Very happy to be featured on the front page of Professional Photo Magazine issue 134!
Fuji users have been spoilt of the past few years with release after release of high quality glass. The lens line up is pretty much complete now covering all the classic short, normal and mid tele focal lengths a photographer could need. The lens choice is pretty straight forward for most users, need a 85mm equivalent ?....get the 56mm 1.2, need a macro..... get the 60mm 2.4, need a 70 -200 equivalent? get the 50 -140 2.8...and so on. One decision is not quite so simple though. If you need a 35mm equivalent, do you get the Fujinon 23mm 1.4 or an X100S/T?
The decision is not a easy one. You can purchase the prime lens with its nice a bright f1.4 aperture or go for the X100S/T with its fixed, not so bright and not so sharp f2 lens. If you shop around carefully you can pick either up for a very similar price and I went through the very same dilemma. I wanted a 35mm for street and weddings. I weighed up the pro's and cons and chose the X100s. I had some great use out of that camera and still use it a lot. After a year of shooting with the X100s I did find I was needing a bit more from that focal length. Winter weddings in the UK can be quite demanding of the low light performance from a camera system and that extra stop of light from the prime would be most welcome. I bit the bullet and picked up the 23mm 1.4 for the 2015 wedding season and matched it with an XE2 body. The difference in the image quality was very obvious. The 23mm F1.4 is much sharper than the F2 on the X100s. Wide open its performance is stellar and out of focus areas are rendered beautifully. It has one disadvantage though, its size.
Another criticism of the 23mm F1.4 was its lens hood. It comes boxed with a plastic petal that wouldn't look out of place on a Canon 18-55 kit lens. It almost doubles the length of the lens again and just doesn't look right. However if you search ebay or amazon you can pick up a metal screw in hood that perfectly fits the 62mm filter thread.
The lens is simply stunning. It's solidly built although not weather sealed. Focus speed is very quick especially if mounted on the XT1 or XE2. When mounted on the Xpro1 it's speed pretty much matches the X100S in good light. If you're in the same situation and trying to decide between the Prime or the X100S/T then I haven't really got an answer for you. If you're looking for a small package then you can't go wrong with the X100 series, but if your wondering if the IQ of the prime is better, take it from me .....it is
A selection of stills taken with the Fujinon 23mm 1.4 wide open.
Several weeks ago I was interviewed by one of the Uk's top Photography Magazines Digital Photographer and I'm pleased to say it was published this month. Here's a copy of the interview:
What’s exciting about shooting portraits? What are the challenges
None of my portraits are the same or I at least try to keep them different. It's exciting to plan, prepare and put together a vision for a shoot. When you see the results and they match or exceed your expectations it can be very rewarding. It can be a lot of effort to pull off a good portrait and quite time consuming.
What makes a great portrait?
A combination of the subject, the location and the light are all big factors for me when shooting portraits. All have to be right to make the portrait work.
How important is to build rapport with your model? What do you do to put them at ease?
It's probably the most important aspect of a shoot. If the photographer and model don't gel you won't get the best out of the subject. Just be yourself and be honest about your limitations. Don't hide the images either, I show the subject every picture as we shoot and if the don't like any I delete it.
Tell us about your kit. What’s your preferred lens/focal length for portraits?
For the last few years I've been shooting exclusively with the Fuji x mirrorless Cameras. My portrait kit is a Fuji XT1 and the XF56mm 1.2 which is an 85mm equivalent in full frame. It's a stunning lens and XT1 (as well as any Fuji x camera) has beautiful skin tones. I don't use flash/strobes, just natural light.
How important is depth of field to your work. Do you prefer to work with more or less?
prefer a shallow as possible depth of field and shoot wide open at all times if I can.
What are the challenges/advantages you find with your aperture choices? How does it impact your work?
By shooting wide open you can lose a little sharpness then when stopped down but the Fuji lenses are so good that is not really an issue for me now. Focus becomes less forgiving so it's important to check your images on the LCD for sharpness to the eyes. If shooting in bright daylight your camera may not have a fast enough shutter speed to balance the exposure. This forces you to reduce your aperture and the shallow depth of field with it. The XT1 has an electronic shutter with shutter speeds up to 1/32,000s which solves that problem. When using DLSR's I used ND filters.
Do you prefer to work in the studio or on location? Why - what are the challenges/advantages?
I always shoot on location. I prefer the look of natural light and studio shooting has never really appealed to me. I know some great photographers who shoot pretty much all their work in the studio and they're work is brilliant, just not what I want to do at the moment. A location usually free to shoot at and you can make use environment around you. The possibilities are endless at a great location, but you are restricted by the weather and the time of day to get the correct lighting.
How do you ensure the poses are interesting and confident, rather than awkward and unflattering? What’s the difference?
