56mm f1.2 FujiFilm Lens Review

I'll start this review by stating that I don't know much about technical specifications.  You can read all that on the Fuji website.  What I do know is how to manipulate this lens to make, what I hope you think, are beautiful images.  I have been in the photography industry for close to 15 years and have been making images since the mid 70's.  After shooting film for many years I made the switch to digital in 2005.  Late last year I switched from all Nikon gear to Fuji and am so glad I made that change.

When I purchased my Fuji XT-1 there was a used 56mm f1.2 (Non APD) available.  The full price for this lens is $999 US but available, at the time of this post, for $799 from B&H.  I love portraiture and the price was right so I went for it.  I haven't regretted that decision, not for a minute.  I use this, almost exclusively, for portraits.  Over the years I have experimented with portraiture but never was very serious about it.  I'd taken the typical, standard, family images, but never felt excited by this type of photography.  That has changed.  Earlier this year I started working with two different models, Devi and Marie Jean.  What's nice is that I get to direct the process.  I choose the clothing, poses, surroundings and the lighting.  The only person I have to blame for poor images is myself.   The pressure is off when you don't have to please a client, catering to their needs and style constraints.  Don't get me wrong, I like to get paid for my work but it is nice to freely shoot whatever your heart desires.  

Marie Jean of modelmayhem.com

This lens is very basic compared to other Fuji lenses.  No WR (Weather Resistance) and no OIS (Optical Image Stabilization).  There is an aperture ring and a focus ring.  No window showing focul distance and no switches for other features.  56mm on a crop sensor is the same as an 84mm in full frame equivalent.  Fuji also sells a 50mm to 140mm zoom at f2.8 but I prefer the 1.2 aperture on the 56.  Playing with light is the goal of a photographer and the more f stops you have the more you get to play.    

Marie Jean of modelmayhem.com

In the studio, paired with a speedlight in a softbox, I was able to obtain clean, clear images with nice color.  I am used to using manual focus and having the focus peaking feature is a major perk of the Fuji system.  For the image below this came in very handy, having to focus past the sheer fabric.

Marie Jean  of modelmayhem.com

Marie Jean of modelmayhem.com

On a recent boudoir shoot this lens performed perfectly.  There was limited light but I felt the use of a flash would change the feel of the images.  I love working with natural light and the fast aperture allowed just that.

The room I was working in was small but I still had the room I needed to obtain the images I was looking for.  I do have to admit that the images from this lens are a little soft, but not so much so to be distracting.  I believe it adds to the images overall look and feel and is what makes this lens so special.  It also means that I don't have to spend a ton of time editing out imperfections.  

All of these images were edited in Lightroom with slight saturation, exposure, sharpness and contrast adjustments.  There was also some spot removal here and there.  These were also edited from the RAF or raw files.  

I usually hate images of myself.  I was actually able to capture this image, holding my iPad in my hand to activate the shutter and I actually like it.  

What I know for sure is that I have just begun to discover what this lens is capable of.  Portraiture has become a new favorite genre for me and I believe it is because of this amazing lens.  I have been pushing the limits of my photography and am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve in the near future.  

Chasing the Sun

On the first day of summer I decided, late in the day, that I would attempt to chase the sun in order to get some sunset images.  Not wanting to leave my Wife fending for herself with two boys 4 and 6, I decided to stay and help with the evening tasks.  Sunset being at 8:39pm I had a tight window of opportunity.  The location I chose was Bodega Head on the Sonoma Coast here in California.  Located approximately 45 minutes from my house, it would be a challenge.  I left the house at 7:10 and arrived at the coast a little after 8pm.  A short hike and I found my spot.  The light was wonderful.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

I always take some time to look around for spontaneous images.  The light on the coastline was fantastic.  

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

I had to wait for the light to be just right for the sunset images.  When the sun finally set the show began.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

After that I just went with it and just kept hitting the shutter release.  The images jumped out at me one by one.  The light getting better and better as time went on.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

Sonoma, California Coast.  Bodega Head on 6-20-16, first day of summer.

As i've said in the past, I love spur of the moment photo adventures.  I don't like to over plan a shoot like this.  I had brought my tripod but when I arrived the wind was howling at 30 mph.  I wasn't going to be able to switch lenses so I took the only zoom I had, the 18-55.  Curious what the 16-55 2.8 would have been able to do but that's $1000 away, maybe next year.  I'm incredibly happy with the images I made and i'm looking forward to the next adventure.

Model Mayhem Has Been Good To Me!

I broke down and paid for a model and I couldn't be happier with the results.  Don't get me wrong, i've been lucky to have worked with some amazing models over the last couple of years.  There is something about the change in dynamic when it's a paid shoot.

 I worried less about how much time I was taking and took the opportunity to work different angles and lighting positions.  I'm fairly new to off camera flash and wanted to spend some time playing with the light that a one light setup provided.  I was shooting with a Fuji XT1, a 56mm 1.2 lens and a Yungnuo 560 Mark III Speelight and the Yungnuo 560TX radio transmitter mounted atop the camera.  The flash was used in conjunction with a small, square, softbox.  

I worked with an amazing model from modelmayhem.com Marie Jean .  She arrived on time and ready to work and I believe we achieved some beautiful results.  

I'm a fly by the seat of your pants kind of photographer.  I try not to have too much of a preconcieved notion of what i'm going to achieve.  I have a general ideal but I am flexible with where that takes me.  I wait to see how the model works with me and the situation and try to capture what happens without too much direction.  

Most of my photography has centered around landscapes, still life and the occasional portrait.  Lately I have been excited by what I have been able to accomplish with portraits using both natural and off camera flash.  Light can be tough to master.  It's always changing and can either help or hurt you depending on how you use it.  The goal is to remember what worked and add that to your tool kit.  

For this shoot I had an idea that I had never tried and had no idea how it would turn out.  I've traveled some in Italy and Greece and have always been taken with how widows show their respects to their partners when they are gone.  In Greece there is a tradition that a widow dresses in black for the rest of their life.  I wanted to add some beauty to this idea in the form of the subject and some flowers.  The idea was great, but carrying it out took patience for me and the model.  Marie was fantastic and worked with me until I got the results I wanted.

The hardest part of the above image was getting the focus right.  I am still learning the capabilities of my Fuji XT1.  The light was very low in the studio and it was impossible to see well enough to use manual focus.  I set the focus to area mode and was able to capture this shot.  I couldn't be happier with this image.  I actually used the out of camera jpegs and worked them a little in LIghtroom.  

It was a pleasure working with Marie and I hope we get to collaborate again in the near future.  Here are a couple more images from this shoot.

Copyright Wineberg Images 2016