Sunday 30 August 2020

A6300 Gone

Four Flowers Fujifilm X-T2, Micro-Nikkor 55mm f3.5 AI

I've been enjoying the A6300 over the last week or so. It really is a nice little camera and a lot better than I was expecting in terms of ergonomics.

However something was bugging me about it, and I figured out what it was.

Basically, I'd got it because of Sony's better lens selection compared to Fuji, specifically in the case of telephoto zooms. But I'd still need to buy that zoom. The ability to share kit with my partner (who shoots my former A7II) and have access to some other interesting glass was secondary.

What was bugging me? In short, the A6300 cost me pretty much what a Fuji XF 55-200 does. That lens is basically the right answer for my long lens challenges. So the A6300 went back, along with the E 16-50, and a 55-200 and XC 16-50 came home in its place.

Friday 28 August 2020

Workflow Thoughts

Fujifilm XT-2, AF Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 D

I hate doing post. Post is however a key component of getting quality images.

Right now I do pretty much all of my post in CaptureOne on my PC, with files backed up to OneDrive. It works and I like the end results but the process is clunky and I’d like something both more mobile and smoother. 

I’ve long maintained an Adobe Create Cloud subscription to get access to Lightroom Mobile for quick on the go editing. I also have a 1st gen iPad Pro on long-term loan from work. So I’m going to do some testing to see if I can put together a functional workflow on the iPad Pro. It is only a 32GB model, so a serious workflow would involve investing in a newer model with more reasonable storage, but 32GB is enough for testing if I don’t keep files on the iPad but delete after sync to Adobe Cloud.

This will also let me try out some of the neater presets out there. Lightroom has a much healthier 3rd party ecosystem than CaptureOne.

Thursday 27 August 2020

200 Posts

Chippy on a Rock Nikon D750, AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 D

I first posted on this incarnation of this blog on the 5th of December, 2013 and would be talking about switching to Sony on the very second post. I hit 100 posts on 10th February 2019, where I first discussed why I bought my original X-T1 despite my previous challenges with Fuji X-Trans bodies.

This is my 200th post here, having posted as much in the last 18 months as I did in the previous 5 years.

There's been more system switching and grass is greener posts than I'd like and far less 'good gear on a budget' and photography philosophy and technique posts. Here's hoping that my brain will slowly stop hating me and let me settle on one or a pair of systems so I can concentrate on writing about things that actually matter for photography. Most of my system switching of late has been about comfort or perceived value, the only real exception was dumping m43 last year so I could skip doing so much multi-shot work to get files I liked.

What's next? First up is finishing up the Fuji on the Cheap series of posts. I need to get a proper 135mm option and maybe a 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 to round that up. Then it will probably be a Sony APS-C zooms on the cheap, featuring adapted Canon zooms on Sony (specifically pairing Canon's excellent & inexpensive 10-18 STM and 55-250 STM with the Sony 16-50 to get an inexpensive and functional zoom kit for a low, low investment).

I also want to talk about long-exposure landscape work some, which means I need to buy a 6 stop ND (the most basic filter for this sort of work) and some step-up rings.

So, any bets on me hitting 300 posts by February, 2021?

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Nikon's Z5 Pricing Problem

Tagged Box Sony A7 II, Nikkor 28mm f3.5 H

The Z5 looks like a great little camera, and the price for the body itself is quite reasonable at $1899CAD, some $500CAD cheaper than the A7III from Sony. The kits maintain a gap, but it narrows to merely $300 ($2299 for the Z5 with 24-50 vs $2599 for the A7III with FE28-70)

However, when you look into what a kit will cost you, things start to fall apart. Nikon's lens prices in Z mount are so high that it offsets the reasonable price for the body.

Want a 50mm f1.8? Well, that will cost you some $2699 with a Z5, and $2749 with an A7III. Hmm...where did the price gap go?

The rest of the f1.8's have smaller price gaps, with one exception. Those gaps range from $300 for the 35's down to $200 for the 20's. The exception? 24mm, as Sony only offers the $1899 24mm f1.4 GM, to Nikon's $1299 24mm f1.8 S. Too bad for the Nikon that the Sony is faster, smaller, 5gm lighter and arguably better optically. Seriously Nikon, you couldn't make a 24mm f1.8 that's smaller than your competition's class-leading f1.4 version?

That brings up the other issue with Nikon's f1.8 primes. They're frikkin huge. Sony's 50/1.8, at 186g, is less than half the weight of the 450g Nikkor. It's 8mm thinner and 26mm (yes a full inch) shorter. The 35/1.8's are closer, being the same length, but again the Sony is thinner and this time a mere 90g lighter (280g vs 370g). At 85mm the Sony is fatter by 3mm, but still 17mm shorter and 99g lighter. At 20mm, the Nikkor is 12mm wider, 24mm longer and 127g heaver.

