“The Zhiyun-Tech Crane 2 is a 3-axis handheld stabilizer with integrated follow focus that will support any DSLR or mirrorless camera on the market…. Usually the sequel is not as good as the original, but in the case of the Zhiyun-Tech Crane, Version 2 is a vastly improved product….”
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“… On the outside the Anova Pro V2 looks almost identical to the original, the updates are all hidden beneath the chassis. Along with the claimed increase in brightness, Rotolight has built in the Elinchrom high-speed sync receiver into the light so it can be used by both photographers and videographers….”
With the ending of the major photography trade show in Australia, chances to see and try before you buy have become even more rare than they have ever been, so I was grateful for the small display of mirrorless cameras and lenses at one side of the expo opposite the two DSLR makers.
It was good to see Fujifilm’s X-E3 again and I caught up with the new Sony Alpha a9 camera so many colleagues have been raving about, but the star of the show for me was the Olympus table.
Panasonic was mysteriously absent and all the poorer for it given how beautifully its Lumix cameras go together with Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro lenses for cinematography and photography, especially given their unique manual clutch focus option.
Super wide-angle lenses present something of a quandary when it comes to filters, given they often have wide convex front lens elements that prevent easily attaching screw-on filters.
Using such lenses for video presents even more of a quandary, especially for solo operators working in documentary moviemaking who must travel light, are self-funded and must watch their budgets.
Travelling light, working handheld and keeping your camera rigs small, neat and discrete rules out traditional moviemaking standbys like matte boxes holding large, costly square or rectangular filters which are fine for feature filmmaking and slower, more deliberate approaches.
Luckily several optical filter makers have turned their efforts to the problem of attaching filters to convex-fronted lenses like the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro, though until recently all such filter adapter solutions have only worked with big slide-in glass or plastic filters 100mm, 150mm or 165mm square or wide.
And then, I came across a hitherto unknown camera filter and accessories maker by the name of STC Optical & Chemical in Taiwan, and discovered they are offering a screw-in lens adapter for the M.Zuiko Pro 7-14mm f/2.8 and an adapter for Panasonic’s own 7-14mm lens, the slower Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 Aspheric zoom, also with a convex front element.
I have yet to come across any hands-on reviews by cinematographers of the STC Olympus 7-14mm filter adapter but have been researching the availability of high quality 105mm UV, circular polarizing and ND filters in density values suitable for moviemaking.
STC Optical & Chemical’s Screw-In Lens Adapter for Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro Lens
Given the brightness of sunny days like today, a 6-stop maximum density is not dense enough and will need to be supplemented with fixed, single value ND filters, abnegating the utility value of variable NDs in the first place.
I have no firsthand experience with Aurora-Aperture products but 4 to 11 stops ND seems more useful.
Another possibility, or more appropriately hope, is that STC Optical & Chemical may choose to supplement its current 105mm 6-stop ND filter with more.
One typical fixed neutral density filter set contains 2, 4, 6, 8 and sometimes 10 stops, while another comprises 3, 5, 7, and 9 stops.
If I can find the answer to the variable or fixed circular ND filter set question for the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 7-14mm f/2.8 filter, then the lens and its filter solution will go straight to the top of my documentary video hardware wish list followed by the M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2, 25mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 professional-quality prime lenses.
I have made enquiries about their relevant products to STC Optical & Chemical and will report back here soon.
Of STC’s current Olympus Screw-In Lens Adapter packages, I am tempted by the adapter plus UV filter for stills photography, the circular polarizer for architectural photography and city scenes in video, and the 6-stop ND with the hopes that 2, 4, 8 and 10 stops ND filters will be appearing soon.
Or I may opt for either of STC’s Ultra Layer Variable NDs if they become available in a diameter of 105mm.
Breakthrough Photography – Step-Up Ring – top-quality traction-framed brass step-up rings with the largest being 95mm to 105mm, so to use 105mm filters on smaller diameter lenses you would need to nest step-up rings.
Cosyspeed – The OLYMPUS 25/1.2 Street-Review – “The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast…. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”
“Hello friends! This was an attempted Facebook Live event that didn’t go live there due to technical issues, so I recorded it and am sharing it here instead. I edit 3 images and go through some new filters in Luminar 2018 while sharing some tips for getting the most out of them. Check it out and enjoy!”
