Meike Global: Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 Cinema Lens – Commentary

https://meikeglobal.com/products/meike-35mm-t2-1-super-35-frame-cine-lens

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Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 Cinema Prime with EF or PL mount, on Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. Image courtesy of Meike.

Commentary

Panasonic’s recent announcement of the amazing Lumix DC-S5 had me wondering where Meike and other makers of manual focus cinema prime lenses might be in their offerings for Super 35 hybrid and cinema cameras.

I was pleased to see that Meike, currently offering an attractive range of cinema primes for Micro Four Thirds cameras, has just announced the first of its range of cinema primes for Super 35 cameras with EF and PL mounts.

Investing in Meike lenses with Canon EF mounts gives owners of non-EF cameras the most options when adapting to L-mount cameras such as Panasonic’s 35mm sensor-equipped S-Series Lumix S5, S1H and S1, Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Lumix GH5 and GH5S, Blackmagic Design’s cinema cameras and Fujifilm’s X-mount and G-mount Super 35/APS-C and medium format cameras.

A good first cab off the rank

Meike’s 35mm T2.1 Super 35 prime is a good choice of first cab off the rank given its equivalence to 52.5mm in the 35mm sensor format, with 50mm and equivalent focal length lenses often being first choice when investing in new lens systems.

I look forward to seeing more examples of stills and video shot with this lens, given I currently don’t have a cinema lens at this focal length and that Meike is offering a decent prerelease discount right now.

I would choose the EF-mount version and then adapt it for L-mount, Micro Four Thirds mount, Fujifilm X-mount and G-mount hybrid cameras.

Meike states that its coming “Super35-Prime Cine Lens Series with industry-standard 0.8mm pitch gears on the focus and aperture ring” includes “18mmT2.1, 25mmT2.1, 35mmT2.1, 50mmT2.1, 75mmT2.1, 105mmT2.1” focal lengths.

I would love it if Meike added 14mm, 21mm and 40mm lenses as they are three of my favourite Super 35 video and stills focal lengths.

Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 Cinema Lens

Images courtesy of Meike.

Links

Meike Cinema Prime Lenses for Micro Four Thirds & Super 35 Fill the Chasm Left by the Demise of Veydra Mini Primes

The sudden closure of Ryan Avery’s Veydra cinema prime lens design and manufacturing enterprise several years ago created a huge gap in the affordable ciné lens market and many self-funded independent moviemakers were dismayed if not devastated by the ending of the line. 

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Meike Cinema Prime Set in 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm and 50mm T2.2 lenses with Micro Four Thirds mounts. Meike Cinema Primes in 65mm and 85mm focal lengths are coming later this year, 2020. Image courtesy of Duclos Lenses.

Luckily, HongKong Meike Digital Technology Co., Ltd has ramped up its lens division to the point where the company appears to be rivalling if not outstripping Mr Avery’s noble efforts.

Veydra, thwarted

Duclos Lenses came up with a Fujifilm X-Mount option for Veydra’s Mini Primes that can cover the APS-C format. Image courtesy of Veydra LLC.

I had been planning on obtaining my own set of Veydra Mini Prime lenses for native use in documentary production on Panasonic and Blackmagic Design cameras, spurred on by Duclos Lens’ creation of its interchangeable mount to enable using a subset of the Veydra lenses on Fujifilm X-mount Super 35mm/APS-C cameras.

Two things dampened my enthusiasm, however.

First was the sheer cost of a complete set of Veydra lenses in M43 mount along with the Duclos X-mount kits needed when adapting them for Fujifilm X-mount cameras.

Compare the cost of the Meike primes with the now discontinued Veydra primes by looking at the Duclos Lens product pages for proof of the radical price differences between lens lines.

Compare the Meike lenses’ USD400.00 average price and reported superior quality to the Veydra lenses’ USD1200.00 average price and the conclusion is clear – consider investing in a set of Meike cinema primes.

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Meike 4 Lens Cinema Prime Set 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm T2.2 for Micro4/3 MFT at Revar Cine website. Image courtesy of Revar Cine.

The current price of the four-lens set for Micro Four Thirds as above at Ryan Avery’s Revar Cine website is USD1595.00, about one Meike lens above the cost of just one Veydra lens.