If you are working with experienced models this is not usually an issue. It's a matter of going through a series of poses looking for the right ones. A good model should have everything you need in their toolbox of poses. Working with someone who is less experienced is different. You have to prompt them more often and explain in greater detail what you are trying to achieve. I will normally have a 'mood board' on standby with a series of photos on my iPad that the model can take examples from. A good image will stand out straight away as to whether it's a keeper or not. If and image looks even slightly uncomfortable or awkward then best delete it and move on.
Lighting is very important to your work. How would you describe your style?
I would call myself an "Available light" photographer.
If you could only use one modifier for your light, what would it be? Why?
The only modifier i use is a 5 in 1 reflector. I use the White side to fill in shadows on the face. I occasionally use the translucent middle to diffuse the sunlight.
Is there a secret to creating more interesting light? What’s the first step to making it more 3D/eye catching?
Two things to instantly make a natural portrait sing is catchlights in the eyes and side light on the face. Place a subject in a doorway, tunnel or similar to get rid of the top light from above. You can then use the sidelight to shape the face. You'll also get stronger catchlights from the light source
How important is post-processing to your work? What software do you use and what essential editing does every image undergo?
I used to spend hours on each image trying to make it perfect but I now keep things as simple as possible. I try to get as much right in camera as I can such as the crop and exposure. I use Lightroom for 90% of what I do and have a few presets I like to stick to. Sometimes I'll import the images with a ready made preset and do nothing to the else to the image.
Tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
I recently started shooting film again and hope to incorporate it into my portraits and street photography. I'm shooting actors and actresses Headshots and really enjoy doing that. I'm also a reportage wedding photographer which is the opposite of portrait photography as I no control of the subjects.
A couple of weeks ago I had a short break from weddings and took the time to polish up my portrait skills having not photographed someone outside a wedding environment for a while. Gemma from Devon Photography Training was running a street fashion workshop in Plymouth City Centre so I joined her and a few fellow photographers for a wander. I dusted off my XPro1 and used it with the 35mm 1.4 and kept my 56mm on my XT1 for the whole shoot. I found myself sticking to the Xpro 1 for most of the images. Model for the day was Kirsty Morris
After switching from my trusty Canon DLSRs to the mirrorless Fujifilm X series cameras I was pretty chuffed. I'd settled with the XT1 as my main body and kept a well used XE1 in my bag as a back up body. The lens section was superb and and I did not miss my beloved L glass at all. I had not even considered picking up Fuji's first (and probably most ground breaking) X series camera, the X100. Interchangeable lenses are a integral part of the way I work and I like to switch between different pieces of glass with the same body. I could not see how this little fixed lens camera might fit into my workflow. For a while i have had my eye on the Fujnon 23mm 1.4. I have heard and seen nothing but great reviews for this lens and was sure it would be my next addition to my lens line up. However there was one slight problem with that plan, the original Fuji X100 was falling in price along with the current X100s model (with their fixed 23mm f2 lens). I thought long and hard about what I was going to do, new 23mm 1.4, new X100s or used X100. The X100s was clearly the best camera on paper with its better resolution, auto focus, speed etc.. but the final firmware update to the X100 narrowed the gap between the two cameras considerably. I ended up with two web pages open on my iMac, the mouse hovered over the "add to basket" on the Wex Uk website for the 23mm 1.4. The other page was eBay, a X100 Limited edition in Black had just been listed in mint condition. I genuinely had no idea what to do, but the mouse went to the eBay page and clicked 'buy it now'.
Since the X100 arrived I have taken it pretty much every where I go. It's primarily my personal camera but it has a place at weddings too. It can now be seen hooked to my belt at every wedding I shoot. It has its its pro's and cons compared to its bigger, newer brother XT1.
It's small - Just about fits into a jacket pocket (without the hood)
Image quality - Stunning for a 'point and shoot' i would have no problem providing images to wedding clients
Quiet - In real word shooting the shutter is practically silent.
OVF - the optical viewfinder is simply great fun. I wouldn't trust it for crucial moments but it's amazing to use.
Sharp - The 23mm f2 fixed lens is very nice ( although a little soft at f2)
Auto focus - Focusing when using the EVF or the real LCD is quick and accurate. (with the latest firmware) but behind the XT1 as expected.
Jpegs - I'm not a jpeg shooter but the jpegs that come out of the X100 are very nice as well as being very versatile in post processing.
Buffer - Don't even bother using the optional 3fps of 5fps. The buffer fills up too quick and the camera locks when buffering until the short series writes to the card.
EVF - Lags compared to the later fuji models. the XT1 is a word apart. It is still very usable though.
Menu - The menu system is clunky and not the best to navigate especially compared the current fuji line up. Seasoned canon shooters will stare at in disbelief!
Battery life - A problem with all Fuji's so extra batteries a must
In summary then, is the Fuji X100 they best camera I've ever owned?.... No, that honour goes to the XT1. But if you asked which camera I'd take to a desert island with me, the X100 would win hands down. :)
Model: Ruth U'ren
MUA: Beata Kozera
Location: Wonwell Beach, South Devon