Canon EOS R and the 85mm F1.2 RF Initial Impression Review

Canon has always been an interesting company to me for photography. On one hand, their camera has always been good but never outstanding. The lens on the other hand has always been great especially on the top end. They have a tendency to be different such as the F1.2s and the 200mm f1.8 of the past. Today’s review is one such setting, a good camera and a great lens.

EOS R with RF 85mm F1.2

This review unit is on loan from SLR Revolution. Without their help, I would not have been able to test it out. You can visit them at https://www.slrrevolution.com.sg .

Build Quality 

On general, the build quality is great. Every thing had a heft to it, no wobbles and lose knobs/buttons. Bulk of the body is made from metal including the dials. All the buttons are just nice to push and never loose. There is no flex even with the relatively heavy 85mm RF and nothing is out of place. For the 85mm lens, it is similar: very solid and heavy, with a durable plastic barrel. The inner part of the lens is made from metal and you can see it extend from the mount in. I felt that the outer plastic case is actually rather nice, since it resist markings better then metal coatings. The EOS R comes with a flip out and twist type of screen, great for selfies and vlogs.

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Function and Usability

The Canon body is well designed. Having handled Fuji, Nikon, Sony and Olympus Body, the general handling I will place it at the front with the Olympus. The grip is deep and comfortable, the button placement are great and logical. If anything, I am probably not use to the front dial which is at the top and behind of the shutter button since other makers are front and after. The thumb rest is one of the most comfortable and the AF on button is at the place that I felt is the most right among all cameras, which is next to the thumb rest .

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The camera has a top LCD that shows the modes and various camera information. When off, it only shows the mode. It would have been nice if it worked like the GFX100, to show the battery life and last settings, which I thought is useful. You can also brighten up the screen for night usage.

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One thing I have to say Canon done really well in terms of usability is the touch function. It is fast, responsive, and you can use it to change almost anything including the menu items. Most other makers had only quick menus for touch, but canons can change most common setting on their quick menu and even the main menu is touchable. It is lucky that the touch screen is great because the R has no joystick, which is the way to change AF points for many. You can use the touch screen to quickly change the points. Due to its responsiveness, it is quick to pick up and a joy to use even with the eye on the EVF.

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The only useless control to me is the touch bar. Its responsive is sketchy to me and the number of custom function you can map on to it is quite limited. Especially with a great touch screen and customization controls for everything else, its existence is rather pointless.

There is no function on the lens other then the rings and and a focus limiter. You can program the control ring for aperture or some other stuff. As this lens auto focuses and does it great, I have never used the manual ring before once. One aspect of usability the lens suffer is the size and weight. It is the heaviest lens in the 85mm range and has a super thick body. See the comparison with my GF110mm, a medium format lens of equivalent to around 89mm, below.

Size Comparison

Auto Focus

The EOS R and 85mm F1.2mm RF together focuses great. Its is fast and extremely accurate. In-fact in a shoot of 40 + shots, I have only 1 soft shot and the rest are in focus, all the while in servo mode (Canon’s name for continuous). The single shot is similarly impressive, never misses unless with really strong back light, which at times will result in it giving up. The servo AF can also track a target rather well, moving back and forward rarely throws it off unless in really quick movement. Once again, this is with the RF 85mm F1.2, a lens with a ultra thin depth-of-field and tons of huge elements to move. You can actually feel the lens moving into position to focus.

Wide Open zoomed in
Wide Open zoomed in. Rarely misses.

The camera also spots Eye AF. It works well in good light especially with the latest firmware. I still will not rely it too much for my portraits since it does not detect properly in landscape mode with the person filling the frame vertically. Maybe cause changing the AF point with touch screen is really that fast.

The AF is just great, especially with a lens like RF 85mm F1.2. Probably one of the best performance in terms of accuracy and general speed for its class.

Image Quality

I will not be too in-depth into this since I have only one lens plus I did only 2 shoots with it. I also did not have a chance to shoot in high ISO. The image file from the R is great on general. Its dynamic range is decent, and raising shadows do not cause too much noise on my test. I quite like the default colors from the camera. Compared to the GFX I have on hand, its below it but so is the Nikon Z. It does better on general compared to my Fuji and Olympus in terms of noise and dynamic range.

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Now for the lens, the RF 85mm F1.2 is in one world, Sublime. It is probably one of the very best full frame 85mm F1.2/1.4 you can ever get. It is really really sharp, has relatively low lateral CA, a almost non existence longitudinal CA (LOCA), and quite resistance to flare, wide open. What all this mean is it produces one of the cleanest, great contrast image you can ever get from a lens of its class. This is coming from someone used to GFX110mm F2, which is on par if not better then even the OTUS. The only weakness of this lens is vignetting, and it is visible at the edges significantly. It can be corrected and for its purpose which is portrait, vignetting is probably fine. Below are comparison for CAs.

RF 85mm vs GF 110mm
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm: Laterial CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm: Lateral CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA Bokeh Ball
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA Bokeh Ball

Lastly, for a F1.2 lens, talking about bokeh is unavoidable. It is smooth, and magical. This magical part is made up of  a few components: A sharp and contrasty lens wide open, F1.2 Aperture, and the lack of LOCA which normally results in rimming of bokeh balls and also making the bokeh tinted. All together gives you this really pop in focus and smooth everywhere else look.

Fall off and Bokeh
Fall off and Bokeh

Now for some pictures shot with the camera below.

