November 4, 2021 ·

Dan Wells

Let’s start with two upcoming reviews, one of which has extensive first impressions and setup experiences here. I had the Fujifilm GF 23mm lens in for a while this summer, and several pictures taken with it have already appeared in recent articles (there are a couple more here). It’s an excellent performer on the ultra-high resolution GFX 100S, and I’m just trying to get the time to print a few more samples before writing it up. The review will be in a pair with the 120mm GF Macro, which recently arrived for testing.. I’m almost sure the GF 23mm will land a Highly Recommended (pending close examination of more prints – so far, excellent), but (much) more on that lens to come… I expect to write the full review of the two lenses up around Thanksgiving, so look for it here shortly after that

Epson press image of the P900 – wow, what big trays you have… The P900 is extremely compact for a 17×22” printer when the trays are stowed, but requires substantial clearance in front and on top.

I currently have the Epson P900 printer in for testing, and initial results are excellent (with a couple of quirks). I’ve set it up, run an alignment routine, and printed a variety of photos on three or four different papers. I want to experiment with a bunch of different papers, and to gain a lot more experience with it before coming to any firm conclusions (I also want to get a handle on ink consumption – it uses most of the starter cartridges during setup, but may be fairly frugal once set up). So far, it is very frugal on several colors, relatively frugal on most, but uses a lot of Light Grey ink. If it keeps going the way it’s started, it’s a lot of printer for the price and size. It prints as accurately as anything I’ve seen from a color perspective – the only major contender I’m not familiar with is its own big brother, the Epson P7570/9570. I really look forward to looking at one of those, because it uses a similar inkset to the P900 plus two additional inks (orange and green). The P900 gives excellent results on both matte and glossy papers – I’m really enjoying the results on my usual favorite Platine, and the combination of this printer and Canson Infinity’s brand-new Arches 88 is the best matte paper performance I’ve seen yet (and I have a bunch more matte papers to test, including a box of Canson Infinity’s new matte Baryta paper that I haven’t gotten to yet).

Gloss differential really is under better control in this generation of printers – it’s just not a problem on Platine, and it’s not a huge problem even on Epson Ultra Premium Glossy, a torture test paper that one really wouldn’t feed through into a pigment-ink printer EXCEPT to check for gloss differential! If you want to use mostly cheap, resin-coated glossy paper, a good dye-based printer (see the recent review of the ET-8550, Canon makes a bunch as well) is probably a better choice than a pigment printer that is more expensive to buy, uses more expensive ink, and is really made for higher quality matte and luster/semigloss paper. This doesn’t mean you can’t run glossy family photos and the like on your P900 – you can, and they’ll look good, with well-controlled gloss differential – but if that’s your main goal, why not buy a cheaper printer optimized for that paper?

It’s also the sharpest printer I’ve seen – it is tied for resolution with the ET-8550, although the P900 has significantly better color (it should, it’s a much higher-end printer). Fun fact: desktop printers often actually have more resolution per inch than the big roll-fed monsters, and they do smaller drop sizes, too. Within the size range a desktop printer can handle, its prints will actually be (slightly) sharper than a 24” or 44” roll printer. Under almost ideal conditions, I can notice the difference – a GFX 100S file fed to the P900 at 16×20” is just a bit sharper than the same file printed on the roll-fed Canon Pro-2000 at the same size on similar paper (I didn’t have identical paper for the two machines, nor a profile to drop Epson paper in the Canon). Oddly, this is not true of the two highest-end desktop printers on the market – the Canon Pro-1000 uses exactly the same head as the roll-fed Canons, and the Epson P5000 uses a head closely related to an older version of Epson’s roll-fed units.

It’s a notably easy printer to set up. Epson really did a nice job, right down to putting the cartridges in the box in the same order they go in the printer (I’ve wasted a fair bit of time over the years looking for the next cartridge I need in the packaging of various printers). It’s also the ONLY printer I’ve seen that didn’t need alignment when I set it up. The instructions didn’t mention running an initial alignment, which confused me, because everything else needs it. I wrote to Epson about this, and they wrote back “it’s aligned at the factory, and you don’t need to realign it unless something looks fuzzy”. Before I got their reply, I ran an alignment from the maintenance menu (it’s easy to do), and got an impressive result where all the test charts came out with the middle setting looking best, exactly as a perfectly aligned printer would respond. At least my sample really WAS aligned very well at the factory!

The third joy of setting up the P900 (and other modern printers with decent-sized touchscreens) is how easy it is to get them talking to WiFi networks. It wasn’t long ago that you had to enter very long passwords with arrow keys (and the password was erased if you made a mistake). Now, the printer has a touchscreen keyboard better than most smartphones and it also supports WPS setup (my router doesn’t, so I had to enter the password – but it wasn’t bad with the touchscreen keyboard).

The only setup hassle (and this is Apple’s fault, not Epson’s) is that the Mac defaults to using an AirPrint driver even if you have the Epson driver installed. You never want to run a photo printer with lots of settings on an AirPrint driver (which is a generic driver that can talk to a bunch of printers from a given manufacturer), so you have to tell it to use the Epson driver – this only happens when you first set up the printer and it takes a few seconds, but it can catch the unwary… I’ve mistakenly set up the Canon Pro-2000 using AirPrint, and it doesn’t know that it’s roll-fed (it thinks it’s a VERY LARGE Canon desktop inkjet). AirPrint also knows very little about color management. Easy to fix, but can be a pain to figure out. Apple should just remove all the odd photo printers where you’ll always want to install a driver from the list of AirPrint supported printers, since they’re the ones that cause problems. AirPrint is actually useful with office printers where you don’t want to customize settings – it means you don’t have to download a driver to use that random inkjet at your aunt’s house to print a webpage!

