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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I'm obviously not a professional photographer. Now, some may take that to mean an enthusiast has no need for a "professional level" camera, but that is entirely untrue, even on a general level. What the GFX offers is resolution. 50.1 megapixels of it. What I offer my camera is a crippled body, unable to get the most from any camera body. I can not hike as far, climb as high or go as long as an average photographer. I also cannot drive due to the medications I need to operate from day to day. Because of that, the GFX's resolution returns to me an ability lost by my inability to drive: repeatability.
Just a few photos of the local deer on our last morning in Long Beach. They came by for breakfast, the doe bringing her two fawns, approaching our balcony as if she’d remembered that I was out feeding them apples the night before. They sat patiently below our balcony as we dropped bananas and apples for them, posing for photos before moving on to the next set of condos. These deer definitely have us trained well.
Went on another photowalk, this one being a bit more fruitful due to the weather conditions at the start time. Why do I do this to myself? I'm generally asocial and not very talkative, especially around people I don't know, preferring to operate alone. Despite that, it's hard to learn without someone to learn from and it's difficult to be inspired by my coffee table, so I fight my urge to run away for the sake of education and practice. Regarding the setting, while it wasn't ideal for golden hour, the cloudy skies and convergence zone did make for dramatic views and a highly textured backdrop to the humdrum scene. I hit the shutter over 40 times, but the result was less than 15 kept, fewer still that I liked and only 3-4 that I've processed to completion so far.
As for the evening, I took the Doc Maynard from downtown to West Seattle, meeting up with Kate Hailey and the attendees at Marination Ma Kai at Seacrest Dock. Two hours of rambling north, and then west, from the dock to Alki Beach as the sun set in the background behind a small convergence zone. Afterward, I jumped on the ferry back to downtown.
As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.
High contrast scenes tend to work well when processed in monochrome format. I'm especially lucky since Fujifilm's film simulations are such great emulations of their popular film stocks. Their Acros simulation is especially good with high contrast, moody scenes and I've been processing more and more of my landscape shots with it.
A few of the high contrast shots I took while in Forks took especially well with the Acros film simulation.
After a day's break from the trip to Forks, Craig and I took advantage of a break in the rain to hit Roozengaarde in Skagit to photograph the tulips before the festival began. About half of the tulips were in bloom and the daffodils were still out, though they looked ready to wilt. Fortunately the weather and time of day seemed to keep most people away. This also gave me a chance to use my Leofoto tripod on different terrain. Again, things just happened to work out for us as the rain held off and the clouds helped give the photos a dramatic, almost ominous look that contrasts with the burst of colors below. Too bad the stiff breeze prevented any chance of getting a longer exposure, but that's fine. For tulips, it's all about the colors.
Day 2 at Second Beach. Unfortunately, this time we hit high tide and quickly discovered the beach was a lot less interesting when the tide is in. We managed to make do, despite shooting over 200 shots, again, trying to chase waves that weren't hitting the shore as intensely as they had the day before. At least having my tripod allowed me to get some long exposures as the clouds were moving on shore fast and thick.
Out of the box, the Leofoto LN-324C made for an intimidating presence. Fully extended, it was clearly as tall as advertised and the weight seemed about right. Looking more closely, all the details looked right. Tearing it down exposed finely machined parts all around and a carbon weave that didn't betray it's "10 layer" claim; the weave was consistent throughout with no waviness or warping of threads and no pitting or cracks in the resin. All of the aluminum bits are finely milled with no tooling marks. Parts that may have originally been cast were finely machined to remove any casting seams and cuts into it were obviously milled. The anodizing is consistent all around and all of the included optional hardware is of similar quality. No flashes, splinters or metal shavings anywhere. Metal on metal contact points showed evidence of lubrication and glided through their movements smoothly.
Went to Discovery Park's West point Lighthouse to observe a confluence of events: king tide, strong wind gusts and gradual clearing of skies. The hope was to get waves crashing near the West Point Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the tide began to recede quickly and by the time the light was good, the waves could no longer reach the point. The result was a bunch of mediocre photos that I decided to use for practice in Lightroom instead.
Maybe I can sell a couple of these to a church for use as flyers or book covers or something.