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Considering the Fujifilm X-H1 Camera with Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR and 18mm f/2.0 R Lenses

When the folks at Fujifilm Australia’s PR consultancy asked if I wanted to borrow a Fujifilm X-H1 and some lenses I leapt at the chance to put this intriguing camera through its paces and to see how well Fujifilm’s first effort at XF camera in-body image stabilization aka IBIS and increased dedication to video production had turned out. 

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The Fujifilm X-H1 APS-C/Super 35 mirrorless digital camera and accessories. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.
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Big lenses need balancing with big rigs. Fujifilm Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR wideangle zoom lens on Fujifilm X-H1 with VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

The loan also provided an opportunity to compare two of Fujifilm’s smaller wide-angle lenses, the Fujicron-style Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR and the semi pancake-style Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R.

Since experiencing the many joys of using vertical battery grips on DSLR-style mirrorless cameras with Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH4, DC-GH5 and DC-G9, I have been in the habit of always requesting vertical battery grips with loaner cameras that have them.

Unfortunately, a Fujifilm VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip wasn’t available so I used the camera ungripped and found, despite that preference for adding hand or battery grips to all Fujifilm cameras, the X-H1 acquits itself well without one when used with smaller lenses.

On the other hand, I suspect a gripped X-H1 with larger, heavier Fujinon lenses attached such as the Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR illustrated above would be easier to carry and operate all day long compared to the same lens on an X-T3 or X-T4, gripped or not.

It is, simply, a matter of balance.

Fujifilm X-H1, Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR and XF 18mm f/2.0 R

By the time the loan opportunity arose, there were rumours the Fujifilm X-H1 was about to be listed as discontinued and that soon occurred with heavily discounted camera, vertical battery grip plus lens packages appearing in foreign camera retailer websites shortly followed by similar deals in Australia.

Now the X-H1 and its camera-specific accessories are no longer available on the retail websites that I checked this morning, and I am in two minds about that.

If I were offered longterm loan of an X-H1 with VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip, I most certainly would not say “no”!

Fujifilm X-H1

Photographs courtesy of Fujifilm.

The X-H1 is an innovative camera but its release suffered from unfortunate timing, falling as it did between the X-T2 and the X-T3 and thus having the same sensor as the Fujifilm X-T2, the X-Trans CMOS III sensor as well as its own CPU, the X-Processor Pro.

At time of writing, the Fujifilm X-Pro3 and the X-T4 contain the latest generation sensor and processor, the X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4.

When I attended the Fujifilm X-Pro3 First Look Touch & Try Event at Ted’s World of Imaging in Sydney on Wednesday November 6 last year, a staff member there was keen for me to share my experience of recent Fujifilm cameras with a female customer.

There are all too few female camera store staff members hereabouts and possibly not so many with my particular background so it is understandable male staffers might point her my way.

She ended up taking advantage of the end-of-production-run X-H1 special offer after I gave her the pros and cons of the X-H1 and X-T3, and I hope she is doing well with her purchase.

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The Fujifilm X-H1’s in-body image stabilization unit aka IBIS, the first iteration of it to appear in Fujifilm XF APS-C/Super 35 cameras. Has its design drawn from the larger IBIS unit of the Fujifilm GFX100? Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

She told me she already had a Fujifilm X-Pro2, loved it and relied on it for most of her work but there were occasions when she needed to photograph in low light and at night so was interested in the X-H1’s in-body image stabilization aka IBIS.

I related my experience with the camera’s IBIS and added that I could comfortably carry either the smaller X-Pro2 or the slightly larger X-H1 around in my hand all day long in a way that I found I could not with the X-T2’s and X-T3’s more minimalist and less sculpted body shapes.

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The Fujifilm X-H1’s “firm-hold design allowing the index finger to concentrate on shutter release actions”. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.
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I find that the exposure compensation dials on X-T and X-Pro cameras work faster than the X-H1’s alternative. Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

As above, Fujifilm describes the shutter release button and grip area of the X-H1 as a “firm-release design”, having the same configuration as other mirrorless and DSLR cameras which is more often described as a “trigger” or “pistol” grip by aficionados of the latter types of cameras.

My first digital camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, has the same configuration and, despite that camera’s bulk and weight with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L USM kit zoom lens attached, its “pistol grip” and soft-touch shutter release button made carrying and using it in the field on documentary projects easier than one might think.

It was, simply, a matter of balance. And then the kit zoom’s notoriously poor manufacturing quality control left me without a lens for it altogether until I adapted a couple of vintage manual focus M42-mount lenses via a Gobe M42 Lens Mount to Canon EF & EF-S Camera Mount adapter.

The X-H1’s shutter release button is more sensitive than that of previous cameras like the X-Pro2, X-T2 and the like, the increased sensitivity apparently being aimed at professional photographers needing minimal lag between hitting the button and making the image.

In practice I found this lag minimalization to be very effective for portraiture, photojournalism and urban documentary photography, ensuring a higher percentage of selects than usual, as well as reducing subtle camera shake at the start of clips when shooting video.