The other nice thing about the P900 is that it really is a desktop printer, despite printing 17” wide. It’s 25” wide, but it’s not much taller or deeper than a lot of medium-sized 8.5×11” inkjets (it’s 15” deep and 8” tall). Of course, the paper trays add a lot to the height and depth when extended (but it’s meant to be closed up unless actually in use – for dust control as well as size reduction). It only weighs 35 lbs empty, and well under 40 lbs even with as much ink and paper as it can hold. It’s about half the weight of a Canon Pro-1000 and about 1/3 the weight of Epson’s own P5000. The P5000 really isn’t a desktop printer, the Pro-1000 is stretching it, but the P900 will fit in most spaces.

It even does a nice job as an office printer – I have been using it as such in addition to printing photos, and the quality is excellent. It is surprisingly useful to have an office printer that can print 17×22” – think big spreadsheets, charts and the like, or signs. 17×22” office paper is very hard to find (although 11×17” is common and useful), and I find myself using cheap glossy photo paper for oversize office printing. The one missing feature as an office printer is automatic double-sided printing. Most dedicated office printers can duplex with no hassle at all, while the P900 requires the old dance of turning the document around and sticking it in the other way. Since the P900 isn’t really an office printer, this is no surprise (and a 17×22” duplexer might have added a non-trivial amount of size, weight and complexity, with very few papers where it would be useful).

I have a variety of papers either in stock or on the way for the P900, including several of Epson’s high-end papers and a wide selection from Canson Infinity (including the new Arches papers and Baryta Matte, which I’m really interested to see). I’m also actively on the lookout for some unusual media. One interesting upcoming test will be whether two very similar papers really are identical. I have some Epson Legacy Platine and a batch of Canson Infinity Platine. They’re certainly close – are they identical? The Epson paper is the more expensive of the two before rebates, BUT Epson runs frequent and generous rebates which bring its cost significantly below Canson Infinity Platine when in effect. If they turn out to be identical, that will give those of us who love those papers the opportunity to stock them based on what’s available and less expensive at any given time.

Expect to see a full review of the P900 here in the next month or so, complete with results on everything from cheap glossy paper on up to the finest papers in the world. I can already say that I haven’t seen a compact printer that comes close to what the P900 can do – it’s competitive in the realm of big pro inkjets (although without the paper handling flexibility, of course), and it’s a smallish, easy to use desktop machine.

I am hoping to get a P9570 in for review from Epson, which would lead to a very interesting stack of printers from the little ET-8550 up to the mighty 44” P9570. An additional printer I hope to include is the Durst Lambda (which prints on resin-coated silver halide photo paper that is then developed in traditional chemistry). Hunts Photo, whom I’ve worked with for years, has one in their lab, and it would be VERY interesting to see how the best of inkjet compares to a good silver print. Of course, most of us can’t have a Lambda in our house, but how does sending work out to print on that technology compare with inkjet?

The P900 really won’t print canvas (it should feed, but, by the time you wrap it, the maximum print size is only around 13×18 if that). Additionally, both the ink and sheet paper are more expensive per area than the larger printers, especially if you print enough to justify the larger cartridge sizes the big machines can take. P900 ink is about 50% more expensive per ml than the 150 ml cartridges for the P9570, and about twice the price per ml of the 330ml cartridges, plus you lose a bit more ink in more frequent cartridge changes. Using Canson Infinity Platine as an example, 24” or 44” roll paper is about 25% cheaper than 17×22” sheets – depending on what you are doing, either one may end up wasting more or less paper.

For smaller prints, the sheet feed is likely to be more convenient than cutting prints from a roll (even with the auto-cutter on the big printers). It’s possible to make a lot of 8×10” prints from a 24” roll, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun. It’s also possible to drop 8.5×11” paper into a roll-fed printer, and it’s easier than it used to be – but it’s still not as nice as feeding small sheets into a P900. For a paper where the P900 will accept multiple sheets, no contest. Even for a heavy paper where the P900 is a single-sheet printer, its paper guide is still better than anything on a roll-fed printer, plus it’s likely to be closer to your computer than a monstrous roll-fed machine would be – less running back and forth to a printer in the next room or perhaps on a different floor.

Yes, recent and upcoming printer reviews have featured a lot of Epsons, and I’d love to see something from Canon in there as well – but Canon’s photographer-centric print technology hasn’t changed in quite a while. Their top photo inkset and head, used in everything from the desktop Pro-1000 on up to the 60” Pro-6100 is from early 2016. I own the 24” Pro-2000, have many hundreds of prints on it, and like it a lot. It was covered extensively on this site in last year’s printing series.

