Fujifilm, Damn It, Get a Grip!

One thing my partner learned from ten years working in Canon’s research and development division is that even photographic market leaders have hardware and firmware blindspots, and in that instance they were legion and persistent, and remain so to this day. 

Fujifilm has its own persistent camera and lens hardware and firmware idiosyncrasies, which I have covered in other articles on this site, with one of its most recent hardware blindspots being the failure to issue a hand grip for the camera most in need of one, the Fujifilm X100F. 

Fujifilm Finepix X100 camera with Fujifilm MHG-X100 hand grip and Peak Design original Cuff and CL-2 Clutch camera straps. I am waiting for Peak Design AL-3 Anchor Links to appear locally so I can replace the original AL and current AL-2 Anchor Links illustrated as they are too thick to permit easily opening the camera’s battery and card door.

When I managed to see an X100, I was impressed by Fujifilm’s achievement but dismayed by its minimal built-in grip and the slipperiness of its tiny body.

I ordered one and it arrived just before a trip to San Francisco where I carried it everywhere every day.

It helped me produce some terrific photographs but my ability to hold it comfortably and safely at all times was compromised by the lack of a hand grip, despite finding a reasonable wrist strap to attach the camera.

I eventually came across Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 hand grip and snapped it up, attaching it to the camera along with Peak Design’s Clutch and Cuff camera straps.

I was impressed by how Fujifilm had thought of everything, by designing a rectangular notch into the side of the hand grip to allow attaching camera straps like the first one I bought for it, from San Francisco’s DSPTCH travel company.

Gallery of X100 images, before and after hand grip

The top three photographs were made when I did not have a hand grip for my X100, and the three photographs below were made after I bought a Fujifilm hand grip.

The safer former grip afforded by the hand grip gave me far more confidence and allowed me to be far more gestural in my approach, working faster and getting close in to the action.

I use my X100 with hand grip for documentary projects to this day.

No Fujifilm hand grip for the X100F!

I was shocked to learn that Fujifilm had failed to produce an updated version of its MHG-X100 hand grip for the X100F, when I was kindly loaned an X100F.

Like the X100 and its two successors, the X100S and X100T, the X100F’s body is small and slippery, and its taller built-in slippery grip bump does little or nothing to aid in ensuring a good hand-hold of the camera.

I attached my usual Peak Design Clutch and Cuff via Peak Design’s Arca-Swiss compatible camera plate, as in the photographs above, but it was a compromise compared to my hand-grip-plus-camera-straps solution for the X100.

Compromise, too is the word I would apply to each third party camera grip design I have seen online so far, linked to in my list of links blow.

None of them appeal to me and I am wondering whether even Really Right Stuff’s L-Plate Set and Grip might be worth the investment given its size, weight and slippery CNC surface, despite the potential usefulness of its optional L-Component for tripod-mounting in portrait orientation via an Arca-Swiss tripod head.

Really Right Stuff’s X100F solution has one really big downside besides slipperiness, size, expense and weight, and that is its lack of provision for attaching my two Peak Design camera straps.

Instead the company offers its Magpul Gen 2 MS4 Dual QD Sling for carrying the plated and gripped-up X100F rather than my smaller, safer, lighter and more elegant Clutch plus Cuff solution.

A long, long time ago… even the Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL and Minolta CLE had a hand grip

My first thought on first seeing preview images of the Fujifilm Finepix X100 online some years ago was that it might be the closest digital equivalent to a Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL or a Minolta CLE.

The Leitz camera company, now Leica Camera AG, reportedly killed off the Leica CL as sales were eating into those of the far more expensive Leica M5, and having seen and tried an M5 I can see why.

According to Ken Rockwell, “the CLE is a joy to carry, and a joy to shoot” and that it “could be photography’s messiah: the smallest, lightest possible solution for a complete advanced camera system” but as none of its versions appeared in my part of the world at the time I have never had the pleasure of using one.

