Sailing Away? A Desert Island Kit!

Planning on getting stranded on a desert island? I say “planning” coz ya normally don’t “plan” to get stranded & therefore ain’t gonna be able to prepare for it, unless you got your “desert island kit” on you like 24/7/365 … and FYI “desert” don’t mean that island’ll be arid & dry (as in a Sahara-like desert), in this context “desert” is an archaic form of the adjective “deserted” (meaning devoid of people, uninhabited). Furthermore, the phrase “desert island” isn’t a recent invention derived from some ghetto slang, it’s been in the English language since around 1200 A.D.! With all that outta the way please read on to find out what’s IMO the best Desert Island Kit!

Schooner bowsprit in contre-jour morning light, X-Pro2 & XF 18mm F/2 @F/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 200, +0.7 EV

Coming back on the “planning” bit … If I’d have to move to a desert(ed) island & could only take ONE camera & ONE lens with me, it’d be my X-Pro2 with my beloved XF 18mm F/2 stuck on it (provided I’d have a solar powered battery charger to go with it - no ‘lectricity > no photography with that one!): Anyway the XF 18mm’s ideal for any & all kind of documentary photography: Wide enough to show y’all the environment but not too wide (just) to not distort people in the image. That’s of course in case somebody else unexpectedly turns up on your deserted island 😉!

Schooner mast and rigging just before dawn, X-Pro2 & XF 18mm F/2 @F/8, 1/60 sec, ISO 200

So, if only one lens, why then take a camera where you can exchange the lens? Well, maybe I’d encounter a camera store on that desert island and then I’d get myself an XF 35mm F/2, to photograph those people which were gonna turn up unexpectedly! And while I’m in that store I´d get m’self a second X-Pro2 to prevent having to change lenses too often with all that dust blowing around on my island (see, I’m paranoid about changing lenses since changing over to digital 😰). So there you have it: My “desert island” kit would be two X-Pro2’s, one with an XF 18mm F/2 R and the other with an XF 35mm F/2 R WR - fits easily in a small shoulder bag (dimensions - around 6” x 5” x 4”, like the Hama Monterey 130)!

Tugboat’s & dinghy’s stern (= rear end ;-) … X-Pro2 & XF 18mm F/2 @F/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 200, -0.7 EV

As you can see in the above image, the XF 18mm has an amazing depth. Especially when using it in portrait format, here the rather long 3:2 aspect ratio of the APS-C format stretches the image from near to far. Due to the greater depth of field of the smaller format everything’s in focus already at F/8!

Hope this post has given you some inspiration and will animate you to go out and take images with an unobtrusive high quality kit fitting in a small bag. A desert island kit, with which you won’t really miss anything!

If you have any questions, please put them in the comments section below or leave me a note on my “about” page. Look forward to the discussion!

Wish y’all good shooting & a very nice Sunday!

Best regards,

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Square Affair - with the X-Pro2!

Originally wanted to title this post “It’s Hip to Be Square”, like the refrain in the 1986 song “Hip to Be Square” by the American rock group Huey Lewis and the News … but it wouldna been appropriate. Any of youse know why? In that song the singer’s saying he’s starting to conform to the establishment coz he can’t stand the stress of being a rebel no more: i.e. it’s Hip (= cool, fashionable) to be Square (= conformist, following the rules). In photography most images have a rectangular aspect ratio (3:2 or 4:3). Using a square image frame (1:1) is therefore relatively rare, so you actually gotta be a bit of a rebel & break outta the rules if you wanna “go square” 😉!

Lantern and its shadow, seen with X-H1 and XF 90mm F/2 @F/8, 1/210 sec, ISO 400

Since 2010 Instagram has enjoyed a great success as online image sharing platform - until August 2015 only square images were allowed, driving somewhat of a renaissance of the square format: As Instagram is mainly viewed on smartphones, using a square image format means you aren’t required to turn your phone sideways for landscape images, allowing for a more ”smooth” user experience…

But the square format was there long before Instagram came along: Around 1930 first professional larger square format cameras appeared (Rolleiflex, Voigtländer and Hasselblad to name a few), using a reflex mirror to project the image onto a matte glass plate which could be viewed from above. This image was upright but laterally reversed. So if the camera would’ve had a rectangular image format it would have needed to be turned onto its side for portrait images, which would then have resulted in an upside-down viewfinder image! To prevent this inconvenience the manufacturers of the time stuck with a square image format

Interestingly enough there does not really seem to be much older history of the square format, eg. dating back to the times where images were still painted (at least I couldn’t find anything …)

Anyway, with the advent of the digital age came a greater flexibility regarding image aspect ratios, allowing the photographer to choose already in camera or afterwards in post production from a plethora of image formats from 16:9 to 1:1

You can apply the square format during image capture (obviously this works only for JPEG´s - the RAW image always uses the full native format of the camera) or in post production. I usually prefer to decide that when developing the image in Capture One Pro - some images only lend themselves to the square format at a second (or third) glance!

Original image, with 1:1 square crop

For example, take a look at my first image of this post. I only saw the potential for a tighter square image format when preparing it for uploading to my blog (inspiring me to create this post “Square Affair” on the square image format 😉) On the picture with the blue square frame you can see how it looked originally: Cropping it to a square shape has left out unimportant parts of the image, focusing on the main elements, lines and shadows. I imagine this has just always been a square image just waiting to be discovered! What do you think?

So, what’s behind all this “square” talk? Basically the main quality of this frame is that it creates a natural sense of balance, stability & symmetry. None of the sides is favored, preventing any distraction from the image content. The square composition allows you to eliminate negative space & superfluous elements in your image - excessive space in an image invites a viewer’s eye to wander away from the subject & makes your subject look a bit lost. The square has an inherent classic & beautiful design, which if carefully applied will make your images stand out from the crowd! Because the square lacks any horizontal or vertical bias the viewer’s eye tends to be guided in a circular motion, often converging towards the centre of the image

Wall with shadow of another lantern, captured on X-H1 with XF 90mm F/2 @F/8, 1/600 sec, ISO 400

In the above image I could leave out the right side of the rectangular frame because the shadow of the lamp already tells the story - don’t need to have the lamp itself inside the frame no more 😉)

Original image with 1:1 square crop

See here the original framing on the image with the blue square frame. In this case I was not really happy with my initial picture - should’ve gone a bit closer to leave out the white strip on the lower edge of the frame … I learnt from this that you gotta “work” the image more - instead of just one or two frames per subject it would be better to try out different perspectives, distances & framings, giving you more material to work with and increase the chance of getting that perfect image!

As you can see in the image with the lamp below the square format also circumvents the otherwise ubiquitous “rule of the thirds”: The square frame gives you more freedom to place the central element of interest - usually a slightly off-centre position of the main subject is enough to create sufficient tension in the composition!

Lantern surrounded by canvas roof, discovered with X-H1 and XF 16mm F/1.4 @F/5.6, 1/5 sec, ISO 400

Here you can see another example: The original image is nice, but includes too much empty (= “negative”) space on the left and right sides. Cropping it to a square focuses on the essential part of the image: The steps with their diagonal lines and railings. As you can see, the content of the left & right borders does not really add anything to the image & I think you will agree that the square image is much more powerful: The square frame gives the image a much more dynamic & interesting look!

Original image with 1:1 square crop

In this case I have to admit that I was planning to put this image into a square frame all along. By the way, using the full rectangular native image format and later extracting a square crop during post processing allows you to place your square off centre to create a different perspective. This can help if you are photographing a reflecting house façade or window directly from the front and want to prevent seeing your reflection in the image: You place the square all the way to one side of the rectangle, resulting in your reflection not being visible anymore!

Steps in a square frame, seen with my X-Pro2 with XF35mm F/2 @F/8, 1/180 sec, ISO 200

Now before y’all gettin’ too excited here, there’s just one caveat: When shooting square you gotta be aware (WOW, that rhymes ;-) that shooting in the square format reduces your lens’s effective angle of view. The angle of view of a lens determines how much of the image you can cover and is calculated according following formula: 𝜶 = 2arctan(d/2𝑓), where 𝜶 (alpha) is the lens’s diagonal angle of view in degrees, d represents the length of the image’s diagonal in mm (28.23mm for the uncropped Fuji APS-C sensor) and 𝑓 is the focal length of your lens in mm. For those of youse not so much into math here’s the thing: Cropping your native 3:2 aspect ratio image to a square 1:1 aspect ratio generates a field of view (FOV) which makes your lens look like the next longer lens in your system. For example Fuji’s XF 18mm / 28mm Full Frame equivalent FOV behaves like the XF 23mm / 35mm Full Frame equivalent FOV lens, the XF 23mm / 35mm Full Frame equivalent FOV like the XF 35mm / 53mm Full Frame equivalent FOV, and so on - basically you can multiply your focal length by a factor of appox. 1.2 when going square! See the below image, taken with the XF 16mm, it looks more like an image taken with the 18mm:

Dinner out with best friends, image taken on X-H1 with XF 16mm F/1.4 @F/2, 1/40 sec, ISO 2500, +0.7 EV

So I hope I’ve managed to inspire youse to experiment a bit with the beautiful, serene and classic square format, and hope you’ll “dare to be square” (again a rhyme 😉). Please share your experiences in the comments section below or leave me a note on my “about” page. Look forward to the discussion!

PS: The best thing about going square is: It don’t cost you nothin’, jeez - this accessory is completely FREE 😊!

Peace with y’all and wish a very nice weekend

Cheers,

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Fuji's 18mm F/2 - Better Than You Think!

I was quite pleasantly surprised about the amount of feedback & questions I got to my recent review of Fuji’s XF 18mm F/2R. Seems a lot of youse are quite interested in this little lens, despite the negative image it has on the net. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some more (real) images taken with it & maybe convince the one or other of you to try it out for yo’self ;-) Please read on if interested & thanks in advance for visiting and joining the discussion!

3 tables in the sun, seen with X-Pro2 and XF 18mm F/2 @F/2.8, 1/1700sec, 200 ISO

What I like about the above image is that even I’m using a wide angle lens I can limit the sharpness to quite a narrow zone, at F/2.8 nearly everything is blurred except the ashtray on the first table! Combined with letting the shadows drown into inky blackness this guides & focusses the viewer’s eye into the image! For me the 18mm (28mm equivalent field of view on full frame) is an ideal lens for documentary photography - wide enough to bring you close to the action but not too wide to distort too much or become too intrusive

But is it any good at close focus distances? For example fuji’s XF 23mm F/2R WR is plagued by soft rendering at close focus distances when using larger apertures … For documentary photography excellent short distance performance at larger apertures is key! Well, I can say that I ain’t got no reservations about my XF18mm. Sharp as a tack at close distances, already from max. aperture mine is. So, do I got a magic copy? Don’t think so - these things are manufactured according relatively tight tolerances, look at what optical limits had to say about it: “The center quality is very good at F/2 and the borders are also fine but the corners are very soft at this setting …”. I can confirm, take a look at below image, taken at max. aperture F/2. Not bad, eh? Look at the details in the bicycle wheel hub (it was less than 1m from the camera)!

