The return to X-Trans – the Fuji XT-1 mirrorless camera in 2018!

Its been awhile, since the venerable XT-20 with its lovely Fujifilm Xtrans -iii sensor left me in 2017. Ever since moving some equipment around, I kept coming back to the files I’d shot with it, and just loved the color and style. The big issue for my workflow was the size of the files, along with the processing required to really manipulate those 40MB raw files in a somewhat fast way. Thus, I sent the XT-20 to a new home and concentrated on making photos with my venerable (although old – 2009) Canon 1D Mark IV.

 Snapshot in the park - with the Minolta Rokkor 135mm F3.5

Snapshot in the park - with the Minolta Rokkor 135mm F3.5

Enter the new year, and a whole new array (no pun intended) of Fujifilm quality mirrorless cameras & lenses. Shooting more film, especially with the Mamiya C220 TLR made me think again of the lure of Fuji’s line of cameras. After really enjoying some of the shots of Kylie Kohl on Fujifilm Pro 400H film, I began to nurse a strong desire to return to all things Fujifilm. But there was still the issue of storage and processing – what to do? Well, I took the plunge, and after realizing that 16 megapixels was more than enough for me and picked up a ridiculously cheap bargain grade XT-1 former flagship camera, and the 18-55 F2.8 – 4 OS lens.

 Another street portrait with the Fujifilm XT-1 and Minolota Rokkor 135 F3.5

Another street portrait with the Fujifilm XT-1 and Minolota Rokkor 135 F3.5

I’ll be writing up full reports on both, but out of the box it is a massive upgrade to the build quality of my lowly XT-20. I do so love the solid metal body, but especially the gigantic viewfinder. I thought I had it made with the XT-20, but after shooting some simple low light ISO 800 – 1600 images in my house over the last few days, and then slapping the Minolta 135 F3.5 manual Rokkor lens (via adapter) and snapping some street shots near the downtown Chicago & Millennium Park area – I can confidently say it’s a real winner.

More to follow – but I’ll include some snapshots from the last week, and perhaps I’ll be heading to a few shows this weekend, where the Fuji XT-1 can get a real low light snapshot workout. Enjoy!

 Another portrait snap with the XT-1 and 135 F3.5 Minolta Rokkor lens.

Another portrait snap with the XT-1 and 135 F3.5 Minolta Rokkor lens.

 Finally a few blue bikes with the FujiFilm XT-1 and 18-55 F2.8-4 OS   

Finally a few blue bikes with the FujiFilm XT-1 and 18-55 F2.8-4 OS

 

Mamiya C220 review: exceptional results from a small package

Mamiya C220 Camera 2.jpg

I was yearning for something with more resolution than the 645 format, and the 6x9 cm film format was overkill. What to do? See the world through a square lens, and go 6x6! Now there are many options available in the 6x6cm film format, including the venerable Hasselblad, Bronica SQ series, and many others, however what about something with more portability? Enter the previously untried (by me) TLR.

Now it’s interesting I think, that in all my forays into film, TLR’s have never really been on my radar. I’ve used modular cameras, including the Bronica series, the RB and RZ series, and always thought of the oddball Fujifilm GX680 studio camera as something fun, but never dipped my toe in the waters of the TLR.

I must say I started with a real desire for portability, and being able to document things happening around me, i.e. on the street and at events, so this was the first reason I looked towards having two lenses. Needless to say there are many options, and a dizzying array of brands such as Yashica, Rollei, Mamiya, and Kiowa (I’m sure there are more). However, I couldn’t quite give up my desire to change lenses out from the standard 75 or 80mm fixed lens (approximately 50mm in 35mm talk). As I have a real soft spot for the 35mm focal length, in you guessed it 35mm format, I found the Mamiya C series to be a unique camera type to look at. Initially the C330 seemed like a real contender, however after handling both the 330 I settled on the C220 for its lower size and weight (a bit anyway).

Lenses for the C series Mamiya bodies are very reasonable compared with serious costing glass like Hasselblad for example, with an 80mm 2.8 and 65mm 3.5 costing roughly the same at about $200.00 or so at a reputable site like KEH.  The more recent blue dot versions of these optics are quite well established, and more modern than say the fixed mechanism of a Rolleiflex or similar. In addition, I had heard reports that the viewfinder of the C series was brighter than that of some more historic brands, so I was definitely looking more at these due to my issues wearing glasses and needing to shoot in less than daylight conditions.

So after looking for a good kit setup, I settled on a Mamiya C220, with 65mm 3.5 lens, and waited for it to arrive via UPS. The kit arrived, and was lovingly packed in bubble wrap, and the first thing I noticed was the like new copy of the lens portion I had received. If this has been used before it was lovingly tended indeed, with not a bit of dust or grime anywhere on it.

