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 Maasai

A Maasai Mother and Child.

A Maasai Mother and Child. Ollolailei, Kenya

In the last post I wrote about my time with the folks at the Kilgoris Project in Kenya. The project helps Maasai children to obtain a quality education – in short it gives them the leverage to choose their future. The Maasai are a proud people from Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are semi-nomadic herdsmen that are renown for their bravery. We met one old man that as a test of bravery killed a lion with just his spear, he had the teeth marks in his arm to prove it!

I was privileged to be able to photograph a few of the Maasai children and adults that live in villages that are apart of the Kilgoris project. These are special people on so many levels. I really hope I was able to portray their strong spirit.

 

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Two Friends. Ollolailei, Kenya

 

A young Maasai girl in ceremonial dress.

A young Maasai girl in ceremonial dress.

 

Life doesn't frighten him at all. Kilgoris, Kenya

Life doesn’t frighten him at all. Kilgoris, Kenya

 

 

The Kilgoris Project

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.

School starts early under the tree in Ndege, Kenya.

 

This week I had the privilege of photographing the extraordinary work being done by The Kilgoris Project in Western Kenya.  The Kilgoris Project is an NGO started around 10 years ago by Caren and Jon McCormack to provide quality education to the children of the Maasai. If you are a long time reader of my blog then you are familiar with this extraordinary work. In fact, I would encourage you to listen to the podcast I did with Jon a year ago last March. You’ll find it HERE.

Even though I have known about Jon and Caren’s work for some time, this was my first Kilgoris experience. While Jon and I took off to the bush to photograph two new prospective sites for more schools, Gavin Gough and Lesley Fisher were busy running Gavin’s amazing charity, SeedLight. The idea behind SeedLight is to help kids to express themselves through photography. Learn more about Gavin’s work HERE.

Jon and I visited two prospective locations for new schools. Each school is in a rural area that offers only one school for miles. The schools we visited in Ndege and Ollolailei, are spread over several miles. Each community might have one school that educates 500 to 600 children, but this is only counting the children who actually attend, there are many, many others who just don’t make the hike. Many communities like Ollolailei have no road. Children who are only 5 or 6 years of age will literally hike miles through the bush just to attend classes. But these schools are over-crowded–often 80 kids to a class and three to a desk. The schools usually have no funding for facilities for lunch programs, and with so many of the students walking so far to come to school, the classes are kept to only a half day. By the way, the older children arrive at school by 7:00am in order to receive tuition and don’t leave school till 5:00pm!

At both Ndege and Ollolailei the school is literally made of mud and sticks. Ndege is less rural and has over 500 students. The school has around 10 or so classrooms, but with no room left over for the primary children, they have their classes outside under a tree. It might be beautiful to look at, but not so nice when the rain starts. On those days, there simply is no class. Ollolailei is way off the road. Here the school is only one room and it does double-duty as their church. Here they have two classes under the a huge tree.

I am touched to be able to share with you some images from this week.

A note to all you photo geeks: All these images were shot with Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

 

Ndege children waiting for school to start.

Ndege children waiting for school to start.

 

Children often are three to a desk.

Children often are three to a desk.

 

Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade at Ndege.

Philip Oloetiptip is the 1st grade teacher at Ndege.

 

Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.

Oloetiptip and his 1st grade class.

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A smiling student at Ndege.

 

Children sit early in the morning for tuition.

Children sit early in the morning for tuition.

 

A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.

A child waits outside his classroom at Ollolailei.

 

A Masai elder stands next to  the schools class under the three at Ollolailei

A Maasai elder stands next to the schools class under the three at Ollolailei

 

The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

The one room school house and church at Ollolailei.

If you would like to donate to the work that the Kilgoris Project is doing in Kenya, here’s your chance. Please donate.

A Rocha Kenya: Bird Ringing

All of last week I was at the A Rocha Mwamba Field Study Centre in Watamu, Kenya. Watamu, is a village in the Kenyan coastal county of Kilifi near Malindi.  A Rocha, which is Portuguese for Rock, is a Christian conservation organization that believes that as Christians it is it is their duty to protect God’s planet and His people. They do this by engaging in scientific research, environmental education and community based conservation projects. They are based in 19 countries around the world. I was asked to come to their Kenya branch, which is their second oldest after Portugal, to help them tell their story of their newest venture – marine research.

The thing is – I needed to understand them and their work. Up until a few months ago I had never heard of them. The best way is to observe them at their work or better yet, roll up your sleeves and jump in and participate in what they are doing. I was fortunate that this week they would be “ringing birds” (banding a bird’s leg with a small metal tag), visiting a community educational project and researching various corals in the marine park. A busy week and I was invited to join in.


A Rocha Kenya Bird Ringing – Images by Matt Brandon

The first project I observed was the bird ringing. Now, I am not an ornithologist but “bird ringing” sounds like something you do on the farm right before you make fried chicken. I quickly found out it is not quite so violent, though they do capture birds. Bird ringing is “ornithologist speak” for putting a small band on a bird’s leg with a number and a short message. The message reads something to this effect,  “Please inform the Kenyan National Museum – K29“. In short the ring is so they can track the birds migration and growth. So if a bird is found anywhere in the world people can send the band or just the number to the museum and they will have an idea of where the bird has been.  When a bird is recaptured they can track the bird’s band and record it’s growth and health. To collect the birds a team sets up large nets throughout the A Rocha property and on national parks in the area. On my visit they set up nets one morning on their property at Muwamba and then later in the week at Mida Creek, a mangrove forest reserve on Kenya’s coast near Watamu.

The whole process is done with the utmost care for the birds and meticulous notes are taken on each captured and ringed bird. The nets are 50 or 60 feet in length and around 8 to 10 feet high. They are set up in areas of high bird population and birds fly into them and get caught. Volunteers and staff researchers visit and collect the birds every hour. The birds are carefully brought back to a location where each bird is weighed and measured. It is here where either a ring is added to its leg or if it is already ringed the number is read and data added.

These amazing folks at A Rocha, Kenya have ringed and recorded thousands of bird over the years, leading to an endless amount of research on these beautiful creatures. If you would like more information on this organization, please visit the A Rocha website or for more specific information on the Kenya work or better still if you ever get to the region they have a guest house you can stay in for a while and volunteer. But A Rocha is not just about birds. It is about the whole ecosystem and it’s people. More to come…

Kenya and Back

Waiting for birds to be netted in the Mida Creek Mangrove Forest, Watamu, Kenya

Jambo!

For the past two weeks I have been in Nairobi and Watamu, Kenya. These two places are miles apart both literally as well as figuratively. In Nairobi (actually I was an hour outside of Nairobi at 7,000 feet or 2,000 meters) I was in meetings almost all week and when I wasn’t in meetings I was teaching photography to several NGOs all the while, freezing my tail off. I never would have imagined that I would be so cold in Africa in August. In Watamu I found myself working with one organization that is dedicated to conservation. I hope to be telling you more about A Rocha this week with a blog post or two and some fun photos. Watamu, situated on a beach, was nice and warm with a wonderful cooling breeze all day. When I wasn’t out snorkeling with two marine biologists I was ringing birds (more on “bird ringing” in the next day or two).

As I write this I am sitting in the Kuala Lumpur airport after a total of 15 hours in the air and 10 hours of sitting around airports waiting on flights. I am sleep deprived and ready to get home, kiss my wife and daughter and hit the sack.

Good Night.