Are These Custom-Made Aaton-Inspired Wooden Trigger Grips for Movie Cameras the Best That Money Can Buy?

Every so often I wonder if I should invest in more substantial rigging and especially grips for my hybrid cameras instead of playing it close to the bone with minimalist, stripped-down cages.

I take a look at the grips currently made by cage and accessories makers, shrug my shoulders, and tell myself “Well, maybe later,… sometime.”

And then I came across Ruben de Boer of Element, a one-man enterprise making beautiful-looking wooden grips with or without buttons and cables to suit a range of contemporary cameras and, had I the funds, would have placed an order immediately. 

Some other companies do make wooden grips in a similar shape but all appear to have been inspired by one of the most revolutionary, most inspirational range of movie cameras ever, those designed and made by the late Jean-Pierre Beauviala of Aaton.

M. Baueviala’s cameras were intended to feel as if they were a cat reclining on one’s shoulder, silent in operation and as ergonomically sound as possible.

I never used an Aaton but watched one in use while working as a production assistant on some feature films when very young.

Aaton film and digital cinema cameras with wooden grips

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DPReview: CP+ 2019 Panasonic interview: ‘We’re proud of our cameraness’

https://www.dpreview.com/interviews/0078977575/cp-2019-panasonic-interview-we-re-proud-of-our-cameraness

“The CP+ 2019 trade show in Yokohama, Japan, gave us the chance to speak to most of the major camera makers. Panasonic put forward an extensive team to discuss the company’s move into the full-frame market….

… it’s clear that Panasonic wants its S1 and S1R to appeal specifically to professional stills photographers. When it comes to video, the company’s plans seem less well-developed. For now, at least, it seems that Panasonic sees the GH series as its main video/stills camera platform.”

Commentary

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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 wide angle zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras. This is the very first zoom lens by any maker that provides the most necessary focal lengths for documentary photography and video, and it doubtless will feel right at home on a Lumix GH5, GH5S, G9 and the coming GH6 as well as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

If by “cameraness” Panasonic means that one can pick up a Lumix S1 or S1R, feel at ease with it and start shooting good photographs or movie footage right away, then I agree with the company’s use of that word.

Here is an event where I tried out the S1 and here is the other event where I tried out an S1R, both times shooting decent photographs almost immediately after the most cursory inspection of the cameras’ controls.

Of course, that ease of use is based partly on my years-long familiarity with Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds Lumix cameras and partly on Panasonic’s even longer history of constantly improving its cameras and lenses all by itself and in collaboration with Leica Camera AG.

Cameras and lenses by both companies share DNA and it was inevitable, in retrospect, that their long partnership would deepen into the L-Mount Alliance, pleasantly drawing lens maker Sigma in to the equation along with its wide range of top-class prime and zoom lenses for cinematography and photography.

When Panasonic staff members asked me for my first impressions of the S1 and S1R at a couple of touch-and-try events in Sydney earlier this year, my first thought was that both would be very usable cameras if I were still working in magazine editorial portrait and documentary photography where 35mm sensors are king.

That is no mean achievement for the first version of any new product range, and I look forward to seeing how Panasonic’s current S-Series cameras and their successors develop.

If I need to get back into 35mm sensor photography and video, I know where to go.

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PBS: American Masters: Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable (video – regional restrictions apply)

https://www.pbs.org/video/garry-winogrand-all-things-are-photographable-tdq83s/

“Discover the life and work of Garry Winogrand, the epic storyteller in pictures who harnessed the serendipity of the streets to capture the American 1960s-70s. His “snapshot aesthetic” is now the universal language of contemporary image-making. …”

Leica Q (Typ 116) digital camera with 24.2 megapixel 35mm sensor and Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens, perfectly suited to the snapshot aesthetic.

Commentary

American documentary photographer Garry Winogrand was called “the central photographer of his generation” by photography curator, historian, and critic John Szarkowski and this documentary movie  provides some insights into how and why he earned that accolade.

Winogrand was a key member of the generation that established the snapshot aesthetic as applied to photography in public as a genre in its own right, alongside Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander, Tony Ray-Jones and others, all relying on Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras and often the 28mm focal length.

Now that street photography has become even more established as a genre and in some manifestations as a cult, practitioners would do well to study its beginnings at the hands of artists like Winogrand and his colleagues back in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable.

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The Beat: NAB 2019: PolarPro’s New Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter

NAB 2019: Polar Pro’s New Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter

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PolarPro Variable Neutral Density Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition.

