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

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!

How to Win Time With Fuji!

Time. The “fourth dimension“. We can’t control it. We just live in time, but can’t travel in it like we can in 3 dimensional space. Moments passed can never be revisited. They only linger as memories in our mind or saved as images taken. That’s why time’s so precious, don’t waste it! Fortunately we can choose what to do with our time. It’s a very personal choice. If you’d love to maximize your free time photographing the world around you with your Fuji, I may have something interesting for you to minimize time spent image editing. Please read on to find how to win more time with your (Fuji ;-) camera:

Wooden Bridge, seen with XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

To be faster & more efficient on the image processing bit, editing your JPEG’s with Lightroom CC on a mobile device’s the way to go: You can work while traveling or waiting at airports & it syncs your image processing seamlessly with Lightroom CC Classic on your MAC/PC. Means you can continue where you left off when you’re back at your desktop! You can then happily save up RAW files of your favorite images for those long winter evenings (when the next blizzard hits ;-) to eke out that last bit of highlight detail (which eluded you on your JPEG’s) via Fine Art editing & printing using Capture One Pro on your Mac/PC. See below a schematic representation of my workflow:

I usually download my JPEG images (just ACROS Black & Whites for me ;-) to my iPad Pro via WiFi using the ShutterSnitch App. IMO better than Fuji’s Camera Remote App, but a bit pricey. For that I can automatically update images´ metadata with my copyright during import & rate / sort out the ones I want to process later before exporting them to iOŚ’s photo library. From there I “add“ them to an album called ’JPEG’. I do like this coz of iOŚ’s dorky image filing system, where all images on the iPad are dumped into the camera roll: taken images, processed images, screenshots, the whole smash - all in one big mess you ain’t ever gonna find anything in. So by “adding“ your images to a separate album (or albums) you can find them easily afterwards for importing into Lightroom CC mobile. See below some screen shots of my workflow once in Lightroom CC mobile (please click on the thumbnails to see more details):

processing in LR CC mobile

when done, select ’open in‘

& size for web / social media

in Phonto App, to

add your copyright

in your preferred format 

WiFi download? Boy, you can easily go for lunch while that’s going on (Fuji JPEG´s typically got around 16Mb ;-) OR, in case you’re in a hurry, transfer them to iPad via Apple’s SD card to Lightning Adaptor, but then there’s no automatic IPTC copyright update & no way to preview images before saving them in the camera roll ...

Ok, ‘nuff said, for sure y’all interested about what settings I use for my JPEG’s (coz choosing the JPEG route means many settings can’t be modified after the fact. I always shoot RAW/F (RAW + fine JPEG’s) to always have backups of the original files, either to experiment later with differing RAW to JPEG conversions in camera, or for more precise RAW post processing using Capture One Pro. In camera I use following settings:

  • ACROS-R film simulation (of course ;-)
  • -1 Highlight tone
  • +3 Shadow tone
  • Grain effect off (ACROS film simulation already has its own grain effect!)
  • -3 Noise reduction
  • 0 Sharpness (more sharpening in camera creates visible artifacts)

This delivers pin sharp, contrasty black & white JPEG’s with punchy shadows & smoothly gradated highlights. And they got ACROS film simulations’s amazing tone dependent film-like grain effect! Only minor adjustments in post processing are needed, if at all. For me adjusting the images’ tone curve is the most important means to create image depth and giving them a 3 dimensional look. Please also check out Patrick la Roque’s amazing article on this topic!

Apart from the s-shaped tone curve the second most important thing for me is to accentuate the sharpness - I keep the sharpening amount low but up the detail level, see below:

Fall in the Park, captured by XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

So, all in all no big deal. With this simple & fast mobile workflow needing only a couple moments attention for each image before uploading to my blog and/or social media I can complete post processing in no time, during commuting or while enjoying a latte in a cafe. See another example here, shot shortly after sunrise:

Bayreuth on Sunday Morning, XF 35 / f2 R WR on Fuji X-Pro2, JPG developed in LR CC mobile

This way I can maximize time spent on enjoying the world around me & taking images! Please let me know your thoughts, or ask me via my contact page if have any further questions / need any advice, thanks for your interest & for looking by!

