These sorts of side-by-side tryouts are useful when assembling an optimal set of lenses for any camera system, and are something I would love to do myself with more of an in-the-field as-close-to-real-life-as-possible tryout, less of a techie pixel-peeping and specifications-comparing spiel.
Given my relative lack of access to the range of gear I would want to try out and write about, I am glad that others out there in the northern hemisphere do have access to items of interest, like MirrorLessons’ Wales-based Heather Broster and Mathieu Gasquet, and are great at more technical reviewing.
Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes and their f/1.8 counterparts
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens with manual clutch focusing via retracting focus control ring. Equivalent to 90mm in the 35mm sensor format. If only ALL lenses offered manual clutch focus!
I learned to select camera systems first by the quality of their lenses, second by the functionality of their camera bodies and those principles remain in force despite the digital era’s constantly evolving hardware and software technologies.
Lens choice should be based on genre, camera shape and size, and other shooting stills, video or both.
In my case (mostly) available light documentary, small to medium size mirrorless rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras when possible, and both video and stills, often in the same project.
I do appreciate the smaller Micro Four Thirds and APS-C lenses, especially the pancake and “Fujicron” lens designs, for allowing me to be discrete and unobtrusive when shooting in public but find manual clutch focus lenses invaluable when shooting video and for critical focus with fast apertures and longer focal lengths.
Most lenses in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection feature filter diameters of 62mm or more, wide focussing rings suitable for follow-focus devices and lens bodies large enough to grip well.
Video brings other lens features into consideration, too, especially when shooting in the great outdoors under bright sunlight or with fast sensors of 400 ISO and over.
One thing to bear in mind when shooting video outdoors on sunny days is that variable NDs with maximum densities of 6 stops may be inadequate, so please consider variable NDs with higher density values such as the Aurora-Aperture or SLR Magic products in the list at the bottom of this page.
Alternatively, if choosing fixed NDs then space them well and ensure the highest density is 10 or more stops for shooting in bright sun with high ISO sensors, an even more important consideration with Panasonic rumoured soon to be announcing a new low-light version of the GH5 with higher base ISO sensor than the current GH5’s 200 ISO.
TheCameraStoreTV – Focus By Wire: Why It Sucks (Featuring Possible Solutions!) – “It seems every other TCSTV episode, Jordan Drake is complaining about focus-by-wire lenses. So Jordan and Chris Niccolls decided to explain what focus-by-wire is, and why you probably don’t want it if you’re shooting video.”
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Aurora-Aperture PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops) – B&H
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – B&H
“Liz Ham started taking photos of women in the punk scene because she wanted to pay tribute to a diverse community that, in her experience, was welcoming, supportive and liberating for the women and girls who were part of it. Now her new book, Punk Girls, brings together more than 100 of these portraits – including of rock stars, activists, artists, performers and musicians – to celebrate the colourful and confident rule-breakers and nonconformists of Australia’s underground….
THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2017 – BETTER READ THAN DEAD, NEWTOWN
Celebrate the launch of the Punk Girls book at one of Sydney’s leading independent bookstores and be the first to have the author, Liz Ham, sign your copy. 6.30pm | drinks served | free of charge
THURSDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2017 – SUN STUDIOS, ALEXANDRIA
In partnership with Young Henrys and Sun Studios, Manuscript Publishing will host an evening celebrating women in punk. With performances by Bam Bam, Betty Grumble, Mahla Bird, Venus Vamp and DJ Scarlett Scar, and a special range of merchandise accompanying the book, there’s never been a better time to unleash your inner punk. 6.30pm | drinks served | free of charge RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
THURSDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2017 – BRUNSWICK BOUND, BRUNSWICK
Melbourne, it’s your turn to celebrate with Liz Ham, as the Punk Girls author returns to the southern state to celebrate alongside the inspiring women that feature in the book. Get your copy signed in person at leading bookstore Brunswick Bound. 6.30pm | drinks served | free of charge RSVP: email@example.com
SATURDAY 2 DECEMBER 2017 – STATE LIBRARY OF NSW, SYDNEY
Join us at the State Library of New South Wales’ Metcalf Auditorium for a fascinating panel discussion between Liz Ham, Emma Price (The Kingpins), Ollie Henderson (the House of Riot) and Sydney councillor Jess Scully.
