Agua Stormproof Sling

Camera bags have come a long way, what started off a just a simple means of carrying your camera, lenses and basic accessories have now become an extended part of our photography kit. If you’ve invested in expensive cameras, lenses or even filters you’ll want to make sure that they remain safe and secure while out and about, more so while you’re travelling around. There are so many different types and brands of bags out there for you to choose from and what you’ll end up buying is purely on a personal basis, whether it be a messenger bag, sling or backpack, there’s a bag for everyone.

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First Impressions: Laowa 9mmF2.8

If you’re like me and have been living under a rock for the past few years then you’re probably wondering who on earth is Laowa and are they worth the time? Laowa (Venus Optics) has been around since 2013 already have a few lenses in their lineup. One of their newest lenses is the 9mmF2.8, I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a pre-production unit to play with (I got the Fujifilm Mount). I want to thank my contact at Laowa Australia for the opportunity.

As with all pre-production units, things may change in the final production iteration. So let’s begin…

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Battle of the Sharpies (XF80mm vs XF90mm)

 

Wow, it’s been more than a year since my last blog post and boy has a lot happened since, during that time, I became a dad, Donald Trump became the most hated person in the world (overtaking Kim Jong-Un) and Fujifilm released a number of goodies such as their medium format GFXs and the long-awaited XF80mmf2.8 Macro lens. So for my first post for 2018, I going to talk about the XF80mm, prior to its release there was much hype and was probably one of the most anticipated lenses to hit the rumour mill, however, after release, it was met with mixed reviews. One particular article had me intrigued claiming that it was too sharp for portraiture. This got me thinking, is it really that sharp to the point that it will become it’s Achilles heel?

Most of the lens comparison reviews out there all talk about sharpness and how certain lenses are better than others in terms of producing tack sharp images, so how is having a sharp lens now become a bad thing? Some may argue the point that it may show flaws in the subject’s skin and that it’ll add unnecessary steps in the workflow during post process as they tone down the sharpness. But then others argue that it’s better to have the extra detail there to work with, you can always tone it down but can never restore sharpness to a blurry image. Regardless, I reached out to my contacts at my local camera store (digiDIRECT – Melbourne) who have been amazing over the years, if you’re a Melbourne local, definitely hit them up, anyway, they hooked me up with the XF80mm and so my quest begins.

I’m not going to go over the build quality or the design, everything on the Fujifilm line up has been of top-notch quality, no different here. It actually looks similar to the XF90mm but slightly longer and has a bit of weight behind it, which is expected with the addition of the OIS. While handling the lens you will notice some movement internally, I wouldn’t stress too much.

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Performance and Image Quality

The XF80mm is a macro lens through and through and as the only 1:1 ratio macro lens, this will replace the XF60mm for those serious about their macro photography. The images this lens produces are stunning, producing crisp clean images and are some of the best I’ve seen. It can be tricky trying to nail the focus at times especially as you inch closer to your subject be it a flower or insect, you’ll most likely find yourself shooting around F8 when you’re up close, even then, the DoF is still quite shallow so a steady hand (preferably a tripod) is required. If you’re expecting to shoot those honeycomb eyes from your insects, just note that you’ll need more than just this lens to achieve that, a sturdy tripod, macro slider and extension tubes are a must for those types of shots.

During my trip to Fiji I dedicated one morning walking around the island looking for some close-up flower shots, in one instance I stumbled across a leaf spider wondering from leaf to leaf. It was quite a challenge trying to track the critters sporadic movements, eventually, I found a way to pause his movements with a simple tap on the branch he was on stopping him in his tracks for a few seconds enough for me to take my shots. An effective technique is to set the focus to its closest focal distance, switch it to manual, set it to Continuous High (CH) and rock back and forth then spray and pray and hope that one of them is in focus. Using this method, I managed to capture one shot of the leaf spider about half a meter away with it looking directly into the lens.

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XF80mm @ f8 | ISO 1600 | 1/120s
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XF80mm – Cropped

A review of a macro lens is not complete without images of flowers, here are some sample shots were taken from Fiji.

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XF80 vs XF90

My main goal in this quest is to really pit the XF80mm against the XF90mm, Macro aside, I wanted to really see whether the 80mm could double as a portrait lens, after all the hype around its sharpness, it made sense to compare it with the 90mm. This comparison isn’t done in a lab nor was it intended to, essentially I wanted to see how these two compared to general everyday use. So what better way to do this than to have someone dress up with scary facepaint on a warm Sunday morning ūüôā

Just to reiterate, there is nothing scientific in our tests, besides setting up some strobes and softbox with remote triggers but that’s it. We shot some portraits and some close-up macros with the two lenses, both were pretty much on-par with each other in terms of image quality, without changing any camera settings, the 90mm has a slight advantage with it’s f2.0, you can see in the image below that the 90mm is more brighter. When it comes to close up shots, the 90mm can surprisingly get quite close to its subject, you see in the sample images below of the close-up shots, that both produce sharp images, if you look closely you can see the contact lenses on the eye.

 

In terms of focusing, there are three settings on the XF80mm, FULL|0.2m – 0.5m|0.5m – infinity, when set to FULL the AF is at it’s slowest as it hunts the full range, things improve once switched to 0.5 – infinity. AF continuous tracking was also impressive, before today, the XF90mm considered the fastest prime in terms of AF speed. During testing, it’s difficult to really notice much of a difference when out on the field, but I would say the XF80mm was marginally quicker than the XF90mm but nothing to really lose sleep over.

