Retro Review – Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Retro Reviews are something new for WFLBC.com. I love film, I love old cameras, this is something I’m very excited about. First up, the Minolta Hi-Matic AF2. A 35mm fixed lens point and shoot from 1981.

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Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

This camera is very much a film equivalent to the modern Fujifilm X100 series of rangefinder styled premium point and shoots. 39mm fixed f/2.8 lens, auto focus, auto exposure, the only thing manual on this camera is film loading and advance. It has a large, bright, parallax corrected viewfinder with bright frame lines. There are 2 LED’s. one that indicates the need for the built in flash (which beeps like crazy) and one that tells you if you’re focused on something near or far. It also beeps if you’re out of focus which is kind of cool/kind of annoying.

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Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400

Auto focus is very accurate and quite fast for a camera of this vintage. The lens gives fantastic contrast making it perfect for street photography and black and white film.

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Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400 – with flash.

The shutter is very quiet, another good feature for a street camera. The leaf shutter makes a weird sound best described as a tiny robot sneezing.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400 – with flash

The little pop-up flash is impressive. It does its job well even in bright sunlight. Ilford HP5 loves this camera and the camera loves it back. Dark blacks and bright whites that border on overexposed when the flash is used. I like that look.

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Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400 – with flash

Color reproduction is great, even with Fujifilm drugstore film loaded up. I’m blown away by the sharpness of the lens. This camera will probably see some travel miles logged this summer. Montreal, a road trip to Alberta, and a weekend in BC’s Cariboo region.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Unlike a lot of cameras from this era the AF2 takes AAA batteries. Anyone who’s tried to resurrect an old film camera knows the pain of finding extinct batteries or using a modern equivalent that isn’t quite right.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

The Hi-Matic line reaches back to the 60’s with some great manual rangefinders. I have a 7s I’ll be reviewing soon. The AF2 is kind of stuck between 2 eras. Rangefinders were all but gone in the late 70’s aside from Leica and a few others. The AF2 isn’t a rangefinder but it looks and feels like one. It adds some 80’s electronics but sticks to manual film advance. It’s a bit of an odd duck but that’s typical Minolta.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400
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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Prices for the AF2 are all over the place right now. As more street photographers rediscover this little gem the price will certainly go up. Right now they’re anywhere from $10 to $100+. There are wide and tele lens attachments, just like the X100. It’s like Fujifilm used this thing as a template.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

You may wonder why I bother with film. My digital Fuji X Series cameras offer exceptional image quality, the ease of automatic and digital everything along with great manual controls, and all the cool retro looks of film cameras. Megapixels, instant gratification, and the ability to shoot thousands of images just to pick a few good ones have dumbed down photography to the point where it is losing its artistic appeal. Film is magic to me. Film is the unknown in an age where Google makes you think you’re a genius. 24 or 36 chances to create art and you can’t be sure you’ve done anything until the roll is done.

Keep up to date on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Stay tuned for more retro reviews!

Scott.

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Nine O’Clock Gun Co. Pop Up Shop

 

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My pals at The Nine O’Clock Gun Company are having a one day pop up shop on May 7th (10am – 6pm) at 4368 Main St in Vancouver. There will be a limited number of Dugout VIP passes for sale that include a limited edition beer from Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks.

From their website –

On May 7 – we will be launching The Fielder’s Caps Collection in 4 styles including kids and performance mesh.

The Dugout VIP Pass entitles you see and reserve one of our Fielder’s Caps before anyone else even sees the new designs. You choose any hat and it will be packaged especially for you to pick up at the event.

Each VIP Pass comes with a limited edition bottle of Cannon IPA by Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks….

Plus one ticket to our annual night out at the Vancouver Canadians game on August 17th!

Available: 16.

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VIP passes go one sale today (April 2nd). Prebuys for pickup at the event go on sale May 1st. I’ll be on site snapping pictures and maybe drinking beer… Passes and prebuys can be found on the Nine O’clock Gun website.

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Me and my favourite N.O.G. bucket

I hope to see you at the event on May 7th!

Scott.