Nothing much has changed from Canon in the printers Luminous readers would be most interested in since the Lucia Pro inkset came out in 2016 – the Pro-2100,4100, 6100 are close relatives of the Pro-x000 series, with exactly the same inks, heads and print quality, but some paper-handling improvements. They HAVE released several lower-end photo printers, including the 8 ink dye-based Pro-200 and 10-ink pigment-based Pro-300. The problem with both of them is that they use tiny 12.6 ml ink cartridges. The 10-ink pigment printer is a close competitor to the P700 (13” version of the P900), which uses 26 ml cartridges. The P900 is almost always a better choice than the P700 due to the 50 ml carts, and the Pro-300 uses even smaller cartridges than the smaller Epson. There are no dye-based printers with more than a single light ink (a gray) that use decent-sized cartridges or tanks. Both Canon and Epson make CMYK+ gray tank printers, and Canon also makes the Pro-200, trading what is almost surely the best gamut available in a dye printer for tiny cartridges.

I hope to see a new professional inkset from Canon around this time next year, possibly adding some of the wide-gamut inks from their newest graphic arts printers, but without losing the light inks that make Lucia Pro a beautiful and subtle inkset. The new GP series graphic arts printers use 11 inks, one of which is a fluorescent pink with very little application to photography. The other ten are two blacks (matte and photo) and two very interesting runs of colors – magenta/red/orange/yellow and green/cyan/blue/violet. I’ve never seen ANY printer use both red and orange or both blue and violet. No light inks at all almost certainly rules them out for serious photography, and a full photo inkset based on these inks would need 14 channels (add two grays plus light cyan and light magenta, while dropping fluorescent pink). I have no inside information or rumors, but this would seem like a possible direction.

Yet Another Coronavirus Cancellation – PhotoPlus cancelled for the second year in a row. Hope we get shows back someday – there’s no other place as good for looking at prints. All product shots in this article are manufacturer press images, because there was no PhotoPlus to take my own.

It’s PhotoPlus season again (although PhotoPlus itself is cancelled for the second year in a row). After a slow summer (really very little exciting since the huge announcements from Fujifilm and Sony in January), Canon and Fujifilm have kicked off the Fall announcement season with major body and lens announcements, and Sigma has been very busy with lenses of late. Of course, to the rest of the technology press, September 14 was not Canon EOS-R3 day – that was completely overshadowed by the announcements from a well-known phone maker in Cupertino to the point that it took most non-photographic tech sites several days to notice that Canon had put out a major new camera (note to Canon marketing: Maybe try and time your introductions for a day when you aren’t competing with the iPhone) .

A bunch of iPhone Pros (iPhones Pro?)

The iPhone scoop is readily available all over the Web, so I’ll limit my comments here to a few things of interest to photographers. The iPhone 13 Pro models now have an available 1 TB storage capacity, although it’s a $500 upgrade from the base 128 GB. The big storage capacity is less useful than it might be, because our old friend the Lightning port is back. Apple has gotten this right in a lot of recent iPads with USB-C (I was elated with the speed of the USB-C/Thunderbolt port on the M1 iPad Pro I recently had in for review), so I was disappointed but not surprised to see Lightning instead of USB-C on the new iPhones. The Lightning port means there’s really no good way of getting large numbers of big images from an external camera onto the phone (the old Lightning to SD reader is very slow), severely limiting its usability as a photo downloader and cloud transmitter , where the USB-C iPads Pro are superb.

The internal camera got upgraded as usual, and the sensor on the Pro models is gradually growing (the largest sensor is reserved for the 26mm Wide camera, and only on the Pro models). The pixel pitch on the Pro-only sensor is 1.9 µm, huge for a smartphone, many of which use sub- 1µm pixels. The only phone I’m aware of with larger pixels is the new Sony Xperia Pro-1 that uses a 1” sensor (the lens can’t cover the sensor, so Sony uses only part of it, getting 12 MP off a 20 MP sensor, but with pixels larger than any phone on the market).

Physically, the iPhone’s camera uses something like a 0.6” sensor, in the odd way sensors are measured, which has nothing to do with any physical dimension of the sensor – it comes from old tube-based TV cameras. It’s a little smaller than the 2/3” sensor found on many compact cameras, between 1/3 and ¼ the area of a 1” sensor, a bit over 1/20 the area of full frame, and something absurd like 1/30 the area of the GFX/Hasselblad sensor.

To put it in perspective with other cameras, the area per pixel is only a little over half of that allocated for each pixel on the popular 20 MP 1” sensor found on better compact cameras and high-end drones (and the new Sony phone). If a full-frame sensor were to use 1.9 µm pixels, it would have approximately 250 MP. Even very pixel-dense interchangeable-lens cameras use pixel sizes just under 4 µm, about 4x the area per pixel of an iPhone. This is still a small-sensor, tiny-pixel camera using a lot of computational photography techniques.

Other than the wide-angle sensor (which varies among the models), with the 1.9 µm sensor on the Pro and Pro Max and a 1.7 µm sensor on the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini, all other cameras use 1.0 µm pixel pitch. I can’t find the pixel pitch for the front camera, but can relatively safely say that it’s at most a 1.0 µm pixel size (it looks a lot like the 1.0 µm cameras on the back in iFixit’s teardown, and there’s no room for anything bigger in the tiny front camera hole). 1.0 µm is a REALLY tiny pixel – it’s 1/14 the area of Sony’s “standard” pixel used in the 26 MP APS-C, 61 MP full-frame and 102 and 151 MP medium-format sensors. A full frame sensor with 1µm pixels would be approaching 1 Gigapixel. Almost all additional cameras on phones use pixel sizes in this range – Apple is certainly NOT a unique offender – but it’s worth knowing.

