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 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

See you in a couple weeks.

  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. ↩︎

Deal: Big X-Series Lens Sale

If you haven’t already heard, Fuji has another big sale happening on just about all their lenses. A couple standouts are the XF 14mm f/2.8 for $499 (save $400), and the XF 16mm f/1.4 WR for $699 (save $300).

On the long end, you can get an XF 1.4 Teleconverter for $100 if you pair it with either the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 or XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

And of course, B&H has all the same deals as well. Get ’em while the gettin’s good.

Prepping for South Africa, Part 2

The response to my Prepping for South Africa post has been incredible. No other blog post on Fuji vs. Fuji has generated so much thoughtful feedback so quickly. I really appreciate it all, and as I catch up on my email, I am seriously rethinking my gear selection yet again. Here’s the latest.

XF 100-400mm

Well, readers are decidedly in favour of me bringing the XF 100-400mm. Tweets, Facebook Messages and emails all say bring it. This prompted me to do a bit of my own reading about the lens, which lead me to this fantastic piece by Daniel J. Cox about mirrorless telephoto zooms. Fuji has an awfully impressive showing.

I certainly won’t mind the chance to do a little testing of my own with a lens like this, but I want to do what’s best for the trip, first and foremost. So, the current plan is to see how things fit once my Airport Essentials arrives. That should help determine just how many zoom lenses I’m going to bring.

XF 50-140mm

Now of course I’m asking myself if I really need the XF 50-140mm f/2.8. In some ways, it could be indispensable. The faster aperture might do wonders during dawn and dusk game park drives. But it’s another big telephoto lens with at least some overlap (depending on which teleconverters I have mounted) to haul around.

It could also necessitate yet another body thanks to…

The Wide Angle

Given how close we could get, there’s no way I can go on a game drive with 50mm being my widest focal length.

Readers also reaffirmed what my research indicates, dust will be a real problem when driving along the dirt roads in the game park, so lens changes are almost certainly going to be impossible. That got me thinking about a lens I don’t think about very often, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8.

One of my big summer comparisons is going to be this lens pitted against primes in its range, but it might just be the perfect companion to one of, if not both of the big zooms. Standard focal range, weather and dust resistant, 77mm filter thread. Suddenly a lens I wasn’t even looking at before is in the running. This trip could be an all red badge affair.

Minimal or Maximal

In truth, when I bought the XF 16-55mm f/2.8, it was with the intention of using it almost exclusively as a travel lens. Visions of trudging through the rainy lakes, dales, and moors of England came to mind. My sole reason for not considering it at first was my desire to travel with as little gear as possible. I wanted to minimize.

I’m now in danger of bringing way more gear than I was hoping. Here are some contending options:

Original Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR*, XF 35mm f/2 WR, XF 50-140mm f/2.8*

Minimal Zoom Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8*, XF 100-400mm*

I would have a really hard time leaving the XF 35mm f/2 WR behind, and probably won’t, but it’s covered by the XF 16-55mm f/2.8.

Maximal Zoom or “All The Things” Kit

Bodies: X-Pro2, X-T1, another X-T1 or X70/X100T
Lenses: XF 16mm f/1.4 WR, XF 16-55mm f/2.8*, XF 35mm f/2 WR XF 50-140mm f/2.8* XF 100-400mm*

*Denotes gear I’ll bring on the game drives.

Ugh. I really don’t want to have to do this, but if I had both the telephotos along, I feel I would almost have to bring a third body of some kind along to cover the wide end.

Going X70 has the added benefit of my wife having an “adorable little Fuji” at her disposal, but there could be a risk of dust contamination during the game drives, and it means another set of charger/batteries to bring.

Going with a third interchangeable body means I have to actually get a third, weather sealed body. That presents its own set of issues (WAF, space in the bag, batteries, WAF, etc.)

Thanks!

Thanks again so much to everyone who wrote, tweeted and messaged me their feedback. It’s been immensely helpful, and I’ll be sure to post more as I continue to sort this out. I’m hyper aware that this is an awesome problem to have, but the struggle is real, and it continues. More to come.

Fujifilm XF 2X Teleconverter Announced

Well isn’t this fortunate. Fuji has officially announced their XF 2X Teleconverter.

From Fuji:

The “FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR” is a high-performance teleconverter capable of multiplying the focal length of mounted lenses by two.

This gives the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 and effective focal length of 100-280mm f/5.6, or 152 to 427mm in 35mm equivalence, and the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 reaches all the way out to 200-800mm f/9-11, which is 305 to 1,219mm in 35mm.

That quite a bit of a slow down in aperture, but over 1,200mm of reach is going to be tough to resist.

No Phase Detection

Also worth noting, we lose Phase Detection on the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 altogether with the XF 2X TC attached thanks to the reduction in aperture. That could pose a bit of a problem for things like early morning game park drives or bird photography outings when higher ISOs are already common. It will be interesting to see how this lens performs with the TCs attached.

