Fujifilm’s 90mm Makes a Colorful Splash on the Set of Indian Summers 2

 

The lush focus drop off of the new Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2.

The lush focus drop off of the new Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2.

 

 Every image in this article is shot with the FX 90mm f/2 (With the exception of the image of the lens it’s self.). To view the EXIF data for ech image click the image.

Fujifilm has a history of producing amazingly sharp prime lenses in their lens lineup. The latest is the newly announced Fujinon 90mm f/2. Like all of my lens reviews, I will not pretend to know more than I do. No focus charts or color bars. I wouldn’t know what to do with them once I photographed them. Frankly, pixel peeping is all fine and dandy, but the real question is how does the lense perform. But there’s a catch: I was given a “pre-production” lens. To be fair, this limits what I can say. Here is how I am going to address this dilemma. I can comment on the looks, the construction and the focal length and hopefully help you decide if you really need this lens.

f/2, 1/1600 sec, at 90mm, 400 ISO, on a Fujifilm X-T1

Indian Summers 1st Block Director of Photographer (DP) John de Borman gets pushed down a camera track. Tatjana Jakovleva the Assistant Director (AD) watches on.

 

So to put this lens through its paces I brought it to the set of Indian Summers, season 2, the British (Channel 4) period-drama filmed here in Penang, Malaysia. You may recall I was the Still Photographer for the series last year and I’m back for the first block this year. Sadly, with my return to the USA this summer I’ll miss the final two blocks of shooting.

 

DP John de Borman, himself a Fuji X-T1 shooter is also the President of the British Society of Cinematographers since 2010.

DP John de Borman, himself a Fuji X-T1 shooter is also the President of the British Society of Cinematographers since 2010.

 

NEWS FLASH: for all my American readers, Indian Summers, season 1 will be released in the U.S. in Sept’ on PBS. Also, check out the new cast list HERE. I asked Channel 4 if they would let me release a few behind-the-scenes shots and a few cast portraits (all using the new Fujifilm 90mm f/2) and to my delight and amazement they said yes –  as long as they could vet them. We wouldn’t want any spoilers would we? But enough talk, let’s get on with the photos and a look at the 90mm.

 

Often my shots happen during rehearsal such as this one. Note the car in the background. During a take the traffic will be stopped.

Often my shots happen during rehearsal such as this one. Note the car in the background. During a take the traffic will be stopped.

 

The official title of this lens is the “Super EBC XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR” with a ∅62. What the heck do all those letters mean? Good question. “Super EBC means Electronic Beam Coating” that eliminates flares and ghosting. I guess this is good, but frankly, I love a good sun starburst at f/16 or f/22. I happen to know, so does the crew shooting Indian Summers. I’ve seen  them set up a shot just to get a nice lens flare. Moving on… “XF” means it’s a lens made for their X series of cameras and generally means they have metal barrels and wider apertures. Read “pro level lenses.” “R” simply means it has an aperture ring. This is one of the main reasons I shoot Fuji X. You may think I am a little nuts, but I like having the aperture ring where it’s suppose to be – on the lens – not buried in a menu somewhere. Now, with that said, this is not a mechanical aperture, it’s an electronic aperture. If you remove the lens and move the ring nothing happens. But this is good, because with an electronic aperture you can use the remote app on your phone or iPad and control the f-stop. If it was mechanical, that might be rather difficult. “LM” means Linear Motor used for lens element movement during autofocus. Interestingly enough this lens is alike the ATV of Fuji lenses as it has a Quad Linear Autofocus Motor. This new quad linear motor is suppose to be fast, quiet and accurate, using four magnets for higher torque (or so Fuji says). Lastly “WR” stands for weather resistant so this lens features a weather-and-dust-resistant structure with seven seals on the lens barrel. It can work in temperatures as low as -10℃.

