Praia do Forte, Funchal

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Tentar captar a essência de um lugar em apenas alguns minutos é sempre um estímulo muito gratificante para um fotógrafo. Na minha última passagem pela Madeira dei comigo a redescobrir velhos cantos, becos de prazer para os madeirenses ou para quem lá vive.

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A Praia do Forte no Funchal é um daqueles lugares que nos transporta no tempo. Quando lá chegamos sabemos que sempre foi assim – uns quantos veraneantes deixam-se banhar pelas tépidas águas do Atlântico, debaixo de um Sol que parece aquecer sempre da mesma forma, com o mesmo rigor mas sempre sem excesso.

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Nesta cápsula do tempo há pele bem tonificada pelos raios de sol e por entre grades e pedregulhos ninguém parece sentir a falta da areia dourada de outras paragens mais a norte.

Uma X-T2 com lente 35mm f1.4, passos silenciosos e postura simples, a de um turista que parece ter encontrado uma praia exatamente igual à que frequenta todos os dias, ajudaram a produzir um registo de um local único, de estórias cheio.

Praia do Forte, Funchal. Todas as fotografias: Fujifilm X-T2, Lente Fujinon XF 35mm f 1.4. Acros Film Simulation, ACR e Photoshop “a gosto”.

GFX 50s First Impressions

_DSF0283Unlike the vast majority of texts I’ve read over the last month or so this is not an article to let you know how awesome the GFX files are when it comes to detail, dynamic range, low noise and the lot – we already know that and to be honest it is a bit silly to discuss if at ISO 102400 this (or any) camera is better than the competition. I am a photographer and I’m much more interested in getting to know if the tool is going to help me produce great work; I am not a lab rat and I think one has to be pretty much distracted to compare the advantages of three cameras against one, finding silly excuses not to buy the GFX- yes I am referring to that appalling article published by DPReview where a lab geek, not a photographer, is flooding the page with technicalities that, although accurate, do not translate into the real world per se much less have the power to define your work as a photographer. If the Nikon D810 is the camera for you, that is absolutely fine.

_DSF0496What we need to know is if this, or any camera, adds value to your work, if the investment and resources you need available to start using a new system will have return, not only financially but also artistically.Yes, the camera is a brush, a tool, not the brain, the camera doesn’t create, you do. And to be honest, photography is not about cameras, is about pictures, emotions, stories, art, reality, fiction – concepts are developed in your brain, ideas come to mind, the system you use is just a tool, a very good one for this purpose, preferably.

_DSF0500Over the past two days I’ve been using the GFX as a street camera, alongside the 63mm f2.8 and the 120mm f4 Macro. The pictures published here are just a small fraction of what I’ve produced over the past 48 hours. It has been overcast, the grayish tone is not the camera’s fault and even if I had three in the bag (those that are marginally better at doing some sort of meaningless stuff) the grayish tone would have been there, still.

_DSF0499What I tried to do was simple: get out on the street with the GFX same way I do with the X-Pro2, realizing in due course if the GFX is a good tool to do so. As an inspirational gizmo, the camera excels. The touch and quality of the dials is paramount, ergonomics are quintessential – everything falls naturally in your hand. I miss the exposure compensation dial and probably the Q button should have been placed elsewhere. The grip is substantial and even after a full day walking around Porto the weight of the camera with any of the lenses attached is acceptable for the task at hand. I love the secondary LCD (you can assign and reorder information on it), the tilting screen is a must and the viewfinder is absolutely brilliant – extraordinary piece of engineering. I did not use the accessory that allows the viewfinder to be tilted up, down and/or sideways but probably it will end up on my shopping list.

