Fujifilm XF 35mm F2.0 review – The Best Lens for The One Lens Set Up

When I have switched my camera system from Canon to Fujifilm a while back, I was also looking to expand and experience my lens choice. Before when I was using my EOS 500D, I had the kit 18-55mm and 55-250mm as I thought a zoom set-up will give me the most bang for the buck. But as I transit to Fujifilm, I noticed they seem to have put a lot of focus on their prime lens collections. With choices such as the F1.4 lineup or their more compact counterpart F2.0 lineup, I am intrigued as they say a prime lens is usually sharper, faster and cheaper. After some internal debate, I picked the XF35mmF2 for its compact size, weather sealing, fast focus and close to 50mm full-frame equivalent focal length.

Build Quality

Kudos to Fujifilm, when you hold this lens in your hands, quality is the first thing that springs to mind. It is full metal construction, even for the textured aperture ring and focus ring. The aperture ring is smooth with a nice click to it. Same as the focus ring, it is well dampened but not too hard to turn. It comes with a small metal lens hood. I am not sure it actually does much in terms of preventing glares and flares, but certainly does a good enough job to protect the glass. Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of this tapering, stumpy design of the lens so the hood kind of make it balance a bit better. Although the lens hood somehow makes it a bit more difficult to put the lens cap on. I am just being pernickety here…

It apparently has 8 seals in the lens body to help makes it weather-sealed and still works in -10˙C.

Spec

Dimension (Diameter x Length)60mm x 45.9mm
Weight170g
Focal Length35mm (53mm Full-Frame equivalent)
Element/Group9/6
ApertureF2.0 – F16
Filter Size43mm

Real-world test and review

If you are looking for the kind of technical review that takes picture of a brick wall, pixel peep to tell you which part of the lens is sharp, how much vignette you get at what stop, I am sorry to disappoint. They just aren’t important to me in the real world use of the lens. Modern days lens are all very sharp, arguably too sharp. Vignette is usually auto-corrected by most software you use to read the RAW file. So why bother worrying about them, plus as they say – if you are pixel peeping to decide whether it is a good photo, it’s not.

Fast focus

Autofocus ability though, is very important. It is between being the masterpiece or epic fail. And it is one of the reasons I chose the F2 version over the F1.4 version. Fujifilm quotes the AF to be 0.08s. With my X-T3, the focus is almost instant and bang on target 9/10. I have rarely missed a shot because the focus is too slow. Although auto-focus is amazingly fast and quiet, the manual focus is not quite the same story. Like most other Fuji’s lenses, they are focus by wire which is essentially an electronic sensor. So they don’t have a definite endpoint on either end. And it’s not linear focus either, it makes fast manual focus a bit challenging as you can’t really have a “muscle memory” when the focus throw is essentially infinity. On top of that, they make this weird, loud, clicky noise as you turn the focus ring during manual focus mode which contrasts how quiet it focuses during AF mode.

Compact

The size of this is also one of my major considerations. Like all my previous post, I like a good compact system so I bring the camera with me more. With it being only 107g and 60x46mm, it might not be a pancake but it is small enough that it fits in my sling bag with my X-T3. The small size does come with a little bit of compromise though. The filter size is 43mm. It can be a bit difficult to find the right size filter, such as some of the popular diffusion filters like the moment’s cinebloom don’t come in this thread size and using a filter adaptor on this lens for let’s say, street photography, I find can look a bit awkward.

Depth of field

For a fast prime lens, bokeh is one of its attraction. The 35mmF2 actually creates some really nice separations. The bokeh balls are very gentle and soft so it’s not distracting at all. Although F1.4 will give you an even better separation, I am happy to trade that 1 stop for the weather-sealing and faster autofocus. I also love the clickiness of the aperture ring and it is not easy to be bumped.

Image stabilisation

The 35F2 doesn’t have optical stabilisation. If you have an X-T4, the IBIS will be quite clutch in a low light situation to let you handheld at a slower shutter speed. As I personally don’t mind some grain or noise in my photos, it hasn’t really bothered me a huge amount as I just crank up my ISO to compensate for my shutter speed.

Verdict

Fujifilm has really nailed it with the 35mm F2.0. It is more compact, quieter, snappier and cheaper than their older, best-selling lens 35mm F1.4. Every detail is well thought out, full metal construction feels premium, the different textured rings provide decent grips even in wet condition compliments with their weather seal property. With it costing just under £380, I would seriously recommend it to every Fujifilm X shooter out there. Although with the clicked aperture ring and the non-linear focus ring, it is a lens geared towards photographers rather than videographers. If you are already a prime lens shooter, you will understand what I mean by it is actually very liberating with the limitations that come with a prime lens. 

Wildling shoes Tanuki Niji review – the summer freedom made by Japanese paper

The past few weeks we have been getting some better weather with the sun coming out a bit more. Although it’s a bit deceiving in terms of temperature, with lockdown easing as well, it is hard to not feel the summer excitement. As I was looking for something a bit airier than my leather vivobarefoot, I came across this German brand – Wildling and their Tanuki Niji.

Appearance

The first impression from them is that they look fresh. From a colour versatility point of view, I am more of a white shoe guy than a black shoe guy, so I was naturally drawn to the Niji (Rainbow) rather than the Yoru (Night/Evening). Speaking of the rainbow, I do like the subtlety of how they place their rainbow. One, it gives the shoe a bit more interest but not ruining the overall simplicity. And two, it shows support in an “I respect people’s right” rather than the in-your-face “I am woke” way. Although it’s not their intention, I do quite like the fact here, in the UK, it also means “thank you NHS”. To finish off with the little red lace rings is just the cherry on the cake. 

You can probably guess by now that they took quite a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture into the shoes’ design. Perhaps that’s also one of the reasons I was drawn to it. With their outsole designed to be a bit like a pair of Ninja shoes and their choice of materials.

