Deal: Big X-Series Lens Sale

If you haven’t already heard, Fuji has another big sale happening on just about all their lenses. A couple standouts are the XF 14mm f/2.8 for $499 (save $400), and the XF 16mm f/1.4 WR for $699 (save $300).

On the long end, you can get an XF 1.4 Teleconverter for $100 if you pair it with either the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 or XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

And of course, B&H has all the same deals as well. Get ’em while the gettin’s good.

JPEG is My Friend

This fantastic piece from Lee Varis starts with a refrain many of us have heard, Fuji’s JPEGs are great, but then quickly moves into some excellent examples that demonstrate how. It’s a must read or watch (I watched), and it’s nice to see Astia get some love.

My only caution might be on layering a JPEG over a RAF. You’ll want to be mindful of Fuji’s in-camera corrections, depending on which lens you have mounted. Another approach might be to shoot with Film Simulation bracketing and use one of the colour Film Simulations for the layering. Cool effect either way.

Prepping for South Africa, Part 2

The response to my Prepping for South Africa post has been incredible. No other blog post on Fuji vs. Fuji has generated so much thoughtful feedback so quickly. I really appreciate it all, and as I catch up on my email, I am seriously rethinking my gear selection yet again. Here’s the latest.

XF 100-400mm

Well, readers are decidedly in favour of me bringing the XF 100-400mm. Tweets, Facebook Messages and emails all say bring it. This prompted me to do a bit of my own reading about the lens, which lead me to this fantastic piece by Daniel J. Cox about mirrorless telephoto zooms. Fuji has an awfully impressive showing.

I certainly won’t mind the chance to do a little testing of my own with a lens like this, but I want to do what’s best for the trip, first and foremost. So, the current plan is to see how things fit once my Airport Essentials arrives. That should help determine just how many zoom lenses I’m going to bring.

XF 50-140mm

Now of course I’m asking myself if I really need the XF 50-140mm f/2.8. In some ways, it could be indispensable. The faster aperture might do wonders during dawn and dusk game park drives. But it’s another big telephoto lens with at least some overlap (depending on which teleconverters I have mounted) to haul around.

It could also necessitate yet another body thanks to…

The Wide Angle

Given how close we could get, there’s no way I can go on a game drive with 50mm being my widest focal length.

Readers also reaffirmed what my research indicates, dust will be a real problem when driving along the dirt roads in the game park, so lens changes are almost certainly going to be impossible. That got me thinking about a lens I don’t think about very often, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8.

One of my big summer comparisons is going to be this lens pitted against primes in its range, but it might just be the perfect companion to one of, if not both of the big zooms. Standard focal range, weather and dust resistant, 77mm filter thread. Suddenly a lens I wasn’t even looking at before is in the running. This trip could be an all red badge affair.

Minimal or Maximal

In truth, when I bought the XF 16-55mm f/2.8, it was with the intention of using it almost exclusively as a travel lens. Visions of trudging through the rainy lakes, dales, and moors of England came to mind. My sole reason for not considering it at first was my desire to travel with as little gear as possible. I wanted to minimize.

I’m now in danger of bringing way more gear than I was hoping. Here are some contending options:

Original Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR*, XF 35mm f/2 WR, XF 50-140mm f/2.8*

Minimal Zoom Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8*, XF 100-400mm*

I would have a really hard time leaving the XF 35mm f/2 WR behind, and probably won’t, but it’s covered by the XF 16-55mm f/2.8.

Maximal Zoom or “All The Things” Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1, another X-T1 or X70/X100T
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8*, XF 35mm f/2 WR XF 50-140mm f/2.8* XF 100-400mm*

Ugh. I really don’t want to have to do this, but if I had both the telephotos along, I feel I would almost have to bring a third body of some kind along to cover the wide end.

Going X70 has the added benefit of my wife having an “adorable little Fuji” at her disposal, but there could be a risk of dust contamination during the game drives, and it means another set of charger/batteries to bring.

Going with a third interchangeable body means I have to actually get a third, weather sealed body. That presents its own set of issues (WAF, space in the bag, batteries, WAF, etc.)

*Denotes gear I’ll bring on the game drives.

Thanks!

Thanks again so much to everyone who wrote, tweeted and messaged me their feedback. It’s been immensely helpful, and I’ll be sure to post more as I continue to sort this out. I’m hyper aware that this is an awesome problem to have, but the struggle is real, and it continues. More to come.