 

Fujifilm EBC XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR

Fujifilm EBC XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR

 

Let’s move on to the lens construction. Remember, this is an XF lens, so we expect the metal barrel and Fuji does not disappoint. This lens, like all of the XF lenses’s made like a tank: solid and well constructed. The aperture ring is tight, but not too tight to move easily with well defined clicks between stops. The lens is said to have 11 elements. I just have to trust that is so. How the heck would I know short of taking it apart? The maximum aperture is f/2 and the minimum is f/16. Speaking of aperture, it has 7 rounded aperture blades so the bokeh should be nice. I can confirm it is pretty stinking nice! Officially it weighs 540g or right at 19 oz. I have quit saying this lens is light or heavy or big or small as it is all subjective and I always get challenged on it. Frankly, I expected a bigger lens over all so when I saw it’s relatively compact size, I was pleased. Below you can see it compared against the 56mm f/1.2, and the 50-140mm f2/8.

 

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8, XF 90mm f/2 and the XF 56mm f/1.2

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8, XF 90mm f/2 and the XF 56mm f/1.2

 

Being a 90mm or in full frame speak a 135mm means you have a very narrow angle of view.  This is a focal length favored by portrait photographers. Why is this important to mention? Because in many way this will define how you will use this lens. The focus fall off on this lens is dramatic and the bokeh is impressive. For portrait photographers who want to isolate their image by cutting out the amount of busy background this lens works hard at that. Its narrow angle keeps little outside of the subject in the frame and what is there drops off into a milky mess, as seen in many of these images.

 

This beautiful young lady is on of the "Indian" extras on the set. She is a local here living in Penang. The color is from the day we shot a holi celebration.

This beautiful young lady is on of the “Indian” extras on the set. She is a local here living in Penang. The color is from the day we shot a holi celebration.

 

However, with that in mind, this lens is not a versatile lens. It is a prime (aka a fixed focal length). There is no zooming except with your feet. For the style of photography I do, it was very limiting. Using a 90mm on the set the day we shot indoors at the “Viceregal Lodge” was almost impossible. To get the shots I wanted I needed to be 10 to 15 ft away from my subject and there just wasn’t enough room with the crew running around doing their job. However, once we shooting moved outdoors, things changed. I now had the space to move around and move forward and backward to get the frame I wanted and in this situation, the lens came into it’s own. Thus has less to do with the lens specifically, it must be noted, and  and more to do with  the focal length of it.

 

f/2, 1/210 sec, at 90mm, 400 ISO, on a Fujifilm X-T1

Actor Nikesh Patel on the set of Indian Summers 2 between takes. Check out the fall off of focus on the 90mm at f/2.

 

I never owned a 135mm when I shot my Canon 5D or 1Ds so I can’t comment or compare how this lens stacks up. I will say, I am impressed with the short focus distance I can achieve with the 90mm. I am finding I can get around 2ft (ish) from a subject before it can’t focus. This lens is not a macro lens, but it can get very close. I shot this image of my lunch and the drop off was amazing. I think this lens would work very well for food photographers – using a tripod. The one thing that surprised me was the lack of OIS (image stabilization). f/2 isn’t exactly slow, but it isn’t exactly fast either. One of my frustrations with this lens was shooting in low light. Even shooting wide open at f/2 I still needed to crank up the ISO up to 1000 to get a shutter speed that would keep things sharp. When I shot at 400 or 800 ISO I was getting shutter speeds of 1/40th and 1/60th of a sec. It will be next to impossible to keep a 90mm lens sharp at any of these shutter speeds.

 

f/2, 1/110 sec, at 90mm, 800 ISO, on a Fujifilm X-T1

I think the Fujifilm XF 90mm will be a great lens for food photographers.

 

The XF 90mm f/2 could find it's way onto the camera of food photographers.

The XF 90mm f/2 could find it’s way onto the camera of food photographers.

 

To remind you, this was a pre-production model so I’m not going to comment on the sharpness of this lens. Other photographers I know swear this lens is among the best of the best in Fuji lenses for sharpness. One issue I did have was focusing in lower light but again, the lens I used was a pre-production sample.

 

Actor Blake Ritson new to the cast this season.

Actor Blake Ritson new to the cast this season.

 

Actor Henry Lloyd - Hughes plays the lead character, Ralph.

Actor Henry Lloyd – Hughes plays the lead character, Ralph.

