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.
Creating an Imperfect Image - Fujifilm X-T2 with a Helios, tilt-adapter, and other ramblings after a night of Aussie metal
To para-phrase a security guard at the photo barrier on this night "I F$%KIN hate this music! But... These gigs have the best behaved people. They drink tonnes of piss and spend heaps at the merch stands. Honestly, I'd rather get digitally f#$%ed by a giant than listen to this stuff."
Much love to this fella for being brutally honest and giving me a damned good laugh.
This gig served me up a pretty profound experience as a photographer. With no pressure of producing images other than for my own enjoyment and for all these fine bands to use should they want to, I got to experiment with some new goods, including the XF50-140 and an old Helios 44-2 F2 58mm with a tilt only adapter. This was also the first time I got to use my X-T2 properly in a live music environment, which was a bit of an overdue itch to scratch. So what made it a profound experience?
For just about my entire journey so far in photography a big part of it has been chasing that perfect, sharp, optically stellar image. An image that really isn't achievable since invariably I know I'd never be satisfied with the result. It's also quite closely linked to gear acquisition too. Undoubtedly, good gear enables great photos to be taken or discretion to be used when necessary, such as in the case of compact performers like my trusty XF35mm F2, a phenomenal ~50mm equivalent.
When I recently purchased an old Helios off of eBay ($80 for a nicely refurbished one) I didn't expect to get much more than an effect out of it that could be used from time to time for a bit of fun when combined with the tilt adapter too. I certainly didn't expect that on this occasion I would end up using it for more than 50% of my photos and come away with images that were so far from perfect they felt much closer to my perfect image than I could ever have expected.
See, the usual suspects in my Fujinon kit certainly got used and performed outstandingly. The XF16mm gave me those close wides and crowd shots with not a single focus issue, and the flexibility of the rear tilt screen of the X-T2 allowed way more freedom for me to compose with. The XF56mm 1.2 also worked outstandingly and provided me with low ISO shots due to its exceptional widest aperture. My newly acquired XF50-140 was the high performance best I expected it to be and served me particularly well when taking shots further back and elevated above the crowd. Using the image stabilization was a blast too in the face of some heavy moshing, providing some unique looks.
In light of these awesome modern lenses, using an old manual focus lens with a non-parallel focus point (can be adjusted to straight) was an absolute jam and a lesson in taking control. I doubt many purists would be overly enthused towards a lens with no hood that gives wild flaring and soft-edges, but for me, the way these 'imperfections' come together in this combo feel so right. There's just something else about making an image that is flawed. An image where the main perceived subject isn't in focus. An image where it's overcome by floods of light and shadow in inconsistent ways. I guess what it also comes down to is creating a certain mood with imagery, which certainly suits the gloominess of the metal scene. Perhaps it's also the thrill of the chase when focusing manually, knowing that the shot could be 'missed'.
After some stern words from my brother Dan at Matsu Photography recently, I think this experience is the turning point for me in seeing the enjoyment of the journey rather than the unattainable end goal, where harsh self-criticism and comparison against other talents can tend to spoil the experience.
It must also be said that I sincerely appreciate all my brothers and fellow 'creative folk' in these phenomenal bands featured. If not for letting me have this experience but for creating incredible, inspiring music that provides a soundtrack in my life. Cheers to my Ormsbros in Psycopritc, Hollow World and Hadal Maw, and to the other fellas in Orpheus Omega, Blackhelm, and Naberus.
Here's a post I have been looking forward to making since I heard the X-T2 was coming into existence, and boy I was not left disappointed.
In the lead up to the release of the X-T2 there were a few things I was looking forward to seeing improved upon, one being a more competent auto-focus system that followed my instructions a bit better, particularly when shooting my beloved XF56mmF1.2 R. I am well aware that on an ~85mm equivalent lens, AF speed and accuracy at F1.2 is not exactly an easy thing to achieve, and Fujifilm wasn't alone in this department when compared to Canon's 85mm F1.2 L behemoth.
Well, after almost 2 weeks shooting with the X-T2 and my XF56mmF1.2 R on numerous occasions and circumstances I can safely say that Fujifilm have made me a very happy camper. This new pairing is fast, accurate, and surprisingly tracks really well in continuous focus mode. That said, today's post is all about portraiture so you'll just have to wait for another day when I post about the X-T2 and its ability to capture action and fast paced, changing movement.
I had the pleasure of meeting the martial artist, model, actress and generally awesome human, Ann Truong, during some captures at my local Muay Thai gym. We met up in our local neighbourhood one Saturday afternoon recently for some impromptu portraits and I got to put my new camera through its paces, all whilst showing her and another friend some unique parts of the town centre. For this series I used the XF56mmF1.2 R with only a few noted shots on the XF35F2.
You can take a look at full size JPEGs at this link.
Fujifilm have improved their auto-focus system out of sight when comparing the new X-T2 to the X-T1. Yes, I loved my X-T1 (it's moved to a new home now) but at times it was like a disobedient child that you wanted to do one thing and it wanted to do... well, not what you wanted i.e. lock focus on this subject, not that piece of shrub in the background. The immediately noticeable difference is the focus acquisition speed and accuracy when shooting with all of my lenses, particularly the XF56mmF1.2 R @ F1.2. Even when shooting into heavily flared afternoon sunlight behind Ann, the camera and lens combo still hit the mark and didn't go off in the woods hunting! Hallelujah!!!!! In cases where I have shot between near and far subjects, it's quick to find focus and has proven to be a gem at this too during very dim light in my home environment. I will test this more in future though.
So what is there to be mindful of when using this combo?
Fujifilm have a great menu system that can readily be used to access features like face and eye detection. Heck! It can even be setup to choose left or right eye as a priority on the fly. So, if you've got a relatively settled/staged subject this feature is a god send for getting dead set focus on the eyes of your subject. Another thing to be mindful of is that this lens seems to really eat battery power. I am not sure what combo of the lens' motor and camera would cause this but I am certain that the camera would have to work overtime to acquire focus like it does at F1.2. Always pack an extra battery or two, or get the new vertical battery grip.
On a final note, if you're a Canon user and your 85mm 1.2 L is doing your head in with it's heft, awful purple fringing, and slow focus, seriously go and give this combo a test. If you're not this kind of person/user, just go and do it anyway!
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.
What a way to finish up 2015.
Winnie and Elvin sure know how to celebrate their marriage, with not 1, but 3 weddings across 3 different countries. We had the honour of shooting their wedding in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where the always lovely Winnie grew up.
The blending of east and west, and tradition with modern opulence were perfect, with an emphasis on family and respect for Vietnamese culture permeating throughout the day.
Winnie & Elvin, we feel privileged for the experience, and especially enjoyed the numerous local cuisines you lavished upon us while we were in HCMC.