Ah the Fuji XF35 F2 WR and XF90 F2.
These two lenses are supreme and exemplify how FujiFilm continue to improve on an already outstanding level of quality with their X-series line up.
They absolutely slayed on a recent wedding in the streets of South Melbourne and are now my go to combos for portraiture. Yes, I still love the XF56 1.2, especially when light is hard to find, but these 2 lenses (as I've said before) are superior in AF speed and accuracy when compared to 'older' lenses from Fuji's X-series line up.
For this post I thought I'd share 2 recent shoots using these admirable lenses, as well as share some of my wife's snaps of Jess (the gorgeous blonde haired woman) with her favoured kit, the Sigma 35mm Art and Canon 6D. I may be a Fuji guy but the Sigma 35mm @F1.4 still produces beautiful images with a lovely artistic and hip vignette. The XF35 F2 was solely used on the train snaps with my wife.
It's a lovely Wednesday morning here in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam, as I write this post buzzing on iced Vietnamese style coffee - the juice of the Gods! My wife and I have arrived to shoot a very special wedding in a few days time and it's an honour to be involved.
About 10 hours before leaving Melbourne, Australia I picked up a little something that I'd been eyeing off for some weeks, the newish Fujifilm XF35 F2. As always, I saw the good folks at DigiDirect in the city and they hooked me up with the best price around, just as they've done with my entire Fuji kit. They were also super patient about me trying the original XF35 F1.4 back to back against the new F2 version, and although the F1.4 certainly has its merits, the F2 won out in a few key areas, which I'll discuss soon.
I'll be straight up. The photos in this post aren't intended to be about photographic prowess nor highly technical breakdowns of the XF35's features, construction, and all that camera nerd stuff. I get enough of that in the world of high end guitars, so cameras are a safe haven for me where I can focus more on creativity rather than technicality. Enough coffee induced rambling.
For a little challenge on my first day shooting the XF35, I decided to go with a bit of street style approach by firing from the hip and seeing how well the lens could keep up in the Auto Focus (AF) on Saigon's busy and beautiful streets. I must say, I am damned impressed by this tiny high performance lens.
Onto some stuff about the lens (I suppose). Something that is immediately clear about this lens is just how responsive the AF is. If you've ever been to Vietnam I'm sure you can understand that you need to keep moving in the busy streets, particularly in high traffic areas, which when trying to capture sharp and in focus pictures is not a great combination since your field of focus changes so quickly through movement.
The XF35 is quick, and I mean quick. It's the kind of speedy and accurate responsiveness that makes this such a different beast to many other Fuji lenses, particularly its predecessor, the XF35 1.4. Not only is it dead quiet and has no feel of movement from its internals, the XF35 F2 does not hunt!
In the past with some Fuji gear the AF has left me frustrated due to a missed shot or slightly lagging response time. This little piece of gear absolutely slays its siblings. My time at DigiDirect comparing the two 35's back to back quickly showed that although the 35 1.4 is still awesome and has that extra stop of light, it simply feels outdated in performance and feel when compare the the new 35 F2. When I compared them in continuous focusing with heavy back-light, the 1.4 didn't know what to do, and in single shot mode it had that slightly nagging back and forth hunt for a moment before acquiring focus. The 35 F2 displayed none of these features and made it very easy for me to make a decision on which one to take home, even though the original 35 had a $200 cashback on offer, making it around $100 cheaper than the new 35 F2.
A quick perusal of my snaps in Lightroom shows that most of my first day's snaps were taken between F2 and F4, so it's not as if the lens and camera have taken the easy path of narrow apertures, and thus, depths of field where focus is easier to acquire. So, keeping in mind that I was not holding the camera up to my eye and stopping for creative and stable framing, I think the XF35 F2 has really shown how much it's the new generation of what Fuji has to offer in terms of high performance gear.
So what about sharpness? Bokeh? Weather sealing? Well, it's the first day. I've got a wedding here to shoot that I'm sure will feature heavy use of the XF35 F2 and its brothers, but so far, for its size and performance, this is possibly Fuji's best XF lens to date. I cannot wait to see how this thing performs the new bodies rumoured for 2016, like the X-E2s or X-PRO2.
Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia. It's a truly remarkable part of the state, and what's great is it's readily accessible for inner-city folk like myself at only 1 hour's drive away. At the spark of inspiration, my wife and I took off on a drive out there one Sunday for a good bit of fresh air and stunning, natural Australiana.
As you'd expect for this time of year the weather was a somewhat warm 30 degrees celsius, however many areas of the reserve were very refreshing due to different wind tunnels and the natural chill of many of the large shadowy rocks.
For this outing I wanted to keep it simple, light-weight and tack sharp.
Can you guess what I took?
As you may have guessed by the title of the post, I packed the XF16 1.4 and my XT-10. Two extremely powerful pieces of gear that are light-weight, responsive, and can wrestle (and win!) with the big boys. They're also incredibly robust, based on my awful experience of dropping the XF16 from waist height onto concrete some months ago. Watching it bounce several times made my heart skip a beat. Literally.
The temptation to shoot at wide apertures with this lens is always there, but with so much detail going on at Hanging Rock, I chose to shoot just about all these images between F8 and F11. I'm sure you can pick the few that are shot nice and shallow at F1.4 though.
There's really not much I can say about this combo that I've not said or shown before. Every time I pull an image off from this combo I'm just amazed at how much detail there is in the RAF files. Being able to pull shadow details from the way I expose images leaves my Canon rig for dead. I must also add for fellow Fuji X users regarding sharpening with Lightroom. Don't go beyond ~80 the amount of Sharpening and start with Masking at 100 and pull back from there. I like to sit mine around 70-90 depending on the style of photo. Trust me, it'll do your images justice.
Thanks for viewing!
You may have seen my earlier post about my First Day Impressions of the Fujifilm XF90,
which details my Fuji fan-boi experience with the new kid on the block. One month on and a fair few more shooting experiences later, this lens has done nothing but impress and inspire me. At my favoured full-frame equivalent focal length of ~137mm, the XF90 fits me like a glove and allowed me to move completely away from my Canon system, which had always been a go to when I needed the sharp and speedy 135mm F2 L.
This past month with the XF90 saw me checking out temperate rain-forest waterfalls in Victoria's east, shooting in stunning Western Australian sunsets with my dear friend Dan at Matsu Photography, exploring the historical sites of federation era Australia, and shooting for Ormsby Guitars and the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival. On each and every varied occasion the XF90 never missed a beat and I have been left pondering how FujiFilm will outdo themselves next in their world of supreme, high quality consumer photography lenses.
There's something really frustrating about the XF90 - it leaves many of its brethren feeling somewhat inferior (emphasis on 'somewhat').
What Fuji have managed to achieve with this lens and its new quad-motor system is a lens that is incredibly responsive, accurate, and works extremely well in tough lighting conditions, such as low light and heavy back-lighting. I couldn't believe how well it focused on my mate Dan (below) during sunset, or at night as I often put it through its paces targeting objects near and far. As much as I love the XF56 1.2, after using the XF90 it feels somewhat slow and outdated and simply doesn't perform anyway near as well. Also, the XF90's bokeh trumps it by a long shot. Sorry, I know that F1.2 is still a hell of a feature and I'll continue to use mine, but the bokeh it produces simply isn't as smooth and rich.
Something sports and action photographers are going to love about the XF90 is how well it plays with continuous focusing mode, zone focusing and bursts, even at F2. It's smooth, accurate and damned responsive! Overall, a consistently high focus hit rate on par with what I was used to when using my Canon 7D/6D and the 135mm F2.
Did I mention that the XF90 is sharp?
Take a look at the 3 pictures above. I'm not normally a 'here's a 1:1 crop guy' but in this case I had to provide a quick screen grab at that ratio from my LR module (post grain added). I'll just leave you with those snaps to ponder.
If you're considering this lens be aware of how beneficial it is to have a ridiculously close minimum focusing distance on a lens of this focal length. I have loved utilizing the 60cm min. focusing distance so often and cannot wait to try it on some detailed wedding ring shots soon. If you like getting out and shooting a bit of wildlife like me, it's also particularly useful for some more intimate nature shots or flower snaps that provide a beautiful level of compression at this focal length.
