North of 60 with Fuji's GFX50s

A couple of years ago when Fujifilm had asked us if we had interest in a Medium Format camera, my gut reaction was a decided no.  In my mind, I had just downsized and replaced my heavy Nikon D800 and lenses for the Fuji XT1 system with money left over to boot.  I had the perfect system and when they launched the Fuji XT2 I was even happier.  I couldn't imagine it getting any better. Sigh.  

Then the GFX was launched and everyone who is anyone in the Fujifilm world was having a go at it.  Even friends who were decidedly not going that route, preferring instead the sleek pocket XF100F which is generally the preferred camera for street photography, were trying it out and writing reviews.  Everyone was blown away by the files.  They were saying that the images shown on Facebook or Instagram simply did not do them justice.  To make a long story short, and against my better judgement my curiosity got the better of me and I asked Fujifilm Canada if I could try it.    I explained that we would be moving south soon and the Aurora season was just about to start up again and I was hoping to do some portraits of some Northerners. I say against my better judgement because I sensed that I was going to really like this camera.  

Fujifilm Canada graciously agreed and sent me the GFX50s, the GF23, 32-64, 63 and the 120.  It arrived about a week later.  

The full kit.  GFX50S, GF23F4, 63F2.8, 32-64 and the 120F4

My first thought when I picked up the camera was that it fit so comfortably in my hand with the grip and that it wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be.   I was also pleased to see that Fujifilm had beefed up the camera strap hardware.  Coming from the Fuji XT2 I found the dials, buttons, and menus quite familiar and was able to quickly navigate around the menus. 

Unfortunately, the EVF didn't work at all which was a bit disappointing.  There seemed to be a problem with it as it kept shutting off.  Rather than send everything back I simply learned how to shoot solely with the LCD screen.

Since I've had this camera I have photographed a Dene First nation wedding, several portraits, landscapes, urban and of course the Aurora Borealis. I too was blown away by the image quality. I had never seen anything quite like it.  What was it about these files?  The colour, the nearly impossible dynamic range and the tonal quality and creamy bokeh noticeable even with the GF32-64mm F4 zoom lens!  

Almost every bride in Yellowknife wants to have their portrait done at the top of Pilots Monument under the usually bright sun.  I brought with me the GFX50s to see what it could do.   I used also a  bit of Fuji's EFX500 fill flash as well.  I probably could have used an off-camera flash with an umbrella but it was pretty windy up there.  I was pretty happy with the results anyway.  

GF32-64 ISO200 F6.4 1/1250 SEC. 

The photographs seem to have a 3-dimensional quality almost as if you are stepping inside the scene.  I also liked its native 4/3 ratio especially for the Aurora as you can get more sky in the frame.  I was also impressed with the battery performance as I worked the entire time with only one battery.    

The camera has a few quirks though.  The zone focusing routinely gets stuck in a bottom corner requiring you to turn off the camera and reboot it.   I don't think this is a serious issue though as Fujfilm has an excellent reputation of fixing these little quirks in future firmware updates.  

Also, it isn't the fastest camera around and it certainly isn't designed for sports or wildlife shooters.  Although it wouldn't surprise me to see some sports and wildlife photography done with this camera as I was able to capture my beloved Saydee full sprint in the park with the GF23mmF4.  

GF23MM ISO 100 F4 1/640 sec.

In addition to the files being exquisite, they are rather large.  Raw files are about 115mb each so I hardly minded cropping this one of the husky relaxing on the roof. 

GF63mmF2.8 ISO 100 1/450 sec

GF63mmF2.8 ISO 100 1/450 sec

I have to say the camera along with the GF23F4 really nailed it for the Aurora Borealis.  The files were clean and crisp with hardly any noise at ISO3200 F4.  Also check out the Time Lapse at the end of this post. 

