Over the years, I have found that Zeiss is a lot like Apple in the sense of giving the consumer a very luxurious experience from the unboxing all the way to the look and feel of the product.
After all of the fluff and the dopamine hit of marketing psychology wears off, is this lens really work the $1843 USD price tag? Let’s find out!
The Full Review…
Build Quality & Ergonomics
The metal construction on the Zeiss Milvus 21mm lens is absolutely brilliant. The focus ring, aperture ring, and lens mount are all built just as well as the main chassy of the lens. From the second you pick it up, you know that you should be more worried about WHAT you drop the lens on instead of the lens itself. In short, it’s built like a tank!
The handling and ergonomics of this lens is also quite pleasing. I have pretty big hands and really enjoy the way the manual focus ring is positioned in the right place to fit into that perfect “pocket” between the thumb and index finder for easy focusing.
The only small complaint I had within this category was with the felt material inside of the lens hood. It is literally a dust and fuzz magnet! It attracts everything! Luckily, I leave it off most of the time since I use filters.
This will be a very short category because there’s only so much you can say about distortion. All wide angle lenses have it, and I can say with complete confidence that this lens handles it much better than my Nikkor 16-35 that I used to shoot landscapes with all the time.
Keep in mind that most distortion can be easily fixed inside of photoshop, but it has definitely been nice to see that this lens almost no distortion issue at all.
Optical Image Quality And Performance
This is definitely the most important category of the review because optical quality is the reason we purchase expensive lenses.
After using this lens exclusively for the one month I have owned it, I can say that the pure quality that it can squeeze out of my 36 megapixel Nikon D810 is just outstanding! I would almost say that this lens is too sharp! Did you hear that, pixel peepers?? TOO SHARP! Wait, who am I talking to? The second the pixel peepers read that it was too sharp, they stopped reading and immediately left to purchase the lens…
I expect my D810 RAW files to come into Capture One looking flat as always, but when I imported my first set of images from the Zeiss 21mm Milvus, I couldn’t believe the natural contrast and color rendition. I honestly had to make sure I didn’t have a preset turned on in Capture One because I was so skeptical of what I was looking at.
I tested this lens on a tripod at my native 64 ISO going through the entire aperture range, and I can confirm that you get all of the Zeiss goodness that I talked about above from about f/4 to f/16. Shooting this lens wide open at f/2.8, you will see a little bit of light fall off and slight vignetting in the corners. Luckily, those minor setbacks can be easily fixed with modern software.
Keep in mind that I am only shedding light on those minor complaints so that you have all of the information I have discovered about this lens. If you and I were casually discussing this lens over a cup of coffee, I would probably never shut up about how awesome it is.
Feel free to download a few of my RAW files from shooting the my D810 and Zeiss 21mm Milvus.
So, it’s time for the million dollar question….or should I say the $1843 question? Is this lens worth the hefty price? It all depends on what kind of photography you do and how you will use this lens
If you are an avid printer who sells to galleries or consistently prints large and participates in print exhibitions, then It is worth every penny! You will love it and actually be able to see the difference it makes when you start printing large or licensing work to companies who need massive banners, etc.
If you are like the other 70% of photographers who post to Facebook, Instagram, and your blog, then I would take the $1843 and spend it on marketing your business. Launch some Facebook ads, spruce up your website, pay a videographer to create a compelling story about your business. as a business owner, your money can be much better spent if you aren’t going to regularly let the Zeiss 21mm Milvus shine in it’s full glory.
https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-7Fthhf6/0/c80a6221/X3/i-7Fthhf6-X3.jpg10801920Eric Marks (Author)http://findingmiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FME-X-THEME-LOGO-FINAL-1030x259.pngEric Marks (Author)2018-01-22 21:34:062018-01-23 17:22:06Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8 Lens Review
I have been looking for the perfect outdoor hat for a long time, and I finally found the perfect one. The Tilley Hiker’s Hat provides great protection from the sun, it has a lifetime warranty, and it is so comfortable that I could sleep in it.
