Just how good is the XF50-140mm zoom lens?

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Guest Blogger strip BLACK

By Brian Rolfe

May this year I picked up a second-hand graphite silver edition X-T1 and wanted a good excuse to go out shooting with it.

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Shooting with the XF50-140mm

So.. I arranged to meet a model I’ve known for 5 or 6 years now, Imogen Leaver who’s with Nevs Models in London. We got chatting and I mentioned a friend of mine who’s a makeup artist that had just moved to Ibiza, well she’d been on my case to fly out and shoot on the island, it was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time.

To cut a long story short, we were both fairly quiet work-wise so we looked into flights and within a few days that was it, flights were booked and we were going to fly out the following week for 3 days!

The next thing to decide was what gear to take?

You see my switch to regular use of the Fuji X System was still pretty fresh, my Canon 5D MkIII was and still is part of my kit but I’d only used it once in about 4 or 5 weeks, even in the studio I’d been reaching for the X-T1.

Honestly, I thought I might have deliberated more over what kit to take but I wanted to travel light and I already knew how much I loved Fuji in natural light from past experience so that was that – I took the X-T1, the X100T, my 35mm and 56mm.

I’d also been hearing great things about the XF50-140mm zoom, but being a prime shooter I wasn’t too sure if it would work for me, but Fujifilm kindly loaned me one for the trip so I could try it out and see what all the fuss was about, I wasn’t expecting to use it much – how wrong I was!


The Shoot

First day out we drove to a beautiful beach, Sa Caleta the sun was shining & we were ready to get going, the rocks and cliffs were a beautiful golden colour I just knew would give amazing tones and colour to Imogen’s skin.

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We started with a bit of fashion on the water’s edge before heading up into the cliffs, at this point I pulled out the 50-140mm lens as I thought it would be good to stay fixed to one spot rather than moving around the rocky terrain with the camera to my eye and tripping.

Well, I really wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to fall in love with that lens, it performed like a prime, fast to focus, sharp and the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) was a real plus. I’ve not got the steadiest hands so when I’m out in natural light it can be so easy to miss a shot due to camera shake, but with this lens every shot was in perfect focus.

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I was also surprised how balanced it felt in the hand for a large zoom, when you compare it to something tiny like the 35mm F2 you’d expect it to feel very heavy and just a bit odd on a small body, but I found it really easy to use and very comfortable.

Day one was the last time I used my primes, seriously.

The zoom did not leave my camera for the rest of the trip as after reviewing the images on my MacBook Pro every evening I noticed they appeared to have more depth to them, almost a 3D quality. Maybe it was the beautiful Ibiza light I don’t know, but there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on that’s different to the primes and whatever it is, I love it.

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I really did put it to the test on this trip as well, some strong winds on the second day really showed how the OIS helps. We shot alongside those famous Ibiza sunsets where Imogen modeled swimwear out upon a jetty with the sunset behind her – I experimented quite a bit here as it’s not something you get to shoot everyday!

I’d shot sunsets in the past but throwing a model into the mix really offered up a new challenge for me, and I knew Imogen really wanted some sunset shots too… no pressure!!

I exposed for the sunset initially leaving Imogen in silhouette but then found a good middle ground exposure to be able to have enough light on her while still capturing the beauty of the sunset, the colours and reflections on the water. I also tried exposing for the model and blowing out the sunset more and I have to say they all worked out very well.

You don’t get more than maybe 20 minutes to get those shots and yet I was still spoilt for choice with the results. I knew I could push things in post but I’m a bit of a stickler for getting things as close in camera as possible & having all the dials on top of the camera really helps to make those quick adjustments.

I think the ultimate test was as we were driving away from the beach on the cliff road, Lauren, our make up artist and host pointed out to the sun just about to disappear into the water behind us, I wound down the window grabbed the XT and with my upper body hanging out of the moving car I took a shot, as you can see it came out beautifully!Imogen - Ibiza 0928 web

I have to say that I truly missed that lens when it went back to Fuji and I think I’m very likely to get myself one in the near future. The whole trip was a great success and we’ve had great feedback from the images that were taken.

I’d like to thank Fuji for providing the lens for this trip as well as my friends Lauren Buckley make-up artist and Imogen Leaver for making the trip such a successful and memorable one.

To see more of Brian’s work, click here. 


 

Top 10 fashion portrait tips by Brian Rolfe

By Brian Rolfe

I love shooting fashion portraits, easy to plan, far less work than an editorial or commercial job! Give me a good model, quite often no team, just me, the model and an idea of what we want to create and almost without fail we’ll come away with some great shots that look uncontrived and natural. These are my tips for approaching this kind of portraiture…! !

#1 Put together a mood board beforehand that gives the general idea of what you’re aiming for, this doesn’t have to be an exact guide of the result you’d like but more of an overview so that everyone is on the same page. If you’ve not yet got a clearcut style then it’s good to find an image that’s close to what you want to create.!

#2 Pick the right model for the style you’re shooting, it sounds obvious but casting a very commercial girl next door type model when you want an editorial style with attitude is generally not going to work.!

#3 Remember models are people too, take the time to chat with them, get to know them a
little. Fashion portraits and people photography in general is as much about your personality as it is a model’s, create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere and it will show in your results!!

#4 Try not to over direct, I always find a good professional fashion model allowed to pose free will usually create magic you never thought of yourself, that pretty much goes for fashion portraits as well as editorials.!

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#5 Don’t ever put your camera down while the model is in front of you, you may just miss a candid shot that is a killer! I’ve done it and you will kick yourself.!

#6 Don’t get hung up on having a full team, some of my favourite shoots have been with no make up, hair or styling aside from what the model brings with her or him. I’ve shot models in an old pair of my jeans and that’s it.!

#7 Keep things simple, good lighting doesn’t need multiple light sources and expensive
modifiers, one light or daylight works best for a fashion portrait.!

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#8 Play with angles, shoot from the floor, move around the model and experiment.!

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#9 Keep make up natural or even shoot without any at all, a blank canvas and unstyled hair bring a realism to the shoot.!

#10 I generally keep styling basic for this kind or shoot, denim, t-shirts, vest tops, basics underwear, again give your model some ideas in advance or get something in yourself if you don’t have a stylist.! !

Have fun!

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 About Brian

pic22648Brian Rolfe is a professional photographer based just outside of London with a clean and classic style specialising in beauty, hair, fashion and portraiture.

Inspired by the classic photography of the sixties and the supermodel era of the eighties and nineties, he takes a simplistic approach, preferring to work with one or two lights and keep retouching to a minimum in order to enhance rather than overpower an image.

Could this Canon photographer make the switch?

By Brian Rolfe

Back in August the guys at Fuji were kind enough to give me some time with the new X-T1 and 56mm 1.2 lens, I’ve had an X-Pro1 since around April time and since getting that it has become my natural light camera of choice but I was looking forward to seeing what the XT had to offer as I was still using my Canon full frame for commercial work… could this be the camera that made me move away from Canon?

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I had a location test lined up with model and stunt woman Gemita Samarra, we were off to a beach for the day about an hour from where I live, as I was packing my gear the new Fuji kit arrived, I had no intention of using a completely alien camera but thought I’d take it along with the X-Pro and at least give it a go while I had the opportunity.

We arrived at the beach on a beautiful warm sunny day, got the make up done and headed down onto the beach to set up camp, a good selection of clothes and a surfboard, it was sure to be a good day! I decided to try out the XT straight away and then I could switch to the X-Pro once we’d done warm up shots and got a feel for the natural light of the day, what actually happened was a pretty unconscious thing really, the XT controls didn’t feel alien at all and I only realised when we stopped for lunch that I’d shot our first half a dozen looks with just the XT, the X-Pro did not leave my bag the entire day, I was that at ease with the new camera, we were all chatting and enjoying the shoot so much that I just kept going with it and the results were just perfect!

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I’m not really into technical reviews, I’m not really qualified to give one anyway but I can give a user experience, which for me is far more valuable than graphs and pixel peeping! The first thing I noticed about the XT was it’s size, it’s smaller than the X-Pro which surprised me, with the 56mm attached though it felt solid and balanced in my hands. The addition of back button focussing was a big plus for me as that’s how I use my 5D Mk2 most of the time, there is a workaround way of doing it on the X-Pro but it’s not something that was built into it. Auto focus and responsiveness on the XT is a huge leap from the X-Pro, I’d shot on the beach a few weeks prior to this shoot with the X-Pro and I didn’t feel that confident in capturing the model moving around too much and getting focus every time but not so with the XT although I did miss focus on a number of shots that was me and not the camera.

Even as we were losing light and golden hour was fading away the focus didn’t let me down and although the ISO was going up and noise was becoming a factor it was still more than acceptable and because at this point I was shooting black and whites it worked in my favour anyway. The EVF is unbelievable on this camera, the vision through that viewfinder is a big plus, unusually for me though I did find myself using the screen to compose quite a bit as well, it’s so clear! I even found the new flip screen useful, that was unexpected, I just thought it was a nice gimmick but I do like to shoot at unusual angles and being able to do this without laying on the floor or pulling any muscles can only be a good thing, shooting from above would normally have meant a ladder but with the flip screen I can just hold the camera up, angle the screen and still compose well without just guessing.

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So those were the main things I noticed with the XT, I also like the fact that ISO control is now on a dial on the left side of the body. Obviously the camera is only as good as the glass attached to it and the 56mm is just amazing, I already loved the 35mm as being a 50mm equivalent it suits what I shoot but the 56mm just blew me away, come in close for a beauty shot and wow!! I’ve used the 85mm L series from Canon and this is equal if not better than that lens to my mind. For beauty and fashion work it’s on my wish list now, I’ve used it in the studio and out on location and it’s just an amazing, fast lens, focus is quick, the detail it produces is just beautiful. I compared my Canon beauty shots against ones from the Fuji and I actually think the Fuji edges it, every little facial hair, every pore and eyelash is in sharp focus. The lens itself you might expect to be ridiculously heavy and a bit clumsy feeling on the smaller bodied Fujis but it’s actually just right, I really liked the balance of it on both the XT and the X-Pro, honestly I really couldn’t fault this lens.

Having had the XT over the Summer I do regret not having used it more in the studio and worked out the white balance sweet spot under strobes but I love shooting with the Fujis in natural light so I took every opportunity to do so, whether it’s the XT or the X-Pro they both give me that filmic feel that I love and coupling that with natural light only accentuates that film like quality.

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Will I switch to the X-T1? I haven’t yet, if funds allowed I would have one and a 56mm by now, I’m only really holding out because when (and I’m certain it’s when rather than if) I go 100% Fuji I have to tick all the boxes for my commercial work as well as my personal work, that includes tethering to Capture One which I’m sure will come, in the back of my mind is an X-Pro2 though and if that is as much of a leap forward as the XT & has tethering capabilities then I think that will be the moment I become a 100% Fuji shooter. For now, I’m happy with my X-Pro still, I am missing the XT mind you, but a 56mm is looking very likely and I have now added the X100T and teleconverter lens to the family. I’m just excited to see what Fuji comes up with in 2015, I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting!


About Brian

me2Brian Rolfe is a professional photographer based just outside of London with a clean and classic style specialising in beauty, hair, fashion and portraiture.

“I always strive to create images of timeless beauty & ensure the subject is still the main focus. Lighting is important but I don’t like to let it take over an image and the same applies to retouching.” 

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