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

The Komodo Dragon

The Komodo Drangon

The Komodo Dragon

-Click the photos to view the exif data in a lightbox. For those of you who geek out over gear, all images were shot with either a Fujifilm X-T1 used by me or the X-Pro1 used by Jessie.

 

This week is Spring Break for many American schools and even though Jessie’s school is in Malaysia we have the same schedule. So for Jessie’s last spring break in South East Asia we wanted to do something special. We decided to visit Komodo Island and visit the famous Komodo dragons.

We spend three days on a live-aboard boat and visited both Komodo and Rinka islands. Both islands are a part of the Komodo National Park. The Komodo dragon is the closest thing to a living dinosaur there is and frankly, it’s not that far from it. According to Wikipedia, “…recent research suggests the large size of Komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large varanid lizards (monitor lizards) that once lived across Indonesia and Australia, most of which, along with other megafauna died out after the Pleistocene.”

 

A Komodo dragon on the hunt. Photo by Jessie Brandon

A Komodo dragon on the hunt. Photo by Jessie Brandon

 

So what is the difference between a monitor lizard and a Komodo? Well for one thing, the size. The Komodo gets to be huge! It is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres (10 ft) in rare cases and weighing up to approximately 70 kilograms (150 lb). 1 They also have saliva that contains from 50 to 80 different bacteria. 2 This cocktail is deadly, once bitten you have about three to four days of agony before you die. That is if you get away. Because unlike the avaerage monitor lizard who runs away before you can even get close, the Komodo is aggressive. Our guides carried a large forked stick to ward them off. He used it once. Frankly, these lizards are terrifying!

 

Photo by Jessie Brandon

Photo by Jessie Brandon

My only regret is there was never anything to give a perspective to the size of these monsters. The closest thing was the photo of Alou and Jessie near one 2.5 meter one. But even that didn’t do the scale of these creatures justice. But I hope you can at least feel something when looking at these photos. We were fortunate in away. In the early ’90s they banned feeding the dragons for the public. Now they only feed them (or so we were told) when a VIP shows up. We happened to arrive on Rinka island the same time as a government dignitary was visiting and so they hung a goat or at least a part of a goat out to lure them in for the official. By the way, the Komodo can smell blood with it’s forked tongue up to 5 km away! I was a little nervous when I cut my leg while trekking in the Rinka forest. Yikes!

It was hard to show the true size of these beasts. Even this one doesn't look like the 2.5 meter he is.

It was hard to show the true size of these beasts. Even this one doesn’t look like the 2.5 meter he is.

 

The Komodos being fed at Rinka island.

The Komodos being fed at Rinka island.

 

Feeding at Rinka island for the Indonesian VIP.

Feeding at Rinka island for the Indonesian VIP.

 

A Komodo dragon in the forest of Komodo island.

A Komodo dragon in the forest of Komodo island.

 

The graceful S curve of the Komodo.

The graceful S curve of the Komodo.

 

This was a massive 2.5 meter male on Komodo island.

This was a massive 2.5 meter male on Komodo island.

 

A young dragon.

A young dragon.

 

We were told, mush of the time visitors only get to see the Komodos laying around in the hot sun like this one.

We were told, much of the time visitors only get to see the Komodos laying around in the hot sun like this one.

 

Another giant male Komodo on Rinka island.

Another giant male Komodo on Rinka island. Photo by Jessie Brandon

 

I young female on Rinka island. Photo by Jessie Brandon

I young female on Rinka island. Photo by Jessie Brandon

 

After eating, with a face full of flies.

After eating, with a face full of flies.

 

The classic Komodo pose for the photographer.

The classic Komodo pose for the photographer.

 

Jessie got nice and close for this portrait. Photo by Jessie Brandon

Jessie got nice and close for this portrait. Photo by Jessie Brandon

 

 

  1. Ciofi, Claudio (2004). Varanus komodoensis. Varanoid Lizards of the World (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press). pp. 197–204. ISBN 0-253-34366-6.
  2. National Geographic

Rajasthan Photo Trek Participants’ Work.

‎© Clare Rowntree

‎© Clare Rowntree

 

Every workshop I lead I try to post some of my participants’ work that was shot during the workshop. I have always been amazed at what the participants see and photograph. Remember, most of the opportunities are found by them, not set up by me.

I hope you join us for my next workshop in Kashmir, India. By the way, the early bird special is soon to run out and the price will be going up on March 15th by $100. Hurry up and sign up now.

