The Gear that I use: The Fujifilm XF 90mm f2.0

goldenrod-vert_1

Goldenrod (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

 Monotony:  a good word to describe the landscapes encountered in late  summer. The forest interiors are uniformly green, with the occasional crimson cardinal flowers erupting from the stream beds. Farm fields are either devoted to pasture, or to row upon row of mature corn. Untended fields this time of year are generally uniformly yellow from the blooming goldenrod. There are still weeks to go before the first hint of fall color emerges from the verdant surroundings.

A lens with a wider field of view, struggles to find interest in this season.

Perhaps then it is fortunate, that I recently acquired a the Fujifilm XF 90mm f2.0 prime. This lens has possibly the best online reviews of any Fujifilm XF lens. It is parked for now on my X Pro 2 and I have been shooting extensively with it. I’m not a natural 90 mm (135 mm field of view equivalent) shooter when it comes to landscape photography. Fairly long telephoto lenses as such as this force me to visualize the scenes I encounter in a way that for me is not entirely intuitive.

Non-intuitive, can sometimes be good.

In Our Garden (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

In Our Garden (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

When the background is monotonous, long focal lengths allow you to pick out the little unique vignettes that occur here and there in the landscape. They allow us to find interest where at first glance, there is none. I sometimes have to force myself to remember this.

The XF 90 mm f2, like the previous Fuji lenses, is a substantial piece, with good weight and a fine build quality, reminiscent of the XF 56 mm f1.2 with which it most closely compares. Befitting its relatively wide aperture, it has a large front and rear objective. Is a heavy lens, relative to the other primes that I use, and it feels best on the X Pro 2 versus the smaller,lighter cameras in my possession.

It comes with a long deep lens hood, and the same felt pouch as all of the earlier lenses.

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The focus ring has a buttery feel, and the aperture ring like most of the earlier lenses has a smooth action with distinct detents. And although it looks similar to the XF 56 mm lens, unlike that lens it is said to be weatherproof, a nice bonus.

There have been a lot of reviews of this lens, done by more technically oriented bloggers than myself. They are available here, and here, and here. Most testers are finding the exact same results, namely that this lenses extremely sharp, pretty much from wide open to F 11, when diffraction sets in. In fact the folks at Imaging Resource claims that this is the sharpest lens they have ever tested.  Their customary “blur chart” even at f2.0 is a uniform light purple, denoting maximal sharpness from edge to edge. I have never seen that before.

 Bobwhite (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

Friendly Bobwhite (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I find the lens’s characteristics similar to the 56 mm in terms of sharpness and bokeh. This is to say that the lens is bitingly sharp when in focus, even wide open. There is also wonderfully smooth rendering of out-of-focus elements.

I have several issues with this lens however. As mentioned above, the field of view of this lens is not intuitive to me, and sometimes limiting. 135 mm is long enough to close in on smaller  static subjects within 5-10 feet, but unhelpful for instance, for that goldfinch sitting on a milkweed pod 15-20 feet away.

September Maple (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

September Maple on the Lehigh (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

 

In landscape  photography where there is generally plenty of light, a sharp telephoto zoom lens, even with a tighter aperture, is far more versatile. Up to this purchase, I have tended to use the XF 55–200mm f3.5-4.8 in this role. This lens does not test as well as the 90mm nor does it have the quality of bokeh. But in my experience it to has very pleasing image quality (except perhaps at the longest focal length of 200 mm where it struggles slightly).

The zoom has one other advantage to the prime. I have noticed that I am going through memory cards at a rapid rate with this lens. I believe this is because of the lack of image stabilization (the 55-200 zoom has very fine image stabilization). Intuitively, when  shooting the 90 mm, I “let her rip”,  the shutter set on continuous-low, obtaining a  longer series of captures  while avoiding multiple finger stabs which might cause camera motion.

Pokeweed (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

Pokeweed (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

In fact,  this tends to be good practice; compared to shorter focal lengths, even using a monopod, I find on review that a substantial number of shots  have evidence of camera movement. In this situation the lenses acuity in some ways works against it, in that it allows you to appreciate motion blur that would not be as obvious on lesser optics.