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Summary

For a initial review, I think I wrote too much. On general, the EOS R is a good camera, great AF and the RF 85mm F1.2 is a fantastic lens. Among all the mirrorless full frame, I will say the R mount has the greatest potential, purely from the commitment Canon gave in the lens roadmap. The lenses released are nothing short of interesting, even the “normal” 70-200 is one of the smallest, and the 28-70mm F2 one of a kind. If anything I would like to say the R mount could improve on, IBIS will be great since it will ensure sharpness in most situation. Personally myself, I am tempted even though I already own a GFX100 purely for the lenses in the RF series.

Thanks to Sheryl for the modeling and SLR Revolution for the equipment loan.

Nikon Z6 Review: The newcomer

Nikon Z6 Review: The newcomer

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The Nikon Z6 is the newest of the mirrorless entrees in recent time. Spec-ed similarly to the A7III, it is Nikon’s take on a full-frame mirrorless camera.

This set is a loaner set for review courtesy of Nikon Singapore and SLR Revolution. I am a portrait photographer as such this review will not touch on the video functions. Many thanks to Riiyuukii for helping with me on the shoots.

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The Nikon Z6 is a relatively small system, its just slightly bigger than the XT system by Fuji but with a Full Frame sensor and in-built image stabiliser. By design the Z6 feels quite good on my Asian sized hands and the controls are relatively straight forward. The one thing I like is the Joystick: it has a big flat surface that I can push around, definitely more joy then those of the Fuji’s.

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For this review set, I was provided with a 50mm F1.8 and 35 F1.8 z-mount lens. Both are quite large if compared to the similar products on their DSLR lines but in recent years, makers are starting to build larger lens that provides better optical quality. This is true for both lenses, providing sharp results even close to the corner wide open, great contrast throughout the frame and with quite a nice interesting (attractive) bokeh to boot. They are also relatively light by modern lens standard especially if compared to any F1.4 alternatives of similar optical standard. Though I can’t help but wonder why Nikon didn’t go the F1.4 route for some of their primes as a statement. Overall in my short 1 month review over like 5 shoots, the lenses performed well optically, on par in my eyes to any modern well corrected lens and maybe with a slightly better bokeh then I come to expect of a non F1.4 lens. All photos in this review are shot by either of this lens.

Handling and Operations

Back to the Z6, the controls are quite straight forward, everything is laid out with some customisation available for the camera. The grip feels quite good, and the body well balanced with the lenses. All the buttons are labelled and positioned in a way easy to reach. As you can see in the picture, Nikon pretty much cramped most space they could on the back with buttons. In-additional to the button, the LCD is touch screen and pressing the info button will allow you to pull up a menu to change them settings. I like how it works since its designed properly for touch and responsive.

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One of the bigger “issues” that people make about initially was the card slots. The Z6 had only 1 XQD card slot, which some people find it unacceptable for a camera of its class. I personally find it just fine since cards rarely break and if anything, a second camera is a better back up. This is my first camera I used with an XQD card, and based on its size and design, its probably one of the reasons why a second slot is not possible since there really isn’t much space around the camera left to put another. The card slot is opened by using a little force to slide the thumb rest back. I thought the design is interesting since there really won’t be much chances you can accidentally slide it out since you will be gripping and resting on it. The choice of XQD I personally thought was a good one, it reads fast, clears fast, and overall improved responsiveness. It also made transferring to a laptop fast with the appropriate card reader which even the fastest SD card felt slower.

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The EVF and LCD are quite good. The EVF is the 3.6M dot version, though not the latest, has great responsiveness without noticeable issues. My time with it did not show any noticeable form of tearing or distortion.. The LCD is similar is quite good, viewable in most conditions, with a 3:2 ratio and can be pulled out to tilt up and down. It would have been better if it flips sideways in some manner. The blackout timing and overall responsiveness when using either of them is great: the Z6 had really low blackout times and among the camera I used so far, only the EM-1X by Olympus had a shorter one (ignoring A9 which has none). My only complain with them is the image seen in the EVF is a little different from the image seen at the back. Its like the back LCD has significantly higher contrast. This was noticeable when I did my night shoot to try out.

Shooting Operations

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The autofocus on the Z6 is similar to those you see on most mirrorless cameras today. This includes the Eye-AF made popular by the Sony system. Personally, I did not used Eye-AF much, as so far only the latest Sony provided me with good enough reliable results. My initial testing showed that Eye-AF on the Nikon worked mainly in close ranges and requires to use area-af to work, unlike other system where you can use any focus mode. This will require you to switch between AF-modes in the menu the moment Eye-AF is not working the way you expect. However, when it works, it is quite accurate, and the selection of which eye is easy by just pressing the direction pad.

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In terms of the standard AF-modes, I tried both AF-C and AF-S. I find AF-S works better for my usage, being more accurate. A notable point is the AF speed in good light is great similar to everything out there. However, turn down the light to indoors or low light, I find the AF to be slower and at times hunt a little more then I expect in comparison to my Fuji and Olympus cameras I have on hand. Accuracy wise, after some trail and error, pin AF point is the only way to work to get consistently sharp photos on the eyes. In that mode, the camera rarely focuses off the intended target in most conditions.

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In-Built Image stabilization (IBIS) is probably one of the best advancements in my opinion in the last decade for digital photography. To me, IBIS is not about the lowest shutter you can take but obtaining consistent result regardless of what lens is on the camera. Testing the camera in both good, and low available light, the IBIS worked well, providing consistent 1/20 shots utilizing either of the lens provided under low light situation. Like the image above which the only light source is the sparkles, the camera provided results that are predictable. The lowest successful shot I done so far is 1/10 of a second for portraits utilizing the 35mm F1.4, and if anything, the issue lies more in how steady the subject can hold rather then the camera on my hand.  On static items, I can go as low as 1/5 shutter, but it was not constant but at least options are there in times of need.