“Polar Pro is slowly becoming one of my favorite companies. As with Aputure and Blackmagic Design, it seems they’re doing this crazy thing where they listen to their customers and make products that actually help people. So, that being said, the new “Peter McKinnon” branded filters are, quite frankly, super dope….

The filter is a fused, quartz glass, variable ND filter with apparently the lowest refractive index currently available….

The stop indicators are pretty rad, and they can really help you get the shot you want — perfectly exposed and consistent (as all things should be)….”

Specifications

  • Available in 2-5 and 6-9 stop variations.
  • Preset stop range eliminates any chance of cross polarization.
  • Zero vignetting down to 16mm focal length lenses.
  • Pure Fused Quartz ensures superior optical clarity over any glass on the market.
  • Includes a DefenderSlim cover for fingerprint-free installation.

PolarPro Variable ND Filter, Peter McKinnon Edition

Commentary

Variable neutral density filters aka VNDs are a mainstay of independent documentary movie production and the best are anything but cheap.

Given that one or two VNDs can replace five or more fixed density value neutral density filters, prices of the best VNDs compare well with those of sets of fixed NDs, so sticker price shock should not be a consideration if one is going for the best and most versatile production kit, one that will last for years through thick and thin.

PolarPro’s QuartzLine range of UV filters, fixed density ND filters and Circular Polarizers has been quietly satisfying the needs of drone operators, photographers and videographers with its brass traction-framed filters, and the company recently came to my attention with advance mention of a new concept in VND filters.

That new type of VND was shown off at NAB 2019, was covered by The Beat, and has been selling like crazy direct from the PolarPro online store.

I have never had the pleasure of using or seeing any PolarPro products in real life, but from what I have read they are outstanding.

I have been researching possible replacements for my ageing VND, a Genustech 77mm Eclipse ND Fader that was the most-recommended when I got back into moviemaking, and have decided to standardize on 82mm filters with step-up rings to help minimize vignetting when using them on wide lenses.

I began replacing my aluminium step-up rings with the excellent knurled brass traction frame step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography a while ago, and have some Breakthrough Photography fixed ND, UV and CPL filters with which I am well pleased.

I discovered that brass filter frames are far less prone to binding than aluminium ones, and that knurled frames are better than non-knurled, the more knurling the better.

It was a little disappointing to learn that PolarPro’s Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter comes with aluminium frames rather than brass ones but I am hoping for the best with their performance in the field and am waiting for reviews by well-qualified professional users to appear.

I am impressed that PolarPro has chosen to issue its VND in two densities, 2-5 and 6-9 stops, a wise move given the high base ISOs of many contemporary hybrid cameras.

Aurora-Aperture followed a similar path with its 1-7 and 4-11 VND pair while SLR Magic took another path again with its SLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking VND 0.4-1.8 plus 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Image Enhance Filter Kit providing a range of 1.3 to 10 stops with both filters combined.

The question now is going to be which pro-quality VND brand to opt for – PolarPro, Aurora-Aperture or SLR Magic?

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PhotoJoseph: LUMIX S1 & S1R Battery Grip BGS1

“The LUMIX S Series S1 and S1R have an optional battery grip, the BGS1. This is a tour and explanation of how to use it and what it can do!…”

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Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 with Panasonic DMW-BGS1 Vertical Battery Grip and Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS lens.

Panasonic accessories for Panasonic Lumix S-Series cameras

Commentary

Panasonic’s accessories for its new S-Series 35mm sensor cameras received little attention during the two public launch events I attended earlier this year, yet they and especially the DMW-BGS1 Vertical Battery Grip displayed the same carefully attention to detail and keen listening to professional users’ lengthy lists of features requests as the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 and DC-S1R cameras themselves.

Since buying into Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds system with the Lumix with the Lumix DMC-GH4 some years ago, I have considered vertical battery grips essential items to be bought with any new camera, if the manufacturer has thought to provide one, and this applies to the DMW-BGS1 Vertical Battery Grip as well as several other S-Series accessories.

I am especially impressed by the fact that Panasonic has included the Panasonic DMW-EC6 Eyecup in the list of accessories for the S1 and S1R.

I have had to rely on third-party rubber eyecups made by JJC and Guerrilla for Fujifilm X and Panasonic G cameras, except for my Lumix GX8 where an optional long eyecup was made available by Panasonic, due to wearing eyeglasses and needing to block out laser beam sunlight or harsh indoor lighting.

Both these accessories will come in handy when using both cameras for video, portrait and documentary photography.

I had a chance to try out the vertical battery grip on a Lumix S1R with 50mm f/1.4 lens and it made the camera much easier to use when shooting vertical/portrait orientation with the camera’s very welcome 3:4 aspect ratio, perfectly matched to the average single magazine page.

