The 6th Street Photowalk and the using strengths of Olympus and Fujifilm

A rainy night on 6th street - Austin, Texas

A rainy night on 6th street – Austin, Texas

Precision Camera had their pre holiday Expo this weekend. Camera vendors from the big cities of Houston and Dallas came to Austin and showed off their wares. Ironically, Austin, still a medium size city, has Precision Camera which is the largest camera store in Texas. I met Charles from Olympus, who’s been nice enough to lend me some pre production cameras. Unlike some sales/technical representatives who are just sales people, Charles is an actual photographer. We decided go down to 6th Street for a photo walk and to enjoy the night life.

The rain stopped just in time and we had wonderfully wet and reflective streets, just as I hoped. I had my usual HDR setup — my Olympus E-PM2 with the Panasonic 14mm plus wide-angle adapter. This is my preferred lightweight setup and I would argue it may be the best way to take HDRs in low-light conditions, better in may ways that the Canon 6D. I’ll tell you why in a future post.

I also brought my Fujifilm XF1. I often shoot with two small cameras and I’m still in my discovery mode with my latest acquisition. You know that I like Olympus and I consider it my main camera but there are things that Fuji does better than Olympus. And I was very honest with Charles too. I wanted him to let the Olympus engineers over in Japan know how to improve their camera.

 

I talked about Fuji’s Super Intelligent Flash on my post The Fujifilm X100S from an Olympus micro 4/3 user perspective. The XF1 point and shoot has this feature too. The camera has an amazing ability to add just a touch of flash and blend it nicely with the ambient light. Here are some examples I shot on Friday with the XF1.

Kasie at the Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas (no flash, Fuji XF1)
Kasie at the Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas (fill flash, Fuji XF1)

The first two photos are straight out of the camera JPEGs in Velvia mode, unprocessed. Notice the wonderful bar colors at Bourbon Girl but the portrait of Kasie is a bit dull. This is typical of ambient light portraits in places like this. The second photo is a flash shot with the Fuji. Notice how beautifully Kasie is lit while still preserving the background color. The Fuji does this automatically, without futzing with settings. Obviously, these are not serious portraits. They are just snap shots but the kind that I like to make of my family when we are in dark restaurants.

Kasie at the Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas

This third image was slightly post processed and is my final look.

Red Dress Run, Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas

This group portrait came out great too, again with the fill flash. Though the Fujifilm XF1 is just a point and shoot, it actually does a better job than my Olympus E-PM2 without the flash. The Olympus has a bigger sensor but a good flash can really help in these cases. The Olympus flash does an adequate by conventional job. Yes, it’s possible to play with the settings, set slow-sync or lower flash power but the Fuji is a lot easier since it does this automatically. By the way, Fuji’s big boy cameras like the X100S and the X-E2 also has this flash feature too.

Red Dress Run, Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas

Here’s one more Fuji fill flash example — It’s not just for portraits. Apparently, Austin had their Red Dress Run, and the bar quickly filled with all these characters. I popped up the flash, underexposed the scene by -1 2/3 stops and took the shot. Underexposing allowed me to maintain the colors in the neon and the fill flash lit the foreground. The light blended beautifully.

Performing at Bourbon Girl - Austin, Texas

The XF1 is after all, just a point and shoot but pretty damned good for such a small camera. Of course, the Olympus E-PM2 does high ISO much better. I shot this wide-angle below at a very clean ISO 1600, hand-held with the E-PM2.

 

Back outside, I shot with the Olympus on tripod. This is where the E-PM2 excels and why I love the camera so much. I created the HDRs with 3 photos 2 stops apart. The wet streets were fantastic. Look at those lovely cobblestones in the first image, up top.

Holiday Decorations at the Iron Cactus - Austin, Texas

The neon red from the Iron Cactus sign also looks great off the sidewalk. 6th street was looking festive before the holidays.

Colorful Performance, Metal and Lace - Austin, Texas

Finally, we ended up in a Steampunk influenced Heavy Metal Bar on Red River, just off 6th Street. The interior at Metal and Lace was dark but I loved the colors. I created this HDR which turned out to have the right amount of motion blur. I think it nicely captures the feel of the place.

The night out with Charles was fun. He very patiently listened to what I like and dislike about both cameras. I mentioned Fuji’s strengths to hopefully get Olympus to add these features. Every camera has its pluses and minuses and the advantage of using many brands is that you discover these things. It allows me to have a balanced view.


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13 thoughts on “The 6th Street Photowalk and the using strengths of Olympus and Fujifilm

  1. About the post processing on Kasie, I noticed you straightened the image but was the color alteration necessary? I think the original (with flash) looks better somehow. Maybe it’s the blue light behind the frame getting smudged distracting me. I think I just want to say that you don’t seem to need any post processing, your first snap is always just right. I think I’m doing something wrong myself as I need plenty post processing with the Nex-5 I utilize and the standard 18-55mm that came with it. Everything aside I’m quite fascinated by Kasie’s microdermals ^_^

    1. The slight color alterations is a matter of taste. Not necessary by any means. I wanted a bit more saturation and more warmth in her face.

      I post processes every image, none of my images, unless I’m trying to make a point, are straight out of the camera.

  2. Very nice photos of 6th Street! I like the effect that you got with the Fuji flash on Kasie. I have always thought that Olympus was very weak in their flash implementation. I have their FL-600 and FL-300 units. I think that Canon’s new wireless flash units are very easy to learn to operate, and work together with the camera much better than the Olympus combo. In fact, it is ONLY because of my attachment to the Canon Speedlites is why I haven’t sold off all of my Canon equipment.

    Oh, I also went down to Precision Camera early Saturday afternoon. I walked out of there with a new camera and two new lenses! It was all Olympus. OMD E-M1, 12-40mm f/2.8, and 75mm f/1.8. Now I really do need to sell of some of my Canon equipment!

    1. Thank you, Gregg,

      Congratulations on your new equipment.

      The flash blending from the Fuji are different from Canon but I actually prefer Fuji more for these type of snap shots. For radio trigger performance with multiple flashes, I like Canon.

  3. Thanks for this post. I’ve been looking at the XF1 as a pocketable camera for my son and wondered how capable it was being such a tiny thing. I haven’t looked at any other reviews yet but your photos speak volumes about its potential.

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