Anywayz for documentary photography the extreme corners are not relevant. But of course, if you happen to specialize in brick wall or test chart photography, you may not agree. Anyhow I do think most of those “review specialists” flaming this lens on the net belong to that category of “photographers” …

Bicycle wheel, captured on my Fuji X-Pro2 with XF18mm F/2R (28mm FF equiv.) @F/2, 1/1250 sec, ISO 200

To put all this into perspective I took some comparative images on my Nikon Z7 (has a 47MP full frame sensor!) with the - in my opinion - best wide angle lens out there, the Nikon AF-S 28mm F/1.4E ED. Well I gotta say that I was shocked that I didn't see no major difference … The little Fuji wide angle is just. That. Good! OK the depth of field is of course narrower on the full frame lens but I gotta concede that the XF 18 for sure ain’t no slouch compared to below full frame image taken with the Nikkor stopped down to F/2, no sir:

The same bicycle wheel, on my Nikon Z7, with the veritable AF-S 28mm F/1.4 @F/2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 64

For all youse “pixel peepers” out there, please take a look at below crops! I shamefully have to admit I didn’t expect this. You really gotta hand it to Fuji: Quite an amazing performance!

Crop from the Fuji XF 18mm F/2 @F/2

Crop from the Nikkor AF-S 28mm F/1.4 @F/2

And the XF18mm at max. aperture is already so good that stopping it down to F/5.6 don’t really make a huge difference, please see comparison below:

Again the crop from the Fuji XF 18mm F/2 @F/2

… the XF 18mm F/2 stopped down to F/5.6

Before getting too excited, d’you wanna see what that little bit more full frame sharpness, dynamic range and shallower depth of field’s gonna cost you? You better sit down now, coz y’all gonna get really shocked! See below, I kid you not: The Nikon Z7 / FTZ / AF-S 28mm combo weighs and costs approx 2.3 times as much (in words: two point three !) as the Fuji X-Pro / XF 18mm combo (not even mentioning the size difference). Jeezus …

Nikon Z7+FTZ+AF-S 28mm F/1.4E ED = 1.4 Kg / 5250€ vs. Fuji X-Pro2+XF18mm F/2 = 615g / 2300€

Apart from that, showing up with that Nikon kit is gonna have people seriously divin’ for cover, thinking you’re planing on starting world war III ;-) At “cross-coffee-table” distances of around 1-1.2m that thing really sticks into your subject’s face (with a 77mm dia filter to boot). Good luck in getting your model eased up … Compared to that people don’t even really notice the Fuji (even the X-Pro2 ain’t really minimalistic either, but the lens is!)

Concluding & to be honest, I’d have a have a real hard time justifying the full frame kit over the Fuji. Hope you people out there learn from this & do it better than me ;-) Right, the full frame bazooka’s nominally better but you gonna need it maybe like 5% cases, if at all … Don’t worry I love my Nikon kit. Great camera & stellar lens, but not sure if I’d invest in those again!

Hope this little “real world” comparison will help some of youse to decide for yo’self what’s the best deal for your personal photographic requirements! Please let me know / leave me a comment below or on my “about” page, thanks as always for visiting & for your support!

Many thanks & best regards,

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

LOL ... Lines of Light, the X-Pro2 Rediscovered!

LOL … “Laughing out Loud” in internet speak, but now it seems to have worn off & they ain’t sure no more what it stands for … So I thought I’d advocate a new meaning for it: How ‘bout LOL = “Lines of Light”. Amazing! For sure this is gonna “go viral” now ;-) … Let’s see, please read on to find out why!

Lines of Light, seen with X-Pro2 and XF35 mm F/1.4R @F/8, 1/550 sec, ISO 200

Lines of Light, seen with X-Pro2 and XF35 mm F/1.4R @F/8, 1/550 sec, ISO 200

Hang on … X-Pro2? Didn't he flame that one in this post some time ago? Claustrophobic narrow viewfinder, camera too large, etc.? Yeah, but somehow I seem to keep coming back to the rangefinder-esque style of the X-Pro. Maybe the combination of an optical and electronic viewfinder, like on my X100F - with the possibility to see “outside the frame”? Or the left-sided position of the viewfinder allowing you to view the world thru both eyes and not hiding your face behind the camera, thereby creating a more intimate atmosphere with your subject in people photography? … Possibly. For me however, the main reason must be the X-Pro2’s sensor and its wonderful rendering, just like on my X-H1! Look at the image below - you just gotta love the transparency of the sun’s rays streaming thru the last remnants of morning fog, drawing parallel lines to the trees’ shadows on the ground!

Sun’s rays thru the fog follow the shadows, X-Pro2 with XF18 mm F/2 @F/8, 1/14 sec, ISO 200, +1 EV

This was a RAW image developed in Capture One, unbeatable if it’s about recovering details from outta those inky shadows. As most of youse know I only do RAW development on a few difficult hi-contrast images. Otherwize I mostly stick to JPEG´s which I slightly tweak in Lightroom (Curves & Levels), where the X-Pro2´s X-Trans III sensor and Fuji’s ACROS simulation with its beautiful tonality dependent grain engine create wonderful film-like JPEG’s! I guess another reason I’m sticking with the X-Pro2 now is my worry that its successor slated to come out end of this year may have a more aggressive JPEG processing pipeline, like I recently discovered on Fuji’s X-E3 (halos around small details even with JPEG sharpening turned all the way down). Any such future development would make it difficult for me to continue my beloved ACROS-R & JPEG based workflow!

3 steps to heaven, X-Pro2 with XF35 mm F/1.4 @F/8, 1/180 sec, ISO 200

Also above image is dominated by a pattern of diagonal lines. On this one I had to use the X-Pro2’s EVF (electronic viewfinder) to find the exact position from where all the elements didn’t interfere which each other!

I hope y’all liked the post & enjoyed spending some time here, thanks for visiting & please leave me your thoughts in the comment section below (or on my about page). Many thanks & wish you great photographic opportunities for the next week! Best regards,

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Shadow Seeker

Looking up “sunseeker” in google results in more than 7 million hits - products ranging from luxury yachts to bikinis. Now try the same with “shadowseeker". This gets you only slightly over 50k measly hits, less than 1% of the former - and then most of those are related to the shady world of pc gaming … Strange. Seems that the word “shadows” has a kinda negative connotation, while “sun” elicits a more positive association in people. Not so in photography. Here it’s the shadows which make or break the image, please read on if interested!

Sun’s reflections illuminate the dark background façade: X-H1 with XF35mm F/1.4, @F/8, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

Like in the image above: The sun’s reflections from windows across the courtyard cast the only light onto the dark shadows on the façade in the background, giving the image an interesting accent and balance vs. the bright graffitis on the wall in the foreground (of course I had to help a bit with curves & levels ;-). The long rays of the low evening sun sculpt out each texture on the building’s surfaces they skim by, painting long shadows after each protrusion. It’s the resulting shadows which tell the story. Without them the image would be flat & lifeless!

A few steps right: Long, low shadows uncover every detail, X-H1 with XF35mm F/1.4, @F/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 200

That’s why I like to see myself as a “Shadow Seeker”, always on the look-out for those non-substantial areas of darkness which manifest the existence of light! It’s only a few minutes before the sun sets that you get to capture such images, but then there are unlimited opportunities within a few steps of each other. See the image above, taken from a few steps to the right! Or the one below, where the lantern outside the frame is manifested only by its shadow:

Shadows bring to light the lantern that wasn’t there: X-H1 with XF35mm F/1.4, @F/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 200

Those of youse who’ve had the patience to follow my ramblings up to here may be asking themselves why I always keep using Fuji´s XF35mm F/1.4R lens. Because its got magic inside! This lens finds the images most people would oversee, long enough to focus on the essential part of the image but not to short to include too much into the frame! It’s the ideal lens for finding patterns and carving out details out of the bigger picture. Properly applied it helps you to select the important part of the scene, focusing your view on the essential message!

Also here a pattern of shadows makes the image: X-H1 with XF35mm F/1.4, @F/8, 1/500 sec, ISO 200

I was attracted to the above scene because of the pattern of shadows on the white wall - again an example of shadows creating an image which normally wouldn’t have been there …

For your information: All images in this post were developed using Capture One Pro 12. I´ll be happy to share my favorite settings & work-flow in a future post, please leave me a message on my “about” page or in the comments section below if you’re interested!

I hope this post was inspiring to you, animating you to go out and search for the shadows, which show you that light exists. Wish you great images and a good Sunday evening. All the best, your

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Fuji RAW Worms - Has Adobe Finally Nailed It?

Got worms? Then you must be photographing in RAW with Fuji cameras and gotten suckered into a life-long relationship with Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription model (just like me ;-) Don’t worry, you ain’t gotta take no nasty medicine anymore to get rid of them worms, coz I got good news for ya! Please read on if interested and join the discussion below in the comments …

The Hof Garden in Bayreuth, captured on Fuji X-H1 with XF 56mm F/1.2 @F/8 1/20sec ISO 200, ACROS-R JPEG

Adobe seems to have gotten their act together!? Finally … So, you may not need to get a divorce & ditch that subscription after all (they probably don’t let no-one escape anyway … ;-) Anyways, at the end of the day Photoshop and Lightroom are still the global standard when it comes down to pro digital asset management & post processing

But before discussing the cure let’s first understand the problem (for those of youse new to Fuji or contemplating joining the Fuji family). Simply put digital sensors are comprised of millions of photo sites (“pixels”) which measure the amount of light (number of photons) hitting them. To allow the camera to see the world in color the sensor is overlaid by a color filter array (CFA) of red, green and blue color filters in a distinctive repetitive arrangement, allowing the camera software to recompile the light levels into color information. This reconstructing of the full color information from the individual pixels is called “Demosaicing”. Obviously the demosaicing algorithm needs to match the arrangement of the color filters, otherwize you will not get the image you saw thru the viewfinder …

Color Filter Arrays used in digital camera sensors:
Fuji vs. the rest of the world (note the green “X” ;-)

All makers of digital cameras use a so-called “Bayer” color filter arrangement (repeating a 2 by 2 pixel pattern of 2 green, 1 red and 1 blue filters). Hang on, ALL makers of digital cameras? No. Fuji has implemented a different arrangement of color filters, repeating an alternating 3 by 3 pixel pattern of 5 green, 2 red and 2 blue filters, they call “X-Trans” (the “X” referring to the X-formed arrangement of the green photo sites)

Fuji claims this “X-Trans” arrangement delivers a more “film-like” rendering due to the less regular pattern and better performance than the Bayer arrangement, especially improving the micro-contrast due to the higher percentage of green pixels (55% vs. 50%). See here for more information. Demosaicing software optimized for the Bayer CFA layout (as used in Adobe’s Camera RAW converter at the heart of Lightroom & Photoshop CC) can cause trouble when applied to the X-Trans CFA layout, especially with small repetitive patterns, like foliage & brick structures

Now here’s the thing: I think that Fuji’s proprietary CFA layout is not even fully managed by their own in-camera demosaicing algorithm (albeit becoming visible only at more extreme magnifications). When you enlarge the below in-camera converted JPEG to a magnification corresponding to an approx. 20x30 inch / A1 size enlargement you can start to actually see the “worms”:

Fuji’s in camera JPEG conversion’s got worms!

