Amber Run – Album Release Day

I don’t get involved with music videos much these days – I get asked to produce them all the time, but due to the rampant theft of music, the budgets are now awful…and they’re rarely worth the ballache to make. Its a shame, though…I play myself, and love music. But I also have to make a profit, and something cool.

Its takes a special band and a special tune for me to be even remotely interested. The band is Amber Run, and the song was ‘Stranger’. And here’s the video:

(Directed by William Jones)

Amber Run are perhaps best known for the track ‘I Found’, which many people heard from the ‘Teen Wolf’ TV series. It currently has over 28million views in YouTube, and is a beautiful track (though check out the ‘Mahogany Sessions’ version. Dang) .

The bands second album, ‘For A Moment, I Was Lost’ was released today – and I was both thrilled and surprised to receive a signed copy, in gorgeous white vinyl, and a spiffing white T shirt (featuring one of the shots from ‘Stranger’ on the front) get plonked on my desk this morning. A good Friday. 🙂

I was also lucky enough to take a bunch of ‘behind-the-scenes’ stills, of which 4 I have exclusively released on my Instagram today. Check those out here:

For those who I’ve blocked or don’t have Instagram, here’s another 4 just because its that Friday feeling:

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(singer, main composer – Joe Keogh)

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(guitarist – Will Jones)

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(Keyboards – Henry Wyeth)

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(Bass – Tom Sperry)

All shots taken on the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 + xf56mm 1.2 APD or xf35mm F1.4

I will have a lot of great memories from this day. The four guys were a dream to work with (especially Joe, who spent practically 10 hours in a water tank. Surprised he didn’t get the bends…) and I’m lucky to count them as friends now (even if the soggy lead singer mentioned above cleared me out of roll-ups that day). I wish them well with the new L.P – and have been reliably informed that it may make the top 10 in the UK charts by the weekend. They’ve not had an easy year of it, being ditched by their first label (a major) and losing their drummer, so to come out with a long player as beautiful as this is a testament to them as a band and as men of strength and resilience. Fair play.

To get hold of a copy for yourself, do go here : https://amber-run.tmstor.es/

(The white vinyl is especially saucy…)

And the tour is now under way, details here: http://www.livenation.co.uk/artist/amber-run-tickets

OK, thats about it for now. More to come soon – personal issues have somewhat held me back recently, but Im fine, things are picking up momentum again and normal service will be resumed shortly. And thanks, for all your kind words and support. It meant the world to me. Y’all are nice.

Speaking of which – #thefivehourproject is ongoing, so please feel free to carry on (and remember to tag!) as is #whileyouweresleeping (didn’t pick this one, but thanks to the friend that did) but this one has been invaded by a Japanese tv show…odd…but its OK, I still see them.

Remember, its all about creation – images, paintings, songs, short films, shit – decorate a cake for all I care…just make something for yourself.

Cheers all. Speak soon.

X

 

My photo project for 2017.

‘At night’…

That answer really annoyed me. It was cold, callous and glib – I deserved better. I had put my heart and soul into making her life better, making this relationship work, as well as investing considerable sums into her photo business and new apartment – all the while living five hours ahead in another country.

Ah, those five hours. You can do a lot in five hours…

I had suspected her cheating for a while. She had become colder and more distant, started to pick faults, looking for excuses. I knew the signs..sadly its happened to me twice before (weirdly, both had the same name – lesson learned). Our Christmas Skype gift exchange wasn’t especially happy…it must have been killing her, poor love, getting boned by another man then shortly after, opening gifts from the one you should be boning…

To add insult to injury, she expressed surprise that I wouldn’t wish her happiness. Im thinking ‘you’re sleeping with someone else, and you want my blessing? Has the word ‘asshole’ been written on my forehead? Holy crap…’

And thats when I asked her…’Where was I when this was going on? When did this all happen?’

Long pause….

‘At night’…

Ah yeah, those five hours. Knew they would bite me on the ass eventually. She apologised and said goodbye. I told her to fuck off.

But I did have the inspiration for this years project…so I thank her for that. Shoot for Five Hours. Stay out the whole time – with an hour put by for ‘Pho’… The Five Hour Project Series- lets see what I can get done in that time.