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The leaf spring switch of the Fujifilm X-H1’s feather-touch shutter button. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

Having now experienced both types of shutter release button, I much prefer the one on the X-H1 and hope to see it used in more Fujifilm cameras for its speed gains, boosted stability and lack of a threaded cable release hole that can attract dirt.

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Fujifilm X-T2 in black and graphite versions, with their prominent exposure compensation dials falling under the right hand’s thumb. Photograph by Jonas Rask, courtesy of Fujifilm.

In contrast, the lack of an exposure compensation dial on the X-H1 slowed down my shooting speed and efficiency somewhat compared to the ease and speed with which I can set exposure changes on X-Pro and X-T cameras.

Pros and cons where you gain speed in one aspect of the X-H1’s design yet lose speed in another.

The X-H1’s IBIS bestows two overlapping advantages, being able to shoot at shutter speeds slower than can usually be handheld, and having the confidence that one can resort to it if one must.

As anti-IBIS pundits are always keen to tell us, shooting moving objects while stabilized at shutter speeds too slow to handhold unstabilized will result in at least something being blurred through movement.

But the contrast between unblurred and blurred through movement can be a wonderful creative device to draw attention to the main and unmoving object in the picture.

Other advantages of the Fujifilm X-H1’s design and manufacture

Photographs courtesy of Fujifilm.

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With the exception of the Fujifilm X-H1, all Fujifilm cameras need hand grips or vertical battery grips. Fujifilm Finepix X100 with hand grip. Photograph by Karin Gottschalk.

Four more features of the Fujifilm X-H1’s design stand out: the black 8H coating making it more scratch resistant than its predecessors, its magnesium body that is thicker than its predecessors and its stronger lens mount that takes the strain off the body when mounting large, weighty lenses such as the Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR, XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR and XF 200mm f/2 R LM OIS WR Lens with XF 1.4x TC F2 WR.

Although I have yet to experience any of them, I suspect that the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR professional red badge zoom lenses would also benefit from the X-H1’s strengthened lens mount as well as its stronger body and better balance achieved by attaching the VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip.

I have focused here on the X-H1’s design and manufacturing qualities because the DSLR style is not my first choice when it comes to cameras for documentary photography and yet many aspects of the X-H1’s body design work for me in a way I have not experienced with Fujifilm’s X-T series cameras.

I have used the X-H1 alongside my X-Pro2 on day-long documentary projects and not once have my hands been fatigued in the way I have experienced with the Fujifilm X-T1, X-T2 and X-T3 cameras whether equipped with vertical battery grips or not.

Fujifilm has got the design of the X-H1 body closer to perfect for me, at least, than that of the X-T series.

Fujifilm, please seek inspiration from Olympus for lens design

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Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom lens. Photograph courtesy of Panasonic.

Which is not to say that Fujifilm does not have some way to go with its X-H, X-T and X-Pro series cameras.

The Fujifilm x100 camera radically improved digital photography for me but its poor video quality and that of subsequent cameras meant I had to look elsewhere for a while  and I settled (solely) on Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras for their great stills and video quality and (mostly) Olympus’ M. Zuiko Pro lenses for their manual clutch focus and excellent optical and mechanical qualities.

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Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom lens. Photograph courtesy of Panasonic.

As good as they already are, the M.Zuiko Pro professional lenses for video and stills would be even better with the addition of an aperture ring that can be used clicked or declicked at the flick of a switch.

I chose the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro over the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Aspheric Power OIS kit zoom lens due to the former’s manual clutch focus mechanism, its all-black metal barrel and smoothly operating zoom and focus rings and its slightly longer focal range, forgoing the optical image stabilization of Panasonic’s standard zoom alternative.

The Lumix zoom’s OIS would have been useful for the IBIS-less Lumix DMC-GH4, but optical quality and excellent manual focusing comes first in my opinion.

Nowadays, I probably would have chosen the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro as my first Micro Four Thirds zoom lens for the non-IBIS cameras in my collection, or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4.0 Pro plus the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro for my available darkness work with IBIS-equipped cameras.

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro professional prime lenses with manual clutch focusing, brilliant for shooting video or stills where accurate focus is absolutely critical. Photograph courtesy of Olympus.

When Fujifilm released the X-Pro2 and I discovered I could use it due to its built-in diopter correction, I looked for the closest to my ideal lens design amongst then-current Fujinon lenses: manual clutch focus, all-black metal body and aperture ring.

I was hoping to find three lenses to cover my most immediate documentary stills and video needs, but compromises and cost narrowed my choice down to two, and I ended up with a Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and XF 56mm f/1.2 R.

The first lens is manual clutch focusing and the second is focus-by-wire only.

