ThinkTank Citywalker 30 Review

This is part One of a very quick, down and dirty review of the ThinkTank Citywalker 30.  I am at my office as I write this and preparing to leave later this afternoon for a four-day work/personal trip up north.  I received the Citywalker 30 a few days ago and I have been using it for about a week now as my daily commuter messenger bag.  These are just my initial impressions, and how I have it packed and ready to go on this trip.

The first thing I did upon opening the box is I took the huge insert out.  I mean, it’s huge. If I were still shooting FX dSLR such as my D800e and my bevy of Nikon lenses it would be just about right to fit it all in, but man it would weigh a ton.

The bag is a ballistic nylon; very well made.  I got the black with the blue piping/stripe which looks really sharp and I’ve received several compliments about it at the office.  The interior is just huge–  I’ll talk about that a bit more in the images which follow as to what’s in the slots but the second thing I did upon opening the box was to place my old Jill-E insert in.  The bag dwarfs the insert but it works and doesn’t take up too much room.  This short four day trip will give the bag a true workout.  It’s the only one I’m taking with me!  A normal trip for me involves taking all my gear in a backpack, then one or two smaller bags to swap gear as needed.  Unfortunately I don’t always get to swap gear from the backpack into another smaller bag, especially if I’m running late getting to a location —   Case in point, back at the end of March I was photographing some old pier and pilings on the North Carolina Coast and put my backpack down in the sand.  An rogue wave grabbed the backpack and was dragging it back into the ocean! Thank goodness I had it closed tight; and, if it hadn’t been for my daughter that was shooting with me who snagged it with the tripod leg of her rig, the next wave that was coming in would have swamped the bag completely!  Had I had my messenger bag over my shoulder as I normally do, this would not have happened.  But luckily, catastrophe avoided!

Anyway for this short, four-day trip I decided to only pack a few folders I need for work with my Macbook Air, and as far as camera equipment goes I loaded the X-T2 with the 16mm, 23mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses, leaving behind my zooms.  This is a first for me..  I love love love my 18-55 and my 55-200!  I just hope I don’t miss them too much!

I also packed  only one of my four battery chargers to go with the three batteries – instead of my usual eight.  A polarizer, a ND filter, tripod and remote shutter release rounds out my rig.

Here are a few images of the bag, and what’s in the pockets.  As I mentioned earlier, I pulled out the huge insert that came with the bag and am opting for the smaller Jill-E insert to see how this performs in the field and on the road.  One thing about the original insert that I can say is that it keeps the bag much more rigid overall, but I wanted a more flatter, close to the body profile.  In all honesty I think I made a (intentional) mistake in getting the Citywalker 30 as it has a compartment which will fit up to a 15″ laptop –  instead of the CityWalker 10, or the 20 that only hold a small iPad or such.  But, for the price of 79.00 brand new, and free shipping from B&H I couldn’t pass up the deal when this same bag sold from anywhere between 145.oo to 200.00 US just a few short months ago.

Overall, as a work bag to and from the office on a daily basis I think it’s absolutely fantastic!  I can’t be happier.  This weekend will be test of the CityWalker 30 as a camera bag first and foremost.

Not shown in these images is the rain pouch which comes standard, nor the ThinkTank strap where I can put my keys, or my ThinkTank Pocket Rocket memory card holder, etc.

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Front Flap of the Bag.  Very Discrete i think and it has a zippered area as well for boarding passes, passports, phones, etc.
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Back area – where just above this lable is a  back much with Velcro outlined in the colorful Blue for documents, folders, iPad, etc.

