Gear

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

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

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.

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

Fujifilm X100F Review : Beauty And A Beast

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Based On A Pre-Production FUJI X100F

This review is based on a pre-production camera after two months of using it, but the production model probably won't be much different. I'm an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and I have owned each version of the X100, plus almost all of the other X-Series cameras. I shoot exclusively with the X-Series cameras and haven't used a DSLR is years. This review is based on that. The pictures of the camera on this post were shot by me (they are not the official promo shots). I used my X-Pro2 with the brilliant 35mm f2 lens and a single overhead umbrella. For the close shots, I used the smallest of the Fuji Macro Tubes (11).

DESIGN AND LAYOUT

Your opinion may differ from mine, but I think the X100F is the most beautiful camera I have seen in my entire life! It keeps the look of the original X100, but the lines are cleaner, sharper and the top plate now slopes from the upper to the lower level. This, more than any other camera, has that thing where you just want to pick it up and hold it in your hands.

The X100F now has a front command dial, A front fn button (on the OVF/EVF selector lever) and the focus assist light has been moved up to sit alongside the flash on the front of the top plate. My first thought when I unboxed it back in November was that it felt a little chunkier in my hands than my X100T, which is a good thing in my book.

The rear of the X100F has a similar button layout to the X-Pro2 so it's been so easy to shoot with both these cameras together without having to think too much. I do wish Fuji had put three buttons next to the viewfinder instead of two (the X-Pro2 has three). It would also be nice to use the Delete key as an Fn button while in playback mode (like on the X70) and even be able to use the Q button as an Fn button and have Q assignable to any of the Fn buttons. The best new feature on the back of the the F is the joystick. I'm so used to this now that I find it awkward when I use any of my older X-Series cameras. It's also great that this frees the D Pad up to be used as 4 fn buttons now (Drive + 3 more).

NEW FUNCTIONS

The X100F has been brought up to spec with the two flagship Fuji cameras, the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, which is pretty impressive in this much smaller camera. It has the same 24 megapixel sensor and processor, which seems to be the new standard in X-Series cameras and one I hope will find its way into the next version of the X70.

THE ISO DIAL

The ISO dial has been brough over from the X-Pro2, which some will like and some won't. I like it, but it could have benefited from having a shutter speed lock button (like on the X-Pro2) because it is easy to move the shutter speed dial by accident if you don't pull the dial up far enough. I didn't find this to be too much of a problem though. But thanks to the next feature, you don't even need to use the ISO Dial if you don't want to.

ISO COMMAND MODE

This is a big one that has been brought over from the X-T10. You can still use Auto ISO in the usual way, but if set to Command in the Buttons & Dials setup menu and the ISO Dial on the top plate is set to A, the front command dial becomes the ISO dial. This is ideal if you want to lock your aperture and shutter speed and have ISO as the only variable. We Need this feature in the X-Pro2 and X-T2. It would be nice to be able to lock this by pressing the front Command Dial switch.

C = 5 STOPS OF EV COMPENSATION

Like on the X-Pro2 and X-T2, the X100F has the letter C on the Exposure Compensation Dial which extends EV Comp to 5 stops. Simply select C and then use the front Command Dial to scroll through 5 stops in either direction.

So what happens if both ISO and EV Comp are set to be controlled by the front command dial? In this instance the front command dial switch is used to toggle between ISO and EV Comp.

DIGITAL ZOOM AND CONVERSION LENSES

Both of the currently available conversion lenses, the WCL-100 (28mm) and the TCL-X100 (50mm) work with the X100F, but at the time of writing this review there is a second version of both lenses on the horizon. I have no idea how they differ from the ones I have, because both of the original conversion lenses perform brilliantly.

These lenses have apertures of f2 wide open (just like the fixed lens) and there's no loss of light like you would get with a teleconverter. But if you don't want to carry extra lenses (having a single fixed lens is after all the beauty of this camera), the X100F inherits the Digital Zoom function from the X70. By twisting the focus ring (in auto focus mode) you have the option of 50mm, 70mm and the cameras standard 35mm field of view. This is not an optical zoom, but there is some sort of magical upscaling going on that keeps the quality high. I'd still rather use one of the conversion lenses, but the Digital Zoom can be really handy sometimes. The viewfinder displays either 50 or 70 in a small box at the upper side, which changes when you have the camera set to Tele Converter Lens (72mm & 100mm using the digital zoom) or Wide Converter Lens (41mm & 58mm).

