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.

Has Fujifilm’s Last Argument for Professional APS-C Been Crushed by Sony (and Others)?

The last argument for enthusiast and professional level APS-C bodies has been about the balance between size and performance. The best APS-C cameras have been able to provide 95% of the image quality and speed while taking up only 66% of the size and weight of a 35mm “full frame” body. With the introduction of Sony’s α7C, has that argument now been mooted? Has Fujifilm been left alone on the dance floor? Let’s be realistic: like megapixel counts, sensor size has become the latest dick matching spec. And just like the desire to compare dicks side by side, even if you win, you’re still in the closet. There are some tangible benefits to a larger sensor, no doubt, but does the beginner photographer actually benefit? There are also situations where the crop factor of the smaller sensor can benefit a potential owner and there’s also lens size to contend with. However, the former can be added as a software feature and the latter has been addressed long ago with simpler, more compact optical formulas.

I Want to Be An Advocate, Not An Influencer

While I often strayed away from repeatable testing to include a healthy amount of subjectivity, I'm now embracing my biases and forgoing all pretense of being "unbiased," and here's why: I have my skin, aka wallet, in the game. Unlike others who are receiving review units, renting, being gifted items to review or receiving some form of compensation, I'm reviewing stuff that I've actually bought. These are things I've intensely researched, bought, used, and intend to keep. Sometimes I buy purely out of objective needs, like my ND filters. Other times, I'm driven by subjective factors, like my choice to use Fujifilm bodies and lenses. Either way, my purchases are made based on a conclusion I've formed from equal parts objectivity and bias.

I am biased. My reviews are biased. I'm not justifying my purchases to anyone but I simply cannot claim to be unbiased when reviewing my own gear.

The goal of my reviews are to identify potential pitfalls to avoid the expense of experimentation. It's not my goal to tell you what to buy; my desire is to expose aspects of an item only an owner would notice. There can be things that you're blind to upon purchase, features and issues that can make or break it for you, and this jeopardy goes up exponentially as the price increases, especially if bought used.
This is my choice to be an advocate and to avoid being an "influencer."

The Pandemic Has Kept Me Quiet

While others have found the pandemic to be an opportunity to do more personal projects, and document them, I've found it has affected me a bit differently. My girlfriend is a neurotic RN, so I've had to respond a little differently and haven't had the free time to work on things like my journal or this blog. Now that things are starting to return to normal, I'm slowly starting to integrate all of the things I was doing before. Yet, just as I begin to get back to work, our streets have erupted in rightful protest. Others can and have done a better job in covering the protests, so I'll leave that subject alone until I have a fully formed commentary on the matter.

If there's one thing I prefer to do, it's to stop, listen and form a thoughtful opinion and avoid emotional "hot-takes," especially silly on a subject as important as racism in America.

Hey 3 Legged Thing! Why Can’t You Do This?

As soon as I realized how the upright on the Ellie interfered with my battery door, I was able to devise a cheap solution for manufacture: a small bracket that would accept the rails and to attach the upright with truncated rails, aka screws, forward of the current position. I proposed the question to @3leggedthing's Twitter account, only to get, "we can't design a specific bracket for every camera and configuration I'm afraid."

DSLRs Won’t Die. Deal With It

Enough hyperbole. Mirrorless will not make DSLR cameras extinct the same way film remains extant despite digital.

The market for DSLRs will contract significantly, likely surrendering the entry-level, systems camera market to mirrorless, but enthusiast and high-end DSLRs will continue on because you will always have its supporters who will vote with their wallets.

In Retrospect: Don’t Let Some Know-it-all Sway You From Upgrading

It's been 3 years since I've gotten back into photography and I wanted to reflect on what I've learned in that time. This is just the first of a few items I'll be touching upon.

I wish I'd bought the right camera the first time.

I want to address the abundance of Youtubers who often, and loudly, try to talk their viewers out of upgrading their equipment. The line often goes, "instead of upgrading your gear, thinking it will make your photos better, invest that money into education," and then they rattle off the names of affiliated Youtubers who sell online education courses on photography. Realize that this recent trend is wholly self-serving and not in your interest. There are of course those who are so affected by marketing that they believe a new camera will improve their photography but either can't see, or won't admit, that their results are from a personal, and not a technological, deficiency. However, those types are far fewer than these Youtubers would have you believe. More importantly, if you value education, I implore you to seek out a reputable photographer that teaches photographic techniques rather than some nobody whose only reputation is a trail of instagram posts. Just because they charge for their videos doesn't mean they're credible; in fact, your local camera store or public library are 2 places where free, or low cost, but highly valuable sources of education is offered on photography.