I'll keep my conclusion simple. If you're a Fuji X-series user, buy this lens.
If you're on the fence about coming on board to the Fuji-side, get this lens and an XT-1 or XT-10 and be prepared to be blown away.
Fuji, you're gonna cost me marriage. By all means of financial responsibility I should not have bought this lens on a whim, I simply never do that. That was the immediate impact and impression the new Fujinon XF90 left on me and it only got better as the day wore on.
For some time now I have been bloody excited about Fuji releasing a roughly 135mm F2 equivalent lens. It was the first lens I bought for my Canon system a few years back when I started off and it has been a staple lens in my kit. Even when it was stolen from my house whilst I was home, I still had it replaced. I have always found the XF56 to be a satisfying and impressive lens since getting onto the XT-1 but as a focal length, it never quite fit like the old pair of undies that is the 135mm F2. Thank the good science-folk at Fuji, they have created a lens that surpasses the Canon equivalent and I am as happy as a pig in it's own filth with the new XF90.
(all photos are JPEGs in classic chrome with minor tweaks)
Something that immediately jumps out at you when grasping the XF90 is the build quality. All my XF lenses are certainly well built, but somehow the XF90 and the XF16 seem to be a step up from the previous builds. The aperture ring is just perfect! A wonderful balance of ease of movement and firmness. It just clicks into place confidently across the range.
I was concerned that the XF90 would be too large a lens to match with the XT-1 but it was thankfully not the case. It's actually a bit short and slight more rotund than the XC50-230, which I'm quite used to so it was very familiar territory with the XF90 going onto my XT-1.
So what about that new quad-motor thingy? Well i'll be damned, this thing focuses quickly and accurately and provides the high performance that I was used when using my Canon 135mm F2 L. Admittedly I had my doubts but Fuji have completely destroyed them. Something else that also really surprised me was manual focusing. HOLY SMOKES! This is definitely the best and most 'authentic' and easy to manually focus Fuji lens I have ever used. It's so responsive and easy to finely focus, which is particularly useful when taking advantage of how close the minimum focusing distance is on this lens of 60cm! Yes! 60cm! Where the Canon 135mm only focuses to a minimum of 90cm, this guy comes along and enables you to use the focal range in whole new ways. I couldn't believe how close I could get to the flowers I shot (below) and how damn good the images came up at F2. It ain't macro but jeez, you could certainly get away with some pretty intimate shots.
BOKEH! Oh glorious Bokeh! Just take a look. It's simply the best I've ever seen Fuji produce for the XF range and the focus fall off on the xF90 will have the full frame purists shaking in their boots. Just take a look for yourself.
Fuji have created an absolute winner of a lens here. 'Nuff said.
Cheers to DigiDirect Melbourne as always for them deals!
Before I get started, if you're here for photographic proof of what I have written below, I don't have it quite yet. Well, I do, but unfortunately I cannot share the pictures I have been taking so you're just going to have to trust me until I get usable proof in my next post. I merely want to get numerous other XT-1 users excited for the new update to Firmware 4.0.
As I write this I'm a few hours out from getting on a plane headed for Ireland to shoot a pretty massive wedding between a fine Australian lad and a lovely Irish las. In preparation for the big day I have assembled a very nice and flexible kit for my wife and I to shoot with - she loves the Canon stuff and I'm a big Fuji convert.
After selling my X100s I was quite adamant about getting my hands on the XT-10 after seeing how much smaller it is than the XT-1 and in some aspects, smaller than the X100 series, thus making it 'pocketable' and discrete. I opted to pick up the XF27 as well and honestly, I am a much happier camper with this setup than with the X100s. A significant reason for that though, is the interchangeable lens ability of the XT-10 and the absolutely impressive new Firmware 4.0. The AF system of Fuji's X-series has been reinvented with this update and I have been achieving results that were simply unattainable with the old firmware. Kids running wild shot in continuous zone focus mode on the XF56 at F1.2? Yep. That happened this week for me.
