GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR, Continued

Gonna make this quick... I finally had a chance to take the Fujifilm GF 80mm ƒ/1.7R WR lens for GFX out on a photowalk to peer thru it from an urban landscape and street photography perspective. Let's say I'm a little more than impressed. There's something about this lens that gives everything a 3 dimensional quality. The subject just pops right off the page. Sure, that's what large bore portrait lenses do but there's something special about this lens, a quality my GF 110mm ƒ/2 lacks. Even compared to the Sigma Art 85mm ƒ/1.4 I previously owned and adapted onto the GFX 50S, the GF 80mm exceeds it in lifting the subject out of the frame.

Update: Preparing to Test a Digital Instant Medium Format Film Camera System

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.

Near Misses…

If you know anything about landscape photography, 99% of your planned shots usually end up as a near miss. Funny, that term "near miss," since it literally means "hit."if you "nearly missed," it means you hit it.

Anyways, back on topic. I recently bought the 45-100mm lens for GFX and I usually take new lenses to Rizal Bridge to test them, as long as the focal length permits. Conditions turned out to be nearly what I've been waiting patiently for. The one shot I want from there is with the clouds traveling either northwest or southeast, preferably at a pretty good clip, since movement of the bridge due to buses and trucks traveling over it limits the length of long exposures.

My Best Image From 2020-21, So Far

This is the best image I've shot so far in the past year. I took it 2 days ago, during the winter storm we had here in Seattle, at Post Alley near the Harbor Steps. The lighting, the glow created by the falling snow, deep shadows and lots of straight, converging all came together for this long exposure. I tend to be excessively modest about my photography, but this image stood out as soon as I took it and reviewed it in my viewfinder.

To me, it's just hauntingly beautiful and perfectly encapsulates the feeling I had while walking through the 6 inches of dry, powdery, freshly fallen snow at 4am.

Because of Instagram's image compression, you miss out on all of the subtle nuances that exist in both the diffused light and shadows. The gradation of both color and tone, the sparkle and texture of the snow, details in the shadows... none of this is visible until you see it in full, 16-bit, ProPhoto RGB color. Because of that, I'm posting it here in full, uncompressed, 16-bit TIF format. No watermarks or BS in the way so you can see it as I do and judge it on its merits. (Warning: this is a 330MB file. Click image for full size)

Enjoy!

Back in the Saddle (Again) and the Return of Pier 62

Volunteered for Kate on a photowalk to the Seattle waterfront recently. After spending the past few months doing lonely portraits to practice using strobes in 1, 2 and 3 light configurations, it felt good to go out and do some of the type of photography I'm most passionate about.

So, why did I volunteer and for what? Since Seattle is still under a pandemic lockdown that limits group sizes to 5 people, I chose to help by leading a group so more people could participate via proxy groups.

Pier 62 reintroduces a location and perspective that's been missing since it closed for reconstruction. While somewhat pedestrian, the addition of new attractions and changes to the skyline have given it more value when compared with similar locations, both old and new. However, like those other locations, it offers a limited perspective and thus limits its overall value, long term, as a photographic location. It's one that will become over saturated by the end of the summer as a landscape and cityscape destination, even during a time of reduced foot traffic due to the pandemic, but will easily persist as a street, tourist and especially portrait photography location for years to come. Once the new waterfront master plan is completed, Pier 62 could become one of the premium destinations for environmental portraiture and street photography, due to its prime location, identifiable backdrop and potential for high foot traffic.

What’s This?

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.

Review: Fujifilm GF 110mm ƒ/2 Portrait Lens for GFX

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.

Review: Fujifilm GF 100-200mm ƒ/5.6 OIS Telephoto Zoom Lens for GFX

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.

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.

My Monday…

So, it's barely Monday. It's a new moon. Comet Neowise is further down on the horizon. Jay and I are gonna camp at Stampede Pass, hoping to align the galactic core with Mt. Rainier and the west fork valley of the White River. Our last trip found ourselves literally behind the 8-ball, without a view of the summit, and under skies polluted with moonlight. Add to it the beginning of the work week, we're hoping we get the area to ourselves. Since we haven't scouted the location prior to today, we have no idea if Comet Neowise will be visible from our location and if there's anything interesting between us and it. I'll be bringing a 1200mm long setup just in case we do.

Back to gear... I got my 2 person tent and Shimoda Explore 40 back from Craig, a large version 2 camera unit from Shimoda and a 3 filter kit from PolarPro that integrates an ND and polarizer into a single body, allowing the combo to be used on wider angle lenses than previously. While that's the general benefit, the main goal was a set that fit my 23mm ƒ/4 lens and it's 82mm filter thread. The hope is the infrared response follows the same curve set by my Wine Country Cameras filter kit so I don't need to recreate presets for post processing. 10 days have elapsed and I've still yet to get any shots with these new filters. Initial impressions of these filters are on pause as I wait for an opportunity to really utilize them but even now I have a huge cartful of thoughts on them. The packaging alone spurred a thousand words but I wait so I can hopefully produce a measured reaction.

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