Now in the case of the 35, 50 & 85 Nikon can at least claim that their lenses are decidedly better optically. But the two 20mm's are on par and Sony's 24mm GM is the better of the two 24mm's, arguably being the best 24mm on the market (and one of the smallest & lightest for those faster than f2.8).

And remember, you can buy 6+ native telephoto zooms from Sony, Tamron or Sigma, vs you might be able to get a single one from Nikon next week (and it's large, heavy and expensive and limited to 200mm vs out to 600mm with the Sony), otherwise I hope you got the FTZ with the bundle discount, it's $329 otherwise. Plus the A7II has a vertical grip, albeit at a ridiculously high price ($469CAD) but Nikon charging $269 for a battery grip with no controls is even sillier.

So Nikon, bravo on the Z5 itself, although that 24-50 ain't worth a $400 jump in the kit price. Now work on the rest of the package, you've got a window because Sony still doesn't have a FE UWA at consumer prices or a consumer-priced telezoom (Tamron has that coming though)

Monday 24 August 2020

How Does the A6300 Fit?

Stump and Sky

Nikon D750, Laowa 15mm f4 Macro

So all random musings aside, how does the A6300 fit into my gear.

1. It provides me a more capable light/compact carry body than the X-E2. Frankly, I'd just been leaving the X-E2 at home, carrying the X-T's or no camera at all. While the X-E2 is a perfectly capable camera, I wanted a larger finder (X-E2 finder is 0.62x), a better grip and a flip-up screen. I got all of those from the X-T's with plates attached, but the A6300 delivers that in a smaller & lighter package.

2. It lets me adapt lenses I didn't have the right adapters for on Fuji. Specifically Canon EF lenses and Nikon G lenses (I still have a 16-85G VR DX). The Fuji EF adapters are very pricey, and I have access to the decent performing Fotodiox Fusion adapter in E mount (plus I own an EF 50mm f1.8 STM and can borrow a 75-300 USM III).

3. It gives me long lens with AF options. Fuji is VERY weak here, while E mount has a bunch of options, plus EF adapting is more viable opening even more options up. I just have had a hard time trying to justify getting Fuji's 50-230 OIS when the similar performing EF 55-250 IS STM can be had for half the price. For 55-200 money I can get into a 70-350 or a used 70-200/4 IS USM, a native 100-400 is cheaper & lighter than the Fuji 100-400. Fuji's strength is 1st party primes and wide zooms, but they're not that far ahead in wide zooms on APS-C (one Sony G UWA and it's a wash) and frankly Sigma and Samyang are doing well enough on the primes side that you can mostly ignore Sony's weak APS-C prime offerings.

4. I can share glass, batteries & other accessories with my partner in the field, as she now shoots my A7II. 

I'm not getting rid of the X-T's for now, frankly even if I did I'd keep the X-T1 and the 12 & 25mm lenses just to play with. If I did get rid of the X-T2, it would be for another A7 body, likely an A7III or A7RII or later. I can see myself carrying the X-T2 for wide and A6300 for long when hiking though.  

Sunday 23 August 2020

More Random Thoughts on the A6300

The Path is Lined

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

I got out yesterday for a hike on the Seaton Hiking Trail with the A6300, giving me a chance to really use it for more than just some neighbourhood flower shots. With 340-ish shots on it, we're still in New Toy mode. 

Frankly, it's clear that I was not giving the A series APS-C cameras a fair shake. I've been avoiding them for a while largely due to my mixed experiences with the earlier NEX bodies, specifically the 3 different NEX-5 variants I've owned and the two NEX-7's. 

The A6300 was the mid-range body of its generation, sitting between the older A6000 (which replaced the NEX-6) and the slightly newer A6500. The A6300 was for all intents & purposes the NEX-7 replacement body, delivering the build & EVF experience that a NEX-7 user would not have found on either the NEX-6 or the A6000. 

Compared to Fuji, it really sits in between the X-T20 and X-T2 in terms of capability, but is closer overall to the X-T20 in features and target market. Sony's flagship of this generation was the A6500, which featured IBIS and a truly impressively deep buffer (100 RAWs vs 48 max for the X-T2) plus a touchscreen, vs the better sealing, pro-grade shutter (1/8000 mechanical, 1/250 sync) and higher max fps (14 vs 11) of the X-T2, plus the X-T2's bigger finder (0.77x vs 0.71x for the Sony's). Interestingly, both Sony's were priced between the X-T2 and the X-T20, with the A6500 coming in a little below the X-T2 and the A6300 coming in just above the X-T20.  The pricing really does reflect the relative capabilities of these bodies, aside from AF performance, the A6300 and A6500 took the APS-C Mirrorless AF performance crown back from Fuji and have kept it ever since.