Adapting GFX: The Introduction of 35mm “Full Frame” Lenses on the GFX

As I have alluded to in a burst of recent posts, I am planning to generate a small database of lenses for use on the Fujifilm GFX series. Here's my chance for an introduction to give my rationale and to lay the foundation of this endeavor. I'd like to break this down into three "Y's."
Let's begin with a personal "why": I'm choosing to use Sigma lenses to obtain focal lengths and apertures not currently offered in the GF lens lineup. Fujifilm's lineup is sparse at best, and apertures wider than ƒ/2 aren't represented. It's not that I'm a bokeh whore; it's that I need more light gathering for astrophotography and Fujifilm's widest lens, a 23mm, has a maximum aperture of ƒ/4 and that's just not going to work without a star tracker due to the sensor's 51MP resolution. I'm hoping to print a few of these so what counts for "sharp" on the web doesn't work at 20" print sizes. Other benefits: 35mm lenses are much cheaper, especially used prices, and these lenses mostly have direct focusing units unlike the "fly by wire" systems used on Fujifilm lenses. The GFX system just isn't mature enough to have grown both a complete lens lineup or a diverse used lens market.

Gear Reviews On Youtube: “Sponsorships,” Brand Awareness and How Not All Payments Are in Cash and They All Lie to You About It

You're familiar with how they all begin: "this video is sponsored by Squarespace." Ok, well, after that, they then feed you the next line, almost all of it verbatim, "I am not sponsored by (insert brand here). They have not paid me to do this review or told me what to say about it. This review is entirely my own and they don't know I'm making this video. I was/was not provided a sample for the purposes of this review. I am not biased in any way so you can trust what I'm about to say about this product."
What they don't mention, obviously, is if they had to return that "review unit." But if you pay close attention, you may catch them using the product in later videos, especially if they were especially laudatory in their review. At least they weren't paid, right? Wrong.
Payment is simply one form of compensation. That "review unit" usually comes along with an email that says, "you don't need to send this back to us." Simply put, the item itself is payment. Just because you didn't get to choose the item, the form of compensation or were given a special title associating you with their brand doesn't mean you weren't paid. They paid you with product and exclaiming otherwise is a flat out lie by Youtubers who persistently try to claim otherwise. Rarely are these items cameras and lenses; they're usually "soft goods" or accessories, like bags, lens filter kits, etc. that would likely get damaged during a thorough review period or whose cost of manufacture and/or retail price is so low that the cost of return, reconditioning and resale would consume all or more of the potential profit.

A Free Education is Worth Exactly What You Paid For It

There's a certain couple on Youtube that talks a lot about photography and tends to harp on the value of education also pushes their "free" photography education courses online. You may even begin to believe some of their rhetoric or have heard some of their misinformation floating around.
Mind you, much of the technical information they love to claim they're proficient in and knowledgeable about is shit. They'll contradict themselves within the span of 5 minutes. One example is their belief that "professional" lenses on a smaller sensor, like APS-C, will perform worse in sharpness because said lens isn't tuned for the sensor size, yet will then claim that some lenses on 35mm are so sharp, you get the ability to crop the image in closer than other lenses. Realize that these two things are a contradiction and a sharper lens will never give a sensor of fixed resolution higher resolution, perceived or otherwise. How do I know this? Simple physics and geometry. Let me explain:

This always happens to me: Shimoda Design Action X70

So, 2 full months after I bought my Shimoda Design Explore 40 backpack, they opened a Kickstarter for a new line of packs. Called the Action X series, they're basically a collection of improvements, many of which were universally requested by owners, including myself.

Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly

I've been really busy lately, traveling up and down western Washington State, hiking and photographing both beaten and unbeaten paths. It began by trying to take advantage of a streak of good weather and morphed into chasing the autumn colors as the weather got colder. Hikes include: Alpine Lake Wilderness, Denny Creek, Mount Fremont Lookout, Annette Lake, Lake Twentytwo and Artist Point. All of these on consecutive weekends, and even some weekdays, over the past 3 weeks. And in that time I think I've posted just once. Maybe twice.
So, here are 3 photos from the past week.

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