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)

  • 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

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 to a zoom

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

For all others its 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!

Into the Light: Look for the Shadows (Fuji ACROS-R Settings)

Shadows. What do they mean? Depends on your point of view & mood: darkness? melancholy? pessimism? Or do they point towards the light, leading the viewer´s eyes to the bright tones in your image, creating an impression of brightness, hope, and optimism? You decide! Use those shadows to manifest the existence of light. Want to learn more? Please read on to find out!

Into the Light, with Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/2.8, 1/34sec ISO1600 developed in LR CC mobile

Difficult image, this one. Dynamic range clearly exceeds the latitude of the JPEG file, but I wanted the shadows to come in black as ink to strengthen the impression of moving into the light at the end of the corridor. That's why I usually use Fuji´s ACROS film simulation with shadow tone set to +3 (very hard). As some of youse may know I do nearly all my post processing on my iPad Pro on Lightroom CC mobile, using Fuji´s magic ACROS JPEG´s

However, when diving into the corresponding RAW file I can discover a couple more stops of dynamic range in the shadows by dialing down the shadow contrast. But I didn't wanna make ´em visible as this  would've created too much of a HDR effect for my taste. But if y´all interested I could do a follow up post showing how that looks, please leave me a comment below if interested! ;-)

Courtyard doors, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/60sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

Also above image got a shadow tone of +3. Gives me solid black w/o detail between the doors for my trouble. But if I reduce the shadow contrast to 0 or -1 I get a too flat gradation in the door panels. The door panel shadows are too close to black making it difficult to get sufficient contrast separation, so I left the image as I´d originally taken it. Below image is much better balanced:

Table by the window, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/75sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

The table and chairs have a special glow to them, coz I usually use a medium soft highlight tone of -1 which gives me more tonality and flatter gradation in the lighter tones of the image. However you gotta watch it: Don't use -1 or lower highlight tones in images with predominantly lighter tones (eg. with a lot of sky) as the resulting contrast is too flat and you don't get no more pure white. For me the image below´s on the edge in that respect: Contrast in the floorboards and the wall is maybe a touch too flat:

Chinese hallway, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/2.8, 1/42sec ISO1600 developed in LR CC mobile

The below image has a broad gradation from black over mid-tones in background to white, nicely bringing out the texture in the wall and the floor:

Chinese doorway, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/220sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

Summarizing my preferred ACROS settings are:

  • ACROS-R (red filter) or ACROS-Y (yellow filter)
  • Dynamic range on Auto or max. 200% (400% flattens gradation too much)
  • Highlight tone -1 or 0, depending on the amount of light tones in the image
  • Shadow tone +3 to deliver those punchy black shadows
  • Noise reduction -3
  • No additional grain (ACROS has an ISO dependent grain built in)
  • Limit ISO to 1600 for architecture & landscapes to limit grain

Hope you enjoyed the read, please let me know your comments or questions below (or leave me a note on my about page), I will be most happy to answer them as soon as possible. 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!

The Waiting Place ... Use Your Fuji X100F!

For people just waiting: "Waiting for a train to go. Or a bus to come, or a plane to go. Or the mail to come, or the rain to go. Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow. Or waiting around for a Yes or No. Or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting" - excerpt from the poem Oh, the Places You'll Go!, by Theodore Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), featured in the fantastic movie Fracture, by Gregory Hoblit, starring Anthony Hopkins & Ryan Gosling). Yep. Mostly, waiting is delaying action in expectation of a time or event. If you wanna find out what this has to do with photography, please read on!

Waiting for the plane to go, Fuji X100F @ f/5.6, 1/20sec, ISO 1600, developed in LR CC mobile

When someone waits for something, they are so fulfilled by the expectation, looking forward to it so much that they hardly allow themselves to experience the wait. It is a state of lacking the event one is waiting for, not realizing that doing something productive while waiting will shorten the waiting time. That's why I always got my Fuji X100F with me. While waiting I love spending the time observing people around me, finding patterns, "connecting the dots", so to say. Like in the above shot, where the two women's postures and expressions were mirrored while waiting for departure of their flight

Waiting for the hair to grow, Fuji X100F @ f/5.6, 1/12sec, ISO 1600, developed in LR CC mobile

And in the above image I fancied how the signpost with 2 opposing arrows separates static waiting on the right from blurred motion of people trying to do a selfie on the left!

What I love about this camera is that nobody notices it. It allows me to capture life's moments in real time without people reacting to the camera. Ok, capturing that reaction can also be interesting, but then you're basically documenting peoples´ reaction to yourself and/or your camera rather than reporting the scene as you experienced it! 