If you're keen to read up about all the specifics involved in the new update, take a look at this link.
Since picking up the XT-10 a day after its release here in Australia, I have been testing it each day on a whole bunch of active school kids, which unfortunately means I can't share the actual proof of what I'm writing just yet. Onto the camera.
The XT-10 feels solid in the hand but could certainly benefit from a grip of some sort. One of the features I have really enjoyed (aside from the new AF system) is the face and eye recognition. This function is absolutely brilliant when paired with the XF56 at F1.2. It's snappy and every time I've shot with it it's made the mark. It will certainly be interesting to see how it holds up at the wedding next week.
Let's get to the really good stuff - Continuous and Zone focusing.
Good God! Or should I say 'Good Fuji!'?
The new focusing system is amazing! Is it perfect? No. Is it on par or better than many of the big guns? YES!
Imagine this. 4 young kids running around a play ground, chasing each other and me snapping in Continuous Zone focusing mode in High Burst with the XF56 at F1.2, focusing on 1 kid. Guess how many photos out of 5 hit the mark? 4! The 5th didn't make the mark because one of the kids came straight towards me at lightning pace and the shallow depth of field of 1.2 meant that the top the kid's head was in focus and not their face. Regardless, the camera tracked beautifully and I achieved something I'd never experienced before with the X-series cameras. Stopped down to F5.6, I spent some time on the sidelines shooting a basketball game. 30 something shots later, not a single miss! The XF16 also tracked exceptionally well and handled objects that were moving laterally and towards the camera exceptionally.
At this point I'd say it tracks better than my trusty Canon 7D and it is definitely better than my long standing (pre-Fuji) favourite, the 6D.
My apologies that I don't have the proof you're all probably looking for of my very large claims. You're just going to have to trust me. I will be posting photos via my usual Facebook and Instagram feeds over the coming weeks whilst in Ireland, hopefully providing insight into how well the XT-10 and XT-1 focus in low light situations with the new firmware.
I recently spent an incredible weekend down in Tasmania, Australia (that's the little piece of Oz that's detached from the mainland at the bottom) with the brand spanking new Fujinon XF16 F1.4 R WR Lens, XF56 1.2 R, and my trusty XT-1. FujiFilm, you made my 30th birthday extremely memorable and blew my expectations for the XF16 out of the water, and those expectations were already very high.
As with my previous post, these are all in-cam JPEGs with Chrome simulation and my own tweaks.
Given how busy my life has been for some time now, as well as my wife's more than hectic schedule, I figured a weekend away in a part of Australia we've never been to was the best way to celebrate my 30 years on this wonderful planet. Little did I know that my dearest friend from the other side of Australia, Western Australia, was scheming to get the XF16 for me as a combined birthday gift with my family.
See why we're best mates?
After waking up in a Hobart hotel with my wife presenting me with the XF16 on a Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast from a hipster cafe and embarked on our drive to the awe inspiring Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair. The drive took a little longer than it should have though because there were simply too many places to stop at and shoot with this 24mm equivalent lens.
A common criticism of FujiFilm's X-cameras is the speed and accuracy of AF, which will hopefully be long gone once they drop the Firmware 4.0 update for the XT-1. So what's the XF16 like on an XT-1 with Firmware 3.0? ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS! It's focuses quickly, hits the mark with very high accuracy, and doesn't go on hunting trips! LOVE IT!
The XF16 paired with the XT-1 is my favourite combo to date, when considering how it balances on a body with no battery grip and the size and weight of the lens additionally. It just feels right and it has a rather attractive lens hood too. It also features the clutch focusing mechanism that is featured on several other Fujinon XF lenses, which is total gem for street shots fired from the hip. The XF16 was also my first Fujinon lens that has the Weather Resistance (WR) treatment, and believe me, I put the WR of the XF16 and XT-1 to the test though rain, hail, and unexpectedly, snow!
