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.

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 ↩︎

September Announcements

Now that Fuji seems to be getting themselves back in gear, I figure it’s a good time for me to do the same.

X-E3

I’m a little surprised to see some write-ups about this camera hardly mention the lack of a D-pad. That said, I can understand the decision, and it’s interesting to see how Fuji has decided to rework the X-E series of cameras within their lineup. The X-E2S had almost nothing unique about it outside of being rangefinder-style. Fuji is constantly struggling with how to compete against the smartphone on their lower end. They will never beat the smartphone, but making their cameras work with smartphones as seamlessly as possible is nothing but the right move.

The Bluetooth connectivity is something I’m eager to try, and is a feature I think could single-handedly make the X-E3 one of Fuji’s best-selling cameras for photographers who want instant access to their Instagram accounts with their photos.

XF80mm F/2.8 LM OIS WR Macro

This is a lens that many had hoped would be released this time last year, and with a longer focal length. My understanding is the size was getting out of control, and if I had to guess, it became what we now know as the GF 120mm F4 OIS WR Macro.

With weather sealing, f/2.8 aperture, proper 1:1 macro, and a linear motor (just one based on Fuji’s marketing materials) for faster AF, only the budget and/or size and weight-minded will consider the XF 60mm F2.4 Macro anymore, and unless the AF speed of the XF 90mm F2 WR is significantly quicker, or you really need that extra stop of light gathering/bokeh vs. OIS, the XF 90mm F2 WR could find itself getting dusty in inventory.

XF8-16mm F/2.8 WR

Yours truly called the focal length back at the last roadmap update. I’m pleasantly surprised to see the f/2.8 aperture. I’m also pleased to see Fuji say it is most suited for architecture. This suggests to me that distortion will be kept to a minimum. If that is the case, the XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS will be off my lens consideration list faster than you can say “WR”.

GFX Stuff

I have to admit that after my initial buzz around Fuji’s new format faded, my interest in it did as well. The GFX has simply proved to be much too costly for me to really get into. Perhaps once I can get my hands on a review unit again I will add more GFX content, but for the time being, X Series is where my money, interest, and review effort is going. I’d be very interested to know how my readers feel about that.

Medium Format Telephoto

I’d be interested to know how many medium format shooters are pining for telephoto capabilities. And not just telephoto, but teleconverted telephoto. Time will tell I suppose.

FUJIFILM X RAW STUDIO

In addition to the new gear announcements, Fuji also announced some software as well. When I saw “Fujifilm X RAW Studio,” my interested was piqued. X Processor Pro on my iMac? Sweet! Then I saw a camera needs to be connected to the computer. I suppose this could come in handy for RAF shooters who want to batch process, but is this software going to change any Lightroom or Capture One users’ habits? Heck no.

I continue to hope and dream for the day Fuji gives us real Fuji processing on our computational devices.

Firmware

And finally, all of Fuji’s current cameras will see a firmware update. Key features include enhanced AF tracking algorithms for the X-Pro2 and X-T2, 4K video support for the X-Pro2—something Fuji once claimed wasn’t possible due to heat tolerances—and the ability to backup and restore camera settings.

I am by far most excited about that last one. I switch cameras so often I often don’t bother adjusting settings far from their defaults, but being able to restore them will definitely encourage some customization. I’m very curious to see how they handle the transfer of settings from different models of camera, particularly where a function is bound to a specific button.

Forthcoming Firmware Updates

Earlier today Fujifilm announced two huge firmware updates are on the way for both the X-T2 and X-Pro2. The first one, due out at the end of March, includes 27 updates, seven being X-T2 exclusives, one that catches the X-T2 up with the X-Pro2, and three to bring the X-Pro2 a little closer to the X-T2 today.

