Sunday, 13 June 2021

m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 - Whoa!

 


Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8

For some reason I've never owned this lens before, despite having been in and out of the m43 system on and off for over 12 years. It's long been known as a cheap and excellent portrait lens for m43 users.

I had to run a minor errand this morning and decided to walk with the 3 f1.8's. This was mostly to really try out the 17 and 45, I had the 75 along just in case but shot mostly with the 17 on my way out and entirely with the 45 on my way back. 

The 17 is just like I remembered it, a good but not exceptional lens in terms of sharpness and pop, but nice out of focus rendering, good colour and excellent handling. It'll do for a nice walkaround lens, but I'll definitely want a 25 or the 15/1.7 long-term for a serious shooting lens. It really reminds me of the 35/2 AI in a lot of ways, except with more pleasant rendering.

The 45 is nowhere near as nicely built as the 17. It's mostly plastic, lacks the MF clutch and uses the awkwardly small 37mm filter size, instead of the more common 46mm of the 17 & 25. Oh, and the MFD is a disappointing 0.5m, on the poor side for the focal length as 0.45m is more common for 45-55mm lenses. It is truly tiny, but you pay for that in a couple ways. Now 0.5m MFD is actually good by 85-90mm standards, so in terms of usage it's less bad than it initially sounds, but if the lens was a little bigger and had 46mm filters and say a 0.35m MFD it would be amazing.

On the flip side? It's sharp. I mean really sharp. I was blown away by the level of detail in the flower shot above. And that's at minimum focus distance, where most lenses of this type are at their weakest. The colour is good as well, and the backgrounds render very nicely.

I'm very much digging this little gem. I will however get a 37mm to 46mm step-up ring so I can have consistent filters across my small primes. But I see this lens getting a lot of use around town. 

The best part? It's so small that it can just be tossed in a pocket along with a battery when I'm out shooting with the 17mm. I could totally see eventually getting one of the Laowa UWA's (7.5mm or 10mm) for an ultra-compact and tiny 3 lens kit that fits in a small belt pouch or large pocket when paired with an E-M5 series body. 

Saturday, 12 June 2021

I Did It Again


Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 17mm f1.8

After a lot of serious thought and plenty of hemming and hawing, I've broken through my analysis paralysis and made a decision.

The Z5 is gone, Olympus it is for the foreseeable future. Knowing me, it's not going to be permanent, but I'd love to finally stick to a system.

There's two basic reasons for the decision.

1. Flip/Twist LCD. I like low-angle shooting. I like shooting portrait orientation on a tripod. The LCD setup on the E-M5II is just WAY better for both of these than the Z5 because the Z's all lack more than one axis of LCD articulation.

2. The 12-40 Pro. This lens is just so bloody good. And the Z 24-50 was always kind of frustrating because it was good, but got in my way at the same time. The key difference isn't aperture, but close focus. The 12-40 Pro is extremely good at close focus, with 0.2m MFD and the crop factor effectively doubling the magnification in 'fill the frame' terms. The Z 24-50 is not terrible with a 0.34m MFD, but it could not even come close to the 12-40 Pro in close focus.

The end result is that more and more I would just grab the E-M5II when leaving the house. I'd barely shot a frame on the Z5 in two weeks and as of right now I've shot 2100 frames in 6 weeks with the E-M5II and 3300 in 14 weeks with the Z5. That really shows just how much more I'm using the E-M5II than I was the Z5.

 Don't get me wrong, I still think the Z5's a great camera, and it's definitely a better low-light & long lens camera than the E-M5II. But I'm more a wide angle guy and the Z5's advantages (better AF, better sensor, better EVF) are less useful to me than the E-M5's advantages (better LCD articulation, better normal zoom, better IBIS)

So I traded in the Z5/24-50 kit, FTZ, 50/1.8G and 70-300E and came home with a 40-150 f4-5.6 R, 17/1.8, 45/1.8 and 75/1.8. That gives me a basic tele zoom for good light that I know performs well (it's copy #3 at least for me, maybe #4), and a fast and compact AF 35mm equivalent (the 17/1.8), I've owned it before and while it's not amazing, it's quite compact. 

The other two lenses I've not owned before, but they give me a truly tiny 90mm equivalent and a nicely sized and extremely good performing 150mm equivalent, both with f1.8. Both have long been on the list of m43 lenses I've wanted to own. 

I will need a second body though, the AF-C of the E-M5II is just not usable. That will no doubt be an E-M1 Mark II or III. An UWA is also needed, as is the 40-150 f2.8 Pro. And I'll probably pick up a fast normal as well.

But for now I have two really usable 2-lens kits with the E-M5II. The 12-40 can pair with the 75 very well, and the 17 & 45 pair well. One for really light carry, one for serious work. And the 40-150 can be thrown in the bag whenever I want a little long-lens coverage. 

Plus the 17 can stay on the E-M5II when using it as a webcam, so when I have that second body I can have a kit ready to go while still having the webcam hooked up.






Friday, 11 June 2021

More Toys for Micro 4/3rds


Nikon Z5, 50mm f1.8 G

Laowa announced an updated version of their 7.5mm f2 UWA for m43 today. The main change is this is now a fully coupled lens with electronic aperture control and a linked focus ring (so focus ring movement can trigger focus assists like peaking or magnification). It's still manual focus, still 46mm filter threads, close focus is 0.12m and it now has 5 aperture blades (vs 7 on the older versions).

Laowa joined the m43 consortium a while ago and that lets them do fully-integrated lenses. This is the third one from them, after the 50/2.8 Macro and the 10/2 UWA. Of course they've done uncoupled manual lenses before, including two variations of the 7.5mm (the standard and an ultralight one for drone use) and those continue in the line.

 It's good to see more functionality coming here. Laowa's one of the most innovative lens manufacturers today, specializing in UWA's and macro's, although they're starting to branch out into general fast primes. They are also offering something that's been really lacking in m43 since day one, which is primes wider than 12mm (24mm-e). As a bonus their stuff is small, optically good and has unusually excellent close focus. 

It's no secret I'm very fond of my Laowa 15mm f4 Macro in F mount, and this really is the m43 equivalent, just without the 1:1 magnification. I can live without that for a much smaller lens and 46mm filters.

The size of this lens makes it an absolutely amazing small wide option for the E-M5, E-M10 or Pen shooter and it's practical on the regular E-M1's, although I'd expect a lens this small would be somewhat hilarious to use on the E-M1X.

Between this and the new 8-25 PRO, it's been a killer week for m43 wide shooters. It's great to see some movement in a system that has had so little action in terms of new gear over the last few years. 

I'd love one of these for my E-M5II

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Effective Magnification - What is it?

 


Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro

OMDS announced the 8-25/4 Pro today, alongside the E-P7. The body is pretty much an E-M10 Mark IV stuffed inside a Pen body, with the neat color/mono switch from the Pen-F added. Small, inexpensive and really adjustable JPEG profiles, but aside from being dual dial (why it's an E-P body instead of an E-PL body) there's nothing particularly stand-out. Asia/EU only though, but that's the real market for these.

The 8-25 however is the real standout. CDN pricing is a bit better than I expected at $1399 (I was expecting $1449). It's a collapsing lens, which is unexpected. Good close focus performance, which was expected, what looks like excellent flare performance and a really solid range. 72mm filter size is also outstanding, it's the smallest filter thread on a zoom this wide and also allows shared filters between the 40-150 Pro and the 8-25, which is a really nice bonus. Unlike some makers (Nikon, cough, cough) Oly seems to be trying to minimize the filter size options, with the Pro lenses mostly using 62mm or 72mm filters (the outliers are the compact 12-45 which is 58mm like many of the non-Pro line and the 150-400 which takes 95mm filters, plus the 7-14 and 8mm fisheye which do not allow screw-in filters due to front element shape) 

The press release however talks about the 0.42x effective magnification at 25mm and MFD, which has the internet up in arms as that's not the real magnification of the lens (which is 0.21x, and is actually in the tech specs for the lens). This complaint is technically correct, but useless for folks who are not doing the very few types of photography where knowing the reproduction ratio is key. For most photographers doing close-up work, including myself, the key aspect is filling the frame, and for that effective magnification allows you to readily compare with Full Frame, which has become everybody's standard point for comparison.

I've actually found this very useful, especially with my 55mm Micro-Nikkor, which does 1:2 macro (0.5x), and is much more useful on m43 for macro work than on FF, where working distance for a given framing is very limited. You effectively get more working distance for a given framing from m43 with a lens of a given actual magnification, which makes the 1:2 macros much more useful on m43 than on FF. 

