X20 Games – in the mountains, in brilliant color

Hi All, I updated this post today after a couple people noticed that my iPad editing ruined the image quality and I didn’t notice on the small non-retina screen. These new versions were reprocessed from the originals in Aperture now that I am home and have access to my computer. Hope you enjoy them!

The following picture is my favorite action shot from the Squaw Valley terrain park yesterday. It is an OOC JPEG from the brand new Fujifilm X20 with a few adjustments in Aperture.DSCF2016 - Version 2 (1)

After an excursion to the beach this last weekend, I headed to Lake Tahoe for some mid-week Spring skiing. Sadly, it may be the last good skiing for a while now that the rain is starting up even at high altitudes.

I made an uncertain decision not to bring my favorite mountain gear from 2012, the Olympus OMD with weather-sealed 12-50mm and M. Zuiko 60mm F/2.8 lenses. Instead, I brought the relatively tiny and totally self-contained X20. It’s not weather proof, but it is small enough to keep under my outer shell or in a pocket, and it weighs next to nothing.

I wasn’t really expecting it to be able to handle the harsh light and fast action on the slopes, but it did better than I thought it would. I only needed to figure out how to use it effectively.

Initially, I screwed up metering a few frames on the blindingly white snow before I clicked in the right exposure compensation. The dial for exposure comp is in the perfect location and has just the right amount of resistance and gratifyingly solid clicks, as opposed to the very loose knobs on my Olympus.DSCF1195

In the snow and bright sun, I had to go to stratospheric shutter speeds to avoid small apertures approaching the diffraction limit. Unfortunately, I could not use a variable ND filter effectively with the lens hood, and I think this may be a flaw in the X-10 hood design. Finding the right color rendering, sharpening, highlight tone, shadow tone, and NR settings is an on-going battle, but I think I’m getting somewhere.

I really like the challenge of capturing high IQ photos with such a small camera, but it can be frustrating at first. Much of what I am getting done would have been easier with a full-size DSLR, but there is no way I am going back to one now.

DSCF2008 - Version 3 (2)The latest, greatest pocketable photographic equipment seems to perform better than anything in the same category that came before. At the same time, it does put more pressure on the photographer to work around the performance limits of small optical systems, minimize any detrimental effects of noise from tiny yet high-resolution sensors, and to effectively use the latest image processing techniques to get equivalent output quality compared to bigger cams.

I don’t know why the engineers could not get a built-in ND filter added to this particular design, the way they did in the X100s and the smaller Olympus XZ-2 and XZ-10. It would be very helpful in bright conditions and for slow shutter speed effects in other situations.

What was even more disappointing was that the X-10 lens hood with stepper ring for 52mm third-party filters is tough to use in the field. The threads seem to get stuck when the metal heats up. I could not get the hood off of the stepper ring a few times when I needed to put on either a CP or ND filter. Even when I was able to get the metal on metal contacts unstuck and everything reassembled, the hood got in the way of rotating either the polarizer or the variable ND ring. This is a bummer. I am hoping I can find someone who has a solution, but for now I am giving up using filters with the lens hood.

The other thing that I found a bit frustrating was the lack of technical detail on the various in-camera processing settings. With the X series, the output is highly dependent on Fuji filters and effects applied to images. I really want to know what the DR algorithm is and what 100% vs. 200% really mean. Almost every adjustment in the manual could use an extra page describing what is actually going on under the hood, so that the operator could make an informed decision on which settings to use. I am getting some decent pictures after only a few days of work, but it is mostly due to trial and error instead of educated choices.

DSCF2038 - Version 2 (1)While in-camera raw processing is a very useful feature, why not release an app that does the same thing with exported RAF files? That can’t be too difficult to do with the newest generation of tablet computers and iPads.

OK, that’s enough nit picking I guess. I can’t argue with the out of camera results – I really like them.

Kudos to Fujifilm for developing this highly functional enthusiast’s camera. I am impressed with how they committed to gathering the latest, greatest technology and then built it into a high quality compact camera that is also straight forward to use. Excellent stuff, keep it coming!


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