#review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro’s:

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

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

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

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

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

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

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

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

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • And bluetooth

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

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

So …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks & all the best,

Hendrik

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

Fuji's 50mm Equivalent Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. X100F with the TCL-X100ii Teleconverter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Many thanks & best wishes for 2019,

Hendrik

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

So, Your Pic’s Suck? Go Micro!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hendrik

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

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!

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!

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!

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 !

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 !

NO More Sensor Dust, a Creative Solution !

In the days of film it didn't matter: Dust. Ok, sometimes if you got unlucky dust manifested itself by leaving "telegraph lines" on your film but this could be prevented by being reasonably careful while changing film. Fast forward to the digital age, dust has become more of a problem. Well, at least mentally ... I´d never thought that I´d do what I did to solve it. Please read on if interested !

Twin spires of the Stadtpfarr Church in Bayreuth: XF 18-135 mm @f8/18 mm (27 mm FF equ.)

To be honest, since I exclusively use Fuji mirrorless cameras I´ve only once had a real problem with sensor dust: Happened to my (meanwhile sold) X-T1: Sent it in for cleaning as the dust was underneath the sensor cover glass - discovered that it didn't disappear after wet cleaning the sensor (Jeezus, just doin´ that little operation nearly gave me a freakin´ heart attack ! ;-)

House facade in the Winter Sun, captured by XF 18-135 mm @f8/18 mm (27 mm FF equ.)

Otherwize, touch wood - didn't have to clean a sensor again since then coz the fear of dust - Amathophobia ;-) has driven me to become a kinda "one lens guy", reluctant to change lenses when out on the street and IF necessary really sweating about it ... While this restriction has been good for my creativity I was missing the peace of mind I´d experienced in my film days. So I went out & got myself the Fujinon XF 18-135 mm / f3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR zooooom - Oh boy, already the name of that thing´s longer than you can say in one breath !

Slightly more compressed perspective, with XF 18-135 mm @f8/55 mm (83 mm FF equ.)

Hang on, say again ? Yes, a Z-O-O-M lens ! Ya know ? Those telescopic barrel shaped things, filled with hundreds of lenses, way too dark max. apertures, and usually having a bad reputation of delivering soft, soggy, unsharp, contrast-less images. And I´d always used primes till now ... So, even if this decision´s gonna cost me at least half of my numerous, faithful blog followers ;-) I´ll do my best to try to convince y´all otherwize - see below my sneak review of the Fuji XF 18-135 mm WR zoom lens (comparable to a 27-203 mm zoom on full frame) !

Fuji´s Air Ventilation System
(courtesy of Fujifilm Global)

All the images on this post were taken with the Fuji XF 18-135 mm WR zoom, and I gotta say I was very positively impressed about the amazing flexibility and image quality this lens offers, especially also at the longest focal length (normally the Archilles´ heel of tele-zooms). It truly is a "one lens" solution which can replace a bag full of primes (with some caveats, see below) ! So, no more need to change lenses ! I felt like liberated & it gives me a wonderful peace of mind regarding sensor dust. This WR (weather resistant) lens also uses a clever "Air Ventilation" feature (see on the right) to effectively prevent the pumping action of the zoom sucking dust into the system !

I really appreciate the combination of an 18 mm (27 mm FF equ.) wide-angle all the way thru to 135 mm (203 mm FF equ.) telephoto, all in one lens. On my DSLR´s (a long time ago) I had 3 f2.8 L zooms (from 16 to 210 mm), but always seemed to end up using the focal length extremes of the respective lenses´s zoom range. Here the Fuji lens offers much more flexibility and sufficient image quality over the whole zoom range that I now often also use the focal lengths in between the extremes:

More compressed view of backlit streetlamp: XF 18-135 mm @f8/75 mm (113 mm FF equ.)

Yes, the maximum opening from f3.5 at 18 mm to f5.6 at 135 mm is a bit restricted, but the images IMO are already quite punchy and absolutely useable at max. aperture ! The integrated OIS (optical image stabilization) system does an amazing job. It allows me to compensate the modest max. aperture (at least for static subjects) by allowing me to use an up to 2 (18 mm) -4 (135 mm) stops slower shutter speed. The advertized 5 stop difference can only rarely be achieved in ideal conditions with solid bracing of the camera. So, the only real caveat from my point of view is the limited background separation due to small f5 - 5.6 max. apertures at longer focal lengths, however the bokeh is quite smooth !

Backlit narrow street, seen with XF 18-135 mm @f8/105 mm (158 mm FF equ.)

I never thought I´d love using a zoom (even less with a 7.5 X zoom ratio) ... But after intensive use the last week I can really recommend Fuji´s XF 18-135 mm WR zoom as a "one lens" solution for travel, casual walkabouts, all-round use, etc. Granted it ain´t as sharp as Fuji´s amazing primes  so I continue to use those for critical assignments. Summarizing, the following positive things can be said about the XF 18-135 mm WR zoom:

  • Extensive zoom range covering all the main focal lengths from wide-angle to telephoto. No need to change lenses, no dust worries, no fuss and fast adapting to situation
  • Good image quality even at the extreme focal lengths and at max. apertures, decent Bokeh
  • Fast accurate and silent autofocus (with X-Pro2). Front element does not rotate
  • Amazing in lens image stabilization (OIS) allowing up to 4 stops longer shutter speeds
  • Portability: acceptable size & weight, no problem to hand carry around all day on X-Pro2
  • Build quality: Weather resistant, metal bayonet, filter thread & rings (focus & aperture), high quality plastic lens tube. Tight, compact feel and smooth operation. No lens creep
  • I like the aperture switch: The lens remembers the last manually set aperture value when switching back from auto to manual
  • Absolutely use-able macro capability (up to 0.27 X, min focus at 45 cm)

And here the cons:

  • Some chromatic aberration - can be corrected in post
  • Modest max. aperture limits ability to stop motion and potential for background separation
  • Zoom ring has increased resistance towards the long end of the zoom range (because of the weather sealing I think). Always need to double check if I really have the max. setting
  • Aperture setting not visible on lens, need to check viewfinder or LCD

Didn't´t say anything about price yet - I think that 899$ / 850€ is a fair price for what you get but it ain´t really a bargain ...

Please let me know if you´ve any questions - you can contact me via my about page or leave me a comment below 8your email address will not be disclosed) ! Many thanks for your interest & for visiting,

Many thanks & 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 !

Capture ONE Pro 10 for Fuji - A First Look !

When I jumped ship from CaNikon to Fuji a couple years ago I didn't find ANY integrated RAW converter / image management solution able to deliver the full potential outta Fuji´s unique X-Trans sensor. Only way out was to use a standalone external RAW converter (eg. Iridient) requiring a 2 step workflow. Then, earlier this year Adobe launched a major Lightroom CC upgrade delivering results very close to the till then Best-in-Class RAW converter Iridient (see my comparison here). Finally on December ONE Phase ONE launched Capture ONE Pro, version ONE-O. Hey, with so many ONE´s popping up I thought I´d take a look and see, please read on for my initial impressions !

Street in the winter sun, captured by Fuji XF 23 mm f/2 WR on X-Pro 2, developed in CO Pro 10

I decided to try out the newest version 10 of Capture One Pro after being intrigued by Thomas Fitzgerald´s excellent blog post describing latest improvements & features, please go here to discover them ! For me the above image has a wonderful glow to it and it took me only a couple minutes to get there - impressive how fast & easy I could get a really good result ! Furthermore Capture One Pro allows me to change any parameter at any time in its logical and clear dashboard (see left side of the screen grab shown below):

Capture One Pro 10 User Interface with logically grouped intuitive setting panels

What I liked most was the fluid interaction between Exposure, Levels, Curve, High Dynamic Range and Clarity settings. In contrast Lightroom IMO has a more linear (chronological) workflow which feels less intuitive and kinda "old fashioned" ...

Concluding, the PRO´s of Capture One Pro 10:

  • Great results. At least at a first glance I couldn't detect any disadvantages vs. my previous favorite Iridient in eg. highlight/shadow recovery, color rendering, detail rendering, sharpening, noise, etc (but I´ll come back here with a more detailed comparison soon)
  • Lens optimization finally working (incl. purple de-fringing !) - this was missing in previous versions of Capture One Pro
  • Fluid, logical and intuitive user interface allowing changing of all parameters in any order
  • NO more external standalone RAW converter needed ! Capture One Pro combines RAW conversion and image management. Strictly speaking this is no advantage over Lightroom

And the CON´s:

  • Capture One Pro 10 can´t read Fuji´s compressed RAW´s (yet). Now this one is really a bummer for me coz Fuji´s uncompressed RAW´s eat up memory at twice the rate compared to the compressed RAW´s (50 vs. 25 mB a pop !). C´mon, Phase One, give us the compressed RAW reading capability, you can do it !
  • Pricey - nearly 300 US$ ain´t a bargin (even though you get a lot for it). Ok I have a CO Pro 8 license so it´ll cost me 105 US$ to upgrade. Still a lot ... but at least it ain´t a subscription rip-off like CC (if you can live without Photoshop CC that is)

Here another "glowing" Capture One Pro image:

Contre Jour in the park, seen with Fuji XF 23 mm f/2 WR on Fuji X-Pro2, developed in CO Pro 10

If you have any questions or would like any advice, please leave me a message in the comments section or on my contact page ! Many thanks for your kind support, interest, liking & sharing ! Herewith wishing y´all a lot of fun trying out Capture One Pro 10 ! Enjoy your December holiday season, all the very best & good luck !

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 !

First Walk with Fuji 23 mm f2 - Mother of Lenses !

Finally Fuji did it & finally it´s here: The "mother of all lenses". The 23 mm f2 WR. How long have we been waiting for Fuji to give us a compact standard wide-angle for their interchangeable lens cameras, just like on the legendary X100 series ? Was it worth the wait ? Please read on !

Walking with the 23 mm f2 WR on my Fuji X-Pro2

Now I can ´fess up: Never really liked that 35 mm focal length (50 mm FF equiv.) - always either not long enough or too short, jack of all trades but master of none ... I loved the 23 mm (35 mm FF equiv.) on my X100T but could never get to terms with the 23 mm f1.4 on my X-Pro. Too heavy. Too big. Too obvious (and covering half of my OVF - hey, an elephant could hide behind it and you´d be in for a nasty surprize when you reviewed your image ;-)

Then when Fuji announced it was gonna give us a compact WR f2 - I ordered it right off the bat and settled in for the long wait. Now it´s here & I´m in heaven - This lens beats everything. Period. Image quality´s already stunning at f2 & gets even better on stopping down. And it don't get in your way, compact enough so youse can always take a camera just with one lens along with you. Always, anytime. No more excuses, no sir !

Late Afternoon Fence, 23 mm f2 WR on Fuji X-Pro2

Operation´s perfect, aperture ring with just the right resistance & clear clicks (although I must say there is a slight spread between samples - the first one I tried was a tick too tight). The focus ring is wide enough to justify using it now & then, in case you ever get tired of the lightning fast, spot-on autofocus ... Oh yeah, I gotta say: This one focusses real fast, like faster than all the other Fuji lenses I´ve known ! I prefer the Wide/Tracking focus mode: Don´t worry, be happy ! And the vented lens hood of the 35 mm f2 also fits, yay !

Dark Facades, captured by 23 mm f2 WR on Fuji X-Pro2

Last but not least: Field of view´s just perfect for reportage, street photography, storytelling, landscapes, environmental portraiture - just about everything, except the kitchen sink (and even that one will look good ;-) ! Yup, the images taken with this lens have a special quality for me - I discovered it´s got a slightly larger field of view (around 2° more) than what i had on the 23 mm f1.4 or the 23 mm f2 on the X100T !

So is there anything I don't like about this lens ? Normally I´m kinda critical ´bout my gear & easily find something or other to bitch about. In this case it´s a real challenge - IF I had to say something: Bokeh´s not as nice as on the 23 mm f1.4 & I sometimes miss that additional stop of light in dark corners ... but you can't have ´em all, right ?

Closed ... the deal on the new 23 mm f2 WR !

To sum it up, this IMO is THE must-have lens for every Fuji shooter - if you can only have one lens (like the "desert island lens"), this is it ! You get stellar image quality, it´s fast, silent, compact, light, water resistant & ain´t got no OVF intrusion - at a very reasonable price. OK, you need f1.4 or can't live w/o best-in-class bokeh (on a wide -angle) and don't need the WR, nor mind the size & weight ? Then go for the 23 mm f1.4, by all means - luckily Fuji gives you the choice !

Thanks for reading, hope y´all liked it. Please let me know if you got any questions or comments - you know where to find me !

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 !

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 !