I love this camera. As with their X100S (read my review), the X-E1 is another example of how Fujifilm can make a camera with almost everything just right. Frederick Van Johnson and I discussed the X-E1 on episode #8 of All About the Gear.
Although much of the buzz this year has been about small, mirrorless cameras, the big-boy DSLR makers (Nikon and Canon) haven’t been entirely asleep at the switch. The new Canon 70D is most notable for it’s groundbreaking Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus sensor, which is used in video and Live View modes. The Canon 70D and an explanation of autofocus technologies are the topics of this episode of All About the Gear.
This image I made of a very popular location here in Marin County, California, generated a lot of online feedback. Because I used such a variety of post-processing tools and techniques, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to explain the workflow here. This presentation is an experiment and I look forward to hearing what you think of this format, particularly compared to screencasts and videos.
The slideshow below contains an image for each step in my process. If you hover over it you can pause it or move it forward or back. Below the slideshow is a scrolling area with the corresponding explanations. Click on any image to see it 2x larger. It should work on your mobile devices, too.
In a to-be-published edition of All About the Gear (#9, Canon 70D) I explain the differences between all the autofocus technologies: contrast, phase-detect & cross-type and Canon’s new Dual Pixel system. It’s a complicated and important enough topic that I’ve decided it’s worth a blog post all its own.
We had high expectations for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a remake of the 1947 film starring Danny Kaye. The new version is directed by and stars Ben Stiller, who was present (along with an entourage of producers and 20th Century Fox executives) at the Mill Valley Film Festival closing-night screening. This was only the second time the film had been seen by the public, the first having been at the New York Film Festival.
In the end, we were disappointed. This is a major production, being heavily promoted for a Christmas release. It’s a “pretty good” movie, but left us feeling that it lacked a certain energy.
There are so many good films set in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it’s almost become a genre all its own. (One we loved was a documentary in 2010 called My Precious Life.) But because there have been so many, the bar has been set fairly high for new ones. Five years ago at the Mill Valley Film Festival, we were treated to director Eran Riklis‘s marvelous Lemon Tree. The producers of Zaytoun, (“olive” in Arabic) convinced Riklis to direct another film in this genre, and while it’s certainly a well-done film, it doesn’t quite measure up to his earlier work.
Last night we were treated to the North American premiere of Taru Mäkelä‘s new feature, August Fools. It turned out to be one of the very best films at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival. Films from Finland are often some of our favorites, but they’re typically dark and gritty like the great 2009 Helsinki. Even the Finnish comedies tend to be on the dark side. August Fools skirts the edges of that tradition as a smart, uplifting comedy set in the dark context of the Cold War.
Writer/director/editor Hirokazu Koreeda‘s latest feature Like Father, Like Son (Japanese with English subtitles) won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which primed us with high expectations. Many others at the screening just loved it. I found it to be a very competent and even satisfying film, but not one I’d suggest you go out of your way to see, particularly given how many truly terrific films we’ve already seen at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival.
I don’t shoot a lot of panoramas, but I’ve always been curious about the GigaPan robotic camera mounts that automate capturing complex panoramas that include hundreds or even thousands of individual images. Thanks to BorrowLenses.com, I was able to get hold of one to test for episode #6 of All About the Gear.
This is the fourth film adaptation of Knut Hamsun‘s 1898 Norwegian novel, Victoria. The story is familiar: boy and girl from opposite sides of the tracks since childhood just can’t seem to overcome the social differences keeping them apart in young adulthood. But don’t let this seeming predictability keep you away. This is an excellent film — one of the best I’ve seen this year. (In Norwegian with English subtitles.)
One of my personal guidelines when selecting films to see at a festival is to avoid anything with “coming of age” in the description. Based on the glowing reviews for Farah Goes Bang at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival and the fact that it won the Nora Ephron Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. I thought I’d take my chances. Fail. I think I’ll re-institute my policy next year.
