Wednesday, March 26, 2014

After 3 years with Fuji X-Cameras I say "Domo Arigato Fujifilm and Ganbatte Kudasai!"


It's now 3 years ago when my camera shop called and told me that they just got a Fuji X100 in and that I could buy it. 30 minutes later I was holding that camera beauty in my hands.

I surprised myself a bit by buying a camera that I had never held in my hands and did not read any usability reviews about before I bought it. On top of that I was pretty sure that I would never buy another camera without a full frame sensor since I switched to a Canon 5D / 5D MK II long before.

But the Canon's were simply too heavy to always have them with me. I recall a photo tour to Paris where my giant back pack full of DSLR bodies and premium lenses completely wore me out. Towards the end of that trip I was down to one camera body with my 35mm f1.4 lens and the rest of the gear locked up in the hotel room.

To go "back" to an APS-C size sensor in order to greatly reduce the bulk of gear I had to lug around with me was all of a sudden very appealing. And a camera that had and optical and electronic viewfinder plus the aperture ring, shutter time and exposure compensation on dedicated wheels and in locations where I used to have them in my trusted analog cameras made the X100 worth a purchase without trying before buying.

The X100 was supposed to be my every day casual shooting camera. I still had the big DSLR rig for "serious" jobs. I took my first photos with the Fuji and loved the image quality and color out of camera so much, that I even threw my principle of "never to photograph anything else but RAW again" over board and set the X100 to JPG only.

eye to eye with a shark
Fuji X100 with initial Firmware at the aquarium at ISO 2000

But as much as I loved the X100 I had quickly written down a fairly long list of things that I found quirky about it. One example was the fairly long minimum focus distance before having to switch to macro. I like to get close to the action and constantly ran into that focus trap. I was especially annoyed by the 4 button pushes it took to engage and disengage the macro mode. Quickly I had a substantial list of things written down that, from my experience, should work differently. I mailed it out to reps and posted it into forums without expecting anything to come out from it..

Alsterdampfer St Georg Hamburg ATG
A walk with the compact X100 and returning with great image quality

But then something strange happened. Fuji responded to many of these points (that other photographers had pointed out as well) and implemented massive changes through (free) firmware updates! This was a completely new experience for me. My previous camera brands only did firmware updates if something was seriously broken. But Fuji listened to us photographers and made the cameras better without forcing us to purchase the next years model that fixed all previous issues - the way I was used to from other camera manufacturers.

Vor Frue Kirke - Copenhagen Cathedral - Fuji X100 Pano
Using the vertical in camera pano mode is my hobby

By that time I was hooked! I was first on the list to get a X-Pro 1 with XF 18mm and XF 35mm lenses and my usage of the DSLR's was reduced drastically! Although the early X100 and X-Pro 1 had some special auto focus "characteristics" I somehow managed to still get most of my images sharp out of those cameras. By that time the X-Cameras had gotten a lot of attention and amateurs as well as pros gave it a try. Some were more happy than others, but switching from a DSLR AF to a CDAF AF takes a bit of a different approach. This motivated me to share my experience of how to get most out of the Fuji X AF via this blog post. By today it has been read a few hundred thousand times and I have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

X-Pro 1 + VSCO Film + Alphabet Soup
Happy getting the X-Pro 1

But Fuji also continued to improved the X-Cameras via FW updates in respect of usability, AF performance and features! And even after introducing the X100S upgrade from the X100 after 2 years of production, they still pushed out a major FW and feature update to the X100 for free! This may have actually hurt the sale of new X100S, but it's probably massively outweighed by future customer loyalty.

...and counting - Fuji X-Pro 1
3 years Fuji-X and counting

Today, 3 years after purchasing my first Fuji X-Camera my annual share of photos taken with Fuji X-Cameras vs. my FF DSLR is about 99% to 1%. I almost always take at least one of my Fuji cameras with me when I leave the door (that's what photographers should always do). Now it is hard for me to justify keeping the DSLR, some jobs are still DSLR territory for me, though. But with each lens that Fuji introduces and that covers my previous exclusive DSLR lens field of view, I can sell yet another part of my DSLR set (like XF 35mm f1.4 replaced my EF 50mm f1.4 and XF 56mm f1.2 replaced my EF 85mm f1.8).