At time of writing, seven focal lengths are available as Meike Cinema Primes in M43 mount :

  • 12mm = 24mm in the 35mm sensor format
  • 16mm = 32mm
  • 25mm = 50mm
  • 35mm = 70mm
  • 50mm = 100mm
  • 65mm = 130mm
  • 85mm = 170mm

A subset of the Meike Cinema Primes is available for Super 35/APS-C cameras in Sony E-mount and Fujifilm X-mount:

  • 25mm = 37.5mm in the APS-C/Super35 sensor format
  • 35mm = 52.5mm
  • 50mm = 75mm
  • 65mm = 97.5mm
  • 85mm = 127.5mm
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Meike 65mm and 85mm T2.2 Cinema Primes, listed by Meike as coming later in 2020. Image courtesy of Meike.

Whether for  M43 or Super 35 cameras, the Meike Cinema Primes provide a well-spaced and feature-matched set of focal lengths that should meet most cinematographers’ daily needs.

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The Voigtlaender Nokton f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds lens set, minus the matching and more recently released Voigtlaender Nokton 60mm f/0.95 M43 lens. Left to right: 10.5mm, 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm focal lengths. Duclos Lenses offers ciné-modded versions of these stills lenses, making them more suitable for video production. Meike needs to offer a wider lens than its current 12mm.

I would very much like to see Meike release a super wide angle in the 10mm to 10.5mm range, and an 18mm moderate wide angle lens with coverage enough for M43 and Super 35.

I have written before about the need for a professional-quality 18mm lens for stills photography with Fujifilm X-mount cameras, as an alternative to Fujifilm’s quirky and semi-pancake Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R.

Meike’s current cinema prime lens offering for Super 35 goes no wider than 25mm and a complete lens set needs, nay, demands, a medium wide and an ultra wide lens in the equivalent of 28mm and 21mm.

That is, an 18mm and a 14mm.

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Veydra 50mm and 25mm Mini Prime Cinema manual focus lenses with imperial or metric markings, made by Veydra LLC.

Ryan Avery had been pursuing an 8.5mm ultra wide-angle Veydra M43 lens design but eventually ruled it out due to cost and size considerations.

And then disaster struck with a break-in at the company’s lens storage facility, followed by a court case with Mr Avery’s Veydra business partner.

Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses recently shared all he knows about Veydra’s demise at his personal blog.

Meike Cinema Lenses with Ryan Avery

Meanwhile, Ryan Avery is retailing Meike Cinema Primes at his Revar Cine website.

“Meike Cinema Prime lenses are designed specifically for mirrorless cameras. Available for MFT, Sony E, and Fuji X Mount cameras from Micro4/3 to APS-C size sensors. Compact, lightweight and perfect for a true cinematography experience on most mirrorless cameras.”

Meike Cinema Primes on Fujifilm and Panasonic hybrid and Blackmagic Design cinema cameras

Meike’s cinema lens lineup for Micro Four Thirds, Sony E-mount and Fujifilm X-mount are welcome indeed given their affordability and the absence of OEM cinema prime lenses by brands such as Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.

After the end of Veydra, I was contemplating the direction to take with video-capable prime lenses for Super 35/APS-C and Super 16/M43.

I grew up relying on prime lenses for filmmaking and still feel most comfortable with cinema primes for video production over the reportedly excellent zoom lenses in several lens mounts made by Fujifilm in its Fujinon MK pairing for X-mount, E-mount and M43.

With Olympus’ recent announcement that it had sold its camera and lens division, and the possible outcome of its excellent M.Zuiko Pro zoom and prime lenses going the way of Veydra, I have been wondering if my beloved Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro should plan on welcoming some M.Zuiko Pro siblings if there was a sudden sell-off of the lineup.

But the M.Zuiko Pro lineup does not answer the need for X-mount cinema lenses whereas Meike appears to be on the right track not only with its current Meike Cinema Prime offerings and possible additional focal lengths but also its coming so-called “full frame” aka 35mm sensor format cinema prime lenses.

More power to Meike’s arm, though I do hope the company will see fit to loaning cinema primes to a range of well-qualified stills photography and video production reviewers so we can get the full measure of these exciting new lenses.

Now to find out if there is a way of converting their M43 mounts to Fujifilm X-mounts when needed.

Links

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.)

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Reviews of Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR Zoom Lens Are Mixed, Possible Problems When Shooting Video

The Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR wide-to-long zoom lens has been one of the most long wished-for, long-awaited optics for Fujifilm’s APS-C/Super35 system cameras in recent years, and early reports from Fujifilm X-Photographer have been positive, especially regarding its apparent parfocal lens design. 

But then one might well expect brand ambassadors to wax lyrical and skip over possible pre-production and early firmware defects given reasonable expectations that Fujifilm will get it right in the end or at least in time for offical product release date. 