Fuji’s in camera JPEG conversion’s got worms!

At mural sized prints (as I do for exhibitions) you will see these painterly, wormy artefacts (see the bridge railing and the mushy area in the upper left quadrant of the above image- there should have been some branches visible there)! Don’t get me wrong - you’ll probably never have any problem with images prepared for web viewing or normal sized enlargements, using printers up to 13”x19” / A3+ size when viewing them at normal viewing distance. But for big enlargements using JPEG’s is no option anymore. For anything above 12”x17” / A3 size you gotta go RAW. Unfortunately Adobe’s Camera Raw converter don’t do much better either, see the image below - in my opinion not much different compared to the in-camera JPEG conversion:

Adobe Camera RAW’s conversion also got worms!

Adobe Camera RAW’s conversion also got worms!

You can see the vertical rods of the railing are partly obscured by foliage and the branches in the upper left quadrant are still not visible. Not good, I’m afraid this even happens with the sharpening settings optimized for X-Trans (low “amount” & high “detail”)! So, what to do? Apart from using external RAW converters known to work satisfactorily with the X-Trans sensor layout, like Iridient or RAW Therapee there is for me only one bit of software which has a good X-Trans demosaicing performance, while combining RAW conversion and image management (I really don’t like having to split my workflow over separate bits of software …): Capture One Pro. Let’s see how that fares:

Capture One Pro. Less “wormy” but a little bit too harsh for my fancy …

Capture One Pro. Less “wormy” but a little bit too harsh for my fancy …

From my point of view it’s better - the vertical rods of the railing are now barely visible and you can see a hint of the branches in the upper left quadrant, but the it does look somewhat harsh now (also here I used my preferred settings but left out the grain to be comparable to the other images). To be fair I’ve happily been using Capture One for a while now as my preferred “heavy duty” solution for large printing (A3+ & larger). But I gotta say I’m not completely happy with Capture One’s user interface - maybe that’s because I mainly use Fuji’s in-camera converted JPEGs (for around 90% of my work) and am therefore used to Lightroom’s interface & workflow. Using Lightroom and Capture One in parallel means that I also need to maintain 2 separate catalogues and processed image folders on my MacBook Pro. So, when Adobe released their new “Enhance Details” feature end February this I was naturally intrigued & curious if it would do better with X-Trans images! See below the result, straight outta Lightroom, using Enhance Details (this creates a DNG in the same catalogue as a new “digital negative” which can be further processed in Lightroom just like a RAW file):

Adobe Camera Raw’s new Enhance Details feature

Adobe Camera Raw’s new Enhance Details feature

In my opinion this is far better than the previous examples, the bridge railing and the foliage have a more natural look. And you can now see the branches in the upper left quadrant (directly below the words “Enhance Details” ;-)! For my workflow this means I can process my ACROS JPEG’s as usual and apply Enhance Details with subsequent RAW development of the DNG file for those images earmarked for big enlargement / fine-art printing. Finally Adobe seems to have listened to us Fuji photographers, the results achievable with the “Enhance Details” feature are impressive! There’s only two caveats: 1. Enhance Details needs a lot of computing power (30-40 sec on a reasonably fast 2016 MacBook Pro), so those of youse with older machines might need to go out for lunch while batch processing the results of your latest photo-shoot … ;-) 2. the Enhance Details adds a DNG file to your drive for each processed image which is approx. 50% larger (around 150MB) than an average Fuji RAW file, eating up your disk space at an alarming rate!

Here the same image as before, developed by ACR Enhance Details into a DNG and processed to taste in Lightroom:

The same image developed from the Fuji RAW file, using Adobe ACR´s Enhance Details feature!

Another example with many small details in the grass & foliage:

Contre-jour image of trees in Bayreuth’s Hof Garden, captured on XF 56mm F/1.2 R @F/5.6, 1/140 sec, 400 ISO

I hope this post was interesting for you & y’all could get something from it for your own photography. Enjoy your Sunday & wish you all the best for your photographic endeavours,

Many thanks for visiting, please leave me a comment below if you have any questions or feedback, best regards

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

JPEG's ... A Fool's Paradise?

I LOVE Fuji's JPEG’s. Unconditionally. On one of my recent Blog posts praising (again ;-) the qualities of Fuji ACROS JPEG’s, someone commented: “RAW is the answer. Only a fool relies on the severely limited JPEG’s”. So I thought I might take a closer look at my Fool’s paradise ;-) and compare one of those beloved ACROS JPEG’s to the RAW version processed in Capture One Pro 12. Please read on if interested …

A sunlit façade in Bayreuth’s town centre, Fuji X-H1 with XF 56mm f/1.2 @f/8, ACROS-R JPEG processed in LR

It was 0730 hrs when I came across this façade illuminated by the first rays of the morning sun, giving it a glowing, nearly transparent look. After some shuffling & jostling around to find the best perspective (ya gotta be fast, coz the light changes fast at this time of the day ;-) I captured the image on my X-H1 in RAW+ACROS-R JPEG with +0.7 EV compensation. Normally Fuji’s ACROS JPEG’s are just amazing - a little curves and levels adjustments in Lightroom and you ‘re good to go. Instant art. Great images in no time!

However, when I pulled this image into Lightroom it kinda didn’t replicate the scene as I’d visualized it during capture. Everybody knows RAW files got more latitude, so I thought I’d try “fool” around a bit in Capture One Pro 12 and see if I could get closer to my original vision of the scene: A sunlit façade with that delicate, transparent look! See the result below:

The same façade, now as RAW processed in Capture One Pro 12. More as I’d originally visualized it!

What’s different here is that I could keep the light tones of the façade lighter than on the JPEG by flattening the highlight shoulder of the tone curve. This resulted in a greater separation to the dark foreground, giving the image that transparent look. Another key factor supporting this is the possibility to selectively darken the sky on the top left by reducing sensitivity in the Cyan and Blue channels and darkening the roof by reducing sensitivity in the red channel in Capture One’s Black & White tool (without affecting the tonality of the other colors). Try covering up the sky portion with your hand and you’ll see what I mean! No sir, this don’t work on the JPEG, but it does take quite a bit of time to get there. Below you can see 100% crops of the JPEG and RAW images side-by-side:

ACROS-R JPEG - more contrast & tonal seperation!

RAW work-out in Capture One Pro - transparent!

So you gotta choose: Either fast and good (JPEG) or slow and better (RAW ;-) … Which one d’you you like better? Yeah, many try to replicate their JPEG’s with the RAW files, but I think that defeats the purpose, each approach has its merits. As for me, I do like both, each image has its own distinct character - the ACROS JPEG with more tonal contrast, but having experienced the real scene the more subtle RAW image more closely represents my original impression of lightness & transparency!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or leave me a private message in my “About” page. Peace be with you & wish y’all a wonderful Easter celebration! Thanks for visiting & reading, best regards

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Revisiting Italy and Fuji´s XF 18 mm F/2 R

Of all the many places I’ve had the luck to be, one has captured a special spot in my heart: Italy. The light, the people, the climate. It is just such a special combination! Went there again end of march with my beloved wife and … My new Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R. Most reviewers on the net have a so-so to downright bad opinion of this little lens (some even say it’s Fuji’s worst …). That intrigued me - I likes to swim against the current and I’d always loved the 28 mm field of view on my full frame cameras. So I decided to get one & try it. Regardless. Please read on if you are interested in my experience with this lovely little gem!

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, a lovely BnB near Sasso Marconi. View from our terrace with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6

We´d booked a night at a Bed & Breakfast near Sasso Marconi (close to Bologna): Cà Palazzo Malvasia. The first surprize came even before arriving: We got a friendly welcome message from the staff inquiring our ETA and informing us how to get there - never had that happen before! Then on arrival we were just completely floored by how beautiful the place is, renovated with so much care & attention. Way better than it had looked on booking.com! And Victoria, the charming lady at the reception took great care of us and made our stay truly unforgettable! Quindi, Victoria se per caso leggessi questo: Grazie mille per un soggiorno meraviglioso. ci ritorneremo! So, if any of you happen to travel the Bologna area (check this out), here’s a wonderful & relaxing place to stay. Highly recommended!

Ok, so what about that little Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R now? Check out the below image … Don’t you think it has a wonderful “organic” (whatever that means … ;-) look to it?

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, carefully renovated in “lo stile dell’epoca”. Taken with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/20 sec

As mentioned before so many out there seem to hate this lens coz of its apparently mediocre image quality. So what! I prefer to see things for myself & make up my own mind. Not just parrot what others say. Point is, Fuji’s little 18mm is for me a lens with “character”, because it’s not “perfect”. And that’s why I like it (those of you who know me know I have a soft spot for lenses with character ;-). And it’s extremely compact & unobtrusive - the smallest Fuji lens still having an aperture ring (IMO a necessity). The plants in the image of our terrace below didn’t even realize they were in the image!

This was our terrace in Cà Palazzo Malvasia from which the first image was taken: Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/8

But how’s it perform? Now I don’t usually photograph brick walls blown up to 1000 pixel peepin’ percent, so those of youse interested in that sort of thing might wanna look elsewhere on the net. I prefer to take pictures of real world, 3 dimensional people and things and I gotta say I was impressed by the results this little lens delivers. They got a kinda “magic glow”, as you can see in the image below:

The interior of Cà Palazzo Malvasia is decorated with heart! Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/9 sec

Overall I found the sharpness to be very good, especially in the central zone. Easily comparable to my X100F’s 23 mm f/2, even surpassing it at closer subject distances & larger apertures. Please note that the above image was taken at 1/9th (one ninth!) of a second. Hand held! No, I’m not “steady as a rock” ;-) Just got helped out a bit by my X-H1’s image stabilization! Those of you interested in technical details please check out Fuji’s specs here and Imaging Resources’s excellent review here. However, I gotta say this lens ain’t no good for photographing brick walls or flat subjects, coz it does suffer a bit from some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, which still linger on, even if you stop it down a bit. Maybe that’s where all the negative reviews came from: Many of those so-called “reviewers” photographing brick walls & test charts … and freakin’ out about the corners … ;-)

Cà Palazzo Malvasia - a lounge like a private living room, captured with Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/30 sec

I really love the way this lens renders, it’s still a kinda “Old School” design not yet exhibiting the clinical rendering of modern “digital” lenses. Like a sculptor’s tool, carving shapes & tones out of light and shadows. Simply poetic …

However, there’s no light without shadows - a couple things about this lens I’m not so enthusiastic about:

  • The aperture ring: Definitively not a hallmark feat of engineering. Rather stiff and with imprecise tactile feedback on the 1/3 f-stop positions, it’s difficult to adjust intuitively. Feels a bit like a crude prototype crafted by a journeyman in his first apprentice’s year. Meanwhile Fuji has greatly improved the adjustment and feel of aperture rings on their newer lenses

  • The autofocus noise: This lens makes no secret of the fact that it’s focussing (still has a traditional DC AF motor with gears moving all the lens elements around). Luckily it’s only audible in completely quiet environments and the AF operation is reasonably fast (especially with the latest camera firmware installed). My pretty wife must’ve thought there was a mouse in the room ;-)

My pretty wife in our nicely decorated room in Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/4, 1/15 sec

Ok meanwhile the jury’s back - here’s the conclusion on Fuji’s XF 18mm f/2 R:

Pro’s:

  • Compact and lightweight but well made. With this lens on a smaller body you don’t really have any excuse to not always take your camera with you (and not miss any photographic opportunity anymore)!