In terms of ergonomics, the A6300 is better than I expected, as I noted in the last post. I do like how many options Sony made assignable to buttons, there's about 50% more options that are assignable compared to on the Fuji's. You do have less buttons to assign to, but the switch allows you to overload one of them. The lack of a MyMenu is annoying, but Sony's Fn menu is more configurable than Fuji's Q menu. 

Sony's JPEG's are decent out of the box, but you're very limited on how you can tweak them (contrast, saturation & sharpening only) and there's no custom slots unlike Fuji or Nikon. Sony, you REALLY can do better here. The defaults are good, and there's actually more options there including some very specific ones (Autumn Leaves, Sunset) but the lack of tweaking limits you compared to the Fujis or Nikons.

Auto ISO is better than on older Sony bodies, but you still need to set a custom speed for lenses which need a speed higher than 1/60th if they're not electronically coupled. Luckily this is assignable directly to a switch (On Fuji, you can assign Auto ISO options to a switch and dive into a second menu from there, or put Focal Length on your MyMenu, which also writes EXIF and lets you leave Auto ISO on Auto shutter speed. Sony's quicker, Fuji's more powerful).

For IQ, frankly the RAW's aren't quite as good as the Fuji overall, as they're 14-bit lossy compressed (12-bit in continuous) and I like the default colours less. That said, there's more room to recover in the highlights on the A6300 than on the X-T2, meaning I can bring back sky using my Nikon D750 presets without too much issues. The Sony's are losing more data in the shadows from the compression and the shifting of 1EV or so of data into the highlights. Also the green rendering is closer to the Nikon's so it's easier to get that punchy green and deep blue look for landscapes that I love. Can't quite get the Nikon Indigo's yet, but I think that might be achievable from the Sony files, it's not on Fuji. 

I did a quick ISO test to see how the different bodies metered. I set the X-T2 to ISO 200, mounted my Nikkor 50/1.8D set to f5.6 and got a shutter speed of 1/1250. Swapped the lens onto the A6300 and matched the shutter speed at ISO 160. Then I swapped it onto the A7II and matched shutter speed at ISO 125. I was metering against blank sky with the same aperture, so the Field of View differences between the A7II and the two APS-C bodies shouldn't matter, at f5.6 there's little vignetting on the Nikkor so that shouldn't have affected metering either.

The takeaway from this is that there's about 1/3 stop difference in how the two APS-C bodies meter and/or rate ISO. That gives me effectively 2/3rd a stop lower ISO range on the A6300 (base of 100 vs 200 on the X-T2), which should be good for longer-exposure work when shooting rivers & streams. Combined with the extra RAW headroom in the highlights, I should be able to worry less about blowing highlights when shooting the Sony vs the Fuji.

Saturday 22 August 2020

First Thoughts on the A6300


Sony A6300, Sony E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS PZ

I had to make a quick run to the local grocery store last night, which gave me a chance to try out the A6300. Mostly I shot with the tiny 16-50 Power Zoom that's been the kit lens for all the APS-C Sony bodies since the late NEX era. Note I've owned the older 18-55 OSS with my first couple NEX's (the 5N and 7) and didn't like it much, it was too big and no great shakes optically. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the grip is. The camera is a soapbox with a grip, and it's not a large grip, but it fits my medium-sized hands reasonably well. The thumb rest could do with some more definition, but that's all I can complain about.

I was also surprised by how thick the bodies are. After owning several NEX's, I was expecting pretty similar form factor (despite the pictures making the body changes obvious). The A6300 body is about twice as deep as the NEX bodies, including the 7 and that brings 2 real changes to the handling. The first is the palm section of the grip becomes much deeper, which is a good thing. The second is that there is now some actual surface for a tripod plate to stabilize against.

None of the NEX bodies paired well with tripods because of how unstable the plates were (the NEX-6 started to get usable, but I found I had to use adapted lenses on the NEX-7 when shooting on a tripod if only to be able to use the much better tripod feed on the adapters, particularly the LA-EA1 I used with my selection of A mount glass back then)

