Oct 262015

Dear Steve,

Attached one Image for “Quick Shot” category.

One evening I was visiting “Longwood Gardens” near Philadelphia with family and from the corner of my eye I saw this kid curiously looking into the lake, very next moment of taking this picture someone called and the kid ran out of the frame…I like this image because without that kid in red jacket this will be just another holiday photo…

Technical Detail
Camera : Fujifilm X-E1
Lens: Kit Zoom XF 18-55mm at 35mm
Exposure: F22, 1/50 sec at 400 ISO
Process: Shot in JPG and 10% increase of Vibrance in PS

Thanks and best regards
Sunil Mehta



May 182015

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s


By James Conley


Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.


In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.



Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)



My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.


Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.



Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.



Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.



The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.


A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)


Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.



The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.


Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.


Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Jan 282015

Dirt Cheap Mirrorless Fun

By Ben Bird

As many of the guest contributors before me have done I want to thank Steve and Brandon for a chance to share my experiences with all of the other readers of Steve’s website. I hope you will find it as enjoyable to read as I have many of your reviews! (Thanks Ben!! – Steve)

I don’t have any exotic gear to review for you, no ultra-rare vintage glass that has been found in an attic and saved from the brink of extinction… nothing terribly exciting… what I do have for you all is a review of a dirt cheap and very fun mirrorless setup that I have been beating around with a lot of average and common legacy glass on some adapters.

Let me back up a bit and give you some context…

(I can assure you it isn’t anything special. You could probably guess the next few paragraphs and be spot on!)
I have been a Canon DSLR shooter for 12 years. I started out with a Rebel XT then moved on to a 20D, a 40D, a 5D Classic and recently a 6D.

I take pictures of anything and everything. I have photographed weddings as a Primary and a second shooter off and on over the last 6 years. I also did portraits, families shoots, seniors and events, but have since retired from those pursuits. I shoot a lot of candid portrait work and spend a lot of my shutter time with family and friends socially.

I also work part-time photographing an amazing local motorcycle shop here in Lincoln Nebraska called Great Plains Cycle Supply. I document the employees, customers, and events for their social media and websites. (Check them out!)

My current full-time day job allows me to work outdoors and I attempt to take my camera with me at all times, never going anywhere without it tagging along… but as we all have experienced, that isn’t always possible.

Eventually the hassle got to me and I started to leave the DSLR at home more and more often.

While I have enjoyed the image quality of my DSLR’s I have long been pining for something smaller and more discreet. The heartbreak of missing a really amazing photo because I simply didn’t want to take my big DSLR along was really taking it’s toll on me. And of course… who doesn’t want to get closer and be ignored more when taking candid photographs of people?

Tou Five Star 1

Ultron 4

As you have no doubt realized, it’s going to be another one of “those” reviews… DSLR to mirrorless… we’ve all read them, and everyone is doing it these days… so I will try to hurry past some of the more cliché parts and spend a little more time on what I can offer that is unique.

I really wanted to try a mirrorless system and see if I could make it work for me… but I was concerned that being a full frame DSLR shooter for so long I would never be able to “let go” of my obsession with full frame “look” and embrace the crop sensor files.

Fortunately I have the internet… and if there is one thing I know how to do well; its kill hours of my life while looking at photographs on the web!

I spent a lot of time enjoying thousands of photos taken with mirrorless cameras and at some point I realized I had forgotten that I was supposed to be analyzing the image quality of the photos and had just been enjoying the photographs! The image quality has ceased to be that big of an issue for me… and I also had realized that no matter how amazing the full frame files looked… if that full frame camera wasn’t with me when the photo presented itself… the photos would never be taken at all… and all that sexy full frame goodness was going to waste at home in the camera bag.

Finally I came to the conclusion I had to try for myself. In my circle of friends the only mirrorless cameras were a couple of Fuji’s. So I borrowed an X100 from my friend and took it for a couple of test drives.

And I was disgusted.

I couldn’t get the camera to cooperate with me; I couldn’t take a decent photo to save my life. I worked and worked and was constantly frustrated. But worst of all… I couldn’t seem to do anything to the Fuji files to make them work for me. I was crushed. I was so ready to be on board… I had seen loads of beautiful Fuji photos, so I knew that the system COULD work… but I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it.

I threw up my hands in disgust and went back to my DSLR’s and said I would never switch over to Fuji.

But, the years went by… and I saw more and more beautiful photos taken not only with Fuji, but also with the other mirrorless systems.

I forgot my disgust and frustration and started to daydream of the day I could carry a tiny discreet camera around my neck all the time.

I tried other systems in the camera stores. I lusted after the RX1 and RX1R, the OMD’s the A7’s and thought that maybe they could work for me but everything was out of reach financially.

A friend of mine had recently left Canon and bought a used X100s and an X Pro 1 for not a lot of money and was making beautiful photos with them on a regular basis. He encouraged me that working with the Fuji files was indeed different and that I should be patient and give it some time before I ruled out Fuji entirely.

I would look at the work done by so many of the great photographers on the web and all of the great reader reviews on this site and say to myself:

“Clearly it can be done right. Why can’t I do that? It has got to be me and not the cameras fault. “

Finally I’d had enough… I decided I had to jump in and actually put the hours into learning the system and stop blaming the equipment. After all… that IS what I preach day in and day out: It’s the photographer… not the camera that makes great photos. I was being a hypocrite.

So it was way past time for me to put my money where my mouth was!

It just so happened that my bank account and I weren’t on speaking terms at the time, so I couldn’t just rush out and snatch up a new system.

So, I looked for the cheapest possible way to start shooting Fuji… and I found a mint condition used XE-1 for 300$. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford glass for a long time, but I had some old manual lenses In the house… some M42, some Nikon and even an old Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron that I could use on the Fuji with some adapters.

So I pulled the trigger and got the XE-1 and an adapter for the Voigtlander.

Well… I wish I could say it was a match made in heaven… but it wasn’t.

There were a lot of teething problems and I spent most of my time cussing the Ultron and trying to get the hang of the incredibly bad minimum focusing distance of the lens (somewhere around 2-2.5 feet!) I am so used to being able to shoot closer that it really threw me off. I could never tell if the lens was just a little soft or if I was just always blowing my focus.

Eventually I got a few shots I liked, and started to get the hang of the XE-1… but my poor manual focusing ability and the Ultron butted heads constantly.

Ultron 3

Super Takumar 50 4

Nikkor 50mm 3

Perhaps I should say a word about the XE-1’s focus peaking here:

While I am grateful for the focusing aid, and it does indeed help me some days… it’s not as fool-proof or precise as it was made out to be to me by some. Perhaps I haven’t gotten it set up right, or am missing something but I can also say there is a HUGE difference on my XE-1 on how the focus peaking works in the viewfinder and the rear LCD. It is MUCH easier to see on the rear LCD and it feels as though it is barely working in the viewfinder. It also seems to work better with some of the other lenses I ended up using on the XE-1 later on down the road.

And for whatever reason… my copy of the Ultron doesn’t seem to play well with the focus peaking. It’s a shame… because the Ultron is the smallest , lightest and the fastest focusing lens I have and I really thought it would be my favorite lens for the Fuji… but it has turned to be a bear for me to nail focus with.

I have a few good shots from the Ultron to share, but let me say it was a LOT of work to get those few shots! My hit rate was terrible!

So, as I was struggling so much I borrowed some adapters from a friend for my M42 and Nikon lenses to see if they would work any better.

At this point I was also still struggling greatly with the Fuji files, and not really able to consistently make photos that I liked.

