Photography Opinions

Classic Chrome vs Kodachrome

Since Fuji's X-T1 update in December 2014, we've all been given a new film process version called 'Classic Chrome'. From everything I've read, it's goal is to simulate Kodak's Kodachrome film, and it looks beautiful. I really like Classic Chrome.

So knowing that its goal was to simulate Kodachrome, my curiosity was piqued as to how good a job Fuji did on matching it. Before we begin, we have to iron-out a couple things:

  1. Kodachrome is a film type, and with all film, it has to be developed in a darkroom before any prints can be created from its negative. The developing process allows a photographer to make many changes to the final image such as exposure, contrast, dodging, burning, etc. that will change the default and neutral look of the original exposure.
  2. Fuji requires the photographer to shoot in RAW in order to adjust the camera process version in post-production. This is a good thing, especially for this test, because it ensures we are adjusting the foundation of the image vs a lossy/compressed version of the image.
  3. Really Nice Images (link) has gone through the painstaking process of creating iconic film simulation presets for Lightroom. Keep in mind that these film simulations are not the same as a camera process. Camera processes adjust the starting point of an image, a preset adjusts the actual sliders and adjustment settings. They are both trying to achieve the same thing, but a camera process is far superior as it doesn't actually adjust the variables of the image aside from the digital foundation its built upon.

Kodak announced back in June of 2009 that it would halt production of the iconic film (link) not because it wasn't good, but rather because it was no longer commercially viable to produce. They offered processing for another year and a half, but at the end of 2010, the ride was over. Its now 2015 and we're still longing for the look of Kodachrome, which should tell us all something about how great of a look it was. It also tells us how much we like the look of film. Film was never perfect, but it was a medium that offered a great deal of character and set the tone of a photograph before the shot was even produced. 

OK, so here we go. Here's a shot of my boys hanging out on New Years Day 2015. The reason I picked this one was because of all of the wood on the floor and the skin tones. Let me post the various shots with captions, then we can do the analysis.

Original (Provia/Standard)

Classic Chrome Camera Process

Kodachrome 1958 by Really Nice Images

From the Provia/Standard camera process to Classic Chrome, there's a world of difference. The wood and skin tones are desaturated, the highlights are softened ever so slightly, and everything looks 'muted', but in a very good way. The Kodachrome 1958 simulation (not camera process) does a good job of getting us close, but no cigar. Maybe I'm being too harsh, because prior to Classic Chrome, this would have done just fine, but Fuji raised the bar and now the film simulators have competition. The simulator has everything going for it except for the heavy orange saturation and the heavy-handed contrast. Both of which are adjustable, by the way. If you don't have a compatible Fuji camera, you can't use the Classic Chrome camera process (unless someone wants to fill me in on how that'd be possible!) but everyone can use the film simulation presets, then adjust them until their hearts are content.

And real quick, I'm well-aware that I'm comparing the Classic Chrome process to film simulation as opposed to the actual film itself. If you'd like to compare Classic Chrome to Kodachrome, feel free to check out National Geographic's Kodachrome gallery and make your own judgements. Here's the link:

So there you have it! If you have a Fuji X-T1 (I believe the X100T, the X-Pro 1, and the X-E1 also got the Classic Chrome update as well) be sure to shoot in RAW so you can pick your process version before you start editing.

Sony's Mirrorless Options Aren't for Me, Not even A7 V 2

Just My Opinion, So Here It Goes:

Sony's mirrorless cameras are fine for some photographers, but even with its newest addition, the a7 version II, I still wouldn't consider it a contender for my attention. And here's why: lack of diverse excellent, native lenses.

I've read a ton about the a7 series cameras. Heck, who wouldn't be tempted, it's a 24 MP full-frame sensor on a small mirrorless camera body. Not only that, but Sony is the one who makes the sensors for our tried-and-true Nikon DSLRs, so this isn't their first foray into the world of full-frame sensor-making. So where does Sony go wrong? 

Sony a7 V2 Problem

24-70, 70-200:

Almost every professional photographer attempts to use prime lenses whenever possible. Primes are clear, sharp, and optically superior to zoom lenses. They also have the one weakness of being inflexible when it comes to zooming in or out. And that's fine most of the time. But it isn't fine all of the time. That's why most professionals have two trusty lenses in their arsenal for those times: 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8. The f/2.8 is essential for shallow DOF and shooting in low-light. Well, Sony has decided not to offer these lenses in f/2.8, only at a maximum aperture of f/4. The 24-70, 70-200, 16-35, and the 28-135 all suffer from being stuck at f/4 wife open. For this photographer, that's not ideal. So in regards to native lens support, it's not looking good. So how about using other manufacturer's lenses?

