photography

Posts: 37

The Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R is boring (and that's amazing)

When writing about gear, I typically try to limit myself to solutions for problems I faced, or some New Shiny™ that really piqued my interest. This is an exception. It's an ode to my favourite lens.

Half a year after having started shooting with a Fujifilm X-E1 and the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, I was considering buying a lens with a wide aperture for greater creative freedom. I checked which focal length I used most often and at the time ~ 75% of the shots I kept were somewhere around 23 mm (~ 35 mm full-frame equivalent) leading me to buy the Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R.

I won't lose to many words about the overall quality of this lens. Many people have done so before me and most of them have a lot more experience with photography and gear than I do. The focal length is versatile, the build quality and the overall image quality are great. Placing the field of focus is easy, and considering the amount of glass that has to be moved, it focuses quickly enough.

What I love most about the 23/1.4, though, is the fact that it's so boring, so predictable, so utterly unspectacular. In other words, it's dependable.

The two characteristics that influence the dependability and predictability of the lens the most are sharpness and the way it makes out-of-focus areas look.

Sharpness

Even wide open, the lens renders sharp pictures across ~ 70% of the frame from the center. More importantly, though, this doesn't change based on the subject distance. I can shoot close-ups at ƒ/1.4 and be sure that the center of the frame is going to be tack sharp while anything behind it ends up an unrecognisable blur. When shooting landscapes in waining light at the widest aperture, I know that the result is still going to be good.

Rendering of the out-of-focus areas

Many great lenses can also be capricious at times, where the way the out-of-focus areas are rendered can vary wildly depending on the subject distance and aperture and lead to less than desirable results sometimes, like overly busy looking backgrounds. The XF23mmF1.4 R delivers absolutely consistent results that take a lot of guesswork out of taking pictures. I choose my subject, the distance and angle, and pick the aperture I want.
Furthermore, the progression from sharp to blurry moving from the in-focus subject to the background feels almost linear (depending on the composition). The same holds true for aperture changes from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/8.

Mika's front paws

If I could improve one aspect about the 23/1.4, it would be the addition of weather sealing. As one of the older optics in Fujifilm's line-up, it's not sealed against the elements.
Unfortunately the smaller, lighter, and weather-sealed XF23mmF2 R WR is no viable alternative. Its image quality is great but the rendering characteristics aren't nearly as predictable or dependable, making the lens less versatile.

Even so, the XF23mmF1.4 R is the lens I would take to a deserted island with me, the glass I would choose if I had to go with one lens for the rest of my days.

Photos January 2017

A month that started pretty meager in terms of photography but ended with a bang. At the end of January it was time for the annual company conference, which we spend it on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This time I took a few days in Miami and Fort Lauderdale beforehand and visited the Everglades National Park.

A friend and I went there fairly early in the morning and rented two bicycles to take a 16-mile round course. It was great and I really want to do it again.

I crouched before this one about two metres away. I had never seen an alligator in the wild before and this was an absolute treat.

This dove was walking on the top deck of the ship like it owned the place. It was very cute.

Dove on deck

I never had a shot from a plane window come out this nice.

Photos November 2016

I took less photos in November than in October but got in a few nice shots. I had bought the Fujifilm XF23mmF2 R WR because I was curious if it could replace the XF23mmF1.4 R for me. It didn't but it's definitely a fun lens and a weather-sealed, compact 23 mm lens (35 mm in full-frame equiv.) is a beautiful thing.

Mushrooms on a log

Photos September 2016

A couple of beautiful sunny days and the beginning of autumn. That was my September 2016 in terms of photography.

(Side note: all iPhones I owned since the 4S have made close up shots effortless. I love it.)

Photos August 2016

I made a lovely trip to the Netherlands in August 2016 and got to enjoy everything from strolls at the beach, breakfasts on the deck of a house boat, to exploring Leiden by foot. These are a few of the shots I took during that trip.

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Photos July 2016

More fun with the MCEX-16 macro extension tube for my camera. All of the close-up shots were shot without a tripod.

Small thorns on a flower

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The below shot of the dove is just a nice example of the great dynamic range offered by Fujifilm's X-Trans sensors. In the original picture the sky and parts of the trees were blown out. Reducing the highlights in the internal RAW converter in the X-Pro2 brought them back nicely.

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Eddycam 35mm camera strap + Peak Design Anchor Links

My favourite camera strap by a long shot is the Eddycam Edition "35mm" in all black. It's comfortable, robust, and the design is understated. I bought it alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 last year and kept it on the camera since then.

As much as I like this strap, there are two downsides to carrying my camera with a strap attached to the eyelets on either side of the body:

  • When using heavier lenses on the body, the camera becomes front-heavy, making it dangle uncomfortably when carried over the shoulder, around the neck, and diagonally across the body.
  • I can't switch to using a wrist strap in those rare situations when I want to and wrapping the neck strap around my wrist is impractical and doesn't give me the secure feeling a wrist strap does.

After a bit of searching for a quick-release solution to attach my Eddycam to, I ended up with the Peak Design Anchor Links. I have a couple Peak Design camera accessories and straps and their quick connectors are second to none. The system is a bit bulky which was my one small, but ultimately unfounded, concern about pairing the Anchor Links with the Eddycam 35mm strap: it might've ruined the clean looks of the X-Pro2 + black Eddycam strap combination.

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 01

The big benefit of using a quick connector system like the Peak Design Anchor Links, is having a new option to carry my camera when attaching larger lenses like the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR zoom, or the XF90mmF2 R LM WR. If I'm going to be using either of those lenses for a significant amount of time, I always attach the additional hand grip MHG-XPRO2 to my camera, which has a little gap on the right side of the base that is perfect for attaching one of the Anchor Disks — I'm honestly not sure if this is an intentional feature of the hand grip, but it's undeniably useful :)

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 02

With the strap attached to one of the eyelets on the camera and the small gap in the hand grip, the camera will now hang vertically on my side, making the combination more stable and comfortable to carry.

X-Pro2 + Eddycam + Peak Design 03

I'm really happy with the result of this experiment and the increased versatility of this camera strap setup. The only thing missing now is an Eddycam wrist strap with an Anchor Link, as I don't find the Peak Design wrist strap very comfortable.