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.
Finally Bought a Proper Tripod For My GFX 50S
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.
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.
Comparison: RRS L-Bracket vs 3 Legged Thing Ellie for Fujifilm GFX 50S
A quick comparison between two products designed mostly to perform the same function. In case you're not familiar with an L-bracket, it's function is purely to allow rotation of your camera by 90 degrees while keeping it balanced on the X axis of your tripod. This is especially important for panoramas so the camera yaws directly over the center point rather than circumnavigating it, which alters the perspective enough to make stitching the result more difficult or even impossible.
How to: Power your GFX 50S or 50R with AC, DC or a Power Bank, aka External Battery Pack
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.
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...
Adapting GFX: Sigma Doesn’t Seem to Be the Answer
After spending a few weeks with the Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 Art, I've come to realize maybe Sigma lenses aren't the solution for me. At least the 50mm has a very short focus throw, making manual focus a tedious process, even with focus aids like focus peaking and focus zoom. Autofocus is just too unreliable and slow to depend on for all occasions, making manual focus capability a priority.
Sometimes You Just Have to Go a Different Direction
As much as I like Gitzo as a brand and the quality of their products, some of their stuff just isn't as good as others. Take for example their leveling base; Gitzo features a large lever for tightening a head to the base and a handle borrowed directly from their sister Manfrotto's lineup. Instead, I got the series 3 leveling base from Really Right Stuff. It's lighter, has a simpler attachment system with no silly lever and a much sleeker locking handle with, get this, a gear hook! That hook alone is almost priceless, allowing me to attach weight for stability when I'm not leveling the head, ending any need to swap back to the flat top base. Back into the box that can go.
New Toy: Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head
Some first impressions after picking up an Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head recently. Why? It's interesting. It's an inverted design so that the panoramic base is above the ball, ensuring a level platform for panoramic photography. Basically it eliminates the need for a leveling base. Combined with the 9oz weight, it'll reduce as much as 1.5lbs from my systematic tripod setup. I quickly discovered the reason for the weight savings: the base of the ball head is made of polycarbonate, most likely Delrin. The rest is made from either magnesium or aluminum, depending on the part. Regarding the design, it also has no protruding parts beyond the pano lock lever. The ball lock is performed by a rotating collar around the middle of the body, resulting in a sleek design. The ball is also aspherical, a feature used across Arca-Swiss' whole line, that increases friction to prevent your camera from loosely flopping over when the ball lock is loosened. A very elegant solution to a universal issue with all ball heads.
Wine Country Camera Filters: Screw-On versus 100mm
Very simply: Does Wine Country Camera actually use the same glass and coatings between their filters? I wanted my filters to produce the same results between my filter sets to reduce post-processing time. Recently, I replaced my B+W and Haida ND filters with WCC because the results between the two would cause difficulties in post as I'd work to match the output if I used both during the same shoot.
Gear Review: SunwayFoto T1A20D Mini Tripod
After the trip to Forks, I realized I needed a mini tripod for those times when I forget my full or travel sized tripod. One that's small enough to carry all of the time and when height isn't all that important compared to just getting the shot. This is one of those things I'll be throwing into the bag whenever I may encounter low light, ensuring I can use whatever shutter speed I need to get proper exposure without fear of instability.
New ND Filters: Switching from B+W to Wine Country Camera
Despite owning, and being quite satisfied with, my Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 100mm filter holder kit, I also like to keep a 77mm ND filter set for lightweight carry. The B+W set I previously used worked fine but had a noticeable magenta color cast that was especially evident in the 10-stop ND filter. I recently decided to give Wine Country Camera's filters a try based on endless reviews touting their well controlled color cast. Should these work out well, I'll probably switch my 100mm ND filters out for WCC.
How-To: Disassembly, Cleaning and Lubricating Your Tripod and Ball Head
Cleaning and lubricating your tripod, no matter what material it's made of, will extend its life. The biggest point of contention seems to be over lubrication, so here's where I'm going to attempt giving a definitive answer for most tripods and ball heads.
New Tripod, Revisited. Leofoto LN-324C.
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.
Review: Of “Systematic” Style Tripods, the Leofoto LN-324C
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.
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