#Black and White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks & best regards,

Hendrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hendrik

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

Shadow Seeker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hendrik

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

Fuji RAW Worms - Has Adobe Finally Nailed It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adobe Camera RAW’s conversion also got worms!

Adobe Camera RAW’s conversion also got worms!

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

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

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

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

Adobe Camera Raw’s new Enhance Details feature

Adobe Camera Raw’s new Enhance Details feature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hendrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACROS-R JPEG - more contrast & tonal seperation!

RAW work-out in Capture One Pro - transparent!

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

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

Hendrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro’s:

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

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

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

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

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

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

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

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

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

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

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • And bluetooth

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

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

So …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks & all the best,

Hendrik

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

Fuji's 50mm Equivalent Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. X100F with the TCL-X100ii Teleconverter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Many thanks & best wishes for 2019,

Hendrik

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

Fuji X100F in a Little Black Dress - Rediscovering Love!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back together with “Irene”, my Fuji X100F!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards,

Hendrik

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