A New Dawn - Happy New Year 2014 - Fuji X100S
X100S - right place, right time, right camera :)


Happy Coffee Bokeh Friday 27.12.2013 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Fast lenses like the XF 35mm f1.4 allow for shallow DOF even with an APS-C camera


B&W Portrait - Fuji X100S
The X100(S) is not a portrait camera - really?



Bird and Prey - Fuji X100S
Bird and Prey - Fuji X100S


Reflect on your 2013 photo portfolio - Fuji X100S
The X100S let's me focus on my composition by allowing me to intuitively operate the settings.



Hamburg U4 Underground Station = Space Station - Fuji X-Pro 1
X-Pro 1 with Samyang 8mm f2.8 lens capturing spaceship underground stations



Happy Music Bokeh Friday 14.02.2024 - Fuji X100S
The X100S even produces nice bokeh for my weekly bokeh friday photos


Happy Bokeh Friday 10.01.2014 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Camera and lens FW updates made precise focusing on the X-Pro 1 much easier


Suspense - Fuji X100S
X100S with perfect timing capturing suspense, action and hope in one frame


25 Hours Design Hotel Hamburg Hafen City
The day I gave RAW on the X-Pro 1 my first try



Lines, Street and Cat content - dedpxl01- Fuji X100S
X100S was my tool  for Zack Arias DEDPXL01 assignment #lines



After tenthousands of images taken with my X-Cameras I hope that Fujifilm continues to innovate the X-System like they have done in the past 3 years. And if they do, my DSLR gear will be obsolete for me one day.

So Fujifilm, Ganbatte Kudasai! :)



If you have any further questions or want to share your Fuji-X experiences just leave a comment below or Twitter me @HamburgCam

And if you liked my post I am always happy if you spread the word and retweet, like or google +1 it :-) 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Fuji X100S made me a better B&W photographer


So let me share my "secrets" to getting great B&W results from the Fuji X100S with you.


Exploring new directions - Fuji X100S
B&W photography can give your photography a new direction


I started my photography with a cheap plastic camera from a grab bag and a roll of B&W film in the 70's. I must have been 5 or 6 years old at that time. I guess that is where my emotional attachment to B&W photography started.

But when I switched to mainly digital cameras I shot generally in color. This was in big part due to the fact that I did not like the in camera results that the JPG B&W modes produced. And once the color file ended up on my computer, I often just stuck with color.

But since I own the Fuji X100S this has changed! The Fuji X-Cameras create superb color files straight out of the camera. But for the B&W lover in you, Fuji has also created some wonderful B&W filters.

I can see between the lines - Fuji X100S
This reflection would have drowned in a busy color background


My favorite B&W setting on the X100S for most situations are:

- Film simulation: B-R (B&W Red Filter)
- Sharpness: +1
- Highlight Tone: 0
- Shadow Tone: +1
- Noise Reduction: -2

This will give you a fairly contrasty B&W look when exposed correctly.

Late summer day in Copenhagen - Fuji X100S
The lack of color can be visually relaxing


And in case you don't have a lot of experience with B&W photography the Fuji X cameras with EVF or LCD will take you by the hand and guide you to your first successful exposures. When you switch your JPG to B&W you will see a B&W image in the EVF / LCD preview. Now use the exposure compensation dial (in Aperture priority mode) to increase or decrease the exposure and get a more predominant black or white  look.

Remix the World Copenhagen - Fuji X100S
B&W works great for structures and patterns


Through the live preview in the EVF I got this next photo exposed the way I wanted in my first try. It feels like cheating, but the result is what counts! ;)

Shadow mirroring BMX - Fuji X100S
Got this exposed the way I wanted on the first try - and this pose in motion would not have had time for a second try



This is a X100S portrait with my B&W settings plus on board fill flash straight out of the X100S:

Happy Bokeh Friday 11.10.2013 - Fuji X100S
This is a JPG straight out of camera!


If I still want some more contrast in my photo I upload the JPG file to my iPad and do some  quick adjustments - et voilà!

Harbour Landscape B&W - Fuji X100S
The sun flare was visible in the EVF. This way I was able to time it just right when the ship passed underneath it.


