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2 months, 3 weeks ago 10




Note:  As with all my blog entries, this is my opinion, nothing more.


Why test cameras and lenses?  Have you ever wondered why every photo magazine,  hundreds of websites and youtube video channels pro-port to test camera equipment for us?  How about cars, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators.  In fact there is an entire agency devoted to testing and comparing products, Consumer Reports.  Why are we so wired about how products compare?  I’m sure some of it is we value our money and don’t want to spend it unwisely, some is that we want the very best products we want for the money we have to spend.  We want reliable things, no one likes a car that stays in the shop!


But, back to cameras and lenses, is there much difference between different brands?  How much is the difference, and more importantly, how much does it matter in terms of what kind photography the gear will allow us to do?


I was watching a youtube video from a very popular gun guy, Hickok45.  This man has hundreds of thousands of viewers and I’m convinced he is pretty knowledgable and trustworthy in his assessment of various things, gun related.  His video was on accuracy, how do guns compare interns of there accuracy.  His final point was that all guns are pretty much accurate, it is the shooter that is the biggest factor in hitting the target.  I tend to agree.  Are some guns inherently more accurate?  Yes, is some ammunition more accurate? yes, does any of it matter as much as the person behind the gun? In my opinion, no.





Back to camera gear and testing. so then why do we test?  Some folks are pixel peepers, they want to test everything to the inth degree.  Before you think that was a harsh characterization, let me explain, I love pixel peepers, engineers are pixel peepers, mathematicians are pixel peepers, and I’m so glad someone is very concerned about the sheer strength of the bolts holding up the bridges I drive over, but someone is doing that, we don’t all have to, it’s covered.  Some folks by their very nature want to study all the minute details, and that is fine, but those minute details don’t have a lot to do with practical making of photographs.  So then why test?  One reason would be quality control. Is any product being made properly, with good materials and built and designed to last?  That would be a great reason to test a camera or lens. Will the glass, the coatings and the alignment produce sharp, distortion free, images, that would another good reason.  I’m going to go out on limb and say most lenses are plenty good enough.  Some are better than good enough, and some others are just exceptional. While that is true, great images can be made with lenses from all of theses categories!!!!





I test my cameras and lenses for a different reason alltogether!  I want to determine if my cameras and lenses are capable of making exceptional technical images.  Once I’ve determined that, when I don’t get exceptional, (technical), images, I know who to blame.  It is only through finding the faults in our technique that we  can become a better photographer, and knowing your gear is not the problem, is step one!!!


The images used as illustrations in this blog entry are from the Nikon D800, a camera I have not owned or used for over two years.  The lenses all these images were made with were 1970′s and 80′s era manual focus Nikkor lenses, all very fine lenses, but not possessing all the modern coatings and latest break throughs like aspheric elements, and ED glass!  Yet they are tack sharp and offer great color fidelity.


This is the value of testing your gear.  Once you know it can make incredible images from a technical perspective, it is now time to become a photographer and learn how to see!!!!




the pilgrim


Personal Tech Note:   I currently am shooting the Fuji X System, and only the Fuji X-System.  After two years of working with this camera system and it’s lenses, I am convinced, that for me, it is the perfect balance between size, weight, capability and technical excellence.  That in no way is damning of any other brand or system, it’s just I’ve found my home and I’m now concentrating on making images, and not worrying about how good the gear is!  I still like to dabble in the gear, but I’m first and foremost a photographer


Yes Virginia, the Fuji is good enough, see below!




2 months, 3 weeks ago 20


This will be epic, gotta join us!!!




the pilgrim

2 months, 3 weeks ago 27



Have I got your attention???!!!  More about this great event in a moment!!!  FIRST, I am still alive, sorry I’ve been missing action!!!!  My wife made me promise to give our family all my time for the last ten days, (I did slip in one blog entry), but we had all our kids and grandkids!  We had a great time, but I’m slowly getting back into business!!!


O.K. I’m breaking  great news for my readers, and there will be much more soon!  A dear buddy of mine, Wilson Reynolds, world famous for his extreme fishing and hunting show on the National Geographic Channel, and a great photographer in his own right, has invested in a beautiful Lodge in Townsend, Tennessee, The Tremont Lodge and Resort,  and his goal from the beginning is to establish a base camp for photographers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The lodge is first class with great meeting facilities and will be a wonderful home of a new event he is starting. The last week of October, (prime color time for the Smokies) the 28th through November 1st, 2015 (YES this year!!!)  We will debut The First Annual Great Smokey Mountains Photography Summit.  This is destined to become one of the great annual events in photography!!!