Control layout is good for the most part. The AF/MF+AEL button/switch combo is better located than on the A7II, and that makes it more useful as AF-On. C1 and C2 are in lousy locations though, C2 is basically unusable when holding the camera in shooting position (same issue with C4 on the A7II which is in the same spot) and C1 is just awkward. As such, I threw AE Lock on C1 (as I don't use it that much) and the Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed onto C2 (C4 on the A7II is Focal Length for manual lenses, but since Sony only uses that for IBIS and the A6300 doesn't have IBIS, that's not an option on the A6300). For the switch, in AF/MF I set it to AF-On, in AEL the button is Focus Magnification, so I can just flip the switch when using manual focus lenses. I disabled the movie button outside of movie mode, but sadly Sony still doesn't make it assignable in this body (better than the NEX-7 initially, but Sony added the disable there via firmware update and nothing has changed since then). I wish it was dual-wheel like the NEX-7 rather than having a mode dial, I was fine with Mode as a menu item, but most people do change Mode a lot more than I do (and I only really use 2 modes anyways, A & M)

Performance is good. The camera is responsive in most regards, although it does feel slower than the X-T2. Frankly, in terms of responsiveness it feels a lot like the X-T1, very good but not outstanding. AF is a little odd, it feels slower than the X-T2 (for the little AF shooting I've done), but it definitely tracks much better. I think the actual single-shot AF lockon time is a touch slower, but the AF tracking (and thus Video and AF-C performance) are decidedly better. Face detect is usable (it's not on the X-T2).

One thing I've missed from the Sony's is that they auto-switch to Manual Focus mode when mounting a manual lens or non-electronic adapter. One of my few annoyances with the Fuji's is you have to still flip the focus mode switch to M to get access to the manual focus assists, and that switch is awkwardly placed on the front of the camera (one of the few cases where I wish Fuji would ditch the dedicated physical control). This is minor, but it was a delight when I mounted my Nikkor 105/2.5 and realized that the camera went into MF mode by itself. I don't mind automation when it does the right thing.

As to the 16-50, it's impressively unimpressive. I can't think of a lens I've shot with that's as thoroughly mediocre without annoying me. Now I don't really like Power Zoom, but this thing is a pancake when retracted so I'll give it a little there. It's optically unimpressive, not bad, just not good either. Acceptable seems to have been the design requirement and they've hit it dead on. The one thing I will call out is that the close focus performance at 50mm is pretty good. I was expecting it to be mediocre, much as the FE 28-70 is (with 0.45m at 70mm), but it gets down to 0.3m at 50mm, which is actually very good for any 50mm non-Macro. 

Now I generally found the FE 28-70 to be a decent and arguably underrated lens, and optically I'd say it's visibly better than the 16-50, but the 16-50 is noticeably wider, a touch longer and just more flexible thanks to the closer MFD. 

At the end of the day, the 16-50 is an acceptable kit lens and a useful bag lens thanks to adequate performance, low cost and utterly tiny size when collapsed. Plus being Power Zoom, it collapses itself like Fuji's 15-45 but unlike Nikon's 16-50 or Olympus's 14-42 R. Sadly it's not the gem than the Oly 14-42 EZ is, but again, it's acceptable, cheap and tiny. Very useful as a small lens for light carry or light video work on the APS-C or A7R series bodies (in crop mode for the latter)

Thursday 20 August 2020

Sometimes I Hate My Brain

West Duffins U-Turn Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8 

My brain's been telling me it's time to get rid of the D750 for a while now. I've been unable to stop thinking about what the next option should be. I've been happy with the D750, but I'd like to get back to a setup where I have more mount adaptation flexibility.

Today I finally settled on that. For now it's a mixed Sony/Fuji system, we'll see what the future holds.

One of the drivers of this was knowing that my high-mileage D750's value was facing a cliff. As DSLR's drop in value on the used market, high mileage ones, like my 235k D750, drop further and faster. I was given the option to sell the D750 for basically what I had in it and took it. I also dumped 3 of my Nikon lenses (both AF zooms and my Yongnuo 50/1.8N) and the mostly unused Fuji X-E2 body (it just kept getting left at home in favour of the X-T1, X-T2 or both). I've retained the rest of the Fuji kit and all the Nikon MF lenses plus the 20/2.8 AF.

What did I get? An A6300. I still can borrow my partner's A7II when I want to shoot FF and I've never owned any of the non-NEX APS-C bodies. There's a wide variety of lenses available for it, many of which are not available in X mount and it has performance largely similar to the X-T2. I'll no doubt get another FF body at some point in the not too distant future, hoping it will be an A7III next time. This nets me a relatively high performance APS-C body to partner with an FF setup, as well as the ability to share batteries/lenses with my partner when we're out.

I'm not getting rid of the X-T's though, I enjoy them too much. Even if I was to do some sort of trade-in on a new body, I'd keep the X-T1 and the 7Artisans lenses. They're fun and not worth getting rid of.


Wednesday 19 August 2020

2AM Wakeups

Golden Light on Smoke Lake

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XC 35mm f2

If you're a landscape photographer, you've probably been asked the question 'why the heck are you getting up so early', if your partner, parent or child is a landscape photographer, you're probably the one who asked the question. The other question is always 'so when will you get home', with an answer that's often hours after dark. 

