I just have to say this outright. You folk here in the northern hemisphere, particularly out here in the U.K. are spoiled for good light, when it's out. Coming originally from Western Australia where the sun gives you about an hour each side of the day of pleasant light, it is such a dream with the sun sitting here around 45 degrees.
'Nuff of the whinge!
What's this new XF50 F2 WR all about?
It's a seemingly obscure focal length that doesn't have an older sibling with a wider aperture to usurp, and what kind of photographer would want it? Well, after shooting 1.25 weddings back in Australia with it and having a good few days on the streets of Oxford with it, I am damned impressed by it just as I still am with it's wider mate the XF35 F2, which is my go-to lens and has been since late 2015. It's a bit of a trip down memory lane, as it would be for many who've stuck a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera so a 76mm equivalent focal length really isn't that unfamiliar.
For this 'review' I have only included small 3000 pixel JPEGS using Chrome, +1 colour, +1 sharpness, and strong grain. Why did I do this? Because it's just bloody brilliant! I have shot backup JPEGs with strong gain for many months now and I simply lovely the images it helps to produce, particularly when shooting into light - I'll get into that more down the page though. I think it also shows for a lot of folk who like what I shoot that they can achieve this look with no post-editing. If you're really wanting RAW/RAF files leave a comment below and I'll get some going since I now have real internet here in the U.K.
Let's take a look at some bokeh samples.
I'm not one to go hunting for this kinda thing and honestly, I am not sure I have the best eye for what good bokeh is but oh well! As you can see though, at F2 this lens has really lovely focus fall off and beautiful smooth background with nice round balls. With a minimum focusing distance of 39cm you can certainly get nice and close with this lens, further exaggerating background blur in many circumstances. It really does an excellent job at focusing closely too, picking what you intend to shoot quickly and accurately.
How about the AF?
It's snappy! Well freakin' snappy! Just as I LOVE the XF35 F2 for it's efficiency this guy is exactly the same in my experience. It handles itself very well shooting into strong backlight, tracks sensationally in CF mode, acts silently and stealthily, and I simply can't fault it. It's also a joy to handle and weighs next to nothing (200g) which I barely noticed during wedding shoots. Remember though, I am shooting with an XT-2 so older cameras may not be so gracious with regards to performance.
But what about the XF56 F1.2?
It's a tough call. The ol' XF56 1.2 has that stupidly wide, light eating aperture that melts away out of focus areas, but it's also an 'old' Fujifilm lens that can be a bit sluggish and offers no Weather Resistance. In truth, during the second wedding I shot in Australia recently upon owning both lenses, I switched over to the F1.2 and didn't switch back to the XF50 F2 WR. Why? Because with the XT-2 and at times with boost mode engaged, I didn't have any issues with focusing, and I sure appreciated the images it produced at it's widest aperture. On the other side of it though, the XF50 F2 WR is way more comfortable for day to day use and is a snappier, discrete, crazy sharp and silent lens that represents the latest in Fujifilm's tech. I'll get to a comparison blog post some time soon!
Let's finish up with a little chat about the grain function on the XT-2.
I am really hooked on this little add-on for how it helps gradients appear to the human eye and how it reduces the obvious transitions in colour banding in bright scenes. I find it also helps to produce really pleasing flares as well, and overall gives me +50 hipster points in my day to day photography life. You be the judge! I just hope Adobe gets grain happening in Lightroom that looks this good.
Some final thoughts
Fujifilm have produced yet another sensational bit of gear that's of the highest quality and performs exceptionally, further reaffirming my decision many moons ago to get into the X-Series.
I'm not sure that the XF50mm F2 WR will stay in my kit, as it's so close in focal length to my XF56mm F1.2, which still holds the overall crown for preferred lens out of the two. I also much prefer a 50mm equivalent like the XF35mm F2 WR for street usage and day to day shooting, with the XF23mm F2 WR being the next lens I'd like to get and probably stick with.