I don’t know what it would mean in terms of lens size/weight/cost, but I think this lens would be far more versatile if image stabilization was incorporated. Or I suppose I could use a tripod. Rangefinder-type cameras to me however, feel like they should be shot handheld.

Goldenrod Ghosts (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

Goldenrod Ghosts (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 90mm f2)

Once again let me say that this is a brilliant lens, but I suspect one that will have only modest usage within my kit given my style of photography. This is in part because of the excellence of the 56 mm f1.2, which is faster, very nearly as sharp, and I think much easier to handhold. As good as this lens is, I need to watch out for it becoming a “cabinet queen” and if it does, consider selling this lovely tool to someone who can make better use of it.

Or , if I’m smart, I’ll let it teach me to be a more versatile photographer.

 

As always, clicking on an images lets you see it full size. Or, visit my Smugmug page for these and other images.

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Kielbasa Fest

Watching the Band (Fujifilm XE2, XF56mm f1.2)

As I mentioned in the previous article, Summer in our part of Pennsylvania is punctuated by a variety of local festivals or bazaars run by towns, churches, volunteer fire departments etc… Most continue to echo the now somewhat diluted ethnicity of the town where they’re held.

This is a good thing, because that ethnicity is expressed in food.  Generally really good food. Not necessarily good for you, but mighty tasty.

Street Games (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm F1.4)

Plymouth Pennsylvania is a slip of a town along the Susquehanna river downstream from Wilkes Barre. Like many places around the region, it’s a former coal mining town, struggling to survive in the post-anthracite world. There’s a strong Polish heritage here, and a decidedly blue-collar feel. People are extremely friendly for most part, but it wouldn’t pay to mouth off late at night in one of the many local bars.

Uh, Hello Officer (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF23mmf1.4)

The  Kielbasa ( or sometimes Kielbasi) Festival, Plymouth’s signature event occurs each year in early August. For the uninitiated, kielbasa is a pork-based polish sausage. Though back in Poland, kielbasa refers to a number of sausage types, here the term refers generally to what Poles think of as their “farmhouse sausage”.

Boa Man (Fujifiln X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

In many parts of Pennsylvania, kielbasa is a passion. People around here have strong opinions on whose recipe is best. Interest peaks around Easter. Small grocers (where a lot of good kielbasa is made) compete with smaller sausage makers that seem to pop up right before the holidays.

Kielbasa and Kraut (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mmf1.4)

The Kielbasa Festival is an orgy of comfort food that health-conscious people avoid during the rest of the year. Halupki (stuffed cabbage)and potato pancakes  beckon from the booths and trucks. Then there are the pierogis (a sort Polish ravioli stuffed with potatoes and cheese).Of course there’s kielbasa: as hot sandwiches to eat now, and as smoked rings to eat at home later.

Pierogis (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

Nowadays there’s the outlier fare such as chocolate-covered bacon, and obscenely decadent deep-fried stuff (we’re way past Twinkies). The odors  on the street are wonderful, even if they tend to be mixed occasionally with the faint smell of cigarettes.

Cooking Kielbasa (Fujifilm XE2, XF 56mmf1.2)

Towns like Plymouth have their issues. But the folks who keep these little town alive are solid, decent people who work extremely hard, whether for their small businesses, or for their churches and service organizations.

Tarnowski’s Kielbasa (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 23mm f1.4)

 

At any rate, I had the obligatory kielbasa and kraut sandwich, and an order of the jalapeno and cheese pierogis. Each was satisfying in a way that only our most familiar foods can be.

It’s a fun season. Next is the Tomato Festival up the river in Pittston,

And yes, it’s Italian.

 

 

As always, clicking on an images lets you see it full size. Or, visit my Smugmug page for these and other images.

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Summer Rolls Out

Foxglove at Sunset

Foxglove at Sunset(Fujifilm X100t)

The older that I get, the more I seem to appreciate the familiarity of life, and the yearly touch stones that punctuate the flow of the seasons. 

Or  maybe I’m in a rut. 

 If so, it’s a pleasant rut.

Here in the mountains of Pennsylvania, summer seems rather precious. The truly temperate period of our year seems short, lasting between perhaps early June to late September. It is during this brief span of time that we must have our fill of swimming, boating, sunning, and al fresco dining.