Part of it was me still trying to learn how the camera “read the light” and where it’s sweet spots were. And another part of it was not finding a look in post that made me happy.

I was very frustrated again and starting to doubt my decision all over again. At this point I was only shooting RAW and bumbling around in Lightroom with every shot.

I decided it was time to try the famous Fuji Jpegs that I had read so much about… so I switched the XE-1 over to Jpeg, fiddled with the settings, put my Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4 onto the Fuji and started playing again.

Well, right away I felt better about the purchase… the Takumar was sharp, as well as having a buttery smooth focus ring. Focus peaking seemed to show up a little better than with the Ultron. However… on the down side… the Takumar was much heavier, and the focusing while being more precise… was much slower and the focus ring has a much longer throw from stop to stop.

So, I had found a lens that started to work well, and I made a little progress with the Jpeg settings. However, I decided I really needed to buckle down and sort out the Jpegs before I went any further.

I spent about a week of hardcore testing with all the jpeg settings in camera. Shooting, comparing and pixel peeping to try to figure out what I liked and how they all worked for me in post.

Eventually I found a setup that allowed me a good starting point with the Jpegs that would allow me to process them in any direction I liked… for the most part.

The color was mostly there and I liked the way they converted to black and white after the fact in Lightroom.

So I started to work with just a single default Jpeg setup that allowed me a consistent baseline to try the various lenses in all sorts of lighting situations so I could learn the sensor and lenses personalities better.

This alone made such a huge difference in my Fuji learning curve… just having a stable baseline to always work off of.

Nikkor 50mm 1

Micro Nikkor 3

Tou Five Star 6

Tou Five Star 7

Tou Five Star 6

These are the settings I finally settled on:

ISO Auto 200-6400 range

DR 100

WB auto

NR -2

Fine Jpegs

Astia film simulation

Highlight Tone +1

Shadow Tone +2

Color +2

Sharp -2

Obviously, settings are very personal and this may not work for anyone else, but this is where I start from with every one of my photographs now.

After I got that sorted out I went back to my lens experiments.

Next up was my Super Takumar 35mm F/2. A beautiful looking lens, that is really quite large and heavy. I really thought this lens was going to knock me out of the park. Out of all my legacy lenses this tank has highest quality FEEL to it, and a fairly stiffly dampened focus ring. I also wrongly assumed that at F/2 it would be very sharp wide open.

Well… it’s not. It’s a little soft all over and only a little sharper in the middle. I was disappointed by how much the stiff dampening slowed down my manual focusing on moving subjects and frequently missed shots.

I struggled to find a good way to use this lens and was about to give up and put it back on the shelf when one early morning I took a few flower shots to stay busy and I checked the screen and OH MY GOSH!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!

The out of focus rendering when wide open on this lens in AMAZING with the right background, light and distance to your background.
I know this sort of rendering isn’t for everyone… but WOW… this lens has some serious character in the right situations!

Tou Five Star 4

Tou Five Star 5

Micro Nikkor 1

Super Takumar 35 5

Super Takumar 35 2

See for yourself… I can’t say much for the weight or the handling as it adds a LOT of weight and size to the little Fuji, but I pull this guy out whenever I want to take some photos where sharpness isn’t critical with some interesting bokeh in the background. I haven’t even come close to exploring this lenses potential but I am most certainly not going to be selling this one anytime soon.

Around this time I realized that I was really getting to enjoy the EVF a lot on the XE-1 when the light was nice. Lots have been written about both Fuji’s EVF’s in general and the lagging of the older models viewfinders and/or LCD screens in low light so I won’t try to quantify it for you in this review but I can say that:

a) (The older models) They leave a lot to be desired in low light.

b) They can be really great to use regardless of the shortcomings.

In nice light it’s really fun and relaxing to use. What you see is what you get. Quite a nice change of pace from the chimping we have come to assume is mandatory with our OVF’s of old.

(Like I said, all of this is old news these days and every “DSLR to mirrorless” review has already broke ground with all these points so I don’t have any shocking revelations for you!)

The camera’s ergonomics were growing on me as well. While using my legacy lenses really makes the XE-1 quite unbalanced and “nose heavy” at times, it is still pretty fun to use and hold. After spending some time with my Super Takumars, I pulled out my Nikkor 50mm F/2 AI and mounted it up.

First impressions were that it was a pretty light lens compared to the Super Takumars and it was quite enjoyable to focus with as well!

The Nikkor has a very lightly dampened focus ring and a very fast action with a pretty short throw stop to stop that makes it very quick to focus and to date is my favorite legacy lens to focus out of my small collection.

The focus peaking seemed to be a bit easier to see with this Nikkor as well, and it really makes an easy to use lens if you like this 75mm equivalent focal length.

I enjoy shooting this lens wide open or stopped down to F/2.8 from time to time as a candid portrait lens, or just a general do everything lens with a little more reach. I’m not an expert in this area but I can say it was plenty sharp wide open for me and I never found a problem with the image quality from this lens. Another keeper for me!

Next up was an old Micro Nikkor 55mm F/2.8 macro lens that I use as my primary macro lens on my Canon DSLR’s.

I am already fond of this lens from my years spent with it, so I can tell you with great confidence that it is slow focusing and precise and it gets nice and close just like you want with a good manual macro. I am not sure what else you need to know! It works, it’s cheap, and it allows the Fuji to really get in there!

If that is your thing, then it’s a great cheap way to go! (Sorry… but that’s the bottom line for me. It works well for me, but I am not a hardcore macro user… so your mileage may vary!) I would love to give you more details but that’s really all I have!

Around this time I realized that I was really feeling a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders… I could shoot in Jpeg and not worry about larger memory cards, filling up my precious hard drive space with monster RAW files, Lightroom was working faster (my CPU is getting a little long in the tooth) and I found that I was less concerned with blowing shots.

Ultron 2

Ultron 1

Ultron 5

Nikkor 50mm 2

Tou Five Star 2

Tou Five Star 3

I was trying harder to get the shot exposed and composed the way I wanted it in camera, but if I couldn’t, or I was too slow, or the shot had way too much motion blur… I wasn’t nearly as upset at myself for screwing up a shot… I simply said “oh well” and moved on.

I was clearly relaxing and enjoying photography more now.

But, the flipside was that because I had a hard time confirming that I nailed focus … I ended up taking a LOT more shots to make sure that I got SOMETHING that day. (Thank goodness I was shooting Jpeg!)

I was hedging my bet… which seemed very counterproductive and a little silly to me.

So my time with the XE-1 was being spent wrestling with my desire to nail every shot, get it right… but also to not freak out if I missed something and try to relax and let it go.

It was a confusing time. But slowly I was enjoying it more and more.

I was feeling more and more comfortable with the Fuji files as well. Where they Full Frame Canon files? No. Did they have to be? No.

I haven’t sold my Canon’s yet, and I and I don’t know if I will… but not because I think that one sensor is superior to the other anymore… it’s because I realize they are merely two different ways to render a photo.

Cameras are paintbrushes. Tools. You use different paintbrushes to render a work of art in different ways. You use different tools to do different jobs.

I like the very disparate painting styles of Monet, Davinci, Robert Williams, Salvador Dali, Frank Frazzetta, H.R. Giger, Gil Elvgren, Phil Noto, Simon Bisley, and Alphonse Mucha.

I love the photos of dozens of photographers with very disparate styles like Diado Moriyama, Henri Cartier- Bresson, Joe McNally, Patrick LaRoque, Magdalena Switek, Thierry Nguyen, Gabe Mcclintock, Laurent Nivalle, and Gordon Chalmers just to name a FEW!