If you’re struggling, spend five hours to create something worthy and beautiful and honest. Spend five hours doing something constructive, not destructive. Doesn’t even have to be five hours, but for me it seems appropriate.

I shall shoot – but you can write a song, a poem, a short film, a story, draw a picture, anything…something original, a creation that means something to only you. Keep it to yourself if you like. Or feel free to share it.

I cant think of a better way to get over heartbreak. Or the winter blues.

#thefivehourproject – feel free to join in.

firespinners

(Fujifilm XE-2 + 35mm 1.4)

Street Photography – make it mean something…

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Mirrorless cameras have a lot to answer for.. 🙂

It cant have escaped anyones notice that theres a lot of Fuji’s out there these days. A walk through many of London’s best street photography areas and I’m seeing XT’s and X-Pro’s everywhere. A few X100’s (though not many) scattered around, and a few Pen’s too (that new Pen F is awful sexy, I think)…but the street is fast becoming the domain of the ‘X  head’…

I have no problem with this. The more the merrier. Photography is truly democratic these days, and along with the selfie obsessed tourist, there is plenty of room for everyone. What I DO have a problem with is crap street photography. A really quick scroll down on a ‘Fuji Street Photography’ facebook group churns out something straight away:

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This does nothing. Tells me nothing. Did it challenge the photographer? It can’t have…its very very poor. Sorry dude, it just is. What would you title this? ‘Woman walking past shop with phone’ – right. Other than a nice skirt, there is nothing here – no story, no composition to speak of, not even a decent edit  – and it clarifies my point. This got 20 likes. So, because it was shot on the street, does this really qualify as street photography? Well, yeah, it kinda does I guess…doesn’t make it authentic though, does it?

(AND ITS STAMPED!!! who’s going to steal it, really…)

You see, with so many ‘street photographers’ out there now, it stands to reason that there is a LOT of shit street photography too. The above example is fairly typical – its a safe shot. And when you shoot safe, you normally get something unmemorable and well…dull. Robert Capa was SPOT ON. If your shots aren’t good enough, its because you’re not close enough…

That shot was not good enough.

Take this example, from London based street shooter Becky Frances:

Obviously not shot in London, but an example of great street photography. (Incidentally, Becky doesn’t shoot with a Fuji, I believe she’s an Olympus and Canon shooter) Why? It tells a story…and to me, that is of paramount importance. Here we have a woman of religion walking towards a ornate building, ignoring two other women in need. BOOM! A story…a picture that tells me something. And its terrific. Nice one, Becky.

Spotting opportunities comes with practice.Believe me, I was taking utterly banal shots like the colour shot above too. We have ALL been there. When asked what makes a dull street shooter into a ‘street photographer’, I have a few answers:

  1. Very Very 1st answer – SHOOT EVERY DAY. Practice Practice Practice. Pack your camera next to your lunch before you leave the house. Its true, great opportunities find you if you shoot often enough. Some of my favourite shots have been taken on the short journey to (or from) work, or in my lunch break:

Happy Wednesday

2) Avoid shooting via oblique angles – they nearly always result in a boring image (see the colour shot I referenced at the top of this article). Face on is nearly always the best way. Its also the most uncomfortable for the shooter, but success favours the brave so stop being a wuss and shoot, for the love of god. If you’re in a public place, you’re doing nothing wrong. Shoot. Then scarper, if you have to, but get the bloody shot.

3) Shooting backs is a huge fail. Unless its an especially interesting back, or (as in Becky’s case above) you have an excellent supporting cast. What story can you tell by shooting someones back? Well, in some instances:

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Yeah, ok, thats an interesting back too, and is helped along by ‘sandwich guy’. But you get my jist – there is no expression in a back shot. Backs don’t offer up a ‘look’ or feeling of emotion. Back shots (and oblique angles for that matter) are the domain of the ‘scaredy’… don’t be a ‘scaredy’. (and no, tele’s or zooms don’t get you off the hook either. Street photographers shoot close with primes, 50mm equiv or wider. If you want to use a zoom, be a sports guy…)

4) Don’t be Bruce Gilden – be HCB.

