Fujifilm’s X10 Boasts Impressive Features

Fujifilm X10
The Fujifilm X10 boasts impressive features at a humble price

Earlier this month Fujifilm launched the X10, another in its line of inexpensive but feature-packed retro-styled cameras.

The X10 starts with a respectable 12-megapixel, ⅔-inch EXR CMOS sensor behind a Fujinon 4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, sporting a 28mm-112mm equivalent zoom range.  The lens turns in a respectable f/2 at the wide end and f/2.8 at the zoom.

Even though it’s smaller than the X100, the shell is die-cast magnesium alloy for durability and a bit of heft.  The barrel on the lens controls the zoom, but it’s also the camera’s power switch.  A very clever design feature.

The X10 has a side-mounted optical viewfinder with a 20 degree angle of view that takes me back to my Rangefinder days and a host of external menu controls that are easy to work and intuitive.  The internal software is supplemented by a wide range of manual options and colour presets.

The EXR-CMOS, in conjunction with Fujifilm’s EXR imaging technology, gives the camera three specialty exposure modes:  The SN mode for high sensitivity and low noise, the DR mode for wide dynamic range and the HR mode for high resolution shots.  It also includes an electronic horizon level to insure the camera is level.

Fujifilm X10
Top view of the Fujifilm X10 showing some of the many manual adjustments - photos via Fujifilm

The improved EXR processor is fast enough to give the X10 a continuous burst rate of 7 fps at the full 12-megapixel resolution and the ISO range is listed in the specs as 100 to 3200 but has a feature to push the ISO to 12800 at a reduced quality setting.

For video the X10 records 1080 HD at 30fps with stereo sound and uses the H.264 codec.

Importantly for people who like to work with their photos in post, it supports storage in jpeg or RAW format.  All in all pretty impressive specs for a camera.

Check out some comparisons of the Fujifilm X10 vs some of its competitors:

Samsung Launches NX200

NX200
Samsung NX200 - Great camera but no optical viewfinder

Mixed in with the announcement of new point-and-shoot models, Samsung also rolled out the NX200, an upgraded version of the NX100.

The NX200 is Samsung’s offering for the hottest sector of the camera market right now, the mini cameras with big chips and interchangeable lenses.

The NX200 is built around a 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with an ISO rating of 100 to 12,800.  Surrounding that is a heavier magnesium alloy shell with a bigger grip that answered customer complaints about the handling characteristics.

Mysteriously Samsung left out an optical viewfinder, which is a real head-scratcher for those of us in the business.  Trying to use the LCD to frame stills on an interchangeable lens camera is both clumsy and bizarre.

Samsung tried to address the missing viewfinder with the i-Function 2.0 lenses which allows the user to control more of the camera technology from the lens.  Control functions on the lens include shutter speed, aperture, exposure value (EV) and white balance.

Video is 1080 HD at 30fps with the H.264 codec and stereo sound.

Available lenses include the i-Function 18-200mm zoom, and 16mm, 60mm and 85mm fixed. No word on pricing for the lenses at this writing.

The 100ms Advanced Auto Focus is coupled with a 7 fps continuous shooting mode for high-speed continuous images.  Full frame images are as fast as 400ms.

Other than the strange omission of the viewfinder, give Samsung credit for putting a big chip behind decent interchangeable glass.

Success of the line will depend on pricing.  The NX10 and NX100 were famous for their reasonable price point, prompting many to overlook their shortcomings.  If they can keep the street price under $500, Samsung might have a winner in the NX200.

Some quick comparisons of the NX200 vs some of its competitors:

Tips For Shooting At The Beach

shooting at the beach
Casual dress is not only accepted, it's required - photo by Mike

There are a few simple tricks that can make shooting on a beach a lot easier.  If you’re going to need to set up lights, check to see if you’re going to need a permit.  While it’s a good idea to check anyway, I’ve found that with small, portable gear I can be set up, get my shots, and be gone before anyone even notices.

For one, if you’re shooting in daylight, big flash units are not going to be necessary.  A folding reflector and portable flash will usually be enough for fill.  The great thing about the beach is when you need sand bags, all you have to carry are the bags.  I use zip-lock storage bags filled with sand to ballast my reflector, and you can dig out the sand a little underneath to change the shape of the reflector and the angle.

Keep a couple extra bags and some gaffer tape in your bag in case the surf is up and the wind off the ocean.  Salt spray will coat your optics and very few camera internals react well to exposure to salt water.

If you are worried about getting your camera wet you might consider investing in a waterproof camera, they are perfect for the beach, and you can even take them for a swim.

tennis ball
Grab three of these and cut a small hole for your tripod feet

For your tripod, grab three old tennis balls and cut a small hole in them. Fit the balls over the end of your tripod legs and use gaffer tape around the holes on top.  That keeps your tripod from sinking in the sand and throwing off your level.  It also keep sand out of the gears on the tripod feet.

Another trick I’ve used is taking a regular small beach umbrella and lining it with aluminum foil.  It makes a perfect flash bounce and folds up in a blink.

beach umbrella
Beach umbrella and some aluminum foil makes a great reflector - Photo by Molku
Of course the best part about shooting on the beach is you can dress casual and blend right in.  Use a beach bag instead of your usual camera bag and you mingle in with the tourist crowd without raising any eyebrows.

Street Photography: The two schools of thought

street photography
Street photography: Because the best subjects don't walk into a studio - by rynde

Street photography is one of the most difficult and demanding exercises in all of photography.  Why do it? Because the people who make the best character studies, who are the most unique looking people, will frequently be the ones least likely to walk into a portrait studio.