 

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Interior, contains two pockets inside at each end that velcro shut with a strap. You can see my 23 1.4 with a 77mm Step up ring and a 77mm lens cap hence the size.  the strap that keeps the pocket secure is open up to the left. You can also see a compartment of the Jill-E insert with the 16mm 1.4 and the same step-up and lens cap setup as the 23 1.4 so everything is interchangeable and quickly available

 

 

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This is looking at the bag with the main flap open.  This pocket velcro’s atypical ThinkTank with the black flap just behind the phone.  I pulled it out to show it hence the bulge.  Normally it sits tightly velcroed against the main part of the bag. The Main compartment which is huge (!) has my Jill-E insert, not the standard insert that came with the bag, and it has my X-T2 with the 35mm 1.4 attached, the 16 1.4 in a second slot, with the 60mm F2.4 in the third compartment.  In the rear compartment which also velcro shut sits my Macbook Air and a moleskin notebook.  This compartment easily accommodates a 15″ Laptop such as my MBP.
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Closer image of the Macbook Air and the notebook in it’s separate velcro’d compartment.  You can see the 11″ air has plenty of room in there. As I said this bag is large!
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This is another view looking in to the bag. at Each end, INSIDE the bag, are those HUGE pockets that easily would accommodate any lens I have up to and including my hooded 55-200 zoom if I wanted to.
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This is the zippered pocket on the front flap.  Another great place for miscellaneous stuff – papers, passports, boarding passes, iPad etc.
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The bag also has two breathable, mesh pockets on each end of the bags exterior.  These will hold a water bottle, a phone, a zoom lens such as the 55-200 or the 18-55, etc.  Large, roomy and they expand a bit.  My plan is to use both of these pockets while in the field to hole remote, lens caps, filters, etc.  while I keep the main compartment closed.  Compared to the outside compartments on the ThinkTank Retrospective series these are huge!  On the Retro series, which I owned, you can’t even put a phone in there without having to dig for it as they are so tight.
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And one of my favorite parts is this small carry strap.  Whether the bag is open or closed you can just grab and go without all your stuff falling out. I can’t say that about my other bags.  I love this feature!  On the backside that sits against your hip there is a velcro’d pocket that runs the length of the bag for papers or whatever you want to use it for.
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The bag also comes with a card holder plus the amazing Sound Silencer Velcro tabs, AND a secondary clip to keep the bag secure.  Trust me, if the sound silencers are engaged NO ONE is going to open that bag without you noticing it!
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On the inside front of the bag, just behind the outside velcro pouch that I showed in an image above (with the cell phone) is another zippered compartment.  This one has my remote, and a couple of batteries in there now.

Overall:  An excellent value and a kick-butt utilitarian bag that will serve my purposes for many years to come.  Roomy, safe, secure, large. Heck, if you are going away for a weekend you can probably pack some overnight clothing, a jacket and snacks in there and still have room for your gear!

This trip will be it’s first official outing as a dedicated camera bag instead of a to-from the office messenger bag.  I’m very much looking forward to working with it and I’ll prepare an update when I return.

Thank you for reading.

My First Image with the new….

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The tack sharp and reasonably fast  Fujifilm 60mm 2.4 Macro.  Why’d I buy that you ask?  Well I’ll tell ya pardner.

I was considering the 50mm F2.  At 449.00 on Amazon it seemed like a good buy;  except, like it’s two other siblings – the 23F2 and the 35F2 its just freakin’ ugly.  Plain and simple.  I knew the 60 F2.4 Macro was what I needed even though I have the extension tubes for my camera.  Anyway the 60 2.4 was a tad high priced at 679 or 699.00 US – I can’t remember which.

Anyway, I’m shopping the web and came across a deal for a brand new, boxed 60mm for $479.00!  I couldn’t pass it up!  I killed two birds with one stone – actually  more as I’m getting a slightly longer focal length; better looking lens, crystal clear and tack sharp lens at that!  And I saved over $200.00 to boot — or if I look at it logically, because I would not have purchased the 60mm for the 699 price tag, I got a dual purpose lens for the same price as the 50mm!

