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!
Well not quite 2 weeks....
But there was a lot packed into those 11 days - a crazy big Irish wedding, amazing ancient sights and scenery, and a heck of a lot of good food, people, and beer. Oh yeah... and the XT-10 & XT-1 with the new Firmware 4.0 plus a few rather nice pieces of FujiFilm glass.
After many months of dreaming about this big trip and even bigger wedding in Ireland, the time finally came. The lead up to the trip and shooting said wedding was made even better with the arrival of the XT-10 and the new firmware 4.0 update that proved the XT-10 to be a formidable force in 'budget' mirrorless cameras, and breathed new life into the XT-1, even though it didn't really need it.
For this trip, my wife and I were primarily hired to shoot a wedding on the west coast of Ireland in the incredibly picturesque town of Dingle. Jaw-dropping would be an understatement. Of course, it would be a pity to not see more of a country than just one place and Ireland is a place of wonder and awe. We packed a rather nice bit of kit for this one, including the fresh and sharp Fujinon XF16 and XT-10.
So how about that XT-10?
Well, what can I say? It's a damn fine camera and a perfect match for the XT-1 for shooting weddings in a discrete and professional manner. I actually ended up using the XT-10 for most of the trip because of its compact size and to give it a fair run for its money. Did it impress me just like almost every Fuji product I've used before it? Absolutely!
For the wedding I shot with the XT-1 over my shoulder with the XF56 and had the XT-10 on a holster with the XF16. A light-weight combo that after 16 hours of shooting did not leave me sore, fatigued or in any state of pain. The only ailment was the tiredness that was to be expected from shooting a day that long! I also got to experience the true value of the SP-1 Instax printer and how integral it is for creating a truly memorable wedding photography service that leave clients overjoyed on their big day! Alas, I cannot share their photos just yet.
XT-10 or X100?
Something that's fairly obvious and should be considered by anyone buying into the Fujifilm X-series is the power in a small package with the XT-10. Shortly after the announcement of the XT-10, I did the usual level of research regarding its specs, size and reported performance, and well, it's almost the same size as the X100 series but does a heck of a lot more! So, I sold off my X100s and jumped on the XT-10 the day after it was available in Australia. I also made a point of picking up the XF27 so I had a very pocketable and discrete option for shooting streets and other settings. Do I miss the X100? Absolutely! Does the XT-10 rock! Yes! I will probably get back into the X100 game when they announce their next model. Until then, the equally discrete and lightweight XT-10 paired with the XT-1 will continue to suit my needs appropriately. More on the XT-10 down the page.
And what about the XF16? It's fair to say that it got a good work out, and yet again, the weather sealing was tested and passed wonderfully when paired with the XT-1. Irish summers aren't particularly summery at times, so long exposure shots with the XT-1 and XF16 on a tripod often meant it got rather wet. Well, quite wet. It really is a sensational combo and the close focusing ability of the XF16 (10cm) is rather useful in a country full of beautiful flowers and other majestic scenery.
Let's get to the burning question - XT-1 VS XT-10
At the time of purchasing the XT-10 there were great end of financial year sales going on and the lovely folks at DigiDirect offered me a killer deal on a second XT-1 rather than the XT-10 (think $100 price difference). Sure, it was tempting but I took the XT-10 instead. Why? As I said before, it's almost the same size as the X100 series (it's actually shorter) and when paired with the XF27 is only slightly deeper in size, which makes it 'pocketable' for me. I also liked some of the new features not present on the XT-1, most notably the full-auto switch that can be useful when handing over your camera to someone who doesn't know what to do, or when teaching a friend casually about composition or something similar. The buttons and dials also feel a bit firmer too, and the d-pad buttons are far more pronounced making it just a little better than the XT-1. Reality is, I simply didn't want a copy of another camera body that's going to sit in storage frequently. I wanted a different option when weather sealing wasn't required and when I wanted the tidiest and most discrete camera option.
The XT-10 performs just as well as the XT-1 on most fronts. Obviously it can't handle burst shooting anywhere near as good but I have found it to be adequate in JPEG only mode when shooting kids playing sports. I'll be honest in saying that I do miss the metering switch that sits atop the XT-1, since I do like to switch between 'average' and 'spot' metering a fair bit. Other than these points they're very similar cameras with enough subtle differences to warrant their individual existence and purpose.
Ireland is a truly magical country. Whether it's the rolling green hills and mountains, decaying ancient ruins along roadsides, or incredible calorie filled Irish breakfasts, it is always a welcoming and inspiring place. My wife and I can't thank the couple who made it all happen enough (wedding blog to come soon) and the wonderful people who took care of us, fed us, gave us beds to sleep in, and most importantly, took me to the pub. A truly hospitable and generous bunch! I can only hope it doesn't take us another life-time to get back there and explore it even further.