Photoessay: Antelope Island State Park, Utah – Part 2: Fujifilm X-A3

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Salt Lake Sunset – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

Part 1 – Fujifilm X-E1 

Kit Carson and John C. Fremont, who visited the Antelope Island in 1845, gave it its name after hunting pronghorn antelope. Daddy Stump and Fielding Garr would build homes on Antelope Island over the next few years. This is a place that people have been coming to for a long time. In fact, there is evidence that native people have spent time on the island since at least the time of Christ.

Something interesting that I’ve discovered since moving to the Salt Lake City area two years ago is that most people who grew up in Utah don’t visit Antelope Island. Maybe they went on a school field trip as a kid, but they haven’t been back since. The majority of people you find on the island are from out-of-town. The locals who do visit are often those that moved to the area from someplace else. It’s too bad for those who don’t make the short trip to the island because they’re really missing out.

The photographs in this article were captured using a Fujifilm X-A3, which is Fujifilm’s inexpensive interchangeable-lens option. It shows that you don’t have to spend tons of money on gear to capture something good. Being someplace interesting with a camera is more important than what camera you have. With whatever photography gear you have, just get to somewhere photogenic and make some exposures! These are all camera-made JPEGs, and a few of them were lightly edited using Snapseed on my phone.

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White Rock Bay – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Bush In The Crag – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Promontory Through Weeds – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Pyramid – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Coming Storm – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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One Buffalo – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Two Bison – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Rocky Hill & Cloudy Sky – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Rugged – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Early Spring At Buffalo Point – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Green Bush Over Orange Rock – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Rust Never Rests – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Forgotten Ranch Tool – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Red Lamp – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Lonely Blossom – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Sunset Over The Salt Lake – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Little Wave of Big Color – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Washed Up – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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A Great Salt Lake Sunset – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X-A5

Part 3 – Fujifilm X100F

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 3: Industar 61

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Part 1 – Helios 44-2  Part 2 – Jupiter 21M

The Industar 61 is another vintage Soviet Union lens that I’ve paired with my Fujifilm X-A3. This lens came attached to a FED 5c 35mm rangefinder that I purchased for $40 a decade ago. I really appreciate the photographs that I’ve captured with it on the film camera. I used to also pair it frequently with an X-E1 that I once owned. It’s an excellent lens with plenty of character.

My Industar 61 was made in 1983. It has an M39 screw mount (some were made with a M42 screw mount) and a focal length of 55mm (some versions have slightly different focal lengths). Because of the crop factor, it has an equivalent focal length of about 82mm on the X-A3. Even though it was intended as a “standard” lens it’s more of a “portrait” lens on the Fujifilm camera. The maximum aperture is f/2.8.

This lens is a German knockoff. It’s basically a modified Leitz Elmar 50mm f/2.8. It is very sharp but with some significant pincushion distortion. It’s known for “soap bubble” bokeh, which is highly sought after by some photographers. There is a radioactive coating on the lens, and that might frighten some people, but it’s safe to be around, since only a tiny amount of Lanthanum was used in the production. I find that it delivers a slightly warmer tone than other lenses, even on digital cameras.

What’s great about pairing the Industar 61 with the X-A3 is that it’s a small and lightweight setup. The lens is smaller than the kit lens that came with the camera. It sticks out about as far as the X100F lens does with a lens hood. It can fit into a large pocket. I’ve carried the X100F in one jacket pocket and the X-A3 with the Industar 61 in the other. It’s great for travel or street photography.

You can find Industar 61 lenses for next to nothing (and the adapters are usually about $10), and for very little money you can add a quality manual-focus prime lens to your camera. No doubt about it, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this lens and then some. While the Industar 61 isn’t my favorite lens to attach to my X-A3, it’s still a good lens that certainly has its place.