  • Unobtrusive, combined with a 28mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view. It’s ideal for immersive street photography - ‘pulling’ you into the action, provided you have the guts to take those 2 steps closer (remember Robert Capa? “If your pictures aren't good enough, you weren't close enough!” )

  • Excellent centre zone sharpness, already from max. aperture onwards. “Organic”, three dimensional image rendering, with lovely bokeh in out of focus areas. This lens is predestined for storytelling & environmental, documentary style work. Also this lens has low chromatic aberration and distortion (corrected by firmware), making it ideal for environmental portraits (1/2 body images in landscape orientation)

  • Good image quality at max. aperture also at closer focussing distances (less than 1m), images taken in low light are perfectly usable and are rendered with great tonality & nice contrast

  • Quite fast and accurate focussing (with newest camera firmware)

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

  • Some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, improves at f/2.8 but not completely eliminated when stopping further down. Therefore less useful for architecture & landscapes

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

  • Not WR (weather resistant), but never had problems with it even in light rain

Stylish shadow details on our terrace at Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Seen with Fuji X-H1 & XF 35 mm f/1.4 @f/8

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

  1. In love with the 28 mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view

  2. Preferring a compact, unobtrusive prime lens with larger max. aperture than a zoom

  3. Focussing on storytelling & documentary style people / environmental photography

For all others it’s probably better to get a compact zoom which has the 18 mm focal length included, eg. the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS

I hope I could offer you some interesting information, ideas and advice for your own photographic aspirations! As always your appreciation, comments & constructive critique are most welcome - please leave me a note in the comments section below or at my “about” page. Wish y’all a great Sunday and may you find the best light!

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Renovatio, Fuji's X-H1 is a Reincarnation!

Renovatio”? What’s that? Ok, it’s the name of a beautiful, sleek 118ft motor yacht designed by Luca Bassani, featured in the cool 2005 science fiction thriller “The Island” (directed by Michael Bay, starring Ewan McGregor & Scarlett Johansson). Yeah, right. And what’s all this gotta do with photography? Well, you will be surprized! Please read on if interested, but first some shades of grey with lovely tonality:

The final curtain, Fuji X-H1 with XF 35mm f/1.4R @f/2, 1/100 sec, ISO 400 using ACROS-R JPEG

It was the beginning of the 80’s. I was working as a photojournalist, following my lens wherever it chose to take me … lugging 6-7 lb’s of kit around in the process (with 2 second hand Nikon F2AS’s & several primes …). For me the Nikon F2 was the greatest picture taking machine of all time (albeit being a bit on the heavy side), see this nice review: I got nothin’ to add to that! Believe me, I tried most of what came thereafter: Nikon’s F3, F4 & F5; a couple Minolta’s; Leica’s M4P & M6; Hasselblad’s 500C/M; Olympus’ OM 1, 2 & 4Ti; Canon’s 5D mk I & II; Fuji’s X100S, T & F; Fuji’s X-Pro’s & X-T’s 1 & 2; Nikon’s D850, … most good, some exceptional … but none had the same special feel-in-hand I´d once experienced with my F2. Not even my D850 - even I absolutely adore the images coming off that one. So, what is it that stops all of them a bit short? Difficult to say, it’s kinda a combination of weight & balance, size, ergonomics and feel-in-hand with an intuitive, clear operation. When the stars align like that the camera really gets outta my way when taking photos (it kinda “disappears” from being in-between your idea, the subject and the resulting image ;-) and you start to see things you normally don’t see, like the patterns on the tables in the image below:

Rainy tables, Fuji X-H1 with XF 14mm f/2.8 @f/8, 1/180 sec, ISO 400 using ACROS-R JPEG

Enter the Fuji X-H1. According dictionary.comReincarnation means “rebirth of a soul in a new body”. For me the Fuji X-H1 was it. A reincarnation. Finally a camera came along which elicits a similar feeing as I had with my F2. It just “clicked”, I mean literally (y’all just gotta listen to the X-H1’s shutter!). And the weird thing is, this was a camera I initially wasn’t even interested in … thinking it was a kinda weird in-between the chairs of mirrorless and full frame. Too big. Too heavy. Not too good looking either … and only for video junkies, I thought. Didn’t even wanna take it in hand at first! But then fate called. I discovered nasty sharpening artifacts in some of my Fuji’s X-E3’s JPEG’s (see here). Dang. Couldn’t use my beloved ACROS film simulation no more, coz that only works on JPEG’s!

Now what? Get an X-Pro2? Again? No. Sold it coz it’s got a too narrow EVF & didn’t feel comfortable in hand - always needed that MHG (accessory hand grip) thing strapped to it, to at least “get a grip” (pun intended ;-) But with the grip the shutter button ended up in an awkward position. So, back (again too) to the X-T2? Or get the new X-T3? Nope. Same problem with grip and shutter button placement. And the buttons on the back where too small & in all the wrong places for me. So, that left me the X-H1. No way out if I wanted ACROS & didn’t wanna sell my Fuji lenses. OK OK - might as well give it a shot … and I immediately had a couple “excuses” ready to justify that little bout of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). In case all this creates the urge in any of youse to also go out and buy an X-H1, you are free to use my excuses to convince your wife, partner, parents, grandma, or anyone else who needs convincing ;-)

  • The X-H1’s got IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization), at least something …

  • Great ergonomics: Fits in hand like a glove, with my index finger’s directly on the shutter button!

  • “Feather touch” shutter release allowing immediate, intuitive and discrete image capture

  • Fantastic, fluid EVF with sufficient long eye point for wearers of glasses

  • More robust / weather resistant (25% thicker chassis, feels similar “tight” as my Nikon F2 did)

  • And bluetooth

  • And touchscreen (which I´d gotten used to on my X-E3), allowing another 4 custom functions

  • And … “drumroll” … more than 600 bucks discount (vs. original RSP). NOW we’re talking !!!

So …

Wow the wife: “Hey honey, I got myself an X-H1!”, shot with X-H1 and XF 14mm f/2.8 @f/8, 1/60 sec, 800 ISO

I pulled the trigger, traded in my X-E3’s and got m’self an X-H1! In the following I´d like to share my first experiences with “The Beast” (I call my X-H1 like that, coz it looks a bit like something outta a Warcraft video game ;-)

As a sneak preview, please see the below image which wouldn’t have happened without stabilization (1/45 sec hand held on a 24 MPix sensor w/o bracing the camera’s asking for trouble & I didn’t wanna up the ISO), or without a touchscreen flippy LCD (didn’t need to look thru the viewfinder & could quickly select the focus point and immediately take the shot):

Coffee & smoking outside! Fuji X-H1 with XF 35mm d/1.4 @f/2, 1/45 sec, ISO 800 using ACROS-R JPEG

24 MPix? There’s one curse with the megapixels … Yep, more MPix gets you more details, but the smaller pixel pitch to pack the larger number of pixels on a same size sensor means that the camera’s more sensitive to motion blur. Imagine moving a running garden hose over one large bucket vs. moving it over two smaller buckets. While the water level in the larger bucket will uniformly rise only slightly, the two smaller buckets will end up with visibly different water levels. Similar to this analogy the same nanometers of motion blur on sensor will be seen as movement over 2 smaller neighboring pixels, but will not register as movement over one larger pixel (having a diameter larger than the length of the motion blur)

Yeah, right. Switching from my 16 MPix Fuji X100T to my 24 MPix X100F earned me approx. 30% more blurred images … Now this is where Fuji’s X-H1 image stabilization comes in: Allows me to use a 2-3 stop longer shutter speed than the usual 1/2x focal length rule (at least for reasonably static images). The result is more use-a-bility and the ability to extend your tripod-less photographic time in a day! So, for those of youse who’ve been patiently following my ramblings up to here I got good news: I’ll soon publish a follow-up post explaining my preferred settings for mx X-H1 (aka “The Beast”) and showing how a clever allocation of functions to buttons can further streamline the X-H1’s operation and make it even more intuitive!

Tables for diamonds, Fuji X-H1 with XF 14mm f/2.8 @f/8, 1/60 sec, ISO 400 using ACROS-R JPEG

There are a couple flies in the ointment though … For some the increased size & weight of the X-H1 is deviating too much from the original Fuji evolution to revolution story (for me it was still OK though, due to the improved grip & button position ergonomics). However the reduced battery capacity due to IBIS is a pain in the neck (even with IBIS in shooting only mode) - you gotta either use the battery power grip (which finally pushes the X_H1 size & weight into DSLR territory) or fill your pockets with spare batteries. Didn’t measure it, but subjectively 30% shorter battery life compared to X-T/X-Pro … you gonna need ‘em ;-)

I hope y’all enjoyed reading today’s blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it, and that you found some for you valuable insights during your visit here. Thanks for your interest & hope some of you will share your experiences or ask any questions you may have in the comments section below. Wish y’all a great weekend with exciting photographic opportunities!

Many thanks & all the best,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Fuji's 50mm Equivalent Options

A very happy new year 2019 to y’all! In my last post I explained how the main benefit of getting re-united with my X100F was fewer lost photographic opportunities, coz its small size allows me to always have her with me. Perfectly happy? Well, not quite I’m afraid. While the X100F´s moderate wide-angle lens is great for documentary / street / travel imagery (including part of the subject’s environment), I still often prefer the slightly narrower field of view of the “normal” lens for a more selective & focused field of view … Please read on to discover what options Fuji offers & what was the best solution for me!

