Recovery and Rejuvenation

I had  spine surgery just about two weeks ago. The procedure went very well, and from here, the outlook looks positive. Aside from short & quick hops to the store, though, I have pretty much been stuck at home the whole time, just doing light errands around the house, playing with the cats, and writin' some articles on photography.  But, mostly, just living "slowly and gently", which is critical at this juncture in my post-op recovery. 

After being cooped up for weeks, though, I just had to get out of the house, if only for a couple of hours. So yesterday, I decided to get out and do a little photography, something to help rejuvenate the soul in the process of healing. 

I drove south on Hwy 680 from my home in Castro Valley, CA  to a little town between Pleasanton and Fremont called Sunol,  20 miles & 20 minutes from where I live, just to keep the car drive short and sweet. 

Sunol's been around since the late 1800s, and is best described as a "one-horse" town. It's most notable for having a very cool, restored narrow-gauge train/railway that does train rides through Niles Canyons from Sunol to Niles (Fremont http://www.ncry.org).

Right near the Sunol train station is Sunol Park. It's an interesting park because it's privately-owned park, but freely accessible to the pubic, and completely maintained by volunteers efforts and labor. Photographically, I decided I wanted to focus on one thing: just to start "seeing" again.  To keep things simple, I brought one camera and one lens, my much-loved little Fuji X100F.  

Walking around the park, X100F in-hand, something caught my eye: a vegetable and flower garden that was made by the local Sunol 4H students. The most important thing about this garden was that it was specifically grown and in memoriam to the 17 souls that tragically lost their lives at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 14, 2018.

Garden Memoriam.jpg

Wandering inside, I noticed a lot of sunflowers. The 4H students had planted 17 sunflowers, one dedicated for each soul lost at MSD High School. The sunflower is not the rarest flower, but it’s still a beautiful symbol of power for many cultures. Ancient and modern peoples associated the Sunflower with warmth, positivity, power, strength, and happiness since it bears such a strong resemblance to the Sun itself. Doing some reseach on the meanings and symbolism of sunflowers across many cultures, I came across this: 

"Feelings of adoration, admiration, and platonic love towards a person, such as a family member or friend"

So, here's my one of my two photos for the day: one of the sunflowers the kids planted in memoriam...

Sunflower.jpeg

Wandering around a litttle more, I took notice of the flowers the kids had planted as well as the veggies, and came across this: 

flower.jpeg

I found this flower very intriguing because of the larger blue petals encircling the incredible number of much smaller, very intricate, multi-colored flowers in the center. Knowing very little about flowers, I asked my neighbor what it was and she said, "Oh, that's a hydrangea. They blossom one bloom at a time until it forms a full bouquet."  Then my scientist-brain kicked in and thought: "Imagine the reasons as to why it evolved in nature like that….why did it evolving that specific way give it a biological advantage?"

Viewed one way, there's nothing particularly special about these two simple photographs. They could be seen as pretty pictures, snapshots, or postcards. For me, though, they have meaning: I just chanced upon a wonderful memorium, some "souls as sunflowers", and some science. And, it's great to start "seeing" again. 

Rejuvenation: It's all good.  

Technical Notes: All photographs X100F, transmitted to an iPad and edited in Snapseed. 

Fujifilm announces two significant new X-system lenses

Today Fujifilm announced important two new lenses to be released around July, as well as their new lens roadmap, which continues to become more fully developed. 

The two lenses announced today will be the 8-16mm f/2.8 professional-grade wide-zoom and the much-anticipated 200mm f/2..  The 8-16 f/2.8  will complete Fujifilm's of professional-level zooms covering the "classic" 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200 "holy trinity" focal lengths, all at f/2.8 constant max apertures. These lenses all are  weather-resistant, optically superior zooms with fast linear AF motors, and bear the red PRO badge on the lens barrel. The 8-16mm and 70-150 lenses also have optical image stabilization. 

Of most interest to me, they announced their first, big, fast long prime telephoto intended for professional photojournalism, sports and wildlife, the fantastic 200mm f/2. 

The 200mm f/2 is of particular interest to me as a motorsports photojournalist, because, when Fujifilm was in discussions with their base of professional photographers about whether they should make an f/2.0 or f/2.8 200mm prime, the Fujifilm engineers formally stated that building the 200mm f/2 would "require an entirely new camera body". That camera body is the recently released Fujfilm X-H1. You can read my comments about the design brief of the X-H1 and why Fuji designed and built it in the way they did in my last blog post here:  https://bit.ly/2NZy5hP

And... here it is: the new Fujinon XF 200 mm f/2.0 with Broadcast-grade optical specifications, and will provide 305mm focal length equivalent to 35mm format. and optical tolerances to < 0.1µm ( thats less <1/10th of a micron). Whoa.

200mm f:2.jpg

This bad boy will weigh 5 lbs, which is specifically one of the reasons why the X-H1 was designed and built with the  2X stronger and much stiffer frame and significantly stronger, stiffer and more robust lens mount discussed in my blog article. The lens will sell with a newly designed 1.4X Extender specifically designed to accomodate this lens' speed that will provide equivalent focal length of 427 mm in 35 mm format.

