Video with the XT2

To set the record straight — the main reason I got the FUJI XT2 was for video. I spoke to Kholi Hicks a DP & Colorist, check out his IMDB page — he told me that he could not understand why more individuals were not using the camera and that the color was amazing. At first, I didn’t know what he meant because one of the 1st videos I remember seeing looked as though the color was pushed up in post (over saturated). It turns out I didn’t know what SOOC (Straight out of Camera) meant and that my perspective of color was skewed.

XT2 Video Research

The 1st XT2 video I remember seeing was this one –

Although I wasn’t too big on the color, the picture was clear, and sharp. However at the time, I had my mind fixed on the Panasonic Gh5, mainly because I owned a few Panasonic cameras also the sharpness, and features in such a small camera made it worthwhile. What did it for me in the end though was that while I wanted to replace my Canon 5D Mark II with a still camera the FUJI X-T2 gave me the best of both.

Here’s another video review on the X-T2 that helped me make my decision shot by Zed Pro Media:

What I will recommend to anyone looking to buy a new camera is always look at footage shot in different locations and by different individuals. WIth the different styles and locations, you get to see the camera in different environments and also see how the sensor response to those locations. I will also recommend finding someone who’s style is similar to yours this will help give you an idea of what you would do with this tool because at the end of the day I’ve seen great shots with the X-T2 and I’ve seen terrible shots but at the end of the day the camera does nothing without an operator. The following links helped me make my decision to buy this camera:

Caveira Photography

Excellent Pictures Details and clarity 
I loved the color grading done by him and his eye for capturing is amazing lots of storytelling, this is what I intend to use my XT2 for.

FUJI X Passion

Good resource on X-Series cameras —

Fujifilm Mirrorless, why switch?

This particular post ^ actually gave me the insight that the XT2 can handle lens adapters and can be used for professional work (weddings, corporate jobs, etc). Now while these 2 are photo sites and that I primary was interested in the XT2 for video I can confidently say now that 80% of what you get in photos you can get with video. When I say that I mean the following:

  • Film Simulations
  • Contrast & shadow details
  • Color (excellent)
  • Details and clarity
  • Dynamic range (not as much but about 12 stops)
  • Noise handling

Video details and compression

Image below is shot with the XT2 & the FUJI 35mm 1.4

Normally when I grab frames from my 5d Mark II & Gh4 they are clean but not this clean. I mean I knew HD to 4k was a transformation but the color information holds up as well as does the detail whatever FUJI uses to calculate their color compression is amazing.

Image below is shot with the XT2 & the Leica R Summicron 50mm

To go into details as to why the Gh4 might not be as clean as the X-T2 I believe that has to do with the sensor size & Panasonic’s math when it comes to color compression. The Gh4 uses a Mico 4 thirds sensor which is smaller than that of the APS-C cameras like the X-T2. Now to be clear it’s not just sensor size but also the quality of that sensor and the compression that is used. A good example of that would be the Gh4 vs. the G7 / Gh5 this chart below will give you an idea of the different sensor sizes so you can compare.

Courtesy of Phil Holland from phfx.com

As far as the 5D Mark II it has a larger sensor than the XT2 (Full frame or 35mm) but its compression and frame size are totally different. First, it shoots 1080p and it only records about 38 megabits per second — this is according to Wikipedia and Nofilm School, by the way, there is a hack to get up to 78 megabits but normally 38 is the limit. In short, the more data you have to work with the more you can manipulate and adjust in post so those 2 factors and FUJI’s amazing color is why I believe the FUJIFILM X-T2 produces such amazing color and details.

Though all these are important good story, lighting and lenses can make an older camera shine. Here are a couple of videos I shot with all 3 cameras Just to give you a comparison of the 3 cameras (Canon 5D Mark II, Panasonic GH4 & FujiFilm X-T2) –

Shot on the 5d Mark II (HD)

Shot on the Gh4 (4k)

Shot on the X-T2 (4k)

I choose the FUJI FILM X-T2 not because it’s perfect (would love longer battery life & a stronger body) but because for my needs it suits quite well. I believe I was able to get 2 cameras for the price of one. Although I feel this way a 2nd camera is still essential and I won’t ignore that fact but I realize for the price the XT2 can cover both my photography video needs and I’d strongly recommend it.

My latest review on the XT2 video

FUJI X-T2 Color

The last time we covered the XT2 we focused on my first impressions of the XT2. At this time I want to focus on the color and what it means for filmmakers as well as photographers.