The XF80mm is more than capable of shooting portraits but will this replace the XF90mm as a dedicated portrait lens? I highly doubt it, one main reason for this is it’s price, with a premium price of RRP $1,750AUD~ compared to the XF90mm which you can buy for approx. $950AUD after Fujifilm cashback deals ($750 pre-owned), that’s almost half the price of the 80mm.

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Verdict?

The XF80mm is an amazing lens, it can double as both a dedicated macro lens as well as a portrait shooter. The OIS is extremely handy in both macro and portrait shoots, during my testing while shooting with the 90mm, I had more keepers using the 80mm compared to the 90mm (when pushed to the limits). If you’re a macro shooter first and dabble in a bit of portraiture, then I would recommend this lens. However, if you’re planning to get this purely as a portrait lens because of all those articles claiming to be the sharpest lens out there, then I would probably tell you to save you money and get the 60mm and 90mm instead, you’ll even have leftover cash to buy filters etc.

I can’t really fault this lens, if I’m to nitpick, then I would say the weight, size and price would be its drawbacks.

In terms of the XF80mm being too sharp for portrait, I’m still not sure what to make of this and personally feel it’s more of a click-bait than anything. If you’re on the fence about it and have deep pockets, I say go for it, you’re not going to be disappointed, the alternative option is to go with the 60mm + 90mm combo, whichever you decide you’re going to get some great images regardless.

 

First Impression: Fujifilm X-T2

With the internet is still abuzz with the announcement of Fujifilm’s latest flagship mirrorless camera, the X-T2, I was invited to an exclusive launch event hosted by Fujifilm Australia and was provided with the opportunity to trial the new X-T2. It’s not every day that an average “Joe” like myself get invited so such an event so I just wanted to use this opportunity to thank the guys over at Fujifilm Australia for organising the event. Some of the images and videos are shown here were taken straight from the X-T2.

For those new to my blog you’ll find my reviews are more focused on real-world examples and use case scenarios that an average person would normally use in a real environment, you won’t find any colour charts, pixel peeping or side-by-side comparisons with other camera manufacturers here. So here are my first ¬†impressions of the X-T2.

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A Practical Review of the XF35mmF2

I’ve recently been selected¬†to review loan equipment by Fujifilm Australia, the first of those was the acclaimed XF35mmF2.¬†When Fujifilm announced the XF35mmF2 it was well received throughout the Fuji community but I believe that’s largely due to the reputation of the original XF35mmF1.4 which was and still is an amazing lens. Although they both share the same focal length they are different in almost every respect, having used the lens for almost a good solid month I will share my experiences with using this lens. As with all my other reviews, there’s no charts or pixel peeping here, I’m only concerned about real world performance and user experience.

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A Practical Review of the XF16-55mm F2.8

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With an equivalent focal length of 24-84mm on a full frame and a constant aperture of f2.8 the XF16-55mm falls in the same category as other 24-70mm lenses including the prestigious Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens which many consider as the pinnacle of this focal range and is also seen as the benchmark for others to follow. Can Fujifilm’s XF16-55mm keep up with the heavyweights?

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A Practical Review of the Fuji XF27mm F2.8

DSCF6973-2Let’s face it, a pancake lens is not something you would normally go out and buy as your first lens however if I could turn back time the XF27mm F2.8 would have been one of the first lenses I’ll add to my kit. This won’t be your typical lens review with charts and numbers instead I’ll discuss the lens in practical everyday use, the Pros, and Cons along with sample photos.

Introduction

The 27mm falls in the same family as other pancakes such Canon’s 24mm & 40mm, Olympus 17mm and the Nikkor 10mm just to name a few. In the past pancake lenses haven’t been known for their image quality and are rather slow with apertures usually set between F2 and F2.8, they are like an acquired taste, you either like them or you hate them. Those that do like them do so for their size and portability so naturally when Fujifilm’s 27mm was released there wasn’t much love for this lens.

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First Impression: X-Pro2

Disclaimer: This is not a review, in fact, it probably shouldn’t even be called First Impression granted that I’ve only had it for approx 20 mins of solid use. So if you’re expecting¬†fancy charts and mathematical equations¬†please stop reading.

Background

Fujifilm Camera Australia and DigiDIRECT held a workshop that showcased the highly anticipated X-Pro2 and X70. The people at Fujifilm Camera Australia were also kind enough to share the full range of XF lenses to try from the 10-24mm through to the 100-400mm. Unfortunately as there was only 1 unit of the X-Pro2 we had to share it around so most of us only had a good 20 mins or less of solid use, so this is purely my impression of the camera after 20 mins.

First Impressions

While holding the unit my first thoughts were its size, it felt big in my hands compared to the more familiar X-T1. Unfortunately without having used the X-Pro1 I cannot compare their sizes, it feels bulky and solid like a  miniature tank. Personally, I prefer the DSLR-like style and design (hence the X-T1 is my preferred camera) just a personal preference.

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X-Pro2 – Shot with 56mm f1.2

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First Impressions: Lightroom for Android

After hearing the announcement that Adobe has made their Lightroom app on Android free, I decided to give it a go. Mind you I have other apps which I use to edit my photos such as Snapseed, VSCO and Pixlr each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Interface

The Lightroom app has a nice clean interface, those who are new to lightroom will appreciate this. One thing to note however is that it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that the desktop version does (such as healing or cloning tools). However it’s easy enough to pick up and work out the settings and editing tools, unlike Snapseed, which is probably the least used editing app my phone right now purely due to the complex menus and settings. In Lightroom the tools are broken into 3 main menus:

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