Street Smart: Photographer Craig Whitehead hits the streets with the X100F

By Craig Whitehead

Photographer Craig Whitehead has been using FUJIFILM X Series for his street photography for many years, most recently having purchased the X100F. In this interview he talks about his experience with the X Series and shares some of his images from the X-T1, X-Pro2 and X100F. Continue reading Street Smart: Photographer Craig Whitehead hits the streets with the X100F

Springtime at 50 megapixels

GFX 120mm F10 1/280 ISO400

By Ben Cherry

I first moved to the X Series four years ago because I was carrying too much equipment on trips and I wanted to switch to a smaller, lighter alternative. Now with X-T2s and the superb range of lenses available it is often difficult to decide what to take on assignments or trips, making sure it all fits in one backpack. But my kit is still smaller item for item than what it used to be before, its just a question of knowing exactly what you’ll need for each job (not always easy, particularly with nature photography). Continue reading Springtime at 50 megapixels

Exploring Panama with the X-T1

X-Photographer strip BLACK

By Braden Gunem

I like to travel alone.  Partners and friends are great, but they can also hold you back from really experiencing a culture deeply.  Solo travel allows you a freedom and adventure rarely achievable for those rushing back home for dinner.  So when a group of friends and I booked a house in a rather touristy area of Panama, I didn’t plan to spend much time shooting.  I grabbed my trusted X-T1 and my favorite lens – the XF23mmF1.4 R.dscf3684One of the local attractions in this area is a beach only accessible by boat or a long muddy trail through the jungle.  After attempting the trail, we opted for the boat and were dropped at a small dock in a lagoon filled with mangrove trees.  A short walk across the island towards the sound of surf led us to a beautiful beach. dscf3736We were walking along the beach when a foreign couple approached saying that a man with a machete had tried to rob them, but they were able to run away.  Suddenly. I regretted bringing my camera.  We stopped walking for some time. We swam, did hand stands, and drank beer.  Eventually, the allure of discovery won over and we continued along the deserted beach.

On my extensive travels, I often have a specific image in my mind when I’m shooting.  Sometimes, the search for this image blinds me from all the other potential shots present.  It’s refreshing to go out with no expectations and see what organically appears.  When I saw locals on horseback approaching, I sank into the jungle looking for a frame to contain them as they passed.  They had ridden the muddy trail, and were headed to the far end of the island to go hunting.Beach HorsesThis long strip of sand is interrupted occasionally by large trees overhanging into the ocean.   They are a natural jungle gym, and soon we were climbing all over them.  From the trunk of a tree,I realized there was a good shot and picked up the camera again.  I tilted the LCD to get super low to the ground and avoided wallowing around myself.MonkeyAs my friend Laura was working on a new route for this particular tree, I switch on the Cinematic Mode; it’s accessible on your camera by turning the mode dial to CH and holding down the shutter release button.  As it’s clicking away, I’m able to make  slight adjustments to the composition.  But, I’m mostly waiting on the subject to look at their best.  Yes, it fills a memory card really fast.  That’s why I use Lexar 128s, so I don’t have to worry about changing cards very often.TarzanBeyond the beach, we came across some boys walking around with machetes.  They seemed to be out honing their skills with these essential jungle tools.  One boy was carefully opening a coconut to drink the water.  I sat my X-T1 on the ground near his feet, using the tilting LCD to compose.  It must be great to grow up in a land where snacks fall readily from the trees.Snack TimeIn the evening, we returned home to discover the hunt had been successful. DinnerIt’s rare that I do a trip with no photographic objective.  It’s refreshing to travel light and go with the flow – and it’s authentic and easy to capture with FUJIFILM X Series. On to the next adventure!

 

 

 

The primes of my life

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

dscf8424

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…

Desert Road Trip – California and Nevada

by Ian Boys

I’m a people photographer normally – portraits, the odd wedding and so on. But on this trip I decided I’d give landscape photography my first serious attempt ever, after 25 years of shooting. Of course, I’d taken landscapes before when I happened to come across something that looked good but this was different: I’d make sure I got to the right place at the right time for the best light even if it meant sleeping (or failing to sleep!) in the car.

Before I went I researched my route using Flickr and Google maps. The latter was especially helpful not just for seeing if a mountain would be lit at dawn or dusk but also to see what other images had been taken nearby. This pointed me towards quite a few fascinating sights that I would never have come across otherwise. In the very bottom right hand corner of a Google maps screen is a double up arrow that reveals scenes you may not otherwise have considered.