Truly, you cannot fault this lens and if I were a newbie to Fujifilm I would grab it in a heartbeat with the XF23mm F2 WR to start my kit off, as they're exceptional lenses for the money that have character and handle wonderfully, whilst producing consistently gorgeous images. Try it out for yourself and you'll see what I mean with the XF50mm F2 WR.
For some time now I have been making a personal effort to capture Footscray as I see and experience it so that I can hopefully preserve my own memories of it. My time in Melbourne is quickly coming to an end due to our impending move to Oxford in January. Through my ~5 years living in Melbourne's inner-west I have come to love the elements that make up this place, particularly my home suburb of Footscray. It has an incredibly rich cultural history that has served as a new home for migrants from all over the world and each culture has made its mark on the architecture, food, and character of this wonderful place. Unfortunately, as the area gentrifies I am sure some of the suburb's history will be lost as the facades of streets and generations move on.
This is my first post using the new FujiFilm X-T2 but it's not intended to be a review post much like many of my others. I've had the camera since its first day of release and I am yet to fault it. Fuji have taken the few niggles and irritations of the X-T1 and produced a truly phenomenal camera that can hold its own and then some against the big boys. I'll save that review for another week though.
This entire post is devoted to a weekend of shooting for enjoyment and moments, of which I have captured using the Fujifilm emulation of Acros. All of these pictures are Straight Out Of the Camera (SOOC) JPEG small with either AcrosR or AcrosY used (sorry, I don't remember which ones) and have +1 highlight, -1 shadows, +2 sharpening, and strong grain effect. I used the XF16, XF35 F2, and XF56 1.2 for various shots featured.
UPDATE (next day) Apologies if you read this when I had Astia written down instead of Acros, which is what these are using. I was trying to be productive yesterday after a day at a rather nice winery (pictured) and made some mistakes on here. I have also added in a few other Acros JPEGs where I have pushed the shadows out to +4, which is a look I really dig. They're at the bottom of the post.
A massive shout-out to everyone I got to hang and create with over the weekend, particularly Dragan and Ann. What was set to be a casual photo-walk turned into an amazing afternoon and evening of learning new street portrait skills from Dragan, and passing on some of my more posed portrait skills to him after we bumped into the ever awesome Ann. Ann is a bad ass martial arts actress who stars in the new Hard Target 2 film. Check her out!
The photos below are also using Acros but with Shadows at +4.
They were all shot with the XF35F2
Me - "Looks like it's going to be raining for our shoot. Are you up for a bit of getting wet?"
Sophie - "Oh yeah that's not a worry at all! We're from Ireland and England- we're not afraid of a few raindrops "
YES! YES! YES!
I had the pleasure of working with Sophie and Ritchie last week only days before they were set to venture off to the UK to be wed. For this shoot it quite literally rained, hailed and shined for us and these two embraced the elements with pure devotion. Running in and out of the scarce cover from the rain for various snaps was such a blast, and Sophie and Ritchie absolutely shone throughout it. You really can't beat their two smiles, right?
Thank you for an incredible photographic experience, Sophie and Ritch!
The eyes of the world are on Rio.
Welcome to the second installment of my travels through Brazil, covering our time in Rio De Janeiro and Salvador. Both are places that are like surrogate homes for me and of course, my wife's childhood home that much of her extended family still resides in.
If you've not already seen it, go check out my post covering the Streets of Rio with the XF35 F2.
For this trip I packed a comprehensive but compact FujiFilm kit, comprising of my XT-1, XF16, XF35 F2, XF 56 1.2, and the XF90. Much like it was during our travels in Vietnam earlier this year, the XF35 spent the most time attached to my XT-1 because of its discrete size, speed, and excellent image quality. If the upcoming XF23 F2 and 50 F2 are close to the 35 F2 in overall quality and performance, they'll certainly be making their way into my kit.