Size and Weight

That extra reach also means extra size and weight with the new 2x weighing in at 170g, or 40g more than the 1.4x and measures twice as long at 30.2mm. I’ll be getting close to maxing out the height of my bag already, so be mindful of your max carry size before you place any preorders.

Edit: Jonas Rask already has one of his typically epic reviews up for the XF2X TC. Man, that guy is on fire these days.

Rob Zeigler: XF 50-140mm f/2.8 Review

Nice review of the XF 50-140mm→ from Rob Zeigler, complete with current-movie-release themed product photography, and a wide array of sample photos:

This lighting reminds me of a certain  big-screen villain.

This lighting reminds me of a certain big-screen villain.

This is one area where the 50-140mm f/2.8 kind of fell flat for me. 140mm just doesn’t seem like that much reach, but that might be because I have the 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7.

It’s interesting how different histories can colour one’s perception. Before moving to Fuji, I’d never owned a lens that reached beyond 85mm in 35mm equivalence. The 50-140mm felt like peering through the Hubble space telescope at 140mm for me. That new Super Zoom is going to be like seeing through time.

Rob’s conclusion largely echoes my own with regards to this lens, it’s a workhorse, built for pros. It’s become my “go-to” for virtually all my work-related photography, but I almost never use it casually. Having said that, I will be venturing out with a friend for some winter bird photography for the first time and this lens along with the XF 1.4X Teleconverter→ will definitely be glued to my X-T1.

Bottom line, you already know if you need it.

The New Zooms

For those who haven’t yet noticed, detailed handling comparisons of what I’ve called “Standard Zooms” and “Telephoto Zooms” are online. I have a good start on comparison images as well, but it’s been difficult with the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Canada recently. Comparison crops are in the works though, and will be posted as soon as possible. In the meantime, check out my impressions of these new lenses and how they compare as far as handling and build quality is concerned.

The Red XF Badge

In starting a comparison including the new 50-140mm, I was struggling with how to categorize Fuji’s lenses. My initial thought was to describe the 50-140mm f/2.8 as “Pro” with all other lenses being “Consumer.” The trouble with that of course is Fuji already have a second consumer-focused set of lenses that carry the XC moniker.

Perhaps Fuji has already found a way of differentiating between these two levels of quality within their XF series of lenses though. The red badge.

Fuji’s red XF Zoom badge

Fuji’s red XF Zoom badge

I noticed this badge immediately when I first saw the 50-140mm f/2.8 at Photokina. I wasn’t crazy about it when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me.1

Just two lenses carry this badge officially to date, the 16-55mm f/2.8, and the 50-140mm f/2.8, which are the two lenses unofficially referred to as “pro zooms.” These lenses also happen to be the only two lenses in the lineup that come with the new Nano GI coating so the red badge might be the signifier of this coating’s presence,2 but it could just as well be their version of the gold band found on Nikon’s pro glass or the red band found on Canon’s L lenses. It’s clearly not indicative of weather sealing since the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 has the standard black XF badge.

Looking back at my my images from Photokina, it appears as though the XF zoom badge was deliberately left off of the the new Super Tele-Photo Zoom 140-400mm f/4-5.6. This would suggest that Fuji do have an idea of what the red badge stands for, and that they hadn’t yet commited to adding the stamp to the new Super Tele Zoom. Or maybe it just fell off. It is a prototype after all.

No XF Zoom badge? What does it mean???

No XF Zoom badge? What does it mean???

It’s interesting that Fuji have created a new tier of zoom lenses with these latest releases—I’d bet the farm that this isn’t a revised design language for all lenses going forward, and I suspect they won’t dish out the red badge often—but it’s odd that there doesn’t seem to be an official word on what the red badge stands for.

  1. I do wish that Fuji went with red for all their functional accent colours as they have on the black X100’s rather than the orange used on their interchangeable bodies.
  2. Much like Nikon’s “N” for “Nano Crystal Coating.”

Fuji X series portrait lenses compared

Damien Lovegrove over at Prophotonut has posted a great comparison of Fuji’s portrait lenses.

This is not laboratory science, it is a real world A/B comparison where the results are subjective and open to interpretation. I’m not one to read MTF graphs and I believe all professional lenses made today should be reasonably sharp so my attention as always turns to how pleasing is the rendering of the scene? I want to asses both the in and out of focus bits.

Damien modestly calls this a ”mini test,” but it’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Can’t wait for my 50-140mm ƒ/2.8 to arrive at my doorstep!

Of note, Damien drew a similar conclusion as I did on the 56mm f/1.2 APD. The difference is subtle, but it’s there. I also love his 60mm f/2.4 Macro lens hood modification to combat the issues it has with flare that I too have experienced. Lots of great stuff over there.