A08

Dear reader – I even bought a tripod. Many of you will wonder what the big deal is but it went so against my usual style of shooting that it felt like a jet pilot shopping for a submarine. But as it turned out it proved invaluable.

One last act of preparation – I looked at the absolutely stellar landscape work shown on the fredmiranda.com landscape forum and learned about things like focus stacking and night photography, things I vaguely knew about only in theory. One night before I left I went out and practised the techniques, with terrible results. But that’s how I learn.

Why the Desert?

In 1993 I worked in Somalia during the war there and travelled and lived in the northern desert communities. I fell in love with the open spaces, the peace of the evenings and the huge skies. Since then I’ve visited other deserts, notably on the India-Pakistan border and Arizona. I like the open road, the small communities and the sense that in the desert everyone can just be themselves. It is the polar opposite to the metropolitan posing of modern cities. In England I live in a small village on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park. Manchester is very close but I rarely visit.

I wanted to shoot the road, the space, the ghost towns, the mountains and the night skies, with a detour to Yosemite. There are so many fantastic wilderness parks on the Nevada/California border that going to LA or San Francisco was never an option. One tip though – when they say don’t walk in parts of Death Valley after 10 am they mean it! I once walked out at night and got back to the car at 0845 and it was already so hot. Those pictures of graves aren’t put there for your amusement.

A05

Kit List

For the last several years I have travelled only with a Fujifilm x100 series camera – Hong Kong, New York, Volgograd, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The x100 series are superb, not only because of the results but also because of their size and weight. But this time I’d need a bit more choice in lenses.

I decided to take the X-T1 and the 14, 23 and 56mm lenses. These are widely recognised as the best primes available (although the new 16 may have usurped the 14, I don’t know for sure yet). The 23mm would be my standard landscape lens, the 56mm would give me the extra reach one sometimes needs to isolate part of the scene and the 14mm would be perfect for night sky photography as it allows a 25 second exposure under the “600 rule” that governs whether stars are rendered as points or streaks.

The 18-55mm was under consideration but although it’s good, these other lenses are fantastic. The difference does really show.

I also took my new Manfrotto 055 tripod, 4 batteries and a remote cable release as well as a charger that allowed the batteries to be recharged while driving. Definitely a bonus for this kind of trip. I also took a big LED video light that allowed me to get set up in the moonless desert night and sometimes to light paint foreground rocks. Backlit dials and controls would be nice but are probably impractical in a small camera.

Technical Notes

Although I shot everything in JPG+RAW, all the final images except the night shots were actually from the in camera JPG’s. I used the Astia setting for all of them – it helped keep the set coherent and provides great colours without the overblown look that Velvia brings. In particular Astia renders skies very well, better (to my taste at least) than any of the other settings.

A15

In general, I shot in Aperture Priority and used the Exposure Compensation Dial to give me the look I wanted. For some shots, especially those shot in the evening or at night I used manual exposure. One morning I rode the shutter dial all the way from 2 minutes to ¼ second as the sun rose over a freezing mountain lake. I was inside an aluminium shelter bag loving every minute of it as the light changed. The shots were terrible, as you’d expect from someone who has never done that kind of shot before. As I say, I’m not a landscape photographer but I’m so glad I saw it.

Some things did work better than expected though. Focus stacking involves sticking your camera on a tripod (weird!) and gradually changing focus so that over the course of a dozen shots or so you have focussed on all parts of the shot. You then combine them automatically (or manually, for the masochists) in Photoshop. The 14mm is absolutely perfect for this as the manual focus “pull clutch” allows you to gradually work the focus through the scene at an optimum aperture for sharpness of f5.6. In combination with the tilt screen and focus peaking (Red High for me) of the X-T1 it really couldn’t be easier, certainly much easier than with the optical viewfinder of a standard DSLR. Because it was a new technique for me, I also took a “safety shot” at f11 in case the intricacies of the procedure were beyond me but actually it is simple and the results were very much better than with the single high depth of field shot. It doesn’t matter how many times you read about it, doing it in the field is the best way to learn it. Here is a focus-stacked shot from Death Valley:

A06

Another technique that worked well was ultra high resolution patchwork shooting with the 56mm, where I’d take perhaps 20 shots of a scene in rows and columns and stitch them together afterwards. I’m not really sure what I’d need a 200 megapixel file for but it’s nice to know it works really well and that you can zoom in one the tiniest detail from miles away. One day I’m sure I’ll find a use for it and now that I’ve done it, it’s a technique in my arsenal. Sometimes though it was more practical to use the sweep panorama feature. In this particular shot I tried both techniques (a 4 shot manual blend and the in-camera panorama) and the in camera stitch was smoother, although lower resolution. At 6400 pixels across, it still has plenty enough for me.