My preferred extended focal length set for documentary work is:

  • 14mm = 21mm in 35mm
  • 18mm = 28mm in 35mm
  • 23mm = 35mm in 35mm
  • 27mm = 40mm in 35mm
  • 50mm = 75mm in 35mm
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Leica worked out the best prime lens focal length line-up for documentary photography and photojournalism in 35mm years ago and it remains the benchmark and role model for other lens makers to this very day. The only focal length missing from this lens collection is 40mm, which Leica made for the Leica CL rangefinder camera that was later taken over by Minolta as the Minolta CLE with 40mm standard lens as well as a 28mm and 90mm lens. Too many contemporary lens makers leave out 28mm and 75mm lenses and their equivalents for other sensor formats. Why? Both these focal lengths are the most essential for documentary photography and photojournalism. Photographs courtesy of Leica.
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Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art prime lens with L-mount. Fujifilm needs to make an APS-C equivalent to this lens for portrait photographers missing the 105mm-equivalent 70mm focal length. Photograph courtesy of Sigma.

My preferred focal length for portraiture is 70mm, equivalent to 105mm, but the closest XF prime lens is the longer and non-manual-clutch-focus XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro, equivalent to 120mm in 35mm sensor format.

I prefer prime lenses but might have considered the red badge Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR had it been available at the time, though it is sadly not a manual clutch focus lens.

I would have added an XF 14mm f/2.8 R and an XF 23mm f/1.4 R  for available darkness work, making a set of three covering 14mm through to 82.5mm with two lenses having manual clutch focusing.

These three lenses have filter diameters of 58mm, 62mm and 77mm, allowing easy attachment of industry-standard 82mm circular neutral density filters via step-up rings.

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Fujifilm’s “Fujicron” fast, compact prime lens collection as of February 2019 comprising the Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR, Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR, Fujinon XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR and Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR lenses. Photographs courtesy of Fujifilm.

I understand some Fujifilm moviemakers use Fujicron-style lenses,  but

Fujicron lens filter diameters:

  • XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR = 49mm
  • XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR = 43mm
  • XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR = 43mm
  • XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR = 46mm

These lenses present a problem for moviemaking in that step-up rings for these smaller diameters are rare.

Stepping up to industry standard 82mm (or 77mm for that matter) neutral density filters demands stacking multiple step-up rings.

Knurled brass step-up rings are the best option, being stronger than aluminium and less prone to binding.

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Aurora Aperture PowerXND II VND: “The PowerXND-II 128 is a 1-7 stop variable ND filter while the PowerXND-II 2000 is a 5-11 stop variable ND filter. With both filters users can control light reduction from 1 to 11 stops, making them highly versatile tools for general photography and videography applications.” Photograph courtesy of Aurora Aperture, Inc.

Due to gaps in step-up ring sizing by all manufacturers, one ends up with a mixture of aluminium and brass, knurled and unknurled, mixing and matching brands and hoping for the best.

Brands I currently use include Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, Sensei and some no-name aluminium rings that came from who knows where, but I note that Polar Pro makes some great-looking knurled brass step-up rings as well as fixed and variable neutral density filters.

None of them supplies the full set of diameters needed to step the Fujicron lenses up to, say, 52mm, 58mm or 62mm.

Stepping up from 43mm to 82mm requires a stack of rings so one may be better investing in a set of smaller diameter fixed or variable NDs such as those made by Aurora Aperture, Inc. which lists 43mm, 46mm and 49mm diameter NDs as well as sizes down to 37mm and up to 105mm.

Then there is the question of attaching focus-pulling devices, gears and matte boxes.

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Matte boxes are also invaluable for video production. SmallRig Lightweight Matte Box (95mm, Clamp-on) VB2660, undergoing the co-design process at time of writing. Final design may vary. Photograph courtesy of SmallRig.

Fujicron lenses may be best suited for more casual video projects that demand discretion and that may be shot with the X-Pro3 or X-T4 as a B-camera.

A rumour is circulating that Fujifilm has finally taken onboard the reportedly constant barrage of requests for the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R to be updated but so far we don’t know whether that will take the form of the current lens’ semi-pancake design, that of the Fujicron lenses above or of the Fujilux manual clutch focus design of the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4 and 23mm f/1.4 lenses.

I vote for a Fujilux-style XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR as the best possible default documentary stills and video lens, though I suspect that an 18mm Fujicron may be appearing sometime soon instead.

Pity, but let’s see what comes down the turnpike soon.

Fujifilm, please seek inspiration from Panasonic for camera design

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The Panasonic Lumix S1H’s “tilt free-angle touchscreen LCD” is possibly the most versatile LCD monitor I have seen so far, one step beyond the fully-articulated LCD monitors of other S-Series as well as Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the G9, GH5, GH5S and GX8. Photograph courtesy of Panasonic.
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Flipping the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S’ fully-articulated LCD monitor and rotating it is crucial when shooting in tight spaces. Photograph courtesy of Panasonic.

Despite a torrent of comments against fully-articulated LCD monitors like the one in the coming Fujifilm X-T4 by pundits opining that photographers would refuse to buy any camera so equipped, I love and enjoy the LCDs on my Panasonic cameras for stills photography and video.

Two-way, three-way and fixed LCD monitors, not so much.

Panasonic has gone one step beyond its usual fully-articulated LCD monitor with the “tilt free-angle touchscreen LCD” on its DSLR-style camera best suited for feature documentary production, the Lumix DC-S1H.

