Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar (I’m pretty sure!). Shot with the Sony RX1 in macro mode and processed with VSCO film. 

Dinner in Denver, CO. Sony RX1 @ f/2 ISO 3200 1/40s.

Outer Banks, North Carolina. Sony RX1 @ f/8. Processed with VSCO film.

Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with.  Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:
Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 
It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 
And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with. 

Copenhagen, Denmark with the Sony RX1. I am finding that I like shooting the RX1 two ways:

  1. Auto ISO F/8 for walking around town. This works well as a P&S (obviously with much higher quality images), but is a pretty low-stress way to shoot this camera. 
  2. Auto ISO F/2 for low-light/better DoF control/portraits. 

It’s amazing how much latitude these files have. I can take the shadows/highlights sliders are pull them all the way up or down without a big degradation of image quality. 

And the quality of the images at base ISO are really amazing. It’s a fun little camera to shoot with and has become my favorite to travel around with. 

New harbor in Copenhagen. Sony RX1 shot at f/8, ISO auto. Processed with VSCO film. 

Operaen på Holmen. In Copenhagen, Denmark. Sony RX1. 

Fuji X-T1 For Travel Photography Review Part 2: Japan

Here is the 777 that would take me from DFW to NRT. 6,427 miles and just over 13 hours was the length of the journey. With me was my Fuji X-T1 and a single lens – the 23 1.4, also made by Fuji. This is part two of a collection of articles on traveling with this camera. While the first article was a general introduction to my thoughts about the camera, I thought in this next installment I would talk about using this camera for actual photography.

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ISO 400 (Auto) 23mm f/8.0 1/850 sec. RAW File processed in LR with Velvia Profile

The above image was shot mid-day and through a window in the airport. Autofocus was quick to lock onto the text on the Sky Chefs container. The camera did not have any issues dealing with the heavily glazed windows although I did use exposure compensation to dial down the exposure by 0.7 stops.

Working with the Fuji RAW files in LR has been a bit of a different experience for me. Fortunately the default exposure is pretty accurate — and being able to see the exposure in the EVF before snapping the photo has helped with that greatly. I found that for most of the images in this post, I did not have to adjust the exposure slide in LR more than +- 0.3 stops. Bravo Fuji. 

I have found that the RAW files require quite a bit more sharpening than what I am use to. But the files also seem to be able to take quite a bit of sharpening, exposing details hidden in the RAW files that are not there with the default sharpening levels in LR. 

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ISO 400 (Auto) 23mm f/1.4 1/420 sec. RAW File processed in LR

For international travel, I highly recommend flying through DFW. It’s a very nice airport that has good food, a nice AA club and seems to be a bit less crowded than some of the other international hubs. 

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ISO 400 (Auto) 23mm f/5.6 1/320 sec. RAW File processed in LR with Velvia Profile

13 hours later I arrived in Tokyo. And after a two hour bus ride from the airport, I arrived at my hotel. By that time it was nearly 7 PM local time and I was struggling to stay awake. I was able to wander around a bit in the neighborhood that I was staying at — Roppongi Hills — find something to eat and make it to 8:30 or so before passing out.

I slept well, but not long and by 4 AM or so the next day I was fully awake. Walking around the streets of Tokyo at sunrise is a fun thing to do — especially when you still are in jet-lag-zombie mode. So I grabbed the X-T1 and captured the scenes of empty Tokyo streets. Having the small mirrorless camera to walk around with is a great improvement over a large SLR. You don’t call as much attention to yourself and you can take photos without anyone really giving you a second look. Plus the X-T1’s shutter is dead-silent, which is a plus for stealth shooting. 

As the sun was rising I set the camera to auto-ISO and auto white balance. Both let me forget about tweaking settings and just focus on finding interesting scenes to photograph. 

