Divisoria in old Manila (part of Chinatown) is known as a bargain area for everything you can imagine and then some. The place is particularly known and frequented by extreme bargain hunters for retail. There's a side of Divisoria however that is not known to many. This largely unknown side of Divi deals mostly with small businesses or small to medium enterprises (SME's). If you think my earlier posts were gritty this place takes the cake. Don't be fooled by the surroundings though, the place is awash with money, big money (play the apprentice theme song: "money-money-money!") Banks are everywhere in Metro Manila but there's no place I've been to where I can find anywhere from 5-10 banks offices/ branches in every street block.
And yes this was shot on Film using a late film camera: Nikon F100 (see my prior post). The film noise is exagerated because I shot an ASA 200 film at ASA 800 (pushed). Film: Fuji Superia 200 pushed to ASA 800 and scanned to digital with an Epson V800.
After seeing the history of Nikon online, fond memories of my first camera as a child came to mind. It was a black film SLR. The camera was a Nikon FE, a hand-me-down from an uncle. So I thought it would be awesome to find and own my original camera. After some research and failed bids on eBay I got my hands on a mint black FE2, an upgraded version of the Nikon FE. This post will mark my shift to back to film photography. It was a rather slow re-learning process but I finally got my workflow set from shooting, selecting a lab to develop film and scanning the film to digital, the most cumbersome step in the process.
It may be worth noting that it wasn't until I read a book then about photography entitled: "The Complete Kodak Book of Photogrphy" that I really started to understand what I was doing from exposure, composition and understanding the tools of photography. Then shutter bug bit. Years go by and I still relish photography, even more so today.
Allow me to introduce the newest members of my photography family.
Street Vending is still a way of life in the Philippines especially in the older parts of the city of Manila, In 2002-2010, a drive was spearheaded by the Metro Manila Development Authority under the leadership of Bayani Fernando to clear the roads from street vendors to open little used roadways to vehicular traffic. The initiative was largely successful albeit difficult for that agency then. During the presidency of Noy-noy Aquino however, the same MMDA, the agency tasked to make and keep the metro beautiful, orderly and running smoothly largely failed. Hence, the return of vendors in the streets.
Street vending is a source of income and livelihood for many. Despite the challenges they pose, transient buyers still patronize them for their convenience, best selling wares and foodstuffs and relatively low prices.
I walked the street near the Quaipo church to do some window shopping ; ) but mainly to document the activity using my Fujifilm X-T10 with an XF 35mm f/1.4 lens attached. Most of the images were shot with an aperture of 1.4 at around ISO 640 between 1/20th to about 1/100th of a second.
The Fujinon XF 35mm F/1.4 R is a fixed-focal length large aperture (prime) lens that produces smooth Bokeh (out of focus backgrounds), very sharp and saturated images. AF is a bit behind with newer Fujinon lenses in terms of manners but is nonetheless reliable. When using a bigger AF point (known as group AF on some DSLR's), focusing is fast and accurate despite the rather rough and somewhat noisy AF motor. The build quality (all metal) appears reassuring and looks great with the metal rangefinder squared edged hood reminicent of Leica lens hoods. It's a perfect match for classic styled cameras like the X-T10 and Fuji's rangefinder-styled bodies. All the rings (aperture and manual focus) are properly dampened to the touch and feel premium. Size is compact and weight balances well with the X-T10.
Here's my report:
(Best viewed on a Tablet or PC. When viewing on an iPhone, keep phone vertical/ upright while you tap on the photos)
Nothing makes my eyes roll more than heavy traffic. It just drives the WAZE App mad endlessly rerouting and pinging delays on your ETA.
Here are scenes of BGC, Taguig City and the Business District of Makati City in the thick of the rush hour traffic!
All Images were shot with my Fujifilm X-T10 which I carry along constantly as not to miss potential (life and death) stories like this. I find that shooting in full manual is still better than shooting with Auto-ISO activated. Full on manual just allows me to optimize image quality minimizing Noise especially in very low-light scenes. Any camera especially one with less than a Full-frame sensor will struggle to capture fine detail at night. AF performance was however splendid on the Fujifilm X-T10 despite focusing in low-light.