It's worth mentioning here that the Digital Zoom feature won't work in RAW, so you have to set the camera to JPEG only or the focus ring does nothing. Another point would be that when the camera is set to Manual Focus Mode, the focus ring obviously won't be used for Digital Zoom. The feature will still work, but you will need to with to AF adjust Digital Zoom with the focus ring and then switch back to MF.

There are 4 Control Ring Settings (focus ring). STD or Standard (changes the default option according to the shooting mode), White Balance, Film Simulation and Digital Zoom. Standard and Digital Zoom pretty much do the latter, but it would be nice to have a fifth option of OFF. A workaround for this is obviously to shoot in RAW+JPEG so that the control ring does nothing.

BATTERY

The NP-95 battery from the previous three X100 models has been replaced by the same NP-W126 that the X-Pro, X-T and X-E series uses, which is a great thing if, like me, you tend to cary more than one X-Series camera with you. I haven't noticed much difference in the amount of shots I get out of a single battery, but I have been using the F on high performance. Check Fuji's specs for more info on battery life.

CONCLUSION

I hate to state the obvious, but the X100F is the best X100 camera so far. The X100F,  X-Pro2 and X-T2 have jumped so far ahead of all the other X-Series cameras that I'm now in the process of selling both my X-T1's and probably my X-E2, in favour of the X100F, X-Pro2 and X-T2. I'm not sure what the fate of my X100T will be yet.

If you own any of the X100 cameras, from the original to the S and the T, it is a no brainier. Buy the X100F (if you can afford to) and you will not be disappointed. F is for Fourth, but it could just as well be for Fast or even another F word :o)

I think the X100F is of close to perfection. Obviously we all have our own preferences to how we setup our cameras and Fuji have made their cameras super customisable, from the Q Menu to My Menu and lots of Fn Buttons. But if Fuji are reading this post, I would be doing them a miss service if I didn't mention a few firmware updates for the future that would make this camera out of this world.

MY WISH LIST FOR FUTURE FIRMWARE

  • Q Button as an assignable Fn button.
  • Delete button as an Fn button in shooting mode (like the X70).
  • Pressing the front command dial to lock ISO in Command Mode.
  • Ability to toggle ISO Auto & Command Mode on any of the Fn buttons (not just in the menu).
  • Ability to put ISO Auto & Command Mode in My Menu
  • The ability to disengage the Control Ring function.
  • Be able t use the front Fn button to toggle between digital zoom settings with each press 50 -70 -35 -50...
  • More options for assigning things to the front command dial (on all Fuji cameras).
  • Swap the functions of pressing the rear command dial and the joystick (i.e. put Focus Check on the joystick).

LAST WORD FROM ME

The X-Pro2 and the X-T2 are the dual flagship models, but I personally see the X100F as a 3rd flagship. The flagship of the compacts.

LINKS TO OTHER X100F POSTS

 

ONA Bowery Bag In Dark Truffle Leather

I've had an ONA camera bag on my wish list for a while. It was originally the Street Prince in Dark Truffle Leather that I had in mind, but I couldn't get one in the UK at that time. I asked a friend to pick me one up in the US last year, but the dealer was too far from where she was staying. I ended up buying a Tenba Cooper 13 Slim instead, which I'm still using and love, especially for travelling as it has a sleeve to fit over the handle of rolling cases and it has a pocket at the front big enough for my Bose QC25 headphones.

So when a trip to London appeared on the horizon, I found out that The Classic Camera stocked a selection of ONA bags in various styles and finishes. I still liked the Street Prince and even considered the Berlin II, but I've been on the look out for something small that would force me to carry less gear on a day to day basis. I have a backpack for shoots where I need a lot of kit, but for street photography or just a go anywhere bag, I was in need of something smaller, but with enough space to hold a few accessories as well as two or three X-Series cameras with lenses attached.

I kept coming back to the Bowery and was drawn to the leather versions especially. The Antique Cognac looks good (it looks much better in the flesh than it does on the internet actually), but I loved the look of the Dark Truffle leather version. I liked the Tan canvas version when I was looking at them at Classic Camera, but I knew I wouldn't get it out of my system unless I bought the leather one.

I paid the £219 at The Classic Camera and resisted buying a Leica M6 (for now) while I was in the shop. I ended up carrying the Bowery around in it's box for six hours that day while I shot some London Street Photography with the X70 and X-Pro2.

BUILD QUALITY:

 The leather ONA bags are made to wear-in really quickly, so if you want one to stay looking as new as the day you bought it for many years, leather ONA bags are not for you. But if you want your bag to look as though you've been using it for years, even though it's fairly new, then look no further because ONA is definitely what you're after.

Build quality on ONA bags is fantastic, in fact I would say it's the best I have seen on any bag! The leather versions especially look as though they would last for many years, possibly out lasting me. The leather is thick and tough and the rivets and buckles are chunky and already look aged, which is in keeping with the rest of the bag.

WHAT FITS INSIDE THE BOWERY:

The Bowery can hold a lot of kit for such a small bag. The leather version is a good bit heavier than the canvas one and as I said earlier, the purpose of this bag for me is to travel lighter on a day to day basis when I don't have a shoot that requires larger lenses. But I can basically get all of the following into the Bowery. I don't always need this amount of gear, but it's good to have the option.

  • Fuji X-Pro2 with the 35mm f2 attached
  • Fuji X100T (with lens hood)
  • Fuji X70 (with lens hood)
  • GoPro (under the X70)
  • Moleskine (Evernote edition) Notebook
  • Parker pen
  • Apple Earbuds (headphones)
  • A couple of spare batteries
  • Short iPhone cable
  • 2 spare SD cards (in their cases)
  • Business cards and bank/credit cards
  • Lens cloth

Here's a short video showing how I fit all this inside the Bowery.

CONCLUSION:

This Bowery is a really cool bag. It feels great over my shoulder and has that rare quality of feeling lighter than it actually is. I was tempted to buy the wax version because it was a good bit lighter and felt and looked great, but I knew I would still have had gear lust over the leather version, so I'm glad I bought this one. The Dark Truffle is the one for me, even though ONA are now doing a black leather versions too.

These bags are not inexpensive by any means, but will last for years, and even though they will get scuffed and worn very quick, they will look as cool as an old Leica that's worn down to the brass. I would highly recommend paying a visit to The Classic Camera store if you happen to be in the London area, I know I'll be back there on my next visit to London. If you're on the fence about buying an ONA bag, just take the plunge. You won't be disappointed.

Fujifilm XF 35mm F2 R WR Lens

What is the point of the 35mm f2? We already have the 35mm f1.4, one of the three original XF lenses that were released alongside the X-Pro1. Not only that, the 1.4 version is one of the best 50mm equivalent lenses produced. Ever! It's beautifully smooth but super sharp picture quality is truly stunning and even after the long list of first class lenses released over the last few years, the 35mm f1.4 is still one of my favourite Fuji lenses.

So what about the new 35mm f2 with it's tapered front end? Well it's not quite as good looking or bright as it's older brother, but this scrawny lad is quicker & less shifty. Lenses that taper in at the front end always look a little strange to me and I actually think this one looks better in silver (more like an old Leica lens). Don't get me wrong, it's a cool lens and feels a lot smaller than the f1.4 version. Where that tapper comes in handy is with the optical viewfinder of the X-Pr1 (and hopefully it's successor). If you press your eye right up to the viewfinder, you can barley see the lens just at the corner, but it's nowhere near the frame lines. The supplied plastic lens hood is very small and there's even an optional one that is more like the X100 hood.

004-DerekClarkPhoto-Fujifilm_35mm_f2

Performance wise this new 35/2 is way ahead of the older lens! Focusing is way quicker, smother and quieter. Focusing is also internal, so no front end popping in and out like your Granny doing the Hokey Cokie. Aperture ring is tight and is the way all Fuji lenses should be. In fact, if you shut your eyes you would swear you're cracking a safe. The focus ring is also tight and smooth and has just the right amount of travel IMO. It's a shame that the focus ring is continuous and doesn't stop at either end like the 16mm or 23mm does. It's also a real shame that it doesn't have the push/pull clutch focus ring like the 14, 16 and 23mm lenses have. Oh and as this is a great lens for street photography, a hyper focal distance guide at the front end of the lens would have been great. I would much rather the front of the lens were bigger if it meant we had those features of the wide angle lenses.

002-DerekClarkPhoto-Fujifilm_35mm_f2

So if I already own a 35mm f1.4, why would I buy the slightly slower f2? I have a few reasons. The first is that I think this will be a fantastic lens for street photography. The Aperture ring is tight enough that I can set it and be fairly sure it won't be knocked off. The focus ring is really smooth when using manual focus. Speed wise, I very rarely shoot street wide open, so there won't be a problem with this being an f2. The tapered front end is also even less threatening to people on the street.

001-DerekClarkPhoto-Fuji-35mm-f2
A close crop of my daughters eye from the previous image

A close crop of my daughters eye from the previous image

I tend to have one of two bags with me at all times. I have my small every day walking around and street photography bag and I have my working bag with two X-T1's and five or six lenses (I'll do a post on what's in each bag in the coming weeks). I like to have a 35mm lens in my walk around bag, but I constantly forget to put it in my working bag and only realise when I reach in there for it, and usually when I really need that focal length. No room to back up for the 56mm, so I end up shooting a portrait with the 23mm. Not ideal! But now I can keep a 35mm in each bag. Nice!

So if you don't already own the f1.4 version, which 35mm should you buy? It's quite an easy answer really. If you don't need that extra stop of the f1.4 then the f2 is the one to buy. Apart from losing that one extra stop of light, the new 35mm f2 has everything going for it and that's coming from a guy that absolutely loves the original 35mm f1.4.

Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 Review

I had instant gear lust when the 90mm was announced. A full frame equivalent to a 135mm f2 is probably the ultimate portrait lens for great compression and beautiful shallow depth of field. But as usual, in the space between gear announcements and actual release, my brain takes over and starts to through in a bit of sense to the mix. I already have a 16, 18, 23, 35, 56, 16-55, 18-55 and 50-140mm. Plus the two conversion lenses for the X100T. Do I really need another lens?

But when I was asked recently to write some posts for Fuji's blog about my favourite lenses, I made the mistake of mentioning that I didn't own a 90mm and was on the fence about getting one. That was a bad idea, because Fuji then sent me a 90mm to try out.

My current lens lineup, which is almost all of the XF series minus the 14, 27, 56 APD, 10-24 and 18-135mm.
My current lens lineup, which is almost all of the XF series minus the 14, 27, 56 APD, 10-24 and 18-135mm.

I setup the shot above to show the difference in size between the 90mm and other lenses in the XF range. My lenses tend to live in different bags, so I was a little shocked to see them all together like this. I only owned five lenses when I shot Nikon, but as you can see from the picture above, I have a lot more Fuji glass. I have also owned the 14mm and 60mm, which I replaced with the 16mm and 56mm. I like my lenses to be as fast as possible and tend not to use anything slower than an f2.8 because I shoot a lot of things in low light.

So, as I don't live on the Moon, I knew what the 90mm looked like and I knew it was sharp. To be honest though, I've shot with almost all of the XF lenses and every single one of them was sharper than any lens I've shot with from any other brand. Lets face it, Fujifilm make amazing cameras, but their lenses are on another level again! They set the bar high with the 35mm f1.4 back when they introduced the first of their compact system cameras, the X-Pro1, but have consistently, not just matched, but bettered that lens. That's no mean feat, because the 35/1.4 was and still is about the best full frame 50mm equivalent on the market.

The obvious use for the 90mm would be for portraiture. If you're a traditional wedding photographer and love those shallow depth of field outdoor portraits, you will absolutely love this lens! I shot some studio portraits with it and loved the look and performance. The problem I had was that I didn't have enough room to back off from my subject, so I ended up with mostly head shots and to be honest shot most of the session with the 56mm f1.2. But if you have plenty of room in your studio or shoot a lot outside, then this could be the portrait lens for you.

The Edinburgh Festival was in full swing when I received this test copy of the 90mm, so although a 135mm focal length is 100mm more than I would typically shoot street with, I gladly popped the 90 onto my X-E2 and jumped on a train to Edinburgh. I should say here that my perfect camera to use with the 90mm is the X-T1 with a battery grip, which is what I used for the portrait session. That setup is the perfect combination of grip and balance due to the physical length of the lens. But I realized recently while on a trip to Paris, that I don't like to shoot on the street with the DSLR shape of the X-T1 and much prefer the boxy rangefinder style of the X-Pro1 and X-E2. My favorite street camera is the X100T by a long way, but I would need a saw and a couple of screws to attach the 90mm to that :o)

the 90mm was a blast to shoot on the street. It took a bit of getting used to everything being so close when I brought the camera up to my eye, but as the day went on I just enjoyed it more and more. Have a look at my street photography blog at 35mmStreet to see a lot more of these pictures from the Edinburgh Festival.