I happen to like *some* of Bruce Gilden’s work, if I’m honest. But thats for another day. What I DON’T especially like is his bullying style of street photography. Remember, you’re there to catch natural human behaviours, not ruin someones day. By all means, direct your subject if you feel its integral to a shot, but as a rule you’re there to capture a candid moment of uniqueness that no one else has captured…thats the best thing about street photography. That one stolen moment belongs to just you and your subject. Embrace it always. Be covert, be deceitful, but don’t be a dick…

5) Don’t sweat it. Lightroom is your friend.

I’m all about the moment. Yes, I would prefer it if everything was dead level and tack sharp, but that is just not always possible if you’re shooting from the hip, chest or shoulder. The ‘rotate’ tool is freaking sweet. You’re not ‘doing a McCurry’ and removing elements or adding some others. You’re enhancing – and thats cool. Jack up that contrast, tweak that clarity slider…add grain, make it look like HP5 for all I care – just don’t detract from the quality of that original moment. If you really need to over edit, the chances are it really isn’t a very good shot to begin with. Quality control is also a handy skill to have.

6) Shoot Film. Sometimes.

I like Eric Kim – yes, he may take 19 shots (on film – he must be loaded) of the same thing, but the eventual selected shot you see is normally of a very high standard. He’s also a kind and giving soul that the world needs more of, so with that aside, check out his work. He loves to shoot film, as do I, and there is a bunch of wonderful analog street shooters out there. I was raised shooting film, and it still fascinates me. When you watch these guys work, the one thing that sticks out a mile is how ‘considered’ they are as photographers. You can call it slow if you like, but just look at the results…composition and exposure are everything when you’re limited to 36 exposures – with no chimping- and thats why I still shoot film. Not for the aesthetics (which I do find pleasing, admittedly) but more for the effect it has on my photography overall. I really try to get it right in camera first, and I NEVER use burst mode. I do chimp though…but I am working on it. 🙂

Shoot film from time to time. It slows you down, and really concentrates the mind on composition and exposure accuracy. It gives so much value that you really notice it when you go back to shooting digital.

Chalking for Change

(shot on a Leica Minilux and Ilford HP5 film.)

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I’m going to stick my neck out and say ‘sorry’ to all those that are offended by this post, especially if you’re fond of the old ‘back shot’… but feel free to check out pretty much every street photography themed facebook/instagram/twitter out there. I was actually urged to write this after subscribing to ‘Street Photography’ magazine – its only two quid a pop, but MAN is there some utter tosh contained within. I was actually pretty disappointed with both its pretentiousness and lack of quality that I felt urged to say something.

(If you were here for the Lensbaby Trio review…its coming soon. 🙂 )

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Here’s to a WONDERFUL 2017 – may you be creative and spontaneous always.  And hopefully, Trump will be impeached within his first week and Brexit was just a bad nightmare…yeah, I know….one can wish.

Be well all.

Come see me on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/

Interested in shooting film? Check out these channels, I find them massively inspirational:

Azriel Knight: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLfGwQwIzK2tdup4QkXr0Bg

The Art Of Photography: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7T8roVtC_3afWKTOGtLlBA

Matt Day: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCopwCE5bVtffQif8IFkbUuw

Erik Wahlstrom: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8a1kQF2DdXiTu1ucRvOhxA

EduardoPavezGoye : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR-I25_yEl_frEZ26I9ty-w

Negative Feedback: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTgaiv8YdmmNqI8STrpWc7w

Danny Pops: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLUENXM6HZG9gjXbYJN2stiTgt_Q3bBgM

Nate Matos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLg6z_ITnjtO_EhZL59ObSg

Brian Soko: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45609113@N04/

Jason Lee (yes, Earl…) : http://jasonleephoto.bigcartel.com/

Super-Wide Street Shooting w/ Samyang (Rokinon) 12mm F2.

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I doubt there is a day that goes by, when on one forum or another someone is either asking about the Samyang 12mm F2 or someone is telling us how good it is. I fall into the latter. Often.

This lens is terrific value for money. Period. I think I paid £210 for mine. Brand New. I have no idea if its better or worse than the Fujinon 14/16/10-24 or the Zeiss Touit – and furthermore, I don’t care. I can manage expectations on a two hundred quid lens, and if it turned out crap I could always send it back. But I’ve had it three years now, and its going nowhere.

