EU to legislate for a Europe-wide digital market without petty restrictions

by Mike Evans

I am not an unqualified admirer of the European Union but I do applaud the efforts made to create a level playing field in the digital world. Successive limits on cellular roaming charges, leading eventually to a complete future ban, have already made cross-border communications less of a hassle. Already I have abandoned my old practice of maintaining a wallet full of SIM cards for countries I frequently visit. Now, with capped charges (currently £3 a day at Vodafone, for instance), is is now feasible to use your home SIM in any European country and enjoy voice, text and data at local rates.

Read More

Fuji X-Pro 1: Is this the new classic among digital cameras?

by Mike Evans

I never cease my amazement at the progress made by Fuji in just five years since the first X100 hit the shelves. Even more surprising is the realisation that the X-Pro 1, which started the very successful range of interchangeable-lens X cameras, is a mere three years old. It feels as though it has been around for ever and, already, it has the trappings of a veteran. I know several owners who prefer it to some of the later cameras in the range. Even those who have succumbed to the allure of the latest X-T1 often have an X-Pro 1 in the background and find it hard to let it slip from their grasp.

New York photographer and reviewer Tom Grill is such a man. Despite owning and trying many newer cameras, he finds a special place in his heart for the X-Pro 1. He is so devoted to this paragon with its ground-breaking hybrid viewfinder that he believes it has the makings of a classic, a model to be kept and cherished and to sit on the shelf next to his classic Leica M4. Read his reasoning here before you part exchange the old X-Pro. It's probably worth keeping after all.

Film Processing: That will be £1,600 please

by Mike Evans
Photo: Eric Kim, presumably digital or we wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing this excess until March 2016.

Photo: Eric Kim, presumably digital or we wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing this excess until March 2016.

Who takes 164 rolls of film in to be processed at the same time? The answer is the irripessible Eric Kim, chief streettog of this parish.  He has often made the point that it pays not to chimp your shots on the fly and that using film is a good way to put some distance between shutterclick  and viewing. And he has often confessed to sitting on his film for a week or a month, just to spin out the anticipation and subsequent satisfaction. 

As he explained this morning, he has been dillying and dallying for a little too long this time: 164 rolls long, in fact. He took this bumper bundle of exposed Kodak Porta 400 into his local Costco in California and raised more than a few discounted eyebrows. Say it slowly: One hundred and sixty four....and then multiply by 36. That's a cool 5,900 frames to sift through when the little packets come home to roost. For the Kimtog, this is nearly a year's output. Some output, some patience.

Sadly, as far as I can tell from the website, Costco UK does not process films so anyone with a shedload of HP4 holiday snaps had better look elsewhere. Try Boots, for instance, and please let me know the reaction. But be prepared for a bill of at least £1,600. It's probably a lot cheaper in California. Or, you could dump the film in the canal and buy a respectable second-hand Leica MP with the cash you'll save.

Mind you, I do admire Eric for his dedication to film and his supreme patience in accumulating all this unprocessed stock. Yet it isn't for me. Today, inspired by news of all this processing at Costco, I took my Neil (the M7) out for a spin and fired off another six frames. Such profligacy and I still have another 24 to go. However, I admit that as soon as I've fired the last shot I'll be round to the chemist in a flash. Just can't wait for anything. 

Apple Magic Mouse: Loveable rodent but its bottom keeps falling off

by Mike Evans

The Apple Magic Mouse hasn't changed for years. It works, it looks nice, but it has some terrible habits. It's bottom keeps falling off. I have had several of these mouses and they are all equally bad.

The lightweight aluminium plate that covers the battery compartment is not at all secure. I find it inexplicable why Jony Ive and his team have not had a rethink on the Magic Mouse. On the face of things, it should be a simple matter to solve the problem but Apple does not seem to care.

I resort to sticking gaffer tape over the cover. It works up to a point but because the Magic Mouse eats batteries, replacement is tedious. Please, Sir Jony, can you give some attention to the less-than-Magic mouse?

The Photography Show: There's an app for that as you travel to Birmingham

by Mike Evans

Britain's largest annual photographic exhibition takes place in Birmingham this weekend and through to Tuesday next week. If you are planning to visit the National Exhibition Centre don't forget to take your iPhone with you. The organisers have launched a really impressive app that allows you to plan your visit, choose your favourite stands and, even, keep notes as you go. Just search in the App Store for The Photography Show 2015.

The show opens daily from March 21-24, from 10am to 6 pm (closing an hour earlier on the last day). Tickets cost £13.95 in advance or £18 on the door.It's always a good idea to buy in advance, if only to avoid queuing.

I shall be there on Monday, an attempt to avoid the weekend crowds, so come up and say hello if you see me around.