It is remarkable how popular the Minolta CLE remains amongst those in the know to this day, including Take Kayo of Big Head Taco who reportedly has two of them.

Three lenses were created specially for these three cameras – the Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle, the M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0 “perfect normal” and the M-Rokkor 90mm f/4.0 medium telephoto.

But I digress..

The Fujfilm X100F achieves a similar result with its 35mm-equivalent 23mm fixed lens and its optional TCL-X100 II Tele Conversion and WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion lenses providing the equivalent to the 28mm and 50mm focal lengths in 35mm sensor terms, making it close to a credible digital “complete advanced camera system” able to fit in a small waist bag or shoulder bag.

Now if only Fujifilm could release its own hand grip for the X100F to make it a complete camera system, then we would be much happier. 🙂

Links

Image Credits

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris. Hero image of the Fujifilm X100 with hand grip photographed as 5-bracket HDR on Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 with Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens then processed with Skylum Aurora HDR 2018 and Luminar 2018.

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Fujifilm MHG-X100 Hand Grip for X100T, X100S and X100 Digital Cameras – B&H
  • Fujifilm X100F Digital CameraB&H
  • Fujifilm TCL-X100 II Tele Conversion LensB&H
  • Fujifilm WCL-X100 II Wide Conversion LensB&H
  • Match Technical EP-2F Thumbs Up Grip for Fujifilm X100FB&H
  • Peak Design Anchor Connectors for Peak Design Straps (4-Pack)B&H
  • Peak Design AL-3 Anchor LinksB&H
  • Peak Design Cuff Camera Wrist StrapB&H
  • Peak Design CL-2 Clutch Camera Hand-StrapB&H
  • Peak Design Leash Camera StrapB&H
  • Really Right Stuff Base Plate for Fujifilm X100FB&H
  • Really Right Stuff Base Plate and Grip for Fujifilm X100F – B&H
  • Really Right StuffL-Component for BX100F Base Plate – B&H
  • Really Right Stuff L-Plate Set and Grip for Fujifilm X100F B&H

Tripod Innovator 3 Legged Thing Revamps Product Range and Website, Releases QR11 Universal L-Bracket

Wildly innovative British tripod and tripod accessories maker 3 Legged Thing has updated its website while launching its new QR11 Universal L-Bracket, with the side benefit of making the entire 3 Legged Thing product range more comprehensible via plenty of product shots and descriptions. An unexpected revelation of the new website is the addition of a second pro tripod colourway alongside established bronze and blue Equinox in the form of the more subdued Eclipse. 

A Fujifilm X-Pro2 APS-C mirrorless camera attached to a 3 Legged Thing Airhed 360 professional panoramic tripod head via 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC L-Plate in Equinox Copper.

3 Legged Thing describes its new Eclipse colourway as “metallic slate with subtle hints of British Racing Green”, appealing perhaps to the patriots and Anglophiles in the photographic community but also useful in potentially drawing less unwanted attention to the presence of a tripod-using photographer in places where tripod laws and regulations still reign.

I rather like 3 Legged Thing’s beautifully anodized blue and bronze Equinox colourway and find mostly-grey Eclipse dull by comparison though the copper orange accents shared by each spice up the Eclipse look as much as it does Equinox.

Although I do not own a 3 Legged Thing tripod yet, I was lucky enough to try one out when I began the Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success project and learned firsthand how innovatively designed and carefully manufactured 3 Legged Thing’s products are.

3 Legged Thing’s 3 Professional tripod range – Leo, Albert and Winston

My experiences with the Equinox Leo Carbon Fibre Tripod System & AirHed Light, now updated in the form of the Equinox Leo Kit that includes the Airhed Switch, were so positive that I added the next model up, the Equinox Albert Kit which includes the Airhed 360, to my stills photography wishlist.

In the course of the tryout I discovered that the jewel-like colours and finish of the Equinox Leo drew in and even fascinated portrait sitters so they focussed more on the experience of being before camera and tripod, taking their minds off innate self-consciousness.