Still not sure if you want to deprive your exposures of the color for good? No problem! Set the Fuji X100S to shoot JPG + RAW and the RAW file will contain all of the color information just in case you change your mind later. The EVF will still show the B&W preview. Feels like cheating again? Don't worry! It is all about the images that come out of the camera :)

Happy Hamburg Bokeh Friday 27.09.2013 - Fuji X100S
Be adventurous and try to some B&W photos with your Fuji X-Camera


 I have to admit that I sometimes shoot JPG + RAW and end up using the RAW file to convert it into a B&W JPG in post processing. I will do this when I shoot in very contrasty situations and might need to recover some highlights later. The other occasion is when I shoot close to or at ISO 6400. I have set the Noise Reduction to -2 but at those high ISO the X100S tends to smooth out a bit too much details despite the NR -2 setting.


Night portrait at ISO 6400 and 19mm - Fuji X100S
At ISO 6400 I prefer RAW to keep more details


So, are you ready to give it a try? Then why not just save the B&W settings as one of your custom settings in your X100S for those occasions when you feel like shooting Monochrome :)

Copenhagen - Bike and Run City - Fuji X100S
The Fuji X100S is the perfect B&W camera for me!


If you have any further questions or want to share your Fuji X B&W experiences just leave a comment below or Twitter me @HamburgCam

And if you liked my post I am always happy if you spread the word and retweet, like or google +1 it :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fuji X100S Review - Is it worth to upgrade from the classic X100?

After a 2 year production cycle, Fujifilm upgraded the revolutionary X100 and introduced the X100S. The X100 was the reason I bought my first digital Fuji camera a little over 2 years ago and it has turned me into a loyal customer, also buying the X10 and X-Pro 1. The X100 was also the first camera that I preordered without ever holding it in my hands or reading a single review (there were no reviews at the time I preordered).

The X100S is my daily companion - even in bad weather
The X100S is my daily companion - even in bad weather there are scenes to capture

But now the question for me and countless other classic X100 photographers was: Should I upgrade to the X100S?

Fujifilm introduced the revolutionary hybrid viewfinder with the X100 and gave the camera an external control layout of a classic film camera with aperture, shutter time and exposure compensation that can be controlled blindfolded with your finger tips.

But the X100 was not without flaws. While the image quality was stunningly wonderful even in Firmware 1.0, some of the ergonomics were... hmmm... let's say "challenging".

The original FW was lacking some streamlining in the menu and the minimum focus distance before having to switch to Macro mode was almost a deal breaker for me. Especially since it requited the photographer to push buttons 3 times before the Macro mode was activated or deactivated.
But most of these issues were fixed with continuous FW updates and the AF plus MF quality and speed was improved over time, too.

Is it worth upgrading to the X100S
I'm already owning the X-Pro 1 and classic X100 - so is it worth buying the X100S?

So why should I upgrade if the X100 is a good camera with the current FW? Well, because the X100s is simply better at everything!

There were certain things that Fuji was not able to fix in FW on the classic X100 as they were hardware related. The X100 and the X100S exterior are almost identical but the trained X100 photographer will happily notice the subtle but important changes that Fuji made.

The first thing that I appreciate is the physically raised "menu" and "OK" button. You won't have to operate this important button with your fingernails any more. Secondly, the 3 position focus mode slider now has the most used modes at the easy to slide to top and bottom position (Manual focus and AF-S standard mode) while the least used mode for me (AF-C continuous that can only be used with center focus point) now sits at the fiddly middle position (where formerly the most used AF-S was placed). The AF-Point selection and Drive buttons also swapped places. This enables you to move the AF-Point with one finger while staying glued to the viewfinder. This fantastic improvement was also introduced in the 2.05 X-Pro 1 FW (1.06 on X-E1) update via Fn button.
Lastly, the RAW button turned into the Q-Menu (Quick menu overview) button that is known and loved from the X-Pro 1 / X-E1and X10 but did not make it to the original X100, yet.

Just these ergonomic changes could be reason enough for the enthusiast X100 photographer to upgrade. But wait, there is more! Fuji lists 70 improvements that have been implemented in comparison to the previous version of the X100. OK, let's make it 69 as I find the mere attachment of the "S" badge not to be a real usability enhancement ;)

I will not go through the whole list of remaining improvements but rather tell you what I find extremely helpful from a daily usability point of view:

The single biggest improvement for me is the reduction of the minimum focus distance before having to switch to Macro mode. It has been reduced by 40% down to 50cm (20in) from 80cm (31in) on the previous version. I was constantly in the close range for portraits and having to switch to Macro was annoying and slowed down the AF locking process considerably.

