The not-so-hyper Hyperdrive

I don’t write a lot of negative reviews—if something doesn’t work for me then I refrain from mentioning it altogether, because I’d much rather highlight gear I use and enjoy. Positive energy and all that. Not today.

There was quite a bit of online hoopla in the past couple of months about the Hyperdrive, a USB-C hub from a company called Sanho (which already specializes in hubs of all kinds). It was hailed as the first one specifically designed for the new 2018 iPad Pro, adding multiport capabilities to the device: HDMI, USB-A, SD, MicroSD and USB-C PD. The “PD” stands for “power delivery”, meaning the port could be used to charge the iPad, essentially providing a pass through for the charger. At least that’s what the company led backers to believe. Yes, backers—because part of the hoopla came from the Kickstarter campaign Sanho launched to fund this product. I’m very leery of crowdfunding, especially when it involves established companies simply launching another similar gadget to their line. In this case however, I decided to jump in out of pure necessity: there was nothing else out there to fill my needs.

I won’t get into all the details of the process but let’s just say there were hiccups along the way: the January promise turned into a February promise, the shipping went through a much cheaper company than what was initially advertised in the brief, communications were few and far between...and although many still haven’t even received a shipping notice, the product did reach me on Monday.

***”Requires at least 30W. The included 18W charger isn’t sufficient and will not charge the device.” There, I fixed it for them. 

***”Requires at least 30W. The included 18W charger isn’t sufficient and will not charge the device.” There, I fixed it for them. 

So far, all the ports work the way they should —which is good news considering others haven’t been so lucky apparently, hinting at quality control issues. It all works, except for this bold and explicit claim: “Simultaneously connect HDMI, USB-C, microSD, SD, USB-A and 3.5mm audio . All while charging at full speed through HyperDrive.” Emphasis mine btw.

The point of this hub is to keep it plugged-in. But within 10 minutes I noticed my iPad’s power was draining. The charger was connected, the light was on, no other ports were in use and I was just writing and browsing. Nothing power intensive. And yet the battery percentage kept falling. Not only was the iPad NOT “charging at full speed”...it was losing its charge. I thought I might have a defective unit so I quickly headed to the comment section of the campaign—only to realize everyone who’d received the hub was facing the same issue.

Sanho first responded by saying they were investigating; then they simply said the included 18W charger wasn't powerful enough for the Hyperdrive and that this was “a known fact”. So much for investigating. When I personally pressed them on the issue they finally admitted that their statement was “ambiguous” and that they “should’ve pointed out that fact with the above statement”. I don’t think it was ambiguous at all...misleading seems more appropriate.

Now here’s my problem and the point of this post: for one thing, how stupid of them. They obviously knew about this but chose not to mention it AND to boast about capabilities that actually required additional gear. Had I known about it beforehand I likely would’ve accepted the fact without batting an eye. I would’ve made a much more informed purchasing decision and appreciated their honesty. But much more importantly: despite their meager mea culpa, several days later THEY HAVE NOT ADDED OR CHANGED A SINGLE WORD IN THAT STATEMENT. Obviously the argument could be made that the Kickstarter campaign is over, so there’s no point anymore. But Sanho is now running a pre-order campaign though Indiegogo and guess what? Yes indeed: same tag line, same promise, same marketing spin. I call it willful deception at this point and it’s incredibly jarring to witness first hand. I can’t even begin to understand how a supposedly established brand can act this way. Hopefully it comes back to bite them in the you-know-what. Hopefully this helps get the word out.

For what it’s worth the hub does in fact charge correctly with the 30W MacBook Pro charger I borrowed from Cynthia; some users have reported continuing problems but I haven’t seen any on my end.

As far as I’m concerned however: Sanho Corporation will never see another single dime.

Friday stuff: new Capture One, new GFX...

That’s our son modeling for me. Yes, the kiddo is getting older. 

It’s an exciting week, with the launch of two products I had the opportunity to test beforehand: the GFX 50R—which is now finally available in stores— and a brand new, shiny version of Capture One Pro with their release of version 12.

I’ll be sharing about Capture One more and more on the blog...because it’s my main workhorse now, but also because using it no longer implies any sort of dark arts maneuvers (i.e GFX support). But for the time being, I’ve written a first look that’s available on the Fujifilm-X website if you’re interested.

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As to the GFX 50R: I previously published a few posts, back when it was announced in September. But because I was in Germany at the time and these had all been scheduled before the camera’s official launch date, I didn’t yet have a link to the promo video we had shot for the camera. And being who I am...I simply forgot to write about it. I’m actually quite proud of the results so I figured I’d remedy the situation today—given the camera’s real launch.

Shooting the promo was part of the overall GFX 50R project—along with capturing images that would potentially be used as promotional material by Fujifilm Japan. If you’ve seen the brochure you may have noticed a double spread in there with my name on it. Kinda stoked about that one. But the most thrilling part was the creative license we were given: we weren’t told what to do or how to do it. We knew the concept of the campaign was to revolve around the word precious...and we simply did our own take on this.