The image above is a partial answer. That image was taken at 6:41AM, and I'd already been shooting at that location for an hour when I took it. I arrived at 5:30AM and was setup 10 minutes later after going digging for a fleece jacket, it was 11C when I arrived onsite. I should have worn pants instead of shorts, August in the bush may be hot, but it gets quite cool overnight when you're that far north, Algonquin Park in this case, I'm less than 40 meters from Highway 60 here.

To get to this location, which is some 250km from my home, I left at 2:20AM after a 2AM wakeup call. Needless to say my partner did ask me if I really had to wake up that early, a thoroughly understandable question. Yes, I did have to. I could not have taken a shot like this without that early departure. 

The sad reality of landscape photography is that so much of your work ends up happening in a pair of roughly 2 hour windows, covering the hour before dawn to the hour after, and the hour before dark to the hour after. That's when the light is the best on most scenes, when there's colour in the skies and also when you get things like mist on the water. 

The challenge to the photographer, especially in the summer when dawn can be before 6AM and dusk after 9pm, is what do you do for the rest of the day. For me, I hike, or I drive around looking for something interesting. There's actually a lot of nature and more intimate landscape work that can be done even in noonday sun when you're in the woods. In fact for some stuff you really only can shoot it during the mid-day as that's the only time you're getting enough light between the trees. I also love stopping at little knick-knack shops, coffee shops and bakeries in small towns, although that's restricted these days with the COVID-19 issues. As such I really do try and avoid people and shops entirely when going out for a day's shooting. 

Napping is another valid option for killing the time between Golden Hours, especially if you're camping. Get the rest when the light is bland, so you can be awake when it's not (or for those moonrise and Milky Way shots at night). 

Monday 17 August 2020

A Good Hike, and Peak Design Changes My World Again

Lilies and Grass

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XC 35mm f2

Saturday was a very early day for me. I got up at 2AM to leave for Algonquin Park hoping to get some pre-dawn misty lake shots as well as a good sunrise from a favourite spot of mine on Smoke Lake. I ended up with some amazing mist shots, but the sunrise was a little disappointing, it was too clear to get a really epic one.

After the sunrise, I headed a bit up Highway 60 to hike the Mizzy Lake Trail, which is a moderate trail listed as 11.1KM, just a touch more than the longest hike I've done to date. They lied, it was actually 12.4km, almost 25% longer than my previous best.

It was a good hike though. I got through it in better shape than any of my previous longer hikes. Did 12.4km in 4.5  hours of walking, a little over 5 hours all told including stops for photography and to get stuff out of my shoes.

A couple gear changes made this a lot easier. First off, I carried my Deuter Race EXP AIR pack instead of a camera bag. This pack is a fairly small hydration pack, which let me carry a fairly minimal kit (X-T2, 12, 25, 35, 55, 135 primes, 70-300 zoom, Platypod and Manfrotto 293 tripod) plus 3L of water in the reservoir. For the first time this year I came back with water left over, having drank 2L of water over the course of the hike. This pack also has a mesh backrest with an air gap, reducing back sweat immensely. I'd stuffed an internal 2 lens separator into it and that worked very well for the small kit I was carrying (multiple lenses, but small & light ones)

The second and frankly more important change was that I got a Peak Design Capture Clip and used it heavily on the hike. This is a clip that allows you to hang your camera securely from a shoulder strap or belt.

I have some lingering injury issues with my right elbow that limits how long I can carry a camera in my hand, and the heavier the camera+lens, the less time I can carry it. I also hate neck straps in general, I find they get in the way when shooting and I can only carry a camera on my neck for an hour or two anyways, again the heavier the camera+lens, the shorter a period I can carry it that way. I'd been looking at both the PD Capture Clip and the Cotton Carrier solutions for a while, but hesitated to buy in because of the cost, especially the Capture Clip which is decidedly more expensive than the Cotton Carrier. I did like that the Capture Clip plates are Arca-Swiss compatible unlike the standard Cotton Carrier plate and the Capture Clip attaches to what I'm already carrying rather than requiring me to wear a dedicated harness. 

I decided to pick up a Capture Clip and try it out, because I really did need to find a better solution than a neckstrap. 

I initially tried the Capture Clip on my belt, which carried fine but was finicky to get the X-T2 clipped in. I then moved it to my left shoulder strap and that worked very well for 2/3rds of the hike. I've later found out that Peak Design has a solution for Belt use that will solve the issue I had.