All the artists that I love and appreciate use different “brushes” and utilize them in very different ways.

Is one better than another? No. They are merely different… not better.

I had come to realize that I while I hadn’t nailed down the way I preferred to process the Fuji files and they seemed a little mushy to me at times, and I WAS frustrated by the details I was losing here or there compared to my full frame files… I really was becoming quite fond of the way this first generation X Trans sensor rendered photos. It was a look all by itself and I had really grown to love them.

Steve has talked before about how the second generation Fuji sensors can absolutely sing with the right light and the right settings… and he is right… but he is ALSO right that when the ISO’s climb… they can get mushy, muddy and flat looking.

I can say now that I agree with Steve and I prefer the look of the first Gen X-Trans to the high ISO rendering of the second Gen X-trans… but like I said, I had come to find a little charm in the files regardless of the flaws. I am POSITIVE that if I spent more time with a second Gen Fuji sensor I would come to love that look as well… different… not better.

So, as I worked to become more comfortable with my lenses and the new sensor, I was enjoying the learning process more all the time and leaving the DSLR at home pretty often now.

Then one day I realized what was missing from my Fuji experiment: One good do-everything, universal lens.  I really wanted to leave the house with one lens that would do everything (if possible) and have a Fuji setup that worked something like the X100 was designed to be: practical and useful for almost every situation.

I was digging around the web, and hoping to find a cheap option when I checked the back room on a whim… and low and behold… I found an old Minolta XGA that I had forgotten about, with a Tou/Five Star 28mm f/2.8 macro lens attached. Hmm…. That would be about a 42mm equivalent and kind of fast at 2.8. And the close focusing ability would certainly be appreciated.

So I got myself an adapter ordered and crossed my fingers. Well, the day came… I slapped the adapter and lens on the Fuji and took it out for a spin. And it did not disappoint. I can honestly say this is the most practical and enjoyable legacy lens I have ever used. Not flashy, not fancy, not sexy, not rare, it doesn’t have tons of character… it is just really handy for all kinds of photos.

It’s a little heavy, and focuses slower than my 50mm Nikkor, but it’s not terrible. The focal length helps with moving targets, and the macro focusing ability makes it really versatile and quite fun no matter what you are doing. It even will take a decent portrait if you are careful as it doesn’t have a lot of distortion. It’s sharp, has great contrast, nice color rendering and can be purchased for very little money. Yes, it is still a little front heavy, and when it is cold the grease gets sluggish in the action and the focusing can be even more dampened.

There is lots of lens flare with no hood, and it’s not blazing fast at only f/2.8… But it is a really great daily companion for the little Fuji if you want to keep costs down and have a lot of fun like I did. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to commit to using a Fuji most or perhaps even all of the time. I had come to love the Fuji first Gen X Trans sensor and the small body of the XE-1.

I had realized that I could have fun and take nice pics even with slower manual lenses. The Fuji was coming along with me everywhere, was fairly quiet, and fairly unobtrusive and I decided that if I could enjoy my time with the older lenses, then the Fuji autofocus lenses might be alright for me as well.

Three days ago I managed to scrape up enough money to buy my first AF Fuji lens, the XF27mm F/2.8 pancake lens.

Initial impressions are great and I love having such a feather light lens on the XE-1 after a lot of the heavy legacy lenses. It’s not a blazing fast autofocus camera, but I have already been working around that slower speed so it was actually quite an upgrade for me!

In conclusion, I think that if any of you readers out there would like to give Fuji a try, but don’t want to invest huge amounts of money into a system that you might not like… give the old XE-1 or X-Pro 1 a long hard look. Start with a few cheap adapters and beg, borrow or steal some old legacy lenses to try.

And please… give yourself a while to get use to the system and to learn how to work with the files… I am almost 4 months into this experiment now… and I was really struggling until about my 3rdmonth.

Have some patience and invest some time into getting the camera set up like you want and see what you can do with it.

The final word for me is this… I am absolutely certain I can nail my photos 90% of my time with my Canons. I am confident I will get my shot, I will make it work, and I will be able to process it the way I want 90% of the time.

Why? Is it the sensor? Is it the camera?

It’s neither. It’s the 12 years of practice and one million photos I took with that same system.

I’ve been using a Fuji for just a few months… come back and see me in 12 years and I am certain I will say the same thing about my Fuji’s.

If you would like to see more of my Fuji experiments you can see them on my Tumblr that I set up just to share the Fuji shots. I have been tagging all the photos with lens information for the curious!


Or you can see a larger sample of all of my photos both Canon and Fuji here on my Flickr page:


Thanks again to Steve and Brandon for giving us all such a great site to enjoy!

Ben Bird

Jan 022015

Old San Juan! Fuji X Style

By James Conley 

New Year’s greetings!

As we settle into the cold of the North American winter, I thought I’d share some images from sunny and hot Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico is an exceptional place to travel as a photographer. Founded in 1521 by Spanish settlers, and a territory of the United States since 1898, Puerto Rico is a historic jewel in the Caribbean. Although it feels like being in a different country, it’s very convenient for U.S. residents since no passport is required, Puerto Rico uses the dollar, and English is spoken everywhere.

The port city of San Juan provides an ideal background to explore street photography. Continuously in operation as an active port for nearly 500 years, San Juan’s Spanish architecture rivals European cities with its blue cobblestone streets, brightly colored masonry homes, public squares, and massive walls and fortifications. With tropical weather year-round, the people are active and friendly, with a relaxed and open approach to life. Cafes and coffee shops abound, and the ocean is a constant feature of the background. The bright light is filtered through numerous palms, illuminating the town in beautiful light.

As detailed in a prior report I did for your site, I use the Fuji X100s and X-E1 primarily as the poor man’s Monochrom—set to capture achromatic jpegs, as well as use an achromatic EVF. (A few settings does the trick: Shooting Menu 1, select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. Shooting Menu 2, change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1.) Old San Juan is a challenge to the eyes with all the tropical color. But, the contrasty light and the rich textures of stucco and brick lent itself nicely to the Fuji Monochrom. Although I was pleased with the achromatic results, there were a few occasions that cried out for color, and I surrendered to what the town provided.

Most of these images were shot with the X100s. The rest were shot with the X-E1 with either a Fujinon XF 14mm or the Rokinon 8mm.

If the winter cold gets too unbearable, I can’t recommend enough a trip down Puerto Rico way. Even a quick weekend provides a feast for the eyes and thaws the bones.

Here’s my contact info:

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher









May 282014

Varanasi with FujiFilm X-E1

By Sunil Mehta

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I am long time follower of your website and appreciate service you are doing to the photo industry. My name is Sunil Mehta & leave in India. Recently I was in Varanasi (also known as Banaras), very ancient city and many Hindus visits for Pilgrimage. Known for its old streets and Ghats (River bank). Attached few photos of early morning and late evening activities near river.

Limit of photos to upload is 3, attached 6 photos with this mail kindly select that you find appropriate.

On technical side:
Camera Fuji X-E1
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Zoom Lens
Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens
Nik- Silver Efax for post processing

Exposure details of each photo is as follows.
Varanasi-01: Riverside. ISO 800 – f/8 at 1/500 sec.


Varanasi-02: Evening prayer at River. ISO 1600 – f /3.2 at 1/30 sec.


Varanasi-03: Performing Morning Prayer. ISO 800 – f/4.8 at 1/160 sec.


