Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘gear

Gordy’s Camera Strap: Love it

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Call me weird, but I pretty much never use camera straps. Whether on a photo walk or a paid gig, carrying a point and shoot or my dslr, what’s most often keeping the camera at my side is the death grip I keep on it. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like they just get in my way.

But my goodness do I love this new “Gordy Strap” I just got in the mail for my Fuji x100. It’s a highly-durable, simply-beautiful, hand-made leather strap. This wrist strap that I got is just one of the many different kinds of customizable products available at Gordy’s website. I just might need one for my dslr now. Hmmm.


Images: Nikon D700 | Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

Written by Jonathan

November 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Review: Think Tank Retrospective 5 Camera Bag

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Fuji X100 | 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 2000

The Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag: Photographer tested, Shiba approved.  Ever since I started regularly heading out with smaller, lighter gear like my EPL2, X100, and even Nikon FM, I’ve been yearning for an appropriate bag. I have a “carry everything bag” already,  so what I need here is a bag that will carry just what I need for a particular outing. The requirements were pretty simple: durable, comfortable, portable yet efficient, and most importantly, inconspicuous.

I realized something about the design of this bag while eating dinner at a restaurant over the weekend. A family with baby in tow sat down at the table next to us, and I noticed that the father had a bag that looked just like mine, only a bit bigger and with cartoon designs all over it…and it was filled with diapers. But hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed about! Like a good diaper bag, the Retrospective 5 has a very minimalist but efficient design.

Made of highly durable cotton canvas and available in Pinestone (mine) or Black, you certainly wouldn’t confuse it for a diaper bag, but you wouldn’t necessarily think it was a camera bag either, and that’s what I love most about the Retrospective 5. I carry it around with me everywhere, so the last thing I want is for it to scream “I have thousands of dollars of camera gear in me!” According to Think Tank, the minimalist design was intentional in order to help photographers inconspicuously blend into different environments.

Fuji X100 | 1/480 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Under the main flap there’s a clear pocket for your business card along with a really cool hook-and-loop strip system equipped with what Think Tank calls “sound silencers.” Again, the design of the bag is purposefully minimal and inconspicuous, so how inconspicuous is opening a hook-and-loop strip sealed bag in a quiet environment? Not very.

The image on the left shows one of the hook-and-loop strips in “silent mode.” In this configuration, the flap just falls over the bag instead of attaching at the strip, and hence makes no noise. This is how I leave the bag most of the time. On the far right the strip is active, and noisy. =)

Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | 1/50 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400

The strap is awesome. The strips of highly grippy rubber (feels like silicone) along the strap’s padding are extremely effective at keeping the  strap from sliding, allowing me to  hang the bag on the edge of my shoulder and move around with confidence while the bag stays put. Thoughtful little details like this add up to make this bag great.

On the left is an included, seam-sealed rain cover. It covers the entire bag with the exception of the straps to protect your gear in the rain. You can see it deployed here.

Fuji X100 | 1/40 sec, f/2, ISO 1000

Even though the Retrospective 5 was designed with rangefinder or micro 4/3 systems in mind, it will still happily carry a big DSLR (though your shoulder may not be quite as happy).  In the bag above is a D700 with Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G mounted (that’s a big chunk of glass), and in the side pocket a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, stacked on top of a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. There’s still plenty of room to the left of the 50mm, so a bigger lens could definitely take its place. I could mount my 24-120mm f/4 VRII and put it in the bag with my 70-300 VR and have a really wide range in a very small bag.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/2, ISO 400

This is my most common setup when I head out onto the street, walk the dog, or for travel. In one compartment is my Fuji X100, and in the other, my Olympus EPL2 with Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 mounted, effectively giving me a wide and a telephoto in two cameras. This setup is extremely light. The bag also comes with plenty of removable compartments that allow you to customize the interior any way you like. Think Tank says it can easily take a Micro 4/3 system with 3-6 lenses plus accessories. I believe it!

Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 |  1/20 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400

See that front pocket in the image above? It’s expandable, so much so in fact that it can swallow my D700 body with ease:

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400

Of course, it has no problem carrying my X100 all by itself. If I want to travel as light as possible, I just slip the one camera in the bag, and the rest of the bag easily holds chargers, batteries, and other accessories.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400

Finally, a removable carry handle. Sounds simple, but it’s extremely convenient in practice.

This post doesn’t even cover every single feature, just my favorite ones. There are many little purpose-made pockets and compartments in the bag that I didn’t mention here, but the bottom line is that if you’re a micro 4/3 or rangefinder system user, or even a DSLR user who wants a more compact and inconspicuous solution for carrying a camera and one or two lenses, the Retrospective 5 is a great choice.

Fujifilm Finepix X100: First Impression

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Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Well, I guess it was inevitable. The X100 has been calling my name ever since it was announced. Since its release, I’ve seen some mixed feelings about the camera in reviews, but somehow I felt that I understood the design concept behind the camera well enough to realize that it would match my style and make a great addition to my gear bag.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Right now the X100 is out of stock everywhere and very hard to acquire.  Some are being sold on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon with significant markups. I just happened to be browsing B&H’s website one morning and what?! In stock!? Ordered with no hesitation, and only minutes after I placed the order, stock was dry. Snagged it. Yes!