I tried out Panasonic’s Lumix DC-S1 and DC-S1R 35mm sensor cameras at touch-and-try events and was pleasantly surprised at how easy to handle they were despite their much larger size and weight than their smaller siblings, Panasonic’s G-Series Micro Four Thirds cameras.

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Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H with Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS standard zoom lens. Photograph courtesy of Panasonic.

I have ruled out considering the Lumix S-Series cameras and lenses for now as they would be a huge investment for not enough gain in stills quality and not a lot in video quality as I would be shooting Super 35 rather than so-called “full frame” video with them.

On the other hand, I already have a foot in Fujifilm’s Super 35/APS-C camera system and would rather see Fujifilm lift its video game well beyond what it has gained in the X-H1 into the realm of Panasonic’s many moviemaking achievements.

The other thing I really like about Panasonic’s S-Series and DC-G9 body designs are their big, hefty and easy-to-hold “pistol grips”.

I prefer fully-articulated over fixed, two-way or three-way LCD monitors

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Smallrig LCD Screen Protector Sunhood 1972 on fully-articulated aka vari-angle LCD monitor screen of Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5. Photograph courtesy of SmallRig.

One of the many advantages of fully-articulated or vary-angle LCD screens is that they can be used with detachable sun hoods like those made by Smallrig for cameras and monitor/recorders, as above.

Try staring at an LCD in bright light when shooting stills or video then compare that to using a shaded LCD.

Hoods are invaluable when needing to forgo heavily-rigged cameras for video production but wanting to use the camera away from one’s eyeball on tripods, monopods or gimbals.

I hope that Smallrig will make a hood for the Fujifilm X-T4 if the Smallrig LCD Screen Protector Sunhood 1972 does not fit.

Accordingly I hope that the Fujifilm X-H1 will have some form of fully-articulating or vari-angle LCD monitor screen suitable for mounting a sun hood.

The Fujifilm X-H1 for Super 35 moviemaking

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Fujifilm’s Super APS-C camera system is one of the most affordable Super 35 platforms for professional moviemaking including feature-quality documentaries and narrative feature films. The two MKX cinema zoom lenses are amongst the most affordable of their kind, though Fujifilm needs to upgrade its prime lenses for serious video production. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

Panasonic must be doing something right given its Lumix DC-S1H is the first and only DSLR-style stills/video hybrid camera to be approved by Netflix.

Many hybrid shooters have apparently been investing in the camera and its rather large and pricey L-System zoom and prime lenses.

Did Netflix approve it for its Super 35 video or for the fact that it also shoots 35mm video?

Super 35 has been a standard format for high-end feature-quality moviemaking for many years now but can Fujifilm offer a high-end Super 35 alternative?

Even one that will tickle Netflix’s fancy?

(Further commentary coming soon.)

Fujifilm cameras, photojournalists and World Press Photo 2020

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Fujifilm GFX100 medium format digital camera with Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR prime lens. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

I first spotted a Fujifilm X-H1 in use by an expatriate Australian photojournalist, Jack Picone, alongside an X-T2 when shooting in available darkness, and events like World Press Photo show that more and more photojournalists are relying on Fujifilm cameras for their daily work.

Fujifilm first used former Leica aficionado National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey to promote the X-Pro2 and he is now using the X-Pro3 in his magazine work.

I and others in the magazine and newspaper spheres have also relied on non-rangefinder-style cameras to supplement our rangefinder cameras over the years and it is interesting to note how many World Press Photo award-winners this year are Fujifilm users.

Yasuyoshi Chiba uses Fujifilm X-H1 and GFX100 in-body image stabilized cameras for his available light photojournalism work, testimony to the cameras’ capacity to handle challenging environments and poor available light.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR and Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R

What I want to see in the Fujifilm X-H2

(Commentary coming soon.)

Links

Considering the Pentax Digital Spotmeter

As a kid in art school during the analog era I learned far more about photography from the books of Ansel Adams and the newsletters and products of Fred Picker’s Zone VI Studios, Inc. than I ever did from the school’s under-qualified photography teacher. 

One of the most important lessons was that accurate exposure is crucial and that the best way to do that was with a spotmeter and the Zone System as formulated by Ansel Adams. 

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Pentax Digital Spotmeter. I still have my copy of this analog era essential item, in the version modified by physicist Dr Paul Horowitz for Fred Picker of Zone VI Studios in Vermont. Photograph courtesy of Ricoh.

When Zone VI Studios released its version of the Pentax Digital Spotmeter, modified by Harvard physicist Dr Paul Horowitz, I placed my order for one and a leather holster.

The case succumbed to the mould problem that keeps getting worse in this part of Australia as climate change continues to set in, but the spotmeter itself is in good condition and so is perfectly usable.

Pentax Digital Spotmeter

The sticky paper Zone System label that denotes zones I through to VIII has seen better days though and I have been searching for a decent replacement for years now without success.

Then, today I came across not one but two versions of the label made by photographer James A. Rinner and retailed on ebay.

One version reproduces the look of Fred Picker and Paul Horowitz’ original label sticker, while the other is designed by James. A Rinner himself.