 

Actor Art Malik plays the Maharajah this season.

Actor Art Malik plays the Maharajah this season.

 

Who would use this lens? It is always the case of “the right tool for the right job”  As I said earlier, this focal length has been favored by portrait photographers for years. A photographer using this focal length needs to be able to place his subject at a distance and be able to move forward and back without running into walls or other people. I can see it being used in a large studio for portrait work. I think it is perfect for portrait/fashion photographers. By portrait photographers I am not talking about the street photographer who shoots in tight places or does environmental portraits. This focal length would not work would well for these types of images. The angle of view is so narrow that to get any environment into the frame you would have to be standing in the next county to achieve this. However, it would work very well for food photographers. Most food photographers want to isolate the dish they are shooting and drop off the background to a milky pleasant blur. This lens will do that perfectly.

 

f/2, 1/320 sec, at 90mm, 1000 ISO, on a Fujifilm X-T1

The 90mm’s weather resistance comes in handy.

 

I am certain, even though I only have the pre-production version, Fujifilm has another winner on their hands. If paired with the right subject and location this lens will be a killer option.

 

Alan Finlay a local "British" extra.

Alan Finlay a local “British” extra.

 

Indian Summers season 2 Director for block 1 John Alexander. He's got great taste in hats. ;-)

Indian Summers season 2 Director for block 1 John Alexander. He’s got great taste in hats. ;-)

Director John Alexander and Producer Dan Winch discuss the day's shoot.

Director John Alexander and Producer Dan Winch discuss the day’s shoot.

 

Focus Puller Justin Brokensha shoots his personal photos on the set with his Fujifilm X-T1.

Focus Puller Justin Brokensha shoots his personal photos on the set with his Fujifilm X-T1.

 

Young Syed Jasim Reza Ali plays a short but significant role early in season 2.

Young Syed Jasim Reza Ali plays a short but significant role early in season 2.

 

"Boy 2" Mohammad Faiq

“Boy 2″ Mohammad Faiq

 

Syed Jasim Reza Ali, Mohammad Faiq and Padmessh Kalyan Kumar run through the bazaar.

Syed Jasim Reza Ali, Mohammad Faiq and Padmessh Kalyan Kumar run through the bazaar.

 

Another local Indian extra.

Another local Indian extra.

 

Sudarshan Chandra Kumar aka Sergeant Singh

Sudarshan Chandra Kumar aka Sergeant Singh

Views of Kenya with the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR Well balanced, but it couldn't be called a small lens.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR Well balanced, but it couldn’t be called a small lens.

 

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR with it's tulip lens hood attached.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR with it’s tulip lens hood attached.

So just before I left for Kenya, I got a WhatsApp message from my contact at Fujifilm Malaysia telling me they had the yet-to-be-released Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR. I have been waiting for this lens since it showed up on the Fujifilm Lens Road Map. A 16mm f/ 1.4? That’s a lot of light!  But the real question was going to be, would I feel it was wide enough? Let’s face it, a 16mm lens on the X-system is effectively a 24mm in 35mm-speak and I generally like shooting wide. I like fast even better. This lens has not disappointed me.

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1


I really wanted to write this review before leaving and post it the day the lens was officially announced, but unfortunately I got the lens only the day before I left for Kenya and I have been working on an OFMP training everyday since I arrived. I was able to carve out a few moments here and there to put this little guy through some of it’s paces.

 

f/4, 1/10 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/4, 1/10 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1


Speaking of little, this actually isn’t all that small. It dwarfs the Fuji 14mm f/2.8. It’s bigger than the 23mm f/1.4 and the real shocker is, it is even slightly bigger than the 56mm f/1.2! I am not sure I understand why it needs to be this size. I understand the weight. It weighs right in between the 23mm and the 56mm at 375 g (0.83 lb), about where I expected. After all, it’s loaded with glass. But I don’t understand the size. It’s slightly bigger than the 56mm that is 3.5 times longer in focal length. But what this lens looses in size, it makes up in sharpness. Like many of the other Fujinon lenses, the 16mm is razor sharp. You need to be careful because you’ll cut yourself, its so sharp. It’s sharp at f/16 all the way to f/1.4. I was thoroughly surprised to see this lens was not only sharp in the center at f/1.4, it was also sharp from edge to edge.