2-3pm | $10.00“
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.
I attended my second Sydney Fujifilm People with Cameras event in Chippendale on Sunday, October 29, 2017. Here is a selection of photographs, shot on a Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 using the full ERF image within the OVF in manual mode with back-button focussing for the technically inquisitive, then quickly processed to proof quality in Capture One Pro.
I stared writing some tech notes to go with this gallery article and then they expanded far beyond the few words I had originally intended.
So now I have spun them off into their own fully-fledged article that can be found here:
“Fujifilm Corporation is collaborating with Magnum Photos on a major new project exploring the subject of “HOME”. An exhibition of the work will tour to seven cities around the world starting in March 2018, and be accompanied by a photobook.
15 Magnum Photographers will explore the theme of “HOME” for the project. Known for their wide range of approaches, Magnum Photos members produce documentary photography that encompasses art and photojournalism. Sharing the agency’s legacy for humanistic photography, associated with its founding in 1947, Magnum’s contemporary practitioners are united by a curiosity about the world. This project invites them to explore a universal subject familiar to us all.
“Home” is not only defined as a space for physical living. It holds various other associations that are emotional, biological, cultural and societal. These 15 photographers have been given an open brief to explore the subject through their own individual practices, the resulting work reflecting their personal take on a subject that we all record photographically….”
“The photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb have produced a book, “Slant Rhymes,” that pairs images by each of them in diptychs. In an email exchange with James Estrin, they discussed the book, photography and their relationship….”
“After nearly half a century, the world-renown photography department has moved from Newport to the Welsh capital where, under the direction of Paul Reas and a team of practising professionals, it is preparing students for today’s industry…
… For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations….
… “We have always been driven by the industry expectations of a photographer working within a documentary practice. And that’s definitely reflected in the kind of people that we recruit to teach, and some of the teaching methodologies as well.”…”
At long last, a company has recognized an issue that has increasingly been coming to the fore for travelling photographers and cinematographers, and has come up with a thoughtful, well-designed and well-made solution to it. Or rather, two companies in close collaboration, Think Tank Photo and SKB, and that issue is the increasing demand by airlines that we agree to stashing our precious, costly gear in the cargo hold instead of carrying it on as cabin luggage.
Think Tank Photo, a company whose soft camera bags and accessories I have used for some years, has collaborated with a maker of hard cases, SKB, a company new to me until now. Think Tank lists the products of this collaboration on its website under the SKB Hard Cases moniker and SBK has them on its website as the SKB Flyer Series.
There are similarities and differences between the two companies’ listings of the products of their collaboration, with SKB adding some video-oriented Flyer cases and a very useful long logistics hard case for carrying lighting and other production gear while Think Tank Photo appears to be concentrating more on the stills side of things.
Think Tank Photo was a pioneer in supporting hybrid stills/video photographers/cinematographers with its brilliant but discontinued Wired Up Multimedia soft case range that I use to this very day. Think Tank Photo seems to have passed the hybrid thing by now, focussing on pure cinematography with a fourteen soft case-strong collection of video transport cases illustrated carrying RED, Canon Cinema EOS and DJI drone cameras.
A subset of Think Tank Photo SKB Hard Case photographs
Think Tank Photo has recently begun illustrating its products with Fujifilm X-Series mirrorless cameras in a hat-tip to the ever-growing popularity of APS-C and, one assumes, Micro Four Thirds hybrid stills/video cameras for professional photography and moviemaking, especially in the self-funded independent documentary and feature sector, a refreshing relief from their former concentration on 35mm format DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.