Varanasi-04: Mother and daughter. ISO 400 – f/4.8 at 1/420 sec.


Varanasi-05: Practicing yoga. ISO 800 – f/8 at 1/460 sec.


Varanasi-06: Street. ISO 800 – f/3.2 at 1/45 sec.


Few more pictures are on 500px.com

Thanking you
Sunil Mehta

Apr 042014

Beijing Fashion Week with Fuji XE-1 and XF 55-200

By Paolo Mercado

Hi Steve, Brandon,

I’ve been a follower of your site for about 3 years now but have only shared now. I am an occasional-but-passionate photographer. I normally take with film on a Leica MP or M7. I love my Leicas and may one day share some of my film scans. A year ago I bought an XE-1 with a Leica adapter to use some of my Leica lenses on. I was so impressed with the image quality I found myself shooting more and more with the Fuji zooms.

Last Sunday I went to one show at the Beijing Fashion Week to test out my XE-1 with the XF 55-200 lens. Here are 3 sample images I took. Before commenting on the images though, I must say that while I love taking photos with the XE-1 on manual focus peaking mode with my Leica lenses, taking on AF mode in low light was very difficult/frustrating and I missed a lot of moments. However I was pleased with a few shots I managed to squeeze through. All files are straight out of the camera, not retouched or cropped in any way (just resized for this sharing).

First shot is of the star model on the runway. I was quite pleased to have captured the details on the wire mesh head-dress on this shot. (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 2500, 156.1mm, -1 EV, f/5, 1/60).

First shot is


Second shot is “faces in the crowd”. These ladies were seated 20 meters away from me, across the other side of the runway. What was actually happening on the runway is that one of the models stumbled painfully on the runway due to the impossibly high heals (stilts really!) that the designer insisted everyone wearing. The girl on the left is looking quite concerned. The camera captured these two glowing ladies quite well (including the tattoo on the arm of the lady on the left). (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 6400, 148.5mm, 0 EV, f/4.5, 1/60).


Now for an outdoor shot with this charming beauty. This was a quick shot and I didn’t adjust manually. The camera took it at ISO 1000 as it took the exposure value from her black dress. This highlighted her porcelain skin quite well (and to my eye captured it quite accurately!). (Fuji XE-1, XF 55-200, ISO 1000, 148.5mm, 0 EV, f/5, 1/125).


What amazed me the most about the Fuji is its wonderful ability to capture great skin tones straight out of the camera. No retouching on any of these (I don’t have the patience for retouching!). I am very happy with the IQ of the Fuji sensor and the capabilities of the XF 55-200 lens. I am thinking of getting the XT-1 for it’s speed and better handling, but I will hold on to the XE-1 for my Leica lenses as I like how small and discreet it is.

Many thanks and I hope these make it to your site!

Paolo Mercado

Beijing, China

Currently shooting with Fuji XE-1, Leica MP & M7, Leica X1


Mar 242014

High speed street portraits with the Fuji X-E1 and 35mm lens

By Boris Taillard

Hello Brandon and Steve,

Firstly, thank you for the work you are putting into your website. I am a regular reader and very much enjoy the mix of “real world” reviews and pictures and reports from other readers (and therefore decided to submit my own :-)).

I have been using a Fuji X-E1 for over a year and started doing film photography recently. If you find my submission interesting and would like to publish it, I would be very happy to share my experience using the camera for this type of shots. Also, here is a link to my NEW BLOG.

I have recently joined a street photography group, but have found it difficult to overcome my inhibitions to take pictures of strangers; with or without asking for their permission. As a first step to go beyond this, I set myself a goal to shoot candid portraits of as many people as I could without warning them – and to be gone before they could even realise what just happened. I used a 90 minutes session with my street photography group to give the idea a try in the Dublin city center on a busy Saturday. Another constraint was also to only shoot at 50mm and not to post-process the files coming out of the camera (I only cheated to crop or bump up the exposure for 2 or 3 of them but otherwise all the pictures are OOC JPEGS).  You can see more pictures in this Flickr set, but here are a few samples along with a bit more details of how I did during the shot.


In addition to gaining more self-confidence, the challenge was also a technical one: the only camera I currently own is a Fuji X-E1 with a XF 35mm lenses, which is definitely not known for it fast operations; especially when it comes autofocus speed. Using the camera in fully automated mode was therefore clearly not an option. Where the camera could shine though is that Fuji is known for their nice out of camera JPEG files, and that manual mode is a joy to use.


Here are the settings I quickly found were the optimal ones and which were used for most of the pictures:

  • Aperture fixed to F11 (small value to maximise depth of field as I was using manual focus on a preset distance)
  • Shutter speed fixed to 1/500th of a second (fast value to to reduce motion blur as both myself and the subjects are moving while taking the shots)
  • Auto ISO 6400 (so that the camera can adjust the ISO value automatically to get the right exposure)
  • Manuel focus with prefocus for a distance of 1 to 1.5 meter (so that slow autofocus is not an issue, and knowing that I would shot mostly portraits of one person at a time)
  • Astia film simulation mode (gives fairly natural colours and nice skin tones)
  • Highlight +1 and Shadow +2 to increase contrast and give more impact to the pictures
  • Colour 0 to maintained natural skin tones
  • DR400 to preserve highlights and shadows (to cover for a cloudy day with very bright sky and hight contrast settings)


Of course none of the shots are technically perfect as they all happened very quickly, walking down the street and just raising the camera at someone and pressing the shutter button. There was no way to get them perfectly in focus or to completely avoid motion blur, but having said that I believe I got a few nice ones. It is also quite interesting to capture what people look like when they are just minding their own business and not expecting anyone to look at them (they sometimes do notice you and look at the camera which is good for the picture, but just keep walking and don’t question what you are doing).


I really like the colours of some of these shots, and while I am not always happy with Fuji’s camera JPEGs, on this particular occasion I think they lived up to their reputation. Another great thing about the camera here is the fact that ISO 6400 shots (most of these) look very clean in good light, which was crucial to capture enough light while maintaining a decent depth of field and being able to freeze movement. The fact that while you are in full manual mode (fixed aperture and shutter speed) auto ISO is still active and can set the exposure right is also great – and I don’t believe all cameras are able to do this.


On a more negative note, even when it is pre-focused the X-E1 is not exactly a speed daemon. I don’t know if it is shutter lag or a delay with the image refresh on the LCD screen, but I definitely noticed that I had to press the shutter button before the subject had fully appeared on the screen where I wanted it to be. This made taking pictures a bit of a gamble, but with practice it was possible to get it right most of the time.


Overall, from a technical point of view it was interesting to see what can be done in fast street photography using a not so fast camera. I haven’t used a good SLR or speedy micro 4/3 camera in quite a while, but I would be curious to know if they would cope with this and nail perfect focus in fully automatic mode (comments about this are welcome!).

From a more personal point of view, when you want to get serious about street photography you have to be very comfortable with taking pictures of total strangers – which for a number of people doesn’t come naturally (me included). One way is to take “stolen pictures” like these and the other is probably a more social approach where you make contact with the subject and possible get them to post for you. The first one is probably the easiest one to get away with if you are more technical that social and I am glad I have gone through that stage. I will be working on the second one next :-)


Thanks for reading, and do not hesitate to post some comments!


Thanks again and all the best with the website,


Feb 012014

User report: Rokinon 8mm in the Fuji X-E1

By Frank Conley


This is not a technical review of the Rokinon 8mm. This is just some musings about actually using the lens.