AF with improved close focus distance
The X100S has an improved AF close focus distance before having to switch to Macro mode - high five for that!

Next on the list to mention is the improved AF and MF speed. The contrast AF now gets supported by phase detection pixel on the sensor to speed up the AF in certain well lit situations. And when the phase detection pixel take control the AF locks very, very fast. If the contrast detection takes over, the AF speed feels about as fast as the AF speed on the classic X100 with current FW.

So how can one make the phase detection pixel to always be in charge? Well, Fuji claims that you will need a decent amount of light. Then you need to use the focus points around the center as these PD pixel are only covering 40% of the sensor around the center.

I did as Fuji told me, but I still find it very hard to control if PD or CD AF will be used to lock focus. Even if I aim the focus point at the same subject and try to lock AF repeatedly with half pressed shutter, it will sometimes pump (CD AF) and sometimes be instant (PD AF) to lock focus. This and an improved AF lock rate in backlit situations are two of the few areas where I hope for improvements in future FW updates. When you have a blazing fast PD AF it should be used as often as possible. But aside from this wish I should add that even right now this is the fastest and most reliable AF of the current APS-C size sensor Fuji X-Cameras.

And if you struggle with any of your Fuji X cameras AF, read this article that I wrote about maximizing your AF results with Fuji X cameras

The improved X100S AF in action
The improved X100S AF in action

And thanks to a higher resolution EVF, focus peaking and the now ambient light independent manual focus system, this is currently also the best manual focus Fuji X-Camera (until the FW 3.0 update for the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 on July 24, 2013 anyway).

Operating Speed:
The X100S also operates faster than the classic X100. There is no noticeable shutter lag and switching settings in menu is instant. If maximum operating speed is important to you, then switch off all energy saving- and switch on all performance improving features. What also helps is when you use the fastest UHS-I SDHC cards. I use the 16GB SanDisk Extreme 95MB/s and I'm very happy with the speed they write my RAW + JPG files.

 No noticeable shutter lag = perfectly timed captures
 No noticeable shutter lag = perfectly timed captures

Power consumption and batteries:
But with all energy saving turned off, I highly recommend that you buy at least one, or better yet, two spare batteries for your X100S. There have been situations where I got less than 350 images out of one charge with lots of reviewing and constant EVF use. And since my first experiences with two off brand batteries were so negative (they would not physically fit into the X100 battery compartment without getting stuck) I now only buy the original Fuji batteries.

Landscape photography with an urban touch
Just a visual reminder to take extra batteries with you for long photo walks with your X100S ;-)

Charging:
Talking about batteries, the charger that comes with the X100S now doesn't have a loose adapter part (to hold the battery in place) any more. After loosing this part on my X100 charger on a trip, I glued the replacement part permanently to the charger. Now Fuji attached this part permanently.

But what also needed improving was the charging time for empty batteries. An empty X100(S) battery will need 3.5 to 4 hours to charge completely! And unfortunately this has not changed with the X100S charger :-(

This becomes really annoying when you are on a photo trip and come back to the hotel at night with 2-3 empty batteries. I end up setting my alarm to wake up after 4 hours to switch batteries in the charger, so that I have at least 2 fully charged batteries for the next day. If anyone knows a faster charger for the X100 battery, please let me know! And no, a second charger is not an option. Traveling light is one of the reasons why I switched from DSLR to mirrorless for the majority of my work.

Raw street photography
Raw street photography

Image Quality
The biggest change concerning the image quality between the X100 and the X100S is the switch from a 12 MPix bayer array sensor to the 16 MPix X-Trans II sensor (this is an updated version of the X-Pro 1 & X-E1 X-Trans sensor.)
The original X100 certainly has an outstanding image quality and color rendition and still performs incredibly well today. But the extra 4 MPix and new sensor technology of the X100S are nice for extra cropping and ISO headroom. From looking at my images EXIF data I would say that the X100S has a 1 stop ISO noise advantage over the X100. This becomes quite visible at ISO 3200 and 6400. But I also have the feeling that the ISO sensitivity on the X100S is about 1/2 of a f-stop less sensitive. This leads to slightly longer shutter times at equal exposure situations. But over all there is still a bit of a gain in favor of the X100S and the "noise" of the X-Trans sensor looks very film grain like.

@ the barbershop - Fuji X100s
I'm 100% satisfied with image and detail quality that I get from the X100S!

