11.18.2018

Here's some more shots with the Kamlan 50mm f1.1 and one from the Fuji 50mm f2.0. Testing, testing.

Kamlan in the studio. f2.8

Fuji XF 50mm f2.0.

Kamlan.

Kamlan. Love the choice of manual focus indicator options in the X-E3.

Kamlan.

Kamlan. Not altogether sharp but loving the background...

Kamlan.

Kamlan. 

Kamlan+X-E3 at f4.0. Acros setting.

Long week. Much work. Much family time with Dad. Not enough sleep (blame Studio Dog).


I was down in San Antonio a week ago visiting my Dad in his memory care facility before heading off on my various jobs. I made it back in time late Wednesday to go down again on Thursday, with Belinda, to celebrate Thanksgiving with him a week early (the facility pulls out all the stops and does a nice family lunch with turkey, all the trimmings, four different kinds of pie and wine for family members (and those for whom it is not contraindicated...). The facility is in the middle of our old neighborhood and is incredibly good. I was back there today for lunch with the old man. I also had him sign holiday cards to send to my brother, sister and their kids. It's a three hour drive, roundtrip, and the actual drive can be a bit off-putting after a week of endless travel, but a guy is only 90+ years old once in his life and I don't want to miss even a week of it. I'm thankful for two things: One is that my dad can afford the best care available and, two, there is not a week that goes by where I would feel that he and I didn't part on a high note... We're both hanging in there for now and he's seems content.

I regaled you earlier with my crazy work schedule and the (short term) loss of my phone last week so I'm not going to re-hash that but I am going to quickly discuss why I'm in advanced flirtation with the Fuji system at the moment.

With all the advancements for video in the X-T3 they finally crested the hump into total hybrid usability. The video rivals the GH5 and almost pulls even with the GH5S but it does so with a different visual personality. You can have analytic or romantic based on the system you choose to use. I have yet to do more than shoot some cursory comparison footage (antiquated terminology..."footage") and quickly compare in Final Cut Pro but each has its strengths. I find the GH5S footage to be more accurate and the camera to be better set up for video (menus, buttons, peripherals, connection points) but I do like the softer flesh tones and perhaps more tonally nuanced files of the Fuji.

But the reason I bought the first Fuji camera a few weeks ago was to see if there would be much improvement over the m4:3 cameras in photographic portraits. There is a longer tonal range in the X-T3 which also translates to a bit more dynamic range. Plus, I like the colors better than the files from the D800e or the G9. The G9 is a close contender but the X-T3 is just better. I'm not seeing a huge difference in overall sharpness or total resolution but I chalked that up to a difference in the quality of the lenses I'm using between the two systems. The 40-150mm f2.8 Olympus Pro, even when used wide open, is tough to beat. While the Fuji 55-200mm f3.5-4.8 is a decent lens (actually a good performer, one stop down) the Olympus is exemplary and goes a long way, where resolution and sharpness are concerned, toward ameliorating the differences between formats. The APS-C format will have a different de-focus ramping and there's nothing that really changes that vis-a-vis lenses.

No, where I really wanted to test was in the realm of portraiture and so far I'm finding much that Fuji fans say to be true. The Jpeg files are very, very nice and the raw files are very malleable. There's just a bit more safety margin for shooting error in the bigger format. With the latest update to Lightroom (8.0) I don't see any quality difference between Nikon, Panasonic and Fuji file processing...

The fun camera for me though is the E-X3. I warmed up to it quickly. With the little 50mm f2.0 on the front it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite older film cameras, the Leica CL. The Leica CL was kitted for a while with two lenses. One was a 40mm f2.0 Summicron which was one of the best lenses I ever shot in the Leica system (and I shot a lot of different lenses!), and the little 90mm f4.0 was plenty good as well. The size, shape and output of the XF 50mm f2.0 reminds me of those lenses and the very early results I've gotten with the lens have me considering the 23mm and 35mm versions as well. I just wish there was also a 60 or 70mm f2.0 in the same style because I'd order that one so fast it would be here before I finished the transaction.

The E-X3 uses the same sensor and processor that Fuji had in the X-T2 and according to all sources it's pretty darn good. It comes in a 24 megapixel resolution and eschews the AA filter so it's plenty detailed but also presents Jpegs with the pleasing palette of the other cameras in the system. The camera is small, exceptionally light and not much of a burden to carry pretty much everywhere. (The nemesis of all the Fuji's appears to be the tiny batteries and limited charge endurance..).

It's also a good fit with the 18-55mm lens, which I also like a lot.

But here's the bottom line at the VSL headquarters: There's no real brand loyalty left here. I can find something compelling about nearly every system out there in the wild. Now that I no longer have to pay for the kid's college (and he is happily and well employed) I have a new game plan for gear --- buy whatever I want.

