Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fujifilm GFX 50S

I’ve gotten questions regarding my thoughts concerning the GFX and my Phase One IQ1-100 and while I’ve answered them as they came in I thought I’d do it here as well.

I really like the GFX however nothing beats 100-megapixels the Phase One IQ1-100 produces.  Am I going away from Phase One? The very short answer is no, then reread the previous sentence.  Granted, the more I use the GFX the more I like it however I don’t see it as a replacement; it is more of an additional tool.  Folks who use the Phase One XF with any digital back will readily admit to having a very heavy package.  Add a lens and you can quickly exceed 8 pounds.  Not so bad if you’re shooting off a tripod however there are times you need to have the XF around your neck.  Enter the Fuji GFX 50S which weighs considerably less.
Sunrise in Monument Valley
GF32-64 @64mm f/5.6 1/125 ISO 250
I’ve only had the GFX 50S since March 30th and hadn’t had the time to devote to using and learning the camera.  April brought us into the Monument Valley area for our annual anti-workshop workshop with Ken Doo Photography, Capture Integration, and Phase One.  While I had my complete Phase One kit I also had the GFX50S which was the camera I chose to shoot behind the scenes photos saving the Phase XF for more serious late on.  
Sand Dunes
GF32-64 33mm f/6.4 1/160 ISO 250
Monument Valley Overlook
GF32-64 @32mm f/16 1/125 ISO 400
I kept the 32-64 lens almost on the entire time wanting to have a lens offering a range of focal lengths.  I managed to sneak in a couple shots along the way showing the beauty of the area.  Thanks to Capture Integration, I was also able to give the Cambo CA-GFX a test run along with a Canon 17mm TS lens.
Cambo CA-GFX (cropped)
Canon 17mm TS
f/8 1/1000 ISO 200
Cambo CA-GFX 
Canon 17mm TS
f/8 1/1600 ISO 200
What I’ve learned so far:
Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record; the more I use the GFX the more I like it.  I currently have three-lenses; 32-64, 64, and the 120 and have gotten a lot of use from all of them.  I’ve recently placed an order for the new 23mm lens.  
Cambo CA-GFX 
Canon 17mm TS
f/8 1/3200 ISO 200
The camera is very easy to use off tripod.  The viewfinder is bright and clear as is the rear LCD. I like the easy access to the ISO as well as shutter speeds and I’m currently have it set in such a way as to use the front wheel to quickly change the shutter speed and the rear wheel the f/stop.  I carried the camera around my neck for several hours without any strain.
What I don’t like is the stupid way the neck strap is connected to the body.  I’ve now gone through two-straps and each one suffer the same fate of twisting into a knot.  Once twisted you’ll need to spend a couple of minutes untwisting one end or the other until you have a usable neck strap.  While on the issue of the strap connector, they get in the way when changing the battery and when accessing the card slots.  The access problems are minor compared to the twisting of the strap.  Fuji, if you’re listening change the strap design.
Fence line
Near Shiprock Arizona
GF32-64 @ 32mm f/8 1/400 ISO 100
Wolf Annex near Winslow Arizona
GF32-64 f/8 1/250 ISO 100
It’s not all bad. I shot much more in one day than I normally would to the point I almost shot a compete 32GB card. I mention this to say I never ran out of battery.
Camp Ground
near Joseph City Arizona
GF 32-64 @ 32mm f/8 1/500 ISO 100
Cambo CA-GFX
The adaptor is small and light weight.  While connected to the GFX and Canon 17mm it added some weight however not overly so and remained well balanced. I like the idea of being able to attach the 17mm to a medium format camera and in doing so I got some stunning test shots.
However,  I have one issue with the adaptor I used.  The LCD is too dim. It’s so dim that I was unable to read the screen in bright day light. I tried to shield it with my body adding some shade and still could not read the screen. I had to walk back to my truck and either sit beside it in a darker shade or actually get in before I could see and read the screen. Unacceptable for landscape work. This is the main issue I returned the unit after only one-day deciding not to use it.  If Cambo fixes this fault then I’d highly recommend it for those who need/require super wide.
This is the result of 4-shots using a Canon 17mm shifting to the stops left, right, top and bottom. Near Mexican Hat Utah, f/8. 1/1250 ISO 100. Initial processing in Adobe ACR the Photoshop CC where it was stitched together and finally Nik Software before returning to Photoshop CC for final processing. The finished image measures 8192x9084 @300 for 74.4 MP.
Post Processing
I’d love to be able to process the GFX files directly in Capture One. Please, if anyone from Phase is listening do us all a huge favor. Since I can’t open the files in C1 I use Adobe instead.  All the images contained here were opened using Adobe ACR before sending then into Photoshop.  Some of the images also received a little help from either Nik Software or Topaz. I’d rather show images as a final product that I would use than the non-processed file.
GF120mm Macro
f/8 1/2000 ISO 2500
How well does the GFX 50S handle low light? The following is just an example.  The image was processed just to the point of showing the silhouettes.  
Where do I go from here?
I keep learning the camera. I’m still learning the manual focus function while using the 120 macro.  I’ve also started using a WACOM Mobile Studio which I’ll address soon.  The Phase One gear is resting until the end of the month when I’ll be back outside capturing the milky way over an abandoned ranch house.
Stay tuned for more and as your comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lava from Hawaii