Waiting for a Yes or No, Fuji X100F @ f/4, 1/55sec, ISO 1600, developed in LR CC mobile

Like this airline official's friendly answer to the travelers´questions. Capturing this kind of interactions are for me the essence of street photography. The X100F is ideal for this, with its 35mm FF equiv. field of view and quiet leaf shutter. The only thing I miss is weather resistance and a tilting screen (Hey Fuji, you readin' this?), which would allow me to be even more discrete (by enabling me to accurately frame subjects without needing to lift the camera to my eye)

Please let me know your comments or questions below (or leave me a note on my about page), I will be most happy to answer them as soon as possible. Many thanks for visiting & hope you enjoyed the read, 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 Too Narrow Point of View ? Fuji XF90mm F2 WR

I´m a wide angle kind of guy. My favorites are 16 and 23mm (24 and 35mm FF equiv.). I love the 35mm (52mm FF equiv.) for closer framing & the long end of my 16-55mm zoom already feels quite "long". So WTH am I doin´ with a 90mm telephoto? Good question, I'm gonna try find out in this post - please join me if you're interested!

Closed Lillies seen with XF90mm F2 WR @f/2, 1/60sec, ISO2000, developed in LR CC mobile

The XF90mm´s got a quite narrow field of view. Like a 135mm on full frame (never liked that focal length on FF btw ...). But I was looking for a lens for portraiture and to focus on details, allowing me to select parts of a scene representing the bigger picture. At the same time it should stay compact enough on my X-T2 to fit in a small bag (eg. Domke´s F-5XB with enough space to also take my X100F along for wide angle reportage photography). Ok, so some time ago I took the plunge & got Fuji´s 90mm F2 WR which consistently was getting rave reviews & fulfills my above requirements. In the following please find a short practical review based on my personal experience (and sorry, no spec sheets, test charts or MTF curves here - enough other sites on the net for that kinda boring tech stuff!)

First the Pro´s:

  • Exceptional 3 dimensional image quality, and that independent of aperture used!
  • Narrow depth of field & beautiful bokeh in out of focus areas at larger apertures
  • No corner light falloff, no distortion, vignetting, nor chromatic aberration
  • Excellent flare & ghosting resistance (great for contre-jour shots & don't need lens hood!)
  • Close focus: At 0.6m minimum focus distance half the face of a grown up fills the frame!
  • Excellent ergonomics (great aperture ring clicks & wide, grippy manual focussing ring)
  • Reasonably compact (only 105mm long, 0.5kg), not changing due to internal focussing
  • Very well made: Tough, weather resistant all metal design

Open Lillies captured by XF90mm F2 WR @f/2, 1/90sec, ISO1600, developed in LR CC mobile

There are some Con´s too:

  • Narrow field of view takes some getting used to, not as flexible as a zoom. For me using this lens needed quite a learning curve, I had too look for appropriate subjects!
  • Subject distance can get too long in indoor portrait sessions (esp. with whole body shots)
  • No image stabilization (OIS - works only for static subjects, so not a deal breaker for me), needing min. 1/250sec shutter speed to reliably prevent image blur (go slower = gamble!)
  • Audible "clunking" when moving lens with camera off (LM motor elements moving)
  • At around 950$ / 950€ not really a "bargain" (but then again quality always costs ...)

All in all quite a positive balance - I can really recommend Fuji´s XF90mm (even being a wide angle aficionado), especially if a longer focal length with exceptional image quality is needed w/o significantly expanding the volume of your kit. Fuji does have a viable alternative in its XF50-140mm F2.8 OIS WR zoom but bear in mind it´s 7cm longer & twice the weight! You only gonna take that one with you if you´re OK to get into serious sherpa territory ;-)

Ice on the River, with XF90mm F2 WR @f/5.6, 1/170sec, ISO200, developed in LR CC mobile

I hope y´all enjoyed this short review & you got some additional valuable information which will allow you to take the best possible decision for your photography! Please let me know if you've any questions - leave me a comment below or contact me via my about page! 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!

There IS a Life Without Image Stabilization | Fuji XF16-55mm F2.8 WR NoOIS!

Afraid of the shakes? No problem, use image stablization, or “OIS” (Optical Image Stabilization) as Fuji calls it. Some hate it. Most love it, can’t be without it like as if they’re addicted. Was like that with me too. Thought I couldn’t live without it. Until I took a decision which forced me to survive without the anti-wobble technology. Please read on to find out what happened (especially if you don’t care ;-)

I know you don’t care ... this one didn't need no image stabilization, X100F 23mm @f8, 1/120sec