What about post-production and editing? These are all RAFs that have been edited in Lightroom using a familiar preset I've crafted and modded for this trip specifically and exported as JPEGs. Of course there's things that happen in-camera before all that, such as a bit of underexposing and careful use of spot-metering. Ultimately, it's something that comes as a result of the Electronic View Finder (EVF) and the ability to get what I want from the shot at the time it's shot. I must confess though, there are photos from our time in Salvador that were shot on my iPhone 5S when my XT-1 ran out of battery and I didn't bring a spare. A good eye should be able to pick which ones they are.
Stay tuned for my 3rd post from Brazil that's devoted to the incredible Chapada Diamantina.
Special thanks to all our amigas who got their pose on for the camera.
On one of our walks from Copacabana to Ipanema, my wife made a stop in a shop to 'browse' and well, I had to make the most of my time so I asked the sales girls if I could take their snaps whilst I waited. In a way, these photos cost us $500 because while I was busy shooting, my wife was busy shopping. As we often say here in Australia - happy wife, happy life!
Well, it's been 48 hours since I arrived back in Australia from my 5th visit in ~10 years to Brazil and I've got 100gb+ of images to work through from my 2 weeks in the country. It was my first time visiting Brazil with decent photography skills and of course, my first time with my FujiFilm kit.
Leading up to this trip was a bit different than previous times, in the sense that recent media chatter about the country being 'terribly unsafe' and rampant with Zika had, for the first time, left me questioning my safety during the visit. Had Brazil suddenly changed? Did its beautiful, rich culture and warm-hearted populace change in a matter of 3 years since my previous visit?
Thankfully, no. Brazil is still as I remember it from my 4 prior visits, and its sociable and outgoing way of life is still very much intact, with people who frequently go out of their way to say 'hello' and 'good day'.
Like every country though, Brazil certainly has its issues, but I'm not going to get into that here.
Ever since my first to Brazil in 2006, I have been fascinated by the overtly social manner in which Brazilian people go about their lives. I still vividly remember the Tuesday morning bus ride in the outer suburbs of Rio that created this feeling as I watched the day come to life, which sadly, was contrasted with a drive by viewing of a recent murder scene.
Leading up to my recent visit, I was determined to try and capture my vision of social interaction and daily life in Brazil with a focus on Rio in particular. This meant I had to be observant and discrete, which is where my essential Fuji kit came into play. For this first post of what I am estimating will be 4 posts in total from this trip I have focused solely on the streets and beaches of Rio using my XT-1 and XF35 F2.
I hope you enjoy my perspective.
Fight sports: One of the fastest growing sports categories in the world, and for good reason!
As a martial artist who's trained a wide variety of different disciplines, I have a tremendous level of respect for the men and women who devote so much of themselves to competing. The hours upon hours of intense training in and out of the gym, the dietary restrictions, and of course, the mental preparation required to step into the ring or cage and engage in an often brutal and satisfying few rounds of high level martial arts expertise are things reserved for a select part of the world's population. Then there's the recovery that comes after the fight...
But enough of the philosophical banter.
As a massive advocate for the capabilities of the FujiFilm XT-1 and its always improving FREE firmware upgrades, the testing of the XF16-55 R LM WR was an itch that was in well need of a scratch. Any extra funds that I can allocate for gear typically go on new prime lenses, because, like Optimus, I am a Prime guy (get it?!).
For this project I hit up the ever awesome Leigh Diprose at FujiFilm Oz and he sent me the XF16-55 for a few weeks along with an X100T for some other projects. I now very much understand why folks have raved about this lens, it is a beast! It's fast, sharp as a tack, and very responsive!
In order to give this lens a fair run for its money I sought to shoot a Muay Thai Fight Night alongside a great friend and amazing photographer, William Luu of W.L Fight Photography. Absolutely massive thanks and appreciation goes to him for helping make this happen and welcoming me into his domain.