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!

Best regards,

Hendrik

Capture with Style!

Been some time since I posted ... Was kinda busy movin´ house & couldn't find my camera ;-) Now I´m back with Style! Capture (-ing) with Style, using Capture One Pro 10 with a modified Style (never liked the "canned" stuff, always like to do my own thing!). Please read on to find out more!

Into the Sun, with XF 35/2 WR on X-Pro2, Capture One 10 with modified BW-15 Style

In Capture One Styles are sets of presets driving several adjustments simultaneously, while presets adjust only a single parameter, eg. "grain". Means you can dramatically speed up your post processing workflow by applying such Styles during image import. By selecting a Style suiting your needs you can automatically adjust eg. gradation curve, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. of your images when importing your images into Capture One and you´re already 90% done without lifting a finger!

Bridge in the Park, with XF 35/2 on X-Pro2, Capture One 10 with modified BW-15 Style

As already mentioned here my favorite Capture One Style is the BW-15 (grain) black & white Style, which IMO comes closest to Fuji´s amazing ACROS JPEG film simulation. But the grain´s too much salt in my soup and the default sharpening settings seem a bit too aggressive. So I was trawling (not trolling, mind you ;-) the net for optimal Capture One settings in combinmation with Fuji´s 24mp X-Trans III RAW files & stumbled across Thomas Fitzgerald´s "X-Trans-Files-in-Capture-One-Guide". A great read, costing only 4€ and well worth it in my opinion!

Red Chair on Stone Patio, XF 16-55/2.8 WR @16mm, X-T2, CO 10 with modified BW-15 Style

Using Thomas´ settings for 24mp RAF files in Capture One 10 as a starting point I modified Capture One´s BW-15 (grain) Style by reducing grain level to 60 and optimizing sharpening and noise reduction settings slightly (of course you can also use your own favorite settings). The trick is to select an image, apply the style, adjust the various settings to your satisfaction and save it all as a new Style (take care to deselect those items which are image dependent):

Deselect presets which are image dependent!

This ensures the same film simulation, gradation (tonality curve) and grain are saved in your new Style but image specific parameters, like exposure, contrast, etc. are not affected!

Apply saved Style & auto adjust on import!

Then select your new Style and "auto adjust" in the import menu. This makes Capture One apply your Style and auto adjusts exposure parameters automatically during import, resulting in 90% ready images, which only need minor final tweaking (if at all)

View from Villa Sermolli over Buggiano in Tuscany, Italy, X-T2 with XF 16-55/2.8 WR @23mm

Summarizing, Fuji JPEG´s are good but RAW files just have that extra flexibility: If you want to get the best outta your images you gotta go RAW, allowing you eg. to change color sensitivity (like applying color filters during post processing) and offering that extra bit of highlight headroom. Looking forward to your comments, questions, and critique, thanks so much for looking by,

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!

Into the Light, with Fuji X100F !

Aren´t we photographers all seekers? Always searching for the best. Always experimenting, trying, testing. Best images, best light, best gear, best software, best deal, best whatever? Last week´s favorite turning into this week´s dog? To those of youse been following me, relying on me to stay true: I´m sorry, ashes on my head, I lost it. Really. I´m leavin´ my trail & gettin´ outta my comfort zone. Hey, I kid you not: just recently I was singin´ praise for just doing ACROS JPEG´s & an easy workflow. Now I´m sold on doing RAW´s in Capture One! Interested why? Please read on!

Into the light, found by Fuji X100F´s 23 mm, processed in Capture One "with Style" ;-) !

At least some consolation: I´m still a black & white guy! Color´s just not my thing, Never been. I always look for the light. And shadows. And contrast - color´s just in the way. Found out that´s why I never liked developing RAW´s in Lightroom & Co. Hated seeing my black & white´s appear as color thumbnails (And no, I´m not into cosmetics ;-) kinda disrupts my workflow...

Together but still alone, captured by Fuji X100F, 23 mm, developed in Capture One B&W style

That all changed when a window popped up on my Capture One workspace the other day, advertising "Styles" ("Jeezus, Spam", I thought. OK, just get rid of it ...). But C1´s promise kinda intrigued me & I clicked the "Learn more" button! First thing I "learned" was that this was gonna cost me like 80 Dollars. What? 80 bucks? Whoa daddy, a kinda steep price for a bit of learning!