Material

This is probably their main selling point of the shoes. The upper of the shoes are made out of Washi fabric which is 75% paper. Washi is also known as Japanese paper or rice paper. Traditionally used for ink painting or to make Shoji screen. Wildling mixes it with polyester to form this extremely thin but durable and malleable fabric. It apparently has antibacterial property on top of being breathable and super quick to dry. I think it’s perfect for the summer months with the look and feel of a nice canvas shoe but with a bit more to it.

How it wears

When I put it on, the first thing I noticed was how much it hugs your feet. Thanks to Washi’s thinness, the feet-hugging cut of the shoe doesn’t actually feel restrictive at all but rather like a second layer of skin. It gives you the confidence that you are protected to roam and feel nature.

It comes with this “Hemp-flax fleece” removable insole, which comes in at 4mm thickness. They said it’s moisture-absorbing and temperature regulating. I find it to be an okay insole, nothing wrong with them but at the same time nothing that special. Unlike their Washi insole, which fits my lifestyle a lot better. As we can sometimes experience all 4 seasons in one single day here in the UK, the quick-dry property allows me to prepare for the eventuality that I would be wearing these shoes out and they decided to rain on me. Also, they come in 2mm which means even closer to the ground.

Because of its breathability and how well it fits, unlike my leather viviobarefoot which I tend to sweat a bit in, I don’t need to and I don’t like to wear socks with them. Plus the outsole is not constructed in one big slab, the shape gives the shoe that bit more flexibility to achieve the maximum freedom and ground feel. Or as they say – Wildness.

Things to consider before buying

First, they are white in colour. The snowy freshness will be gone as soon as it touches the floor. Thanks to their quick-dry nature, you can actually hand wash them to keep them fresher. But at the end of the day if you drop your Indian takeaway on it, just accept the fact now you have a pair of yellow shoes rather than white.

Secondly, which is a bit annoying for us now that Brexit happened, it is a German company. So when you buy from them, you will now have to pay VAT and/or import tax on them. Also, returns are not as straightforward as sending your ASOS back. If you get your size wrong, you might end up paying twice the stupid tax…

Verdict

Wildling Tanuki Niji, in my opinion, is a great summer daily shoes. They look clean with a dash of summery vibe. Versatile enough that you might even get away with the smart-casual style. Thin and breathable to keep your feet cool and dry. Because of the crazy UK weather, I would strongly recommend you getting the Washi insole at the same time as well so you don’t have to pay the shipping twice to have them shipped from German. 

Olympus AF-1 Super: The Affordable 35mm Film Point and Shoot Hidden Gem!

Recently analogue photography has been a very popular topic in the photography world, especially among the millennials and Gen Z. I am not going to dive into the reason for this, although might be an interesting topic for the future post. As millennials who take photos in my spare time, I can’t miss out on all the fun.

Point and shoot film camera has been very popular among film photographer. Given their small and compact size, you can always have one by your side. Their main purpose is to capture those day to day memories and film is one of those medium that almost makes you feel those memories. Along with the skyrocketing demand, the price for a decent film camera has also followed suit. I was in the market for a playful point and shoot camera at the time. And speaking of point and shoot film camera, Olympus MJU II and Contax T2 and always comes up in the conversation. Contax T2 is a very attractive little thing that carries an amazing 35mm F2.8 Zeiss lens. But after Kendall Jenner was seen using them, they cost about a kidney plus your sister’s dowry. So second option, Olympus MJU II with their award winning 35mm F2.8. They were fishing close to £200 as well which was still too much for me to justify. Okay… what’s the third option? That’s when I come across the Olympus AF-1 which carry the same 35mm F2.8 lens as the MJU II. With some luck, I managed to get a mechanically mint AF-1 Super off eBay for £30.

History and Spec

Olympus AF-1 Super is the upgraded version of AF-1 (or in the US, Olympus Infinity). AF-1 was introduced in 1986 as the first weatherproof automatic 35mm compact film camera hence the Japanese nickname “Nurepika” (wet flash). Then AF-1 Super was released in 1991 with some upgraded features such as 50cm minimal focal distance instead of 75cm, faster flash recharge, ability to disable the flash and 4 frames continuous shooting of  1fps (not really sure what it’s for, to be honest).

Review

Point and shoot cameras in Hong Kong is called 傻瓜機 – meaning idiot machine. It is true to an extent that point and shoot cameras are idiot-proof. Autofocus, auto-exposure, auto-flash, auto-wind and re-wind and autoload. Everything is decided for you, all you need to do is, as it says on the tin, point and shoot. With a few quirks, the more I use the AF-1, the more I like this idiot.

Appearance

AF-1 Super has this bubbly design to it, away from the boxy, hard-line style of the AF-1. Thicker and heavier than the MJU II but it actually feels really nice to hold. I like their sliding door mechanism. First, it means that less electronic components to move the lens in and out of the body and therefore one less thing that can fail. Second, it covers the viewfinder as well so you won’t embarrass yourself trying to take a picture when the camera is off. Third, it allows quick one-hand operation and always ready to go. Incorporating the essence of a point and shoot camera perfectly.

35mm F2.8

The lens that the AF-1 Super carries is what attracts me. 35mm is a perfect focal length for day-to-day, documentary-style photography and is exactly what a point and shoot camera is for. Olympus won 5 awards in 1997 with this fast and sharp prime lens on the MJU II body. Although they are essentially the same lens, I think the AF-1 series have an additional protective coating at the front which depends on your view can be good and bad. One of the things I like about film photography is that not everything is tack sharp, so I almost welcome that extra layer. But I find in reality, the coating is only a potential threat and the image still as crisp as your fresh trimmed hairline.

The most important manual option – no flash

AF-1 Super is fully automatic from start the finish, but one thing that I picked Super over the standard is the option for disabling the flash. I don’t actually mind the hard flash look, it is fashionable at the moment for their nostalgic feel. But for example, you won’t want it to flash while you are shooting through a glass window or trying to be discreet for street photography. They also have an option for the less powerful “fill-in” flash.