Image Quality

Image quality is really what you expect in a modern Full Frame Mirrorless Camera. It looks great, colours are well saturated and the raw is flexible to post editing. In the aspect of image quality, lenses make as much impact as the camera itself and I can assure anyone buying into this system, the 35mm and 50mm is great. I really liked the colours especially in the warmer tones produced by this camera. Dynamic range of the Z6 is quite good, lifting of 3 stops of exposure in shadows results in minimal noise. Beyond that, the Z6 introduces slightly more colour noise which could be fixed in post processing. I will not however recommend increasing it 5stops and beyond as it will start introducing blotches in the blacks. Regarding high ISO, I did not really get to try it beyond 1600 since with IBIS, there really isn’t much reason to utilise it in my usual shoots.

Banding in extreme shadow and push
Banding in extreme shadow and push (faded lines). Color Blotching noise (greenish patch).

One common problem for mirrorless cameras is banding in extreme bright light or dark shadows due to phase AF pixels. The Z6 exhibits some form of it at the pixel level for the dark shadows, luckily it does a better job here then my GFX100 and Olympus EM-1X. My personal experience shows me this probably will not affect most of the Z6 users and by the time it shows up, the noise is probably high enough that it will be a bigger issue then the banding itself.

Other than that, I have nothing much to cover on image quality. It’s better than my smaller sensor cameras and comparing to the GFX100 I have on hand; it is similar except in the most extreme case of shadow lifting. For now, enjoy the photos below shot with this camera.

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DSC_0495 edited smaller head

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Conclusion

In summary, I think the Z6 is a great step for Nikon into the mirrorless race. It has the size convenience that mirrorless is supposed to promise, AF is relatively fast and accurate, the lenses I had were optically great, IBIS is a boon and the image quality is on par with anything else on the market. Coupled with the pricing here in Singapore, it’s a competitive alternative to anything else in the market. Also based on their recent lens release, their latest 24-70 is one of the lightest and optically fantastic lens of its class, the 58mm Noct is a statement that Nikon can make optically magical lens, the Z series will probably have a great future ahead. The Z6 is just a step for Nikon towards the mirrorless future, and a decent step it is.

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Special thanks to Riyuukii_Cos for modeling for the shoots I used to test this camera with. You can follow her @ https://www.instagram.com/riiyuukii_cos/

Nanguang Forza 300: The line between Led and Flash

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Led has always been mainly for video. Occasionally they may be used for photos, but the lack of power and color accuracy is something that most will stay away and stick with flash. Nanlite (previously Nanguang) introduce something interesting this time around. The Nanlite 300 is the fine line between flash and general leds. It may not be strong enough to replace big studio flashes, but its pretty much on par with a speed light, comes in a bowen mount, and pretty accurate in colors. Interested? Read down below.

Disclaimer: This light is loaned from my local retailer, SLR Revolution. I am not given any money to write this review and will have to return it soon.

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The Forza 300 is very well built. All metal construct, grooved locking knobs on the head to hold up any modifier you put infront of it, and a metal ballast with plugs that locks to prevent accidental removal. It runs on either 2x V Mount battery or with the adapter that comes with it. The ballast (the metal tower on the left) controls the light and houses all the batteries. It comes with a metal clamp that allows the ballast to be mounted on the light stand, acting as a weight to ensure stability.

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The head itself is light (2kg) as all controls and power management is housed on the ballast. Power can be changed from 1% to 100% and there are host of light effects such as tv and broken bulbs for those that want to shoot videos and simulate those conditions. The power can also be separately controlled by Nanguang remote controller as long as the channel is properly setup.

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The power goes from 1-100%, however it never felt like it is 1%. It is closer to 5-100% instead but that probably does not matter as most will not be getting it for extreme low light usage without a modifier. At 1m with the reflector provided, it measures over 32500lux, that is pretty bright. (Most light sticks measure at around 3000lux) Color temperature ranges from 5780-5820, which is fantastic and better then even most studio flashes.

However power is just one of the parameters of light, the more important aspect is: How great is the color?

In short, great but could just be a little better.

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Above is the image of a Sekonic C700 Spectrometer that measures color accuracy in terms of CRI. 94.2 is the measurement at minimum power while 96.0 is the measurement at maximum power. To put into perspective, flashes are usually in the 98-99 region while the sun is like 99.9. Both never quite reach the 98 rated by Nanlite. The little brother Forza 60 did not reach the 98 CRI either but at did scored a minimum of 96 and a maximum of 96.9.

However CRI is ultimately a average of multiple spectrum, the important part is how does skin tone reacts and for that its pretty good. As long as you are not lower then 10%, it easily passes 90 point for red, pink and biege. What that means is skin tones will render naturally, with good accuracy and tones. I put it to the test below.

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On the back left acting as a rim light was the Forza 60 while on the right top mounted with a beauty box + socks setup, was the Forza 300. With a bowen mount, the Forza 300 makes finding and mounting modifiers for it a breeze. Rather then talk about the colors, I will let the pictures below show the results.

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Shot at about ISO 400, F5.6, 1/100, the results turn out pretty good. 3 different outfit, 3 different color, great skin tone output. Editing it was a breeze, there was no resistance when pushing color or weird tones that make Led light editing tricky. Overall color especially for skin tones was great, the 3 different Qi Pao also look rather stunning in terms of colors and details. With the ability to put mods, this is a great light for video and photos.

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In summary, it is a great light. Color could have been a little better, especially considering the price, but even as it is, this ranks one of the best led lights I measured so far. Coupled with the ability to put mods, this is a great light both for video and photo works in a studio.

