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.
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.
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.
Spontaneity is incredibly underrated. And sometimes, simply saying 'yes' to an opportunity is the best way to go.
I'm sure many of us feel our work-life creep into our weekend-life, which invariably leaves us feeling unrested and often stifled by a job that we otherwise enjoy. The idea of driving 6 hours on your 2 days off a week is often too great of a sacrifice, and one that we don't see the true value in doing until we finally do it. That was my weekend. A short Saturday getaway with a good mate to Victoria, Australia's south west to the Great Ocean Road and down to the awe inspiring Twelve Apostles.
Our trip saw us travel to some pristine temperate rainforests in Otway, where the endangered black snail can be found, amongst rich, moist forest floors. This experience provided ideal circumstances for me to use my favourite FujiFilm gear to get up close and really craft an image that I wanted, first time, using the ever useful EVF of the XT-1. As we walked among the native blackwood and ash trees, some 25 floors up, I got to capture native flora that I never knew existed. In one small reserve the biodiversity was truly something to behold and had me appreciating, yet again, the beauty that exists in my own backyard.
As the sun began to set low in the afternoon sky, we made a last hour drive to the legendary Twelve Apostles and were fortunate enough to arrive just in time for sunset, with thankfully low numbers of other tourists to be found or hinder the experience. The sea salts rolled in through the air and I took that breath that many of us forget to take in this working life of ever-digital-connectedness. That investment of an afternoon and an evening was worth more than 2 weeks away in a tropical paradise, and it won't be the last.