“We brought the Atomos Ninja Inferno with us on our road trip to New Hampshire, Maine and Eastern Long Island. Magnificent assists and screen, but interesting questions about where we are with HDR, HLG — and weight. …”
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It is always useful to see how professionals use the photography and video production hardware you are considering buying, and even better when they work in the same genres as you are, such as documentary photography and moviemaking in my case.
I spotted these videos from Panasonic’s GH5-oriented ‘Go Higher Project’ and hope that more of them will appear soon, and that female photographers and moviemakers will be featured as well, and even better at 50/50 ratio.
It is terrific, though, to see one Australian in there, photojournalist Daniel Berehulak and I hope to see a video of him using the G9 appear very soon.
About the Go Higher Project
There are highly ambitious professionals in the world whose goals are to “go higher.” People who go to the extreme in order to record worlds that no one has yet seen. People who are driven by the desire to share their experiences.
It is thanks to such people that humanity has been able to open doors to new experiences and knowledge. And the camera they have chosen to accompany them in their constant pursuit of greater heights is Panasonic’s LUMIX GH5. It is a camera packed full of Panasonic’s innovation and technology accumulated over 100 years.
Equipped with a variety of pioneering functions, the camera is tested to the limit in various fields. This project aims to record real scenes captured by GH5 to inspire awe and share with the world the spirit of people who aim to “go higher.”
Although I am not fond of DLSR-style cameras for stills photography, preferring the DSLR form factor for video cameras so long as they are equipped with fully articulating monitors, I find the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 intriguing for its feature set and its promise as a smallish, fast-to-use camera for news, events and magazine feature photography.
For the urban documentary stills photography which I also practise, I still vastly prefer rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras with tilting electronic viewfinders and hope that we can expect a Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 tilting EVF camera in the near future.
It is early days insofar as hands-on professional user reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 go, and I am looking forward to learning about how its many new features work out in practice.
I can visualize how the G9’s wildlife and sports photography-oriented features will make the job of those photographers lighter, faster and easier.
As a former magazine and daily newspaper photographer I can extrapolate how photographers in those fields will benefit especially given the tight deadlines of the newspaper business.
The G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode has piqued my interest, even more so now that I have been asked if I want to take up architectural photography again.
Food for thought.
Digital medium format photography costs far more to get into than large format analog photography ever did, in my experience.
Unless shot strictly for magazine, print or web publication, architectural photographs need to be usable at high reproduction sizes for displays and posters.
I love Micro Four Thirds and APS-C mirrorless, and medium format digital hardware suitable for architectural photography is well beyond my current means.
Medium format image quality, micro four thirds sensor size?
Is the G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode the way to go when needing to go large?
I made a living in magazine editorial portraiture as a result of my fine art portrait photography, relying on large and medium format analog cameras for the most part, supplemented with Leica analog rangefinders when portability and speed were of the essence.
Photographic prints shown in galleries gain authority and power when printed large, traits often lost when reproduced small.
Should I consider getting back into creating larger format photographs for exhibition?
My question is, then, does the G9’s 80-megapixel high resolution mode permit applying it to the sort of portrait photography I love to this day?
One thing I know for sure is that Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds sensors have close to the perfect aspect ratio for environmental, full-face, head-and-shoulders and full-figure portrait photography, whether in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) orientation – 4:3 or 3:4.
If the Panasonic Lumix G9’s 80 megapixel high res mode proves usable for my type of portrait photography, then that nudges it well into medium format territory for me, but at a far more affordable price than the other current contender, the Fujifilm GFX 50S.
Panasonic Lumix GH5, G9 and GX8 and then some, compared at Compact Camera Meter
Until the unexpected appearance of the G9, the GX9 was the Lumix stills-oriented camera most expected to be announced late this year or early the next.
Until now, the GX8 has been Panasonic’s flagship stills photography camera.
The rangefinder-style GX8 is very different in size and weight to the DSLR-style G9 so I compared it with the G9 and GH5 at the Camera Size website, with two lenses in which I am interested, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom and the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200m f/2.8 Power OIS telephoto.