As I have alluded to, many times, on previous posts – street photography is what I love to shoot most. I’m a film maker by trade, so naturally, I want to shoot the polar opposite of the gruelling, mentally draining and highly regimented world of film production. Street photography is my release – I am alone with my thoughts, not relying on anyone else, yet still being creative and striving for that one ‘decisive moment’…sorry, Henri. And I cant blame anyone else but myself if I’m disappointed with the results…  🙂

I normally use my 23mm F1.4 for street. Sometimes the 18mm, sometimes the 35, but the 23 covers most of the subjects I like to shoot. The 23 offers *some* width, optical excellence and is pretty snappy on the X-Pro 2 – and 1.4 is pretty bright, so its good for most conditions, even without flash. Its a solid lens – the Angry Photographer is dead wrong about this glass, unusually.

I first started to use the 12mm for street a couple of years ago on my X-Pro 1. There were times when I got REALLY fed up with the AF (like we all did) on the early X bodies in certain conditions, and of course the great thing with ANY manual focus lens is a) there is no focus delay and b) hyperfocal shooting is a DODDLE – so easy on super wides. So I began to take the 12 out with me more, especially to events where I knew there would be packed crowds, as this focal length would allow me to fit a lot in without getting too far back. I also realised the 12mm has a REALLY short focus throw, especially from 1m to infinity, so you didn’t have to be super accurate with distances to subject. I would set it to 1-1.5 meters, and just snap. No delay, and pretty much always ended up with a sharp (sometimes sharp-ish) image.

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The one drawback (some may not consider it a drawback) is you really do have to get in close. The 23 was perfect, 2-3 meters back, great. The 12? Nope, a meter…four feet, tops, or everything would just look miles away. In a bustling, large, crowd, this wasn’t really that much of an issue – there would be so much else going on, I was barely noticed at all. And I was quick. I may be getting on a smidge, but my reaction times are still pretty tasty – thankfully.

But on Brick Lane today? Not so easy.

I don’t know whats happened to Brick Lane recently. Its gotten really quiet. A couple of summers ago you could barely walk five steps in a minute. There would be fantastic street performers (Lewis Floyd Henry is really the only one left – thankfully, he’s amazing.), and incredible food vendors and colourful fruit and juice sellers all the way up to the High Street, both sides of the lane – there was an amazing atmosphere, any time of year. Now? There is barely anything happening…a lot of the food vendors have moved indoors in the nearby Trueman Building, the fruit sellers have gone, and today not ONE street performer…sad times. I hope its not the sign of things to come for East London. To a certain extent, the much maligned hipster has taken over this part of town (and a lot more vintage stores have opened as a result) – I hope the sadly depleted Brick Lane is not a by product of that.

I had to have my wits about me if I was going to make this shoot a success…looking ahead all the time, trying to spot (and prepare for) my next capture, and for the most part, it worked:

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These were all shot on the X-Pro 2 at 1000ISO. The bottom ‘crossroads’ pic has about a 10% crop. And again, focus set to 1m, aperture at F3.5. A little more forgiving if my distances were a little off.

Also (and this is fairly rare these days, for me) these are all JPEGS, with minor adjustments in post. I REALLY enjoy Acros (R) +2 h/l +2 shadow. Gives me a look that reminds me of HP5 – on a good day.

And this, I think, was my pic of the day:

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(I’m tempted to crop down to a square format, and try to get rid of some passers by…what do you think?)

I got bored pretty quick of the sparse looking Brick Lane, and moved down towards Liverpool Street station – it had a bit more bustle.

I stopped off to eat at a new place called The Diner in Spitalfields. They do chilli cheese fries. And they were superb:

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Then a slow amble towards the station:

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Overall, I was pleased with the shoot today. It was cold, surprisingly quiet – but there was still a character or two to make things interesting.

And what of the 12mm Samyang? Well,see for yourself. Its good. Sharp, and with all those long words like vignetting and  chromatic aberation either under control or a non-issue. In truth, there IS a little purple fringing in bright light/high contrast areas, but I only found this out when I was on vacation somewhere sunny. Not such a problem in London, in November.

edit: AND NO DISTORTION! 🙂 This is quite a big deal. None of these images were corrected at all. Its a standout feature of this lens, and I cant believe I overlooked it! Sorry…

It is worth mentioning build quality too. The focussing is buttery smooth, the aperture ring has a pleasant, purposeful ‘click’ to it, and it has a decent heft to it too. A good blend of metal when you need it (mount) and high quality plastics to keep the weight down. It doesn’t feel like a cheap lens.

