How I Packed For The Lake District

A Brief Personal Story

This summer has been an adventure. Back in May, we had booked a trip back to the Lake District for the beginning of September. Lakeland is probably our favourite place on earth. The density of glacially carved mountains and lakes, and village cafe and pub splendour is unmatched. After publishing my review of the X-H1, I got to work on my XH1 vs. X-T2 article. It was coming along great, and as a bit of a spoiler, I was excited to finally shoot in The Lakes with Fuji cameras,1 and eager to put the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR to work on a stabilized body.

But in early June, one of our 4 cats got sick. Real sick. My wife and I spent 11 weeks exhausting every possible resource and sparing no expense trying to nurse our beloved cat back to health. After multiple opinions, and even more trips to veterinarian services, we decided there was no choice but to cancel our trip, believing we would still be getting Charlie back on his feet.

Things didn’t pan out that way, and sadly, we had to let Charlie go on August 19, 2018.2

A few days later, my wife and I talked about what we would do with the vacation time we had already booked off work. No way we could go away, right? But then, what were we going to do otherwise, sit around at home? We decided to look into what was still available, and incredibly, everything we had previously booked still was, so we will be walking the fells of North West England in tribute to Charlie.

Back To Photography Stuff

Now, with all that time lost, I had to figure out what the hell to bring. It’s been a bit of a scramble the last couple of weeks, but given I leave today I’m settled on my photographic gear selection.

In the grip section of my X-H1 review, I noted that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to deal with the heft of a gripped X-H1 and an L-plate. As it turns out, I ended up getting both. The convenience of 3 batteries was too much turn down any time I wanted to use proper support, but I knew a gripped and plated X-H1 would be too big to travel with. Not only is it big and heavy, the size also has an affect on potentially carry options.

Carry

The last time I was in the Lake District, I packed my Nikon gear in a newly acquired LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW → after quite a bit of agonizing. I still love this bag. It’s crazy light, super adjustable, and has superb straps, both for your shoulders, and your waist. It is an excellent bag for hiking. Note that this is the first version of the bag. I have not yet tried the LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW II, → but it looks like they haven’t fixed unbroken things.

Camera(s)

Based on the main camera compartment of that bag and my memory, the X-H1 with L-plate is fairly similar in size to the Nikon D700 I had in it before. It fits perfectly, where a gripped body would not.

I always thought when I traveled back to The Lake District, I’d bring something along the lines of my Invincible Landscaper kit. I’ll be bringing the lenses, but I won’t have a body dedicated to each. Instead, my second body will be an X-Pro2 with a weather sealed prime mounted for casual documentary shots.

Lenses

The X-H1 will mostly have the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR mounted on it. The section just below the main camera compartment in my bag is just large enough to hold an XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR without the tripod collar attached. It’s not ideal, but it seems about as sturdy to have the camera mounted on my tripod as it would be using the rather flex-prone tripod collar.

The last time I took in these dramatic landscapes, I went wide with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2. This time around, 16mm on APS-C—24mm in 35mm equivalence—is the widest focal length I’ll have with me, and instead of going wider, I’m going much longer. This should open up my shooting possibilities a fair bit, but I am wondering if will miss the wide end.

Now, if this trip were happening a few months from now, there’s a very good chance I would repeat my focal length choice from last time with the XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR.

The XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS sadly wasn’t even on the consideration list because weather sealing. If that lens came with those two magical initials, “W” and “R,” there’s a good chance I’d be bringing that lens instead of the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR along with a set of 72mm filters, rather than 77mm plus a step-up ring.

On my X-Pro2, it should come as no surprise that I’ll have the XF 35mm F/2 WR mounted. I’m tossing around the idea of leaving the second body at home, but I really think I would regret it.

Support

I’m pretty shameless about going overboard on the support side of things. Luckily the tripod is one area that has gotten considerably smaller, and lighter. The TVC-23 and BH-40 I had for the full frame DSLR, protruded from my backpack a ridiculous amount. The TQC-14 I have now is much better suited for travel. I’ve thought about moving to the TFC-14 for travel for less weight, even more compactness, and to get closer to the ground, but the Quick Column is extremely convenient for quick (yes, quick) adjustments to height without having to reset 3 tripod legs and my composition. When it comes to getting low to the ground, I have one of Really Right Stuff’s Pocket Pods. And finally, when a tripod with won’t fit or isn’t allowed, I also have their Travel Clamp, which is proved to be remarkably versatile. Finally, I have a mobile phone clamp for capturing time lapses from fell tops and or while shooting long exposures.