For comparison, at 1:1  magnification on my Z5, the new Nikkor Z MC 50mm has 16cm working distance, the Z MC 105mm has 31cm working distance and at the same composition the Micro-Nikkor 55mm has 24cm working distance on m43. Going from 16cm to 24cm for the same composition is a big gain in working distance which is a major benefit when doing macro work.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

A Few Thoughts


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


Processed the last few X-T2 images in my backlog today. There's still some to be posted, but the Fuji stuff is pretty close to being done, wrapping up my latest adventure with that system. Still have 2 X-T1 images to post, but I processed the last X-T1 images weeks ago.

I still do feel affection for the system, it's a solid choice but not for me for landscape work. I just don't get along with the colour science. Not enough deep blue. REALLY nice B&W output though, Fuji is probably my favourite for B&W tones out of the box. I still do think it's odd I can't get Provia colour from the camera made by Provia's maker and which includes a 'Provia' setting (which looks nothing like Provia btw)

At this point I've taken almost 1400 images with the E-M5 Mark II that replaced the Fuji stuff, that's in about 5 weeks with some hiking involved. That's reasonable, especially since I'm basically shooting with one lens welded on, namely the 12-40 f2.8 Pro. 

I did use my Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 AI a bunch today, it's really nice on the E-M5 II, much more usable than on the Z5 where the working distance limits me more (in terms of filling the frame, the crop factor makes the 55 Micro at 1:2 actual magnification functionally the same as a 110 Macro at 1:1 on Full Frame)

The Z5 is coming up on 3400 shots, with 2 months more ownership. That's a solid increase since early May, but overall a lower rate than the E-M5 II so far. A lot of that is that the E-M5 II is just a better walkabout camera in most regards, with a much more flexible normal zoom, in terms of range, close focus ability and speed. 

The close focus ability is the real game changer here, it just makes the 12-40 so much more useable for around the neighbourhood shooting than the Z 24-50 is. Even the 24-70/4 S cannot match the close focus of the 12-40 Pro. 

The more flexible flip/twist LCD setup on the E-M5 II also contributes here. It makes low and odd angle shooting so much easier it's not funny, especially as I shoot a lot of portrait orientation work. If I did mostly landscape orientation the Z5's LCD would be way less limiting.

 I would love a Z5-level EVF on the Oly's. The difference in EVF quality and transparency is immense. With the Oly's you are clearly looking at an electronic display, the Z5 however just seems to show what's going on, like a regular OVF with more data. 

The Z5 also comes out ahead in terms of AF. More flexibility and more control than the E-M5 II. The one thing the E-M5 II does particularly well is handle when the scene is totally out of focus. The Z5 struggles, the E-M5 II pauses for a bit then starts racking through the focus range to try and find a subject.

A wildcard that's been thrown in on system selection for me is that Olympus/OMDS is no longer regular stock items at any major retailer. Henry's, Vistek and Downtown Camera all now treat it as Special Order. I need to figure out if I can live with that. That said, it's not like there's a lot of kit I'd be looking to add either way. 

For now, I'm going to keep tracking my usage to see if a clear winner emerges between the two cameras. If not, I'll have to make some sort of decision later this summer.


Thursday, 3 June 2021

Olympus Rumours and the Other Road

 


Olympus OM-D E-M5II, m.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f2.8

The first images of the upcoming m.Zuiko PRO 8-25mm f4 leaked today, along with the upcoming E-P7 body (the first new body in that line in years). 

The E-P7 doesn't much interest me, although it looks competent at what it is, especially if it gets the PDAF variant of the 20MP sensor and is priced in a sane manner.

But the 8-25/4 on the other hand is extremely interesting as I pretty much am the target market for a compact UWA to normal zoom. In full-frame terms it's a 16-50mm lens, it's weather sealed, f4 across the range, reasonably compact and a 72mm filter thread.

In practical matters that means it's an extremely viable foundation for a 1-lens kit, and it matches extremely well with the 40-150 f2.8 Pro as a 2 lens kit, especially since both use 72mm filters.

I could do a lot of work successfully pairing the 8-25 with a 60 macro, 75/1.8 or the 40-150 f2.8 PRO as needed. Nikon does offer an excellent 14-30/4, but that is much larger and uses more expensive 82mm filters vs the much less expensive 72mm filters. 

While I've been expecting this lens for a while, it's been on the roadmap since last year, getting some details means that the release should be soon and that means it should be out before I truly commit one way or another to m43 or Z as my future system.

I went over the hiking kits a couple posts ago, the 8-25 would let me drop a lens from that kit, the 8-25 would be the UWA and Normal zoom and could let me leave the 12-40 at home when I'm going really light, with a 2 body kit no lens changes at all would be needed when shooting, just switch bodies as I go. I wouldn't get rid of the 12-40, but I suspect it would get a lot less use.

The real gripping hand here is light carry. With m43 the E-M5 series fills that need very well, especially if paired with the ultra-compact primes available in the system. With Z, there is no really good option. The Z50 is not as small, Z has few to no small primes available and you're dealing with a split format system. 

The reality is that as much as I like Z, m43 is a far more mature system. Unsurprising as one has been around for 13 years and the other for 3. Nikon's done an amazing job so far with Z and you can cover the gaps with F glass (at a size/weight cost), but if I pick on maturity and flexibility, m43 delivers far more, and even more if I look at size and weight alongside that. I just need to do more work to get the same level of IQ for landscape work and I lose a decent amount of high ISO capability, offset by a better availability of fast glass for more reasonable cost.

When comparing costs, for the base hiking kit, Z makes more sense for sure, even if I go dual body I'm a lot closer to completion. 

However for a full kit, the m43 can get there quicker and cheaper, as pretty much everything except the 8-25 is already available and most of it is decidedly cheaper than the Z options. 

So yep, back in analysis paralysis.....If I could just stick to a system that would be nice....

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

New Toys From Nikon


Nikon Z5, Z 24-50

Today Nikon finally launched some new gear. After a long drought since last fall's Z6II & Z7II, Nikon announced both of the Macro lenses on their Z roadmap, the Nikkor MC 105mm f2.8 S VR and the Nikkor MC 50mm f2.8, which will be shipping in the next few weeks.

The 105 is looking very good. Nikon launched it at a lower price than I expected ($999USD, $100 more than the somewhat unimpressive 105VR it replaces) and delivered a lens that they are promising to deliver both excellent macro performance and excellent performance if using as a portrait lens. Still no real VR/IBIS integration though. This lens is on my wishlist for sure, I love doing macro and close focus work and often find my current options too limiting. 62mm filter size, which is somewhat annoying (Can't Nikon settle on a standard set of filter sizes? Right now it's almost one of each size in the Z lineup)

The 50 also looks good. It's $50USD more than the 60mm f2.8G it replaces, which is reasonable. Interestingly it uses 46mm filters, same as the 16-50DX. not a cheap lens, but it would be a great gap lens between the 14-30/4 S and a 70-300 for a lightweight and mobile kit. Interesting, but not a must-buy for me. I do like that it's 50mm rather than 60mm, as that gaps better (although I'd rather have 55mm or 60mm on DX).

We also got pictures and a couple specs on the 28 & 40mm Muffin lenses. Yes, they aren't pancakes. The 28 is f2.8 and the 40 is f2, the filter size is 52mm (yes!) and the mount is plastic. No pricing, optical specs or ETA beyond 'before end of 2021'. The plastic mount suggests some nice aggressive pricing on these two lenses and they're both pretty much must-haves for me. Love to see a 85/2.8 or 100/2.8 to round out a nice trio of inexpensive primes for the Z5. I don't care about plastic mounts as long as the pricepoint isn't too high. Rather trash a $200 lens than a $1k+ camera.

The 40/2 in particular goes a LONG way to addressing my biggest issue with the Z5, which is 'cheap body, expensive glass'. A Nifty 40 is perfect for this, without being too close to either the 35/1.8 S or 50/1.8 S.

Actually, that reminds me that a 55/2 Muffin would be a nice choice to round out this line as well, as it would be a great portrait lens on the Z50 while being a nice long normal that a 40/2 user might consider as well. But Nikon needs to get the 28 & 40 into stores first. They've promised a LOT for FY 2021 (30 lenses released in Z mount, do note that due to Nikon's fiscal year, their promise is for the period of April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022, not by end of calendar year 2021)

 

Monday, 31 May 2021

Analysis Paralysis

 

Nikon Z5, Z 24-50


Did another hike yesterday. It's a great activity for exercise while maintaining social distancing, you don't want other people around if you can avoid it. 11.3KM & 18,000+ steps on a moderate-rated '8km' hike. Yes, I keep getting bit by trail distance ratings being well off from reality. 