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Patio Lights – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Red Knobs – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Be Careful – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Industrial Patriots – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Coffee & Paper – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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To Go Cup – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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– Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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SP & UP Railroad – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

Road Trip: Grand Canyon National Park, Part 1: Color

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Grand Canyon From Desert View – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

A couple of weeks ago my family and I jumped in the car and made the long drive to Grand Canyon National Park. From my house to the hotel we booked in Williams, Arizona, was nine hours of driving, not including stops. We left early and arrived late, weary from the road. Really, it was too many hours in the car for one day, but we only had a short time for this adventure, so we pushed through to our destination.

The next day we got back in the car and drove 45 minutes to Tusayan, the tiny town right outside the entrance of the national park, and had some breakfast. After our bellies were full, and with cups of hot coffee, we continued the short trek to Grand Canyon Village and to the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon several times before, and the reaction for first-time visitors, as well as those who haven’t been in awhile, is the same: “Whoa!” That first look is always awe-inspiring and breathtaking. It just appears so impossibly grand! Everything seems so small and insignificant in comparison. It really is the magic of this incredible place.

We walked along the Rim Trail for awhile, stepping into some of the historic lodges and buildings along the way. We encountered the Bright Angel Trail and headed down, but only to the tunnel, which is probably about a mile trek round-trip. Someday I’d like to hike all the way to the bottom, but this wasn’t the trip for that.

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Grand Sight – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

Lunch was at the Harvey House Cafe. Then we headed to the car to drive around and see more sights. Heading east on Highway 64, we made it to Desert View and saw the Watchtower, which is at the eastern end of the park. On the way back towards the village we stopped at a few overlooks. It was approaching dinner, so we said goodbye to Grand Canyon National Park and traveled back to Williams.

I cannot say enough how amazingly beautiful Grand Canyon National Park is! If I had more time I would have made sure to be there for sunrise and sunset. This was just a quick visit, so I missed both golden hours. Early the next morning we left for home, which is near Salt Lake City, Utah. We encountered some winter weather, so the drive back ended up being longer than the drive out. To say that we were happy to be home when we arrived close to midnight would be a huge understatement. It was two full days of being crammed in the car just to be at the Grand Canyon for one day, but it was completely worth it!

For these photographs I used a Fujifilm X100F and a Fujifilm X-A3 with a Jupiter 21M lens. The X100F was great because it fit into my jacket pocket and captured wonderful pictures with ease. The X-A3 with the Jupiter lens was bulky and heavy and became tiresome carrying around my neck, but it allowed me to capture some images that I simply couldn’t with the other camera. When you travel, smaller and lighter is almost always better, but sometimes something more is needed.

These are all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs, and I used Velvia, Classic Chrome, PRO Neg. Std, and PRO Neg. Hi film simulations. Not editing the pictures saved me tons of time, and both cameras did an excellent job thanks to Fujifilm’s fine JPEG engine, which I rely heavily on. If I had post-processed RAW files instead, the results wouldn’t be much different to what you see here, except that I’d still be sitting in front of the computer editing them. Instead, they were finished before I even got home, and you’re able to enjoy them today.

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Kids At The Canyon – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Amanda, Johanna & I – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F – captured by Joy Roesch

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Kids On Bright Angel Trail – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Evergreen Tree & Red Canyon – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Canyon Behind The Pines – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Grand Canyon Railway – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Lamp In The Lodge – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Hopi Art – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Unforgiving Environment – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Colorado River of Green – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Red Canyon Walls – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Trees, Rocks & Cliffs – Grand Canyon NP, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Light Over A Barren Landscape – Valle, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Get Your Gifts On Route 66 – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Neon Gifts – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Cheap Room – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Neon Bistro – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Drink Coke – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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Steaks & BBQ – Williams, AZ – Fujifilm X100F

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BBQ & Coke – Williams, AZ – X100F

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Fire In The Sky – Flagstaff, AZ – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Spiked Cactus – Kanab, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Kids At Moqui Cave – Kanab, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Anderson Mountain – Paragonah, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Part 2 – B&W

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 2: Jupiter 21M

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Part 1 – Helios 44-2

The Jupiter 21M is the lens that I bought the Fujifilm X-A3 for. Yes, I purchased the camera with this specific lens in mind. I wanted a quality yet inexpensive long telephoto option, and I was hoping that this lens/camera combination would provide me just that. I was excited to put them to use and see what I could capture.

