Category : The Learning Center

1 week ago 7


Got a few emails, bet you knew that already!  Quote from one, “Please make sure I get this right, you are dumping every single piece of Nikon equipment you ever owned!!??”  No, and I didn’t say that, I said I hadn’t used my Nikons for over a year, and that I was selling off some Nikon equipment, not that I’m washing my hands of Nikon altogether.  So what am I keeping and why?


For 99% of my day to day work I’m shooting the Fuji X-System, I love it, it meets all my needs, and it’s a kick to use.  I do still have an ember in my heart of Nikons and Nikkor lenses.  I have a particular love for the Nikkor lenses of the AI-s era.  These mechanical jewels are a beauty to behold and hold.  Translation they provide a tactal  sensation going back to the days of Leitz lenses from Wetzler!  These Nikkors are amazing in quality and fun to use.  So, I’m holding on to a single Domke bag, filled with a manual system for the occasional times I need a Nikon manual fix!




So what’s in that bag?  The body is a D700.  In my opinion one of the best DSLRs Nikon ever made. It is essentially a D3 in a smaller package.  Image quality is superb and it plays well with the manual lenses. Just in case you were wondering, These same lenses are also suberb on the D800/D800e and I’m sure the D810 as well.  So why is my body not a D800 series camera?  Too much resolution for me, just don’t need it, the storage issues or the slow computer blues!




The lenses I chose are some of the “Legendary” Nikkors of all time, AI-s lenses.


The Nikkor 24mm f 2.8



The Micro Nikkor 55mm f 2.8 AI-s





The 25-50 AI-s f 4 Nikkor zoom lens.  An incredible zoom with super sweet color.



The Nikon 105mm  Micro Nikkor f 2.8 AI-s



The Nikon 80-200 f 4  AI-s Nikkor zoom.





Nikon 50-135 f 3.5 AI-s Nikkor





I also threw in a set of Automatic Extension tubes and some electronic cable releases.  So for those that are worried, I still have some Nikon stuff and enjoy it on rare occasions.  Does this mean that I think the new auto-focus glass in inferior?  No the modern glass is certainly great, but in order to allow micro motors to move the focusing mechanism the lenses must be made lighter internally, and there goes the smooth, old world feel!  A part of my past is using these old type lenses for the majority of my early career, and to be honest, I have a real love for the gear and the memories!


So all our decisions are not based in hard cold facts and specs!  Photography is a part technical but even more aesthetic and this is some of my aesthetic love affair with the gear of photography!!!!






the pilgrim



A special thanks to my buddy Ken Rockwell for his wonderful product images.  I’ve checked out gear for years on  his site!


Oh yes, and I use my 400mm f 3.5 IF-ED AI-s, 300mm f 4.5 IF_ED AI-s, and 200mm Micro Nikkor f4 AF on both the Nikon body and with adapters on the Fuji X bodies.


1 month, 1 week ago 17


The 5 reasons I wouldn’t go back!!!!


1.  My back doesn’t hurt anymore!


Almost everything in my bag, is at least half the weight of my former full frame DSLR system.  Generally almost every body and lens takes up half the space!  So far, I see no reason to believe that my Fuji bodies and lenses are not just as well made, and rugged as the bigger DSLR system.  Frankly my Fujinon lenses “feel” more rugged than many of the plastic lenses of this modern day!  My old (3 to 4 decades old), Nikkors have that same old world sweet smoothness!  I still use them on the X-T1 with an adapter and get fantastic results!  The wide angles are not of much use because of the APS-C sensors 1.5 factor, but the long glass and midrange zooms get a lot more interesting!  The Nikkor manual focus Micro lenses are insane!



2.  I simply love the operational design of the Fuji X System cameras!  


I grew up with a “real shutter speed knob” and a “real aperture ring”!  Mechanical controls,  (Now I know these mechanical controls make electronic changes, but they operate “mechanically!!!”)  I like the ISO knob on the XT-1 (also a “mechanical” knob), and actually like that it locks!  Some have complained that it could be faster without a lock, and while that is certainly true, I like getting and keeping the ISO I set in the first place!  I fired my D700 the other day and was shocked at how loud and vibration prone it was, I then picked up the XT-1 and fired them side by side.  The difference was remarkable, the XT-I was quieter than a Leica, and with no mirror slap vibration (no mirror!).