500 shades of grey, seen with Fuji X100F, 23 mm, developed with BW-15 (grey) style in C1

But luckily they got a freebie samples download with one "BW-15 (grain)" style, which I activated in my Capture One´s import menu (together with auto adjust). This automatically imports RAW´s into C1, does some basic dynamic range optimization, applies this BW-15 (grain) style and spits out be-ooti-ful black & white thumbnails in C1´s browser plane

Stairway alley, Fuji X100F, 23 mm and Capture One with BW-15 (grey) style

The real surprise comes when you open ´em and just tweak exposure, contrast, brightness and levels a bit: Into the Light is all I can say. And the gradation & grain´s close enough to by beloved ACROS, it´s got MOJO, man! See below image of my lovely wife during a recent trip to Sicily:

Italian fashion shoot with Fuji X100F, developed in Capture One BW-15 (grey) style

I hope y´all enjoy these images & experiment for y´self, it´s easy. And fast. No Lightroom where you can go have lunch while its processing. So, if you got any questions or suggestions, like or not like the images, or wanna share your stories, please leave me a note in the comments below or on my contact page! Thanks for stopping by & wish a great weekend!

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!

Picktorial - A New Kid on the Block for Fuji Fans!

Hi! Stumbled over this: Picktorial v3 post processing software (Mac only - special introductory offer!). Many thanks to Fujirumors (good place to get the latest Fuji news) and Thomas Fitzgerald (where I always go for expert image processing advice) for pointing me to it! The main reason I´m now starting to use it for all my post processing is coz for the first time there is ONE SIMPLE, intuitive platform for image management AND processing, compatible with Fuji JPEG and (compressed / uncompressed) RAW images, please read on how so!

Candles in Church, Fuji X-T2 and XF 23mm / f2, ACROS JPEG processed in Picktorial

As mentioned before here I mainly use ACROS JPEG´s & rarely do RAW anymore. So, a couple weeks ago I was in an awesome Russian orthodox church with my lovely wife & fancied capturing the rich gradations and tonality of this scene. Then I would´ve developed the ACROS JPEG with Lightroom CC (LR) and resorted to Capture One (CO) in case I´d want to try any fancy RAW processing ... But I really don't like hulking for hours behind a computer. Nope. And, using different bits of processing software means I need to have all kinds of directories on my Mac to save intermediate versions of my images (I´m kinda paranoid about losing my work ...). On top of this both LR and CO use catalogues, so I need to manage and back up those too ... I tell ya, I could've become an IT expert (who maybe gets to take a photo now and then ;-). No sir, not good. Not good at all!

Picktorial has an intuitive, fluid & simple user interface (look & feel very similar to Apple´s legendary Aperture, which was unfortunately discontinued). Overall it´s very minimalistic: No jumping around between library and develop panes as in LR. It works directly in your image capture folder and stores your image edits in the image file (for JPEG, TIF, DNG) or in a XMP sidecar file (for RAW) w/o changing the original image. By this non-destructive workflow you can backtrack your work anytime (even taking out single steps) and save your image as often as you want without any image degradation. If you want to transfer your images just be sure to copy the whole directory (images incl. the XMP files), then you can just pick up from where you left off!

Russian Orthodox Mural, Fuji X-T2 and XF 23mm / f2, ACROS JPEG processed in Picktorial

Another great Picktorial feature is the luminosity masks (yes, photoshop has those too, but it´s much easier to use with Picktorial), please check out this great instruction video from Eric Marcs at findingmiddleearth.com (I´m still a learner on how to do that properly ;-)

The only additional feature I could wish for is to have a mobile version for my iPad which can sync with the desktop version (like Lightroom mobile), that would be awesome!

Picktorial offers an easy, fluid, and seamless experience and is much faster than Lightroom, I love the simplicity and intuitivity of the user interface!