Given our latitude, and our altitude (around 2000 feet) summer weather is generally quite pleasant with warm days and cool nights, and only a very few truly stifling periods that cause me to second guess the lack of air conditioning in my bedroom.

The natural world unfolds in a predictable way. From photographic standpoint, sometimes summer seems like a succession of flowering events, from the honeysuckles, to the mountain laurels, to the foxglove and rhododendron, then finally to the cardinal flowers of late summer.

Backlit Rhodedendron

Backlit Rhododendron (Fujifilm X Pro 2, XF 56mm f1.2)

The foxglove in particular, has invaded our homestead. Given that they are low maintenance and quite beautiful, this is not particularly a problem. Another bonus is that, unlike much of our foliage, they are apparently deer-resistant. I suspect that this is courtesy of the digitalis they manufacture in their leaves.

In our region, the summer is punctuated by festivals and bazaars, all occupying their particular weekend throughout June, July, and August.

Inflatables

Inflatables (Fujifilm X100t)

Though these events are similar in format, the sponsoring towns, parishes, and volunteer fire departments, still betray a hint of their previous ethnicity in their themes and food selections. One can spend a very pleasant (and hyper caloric) summer attending the various events.

Cash Pitch

Cash Pitch(Fujifilm X100t, Classic Chrome)

 

Fourth of July like the rest of the country means parades, and fireworks. This year on the occasion of his 90th birthday, my father Dr. Henry Smith Sr. was chosen to be the Grand Marshall, of our very local Fourth of July parade. He now claims to be waiting for a call from Macy’s.

Grand Marshall

Grand Marshall Fujifilm X100t, TCL-X100)

Over the summer, our local railroad runs an old locomotive, pulling passenger cars, up and down the line between Pittston, and Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania. This is quite a scenic route, passing through sections of the Gifford Pinchot State Forest, and the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

#425

#425 (Fujifilm X100t)

With the windows of my old home open for the summer, it is pleasant hear the distant “chuffing” of the engine, and the sound of a steam whistle predictably announcing arrival at several road crossings near to my community.

As much as one may profess to love the other seasons, the simple joy and the casual comfort of summer is hard to deny. With each year I feel a twinge more regret as post-solstice, the days get shorter.

 

 

Just a reminder: to see larger, higher resolution version of these images and others, you can visit my Smugmug site here.

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More thoughts on the Fujifilm X Pro 2: Shooting a Wedding

 

Mime Greeter (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It feels like the Fujifilm enthusiast community has perhaps moved on. On brand oriented websites, the interest has shifted from the X Pro 2 introduced earlier this year to the  XT-2,  the freshly announced  replacement for the weather sealed, SLR-styled XT-1. This is hardly shocking, given that a lot of photographers who use Fujifilm equipment, particularly working pros, have come to rely on the less expensive yet equally featured XT series for their livelihood.

I myself have generally preferred the “rangefinder” body form of the original Fujifilm X Series. I do own an XT-10 which I bought in large measure for its movable rear screen, and its excellent autofocus.

Reception (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I am using and enjoying, the X Pro 2. It is proving to be an extremely capable tool, for both event and landscape photography. It does have some quirks however which have surfaced as I again more experience with the body.

As pleasant and beguiling as the Fujifilm products are ergonomically, they are in many ways inferior for instance to the Nikon equipment I also use. In an article I wrote some months ago on hoped-for features for the as yet unreleased X Pro 2,

Waiting for the Celebrants (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

Unfortunately the format function in some ways is actually buried deeper in the menus, in a fashion that can make it hard to find. I would also say that choosing which memory card to utilize or format, requires some non-intuitive commands that are difficult frankly to remember ( I have too many cameras). All this would be easier if the buttons were marked (as Nikon does). Eventually how to do this (pressing the trash can button and the thumb wheel simultaneously) will sink in to my aging brain.

In the Chapel(Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I shot my first wedding since obtaining the camera. There was much to be happy about. First the X Pro 2 is truly wonderful in low light. I tend to shoot photojournalist style weddings, hoping to avoid the use of flash, in favor of a natural, “in-person” style look to the images. The ceremony in this case was held in a rather dim but lovely, historic chapel, that I am extremely familiar with over the years.

