Billingham Hadley Small Pro Review

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My day to day small walk around camera bag for the past two years has been the ONA Bowery in Dark Truffle leather. I also have the ONO Prince Street (also in Dark truffle) but my Hasselblad stuff lives in that one. I still really love the Bowery for the amount of gear I can fit in such a small space, but I felt like trying something new.

My friend John Summers had given me an insert for a Hadley Small a while back and I’ve used it in various bags, including the Christopher by Millican and recently in the F-3x by Domke. The size of that insert is perfect and almost identical to the Bowery. So after looking at various small bags from many different manufacturers, I kept coming back to the fact that I was looking for something that would either take the Hadley Small insert or have the same interior size. So being the genius that I am, I finally realised the bag I was looking for might just be a Billingham.

Not being too into the beige thing and wanting to be a lot more stealth; I opted for the black bag with black leather details. The original Hadley Small is still available (£159 in the UK), but the new Hadley Small Pro was released last year (£199 UK) and has some really worthwhile additions to the original bag (more on this later).

The Hadley Small Pro is made from Billinghams FiberNyte material, which has a layer of rubber sandwiched in the middle of its three-ply makeup. This makes the Hadley range permanently shower proof, no need to apply wax or use an additional rain cover when out in the rain. My bags always get soaked at some point, so this will be a really handy feature. The strap on the original Hadley Small was stitched to the side of the bag, but the Pro has a removable strap via leather fasteners. I would rather have the older method as I don’t trust straps that are removable. This is mostly due to the ONA Bowery strap coming undone loads of times as I lifted it from the passenger seat of my car. This resulted in the destruction of a Fuji X100F when the Bowery hit the deck. My Bowery now has zip ties holding the clasps on the strap permanently shut. Time will tell if the Billingham is more secure than the ONA, but it is absolutely solid right now and should stay that way as I won't be removing them, causing the leather to soften.

The handle is fairly rigid and easy to grab. It’s riveted and stitched to the top of the bag which has an internal support

The handle is fairly rigid and easy to grab. It’s riveted and stitched to the top of the bag which has an internal support

Another new feature on the Pro is the addition of a handle on the top. This is ideal for that passenger seat scenario and a great feature to have. I would make sure the lid is secure before using the handle, but at least the Hadley Small Pro doesn’t tip over, spilling everything onto the ground. .

Two more new features on the Pro are found around the back. The first is the welcomed addition of a luggage strap so that it can be slid over the handle of a rolling suitcase. All bags should have this in my opinion.

Waterproof zip keeps iPads or documents dry and the luggage strap is really useful

Waterproof zip keeps iPads or documents dry and the luggage strap is really useful

Just above the luggage strap, you will find the waterproof zip for the rear document pocket. This is a super handy pocket that will keep documents or iPad Mini 100% dry. Well worth the price difference between the Pro and the older model.

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The main compartment of the Hadley Small Pro (and also the original Small) is one open space that can be used as it is, or with the included insert. This is one of those bags that feels bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I can easily fit my X-Pro2 with the 35mm f2 attached, X100F with lens hood, and two lenses stacked in the third partition (I have the 50mm f2 and the WCLX100 wide angle converter lens). Two cameras and four focal lengths (28, 35, 50 & 75mm in FF terms) is fantastic in such a small bag and there’s even enough room in there to include the pancake 27mm too. Or I can leave the 50/2 at home and take my X70 for a bit of shooting from the hip. The insert is held inside the bag using a single stud fastener at the front. It has a padded hinged lid to protect gear from things falling on top..

This is everything I have in the Hadley Small Pro. The Fuji X70 gets swapped for the 50mm f2 sometimes

This is everything I have in the Hadley Small Pro. The Fuji X70 gets swapped for the 50mm f2 sometimes

The front pockets are held shut with stud fasteners and are really great for a bag this size. Both are roomy and can be expanded or reduced in size by fastening a stud at the outer side. This also creates a makeshift pen holder. I can put my passport sized Midori Travellers Notebook, pens, wallet, memory card holder, phone, spare batteries, and Apple Airpods in there with space to spare. 

The leather and brass fixings ooze quality and should last a lifetime. I opted for the black leather on a black bag, so the fixings are also nickel plated. It’s almost criminal to not show off the leather like on some of the two-tone bags, but I need something that doesn’t draw attention. I was almost tempted by the green version though as they always look really nice on the web.

