Friday, October 30, 2015

VINTAGE DREAM FACTORY - Fly a P-51D Mustang and be a Hero for a day

Last weekend, I attended an aviation event at the Kortrijk-Wevelgem airport in Western Belgium, organised by the Vintage Dream Factory; a non-profit organisation based at Antwerp, (Belgium), which is dedicated to the preservation of "Scat VII"; a P-51D (converted to TF-51D) Mustang that was flown by triple ace Maj. Robin Olds at the end of World War II. 

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

The main objective of the event was for the Vintage Dream Factory to present Scat VII and the organisation to a wider public and to offer some flights to a few very happy people, while being based at the Kortrijk-Wevelgem airport.

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

While the P-51 is one of the most recognised fighter aircraft of World War II, it is also often referred to as the aircraft that made the Allies win the War. Just this week, the Mustang celebrated 75 years since its first flight!

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

For most pilots and other aviation geeks, the Mustang sits in the top 3 (if not at the top!), of the most desirable aircraft to be flown. Sadly of the more than 15.000 Mustangs that were built, only about 175 remain airworthy. Of these, some have a small seat installed behind the pilot, but very few have full dual controls with full cockpit instruments like Scat VII has. 

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem
Front seat above

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem
Rear seat above

The TF-51D is exactly that; a P-51D that has been converted, giving the aircraft full training capability for the other pilot. To my knowledge Scat VII is the only flying TF-51D in Europe; making it the best option if one wants to "fly" a Mustang without travelling to the US! 

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

One can book a 30 min flight (min. 20 flying time) in the rear pilot seat of the Mustang for 2200,-EUR with Vintage Dream Factory. Prices might appear very steep, but are pretty much in line with the other TF-51 operators around the world. 

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

As an aircraft owner myself, I can assure that operating a Mustang is definitively not cheap! As an example, only the yearly insurance premium is more expensive than buying a new family car. 

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

Pilots taking a flight can log their flight-time, as all of Vintage Dream Factory pilots hold flight instructor ratings. While an in cockpit GoPro camera records the whole flight, so one take those fantastic memories home!

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

After the amazing warbird was put to bed, it was time to reflect back on the event over a few Belgian beers... When is my birthday again?

Vintage Dream Factory - P-51/TF-51D Mustang at Kortrijk-Wevelgem

To organise your ultimate dream flight with the Vintage Dream Factory, click here. They also have a great Facebook page where one can follow the latest news this great WWII warbird survivor.

The complete gallery of the images shot during this great event can be found here. All of them were shot with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the XF 18-135 lens.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 44: UNDER THE BRIDGE - BURJ AL ARAB - DUBAI

Image editing can be time consuming; especially when one starts blending  in several images for the best image quality. It is not rare for some images to sit for quite a while before being looked at.

Mid June I shot a series of images of the famous Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai around sunset from the Jumeriah Beach Hotel shoreline. Even though I edited one image of the shoot, which became very popular (Bridge to luxury), the remainder stayed pretty much dormant in my lightroom catalog.

A few days ago, I did edit a few more shots, taken slightly later when the beautiful purple sky had disappeared. The image below from the other side of the bridge is probably my new favourite from the shoot!

It consists of several shots, one taken at a long exposure to get a nice silky look of the water. Unlike the "Bridge to luxury" image which took considerable editing time, this one was very straightforward edit in Lightroom and took less than 10 mins.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 10-24 lens mounted on a MeFoto tripod with a Really Right Stuff ball-head
  • 3 shot bracket between 1.6s and 18s shutterspeed at ISO 200, f11
  • Photomerge to HDR in Lightroom CC (6.1)
  • Nik ColorEfex with pro-contrast and skylight filters

For a more extensive explanation about the famous "7 star" Burj al Arab hotel please refer to an earlier post here

I believe this image deserves a place in my limited ARCHITECTURAL PORTFOLIO. What do you think?

For those of you interested in purchasing this image, it is also available in a portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) format.