There are two lens improvements to note – probably the most exciting is that the tele lens (still reserved for the Pro models) is now 77mm (full-frame equivalent). It’s notably longer than a normal lens and solidly in portrait lens territory. The other is that the 26mm lens on the Pro models is now f1.5 (but, due to the sensor size, that’s somewhere around f9 equivalent on full-frame). Apple seems to have gotten into a pattern of reserving many of the optical and sensor-size improvements for the Pro models, while spreading the computational photography enhancements through the line.

They’ve improved the processor again, but they’re being especially coy about it this year, at least so far. They claim the CPU performance is 50% faster than the best of Android, but they make no comparison with any previous iPhone. AnandTech points out that, in their benchmarking, last year’s iPhone was 41% faster than the best Android phone they’ve seen – meaning that Apple may have only gotten a 6% gain year over year instead of their customary 25% or so? Similarly, the GPU claims are referenced against Android, not against prior iPhones.

Since the A-series chips are a lot faster than anything used in an Android phone and have been for years, an impressive number against Android can hide a very modest year-on-year gain. The Pro models (only) gain an extra GPU core, going from 4 to 5, and this is very noticeable against last year’s iPhones (about 25%) – it’s a 20% improvement from the extra core, coupled with a modest gain per-core. The Neural Engine is claimed to gain about 1/3 more performance compared to last year, which is very significant for processes that use it. AnandTech goes into this in more detail, and is well worth reading if you want a technical look. One question this raises is how close we are to the end of Moore’s Law. PC processors from Intel and (to a lesser extent) AMD haven’t seen big year-over-year gains in a decade or so, but Apple has been getting big gains out of the A-series chips every year. If they can’t get those gains anymore, can anybody, or are we approaching an era of stagnating performance as the limits of quantum mechanics catch up to chip design?

Apple is claiming major improvements in screen brightness and battery life. If the battery number is true (and early reviews back it up), they’ve either saved a LOT of power somewhere, made a breakthrough in energy density or stuffed In a physically larger battery… Averaging the figures they provide, it looks like a 10-20% battery life improvement year over year. Early teardowns suggest that it’s mostly achieved by the simplest possible approach – “just jam in a bigger battery”. The battery capacities of the new iPhones are all larger than their predecessors, and by numbers suspiciously close to the improvements in battery life. What I haven’t seen yet is how much the battery volume has changed – did they get more capacity into a similarly-sized battery, or is the battery technology exactly the same and they just shoehorned in a physically larger battery? The new phones are slightly bigger and heavier, which suggests that at least part of it may be that the battery is just physically larger.

Without having seen one, the new iPhones seem to be a solid, but not huge, year over year upgrade. At this point, the iPhone is good enough that, unless you have a specific need for some new feature, the best strategy is to buy whatever iPhone is current (don’t buy an old model – the cheaper price is made up for by less years of support on the back end) when your old one dies or becomes unsupported.

Any relatively recent iPhone is held back for most photographic tasks much more by its interface than by its performance. Editing photos on a tiny screen with a finger-touch interface is hard, and that is much more important than a performance difference between this year’s iPhone and last. If you do something that requires massive performance on a phone, you know who you are. One feature that COULD cause me to replace my iPhone 11 is USB-C. The USB-C card reader is a lot faster than anything on Lightning, and an iPhone that could ingest external photos really well would be useful for backup in the field.

In addition to the new iPhones, Apple released two new iPads. The low-end, education-focused iPad is of little interest to photographers – it’s kept in the lineup mainly for the convenience of K-12 schools looking for $300 tablets (it always just makes the $300 price barrier with the 10% education discount). The new iPad Mini, on the other hand, could be of more interest. It has the same A15 chip as the new iPhones (probably a little more than half the performance of the M1 iPad Pro), in a form factor that will fit easily in most camera bags.

The iPad Mini has a VERY welcome USB-C port for image transfer – cameras and card readers both work.

Unlike any iPhone but like the iPad Pro, it has a USB-C port, allowing for very quick transfer of images from an external camera. For most of the tasks an iPad can do with today’s software, the A15 is fine – the extra speed of the M1 is largely wasted because the software for really sophisticated editing isn’t there yet. There are two important considerations there, though. One is that the software may well show up – what’s Lightroom going to gain at Adobe Max this year? What will Capture One’s iPad release look like? Either could really benefit from the performance of the M1…

The second consideration is that the MAXIMUM storage capacity of the Mini (and the iPad Air) is still 256 GB, when the iPad Pro is available up to 2 TB, and the iPhone goes to 1 TB. One of the real advantages of the M1 iPad Pro is that its large storage capacity allows it to be a wonderful portfolio and photo management tool. 256 GB is a real limitation in that role, given that 256 GB memory cards are no longer uncommon. It is a shame that, by the combination of insisting on Lightning ports on iPhones and low storage capacities on all iPads except the Pro, Apple has limited the role of photo downloader and manager to the expensive iPad Pro only.

