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.  

Model Shoot With the Fuji Film 35mm f2 R WR

Since purchasing the FujiFilm 35mm f2 i've wanted to put it through its' paces during a model shoot.  The effective field of view being 53mm on a full frame camera, I thought this would be appropriate.  I know this isn't an ideal portrait lens and that there are many other lenses by FujiFilm that would be more appropriate.  In addition to this lens I also own the 56mm 1.2 and love it for portraiture, but for this shoot I was looking for a wider field of view.  

Here in Northern California we are blessed with some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that exist on this amazing planet.  I've always wanted to do an implied nude/nude photoshoot at one of the local beaches but the stars hadn't aligned until recently.  I have been working with an amazing local model that I found on modelmayhem.com .  Marie Jean is great to work with and I love the results we are able to obtain together.  After a short conversation she suggested the location and we set up the shoot.  My hope was to include the sunset but the weather gods weren't on our side.  The fog rolled in and wasn't going to lift.  We decided to go ahead with the shoot regardless.  I actually prefer to shoot in flat light or overcast skies.  You don't have to worry about harsh shadows or trying to balance the light on the model with the light of the sun.  

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

I'm a run and gun photographer.  When I shoot outdoors I don't like to lug around a ton of equipment.  I love natural light and believe that you don't always need a flash to make a great image.  Don't get me wrong, I love working with off camera flash and have done so often.  I usually reserve flash photography for my indoor work or when the light is just too harsh to balance with reflectors.  For this shoot I was lucky that all I needed was my Fuji XT1 and the 35mm f2 lens.  

The focus speed is fantastic with this lens.  There were a few times where I switched to manual focus and used the focus peaking feature.  For this shoot background blur or "bokeh" wasn't as important to me.  Most of the shots have distant backgrounds and this lens handled them beautifully.  

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

Lately i've been exploring shooting implied nudes.  I have set out to push the boundaries of my photographic abilities and experiences.  I believe that you will never improve your craft unless you get outside of your comfort zone.  I was lucky enough to be working with an amazing young lady that put me at ease and was generous with her experience, suggesting spots and poses throughout the shoot.  

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens

I've gotten to the point where I no longer have to worry about my equipment or settings.  I shot film for close to 25 years with a manual focus camera.  Settings come naturally to me.  The Fuji system is as close as I can get to using an old school film camera and is much like my old Nikon FE2.  The 35mm f2 lens is unbelievably compact and a joy to use.  The only draw back that I could possibly mention is that the provided lens hood is practically useless.  I can't imagine it makes much difference at all when attached.  There are aftermarket hoods available, but so far I haven't needed to use one.  This camera lens combination made this shoot effortless and fun.  I wouldn't hesitate to use it again in the future. 

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens.  Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Marie Jean, Northern California coast.  Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens.

There are additional images that include nudes and semi nudes.  I have placed them in a separate post which you can access HERE.  Marie Jean can be found on modelmayhem.com and on Instagram.  I look forward to working with her again in the near future.  

Model Shoot With the FujiFilm 35mm f2 R WR (NSFW Nude and Semi Nude Content)

This post is part two of my model shoot using the FujiFilm 35mm f2 R WR lens.  Please click HERE for part one!  Because of the nature of the images below I chose to separate them from the original post and give readers the option to view them.  I try to create content that is user friendly and sensitive to peoples choices to not view images of this type.  Please let me know if I am accomplishing that goal.  Your feedback is appreciated.  

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.  Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast. Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast. Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Fuji XT1, 35mm f2 R WR Lens, Northern California Coast. Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

Much credit to Marie Jean, she can be contacted for model assignments through modelmayhem.com or on Instagram.  

 

 

2016 Mid Year Review, All In With Fuji

So this is my first full year shooting exclusively with Fuji Gear.  That gear includes the Fuji X100T, XT1, 18-55 zoom, 56mm f1.2 and the 35mm f2.  I have always gravitated toward landscapes.  I love the outdoors and am lucky enough to live in California, a place that contains such varied landscapes within a short distance.  One of those places is Yosemite National Park, it has always been my favorite landscape location for obvious reasons.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  Clearing clouds, Yosemite Valley from the tunnel view rest stop.

People warned me that I might not like the Fuji gear for landscapes.  That I might not be able to duplicate the results that I was used to with my Nikon gear.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55 f2.8-4.  El Capitan taken from the tunnel view rest stop, Yosemite National Park.