The more important aspect of the Capture Clip however is the test I did today on my lunchtime walk. I put the Capture Clip retainer on my D750 and went for a walk with it and the Deuter pack. Carrying the D750 with a lens set but no water worked extremely well and I barely felt the D750 on the clip. That means that the D750 just became a viable hiking option again and I can stick to shooting interesting primes on the Fuji's and a mix of primes & zooms on the D750, which is my preferred setup anyways. So I'll definitely be keeping the D750 for now and probably investing in some more Capture Clips & plates.

Thursday 13 August 2020

Competing Gear Philosophies

Blue and Snow 

Nikon D800, Nikkor 105mm f2.5

One of my challenges around gear is conflicting philosophies about it.

One one hand I like a setup where I can just grab & go, everything works together and I have exactly what I need in the bag at all times. This is the desire that pushed me into selling my first X-T1 and going Olympus, and why I bought Fuji in the first place.

On the other hand I love neat & odd gear and old lenses. This is why I end up buying into Sony and Nikon mounts.

The challenge is that I can only readily do one of these. Either I have a single consistent kit, or I have a bag full of odd glass that leaves me hauling pounds of gear but having fun buying & shooting weird stuff.

Historically, getting the odd stuff has always meant vintage SLR lenses for me. I think the recent explosion of interesting 3rd party manual glass in mirrorless mounts can readily replace that.

The question then becomes what happens to my Nikon kit. Short term that's nothing, I'll keep it around. But I can see the day coming where I dump the wide & normal stuff for a single mirrorless mount. Only time will tell if that mount is X mount, but it's likely.

Monday 10 August 2020

Remembering My Forgotten Gear

Tree in the Storm 

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

Yesterday's post on my experiences with adapting lenses, and especially the frustrations of adapting older wides on APS-C inspired me to take the recently-neglected X-T1 out, along with my Nikkor 24/2.8 K and Super-Takumar 35/3.5 and do some shooting.

This reminded me just how good these lenses actually are, even if the maximum aperture is pedestrian. The handling is also pretty good. While these lenses are a fair bit larger than the native Fuji X options I have, they're still not so large or heavy that they handle poorly on the X-T1.

I didn't come back with too much, the light was honestly lousy even by noonday standards and while I took around 50 shots, only a couple were really usable.

I do have to shoot some more with these lenses. The 24 is frankly better in all regards except speed, size and MFD than the Neewer 25mm f1.8, and it's pretty close on MFD, with its 0.3m MFD. Hmm, maybe I need to find a 28/2.8 AI-S, which focuses to 0.2m and is legendary in its close focus performance...

Sunday 9 August 2020

Some Thoughts on Adapting Vintage Lenses

Sun over Seaton 

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

I've been adapting vintage lenses to digital cameras since the day I got my first DSLR back in 2005. I love manual focus and manual lenses and I've learned a few lessons the hard way.

Here's a few thoughts.

For APS-C shooters, don't bother adapting anything vintage wider than 35mm, and frankly most vintage 35's aren't worth your time. At 40mm or longer, adapting comes into its own. This goes doubly for Mirrorless, where you pay a significant size penalty for adapting lenses wider than 35mm as compared to simply buying a cheap and native manual focus lens. The issue is that you're already somewhat more dependent on lens speed than a FF shooter and vintage glass wider than 35mm is very rarely faster than f2.8, and when it is it's usually very low contrast wide open. That makes focus all but impossible on DSLR's and merely a pain on Mirrorless. Also most folks just find largish f3.5 normals kinda useless. 50mm and longer? Have fun, 50-200mm in particular is a sweet spot (longer and I find AF just becomes more and more useful for the sort of shooting you'll want 300mm+ lenses for)

For m43 shooters (or the few remaining Nikon 1 shooters). Don't waste your time. The crop factor hits you far worse and frankly anything on either side of the 50-100mm range is just going to suck as a shooting experience. I'd only bother really with macro's, and especially ~100mm ones. The more I shot m43, the more I just left everything vintage except macros at home.

For FF shooters, go nuts. You're not paying any penalty for adapting, especially on mirrorless, that you wouldn't have on the original camera, with one glaring exception. The exception is the use of classic RF wides (or the handful of SLR wides that require MLU to mount) on non-Leica cameras. These lenses have some interesting colour shift issues and require care to use with success.

As somebody who doesn't own much in the way of AF lenses, with one single one for my Fuji's (the XC35mm f2) and only a handful for my D750 (4 in my shooting kit and a spare 50mm) as compared to the 15 or so vintage lenses I own

Saturday 8 August 2020

First Real Hike With The X-T2

Sun over Seaton

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

Today was the first time I  got a chance to do a real hike with the X-T2, for the last 3 weeks I've only been shooting in the neighbourhood aside from one trip up to Torrance Barrens for Comet Neowise. Today I got out to the Seaton Hiking Tail in Pickering to hike the second segment (Whitevale to Taunton Rd). I did take all 3 Fuji bodies, but only because I was intending to do a family shot of my basic Fuji shooting kit

 Aside from that, I packed the X-T1 also as a backup/second body but ended up shooting everything on the X-T2.

