So hard deciding what to get myself for my birthday. But I finally nailed it. One day late. Surprise acquisition!!!

continuing the square nostalgia series with the GH5. (And below).  

Lately I've been looking, with some interest, at the Fuji line. Everyone talks it up; especially if they own some. Now, I'm not dissatisfied with the Panasonic and Olympus gear, far from it, my love affair with that system continues more or less unabated. More so after two more very successful (and counterintuitive) assignments. But my photographer brain (nerd brain) is always on the prowl for something that might give my work magic (read: external) powers.

I'd been looking at the Hasselblad X1D kit but it seems a bit pricey for a body with a smallish MF sensor, slow to glitchy AF and only three lenses. The "deal killer" for the kit is that the longest lens is only a 90mm which is more or less equivalent to focal length blah for portrait work. At least my portrait work. The case the system comes in looks nice but a quick glance around the office turns up more nice cases than I could fit in the back of a pick-up truck. I thought of lighting the match on nearly $15,000 but the current model looks like so much "Let's test the market! We'll fix all the horrible mistakes in the next model...." I decided not to become a beta tester again...

Since re-entering the holy order of small sensor shooters via the m4:3 system I have had my eye on the Olympus EM1.2. It seems like a really nice body. Good AF. Great I.S. A nice finder and decent video. But then I took a trip to the camera store and handled it. Until they get Panasonic to subcontract construction of a whole new menu system I'll have to pass. The menu is just too arduous for me to consider. I am, after all, only a humble photographer, not a computer programer/hacker. 

As my birthday burst into its full glory, and clients showered me with fantastic riches, the thought of picking up "just one Fuji camera and just one Fuji lens" started pulling at me; appealing to my most irrational impulses. I've had my eye on the Fuji X-Pro-2 for quite some time because I really love the way the body looks and, by all accounts, the 24 megapixel process they use is supposed to be beautiful and nearly flawless (unless you do raw conversions with Lightroom...). I ventured over to Amazon and put one in my cart, then I went back to reading all the reviews. "Nice handling." "Great images." "Best Pumpkin Spice bokeh!!!" The generally positive reviews, generated no doubt by people's urgent need to justify their purchase, had me nearly hooked. 

My research for Fuji's "perfect lens" just about set that hook. I found something called the XF 56mm f1.2 lens and I had to pause my search for a minute or so to mop up the drool. 

Could a system be a better fit for me? For my momentous, yet-to-come, seminal portrait work? I imagined the creamy bokeh and all the background stuff that would be rendered into a pleasurable visual abyss as I merrily blazed away with the lens wide open. This might be the next step. My monolith on the surface of the moon that would launch my own Odyssey into the unknown regions of photography. Photography as practiced by the idols of my youth. In seconds the lens was in my shopping cart. The justifications could come fast and furiously. I deserved it. No, I needed it. It would be mine. Oh yes, it would be mine...

But my newest resolution stepped in at a critical juncture of the process. It was my recently embraced personal promise to myself to sleep on any potential purchase --- at least overnight. No quick orders after short naps on the couch.

I closed down the machine of mercantile delight (iMac) and headed out to a big wedding at a ranch. We found the open bar and the fabulous barbecue, that should be required at all Texas weddings, and as we sank into the bliss of observed, potential matrimonial optimism for the new couple, in front of a blazing fire pit,  my thoughts shied away from the need to buy MORE CAMERAS AND LENSES NOW. For a few seconds it seemed like a very "Zen" state of mind. Or the influence of Champagne...

We had our first real cold snap last night. The winds whipped the trees around and a great push of weather; a frigid blast from the north, dropped our temperature down to 38 degrees. It was still 40 when I made my way to the spring-fed Deep Eddy Swimming Pool to get in my post birthday swim workout. I had on my down jacket and I assured myself that, since the water temperature should be the same as last time I swam there, I could handle the cold. Just in case I pulled on a second back-up swim suit ("jammer" style) over my first. A little more insulation against the perceived cold.

