My camera watchlist, an update

About a half year ago, I talked about the 4 cameras on my watchlist. I’ve made a few gear changes since then so I decided to revisit that list.

With all the cameras that I already have, you may wonder, why am I still looking for more. I wonder too. The simple explanation might be that I’m suffering from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), and that’s probably true, to some extent.

The more complicated answer is that I’m always trying to optimize my tools for a specific purpose. Since I already have most of my needs covered, I’m looking at smaller and smaller niches to fill.

I had the Olympus XZ-2 on my list.  And as much as I liked the XZ-1, that previous generation camera was a bit lacking in certain areas.  Since then the Canon G15 has taken over the premium point and shoot slot.  I bring it to work everyday and it covers my impromptu photography needs. The XZ-2 is no longer under consideration.

I also had the ultra sharp and ultra quirky Sigma DP-1 Merrill on the list.  Further research revealed that it doesn’t do exceptionally well in bright daylight.  I was hoping for some magic technology that would give me more dynamic range — I use HDR to compensate but it can be a pain at times. But the Merrill doesn’t help in this area from what I read.  It does capture incredibly sharp detail, but that’s not enough — I’m crossing this one off too.

The full frame compact, the Sony RX-1 also looked enticing. Since then I’ve bought the Canon 6D, a full frame DSLR, so my need for another full frame has diminished.  I would take a good mirrorless full frame over a DSLR any day but this Sony does not appear to be it.  Its high ISO capability is no where as good as the 6D. As I mentioned before, I’m not big fan of the Sony color and finally the $2800 price gives me pause.  I really like the 35mm focal length though and having a fixed focal lens would not bother me, especially since I have other cameras as alternatives.  Perhaps a future rev of the RX-1, but this one doesn’t overcome my price performance concerns.

The last camera on my list, the Fujifilm X100S, is still alive.  I talk about Fujifilm a fair amount on this blog — I’ve had a soft spot for them.  I like what they are doing and fundamentally their approach matches my philosophy for mirrorless cameras.  But there are these small but significant things that keep me away.

I’m less interested in the interchangeable lens Fuji’s like the X-Pro 1 and the X-E1.  I know they get high marks from the devoted Fuji crowd, but I still feel that the X Trans Sensor has not hit its stride. I think it’s a heck of a lot closer but the RAW processing is still somewhat lacking.  See how many Fujifilm people talk about how they like the JPEGs so much they don’t use RAWs.  My question is are they singing the JPEG song because it is so superior or because the RAW processing is not there?  For the really high ISOs, it does better than the micro 4/3 with its bigger APS-C sensor but it’s not good enough for me to switch.

I really like the Olympus Pens and have no desire to get rid of them.  Along with the Canon DSLR, I already have 2 interchangeable lens systems.  I’m not keen on adding a 3rd by buying into Fuji.  But the X100S is different.  It has a fixed 35mm (eqivalent) lens so that one camera is complete by itself.

The X100S fills a niche that is not served by any of my other cameras. One of the little talked about features of this camera is its Super Intelligent Flash system. Only a select number of Fuji cameras have it and it’s not on the X-Pro 1 or X-E1. This flash system has an uncanny ability to balance flash output with ambient light.  In dark places, its controlled flash evenly illuminates the subject and the background is not rendered a dark cave. It’s possible to do a slow sync type flash on other cameras but the X100S seems to do it better and much easier, the first time without futzing around. The X100S also has a leaf shutter so I can do a high-speed sync for daytime fill shots.

What this intelligent flash capability give me is something really nice for my family snapshots.  Ken Rockwell talks about this in his X100S review too.  And although I don’t talk about it as much, my family photos are the most important stuff I take.  Paying $1300 for this may sound a bit high but I’m still considering it.  So for me, ironically, it’s not the X Trans Sensor, the hybrid viewfinder or even its great retro styling that keeps the X100S on my watch list, it’s all about the flash.

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19 thoughts on “My camera watchlist, an update

  1. As a wide angle shooter I would have thought that a Ricoh GR would have suited better than the Canon G15?

    Anyway, have you thought about the EOS-M at all? It isn’t lighting fast but it is ok and the 22mm f2 is great as are the other 2 zooms including the very well priced 11-22mm which I thought might interest you as well. With the recent price cuts its actually a pretty decent value camera and with 22mm about the size of a G15. I have one as a secondary camera now to my 6D and between those two lenses and being able to use EF lenses it is really very handy to go between cheap second body and small travel kit.

    1. Looks like you already saw my post on the EOS M. BTW, the 11-22mm is not available in the US. It appears be a Asia Pacific thing…. though I’m sure I can get one if I tried.