For starters I went into the backstage preparation areas to see how the fighters for Warriors Way were looking. The light in there was pretty awful to say the least but the XF16-55 managed to handle itself well, and the XT-1's high ISO capabilities did the shots justice too. The constant F2.8 aperture is brilliant and the lens did not hunt around trying to gain focus using Zone Focusing mode.
Shooting fight nights isn't typically a comfortable affair. I'll take 12 hours at a wedding any day (because I love it!) rather than being stuck on my knees in a space smaller than 1m2. Regardless, I was hooked up with a good fixed position for the night at ringside that yielded some pretty awesome results and a few close calls with fighters almost falling out of the ring.
For most of ring bound action I set my XT-1 up in the following manner:
Normally I shoot RAW or RAW and JPEG small for weddings, because I don't typically shoot using high burst rates. However, given the nature of fight photography I wanted the camera to be as responsive as possible and with the EVF and consistent lighting, I knew I could guarantee my exposure would be on point for the show.
For most shots outside of ring, such as fighter walk-ins, I switched the camera to the following:
Switching between the two modes was an easy process made so by the very well laid out controls and visuals on the XT-1. As you can imagine, the light of stage wasn't always great and it was made even more difficult by visual obstructions like the ring. Again, the XT-1 and XF16-55 hit the mark almost every time in the 3000+ shots that I took throughout the night.
I am a big fan and user of the tilt-screen on the XT-1, and not having it on the new X-Pro2 has been a big reason why I I'll be waiting for the XT-2. Then again, the XT-1 is a formidable camera that is serving all my needs more than adequately so an upgrade may not be necessary unless desire takes over. Back to the tilt-screen.
In the case of this show I found it incredibly useful when keeping myself and the fighters safe because I could keep the angle of the camera where I wanted it under the ropes and easily pull back as fighters came near. It was also very useful for some of the low-angle shots of the fighters in their corners during rounds.
I used one single Sandisk 16gb extreme card for this show since i was shooting in JPEG. For most of the show I shot in CL (Continuous Low) so I could get manageable 3-5 shot bursts, and on occasion for some of the bigger fights I used CH (Continuous High), which you can see some sequenced examples of lower down. Panning and zooming in during bursts in these modes worked brilliantly and I experienced little to no misses and only on 1 occasion did it focus beyond the fighters to the other side of the ring. Honestly, I didn't expect it to respond this good! I can only imagine how much better it'll be with the fast EVF refresh time on the XT-2.
As for battery usage for the ~3700 photos I took, I used just over 2!
I'd imagine that shooting JPEG is much easier for the camera and card to transfer, meaning less processing power is required and thus, greater conservation of battery power. Very impressive!
What can I say that hasn't already been said about this combo?
I had such a great time shooting with it and my expectations were met and then surpassed. I am certainly no pro fight photographer like William Luu, but if I was thrown into the world of fight photography professionally, I would have no qualms shooting with this combination. Alas, my passions in photography lay elsewhere and Will does an outstanding job, living and breathing the fight photography scene down here in Melbourne.
If you've considered this lens for applications like this or otherwise, you'll be hard pressed to find fault with it. It's got a good bit of heft behind it so you could certainly balance it better with a battery pack on your camera body, but it's certainly not uncomfortable. I will soon be writing a follow up post to this where I shot the majority of a rather special wedding using this as my first ever zoom.
It's not everyday I find myself trekking through the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, wearing suade shoes and black Levi's. However, when there's a great opportunity to be had, you work with what you've got. For this trip I packed an X100T that the lovely FujiFIlm Australia folks have loaned me, and my own XT-1 and XF90 for something a little different to add into the photo mix.
After flying up to Sydney to present at an educational expo on virtual reality, I had a spare few days up my sleeve to suss out a little more than just the local tourist attractions. A quick recommendation from an expert rock-climbing friend to checkout Wentworth Falls, and I was on my way. The 2-hour ride from Sydney's Central Station is very comfortable, picturesque, and best of all, extremely accessible and affordable for anyone. Simply put, if you're ever in Sydney, a day trip here is very easy to undertake and highly recommended.