My evolution into an all-Fuji toolkit has had an empty hole: the ultra-wide. I do a lot of wide work, and have daily relied upon the Canon 10-22mm, which is an absolutely superb lens. Fuji’s product roadmap has them releasing an XF 10-24mm sometime in March 2014. It will be a half-stop slower than the Canon, but it will fill a serious optic need that’s kept me tied to Canon.

One of the primary reasons for the move to Fuji was smaller, lighter, less obtrusive gear for documentary work. Having to lug the Canon along to get the utility of the 10-22mm is unfortunate. So while I wait for Fuji to get its manufacturing act ramped up, Rokinon’s lens makers offer an engaging and fun fill in.

While I had a few off brand lenses when I first started as a photographer, I quickly replaced them all as soon as I could. I’ve kept the tradition of sticking to lenses within the brand ever since. (That hasn’t been true of accessories, but glass is a separate issue.) There are many benefits of buying within a brand, especially with digital bodies and the communication that needs to go on between lens and the camera’s computer.

I happened across a review of the Rokinon 8mm, however, and was intrigued. Although slightly less than a true fish-eye, it’s an ultra wide. It’s wider than I usually work with, but that also means that it will still have a purpose once Fuji releases their lens. B&H had one in stock, and I’m up for any excuse for a trip to Manhattan. With my bank account $300 lighter, I’ve rolled the Rokinon into steady use rotation.

I have no prior familiarity with the brand. Apparently Ronkion also sells under the name Samyang. I have no idea if there’s a difference. All I know is that the lens I bought is solid, doesn’t rattle, has positive (if possibly stiff) clicks on the aperture ring, has a stiff focus ring, and has a mount that fits solidly to the X-E1. It’s a heavy lens, with a lot of glass in it. The X-E1 is small and light to begin with, so any lens on the front is going to unbalance the camera. There’s enough room to grab the Rokinon by the barrel and keep things steady, though.

In operation, it’s fine. It doesn’t have the polish and subtlety of the Fuji lenses (whose feel reminds me most of the bulletproof Nikkor glass of yore). But, it doesn’t feel cheap. It feels quite acceptable for the price point. It has an integral hood, which is useful for not chipping up the glass. However, because of the extreme convex, it picks up smudges very easily.

Part of what that price doesn’t buy you, though, is the ability for the lens to talk to the camera. And so we learn some of what all those extra dollars are paying for: there’s no autofocus (though, focusing is overrated on an ultra wide). There’s no aperture control. In fact, the camera doesn’t think that there’s actually a lens attached, necessitating you to turn on the “Shoot Without Lens” option. That means there’s no record of the lens or its aperture setting in the EXIF data (though you do get shutter speed and ISO). Although the camera doesn’t know what the lens is up to, the sensor on the X-E1 will still figure out the required shutter speed and ISO. The electronic viewfinder on the X-E1 does a very decent job of representing the scene, making full manual an option, too.

These are minor annoyances, though, and I’ve been pleased with the performance of the lens. I don’t worry about things like edge to edge sharpness, and lens flare and chromatic aberration, and I’m sure that the Rokinon suffers from some or all of such things as compared to a Zeiss or Fuji lens. The images I can make with it are interesting, and there’s enough resolution that I can crop out excessive distortion if that seems to be the right thing to do. Focusing seems to be largely irrelevant so long as nothing is closer than a foot away, and it gathers quite a bit of light at f/2.8. It’s very wide, though, which means that fingers, shoes, and sometimes my shirt can find their way into the corners of the frame.

The center of the lens suffers surprisingly little distortion. Depending on the subject matter, the edges sometimes aren’t that when they aren’t close in. Even when the distortion is severe, however, it’s less distracting than I would have guessed. All the images here are uncorrected for lens distortion. It’s obvious that it’s an ultra wide, and I think viewers are more comfortable with that than the subtle distortion of, say, a 20mm lens. Subtle distortion is more easily mistaken for a manipulated photograph, or just a feeling of queasiness. In either event, in my experience a subtle distortion is more likely to cause unease than an ultra wide, so I don’t mind it.

This is a very decent lens. The perspective is easy to abuse and could easily get tiring, but with mindfulness and the occasional crop, it fills the ultra-wide void for a very reasonable price, and has the quality to remain a working tool after Fuji finally catches up to their production calendar.


Pedestrians in front of a New York City bookstore.


A gargoyle on Notre Dame breathes the clouds into being.

email: [email protected]

website: fjamesconley.com

twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Oct 032013

New York, New York…with a Fuji X-E1 

By Allesandro Tarantino

Hey Steve!

I would share with you some photos of my New York City trip. I have been there in January with my girlfriend. I have taken with me my new Fuji X-E1 with the very good Fujinon XF 18-55mm zoom lens. The weather was not very good and I have not found the classic blue sky that I can see everyday here in Sicily. But … New York is New York and you will always found something interesting wherever you point your eyes, so what is the problem if the sky was gray!

This was my second time in the Big Apple and I can clearly affirm that it is the city of my dreams. A city that is live and that never sleep, where you can meet people from all over the world.












Aug 302013

Leica M9 vs Fuji X-E1 with Metabones Speed Booster by Christophe Carlier

Hi steve,

Firstly I want to thank you for putting my daily inspiration on your site.

I recently received a Metabones Speedbooster ring that allows me to get my Nikon F lens on my fuji X-E1 while keeping their 24×36 angle. A 50mm is a 50mm, a 35mm is a 35mm ….. and the more it will keep the effects of depth of field.

Manufacturing side of the ring is good quality, well-built. Its size is limited (see photo below) and reasonable weight 200 grams.




  • The weight of the whole XE1 + SpeedBooster plus 35mm f2 about 740 grams
  • M9P + 40mmf1.4 about 820 grams and FM2 + 50mmf1.8 about 740 grams.

The results photos, first 3 pictures are taken at 35mm (fuji XE1 SpeedBooster + nikkor 35mm f2 afd, facing M9P + Voigltander 40mm f1.4 at 1.4),

Image on the left image will be with the X-E1 – right side is with M9-P – MUST click them for larger version

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm III

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm II

The following 3 images are at 50mm (XE1 fuji SpeedBooster + nikkor afd 50mm f1.8, facing M9P + canon ltm 50mm f1.2 at 1.4).

the pictures left XE1 and right M9P – again, you must click them for larger

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm II

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm III

All pictures are taken in jpg, and only to compare the bokeh from each camera and lens.

What do you think?





Jun 282013


My look at the Zeiss Touit lenses on the Fuji X-E1

Where to buy Zeiss Touit:  PopFlash.com and B&H Photo

PoPflash.com even has a loaner try out program, check it out!

About a week ago Zeiss sent me their two newest lenses for the Fuji X system, which are also available for the Sony NEX camera system. The Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 and the Zeiss Touit 12 2.8. These lenses were highly welcomed to the mirrorless world of Fuji and Sony as it would be two more super high quality lenses for these two systems. With a lack of really HQ lenses for the Sony NEX these Zeiss offerings are pretty exciting to  those who shoot with a NEX body. But these lenses do not come cheap. At $1250 for the ultra wide 12mm f/2.8 and $900 for the 32 f/1.8 these will set you back a pretty penny. So the question is, are they worth the cost?

Fro the moment Zeiss announced these lenses I knew that I would want to try them as soon as they hit the shelves, as I LOVE ZEISS glass! As most of you know, these lenses are not made in Germany by Zeiss but by Cosina in Japan through a partnership with Zeiss. A video was released showing how the Zeiss Touit lenses are hand assembled and they appear that they do a very fine job of putting these lenses together.