      1. For those in the US I believe your neighbours in Canada is the go-to source for the 11-22mm. I believe the 11-22mm is being held back until a ‘relaunch’ of the EOS-M later in the year with 70D dual pixel phase detect sensor on board.

  2. Lemme get this straight. You’re considering buying a camera that I have personally heard or read you criticize on numerous occasions the sharpness, noise handling, colors, raw conversion, autofocus, etc. because of the flash? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Isn’t that like saying you’re thinking of buying a car that you’ve heard gets poor gas mileage, has high road noise, poor handling and comes only in neon green because you like the headlights? I love ya, Andy but I fear you are losing it buddy. Take a deep breath and step away from DPReview. Repeat after me, “I do not need another camera. I do not need another camera.”

    As a happy X100 owner I can assure you that flash ain’t worth $1300. Better than other cameras maybe but it’s still hard on-axis light. It’ll do in a pinch but I’ll take a handheld off camera flash over it any day. You can do better than that if you’re trying to rationalize a purchase. The best trick the X100 has over your current gaggle of cameras is the leaf shutter. Unless you do lots of flash portraits in the sun, that doesn’t matter. I’d bring up the wonderful hybrid viewfinder but what’s the point – I know you don’t use viewfinders. Look, the X100S is sexy. She’s like that girl in college you can’t stand but can’t keep your eyes off of. You’ll end up in the sack with her eventually and you’ll love her or punch yourself if the face the next morning. If you really want to try a Fujifilm camera why not just keep your eyes open for a used original X100?

    PS – I don’t sing.

    1. I agree with Michael, stop listening to KR 😉

      As for the leaf shutter – doesn’t your Canon G15 have one of those AND a hot shoe AND can use the same flashes as your 6D wouldn’t that make more sense for this type of usage (daylight fill of pictures of family). As Michael says, you don’t really use the VF and that is a big part of the X100S and it’s price tag.

      Also the GR will enable you to do the same with it’s leaf shutter for half the price because you aren’t paying for the expensive VF but gain in pocket-ability?

      How about the Canon G1X? Leaf shutter? Check. Decent lens and IQ? Check. Can use off-camera (and on camera if you are so inclined)? Check. Price tag of around $500? Check. similar to your G15 to the point of being a suitable replacement (let’s face it neither are pocketable)? Check.

      Don’t get me wrong, X100S is a lovely camera – But don’t buy it for a crumby onboard flash. IF you must buy it for that, get the X100 original and then you don’t have to worry about potential RAW issues and the JPEGs are still gorgeous 🙂 If you grab one for $500 it will QUICKLY start replacing things like your G15 and even E-PM2 (remember there is a WA adapter also available for the X100 to take you to 28mm equiv FL)…

      Happy shopping, there are cheaper ways to get your GAS on 😉

      1. Matt, But KR is soo entertaining.

        Seriously, the G15 is my emergency, carry around camera. It does great at ISO 80. Decent to ISO 400 and acceptable to ISO 800. I’ve tried slow sync flashes with it and it maybe just passible for my needs. Again better than a typical point and shoot but ultimately not high enough quality to totally satisfy. And the slow sync speed, depending on the environment I get 1/15 to 1/20 of a second. It is not going to be as crisp as I want it because of motion blur.

        You like the GR don’t you, you mentioned it several times (in other comments). I like it too to some extent, better than the Coolpix A, I guess. The 28mm is not what I’m looking for in a snap shooter for my family. A bit too wide. Though great for city and architecture. I want small but pocket-ability is not that important. Plus it is too similar to my E-PM2 with the Panasonic 14mm f2.5.

        The Canon GX1 is a dog. Like the EOS M without the firmware update. And if the slow sync works as good as a G15, I’m not interested. Put it this way, I ‘ll get a EOS M before I get a GX1.

        I’m considering the X100, though I wonder if it’s fast enough. I might get frustrated with it. I find even the much speedier X100S to be slower than the E-PM2.

    2. Mike, Ok first, I want to make sure you realize that I wasn’t directing any comments specifically to you. Regarding JPEG, that’s what I hear a lot from various Fuji shooters. Maybe the JPEGS are so good that they don’t need RAW or maybe they are justifications. I don’t know. Though I suspect it’s a little bit of both.

      If DPReview botched the Fuji test results, it is really a disservice to everyone. Good or bad, DPReview is a major source of measurebating on the web. And I have certainly looked at their stuff (not exclusively) to find out results. But I have also looked at other sites and I don’t see the Fuji X Trans stuff as crisp as I like them or at least compared to some other companies. Does that make the Fuji cameras bad, not at all. There is, of course, a lot more to photographs than sharpness. You know color is really important to me, too.