Centre focusing

AF-1 Super autofocus only comes with centre focusing. It means it will only focus on things that you place in the centre of the viewfinder, AF-1 has a separate focus lock button while AF-1 Super doesn’t. It relies on half-pressing the shutter. Truth be told, the travel in this shutter button is pretty shallow, so it does take some finger control to keep it at that sweet spot… (Ummm… why does it sound a bit strange) In a couple of occasions where either I took a picture by accident or it refocuses and my subject turned out to be out of focus. It can get a bit frustrating but that’s part of the fun in film photography.

Loud film advancing

Don’t use this point and shoot to take photos of your baby or your struggle to get them to sleep will never end. AF-1 Super has probably one of the loudest film advancing mechanism out there. I am starting to think that as they were designed in Japan, it was to deter creeps sneak-shotting someone.

Verdict

Film photography is an expensive exercise with the recurring cost of buying, developing and scanning films. And with the price for film cameras skyrocketing while my boss won’t even give me a pay raise that at least keep up with inflation, entry for film photography is getting more out of reach by the second. With pure luck, I came across this hidden gem for less than £50. I did a quick look on eBay, the cheapest nowadays are asking for £70 with the majority of them going for £90-150. If you can look past some of its quirks like the loud film advancing mechanism and the CR-P2 battery is a bit awkward to find, it is one extremely adorable little camera. If you just want to dip your toes in the film photography world but don’t want to sell your house, this is a very solid option if you manage to find one around the £50 range. This camera still put a smile on me every time I get it out for a spin.

Vivobarefoot Geo Court: the most stylish barefoot shoe that fit every occasion

Ever since I got into the barefoot world, one thing that I am always on the hunt for is a stylish pair of barefoot shoes. There is no denying that apart from the most basic thing a pair of shoes is designed for – to protect your foot – it is also an essential part of your outfit. I don’t know about you, but I am the type of guy that pays extra attention to someone’s shoes. I will be walking around town quietly paying extra respect to a fellow human who is on top of their shoe game, “damn look at those retro AJ 1s”. My partner is very vocal about me being lame but I can’t help it.

In my line of work, I am on my feet, running up and down a lot. So I wanted a pair of barefoot shoes that I can wear day to day to provide maximum comfort for the whole day but at the same time, I am expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism so my sandal is out of the question. When I almost gave up my self-respect and settled for a dweeby pair, Vivobarefoot, a UK-based company, popped into my Instagram ad suggestion and rescued my fragile dignity (sometimes cookies do good deeds too, people). Their Geo court’s minimal yet striking design language clicked with my taste straight away – add to cart.

Appearance

First and foremost, I really adore the two-tone design. Snow white upper with a teal blue heel. Paired with the sharp red logo, it provides the versatility of a white trainer but can also easily stands on its own under the spotlight and be the centrepiece of your outfit. Hands down one of the most good-looking barefoot shoes out on the market.

Source: vivobarefoot.com

Material

As I picked the white version, the fact that it features a full leather upper was brilliant. Anything that drops on it can be easily wiped away without leaving a mark. It also provides a degree of water resistance, perfect for the Northern Ireland weather where it rains, according to online data, an average of 213 days per year which is just under 60% of the time.

They also feature this bio-based BLOOM EVA insole which is a more sustainable alternative to the traditional EVA foam insole. I am not some sort of activist or anything, but recently I do find myself gravitating towards products that are good and, at the same time, make a conscious effort to be kind to the environment.

It is also extremely well built. I have worn my geo court almost every day to work for the past year and averaging about 10,000 steps a day. Apart from some superficial marks and scratches, the stitches are still intact and the outsole hasn’t shown any overt sign of wear. With the current wear and tear level, I expect it to go strong for another 2-3 years if not more.

Beginner-friendly

The Geo court comes with a 3mm hexagonal textured rubber outsole. It is very thin, light and flexible. Given how close you are to the ground, it naturally gives you some amazing ground feel. But worry not if you are only new to the barefoot game, you can start with the insole first. The nature of EVA foam is that they are soft and shock absorbing. Pair with a thickness that is also about 3mm, it gives you a total of roughly 6mm of cushion to start with. It makes transitioning into barefoot shoes a walk in the park ;). Take the insole out once your foot muscles are stronger and ready to embrace the barefoot world.

Don’t just build a business, start a revolution

Verdict

I think Vivobarefoot has not just made an amazing product, they have started a revolution. They have shown the world that barefoot shoes on top of the health benefits that come with, they can be good looking, can be versatile, can be sustainable. They have created a product that not only a barefoot enthusiast would like, but they have also managed to bridge the gap between “traditional” footwear and barefoot footwear. Make it easier for people to try and fall in love with barefoot shoes. I have been stopped, complimented and asked a few times about my Geo court and if they should try it. It is not difficult to see why there are more and more of this “V” logo around. And if you ask me if you should try them too? That’s a solid yes mate, I think you will love them too. 

SmallRig L-Bracket for Fujifilm X-T3 – Very good but the hunt continues

If you are anything like me, you are probably always on the lookout for accessories to compliment your tech set-up. I look at it this way – the accessories are the “personal touch” of the big tech items you have. Even though my Fujifilm X-T3’s shallow grip doesn’t really bother me that much as I don’t have big bear hands, I come across this Small Rig L-Bracket grip which seems to get a lot of positive feedback. L-Bracket… meaning I can attach my camera to tripod in portrait orientation without relying on the ball head? Thought maybe I give it a go myself.

First Impression

Maybe I will get some hate here but I am under no illusion that the quality of Chinese product can be hit or miss. So when I received the L-Bracket, the quality surprises me, in a good way. The wooden grip is smooth, the metal part feels solid and there are no rattles in or around the screws and joints. I know it doesn’t always correlate, but the L-Bracket has some weight to it that makes you feel a bit more sturdy.