I believe today a lot of people are fixated with looks and grades that are applied to their pictures and the videos. These looks aren’t unnecessary, the problem is most people have no idea what real color actually looks like. I believe this started to happen to me over the years because I find myself chasing after a particular look rather than taking pictures. What does all this have to do with the Fuji XT2? Well to me the X-T2 represents something from the past that’s still vital today — COLOR.

FUJI COLOR

Fuji pioneered color in their film stocks (I will list a couple of them below). The fact that Fuji was a film company and today they have brought their film looks into the digital cameras, means that while are out there trying to mimic a particular look with a piece of software many of these looks are achieved for you inside your Fujifilm camera. With the cameras creating the look, you can focus on shooting. While you’re shooting the camera will focus on applying a particular color based on your recommendations or the film simulation you choose from the menu.The image above amazes me because it was taken from a frame of video. Since 4k video, this has been available but not with such color fidelity. In the past I would have to increase contrasts and punch up saturation, mainly because with most cameras in this price range the color in video is more compressed than photos. Below are photos taking straight from the X-T2 without any color or contrast adjustments, also keep in mind all camera settings were on zero the only thing that was changed was the film profiles.

The Profiles

Asta – Standard color for most cameras (yet FUJI does some subtle tones and has the extra boost of color.

Classic Chrome – Colors are muted (or toned down) and the darks are lowered so there more contrast. To me this has a very organic movie look to it.

Velvia – Rich in color I haven’t used this one too much actually.

Arcos – Man what can I say about Arcos other than it’s not the typical black and white it has grain (that looks monochromatic not noisy), the contrasts in most situations are ideal rich and deep blacks overall Arcos is nice when used properly.

Click for larger sizes (images are untouched in terms of color just resized for web)

Finally below is a video I did which goes into some of the details covered in this article. It also has more examples of FUJI’s color enjoy.

Why I left Canon for FUJI

When I picked up the XT2 I knew the technology would be better compared to my 5D Mark II, after all, it had been 8 years since the release of the 5d Mark II. What I didn’t know was that something so small would be so capable. Now I have said countless times (it’s the shooter, not the camera) and I still stand by that statement.

Taken with the FUJI X-T2 & 35mm 1.4

Half of the shots we see, we have no clue the story behind them. Sometimes the photographer is hanging out of a car window, sometimes they’ve taken 5-7 shots at a time before they get the one they want. Other times it’s a shot that no one would ever see that they just take. All in all bending the rules or even breaking them may sometimes give you good results and other times it turns out horrible. Yet when a camera aids in the process (fast focus, light or heavy, small enough to fit in a pocket) it helps make your job easier.

One of my Favorite shots taken with the Canon 5D Mark II

I believe the XT2 has given me the ability to merge my cinematography with my photography (as taught by my teacher Ryan Johnson). The color science behind FUJI is great it handles the shadows, mid tones, highlights naturally to the point where some of my images look less like a photo and more like I’m staring out of a window and seeing someone there. Am I a FUJI loyalist no… I still like Canon and Nikon and respect Sony but right now FUJI is doing what I want. The only thing that concerns me with the XT2 is battery life when I’m not using the XT2 battery grip that is (which cost approximately $300).

Taken with the FUJI XT2 & 35mm 1.4

This photo took one attempt, in the middle of a downpour in NYC, normally I wouldn’t have taken it (due to the weather) but the XT2 has made photography & cinematography fun!

XT2 Noise & Color Compression

When I took this photo my initial thought was: I am losing it here… how can this image be so clean it was taken at ISO 10,000 after sunset: and to me, this looks good (there’s grain but it looks like film). Yet I heard sooo many folks who keep saying the XT2 is noisy, but I like it.

If I were starting photography today I’d choose FUJI not because they are better than all the rest but for what you pay, you get a whole lot. The only thing I would add is all day battery life (without the grip) and a more streamline phone app. You can pick up the XT2 for around $1500 it’s a great camera and it delivers on both the pro level and semi-profesional check it out.

Tailored Portfolio layouts of 2016

Now that you’ve started your portfolio it’s time to share it with the world. One of the most daunting tasks for many photographers — and creatives alike — is choosing a place to display your work, after all this is your passion and how it’s presented is crucial. Before we jump into the various options, let me mention that finding a portfolio layout can take hours of searching. just to find the exact look. While you may enjoy the search, It is essential however that you eventually get your work out there. Sometimes free options are helpful when you have limited time and resources but when you set aside the time to search you should choose wisely.

