Posts: 7

The Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R is boring (and that's amazing)

When writing about gear, I typically try to limit myself to solutions for problems I faced, or some New Shiny™ that really piqued my interest. This is an exception. It's an ode to my favourite lens.

Half a year after having started shooting with a Fujifilm X-E1 and the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, I was considering buying a lens with a wide aperture for greater creative freedom. I checked which focal length I used most often and at the time ~ 75% of the shots I kept were somewhere around 23 mm (~ 35 mm full-frame equivalent) leading me to buy the Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R.

I won't lose too many words about the overall quality of this lens. Many people have done so before me and most of them have a lot more experience with photography and gear than I do. The focal length is versatile, the build quality and the overall image quality are great. Placing the field of focus is easy, and considering the amount of glass that has to be moved, it focuses quickly enough.

The thing that I absolutely love about the 23/1.4, is the fact that it's so boring, so predictable, so utterly unspectacular. In other words, it's dependable.

The two characteristics that influence the dependability and predictability of the lens the most are sharpness and the way it makes out-of-focus areas look.


Even wide open, the lens renders sharp pictures across ~ 70% of the frame from the center. More importantly, though, this doesn't change based on the subject distance. I can shoot close-ups at ƒ/1.4 and be sure that the center of the frame is going to be tack sharp while anything behind it ends up an unrecognisable blur. When shooting landscapes in waining light at the widest aperture, I know that the result is still going to be good.

Rendering of the out-of-focus areas

Many great lenses can also be capricious at times, where the way the out-of-focus areas are rendered can vary wildly depending on the subject distance and aperture and lead to less than desirable results sometimes, like overly busy looking backgrounds. The XF23mmF1.4 R delivers absolutely consistent results that take a lot of guesswork out of taking pictures. I choose my subject, the distance and angle, and pick the aperture I want.
Furthermore, the progression from sharp to blurry moving from the in-focus subject to the background feels almost linear (depending on the composition). The same holds true for aperture changes from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/8.

Mika's front paws

If I could improve one aspect about the 23/1.4, it would be the addition of weather sealing. As one of the older optics in Fujifilm's line-up, it's not sealed against the elements.
Unfortunately the smaller, lighter, and weather-sealed XF23mmF2 R WR is no viable alternative. Its image quality is great but the rendering characteristics aren't nearly as predictable or dependable, making the lens less versatile.

Even so, the XF23mmF1.4 R is the lens I would take to a deserted island with me, the glass I would choose if I had to go with one lens for the rest of my days.

Eddycam 35mm camera strap + Peak Design Anchor Links

My favourite camera strap by a long shot is the Eddycam Edition "35mm" in all black. It's comfortable, robust, and the design is understated. I bought it alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 last year and kept it on the camera since then.

As much as I like this strap, there are two downsides to carrying my camera with a strap attached to the eyelets on either side of the body:

  • When using heavier lenses on the body, the camera becomes front-heavy, making it dangle uncomfortably when carried over the shoulder, around the neck, and diagonally across the body.
  • I can't switch to using a wrist strap in those rare situations when I want to and wrapping the neck strap around my wrist is impractical and doesn't give me the secure feeling a wrist strap does.

After a bit of searching for a quick-release solution to attach my Eddycam to, I ended up with the Peak Design Anchor Links. I have a couple Peak Design camera accessories and straps and their quick connectors are second to none. The system is a bit bulky which was my one small, but ultimately unfounded, concern about pairing the Anchor Links with the Eddycam 35mm strap: it might've ruined the clean looks of the X-Pro2 + black Eddycam strap combination.

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 01

The big benefit of using a quick connector system like the Peak Design Anchor Links, is having a new option to carry my camera when attaching larger lenses like the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR zoom, or the XF90mmF2 R LM WR. If I'm going to be using either of those lenses for a significant amount of time, I always attach the additional hand grip MHG-XPRO2 to my camera, which has a little gap on the right side of the base that is perfect for attaching one of the Anchor Disks — I'm honestly not sure if this is an intentional feature of the hand grip, but it's undeniably useful :)

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 02

With the strap attached to one of the eyelets on the camera and the small gap in the hand grip, the camera will now hang vertically on my side, making the combination more stable and comfortable to carry.

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 03

I'm really happy with the result of this experiment and the increased versatility of this camera strap setup. The only thing missing now is an Eddycam wrist strap with an Anchor Link, as I don't find the Peak Design wrist strap very comfortable.

Overview of the new Fujifilm X-Pro2 & X-T2 firmware

The Fuji Guys Canada posted a video walkthrough of the new firmware for the X-Pro2 (v3.0) and X-T2 (v2.0) on youtube.

If you own either of these cameras, it's a good way to get to know the new features, improvements, and changes.

Fujifilm's practice of constantly evolving their cameras using firmware updates is something that gives me a really good feeling as a customer of theirs. With each major update my Fujifilm cameras have gained meaningful new features, felt snappier than before, saw gains in autofocus, continuous autofocus, or reduced electronic viewfinder blackout times.