I was reminded how the relatively unusual sheet film and 120 roll film cameras I favoured for portraiture during the analog era created a similar fascination in my sitters and concluded that any hardware with that capability had to be a good thing.

Today’s digital cameras are bland-looking things in comparison to those hand-made marvels of optical and mechanical design and engineering to the point where I often blend into the crowd, or the darkness, even when standing right in front of a subject mere centimetres away from their eyes.

A tripod-shaped place in my heart

The legendary Leitz Tiltall tripod in silver and black. My first tripod was a black Tiltall, purchased after seeing so many great US female and male photographers relying on them in books and magazines. I still miss my Tiltall and it has a special place in my heart even though it was stolen years ago.

After almost a lifetime of being a tripod and monopod user when shooting photography and video, I have owned, sold off or lost through theft a great many of them and none has won a special place in my heart apart from the very first, a black Leitz Tiltall exactly the same as one depicted in the first photography book I bought about the work of two female photographers in the United States.

That first tripod of mine was described by its US makers as “The Leica of Tripods” and its high quality design and engineering prompted me to investigate Leica cameras, after which I quickly sold off my Nikons and invested in Leica M-System rangefinder cameras and lenses.

As the demands of my professional work increased, so did the size and weight of the tripods with which I attempted to replace my lost Tiltall.

Not one could have been considered a “micro-traveler” or even a “travel tripod”, terms 3 Legged Thing rightly uses to describe its Leo and Albert, and were more in the league of 3 Legged Thing’s Winston and beyond.

I owned all those many tripods in the days before carbon fibre and portability were considered common standards to aspire to and one British-made tripod in particular, bought for corporate photography assignments in the deserts of Western Australia, presented a real transportation challenge due to its size and weight.

Despite that, it was a stellar performer in the nastiest of conditions and I miss it still when needing a tripod capable of bizarre angles or positioning, or of carrying the heaviest of heavy loads; pity that particular model was discontinued when the company sold itself and the new owners chose to truncate the product range.

The QR11 Universal L-Bracket

The 3 Legged Thing QR11 Universal L-Bracket is available in Equinox Copper as model QR11-LC or in Eclipse Grey as QR11-LG.

3 Legged Thing’s new universal L-Bracket is available to two versions, the Equinox Copper-coloured QR11-LC and the Eclipse Metallic Slate-coloured QR11-LG. Your choice will hinge on how much attention you want to draw and whether you like 3LT’s Copper colour.

Given I am considering buying an Equinox Albert travel tripod for easy carrying to shoot portrait-orientation head-and-shoulders portraits and landscape-orientation environmental portraits, I may well opt for a QR11-LC.

Being about to dip my toes into the multicoloured Equinox colourway, why not go that little bit further with an orange-ish L-Bracket to match the orangeish accents on the Albert?

Until coming across QR11 online, I had never seriously considered a universal L-bracket of any brand. Despite digital cameras of all formats being more similar in their sizes and designs than analog cameras of all formats could ever be, any “universal” accessory must of necessity be a compromise, neither fish nor fowl, good in parts but not perfect in all of them.

I had been leaning towards custom L-Brackets for all my cameras for the obvious reason that each is designed to fit its intended cameras perfectly, allowing full access to the camera’s functions and especially its battery and card compartments.

Then the downside of relying on a range of third party custom accessories marks became apparent, with sudden discontinuation of L-Brackets for still-current cameras, as well as the many variations between third party brands, and their design and manufacturing quality.

The last straw was when the only L-Bracket made for my number one portrait camera suddenly vanished off its maker’s website never to be seen again, just as I was ready to place my order.

Strike that particular accessories maker off the wishlist for L-Brackets and perhaps everything else they make. Unreliability is the last thing one needs in a supplier and makes one wonder whether that particular company is flakey in other ways as well. Their recommended substitute for their now-dead GX8 L-Bracket is pathetic, a simple square Arca-Swiss plate, hardly inspiring confidence.

From what I can tell by looking at 3 Legged Things’ product shots, the QR11 is one of the better-designed universal L-Brackets. I love its two camera strap attachment bars given I have standardized on a Peak Design Clutch and Cuff for every camera I own, only attaching conventional neck or shoulder camera straps when doing the two-camera documentary thing.

Another potentially useful element in the QR11’s design is its 1/4″-20 threaded hole for attaching accessories, making the QR11 a little more like a cage and less of a conventional L-Bracket.

Given the nature of compromise, the QR11 does not work perfectly  with every camera in common use nowadays, but the 3LT team has tried out and documented its usability with a range of cameras from makers including Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony and I hope that they will soon add the results of their tests with current Panasonic cameras like the GX8, GH4 and GH5.

Other essential accessories for your 3 Legged Thing tripod

The 3 Legged Thing product world is built upon the Arca-Swiss quick release system and benefits from a working relationship with Peak Design, as proven by 3LT’s adoption of Peak Design’s square Arca-Swiss camera plate.

3LT makes quick release camera plates other than its square QR4, such as the rectangular QR6 and QR7. I am considering the QR7 with its strap connector and 62mm length as compared to the 38mm of the QR4 that comes with every 3LT tripod.

Many is the time I have put a camera equipped with QR4 or its Peak Design equivalent Standard Plate down upon a flat surface to watch it suddenly tilt over, with dismay at possible dire consequences to camera and lens. Will a longer quick release plate like the QR7 prevent this?

I am planning on converting all my tripods and tripod plates over to the Arca-Swiss system whether they are designed for stills photography or video and have been researching custom and third-party Arca-Swiss clamps. I have yet to make my final decision but 3LT’s two current clamps, the lever-operated Switch Clamp and panoramic 360-Clamp, are possible candidates.

Likewise I like the look of 3LT’s Stilettoz, Heelz and Clawz Footwear solutions for replacing the Bootz rubber feet that come with each 3LT tripod as standard.

I have photography and video tripods and monopods that come equipped with soft rubber or hard plastic feet that can be screwed upwards to reveal short metal spikes. Again, a neither fish nor fowl solution that could be bettered with exchangeable feet designed for each specific surface in varieties of hard or soft as 3 Legged Thing’s Footz have been.

Mould, the ever-present danger

A friend recently brought over his 3 Legged Thing Leo tripod and showed me how the synthetic pad attached to the strap of the 3LT tripod bag was covered in mould. Being justifiably paranoid about the presence of mould near photographic equipment, we immediately cleaned the mould off with Hydrogen Peroxide in the backyard then made this photograph.

At a certain point in this ongoing global warming aka climate change that out political overlords insist does not exist, mould suddenly appeared throughout apartments and houses in suburbs that had never experienced it before.

Mould infestations were formerly only the thing of inner city terrace houses with poor ventilation, tiny windows, no insulation, and little to no heating or cooling.

Cameras and lenses hate mould and so do I. Certain plastics and almost all leathers attract mould which embeds its spores into them then sprouts pale grey powder onto the outer surfaces. It is the simplest thing to accidentally transfer the powder onto your equipment then watch in horror as mould invades its insides and outsides.

I implore the 3 Legged Thing team to look into their plastics for process to mould infestation and replace them with anti-mould alternatives.

Future 3 Legged Thing products

The updated 3 Legged Thing website has helped me better understand their product range and many items in it go together. It has boosted my interest in them as a brand  and, from my time with an Equinox Pro Leo & Airhed Light Kit, one clearly capable of coming with uniquely creative and innovative hardware.

The folks at 3LT have hinted that more products are on the horizon and have not denied one persistent rumour, that a video tripod may be one of them.

I have two very good video tripods at the moment, one large and one small that is designed for travel. Both are far from what I really need, so I am looking forward to seeing what 3 Legged Thing comes up with.