Zeiss sent me the new 32 1.8 Touit as well as the 12mm f/2.8 Touit and I was happy to give them a try. I do not own a Fuji X body so I rented an X-E1 for a few weeks and figured I could bring these to the Palouse workshop with me to give them a real workout. But last week I took the camera and lenses out to an old “mock” mining town in Apache Junction, AZ and the sun was nasty and harsh, so I knew that this was nightmare lighting for the Fuji X cameras. One thing I notice with the Fuji X-Trans is that if you give it beautiful light it will reward you with a rich, 3 dimensional file and pleasant colors that are second to none. Feed that sensor some harsh or low light and it will give you flat dull files. Where my OM-D or Leica M would give me good results in almost any light, the one beef I have with the Fuji X-Trans is the flat output most of the time, if you are not in “just right” light.

But maybe that was just a lens thing? Maybe I am just spoiled by Leica lenses and the full frame sensor. Maybe I needed some Zeiss flavor pumped into that little Fuji. I can tell you that after taking the X-E1 to the Palouse with the Zeiss 12mm, the images I am seeing from the combo are very nice. In fact, the 12mm is my fave of the two “Touit” Lenses. But let’s talk about each one.

This review will be short and to the point.

The Zeiss Touit 35 1.8 – $900 for Fuji X or Sony NEX

Buy it at B&H Photo or Amazon


Well, if you love your Fuji 35 1.4 you will also love the Zeiss Touit 32 1.8. In fact, IQ wise they are very close and in my every day real world shooting, I had a hard time seeing the difference in output between the Zeiss and when I shot the Fuji. The Zeiss focus speed is about the same as the Fuji 35 1.4 and I am not really seeing the “Zeiss Look” here with these as I do with the Zeiss ZM for Leica. I thought I would get that Zeiss pop but I am not seeing it. With the Zeiss 24 1.8 for the Sony NEX I saw rich color and sharp files with some 3D pop but here I see about the same as I was getting from the Fuji 35 1.4. So output is similar but the build and feel of the Zeiss is on another level. Oh, and THE BOKEH IS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT and I feel I prefer the Fuji 35 1.4 in that area.

The Build


The build and feel of the Zeiss 35 1.8 is top-notch. Feels solid, looks amazing and the focus ring and aperture dial are solid and smooth. The Fuji lens to me felt like a toy..hollow and cheap-ish IN COMPARISON. The Zeiss lens feels like a pro lens and looks nice on the camera. The hood is included and while being plastic, at least they give the hood, which is designed to match the style of the lens. Zeiss went all out on the “attention to detail” thing with these lenses and the 35 1.8 at $900 may be worth it to you just for this alone.

I will leave you below with some images from the 35 1.8 Zeiss on the Fuji X-E1. My feelings on this lens is that it is a gorgeous lens that appears like it will last a lifetime. Great design, solid feel, and in use it is wonderful. AF is no faster than the Fuji 35 1.4 and IQ seems about the same (without going to shooting detailed charts) in real world use so the question is..do you want the Zeiss name and build? Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji may be a little more pleasing. So, is it worth the extra few hundred dollars to spring for this Zeiss just for the build? Only you can answer that one.

As you can see below, some nice window light on your subject and it can look superb. The shot of my dog below is an OOC JPEG shot with the X-E1 and Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit Lens. My little rescue dog was sad the day I had to put my older dog Scrubby down. You can see it in her eyes right here, as if she knew.


So away I went to give these lenses a try out at Goldfield Ghost Town. It was 109 degrees and Debby and I were walking around sweating after three steps out of the car..yea, it’s a “dry heat”. Whatever :) As we approached the “town” the 1st building you come up on is the Mercantile where you can buy drinks, fudge or touristy gifts. The image below was taken with the 32 1.8 at f/5.6. I use Adobe Camera Raw with Photoshop 6 for all images on this site. It seems camera RAW still has issues processing X-Trans RAW files. When I view a shot at 100% I do not get that crisp look I get from other cameras. Instead I get the odd smearing going on in fine details. 


Here we can see how good the lens will do in low light. This was shot inside of the old saloon where they have boots hanging from the ceiling. At 1.8 the lens rendered nicely.


Against a wooden wall I shot this one and then converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure


Wide open at 1.8  – looks good


The Palouse with the 32 1.8

I then brought this lens with the X-E1 to the Palouse Road Trip, which was a rip roaring success! Everyone had a great time and walked away with some breathtaking shots. The Fuji did well here, as you can see.



Walking around downtown Palouse



So bottom line: The Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 is a fantastic lens with superb build and a smooth pro feel. BUT, the Fuji 35 1.4 is optically just as good with slightly smoother bokeh. The Zeiss is $900 and the Fuji is $600.


The Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 – $1250 for Fuji X or Sony NEX

Where to buy Zeiss Touit:  PopFlash.com and B&H Photo


This is cool as it is a ultrawide lens for your Sony or Fuji cameras, and at 12mm you will walk away with an 18mm equivalent, which is WIDE! I loved the Zeiss 12mm as it gave me a field of view I was not used to and for me it was a challenge to fill that frame with anything interesting! As I shot it more, I grew to really enjoy it and if I were to invest in Fuji in the future I would buy this lens without question. Below are some images from the lens and the Fuji X-E1:

Ahhh! The 12mm! It gives us an 18mm field of view and I grabbed a shot from the steps of the building looking up. At 12mm (18mm) you get a VERY wide-angle.  The Zeiss 12mm is a fine lens. 


Yes you will see some distortion but this is a 12mm lens. Another 12mm lens I love is the Olympus 12mm which is an f/2 lens and TINY. DO I prefer the Zeiss to the Olympus? Well, I feel the Zeiss is the better lens though the Olympus is a much more manageable size.



Some Alien Skin Exposure on this one…


The Palouse with the 12mm

I also brought this lens to the Palouse and used it 95% of the  time when I pulled out the Fuji. I feel it did fantastic and added the drama I was looking for. All images below were shot with the 12mm, EXIF is embedded in all images. One thing I can say is that the Zeiss 12mm is SHARP.








So there ya go, my quick thoughts on the Zeiss Touit lenses for the Fuji X Mount. I like both but really fell more for the 12mm. At $1250 though it is not cheap. Another 12mm lens I enjoy is the Olympus 12mm for Micro 4/3. Much smaller, superb performance and comes in at $799 but that is for Micro 4/3, not an APS-C Fuji :) Overall the Zeiss lenses provide top quality build, feel, smooth use and great performance. While they do not give me the usual Zeiss pop I have seen from Zeiss lenses on Leica or Nikon or Canon, they still give the Fuji flavor of the X-Trans sensor, which many adore.

The thing you have to ask yourself is if you want a solidly made and nice to use lens for your X or NEX and if so, the Ziess Touit lenses should be looked at closely.

Thanks for reading!

Where To Buy?

PopFlash.com and B&H Photo sells the entire line of Zeiss Touit Lenses!


PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

You can also visit the new forums which also are home to the buy and sell board, so check them out!

Jun 032013


SLR Magic 35mm f/1.4: Is it Magical?

a mixed bag of tricks, with an outstanding prestige…

by Amy Medina

Since I’ve been considering buying the new SLR Magic 23mm f/1.7 for my Fuji XE1, Steve was kind enough to lend me his 35mm f/1.4 to try out for a week or so to see how I got along with it. I was excited when it arrived, and quickly got it out of the packaging and onto my camera, where it would live permanently for over a week.