Accessories

I’ve stepped the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR up to 77mm via a Breakthrough Photography 72-77mm step-up ring so I can use a single set of 77mm filters— also from Breakthrough—for both Red Badge zooms. 3-stop, 6-stop, and 10-stop NDs as well as a Circular Polarizer are all in a tiny Tiffen filter case. They say it’s only for up to 58mm filters, but I get 77mm filters in there no problem.

The step-up ring means I need to go hoodless with the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR, so I won’t be able to use it if the rain goes sideways. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

Hiking

One of the main reasons for our trip is to seriously get our hike on. For that, a good pair of boots, waterproof jacket, an accurate set of maps, and a compass are imperative. I’m new to Harvey “Superwalker” maps, but I already like them better than the OS maps I’ve used before. I find them so much clearer. For guided navigation, and to avoid the bother of a working smartphone, we use a Garmin Oregon 600, which has served us very well on trips to Europe in the past. We’ll see how it fairs on the minor road in the Lakes.

The Whole Kit

Fujifilm

Really Right Stuff

Breakthrough Photography

Other

  1. My last trip to The Lake District with DSLR bulk on my back was the impetus for wanting to downsize in the first place. ↩︎
  2. Charlie was our first pet together, and if I may, the best little cat you could imagine. He would come when called, speak when spoken to, and often when not, and if we were sitting, it wasn’t long before Charlie was sitting with us.

    90% if the content produced for this site was with Charlie on my lap for at least some of it. I’d say “Charlie, time for work.” and he would dutifully hop on and keep me company. He was an awesome cat, and we are still very sad to lose him at only 13 years of age.

Thoughts On Lens Categories

With the latest Roadmap update, Fuji has officially categorized their lenses into 6 key categories: Ultra-fast Prime, Compact Prime, Macro, Red Badge Zoom, Zoom, and Cinema Zoom. That they have separated the primes into two categories is interesting to me, as it highlights gaps in each.

Can we expect an “Ultra-fast” 18mm in the future? The XF 18mm F/2 isn’t exactly slow, but I can’t see anyone being disappointed by say, an XF 18mm F/1 WR with better optics, a clutch manual focus ring and engraved depth of field markings.

What about a compact 14mm F/4? The XF 14mm F/2.8 is the lens I would have had the most trouble categorizing. I’m not sure I’d call it “Ultra-fast” as primes go, but then it might be just large enough to be outside of “Compact” territory despite being about equal to the XF 50mm F/2 WR in size and weight. A weather sealed option by way of an XF 14mm F/4 WR would be a great addition for fans of 21mm who are not keen on a lens as large as the XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR.

Likewise, might we see a compact ~90mm? Knocking a stop or two off the XF 90mm F/2 WR would certainly make engineering a smaller lens possible, and without all that glass to shove around, they could do away with a linear motor or two.

The “Red Badge Zoom” seems to be the only category one might call complete since Fuji have decided to categorize their exotics like the XF 200mm F/2 OIS WR under “Ultra-fast Prime.” We’ve only got 8-140mm covered at F/2.8 though. I could see another big, fast telephoto in this category’s future. I suppose one day we might see Fuji take another page out of Nikon’s playbook and release a second generations XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR with OIS built in. They better not think about moving to a 82mm filter thread though.

I’d love to see Fuji release a “Mark II” version of some lenses to address build quality consistency (loose aperture rings, anyone?) and weather sealing on old favourites like the XF 14mm F/2.8, XF 23mm F/1.4, and XF 56mm F/1.2. I’d add the XF 35mm F/1.4 to that list, but with the XF 33mm F/1 WR announced, that effectively is a Mark II in my mind.

July Announcements and Roadmap

It’s turned out to be a big week for Fuji fans. After the XF10→ fake out yesterday, Fuji dropped official announcements for two new lenses, and unveiled the latest X Mount roadmap including 3 more new lenses.

XF10

The X70 just sort of disappeared from store shelves a while back. I didn’t even know it was gone. I reviewed the X70 a couple years ago, but it failed to recapture the magic of the X100. It might have been a little bit too early to the market in some ways. Connectivity wasn’t seamless enough, and the 16MP sensor may not have been compelling enough a spec to lure smartphone shooters, X Trans or not. Fuji is hoping their new connectivity and 24.2MP sensor will turn more heads, but they’ve made some curious choices. The flip up screen is a feature I don’t think they should have omitted, but if it gets the cost down low enough, maybe that will make the difference. The XF10 weighs in at just 280g, 66.5 grams less than the X70. I expect this camera will do much better in Asian market than Western, but I’m still not expecting it to set the photography world on fire.

XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR

We’ve likely all known this was coming, but it’s nice to get some official details including estimated release date and pricing. The XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR→ will cost a nickel under $2,000 when it is released in late November. Cripes. That’s a lotta dough. As I quipped on Twitter, this thing better be absolutely stellar to justify that kind of price.

It’s also big. And heavy. 150 grams heavier than the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR,→ which is already pretty hefty. Fuji themselves call this lens “Monster Glass.” They’re not wrong, but it is still a couple hundred grams less than full frame equivalents.

Weight in grams

Add to its size and weight that it lacks OIS, and this lens sort of demands to be mounted on an X-H1, much like the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR.

Using filters with the XF 8-16mm F/2.8 WR is going to be rough. No rear insert like what Canon has. I don’t yet know if the front elements moves at all, but it would have been super cool if Fuji could have figured out a way to add a filter thread to this lens. It would have been a unique selling feature for a lens this wide.

XF 200mm F/2 OIS WR

Fuji might be aping Canon with the colour, but no matter. The XF 200mm F/2 OIS WR→ looks awesome. It’s another monster though, size weight, and price, all sky high. Should the day arrive that I want to shoot wildlife again, this is the lens I’m starting to save up for now.

Weight in grams

I love that it includes the 1.4× teleconverter,1 but the somewhat, if not totally legendary Nikon 200mm f/2 can be had with a 1.4× teleconverter for just $100 more. That lens covers full frame sensors as well.

I hope the tripod collar is a little more solid than the one than ships with the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR. Mine is prone to flex.

By the way, you see the hood? That green just screams Classic Fujifilm.

XF 33mm F/1 WR

Considering it isn’t due to hit store shelves until around 2020, it might be a bit premature for Fuji to shout “world’s first mirrorless lens with an F/1 maximum aperture,” but man, do I ever want one. Judging by the Roadmap image, it looks like it will be too large to completely supplant my XF 35mm F/2 WR, but it’s an eff one point zero. ’Nuff said.

XF 16mm F/2.8 WR

A new entry into the F2WR line of lenses that doesn’t quite make it to F/2, sadly. This lens will have to be much smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the outstanding XF 16mm F/1.4 WR for it to be a consideration. Given the previous F2WR’s, chances are good it will be all three.

XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR

This lens has “travel” written all over it. Maybe even more than the XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 WR, which has always left me unsatisfied, optically. This lens should replace the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS as the kit lens for any weather sealed bodies, but it’s been categorized it as “Red Badge,” so that could be unlikely.

It will be nice to have the choice between and extra stop or 25mm more reach, but I always have a hard time turning down light gathering.

Conclusion

Lots of cool stuff coming from Fuji over the next little while. Personally, I’m most interested in the XF 33mm F/1 R, and if my Twitter replies are any indication, most of you are as well, with the XF 16-80 F/4 OIS WR coming in a close second.

  1. Don’t let the tricky language mislead you though, when they say “supporting the lens’s maximum aperture of F/2” they don’t mean the f-stop value remains constant. They note that in the legal copy, but I still find the language misleading. ↩︎

XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS Review (Re)Posted

I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since I first tried the XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS. I had just a few hours with the lens back then, and managed to get a pretty good feel for it, however those impressions were in desperate need of being fleshed out in parts, and wholly reconsidered in others.

There’s another impressions page that needs updating. Once that’s finished I’ll be getting back to new lens reviews until my X-H1 arrives.

In the meantime, here’s a proper XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS review.

What the H?

I don’t follow rumour sites for any products. They fall squarely in the “spoiler” category for me, so I was as surprised as anyone to catch wind of an entirely new body type, with an entirely new initial, “H”. The promo videos featuring music that would lead you to believe the fate of the world hinges upon in-body stabilization have made their all-too-triumphant return.

The X-H1

It’s a curious camera. Sized and priced between the X-T2 and GFX 50s,1 it pushes the X Series quite a bit closer to DSLRs I was once familiar with from the “sub LCD monitor” to the enlarged grip.

In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

I did not see this one coming from Fuji. It’s a huge shift in strategy, and it’s just great. This is one area the Olympus guys always had us beat. Now we just need to wait until the tech makes its way down the line to the X-T, X-Pro, and maybe even X-E and little X-T. The demonstration is seriously impressive. Very similar to how Fuji demo’d the OIS lenses at Photokina a few years back.