Lens Adapters to Infinity:

The FE-Mount wasn't Sony's original mount for DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. Odds are it won't be their final attempt either, which in itself is frightening. No photographer want's to invest money into a system that isn't guaranteed to be around in the near future. Let's take a look at all of the mount adapters Sony offers (link to this fantastic post highlighting all of the mount adapters):

  • Sony LA-EA3
  • Sony LA-EA4
  • Metabones Canon EF to Sony E-Mount Smart Adapter IV
  • Techart Canon EF to Sony NEX AF Adapter III
  • Viltrox EF-NEX II Auto Focus Canon EF Lens to Sony NEX and Full-frame A7/A7R Cameras
  • Metabones Leica M Mount Lens to Sony E-Mount Adapters
  • Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus M-Mount to Sony E-Mount Lens Adapter
  • Metabones Nikon F to Sony E-Mount Adapter II

And this list actually continues, these are just the highlights. Some might think this is a great thing - the Sony a7 series cameras can essentially be system-agnostic. Yeah, but not really. Each of these lens adapters behaves a little differently than the other (some retain AF abilities, some don't, some don't communicate metadata, others do) - you'll have to dig through the menus to manually allow focus peaking (if it works with that particular adapter) - and this doesn't even touch the image quality issue. Personally, I think the images look fine from the adapters, but I've read many instances where people aren't completely satisfied with the IQ of the images the adapters produce. So not only is it not a seamless solution to getting great glass on your camera body, the biggest flaw is physical: you're taking this tiny, mirrorless body and using huge, DSLR lenses on it with an adapter. This isn't a step forward, it's a step to the side. Just click that link where the adapter post is located, view the picture the author took. It's the minuscule a7 coupled with what appears to be a 300mm lens? Is this a joke? Are we really proud of this solution? The whole point of the making the camera smaller is to make it more portable, ergonomic, and less intrusive. We're really going to pair it with a gigantic DSLR lens to do work?

It Feels Like an Unsupported Platform:

The lens adapter solution isn't for me. It might be for some people, but it certainly isn't one that I can stand by. Successful camera systems are built on great camera bodies coupled with great first-party optics. When the first party (the camera manufacturer) doesn't care enough to make great lenses for its own camera, and instead relies on competitors, what does that really say about the platform? For this photographer, it says 'This camera system is not for me.'

Canon Supposedly Taking Mirrorless Seriously...Soon

Found this and thought it would be a good follow-up to the last post about the Nikon DF going gold (the color, no indication of sales figures). Here's the link:

So maybe Canon is going to make a full frame mirrorless camera before Nikon? I'm still not convinced Canon or Nikon particularly care about this new market, and I hope I'm wrong because competition between these companies is what drives development, and ultimately gives photographers the best tools to work with in the field. These two behemoths are still dragging their feet on installing built-in wifi cards to their cameras as a standard feature. It's the end of 2014, and they are just now accepting that wifi is something we want. Yah. What boggles my mind is that these companies have developed some of the finest TTL metering systems in the world, an incredible feat, but they haven't developed a first party triggering system that doesn't rely on infrared technology, something that was new to my grandfather when he was a child. Things just don't add up with these guys. Do they use the products they create?

And now mirrorless... 

You know what, let's just do an entire separate post on mirrorless and what makes it better, worse, and totally different than your run-of-the-mill DSLR.  

Why I'm In Love with the Fuji X-T1, Knowing Fully Its Weaknesses

Mirrorless Mirrorless, On the Wall

The Fuji X-T1 is my favorite camera to date. I'm not even sure where to begin with all of the things I love about it, so let me just point out the things that separate it from its DSLR counterparts.

Size and Weight:

The X-T1 is probably the perfect size. That may sound weird, but let me explain. We live in a world where companies continue to make things smaller and thinner, and there doesn't seem to be any end to this trend in sight. A was recently talking to a friend of mine who purchased his first interchangeable camera, the Sony NEX-5TL, and he said it's actually a little too small for comfortable shooting. He's constantly pressing the shutter release button with his thumb because the grip in the front doesn't accommodate his normal-sized hands. Cameras can be too small. The also can be too big. These aren't exclusively subjective qualities. The X-T1 is the right size and the right weight. It feels very comfortable in my hands and doesn't weigh me down. Fuji hit a home run with this design.

The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF):

Every review you'll read about the X-T1 will tell you that you have to see the EVF to believe it. And they're right. It's huge, it's bright, it's informative. When you rotate the camera into portrait orientation, the shooting information rotates with you so you're not reading it sideways. When you take a shot, the image review shows up in the EVF. That's italicized because it amazing. You can have it show you the image for a specific duration, or not at all, it's totally up to you, but I highly recommend everyone try this feature out at least once because it'll make your production workflow that much more efficient. Imagine not taking your head away from your camera anymore to review images. It's a dream come true because the image comes to you, not you to it.