You can get the Nanlite Forza 300 from SLR Revolution for about $1300 SGD.

Portraits were shot with theFujifilm GFX100 or and the Forza 300 product shots were done with the Olympus EM1MX

Fujifilm GFX100 Review: The modern Behemoth

Fujifilm GFX100
Fujifilm GFX100

The Fujifilm GFX100 102 Megapixel Camera is out. I have to say I am absolutely excited from its launch, to its first shoot and even now. Everything about it shows how far we can go with modern day digital photography.

Disclaimer: I’m a GFX fan, I own the system since 50s and every lens except the Macro and the 100-200 zoom. I shoot them extensively as a hobbyist and assignments.

The GFX100 is what Fujifilm promised on spec sheet to be a modern take on what a medium format camera is. Beyond its larger sensor and image quality prowess, it promises modern day performance similar to how you would use any mirrorless, and my weekend of extensive usage agrees with it, at least from a portrait photographer point of view.

No more retro dails, in comes pure digital control
No more retro dails, in comes pure digital control

There is much to say about this camera. For those that wants the summary:

  • It works like a modern day Mirrorless: AF, IBIS, Low Latency EVF, and even 5 FPS
  • Image Quality is phenomenal
  • Its big and heavy
  • I didn’t like the grip
  • I think handling can be improved
  • Banding can happen in extreme cases

With the summary out of the way, lets go through the items one by one.

My very first pic: GFX100 63mm F2.8
My very first pic: GFX100 63mm F2.8

My first shoot was in the bright sunlight, slightly back lit situation. From the get go, the GFX100 is responsive. It AF quickly, much faster then the 50s, and it is dead accurate. At least 95% of my shots are tact sharp in focus, and the 5% is just soft but still usable on size down. There is the occasional out of focus, but I will attribute it to either bad handling on my side, or the subject is too close and too fast moving, like a little kid running under you.

For the purpose of walking, spinning and focusing in both bright, backlit and dark situation, the continuous AF (CAF) is accurate and quick. The only time it faltered in low light, indoor lighting similar to a house at night, the CAF just hunts a little too much but the single point still works great and quick to boot. Definitely not as decisive as the XT3 here.

Eye AF on the hand do not work quite as well. It seems to jump and loses the person face rather easily. I tried it a few rounds and decided moving the AF point around and use continuous or single AF is still the better way out.

GFX100 with 110mm
GFX100 with 110mm

However AF will be useless if the EVF latency from the GFX50s is still there. Luckily Fujifilm fixed it totally this time. In fact, between what you see and the actual scene, I reckon its really similar to any mirrorless out there. This may seem normal, but 50s had like a 0.2s latency or something, X1D probably worst. Whats more, the EVF is huge, bright and really sharp. There is one thing the GFX100 could not overcome, and that is the blackout. Between each shot, there is significant, noticeable blackout. It is quite distracting and probably more so if you do sports or quick action.

Talking about EVF, I would also like to highlight that finally you can check sharpness properly. GFX50s had this oddity where zooming in playback images, it just look soft but in reality tact sharp on the laptop. That issue seems to be gone for the playback here in the GFX100.

200% zoom from the top photo.
200% zoom from the top photo.

Touching on sharpness, I still find the photos pretty sharp at the pixel level. I am still editing at my 200% zoom and felt it was no way worst off then the GFX50s at that zoom level. This applies to the 63mm and the 110mm lenses I used extensively so far.

The 3d Pop: GFX100 with 110mm F2
The 3d Pop: GFX100 with 110mm F2

The magical image pop. I’m sure the sharpness of the lens and probably the 100mp has some contribution, but sizing down and applying sharpening resulted in photos that I felt had more pop to it. Maybe its a placebo effect but to me the subject seems to transit a lot more sharply when the distance between the subject and background is huge, while in the the gradual areas, its still smooth as usual.

Another area that has a subtle improvement is the dynamic range. I put it subtle as whatever I did here in terms of pushing and pulling, I felt my GFX50s can do it too. It just felt slightly easier, like there is just more wiggle room. However I do not have any scientific test on hand but photonstophoto have the measured results that put the GFX100 about 0.3+ stops more DR then the GFX50s and more then everyone else except the Phase One with their true 645 sensor.

Sparkles everywhere: GFX100 and 110mm

Fuji claims the lenses were built for beyond 100mp. I believe they are built for more then 50mp for sure, and maybe some of them like the 110mm is built for beyond. It looks incredible on the GFX100, with ultra sharp images, extremely low CA and near perfect resolution anywhere on the frame. Fuji also thought about the future, giving it the LM motor to ensure its speedy when a better AF systems comes along. Notice the sparkling dots behind, no LOCA, and on a 100mp photo. Kudos to the optics guys at Fuji and their lens design.

No CA/LOCA
No CA/LOCA

So far I covered all the outdoor stuff, now it comes to the last factor I believe is essential to complete this image/camera package. And that is the In-body Image Stabilizer. For all the high megapixel users out there that do not have one, notice how painful it is to shoot a sharp photo with say a 110mm? You will need 2x or even 3x the shutter to focal length to ensure consistent sharpness. IBIS is not only about low light, but also to ensure every shot counts and maximizes that 100mp in the camera. With the GFX100, you almost never need to worry about raising your ISO just to counter shake or to ensure consistency in not so bright days.

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Of course IBIS is also useful for all sort of other scenario, such as the above, mixing light with the ambient on the back and a flash on the front. The flash is only at 1/128 power and shutter was hovering around 1/30. In the GFX50s, I would be force to raise two stop of ISO so that I don’t get those soft looking images due to flash and ambient mix coupled with shake. On the GFX100, I can just shoot. It also affords me better flash control since I can use lower ISO, which gives me more headroom in post processing.