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ISO 4000 (Auto) 23mm f/4 1/250 sec. RAW File processed in LR with Velvia Profile

I happend on this wall (above), which was really quite a beautiful site, but due to the time of day was almost in complete darkness. Fortunately the low-light performance of the X-T1 is really solid — and this photo, shot at ISO 4000, did not not even cause the Fuji to break a sweat. The vignetting is natural, I did not add any additional processing to the wall. 

imageISO 2500 (Auto) 23mm f/5.6 1/250 sec. RAW File processed in LR VSCO Ilford HP5 preset

The day was starting to break and the sun had come up. The streets were still largely empty, but I was able to capture an image of this lady taking an early morning walk. Dealing with this quickly evolving scene, the X-T1 was largely able to keep up. And this is where having a real aperture ring on the lens was quite a good feature. Before bringing the camera to my eye, I was able to stop down to f/5.6. Then I focused on the lady, recomposed the scene (I had the center point selected for focus), and snapped the photo. 

The autofocus is not quite as fast as a DSLR, but did work well in this case. 

imageISO 200 23mm f/1.4 1/2200 sec. JPEG File

It was now nearly 8 AM and Tokyo had started to come alive. Before grabbing breakfast I managed to capture several other city scenes.

imageISO 200 23mm f/5.6 1/55 sec. JPEG File

For many of these scenes, I experiments with the in-camera JPEG processing (choosing the Vivid/Velvia preset, which I happen to like a lot). The quality of the JPEGs is quite nice, but I do prefer the flexibility for post-processing that the RAW files affords me. The RAW files seem quite resilient to highlight and shadow recovery, which is a good thing. I found that in many of these higher-contrast scenes, I was needing to use the shadows slider quite a bit to raise the shadows. Using the Velvia preset in LR for the RAW files increases the contrast quite a bit, making this shadow recovery even more important. Fortunately, for all but the most aggressive processing, I found that this introduced very little noise in my files. 

imageISO 400 (Auto) 23mm f/1.4 1/170 sec. RAW file processed with VSCO Ilford HP5 preset

One thing I did notice was how large the RAW files are. Many of them are nearly 50 MB. This is huge, proportionally, for the resolution of the camera. The Nikon D800, for example, with its 36 MPs, (more than 2x the resolution of the X-T1) has 75 MB RAW files. Just an interesting observation about shooting RAW with the X-T1. My D700, for example, created 20 MB RAW files. So obviously, there is a lot of information being stored in the fuji file. 

imageISO 6400 (Auto) 23mm f/1.4 1/75 sec. RAW file processed with Astia profile

I had breakfast and then headed into the office for the work day. After dinner I ventured out again to see how the X-T1 performed in really low-light situations. I shot the above image at ISO 6400, and while there is noise, it is an improvement over my D700 (which looked this noisy at ISO 2500-3200). I am very impressed with how clean this looked, even when shot in near darkness. Again the auto white balance chose a pleasing temperature and tint, and no additional WB work in LR had to be done. 

As the end of my first day in Tokyo neared I was tired, but was able to capture some nice images before and after my work day. At no point did my hands feel tired carrying around the X-T1 and I never received any looks for having the camera with me. It’s a great camera to blend into an environment. I look just like any other tourist carrying around a larger compact camera — and that in my opinion is the biggest strength of the X-T1 for travel photography. 

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series. Thanks for reading!

At the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. Fuji X-T1 and 23 f/1.4 lens. RAW file processed in LR 5.4 with the Asita profile. 

Fuji X-T1 For Travel Photography Review Part 1: Introduction

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/11 ISO 800 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Velvia Profile.

It’s been a real challenge to find a camera and camera system that allows me to capture high-quality images, travels well, and fits inside my laptop bag. I do everything in my power to not have to check bags when I am traveling for business. This means I have to bring a carry-on bag that fits all my clothes and my laptop bag that fits my computer, all my various electronics and still has room for a camera. This limits the size of my camera and lenses greatly.

And I have I gone through a number of different cameras this year. It all started when I sold all of my DSLR gear. I had a pair of Nikon D700s, and number of lenses, flashes and accessories that fit in a giant Think Tank Photo rolling bag. See, I was shooting weddings and portrait sessions and needed the DSLR gear. But as life often does, things change and my career path has changed.