I have spent the past year trying different outdoor hats from tons of different brands, and I can tell you after extensive research, Tilley’s customer service and product quality is second to none. Oh, and it helps that the Hiker’s Hat will make you look like Indiana Jones 😉
Watch my video review below to learn more about the Tilley Hiker’s Hat and where to buy one.
https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-9pkn4Cd/0/72914ff1/X3/i-9pkn4Cd-X3.jpg10801920Eric Marks (Author)http://findingmiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FME-X-THEME-LOGO-FINAL-1030x259.pngEric Marks (Author)2017-05-02 22:56:252017-05-04 16:14:34Tilley Hiker's Hat Review - Landscape Photographer's Best Friend
I have been a Nikon DSLR shooter since day one, and as a landscape and nature photographer, I have always been pleased with the image quality and dynamic range of the Nikon system.
For the last three years, I have been testing almost every mirrorless camera on the market to see what all of the fuss was about. So many photographers talked about how mirrorless was completely replacing their DSLR systems, so I knew that I had to use them as my primary camera to see if I could truly live without my DSLR kit.
After tons of testing with different mirrorless camera brands, I came to the conclusion that these new cameras were nowhere near ready to replace my Nikon DSLR system, but they were definitely fun to use. The longest I was able to use a mirrorless camera without touching my DSLR was about two weeks.
Let’s fast forward to December of 2016… I bought my First Fujifilm mirrorless camera, and my world changed instantly…
Love At First Sight…
after months of research on the Fuji “X” line of cameras, I decided to purchase the Fujifilm X-T2 in December of 2016. You’re probably asking yourself why I never tried Fujifilm cameras in the past, since I stated above that I have tried tons of mirrorless cameras over the years. Well, I wish I had a great answer for you, but the 16 megapixel APS-C sensors that Fujifilm had just never caught my attention. HA, that was stupid of me…
All I can say is that from the moment I touched the X-T2, I instantly fell in love. It could have been a 10 megapixel camera, and I would not have cared one bit. This camera simply makes me want to take more photographs. Every single time I pick it up, I just want to get out, take photos, and make art. Isn’t that what all cameras are supposed to make me feel like?? If you own one of these magical Fujifilm X cameras, you know what I mean.
Here is the video where I unboxed this camera and held it for the first time…
Ok, so let’s get into the good stuff that will help you decide if this is the camera for you or not. I will be covering build quality, the firmware and menus, autofocus, dynamic range, ISO, EVF, ergonomics, and I will end with the main features that I liked and disliked about the camera.
The X-T2 has a very rigid build, and I found that after just a few days of using it in the field, I was almost as confident in it’s physical reliability as I am with my Nikon D810.
Flip out screens always worry me since most of them feel like they could snap off at any second. Somehow, even the flip out screen on the XT2 feels very strong and secure. I put my cameras through serious use in the elements, so the fact that this tiny mirrorless camera is still working like new should tell most people that it can take a serious beating.
Oddly enough, The only thing about the X-T2 that seemed a little “flimsy” was the exposure compensation dial. If you put even the slightest bit of pressure on the dial, it will physically move forwards and backwards like it’s about to snap off the camera body. That being said, I am sure that it’s built just as well as the rest of the camera, but that is the only physical part of the camera that just didn’t feel as rigid and strong as the rest.
Firmware And Menu System
One of the biggest reasons that Fujifilm has such a loyal fan base is because of the way they handle their firmware. Instead of releasing a new camera with simple upgrades every 6 months like other big brands, they release FREE firmware updates that fix and/or upgrade the features of their current cameras. For example, when the X-Pro2 first released, it had 273 AF points. The autofocus system in the X-Pro2 was fast enough for most situations, but when the X-T2 was released only 6 months later, it had 325 AF points that were all just a bit faster than the X-Pro2. What did Fujifilm do about this? They released a firmware update that literally upgraded the freaking AF system on the X-Pro2 so that it matched the same 325 point AF system from the X-T2! THAT, my friends, is how you run a business with a core competency of customer satisfaction…
As for the menu system, I think it’s laid out pretty well. It definitely takes some getting used to if you’re coming from a DSLR since there are so many more customization options in the mirrorless cameras. All in all, I found it pretty easy to navigate after the first few days of use, and I really enjoy that they give you a “MY” menu for storing all of your most-used menu settings in one place.
