Moravian Tuscany with Fujifilm XF 100-400mm

Moravian Tuscany is a region in the southern Moravia, part of the Czech Republic. It actually is a part of Moravské Slovácko, but the term Tuscany is used by photographers for the small region west of town Kyjov, since its landscape resembles that of Tuscany. Some locals don’t like this term, as we learned from a farmer who was taking care of his vineyard, while tens of photographers were composing very similar images of the St. Barbara chapel nearby. Yes, the region became very popular with photographers in recent years!

My wife arranged this trip for me as a birthday present and included was a rented Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4,5-5,6 R LM OIS! This lens doesn’t fit well with the ultralight aspect of photography presented on this website, it’s huge and weights 1375g, but for this particular trip it was a great choice, as there wasn’t any intensive hiking involved, actually many locations are easily accessible by a car. And, what’s even more important, the region is well known as a telephoto location, the longer lens, the better separation of the beautiful details in the landscape. You can find some nice photographs made with shorter focal lengths, but most of them are made with pretty long focal lengths.

Which focal lengths are actually needed there? I made a small statistics of my ‘keepers’ from the area and found that about 25% of images could have been created using Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8, additional 20% needed at least a bit longer Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 and the rest (more than 50%) needed either some cropping or preferably, for the ultimate image quality, the XF 100-400mm.

PERFORMANCE

So how did the 100-400mm actually perform in the field? Handling was a bit different than other Fujinon lenses I’ve used so far — it’s much heavier. I didn’t use it handheld, it was always mounted on a tripod and this setup worked very well. The tripod collar held the lens safely and I enjoyed the ability to easily switch between landscape and portrait orientation. Normally, this is also pretty easy with the L-bracket mounted on my X-T2, but the tripod collar offers even easier and faster operation.

XF 100-400 offers plenty of sharpness, even on the longer end, particularly when stopped down. And, since I always had it in the f/8-f/11 range, I haven’t observed any softness. Even though most areas are in-focus in the photographs I made, there can be observed a pleasant bokeh in the foreground of some photos.

I even appreciated the image stabilization offered by the lens. There was quite a strong wind the first afternoon and it was impossible to get sharp photos with such a long lens without image stabilization, even on a quite sturdy tripod. However, thanks to the OIS, I was able to overcome the problem and got some photos I was very happy with.

CONCLUSION

I can whole-hearty recommend the Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4,5-5,6 R LM OIS to anyone who would appreciate its longer reach! Will I buy it? No, at least not now. I prefer my ultralight approach to photography and this lens doesn’t fit in it. Then, it also isn’t cheap and if I need some telephoto action, I’m usually more than happy with the Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8. However, should I need it in the future, maybe when I return to Africa, I’d definitely either buy it or rent it.

Would you also like to visit the Moravian Tuscany? Well, if you like telephoto landscape photography, this is definitely the place to come (with other well know alternatives being either Tuscany or Palouse). Be warned though, that the area isn’t large and is already quite famous among photographers. So, I’d definitely try to avoid weekends, particularly in the prime time in Spring and Autumn. Otherwise you’ll have to share the best spots with quite a few other photographers.

Note that if you don’t use Fujifilm APS-C cameras, the sensor of all X-series has 1.5 crop factor, so you have to multiply all the focal lengths listed here by 1.5 in order to get full frame equivalents. You might be also interested in my Fujifilm landscape lenses guide.

Follows a small gallery of the images taken during a spring weekend spent in the southern Moravia:

 

Battery test update

I updated the Fuji battery test with 5 more brands, which results in a very thorough test of 13 distinct types of NP-W126S compatible batteries! Some of them show pretty good performance, similar to the Fuji’s original batteries. The new brands are Watson, Wasabi, Green Extreme, Jupio and Baxxtar Red. Also structure of the test was slightly updated, presentation of results should be easier to read now. Enjoy!

More batteries tested soon!

I haven’t posted anything for a while, but there’s a huge update of the NP-W126 battery test coming. Not only the content will be restructured, but there will be 5 new brands tested! These brands are Watson, Wasabi, Green Extreme, Baxxtar and Jupio. Stay tuned!

On safety of third party NP-W126S batteries

I have already done quite a bit of measurements of several NP-W126S batteries, either originals or 3rd party clones in my big test. However, I haven’t gone beyond the + and – connectors, while the batteries have 4 in total. It’s about time to correct this omission today!

A bit of theory

All Li-ion batteries obviously have at least two connectors: + and -. Some of them feature more than these two though, as is the case of NP-W126S, where also Ⓣ and Ⓢ are present. What are they for? Generally speaking, other connectors give more information about the battery, its temperature, charging state, capacity and possibly even other more detailed information. They can be provided as an analog value (usually measured as a resistance between the connector and the ground (-) connector) or as a digital value in case the battery employs a circuit called Battery Fuel Gauge, which is actually a small computer itself.