The lens itself feels like it’s made well. It has a bit of heft to it, and I liked the size on the Fuji XE1; Not too fat, and a bit longer than the Fuji 35mm lens. It’s made of metal, and balances well on the camera, with a little bit of weight behind it, to give it a sturdy feel, not like a lens that will fall apart or easily break.

I’m not a fan of the screw-on lens cap. Not even a little bit. It’s annoying and impractical. Of course, because this wasn’t my own lens, I kept the lens cap on when not in use, but I can tell you, if I were to purchase one, that would not be the case. The lens cap would likely come off in the morning and not return to its home until the end of the day, when all photography is complete. Screwing the darn thing on and off is just a pain in the neck, so I’d likely end up spending a few dollars to find a cheap snap-on one that fits properly.



Other than the cheaper CCTV lenses I’ve used on my Olympus camera, this was my first time using a lens that had a smooth rotating aperture dial, without click-stops. This was another aspect of the SLR Magic I didn’t like much, because setting the f-stop blind is nearly impossible to do. I also found it was too easy to knock it or accidentally rotate it off the setting you want, because it doesn’t stay put with the help of a click-stop. It theory, I would have considered this a minor annoyance, and one that wouldn’t prevent me from buying the lens — but in real-world practice, I found I accidentally moved it more than I would have liked.



The focusing of the SLR Magic 35mm is something that made me wonder if I was going crazy. I realize, focusing at f/1.4 is not always easy, and the slightest self-movement can cause you to find your subject with less than ideal focus. However, there were times with this lens that I was convinced I had not moved, but the focus still “fell out” of its position. It is not sharp edge-to-edge, and where in the finder you have your focus point seems to be more important with this lens that with other f/1.4s. I’m a focus-recompose shooter, but I got along better with the SLR Magic when I composed first, and then moved the Fuji XE1’s focus point to my subject prior to attempting to focus, rather than leaving it in the center and then recomposing the shot after focusing.



The focus pull itself was a little wishy-washy for my taste… I like a stiffer focusing ring than the SLR Magic 35mm provides. It’s really just a bit loose feeling, especially when critical focus wide-open seems to “float out” too easily (or is that just me going crazy again?)… I do shoot with quite a few lenses that are anywhere from f/1.4 to f/2 wide open, and I’ve never had this problem with any of them, but maybe I’m a bit spoiled shooting with a lot of M-Glass.

All that said, it sounds like overall I wasn’t happy with this lens… but that surprisingly isn’t the case. While its form was good, and it’s function sometimes argued with me, the fact-of-the-matter is that I really enjoyed the character of the files this lens was capable of producing. Focus fall-off was often dramatic, and the bokeh was smooth and pleasing. I was rarely disappointed with the photos I took using this lens, even if I sometimes felt it took a little extra shooting time to get the end result. The looks of the photos produced using the SLR Magic 35mm seemed unique and full of character… qualities I absolutely adore in a lens, because ultimately it’s really all about the photos themselves, right?



An interesting aspect of this lens, unlike a lot of M-Glass, is that the closest focusing distance is less than a foot, which allows for a little more creative freedom doing close-up shots of subjects. Funny, because I’m so used to shoot with M-Glass, that I often don’t think to even try to focus closer than 2-3 feet, and ended up discovering it purely by accident one afternoon at the beach (see the bamboo shot below). LOL!

Other than the crazy “drifting” I mentioned above, I really didn’t find it difficult to manually focus this lens on the Fuji body… but I will add a disclaimer to that by saying that I’ve been using manual glass so much on my Fuji, that I’ve gotten quite good at manual focusing overall. I’d still welcome focus peaking on the body, but the “jaggies” are often good enough (and those of you familiar with the X-Series body and manual focusing probably already know what I’m talking about).



And, at the end of my time with this little magical 35, the thought of having to ship the lens back to Steve was downright depressing. It arrived to me in the midst of some dental issues, and my time with it was bounced between dental appointments and some down-time after having a tooth pulled. However, it’s arrival timing was good because it provided me with a point of pleasure in the middle of it all. When it was time to send it back, I felt like it had become my friend, so I had to pack her up quickly, as if pulling off a bandaid.

So even with all my complaints, I still feel in love… or at least strong like, with the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.4. When work is more steady and I’m not scraping together pennies to buy gear more suited to freelance work, I’ll be putting some aside for its 23mm cousin, because I think in the end, we’ll get along just fine. If I wasn’t currently and unfortunately unemployed, I’d likely buy both the 23mm and 35mm!

May 282013


Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5

by Jim Gamblin

(From Steve: The brand new redesigned Nokton 1.5 in M mount will be released in 2-4 weeks, check it out)

Hello again! This review or rather my impressions of the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 has been a long time in the making. The reason for this, is that in truth I am not yet done. Thus there will be a second part to this review, in the form of comparisons with two other 50mm lenses.


First just this lens. I am not going to go into the history of Voigtlander. Just to say that the Voigtlander lenses are made today in Japan at Cosina. The same place many of the Zeiss lenses are made.

The Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 is currently the only Fuji lens that I have. It is optically a wonderful lens and for the most part a joy to use. However I needed something longer in focal length. My original choice was going to be the Fujinon 60mm f/2.4. However after trying it in a store I was put off by the terrible AF. Not only slow, but would not lock on once in roughly 20 tries.

On my Nikon D3 my most used lens is the 85mm AF-D f/1.4. So I thought I would try a 50mm, which would give me a 75mm equivalent AOV, close to the D3 ~ 85mm combo. First I put my Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens to work. But that lens is front heavy and puts the camera out of balance. At this point I had decided that I should investigate getting M mount style lenses in lieu of the larger SLR lenses.

The first M mount lens that I had acquired was the Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color~Heliar and have been very happy with it. Great for portraits with it’s lower contrast. But for two people or in cramped quarters it became a little to long on the X-P 1 (equivalent 112mm). Thus I went back to the idea of a fast 50mm M mount lens.


With a Leica Summilux ASPH being completely out of the question, I began my research. Which is where I found this review on Steve Huff’s site: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2010/02/04/voigtlander-nokton-50-1-5-lens-review-by-james-klotz/. Very impressive. Also Sean Reid had many good things about the lens.

Unfortunately this lens has been out of production for a while. (***note a new version of the Nokton f/1.5, is to be released this summer 2013). The current 50mm Nokton is a massive (in size) f/1.1 and has not been as well received. Like many others, I am on a size reduction program, thus this lens did not interest me. Carl Zeiss makes two fifty M mounts. The Sonnar f/1.5 and the Planar f/2. Both small and highly regarded and were both appealing to me. After reading many reviews on all three, I kept going back to the two reviews on the Nokton and decided that was the lens for me. Missed two on ebay as “auctions”, but then found another on ebay as a “Buy Now” from an antique store in Australia. Being a little nervous about buying a photographic lens from an antique dealer, I finally sucked it up and took a chance. Despite my early misgivings, it would appear that I was lucky and got a good copy. Apparently news on the internet is that Cosina Voigtlander lenses suffer from quality control and not all lenses are created equal.

This version like my Color~Heliar is the older LTM screw mount. So an adapter is needed first to convert it to the M mount. These cost about €50. It is a simple ring that just screws on to the lens mount and barely makes any difference in size, weight or appearance. Mine is made by Voigtlander and is specially made for the 50 and 75mm lenses.