The feature that needs the biggest firmware improvement is the wireless communications setup between the X-T2 and smart devices. It’s extremely slow to connect, sometimes it’s very laggy once it does connect, and it often doesn’t want to connect at all. The biggest issue I have been having with it is that I can use my iPhone as a wireless feed and remote for the camera, but the second I want to import the photos to my phone, the app will crash or disconnect from the camera. This happens about 50% of the time. It seems that it makes you choose “remote” or “import” right from the launch of the app instead of being able to bounce back and forth between the two like it’s supposed to do.
Now that I have talked about how bad and unreliable the wireless communication features are, I will give you a big positive point to end this category with. The Fujifilm wireless remote app is really good… when it works. It’s one of the only wireless camera apps that allows you to change aperture, shutter speed, white balance, AND focus. If you do a lot of videos trying to record yourself, it’s hard to know when you’re in perfect focus. When using this app, all you have to do is tweak the focus for where you’re already standing instead of trying to pre-focus the camera to an area where you may or may not even be.
I am going to get right to the point. The autofocus system in the X-T2 is the fastest and most accurate AF system I have used in any mirrorless camera. The real test for AF systems is seeing how well they acquire focus in low light. I don’t mean going out at golden hour to see how well the AF performs. I’m talking about shooting a wedding reception where all you have are some candles and DJ lights. Fortunately, I was able to test this camera in some serious low light situations, and it performed wonderfully. The best low light focusing cameras I have used to date are the D4 and D500 from Nikon, and the X-T2 is just a hair faster than both of these cameras when the best Fujinon glass is mounted to the b0dy.
As for tracking fast moving subjects with the X-T2, it’s tough to give a definitive answer. I say that because the X-T2 tracks insanely well when the AF-C custom settings have been tweaked for the specific situation. If you just flip the AF mode selector from “S” to “C” and start firing off frames, it’s not as accurate as I would prefer it to be. It’s not slow or bad by any means, but I would say that it’s pretty inconsistent if you don’t tweak the AF-C custom settings and focus zones in the menu system.
EXAMPLE: This photo was captured in AF-C mode on custom setting #2 with the center zone selected. I chose custom setting #2 because this tweaks the focus to ignore obstacles like the bushes and weeds you can see creeping into the foreground. After tweaking, it produced tack sharp images every time! Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200mm
Lastly If you’re interested to see how fast the X-T2 obtains focus acquisition in low light, you can check out this video I made comparing the AF speeds between the Fuji X-T2 and Nikon D810.
X-T2 vs D810: Low Light Autofocus Test
Dynamic Range is a big deal for me being that I am a landscape photographer. To be honest, I was still worried about the dynamic range on the X-T2 even after I placed the order to purchase one. Dynamic Range is a topic that most camera reviewers don’t test, so I did’t really know what to expect.
Using the X-T2 exclusively for the past two months has allowed me to learn a lot about it’s dynamic range capabilities. It seems to recover highlights in a much better way than it recovers shadows. Now, this all depends on the lighting situation you’re in whether it’s Indoor tungsten, direct sun light, dusk, etc. The quality of the light directly impacts how much noise and degradation you get in the image. I have posted a couple of example photos below…
HIGHLIGHT RECOVERY: The version of this photo on the left is 2 stops over exposed straight out of the camera, and as you can see from the version on the right, the RAW file held together brilliantly during highlight recovery. It even brought back the nice colors that were deep within the file.
SHADOW RECOVERY IN BAD LIGHT: The version on the left is 2 stops under exposed and completely blacked out. The version on the right is after shadow recovery in Lightroom CC. As you can see, it’s quite impressive how much luminance was able to be recovered from the file, but if you take a closer look, you can see significant color noise and loss of image quality.
This is a 100& crop of the shadow recovered photo above. I wanted you to be able to see the loss of detail and the noise that creeps in when trying to recover the shadows from this kind of lighting condition.
SHADOW RECOVERY IN GOOD LIGHT: The version on the left is 2 stops under exposed. As you can see from the version on the right, the shadows recovered with no issue this time. This photo was taken during mid-day light instead sunset like the noisy result above.
Here is the 100% crop of the shadow recovered version above. You can see that good light makes all the difference in the world. The only negative aspect of shadow recovery from the Fujifilm RAW files is that some of the colors start to turn a bit grey. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix with the Nik Collection Color Effects Pro software suite.
Surprisingly, I have no complaints concerning high ISO performance. I am comfortable shooting at ISO 6400 since it retains about 80% of the detail you would normally see from this camera at lower ISO values. That’s assuming that the subject you’re shooting at has some kind of ambient light source around. What impresses me the most about the higher ISO values of the X-T2 is the camera’s ability to produce 99% perfect color rendition and white balance in every image.
I just wish that Fujifilm will allow us to natively shoot lower than ISO 200 in the near future. I haven’t experienced any big issues at ISO 200 for my landscape photography, but my favorite thing about my Nikon D810 is that I can shoot at a native ISO 64. The lower ISO values give me a cleaner image, more room in post production to push the dynamic range, and it really helps when trying to drag the shutter for long exposures without the use of an ND filter.
I could keep writing about ISO, but people like seeing results. Not long after I purchased the X-T2, I did a direct ISO comparison between the X-T2 and the D810 all the way up to 12,800 ISO. I think you will be surprised at the results, and I even provided a link for you to download the RAW files from both cameras. You can read that blog post HERE or check out the video below…
HIGH ISO EXAMPLE: This photo was taken at ISO 10,000. Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200mm
EVF And Rear LCD
To be 100% honest, I really love DSLR optical viewfinders. It’s all I have ever known. When the EVF’s first came out on these mirrorless cameras, I was sure that I could never use one for my professional work, and Unfortunately, I was correct. After using the Sony a6000, Sony A7r II, Panasonic G7, and a few others over the years, I never found an EVF that made me want to use it over an optical viewfinder. The EVF’s were just not detailed enough, a little laggy, and way too noisy in low light.
When I first put my eye up to the X-T2, it was like looking into my own personal HDTV. The colors were amazing, it was easy to see focus, I could see depth of field in real time, and there was room for a live histogram without taking up 60% of the screen. The EVF is so detailed that I use it almost exclusively over the live view to grab perfect manual focus for my landscape photos. I’m not sure what Fujifilm did when creating the EVF for the X-T2, but I can tell you that it’s the first EVF that I have been able to use without missing my optical viewfinder.
After all of my positive feedback on the EVF, I wish I could give you the same for the rear LCD. However, it’s just nothing special. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s hard to use it as a primary source for image review and focus check when the camera has a 2.36 million dot EVF right above the 1.04 million dot LCD. Now, you’re probably thinking how spoiled I sound for saying those things since they both have over 1 million dots of resolution, but you will completely understand once you go back forth between the EVF and LCD. Luckily, the LCD on the X-T2 was not a “make it or break it” feature for me. I shoot through the viewfinder 95% of the time, so I am lucky that the EVF is where Fujifilm decided to work their wizardry.
The last point I will mention regarding the LCD is the fact that it can now flip out into a vertical format. At first glance, you might think that you won’t use this feature, but It proved to be pretty useful when I had to get low to the ground in vertical format.
At the end of the day, I wish that the rear LCD was fully articulating like the Canon 80D and many others. I think that adding that one feature would make the X-T2 much more attractive to vloggers and videographers.
Handling And Ergonomics
This category is one of the most important for me because if a camera isn’t comfortable enough to use on a daily basis, it wouldn’t make sense to purchase it. I personally found the X-T2 a little small for my big hands when I first picked it up. It was mainly that my pinky finger had nowhere to go on the grip. I love the size of the camera, but once I started mounting heavier lenses like the Fujinon 16-55 f/2.8, it made the camera even harder to balance in with the tiny grip.
After the first 24 hours with the camera, I got online to see what other people with big hands were saying about the X-T2, and I saw the same advice on every forum… GET THE BATTERY GRIP! So, that is exactly what I did, and it’s the best accessory I have purchased for my X-T2 so far. It gave my pinky finger a place to grip, balanced the camera with larger lenses, gave me longer battery life, and it gave me the ability to shoot at 11fps in “boost” mode. It’s a no brainer! I highly recommend purchasing the booster grip with your X-T2.
As for overall ergonomics, the manual dials are the stars of the show in my opinion. They are simply perfect. I love having manual dials and rings at my fingertips to control shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and exposure compensation. It allows me to change my settings very quickly without having to take my eye out of the viewfinder. Other than the dials, all of the buttons on the camera have a very nice and tactile feel to them.