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Fringer: Fringer EF-FX Pro II is released

https://www.fringeradapter.com/blog/fringer-ef-fx-pro-ii-is-released

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Fringer EF-FX Pro II adapter for mounting Canon EF-Mount lenses on Fujifilm X-Mount cameras.

Main improvements of the 2nd generation of EF-FX Pro include

– Redesigned aperture ring for more convenient operation

– New MCU (more powerful, more resources for firmware update)

– Better light absorbing design

The functions and performance of gen1 and gen2 are the same….

Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens adapter for mounting Canon EF-mount lenses on Fujifilm X-mount cameras

Commentary

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Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom lens for APS-C sensors and for adapting to M43 with Metabones SpeedBoosters, lens available in Canon EF or Nikon mounts.

Gaps still remain in Fujifilm’s native X-mount lens collection for the company’s APS-C sensor format cameras such as the X-T3, X-H1, X-T30, X-Pro2 and the rest so some cinematographers, wishing to take advantage of Fujifilm’s recently upgraded video capabilities, have been exploring adapting third party lenses like Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom lens.

With Smart Adapter and Speed Booster stalwart Metabones missing in action when it comes to adapting Canon EF-mount lenses popular with moviemakers, space was created for formerly unknown adapter makers like Fringer to enter the fray with its Fringer EF-FX and Fringer EF-FX Pro smart adapters.

If I were contemplating doing the same as several cinematographers of my acquaintance, I would choose the Pro version given its built-in aperture ring and better yet, Fringer’s EF-FX Pro II with its much-needed hardware and firmware improvements.

I have just one Canon EF-mount lens remaining in my collection, a Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM kit zoom lens suffering from the far-too-common detached internal ribbon connector problem that renders it completely unusable so have been treading water on an EF-to-X-mount adapter until I can afford Canon’s over-priced repair bill for this problematic though popular lens.

I have been considering investing in a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom lens but was not quite convinced by Fringer’s EF-FX Pro version 1 adapter.

canon_ef_24-105mm_f4.0_l_is_usm_01_1024px
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L USM zoom lens, prone to the all-too-common aperture control ribbon cable failure that can apparently cost a small fortune to have fixed in Australia. Bundled as a kit zoom lens with some Canon DSLRs and popular amongst videographers despite not having the most amazing optical or mechanical qualities.

The imminent release of the Fringer EF-FX Pro II may well tip the balance.

A Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 with smart adapter would give me access to one of the documentary photographer’s and photojournalist’s most-needed focal lengths, 18mm in APS-C which is equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm sensor format, as well as one of the most useful focal length ranges for documentary moviemaking.

On the other hand, Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS has its uses for stills and video and adds optical image stabilization to both, a benefit I do not have on any of my current Fujifilm lenses.

And then there is the coming Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS zoom lens, to be released sometime late this year according to rumours, with its highly useful additions to the wide and long ends of the scale.

Time to do some number crunching and crystal ball gazing, methinks, and hope for the best.

Native glass often proves to be the best solution given third-party adapters can have their downsides.

The upside of EF-mount lenses adapted for use on APS-C and Micro Four Thirds cameras such as those made by Fujifilm, Panasonic and Blackmagic Design is that they can be pressed into maximum service and prove their value in a wide range of applications.

Imagine a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art, or a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens for that matter, really proving its value for shooting Blackmagic Raw cinematic video on a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Super 16 HLG video on Panasonic’s MFT cameras, Super 35 HLG video on the Fujifilm X-T3, and documentary stills and portrait photography in a number of different sensor formats.

As a self-funded independent documentary photographer and video-maker, obtaining maximum value from minimum expenditure is a constant battle especially in this economic climate when the Australian banks are all-too-ready to screw-over regular folks like us, wrecking our plans and financially throwing us to the wolves, hence all this rumination over how to get the most out of my gear while spending as little as possible to add extra functionality.

Focal lengths longer than 85mm in equivalence would come in handy right now for portraiture on my Fujifilm APS-C cameras, as would a stabilized zoom lens with equivalent focal lengths from 36mm through to 157.5mm for handheld Super 35 video.

I could do with something similar for my M43 cameras, providing equivalent focal lengths of 48mm through to 210mm for portraiture and video as well as macro product photography.

Add a Metabones Speed Booster to my current Metabones Smart Adapter and even more focal lengths would become available on those cameras as well as a Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, the cheapest option now available for cinematic raw video.