The JPG color rendition is also a bit different between these two generations of X100 cameras. I have noticed this when I first started using the X-Pro 1 with the X-Trans sensor compared to the X10 and X100. This difference is mostly visible in yellow and green parts of the image. The X10 and X100 are very similar to each other while the X-Pro1 and X100S are more of a match to each other. Yet, if you don't do a direct A-B comparison, you will not notice this subtle difference in tonal rendition. And the out of camera JPG image look is beautiful from both sensors!

Natural skin colors and an analog  film like look are one of the strength of Fuji X cameras
 Natural skin colors and an analog  film like look are one of the strength of Fuji X cameras

If you enjoy to give your photos a look of other analog film types than what the Fuji X-Cameras already offer internally, take a look at the products from VSCO. They offer their 3 film packs for LR and Aperture now with support for Fuji X100, X100s, X-E1 and X-Pro 1 Raw files.

A little VSCO Film adjustment in LightRoom gave the X100Simage this look
 A little VSCO Film adjustment in LightRoom gave the image this look

The lens picks up some flare and this is identical to the lens on the original X100. Hence, I would buy the lens hood with adapter for two reasons:

1. To control flare.

2. To have a filter thread for the use of filter or simply to plug in a standard lens cap (49mm filter and lens cap for the adapter without the lens hood and a 52mm lens cap for use with the lens hood attached - you can see this on the second photo from the top). And do get the lens caps with the pinch release in the middle of the cap!

Street Portrait - Fuji X100s
 The lens hood saved me from flare in this backlit image

My settings:
The X100S has turned into my every day take along camera. It is my street, portrait and city/landscape tool. And, I use it 95% of the time as a B&W camera! I set the camera to record JPG + RAW and set the JPG to be captured in BW + Red Filter. This way the EVF and the review image in the EVF & OVF will show a B&W image which is closest to the way I would process it. The RAW file still contains the color information and will be rendered as a color image in my LightRoom collection, next to the B&W JPG image.

I find that seeing a scene in B&W is less distracting and lets me focus more intensely on the subject and situation of the scene.

The Brick Wall test
Lens distortion is well controlled in JPG images and easily adjusted on RAW with a +5 setting in LightRoom



These are my preferred every day settings when I'm out with the X100S:

- Fn = ND Filter (heavily used in bright conditions to overcome the f2 & 1/1000s limit)
- RAW + JPG
- ISO: Auto 6400 at 1/100s (I'd rather take a bit more noise than motion blur)
- Film simulation: B-R (B&W Red Filter)
- Sharpness: +1
- Highlight Tone: 0
- Shadow Tone: +1
- Noise Reduction: -2
- MF Assist: Max
- High Performance Mode: On
- Power Saving: Off
- Review Time: 0.5 S



I'd say that even with a fixed 35mm equivalent field of view (to a 35mm film camera) the Fuji X100 and X100S cameras are very versatile:

Reportage photography:
Reportage photography X100S
Reportage photography X100S


Portrait photography:
Portrait photography with X100S
Portrait photography with X100S


Architecture photography:
Architecture photography with X100S
Architecture photography with X100S


Landscape photography (with VSCO Filmpack Filter applied):
Landscape photography with VSCO Filmpack Filter applied
Landscape photography with VSCO Filmpack Filter applied




My Résumé:
The original X100 was a revolutionary camera with great image quality and a few quirks, but most of them were taken care of in FW updates. Still, after using the original X100 for 2 years my first 24h with the X100S convinced me that this is the camera I have been waiting for! And at first I didn't even want to upgrade as the image quality of the X100 is still very, very good.

But it seems like all of my suggestions to improve the usability of the original X100 were implemented. Someone at Fuji must be either reading my mind or reading my blog and forum posts ;-) The X100S is truly a worthy successor with improvements in almost all aspects - making my daily work with this camera a pleasure.

When I'm out with the X100S I don't have to think about how to operate the camera. I can simply concentrate on framing my shot and evaluating the scene. I operate the aperture, shutter time and exposure compensation directly on the dedicated wheels without taking my eye off the viewfinder. And I'm get an instant 0.5 second quick review image to check if I got the shot the way I intended it. If the X100S didn't already exist one would have to invent it! :-)

I think that if Henri Cartier Bresson would still be alive and in the market for a mirrorless camera, he would probably look very closely at the Fujifilm X100S - it's that good of a street photography tool.