 

Price: $7000. 

1.4X.jpg

Fujifilm launches a new line of professional APS-C X-cameras

Having read all of the written and almost all of the introductory videos on the advent of the Fuji X-H1, it's become clear to me that the X-H1 is the first model in an entirely new line of of cameras for Fujifilm, hence the designation "1" after the letter H. Everyone thought the "H" stood for "hybrid", but in Fuji's own promotional content, Fuji uses the term "Hyper", Fujilfilm marketing-speak for "High Performance". 

fuji-x-h1-camera1-1200x1151.jpg

 

It's important to think about how a camera system is developed from a systems engineering persepctive. The Fuji X/XF line of cameras and lenses has acheived considerable consumer and professional success in a little over 5 years and an represents a very impressive engineering and product development acheivement. 

But, Fuji knew that if it was going to truly be able to penetrate the "hard-core" professonal ranks, it would have to develop a completely new series of products, e.g. "long, fast, prime" telephotos; equivalents the to the 300, 400mm f/2.8, etc. pro telephotos used universally by photojournalists and sports photographers, as well as products able to support professional video applications i.e., with their new line of Fujinon MK Cine lenses. 

 

Here's an example to put things into context from a systems engineering perspective: when asked back in early 2017 whether they would make a 200mm f/2.0 or f/2.8 lens, Fujifilm engineers replied that specifically making a 200mm  f/2.0 lens would “require an entirely new camera body”. Fujifilm ultimately decided to develop a 200mm f/2 and, as can be seen, this is a big, bad boy:

Fuji XF 200mm.jpg

This meant, as they stated back in early 2017, they would need to develop a considerably more robust and professional stills camera platform, as well as one for suitable for professional video use with their newly launched line of MK Cine lenses (which have been getting rave reviews from videographers). 

The result of that is the X-H1. This engineering diagram (diagram 1) from Fuji shows how much stiffer and stronger the X-H1 body is than an X-T2, while minimizing the impact on increased camera size. 

X-H1 Stiffening.jpg

I would say the operative terms for the Fuji X-H high performance line is "professional, rugged and robust", which is confirmed by this quote from Fujifilm engineers:

The product planner requested the developers to make the body more robust so that new devices could be installed and the expected camera performance could be realized. In order to make the body more robust, the frame, which is made of magnesium alloys, needed to be strengthened by adding extra thickness. The frame is 125% thicker for X-H1, meaning that the frame has almost doubled in volume (1.25 x 1.25 x 1.25 = 1.95). The strength of the frame is almost twice as strong.

In addition to the increase in size to accomodate the IBIS subassembly, Fujifilm engineers additionally increased strength of the frame and mounting area for mounting long, fast prime telephotos also required additional reinforcement to the diagram shown above. As can be seen in the figure below, Fujifilm added ribs for additional torsional stiffening (see bright areas in diagram 2)

X-H1 body.jpg

The additional stiffness that is required cannot be overstated, because as can be seen in diagram 3, the new 200 f/2 will exert a lot of leverage on the camera body and lens mount. 

X-H1 lens.jpg

Its clear that the X-H1 is not a line extension of the Fujifilm X-T seres, but is the first model in Fuji's new fully professional line of cameras. This is why it resembles the GFX more than the X-T series; why the grip is larger: to accommodate larger, heavier telephotos and Cine lenses. It has a completely new leaf-spring based shutter button and mechanism to improve shutter responsiveness, 100 frames/second EVF and an electronic first curtain shutter to reduce viewfinder blackout times when shooting sports or in the studio. It has IBIS to allow stabilization for video and stills photography when using non-OIS pro lenses like the 16-55 f/2.8, etc. It has a submonitor on the top deck in place of the exposure comp dial, just as on the GFX, because in, professional applications and use scenarios, its much more important to have a display that can be specifically configured for stills or video-specific information. Regarding the comment of “only 15 minutes of recording time"; that's true for the base body, but the X-H1 is really designed to be used with its battery grip, which triples the battery capacity and can be configured in Boost mode to considerably increase camera responsiveness and performance (if you've never used an X-T2 with it's Vertical Power Booster grip, you've not experienced at all what that camera is really capable of). 

So, its clear to me now that the X-H1 is not, as originally thought, a "hybrid X-T2”, it is very clearly the Canon 1DX of the Fujifilm mirrorless line. 

Fujfilm has now created three fully differentiated and distinct XF-mount lines of cameras in exactly the same manner as Canon: 

1) the X-H1 is equivalent to Canon 1D series, 

2) the X-T series equivalent to the Canon 5D series

3) the X-T20 equivalent to the Canon 80D series

I don't think that users that like the form factor and features of the X-T series need worry: the line of X-T-series bodies will continue as it has, and X-T3 scheduled to be announced/launched some time in Q3/Q4, 2018. 

In summary: not everyone needs a Canon 1DX-level camera, in fact, most people don't.  But, many professionals do, and the new X-H1 is Fujifilm's new camera line and peripherals solution for "hard-core, working pros".