I just received it last night and this image here was one of my first seven images with the lens on my X-T2.  I have yet to play with it at length.  Light was dwindling fast, but on everything I shot on my walk around the block focusing was reasonably fast.  Now, when I went inside and tried to take some images there, it is darn slow.  I mean creepy crawly slow.  I’m ok with that as I knew what I was getting into so no big deal here.  But man o man is it slow.  LOL.  Once it locks on it’s razor sharp.  Do I wish it were faster?  Heck yes but I did not purchase this lens for speed, but for the clarity, sharpness, and close-focusing capabilities so I am thrilled with it!

The image above is from the raw file.  No adjustments other than sharpening.  And it’ll make you bleed if you get too close.

I’m in love!  I can’t wait to take it out for a real spin.

 

My Very First Camera

For my birthday in 1972 I truly wanted a Minolta 101 SLR.  My dad instead brought me this camera with the stipulation that if he saw me actually using the camera, and exploring photography, on my next birthday he would buy me the Minolta SRT101.  This little camera and it’s tiny 110 film saw thousands of frames — mostly in Black and White.  I remember getting back my first roll of prints on TriX and was blown away by the quality, contrast, and shading it offered.  Remember: This was 1972.

For more information on this puppy go here

 

Bokeh Anyone?

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I’ve written about the fabulous Fuji 55-200 lens in the past but I have to say it is a truly spectacular piece of glass!  FF field of view approximately 84mm to 300mm.  Pretty sweet.

I got this lens before the 50-140 2.8 came out; and I considered my options — upgrade? sell the 55-200?  what should I do?  I’m here to say I’m glad I did nothing.  The 50-140 2.8, though a phenomenal lens, is too expensive, too big, and too heavy for me.  I switched from Nikon to Fuji to save weight, and my back so I’ll be darn if I’m lugging the 50-140 2.8 around.  Heck, I remember lugging my fabulously sharp, and oh so heavy, 70-200 2.8 in the woods.  No more.

Honestly I’ve tested both.  I cannot tell the difference in sharpness.  I read the stories and reviews about how phenomenal the lens is, and the writers are most likely correct.  But for me the 55-200 just works.  But that’s me.  It’s small, lightweight, and has a marvelous range, plus it’s reasonably fast!  Can’t ask for anything more than that.

What I will stress here is that if you are planning on purchasing one or the other, test them.  Rent them.  Use them out in the field.  That would be the best way to determine if you can live with one or the other.  I remember a year or so ago I purchased the Fuji 56mm 1.2 based on the positive reviews online.  I shot three events back to back with it the same day and, after only the first event, wound up switching to my 35 1.4, and the 18-55 to finish the job!  The 56 1.2, in a extremely well-light church and I mean well lit — sunny day, large skylights, bright light colored interior, and huge windows letting in the light down both sides, the damn thing refused to lock focus often enough that I switched it out and never looked back.  It was returned for a full refund that Monday morning.  Maybe it was a bad copy.  Maybe it was I read too much into how great the lens was.  I don’t know.  But I’m to going back to it.  Waaaaay too much money for a fixed focal length, that almost cost me some serious dough by not working as I expected it to.

Anyway, I’ll stop here singing the praises of the 55-200.  You be the judge.

 

 

A Bad Day, and a Good day

On my way to the office this morning my car was rear-ended by the guy behind me, who was hit by someone behind him.  So, my car be totaled.  that’s the bad news.  The good news is I had my car flat bedded to my mechanics shop where, while he worked on it to make it safe, and drive-able, I photographed one of his new additions.  It’s a rusting hulk (soon to be restored) 1952 Ford Firetruck!  That’s the good news.

While waiting for my car I spent over an hour photographing this thing of beauty.  It was raining, misty, and the lighting gave the faded red paint, and the rust a soft, warm patina that is hard to duplicate.

Here is the first image I looked at tonight.  It’s with the X-T2, 35mm 1.4, handheld.  Processed the raw as a Classic Chrome, then I processed it in the FANTASTIC Acros film simulation.  I am so taken back by the image quality of the camera in general, and then the Acros is like the cherry on top!!

