Travel Light – The Ancient and Modern in Mexico

By Jeff Carter

Travel Light – The Ancient and Modern in Mexico

There is nothing like visiting a faraway land for the first time. Most photographers relish the opportunity to discover new places and experience a different culture. Continue reading Travel Light – The Ancient and Modern in Mexico

The Difference Between Lens Focal Lengths

You may notice camera lenses are described by one or two numbers, most often in millimetres, like 14mm or 18-55mm. As a new photographer, you may have no idea what these figures mean because photo websites and product descriptions often list them without explanation. These numbers are essential to know. Once you understand what they are and what they mean for your shots, you can better choose the right lens for the variety of scenes you tend to shoot.

 

These numbers you see on every lens represent that lens’ focal length. It is the measurement between your lens and your camera’s image sensor. If your lens is fixed-length, or prime, then it always rests at the same distance from your sensor, so its length is just one number. If your lens has the capacity to zoom, then it has two stats for both the minimum and maximum distance it sits from your camera’s sensor.

This distance tells you not only about the physical attributes of the lens but also the type of shots it creates. A lower focal length means a wider field of view, or a greater angle of what the lens can perceive in focus. The Fujifilm XF14mmF2.8, for example, is a prime lens that shoots at an 89-degree angle, with high resolution from the centre to the periphery of the frame. Compare that with the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6, a super telephoto lens that ranges from 16 to 4 degrees in its field of view. With that latter type of lens, you abandon the wide angle to highlight a closer, more specific segment of what the unaided eye can see.

If you are a new photographer, then you are likely shooting with just one or two lenses. There are great mid-range lenses that work for several situations, including personal use moments, like candid shots of family or friends. The XF18-55mmF2.8-4 is one such option with a broad focal range that spans 79 to 28 degrees, depending on the zoom. That type of mid-length lens with zoom is a great choice for starting your creative endeavour and for shooting as you travel with light cargo.

As you develop your craft, you may wish to utilise lenses designed for specific photo opportunities. If you shoot landscape and architecture photos, then you want a lens with a low focal length, between 14 and 18mm, for its wide angle. For your full-body portraits, you should look at a lens with a mid-range focal length between 23mm and 50mm. When dealing with moving or distant photo subjects, you should choose a zoom lens with a focal length of 200mm or more.

By knowing the difference between lens focal lengths, you can experiment with more lenses and be confident that you know which lens to grab in every situation.

The Best Fujifilm Travel Lenses for Your Next Trip

By Stefano Ferro

I have been running a travel photography website for few years. In conjunction, I also run some workshops and commonly receive many photography questions; however, there is one which comes up frequently:

What is your favourite camera for travelling today?

Fair enough, people want to upgrade or just change the model. I find however strange that I almost never get this question:

What lens should I buy for my next trip? Or what lens would you suggest for my travel adventure?

It seems that lenses always come second, based on what is left from the initial camera budget. It’s not uncommon to hear “the kit lens will do” when someone goes travelling.

But is it the right choice?

Maybe not. I may be too drastic, however, I believe that lenses are even more important than the cameras when talking about travel photography. I was once watching a lecture from Prof. Marc Levoy on lenses and differences when using the same camera, it was very interesting. It was part of an 18-lecture workshop that I would suggest everyone watches if they have some spare time. From this I have one lens buying tip: if you buy only one lens then allocate a budget at least similar, if not higher, to the one allocated to the purchase of the camera.

Do not buy a Ferrari with a FIAT engine (although the FIAT Group actually owns the Ferrari brand)!

Sunset on Southgate with the helicopter surprise
Fujifilm X-T1 – XF16-55mmF2.8 – F2.8 – 1/400 second – ISO200

How to choose the best travel lens?

If it is true that the best camera is always the one with you then the best lens is the one that will help to capture the majority of your photos in your trip. 

Think about what lenses to take when travelling. For example, you should take multiple lenses that will cover a wide focal length through to a telephoto length, but also take into consideration the following:

  • Weight of the lens
  • Cost of the lens
  • Risk of theft

I am in love with the Fujifilm X Series cameras. One of the reasons beside the light weight is the compact size, for instance, I can take a Fujifilm X-T2 in my bag for a full day of shooting and almost not feel it.

This is the way I want to travel. It’s important for me to keep my gear light, which is why I take a maximum of two lenses with me. When I travel on my own I usually change location every 2-3 days. Packing multiple lenses and transporting many of them is just not an option.