3.  Cameras are for making images, and I’m taking the best in my 45 year career!


This one is purely subjective, but I can tell you with a completely straight face that my work has immeasurably improved, both in technical and aesthetic terms!!!!  I think the biggest reason is that I’m like a kid again in respect to my excitement and desire to go out and make images!!!  A big part of that is covered in point # 4!!!  It probably helps that I’m retired!!!!!


4.  Features I didn’t have in a DSLR!


Working with the Fuji X System and in particular, the XT-1, several features have made me a big time believer in mirror-less;


A.  While the EVF of the XT-1 is not quiet like looking through a D4, in some ways it’s better!  It’s brighter in low light, ( it’s a video image and it can brighten up so you can see better!), and it shows all your menu items settings actual affects when you half press the shutter release, yes you read that right, you see what the resulting image will look like!  If that were not enough, immediately after you make the image, it appears in the viewfinder exactly as it will appear later on your computer screen!  You can turn it off if you like, but I love it!  One more thing for manual shooters you can select a histogram to be live in the viewfinder as you make exposure adjustments!


And this is the “BIG” one!  Focus peaking has made manual focusing easier and more accurate than any other system I’ve ever used!  Now you can enjoy using many of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of older LEGACY manual focus lenses!!!!  It has breathed new life into Nikkor Micro lenses, moderate zooms, and especially, long glass!!  Imagine having a 600mm, f 3.5, that focuses close!!!  I’ve got it, and it didn’t cost $12,000.  (the old 400mm f 3.5 IF-ED manual focus Nikkor lens)


B.  You can set a menu item that allows you to see “real time” the depth of field as you stop down the aperture ring!!!!  No more depth-of-field preview buttons and impossibly dark viewfinders!  You would be surprised what a big deal this is after you use it!


C.  When you dial in compensation, ( yes Virginia, it’s a metal knob with click stops!!! (conveniently right next to your shooting thumb!!), you can see the affect it has on exposure, just how the image will look.  I shoot Aperture Priority and tailor exposure with the compensation dial, it works great.  By-the-way, the Fuji’s are like every other camera I’ve used in years, for my taste .3 or .7 minus compensation is needed to get to what I think is “affective exposure”, who knows what correct is!!!!????  The exposure comp dial is = or – 3 stops!


D.  My favorite feature is film type bracketing.  The Fuji’s allow you to pick three film simulations and then every time you make a shot, it processes three separate files in those film types!!!  Choices are;  PROVIA (standard color), ASTIA (soft, great skin tones, and rich color), VELVIA (high contrast palette of richly saturated colors), PRO NEG HIGH (great for outdoor portraits, slightly higher contrast), PRO NEG STANDARD ( great subtle skin tones, perfect for studio portraits under controlled lighting), MONOCHROME, (standard, full range, beautiful Black & Whites),  MONOCHROME YELLOW FILTER, (slightly higher contrast), MONOCHROME RED FILTER (higher contrast-great for spectacular landscape with blue skies and clouds), MONOCHROME GREEN FILTER ( good for outdoor portraits), SEPIA (sepia toned monochrome images.)   Most of the time I have mine set to PROVIA, VELVIA, AND MONOCHROME.  I do also use, ASTIA and MONOCHOME RED FILTER, pretty often!  90% of the time the Monochromes need almost no post!  They look spectacular!



5.  Even cutting my camera bag weight in half, I haven’t give up the image quality I crave!


I’ve selected some images, some of my favorites from this past year, all with various Fuji X cameras and Fuji XF lenses and a few with Nikkor manual focus adapted glass: ( I will give the technical data!)


Fuji X100s   ISO 1600  1/12th of a second handheld   In camera Monochroime!