Last but not least I compared the results with my until now preferred applications:

RAW file processed in Picktorial

RAW file processed in Iridient Developer

JPEG file processed in Picktorial

RAW file processed in Capture One Pro

RAW file processed in Photo Ninja

JPEG file processed in Lightroom CC

Summarizing the results I can recommend Picktorial as an easy & fast processing tool for those who want to minimise post processing effort & get best possible results w/o a lot of effort

Many thanks for visiting & please leave me a message in case anything is unclear or is you´ve any questions, 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!

Fuji Lightroom Mobile Workflow Revisited

As promised in my previous post I´d like to share with y´all my mobile workflow, using Fuji cameras, an iPad and Lightroom Mobile! If you wanna get freed from your desktop, speed up your processing / image sharing on web and if you´re interested in becoming a more efficient photographer, please read on!

The Messenger, seen in Sicily with Fuji X100F, 23 mm / f2 @ f5.6, 1/320", ACROS-Y, 400 ISO

I mentioned in my previous blog post that Fuji´s ACROS film simulation with its tonality and ISO dependent grain effect delivers JPEG´s with a film-like look that can not be achieved via traditional RAW processing. These JPEG´s are so good that they liberates you forever from having to fuss around with RAW files & RAW converters (spending hours behind a computer, trying to get image quality comparable to Fuji´s amazing JPEG´s). This in turn enables a more mobile approach to photography, so get liberated & embrace a JPEG based mobile workflow!

Required equipment:

  • Camera with Wifi capability (check out Fuji´s website but it can be any brand ... ;-)
  • Mobile device with sufficient processing power & free space for saving images
  • WiFi connectivity App to transfer images from your camera to your mobile device
  • Lightroom Mobile (and Adobe Creative Cloud subscription if you want to sync to desktop) 

To get your images downloaded onto your mobile device of choice (in my case an iPad Pro 9.7"), there are 2 options (when using Fuji cameras, as I do ;-)

  1. Fujifilm´s "Camera Remote App" (download free from iTunes or Google Play)
  2. 2nd Nature´s "ShutterSnitch" Wireless Transfer App (download for US$ 18.99 from iTunes - no Android version yet). Expensive but IMO much better as it includes all kinds of goodies: image organisation in collections, image preview using zoom, saving to various media, metadata update (I don't use this as it re-saves my JPEG´s potentially reducing image quality slightly), etc.

While Fuji´s Camera Remote App downloads your images directly to the iPad´s camera roll, ShutterSnitch requires them to be exported (I prefer this coz it keeps my images organized outside Apple´s somewhat difficult to understand & confusing filing system). See below the procedure for ShutterSnitch, the end result in both cases is that the images you want to process end up on the iPad´s camera roll

How to get your images onto Camera Roll using ShutterSnitch ...

Next step is to import the images you´d like to process into Lightroom Mobile. You can stop here but if you also have Adobe´s Creative Cloud subscription (around 12-13 US$ per month) you get a seamless synchronisation between your mobile device and desktop (images processed on mobile device are updated on your desktop device when you connect to your home network & vice-versa). Cool!

 Importing your images into Lightroom Mobile ...

Importing your images into Lightroom Mobile ...

In Lightroom Mobile you will find the familiar develop modules from the desktop version (Basic, Tone Curve, etc.) and you can adjust the settings as required:

Post Processing in Lightroom Mobile!

As mentioned before these adjustments are then synchronized with your Lightroom desktop version as soon as you connect to your home network (provided you have Adobe´s Creative Cloud installed)

Summing up. this mobile workflow allows you to already perform the main rough image post processing steps while on the move (mainly curves and some exposure / contrast improvement) In most cases the processing options offered by Lightroom Mobile are sufficient, so no further desktop processing is needed! :-)

I hope you enjoyed this post and you can use it to enhance your own photographic experience, please leave me a note in the comments section if anything´s unclear or if you have any further questions,

Many thanks & best regards, wish y´all a great start into the new week & lots of fun, 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!

Three Intuitive Features that will make your Fuji X-T2 "Disappear" !

