Category : The Learning Center

4 years, 1 month ago 4




I’ve been heavy in gear lately and I’m going to be through out this coming week!  I will be writing about the apparently (I say apparently because I have not held one yet, ^&%$!#$!?!) Fuji X-PRO 2, all is good though, I fully understand that I’m not one of the X-Photographers that has traditionally used the X-PRO 1!  The truth is I bought one some time ago and after a few months realized I just was not getting along with it and sold it.  I’ve regretted that constantly, ever since, and have almost bought a second one but knew this one was coming!  Tomorrow I will deal with the new X-PRO 2 which I will be doing project for Fuji with, a Two Week Road Trip for their Website, and I can’t wait!!!   So more on that later, but for today I want to deal with the whole gear thing.


Let’s get this out of the way, I’m a gear freak, love it, I buy way too much, love to use it, test it, and yes, fondle it!!!  Yes, I’m in therapy, but at least it’s out in the open!   I know, that’s not a Newsflash!  Not much of a spilled secret there!  But I do have a big and important “BUT” to add to this diatribe!


Even though I have an irrational love for gear, I do know it is just a tool.  No matter how incredible a camera body is or how wonderful lens is, it won’t make images by itself. Don’t get me wrong, it is important, very important, but not nearly as important as  the loose nut behind the viewfinder…….the photographer.  If a photographer is truly on top their game, technically skilled and in the zone for subject light and conditions, then the gear is a big plus in their favor, but the first part of that has to come, FIRST!


Enough about the importance of gear, now let’s talk about the spiritual aspect of all this. Is it possible to get too attached to our gear?  Afraid so.  Most people don’t ever think of the Ten Commandments when they think about camera gear, but actually one does apply!   Thou shalt have no other gods before me!   If we worship our  gear, if we find ourselves feeling way to close to it, then that is a problem.  I believe that God wants us to have good things, I think He provides them, I just know He doesn’t want us to place any of this stuff above Him.  If anyone could ever start to worship gear it would be me, but I know better than to go down that road.


It also hurts your creativity!  If you spend your time looking or thinking about just the gear, you won’t see the world you’re trying to photograph with clear eyes.  If you are really a photographer and you really want to make wonderful images, you don’t want this happening.  If you’re an equipment collector, and I plead guilty, it’s perfectly fine.  Now let’s get down to brass tacks, it’s o.k. to be both, I am a 75% shooter, 25% gear nut.  Now it’s out, but I don’t let loving the gear affect by art, or my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I know this is a tough and thin line to walk, but let’s face it, we have to.  It’s liberating to admit your feelings and face your issues, but the result is a clear mind to apply to the craft you love so much.  But wow, is the gear fun!!!!




the pilgrim

4 years, 1 month ago 12


The old garage building at Nelson Ghost Town, Nelson, Nevada.



Robert posted a comment about the 100-400 Review and it said; “Seems like you’re rapidly approaching the weight issues for which you initially switched away from Nikon!”  My response, “You Think!!!???”   Yes Robert, you are right, but I need to explain that I am still fighting and beating the weight limit!  Quick history lesson, in 2010 I had rotator cuff surgery that left me unable to carry the big full frame Nikon gear that I had used for many years (40 +!!!!)  My search to something lighter led me to the Fuji X System  I fell in love with them and that brings me up to today!  The original reason for going to mirror-less and Fuji was weight, but I never gave up on quality, both unfortunately and gladly, Fuji kept coming-out with more great bodies and lots and lots of great lenses, well I bought them all, well most of them, and now I’m up to a lot of gear weight again, so what to do!!!???


If I travel by air I  have to just take what I think I will need keep the total weight to under 20 pounds.  If I travel by car, and I do as often as a I can, I can take all the gear I want! I now divide my gear into several smaller bags so no one bag exceeds my self imposed weight limit of 20 pounds. Even when I get on location I rarely walk more than 100 yards from the vehicle, (I’m suffering from degenerative back disease),  and I don’t take full bags of gear, but usually a photo vest with a few lenses. Here is my current bag set up.