Old Service Station Canonsburg Village   Fuji X-E1  180-55  ISO 200



Colored Pencils   –  Fuji X-E1  60mm Micro lens ISO 800



Licence plates on wood wall   –  Fuji X-E1   18-55    ISO 1600



Model T in Sprague, WA  Fuji X-T1    55-200  ISO 400



Fold in the earth Palouse WA  Fuji X-T1  Nikon 300mm f 4.5 IF-ED     ISO 800




Any downside??  Yes, if Fuji is reading this, (and I’m told they do!!!), here is my wish list:


1.  Firmware update to give 9, 7, & 5 stops of exposure bracketing. (for us HDR guys) You can add in improved focusing speed with the 60mm Macro!


2.  A 100mm Macro lens that goes 1:1 !!!!????  I know I’m pushing my luck, but a 150mm would be even better!  The current 60mm is spectacularly sharp, but won’t go 1:1 and focuses painfully slow compared to all other FX lenses.  It does play nice with Diopters though!

I sure hope rumors of a fast 90mm are true!


3.  Almost as good as a longer Macro lens would be a set of three Automatic Extension tubes, this is very doable!!!!  Those and the 56 f 1.2 would be a dream come true!!!  Some third party ones exist but they are very poorly finished out!


4.  Make sure the soon to come 120-400 is a constant aperture f 4 or no slower than f 4.5,  PLEASE no variable aperture!!!!  This is the lens that will really complete the Fuji XF line, don’t release it until it is drop dead spectacular!!!!!!  Lots of folks think this is a lens you can’t make as fantastic as your others, I’m betting they’re wrong!!!  By-the-way, I would be happy to test the prototype for you in Yellowstone this fall!!!!  Hint, hint!!!


5.  Ask the battery guys what can be done to beef up the battery life!!??  While on that subject, thank you so much for not making third party batteries incompatible, others have done this, and it’s not playing nice!  At least good reserves are purchasable reasonably, and they have given me good service!  Since they are small, it’s easy to carry a half dozen extras!


6.  While I’m bragging on you, thanks for handling the few complaints you’ve gotten the right way!  You stepped up to the plate, admitted mistakes, and made repairs or adjustments, quickly. Three cheers for treating the customer like you really care, which I believe you actually do!!!!!!


7.  Re-release the 55-200 in a slightly heavier build quality with a tripod collar, don’t touch the optics, they’re great right now!!!!  Not holding my breath on this one, but Canon did that with their hot selling 75-300 and it has been very well received!  People are willing to pay a premium for more structural strength, I would be too!


8.  Please don’t feel the need to go full frame, the size and extraordinary quality of the X Trans Sensor brought you to the dance, my advice is keep dancing with her!!!  She is, after all, beautiful!!




the pilgrim



1 month, 2 weeks ago 10


“There are two kinds of tripods; those that are easy to carry, and good ones…..”

                                                                                                                    Bill Fortney


This once “infamous” quote is getting revised, because Really Right Stuff has finally made a big, solid, sturdy tripod that is , well, easy to carry!  After years of admiring  Jim Haverstock’s, and Jack Graham’s and many others Really Right Stuff tripods, I made the leap and bought my own!!!  Why am I so excited?  Because this is the one thing other than a camera, lens, and memory card that you must have to make tack sharp images, and RRS has made it possible to have a serious tripod without breaking your back to get it to where you want to shoot.  I’ve owned Manfrotto, Gitzo, Induro, and many other brands, and I think all are good, all are better than not using a tripod, for sure, but honestly this is the finest tripod I’ve ever owned!  I had a Gitzo 1348 which served me very well for many years, but it has the old style twist locks that over time will give you great looking forearms if you really want a workout!


On the recent trip out to the Pacific NW, I got to play around with Jack’s RRS TVC-33 Series 3 and simply fell in love with it.  It works smoothly, is rock steady and shockingly light!  I had to have one, and now I do.


I topped it off with a new BH-55 LR ball head.



I have owned one of these bad boys for many years and it was still working perfectly but was getting pretty beat up, so I treated myself to another and will gets the original refurbished and I will mount it on another tripod, not sure why though, since I doubt much of anything else will get used now that I have the new TVC-33 Series 3.  I do have an Induro CT-214 when I want to go very light, but I see a smaller version of the TVC-33 in my future!


