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.

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.

Fuji XF 35mm F/2 WR Review Posted

Barely made it in before the end of the year.

The XF 35mm F/2 WR is a weird lens to review for me. In some ways it is inferior to the XF 35mm F/1.4 (you can read lots more about that in my comparison here), but nevertheless, it’s still the lens I prefer to have mounted on my camera the majority of the time. Typically I would have some kind internal struggle in situations like this. “This lens has better optics and a larger aperture, but it could rain so…”. In the case of the XF 35mm F/2 WR, I just mount it and go with hardly a second thought.

It’s nice to have two options at 50mm equivalence to recommend. Here’s the review.

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.