Did make a few errors, mostly prior to leaving. First off, I forgot to charge my Z5 and had 52% battery when I got to the trailhead. Big takeaway there is that I need a USB-C PD capable adapter in the car, either a small power USB power panel or a 12V car adapter widget, my current unit just isn't delivering the power necessary to charge my Z5 (or my iPhone and iPad Pro for that matter). I also forgot one charged battery for the E-M5II, and of my 2 spares there, one wasn't charged either. Luckily I caught this early enough that I could use one of my USB charging docks to half-charge the spare BLN-1 on the drive (these docks don't pull a lot of power from the USB port, so they work with my current car adapter, but they're also very slow to charge, ~4 hours to full). Finally I forgot my PD Leash wrist strap, which I really like having for security when working in places where a dropped camera would be a catastrophic loss.

I spent the first half of the hike shooting both bodies, with the 70-300E on the Z5 and the 12-40PRO on the E-M5II. That mostly worked well, although to be honest I was really missing the Z5's better AF system control for some of the work I shot with the E-M5II. I did a bit of long-exposure work on the E-M5II here, and it mostly worked pretty well. The only real issue I had was one really nice shot that could have worked better if I'd bracketed it and merged the two images in post and I didn't think to do so. I took a break about halfway in at a nice shoreline rest spot and did some long-exposure work with both the E-M5II and the Z5. I did not have a re-occurrence of the issues with getting a usable display with ND filters on the Z5, I think now that it was a combination of the polarizer (I did notice both bodies displays darkened more with the polarizer than with a 10-stop ND fitted, but exposures were generally good) and the sun position (shining directly into the EVF sensor)

After the rest stop, I stuck the E-M5II in the pack and shot the rest of the hike only with the Z5 as a test. I used all 3 lenses, the Laowa 15/4 Macro, the Z 24-50 and the 70-300E. This worked generally well, but swapping lenses between the Z 24-50 and 70-300E is a pain when trying to work quickly (the 15 really doesn't suit quick work in the first place, so it's not so much of an annoyance). I really did appreciate the generally quicker control of the body, especially of the AF system. For all that there's some really valid complaints about the limited AF controls on the Z's vs the F mount bodies, they do generally do better than most comparable mirrorless bodies once you get used to the setup.

Moving between the two dissimilar interfaces in the E-M5II and Z5 is an exercise in aggravation, as the UI's are different enough and the capabilities also different enough that I have to context switch too much. The E-M5II has a lot of nice extra features, but I do have to work to access them, most are menu dives, the Z5 is a much faster body to work with and while the Super Control Menu is a lot more capable than the 'i' menu, the 'i' menu is more configurable and quicker to access. 

This shows me that I really would be better off with 2 bodies in the same mount when working in the field, not 2 dissimilar bodies. Nikon is probably the easier to do this with as all the FX Z bodies are essentially identical in UI aside from the mode dial location and presence of a top LCD. Olympus would require two E-M1.2/3 bodies to get full benefit of a similar UI between both bodies, the E-M5's have the same basic menu structure as the E-M1's, but the body control layout is quite different with the E-M1's actually being closer to the Z's in control layout.

If I was to go to a 2 similar body setup on the Z's, I basically need the 24-70S (on my list already as long as I keep the Z5) and a new body to get all the basics covered. That could be a Z6 or Z5, or I could save up a bit more and get a used Z7 and get that glorious 45MP sensor and some extra crop capability. The Z50 is a non-option here as it can't share batteries with the Z5 and the UI is just enough different to make it a less than ideal change from the Z5. 

On the Olympus side I'd need an UWA, a 40-150 Pro and eventually 2 bodies (as the E-M5II doesn't match up well to the E-M1's for UI, so the E-M5II+E-M1 combo runs into a lot of the same issues as the E-M5II+Z5 combo). That's more glass, but on the body side I can add one, get the glass, then add another body later. But here I need the glass too, and relatively quickly. Costs are the same short term (a 40-150 Pro + E-M1.2 costs the same as a used Z7, but I could get another Z5 for about the same cost as an E-M1.2) and a 9-18 or Laowa 7.5 cost on par with a 24-70/4 S.

The more I look at this, the more the Z system seems to draw ahead. As much as the computational photography extras help m43, the ones I have today really only serve to match what I can get single-shot with a Z, and the extras on the E-M1's are things that would be nice, but I don't need all that much (like ProCapture and Handheld high-res). LiveBulb is the real kicker here, but I've not used it that much at all. The long shutter limit of the earlier Z bodies (before the Z6II/Z7II) is a real annoyance, I can just use bulb, but then I need to math and hand-time. But I can do that if needed.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Frustrations and Filters

 


OM-D E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f2.8

Got out yesterday for another hike, same setup as last time, mostly shooting with the Z5/70-300E and E-M5II/12-40PRO combos. I spent a little time with the Z24-50 on the Z5, but I got frustrated with it quite quickly. I was shooting in bright sunlight and wanted to use my 10 stop ND+ Polarizer, but I could not get the Z5 to give me a workable display. Ended up using the 5 stop instead, which was just barely enough. I was a little surprised, as I've used the 10 stop successfully on the Z5/24-50 combo before, but I suspect I was running into a combination of LCD auto-brightness, limited max shutter speed and LV Settings simulation. 

I didn't yet have any ND filters that fit my 12-40 Pro, so I couldn't swap that in for long-exposure work, although somewhat ironically, I got home to find that Amazon had delivered a 62mm 10 stop ND a day early. Really could have used that on the hike.

I'm using Gobe/URTH ND filters, which are a decent budget option. They do have a colour cast (regardless of advertising, all but the most pricey ND filters have colour casts), but it's a relatively easily corrected warming effect. I do want to get a high-end ND/Polarizer setup, but those are expensive enough that I want to know exactly what set I need before investing, which requires my gear setup to settle down.

That means I really do need to settle on my landscape kit. If I continue down the m43 path there I get a much more mature system, a smaller one and a lot of very useful features available right now. Plus if nothing else the bodies are a lot cheaper, especially once the Z9 ships (which should cost double what an E-M1X costs, that's the closest comparable m43 body).

If I go down the Z path, I'll be waiting for stuff and have to carry more weight, but the basics are in place today, the glass is every bit as good and I can go up to 45 or more MP right now and get a lot of flexibility in terms of cropping that way.

The real challenge is every time I go out with the E-M5II, I'm reminded how good and small the E-M1II setup was, and every time I go out with the Z5 I'm reminded how good the performance is there. But when I carry both I get annoyed at the AF of the E-M5II (seriously inferior to the Z5) and how limited the Z5 is on the tripod (seriously inferior in LCD viewing angles and multi-shot capabilities to the E-M5II)





Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Motivation

 


Panasonic G1, Super-Takumar 35mm f3.5

The last couple weeks I've been struggling with motivation again. Not to get out and shoot, but to get out and shoot with my film cameras. After a very active March & April where I shot 20-ish rolls of film, I'm just reaching for the digital bodies every time I leave the house.

Some of this is just my usual addiction to shooting flowers in the spring. I don't like doing that on film, but love it on digital, especially with the E-M5II/12-40PRO combo which is a nearly perfect setup for flower photography. Some is that I've pretty much shot everything there is close to home at least 5 times and I only really enjoy constant revisiting when shooting flowers/insects.

The challenge here is that my Film Instagram gets a lot more interest than my digital one does. I generally see 25-30 likes on the first 24 hours of posting to the film IG, and 6-7 likes on the regular IG. This is despite having 50% more followers on the regular one.

So I sort of want to chase Likes, but on the other hand forcing myself to make photographs is a prescription for even more motivation loss. If I push myself too much to make film work, I'll just end up sticking everything in the bag and leaving it alone for a while, and that while might end up being years.

That said, I think I'll just grab the F2a and 35/2 AI today, along with a spare roll of HP5+. I need to run out and get some milk at lunch and that's always a good walk for film (east on Eglinton Ave West between Allen Rd and Bathurst St)

Sunday, 16 May 2021

A Little Hike

 


Z5, 70-300 E

So I added the Nikkor 70-300 E to my kit on Friday, which gives me a full hiking kit for the Z5, made up of the Laowa 15mm f4 Macro, the Z 24-50 kit lens and the 70-300E. That's a pretty workable kit overall.

I went out yesterday with it, although I also carried the E-M5II with the m.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f2.8.

This combo worked pretty well, I pretty much ended up shooting with the 70-300E on the Z5 on the capture clip, and pulling the E-M5II/12-40 out of the belt pouch when I needed the wider lens or closer focus (the 12-40 is a really good near-macro). This let me avoid lens changes in the field a fair bit.