Belinda had given me a cold weather swim cap and some neoprene swim socks in an attempt at helping me ward off instant hypothermia. I wore them. After I changed into my swim gear I put my down jacket back on and headed down the long stairs to the pool area while being buffeted by the gusting winds.

On Thursday the water temperature had hovered around 72 or 73 degrees and even though the primal immersion had been jarring and uncomfortable on Thurs. I had warmed up quickly and gotten in a nice swim. By the end, that afternoon, I was warmed up and fairly comfortable. But that was then. This morning was different. 

When I got to the deck there was only one person swimming in the pool. It was a younger woman in a full, long sleeved, long legged neoprene wet suit. No one else was in sight. This was something of an irregularity for a Saturday morning. I asked the lifeguard sitting on the nearby stand why no one was swimming. She said she thought most people believed it was too cold. I asked if the water was the same temperature as a couple of days ago and she pointed to a thermometer, sunk in the water and tethered by a thick, white string. It was the same thermometer that told me the pool was 72+ on Thursday. 

I pulled the device up out of the water and glanced at the scale. And then I glanced again. It was reading somewhere between 67 and 68. 

Oh well, I thought, how much difference could 6 or so degrees make in the grand scheme of things? I took several deep breaths and jumped into one of the many empty lanes. The shock of the cold was almost painful. "Get moving!" I kept telling myself. "You'll warm up." 

I swam a hard, fast mile. I was almost afraid to stop. And across the 33.3 yard length of the lane the water varied in temperature. Parts were the same nasty chill I felt getting in but here and there were patches that were even a few degrees colder. By the end of the mile I was feeling the first effects of actual hypothermia. My muscles were tight and I was feeling just a bit shaky. I crawled out of the pool, tossed on my down jacket, and headed up to the open air changing area. I pulled off my swim cap and immediately put on the Polartec cap I'd brought along. I didn't have the courage to wait (a long time) for the hot water to arrive at the shower so just I dressed as quickly as I could and headed to my car to turn on the heater and make an emergency hard target search for the life sustaining miracle of coffee. 

It was in that very moment that I knew which way to go on my birthday purchase. I knew which gear would get my hard earned cash. Not the Hasselblad. Not the Fuji. Not even the newest Leica. 

I headed the car straight to Austin TriCyclist (a very good local shop for triathletes) and begged the owner to supply me with just the right wetsuit for winter swims. Something that would cover my torso and upper arms. Coddle my thighs. Keep my guts at the right operating temperatures. Now I have a wetsuit. All thoughts of new cameras vanishing in the cold depths of the swim. What good is any camera if you can't swim?

I can hardly wait to head back to Deep Eddy Pool tomorrow morning and show the callous and taunting  face of nature that I was not defeated. I'm there for the winter. And I'm ready!

But that X-Pro-2 still looks sexy, right? Like-a  modern day Leica.... And that 56mm. Ooooh. Ahh.


Craig said...

The wetsuit sounds like a good choice.

Personally, as a Fuji shooter, the 56mm f/1.2 doesn't interest me much. It's a big, heavy beast, and I rarely want to shoot any wider than f/2 anyway, so for me the smaller, lighter, much less expensive 50mm f/2 was a better choice. YMMV.

runbei said...

FWIW, I had hypothermia in a 100K race. Deep cold, shivering, on a 73-degree evening. Strange. Later, a friend who's a chemistry prof at U. Minn. and an ultra runner explained that it was brought on by my diet on the day - about 4 hours of unmitigated Coca-Cola. Apparently, caffeine somehow leaches electrolytes, leading to hypothermia. Unfortunately. Someone at the finish handed me a cup hot Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, and in 5 min. I was good to go. Since then, I've been able to "cure" night coldness (legs) by getting up and eating something salty.

Dano said...