Remember; "Less is more" - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM XF35mm f2 R WR Fujinon lens

Today is another great day for Fujifilm X-shooters; a double launch of both the XF1.4x TC WR Teleconverter and the XF 35mm f2 R WR Fujinon lens! 

End of September, the fine folks of Fujifilm Middle-East, borrowed me a pre-production copy of this brand-new fast standard prime lens to review. As always, since it is not a final product, the quality may vary ever so slightly; if anything this will likely be for the better! The lens I tested had a 1.00 Lens firmware and I shot it on a X-T10 & X-T1 camera body with the latest firmware.

OLD and NEW 35mm
When Fujifilm launched their first interchangeable X-series camera (X-Pro1) over 4 years ago, the XF 35mm f1.4 lens was by far the most talked about and desirable lens. 

It was (and is!) very sharp in the center and middle section of the frame, with some softness towards the extreme corners at wide apertures. As over the years, newer Fujifilm XF lenses were launched, there was some critique about the lower autofocus speed in low light and the somewhat noisy autofocus motor of the 35mm f1.4.

When Fujifilm showed a "new 35mm" lens on their new lens roadmap a while ago, a lot of people automatically thought it would be a replacement for the "old" 35mm f1.4. Well that seems to be not the case, as for the time being the old 35mm lens will remain in production.

The new 35mm f2 lens is made in Japan and feels very solid; typical of the newer XF lenses released over the last 2 years. The aperture ring is not too loose and the focus ring at the top of the lens is nice and smooth. I personally would have liked it just a little bit wider, but then again us photo-gear reviewers are never 100% happy!

The lens is Weather Resistant (WR) which is perfect for day to day, out in the elements shooting on a WR rated body such as the X-T1 and hopefully the soon to be announced X-Pro2!

I really like the compact size of the lens; although almost as tall, it feels a lot smaller than the old 35mm. This is likely because of the somewhat conical shape (wider at the bottom than top) which will work better with Optical Viewfinder (OVF) cameras like the X-Pro1 (and  X-Pro2?) as the lens will be blocking less of the viewfinder compared to a standard size lens! Its shape reminds me of the Leica 50mm f2 Simmicron lens, but at a fraction of the cost!

Weighing in at 170gr (without the lenscaps and lenshood) this compares with 187gr for the old 35mm f1.4. Needless to say it will balance perfectly on all of the X-series bodies with and without any grips; I personally tried it on the X-T1, X-T10 and X-E1, and it feels perfect.

The lens comes with a small lenshood (only 10mm tall), which screws on the 43mm filter thread. Fujifilm will also sell stylish slightly larger metal lens hood (LH-XF35-2) which will fit on the standard bayonet lens mount. Unfortunately  I was not able to test this new accessory which has a expected 59,-USD price-point. Both lens-hoods will allow the front lens-cap to be installed while attached.

I shot the 35mm a fair bit in bright sunlight and have seen no flaring with the provided smaller lens-hood. The image below was shot at f16.

Unlike the old 35mm f1.4, the new 35mm autofocus is fast and precise with no focus hunting, even in low light and it is very silent. As the focus is internal, the lens barrel does not rotate like on the f1.4 lens version. Clearly the autofocus technology has improved a lot over the last 4 years!

One of the strongest points everybody is raving about with the 35mm f1.4 is the sharpness across the frame (except for the extreme corners). Although I did not do specific lens comparisons, the center and middle sharpness on the new lens is very good. Image immediately below here is shot at f2.0.

Just like its predecessor, sharpness at the extreme four corners (not the borders) of the image, becomes noticeable softer at wide open apertures (left image above). The effect might be slightly stronger than on the original 35mm but I wasn't able to compare it as I presently don't own a 35mm. Both visible in RAW and in-camera jpegs files, around f5.6 the softness in the corners is largely gone.

Please take into consideration that the image above is a 100% zoom of the left hand corner (in camera jpeg); and that most people won't even notice it on a standard view. If you are however a pixel-peeper (I'm not!), click on the image above for an even more detailed view.

I did not see easy visible vignetting, with and without the lens hood. 