I also had the Z24-50 and a selection of filters in the pouch, and used the 24-50 for the shots I wanted an ND for, as all of my ND's are 52mm right now (I need to invest in larger ND filters). I had a Cokin P mount setup with a polarizer for the 12-40 and 70-300E (it won't work with the 15/4 even though I have the UW mount, it vignettes). I didn't use the 15/4 even though I carried it. I did go in expecting that the 15/4 wouldn't get used, I've hiked the trail before in the fall and knew what I'd be seeing.

I learned a few things from this.

1. Even though neither of my cameras is setup correctly for tripod work, not having proper screen articulation on the Z5 was more frustrating than the lack of an L bracket was on the E-M5II. The L bracket issue is also more readily addressed. I definitely had some issues shooting portrait orientation with the Z5 on the tripod (or really for any low-angle shots). 

2. AF on the Z5 is a LOT better than the E-M5II. This is not an unexpected revelation, the E-M5II is no match for the E-M1II either in terms of AF and lacks both point selection options and performance compared to either.

3. I'm getting really good at manipulating the Z5's AF system. It really does control well considering the lack of direct controls available. Now if only Drive Mode saved to the User Banks.

4. Yes, returning the E-M1II and getting the Z5 was a mistake. I'd have been a fair bit better off if I'd had the E-M1II with a 40-150 Pro instead of the Z5. But the Z5 works very well nonetheless and the Z5/70-300E combo was more achievable right now that selling the Z5 and getting an E-M1II/40-150 Pro would have been. The math here might have been different at the retail price on the 70-300E, but it's on sale now at 25% off list which really adds up.

5. I don't regret owning the Z5, even if I regret buying it. It does work very well for me regardless of whether or not the alternative would have worked better.

So what am I going to do? For now, I'll be looking to get the 24-70/4 S for the Z5, as a 24-50 replacement with better range and better weather sealing & low temperature performance, then I suspect I'll concentrate on building out the m43 kit to where it needs to be to be a complete standalone system. 

The big kicker for me now is what do I do as an UWA for the m43 stuff. Do I go with the obvious and get a 7-14/2.8 (and pay through the nose for filters and a holder), do I wait for the upcoming 8-25/4, or do I get an alternate option like the Laowa 7.5/2 or the Leica 8-18/2.8-4. This will probably be the last hurdle I solve, and it may end up with multiple options (I could readily see having the 7-14 for rough conditions and 1-2 Laowa primes for compact carry)

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Z Musings

 


Z5, 105/2.5 AI-S

This was one of the first shots I took with the Z5, from the first day of ownership at the end of February (to be exact, shot #36)

Today, in mid-May, I've taken just over 1900 images with the Z5.

That's really not where I expected to be with it, I was expecting about 50% more.

What happened?

1. I started shooting film again in a significant way. More than 20 rolls worth so far this year, the most I've shot in all but one year since 2012. That distracted me from all my digital work.

2. I'm somewhat less than really happy with the FTZ experience. It's not the camera's fault, it's mine. I've never really got along with adapted SLR primes on mirrorless as a primary shooting setup, but I keep trying it. Need to quit doing that, it never works out like I'd planned. Not that the results aren't good, but that the shooting experience is not what I really enjoy, more from a handling perspective than anything. The longer the lens, the better here, I'm much fonder of the 105/2.5 on the FTZ than I am of say the 35/2 (which is probably my least favourite lens on the Z5, at probably my favourite focal length for general shooting. Of course, I'm starting from a bad spot since I just don't like the 35/2 AI that much in general). 

3. I got aggravated quickly by the Z 24-50's focus issues in the cold. Took a while to figure out what was going on (and Nikon Canada Support was utterly worthless in helping me out). Suffice it to say I will have an alternate solution before fall comes. That really made the first few weeks with the Z5 less of a New Toy experience and more of an intermittent frustration experience, for something I can't blame the body for.

4. I rapidly started missing the m.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f2.8, partly because of #3, partly because it's just an amazing bit of glass. Now I have the E-M5II for it and am enjoying that, although I do not see the E-M5II as a primary body anytime soon, it really replaces the X-T1 as my occasional/light use body. I will be rounding out that setup, but I'm not sure what that really means yet. The last post covers what a full m43 setup would be for me, but the Z5 complicates things.

Now I really like the Z5 body itself. The files are amazing, the handling great and it just works. Plus it has all the extra bits I like (USB-C power/charge, wireless inc/remote functionality). It is a bit of a chonker for mirrorless, by far the biggest & heaviest one I've used, but you gain a great grip and no finger clearance issues (unlike what I experienced with the Sony's)

I took the Z5 out for a walk today while I had some time to kill near Sunnybrook, and came home with a bunch of work. Very much enjoyed it and shot mostly with the 24-50, although I did use the 15/4 as well. While I had the 105 and 200 with me, I didn't use them at all (I did mount the 200 at one point, but couldn't focus fast enough for it to matter). I came home thinking a 70-300E would have been extremely useful and probably allow for a much simpler kit than carrying 4 lenses (I'd drop both telephoto primes for the 70-300E). 

The kicker for me is what is going to be a solid rough conditions kit. I've heard good things about the sealing on the Z's, but I have zero trust for the 24-50 in any sort of challenging conditions. So I'd be buying new glass for that.

What would a Z system look like for me?

Z5, 14-30/4, 50/1.8G, 70-300E would work, I could also sub the 24-70/4S in for the 50/1.8G, the 3 zoom kit would be more flexible for hiking, but both would work (the upcoming Z 50 micro could replace the 50/1.8G as well).

In terms of primes, I'm thinking the S lenses are mostly out for me, the 20 is interesting for its absolute performance and I'm really loving what I see from the 35, but the 28 and 40 Muffin lenses are probably where it's at for me, plus the Viltrox 85mm. Alternatively I might add the other Viltrox FF lenses if they come to Z mount (they have a 24/1.8 and are doing a 35/1.8 and 50/1.8 too, but so far they're FE mount only and the 85 is the only one in multiple mounts).

I don't see any high-end lenses short term, they're just too heavy and too expensive. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

m43 Musings

 


E-M1, m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ


The more I shoot with the E-M5.2, the more I'm reminded of just how flexible this little camera is. It really is a good little camera, especially when paired with a solid mid-range zoom. I think that the perfect 1 lens setup for this would be the 12-45/4 Pro, which is smaller & lighter than the 12-40/2.8 Pro I'm using this time around, but faster and better than the 12-50 EZ I used on my previous E-M5's. The 12-40 does work very well, but it's in some ways just a bit too much lens for the E-M5.2 to balance perfectly. 

If I do build my m43 kit back out, and that's looking very likely, this is what it would likely look like. 

Small kit:

E-M5.2, 9-18, 40-150R, either a 14-42 EZ or a 25/1.8

Around the city:

E-M5.2, Laowa 10/2, P14/2.5,  17/1.8, 25/1.8, 45/1.8

Backcountry:

E-M1.2/3, wide, 12-40 Pro, 40-150 Pro, 1.4x TC?

The good news is that there's really only 3 major investments here, the E-M1.2 or 1.3, the 40-150 Pro and a backcountry wide (if I go for a zoom rather than the Laowa 7.5mm). Almost everything else can be acquired cheaply except the 9-18 and Laowa 10/2, and frankly I could get away with only one of those for a good while and they're not that big an investment in the first place.

What about the Z5? To be frank, I'm not sure. I'm leaning towards keeping it, because if I sell it I'll just buy another Full Frame body because I can't resist the idea of FF and using all that lovely classic FF glass on it, and if I do that I'll probably do something silly like sell the m43 kit like I did to get my last A7II and also to get the Z5. What I really need to decide is if I'm going to add a 70-300E to my kit so I have a fully working hiking kit with the Z5. There's an insanely good sale on that lens this month, so I could grab one on Friday and then have a Z5 hiking kit of the 15/4, 24-50 and 70-300E for now (and eventually the E-M1 kit would semi-replace it with something that's better for bad conditions). Plus the Z5 could continue as a fun lens/bad light system long-term as well as being the digital in the film bag, a role m43 simply cannot do for me. I'd probably see the Z system grow with a few M or LTM lenses.

