Setting up a home studio for podcasting

For a few years now I have been thinking of doing something with audio. It was Isabel Curdes on Twitter that set the right example by making audio versions of her blog posts as a trial that triggered me to actually start doing it. I want to set up a podcast / audio blog about things that interest me. There will probably not be an overarching topic other than that. 

Thinking of good topics is one thing, getting the right guests another. But I wouldn’t be me, if I did not take the technical side seriously, or wanted to bring it to a level of good production value. Below you will find a description of the gear I got and the changes to the room I made to get started, and also a list of things I might want to get in the future. 

Microphone

Every recording starts with a talent (in that case, me) in front of a microphone. Some models plug directly into your PC even, and you are set to go. The selection of models is very limited though, and with upgrades in the future in mind, I opted for a microphone with XLR connector and a separate recorder / interface. 

A good friend of mine, Michael Schuijff, lend me two of his microphones. The Rode Procaster and the Samson C03. The former is a dynamic microphone aimed at broadcast applications, which is reflected by its ‘character’, the way it ‘colors’ the sound. The latter is a multipurpose condensor microphone, which can be used in a cardioid pick-up pattern that is primarily sensitive in the front, a figure-eight pick-up pattern that is sensitive in the front and the back, but not to the sides, and an omnidirectional pattern. I also had the microphone included with the Zoom H5 recorder (spoilers!) and I bought a Rode NT-1 (2014 edition), that I could return within 30 days if I did not like it. 

I compared them all and recorded myself over and over reading the first pages of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” and H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. I then got some friends to listen to the recordings without telling them which microphone goes with what recording, in the hope they would unanimously pick one as the best sounding option. Funnily enough, they couldn’t agree on which one sounded best and all had their own favorite for varying reasons.

To my ears, the Zoom H5 sounded adequate on its own. If you don’t want to spend any more money on a dedicated microphone, this is definitely a good option to start with. The Samson C03 sounded okay, but a bit too sharp for my taste, especially with the bass roll-off enabled on microphone itself. The Rode Procaster sounded very good too, and has a more typical radio sound to it, especially if you lever the proximity effect for that added bass. As Michael put it, you can probably make them all sound very much alike if you do some equalization and multiband compression after recording.

In the end, I ended up keeping the Rode NT-1 that I bought already. It is a large diaphragm condensor microphone and has a flatter frequency response than the Procaster. This takes away the character that the Procaster gives you, but is more suitable for singing too. As I am taking singing lessons from 25 September onwards it is the more versatile choice for me. If I want to have a character similar to the Procaster, it seems easier to me to add the character of the Procaster in the recording from the NT-1, than it is to subtract it if I don’t want it. The NT-1 is very sensitive though, and picks up the sound of my computer fans easily. I may have to orient my computer differently to improve airflow, or find a more silent cooling solution.

To mount the microphone, I got the Konig & Meyer 26085 microphone stand. It has a one handed adjustment mechanism and a round base to take less floor space. At its lowest setting it is the right height for me when seated, and it is more than tall enough for me when standing up right.

Field recorder and audio interface

We need some way or recording the signal that comes from the microphone. Because I want to be able to record on location, I opted for a field recorder over a fixed audio interface. For this, I require at least two XLR inputs and phantom power, so that I can hook up two quality microphones and can be use it to power condensor microphones.

In the consumer/prosumer market, two major players continuously pop up: ZOOM and TASCAM. There are many other options, but those demand higher prices or are aimed at different type of users. For the home user that wants an entry into recording, these options tend to be overkill and I won’t consider them here.

The ‘affordable’ field recorders by ZOOM and TASCAM can be coarsely split into 3 categories. In the first category, we find the ZOOM H1n & H2n and the TASCAM DR-05 & DR-22 WL. These models have a fixed microphone and only a simple 3.5 mm microphone jack for plugging in external microphones and can be bought for €90 – €125 new. These work great for recording speech, where the microphone can be close to the speaker, or as a light weight and cheap recorder for lavelier microphones.

