Sunday 31 January 2021

Trying to be Rational About System Selection

Contax 137MD, Zeiss 50mm f1.7 Planar T*, HP5+@EI3200

I've been thinking about how I actually use my cameras, and what that implies for camera selection.

I invariably shoot in Aperture Priority for most work, and I use manual on the tripod. Metering is generally matrix/multisegment, but I also use spot for landscape work. I abuse exposure compensation. AF is on the back button and usually I use a limited area auto-select.

I shoot a lot of manual focus as well. ISO tends to be either base ISO or auto ISO and I prefer a system with fairly configurable ISO. I shoot RAW and prefer lossless compressed. I do like multo-shot features when available and if they support RAW, and mostly avoid all the other automation in the camera.

I like aperture rings and 2 axis tilt LCD's. Flip/twist and single axis tilt both frustrate me, but if I had to pick, I'll take flip/twist by a small margin. Fixed LCD's belong in the trashbin of history.

I don't need a lot of megapixels, 24 is fine. All 36+ gets me is the ability to switch between APS-C and FF crop. I love DR, but modern cameras for the most part have more than good enough high ISO (m43 is the exception) as I'm not a serious high ISO user, although I do shoot handheld at night on occasion.

I love me some good EVF's. Generally I'll take magnification and clarity over absolute resolution, but 2.36MP and 0.7x are basically the minimum I'm comfortable with.

I'm a cheap bastard regarding lenses, not only do I love manual, mechanical lenses, I love getting interesting lenses for not much money. I do like a good performing lens, but a lens that isn't great until f5.6 or f8 is fine for my uses, as I tend to be pickier about landscape performance than wide open.

I don't really need high FPS. 5-6 is fine for the little bit of continuous shooting I do. AF tracking needs are the ability to follow something moving predictably. I don't do anything crazy.

I want a relatively compact camera, and ideally no more than 5-600g in the body. I can't carry heavy setups in the hand too long due to an old work injury and I dislike straps, but the Peak Design Capture Clip has largely solved longer carry challenges.

I greatly prefer mirrorless to DSLR's. I'm not going back to heavy bodies and viewfinders that make manual focus difficult.

I'm not big on complex post, I do prefer to get close to the final product from the combination of the in-camera RAW and the import preset (which is my own recipe inevitably)

The real takeaways from that is that I just don't really gain anything from the supposed selling points of pretty much every system out there. The one more common system that wouldn't work for me is EOS R, and that's simply because the system plays very poorly with adapted M or cheap Chinese lenses due to an unusually thick sensor stack (this is why Z mount is getting these lenses before RF mount does)

That really leaves cost and cheap AF lenses as the determining factors. And that says FE mount all day long. Fuji adds up OK as well, but it's slowly losing it's UI differentiation as new products come out, leaving the good but no longer unusually good lens line and X-Trans, which I've never been sold on (it's telling that GF cameras are Bayer and deliver better Fuji colour than X-Trans X mount cameras)

I need to decide between the rational system choice and the emotional one. Simply put, Sony FE keeps winning on what it gives me, but Fuji and Nikon both tug at the heartstrings. I can't do Nikon on cost, it's just too spendy, so it comes down to Fuji or Sony. And as much as I like my Fuji kit, Sony's advantages keep building. As Fuji moves away from the traditional SLR style UI to a more modern style, the upgrade path gets murkier, as they're moving away from the reason I went Fuji in the first place, and I'm not all that invested in the system.


Saturday 30 January 2021

Taking the A7II for a Spin

A7II, FE 28-70 OSS

I borrowed my partner's A7II to take on a photo walk today as I ran a couple errands. It's been a while since I used it (it's my second A7II, now passed on) but I wanted to shoot some Full Frame and also wanted something that played better with gloves than my X-T2 does. I had the kit 28-70 lens plus my Nikkor 20/2.8 AF and 105/2.5 AI-S on an adapter.

