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.

Every Camera Sling Bag Sucks Because the Manufacturers Are Clueless

As I've had many years to consider what makes a bad sling bag, I've been able to design a great sling bag for both photo and video producers.

If you're a bag or sporting goods manufacturer in the Seattle area, or you have a relationship with one, I'd love to collaborate with you to make this bag a reality. Whether you want to buy the design outright or truly collaborate on it, I'm ready to fund the creation of prototypes. Photographers and videographers deserve a sling bag that's truly designed around how they work, commute and create, one that adapts to them and gets out of their way.

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.

Not a Review: Fujifilm GF 45-100mm ƒ/4 Lens

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.

So, I Bought a Creative Filter…

I purchased my first ever creative filter: a Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/4 for diffusion. It should soften up direct light sources and skin while holding sharpness... or at least that's what it says on the tin.

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!

The Folly of “Gear Doesn’t Matter” and Similar, Poor Advice

Wisdom, experience and knowledge are similar but they are NOT the same.

Knowledge is facts that are taught and learned. Experience is knowledge gained first-hand. Wisdom is experience, combined with knowledge, over time. By advising someone that "gear doesn't matter," you're trying to instill your experience and wisdom into someone else as knowledge. You believe you're saving them from the frustration and cost of experience when in fact you're robbing them of it. Even worse, it's hypocritical to advise someone to "go out and shoot," to learn through experience, but then try to rob them of that very experience when it comes to purchasing gear.

You can't play the blues convincingly by observing someone else's heartaches.

COVID-19, Vaccine and Viral Mutations

This is the one and only time I will directly address the pandemic because it's such a touchy subject in the US, even though it shouldn't be.

The more we transmit the COVID-19 virus, through social interaction and spreading by direct contact and shared air saturated with aerosols, the more opportunities for the virus to mutate. Eventually, there will be enough DNA mutation where the vaccines currently out are unable to simulate, and thus stimulate our immune systems, to defend against what has essentially become a new virus.

Limiting the spread helps to ensure the efficacy of the current vaccine. Once we're able to stop it's spread, through a combination of pockets of herd immunity and social distancing outside those pockets, the virus is unable to use us to replicate. The hope is that we can do this before the virus has mutated beyond the effectiveness of the current vaccines.

Things I Had Said That I Would Never Do…

One of the things I've said I'd never do, in the past, was self portraits.

Some of this is pandemic related, but much of it is girlfriend related. She doesn't really care to move into a larger space and therefore torpedoes my every attempt to bring up the subject. Our current condo was supposed to be temporary; we've now been here for 8 years and long since outgrown it. I have no space to work.

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.

Let Me Be Clear: Apple’s M1 CPU Signals a Revolution in Desktop Computing Unlike Anything We’ve Previously Experienced

The M1 does what Apple promised during the PowerPC transition 15 years ago but failed to deliver. What you hear coming from a millennial's face on YouTube is not hyperbole; the M1 clearly has processing power to spare since its able to translate/emulate non-optimized code at a speed where users don't even realize there's an extra computing layer in-between. In many cases, it's actually faster. Let me repeat: the M1 is running non-native code, through an emulator, faster than an Intel chip running the native code, natively, and is doing it with substantially less power consumption and with no active cooling. If a millennial is shocked at the performance of the M1 when compared side by side with an Intel equipped MacBook, they can't even imagine what I, and others my age or older, are experiencing.

Our minds are completely blown.

For those who aren't as tech savvy, a metaphorical example: imagine 2 people trying to read a book in Japanese. One of them can read Japanese while the other doesn't understand Japanese at all but has a device they can use to translate it for them. What's happening here, basically, is the person who needs to use a translation device is able to read the book faster than the Japanese person is able to read it directly.

We witnessed first-hand this sort of wholesale transition before from the very same company. We cursed Rosetta. That was a hard shot of reality after being massaged with marketing hype, promises and a near total failure to deliver. This also came on the heels of the painful transition from Classic MacOS 9 to the Unix-based OS X, where little was offered and even that didn't work well.

Once we get past the fact that we have software running in emulation at a pace that's faster than the same software being run on native hardware, we are then confronted with the fact that it's doing it cooler and more efficiently. The M1 runs harder for longer and with much less energy consumption and our imaginations are running wild at the prospect of just how much more performance we'll get once our entire workflows are coded to run natively. Even faster(?!?) and more efficiently, possibly gaining as much as 50% more battery life once Rosetta 2 is eliminated? We can't even fathom it. Hell, most of us can't even fathom what Apple has already delivered.

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