To the contrary I believe it has enhanced my landscape photography.  Fuji is able to capture color and detail in a way that my Nikon never could.  The optics of Fuji's basic "kit" lens (18-55mm 2.8-4) far surpasses the glass that I had on my Nikon, the 18-70mm f3.5-4.5.  My ultimate landscape lens would be the 8-16mm f2.8 if and when it is made available.  Until then, I am perfectly happy with my Fuji "kit" lens.  

Over the last six months I have also enjoyed shooting portraits more than I had in the past.  The Fuji 56mm f1.2 is an amazing lens.  I love the depth of field that this lens allows.  

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2.  

This lens has expanded my portrait capabilities in ways I cannot even begin to describe.  The images made with this lens have a unique look to them.  It has a soft quality but you are able to pull amazing detail from a subjects eyes.  

I have also started to explore fine art portraiture.  Using the 56mm f1.2 combined with off camera flash using the Yungnuo 560 TX paired with the 560 IV Speedlight I have been able to create some amazing images.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.

I'm not sureif it is the camera system or my newfound excitement for photography that has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone.  The Fuji system is just plain fun for me.  It is light weight and the controls on their cameras are intuitive.  I have shot with a Nikon FE2 for close to 30 years and the Fuji system is the closest I have been able to come to that experience in the digital realm.  

Through this equipment I have rediscovered my love for photography.  I am pushing myself to shoot more.  I am drawn to new photographic experiences and adventures.  

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Marin Headlands, Overlooking the Golden Gate.  San Francisco, CA

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Fuji XT1, 18-55mm f2.8-4.  Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast.  First Sunset of Summer 2016.

Who knows where the rest of the year will take me but I know that it will be fun.  Pushing boundaries is the theme for 2016 and thanks to Fuji It is easier and more fun than ever.

Fuji XT1, 56mm f1.2 paired with the Yungnuo 560TX and 560 IV Speedlight.  

 

  

Chasing a Clearing Storm

It rained, here in Sonoma County, yesterday.  Having some free time I decided that I wanted to run down to the Golden Gate Bridge and make some images of the clearing storm.  I took my Fuji XT1, a few lenses, my GoPro "Hero" and a tripod.  This being a spur of the moment decision, the ability for planning was limited.  I did check the Golden Gate Bridge webcam to see if conditions might be favorable for some images.  There was heavy cloud cover but it wasn't raining and the weatherman said that it would clear up by the early afternoon.  So I jumped in my car and headed South.  Hitting some traffic on my way.  I made it to the Marin Headlands in about an hour and a half.  The clouds were clearing nicely but the fog was my biggest concern.  The Headlands are the hills just North of the Golden Gate and afford some of the most beautiful views of this amazing structure.  I usually avoid shooting here in the middle of the day, even when conditions are perfect, due to the huge number of tourists in the area.  The fog was very erratic, at times blocking the view of the bridge completely.  I got lucky and was able to make a few images.

South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands. June, 2016

I set up my tripod to hold my GoPro "Hero" and started the timelapse mode.  As I set it up the fog cleared and I saw this shot below.

View of San Francisco looking through the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands.  June, 2016

One of the challenges of being a photographer and standing in a location such as this is that you are asked to take image after image of tourists.  I don't mind this at all, but it tends to get in the way of my purpose, which is to create images.  It got to the point where people were crowding me and my tripod so I had to abandon ship.  Before I left I was able to make this timelapse.

As I was getting ready to pack up I looked down and noticed a lock attached to the cable of the fence at the viewpoint.  The lock had a heart engraved on its' face.  It gave me an idea for a couple of images.

Lock attached to fence cable, located at a viewpoint above the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, June 2016

Lock attached to fence cable, located at a viewpoint above the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, June 2016

I love photography adventures.  I have found that I do my best work on spur of the moment trips.  Lately these adventures have been inspired by weather events.  I love the look of the sky as the clouds start to clear.  A clear blue sky can be a beautiful background but I tend to prefer a little something going on in the way of clouds.  

Dreaming of the next storm.......

Yosemite On My Mind

Another successful trip behind me and now the process of culling and editing, the hard drive full, of images begins.  I arrived on Friday, beating a pretty substantial storm to the valley.  It rained all night and into the morning.  At around 9:30am on Saturday the clouds began parting and the mad dash to the tunnel view or valley view overlook began.  I was greeted by parting clouds and a layer of fog so beautiful I couldn't believe my eyes.  I was able to capture this image.