And I shot a lot with the X-T2. 526 shots in fact, on the high side of average for me when hiking. Yes, I shoot a lot. I also edit ruthlessly afterwards. I'm not one of those folks who spends 8 hours hiking and comes home with 5 frames, more the opposite. Of course most of my shots are the nature shots, where I tend to take a lot of similar frames and pick the best, for landscape shots I took maybe 40 frames all day.

That puts the X-T2 well over 1000 frames and well into my comfort zone. Well, to be frank it went pretty much directly from 'New Toy' to 'Comfort' somewhere around 3-400 shots in, with no 'Equivocation' stage. (the stages of camera ownership are from my 1101 Shots In post from 2018). In fact at this point, with 1400+ shots on it, I've shot more with the X-T2 than with any of the Fuji bodies I've owned aside from the X-T1's.

Overall, the X-T2 is really an X-T1 with most of the annoyances solved. And I already like the X-T1 a lot.

For today, I was pleasantly surprised to only use 1 battery all day. Now I pretty much ran it all the way down, but 526 shots is better than I typically got with the A7II and I wasn't doing anything to manage battery beyond turning the camera off when I wasn't using it. Having a properly sized on/off around the shutter helps, making this as easy as on the Sony or Nikon bodies, and better than the X-T1 or X-E2 (which have too small a switch) and far better than the Oly's (which put the switch on the left where it's unreachable). It's not D750 battery life, but this is the second time I've been favourably impressed by the battery life on this body, after the good impression it left at Torrance Barrens a couple weeks ago.

In terms of IQ, I'm finding three things. First off it doesn't expose hot like the 16MP bodies do. So I don't have to worry nearly as much about holding the highlights as I do with them. Secondly I have more recovery room than the 16MP bodies, especially in the highlights but also in the shadows. Third, while the colour signature is very distinctly Fuji, I can get a landscape rendering I like out of it fairly easily, which I never quite nailed with the X-T1 or X-E2. Add to that the fact that CaptureOne natively supports the Film Simulations on the X-T2, unlike on the older bodies (only the 24MP & 26MP Fuji's have Film Simulation support in C1) and my processing goes from more laborious than the Nikons to less so. That's a win overall as it means that rather than having to choose between easy to carry and easy to process, I get all in one package.

In terms of glass, I took the 7Artisans 12mm f2.8, the Laowa 15mm 4 Macro, the Neewer 25mm f1.8, the Fujinon XC 35mm f2, the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f3.5 AI and the Vivitar 70-150mm f3.8 C/Y. I used all the lenses except the Laowa, although the XC35 got barely any use. I should have left the Vivitar at home and carried either the Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6D or the Nikkor 50-135mm f3.5 AI-S. I'm not happy with the Vivitar's performance on 24MP APS-C. It does fine on the A7II, but just isn't up to the higher pixel density APS-C sensors unless I stop down to f8, which eliminates the reason to carry it over the 70-300D. For the first half of the walk, I used the 12mm, 25mm and 70-150. On the way back I used the 12mm, 35mm and 55mm, but mostly just the 55mm as I'd got most of the good 12mm shots on the way out.

The takeaways from lens usage is that I could largely get away with the 12mm, another 16-50 and a 50-230 or 55-200 for Hiking, eventually going to the 10-24/55-200 pair (or a 10-24/70-300 pair with a 35-55mm prime in there too, once the XF70-300 arrives). That would let me cut down significant on lens count, which also means I might be able to get away with using my light hydration pack over a camera pack, allowing me more water and a cooler carry (that pack has a mesh section which keeps the main pack away from the back).

I didn't carry a tripod today, knowing it would get no use. I did have the Platypod just in case but didn't need it. I do like having it so I know I have a support system if needed, but without the size & weight penalty of even my smaller tripod.

For next time, I'll carry the 12, 25 and 55, plus either the 50-135 or the Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-S. I'm slowly getting the kit down to something truly manageable for longer hikes.


Wednesday 5 August 2020

7Artisans 12mm f2.8 FX - Initial Impressions

Two Trees
Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

My 7Artisans 12mm f2.8 arrived yesterday, after a surprisingly long wait for an Amazon Prime order (ordered last Friday, man I've become spoiled by next day shipping). This will be my go-to UWA on my Fuji bodies for the foreseeable future.