WordPress & Themes

In my last article on portfolio platforms I mentioned the flexibility and efficiency of WordPress, well now we are going to dive into its options and capabilities. One of the key principles to remember is that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” basically keep it simple yet functional. One of my favorite features of WordPress is its ability to change the look and function of your website by using themes.. Think of  themes as phone cases or spring jackets, where you are able to change the colors & even function of what you had on before. When it comes to portfolio layouts these are a few of my favorite themes of 2016.

PIXELGRADE — PILE

I recently setup Pile to run my photography website C-WELL PICTURES. I choose Pile because it was UNIQUE yet Simple. Remember what I said about simplicity earlier? While there are many who’d say I need more options I’d say removing what’s unnecessary and keeping what’s necessary and what works is better than having excess. We see this a lot as photographers and artists — people who want everything thrown in when they’re paying for something — this mindset only cheapens the quality and takes the artist out of the equation. Pile does the opposite, it leaves in what’s needed and removes the fluff.

Here’s an example: When dealing with the headers on any given page

giphy

there are tons of options everything from video backgrounds, image backgrounds, text sizes, a slideshow and most importantly the position of your text.  Some of these options and more are available on other themes but to me one of the most essential option is where the hero text is placed. There are plugins like Visual Composer that gives you all the options in the world — when it comes to laying out your site — but with that plugin the developers skimp on simplicity and ease of use. As a result myself and many others don’t use themes that come bundled with Visual Composer.

Pile 2.0

While I was setting up Pile I realized there were a few things I wanted to change. Wanting to change a theme is common, as developers aren’t catering specifically to you, they might be catering to a particular market but your uniquely you, so don’t be surprised if you want to modify a few things. Within a few weeks, when I went back to my downloads area in Theme Forest, I noticed that Pile 2 was forth coming. The preview image looked interesting and after waiting about 2 months it was finally here. At first glance it looked pretty much the same minus the Hero area (top header area that displays the image for any given page).

When I looked a bit deeper and started to work with it I found there were a ton of features added such as:

  • Lazy loader an overlay animation that displays as your page loads
    (which can be turned off and on by the way).
  • Menu & logo areas now have more options
  • Bug fixes the page builder has been cleaned up and works better
  • WP forms & installs when setting up the theme and flows well with the Pile 2
  • Social Sharing has been added
  • Portfolio grid also received some upgrades

I am quite sure that Pixelgrade isn’t resting easy now that Pile 2 is here in fact the week of the release there was an update which addressed some of minor issues. Overall Pile is my goto theme because it has a proper balance of form + function. What would I change about Pile 2? Well here are few things:

  • I would have mobile options for the hero areas as the desktop layout dictates more of what the mobile can and cannot do.
  • More Options for video professionals (play button colors)
  • Layout templates (where I can save a layout and use it again)

ThemeBeans — Charmed Pro

Theme Beans to me sits as an hidden gem in the WordPress Theme community. While owner Rich Tabor isn’t the best developer out there his attention to detail is something very few in this community demonstrate. Charmed Pro is clean and uncluttered, It displays your work with speed and its overall experience is smooth. Charmed also incorporates video into your portfolio which is a great bonus.

charmed-tablet

Features that Like:

  • Speed and ease of use
  • Mobile version is spot on great responsive work doesn’t take away from the site’s presentation.
  • Floating Hire Me button so clients can book nice touch.
  • Clean and fluid light box
  • Lazy Loading of images as you scroll down 🙂

What I’d like to see:

  • Top menu option not just side
  • Color schemes
  • Customized blog (similar to the portfolio layout)
  • Inline Video where the user clicks on an image with a video icon and the video start to play in a lightbox similar to – Instrument’s video

Charmed isn’t a top menu portfolio theme and I get that, yet it’s so uncluttered you want to take it’s simplicity and speed to a different layout — this is what I was explaining when I said that themes aren’t catered to the individual but to a collective industry.

AVOC

Avoc is a theme that uses some of the similar functions of Pile yet it is totally different. Avoc displays its portfolios with a Wolf Parallax. This unique additions gives you a floating image and text that can move with the visitor as they sweep past your images with their mouse. Though I have Avoc last on my list of portfolio themes it’s far from being the least of these 3. This theme has the most options out of all the themes listed here. For instance Wolf parallaxes can be adjusted by percentage so an image can take up most of the screen while the text takes up a small portion & vice versa. Avoc also has hero options from Full height, to 80%, to 50% of the height of the window which means you have more control over how your hero images are displayed. Your pages are designed using a page builder which works through the use of columns and rows or if you’d like you can use a wolf parallax.