The first Jupiter 21 was introduced in 1959 in the Soviet Union. Over the years some modifications and improvements were made to the lens. The Jupiter 21M, which is one of the latest models, was manufactured beginning in 1973. My copy was made in 1983. I’ve heard that manufacturing of the Jupiter 21M continued well into the 2000’s, but I haven’t been able to verify this.

The Soviet Union acquired Carl Zeiss lens designs (and even some parts) at the end of World War II, and they made some direct copies of Zeiss lenses. The Jupiter 21 isn’t a direct copy of any particular German lens, but a Soviet “original” based on the Zeiss Sonnar design. The 21M model has an automatic aperture option, which allows the aperture to remain wide open for focusing but close down automatically whenever the shutter release is pressed. It’s not a particularly useful feature on the X-A3, but thankfully the lens has a switch to turn it off.

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Bottled Blossoms – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

There aren’t many flaws found on the Jupiter 21M, which is an f/4 200mm M42-mount manual-focus telephoto lens (that’s a mouthful). It’s very sharp corner-to-corner. There’s very little vignetting. Bokeh is quite nice. Chromatic aberrations are a small issue but only when wide open. It does have some pronounced hazy lens flare, which could be considered good or bad, depending on one’s tastes. The maximum aperture of f/4 is not particularly large but certainly sufficient. The lens is fantastic from an optical quality point of view.

The one big flaw with the Jupiter 21M is that it’s a tank. It’s big and heavy! It weighs a little over two pounds, so it’s not something you want to walk around with. This is a lens to use for specific photos, and then put away otherwise.

I also have a Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter lens that I sometimes pair with the Jupiter 21M. It turns the 200mm focal length into 400mm. Because of the APS-C crop factor, it’s equivalent to having a 600mm lens on a full-frame camera. The Kohbeptep K-1 is another Soviet product, and it’s actually pretty darn good when using an aperture that is f/8 or smaller. There is a tiny loss in overall sharpness, but not much. When the aperture is wide open there’s noticeable corner softness and chromatic aberrations, but stop down a little and it goes away. The K-1 can be found for pretty cheap, mine came with a camera that was a gift.

I paid less than $100 for my Jupiter 21M lens, and I’ve heard of people finding them for under $50. As with all vintage Russian camera gear, there’s a chance you might get a dud because their quality control was particularly poor. Mine works perfectly fine, and it’s especially nice with my Fujifilm X-A3. I’m very satisfied with it. I look forward to capturing even more images with it.

Example photos, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs:

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Winter Shrub – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Three Bottles – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Monochrome Flower – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Tired Boy – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Things I Don’t Understand – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Red Shed – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Winter Wasatch – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Last Light Wasatch – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Jupiter 21M with Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter:

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Winter Ridge – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Mountain Evergreens – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Train In Winter – South Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Rising Heat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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White – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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White Ridges – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Rocky Hillside – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Snowy Slope – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Part 3 – Industar 61

Why X-Trans III Is Better (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

I recently purchased a used Fujifilm X-A3 to supplement my X100F. For some photographs an interchangeable-lens camera is a nice option to have. Occasionally the X100F isn’t versatile enough to get the shot. Most of the time the X100F is the right tool for the job, so it remains my main camera. Still, for those once-in-a-while moments, another camera is needed, or at least preferred.

The X-A3 isn’t an X-Trans camera, but it’s set up a lot like an X-Trans II camera. In fact, it’s kind of like having an X-Trans II camera with the resolution of an X-Trans III camera. I’ve had it for a few weeks now, and I’ve come to realize that X-Trans III is better. Not that the X-A3 is bad, because it’s actually surprisingly good, but there are some situations where X-Trans III is superior. None of this should shock anyone.