The front fasteners as extremely stiff due to the excellent quality of leather and can be awkward and time-consuming to open, but it should just take a short amount of time to loosen up to the point of opening the bag one-handed.

OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

I opted to buy the SP40 leather shoulder pad at the same time as the bag. Not having tried the bag before, I wasn’t sure if I would even need a shoulder pad, but I thought it was better to be over prepared than have a sore shoulder. The pad is as well made as the bags and is easily attached or removed by two heavy-duty stud fasteners. The underside of the pad is grippy and curves around your shoulder perfectly due to grooves that allow it to bend without kinking.

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CONCLUSION

The Hadley Small Pro is an ideal bag for smaller kits. Leica owners or mirrorless shooters alike will love it. I have a backpack for my more demanding shoots, which is where my X-T3, X-T2 and most of my other lenses live (including the bigger red label f2.8 zooms). But for day to day walking around documentary and street shooting, this is an ideal bag. It’s waterproof and versatile and I'm looking forward to using it on a few trips abroad this year.

I also have a Tenba Cooper 13 Slim that I use when I need to carry my 13” MacBook Pro with me. The Cooper has been a fantastic bag, but I might try a Hadley Pro or a Hadley One to see if it would work as my mid-sized bag. Life would probably be a bit easier using different sizes of the same bag...I think.

Pros. 

  • Top Handle.

  • Luggage Strap.

  • Rear waterproof pocket.

  • Removable camera insert.

  • Good amount of padding.

  • A generous amount of dividers (unlike ONA).

  • Good sized and expandable front pockets.

  • Comfortable to wear on long walks.


Cons

  • I would have preferred leather on the base or some sort of wipe clean material.

  • Leather tabs are a bit short to get a proper grip when opening the bag.

  • Difficult to open one-handed (this might change as the leather softens).

Find out more at www.billingham.co.uk

Tommy Smith OBE

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A massive congratulations to Tommy Smith, who has been awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year honours list for services to jazz. An award that is so well deserved and possibly a little overdue IMO.

I have been doing all of Tommy’s photography since 2013, so I have seen first hand the hard work and dedication he puts into all things jazz, not to mention his passion for music education. Tommy is also professor of jazz at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, as well as founder and director of The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (which I also do photography for).

Read more about Tommy’s OBE and his reaction to the news HERE.

Touched-Up: A Fujifilm X-E3 Review

Small but perfectly formed (from the front), the X-E3 is a good looking camera

Small but perfectly formed (from the front), the X-E3 is a good looking camera

Back in the early days of the X-Series, I shot with the X-Pro1 and the X-E1 together (one on each side). Although their performance wasn’t even close to the super-powered X-100F, X-Pro2 and especially the X-T3 I shoot with now, they were so nice as a working pair. They were like the same camera in slightly different skins. As the X-Pro1 grew long in the tooth and the X-E2 came along, I started to use the X-E2 and the X100S (then the X100T) as a working pair. I was so into the X-E2 (and by that time the X-T1 had came along) that I didn’t think my setup had any room for the (then) soon to be released X-Pro2. That seems strange now because my X-Pro2 is always with me. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve always loved the X-E cameras.

So when the X-E3 was announced I had that same feeling. My X-E2 was sitting in my desk drawer getting very little action and I was wondering if there was a space for this latest version in my current line-up. There’s only one way to find out. So I took one out for a week to see how it performed.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The first thing I noticed when I opened the Peli case, was just how small it looked and felt. It’s only slightly shorter than the X-E2, but it seems a good bit smaller in a few ways. The design on the front is a little cleaner I would say and the front grip is pretty much the same.

Not quite as wide as the X-E2 but it makes quite a noticeable difference

Not quite as wide as the X-E2 but it makes quite a noticeable difference

TOP PLATE
The top plate is almost the same as the X-E2, but the X-E3 doesn’t have a built in flash. There is no dedicated ISO dial, but the shutter speed dial is a little on the small side for an X-Pro2 style dial. The Fujinon logo has been left off, as it has on the X-Pro2, but I’d like to see a return of this logo on the top plates of all rangefinder style cameras.

