I had an opportunity recently to compare the Fujifilm 56mm F1.2R with the newer APD version. They are both currently in production so the Fuji user has a choice on which to purchase. The APD version is about 60-70% more expensive. That’s about USD600 which may or may not be a major factor in your decision to purchase the lens. It is designed for the portraitist with the goal of controlling bokeh. Some disclosure. I own the original 56mm F1.2R and like it a lot, so had high expectations.
Outwardly the lenses look nearly identical. The giveaway is the “APD” on the lens barrel and orange T-stop markings. T stops show the actual light transmission. The special APD lens element does two things. The first is a positive and the second not so much. Firstly and most importantly it makes the bokeh more pleasing to the eye and secondly it absorbs some of the light going through the lens. This means that shooting wide open at F1.2 you are only going to get the same amount of light transmission to the sensor as if you were shooting at F1.7 on the normal 56mm F1.2R. This is not an issue when shooting as todays sensors can simply bump the ISO a little. Please note that at F5.6 the effective T stop transmission is the same on both the lenses so the T stops markings cease at that point.
As shooting brick walls is not my thing I decided to take the lenses out on some actual photo shoots over a couple of weeks. My methodology was to shoot using a tripod so as to keep the subject and backgrounds similar while I changed lenses alternating between the R and APD versions. All photos were taken in aperture priority with the aperture set at F1.2 which is likely the most common scenario when using this lens.
Please also note that the differences appear more subtle on this web page than they do on a 24″ screen or in a print. The first four images below left me nonplussed. The differences were only obvious after very close scrutiny on a large screen. On the back of the camera I couldn’t see any differences so was feeling “ho-hum”. However when we started to shoot outside the difference in the background foliage was very apparent.
All photos taken with the Fujifilm X-T1.
56mm F1.2R Control Photo
56mm F1.2 APD. Note the subtle difference in the flowers and chairs.
56mm F1.2R. Nice enough.
56mm F1.2 APD. Again, very subtle difference.
56mm F1.2R Control Photo. I liked the painterly foliage…until…
56mm F1.2 APD. Very obvious quality difference in the foliage.
Recently I travelled up to Perhentian island off the east coast of Malaysia to cover a Bulgarian/Punjabi wedding. It was a pretty intense 5-6 hour trip as I ran from one wedding in KL to the airport for my flight, land travel then boat to get to the venue which was the Perhentian Island Resort. Within minutes of arrival I was able to set up my gear and get shooting the walk in for the sumptuous barbecue wedding dinner. There were a number of interesting Bulgarian traditions including the wedding bread dance, which features a loaf made by the mothers bride which is later fed to both the bride and groom. They also break the loaf over their heads which you will also see below.
It was very dark, yet one of the things you will notice is that the photos are not. One of the things I do is bring remote controlled lighting to all shoots as it makes a massive difference. One of the photographers jobs is to evaluate, modify and control the lighting of the images. There was almost no available light during the dinner, yet in the background of some of these photos you will be able to see my remote radio controlled strobes triggering away. With more wedding venues using the “new” green and purple LED lights to add to the mood I think more photographers will eventually gravitate to this system. Believe me, no one wants to look like Barnie the dinosaur. Using this system protects you.
Portraits the following day were on a private beach. Only including a small sampling but it was a very nice shoot.
Regarding cameras, I am becoming more and more impressed with Fujifilms X-T1 camera system. I have never owned a camera that captures what I see as well as this camera does, and in doing so I now spend a lot less time editing than I do with my Nikons and Canons.
In Bulgarian weddings the brides mother traditionally makes a special loaf of bread
Two of the ladies dance with the special wedding bread
Please take note of the remote controlled strobes in the background. I am one of the few wedding photographers who use these in Malaysia.
Time to share a bite. Mum feeds the bride and groom
The beautiful wedding cake
Breaking the bread by the bride and groom is another Bulgarian tradition
Sumptuous wedding barbecue
Traditional Bulgarian dancing
Everyone enjoyed the Bhangra
The dancing went on all night
Time to cut the wedding cake
The beautiful bride
Portraits on the beach
After the portraits were done there was one sure fire way to cool off!
Cooling off with watermelon on a hot day at the Perhentian Island Resort
Later in the evening I took this 30 second exposure of the Perhentian Island Resort
E&O hotel is a colonial classic set up by the same brothers who established Raffles in Singapore. (iPhone)
This week I participated in my first ever photography competition.The idea behind the competition was to promote the E&O properties which include 18 Andaman East. Through their Facebook page (Click here to see it or if the link is broken or expired do a search on Facebook for the 18 Andaman) they selected 9 amateur photographers out of several thousand, and decided to pair them up with 9 professional photographers. The idea was probably to level the playing field and stretch everybody, as they chose professionals not generally known for their architectural or landscape work. The rules allowed no digital manipulation (aka Photoshopping!) other than basic enhancements e.g. exposure, and cropping.
The famous E&O hotel in Penang (iPhone)
I had two other shoots that week, a family shoot in Penang and a wedding at the Four Seasons in Langkawi, so it seemed like things really came together for me as far as scheduling was concerned. I debated what to take as all three shoots demand different equipment. I decided to leave my Nikon’s at home partly as I haven’t been shooting with them for a while, opting instead to take my Canon system due to the fact I was able to borrow a nice 24mm tilt-shift lens which is made for shooting architecture, and decided to supplement it with my light weight Fujifilm kit. Subject matter for the competition wasn’t known until we actually arrived so it was reasonable to believe we would be doing architectural shoot of the E&O since they were the sponsor. How wrong I was.