For portraiture I used the GF32-64, the 63F2.8 and the 120mmF4 and I have to say I like them all. I wish I could be one of those people who shoots only one kind of thing one way with one lens.  It would make things more affordable.  However, I do enjoy variety and sometimes I feel like making an environmental portait and at other times I want to zoom in.  

So much detail! 

This camera however, at $8,124 for the body only, is not to be taken lightly.  However, in comparison to a Hassleblad at $11,000 Canadian it would be more within reach of the serious photographer.  It would be an excellent camera for those commercial, landscape or studio portrait photographers who demand the very best for their clients and can command a good price for doing so in the marketplace.  

To conclude, I would love to have this camera and I can definitely see adding it to my gear bag in the future.  Since I plan to focus my photography more on portraiture and selling fine art prints when I return to Ottawa, I would start with the GF63F2.8 and the GF3264 for my nature urban images followed by  the GF120mm.  

Huge thanks to Fujifilm Canada for allowing me to spend my last month in Yellowknife with the GFX.  I'm only sorry I'll miss shooting in pristine winter wonderland with the GFX. 

A time lapse of a G2 Aurora Storm in Yellowknife, NT September 27, 2017.

 

 

Leah and Kelvin

On Saturday I had the honour of photographing the wedding of a young couple from Behchoko.  Kelvin is a wildlife officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories and Leah is studying business at the Aurora College.  They have two beautiful daughters.  They were wed at the Legislative Assembly by a Justice of the Peace with many friends and family as witnesses.  Following the ceremony, we went to Pilot's Monument and a few other places for photographs followed by a potluck dinner at the home of the Bride's sister.  It turned out to be a beautiful day.  Here are a few of my favourite pictures.  

All photos were shot with Fujifilm XT2 and GFX50S.

 

 

Shooting with Fujifilm's XF23F2

I think I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the 23F1.4 lens which I sold for the new smaller, lighter and faster F2 version. 

However, don't get me wrong, I love the 23F2 version for the reasons it is small, fast and weather sealed but for indoors low light family kind of gatherings the extra stop and creamy bokeh is something that I missed.

It excels as a travel lens though.  During recent trips to Ottawa and Jamaica I used the 23F2 and the 35F2 extensively and I marvelled at how light both lenses were to carry around with me at all times.  I hardly noticed them in my beach bag or carry on purse.   I believe that is the point to these lenses.  I might not have brought the more hefty XF23F1.4 lens to the beach, choosing rather to swim instead.  Why oh why can't I have them all?

The XF23F2 lens is fast focussing, capable and great for just going about your day.  Kind of like an X100F but with weather sealing and the option of changing lenses.  

Of course I first subjected it to the frigid northern temperatures of Yellowknife, NT in midwinter.  

An example of how quick the XF23F2 is in capturing the action.  Here Saydee rejects a piece of raw fish.  Seems she prefers it fried. 

An example of how quick the XF23F2 is in capturing the action.  Here Saydee rejects a piece of raw fish.  Seems she prefers it fried. 

It really is a great focal length and lens for Street Photography.   However there isn't much street photography to do in Yellowknife during the winter as everyone is pretty much huddled indoors, so I took it to the streets of Ottawa on our way to Jamaica in March of this year.

Here is the classic woman on the stairs with the shadow picture.  The lens didn't disappoint as I had to react quickly when I saw her approach.

Here is the classic woman on the stairs with the shadow picture.  The lens didn't disappoint as I had to react quickly when I saw her approach.

Here are a few beach scenes from Jamaica where I quickly turned my attention to the visiting Heron.  I thought it would be more of a challenge to sneak up on that bird and try to get a decent picture with a 23mm lens.  I think I succeeded. 

All good vacations come to an end and fortunately summer eventually returns to Yellowknife.  

Some pictures from Ottawa this past spring to highlight the absolutely decent bokeh on this lens.  

To conclude both F1.4 and F2 versions of Fuji's XF23 are exceptional lenses and I recommend you have them both (if you can).  
When we move back to Ottawa in a couple of months to be back with family I may find myself wanting to purchase the XF23F1.4 version again.  

