#experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro’s:

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

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

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

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

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

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

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

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

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

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

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!

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!

5 Senses of the Fuji X100T, Thanks for 2015 & wish y'all Happy 2016 !

Thanks Fuji for all the amazing images & all readers / followers of my Blog for your interest and constructive comments - you've made 2015 such a great year for me ! Right now I'd like to wish y'all a fantastic, happy & successful New Year - may all your (not only photographic ;-) dreams come true ! Dreams ... ? Hey, what's that gotta do with photography and are you interested to discover the 5 "Senses" of the Fuji X100T ? Please read on ...

Shadows of transition - g'bye 2015, hello 2016 !

Dreams are made of images which often fade away when we wake up. They relate to important experiences in our lives, so sometimes we aspire to capture these images for eternity. Just like in photography, where we try to capture in our images the atmosphere, experiences and feelings of a moment in time, allowing us to enjoy and revisit them later !

Replacing all of my DSLR gear with the Fujifilm X100T a year ago (when I started this blog) has truly helped me a to improve my ability to capture such fleeting moments. The restriction to one lens / one camera has boosted my photographic vision & creativity, see below to discover why:

Flower power

Fuji X100T - 5 "Senses", or Key Attributes for Success:

  1. PORTABLE: Due to the X100T's small size & weight I can easily always take my camera with me, so I rarely miss out photographic opportunities ! The X100T has become like an extension of my hand & eye (now try that with a 4-5 lbs DSLR / 70-200 mm zoom combo !)
  2. SIMPLE: Having just one fixed lens (35 mm FF equ.) has greatly improved my ability to pre-visualize a scene even before lifting the camera to my eye, as I'd internalized the lens's field of view (like seeing with the camera's eye). It also saves me the dilemma of deciding on which lens to use (no more time wasted changing lenses / juggling lens caps and the added bonus of not having to bother with sensor dust or cleaning)
  3. INTUITIVE: The X100T's traditional user interface (aperture ring on lens, speed and ISO dials on top) allows me to check / modify the settings at one glance (w/o having to lift the camera to my eye or needing to look at the LCD). No time lost before / during the shoot by fumbling with menu's and buttons !
  4. DISCRETE: I found that my X100T never had an intimidating effect on people, in fact subjects rarely even realized their picture was being taken. The absolutely silent operation of this camera also helps a lot: Try shoving a massive DSLR in between you and your subject - tends to disconnect you from your scene and the subsequent "bang" of the mirror finishes the job by destroying any remaining intimacy ...
  5. QUALITY: The images coming out of this camera (especially the JPEG's) are simply stunning: Exposure, contrast, sharpness, definition, dynamic range, texture, depth, bokeh, etc. ... Fuji's f2/23 mm asph. / X-Trans sensor combo rocks ! The in-camera RAW converter is an additional asset for mobile post processing (see my previous blog posts on this topic) !

A new cup to fill in 2016 !

Sure, image QUALITY is a super important attribute but I've listed it last, because IMO if i wouldn't have had the first four attributes i'd only get perfectly exposed, sharp images of ... an empty space !

In addition to  this the Fuji X100T seems to have an additional "sixth sense" (success attribute no. 6), kinda like a personality or soul:

EMOTIONAL: A quality hard to describe in words ... The X100T's rangefinder design links back to the traditions and origins of photography, focused on making images. Many modern cameras, however come across kinda more like digital computers, designed to "scan" a scene rather than capture emotions ;-)

A gate ... to the past or the future ?

Ok, so I realize this kinda turned out to be a review of the Fuji X100T, but I prefer to not call it that way as I've focused more on attributes (or "senses" ;-) of the camera which have been instrumental in revitalizing my photography and filling it with life ! I hope this article helps some of you to experiment and find exciting photography opportunities in 2016 - please share your experiences & views in the comments below or by sending me a message from my "about" page !

Many thanks for visiting and the very best wishes to y'all for 2016 !

Sincerely 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 !