Review – Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 Photo Printer

Who doesn’t love instant photos? I have a Polaroid Supercolor 635 CL and it’s a lot of fun. The biggest problem with it and all instant cameras, aside from the ever increasing cost and availability of instant film, are the cameras themselves. Imagine being able to instantly print photos from your camera or smartphone in the same fashion. That’s exactly what the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 does.

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Not quite pocket sized but small enough for a camera bag or larger coat pocket, the SP-1 is wireless utilizing WiFi and CR2 lithium batteries to keep you printing wherever you are. The non-rechargeable batteries are good for 100 prints according to Fujifilm. In reality it’s closer to 75-80. I picked up an A/C cord on Amazon which uses any smartphone USB plug you already have laying around which cures my battery anxiety.

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The business card sized prints look great. Using the “Intelligence Filter” in the Instax App adds some color and contrast that help the instant prints pop more than unedited photos. The free app is available for iOS and Android and is easy enough for the most techno-phobic person to use.

The printer takes Instax Mini film which comes in 10 shot cartridges. The film is pricey on a per-shot basis, over $1 CAD per print and the printer is anywhere from $150-$220 CAD depending on sales or promotions. It probably isn’t an impulse buy but it’s not overpriced either.

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Who is the target buyer for this printer? I think that has changed since it was introduced. It has changed from a novelty item aimed at families, hipsters,  and teenagers and is now used by street photographers for making real connections with their subject matter. It’s also being used by professional photographers to show proofs to clients on the spot no matter where you’re shooting.

Fujifilm X Camera shooters can print right from their camera or use the app. Any WiFi enabled camera that can send photos to your smartphone can utilize the app along with any photos taken on said phone.  Gone are the days of instant photography guess work, you now know exactly what your print will look like before it’s done developing. The Instax Share SP-1 bridges old and new using modern image capturing technology to give you business card sized prints dripping with nostalgia. You can add text to them too, imagine being able to create a business card on the spot tailored to its recipient? So many possibilities, I’m just getting started with this thing!

Please like, subscribe, and share. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what I’m up to!

Scott.

Portrait lens on a budget

Have you recently ditched your bulky DSLR gear for a mirrorless compact system camera? Are you considering it? Some people go all in right away selling everything, bodies, lenses, the whole farm. Others will hold on to a body and maybe a lens or 2, it’s hard to let go. For those of you who want to keep a few lenses I’m here to tell you that you’re making an excellent decision.

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Most mirrorless cameras use a proprietary lens mount system. In order to simplify this post I’ll be focusing on one system, Fujifilm’s X Series. The basic premise of this post will apply to most mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras systems. You’ll have to figure out your crop factor depending on your sensor. Here’s a handy chart.

Nikon, Canon and Pentax DSLR owners probably have a huge assortment of lenses that they’ve acquired over the years. “Nifty fifty’s” to zooms and everything in between. These lenses are great quality and in a lot of instances are more affordable than their mirrorless system equivalents. If you already own them they’re practically free!

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Those nifty fifty’s, 50mm lenses with an f/2 or larger aperture, make outstanding portrait lenses on apsc sensor and smaller sized cameras. They give an equivalent focal length of 75mm on apsc cameras. Mounting them to your mirrorless camera is a simple as picking up an adapter. Adapters are available for almost every lens mount ever made and they are very affordable. I have 2 in my collection. One for mounting M42 screw mount lenses and for Sony/Minolta AF mount to my Fuji cameras.

One of the drawbacks of shooting with adapters is you lose auto-focus and auto-aperture (auto anything) functionality. Manual focusing with Fuji X cameras is very good though, I use focus peaking set to high with red highlights. The results are always true to what I see in the viewfinder. If you have lenses with manual aperture rings you’re going to get better results. Fuji’s meter very well with manual lenses. Without the aperture ring you have to shoot wide open which is good for portraits but you lose depth of field control.

Another drawback is the loss of data when looking at your files. No lens, focal length, or aperture data is recorded. If you really want to know what you shot a particular picture with use a notebook or a smartphone to keep track.

If you shoot still life or portraits you shouldn’t need to worry much about those minor drawbacks.

