Recommended Kits, Early 2017

My Early 2017 Recommended Kits have been posted.

Last year’s kit recommendations were awkwardly straddling two generations of sensors and processors. This year, just about the entire X-Series has caught up and is now on equal image quality footing.

A Note About Formats

What could be more awkward for kit recommendations than bodies with different sensors? A whole new format and system, natch, and that’s exactly what Fuji’s gone and done.

While I will be sure to compare the GFX with the X-Trans III sensor, it’s really not appropriate to consider medium format when building out an APS-C kit. Plus, those who need medium format know that they’re getting it already. So, apart from casual mention and perhaps an exclusive category or two, this kit building piece will focus mostly on X-Series.

A Note About Lenses

The breakneck pace at which Fuji has been releasing lenses seems to have finally levelled off a bit, but I still have a lot of catching up to do on my testing and review. Thus, a couple lenses are recommended based on preliminary testing, and have been noted as such. This page will likely see an update in the second half of this year.

My Kit

For the TL;DR folks out there, here is what I choose if I could only have a selection of 3 lenses:

DSCF8943.jpg

CP+ 2017 – Fujifilm Interview, DPReview

Nice interview with Fujifilm executives over at DPReview.

On GFX and Phase Detection:

… are the lenses designed to support this in the future?

Yes, definitely.

And on X-Trans:

How big is the extra processing requirement for X-Trans compared to bayer?

X-Trans is a 6x6 filter arrangement, not 4x4, it’s something like a 20-30% increase in processing requirement.

Lens Roadmap and GFX Delay

Good News

Fuji has updated their lens roadmap to include four news lenses. The first two are X Mount versions of their MK Series of Cinema lenses, specifically tailored to 4K video capture.

The MK 18-55mm T2.9 X Mount is due in March, with the MK 50-135mm T2.9 X Mount listed as still in production, but estimate for June according to the roadmap.

Still shooters will get some love in 2018 when a new ultra-wide zoom is due in January, and a telephoto prime in late September, early October.

These lenses will presumably fill two holes in Fuji’s lineup. I started groaning about the lack of weather sealing in the XF 10-24mm F4 two years ago. I would expect this new lens pretty much has to be WR, and I would wager somewhere in the neighbourhood of 8-16mm to compete with full frame DSLR offerings. I also expect it to be larger than the XF 10-24mm F4. I’m guessing XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR or so.

After I got back from my first Safari trip, I had a big desire for a telephoto prime. Judging by the icon on the roadmap, that thing is going to have one substantial front element. Maybe like Nikon’s 200mm f/2? Looking forward to that one, and nice to see Fuji stepping further into exotic territory.

Bad News

The GFX is seeing some delays in production thanks to “high interest.” We will be waiting until at least the end of March before manufacturing catches up with demand.

“The reason I didn’t get the X-T2”

Patrick LaRoque on the GFX:

The GFX is the reason I didn't get the X-T2 because for me THIS will become the workhorse camera, replacing how I had used the X-T1 for its battery grip, tilting screen, tethering etc in situations that needed it.

I did get an X-T2, but this thought was (is) definitely floating around in my mind. I’m trying to figure out a way to get a GFX 50s with the GF 32-64mm F4 LM WR as a starting point. $9K though. Cheap for medium format, but a serious stretch from an X-T2 with XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR, for instance, at $2,900 with the grip.

X-T2 Review

I’m more than a little late to the new Fujifilm body review scene this time around, thanks to being MIA during the early access window. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I missed out on the early rush of excitement, not to mention site traffic. I’ve also felt like I’ve been letting my readers down, especially those who have written in to ask where the heck my review was. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed taking a (much) less rushed approach. The lack of any deadline doesn’t help me get things done quickly.

The fact of the matter is, my house move and all this computer nonsense has had a huge impact on my ability to write, and earthquakes in Japan have had an effect on Fuji’s ability to get product over here. I have my hands on a bunch of X-T2s now though, and my review has (finally) been published with a big added bonus at the end.

The Versus comparisons you’re no doubt expecting are next in the queue and should be up in a much more timely fashion.

X-T2 + Bonus Review

An Update On Computational Devices

It had been 38 days since Backblaze had seen my local hard drive to backup, but I’m very pleased to say an inherited backup state is being pushed to their servers as I write this.

After returning the 15 inch MacBook Pro, I had myself a bit of a computer crisis. I had little desire to wait another 4-6 weeks1 for a replacement machine with the risk of receiving another wobbly button, so my strategy was to buy a smaller, less expensive stock configuration from the Apple Store that I could exchange easily if necessary, hoping I could get a perfect one.2 A 13 inch MBP would tide me over until new desktops that are rumoured to be announced this Spring, at which point I would get a machine with some serious guts.

I bought a stock configuration entry level 13 inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar. The Power/Touch ID button was better, but still not great. I went back to the Apple Store the next day, exchanged it, opened that unit in the store, and got a wobbly button that was even worse.