I was reminded that the A7II is a pretty good camera overall. I'd still rate the X-T2 better in some regards. The X-T2 is faster, has a better EVF and better LCD articulation, and it's weather sealed, but the A7II has better buttons for the gloved user as the chiclet buttons are limited to the back side, the larger C1, C2, and C3 buttons are reasonably glove friendly, and the chiclets are still bigger than the Fuji chiclets. The grip is also more positive than the X-T2, although it definitely suffers in terms of lens/finger clearance as that's minimal on the Sony.

Image quality is better naturally. The bigger sensor gives that and Bayer still converts better than X-Trans. I'll give Fuji the nod in general on colour, but Sony's blues are nicer even if they don't match Nikon's.

 In terms of glass, the 28-70 is average. Not nearly as bad as it's reputation, but not winning any awards either. I think for the cost it's a great lens, and definitely better optically than the E 16-50 PZ, even if the latter lens is wider, longer and a better near-macro shooter. The Fuji 16-50 is a step above all-round, as are the Oly kit lenses.

One nice thing is that it's smart enough to default to Manual Focus mode when no CPU lens is present, on the Fuji's I have to manually set the focus mode to M to get Manual Focus assists. One downside is Sony will give invalid operation errors on things like AF Mode if pressed with a manual focus lens attached.

Breaking out my FF glass after it's been sitting for a few months was nice. The 105/2.5 in particular is just such a great lens and one I don't use enough on the APS-C Fuji's (Hey Fuji, how about a 70/1.8 with rendering like the 'Afghan Girl' Nikkor 105?)

It's always nice to revisit an old camera, especially a competent one. I'm also reminded that I really do love my classic full frame lenses as well.

What does that mean? As usual, I don't know. I'd bet money that I'll buy another Full Frame camera, probably this year at some point. But I'd like to keep using the Fuji's. I really do love the X-T2 for most shooting, I just love it somewhat less when shooting with gloves.

Thursday 28 January 2021

2021 Goals

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

Well, with 2020 as a wrap, it's now time to set some goals for 2021.

I traditionally set 3 goals for myself. One for volume, one for getting out to shoot and one for engagement. I'm going to do the same this year, but I'm taking a different approach than I have in the past.

For my first goal, volume, last year I set it at 10,000 images. I beat that by over 20%. Volume is really not valuable in and of itself, it's merely a push to get out and shoot. But this year I'm going to do it differently. I want to break the 10,000 frame mark with a single camera. That's not 10,000 new frames in 2021, but rather just rolling over the all-time 10,000 frame mark with that specific body. That would be easiest with the X-T2 as it's already at 4300 frames, but the D300 and X-T1 are possibles also (both bodies have shot a couple thousand frames already). The reason for calling out specific bodies is that I've owned 2 other D300's (for somewhere north of 15,000 frames shot total) and another X-T1. The goal here is to try and reduce my tendency to chase the dragon with bodies. I'm not setting aside the possibility of adding or replacing bodies, just giving myself an incentive to get out and shoot steadily with bodies I already have, and hopefully get a few more bodies over that 1 year of ownership mark. The D300 has set an ownership record for digital bodies for me, I've owned it for 3-4 years now, long enough that I don't remember when I got it, just what I paid ($20 and an FM10).

The second goal is for getting out to shoot. I've done this as numbers of new locations and numbers of trips in the past, typically 6-12 outings. This year I'm simply going to say 'get out of the house and shoot something every week'. The COVID situation makes any other goal too hard to predict. So I'm going with volume of outings, but also with a very easy mark to meet, as a walk to the grocery with my camera will suffice.

The third one has traditionally been 'post to Flickr every day and try and build views'. This year I'm ignore Flickr in terms of goals, although I'm not planning on drawing down my activity there. For this year my goal is to post to Instagram every time I go out specifically to photograph. So not necessarily going to the grocery, but if I go out specifically with the camera, there will be a post. I'd like to build my IG presence and I need to be active to do that.


Wednesday 27 January 2021

The One Ring Camera and the Landscaper's Dream


Fujifilm X-T2, Neewer (7Artisans) 25mm f1.8

This week has seen 3 new cameras announced.