The lens is similar in look and construction to the Color~Heliar 75mm. And it just looks right on the X-Pro 1. All metal with DOF markings (though these marking more apply to a 35mm size frame). It has a nice heft to it without being too heavy about 250 grams roughly half a pound. Front thread is 52mm. Half stop clicks after f/2. The clicks don’t feel really precise, but definitely not sloppy either. Close focus is a bit much at .90 meter. The focus ring has a nice feel to it and goes from close to infinity in half a turn. I am a fan of the knurled focus ring. Another item I am a fan of is the lens cap. It has a velvety lining and slips over the lens shade and sits there very snug. Speaking of the lens shade, one must remove it to put on or take off a filter. Not a big hassle, but something worth noting.

Over all I am quite pleased with this lens, especially considering the cost. In the second part of this review will be comparisons with two other fifties, nothing exotic just close in price range. So until then I will skip the inevitable bokeh speak.





When using the Nokton with the X-Pro 1, it of course must be focused in EVF mode. Having mostly used SLR’s for the better part of my career, I am not used to zone focusing. So in using this lens with the XP1, it is a slower more deliberate action. Focus peaking would of course help tremendously and like many I keep hoping to see it appear on whatever upcoming firmware. Also irritating is that Fuji files do not have the aperture setting in the EXIF of third-party lenses. However I have not experienced any problems in focusing and much of the time I do not need to use the magnifier. Have not missed focus on that many shots, except of course trying to capture fast action.

As noted earlier close focus is a distant .90 meter, which is a little disappointing. However back when Nikon use to be more considerate to their customers, they made a large selection of their lenses with a 52mm front thread and as it so happens the Nokton also has a 52mm front thread. Low and behold I found an unused set of Vivitar close-up filters tucked away in an old filter case of mine. I remember buying these before I got the 55mm f/3.5 macro lens. Using them will give the photographer a limited focus range. i.e. a #1 ~ 50cm to 110cm (19.5 to 43 inches), a #2 ~ 40cm to 60cm (16 to 23.5 inches) and a #4 ~ 24cm to 36cm (9.5 to 14 inches). Here are a couple of examples. Dark day today even at less than a meter form a large window, so I had to use ISO 2500 at f/5.6.

The #4 from 28cm (11 inches)


The #2 from 52cm (20.5 inches)


The #1 from 65 cm ( 25.6 inches)


The Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 mounted on the Fuji X-Pro1 


For comparison the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5. This lens would be better for more serious macro work and also has the benefit of full range. But then again the Nikkor cannot give you f/1.5.

The #2 at f/1.5


For the time being I plan to keep this lens. If however the newly announced Fujinon 56mm is at least as sharp and has AF as fast as the Fuji 35mm, then maybe the Nokton will be replaced. We shall wait and see. One thing I know for certain is, the more I use the XP1 the more I love it, regardless of what lens.

The different moods created by this lens. Thank you for stopping by.







May 202013

“Leaving Your Comfort Zone”

by Brian T Adams

Hello everyone. My fiancée and I recently went on our first trip to New York City. What a fantastically chaotic place. From all the sounds and sights akin to those in the movies to the chaotic guy on the subway yelling to the cosmos some sort of declaration that scared the hell out of everybody, New York was nonstop. And we loved it.

I wanted to seize the opportunity to photograph a new and foreign place. Yet, this time I wanted to do something different. I almost exclusively find myself trying to photograph landscapes and the occasional structure; sometimes with success, many times not. The more I am consumed by photography in general, the more I realize that a great many of the most iconic photos ever made are of people. For me, the idea of shooting a photo of a complete stranger, up close and personal, couldn’t have been more uncomfortable and awkward. Despite experiencing mild to moderate nausea at the thought of sticking a camera in the face of a stranger, I was determined to come away with some photos of people.

Within the first five minutes of being off the subway in Manhattan, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I had somehow convinced myself it might be. Perhaps I was just initially overwhelmed with it all. Eventually I concluded the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, my first bite would be with street performers. I figured I’d give them a little dough and I’d take a couple of photos in exchange…I couldn’t have been the first person to have done this. Looking back, this was the perfect approach to help me get comfortable confronting somebody with a camera.

While I enjoyed this approach, I needed to get a little deeper. Eventually, I just started walking up to people and asking them if I could take their picture. The first couple times I did this, I could hardly keep the camera steady I was so nervous. Oddly enough, though, nobody ever said no. In fact, some people’s reactions were down right hilarious if not absurd. A couple of guys thought I was joking, one looked around in nervous fashion as if caught up in a prank and then fixed his hair when he realized I was serious. Another person, who was sitting on a bench at the time, quickly stood up and immediately got ready; clearly this wasn’t his first rodeo. Eventually, I was taking pictures of random people without saying a word. They weren’t necessarily portraits or even up close, but many times the subjects knew I was taking photos of them and they didn’t seem to object.

To be fair, I have to admit, my nerves got the best of me many times. A lot of the close up pictures I took – even after asking – didn’t come out. Most were because I miss focused (shallow DOF) or had a poor composition. For some reason, I tended to want to put people’s heads in the lower half of the frame instead of the upper half. At least I found out something I need to work on. Keep in mind that I would usually only take one or two of a subject and then move on without looking at the image and some others were shot with film. I didn’t want to waste people’s time so, either way, each shot was a commitment. If nothing else, though, it helped me get more comfortable wielding a camera in public.

Ultimately, I left New York with some photos I like, some epic memories, and a new outlook. I absolutely want to get better at people photography. I had serious doubts about trying a whole new approach to photography. If anybody has been thinking about trying something different with their approach to photography, from my limited experience, it’s worth. If nothing else, it helped me interact with many people I wouldn’t normally have had I not taken their photo. Go out and get uncomfortable.

The gear:

Fuji X-E1 with 35mm f1.4, Canon 5DMKII with 24-105 f4 (great all around lens, nice bokeh on the long end, and I wanted a wide lens for buildings and stuff), and Canon AE-1 Program with 50mm f1.8 FD mount (a $28 powerhouse of a lens). I shot a roll of Acros 100 and a roll of Ilford Delta 100. Most shots with the Fuji and AE-1 Program had a B+W 2 stop ND so I could open the lenses up. I know that’s a lot of gear, but I don’t have a wide lens for the Fuji and I’m not totally ready to commit an entire trip to film (I also wanted to see how airport Xrays would affect film). There was never a time where I was carrying all that at once. I usually only had one camera at a time with me.

Wishing everyone happy shooting,

Brian T. Adams



The first group is from the Fuji X-E1





This second group is from the Canon 5DMKII





The third group is from the Canon AE-1P





Feb 142013


A Day of Deals: Fuji X-E1 and X-Pro 1 Body and Lens Discounts

I usually do not post TWO camera deals in one day but I was just informed that B&H Photo is running a couple of Fuji deals on the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 bodies and I know many of you appreciate when I point out these specials as it saves you money. When you order a Fuji body at B&H you can also bundle lenses with them at a pretty substantial discount. For example, buy an X-E1 at $999 and you can add a variety of lens packages saving up to $913 if you go all out and buy the 35, 18-55, 60mm and 18mm. They have a few bundle options to choose from. How do you see them?

Click HERE to see the X-Pro 1 and link to available bundles

CLick HERE to see the X-E1 and link to available Bundles


When you get to those pages you will see the text “Click Here to Save up to $913.85 with Lens Bundle…” – click that to see the available bundle offers for each body.

These deals expire on March 31st 2013, so they are good for the next month and a half.

BTW, also noticed they have lowered the price of some of the Macbook Pro Retina display models…


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