At the end it´s the images that matter. The camera´s just a tool, a means to an end, a vehicle to manifest and visualize your perceptions, impressions and emotions of the wonderful world around you! The less that camera gets in your way, the more intuitive / less intrusive its operation, the better your images will be! Fuji´s X-T2 has 3 distinct, unique features that help it to come closer to this ideal than any other camera I´ve experienced so far! You want to discover how to set up your X-T2 to make it magically "disappear" and enable you to fully focus on your images? Please read on, and as a bonus I show y´all a cool trick below not yet seen elsewhere on the web … ;-)

Shadows on the street, Fuji X-T2, with XF 18-135 mm WR at 18 mm - f5.6 - 1/950 sec - ISO 400

Above image with contrasty shadows painted on the pavement is easily overseen when using an optical viewfinder ...

The Fuji X-T2 has 3 distinct, unique features enabling an intuitive, non intrusive work-flow:
1. World´s best EVF (Electronic View Finder)
2. Only camera with always visible exposure triangle settings (physical dials iso menus)
3. No interruption of viewing when changing settings (how to configure the user interface)

These play a key role in the 2 criteria responsible for getting those special images (or should I say helping those special images find you):

  • Being able to accurately pre-visualize your image, so you can be sure it tells the story you experienced or imagined when seeing the scene
  • Being able to effortlessly and intuitively adjust the settings to suit your perception w/o needing to take the camera from your eye

Below these important 3 features are discussed in more detail:

1. World´s best EVF (Electronic View Finder):

The main advantage of an EVF over any optical viewfinder (as found in DSLR´s or rangefinder type cameras) is a realistic WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) view: Means you can pre-view the image exactly as it will be saved, i.e. incl. film simulation, color, white balance, exposure, contrast, etc. settings applied. In the film era you only saw the result after getting back the developed film (meaning a delay until being able to review your images and then often having no way to redo anything in case something didn’t turn out as expected). This pre-visualization feature of an EVF dramatically shortens the learning loop (scene impression > viewfinder preview > image capture > image development > final image review > optimization), thereby exponentially increasing the hit-rate of your photographic process!

10 steps to heaven ... X-Pro2 with XF 35 mm / f1.4 at f5.6 - 1/340 sec - ISO 400 (-2 EV)

So what´s so special about the X-T2´s EVF? While sporting a best in class magnification of 0,77X and a state-of-the-art 2,36M-dot resolution (like X-T1), the X-T2´s EVF has a significantly higher refresh rate (100 fps in boost mode) and half the view finder black-out time (5 ms), compared to the X-T1. Compared to the X-Pro2 it has an increased viewing angle (38° vs 29°) and a longer eye point distance (23 mm vs. 16 mm) which significantly improve view-ability and ease of viewing (especially for eyeglass wearers!)

It´s the combination of the above characteristics that enables a truly immersive and enjoyable viewing experience and animates you to use the EVF in the first place! In fact the overall improvement is now such that for the first time I prefer the X-T2´s EVF over all other options (OVF or LCD): For me the X-Pro2´s EVF now appears too small & slow, with too narrow viewing angle and the X-T1´s EVF could not really convince me at the time to go full EVF (especially in lower ambient lighting conditions), so I sold it last year …

Once actually using the EVF, turning "preview PIC effect" to ON in the menu (MENU > Wrench > Screen set-up > Preview Pic. Effect > ON) is the KEY feature allowing you to pre-visualize the image exactly as it will be taken by the camera (e.g. as a black & white image focussing on contrast, form and light / shadow distribution rather than colors)

The window wall, Fuji X-T2, with XF 18-135 mm WR at 62 mm - f8 - 1/550 sec - ISO 400

2. Only camera with always visible exposure triangle settings:

Exposure triangle means aperture, shutter speed & ISO settings - the 3 key elements determining image exposure and appearance. together with the exposure compensation dial you have 4 separate, dedicated manual dials on which you can immediately and always see/check the settings before lifting the camera to your eye, meaning you can preset the camera before taking the shot! As far as I know the Fuji X-T2 is the only one among high-end digital cameras having this traditional “photographer´s” user interface layout

On top of this Fuji´s approach to switching between program modes is much more intuitive & self-explanatory:

  • Program mode: Aperture & Shutter speed dial on "A" > all elements are set automatically, depending on lighting conditions, ISO and exposure compensation setting
  • Aperture priority mode: Aperture set on required f-stop (eg. to ensure required depth-of-field), shutter speed dial on "A" > shutter speed is automatically adjusted depending on lighting conditions, ISO and exposure compensation setting
  • Shutter priority mode: Shutter set on required shutter speed (eg. to freeze action or to synchronize with flash), aperture on "A" > aperture is automatically adjusted depending on lighting conditions, ISO and exposure compensation setting
  • Manual mode: Aperture and shutter speed set to required values (eg. for special lighting conditions / effects) > aperture and shutter speed are fixed. But with Auto-ISO you can still get a certain level of automatic exposure!

Holy windows, Fuji X-T2, with XF 35 mm / f1.4 at f5.6 - 1/480 sec - ISO 400 (-1 EV)

3. No interruption of viewing when changing settings (how to configure the user interface):

Your camera becomes an obstacle to your creative pre-visualization process and inspiration if changing settings forces you to take your eye from the viewfinder. Instead of concentrating on your subject you then need to divert your attention to fiddling with dials and menus. A camera which can be personally configured to allow changing settings without needing to remove your eye from the viewfinder will go a long way to missing fewer opportunities and allowing you to focus on what really matters: the image. In other words the camera kinda “disappears” from disturbing your work flow, see below how to do this!

I´m a “left eye dominant” shooter. When using my X-Pro2 this means my nose is squashed onto the LCD, resulting in frequently needed cleaning to remove smudges. I also gotta squint around the viewfinder to see the whole image (shorter viewfinder eye point and narrower viewing angle than X-T2). On the X-T2 my nose ends up clear to the right of the LCD but I can´t properly access the AF-L button as my nose and right thumb are competing for the limited real estate around the thumb-grip on the right hand side of the camera. Bummer, coz I love using the “back button focus” technique (means AF is initiated via a separate button rather than by half pressing the shutter release - gives me better control on what I want to focus on!

Fortunately the X-T2 offers me a work-around: By allocating “AF-ON” function to the front Fn2 function button I ca use a "front button focus" technique (long press “DISP BACK” button > Fn Button Setting menu appears > scroll down to Fn2 and right-click using 4-way controller > select “AF-ON” > confirm with “MENU OK”)

I don't (like to) use the "AF-L" button - IMO it´s misplaced coz the thumb rest partly blocks using it. Luckily this button can also be re-assigned on the X-T2, so I allocated the "Flash Function Setting" to it (use that sometimes for fill flash) and the "Shutter Type" selection to the somewhat difficult to reach Fn1 button. Pressing it cycles thru the shutter types MS > M+E > ES (which I mostly use to keep the camera quiet)

There´s more, you won´t find this nowhere else on the web: A special "Hendrix" X-T2 Fn-button configuration which allows me to fully focus on my image in the viewfinder, see the Fn-Button Settings in the image on the right:

The trick is to place the functions most used during viewing on the Fn3 and Fn6 buttons to get a fluid settings adjustment workflow in combination with the 4-way controller!

xt2 af mode.jpg

The Fn3 and Fn6 buttons are the top and bottom buttons on the 4-way controller. So, when activating the functions allocated to them you can fluidly change their function setting by continuing to press the same bottom or top button on the 4-way controller without needing to change finger position or taking your eye from the viewfinder ... COOL!

No confirmation via the "MENU OK" button is needed, half pressing the shutter release is enough. This "trick" only works for the top and bottom 4-way controller buttons. For functions allocated to the left and right buttons you need to change your finger position to the top or bottom 4-way controller button to scroll thru the function settings. This does cause some disruption of the viewing experience and may distract your attention from your image subject. Try it & you´ll immediately experience how much more fluid changing settings can be!

Holy windows, Fuji X-T2, with XF 35 mm / f1.4 at f5.6 - 1/480 sec - ISO 400

A final tip: If you want relatively fast access to 2 more secondary functions (over the 8 already assigned to Fn-buttons), you can allocate them to the top/left slot on "Q-Menu" and the 1st slot on "My Menu". These slots are faster to access as they are automatically highlighted first when selecting the Q- or My Menu. This saves some valuable time due to not needing to scroll around

I´ve allocated the top/left slot on the "Q-Menu" to the "Select Custom Setting" function (which I use to select different film simulation / setting configurations) and the 1st. slot of the "My Menu" to the "AF-C Custom Settings" function (which I use to switch between AF-C configurations depending on subject movement type)

For me it was important to get the configuration of the camera right from the start, and NOT CHANGE it afterwards, so that I could develop a consistent muscle memory fitting that configuration

With this review I´d like to encourage y´all to experiment to find the best settings for your kind of photography and work-flow, my preferred set-up is not necessarily applicable for everyone!

Many thanks for looking by & look forward to hearing your comments & experiences,

Best regards

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - 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 ACROS: Amazing JPEG´s with Film-Like Grain !

Since Fuji appeared on the scene we have been spoilt by intuitive cameras delivering wonderful images & amazing JPEG´s - Hey, some photographers didn't´t even wanna touch RAW´s ! And now that the new 24 MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor is here (Fuji X-Pro2, X-T2 and the new X100F) we get as bonus the ACROS film simulation mode for smoothly gradated black and white JPEG´s with deep blacks and a beautiful film-like grain texture. Interested how to get the best out of ACROS ? Please read on !

Waiting at the Airport, seen with Fuji X-Pro2 and XF 16 mm f1.4 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

Since going digital I´d always missed that "organic" film kinda look I got from my beloved Kodak Tri-X negs (man, I loved that film ...). Now, finally I can get it in digital - just compare below crop of a RAW file, developed in Capture One Pro 10 (left image) to crop from the original SOOC JPEG, which sports a subtle but distinct grain effect:

RAW developed in Capture One Pro 10

SOOC ACROS JPEG

This grain is amazingly "organic", way better than the more "sterile" digital grain which is applied in post as a generic image overlay eg. with 3rd party software ! ACROS has some kind of magic algorithm built in which selectively applies analogue grain, depending on ISO level and tone - you get "photographic" looking images with wonderful smooth gradations and a subtle "film-like" grain, right off the bat:

50 Shades of Lighter Grey ;-) captured by Fuji X-Pro2 & XF 35 mm f2 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

To achieve such JPEG images SOOC and still get sufficient "punch" in the shadows I apply following settings in my X-Pro2´s Q-menu (saved as preset):

  • ACROS-R film simulation
  • GRAIN effect OFF (ACROS has its own built-in ISO dependent analogue grain effect)
  • -3 NR (noise reduction)
  • DR auto (auto dynamic range)
  • -1 H-TONE (highlights contrast)
  • +3 S-TONE (shadows contrast for sufficient "punch")
  • +1 SHARP (sharpening)

I´ve discovered that the sweet spot (detail rendering vs. micro-contrast vs. grain) for ACROS simulation is around 2000 ISO. To compensate the JPEG´s reduced highlights & shadows recovery latitude (vs. doing RAW development) I set the highlights tone to -1 (increased highlight tonal range) and my dynamic range to "Auto" (automatically adjusts dynamic range to the subject contrast), see example image below:

Casting Shadows Ahead, with Fuji X-Pro2 and XF 35 mm f2 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

I´ve really fallen for this ACROS film simulation, and you can't get it any other way except by shooting JPEG´s ! So I set my camera to record RAW´s & Large/Fine JPEG´s. This allows me to speed up my workflow by primarily using JPEG´s and having the RAW as a back-up in case tricky post processing is needed (only in approx. 10% of the cases). Another benefit is that the image review on the camera´s LCD uses this high quality JPEG rather than the embedded low quality one when shooting RAW only

Hope y´all enjoyed this post & there was something interesting in it for you ? Thanks for looking by and of course you´re most welcome to leave me constructive critique and/or questions in the comments section below or on my "about" page !

Best regards & have fun shooting !

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - 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 !

Want Best Image Quality From Your Fuji ? Here´s How !

After my first try-out of Phase One´s new Capture One Pro v10 (here) I thought those of youse in constant search of getting the very best image quality might be interested in a re-comparison of latest available RAW development solutions ! For this I took a challenging high contrast image shot after dusk - quite scary how much achievable image quality still varies among contemporary RAW converters. Curious ? Please read on !

Great result: XF 18-135mm @18mm f/5.6 1/8" on X-Pro2, developed in Capture One Pro 10

Small side remark: I´m repeatedly amazed about what I can do with Fuji´s XF 18-135mm OIS (Optical Image Stabilization): Apart from replacing a full bag of lenses I´m getting sharp results down to 1/8 sec at any focal length (sometimes even 1/4 sec !) - Hello ... that´s 4-5 stops autonomy vs. non OIS lenses ! Means I could take the above image of a museum venue after dusk at ISO 3200, f5.6 and 1/8 sec hand held !

Ok, so before looking at the various RAW converters I´d first like to share the SOOC JPEG taken with Acros-R film profile - a bit too dark for my taste:

Original SOOC JPEG, using ACROS-R film profile - too dark IMO !

I compared following RAW converters (in order of preference):

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the above software providers, nor a "fan-boy" of any one of them - I just choose the best solution for my type of images and workflow. However I excluded some RAW developers (Raw Therapee, Silkypix, ACDSee, Aperture, ...) from this comparison as these either were not available to me, or not compatible with Mac OS Sierra, or having an IMO too complex user interface (eg. Silkypix). So, in case you don´t agree to my conclusions you´re most welcome to leave me a comment and/or suggestions below !

Basically I aimed for maximum highlight recovery and dynamic range, covering all zones from pure black to white with balanced gradations of grey in between. I further tried to prevent over sharpening (to which Fuji X-Trans files do not agree too well). Below you can see 200% crops of results achieved with each RAW converter (arranged in order of my personal preference):

My Conclusions:

  1. Overall Capture One Pro 10 delivers IMO the most balanced result, with good contrast and sharpness in the background billboard text and not too aggressive rendering of the grass and the hedge. Capture One now automatically corrects distortion (often prevalent on zooms) by straightening & cropping. However, left at 100% this correction effectively reduces the FF equ. widest angle of view of the XF 18-135 from 27mm to 28.5mm. So I reduce the auto-correction to around 60% allowing me to retain around 28mm FF equ. max. field of view while still getting reasonably straight lines
  2. Photo Ninja brings out more contrast in the text but IMO renders the tree, grass and hedge too aggressively. The image also seems to be overlaid by a visible grain structure. Unfortunately Photo Ninja doesn't´t offer lens correction based on embedded EXIF data and delivers somewhat strange colours (for those into colour imaging)
  3. Lightroom CC delivers reasonable results, albeit with subdued sharpness in the text (with optimal settings for Fuji X-Trans) and a hint of detail smearing artefacts in the foliage
  4. Iridient  (my previous favourite, before trying the newest version of Capture One) disappointed me on this image: I couldn't get sufficient contrast in the text and finest details in that text do not seem to be resolved well enough (lines in the letters break up). Also here IMO too aggressive rendering of the grass & foliage
  5. Affinity Photo delivers a similar balanced result to Capture One but clearly lacks contrast, sharpness and detail rendering in the fine details of the background text
  6. The SOOC JPEG is IMO the least attractive of these (apart from being too dark). This confirms that JPEG´s, while being good enough for sharing images on social media / web are insufficient for big fine-art enlargements - see how the fine details in the text are lost ...

Another aspect to consider is that from my point of view only 2 solutions of the above offer a complete all-in-one image management / RAW development solution: Capture One Pro and Lightroom CC. The others are usually applied as external RAW converters integrated into a Lightroom workflow, requiring exporting and re-importing of images & more complicated handling

Even Capture One is currently my preferred image management solution it has one big deficiency: It is the only software of the above NOT able to handle compressed Fuji RAW´s. This means each RAW file blocks approx. 50mB of your disk space vs. the approx. 25mB per compressed RAW !

Ok, this will be my last post of this year. I sincerely hope you enjoyed visiting my blog during the past year & will continue to follow me thru 2017 ! As always please leave me any comments and/or questions you may have in the comments area, many thanks for your continued support & for your interest / contributions !

Wishing y´all a wonderful, successful, fun new year 2017 & the best of luck for all your (photographic ;-) endeavours, 

Yours, 

Hendrik
 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - 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 !