Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Preparing the Fujifilm 50s for extreme conditions

I’ve begun writing this a couple days before Christmas hoping to set the ground work for what’s to come.

January 2018 will see us approximately 20-miles north of Fairbanks Alaska near Chatanika shooting the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.  We’re expecting temperatures as high as 2 as and as low as -12 and below.  Moon rise will be in the neighborhood of 7:21 am, setting by 1:27 pm with a new moon on January 16th which will be right in the middle of our stay.

I plan on using the Fujifilm GFX 50s with a combination of the GF23, 32-64 and 63mm lenses.  I’m also planning on using a Singh Ray LB color intensifier filter.  The LB combines a combination of a warming polarizer and color intensifier into one filter.  This filter will control glare and reflection while boosting shadow detail, color contrast and saturation of reds, greens and warm tones.  All in all this filter should be perfect for capturing the Northern Lights.  The filter will be attached to the lens using the Wine Country  Camera filter system and will be easy enough to manipulate if needed with heavy gloves.

I’ve been trying this combination of lens and filter for sunsets in the southwest and have been very pleased.  Time will tell if this filter is needed or will work well in capturing the Northern Lights.

The above is a sample of a “before and after” using the Singh Ray LB color intensifier filter.  The top image is the red sunset without the filter while the bottom is with the filter attached.  The same settings were used for each. GF 63mm f/6.4 1/13 ISO 100. 

The image above is what it looks like after processing in Adobe ACR and Photoshop CC.

I did run into one slight issue.  The weight of the filter system added to the front of the lens of the GF63 made the lens hunt for auto focus.  Turning auto focus off and shooting manual focus fixed the issue.

Wine Country Camera filter system with Singh Ray LB color intensifier filter attached to the Fujifilm GFX 50s.
Switching lenses to the GF 23 I found the issue of autofocus was fixed; likewise with the 32-64.
GF23mm f/4 1/80 ISO 250
Processed in Adobe ACR and Photoshop CC
Shot inside looking out
GF23mm f/4 1/5 ISO 400

Needless to say I’m very pleased with the Singh Ray LB color intensifier filter.  I’m equally pleased with the overall performance of the Wine Country Camera filter system, and looking forward to using both in Alaska.
Here’s one last test of the filter prior to Alaska.  Seeing as how Singh Ray advertises this filer as a color booster, intensifier etc., I decided to see what it would do on a cloudy sky.

Once again, a before and after shot with the GF 32-64 at 64mm f/4 1/160 ISO 100.  Top is without filter and bottom is with.  No processing has been done other than to resize and convert to Jpeg.
Next stop Alaska




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Fujifilm GFX 50s update

It’s the first of November as I sit and write this and I’ve had the GFX 50s for 8-months.  During this period I’ve brought, used and still own the following lenses. The GF23, GF32-64, GF63, and the GF120 Macro.  I have also used and still own an older Mamiya 200 APO using a Fotodiox adaptor and a  Vivitar MC 2x tele converter I picked up off E-bay.

GF63mm f/2.8 1/200 ISO 100

GF63mm 1/10 ISO 100
GF63mm f/4 1/10 ISO 100
I’ve used the combination of lenses to capture small bugs, landscape, nature and wildlife.  The camera has been used in wet conditions with rain, snow and very cold as well as hot, humid, windy, blowing sand. I can’t forget that I’ve used this in dark environments such as interiors and shooting outside capturing lightning.  I haven't had any problems or concerns with the GFX or lenses the entire 8-month period. Except for the stupid strap design; no matter the strap I place on the GFX it always ends up in a knot. 
GF 120mm f/8 1/4000 ISO 1600
shot handheld
Mamiya APO 200mm with 2x converter
1/3200 ISO 1600 cropped to taste
shot handheld

Processing the files from the GFX can be challenging.  I have settled into making a choice of either processing in Adobe Bridge then Photoshop CC or taking the much longer way of converting the files using a combination of Adobe DNG Converter and Exif Pilot so I can open and process in Capture One 10.  I’ve found the circumstances of the shoot dictate which method of processing I use.  Normal landscape and some wildlife and I’ll use a straight Bridge, Photoshop method.  If I’m shooting in a darker environment I might be more apt to use a longer method of conversion to use Capture One.
GF 23mm f/8 1/640 ISO 100

The following image was captured by leaning into the rear window holding the camera in one hand and using the shutter button with the other hand.  Think of standing on your head while juggling and attempting to do anything else.  Not easy however the lightweight of the GFX helped.
GF23mm f/4 1/160 ISO 800
shot handheld
I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that there simply isn’t a 100% perfect system.  That said, if Fuji fixes the issue of the strap connection and somehow work out the differences between Phase One and themselves so that Capture One can be used (without the added steps) then we’d be seeing as close as possible to a perfect system.