One class up, we have the ZOOM H4n & H5 and the TASCAM DR-40 & DR-44WL. These models are quite a bit more expensive at €162 – €258 new, but offer better integrated microphones and pre-amplifiers, as well as two XLR/combo jack inputs and phantom power for using more professional and dedicated microphones. The H5 also allows the included microphone to be interchanged with for example a shotgun microphone, or a port extender that brings two more XLR ports to the recorder. Especially for videographers, the interchangable, recorder-mounted microphones can be good budget-friendly solution. 

The flagship models, the ZOOM H6 and the TASCAM DR-100MK III hover between €285 and €344 new, but accept 4 XLR plugs and allow the highest recording rates and resolutions. The DR-100MK III for example, even goes up to 192 kHz sampling rate, while most other models do not get further than 96 kHz.

The human ear allows us to hear frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 kHz (typical). Nyquist sampling theorem teaches us that we need a sampling frequency at least twice the maximum frequency we want to capture and reconstruct. In practice, we take a 10% extra to be on the safe side. This makes that we need a sampling frequency of 44 kHz or higher, a requirement that is met by all the recorders I briefly mentioned above. If you want to record music that includes brass or cymbals, sampling at 96 kHz is helpful in preventing aliasing (an effect where frequencies above our sampling frequency are picked up in frequencies below our sampling frequency). I couldn’t find any application that I am interested in, that requires anything higher than that.

The number of steps we use to discretize the signals that come from the pre-amplifiers, also known as the bit depth, determines the dynamic range of the recording: the difference between the smallest and biggest signals we can pick up. The good old CD recordings are in 16 bits, while DVDs and online streaming can go up to 24 bits. All recorders listed above can record in both bit depths, albeit not always at all sampling frequencies or with all channels at the same time.

With these requirements in mind, I eventually settled on the Zoom H5. The H4n would have sufficed, but the H5 appears to feature the better pre-amplifiers from the flagship model H6, allows to be powered over USB to safe battery and offers exchangeable microphones including an expansion for two more XLR ports. Moreover, it can be used as a capable audio interface that with the right drivers can be used to record directly to the PC too. 

Acoustic treatment of the room

I will make most of the recordings at home in our home office. Unfortunately, this room has a lot of reflecting surfaces and isn’t very big at roughly 2.5 m wide x 4 m long and 2.6 m high. One of the walls is largely occupied by book cases, the two short walls by a door to the hallway and one to the balcony. That left me with one big wall and a few smaller ones. This is not going to be a music studio, so I don’t want to go all-out. I did, however, want to take away most of the room reflections. For this, I ended up hanging acoustic panels on the wall.

The final result. In total there are 12 panels on the walls. Two of which are behind me in this photograph and two are out of the frame to the left. 

I bought the foam from Big Block, who had a discount on their 48 piece 30 cm x 30 cm x 5 cm wedge panels. The panels are made of polyether and seem to be very similar to the ones you can buy elsewhere. They make them in-house and say that is the reason they can offer them at a cheaper price. I noticed that the specified dimension of 30 cm along each edge has a tolerance of roughly -0.5 cm. Some of the panels I got were 29.5 cm along one side and 30.0 along the other. In practice, this will rarely be a problem.

It is commonly suggested that these foam panels can be mounted to the wall with double sided tape. Because the idea of having to peel ~250 pieces of tape off the walls if we ever move was not appealing, I mounted the panels on plywood panels of 60 cm x 60 cm. Because the panels are not exactly 30 cm x 30, I sanded the edges and painted those dark gray to match to color of the foam. 

On the backside of the wooden panels I mounted 4 rubber stand-offs that are normally used for furniture, and a metal wire to hang them on the wall. 

The bonding of the foam to the wood turned out to be more troublesome than I had imagined. I initially tried with broad strips of TESA PowerBond double sided tape. This did not bond very well to the wood and not to the foam either. From this, I moved on to Bison spray glue. I applied a single coating to the wood, and pressed the foam directly on to this. This is suggested on the packaging if you need a good adhesion, but want to be able to re-position the panels in the first few minutes. This did not work either. After drying and hanging, the foam came down the next morning. Perhaps, I should have coated both foam and wood, but this is definitely not a guaranteed solution. The spray glue is thin and leaks into the foam when sprayed on. Some people suggested 3M Super 77 as a good spray on alternative, but I could not source that from our local hardware stores. 