North of 60 with Fujifilm's XF35F2

Some time ago I was introduced to Fuji's new XF35F2 lens.  I had the original XF35F1.4 and while I loved the quality of the images especially when shot wide open, I was finding myself not using it as much because I found it a bit slow to focus.  Since I live in Northern Canada where winter lasts nearly eight months and temperatures of -30C and more are common, and since I tend to be attracted to fast moving subjects like dogs, racers and ravens,  I thought it made sense to try the new XF35F2 which was supposed to be much quicker, smaller and weather sealed. So I sold the XF35F1.4 to fund the purchase of the new 35F2.  

I've been shooting with it for almost a year now and I'm noticing myself reaching for this lens more often than not for my day to day travels.  I love how small and light and capable this lens is.  Focusing is lighting quick and I am also realizing how fond I am of this focal length. I routinely subjected the lens to -30C temperatures have to admit I noticed a bit of flickering on the LCD screen at these temperatures when the battery was low.  But I was still able to get my shots. 

This is such an all around focal length in that it is great for portraits, landscapes, architecture, street photography, still life, ravens in mid flight and fast moving dogs!  It is sharp and produces some lovely bokeh.  Here are some of my favourite images.  

Action!  (Including a Raven in mid-flight at an intersection) 

-30C

Here are some pictures from our trip to Jamaica to warm up.  It works in warmer climates too ;)

If you would like to see more on my impressions of Fuji's 35mm see my interview on Fiftythreemm.com 

Travelling to Jasper

Travelling to Jasper

Most recently we have returned from a week long trek to Edmonton and Jasper.  The purpose of our trip to Edmonton was to have some car maintenance done which can't be done where we live in Yellowknife.  Also my Epson 3800 printer needed some repair.  It is a two day drive to Edmonton, which is the nearest major city where these kinds of services can be had.  Since it is hardly worth driving two days just to get car and printer repairs done, and we had a bit of time before Eddie had to get back to work, and with Jasper being just another four hours drive away, we decided to go to Jasper for a mini three day holiday.  

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Fujifilm XT2 - Reporting from Yellowknife - July 7th, 2016

I am proud to to announce that I was one of five Canadian and 100 Fuji X-Photographers worldwide chosen to review and test what is Fujifilm’s new flagship camera: the XT2. This is the camera that is intended to sway professional dSLR camera users over to Fujifilm. It will be the camera you can take to work or not.

So here we are July 7th, 2016 and Fujifilm has just announced the XT2 and I can now reveal what I’ve been doing with it for the past couple of months. We were sworn to secrecy and had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Fujifilm Japan. A pre-production unit arrived in Yellowknife, NWT in a nondescript black x camera box with my name on it. Getting it to Yellowknife, NWT was no small feat in itself. It arrived about 10 days after my colleagues got their cameras. The camera logo was covered up in black tape so no one would really know what I was shooting with. My job would be to take photographs, primarily landscape and wildlife shots and provide feedback. Billy the Fuji Guy tells us that “This will be a game changer! It will be a complete professional system with all the advantages of a DSLR without the disadvantages” and after a couple of months with Taurus - XT2 I believe him.

This is not a technical review with stats, charts and comparisons as I’m not really technically inclined and quickly get bored of numbers. I think its better to leave that up to those folks who are really good at it. Also, this isn’t a lengthy review. Being the eldest daughter of a Navy Captain I was raised to keep things brief and I believe a review should be about the kinds of pictures the camera can take. Anyway, you can get all the specs from Fujifilm here but I would like to however share my first impressions and some sample images that I’ve taken over the past two months. Please note that all photos in my report are taken with a pre-production unit and so are only offered here in low-resolution.

FEATURES AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Essentially this is an XPRO2 sensor and software placed into a slightly revised XT2 body and more. It shares the same new 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III image sensor, a 4x more powerful processor, 1/8000 sec focal plane shutter, focus joystick, faster synch speed at 1/250th sec up from 1/180th sec on the XT1 and the LCD screen now tilts 3-ways making it easier to shoot vertically.