At f2.0 the bokeh (out of focus areas) is obviously a bit less pronounced than  with wider aperture lenses like the 35mm f1.4, but the quality of the bokeh is nice and soft. 

The minimum focus distance for the lens is 35cm, which is 7cm longer than the 35mm f1.4 lens. Still good enough for close-up photography. Image below is shot at f2.0.

At minimum focus distance, the little bit of pincushion distortion is as expected for a 35mm lens that close to the subject. If it bothers you, it can easily be corrected in Lightroom with the Lens Correction sliders. 

At a standard shooting distance, the distortion is hardly noticeable as can be seen in the shot of this brick wall below.

The new 35mm f2 will sell for 399,-USD (likely around 399,-EUR in Europe) which is very affordable for such a fun little lens! I personally thought the lens would sell minimum in the 500-600,-USD range.

If all goes as planned, it should be available in your local camerastore towards the end of November

A 35mm lens on a X-series body gives it a 53mm full frame equivalent focal range. Some photographers might still remember the days when all film cameras were sold with a bright 50mm lens. To me it still makes perfect sense for a new photographer to learn with a standard lens like a 35mm (close to 50mm full frame equivalent)! After all, this is pretty much what we see through our human eyes. As this lens is very affordable, it makes it a perfect  beginners lens!

Even though the new 35mm lens is not a replacement for the older 35mm f1.4, I do realise that quite a few people will still make the switch. Its clear advantages over its predecessor are the faster and quieter autofocus and a smaller form factor. The fact that the lens is Weather Resistant (WR) will surely pull some more people over! 

Beside an excellent "beginner photographer's" lens, I see the 35mm f2 as an excellent documentary photographer's lens; it is fast enough (f2), compact (non-intrusive) and can take-on all the environmental challenges (WR). Some Street Photographers might also like the 35mm field of view on a cropped body although I personally prefer a slightly wider focal length (23-28mm) for shooting the streets. 

Because the lens is close to what the human eye sees, it makes it perfect to shoot panoramas. As an example, the image below is a handheld vertical panorama, consisting of 4 images shot at 1/20s at f2 and ISO 3200.

Well, I don't even have to think twice; YES! Especially since I presently no longer own a "classic 35mm" and at less than 400,-USD it is a no brainer! I was pretty much immediately sold when I first held this beautifully made lens in my hands and I didn't even know its price then... Call it Love at first sight!

I can already see myself going out for a full day of street photography using an X-T10, the tiny 27mm pancake lens and the new 35mm. No need for a camera bag, just put the second lens in your pocket!


ISO 250, f2.0, 1/400s

ISO 1000, f2.8, 1/125s

ISO 500, f8, 1/125s

ISO 3200, f4, 1/240s

ISO 1000, f4, 1/250s

ISO 1000, f11, 1/250s

ISO 200, f5, 4s

ISO 200, f2.0, 1/1000s

ISO 200, f2.0, 1/800s

My review of the brand-new XF 1.4x TC (Teleconverter), can be found here.

Feel free to share this blogpost on your blog, forum or social media platform. No prior permission is required. Thanks!


Beside the new 35mm f2 lens, FUJIFILM also announced the XF1.4X TC WR today; a 1.4 times Teleconverter that works with the XF50-140 f2.8, the yet to be released XF120mm f2.8 Macro and the XF100-400mm lenses. It should become available towards the end of November and will retail for around 449,-USD.

Before we start diving into the world of Teleconverters, somehow there often seems to be confusion between Extension Tubes and Teleconverters... Both fit between the camera body and the lens. The first one (Extension Tube) is a small tube that allows for a closer focus distance; kind of having a Macro lens on a budget. Fujifilm is making two Extension Tubes; the MCEX-11 and MCEX-16. My review and more info on extension tubes can be found here

Unlike an extension tube which has no glass elements, a Teleconverter, sometimes called "Tele Extender", does have "lens" elements built in. It extends the "focal length" of a given lens by the factor the extender is made for. In the case of the new XF1.4X TC WR extender this factor is about 1.4. As an example the 50-140mm lens becomes a 70-196mm lens. 