The JPEG options in particular are better on X-Trans III cameras. Sometimes with the X-A3 I just can’t achieve in-camera the desired results, while X-Trans III cameras would have no problems at all with the situation. I don’t always encounter this issue, only occasionally. Specifically, it’s low-contrast scenes, and the camera just can’t produce JPEGs with enough contrast and/or color saturation. It needs Acros or the improved Velvia, which are found on X-Trans III cameras, or the ability to go to +4, which the X-A3 cannot, as it is limited to +2.

I want to bring this down a notch, because it’s not a huge deal. Most of the time the X-A3 is perfectly capable of producing the desired results. And those instances that it cannot, it doesn’t take a whole lot of post-processing to fix the issue. It’s far from the end of the world. And as much as I would love to have purchased an X-T20 or X-E3 instead of the X-A3, there is no way that I could have justified the additional cost. I’m not dissatisfied with my decision.

Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about in this post. All of the photographs below were captured on a snowy, overcast day with very little contrast. The images are of a mountain that I was near, but much too far from to effectively capture with the X100F. I also captured some peaks way across the lake. No problem, I had my X-A3 with a 200mm lens plus a x2 teleconverter, making the focal-length 400mm, or 600mm when the APS-C crop factor is accounted for. I set the highlights, shadows and color (for the color images) to +2 and the dynamic range to DR100.

Straight-out-of-camera results:

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Frary Peak From Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Hidden Peak – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Reeds In Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Red & White Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Cold Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

Same photos, with a quick edit in Nik Silver Efex or Nik Color Efex:

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Frary Peak From Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Hidden Peak – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Reeds In Willard Bay – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Red & White Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

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Cold Cliffs – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

It wasn’t difficult to get the results that I wanted with a little work on my computer, but the point is that I would have been able to achieve it without any post-processing had I had an X-Trans III camera instead of the X-A3. It’s not a big deal, but something worthwhile to note.

Not all of the photographs captured on that trip with the X-A3 needed editing. For instance, the picture below is a straight-out-of-camera JPEG:

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Snow On The Docks – Willard, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

The takeaway is that X-Trans III is better than X-Trans II or the X-A3 or the new X-A5, but it’s not anything to get worked up over. If you own an X100T, don’t feel like you have to upgrade to the X100F, even though the X100F is a little better. Your X100T is still a perfectly capable camera that can deliver excellent results. If you can’t afford the new Fujifilm cameras that have been trickling out over the last couple years, don’t feel like you are missing out if you have an older model. Yes, the newer ones will be better (that’s always the case), but it’s nothing you can’t work around.

Besides that, limitations improve art. It forces you to be more creative with whatever you have. Less is more, and that’s true in so many different ways. Don’t get bogged down thinking about what you don’t have and wishing that you had better things. Just use what you have to the best of your abilities, do the best you can with what you’ve got.

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 1: Helios 44-2

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Helios 44-2 & Zenit-E – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I love pairing old Soviet Union lenses to Fujifilm cameras because it’s a great combination. It’s tons of fun and the results can be magical. I’m just thrilled to do this, and I hope that you appreciate the posts and pictures, even though they are off-topic slightly.

Why Soviet Union lenses? They’re cheap yet great. They often have exceptional image quality with unique characteristics. You can pick up a bunch of different ones for not much money. Really, there’s not much to dislike about them.

The history of Soviet lenses goes back to World War II. It actually goes back further than that, but the good part begins as the war ends. You might remember that the Russians were part of the Allies, united against Germany. As part of the spoils of being on the winning side, the Soviets acquired blueprints and designs for Leica and Zeiss cameras and lenses. They took this home and began making cameras and lenses nearly identical to the famed German brands.

None of this was well-known because the Russians were communists, and they were secluded from the western world. They exported very little. It wasn’t until the end of the Cold War that people began to realize that Russia was full of Leica and Zeiss clones. And these products could be had for a fraction of the price of the real thing.

There are a few reasons why Russian camera gear is so cheap. First, they developed very little of the technology they used, as they had inherited most of it from Germany. Next, they used cheap labor, including sometimes child labor, to build the cameras and lenses. Also, most Russians were quite poor, and very few could afford anything that wasn’t cheap. Finally, being communists, they didn’t have a profit model, so things were sold at a price point that was near the cost to manufacture.

