Recently I was asked to do an interior design shoot for a show home that is going to be featured in a European home style magazine. I brought along a full frame DSLR mounted on a tripod with the intention of shooting tethered composites using multi-flash. However as the shoot developed, and due to both time and constraints on positioning of the camera I reached into my bag and pulled out my trusty Fuji-film X-T1 and mounted the the very handy 10mm-24mm F4 lens. This lens gives a ultra wide angle view and benefits in being a rectilinear design, so the straight lines stay as straight lines.
The only real problems with using this camera and lens combination, is that clients can look at it and think you brought a toy…it is so much smaller than a DSLR. The other issue I found is that tethered shooting isn’t a strength of the Fuji cameras. They are working with Adobe for better support in Lightroom however a Fuji-film engineer from Japan told me that it is unlikely Capture One will support any Fuji camera in the foreseeable future. This is a shame as Lightroom is a slug when shooting tethered.
The photos below were all shot at F8 which gave good depth of field, great sharpness and lack of chromatic aberrations that can start coming in at F11 or higher.
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.
Steve and Natalia are from the UK and Russia respectively, and decided to have a beautiful intimate pastel themed wedding at one of my favourite resorts, the Four Seasons in Langkawi. Only two of the family could make it out to Malaysia and it was a wonderful experience despite it being one of the hottest days I can remember while shooting at this location. Steve enjoyed it so much he had a quick swim during the portrait session! The civil ceremony itself is usually fairly fast (5 minutes) so I was running everywhere to get the images needed as there are many angles to cover. At the end of the wedding the setting sun made a great back drop for the final portraits.
Sitting in the Langkawi airport later that evening as I waited for my flight I whatsapped images to Steve and Natalia so they could forward to their family. Their feedback made my heart swell.
“Thank you SO MUCH You are superb! Grant we can’t put into words how pleased we are. You are a pleasure to work with Safe journey home.”
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!
Just before Chinese New Year I had a test shoot with the new Fujifilm 56mm APD f1.2 lens on my X-T1. The model and I decided to go down to the Thean Hou Temple to conduct her Model shoot. I will be doing a review later on this lens but for now… Gong Xi Fa Cai