PRICE/FLEXIBILITY: It is like having a new longer focal length lens, at an affordable price point. I used a pre-production copy of the XF 1.4x TC mounted on the XF50-140 Fujinon lens, which gave it a "new" focal range of 70mm to 196mm. As one can elect to shoot with or without the TC, if offers a lot of additional flexibility on the road.

WEIGHT/SIZE: at 130 gram this teleconverter is light; one can easily just throw it in the camera bag without thinking much about it. Beside the actual weight of the TC, one saves more weight as it basically replaces another lens.

FOCUS DISTANCE is not affected when using the XF1.4X TC; which is an added advantage when shooting close-up photography with longer focal length. Can't wait for the 120mm f2.8 Macro to be released somewhere next year!

OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION: on the 50-140 the OIS seems to be working just fine with the TC installed. Because the effective focal length increases, the importance of good OIS becomes even more important and the XF1.4x TC does not disappoint!

My Nikon 1.4x TC used to give a significant reduction in auto-focus speed. Even though there is a slight reduction while using the 50-140 + TC combination, it is hardly noticeable. The new autofocus tracking released with firmware 4 seems to be working just fine with the TC installed; if anything it might be a tad slower, which again is quite normal when using a TC. 

In line with the Fujinon lenses, the TC is also of an excellent quality; while light and compact it has a nice professional finish and is made in Japan. The teleconverter glass consists of 7 elements in 3 groups.

It is Weather Resistant (WR) rated and therefore will make for a perfect fit on the X-T1 with the XF50-140 WR lens. 

It comes with its own dedicated cap, which is deeper than the usual camera body cap. Possibly giving it a slightly different color like Nikon does with theirs, would be beneficial to find it easier in a camera-bag. Minor detail only however!


IMAGE QUALITY: As everything in life, there is always a compromise. Because there is a glass element involved, it is a given that image quality will be slightly affected. 

POST-PUBLICATION (29 NOV 2015): it is now clear that my pre-production copy (August 2015) of the 1.4X TC, had a more degraded sharpness than the final production copy. Fujifilm has offered to send me a production copy the extender to test again together with the recently released Firmware updates for both bodies and the 50-140 lens. I have a feeling that especially the firmware copy makes a big difference in the image quality (both in jpg and RAW). The text and images below, have now been replaced with updates of the new combination; firmware XT-1 4.10,  500-140 lens 1.10.

The first comparison above is between the 50-140 with and without the TC; at about 90mm, shot at f5.6. It is a 100% zoom on center of the frame. The image on the right, without the TC, is definitively sharper. Once again not unexpected as "all teleconverters" loose some sharpness in the process; this is just basic optics. However the results are better than what I was used to see with the 1.4 Nikon TC in my Nikon days.

Second test is between the 50-140 with the TC and the 55-200 (no TC); both at the maximum focal range (196mm and 200mm). At f8 and zoomed in at 100% on the left side of the frame; the one with the TC (on the left) is sharper than the 55-200 shot. The difference is noticeable while comparing both shots next to each other. This is great news for those that presently have a 50-140 lens and that want to replace their 55-200 with the TC.

The last one is another comparison shot between the 50-140 with TC and the 55-200 but this time at their widest possible aperture, fully zoomed in and viewed at 100%. The 55-200 on the right, is loosing again.

Note: All comparison images above have been shot on a sturdy tripod and are in-camera jpegs without additional image editing. 

MAXIMUM APERTURE: Typical for "all teleconverters" there is a reduction of light that reaches the sensor and this causes a loss of one stop of light for a 1.4x converter. Practically speaking, this means your 50-140 f2.8 lens becomes f4 at the widest aperture; still plenty as long as you are not shooting in the dark! The smallest aperture (f22 on the 50-140), also becomes one stop smaller; f22 becomes f32 which come in handy for long exposure photography.

With the lens set wide open at f2.8, both the camera viewfinder and the Metadata, reflect the actual f4 f-stop. With the latest 50-140 firmware update, the meta data does now list that the TC is installed; it shows XF50-140 + 1.4X TC.