When I travel with my child I usually stay in a place for seven or more days. To be honest, I already have so many things that taking several lenses is simply not ideal. There is also a simple equation to think about as well, the more lenses you buy the higher the total cost of them. The risk factor of leaving multiple lenses in a hotel room is something you simply should not do.

So what do I do nowadays?

I just take two lenses with me and in some rare cases a third one. I make sure to include an all round zoom lens, a prime and an ultra wide angle or super zoom when absolutely needed.

 

Walking through the tiles
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – F2 – 1/40 second – ISO800

Recommended All Round Zoom Lens for Travelling

My favourite all-round lens for travelling is in the 24-80mm or 24-100mm focal range (35mm equivalent). As a rule of thumb, the wider the aperture the better, as this typically increases the photo opportunities. Personally, I would suggest using a lens that has an aperture of F2.8 or even lower.

Why such a wide aperture for travel photography?

  1. To have a narrow depth of field. Think of photos of architectural details or simply portraits of local people with a lovely blurred background.
  2. To make photos in low light environments, as the local markets, without pushing the ISO too high. I still remember how dark the fish market was in Port Louis (Mauritius)!
  3. To shoot without a tripod at sunset or at night. The wider you can go with the aperture the more light you will receive on your sensor without the need to use higher ISO levels.

Why as wide as 24mm (35mm equivalent)?

Because it’s a nice average wide angle to capture most of the typical photos you might come across when visiting landscapes, lanes/alleys or a new city.

Why 80mm or 100mm?

Because honestly, you will hardly need more than that. Let’s remember that we have legs too and we can move closer to the subject in most cases. Of course, there will be the time when you will regret that you have left behind the longer lens or you have not bought the lens that has a focal length of 400mm. Compromise compromise…

So, what all-round lens works best for a Fujifilm X Series camera?

I am personally in love with the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR lens. This lens provides a super fast F2.8 aperture that delivers beautiful bokeh (35mm equivalent focal length of around 24-85mm). This is my favourite all-round Fujinon lens that I would highly recommend for travel photography.

City view from St.Kilda, Melbourne
Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR – 55mm – 2 seconds – F3.2 – ISO200

I had the lens for testing and review. I was really impressed with its sharpness across the entire focal range without compromising on the corners. The autofocus was quick and silent too, which is really a feature you want when travelling. I always try to be invisible when taking photos by not making any noise that would alarm people around me. I found the zoom and aperture rings were very smooth and easy to operate. Lastly, the combined weather resistance was also really important when travelling in unpredictable weather conditions.

The only drawback of this lens is that it does not have image stabilisation. If you really want this feature you should check the XFujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS.

If you still think that the focal length of 80mm (35mm equivalent) is still not enough when travelling I would recommend the Fujinon XF18-135mm R LM OIS WR which, with a focal length of around 24-200mm (35mm equivalent), should cover everything you want to capture. The lens also is more affordable as well, however, you have to compromise with a slower aperture that offers F3.5-F5.6.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – 10 seconds – F16 – ISO100

Recommended Prime Lens for Travelling

Why buy a prime lens with a single focal length?

These are my four main reasons:

  • Generally cheaper
  • Offers great image quality
  • Light in weight
  • Smaller in size

A prime lens essentially has only one unique focal length which usually performs at the highest professional level. When travelling, I photograph quite a lot of markets that form an essential part of my work. If you have a mirrorless Fujifilm X Series camera with a small prime lens mounted you will be able to walk around unnoticed. If you arrive at a public place like a market with a zoom lens mounted on your camera then suddenly people around you might start thinking you are a professional photographer with expensive gear. This sort of attention is not something you want, especially in some countries where theft is common.

For a prime, I would suggest going for a focal length in the range of 50mm to 85mm (35mm equivalent). This will allow the most natural portraits to be captured. I personally use a 50mm focal length (35mm equivalent) as I like to get close to my subject, possibly have a talk, even if just with my hands (my Italian background helps a lot).

Love is our truth
Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – 1/13 second – F2 – ISO3200

I personally suggest the Fujinon XF35mm F2 R WR for a prime lens. I used this lens with the Fujifilm X-T2 and I could only love it. The small package was great to shoot with. Fujifilm does also offer the F1.4 version, however, for travelling, I do not feel I can justify the higher price.

Resting time for the chef
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R WR – 35mm – 1/40 seconds – F2 – ISO5000 – handheld

Alternatively, you can look also into the Fujinon XF50mmF2 R WR if you prefer a longer focal length.

Recommended Ultra Wide angle and Super Zoom Lens

I own an ultra wide angle lens and I sometimes rent or borrow a super zoom one.

Why an ultra wide angle lens?

I mostly use it for interior and architectural photography. If I am going to explore a city for a long weekend I may take it with me if I plan to visit churches, cathedrals or unique buildings. I use it also for some landscape photography, however mostly when my subject is actually in the foreground. For example a stone formation at a beach.

The Fujinon XF10-24mm F4 R OIS lens is the widest you can get in the XF range. It’s also optically stabilised which comes in handy when photographing in buildings or places where the tripod is not allowed.

Why a super zoom lens?

I need it rarely and that is why I have not bought it. It’s really mostly needed when travelling on a safari, photographing sports or wildlife. Last year, for instance, I used the super zoom for photographing a zoo safari in the middle of Australia – it definitely came in handy. The new XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens is probably all you need if you are photographing any of the mentioned subjects. An important note is that it is also a stabilised lens, something that is really a must for this focal length.

 

Sali e Tabacchi

Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R WR – 35mm – 1/40 second – F2 – ISO1000 – Handheld

Final thoughts

An equal budget should be allocated for the camera and the all-round lens. If there is any spare money left over then I would recommend investing in a prime lens as the secondary option. Any other lens can wait or can be rented. Remember that a good lens can always be used on a newer camera. Great lenses will always stay with you.

Happy travelling and enjoy your photography.

BBC & NatGeo wildlife photographer Ben Osborne switches to Fujifilm

By Ben Osborne

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography

Photography has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I still have packets full of black and white negatives taken on 127 roll film with an old Brownie box camera – memories of family holidays and school trips from way back when. At the University of Edinburgh my interest in photography developed when I used still images and Super 8 film to back up field research on the feeding behavior of Ringed Plover, the subject of my Zoology Honours Degree dissertation. Having completed a second degree, my scientific “career” took a series of slightly disjointed steps through various biological research jobs, mainly ones with a wildlife theme. My interest in photography matured during this time until Continue reading BBC & NatGeo wildlife photographer Ben Osborne switches to Fujifilm

Throwing some shapes

Black card, tape and Velcro are all you need to add extra creativity to out-of-focus highlights.

If there’s one thing that Fujifilm XF lenses are well known for it’s bokeh. Some folks mistake this term as referring to purely out-of-focus highlights, but in reality it means the whole out-of-focus area of an image and how appealing it looks. But there’s fun to be had with highlight areas, particularly pinpoints of light the likes of which are created by fairy lights. Take a look at the two shots below, the one on the left is a defocused shot taken with an XF55-200mm at the 200mm setting and its widest aperture. The shot on the right was created by slipping a piece of card with a heart cut in it in front of the lens. Cute, eh?

And it’s easy enough to do.

First up, you’re going to need some materials. I used the following:

  • 1x sheet black card
  • 1x scalpel
  • 1x scissors
  • 1x roll of electrician’s tape
  • 1x pack of Velcro strips
  • 1x Fujifilm camera and lens

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The more eagle-eyed among you will also notice there’s an X Series box inner as well. More on that later…

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Start by taking the card and a pencil and drawing round the lens you want to creating the bokeh shape for.

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Once you’ve got a nice outline (not wonky like mine), cut it out using the scissors, then place it back on the lens to make sure it’s the right size.

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Measure the diameter of the card and then use the scalpel to cut out a second circle that’s approximately 1cm across.

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Once you’ve done that, cut a strip of black card and apply the electrician’s tape to one edge of it.

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Slowly wrap this around the circle you’ve already cut out, creating a shallow holder in the process.

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The holder should now slide neatly over the front of the lens.

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Take the Velcro and cut two short strips, sticking them on either side of the small hole.

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Finally, cut a final small piece of card and then either the scalpel to cut a shape you want to appear in the bokeh. A heart is easy enough to cut by hand, but if you want something more intricate shaped punches are available in craft stores and provide a smooth edge. Stick the other part of the Velcro on this card and attach. This way you can easily make other shapes and remove/attach as you wish.

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You’ll need to do some experimentation with different lenses and aperture settings. Naturally, the wider the aperture the better, plus you’ll find that manual focusing is better. After my initial tests with this shape to produce the shot at the top of this blog, I created a second slightly fatter heart shape for the shot below, which I prefer. To add a bit more interest, I also added a lily as it’s my wife’s favourite flower and I thought it fitted the heart theme.

And the X Series box inner? Well that was used for the shot on the right. See, Fujifilm even produce creative packaging as well as great cameras!

How to capture an atmospheric Autumn

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Chris Upton

Halloween, the time of ghosts, ghouls and bewitching conditions to create wonderful atmospheric autumnal images!

After a few summer months of long, warm days, harsh light and of course some rain (I am in the UK!) we are longing for misty mornings, low raking light and sunrise and sunset at sensible times of day. For many photographers, especially landscapers, autumn is simply the best time of the year.

So how do we make the most of these opportunities and capture some stunning images?

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THE WEATHER

Well it all starts with the planning and we’ll begin with the weather. Keep an eye on the forecast and if you’re looking for a misty start ideally you need cool temperatures after a period of wet, mild weather with little or no wind. Check the sunrise time and be prepared to be on location at least 30 mins prior. When the sun pops up it starts to warm up the landscape and gradually burns off the mist. Depending upon the amount of mist it may take a while to clear so you may have an hour or more to capture your shots.

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I use BBC Weather, Met Office and WeatherPro apps to check the forecast though it’s not foolproof and the conditions might not turn out as you were hoping for. In those circumstances it’s important to keep a positive view and think about the things you can shoot.

This was the case recently when I went down to the River Trent for what I hoped would be a misty sunrise. When I arrived it was thick mist and even when the sun came up it didn’t burn off. Walking along the bank I noticed the leaf, grass and reed details and decided to shoot some high key images. So although I didn’t get what I had expected I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Whilst strong sunlight is best early and late, during the day bright overcast conditions with its soft lighting will enable you to capture the beautiful autumn colours without harsh shadows and excessive contrast. Take care to avoid large areas of bland blue or grey sky which add nothing to the image.

In certain circumstances the weather can be especially challenging. However “every cloud ….…” The fact is that “bad weather” can provide you with great opportunities to capture some unique shots as many photographers don’t venture out in inclement conditions. The benefit of much of the Fujifilm equipment is that it’s weather sealed (check yours) so as long as you can keep the front element dry you’re good to go! It’s a good idea to have an umbrella handy, though the ability to grow another hand would be extremely useful too! I recommend the Gustbuster umbrella which is large, robust and is tested to withstand winds of 55mph.

These next few shots were taken on an extremely challenging day in the Lake District. It was pouring with rain, visibility was poor and light levels were low. Despite sheltering under a large umbrella that flipped inside out twice (hence the Gustbuster purchase) it felt like a contest between me and the elements and I was determined to get some pictures.

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This shot was also taken in pouring rain. The soft, diffused light and low contrast really suited a long exposure and providing you meter carefully to retain detail in the highlights you can get super images in these conditions.

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EARLY & LATE

Usually the best times to shoot atmospheric landscapes is at the beginning and end of the day, that magical period when the sun is rising or setting but is still below the horizon giving a soft, warm light.

Mornings take more effort and you have to walk to your location in the dark but there are fewer people around and there is something special about witnessing the start of a new day especially when the conditions are just right. Plan to be at your location at least 45 minutes before sunrise. If you want to get a starburst effect as the sun pops over the horizon shoot at f16 or f22 but make sure your front element or filters are clean!

For sunset ensure you stay until at least 30 minutes after the sun has gone down because that’s the time when the sky is backlit with, hopefully, an amazing display of colour.

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Another benefit of shooting early or late is that usually the wind drops at these times enabling you to capture lovely reflections.

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The blue hour is a great time for city shots but don’t stop then because city streets late at night can provide many other opportunities especially when it’s wet and the pavements reflect the vibrant artificial lights. Try converting to black and white to give a colder, more intimidating feel to the image.

LOCATION, LOCATION

Great autumn shots can be had all around the country in local parks, woods and by the rivers. However, in the UK, there are a few stunning locations such as Perthshire, Lake District, Thorp Perrow N. Yorks, Peak District, Clumber Park, Westonbirt Arboretum, Ashridge forest, and Stowe.

Rivers, canals, lakes and marshes all offer great potential for atmospheric misty shots. Look for some added interest like boats, jetties or rocks to aid your composition.

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Fields heavy with morning dew also produce mist. Add backlit trees and you have the recipe for some stunning pictures. Think about your viewpoint, try and find an elevated view so that you are above the mist.

Other great places for spooky, ethereal shots are graveyards!

Here are a couple of images I took in Edinburgh using the multiple exposure feature on my X-T1. When you set the drive dial to ME you shoot the first image as normal and the screen will then show you the image and ask if you are happy with it. If you are you get a faint overlay of your original image to help you superimpose with the second. Take that shot and your combined image shows on your screen. However if you’re not happy with the second shot you can delete that one, keeping the first, and then reshoot.

In these shots I took one image of the row of grave stones then the second shot was a close up of the inscription from one of the stones. If you’ve not tried this give it a go you can get some great effects!

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Why not also try the Advanced Modes for achieving some creative pictures? Many photographers bypass these but I would urge you to give them a try, the high key or soft focus mode are especially good for misty shots.

Of course the colour at this time of year can be amazing and forests and woods can provide countless opportunities with shafts of early morning light streaming through the trees illuminating the forest floor or feathering the light across branches laden with morning dew. Keep to the edges of the woods to get the best effects.

EQUIPMENT

The choice of lens can also have a dramatic effect on your image. I find that this time of year is ideal for using a longer lens which I use to compress perspective or isolate detail. Perfect for enhancing a misty scene adding drama and intrigue to your shot.

As the light is low at this time of year or day ensure that you use your lens hood to cut out any unwanted flare and again make sure your lens and filters are spotless.

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You will be amazed at the difference a Polarising filter makes to your autumn pictures, reducing glare and increasing colour saturation. A circular polariser allows you to fine tune the effect but take care not to overdo it especially if you have blue skies in your picture.

Other filters that are useful are Neutral Density filters in 3, 6 or 10 stops to extend the exposure time and 2 and 3 stop Neutral Density Graduated filters to control the dynamic range in your picture, usually darkening the sky or areas of water.

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TECHNIQUE

In order to achieve the best quality files I prefer to shoot at low ISO (usually 200) and for a landscape will select f8 or f11 unless I want to intentionally reduce the depth of field.

Depth of field (the area of the picture that is acceptably sharp in front and behind the point of focus) is determined by focal length, aperture and focus point.

With a small aperture eg f11 and a wide angle lens eg 14mm focusing at 1m everything will be sharp from 47cm to infinity. There are various DOF apps you can use on your smartphone to ensure accuracy. Alternatively you can simply focus ⅓ into the scene and check your EVF, zooming in to assess sharpness.

Using the AF joystick on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 makes focus point selection a breeze and it’s another favourite feature of mine. Trying to use AF in mist is challenging to most cameras so I recommend switching to Manual focus. There are several different manual focus aids on Fuji cameras, I prefer focus peaking and set my highlights to Red, white highlights in mist might prove a little tricky!

Low ISO and small apertures usually mean a longish shutter speed which makes a tripod an essential part of my kit. But there are many other benefits to using a tripod not least that it slows you down so that you can search the frame carefully and fine tune your composition. Using Neutral Density Graduated filters is also much easier when your camera is tripod mounted. That said there are many people who prefer the freedom of shooting handheld and are happy to use wider apertures or higher ISO’s. There really is no right or wrong as long as you capture the image you’re looking for.

Although I have a cable release I prefer to use the 2 second timer unless I am using B (Bulb mode) for long exposures or want to capture a specific point in time ie waves.

For metering I will use Evaluative or Spot depending on the subject and the style I am looking for. Be aware that mist will fool your camera into underexposing resulting in dull, grey images. You will need to use your exposure compensation to increase the exposure by by around 1 stop though this may vary depending on the amount of mist in the shot. The live histogram on your camera will help you ensure the correct exposure, aim to expose more to the right without clipping the highlights.

One of my favourite features on the X-Pro2 and X-T2 is the front exposure compensation dial which you rotate to deliver up to 5 stops more or less exposure, once you have set the top dial to “C”.

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As I shoot in RAW I leave my White Balance set to Auto and then fine tune later in Lightroom if required. That said I find that my Fujifilm cameras deliver excellent white balance on auto. Just be aware that with mist your images may look a little cool. So if you are shooting JPEGS try Daylight setting or, if you want to really warm up those rich autumnal colours try Cloudy. Your Fuji camera may allow you to auto bracket the WB, you get three different settings from the same image!

Finally don’t forget to prepare yourself for your autumn shoot. It’s essential to be comfortable when standing around for long periods in the cold allowing you to concentrate on the images rather than trying to keep warm. Boots or wellies (with decent soles), down jacket, hat and gloves are essentials as are a flask and some energy bars. Oh and if you’re venturing out into the great outdoors on your own make sure you tell someone where you’re going. Most of the best locations have no mobile signal!

So I hope that this has given you some inspiration to wrap up, get out shooting and make the most of the best time of the year!

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To see more of Chris’ work visit his website www.chrisuptonphotography.com

90mm vs 50-140mm vs 100-400mm – Size doesn’t matter

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X-Photographer strip BLACK

By John Rourke

As a Motorsport Photographer and the Director of Adrenal Media, the Official Photographic Agency for the FIA World Endurance Championships and the European Le Mans Series, I spend a lot of my time shooting at many different race circuits around the world. a lot of these race tracks we have to cover are big! And I mean BIG!

This means we need big glass to cover the distance from the edge of the track to the car. Circuits vary massively in width, with many of the race tracks having large run-off areas or fencing to keep the car within certain boundaries of the track. These also keep us photographers safe and out of trouble… Mostly!

While it’s always great to be safe, the drawback is that we are kept further from the action than we would like to be. To compensate this we use big glass.

Fujifilm answered our prayers when they introduced the Fujinon XF50-140mm with the 1.4x tele-converter and then when they brought the XF100-400mm into the mix as well – This brings us in line with DSLR photographic ranges. I also use my favourite lens, the Fujinon 90mm F2. This lens has a place at the track too and should not be ruled out. All three of the lenses are not only perfect for the racetrack but are also exceptional in the pit lane.


The XF90mm

Okay, Okay, I admit the 90mm has limitations on the track itself but for those places where you can get closer, the F2 aperture provides a stunning shot. I also like the 90mm for the environmental images. For example the car with track included so the viewer will know which circuit the car was racing at. This is an important image in our ‘shot list’ as part of the race week narrative.

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Taken on the XF90mm

In the pit lane the 90mm is mind blowing. For pit lane portraits, detailed shots and subject isolation, such as a car standing on its own in the pit lane, the F2 aperture helps pull the eye through the frame to tell the story. This lens replaced my 135mm F2 when I switched over from the DSLR system of old. However, I really wish it was able to take the 1.4 converter like the old 135 could. This would be my only negative thing I can find on this lens. I frequently use this lens for effect, isolation and arty images.

Taken on the XF90mm
Taken on the XF90mm

Find out more about the XF90mm lens here.


The XF50-140mm

The XF50-140mm is my workhorse, if you could buy only one lens… oh, okay you really do need that 18mm F2 in your life too! That and a 50-140 you can shoot anything! Well, okay get the the 1.4 converter as well then you really can shoot anything – so anyway I digress and the shopping list grows.

The 50-140 or 75-210 equivalent is for everything! Stunning at f2.8 with an awesome image stabiliser to go with it. The pull on this lens is great on the track and in the pit lane night and day. You can attach a 1.4x converter and you then have a 70-196mm F4 lens that you can carry in a coat pocket giving you a total range of 75-297mm in a 35mm equivalent that’s money well spent if you ask me. This lens is really fast focusing, the camera can react quickly to oncoming and passing cars and pitlane action, this is my go to for track and pitlane.

“I would not leave the media suite without this on one of my cameras.”

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Taken on the XF50-140mm
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Taken on the XF50-140mm
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Taken on the XF50-140mm

Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here.


The XF100-400mm

Then you have the XF100-400mm, well what can I say? This is all manners of Boom Shakalaka! This lens on the track is just mind-blowingly sharp. The money shot for me has to be a few cars fighting on the corner for a lead or ‘battle shot’ as we call it. Many photographers shoot catalog style at the track, that’s one car per frame, for me it’s boring! Thankfully our clients tend to think so too. We love battle pictures, they really show the dynamics of the race, the tension, drama and emotion…this is the lens for that!

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Taken on the XF100-400mm
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Taken on the XF100-400mm

Even if you have a 50-140mm already, don’t worry you will still want a 100-400mm in your life for sure…. This lens will pick out details in the heat – the shimmer around the cars and in the sharpest of action details. Images shot at the 400mm end have a gorgeous bokeh and lens compression that really helps to isolate any subject matter whatever the distance.

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Taken on the XF100-400mm with XF1.4x Teleconverter

When I first got the lens I thought I would struggle with the f4.5 to f5.6 aperture, but now I’m used to it I can use the lens all day long. It will even take the 1.4 converter, this takes the equivalent 150-600mm focal length, with the 1.4x to 840mm that’s pretty awesome if you ask me in such a compact lens.

I have used this lens a lot since I got it and even in the pit lane the versatility of this lens makes it worth buying. Shooting through pitlane clutter to pick out details and action is so easy and stunning.

Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here.


As you can see the differences are clear enough but all are usable in motorsport. It’s really just down to personal preference of the individual, to which one you use and the style of image you require, if you have any one of these lenses you could easily walk away with some epic shots from the day.

To see more of John’s work please visit:

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Making room for zooms

Which XF zoom lenses are regulars in your gadget bag – and why?

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You join me in the midst of a fascinating experiment. The kind folk at Fujifilm UK asked me to write a couple of blogs on which lenses you should you use for what subject, but I think that’s been done a few times already. So, as an alternative, I’m using the power of Lightroom to uncover which lenses I use the most and explain why. My last blog, which you can read here was all about my favourite primes, I was somewhat surprised to find which my most popular prime lens choice actually was. This time, I’m turning to my XF zoom options.

If you’re a Lightroom user and fancy trying this experiment yourself, it’s easy enough to do. Just select the Library Module and then in the Library Filter bar at the top, choose Metadata and you’ll be presented with a series of drop down menus that you can further refine. As with the primes, I’ve used a fair few of the XF zooms; all of them, in fact. But Lightroom showed that four stood out more than others and, as with my prime selection, there’s nothing saying that I’m putting the lenses to their optimum uses shooting what I do. From widest up, they were as follows:

1) XF10-24mmF4 R OIS

It’s no surprise that this is on my hot list as it’s such a versatile lens and – in the 10mm setting – reaches extremes that XF primes lenses currently can’t touch. Compact, lightweight and capable of outstandingly good results even in my hands, it’s a go-to lens for landscape and architecture photographers. Naturally, I’ve shot both of these subjects regularly with the XF10-24mm, but I’ve also pressed it into service when I’ve been overseas; it saw a lot of action on the streets of Rome and San Francisco, for example. Some may bemoan the F4 maximum aperture, but the addition of OIS cancels out any drop in light gathering capabilities and it’s often one of the first lenses in my gadget bag.

Find out more about the XF10-24mm lens here. 


2) XF18-55mmF2.8 R LM OIS

Surprised not to see the XF16-55mm? Yes, so was I, but although the wider and faster premium zoom was used, this more modestly sized optic saw many more frames rattled through it. Normally, I’d be reluctant to use a standard zoom lens to capture images, but the quality of this compact optic really is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s a true all-rounder, too. As images below show, I’ve used it for a range of images from shooting on the street to shots of architecture and the optical image stabiliser gives low light confidence, too. In my opinion. No X Series user should be without this lens.

Find out more about the XF18-55mm lens here. 


3) XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR

The zoom that thinks it’s a prime, the XF50-140mm is a real favourite for me. It can be used for some many different applications and, with the added versatility now offered by the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, can be used to capture pretty much anything from sport to distant details. Before I did my Lightroom test, I would have thought my shots with this lens would be very portrait heavy but, in reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong – I’ve shot pretty much everything but portraits with it! Time to line up some models and redress the balance!

Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here. 


4) XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Much like the XF90mmF2 R LM WR which has become a recent favourite in prime lens terms, so too has this monster. It’s the lens that X Series users had been crying out for and although the mainstay of the lens’s capabilities are primarily sports and wildlife that I’m hopeless at, I’ve just modified my shooting and tried it on other subjects – including landscapes. Picture quality is tremendous and with the extra power from the compatible teleconverters, I can see why this lens has quickly become a favourite for many. Despite my having the XF16-55mm for longer, the XF100-400mm has seen many more frames!

Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used most?

Again, I was a little surprised. I expected it to be the XF10-24mm, but Lightroom told me otherwise confirming the XF18-55mm as my most regularly used zoom. It’s no surprise, it’s a great little lens, but what this exercise does confirm is that my photography is largely working in rather tight parameters, lens-wise. I think I need to branch out a little more and see the world from a slightly wider (and more telephoto) viewpoint.

The primes of my life

Do you know which prime lenses you use more than any others? I do.

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Things you and I already know about the Fujinon XF lens range:

1) They’re as sharply designed and as beautifully well made as the cameras they attach to.

2) They can, without exception, deliver outstanding results.

3) There’s already a superb line-up and it’s only going to get better.

But there was something that I didn’t know about my own use of XF lenses and felt that I really should; which lenses did I use for what subject and, perhaps more importantly, why. In order to find out, I decided to apply a small amount of science to this with the aid of Lightroom.

If you select Lightroom’s Library module, you can quickly see which lenses you’ve used and how many shots you’ve taken with them by selecting the Metadata option in the Library Filter bar. Once this option is selected, you can use the individual drop down menus below this bar to further refine your search. I did this and quickly discovered that I’d shot with a wide variety of XF lenses, but some definitely got more use than others. What follows here are my top five prime lens choices, in focal length order, what I use them for and why I love them. It’s worth pointing out before we get started, of course, that my suggestions may or may not be up your street. You can use the XF16mm for portraits just as much as you can use the XF90mm for landscapes, so be sure to experiment!


1) XF23mmF1.4 R

This is a firm favourite for plenty of X Series users, but based on my Lightroom-based search my primary usage seems to be in two main areas: landscapes and travel. Both of these are pretty obvious, I guess. The lens offers a modest, distortion-free wide-angle view that suits a whole range of subjects and flicking through my images it’s easy to see the appeal – the XF23mm is spectacularly sharp, right from F1.4. Delving a little deeper into the metadata, I discovered that I rarely used the lens at its minimum aperture, favouring the wide apertures more, except when I was striving for plenty of depth-of-field. I expect the new XF23mmF2 to get similar levels of usage once I get my hands on one (hint, hint…)

Find out more about the XF23mm lens here. 


2) XF27mmF2.8

Given my regular use of the XF23mm, I was surprised to see that I also gave the XF27mm plenty of outings, too. Looking at the resulting shots, though, it was evident that I shot very different subjects with this more compact lens. It’s definitely the one I pick when I head into a city or town to shoot street images, or just want a lens that I can pop on a camera body and head out. There were an inordinate number of pictures taken with the XF27mm when I was out walking my dog (see the shot at the top of this post) and it was interesting to see that my use of the XF27mm had greatly increased when I was testing the X-Pro2. This duo make a killer combination in both portability and image quality.

Find out more about the XF27mm lens here. 


3) XF56mmF1.2 R

The 35mm focal length lenses barely registered on my Lightroom search, so the next in my top five was this beauty in its non-APD form. Compared to the XF23mm and XF27mm, this is a real lump of a lens, but in a good way. It’s supremely well made and the optical quality is truly exceptional – if you’ve ever used one, you’ll know exactly what I mean. My use of it, however, was a little more surprising. Sure, there were a few portraits in the selection, but the majority of my shots were taken with the lens at its widest aperture (or thereabouts) to make the most of the tremendous bokeh effects it offers. Less than 10% of the shots were taken at an aperture of F4 or smaller.

Find out more about the XF56mm lens here. 


4) XF60mmF2.4 R Macro

Another surprise, given its proximity in focal length terms to the XF56mm but, as with my 23mm/27mm lens scenario, the XF60mm gets used for a different set of images. In fact, I’ve shot a great deal with this lens, probably because it remains one of the sharpest in the XF line-up, despite being one of the first introduced with the X-Pro1 back in 2012. Weddings, portraits, still life images, close ups and product shots have all been shot with the Macro, and on a variety of X Series bodies, too. I even took some street images with it, but I guess it’s because I left the XF27mm at home that day…

Find out more about the XF60mm lens here. 


5) XF90mmF2 R LM WR

A late entry into my list of top five primes largely because I’ve been shooting with it so much of late. This is an absolutely stunning lens that has a look all of its own and delivers outstanding image quality. I used it for a lot of shots in my Fun in the Sun blog from a couple of months ago and since then it has stayed pretty much permanently on a Fujifilm X-E2S body. Yes, it’s great for portraits, but I also found that I shot lots of close-ups and detail images with this lens, making the most of its fast focusing and high quality optics.

Find out more about the XF90mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used the most?

This surprised me. Based on this Lightroom search, my undisputed king of prime lenses is the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro which beats the second most used lens (the XF23mmF1.4 R) by almost two to one. I’ve always loved the 60mm, but I never realised that I used it quite as much as I evidently do. It may not be the fastest focusing lens in the XF line-up, but it’s an optical gem which must be the reason why I keep on going back to it. Right, I’m off to do the same experiment for zooms…