Depending on where you live, this Korean made optic is available (and branded) as Samyang, Bowens, Rokinon, Walimex and even Vivitar (now theres a blast from the past!), but they’re all the same so you’ll be happy with any of them.

So hopefully, now, you’ll have some idea of why these incredibly good value lenses get mentioned on those forums so much. I know I wont stop posting. I do recommend these optics for street, but only if your the sort of photographer who has no problem getting really close to your subject, and doesn’t mind the possible flack that comes with it. Today, I was lucky. But this being a famously grumpy London, I could just as easily have been confronted with choice anglo-saxon and a threat of violence. It happens rarely, but it does happen.

But I like this focal length for street. Its different and fun, and forces you to think differently about composition and speed. Don’t worry about it being manual focus only – its really easy on this lens, even without focus peaking. I suggest you set your distance, and see how brave you are…. 🙂 go on, whats the worst that could happen?

Please do say hello on Instagram if you get the chance (or if you have Instagram!):

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/?hl=en

Any questions, do let me know. Have fun, stay safe, and keep shooting. Cheers!

Fujifilm X-Pro 2 in low light.

For me, shooting at night is one of my absolute favourite things to do. I do it seldom, for various reasons (normally involving tiredness and a crappy train service 🙂 ) but as a Fujifilm X-shooter, low light captures on the streets is a great test for both me as a photographer, and my latest camera.

In the seven months or so since I’ve had the X-Pro 2, I have yet to really give it a decent low light test. I’ve been satisfied in pretty much every other area when it comes to the X-Pro 2 – especially in AF improvements and overall speed of use. Having said that, my original X-Pro 1  and (especially) my XE-2 were absolute demons when it came to shooting in the evening around London in terms of image quality. In terms of their AF capabilities? Sadly lacking, as we are all aware, but as both cameras have focus peaking (fair in the X-Pro, good in the XE2) it was overcome-able.

These three shots below were taken on the XE-2 + 56mm APD (I was testing it also) at 3200ISO.

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Composition-ally speaking, not the greatest – the 56 is not a street lens – but regarding resolution, clarity, sharpness and fine detail? Excellent for 3200. If you don’t plan on upgrading your 1st or 2nd generation X-trans bodies, you’re not in a bad place. Quite the opposite – the larger pixel sites are definitely working for you in terms of IQ at high ISO’s. In auto focus? Well, you still may want to stay where you are…especially if you can manually focus.

So, in comparison, how does the X-Pro 2 perform? First off, lets talk about AF performance – as that was the area I most wanted to see improvement. I was in Trafalgar Square last night, celebrating Malaysia Day 2016 and enjoying some wonderful food – lighting was poor, as is often the case at Trafalgar, sourced mainly from two large LED screens and a stage from one end on the square. Beyond halfway back, there was no lighting benefit at all – it was fairly awful.

Was auto focus better? Well….kind of. My guess is even at the improved -3EV levels of the X-Pro 2, this was still too dark in terms of shooting conditions. It was certainly faster, but still missed target a LOT, so the extra speed was of no use to me. Hit rate? 20%. Maybe 30%. Sounds pretty grim, but I’m not so sure it would’ve been all that much better on many other APS-C camera systems either…maybe the Nikon D500 could do better, but there is a limit to where any camera can lock on to contrast. There was little of this contrast unless the light fell just right, at the right time, on the subject.

Where I DID find success was switching to ‘AF+MF’ – now, this worked just fine. The 23mm F1.4 (the only lens I used in the end) works great in manual focus, and peaking is highly effective too, and this a clear advantage over the older bodies. This image was taken using this formula:

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(this was shot at ISO6400, and is cropped by maybe 20%)

And what of high ISO performance? – honestly, I think its as good as the older models, maybe a tiny bit better (and this improvement only noticable at really high ISO’s). That actually means its a marked improvement, as we’re now dealing with 24mp rather than 16mp. A huge jump in resolution terms, and a triumph when you consider corresponding pixel sites (more of, and smaller).