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 gallery
Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200m f/2.8 Power OIS gallery
One thing my partner learned from ten years working in Canon’s research and development division is that even photographic market leaders have hardware and firmware blindspots, and in that instance they were legion and persistent, and remain so to this day.
Fujifilm has its own persistent camera and lens hardware and firmware idiosyncrasies, which I have covered in other articles on this site, with one of its most recent hardware blindspots being the failure to issue a hand grip for the camera most in need of one, the Fujifilm X100F.
When I managed to see an X100, I was impressed by Fujifilm’s achievement but dismayed by its minimal built-in grip and the slipperiness of its tiny body.
I ordered one and it arrived just before a trip to San Francisco where I carried it everywhere every day.
It helped me produce some terrific photographs but my ability to hold it comfortably and safely at all times was compromised by the lack of a hand grip, despite finding a reasonable wrist strap to attach the camera.
I eventually came across Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 hand grip and snapped it up, attaching it to the camera along with Peak Design’s Clutch and Cuff camera straps.
I was impressed by how Fujifilm had thought of everything, by designing a rectangular notch into the side of the hand grip to allow attaching camera straps like the first one I bought for it, from San Francisco’s DSPTCH travel company.
Gallery of X100 images, before and after hand grip
The top three photographs were made when I did not have a hand grip for my X100, and the three photographs below were made after I bought a Fujifilm hand grip.
The safer former grip afforded by the hand grip gave me far more confidence and allowed me to be far more gestural in my approach, working faster and getting close in to the action.
I use my X100 with hand grip for documentary projects to this day.
No Fujifilm hand grip for the X100F!
I was shocked to learn that Fujifilm had failed to produce an updated version of its MHG-X100 hand grip for the X100F, when I was kindly loaned an X100F.
Like the X100 and its two successors, the X100S and X100T, the X100F’s body is small and slippery, and its taller built-in slippery grip bump does little or nothing to aid in ensuring a good hand-hold of the camera.
I attached my usual Peak Design Clutch and Cuff via Peak Design’s Arca-Swiss compatible camera plate, as in the photographs above, but it was a compromise compared to my hand-grip-plus-camera-straps solution for the X100.
Compromise, too is the word I would apply to each third party camera grip design I have seen online so far, linked to in my list of links blow.
None of them appeal to me and I am wondering whether even Really Right Stuff’s L-Plate Set and Grip might be worth the investment given its size, weight and slippery CNC surface, despite the potential usefulness of its optional L-Component for tripod-mounting in portrait orientation via an Arca-Swiss tripod head.
Really Right Stuff’s X100F solution has one really big downside besides slipperiness, size, expense and weight, and that is its lack of provision for attaching my two Peak Design camera straps.
Instead the company offers its Magpul Gen 2 MS4 Dual QD Sling for carrying the plated and gripped-up X100F rather than my smaller, safer, lighter and more elegant Clutch plus Cuff solution.
A long, long time ago… even the Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL and Minolta CLE had a hand grip
My first thought on first seeing preview images of the Fujifilm Finepix X100 online some years ago was that it might be the closest digital equivalent to a Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL or a Minolta CLE.
The Leitz camera company, now Leica Camera AG, reportedly killed off the Leica CL as sales were eating into those of the far more expensive Leica M5, and having seen and tried an M5 I can see why.
According to Ken Rockwell, “the CLE is a joy to carry, and a joy to shoot” and that it “could be photography’s messiah: the smallest, lightest possible solution for a complete advanced camera system” but as none of its versions appeared in my part of the world at the time I have never had the pleasure of using one.
It is remarkable how popular the Minolta CLE remains amongst those in the know to this day, including Take Kayo of Big Head Taco who reportedly has two of them.
Three lenses were created specially for these three cameras – the Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle, the M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0 “perfect normal” and the M-Rokkor 90mm f/4.0 medium telephoto.
Events involving more than a handful of people closely interacting with each other in public rarely occur where I live now and creative events are rarer still, so this year’s Fujifilm People with Cameras event in the city of Sydney provided an excellent opportunity to exercise my documentary photography muscle memory.