Zone System labels by James A. Rinner

While there were other spotmeters made during the analog era, and some current digital light meters have spotmeter capability, the Zone VI-modified Pentax Digital Spotmeter proved unique in its accuracy under all sorts of lighting conditions.

I made great use of my spotmeter when photographing in some truly terrible industrial lighting for commercial, industrial and mining clients in Western Australia during my corporate photography phase before I found a more pleasant home in magazine editorial photography in the east.

Although I also carried several other light meters of various types and brands, the Zone VI Pentax Digital Spotmeter proved to be the most accurate, most reliable and most durable of them all.

I cannot recall exactly what modifications were made to factory standard spotmeters, something to do with internal baffles, filters and possibly circuitry, but have read some online discussions about it.

Unmodified secondhand Pentax Digital Spotmeters are available on ebay for prices between $AU500.00 and $AU750.00 but so far I have not seen a modified one for sale and no doubt one would cost more than the factory standard version.

I hauled mine out from storage this morning, intending to carry it on a coming shoot in the city where I want to use my venerable Canon EOS 5D Mark II with East German and Japanese M42 manual prime lenses adapted with a Gobe M42 Lens Mount to Canon EF & EF-S Camera Mount adapter, intending to ignore the camera’s meter readings for the sake of what the spotmeter tells me.

Links

Considering Adapting MS Optics Short-Run Hand-Made Manual Leica M-Mount Lenses for Fujifilm XF Cameras

It has been fascinating watching the emergence in recent years of Chinese makers of manual focus stills photography and cinema lenses adding their expertise to those of more established brands like Lumography, Voigtlaender and numerous others. 

And then I came across Japanese brand MS Optics at Japan Camera Hunter. 

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MS Optics Perar 17mm f/4.5 Leica M-Mount manual focus pancake prime lens, designed and handmade by Mr Miyazaki in Japan. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
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Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 manual prime lens for Leica M-Series. This was my automatic go-to lens for documentary photography and photojournalism for many years since I bought it new as a young photographer. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.

Back when I was considering my first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera I looked into vintage manual focus lenses like those made by Zenit but set the idea aside when considering the scarcity and cost of buying them locally.

I had sold my Leica M-Series cameras and lenses several years before during a financially challenging period and before mirrorless cameras began making a dent in digital photography and video production.

The value of vintage manual lenses on mirrorless cameras became clear when Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro dropped by our studio and kindly gave us two lovely little M42-mount lenses in 28mm and 50mm focal lengths.

After purchasing lens mount adapters from Gobe, I began using both lenses on Fujifilm X-mount and Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, and later my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the latter when my copy of Canon’s notoriously shoddily-made and optically-poor Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM kit zoom lens failed just after end of warranty and the technician gave up on trying to render it usable.

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Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens.

The 28mm focal length in the 35mm sensor format is my standard for documentary photography and one that I favour for documentary video as well.

When adapted for Fujifilm X-mount, a 28mm lens becomes 42mm, and when a 50mm lens is adapted for the same mount it becomes 75mm.

Likewise, adapting both lenses for Micro Four Thirds effectively turns them into 56mm and 100mm lenses, great focal portrait lengths.

One of my favourite focal length pairs for documentary video in Super 35 is 18mm and 50mm, equivalent to 15mm and 37.5mm in Micro Four Thirds and 28mm and 75mm in the 35mm sensor format.

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Zeiss Distagon 18mm f/4.0 ZM prime lens for Leica M-mount, now stupidly “discontinued” according to Zeiss and retailers.

While the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R is good enough for most documentary photography work provided its optical and mechanical quirks do not get in the way, I find it next to useless for video work and have long been asking Fujifilm to at least update the focal length with a Fujicron-style f/2.0 lens if not a Fujilux-style f/1.4 lens with the manual clutch focus that is invaluable for serious movie production.

Meanwhile I have been searching for manual focus alternatives to Fujifilm’s 18mm semi-pancake lens and was almost settled on the reportedly excellent Zeiss Distagon 18mm T* f/4.0 ZM in Leica M-mount when it suddenly vanished from retailers, listed as “discontinued” and without a replacement.

@#$%^&*!!!

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Contax Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/4.0 Leica M-mount manual prime lens, now long-discontinued. Photograph from ebay.com listings.

An utterly stupid decision in my opinion, with no equivalent offered by any other current lens maker, especially given how much high praise the Zeiss 18mm Distagon has received over the years.

The closest affordable 18mm lens I have found online second-hand is the long discontinued Contax Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/4.0 in Contax/Yashica aka C/Y mount made by Kyocera, but I have no experience of these lenses or of the cameras for which they were designed though they are often described as “not to Zeiss standards”.

On the other hand cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro speaks of his set of Contax Carl Zeiss C/Y mount lenses with affection, having adapted them all to EF mount with some filing down of the tab protrusions to allow speed booster compatibility for professional movie production on a range of cameras and sensor formats.

Mr Miyazaki’s MS-Optics lenses

I don’t know much about the limited-run Leica M-mount prime lenses handmade by Mr. Miyazaki of MS Optics save that they are clearly designed for stills photography and would be less useful for video production.