My plan right now is to use the Panasonics for video, the Fujis for portraits and ad/commercial work and then add in a Fuji medium format camera and portrait lens as the premium spread. I can't see much advantage to the older, mirror-driven, full frame cameras so they are all headed for the trade-in department at my local camera store. Part of my relentless downsizing; which happens in fits and starts.

Yeah, I guess I'm having a hard time being "just" a two system guy but I feel well enough established in my industry to use whatever I like. My clients never suggest systems, formats or other parameters, they do ask me to do my "style."

I'm no longer worried about what something may cost because I'm comfortable with the almost certain knowledge that I'll be able to pay for whatever I buy with projects for clients using that same gear. I no longer feel financially responsible for anyone else and my financial advisors tell me I've planned well and invested well (never in my own industry!!!).

If you want to stick a toe in the Fuji world my friends who've been shooting it for a while suggest either the X-E3 or the XT-20 as starter cameras. Toss in an 18-55mm and you've got a nice upgrade from point and shoot cameras and access to the same sensor and color "science" (I'd say it's more of an art...) as the bigger and more expensive cameras from Fuji.

Knowing my buying patterns as soon as I get comfortable with the Fuji system I'll be snapping up various lenses that most people agree are exceptional. I have my eyes on the 60mm macro next but I'm taking suggestions from the cognoscenti.  Weigh in. Have a great Sunday. I'm off to photograph a dress rehearsal. Now, which cameras should I take???


I forgot to include my favorite Kamlan lens shot in the last post. Here is the 50mm f1.1 at f2.8.



Ahhh. The Fuji E-X3 and the woefully "unappreciated" Kamlan 50mm f1.1.....

Kamlan 50mm 1.1

As you are probably aware I am a working commercial photographer and am somewhat old school in some of my business philosophies. One that I can't (or won't) shake is the belief that every pro on assignment should carry back up equipment, in case of gear failure. Since most people are using multiple zoom lenses these days there is generally enough overlap to cover one in a focal length emergency. But, when a camera bits the dust, there's not much you can do with a bag of nice lenses. While I've rarely had a digital camera fail on its own I have had an accident or two which rendered a camera inoperative. And I firmly believe that the photo gods would quickly punish my hubris were I to attempt heading out for even the simplest job without a back up camera in the mix.

That's why I have two Panasonic G9s, two GH5s, and now two Fuji cameras. The Fujis are not identical models but they are still in a probationary period as I fully assess the one competitive system I've passed by for well over a decade. 

I've had good results from the projects on which I've shot the X-T3 and associated Fuji lenses. So much so that I decided I'd bring them along exclusively when I hit the road again to continue photographing for the infrastructure company in various state-s outside Texas. As much as I'm liking the X-T3 I'm not ready to bend my hard and fast rules about back up cameras so I headed to my local bricks and mortar camera store to grab a camera that would provide a reasonably good back up. After a bit of research and the prodding of a sale in progress I settled on the compact, rangefinder styled E-X3. And since there was/is a sale in progress I also picked up the well reviewed 50mm f2.0 XF lens to add some additional depth of field control to my portrait lens options. I love the look and feel of the 50mm and I'm coming to grips with the smaller camera. It trades off some handling speed an dedicated buttons for more things controlled by touch screen but so far it's logical and quick.

I'll have more to say about the X-E3 once I've had a chance to use it extensively. Sorry, no shallow "hands on preview," "first impressions review." "unpacking video" or any other video or blog in which I go through the buttons one by one and tell you what I think they might do.... You can go elsewhere for that. I paid with a check for the camera and lens so I don't think you can really call them "review copies." By way of a disclaimer: I'm nobody to Fuji, have never approached them about doing a review or borrowing their gear, and no one is paying me to write this. Finally, there's not even a link here to refer you to a gear seller who will send me a commission for my referral. So there!

At any rate, as I was gathering up my packages and getting ready to head home for the ritual battery charging ceremony where we burn sage and try to scare away the demons of lithium battery failure, I stopped by the used Fuji equipment case to see what might be in there with my name on it. I was immediately drawn to a very zany lens. It's a Chinese made 50mm f1.1 lens made for cropped frame cameras. It's available from multiple suppliers online and the one I bought is marketed with the name, Kamlan. It's all metal and glass and nicely dense and compact. I added it to my planned purchases and thought I'd test it on the same two days on which I planned to walk around shooting and getting used to the X-E3. 

I'm now able to make good photos with the camera and I spent an hour or so over the last two days walking through Austin and making photos. alternately, with each lens. Here's a group of samples from the Kamlan. Most were shot wide open or, at most, one stop down.  Click on them to make them bigger. 

Kamlan. 

Kamlan.

Kamlan.
Kamlan.
Kamlan.
Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.

Kamlan.