Sigma’s 90mm f2.8 DG DN Contemporary is the latest (and longest) in their new series of compact lenses

Sigma, as always, has been busy, and as is typical of them recently, they’ve been busy making lenses that others don’t. Two of their latest releases are a 90mm f2.8 and an APS-C 18-50mm f2.8 zoom. The 18-50mm is a fairly standard focal length range (18-55mm is more common), but f2.8 is not a standard aperture for that sort of lens – most are f4-5.6 or thereabouts. You occasionally see something faster – the Fujinon 18-55mm f2.8-4 is perhaps the best-known recent example, but Nikon made an 18-70mm f3.3-4.5 (or was it f3.5-4.5?). early in the DSLR era. Both of those are significantly better lenses than classic kit zooms of similar focal length, and the Fujinon (which is similar in size and weight to the new Sigma) is a gem.

One notable omission is that the Sigma is NOT an image-stabilized lens. Unfortunately, very few of the E-mount cameras that can accept this lens have in-body stabilization. Sony has limited in-body stabilization to a couple of top of the line models (that actually cost more than their least expensive full-frame cameras). Oddly, this is the opposite of Sony’s full-frame strategy, where everything is stabilized. Apart from those slow-selling models, the body and lens will be an unstabilized combination. Sigma also makes an L-mount variant of this lens, but there are very few APS-C L-mount cameras at present (all Leicas, none with in-body image stabilization). If this lens is at all what I expect it to be, it will have excellent image quality, but the unstabilized body/lens combinations will limit its applications until Sony produces some more stabilized bodies (or someone releases stabilized APS-C L-mount bodies).

The other recent oddity is a full-frame 90mm f2.8 (at a time when everybody’s rushing to release f1.4 and even f1.2 lenses in that focal length range). Why f2.8? It’s a little under half the weight and a little over half the price of Sigma’s excellent 85mm f1.4 Art, itself a very compact lens for what it offers and a superb value. Assuming the image quality in the f5.6-f11 range is comparable, why would a landscape or architectural photographer want the heavier, more expensive lens when they’ll never use it wide open? The 85mm f1.4 is a clear choice for the portrait photographer who wants the shallow DOF and bokeh it offers, but the 90mm f2.8 is an interesting option for those who don’t need the speed. It’s not stabilized, but unlike the zoom, I’m not concerned about the lack of stabilization on this lens. It’s full-frame, which means that almost all of the most likely body pairings are stabilized (only a very early FE body wouldn’t be). It’s also going to see more tripod use than a very lightweight standard zoom.

Biggest lens announcement of the Fall goes to Nikon – two lenses plus a development announcement, and two of them are beyond 200mm! The two fully announced lenses are a reasonably sized 24-120mm f4 and a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6, the latter of which is the first true Z-mount long telephoto. Both carry Nikon’s S-line designation, which has typically meant absolutely superb lenses. Nikon now offers no less than four standard zooms (three of them S-line) plus a 24-200mm travel zoom for full-frame Z mount. If you can’t find something to leave on your Z-mount body from among these choices (oh, there are also four 50mm primes to choose from), you aren’t looking hard enough…

Nikon’s 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 Z (on a Z6 II)

The 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 is a very complex lens – 25 elements in 20 groups, including no less than eight ED elements (six ED plus two Super ED). I can’t recall ever seeing this many ED elements in one lens (a quick look through a bunch of lens specs that should have included most of the likely candidates showed only the ultra-exotic AF-S Nikkor 180-400 F4E TC1.4 FL ED), and lenses with this many elements in total are at least quite rare. S-line Nikkors have tended toward the complex, and nobody can argue with the results. I haven’t seen one in person yet, more when I get to play with it, but an important step for Nikon, whose real weakness has been above 200mm.

The final Nikon announcement was a pre-announcement of a 400mm f2.8 Z-mount lens with a built-in 1.4x teleconverter. This will be a stunningly sharp, stunningly expensive lens. The DSLR equivalent sells for $11,196, and it’s often backordered even though it was announced in 2014. The addition of the built-in teleconverter (a first for a 400mm prime) is likely to raise the price still farther. How good will it be? My guess is that “ the best still camera lens in the world” isn’t far off. The big telephotos are cost is (nearly) no object examples of the lensmaker’s art, and whomever has updated one most recently tends to eclipse the others’ few-year-old lenses, at least by a little bit. Nikon will sell all they can make (not very many), for whatever they care to charge (will they keep it under $15,000?) to happy sports and wildlife photographers.

Nikon’s family portrait – check out the shadowy characters in the back. Two of them are a 200-600mm that looks a lot like the Sony (hopefully internal zoom like the Sony) and a garden-variety 600mm f4. What’s that very compact 400? And the 800?

Perhaps more exciting to many of us than the ultra-exotic 400mm f2.8 are two lenses that snuck on to the “family portrait” of Z-mount lenses. They show up as silhouettes, so we know nothing about them (aperture, technology, etc.). One is a shockingly compact 400mm lens about the size of a 70-200mm f2.8 with a flare for the front element and a relatively narrow barrel. Now, that could just be a 400mm f5.6 – but why the flare, and why bother making a lens that is just like the long end of a similarly sized zoom? Yes, it could be sharper than the zoom, but why bother with a 25-element zoom with eight ED elements if it’s not going to be sharp at the long end? My best guess is that we’re looking at something more exotic – something like a 400mm f4.5 PF? It could even be a 400mm f4 PF, but that would be absolutely tiny for a lens that needs a 100mm front element according to the laws of physics… Yes, there’s a flare, but that much of a flare? The other silhouette is an 800mm lens that looks awfully small, again with a flared front. A little shorter than the 400mm f2.8, much skinnier. Looks a little longer and skinnier than the 200-600mm silhouette – about the same bulk? Could it be an 800mm PF? f5.6? f6.3? Expect to pay a pretty penny for this one!