For most of time we spent in Tasmania it rained and snowed, which gave me an awesome opportunity to test the XT-1 and XF16 in some rather rough conditions and see if Fuji is worth their word on their weather sealing. Heck, I even used the XF56 in some less than stellar conditions. Needless to say, the whole kit held up perfectly and in the days I have been using it since, I have not had a single issue. *fingers crossed
I could ramble on about how good the lens is and attempt to get into highly technical language about why it's good, but I think enough has been said in pictures alone. FujiFilm is making the best 'affordable' professional glass out there. The XF16 is a sensational lens and I highly recommend even non Fuji owners get out there and try it out. My wallet is going to hate me though, because with the impeding release of the XF90 and the fact that it's going to be at least on par with the XF16 for IQ, I am going to have to buy it.
One last little snap with the XF16. We are going to be shooting this little man's mum and dad's wedding in Ireland in a few weeks! I think he's a bit excited.
It's autumn in Australia! What better way to show it off than to head off into the temperate rainforests of Victoria with my FujiFilm XT-1 and X100S.
Rather than rattle on about 'performance this...' and 'sharpness that...' here are some snaps from some bush-walks in some amazing forests that are less than 1 hour's drive from Melbourne's CBD. If you're ever in Victoria, Australia, be sure to check out Sassafras, Ferntree Gully, and East Gippsland.
Massive thanks to my good bud Theo, for taking us well off track for some of these snaps and for the lovely collection of baby leeches that tried to burrow through my shoes.
Lens adapters and mirrorless cameras are certainly getting their fair share of exposure these days (mind the pun). Many Sony A-Series users can be seen sporting a variety of different brands of lenses on their mirrorless beasts, and of course Fuji have their M-Mount adapter for the X-series cameras. After looking into the various lenses folks were using on their mirrorless cameras I decided to purchase a cheap Canon EOS to Fuji X lens adapter and see what the hip rage is all about.
In case you're already looking at doing this based on the few quick snaps on here, this is the eBay link that I purchased my adapter from for ~$15 AUD. It's solid and does the job I expected admirably.
So why does this combo work so well on a mirrorless camera, particularly the XT-1, so well?
Firstly, Focus Peaking in manual mode with split screen focus makes it exceptionally easy to get focus on point. The XT-1 is well known for it's fantastic large Electronic View Finder (EVF) and it accommodates the split image exceptionally well. What's also great is that the cropped focus image changes according to the focal point you choose, which, combined with spot metering that matches the focal point, provides a set of features uncommon to most other systems.
The second point that makes the XT-1 and a lens adapter work so darn well is the electronic and mechanical shutter combo that allows it to max out at an incredible 1/32000 of a second. Basic lens adapters offer no electrical communication between the lens and camera meaning the lens is stuck at it's widest aperture. For typical DSLRs this makes using apertures like F1.4 difficult to use in broad daylight without the use of neutral density filters. This problem is easily overcome by the Fuji's electronic shutter, as demonstrated in the picture of the video surveillance camera
Another point to consider when using a lens adapter in these circumstances is how it changes the minimum focusing distance of full frame lenses. My Sigma 35mm was able to focus at ~15cm, which is only focuses to 40cm on my Canon 6D. Also, don't ever trust and Aussie giving you a spoon full of plain vegemite. You will die!
Focusing with the Sigma 35mm is a breeze. After shooting with fly-by-wire lenses like many of the native Fuji lenses for many months now, the Sigma was dead easy to get used to in manual mode and made me very conscious of exactly what I was focusing on, making sure it was on point. I was surprised at how easily I could focus on my neighbour's cats in poor light. I have not tested my Canon 135mm extensively, however it too was easy to focus with and having a 200mm equivalent focal length on my Fuji without having to dish out on a new lens is a greatly appreciated.
It's early days but I can definitely see adapting different lenses to my XT-1 as something to get addicted to. I've noticed too that manually focusing helps conserve the XT-1's battery-life since it's not dedicating power to the focusing mechanism in heavy duty glass beasts like the XF56. If you're sitting on the fence about trying this sort of rig out I suggest you get on over to my side and experience it.
There's no hiding the fact that I'm a big fan of FujiFilm and their current lineup of X-Trans mirrorless cameras. Between the X100S and the XT-1 they've become my shooters for 85-95% of assignments I undertake, leaving my Canon rig filling in when I need to shoot sports and flash photography. I'm sure that will change in the near future though once a solid flash system is available for Fuji users.