For example, for 10’000 ISO, I think this shot below is excellent. And again, with a 20% crop (and first time AF lock, incredibly):

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And these below, I don’t think, would look that much better if taken on my X-Pro 1 or XE-2. These were shot at 6400ISO, still very fast, and with minimal post and cropping:

(again, please allow for WordPress’s less than stellar compression – its better than Facebook’s, but not by much…)

The ‘eyeballing’ shot took four attempts before AF locked. Thankfully they were so in love that they didn’t even care (or notice) that there was a photographer cursing rather loudly about 2 foot away from them…

So, there you have it. Was I disappointed? Yeah, a bit…not in IQ, but a little surprised the AF hadn’t improved as much as I’d hoped for. But, to caveat again, light was pretty appalling, I ALWAYS switch off the AF illumination light (which doubtless would’ve helped, but its a dreadful giveaway for a deceitful bastard like me) so maybe I was just asking for too much. On the upside, we are just weeks away from a terrific new AF firmware update which could well improve things even more, so I wont cast final judgement just yet. Be prepared for Part 2.

Once again, feel free to stop over to my Instagram to stay updated on most of my work:

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/    – would be GREAT to see you there.

or of course, there is always my flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattjerrams/

Any questions, I’ll absolutely answer them as best I can. As a side note, London’s Zombie Walk is October 8th. Not long now. If any of you UK based Fuji shooters fancy a really fun shooting experience, the zombie walk is AMAZING fun, one of my favourite shooting days of the entire year. Maybe I’ll see you there…

Stay well all, and keep shooting.

Cheers!

 

No longer ‘anti-zoom’…

(or how I stopped being a pompus ‘prime’ addicted ass and decided to pack light)

There is no shame in admitting you were wrong. There is, equally, nothing wrong in changing ones mind. I’m about to do both.

Having said that, I still believe X-Pro bodies are best suited for prime lenses between 18 and 60mm. They are rangefinder style cameras, and like the classic Leica M’s and Contax G’s this combination offers the user a classic style, tactile operation and a compactness that lends itself well to the kind of photography rangefinders are best suited to – street, reportage, travel and journalism, to name a few.

The original trilogy of XF lenses that came out with the X-Pro 1 are quite brilliant, by the way. The 18 (compact, snappy, sharp), the 35 (cool bokeh, optical excellence) and the 60 (sharpest lens I own, and good AF with the new bodies) should easily satisfy any photographer who uses either X-Pro. Of course, G.A.S soon takes over and I find myself the owner of the 27, 23 (my favourite), 56 APD (wish I hadn’t spent the extra), a couple of Samyangs (brilliant value) and – here we go – the 18-55 and 55-200 zooms.

I never use zooms. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve taken either out on a shoot. I used the 55-200 at the Zoo once, and it was great (see below). Maybe the odd other time. Its actually a terrific lens – optically superb at either end, really quick and smooth AF, a great performer. It just never felt right on the the X-Pro. It made the whole experience front heavy, a bit of a burden. I sensed a certain ‘cack-handiness’ looking through a viewfinder on the left. I imagine this lens works way better on the XT’s… I believe its what it was originally designed for.

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The 18-55, on the other hand, was proving to be a bit of an enigma to me. I bought it cheap off Ebay, as I figured it might come in handy one day. ALL the reviews were good, and they were right – this lens is WAY too good to be called a ‘kit lens’ – but again, it felt a bit wrong on a rangefinder style body. The difference this time was it was mainly psychological rather than physical discomfort in any way. The lens isn’t that big, no bigger than any kit lens. I shoot street mainly, and it just felt like I wasn’t a valid street shooter using a zoom lens. It made me lazy, I wasn’t getting physically close enough anymore, I was just ‘zooming’ instead….nah, this wasn’t right. Not right at all. I also like shooting wide open – I like subject separation, especially on London’s textured streets – and I wasn’t always getting that. I put the zoom lens away – I’m a prime shooter.

My girlfriend, a busy portrait and wedding photographer, uses zooms almost exclusively for her work. Her images are consistently superb – I know Im biased, but they really are – and we always discuss the merits of each piece of glass we own. She’s a full frame Canon shooter for her business, and a Fuji X shooter for everything else. Her Fuji lens of choice is the XC 16-50. The cheapest lens Fuji does. Go figure. Admittedly, she gets some lovely images from it….