The Major Bag ( Tamrac’s New Anvil Slim 15 ), filled with my most often used zoom lenses, the 60mm Macro, the auto extension tubes and two X-T1 bodies.  The contents of this bag can allow me to do almost anything I need to do in a general assignment. (20.5 lbs.)





The Fast Prime Bag (Lowe Pro’s Flipside Sport 10L  AW ), filled with my favorite fast prime lenses from Fuji, they are;  14mm f 2.8, 16mm f 1.4, 23mm f 1.4, 35mm f 1.4, 56mm f 1.2 and the incredible 90mm f 2, I also have a Fuji XT-10 in the bag as well.  (9 lbs.)





The last equipment bag is my Rangefinder Bag.  I love the Fuji X100T and the Fuji’s compact X30 and so these two cameras and extra batteries reside in a Think Tank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag.  (5 lbs.)






Lastly I have what I call my Support Bag, it is a Red Oxx Heavy Duty Shave Kit bag, filled with the following;  A Watson Battery Charger that charges two Fuji batteries at once and tells there state of charge with a nice LCD panel on the front panel, extra plates for the X100T and X30 batteries, a pair of multi allen wrench tools, a mini AC outlet strip for hotel rooms and my charging station, also included in the bag, but not shown are a set of tools and small socket wrench set with various heads, Swiss Army Knife and multi tool.  In the car will also be my Really Right Stuff Tripod and BH-55 LR ballhead.





So the Big Question; “Do you really need all that???!!!”  Of course not!  I could go in the field with one body, 10-24, 18-55 ( the small one), and the older 55-200 and shoot almost anything I need to shoot, maybe throw in a diopter to get close with the 55-200, so why carry all this????  It’s fun, I own it, I bought it, and if it is left at home, it’s totally useless. If you are in Arches National Park and you reach for your 16mm f 1.4 to make a shot, only it can help you make, and it’s at home, well you get the point.  Every lens in these bags has a special purpose and when you are in the situation that require that lens,  if you don’t have that lens with you, you don’t have that lens with you, and you can’t make that exact shot you planned.


I don’t carry all of this more than twice a day, from the hotel to the car, and then back into the hotel at the end of a shooting day!  On my first big road trip for the year in early March I will take a group down Route 66 and then over to Nelson Ghost Town the Neon Museum in Las Vegas and then some us are going on to Arches/Canyonlands National Parks.  My goal is to put all this stuff to use on that two and half week trip.  Stay tuned and see how it goes!


Thanks for coming along with me on this journey!




the pilgrim



4 years, 1 month ago 70



INTRODUCTION:  O.K. so he either came a little late or really early!  So, before I gush like a teenager, and sadly I’m going to,  let’s go over the physical information on the new Fuji XF 100-400 f 4.5 – 5.6 R LM OIS WR .  Above is the lens mounted on a  tripod with the X-T1 Graphite body.  The lens has 21 elements in 14 groups and they include; 6 extra low dispersion elements, and 1 super low dispersion elements.  The 100-400 features 9 rounded aperture blades.  The first great news is that the new lens takes 77mm filters, far smaller than we had guessed it would, most rumor sites were thinking around 82mm! This means polarizers and close up diopters, (like the Canon 500D work great!),  more on that later!  Below is the 100-400 with the lens hood attached, which bayonets on very positively and has a cut out for adjusting a polarizer, with a handy sliding door, much better than the removable, and easy to misplace, one for the 50-140!



When the lens extends out to 400mm it only grows 2.5 inches!  It is solidly made and feels good in the hands, and trust me, with the great OIS you will shoot it hand held, sometimes!!!  It is rated at 5 stops for OIS and I believe it has every bit of that!