I do not use the inane and inaccurate “full frame”, “full format” and “crop sensors” terminology in reference to digital sensor sizes. Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera makes such olde worlde 35mm absolutism appear ridiculous, especially given that its body is about the same size or just a little bigger than the average DSLR but with a much larger sensor, establishing a new standard for image quality to be judged against if one is so inclined.
Although M43 cameras are not shown in the product shots, it is safe to assume that a case that can carry Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 Super 35 APS-C cameras, lenses and accessories can also hold Panasonic or Olympus Super 16 M43 cameras, lenses and accessories.
That is good news for those like me who would prefer to transport our Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DMC-GH4 or DMC-GX8 fully rigged and ready for fast camera case egress going straight into shooting documentary footage minus fussing about attaching microphones, recorders, monitors, cables, cages, rigging and the like.
The same assumptions should apply to transporting the GFX 50S for stills photography given its DSLR size but bigger and better sensor.
The Think Tank Photo cum SKB Flyer hard case cum soft internals series could not have come at a better time as I am currently having to radically rethink how to carry my stills and video production gear during shoots, going to and from shoots and, when this interminable subdivision process is finally completed so we can refinance our projects including Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success, travelling intercity, interstate and overseas.
I am on the verge of a major camera case cleanup, reducing my reliance on shoulder bags and even some backpacks unduly straining permanently damaged spine, shoulders, arms and back.
Another clean-up factor is leather now that Sydney’s weather veers towards sub-tropical with ever-advancing climate change and the danger of leather-loving, lens-destroying mould taking up permanent residence in most Australian homes. Add to that the cruelty and environmental impact aspects of leather production.
I want to see all camera bag and accessory makers abandon the use of leather and follow the examples of companies like Cosyspeed that use kinder, safer materials like synthetic leather as used in the automobile industry.
Meanwhile I am looking at the specifications of all ten of the SKB Hard Cases at Think Tank Photo’s website while remembering scenes I witnessed in the days when I carted aluminium hard cases and soft logistics cases around the deserts of Western Australia and the odd foray to the eastern states for corporate assignments.
Watching luggage handlers hurl bags on and off their trailers, topple them onto the ground or sling them into luggage chutes made me cringe every time. It is great if you can get away with carrying your gear into the cabin but best to be prepared for that odd stroppy ticket or gate attendant who disputes that your “airline carry-on approved size” really is the approved size or rejects it for breaching said size by a millimetre or two.
Think Tank Photo SKB iSeries 3i-2011-7BP Backpack & Rolling Case
Think Tank Photo’s SKB iSeries 3i-2011-7BP Backpack & Rolling Case.
Think Tank Photo’s SKB iSeries 3i-2011-7BP Backpack & Rolling Case, with Fujifilm cameras.
I have been considering something similar for safely transporting a future mostly-video documentary production kit based around the GH5 and its predecessors the GH4 and GX8. I just need to determine whether the set-up illustrated above will carry everything I need for short and feature documentary projects. Time to make a list!
I will need a second camera bag for cabin-only documentary stills gear, to complement the cabin or cargo hold mostly-video case, as well as a safer way of carrying tripod, lights and lighting stands for my coming new travelling kit to be complete.
It would be terrific if a vendor turns up at the SMPTE 2017 at Darling Harbour mid-July with a massive collection of Think Tank Photo camera bags so I can work out some optimal carrying combinations.
The steady reduction of photography retailers in this part of the world and the ending of photography trade shows here makes seeing, trying and selecting the right gear even more difficult than before. Guessing which camera bags you need based on product shots with cameras, lens and accessory systems you don’t use can be a challenge!
Header image made from product photograph kindly supplied by Think Tank Photo and SKB Cases, processed with MacphunLuminar Neptune using a preset from the Tintype Looks collection, in remembrance of Khadija Saye, the emerging British artist tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower disaster.