f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
Sandy was correct when she described me as a kid waiting for Santa Claus.  We began planning our Hawaii trip approximately 12-months prior to us leaving and the major item on my bucket list was capturing the lava flow on the big island of Hawaii.
We had three options of capturing the flow; hiking out, boat and air.  Thankfully we opted for air as we were able to accomplish so much more in a limited amount of time than we would have using either of the other options.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200

Paradise Helicopters in Hilo offers an early morning option that we found was available only to professional photographers; otherwise we would have been forced to fly much later than we did. We were able to depart Hilo a couple minutes before sunrise actually seeing the sun as it rose above the horizon.  
Quickie through the front of the cockpit
The helicopter was ours for an hour with the doors off for better visibility.  We began our flight to the lava fields at 120 mph.  Traveling that fast without doors at dawn was downright chilly however as soon as we pasted over the first part of the lava flow the temperature quickly rose to the point we felt we were back in Arizona.  Once there we slowed down and began photographing.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 1600
I decided to take a chance and used a Schneider LS 240mm lens attached to a Phase One XF body and a 100-megapixel IQ-1-100 digital back.  Not a lightweight combination for shooting through an open door of a helicopter.  It turned out okay as I was sitting next to Pete our pilot and able to give instructions.  We were hooked up to an intercom however since I needed one hand to press the button to speak I quickly stopped doing that and used hand signals which Pete followed perfectly.
I set the camera at ISO 3200 and shutter priority at 1000 figuring the f/stop would take care of itself.  My fastest shutter was 1/4000 with a slow 800 ISO.  All files were processed using Capture One Pro.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 1600
We flew at around 1000-feet (305-m) most of the time except when we flew over the lava flowing into the ocean and then we couldn’t go any lower than 1500-feet per park rules.  I thought the flowing lava looked much like a fiery waterfall however I recently saw this described as a “firehose”.  I think both are accurate descriptions.  
f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 3200
Slight crop
f/6.3 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 3200
Explosion” is a much deeper crop and actually shows the effect the lava has as it flows into the ocean.  Notice the rocks exploding outwards.  Nothing beats a 100-megapixel image file!
This is not a crop! This is the lava flowing in-between lava that had already cooled.  
f/4.5 1/4000 ISO 800
One last image.
f/4.5 1/4000 ISO 800

Am I pleased with the way the Phase One XF worked? Yes.  Am I pleased with the Schneider LS 240? Yes.  Am I pleased with the 100-megapixel IQ1-100? Oh hell yes!  I also want to point out that I had no problems with quick focus, shooting 142-files and coming back with at least 140 “keepers”.  So in the end if you wonder if a Phase One XF and IQ1-100 is capable of keeping up in the fast pace shooting environment such as this, worry not.
More Hawaii images coming soon.





Friday, April 14, 2017

Fuji GFX 50S

120mm f/32 0.5 ISO 6400
120mm  f/32 1/4 ISO 6400

I was excited last year when first Hasselblad and then Fuji introduced their mirrorless medium format cameras.  Hasselblad was first in showing what the X1D would look like and I’ll admit I found it attractive.  However after Fuji introduced the GFX 50S I began to like that body better even though it is larger.  In comparing the specifications of both cameras I began to be swayed towards the GFX mainly due to what I already shoot with (Phase One XF).  The body reminds me of the XF and I particularly like the top LCD screen, the ability to use the EVF as a waist level, and more importantly the articulating LCD touchscreen back panel.
32-64 at 32mm f/8 1/60 ISO 100