I took the path straight out of town through Charles Darwin Walk, which in itself presents numerous photo opportunities with stunning creeks, mini falls and wildlife - don't be afraid of the numerous skinks running across the path though, but always keep watch for snakes.
I have seen a fair bit of Australia over my 30 years of life and living here, but it's quite possible that this moment, this place, and this experience at Wentworth Falls was my favourite one of all.
It's hard to capture the sheer mastodonic scale of Wentworth Falls. From it's highest point looking down, the colours, textures, and shapes of the landscape take you back in time leaving you wondering and in awe of how nature carves such beauty. It's the kind of place that when I'd look back up from my camera or my steps, I would immediately be stopped in my tracks by a different angle of this ancient place. As the afternoon slipped away the colours of the landscape became more diverse and intense, with beautiful shadows creating stunning contrast in the scenery. The only thing I regret was not packing sufficient supplies to stay on until sunset. I'll be back though!
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.
I just need to get this out of the way.
If you've not visited Vietnam, do so as soon as you can. The people, the culture, the food, the traffic, the history behind the nation, and so much more are something every traveler or adventurer must experience. I am already planning to go back.
We were very fortunate with this trip, having been hired to shoot an incredible wedding in Saigon for Winnie and Elvin, which enabled us to extend our travels throughout Vietnam afterwards. Since the wedding was our main priority, a full kit was packed for our travels, including my prized Fuji family below, with the XF35 F2 being a late addition just before we left Australia. Despite having such a formidable kit, outside of the wedding, most of it didn't see much use*, as the new XF35 F2 completely dominated as a discrete and powerful combination with either the XT-1 or XT-10. I cannot praise the new XF35 F2 highly enough.
*For the purpose of addressing people's curiosity, I will tag photos with lenses that aren't the XF35 F2.
Fuji have really created something special with the XF35 F2.
For many, an F2 50mm equivalent lens doesn't sound particularly amazing, especially when you can get a basic F1.8 50mm for around $100 (disregarding Fuji's XF35 F1.4) with other brands. However, lenses like that feel cheap and simply don't have the performance and quality of this little beast from FujiFIlm.
The very immediate and obvious thing about the XF35 F2 is that it focuses so brilliantly fast and accurately that it puts all the small talkers who badmouth mirrorless cameras for having slow auto-focus right back in their wornout, chiropractor's best customer, DSLR ladened holes. This lens is basically silent, has little to no focusing feel to it and slays (gets the shot) in very tough lighting conditions. And how about that F2 maximum aperture? Well....
The big thing about the maximum aperture of F2 is that it is way more flexible and capable than I imagined and works in conditions I didn't expect it to handle. Throughout my time in Vietnam when shooting with it on my XT-1 or XT-10 (depending on weather) I often shot from the hip in a vertical/portrait position, shutter priority and wide focus, What really made this work was I could push the shutter button and be guaranteed focus in a very, very immediate manner as I walked past or towards my subject. This had two benefits. For one, the plane of my depth of field was basically unchanged so shots (most between F2 & F4) were on the mark, which gave me the highest keeper ratio I have ever had on any camera and lens combo. The other really profound thing was how the auto-focus of the lens performed in low-light or mixed lighting in streets and social settings - think loads of motorbikes, cars, lanterns and other sorts of mixed lighting. I was able to find something that caught my eye, frame it, shoot it, and capture it, without issue.
Wait? That doesn't sound very impressive.
Well, when I want THAT shot it's when I'm most stable at that point of grabbing focus and taking the shot. In clearer terms, I was able to shoot at shutter speeds much lower than I previously could because the absence of lag between me pressing the shutter button and the camera acquiring focus was minute (very, very short/small). If it was down to shooting action on the streets at night with the XF35 F2 and say, the XF56 1.2 I would take the XF35 purely for its speed, accuracy, and very, very nice ease of handling.