X-T2 Dual Card Slot (quick note)

I grabbed my X-T2 knowing I had taken out the SD card from slot 1 and I was very, very surprised when the camera fired off an exposure with only a SD card in slot 2.  Per my older blog post, if there is no card in slot 2, but only in slot 1, the camera locks up.

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Medical Helicopters. Acros + red Filter, X-T2, 35mm 1.4 lens. What an outstanding combo!

X-T2 Quick Review of the Good, the Bad, and the oddly Silly from my point of view

Ok the rose colored glasses are askew, and the gloves are on. I have some bones to pick with Fuji with regards to certain X-T2 functions.

Let’s get started:

I decided to head out for a full day of shooting in southern Vermont. I packed the X-T2 with the 18-55, and the X-T1 with the 55-200. In my bag, besides the extra batteries, filters, and memory cards I threw in my Zeiss 12mm, Fuji 16 and 35 1.4. I did not use any of those three. Didn’t need to as the 18-55 was phenomenal!

Here is where it gets interesting:
The GOOD: Battery life; much better on this outing than the last. 580 raw (uncompressed) + Jpegs Fine, very little chimping, using the 2nd card slot as backup of 1st card (more on this later) and I still had two bars remaining when I got home. I had the camera in standard mode, not boost btw.  The long lasting battery is very good news.

The GREAT: Image Quality. Since this trip was by car I also packed my Nikon D800e with the 50mm 18G lens. I have to compare some images more closely, but I cannot discern a huge difference, if any, between the X-T2 24mp and the 36mp of the D800e. Honest. I just can’t. The colors are gorgeous. The resolution is fantastic.

The shutter sound: It is so freakin’ sweet. It is one of the very best sounds I’ve ever heard coming from a camera. Smooth, and silky. I love it. The X-T1 sounds like tin compared to the X-T2 shutter. I really, really like that. I know it doesn’t affect picture quality, but it sure makes me feel warm all over when I press the button.

The BAD: When I arrived on location before dawn it was 31 degrees F, foggy, and damp. When I pressed the shutter release: Nothing. Hard as a rock. I literally had to mash it for it to shoot. I had to press it so hard, the camera would just fire, without first focusing. Weird. As the day wore on, this became less and less of a problem. I have to test this further, but I’m not happy about that at all.  Here I’m sitting in my office using the X-T2 after having written this and it’s working perfectly!  I wonder if weather had something to do with it?  I’ll have to further test this.

The rear command dial sucks. It is too easy to press in when trying to rotate it! If it were not for the other redeeming qualities I would RETURN the camera and stick with my X-T1.  What the hell Fuji? What were you thinking? This week I’m reaching out to Fuji North America to see if I can somehow disable the rear command dial and assign its functions to another button. I hate using the rear command dial and it really bugs me having to use the camera with it there.  UPDATE:  Spent some time with the fabulous folks at Fuji in Edison NJ, and they say that I’m not the only person complaining about the rear command dial, the way it’s operating is normal, and it’s very easy to press in as you attempt to rotate the dial. Also, there is no way to swap the operation of the rear command dial to the front command dial for use with the Q menu. Damn.

BAD: The battery charger. I just don’t want to deal with yet another cable.  Why not design the charger like the X-T1 charger?     I will be looking for a replacement charger soon. This is just another cable that needs to be packed, and could be left behind rendering the X-T2 charger useless.

The menu system. Too much stuff everywhere. Also, I’d like to be able to add ANYTHING I WANT to MY Menu. Why do I have to go so deep to format a card, or the ridiculously named “Save Data Setup” to change the 2nd memory card function??? Why? This, and especially the next items need a firmware update ASAP. Without hesitation!

This issue is just plain STUPID:

Be sure you have two cards loaded if you’ve set the camera to use both cards for backup as  did for this trip in (MENU > WRENCH > SAVE DATA SETUP > CARD SLOT SETTING (STILL IMAGE)> BACKUP. If you don’t insert a card while in this mode, the camera warns NO CARD and locks up!