My film kit doesn't need much, I need a better 35mm, a small 20mm, a 85/90mm and a 135mm. Oh, and the tools I need to clean up my 200/4 so it can be used on film again (it's got a stuck aperture and I only use it on digital as a result, but I really do like the lens). The lenses will get added slowly over time but I really don't need much investment in my 35mm film kit, it's pretty complete even now.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Film Thoughts

 


Super Ricohflex, Velvia 50 

One of the challenges in going back to working with film seriously is that for a lot of work I really prefer shooting Medium Format to 135, and MF isn't cheap anymore. From an economic perspective one of the purely dumbest moves I ever made was selling my very complete Mamiya 645 Super setup back in 2012. I got maybe $400 for the lot and it probably would cost me north of $3000 to replace today, especially since I had the extremely desirable 80/1.9. Admittedly today I have generally less interest in 645 than I used to, largely because if I'm going to go in on MF, I want the larger negs you get from 6x6 or larger formats on 120 film.

I'd just pull out the Super Ricohflex, but it needs a CLA and a focus calibration (I'm not sure if it's just misaligned, or if the focus helical is frozen and the front elements are unscrewing themselves as a result). Alternatively, I could just pull the lens unit as a whole and mount it in a helical to use with my Goodman Zone. Might actually do that instead of putting money into what's still a sub-$100 camera. And I could always get the CLA later, pulling the taking lens from the Super Ricohflex is completely reversible. The challenge around cheap MF cameras like the Ricohflex's is that any service immediately exceeds the value of the camera, but replacing it usually puts you back in exactly the same position because none of these cameras have had a CLA in decades.

I think from this aspect, I really need to get my Goodman Zone build completed before I do anything else. That would give me a very workable 6x6/6x7 body with Zone or groundglass focusing. I need to buy hardware for it, plus a back and a lens. I'll probably just start by ordering the hardware to finish building the basic body.


Monday, 10 May 2021

Random Musings


Pentax 6x7, SMC Takumar 105/2.4, Agfa Scala 100

Been involved in an interesting discussion on FredMiranda based off a Professional Photographer's social media posting about why they continue to stick with DSLR's.

One of the commenters was going on about how Mirrorless isn't ready for prime time. A few of us started quizzing them about what they meant. Turned out it was a combination of buying Sony offerings obviously unsuited to their uses (A6x00's don't handle well with long lenses) and more importantly, refusing to read the manual. They had a number of issues with performance on the Olympus E-M1.2 that come down to they left the default settings then complained that the default settings didn't do what they wanted and rather than read the manual (the E-M1 series are insanely configurable and almost everything can be setup 5 different ways) they just used non-optimal workarounds and complained about it.

Rule #1. Learn your camera. Especially if switching systems (the guy in question was a long-time Nikon guy and seemed to expect identical behaviour from another brand's camera). If you don't learn your camera, don't expect to enjoy the experience. 

When I get a new camera I usually buy a guide (Thom Hogan's guides for Nikon, other writers handle other systems. There's excellent guides out there for Olympus and Fuji that I'm aware of, and I'm sure Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Leica all have 3rd party guides as well). I always spend a bunch of time figuring out what the bits I expect to use will do. I also have a pretty standard set of features I use (A & M modes, Auto ISO, FL settings for IBIS/Non-CPU lenses, bracketing and if the camera is capable of doing it in RAW mode, HDR/stacking) so going through and figuring out how the features I use regularly work is part of the new camera experience.

Rule #2. If you are doing something that challenges the camera, like Bird in Flight photography, go read some on doing that sort of work on that camera before complaining about the camera. There's plenty of guides online. Olympus for example has a great starter guide for BiF on their website which will give you good settings to start from. The defaults are almost never right for anything past general walkabout shooting.

 Moving on to other randomness, I'm a little frustrated with shooting the Z5 these days, and frankly am kind of regretting getting rid of the E-M1.2 to get it.

I still think the Z5 is a great camera, the body itself is not the source of my frustrations. It's the lens situation. 

There's three aspects to this.

1. I'm very hesitant about the Z 24-50. It screwed me in the cold. It handles poorly. The close focus isn't as good as I'd like. On the plus side it's excellent optically, the AF is speedy and the 52mm filter size is great when pairing with AI lenses, as it's the standard filter size for older Nikon glass.

2. The FTZ handling is meh at best. The chonky tripod mount blocks the body mount in many setups, so I need to have an L-bracket mounted to use a capture clip with the body + FTZ. The tripod mount also doesn't fit the hand well, and it's simply kinda porky and adds a lot of weight to the Z5+manual lens combos. I think I'm just going to have to accept at some point that adapting SLR lenses is just not working for me as a regular use setup. I love the idea, but I didn't like the reality on the A7II, I didn't like the reality on m43, I didn't like the reality on the Fuji's and I don't like the reality on the Z5 either, at least with the FTZ. I might try a 3rd party F mount adapter, but that will cost me EXIF.

3. Native Nikkor lenses. They're big, they're expensive and I just don't see myself buying into a system that pricey to deliver IQ that I just don't need. 

The challenge is that I REALLY like the body itself. My challenges are all around what to put in front of it. I'll admit I've been spoiled by the m.Zuiko PRO 12-40/2.8 for its small size, ridiculously good close focus performance (0.2m and SHARP) and optical quality. 

I see three options.

1. The simplification option. Trade Z5 kit in on an E-M1.2 as soon as Henry's gets one in used (or special order a new one at the current pricing, which gets me a new one for $200). I get hosed on my investment, but get a working kit relatively quickly.

2. The glass option. Trade Z5 in and use the credit for glass for m43 and/or film kit. That could get me a really awesome couple lenses for film (ZF.2 25/2.8 and 50/1.4) which pair well with my 105/2.5, or some nice options for m43. I'd re-buy the E-M1.2 at a later date. Still get hosed on my Z5 investment here but it could round out one of the kits very quickly.

3. Keep the Z5, move to using it with native 3rd party lenses/adapted M/LTM/FE lenses. I like the Z5 better than any Sony bodies, so I'd effectively remove my reliance on adapting SLR lenses for more compact adaptation options like M and FE mounts, and/or buying some of the 3rd party manual lenses from TTArtisan, 7Artisans and Laowa. I end up with a bunch of capital tied up in a body that's basically a side project, but on the flip side I keep a body I really do enjoy while investing in glass that better suits how I work with it and removes some of the handling warts. And I still have the FTZ to use with F mount lenses if and when it's needed. I'd put more into the m43 side as that would become my primary hiking kit. 

Frankly, what will likely happen is either #1 or #3. #1 if I continue to get more frustrated with the Z5 lens situation, #3 otherwise. #2 option 1 puts the investment in an area I'm unwilling to bet on, I'm still not sure if film is going to remain a major part of my work, it's really enjoying a boost right now because of the level of instagram engagement I'm getting and generally liking film for around town/found item work. I'm not sure I've any interest in expanding it beyond that though, and I kind of expect the rate of shooting to taper off some as things open up and I can get out in the woods again. 

Friday, 30 April 2021

Gear Simplification - The Never Ending Quest.


Nikon FE, Ilford HP5+ in Rodinal 1:50


Gear Simplification is something that absolutely drives me nuts. Every time I get some time to think about my setup, I start looking at gear simplification. 

Two simple reasons:

1. I want the simplest setup possible for my needs.

2. I like buying gear.

Needless to say, those are two diametrically opposed items.

Looking at the gear I have lying around, I can put it into four categories.

1. Absolutely never sell:

FE, 55/3.5 AI Micro, Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 LTM and 105/2.5 AI-S

Two of these are heirlooms (the FE and 55/3.5), one is my cold dead hands lens (5cm f1.4) and the last I've rebought every time I've sold one, I'd be a fool to do it again. 

2. I really like, but could part with if it made sense:

F2a, X-T2, Z5 bodies

7Artisans 12/2.8, Fujinon XC35/2, Laowa 15/4, Z 24-50 f4-6.3, m.Zuiko Pro 12-40/2.8, Super-Takumar 35/3.5, 7Artisans 18/6.3 UFO (yes, really).

3. I'm OK with it, but not too attached.

X-T1 body, Super Ricohflex

Neewer 25/1.8 MC, Nikkor 24/2.8 K, Nikkor-H 28/3.5, Nikkor 200/4 AI, Super-Takumar 135/3.5, Vivitar 70-150 f3.8, Nikkor 50/1.8G AF-S

4. I'd dump in a heartbeat if somebody was actually interested

Coronet 12-Twenty

Nikkor 50-135/3.5 AI, Nikkor 300/4.5 K AI'd, Hanimex 135/2.8 M42

Note this is the kit that might get actively shot. I've got a couple box cameras and a Soligor 300/5.6 that are heirlooms, but don't figure in as they are not active shooting gear and won't see use.

The challenge? What would a minimalist kit actually look like?