Fuji has changed the game moving back to retro controls and design on their cameras since the introduction of the Fujifilm x100 in 2010 . They've done so with style, finesse and quality much to the appreciation of the camera enthusiast. Using Fuji's depth of experience creating film, they have digitally simulated the organic look of their film stocks into the X series. A feat in itself for its wide use and popularity relative to the kind of traction others are able to generate.
Hype or Highs (Reality)?
So is all the rave justified? I believe they are! Fujifilm has always taken a non-traditional approach in designing their sensors. From the super CCD (2003), the super CCD EXR (2008) to the X-trans sensors of today, Fuji has innovated and differentiated itself from the pack by designing proprietary sensors that focused on color reproduction and overall quality of "still images." Taking cues from analog film photography, Fuji designed the arrangement of red, green and blue photosites more randomly than in conventional Bayer array sensors. This minimizes moiré effects eliminating the need for a low-pass filter, which, in turn, boosts resolution and sharpness. Video and other bells and whistles are secondary as of this post.
Image Quality (Samples)
'I have only shot with an X-T10 on three occassions and the results were nothing short of my high expectations. With only a Fujinon 18-55 F2.8-4, I produced out of the camera jpg files that CAN RIVAL post processed images in color, skin-tone, contrast, sharpness and detail. Being adept at Photoshop that's a tall claim.
To hopefully illustrate my point here are some ambient shots in Chinatown. Adjustments in post include contrast and vignette tweaks as well as those discussed below.
Yet another new mall. That Asian kitty with her paw up is actually calling customers/ money. She's a popular figure/ symbol for luck to the Buddhist Chinese. -Some lens distortion on the widest-end at 18mm (still less than what you would get on a Nikkor 24/1.8G). Converging lines were corrected in post.
I'm looking forward shooting with the camera more and fitting it with primes in the future when I start missing 1.x apertures.
Overall, the controls are different/ confusing compared to my Nikon bodies or DSLR's in general. For instance shutter speed manual adjustment uses the front wheel/ dial instead of the rear wheel/ dial. You need to flip a SWITCH on the LENS to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. They become intuitive the more I use it though.
Auto Focus Performance
AF is spot on, fast and confident in both Viewfinder and Live View shooting Modes. Hunting only happened on one frame during the three (3) iccassions I shot with the camera. Manual Focus using the lens focusing ring with auto zoom preview in the LCD and viewfinder is nifty and effective for that purpose.
Auto ISO is handy and well-implemented. Use it with the compensation dial to tweak exposure to taste. The output from the full auto mode is so good that you can forget everything you know about photography and just shoot like you would with an iPhone. Just flip a lever and your are in "photography for dummies" mode. You can further adjust the look of the photo using the compensation dial next to the shutter release and also applying very specific scenes settings (i.e.: fireworks) to tailor your shot futher without leaving auto.
Some limitations I don't like are:
You can't rotate images when reviewing them....bad for chimping vertical shots. Image review time is limited to 0.5 and 1.5 secs and continuous. I have mine set on 1.5 but the display shuts-off in less than a sec! (Scouts honor) No LCD/ camera standby. Just auto-off which is totally alien in the DSLR world.... a real "WhattheF" moment!
Size and Weight
The camera is light and portable that's why I bought one but for top quality photography, I still prefer using a hefty DSLR. Buying a Fuji leather body cover helped made the grip chunkier to hold so it feels more secure and stable now for my medium to large sized hands.
XT-10 Compared and Final Notes
All the great stuff I just mentioned about great image quality straight out of the camera is not as unique to Fuji nowadays. Cameras have started removing AA filters on their sensors too with perhaps tweaks on the design of the sensors and processing algorithms so that Jpgs appear razor sharp, detailed and saturated. Check out the user galleries in flickr for the Nikon D5500 and D500 and compare them with the latest camera in the X Series X-Pro2.
I have actually decided to get a Fujifilm X-T10 over the new highly regarded LUMIX GX-85. If you're all about "Still Photgraphy" and want an easy to carry camera, I think this is the best out there in terms of image quality, value and design/ styling.
Here are the images of the X-T10 with a brass shutter button accessory and Fuji brand leather body case.
The blog is about the Philippines... the less photographed side of it. My hope is that as I develop the series, the story I tell about trivial life in the country resonates with its readers.