Joseph, Photography

DSLR Or Mirrorless ?

First I would like to say this post is purely my opinion so please don’t think I am singling out any particular manufacturer or promoting one system over another. I am giving my reasons for switching and my thoughts are probably out of sync with the majority of readers so as I said in last weeks post “to each their own”.

Well I finally took the plunge into the mirrorless camera world wholeheartedly yesterday. I had been building a Fujifilm system along side of my Nikon System for about a year now and I had found myself using the Nikon less and less, sorry about that West 🙂

I already was using a Fujifilm X-T1 so when the opportunity arose to get another X-T1,  Vertical battery grip, 56mm f/1.2, 23mm f/1.4, Fuji Flash and a handful of Fuji batteries and other goodies I jumped at it. I’m sure you are saying “Oh No Joe” you must have spent a small fortune on that gear. Actually I swapped my Nikon gear for the Fuji gear (except for some items which I will sell separately) so it didn’t cost me a penny. Now I am not the first person to jump ship from a DSLR to the mirrorless world but at least I have had the opportunity to use the Fuji gear side by side with the Nikon gear to sway my final decision.

Why in the world would you do a silly thing like that Joe ?

To me it the glass (lenses) is a very important aspect in deciding which system to go with. It also has a lot to do with the camera controls but more on that later. You see way back when I was an eager young buck I remember deriving great joy from going out for a days worth of shooting with prime lenses on my Canon F-1 film camera. I had a lot of those marvelous Canon FD prime lenses and all of them were fast. I don’t remember having any lens that was slower than f/2.0. I did not own a single zoom lens. My images were really good with those fast lenses and then Canon had to go and upset the whole apple cart by changing the design of their lens mount.

You might be saying to yourself “I don’t remember Canon changing their lens mount Joe” but they did. They had to change the mount design to one that would accommodate the newer cameras that were beginning to appear with electronics.

Those great Canon lenses were called breech-lock lenses and they were machined so well that all you would have to do was face the camera lens mount up and line up the dots and the lenses would practically mount themselves. All you would have to do is twist the breech-lock ring about 1/3 of a turn and your lens was securely mounted. There was no twisting of the lens against the camera body. The only thing that moved was the breech-lock ring so there was no lens mount wear or wobbly lenses. Yes those were the good old days.

So when Canon changed their mount I traded in all my gear for Nikon. One of the great things that Nikon had been able to do is retain their original mount design so not to alienate users who had accumulated years worth of lenses. Every Nikon F mount lens will fit every Nikon SLR camera no matter how old it is. The older lenses might not meter on the newer cameras but they will fit. Why Nikon was able to build upon their original mount design to accommodate electronics and Canon did not is beyond my scope, but to say the very least I was pissed. So for the next 35 years I built a Nikon system.

The time seemed to fly by and every couple of years when Nikon announced a new camera I was at the local camera shop checking it out, and most of the time buying it. Each new generation of Nikon added more and more features, so many in fact that I was sure I never use all of them. I noticed a strange thing that happened along the way though (and I am strictly talking about myself here). The more features that were added to the cameras the less I would enjoy using them. Either you would have to twist a wheel in front of the camera to change the aperture, or hold a button while twisting a wheel to adjust exposure compensation. Some features were only accessible by diving into the menu system.

Thats great, something else I have to remember.  Besides getting the correct exposure and composing my shot I had to remember dials, wheels, buttons and menus. Don’t get me wrong, having a bunch of features is great but I just didn’t feel right to me the way these features were implemented. I fully embrace technology when its enjoyable. I’m not an analog man in a digital world.

OMG look at all those glorious dials 🙂

XT1 (1 of 1)

I guess I’m just old school, I like aperture rings on the lenses and knobs to twist with numbers on them. This is one of the reasons I started to like the Fuji cameras more and more. Besides having some of the best APS-C sensors in the business they have dials for shutter speeds, ISO, and exposure compensation. They have aperture rings on the lenses where some of us think they should be on every make of camera.  I like the way the Fuji X-Trans sensor reproduces color and B&W, and I do believe it has something to to with the non-traditional layout of the sensor (it is not a Bayer type layout).  I also liked the fact that Fuji has eliminated the AA filters on the sensor (anti-aliasing).  I know other manufacturers have removed these filters also but not at this price point. Across the entire Fuji line these filters are gone so the sharpness of the images is more to my liking.  Originally before jumping ship I was hoping when Nikon announced the df camera I would love it but, to me the Fuji X-T1 has better ergonomics.