Read mini lcd
Read mini lcd

To bring the camera to the modern age, GFX100 lost the dials and gain additional digital displays. They are useful, especially the rear one which gives you a clear view of your setting without cluttering the main image view. The top can be used for histogram and setting views, which will continue to show the last setting view even when the camera is off. I can imagine Fuji unlocking more use for the two LCDs in the future with more firmware.

So with all the good points, I did raise some bad one right up front. Firstly I did not like the grip. It just didn’t felt as secured as my GFX50s of the past. Maybe its the balance or the now heavier body, but I felt less secure one hand holding the GFX100 with 110mm compared to my GFX50s with a 250mm. The vertical grip is also not great to hold, its just weirdly different from the other grip, and button placement also differs. I also hate the lock on the vertical grip, which I constantly accidentally hit when I put in and pull it out of my bag, resulting half my buttons locked and I have no idea why till I see it. I prefer Olympus solution of C-Lock, which is at the back and allows me to choose what to lock.

The lock I always push...
The lock I always push…

On the buttons, or the lack of it, the GFX100 for a modern digital camera has not enough buttons. They remove the 4 way from the bottom, and this result in lost of some really crucial ones like WB. After mapping everything, I still lack a button or two, something I never experienced on the 50s. My last complain on the button is the placement, Who thought putting them in a column next to the LCD is a great idea? It is hard to stretch to the play button, which I use at times keeping my eye to the EVF to do some chimping in the bright outdoors, and I keep hitting the display/back instead.

There is one point on banding I written above. It happens in rare scenarios, such as raising EV for +5, or shooting into really really bright highlights and doing some recovery. I did one night shot and when pushing it +5 and 100 shadow, the banding could be seen. This is probably due to PDAF, but it plagues pretty much every camera out there from my Olympus EM1X to the Sony A7RIII. If banding do occur, sizing down probably makes it goes away since unless you need the full 100mp, even 50/25mp is enough for most and the banding becomes a lot less obvious. Check out the Fujifilm GFX group on FB as someone had quite an issue with it in the highlights and if that is what you always do. For me, it did not affect a single of my shots outdoor with the sky and clouds behind the subjects back in normal usage even after recovery. I think that is good enough.

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Even with the above issues, the GFX100 is still a phenomenal camera. The best there is in image quality without being clunky or unusable. Everything about it is making sure you can maximize the 100mp in most situation. It may not be your sports camera, or the best there is in image quality (Phase One 150mp holds that record) but what it gives you is near pinnacle image quality in most situation that medium format would have never enter, till now.

So who is this camera for?

For $9999 USD, it is definitely not for the faint heart.

For those who need the 100 megapixels, there really isn’t much else without paying twice or three times the price. Never forget a camera is a system, and GFX lenses can be said to be on the lower bound of cost in the medium format category.

Then there are people who want all the goodness of image quality with all the modern convenience of AF and IBIS. Be it hobbyist or commercial work, this camera will allow you to work like a normal mirrorless camera, but obtain image quality that you will not get in full frame cameras today. The GFX lenses are also one of the best, and as stated earlier, the GFX100 brings them to their peak.

For commercial photographers though, there is one more reason to use it: The GFX 100 is just more reliable in most scenario in ensuring a good, repeatable output. AF and IBIS ensure most of your shots count. Your shot will have lower chance to be blur/out of focus/under exposed. This maybe important to some as it builds confidence: you can’t always ask your clients to repose due to errors.

In conclusion , if you can afford it, like the GFX lens line up, and want that modern mirrorless feel, get it. It is the modern day behemoth of a camera.

There is also other improvements such as video, usb-c charging and dual battery for great battery life. You can probably read them from people that actually do use them. For now enjoy some extra pics below shot by this camera. I am definitely looking forward for many years of great imaging with this camera.

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Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 Review: Portrait Extravagant

I posted a preview recent on this lens and this review is to complete it. I do mainly portraits and as such my review will look at how this lens perform in it. In the past 2 months, I used it extensively for about 7 portrait shoots in various conditions. In summary, this is the portrait extravagant lens: A no compromise, near optical perfection, bokeh monster for all condition from day to night with a price to match. Still interested? Read below.

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Firstly this functions closer to a 300mm F2.8 (or f3.0 if you want to be more exact) and its a really long lens. I won’t discuss on the purpose why one will use 300 mm for portrait, but most importantly the effect you obtain from this lens is probably close to indistinguishable from any FF with similar setup and maybe better. I mean in all aspect, from sharpness, to contrast and Bokeh. I highlighted the last word since one of the biggest purpose of this lens is to pop the subject out of the frame and compress the background as much as possible.

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It looks like a sticker on a colored backdrop.  The bokeh is near perfect, with minimal Longitude Chromatic Abberations (LOCA), making clean circles of everything. However on some busy background, especially if things have thin long sparkling shape like grass  and its not so far away, the bokeh may at times be a little rough. Else its pretty much as good as it gets, on a APS-C camera.

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Optically, the XF200mm is fantastic. CA is very well controlled but can be spotted in the form of yellow/orange outline at the edges of frame. I will estimate it to be only visible if you zoom around 200-300% and only on the most adverse condition. The auto CA correction in LR can remove them if needed to near perfection.

Sharpness is top notch.  It is sharp to the very corner, usable to 200% zoom if the lens is totally in focus. This is the catch, with such shallow Depth of Field, getting critical focus is more essential then the sharpness of the lens itself. Thankfully Fuji latest XT30 and its Eye-AF does it perfectly. The moment it detects the eye, 9/10 shots will be on the iris itself unless there are obstruction.

