Weekly Photo Project, Week 26

I made it to the halfway point without missing a single day! That’s a big accomplishment, but I feel exhausted by this project. It has taken its toll at times. There are days when it takes a lot of mental effort to capture even one image. One thing that I wish I’d done different, and it’s what I would recommend for those who want to undertake a photo-a-day project, is to schedule breaks periodically. I wish that, say, once per quarter I had a week scheduled off. It’s not that I wouldn’t do any photography during that week, but only I wouldn’t have to do photography during that week if I didn’t want to. Still, it feels great to reach the midpoint, and it seems worthy of celebration.

Monday, January 14, 2019

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Clouds Lifting off the Mountain – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Winter Rose – Layton, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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Winter Wood Fence – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Two Red Chairs In Snow – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Friday, January 18, 2019

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Mountaintop Snow & Clouds – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Saturday, January 19, 2019

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Winter Horse – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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Snowy Mountain Illuminated By Blood Moon – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Week 25 Week 27

Great Fujifilm Deals

There are currently some great deals on Fujifilm cameras and Fujinon lenses at Amazon right now. If you’ve been thinking about buying one of these items, now is a good time because of the great discounts being offered. If you use the links below, you’ll be supporting this site. Nobody pays me to write the articles you find here, so using my affiliate links is one way that you can support what’s happening at Fuji X Weekly.

As far as Fujifilm cameras go, the Fujifilm X-T2 is still $500 off and the Fujifilm X-H1 with grip is an incredible deal at just $1,300! There are some other promotions currently being offered, but these two are the good ones that you should be aware of.

For Fujinon lenses, the Fujinon XF 200mm f/2 is $1,000 off, Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 is $500 offFujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 is $400 off, Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 APD is $350 offFujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 is $300 off, and Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 is $300 off. Those are the best discounts currently being offered on lenses.

Fuji X Weekly Vlog: Episodes 4 – 8

I recently created a Fuji X Weekly YouTube channel with the idea that I’d be able to put my content in a different format and perhaps reach new people. I’m not a video guy, but my wife, who always gives me amazing advice, suggested that I should be making videos. What I’m trying to do, and it’s all a big learning process for me, is make short vlogs with quality content that are entertaining and optimized for mobile device viewing. I think that a lot of photography-related videos on YouTube are long, which can be good, but I feel that there is a need for concise content that can be consumed quickly. That’s what I’m aiming for, and hopefully I’ll get better at this the more I do it.

Check out my latest Fuji X Weekly Vlog episodes!

Vintage Lenses on Modern Cameras: Using M42 on Fujifilm X

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Asahi Auto-Takumar 55mm f/2.2 on a Fujifilm X-T20

Lenses can be quite expensive. Most new lenses cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Many people want to expand their glass collection but simply cannot afford it. A good solution is to use vintage lenses from the film era on your modern camera. An inexpensive adapter will allow you to attach lenses from another mount to your Fujifilm X camera. This is a cost-effective way to add more glass to your current camera kit.

One lens mount that’s common to find is M42 screw mount, which was originally designed by Carl Zeiss in the late-1930’s. Several different camera brands used M42 at one time or another, including Pentax, Contax, Praktica, Fujica, Yashica, Cosina, Ricoh, Zenit, Olympus and others. Most camera manufacturers who used M42 had moved on to other mounts by the late-1970s, but some M42 screw mount lenses are manufactured to this day. Thankfully, your options for this mount are plentiful!

What I love about many of these vintage lenses is that they have exceptional image quality, yet they also seem to have their own unique character. Many modern lenses are precision engineered, which is great, but they lack character. What sets one apart from another is just how precisely it was designed and tooled. Vintage lenses often have flaws, which might seem like a negative attribute, but these flaws sometimes produce unique effects that you’d never find on a brand-new lens. It might be a certain bokeh, soft corners, lens flare–whatever the flaw is, it makes your pictures less perfect, which is the character that is often missing in modern photography. Actor Willie Garson famously stated, “Perfection is the antithesis of authenticity.”