As long as you live in daylight it don't really matter. Any lens does just fine. But when the sun drops below the horizon & light becomes scarce your "any lens" is gonna need either a flash, a tripod, or an image stabilization crutch. That'd work assuming you want to photograph a static subject. But as soon as something in your image moves (and you want to render it reasonably sharp) there's only ONE option: Aperture! The larger the better. Get the largest aperture you can find. Image stabilization ain't gonna help and yes, flash would still be an option but that's not really viable if you want to capture the charm of available light. The image below was taken hand held. Would’ve needed image stabilization. Didn’t have it:

Too cold to sit outside. Night time bar scene, XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/20sec, ISO1250

Coz I’d traded my XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 (with OIS) to get an XF 16-55mm f/2.8 (without OIS). This Lens' missing OIS has caused some on the net to fondly call it "The Brick" (like as in a worthless paper-weight). Now why would I go and trade my perfectly good OIS zoom for such an OIS-less "Brick"? It wasn't easy but in the end the following factors tipped the scales for me in favor of the "Brick": I've learnt I need 5 things for my architecture / landscape / people photography:

  1. Max possible aperture to freeze subject movement (image stabilization don't help here!)
  2. With at least a 16mm (24mm FF equiv.) on the wide side for architecture & group photos
  3. Reaching at least up to portrait focal length (85mm FF equiv.) on the long side
  4. High quality zoom lens - don’t fancy changing lenses (I got amathophobia - fear of dust ;-)
  5. Portability: Reasonably compact camera/lens combo, no tripod or gear bags to lug around

So, Fuji´s XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR fits above requirements like a glove (while my XF 18-135mm missed out on the first two). I use the XF 16-55mm predominantly for reportage and portraiture, where my subjects are usually moving. In this scenario image stabilization don't really help me. Even it would've been technically possible to also include OIS, the caveat of further increasing size and weight (and not to forget the price) of the lens would have not been worth it (for the previously described use case). I guess Fuji followed a similar logic when they decided to opt out of OIS on the "Brick". The lens is reasonably compact and remains portable. It's also perceived as being less intrusive by your subjects. Try putting the XT-2 / XF16-55mm combo next to a comparable CaNikon full frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom attached. You'll see what I mean, pushing a DSLR lookin' more like a WMD into someone's face probably´ll scare the living daylights outta them, turning a lively bar scene into something like the image below ;-)

All quiet bar after closing time, captured with XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/18sec, ISO3200

A word on aperture: The advantage of the smaller (vs. full frame) APS-C sensor is that you get more depth of field at the same aperture due to the shorter focal length compared to the full frame equivalent focal length. For example a 50mm "normal" lens on full frame has a field of view comparable to a 35mm on APS-C. Using f/2.8 on both delivers more depth of field in the APS-C image as there the lens needs to be of shorter focal length to achieve the same angle of view. Consequently the disadvantage of APS-C is that you´d need a larger aperture vs. full frame to get a more shallow depth of field and similar subject - background separation. For example a 85mm full frame portrait lens will render the background in a pleasing blur at f/2. To get a similar effect with an APS-C equivalent focal length of 55mm you'd need at least f/1.4 ... My XF 18-135mm had a max. aperture of around f/4.5 at 55mm and I needed to stop down to f5.6 to get optimal sharpness in portraits, which means my max. aperture in full frame terms would be only around f/4. Apart from the lower brightness which forced me to use higher ISO´s I could never really achieve a pleasing background separation like in this image with the XF 16-55mm:

My pretty wife, wearing my glasses, with XF 16-55mm, at 55mm @f/4, 1/450sec, ISO400

Just the way I like it, the eye closer to the camera sharp and sharpness nicely dissolving towards the rear into a completely blurred background!

Now, coming back to my initial statement: There IS a life without image stabilization, please see proof in the image below. It was shot hand-held at 1/8sec with my XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom at its long end (55mm APS-C / 85mm full frame equiv.), without the "benefit" of image stabilization. Ok, so OIS would've helped here, coz there are no moving subjects in the image. But as the majority of images I make with this zoom have moving subjects, the added weight, size and cost of OIS would not be worth it in my opinion!

Night-time street scene, with XF 16-55mm at 55mm, hand-held @f/2.8, 1/8sec, ISO3200

I hope this post was interesting for y'all & able to give you some advice in case you're on the fence to acquire the XF 16-55mm "Brick" - believe me, you'll find it's more of a "Nugget" than a "Brick". A gold "Nugget" - an amazing lens which you'll use for more than 90% of your images. No more changing lenses, risking missed image opportunities and/or getting dust inside your camera! While weight & size remain reasonable, the X-T2 or X-Pro2 combo fitting snugly in a small pouch

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 Merry (Fuji ;-) X-mas: 4 intuitive settings for your Fuji X100F!