 

f/10, 1/160 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/10, 1/160 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I have yet to discover any chromatic aberrations at any f-stop. It’s here where I am suppose to tell you about the 13 lens elements in 11 groups, including 2 aspherical lens elements and the 2 ED glass lens elements to reduce lateral and axial chromatic aberration, but honestly I have no idea what that means, so as Clark Gable once said, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”. All I know is it is crazy sharp!

 

f/10, 1/40 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/10, 1/40 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I do know nice-looking bokeh when I see it, and this lens has it. Apparently it has to do with the 9 aperture blades. Again, I am less concerned with why it happens and more concern with “does it look nice?”, and it does.

The lens is weather sealed and becomes a great addition to the the weather sealed X-T1. Twice on this trip I was shooting in the rain and the camera got completely drenched. Not a problem.

 

f/1.4, 1/400 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/400 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/550 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/550 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

 

I have read somewhere that this lens was slightly slow focusing using phase detection. Maybe, but I never experienced it. Every time I used it, it seemed to snap to focus as quick as the best Fuji lens.

I want to be fair here; I have not put this lens through a tough regiment of shooting. I just received this lens as I was leaving for an OFMP training at The Kilgoris Project in Kenya and only had a limited amount of time with it. What I can say is I am not disappointed with it. Unlike the 16-55mm, a lens that I felt was a well crafted lens but will never find it’s way into my bag, there is a chance this lens will not come off my camera! It is just wide enough to provide context in photos without creating undo distortion on the edges. It is fast, so it will be useful in low light situations, it is sharp and focuses quickly and accurately. What more can a photographer want? My guess is once I get this lens, my 23mm f/1.4 and my 14mm f/2.8 will stay in my bag a lot more.

 

f/1.4, 1/320 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/320 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

Did you know that this is the 4th lens in Fujifilms lens lineup at the 16mm focal length? They have the 10-24mm f/4, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and the XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6. None of these are primes and all of them slower, with the fastest being the 16-55mm at f/2.8. It might surprise some of you that I never bought the 10-24mm f/4. As sharp as that lens is, and it is really sharp, I found it too slow at f/4. Yes, I know it has image stabilization (OIS) but that just stabilizes the lens not the subject. When I did use the 10-24mm, it was almost always on at the wider end between the 10 to 16mm focal length. So the new 16mm lens gives me speed at f/1.4 and a nice wide focal length. Do I wish this was a wider lens? Sure. But at the moment, there is no wider lens at this speed on the Fuji Road Map. But I can live with that. This lens hits the sweet spot for me.

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/60 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/60 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

The 16mm seems to have plenty of contrast and shooting at f/1.4 it gives your subject a nice separation from it’s background. It focuses close, as you can see from the tea flower and the daisy image below. I think I was as close as 6 inch or more. The bokeh get more impressive the closer you get to your subject.

 

f/1.4, 1/1800 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1800 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/3.2, 1/90 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/3.2, 1/90 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

The lens is suppose to be selling on Amazon for $999… er $1,000. So in the end, it comes down to would I shell out $1,000 for a 16mm f/1.4 lens? The answer is a resounding, “Heck yeah!”

 

f/5, 1/1100 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/5, 1/1100 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1250 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2500 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2500 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

f/1.4, 1/2000 sec, at 16mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

 

f/16, 1/110 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

f/16, 1/110 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

First Look: Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 R LM WR

The not yet release Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 R LM WR

The not yet release Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 R LM WR

A few weeks back I sat with two of the marketing managers for Fujifilm in our local Starbucks. One was from Malaysia and the other was the regional marketing manager from Japan. As we spoke and drank our coffee we talked about all the good things happening with Fujifilm within Malaysia and globally. As we were getting ready to leave one of these men asked, almost in passing, if I would like to shoot the new 16-55 mm. I was stunned. This is the hottest new lens from Fujifilm. As far as I knew no one had even seen it yet, let  alone used it. After picking up my jaw from the floor I said, “Heck yeah!”. “Ok, we will get it to you Friday, just in time for your assignment.” (I was currently shooting for a Hong Kong based magazine on the markets of Penang).

