Night Errand

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Night Errand. Inspirei-me no poema de Eric Berlin com o mesmo título para produzir este ensaio. Night Errand pode ser a história de alguém “high on ecstasy” deambulando pela cidade à procura de tudo e que acaba por nada conseguir encontrar.

IMG_009Ou porque não, errante, alguém perdidamente apaixonado – amor correspondido ou não, pouco importa – bordejando a loucura, perdendo-se cidade adentro.

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Night Errand é um daqueles momentos universais, razões pouco ou nada importam – perdemo-nos na cidade, somos por ela absorvidos até nos tornarmos parte da sua malha, da sua traição, tragados pela maré de solidão em que ela nos envolve, repetidamente, agora, amanhã, depois, sempre.

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Ou será apenas o impulso consumista – a necessidade permanente de consumir, de ter, de possuir, de morrer na teia de luzes psicadélicas de cores berrantes, apontadas a uma alma atraída para uma morte lenta, escravizada pela cultura neo-liberal?

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Ou será apenas solidão? Daquela que mata, que mata por dentro sem que nunca se veja por fora. Daquela que consome as entranhas da alma, deixando-nos podres, egoístas, rancorosos, secos, incapazes de mergulhar na imensidão do mundo.

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Ou será só uma viagem em que todos os tempos verbais se entrecruzam, em que universos paralelos colidem enquanto a náusea permanece? Náusea que se desfaz devagar, numa teia de fumo envolta em mistérios densos, adensados pela aspereza do tempo. Agastados, já não sabemos bem, mas será apenas uma viagem, disso estamos certos.

Leiam o poema de Eric Berlin – banda sonora? Harlem River, Kevin Morby.

Sem manipulação digital. Todas as imagens © John Gallo/Chappa 2019

 

Understanding Prejudice – How It Forms and How to Prevent It

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Prejudice can have a strong influence on how people behave and interact with others, particularly with those who are different from them. Prejudice is a baseless and usually negative attitude toward members of a group. Common features of prejudice include negative feelings, stereotyped beliefs, and a tendency to discriminate against members of the group. While specific definitions of prejudice given by social scientists often differ, most agree that it involves prejudgments that are usually negative about members of a group.

The main disadvantage of Micro Four Thirds is prejudice. Keeping an open mind I challenge you all to read carefully:

1 – Bresson, Capa, later Meyerowitz and other masters of this craft early adopted what was in those days a very small “sensor”: 35mm. By that time “full frame” was, at least 120 roll film. Meyerowitz began photographing in color in 1962 and was an early advocate of the use of color during a time when there was significant resistance to the idea of color photography as serious art…

2 – The enormous advances in digital photography allow MFT to mitigate alleged limitations of the format when compared to FF, much more than 35mm did when it was introduced, compared to 120 film.

3 – No other system provides better image stabilization (7.5 stops).

4 – No other system provides this level of portability. Even Olympus E-M1X weighs less 370 grams than Canon’s flagship 1 DX Mark II. Forget lenses size and weight…

5 – Only MFT delivers 18fps with continuous AF and 60fps with locked focus.

6 – No other system offers this level of performance at this price point, not even close.

7 – Olympus new E-M1X AF system focus down to -6EV.

8 – E-M1X specifications regarding weather, moisture and dust sealing are referential – there is no other camera on the market offering this level of protection against the elements. Have you ever tried to wash yours under the tap?

9 – AF “deep learning” is not available in any other camera on the market today (Sony a6400 path is similar, nonetheless).

10 – Integrated (electronic) ND filters with this level of accuracy, delivering fabulous results were unheard of until today.

11 – RAW Handheld High Resolution and RAW Tripod High Resolution modes are unique features, delivering stunningly detailed pictures.

12 – Panasonic GH5 is one of the best video tools the world has ever seen, unbeatable price/quality/features/results.

13 – The range of available lenses and accessories is huge – enough to satisfy the needs of the most demanding photographer.

14 – Noise levels are on par with many other systems until 12800/16000 ISO. Need more?

15 – Bokeh depends of many factors; moving your ass around the subject, changing lenses, walking further into/further away will deliver the results you need.

16 – Due to the size of the sensor, flange focal distance and thread diameter, MFT delivers pin sharp images across the entire frame. No other system offers this level of sharpness across the frame.