I now have three lenses for the GFX, 63mm f/2.8, 32-64 f/4 and the 120 f/4 macro, and am very pleased with them.  One of my more favorite lens on the Phase One XF is the Schneider LS 40-80; the downside is size and weight as it’s just too heavy to carry around your neck for any length of time.  The GFX has a cropped sensor similar to my first digital medium format back, the Phase One P30+.  That said I was very interested to learn that Fuji released their 32-64 lens for the GFX.  When taking in the crop sensor of the GFX the 32-64 is the same focal length as the Schneider 40-80. Additionally, both the IQ1-100 and GFX are CMOS sensors so for me, the GFX is much like having the smaller lighter brother of the XF/IQ1-100.
32-64 at 64mm f/8 1/250 ISO 100
32-64 at 34mm f/8 1/500 ISO 100
Different tools in the bag.  While the GFX is great for what I want it to do for me it nevertheless has limitations.  Crop sensor vs, full frame; 51.4MP vs. 100. There are more however these are the top two-on my list.  The Phase One will always be my go to tool when weight and size are no issue and especially when I want the very best resolution.  The GFX on the other hand will be a better fit for those times when I do have a weight restriction. 
32-64 at 64mm f/8 1/160 ISO100
32-64 at 32mm f/8 1/160 ISO 100
There has been a lot of talk about processing the RAW files and in large part I agree.  I have been using Capture One for many years and routinely use it when processing either the Phase One files or Sandy’s Sony files.  Sadly at the moment I cannot open the RAW directly into Capture One and don’t agree with using any “hacks” as proposed on the web.  I have found that Adobe ACR works well as does processing in Photoshop CC.  I understand many like Light Room however try as I have, I just can’t get to the point I like using Light Room and prefer Photoshop.
32-64 at 43mm f/5.6 1/200 ISO 200
63mm Camera set to "Auto" f/4 1/35 ISO 6400
This a good example of why I like the rear LCD. This was shot from the hip using the LCD for framing. The camera was set at f/8 1/60 and auto ISO that turned out to be 6400.
I found a 720nm infrared filter in a storage drawer and decided to try it on the 32-64. This was shot close to noon at f/11 6.5 seconds ISO 100. The file was opened in Adobe ACR before processing it in PSCC.
I’ve begun experimenting with the Wine Country filter kit and will be using it on the lenses in the future.

At the risk of repeating myself I’ll add that I like the camera.  The grip fits my hand nicely. The viewfinder is easy to use as is the LCD.  I like the top LCD and am used to using that on the Phase One XF. I like the fact that the 32-64 is very close to the 40-80 Schneider yet much lighter.  I like the fact that I can shoot low and tilt the LCD to an angle that I can use it without having to resort to the viewfinder. I haven’t done a weight comparison however the GFX is considerable lighter than the XF.  This comes as no surprise however there is a huge loss in resolution coming from 100-megapixels to 51; yet the RAW files have been stunning. 
The GFX replaces a Sony A7rII I had been using. It was never meant to replace my Phase One XF.  I was somewhat surprised at the file sizes when I downloaded the first images.  The typical RAW Sony A7rII file is 41MB while the IQ1-100 is 133MB and the GFX is typically 111MB.  The Sony RAW files once opened and saved as a Tiff will reach 240MB; the IQ1-100 reaches 580MB and the GFX will more than double to 293MB.  Not overly scientific just nice to know for on the road storage needs. The battery has lasted a full day of shooting, still uncertain why Fuji decided to place it where they did. I also like the idea of having two-card slots however I have yet to use both.
People reading this may have noticed I’m using the Peak Design camera strap.  While I like it, it doesn’t play well as the cord holding the anchor keeps twisting making the strap itself twist almost into a knot, something I’ve never had with either the Sony or Phase One XF.  I’m thinking the fault lays in having to attach it to the anchor point for the camera which also swivels. I’ll be replacing the strap shortly with one made specially of the type of mounting point Fuji decided to place on the camera.

I haven’t yet address how I plan to use this camera.  The answer is much the same as the Sony.  I’m getting to the age that luging around heavy equipment doesn’t work well for me specifically when I’m in an unknown area and all I’m doing is scouting locations.  As nice as the Sony is, it nevertheless isn't medium format (okay call me a snob).  I now have the ability to carry a lightweight medium format camera for everyday shooting as well as scouting locations for more serious work with the Phase One.  Again, just another tool in the kit.
I’ll continue to work with this camera and add more thoughts later. The images included are meant to be a sample of what’s possible.