The challenge with using older lenses is that auto-focus and auto-aperture are out the window. You will need to manual focus, which is made easier thanks to focus peaking and focus confirmation, but it is still a skill to learn for those who aren’t used to it. You will have to set the aperture yourself, which isn’t a difficult skill, but if you always use auto-aperture this might take some practice. For some people there will be a learning curve, but I believe that the manual features are actually a help and not a hindrance, since it slows you down and forces you to consider things a little bit more deeply. You also must ensure that “Shoot Without Lens” is selected on your Fujifilm camera, or else it won’t work.

These old lenses are often easy to find for a reasonable price. Some can be expensive, but most are not. In fact, if you shop around, you can get two or three different lenses for less than $100! If money is tight, this is probably your best bet for purchasing additional glass for your camera. Look at thrift stores, antique shops, yard sales, flea markets, Facebook Marketplace and eBay for good bargains. Below are three different M42 screw mount lenses that I have used on Fujifilm X cameras.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2

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The Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 is a Soviet Union lens renown for its swirly bokeh. It’s a knockoff of the Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2 that was made in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This lens was mass-produced in Russia for many, many years and can be found for very little money. In fact, mine came attached to a Zenit-E camera that was less than $50. If there is one lens that epitomizes character, this is it, as it has fantastic image quality, yet it can be quirky, often in the best ways possible.

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Tricycle In The Woods – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2

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Snake River Fog – Grand Teton NP, WY – Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2

Asahi Auto-Takumar 55mm f/2.2

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The Asahi Auto-Takumar 55mm f/2.2 was made by Pentax in the late-1950’s and early 1960’s, and there was a nearly identical lens but with a slightly larger aperture (f/2) that was manufactured into the 1970’s. This is a great prime lens that produces beautiful pictures. It doesn’t have as much character as the Helios, but it makes up for it by how lovely it renders pictures. It’s definitely a favorite of mine! Oh, and I paid $35 dollars for it and the camera that it was attached to.

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Welcome To Ogden – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 & Asahi 55mm

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Super Moon Illumination – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 & Asahi 55mm

Jupiter 21M 200mm f/4

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The Jupiter 21M 200mm f/4 is Soviet Union lens that was manufactured from the early 1970’s through the late 1990’s, and a nearly identical earlier version of this lens was introduced in the late 1950’s. The image quality is nothing short of fantastic, but it’s super heavy and feels like a tank. It’s not something that you want to carry around all day. The Jupiter 21M can sometimes be found for less than $100, so it’s a really great bargain for what you get. It’s a solid long-telephoto option for those on a tight budget.

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Layers of Grey – Canyonlands NP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Endless Canyons – Dead Horse SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Weekly Photo Project, Week 25

It’s very hard to believe that I’m almost halfway done with this project! I haven’t missed a single day yet, although only by the skin of my teeth. That was true this week, as I barely made it on more than one day. While I did capture a couple decent pictures, this overall wasn’t a particularly productive photographic period. Moving forward I need to ensure that I’m dedicating myself more to this effort.

Monday, January 7, 2019

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Succulent & Blue Bird – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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Morning Mountain White – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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Floral – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Thursday, January 10, 2019

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Kodak Slides – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Friday, January 11, 2019

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Waiting At The Night Intersection – Layton, UT – Fujifilm XF10

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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Wasatch Ridge Clouds – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Sunday, January 13, 2019

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Clouds Surround The Peak – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Week 24  Week 26

7 Incredibly Cheap & Easy Photography Hacks

In the video above I share seven simple and inexpensive (or free!) photography tips and tricks. Feel free to use them, and if you like the video be sure to share it so that others can learn the tricks, too.

