So here we are. As promised at the end my GF 80mm ƒ/1.7 lens review, I've received the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 printer and 8 film packs totaling 80 exposures. I've never owned or printed using Instax so I decided to use one pack of film to print a full spectrum of recent shots; a couple of portraits with 2 printed directly from the camera, monochrome, vivid color, high contrast, golden hour and my personal processing style. I wanted to get a good feel for the film's dynamic range, color, contrast and sharpness. While the film is traditional instant pack film, the printer works by projecting the image on an 800 x 800 dot, micro-OLED display that exposes the film, basically a digital form of the optical projection used to expose pack film in a traditional Polaroid Land camera. Because it's not fully optical and the micro-OLED is so, uh, micro, I wanted to see how far I could stretch it so I can make adjustments to my shooting style for the best results.
Review: Let’s Talk About the Fujifilm GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR, Shall We?
Thanks to Glazer's Camera here in Seattle, I was able to get my hands on the fujifilm GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR on release day. Since then, the weather's been shit, so I haven't been able to test it. I have been able to take some sample shots in my home, running all the way through its ƒ/1.7 to ƒ/22 aperture range and from minimum focusing distance to infinity. I've also shot it with both of my macro tubes, for shits and grins. The 80mm was a lens GFX owners have been screaming for for years now. It's a common focal length in medium format portraiture and one of the most common focal lengths you'll see if ever shopping for a medium format film camera. It's odd Fujifilm has chosen to ignore it for as long as they have and I'm assuming it's due to some internal strife over how it should have been engineered... a fight between ultimate resolution versus ultimate character. In the end, they seem to have landed on a mix of both and you'll see why as you read this review.
Review: The GF 45-100mm ƒ/4R WR LM OIS is the Best All-Purpose Zoom Lens for Most GFX Owners
You may be thinking, "what an odd focal range," and you'd be right. It covers approximately 36-80mm in 35mm terms, with a significant overlap with the 32-64mm lens in coverage. Judged purely by the range, it's obvious this lens is designed for handheld portraits, covering the popular portraiture focal lengths of 35, 50 and 80mm. Judged by what the Fujifilm lineup lacked at the time of its release, it's also a potential landscape and all-purpose lens as it fills the aforementioned hole in the range, especially at 70mm, a focal length landscapists use often via the wide end of a 70-200mm or the long end of the 24-70mm. Priced at $2299 USD, just like the 32-64mm and 80mm ƒ/1.7, it's like you're getting stabilization for free. Should you own both lenses? Am I missing out by not owning both the 32-64mm and 45-100mm? That depends. If you deal primarily in portraits, fashion or travel, this could be the ideal, single lens solution. However, if you're into landscapes, astro or urban photography, it may not be wide enough for many occasions. I own all 3 zoom lenses and for the first 2 weeks of using the 45-100mm, I found myself carrying it with the smaller, lighter 23mm ƒ/4 prime lens rather than in tandem with the 32-64mm. For one, it cuts my filter pack to half as the two lenses share the 82mm filter thread, compared to the 32-64's 77mm diameter. Another convenience is being able to share the 23mm's lens hood; while the hood may be shorter, it still offers enough protection from both flaring and impacts to be useful on the 45-100mm, plus it helps to slim down my bag a bit. In the end, what I discovered was that I didn't miss the 32-64mm one bit by carrying this tandem.
Has the Time Come for Enthusiasts to Consider Digital Medium Format?
Now, I know I've addressed this subject a year or two ago when I first transitioned to medium format, but with the recent additions to the market and shifts in the pre-owned market, I feel like it's high time to address this more in depth. If you don't already know, Fujifilm recently announced the GFX 100S, a more compact, price-sensitive version of their highly capable GFX 100 released a year ago. With a body that's more reminiscent, in both size and weight, of the GFX 50S, and a price reduction from $9999 USD to a much more wallet friendly $5999 USD, the digital medium format market is really starting to heat up. Fujifilm has begun to seriously address their G-Mount lens lineup, filling up holes in their range for the general market, even beginning to address more niche photography. Obviously $6000 bucks isn't pocket change. It's a price that's solidly in the range of other professional, flagship cameras like the Canon 1DX Mark III, Nikon D6 and Sony a1. It's a steep drop in price from the GFX 100 but it's still a price that means you'd better be serious about your photography and/or have a business that can support that sort of purchase. Now that the 6000 pound elephant in the room has been addressed, let's talk about who should even consider medium format, who shouldn't, and who should file this idea for a later date. If you make it through this next section unscathed, I will then discuss what the GFX may have to offer for the enthusiast/hobbyist photographer. If you're a professional, I have little to offer you. Besides, you should know if your business could benefit from a medium format camera, however, I do have some technical information later that could help you decide if both your workflow and your clientele are able to tolerate your addition of, or switch to, medium format.