Links

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • 3 Legged Thing Albert Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod with AirHed 360 Ball HeadB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing Leo Carbon Fiber Tripod System & AirHed Switch Ball HeadB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing Winston Carbon Fiber Tripod with AirHed 360 Ball Head B&H
  • 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-BracketB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing Toolz Multi-ToolB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing Equinox Switch Clamp KitB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing Equinox 360 Pano Clamp KitB&H
  • 3 Legged Thing QR7-EQ Quick Release PlateB&H

3 Legged Thing: Why things cost what they cost… – with COMMENTARY

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-things-cost-what-danny-lenihan

“In the last couple of weeks my little brand, 3 Legged Thing, launched a brand new Universal L Bracket – the QR11. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Then, somebody sent me a link to a well known forum, where a conversation had started about the press release for the QR11. The comments were almost wholly negative with more than one contributor stating “You can buy this from **insert website name** for $7″ or “I got one from China for $5 and it works just fine”….”

Commentary:

The above excellent and informative article by Danny Lenihan of 3 Legged Thing is partially in reference to 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 Universal L-Bracket aka L-Plate.

I have been looking for an L-Plate for my still-current Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera for some time and thought I had finally found a good solution in Really Right Stuff’s BGX8 L-Plate, only to discover to my deep disappointment that it was discontinued six months ago.

Really Right Stuff’s now discontinued BGX8 L-Plate for the GX8

The GX8 is a brilliant camera for portraiture and even if the GX9 eventually appears with IBIS and Dual IS per the GH5, I will continue to use my GX8 for tripod-mounted portrait and landscape orientation environmental portraiture due to its lovely sensor.

Why throw away something that works well and keep feeding the camera GAS churn cycle when perfectly good cameras can keep performing for years to come?

My current GX8 “L-Plate” solution

An L-Plate would make shooting in both orientations much easier and surer, quickly swapping from vertical to horizontal and vice versa in a way that is simply not possible by flipping the tripod head from one to the other.

Relying on third party manufacturers to supply custom solutions to common problems that should, perhaps, be attended to by camera makers is prone to all sorts of problems.

A universal L-Plate is a good solution in theory so long as it is designed in such a way that access to all your cameras’ functions are not impeded.

It seems that 3 Legged Thing did not have access to Panasonic Lumix cameras so may not have designed their QR11 L-Plate to fit it, and has not rated it for usability with the GX8 or other Panasonic cameras, or Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 for that matter.

I have managed to obtain a half-baked solution to my problem with the GX8 by purchasing SmallRig’s Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844 but a camera cage is hardly the same thing as an L-Plate.

I can understand camera-users resorting to Chinese cut-price copyists – I have had to do that myself in the absence of decent local product supply or in the presence of situations like this one with Really Right Stuff, but one thing remains constant – every Chinese-made item I have bought so far has failed spectacularly, or has been poorly-made, or is mediocre a best, or is just a lousy copy of the real thing which I have not been able to obtain for whatever reason.

I am hoping upon hope that 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 can work well enough with the GX8 or better yet that they will update it to work with the GX8 without impeding its full functionality, but the fact remains that L-Plates (and cages) customized for each specific camera are the best solution by far.

I would have thought that the whole point of contemporary CNC machining is that products can be made at any time, without having to produce in big batches, and so making even just one more Really Right Stuff BGX8 on demand should not be an impossible or insanely costly task.

Or do I have the wrong end of the stick? Independent in-demand solutions providers like Hejnar Photo prove otherwise.

As the destruction of the incredible and unique Samsung NX1, NX500 and Galaxy NX cameras proves, well-established manufacturers can and do make lousy decisions all the time and small manufacturers like Really Right Stuff are no exception to this.

Or, for that matter, Manfrotto, with their unique but tragically killed-off Lino Manfrotto Collection and Fig Rig product lines as well as other equally unique products like the Xume filter attachment system that appears to have been blessed with some pretty lousy marketing and distribution.