If it were not for the fact that MS Optics lenses are made in tiny production runs and are apparently not reissued after selling out, I might have considered the MS Optics Perar 17mm f/4.5 Leica M-Mount for use at hyperfocal distance settings for, say, urban documentary photography.

I have been keeping an eye on the ever-growing list of Chinese manual lens makers but so far none have shown signs of an 18mm lens in Leica M-mount or any other mount.

All one can do is hope beyond hope that Fujifilm will finally act on the reported deluge of requests made by XF-mount camera users to Fujifilm to release a radically upgraded Fujinon XF 18mm lens, one better suited to professional video and stills photography.

Outside the bounds of affordability nowadays: Leica M-Series lenses

I relied on two Leica M-4P cameras and several Leica M-Series lenses as the backbone of my kit for years of corporate, magazine and newspaper photography and while the fees were nothing like the ones I used to pay photographers when I worked in advertising in London, they were enough to help cover the cost of Leica and other gear.

While Leica manual focus prime lenses remain my personal benchmark for optical and mechanical construction, I can no longer afford them and so keep a keen eye on the growing number of Chinese lens makers.

I hope they will be emboldened to go beyond the usual standard, moderate short and moderate wide focal lengths and develop lenses such as, for example, Kipon’s Iberit 75mm f/2.4 and Iberit 40mm f/0.85 Mark Ⅱ for Fujifilm X-mount, or even an 18mm lens for the same mount.

Links

DPReview: Fujifilm X-T4 Review: Hands-on with Fujifilm’s newest flagship camera – Commentary

“Is the Fujifilm X-T4 the king of APS-C cameras? We have the answer!…”

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Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR zoom lens.

Commentary

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One design inspiration for Fujifilm’s X-T4? Leica Leicaflex SL with Summicron-R 50mm f/2.0, made in 1968. The SL2 is considered one of the best analog-era 35mm SLRs.

I missed out on seeing a pre-production Fujifilm X-4 at Fujifilm Australia’s event at Ted’s World of Imaging earlier this year when COVID-19 struck and I could not attend due to highly susceptible family members back home.

Such touch-and-try preview events can be useful but production versions are the real deal when it comes to assessing potential new hardware purchases.

DPReview is in prime position for obtaining early production releases and recently published its two-hander video review of the Fujifilm X-T4 alongside an in-depth text review plus image gallery.

A cursory skim through confirms my initial assessment of the desirability of the X-T4 for documentary stills photography and video production as an independent self-funded practitioner without the means to acquire every bit of hardware that comes down the turnpike, so I will be forgoing an X-T4 unless circumstances change.

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Should some of us wait for the X-H2? Fujifilm X-H1 with VPB-XH1 battery grip and Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR professional zoom lens.

Or we just might win the lottery. Ha!

COVID-19 and its worldwide economic havoc and consequent uncertainty for independent creatives means more belt-tightening and skipping over new models while trying to get the best out of past purchases.

There is plenty to like about the X-T4 for stills and video, especially video, and it is clearly one of the current best options for available light documentary work in either.

It is excellent to see that Fujifilm has now entered the small camera IBIS era (in-body image stabilization) and is reportedly approaching the IBIS in Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5, DC-G9 and S-Series 35mm cameras such as the Lumix DC-S1H, DC-S1 and DC-S1R.

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Cinematographer, director, producer, writer Emily Skye of She Wolf Films production company with Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 camera.

Some reviewers are speculating that Fujifilm may issue firmware updates to improve the X-T4’s IBIS, and that will be quite an achievement if they do so.

I have the most experience with the GH5’s stabilization in combination with non-stabilized autofocus lenses like those in Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro range as well as manual-focus vintage lenses of East German design and German or Japanese manufacture, and can testify to the camera’s excellent IBIS for stills and video.

My baptism into the joys of IBIS occurred with my still-beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 during a vacation away from Fujifilm cameras when the company had yet to get its head round video.

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Australian photojournalist Daniel Berehulak using Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8’s fully articulated LCD monitor. Now we have full articulation in the X-T4!

The GX8 has an earlier, stills-only version of IBIS than the GH5, but I soon discovered how useful, essential even, stabilization is for available darkness documentary work and I cannot imagine ever going back to non-stabilized cameras or at least non-stabilized lenses on such cameras.

Subsequently I picked up a copy of the legendary though often overlooked Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS stabilized zoom lens and would have added the equally impressive Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/4-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS zoom, had I found a secondhand copy at a good price at the time.

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Panasonic DMW-XLR1 Microphone Adapter for Panasonic Lumix G and S-Series cameras. Fujifilm needs to make one of these for its more video-oriented cameras.

Without the pleasure of access to a production version of the Fujifilm X-T4, I am reluctant to express any opinions about it here so have added links to articles by well-qualified reviewers in the list of links below.

I do hope, though, that Fujifilm will come up with the all-in-one APS-C/Super 35 alternative to Panasonic’s excellent Lumix GH5, GH5S and G9 Micro Four Thirds cameras, whether in the coming Fujifilm X-H1 or in the successor to the X-T4, perhaps to be named the X-T5.