Another Metal Hood

In addition to the 2x Teleconverter, Fuji also quietly added another metal hood add-on accessory, this time for the XF 23mm f/1.4, the Lens Hood LH-XF23. I don’t know about you, but I’m perpetually in “persuit of premium quality to multiply the pleasure of ownership.”

Truthfully, I do really like the metal hood for the XF 16mm f/1.4 WR. It’s noticeably heavier than the plastic hood that comes with the lens, but significantly more compact when ready for use. A worthwhile trade off in my opinion. The hood that ships with the XF 23mm f/1.4 is also much too large for me to ever want to attach it to my lens.

I think we can expect this trend to continue from now on. It’s shame because these hoods aren’t cheap, but they’re so much nicer.

One Wide Angle Remaining

The XF 14mm f/2.8 comes to mind as being the next lens due for a new metal hood. As I’ve mentioned, the plastic hood for the XF 14mm f/2.8 is a clone of the hood for the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4, which leads me to believe it hasn’t been terribly well optimized for the former, since it was released after the kit zoom.

Fujifilm XF 2X Teleconverter Announced

Well isn’t this fortunate. Fuji has officially announced their XF 2X Teleconverter.

From Fuji:

The “FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR” is a high-performance teleconverter capable of multiplying the focal length of mounted lenses by two.

This gives the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 and effective focal length of 100-280mm f/5.6, or 152 to 427mm in 35mm equivalence, and the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 reaches all the way out to 200-800mm f/9-11, which is 305 to 1,219mm in 35mm.

That quite a bit of a slow down in aperture, but over 1,200mm of reach is going to be tough to resist.

No Phase Detection

Also worth noting, we lose Phase Detection on the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 altogether with the XF 2X TC attached thanks to the reduction in aperture. That could pose a bit of a problem for things like early morning game park drives or bird photography outings when higher ISOs are already common. It will be interesting to see how this lens performs with the TCs attached.

Size and Weight

That extra reach also means extra size and weight with the new 2x weighing in at 170g, or 40g more than the 1.4x and measures twice as long at 30.2mm. I’ll be getting close to maxing out the height of my bag already, so be mindful of your max carry size before you place any preorders.

Edit: Jonas Rask already has one of his typically epic reviews up for the XF2X TC. Man, that guy is on fire these days.

Prepping for South Africa

As my Twitter followers might know, I’m getting for a pretty big trip to South Africa, where I’m fortunate enough to be going on a Safari.1

I’m incredibly excited to have this fantastic photographic opportunity ahead of me, but it has thrown a wrench into my usual travel/packing strategies, in addition to making a couple photographic purchases necessary. I thought it might be of interest to do a bit of a travel diary, which has already been of some help to the process. This post has already been revised a few times as my packing strategies change.

Support

As ever, it’s important to start with a solid foundation. Game reserves present a unique challenge when it comes to keeping your camera steady. Most of what I’ve learned on the topic is from (re-)reading this piece from Thom Hogan, and another more recent piece. A key problem to solve is how to support your camera when you’re in the vehicle. I opted for Really Right Stuff’s new Travel Clamp Kit to affix to the rails of a vehicle like so:

Really Right Stuff’s Travel Clamp Kit with removable Flat Surface Adapters

Really Right Stuff’s Travel Clamp Kit with removable Flat Surface Adapters

It’s a pretty solid piece of equipment and isn’t having any trouble holding my camera steady. I’ll do more of a write-up on this item after my trip.

Thom also advises a monopod, which I considered, but there’s a limit to how much I want to bring when it comes to support, and since I also plan to bring a compact tripod and pocket-sized tripod as well. It’s always a balance between wanting to travel with as little as possible while still making sure I have what I need. The game resernve will only take up a few days of our trip after all.

Camera Bodies

Interchangeable

Had this trip occurred last year, I would have been perfectly happy to buy a second X-T1 keep my XF 50-140mm f/2.8 glued on one of them (probably with an XF 1.4x Teleconverter attached), and a wide angle lens on the other.