Mamiya APO 200 with 2x converter
1/320 ISO 100
shot handheld
GF32-64 at 64mm
f/4.5 1/320 ISO 100

Auto focus as well as manual focus has been no problem using this system.  The ability to use the toggle switch to move focus points have proved to be a great tool shooting in either auto or manual focus..  The dynamic range of the GFX is outstanding and constantly surprises me.

The following are examples of how well the Mamiya APO 200mm works with the GFX.  These were captured using manual focus and a combination of with and without the 2x converter.

Mamiya APO 200mm with 2x converter
1/1250 ISO 125
Mamiya APO 200mm with 2x converter
1/1600 ISO 125
Mamiya APO 200mm
1/250 ISO 100
Mamiya APO 200mm
1/640 ISO 320
cropped to taste
Mamiya APO 200mm
1/320 ISO 1250
Mamiya APO 200mm
1/250 ISO 1600
Remember, the previous 6-images were all captured using manual focus.  The last 3-images were all also captured using a burst mode as the subject matter was not standing still.
My wish list for improvements is simple.  I want a longer lens and am eagerly awaiting the release of the 250 and converter next year. Change the strap attachment.  While I can continue to process files as I have been I’d like to see the ability to use Capture One as it is intended to be used; and yes I understand that Fuji may not have any say in the issue.   That’s my “instant” wish list.  I’d also welcome a full frame sensor and as nice as the 50s is I wouldn’t mind seeing a 100 megapixel.  
GF23mm f/8 1/125 ISO 200
cropped to taste
shot handheld
GF23mm f/8 1/400 ISO 100
used a wine country filter system for capture
How does the GFX 50s compare to my Phase One XF, 100-megapixel IQ1-100?  We’re talking a difference between a mirrorless (GFX) and DSLR (XF) type of systems.  There is also a difference between the full-sensor IQ1-100 and the crop-sensor of the GFX (80%).  The easiest way to interpret the difference is that if I were using a 200 mm lens on each, the lens would be a “true” 200mm on the XF and 160mm on the GFX.  
Shot the interior of this bar by holding the camera above my head while poking through a broken window.  The ability to move the rear LCD helped me knowing what I was shooting.
GF 23mm f/4 1/125 ISO 400
shot handheld
So how well do I like the Fujifilm GFX 50s?  If anyone had said I’d be doing this a year ago I’d laugh and walk away.  However, things change.  The Phase One system as good as it is comes with a huge weight difference.  Mount a 40-80 lens (same focal length as the GF32-64) on a Phase One XF and add the digital back and you reach very close to 8-pounds compared to 4.4 pounds of the GFX 50s and 32-64.
GF 23mm f/4 1/250 ISO 100
I recently shot the interior of Murphy’s Gun Shop in Tucson using the GFX and the GF23mm.  All images were shot on tripod and at an ISO of 125.
GF23mm f/8 0.8 ISO 125
GF23mm f/32 f/8 ISO 125
processed entirely in Capture One 10
Yes, there is a difference of having a full-frame 100-megapixel (or less depending on the digital back) versus the crop-sensor of the GFX.  There’s also the difference of being able to capture wildlife using a burst mode of the GFX compared to a much slower rate of capture with the XF.  You need to understand the tradeoffs of each system and make your own decision.   In the end I have.  As of this blog I have made the decision to sell my complete Phase One system and continue using just the Fujifilm GFX 50s.
While I’ve sold my Phase One I have no problem in recommending Phase One or my good friend Dave Gallagher at CaptureIntegration.  While sadly you can’t purchase a Fujifilm GFX 50s from Dave, you can however from another good friend, Anthony Festa at Fotocare.
Thank you as always for allowing me to share my experiences.




Thursday, August 3, 2017

More Fujifilm GFX 50s

GF32-64 f/4
23mm f/4 1/4 ISO 100
GF32-64 f/4
63mm f/5 0.3 ISO 100
GF120 f/4
 f/6.4 0.3 ISO 100
I had the opportunity to shoot inside Colonel Ward Pump Station while in Buffalo NY.  I had no idea of how massive these old steam pumps were until I entered the building. The pumps are housed in a 1900s colossal five-story high building and are 60-feet tall.  The steam pumps are quite now having been replaced by smaller more efficient electric pumps.

