Gear Reviews

Nikon DF

April 01, 2017

    This is a camera that a lot of people like to crap on for some reason. Like, how dare Nikon attempt to make something different! OK, yes, they did it a little half-assedly, but Nikon's not too big to fail and they have to save money were they can like anyone else. 


    I mostly shoot film and I have a ton of manual Nikon primes. So, I wanted a camera that I could work like a manual camera. Before this I tried the X-Pro 2 and I really liked that camera. It felt great in my hands and was a lot of fun to shoot. However, I was never really happy with the images. They felt flat and the JPEG colors looked a little cartoony. I felt the same way about the X100S.

I think this camera is the opposite. It doesn't feel great in hand. It feels kind of cheap, empty, and plasticy- like a really hard, plastic. The top and bottom metal plates just feel weird with such cheap plastic sandwiched between them. I bought a third-party grip for it though and it's made such a difference ergonomically! It really feels like a much better camera and much more solid with the grip which adds a bit of weight to it.

The images it makes are AMAZING. The colors are perfect and the photos have the kind of depth and pop that you rarely see outside of film. It's the first digital camera I've used where I was as happy with the image quality as I was with film. I've only used a lot of different digital cameras and just prefer the way images come out of this camera.  I feel like they have real depth to them, where most other digital photos I've seem feel flat. There's a bit of magic in these images. A bit more pop. A bit more life. I feel like the standard j-pegs look a lot like Portra 400, which is one of my favorite color films. I've also seen them resemble Kodachrome when taken with lenses much better than my own!

At first I wasn't sure if I was going to keep it because of how it feels in hand, but I've really fallen for shooting with this camera. I would definitely recommend the third part grip though. I also wouldn't worry about having "only" 16mp. I've blown some of these photos up plenty big. 

I've traveled a lot with this camera, taking it to Japan, Mexico, and through the Southwest, and I always get great looking shots. If you find a good price on one, I'd pick it up. 

Fuji X-Pro 2

November 01, 2016

     So, here's the good- great economics. I love having this camera in my hands. I could shoot on it all day. I'm coming from using mostly older, manual film cameras. I love the sizes of the "Fujicron" lenses and hope they come out with more.

     The bad- the optical viewfinder is worthless. Seriously, it won't focus on anything. I've tried messing with the settings a hundred different ways and it's always bad. The evf in it is also super unreliable- but not for focusing. It's dim as all get out, and will not give you a reliable prediction of what your picture will look like.

I was excited for the film simulations, but in my experience they don't actually simulate the chosen film at all. Or if they do, it's in a very generic way. It's like they went, "Velvia has saturated colors. Let's saturate the colors and call it Velvia," forgetting that various Velvia (50 or 100) act very different from each other, and are prone to favoring certain color wave lengths. Either way, Velvia film looks nothing like the Velvia simulation and the same goes for all of them. That being said, I still think the film simulation is a cool feature, even if it doesn't simulate any actual films.

     The OVF is the biggest let down for me as that's why I got this in the first place over the XT2 and the like. Well that and the whole "rangefinders don't block out your face so people feel more at ease when you're photographing them" thing, which I think holds true with this camera. It's very unassuming and I think people feel more at ease in front of it, especially with the "Fujicron" lenses. I also have the 16mm f1.4, but I don't think it's all that. Actually plan on returning it and getting the 14mm instead, which I feel is smaller and less intrusive.

     The images from this lens are ok, but I feel like they look a bit flat. Maybe I'm a hipster, but that's the way I feel about most digital pictures. There's no real breath to them.  They're very matter of fact, nothing magical or dreamlike about them.

     I was on the fence about whether to return this or not for a couple weeks. It had grown on me, and like I said, I love the feel of it in hands. I even got some good pics with it! 

    But in the end, I decided to return it and use the money to buy a used Contax G2 instead. I guess I'm just a film guy. 

Voightlander 40mm f2 SLII

December 05, 2016

This lens is right sexy. You can't tell by the pictures, but it is just, well, you just want to light some candles, turn off the lights, and have a bath with it. It feels so good in hand, the throw is perfect, and the images have almost a 3D quality to them. It's great with digital but if you really want a treat, throw it on an F3, feed it some Tri-X, and watch this sexy little minx satisfy all your urges.

It's that good.

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II S

December 05, 2017

What's in the water down at Voigtlander?? This thing is like Spanish Fly for photographers. I don't normal say this about lenses, but I want it inside of me. It's that good. True, the throw is a bit long so you'll have to guesstimate the distance between you and the subject before you focus, but if you're used to manual lenses, you do that anyways. The upside to the long throw though is that it's much easier to get ultra precise focus on your subject.

But beyond that are the ergonomics of this lens. Seriously, holding this in your hands will make an honest man out of you. You'll have an absolute mess in your pants, but you'll be darnded honest about it! This thing is beyond seductive, it's down right rufie-ish. I didn't want to spend the money on it, I just wanted to see what it felt like. Then it came through the door, tossed me about, and had it's way with me.

If you want to see how mean and depraved this thing can really be, you need to shoot this with some Tri-X or HP5 Plus. It's traumatised me. I may never be able to touch my 50mm f1.4 AIS again, and I was practically married to that lenses. This thing is a home-wrecker, but it'll have you crawling back to it for more punishment.

You've been warned.

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I'm a writer, photographer, humorist, philosopher, and teacher based out of Northern California.


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