The provided values can be used by device to better handle the battery. Particularly during charging, it’s good to know battery temperature and in case there’s anything wrong and the temperature increases too much, charging can be terminated in order to prevent problems. And we are talking about some pretty serious problems in case of Li-ion batteries, including explosion or fire.

I haven’t found any documentation about NP-W126S connectors and so I tried to find out myself what are they used for.

The Ⓣ connector

This one isn’t hard to decode, as the T usually stands for Thermistor, a special type of a resistor, which resistance changes with temperature. In case of NP-W126S it means that the resistance is about 10kΩ when the battery has roughly room temperature (20°C) and the resistance decreases as the temperature rises. It’s enough the hold the battery in hand for a while and the resistance drops to 9 or even 8kΩ.

Both the older original NP-W126 and the newer NP-W126S have this connector with the same functionality. A bit disturbing fact is that none of the 3rd party batteries that I own has the thermistor properly implemented. They only have a fixed 10kΩ resistor, which means that the connected device doesn’t have any information about the internal battery temperature!

I’d like to know, whether there’s any 3rd party battery with a proper thermistor. If you own a battery that isn’t present in my test and have a multimeter to measure the resistance, please let me know your results in the comments below. Thanks!

The Ⓢ connector

The S usually means Size, Status or System indicator, but what it does in case of Fujifilm batteries? I’m not sure. The resistance is 98kΩ for the older NP-W126 and all the 3rd party batteries, while the newer NP-W126S has 680kΩ. So, there’s definitely a way how to distinguish the ‘S’ battery version, but I’m not sure whether the connector doesn’t also feature some digital interface provided by an internal Batter Fuel Gauge. To be investigated in the future.

Connectors usage in Chargers

The original Fujifilm BC-W126 charger supports all 4 connectors. As I tested, the Thermistor connector is used — when it’s disconnected, the charger stops charging. On the contrary, all the other 3rd party chargers I know only provide + and – and so the battery temperature isn’t measured at all. So, if you want to play it safe, use the original charger.

X-T2 connectors usage

While older Fujifilm X system cameras, like X-T1, only have the + and – connectors, the newer X-T2 features all 4 connectors provided by the NP-W126S. So, obviously it could use them to measure battery temperature and shut off as soon as the battery starts overheating. Or, they possibly could provide more accurate battery state of charge. Or, after a firmware update, X-T2 could even reject non-original batteries (just a speculation, of course).

Are these contact actually used? I don’t know. The camera normally works even when I covered the two additional contacts by a tape. So, possibly they aren’t used yet, but are ready there for some future use.

What does it all mean?

So are actually the original batteries safer than the alternatives? Apparently they are safer when charged in the original charger. The fact that none 3rd party battery has a working temperature monitoring is quite surprising and makes one wonder, whether they are safe particularly for some heavy duty usage, like 4K video or a lot of continuous shooting. On the other hand, it isn’t clear, whether any Fujifilm camera actually does measure battery temperature in order to prevent the infamous battery swelling.

I’ll post updates in case I find anything new, so please subscribe (Facebook or RSS) in order to receive news. Until then, I can recommend the original NP-W126S in case you want to be really sure or some of the recommended brands from my battery test in order to save some money.

Ultralight Lens Protection for Travel and Backpacking

Lens need to be packed somehow when travelling in order to prevent their damage. One of the often used options is to carry them in a photo backpack, which usually includes some internal compartments with padding. This definitely is a convenient way of lens, camera and other gear storage, but for my personal needs it isn’t flexible enough. Sometimes I need just a day pack for photo gear,  rain gear and some food, another time a much larger backpack for multi-day adventures. Not to mention that photo backpacks are usually rather heavy and not particularly outdoor friendly. A notable exception are Mindshift backpacks, they look like very nice outdoor photo backpacks, but I’d still miss the flexibility of individual lens packing in a backpack of my choice.

The best what I have found for a reasonable lens protection and that can also carry an ultralight tag are Neoprene pouches. They are very light, a 3mm thick neoprene offers a limited, but in most cases adequate protection and there’s an easy access through a drawstring closed top. Each of the 4 available sizes also offers a belt loop and a hook. Since I don’t need these features, I got rid of them, which made the pouches somewhat cleaner and lighter (about 10g each).

For the small lens of mirrorless systems, like Fujifilm X, just the two smallest pouch sizes cover almost all of the available lenses. The small one (originally 33g) is great for primes, like Samyang/Rokinon 12mm or Fujinon XF 23mm and medium (originally 41g) can handle the rest, like Fujinon XF 10-24mm or even telephoto lenses like Fujinon XF 55-200mm.

In case there’s anybody afraid to have all the expensive lens stored only in a thin neoprene, there are also thicker 5mm versions available, like this Kanoni with an interior lining. I haven’t had any issue with the thinner version and not even the lining colors changed my mind to purchase the thicker one. 😉