Category Archives: Equipment

New Kase K8 Magnetic Filter Holder

Derwentwater at sunset, The Lake District, UK.
Derwentwater at sunset, The Lake District, UK. Fuji X-T2, 50-140 f2.8 lens, ISO200, 1/20″ at f/22.0. Kase 3 stop Soft ND Grad filter. Tripod Mounted. Try doing shooting something like this with a resin filter and you will understand why I switched to Kase Wolvering glass filters.

Last year I made the decision to switch filter systems. At the time I was using the Lee 100mm system and the Lee Seven5 system for smaller cameras (I still use the Seven5 with Micro43 cameras and my pocket camera because of the size). I had been a long time Lee Filter user and had been happy with the filters. What changed my mind was the cost of the filters when you consider how easily they scratched. And it wasn’t just large scratches that I’m talking about, it was micro scratches on the surface of the filter. Often you couldn’t see these until you started to shoot into the sun, when everything became obvious and the photos would often be ruined by flare.

Because of my experience with the resin filters I had been considering a switch to using glass. At the time Lee didn’t offer glass filters other than the big and little stoppers. And my experience with those had been poor due to a strong blue colour cast but also having smashed a couple of them when they popped off my camera; I still have no idea how. This experience had left me wary of using glass filters although I knew in my heart that it was probably the way to go.

Then I had an experience which made up my mind in an instant. I tried a friend’s glass Nisi filters and the results were amazing. It was as if someone had wiped my lenses clean, but I didn’t switch to Nisi. Instead I switched to Kase; that’s because the Kase filters are shatterproof and scratch resistant and I think that’s a big deal.

Now these glass filters aren’t cheap (but I honestly believe they are worth it) so initially I bought a couple to try them. I also didn’t want the added expense of a filter holder so decided to use my Lee 100mm holder and switched the filter holder inserts that hold the filters in place. The standard Lee holders aren’t strong enough to hold the slippery, heavier glass filters in place and they can easily slide through.

With the new filter inserts in place the Kase filters worked fine, and I quickly realised the Kase Wolverine filters were what I had been looking for. I bought a couple more and then a few more, but I continued to use the Lee 100mm filter holder with them. But, there was one niggling problem remained with the Lee holder and that was vignetting.

The design of the Lee holder is such that the add on ring for the polarising filter sits on the outside of the holder. Despite this being a large 105mm diameter it can still cause vignetting with wide angle lenses, even without the polarising filter attached. Add the polariser and you suddenly restrict the field of vision considerably. The Kase filter holder by contrast has the polarising filter built into the holder and it sits almost flush to the face of the lens, in line with the filter adapter ring. Result – no vignetting.

When I recently visited the Photography Show in Birmingham I called by the Kase stand to take a closer look at the Kase filter holder. The vignetting issue with my Lee holder was becoming a major problem and had prevented me from taking some shots that I felt sure would be great. When I looked at the Kase K6 holder I was immediately impressed. It’s well engineered from aluminium, it’s smaller than the Lee holder (but still takes 100mm filters), it’s lighter and most importantly it’s thinner. By thinner I mean that it doesn’t protrude as far from the lens so the risk of vignetting with ultra-wide lenses like the Fuji 10-24 is minimised. In all the excitement at the show though I forgot to place an order.

Fortunately, when I did place an order the Kase K6 holder had sold out as there had been so much interest at the show. I say fortunately because Kase has just launched the new K8 Magnetic filter and when I heard I switched my ordered that instead. One of the benefits with the K8 holder is that the polarising filter attaches to the filter holder magnetically. This allows you to pop it out rather than unscrew it if you don’t want to use a polariser. This may sound minor, but when it’s cold and your fumbling around outside, it can be a significant advantage.

I’m planning on heading out with the new holder in the next few days and hope to be able to share a full review on the blog next week.

For the sake of openness and honesty I should tell you that I do sell Kase filters through my website. This came about after I bought my first set of Kase filters. If I didn’t think these were great filters, they wouldn’t appear on my website. I only recommend what I use myself and truly believe in.

Do I Love my Zeiss 32mm Prime?

Studying in John Rylands Library, Manchester
Studying at John Rylands Library, Manchester. Fuji X-T2, Zeiss 32mm lens, ISO800, f/2.2, 1/100″ handheld.

A couple of weeks back I mentioned that I had purchased a Zeiss 32mm prime for the Fuji X-T2. I’ve now had an opportunity to use the lens out in the field and I’m pleased, but not delighted. Here’s my reasoning:

  1. The lens is sharp, actually it’s very sharp. It also resolves lots of fine detail, even wide open. But because of this you tend to pick out even the slightest wobble when shooting.
  2. I struggled a little in low light situations and found it much better outside. For the image you see with this post, I had to shoot several frames to ensure I had a sharp one. It may be me, not being used to shooting without OIS and using a standard lens. What I do know is that I had a lot more confidence and success when using the Fuji 18-55 kit lens. Most of those images came out sharp whilst taking less care.
  3. I love the colours and tones produced by this lens. The contrast and saturation levels are pretty much spot on. I haven’t done very much editing with this image at all. I just set the camera profile and sharpening.
  4. I found the autofocus OK but perhaps a little on the slow side compared to my expectations.
  5. There was a slight audible noise from the aperture when shooting. Perhaps I only noticed this because I had the camera set to shoot with the Electronic Shutter and the sound turned. That makes the camera silent in operation, so it follows you would hear any noise, especially in a library.