For the most interesting people, you sometimes have to head out on the street and find them.  Street photography is a hobby for some, a business for a few, and right of passage for any serious photographer.

Know Your Rights

Before heading out, it’s always a good idea to review your rights as a photographer.  There is a lot of confusion about what is legal and not legal among the general public, and sometimes law enforcement and security guards will try to make up the rules on the spot or count on people not understanding their rights.  Knowing your rights before you set out can diffuse a lot of situations.

Probably the most basic guideline covering photographers is that there is no expectation of privacy in a public place.  Anyone outside in an urban setting is being watched by thousands of security cameras every day and no one gives it much thought because the cameras are discretely out of sight.  Perhaps the fact they can see you is what triggers an irrational response in some people.

Before you head out you might also want to think through whether it’s worth pushing a difficult situation.  Sometimes it is, sometimes better just to move along and shoot somewhere else.  Personally, I’m not inclined to argue with the police.  If they tell me to move or move along, generally I’ll do that on the scene and file a complaint later if I think the request was out of line.  Surprisingly, that approach has been very productive.  More than once I’ve had a local sheriff call and apologize for a deputy running me off a scene and then had no further trouble covering that area.

If it’s assignment coverage, there are generally many other photographers and news people around and I observe whatever rules and barriers the police set for them.  I’ve seen photographers climbing on street lights, cars, vans, steps, and fire escapes trying to get an angle.  I’ve seen them walk across people’s lawns and step in bushes.  Don’t do that.  Behaviors like that give the rest of us a bad name.

Two Schools

When it comes to street photography, there are basically two schools of thought:  One I call the “paparazzi” model and the other is the “ask permission” model.  Each model is different in how it approaches the subject, gets very different results, and leaves a very different impression with the subjects of your photographs.

The Paparazzi Model

The paparazzi model, typified by photographers like Eric Kim, basically involves walking up to a complete stranger and taking their picture.  It may seem bold, some people are put out, but it does save a lot of conversation.

I employ this style of photography if I’m on assignment and the individual in question is a public figure.  If I’m covering the Casey Anthony trial, I’m not going to try to fight through the crowd of other reporters and photographers to ask for a picture.

I don’t normally shoot like this.  It can startle people to have a camera suddenly shoved in their face and many people resent having an unwanted photo taken, even though it happens hundreds of times a day when they walk past security and surveillance cameras or use an ATM machine.  They can see you, and having their picture taken without permission can gnaw at people, though it does depend on the situation.

But Eric Kim is in L.A., a place where paparazzi are part of the landscape and culture.  So in the shadow of Hollywood, this may raise less hackles than other places.

The Permission Model

The permission model is typified by Clay Enos and is my preferred style of street photography.  It’s more difficult, takes longer, and you deal with more rejection, but to me this is the right way to shoot street portraits.

If you were the subject, how would you rather be approached?  He has such a great attitude and positive energy, I doubt very many people walk away feeling somehow invaded after an encounter like that.

Okay, maybe you don’t have that much charm and you’re not a smooth talker.  It just takes practice.  Do it for a whole day and you’ll be a pro asking complete strangers if you can take their picture.

Even on assignment I’ll ask, if there are other subjects available.  It’s usually as simple as, “Guys, can I get a picture for XYZ magazine?”  And always thank them.  No, I don’t have to do that, but if it makes people feel a little bit better, if it gives someone having a bad hair day the option of saying “no thanks”, isn’t everyone feeling a little better when they walk away?

Some assignment locations and venues will insist you ask permission of individually identifiable subjects because they don’t want their customers complaining or not coming back because someone was waiving a camera at them.  You’ll always have to ask if one of the subjects is a minor and I prefer signed parental releases for any subject under 18.  It’s not always necessary in the context of news gathering, but not many big shops will touch kid shots without a release.

So, in some situations, you’ll have to ask, even if you’re on assignment.  Might as well get used to it.

Nikon Fields Coolpix S1200pj Projector Camera

Nikon announced a slew of new, impossibly thin consumer cameras this year that included the latest generation to feature a built-in projector, the Coolpix S1200pj.

It’s neat enough the camera can project pictures and video of its own, but you can also project video and still images from any Apple iOS device as well.

Coolpix S1200pj
The Coolpix S1200pj features a 20 lumen built-in projector - photo by Nikon

The S1200pj is actually the third generation of Nikon cameras to feature a built-in projector.  The first to have the feature was the S1000pj launched in 2009, but that model suffered from lackluster photo capabilities.  Apparently the projector was a popular enough feature for Nikon to stick with the concept.

In this model the engineers were able to up the output of the projector to 20 Lumens, which improves the viewing experience but drains the battery in less than hour.

Nikon beefed up the picture quality in the S1200pj with a 14 megapixel CCD sensor behind a 5x 28-140mm zoom lens with 720p HD movie capture.

The camera internals feature an automatic motion detector that tracks the subject’s motion and modifies the photo settings to keep the image in focus.  The camera also features the type of in-camera filter effects you’d expect in a point-and-shoot.

Blurry images are a thing of the past with a four-way advanced vibration reduction system and people pictures will be vastly improved with the Smart Portrait System with features like smile detection, face-priority AF which can track up to 12 different faces, blink warning, red eye fix and skin softening.

Available for pre-order at Amazon for $429.00 USD.