Thursday, April 16, 2015

FIRST LOOK AT FUJIFILM XF 16mm f 1.4 R WR FUJINON LENS

Today, Fujifilm announced the brand-new XF 16mm f1.4 R WR prime lens! As this has been a lens I've been eagerly waiting for, I didn't have to think twice when Fujifilm Middle East offered me a copy to test shoot a few weeks ago. 

Needless to say, it was a pre-production copy of the lens which might not be 100% the same as the final product released today. The lens firmware showed a version 1.0. which will likely be the same on the initial release.

QUALITY-SIZE-WEIGHT
The overall feel and built quality of the lens is very much in line with the other "latest" generation Fujinon primes (23mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2). The beautifully made metal lens is a prime example of fine Japanese machinery! If ever one can fall in love with a lens, this one must come close...

With a lens configuration of 13 elements in 11 groups, it has a lot of high quality glass for a prime lens; leading to a near perfect image quality!
Another thing I'm very happy for, is the fact that the 16mm is Weather Resistant (WR); being the first Fujifilm WR prime lens, I got to the test the weather seals during a heavy sandstorm in Dubai (see Pic(k) of the week 15) early April. 


Its length is almost identical to the 18-55 "kit-lens", but it does have a larger filter size of 67mm; something it only shares with the 18-135 lens. The varying filter-sizes amongst all XF Fujifilm lenses, is something I've criticised Fujifilm in the past for. We now have the following: 39mm, 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm. Seven different sizes for 13 lenses! I realise that optics don't allow to use the same for all, but limiting it to about 4 should have been an option I guess... Yet another adapter ring to buy and carry around!

It has the same "pull for manual focus" ring as the 14mm, 23mm, and 56mm, which I really like. Resistance in the focus and aperture ring are perfect. 

At 375g the weight of the lens is very reasonable and comes in somewhere between the 23mm f1.4 prime (300g) and the 56mm f1.2 (405g). It feels perfectly balanced on an X-T1 with or without grip. In comparison the 24mm 1.4 Nikon lens, weighs 620g; +65%. 

LENS HOOD
Unlike the lens hood of the 23mm 1.4 which is way too large for the lens, this one has a very well balanced size. 
It is exactly the same height as the 10-24 lens-hood and obviously slightly smaller in diameter due to its smaller filter size (67mm iso 72mm).

FOCUS and BOKEH
The autofocus speed is excellent; without doing any scientific tests, it feels amongst the snappiest of all XF Fujinon lenses and is quiet. Gone are the days of the "slow" focus on mirrorless cameras; you DSLR users please take note!


One of the great advantages of this lens, is the very short minimal focus distance of only 15cm (less than 6 inches). To be clear this is 15cm from the sensor and becomes less than 4cm from the front element of the lens, or even less than 2cm (1 inch) with the lens hood installed. Great for creative wide-angle close-up photography.

Given the large 1.4 maximum aperture of the lens, one can easily throw the background out of focus; especially when focussing at the minimum focus distance as in the image above. A quick calculation with Simple DoF on my iPhone, shows a depth of field of only 2.3cm at f1.4 and a 15cm focus distance. 

A comment I sometimes here from full frame DSLR shooters, is that it is virtually impossible to throw the background out of focus; well look below and you won't make that remark again!


I personally like the quality of the blur produced by the out of focus parts, also referred to as the Bokeh; it is nicely spread and creamy, especially for a wide angle lens!

DISTORTION
First I should admit that I'm not the expert when it comes to doing lens distortion tests... I do know that when building a great wide-angle lens, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the distortion under control. I'm not talking about the horizontal and vertical geometrical distortion which is "normal" for a wide-angle, but rather two forms of distortion caused by the quality of the lens; barrel and pincushion distortion

The 16mm is digitally corrected for optical distortion during the RAW file import into the converter. This function is however not available in all RAW converters which presently support the X-Trans files. Some of the more popular ones that do are, Adobe ACR, Adobe Lightroom, Silkypix and Capture One. However converters like AccuRAW and Photo Ninja presently do not import that information. 