In summary, this is a good lens which I’m keeping. It just didn’t blow me away, unlike the Fuji 56mm my friend was shooting with. That may be my next prime lens purchase.

Super Lens Performance on the Fuji X-T2

Blackpool beach. Fuji X-T2 with 18-55mm lens. ISO200, 1/240″ at f/9.0. Handheld.

I mentioned in a recent post that I purchased a new 32mm Zeiss prime for my Fuji X-T2. If you read the post, you’re probably thinking I’m going to tell you how great the Zeiss is.

But I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with the Zeiss lens and will be doing a post about it in the future. But then I expect a lens like that to perform well. Because of this it hasn’t wowed me or blown me away with its performance.

But the Fuji 18-55mm has.

This is the kit lens that came with the X-T2 and I ignored. I think I paid a couple of hundred pounds extra to get this lens with the body and it seemed like the obvious thing to do. And perhaps that’s what’s stopped me from using it. I think I have taken the lens out a couple of times in the past and maybe shot a few frames. After all, I have the amazing 16-55, although that lacks stabilisation which the 18-55 has.

Recently, I took the 18-55 lens out twice and used it properly. When I first pulled up the images I shot with it, I thought I was looking at images from another lens. Even when I zoomed in to 2:1 magnification on my Mac I was quite shocked by the sharpness of this lens and the detail it’s resolved.

The image at the top of this post was taken using the 18-55. There’s loads of detail, even in more distant objects and colours are excellent. It’s also such as small lens that it’s easy to carry and pleasure to work with. I’m going to be taking it out with me more often.

For the Love of a Prime Lens

Reflections on Formby Beach. Fuji X-T2, Fuji 10-24 lens at 10mm. ISO200, f/13, 1/50″, 2 stop ND Grad. Converted in Lightroom using the Acros Yellow profile for the Fuji. Contrast adjustment and effects using Nik Color Efex.

I have done something rash! Yes, again.

Having sold all my prime lenses a couple of years back, I bought another. And I have a feeling I may buy more. Want to understand what changed my mind? So would I.

When I look at my camera equipment you can divide it into three categories:

  1. Point and shoot pocket cameras. I haven’t used these much recently and, in all honesty, I have become a little disillusioned with the lens performance of the ones I own.
  2. Mirrorless cameras ranging from Micro 43 to Full Frame. These are the cameras I use most of the time. They are the work horses of what I do, and I only have zoom lenses for these.
  3. Film cameras that I use occasionally. This is now a short list of the Bronica SQAi and Hasselblad XPan. I seldom use them but when I do I love the experience. I only have prime lenses for these cameras.

Now this is where it gets a little weird and I can’t rationalise why.

For some reason I love the experience of shooting with the prime lenses. It’s as though zoom lenses make me lazy whilst the primes make me work for my shots. When I shoot with zooms there’s a tendency to exchange movement for zooming. I know zooming my lens in and out isn’t the same as walking around the scene, but for some reason that’s what seems to happen.

When I use a prime lens, I feel I move more. I certainly need to move in and out of the scene, but I also find myself moving around to find new compositions. I also shoot less, and the quality improves, or at least I think it does.

The downside is that zooms suit Landscape work better than primes. Or at least that’s the feeling I have inside. What made me reconsider them is a strange desire for optimum lens performance. I’m sure it’s a psychological problem you can trace back to a Sigma 10-20 that was soft down one side. It ruined many a good shot and I didn’t recognise it for some time. But that’s another story.

In the end, the lens I bought isn’t a wide angle prime; I’m saving that for another day. I bought a standard focal length lens for the Fuji X-T2. Originally, I was thinking about the Fuji 35mm f2 but then saw the 35mm f1.4 and thought “that looks like it’s in another class” (although I bet there isn’t much difference). I had just finished convincing myself that I needed the f1.4 when I looked at the Zeiss 32mm f1.8. Remarkably it was on special offer and only a few pounds more than the Fuji.

So, I now have a Zeiss 32mm f1.8 for the Fuji and am itching to use it. If it’s good and I enjoy it, I’m going to be saving for the Zeiss 12mm.

As for the image attached to this blog post… It has a tenuous connection to the new lens. It was the corner performance of my Fuji 10-24 (a great lens used for this image) that started me wondering if primes would be better.

Sorry No Images

I’m currently having problems with my Mac and can’t post any images. Hopefully, I will have this resolved soon. In case you’re curious, the problems seemed to start last year when I tried to back up my hard drive. Each time I hooked up a disk drive it would be formatted by the Mac ready for the backup. But then when Time Machine tried to write to the disk it would report there was no space on the drive. The disk then became unreadable and none of my PC or Mac Utilities could repair the damage.