As it happens, I get a chance to travel a lot more for work, which gives me an opportunity to travel to a number of fun places. But while I still had the DSLRs, I never brought them while traveling for business because of the size. So I’ve been looking for something smaller ever since.  Currently, I am shooting with the Fujifilm X-T1 and 23 1.4 lens, which I just had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo with. 

Tokyo is one of my absolute favorite cities to visit. It’s clean, the people are friendly and accommodating, and the food is out of this world. It also is a city full of bright colors, interesting sites and great opportunities to capture photographs. 

…Oh and did I mention the food was great?

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 640 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

The X-T1 is a very nice and capable camera, however the 23 1.4, while an excellent lens is still a little bit larger than I would have preferred. I was able to fit it in my laptop bag (a Tom Bihn Ego messenger bag) in an Op/Tech neoprene pouch. The 23 1.4 is a bit too long and it made getting it in and out of my bag a bit of a challenge.

I actually think the camera size is fine, but the bag is too small. I’ve been considering a larger Crumpler messenger bag, with a proper photo insert from Tenba. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 4000 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

I guess this past trip has solidified the fact that as much as I force myself to use a 35mm lens, I really don’t like that focal length – I mean it’s always “good enough”, but often find it not wide enough for the task of walking around a foreign city, and not long enough for portraits or detail shots. 

I want a camera that performs well at high-ISOs (because I am always shooting available light while traveling), has a number of excellent lenses available, and has fast and accurate autofocus performance. The X-T1 ticks all of those boxes on paper, but how it performs in the real world remains to be seen. So far the only real downsides that I have seen in the week or so since I have been shooting with it (cutting it real close – it was delivered from Amazon the day before I left for my trip!) are the poor battery life (we will get to this later) and the gigantic, corded charger. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/16 @ f/1.4 ISO 1000 1/250. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Pro Neg. Std Profile.

So the real question I have for myself – will this Fuji X-T1 be the camera I will have for a while, or should I consider the Olympus E-M1 as the ideal travel camera? The E-M1 has a number of positive features over the X-T1. Better battery life (potentially), the amazing 5-axis image stabilizer, lenses that are a bit more reasonably priced and slightly smaller, 100 base ISO, better grip, faster autofocus.  The X-T1 has a slight nod in the lens quality department, bigger sensor, better depth of field control, better low-light performance, all-metal construction on the camera and lenses and more manual controls. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/3.2 @ f/1.4 ISO 200 1/1800. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Pro Neg. Std Profile.

On the manual controls – I’m actually not sure I quite like them. I think they actually slow things down (but then again, that may be a good thing). Having the aperture ring on the lens is quite nice, but the Nikon-like control knobs on the E-M1 are fine and faster for most things.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either system for travel photography. Both the Fuji and the Olympus are much smaller and suit my needs better than the DSLRs they aim to replace.

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/30. JPEG file processed with LR 5.4.

If I decide to keep the X-T1, I likely will get the 14mm and the 35mm. If I go with the E-M1, I’ll pick up the 12mm, 25mm and 45mm. But for now, I’ve enjoying shooting with the X-T1 for this trip.

I’m using a Gordy’s hand strap for carrying around the X-T1 with me. Because I didn’t want to carry my large bag around I often just carried the camera. I think I would have preferred to also have a small camera bag that I could carry around while walking around the city. I will have to work on this for my next trip.

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 4000 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

In the next several sections of this review I will discuss how this camera performed on my trip with regards to:

  • Autofocus performance
  • Battery life
  • Controls and usage
  • Low-light performance
  • Image quality and RAW file editing ability

And unlike other reviews, I will focus on how the camera performs for real shooting while describing some of the experiences of the trip. I’ve attempted to provide a sampling of some of the shots I’ve captured so far in the categories of — landscapes, environmental/street, close-up and low-light shots. I’ve been quite happy with what I have been able to capture so far. 

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Fuji X-T1, 23mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4 ISO 400 1/125. RAW file processed with LR 5.4 with Fujifilm Provia Profile.

I hope sharing my experiences with the X-T1 will help you if you are trying to decide which small mirrorless camera system you should choose to purchase.