17 – Yes, you can print massive sized outdoors from an MFT file. Outdoors have been around for more than a century and photographs have been used for decades and decades on this medium.

What MFT will not do for you:

1 – It won’t turn you into a great photographer. If you’re photography sucks, it will continue to be bad like hell.

2 – It won’t make you look like the “great white” predator. If that is your scene buy those FF 600mm monsters, big and noisy FF cameras. It will be impossible not to spot you, even if you wish to go unnoticed.

3 – It won’t break the bank. If you wish to spend a fortune go FF instead.

4 – It won’t make you look like a “professional, seasoned and old fashioned photographer”; you will look like a clever person that saves money, weight and effortlessly walks for miles with a backpack full of hi tech gear… Using MFT gear you’ll look like contemporary photographer taking advantage of today’s technology.

5 – If there is something about you that needs to show off  big phallic objects you’ll be in trouble. Go FF.

6 – If you’re not an early adopter forget it. Innovators already bought the system many years ago. You’ll end buying it when everyone has it and uses it. Probably these clever users will be jumping on to the next big thing when you finally settle for MFT.

Final comment:

You need to be able to abstract yourself from your old beliefs and credos to really understand the benefits of MFT. Bresson’s photography was initially coined as anti graphic by the status quo… Get it? Prejudice cannot be part of the equation.

Photography is about photographers, about emotions, art, technique, sense and sensibility, about inspiration, about life, death, tragedy, joy, faith… Photography is about conveying emotions, passing on ideas and ideals. Photography is, essentially, an art form. Sorry, not everyone can be an artist, much less a great one.

When I switched from FF to MFT do you know what my clients said? Nothing. They didn’t spot the difference.

 

Photograph: Octopus, one of Chef André’s delicacies. What a cook he is!

 

 

Digital manipulation – What is and what isn’t

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Digital manipulation – what is and what isn’t?

Beyond ethics, what can we really consider as acceptable nowadays?

Before we speak about manipulation let’s not forget pure and plain lies. Many photographers have been caught lying about location, context, subject manipulation on their photographs – beforehand this is about ethics, has nothing to do with digital post processing.

In spite of the natural grey area this issue implicates I believe that to make matters simpler and easier there is a perspective we must consider, as long as we are familiar with the analogue/film process.

Plenty of times I read or engage in conversations where it is affirmed that almost everything one can do with Photoshop or with any other imaging editing software is digital manipulation. Well, it is not. For those that have no idea of what is possible within the analogue realm it is hard to realise that plenty of what we can achieve with Photoshop nowadays was also achievable using film development and/or enlarging techniques during the film era.

Just a glimpse of what was possible with film development: using different chemical solutions, altering dilution ratios, changing temperature of the diluted chemicals, increasing or decreasing development time resulted in changes in the shadow and highlight areas of the negative. Furthermore, the fine silver halide particles “changed” when exposed to different chemical combinations/brands, the output changing accordingly. But, even prior to this step we could expose a film one or two EV’s below or above its nominal sensitivity (ISO) changing dynamic range and therefore the shadow/highlight relationship and rendering. We could compensate for this in the development stage or increase the desired effect changing recommended development times.

Once the negative was ready to be enlarged a whole new frontier opened up: more or less sharpness could be achieved changing the aperture in the enlarger’s lens, cropping, recomposing, correction of converging/diverging lines, enhancing shadow or highlight areas using masks or overexposing certain parts of the image. This was a very long process, trial and error, undo was not possible. I spent hours and hours of my life locked inside the darkroom experimenting, enhancing and fine tuning my images. I have to confess that we’ve gained a lot with the digital process, our life being much easier today. Undo is probably the best command the digital era invented.

Last but not the least, print development was the last frontier. And again, different papers combined with different chemicals, temperatures and timing provided exceptionally different results. Selenium toning was just one of the final touches available, changing a print’s colour and making the image more permanent by bonding selenium particles directly to the metallic silver in the emulsion. There were a few different toners usable to finish the prints, all of them providing dissimilar results. The output of fibre-based or resin coated papers was also substantially distinctive.

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Ansel Adams book trilogy “The Camera”, “The Negative”, “The Print” is mandatory if you want to get to know (and learn) about the extraordinary potential of the analogue process. Ansel Adams was a master, second to none when it comes to exposure, development and printing techniques. “Manipulation” of the original image using analogue processes was absolutely mind blogging.