The X-Pro2 presents a bit of a wrinkle. I know I’m going to be constantly juggling whether or not to make the most of my available megapixels, or using the tilt screen of the X-T1. A second X-Pro2 is always a possibility, but I really think I’d notice the lack of a tilt screen when the camera is attached lower than eye level. If only there was a camera that provided the best of both worlds…

Anyhow, I've all but settled on bringing both the X-Pro2 and X-T1. The X-Pro2 is the camera I want with my all the time, and the X-T1 will end up being my “Safari camera.”

Fixed

I was all set to leave the fixed focal length X100 at home for this trip. The X-Pro2 has resulted in my X100T sitting dormant for the last few months. Then my wife saw the X70 and is seriously considering that as being her camera for the trip as opposed to her iPhone.

I think I’ll try to talk her out of it actually as bringing a fixed focal camera results in a whole second set of batteries and chargers to contend with that might not be worth the hassle.

Lenses

Another wrinkle, the XF 100-400mm. Thom writes:

In the Serengeti and other parks where you can’t leave the road, you tend to need longer lenses than in the places where you can (e.g. the private reserves in South Africa). I’m going to assume that you’re not going to one of the latter places, as the lens needs there are far less extreme and easier to meet. We’re going to assume the worst case here...

... Thus, we need flexibility and reach. Flexibility means a zoom lens; reach means pixel density.

As it happens, I am going to a private reserve in South Africa, so I was really struggling with whether or not I’m even going to need a lens with as much reach as the XF 100-400mm. That’s a lot of extra lens to pack for me (for on that in a minute) and it has other implications as it relates to things like filters (more on that in a minute too).

Rather than obsess over it, I decided to contact to the actual game park to get a sense of how close they typically get to the animals. They sent back a couple of images for reference:

That’s pretty close!

Close enough that I’m thinking I’ll be able to leave the big lens behind. Traveling with the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 is already going to be new territory for me, but in reality, it isn’t that much larger than the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 I used to travel with. Traveling with only a carry-on wasn’t really an option in my DSLR days though.

Astro

I have to admit that one of the first things I thought about for this trip was the opportunity for some good astrophotography. Given I managed to capture the Milky Way with my X100S in the country-side of France, South Africa should offer much less light pollution, and even more visible stars. For that, I’ll be bringing along my XF 16mm f/1.4 WR. With its wide angle and fast aperture, I should be able to get some nice exposures.

Documentary

This is a big family trip, so I’ll also want to document it to some degree, and capture some images while on the streets of Jo’burg, of course. For that, I’ll have my XF 35mm f/2 WR mounted on my X-Pro2.

Cameras In Summary

For now, that’s a total of two bodies, three lenses, a teleconverter, one compact tripod, one pocket-sized tripod, one travel clamp, and a whole whack of batteries.

Filters

Despite what Tony Northrup says in his video that starts off like an infomercial,2 filters can still be pretty important tools to photographers, especially those who like to capture things in camera. That’s not to say that I’m against post processing, but as time goes on, I find my desire to sit at a desk is waning rapidly.

If the XF 100-400mm does stay at home, I don’t have any reason to go larger than 72mm with my filters. This is one of the very rare times I’d consider the use of a lens like the XF 100-400mm, and the only other lens Fuji currently makes at 77mm is the XF 16-55mm f/2.8, which hasn’t been mounted on my camera to take photos in almost a year. In all likelihood I’ll stick with the 77mm as the standard, and add additional sizes as needed, and when funds allow.

A notification that the new 77mm X4 CPL and ND filters and step-up rings I ordered from Breakthrough Photography entered the country popped up on my phone just last night. I’m eager to try Breakthrough’s latest release to see how it stacks up.

Packing

Here we have the biggest hurdles in two parts:

  1. My collection of bags to date doesn’t accommodate longer lenses well.
  2. I strongly prefer carry-on-only travel.

My carry-on bag of choice is Osprey’s Farpoint 55 (S/M) which is already a couple inches longer than airlines typically allow for carry-on, but I haven’t had a problem with it so far.

My strategy is to pack my camera gear and a few clothing items in the Think Tank Airport Express bag I just ordered—that at least two people agree is the bag to get—and pack it along with the rest of my travel needs in the Osprey, hoping for the best. If I get nabbed on the size of the Osprey, I’ll check it and bring the Think Tank as my official carry-on. This will depend entirely on whether or not I can fit the Airport Express in the main compartment of the Osprey with room to spare or not.