Some films are almost impossible to categorize, and Imagine, written and directed by Andrzej Jakimowski, is one of them. It’s about a blind teacher, Ian (Edward Hogg) who brings controversial techniques to an institute for the blind. Instead of using canes to get around, he teaches echolocation, the use of sounds like heels on pavement and tongue clicks as a type of SONAR to identify objects and hazards. The kids and the management of the institute are quite skeptical of his techniques, but he persists.
One thing I love about film festivals is the opportunity to screen movies that are so low-budget that they’ll never get a distributor and therefore never appear in theaters. Some of the most creative work falls into this category. The Year and the Vineyard (El Año y la Viña) is such a film.
Not every movie at a film festival is a winner. My wife and I go out of our way to find films that are unusual, quirky, foreign and very likely not to be widely distributed. We take our chances, and if, at the end of the festival, we can say that half of the films we saw were “good”, then we’re satisfied. Unfortunately, the North American premiere of I Catch a Terrible Cat fell well into the bottom half of this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival.
Let me begin by saying that my wife did not like this film at all. Unfortunately, the woman who introduced The Best Offer said a bit too much about it, which caused my wife to be uneasy throughout the entire film. Don’t worry. There’s no need to be uneasy. Just enjoy this one. [Trailer video spoiler deleted from this post. It gives away too much about the plot.]
Fuji’s X100S is, so far, the hottest new camera of 2013, and Frederick Van Johnson and I reviewed it for episode #3 of All About the Gear. There’s a lot to like about this camera, but I believe the primary reason it’s so good is that Fuji listened to the users of the original X100. Because the company incorporated and exceeded many of the suggested improvements, they’ve released an updated version that is nearly flawless for the mission for which it’s intended.
Opening night at the Mill Valley Film Festival featured a pre-release — actually, the first-ever public screening — of The Book Thief, based on the novel by Markus Zusak. I referred to it as a romantic treatment of a story we’ve seen before: WWII Germany, Nazis, Jews and (atypically) regular German citizens. It’s not romantic in the sense of romantic love, but rather “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.” In this case it’s everyday people in very difficult circumstances.
Wow, what a way to start the festival. A superb film in just about every way. Terrific screenplay by Michael Petroni. Likewise the direction by Brian Percival, who previously directed a half-dozen episodes of Downton Abbey. This is his first feature. Geoffrey Rush is great, as usual, but the knockout performance is by a young French-Canadian actress, Sophie Nélisse. The cut we saw tonight isn’t the final mix, and I hope they tone down a few of the big-swell John Williams music moments, but that’s about the only flaw. For the most part, Williams’ score is great. It was filmed in Berlin and other than the leads, the rest of the cast are German. Everyone – seriously, everyone — is spot on. Terrific cinematography and editing, too. So we started the 36th #MillValleyFilmFestival with an A. The Book Thief will have a few premieres on November 8, then open in New York and Los Angeles on November 15. Look for it elsewhere at the end of the year or in early 2014. Highly recommended. #MVFF
In episode #2 of All About the Gear, Frederick Van Johnson and I discuss the Leica Mystique. I spent more than a week shooting with an M9 and an M (typ 240) plus a collection of lenses.
Most of what I learned is in the video, but here are my notes in case they’re helpful.
In episode #5 of All About the Gear, Frederick Van Johnson and I discuss the Sony RX1R.
The RX1R is an awesome little camera, which I very quickly learned to love. After the Leica M-series, it’s the second full-frame mirrorless digital camera on the market. Should you rush out and buy one? No, because I think Sony is about to release even better options. Let’s start with the basics.
[Update: This issue has been resolved in my favor. It was a case of one hand not knowing what the other was doing. Although people on the Adobe Forum (including at least one forum staffer) insisted I didn't qualify for the Photoshop Photography Program, they were in fact wrong. Not only that, but Adobe had already automatically switched my account from single-app Photoshop CC to the PPP bundle that included Lightroom 5. I accept some of the blame for not going to the My Account page on Adobe.com to check. But since I couldn't find any info about his in the FAQs or other online Help pages, I thought I'd ask in the Forum.
Special thanks to Larry Nienkark who pointed out that he successfully received this upgrade. It caused me to check to see if I'd received it automatically as well...and I had!]