The Fuji glass is also impressive. They have a complete lineup of fast prime lenses and the only zoom I have felt a need to buy is the 55-200 Optically Stabilized lens (yes Gale VR or OS lenses do work). Almost all of the lenses are tack sharp also. I enjoy using the fast lenses a lot, it reminds me of my days with my Canon F-1. The fact that the X-T1 has dials instead of wheels (it has wheels but you can choose not to use them) is just icing on the cake for me.

I was also very impressed with the quiet operation of the camera. If you turn the beep off you can hardly hear the shutter. There is no mirror slap as on a DSLR when you press the shutter, so I can use slower shutter speeds with a mirrorless and get sharper slightly images. There is no optical pentaprism to add weight to the camera. There is an electronic viewfinder and it is a superb one. I could look in the viewfinder and adjust the exposure compensation wheel  and see in real time what the image will turn out like without removing my eye from the viewfinder and looking at the rear screen.

When doing time or long exposures with a DSLR you have to cover the eyepiece or it will affect your images. There is no need to cover the eyepiece on a mirrorless.

Over the years I have used and owned a lot of Canon and Nikon glass and I have really never had any complaints with the sharpness of the images.  I do find that most of the Fuji glass has a “bite” to it for lack of a better word (looks a bit sharper).  As far as the Canon and Nikon bodies go I have never had any major issues almost all of them were totally reliable (my Nikon D200 had over 190,000 shutter actuations) on the original shutter and was still going strong.  I want to be very clear that I have nothing against these big manufacturers.  The Fuji system just fits my slower deliberate style of photography better.

Just because the Fuji system fits me does not mean everyone will like it. Some reviews I have read indicate that Fuji’s are not beginners cameras or are “Quirky” but I don’t find that the case at all. For anyone looking into upgrading or buying a DSLR camera I suggest you take a look at mirrorless along with DSLR’s. There are a lot of mirrorless brands such as Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix (Olympus and Panasonic are micro 4/3 sensors which are smaller than APS-C sensors) that offer considerable bang for the buck. Mirrorless technology is rapidly maturing and when image quality is compared to DSLR’s it is almost indistinguishable.

I’m sure in time I will find some disadvantages to mirrrorless also but the way I see it the advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages.

Here is a video clip that Patti K. sent me in a comment (Patti is one of our Main Contributors on Monochromia).  This is a pro that decided to go mirrorless and a lot of the reasons I switched were similar.  I hope you enjoy the clip and thank you to Patti for sending it – Why I moved to mirrorless

Black and White, Black and White Photography, Joseph, Photography

You Asked For It – Time Exposures


In this post I would like to discuss a couple of tools a photo bug should have in their arsenal and also time exposures. First you should have a tripod, and I mean a good tripod not a cheap one. If you try to save money on a tripod you are going to end up screwing yourself. My way of checking to see if a tripod is good enough is putting the biggest lens on my camera and extending the tripod fully to its maximum height.  If there is even the slightest movement when I touch the camera I look for something more sturdy.  I also look for tripods that come up to eye level with the center column down.  The center column is a weak link on many tripods and I find it best not to use them extended.  Really good tripods and heads are expensive, and there is a reason for this.  They hold your camera steady and cheaper ones don’t.  I use a Manfrotto Carbon Fiber 055CXPRO3 with a Kirk BH-3 Ballhead and Arca-Swiss style quick release.  I am not suggesting everyone go out and buy a carbon fiber tripod because aluminum tripods will work just fine.  I bought a carbon fiber tripod because they are lighter than aluminum and I have a bad back.