Avoc

Features I liked:

  • Page builder with good flexibility
  • Lots of options to choose from (buttons / spacers / galleries)
  • Lots of header options to choose
  • Wolf Parallax different but useful

What I’d like to see:

  • Ability to save page layouts to be used again
  • The ability to drag and drop elements from different rows on the same page
  • More mobile options where you can turn on/off items when on mobile devices

Choosing a theme, as most things in life boils down to your preference. It is important though, that we aren’t caught up in the sheer options and the aesthetics. A theme must on its own be able to get the job done. Once your can display your work and give users the ability to navigate your site then options and aesthetics should be considered.

3 Tools to start Your Online Photography Journal

One of the key elements of an online photography journal is telling the story. This site is my photo journal—although right now I use it to share my knowledge of technology & creativity—in the near future I intend to put up more of the work and the behind the scenes process.

As you take photos year after year, you want to eventually share the stories behind those special moments. Here are 3 tools you can use to share those stories.

Square1

Choose the Platform

Choosing the right platform for you journal is crucial. Most any web platform can work but the platform should be suitable for  you. Are you looking to post a photos, then write a few lines of text? If that’s the case, then maybe instagram would be ideal for you. If your looking to post more details, then one of these platforms below are for you.

Web Site Builders

Below are a list of web apps that create your site based on specific themes. These tools work  to create the look and feel but many of them lack additional functionality or customization. They do offer you the ability to change the look of your site but they do no offer you the ability to change it’s capabilities. For example if you wanted to create a section where only clients have access, you’d either have to hire a programmer or switch platforms. Or if you wanted to add a particular method of payment (Square or Stripe)  you would only have the option to choose what that builder has built in.

These tools are used to  build a site but they do not create systems behind that site such as: Members only section, user log in, a forum, or any add ons you you would like to add down the road.

Advantages

  1. Quick setup
  2. Simple
  3. Affordable
  4. Fee option available

Disadvantages

  1. Lacks scalability
  2. Takes control from user
  3. Cannot Migration
  4. When your needs change upgrading it can be costly

Content Management Systems

CMS as they are typically called help you create a site but they also help manage content. Think of them as a massive database that keeps track of your photos, videos, text, users, etc…

These Content Management Systems provide a huge advantage over a standard builder. They provide a more complete system compared to builders. However WordPress gives more of a full featured set than Squarespace. A quick way to compare the 2 would be to compare Android Phones to iPhones. Android gives you more control over your phone than the Apple’s mobile platform. Of course every user is different — Some might require more tools than others — the best method is to write down your needs and look for the tool that comes the closet to those needs.

Advantages

  1. Options
  2. Plugins
  3. Scaleable (wordpress)
  4. Fee option available (wordpress)

Disadvantages

  1. Learning Curve
  2. Time Consuming

Blogging Platform

A standard blog can work as a journal, keep in mind however that you want to create a story for your readers not a note. These platforms though simple can help you focus and just write.  Of course you can also sprinkle your photos in between your copy to help give color and appeal to your readers. As you start to blog it can be tempting to take your site — journal in this case — to the next level, this is where blogging platforms become limiting, other than that they work perfectly fine.

layout1

Verdict

If I had to choose one platform for a person who has photography skills and stories but lacks the time and skills to build a website, I would choose Squarespace. For those who are on a tight budget Wix and Weebly is a good place to start but I would recommend moving to Squarespace after you have enough content and an audience to view it.

Top 5 hard drives of 2016

Hard drives are still the most widely used form of storage to date. Many would argue that no other form of storage has the capacity to cost ratio as a standard drives. With the variety of manufactures available today, and the constant change in technology it can be quite difficult to choose.

G-tech EV Drive

EV
Although the G-Technology EV Drive has been around for a few years, this portable drive is still used by many professionals. There aren’t any frills or add-on software included but these drives have enclosures that are built to last. I have used G-tech drives since I started video production back in 2005 and although the ride hasn’t been smooth the drives have been very reliable. I edited my last documentary on 2 EV drives — one was used as a backup the other as my active editing drive — and they both performed flawless. An alternative to the EV drive would be the Buffalo MiniStation with a similar approach to g-tech, Buffalo keeps the packing and the setup simple. The only difference is the Buffalo doesn’t just include USB 3.0 but thunderbolt, this provides more room for additional peripherals by leaving one usb port free and gives more head room for speed when connecting multiple drives. The EV drive has an add-on to give it thunderbolt speeds but we will discuss that in another article.

