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.
Review: Fujifilm EVF-TL1 Tilt Adapter for EVF
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.
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?
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.
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.
First Use: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Backpack (Video)
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.
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.
I Want to Be An Advocate, Not An Influencer
While I often strayed away from repeatable testing to include a healthy amount of subjectivity, I'm now embracing my biases and forgoing all pretense of being "unbiased," and here's why: I have my skin, aka wallet, in the game. Unlike others who are receiving review units, renting, being gifted items to review or receiving some form of compensation, I'm reviewing stuff that I've actually bought. These are things I've intensely researched, bought, used, and intend to keep. Sometimes I buy purely out of objective needs, like my ND filters. Other times, I'm driven by subjective factors, like my choice to use Fujifilm bodies and lenses. Either way, my purchases are made based on a conclusion I've formed from equal parts objectivity and bias.
I am biased. My reviews are biased. I'm not justifying my purchases to anyone but I simply cannot claim to be unbiased when reviewing my own gear.
The goal of my reviews are to identify potential pitfalls to avoid the expense of experimentation. It's not my goal to tell you what to buy; my desire is to expose aspects of an item only an owner would notice. There can be things that you're blind to upon purchase, features and issues that can make or break it for you, and this jeopardy goes up exponentially as the price increases, especially if bought used.
This is my choice to be an advocate and to avoid being an "influencer."
The Pandemic Has Kept Me Quiet
While others have found the pandemic to be an opportunity to do more personal projects, and document them, I've found it has affected me a bit differently. My girlfriend is a neurotic RN, so I've had to respond a little differently and haven't had the free time to work on things like my journal or this blog. Now that things are starting to return to normal, I'm slowly starting to integrate all of the things I was doing before. Yet, just as I begin to get back to work, our streets have erupted in rightful protest. Others can and have done a better job in covering the protests, so I'll leave that subject alone until I have a fully formed commentary on the matter.
If there's one thing I prefer to do, it's to stop, listen and form a thoughtful opinion and avoid emotional "hot-takes," especially silly on a subject as important as racism in America.
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.
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."
Quick Tip: Secure the Screws That Secure Your Tripod Screw
Here's one of the first things I do when I buy a new camera: Secure the screws that secure the tripod screw port on the bottom of your camera.
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