I trashed three new disk drives before I had the idea of formatting the disk using my MacBook to format a disk first. That seemed to resolve the issue and Time Machine was able to do its thing.

During all this, I decided to partition my hard drive to help organise my data better. I split the drive into two partitions; one of 800Gb containing my applications and the other was 2.2Gb where I would hold data. Halfway through the partitioning process the Mac crashed and on restarting I could only see the 800Gb partition. The rest of the space was still there but couldn’t be accessed at all.

After a lot of support from Apple over a few months, the only option was to format the hard drive, but even that was problematic. Eventually, the drive was wiped, and the backup from Time Machine started. Except now the backup wouldn’t install and failed repeatedly at different points. We then tried installing just the operating system but that also failed several times. In the end, the Mac has gone to an Apple repairer.

I’m sure when I get it back and all will be well, but it’s the inconvenience and wasted time. It also really makes you question your backup strategy for images and Lightroom.

Snagging a Pre-Christmas Bargain

Yewbarrow, Read Pike and Pillar can all be seen in this panoramic. Four image stich with the Fuji X-T2 and 18-135 lens. ISO200, f/11.0, 1/60″

If there’s one thing I can never have enough of, it’s camera bags. Although I tend to use a LowePro Min Trekker (which I think turned into Pro Runner 450AW) if I am out for the day, if I am heading up to the hills, I don’t take this. Typically for a day in the hills safety is more important than camera gear, so I tend to take a backpack full of extra clothing, food and other useful things. I also want to keep it light as I’m not as young as I used to be. Gone are the days of climbing mountains with a Pentax 67 medium format outfit on my back.

When out walking I typically take a single all-purpose camera or lens such as the Sony RX10. When I was shooting more with a Micro 43 I could take the body, three lenses, batteries and filters in a small LowePro 130 shoulder bag. Now with the move to shooting mainly Fuji, the LowePro 130 isn’t large enough.

My solution had been to take the LowePro Apex AW120 which is slightly deeper and fits the Fuji with a slightly larger lens attached. There is though only room for the single lens attached to the camera, so I have tended to use the Fuji 18-135.

Despite having all these bags (and quite a few more besides) none was right for the Fuji X-T2. What I wanted was a shoulder bag that would accommodate the X-T2 body together with three lenses; the 10-24mm 16-50mm and 55-200mm. I didn’t want the bag to be too bulky because I would carry it in addition to my backpack and I wanted a weather proof cover.

Knowing bags tend to be quite cheap second hand, I had a look on e-Bay. Sure enough someone was selling a used LowePro Nova AW160 for £12 as buy it now; so I did. It arrived this morning and it’s like new. Whilst slightly bulkier than my other bag, it’s still small enough to carry as well as a backpack. It’s also the ideal size for the camera body and lenses I mentioned. What a great bargain.

If anyone has any recommendations for a mid sized backpack (slightly larger than the Mini Trekker) I would be grateful. It does need to be very comfortable though as my back still plays up a lot. I do have a Tamrac Expedition X7 backpack which carries loads, but it’s bulky and heavy.

Updating Equipment and Software

The Langdales from Blea Tarn. Fuji X-T2, 55-200 lens.

I don’t know about you but my email in box has been flooded with email over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. It has though provided me with two opportunities:

  1. A great time to unsubscribe from a lot of lists of people who only want to sell me stuff but don’t provide additional value.
  2. Some investment opportunities to purchase new equipment and software. My wife tells me this is called shopping but I think it’s investing.

One of the investments I was able to make was a new Fuji 50-200mm lens. I was able to purchase this little gem new, for the same price as a used model when you take into account Fuji’s cashback.

Now, I have owned one of these lenses before, but it was returned for repair following poor results. To cut a long story short, it was eventually traded towards a new 50-140mm lens with extender. This is an excellent lens which I still have and use. This last statement may cause you to wonder why I have now purchased the 50-200 lens.

The answer is a simple size and weight. The 50-140 lens is great but it’s very big and heavy whilst the 50-200 is smaller and lighter. Next year I’m planning a few longer treks and backpacking trips with the Fuji X-T2. I therefore wanted to invest in the smaller and lighter lens.

At the weekend, I had the opportunity to try out this new lens. So far, the results look very impressive. The lens has captured a huge amount of detail and is very sharp when viewed on screen or printed.

The only area which I haven’t been able to test properly is the 200mm focal length. Whilst I did shoot some images at that focal length, they appear a little soft. I do though think this is due to poor lighting conditions, causing a longer exposure of several seconds. Whilst the camera was tripod mounted the wind was very strong. I think much of the softness is related to the conditions rather than the lens.

In addition to the lens, I made a couple of software investments with upgrades to both On 1 Photo RAW and Alien Skin Exposure. I will be sharing my thoughts about these in the near future; there are a couple of surprising developments in both to mention.