Likes

Smooth grip

I know I said the shallow grip doesn’t really bother me but from time to time, you do notice you are using a bit more finger grip strength which can be a bit tiring. So when I put on the SmallRig, it fits so well into my palm that I was actually taken aback slightly. The deep grip fills in the gap between the curled fingers to keep your hands in a nice neutral shape and distribute the weight evenly.

Landscape – Portrait mount 

L shaped and ARCA Swiss compatible allows me to switch the camera from landscape into portrait orientation quicker. One of the issues that I have with a ball head tripod is the limited position for portrait orientation. So getting an L-Bracket solved that little annoyance I had for ages.

Magnetic screwdriver

The built-in flat screwdriver attached to the bottom of the bracket using a magnet is also pretty neat. Screws can loosen over time with tiny vibrations, a built-in screwdriver is pretty handy for tightening them and works great with the adjustable side plate as well.

Multifunctional side plate

Their side plate provides 9 mounting holes allowing accessories attachment such as a cold shoe adaptor for external microphone/monitor for videography. So you can fully kit out the X-T3 to adapt your style of work.

Almost…

            Also their adjustable side plate

The adjustable side plate was one of their selling points. It was designed for cable release, tethering and accessories mounting. In reality, the camera strap attach point actually got in the way of the side plate so I had to extend the side plate out slightly to accommodate it. Just as I appreciate the small detail of the built-in screw drive, this slight misfit bugs me enough to annoy me.

            Can’t reach the shutter button

Remember how I said I have dainty hands? Yeah, with the bracket installed, it feels really nice to hold. However, once I need to reach for the shutter button to take a photo, I find my hand having to really stretch and twist to reach for it.

Verdict

SmallRig produces some good quality camera accessories and this L-Bracket is no exception. Mirrorless cameras tend to have a slimmer profile and one of the complaints about X-T3 is their shallow grip. SmallRig L-bracket gives a much deeper grip to improve the camera handling. The L-shaped design allows you to quickly switch from landscape to portrait on a tripod and also act as a camera cage for more accessory attachments. It is certainly one of the best accessories you can get for your X-T3 if you have big hands and find it awkward to hold your camera. Unfortunately for me, although I really appreciate all of their side benefits, my hand is just a bit too small to reach the most important button of the camera with the grip installed. Re-packaged, box sealed, return label printed and the hunt for accessories continues…

Xero Shoes Genesis review: Strip back to basic and embrace the root of barefoot

Xero Shoes was the first barefoot shoe company that I came across when I was researching for some compact alternatives to fit into my backpack for travelling. I was going to Cyprus for a lovely sunbathing holiday and wanted to bring a pair of sandals with me that won’t take up much space in my bag. So as every homo sapiens nowadays do, I asked google about some minimalist sandals and that’s when the spiral started.

Xero Shoes is a barefoot shoe company founded by a couple in America, Steven and Lena in 2009. After experiencing multiple injuries from running, they came across the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and started DIY their own Huarache shoes. Initially for themselves and some members of their running club, but soon took off into a business with a fan base across the globe.

Genesis

Genesis is their Huaraches shoes. One of the most minimalist shoes you can find on the market, literally a paper-thin sole and a long string that strap the foot in. In barefoot shoes, this is possibly the barest of them all. Xero Shoes called their Huarache “Genesis” because it is their founding product and I found it fitting for myself as it introduces me to the world of barefoot. £39.95… although might not be the cheapest for a pair of sandals, given their unique position in the market, you will find it difficult to get another quality pair in this price range.

Appearance

I really like its minimalistic rustic look. Just a paper-thin sole and the black cord version I picked makes it look like I am merely having some decorative straps on my foot and not wearing shoes at all. It comes in 4 different colour cords so it goes well with most colourful summer outfit, keeping you cool and free.

Compact and flexible

It kind of goes without saying, majority of the barefoot shoes are flexible. That’s the whole point of them, to mould to your feet rather than the other way round. And the Genesis are so flexible and minimal that they can roll up into a tiny ball that fits into the palm of your hand. It is one of the main selling points to me that I always have a pair of sandal ready for the beach without taking much too much space in my bag.

Amazing ground feel

They called their thin sole FeelTrue® rubber outsole. Comes in 5mm, might not be one of the thinnest of sole out there as you sometimes see company boasting about 3-4mm sole. But from my experience, it feels much thinner than 5mm between you and the element. Although thin, they are extremely durable and have saved my feet from so many sharps on the road. If you are an experienced barefoot junkie, you would appreciate that ground feel of these.

But also because of that, it might not necessarily be the first pair of barefoot shoes I would recommend to everyone out there looking to try barefoot. It takes some times to re-adjust from “normal shoes” to barefoot. So don’t be like me that the first time wearing one is on holiday walking long distance. There are different brands of barefoot shoe companies that are slightly more protective that can ease you into the barefoot world.

Adjustable strap

Improving upon the Huaraches, the Genesis strap has an adjustable system that makes the sandal hug your feet better. By tightening or loosening the heel straps, you can adjust the whole shoes to fit your desire comfort thanks to the looping mechanism on the side rather than having multiple straps like the traditional sandals. With the strap having some elasticity to it, after finding your perfect fit, you can slip on and off them very easily. In reality, I found adjusting to having the perfect fit is a bit more faffy than it initially seems. A small adjustment to one tag at the back actually makes quite a significant change to the whole shoe tension. Ideally, you want to have a good tension so the shoes don’t turn into a stupid flapping swim fin scoping up every little thing on the floor, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be too tight digging into your toe webs. From time to time, I still need to re-adjust it just because I don’t feel I get it quite right.