Well, in terms of film, I could readily get by with the following:

FE, Nikkor 24/2.8, 55/3.5 Micro, 105/2.5 AI-S

That would be minimalist, but workable. No low-light option, but I don't have that today really anyways.

For digital?

Z5, 15/4, 24-50, 50/1.8G, 105/2.5 could work.

X-T2, 12/2.8, XC35, 55/3.5 also works.

Re-acquire an E-M1.2 and use the 12-40 + 105/2.5 and add an UWA option (Laowa 7.5/2 or 10/2, or a 9-18). Eventually that might become the 12-40/2.8, 40-150/2.8 and the UWA. 

I really wish my brain could settle on a kit. This is why I so rarely get to one year of ownership on a digital camera. 

One thing I keep coming back to is that any attempt to make the Fuji more than a minimalist/manual focus kit bumps into the issue that it quickly matches the Z5 for size/weight while delivering IQ barely better than the E-M1.2 for single shot and inferior to the Oly's for multishot. I'm also finding that for all I like the idea of Fuji's classic UI, the only time it's been really been a benefit was shooting night work at Torrance Barrens last summer. This is part of what drove me to the E-M1.2 and Z5 earlier this year. 

So today I hauled in all the Fuji kit. X-T2, X-T1, the XC35, 7Artisans 12/2.8 and 18/6.3 UFO, the Neewer 25mm, the USB charger, spare batteries, USB power kit et al, and came home with an E-M5 Mark II.

Why that body?

1. E-M1.2's are just coming off the end of a ridiculous sale and are unobtanium right now, new or used, as a result.

2. The E-M5 Mark III has a worse EVF than the Mark II and no USB webcam support, so it can't do everything I used the X-T2 regularly for even if it does have PDAF and the better 20MP sensor. Webcam support was the deciding factor here, I do need that capability.

3. The E-M5 Mark II can get paired with small lenses for a very pocketable kit, essentially replacing the X-T1+18 UFO combo with something more capable if I track down a cheap Panasonic 14/2.5.

4. I already have some accessories for the body, namely a grip and a USB charger that I kept when I sold my last one in fall 2019. 

5. I got a new one for used cost. It was seriously cheap for an open-box but fully warrantied body with all accessories.

I'm aware I don't like the IQ on the 16MP Mark II as much as the 20MP bodies, or larger sensor bodies and long-term expect this is really a replacement for the X-T1 as an almost-P&S, although it can handle most of what I was doing with the X-T2 as well until I fill out the system (I still see another E-M1.2 in my future). But it should be a pretty solid setup paired with the small but superb 12-40/2.8 Pro.



 

Monday, 19 April 2021

The F2 is Complete, and a Return to PanF+

 


Nikon F2a, 105/2.5 AI-S, Ilford PanF+ stand developed in Rodinal 1:100

I was able to pick up a DP-11 metering head for my erstwhile-headless F2 last week, which gives me a fully functional F2a (the 'a' indicates the DP-11 configuration). That's basically the same setup I had with my original F2a, but a much older body as my original one was 79 production and my current body dates to 1973, the DP-11 is a few years newer.

I immediately shot up the last of the test roll in the body, only to discover that like an idiot I'd loaded it last fall with Superia X-Tra 400 rather than the HP5+ I'd thought I had put in the body. Double oops, as that old expired HP5+ is something I've been shooting at EI 125 (a 2/3rds of a stop pull from the EI200 I often use with HP5+. Luckily C-41 should handle ~2 stops of overexposure OK. 

At least now I actually have a box tag in the memo holder so I can document what's actually loaded.

As soon as I'd polished off the last of the Superia, I loaded some PanF+, and this is the first image from that roll. I missed focus, it's back focused, but I do like the shot overall. It reminds me why I love PanF+, it's gorgeous tonality, minimal grain even in stand-developed Rodinal and so easy to work with if you can deal with the low speed.

The F2a is pretty much how I remember. A brick, but a delightful one to work with. it's so nice to have a real manual, mechanical SLR again, there's just a joy in shooting with these bodies that's hard to duplicate in more electronics-infested bodies. 

This does remind me, so often I've prioritized bodies over anything else, but I really do have almost everything I really need right now in terms of bodies. I'm going to make a concerted effort to quit buying more bodies, with 2 exceptions. Those being a proper MF SLR (probably an RB67) and maybe another E-M1 Mark II to use with that 12-40 I just can't bring myself to sell. 

If I add gear, aside from those two specific items, the gear needs to be lenses or accessories. And I want to actively try to hold onto every body I currently own for minimum one year.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

And a Couple Film Milestones Too


Mamiya 645 Super, Ilford PanF (expired) stand developed in Rodinal, lens unrecorded but probably the 80/1.9 C

I passed two milestones on my film shooting this week, recording my 800th roll of 35mm film since I started shooting film as an adult in 2003, and my 600th roll of B&W film over the same period. That also puts me at 12 rolls shot this year, the most I've shot since 2016, I didn't break 10 rolls in 2017 or 2020 and shot no film at all in 2018 & 2019. 

I also cleared out the last of my B&W backlog, developing the last roll of 120 I had leftover from my days with the 645 Super, a roll of HP5+ pushed to EI800 that had been sitting since 2012. The only roll of B&W in my to-develop pile is the roll of HP5+ in 135 that I shot yesterday on my daily walk. Now I need to work on clearing out the colour and slide backlog. I've still got two rolls of 120 E-6 to get developed and 8 rolls of colour 135, mostly from the FG and FE, as well as 4 rolls of E-6 135 dating back to the Maxxum 7 and 2012 or so. I think I'll start dropping them off 2 at a time over the coming weeks. 

That reminds me that I do miss my Maxxum 7's. I had 3 of them, originally a very beat up one with an equally beat up 24-105D, then later a NOS one and a spare, plus a single VC-7 grip with a decent selection of lenses (17-35D, 24-105, 24/2.8, Sony 50/1.4 D, Sony 85/2.8 SAM). Think I even still have the remote release for them. If I was to get back into AF film shooting, I'd really be tempted by another Maxxum 7 even though an F100 would make FAR more sense as I already have a great selection of Nikon glass, and all but 3 of my Nikon lenses work on the F100 (two of course aren't in F mount, the Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 LTM and the Z 24-50 f4-6.3, and my 24/2.8 K is not AI Converted so can't mount on the F100). A mount glass is getting cheap these days as well.  

With regards to the Maxxum 7, I liked the smaller size and lower weight of the body, without giving up too much performance compared to the F100. The F80 for me was always a fun body, but without AI compatibility it can only use two lenses I own, both 50mm (the 50/1.8D and 50/1.8G), that's fine as a near-P&S, but not for serious shooting. Nikon never really did anything comparable to the Maxxum 7 and that's a pity, it sits perfectly between the F80 and F100 in capability.

Frankly, I've also been wanting to get something to shoot my M42 lenses on film, and just remembered the Maxxum 7 does very well with that and I still have an adapter handy. Hmm, that's a two birds with one stone kinda solution. Beats buying a cheap Cosina SLR in K mount and then tracking down an M42 adapter for K mount.

That said, there's some gaps in my lens kit that need filling before I add any new bodies or mounts. A 20mm (to replace the 20/2.8 AF I sold), probably the f3.5 AI-S version as it's good, tiny and has a 52mm filter thread like most of my other Nikkors. I also want an 85/90mm and a 135mm to gap fill, right now I only have the 105mm in the 55mm to 200mm gap. I also need to get a lens wrench so I can tear down my 200/4 and properly clean the oil off the aperture blades. It's got a really sticky aperture. I'm thinking the 85/90 and the 135 are priorities here.

Further out, I'd like to add the 35 and 100mm Series E lenses as compact & lightweight alternatives to my current options at those focal lengths. A 200/4 Micro would be good as well for bugging. Probably should see my eye out for either the AI ring for my current 24/2.8 or an AI or AI-S version so I'm not as limited in what cameras I can use the 24 on and the 28/2.8 AI-S would pair nicely with my old 28/3.5 to give a couple options at a favourite focal length. 

Long term, Zeiss ZF and ZF.2 primes are on my radar, they're getting cheap enough to consider now and while larger & heavier than the Nikkors, they bring some quality gains I'd like. Might even start with the 25/2.8 as an alternative to getting another Nikkor 24. The 25/2.8 is generally tied with the 50/1.4 as the cheapest ZF series lens and its excellent close focus performance is well suited to my style.