In the image above I shot a test chart at f4, which shows virtually no distortion. Image was shot in RAW and imported into Lightroom 5.7.  

SHARPNESS
Completely in line with the expectations, the sweet spot for its maximum sharpness seems to be around f2.8-f4 but even wide open the lens is very sharp and this all the way across the frame.

Below is a screen shot of a 100% zoom of two comparison shots;both shot at f4, the 16mm is on the left while the 10-24 is on the right. As expected for a prime, the 16mm lens shot is the sharpest, especially around the edges; not by much but noticeable. After all we are comparing a prime with a great zoom lens. Click on the image below for a better view.


Even when shooting high contrast scenes, I did not see any cases of noticeable Chromatic Aberration (CA), nor did I see any lens vignetting when shooting wide open with and without the lens-hood.

WHO IS THIS LENS FOR?
Just like the other prime lenses, the 16mm is clearly aimed at the pro and serious amateur market. It's 24mm full frame equivalent (16x1.5 cropped factor) makes it perfect for Architectural and Landscape photography; especially when working out in the elements; rain, snow, sand. 

Even though a 24mm equivalent lens is not what most people tend to use for classic Street Photography, it comes in handy when shooting in confined spaces and especially when the photographer is not shy to move in close to the subject. Using the 100% quiet electronic shutter of the X-T1, make this even easier!

It looks like the lens will retail on most places for just under 1000, USD, which seems very fair for a high quality prime which can easily stand next to the best wide-angle lenses irrespective of the brand. It should be available in May 2015.

I really have to try hard to find a negative for this lens; the once again different lens filter diameter (see Quality-Size-Weight above) is really the only one I can find.

Personally, I immediately did put my name down on the pre-order list.   Especially for situations where I do need the wider apertures such as astro photography and low light photography, the lens is a must have for every serious Fujifilm X-series shooter! It will not replace my 10-24 f4 lens, but it will compliment it for certain situations.

SAMPLE IMAGES
Below are some real life images I shot over the last couple of weeks with the 16mm lens on an X-T1 body. Some of them have been edited from a RAW file in Lightroom 5.7, while the jpeg files are straight out of the camera. They are arranged by decreasing aperture number.


 jpeg STD, ISO200, f1.4, 1/480s


jpeg STD, ISO200, f1.4, 1/850s


jpeg STD, ISO200, f1.4, 1/60s


Windtowers at Madinat, Dubai
RAW, ISO 200, f2.8, 1/1900s

Bin Zayed Mosque
RAW, ISO 3200, f3.2, 1/250s

Fishmarket (Deira Palm) Metro station, Dubai
RAW, ISO 200, f4, 1/1900s

Peacock close to Emirates Towers, Dubai
RAW, ISO 1250, f4.5, 1/400s

jpeg B&W Yellow filter, ISO500, f6.4, 1/400s

RAW,  ISO 3200, f6.4, 1/210s

 RAW,  ISO 3200, f6.4, 1/400s

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
RAW, ISO200, f6.4, 1/400s

jpeg B&W Yellow filter, ISO200, f8, 1/200s

Madinat, Dubai
RAW, ISO 250, f8, 1/400s

The non-branded desert bottle
RAW, ISO 800, f9, 1/400s

Emirates tOwers from DIFC
RAW, ISO 500, f10, 1/400s


Jumeriah Beach at night
RAW, ISO200, f11, 14sec

To see a few more images shot with the 16mm lens, please come back to this blog as I will be posting two more images shot with the lens, as part of my Pic(k) of the week series over the next two weeks.

Till then, happy X-shooting

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 16: I am from Dera Ismail Khan

While I was over to photograph at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi end of last month, I noticed a few men sitting near the front entrance. As one of them, was wearing an interesting hat and had a great facial expression, I couldn't resist to ask whether I could make a few images of them. 

