Manual Gear with the 7Artisans 35mm F1.2 & the Fujifilm X-T3: A Very Casual Review of a Rather Joyful Combo
Stuck in a rut? Yeah, I've been feeling that way a bit until recently. As I've quietly wound down the work I was pursuing with weddings (still love 'em) and focused on other elements of my life and career, finding inspiration and a drive to challenge myself hasn't been easy.
I was hoping, though honestly doubtful, that picking up the new X-T3 at release was going to be a big a big kick in the backside to feel inspired and discover some newfound glory. As you would expect however, not much changed in my sense of inspiriation despite loving the new camera and its improved feature set.
Fast-forward a few months to 2019 and I stumbled across the rather awesome and inspiring artist Alik Griffin. I spent many evenings in January reading his various posts about camera gear along with his approach to photographing various subjects. A few of his reviews really stood out for me as a Fujifilm user – the Mitakon 35mm 0.95 and the 7Artistans 35mm 1.2.
With a weekend trip to Paris on the cards I knew that there was a golden opportunity to test out a dedicated manual lens with my X-T3. Unfortunately my budget on a U.K. income doesn't readily permit the flippant purchase of things like a £400 'might be alright' lens so I instead threw down a more modest £97 on the 7Artisans 35mm F1.2 lens.
At the time of writing this post I've only had the lens for 6 days so take everything you read and see here a good pinch of salt.
So is it any good? Did it help break the rut?
In one word — yes!
In several words — Heck yes it did and every Fuji user should grab one of these nifty little manual lenses that are loaded with flawed character.
For all the pictures included in this post I have shared JPEGs using my customised Acros and Chrome settings. They were imported into LR and reexported in a more manageable size with ~20+ clarity on most images. Nothing else other than a possible crop on some was added. Spot metering was used throughout the capturing process.
After tinkering with the lens a day before my travels I got the camera set up right and started to get the hang of shooting at F1.2 manually (what other F-stop would you use?). There's a lot to be said about being challenged by your gear in this age of advanced AF systems that, if I'm honest, can make creating a bit of a brainless affair. I sure to love the X-T3's focusing system that breathed new life into my beloved XF56 F1.2.
I've found the lens extremely easy to get used to and have adjusted to its reversed focusing and declicked aperture rings (they're opposite to Fujifilm's) which are solid and easy to keep in place whilst walking around cities and streets. I've generally been able to nail focus in a prompt manner, however, I have found that some images, which I thought were in focus, simply aren't and the whole image just seems 'off' with no discernable focus point. I'll be investigating this intermitent issue further.
As far as the character of the lens is concerned, much like an interesting humanbeing, its the flaws that give it character and make it far more unique than what a lot of the photography industry is driven towards these days — perfection.
Is it soft up close? Yeah. Does it have a sweet spot? Sure does. Is it an inspiring piece of kit to go out and shoot with? Definitely!
In a time where many of us will bend over backwards to justify spening exorbatant amounts of money on that piece of gear there's a lot to be said with this lens and its price of admission. If you've been on the fence about purchasing one, just go and do it. If you're tinkering with vintage glass and adapters, go give this a shot whilst you're at it. Its compact size and features make for a fantastic combo that I'd like to think would inspire you like it did me. The folks at 7Artisans really nailed it with this bit of gear and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
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!
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!
As the weather starts to warm up down here in Australia (Yes, we do experience temperatures other than stinking bloody hot) and the season to be wed kicks off, I have been out getting my eye trained up for some moodier portraits, and further venturing down that road of posing models to achieve the results I'd truly like to see. I also recently had the pleasure of attending an incredible 2-day workshop here in Melbourne with David Talley Photography, Rob Woodcox, and Kiara Rose Photography, all of whom are incredibly inspiring people and artists whose level of achievements and business savvy for their ages is somewhat confronting and mind-blowing. Truly awesome young creatives!
The love for Fujifilm gear continues on for me and I am so inspired by the XF90 135mm equivalent lens that I purchased a few months ago. It's a focal length that just works for me and the quality of the product itself demonstrates how much Fuji is still evolving, leaving me to wonder what 2016 will mean with the X-Pro2 and potentially, the XT-2. Of course, photography isn't all about gear, but having an inspirational piece of equipment or gear certainly helps!
As I look to the summer months ahead I am eagerly looking forward to a very special wedding that my wife and I will be shooting in Vietnam over Christmas, as well as some other lovely couples here in Melbourne, Australia. With the long days of shooting and travels comes preparation in the gym and good eating, which will hopefully serve me well in the more rural areas of Vietnam and some of long wedding days ahead.
To those of you who read and view my posts, and keep my website traffic at some pretty inspiring levels, I thank you for your support and hope that I can continue to keep you returning in the months and years to come.