 

© Steve Fossum

© Steve Fossum

 

 

 

© George Vourlidis

© George Vourlidis

 

 

 

© Simon Garvey

© Simon Garvey

 

 

© Steve Fossum

© Steve Fossum

 

 

© George Vourlidis

© George Vourlidis

 

© Simon Garvey

© Simon Garvey

 

 

 

Comfort Zones

comfort-zone

 

Recently I heard a really great quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This resonated with me so much when I heard it I even thought, “now here is a quote I could tattoo on my body.” But I didn’t. I liked it because in many ways this has been my life’s motto even without me ever saying it out loud or tattooing it on my arm. It is why in 1987 I visited India, to push myself out of my comfort zone. It is why in 1994 I moved with my new bride to Kashmir and started a small trekking company. I was not content with being comfortable. Then, when in 2007 I moved back to the USA, it took only two years to realize I was getting too comfortable and so we moved to Malaysia. Continue reading

Rajasthan in Black & White

bishnoi.02.19-14.12.09-2

A Bishnoi farmer.

 

This is the first time I have had time to post while running this Rajasthan Photo Trek. We are approaching the halfway mark in our trip. We have a fun group that is enjoying themselves. They are discovering the colors of Rajasthan. It is true, Rajasthan is known for it’s vibrant colors. But sometimes photographers needs to push their boundaries and explore new ways to see old things. This is my fourth time photographing this place and for me this trip has been about light. One of the best ways to explore light is to break it down to highlights and shadows or simply put black & white.

-Click the photos below to view the exif data in a lightbox.

Girl at Nizamudeen

Girl at Nizamudeen

Another girl at Nizamudeen

Another girl at Nizamudeen

 

Sheikh Sultan in Humayun's Tomb.

Sheikh Sultan in Humayun’s Tomb.

 

Jodhpur Sweet factory

 

Jodhpur Man in Turban

 

Jodhpur woman in her kitchen.

Jodhpur woman in her kitchen.

 

Leaving the temple of puja late at night.

Leaving the temple of puja late at night.

Met this man at a tea stall on the way to Pushkar.

Met this man at a tea stall on the way to Pushkar.

 

A proud Rajasthani man on the road to Pushkar.

A proud Rajasthani man on the road to Pushkar.

 

Another man at the tea stall on the road to Pushkar.

Another man at the tea stall on the road to Pushkar.

 

This man makes (or used to) metal chairs like the one he is sitting in.

This man makes (or used to) metal chairs like the one he is sitting in.

 

f/3.6, 1/125 sec, at 14mm, 500 ISO, on a X-T1

A family of pilgrims in Pushkar.

 

f/5, 1/125 sec, at 14mm, 500 ISO, on a X-T1

Mounting his bike after puja. Pushkar, Rajasthan

 

 

MindShift Gear Giveaway: We have a winner!

winnerbadge

 

I am excited to announce the winner of our Mindshift Gear Giveaway. Congratulations Saket Kath. Saket was chosen at random out of 2005 entries! Like I said lucky. Seket will be getting the amazingly functional and elegantly designed MindShift Gear rotation 180º camera backpack. Have you ever missed a great photo because you couldn’t access your camera? The rotation180° backpack’s rotating waist pack will help you get the image by allowing instant access to your primary photo equipment. With ample room for clothing layers and a hydration reservoir, this pack will help you maintain your creative momentum in any environment. Check out the MindShift Gear rotation 180º camera backpack.

Don’t forget, this was all to celebrate our Kashmir, India Photo Workshop & Trek. We still have around 5 spots left. Come join us.

MindShift Gear Giveaway!

mindshift-click

No Purchase Necessary and Void Where Prohibited.

 

I am excited to announce that camera bag maker MindShift Gear and I will be giving away a Mindshift Gear’s Rotation 180º camera backpack to one lucky soul. This is a fantastic backpack! I own one of these myself and I can tell you it is build like a tank but is light as a feather. Last year I did a video review on this bag and it did real well. Read that review HERE. Why are we giving this bag away you might ask? Well, we are just like that, kind, generous and giving people… Continue reading

Take a hike: photo trek with Matt Brandon through Kashmir

Our bad ass guide for the Lidderwat trek, Abul Aziz.

Our bad ass guide for the Lidderwat trek, Abul Aziz.

 

I have received a couple of emails asking just how hard is the trekking portion on the Kashmir Photo Trek & Workshop. Before I get into that I need to define a term. Many North Americans are unfamiliar with the term trek or trekking.   The term “trek” simply means to walk or to travel. I used the Digital Trekker as my brand name because frankly mattbrandon.com was taken and I was running a trekking company at the time called Frontier Treks & Tours. So the whole trekking moniker seamed natural. I mean, I was shooting a digital camera and knew way back then digital was the new future. So I became the Digital Trekker. Recently I thought why not add the trekker to my workshops. So I bought the domain IndiaPhotoTreks.com and there you have it, the birth of the photo trek. But it seems the down side to this is people think we will be backpacking all the time. Not always the case.  But there will be times when we will do some hiking. That brings me to where we started this post.

Continue reading