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.

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: Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art

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.

Adapting GFX: Sigma 85mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art

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.

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.

Depression and Boredom

I suffer from PTSD related depression that often fears its head during points of boredom. As such, I try to keep myself as busy as possible. It doesn't have to be physical activity, but anything that keeps my mind busy. That means winter can be when I'm at my darkest due to the weather, as my mobility is shunted due to physical disability and limited opportunity to do the things I love most. It's rained just about every weekend since December, and the 1 or 2 dry weekends were tarnished with a week's worth of rain or snow. Unless there's a specific need, I'd prefer to not camp in the rain or snow.
After seeing Jay's macro product shots, I decided to do some floral macros, since I have an arrangement of gerber daisies that's survived since Valentine's Day.
I didn't break out any lighting, shooting at ISO 4000-6400 and 1/100s shutter speed with a Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art on the GFX 50S. Figured I'd try and adapt my muscle memory for a focusing ring that rotates opposite of all other brands.
Anyways, I really need to get outdoors. Hopefully the weather this weekend works out.

Adapting GFX: a Quick Note on the Canon EF 135/2L and Some Brain Droppings on the 85/1.8 USM

Eye-AF works pretty well with this combination. Focus is slow, but it's able to find and lock onto an eye. Because of my experience with the X-T3, sometimes my expectations can be a bit skewed; face and eye detect on the 2018 X-T3 is quite good, especially on distant (small) faces as Fujifilm has improved by leaps and bounds in this area. How quickly I forget the GFX 50S is over a year and a half older, with an imaging processor based on the X-Processor 3 design in the X-T2 and not the current X-Processor 4. Combined with other hardware limitations, plus the fact that the latest firmware update was over a year ago, eye AF on the GFX 50S (or 50R, for that matter) cannot be expected to perform anywhere near that of my X-T3.

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: Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM

Widening out to an approximate 22mm in 35mm format terms, the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM does show some hard vignetting that is never fully resolved. It’s very, very slight and occurs at ƒ/4 and smaller at infinity focus. Vignetting is prevalent fully open, mostly disappearing by ƒ/4 at close focus distances.

If the vignetting is a problem for you, the EF 28mm ƒ/2.8 IS might be a better bet but isn’t on Canon’s list of preferred lenses for the 5DSR, so it may or may not resolve well on a 50MP sensor.

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.

Adapting GFX: Sigma 50mm Art Addendum

One thing I quickly discovered is the intrusion of the lens hood when adapting 35mm lenses onto the medium format GFX. Since the 50mm Sigma casts an image circle closer to 40mm, it's going to pick up more of what's on the periphery of the field of view; in this case it's the lens hood.... Continue Reading →

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