Stay focused, I vote for the Olympus 45. On paper it sounds superior to the Fuji 56 which is now at lease 5 years behind the times. The 4:3 format is were the leading edge in technology is heading. In two years the technology will be even more advanced. The Olympus 45 is majic

Nate said...

Kirk, I take it you wouldn't like swimming in the Columbia River up here in the Northwest? :-)

I too have been eyeing the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and 56mm f1.2. But, the CFO said no; settled for the new Polaroid camera with a few packs of black and white film.

Anonymous said...

Resistance is futile.you deserve it. Buy only a body.the pen f 40 1.4 is smaller than native lenses even with an adapter.

Ken said...

I invested in the Fuji system just long enough for it to earn back it's purchase price. Could not believe how amazing the 56mm 1.2 is. The X-T1 body did not stir anything in me like I thought it would with it's retro controls. But the focusing is what really ruined the dream for me, enough so I will probably never dive into the Fuji pool again despite the incredible lenses they bring to the game. I hear the X-T2 and X-Pro2 are much better, and I hope they are, but it will be awhile before the effects of the nightmare wear off. Only feature I liked with the X-T1? The electronic shutter to 1/32000 second that let me shoot at 1.2 outside!

Don Parsons said...

I have the hots for Fuji also just so I can see what many people are talking about. I have an Oly Em5 and love the Panny 20mm (40mm-e) on it. The 42.5 is fantastically sharp.

I can't decide if I should get the X-100f or the x-pro2 with the 35 on it.

I know, I'm no help.

MO said...

ha ha ha nice Kirk. go for the medium format Fuji right away ;) but i understand you tought process. I dont have the same budget as you so went for 2x 1d III and and and brought back a 5d II to to complement my Panasonic setup. not as elegant as the fujies, but same thouhgt process and 375 dollors a body used for all 3.

cheers Mads

David said...

I can't say my abilities have surpassed the performance of the X-T2.
I used it the other night on silent shutter with the kit lens in an candlelit church at 1600 iso and pushed the raw files 3 stops in post. The images were lovely, but you have to know how to make the camera work for you. So it's made me a better photographer because I don't get so tired lugging around heavy gear, the image quality is fine and I have to really think all the time what I'm doing (those dials).
But Kirk, the cameras you already have seem to be be working for you. I can't see that Fuji will add much to the mix. Try coffee and chocolate instead.

Markus said...

My vote goes to the Panaleica Nocticron! Will be a perfect match for your GH5.

crsantin said...

Seems like you made the right choice. There is no magic in any camera. Maybe in a lens but the micro four thirds system seems to have some wonderful lenses to choose from. Buy yourself a nice lens and maybe take the money you saved and take a nice weekend trip with the wife. Life is too short to worry about anything else.

Peter said...

Your swim reminds me of when I was growing up in Scotland and used to swim in an open air pool (It's been gone for some time now) right next to the sea. The pool was filled directly from the North Sea. The most time I could take in the water was only a few minutes at a time – like everyone else. The pool staff would put the water temperature on a board and it usually read something like 67deg F (we were non-metric at the time).

Years later I met the person socially who was the pool superintendent from those days and I told him the water always seemed very cold for 67 degrees. He said that they measured the temperature each day, but he made up the number on the board saying, "If we put up the real temperature no one would have bought a ticket!"
Peter Wright.

Craig Yuill said...

Congratulations on showing self control. I think that is a product of your disciplined regimen of regularly going swimming. Admit it - you've got a small collection of fine cameras, including two GH5s, and a new 45mm f/1.2 on the way in the not-too-distant future. Why do you need another camera and lens? A decent physical fitness program will do you a whole lot more good. This was a great choice on your part.

George said...

Kirk, if I were you, I'd look for a Polar Bear club in Austin. I have no idea about winter water temperature in Texas or where to go, but they're everywhere. It's quite an experience and should be tried at least once in your lifetime (without a wetsuit). I tried it last year here at Coney Island beach in Brooklyn for New Year. Cold as hell, will never do it again, but glad I did it.
Stay away from the dark side known as Fuji.