Yosemite Valley

I return to this place every year.  I always go in either January or February for a couple of reasons.  The crowds are much smaller and the weather can create the most amazing views of this unbelievably beautiful valley.  The summer haze that stretches the entire valley is non-existant and the sun is lower in the sky.  This trip felt like a new beginning for me.  My skills have grown over the last few years, shooting more than ever in my life.  I am more pleased by my results with each new day and love picking up my camera.  I attribute some of it to my recent switch to Fuji but not all.  I have a fire in my gut to get it done lately.  The more effort I put in the better the results.  I know that that is a truism and that all good things come from hard work and perseverance.  The images I captured this trip are some of my best work to date but I still feel that I am just at the beginning of my journey as a photographer.  

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, Winter


Trees on the shore of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, Winter 

Yosemite Drama! Not the Ahwhanee?

In 1990 my college buddies talked me into a backpacking trip.  We hiked from Tuolumne Meadows, through Pate Valley and finishing at White Wolf.  We did this trip in seven days.  This was my first backpacking trip.  I was the ultimate noob!  My pack was full of things I had no business bringing.  I was totally out of shape and had no idea what I was getting into.  On top of all of that I woke up with an abscessed tooth the morning we were supposed to depart.  A quick trip to a local Oakhurst dentist allowed me to make it to the trailhead in time.  Needless to say the physical part of this journey was not enjoyable.  What I did find was that I had discovered the place that brought me closest to, whatever it may be, that created all of this.  Yosemite, from that day forward, became my church.  What does this have to do with photography you ask?  From that date on I have spent many hours photographing both the valley and the backcountry of Yosemite.  Both on film and more recently digitally.  

This week, on Friday, I depart for another photographic journey to Yosemite.  We have been blessed with several feet of snow at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The Yosemite high country is blanketed with the beautiful white stuff.  The Valley Floor has seen more than just a dusting over the last few weeks and i'm curious if we are going to be lucky enough to see it this trip.  As of this writing two small storms are on track to hit while i'm there.  I save a ton of money by staying in the Curry Village tent cabins.  While heated with propane heaters several blankets will be necessary.  

There is a new twist that has recently happened in the valley.  The concessions company that lost the contract for all of the businesses in Yosemite is fighting in court, for compensation, for the naming rights of practically everything in the park.  The Ahwhanee, Curry Village, the Wawona as well as the title of the park "Yosemite National Park" has been claimed by this company.  With the exception of the later, everything has been renamed temporarily.  Only a judge will decide the outcome and I'm sure it will take years before it is resolved.  You can read about it here.  I don't really care what changes are made, I will continue to call these locations by the only names I have ever known.  That I know is true.

My last trip to Yosemite happened in February of 2014 and I was lucky enough to catch a departing storm from the Valley View parking area.  It is my favorite image to date of the valley.

There are two additonal images from this trip that I love.  One of Upper Yosemite Falls and the other a view from the road that I captured out my car window.  You never know when an amazing image is going to happen.

I will be uploading video throughout the weekend as well as images to my Instagram account.  This will be the first photographic journey I will take with my Fuji XT1 and  i'm excited to see what I can accomplish with this new tool in a place that is close to my heart.  

I Went Mirrorless!

So I finally pulled the trigger on a brand new Fuji XT1 paired with an 18-55mm f2.8 to 4.  I took advantage of the discounts they were offering during the holidays and added a used 56mm f1.2.  In total I saved close to $750.  I'm going to warn you now this is not a full blown review of the XT1, just my first impressions and feelings in using it for approximately one week.  The ver first thing I noticed about this camera is that everything is where I would expect it to be.  It looks and feels like a mix between my Nikon FE2 and my Fuji X100T.  It's light weight but fits perfectly in my hand.  The viewfinder is amazing.  As most have already commented, the directional buttons around the menu button are small but i've gotten used to it.  The hardest thing for me is that the lens release is on the right side, or grip side, of the body, opposite to Nikon, so muscle memory has to be overcome.  Another peeve is that the lens hood doesn't click in as easy and smoothly as my Nikon.  Not a big deal.  

When I got home today the clouds parted for a few minutes and the lighting in my backyard drew me out.  I attached the 56mm f1.2 and started wandering.  This is my favorite way to shoot.  It's like hunting and the image is my prey.  Below are some of those shots.  All of these images are jpegs edited in Snapseed.


While this is more of a portrait lens, I enjoyed this hunt.  Focusing these images was a small challenge but was solved by increasing my distance.  I can't wait to do a portrait shoot with this lens and hopefully it will be soon.  I look forward to exploring all of the capabilities of this camera and will share as I do.  Shooting is fun again and my bag is a few pounds lighter with this smaller gear. 

Hmmmm where to wonder next?