The Bison website suggested Bison Tix as the ideal solution from their product line for bonding polyether to wood. It is a gel and can be applied with a stiff brush or a glue spreader. Working outside or in a well ventilated room is very much adviced, as is working with gloves and safety goggles. I applied it to both the foam and the wood, and let it dry before bonding. It bonds instantly, and you need to apply pressure to improve the bonding strength. This seems to work really well. I used a can of 750 ml for eight panels, but if I had known how to apply it properly to the foam from the start, I think I could have managed to do all twelve. 

If we do not consider the expense of my failed attempts with spray-on glue and double-sided tape, the total cost adds up to 13.78 euro per wall-mounted panel, which is not that bad at all.

ItemPrice (euro)
Foam (48 panels, 30 cm x 30 cm x 5 cm)79.00
Plywood panels cut down to 12 panels of 60 cm x 60 cm32.77
Primer and gray paint15.48
Rubber stand-offs5.38
Bison Tex (750 ml) and Glue spreader20.78
Other bits and pieces12.00
Total165.41
Price per panel (12 panels)13.78

When recording, I hang an old comforter in front of the book cases to dampen the reflections even more.

Does it work? Below you will find the recording of me clapping in the room without and with the panels on the wall. You be the judge.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

To record and edit on the PC, you need a digital audio workstation. The Zoom H5 comes with licences for Steinberg WaveLab LE and Cubase LE. These programs seem to be really dialed towards music recording and production. I found them to be unintuitive and overkill for my needs. 

After watching (almost all) videos by ‘Booth Junkie’ Mike Delgaudio on Youtube and his excellent tutorials, I settled on Reaper. With Mike’s settings it makes sense to me, and offers everything I need for voice-over and podcast recording. It comes with plenty plugins for post-processing including a good compressor, noise gate and equalizer.

At 60 USD for a home user / small company license, it really cannot be beaten. 

Future expansions

Of course, there is always more to be bought that can improve audio quality, production value or just make life a bit easier. Already, I have run into a few things that might be nice to add in the future. I am not planning on getting these any time soon, but perhaps they are important to you.

Mixer

A mixer will allow you to balance and process the signals from your microphones before they go into the recorder. They typically offer better pre-amplifiers, a multiband equalizer, a compressor, and some effects. The latter may be nice for small bands or live venues, but are not required for home recording of speech. What is nice to have though, are several auxiliary outputs or sends. This allows you to ‘mix minus’, in which each speaker can hear the entire mix, i.e. the sounds effects and all other speakers, except themselves. This is especially useful when you have guests calling in remotely via Skype or phone. If you were to send them the entire mix, including their own signal, this might lead to unwanted interference. 

The Allen & Heath ZED 14 is a mixer I am very much interested in. At roughly 350 euro, it is still considered an entry level model, but it offers good pre-amplifiers, plenty of inputs (probably more than you will ever need for a podcast), 4 auxiliary sends and has 100 mm faders. In comparison to other offers in this price range from Behringer (XENYX series), Soundcraft (Signature series), Yamaha (MG series) and Mackie (ProFX v2 series), this seems to offer the best bang for your bucks. At least, if we have to go off the opinions of online reviewers and the audio nerds over on GearSlutz.com.

If you want to spend less money, but still have a very capable mixer, I suggest you look at the Mackie ProFX8v2. It is well regarded and considered very good given its price point of roughly 185 euro. The ProFX12v2 and ProFX16v2 are more or less the same model, but with more inputs in case you need that.

Voice chain

Post-processing offers a lot of versatility and options for compression, EQ, noise reduction etc, but some there is a convenience in doing it in hardware right away. Therefore, it is interesting to consider adding hardware to the voice chain between the microphone and the recorder.