Verdict

Xero Shoes’ Genesis is deeply inspired by Ramárui’s Huaraches shoes. I love its compactness and minimalistic design that strips it all back to the most basic of shoes – the sole ( 😉 ) purpose is to protect your feet from penetrating injuries by rocks and debris. Their FeelTrue® sole, although protective, gives you a truly remarkable ground feel that all barefoot enthusiasts cherish. It is very comfortable once you are used to wearing barefoot shoes, but you might want to ease yourself into the barefoot world before doing any serious running and walking in these!

Fujifilm X-T3 review: Is it still relevant in 2021

Photography is one of my many hobbies. I still remember the day getting my first “proper camera”, a second hand Canon 500D off my dad’s old work colleague many years ago. It was a very light, beginner DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera which I learned all the photography basic with. A camera which ISO 400 was its very limit. Trying to take a photo with anything higher than that was like trying to watch a TV with a broken antenna. Despite that, for the 10 years I had with it, it was more than enough for my skill. But recently, with the mirrorless market maturing creating an ever more compact and capable camera, I wanted to treat myself with an upgrade with better portability and the skills that comes with a new camera.

Skill in photography is acquired by purchase, not by practice.

(or is it the other way round?)

Fujifilm launched the X-T3 back in 2018. By that point, Fujifilm has a reputation for making gorgeous cameras that also pack with great performance and X-T3 was no exception. Although only sporting a cropped sensor, it holds itself so well in the market that has often been used to compete in the “budget full-frame” market. 

Specification

Let’s get the boring list of spec out of the way:

  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 with a primary colour filter.
  • 20 fps shooting with AF (11 fps with mechanical shutter)
  • 30 fps shooting in 1.25x crop with electronic shutter
  • 425-point hybrid AF system
  • Improved tracking AF and Face/Eye detection
  • 3.69M-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Dual SD cards slot
  • 10 bit 4:2:0 H.265 internal video capture
  • Internal F-Log capture
  • Three-Axis tilt screen
  • USB-C connector which also allows for charging the battery

That’s about the gist of it… Even a nerd like me gets bored after this. Essentially it’s a camera that comes with loads of impressive goodies that is enough for hobbyists and amateurs. Nowadays cameras are so good that the decision of which cameras system to pick boils down to the user experience (which we will get to) rather than spec alone.

The Good

1.    Good looking

Fujifilm X-T3 is gorgeous. Call me vain, but if everyone is producing extremely capable cameras, the least you can do to stand out is to have a good design. Just like a Fiat Multipla is more than capable to take you from A to B, why did you choose to drive a BMW? From the shutter speed and ISO dials to the threaded shutter button and the aperture ring on the XF lenses, everything plays its part to complete the nostalgic look. A slim profile instead of a big chunky box also means the fashion-conscious like myself are more likely to carry about to take pictures.

2.    Physicals dials

If you have read some of my previous blog posts, you probably know that I am a BIG FAN of physicals buttons and dials. Especially in cameras, you put your face to the viewfinder leaving very little space to use your touchscreen. Having physical dials and NINE buttons that can be customised to your preference improves the workflow by a million miles. Shaving off those precious seconds fiddling with settings can mean getting the shot or not. Although I found the on-off switch can be bumped a bit too easily, especially while chucking it in and out of the bag. On multiple occasions, it ended up taking pictures inside my bag like stupid bum calling people.

3.    Film simulation

You can’t talk about Fujifilm’s cameras without mentioning their film stimulations. Analogue photography is making a comeback. People like films for their personality that the “perfect” digital photography lacks. Fujifilm was already a big player in the photography world even back in the film day, Superia, Pro 400H and ACROS 100 to name a few. So it is incredible that Fujifilm decided to incorporate the colour science of those popular films into their digital camera. With the colour already amazing straight out of camera JPEG, it makes post-editing much easier. They also allow you to fine-tune how the camera process colour in-camera to create different “recipes” to achieve different looks like the infamous Portra 400 and many more.

4.    Great autofocus and fast continuous shoot

X-T3’s autofocus is quick and snappy. With the new firmware update, it improves the eye AF, tracking algorithm and the fastest AF speed down to 0.02 seconds to be on par with the latest X-T4. Although it may still not up to Sony’s standard, I found it performs well enough for my shooting style as a hobbyist. Pair with their extremely impressive continuous shooting mode up to 20fps with AF and 30fps in cropped mode, I still haven’t found a scenario where I wish to have a quicker camera. But just like owning a fast car, you know the speed limits are 30mph, but it is always nice to know your Bugatti can go to 300mph just in case you need it.

5.    More than a capable hybrid camera

Now I have to put my hands up that I am not a videographer so I don’t know much about video capability. So let me regurgitate some of the specs like the 10-bit 4K and internal F-Log capture, which sounded like something a serious videographer would be impressed by. And if you don’t want to grade your footage in post, you can use their film stimulation to get remarkable colour straight out of the camera.

6.    X-Trans sensor performance on par with Full Frame

I know the direct comparison between APS-C and Full Frame isn’t fair, but Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor is holding up extremely well against, say Canon EOS RP’s sensor despite the smaller size. Without diving into too many details, Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor arrange their photosites in a slightly different way compared to the conventional Bayer sensor. Fujifilm said it reduces the moire effect and therefore no need for a low pass filter that degrade the image resolution. The result means greater perceived resolution than the number of pixels. In real life, their low light performance also seems to outperformance the RP’s.

7.    Wallet-friendly lens selection

When I was considering different camera system, I was really drawn to Canon’s RF lenses because of their sharpness and colour rendering. But it gave me a heart attack even just looking at the price tag. For example, RF 70-200mm F2.8 costs an eye-watering £2,700 and meanwhile Fujifilm “equivalent” 50-140mm F2.8 costs less than half the price at £1,300. They are both incredible lenses and even if you can convince yourself that the RF lens is sharper, how many of us in the amateur world actually NEED that pixel-peeping difference. I mean if you have a bottomless bank account, by all mean, but not all of us work that hard or that lucky.

