Jun 222015

Fuji X100T

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It has been a few years since I last bought a camera although I have bought numerous types of camera equipment. I have been satisfied with my ancient D700 and my aging D3s although I’ve always wanted a smaller, rangefinder type of camera to join the family. There just hasn’t been a camera in the last few years that has the whole package, consisting of size, build, price and specs. Until now…I recently bought the Fuji X100T and love this little camera for all those reasons just mentioned.

Here are my not so scientific opinions regarding the images I have shot thus far. Remember these are JPEGs compared with my D3s RAW files. The images from the X100T are a bit soft shooting at 2.0. At 2.8 it starts to get very sharp. The macro feature works well getting close to subjects but don’t shoot macro wide open. Focus is good, especially in good light. Great optical and electronic hybrid viewfinder. Both work well and I can definitely see a need for both. Cool features with manual focus as well with this hybrid viewfinder. Pixel peeping with JPEG resembles film like quality. I’m used to Nikon files that are tack sharp with smooth gradations. Fuji files are slightly muddy although I would never know unless I was zoomed in over 200%. Again this is shooting wide open at ISO’s between 800 to 2500 and again JPEG. Great high ISO and I think (a final verdict after editing a RAW file) I could use 6400. Can’t comment on the colour yet until I shoot a wider range of subjects and settings but come on, it’s a Fuji, you know the colours are going to be great. I just have to try the many film simulations available in camera. No comment yet on the flash but strange that it wouldn’t fire if the camera setting was on silent? Love the easy file transfer via wifi to my iPad and iPhone. Hello Snapseed…Excellent build quality and the buttons are laid out nicely and I’m able to shoot and change settings while keeping my eye in the viewfinder. I did find the camera a tad small and may get the added grip. I wasn’t a fan of the strap so I picked up a nice Gordy’s wrist strap. And for added bling and functionality I picked up a soft touch shutter button and thumb rest from Lensmate. Time to get out and shoot to further test the camera. Plus I’m getting tired of shooting Simone and she’s really tired of me shooting her. I will be going on a trip to the Grand Canyon at the end of July so I should have more to report. Stay tuned.

Aug 142011

My Gear…Tech Talk

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“What’s in my bag?”

Well this is nothing new and many photographers have done a great job in explaining the gear that they regularly use. I find it very interesting to see what other photographers pack in their bag and their opinions on equipment so I thought I would do the same. I’m a tech guy and I love camera equipment even though great photographs can be captured with any camera and lens combo. However, some equipment does make it easier to get more consistently great image. I know this could lead to heavy discussion and debate, so I’ll leave it at that and focus on the gear I currently use. Remember that these are just my opinions without any scientific testings. I speak from my experience and also from endless research and reviews on the internet. I should also mention that this blog was triggered by a fantastic blog post from one of my favourite photographers, Zach Arias. I was also in the midst of cleaning up my gear and rearranging my equipment which was spread out between my Pelican case (1510 Roller) and two Lowepro bags (Micro Trekker 200 and CompuTrekker Plus AW) and thought that since everything was out on my desk and being cleaned, why not take a photograph and blog about it. The above shot was with my iPhone.

Anyway, I’ll start by saying that this gear and my studio equipment (strobes, modifiers, reflectors, umbrellas, beauty dishes, soft boxes, stands, monopods, tripods etc) covers about 90% of the jobs and creatives that I perform on a regular basis. I’ll save the details of my studio equipment perhaps for a separate blog post. Yes I rent items when I need them depending on the job and l do have a wish list for equipment that I will probably purchase within the next year to cover some of my everyday requirements (more on that later).