THE SIDE CONTROLS;  Top to bottom, the focus limiting switch that allow you to choose full range or 5 meters to infinity.  The Program or Aperture Priority switch and finally the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization on and off switch).  Between the zoom ring and the aperture ring is the Lock switch for keeping the lens locked in the 100mm position.



PHYSICAL IMPRESSIONS:  The lens is solid, and wonderfully finished.  The zoom is butter smooth but with the perfect amount of resistance, it does not feel like it will ever get loosey, goosey!  The tripod collar is a near mirror image of the one on the 50-140 f 2.8. which is good, because it is well finished and solid.  The two thumb screws that hold the bracket to the lens could use a very small (very, very small) dab of blue Loctite,  beats constant re-tightening.  Below a comparison of the new 100-400 and the 50-140. Shockingly, the new 100-400 fits in the same spot in my bag, with minor adjustment.  The weight difference is 100-400 1,375 grams,  the 50-140, 1,093 grams.  The diameter is in keeping with the filter size, 50-140 – 72mm, 100-400 – 77mm.



DOES IT PERFORM IT’S INTENDED PURPOSE?    For me a long lens is my tight landscape lens, it’s my wildlife and bird lens, my shooting things I want to shoot close up and tight, but want good working distance from, (like poisonous snakes!), my compression lens for compressing the scene, and my sports lens, even though I do little sports anymore.  I took the lens down to St. Augustine, Florida this December and captured some tight wildlife images.  I was thrilled with the performance, but I’ll let you be the judge.  All images are at the long end 400mm (600mm angle of view equiv.)  All of these images, except the wood duck and the monochrome alligator, were shot from a  tripod.  Those two were handheld.  With wildlife you either can’t get as close as you would like, or you don’t want to be any closer!!  In those situation this is the perfect set of focal lengths!



OPTICAL PERFORMANCE:  The lens is tack sharp wide open and at every focal length.  At maximum aperture the edges are a tiny amount less sharp, but they sharpen up nicely as you close down a stop!  The inevitable comparison is with the 50-140 which is a legendarily sharp lens!  Frankly I can’t tell any difference, it’s that sharp!!  The lens is remarkably sharp across the board!  Below are a couple of images of a historic billboard on old US 25 shot at 100mm and at 400mm.  The following images are at the 400mm setting and hand held!!!!



HOW DOES IT DO WITH THE XF 1.4 TC WR 1.4 TELECONVERTER?   The image below was shot by my dear friend and killer shooter Jack Graham, (check out his test report of the 100-400 at it is made with  the 100-400 with the new Fuji 1.4 Converter, he is posting a vertical of this same shot on his blog post today that shows, even more clearly, how sharp this lens is with the converter!   Below there are a few other examples of the 100-400 with the Fuji 1.4 converter.



The following three images are images of one of my favorite places to test lens for sharpness and old wooden garage door with peeling white paint and a door handle with great detail.  The shots below are;  first, the 100-400 at 100,  second is the 100-400 at 400 and the final image is the 100-400 at 400 plus the new Fuji 1.4 converter making it an equiv. 840 mm lens!!!!  All the full res files are bitingly sharp!



AUTO FOCUS TRACKING SPEED:  I shot some cars on a  local street going around 45 mph at 10 fps and got sequences of 15 and more images all tack sharp.  Here are a few from each end of the sequence and the middle shot.  Admittedly this isn’t NASCAR,  but for the kind of action shooting most X-Shooters do, this is great performance.  I shot some interstate traffic at almost twice that speed and they were tack sharp as well.



CLOSE UP PERFORMANCE:  Below are examples of a penny taped to my small Route 66 mini license plate. The first shot is the lens at 200mm at the close focus distance, the next at 400mm at the closes focus distance with the Canon 500D diopter.  The distance from the front of the lens to the penny for this shot is an amazing 16 inches. By-the-way, both were hand held!!!!!