This Seminar will feature some of the top photographers, teachers, speakers in the field today!  The list is still being finalized, but we expect to have; Scott Kelby, Rob Sheppard, Tony Sweet, Matt Kloskowski, Jack Graham,  Len Rue Jr., Bill Lea,  Ken Jenkins and Jim Begley, Wilson and I will be speakers too!  The event will have lost of break out sessions, the chance to shoot early mornings in the Smokies during great fall color, vendors displays, and lots of great times around the fire pit!  Every attendee will also get a great Comfort Colors t-shirt, these will be collectors items as each year a new volume of this event will be enjoyed!  The fee for all of this will be $450. but if you register early, you can save $75. and attend for just $350.  Much, much more details to come, but mark those dates now and joins for a fantastic new photography event in the best place, at the perfect time of year!


Stay ruined for more info!!!!


Now,  tomorrow I will announce the 2016 Events Jim and I will do with His Light for 2016 plus details on some of my workshops with Jack Graham Photography as well!!!


So I’m back!




the pilgrim


P.S.  Please keep Jim and Sue Haverstock in your payers, they are rushing back form a Hawaii vacation as Jim’s mother past away yesterday.  Please lift them up!

3 months ago 10



FIRST – A SIDE BAR:   It is very, very important to me that you know that when I express an opinion about gear or anything, for that matter,  that is comes from the heart, and is not influenced by my business relationship with any company or individual!  Please believe that!!!  If you don’t, nothing I share would be worth a dime!  Now let’s settle this for once and for all, I have winced as I’ve seen an occasional harsh comment about Zack Arias being in the tank for Fuji, because I imagine the same is being said of me!  I know Zack well and he is a man of real integrity and I believe he would never promote a product,  even from a company he does some work for, unless he really believed it!  I believe that Zack shares exactly what he thinks!  When Jack and I were named X-Photographers, which we both really appreciatied, we asked the official that informed us of the nomination and selection to that group, if accepting the honor would, in any way, affect our being able to express our real feelings about Fuji’s products and we were assured that was exactly what they wanted us to do, positive or negative!!!  I say this because I am beginning to do some events for Fuji and being paid to do so.  If I thought my doing work for them compromised my ability to be honest with you, I would have not accepted the X-Photogrpaher offer and would refuse to work for hire for Fuji.  I’m very proud that I can have the kind of relationship I enjoy with them.  Why such a long diatribe????

Because the praise I’m about to heap on the new 90mm f 2 would otherwise test your confidence in my being, unbiased!!!



So the new 90mm f 2 in a word is;  the sharpest telephoto lens made by Fuji.  Yes I said that, sharper than the 56mm f 1.2, which is extraordinarily sharp? Yep, and the 16-55 Zoom?  Yep, sharper, how about the very, very sharp 50-140 f 2.8 zoom?  Sorry, but the 90mm is even sharper at 90mm!!!!  So should you buy one?  That depends.  If you need a 135mm focal length equiv. portrait lens or telephoto with a fast f 2 aperture, and want very beautiful bokeh, you bet!  If you like to do close-up with some nice working distance?  This is the lens.  This muddies the water as I wait for the 120mm f 2.8 Macro from Fuji, but then I will love the added focal length and working distance, but make no mistake about it, this 90mm could almost be called a macro lens!!!!  Below I’ve shown the closest the lens will focus on a target, my faithful miniature Route 66 license plate with a penny for size perspective


This shot is made at the minimum focus distance, which is 2 feet.



Next I added a Fuji  MCEX 11mm Auto Extension tube.




Now I shot the 90mm with the Fuji  MCEX 16mm Auto Extension tube.



Finally I added the 11mm and 16mm together an shot one last image at a distance of about 8 inches for the subject.




If you happen to own the Nikon 5T and 6T diopters they work great with this lens as well!!!


What about general performance?  Here are few more of my alley images and then my final comments!!!







So the 90mm f 2 is solid, maybe the most solidly built Fuji XF lens so far.  The aperture ring has nice firm 1/3 stop detents and the focusing ring is butter smooth for manual focusing!  The size and weight have just the right amount of heft for me, and it work wonderfully on the X-T1 with, our without, the battery compartment.  It works very well on the X-T10 too, maybe just hair large, but very manageable.  Focus acquisition is very fast and no hint of hunting.  (tested on a X-T1 with firmware 4.0).  One thing I’ve noticed,  now that I’ve had time to shoot all the Fuji XF lenses,  is that they seem to be optimized to be as sharp wide open in the center as stopped down.  I could see no real difference, other than added depth, when I stopped the 90mm f 2 down from f 2 to f 8, but then the more I use the XF glass, I see the same performance with all their lenses.


Color when shot in the Provia film simulation setting (standard) was spot on.  The lens seems to be in  that wonderful sweet spot of just enough contrast for sharpness, but not so much as to look harsh, especially with skin tones.  While I will keep my 56mm f 1.2, this 90mm will be my new go to fast, portrait lens.


So I will make it official, this is my new favorite Fuji lens in the XF line.  I expect it to be a constant companion, even when I’m carrying zooms that cover it’s focal length.  Swell done Fuji, keep em’ comin’!!!!!




the pilgrim