_DSF0501Shutter lag is negligible for street photography and Fuji has done a pretty good job damping the internal impact of the first curtain – the shutter sounds always slower than expected, probably because of this.The refresh rate of the viewfinder is good enough, it never got in the way of a good photograph. Auto-focus is contrast detection, 425 points if you wish – works under almost every circumstances, but if you want to take pictures of Valentino Rossi riding at 200 mph there are better options on the market usually paired with lenses with longer focal length and cameras with much higher fps. At only 3 frames per second one cannot say this is a fast camera. But it is just enough for street photography, and of course studio work, fashion, boudoir, landscape, portraiture…

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_DSF0502Battery life: nearly 400 shots with the 63mm f2.8 using the viewfinder most of the time and 270 shots with the 120mm f4 lens with OIS on and a lot of LCD use, chimping like crazy… you know.

_DSF0282All the images I’ve posted are in camera converted RAW uncompressed files – reflecting shooting conditions and Acros film simulation. No correction has been applied, whatsoever, to any of the files.

One of the main reasons medium format is so addictive is the ratio and the feel of the images – bigger pixels, less noise, some sort of creamy like effect smaller sensors cannot provide mainly because they are crammed with pixels. Other tremendous advantage is the option to produce bigger prints without compromising quality and probably one of the most cherished characteristics is the extended dynamic range that allows post production miracles, rendering beautiful images with detailed highlights and deep shadows retaining an enormous amount of information.

_DSF0284The GFX is a pure medium format camera – quintessentially. Feels smaller, like a DSLR, follows the X series brilliant ergonomics and disappears from your hand after a couple of hours letting you focus on photography. And this is probably one of the best attributes of the GFX. It is not an extremely desirable object like a X100F or a X-Pro2 from the design point of view but it is highly functional, specially because it produces MF files, from a huge sensor – full frame sensors are 864 square millimeters in area, the GFX sensor is 1441 square millimeters in area.I guess this gives you an idea of how big the sensor is, although it doesn’t translate into camera size – the camera is completely usable on the streets, just like a D810 or a 5D Mark IV. Do not get lost in translation here, the APS-C based X system is the tool if you want to disappear into the crowd.

_DSF0498All images published in this article were shot handheld – even the night shots. The fact of the matter: this is a completely usable tool for street photography, no doubt.

_DSF0531Depth of field: every photographer knows that MF lenses were never as fast as full-frame lenses. This is not the point for MF. Regarding depth of field the 63mm f2.8 is on par with a 35mm f1.4 on an APS-C system, generally speaking. I’ve done test shots with both systems and the aforementioned lenses and I would say the images produced by the GFX have a bit more bokeh, or maybe the bokeh is smoother and looks better. But this is not scientific and although the maths are simple, this is not point here.

_DSF0533How do you perceive images, what sort of relationship you establish with the camera, with the system, how it reacts to your inputs, how long and how difficult or simple it is to fiddle with the dials and change parameters, what sort of feedback you get from the camera and how good the images look like, are some of the main features you should look for. Photography as an art form is about passion, about interaction, not about physics.For photographers, photography is a canvas, a medium to express themselves, their feelings, not an integrated circuit or a special coating on the lens. Yes, gear is fundamental, but it is a tool and you should buy the tool you LOVE the most, the tool you get the best pictures out of, not the sharpest ones. A tool helps the creative process, it does not imposes it on you. A tool is designed with passion in mind by skilled craftsmen, dedicated engineers. By the end of the day, your photographs must make the difference, specially for you. And that is not about noise, dynamic range, sharpness or depth of field – it is mainly about how you see the world and how you interact with it, what you choose to frame, how you put different realities in context. Bresson became famous because of his photographs, the legacy he left, the composition techniques – Bresson was not the only one using Leica at the time. Many did before him, many more have used it and plenty are using Leica nowadays. The vast majority will not become famous. When your pictures are exhibited and the public looks at them from a certain distance, spending enough time watching and decoding the message you tried to convey, no one really thinks or cares about the camera behind it. You do, you have to, because to get to a point you’re producing art, no matter if you’ve followed Ansel Adams of Bresson’s footsteps, your camera has to be part of you.

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_DSF0286We have plenty to choose from nowadays. For me, this is – alongside the X-Pro2 – the tool to create great photographs. If you want to know the technicalities and all that weird stuff, browse the Internet – there are plenty of articles detailing all that. If you want to know if you can fall in love with this camera and use it as an extension of your brain, of your body, I can tell you that it is; this a fabulous camera, that will disappear from your hand quickly, letting you focus on your work.