The Apple employee suggested it was in my head–it’s not—and even tried to convince me to just keep it—I didn’t. Additional exchanges would have required manager review since officially, Apple considers play in that button to be normal,3 and I didn’t want to be the guy who goes through inventory looking for what seems to be a unicorn unit, so I decided to just return it and further explore other options.

Windows

As readers of my previous MacBook post know, for the first time ever in life, a Windows-based machine was a consideration.

I tried a Razer Blade Stealth→ a bunch at the Microsoft Store, the only place in Canada to try them, and aside from the imprecise trackpad that I intended to work around with a Razer mouse, ironically, it seemed alright. Microsoft offers a return policy twice as long as Apple’s, and this Windows thing was something I just needed to get out of my head.

Shortly after I returned the 13 inch MBP, I placed an order for a Razer Blade Stealth 4K UHD Touchscreen with Kaby4 Lake processors, 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM with 1-3 day express shipping. The storage is slow, but replaceable, the screen is small with monstrous bezels, but its touchable and crazy, like, actually crazy, high resolution. Maybe I’d buy myself one of those Razer Cores and a GTX 1080 graphics card, join the “PC Master Race,” and, wait, what the hell was I thinking?

Before the Razer even arrived, I knew this PC thing wasn’t going to work out. This isn’t to suggest that Windows is bad, I’m just so heavily invested in Apple that switching to another platform would be a huge time-suck. Without even opening it, I took the Razer Blade Stealth to the Microsoft Store for a refund. I have to say, the entire experience outside of them missing their shipping date by a day due to weather in the U.S. was exemplary.

So what do I do? Settle for a 13 inch MBP without the TouchBar or any possibility of a wobbly button? I came close to doing that, but I was already struggling on my old 15 inch MBP with its 8GB of RAM. That GFX isn’t going to go easy on memory either, not to mention those 51.4 megapixels all but demanding a large display for viewing. No, it turns out a 13 inch laptop was never the way to go. And what if Apple hasn’t gotten their desktop shit together by Spring? A 13 inch laptop from now until November would not be pleasant for the kind of work I do.

iMac

It’s been a relatively long time since iMacs have been updated. They will probably get updated in a month or two, so I wasn’t feeling great about buying one, but I needed something right away.

iMac Upgrade?

The other thing is the luke warm reviews of Intel’s Kaby Lake desktop processors that will almost certainly be going in new iMacs. By virtually all accounts, the performance increase is minimal.

What I would get is faster M.2 storage like they have in the new MacBooks, but appears to only affect large sequential reads/writes, a 2TB storage option, up from the 1TB max they currently have, and USB-C possibly joined by all the dongles I needed for the MacBooks if they elect not to include “legacy” ports.

Apple also seems to be very interested in bumping up the average selling price of their products these days, so if the MacBooks are anything to go by, a similarly spec’d 2017 iMac is sure to cost more than 2015 units.

Refurbished To The Rescue

Apple probably has the best “refurbished” reputation in any business. It’s not fire-sale pricing, but you can save a fair bit. I ended up ordering a maxed out 27 inch 2015 iMac:

  • 4.0 GHz Quad-core Skylake Processor
  • 32GB RAM
  • 1TB Flash Storage
  • AMD Radeon R9 M395X

I added a Magic Trackpad 2, which I love, and so far I couldn’t be happier with the decision. This display is phenomenal, I can have four USB-A items connected to it while being hard wired to the internet with two Thunderbolt 2 ports and an SD card at the ready. Yes, I could have tried to buy a unit without Apple RAM and saved some money by going third party, but since I was already saving $600+ and these units come with full AppleCare available, I decided to keep things simple. Now, if anything goes wrong, it can only go straight to Apple.

I’ll probably be a little gutted if new iMacs are announced in a month or so, but I have a feeling once I check the pricing on those new units, I’ll go back to feeling alright. I really only wish I had the sense to do this sooner.

Finally, Back Up To Speed

Work on this site hasn’t stopped since December—I’ve made lots of progress on my X-T2 Review, done a Pre-Review of the GFX, updated my XF 14mm F2.8 Review, added an XF 18mm F2 Review, and I plan to get more lens reviews up soon—but now I can really kick things back into high gear, which is nice. And with a 5K display on hand, I’m ready for those GFX files.

  1. The Radeon Pro 460 was causing the most delays for Apple. That seems to have be rectified. ↩︎
  2. I need to stress (again) that my criteria is based solely on what Apple has available in their own stores. Some Power/Touch ID buttons on floor models have some play to them, but others are rock solid. If it weren’t for that last part, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. ↩︎
  3. Again, despite them having shim kits for this very button, but no matter. ↩︎
  4. It’s pronounced “cay-be” folks, not “cabbie.” Rhymes with “baby.” If Intel says otherwise, they spelled it wrong. ↩︎