Sony announced the A1, their flagship for the Alpha line. This is their first true attempt at a direct analog to Canon's 1D X line and Nikon's single-digit line. It's also a shot across their bows. It's simply the best do-everything camera on the market by a long shot, combining the second best resolution on the market for Full Frame with the best AF and highest frame rate. It comes at a price, but the A1 is no more expensive than a D6 or a 1D X Mark III. Assuming there's no hidden crippling issue, this release puts Sony firmly atop the Mirrorless market for the forseeable future. Everyone expects Canon already has something on the way to match this, given the performance of the R5, but Nikon just refreshed its Z6 & Z7 and didn't manage to match the then-current competition, the A1 raises the bar for Nikon to match with a notional Z9, and to a point that few think Nikon will be in a position to match within the next two years.

The A1 is simply the new standard for a do-everything camera. If you want a camera that can do everything well, even if it's not quite class leading at everything, the A1 is it and there is no competition for that crown anymore.

Fuji had a pair of announcements.

First off is the long awaited and much rumoured GFX100S. This takes the sensor of the groundbreaking GFX100, shrinks the IBIS unit and stuffs it in to what's basically a X-H1 body. While not small overall, it's small in comparison to any MF option except the GFX50R, notably smaller than the GFX50S in fact. You also get a modern-style PASM interface and what is frankly a disappointing EVF spec (basically the EVF introduced in the X-H1) although in practice the EVF should be fine. And it's $500 cheaper than the A1. AF is class-leading, as is video. Yes, this is a practical 4K camera using a medium format sensor. For landscape shooters this now sets the bar, as the size/weight issues of the GFX100 are set aside on this body, which comes in between a D850 and D780 in weight.

Fuji also announced the X-E4, a camera that some folks have been waiting for since the X-T30 launched. It adds a flip screen, deletes a bunch of controls and goes with more Leica-style ergonomics, ie none whatsoever. And it costs $50 less than the X-T30. Unless you really love the 'RF on a budget' looks of the X-E line, spend the extra $50 and get a camera with better controls, or $150 and get one with IBIS, a real grip and a flip/twist screen (the X-S10). The X-E4 is form over function, and doesn't bring much to the table for the X-E3 user as the gains are largely in video and action shooting, neither of which this form factor is really intended for.

Fuji also launched 3 lenses.

The GF 80/1.7, now the worlds fastest AF Medium Format lens. Looks great and is an optical derivative of the XF 50mm f1.0, so it should render well. $2300USD though. MF glass ain't cheap.

The XF 70-300mm f4-5.6 R WR LM OIS. This one's been known about for a year. Exactly what everybody expected, except $800USD and takes both Fuji TC's. It's barely larger than the 55-200 when collapsed, so unless there's optical issues expect this to replace the 55-200 as the default long zoom for people who don't need the speed of the 50-140 or the reach & quality of the 100-400. I'm very interested in this lens, although as I already own the 55-200, it's low on my priority list. Perfect match for the 16-80/4 WR and/or the 10-24 II WR in a landscape set.

Finally, the XF 27mm f2.8 R WR II. Fuji's pancake gets an aperture ring and weather sealing with the same excellent optics but without the speed boost it really needed. The 27 has always been a lens that a few love and everybody else ignores. This won't change that, beyond now having the features that make it no longer overpriced. The first version was too much money for a lens that lacked the features of a Fujicron, it now has those. For me, this is a yawn but some will like it as it's very good optically. Still $400USD for a somewhat large pancake that's only f2.8.

Overall, a solid set of releases for both, although to me the X-E4 and XF27II underwhelm. The other two bodies are very interesting, but also solidly in the range of too rich for my blood.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Out for a Hike

 Fuji X-T2, XF 55-200mm

I got out for a hike yesterday, I found a somewhat optimistically named woodlot, Jefferson Forest, that's not too far away from home. It's a reforested farm located in Richmond Hill and is filled with hiking & biking trails.

This is the first real hike I've done since early September, if not August. Between work & volunteer commitments between August & December and the subsequent lockdown and now the stay at home order we're under, I've just not had the time or the opportunity to do any real hiking.

