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.
For the past few years, I've been using my Gitzo Series 1 Mountaineer as my primary tripod. It served me well when my primary camera body was the Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3 and X-H1. Once I bought the GFX 50S to use alongside my X-H1, I became acutely aware of the tripod's shortcomings. The Gitzo Mountaineer Series 1 GT1542 is an excellent tripod. Combined with the lightweight Arca-Swiss p0 head, the tripod weighed in at just under 3 lbs and featured a very slim profile when folded down. The 25mm max leg diameter contributed to this slim profile, and while it works well with entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies, the slim legs are just a bit too thin for a heavier, professional level body like the GFX 50S. Most people with a larger, heavier camera would be perfectly served with any Gitzo Series 1 tripod, as they only need it for single shots in adequate lighting. In my case, I use it primarily for landscape photography, astrophotography, night photography, etc... situations that require long exposures and/or multiple exposures for stacking, exposure blending or panoramas. This requires greater demands on my tripod as any movement between shots can ruin an exposure. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to work with multiple, misaligned exposures in post-processing, thus a lighter-weight tripod can cause problems as any flexing will result in misalignment. While I haven't gotten rid of my Series 1 Gitzo, I recently bought a Gitzo GT3542 Series 3 Mountaineer.
As I specified in a previous blog post, it took me a long time to convince myself that this was a necessary accessory. I didn't want to buy it only to use part time because of the high price... the only way it would earn its worth is to make itself a nearly permanent part of my camera. Right off the bat, I find it to be exceptionally useful for my needs. I prefer using the EVF whenever possible and with the tilt and pan capability, along with the extra length, I can now use the EVF in more positions than ever before. Combined with the magnification, the EVF's display quality is much better than the rear LCD. That's not to say the rear LCD is bad, it's just that the EVF is that much better.
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.
Usually the 85mm, or equivalent, lens offered on a system is one of their best lenses optically due to its popularity for portrait photography. The Fujifilm GF 110mm ƒ/2 is no different in this regard. Despite being one of Fujifilm’s first 3 lenses for the GFX system when it was released in 2017, the formula still holds up. The hype surrounding the GFX 100’s release last year also caused a resurgence in this lens’ profile and popularity. It’s reputation has reached near mythic proportions and for good reason: this is an excellently performing lens. It’s not without its flaws, but it has the right combination of flaws to give it character.
Waiting intensely for an ultrawide zoom lens for GFX, I was forced to get something, anything, for certain landscapes and astrophotography. So, until that lens appears I’ve decided on the only lens available: the GF 23mm ƒ/4.
Giving up a stop of light in exchange for 100mm of zoom range, the GF 100-200mm manages to be light and compact. For more range, it’s compatible with the $850 GF 1.4x teleconverter, bringing the maximum focal length to 280mm but at a minimum ƒ/8. Not all is bad news though: you get excellent OIS and weather sealing, a 67mm filter thread for more reasonably priced filters, a removable tripod foot, a slim profile that’s smaller than most 70-200 ƒ/2.8 lenses and a price of just $1999 USD.
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.
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.
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.
Today will be my first opportunity for an overnighter in the mountains near Mt. Rainier. During the extended offseason, I used the opportunity to upgrade most of my camping gear to reduce mass and improve efficiency. Much of this was forced as compensation for adding the larger, heavier Fujifilm GFX medium format camera system. The result of throwing money at the problem is an overnight kit that fits completely within my Action X70 backpack while still having 15-20 liters of space left over and weighing in below 20kg.
To demonstrate both the efficiency of my chosen gear and my packing skills, I made a short video of my unloading all of the camping gear from my backpack's expandable 35 liter cargo compartment.
As you may know, Fujifilm offers an AC adapter for the GFX series and it's priced at a whopping $97. However, there's another option for AC wall charging as long as you know the power specs.
A more versatile option is a power bank with pass through charging. You can power the GFX with the battery pack in the field while simultaneously charging the installed battery. When you’re near an outlet, you can also connect the power bank to AC power and continuously power the camera without depleting the power bank itself. By functioning as an AC wall adapter you won't need to buy a wall adapter specifically for the GFX while having all the benefits of a portable battery pack.
Where the Sigma 85/1.4 is a home run, the 35/1.4 is a bit of a mixed bag. For most people, it should be fine. For some, like me, it's borderline acceptable. For those few, it will be unacceptable. In 35mm crop mode, it works just fine, but for any other mode, it will require a bit of cropping and correction. At wide open, there is a bit more smearing in the extreme corners that sharpen up by ƒ/4 to 5.6.
The Sigma 85mm seems to cover all of the imaging sensor with no hard vignetting. Fitment of a Wine Country Cameras 100mm filter holder does cause some very light vignetting at the extremes but is easily correctable. Image quality at the extreme corners and edges is a bit compromised at wide open but shapes up when stopped down to ƒ/4.
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.