Popular voice processors are the DBX 286s and the ART Voice Channel. The 286s costs only 155 euro, and offers a phantom powered connector, a pre-amp, de-esser, enhancer, compressor and an expander/gate that can be used in any combination. At 544 euro the ART Voice Channel is significantly more expensive, but that money will get you an analog processor that utilizes vacuum tubes which bring a certain analog character to the processed sound. It brings a pre-amp, compressor, de-esser, expander/gate, EQ and an analog-to-digital converter to the table.

Other microphones

I have to admit that my gear-acquisition syndrome is not limited to camera gear. It extends to audio equipment equally well and reading about recording online makes you feel you can never have enough microphones. And there are always better sounding ones than the ones you already own.

The Rode NT1 will be my main microphone for voice-over, especially in the ‘controlled’ environment of my home office. For recordings on location, I might want to throw in a few extra microphones. Especially for locations where there can be a lot of room noise, a microphone that is less sensitive than your average 1″ condensor, or has a tighter pick-up pattern may come in handy. For this, there are several options.

For outside recordings, a shotgun microphone would be a good option. Popular models to consider are the Rode NTG1/2/3/4 or Sennheiser MKE 600 / K6 / MKH 416. Their design with phase cancellation tubes makes them good to isolate sound from the environmental noise, but makes them less ideal in echo-y locations indoors. For this, a hypercardioid microphone is typically a better option. A model that often comes up is the Audio Technica AT4053b. A more budget friendly option is the Oktava MK012 with its interchangeable capsules. That being said, there are plenty of documentary makers that just use their shotgun mics indoors and just pay a little more attention to where the mic is placed.

Or what about a regular dynamic microphone that you place right in front of your interviewee? A Shure SM58 might work well for that, or its much cheaper knock-off, the Behringer XM8500.

Or maybe also an omnidirectional microphone to capture entire groups or ambient sounds to mix in as background audio.

There are lots of application specific mics, in an even greater range of prices to choose from. I definitely haven’t made up my mind yet on which I really need, which I really want and which I should actually buy. If any at all.

Headsets and monitor speakers

It is good practice to monitor the recording and listen it back using clear sounding, non-coloring head phones. I currently use the Sony WH-1000X II for this. I got them as a birthday present and have been happily using them for listening to music at work and on my commute ever since. The head set contains an internal EQ, however, that I can manipulate using the accompanying app, but which I often forget to set to neutral. A dedicated pair for recording would be nice-to-have. For example, the Audio Technica ATH M40x. If you want to go one step further, a good pair of monitor speakers might also be worth it. 

The aside

Something to keep in mind – and what I also have to keep in mind – when it comes to audio quality for podcasts, is that most of it you are doing for yourself and a handful of listeners that use quality equipment for playback. Your listeners will be listening on their laptops or phones using cheap in-ear plugs, or over their car stereo. The differences between 3 microphones, for example, are almost inaudible when listening to the recordings on your phone speakers or with in ear plugs. Invest in proper equipment, but don’t go overboard with it. 

How to clean up your Twitter feed from politics?

Over the past years, I’ve been active on Twitter and been part of the analog photography community on that platform. Unfortunately, my Twitter feed has changed from being photography dominated to being polluted by American and US politics. I was about to leave Twitter for a while, when Craig Pindell suggested I just block out the words related to posts I don’t want to see. This seems to work pretty well. Quite a few people have asked me for the list of words I block out, so here it is.

As political issues will change over time, this will be an evolving and growing list, but so far this has been effective for me.

As of 14 September 2018:

American politics

  • Conspiracy
  • Supreme Court
  • voters
  • voter
  • Barnier
  • Kavanaugh
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Clinton
  • Mueller
  • McCain
  • DeVos
  • senate
  • election
  • Pence
  • republican
  • poll
  • democrat
  • ballot
  • GOP
  • DMC
  • RNA
  • midterms
  • congress
  • Trump
  • Manafort

UK politics

  • brexit
  • brexiteer
  • remainer
  • Barnier

Installing BEM++ from source

During my PhD, I implemented a Python+BEM++ alternative of the SCUFF-EM code for the fluctuating surface current formalism for near-field radiative heat transfer.

The developers of BEM++ are very active and maintain the code very well. They also try to make the installation of the framework as easy as possible, and release a Docker installer for Windows, MacOS and Linux. Unfortunately, this cannot be used on the computing cluster of Delft University of Technology, because the lack of root permissions.