This can’t be a medium format zoom! Surely, it’s full-frame? Nope – it’s the little 35- 70mm GF.

Surely, it’s full-frame? Nope – it’s the little 35-70mm GF. The biggest announcements in Fujifilm’s fall lens rollout were mostly pre-announcements of products that will come out next year (or even in 2023). The most interesting of the “available quickly” products is a GFX lens – the little GF 35-70mm f4.5-5.6. It’s a slow kit zoom (but remember that it’s about half a stop faster than it looks from a DOF perspective, because of the big sensor), but it’s a slow MEDIUM FORMAT kit zoom that weighs less than a pound. Medium format zooms are uniformly big and heavy – except this one… Even the relatively compact Fujifilm 32-64mm f4 is the size of a full-frame 24-70mm f2.8. This little lens is a bit smaller than the very compact Nikon 24-70mm f4 Z lens, and it’s about 20% lighter than the Nikkor, too. No, it’s not as fast as the Nikkor (even considering the sensor size difference), and yes, it loses a bit of zoom range on each end. Still, we’ve never seen a medium format zoom that looks like this (and it’s weather sealed, autofocus and has a metal mount). I haven’t seen one in person, but will be VERY interested to see how the image quality holds up to the excellent 32-64mm f4. It’s a much simpler lens than the 32-64mm, with 11 elements in 9 groups (1 aspheric plus 2 ED) instead of 14 in 11 with 3 aspherics, 1 Super ED and 1 ED). It’s half the size and half the price of the 32-64mm (and available REALLY cheaply bundled with the GFX 50s mk II). It can’t be as good as the 32-64mm, can it???

The two remaining lens introductions are both redesigns of existing X System APS-C lenses. One is identical in focal length and aperture to the older lens (the 23mm f1.4), although it’s an entirely new optical design with four more elements. The older lens featured one aspherical element, while the new one adds a second aspheric and three ED elements. It also adds some important mechanical features, with weather sealing and a much faster linear focusing motor. The second new lens has similar, but not identical base specifications to its predecessor – it’s a 33mm f1.4, while the older lens was a 35mm f1.4. The optical design is nothing alike – 15 elements in 10 groups instead of 8 in 6. Again, the older lens had a single aspherical element while the newer one has two aspherics and three ED elements. Just like the 23mm, the 33mm adds a linear motor and weather resistance to the package.

The new 33mm f1.4 XF – no, it’s not a tiny lens like the original 35mm f1.4.

Notably, while the new 23mm is only a little bulkier and heavier than the old one (about 20% heavier), the old 35mm (a traditional double-Gauss design with a few modifications) is a tiny lens. The new 33mm f1.4 is around twice the weight of the original lens… This is almost always true when you compare a 6-8 element lens to its 12-15 element successor (look at a typical 50mm DSLR lens versus something like the 50mm f1.8 Z Nikkor, a Sigma Art lens or a Sony G-Master – the new, much more complex lens is optically far superior, but it’s also larger), but worth noting. You gain weather sealing, a far better AF motor and almost certainly a lot of optical performance with the 33mm, but it’s no longer a tiny lens. If you want a tiny 35mm from Fujifilm, there’s the 35mm f2 “Fujicron” – you lose a stop, but it has weather sealing and relatively modern AF. The older 23 and 35mm lenses remain in the lineup for now, and the old 35mm is a beloved lens that may stay around. I’ve never used it, but many people who have love the character of its images.

The more exciting Fujifilm announcements for many of us are going to be the pre-announcements… A 20-35 mm lens for the GFX allows medium format to get wider than it ever has before, and offers the first truly wide medium format zoom.. A tilt-shift lens of unknown focal length (probably wider than normal), also for GFX, goes farther into view camera territory. It’s also the only first-party tilt-shift lens in ANY mirrorless mount, and the only way so far to combine tilt-shift and image stabilization without an adapter. A 55mm f1.7 is the latest addition to Fujifilm’s growing line of very fast medium-format lenses. With the sensor size figured in, the f1.7 lenses are equivalent to roughly f1.3 lenses on full-frame, and the 110mm f2 is equivalent to something like f1.6. These are some of the fastest medium format lenses ever made, and are likely to figure prominently in portrait photographers’ optical dreams

An upcoming 150-600mm lens for the X System will be the longest effective first-party lens (on its intended sensor size) in series production, with a full-frame equivalent focal length of 900mm at full telephoto. Yes, the Canon 1200mm f5.6 is longer, but that’s not really a production lens. The longest series-production full-frame lenses are 800mm optics – Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses at f5.6, plus Canon’s 800mm f11 mirrorless lens. Any full-frame zoom ending at 600mm (or a 600mm f4) on an APS-C body will have the same effective focal length, but will not be an optimized lens for APS-C. This matters less on the longer end, because telephotos tend to cover larger sensor sizes naturally. The new Fujifilm 150-600mm will probably be close in size to something like the Sony 200-600mm f5.6—6.3, assuming similar apertures. It may perform somewhat better on an APS-C sensor, because Fujifilm will be able to adjust the baffles specifically for APS-C, while the Sony is really a full-frame lens, with performance optimized for the larger sensor. Hopefully, it’ll be priced something like the Sony lens, rather than the very expensive Olympus 150-450mm f4.5 (which also reaches 900mm equivalent focal length, but is held back by the Same Old Sensor (at least so far).