Initial impressions are very good. My expectations in terms of presentation were for something akin to my Neewer 25mm f1.8, ie a lens in a decent little leather pouch, in a simple cardboard box. The Neewer is a re-branded 7Artisans lens and led me to that conclusion.

What I got was much different. A slick black box with 7Artisans LENS filigreed on it, opened it up to find a lens cloth (nice, but in the listing so no extra points), a slick microfibre lens pouch and a little plastic pouch containing a stick-on focusing tab, plus the lens paperwork (Warranty card and a little manual with some useful bits and some Warm Ticks). Lifting those out finds a removable closed-cell foam insert, which can be removed to find the lens securely cradled in a second closed-cell foam insert, contained in a small plastic bag. Really impressive packaging, better than my Laowa 15mm for sure, and for a lens which sells for 1/3 the price. Frankly, most camera makers do not package their lenses this well, even at far higher costs (my Zeiss 85mm f1.4 came in good old styrofoam)

Taking the lens out of the package, I continued to be impressed. Again, I was basing my expectations on the Neewer/7Artisans 25mm f1.8, which has an OK build, completely uncalibrated focusing and a very grindy focus feel when new (the helical needed to be broken in, it's quite nice now). The 12mm on the other hand has excellent build, just about on par with the Laowa 15mm. Infinity focus appears to be dead-on (and I mean exactly on) and the focusing is buttery smooth, with just the right amount of damping to make the focusing tab a useful add-on. The lens cap is a metal push-on cap that fits over the integrated hood. It's not that wide to not include a filter ring, but 7Artisans sells a 77mm filter adapter as a $25CDN addition, I'll be ordering that eventually and I like that it's optional as this is a surprisingly compact lens without it, barely larger than the XC35/2. The aperture ring is clickless and ranges from f2.8-f16, a little surprising that it doesn't make it to f22 or smaller for those deep-DoF shots. Not an issue for me, I'll pretty much leave it at f5.6 or f8 for the most part.

A couple quick test shots showed that the sharpness is good in the centre at least. Close focus is 20cm, more than adequate for a lens like this, even if I'm spoiled by the Laowa 15mm and its 1:1 close focus. No flare/coating tests yet, and I expect that to be the biggest weak point of this lens, I have lenses from 4 different Chinese brands and 3 different factories (Laowa, 7Artisans/Neewer, Yongnuo) and all of them have lousy coatings, even the $500USD Laowa 15mm f4 Macro.

Overall the presentation and quality are far better than I'd expected for a $240CDN Ultra-wide angle lens. Well done 7Artisans.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Olympus Underwhelms Again

Nature in Miniature
Fuji X-T2, Neewer (7Artisans) 25mm f1.8

Olympus had two announcements today, the E-M10 Mark IV and a 100-400 f5-6.3 IS.

Surprisingly, the 100-400 IS will ship in early September. I was not expecting that and this lens should appeal to quite a number of m43 folks looking for a lightweight supertele option that is fully compatible with the advanced focusing features of the 20MP PDAF bodies. It's a little pricey at $1500USD, but no doubt will see discounts fairly quickly. I'd expect it will be hard to get for a while, as this is the perfect match to the 12-100/4 Pro for a lot of backpackers. Say what you will about the bodies, but Olympus is now 2 for 2 on interesting lenses in 2020 with the 12-45/4 (after a 2 year dead zone in 2018 & 2019, where they announced 2 lenses and delivered only one of them, a thoroughly uninteresting consumer ridicuzoom, we're still waiting for the 150-400/4.5 that I frankly never expect to see released at this point)

On the body side Olympus managed to undershoot my already low expectations. I'd expected it to be nothing more than the 20MP sensor and processing stuffed into an E-M10 III body. Olympus delivered that, but they used the Pen-F variant of the sensor without PDAF rather than the PDAF variant that's used in all their current 20MP bodies, so despite the speed boost (up 1.5fps to a still-low 6.3fps) and gaining face/eye detection it remains utterly worthless for continuous advance or movie AF. It also got a Nikon Z50 style extended articulation of the LCD so you could use it for hand-held selfies, but not any where you are using camera support. On the plus side, it has a very reasonable 360 shot CIPA rating for LCD use, that's better than average for a class where sub-300 shots is not unheard of.

The pricing would have been alright if the body had been what I'd originally expected, coming in at the same pricing as the X-T200 ($699USD body-only, $799 with 14-42 EZ kit lens). But without PDAF this is a $500 stripper body in this market, with performance on par with the Fuji X-T100 and Sony A6000 and as such it's about $200USD overpriced for what it is.

Verdict? Don't buy at list, if you really want it wait for the fire sale in 3 months. Or better yet, get the E-M5III when it hits fire sale territory as it's just a massively better body in all regards, even at its current wildly overpriced state.