First Trip of the New Year – Solo with the Fuji X10

A new year brings new challenges. The first trip of the year brings me to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. For this trip, I took the risk of only bringing the Fuji X10 with me. I need to learn, not just how to use it, but how to get the very best image quality from it. It’s not close to the D700 in image quality, but the question is, can it be good enough?

This trip takes me through 3 middle east countries and one north african country. Given recen instabilities, and the fact I’m going to be running through these countries with very little time, I elected to leave the D700 behind and see if I could do my thing with the X10.

First stop was Abu Dhabi. I’m here to present a paper at a conference, not a lot of time to get out. In fact, I wanted to get over to the grand mosque, but didn’t make it, or the marina waterfront. I settled for a short stroll onto a bridge close to my hotel.

I dragged out a zipshot tripod I picked up the day of the trip and got set up. After playing around with different settings, taking bracketed shots as the sun set, I finally packed up and went back to the hotel room. After loading the images into Lightroom, I had a nasty shock. The noise levels were high and where there were bright individual lights – instead of nice “stars” there were white blobs. I scanned through and any shot with a wide open shutter had the blobs. Any frame stopped down to f11 (minimum aperture) had some blob, but recognizable starbursts.

The noise is bad, but I use Dfine from Nik software and it controlls it, somewhat. Image sharpness is not as tack sharp as I’d like, either.

After a bit of research, it seems that the white blob problem is a recognized issue. A lot of commentators say that they can reproduce it in extreme conditions, but it shouldn’t effect general photography. Unfortunately, the kind of thing I want to use this camera for is exactly the kind of photography that is effected, so I now have to figure out how to work around the problem. There are rumours of a firmware fix, but it looks more like a sensor issue and I’m afraid no amount of software tweaking is going to resolve this.

I may be a little unfair. Bearing in mind I’m used to the performance of a D700 with virtually no noise and fantastic lens performance. I love the x10 and it is serving well, but I won’t be making 20*30 prints from it. It will print up to 8*10 though, and display well online. For general snapping in good light, its fine, but a fine art camera it’s not. It’s still the camera I will carry with me 99% of the time, but in future, unless I have a damn good reason, on a trip I’ll carry the D700.

Next stop is Muscat,Oman, followed by Doha, Qatar. I’ll try some things suggested in online forums to see if things improve.

More to come…..

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