Will we see more lenses from Sony this year? They have a fairly complete lineup now, and the most likely options are either exotics (fisheye? Tilt-shift? 800mm?) or replacements for existing lenses. Their most recent announcement is a replacement for the venerable 70-200mm f2.8 – a bread and butter lens, and one that was due for an update. Sony’s line has gotten extensive enough that I’d expect at least as many replacements as new lenses going forward – there’s simply not that much left to announce for the first time. There is one exotic that is noticeably less exotic than the other possibilities – a 300mm f2.8 to join the existing (and excellent) 400mm f2.8 and 600mm f4. There are a number of older lenses that could use replacement, including the original two standard zooms (24-70mm f4 “Zeiss” and 28-70mm f3.5-5.6), neither of which perform up to the standards of modern mirrorless lenses. Beating Fujifilm to market with a tilt-shift lens would also be a victory for Sony.

We are nearly certain to see some additional third-party lenses before the end of the year. Tamron and/or Tokina might still have something left to announce this year. I don’t even try to keep track of low-end manual focus lenses from the likes of 7Artisans, Samyang/Rokinon and friends. I generally won’t mention any manual focus lens unless it either comes from a first-party camera manufacturer (other than Leica, it’s probably a tilt-shift lens), is of extraordinary quality (Zeiss Otus!), or is really exotic in some way (greater than 1:1 macro, faster than f1.0, etc.).

LG’s $4000 32” OLED Pro monitor

We might see a monitor or two, with the most interesting possibility being a color-accurate OLED from the likes of EIZO or NEC. We have now seen a couple of OLED monitors aimed at photographers “released”, but none from a really top-tier maker and the first to arrive, the LG OLED Pro, is just hitting the market – a few retailers claim stock, but no photography-centric magazine or website has seen one yet, other than a short video from B&H… I wonder about getting a review sample?

I don’t expect a major printer, although a Canon Pro-1000 replacement is a possibility – that printer is over 5 years old. The problem with a Pro-1000 replacement is what inkset to use. If it keeps the existing inks, it would be a relatively minor, usability-focused update that is overdue enough to disappoint a lot of users (the roll printers got such an update a couple of years ago). If it gets a new inkset, the Pro-1000 replacement will be on newer inks than Canon’s big roll printers. The third possibility, of course, is to replace the whole upper-end Pro line, from the 1000 to the 6100, with a next-generation inkset. A photo line update using some of the technology from their GP graphic arts printers to stretch the gamut while adding light colors back in to allow more subtle gradations is probably due sometime in the next couple years, but I’d be a little surprised to see it in the next few months. Did Canon lose their opportunity to give the Pro-1000 a “midlife kicker” when they did the roll printers a couple of years ago?

There are two printers I’d love to see, and I’ve mentioned both to contacts at Epson as “wouldn’t this be nice”, although I have no information that such machines are coming, and I certainly don’t expect them soon. The first is a really photo-oriented dye-based EcoTank printer (or a Canon equivalent), something above the ET-8550 with a couple more inks. The ET-8550 is an impressive little printer, perfect for newcomers to serious printing. If it had more inks (either light colors or a “kicker” color or two – I’ll leave that up to people who actually design printers), it could approach the gamut of 10-color pigment printers while keeping the extraordinarily low running costs of the ET-8550. It wouldn’t be fully archival, but what a learning machine… Make it sturdy enough to survive high schools and it brings the joy of printing back to photography classes.

The second is a physically smaller 24” (or even 44”) printer. Why not build a wide-format printer on a grown-up version of a P900 chassis, instead of a giant graphic arts chassis? HP actually made a couple of dye-based 6-color photo printers like this a decade or more ago, and Epson makes some four-color printers on a much more compact 24” chassis. Lose the 700 ml ink cartridges – most photographers will never use anything bigger than 150 ml carts before they expire (maybe 200-300 ml on a 44” printer). Lose the incredible speed – this is for photographers’ studios, not print shops. If it takes half an hour to make a print, that’s fine.

Keep the 12 inks, maybe even add an extra gray and a gloss/chroma optimizer. An ideal ink set might be something like: two cyans, two magentas, yellow, photo and matte black plus three additional grays, red, green and blue (in Canon-speak – or orange, green and violet in Epsonish). That’s 13 inks – add gloss/chroma optimizer for 14 to get an even number of channels. Nobody’s put all of those in one printer, although none are uncommon – the Epson P10000 and P20000 use three grays plus the two blacks, and they get very smooth gray transitions out of it. With smaller carts and modest speed, such a printer could be under 100 lbs at 24” and well under 200 lbs at 44”, and it could fit much more neatly against the wall than today’s behemoths. Even if it was similar in cost to the much faster graphic arts machines, I think a lot of photographers would take the tradeoff of a smaller, easier to handle machine over a speedy hulking giant.