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DPReview TV: Panasonic S1 Review

“How does the new Panasonic S1 stand up to its mirrorless competition? Does ‘animal-AF’ work on dinosaurs? Will Jordan curl up on the ground in the name of art? We answer the tough questions. Shot entirely on the Panasonic S1 in the Canadian Badlands….”

panasonic_lumix_dc-s1_01_1024px
Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 35mm sensor mirrorless camera with Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS standard zoom lens.

Commentary

DPReview’s Calgary-based DPReview TV team has created one of its signature video reviews of Panasonic’s Lumix DC-S1 35mm sensor mirrorless camera equipped with the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS standard zoom lens, and I am hoping they will soon be following up with a similar review of the Lumix DC-S1R.

My own first impressions of both cameras and two of their native Lumix lenses garnered during a couple of public launch events in Sydney are that both are serious competitors to recent 35mm mirrorless releases and appear designed and manufactured well enough to make a dent in the field where I most relied upon 35mm format cameras in the past – magazine editorial photography and newspaper photojournalism.

Provided, that is, Panasonic does something to improve both cameras’ autofocus capabilities and replaces their Fujifilm-style three-way tilting LCD monitors with the fully-articulated monitors that work so well on Panasonic’s professional-quality GH5, GH5S, G9 and GX8 Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras.

I suspect that we may only see that occurring on next generation Panasonic Lumix S Series cameras given both problems are hardware-based, but we can hold out hope that a possible future S1 and S1R firmware update will see radical autofocus improvements.

Meanwhile I hope to dig deeper soon into both cameras’ feature sets and suitability for stills photography and video, with a special personal interest in the S1R for large-enlargement exhibition prints and emotionally-intense portrait photography.

Two big points in the S1 and S1R’s favour for both applications – Panasonic’s vertical battery grip and optional video-style rubber eyecup, both accessories having proven themselves necessities on other camera systems, with vertical battery grips being essential for best grip when shooting portraits in vertical aka portrait orientation.

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Nikon Australia: Experience the new Nikon Z Series, Sydney, April 17 2019

Nikon Australia’s public touch-and-try launch event for the Nikon Z Series 35mm mirrorless DSLR-style cameras and lenses was the first camera-maker product launch I have attended, and it was very well-attended compared to the retailer-organized events I have been to in recent years. 

I suspect part of the reason was the availability of a huge range of current Nikkor lenses for the company’s FX and DX sensors format DSLR cameras as well as the first batch of Z Series lenses and adapters for older lenses. 

nikon_f3_japan-camera_hunter_01_1024px_80pc
The legendary Nikon F3 electronic shutter-equipped 35mm SLR with Nikkor 50mm lens, one of three Nikon cameras I owned over the years including the Nikon FM and Nikon F. They received less use than my Leica M-Series rangefinders and a range of cameras in other film formats, but they were great to have on hand when I needed to borrow wider and longer lenses than the ones I had for my other cameras. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.

Attendees lined up again and again to borrow camera and lens combos for 20 minutes each, photographing each other, a model or a singer in the Richard Wherrett Studio of the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney’s harbourside Walsh Bay arts precinct.

The theatre hosts performances from its residents the Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Dance Company, and reminded me of happier days photographing actors, dancers and company staff members as a freelance magazine editorial portrait photographer during the analog era.

I decided to forgo the opportunity of a few 20-minute tryouts, instead hoping to have extended time with some Z Series another day in order to write a better-qualified assessment of Nikon.’s first foray into professional-standard mirrorless cameras and lenses.

A prime factor in forgoing the 20-minute tryouts is that the Nikon Z6 and Z7 only support the relatively new XQD memory cards, which to my knowledge are not used by any other current mirrorless cameras so I do not have any of my own nor a budget to purchase any.

My Nikon history

I had a longterm history with Nikon 35mm single lens reflex cameras from art school days and throughout my career as a magazine photographer, owning new Nikon FM and F3 cameras and several prime lenses as well as a secondhand Nikon F.

The Nikon FM was the first pro-quality camera that I purchased for professional work as a newspaper and wedding photographer in the country and then the capital city of the state in which I was living at the time.

In that era, Nikon cameras were the professional 35mm SLR gold standard with Canon SLRs little seen in the circles in which I worked, so owning a Nikon was a given even if it was not one’s prime type of camera for professional work.

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Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 manual focus, manual exposure macro lens. This lens and its 55mm Micro-Nikkor sibling helped introduce me to portrait photography during art school days. The 105mm focal length and its equivalents remain my preferred portraiture focal length despite some camera systems currently being without one as a fast prime lens. Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic, please stand up!