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Contrast affects perceived contrast and I am glad to report it is great on the XF200mm. At F2, its probably as contrasty as it gets and stopping down to F2.8 only improve it a little. The lens is quite resistance to flare, however shooting into bright light does haze it a little, losing contrast. Depends on your preference, that adds a nice touch of softness, great for portrait. Else use the hood and try not to shoot directly into a bright source of light.

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Now for the non optical aspect, the built is great, I can’t fault it anywhere. The buttons on the lens can be used to preset focus or AF-on. It would have been better if they can be set to anything like those on the Sony. The hood is large and well built, however do note you must align and check if its tighten properly. I had a few case the hood suddenly dislodge. It is probably ok if the hood drops from the lens, but some people may just pick the lens by the hood accidentally and the lens will dislodge.

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The weight is great and on an APS-C, the overall package is really light. I will digress a little here and talk about using it with my XT-30. It is literally mounting a camera on the lens, not the other way around. But the combination other then supporting the full weight on hand holding the lens, is pretty usable. The total weight is around 2.9kg with hood and XT30, lighter then every configuration out in the market by a good margin. Without the hood, the setup is closer to 2.7kg. To put into perspective, the next lightest 200mm f2 is the canon at 2.54kg just the lens alone. The weight saving lens wise is about 300g and the light weight XT30 will add another 100-300g of saving compare to most other cameras with similar capabilities. This may seem little but 400g can be translated to multiple F2 Fuji lens such as the 23mm or 50mm, like the picture above, all fitted into a thinktank spectral 14 bag.

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The two other aspect that is great is the Autofocus (AF) and Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS). The AF is extremely snappy, especially if set to 5m and beyond for portrait. You can also track moving subject quite confidently with the XT30. AF though is more of a function of the camera and believe the XF200mm can still be faster and more accurate as future firmware and camera comes out. The OIS is the next great thing on this lens. I tested and 1/25s sharp photos are quite repeatable. That is an impressive feat at 300mm.

200mm @ F2. No LOCA

In Summary: this lens is Portrait Extravagant, fantastically and probably even excessively for the purpose of shooting portrait. It is probably one of the best there is, regardless of format and form.

 

Thinktank Spectral 10 review

This is going to be really short post. Review of the Thinktank Spectral 10 sling bag.

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I wanted something just nice in size, that fits the following needs:

  • Light
  • Holds a variety of item
  • Can fit something as big as a 200mm f2 with hood
  • As small as it gets to fit my X series camera and 2 small primes with the 200mm
  • Has zipper pockets to hold other stuff
  • Durable

When I visited TKfoto, even they found this request rather hard. The 200mm f2 fuji has a really huge hood but thankfully it’s not exactly long.

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They recommended me the Spectral 10 and after some testing in the shop, it seems to fit my needs. TKfoto offered to exchange within. a few days if it doesn’t.

I got home and immediately put everything in. And lucky me it all fits.

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XT 30 with the 23/50/200mm f2. Charger, spare battery and two NP970 for my lights. It also has a zipper infront for my passport and also a small tablet, a zipper cover if you want to ensure nothing falls out, and a magnetic clasp for the top cover that has a nifty pull to unlock mechanism. So no forgetting to lock the bag and spilling your stuff out.

The total weight of my gear and bag weighs below 5 kg. It’s pretty light considering that half the weight is the 200mm!

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So it’s all pretty good really. Small bag that fits everything. I recommend if you have a setup like mine: one huge Telephoto and a few other smaller prime.

Nanguang RGB88 Light Wand Initial Review

This is initial review of the RGB88 Light Wand by Nanguang.

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It is a Bi-Color + RGB Led want with a few nifty function. It allows power from 0-100, Warm to Cool from 3200-5600 and finally 360 colors which goes from Red-Blue-Purple-Green. Some pictures of it in different colors.

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The light has an additional function, going from hard light to soft light. There is an almost 3x more power in the hard light mode but it will cause rough and multi line shadows.

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Looking at colour accuracy, this light is rather outstanding. Scoring between 95-97. Very impressive for a light not costing more then 200 USD.

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Now we look at using my 1/3 scale doll as a model to see the different effects. First we look at the hard and soft light function. Notice the background and shadow difference.

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At the same position, the hard light (second shot) has significantly more shadow and is more focused (notice the background). The hard light is acting like many raw bulb while the soft light is a diffuser over them. Its pretty nifty since you can use it at a touch of a button. Never seen something like this in any lights!

Next we look at mixing light.

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Overall its pretty fun to use as you can see above. Being above to turn into most colours and fine tune the power visually for usage. One last function of this light. 2 of them can combine into one!

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Look at the awesomely long led. I am sure this is really useful for human size lighting. It is just really costly….

Last notes, the light has 1 small led panels behind, showing power and color/temperature. It comes with an adapter but no battery. Battery has to be purchased separately with the charger. Luckily for those that has been doing video, the battery is the standard Sony NP-F series battery that doesn’t cost too much. If anything, it is common, easy to find and replace. At least the first thing that normally goes (the battery) can be easily sourced and replaced. Whats more it comes in different size, with the biggest one able to power this light wand for more then 2 hrs.

When I have time, I will bring this out and test on human subject for skin tone lighting which is the most essential for such lights. Till then, hope you enjoy this review!

Where does it matter and what do you gain: APS-C, Full Frame, Medium Format

APS-C vs Full Frame. Sensor size and what is promised.