Fuji Zoom Choice: XF18-55, XF16-55 or the XF18-135 as the one lens

by Mike Evans

With the addition of the pro-standard XF16-55mm zoom, Fuji has one lens that could replace a string of primes without suffering significant compromise. According to Tom Grill at About Photography it is that good. Could it be the one-lens solution?

The 18-135mm lacks the wider angle of the new XF16-55 but is the only lens to offer such a ride range, from a 35mm equivalent of 27mm to just over 200mm, as demonstrated in the above shots. With its five-axis stabilisation to compensate for the slower aperture, the 18-135mm offers a good all-round solution (photos: Mike Evans, XF18-135mm on Fuji X-T1)

Tom has again looked at the advantages and disadvantages of this new lens in comparison with the old 18-55mm "kit" zoom and last year's 18-135, a lens that offers a much wider range of focal lengths in the one unit. As Tom says, the improved five-axis stabilisation system in this lens compensates for the slower f/3.5-5.6 aperture range in terms of light gathering abilities. On the other hand, these apertures are not going to thrill bokeh addicts.

If you are in the market for a Fuji zoom, perhaps to upgrade the 18-55 that came with your camera, Tom's comparison will help you make the right decision. As he says, however, it all comes down to personal requirements and type of use:

I could go on forever with this discussion because there are as many different photographic situations as there are photographers, each with its own requirements for a lens kit. Each of us is going to have to decide what to get based on our own needs and work habits. Thankfully, Fuji has provided us with enough options to tailor a lens kit to suit. The bottom line here is that no matter which kit we finally assemble, it is going to be the right one in terms of providing quality results.

Saturday Matinee: Trains, buses, excellent photography and a good but silent story

by Mike Evans

Last time I went to the cinema at 10 o'clock in the morning was with a bunch of my ten-year-old peers anxious to catch up on the perils of Flash Gordon and the evil Emperor Ming. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I was invited to a special screening of a 1928 silent film inside the impressive art deco vastness of the Odeon Leicester Square. We were no longer short-trousered hoodlums with chewed gum and catapults in our pockets. We had all aged gracefully (or otherwise) and there was a whiff of geekiness that didn't exist back in the days of Flash and Princess Aura. This was the film buff's equivalent of a steam train outing to Carlisle. Such things I find fascinating and I donned my very best anorak for the occasion.

Read More

Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom: If you require OIS this lens isn't for you

by Mike Evans

Fuji owners, particularly those who love the acclaimed "kit" 18-55 zoom with its f/2.8-f/4 aperture range, have been excited by the prospect of a professional fixed-aperture f/2.8 alternative, the new XF 16-55 f/2.8. It is a much bigger and heavier beast, but does offer a welcome wider starting angle of view and improved quality. Respected tester Tom Grill has put the lens through its paces and is impressed by its quality, both in terms of build and in optical performance. But the 16-55 lacks the optical image stabilisation that 18-55 owners take for granted. As he says, though, if you want OIS this lens isn't for you:

Read More

Apple Watch hunter's definitive guide. Spreadsheet tells you all you need to know

by Mike Evans

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not a watch guy. I own a running watch. I own a few dress watches that I used to put on when I had a big fancy business meeting to attend. But those haven’t seen the light of day in decades. So I have zero interest in owning an Apple Watch. (I might be interested if you could use one to replace the phone, but it’s clearly an accessory device.)

Read More

Photography Show March 21-24: Grab a free Leica M test drive which normally costs £80

by Mike Evans

Visitors to the Photography Show in Birmingham (March 21-24) can grab £80-worth of free Leica M test drive at participating dealers throughout the country. Members of the public will have 48 hours to put an M camera and lens through its paces. Leica is returning to the show, which takes place at the National Exhibition Centre, after an absence last year. You can find a full range of cameras and expert advice on Stand C31. Follow @LeicaStoreUK for more information.

Full details of the show can be found here. I shall be visiting on Monday, March 23 which, I hope, will be a bit quieter than the previous two weekend days. Come and say hello if you see me around. 

Apple Watch receives and makes calls via iPhone

by Mike Evans

Tim Cook of Apple is currently presenting the Watch. For me, the big news is that the Watch will be able to make and take voice calls. No longer will the phone have to be pulled out of a pocket. Instead, the Watch is going to be a true communications professional. A by-product of this announcement will be greater sales of the iPhone 6 Plus. With the Watch in harness there will be less resistance to the larger-sized phone which will increasingly be seen as a small iPad. The next step is for all iPads to have an optional cellular call facility. 

The next MacBook Air: The 12in newbie could arrive this evening

by Mike Evans

Amid all the fuss over the Apple Watch it is easy to forget the rest of the company's products. High on the list of expectations for today's announcement is a new MacBook Air. We are hoping that instead of a revamp of the current 11in and 13in models, there will be an all-new 12in Air, preferably with a retina screen. This is something high on my wishlist.

Read More