I’ll start with the camera bodies. I use my Nikon D700 about 90% of the time. In fact, I only use my other body, Nikon D300 when I need to have two cameras on each shoulder usually for event or wedding photography. This way I can have two different lenses to cover greater focal lengths and sometimes to have flash ready on one camera (usually the D300) and one to use natural light. Enough can’t be said on the low light capabilities of the D700 especially compared to the D300 (I cannot trust it for images above ISO1250 compared to ISO 3200 with the D700. However, overall the image files from the D700 just look cleaner and smoother perhaps more film like that the D300. Don’t get me wrong, the files that come out of the D300 are fantastic and in some cases I cannot tell the difference between the two. But from my experience and my personal opinion, I just like the way the D700 files look. The original reasoning for having a crop sensor and and full frame sensor was to have the extra reach when needed. But in most cases when I did need the extra reach (LG Fashion Week for instance) I had other challenges such as high ISO that made my D300 stay in the bag. I also saved about $1000 going with the D300 instead of another D700. Both cameras are built like tanks and since I’ve been a Nikon guy for years, everything just feels right with regards to controls, menus and the overall feel of the camera and grip. Just left of the D700 above is the camera grip which I use pretty much every time except when out shooting in the street.

Lenses. On the D700 in the image is one of my newer lenses, the AF-S 60mm 2.8G ED N. I’m still getting used to this lens and it is the sharpest lens I have in the bag, hands down. Great for product shots and wedding details and occasionally I use it for some portraits. I have been using it for a lot of creatives as well. On the D300 is 24mm 2.8D. This is my newest lens and although it is on my D300, I have only used it on my D700 thus far. I had a Sigma 12-24 lens that took care of my wide angle shots but I found that I was hardly using it below 20mm. It wasn’t a very fast lens and I had to stop down to at least F8 to get really sharp images. I just found that it sat in my bag way too much but I needed to have a wide angle lens. So I finally picked up the 24mm 2.8D for it’s price, optical qualities, and size (small and light enough for street photography or as an everyday walk around lens) and got rid of the Sigma. This lens is extremely sharp across the image from f4 and up but at 2.8 it is sharp just as long as you are within a third from each side of the image as the detail and light fall off is quite noticeable. But I love that!! I have shot this lens wide open and just love the results (I am a bit of a vignette freak though). I’m sure this lens will get a lot of use in event, wedding, and commercial work and can hardly wait to really work it. The only drawback is the loud and slightly slow focusing but I can live with that. Next lens (bottom left corner) is my Sigma 24-70 2.8. My work horse lens for many years but now sits in my bag the most out of all my lenses. Two reasons why this happened. One is that I accumulated more lenses over the years and two, I’ve always had two bodies for at least 7 years now. So that basically meant two cameras with two primes to cover this short zoom. This lens was great with regards to sharpness from f4 to f8 but basically useless at 2.8. But this is the reason I got this lens, to shoot at 2.8. Couldn’t do it even after 2 calibrations but I couldn’t afford another lens back then and basically shot with this lens avoiding anything under f4 and stuck with it over the years. I still occasionally use it for event photography but sometimes I struggle with focus points outside the cross hair sensors. Also the focus is a bit slow and loud. Still, I got great images with this lens and successfully used it gig after gig. Next to the right of this lens is the Nikon 50mm 1.4G. Great lens and I love shooting with this wide open. Yes there is vignetting with the D700 but I like this, remember? Actually this lens suits my D300 in that it would make for a nice portrait lens with the crop factor of the D300 but again as mentioned I prefer the image files of the D700 especially with portraits. Although I should use this lens more than I do, it does get utilized for event and the occasional portrait. Also, I did use it for street photography but found I wanted something a bit wider. Anyway as mentioned it’s a great lens that’s sharp with a smooth, quiet focus. Next to the right of that is the Lensbaby – Composer. When I first got this lens I used it quite a bit for creatives as well as portraits. You defnitely need the patience as it is all manual focus but the results you can get from it are pretty awesome. I’ve seen several Lensbaby portfolios and there are some fantastic creative images. As I write this, I am unable to remember the last time I used this lens (a maternity shoot I think). Anyway, time to use it and I promise an upcoming blog post with an image shot with my Lensbaby. Next left to that is my favourite lens of late and that is the 35mm f2. First of all I love that frame of view. Secondly, it is quite small and light which is great for street and event photography. I do shoot this wide open and although it isn’t razor sharp it is sharp enough. I also love the contrast I get with this lens and although I can apply that in post, many images I like are straight out of the camera. Drawbacks are that the focus is a bit slow and a bit noisy. Next to that on the left is the 70-200mm 2.8G ED VRll. This lens is totally awesome! I use it at 2.8 all the time and the sharpness is superb. Not only that, the focusing is very accurate, fast and quiet. Just to give you an idea, last LG Fashion Week I shot about 150 to 170 images per designer on the runway and I would have on average 3 images out of focus. No sh*t!! Yes this had a bit to do with my technique but still 3 out of 150 that missed focus is quite amazing. I use this lens for the majority of my portrait and fashion work both in the studio and on location. I used to have a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 for several years but had numerous focus issues (even after calibrating) and I was unsatisfied with sharpness overall shooting wide open. So, I would rent the Nikon for important gigs (aren’t they all important?) and every time I rented this lens it bugged the hell out of me when I had to return it. Until early this year and now it seems to be the work horse lens in my bag.