Time will tell.

Fujifilm X-T4

The Fujifilm X-T4 for moviemaking

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Fujifilm X-T4 rigged for video production. Image courtesy of Fujifilm-X.com.

Links

Fuji Rumors: VOTE NOW the SIGMA Lens You Want for Fujifilm X – Commentary

https://www.fujirumors.com/vote-now-the-sigma-lens-you-want-for-fujifilm-x/

In a recent interview, Top Fujifilm manager Toshihisa Iida said that Fujifilm is opening X mount to third parties, and that Tokina will be the first company to offer autofocus lenses for the Fujifilm X system….

I have placed my vote for the two current Sigma APS-C lenses  most want the company to redesign and make for Fujifilm X-Mount cameras, and if more than two votes were permitted by Patrick DiVino’s survey then I would vote for several more.

The two Sigma APS-C zoom lenses I most want to see redesigned for Fujifilm X-Series cameras

There is little doubt that these two APS-C/Super 35 zoom lenses have proven popular amongst users of a range of camera systems and sensor formats for stills photography and video, whether adapted or in native mount versions.

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Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming with his Blackmagic Design Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, 8Sinn cage and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art zoom lens attached with Metabones Speed Booster EF-to-MFT adapter.

The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom is the most popular of the two and is often seen in use in its Canon EF-mount version attached to cameras made by Blackmagic Design, Panasonic and Fujifilm via adapter or natively.

The lens is designed for APS-C/Super 35 sensor-equipped cameras, and is currently available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sigma SA and Sony A mount.

Both Art lenses are also made in three-gear cinematography versions in Arri PL, Canon EF and Sony E mounts, available for purchase at B&H separately or as a pair with customised hard case.

Both lenses are also available at B&H as a kit for Sony E-mount cameras with Sigma MC-11 Mount Convertor /Lens Adapter to convert Canon EF to Sony E.

If a similar kit were already available with Sigma convertor/adapter for Fujifilm X-mount cameras, one might be sorely tempted.

But it is not, and there are good arguments for both lenses being redesigned and made native with typical X-mount features such as aperture rings but that can be used clicked with 1/3-stop detents or completely clickless, your choice set with the flick of a switch.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

Equivalent in 35mm sensor camera terms from 27mm through to 52.5mm, this lens includes some of my most-used stills and video documentary focal lengths such as 28mm, 35mm, 40mm and 50mm.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it is well-suited to the indoors available darkness in which I often find myself.

It would become my most-used lens for documentary work, to be supplemented with Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R for scene-setting shots, or, if talking Sigma APS-C lenses then the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM may be suitable provided a Fujifilm X-mount version is made.

In 35mm sensor terms, the Fujinon is equivalent to 21mm and the Sigma zoom is equivalent to a range of 15mm through to 30mm.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

I have long been hoping Fujifilm would release one of my favourite portrait focal lengths, 70mm, as a fast prime lens with closeup capability, but my hopes continue to be dashed each time the company updates its lens roadmap.

In 35mm sensor terms, this lens is 105mm and is the focal length with which I became a portrait photographer.

Sigma’s 50-100mm f/1.8 zoom is equivalent in 35mm terms to 75mm through to 150mm, thus including another popular portrait focal length, 90mm, which is equivalent to 137mm.

Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 90mm f/2.0 R LM WR prime receives high praise as does the Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR prime lens, but the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 zoom would take the place of three useful portrait and documentary focal lengths at a fraction of the cost of three Fujifilm-made lenses.

The ongoing lack of a professional-quality Fujifilm 18mm prime lens

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Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens.

Fujifilm Australia staff members often confirm that the lens customers want to see radically updated is the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, a lens I love and hate, with the emphasis on the latter.

Love is too strong a word for this 28mm-equivalent prime lens, so let’s use “like” instead.

I know some photographers adore it for its many old-fashioned optical and mechanical quirks but for me it is an irritating disappointment.

I have often asked Fujifilm to replace it with a compact Fujicron-style lens for documentary photography or a manual clutch focus Fujilux-style f/1.4 lens for available darkness work and especially for video.

In my Leica M-Series analog rangefinder days I relied on a Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 Aspheric lens mounted on my prime camera with a Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 Aspheric lens in reserve for available darkness documentary photography.

Incidentally, if I could only have two prime lenses for video work, then I would choose a 28mm equivalent and a 40mm equivalent, or in APS-C terms, 18mm and 27mm.

Fujifilm makes neither focal length as manual clutch focusing primes, much to my ongoing moviemaking disappointment, but I often carry the compact Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 and 18mm f/2.0 R on a pair of Fujifilm rangefinder cameras when needing to be discrete and in the street or places where I don’t want to be noticed, but I would not use either prime lens for video.

Fujifilm makes three excellent primes equally suitable for video and stills photography, the manual clutch focusing Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R, XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and XF 23mm f/1.4 R but there are no signs the company is serious about extending its manual clutch focus lens range any time soon, whether with primes or zooms.

Shame, given Fujifilm’s recent emphasis on great quality Super 35 video with the Fujifilm X-T4 and the coming Fujifilm X-H2.