The are a couple of downsides to this. One is that quality control was a major issue. There were many defective products made, and it’s not uncommon to find them still floating around. Similarly, there were discrepancies in the quality of the same product, with obvious deviations to the standards. Another downside is that they did very little to advance the technology. Even deep into the 1990’s the Russians were basically using 1950’s camera technology, with a couple 1960’s and 1970’s innovations sprinkled in. As far as camera gear goes, they were way behind the times.

Still, at the core of the gear were designs by some of the greatest engineers in the camera business. At the heart of Soviet Union cameras and lenses are found the handiwork of brilliant German minds. While inexpensive, Soviet camera gear is often marvelous, just as long as you can put up with the occasional dud.

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

My favorite Russian lens is the 58mm f/2 Helios 44-2. The lens is a clone of the 58mm f/2 Zeiss Jena Biotar, which was manufactured throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, and is known for its swirly bokeh and fantastic image quality. The Helios 44-2 was manufactured until 1992 (with some limited runs of the lens after that). Because of the crop factor, the lens has an equivalent focal-length of 87mm when attached to my Fujifilm X-A3.

The Helios 44-2 is an M42 screw-mount lens. Mine came attached to a Zenit-E 35mm SLR. I use a cheap M42-to-Fuji-X adapter to mount it to my X-A3. The lens is manual focus and manual aperture. If you’ve only used auto features before then it might seem foreign to use manual functions, but with practice it shouldn’t be too hard to master. I grew up using manual-only cameras, so it’s no big deal for me to use.

An interesting Helios 44-2 feature is that it has two aperture rings, one with clicks and one that’s smooth. This makes sense when using it on a camera like the Zenit-E, because you want to open up the aperture for a bright viewfinder, which assists in accurate focusing, and the duel rings make it simple to do so. On a digital camera it doesn’t do a whole lot for you. It’s a quirk of using the lens, and takes a little practice to get used to.

The Helios 44-2 is always tack sharp in the center. Wide open there’s significant softness in the corners, but by f/5.6 it’s sharp all across the frame. There’s also some minor vignetting when wide open and I’ve noticed some purple fringing. Close the aperture a little and those issues are gone. Barrel distortion is very minor.

The Helios 44-2 has some design flaws, but these are actually assets. With the right conditions it’s possible to achieve a swirly bokeh effect. The lens is prone to some unusual lens flare that can be quite beautiful. An example of both of these can be seen in Tricycle In The Woods. The flaws are what give the lens its unique character, something that’s missing in today’s precisely-engineered modern lenses.

My Helios 44-2 was a gift, and it came attached to a Zenit-E camera. You can typically find it for less than $50 online. An adapter can usually found for about $10. That’s a small investment for a fantastic prime telephoto lens!

Below are photographs that I’ve captured with my X-A3 & Helios 44-2, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I love how this combination renders photographs! There is a quality that’s seemingly magical. Enjoy!

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First Light Over Ridge – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Strawberry Peak Morning – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Clouds Over Strawberry Peak – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Wasatch Ridge View – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Wasatch Drama – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Last Leaf – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Morning Stripes – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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f/4 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Escalate – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Patio Lights – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Bolsey & Ektachrome – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Flower Bird – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Shopping For Something New – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Eating Lunch – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Flower In Glass – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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A Short Tale – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

Part 2 – Jupiter 21M  Part 3 – Industar 61

Fujifilm X-A3 – My New Second Camera

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F “Superia 800

Last week I purchased a gently used Fujifilm X-A3, which included the kit 16-50mm zoom lens. When the package arrived I found a camera that had been well kept and seemed basically brand new. With the announcement of the X-A5 (there is no X-A4) last week, I was able to get the X-A3 for only $400, which is an absolute bargain! My intentions are to sell the lens, and I think that will bring the total for the camera body to somewhere near $250. Honestly, I don’t know if a better value exists in the camera market today.

