[REVIEW–FUJIFILM X70]

Price: $950
Gorgeous pics, but…

THE LOW-DOWN: This 16mp APS sensor camera has a fixed 18.5mm (28mm film equivalent) f2.8 lens. It has the usual Fujifilm control layout of aperture ring around the lens and shutter speed dial on the body top. Put both into A position and it equates to P on any other camera. There is a digital zoom function that simulates 35 and 50mm angles of view, with small loss of image quality. As far as we could tell this only works in Auto mode, so no RAW capture. The tilting high definition screen is the only viewfinder. The camera is beautifully made and once the eccentric controls are mastered is a pleasure to use. The 148 page printed manual covers the functions and features.

LIKE: The image quality is gorgeous. Focus, exposure and colour are consistently spot on. But the truly wonderful thing about this camera is its high ISO performance. At ISO6400 photos are not just useable, they are miraculous with the barest hint of noise that looks for all the world like fine film grain.

DISLIKE: There is an optional viewfinder but a camera costing $950 should have one in the kit.

VERDICT: The Fujifilm X70 has some brilliant qualities that will appeal to photographers with a special application in mind. Think of it as a Leica Q with $5000 change! The fixed lens and the absence of a viewfinder rule it out for general purpose photography. But if Fujifilm is your heart’s desire then the company’s X-T10, for a few dollars more, comes with a 16—50mm interchangeable lens, gives you the fabulous picture quality, a viewfinder and entry to the company’s range of superb lenses.

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[ADOBE’S QUIET ACHIEVERS]

Adobe’s buy-by-subscription plan for Photoshop, Lightroom and Bridge has its good and bad points. The bad point, obviously, is that you pay your subscription but you never actually own anything. Which means: stop paying and everything you’ve paid for vaporises.

The good points, which certainly outweigh the bad, are that you can get into the core photo editing programs for $12 a month. At this rate it would take ten years to pay the equivalent of the price of the standalone applications. Then the killer argument in favour of the Creative Cloud subscription is the constant updates with new features that in the old days would only be available to buyers of an entire new version of the program.

Take, for instance, the indispensable Adobe Camera RAW. Adobe stopped making ACR upgrades available for stand-alone Photoshop after CS6 and now reserves it for subscribers. In the meantime ACR has evolved to the point where it is much more than a simple RAW converter.

With the latest version it is possible to load a set of high dynamic range exposures and merge them to a new HDR image and make the tonal adjustments without ever leaving the ACR interface. The process is to highlight the image file set, right-click and select Open With…Photoshop. When they appear in ACR click on the four-bar icon alongside Filmstrip in the left panel. Choose Select All from the drop down and then click on the four-bar icon again and select Merge to HDR (or Panorama if that is the intention, which automates Adobe’s new Boundary Warp panorama function).

Moving to the right along the ACR toolbar there are a number of functions previously only available by going into Photoshop itself. The Crop and Level tools have been there for some time but the Targeted Adjustment Tool and the Adjustment Brush may be something you haven’t tried.

Click on the Targeted Adjustment Tool icon and then place the target in an area of the image that needs tonal adjustment. Hold the mouse button down and drag the “target” up or down and see the targeted tone grow lighter or darker. It is like having instant Curves at your fingertips.

The Adjustment Brush will be familiar to Lightroom users as an easy way to change tone, sharpness, white balance and even remove haze from a landscape.

There is much more, and enough in the latest version of Adobe Camera RAW to make any serious photographer with a new camera think seriously about a subscription. (www.adobe.com.au

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[REVIEW– FUJIFILM X-Pro2]

Price: $2400 body only
One for the fans

THE LOW-DOWN: This is Fujifilm’s top camera with a new 24 megapixel X-Trans sensor in a tough, beautifully made magnesium body. It has a version of Fujifilm’s hybrid viewfinder – it can be a straight-through optical bright line finder or an electronic viewfinder or combinations of both. There is even an electronic simulation of a split image rangefinder for manual focus. Aperture priority is set with an old fashioned lens ring and the shutter speed with a body-top knob. Set them both to A and it is the equivalent of P on a conventional camera. The shutter button has a threaded socket for a mechanical cable release. There are dual SD card slots. ISO speeds go up to 12800 and yes, it is useable.

LIKE: The image quality is excellent even at high ISO speeds. The outstanding quality of Fujifilm lenses is almost enough to justify the purchase of the camera. The classic aperture ring/shutter speed knob selectors is how it should be done.

DISLIKE: The camera is unnecessarily large and heavy. It is heavier than the X-T1 which has the same size (lower resolution) APS sensor. And placing the viewfinder at the extreme left of the body makes for awkward handling. And the LCD doesn’t swivel. In 2016?

VERDICT: The Fujifilm X-Pro2 will appeal to the brand fans who own lenses and like the retro design and the over-all feel that this is a camera designed by thoughtful photographers, combining the best of classic camera design and function with the advantages offered by digital. For newcomers to the category the excitement may be muted.

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[GOODBYE iPHONE, HULLO NEXUS]

After a couple of happy years with the iPhone we have switched to Android and bought a Google Nexus 5X. We made the change with some trepidation, concerned that the camera in the Nexus might not be up to the stellar performance of the iPhone 6s.

The world arbiter of smartphone camera performance is DxOMark Mobile and they give the Nexus 6P – a bigger phone with the same camera module and image stabilisation added – a higher ranking than the iPhone 6s and equal to the 6s Plus. We were sceptical.

Both the iPhone and the Nexus 5X shoot 4K video and we know from experience that the iPhone video is superb. Could a phone costing less than half the price of the Apple device possibly produce video as good? The answer is yes. The Nexus 5X doesn’t have stabilisation and neither does the iPhone 6s but if you have a steady hand this is not a problem. We got smooth video from both.

Both the iPhone and the Nexus – made by LG – have high definition displays with good colour right. The iPhone comes with iMovie installed for editing and on the Nexus there is a video editing function that is rubbish. The free Adobe Premiere Clip works but is no match for iMovie.

There is no problem connecting the Nexus to iMacs or Macbooks. Airdroid does it wirelessly and Android File Transfer does it from USB-C on the phone to USB-A on the Mac. Android to Mac connectivity is easier than iPhone to Mac because it doesn’t involve either the awful iTunes or buying a third party application. And for Windows the Nexus simply shows up as an external drive under MyComputer.

Comparing still photographs both produce sharply focused, well exposed, colour correct images. On the iPhone the Photos app is both a gallery and an editing program. In Google Photos the gallery function is similar but the editing module is not as fully featured as Apple Photos. Snapseed or Lightroom Mobile give a wider range of controls on the Nexus. Both Photos apps sync automatically in the background with Mac or Windows.

For the 16GB models there is a $500 price difference that we couldn’t justify. The iPhone is more beautiful and comes with bragging rights but it’s a lot to pay for a brand.

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