I had been surfing around youtube recently and saw some interesting videos/comments on things like ISO, sensor size, equivalence  and so on. Some companies claim APS-C will give a smaller lighter package, others argue that if we look at the the equivalence, there is no advantage and in-fact full frame is better. But is that true? Does a full frame truly have 2x more light? Does a 17-50 f2.8 really equal to just a 24-70 F4? Is it true that APS-C is pointless since it doesn’t save any weight?

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Fujifilm GFX 50s with 250mm F4 and XT2 with 200mm F2

As you can see in the above, a APS-C can be larger and heavier then a medium format. So weight saving is a very subjective thing. Below we dive deeper into the sensor, equivalence and weight.

APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.
APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.

First lets look at the argument

A image taken by a 50mm F2 on an APS-C will look similar to 75mm F2.8 (or F3) on a Full Frame. There is probably not much debate on the looks and output on the photo. Where the argument lies is when companies market a APS-C lens and claims it saves weight when compared to a Full Frame similar lens.

Case in point, Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 vs 24-70mm F2.8. Definitely the Fuji APS-C version is smaller and lighter by about 300+g.  The Full Frame camp will argue that it is not equal and that a 24-70mm F4 is more comparable. The APS-C side will then counter that  a 16-55mm F2.8 is longer (approx 24-83mm) and you still get F2.8 in terms of light. This is where things turn ugly, people will start arguing that Full Frame takes in twice as much light and thus produce better image quality and bokeh. We will not touch on Bokeh since a Full Frame F2.8 is definitely better in that aspect. For this write up, lets look at exposure, weight and image quality.

In exposure there are 3 parameters, Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture. Aperture is usually based on the 35mm standard and talks about how much light is let in by the lens. Shutter on the other hand is how much light is let in capped by the set duration.

Returning back to the lens, a F2.8 will always result in a F2.8 shutter. The 16-55mm F2.8 can take an image at 70mm with a shutter of 1/100 while a full frame equivalent in looks, which is about F4, will need 1/50 of a shutter. The fact remains that a F2.8 lens is always faster then a F4, even if they look similar due to difference in sensor size. But where does the extra light and sensor area go to?

D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range
D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range from Photons to Photo

What this chart shows is the dynamic range: the amount of information captured and thus usable. This affects us greatly when we do stuff like pull shadows and recover highlights for those crazy demonstration of black image to full colored +5 exposure.

So if we look at the chart above using the same company (cause everyone defines their own ISO) camera, you will notice that the D500 Dynamic Range at ISO100 is the same as D850 at ISO 165. So a full frame with 1 stop of ISO boost is the same as an APS-C at base.

So with this in mind, revisiting the lens, a 16-55mm F2.8 gives you faster shutter speed then a F4 equivalent. All the full frame camera need to do is raise their ISO by 1 stop and it equals out. In-fact it will be close to totally equaling out including image quality and whatever advantage a full frame sensor is suppose to have. So yes mounting a F4 version of the 24-70mm on a full frame essentially makes it the same as an APS-C 16-55mm F2.8.

We have gotten quality out of the way, let us look at the weight. We take the Sony A7m3 with the 24-70mm F4 vs the Fuji XT3 + 16-55mm F2.8. It is not exactly equal since the Fuji version does zoom in almost 15% more (70mm vs 83mm)

Sony: 650g + 426g = 1076g

Fuji: 539g + 655g = 1194g

Now its quite clear the XT-3 combination is heavier. It weighs some 120g more but gives you 15% more zoom. But wait, the A7m3 is the lightest Full Frame around however the XT3 is probably some of the heaviest of its type. Let us use the XT30, which for most works and outputs the same as a XT3 except for a smaller body and less buttons.

Fuji: 380g + 655g = 1035g.

Now we can go even further with some of the other bodies in the X series but you should get my point. APS-C body can get smaller then a Full Frame. At least no maker has made a lighter full frame then a APS-C ever was. So as a set of camera and lens, APS-C will be lighter. Just for a comparison to the lightest setup you can make with a APS-C that has a full frame equivalent.

Fuji A5 with 18mm F2 : 361 + 118 = 479g

This is lighter then any full frame camera and you only give up 1 stop of dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So the question now should changed: why is a good APS-C lens heavier even though it covers a smaller sensor and image wise just equates to a 1 stop slower Full Frame. We need to look at lens construction and the demands of APS-C.

Lens components
Lens components

A lens is built up of many parts. Depending on what you use to build and how rugged you built it, more then just glass, the items around it will carry that extra weight.

If we go back and view the 24-70mm F4 by Sony, it’s made out of plastic vs the 16-55mm which is made out of metal. Considering the extra zoom and just the material difference, it is where the extra weight goes. There are probably many other things inside such as AF motor, the type of element and electronics. Many of such things do not scale in weight from Full Frame to APS-C. There’s just no way to get around physics and if you make something with a heavier material, or what to get more (range in this case) it will cost something. There are probably ways to offset such as using more exotic glass like Leica but that will bring the price to stratospheric levels.

There is also one more parameter that will result in an APS-C lens to be heavier, and that is the quality needed of the lens to perform similarly as a full frame equivalent.

Lens imperfection
Lens imperfection

Firstly, I am no lens designer and if there is a mistake I am open to corrections. That said base on my understanding, a lens job is to focus the light. Many things affect this, from the quality of the glass to the lens tolerance and design. However, no lens design is perfect. That is why sharpness varies from lens to lens and even within the same lens there is some variation. Which brings up the simplified diagram above. At the same megapixel, a Full Frame has bigger sensor sites then a APS-C. Therefore, to design a lens that can work as good on a APS-C as it would look on a full frame is actually harder as the tolerance is lower. You may be using less material due to the smaller sensor, but you will need better material and overall better quality to work as well. This usually translates to some extra weight be it more/better lens elements or material with tighter tolerance. Which pretty much explains why good APS-C lens cost quite a sum of money and probably cost more with all the glass needed for correction. A good APS-C lens can easily perform to whatever full-frame has, it just cost the same as a full-frame lens and weighs as much.