8.    Compact

Oh, and did I mention being compact? One of my reasons for wanting to switch to a mirrorless system is because it offers a slimmer profile. APS-C lenses are generally smaller because they only need to cover a smaller sensor. For instance, the massive Fujifilm XF 50mm F1, despite having a larger aperture, is still smaller than the Canon RF 85mm F1.2. My philosophy is: the smaller the system is, the more likely I will be bringing it around with me to shoot more.

The compromise

1.    Full Frame look

At the end of the day, APS-C is still just an APS-C. So you don’t get that “full-frame look” with that shallower depth of field (although it is not strictly true).

2.    Battery life

X-T3 uses the NP-W126S battery quoted to be able to take about 390 shots in one charge. To be fair, the number isn’t bad. But to conserve battery life because of its small capacity, X-T3 goes into the energy-saving mode (dimmer screen and slower refresh rate) after a few seconds of inactivity. Sometimes it can be irritating especially when you are just looking through the viewfinder trying to compose your image when it drops off, although a quick half-press of the shutter button will bring it back to normal.

3.    Shallow grip

X-T3 doesn’t have the chunkiest of grip. To maintain its slim profile, the grip is actually fairly shallow which doesn’t give you much confidence to hold especially if you have a big lens on. However, I don’t find it much of an issue as some other users online. Perhaps because Fujifilm is a Japanese company with a potentially Asian-sized design, it fits my hand pretty well. If it is a cause of concerns, there are loads of third party camera grip out there that can easily tackle that.

4.    Screen not fully articulate

One of the main selling points of this camera is its video capability. However, it doesn’t come with a fully articulated screen which makes vlogging difficult without an external monitor.

5.    Complicated menu system

Although it is not the worst I have used *cough Sony cough*, but coming from Canon who boasts an intuitive menu system, I found it hard to navigate through the menu system at first. It ended up taking much longer than I would like to get all my setting right for my need.

Still relevant in 2021?

Last year, in the midst of COVID lockdown, Fujifilm came out with their X-T3 upgrade, X-T4. With added IBIS, fully articulate and higher resolution screen, bigger battery, even faster continuous shooting and Classic Neg and Bleach bypass film stimulations, it is no doubt an overall better camera than X-T3. However, if you look a bit closer, X-T3 may actually be a better option for most people.

They both use the same sensor and image processor, and with a firmware update v4.0 to X-T3, the autofocus system is now the same as the X-T4 as well. It means the gut that REALLY matters is the same. Colour can be manipulated in post, you can carry an extra battery in your pocket and if you are mainly a photographer, you won’t need the fully articulated screen. So it is down to how much you would pay for the IBIS. At the moment, X-T3 is ~£400 cheaper than X-T4. That’s equivalent to a decent brand new lens like the 35mm F2 or the pancake 27mm F2.8 and more options available in the second hand market. The 5 axial IBIS are said to provide up to an impressive 6.5 stops compensation. It can come in clutch in a low light situation when you don’t have a tripod with you. In my opinion though, unless you are that niche of photographer that constantly encounter these scenarios, I would rather crank up the ISO, deal with the noise in post and get an extra lens. Or just be more organised and bring a tripod with you for god sake…

Verdict

Fujifilm has absolutely nailed it with their X-T3. It was easily the best APS-C camera out in the market when it was first released back in 2018 and still holds true in many aspects despite the release of X-T4. There is really no bad camera nowadays, but Fujifilm created a product that provides a holistic experience to photography rather than blindly chasing that perfect sharpness or even higher resolution. You might be able to find a better still camera or a better-equipped video camera out there but it will be tough to find a better camera that can do both as brilliant as this gem.

With the X-T4 available on the market, X-T3’s price has since dropped and to the majority of the hobbyists and amateurs looking for a startling good deal, I would say look no further because this camera will make you fall in love with photography once again.

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 review: The Bigger The Better

*Click* The blinding flash fills the party room, you hear the motor working hard to squeeze that thin piece of white plastic sheet out of the camera. A few minutes later, as if like magic, that moment of joy emerges from this blank canvas, forever captured. Instant photography has been around for decades, but the anticipation of seeing the image developed and witnessing that mesmerising magic still get me excited every time I press down on the shutter button. Maybe that’s why when I first come across Fujifilm’s wide format Instax film, I naturally put on my research hat and decided to get my hands on it. 

Design

Instax wide 300 is meaty. And it has to be. The Instax Wide film is double the size that of their popular Instax mini, which is roughly the size of a credit card. The film itself comes in at 8.6 x 10.8 cm, so to be able to physically house the film cartridge in, there is a limitation of how small it can be. Compared to some other boxy body design, the film cartridge goes in vertically rather than horizontally allows it to have a slightly shallower profile, although the protruding lens design nullifies that advantage in the real world scenario.  

It is very easy to insert the film cartridge, open the back and line up the yellow tag, and that’s you. It has a well sized and deep handgrip, complimented with a thumb rest on the back. You feel secure holding the camera and it is very comfortable, although it is a bit cumbersome aesthetically in my opinion, especially with the viewfinder awkwardly poking out of the other side.

Viewfinder

Personally, the viewfinder on the Instax wide 300 is one of the very few points I hope Fujifilm will improve on for the next version of the Instax wide camera. Considered the fact that Fujifilm has to make the body a certain size to fit the film cartridge and extendible lens, “being compact” is not exactly at the top of the design priority list. I assume the placement of the viewfinder was a decision based on trying to balance the camera visually because of the bulky handgrip, mimic the look and feel of a rangefinder camera and avoid having to cramp your face on to the back of your hand. These may be justifiable, but what I don’t understand is, if it is already poking out to the side, why don’t they just make it bigger to make composition easier. With a 0.37x magnification, that’s like trying to read the bottom line of the Snellen eye test chart every time you want to take a picture!