In my opinion, all that we could do to enhance and improve the original image back in those days was acceptable and therefore, my opinion again, acceptable nowadays within the digital medium. I do not consider digital manipulation everything that one can do to improve, enhance and potentiate the final result, starting from a RAW file (JPEG SOOC already have a considerable amount of manipulation/enhancement). I prefer to tag this process as “digital enhancement”, not manipulation. Jerry Uelsmann’s entire photographic carreer was based upon image manipulation using analogue techniques and his work demonstrates what was possible using analogue techniques to heavily manipulate one, or a set of photographs by creating a new reality, a completely new interpretation of a scene, clearly manipulated.

So before adding “digital” to this conversation I believe we must discern enhancement from manipulation. Putting this openly, Adams’ work is the epitome of enhancement and Uelsmann’s work is the embodiment of manipulation.

Of course, being unaware of the history, complexity and potential of the analogue process doesn’t help. Roots are always important, if not critical, for a better understanding of the present.

If you’re not adding or subtracting objects, subjects or any other items to the image or altering those that were present when the shutter was released I do not think you’ll be manipulating. If you’re using image editing software to crop, reframe, for perspective correction, to enhance shadows or recover highlights, to sharpen, to saturate or desaturate you’ll be enhancing the RAW file (the “negative”) and this is not manipulation.

John Gallo

 

What’s in a photo?

Terror

Terror é algo a que nos habituámos nos últimos anos. Sabemos que nenhum lugar é seguro, nenhuma cidade está a salvo. Esta fotografia retrata, de forma teatral, a potencial ameaça que todos enfrentamos nas nossas ruas, aeroportos, teatros, ciclovias. A postura do esqueleto, misto de admiração e terror, parece contrastar com a calma impassível dos muçulmanos que assistem aos movimentos da marioneta com crítica atenção. Os muçulmanos não são todos terroristas, longe disso – sabemos que a maioria do povo muçulmano não subscreve o terrorismo – mas a associação dos elementos nesta imagem parece querer levar-nos a tirar conclusões simplistas, imediatas.

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No mesmo cenário, momentos antes: uma criança crescida demais aninha-se como pode num carrinho de bebé, escondendo-se atrás de um saco gigante de M&M’s, olhando de forma medrosa, desconfiada até, para o esqueleto. Será este um sinal dos tempos? Assimetrias galopantes entre cidadãos do mesmo país, miséria, quase fome e excessos convivendo lado a lado?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200 F4 L USM. Leicester Square, London.

 

Porto, many, many years ago… With a stunningly fast Canon EOS 1V-HS…

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Porto, many, many years ago… With a stunningly fast Canon EOS 1V-HS… 10 fps…

Ainda mal se falava do digital, tínhamos slides, grandes lentes e grandes câmaras… e 36 fotogramas em cada rolo…

Produzida com uma Canon EOS 1V- HS… despachava um rolo de 36 fotogramas em 3,6 segundos…

Review aqui, para os nostálgicos: http://stephanbednaic.com/blog/post/canon-eos-1v-hs-review/

 

Fisheye frenzy!

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Voltaram a estar na moda, as velhinhas fisheye. Vulgarizadas nos anos sessenta, quem não se lembra da mais famosa de todas, a Nikon 6mm f2.8 Fisheye, a última das quais vendida por €150000,00 (não, não é erro, cento e cinquenta mil Euros) no Reino Unido. Apenas algumas foram produzidas e apenas por encomenda…

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Hoje em dia as propostas são um pouco mais em conta: a excelente Olympus 8mm f1.8 para MFT, a já velhinha mas ainda actual Nikon 16mm f2.8 (já não é produzida tanto quanto apurei), a Canon 15mm f2.8, no que a focais fixas diz respeito.

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A prova de que estão efectivamente na moda é o facto de Canon e Nikon terem apostado nos últimos anos em lentes zoom fisheye, a Nikon 8-15mm e a Canon 8-15mm (ambas muito, muito similares).

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Usadas com algum critério são belíssimas ferramentas criativas, sem dúvida. Ficam aqui algumas imagens que fui produzindo ao longo dos últimos anos com lentes fisheye diversas, em cenários muito diferentes.

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Have fun!…

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