Quick Aufofocus (AF):

The AF system packs a punch - it's super fast and accurate. I can't tell you the number of times my DSLR has thought it was in-focus, but the lens AF-finetune had shifted ever-so-slightly, so now all of the images from that shoot were a hair out of focus. It makes me want to scream to the heavens when that happens. We don't have to worry about that sort of stuff with the X-T1. The AF system isn't perfect (in fact, one particular part of the AF is on my weaknesses list), but it does 95% of what I want incredibly well.

Physical Dials and Switches:

Having hardware access to the ISO, Shutter Speed, and Exposure Compensation on the camera (plus aperture on the lens) makes shooting a very physical and mechanical experience. It doesn't feel like a computer - you don't need to dig through digital menus to change settings. I'd also argue that the traditional way of changing settings like ISO through the use of a function key (meaning you press and hold a button, then turn a dial) is one step removed from the way Fuji mapped it out on the X-T1. I like doing a single thing to make a single other thing happen. It's a pleasant way to interacting with the device.

Articulating Display:

Really comes in handy when shooting video or high/low angle shots. I typically use the EVF almost exclusively, and that was the same on a DSLR as well, 99% of my time was spent looking through the viewfinder, not at the back of the screen. However, since the screen tilts out and pivots, I've found it to be very useful in specific cases. Articulating displays aren't new, they're just new to DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. See, when the display pops-out and pivots, it makes two important compromises: durability and weather protection. These screen can be weather sealed on the back, it's just more difficult for manufacturers to do so - it drives the cost up. The durability issue is the biggest problem. When the screen pops-out, it does so on hinges. These cameras are frequently bumped on objects, scuffed, tossed around in bags, etc - if that display is out when those seemingly insignificant things happen, the entire camera can break. The responsibility is really on the photographer to take care of it when it's popped-out.

Firmware Updates:

For DSLRs, once the camera is shipped, it is exactly as it will be until you break it, sell it, or both. Minor firmware updates are issued to resolve programming errors, but almost never introduce new features. Enter the Fuji X-T1's firmware update scheduled to drop on December 18th (link). I'll do a separate post about this once the firmware ships, but in the meantime, we're being promised a new electronic shutter feature (for silent shooting up to 1/32,000 of a second), the Classic Chrome film simulation, Natural Live View, and a bunch of other tweaks. It is so darn refreshing to see a firmware update bring something substantial to the table.

Now for the Drawbacks

As many know, nothing can have all strengths and no weaknesses. Meaning if something is great at being small, its weakness is it not being large. The Fuji X-T1 is not exempt from the natural order of things. Here are the two main areas where the X-T1 fall slightly short in my opinion:

Autofocus in Low Light: 

As I pointed-out in the previous section, the X-T1's AF performance is great. But here's the thing, DSLR's are currently the king when it comes to AF. They are fast. No wait, they are super-fast. And super accurate. The problems I have with DSLR focusing is the AF Finetune adjustments, the fact that they push and pull in and out over time, and it's a pain in the butt to maintain them. It doesn't mean their AF is bad, it just needs attention. The X-T1 doesn't have as good of an autofocus system as a DSLR, period. Especially in low light. That being said, I've shot events in what appeared to be near-darkness and it performed admirably. It's just that the DSLR would have been faster. We need to give this some time to grow and develop. Mirrorless autofocus has come a long way in the last few years. Give it another year or two and I think we'll be where DSLRs are today.

No flash in Continuous Motor Drive:

This is a weird one. A really, really weird one. Almost a deal-breaker for some. The Fuji's flash can ONLY fire in Single Shot drive mode, not Continuously Low or Continuously High. It can fire regardless of the AF drive, meaning it can be in single or continuous autofocus, but not more than one shot at a time. This is sort of annoying. And maybe its because the pop-up flash, the EF-X8, will overheat. It could be as simple as that. I've tested it with multiple radio triggers in the continuous drive modes with no success, so it might be a limitation until Fuji releases a flash that could keep up, then they allow it? Again, it's weird. It's a guess at this point as to why it can't do that when every other camera can. Maybe we'll figure it out with the next firmware update.


Expectation vs Reality

I saw this video going around and thought I'd share it here...

Since this video isn't mean-spirited, I don't really have a problem with what its saying. It's true, most people buy a camera, take terrible photos, then it sits on their bookshelf. That being said, everyone has to start somewhere. I remember getting my first DSLR, it was a Nikon D40. I couldn't afford anything better than the D40, but truthfully, it didn't make a difference. This same website has a video series challenging professional photographers to take their best shot with terrible, god-awful cameras. And guess what the conclusion is: the camera doesn't matter. So the video pokes fun and is worth a laugh. Just remember that everyone has to start somewhere and the gear ultimately doesn't matter, its the photographer.