Staircase to heaven, with Fuji X-E3 and XF 35 f/1.4R @f/2.8, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600

No problem on full frame: I got my absolute favorite 58mm “boutique” lens kinda permanently glued to my D850 right there, please see my earlier posts here and here! But wait a minute, you gotta be aware the amazing image quality comes at the cost of 1.5 kilograms pulling on your neck (and you’ll need to carry quite a substantial photo bag to boot). Ya ain’t gonna lug that kinda kit around just for fun (i.e. when not on a planned photoshoot). If you only want to have a compact camera always with you “just in case”, I found 3 options from Fuji which can solve the “I want a normal field of view in an always with you compact format” dilemma:

  1. Take an X100F and activate its digital zoom (select the 1st step = 50mm equivalent field of view)

  2. Take an X100F and attach the TCL-X100ii Teleconverter (also a 50mm equivalent field of view)

  3. Take an X-E3 (or another exchange-able lens body) with one of Fuji´s 35mm (53mm equivalent field of view) offerings: Either the XF 35mm f/1.4R or the XF 35mm f/2 R WR

To save y’all the trouble of reading until the end of this post to find out what option I chose, here the result: After much deliberation I got m’self a black X-E3 with an XF 35mm f/1.4R, please see my reasoning & details of these options below (incl. some images you can check out to help you come to your own conclusions)!

Winterdorf in Bayreuth, at max. aperture with Fuji X-E3 and XF 35mm f/1.4R @f/1.4, 1/340 sec, ISO 2000

1. X100F, using the built in digital zoom (at the 50mm setting):

A digital zoom on the X100F? Size-wize the best option, coz this feature don’t add no cost nor bulk to the X100F. But nope, it wasn’t for me. Works OK in a pinch if you got no alternative with you, but for me the quality of the digital zoom’s image don’t cut it (albeit still being better than cropping a 50mm field of view outta a regular X100F image). Apart from this the X100F’s digital zoom works in JPEG mode only (i.e. you don’t get no RAW files). See below comparison between the X100F’s digital zoom at the 50mm setting @f/2 and an image shot at a comparable field of view with the XF 35mm f/1.4 also @f/2 - compare the rendering of the twigs in the centre of the image:

Crop of X100F 50mm digital zoom @f/2, 1/4000 sec

Crop of X-E3 with 53mm (e.f.o.v.) @f/2, 1/3200 sec

2. X100F with the TCL-X100ii Teleconverter:

Had this somewhat ungainly accessory way back when I still had an X100T (2015-2016). OK the teleconverter don't deteriorate the quality of the camera's native lens but images at closer focussing distances (below 1.5m) remain soft at apertures larger than f/4 (just like with the native lens). Kinda defeats the purpose of a lens which you’d often wanna use for portraits. Although the converter otherwize has absolutely useable image quality (albeit lagging slightly behind Fuji’s prime lenses) the main issue I have with this option is its size & weight (around 600g). You do need to think about taking this set with you when not specifically on a photo mission! And the teleconverter (filter diameter 67mm!) does make the combo look more obvious to your subjects. I’m sorry I ain’t got no images here taken with the TCL-X100, but if interested please head over to Fuji vs. Fuji for a more detailed reviews!

Lanterns on the street, captured by Fuji X-E3, with XF 35mm f/1.4R @f/5.6, 1/950 sec, ISO 400

Lanterns on the street, captured by Fuji X-E3, with XF 35mm f/1.4R @f/5.6, 1/950 sec, ISO 400

3. X-E3 with a Fuji 35mm prime, the XF 35mm f/1.4R for me:

I never liked the XF 35mm f/2R WR - out of some reason all the copies I had were either de-centred or got dusty inside after a short time (bad QC?). For me THE 35mm Fuji prime is the original XF 35 f/1.4R - I’ve had a couple of these during my Fuji time, with some variations in image quality. So I was a bit apprehensive as to whether this one would be OK. As a veritable “Bokeholic” I just love those larger aperture lenses, so at least I had to try ;-) … This time I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed - my images are tack sharp, even at f/1.4 (at least in the centre)! See below comparison of my X100F with its 23mm f/2 lens to my X-E3 with the XF 35 f/1.4R at roughly the same magnification, both @f/2.8 (to at least partly equalize the X100F’s “softness” disadvantage at close focus distances):

Centre of X100F image @f/2.8, 1/60 sec

Centre of X-E3 & XF 35mm f/1.4 @f/2.8, 1/60 sec

As y’all can see, the contrast and sharpness of the 35mm is just so much better. So, I was happy I’d made the right choice! The X-E3 with the 35 f/1.4 is also quite a bit more compact and lighter than the X100F with the teleconverter, so easy to have always with me in a small bag (actually the same small bag I use for the X100F). I got only 2 niggles: The autofocus of the XF 35mm f/1.4R is quite loud (albeit being sufficiently fast with the updated firmware & processor of the X-E3) and the combo ain’t weather sealed (but then again neither is the X100F). I do also like the X-E3’s rangefinder style housing (with eyepiece located on the left side of the camera, very similar to the X100F) and its touch screen feature, allowing swipe gestures to control various settings

The gate, seen with Fuji X-E3 and XF 35mm f/1.4R @f/2.8, 1/240 sec, ISO 200


I hope you enjoyed my first post in the new year, with advice for a small hi-quality kit you can always have with you, so go out and have fun & wish you wonderful photographic opportunities this year! Please do share your experiences in the comment section below. As a last word I’d like to thank all of you who’ve spent time here for your continued support & for your valuable comments & feedback in the last year. I hope I can deliver more interesting content to you this year!

Many thanks & best wishes for 2019,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Fuji X100F in a Little Black Dress - Rediscovering Love!

OK, some of youse was worried I was gonna leave Fuji for good when I went full frame last May (pls see here). And in June I finally traded in my last bit of Fuji kit (“Irene”, my silver X100F) to help pay for one of those dang expensive full frame prime lenses. Yep that undoubtedly was a fan-tas-tic lens (y’all can read about that one here), but parting with my X100F really did give me a heavy heart … So, many thanks for your kind comments (especially @TheFujiGuy!), expressing hope that I’d return to the Fuji family. Some day (after all the “X” in my logo is the Fuji X!). Please read on for the story!

Now the day has come: I’m back together with Irene again, and this time she’s wearing an elegant little black dress 😉! Sometimes you need to experience losing something to appreciate its value! Below I’ll share my motives behind it all, what accessories I use & how I see APS-C stacking up vs. full frame and medium format!

The chair, as seen with Fuji X100F, 23mm @f/5.6, 1/100sec, ISO400

Nope, the above image can't exclusively be taken with a Fuji X100F. Any halfway proficient photographer using a camera with reasonable resolution and a decent lens can do it. Ain't the point. More important is whether you have an appropriate camera with you at all. Of course, when you're on a planned photo shoot, you got your big full frame pro DSLR kit weighing tons with you - then such images would for sure be no problem. But you can't (and don't) lug those around everywhere & all the time, right? Get a rut cut into your neck and/or shoulders for your trouble … So, I tried to get the same image with my iPhone 8 & didn't get nearly such wonderful tonal gradations nor image clarity …

This is what the magic of the X100F (or similar large sensor, small package solutions) is all about! This type of camera can. be. with. you. ALWAYS! Anytime. And it is just so much better than my iPhone! Always having a hi-quality compact camera with you alone allows for unexpected charming photographic opportunities, you'd otherwize miss. Serendipitous encounters: People don't even notice there’s a camera together with the adults in the room (couldn't resist that one 😉 - please stay tuned for a dedicated future blog post on that topic!)

The black version of Fuji’s X100F is particularly stealthy. OK, the silver version on the other hand is a more retro/beautiful eye catcher hipster kinda thing (always good for starting a chat with strangers, as I'd experienced many times). But I need my camera to enable me to discretely observe, so it was the little black dress for me, ain't she sharp now 😎? Hey, it’s like when your girl dresses up nice for a night out - you fall in love with her all over again! Please meet her below:

Back together with “Irene”, my Fuji X100F!

For those of youse interested, I like to pimp my X100F with following accessories / equipment, please click the links for more info (of course these are just my personal preferences, your taste might differ):

  • SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s UHS-I class 10 64GB SD Card (the X100F don't support UHS-II)

  • Fuji NP-W126S Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery (1 in camera, 2 spares - good for a long day ;-)

  • Fuji AR-X100 Adaptor Ring (don't use the lens hood much coz it blocks the on-board flash)

  • B+W 49mm XS-Pro UV Haze MRC-Nano 010M Filter (for fingerprint & dust protection)

  • Lensmate concave red Soft Release Button (better control of “the decisive moment” ;-)

  • Lensmate 100T black Thumb Grip (don't like the folding one for the X100F & the X100T one fits)

  • Artisan & Artist ACAM-102 black Camera Strap (very soft & takes up little room in the bag)

  • Fuji LX-100F Brown Leather Case (only use the bottom half, the front part is too much hassle)

  • Black Rapid SnapR 35 small padded bag (I think this one’s not available anymore)

  • LaCie 2TB DJI Copilot BOSS ext. HDD (control via iPhone, don't need a Mac while traveling)

Yes I know some of the above (batteries, adaptor ring, thumb grip, case, …) are available from no-name brands at lower prices, but I’ve always been a stickler for branded accessories. After all you wouldn't buy the girl of your life crappy shoes from a cheapie discount store to go with that exclusive Chanel evening dress you got her for X-mas, would you? (at least you’d learn veeeery fast that wunt’ve been a good idea after the first try …). Anyways everyone can decide for themselves onto how thin ice they wanna venture 🙃!

OK ‘nuff said about the gear, after all at the end only the images you make with it count! I loved how the late afternoon sunlight sculpts objects outta the black inked shadows in the below picture of my mom’s lounge:

The lounge, captured with Fuji X100F, 23mm @f/5.6, 1/450sec, ISO400

So what about the format comparison? Also on full frame I often use a 35mm f/1.4 (which “compares” to the X100F’s 23mm field of view). I love this focal length for its storytelling character, w/o any “wide angle” effects or distortions but a wonderful intimacy with the subject. I have to be honest with y’all here: Even my D850 @46MP has 1.4x the linear resolution of my X100F @24mp (and nearly 4x the price mind you, with the AF-S 35mm f/1.4G), but I gotta work really hard to make the difference visible in the final images (I done some direct comparisons which are a real compliment to Fuji’s little 23mm f/2 aspherical lens, but this is something for a future post, pls let me know if you're interested)

The X100F ‘s APS-C sensor has one major advantage vs. full frame in that I can shoot at much lower shutter speeds w/o hitting motion blur territory: 1/15sec is about the lowest I can reliably go on my X100F (leaf shutter), while on my Nikon (focal plane shutter & mirror) it becomes a hit & miss game with less than 1/60sec (2 stops more!). OK I was cutting it fine here, the below image @1/17th is just a shade before being borderline blurred ;-)

Locked & loaded, Fuji X100F, 23mm @f/2.8, 1/17sec, ISO3200

So y’all might say: If he’s so crazy about image quality & the the 35mm full frame equivalent field of view, why dunt he get himself a medium format, like the Fuji GFX 50S or R just come out? Yeah, right I was debating that one for a while … Now if you just ignore the even higher price gap of best case (GFX 50R with 45mm f/2.8) a factor of 4.5x vs. the price of the X100F for a while, the bigger issue from my p.o.v. is that going medium format would force me to sacrifice another 2 stops of light eating shutter speed. How so? Let's assume we keep the ISO at the same level, photographing a scene at f/2 and 1/15sec with my X100F would require at least 1/125 on the GFX - one stop more than full frame to prevent motion blur & another stop coz the the medium format 45mm GFX lens has a one stop slower max. aperture of f/2.8 compared to the X100F's f/2. So in total were talking 4 (four!) stops less handholding shooting capability than my X100F here! Summarizing, see below the comparable handholding scenarios for an equivalent field of view:

  • Fuji X100F with fixed 23mm f/2 aspherical lens @f/2 and 1/15sec = Baseline

  • Nikon D850 with AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G @f/1.4 and 1/60sec = 1 stop less handhold capability!