Is it better than a full-frame DSLR? It is DIFFERENT and not comparable. Put your shoes on, get out on the street and test both systems, bearing in mind what you are looking for. Let your heart decide, after all photography comes from the heart.

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I am in love and extremely happy with my options. Are you?

John Gallo

 

All photographs shot handheld, night shots at 8000 ISO (plus), other well below the reciprocity law. In camera conversion from RAW files, Acros film simulation, no editing.

 

 

 

 

Há homens únicos, pelo talento, pelo caráter

Uma tarde de trabalho muito bem passada, com o meu grande, grande amigo António. De caráter e talento único, o Mestre é um homem de uma generosidade ímpar, com um sentido de humor finíssimo, dotado de uma inteligência extraordinária. Estamos a preparar algumas coisas juntos, para breve.

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Fujifilm Festival Internacional de Fotografia de Viseu

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It is about time to say something about Fujifilm FIF Viseu – after all I have the responsibility to manage the Festival, trying to provide some guidance to a very small team of extremely talented persons: Ana, Guida, Luís you’re one of kind and this Festival will happen because you are gifted – it is my honour to be on your side, competence is not in short supply amongst you.

But how did this start? An idea ? Well, certainly an idea but a challenging although “natural” idea – to put together in the same title the Fujifilm brand and Viseu, a brand and a city, the best city to live in Portugal, the biggest city of the so called “interior” of Portugal. Fujifilm? Quite probably the most active and prolific brand of the moment within the medium – I’ve been using X Series gear since 2011, I have a strong connection with the brand, supported by the extremely professional relationship I have with João from Fujifilm Portugal, another stronghold for competence. João is passionate about people, about driving them to succeed, cherishing everyone around him. What I realised was simple after all, by putting together two references in the same sentence I was creating a new brand and excellence became paramount. The hardest part  – I thought – was to get Viseu Municipality involved and persuade Fujifilm to be the naming sponsor.

I was wrong. Through Viseu Terceiro Chappa presented a solid, trustworthy and compelling project to the Municipality and Fujifilm FIF Viseu was given 90 points out of 100. By then, Chappa and Fujifilm had already agreed in the form factor for the Festival and there was a clear idea on how to make it work for everyone: Chappa, Fujifilm, Viseu, Portugal, the artists, local, nationwide and international audience. Viseu Municipality has to be praised here: they have a plan, a vision for the city. The Mayor and everybody else one can come across from Viseu’s city management have the same attitude, engaged with their city, supportive of people that engage as well and have the will, the strength and the talent to add value to Viseu’s brand.

From Amílcar and Luís at Publico/P3 we received the same support, the same enthusiasm one must have from major partners – well before Fujifilm FIF Viseu was a reality Amílcar already had given a great thumbs up to the project.

We are still a couple of months away, but the program is closed, the venues are almost decided, everything within budget. Hopefully we will deliver a great Festival to the city, to the country.

There is one final challenge though – photographers from around the country must come to Viseu enjoying the opportunity to be part of this celebration, the celebration of magnificent photographic work on show, at proper venues, printed in large format, high-quality media. Workshops, masterclasses, one Instameet and a photographic marathon – amongst many other events – will give everyone a good reason to come to Viseu.

Our meetings have been highly enjoyable, we look at the challenges we face, smile and think how can we overcome them, how can we deliver as we know we must.

Feet to the ground though: nothing happen yet, everything is still ahead of us. Hard work, humbleness and dedication will help, no doubt.

See you around.

 

 

The real price – Fujifilm GFX 50S

Plenty has been said about the price of the new medium-format camera from Fujifilm. More often than not comments are something like “fabulous piece of kit, uncanny image rendition and quality, unbelievable sharpness and detail, the minus being the price”. I’m not a medium format user, although I used to be back in the days of heavy studio work ten or twelve years ago, therefore I’m pretty much unbiased regarding this subject… I’m not buying one, period – I do not need one.

