2017, year of the rooster

A happy new year to all my readers. May 2017 bring you happiness and take you one step closer to your goals.

As per the tradition in Japan, I started the year with a visit to the shrine (Hatsumōde), in order to get blessed for the year of the rooster, and bring back my lucky charms from the year of the monkey 2016 so that they can be burnt by the shrine.

I will be in Kyoto on the 21st of January for Fujikina, with the opportunity to touch and try Fujifilm’s upcoming GFX 50s medium format mirrorless camera. But more importantly I’m just looking forward to the trip to Kyoto, even though unfortunately for me Kiyomizu Dera’s famous main hall will just have been covered for renovation works that are expected to take place until 2020.

Talk to you soon 😉

Dear Peter, don’t click on this link if you are looking for a review of the Fuji X-T2

This post is in response to a comment posted by a reader called Peter on my previous article. I could have replied in the comments section too, but I have a feeling this might be a long paragraph, so I figured I might as well make it into its own blog post…

Dear Peter,

First, I would like to thank you for leaving a comment on my latest blog post. As you can see, I don’t get that many. I don’t get that much traffic either, even though you seem to find my titles similar to clickbait honeypots. I am truly sorry if you felt misguided by the title of my previous article. It looks like you got onto this page several days after I published it, which could explain why. Note that I published this article a week BEFORE the X-T2 was officially released (or even shipped), so I never intended for this article to look like a review (in which case this article would have probably been called “Exclusive X-T2 review one week before the launch!!!!”, the likes of which you can find on the net by the way, and that you can call clickbaits if you so desire).

Like hundreds of people I had some hands-on time with the X-T2 many weeks before it was released (there were many opportunities to do so in many countries, nothing out of the ordinary), and yet I did not spam glorious definitive opinions like others did after shooting at cars “zipping from around the corner” from a parking lot. In fact, I did not even talk about it actually. That would have made for many “clicks” though, as Fujifilm had not yet started to tour the US photo clubs and camera stores, so I probably should have.

But you are right, there is a conspiracy theory behind this article, so let me share it with you. To tell you all the details, this article initially had a different “working title”, because, when I started to write it, the point I wanted to make was different: I wanted to reply to X-Pro2 owners who were crying like babies because the X-T2 had better specs, by writing a post reducing the X-T2 to a beautiful dream, as opposed to the good time I was having shooting with the X-Pro2 during the time  those people were spending complaining from behind their keyboards. However, there was actually more than a month between the moment I started to write the article and the moment I actually finished it. The reason for that is that – when I was not busy working – I was indeed outside enjoying my X-Pro2, instead of typing the blog post as I had originally intended. I even filmed an entire VLOG episode about the initial topic with the X-Pro2, to show that it could also shoot good video footages even though not in 4K (I was eventually too lazy to edit all my footages, while I realised I was speaking too much in the video and I would have bored every potential viewer with my French accent, so I came back to the idea of writing a blog post instead).

As time passed though, the topic on which I wanted to write also evolved, as getting to roughly a week before the release I had gotten fed up with almost 2 months of publi-advertisement without any contradiction allowed, since only people chosen by Fujifilm had the camera.

Now here comes the dreadful truth. The dirty secret. At the same time as I was getting back to finishing this article, I was actually (re-)watching Sergio Leone’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the umpteenth time. Just love this movie. It’s one of my favourite movies of all times! And that’s how I got to structuring my article the way I did and choosing this title. It’s as simple as that. But it’s true that the Internet can some time be wilder than the far west, I will agree on that.

By the way Peter, I received the X-T2 and its battery grips on Thursday this week. I have used it for a few hours since, hence the time it took me to reply to you. Don’t expect to read any review about the X-T2 here anytime soon, as I don’t think that a few hours are enough time to do so (I used to try to create content quicker in the beginning of the X-Series, with the X-E1 for example, because at the time nobody else would care doing it, so writing about them was useful for the people looking for information, but nowadays there are hundreds of Fuji blogs). When I finally put up a review on this blog, I can guarantee you I will call it “Fujifilm X-T2 review”, so that you will know exactly what you will get when you follow the link. To be sure not to missed it, make sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow me on Twitter @balbo42 😉

Sincerely yours.

Star Wars BB-8™ Droid by Sphero

I am having some serious hardware problems with my computer, so I have a ton of pictures to edit piling up on memory cards. Unfortunately, it takes several days to have an appointment at the repair station of the Apple Store. 

Meanwhile, I’m having some fun at home with the Star Wars BB-8 Droid by Sphero to help the time go by faster 🙂

Shot taken with my Fuji X-T1, transferred to my iPhone via the Wifi app and slightly edited in Snapseed to add some vignette. This picture was actually taken on the floor of my living room, but, by setting the camera so that I get a pitch black exposure before adding one flash on camera left, I create the illusion that I am shooting against a black background 😉

1 Month with the Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f2.8: additional thoughts along the road

Hi folks,

What started as a short post aiming at showcasing a couple of videos/slideshows I uploaded recently on Youtube (->insert here an hypnotizing smiley that will get readers to subscribe to my channel<-) became some sort of mini-essay. So if you are a busy person or someone who does not like to read, let me summarize it for you: I love this lens, but I am not in love with it. If that makes any sense. Well, if it doesn’t, then i guess you have to read what follows to see what I mean 🙂

Thanks for your interest in this independent (aka I buy my own gear and I am not sponsored in any way so I remained to my own opinions) look at the latest member of the Fujifilm X-Series family. This is an opinion piece, so feel free to disagree entirely, no hard feelings 🙂

I have now been shooting with the Fuji XF 50-140mm f2.8 lens for roughly a month, which gave me more time to forge my opinion on the lens, while giving me opportunities to use it in various type of situations.

I used it in the controlled environment of a studio such as in this shoot with Akimoto Rui-san, where we also took the liberty to venture just outside of the studio for some natural light portraits as well:

But more than anything, I wanted to test this lens in a reportage/event situation, which I did while strolling within the Meiji Jingu vicinities on the Coming of Age Day (a Japanese holiday celebrating those who have turned 20 years old over the previous year as they have become “adults”). Busy crowd who has the right to enjoy their special day without obtrusive photographers getting the way, so being quick and effective is of the essence.

More samples on my Flickr page.

First of all, build quality feels solid (waiting for clumsy people to change this feeling into certainty), as you would expect from a highly priced weather-sealed lens. The lens is a beast by “mirrorless” standards, so not one for those who desire to remain conspicuous, people will notice you. On the other hand, the system as a whole remains compact enough so that after a moment of doubt you are put in the “non-threat” category by most people.

In terms of weight, if you jumped into mirrorless for the higher portability and all you have been carrying around so far is a XF 35mm f1.4, well, this lens is in a completely different league. I will say that though: I have been carrying this lens throughout entire days and always reached the evening ready to do the same thing all other again on the following day, while all I can think after an hour of running and gunning with a full frame DSLR with a 70-200mm f2.8 is that I really need a break. Yes, a comparison with a 70-200mm f4 would be more fair, duly acknowledged, but I never had any of those (the same way I would go for the faster version if Fujifilm had a zoom faster than f2.8).

Moving on to the most important part: image quality. Let me say this first, in this day and age, there is not a single manufacturer that produces lenses that are not “sharp” or with distortion such that you can’t circumvent it in post. Some though, still go a little extra further than most, and this zoom justifies its price tag with very limited distortion at both end of the zooming range, and a sharpness that will make anyone go “I think I just cut myself” the first time they load on their screen an image taken with this lens.

This might sound like a fanboy praise, but in fact it is quite the opposite. My prints don’t go onto giant billboards, and like any sane photographer I don’t spend my days shooting brick walls while putting the detail I want to be the center of attention of my photo right into the corner of the frame (no offense if that is what to do, diversity is a gift). While utterly impressed by the technical qualities of the lens, I don’t need that much optical perfection, and would have happily traded some of it for a smaller size or a cheaper price. The one thing I wish was better with this lens is the bokeh quality. The bokeh circles can look very harsh at times, with in some cases thin but dark circles around the edges of the lighter color discus, which can make your eye wander away from the main subject of the picture in order to investigate what is this contrasty cluster. Isolating your subject with the combination with the combination of the zoom (more often than not I will be at 200mm equivalent) and blurry background is what I am (personally) looking for with such zoom. The weird thing though, is that you still get some separation with the background because the subject looks so super sharp (call it personal taste, but I’d rather have a less sharp subject and a less ominous bokeh than the opposite). But it feels at time that Fujifilm is trolling so much the idea of making sharp lenses that even their booked is sharp…

Granted, from the get-go this zoom designed for a cropped-sensor could not shine beyond reason with its bokeh, when our eyes are now so used to the smooth and silly backgrounds we are abounded with the f2.8 full-frame lenses. Yet, I feel like this lens could have used a little bit more of sensitiveness and delicacy instead of going all out in a blaze of technical perfection glory. What can I say, that’s the Bon Jovi side of me perhaps 😉

This should not come as a surprise though, so can’t complain, as the firm has been very clear about its strategy: no compromise on the optics quality. The company even used this as the reason behind the size of the upcoming XF 16-55mm f2.8 and why the lens will not have OIS. Speaking of OIS, as we are used to now it works wonderfully. I have done some shots at 1/20 @ 200mm equivalent (not willingly to be honest, but by pure thoughtlessness…) and OIS saved the day.

This lens is definitely excellent – from an optical point of view that is, while aesthetic would be better if the bokeh was less “contrasty”. This lens is a must-buy for its purpose: weather-sealing and zooming versatility. It is a great piece of glass, there is no doubt about that. But… While the 70-200 zoom was attached to my body 75% of the time back in the days before I transited into the X-series cameras, I feel like this XF 50-140mm is a technical beast with a massive built that I will only use when there is no alternative (which is still a lot, mind you). My thoughts will go on what primes I have at my disposal first, and I see myself using the 56mm more than I thought, even in cases where 56mm does not sound like the most flattering choice of focal length, at least until the 90mm f2 is out (my interest in this one has grown up, while initially I doubted I’d need it in my bag. I wish it was designed with a faster aperture though, it would make the choice even more obvious). Conversely, my interest in the soon-to-be-available 16-55mm f2.8 is at record low. Image quality will be even better technically (and I can see why you would want a fixed aperture if you have a lighting setup in your studio and don’t want your exposure to change every time you move the zoom, compared to the “kit” lens), but while I tip my hat to the technical prowess, my mind is respectfully currently set in a different direction. I love that lens, but I am not in love with it. I hope it makes sense now.

Here you go freedom of speech! We all are Charlie…

Yours truly.