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, or stick to a body-only 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 potential 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.

When I last took in these dramatic landscapes, I went wide with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. 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’m wondering if I’ll 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 58mm filters and smaller, 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 roads 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 more often then not, if we were sitting, 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.

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-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

Mirrorless vs. DSLR

If there’s one regret I have about selling my DSLR gear, it’s that I don’t have it to use for comparisons. Luckily, there are plenty of other photographers who still have DSLRs kicking around.

Ivan Joshua Loh is just such a photographer. He ran a quick comparison between the X-Pro2 and 5D Mark III:

I was expecting a slight difference with the advantage toward 5D3. And I was absolutely wrong. With the advancement of technology; not only did X-Pro2 is on par with 5D3, personally I think it maybe a tad ahead in this pack.

The X-Pro2/XF 16mm f/1.4 combo looks sharper to my eye as well.

Ivan’s post has lots more valuable insight from weight to total cost of ownership, to this fascinating little tidbit:

Talking about cool; do you know that the shutter and ISO dial on the X-Pro2 is made up of 38 parts? Just on this dial alone.

Great read.

BJP’s Best of CES 2016

Fuji received a couple well-deserved nods from the British Journal of Photography in their best of CES 2016. As you might expect, the camera highlighted is the X-Pro2. If you missed BJP’s excellent interview with Fuji’s senior product manager for X-series, Takashi Ueno, it’s well worth reading.

It was 9 years ago when Nikon unveiled their D3 and D300. Who’d have guessed that Fuji would be mentioned alongside the follow up to those cameras? BJP hit the nail on the head with the title of their interview, “Fuji’s Second Coming.”

Hits, 50/50, and a Miss

Great read from The Strobist himself, David Hobby. First a hit:

Focus point joystick. LOVE this. Thank you. [ … ] This is something the engineers came up with absent our input. So sweet.

Bang on. And kudos to Fuji’s engineers. This is one my my two top features of the X-Pro2. Next, a 50/50:

Battery. [ … ] Here's the dilemma: Faster, more power-hungry processor. Do you give it a bigger gas tank, or go you continue to allow the battery continuity across Fuji's ILC line that so many of us appreciate.

I’d file this under “Miss,” personally. I grumbled in my review about Fuji going with the same battery as their previous cameras. I still think it was the wrong move. Sure, there’s convenience in having the same battery across multiple cameras, but I think we are quickly going to see a lot of people using their other cameras much less once they get their X-Pro2’s, or going with dual X-Pro2 kits and doing away with the other cameras entirely. Additionally, the camera most likely to be added to an interchageable X-Series is surely the X100, which requires a separate battery and charger anyhow. Now was the time to move to a higher capacity battery. Too bad. Not much to do about it now aside from be thankful whatever extra batteries we’ve purchased will still work.

A Miss:

Eye Relief. And to clarify, this is a miss for me, personally.

Not just you, David. I’ve received a fair number of emails on eye point and have started including it as part of my comparisons. This is one area the X-T1 outshines Fuji’s new flagship.

Head over the Strobist for the full article. It’s great insight in the development of the X-Pro2.

X70 Pricing, X-Pro2 Ship Date

For any of my American readers who were on the fence about preordering an X70, it seems to have dropped $100 from its original price of $799 to $699. I’m not sure if it’s a temporary thing, are a price adjustment as of yet.

That’s the good news. The bad news is shipping dates are either slipping, or demand for the X-Pro2 is outpacing supply, as both Amazon and B&H Photo are showing a ship date of February 25 for the X-Pro2 instead of the original February 4. Bummer. The X70 looks to have also been pushed back, but not quite as much to February 15, according to Amazon.

For my Canadian readers, our plummeting dollar might be making you sad, but you can dry your tears when it comes to X-Pro2 pricing. At just $1,899, our price is pretty awesome compared to the American MSRP after conversion.1 You can stick it to the dollar even more by preordering from the folks at Aden before February 4th and get $150 knocked off the price of an XF 35mm f/2 WR, which was pretty much made for the X-Pro2.

  1. $1,699 USD = >$2,400 CAD, or, put another way, $1,899 CAD = just over $1,300 USD. Folks close to the border might be asking themselves if $400 is worth a warranty in the country of residence. ↩︎