This post is a first impression in the strictest sense. I’ve barely started using this thing as I only just received it two days ago. So far, I’ve used it in the house to take snaps of Suki, and took it downtown last night to meet the wife for dinner after work.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/60 sec, f/2, ISO 800

The first thing I do when I start shooting with a new camera is see what kind of image processing power it has on its own, so all images in this post are out-of-camera JPEGs, all shot aperture priority with Auto ISO and Auto Dynamic Range set on the camera. It’s a sort of “whatchu got, X100?” test.

The ground-breaking, highlight feature of the X100 is obviously its Hybrid Viewfinder, which I tell you truthfully, is so stinking fantastic. I’ve never shot with a rangefinder-style camera before, so the parallax error at close distances seemed pretty weird at first. Fortunately, the bright line frame moves in the finder to correct for parallax, and switching from the optical viewfinder to the electronic viewfinder easily eliminates the issue when you need to get in close.

The video below that I took with my iPhone does no justice to how bright and wonderful the OVF really is, but it does give you an idea of what its like to see the shooting info and bright lines displayed, what its like switching between OVF and EVF view, and how pleasantly silent the shutter is:

No blackout when hitting the shutter release. Yesssss.

There’s another video here that’s even crummier but adds more info on the display, including grid lines, a histogram, a focus scale, and an electronic level, among other things. Hopefully I can manage better videos in upcoming reviews.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/60 sec, f/2, ISO 640

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/50 sec, f/2, ISO 3200

High ISO images are looking good on this camera. Still see some nice details on Suki’s fur with little image noise in the shot above, taken under dim lamp light at ISO3200.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/640 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Image quality is extremely good, but you knew that already if you’ve read other reviews about the X100.  I love the lens as well. It’s sharp, vignetting is minimal even wide open, and the 35mm full-frame equivalent view is a great focal length for shooting in a wide variety of situations, especially in city streets. The camera feels very similar in size to my E-PL2, but the X100 produces very visibly better image quality, largely due to its bigger APS-C sized sensor.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/150 sec, f/2, ISO 400

The leaf-shutter built into the lens is deadly silent. Coupled with the old-school design of the camera, no one notices you using it (unless they’re a fellow gear-geek). You can slip right up behind someone and just snap away.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/950 sec, f/8, ISO 400

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/210 sec, f/8, ISO 200

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/850 sec, f/8, ISO 800

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 800

The X100 features a few “film simulation” modes. The one used for the image above is Velvia, which seems a little over the top to me. I think the preset pushes blacks down a little too hard, which is something I can do myself in post, thank you very much. The rest of the images in this post are taken using Provia, which is the standard film simulation mode for the camera.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/850 sec, f/8, ISO 400

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/450 sec, f/8, ISO 400

Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/75 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400

For the image above, taken in pretty bright afternoon light, I used the camera’s built in 3-stop ND filter to cut the light down and let me shoot the image wide open. Going to base ISO would have helped too, but hey, ISO400 was the camera’s decision, not mine. It has to do with how the X100 optimizes dynamic range.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/550 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/480 sec, f/8, ISO 200

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/25 sec, f/2, ISO 800

As light got dimmer, shutter speeds got slower. The lens is wide enough to allow hand held shots at pretty slow shutter speeds, but with no built in stabilization, you have to be extra careful. High ISOs look great though, so I can live without it.

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm,  1/17 sec, f/2, ISO 800

Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/600 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Even in the short amount of time since I received it,  the X100 has won my heart. There’s a certain joy I get from shooting with it that’s so unique. I can’t wait to take it out for another spin, so stay tuned for more impressions!

Written by Jonathan

June 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

Lazy Weekend With the 85mm 1.4

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Nikon D700 | Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Started last weekend right with a trip to the cafe. Whoops, two posts in a row that show pictures of the same exact place! Shows you how often I go out for coffee I guess.

Since I’m shooting a wedding pretty soon, I decided to ask a favor of my cousin Josh, a New York based photographer. He was kind enough to ship some key gear out to me, including his most cherished Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D. That’s love right there.

Normally I take my E-PL2 with me for weekend errand running, but I was eager to give this 85mm a try, so along it came to Blue Bottle.

Ok, first off, I’m not used to this focal length. My mind’s eye tends to see wider, between my favorite 24mm through around 50mm.  When I use my 24mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4, for instance, I can compose at either focal length in my head before I even raise the camera to my eye. I can even “see” 200mm in my head, since that’s my other frequently used focal length. When I first started shooting with the 85, however, I kept expecting it to be wider than it is.  I’d raise it to my eye and always find myself to be too close to my subject, cutting off areas I wanted to have in the frame (the top photo is an example), so I found myself taking a few steps back every time I raised the camera to my eye. Felt goofy and pretty awkward at first, hah.

It’s that guy again with the hat and the book stand! He must come here every day or something….

I can see why many dub this lens the “cream machine.” At f/1.4, wherever you put your focus point comes out sharp as anything, with everything behind it liquefying into some mighty attractive-looking bokeh. If I ever decide to buy this lens for myself, I’ll leave it at f/1.4 every time.

It’s a great lens for portraits…..of your friends making silly faces. Sorry Dez ;)

Taking a walk with Suki, I was again having a weird time with the 85.  I’m used to getting in close with wider glass when shooting her, so again I found myself raising the camera up, oops, taking a few steps back, composing again.

This thing excels out on the street. Color, contrast, sharpness…the last thing you need to worry about with this optic is whether or not it performs well.

This lens is a legend. If you think you want one, go for it! As for me, I’m not sure I need to own one right now, since I can just borrow it (heh heh).  Thank you Josh…sorry in advance if I delay a little in sending it back ;)


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Written by Jonathan

April 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm