I first became interested in the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 lens when I had an idea for a specific photo series which came to mind as I was travelling around my home city: Manchester. There’s a lot of history here but there’s also been a great deal of new architecture built in the last 10 or 15 years. For a few months, I imagined a series of images where I could get closer to the architecture that was catching my eye everyday around the city. I wanted to explore the relationships between the old and the new, whilst examining the styles and materials of the recent developments more closely and the XF100-400mm was the definitely the lens to do this. Not only was I interested to see how a lens typically used for sports and wildlife photography could work in a city; but I was excited about the new perspective it could gave me on buildings that I pass on a daily basis. Continue reading Abstract Architecture Photography with the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 Lens
In a series of articles, X-Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass. Continue reading Sports Photography as a Spectator – Motor Sport
Recap – My name is Ben Cherry, I’m a Fujifilm X-Photographer focusing on environmental photojournalism. Currently I am part of the WWT Flight of the Swans conservation project, where Sacha Dench is flying from Arctic Russia back to the UK; following the declining Bewick’s swan as they migrate to overwinter in warmer climates. You can find the first blog explaining how I got involved in this unique project and what I’ve brought along with me here.
Flight of the Swans has finally left Russia, only ten days behind schedule… Ten extra days I am very happy to have spent in this dramatic country. Enormous in every sense of the word, we barely scratched the surface, but what we did see left a lasting impression. From incredible generosity to gorgeous autumnal scenes, this rugged place has wilderness to truly get lost in.
Hazard lights cast against the roadside trees as the convoy headed to Kimzha. We were very much alone on this dirt road and the stars were simply spectacular!
The 19th September greeted us with a 32 hour stay at the Estonian – Russian Border, an experience that I’ve recently had a case of deja vu with as we returned from the other direction on the 19th October for a 18+ hour stay to return to the EU. In-between that time we have raced up to Kimzha, Arkhangelsk region, 1800+KM away within five days, via roads where for periods our trailer towing vehicle had to crawl at 6kph. It was a mental run, marred by a diesel spill in the trailer at 2am and paramotor pilots arriving at the collection point ahead of schedule, resulting in some all-nighters.
Once we linked up with the pilots who had just crossed the tundra section, things were marginally less hectic, marginally.
Sacha has done an amazing personal journey so far, she even dislocated her knee! But still going via a trike to take stress off her legs. The Flight of the swan’s team have been featured on news channels all around the world and the ground team are doing their best to engage local communities, particularly through school programs. All to raise awareness of the Bewick swan and other migrating wildfowl. The aim is to improve international awareness and cooperation, to find out more and to sign the WWT’s petition to help their conservation, which can be found here.
Personal highlights included witnessing the northern lights and catching a glimpse of a wolf as it slinked off into the darkness of a moonlit woodland road. But the biggest surprise has the be the incredible generosity that our team witnessed in Russia, I haven’t experienced anything like it before, where families would happily take in 8-12 people, feed us, give us a place to stay and even offer us a banya (Russian bath)! We were welcomed with open arms. Meeting conservationists, or simply random families along our journey, all seemed to have a deep connection for nature and the importance for managing it suitably, including the declining Bewick’s swan. We would be let into the lives of these people and get to know them, usually over a skinful of vodka.
Time-lapse taken with X-Pro2 and XF16mm F1.4 using the in-camera intervalometer.
Cine Fujinon Lens
As well as using my personal X-Series kit on this project we are very proud to be sponsored by Fujifilm with a Fujinon ZK3.5×85 (85-300mm). Our media team are documenting the project in as wide a means as possible, from virtual reality experiences to documenting the project with various filming equipment, to hopefully continuing to share this project to a wider audience and help communicate the importance of Bewick’s swans conservation.
Here is one of our cameramen, Ben Sadd in the Gulf of Finland, Russia searching for swans.
Because so much of this trip is about communicating with as many people as possible, I have been using my instax SP-1 printer a lot to leave little mementos. It always gets a fantastic reaction, the business card sized prints are perfect for travelling with. Giving a physical print has such a positive effect on an experience compared to simply tagging someone in a digital photograph. instax has for a long time been one of the first things in my bag whenever I travel, this feeling has been encouraged further. The benefit-to-cost ratio isn’t even worth talking about as the effect it has on a situation is huge, it sounds cheesy but seeing the smiles appear as the photo develops on the instax is worth it.
I’ve found that it develops a situation from a set of friendly acquaintances to the start of friendships, leaving both the recipient and photographer with lasting, fond memories.
As well as directly sending images to my SP-1 printer, the ability to send lightly edited files (via the in-camera RAW converter) to my phone and then share on the Flight of the Swans social media channels has helped to massively streamline my image sharing process. You can follow these channels here:
Live Map Update
The team are now in Estonia. Russia was an amazing experience but the project is still very much on the move. There is a major set of wetlands in Estonia which we want to visit and hopefully witness more migrating Bewicks. You can stay up to date via our live map, with trackers on birds, vehicles and of course Sacha! Click here.
Flight of the Swans is a fascinating project, where WWT has taken a big leap into the unknown to try and reach a new level of engagement to help improve conservation of wildfowl. If you’re interested in travel, extreme sports or wildlife then hopefully this project will be of interest. If so, then please help us by signing our petition here. Until my final instalment in a month’s time, here are a few more photos from our Russian experience. In the next blog I will update you on the project as well as talking about the 4K capabilities of the X-T2 and how it has been incredibly helpful to film the swans.
Which XF zoom lenses are regulars in your gadget bag – and why?
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
I am a keen kayaker with a passion for photography so with the estuary and wetlands near my home having prolific birdlife it has been a natural progression to combine both. Using a kayak gives you unique access to the areas you just can’t get to on foot or by boat so this means less (usually no) people, which results in more bird activity. But let’s face it an open kayak isn’t necessarily a camera friendly zone and a DSLR with a zoom lens fitted isn’t the most buoyant combination around so it was a bit daunting at first to take this out in my kayak but over the past couple of years I have developed a reasonably successful and safe technique.
There are a number of advantages using a kayak for photography as birds move with the tides and their feeding patterns so you can cover a lot of ground throughout the wetlands and estuary paddling the kayak. It is low to the water so gives a good angle for photography, is quiet and doesn’t alarm the birds as if on foot, allowing you to drift down onto your subject so you can get close. Sometimes very close as the birds seem to accept your presence. Being 10m away from an Osprey feeding on a fish without alarming it is a memorable experience. Also, it’s a lot more fun that sitting in a hide for hours waiting for something to come to you or wading knee deep in the mud.
I had been using a Canon DSLR, 70mm-200mm F2.8 lens with a 2x converter but wasn’t really happy with the image quality when using the converter so had resorted to just the lens which meant I had to try to get closer to my subject and crop images. To progress further I really needed a longer lens but it had to be practical to use in my kayak and without having to take out a second mortgage.
The lens went on the back burner and in July last year I attended a Camera Expo looking for a travel camera as we had an overseas trip planned in 2017 and I didn’t want to take my heavy DSLR. I bought a Fuji X-T1 with the XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens as it was compact, light in weight and promised good image quality.
I initially had no real intention of using the X-T1 for wildlife photography but I took it out in the kayak a few times to compliment my DSLR and get familiar with using it for landscape and the occasional bird life, and I was blown away by the image quality. There was also something special about the images compared to my DSLR. They had a vibrancy and just seemed better particularly the jpegs straight from the camera and having used many rolls of Fuji Velvia in my film days it took me back to images produced then. I loved the retro feel of the camera, it was just like my very first SLR many years ago and when I did try it on birdlife it captured the colours and details in the feathers beautifully and when I zoomed in on the image the lens proved to be sharp and I was impressed.
I was hooked and the Fujifilm X-T1 became my go to camera for landscape and general photography but I needed a longer lens for my wildlife. I was pleased to see that Fujifilm had a XF100-400mm lens planned for release in early 2016. So, I waited and read the pre-release reviews with anticipation. It rated well so once released in Australia I parted with my hard earned cash and purchased the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.
The camera, lens set up I had now, even with the optional vertical grip battery grip fitted to my X-T1 was half a kilo lighter than my previous DSLR and lens. This may not sound a lot but the weight reduction at eye level in a kayak plays a big part in balance.
Rule number one in kayaking with a camera – stay upright.
Not only was the weight reduced but when the XF100-400mm lens was fitted to the X-T1 it felt far better balanced and wasn’t “nose heavy” like my previous gear.
So far so good but the proof would be how does the combination perform in the field or should I say in the boat? I just had to find out.
The lens is a similar physical length to my Canon 70-200mm lens, so I now had a 400mm lens that was compact enough lengthwise to fit into my waterproof camera bag in my kayak hatch with the lens hood permanently attached. This allows quick access when an opportunity arises.
And the performance of the lens did not disappoint.
Rated at 5 stops the OIS is just brilliant and I can confidently get hand-held shots at 400mm from the kayak at shutter speeds of 1/400 second and the results are pin sharp. This has allowed more flexibility following birds on the move, as in the past I would try to use a monopod for support which was restrictive should the bird fly away, but now this wasn’t a necessity. The image quality of the lens still impresses me as it is so sharp and quick to focus. It tracks subjects well in continuous focus mode although fast birds in flight can be challenging, in more ways than one. Pan too quick and you can end up having a swim! When combined with the burst speed of the X-T1 you can still get some great shots and this provides a great combination. For my style of photography, this lens is fantastic. I love it.
I’ve also had use of the Fujifilm 1.4X TC WR teleconverter for a weekend and whilst you lose a stop this gives you an 840mm equivalent lens with no noticeable loss of image quality.
But it’s not just the lens, the combination with the X-T1 works so well I’ve left the DSLR at home now. I have been using the X-T1 exclusively for some months while learning its capabilities. The EVF I’ll say took me a little while to get used when compared to an optical viewfinder but that was really me not understanding its capabilities. Once I had the menu options of the X-T1 set up right I realized how good this was and how to use it to get the maximum out of it. I love the WYSIWYG image in the viewfinder as I can spot meter on a bird which may have very contrasting plumage. I see exactly the image and by changing the metering position, I’m able to prevent blown highlights or even change the background exposure. Also to be able to check your images in the viewfinder and use the focus assist button to zoom in check sharpness is a great feature in bright light conditions. I can also shoot at far higher ISO ratings now without any noticeable noise, which I couldn’t do with my DSLR. This allows me to use more of the lower light conditions available in “the golden hour” than before and also keep up the shutter speed and obviously with both camera and lens being weather resistant this is a great advantage in the environment I use it in.
Like all photography though it’s what’s behind the image that makes a good image. When using a kayak you can have a 360-degree possibility of the approach angle on the subject so you have to plan you method of approach. Not only do you have to work out the lighting and sun angle you also have to judge the wind, tide and any current so that ideally you can drift down onto your subject with the camera at ready and eye to the viewfinder. Not to mention a co-operative subject or being in the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of hit and miss and it varies day to day as the birds move, but with Fujifilm and the X-T1 and XF100-400mm lens combination, this has helped to reinvent me in my photography as my results are much improved. This makes the hours of paddling and the effort all the more worthwhile. I am still learning and trying to get that perfect image but now with Fujifilm it’s a lot more fun trying.
I look forward to trying the X-T2 with the XF100-400mm lens one day.
About the author
I live in Mandurah, 70kms south of Perth in Western Australia and have a keen interest in photography seemly always having a camera since the days of my first Kodak Instamatic. I also had a period of developing and printing with my own darkroom back in the film days but had to give that away when we moved to the Pilbara region in WA as the tap water was too hot.
Photography runs in the family and although I work in the telecommunications industry with constantly changing technology I didn’t initially embrace the digital era of photography until my daughter started studying it at school then going on and becoming a professional photographer.
My passion is the outdoors and outdoor activities. I enjoy bushwalking, mountain bike riding and kayaking. Having moved to Mandurah six years ago I now have the extensive waterways of the Peel Estuary at my doorstep and have combined kayaking with photography to pursue my main interest in bird photography.
Capturing bird images in the wild is challenging and using the kayak gives you access to unique areas. I also engage in landscape, seascape and water sports and with retirement coming it in a few years I am working on my skills to make photography my main pastime.
I’m still chasing the perfect shot. More photos are on my website www.jonvausephotography.com