 

Western Digital Studio

WD
The Western Digital Studio is my personal choice for those on a budget who need a good drive that has a great warranty (Limited 3-Year Manufacturer Warranty) and a clean and simple setup. With the addition of usb 3 and a metal enclosure these drives are good for storage in a fixed environment. I wouldn’t recommend taking a high capacity drive on the road, that’s what portable drives are for. A slight set up from the Studio drive would be the G-tech G1 Drive the main advantages are a stronger case and and a power switch, not much of a difference but some folks care about the small details.

Samsung 850 Pro

Top 5 hard drives - Samsung SSD

The invention of the Solid State Drive (SSD) can be traced all the way back to the 1950s and today we see them readily available at reasonable prices. Some argue that the SSDs are reliable due to their rewrite life — the fact that they are rated at about 100,000 writes and then they are dead. However note that each drive listed should have a purpose and no one drive should be the cure all for every storage situation. In the case with the SSD I use these for speed. Typically when I need to render a movie from my editing suite to the web or if I need to edit a ton of photos in Lightroom and export them,  the Samsung 850 Pro solid state drive would work quite well at speeds of 550MBs reads / 520 writes. I wouldn’t look at storing sensitive data on a solid state with hopes that nothing will ever go wrong and if I do I will have a back up.

Thunderbay Raid Array

Thunderbay

With many cameras today recording at 4k many work stations require multiple drives working in sync to harness the speed needed to playback these high streams of video (with an SSD the drive sizes aren’t enough for hours of Ultra HD content). The Owc Thunderbay Raid 5 Enclosure  while a bit expensive for most consumers  / prosumer is quite reasonable for the professional. The enclosure has 2 thunderbolt 2.0 ports as well as quiet fan to keep this 4 bay enclosure cool. The setup above contains 20 Terabytes of storage and gets speeds up to 581MBs for reading data and 680MBs for writing that’s great for both speed and storage.

Choosing a bare drive

Many will say any hard drive will suit your needs and then there are those who say stay away from Seagate or even Western Digital. However my personal experience is no matter the manufacture, always backup your files every drive can die. Now I understand for those who cannot afford a second drive right away what do you do when you have 2-3 Terabytes of data? Well you can still back up the most important files online using a service like dropbox or google drive. Obviously 1 google account won’t be enough as they only give you 15gigs of storage but remember that each google account is free so picking up 2 or 3 won’t cost you anything.

Western Digital Black Caviar

Top 5 hard drives - Western digital

I have purchased about 10 Western Digital black Caviar drives  over the past 10 years and I cannot remember the last time one of those drives died on me. From my 1st purchase these drives have been fast, somewhat quiet and reliable I’d recommend then to anyone in need of a simple setup. It seems that Western Digital doesn’t place these black Caviar into their Studio or desktop enclosures (most times it’s Green drives) I could only assume they are looking to keep their cost down. When purchasing these drives you are either putting them into a Raid array similar to the Thunderbay or into a single enclosure like this one from Akitio. Hard drives have been around for quite awhile and I don’t see them becoming obsolete anytime soon.  DVDs and Blurry discs are cheaper buy they don’t have the capacity and speed of drives—Hence why I never converted my storage over to bluray discs. Use this article as a guide when picking up your next drive but study carefully your needs and choose the drive best suited for you.

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iPhone 6 on AT&T Prepaid

The iPhone is far from perfect. Even though Apple releases a new iPhone every year, I still experience the same autocorrect issues that have plagued it for years. Then there is the endless debate from Android users who claim, the iphone has been largely unchanged since its inception. However I use it as part of my photography kit and it works just fine. I do Everything from capturing behind the scenes videos, to taking pictures and editing them right in my hands, for me it is a very capable device despite the short comings. There are other smartphones just as great such as the Samsung Galaxy Series, The Nokia Lumia and Let’s not forget the trusty Black Berry. These smart phones work well on average, until we receive the bill. In 2013 the average cell phone bill was $148 that’s almost $1800 per year and almost $10,000 every 5 years.

AT&T Gophone

I’ve been using At&t prepaid service for little over 2 years and I must say I don’t regret it. I was skeptical at 1st thinking I’d notice a drastic difference in speed and signal but that wasn’t the case. I’m currently on their $60 plan and I get great LTE speeds and great signals. How can prepaid benefit you well for one the savings are enormous, it cost me just $720 per year as oppose to the ridiculous pricing of post paid service. At&t prepaid service also known as Gophone, isn’t just for the iPhone but anyone with a phone that works with their GSM network. Check out my review below to learn more and see if At&t Gophone service is right for you.