Friday, January 15, 2016

A New Camera

Over the holidays I purchased a Fuji FinePix XP80 digital camera.  It is in a class of "action" cameras that appeals to me. First, it is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof from 5.8 feet, freeze-proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and dust-proof. I feel that I need all these "proofs" for a backpacking/outdoor-use camera that I don't have to also carry other gear to protect. My plan is to wear it around my neck, carry it in my shirt pocket or in a pack strap bag where I can get to it quickly. If it rains, no problem!
Second, with other mostly small and automatic cameras, I have missed SO many photos of wildlife and action because the camera takes too long to power up, move the lens into place, focus and take the picture. By then the animals or moments were gone. Not so with this camera, as it is ready to shoot in about 1 second.
In addition to stills, it also shoots HD movies tagged as .MOV files. The microphone is built-in with no input jacks, so I will use an audio recorder to capture close-mic sound and a tripod or other camera mount to keep the videos smooth. It came packaged in a bundle with a neoprene case, a floating strap, a hand strap and a 16GB SDHC data card. It has a bright yellow body. XP80's are also available in blue, black and purple.
The Fuji XP80 takes 16.4 Megapixel photos using a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, has a 5X Optical zoom, includes a built-in flash and uses a 2.7" LCD screen on the back for viewing. The auto-focus function also has a tracking feature, there is an optical image stabilization and the ISO goes up to 6400. The aperture runs from F3.9 to F8 with TTL metering. Shutter speeds are from 4 seconds to 1/2000 of a second. Internal memory is 96 MB plus whatever size memory card you are using.  It has a ton of in-camera filters and multiple automatic camera modes which I am still running through.  It does high speed continuous shooting and programmable time lapse photography (for those tracking cloud shots). Extra Apps can handle remote camera controls and the camera has built-in Wi-Fi for transferring images.

The 5X optical zoom lens helps with composing the majority of the shots I plan to shoot. It is equivalent to a 28mm to 140mm zoom on a 35mm camera, which covers the wide angle to medium telephoto range. With wildlife, the shots of animals won't always be close-up, but the landscapes and portraits will be very nice.
The camera fits nicely in your hand and is very lightweight at 6.3 ounces on my scale including battery and memory card. It charges quickly through the USB connector and will recharge with my portable solar/battery supply when on the trail. My current iPhone 5 takes 8 megapixel photos and has no optical zoom. Though I will still use the iPhone as a camera occasionally, my plan is to add larger memory cards and perhaps more batteries to the Fuji XP80, so I can shoot for longer durations.
In my use it will mostly stay in the AUTO mode for quick-shoot photos. Landscape mode takes great outdoor landscape photos, the Snow exposure seems to work fine on snowy shots and the Macro setting boosts colors a little bit on close-ups. The Sunset and Portrait modes look nice too. For those times when I need to manually adjust the exposure, I can switch to Program AE mode and trim the amount of light coming into the camera using buttons on the back of the body. For its small size, the XP80 offers me a lot of features to get good photos.

As for battery life, the paperwork says it will shoot about 210 photos in AUTO mode on one battery charge. That would easily cover a weekend or two backpacking trip for me. I haven't taken that many photos yet, and have fussed much with the settings, have shot short videos and have still not run the battery down from its first charge. Time will tell. I checked and found 2 batteries and a charger online for about $20.
I personally don't use effects much, as I prefer to get a good photo first. The XP80 comes with several effects, including a nice tool to stitch together panorama photos from several shots taken across an arc. The sketch effect can be dramatic as well as the toy, miniature and forced-color effects. The Fish Eye effect mimics the ultra-wide angle view effect of an 18mm lens.
There is an HDMI output for the TV set as well as a micro USB for charging and transferring photos, both of which are concealed inside the waterproof housing that holds the battery and memory card. It is sealed with a simple locking mechanism, where a button has to be held down to twist the knob to open it.
My photography background is in 35mm and 2 1/4 inch film. I had a small darkroom rig and have processed and printed my own b&w film since I was in the Boy Scouts. I eventually ended up with professional camera bodies and had a wide range of pro fixed and zoom lenses after college. I shot for college newspapers, created slide shows and volunteered with amateur astronomers to get star pictures. I also have 16mm film motion picture experience and have worked as a professional video photographer for many years.

Nowadays, my vision isn't good enough to squint through the lens without wearing my glasses. I have learned to use the on-camera viewfinder screens like the old fashioned ground glass screens on my 2 1/4 inch cameras to compose my shots. Though I prefer to "twiddle" with manual controls, an automatic camera is best for me now to bring home good photos.
Hopefully, this Fuji FinePix XP80 camera will provide me with the tools to get better quality photographic results for this blog and other projects while not weighing me down with extra waterproofing and shock protection cases. You will soon see photos here taken with it.
For the record, I purchased this camera with my own funds and have not received anything from anyone to review it.

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