You might be wondering why I didn’t wait a week to get the new X-A5 (it’s available beginning today), which is improved and even has a different (and supposedly better) lens. The quick answer is cost, as the new camera has an MSRP of $600, and obviously $400 is less than $600. The longer answer is that the improved features of the X-A5, which include updates to auto-focus and video, are not important to me. I will be using manual-focus lenses on this camera and I won’t be using it for video, so most of the upgrades won’t effect me. It’s very nice to have the latest-and-greatest, but if I can save some money and get something that’s essentially the same but a year older, that’s typically a wiser decision.

You might also be wondering, why the X-A3? Why not the X-E3 or X-T20? Clearly the X-E3 and X-T20 are better cameras, as the X-A3 is the bottom-end entry-level X-series model, but they are also much more expensive. Like a lot of people, I can’t afford to drop a bunch of cash on new gear every year. I have to consider every purchase carefully and justify the amount that I’m spending.

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f/8 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 103

The X-A3 is very popular in some parts of the world, but in the U.S. it’s not a camera that people get excited over and so sales are mediocre. In fact, you might not have heard of it before. One reason for this is that, while the X-A3 is indeed an X camera, it is not an X-Trans camera. Yes, the X-A3, which has a 24-megapixel APS-C Sony-made sensor, has a Bayer color filter array and not an X-Trans array. It’s not the only X-series camera that’s not X-Trans (the most well-known model is the medium-format GFX-50s), but the fact that it’s not X-Trans makes it less desirable among Fuji X photographers. I lot of people look right past it just because of the Bayer sensor.

The differences between X-Trans and Bayer are not huge. I thought that X-Trans would make more of a difference than it does. That’s not to say there aren’t advantages to X-Trans over Bayer, because there indeed are, but simply that the differences are fairly minor and nothing to get worked up over.

For starters, comparing ISO image quality between the X-A3 and X100F, ISO 1600 and below look identical between the two sensors. The X-Trans sensor at ISO 3200 has a barely noticeable advantage, at ISO 6400 the X-Trans sensor is obviously superior, and at ISO 12800 the X100F is usable but the X-A3 is definitely not. Dynamic range is very similar between the two cameras, but when pushing the shadows significantly, X-Trans is a little cleaner. What accounts for all this is the number of green light-sensitive sensor elements (50% on Bayer, 55% on X-Trans), which provides more luminosity data on X-Trans cameras. That’s the biggest advantage of X-Trans over Bayer.

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Bolsey – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 8M

Another advantage of X-Trans is that it doesn’t require, nor does it have, an optical low-pass filter (a.k.a. anti-aliasing filter), which blurs the image slightly to prevent moire pattern distortion (a.k.a. aliasing). Higher resolution Bayer sensors, such as the 24-megapixel sensor found inside the X-A3, doesn’t really need one, either, as aliasing is less of an issue with that much resolution (although it can still creep its ugly head on occasion), so fewer Bayer cameras have it nowadays. The X-A3 does have an optical low-pass filter, which is kind of a disappointment, but in reality the sharpness difference between a camera with and without an anti-aliasing filter is only noticeable when comparing massive crops side-by-side. If you compared identical images captured with the X-A3 and X-E3 using the same lens, then made 200% crops and put them next to each other, you’d notice that one would be slightly more crisp than the other. In real-world use, where nobody is making massive crops and nobody is making side-by-side comparisons, there is no practical difference. It’s not as big of a deal as some would have you believe.

The biggest difference for me between the two cameras is the in-camera JPEG processing. Specifically, the X-A3 does not have the Acros Film Simulation, nor does it have faux film grain. What it does have are the same options found on X-Trans II cameras. In fact, while the camera has the same resolution as X-Trans III cameras, because of the menu and Bayer sensor, the X-A3 is more like having an X-Trans II camera. It definitely produces different results than my X100F, which I don’t mean as a bad thing (or good thing), as the results aren’t necessarily worse (or better), they’re just subtly different.

The X-A3 has a touch flip-screen, which is a cool feature. For street photography I like to flip the screen to a 90-degree angle and use the camera like a twin-lens reflex, shooting at the hip. People are less aware that you are photographing them when you are looking down and it’s not obvious that you are actively taking pictures. Unfortunately the X-A3 has a hideous PASM dial instead of a shutter speed dial. For the price, though, it’s easy to overlook this shortcoming.