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Review: Zhongyi Lens Turbo Adapters ver II for Fuji X mount cameras (FX)

Zhongyi Lens Turbo for the Canon EF – Fuji X-Mount

Zhongyi Lens Turbo for the Canon EF – Fuji X-Mount

 

I recently was sent a Canon EF – Fuji X Lens Turbo Adapter from a Hong Kong Based company called Zhongyi Optics. A Lens Turbo is a cool little adapter that fits between your lens and your camera body. It is suppose to both increase the speed of your lens a full stop and adjust the crop factor to full frame. This version was made specifically for fitting Canon EF lenses on to a Fujifilm X-Mount. This sounded too good to be true. In short, it was… sort of.  Not that it wasn’t fun and in fact with a few caveats I’d even say it’s worth the $150 they sell it for. Continue reading

Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8 LM OIS WR: Review

Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8 LM OIS WR

Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8 LM OIS WR

 

For more than 3 years Fujifilm has been producing stunningly sharp lenses for their X-series camera. The 35 mm f/1.4 was one of their first lens and it was so sharp I was sure it was a software trick inside the camera.  Then came the other lens with the 56 mm f/1.2 being the go-to for portrait photographers. But there was still an obvious gap in their lens line up. Sharp or not, there was not a 70-200 mm f/2.8 equivalent lens, that is until now. That hole is now filled with the Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8 and it is amazing. Continue reading

2014 Gift Guide the Discerning Photographer

HolidayGuide

 

Every year I try to create a Christmas Gift List that I think my readers might enjoy. It started out as a list of things I had that I thought others should have as well. But it has since morphed into both a list of things I can vouch for and things I am putting on my own wish list. I wanted to get this out before the notorious “Black Friday”. For those of you that are not American, this is the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and it has proven to be the biggest shopping day of the entire year.  I think I gave you a real variety – but no fedoras or pipes this year. Sorry. I did manage to add a bow tie , though . They are in general price categories from the most costly to the least. This way if you have a budget you know where to look at a glance. So without further to-do here is my list.

 

christmas-divider- Continue reading

Hipstamatic’s New TinType App Rocks

Ladakh boy

Ladakh boy – photographed by Mike Alexander on the Ladakh 2014 Workshop.

 

Screenshot 2014-10-23 14.38.41 Screenshot 2014-10-23 15.20.06

 

I have been a huge fan of tin type photography since, well… forever. In fact my very first Depth of Field wasn’t a podcast it was a written post on Robb Kendrick and his use of tin type in the 21 century on assignment with the National Geographic Magazine. So it is no wonder that when I got an email today from Hipstamatic informing me they have a new app called TinType that takes your iPhone photos and does it’s digital magic on them and make them the closest thing to a real tin type you can find digitally. The App is ¢.99 in the US App Store and if you like this kind of effect, it is well worth it. Continue reading

Video Blog #10 Photo Interview with Fernando Gros and more…

 

 

Yes, it is true, this is a video blog post. I know you thought it was dead and gone. Well it was only sick. 😉  I have tried breathed into it new life. Well, I least I hopes to.

This Sunday I am off to Ladakh, India for a two week workshop. After Ladakh the group heads to Srinagar, Kashmir. Then in February, 2015 I head back to Rajasthan. The question begs answering are photo workshop worth it? Are they worth the time and the financial investment? So this issue we will look at the benefits of photo workshops. To do this I have an interview with Fernando Gros from FernandoGros.com. Continue reading

A few thoughts of the Fujifilm FX56 mm F/1.2 R

XT1_56mm

Fujifilm FX56 mm F/1.2 R

 

This is part two of my thoughts on two lenses that Fujifilm Malaysia lent me this past week. In the last review I looked at the XF10-24mm f/4 R OIS. Today I am giving you my thoughts on the FX56 mm F/1.2 R.

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