I used both my X100T, and my X Pro 2, the latter with the 56 mm f1.2 lens mounted. I shot most of the festivities in raw plus jpeg using the Acros+ green filter films simulation, with either neutral or a little negative exposure compensation, and +1 shadow and highlight tones. Reviewed later on the monitor, the jpegs were a tiny bit dark, but extremely tolerant of raising the mid tones and shadows and in the curves section of Photoshop. Images from the X100T were shot in monochrome+ green filter, and were similar, but not quite as dramatic as the Acros files.

Daughter and Granddaughter (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

Also noteworthy is the dynamic range of the sensor.  I try hard not to be the choreographer for the wedding. This forces me to deal with weird lighting situations that arise when the couple is allowed to move freely about.  I do try to sometimes help the couple choose well lit locations, for instance, for their table in the reception hall.

We shot this wedding on a brightly sunny late afternoon, and large windows facing west provided light that was very directional, but deep shadows were quite recoverable, even on the JPEG’s.

One issue was the autofocus. I’ve generally had good luck with face/eye detection in the right setting, but in the dim church it became somewhat unreliable, and I went to a regular movable focus point.

Exchanging the Rings (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

In better light, particularly with more posed shots in the brighter reception hall, it was more useful. It would generally ignore the face when shooting the person from beside or behind, but would grab focus appropriately when the subject faced the camera. It continues to amuse me that, the face detection seems to prefer a female visage; conveniently choosing the bride for focus when posing with her new husband.

I did have an issue with the camera I still don’t understand. I’m not one to often use bracketing, but somehow during the afternoon the X Pro 2 ended up set to film simulation bracketing , and suddenly was not shooting raw files, or for that matter, my preferred film simulation. I ended up with some images shot in classic chrome, which are actually somewhat interesting, but not what I was intending to shoot. Just how this happened is unclear to me and it took me a few minutes to figure out what was the problem and set the camera correctly.

Groom (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

At the end of the day, you just can’t argue with the quality of the images. I set the camera to auto-iso allowing it to drift up to 6400 iso when necessary to keep the shutter speed greater than 1/80 of a second. Even at that sensitivity sensor noise is quite low, and the 56 mm lens is so sharp that the images are crisp and detailed. I have been shooting in that chapel for years, and even with for instance, a camera as competent as a Nikon D700, I was more comfortable with using flash and a diffuser at those light levels. Now at least to me, it is definitely possible to shoot in natural light and still obtain images that please the bride and groom.

Married (Fujifilm X 2 pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

I really don’t think that there is any issue above that cannot be rectified by either gaining more experience with the camera, and/or in a firmware update.

We are lucky as photographers in these times. to have the availability of such capable equipment, particularly gear that is as unobtrusive and discrete as these wonderful Fujifilm cameras.

Now let’s see what the new XT-2 can do.

 

Just a Reminder: you can left click on the images  to see a larger version. Better yet you can visit my Smugmug site here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Pause in Publishing

 

Dark May Skies (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 35mm f1.4)

I have been remiss. Over the past several months, I’ve been dealing with illness in the family, and then a nasty personal respiratory infection that has taken weeks to shake (and me a pulmonary physician).

I’ve had construction projects to manage both in Pennsylvania, and the Adirondacks.

All of this has left me less attentive toward shooting, and writing about it. It didn’t help that our warm brown winter was followed by a cool damp spring.

Old Adirondack Farm (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 35mm f1.4)

 

We spent last week for instance, in Lake Placid, which much of the time was 50 degrees, windy and raining. This continues my run on bad Adirondack weather. It did keep us focused on completing, the task at hand: restoring the first floor after a water heater problem laid waste to the place in late December.

Waiting for Better Weather (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

We (the DCNR folks and I) did manage I think, to pull off a successful landscape photography lecture/ photo walk in May at our local Nescopeck State Park. I hope to do more workshops at our local parks as the year unfolds.

Don’t Ask (Fujifilm X 2 Pro, XF 56mm f1.2)

 

I rarely become ill. So this stretch of problems was a bit daunting. I’m feeling better now, and with the improvement in my health, I feel the need to get out with my photo equipment and start shooting.

So let the Summer Begin!

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