To the right of the group of lenses are my pocket wizards not only for my SB800 but for the studio strobes. These inexpensive units are great. I haven’t bought the MiniTT1 or the FlexTT5 yet, but once I do I’ll kick myself for not getting them sooner, I’m sure. Currently my flash/strobes are manually controlled for output and thinking that the possibilities of controlling flashes/strobes through CLS/i-TTL with the MiniTT1 and the FlexTT5 would be awesome. I have rented additional SB800′s/SB900′s when needed as well as additional strobes (usually Elinchrom) when required.

Behind the camera bodies to the lower left corner of the image is a SC-29 flash cord (very handy) and a MC-30 remote trigger (hardly use).

Above that is my SB800 and SB600. I’ve had these two units forever and they pretty much cover my photographic needs. I definitely use my strobes more than my speedlights but lately I have been trying to use them not only more often but more creatively. Occasionally I will use the SB800 as a commader to have some creative lighting on the go when I’m travelling light without any strobes. Most of the time and for simple off camera flash I usually use it with my pocket wizard. Also I use my pocket wizard for the SB800 for additional lighting at a studio shoot or location shoot for added fill or accent lighting. It is also great for creative lighting where strobes usually cannot fit or where cables would be in the way and there have been a couple of times where this made a difference at a shoot.

Across the top of the image are miscellaneous items such as flash diffusers (yes I do use the Gary Fong LightSphere and I love the results), blower, Pelican flashlight, lens pen, rechargable batteries (temporarily using Apple generic brand which takes too long to charge), cables and a couple of ThinkTank compact flash card holders. I use a variety of 4GB Sandisk and Lexar CF cards. Until I replace my cameras with some that have a higher megapixel count, this is the capacity of a CF card that I like to use. Yes, I change cards often when shooting raw but I have this phobia that one day my CF card will all of a sudden be corrupt right after a shoot and if I had a 16 or 32GB card I would lose a crap load of images or go through a difficult time trying to retrieve them.

Now, a wish list. Actually, it’s not a wish list but a realistic shopping list that will most likely get fulfilled in the next 6 months or within a year. First on the list is a new camera body to replace the D300. It will be the new Nikon full frame D4 or D800 depending on how much money I have when they come out but defnitely one of those two. The D700 will be a fantastic back up and still may take a bulk of the work depending on the type of job. Next will be the Nikon 85mm 1.4. I wouldn’t even mind picking up the older version if they are still around. This is definitely the next lens and a must for my portraiture work. Lately I have been renting this lens when needed. Next would be the SB900. This is an added flash and not to replace my SB800 or SB600. It just makes sense to have another speedlight for not only studio accent lighting but for complete lighting on location where I need to travel light and need to set up quickly. Lastly would be the Nikon 24-70 2.8 to replace my Sigma. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a huge priority as I am using my primes more these days but still needed. That would be my shopping list for the next year. I may also pick up some studio gear but I’ll leave that for another blog.

Anyway, this was kind of an excercise in gear and tech talk but hopefully it was helpful to you and your thoughts on your current equipment. Please comment or feel free to discuss your gear and the reasons for your choices.

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