The system administrators do not support installing third party software, so I had to go the long way round and do a complete installation from source code myself. From the Google group for BEM++ it seems more people want to run the code under similar circumstances. Below you will find the steps I took to get BEM++ installed on our cluster, and solutions for problems I ran into. You will probably not be able to just copy the steps one-by-one, but I hope it may serve as inspiration to get it going in your environment. A bit of knowledge about linux and compiling will help you a lot.

Step 1: Virtual environment

To have full control over the Python installation required to run BEM++, we need to run Python in a virtual environment that separates it from the system installation. This also allows us to install libraries without running into policy issues that restrict installing Python libraries. To do this, we use virtualenvwrapper and install it for the local user only.

$ pip --user install virtualenvwrapper
$ export PATH=$PATH:~/.local/bin

We then make a new folder that we will use as our main folder, and enter it.

$ mkdir foobar
$ cd foobar

The virtual environment is created by invoking the virtualenvwrapper. It will automatically create a separate folder, and install a clean Python environment inside it for you. Once installed, you can activate it using the source command, after which all python commands are linked to the Python installation in the virtual environment. In this instance, the virtual environment will be named foobarve.

$ virtualenv foobarve
$ source foobarve/bin/activate

BEM++ requires a few Python dependencies. These can be installed as you are accustomed to using pip. For multithreading, BEM++ uses the MPI platform. You may have to enable MPI libraries on your system, for example by loading the appropriate modules. This is very much cluster specific, so talk to the system administrator if you do not know how to do this. On the TUD systems, this is done by enabling the right modules. We need to install numpy, cython and mpi4py.

$ module load intel/2016
$ module load mpi/openmpi-1.8.8-intel
$ pip install numpy scipy cython mpi4py IPython

Step 2: Installing gcc from source (optional)

BEM++ uses Dune as a dependency, and this requires c++ standard 14 to compile correctly. Our cluster still runs on older version of c++, version 4.8.5, that does not support this standard in full. To test if your c++ will run standard 14 correctly, try executing the following. If it fails, you will have to install a new version of c++.

$ g++ -std=c++14

Because you do not have root permissions, you will have to install c++ from source for the local user. Reserve a few hours to a day for this, because it is a long and tedious process. Depending on the hardware you are doing this on it will take from a few hours to over a day.

To install gcc, download the source first from the gnu website or one of the mirrors. In this case, we will install version 8.2.0, but this will work equally fine for any other version. These instructions can be found on Github page of Arthur Lui.

$ cd ~
$ wget "https://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/gcc-8.2.0/gcc-8.2.0.tar.gz"
$ tar xzfv gcc-8.2.0.tar.gz
$ cd ./gcc-8.2.0
$ ./contrib/download_prerequisites
$ cd ..
$ mkdir objdir
$ cd objdir
$ $PWD/../gcc-8.2.0/configure --prefix=$HOME/gcc-8.2.0 --enable-languages=c,c++,fortran,go
$ make
$ make install

Depending on your system, the configuration step starting with $PWD.. might fail because the system does does not support 32 bit installations. You then have to add the –disable-multilib flag to the end of that line to perform a 64 bit only installation.

Unpacking the tarball can easily take up to an hour. At 108 MB it is not big at all, but it contains a few tens of thousands small files. I recommend you therefore run the command with the verbose flag on to see it is still progressing. If you don’t want the verbose output and speed up the process a bit, you can use the xzf flag instead of the xzfv flag. Just be patient then.

The make and make install steps can take a few hours in total. On a single node with a 2.4 GHz processor and ample of memory (320 GB), it took about 9 hours from download to finished installation for c, c++, gfortran and go.

Step 3: Installing Patchelf (optional)

BEM++ has Patchelf as one of its dependencies and will try to build it from source if it is not installed yet. Unfortunately, in the downloading stage, it failed for me because the MD5 hash of the download did not match the check hash. I therefore had to install it manually for the local user.

For this, I followed the simple plan outlined here, which downloads the tarball for version 0.8 (required by BEM++), unwraps it and installs it for the local user.