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Performance

Instax Wide 300 is essentially a point and shoot camera. It is mostly fully automatic, all you need to do is: pose your subject, press that big round button and there you go. The only control it gives you is the focus distance, exposure compensation and fill-in flash. Select the focus distance at the front ring for either 0.9m-3m(close up or indoors) or 3m-∞ (landscape). Exposure compensation let you have a bit of control over how bright you want your pictures to be (+/- 2/3EV). And the fill-in flash allows you to turn on the flash to light up your subject in a scene with a high dynamic range. Although it allows you to turn on the flash if and when you want extra lighting, it doesn’t let you override and turn off the flash if the camera decides the scene is too dark.

Instax Wide films

Price

The official retail price of the Instax Wide 300 is £110. But you can definitely get a better price if you shop around. I got mine off Amazon for less than £100. It is a pretty good price considered the quality of the camera. Other competitors’ price range from £150 to £750, although you can expect the higher price range cameras tend to offer more functionality.

Instax wide colour film is going for £15-£20 for a pack of 20 (2x 10pack) and the monochrome film comes in a bit more expensive at ~£11 for a pack of 10. So you are looking at roughly £1 per frame, very similar to their Instax Mini . It is also cheaper than some other options such as Polaroid films which cost ~£15 for a pack of 8. Yes, analogue photography ain’t cheap so make sure you think twice before clicking that button.

Fit more in
fit more in 2

Who’s it for?

Recommend: It is great for the vast majority of the public who just want to capture the moment without having to think about the exposure triangle and get a well-exposed photo every time. It is also great for people who had experience with Instax Mini or Square before but left wanting for more. If you are considering your first instant camera and camera size is not a determine factor, go wide! Because in the photography world, size does matter and the bigger is almost always better.

Think twice: But the simplicity of the controls also means they limit your creative options. Without being able to control the aperture, you can’t decide the depth of field (i.e. how blurry the background) and without being able to alter the shutter speed, you don’t have the option to play with long exposure. They don’t even offer multiple exposure mode. For the more seasoned photographers who like to experiment with their photos, Instax Wide 300 might not be what you are looking for.

Why I bought it?

I bought this Instax Wide 300 for my partner. In the last few years, the digital photography world turned its focus on packing more megapixels on the sensor and producing ever sharper lenses. In the pursue of this “perfection”, digital cameras are perhaps losing its “soul”, that unique “flavour” different camera gives. With that, analogue photography is quietly regaining a lot of people’s attention. Like the analogue photography community, Eva gets a lot of joy out of the analogue experience where you are so much more involved in the process. But she is not like myself who loves photography as a hobby, who is willing to spend hours learning the exposure triangle and experimenting with different settings. Instax Wide 300 gives her the perfect one-stop-shop: point and shoot. No post editing non-sense, just light, chemical reactions and raw emotions.

Verdict

Fujifilm dominates the instant photography market for a good reason. Their films produce a consistent result, amazing colour saturation and punchy contrast. Their cameras are easy to use and reasonably priced. With the much bigger frame, Instax Wide packs a lot more stories and emotions into one frame compared to their more popular Instax Mini. It is easy to recommend to the vast majority of people who just begin in their instant analogue photography journey and wanted a camera to do exactly what it says on the tin without any surprises.

However, if you are looking for something that is more versatile and have more creative options, there are some other cameras on the market, such as the Lomo’Instant wide or the Mint InstantKon RF70, that also uses Instax Wide film and gives you more control over your final image.

Instax Wide with film

Kobo Libra H2O review: The Best Mid-Tier E-reader On The Market?

Since my lockdown resolution to read more started, the thing about carrying a book with me everything that was annoying me was that traditional books are chunky and they are not designed to be particularly friendly with water. So I was digging around with some kind of solution that can make reading a habit easier to stay. That’s when I started looking into the world of e-readers. If you have missed my last blog about Kindle vs Kobo and how I chose to go with Kobo, it might be worth checking it out especially if you are still undecided which company to go with. But if you are here to find out whether you have really made the right conclusion, here is my 1-month review of my Kobo Libra H2O.

Design

The flagship e-readers on the market, namely Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Forma, claim the ergonomic design, physical page-turning buttons, bigger and higher resolution screen, option for landscape and portrait mode and the adjustable colour temperature and brightness front light will provide the most comfortable reading experience to date. So the fact that Kobo Libra H2O adapt a lot of their design and put it into a package half the price caught my attention instantly. 

The handgrip

It houses the two page-turning buttons and is the distinctive feature that separates itself from the lower-priced models. It is slightly raised at an angle, designed to be more ergonomic and slot into your palm while holding. One thing I would say though, despite the fact that I have rather dainty hands, I do sometimes wish the side grip is slightly deeper to give it a bit more secure hold. But balancing the fact that it needs to be thin (that’s the whole point of having an e-reader in the first place), perhaps a slightly gripper finish might well do the trick in the future model. I know some might argue about putting on a case will help with the handling, but I just don’t like the extra bulk it gives.

Kobo Libra H2O e-reader

Page button

Call me what you like but I love a good ol’ physical button. Touch screen technology has indeed come a long way and it has opened up a whole new dimension on how we interact with our devices with the intuitive gesture controls. But able to keep my finger on a button and get to the next page with minimal movement, in my opinion, is much neater in this scenario. Although one thing I would say is, I do wish the buttons have a tiny bit more travel but not complaining at this price point. And don’t worry if you are a diehard touch screen fanatic, they do support touch screen. 

Power button

It is well placed at the back, on the opposite side of the handgrip which means you are very unlikely to bump it accidentally while reading one-handed unless you are some sort of monster to purposefully hold the device on the thin edge. It does, however, mean you need your second hand to turn it off once your finish.

Screen

The evil blue light

The harmful nature of blue light has been well covered over the years. From affecting sleep quality to damaging retina cells, many tech companies have since adapted their screen to reduce the impact of it, such as the Night Shift function with the iPhones and Samsung with their built-in “Blue Light Filter”. Same as Kobo, the front light’s adjustable colour temperature and brightness in the Libra H2O make reading in low light very comfortable in my experience. 