Here are the seven hacks in the video:
– mini string lights for foreground bokeh (click here for the mini string lights)
colored page markers for light leaks (click here for the page markers)
– crumpled tin foil bokeh background
– coffee sleeve lens hood
faux wood ceramic tiles for worn wood setting
– backwards mount macro lens (click here for the adapter)
shift the white balance

You’ll notice that I included links above to Amazon where you can see and purchase some of the items that I used in the video. I am an Amazon Affiliate partner (so that I can improve the Fuji X Weekly experience), but I did this more so that you can see the actual product used than for you to go buy something (the items are under $10 each, so I don’t expect the links to be particularly financially beneficial). Perhaps doing this is helpful to someone.

I hope that you appreciate the video and find it useful! It was fun to make, and I hope to do many more videos over the coming days, weeks and months. If you like it, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don’t miss anything!

Kodachrome vs. Ektachrome – A Film Simulation Showdown

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I have two very similar film simulation recipes that both produce results quite close to their namesake slide films: Kodachrome II and Ektachrome 100SW. Even though the settings are nearly the same, the looks that they produce are quite different. As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of the old “Kodachrome vs. Ektachrome” debate from the days of film. There were people who preferred one over the other for various reasons. Kodachrome was more iconic. Ektachrome had more variations. Despite the fact that they were both color transparencies made by the same company, I could probably write a long article about the differences between the two films, but this blog is about Fujifilm X cameras and not Kodak film stocks.

What I wanted to do here is compare the two film simulation recipes side by side. I will show them both, and you can decide which is best for you. It’s kind of a revival of the old debate, but with a modern twist. Kodachrome or Ektachrome? You get to decide which is the better film simulation recipe!

Take a look at the pictures below:

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Welcome to Ogden – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Kodachrome II”

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Winter Mountain – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Ektachrome 100SW”

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Desert Juniper – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F “Kodachrome II”

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Juniper – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F “Ektachrome 100SW”

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Pueblo de Taos – Taos, NM – Fujifilm X-Pro2 “Kodachrome II”

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View From Mount Carmel Tunnel – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F “Ektachrome 100SW”

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Kodak Transparencies – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Kodachrome II”

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Kodak Transparencies – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 “Ektachrome 100SW”

What I like about the Kodachrome II recipe is that it produces a vintage color look that reminds me of the images found on the pages of old magazines, such as National Geographic and Arizona Highways. As I look through my grandparent’s old slide collection (which I have at home), I can see this look in their old photographs from 50 or so years ago. It’s such a fantastic recipe for Fujifilm X cameras, and I just love it!

What I like about the Ektachrome 100SW recipe is that it produces a color look that reminds me of some images that I have captured with the actual film. The film was good for western landscapes or any situation where you needed some color saturation with a warm color cast. It wasn’t around for very long because it was only marginally commercially successful, but it was one of the better variations of Ektachrome film in my opinion.

What do you think, Kodachrome or Ektachrome? Let me know in the comments which film simulation recipe you like best!

When Does ISO Matter?

Modern cameras have amazing high-ISO capabilities. Back in the days of film, ISO 400 was considered high-ISO by many (including Fujifilm, who designated all their ISO 400 films with the letter “H” for high-speed), and ISO 1600 was ultra-high-ISO, used only out of absolute necessity or by the brave who wanted a certain gritty look. Nowadays some photographers don’t even think of ISO 1600 as a high-ISO setting, and don’t think twice about using it. For many, high-ISO doesn’t really begin until ISO 3200, and ultra-high-ISO doesn’t begin until you go above ISO 6400. It’s really unbelievable!

The real question is this: when does ISO matter? Since modern cameras make such good-looking images at incredibly high sensitivities, when should you start considering image quality degradation? When is a certain ISO setting too high? That’s what I want to answer.

Of course, since this is the Fuji X Weekly blog, I’m discussing Fujifilm X cameras, specifically X-Trans III. This won’t apply 100% to other cameras, but it’s still relevant to some degree no matter the camera make and model. If you are reading this with another camera in mind, take everything said here with a small grain of salt.