  • Fuji GFX 50S/R with GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR @f/2.8 and 1/125sec = 4 stops less handhold capability!

OK, so to be fair you do get more resolution & dynamic range outta the larger sensors. But what's the point if your image is blurred, making you lose the shot? For me the combination APS-C for candids and full frame for landscape, architecture, beauty is the better deal! Don't need medium format. Curious what you think!

Enjoying the winter sun, Fuji X100F, 23mm @f/4, 1/950sec, ISO400, on board fill flash w/o correction

Last but not least, I love taking pics of my pretty wife (she must be the most photographed person on the planet …). A small camera like the X100F is much less present (also coz with an electronic shutter it’s totally quiet), much less intrusive & much more intimate, resulting in so much more natural pictures. Mostly she don't even notice, but with a full frame DSLR banging away I often got a “Jeezus, again a photo” look 🙄 … Another reason I rediscovered my lost love for Irene, my Fuji X100F (and my wife’s not even jealous 😅)

So, I hope y’all enjoyed my ramblings - just leaves me to wish you’ve all had a very nice X-mas celebration together with your families / loved ones & will all enjoy a great new & successful year 2019! Have a wonderful holiday season! Many thanks for visiting my blog and for your constructive comments / suggestions,

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Street Night, with Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

Just a few images off the street with my absolute favorite ever lens, the Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G! I love the discrete perspective this lens gives me. Images with gorgeous bokeh & tonality. Please read on if you’re interested in how to capture intimate, natural positive images of street life around you!

Two walkers before the gate. Nikon D850 & AF-S 58mm f/1.4G @f/2, 1/45 sec, 3200 ISO

Look at the tonality in the above image: From inky shadows still disclosing details to delicate highlights framing the two walkers thru the gate. Amazing how I still got a full range of gray tones in between the black & white extremes - too stark contrasts would’ve given the image a too ominous look ;-)

Thoughtful, captured with Nikon D850 & AF-S 58mm f/1.4G @f/2, 1/125 sec, 2500 ISO

The Nikon D850 thankfully has a flippy rear screen and a reasonably good working live-view function allowing me to take pictures much more discreetly, without needing to look thru the viewfinder (similar to a medium format camera with a waist-level finder). This and the lower position of the camera results in more pleasing & natural images taken from a better perspective. Combined with the slightly narrower field of view of the AF-S 58mm (vs. a normal 50mm) you get a great framing of life around you from a more respectful distance of 3-5 feet. I remember when I was photojournalist, my go-to focal length was a 28mm wide-angle. To fill the frame I had to get right into peoples’ faces, which they didn’t really appreciate (apart from the unflattering distortion evident in the resulting images)

Empathy, observed with Nikon D850 & AF-S 58mm f/1.4G @f/2, 1/90 sec, 3200 ISO

3D auto-focus face tracking over nearly the full frame in live-view frees you from the limited focus point coverage in the optical viewfinder. The fast focus acquisition even in low light conditions allows you to use a larger aperture, creating a pleasing separation from an otherwize distracting background. This is not possible if you use the so-called “zone-focussing” method which requires a small aperture to give you sufficient depth-of-field. That again drives you ISO thru the roof and/or leads to motion blur causing longer shutter speeds. As you can see in the above and below image this enabled me to capture fleeting expressions or emotions of people, resulting in spontaneous images full of life!

Evening drinks, taken with Nikon D850 & AF-S 58mm f/1.4G @f/2, 1/125 sec, 3200 ISO

As you can see on my blog my images are mostly land- or cityscapes. But I also love to observe people & capture their emotions and interactions! Like in the image below where what the girl on the right is saying seems to elicit some skepticism in the girl on the left! Or what do you think?

Scepticism after shopping, seen with Nikon D850 & AF-S 58mm f/1.4G @f/2, 1/125 sec, 720 ISO

With these “Street Night” images I’d like to thank y’all for visiting and for your interest. Looking very much forward to your comments, questions and suggestions - please leave a note either in the comments section or send me a message! Wishing youse a great Sunday evening & a good start into the new week …

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

The Attraction of Going Really Wide: Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G

Want to cram more image into your frame? Hey, just use a wide angle they say. Wrong. Yes, you do get more into the frame but your image becomes too full of stuff and loses impact. You just get a kinda content overkill ;-) Please read on for some tips you might wanna consider to get more interesting images with wide-angles and more fun outta your photography!

Parking red Vespa, captured with Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G @f/8, 1/40sec, ISO 80

In general 3 main things to keep in mind when going “really wide”:

  1. Go Closer

  2. Stay Level

  3. Kill or Fill Foreground

“Go Closer”? If you think you’re close enough, go even closer. The wider the lens’s field of view, the closer you need to go. Reducing the distance to your subject changes the images’ perspective, exaggerating the size of objects closer to the camera vs. similar sized further distant objects. This makes the image look much more dynamic, especially when going closer is combined with an unusual point of view. In above image with Vespa and below with a Façade the main subject was just a couple feet away from the lens!

Restaurant façade in Bayreuth, seen with Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G @f/8, 1/125sec, ISO 64

The wider the angle, the more the image is also sensitive to holding it level (on the roll axis): “Stay Level” means youse need to pay close attention to that horizon! Most modern cameras have a virtual horizon function which you can use to determine if the camera is being held level, even if you point the lens up or down (pitch axis). My D850 has a nifty little LCD indicator for roll and pitch, directly visible in the optical viewfinder - great feature!

Keeping the camera level is key to prevent slanted horizons, but pointing the lens straight ahead (i.e. not pointing up or down) also gives you an expansive foreground for your trouble, overwhelming your image with a big empty space. Resulting images tend to come across a bit boring. This empty space can be blanked out by going lower or higher than eye level and slanting the camera up or down, e.g. by bringing the camera close to the ground or moving up to a higher vantage point. But then you risk getting crazy converging vertical lines. So you need to find the right balance and get the converging lines to support the image content: In the image below the camera was actually just about a foot off the ground and pointing the lens up captured those beautiful old façades and church towers, with the converging vertical lines helping to convey the narrowness of medieval cobbled streets:

Alleyway with city church in Bayreuth, seen thru Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G @f/8, 1/40sec, ISO 80

So “Kill or Fill Foreground” means you either gotta “kill” the foreground by the above mentioned going low & pointing the lens up, or “fill” the empty space with something of interest (like the Vespa or the flowers in the first two images). Apart from the obvious health benefits of bending down or climbing ladders ;-) the resulting unusual points of view make your images look more interesting. An articulating LCD screen on your camera’s a big asset here, preventing you having to get down into the dirt! See another example below contre-jour autumn image I took in the park. I wanted to keep the trees more or less parallel to prevent them “closing up” the top of the image. The stark shadows cast by the sun coming thru the trees were used to “fill” the foreground:

Autumn sun coming thru the trees, with Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G @f/8, 1/40sec, ISO100

Concluding, Nikon’s AF-S 20mm f/1.8G is a fantastic “really wide” proposition. Wide enough to create amazing, dynamic perspectives, but not too wide as to look like an “effect lens” (I once had a 16-35mm zoom which had a for my taste far too extreme angle of view and distortion at 16mm)

This one makes it easy to capture interesting & attractive wide-angle images (provided you go close enough ;-) and delivers amazing image quality (among the best I’ve come across actually). Next to having dust & moisture protection on board it is still quite compact for it’s reasonably large max. aperture of f/1.8 and has the added bonus of allowing attachment of 77mm filters!

Only fly in the ointment is its rather mediocre build quality (compared to my f/1.4 primes): The focus ring feels a bit rough, has a too short throw and does not really allow precise manual focussing, due to the lag in the focus-by-wire system

Overall however, I can highly recommend Nikon’s Nikkor AF-S 20mm f/1.8G, at an absolutely fair price of around 800$ it is quite a bargain and a compact, versatile, valuable addition to your kit. Enjoy & many thanks for visiting!

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

So, Your Pic’s Suck? Go Micro!

Every Photographer’s had it. The Block. Writers call it “Writer’s Block”, that dreaded moment where your creativity hits a brick wall. You want, but nothing works no more. The creative flow stops & your pic’s just suck. Big. Time. So, y’all up against a dead-end? OK, so go for a walk, they say. Eliminate distractions, they suggest. You gotta get yo’self outta that rut, they tell you. Nice. But not very helpful, such generic advice. If you’re experiencing writer’s (or better photographer’s) block, or if you’re dreading getting it, I got an idea for youse right here. It works (at least for me ;-) … helps you break thru your creative constipation & lights a fire under your photography: Go Micro! Please read on to find out what that means!

“Micro” in action: Nikon’s Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 180

“Micro” is Nikon speak for “Macro”, the photography of small things below the usual minimum focusing distance of lenses around 1/focal length in cm, with reproduction ratios above 1:10 up to and including 1:1 (go further and you’re in real “micro”, larger-than-life territory). If you don’t know what to photograph anymore, or you’re stuck inside with a Siberian blizzard howling outside, taking images of things close by is a great way to get your creative juices flowing again!