MEET ME ROUND THE BACK
The back of the camera is where things get real (as the hip kids say). On the plus side, the thumb grip is perfect and results in the X-E3 being much more comfortable and safer to hold than it’s predecessors. The joystick has also been included. Fantastic! There are now three buttons along the back of the top plate (next to the viewfinder), like the X-Pro2. The diopter is to the left of the viewfinder, but recessed enough so’s not to get changed by accident. 

IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME
Let's get the D-Pad touchscreen and button placement thing out of the way. As a photographer that owns and uses many X-Series cameras (often using two at a time), it drives me crazy that button placement has not become standard across all X-Series cameras. The X-E3 has the play button at the bottom, which is typically where the Back/Display button would be. For me, the Play Button should be at the top (below the joystick), with the Menu/OK button below that. Obviously different departments design each camera, but I wish all X-Series rangefinder style cameras could get a standard button layout.

X-E2 back with D-Pad and a much more tactile thumb wheel.

X-E2 back with D-Pad and a much more tactile thumb wheel.

I love the D-Pad on all my cameras. It's basically 4 function buttons in a small space that I can control in the dark without taking my eye away from the viewfinder. I have the D-Pads on all my cameras set up (as much as possible) the same way. But the D-Pad has been omitted from the X-E3 (even though there's space for it). This is a deal breaker for me. I was worried that this would become the norm going forward, but I was happy to see a D-Pad on the X-T3.

I mostly hate touch screens, but I find the one on the X-T3 very useful for video recording. I would have left it off of the X-E3 though. Like the touch screen on my X70, I turned it off on the X-E3. But before I turned it off, I went out and shot some street photography. The touch screen function buttons, where you can swipe at the top, bottom, left and right side of the screen is the worst feature on any camera I have used. Every time I lifted the camera to my eye, something else had changed and it took me a while to work out it was that dumb touch screen. But it does have one useful feature…called OFF.

The Auto switch is so useful when shooting street photography, jumping from full manual to auto

The Auto switch is so useful when shooting street photography, jumping from full manual to auto

I was super pleased that the X-E3 has an Auto button on the top plate. I use this often on my X70 as I tend to shoot street photography totally manual with the focus also set to a fixed distance (click HERE to see my post about zone focusing). But when I step inside a building and the light changes or if I want to grab a quick shot close up or far away without upsetting my settings, I simply switch to Auto, grab the shot and switch back to manual. Love it!

Image quality is exactly the same as the other X-Series cameras as they all share the same sensor

Image quality is exactly the same as the other X-Series cameras as they all share the same sensor

SIZE MATTERS
The X-E3 is very small, even smaller than the X-E2, but it feels so comfortable in my hand. Part of it is due to the front grip, but mostly to the rear thumb grip. Although this camera is a standard X-Mount and can take any of the XF or XC lenses, it is definitely better suited to the smaller lenses. I automatically attached the 18mm f2 straight away when the body arrived, and it's just perfect for it. Although the 18/2 could do with an updated mkII version with internal focusing and even weather-proofing (if that's your thing), it's still a great little lens and so well suited to the X-E3. But basically, any lens that is physically small, like the 27/2.8, 35/2, 23/2 will be great on this camera. Obviously, the larger X-Series lenses will work on this camera but will be very front heavy.

WHO IS IT FOR?
Where the X-E2 felt more like a backup for the pro photographer with the X-Pro1 or X-Pro2. I feel the X-E3 is aiming more at people that love shooting with smartphones but want to take it up a notch. It would be a fantastic little vlogging camera, but lacks the flip round screen of the X70.

I hate a smeared LCD screen but there's no escape with a touchscreen

I hate a smeared LCD screen but there's no escape with a touchscreen

CONCLUSION
The X-E3 is a damn fine camera. The performance in such a small body is stunning! And though It bothers me a that they omitted the D-Pad, I do think this camera will do extremely well for Fujifilm. New parents that want to document their kids life in very high quality won’t go wrong with this with a 35/2 lens attached. At the moment, I’m shooting with an X-T3, X-T2, X-Pro2, X100F and X70, so I don’t think the X-E3 has a place in my bag. But if I needed a small compact video camera, this would be the one. Which is the very reason my Kage Collective buddy Kevin Mullins bought one. More about that at www.f16.click