Nevertheless, I’m a bit fed up with these comments on Fuji’s price; they seem to come from people completely, utterly unaware of market prices for all competitors the new Fujifilm GFX 50s will face in a month. Have a look here and let me know if price is an advantage or a disadvantage for the Fujifilm brand new camera. Facts are facts and if price is an absolute characteristic of a given product, then Fujifilm’s price is the lowest, therefore a plus.

But in commerce or marketing price is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay, a seller is willing to accept, and the competition is allowing to be charged. With product, promotion, and place of marketing mix, it is one of the business variables over which organizations can exercise some degree of control.

In essence, price can be defined like a value that will purchase a finite quantity, weight, or other measure of a good or service – so, with the same amount of a finite value what other equivalent good will you buy? None, no other camera with similar characteristics and performance costs the same, not even close.

Price is one of the best features of the Fujifilm GFX 50s.

Stop the nonsense, open you eyes and get real.

Podes ganhar uma residência de fotografia do Fujifilm FIF Viseu | P3

Está quase a chegar. Viseu vai ter um festival de fotografia com aulas, palestras e um concurso. O mote do festival é ‘Inspiring Positive Change’

Source: Podes ganhar uma residência de fotografia do Fujifilm FIF Viseu | P3

The ultimate Fujifilm X Series Lenses comparison

Fujinon XF 16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR versus four Fujinon primes: 16mm f1.4, 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2

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We all know the commitment Fujifilm has to provide the best lenses one can have. We also know, as a rule of thumb, that zooms are for versatility and primes for optical quality and image rendering, but how significant is the difference? What are we losing when the option is to use a zoom lens instead of prime lenses? And, when it comes to the most relevant focal lengths what would we do if we could try and test the trans-standard option against prime glass? Based on lab and field tests I will try to provide some answers.

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I’ve been using Fujifilm X Series since 2012, exclusively since 2014. I have had and used pretty much everything they’ve launched, from the X-Pro1 to the X-Pro2 and I’m quite familiar with the system; I use Fujifilm for everything I do and yes, I do make a living behind a camera – http://www.johngallo.co.uk

Fuji is now offering three trans-standard zooms: the entry-level XC 16-55mm , the XF 18-55mm and the premium Red Badge XF 16-55mm f2.8. The line-up is completed by the XF 18-135 f3.5-5.6 R OIS WR, although this lens is a bit beyond what a trans-standard zoom in essence is. All of them have pros and cons, like everything in life. Although I’m a user of both XF lenses, the 18-55mm and the 16-55mm, this article will focus on the Red Badge zoom when compared with the more expensive primes covering the same focal range in the Fujinon lineup, the 16mm, the 23mm, the 35mm all f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2 (regular version, no apodization filter).

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On the one hand we all know that versatility is the best attribute of a zoom lens – on the other hand we also know that nothing will get closer to prime lenses regarding optical quality.
On the money side of things a fraction of the required investment to buy four primes brings home a nice and neat zoom, covering the exact same focal range. Weight? Practicableness? Another easy win for the trans-standard zoom.

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But when it comes to maximum aperture and the ability to really work depth of field as a relevant characteristic of your photography and/or to use available light to get the image you need in difficult conditions there is nothing like prime lenses. Sharpness? There is little a zoom can do here… It is what they say, isn’t it?

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The Imatest stuff

There is no but when it comes to absolute figures: relevant lab data will enlight us, right? The average maximum aperture of the primes is f1.35, let’s round it up to f1.4. The gap is two stops, so whatever you find yourself doing the zoom will force you to use a higher ISO setting to keep shutter speed. Say, at ISO 1600 and 1/60 @ f1.4 in any of the primes you will have to use ISO 6400 @ f2.8 with the zoom, which will result in added noise. Or 1/15 shutter speed to keep ISO at 1600. This particular zoom doesn’t have optical stabilisation therefore slower shutter speeds may be a problem and blur is likely to occur.