It was so hot I wanted to dive into the fountain (iPhone)
The subjects and themes for the shoot were given to us on the day of our arrival and we were all dropped off in the same spots with our partners. The locations were as follows:
Penang’s Straits Quay Marina
18 East at Andaman (Andaman at Quayside, Penang)
Penang’s old town – the touristy bit!
The view from my room at the famous E&O hotel in Penang. Perfect. (iPhone)
I already knew the day was going to be long and hot so decided to leave the much bulkier full frame DSLR in the hotel safe and took the crop frame Fujifilm X-T1 along with the 10-24, 18-55 and 56mm 1.2 lenses along with copious amounts of water and a lightweight aluminium tripod. My intention for the day was to have fun and not carry a big and bulky camera! My partner Danny brought his diminutive Panasonic DMC-GF6 camera and armed with these “baby” bodies we went to work.
My colleagues Panasonic DMC-GF6 (iPhone)
Looking around at everyone else equipped with their big DSLRs, shoulder and roller bags, I thought…oops! I certainly started to wish I had something a little longer like my normal go to lens which is the 70-200 F2.8. It was too late anyhow, so we went for a wander and met lots of nice people, set up shots and enjoyed the day. But in the back of my mind I had that lingering doubt….maybe I should have grabbed the big guns too. This really became apparent when we were at the Straits Quay Marina as we were not able to do down onto the quay itself…the whole place was locked up so the extra reach would have been really useful.
For the Straits Quay Marina we were given the theme “Intriguing Sea Front”. I decided on the following image because the Marina and ocean makes me think of travel and I wanted to emphasize the meeting of the Andaman sea with the land.The interior modern stairway and the exterior quayside also posed an interesting contrast I thought.
Penang Straits Quay Marina (Fujifilm XT-1 with 10-24 R on tripod)
The theme for the Andaman 18 at Quayside was “Captivating Andaman”. This was challenging due to the harsh midday sun which produced hard and sharp shadows.Although there were several photos on my shortlist, I wanted to portray this location as an oasis from the heat and hustle and bustle of city life so I was looking for a location that exuded a sense of peace and serenity, and looked inviting. Someplace I wanted to be “captivated” by so I could hide from the hot day.
Fortunately we found this area which was in the shadow of the apartment blocks and therefore gave nice subdued light.
Serenity (Fujifilm XT-1 with 18-55 on tripod)
The last theme of the day was “Colors of Penang”. If you have never visited Penang, believe me, you will be struck by the colours every where. Again, too many photos to choose from but in the end I settled on this one with the red bird cages. I liked the faded reds on the stone work which gave a feeling of the city being old…timeless and full of history. The bright colors show how each generation that lives in the city renews it.
Beautiful Penang (Fujifilm XT-1 with 18-55 no tripod)
Once we got back to the E&O hotel we were given 2 hours to prepare the photos for submission so they could be printed and made ready for the presentation the following day.
Judgement Day (sans Terminator) was amazing. All the photos were unveiled and I saw so many of the other contestants’ photos that I wish I had shot. One thing became really obvious and that is Malaysia has no lack of extremely talented photographers. Winners were announced and I was really shocked to hear that my partner Danny and I had won! The generous prizes were awarded and there were congratulatory hugs all around.
After that there were interviews with the press and the final summary before we all checked out.
The camera isn’t the most important thing. I was shooting with a crop frame camera and my partner with a 4:3 (four thirds) while everyone else had their DSLRs out.
Read and understand the criteria for the judging. It is critical.
Have fun. You can control whether you have fun or not, but you can’t control the judges’ decisions. So control what you can. I didn’t focus on winning but instead enjoyed taking time to meet and talk with a variety of Penangites and sent them their photos while I was shooting.
Related to the above: Built in wifi in any camera is an EXCELLENT add-on. With it I was able to Whatsapp photos to people within minutes of shooting them.
To see more on the E&O hotel itself, please visit their main page here.
To find out more about the Andaman 18 at Quayside please visit here.
And to find out more about the Straits Quay Marina click here.
Everyone won a prize! Yes! E&O blessed contestants fantastically!
Over Chinese New Year we covered a wonderful wedding in KL. We all started off at the Majestic Hotel which is simply beautiful. The wedding cars were a classic Rolls Royce and a Bentley which both wafted the wedding couple to SFX church in Petaling Jaya for their wedding ceremony. We then went to the Lake Gardens for portraiture and I would have to say the Fujifilm X-T1 paired with the Fuji 56mm APD 1.2 is simply stunning as a light weight portrait combination. It seemed I couldn’t take a bad shot of the wedding couple. The following wedding dinner banquet was held in the ballroom of the Lake Club.
These photos were taken with a combination of the Fujifilm X-T1, Sony A7, and Canon cameras.
I was asked to shoot an “Anti-Valentines Day” singles get together at Happer’s Bar and Pub in Damansara Jaya near the Atria shopping Mall for Matchzsticks on Valentines day. It was a fun event and lots of singles got together to meet old friends and make new ones. Shooting was fairly challenging as it was mostly lit by candle light. Due to this most of the photos below were shot between ISO 6,000 and 10,000 using the Fuji X-T1 with 56mm APD F1.2 and a Canon 5DMk3 with a 24-70 F2.8, hence the graininess of some of the images.
The popping of the Piñata was certainly a highlight of the evening 🙂
Happer’s Bar and Pub in Damansara Jaya. This is at a very high ISO so a bit grainy.