It’s raw converter season again – Adobe always introduces a major update to Lightroom (cloud) and Lightroom Classic at Adobe Max, and the others tend to follow suit around the same time. One of the most important things to watch for this year is improvements in masking and local control. DxO holds the lead here with their UPoint technology, which is one of the major reasons I’ve used PhotoLab for most images for years, but Adobe and several others are promising important improvements. Adobe seems to have brought Photoshop’s masking to Lightroom Classic, which should be a major improvement over the notoriously poor local control in previous Lightroom versions. I’ve only had the latest Lightroom Classic for a matter of days, and haven’t had a chance to use the new masking, but it looks like it will be a big deal – their latest auto-masking in Photoshop is excellent. Not to be outdone, DxO has substantially improved UPoint and added a line masking feature in the brand-new PhotoLab 5.

We should also be looking for how different converters use AI – some of the more conservative applications have been using AI to improve manually controlled features (DxO’s DeepPrime noise reduction is an excellent example), while software like Luminar has been using AI in more of a cellphone/computational photography style, making automatic adjustments. This isn’t cut and dry – mostly manual software has some automated features, and highly automated software has manual tweaks available. My preference is for software that offers more control, but the highly automated programs may appeal to other users.

Apple Silicon is a REALLY important development for Mac users – and means more than you’d think to PC users.

Another important question, especially for Mac users, is “what’s going to run native on Apple Silicon”. Even PC users should pay attention, because ARM-based Windows may become much more common in the next few years, and an app with an ARM Mac version is easier to port to Windows on ARM. Almost all software should at least run on Apple Silicon by now, whether it is native or Rosetta 2. The exception is unmaintained software and especially drivers for older hardware – be careful of older scanners (including most film scanners, which have been losing support for years). Some Rosetta applications are actually excellent performers on Apple Silicon Macs, although native applications will always have an advantage. We’re probably a few years from most photographers using Apple Silicon Macs, because the right Macs for serious photography are either brand new (see These ARE the Macs you’re looking for and hopefully an upcoming full review) or not out yet, and it’ll take several years to see the installed base turn over.

Any application that goes Apple Silicon native will also be very easy to port to the iPad if the maker wishes. It’s really a matter of swapping out some user interface code. Conversely, it’s no longer as easy to maintain Mac and PC versions, since they become very different hardware. We should see some new iPad raw converters, which will be great additions on the M1 iPad Pros, while we might see some smaller cross-platform converters that have almost all of their market share on one platform drop support for their smaller platform.

Another thing I’ll be watching is how features develop between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. Lightroom CC improves quite a bit every year, but is still not anything I’d call a full-featured converter (it doesn’t have a Print command, even after Adobe Max 2021). Lightroom CC did get the fancy new masking inherited from Photoshop, but every other feature that was added is either auto-editing (AI-based preset selection) or part of Adobe’s internal social media ecosystem (social editing features ). Opinions will differ, but neither of the above excite me – I want a print command…

Lightroom Classic got a significant upgrade last year after a few years of languishing with only minor tweaks, and is now Apple Silicon native. My best guess is that this is a “New Coke” situation – Adobe may have originally been planning to discontinue Lightroom Classic, but their user base wasn’t as interested in Lightroom CC as they hoped. Will they relent and release an iPad version of Classic? It would be easy to do, and would run well on the M1 iPad Pro. Or will they improve Lightroom CC to the point where it can handle most photographic tasks?

Pending the results of the upcoming Reader Survey, eligibility for a review on The Luminous Landscape will remain limited to cross-platform software (Mac and PC at a minimum, an iPad version adds interest). If we find out that a large majority of our readers are on the Mac, I may be more willing to look at Mac-only applications (I’m personally a Mac user). If I find out that a large majority are PC users, I’ll try hard to get a long-term review PC so I can look at PC-only applications. If (as I suspect), our readership is somewhere between 60/40 Mac and 60/40 PC, the cross-platform policy will continue to be a good filter, as software is a category where I get FAR more review requests than I can possibly handle.

I’ll be updating our big raw converter shootout from a couple of years ago this winter, once I can get ahold of Capture One 22, and hopefully have an Apple Silicon Mac in for review – I’ve asked Apple for a sample of the new M1 Max MacBook Pro. If there is enough interest on the survey, I’ll also try and scrape up a PC or two.

Dan Wells

November 2021

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Dan Wells, "Shuttterbug" on the trail, is a landscape photographer, long-distance hiker and student in the Master of Divinity program at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, MA when not in wild places photographing and contemplating our connection to the natural world. Dan's images try to capture the spirit he finds in places where, in the worlds of the Wilderness Act of 1964, "Man himself is but a visitor". He has hiked 230 miles of Vermont's Long Trail and 450 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with his cameras, as well as photographing in numerous National Parks, Seashores and Forests over the years - often in the offseason when few people think to be there. In the summer of 2020, Dan plans to hike a stretch of hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, focusing on his own and others' spiritual connection to these special places, and making images that document these connections. Over years of personal work and teaching photography, Dan has used a variety of equipment (presently Nikon Z7 and Fujifilm APS-C). He is looking for the perfect combination of light weight, ruggedness and superb image quality.

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