A13

Night photography was fantastic in the desert: there are few lights to begin with and in Death Valley those that exist must be shielded from the sky. This was my first ever attempt at a Milky Way shot (thank you Youtube!) and as laughable as it might be to the more experienced night shooters, I’m rather pleased with it.

A02

Notes on individual shots

This shot was actually taken on Aperture Priority from the driver’s seat with -2 stops exposure compensation dialled in. I was using the 23mm at iso 1600. The extraordinary EVF of the X-T1 let me ensure that there was still some light visible on the ground while at the same time allowing me to make sure the highlights weren’t blowing out. The high dynamic range of the X-T1 kept it all together.

A09

This is a stitch of two horizontal shots taken at Mono Lake. There’s not a stack more to say about it except that a single 14mm shot would have looked quite different. Modern tools make this kind of stitching quite easy, even for a landscape novice and the methods are a simple search away.

A26

This was a ten second shot of my hire car. I had stopped for a sunset but frankly I’ve seen better. I did like the way the car looked though and with the interior light on and a long enough exposure to lighten the sky and ensure passing traffic left pleasing trails and illumination I think the shot works. It was also shot with my 56mm lens, perhaps an odd choice but something I’ll bear in mind to try again next time. I love that lens.

A19

Here’s a very different kind of car shot, a quick snapshot as I crossed the street. This old Mustang matched the sky and worked well with the yellow lines. It is (clearly) a quick grab shot – I was on my way to get a burger after several hours shooting one searingly hot morning – but it is a testament to how quickly the X-T1 will react if necessary. It starts up quickly, focuses quickly and fires without shutter lag. That’s what I want in a camera.

A24

OK, two last shots before I’m told to knock it off! Nevada’s an odd place. But I’d never have found either of these without doing some research before I went.

A20

A27

So in summary – every camera is a compromise. But the X-T1 offers high quality, superb lenses, light weight and bulk, accurate focus, exposure and white balance, a tilting LCD that is way more useful than I thought and a very high chance of getting the right photo on the first shot thanks to the excellent EVF with its exposure preview, focus peaking, colour rendition and other features. I use it for all my more serious work, together with the x100T. But the X-Pro 1 still has a piece of my heart.

You can see more of Ian’s images on his Flickr page here.

Testing the FUJIFILM XF23mmF1.4 lens

By Matty Graham

Fujifilm’s XF23mm has been hugely anticipated by X-series users, and after testing the optic, it’s easy to see why. With an effective focal length of 35mm, this is a ‘go anywhere, do anything’ lens. Suitable for street photography, landscapes and even portraits.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 1600 F/2.5 - 1/640
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 1600 F/2.5 – 1/640

What most users will do when they unbox the lens, is flick the aperture ring straight to F1.4. I can’t blame them, the larger F-number gives beautiful bokeh, and amazing images, as well as the confidence to work in low light, without the worry of camera shake and blurry images. With most lenses that sport a fast aperture of F1.4 it feels like you’re attaching a dumb-bell to your camera. However, the XF23mm only weighs 300g, making it more than manageable on the X-Pro1 that I used here.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 400 F/1.4 - 1/850
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 400 F/1.4 – 1/850

The aperture ring takes you through from F1.4 to the minimum aperture of F16. Instead of the typical AF/MF switch, the XF23mm features a push/pull ring that switches between manual and autofocus. There are also distance and depth-of-field scales on the barrel.

When using wider optics like this, there are usually two main areas of concern – barrel distortion and vignetting. However, the XF23mm aces both categories with virtually no distortion and vignetting is handled extremely well – even at F1.4.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 800 F/1.4 - 1/2400
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 800 F/1.4 – 1/2400

The quick, sharp focusing that this lens offers is down to the internal focusing (IF) technology, which delivers speedy and discreet autofocus – let’s face it, you don’t want the lens to be buzzing away as you try to find focus during a candid street photography situation. Because of this internal focusing, the front of the lens doesn’t rotate. This benefits landscape photographers who use graduated filters.

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 500 F/8 - 1/60
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 500 F/8 – 1/60

When it comes to results, the XF23mm really delivers. The lens is sharpest at F8 and when I say sharp, I mean razor sharp – professional photographers looking to invest in a lens of this type will not be let down by the results.

Excellent build-quality, simple ease-of-use and results to die for; what more could you ask for?

Enjoy the bokeh…

X-Pro1 - XF23mm - ISO 800 F/1.4 - 1/2000
X-Pro1 – XF23mm – ISO 800 F/1.4 – 1/2000