HOW ABOUT THE OPTICAL IMAGE STABILIZATION?  I would never consider hand holding a lens of this focal length, however in the interest of giving the OIS a fair chance, I shot the penny above at near 1:1 (life size).  Ready for this…. at 1/67th of a second.  Think about that, this lens at 400mm is actually the equivalent of a 600mm lens, and the penny images above is shot at high magnification, and it’s tack sharp.  A remarkable performance, it also works very well with the Fuji automatic extension tubes.  The image below is of a CD case on my office desk shot with the 100-400 at 400 at the closest focus distance at 1/400th of a second wide open f 5.6 with OIS turned on.


O.K. SO WHERE DOES THIS LENS FIT INTO MY SYSTEM?  One of the best things about the X-System is the incredible selection and quality of the lens line.  The only big hole in the system just got filled with the 100-400.  I can now have coverage from 15mm to 600mm and beyond thanks to the 1.4 converter.  Would I like a 400mm f 2.8? Not really, don’t want to carry it, pay for it and actually don’t need it.  The 100 to 400 is a 5.6 at 400, or (600mm equiv.) and the overall performance is just stunning.  Now, what is  most exciting to me is we have now seen Fuji come out with twenty one lenses and there is yet another on the Road Map for this year, the 120mm f 2.8 Macro that goes 1:1 this is one I can’t wait to see and shoot!.  I own the vast majority of the lenses Fuji has released, and I can say, without any reservation, that I’ve found each and every one to be spectacular!  When I bought my first three, (18-55,  35 1.4 and the 60mm Macro f 2.4) I never thought that I was going to see the parade of great glass we have been treated to!  What I appreciate most is that Fuji has taken my advice and that of  many other dedicated X-shooters, to not compromise their high standards for their optics!  I hate to admit that for a while I held my breath with each new release.  It didn’t take long for me to realize they were keeping their promise,  so I don’t hold my breath anymore!   They certainly have kept their promise with the 100-400!


If you need the focal lengths in this lens, I can highly recommend it,  so it gets 5 stars from me!


Bottom Line:


*   Super well built, weather sealed, very reasonable size and weight.


*   Autofocus is quick and accurate with the X-T1 and X-T10.


*  Optically, near perfect, it and takes 77mm filters!  Yeah!


*  Close focus distance makes it a near macro performer and mates well with automatic extension tubes and the Canon 500 D diopter.  * with 500 D it achieves almost 1:1 – life size, at 16 inches of working distance from the end of the lens.


*  Works great with the Fuji 1.4 tele-converter.


*  OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) works fantastic.


*  Excellent, smooth, tripod collar and  foot.


*  A screaming bargain for the price!


With the release of this lens, I have reconfigured my bag and this is what I will carry on my first few trips this year, as always we will  see how this works, I will let you know!

The Tamrac Anvil Slim 15 will hold the following:  2 X-T1 bodies, 10-24, 16-55, 35 f2, 18-135, 60mm Macro, 55-200, 100-400, 1.4 Converter, Spare batteries and accessories.





the pilgrim


Just in case you’re listening Fuji, please be sure the 200 Macro has a tripod collar!!



4 years, 3 months ago 2



Well it’s that time of year again, the Holiday Season!  Soon to be followed by a lot of new products being released in January!  For now it is a tradition that I chime in on my favorite products of the current year.  You guys know that I’m a died in the wool Fuji guy, but I see a lot of products students and friends are using and I test a fair number of products myself.  Some folks enjoy my ramblings, and then, you don’t have to read any further if you don’t want to!


So, here goes:


The BEST DSLR for the money?  The Nikon D750.   This is one of the best thought out products to come from Nikon in a long time.  Just the right amount of resolution, good build quality, and it makes a fantastic image.  The price is right too!


The BEST All Around DSLR.  The Canon 5D Mark III.  When I worked for Nikon this camera gave us fits!  It is a well built picture making machine and I can’t tell you how many great images I’ve seen made with it the hands of a skilled photographer.  It’s not cheap, but worth every penny.