GF63 f/2.8
f/6.4 0.3 ISO 100
Anyone who follows us knows that we do not write reviews of cameras or lenses.  What we do instead is show examples of what the camera and lenses are capable of producing.  I believe any camera and most lenses are more than capable to producing great images so long as the person who is operating the camera doesn’t slip up.  There are 2-brains behind any image.  The camera has a brain that needs to interact with the person operating it.  While I attempt to achieve as much as possible “in-camera” that isn’t always the case.  When that happens you need software to help it along.  In rare cases no amount of software processing will correct the deficiencies while in other cases just a slight nudge is all it takes to make a mediocre image stunning. 

The simplistic way of describing our processing workflow is that we “listen” to the image.  It will either tell us we screwed up and no matter what we do it’ll always be like putting lipstick on a pig as it remains a pig.  Thankfully that doesn’t occur often.  There are times we open the file and find it’s perfect and nothing else is needed.  There are times we open the image and “listening” understand it would look better if processed a different way. Shooting inside Colonel Ward Pump Station presented a set of unique options.  Do we show it as it was in color which actually looked more monotone or do we convert to black and white or use another process?  The 2-images above reflect that dilemma. And then there's the image below.
GF 23mm f/4
f/8 0.8 ISO 100
This was a change from shooing inside Silo City and offered unique challenges.  Where I used 2-lenses for the interior work in Silo City I quickly found the need for other lenses.  The light was much better inside the pump station than shooting inside the darker Silo City.  I also enjoyed seeing the older street lamps lining the upper walkway.
GF120mm f/4
f/6.4 0.3 ISO 100
The machinery wasn’t the only thing on a large scale.
GF 120mm f/4
f/8 0.8 ISO 100
GF 32-64 f/4
32mm f/4 0.8 ISO 100

I used four Fuji GF lenses while inside. There are 17 images included here with the GF 23mm f/4 accounting for 3, 8-with the GF 32-64, 3-with the GF63 and 3-with the GF 120mm.
GF 23mm f/4
f/8 0.5 ISO 100
GF32-64 f/4
64mm f/ ISO 100
GF32-64 f/4
32mm f/4 1.3 ISO 100
All the images were processed initially in Capture One Pro before sending them to Photoshop CC and in some cases processing in either Nik Software or Topaz Labs.

GF 32-64 f/4
32mm f/4 0.8 ISO 100 
GF32-64 f/4
52.7mm f/4 0.8 ISO 100
The GFX 50s performed just as well as it has done throughout the time I’ve had it.  Put any of the above lenses on and it becomes a lightweight walk around camera system.  The camera was either in a backpack, attached to a tripod or hanging around my neck.  The unused lenses were all stored in a backpack along with spare batteries.  All in all a nice compact system.
GF 32-64 f/4
48.2mm f/4 0.8 ISO 100
GF 32-64 f/4
32mm f/7.1 0.8 ISO 100
Speaking batteries. I never once had an issue with power, shooting all day at long exposures.  I did screw up once on a particularly long exposure by not checking the power and I count that as user error.  I normally watch the battery level and once it shows 2-bars I’ll switch (I do that as a normal course with all my cameras).  At the end of the day I would have a battery in the camera that was close to 75% and 1-that I needed to charge. 
GF32-64 f/4
36.4mm f/4 0.8 ISO 100

Shutter releases. My usual workflow is using a Fujifilm RR-90 wired remote shutter and did so for close to 95% of the time shooting in Buffalo.  I also had a Pluto Trigger however I kept it in the bag on this trip.
Thank you once again for allowing us to share our experiences.  Please let us know if you have any question, suggestions or comments.





Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shooting Urban Decay with a Fujifilm 50s

Hamburg Street
Fujifilm 50s GF23mm f/4
f/5.6 10-seconds ISO 100
Hamburg Street close up
Fujifilm 50s  GF120mm f/4
f/8 1/60 ISO 100
I had the opportunity to meet Mark Maio, and attend his workshop in Buffalo NY in conjunction with Capture Integration.  The primary location was Silo City with side trips to Colonel Ward Pumping Plant 2, and Concrete Central.   
laying flat on my back with the camera on tripod
Fujifilm 50s GF63 f/2.8
f/2.8 1.3 ISO 500
Art project left in a silo
laying flat on my back with the camera on tripod
Fujifilm 50s GF23 f/4
f/4 0.8 ISO 100
This was a very unusual experience for me for several reasons; I normally am the one hosting a workshop not an attendee plus I usually don’t photograph urban decay instead I capture cliff dwellings in the southwest.
I found this photograph on a wall.  Unknown date.
Fujifilm 50s GF 23mm f/4
f/4 1/8 ISO 100
The same image just processed differently; one in color the other in black and white.
Fujifilm 50s GF63mm f/2.8
f/2.8 0.3 ISO 125