The image quality and characteristics of the XF35 F2 is something I'm still trying to figure out. It just has this certain 'pop' to it and the bokeh is just lovely, smooth and has a wonderful fall off between the in focus and out of focus areas. . If you're keen to see what I mean by 'pop' and just really deluxe detail, take a look at this link. That image was shot at F3.5 I have also found this to be my favourite lens when shooting at ISO6400, as it retains a lot of detail and separation between subjects across the image, and there is very little colour bleeding. Check the 100% crop below of the old dear from earlier on.
Another rather big point I want to discuss about this lens and camera combo when traveling in countries like Vietnam is discretion. Having only been shooting for ~2.5 years, this was my first time hitting a 'photographer's country' so I was somewhat concerned about how to approach photographing locals in a respectful manner, whilst also not drawing unwanted attention.
I am not lying when saying that over the course of 16 days of travel I could count on 1 hand when someone reacted or observed me using my camera, and I shot daily. What was very evident was the epidemic, if you will, of DSLR users EVERYWHERE and how very aware locals were of their presence. I'm sorry, but standing 30 meters back from a street vendor with a 70-200mm lens is not street style and you're leaving yourself open to potential trouble from criminal elements, not to mention missing out an opportunity to connect with a local or show them a little support.
To put it simply, if you want to get undisturbed, candid shots during your travels, this is definitely the kit to get, and would easily be my go to combo if someone forced me to take one camera and lens. Did I mention that I shot a significant part of the wedding we were hired to do on this lens? Yeah, it was that good, and I have used it for several more since with sensational results.
I know I talk about all my Fuji gear being amazing, however this is one really special bit of kit and it's left me hoping that Fuji will make more F2 versions of their lenses.
Perhaps a 56 F2?
Like many other folks who've posted about it before me, this lens has always been on either my XT-1 or XT-10 since its purchase. If you're on the fence about which XF35 to get or perhaps just adding another focal length to you kit, get this one!
If I could give a 'satisfaction or your money back' guarantee I would because I know you wouldn't part ways with it once you've tried it out.
Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook if you're keen to see more XF35 2 snaps.
1 year on with the Fuji XT-1 and a myriad of other FujiFilm gear.
Honestly, I pondered this post today, started collating some of my favourite photos, and then realised that today is my 1 year anniversary with the FujiFilm XT-1. Spooky?!
Nah. Just math.
Well, I must say, it has been a fantastic 12 months using Fuji's X-series 100%. I have traveled a fair bit of the world with my kit and put it through a heck of a lot of varied circumstances. On the streets, through weddings, in the sweat of live music, the pace of MMA, and through various nations, it's been a fantastic journey developing as a photographer, and as a person, refining my creative path through the medium. Not only that, but my hipster factor has grown exponentially with the XT-1's retro dials, coupled with my hair.
What started with just the XT-1 and XF56 (added to my X100s, which I later parted with for an XT-10) soon grew. At year's end my Fuji kit contains an XT-1 & XT-10, Xf16, XF27, XF35F2, XF56, XF90, and the underrated XC 50-230, along with my Instax printer for sharing the love. With various combinations of this gear I explored regions of my home country Australia like never before, shot weddings in Ireland and Vietnam, and most importantly, met so many incredible new people and took part in many great stories.
This post is my first retrospective and quite significant to me personally. I'm not going to say how long I've been shooting for but it's not that long. Happy for you to have a guess!
More importantly, I just want to send a massive thanks to all you curious folk out there. It's been awesome hearing from so many of you over the 12 months and I hope I can help you more and more and perhaps even connect with you too! Enjoy!
Weddings across the world.
Sweating and thrashing through the pits of live music.
Exploring my home country like I never knew.
And exploring a few new ones too.
Got to meet and shoot a lot of lovely people.
Trained and shot alongside some of the best.
And sometimes just watched life go by.