Not a Review: Fujifilm GF 45-100mm ƒ/4 Lens
This is not a review of the lens. This is purely a single first impression I have of it. Reality is that the weather has t been great in Seattle at the right times for me to give it a proper test. Hopefully that changes after this weekend, though, and I'll be able to compile a proper review.
What I HAVE done is give the optical image stabilization a quick once or twice over. By that, I mean that I've sat and aimed my camera around my sitting area, seeing how slow I can set the shutter speed and still acquire a perfectly focused image. What I've discovered is that this lens' OIS is amazing.
The Folly of “Gear Doesn’t Matter” and Similar, Poor Advice
Wisdom, experience and knowledge are similar but they are NOT the same.
Knowledge is facts that are taught and learned. Experience is knowledge gained first-hand. Wisdom is experience, combined with knowledge, over time. By advising someone that "gear doesn't matter," you're trying to instill your experience and wisdom into someone else as knowledge. You believe you're saving them from the frustration and cost of experience when in fact you're robbing them of it. Even worse, it's hypocritical to advise someone to "go out and shoot," to learn through experience, but then try to rob them of that very experience when it comes to purchasing gear.
You can't play the blues convincingly by observing someone else's heartaches.
COVID-19, Vaccine and Viral Mutations
This is the one and only time I will directly address the pandemic because it's such a touchy subject in the US, even though it shouldn't be.
The more we transmit the COVID-19 virus, through social interaction and spreading by direct contact and shared air saturated with aerosols, the more opportunities for the virus to mutate. Eventually, there will be enough DNA mutation where the vaccines currently out are unable to simulate, and thus stimulate our immune systems, to defend against what has essentially become a new virus.
Limiting the spread helps to ensure the efficacy of the current vaccine. Once we're able to stop it's spread, through a combination of pockets of herd immunity and social distancing outside those pockets, the virus is unable to use us to replicate. The hope is that we can do this before the virus has mutated beyond the effectiveness of the current vaccines.
Things I Had Said That I Would Never Do…
One of the things I've said I'd never do, in the past, was self portraits.
Some of this is pandemic related, but much of it is girlfriend related. She doesn't really care to move into a larger space and therefore torpedoes my every attempt to bring up the subject. Our current condo was supposed to be temporary; we've now been here for 8 years and long since outgrown it. I have no space to work.
Let Me Be Clear: Apple’s M1 CPU Signals a Revolution in Desktop Computing Unlike Anything We’ve Previously Experienced
The M1 does what Apple promised during the PowerPC transition 15 years ago but failed to deliver. What you hear coming from a millennial's face on YouTube is not hyperbole; the M1 clearly has processing power to spare since its able to translate/emulate non-optimized code at a speed where users don't even realize there's an extra computing layer in-between. In many cases, it's actually faster. Let me repeat: the M1 is running non-native code, through an emulator, faster than an Intel chip running the native code, natively, and is doing it with substantially less power consumption and with no active cooling. If a millennial is shocked at the performance of the M1 when compared side by side with an Intel equipped MacBook, they can't even imagine what I, and others my age or older, are experiencing.
Our minds are completely blown.
For those who aren't as tech savvy, a metaphorical example: imagine 2 people trying to read a book in Japanese. One of them can read Japanese while the other doesn't understand Japanese at all but has a device they can use to translate it for them. What's happening here, basically, is the person who needs to use a translation device is able to read the book faster than the Japanese person is able to read it directly.