Auto-rotation and landscape mode

The landscape and portrait options certainly add to the fluidity of the user experience. To be honest, I don’t ever use it in the landscape orientation because it just feels weird to me to hold a “book” that way. So I just locked it in the portrait orientation, but with the auto-rotation, I can easily switch between hands by flipping the reader upside down and the text will always be the right way up. It is a feature you don’t think much of it but you will miss it when it is gone (cue the Passenger…).

High resolution

The screen is 1680×1264 which come in as 300ppi (pixel per inch). It is the same as the flagships. Not only does it show crispy texts, but it is also extremely capable of displaying images with great details, well suited for my inner manga nerd.

Lock-screen 

One detail I appreciate is the lock screen. By utilising the bistable property (image stays even with the power being cut off) of the E ink technology, Kobo uses it to display the cover of the book you are reading when you turn it off instead of a blank screen. It gives the impression of an always-on display.

The rest of the features

Battery life

Battery life is one of the strongest selling points of an e-reader. So it may not be surprising to find out that I have only charged it once out of the box and I am yet to charge it again despite having used it every day. Still, with the increasing number of items I need to plug in the wall every night, it is refreshing to find that the Kobo is not one of them.

Waterproofing

This is the must-have feature on my list. Now, although I trust it will survive if I drop it in the bath, the deep-seated fear of “electronic not meant to be mixing with water” is holding me back from dunking it in. I guess knowing it can is enough for me, it certainly survived me splashing water on it going in and out of the bath. That’s the extend I am willing to find out at this presenting time…until the accident strikes. 

Dropbox and Pocket app integration

It is more convenient than I initially thought. I downloaded all my Open University courses through Dropbox without having to find a micro USB cable and a dongle to plug into my laptop. And Pocket encourages me to go through those long web-article archives that I have saved a while back as well. (psst, you can Pocket my blog posts to read them later too!)

Verdict

If you are looking for an e-reader that can do more than just text but at the same time not ready to splash out £200+ on the “luxury experience”, Kobo Libra H2O, in my opinion, is hands down one of the best if not the best mid-tier e-reader on the market. Yes, it only has a 7” screen rather than 8”, 8GB storage instead of 32GB, no flush display and no audiobook support. But for me, a 7” is as good as 8”, I listen to my audiobooks on my phone like I would be listening to my music which means I don’t need huge storage either. But instead of a £130 extra to upgrade to the flagship models, a mere £40 (or less if you are quick, as Kobo is doing a discount means it only costs £119.99 as I am typing) gets you almost all the handy features upgrade you would want from a flagship with only some insignificant compromises. That’s why I bought it!

Which e-reader do you have and what is your thought about Kobo Libra H2O? Or maybe you have an even better alternatives? Leave a comment down below to let me know! 🙂

Where It All Started!

This is it! We are doing this. After thinking long and hard, I have decided to start this blog. A blog where I can share with you what I am passionate about.

A little background story 

Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated by all the little gadgets on the market, possibly influenced by my electronic engineer dad who was always reading about some new computer gadgets/tech. Then came the influence of my shopping enthusiast mum which made me one of the salesman’s favourite type of customer… “You can clip this sunglasses clip to your own spectacles and turn it into multifunctional glasses.” “okay, shut up and take my money.” And after I got to fiddle with it and finding out how it works and what it does, I realise I don’t even wear glasses. This cycle continues to repeat itself, some sort of gadget would come along and I would buy it then found out I don’t actually need it. But that didn’t stop me. There is this market in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong where I used to love to go with my dad every weekend when I was a kid. Partly because they have one of my favourite noodle restaurants right next to it, but mainly because the market sells all kinds of weird gadgets. If you know your way, I am almost certain you will be able to find all of the parts you need to build a rocket to compete with Elon. But instead of building a rocket and becoming the richest person in the world, here I am piling up my cupboard with all kinds of cool product idea that never actually have any use in my life.

Fast forward a little, I grew up, flew half way across the globe, fell in love, moved from big city to smaller city to even smaller city, got a job. The sucker for nifty gadgets in me never left. But instead of sunglasses clip or solar powered head nodding car display, I upgraded to put my attention to expensive tech products. “Cool! Look at that vacuum robot, I want one for my 10 sq. ft. bedroom…”, “See that smart watch? It has an ECG function, I want one just in case I have an arrhythmia…” Only issue is, like most people, my paycheck is not a blank cheque. So instead of just “add to cart” every time I see a new fancy gadget, I direct my excited energy on reading and finding out what I can about the product. That way, I satisfy my impulse on wanting to know more about the gadgets and having much better judgement in justifying my purchases if and when I do pull the trigger.

This is it.

Slowly, once in a while, friends and family will pick my brain when they want to buy some kind of tech gadgets either for themselves or for someone else. After some digging, I would lay it out and show them my thought process if I were to buy it myself. That’s when this blog idea came to mind. I thought if I could write something and lay it out how I justify my purchase, maybe someone will find it useful and appreciate the plain and simple “Why I Buy It?”.

I have put off this blog idea for a very long time. Just with everything, you can always find a million reasons not to do something. “The blogging world is so saturated, your voice will never be heard.” “You are just about ticking along over here with your speaking English, let alone your writing English.” are among those million. But with some encouragement from the boredom I got from lockdown, I decided this is it.

Why I Buy It.

This is a blog where I write about my shopping obsession and how I justify and rationalise my purchasing decisions. I will share my thoughts on actually using them, the good and the bad and if I would recommend it to anyone, all from an average consumer point of view. I don’t like the idea of setting a boundary to this, I want to talk about the tablet I got the other day but I would also like to share with you why I bought my new backpack and my new hiking shoes. I hope in this journey of sharing my thoughts, you can come away having a better idea whether you should buy it too or perhaps it is just another thing that you thought you needed.