Why such an emphasis on tripods?  No matter how steady you think you are, or how high a shutter speed you can shoot, you will still introduce some movement into the image, and that costs you sharpness.  Then there are the times you want to shoot slow speeds to show motion rendition, and you certainly can’t do that hand held.  No, if you want critically sharp images you must use a solid tripod!


Really Right Stuff is a sponsor of my workshop company, and it is the tripod and head I bought with my own money!  That is the most ringing endorsement a person can make!




the pilgrim


Extra advice:  I bought extra feet (just in case – I have seen folks loose them), and used a little Loctite (the Blue kind) on the threads of the rubber feet to add a little additional protection from loosing any of them.  It’s not a bad idea, whatever tripod  you use, to occasionally check how tight the rubber feet are!  You can buy Loctite at your Auto supply store, Hardware store, or Walmart.


One last thing:  I’m adding a set of LegCoat pads to make throwing it over the shoulder easier.


1 month, 3 weeks ago 22

Three things converged.  July 1st will be my one year anniversary of retiring from Nikon.  I just completed a two week trip to the Pacific Northwest, and got some of my best images of my career, and My Fuji X-System is nearing completion with the advent of “focus peaking”!


Let’s take them one at a time.  I’ve not shot more than one half of one percent of my images with anything but the Fuji system in the last calendar year!  That says to me that I’m settled where I’m going to be, equipment wise!  In one year of shooting all the kinds of things I shoot; nature, close-up, travel, Americana, landscape, people, and some limited action, I’ve found the Fuji X-System, and in particular the X-T1 to be perfect for my kind, and style, of shooting. I’m all in, 100%.  My shoulders don’t hurt, my back doesn’t hurt, I’m having more fun, and loving the resulting images, so that’s it,  I’m a Fuji guy, period.


I have identified what is my “current” everyday in-the-field system below;  The Think Tank belt system, that holds the 10-24, 18-55, 60mm Micro and the 55-200, all Fuji XF lenses.  90% of my every day work can be accomplished with this small. portable system.  All the lenses are spectacularly sharp, and because of the incredible High ISO / low noise performance of the Fuji X-cameras, fast enough for general use. In addition I keep the 18-55 on my X-T1 with the Really Right Stuff “L” bracket.  * You may notice that I have some different lens hoods on two lenses.  I found a 39mm deep telephoto hood that fits perfectly on the 60mm Micro and saves room while allowing a polarizer to be adjusted with the hood screwed into the filter.  I also use a metal, screw in Nikon HN-23 lens hood from the Nikon 85mm f 1.8 AF lens on the 55-200, once again allowing a polarizer in place. to turn.  I have Singh Ray LB Warming Polarizers on, or for, all lenses!!!  The 60mm Micro takes a 39mm which Singh Ray does not make, on that lens I use a B&W Nano coat polarizer.



In a second bag, the Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack; I carry the following back up bodies and my speed lenses.  An additional X-T1 with the battery pack and Really Right Stuff “L” bracket, a Fuji X-E2, with Really Right Stuff “L” bracket and grip. 56mm f 1.2, 23mm f 1.4, 35mm f 1.4, and 14mm f 2.8 lenses.  I love the 14mm and think it may be a hair sharper than the 10-24, but love the range of the zoom too, I am keeping both, but when a 14mm fits, I love that lens!!!  Since Fuji has yet to make a Fisheye, which I rarely use anyway, I picked up a Rokinon 8mm f 2.8, which is surprisingly sharp for a $300. lens!  I carry various close-up filter including the Nikon 3T, 4T, 5T, and 6T and the Raynox DCR-150 close-up diopter.  Lots of spare batteries, and chargers, and lens and sensor cleaning supplies.  All camera bodies have Wapiti Spike Straps, Hand made Elk  leather)   (