Not quite this time, apparently, as Fujifilm recently issued firmware version 1.02 for this now-shipping lens and some reviewers are already hoping that further firmware updates are in the pipeline. 

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Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.
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Fujifilm X-Pro3 pre-production model in Dura Black with pre-production Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens, as seen at a Ted’s World of Imaging Touch-and-Try event in Sydney.

I was lucky enough to have a short time with a preproduction version of the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom at a recent Ted’s World of Imaging touch-and-try event for the Fujifilm X-Pro3, and found it worked well enough when shooting event stills on a Fujifilm X-H1 unequipped with firmware updates for the lens.

The lens is situated price-wise in-between the pro-quality, pro-priced red badge Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR and the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom, and there was some speculation that the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR might be bundled with later-release Fujifilm X-T3s or the coming X-T4 as a higher-specced kit lens, especially for video production.

The 16-80mm’s parfocal focusing is especially attractive for video use as well as the lens’ apparent 6 stops of optical image stabilization that helps make up for its f/4.0 maximum aperture when handholding in low lighting when used on non-stabilized cameras like the X-T3, X-Pro3 and the coming X-T4.

Questions about the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR’s optical qualities throughout its focal range were bandied about during the long pre-release period and I have yet to find a complete set of in-depth tests of the lens’ image quality and focusing performance.

In the meantime, pal2tech’s initial and subsequent video reviews have rather dampened my enthusiasm for the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR.

Are what he is seeing in action when shooting video in particular early production model teething problems, uneven quality assurance, limitations in current firmware or the outcome of too many design and engineering compromises?

Zoom lenses are a set of such compromises compared to prime lenses and a certain amount of them are to be expected, especially in a lens with a longer-than-usual focal length range, but has Fujifilm compromised way too much?

pal2tech’s videos may help you make up your own mind, but I would recommend going off in search of more reviews by video professionals before definitively deciding against the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR.

While some optical and autofocusing problems can be compensated for via firmware and during processing of raw stills images, video is more demanding of lens quality given that shortfalls in optical quality cannot be corrected in video non-linear editing software.

My experiences with Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses, as well as Fujifilm’s APS-C/Super 35 gear, have amply proven the advantages of having a stabilized zoom lens in one’s kit when shooting documentary stills and video in trying conditions and available darkness rather than available light, so the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR would, theoretically, fill a yawning gap in my Fujinon lens collection.

Provided that it is as good for video as it seemed to be for stills during my all-too-short time with the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR at Ted’s.

Like many others, I have had high expectations for this lens given my longtime need for a gap-filling zoom lens for video and photography, and given the poor Australian dollar and consequent high price in local online and bricks-and-mortar stores.

Should I be reconsidering the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom lens instead, and go off to ebay to look for the latter secondhand?

pal2tech: Fuji 16-80 Lens Review

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80mm Lens Firmware Update 1.01

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80 Lens Focus Problem Fix — Possible Solution

pal2tech: Fujifilm 16-80 Lens Firmware Update 1.02 – Can’t Test (and my thoughts)

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  • FUJIFILM X-H1 Mirrorless Digital Camera Body with Battery Grip KitB&H – bundled with the unstabilized Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR, this stabilized camera may still be the current best option for video despite its older generation sensor and processor.
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Videos About Two Australian X-Photographers Using X-Pro3 Digital Rangefinder Camera, Megan Lewis and Michael Coyne, Now Online

Australian photographers rarely if ever feature in camera and lens makers’ marketing materials and few Australia female photographers are invited to become brand ambassadors whether they are based in Australia or overseas. 

Documentary photographer Megan Lewis features in one of two recently-released Fujifilm X-Photographer videos about the X-Pro3 digital rangefinder-style camera with documentary photographer Michael Coyne being her male counterpart. 

Both are long-time Fujifilm users and are well-qualified to offer their insights into the X-Pro3 as a dedicated documentary and photojournalism stills camera. 

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Fujifilm X-Pro 3 with MHG-XPRO3 grip and Fujinon XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR prime lens. I prefer equipping my cameras with handgrips and vertical battery grips for versatility, stability and security when handholding lenses in a wide range of sizes and weights, although the smaller Fujinon lenses such as this XF 35mm f/1.4 R “Fujicron” standard prime lens may not benefit as much as larger prime and zoom lenses.

I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting either photographer, though I am keen to spend time with Megan Lewis to photograph her at work for ‘Unititled’ in order to show other female photographers that one can succeed as a documentary photographer or photojournalist.

In the immortal words of Geena Davis of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, “if she can see it, she can be it”, and so stories, photo essays and videos about female creatives like Megan Lewis are crucial to creating the possibility of women succeeding in their chosen professions to the point where we gain parity with men.

FUJIFILM X Series: Megan Lewis x X-Pro3 / FUJIFILM

FUJIFILM X Series: Different Breed: Michael Coyne x X-Pro3

Fujinon lenses used by Megan Lewis and Michael Coyne in these videos

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  • FUJIFILM X-Pro3 Mirrorless Digital Camera B&H
  • FUJIFILM XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS LensB&H – used by Megan Lewis
  • FUJIFILM XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR LensB&H – used by Michael Coyne

Fujifilm X-Pro3 First Look Touch & Try Event, Ted’s World of Imaging, Sydney, Wednesday November 6, 2019

I attended Fujifilm Australia’s First Look Touch & Try event at Ted’s World of Imaging in Sydney on Wednesday, 6th November, 2019, and had a brief opportunity to handle a preproduction version of the Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital rangefinder camera that has already been well-covered in Fujifilm X-Photographer videos and articles, and first-look commentary by a range of online camera pundits. 

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Fujifilm X-Pro 3, partially denuded. Photograph courtesy of Fujifilm.

As the camera is in preproduction at time of writing, the usual request not to shoot or publish photographs made with it applies, so I will not comment on its stills and video capabilities but will attest that the X-Pro3 is an interesting evolution of Fujifilm’s professional rangefinder line.

Fujifilm is marketing the X-Pro3 as a camera for “street photographers” as Panasonic did for its latest rangefinder-style GX series camera, the Lumix DC-GX9, and I am hoping that with its X-Pro series Fujifilm will not be imitating Panasonic’s decision to make its GX series something less than a great camera for photojournalists and documentary photographers.

I dread the day my Lumix DMC-GX8 gives up the ghost given Panasonic so unexpectedly dropped the ball on pro-quality rangefinder-style cameras in favour of DSLR-style cameras like the admittedly otherwise excellent Lumix DC-G9.

The Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital rangefinder-style camera

Photographs courtesy of Fujifilm.

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First rangefinder camera I ever used, as an art student. Linhof Master Technika 4″x5″ view camera can be used with a range of roll film, sheet film and digital backs. Photograph courtesy of Linhof.

Throughout my career I have relied on a range of camera styles and formats – rangefinders, rangefinder-style cameras, hand and stand sheet film cameras,  SLRs aka Single Lens Reflexes in 120 and 135  film formats, and a DSLR upon Canon’s accidental revolution in the form of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

My first choice for immersive documentary photography has always been rangefinder cameras and I have been hoping the X-Pro3 would receive many of the advances found in the X-H1 and X-T3.

Until I have a proper hands-on with it, I will not know whether that is truly the case, but the X-Pro3’s loss of the ability to use its otherwise improved optical viewfinder aka OVF with the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R moderate wide-angle prime lens is a concern.

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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. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.

For many documentary photographers and photojournalists, as it has long been for me, the 28mm focal length (on 35mm sensor cameras) is our default and its 18mm APS-C equivalent works well on the X-Pro2 and especially in its OVF.

Since 2015 I have been daydreaming of a radically improved X-Pro3 being released alongside an even more radically upgraded Fujinon XF 18mm lens with both aimed at documentary photographers and photojournalists, but Fujifilm seems to have decided on setting its sights lower than that, upon street photographers whom I humbly suggest might be better served by the forthcoming X100V.

Time will tell where Fujifilm is heading with its cameras, but I hope that it will not forget its documentary and photojournalism customers as Panasonic appears to have done.

Both companies employed celebrated photojournalists to publicize previous versions of their rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras but dropped them in favour of street photographers in their latest versions.

What the… ?

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Warrewyk Williams of Fujifilm Australia presenting the Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital rangefinder camera at Fujifilm X-Pro3 FIRST LOOK + Touch & Try event at Ted’s World of Imaging in Sydney on Wednesday November 6, 2019. Photographs by Karin Gottschalk.
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Warrewyk Williams of Fujifilm Australia presenting on the Fujifilm X-Pro3 digital rangefinder camera.
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Fujifilm X-Pro3 pre-production model with pre-production Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens.
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Fujifilm X-T30 dwarfed by the Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR standard zoom lens.
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Fujifilm X-Pro3 pre-production model with limited edition silver grey Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR prime lens.
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Handing over the Fujifilm X-Pro3 pre-production model with limited edition silver grey Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR prime lens.
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Fujifilm’s smaller, more affordable “Fujicron” lenses are particularly suitable for the X-Pr03 and its processor the X-Pro2, given how the front elements of the larger, costlier “Fujilux” lenses protrude into the lower right of both cameras’ optical viewfinders.
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I have yet to have the pleasure of trying out the Fujifilm GFX-100 medium format camera but it appears particularly suited to the style of portrait photography I used to carry out with 120 roll film and sheet film cameras during the analog era.
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The X-Pro3 finds its way into some female hands.
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Ditto, though with the oversight of a gentleman’s innate expertise.

extrashot: Panasonic S1H – Amazing cinema camera or DSLM?

“Paul takes a first look at the Panasonic S1H. Is this simply a full frame GH5S or is there more to this DSLM? Perfect camera for vloggers or a real cinema competitor?”

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Shape camera cage and rigging for Panasonic Lumix DC-S1, DC-S1R and DC-S1H 35mm sensor mirrorless hybrid cameras.

Commentary

Things have been quiet over at Panasonic Australia it seems since the release of the Lumix DC-GH5 and I have not heard a sound from the company’s PR people, so have not had any extended hands-on time with the Lumix DC-GH5S, Lumix DC-G9, Lumix DC-GX9, Lumix DC-S1, Lumix DC-SiR or the recently released Lumix DC-S1H.

So I am grateful for Paul of extrashot for this first look at the S1H, especially in the light of Netflix certifying the camera for use in Netflix 4K Originals productions.

I look forward to more in-depth reviews of the camera for use in movie productions appearing soon.

Panasonic’s longtime weak point has been its depth-from-defocus (DFD) Contrast Detection Auto Focus (CDAF) system that many users would prefer was actually Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF), but is this a big problem given potential users of the Lumix DC-S1H are more likely to use manual focus with it, as illustrated in the product shot above?

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  • Atomos StoreB&H
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PauL Leeming’s Leeming LUT Pro Now Released for Fujifilm F-Log, LUTs for Eterna Cinema, Pro Neg Std and HLG for Rec709 Coming Soon

Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro and Visceral Psyche. Photograph made by Karin Gottschalk with Fujifilm X-T3 and Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R then processed in Alien Skin Exposure X4 using Summer Blockbuster cinematic preset.

Australian feature film cinematographer/director Paul Leeming has released the first camera profile correction look-up table in his Leeming LUT Pro set for Fujifilm X-Trans sensor-equipped cameras, for Fujifilm’s F-Log logarithmic shooting profile, with Eterna Cinema, Pro Neg Std and HLG for Rec709 LUTs to come. 

This is a significant and long-awaited event given that Fujifilm has finally delivered on its longtime promise to radically improve its cameras’ video capabilities with the Fujifilm X-T3 and X-H1, with the coming X-H2 hopefully improving on the X-T3 as a moviemaking hybrid mirrorless camera in Super 35 format. 

Super 35 has long been the feature film format of choice for narrative and documentary production, and the arrival of improved video capabilities on Fujifilm’s X-T2 cameras was a relief after the disappointment of the X-Pro2’s video support. 

Leeming LUT Pro for F-Log on Fujifilm cameras with X-Trans sensors

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Still frame from sample footage of Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm F-Log in use with video from Fujifilm X-T3.

Even the recently announced X-Pro3 appears to have 4K Super 35 video features that may prove good enough in a pinch when more video-oriented cameras are unavailable.

The Leeming LUT Pro expose and correction methodology is based on exposing to the right aka ETTR followed by correction via camera-specific look-up-table files in one’s nonlinear editing suite or colour grading software of choice.

The ETTR method’s most vocal proponent was the late Michael Reichmann who was in favour for its use in photography and videography, and although he and many other photographers constantly lobbied camera makers for auto-ETTR in their Live View-capable cameras, to no effect so far.

Why camera makers continue to ignore the necessity of optimal exposure is anyone’s guess.

For that reason I am grateful that Paul Leeming has applied himself to solving the problem of correct exposure followed by correcting colour via Leeming LUT Pro, with the added benefit of making footage shot on a variety of affordable cameras usable in the same timeline without excessive shot matching work.

The ideal, maximum possible dynamic range and realistic colours, using Leeming LUT Pro and Expose-To-The-Right (ETTR)

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Footage with Leeming LUT Pro applied in nonlinear editing suite.

Uncorrected camera maker luma and colorimetry

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“Uncorrected manufacturer luma curve and colorimetry. Notice how the X shape is all distorted and not straight, and how it artificially lifts the mids to make them much brighter (a favourite trick of the manufacturers to make their images appear brighter than the sensor is recording them).”

Luma curve and colorimetry levels corrected with Leeming LUT Pro

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“Corrected luma curve. Notice how straight the X shape is. As an aside, you can also see the fixed colorimetry levels.”

In the light of camera makers’ tendency to fudge their camera’s video output as illustrated above, exposing to the right appears to make footage appear darker than one may be accustomed to, but Mr Leeming has made available other, secondary, LUTs to quickly and easily raise footage low values, as explained below.

As usual, the LUT will “darken” the footage, which really just means it will make the curve perfectly LINEAR. Examine the attached image using your waveform scope in your favourite editing software, and you’ll see what that means, with the exposure steps forming a perfect “X” shape in linear fashion. This is of course ETTR, so if you under-expose your image, it will look darker.

The LUT(s) don’t make the image darker. The LUT(s) correct the manufacturer luma curves to be linear. In most (but not all) cases, this results in the image “appearing” to be darker, but it’s not affecting anything, nor clipping anything, nor adding additional noise that wasn’t in the shot to begin with.

Don’t forget, you also have the Apollo Pro Quickies to use after the corrective LUT in case you want to brighten the image without clipping the highlights or adding any more shot noise. But when you can, please ETTR and save yourself the problems (and give yourself the cleanest possible log image to begin with).

If your shot after LUT application has its highlights not reaching 100% IRE, then you underexposed it. Use the zebras as per the guide to see where the clipping point is. Expose just shy of that and you’ll maximise sensor dynamic range and minimise shot noise.

If you HAVE underexposed or simply want a brighter image post-corrective LUT, try following it with one or more of my Apollo Pro Quickies, which are expressly designed to lift the shadows in a natural way without clipping the highlights.

Stills frames from feature film shot by Paul Leeming, ungraded then graded with Leeming LUT Pro

Settings for shooting video Fujifilm cameras for processing with Leeming LUT Pro

  • Pro Neg Std, Eterna Cinema, F-log or HLG
  • H265 recording format
  • DR100 for all profiles
  • Highlight tone 0
  • Shadow tone 0
  • Color 0
  • Sharpness -4
  • Noise Reduction -4
  • Zebra level 100%

Quick and dirty Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm F-Log tryout with Fujifilm X-H1 F-Log footage

I shoot documentary stills and video rather than make narrative feature movies, so often work alone under challenging conditions as in this example.

The Fujifilm X-H1 had a vintage Zeiss Jena Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 MC Auto prime lens attached to it via a Gobe M42-to-X-mount adapter with no neutral density filter, and I fudged on setting a custom white balance as I was more concerned with understanding the creative possibilities of this lens for video than in getting technicalities perfect.

An adapted 50mm lens on an APS-C/Super 35 camera equates to 75mm in the 35mm sensor format, which is one of my favourite focal lengths for documentary photography and video.

I have been throughly enjoying trying out this lens and its companion, a Panagor PMC 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle prime lens that Paul Leeming kindly gave us.

These sorts of vintage prime lenses are rare and overpriced here in Sydney, at least ever since camera stores like Foto Reisel with their secondhand gear cabinets closed down.

Fujifilm Super 35/APS-C hybrid cameras capable of shooting 4K and Cinema 4K F-Log video as well as in other picture profiles: X-T3, X-H1 and X-Pro3

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Three Blind Men and An Elephant Productions: FujiFilm X-Pro3 Hands-On: I’m Convinced. – video

“A technically modest upgrade yields big dividends….”

Links

Commentary

Worse eye relief in the X-Pro3 and an optical viewfinder that is not as good as the one in its predecessor, the X-Pro2, when it should have been radically improved upon?

I can see why so many online commentators are saying they may acquire a second X-Pro2 instead of an X-Pro3 when the prices drop or abandon rangefinder-style cameras altogether for the DLSR-style X-T3.

The proof is in the pudding, however, and such decisions are best made by trying out any new camera, just as Hugh Brownstone has done albeit all too briefly with the Fujifilm X-Pro3.

As for me, I am off to check the X-Pro3’s eye relief data, the OVF’s magnification factor and whether it still allows use of focal lengths from 18mm through to 56mm with full view and not cropped, as occurs when using a 16mm lens on the X-Pro2.

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