I did a little experiment just to better understand all of this ISO stuff. I already knew the answer from experience even before beginning the experiment, but I wanted to see if my instincts matched reality. I captured a few sets of identical pictures, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs from a Fujifilm X-T20, using ISO 400 and ISO 6400. I made sure that all of the settings were the same between the identical pictures except for ISO and shutter speed. This isn’t 100% scientific, but it’s a controlled-enough test to draw some conclusions about ISO capabilities.

Here are the original pictures:

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ISO 6400

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ISO 400 – my Velvia recipe

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ISO 6400

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ISO 6400

There’s not a lot that can be learned by looking at the above images, other than when viewing images on the web the ISO doesn’t matter whatsoever because it’s incredibly difficult to spot the differences even when comparing side-by-side. In real life nobody does side-by-side comparisons, that’s pretty much an internet-only thing, so it would be impossible to tell if a picture was captured using a low-ISO or high-ISO just by looking at it on your screen. We need to look much closer to really gain anything from this test. Below are some crops from the above images.

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ISO 400

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ISO 6400

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ISO 400

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ISO 6400

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ISO 400

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ISO 6400

If you study the color crops carefully, you’ll notice that the ISO 400 images are cleaner, sharper and have just a hair more dynamic range, but the differences are quite small and subtle. You really have to look carefully to find them. With the black-and-white image, the differences are even less obvious, and I actually prefer the ISO 6400 version, as it seems to have a more film-like quality. Looking at the crops clarifies things a little, but what kind of conclusions can we really draw?

My opinion with regards to color photography and ISO is this: if I’m printing smaller than 16″ x 24″ or displaying the pictures on the web, I don’t find any practical difference between base ISO and ISO 6400. Even ISO 12800 can be acceptable, especially if I’m not going to print the picture. If I’m going to print 16″ x 24″ or larger, a lower ISO is better, preferably less than ISO 3200, but it’s not a big deal to use up to ISO 6400. The ISO that I select does not make a huge difference to the outcome of the image, so I don’t worry a whole lot about it. Put more simply, if I print large, it’s preferable but not critical that I use a lower ISO, and if I don’t print large it doesn’t matter at all.

My opinion with regards to black-and-white photography and ISO is this: the ISO doesn’t matter much at all no matter how large I’m printing, and I often prefer (just by a little) high-ISO over low-ISO because it looks more analog. I freely use without hesitation any ISO up to 12800. Thanks to the Acros film simulation, Fujifilm X cameras are some of the best monochrome cameras on the market, and with that film simulation, often times the higher the ISO the better.

These are, of course, my opinions, and not everyone is going to agree with them, and that’s perfectly alright. Find what works for you. Use a higher ISO or lower ISO if that’s what you need for your pictures, because, after all, they’re your pictures. I’m not here to judge your camera setting choices, only to offer mine, which I’m hoping is helpful to some of you. I hope that this article makes sense and clarifies some things regarding high-ISO on Fujifilm X cameras.

Below is a video that I made on this topic:

Weekly Photo Project, Week 24

I had a couple of photographically productive days this week, plus a bunch that were not. Still, I managed to capture at least one image each day, which is the goal of this project. I’m still working on the quality side of things. I don’t want to capture a thoughtless snapshot just to have an image, which I’ve done several times since I started this 365 challenge. I want each day to be represented by a good picture, which I’m attempting to do better at. I still have plenty of room for improvement. I hope that you enjoy these pictures!

Monday, December 31, 2018

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Blowing Snow At Sunset – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

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Frary Fence – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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Winter Horse – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Thursday, January 3, 2019

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Candy – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Friday, January 4, 2019

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Snow Capped Mountain Evening – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Saturday, January 5, 2019

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Remembering Spring – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Sunday, January 6, 2019

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Potted Succulent – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T20

Week 23  Week 25