Until this trip out west I still had a major concern about the Fuji X-System; no long glass beyond the  300mm end of the 55-200 zoom.  (The APS-C size sensor in the Fuji X-cameras has a 1.5 factor making all lenses the same angle of views of a lens 1.5 times longer, thus the 200mm is acting and imaging like a 300mm!)  The X-T1 and firmware upgrades for previous models make Focus Peaking a reality and changed everything!  I own, some illustrated below, a collection of Nikon lenses from the 1970s and 1980′s that are extremely sharp, but manual focus. Focus Peaking allows very precise manual focusing of these lenses and my in-the-field results have been spectacular, check the images below!  I now have a Guru Gear Kiboko 22L+ bag loaded with my manual stuff!    They are top to bottom:

 a Nikkor 400mm f 3.5 (600mm f 3.5 Equiv. and with the Nikon TC-14B teleconverter it is equivalent to a 840mm f 4.5 lens)

A Nikkor 300mm f 4.5 IF-ED ( 450mm f 4.5 equivalent, and with the TC-14B  630mm f 6)

A Nikkor 200mm Micro Nikkor f 4  (Equivalent 300mm Micro f 4 or with the TC-14B 450mm f 5.6 Micro!!!! that goes 1:1)


A Nikkor 200mm f 4 lens (highly corrected telephoto of Legendary Status, as are all these other manual focus lenses, a 300 mm f 4 equivalent, and with the TC-14B a  420 f 5.6)

The drop in polarizer from Kirk Enterprises, (long discontinued!), was a gift from Jack Graham, what a guy!!!  Means even more, coming from him!



O.K. this would all be great if this wonderful, and fast long glass works!?    Is it sharp on the Fuji X-System cameras?  I’ll let you be the judge, keep in mind these are all images with the 300mm f 4.5, the 400mm f 3.5 and 200mm Micro are even sharper.  If you do not need auto focus, and I don’t, I think these images will sell my point!  Feel free, in fact PLEASE, single click any image to see it larger!  A big plus, all these older manual focus glass is much less expensive than the newer auto focus ones, A current 600 f4 is around $12,000.  for around $2,000. you can get a 400mm f 3.5 which on the Fuji is a600mm f 3.5 and much, much, smaller and lighter!









Finally to complete the system I carry a Fuji X100s which Zak Arias called the greatest camera ever made, I think he may be very close to being right!




Filters?  You bet!  I use a Mind Shift Filter Hive illustrated below for all the various extra-duty filters.



1. Singh Ray I-Ray (Infra Red) 77mm & Singh Ray LB Polarizer thin 77mm

2 thru 6.  Step up rings for each Fuji filter (52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm. 72mm) size to 77mm

7. Singh Ray Tony Sweet Soft Ray filter 77mm &  Singh Ray color intensifier 77mm

8. Singh Ray  1 stop soft graduated ND

9. Singh Ray  3 stop hard graduated ND

10. Singh Ray  Singh Ray 2 stop hard graduated ND

11. Singh Ray  15 stop Mo-Slow ND

12. Singh Ray 72mm thin LB Polarizer

13. Singh Ray 3 stop soft graduated ND

14. Singh Ray 2 stop soft graduated ND

15.  Amber color correction

16.  Canon 500D diopter 77mm

17.  Nikon 77mm large polarizer

18. Singh Ray Mo-Slow 5 stop ND – (10) 10 stop,  and 15 stop


Summing it up!

I now have a system that covers from 12mm to 840mm and a field system that covers the vast majority of my needs.  One last thing, I decided on this trip that even though the cameras are lighter, with this much focal length range I “invested” in a Really Right Stuff TVC 33 Series 3 tripod and a new BH-55 LR head, mine will go in for refurbishmenet and will become my back up.  Jack Graham and Jim Haverstock both use this tripod and I’ve admired their’s way too long, so one of my new tag phrases!  The clock is ticking, enjoy it now!!!


Of course new things will be released and I will consider them, but  even if Fuji stopped today, I have all the photographic horsepower I need to shoot what I want to shoot,and after all, isn’t that the name of the game!  Of course when new stuff comes, I will review it here!





the pilgrim


Johnny here is the image of the 300, courtesy of Ken Rockwell: