The Verge’s review of the Fuji X-T20

Vlad Savov has written a review of the Fuji X-T20 for The Verge that captures what I love about Fuji’s camera system.

It’s tough for me to decouple the pleasure of shooting with the X-T20 from its eventual results. The process of capturing images with this camera is more satisfying than any other I’ve known (except maybe Fujifilm’s own X-Pro2, which I’ve only flirted with). Smartphones feel impersonal and, if I’m honest, kind of half-assed, like I don’t really care about the photo I’m taking. Full-fat DSLRs, on the other hand, would suggest that I care too much […]

Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras are simply better. Our reviews of these cameras tend to devolve into emotional expositions about passion for the art of photography, but ultimately Fujifilm just wins on all the practical fronts that matter. The X-T20 has the best viewfinder, best ergonomics, and best image quality in its price class. The Fujinon XF lens ecosystem is unrivaled. If there’s any problem for this camera, it’s in convincing people that it’s worth trying — because I’m confident that once they do, they’ll fall in love with it just as I did.

I have been banging the Fuji drum for years now. The Fuji X-T2 (the X-T20’s bigger and older brother) has totally reinvigorated my love of photography. I try to bring it with me almost everywhere.

As for the X-T20, I’m not as big a fan of the smaller form factor cameras (I also own an X-T10 but I need the extra grip in order to enjoy holding it and shooting with it). But the image-quality-to-price ratio cannot be beat on this camera.

Golden Gardens.

A post shared by David Chen (@davechensky) on

Re-creating a scene from ‘Goodfellas’ with a $2,000 camera 

TheCameraStoreTV is one of my favorite YouTube channels. They offer in-depth reviews of cameras, delivered with an affable tone and an air of fun.

One series they’ve been doing is “Wooden Niccolls” in which their main host, Chris Niccolls, tries to re-create famous scenes from movies, but using the consumer-grade cameras that they have access to. For their latest entry, they tried re-making a scene from Goodfellas using the upcoming Panasonic GH5:

These videos are very amusing, and the final results are impressive. It seems like it truly is possible to get pretty close to the look of a scene from a classic film, so long as you have the right lighting setup. However, this is also true of a lot of other high-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras these days. I would’ve appreciated a closer look at exactly how much you can push GH5 footage in post, or what flexibility you have with GH5 footage in non-studio conditions. That being said, the ungraded GH5 log footage they show in the video looks fantastic.

I used to own a Panasonic GH4 and while I enjoyed shooting with it, I eventually sold it because I just didn’t find the Micro 4/3rds format (and the Panasonic lenses I used with it) delivered on the sharpness, bokeh, and separation that I was looking for in my images and videos. Moreover, the low-light performance was just not comparable to competitors. I’ve recently fallen in love with the Fuji X-T2, which is a camera I take with me almost everywhere.

That being said, the GH5 looks really formidable in its video specs, and since Canon doesn’t seem to really care about the mirrorless/DSLR video revolution, I might check it out just to see what’s possible.

Fujifilm launches the X100F and the X-T20

Dan Seifert, for The Verge:

The fixed-lens X100F (“F” stands for “fourth,” as it’s the fourth X100 series camera, in case you were wondering) carries over many of the features of its predecessor, including the clever and innovative three-mode hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder. It maintains the 23mm f/2 lens and basic overall design from the earlier X100 cameras, but gains the integrated shutter speed and ISO dial and rear joystick from the X-Pro2. Fujifilm says it also redesigned the controls of the X100F to all be accessible from the right side, to better enable one-handed shooting with the camera. […]

The interchangeable lens X-T20 replaces the excellent X-T10 from 2015 and provides the same image quality as the more expensive X-series cameras while costing under $1,000. It, too, has the new 24-megapixel X-Trans III CMOS sensor and X-Processor Pro and has the new autofocus system used in the X100F, plus new continuous autofocusing settings. The X-T20 can also shoot video in 4K resolution, up from the 1080p output of its predecessor.

The Fujifilm X-T2 is one of my favorite cameras of all time. If I didn’t already own one, then the X-T20 — which looks like it’ll be a smaller version of the X-T2 — would certainly be something I’d want for my camera bag.

The Camera Store TV (one of my favorite YouTube channels) has a really great rundown of these devices:

As for the Fuji X100F, it succeeds another one of my favorite cameras of all time. I may want to pick one up when it drops in price. PetaPixel has a great review of it. 

The Migrant Crisis

A powerful sequence of words and images that will open your eyes to the migrant crisis going on right now.

By far the most perilous route is the Libya-Italy sea crossing, where more than 2,500 people have perished since March. In the worst incident, in late April, a grotesquely overladen fishing trawler capsized and sank within sight of a rescue ship; of the estimated 800 migrants aboard, only 28 were saved.

The Rise of the Sh*tpic

Brian Feldman at The Awl charts the rise of low-resolution internet images that continue to degrade in quality as time goes on:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image. The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image.

As a photographer it’s sad to me that, in a world where we can replicate digital objects with 100% accuracy, our most popular memes are those that have degraded to almost being unrecognizable due to unintentional compression.

Seattle Urban Craft Uprising 2014

I haven’t been shooting enough recently. 
Between my full-time job, the new cello videos, and finishing up work on the film, and all the podcasting, it’s been tough to find the time and will to get out there and do some photography. Thus, I decided to head to the Urban Craft Uprising today with my Canon 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I’ve been shooting a lot with the GH4 recently, but despite how convenient, portable, and fun that camera is to use, I occasionally crave the beauty of full-frame. 
It was pretty great seeing all the cool things that craftspeople from the Pacific Northwest came up with. Pro tip for these situations, by the way: Artists really appreciate it when you ask for permission to take photos. It’s their livelihood you’re dealing with, and they’re graciously giving you control of how it’s presented to the world. Tread carefully. 
Thanks to artists such as Clarissa Callesen and many others for allowing me to photograph their work today. You can find all the photos the photos from this set right here
[Side note: This photo set was made using VSCO’s new Film Pack 06, their Cross Process collection.]

Shooting a Wedding with a Panasonic GH4

I had the honor of shooting a friend’s wedding last weekend in British Columbia, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to try doing a professional gig using the Panasonic GH4 and my brand new Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 lens (a full review of that lens will come later, hopefully). I’ve shot dozens of weddings in the past, but I’ve used a Canon camera for every single one (occasionally supplemented with a Fuji X100). Could a Micro 4/3rds camera measure up to full frame?

Here are some of the pros and cons of shooting a wedding with a GH4, compared to, say, a Canon 5D Mark III.


Weight – WOW this setup is light! You can pack a single small camera bag with the Panasonic GH4, a 12-35mm lens and a 35-100mm lens (the rough equivalent of a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm on a Canon 5d Mark III) and switch between them all day without feeling any impact on your back and shoulders. Those who have shot weddings using Canon gear will know the pain of which I speak. (One of my mentors actually got a pinched nerve from all of her gear!) By far this is the hugest advantage of using the GH4 compared to any full frame camera.

It also has other implications. Since you’re traveling lighter, you can carry more stuff and be more nimble and experimental when it comes to finding the right shot. For instance, the photo at the top of this page was taken using a bare LumoPro flash, remote triggered from behind the couple. But it was done in haste between group photos. If I’d had a heavier setup, I might not have been able to move as quickly to try and snap this shot.

Cost – Buying a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens will cost you roughly $7000, give or take $500 or so depending on whether you buy all the stuff new. Through some deal-hunting and eBay-ing, I was able to purchase a GH4 with lenses of equivalent focal lengths to the above for about $3500 total. That is a huge difference in price, especially if you’re just starting out.

Drive mode – The GH4 can shoot up to 12 frames per second. It is SUPER fast. And at a wedding, this can be particularly useful when you’re trying to capture specific moments during a ceremony, or with interactions between the couple and their guests. Whenever I saw something interesting happening, I’d just let the drive mode rip and then have a ton of options to choose from in post.

File sizes – RAW files on the GH4 are significantly smaller than on the Canon 5D Mark III. This means fewer cards and more photos (P.S. This is also a negative, as I will discuss below).


Shallow depth of field – I’ve already discussed this in previous posts, but obviously the shallow depth of field on the GH4 will never measure up to what you can get on a full frame camera. That’s particularly unfortunate for a wedding, because a lot of clients are looking for that creamy bokeh in their wedding shots. This camera, even at a 200mm focal length, really struggles to deliver on that front. You’ll have greatest success when there’s a lot of physical distance between yourself and the object.

Aesthetics – As of this writing, the GH4 retails for $1700. But because of its size and weight, it certainly doesn’t LOOK like a professional grade camera. People expect to see a Canon/Nikon-size full frame camera at weddings. It’s hard to look “legit” when you are toting the GH4 around. I realize this isn’t really a con from a photography perspective, but it’s worth noting for people considering this as a tool to build a career on.

Low light performance – The GH4 does just okay up to ISO 3200, but a Canon 5D Mark III blows this camera out of the water when it comes to low light performance. I took tons of shots in low light situations that were just completely unusable. Honestly, I wouldn’t go above ISO 1600 on the GH4, which is practically impossible at weddings (nearly all of which involve at least some low light situations).

On that note…

Megapixels – The GH4 has about 16 megapixels. The Canon 5D Mark III has around 22. I’m aware that megapixels don’t necessarily determine picture quality and that there were other factors involved, but there were definitely instances where I took photos with the GH4 that I needed to crop, and on a smaller sensor with fewer megapixels, you definitely “feel” that crop a lot more in terms of loss of quality. The resulting image can be muddier or noisier than the same image would have been on the 5D Mark III.


So overall, is this a setup I would recommend for weddings? Yes and no. This gig was for a friend, so it wasn’t a conventional client situation. I was pretty happy with the photos that I got and so was the couple. But I also was able to enjoy the evening – the camera was so light that the process of taking the photos wasn’t onerous at all from a physical perspective. This can’t be understated.

If you are already a videographer/photographer who has decided to go with the GH4 for the advantages that it provides, you should definitely feel good about shooting a wedding with it (but only if you have the 35-100mm lens). The drive mode in particular can be an amazing benefit, and the photos obviously have great focus and sharpness.

However, if you’re still deciding between a GH4 and a full frame or APS-C camera for wedding photography, there’s nothing that’s going to beat a larger sensor for getting great low light photos and shallow depth of field. If I had to choose only one type of camera to shoot weddings with for the rest of my life, it’d be a full frame camera. I’m fortunate to not have to choose, so I will probably use the two for different scenarios as time goes on, based on which advantages from each are important to me at the time.

Five Things I Miss: Switching to a Panasonic GH4 from a Canon 5D Mark III

When the Panasonic GH4 was first announced, I heard numerous reports that there were filmmakers who’d be selling their 5D Mark III’s and going with the GH4 exclusively. I was a bit stunned at all the positive buzz, just because I love my 5D Mark III and think the image quality is fantastic, even if the video codec is pretty terrible. Could anything possibly serve as a full replacement for the Mark III?

I recently purchased a Panasonic GH4, and while I’m kind of in love with this thing, I’ve already decided I won’t be selling my Canon 5D Mark III anytime soon.

The Panasonic GH4 has some really awesome selling points. It is the only camera that can shoot at 4K for under $2,000, and it does a pretty great job of it, with insane amounts of detail. It has video features that DSLR video users have been longing for for quite sometime, including zebras and focus peaking. And it does it all in a really small, light package, that’s extremely easy to handle.

That being said, as someone who’s shot exclusively with Canon for the past 5 years, there were a lot of thing I missed about my Mark III when I picked up the GH4 and started trying to use it. Here are the top five things I miss about my Canon:

1) The bokeh – It’s a scientific fact: it’s harder to get shallow depth of field on a smaller Micro 4/3rds sensor than it is on a full frame sensor. The shorter focal lengths mean that your aperture needs to be wider to achieve the same creamy bokeh you’re used to. That’s not to say you can’t still achieve great results with lenses like Voigtlander Noktons or the Nocticron. But it can still be a challenge. On that note…

2) The lenses – Canon now has a ridiculously large assortment of EF lenses to use from, a truly mature system that has pretty much every focal length and quality level one is looking for. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome Micro 4/3rds lenses out there, but they’re simply not as many to choose from (a difficulty which I ran into when I was first kitting out my Blackmagic Pocket). So you may not get the exact focal length you’re looking for, or it may not have the preferred build quality. Of course, for Canon, you can probably get the exact thing you’re looking for, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg, and the lens itself could be really, really heavy.

3) The buttons – One thing that’s annoying: On the Canon 5D Mark III, the aperture dial is in the back, and the shutter speed button is in the front. These crucial positions are switched on the GH4, and that is definitely going to take me some time to get used to. I also love that huge gigantic wheel on the Canon – nothing is really going to beat how easy that is to use, and the GH4’s equivalent wheel, which feels pretty flimsy, certainly doesn’t match up. UPDATE: Apparently, you CAN switch these buttons via the GH4 menus.

4) The viewfinder – I never thought I’d miss the viewfinder on my Canon, but it’s really hard to get used to a digital viewfinder/EVF on the GH4. I was fine doing it on my Fuji X100, because that was more of a “leisure camera,” but on the GH4, which I’m considering using for professional applications, I find the experience unsatisfying. There’s just no substitute for being able to look through a viewfinder and see, through a prism/mirror, the exact thing that you’re going to take a picture of. The software and screens on the GH4 are great, but software will take awhile to be perfect in this regard, and show us what we’re looking at with perfect fidelity.

5) The top display panel – I realize this is a gripe that is specific to people switching from a Mark III, but I really have grown to love the panel at the top of the camera, which the GH4 doesn’t have. It displays basic settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and drive mode, and if I’m in a situation where I need to be discreet, it makes it really easy to change my settings without putting the camera up to my face. Not a big deal, but just something I missed when I was shooting my first video on the GH4.

UPDATE: One more thing that really grinds my gears – there is very little third-party RAW support for the GH4’s .RW2 files, and it will likely be weeks/months until programs like Aperture and Lightroom release updates with GH4 RAW compatibility. I can’t believe we are still living in an age when one of the world’s most anticipated cameras can be released without an easy way to manipulate the files.

The Panasonic GH4 is essentially useless for professional photography jobs until RAW support arrives.


Those are just a few of my thoughts on making the switch, but overall I’m a huge fan of the GH4 and plan to use it far into the future. Just sometimes, a few things bother me about it. But for the amazing video features, incredible lightweight, and hyper-competitive price, the GH4 is still a formidable camera and one that I’m really enjoying using.

The Making of That Close-Ups Video Essay

This week I published a new video essay at /Film on the art of close-ups. I was grateful and honored to have Edgar Wright’s participation on this essay. But how did it come to be?

This essay started as a much simpler supercut of all the close-ups in Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. I cut together what this would look like for Shaun of the Dead as a proof of concept:

I showed this video to a few people and…it didn’t really do anything for them. They didn’t react with “Wow, this is so cool!” or “This mashup is illuminating!” so I kind of put it on the back burner for awhile. Separately, I’d been wanting to do a feature with Wright for /Film for quite some time – we’d always meant to get him on as a guest of the podcast around the time that The World’s End was released but the timing just never worked out.

The thing with filmmaker interviews is: they are legion. Filmmakers go through a press gang bang every time they promote a movie in a big way and over time, all the questions/answers have to take on the feeling of sameness. It is virtually impossible to ask questions in a way that feels novel or revealing. I felt bad subjecting Wright to yet another press interview, so I wanted to try an alternate tactic. I reached out with the proof of concept video above and asked if he’d like to record an interview with me on the art of close-ups to be released in video essay form. Fortunately, he agreed.

We chatted for about 20 minutes or so on Skype. I edited that interview down into a 8.5 minute monologue, then proceeded with the painstaking process of finding all the footage that matched what Wright was talking about and putting the essay together. The entire video essay took about 4-5 weeks of work, on and off, on nights after my day job and during weekends.

This video hit the web on Wednesday morning, and gained some traction via Youtube thanks to a few prominent tweets:

The art of close-ups with @edgarwright via @slashfilm
— Wes Craven (@wescraven) January 29, 2014

Check out this interview I did with @slashfilm about close ups. Don’t count the number of times I say ‘like’ though.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 29, 2014

On Saturday morning (2/1/2014), Vimeo made the video a Staff Pick, giving the video a whole new life.


It’s been a long-time goal of mine to make the Staff Picks page, so I was incredibly grateful and honored to be chosen.

As a video-maker just starting out, it is quite challenging to monetize these types of videos. There are a few possible pathways for it. You could build a massive following on Youtube/Vimeo, then sell ads or get a bunch of cash via Tip Jar. Or you could run your videos on a site that has a high-tech custom video player and a seasoned ad sales team, and is thus able to pay you handsomely for your efforts. I didn’t really have access to any of the above, so the only substantive reward for this project was the feeling that I contributed to our collective knowledge on a specific topic of interest – a challenging bar that I generally try hard to reach with all my work.

I joked a few times that if I had known how long this whole process would take, I never would have attempted it in the first place. Having seen how many people have enjoyed the video, all of that work now feels worth it. Simultaneously, there are thousands and thousands of people who are way more talented than me at this, who toil endlessly to produce videos of far greater craft and import, and who never get their work noticed on a significant scale. As much as possible, I try to rectify this by highlighting their work whenever possible using the platforms I am blessed to have. But the feeling I’m left with after the exhausting process of creating and promoting this video essay is this: I can always do more.

On Trying to Fall in Love with the Fuji X100 Again


I recently traveled to Portland bringing only my aging Fuji X100 to shoot with. I’d kind of fallen out of love with this camera awhile ago, even though I never lost respect for the quality of images it’s capable of. It wasn’t that the pictures were bad. The problem is that a significant amount of the time (I’d peg it at 20-30%), getting the image you want is really kind of a crapshoot. The focusing on the X100 is still really lacking and the menu system is a pain to navigate.

Since I now own a Canon 5D Mark III with its easy-to-access dials and controls and monstrously good autofocus system, it just didn’t make sense to rely on the X100 when I could achieve a much higher consistency in my images. Combine that with the fact that Fuji recently released the X100’s successor, the X100S, which has been insanely well-reviewed, and I was thinking I should retire my X100 and save up for its more attractive, expensive younger sister.

But an impromptu trip to Portland was coming up and it was only going to be a few days, so I didn’t really need a heavy-duty camera. Plus, Fuji recently released a significant firmware update to the X100, improving startup time and autofocus. So I thought, why not? Let’s bring this camera to Portland and see if I can fall in love with this thing again. And while I still don’t think I’m going to be using this camera in my regular rotation, here are a few things I did really appreciate about it.

Caveat: Due to the recent firmware update, I discovered after the fact that all my settings had been reset and that the following images were all taken in JPEG mode. D’oh! 

Portland 15

Traveling is one use-case scenario where I do think the Fuji X100 still shines. I think that this will definitely still be my go-to travel camera in the future. The Fuji X100 is super light, nearly silent, and very inconspicuous compared to a DSLR. Plus, the retro design looks beautiful – many strangers comment on it when I take it around. I have a compact camera bag that I put this into and I can easily throw it in my backpack on the way out the door. Oftentimes I will literally leave this thing hanging around my neck all day and it feels totally fine, even though it definitely marks me as a tourist.

There’s a certain comfort to knowing that I can still achieve professional-quality images with the camera I’m carrying, even in low-light scenarios. This camera provides that comfort for me.

Portland 5

Here’s a reason why this camera is awesome for portrait photography: people behave differently around you when you’re holding a Fuji X100 than when you have a DSLR. I often ask people to let me take their picture, and if I have a DSLR, they’ll tense up or even refuse. Not so with the Fuji X100. The Fuji X100 is not intimidating. It looks like a rangefinder film camera. And it’s so silent, people often won’t even know that you’ve taken their picture (you have to tell them and thank them). This allows for a quality of candid shots that you just can’t achieve with DSLRs.

Portland 22

This thing is perfect for food photography, if you’re into/not incredibly annoyed by that kind of thing. With its F/2.0 max aperture, its spectacular low light performance, and its adequate “macro mode,” you can get some pretty appetizing results.

Portland 3

One last random thing: I used VSCO filters for a lot of these images and I find they work really well with Fuji X100 images for some reason. Not sure what it is but I think it’s the quality of the image combined with the focal length (35mm equivalent) that just creates a feeling that’s really vintage-looking and attractive. Here’s the full set of images I took.

So overall, this camera is still great. True, there were several shots I missed, and several that I had to try multiple times to capture. But I’m really happy with the ones I did get. The firmware update did improve things but I didn’t find that difference to be night and day- it was more of a subtle, evolutionary improvement.

Given the improvements and given that I only use the X100 occasionally, I’m probably not going to upgrade to the X100S quite yet. But once the latter drops in price, I’m all over that thing.

Matt and Nell’s Wedding Video

I was absolutely thrilled and honored to be able to take part in Matt and Nell’s wedding in Houston, TX this past weekend. Matt and Nell have been dear friends for years and they are some of the nicest, most generous, and amazing people I know.

During my time there, I shot about 90 minutes worth of video, which I then condensed into the 5-minute video above.  Everything was shot using 60 fps, and some footage was slowed to 24 fps. The video was shot entirely handheld, using a Canon 60D and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.I agonized over which lens/body to bring with me, and what other equipment might be necessary. In the end, I went with something light-weight and simple, and I think the final setup allowed me to grab a few more shots than I would have if I’d used a bulkier setup.

Music via PremiumBeat with some color grading help from Color Grading Central.

Sasquatch 2013

For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of attending the Sasquatch music festival, out at the Gorge Ampitheatre in central Washington. Just like last year, the views were spectacular, the music was mind-blowing, and the atmosphere was electric.

This year, I was able to bring my Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm lens, along with my Fuji x100, to shoot some footage. The below video is what resulted.

It was also a joy to photograph the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performance on opening night. Macklemore (age 29) is an incredibly gifted performer, and gave us a show we would not soon forget. Click through to see the full set of photos.
  Macklemore 11

Shooting the Pacific Northwest Regionals Yo-Yo Championship

PNWR Yo-Yo Championships 1
I had the privilege of shooting the Pacific Northwest Regionals Yo-Yo Championship this weekend at The Armory in the Seattle Center. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had guessed that it would either be 1) a few guys doing some mediocre yo-yo tricks, or 2) an awesome display of talent from a subculture that I was only barely aware of. It was definitively the latter. Hundreds of people showed up at The Armory (dozens of yo-yo enthusiasts, along with their parents). These people have spent thousands of hours honing their skills and it shows. After watching them do a myriad of yo-yo tricks over the course of two days, I started to realize the appeal: there’s something magical about the ability to make a small, circular device at your fingertips appear to defy gravity.

For the entire shoot, I used only my Canon 5D Mark III and my 50mm f/1.4 lens along with my trusty 70-200mm f/2.8. There are unique challenges to shooting a yo-yo competition that I did not anticipate. You are shooting in a low-light environment, in a situation where both the subject and an object in the subject’s hands are moving rapidly. Thus, I had to shoot with the aperture wide open (f/2.8 or lower) but still be focused on the subject to get some decent bokeh out of it AND have a high shutter speed to freeze the action, lest both subject and his yo-yo become blurred beyond recognition. For most of these shots, I used an ISO of 2000 combined with f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/400th to 1/500th of a second. As expected, the Mark III’s high-ISO performance was exceptional.

I took a few hundred shots and only a few dozen were at a sharpness that I’d consider to be usable. There were two failures here: one is the fact that I haven’t mastered all the intricacies of the Mark III’s incredibly complex autofocus system, and the other is the fact that the 50mm f/1.4’s focusing motor just doesn’t feel like it’s well-designed for action. After some experimentation, I realized that all I really needed to make some compelling shots (compelling for me, at least) was to try and capture these performers’ expressions as sharply as possible. If the yo-yo was in focus, that was an added bonus.

Video on the other hand was much easier. I shot at 60 fps and ran the shutter speed fairly constant at 1/125, thus giving me the freedom to close down the aperture significantly. Even so, maintaining focus was challenging on some occasions. Note that I was going hand-held for nearly all of these shots, carrying a very heavy lens with no rig, and trying to focus simultaneously.

Here’s a video I put together of the event:

And here’s video of Zach Gormley, who I believe was this year’s champion. After you watch the mind-blowing things he does in this video, you won’t be surprised:

Vegas Through a Rokinon 8mm Fisheye

I recently traded in my Canon 5D Mark II (*sniff*) for a Canon 60D and a 5D Mark III (I wanted the 60D to do some cheap DSLR video on-the-go). One of the ancillary benefits of the 60D purchase was being able to finally use that 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens I had sitting in my closet. I had bought the Rokinon many months ago, not realizing that it was essentially useless on a full-frame camera. Stupid move, but one easily negated with the purchase of another camera!

I decided to take the Rokinon with me on a recent vacation to Vegas. How’d it fare in real-world use? In general, pretty well! Here are a few stray observations on this lens:

  • One of the big annoyances about this lens is the lack of aperture control from the camera itself. Instead, there’s an aperture ring you must physically turn. I’m used to this from using my finicky-but-awesome Fuji X100, but it was still a chore. Compounding this is that you get an aperture preview that is “always on” as you look through the lens.
  • Outdoors and in good lighting, the fisheye was amazing. Just setting the focus to somewhere between 3ft and infinity yields razor sharp pics. And of course, the look is quite unique.
  • In low light and using the 60D video function, I found the lens to produce images that were kind of a soupy mess. You can get a taste of that in one of the videos I made using the fisheye at night. Really not ideal, although the lack of sharpness here is probably a combination of a bunch of factors.
  • Because of the way the lens’s glass element is shaped, it’s a bit challenging to get the lens cap on and off. It will only fit in one orientation.
  • As is probably obvious, conventional photographic guidelines don’t really apply. It’s hard to adhere to the rule of thirds when your horizon is bending dramatically. After much experimentation, I found that photos I took that were mostly symmetrical ended up being the most striking and impressive. And of course, be as close to the subject as possible.
So would I recommend the fisheye lens? Depends. The fisheye produces a very specific type of image and you really have to get in close to create something visually striking (or alternatively, be really far away, as in a nature/landscape shot). I was definitely glad to have it in certain situations, but it is a lot harder to craft eye-catching images from it, since I believe the settings and situations you need to create those images occur more rarely when using this lens. Thus, if you are making one of your first, relatively-low-cost lens purchases, I’d definitely pick up the 50mm f/1.4 lens before you pick up anything else, as its versatility and sharpness are beyond compare. For the 8mm Rokinon, only niche hobbyists need apply.