What the hell Fuji? Please, please take a look at the Nikon and Canon and probably other manufacturers setup and FIX THIS!  A quick firmware fix should do this.

The MEDIOCRE – And this is probably due to my idiocy, and not knowing all the menu commands yet. If I hold the shutter button too long after focusing, the image increases to 100% and allows me to focus manually. I’m sure I can turn this off, but have yet to figure it out (or read the manual). I had that happen a few times, and I will admit the images I manually focused on when this happened did not disappoint. They were crisp and sharp whereas my other attempts at using manual focus were not very good when attempting manual focus on the X-T1.

The BATTERY: I found that the new 126S that came with the T2 does not charge when using one of my X-T1 chargers. That sucks as I have three of those chargers!  I don’t want to lug a different charger just for the X-T2  so I’ll be on the lookout for one charger that supports both the regular 126 and the new 126S batteries.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll find other nuisances, and probably a solution to some of them as I become more familiar and further use the camera.

And I’ll throw out that Rico can’t publish his X-T2 book fast enough for me.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to a Lens Firmware Update

Well, maybe not funny, but interesting from my perspective.  I downloaded into separate folders on my desktop Fuji’s latest firmware updates for my lenses so I’d be ready to run the updates on Saturday morning.  So, here I sit, early morning, coffee in hand, ready to go.

Without giving it much thought how did I decide to install the updates?  Least used lens FIRST; So, here’s my order from least favorite to favorite:  23 1.4,  35 1.4 (though i LOVE this lens),  then the 16mm 1.4, and finally my all-time favorite, don’t leave home without it lens:  the 18-55.

Not a hugely massive post, but I found it interesting how I picked them without even thinking about it!

Initial Impressions of my new X-T2

I hope you have a few minutes to watch my unboxing video on youtube

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New X-T2 on the left, X-T1 on the right. As you’ll note the numbers are brighter and seem thicker when compared to the X-T1
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X-T2 with the 35 1.4 on the left. Note the taller, nicely knurled new knobs and locking center button (in the unlocked position)
Fresh Organic and Arabica coffee beans spill out of a small burl
One of the first 30 images with the X-T2 and my 35mm 1.4 lens for stock use.

. This is my first video of any kind, ever so it’s pretty bad with regards to quality but I was just so darn excited I had to shoot one. I even setup a youtube account just to post it. If you knew me you’d understand what a major feat that was as I don’t even like pictures – that’s why I’m a photographer, so I can be BEHIND the camera, not in front of it if at all avoidable.  If you want to see the video you can watch it here.

So, I received the X-T2 on Friday morning and since it’s been raining pretty much non-stop here it has not left the house yet. I did entertain myself and shoot some stock images, which BTW are already for sale at shutterstock.com as of Saturday night.