$ cd ~
$ wget http://nixos.org/releases/patchelf/patchelf-0.8/patchelf-0.8.tar.bz2
$ tar xf patchelf-0.8.tar.bz2
$ cd patchelf-0.8/
$ ./configure --prefix="$HOME/.local"
$ make install
$ strip ~/.local/bin/patchelf
$ gzip -9 ~/.local/share/man/man1/patchelf.1

To make sure it will be found, we have to add the location to the path variable, it if isn’t already on there.

$ export PATH=$HOME/.local/bin:$PATH

Step 4: Installing Threading Building Blocks (TBB, optional)

Because of a C++ version issue, I had problems getting the BEM++ installer to build against the version of TBB it downloads and installs itself. Therefore, I had to build TBB from source as well and make sure that the installer uses the new version instead from that point forward.

You can download the source code for the latest stable release from the TBB Github page. Browse to the version you want, and download the Source code (tar.gz). For example, for version 2018, update 5:

$ cd ~
$ mkdir tbbsrc
$ cd tbbsrc/
$ wget https://github.com/01org/tbb/archive/2018_U5.tar.gz
$ tar xvzf 2018_U5.tar.gz

Enter the folder, and run make to compile the source. This step will take a while. For me it took roughly 20 to 30 minutes.

$ cd tbb-2018_U5/
$ make all

Once it is finished, we need to tell BEM++ where to find the new installation of TBB. For this, we have to set two environment variables. The actual paths will depend on your build location and the version you are installing, as well as the C++ compiler, operating system, etc. TBB_LIBRARY_DIR will have to be set to the folder that contains the actual libraries. You will find it in the folder you just built in: <build folder/build/<os_version_kernel_version_release>.  The TBB_INCLUDE_DIR contains the header files for the C++ compiler. These are stored at a higher level in the file tree at <build folder>/../include/tbb. For example:

$ export TBB_LIBRARY_DIR=/home/rjfbijster/FSC2018/tbb/tbb-2018_U5/build/linux_intel64_gcc_cc8.2.0_lib2.17_kernel3.10.0_release
$ export TBB_INCLUDE_DIR=/home/rjfbijster/FSC2018/tbb/tbb-2018_U5/include/tbb

Step 5: Install a local version of Eigen3 (optional)

The TU Delft cluster seems to feature an older version of the Eigen3 libraries that what is required for a proper BEM++ compilation. The newest version can be downloaded from the Eigen3 Github mirror, and does not need a make step. This is a header-only library. 

$ cd ~
$ git clone https://github.com/eigenteam/eigen-git-mirror.git

Step 6: Installing BEM++

We just passed the most time consuming part. For this, make sure you are still in the virtual environment we’ve setup before. Change the directory to where you want to place the BEM++ source files. Once you are there, go to the BEM++ Bitbucket page, log in and find the link to clone the repository. It will look something like this:

$ cd ~
$ git clone $ https://yname@bitbucket.org/bemppsolutions/bempp.git

Go back to the terminal and run this command to clone the git repository. CD into the created directory and run the setup.py script:

$ cd bempp/
$ python setup.py build

This script controls CMake in the background to compile BEM++ from source code. If it runs without errors, you can then run

$ python setup.py install

to install BEM++ on your system locally.  If all goes well, you should be all done. If not, and it crashes on an error with Eigen3, you will have to make a change to the CMakeCache.txt file to have it use the newly installed version over the system version of Eigen3.

$ cd build2/
$ nano CMakeCache.txt

Scroll down the file, and find variable EIGEN3_INCLUDE_DIR and change its value to the folder where you just installed Eigen3, for example /home/rjfbijster/eigen-git-mirror

To test if BEM++ has installed correctly, open up Python and try to import the bempp library.

$ python
$ <inside the python runtime compiler>
$ import bempp

I hope these tips and tricks are useful. Good luck!