Finally on the 35mm side, I'd love to use my Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 on film again. That means I'd need to acquire an LTM or M mount rangefinder. I've got a soft spot for the Bessa R, but I've always wanted a Canadian-made M4-2 or M4-P (my real dream is to own one of the few late M4's made in Canada, but that's extremely unlikely for me to find or be able to afford, these are the only really collectible Midland M's). Maybe a Christmas present for myself, but given the Bessa R was only an occasional shooter the last time around, I'm not going to put a lot of budget into getting one. 

I've also found the MF bug hitting me again. I do just love those big negs and smooth tones. I've been working on printing a Dora Goodman Zone 2.0, a 3D printed 6x6/6x7 camera that uses Mamiya Press lenses or LF lenses in a helical and either RB67 Pro S backs or a printed 6x6 back, and can be focused either by zone focusing or a nifty little groundless back (actually it uses either mylar sheet or tracing paper instead of glass). Here I think I'll spring for a cheap Press lens, 110mm or 127mm likely and an RB back, then see how it works out for me. If I dig it, I might parlay that into an RB setup paired with the Zone for a heavy/light system. Not sure I want to go back to 645, a TLR or the Zone will do light MF better and as a better than 35mm landscape setup 6x6+ or digital makes sense.






 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The Battle of Two Instagrams

 


OM-4T, Tri-X

I've had my second Instagram account now for 9 days, I've posted 9 images to it. I'm averaging over 20 likes per post, double what my main IG gets, and am up to 29 followers already (vs my main which has been sitting at 149 followers for weeks)

It seems pretty clear so far that the IG community likes my B&W film found item & cityscape work better than my nature and landscape work on digital.

I think there's several reasons for this.

First off is simple consistency. My Filmic IG is very consistent in the sort of work that gets posted. In fact it's all Ilford HP5+ on Nikon film bodies right now, and heavy on the found items. My main IG is much more diverse and probably pays a price for that.

Second is the sort of accounts I follow. My main mostly follows big name landscape shooters and youtube personalities. I've only really got one big name on my follow list for the Filmic IG (Matt Day).

Also by extension, I don't engage much with the accounts I follow on my main beyond likes. So far I've engaged much more on the Filmic IG than with the main IG, because I'm largely interacting with smaller accounts where I'm one of just a few commenters, so I don't feel like my comment is just lost in the chaff.

Where does that leave me? Well it means that for now I am going to continue to put effort into the Filmic IG. I'll keep posting to my main IG of course, but I suspect it's never going to really grow unless I decide to get disciplined about both regular posting and subject matter.

I am halfway tempted to start an IG account just for the X-T1+UFO lens combo though.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Walking with the X-T1


X-T1, 7Artisans 18mm f6.3 UFO

I've been quite thoroughly enjoying the combo of the X-T1 and the 7Artisans 18mm f6.3 UFO lens. The lens is tiny, surprisingly good and so simple that it takes a lot of complexity out of shooting. You can't focus, anything past 1m is in focus. Aperture is fixed at f6.3, which is great for walking around. No close focusing, kinda sucky corners and really weird flaring are the downsides, but the plus side is a nice rendering, good colour and a really useful focal length. 

The X-T1is a little unique in my bag, it's a very good camera with two issues. The first is my copy has the common issue with the control dials, they pretty much don't work. That has less impact than you might think, the only real uses of the control dials on the X-T1 are setting aperture on XC lenses and changing settings in the Q menu. The second issue is it's just got a lot of rough edges, from being a very early X series body and the first SLR-style body Fuji did. So the controls aren't as well laid out as the X-T2 and there's a number of UI and system oddities that would slowly go away as the X series evolved, most notably the somewhat limited focus peaking implementation. 

Because of the former limited the X-T1 is best suited to working with lenses that have an aperture ring or are fixed aperture. The latter makes the use of manual focus somewhat more challenging than on the X-T2. So combining the X-T1 with a fixed focus and fixed aperture lens is pretty idea. 18mm works better for me than other options because it's a nice moderate wide (28mm-e), a 10mm like the Pergear f8 could be fun but is too wide for everyday use while a 35mm like the 7Artisans f5.6 needs to be focused because of DoF limitations and is too tight to hipshoot with unless you're an absolute god of the hipshot. 

As such, I mostly just leave the camera in a variant of B&W+R with boosted contrast, although occasionally I will change up and shoot either Velvia when I have a really colourful scene or Classic Chrome when I just want colour. Classic Chrome I find really pairs well with these Chinese lenses and their somewhat muted colour due to limited coating.

So the X-T1 is now a point & shoot for me, ideally suited for walkabout. 

I do have to admit that an X-Pro1 would be an even better choice with the 18mm UFO if I can get 18mm framelines active in the OVF. I've been keeping my eye out for a cheap X-Pro1 anyways and I think the 18 would be the perfect combination with the X-Pro1 as it pretty much eliminates all of the X-Pro1's real weaknesses, namely lousy AF and lousy MF assists. 


Saturday, 3 April 2021

X-T1 Hits a Milestone

 



X-T1, 7Artisans 18mm f6.3 UFO

I missed it a couple weeks ago, but my X-T1 has hit a rather rare milestone. The X-T1 is now one of the few digital bodies I've owned for more than one year. I bought it at the beginning of March 2020 and have now owned it for 13 months.

That really shouldn't be a big deal, but I can count on one hand the number of digital bodies that have achieved that and only one of them (my last D300) was at all recent. 

I've long known I need to settle down the gear churn and quit chasing the dragon, and I think I might actually be getting there finally with the two X-T bodies and the Z5. The Z5 covers my needs & desires for shooting landscape & nature, especially when hiking, as well as for a platform for adapting classic 35mm lenses while the two Fuji's cover my needs for a good handling almost-P&S in the X-T1 with the 18/6.3 UFO, and a general purpose body that does everything reasonably well without being too large or heavy in the X-T2.

The X-T1 for me is somewhat limited in its utility as my copy has issues with its control dials and the focus peaking implementation is somewhat weak. But it's great paired with the 18/6.3 UFO where focus peaking is irrelevant as the lens is fixed focus, and I just leave it in B&W mode with a red filter applied and boosted contrast and get great stuff. It does alright with other manual focus lenses mounted but my only current Fuji AF lens is an issue because the XC35 doesn't have an aperture ring and that means it relies on the wonky rear control dial for setting aperture. So I pretty much just leave the 18/6.3 UFO mounted and use it as a light walk around body as it's still noticeably lighter than the X-T2.




Friday, 2 April 2021

A New Instagram and More


Nikon FE, Ilford HP5+, lens unrecorded but probably the Nikkor-H 28mm f3.5

I've started a second Instagram account, Filmic_Mawz, for my film work. This will be focused on Cityscape, Found Item and a little Street Photography, much as my main Instagram and Flickr are focusing on Landscape and Nature Photography. 

The reason for this is simple, the more I think about what I shoot, the more I realize that I have two very different approaches to how I work and what I shoot, and likewise very different preferences.

For landscape I prefer colour and the look I get from digital and/or medium and large format film photography. I have relatively little interest in 35mm or B&W landscapes, although I may dabble at times. When hiking I generally prefer to carry a minimal amount of kit, which means a couple zooms and maybe one prime. The minimalist hiking kit here and knowing what I have before I leave the location is the benefit of digital here, although I could totally see myself one day shooting nothing but 4x5 E-6 on a field camera with a couple lenses and a bag full of ND grads. 

For cityscape and found item work, I prefer B&W and also smaller format film. Part of this is purely the gritty look of small format B&W film, especially fast films like HP5+ and TriX, but some of it is just enjoying the workflow of shooting 35mm manual mechanical cameras when walking around the city. 

None of this is of course exclusive, I actually quite enjoy shooting cityscape & found item work in B&W with my two Fuji's and my collection of inexpensive Chinese manual lenses for them, a lot of that is purely in how similar the experience of shooting an X-T series body is to shooting an FE or other aperture priority manual focus body. In particular I'm not going to stop using the X-T1/18UFO combo anytime soon, its just too fun. 

Because there's such a huge thematic and process shift between the two sorts of subjects I tend to shoot, I'm trying to split them logically where I can. I'm trying to avoid the case where colour digital landscapes disrupt a stream of B&W city work or vice versa, so each account presents a consistent look and subject matter. 

I'm still debating how I want to use my second Flickr account, Filmic, as Flickr makes flipping between accounts somewhat aggravating while Instagram has made it increasingly easy to do so. 



 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Nikon Bodies I Haven't Owned

 


Nikon FE, Ilford HP5+, lens unrecorded but probably 55/3.5 Micro

The last post was about the Nikon bodies I've owned. Now I'm going to address the ones I haven't owned. I am restricting this post to manual focus bodies for the simple reason that I have no interest in AF bodies that I've not owned with the sole exception of the F6. 