The main testing ground for the 50-140 and TC combination, was an airshow in Northern France; the "Cambrai-Niergnies airshow". A few images can be found below.

Yakovlev Yak-3UA
ISO 200, 162mm, f6.4, 1/400s

Airbus A400
ISO 200, 196mm, f16, 1/150s

Avenger in the rain
ISO 200, 155mm, f6.4, 1/200s

Twister in the sun
ISO 200, 196mm, f6.4, 1/12000s (electronic shutter)

ISO 3200, 70mm, f8, 1/140s
ISO 400, 196mm, f4, 1/950s
Dubai Airshow 2015
ISO 200, 161mm, f5.6, 1/2900s

Dubai Airshow 2015
ISO 200, 70mm, f4.5, 1/2500s
ISO 400, 196mm, f4, 1/1250s


POST-PUBLICATION (29 NOV 2015): Initially (AUG 2015) I tested an early pre-production copy of the TC with the 1.0 firmware which turned out to be not as good as the production firmware and TC. Today with a production copy and the 1.10 lens firmware, the image quality of the 50-140 with the TC, clearly exceeds that of the 55-200 lens! 

I therefore will be investing in a XF1.4X TC W R which might replace my 55-200 lens. The only advantage of keeping the 55-200 is the smaller form factor and weight compared to the 50-140 + TC.

I can't wait to see the results of the TC mounted on the yet to be released 100-400mm lens; making it effectively a 140-560mm lens! Some serious telephoto range for you wildlife and sport photographers! 

A second part of the 1.4X TC review with some more images, can be found here.

While my review of the XF 35mm f2 lens that was also released today, click here.

Feel free to share this blogpost on your blog, forum or social media platform. No prior permission is required. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 43: Cloud chasing in the UAE

As the summer is finally slowly withdrawing in the UAE, we had a few days where some clouds started to form over the mountains and desert. Yesterday, some of them even had some rain in it... Yes, we totally get excited if it rains here!

Late in the afternoon, I grabbed some of my camera gear and drove about 30 mins to the East, chasing some of the storms that had formed around midday and that were now slowly dissipating as the day was coming to an end.

About 10 mins after sunset, I saw the sky turn purple for a few minutes; a perfect opportunity to frame a landscape shot on a road leading up to the Fossil Rock mountains. 

As the road is known for lots of speeding cars, I found it too risky to set up a tripod and elected to shoot 3 frames handheld instead. 

Storm chasing in the UAE

Image details:
Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 16mm f1.4 lens
3 shots at f5, 1/125sec, varying ISO between 640 and 2500
3 shots merged to 32 bit file with HDR Pro in Photoshop CC
Nik ColorEfex Pro for pro-contrast
Nik Dfine for noise reduction

While I normally vary my shutter speed during exposure bracketing, I let the Auto ISO take care of the brackets with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 set up. This because the light was pretty low already and because I was not shooting on a tripod.

I do like how the parked car balances the image on the left and I was of course drawn into making this shot because of the leading lines of the road.

More images in my "NATURE of the UAE" series can be found here

Remember: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations" 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pic(k) of the week 42: Sunrise over the Pacific with the Fujifilm XF 18-135 lens

When I reviewed the new Fujifilm XF 18-135 lens last Summer, I wrote in my overall conclusion that I would probably not immediately buy the lens, but that I thought it would be great for Aerial and Air to Air photography... 

Well after having shot again with one on loan during my "Castles of the river Loire" aerial photography trip last August, I was sold!

A few weeks ago, I picked up a second hand one and have really enjoyed using it! 

The image below was shot at sunrise on my way to Australia over the South Indian Ocean at 35000 feet.

Image details:
Fujfilm X-T1 with the XF 18-135 f3.5-5.6 R LM WR Fujinon lens
ISO 400, 18mm (27 full frame equivalent), f3.5, 1/1400s
Lightroom CC for RAW development
Nik ColorEfex with Pro contrast and Neutral density filter

More images shot with the 18-135 lens can be found here;

Remember: "There is a bright spot, in every dark cloud" - Bruce Beresford