But what is the resolution of the prime lenses and of the Red Badge zoom at full aperture? The relevance of the question is enormous: when using these four primes at full aperture you will be losing roughly 15 to 25% resolution (sharpness, MTF) when compared to the zoom resolution at full aperture (centre of the frame). This is a lot. It is a trade-off: as the aperture increases the resolution diminishes. Your option, either faster shutter speeds and less noise with primes or increased sharpness using the zoom lens according to the MTF chart. Nevertheless, motion blur contributes to a general perception of less sharpness as well as increased noise does. Difficult? Sometimes life sucks. By the way, do not forget the reciprocal rule and be aware that the smaller the sensor the more conservative you have to be when applying the rule. A monopod or a tripod may help… depending on the subject you’re portraying.

Vignetting

The primes are “merged” into just one lens for the sake of simplification; the resulting figure is the average of all four lenses combined, against average values of the zoom lens across the available focal range.

16-55mm average across all focal lenghts at full aperture (f2.8): 0.53EV

Primes average, all combined at f2.8: 0.39EV

At f4.0, zoom 0.35EV, primes 0.32EV

The trans-standard lens seems to put up a very good fight here, specially due to the fact that at f2.8 it is at full aperture, unlike the primes.

Distortion

Same criteria as above.

16-55mm trans-standard average across al focal lengths: 2,71% barrel

Four primes average: -0.6% pincushion

Needless to emphasize the advantage of the XF primes here…

Chromatic aberrations

Yes, you got it, same criteria.

16-55mm trans-standard: 0.91 pixel

Four primes: 0.31 pixel

Again, primes are much better taming chromatic aberrations. Make no mistake here.

Resolution

The chart below needs little if any explanation; it is absolutely clear and unmistakable. The higher the number, the better. Zoom lens data always before the prime counterpart data; highlighted in green the best at the given focal length/aperture/centre, border or extreme of the frame.

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The above array of numbers also establishes a hierarchy within the prime lenses, regarding resolution and resolution only. The champion here is the Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4, followed by the 56mm f1.2mm; then in third place we find the 16mm f1.4 and finally the 35mm f1.4 – Fuji, when are you going to replace this lovely but dated piece of glass by a much more substantial 33mm f1.0 with LM and WR? In doing so you would also be making a statement, a very good one by the way… Looking forward to it…

To conclude this boring data stuff I have to say that at 16mm the trans-standard zoom has 5.6% barrel distortion with the other extreme (55mm) having 2.4% pincushion distortion. Both values are too high to ignore, specially when one takes into account the weight, size and price of this Red Badge lens. The 24-70mm f2.8 USM L II from Canon (full frame) has 2.8% and 1.3% respectively, nearly just half… Nikon’s equivalent Nikkor lens has 3% barrel distortion at 24mm and just 0.5% pincushion at 70mm.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS for Canon APS-C cameras has 2% barrel and 1.15% pincushion distortion at the wide and tele ends of the zoom, respectively and this is not an L-Series lens. Nikkor equivalent for their range of APS-C cameras (G Series though) has 2.18% barrel distortion at 17mm and 0.87% pincushion at 55mm.

Regarding resolution the Fujinon is better than any of the two APS-C lenses from Canon or Nikon which is absolutely expectable: it is a much more recent piece of kit, therefore distortion should have been on par, not under engineered.

Fujifilm’s other option, the XF18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS, has 4.6% barrel distortion at 18mm – not brilliant either although better, but only 0.78% pincushion at 55mm. Overall, the 18-55 has less resolution in the centre of the frame but is surely much better in the border and extremes of the frame. Sure, Fujifilm’s firmware corrects in camera these issues, but the final result is always worse than what it could have been if lens design was better regarding distortion. After all, auto-correction is a lossy procedure and the price we’re paying for this Red Badge stuff raises higher expectations… Fujifilm released firmware version 1.12 for the Red Badge zoom lens improving chromatic aberration correction.

Out on the streets

OK, enough of this lab wording and let’s go out to the field, press the shutter button and notice the differences between these lenses.

All photographs have been taken with an X-Pro2 body, carbon fibre tripod and remote trigger.

