practiced with a rangefinder so I am not struggling too much with it so far and have had no backfocus or front focus issues as yet to speak of.  All I can say if you are considering this lens, especially if you intend to use it on an M9, then download the large size images, I think they speak for themselves, its really a great piece of kit that I am very much enjoying, and looking forward to more shooting with it, no matter how little light is available!

We did an initial review on this lens last week, the link to that is here.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


My first thoughts...Fuji XPro1

(35mm lens, ISO 6400, 1/250th F1.4) I have been back in Hong Kong only a day, and I get a phone call from one of my suppliers....the Fuji XPro1 kit is here....come and collect it and take it for a test drive...of course, like the obedient little boy that I am....i quickly agreed and darted across the river to Kowloon to collect it.

Now something has been tickling my mind...last week I had my best week ever with the Leica M9....totally restored my faith in the beast....however I know the Fuji was on the horizon, and although I don't consider it a direct competitor with the Leica, I have to admit I was scared in case the results from it were so good that I started to question my investment in the Leica gear at some point.

Now I must stress again that I am not a technical wizard nor a scientist of any form....I simply use the camera I have in my hand to attain the best images I can....and the only thing that limits me with the Leica is the ISO..thats it, and even then its mainly because i LOVE to shoot in almost darkness or extremely low light and have found the ISO performance questionable in certain situations.  That will soon be rectified as I will be testing the SLR Magic 50mm 0.95 lens from next week, so will be able to shoot bats in a cave without light i think :-)

Anway, I just wanted to post a few images that I shot tonight and share a few quick thoughts on the Fuji XPro1 having used it on the streets of Hong Kong for only 3 hours.

(35mm lens, ISO 3200, 1/800th F1.4)

Camera settings will be posted under each image, however I will not post full size images for one reason....i dont know how to do it and keep the blog size images at same time! I'm an wordpress idiot when it comes to that, so if anyone can share how to do that on my blog I will happily share links to full size files for them should they want to see them.

My initial thoughts were as follows:

Pros:  perfect body size, amazingly sharp lenses with great maximum apertures, looks super cool (one guy i shot even shouted 'waahhhh LEICA!' after I took his pic, so the Fuji has no problem demanding street cred already as people are thinking its a retro Leica :-), extremely good high ISO performance...shooting in the dark at ISO 25600 and nailing sharp images!

Cons:  Autofocus missed a handful of shots initially...i have almost rectified that problem already by turning on some other autofocus settings that seem to help...I think a bit of practice is needed then it will be fine.  After an hours fiddling around, I was able to shoot in a bar with literally no light, where I could not read the label on my beer and get perfectly sharp focus 9 times out of 10...so i guess its just a bit of practice, time will tell, I've heard many complaints about the X100 focus....so i was expecting problems, but nothing dramatic has occured, simple fine tuning and it seems to be pretty much there already.

Here are tonight's quick snapshots, please bear in mind these are purely test shots for me to try and familiarise myself with the camera in low light...testing focus and high ISO performance.

Following shots all on the 35mm 1.4 (equivalent approx to a 50mm on full frame) 

(no post processsing or adjustments, simply camera JPEGS here)


(Rocco the Leica slave,  1/350th F1.4, ISO 6400)

(Taxi,  1/1000th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Woman texting,  1/150th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Happy Couple,  1/350th F1.4, ISO 3200)

(Caught me peeking,  1/105th F1.6, ISO 3200)


The following few pictures were all taken on the 60mm 2.4 lens (again, no post processsing or adjustments, simply camera JPEGS here)

(dinner time,  1/110th F2.4, ISO 5000)

(inside computer centre,  1/500th F2.4, ISO 5000)

The following images were shot in a very very dark bar, i cranked up the ISO straight to the maximum ISO 25600.....heres the results...again, no noise reduction, or post production whatsoever, these are straight from camera.

(35mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/450th, F1.4)(35mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/340th, F1.4)(60mm lens ISO 25600, 1/120th, F2.4)(60mm lens, ISO 25600, 1/170th, F2.4)

Although these images have been shrunk down for blog sizing, hopefully there is enough information to show the quality at least to give an idea...basically as I said already, there is a total lack of noise anywhere at any ISO....I shoot normally Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 7D or Leica M9 and this Fuji blows them all out of the water in a nano-second with regards high ISO performance...if this is the future of cameras to come with this kind of high ISO performance, then I might as well sell my flash units, as I won't be using them much anymore!

I have to say, apart from the tiny niggles with the autofocus I had at the start of the night, overall I am extremely impressed....I ain't selling my Leica gear, its a very different feeling for me shooting a rangefinder over an autofocus camera...but for sure this new Fuji is going to be getting a serious workout over the coming weeks.

My initial advice to anyone who is looking for a lightweight alternative to DSLR where image quality is paramount, or a less expensive alternative to Leica for street or travel photography...I think this camera could very easily fill that gap.