My two favorite features regarding ergonomics, are the new joystick and the locking/unlocking mechanism for the shutter speed and ISO dials. The joystick makes it super easy to navigate around the 325 AF points, and no matter what focus point you have selected at any given time, all you have to do is press the joystick inward to automatically get back to the center AF point. The new lock/unlock mechanism for the shutter and ISO dials are a very welcome upgrade. It simply insures that my settings won’t accidentally get changed when I’m taking the camera out of the bag, mounting it on a tripod, or slipping a rain cover over the top of the camera.
I want to preface this category by making all of you aware that I am not a professional videographer. I definitely have a great interest in video and find it very fun to film and edit all of my VLOGS for my YouTube channel, but my career is in photography.
I can tell you that the video is extremely sharp compared to other 4k mirrorless cameras I have shot with. The X-T2 records in a higher resolution than 4k and somehow down samples to 4k in real time for sharper footage and less moire. Fujifilm doesn’t fully explain how the technology works, but it works well.
What impressed me the most about shooting video with the X-T2 was it’s buttery smooth autofocus in continuous mode. With the influx of vloggers over the past few years, Having smooth autofocus transitions while shooting video seems to be one of the most important features that people look for. Until now, I have always recommended the Canon 70d or 80d for people who wanted smooth AF during video due to Canon’s dual pixel AF technology. In my opinion, the video AF on the X-T2 really holds it’s own against the 70d, and it’s just a little slower and less smooth than the 80d.
I wish I could keep going on about all of the video features for you, but it just wouldn’t be accurate or fair to give you strong opinions on the X-T2’s video capabilities without hardcore testing like I have done on all of the other categories. However, I promise that I will do more testing in the future and post the results on my YouTube channel. You can SUBSCRIBE to my channel HERE.
What I liked The Most
Snappy autofocus in good AND bad light
Autofocus tracking accuracy after tweaking the settings
Sharpness and image quality
Clean details and color accuracy at high ISO
What Needs The Most Improvement
Continuous autofocus tracking in default AF-C mode
dynamic range shadow recovery
Base ISO lower than 200
Fujifilm app and Wifi communication reliability
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Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 16-55mm f/1.8
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200 f/3.5-4.8
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8
Fuji X-T2 | Fujinon 55-200 f/3.5-4.8
https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-3WXgMsZ/0/X3/i-3WXgMsZ-X3.jpg10801920Eric Marks (Author)http://findingmiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FME-X-THEME-LOGO-FINAL-1030x259.pngEric Marks (Author)2017-03-03 19:04:142017-05-03 22:25:35Fujifilm X-T2 Full Review - One Camera To Rule Them All?
I spent three straight weeks testing every new feature on the Sony A7r II in many different shooting conditions. I should start by saying that I personally shoot Nikon, but I did my absolute best to give Sony a fair chance in replacing my DSLR system. Unfortunately, the Sony system was not as good as Sony made it out to be. However, it is still a wonderful camera with a lot of killer features, and my decision to continue shooting Nikon was based on my type of shooting only. It could very well be the perfect camera for someone else. I will be making a video SOON explaining in detail why the new Sony A7r II did not impress me enough to switch.
As for the Autofocus, that feature really did impress me! It is worlds faster than the original Sony A7r but not quite as fast as cameras like the Canon 5D III and Nikon D810. Check out the quick video I made below which will show you how fast the A7r II can focus on objects from infinity to just a few inches away. . Hope this helps everyone!
VIDEO: Sony A7r II Autofocus Speed Test
http://findingmiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Sony-A7rII-AF-Speed-Youtube-Graphic.jpg7201280Eric Marks (Author)http://findingmiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FME-X-THEME-LOGO-FINAL-1030x259.pngEric Marks (Author)2015-11-22 23:09:562016-09-03 16:04:34Sony A7r II Autofocus Speed Test Results
I have been using the Adorama Flashpoint ZoomLioN i-TTL Speedlight for a while now, and I finally did an in depth review on it. I hope I can finally answer the high speed sync questions that so many people have and put them to rest. I could not find any good videos about this flash online, so I hope you all enjoy the information in this one!