Crazy how time flies, again one year has nearly gone by and another new year is just about to start! With this post I just wanted to thank all of youse who’ve visited by blog & put up with my ramblings for your continued support, constructive comments and interesting questions (hopefully all answered). And of course to wish y’all a merry X-mas and lots of fun & success for 2018! In Europe they celebrate the “Advent”, kinda like a countdown of the last 4 Sundays to X-mas, see below image of Advent candles captured with my beloved Fuji X100F (btw also a big thanks to Fuji for that wonderful 23mm lens with that dreamy rendering at f2!)

3 burning, 1 to go: “Advent” countdown to X-mas, Fuji X100F @f2, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Always got my X100F with me. Never leave home without her. Her name’s “Irene”. I know that’s nuts, but it is like it is. Can’t be changed. No cure. Sorry. S’funny, my X-Pro2 & my X-T2 ain’t got no names. Dunno why, they just no names kinda cameras (or they just haven’t yet grown on me as much as my X100F has to warrant gettin‘ named ;-) OK I gotta ‘fess up here, I got history with the X100 series. And no, I didn’t start with the original X100, like ever’body else seems to have ... For me it was only love at ‘S’econd sight: The X100S was what caused me to jump ship from the LeiCaNikon camp, see here and here. Never looked back since. Didn’t. Ever! After the “S” came the “T” and finally I ended up with the fantastic “F”, see below me & my “Irene” reflected in X-mas decoration ;-)

Me & “Irene” reflected in X-mas deco, Fuji X100F @f2.8, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Now hear this: Fuji’s X100F has taken the X100 series magic to a whole new level: 24mp X-Trans III sensor, X Processor Pro, and other marketing fluff y‘all can read about ad nauseam in millions of tech reviews all over the web ... But what really counts (next to the lovely 23mm lens, higher resolution, better AF and the amazing ACROS film simulation, etc.) is the result of combining all these features with the X100F‘s highly customizable user interface. This makes the X100F so special & intuitive, enabling it to truly become the proverbial ‘extension of your eye’. It allows you to manifest your vision & perception of the world around you in your images without ever getting in your way. Uncanny. Even people you’re photographing forget about it after a couple seconds (if they even notice it at all, thanks to the super stealthy electronic shutter ;-). So, as a small X-mas treat I’d like to share my favorite user interface settings with y‘all, please read on & enjoy!

Chairs. Infinitely stacked, ACROS JPEG, processed with Lightroom CC mobile

There are 4 settings I want to be able to change real fast, without moving the camera from my eye & without needing to fumble with buttons, menu‘s, etc.: Focus point selection, easy Face / eye detection setting, fast switching flash on or off (incl. its relevant settings) and simple ISO / exposure compensation. Let’s take a look (and you ain’t gonna find the tips in the second & third item anywhere else!):

  • Focus point selection - that’s the easy one, just use the joystick next to the LCD display to move your focus point to right where you want it. No more “focus - recompose” antics!
  • Face / eye detection setting - assign the “face / eye detection” function to the “down” button on the 4 way Controller at the back of the camera, then you can press the “down” button to activate this function and continue pressing “down” to cycle thru all the face / eye detection options all in one fluid motion, neat huh?
  • Switch between flash / without flash operation - assign the “shutter type” function to the “Fn” button on the camera’s top plate and set flash function setting to “ON”, “TTL” and adjust your flash compensation as required (eg. -2/3 EV, for optimal fill flash). If I then want the flash off for normal photography, I cycle the “Fn” button to electronic shutter “ES” and the flash is switched off (no flash operation with electronic shutter). If i come across a scene where I want to apply fill flash at the blink of an eye, I cycle the shutter type back to “MS+ES” (mechanical+electronic shutter) or “MS” (mechanical shutter) using the “Fn” button, which immediately again activates the flash with the preset flash exposure correction (-2/3 EV in this example). Cool!
  • ISO / exposure compensation: Last but not least, setting the exposure compensation dial to “C” and the menu item “button / dial setting“ > “ISO dial setting (A)” to “COMMAND” allows you to use the front command dial to toggle between changing ISO settings (jncl. Auto ISO) and exposure compensation by pressing it and adjusting the respective settings by rotating it. Of course this renders the nice “retro” style ISO-compensation-integrated-into-shutter-speed-dial and the exposure compensation dial redundant, but they still do look good & you can always use ‘em as back-up ;-)

See below a summary of my favorite X100F user interface settings in more detail (Fn button allocations, Q-menu and My Menu settings) for max intuitive operation:

My favorite Fuji X100F user interface settings for max intuitive operation

Of course I’d be most happy to answer any detailed questions you may have (please leave me a note in the comments section below) & wish y’all lots of fun & great images with your Fuji camera, especially also best wishes for the new year. Many thanks for looking by & looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

Best regards & merry (Fuji) X-mas!

Hendrik

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