March, 2017 Update Favourites

Here’s a breakdown of my favourites with some commentary:

  1. More RAFs with bracketing: I really like Film Simulation bracketing, but it’s a huge bummer it currently excludes RAF recording. Like the GFX, we will soon be able to have JPEG + RAF support for all the bracketing modes. Good stuff.
  2. Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes: No more thumb cramps from holding down the plunger on your cable release!1
  3. ON/OFF for ⅓ shutter speed adjustment: One of my beefs with the X-T2 compared to the X-T1 will be getting addressed. When I set my dial to max sync speed, I don’t want anything to change that except for the dial. This setting that is already available on the X-Pro2 will put a stop to that.
  4. “AUTO” setting added for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting: Depending on how aggressively the camera chooses shutter speeds, and if OIS is taken into account, this could be fantastic for Auto ISO shooters.
  5. Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode: This is something I noted in my review of the X-T2 as needing improvement.
  6. Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF: With a possible 325 AF points to choose from, having a smaller Focus Point in the UI is welcome. That it allows even more precise focus? Gravy.
  7. Addition of “AF Point Display when tracking a subject”: Already available on the X-T2, this is the first steps bringing the X-Pro2 closer in line with the X-T2 for continuous autofocus.
  8. AF-C Custom Settings for X-Pro2: And here’s the second, considerably larger step. Given how the X-Pro2’s strategy has been marketed by Fuji, it wouldn’t have surprised me of this never happened, but it’s fantastic that the X-Pro2 will soon be on par with the X-T2 in AF-C goodness. It will make having the X-Pro2 as a second body in continuous AF settings that much more viable.
  9. Portrait/Landscape AF Mode Switching: Want to be in Zone AF mode in landscape and single point AF in portrait with the AF point in different places? You’ll soon be able to, on the X-T2 anyhow.
  10. Change of focus frame position while enlarging it: Not a favourite, but I have no idea what the one actually means. I’m sure it’s great though.
  11. Constant “Dual display mode”: It’s weird that the small window disappearing when the shutter is pressed. It’s also weird the histogram disappears. I hope that’s included.
  12. Vertical LCD UI: Big thumbs up! I’ve been wondering about and waiting for this since the X-T1 was still in pre-release! Thumbs down that it’s X-T2 only though. X-Pro2 owners compose in portrait through the LCD.
  13. Name Custom Settings: This, and the fact I can’t back them up/transfer them from camera to camera are the two main reasons I haven’t saved a custom setting in a couple years. I’m the edgiest of edge cases in how I use cameras though. For normal people who have a camera or two, this is awesome.
  14. Copyright info in EXIF Data: Does this make Fuji cameras ready for pro use? I mean, they definitely haven’t been up until now.
  15. Extended AE Bracketing: This feature really ought to be higher on the list. We’re going from 3 frames ±2EV to 9 frames ±3EV. If you can’t capture the full dynamic range of your scene in that, you’re doing it wrong.

Video updates for the X-T2 only:

Eye Sensor, re-autofocusing, and live histogram during recording, and external mic input level optimizations. Fuji are showing their commitment to making the X-T2 a viable options for recording video. What I’d like is for them to add higher frame rates if possible.

May, 2017 Update

As if that weren’t enough, a second smaller update is due out in a couple month’s time. Again, here’s a selection of the updates with some commentary:

  1. “All” AF Mode: This will be pretty swank. Change your AF Mode with one Command Dial, and the AF point or Zone size with the other. I hope they let us choose which dial does what.
  2. Extra Dim EVF: X-T2 only (forgivable given the display tech is different), the EVF will have two more dimmer settings for extra low light shooting.
  3. Another Function Button: The Rear Command Dial can be changed from Focus Check, which doesn’t even work when Zone AF is selected, to another function.

Wow

I’m sure Fuji did their best to get all this stuff rolled out in one update, but man, these are two solid updates for two already really solid cameras. Looking forward to these ones.

  1. Yes, I know most have locks and releases. ↩︎

X-T2 vs. X-T1

My in depth X-T2 vs. X-T1 comparison has been posted, including lots about each camera’s grips.

A Possible Break From Bodies

Despite still having a few new bodies to review and compare, I’m planning to take a bit of a break from bodies to focus on lenses. A possible exception is the GFX if I happen to receive a test unit with limits on my time with it.