Please bear in mind that I have not tested any other cameras that could be considered competiton....this is just my gut feeling as a photographer who shoots a lot of images on a day to day basis in a variety of situations.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.




SLR MAGIC 50mm 0.95 Hyperprime (FIRST LOOK)

(First shots wide open  in Lan Kwai Fong) Anyone that shoots Leica M cameras may have heard the buzz that is going around currently about this new 50mm lens that is due to come out later in 2012.

We were lucky enough to meet Andrew Chan from SLR MAGIC who let us have a play with a prototype lens here in Hong Kong for a few hours.

Something I must state up front is that firstly I am in no way affiliated with SLR MAGIC or Leica, so my opinion is completely unbiased.

Secondly, I have never even touched a Leica Noctilux lens, which of course is the only other lens in this category (unless you consider the Voigtlander 50 1.1), and to which people are comparing this lens, therefore I cannot compare quality, bokeh or any other details.

I am only qualifed to tell you what I think as a working professional and extremely passionate street photographer my views on what I thought about the lens after an hour or so of playing with it.

Please note that none of the pictures here have had any sharpening applied to them, only minor colour and tone adjustments.

We met Andrew in Lan Kwai Fong in Central, a great place to shoot in low light as there is plenty of street lighting, alleyways and of diverse characters to shoot.  Also that night it was raining which added a certain ambience to the light.

I was running a street photography workshop with Eric Kim from LA this last weekend so he joined us and posed as my subject for a few of my first test shots, which have now landed as his profile pic on his website and facebook page:-)

We will be running many more of these street photography and travel workshops regularly by the way for anyone interested, check our website here (apologies for the quick plug to my own business..:-))

(Eric Kim posing for the hyperprime...focussing was perfectly accurate at 0.7 metres)

I do own a Leica 50mm 1.4 pre-asph lens which is extremely sharp and I am very much in love with this lens, so I wanted to compare the two, not really for sharpness but more to see how big the difference in BOKEH (background blur) was between 1.4 and 0.95 and if I thought the difference was substantial enough for me to consider buying the hyperprime when it is available.

So my first thoughts in brief for this first look are as follows:

1.  Its damn heavy (as expected), its a very big piece of glass, so this is no surprise...I don't mind this fact, heavy glass means quality as far as I'm concerned.

2. The build quality feels great, very very solid...I love the smooth 'no click' aperture ring...very very cool, and lovely built in sliding hood and screw on lens cap.

3. Its gonna be expensive...nowhere near as expensive as a Noctilux of course, but its gonna be a lot more expensive than the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 (I have used that lens, and unfortunately I'm not a big fan of that particular lens although for the price it is still very acceptable for many people).

4.  The BOKEH is AMAZING!!  Yes, I compared it to all I had available...which is a 1.4 and of course there is a big difference between the two.

5.  Its damn SHARP wide open....I took about 100 shots with it, all wide open...and found about 90% of the shots were pin sharp where I focussed, I am sure any mis-focussed shots were only down to me, not the lens.

(Eric Kim  in Lan Kwai Fong)

Please bear in mind that I am not a technical guy...to be honest, none of my Leica lenses are coded, I don't notice any problems or differences between other lenses that are coded that I have used, maybe I'm lucky, or just ignorant...I don't look that hard, I just want to make strong images, and I'm more concerned with my subject matter.  I don't get too excited about whether a lens has a very slight vignette effect, MTF charts or slight barrel distortion...I'm a photographer...not a scientist :-)...Most imperfections in my opinion (especially vignette or barrel distortion can be fixed in Lightroom 3 in about 2 seconds, and even quicker if u set up a lens profile preset that if you had any issues, so could easily be fixed on import without ever having to do anything).

Just to note on my previous paragraph, I didn't see any vignette or distortion with this lens, but i didn't test it for these factors either, as I said I tested it as a photographer who shoots low light portraits and street photography.

To summarise, are these very few points that I have addressed enough to make me want to buy one?....the short answer is YES...I want one NOW.

I will be contacting Andrew at SLR Magic to get my name on the list...I will buy one as soon as they are available...not because I'm a gearhead (that's debatable among my friends :-)) but purely because I LOVE to shoot in very low light...I love BOKEH....and I love to save a bit of money where I can...there's no way I can afford a Noctilux...the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 is not in the same league in my personal opinion.....so this is where SLR MAGIC is going to fill the gap with regards price...but with quality I suspect they may well overtake the Noctilux....I really can't fault this invention and I hope the production copies are as accurately calibrated as the prototype I played with.

The camera world is very exciting at the moment, and I'm very positive about this lens and am sure its going to be a great success.

Here are a few other images shot with the lens, all wide open on the M9.

(Me, photographed by Eric Kim at minimum focussing distance)

(shot wide open from a bit further back..)

(wide open, shooting through my friends with background about 10 metres away.)

(black and white conversion)

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