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Here’s an example of the price difference between using a 50mm lens from another system versus Fujifilm’s lovely 56mm f1.2. The Fuji lens is $1000 CAD at the moment. It’s on sale and normally costs $1150. It’s a marvelous lens. Gorgeous bokeh, blazing fast f1.2 aperture, and impeccable build quality. The closest setup I have to compete with this lens is a Pentax Super Takumar SMC 50mm f/1.4 on a Photodiox M42 to X mount adapter. The SMC 50mm 1.4 is highly regarded for image quality, sharpness, and colour. I picked mine up a year ago on eBay for $60 CAD. Since then the prices have gone up as people rediscover this little gem. They’re now between $100-$300 depending on quality and timing. The adapter costs anywhere from $12 to $100 but I have yet to see any difference between the cheap ones and the expensive ones. Worst case cost is $400 but you can easily get both pieces for under $200 total if you do some digging. You can go crazy with Leica lenses too if you have a few thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, the possibilities are nearly endless.

There’s something magical about old glass and Fujifilm’s X trans sensor. The fact that you’ve achieved these results on a shoestring budget compared to buying a $1000 lens is the icing on the cake.

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The most unexpectedly great M42 mount lenses in my lineup is a Pentax Talumar 135mm f/3.5 which belonged to my grandfather. It produces gorgeous portraits like the one above even with its full frame equivalent focal length of 200+mm.

Hang on to the lenses that you love when you make the mirrorless switch. You’ll love the results and you’ll have some extra money in your wallet to buy batteries (that’s a post for another day…).

Please share, and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Scott.

3 weeks with the Fujifilm X-E2s

January saw 3 new cameras and a new lens added to the Fujifilm X series lineup. All of them were given extensive coverage and praise by many outlets, all except one. The X-E2s is an updated version of the X-E2 where as everything else was essentially brand new. Sure, the X-Pro1 and X-Pro2 look very similar but they’re so far apart in terms of performance it’s hard to see the 2 as a simple upgrade.

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Fujifilm X-E2s/Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8

I owned the original X-E1 but decided to pick up an X-T10 instead of the X-E2 due to a few performance differences. The X-E2s gives you everything the X-T10 has in a sexy rangefinder style body. The grip, top plate, and buttons have been slightly restyled from the X-E2 and they are noticeable but not life changing upgrades. With the firmware 4.0 upgrade current X-E2 owners get all the internal upgrades (electronic shutter, better AF etc.) for free.

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If you’re a Fujiflim X series shooter you’ll feel right at home with the X-E2s. The image quality is on par with the rest of the lineup and its firmware brings usability up to the same level as well. The only thing I missed when switching between the X-T10 and the X-E2s is the front control dial/button. It’s useful when shooting in manual mode and when doing long exposure work when using lenses without a manual aperture ring. Is it a deal breaker? Not really. The X-E2s is slightly smaller than the X-T10 and that is important in some situations.

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Price wise the X-E2s sits in the middle of the pack (excluding the X-Pro2) at $899 body only. That’s the same as the X-T10, $100 more than the X-E2 which is on sale until March 31st and still readily available, and $450 less than the weather sealed X-T1. The entry level X-M1 ($549 body only) and X-A2 ($549 with the 16-55mm OIS II lens) occupy the bottom end of the lineup but are crazy bargains given the image quality they produce.

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All images shown here were shot with the X-E2s and various X Series lenses except the product shot, that was an LG G4. Out of camera jpegs are outstanding and the latest film simulations are all there minus X-Pro2 exclusive Acros black and white. These aren’t filters, they are simulations of classic film stock right down to the grain and they’re fantastic to shoot with.

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Should you buy an X-E2s over an X-T10 or an X-E2? That’s a difficult question to answer. The X-T10 offers slightly more functionality with its extra buttons and tilting screen. The X-E2 offers a lower price with identical specs. The X-E2s does improve the feel of the rear controls over the X-E2 and the grip is more comfortable. I would guess the X-E2 won’t be available for much longer so keep an eye out for price drops and clearance sales. If you like the rangefinder style body and can live with fewer buttons get the X-E2s. If you like the SLR-ish look of the X-T10 you won’t regret buying it either. It really is a question of style, not substance.