Smilingly I connected the lens to the body, turned the dial to LOCK, and wondered when I could get some film run through it to see what the results were (and if there were any light leaks on the seals). I was not going to have to wait long however, as the local comic convention was in town, so I bought a few more rolls of Kodak’s magical Portra 400 film, and proceeded to shoot all over the convention hall with available light (pushing that film at least 1 to 2 stops). The verdict – an amazing performer, who my only complaint has been – that I wish I had figured out how best to use the viewfinder magnifier to my advantage (I wasn’t holding it quite close enough to my eye to be useful).

Mamiya C220 Camera 3.jpg

All in all – a great and well-functioning camera, that produces stunningly detailed images that come in at about 4000x40000 pixels wide using my standard desktop scanning system. Now the routine takes some getting used to, as the C220 does not have the auto cocking shutter mechanism, and thus you must wind and arm the camera before taking the shot. This however becomes second nature after just a little work, so I encourage anyone looking at the C330 series to consider the C220 if you want something handy and light that you can take off the tripod now and then. Thankfully I wasn’t using a telephoto lens, or doing any real macro work, so no need to coordinate the scales on the side of the bellows focusing system (yes they are actually bellows!) but I look forward to trying my hand at some macro work when I get a chance.

A great thanks to CSW (Link) for their amazing film developing services, they are one of the last full time developers in the Chicago area, and still do same day C-41 color processing if you need it, with an additional day or two for E-6 slides depending on volume. An amazing crew, and I can’t recommend them enough.

Enjoy the sample galleries below – these are all taken on Kodak Portra 400 pushed to 800, or 1600 in development, yet they hold amazing levels of detail (perhaps due to Kodak’s Vision 3 technology?).

The IPad Pro 2017 review: Can it be a laptop replacement for photographers?

The IPad Pro 9.5” 2017 model - the lightest, and easiset tablet computer in the apple & iOS ecosystem (or so it would appear)

    The IPad Pro, with Smart Keyboard & pencil - amazing for drawing & selective edits - but can it really replace a laptop at this stage in the game?  I have to say I really like the new iPad Pro - it has a way of being small & light, yet extremely powerful. The advances since the original large size iPad or iPad Air are noticeable, however there are some interesting quirks that I see already in my everyday use, which still bug me as a photographer.    First off the file system. We have come a long way since the original closed file system, but even with a third party app like “docmuents 5” to accurately navigate the internals of the iPad, along with its online folders, there is no access to the SD Card reader - which makes things rather clunky after a shoot.   In fact this is a real issue for me, as the SD card reader itself can only identify files with the digital camera naming convention, i.e. the 8 character and image or movie type. This means the idea of simply using the SD card reader to copy over items is not going to work, unless you rename the items in question, and even then you must copy them to the camera roll via import and THEN copy them out using a third party file management app. This seems clunky to me, even though I love the speed at which the programs operate, it keeps me from recommending this iteration as an all in one solution for event photographers, or anyone with large volumes of work to cull & edit, since there still are a few things to be worked out. 

 

The IPad Pro, with Smart Keyboard & pencil - amazing for drawing & selective edits - but can it really replace a laptop at this stage in the game?

I have to say I really like the new iPad Pro - it has a way of being small & light, yet extremely powerful. The advances since the original large size iPad or iPad Air are noticeable, however there are some interesting quirks that I see already in my everyday use, which still bug me as a photographer.  

First off the file system. We have come a long way since the original closed file system, but even with a third party app like “docmuents 5” to accurately navigate the internals of the iPad, along with its online folders, there is no access to the SD Card reader - which makes things rather clunky after a shoot. 

In fact this is a real issue for me, as the SD card reader itself can only identify files with the digital camera naming convention, i.e. the 8 character and image or movie type. This means the idea of simply using the SD card reader to copy over items is not going to work, unless you rename the items in question, and even then you must copy them to the camera roll via import and THEN copy them out using a third party file management app. This seems clunky to me, even though I love the speed at which the programs operate, it keeps me from recommending this iteration as an all in one solution for event photographers, or anyone with large volumes of work to cull & edit, since there still are a few things to be worked out. 

 

 

IMG_0057.JPG

I cant say enough about the hardware however, the keys are easy to type on, the system uses word & excel & outlook superbly ,and the Apple Pencil works wonders when drawing & doing selective pointing tasks.

So - bottom line a short time in : the iPad Pro is a great tablet device, however it will not be replacing my actual laptop or computer for full on photography work until we can find a more streamlined file system setup.  

Recommendation - buy one if you want a portable powerhouse editor, however know some simple things, such as even squarspace which I’m typing this blog posting on (well the mobile app anyway) isn’t optimized yet for the IOS browsing ecosystem, so not eveything will work quite right. If you need a laptop or full computer, buy one of these first. Then if you find yourself wanting somethig for lighter editing or day to day office work - consider the iPad Pro strongly, even over the MacBook entry level - as the price difference for the base model IS significant.  

All the best, and I’ll update more when I have more thoughts to share.