2016 was one of my busiest years of my career and at least 80% of my work was done on location. I flew just shy of 80,000 miles last year and drove just over 17,000 miles for work all while packing cameras and lights and all the rest of it.
Traveling is stressful as it is but last year my life was far too stressful because my gear has splintered into multiple systems, adapters, triggers, and the like. I have got to get this shit under control and that means simplifying. If it hasn’t been used in the last year then it’s gone. If I cursed at it last year then it’s gone. If I used it once then it’s probably gone. If I kept using one thing wishing I had a different option for it then it’s gone.
I’d love to get to a point in my life where I have one bag of cameras and one bag of lights and that’s it. My ultimate utopian fantasy is two X100’s and four clamp lights with dimmers on them. Unfortunately that is not an option for the work I do.
Currently I have two systems: The Phase One XF100 and my Fuji cameras. With the recent launch of the Fuji GFX I am really chomping at the bit to add that to my medium format bag. Yet, that goes against my desire to simplify. That’s introducing another system. Another lens selection. Another set of batteries and chargers. I can’t tell you how much I hate charging batteries. I have another post just on that coming up.
My current Phase One kit has the 80mm LS (leaf shutter), 55mm LS, and 150mm along with two extension tubes. I believe I’m going to trade in my 150mm and my extension tubes for the 120mm macro and add a 35mm AF. I was fortunate enough to borrow the Phase One 40-80mm LS for a few months and I absolutely love that lens. It’s amazing but that effing lens runs about $10,000. [Insert blank face emoji.] I’d rather put $10,000 into a GFX kit.
Why I want the GFX ::
My only backup solution to my Phase is my Xpro2. It can get the job done but when you are hired to shoot medium format it would be nice to have a medium format as a backup if needed. There are times I’d like a smaller medium format kit and I think the GFX and the Fujinon GF32-64 will be a perfect solution for that. Plus, I think that setup will fit perfectly into an open spot in my Phase case. I’ve yet to shoot with the GFX but I have handled the pre-production units and I’m sold. I *think* I’m getting a loaner soon. I’ll post about that if it happens.
I could sell my Phase XF kit and buy two GFX bodies and all the lenses. I could. I won’t though. That Phase XF. OMG. I’m editing a video about that camera this week. It’ll be up soon. I am NOT selling my XF.
I could sell ALL my Fuji gear and buy the GFX and the new X100F. I have thoughtfully considered that and it is still an option on the table. I love the Xpro2 though so I’d want to keep that and the 23, 35, and 56. Yet… I use the 10-40 a lot and the 50-140 2.8 was indispensable on a number of shoots last year.
Simplify Zack. Simplify. Zen. Flow like water. All that shit.
Full Phase kit. GFX for back up. X100F with wide and tele adapters? Rent other stuff as needed? That sounds good too. That Xpro2 though. I do love that camera so much. I’ve shot a lot of stuff with it. But damn… once you shoot medium format you want EVERYTHING to be medium format. ALL of my personal work in the last year has been shot medium format and there’s no going back from the 645 100MP sensor. There just isn’t.
Breathe, Zack. Breathe. Simplify.
The Phase is just not a run-n-gun camera. The GFX nor the Phase have the lenses on the wide side or telephoto side that I need at times that the Xpro2 has. So, one step at a time. Finish out my Phase kit. Pair down my Fuji kit. Hold on buying the x100f. Save up for the GFX and the one zoom lens. Do that for awhile and see what happens.
My current lights are a mix of Alien Bees, Einsteins, Phottix Indras (1 500 and 1 360), Phottix Mitros+, and Lumopro LP180’s. That’s three different mounts, speedrings, two trigger systems, etc, etc, etc. Screw all that mess. That’s all coming to an end and this is how I’m going to deal with it.
My son, Caleb, has been shooting a lot in the last year and he’s a 95% studio photographer. Check out his Instagram. Stupid kid. He’s going to kick my ass soon. #ProudDad. So… I’m leaving all the Alienbees stuff in the studio and they stay in the studio and they no longer hit the road with me.
I’ve been traveling with one Phottix Indra 500 for over a year now alongside Alienbee stuff. I wanted to make a complete switch to the Indra system but I needed to make sure they survive living in checked bags, the batteries could get me through a full shoot day, and I needed to financially be able to afford it. I’ve added an Indra 360 in the last year as well as two Mitros+ flashes. I’m in plenty of situations where I need hotshoes and strobes and the Phottix gear has been great. The ONLY reason I went with the Mitros+ over the Lumopro 180’s is because I can trigger the Indras and the Mitros with the Phottix Stratos II triggers. This means, for the first time in years, I’m traveling without Pocket Wizards and sync cords.
I’m no longer packing sync cords! No more pocket wizards hanging from my lights! One trigger to rule them all! That’s some zen right there. All I need is one more Indra 500 to complete my lighting kit. I regularly need two strobes. Sometimes I need three so I need that third 500 for those cases and to be a backup to the 500 and 360. I also need Phottix to make a universal trigger that will control power across all the lights. I hear that’s in development.
There’s four reasons I moved to Phottix:
• One trigger to rule them all. Hotshoe AND strobes. That was the number one reason.
• The Bowens mount. The Paul C Buff mount has always been kind of cheap and shitty but nothing some gaff tape couldn’t handle if light was spilling where it shouldn’t. The Bowens mount cleans all of that up and is a more sturdy solution overall.
• The Phottix color is cleaner overall at all power levels. It’s clean, consistent, and syncs well with the leaf shutter lenses of the Phase.
• The build quality is great and the batteries pack smaller than Vagabond II batteries and will last all day for me. With the new FAA rules, I carry on all of my batteries and the Phottix batteries are smaller and lighter than Vagabond batteries.
The downside to the Phottix system is that the most powerful strobe is 500 w/s but, honestly, I haven’t run into an issue yet where I ran out of power with the Indra. The other downside is the need for a $300 AC adapter if you want to run the lights off wall power. If you want to run Alienbees on battery power then you need a $240 battery so… Tit for tat. It all works out. Better build quality, cleaner light, Bowens mount, one trigger. All is well.
All of this, plus accessories, pack into my Think Tank Logistics Manger 30 quite nicely. I do wish Bowens reflectors stacked as neatly as AB reflectors but whatevs. It’s all good.
All the rest of the shit ::
My light stand bag is another mess but I have just ordered some gear that I haven’t fully tested yet so I’ll make that another post.
Final thoughts ::
I could build one bag that has an Xpro2 with the 23, 35, and 56 lenses along with an X100. I could add two or three hotshoe flashes and be done. That could all fit into one bag and it would be enough to do so much. The issue is medium format. Once you shoot it. Once you nail something in medium format. GD. There’s no going back. I’ve known about the GFX system for some time. I knew it was coming when I upgraded to the Phase XF and I still upgraded, at a significant cost, to the XF and I couldn’t be happier.
But then there’s the whole zen thing I seek. Is it a nice thought but not a feasible option? Xpro2. X100. Three lenses. Three flashes. One bag.
Stuff that keeps me awake. Trying to find the signal in all of this noise.
I hope all of you are well! What do y’all think of all this bullshit? Hit me up in the comments. I’ll be replying.
PS – I’m not sponsored by any of these companies.