Looking back to only a few months ago, I scoured the web for posts about the XT-1 for weddings, low-light performance, concerts, and just general pointers about the system. With no local places offering the XT-1 for hire and having only limited in-store testing experiences with it, I decided to jump in and find out for myself. Since purchasing it I have tested just about every setting and style that I would typically shoot in and it has almost always surpassed my expectations. The ultimate test for me though was shooting the bulk of a wedding with only the XT-1 + XF56 & XF18 and the X100S. Did it pass? Or was it a stupid risk to shoot something as important as a wedding on a relatively new system that 'isn't pro'?
Before I go into further detail it's important to note that I had a second shooter on this wedding who shot with my Canon system (6D + Sigma 35mm & 135mm L) and took many incredible shots on a great camera system. I even ended up using it for part of the reception when I needed to use a flash since I haven't invested in a flash system for Fuji yet and the Yongnuo flash only works in manual on the Fuji Xt-1. My rig for the most part of the day consisted of the XT1 and XF56 slung over one shoulder and the X100s holstered using a knock-off version of the Spider Camera Holster, which for $5 performed without issue. You can see an integrated set of sample pictures from the day here.
Prior to the wedding festivities commencing I had my Fuji rig setup in silent mode - electronic shutter on the XT-1 and the super awesome leaf-shutter on the X100s. This allowed for complete discretion throughout the day and most importantly allowed me to move and shoot silently during the wedding ceremony. When you're in a space the has a lot of reverberation you very quickly notice the difference between a silent camera system and that of a typical DSLR shutter firing off nearby.
Switching between the XT1 and X100s was simple, easy, and effective, and I'm sure it contributed significantly in helping me not wear out at all across the 10 hour day and night. Well aware of the shortcomings of the batteries in the two cameras, I always had a spare full battery in my pocket, and thank the universe that I did because the first battery in the XT1 died on me just as the cake cutting was about to commence. Time to purchase the battery grip!
Aside from an instance of the XT-1's battery dying at an inopportune time, there was also one other peculiar instance where a dodgy eBay battery caused some pretty scary issues. We'd just finished shooting the main bridal party photos when the EVF on the XT-1 froze and flickered rapidly. The camera was effectively dead and I was devastated. I immediately took out the battery and let it cool down since I'd been firing off quite a few snaps on the cheap battery. I didn't have a backup XT-1 at the time so
I jumped across to my extra Canon gear and X100s for a while. Thankfully, with a new good quality battery and a bit of cool down time, the XT-1 came back to life and didn't skip a beat right through the reception. I have since tried to replicate the issue by firing off a hundreds of shots (more than this instance) in short succession but thankfully it hasn't happened again.
So what can be said about shooting with the XT-1 and X100s that hasn't been said in my previous blog posts? For one, people didn't think I was the primary or hired shooter for the wedding since my cameras were 'so small' and 'film like'. Do I have an issue with this? Certainly not, because if anything it made people more relaxed when I was present and let the moment be the moment. When I switched across to my 6D and flash combo the weight difference was tremendous and made me all the more grateful for the small form factor and mass of the XT-1 and X100s.
But the Fuji's aren't Full Frame!!! You can't be pro without Full Frame!!!
Go take a look at the wedding blog and tell me which pictures are Fuji and which ones are Canon.
I purchased the XT-1 shortly after Firmware 3.0 came out, which brought in a tonne of new features that I use frequently, such as: electronic shutter, 1/32000 max shutter speed, silent mode, AF point selection using the cross pad, and linked AF point and spot-metering. These were features that sealed the deal for me and the responsiveness of the XT-1's focusing system has been an absolute treat in low-light settings.
My next wedding is in the south west of Ireland and I plan to shoot the entire event on Fuji's with a Nissin i40 flash included. I have absolute faith that this rig will serve mine and my client's needs perfectly as a discrete, efficient, and professional photographic rig.
BONUS! Here are a few pics from Hayley and Dave's second pre-wedding shoot in an Australian bushland setting, all shot on the XT-1.