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So as you can see above, a top notch APS-C lens, the 200mm F2 by Fuji, really performs as good as anything out there and maybe a little more due to the advances in technology. Perfectly sharp, highly corrected, extreme fast AF with Linear Motor. All this can be done, at a cost that is similar to the Full Frame 200mm F2. It does come with a tele-converter and considering all the advances, it definitely is as good of a deal if not better then its equivalents.

So where does this all leave us in the end? Full-Frame and APS-C are really about the same. APS-C can be lighter by basis of smaller cameras and if you use a lens of similar built with specs comparable to its full frame counter part. APS-C performs similar to a Full Frame that has added 1 stop of ISO and using a 1 stop slower aperture lens. A Full Frame given the best condition, will always outperform a APS-C camera when it comes to image quality at the lowest ISO. Sharpness and image quality is more of a metrics of the lens then the sensor itself, unless you need the 1 extra dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So if you want the lightest possible package, an APS-C is still the way to go. What you lose is 1 stop of dynamic range and probably 1 stop of noise compared to the best of Full Frame. That probably wont affect you as much unless you love to shoot in extremes: Extremely Dark or Extreme Bright. One needing the noise performance while other requiring the best dynamic range. Just remember that APS-C does not equate to a cheaper system or a lighter system if you want full equivalence to the full frame versions.

Of course there are still other things to consider. Very technical stuff such as read out speeds which is bias to smaller sensor size and that not all full frame performs as good as a D850 when it comes to dynamic range. If you were to browse around photons to photo, you will see modern APS-C is quite comparable to some Full Frame Sensors or almost no difference. If we are to look at the a Full Frame with similar frames per second as the XT3, that will be the A9, D5, 1DX. Non of them really performs better then the XT3 sensor in terms of image quality.

XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9
XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9

Comparison between XT3, D5, IDXm2 and A9

So what about Medium Format? Replace APS-C as Full Frame, Full Frame as Medium Format, and you get the same explanation. The biggest reason why Medium Format cost more and produce even higher image quality is because its a niche product, built for people who wants something better and willing to pay for it. If you get the best of everything for Full Frame, you can achieve 95-98% at maybe 80-90% of the cost. In the end, you pay for what you get and no one can beat physics for free :)

And a picture from the GFX50s, Medium Format Crop Sensor Camera

GFX50s with 110mm F2
GFX50s with 110mm F2

 

Workshops!

I’ll be holding two workshops

One is a basic studio that covers how to do simple studio photography

https://www.facebook.com/events/385071658954411/?ti=cl

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There’s also a guided workshop that focus more on shooting and I will just explain some concepts. The theme is artwork like portraits.

https://www.facebook.com/events/266998334188357/?ti=cl

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If interested do sign up at the links or email me at Richard@zpeaktures.com

Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 Preview: The Beast

XT30 with the Xf200mm F2
XT30 with the Xf200mm F2

Sometime, a maker decide to push the limit in both performance and price. A aps-c only super telephoto class prime that cost similar to those white ones you see at sporting event? This has got to be the first. Enter the Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR. The first of its class for aps-c or smaller sensor, 200mm F2 with a equivalent look as 305mm F2.8 on Full Frame. 200mm F2 are not new stuff, there’s the Canon and Nikon dating back from 1980s. Fantastic lens built with the best optics then. Both companies refreshed them in the past 10 years and when used on an aps-c, will give similar results to the one by fuji. What makes fuji special is its using the latest in optics design and built only for the smaller sensor, resulting in 10-20% reduction in weight and improved optics. At 2260g, it’s lighter then any 200mm F2 or its full frame focal length equals of 300mm f2.8.

200mm @ F2
200mm @ F2

Fuji is not one to shun from putting their latest in their more consumer centric camera. Infact their latest XT30 will out-perform the XT3 in auto focus till the new firmware is up. That may look and sound silly, mounting a small consumer priced camera that’s 1/6 the cost on a white beast of a lens. However what you get is a setup that weighs slightly over 2700g, with an F2 light gathering capability and 300mm view. There is probably no setup that performs similarly at this weight. Balance may be in issue but nothing an additional grip or monopod can’t solve, which is usually staple in such setups.

200mm @ F2
200mm @ F2

But there will be nothing great if optics are not there. And this lens delivers in spade! Extremely sharp, it even look as good as my GFX shots which is famous for sharpness. It’s also very well corrected, almost insignificant chromatic aberration (CA) at 100%. You can find some at 400% view but that’s really pushing it. The CA is also of a a light yellow variant, which is much preferred over the magenta ones.

200mm @ F2. No LOCA
200mm @ F2. No LOCA

But the biggest best thing is that minimization of longitude CA aka bokeh CA. This is a bigger issue then normal CA as they are hard to correct and tints the background especially things like silver railings above.

Speaking about bokeh, this is a cream machine. Even when compared to full frame equivalents. There’s nothing better then a 300mm f2.8 unless we take out the super teles of 400mm f2.8. And we still have f2 speed which means a faster shutter 😀

Other then optics, the lens is well built and also comes with a tele-converter. Initial test shows little drop in sharpness and with it, you can actually do some simple macro. 0.63X similar to a full frame anyone?

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And one last thing, I like the bag it comes with. Slide the lens in with the camera attached. Not bad really for a traveling solution.

So wait for my full review, where I have more close up and testing. Also look forward to more reviews especially the X, GFX and their series of equipment!