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Like she always says, zooms serve a purpose (and I should probably stop being a closed minded ass)…

With this ringing in my ears, I got to packing for our summer vacation – to Skiathos, one of the Greek islands. Normally, I would pack a body and at least four primes. Normally. I also wouldn’t normally have a beach holiday – I like cities and the history that goes with them – but the thought of going with a bunch of glass, changing lenses in hot sandy/salty conditions made me rather concerned. The X-Pro 2 is weather sealed, of course, but not when removing glass – leaving an exposed sensor. And none of my glass is weather sealed either. In addition, I wanted to pack light – discount airlines dictate this after all – and just try to relax and enjoy my vacation. So I bit the bullet. XF18-55 and the Samyang 12. Sod It. It’ll be fine…first time ever with no Fuji primes. One body with the zoom attached, the 12mm and a bunch of batteries and filters. Certainly felt lighter…

It sure was a revelation. THIS is what a zoom is for, to me (and maybe to you as well). Convenience and quality. Was it as good as a prime? Nope, not always – but it was WAY closer than I thought it would be. I came away both surprised and really happy – this was the perfect piece of glass for a vacation like this.

First, sharpness. I believe this lens to be sharper at its widest setting than the prime equivalent. There is not a lot in it, but its sharper than the XF18. There is a smidge more barrel distortion, which one barely notices (and correctable anyway), and of course half a stop of light (2.8) but this zoom cries out to be shot at 18mm. Suits me fine, I love to shoot on the streets nice and wide. And in aeroplanes too…

skiathos1

(check out the corner to corner sharpness too. For a zoom, its excellent)

AF Speed – REALLY fast on the X-Pro 2. It isn’t a slouch on older bodies either – the linear motor is very good on standard single point-to-point focus  – and continuous focus is OK in good light, but thats mainly down to which body you use rather than a fault with the lens. Continuous AF on X-Pro 2 is actually pretty good, and is getting an upgrade in October 2016. Looking forward to that, but the X-Pro is not a sports camera and I hardly ever use C-AF.

ski400

Currently, the 18-55 is the only lens I have with OIS. Never been much bothered with it as the primes I have are pretty fast and ANY X-Pro body is great at high ISO’s. But I did enjoy using it on this trip, as I didn’t have a tripod and you know, four stops worth of IS is pretty neat to play around with at times –

skiathos2skiathos4

(that bottom mono image was shot hand held at 1/6th of a second. Pretty good I would say)

The tele end (55mm) is pretty good. The downside to this is not optical performance – the sharpness is still pretty sweet, edge to edge – its the losing of two stops of light, and virtually no subject separation. This isn’t always a disaster, but F4? I cant remember the last time I deliberately shot at F4 🙂 ….

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Here’s a few more random images…

trepidation and shrinkage.

DSCF1132

 

the long haul.

To summarise, would I recommend getting one of these lenses for travel? Oh hell yeah. I’ll still use my primes for doing what I normally do on the streets of London – but even now, I still have not taken the 18-55 off yet. I’m still enjoying it that much and took some pics of a rainy London when I got back from Skiathos:

off Oxford St

Same as the Old Season....

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I do miss my 23 F1.4 though. Maybe normal service will resume this weekend. 🙂

I paid about £285 for my lens a couple of years ago. Not bad – it was mint, and from a really good seller. I see them for less than that, and a bit more, but if you’re looking for something really high quality that you can take on holiday – I don’t think you’ll need more than this.

As always, thanks for reading – please feel free to stopover to my instagram and say Hi –

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/ – ill be back to taking pics of Londoners again soon!

And there is always my Flickr page – which features more Skiathos pics as well as a bunch we shot on 35mm film. They came out lovely – if I was loaded I would shoot analog more often:

the long haul.

Cheers All.

Be back soon!

 

 

Zeiss Planar 45mm F2(test with X-Pro 2)

A few months back I procured the well regarded Zeiss Sonnar 90mm F2.8 (G fit). I was suitably impressed with this somewhat small marvel and the review is buried on this site somewhere! It was small, well made, EXTREMELY sharp – and ultimately convinced me that buying the Fujinon XF90mm may not actually be necessary. I’m not saying it was better (it likely wasn’t/isn’t) but seeing as that focal length is not really what I use anyway (I do mainly street stuff and use the 23mm nearly all of the time) I figured the £600 I saved by not getting it could be put to better use. So I went to Whitstable for a few days with my bird…had a great time.