It is a substantial camera and a little bit heavier than the XT1 but not by much. They increased the size slightly to accommodate the dual SD card slot. I love that they heightened and put a locking mechanism on the ISO and shutter speed dial. I think I might even be able to operate those dials with mitts on during the winter. The torque on both the Metering and Drive dials have been tightened which is great because they always used to slide around a bit on the XT1. They have extended the Phase detection and the tracking of moving subjects is much better. You can even customize the tracking depending on how erratic your subject is moving. The Across B&W film simulation has been added as well they did something with the On/Off switch to make it easier to turn on. When it is -30C below and you have to take your mitts off to turn the camera on, that is an important detail. And like the XT1 it is weather and dust resistant.

I love the feel of this camera and I love its ability to be almost anything you want it to be. If you pop the new XF35F2 on it or even the pancake 27mm lens you can probably carry it with you in your pocket. It wouldn't be much bigger than the X100S. Alternatively if you need to show up at a clients fully equipped you can add the Vertical battery grip which does a whole host of things including boosting the performance of the camera, increase the time you can take a video and I think makes a better platform for the larger lenses i.e. the XF50-140, XF16-55 and the new XF100-400. And speaking of video it has 4K video and an F Log coming soon giving me something else to learn. I think the way the market is going for photographers, acquiring video skill is hugely important.

IMAGE QUALITY

Fujifilm really has something special going on with image quality. I thought the image quality of the XT1 was fabulous with its 16mp sensor. But my goodness, there is just so much more detail now visible with these files. And the EVF is stunning (Magnification ratio 0.77x, Shutter time lag 0.005 sec, 100fps live-view). and is now my preferred place for framing my shots. Essentially the XT2 is everything I loved about the XT1 only better.

WILDLIFE WITH THE XF100-400

Shortly after receiving my Taurus camera Eddie and I set out to Edmonton and Jasper. At this point I’ll admit the camera was very quirky and not stable to put it mildly. I had Billy the Fuji Guy helping me sort out something to get it going again literally just a few minutes before we encountered these mountain goats. I was ecstatic that it worked to capture these beauties. They seemed to be saying “No way, is that a Fuji XT2 you got there!?” Actually, I learned that there was a wild cat lurking behind me at the time.

JASPER NATIONAL PARK

I normally like to use the Camera Pro Negative High film simulation. 

THE NORTH

A camera should help you tell your story. The story I like to tell is primarily about Canada… it’s land, people and culture. I feel that the XT2 camera system has everything you need to tell your story. Unlike the Rangefinder XPRO2 which seems more geared for the street or documentary photographer with more discreet prime lenses, the XT2 is geared toward the portrait, nature, wildlife and sports shooter and now the photographer who wants to shoot video as well.

I might add that with each firmware update the camera is very near its potential and at this point I hardly want to shoot with anything else.

TRACKING WITH THE XT2

Other than in the local park with my dog running alongside a tourist kid from Texas, I admit that I didn’t really have the opportunity or confidence to try out the AF-C Tracking much.  

It was just with the last few firmware updates where I felt the camera was stable enough to even try. It wasn’t until the Yellowknife Airshow where I was able to really give it a workout. 

VIDEO

I was able to track former Snowbird pilot Brent Handy's performance in a Pitts Special.  I really appreciate that they've added the vide to the drive dial.  It makes it so much easier to switch back and forth from shooting video to photography.  I do need to learn more about editing video but this gives you an idea of what an amateur can do with this camera. 

 And finally good night... or good morning wherever you are. 

A Yellowknife Sunset 10:45 pm  XF50-140 F2.8 ISO200 140mm F14 F1/125

A Yellowknife Sunset 10:45 pm  XF50-140 F2.8 ISO200 140mm F14 F1/125