Add translates to: "How to take good photos"
Add translates to: "How to take good photos"

To finally answer the question if the X100s is worth the upgrade from the X100? After using this camera daily for more than 3 month with roughly 5000 photos taken, I can answer this question with a big "YES!" for myself. So if you are still in doubt if this upgrade is worth it for you, go to your camera store and give it a try! This camera might also be an alternative for people who are interested in the Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4 lens for their X-Pro 1 or X-E1. Besides that the XF 23mm f1.4 lens is not released at the time I'm writing this, the X100S can also be seen as a 23mm f2 lens with a fine camera attached. And it would make a nice back up camera, too :)

And it is also worth a second look for people who had operating issues with the classic X100.
But I must also add that this does not make the classic X100 an obsolete camera. If you don't want to spend the new price on a X100S and don't mind the minor operating issues that I had with the classic X100 (mainly close focus distance before having to switch to Macro, MF in low light and two handed AF point selection) it is still a camera with wonderful image quality at a very interesting used price. And take a look at the Fuji X photographers who still use the original X100 and the stunning images that they create with it. Only the difference in image quality from the new sensor would not have been my reason to upgrade...

Probably one of my last Fuji X100 photos
One of my last photos taken with the classic Fuji X100

If you have any further questions leave a comment below or Twitter me @HamburgCam

And if you liked my post I am always happy if you spread the word and retweet, like or google +1 it :-) 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Fujinon XF 14mm review - the best Leica lens Fuji ever built ;)



I have spent a few weeks with the new Fuji XF 14mm f2.8 R lens. I had heard good things about it, yet it was not love at first sight for me.

Testing the Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R in the real world
Testing the Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R in the real world...

And that is not to say that it is not a pretty lens. It is very attractive looking and the markings for the DOF indicator clearly separates it from the rest of the current Fujinon XF lens lineup.


Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - my X-Pro 1's birthday present
Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R lens


But the timing for getting the XF 14mm was a bit off for me. I had just finished some intense testing of the Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye and absolutely loved the 180° field of view and image quality. And my main lens for the X-Pro 1 has been the light and very compact XF 18mm f2 for the past year. Compared to the XF 18mm the XF 14mm is big (41mm/1.6" vs. 58mm/2.28") and heavy (116g/0.26lb vs. 235g/0.52lb).


Fujinon XF 18mm f2 vs. XF 14mm f2.8
Fujinon XF 18mm f2 vs. XF 14mm f2.8

Will I be using the XF 14mm enough to justify the purchase? After all it is currently the most expensive X-Mount lens made by Fuji. And in the end it is only 4mm wider than the XF 18mm and even one stop slower.

Anyway, I now had the lens in my hands and did what I always do when I get new gear – I attached it to the camera, emptied my camera bag and locked all other lenses and camera bodies into my closet. The best way to get familiar with new gear fast is to use it intensely and exclusively.

So I went out on my first stroll with the new lens. But when I stepped out of my door I felt an unfamiliar strong pull on my camera strap (which I lug across my shoulder like a messenger bag). Not only is the XF 14mm heavier, it also sticks out longer to change the weight balance a bit into the “uncomfortable” department. Additionally, I do not like the style of lenshood that the XF 14mm requires. The XF 18mm and 35mm lenses have small and unobtrusive square lens hoods. But this is the Tulip style lens hood that draws much more attention and makes the camera look bigger than it is – not good for a stealthy aspiring street photographer.


Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 vs. XF 18mm f2 with lens hoods
Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 vs. XF 18mm f2 with lens hoods

The 14mm lens will equal the field of view of a 21mm lens on a full frame camera. So the 90° field of view should be perfect for landscape and architecture. And while I have gotten really used to the 27mm full frame equivalent field of view of the XF 18mm lens, I could clearly see the added benefit of a 21mm equivalent field of view of the XF 14mm lens. You can get closer and still get everything in the frame.


Dampfschiff St. Georg Hamburg - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Wide angle lenses allow you to get closer to avoid having other photographers / tourists in your picture ;)

Hamburg Telemichel und Messehallen - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Hamburg Telemichel and Messehallen - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1

A quick check on the MacBook Air brought the first surprise: It does not show distortion - not even on the RAW file! Wow! For a wide angle lens like this, I’m impressed!