I have always been a fan of the Contax G1/2 – I worked in photo retail for many years, straight out of school, in fact, and this titanium tank still has a huge following today. One of the reasons people bought these beauties (and still do) was the lenses available. The most popular of which was the Planar 45. Years later, as bench tests became more advanced and sensors started to out perform film emulsion etc, this optic became something of a star, especially in the digital mirrorless world. Swedish website ‘Photodo’ actually declared it performed better in terms of overall sharpness than the Leica 50mm Summicron, and many others have it ranked the 2nd or 3rd best production lens of all time. Not that it matters THAT much, of course (as someone recently pointed out to me, sharpness isn’t necessarily the the be all and end all when it comes to a great lens) but I’ve always wanted one – especially now, as I truly believe the Fujifilm X-Trans III sensor found on the X-Pro 2 is an incredible chip – and one recently came up going for a song, so I took the plunge….

The 45mm, in APS-C terms, is 67.5mm equiv. A short tele, and most certainly what I would not normally use for street work. In addition, its obviously a manual focus optic on the X-Pro 2, and adaptors, especially the cheaper ones are not what I would call user friendly. Fotodiox do a decent one, but its £85, and I cant really justify that on a lens I wont use a lot, so I battled through using a £25 version I already had from my 90mm.

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I’ll be honest – its a ballache to focus. Even with peaking, you are by no means assured of a sharp image. I consider myself pretty good at focusing by hand, and the X-Pro 2 accounts for this better than any previous X-series camera I’ve ever had, but its still….not perfect. The focus ring is almost flush with the camera body too, which doesn’t make life easier, so if you rely a lot on AF – especially the new and awesome AF found in the later bodies – think carefully before blowing some fairly serious bones on this lens.

So this morning, I got on the train to London and jumped on the Victoria Line to Brixton. I went to this part of South London because, quite simply, its a street photographers dream. I never have to work too hard to get some half decent shots, so I figured, even with less than snappy focus at my disposal, I would at least get out of there with SOMETHING worth showing you. And I did….AND I had fun too.

There are no focus distances inscribed on this lens, which makes it practically impossible for hyper focal shooting. Therefore pretty much everything was shot from eye height – I’m a deceitful bugger when it comes to street shooting and much prefer a stealth approach as I prefer capturing natural behaviours. This wasn’t possible this time, so I had to pretend to be a people person. This was tough. I cant stand people. I know, right? A street photographer who doesn’t like people…

In addition, I shot pretty much all of these wide open at F2 (occasionally 2.8) as I wanted to see what the bokeh was really like. Anyway, this is how it went:

This lens is incredibly sharp (please note WordPress compression isn’t the best. Go to my Flickr below for full res). I was actually shaking my head when I was editing the images. These were all RAW images, converted in Lightroom with minimal post. I barely needed to adjust anything, but I am a ‘contrast’ whore – its just how I like my shots to look. Sorry if you don’t like them. Bokeh? Not as awesome. Its OK – my 35mm 1.4 is way better at this – but its passable. For me, this lens is all about the sharpness. Holy CRAP, its sharp. Its hard to use, but the rewards are most certainly there. I’m going to stick my neck out and say its sharper than my XF60, which up to now was the sharpest lens I owned. This is a 100% crop:

untitled (28 of 47)

(from the Bowie memorial – he was a Brixton boy)

As for as colour reproduction? Not much to say really – the RAWS look like they do from any of the Fujinons. Maybe slightly magenta, but I don’t see how this matters much.

What would I use this lens for? No idea – definitely NOT street, its not user friendly and it doesn’t have AF – but I felt it did a lovely job on some head and shoulders portraits. It focuses pretty close, so maybe a lens for copying? It certainly brings out the detail! Anyhow, if you want to see more images please feel free to visit my flickr site:

untitled (3 of 47)

or better still, stop by my Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/ – Im posting like a demon on there, and could do with some followers!

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions, I shall always answer them.

Cheers!