Pre-publish Update

I haven’t received the Think Tank bag yet, but I’m losing confidence that it’s going to fit in my Osprey with much, if any room to spare. I’m now pondering whether or not I can get away only the Airport Express and a “personal item.” I’ll have to do some serious layering on the plane, but if I can sneak an item or two in my wife’s carry-on, it just might work.

Happily, I just received notification that my bag has shipped, so once it arrives I’ll test out a few packing strategies.

Other Considerations

I have as much a bag addiction as any photographer has, and I’d love to get myself a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 one of these days. Sadly, I don’t think this is the trip for it. I’d have a hard time getting longer lenses in there, and the lack of a frame like the Osprey has to transfer weight to the hips will be a problem. Mirrorless gear is far from heavy, but it’s still more than just clothes.

To Be Continued…

That’s all for now. I hope to write more as the trip draws nearer and I get all my photographic quandaries sorted.

  1. My new South African family actually mocks us a little when we call it “a Safari.” To them, it’s a “game park” or “game reserve.” ↩︎
  2. Really Tony, a whole minute?

    I honestly can’t believe he’s telling people to just to it all in software to save a whole “100 bucks.” Setting aside the fact that I seem to value my time more than he does, and the enjoyment of the creative process, there are things a polarizing filter can do that software can’t replicate, like eliminating reflections from the waxy coating on many leaves.

    On top of that, his struggle with the filter is laughable, his water reflection example is horrendous, and the idea that capturing 10s of images instead of one is less time consuming or cost-effective (storage for all those RAW files costs money, after all), is ludicrous.

    I will give him that UV filters are worthless though.

Inspiration: Ian MacDonald

This is an inspiration post that’s been in my drafts folder for ages, but the promise, and delivery, of more and more excellent content kept me waiting.

In addition to a remarkably diverse portfolio, Ian MacDonald contributes an astounding amount to the Fujifilm community. From his three-part photographic diary of shooting in Amsterdam that is rife with superb photos that, having travelled to Amsterdam myself fairly recently, capture the city extraordinarily well. Oh, and he’s done it for Paris as well. And Vegas. And... you get the idea.

When he isn’t out on assignment, running a workshop, or shooting travel photography for the joy of it, he’s writing excellent reviews Fuji gear including a five-parter on the X-Pro2, or writing cautionary tales about not letting this hobby of ours get the best of us, or how to make the most of our travel photography. How this guy isn’t an X-Photographer yet is beyond me.

Ian’s website and Twitter account are ones that shouldn’t be missed by any Fuji fan, as is his Instagram account by anyone who enjoys beautiful photographs.

X-Pro2 Versus...

For those of you who hunt around this site a little, this could be old news as I’ve been adding and refining Versus content for the X-Pro2 for a couple of months now.

If you’ve been waiting for an in-depth comparison between Fuji’s latest rangefinder-style flagship and it’s predecessor, or the current DSLR-style flagship, these articles are for you. I compare everything from build quality and handling to image quality and ISO performance.

Fuji X-Pro2 vs. X-T1

In addition, I’ve split my Versus pieces into two categories, Body, and Lens. The Versus menu was getting a bit long, and likely difficult to navigate so this should help.

Next on the to-do list, update my X-E2(S) comparison pieces to reflect Firmwware Ver.4.00

Disassembling a Fuji XF Lens

Fascinating post at Lensrentals.com:

The overall construction is excellent. There was no place during this disassembly that either of us thought we saw a weak point that would be likely to cause problems. It’s not massively over engineered, but it’s very solidly constructed. [...] This looks like a lens that was designed by people who know how to make reliable lenses.

More on ACROS

Patrick La Roque on ACROS:

I noticed ISO 2000 seemed to be a sweet spot for this simulation, creating a visible grain that added personality without reducing sharpness or introducing anything remotely muddy into the mix (actually it scales well all the way up but 2000 felt like a good general compromise).

Nice of Patrick to get some of this work done for us. Auto ISO users might want to think about capping it around 2000.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Fujifilm’s commitment to bringing their film legacy to the X Series is an issue of pride. It’s where their identity can shine and how they can differentiate themselves further. I personally find the development of Acros, the research that went into its creation, very, very exciting. There’s a complexity at work here that goes way beyond slapping a curve on top of a monochrome file, and this shows a thirst for exploration that could yield serious results down the line.

I was thinking the same thing.