      So I like what Olympus gives for color and sharpness more than Fuji but that ‘s personal taste. Not saying I’m correct. It is my opinion, and that’s what a blog is, a person’s opinion. But I recognize that there is a feature on the Fujifilm X100 and the X100S that works really well, which is the flash I talked about. Sure do I like the X100S styling, absolutely. I’ve always praised the way they looked. And white EVFs aren’t as important to me, I aways say how I like the way Fuji has integrated them, compared to the Olympus E-P5, for example.

      If I were to get a X100S, I’m not planning to shoot models. It is going to be used mainly as a point and shoot for family pictures. I don’t always agree with Mr. Rockwell, though he is entertaining, but family snaps are very important to me. But unlike my other public work, I don’t want to take a lot of time shooting and adjusting settings. I want to have a device that would nail exposure and great fill flash as effortlessly as possible. Kids are not going to stand for me to futzing with the controls as I get it right. I get one shot at a great expression and it’s gone. Is it worth spending $1300 for a camera that nails these situations, possibly.

      I’ve already been testing the Fuji X100S at Precision Camera. I have not downloaded the files to my computer to find out for sure but at least on the back of the LCD, it does a really good job. Better than my Olympus or Canons, from what I can see.

      I’m also considering a used Fuji X100, btw. I find that even the X100S is still a bit slower than the Olympus so I’m a bit concerned about the X100 speed, even with all the firmware updates. According to DPReview, while I like the sharpness of the X100 better than the X100S, I like the X100S’s color more. Is the X Trans perfect, no, nothing is but it is certainly going to work better than any point and shoot. And at high ISO, it should do better than the micro 4/3. Not to mention that again, for my kid’s snaps in sunlight, I can use high speed sync to tame the shadows. Something I can’t do with my current Olympus setup and my 6D will require a big external flash to do.

      So am I crazy, maybe but I don’t think so. Am I getting the Fuji X100S, I don’t know. That’s why it is on my watch list not by buy list.

  3. I couldn’t reply to your above (I guess WP is only allowing a couple of levels in).

    Anyway, yes I see your point. Personally I prefer a 35mm as it is a bit more of a ‘do everything’ especially grabbing environmental portraits and the like. So yes, in this way the X100/S would be a better choice than the GR.

    As for the G15 and super slow sync speeds – That suggests to me that the G15 using solely an electronic shutter rather than a leaf shutter. The G1X uses a leaf shutter.

    For what it is worth, my EOS-M is MUCH faster than my MX-1 (which is very similar to the XZ-2) for AF and, well everything else for that matter. It also locks a lot better in low light and can attain focus where the MX-1 can’t. But no leaf shutter.

    Another camera that ‘might’ be worth a look if you can find one at a decent price in the Pentax Q series – They have hotshoes, leaf shutters in their AF lenses (not the ‘toy’ lenses) and have decent IQ for family shots. The 8.5mm is a 47mm equiv on the Q and Q10 and a 35-ish on the new Q7, f1.9 Is in body. I had an original Q (well my partner did) and it is a really really nice little thing and the 8.5mm was great. Don’t think of it as a ‘mirrorless’ like m43’s, it is a compact like the XZ’s and LX’s but it’s party piece is changing lenses. When they updated the FW with the launch of the Q10, the AF went from ‘ok’ to like lightning!

    I bought the kit when it was on sale here at $199 including the 8.5mm. The 5-15mm and 15-45mm are both supposed to be quite good and collectively make a pretty useful and cheap little set. All being wider on the ‘Full Frame’ Q7 makes them even more interesting…

    But only one for ‘if one pops up really cheap’… At normal prices I would spend the bit more and get the X100S.

    1. Wow, Matt you too have a lot of cameras, too. Thanks for your suggestions.

      I figure I have the small sensors covered with the TG-2 (waterproof point and shoot) and the G15 so I’m not looking for any more at this point.

      The EOS M has become an interesting camera because they fixed the slow focus speed as well as the massive price drop. At this point though, I’m not sure if they do anything special that my Olympus Pens don’t do.

      The Canon G1X is too slow. I would probably through it out the window in frustration.

      I’m okay camera wise for now. I bought a bunch of cameras this year and got rid of some old ones. But the X100S is still on the radar. A new EOS M with the 70D sensor maybe interesting. The Fuji X-M1 is also interesting because of the Super Intelligent flash but the X100S seems more compelling (and more expensive, of course).