Fujifilm X Series Firmware Requests Ver.03.2017

I have a bit of an affinity for Fuji cameras. I don’t think I could have chosen a better system to switch to. Nothing is perfect though, and there are a few items on the firmware level I’d really like to see tweaked, adjusted, or have options provided for.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are probably a couple things that have slipped my memory even with this batch, but these are the ones that came to mind in my recent X-T2 testing and comparing.

The Q Menu Is (Partially) Backwards

I’ve been using Fuji cameras since the days when finding an X100S in stock was miraculous. Over half a dozen cameras later, I still struggle with Q Menu selection. For me, the way some1 of the items cycle during selection is just plain backwards.

We typically make selections of things from left (-) to right (+).2 Sliders in our digital lives and “IRL” slide right (or up) to increase. In the Q Menu, settings like Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Colour, Sharpness, and Noise Reduction are reversed. Turning a dial left (as you are looking at the camera) results in a positive amount or increase, and right, a negative amount or decrease.

It could be argued that you are spinning the dial in a clockwise rotation as you look at the top of the camera to increase which makes sense for things like volume knobs, but I intuitively want to flick my thumb from left to right to input an increase.

It could also be argued for Highlight and Shadow Tone that you are adding or increasing detail in those areas by turning the dial right, but it strikes me as more intuitive to add contrast as you would add saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction. And no, I don’t think the notion of adding noise is acceptable. We are adjusting the degree in which the noise reduction algorithms are affecting our images.

The real kicker is the Custom Settings banks and Dynamic Range in the Q Menu count up as the dial is turned right. Even Film Simulation Mode selection cycles in from the default PROVIA through the other simulations in the order Fuji presents them by turning the dial right.

This is a source of daily frustration for me. It’s like reversing the direction of handles on a faucet. I actually find myself avoiding the Q Menu in favour of honing my Function button setup. I think if I had a single usability request of Fuji, it would be to optionally reverse how these Q Menu items are selected. It will be difficult though as the inconsistency means it’s not a global setting.

Front Dial For Q Menu Selection

While we’re on the Q Menu, it drives me a little bonkers that we could use the front dial for Q Menu selection on the X-T1, but can’t on the X-Pro2 or X-T2. I assume this is because the front dial is used to adjust exposure compensation beyond ±3EV, but I can’t see how those two would conflict with one another. It’s a step backwards I’m still hoping gets addressed.

Command Dial Menu Access

This is one area that has improved immensely, but there’s one thing missing. As I recently tweeted, the rear command dial functions as OK when in menus, but the front dial does not function as BACK,3 forcing my thumb to travel all the way down to the actual BACK button. This isn’t a huge deal—you can also exit the menu with a quick tap of the shutter release—but it would save having to cycle through each of the tabs in “I.Q.” and “AF/MF,” as well as avoid lighting up the AF Illuminator if you have it on.

Press and Hold Functions

On my Nikons, I could set the front Function button to switch the camera to spot metering when held. This made a huge difference in quickly adjusting my exposure to a specific part of my frame. Having dedicated Exposure Compensation dials is great, but not as fast as pressing a button your finger is always poised over.

Flash Sync Shutter Speed Changes

On the X-T1, if you set your X-T1’s shutter speed to 180×, the camera’s max flash sync speed, turning Command Dials will not change your shutter speed. From a UX perspective, this is how it should be, at least by default.

On the X-T2, this is not the case. I recently lost a pretty big chunk of testing work because I accidentally turned the rear (default) dial which resulted in the shutter speed on my X-T2 being changed to 1/320 of a second, leaving a dark gradient across the bottom of my images. The X-T1 has this right, and Fuji should really fix this or add an option to disable shutter speed changes via the Command Dials. I personally never use them.

Rotating LCD UI

After the X-T1 was released, I was sure it wouldn’t be long before a firmware upgrade would make add the same UI rotation seen in the EVF to the LCD. A bunch of cameras and even more firmware upgrades later, the LCD’s UI stays fixed in landscape.

What’s Your Burning Feature Request?

Send it in, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

  1. And not all, which is actually worse. ↩︎
  2. I’m speaking for Westerners here, and am not accounting for cultural differences, if any. ↩︎
  3. It, in fact, does nothing. ↩︎

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