As I started talking to them, I asked where they were from and was confident they would tell me, "Afghanistan"... but I was wrong. Very proudly one of them told me in broken English, "I am from Dera Ismail Khan". Suspecting it was in Pakistan, I didn't exactly know where it was. Out came my iPhone and I requested them to point it out on Google Maps. Often abbreviated as D.I. Khan, this city on the West bank of the Indus river, lies about 200 miles (320km) west of Lahore.

The conversation turned out to be a great ice-breaker and gave me the opportunity to make a few compelling images. 

I'm from Dera Ismail Khan

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the 50-140 f2.8 lens
ISO 640, 84mm (126mm full frame equivalent), f5.6, 1/400s
RAW development in Lightroom 5.7 
Nik SilverEfex 2 for Black and White conversion

A diptych of this image together with a second one of one of the other men, can be found here.

Remember what Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: "The photograph is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart".

BJORN

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 15: Lonely tree in a Dubai sandstorm

Last Thursday morning, Dubai woke up just when a heavy sandstorm was about to hit. Unlike what most people think, a sandstorm consists of very small dust particles and not so much of real sand flying through the sky. Knowing this, the terms sand and dust storms are often intermixed.

Over the years, I've seen visibilities go down to about 300m in these dust-sandstorms, but this one was clearly more intense with minimum visibilities below 150m.  

Unlike the North-Westerly Shamals which are typical for the region and which originate in Jordan/Syria and Iraq, Thursdays' storm was the result of a large dust cloud over Saudi-Arabia. A moderate South-Westerly wind brought large amounts of dust to the region. At the peak of the storm the sky turned completely yellow, making for an out of this world atmosphere!

After breakfast, I grabbed the shot below of a lonely tree at the edge of the desert close to my home. The bright yellow color is 100% natural; if anything, I reduced the saturation somewhat to make it more believable! To me, the ladder leaning against the tree, finishes off the image.

Less than 24hrs later it was all over and we were back to the typical blue skies!

Lonely tree in a Dubai sandstorm

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF18-55 
ISO 400, 44mm (67mm full frame equivalent), f8, 1/160s
RAW development in Lightroom 5.7

More of my "Nature of the UAE" images, can be found here.

Remember, "Bad weather always looks worse through a window" - Tom Lehrer

BJORN








Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 14: Dubai creek crossing by Abra

To me it is incomprehensible that first time visitors to Dubai, return back home without having been to the area around Dubai Creek... It is the heart of old Dubai, where it all started in the 19th century when the Bani Yas tribe first settled here. Living of the pearl industry, the creek quickly became the trading centre with boats coming from as far as India and East Africa. Even though the pearl fishing has now come to an end, the place still has an old feel to it.

Historically the creek has always divided the city in two parts, Deira to the North and Bur Dubai to the South. There are a total of 4 bridges over and one tunnel under the creek, but by far the most authentic way of crossing the creek, is by Abra; a small wooden boat which takes about 20 passengers for 1 dirham (1/4 EUR or USD) per person.

The hustle and bustle of tens of Abra's crisscrossing the creek is something that can't be missed! Tourists typically come to the area for the Spice, Gold and textile souq. But there is much more; definitively don't miss the loading and unloading the many Dhows along the Deira side of the creek. These medium size wooden ships still take goods to and from Iran, India and Pakistan on a daily basis. 

The image below was shot during an Abra ride, on my way to the Dhow wharfage in Deira.

Dubai Creek crossing by Abra

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the 23mm f1.4 lens
ISO 320, 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent), f8, 1/400s
RAW file developed in Lightroom 5.7 using the Fujifilm Classic Chrome Camera Profile

Since Fujifilm has introduced the Classic Chrome film style, I've  become a great fan of it for my documentary photography work. As Zach Arias wrote in his X-100T post, it looks so William Eggleston like!

More similar images of mine can be found in a dedicated gallery called, "Life at the Creek". 

