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.

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.

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NX line of point and shoots and APS-C mirrorless and scrapped it when faced with the choice between trying to sell outdated cameras for a profit versus annual camera refreshes that made them unprofitable.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?

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.

Fujifilm X-T4: A Confused Camera

When the X-H1 was introduced, it was described as a sibling lineup; specifically an approximately 60/40, video-weighted hybrid that also shot great stills. It had a larger body and grip, not just to facilitate the IBIS system, but to give it better balance with larger cinema lenses for owners seeking a capable video camera. The X-T series was defined to be exactly the opposite ratio; a stills-centric camera that also shot great video. However, like the odd inclusion of a factory adjustable leaf spring shutter switch on the X-H1, a feature that's more coveted by stills shooters, the X-T4 has also incorporated a couple of weirdly out of place features that betrays Fujifilm's original description of the X-T series being stills-focused.

Adapting GFX: Canon EF 135mm ƒ/2L USM

There are some drawbacks though. Uncannily enough, they’re the same as with the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM: slight vignette with a hard vignette at infinity focus. At ƒ/8, it isn’t very prevalent as you’ll see in the samples, easily corrected with a 5:4 crop that retains 48MP. However, as the aperture gets smaller, the vignette hardens, as you can see at ƒ/32, but still works at a 5:4 crop ratio. The lens works fine with a 3:2 crop at full sensor width and in 35mm crop mode, so you can choose what works best for you.

Weirdly, the lens changes focus as you move in and out of playback mode on the GFX...

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."

Adapting GFX: Sigma 50mm Art Addendum

One thing I quickly discovered is the intrusion of the lens hood when adapting 35mm lenses onto the medium format GFX. Since the 50mm Sigma casts an image circle closer to 40mm, it's going to pick up more of what's on the periphery of the field of view; in this case it's the lens hood.... Continue Reading →

Adapting GFX: Contributing Data

If you'd like to contribute your findings, please include lens specifics (brand, focal length, maximum aperture, lens version, firmware version, and if it's weather sealed or stabilized), adapter used, and camera used. Full sensor sample shots without the lens hood (JPEG, 2000x1500 pixel minimum) needs to be of a white or gray background at the widest aperture at both minimum and infinity focus, repeating this at ƒ/8 and at minimum aperture, be it ƒ/22 or ƒ/32.

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.

Another long break but it’s been silent progress

The biggest news was the purchase of a Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 45mm ƒ/2.8 lens and TechArt autofocus EF-GFX lens adapter. It arrived just before Xmas and I was able to use it for parts of both latter shoots. I also gave it a couple of runs, one from Kerry Park that was foiled by fog, another from Rizal Bridge that wasn't. The increase in resolution is shocking. Shots taken from the bridge could be cropped down to 8mp and were still crystal clear. Also shocking: the size of the uncompressed RAW files at ~140MB each.

The Fujifilm X-H1 Needs a Real Reason to Exist

Like it or not, the Fujifilm X-H1 has no real reason to exist. If the X-H2 is to happen, it needs one to justify its status as the "flagship" of the X-series range Fujifilm claims it to be. When it first came out, it was $2000 for basically just a $1500 X-T2 with a bigger grip and IBIS. Sorry, but that's not gonna cut it if they plan to release an X-H2 with X-T3 guts at the end of that product's lifecycle, especially if they plan to price it above $1500 again. It needs a real reason to exist and I have an idea.

So, Why All the New Filters?

What may just look like wasting money, there’s an actual reason why I’ve bought into the Wine Country Camera filter holder system and round filters to replace the kits I had before:

I’m planning to purchase a Fujifilm GFX-50S by year’s end.

Canon’s Latest Sales Figures Are Way Down But Why Are You So Confused?

Canon is trying to sell us cameras from 2016 at 2019 prices, all up and down their lineup. Their biggest advances have been made in their entry level cameras, a market mostly ignored by both first time buyers and enthusiasts. As ILC cameras have become a luxury in the age of smartphones, the impact of entry level models will continue to shrink moving forward. The future is in models that appeal to enthusiasts while Canon has dumbed down their lineup instead. They’re still banking on entry level, mass market, low cost, high volume models while the consumer has been filtered down to primarily enthusiasts. The mass market has lost their desire or need for the ILC.

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