Fred said...

Since the Fuji sensor is APS-C wouldn't the 56mm lens be a little shorter than you normally like for portraits? I think the wetsuit is the cooler :-) purchase right now.
It will be interesting to see how the wetsuit affects your stroke. You might be floating slightly higher in the water. Also, I have read that in open water swimming a wet suit is worth a few seconds per 100 meters. Does it have an affect on flip turns? In any event, I hope that the pool works out for you for the winter. The pictures make it look interesting.

scott kirkpatrick said...

If the X-Pro2 is whispering softly to you, (Leica M with autofocus and live view where you can easily see it!!) you should at least rent one for a week or two and try it out. I have one with the very small 35/2.0 and a non-blocking lens shade, which for me is a perfect fit. But I wouldn't think any of the 1.4 or 1.2 Fuji lenses belong on the X-Pro2. They are much bigger, a bit sharper in the corners (optically corrected while the f/2.0s use some postprocessing to remove distortion) and hard to see past. There are also a 50/2.0 and 90/2.0 in that series. Very fast AF and small diameter.

seany said...

Resistance is futile Kirk, gas always wins it's only a matter of time before you'll be the proud owner of a Fuji camera and lens which will inevitably lead to being the possessor of two Fuji cameras and lenses.

Fred said...

And I also like the photo at the top of the post. Sensor manufacturers should make square sensors.

Ash said...

Hey Kirk, you really should give Fuji a try.

D Lobato said...

Bravo. Hurricane Harvey caused me move to Baltimore from Houston. A new camera and/or lens would sooth my anxiety. But that can wait. I’m prodded look for gear for bikes rides in cold weather. I had a good system for hot weather bike rides that enabled hard workouts in 90+ degree humid weather. It’s getting chilly here at my new home and I need some good workouts for my 62 year old body.

Eric Rose said...

I was out at the farm today and took the Panasonic G85 equipt with 14-42 G Vario. You inspired me to go square and monochrome. I am naturally square guy as I prefer a square format over the rectangle. The images looked really interesting on the back screen when I reviewed them. Off to PS tonight to see what I have.

Stan Yoshinobu said...

I vote for Oly 45 Pro, and for now rent/buy used the PL 42.5 f1.2 lens to scratch the itch.

Rufus said...

Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S
Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S Fuji GFX50S

Repeat like a mantra.

It will cost a fortune. But it is much better at all the things the Hasselblad X1D is bad at - things like AF and handling. And the lens choice is wide. They even have adaptors so you can put old MF lenses on it.

I know you don't NEED all that resolution. But sometimes you have to use the big guns. I have not encountered anyone who has gotten this Fuji and expressed buyers remorse. Everyone seems to love it.

Heck - why don't you just borrow one and let us know what you think? Would love to read your thoughts on it.

Dave Jenkins said...

You do a lot of business with Precision Camera. Why don't you arrange to borrow an X-Pro 2 and one of the 35mm (50mm equivalent) lenses for a week. I know the 56mm tempts you, but I don't think you would be happy with the X-Pro as a portrait camera, nor would it be suitable as a working camera for the assignments you usually do. But as a walking-around/street camera, I think you would love it. As much business as you give Precision, they ought to give you a week's loan at no charge.

Anonymous said...

In complete contrast I'd suggest you don't bother with the fuji (you could have a go at renting the MF one if you're curious...).

I was burned with an unreliable Fuji camera a while back and now wouldn't touch them with a bargepole.

A friend uses an Xpro2 professionally to good effect. I've had a mess around with it and would say that it's quirky (not in a good way) and from discussions with him needs a lot of post processing work to get the best out of it. (my olympus gives me stuff that at most only needs the odd tweak).

Undoubtedly people love their fuji cameras, yet there is always a 'but' with them.


Will said...

The 56 is a jewel. Just sayin'. :)

Dave Jenkins said...

Just try it. If you don’t like it, give it back to them.