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.
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
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.
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.
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.