I worked very closely with Fujifilm Canada’s Francis Bellefeuille: he shot the images but also edited and graded the movie. Talented fella. I wrote the words and music, did the sound design and mixing. I shot a few stills here and there as well ;)

We filmed over two days—including splashing around in that not-so-warm swimming pool for way too long. Then it all pretty much came together over a weekend while the family was away: I was sending music mixes and images, Francis was sending back edits...we tweaked and prodded until we were both satisfied. The magic of the Internet.

Then I had a beer. Ok, ok...I had TWO.
Sheesh. Video below.
Have a great weekend.

A New Brush | GFX 50R 65:24

First off: what a privilege this has been over the past couple of months. When the GFX 50S was announced at Photokina in 2016, I never thought I’be one of the lucky few to test another medium format camera less than two years later. And yet, here we are.

I won’t be doing a technical review for several reasons: I was shooting a pre-production unit with beta firmware; my friends Kevin and Jonas will do a much better job than I ever could; I’m less and less interested in talking about specs. But I will say this: I’ve grown to love my GFX 50S, as I’ve previously written about. I’ve come to appreciate the insane attention to detail of its design, where every single button, port and door is exactly where it should be. Any new camera involves a period of adjustment, but my initial reaction to the GFX 50R was actually one of puzzlement; and for several days I found myself almost fighting against the camera. Some of this was due to bugs and not-yet-working features, but I eventually figured out the real problem: I was still shooting the GFX 50S. I was expecting a right-brain camera because in my mind, medium format was about work, first and foremost.

The GFX 50R isn’t about work. This is medium-format for poetry.
It’s not perfect—I probably would’ve done a few things differently, in terms of layout for instance. But we’re suddenly having a very different sort of philosophical conversation.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to finally be able to share some of these images. I’ve chosen to again share a series of visual stories/essays (as I’d done with a few other models), all shot with the pre-production camera I was provided with and various GF lenses.

I’m writing these words on the eve of leaving for Belgium, before we head to Photokina. Which means nothing has been announced yet and I have no links to share. It also means I’m about to give back the camera. All good things have to end. The shots below aren’t official product images btw: just quick, gratuitous visual gear porn for my own benefit. Figured some of you might enjoy them as well ;)

Huge thanks to everyone at Fujifilm for this incredible opportunity.


Shot with the GFX 50S and GF 120mm f4 OIS R WR


​Data Bracelets

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In September 2016 I wrote the following about the state of physical media:

“It's crazy how much our reality has changed over the last few years: faster internet connections, higher or even unlimited data caps (at least in Canada) combined with most of our lives moving to the digital realm...all these factors have contributed to less and less reliance on physical media. In fact I have trouble remembering when I sent files to a client through anything other than WeTransfer, Mail Drop, Box or similar services.”

The paragraph was part of a post entitled Like Candy—and I was writing about personalized USB flash drives I’d received from a US-based company called USB Memory Direct. If anything the situation has intensified since then: last week I sent almost 30GB of raw images though WeTransfer Plus for the last job I shot. The idea of using a physical drive, wrapping it up, sending it to another country through postal or courrier services, waiting for the package to reach its destination on time, hoping nothing goes wrong along the way...none of it makes sense at this point. So while I still love those walnut flash drives from 2016, when the company reached out again a couple of months ago my first instinct was to thank them, but ultimately let them know I didn’t actually need anything. I’ll never feel right about accepting products I don’t intent to use.

But then I noticed the wrist drives...

I’ve always worn bracelets—leather, metal...leather AND metal...whatever. I also own an Apple Watch. All of this to say I’m basically used to wearing stuff on my wrists. So when I saw the USB Wristbands on the company’s website I thought huh...that might be fun. The drives come in either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, with capacities ranging from 64MB to 128GB, depending on the speed you choose. The material is described as soft rubberized plastic, which feels pretty close to the fluoroelastomer Apple uses on its Apple Watch Sports band. There’s no clasp: the USB connector just slips into the opposite end of the wristband. Tough to do the first time around but you get the hang of it after awhile. And once they’re in they hold tight—I’ve had no issues at all with the wristband loosening up and coming apart.

I decided to keep things simple and go with white, but there’s a variety of colours to choose from. And of course, like all of the company’s products, these can be personalized with logo, text or whatever else strikes your fancy (I added a tag line to mine). The process is absolutely painless too: I downloaded the specs from the website, sent in a PNG and received a proof in less than an hour. Then right before shipping they sent me a picture of the actual product, just to confirm we were good to go. Class act.

I intend to keep one of these for myself and use the others for giveaways. With 8GB I’ll probably include the 1EYE series along with a PDF or ePub portfolio. Heck, maybe These Kings while I’m at it. Now, as to the question on everyone’s mind: yes, it IS a little weird to wear something with your name on it...but fortunately, it’s pretty discreet ;)

Many thanks to Taylor for making this possible. You can find more info about the product at USBMemoryDirect.com.