LIKES

  • Auto Button (like on the X70 and X-T20)

  • Joystick

  • 24 Megapixel sensor

  • X-Processor Pro III

  • My Menu

  • Rear Dial Auto Focus (needed on the X-Pro2)

  • Front Dial ISO (needed on the X-Pro2)

  • Design (very handsome little guy)

  • Thumb grip

  • Trash /Drive dual purpose button

  • AF Mode ‘All’ (this should be on all X-Series cameras)

DISLIKES

  • Touchscreen function buttons (it’s just not my bag baby)

  • No D-Pad

  • No ISO Dial

  • Button layout different from the X-Series rangefinder style bodies

WISHES

  • ISO Dial

  • D-Pad

  • Top-plate Fujinon logo (on all Fujifilm cameras)

  • Front Fn Button

John Lennon Wall

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Tucked away in a small part of Prague known as Kampa Island, you will find The John Lennon Wall. A place where many flock to for reasons known only to them. Some come to look, others come to add to the graffiti. But most it seems, come to take selfies. It's a strange old world! **Click on the pictures below to see larger versions.

Domke Or An Ass? : The Domke F-3X Review

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Watch any Hollywood films featuring photojournalists and chances are there will be a Domke in there somewhere. I rewatched an old documentary on YouTube recently called 'The Photographers (a film about National Geographic photographers) and all of them were using Domke. I've been using the F-3X for a couple of months now as my every day carry around camera bag and have also recently used it while traveling to the Czech Republic.

A Brief History Of Domke
You can download a free ebook by Jim Domke from the Tiffin website for an interesting and detailed history of the Domke company's beginnings, but here is my very short version. Skip this section if you have no interest in the past.

Jim Domke was a staff photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer back in the '70's. Frustrated by the hard shell camera cases available at the time, which were made for setting down and working out of, rather than working out of while it was on your shoulder. Mr. Domke started using fishing bags, which although offered little to no protection, did allow him to work out of and swap lenses on his cameras. Fishing bags were also soft and adjusted to the shape of the user's body.

He then went to a manufacturer and showed them his fishing bag but asked them to make him a similar thing but with a few modifications to suit photo gear. The Philadelphia Inquirer liked the bag so much that they ordered the bags for the rest of the staff photographers. They even started to sell them as an add in the paper. This went well until advertisers started to complain because it conflicted with their own products. So the New York Times stopped selling the bags and Jim Domke was in business. Many photographers made requests for modifications, so the original version went through a few changes until the Domke F2 Shooters Bag as we know it today, was finalized. The F-3X is a similar style of bag to the F2, but a little smaller. Domke is now owned by Tiffen

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Waxy As A Waxy Thing
My first impression of the F-3X was not exactly what I had expected. Having looked at many pictures on the web, I decided to order the Rugged Wear wax canvas version because it looked as though it would become really beat up looking very quickly. I had read various reviews and comments about the wax finish, with some saying it was too waxy (greasy) and some saying theirs had no residue problems. So when mine arrived I was a little disappointed that the wax was indeed a bit too heavy. Nobody wants to get wax all over their hands and then have to handle cameras and lenses. So I left the bag outside, hoping the sun would burn the wax off. The F-3X instantly looked wet. Over time the wax has worn off and I'm sure when I eventually give it a scrub in the shower (Domke recommends this rather than putting it in a washing machine), the wax feel will be gone. A tin of wax is supplied with all Rugged Wear bags, so it can be reapplied if required.

F-3X Build Quality
I was a little surprised when I first held the lid of the F-3X up to the light. The wax canvas material was much thinner than I had expected. I bought the bag from Amazon and my initial thought was that it might be a fake Domke (to shoot all that fake news). But on closer inspection, I noticed how well made the bag is. The single clip on the front to hold the lid of the bag closed is solid and with a bit of practice is easy to work with one hand. It's not always necessary to use the clip though as the lid also has Velcro.