Steve Huff remembers the Sony Cybershot DSC-F707

Flashback 2001: Remembering an early Digital Camera. The Sony F707.

I stumbled across this article while drinking my morning coffee and smiled all the way through.

Back in 2001 I was working part-time at an electronics retailer in Mainz, Germany besides school. At that time, digital cameras were found in the computer department and not with film cameras.

The F707 was a small marvel. It looked utterly alien for a camera even back then and boasted a few incredible features like proper infrared night vision that could either work on its own or a a focussing aid in almost complete darkness. It also had a LASER focussing system which was insanely cool and worked quite well.

Back then, Sony reclaimed goods if they weren't sold in stores after a while and before that happened, they were usually offered to store employees at a heavy discount. I snagged the one remaining F707 we had in the store, making this not only my first digital camera but my first own camera, period.

It holds a special place in my heart and the fact that it still works is just bonus.

Goruck GR0 + f-stop Harney Pouch

Two great tastes that taste great together.

When I bought the Goruck GR0, I wanted a sturdy daypack with enough space for a (1, 2, 3) day trip. I figured that I would use it to carry my Fujifilm X-E1 as well, but didn't give much thought to how the camera would rest in the backpack. My solution for carrying the X-E1 in the GR0 looked like this:

LowePro wrapping cloth and string pouch

A cushioned LowePro wrapping cloth and a simple cotton string pouch for the batteries, SD cards and a few other small items. This was bad for several reasons, but the most annoying one was my gear shifting positions in the backpack, forcing me to hunt for it when I wanted to retreive the camera or a fresh battery.

I started looking for a different solution and stumbled across great ideas like using the insert from a Bilingham Hadley Pro inside the GR0, as shown by Jon Adair. Three things stopped me from going this route:

  1. The insert for Billingham Hadley Pro is quite expensive in Europe/Germany, costing around € 80.-
  2. The insert would rest at the bottom of the pack, making efficient packing a bit harder when carrying more than the camera gear alone and potentially preventing quick access, too.
  3. The Hadley Pro insert is of little use outside my GR0.

I kept looking, trying out a few other camera pouches and inserts, like Crumpler's Banana Bowl and solutions by LowePro and less well-known companies. The issues I had with the Banana Bowl were pretty much paradigmatic for all the other products I found and/or tried:

  • They were either to small with < 3.5 l or too big with > 5.5 l in volume and the outer measurements would've made it difficult to place them in the GR0.
  • The materials used weren't particularly desirable (like the neoprene on the Banana Bowls).
  • Very few had grips or attachment points for straps to use them as small camera bags outside the GR0.
  • There was no way to easily fix these camera inserts in place in the GR0.

I had almost given up and started thinking about ways to modify a Goruck GR2 Field Pocket as a camera bag insert and even considered making my own padded Cordura 500 den, MOLLE webbing-equipped insert (I'm not completely inept with fabrics and a sewing machine).

Then I stumbled across a company called f-stop and their Micro Small ICU (Internal Camera Unit). This company was entirely unknown to me but apparently they make really good gear, as reviews like this one show. Scouring their site for measurements and volumes (because the above insert was still a bit too big for my needs) I found the Harney Pouch.

The dimensions (W × H × D) are 28 cm × 18 cm × 10 cm (11" × 7.1" × 3.9") with a volume of about 5 l.
It was a perfect fit for the GR0 (11.5" × 17.5" × 5.5") or in fact any GR-series bag, because all of them are about 11.5" wide.

f-stop Harney Pouch, front

The Harney Pouch's outer fabric is 330 den Double Ripstop Nylon, it has a foam-cushioned and customisable main compartment, and two smaller and flatter compartments on the front (for less bulky accessories like batteries, memory cards, lens caps, and straps). It also comes with a light and comfortable shoulder strap, enabling use as a standalone bag. The bottom is reinforced and coated with a non-slip rubber.

f-stop Harney Pouch with shoulder strap

f-stop Harney Pouch, bottom

The real kicker however is the backside of the pouch. Originally meant as an accessory to one of f-stops other carrying systems, it has straps on the back that are compatible with MOLLE webbing:

f-stop Harney Pouch, back 1

f-stop Harney Pouch, back 2

It fits the GR0's internal MOLLE webbing almost perfectly. There are only two things to observe when attaching it to the GR0:

  • The middle vertical strap on the Harney Pouch can't be used (it's not really a MOLLE solution), and

Attaching the f-stop Harney Pouch in the Goruck GR0 1

Attaching the f-stop Harney Pouch in the Goruck GR0 2

  • for the best possible fit, the vertical strap should be pulled through the topmost horizontal row of webbing on the Harney Pouch first and then through the topmost horizontal row of the GR0's internal webbing. Like this:

Attaching the f-stop Harney Pouch in the Goruck GR0 3

Attaching the f-stop Harney Pouch in the Goruck GR0 4

Attaching the Harney Pouch the regular way (by pulling the vertical straps through the GR0's topmost horizontal row first) will result in gap at the top of the pack, which can't really be utilised.
The method described above places the Harney Pouch perfectly at the top of the Goruck, making it very easily accessible while not wasting any space.