The Spectral 8 looks like anything but a typical camera bag, making it a great choice for working events and crowds, and it is the first shoulder bag that has not given me spine and shoulder problems whichever mirrorless camera and however many lenses I carry in it.
I chose the X-Pro2 for its Hybrid Multi Viewfinder (HMVF), a considerable evolutionary step beyond the non-digital optical viewfinder (OVF) cameras in all film sizes from my analog photography days.
My documentary photography style was shaped by my first rangefinder camera, a second-hand Leica M-4P, and my first Leica M-System lens, a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0.
I soon added an Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 after finding the narrower 35mm focal length more suited to a feeling of contemplative distance rather than emotive immersion in fast-moving events.
I purchased my X-Pro2 along with the 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses after reading about Kevin Mullins, a documentary-style wedding photographer and Fujifilm X-Photographer from the UK who often works in adverse lighting conditions, reminding me of when going down the mines as a corporate photographer.
Available light and gestural photography
I was excited about these two lenses due to their reportedly high image quality when used wide open in available darkness, a lighting condition common to events I had covered with other digital cameras and lenses for a charity for several years.
What I enjoy about using rangefinder cameras, as opposed to rangefinder-style cameras, is their conduciveness to being used in a gestural manner, seeing the world as if through a window into deep space, and making creative decisions and photographs within a fraction of a second without shutter blackout.
All that is the direct consequence of the cameras’ optical viewfinders showing you more than what will end up in your photograph, in combination with having both eyes open at all times, seeing the wider scene with left eye and through viewfinder with right, superimposing one upon the other.
A short movie was once made of me photographing a public event, and the cinematographer swore that I surely could not have been making photographs at all, so rapidly and so casually was I handling my Leica.
Camera in right hand attached by wrist strap, concentrate on the scene, anticipate and visualize the possibilities, wait until a fraction of a second before the perfect conjunction of people, objects and events, raise camera, pass in front of eyes, snap and it is done.
Repeat until you are in the zone and amazing images keep coming thick and fast.
I use my X-Pro2 in manual focussing mode in a similar but now digitally enhanced way, relying on the electronic rangefinder (ERF) set to show the whole scene at lower right of the OVF and with focus peaking set to on.
Fujifilm, exposure zebras please!
If the firmware for X-Pro2 and other Fujifilm cameras had exposure zebras built-in then I would swap zebras for focus peaking in full image ERF view to ensure perfect exposure under challenging extreme subject dynamic range such as blacks in deep shade combined with whites in bright sun.
In combination with back-button focus on the X-Pro2 via AF-L button or the 23mm f/1.4 lens’ manual clutch focus mechanism, I can see everything on all four sides of the lens’ field of view, have access to plenty of focus and exposure information, can make creative decisions rapidly and accurately, use joystick to select the most critical point of focus then make the exposure with minimal lag time.
As a result the X-Pro2 is the first digital camera that allows me to achieve split-second speeds to photograph the perfect combination of actions and encounters across the frame.
These are image design decisions I came up with years ago after studying painting and visual storytelling throughout the ages in art galleries and museums in Europe.
I find a particular satisfaction in suggesting possible deeper stories and apparent relationships than what may really be going on in the central focus of the action.
More than meets the eye?
In other words, my photographs are intended to suggest that there is more there than meets the eye.
Although I enjoy the remarkable optical qualities of the 23mm f/1.4 lens, I often find myself wishing for a similar but wider lens for more immersively photographing events outdoors and indoors.
My Leica 28mm lens hit the immersive sweet spot in comparison with wider or narrower lenses and there is no substitute for that specific focal length.
Its Fujifilm APS-C equivalent is 18mm, but having tried the Fujinon 18mm f/2.0 lens, I rejected buying it due to its lack of manual clutch focus, slow autofocus speed, clanky aperture ring and clunky construction despite its quite reasonable optics.
Fujifilm needs to produce a radically updated version of this lens, and although I prefer the clutch manual focus design of the 23mm f/1.4 and 14mm f/2.8 Fujinon lenses, I could cope with a Fujicron-style design such as that of the small XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR, XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR and XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR primes that are particularly suited to the X-Pro2 due to their small front end that protrudes less into the camera’s OVF.
The curse of funky chic
On Sunday I was told that the ageing XF 18mm f/2.0 lens has undergone a sales resurgence recently, and I suspect that is due to its olde worlde funky chic that is being promoted online by certain photographers.
If I really wanted funky chic there are plenty of other lenses that go the extra mile and were built specifically for that.
Fujifilm, please do not shelve your reported plans for a Fujicron-style Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R WR just because funky chic has become a thing with a clearly mechanically inferior lens.
I have considered adding Fujifilm’s reportedly excellent kit zoom, the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, to my nascent lens collection but having tried it out at an event last year decided it was not for me due to its size and its front element protruding into the OVF.
At the 18mm setting, the X-Pro2’s 18mm bright frame is almost equivalent to the whole of the OVF window and with ERF activated I would be losing fast and easy view of a crucial percentage of the action.
That view would be further reduced with the addition of Fujifilm’s lens hood for the 18-55mm lens, a necessity in the extremes of light and shade found in an average city scene.
I like the idea, though,of the 18-55mm zoom for its access to much-loved focal lengths from my Leica days – 28mm, 40mm and 75mm in the 35mm sensor size or in APS-C terms, 18mm, 27mm and 50mm – as well as 35mm which for me is more of a video focal length than a stills focal length.
There is one less obvious solution to my 18mm dilemma and that is an X100F with WCL-X100 Wide Conversion lens to convert its fixed 23mm focal length lens to 18mm, with Peak Design Cuff and Clutch camera straps essential for good grip of its small, slick-surfaced camera body.
The one downside to that set-up is that Fujifilm has, bizarrely, failed to release an updated X100F version of its small but effective MHG-X100 hand grip previously made available for the X100, X100S and X100T.
Fujifilm’s hand grips are the only ones I have come across that have a notch for attaching Peak Design’s camera strap AL-3 Anchor Links and are smaller and neater than those of third party competitors.
A hand grip for the X100F, yet another silly Fujifilm blind spot?
Primes, not zooms
For me at least, zoom lenses are more suited to EVFs and LCDs, not OVFs.
During Sunday’s Fujifilm People with Cameras event I was lucky enough to have a few moments with a save-disabled pre-production model of the coming Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera.
It is easy to forget that contemporary mirrorless digital cameras offer two or, in the case of the X-Pro2 and X100F, three ways of seeing in one due to offering an EVF and an LCD, and in the case of those two cameras, an OVF as well.
Two or three ways of seeing, two or three cameras in one. Each way of seeing equal to one camera only during the analog era, with the rare exception of the Linhof and Speed Graphic cameras that I used as handheld rangefinder cameras or tripod-mounted view cameras.
The X-Pro2 is, in my opinion, a superb OVF hand camera while other Fujifilm cameras have better quality EVFs better suiting them to use with zoom lenses, prime lenses outside the X-Pro2’s optimum range of 18mm to 56mm, and tripod-mounted use like a miniature view camera via the LCD monitor.
Matching cameras, complementary lenses
Having always relied on carrying two matched cameras for documentary photography I am uncomfortable with just one camera and two lenses, thus risking dropping while changing lenses at speed in the field, or missing shots because I have the wrong lens on it at the time.
I need a second camera for documentary photography projects.
Will an X-Pro2S or X-Pro3 improve their EVFs to match those in the X-T2 and its successors?
Will Fujifilm add the X-Tn series’ excellent and incredibly useful Dual viewfinder mode to cameras in the X-Pron series?
Will Fujifilm finally relent and add exposure zebras to all its cameras, for stills and video?
Will the X-E3 make for a good EVF rangefinder-style companion camera to the X-Pro2 so I can get back to my well-proven two-camera, two-lens documentary default mode?
Should I seriously consider a Fujifilm X100F with WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion Lens attached, now that the X100F sensor’s specifications are closer to that of the X-Pro2, X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras?
Time will tell and, no doubt, so will access to a production-run Fujifilm X-E3 for a really good tryout in typical documentary photography conditions in the field.
One thing I know for sure, resulting from handling the X-E3 for even a short time is that, like the X-Pro2 and X100F, it needs a hand grip whether mounting small lenses or large ones on it, whether primes or zooms, as well as Peak Design Cuff and Clutch camera straps.