The Director of Photography at one major Australian publisher for which I often freelanced once handed me a backpack containing a Nikon and several lenses, which I kept in my locker there for use on assignments outside the scope of my own cameras and lenses.

As a result of all this and the dependability that I experienced when using my Nikon kit, I have a certain affection for Nikon gear though I have neither owned nor used any for many years now since my last Nikon camera and lens was stolen from a shared studio off Hanover Square in London.

When news of this Nikon Australia launch event appeared, I was keen to see if any of that old Nikon affection still lingered, and I discovered that it did.

I hope that an opportunity to give the Nikon Z6, Z7 and their first collection of lenses a thorough tryout under realistic conditions will present itself soon.

Nikon Australia: Experience the new Nikon Z Series, Sydney, April 17 2019

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Image Notes

I photographed the event with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera and my two core documentary photography lenses, the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and XF 56mm f/1.2 R primes.

Both are now equipped with JJC lens hoods which are based on Fujifilm’s lens hood for the XF 23mm f/1.4 R and the combination acquitted itself well under the sometimes challenging lights in the Richard Wherrett Studio.

I processed my raw files in Alien Skin Exposure X4 for the sake of its wide rage of beautiful and uncannily accurate simulations of many of my favourite analog films, developers, printing papers and chemical toners.

With the venue unevenly lit throughout, my raw files’ ISOs varied from 400 to 3200 ISO as demanded by the apertures I set, but I let the highly accurate grain renderings of Exposure X4’s film simulation and platinum printing presets fall where they might and was pleased with the effect.

I had often photographed in old buildings in the area using available light or my little kit of portable flash lights and filters, and grain was never a problem back then so allow digitally-simulated grain to play its part now, was my reasoning.

Although I have never had the pleasure of printing any of my monochrome photographs in the platinum process, for a while I was friendly with a brave but foolhardy photo technician who was trying to set up a platinum printing service in inner city Sydney during the early 1990s.

He did not manage to establish a viable platinum printing lab when I knew him, but I got to know and better understand the many benefits of the process when later living in London.

Platinum printing appears particularly suited to photographs with plenty of flesh tones and especially when skin of all tonalities is photographed in darkness, so it was an obvious choice when processing these images.

I chose the most neutral of Exposure X4’s platinum printing presets, dialled it down a little, and allied it with a Fujifilm Acros film simulation.

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DPReview: CP+ 2019: Sigma interview – ‘Optical design is always a battle with the design constraints’

https://www.dpreview.com/interviews/7487852065/cp-2019-sigma-interview-optical-design-is-always-a-battle-with-the-design-constraints

Last month at the CP+ show in Yokohama we spoke to executives from several major manufacturers, including Sigma. In our conversation with CEO Kazuto Yamaki we discussed his plans for future L-mount lenses (and cameras) and some of the challenges of supporting multiple mounts.

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Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art prime lens with L-mount. A brilliant portrait focal length but no equivalent lens currently exists for Micro Four Thirds or Fujifilm APS-C cameras.

Commentary

I am looking forward to seeing and trying Sigma’s Art collection L-mount prime lenses scheduled for release sometime this year and that are adapted from the company’s current DSLR Art collection offerings.

One major bugbear of new mirrorless launches such as those of Fujifilm APS-C and medium cameras, Panasonic’s Lumix S1 and S1R 35mm cameras, and Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras is the relative paucity of lenses.

Canon took 30 years to come up with its near-complete DSLR lens collection and it may well take Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic almost as long to flesh out the many gaps in their lens collections.

Professional photographers and cinematographers rely on the availability of large lens collections for their cameras in a way that amateurs and enthusiasts tend not to, especially when relying on prime lenses for their optimum optical and mechanical quality.

I would love to see Sigma creating lenses for Fujifilm X-mount APS-C cameras given there are so many glaring holes in Fujifilm’s lens lineup, and the same desire applies to professional-quality lenses for use on Blackmagic Design, Olympus and Panasonic M43 cameras.

Panasonic and its L-Mount Alliance partners Leica and Sigma have done well to aim at releasing enough lenses to satisfy those contemplating investing in the L-mount camera system, and it is pleasing to read that Sigma will be working on smaller and more affordable L-mount lenses in due course.

Meanwhile those of use needing focal lengths that Fujifilm does not offer for its X-mount and G-mount cameras may need to bite the bullet and rely on adapted EF-mount lenses instead of the much-preferred native X-mount and G-mount alternatives that simply do not exist yet.

I am still hoping for a professional-quality alternative to Fujifilm’s too-quirky, too-slow Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens with its 35mm sensor equivalent focal length of 28mm, a staple optic for many documentary photographers and photojournalists, me included.

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