The next thing you should have is a neutral density filter.  A lot of new cameras have a top shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second.  This is fine for stopping action but if you wanted to take a portrait of someone with an open aperture of lets say f/2.0 on a bright day it’s just not going to happen.  At 1/4000 and f/2.0 you will probably overexpose your image so a neutral density filter would come in handy for this type of situation.  A neutral density filter cuts the amount of light down coming through the lens and are available in different densities.

Another handy thing you should have is a remote release for your cameras shutter.  There are various kinds wireless, wired and old school cable releases and range in price from about 19 dollars to over 100.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because if you ever want to do night or low light photography you are probably not going to be able to hand hold your camera and will need a tripod and a remote release.  Also one of the things I want to talk about is time exposures today.  These are impossible to do without some basic tools.  Below is a photo of some of the tools I use for time exposures and excuse my photo it’s a quick shot from my iPhone.


Please note if you buy a tripod and head (yes you have to buy them separately) that is equipped with a Arca-Swiss style quick release you will have to buy a compatible plate for each of your cameras.  Also note that my cable release is of the $20 variety.  My Fuji cameras are equipped with a threaded shutter button just like the old 35mm cameras so I can use a standard cable release.  If I were shooting with my Nikon I would use a wired remote.  Please take note of the 9 stop neutral density (lets refer to them as ND filters) filter or what some photographers call “black glass”.  This type of filter is a must have for long time exposures. Actually I have a 10 stop B+W filter on order because a 9 stop is just not enough.

I like to do time exposures with my Fuji mirror less cameras for two reasons.  The first is they mirror less meaning there is no mirror or optical pentaprism so I don’t have to block the light coming in from the viewfinder eyepiece (if you have a optical pentaprism camera like most DSLR’s you have to prevent light from coming in the eyepiece of it will affect your exposure in ways that are not to pleasant).  All of the Fuji’s I own are equipped with electronic viewfinders and that eliminates the need to block extraneous light from entering the camera.  If I used my Nikon I would have to bring the eyepiece cover with me and its just one more step.  The second reason I like using the Fuji’s is the camera will auto focus with the 9 stop ND filter installed (I don’t have to remember to focus first set the camera to manual focus then install the filter).

Okay so enough with the equipment lets show some examples.

Time Exposures

In the first example I want to show you a standard exposure using a Fuji X-E2 with a Fuji 18mm f/2.0 lens without a ND filter.  The exposure was 1/15 @ f/16 ISO 100.


Now lets install the 9 stop ND filter and use an exposure of 28 seconds at f/16 and see what happens.


Look at what happened while the shutter was open for 28 seconds.  The waves and ripples in the water smoothed out and created a blurry dreamy type effect with the water.  Are you starting to see how useful a sturdy tripod is ?  A cheaper tripod would not have been able to hold the camera steady for 28 seconds.

Lets try this from another angle.  Also notice that this technique works best when there is a stationary object in the photo with the moving water.


This photo was taken at 1/20 @ f/16 without any ND filter.  Lets try the next shot with the ND filter.


This exposure was 28 seconds @ f/16 with a 9 stop ND filter installed.  I like doing time exposures in black and white because depending on the length of time the shutter is open you can get some fairly strange color shifts (nothing that can’t be fixed if shooting raw).  Below is a color photo of a 20 second time exposure @f/16.


These photos are just quick examples done for this article of what can be done with ND filters, tripods and a little imagination.   They were not intended to be of any artistic value.  Can you imagine a coastline with some big boulders sticking out of the water and a dramatic sky.  Put a ND filter on your lens and your camera on a tripod and turn that scene into a piece of fine art by smoothing out the crashing surf and the clouds moving in the sky.  All it takes is a little experimenting and a few photographic tools.

I almost forgot to mention that if you are in doubt about what exposure to use after installing a ND filter there is a handy little app for the iPhone called “Long Exposure” (I’m sure they have it for Android also) and its free.  All you have to do is enter the exposure information from your camera without the ND filter installed, tell the app how many stops the ND filter is and it will calculate the correct time for your shutter speed to be set at.

There are also other types of ND filters available like the Lee “Big Stopper” or the Formatt/Hi Tech 10 stop filters which come in rectangular sizes and you have to buy a special adaptor to attach them to your lens.  They are more expensive and would only really pay off if you were doing a lot of time exposures.