One of the most impressive features in the build quality front is the shoulder strap and handle. The latter is a simple canvas strap that comes in really handy when lifting the bag to and from the passenger seat of a car. It can also be unclimbed and reattached to a couple of D rings on the back of the bag. I think this is to allow the bag to be held onto the handle of rolling luggage. I managed to do this fine while the handle was in its normal position. In my opinion, the handle is a little longer than it needs to be.
The shoulder strap is impressive in a few ways. It isn’t noticeable because of the side pockets, but the shoulder strap actually goes around and under the bag, so it is actually supported from the bottom, rather than from the sides. That isn’t the full truth though, because the strap that goes under the bag and the one that hangs from your shoulder are two separate straps. The good news is that they are joined together by really tough plastic attachments. The underside of the strap has two strips of rubber to grip your shoulder and keep the bag from sliding off. This works really well. I also purchased the optional Post Office Pad which has a thick rubber padding and makes a huge difference in comfort when carrying a fully loaded F-3X. Jim Domke copied the shoulder pad used on the bags of US postal workers bags.

The F-3X In Real-World Use
The only way to really know how good a camera bag is and how well it functions in the field is to use it. So I've carried the F-3X with me every day for the last couple of months, using it for everything except for a couple of shoots where I needed to use more kit that would fit in the Domke.

This is the original Dome configuration. Great to work out of with a little amount of kit, but very little padding

This is the original Dome configuration. Great to work out of with a little amount of kit, but very little padding

The F-3X is a strange shapeshifter of a bag. It's happy with a little kit or a lot of kit and molds nicely to the shape of your body. I must admit that I haven’t used the bag in its usual setup, which is basically two thin canvas hoops that are sewn in the sides of the bag. These look like two lens pouches. A single lightly padded square with Velcro at either side is also supplied. This pad connects both of the side pouches and sets the bag up as a two camera and two lens configuration in the main compartment. The downside with this setup is that there is very little protection for the gear and to top half of the bag is wasted space. See the next section for my two preferred ways to set up the F-3X with optional inserts

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The F-3X has a good amount of pockets for storing all sorts of kit. The hidden one under the main flap is really handy to store cash and passports as it has a zip. I can only guess that this was the pocket Lindsay Addario used to store her passport when she was kidnapped in a war zone a few years ago. Although her kidnappers went through her Domke, they didn't find her passport and she was able to pass herself off as an Italian photographer (rather than an American one). Read Lindsay's great book called 'It's What I Do' for the full story.

The front pocket is the large single space variety, rather than sewn up into two smaller ones. It functions well and is good for sunglasses and memory card wallets etc. But it's the side pockets that are the jewel in the crown. Two many bag companies either make the side pockets too tight or forget to include them at all. Not Domke. The side pockets on the F-3X are large enough to carry lenses or water bottles. I bought a pet treats pouch from the local pet store (beats me too), which holds any of my Fuji primes snuggly and with extra padding. A climbing chalk back is basically the same thing.

One major flaw of the Domke Shooters Bags is the way they design the top lid and the lids on the side pockets. In both cases, the material is cut too narrow at the end that attaches to the bag. So the side pockets have gaps that rainwater could get in. Likewise, there can be gaps on each side of the top lid unless you take the time to pull each stretch the lid out over the bag. In the case of the lid, unlike other bags that have flat lids, the F-3X is stitched so that it forms a little roof.

Two Ways To Set Up The F-3X With Aftermarket Inserts
Like I said, the Domke setup doesn’t protect gear much and has a lot of wasted space too. Although the side dividers are sewn and can’t be removed, they easily fold flat against the sides of the bag leaving one large compartment. So I've been using two different aftermarket camera bag inserts depending on what my needs are.

The Dome F-3X with the Hadley Small Insert keeps the bag nice and slim. The centre space holds my X-Pro2 and 35mm f2 attached.

The Dome F-3X with the Hadley Small Insert keeps the bag nice and slim. The centre space holds my X-Pro2 and 35mm f2 attached.

The Hadley Small insert (above) was given to me by my friend John Summers and is the same width as the main compartment on the F-3X. I can divide the insert up into three sections and get my X100F, X-Pro2 with the 35/2 attached and X70 with the WCL-X100 underneath. That leaves a bit of space in front of the insert for a book and still leaves all the pockets free for extra lenses and batteries etc.

The Koolertron (above) is an insert I bought on Amazon especially for the F-3X that is almost exactly the same size as the main compartment. I also have this one divided up into three compartments. This insert gives a little more room for longer lenses, so I can have my X-100F with the WCL-X100 attached and the X-Pro2 with anything up to the Fuji 90/2 attached. Again this leaves the other pockets for lenses or batteries etc. Click HERE for a link to the Koolertron on Amazon UK.

Traveling With The F-3X
I chose to use the Hadley Small insert for my trip to the Czech Republic. The Koolertron is great for holding lots of kit, but because it’s almost exactly the same size as the main compartment (and fairly rigid), it makes the F-3X a bit boxy and I wanted it to be soft and easy to carry. I wanted it to sit on my hip and mold around me, making it easier to move through crowded spaces and busy public transport. I made the right choice.
My Bose QC25 headphones fit in any of the end pockets and the hidden zipper pocket in the lid allows me to put my watch, cash, and passport in there as my bag goes through airport security. I don’t need to worry that someone will grab my cash if I get stopped at security. The rear pocket is ideal for my iPad mini and all the hotel and travel documents that I print out just in case I need them (I also keep digital versions in Evernote). I don't think the Domke is a bag that will attract the attention of thieves. It doesn’t look like, nor is it an expensive bag. It’s a really functional travel camera bag.

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Conclusion
Domke bags may not be for everyone. Even if you like Domke, the Rugged Wear version may not be for you. I would say it's best to see them in the flesh at a proper camera store (if you can find one of those). The F-3X is a winner for me and I'll be using it a lot. This bag was never meant to be my every day carry around bag, so I'll be going back to my ONA Bowery for that. But my Domke is so versatile I can see this as my go-to bag of choice for a number of situations. Like ONA bags, the Domke bags just get better looking after lots of use and abuse. I can't think of a better camera bag for traveling either. My F-3X already looks as though it has been on the road for a long time. Maybe I'll do a follow up to this when it starts to get really frayed at the edges and has a few battle scars.

Positives
Shapeshifter
Large side pockets
Hidden pocket with zipper
Grab handle/luggage strap
Great for inserts
The strap goes under the bag
Rear pocket fits iPad Mini or paperwork

Negatives
Wax is too waxy
Flaps are too small to keep rain out
Very little padding

You can find the F-3X at the Tiffen website HERE.

JJC Square Lens Hoods For Fuji X-Series Lenses

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If you're not a big fan of the supplied plastic lens hoods with some of the Fuji glass, you might be interested in the lower profile square ones available. I bought these ones by JJC on Amazon (U) for £28 each, which is less than half the cost of the Fuji versions. These hoods are metal and extremely well built. They fit on the lenses tightly so there's no chance of them coming off. They have flat covers on the front that slides over the lip at the front edge, which means your old lens caps can go straight in a drawer with the original hoods.

The JJC lens hoods are only available for the 16mm f1.4 and the 23mm f1.4, but the latter also fits on the 56mm f1.2 (as you see in the pictures here). Although the 90mm f2 has a 62mm filter thread like the 23 and the 56, the lens hood mount on the 90 is different so none of them fit that lens.

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Unlike the original plastic hoods, the JJC square ones can't be reversed on the lens for storage. But these metal hoods are so small that I leave them on the lenses permanently. They fit all of my bags and have a smaller footprint than they would with the plastic hoods reversed. I'm not a fan of lens caps because they slow down the time it takes to remove my camera from the bag and shoot, so I tend to leave them off. But these flat JJC ones take up very little room in a pocket in my bag and are handy to stick on in dusty conditions.

JJC name and model number can be placed at the bottom of the lens or the top (as shown here).

JJC name and model number can be placed at the bottom of the lens or the top (as shown here).

Bob Reynolds

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I recently had the pleasure of photographing saxophonist Bob Reynolds for a book I've been working on for some time now. The book is about jazz musicians and without giving too much away at this stage, it's a mixture of portraiture, documentary and some live performance stuff thrown in for good measure. At this point in time, the project is solely funded by me, which keeps the progress at a steady pace due to the cost of travel and accommodation.

Bob was currently on his European tour to support his latest CD called Quartet, so I reached out to him as he has been on my hit list for a while. Manchester was the preferred date, which suited me fine as it's only a three and a half hour train journey from where I live in Scotland. A journey that turned out to be really great on the TransPennine, with stunning scenery on a lovely sunny day. I love to travel by any means of transport, so the journey is part of the enjoyment.

After arriving at Manchester Piccadilly station, I headed for the hotel (via The Real Camera store to drool over a couple of tempting Leica's (M6 and M7). Credit card still intact and a little lump in my throat, I had lunch at the hotel before making my way to the oddly named venue Band On The Wall to meet Bob and the band. 

After the usual meet and greets, I set up my small traveling portrait rig, including two light stands three flashguns, a trigger, and two double-fold umbrellas. The weak part of this travel portrait rig is the background.  None of my Lastalite/Manfrotto collapsible backgrounds fold small enough and I can’t find a small headshot background to suit anywhere. So I'm using a small collapsible reflector that my friend John Summers gave me and I clamp a piece of black velvet material to it. It's a bit time consuming and doesn’t look very professional. But it gets the job done

With the portrait shots complete, we went downstairs and I made a few documentary-style pictures in the dressing room as Bob selected a batch of possible reeds for that night's gig. I moved around the room, making sure I had plenty of variety in my shots, changing angles, shooting from a low angle, getting something in the foreground, shooting into mirrors etc. I was shooting in RAW+JPEG but I shot a few B&W JPEG's to let Bob see a few pictures on the back of the camera to give him an idea of how they might look.

After a quick trip back to my hotel to drop off my lights and stands etc, I headed back to the Band On The Wall to shoot the gig. The venue was packed so I had limited space to move around and switched from primes to a couple of zooms for that reason (24-85mm and 75-210mm in 35mm terms, both f2.8). It wasn’t the brightest venue I've shot in, so 1/125th sec at f2.8 meant my ISO was around 3200 for the centre of the stage and anywhere between 6,400 and 12,800 for the sides.

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The gig was very special in my opinion. The energy between musician and audience was something that you don’t always get with jazz gigs, and it was great to see a younger generation of jazz fan so enthusiastic about the music. Bob also plays in the band Snarky Puppy and obviously has a following that includes quite a few Snarky fans as well as his own fan base, which is no doubt expanded with the popularity of Bob's highly addictive vlog on YouTube. 

Pianist Oli Rockberger dept for Ruslan Sirota on the first few gigs of the tour as Ruslan was busy being the best man at his friends' wedding, but  Oli played as though he had been a part of the quartet for years (he and Bob went to Berkeley at the same time). Most of the tracks on Quartet are pretty laid back, so it was great to see Chaun Horton being able to let rip on the drums on some really funky numbers, which were made all the funkier with Janek Gwizdala on the bass. Janek also has a great vlog on YouTube, which is based on the bass (see what I did there), but like Bob’s vlog, is enjoyable to both musicians and non-musicians. Janek is a joy to watch on stage. His bass playing is extraordinary and his use of effects pedals is a lot of fun, especially when a looper pedal is involved.

But the last word has to be on Bob. A fine musician/composer with an equal gift of a warm fat tone on the tenor sax with a great technical ability. One minute you’re listening to a beautiful ballad on the bottom end of his Selmer Mk VI and the next you’re being bombarded with amazing altissimo dexterity that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. 
Bob is exactly what you see on his vlog, a really nice guy with a lot of time and respect for others. This shoot was a real pleasure.

A Quick Custom White Balance Tip Using iPhone

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You know that damn slogan that we're all sick of hearing? You know the one “The best camera is the one you have with you”. Quite often that camera is an iPhone, or at least that's the way the slogan started out. Well, I've put a new slant on that by saying “The best white balance card is the one you have with you”. Yup, just as annoying.

But if you happen to have a white iPhone (or possibly any phone with a silver back), then you have a white balance card that's always with you. I'm a big fan of ExpoDisc's or Colour Checker Passport and I use them often, but sometimes I'm out and about without one of those or they’re in my camera bag at the other side of a theatre and I'm at the front of the stage as a show is about to begin. That's when I pull out my iPhone and set a custom white balance from the back surface. I have a clear bumper case on my phone so that I don’t have to remove the phone to do this. I'm a Fuji shooter but although setting a custom white balance on your camera might be a little different, it won’t be that far away from what I do.