Closer view, framed by Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 64

I often ponder if this or that image is worth sharing on my blog - will my readers appreciate them or are they just mediocre snapshots which don’t elicit any meaningful emotion and therefore just waste my visitors’ valuable time? With Macro photography the results can often be quite interesting right off the bat, coz you showing stuff people normally aren’t aware of. And your subjects are usually quite static, patiently “enduring” while you try out all kinda framing, composition, lighting, exposure, or angles. You actually got time to “work” your subject, see example image below, balancing sharpness and blur between fore- and background, the unsharp flowers mirroring the sharp ones:

More of the same, seen with Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/500sec, ISO 64

Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t advocating that taking Macro images is a cure for crummy photography, but it’s a great training & learning field which will also benefit your normal photography. I like the above image because it has a rich tonal range from dark blacks to pure whites, overall creating an impression of lightness thru the bright tones of the flowers’ petals

Macro flower composition, Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 64

Macro means that your depth of field is extremely limited. Even with f/5.6 as in above image you get a completely blurred background which accentuates and compliments the sharp part of the image. Also in the below image I love how this narrow depth of field and the contrast between the blurred, darker outer areas and the sharp, bright center of the image gives it a 3 dimensional quality & pop:

More Bokeh, using Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 110

More Bokeh, using Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 110

Actually I started experimenting with macro photography more by coincidence than intent: I was planning to get hold of a prime portrait lens. 85mm was a too close angle of view to my beloved 58mm, so I was flirting on the web with Nikon’s amazing AF-S 105mm f/1.4E. On closer scrutiny I found out that that one had some disadvantages: An eye-watering RRP of over 2k$ (which currently is just quite a wayz over my budget) and a minimum focusing distance of only 1m … Just a tick too long IMO (would’ve preferred 0.85 or 0.9m to get really close frame filling head portraits). Also not having VR meant it limited free-hand shutter speeds to 1/250sec

Spiked petals, captured by Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/5.6, 1/350sec, ISO 64

So, I started to look for alternatives and found Nikon’s Nicro-Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR, with which all the images on this post are shot. This lens turned out to be a very versatile offer at an attractive price of nearly a third of the f/1.4E, with macro up to 1:1 (life-size, w/o needing extension tubes) & VR included, at a max. aperture of f/2.8! WTF f/2.8? What about bokeh? Would it be good enough for portraits? Well, please judge for y’self in below image of my pretty wife:

Bokeh portrait, with Micro Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR @f/4, 1/250sec, ISO 1000

Concluding I can recommend Nikon’s Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR. It is a macro lens, with very good sharpness & minimal curvature of field. It’s not a specialized portrait lens with an extreme thin depth of field. So, if youse looking for a lens delivering organic, dreamy portraits at wide open apertures of f/1.4 to f2 (like wedding photographers love), it’s precise, somewhat clinical character maybe ain’t for you. However, if you looking for a fun, versatile, high quality lens for documentary, journalistic portraits all the way up to life-size macros at a very attractive price, with vibration reduction to boot, you’ll be impressed! What do you think? If you got any questions, or would like to leave me comments please do so in the comments section below or on my about page. Thanks for your interest and for looking by, I appreciate it!

Many thanks & wish y’all a relaxing, successful photo weekend, best regards

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Finding Beauty in Banality: The Magic of Boutique Lenses!

Merriam-Webster defines “banality“ as something lacking originality, freshness, or novelty - not having any new or interesting qualities. Aha … OK, right. So, what´s all this gotta do with photography? And what, pray, is a “boutique lens”? … and anyways, how on earth d’you want to find beauty in banality? Questions, questions, questions … Please read on if you want to find out the answers & settle in for a relaxing weekend read ;-)

The beauty of banality, seen thru Nikon‘s AF-S 58mm f/1.4 on D850

Oh boy, now he´s getting philosophical you may say … even metaphysical maybe? Whatever. Please hear me out, I will elaborate: For me photography is the art of conveying your impressions and feelings on the world around you to your audience via the images you make. Your ability to see and perceive photographically is a key enabler! And with this post I hope to animate y’all to continuously train and develop this ability. Of course, alternatively you can always book a safari trip to the Serengeti (if you have the time and the necessary small change to pay for it on hand, that is ;-) … Your experiences and the images you´ll bring back with you will for sure be amazing (alone due to the extraordinary location). However, believe me: Enhancing your photographic seeing skills by bringing mundane topics into a new light can be immensely rewarding (apart from also greatly benefitting those Serengeti images)!

Pipe Dream, Nikon’s AF-S 58mm f/1.4 on D850

It does require persistence, effort, and some courage though. To look where you have never looked before. To overcome your initial reluctance to take a photo of … well, nothing interesting, really. To discover things everybody else has overseen, for example see above image of a drainpipe or below photo of a bridge railing:

Off the fence, Nikon‘s AF-S 58mm f/1.4 on D850

Ok, so where does this “boutique lens” thing come from now? All right, I gotta admit I dreamt this one up m’self! Nowadays the word “boutique” is often used to indicate a specialized, highly attractive offering for discerning niche customers, eg. as in fashion boutique, boutique hotel or boutique winery. Following this logic, I´d now like to coin the term “boutique lens” for lenses which combine the following for me important characteristics (usually these aren’t found on mainstream and/or zoom lenses):

  1. Ultra-fast aperture resulting in a razor thin focal plane (pre-requisite to the following items)

  2. Attractive bokeh, with a smooth transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas

  3. Good sharpness in the focal plane already at largest / larger apertures (> f/2)

  4. Acceptable lens aberrations (distortion, vignette, coma, lateral & longitudinal CA, …)

But don’t an ultra-fast aperture guarantee attractive bokeh? Unfortunately not. When looking for a fast full frame “normal“ lens I first bought the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art. Phenomenal sharpness but terrible “onion ring“ bokeh. Just didn’t cut it. So, for me criteria 1 and 2 both need to be fulfilled. Then the plane of focus needs to be tack sharp and the lens aberrations not too obvious. Combining these four criteria in the right balance lays a magic touch on your images, below image of a driveway is a nice example:

Thru the gate, Nikon‘s AF-S 58mm f/1.4 on D850

In my view Nikon‘s AF-S 58mm f/1.4G used for all images in this post is a fine example for a boutique lens. Next to fulfilling all the above criteria’s it’s slightly longer than normal focal length gives images taken with it a special focussed perspective! Many thanks for visiting, should you have any questions please drop me a note in the comments section below or on my about page. Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

A Wider Window to the World - Nikon’s 28mm f/1.4E

Got a 24-120mm f/4 zoom with my D850. It did initially help me to survive the weight & size shock of going full frame after enjoying 3 years of mirrorless lightness. And it’s a really good lens, having 98% of my most used focal lengths built in. But then I’d got bitten by the Bokeh bug & fell for the 58mm f/1.4 (I “outed” myself on that one here). So then I was out & about looking for a bokehlicious wide angle. Crazy, huh? Really? Yep, I admit that’s how bad I got bitten - maybe a good idea to get some professional help after all ... Sometime. Anyways, please read on if y’all wanna join me on this new adventure & fancy some advice as to which direction to go Bokeh!

Rooster house in Bayreuth, D850 with 28mm f/1.4 @f/8, 1/180sec, ISO 64

One thing you can’t complain about Nikon is missing options. They got it all. Every lens you’d ever wished for. Wide angle with Bokeh potential? 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm, all with f/1.4 max. aperture. Right there, they got it. You just need to be some kinda millionaire ;-) and you need to have the patience of a saint to find what fits best to your needs! Well I gotta tell ya, ain’t no millionaire & for sure ain’t no saint either. And my trusted photo dealer wasn’t gonna appreciate me trying out all kinda different lenses (coz large aperture wide angle primes definitely aren’t mainstream. They gotta be ordered & payed for in advance, each single one :-) So, after many hours of research, burning the midnight oil on the net I got the Nikkor AF-S 28mm f1.4E in my sights. Why? it’s positioned as a wide angle with Bokeh and it got many great reviews.

So you want a “Storytellin’ lens” (which includes the subject’s environment)? Look no further, IMO this is the one. See the “Rooster house” image above and the airport snapshot of my wife below: After many years of using a 35mm equivalent on mirrorless I knew that the 35mm’s rendering is just a little wee bit too “normal” (narrow) for me, albeit great for everyday documentary use. I needed something with a bit steeper perspective (by requiring you to come closer to your subject), without hitting “distortion territory” in people photography. And, of course with Bokeh! The wider the angle, the less Bokeh and the more distortion potential. The 24mm distorts too much if your subject reasonably fills the frame and includes too much of the image if you maintain sufficient distance to prevent distortion. For me the sweet spot between perspective & Bokeh lies around 28mm! Definitely. Look at the image below - Amazing Bokeh on a 28mm wide angle! Hard to believe, right?

Flowers on the Fence, D850 with 28mm f/1.4 @f/2, 1/500sec, ISO 64

So there you got it. A wide angle with Bokeh! Now Nikon’s AF-S 28mm f/1.4E’s been quite a recent development (it came out last year if I remember right). 14 lens elements, of which 2 are ED lenses and 3 asphericals, which do cause a touch of nervousness in background Bokeh, as you can see (but not critical in my opinion). Overall Nikon made quite an effort on this one, resulting in an eye-watering price (hey, they forced me to trade in the complete rest of my Fuji kit to get this beast ...). But when you see the images and the Bokeh this monster creates you forget the pain. Garanteed! Even at f/1.4 the clarity & sharpness of this lens’s rendering just jumps off your monitor! You’re even forced to close the aperture to f/2, just to get sufficient depth-of-field. So depth-of -field’s the only reason for stopping down on this one. See below image of an antique Spanish wooden door:

Antique Spanish wooden door, D850 with 28mm f /1.4 @f/2, 1/60sec, ISO 180

The Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.4E’s superb image quality, nearly independent of the used aperture is quite unlike most other large aperture lenses which are soft fully open and need to be stopped down to achieve acceptable sharpness. This gives you more creative freedom and allows you to enjoy narrow depth-of-field even on a wide angle lens! The below snapshot of my pretty wife as we were enjoying a break in the airport lounge shows what I meant with staying out of “distortion territory”. With 28mm you can still get away with peoples’ heads close to the image frame edges, distortion staying within reasonable limits. Don’t try this with a 24mm, your subjects will not be amused by the egg-shaped distortion of their heads in case they’re located in the image corner!

With my pretty wife at the airport, D850 with 28mm f/1.4 @f/2.8, 1/60sec, ISO 450

The not too large 75˚angle of view of the 28mm thereby limits the inclusion of distracting background elements, allowing environmental portraits to not be overwhelmed by the secondary image elements. In this image stopping down to f/2.8 allowed me to also get the stuff on the table more or less into focus but still got enough blurring of the background to not distract from the main subject. I had a similar idea for the image below: Seperate the wrought iron gate from its shadow on the wall behind it by focussing the selective plane of sharpness on the foreground. This creates a better separation between fore- and background elements and gives it a more 3 dimensional rendering, what do you think?

On the fence, D850 with 28mm f/1.4 @f/2.8, 1/2000sec, ISO 64

So, does having this 28mm cover all your wide-angle needs? To be honest not completely. IMO 28mm’s a bit to short for street photography, because the 1-1.5m you need to come closer to your subjects to fill the frame sometimes already infringes on their private space and they notice their image is being captured. This still creates interesting images for sure but they will not strictly be of documentary nature anymore because you are now interacting with your subjects. So I will want to try out Nikon’s AF-S 35mm f/1.4G for my street photography at some time in the future ... anyways I’m sure looking forward to seeing y’all back here for that review ;-)

You may ask why I don’t use my zoom for all this. Simple, I mainly use my 24-120mm zoom when traveling or for casual photography (especially when I don’t need too much Bokeh ;-). For more serious photography I prefer to limit myself to one focal length for a specific topic. This allows me to focus more on the image rather than fiddling with the zoom ring (hell, even when using the zoom I try to stick to one focal length for a series of images). I can only advise you to try that for yo’self - I promise your photography will improve dramatically - less is more!