Another thing to note here is that these were all shot using the Classic Chrome Film Simulation. I love the way it renders colour in a desaturated Kodachrome look. I've been shooting Classic Chrome almost exclusively now for about three months and I love it! Post processing on these is minimal. A bit of Contras, a bit of Clarity and a Vignette now and again. But I have no problem using JPEG's straight out of camera too.

The 90mm is such a great lens and certainly in the top three of the XF series. The 56mm is an amazing portrait lens, but the 90mm takes it to another level again, due to the compression of the longer focal length and the out of focus blur is even smother too. There were a couple of times where the subject moved outside my focus point and the lens felt as though it took a while to focus all the way in one direction and then back to where it locked on. This happened very little and to be fair, it focused wonderfully on subjects moving toward me. It nailed focus and faces were pin sharp, even at f2. It doesn't focus as well in really low light situations as the 16, 23, 56, 50-140 or even the 35mm. This surprised me a bit, considering it has the latest technology, including triple focusing motors. Although I'm talking extreme low light here, it is the only point that makes me hesitate about pulling the trigger on this lens and adding it to my kit.

I've noticed that the latest lenses I have bought, (the 16mm & 16-55mm) have a stiffer aperture ring and I'm glad to say the 90mm does too. A lot of the other lenses aperture rings are a bit loose and easy to knock to another position without knowing. Even my 50-140mm f2.8 is rather loose. Build quality on the 90mm is exactly the same as the other XF primes, which is very nice. I must say that it's not the best looking Fuji lens, looking a little bland due to its longer length. I think the award for best looking lens would have to go to the 16 or 23mm, due to the clutch mechanism and slightly wider front end. Speaking of front end, the 90mm has a 62mm filter thread. It's a shame there are so many filter sizes between the XF lens lineup, but it wouldn't be possible to have them all the same with so much variation in lens sized due to physics.

I had one of my regular jazz shoots the weekend before sending the 90mm back. This time round it featured US tenor saxophonist Benny Golson (remember him from the Tom Hanks movie 'The Terminal"?) The venue was dark and a challenging situation for any lens. I love the look I was getting. The shallow depth of field and the compression are great for music photography. It did hunt for focus a couple of times, but like I said, it was pretty dark.

CONCLUSION

I'm a bit torn with the 90mm f2. Do I need it? No. Do I want it? Yes. Although it's not the best lens for focusing in low light situations (by low light, I mean dark), it is an amazing piece of class! It possibly produces the best looking pictures from any of the X Series lenses. Certainly the smoothest, creamiest in shallow depth of field terms. It does take up a lot of room in a camera bag and it's not a lens I would take to every shoot. But when the job calls for a 135mm focal length, the 90mm f2 is just an amazing piece of kit that delivers wonderful pictures every time. Maybe I don't need it because I already have the 50-140mm f2.8, but the 90mm is physically smaller and a little faster (aperture wise). I'll wait to see how much I miss it when it's gone back to Fuji, then decide if one will join my lineup.

Lensbaby For Fujifilm X-Mount

DerekClarkPhotography.com-TripBaby01

DerekClarkPhotography.com-TripBaby01

At last, the Lensbaby system is finally available for Fuji X-Mount cameras. I've been holding off for a long time for this to happen, rather than buying a Nikon fit and Nikon adaptor. The only problem was that the combination of Composer Pro and Edge 80 optic that I wanted, didn't seam to be available. For some reason, the Sweet 35, Sweet 50, Circular Fisheye and Velvet 56 are available for X-Mount, but not the Edge 80. So I contacted Lensbaby direct and they offered to sent what I wanted as a special order. The price was what I would have expected to pay, but if you live in the UK and want to go down this route...BEWARE! UK Customs wear black masks and funny hats. They charged £92 import duty, which to me is not only excessive, it's blatant theft. But hey, welcome to (not so) Great Britain! Anyway, I digress.

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XT1A3415

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XT1A3415

If you haven't used, or even heard of Lensbaby, it's basically a creative lens system. Although they have a couple of stand alone (direct mount) lenses available, the most popular lens baby's consist of a lens barrel and various optics that can be swapped out. I opted for the Edge 80 as this has more of a tilt shift effect and due to it's 12 aperture blades, it also has the creamiest out of focus areas. One slight drawback, which can also be a plus too, is that on a Fuji's 1.5 crop sensor, the Edge 80 becomes a 120mm focal length (in full frame terms). I'm not used to this length on my Fuji's, so it's taking a bit of getting used to how far back from my subject I need to be.