I have taken a set of four pictures with the trans-standard lens at four different focal lengths: 16, 23, 35 and 55mm, at f2.8, f4, f5.6 and f8 respectively. Then I did the same using the matching set of primes. The following photograph is only for illustration purposes (Fujinon XF35mm f1.4 R@f8). A set of 32 high-resolution pictures is available for download here – 6000 x 4000 dpi, ISO 200, Tiff files, straight ACR RAW conversion, no filters applied. Note, they are all (in camera) corrected RAW’s.

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If you want to get to know how each one of these lenses performs at different apertures in the real world feel free to download the files, open them and fiddle with it. This is the real thing. Files are named in a simple way: focal length, aperture.

I did spend a lot of time carefully comparing them and I have to say that lab figures are correct for the majority of the images/comparison at hand. Indeed, the trans-standard zoom is far from brilliant in the border and extreme of the frame, being easily surpassed by the prime lenses. Have a look yourself – this may be an issue for some users and completely negligible to others – it really depends on what type of photography you do, your personal style, how often you use lenses at their maximum aperture and how important resolution is when trade-off is versatility. At 16 and 23mm the Red Badge zoom performs extremely well in the centre, at 35mm performance is very good in centre as well. At 55mm performance is not that good, although acceptable. Border and extreme of the frame are the Achilles heel of this Red Badge lens. When compared to the XF 18-55mm at 55mm the cheaper trans-standard is globally better resolution wise than the “pro” lens. I dare say, based on my experience as a professional photographer relying on Fuji X Series gear to make a living, that the logical, balanced option is to buy the XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS (not weather sealed) instead of the higher-priced, heavier 16-55mm Red Badge trans-standard (weather sealed).

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If all the other features of prime lenses are pivotal for you, then do not hesitate, buy the set of prime lens on show, they will outperform any trans-standard zoom lenses one can dream about, except for versatility and weight – weight that you’ll add to your bag and remove from your bank account. The full set of primes tested here amount to more than £2600.00 (UK, January 2017) which is a lot of money by any standards. Furthermore, if rain, dust and freezing conditions are your playground, only the 16mm f1.4 is weather sealed: all the other primes tested here aren’t.

In short, pros of the XF 16-55mm f2.8 Red Badge trans-standard zoom:

  • Very good to excellent resolution in the center of the frame
  • Weather sealed
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Constant aperture throughout the entire zoom range
  • Easy and smooth to operate; everything has a firm, pleasant look and touch
  • Controlled vignetting, even wide open
  • Versatility, it can cover an extreme wide range of subjects, in almost every environment and situation

Cons:

  • Price, given the optical performance in the border and extremes of frame
  • Weight and size, given the optical performance in the border and extremes of frame
  • Optical performance at the borders and extreme of the frame, specially from 35mm onwards and from f4 onwards
  • Distortion at 16mm and 55mm – unacceptable at this level of pricing; this is Fujinon’s reference trans-standard zoom for the X series cameras

If you can live without weather sealing you’d be better off buying the Fujinon XF18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS trans-standard; with the addition of image stabilization, better resolution in the borders and extreme of the frame, lighter, smaller and around 30% cheaper it is a no brainer: a very solid performer with the right size and balance for the X series cameras.

For the real thing when it comes to speed, image quality, extremely controlled distortion, CA’s and vignetting, think about at least these three primes: 16mm, 23mm and 56mm. They are the ultimate photographic tool for those that do not need versatility and are not willing to compromise on image quality, bookeh and depth of field as a composition tool. Remember though, only the 16mm is weather sealed…

The 35mm is getting out of date – slower focus, noisy, no WR – optical performance should be better, specially if you think of this lens as THE lens to have in any system, given the focal length (roughly 50mm full frame equivalent). Fuji?

John Gallo, January 2017

 

Links:

Set of 32 high-resolution Tiff test images (1,40GB download)

John Gallo’s website

John Gallo’s bio

Chappa

Fujifilm Europe

Fujifilm Portugal

Imatest

Fuji Rumors