The immediate issue was which camera to use.  The Phase One XF/IQ1-100 would provide stunning full frame images at 100-megapixels but at a cost of weight.  On the other hand I could use the Fujifilm 50s with the cropped sensor and 51-megapixels.  What made my decision easier was the combination of weight and the fact that I would be climbing several flights of stairs each day.  Keeping a loose count of the number of flights of stairs climbed in one day totaled over 13!  I stopped counting afterwards…
Top of the stairs
Fujifilm 50s GF 23 f/4
f/4 0.8 ISO100
Fujifilm GFX50s GF63mm f/2.8
f/2.8 0.6 ISO 100
The chair was clean!
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 63mm f/2.8
f/2.8 0.6 ISO 100
The title says it all. I decided to use the Fujifilm 50s.  I took 4-lenses and ended up using all of them.  The lens lineup is the new 23mm, 32-64, 64, and 120.  I found each lens performed very good and for the most part used either the 23 or 64 while exploring inside the silos.  I ended up using all four of the lenses while in the Colonel Ward pump station.
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 63 f/2.8
f/2.8 1.3 ISO 160
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 23 f/4
f/4 2-seconds ISO 160
There was still oil in the can
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 23 f/4
f/4 3-seconds ISO 200

The floors were filthy littered with years of rust, trash, peeling paint, and a mixture of oil and water. In some cases it looked like the shift ended and the people never returned to clean up.  I saw the remnants of grain on the floor where plants took root as well on conveyor belts with standing rain water. As I said, a very dark, damp and in July hot and humid place to photograph.  Taken all together and I’m still very pleased I was able to visit.
A one-minute exposure
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 23 f/4
f/4 60-seconds ISO 400

I put the GFX 50s through its paces, shooting low light in damp dark spaces.  Using auto focus I focus stacked on several occasions experimenting using the toggle switch moving the focal point instead of touching the focus ring in manual focus mode.  I used both the LCD and the viewfinder with no issues.  Some shots were taken inches from the floor while others were taken as high as the tripod would allow.  Shooting in a dark, damp environment necessitated the use of a tripod for all captures.

Two shot image focus stacked
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 63mm f/2.8
f/2.8 1-seconds ISO 125

This is the result of 2-files shot then merged; one-file shot for the shadows with the window blown out and the second file shot for the window.
Peeling paint and plant growth
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 23 f/4
f/8 1/50 ISO 100

There are 23-images shared with the majority (11) taken with the 23mm, (1) at 60.7mm, (8) at 63mm and (3) at 120mm.  The majority of the ISO used was 100 (15) with the highest at 500.  The most used lens for these images was the GF23mm. 

The following 2-images are the result of focus stacking. Each image was shot with 5-captures autofocus, moving the focal point for each capture using the toggle switch.  In the past I would have had to use manual focus touching the focus ring. Not so with these as I only had to touch the rear of the camera body which was the most secure as it sat overtop the tripod.  Try it to see what I'm talking about.
"White Room"
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 23 f/4
f/4 4-seconds ISO 100
"White Room II"
Fujifilm GFX50s GF 63mm f/2.8
f/2.8 0.3 ISO 100
I used the same workflow that I developed prior to the trip with downloading the files onto an external drive then converting the files to .dng before using Exif Pilot to batch change two lines in the Exif.  All images were opened in Capture One Pro, initially processed before sending them to Photoshop CC.   
The following 3-images were captured in the Colonel Ward Pumping Plant 2. The equipment photographed are the original pumps used to supply water to Buffalo.  I’ll be sharing more images on another blog.
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 120mm f/4
f/6.4 0.3 ISO 100
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 120mm f/4
f/6.4 0.3 ISO 100
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 32-64 f/4
60.7mm f/8 0.8 ISO 100
If you want to challenge yourself and capture urban decay and don’t mind climbing several flights of stairs, shooting in dark, damp and cramped spaces then I’d highly recommend the Silo City Photography Workshop.  Mark hosts several workshops per year and Capture Integration partners at least once per year.
The remaining images were all captured in Concrete Central; a place where there’s more paint on the walls than bare concrete. The floors are littered with trash and stepping away from the window light the walls very dark and spooky.  
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 23f/4
f/4 1/15 ISO 100
Fujifilm GFX 50s GF 23 f/4
f/4  1/4  ISO 100
Two images focused stacked
I found working with the GFX50s easy and enjoyable.  I had 5-shooting days capturing 466 images with no issues.  Likewise each lens performed as I had hoped it would producing crisp clear and clean files even at a higher ISO.  The more I use the GFX 50s the more I like it.
This is the first of what may become several blogs regarding shooting Silo City with the Fujifilm 50s.
Please let me know if you have any questions, suggestions or thoughts.