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Thanks to Fujifilm Canada for letting me test this camera and share my thoughts. I’ll be reviewing the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 instant photo printer in an upcoming post. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what I’m up to and what gear I’m using. You can subscribe to this blog or share it via the buttons below. Click some, you know you want to.

Scott.

Review – Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro Lens

A few weeks ago Fujifilm Canada sent me a brand new X-E2s to review. As a current X Series owner I have a few lenses already but Fujifilm asked what lens I wanted to test with the new body. My first choice was the XF 35mm f/2 WR but all the test units were being used so they sent me my second choice, the XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro.

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Photo – Fujifilm Canada

 

Macro photography is something I know very little about but I love the results. A friend of mine does amazing work with insects, check out his work at macromundo.org. I did a bit of macro shooting along with some street photography and short telephoto shots. The f/2.4 aperture is fast, produces decent bokeh and the 90mm full frame equivalent works well for portraits. It’s a bit too long of a lens for everyday shooting though.

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X-E2s, 1/4000 sec, f/2.4, ISO 200

Handheld results are decent considering this lens doesn’t have image stabilization. Shooting in aperture priority yields the best results.

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X-E2s, 1/1000 sec, f/2.4, ISO 200

This lens gives very shallow depth of field for macro shots which is typical. Manual focusing using focus peaking works very well, auto-focus is a different story. This is one of the original XF lenses and it’s showing its age a bit. Auto-focus is slow in most situations, especially during macro shooting. In decent light it’s fast enough and in low light it does well if there’s some contrast to work with. If you need to shoot moving subjects you’ll want to shop around a bit.

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X-E2s, 1/100/sec, f/2.4. ISO 200

It’s  tack sharp, only falling off a bit at the edges between f/4 and f/2.8, and produces great colour in combination with Fujifilm’s unique X-trans sensor.

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X-E2s, 1/2500 sec, f/2.4, ISO 200

On the street this lens is great for picking out interesting details and lighting in architecture. Every shot in this post is a jpeg straight from the camera with no editing. The results are consistently good, something Fujifilm X Series shooters have come to expect from the entire range.

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X-E2s, 1/400 sec, f/10, ISO 400

As a telephoto lens the 90mm full frame equivalent focal length is a bit awkward. It never seems right, either a little too close or not close enough. It’s very sharp stopped down a bit and again the colours are great.

I’ll be sending this lens back to Fujifilm soon and I’ll definitely miss it. Macro shooting is a whole new world to me. I can see this lens making it into my lineup at some point. Thanks to Fujifilm Canada for sending it my way.

Scott.

Do Point And Shoots Have A Point?

Smartphones have become the go to camera for most people. The images they produce are stunning considering the tiny optics and small sensors that are packed into mobile entertainment devices. What does this mean for the tried and tested Point and Shoot camera? Most Point and Shoots offer Smartphone equivalent sensor sizes and megapixel counts but they set themselves apart with better optics and in some cases optical zoom lenses. Then there are Action Cameras, they take still photos too. These are 3 budget friendly options for a quick comparison.

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Camera Squad.

The LG G4 Smartphone, the Samsung WB350f Smart Camera, and the Optex Safari HD Action Camera (a re-branded SJCAM SJ4000). The LG and Samsung have similar sensor specs, 1/2.3″ 16MP for the Samsung, 1/2.6″ 16MP for the LG. The Safari Action Camera claims to have a 2/3″12mp sensor but it actually has a 3MP sensor. If you choose 12MP the images are the same resolution but it creates bigger files. Ok enough tech talk, lets look at some pictures. All shots are unedited out of camera JPEG files.

In daylight these 3 cameras produce wildly different results. The LG (left) defaults to HDR in bright light producing dreamlike images with tons of colour. The image is sharp and fairly clean. The Samsung (middle) overexposes in bright light. The colours are a little on the yellow side and the details aren’t as crisp as the G4. The Safari Action Camera (right) looks like security camera footage. Grainy, dull, unimpressive. That being said with a little post processing they make very usable files for Instagram. Winner – LG G4.