The BEST APS-C DSLRs, The Nikon D7200 and the Canon 7D Mark II.  The APS-C sensor has proven itself a very worthy competitor to the full frame cameras with the advantage of smaller body size and higher pixel density!  Pixel Density?  Think about it,  if you put 24 million pixels on a full frame sensor and then put the same 24 million pixel on the small APS-C sensor, the pixel must be smaller and tighter packed on the APS-C sensor, thus higher resolution.  An APS-C  sensor with 24 mega pixels has the equivalent resolution of a 36 mega pixel full frame camera!  Surprised?  It’s true and it works!!!!  But doesn’t Full Frame hold a low noise at High ISO advantage?  Not nearly as much a they used to!!!



The TOP PRO DSLRs for the sports shooters and photojournalists.    Easy one here, the Nikon D4s and the Canon EOS-1D X .  Both are fast, capable, and built like tanks!  If you abuse and use your cameras severely, these are the ones for you!!!!!  Built to last and keep shooting under the most extreme cicumstances!



The BEST HI RESOLUTION DSLR?  The Nikon D810.  I’m not bragging, but I was one of the very first people in America to see and shoot the D800. long before it was known to exist.  I thought then, and I still think now, why?  Does the D800 series of cameras make phenomenal images, you bet!  Do we need that many mega pixels?  Very, very, very few of us  do.  For them this is a godsend, for the rest of us it introduces more trouble than it’s worth.  Does that mean the D810 is not a great camera?  Not at all.  But if you buy one, be prepared to have to do everything as close to perfect as possible, it is demanding, but if you do, wow,  it is spectacular!  The new Canon 51 mega pixel?Just multiply what I just said by a factor of 2!!!!



The BEST HIGH END MIRROR-LESS Camera System?  Well, the Fuji X System of course and the X System lenses   The Fuji X-T1 and it’s associated pieces have e changed my photographic life!  A second place finisher would be the Olympus OM-D1 camera and it’s system! Both of these cameras are smaller, lighter, well made and make exceptional images.



THE BEST MIRROR-LESS CAMERA FOR VIDEO.  The Panasonic L:mix G4!  This is a camera rmakes spectacular video, 4K, sweet, beautiful video, and it’s reasonably priced!



The BEST COMPACT CARRY CAMERAS?  The Fuji X100T & the Fuji X30!  O.K. I simply picked my two favorite!  I know there are lots of very good, small, easy to carry, travel and all occasion cameras out there.  But I do love both of these, and they will make images indistinguishable from the big boys, if you treat them right!



SOME TOP LENSES:  My pick for the Best wide angle zoom is the new Canon EF 11-24 f 4 L, a suburb optic with a tremendous range!  The best Mid Range Zoom?  the Fuji XF 16-55 f 2.8 R LM WR.  The best new Super Long Telephoto Zoom?  the Nikon 200-500 f 5.6 E ED VR lens, great range and tack sharp!  Finally, the Best new LEGENDARY Lens, The Fuji New Fuji 90mm F 2 R LM WR lens is simply the finest lens I’ve ever shot,  I only have one thing I don’t like about it, my wife keeps complaining about rolling over in bed against it!!!!



SOME MORE TOP LENSES:  The BEST TELEPHOTO ZOOMS?  The Fuji 50-140mm f 2.8 R LS OIS WR.  The sharpest 70-20-o0 equivalent I’ve ever shot and with the best OIS I’ve ever seen!  I can actually shoot at 200mm equiv. at 1/8th of a second and get tack sharp results!  The Olympus Zuiko ED 40-150mm f 2.8.  The two best Super zooms are the Fuji 18-135 and the Sony 24-200 f 3.5-6.3.  The Fuji is tack sharp, and the Sony is sharp enough, but a much needed lens for that, lens poor, system!!!



…..and finally my new favorite small backpack.  The Tamrac Anvil Slim 11.


Well, there goes my 2015 picks, hope you like them!




the pilgrim