We witnessed first-hand this sort of wholesale transition before from the very same company. We cursed Rosetta. That was a hard shot of reality after being massaged with marketing hype, promises and a near total failure to deliver. This also came on the heels of the painful transition from Classic MacOS 9 to the Unix-based OS X, where little was offered and even that didn't work well.
Once we get past the fact that we have software running in emulation at a pace that's faster than the same software being run on native hardware, we are then confronted with the fact that it's doing it cooler and more efficiently. The M1 runs harder for longer and with much less energy consumption and our imaginations are running wild at the prospect of just how much more performance we'll get once our entire workflows are coded to run natively. Even faster(?!?) and more efficiently, possibly gaining as much as 50% more battery life once Rosetta 2 is eliminated? We can't even fathom it. Hell, most of us can't even fathom what Apple has already delivered.
I Bought the oakie.photo URL and I Have a Plan
So, I bought the URL "oakie.photo" today. I've spent the last few months trying to decide if, and how, I'd want to monetize the 4-5 photos I've taken that seem to hold value for people besides me.
Why "oakie.photo"? Well, it's simple. That's it, it's simple. Simple to remember and promote. Two words, one dot, and it makes for equally simple subdomains and links. I considered the ubiquitous, "Name Here Photography" for a split second and quickly canned it; just adding 6 more letters to type into an address bar disqualified it, along with being a flashing sign of having no creativity. Sure, you could argue my choice is equally uncreative, but it's efficient and easy to remember. Lack of pluralization may compromise elegance for efficiency but who knows?
I finally bought it and it’s on its way. At $569, it was a hard sell, as I waited nearly a year before deciding its value overcame the price tag for me.
The Fujifilm EVF-TL1 viewfinder tilt adapter for the GFX 50S and GFX 100 is attached between the removable electronic viewfinder and the camera body, allowing you to tilt the eyepiece up to 90⁰ upward to use the camera in a waist-level/chest-level viewfinder mode or pitched ±45⁰ when in portrait orientation. It gives the EVF far more versatility to be used in awkward positions where you'd normally have to resort to using the 2½-way rear LCD.
Why Does the Zeiss ZX1 Exist?
The ZX1 is a $6000 time bomb set to go off in 2 years. It won't even be sellable in 2 years, much less for even half the price, as the hardware required to run the software will be considered "legacy." Zeiss will have to scrap and refresh the internals every 2-3 years to keep pace with the smartphone industry that ARM, Google and Adobe are tied to. I'm afraid Zeiss has failed to truly consider all of this; Samsung, who has their own smartphone division, tried this years ago with the Galaxy NX line of point and shoots and APS-C mirrorless and scrapped it when faced with the choice between trying to sell outdated cameras for a profit versus annual camera refreshes that made them unprofitable. Ultimately, the product cycles of digital cameras and smartphones were just too dissimilar to be profitable. If I'm not buying one for $6000, and you're not buying one for $6000, who's buying this camera?
Finally Getting to Those Lens Reviews
It took a fair bit longer than I’d implied but I’ve finally started on those lens reviews. If you’re new here, my reviews are really laid back and non-technical. I tend to focus more on the impact they’ll make on your photography and whether they’re worth your investment. For those outside the Fujifilm system, they’re a sampling of what you can expect from the brand.
There’s No Replacement for OEM.. But Wait, There’s More!!!
My real issue is the lack of an ultrawide zoom. 3 years on and Fujifilm continues to neglect all of the landscape photographers they try to market this system toward. There have been rumors of a 20-36mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 but nothing official has been announced. You’d think this would be a priority... instead we got a 50mm pancake, 30mm ƒ/3.5 and the 45-100mm ƒ/4. The latter filled a huge hole in their lineup but the other 2 seem to serve only the GFX 50R buyers. Landscape users are left in the lurch for yet another year, unrewarded for our patience and dedication.
Medium Format Digital for Enthusiasts?
Now is an excellent time to get into medium format digital. However, there are a few things you need to know about it. Ignorance to these facts can result in an extreme level of dissatisfaction and regret if you don’t know what you’re getting for what’s inarguably still a large chunk of change. You’ll also need to honestly evaluate what sort of photographer you are and your expectations. While all of the technological and photographic principles are the same, medium format is a whole different beast.
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