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Steam Tender – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

The X-A3 is actually a well-equipped camera capable of capturing high-quality images. The camera is cheap because it’s made from cheaper materials, with a lot more plastic and a lot less metal than other Fujifilm X cameras. It feels like it might break if it took a lot of abuse. The one positive out of this is that it weighs less, so it is less cumbersome to carry.

Comparing the size of the X-A3 with the X100F, the body of the X-A3, which has a very similar style to the X100F, is noticeably smaller. It’s not as wide or tall as the X100F, and, if you were to add a 27mm pancake lens, you might have a poor-man’s X100F, but smaller. With an old Industar 61 lens attached using an adapter, the lens sticks out about as far as my X100F with a lens hood. The X-A3 is definitely a small camera, and a great companion to the X100F because it is an interchangeable-lens option that is similarly small and potentially pocket-sized.

The reason why I purchased another camera in the first place is because I couldn’t capture a certain photograph with the X100F. The X100F has proven to be versatile enough for almost any situation. When I saw a beautiful full moon rising over the mountain ridge with a cloud layer covering just the top of it, and I couldn’t capture the scene as I wanted because the X100F has a fixed wide-angle lens, I knew it was time to add a second Fuji X camera to the camera shelf. This wasn’t the first time that I encountered a situation where the X100F wasn’t the right tool for the job, but simply the last straw. These situations aren’t frequent, but it will be nice to have a second camera when needed.

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Weber Canyon Moonrise – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

I love my X100F and I will continue to use it as my primary camera. Almost always it’s the perfect picture-making tool for whatever situation. It’s small and lightweight and can fit into a large pocket. It has a leaf shutter and wonderful fill-flash built into it. The image quality is just fantastic! It’s a joy to use and my favorite camera that I’ve ever owned.

When it’s not the right tool, then I will have my X-A3 and a handful of lenses to handle those situations. So far, in the five days since it arrived in the mail, I’ve used the camera to capture some nice photographs in a variety of situations. The lenses I’ve used are an Industar 61, a Helios 44-2, Helios 103 and a Jupiter 8M, which are vintage Soviet Union lenses that produce wonderful images that are full of character. I’m waiting for a Jupiter 21M to come in the mail within the next week or two.

The reason why I have these old Russian lenses lying around is because I own several old 35mm film cameras that they attach to. I already have X-mount adapters because I used to pair these lenses with an X-E1 that I used to own. I loved using these lenses with my X-E1, and I’m ecstatic to be using them once again!

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6751 – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

Sometimes I wish that I’d kept the X-E1 because I really liked that camera. I sold it (plus some lenses) to help pay for the X100F. Is the X-A3 an upgrade over the X-E1? I think in many ways it is a small upgrade, and in a few ways it’s not, but the X-A3 has a lot fewer clicks on the shutter and so I anticipate that it will hang around for at least a couple of years. My old X-E1 had captured a lot of images, and I wondered how much longer it would continue operating before breaking down. Even if the X-A3 isn’t all that much of an upgrade, the peace-of-mind that it will last for awhile is worth something.

I appreciate vintage glass attached to Fujifilm X cameras, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the X-A3 paired with old Russian lenses so far. I will continue to play around with it and sprinkle posts about my experiences using it on this blog. I hope that you don’t mind. And, don’t worry, I’ll continue to write the usual X100F stuff as I still have plenty to say.

All of the photographs in this article are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I didn’t edit anything, and I think this gives a good idea of what can be accomplished without using software. I appreciate all the time that Fujifilm cameras save me because I don’t need to fiddle with RAW files anymore. Below are more example photos from my X-A3 camera. Enjoy!

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Ready To Work – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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See, Over There – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Station – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Brick Behind Bars – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Watch Your Step – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Cat & Dog – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Evening Light On The Wasatch – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Wasatch Ridge Evening – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Necklace – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 103

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Lunchtime Kids – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2