Indoors with mixed lighting the results are a bit closer. The LG (left) and Samsung (middle) do a decent job with the exposure but the G4 pulls out a lot more detail in the shadows. If you open the images and look at the detail on the wall tile you can see how much better the G4 renders it. The Safari Cam (right) puts out a lot of noise, colour fringing around the windows, and muted colours. Winner – LG G4.

In harsh lighting situations the LG (left) picks up good detail in the shadows while controlling the exposure in the bight areas. The detail in the copper lead is quite good and the colours are accurate. The Samsung (middle) handles this situation well. The shadow detail is very good but the light areas are slightly over exposed. It loses some detail on the copper lead as well. The Safari Cam (right) actually does a nice job with the tricky exposure here. Too bad the colours are washed out and that 3MP sensor doesn’t give much detail. Winner – LG G4

Macro shooting is something a lot of cameras struggle with. The LG (left) produces sharp details and a nice shallow depth of field with its f/1.8 lens. The Samsung (middle) is an impressive macro shooter. It produces great detail and it focuses faster than the laser autofocusing G4. The Safari Cam (right) doesn’t do macro, not even a little bit. Winner – Samsung WB350f.

Shooting in low light is a gamble with all three cameras. The LG is good for city lights and dim restaurants but the LED flash is weak. The Samsung is awful in low light, anything over ISO400 is a disaster but the built in flash makes up for it in indoor situations. The Safari Cam should stay home at night. There’s no winner here, so much so that photos aren’t necessary. If you shoot in low light do some research and spend some money.

The clear winner here is the LG G4. Does this mean that Point and Shoot cameras are pointless? That’s a tough question to answer. Entry level Point and Shoot cameras are fairly pointless but spend a few extra dollars and you get a decent zoom like the Samsung WB350f. 21x optical zoom on its small sensor is equivalent to 483mm in 35mm terms. That’s impressive. What does this mean to the average traveler or casual shooter? It means wildlife photography and cool telephoto shots are possible with a camera that fits in your pants pocket.

All of these cameras are still available but there are newer models with higher specs and different features being released regularly. There are also similar devices available from dozens of manufacturers. The choice comes down to your personal tastes. Can you get by without a big zoom? If so most modern Smartphones will be all the camera you need. Do you want a little more control and like the options a zoom lens gives you? If you do then a Point and Shoot with a decent zoom might be for you. If you do a lot of action sports and take HD video the Safari Cam is a great choice, easily keeping pace with much more expensive Action Cameras in video quality. It doesn’t really have the goods to replace your Smartphone or Point and Shoot camera for still images though.

If you like what you see here please share and comment below!

Scott.

Disclaimer – I didn’t include an iPhone in this test because the images they produce are very underwhelming. I know some people have very strong opinions about the iPhone and that’s ok. I have a 6 Plus which does a decent job in most situation but the G4 is noticeably better.

 

 

 

Review – Soda Stream Source

Carbonated water is awesome. No really, it is. As someone who has recently abstained from alcohol it has been a great replacement for the ubiquitous after work beer I enjoyed on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes you just want something cold and carbonated. Pop (soda for my American friends) is loaded with sugar among other things so using it as a beer substitute is a horrible idea.

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I started drinking San Pellegrino in place of my favourite alcoholic beverages but I was uncomfortable with the amount of glass I was pumping into my recycling bin. I was also not keen that Nestle owns San Pellegrino. Bottled still water is among the most pointless, wasteful things in modern society. I’d heard of Soda Stream and decided it was worth a try. I picked up the Source model at my local London Drugs on sale for $99.99, regularly $129.99.

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Setup was a breeze. There are no cords, it is powered by a Co2 canister and only uses a built in battery to light the LED carbonation level indicator. It includes the machine, one Co2 canister good for 60L of carbonated water, and a carbonating bottle. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t read ALL of the instructions and I missed the part about the fill line on the bottle. Let’s just say it made a bit of a puddle on my counter. After filling the bottle to the proper level the Source worked flawlessly. All three carbonation levels are noticeably different and consistently delivered.

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Co2 canister.

I may or may not try the flavours Soda Stream offers but I purchased it to replace store bought carbonated water and it does the trick. 750ml San Pellegrino costs $1.50-$2.00 per bottle, it doesn’t seem like a lot but it adds up and the glass saved is worth the initial investment. Over the long run this will be cheaper and better for the planet. Plus our tap water in Greater Vancouver is some of the best in the world and I’d much rather drink it than Italian fizz.

Scott.

Wellington Photo Roundup

It’s been 3 months since I was in New Zealand and this is my first post about Wellington. I connected with Wellington in a way I can’t explain. These are few photos I took, I hope you like them. I honestly can’t find the words to express what Wellington meant to me.

"Solace In The Wind."
“Solace In The Wind.”
Wellington architecture is a constant juxtaposition.
Wellington architecture is a constant juxtaposition.
New Zealand was choosing a new national flag while I was visiting.
New Zealand was choosing a new national flag while I was visiting.
Baked Spanish Eggs at Fidel's Cafe
Baked Spanish Eggs at Fidel’s Cafe
The Wellington Cable Car.
The Wellington Cable Car.
The Beehive, aka the New Zealand Parliament.
The Beehive, aka the New Zealand Parliament.
Rain on Cuba Street
Rain on Cuba Street
Free range balloon.
Free range balloon.
Beef Wellington from The Tasting Room
Beef Wellington from The Tasting Room
Street Art.
Street Art.
The Bucket Fountain.
The Bucket Fountain.

Project Pocket Camera Is Finished!

I’m sure most of you know I’m a camera hoarder. I prefer to think of myself as a rescuer of vintage cameras. I have some wonderful old film cameras that get used and appreciated instead of ending up in a landfill. Film is a bit of work, it is getting expensive to buy and process, and it sucks to travel with. My digital lineup used to include a Pentax DSLR but late last year I sold it and committed to the Fujifilm X series. My first “real” camera was the Fujifilm X-A1, an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized sensor. It was the camera that sparked my interest in photography. It had its limitations, the biggest being the lack of a viewfinder. After I picked up my Pentax DSLR the X-A1 didn’t see a lot of action. When I sold the Pentax I bought a Fujifilm X-T10, the little X-A1 was always around though. It was a gift and I couldn’t bring myself to sell it.

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A few weeks ago Fujifilm announced some new hardware. The XPro 2, the X-E2s (I also owned an X-E1 briefly which I loved), the X70, and the XF 100-400mm zoom lens. The X70 got me thinking about my X-A1, I could essentially make a pocketable fixed focus camera with similar specs for a lot less money. Project Pocket Camera was born. I purchased the Fujinon XF 27mm f2.8 pancake lens from London Drugs and stuck it to my X-A1. It fits in a coat pocket and takes fantastic photos. The X70 is $899 new, my X-A1 setup is around $200 less. $250 for a used body, $399 for the lens, and $50-$60 for the optical viewfinder I found in the Ukraine. Do you need the viewfinder? No, but it sure is cool.

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The image quality this package delivers is outstanding. The 27mm focal length works out to 40.5mm in full frame terms given the crop factor of the APSC sensor. I’ve seen a few people complain that this lens doesn’t have an aperture ring. It would be nice but the rear control dial does the trick in aperture priority mode.

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Granville Street at night
The f2.8 aperture is fast enough for most low light situations. The X series is decent up to ISO 6400 with minimal noise, even when shooting jpegs.

Yukon Blonde at The Commodore.
Yukon Blonde at The Commodore.
I have a few X series lenses, the 16-55mm kit zoom, the XF 35mm f1.4 (which is dreamy), and the 55-230mm zoom. The 27mm is impressive and versatile, it is well suited to travel and street photography, and the autofocus is fast and accurate. The X-A1 is a prefect companion for this lens, the rest of my lenses do the heavy lifting on my X-T10.

Winter in Vancouver.
Winter in Vancouver.
To be honest if money was no object I’d have bought an X70 instead. This setup is a compromise but the results have exceeded my expectations and my X-A1 has found a new purpose.

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Stay tuned for more photography related pieces in the future. When the weather clears up I have some projects I want to tackle. I have a trip to the Canadian Grand Prix coming up and I’m hoping to get into the heart of the BC back country this summer.

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Be sure to follow along on Instagram @wflbc.

Scott.