Remember, "The more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future". - Theodore Roosevelt

BJORN




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Geotag Photos Workflow - How do I Geotag my Fujifilm photos?

One of my little pet peeves, is the fact that most DSLR and mirrorless cameras still don't have a proper built in GPS chip for Geotagging. For those, not familiar, Geotagging, it is the process of adding geographical identification to the metadata of a photo or video. Simply said, GPS coordinates (lat/long) are added to the image so that software can later use it. 

A camera which does have excellent geotagging functionality, is the iPhone (and most other smartphones), as GPS coordinates are automatically added to each and every photo.

Over the last year or so, I've had quite a few people asking whether I do geotag my images shot with the Fujifilm X-series camera through the built in Wifi functionality or whether I use an external application...

First, what kind of "geotagging" do the newer Fujifilm X cameras provide? One can indeed connect a phone or tablet to the camera and then send a "geotag" update which includes the position. Problem is this is a one time position update which will not keep track of the photographer moving around. Briefly, great to take a single geotag snapshot position, but not really useable to geotag all of the images shot during a photoshoot where one continuously moves around.

As an alternative, there are a number of third parties apps available for smartphones which record a GPS track of wherever the photographer is at a certain time. As the GPS track contains exact time information and each image has a time stamp stored in the META data, image editing software like Lightroom can then synchronise both. 

A third party application I have used for several years now, is "Geotag photos". They have a free desktop version and a 3.99 USD iPhone/iPad and Android app.

The workflow might look a bit daunting initially, but once you've done it a few times, the process takes less than 2 mins! Let's have a look...

MY PERSONAL GEOTAG WORKFLOW

What's below is based on using an iPhone 5S running IOS8 and Lightroom 5.7 on a Mac running OS X. Functionality when using Android smartphones is similar but not necessary identical. Here we go...

Step 1Open the Geotag Photos Pro app and click on New trip. Give it a name as below and click REC when ready to start shooting.



My Accuracy settings in the settings tab are as follows:

Step 2Once done shooting, click STOP. After importing your images into Lightroom, go to the MAP tab. Click on the symbol, right of the lock at the bottom toolbar. For a better view on the screenshot below, please click on the image.

I personally setup my iPhone app to upload automatically into my Dropbox folder. After clicking "Load Tracklog", choose the GPX file with the name you allocated in step 1.

After the tracklog loads, you will see the track on the Lightroom map. If you don't have an active internet connection, the map won't load but geotagging of the images is still available.

Step 3Next, click on "Time zone off-set" in Lightroom. I personally always set my cameras to GMT time. As the GPS track is always based on Local time, I need to off-set the time zone; e.g. whenever I shoot in the UAE I need to select -4 hours.

Then select all the images you want to geotag from the lower Lightroom filmstrip. Once done click on Auto-tag .... Selected Photos

Once done you will see, yellow icons along the track with a number. These are the number of photos that were taken at this specific position

On all of the geotagged images, you will now see a new icon in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail; it looks a bit like a thumbtack and means the image now has the GPS coordinates written into the metadata. 

If one has "reverse geocoding" enabled in Lightroom, the Metadata boxes that contain location details like city, country, etc... will be automatically filled in. For this to work, one does need to be online. To activate the reverse geocoding function go to Lightroom > Catalog settings > Metadata.


The main advantage of geotagging your images is the fact that finding specific ones becomes much easier. Even if the image is not (or limited) key worded, I can do a quick search by using the Lightroom Map function or by searching for all images shot in a certain city/area. I also sometimes get the question of clients or fellow photographers where the image was shot exactly. 

Whenever, I don't want to share the geotag info, I just make sure that I tick the "Remove location info" box in the Lightroom export box. 


Hope this clears up some of the geotag questions you might have as a photographer! 

BJORN


DISCLAIMER: "I'm not affiliated with Geotag Photos and did not receive any form of compensation to promote their product".