Here are some initial impressions in some half-cocked, rambling way. First of all the finish of the faux leather is nicer. I know that word can mean so much, but if you feel it and the X-T1 you will note the difference in the texture. Next up is the taller, nicer knurled knobs on the camera. Taller is absolutley wonderful! I can’t thank Fuji enough for listening to photographers. I myself found that when changing ISO I would accidentally change the bottom switch from single shot to pano, or ch, or cl, etc., etc. Very frustrating but I learned to deal with it over time. Now on the X-T2 that problem is G.O.N.E. Forever! Heck, even with my pudgy fingers I can change settings either ISO, and/or shutterspeed and not mess up the settings. This I truly love. Second, I’m not sure if it is the fact that my X-T1 is now two years and seven months old, but the engraved numbers on the ISO, shutter speed, and over/under comp dials are so much brighter. Could my X-T1 have faded that much? I don’t know and time will tell I suppose, but they are definitely brigher and whiter. Before I move on to the oh so joyous joystick I want to comment on the four-way controller that was the bane of my existence on my T1… I hated it. Period.  Compared to my first X camera the X-E1 this was definitely a step down! Since I was one of the very early adopters of the X-T1 in February 2014 the buttons on my 4-way controller were, and are horrible. This was before Fuji fixed it later X-T1 production. How about on the X-T2 you ask? Oh My Goodness they are fantastic!!! Let me put it this way: if the X-T2 had not come with the new joystick I could care less! That is how much I love the new 4-way; it’s tactile, and raised so it makes using them a joy to use. I’ve assigned each one of the buttons a separate function in order to get the most use out of them! Seriously: It’s THAT good now. Speaking the joystick… OH JOY! Easily reachable when looking through the viewfinder, my thumb can find it in an instant to move it around! I currently have the camera set for “only” 91 focus points as I find the max number way too many and honestly I don’t need it at this point. The joystick is an amazing addition to say the least! Next up: the viewfinder. I though the X-T1 was bright and useful – nothing like the X-T2 viewfinder. When I first looked through it my first words out of my mouth were: Wow!  It’s that huge and bright! The refresh rate is oh so fast to me it looks like a regular optical viewfinder. Perfect. Now for what I consider the absolute bestest new “improvement” on this camera: The sound of the shutter. To describe it as silky, buttery, smooth still doesn’t explain it. You “HAVE” to experience it. The X-T1 sounds clunky next to the absolutely amazing “click” the X-T2 cranks out. It is to me one of the most amazing sounds I’ve heard coming from a shutter and I’ve used all types of cameras in my 30+ years. It’s that sweet!

Next up the Acros film simulation. Hallelujiah! I may finally, after switching to full digital from film back in 2002, actually have to stop converting in post and more currently I may be able to stop using Nik’s SilverEfex Pro 2.0. I can’t believe I just said that but it’s true. Even using Nik and LR to convert to BW I just couldn’t nail the look I wanted; with the Acros, and the Green filter I can actually get 95% there. Truly exceptional.

What I hate so far: the rear command dial. For example when using the self-timer I press the Q button, go to the option to select off, 2 or 10 seconds, then using my thumb I rotate the rear command dial to make my selection but the problem is my bit fat fingers put just a tad little pressure I accidentally press in. The press option on the command dials needs to be a bit stiffer (at least for me). I’m sure there is a way to turn that off (or so I hope) so if anyone out there knows how to disable the pressing of the command dial please, please let me know. It is waaaaay too sensitive for my taste. Honestly, so far that is my only complaint.

If you’ve noticed after getting this far I have not talked about image quality. Why? Because I have not done a side-by-side comparison between the X-T1 and the X-T2. In all honesty, I’ve taken about 35 images so far! And fifteen were a lifestyle shoot for stock. Now, with that having been said and on a full charge after shooting just about 31-32 images my battery was in the red zone. I know I was fiddling around with the menu’s and getting the camera setup but that is somewhat concerning even though I have seven batteries that I can carry with me. We’ll have to see how that develops.

I have been shooting uncompressed raw files that are 50.6mb in size (same size as my Lossless compressed, D800e files) compared to 33mb in the X-T1; There is some serious data in there! The jpeg files are oh so much larger as well which is a welcome change. Now, and only now am I comfortable submitting straight up jpeg’s out to the stock agents if I have to. If I process a raw file in Photoshop and save it as a tiff the file size heads up to 144mb. A very nice size with lots of details as storage prices have come down, and size and quality have gone up.

For comparison, I took a X-T2 processed (in LR) raw file and exported it as a jpeg; I then took a processed raw file (NEF) from my Nikon D800e (36mp) camera and did the same standard export as a jpeg. Now, keep in mind they were not of the same exact subject so size wise they may be different but the Nikon NEF exported from LR as a jpeg is 11.2 megabytes, and the X-T2 RAF file exported using the same export is 18.2 megabytes! Quite an eye-opening comparison if you ask me.   Again, different subjects, and one has slightly more detail than another but still way larger, albeit more details than the X-T1 RAF files when exported as a jpeg are “only” 8 mb on average.

So, for right now this is what I have to report. Once I actually take the camera out for a walk-around I’ll have more to say.