Size-wise the Harney Pouch really hits a sweet spot for me. I'm a photography beginner and don't have much gear — I also don't plan to build up a massive arsenal of lenses and cameras. Here's what's inside the Harney Pouch:

f-stop Harney Pouch, contents 1

To the left there's the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS with the lens hood. The X-E1 rests in the middle, with the XF 23mm F1.4 R including the lens hood and an OP/TECH 'SLR Wrist Strap' attached. On the right there's the shoulder pad of my OP/TECH 'Utility Strap – Sling' (which I reviewed here), the charger for the X-E1's batteries and the charger cable.
In the frontmost compartment I store spare batteries and the memory cards and the middle compartment houses parts of the OP/TECH strap and some accessories for it as well as a spare lens cleaning cloth.

When I'm certain that I won't be using the camera during transit, I also store a rocket blower in the Harney Pouch.

f-stop Harney Pouch, contents 2

As far as I can tell, there's enough room in this camera bag to accomodate a mid-sized SLR with one additional lens or an even smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (like the Sony Alpha 5000) with two additional lenses and some accessories.

When attached to the GR0, it effectively eats about 1/3 of the usuable volume (5 of 21 available litres). It also makes the ruck rather top-heavy, causing it to collapse into itself when not fully packed. However, this isn't necessarily much of an issue: when trying to retreive something from the Harney Pouch while out and about, I usually stand the GR0 up straight, leaning it against one of my legs, or hoist it over one shoulder in front of my chest.

f-stop Harney Pouch in the empty Goruck GR0

This is what the GR0 looks like when I'm going somewhere without my laptop:

f-stop Harney Pouch in the filled Goruck GR0

For reference: Light waterproof jacket, 0.5 l stainless steel bottle, Tasmanian Tiger TacPouch (used as an organiser for smaller items), specs case for my sunglasses, and a specs case that I use for my earphones.

If I take the laptop with me, it's stored in the appropriate compartment in the back while its accessories and backup hard drive are organised in a medium-sized Cocoon Grid-It! organiser and stored in the main compartment. With all of the above already in the Goruck GR0, there's still enough space for some food and a light fleece sweater.

In larger Goruck backpacks the volume of the Harney Pouch will have a comparatively smaller impact on the available space of the backpack. And if I really need the internal space of the GR0, I can also attach the Harney Pouch to the outside of the GR0.

In conclusion I can say that it's hard to imagine a more fitting solution to carry my camera gear within the Goruck GR0 than the f-stop Harney Pouch. Inside the backpack it gives me quick access to my camera gear while staying out of the way when I pack my stuff. Outside the GR0 it is a sturdy, well-made, versatile, spacious (enough), and comfortable camera bag. Considering what it does, $ 75.- (I paid € 55.-) isn't too much to ask.

Looking for good camera gear? Try OP/TECH.

When I bought my first good camera a few months ago one of the big questions was how I wanted to carry and use it. Before the Fujifilm X-E1 I used a Panasonic DMC-LX3 and always carried it on a wrist strap. The X-E1 is substantially bigger and heavier and I wasn't sure whether to get a wrist strap as well, or rather a neck strap or one of those new-fangled sling straps.

During my search I was introduced to many products by many companies: Crumpler, Gordy, BlackRapid, SunSniper, LowePro, Artisan & Artist, Joby, Clik Elite, Luma Labs, and many more.
The raw utility, customisability, and the quality varied as heavily as the prices and the more expensive products usually weren't the best or nicest looking ones.
The general consensus regarding neck and sling straps seemed to be, that tripod-mounted solutions came loose more often than one would expect and didn't inspire confidence.

One company that was often mentioned in passing was OP/TECH, a U.S. company that has apparently been around for years. A few quick checks at the major online retailers revealed that its products were generally well-liked, sturdy, and reasonably priced.

Out of curiosity I purchased the Utility Strap - Sling, and the SLR Wrist Strap from OP/TECH. (The price for both items and a few additional connectors was lower than the price of one BlackRapid sling strap.)

At first I was a bit anxious because they use quick disconnects and like many people I've had the occasional bad experience with these kinds of connectors from other companies. These, however, seem to be exceptionally sturdy and well-made, locking in place with a satisfying CLICK and no wiggle room.

It turns out that my anxiety was unwarranted. I've been using the two straps for about three months now, during hikes, walking around town, a few (business) trips and pretty much everywhere I took my camera to and at no point did I fear that the straps or the couplings would come loose on their own.

I can't say that the OP/TECH gear is the nicest looking solution, but it's certainly the most versatile and functional I've seen (having tried products from BlackRapid and Crumpler in the meantime). I can quickly change between having the X-E1 dangling from my wrist, to having it on the sling strap, to attaching it to one of the shoulder pads of my Goruck GR0 using a spare OP/TECH connector and a carabiner.

X-E1 with OP/TECH Utility Strap and SLR Wrist Strap