Fuji_X-Pro1_Lensbaby_Edge80

Fuji_X-Pro1_Lensbaby_Edge80

As you can see from the image above, the Lenbaby Composer Pro is basically a ball and socket sort of thing with a locking ring next to the mount. This can be locked into place, left totally loose or anywhere in between. Next ring up is for focusing, which needs very very fine movements or you will get nothing but blur. The third ring up is for aperture (f2.8 to f22) and the final ring, although it doesn't turn and actually has the f stops marked on it, can be pulled out to take the Edge 80 into close focus mode (which is not that close at all). I've heard the words 'super sharp when used in the centre position'. Now maybe I'm spoiled by the amazing sharpness of the Fuji lenses, but I wouldn't say that the Edge 80 is the sharpest tool in the bag. But that's ok, because I don't think sharpness is what this thing is all about. It's about being creative and as Lensbaby says 'see in a new way'. And that's pretty much what it does, it allows you to look at ordinary everyday things and see them transformed into something unusual and fresh. It changes things up and forces you to look at things you might not otherwise look at, just to see what Lensbaby does to it.

DerekClarkPhotography.com-TripBaby02

DerekClarkPhotography.com-TripBaby02

A couple of things as far as setup goes on an X-Series camera. Look in the menu for 'Shoot Without Lens' and turn it on. The Lensbaby is completely manual and does not communicate with the camera in any way, so the camera will think there isn't a lens attached. The Lensbaby is a manual focus lens, so it won't matter if your camera is set to Auto Focus or Manual Focus, it will still only focus via the focus ring. But I would highly recommend setting the camera to Manual Focus as you will then be able to use Focus Check by pressing the wheel on The X-Pro1, E-E1/2 etc...or the Focus Check button on the X-T1. The X-T1 won't do this automatically like it does with other lenses, because once again, there are no electronics on the Composer Pro. You might find Focus Peeking will be a benefit too.

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XE1X7645

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XE1X7645

I didn't want to make this post too word heavy (too late for that), but just show some pictures from my first walk around with the edge 80. I'm looking forward to trying this out at my next shoot for Project Jazz. I'll also post some street photography shots using the Lensbaby over at 35mmStreet, but in the mean time I'll leave you with this one.

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XT1A3457-Edit

DerekClarkPhotography.com-XT1A3457-Edit

Fujifilm Macro Tubes MCEX-11 & MCEX-16

DerekClarkPhoto.com-Fuji-MCEX-11_MCEX-16 I just got hold of Fuji's MCEX-11 (11mm) and MCEX-16 (16mm) Macro Extension Tubes and I wanted to do a quick comparison. Fuji has a table on line with all the information in numbers form about focus distance etc, but photographers are visual beasts. So as I couldn't find much in picture form on line, I thought I would show some examples of what you get from each of them. I have included one with just the lens, one with the 11mm, one with the 16mm and one with both tubes stacked together. All shots were taken with the camera as close to the subject as possible. I basically focused each lens to minimum distance and then moved the camera in until it achieved focus. I have kept the subject the same throughout (my X100S) so that you can get a good idea of what the difference is from lens to lens with each tube. All of these JPGS were shot square in camera (yes, your X camera shoots in square and 16:9 too:o). Please note, the wider lenses (14mm, 18mm & 23mm) worked with the MCEX-11, but the lens touched the X100 before focusing was achieved with the 16mm or both stacked. The 35mm lens went in so close with both tubes attached, that I had to remove the X100S lens hood.

These tubes are more than double the price of the equivalent on Amazon or Ebay, but as this is a one off purchase and because I've read a lot of comments on line about the electrical contacts not working on third party ones, I though it was worth going for the original Fuji tubes. Besides, I sold my 60mm Macro lens when I heard these were coming out as they're smaller and easily stuff in the corner of a camera bag. Built quality is extremely high and the fit is tight (but not too tight). My one gripe is that neither of the tubes come with a case or a bag and as these go between lens and camera, dust is not welcome. I'm storing them in the little cloth bag that came with the X100 lens hood at the moment. I've used the 56mm f1.2, the 35mm f1.4 and the 50-140mm f2.8 for examples here. I think owners of the 56mm will get the most use out of these, as that lens has a poor minimum focus distance. Sop here are the results.

I wanted to confirm that the photos from the 50-140mm f2.8 lens are correct. I had to check the metadata to make sure these were in the right order. I even re-shot them just to be 100% sure. I hope this post has been useful. Use the comments section if you have any questions about these tubes, or if you would like to see a ring shoot ...etc.