If Sigma can be persuaded to make an aperture ring-equipped 18-35mm f/1.8 X-mount zoom then that can help with available light or darkness video work, leaving Fujifilm to finally pull its collective fingers out with a Fujicron-style XF 18mm lens that does need to be faster than f/2.8.

Given the success of the Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR, despite its maximum aperture being darker than the f/2.0 of its Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WRFujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR and Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR Fujicron-style siblings, a Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.8 R WR should do just fine for documentary stills, leaving the serious 18mm available darkness video work to Sigma along with the other focal lengths in its 18-35mm f/1.8 Art zoom lens.

I also want this for Fujifilm X-mount: Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art macro lens

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Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art macro lens.
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Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 manual focus, manual exposure macro lens with 1:2 magnification.

Fuji Rumor’s Sigma X-mount lens poll limited respondents to choosing two lenses but I would have chosen three if permitted.

Having learned to be a portrait photographer by using the art school’s Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm and 55mm lenses close-up and at normal portrait distances, I have long been looking for an X-mount equivalent to my favourite of the two, the 105mm.

Until this rumor and poll surfaced at Fuji Rumors about the possibility of Sigma opening up to making Fujifilm X-mount versions of its lenses, I had resigned myself to looking for a suitable manual focus 75mm manual lens to adapt to X-mount.

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Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f/1.5 Aspherical lens.

B&H currently lists two affordable 75mm Leica M-mount lenses, the 7artisans Photoelectric 75mm f/1.25 and the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f/1.5 Aspherical lens, and a range of M-to-X-mount adapters are available, some with close focus capability.

I have no problem with the idea of using manual-only lenses for close-up and portrait work, but autofocus with good manual focusing extends the usefulness of any lens.

So, Sigma, will you be making good on the desires of many Fujifilm camera users for Fujifilm X-mount Sigma lenses?

If so, Sigma, please add the 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens, the 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens and the 70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art macro lens to the top of your list.

Fuji Rumors: Fuji Guys X-T4 How-To Guide: Get Ready for Your Fujifilm X-T4

https://www.fujirumors.com/fuji-guys-x-t4-how-to-guide-get-ready-for-your-fujifilm-x-t4/

The Fuji Guys want to make you fit for your Fujifilm X-T4, and launched a series to show you how to use certain feature on the X-T4….

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Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.

Links

FUJIFILM X Series: X-T4: “Photography in Motion” Jack Picone, directed by Fujifilm X-Series Ambassador Megan Lewis

X-Photographer Jack Picone from Australia travels with the X-T4 and documents the life in Nepal and the beliefs that the Nepalese follow.

Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens. Not a bad combination for available light or available darkness documentary photography or photojournalism, if you don’t mind the DSLR form factor as opposed to the X-Pro3’s more unobtrusive rangefinder style.

Links

Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro Releases New LUTs & Updates for Fujifilm X Series, Blackmagic Design Pocket 4K & 6K, DJI Mavic Mini & Osmo Pocket, & GoPro 8

Regular readers may have noticed I have written posts about Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming and his Leeming LUT Pro look-up tables for top-quality video production for some years, so I will not repeat any of that here right now, save to say that Mr Leeming’s LUT sets are currently the best and they continue to become even better with every new version.

Fujifilm X-T4 with Fujifilm VG-XT4 Vertical Battery grip and Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR kit zoom lens.

As Paul recently wrote in his Facebook Group page (edits applied by me):

… I’ve spent the last six months developing a new methodology to make these the most accurate LUTs ever. That methodology, which takes into account all the edge cases I’ve seen here (S-Log2 gamut issues, green tints etc), is now being applied to all cameras.

Like a fine wine, it takes time, because I have set stupidly high standards for myself. I want these LUTs to be the be-all and end-all of accuracy. And honestly, with Athena and Pro II, I’m done for accuracy. There’s nowhere else to go.

Athena is my new go-to for actual work, since it’s a brighter starting point with a gentle S-curve built in, so that I can simply apply it and get to work colour grading creatively. But Pro II remains as the no holds barred Rec. 709 standard, bang-on for luma and colorimetry, baseline LUT.

My long term goal is to get all cameras upgraded, then move to some really high end Super Quickie packs based on the Athena series as the base. These will probably be paid, but it won’t be much, maybe 5-10 EUR. But they’ll be perfectly harmonised for Athena and fit like a glove.

Then I also want to provide Rec. 2020 LUTs for all cameras, but to do that I need a Rec. 2020 setup, so I’m waiting on the release of the LG CX 48″ TV / monitor, which will be Rec. 2020 compatible and OLED for perfect colorimetry and luma….

… [I] forgot to mention all the NEW cameras that will be added to the inventory too, like the original Mavic Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro, etc.

I have just downloaded the Leeming LUT Pro set for Fujifilm X Series, comprising the F-Log, Eterna Cinema, Pro Neg Std and HLG for Rec.709 LUTs, and am looking forward to shooting some fresh footage with F-Log in particular to try this latest version out.

I am also looking forward to the coming updates of the Leeming LUT Pro set for Panasonic G Series cameras.