Autofocus

It just keeps getting faster. My shooting style very rarely calls for it, but if yours does, and you didn’t jump on the X-T2, this could very well be your camera, provided you’re ok with the size and weight compromises.

Body Material, Size, and Weight

With a magnesium body that’s 25% thicker than the X-T2 or X-Pro2, this thing is sure to be heavier. That will mean better balancing with Fuji’s heftier lenses, but I think we have left the “compact” camera realm far, far behind with this camera. Considering the size of my X-T2 with the grip and L-plate attached, DSLR owners are going to look at the X-H1 and see very little, if any size and weight disadvantage to their current kit. As a point of comparison, a Nikon D7500 weighs in at 640g for the body only, just 17g more than the X-H1. A Canon 80D is another 10 grams more.

Weight in grams, body only.

Where the advantage could still lie is in multi-camera ownership. As it stands now, my X-Pro2 is used for my everyday shooting, while the relatively hulking gripped and plated X-T2 is for planned photography outings. So with one set of lenses, I can still get pretty compact, and for dedicated shooting, I likely wouldn’t mind the size increase of moving to an X-H1 from the X-T2.

“sub” LCD monitor

I used to use this feature on my DSLR all the time. I’ve needed it much less with all the dials available on many of Fuji’s cameras, but it would still come in very handy for confirming my aperture on lenses with unmarked rings,2 as well as a bunch of other settings without having to look through the viewfinder after pressing the “Q” button while passersby wonder why I’m photographing the sidewalk. And it even works when the camera is off.

We do lose the Exposure Compensation Dial because of this little monitor in favour of a somewhat strangely-placed button, but at least the information aspect is not lost.

Feather-Touch Shutter Release

And we’re back to the threadless shutter release. Hopefully Fuji’s new “Feather-touch” technology will make it so that I don’t feel like I need to email Tim at Match Technical for a soft shutter release.

Shutter Shock Absorption Mechanism

Fuji’s cameras were already pretty quiet, but apparently the X-H1 will be even quieter.

New Film Simulation Mode, ETERNA

This one’s geared at video, but I could see JPEG shooters using it as a base for creative post processing. Of course many people will that’s what RAFs are for, but for the iOS photographer, it could be a good option.

Video

I don’t do a lot of video, but I’ve come dangerously close to diving into it. The X-H1 adds a ton, DCI 4K, F-log, separate video settings, but I think there’s one feature Fuji is still missing.

Touch-Enabled Rear Monitor

Fuji cites this display as being vlogger friendly, and the capacitive touchability will certainly help, but without a flip-out screen, little-known vloggers like this guy probably won’t switch to Fuji anytime soon.

1.6× Brighter EVF with 3.69-million dots

It’s a little smaller than the X-T2, but brighter, and I would happily trade 0.02× magnification for 1.33 million dots. Otherwise, the EVF specs out the same as the X-T2 except for one other thing.

If I had known the X-H1 was coming, I probably would have held off on my X-T2, which hasn’t been used in the last year nearly as much as I would like. Since I already have an X-T2, and I don’t need the expanded video capabilities, I will probably stick with what I have. If I wanted to go larger, I’d go all the way and buy a GFX if they ever get the price down to more reasonable levels.

That could very well change once I have one in my hands.

  1. Although decidedly closer to the X-T2 on the pricing spectrum. ↩︎
  2. Here’s glaring at you, XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS ಠ ↩︎

Fuji Filter Thread Sizes; 2018 Update

Of course the XF 50mm F/2 WR has a 46mm filter thread. Why would it be 43mm to match the other two F2/WR lenses?

My Filter Thread Size piece has been updated to include the XF 50mm F/2 WR and XF 80mm F/2.8 Macro WR OIS. The former adds yet another filter thread size for a total of 10. The latter slots in with 62mm, extending that diameter’s lead. You win some you lose some, I guess.

I’m giving Fuji the gears a bit up there, but it should be noted it certainly appears as though they start out trying to make their lens filter threads consistent. Their first two primes, the XF 18mm F/2 and XF 35mm F/1.4 were both 52mm. The first two F2/WR lenses? 43mm. And there’s an embarrassment of riches in the 62mm thread size. A for effort.

I’ve revised the entire strategy section of the piece, not just to include the new lenses, but also the availability of new filter sizes from Breakthrough Photography,→ my filter manufacturer of choice.