I am moving to the Fuji X system

At the Printer Attic I recently published an article titled ‘How the cameras that I use change with how I approach photography’. When I started shooting on large format film, I obtained the possibility to manipulate every sheet entirely to my liking with the print I wanted to make in mind — completely independent from the other pictures I took that day. It made that I slowly moved away from medium format, and started to dislike shooting roll film and 35 mm altogether. When I go out to shoot, I go with making a print in mind. For more casual shooting or vacations, I take a digital camera. The sheer bulk and weight of my digital kit (Canon 6D, Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 and Canon 70-200 mm f/4 USM L) are disproportional to this purpose for me. The bag was left at home, or became a nuisance more than a joy when I went out. I ended up selling the kit in order to replace it with a smaller, and lighter set. 

Briefly, I considered moving to film completely and buying a Voigtlander or Leica M-mount rangefinder camera with a few lenses, and maybe adding a point-and-shoot digital camera for those occassions that digital would really be more suited. Paired with the Voigtlander Color-Skopar lenses, this would make for a great lightweight and small camera kit. A Voigtländer R4M with a Color-Skopar 21 mm f/4, 35 mm f/2 and 50 mm f/2 would make for one sexy kit. There is something about such a system that I find very appealing. But do I like it enough to sink 1800 euros into it?

My fiancée cured me from this attack of gear acquisition syndrome (G.A.S.) by reminding me that I have been complaining about being stuck with a roll after the first few exposures, and that that was the reason I did not really use the Pentax MX as much as I should have. To me it always felt that the exposures and development inherently were compromises that had I would have to live with in the darkroom when printing. A 35 mm-centred kit would not be a wise decision. Large format spoiled me. 

I realized that I could get the same small package from a digital mirrorless system. I played around with some of the models offered by Olympus and Sony, but those didn’t do it for me. Their menus were awkward to use and I did not get the feeling these cameras would inspire me to take them with me everywhere I go. When I picked up the Fuji X-series cameras, however, things fell in place. After going back and forth between the Fuji X100F and the Fuji X-Pro2 for a few weeks, I settled on the latter.

The X100F is a great camera and online you can find many reviews from happy customers that attest to that. It is small and at 469 g almost 2 kg lighter than the 6D kit, and then we haven’t even spoken about the enormous difference in size. The esthetics of this camera is certainly appealing, and in terms of ergonomics it also appears to be well thought out. 

However, I was afraid that the single focal length would eventually be too limiting. Many people that own the X100F seem to use it as their secondary camera next to a digital SLR or mirrorless sytem. It is the camera they take with them when they need a break from their more serious (and probably paid for) photography, or which acts as the camera they always have on them. 

For me, the new camera will be the only digital camera I will own. Even if I would only bring one lens most of the time, the capability of interchanging it for another is a big plus. Probably even more important than that, is the fact the the X100F is not weather sealed. I live in a country that sees its fair share of rain, and our vacation destinations are rarely the sunny ones. Not having to stow away the camera when the first drop hits the ground, is what tipped the scales in the favour of the X-Pro 2.

With the XF23 f/2 WR lens mounted, the X-Pro 2 weighs in at 675 g and is still significantly lighter and smaller than the Canon 6D kit that comes in at 2.4 kg. The camera seems to be the proper size and weight for the Domke F-2, which was definitly over packed with the 6D. 

This week I took it out with me on a courtyard walk through Haarlem (which I can recommend if you want to see Haarlem at its finest). So far I like this camera a lot. It is quiet, focuses fast enough and is simple to operate. Many people end up using the electronic view finder 99% of the time, but so far I like the optical view finder very much. I will have to play around a bit with the settings for in camera sharpening and dynamic range, and get use to the metering. Other than that, I am pretty happy so far. 

The future will tell if this affaire is meant to last.. 

Nothing worse than an empty page

You probably got here after clicking on ‘Blog’ in the top menu. Unfortunately, there is not much to see here at the moment. I am currently working on rebuilding this site and writing new content.

In the future you can expect blog posts on a broad range of topics. As this is my personal website, there will be no specific theme and the only common denominator will be me. I will be writing about projects that I am working on, technical problems I have encountered, books I’ve read, recipes I have tried, cameras I have bought and pictures I have taken. If those are things that interest you, I would like to ask you to keep an eye on this page and come back later.