If you have any questions or anything’s unclear please leave me a message below or on my about page! Thanks for looking by & wish y’all a relaxing Sunday!

Yours, 

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Five Reasons I Love Nikon´s 58mm f/1.4 - Is This Normal ?

I've bought and traded in so many 50mm lenses that I thought I gotta go see a shrink. Nuts some may say and nuts I may well be, but up to now it just didn't ever "click" (pun intended). Until Nikon´s 58mm f/1.4 found me! Please read on if you want to know the 5 reasons why this "normal" lens ain't so normal at all and has achieved for me what no other lens has been able to do!

My lovely wife, seen thru Nikon´s 58mm f/1.4 on D850 @f/1.7, 1/125 sec, ISO 500

I've always loved "normal" lenses (focal length approx. equal to length of image frame diagonal) coz of the authentic way they render the world around us, without perspective effects distracting from the image content. It ain´t for nothing these type of lenses have been a continued favorite of famous reportage photographers, their natural field of view ideal for unbiased documenting of our environment

For my people photos the 58mm's focal length enables me to be at just the right distance from my subjects, allowing sufficient intimacy without being too intrusive. The frame covers the subjects' head & upper body and I'm just far enough away to prevent distortion. All this delivers more informal & natural looking portraits, better able to depict a person's character & posture than more tightly cropped headshots (which sometimes do tend to look a bit like passport photos ;-)

Normal lenses normally also have large apertures, which allow for a bright viewfinder image and dissolve out-of-focus areas with a pleasing bokeh, which helps to focus the viewer on the intended core image content, as you can see in the following image:

Shallow depth of field: Stacked chairs, Nikon 58mm f/1.4 on D850 @f/2, 1/8000 sec, ISO 450

So, over the years whatever camera system I had, I tried all them normal lenses, but searched in vain, from Minolta´s 50 f/1.2, Nikon´s 50 f/1.2, Hasselblad´s 80 f/2.8, Leica´s 50 f/1.4 Summilux, Canon´s 50 f/1.2L, to Fuji´s 35 f/1.4 (53mm full frame equivalent) ... Somehow always something was missing. Then around 6 months ago I went from APS-C back to full frame for its shallower depth of field, desperately on the look out for a fast normal prime ...

First I tried Sigma´s 50mm f/1.4 ART, after reading its rave reviews on the net. However, even though it was phenomenally sharp, I just couldn't come to terms with its IMO terrible 'onion ring' shaped bokeh. And what a monster it was too (as big as my 24-120 f/4 Zoom Nikkor and even 100g heavier!). Images were rendered too "clinical" for my taste ... My next attempt was Nikon´s 50mm f/1.8 but that one was decentered and quite soft until f/2.8, so it was a case of "return to sender".

What to do now? Can't live without no normal lens, and the only remaining option of Nikon´s 58mm f/1.4 was not exactly looking like a bargain at around 1,700 US$ ... (apart from it getting many mediocre reviews on the net). Anyways, after a significant amount of contemplation I finally decided to take the plunge and order one (trading in several bits of my Fuji kit in the process), dreading to realize I´d made a mistake. So it was with sweaty, shakin' fingers that I pressed the image review button on my D850 after taking the first shots, and ...

Damn. It was soft. Everywhere. OMG, so did I now need to start the roulette game of trying out various samples until I´d find one acceptable copy (btw this was the reason I ditched Leica in the end ...)? In my despair I did some test shots and found there was sharpness to be found, just not where I was expecting it! So after some fiddling with the AF fine-tuning (+6 if I remember correctly), I hit the jackpot - whammo! Tack sharp on a razor thin plane, exactly where I wanted it and dissolving into butter soft unsharpness immediately before and behind it, see the image below ;-)

Focused on the rim of my pretty wife's sunglasses, Nikon 58mm f/1.4 @f/1.4, 1/500 sec, 64 ISO

So I've identified five, let's say features of Nikon's 58mm f/1.4 lens, which in their combination differentiate it from all the other 'nifty-fifties' out there and have made me fall absolutely in love with the character of the images it produces (especially at larger apertures):

  1. Slightly longer focal length than normal "normal" lenses:
    Finally I found out why I never liked the other 50mm focal lengths on 24x36 full frame. IMO 50mm's a touch too wide for upper body portraits, requiring me to come a bit closer to the subject. This already makes distortion visible and slightly reduces background separation
     
  2. '3D' look of the images it produces, especially with portraits:
    It seems the inherent curvature of field of the 58mm kinda 'bends' the sharpness plane around the 3 dimensional shape of the subject's head (if the head is not too far out of the image centre). This combined with the smooth out-of-focus rendering gives images a subtle '3D' effect, which I never seen before with other lenses
     
  3. Tack sharpness in a razor thin focal plane at larger apertures (f/1.4 - f/2):
    The only other lens which was tack sharp wide open was the Summilux, the others I mentioned above all were too soft for my taste until around f/2 - f/2.8. After all, what's the point of having a large aperture prime if you can't use the large aperture?
     
  4. Transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas, with just enough bokeh smoothness:
    The Sigma had a clinical, razor sharp transition from sharp to unsharp, giving the image a kinda artificial look. The 58mm has a hardly perceptible change over from a tack sharp focus plane to a 'swirly' out-of-focus area which gives the image a dreamy overlay. The slight structure of the bokeh, combined with the not too long focal length is what gives the 58mm's bokeh a special look, still allowing you to imagine your subject's environment  (not so on an 85mm or a 105mm)!
     
  5. Last, but not least a slight vignette at largest apertures:
    Similar to other fast primes the 58mm has a slight vignette at larger apertures up to f/2, but in the combination with the curvature of field and the 'swirly' bokeh it just looks that much better, see image below (look also at the detail in the tablecloth!):

Summer eve, Nikon 58mm f/1.4 on D850 @f/2, 1/3000 sec, ISO 64

As I mentioned earlier, several of the aforementioned 50mm primes demonstrate some of the 5 features, but only Nikon's 58mm f/1.4 magically combines all of them in one lens to deliver a unique & gorgeous rendering. These 5 reasons are why I love this lens so much, and it for sure ain't normal ;-)

One more feature, kinda like a bonus: Like its ancestor, the famous NOCT Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 AI-S the 58mm f/1.4 AF-S is optimized to minimize sagittal coma flare. This means that point light sources are actually rendered as point light sources in the image, rather than looking like bats the more you move toward the edges of the frame. Results in especially clear night images, I'll post some examples in a future post!

Mr. Haruo Sato, the designer of this lens once said: "I hope people will think of this 58mm as a ‘three dimensional hi-fi lens’. I’ll be very happy if people understand this. It allows the point of focus to have as much sharpness as possible while still having a gentle, continuous bokeh"

I found the diagram on the left at The Imaging Resource's Nikon 58mm f/1.4 review (chart reproduced here with their kind permission), showing the distribution of the sharpness over the Nikon 58mm f1.4's image plane (the darker the blue, the sharper). I think the shape of this distribution is the main reason for this lens' 3D character! Mr. Sato, I think I can say I have only just started to understand ... I sure got a long way to go & so much to learn until my imagery will truly do this special lens' capabilities justice! I can only recommend the Nikon 58mm if you're looking for a fast, (not so ;-) normal prime to capture unforgettable documentary style images!

Hope y'all liked the read. if you got any questions or comments, please leave me a note below or on my about page ...

Thanks so much for visiting & looking forward to seeing you here again soon!

Many thanks & best rgds

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Confession of a Bokeh Junkie

My name is Hendrik and I am a Bokeholic. Yes, after going full-frame (again ;-) I've become addicted to "Bokeh". That's Japanese for "blur". So Bokeh is the quality of out-of-focus areas of an image, the more smooth the better. Now why would someone be interested in smooth out-of-focus areas, isn't the image itself more important? Sure, Bokeh will not make an interesting image out of nothing but it is a means to an end: Bokeh emphasizes depth & dimension and frames your subject, giving your image a 3-dimensional look! Interested? Then please read on!

The Fence - a new perspective! 58mm f/1.4 @f/2

In the above image I focussed on the closer foreground to maximize foreground - background separation and used quite a large aperture to have only 2 bars of the fence and a leaf in focus. The resulting blur in the closest foreground and the receding background, coupled with the beautiful Bokeh this lens generates helped to create an amazing 3-dimensional impression! 

Stairs leading to old townhouse entrance, 58mm f/1.4 @f/2

Also here focussing on the foreground & using a large aperture helped to separate the planes in the image, thereby enhancing its 3-dimensional impression. The repetitive shapes in the metal handrails and their shadows make for an interesting composition - note that I took care to separate the elements in the frame as much as possible to create a cleaner image

Flower in glass, 58mm f/1.4 @f/1.4

Like a painting this one ... At f/1.4 depth of field is paper thin and progressively blurs on increasing distance from the focus plane. Amazing also the smoothness of the Bokeh, just watch out y´all don't get addicted too ;-)

Hope you liked this post, if you've got any questions or comments please leave me a note below or on my about page. Thanks for visiting, looking forward to seeing you soon!

Many thanks & best rgds

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Size Does Matter !

C´mon ... not what some of youse may be thinking ... ;-) Everything over here's only about the image (yeah, I mean the photographic image). So, please check the pictures below, I'm really curious if you catch on as to what's changed (... and don't bother trying to check out the EXIF, coz it´s been neutralized ;-)

Hope y´all like the images, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

Drunk glasses, one´s the odd one out!

It´s always the shadows that animate me to take images, see below the repeating forms of the shadows cast by the wrought iron window bars on the old brown jug and window sill and also in the reflection on the underside of the jug:

Play of shadows and reflections on the old brown jug ...

Ok, so the bokeh´s a bit busy here - I´ll give you a tip: this ain´t no prime lens here, but a wide to short tele zoom lens at f/4. See, I'm trying to make it easier for you ;-) ... Had to get down in the dirt to get this one (well, the flipping screen on my camera did help a little bit!)

Farn leaves enjoying the sun!

And what about this one? Four pillars gracing the entrance of a town house. I preferred the shot with the tight framing of a short tele over the wider view of a normal or wide angle setting:

Four pillars town house

Last but not least an image from the lovely Hof Garden in Bayreuth, showing a nice perspective of the decorative greenery. At least by now you should have caught on what's going on with these images? No? Then take a closer look ... ;-)

Park perspective (Hof Garden in Bayreuth)

Look forward to your comments, please leave me a note on my contact page or in the comments section below, I hope y´all enjoyed the read, thanks for looking by!

Best regards & have a great Sunday evening,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!