  4. Andy, I took no offense to any of your commentary and I have no sense of brand loyalty that would have me defensive over any comments about any camera. Today I like Fuji, tomorrow I could drop them like a bad habit and shoot brand X. Sorry, I couldn’t resist responding to the snarky comment about JPEGs vs raw, no offense was intended on my part either. 🙂

    Anyway, I respect your thoughtful opinions. I will say though that sometimes your comments about the Fuji cameras leave me scratching my head simply because they don’t line up with my experience as an owner – at least the way I use my cameras. Yes, Fuji has problems, plenty of them. There are plenty of gripes I could go into. A lot of the complaints I read about online though are often written by people who don’t own them (again, no offense intended.) It’s good that you’re making the effort to get some hands-on time at the camera store and form a founded opinion.

    My point previously is that it seems like you are trying really hard to like something that you on the whole don’t care for. That is a recipe for disappointment. The X100S is a somewhat specialized expensive niche camera that probably the majority of photographers are just not going to like in practice. Will it work for your family shots? Maybe – probably. Is it $1300 worth better than what you already have? Frankly I don’t think so. I definitely don’t think it will work well for your street stuff, for the way I see you shoot. You work very quickly and probably have a dozen frames on the card and are half a block away while I’m still composing my first shot. Olympus has that kind of speed. Fuji does not, IMO. Maybe I’m off base but I really don’t see you being happy with it.

    As for the raw conversion and JPEG thing, I’m not seeing any problems with the images I shoot. I frequently post near SOOC JPEG and raw converted samples to my Flickr stream and most people can’t tell the difference. To my eyes, the files equal or exceed the image quality of m 5D Mark III. It’s entirely possible my glasses Rx needs adjusting but that is the truth as I see it (literally). I’m very impressed with the JPEG output, although as we talked about recently there are cases where the JPEGs aren’t as nice as the raws. There are other cases where they work quite well. Take B&W shots of people for example. I tend to use the red filter JPEGs straight out of camera. Skin tones look great and I’m hard pressed to do any better with a raw conversion. What I have found is that in a lot of situations my X100 and X-E1 give me JPEG files that are usable immediately or with very minimal adjustment. I’ll take that when I can get it. The JPEGs from other cameras I’ve owned, including my 5D Mark III are almost worthless. At the least in the way I like to see images, the Fuji cameras are the first ones I’ve owned that give me a choice; my other cameras pretty much forced me to use raw since their JPEGs were so lack-luster. I can’t speak for other photographers you read about online. I can only say that when I use JPEGs from my Fujis it’s because I got a good usable file and that saves me the time of having to post process a raw file. You know how much I loathe sitting in front of a computer.

    That calls to mind one other thing to consider when comparing X100 vs X100s. I have a 2009 iMac – 2.6Ghz dual core with 8GB of RAM. Processing X-Trans files hammers it. I don’t know about Aperture but in Lightroom JPEGs from raw files render at a snail’s pace. The original X100 files zip right along. Something to consider because I know you are a high volume shooter.

    1. Thanks Mike for your well reasoned, informed opinions. And they mean a lot since you know the Fuji’s well and you know the way I shoot.

      Yes, I’ve been somewhat critical about Fuji, some based on actual usage and some based on results from others. It will be nice to do some extensive testing so I can truly see for myself. Part of my criticism with Fuji is based on my frustration of liking what they are doing but they just seem lacking in a few areas. So close…. and of course that’s just me. I know there are many happy and successful Fuji users out there. I’ve been considering renting the camera for a week to see how it works. See if it really fills a niche that I’m looking at.

      Is it worth $1300 in reality, given that I have a slew of cameras, honestly no. Of course not. It certainly addresses a want and not a need. The flash is the unique feature that may possibly justify the camera, but there are other reasons for liking the camera too.

      I’ve really come to like the 35mm focal length. It has a bright f2 prime and you know I love the styling of it. It also has a really good high ISO performance so it works for the environments I like. Without these other attributes, having a good flash alone would be a non-starter.

      In my recent trip to Washington DC, I would have brought the X100S camera instead of the Canon G15. I think it would be a fantastic travel camera though not geared for fast action street shooting. I still would have bought the Olympus E-PM2 too, but that would be dedicated just for HDRs.

  5. For what its worth, regarding the Sigma DP-1 Merrill, I have found that it can handle bright light if I dial back exposure to -3 (or -7 in very bright light) and use center-weighted or matrix metering. Shadows are easily pulled out from the raw file. Properly adjusted, it works very well and those great big, detailed files are so beautiful..

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