Nikon F - The ur-Nikon. The original and still the most iconic Nikon SLR ever made. I'd love to shoot one, but given that plain prism F's are absolutely insane money and the Photomic heads are both huge and largely inoperative today this would be a large investment for not much beyond an interesting experience. If I get one, this would be a bonus body, ie I'd buy one with a work bonus as a reward.

Nikkormat FS - No meter, otherwise basically the same as the FTn that I've already owned. Kind of unique as it's the only Nikon body out there with no TTL metering capability (vs the F and F2 which can be configured either way).

Nikkormat FT - Averaging metering. Otherwise the same as the FTn which I've already owned.

Nikkormat FT2 - It's an FTn with a hotshoe and I rarely use flash.

Nikkormat FT3 - FT2 with AI coupling, would not mind owning this one at all as it's really a mix of old and new.

Nikkormat EL - Aperture priority AE and battery dependency on what's otherwise an FT2. Not really interesting.

Nikkormat ELW - EL with winder support, don't see myself ever buying one of these either.

Nikkormat EL2 - ELW with AI coupling and a better metering cell. Could be interesting. 

Nikon FG20 - Nikon's lightest 35mm SLR. Somewhere between a FG with no P mode and an EM with manual exposure. Could be fun and I'd totally pick it up if I found the right price or packaged with a lens I wanted.

Nikon F301/N2000 - First Nikon body with a built-in winder, first with AA/AAA batteries, first with DX coding, a lot of firsts for Nikon on this one. Essentially an F501/N2020 without AF, or more correctly the F501 is a F301 with AF stuffed in. I'd grab one if I ever tripped over one cheap or packaged with a lens I wanted.

Nikon FE10 - It's to the FM10 as the FE is to the FM or the FE2 is to the FM2(n). Wee cheap AE body with a UI I like better than the FG/FG20 UI. Not a body I'd hunt down, but would be interesting if I found it for the right price or with a lens I wanted. 

Nikon FM3a - I've written before about this model and how it's the single most predictable failure of Nikon's product team of the last 30 years. It's a very good camera, but there's a good reason the FE2 was produced for 6 years while the FM2/FM2n lasted 21+ years in production, and Nikon's FM2n successor model was nothing more than an improved FE2 with a battery-free mode and that meant that the FM3a was guaranteed to fail. Nobody was going to buy a new FE3m when you couldn't give away FE2's (which you couldn't at the time of release, they were selling for <$150CDN or so when FM2n's were twice that despite being far more common). Nikon missed a chance to improve upon a legend to instead squander the FM name. It's quite sad that the FM10 had more FM DNA in it than the FM3a. The FM3a is 100% FE2 UI aside from the relocated AE lock, and there was no appetite for a new FE. Nikon should have taken the FM2n, added selectable spot metering and maybe TTL flash support and left it at that. Pretty sure Nikon still doesn't understand why this camera failed in the market and that's left them struggling elsewhere (the Df failure is a direct relation to the FM3a failure, same mistakes plus a couple bonus errors). I'd still buy one if I got the right price, especially since FE2's got pricey and the FM3a is a better FE2 than the FE2 is. 


Overall, the FE10 and FM3a are the most interesting to me today as the only FE/FM/FA series bodies I've never owned. I've little interest in Nikkormats, but an original F would be a neat body to own.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Nikon Film Camera Quick Takes


Nikon FE, HP5+, lens unknown but probably 55/3.5 

Here's a series of quick opinions on the various Nikon film bodies I've owned.

Nikkormat FTn - This camera could be used as a hammer and my copy clearly had been at some point based on the condition of the bottom plate. Mediocre viewfinder, solid build, shows clearly where Olympus ripped off the OM series UI from. Kinda fun to use though and unstoppable. The person I sold mine to travelled the world with it for several years with good luck.

Nikon F2a - Probably my favourite Nikon for user experience. Bit of a brick, VERY well built, so smooth. I loved this camera and was an idiot to sell it. Thankfully I have another F2 now and it will be an F2a once I acquire another DP-11 finder for it.

Nikon F3 - A very good camera compromised by a lousy metering display. I really like the original F3 finder, but the HP one is not as nice for non-glasses wearers and I've had both. I've had at least 2 F3's over the years (may have been 3). Needs batteries unlike the two above. Very good camera and probably the best option for somebody wanting a solid and very capable AE body.

Nikon EM - My favourite toy Nikon. I've owned at least 5 over the years and will no doubt buy another one if I start shooting film at all seriously again. Just a fun little bag camera that's cheap & cheerful, especially if paired with a Series E 35/2.5 or 50/1.8. Requires batteries, no Non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM - I quite enjoy these but seem to be cursed. I've owned two and tossed both due to shutter/advance jams. It's a really solid and basic manual mechanical camera. The right size, the right ergonomics and no battery requirements. 

Nikon FM2(n) - I've owned an FM2 (with 1/200 sync) and a couple FM2n's (with 1/250 sync). In my opinion this is the penultimate manual mechanical SLR. It has everything I want in a manual mechanical SLR except spot metering and aside from that, is missing nothing. Solid, reliable, not too large or heavy. Very high on my to-buy list, but everybody else agrees so they're not cheap. Doesn't do non-AI lenses unlike the FM.

Nikon FA - The first 'serious' SLR I ever bought and I've had two over the years. Basically an FE2 on steroids. All the usual benefits of the FE/FM platform, plus a neat little griplet. First Nikon with PASM modes and Matrix metering but also shares the F3's utterly terrible metering display. Requires batteries and no non-AI support.

Nikon FE - The Aperture Priority AE version of the FM. I've only had one of these, which was given to me by my Aunt and it's my primary film body for now. Enjoyable to shoot, but not the standout that the FM's are for me. Just a really solid little body. Batteries required.

Nikon FE2 - To the FM2n what the FE is to the FM. I've had a couple and they didn't last all that long as they're solid but unexceptional. Wouldn't say no to one though as they are quite good cameras, I've just always had 1-2 options I liked better at the time. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM10 - The Cosina SLR in Nikon FM form. My other favourite toy Nikon. I've had 2-3 and keep selling them and regretting it afterwards (plus all the other-mount versions I've owned). Like all the Cosina SLR's, it's cheap, plasticky and a great shooting camera. Very high on my re-buy list, probably higher than the FM2n just for price reasons. No non-AI compatibility.

Nikon FG - Given its close relationship to both the EM and the FM10, I expected to like this camera more than I did. It is a solid camera but I never really gelled with it. Recommended for those who want both P mode and a decent meter readout in a traditional SLR format, but I probably won't rebuy unless I find a deal on it. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon F601m (N6000) - I've owned at least 3 of these over the years. A manual focus SLR built on the frame of an AF SLR (the F601/N6006) but actually getting better lens compatibility (it supports G lenses in P &S modes, which the AF version doesn't). These are pretty solid but there's no reason to get one over an F801(s)/N8008(s) today, which is a much more capable camera for similar used pricing. Batteries required (lithium) and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F801(s)/N8008 - I've owned many of these over the years. Nikon's first enthusiast AF SLR and also a very competent manual focus SLR. Runs on AA batteries, cheap on the used market and the 's' version gets a spot meter. Also noted for the 1/8000 shutter. Probably will end up with more of these if I dive into film, I have a harder time resisting these than EM's. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F90x - The bigger, faster F801s. Everything I said there applies here except it's bigger, supports AF-I/AF-S and G lenses and has an optional grip. Good camera in its day, but you're better off with the smaller F801s or the more capable F100. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F100 - The D700 of film cameras. It's almost an F5 and that's both its selling point and its weakness. Very good camera, I've owned two. Lousy plastic vertical grip though, plastic door release, big & heavy. Supports basically every AF lens before the 'E' types, including VR. If you shoot F mount Digital and don't have E lenses, this is one of the two film cameras to look at (the F6 being the other). Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F80 - The D70 of film cameras. It looks more like an F100 than it actually delivers. Small & light, crap viewfinder, no non-CPU lens compatibility. Runs on Lithium cells although there was a battery grip that took AA's (but had no vertical controls). Can be fun if paired with an f1.8G prime or two. Dirt cheap on the used market. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.

Nikon F70 - F80's predecessor and a complete UI experiment. Really weird UI. Kinda F90-ish ergonomics, very limited lens compatibility although it does have an AI tab unlike its successor. Lithium cells. Avoid unless a collector or it's the only thing you can find. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F65 - Basically a decontented F80. Single wheel, no support for non-DX coded film, really the EM of the late film line. Skip for either the slightly nicer and smaller F75 or the F80, either of which aren't more expensive. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.