Here's what I do.
1. Go to Custom White balance (I have al my white balance settings on the right D-Pad on all my cameras.
2. Activate the custom white balance patch.
3. Take a shot of the back of my phone making sure my exposure is as near as possible and all of the white balance patch is filled with the silver grey of the phone. Make sure that the light you are trying to balance is hitting the back of the phone.
4. Press OK to accept the new custom white balance and then take a shot to see how it looks.

Now your white balance is locked in and this is the number one method to speed up your workflow. If you want to change white balance in Lightroom (or the editing program of your choice), all you need to do is select all photos and make sure Auto-Sync is on. Adjust white balance on a single photo and all the rest will have the same adjustment applied too.

Workaround For Fuji X-T2 Video Problem

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Even with the release of the huge hog beast they call the X-H1, The X-T2 is still a great camera for video. But locking in your settings is a problem, especially if you shoot at 24 or 25 FPS. 

THE PROBLEM
For decent video, we need to lock in our three exposure controls (Aperture, shutter speed and ISO). Aperture is mostly ok because we set it on the lens, but the aperture rings on some Fuji lenses have little resistance and are easy to move without realizing. ISO is pretty good as we can set it on the top dial and press the lock button. Or we can assign ISO to the front command dial and press said dial to lock it (this is the quickest way). But shutter speed is a real problem if you like to shoot at 24 or 25 FPS. We can choose 1/60th of a sec on the shutter speed dial on the top plate, but to get it down to the required 1/50th of a second we need to use the rear command dial. So far so good, but the rear command dial doesn't lock and they tend to be as loose as a loose thing. I've had this move on me multiple times and it drives me nuts. I don't know why we can’t press the dial in to lock it the same way the ISO dial works.

THE SOLUTION
But there is a solution to this problem that allows us to lock in any of the exposure triangle settings or lock all of them at the same time. Here's how to do it. You will find all of these settings in the menu under Settings - Button/Dial Settings

1. Make sure the rear command dial (or the front command dial if you have them reversed) is set to adjust shutter speed by 3rd stops. You will find this on page 1 of the above-mentioned menu, SS Operation.
2. Next, you will need to change one of your Fn buttons on the X-T2  to 'Lock Settings'. This is on page 4 of the Button/Dial Settings menu. I use the AF/L button because I have back button focus assigned to the rear command dial.
3. Now, with the camera back in normal shooting mode, press the Fn button that you assigned to Lock.
4. Choose 'Function Selection'' and then tick the boxes you wish to lock. I have Shutter Speed ticked, but you might also want to lock Aperture, ISO or both. 
5. Now when you want to lock in your setting you just click that Fn button and choose Lock Settings - 'Selected Function' and your Settings will be locked and can’t be moved by accident. This will also lock your shutter speed dial on the top plate, so remember to turn the lock off when you want to change the settings.

That’s it. Any questions just leave them in the comments below and I'll answer them as best I can as soon as I can.

Bastards

Photo by Kevin Mullins

Photo by Kevin Mullins

My Kage Collective buddy Bert Stephani, who a lot of you will know as a Fujifilm X-Photographer, excellent photographer and all round nice guy, has had his camera gear stolen.

Bert is based in Belgium and while he was out doing a talk at a local camera club, thieves were breaking into his house and stealing most of his camera gear. He is a professional photographer, so he depends on his equipment to be able to make a living. Not only was Bert doing the talk for free, but he often works on a project to help refugees. Nice guys don't just finnish last, they get humped!

Here is a list of his stolen gear, plus serial numbers. It was stolen in Belgium, but it could easily pop up anywhere in Europe and could be available internationally through Ebay.

Fuji GFX50S SN:71005024 (Fuji strap was attached, contained 2 Lexard cards, probably without battery charger or any of the other supplies accessories)
Fuji GF63mm SN: 75A02439
Fuji GF110mm SN: 76A01409

Fuji X-T2 It has one of the special customized serial numbers: BERT S1 (There was a green strap attached, probably without a battery charger, flash or any other accessory, there were 2 SanDisk cards in there.)
Fuji XF16-55mm SN:56A23230 (probably without lens cap, was attached to the X-T2)
Fuji XF50-140mm can't find the serial number, it didn't have the tripod collar attached
Fuji XF100-400mm SN65A07297

These items will probably be offered without box, lens cloths, or any of the accessories they should come with. If you see anything that might be Bert's, please contact him at bert@bertstephani.com