Machine to Companion: One year with the GFX 50S

Ever since my very first X100, I’ve made distinctions between cameras. Some quickly become a part of me, not just extensions—a threshold most fine tools eventually cross—but something more intimate. Others I consider machines, precise instruments that don’t necessarily pull at my heartstrings but are perfectly suited to the work I need to do. The X-T1 was like that. The X-Pro1 was too...at first. Because sometimes, somewhere along the way, that relationship can change.

I purchased the GFX 50S as a tool. A machine. And over the course of the past year I’ve used it constantly on various jobs, often alongside X series cameras. But just like the X-Pro1 all those years ago...it’s become more than it initially was.

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The pull of medium format

Everything I’ve ever said about the X series remains true to this day. I still love the footprint, the stealth, the psychological impact of these cameras on subjects—either aware or unaware of a shot being taken. I’ll never travel with the GFX 50S and it’ll never become my 1EYE camera. But those files...they’re incredibly hard to dismiss. After all this time I’m still struggling to express the pull they have over me, but it remains impossible to brush off: I get a visceral reaction to the images I shoot with it. If the role of our tools is to inspire, then the goal of this camera has been met, tenfold. No question. The result of course, is that I’ve been willing to compromise on stealth: I’ll now reach for the GFX in situations where I usually would’ve chosen an X-Pro or X100. Which may seem like a serious  shift...until you factor in the beat.

Rhythms

The GFX 50S isn’t slow—especially for a medium-format camera. But it IS slower than its APS-C siblings. It uses contrast detection, for one. The files are also much larger which, regardless of storage prices, is definitely something floating in the back of my mind as I’m shooting; in raw especially. All of this, combined with the camera itself, affects the rhythm somehow. But this is not a negative in my mind. In many ways it brings me back to my early days with the X series, the way the system made me much more aware of each moment, more deliberate in my approach to photography. It’s amazing how much evolution we’ve seen in such a short period of time—how far we’ve come from that X100. But it’s also easy to fall back into that “performance-driven” groove, to forget about slowing down when the cameras don’t force us to do so. Medium-format photography nudges me back into that softer flow. Yes, the footprint is larger...but the intent is familiar. For me, the lineage is clear and very much welcome.

 

Another detail I’ve mentioned in passing a couple of times: the addition of the EVF Tilt-Adapter, which was an important turning point in my relationship with the GFX. This is the small revolving plate that fits between the camera and the —brilliantly designed—removable viewfinder. I first used it on the shoot we did in Toronto for the Lexus+GFX video. Before this I’d only spent a few minutes with it and never while actually working. This small change—being able to look down into the viewfinder for instance—suddenly transformed the camera into a very different tool. Different from my other cameras that is. It gave me a new point of view and ADDED an element to my photography workflow, beyond the bigger sensor. Needless to say it’s stayed glued to the GFX ever since. The only times I remove it is for packing.

Expansion

Ok, enter the rabbit hole. With this camera taking on an ever increasing role in my work, I’ve looked at expanding my visual options. So the initial GF 63mm f2.8 has since been joined by the GF 120mm f/4 Macro, a Pentax 50mm f/1.7 (through a Fotodiox adapter), and recently the superb GF 110mm f/2.

Family picture

Family picture

The 120 and 110 may seem redundant—they are. I first chose the 120 for its macro abilities on this system which, physics being inescapable, is much less accommodating in terms of minimal focusing distance. And I’m glad I did. It’s both superb and handy. But I now believe the 110 is (so far) the GF line’s magic lens ...much like the 56 f/1.2 or 35 f/1.4 on the X series. Don’t ask me to explain why, I just feel it. Yes, shallow DOF but more importantly character, imprint...something.

What I’m “missing” in this system is a super-wide zoom along the lines of the XF 10-24mm. But I’m using quotation marks because...I do have the XF 10-24mm don’t I? I know. I told you this was a rabbit hole.

Fun with the electronic shutter...

Fun with the electronic shutter...

Conclusion

A few years ago I spoke of the possibility of a medium-format camera as a companion to the X series—how, in my mind at least, there was a logic to using both systems in tandem. A philosophical kinship if you will. Today I know this to be absolutely true: apart from a size and ergonomic shock when shooting systems side by side (which will be less obvious once the X-H1 arrives), both make sense as a pair. Both complete one another.

Now in some cases, I admit, the GFX 50S has added a layer of uncertainty—I need to think for a second or two before choosing which camera to pick up. But then, every new piece of gear usually has a similar effect, taking away from simplicity. It’s called the paradox of choice and, well...such is life. I consider myself very lucky to even have these choices.

And man, one year in...I don’t regret a single moment.
I've found the soul in the machine.