The hike was more of a hike with a camera than a photo trip in the woods. I knew going in that I was going to what was essentially a tree farm with trails. I didn't take that many images (93 frames in 5.3km, vs the typical 4-500 frames I would shoot on a similar length back country hike), but that's mostly because I only shot landscape work, there was no wildlife and most of the shots I come home with on the typical hike are wildlife, especially insect shots which I can't do in the winter.

I carried the X-T2, with my new Smallrig L-bracket/grip and my standard hiking trio of the 7Artisans 12mm f2.8, Fuji XC 16-50 OIS II and Fuji XF 55-200 OIS. That worked very well although I did find the 7Artisans 12mm's aperture ring gets quite stiff in the cold.

Very much liking the Smallrig grip, I'd been using a plain L-bracket on the X-T2 because I needed something quickly & cheaply and I'd been missing the wooden extension grip I'd had on the X-T1 (which was nice, but not an L-bracket, just an Arca-Swiss rail+grip). I'd been intending to buy the Smallrig bracket since the summer, but at $105CDN for a camera I only spent $600 on, it's a relatively major investment for the body. However it was time to make the investment and I'm glad I did, it's a quality L-bracket and the grip extension is both cosmetically delightful and very comfortable. And the L-bracket extends to clear the ports which is nice for when I'm using the camera on my Platypod as a webcam.

A nice thing with this bracket is it's also compatible with the X-T3, so if I add one of those to my kit, I can just fit my old bracket to the X-T2 and use the new one on the X-T3. A nice savings there. I can see myself replacing the X-T1 at some point. Won't get rid of it, but the performance compared to newer bodies is such that I would have few issues demoting it to only street work with manual lenses and using the newer bodies when I'm in the bush. I'm finding that even the X-T2 sometimes struggles to AF in some circumstances when I'm working in brush. If you haven't guessed, I'm very happy with the Smallrig bracket.

One takeaway from this hike is that I absolutely need to invest in crampons. I had one spill and several other close calls because the trail was quite icy and I didn't have enough traction on the ice. Guess there will be an order next week for a couple sets (my partner could really use a set as well). I'll probably get her a low-profile set that's sidewalk friendly and a more aggressive set for myself. Also on the list at some point are hiking poles. They definitely can help when the ascents & descents get technical, and they collapse so they're easily stored when not needed.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Yes, I'm Still a Sucker for Nikon

Nikon D750, Laowa 15mm f4 Macro

I've got to admit that even though all the sane arguments for a FF system point me at Sony, I'd honestly still rather have a Z setup, all other things being equal.

That's not a knock on Sony. They make great stuff and have the only really complete system, especially for the FF shooter on a budget. And my partner shoots Sony these days (A7II).

But I like the Nikon files better. I like the Nikon ergonomics better. I quite frankly like the Nikon design philosophy in general better. And almost all the glass I have to adapt is Nikon mount anyways. If I got a Z body, I'd be good with just an FTZ and a M adapter (M42 or C/Y would be the third one I'd want).

Like Fuji, Nikon's bodies just work for me.

Now, what would a Z setup look like for me?

That's easy. Z body, either the 24-50 or 24-70 kit lenses, FTZ adapter. Laowa 15/4 and Nikkor 70-300E in F mount. Essentially buy the kit, add the 70-300E and I'm good, I already own the Laowa 15. Then dabble in the increasing selection of cheap manual focus lenses in Z mount, plus F mount manual lenses to round things out. Maybe at some point add the 14-30/4 and a native fast 35 or 50.


Monday 18 January 2021

The New Lens Experience

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

One of the more surprising experiences I've had while dipping my toes into cheap Chinese lenses is just how great the New Lens Experience can be with some of them.

Fuji already had a pretty nice unboxing experience with the XF lenses. Nice boxes, if standard cardboard packaging and they all come with a combo lens pouch/lens cloth.

My Laowa 15mm f4 came with bog-standard packaging. Real nice build to the lens, but a standard new lens experience. The Neewer 25mm f1.8 was different, coming in a nice faux leather pouch in what is seriously the most flimsy cardpaper box out there, so thin it didn't even qualify as cardboard.

My two 7Artisans lenses on the other hand have been a VERY different experience.

 The 12mm f2.8 came in a very high quality cardboard presentation box, filled with high quality open-cell foam inserts (like a Pelican case). It included a very nice microfibre lens pouch and a Pergear lens cloth. Very nice for a lens that cost me $230CDN or so, and frankly better than the Fuji's (and significantly nicer than Nikon/Sony/Canon, even on expensive lenses)

I picked up the 7Artisans 18/6.3 UFO body cap/fixed focus lens this weekend. This is a cheap fixed focus lens ($69USD) and still came in a surprisingly nice presentation (the lens is also surprisingly a 7-element design, vs the usual 2-3 element design for most fixed focus applications). The overall package was just bubblewrap, but pull the contents out and there's a Pergear lens cloth and a plastic case with the lens in a nice microfibre lens pouch. And the plastic container doubles as a carry case for the lens in its pouch.

The level of presentation from these 7Artisans lenses gives a real anticipation for opening the box when it arrives. I'm given to understand their 'Wen' M mount lenses are even better, coming in proper leather presentation boxes.

It's little things like this which make buying some of these cheap lenses so much fun, and which really shows how the big brands cut corners and it affects the new lens experience.

The biggest part of this? If my $69 lens can come with a proper rear lens cap, why does a $300 XC lens from Fuji come with a crap push-on rear cap? Nikon & Sony are equally guilty of the cheap accessories in cheap lenses (something that makes no sense, stocking a second SKU has to cost them more than the penny or so they save, especially since they still have to cut a mold for them)

Sunday 17 January 2021

Thoughts on System Selection in 2021


Fuji X-T2, XF 55-200mm

So here we are in the beginning of 2021 and the viable options for camera systems have shrunk a lot.

Pentax and m43 might as well be dead, well except m43 for video, where BlackMagic and Panasonic are still active. Olympus is dead, the replacement organization might as well not exist and we haven't seen a new sensor in 4 years with nothing on the horizon, Olympus having refreshed essentially their whole lineup over the last 18 months while only actually doing much for one model, the E-M5III, which got as much decontenting as it did upgrades. Pentax hasn't even done that much.

L mount is making noise, but it's hard to tell whether or not that noise is anything more than the last gasps of 3 companies that keep failing at the camera business, while doing something else very well (Sigma sells lenses, Panasonic does video, Leica sells jewelry for doctors)

That leaves 4 mounts of significance, which can be broken up into 2 real categories.

1. Buy if you are transitioning from their FF DSLR's. That's RF and Z mounts. While both systems have enough high-end lenses for somebody diving in at the deep end, both remain very weak at the low end in lenses, despite both systems having a solid entry-level body (unlike Sony today). The workaround is to re-use SLR lenses on adapters. That's a pretty good experience on either system if the lenses have lens-motor AF (a limiter for Nikon, not for Canon). Canon at least has a handful of real low-end lenses in the 24-105 STM and 50 STM. Nikon does not, even their cheapest lens, the 24-50, is wildly overpriced both in kit and retail forms.

2. If making a fresh start, it's pretty simple, pick APS-C or FF and buy Fuji or Sony respectively.

For crop systems, the only ones worth investing in are Fuji and Sony, and the Fuji bodies simply handle a LOT better than the Sony's, especially with larger lenses. Fuji's better JPEG's make them a better choice for the newbie as well and the lens lineup is better than Sony's haphazard selection of APS-C lenses. The one shining light for E mount is the excellent Sigma primes. Canon's EF-M line is crippled by its status as a dead-end mount with no upgrade path to RF mount and Nikon's efforts in DX Z mount are on par with Pentax's DSLR's (really nice in the hand, but they're making zero effort to move anything).

Do yourself a favour here and unless you plan on growing into FF, go Fuji. And don't hesitate to buy older Fuji's, the 24MP bodies in particular are great values, with features like USB charge and power which are missing on same-era bodies from other makers. The only downside is AF-C performance, but since the Sony bodies kind of suck in long-lens handling, it's tradeoffs down the line. Sony really needs to stuff the A6600 replacement into an A7III frame and call it the A7000.

For FF, it's FE or L and L might as well not exist. FE has the bodies (with one major exception) and it has the lenses, from ultra-cheap stuff like Yongnuo's line ($100USD 50mm f1.8's and the like) to very high end lenses like the Art, GM and Zeiss lenses.

The one gap is the entry level body. The A7c is a horrid joke, combining an EVF that would be embarrassing on a body at half the cost with a poorly implemented size reduction and complete failure to keep things consistent with the other IV series bodies, largely because it's a poorly cut down A7III at an almost not cut down price. And it's WAY too expensive, with barely a price break over the A7III.

Nikon did everything right on the Z5 and Sony should take a very close look there. The only reason why the Z5 isn't cleaning Sony's clock is lenses, Z lenses are WAY too expensive for the Z5 buyer, making it as or more expensive than the more capable A7III once you buy your second lens.

As to me, I'll continue down the Fuji path for now, although I'd be interested in an A7R series body at the right price. An A7R or A7RII would be a nice FF toy alongside my Fuji's, but an A7RIII or IV could replace them entirely (I'm still convinced that the A7RIV is the best crop mirrorless camera, and it's also a killer FF body).

Saturday 16 January 2021

2020 in Review

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

2020 was certainly an interesting year, shooting was largely concentrated in a 3 month period over the summer while the Pandemic restrictions were the lightest, plus a bunch of local shooting from my walks.

In terms of kit, I started the year shooting a Sony A7II, added a D800, swapped the D800 for a D750, added an X-T1 as a lightweight carry body, gave the A7II to my partner, added an X-E2 as an impulse buy/bag camera, shot a whole lot with the D750, added an X-T2 when I got offered a deal. I then sold the D750 and X-E2, got an A6300, returned the A6300 and got lenses, leaving me with the D300 that I've owned for a few years now, the X-T2 and the X-T1. Oh, and I bought a Nikon F2a for film use.

That's 3 systems and 7 bodies. Of which I kept 2 digital and the one film purchase. Lots of churn.

On the lens side, I bought more and sold less. 2020 saw me acquire several Nikon mount lenses, specifically the Nikkor 20/2.8 AF, Nikkor 24-50 AF, Nikkor 70-300 AF-D, Laowa 15mm f4, and Yongnuo 50mm f1.8N, plus a Super-Takumar 135/3.5 and a random cheap 135/2.8 in M42 mount, and finally in Fuji mount, the XC 16-50 OIS II, XC 35/2, XF 55-200, Neewer 25/1.8 and 7Artisans 12mm f2.8 and in Sony mount, the 16-50 PZ was acquired. Finally in Canon EF mount I got a 75-300 USM III and the 50/1.8 STM (plus a cheap EF->E adapter so those two lenses can be used on Sony).

I sold much less, selling off the 3 cheap Nikkor AF lenses (both zooms and the Yongnuo 50mm) when I dumped the D750 and returned the 16-50 PZ with the A6300.

That leaves me with a very functional kit for the Fuji's, plus a lot of fun in Nikon mount, with 15, 20, 24, 28, 35, 50, 55, 105, 200 and 300mm options (and only the 300 sucks, although the 200 needs a good CLA before it can be used on an SLR), plus a 50-135/3.5 AI-S zoom that I would dump if it was worth anything. And finally a few toys in other mounts, specifically 35/3.5 and 135/3.5 Super-Takumars, another random cheap 135/2.8 in M42 mount and my LTM Nikkor-SC 5cm f1.4. The two Canons went to my partner with the adapter, to be used with the A7II they were purchased for.

In terms of images shot, the X-T2 shot the most last year, with 4116 images. The X-T1 took 2286 images, the X-E2 took 647, 685 on the A6300, 895 on the A7II, 2797 on the D750 and finally 627 on the D800.

That's a total of 12053 images shot in 2020. I'd call that a healthy completion of my 2020 goal of 10,000 images.
I did not quite achieve my goal of 12 photography-specific daytrips, but I came close, with 8-10 depending on how I count. That's pretty good considering the lockdown. I did check a few spots off my to-do list, like Warsaw Caverns.
For posting, I didn't meet my Flickr goals, but beat my Instagram goals.

In terms of technique, I'd intended on expanding my use of long exposures, tripods & other supports and filters. I certainly was successful on the first two, the Platypod in particular has been key in my work there. Filters come over to 2021 as an area to focus on, as well as expanded long exposure work that a proper filter setup would allow for. In 2020 all my long-exposure work was low-light, I'd like to expand that to daylight work.

For my gear goals, I either failed miserably (filters, bodies) or succeeded fully (tripod/supports, lenses).

All in all, 2020 was a good year for me photographically. I grew a lot in my technique, got to go to interesting places and got some great images.


Sunday 10 January 2021

Presets - The Bane and Saviour of Post-Processing


Fuji X-T2, XF 55-200mm f3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

Presets came up recently in a discussion I was having with a couple fellow photographers and I had a quite aggressive reaction to one of my friends comments on them.

I think that reaction bears some explanation.

Presets are the single biggest scam in the photography market today. There are thousands of presets for sale and they all have one thing in common, they suck and will make your post processing results worse. There's a very simple reason for this, those presets are tailored for somebody else's gear, workflow and preferences. They're a nice income stream for some photographers, but that's it.

The flip side is I'm also adamantly against the 'Do it all from scratch' mindset. That's a waste of time and effort. As you develop a style to your photography, you will find yourself making similar edits time after time. Do those edits. Save them as a preset. Apply and tweak to the image at hand. That's simply optimizing your workflow. Presets are a time-saving tool in your post, not a way to get instant awesome post. Use them wisely, but don't skip them, they will save you hours.

I maintain a fairly decent library of presets I've created that I use regularly. I also have a particular style I go for in my post, especially my landscape shots where I push deep blues, punchy greens and lightened shadows. Presets are simply a tool to get me 80% of the way to the final look by repeating the settings that I always start from. 

But my 'look' is something that's always evolving. I know I was overdoing the post somewhat last year, especially on some of the D750 shots. Just because you have ridiculous DR doesn't mean you need to abuse it, and I was for a while.

Saturday 9 January 2021

2021 is Finally Here

Fuji X-T2, AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 D

It's been a while, the last quarter of 2020 was extremely busy for me in terms of work and my commitments as a member of the Board of Directors for MAAC. That meant that I did very little photography in the last 3 months of the year, less than the already low level I expected to do.

Now 2021 is here, and we're locked down. That means minimal photography for me this winter, as I expect we'll continue to be locked down through February and maybe even March. That said, I should get out some as I really need to get outside more. I've been cooped up too long and it's getting to me.

I'll post a summary for 2020 soon, but I met pretty much all of my goals, except I was unable to maintain my pace of posting on Instagram and Flickr in the last quarter of the year.

On the gear front, I have one major purchase I'm looking at, a Fuji 10-24/4 OIS. Aside from that, my gear focus is going to be on a Smallrig L-Bracket with grip as an upgrade for my X-T2 (my current bracket is OK, but I miss the extended grip I have on my X-T1) and I plan to continue investing in inexpensive manual focus lenses for X mount. The next on my list is the new TTArtisan 50mm f1.2, which was recently introduced for $99USD and seems to be pretty decent. I still want to expand my collection of 7Artisan lenses as well, but that will wait a little, the TTArtisan 50 is just so cheap I can't resist it.

Beyond that, once things start opening up I need to get out and hike. A lot. Actually doing photography is something I want to focus on more than gear this year. I'm largely happy with my current setup in terms of bodies and my lenses meet my needs aside from a lack of flexibility in my UWA setup. I do love the 7Artisans 12mm, but it's a lot less flexible than a zoom would be.