I also made myself familiar with the manual focus mechanism of this lens and it works pretty much the way I would have wanted it to. It is pretty comfortable to switch into the MF mode directly when you pull the focus ring back. No need to set the MF switch manually. And it goes right back to AF when you push the focus ring back to the forward position. Very smart! But it comes with one drawback: You can not automatically prefocus with the AF-L button in manual mode. The AF mechanism seems to be completely decoupled from the gears when in MF mode. And when in AF mode you can’t turn the MF focus ring as it is locked.


Elbtunnel - Underneath the Elbe River - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 @ f4 ISO 3200

Car Elevator Elbtunnel - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Car Elevator Elbtunnel - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1

Zone focusing has worked well for me with the XF 14mm and it raises the question, why many modern lenses don’t get these useful markings any more?


Hamburg Frühlings DOM 2013 - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
14mm gave the perfect 90° angle to capture this chairoplane

The manual focus is still focus by wire on the XF 14mm but it is the best feel of all the XF lenses I have tried so far.

Flying on the chairoplane - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Zone focus with DOF indicator on the lens worked well

The autofocus feels about as fast as the one in the XF 35mm and not quite as snappy as the XF 18mm. The 58mm filter thread is a bit unfortunate compared to the 52mm of the XF 18mm and 35mm, but physics has it’s laws about front element size...


Rollercoaster panning - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Roller coaster panning - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1

The lens handles flare pretty good for a 14mm wide angle lens. It shares the same lens hood with the XF18-55mm zoom lens. That is convenient for people who own both lenses and only want to bring one lens hood. But it also raises the question if the zoom lens gets the maximum sun protection on the wide end if the cover area is enough for an even wider 14mm vs. 18mm lens?

Backlight and flare test with the Fuji XF 14mm lens - Fuji X-Pro 1
Backlight and flare test with the Fuji XF 14mm lens - Fuji X-Pro 1

This brings me to the image quality. As always I do not test my gear in lab conditions. Others who are much better at this already do plenty of these tests. For me it is important to see how the gear behaves in normal shooting situations. And here the lens performs stunningly well! Sharpness and contrast are already very good wide open at f2.8 and gets even better (especially in the corners) at f4 - f5.6 range. I hardly shoot beyond f5.6 if I don’t have to. But I tried some daytime long exposures with a ND1000 filter and aperture up to f16 to get a slow shutter time. IQ is still good but you loose some sharpness due to diffraction beyond f11 – like with most other lenses, too.


Hamburg Alster Architecture - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 XF 14mm long exposure: 15s - f16

Space Odyssey 2013 - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
XF 14mm long exposure: 15s - f16

There is a bit of vignetting wide open at f2.8 (corrected on the JPG files, visible on RAW) and it decreases slowly when you stop down. Nothing out of the ordinary for a wide angle lens, though. But the vignetting has not spoiled any of my images so far.

Hamburg Alster Fountain Rainbow - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Hamburg Alster Fountain Rainbow - I even added some extra vignetting on the top of this image!


If you have followed my blog, Flickr stream and Twitter feed long enough, you know how important bokeh is to me. So how does the XF 14mm handle the out of focus blur?


Take Courage! - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Take Courage! Get closer than you normally would to get a smooth bokeh

Hamburg Bokeh Sightseeing with the giraffe, Fuji XF 14mm and Fuji X-Pro 1
My Hamburg Bokeh Sightsseing series benefits from the XF 14mm wide angle lens

After tons of photos in all different lighting situations I am nothing short of impressed. I hear a few complaints about the price of this lens. And at a MSRP of EUR 899,- / USD 899,- it does not generally appear to be a bargain for a Fujinon XF lens at first sight. But imagine you could buy a Leica 14mm f2.8 lens for this price – you would not think twice. And from my image quality point of view I would say that the XF 14mm is the most Leica like wide angle lens I have tried so far.
If you take a look at it from this point of view the lens is almost a bargain! :)

Positive:
+ Great image quality, color and contrast
+ DOF scale on the lens
+ Handles flare well
+ Value for money!

Neutral:
o Normal wide angle vignetting
o 58mm filter thread vs. 52mm on XF18 and 35mm
o 1 f-stop slower than the XF 18mm lens

Negative:
- Bulky lens hood (also obstructs OVF on X-Pro 1 quite a bit)
- A bit too big and heavy for my taste

If you have any further questions leave a comment below or Twitter me @HamburgCam 

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