De PEN-F a Barcelona

_5312153-copiar.jpgFeriado em Portugal, dia de trabalho em Espanha. Reunião de consultores do Olympus Professional Program na sede ibérica da marca, em Barcelona.

_5302034-copiarPorque o voo era de madrugada, jantar na Taberna do Xisto em Santa Maria da Feira, dos meus amigos Fernando e Ana Paula – delicioso com sempre… Esta malta sabe como confeccionar iguarias à séria._5312068-copiarPelas cinco e meia da manhã filas intermináveis no Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro… Este já não é um país só para velhos!

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_5312102-copiarTítulo muito curioso nesta notícia, sobretudo para quem vai viajar de avião. E eu não sou nada supersticioso.

_5312107-copiarPEN-F com lente M Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 – lente kit que é vendida em conjunto com a câmara. Modo selfie das Olympus é um mimo.

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_5312130-copiarPartiu-se pedra, de muita coisa se falou (meus amigos, de nada posso falar), almoçou-se in situ e pela tarde dentro continuámos.

_5312156-copiarBarcelona e os seus icónicos edifícios….

_5312190-copiarMenos bem instalado, já se sabe, mas a vontade de regressar já era alguma… There’s nothing like home…

_5312193-copiarBoarding flight FR4545…

_5312196-copiarDe volta a casa… Porto, Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro.

_5312216-copiarMais uma hora e pouco e estaria sentado à frente de uma das melhores omeletes de camarão de que há memória, no Casablanca, em Viseu.

_5312222-copiarConfort food – I’m happier now…. Hmmmm….

Todas as fotografias Olympus PEN-F black, Olympus M Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 – ISO 200 a 3200. ACR and Photoshop to taste.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – Performance excepcional a ISO elevado

Um dos mitos mais frequentes com que me tenho deparado desde que me tornei utilizador Olympus é a alegada performance da OM-D E-M1 Mark II em ISO elevado. Diz-se, lê-se, que este é o Calcanhar de Aquiles do sistema. Nada como testar, em situações reais de trabalho, quais os resultados que o sistema produz quando selecionamos um valor ISO elevado. Os exemplos publicados abrangem o espectro entre os 2500 e os 20000 ISO. O link no final do texto permite efectuar o download de 10 fotografias originais – de que foram extraídos os JPEG publicados – em formato TIFF, 350 dpi/16 bits (120MB/ficheiro).

Disponibiliza-se, igualmente, o ficheiro de configuração de todas as Mark II que utilizamos na Chappa (utilizado nas fotografias que ilustram este texto).

1 . M.Zuiko PRO 45mm f1.2, 1/320 @ f1.6 ISO 3200_3090061-copiar

Para muitos utilizadores de sistemas diversos ISO 3200 já é um valor “muito elevado”. Eu consideraria 3200 um valor médio, talvez médio-alto para os padrões actuais.

2. M.Zuiko Premium 75mm f1.8, 1/320 @ f2.5 ISO 10000_3100778-copiar

ISO 10000 é um valor elevado e muitos fotógrafos receiam não ser possível utilizar uma imagem produzida a 10000 ISO. Perfeitamente utilizável, conforme se observa.

3. M.Zuiko Premium 75mm f1.8, 1/1600 @ f2.5 ISO 20000_3090338-copiar

Grão visível, mas numa situação em que não haverá opção, uma imagem realizada a ISO 20000 é ainda utilizável (sem grandes ambições relativamente ao tamanho final se o meio a utilizar for impressão em papel). Há detalhe no cabelo da cantora, bem como noutras partes da imagem (em foco) e embora a gama dinâmica tenha diminuído consideravelmente, ainda é suficientemente extensa para garantir a reprodução da cena com tons agradáveis e muito realistas.

4. M.Zuiko PRO 300mm f4, 1/3200 @ f4 ISO 6400_3110680-copiar

Focal muito longa (600mm equivalente 35mm), movimentos aleatórios e muito rápidos do actor (Virgílio Castelo) obrigam a velocidade de obturação muito elevada para congelar movimento – a ISO 6400 imagem perfeitamente utilizável, com grão “controlado”, que não distrai, não estraga nem compromete.

5. M.Zuiko PRO 300mm f4, 1/160 @ f5 ISO 8000_3110560-copiar

A ISO 8000 os resultados continuam de elevado nível: pouca luz no set, distância focal muito longa, há movimento nas mãos do actor… Velocidade de obturação muito abaixo da lei da reciprocidade – excelente o trabalho do IBIS da Olympus, combinado com a estabilização de imagem da objectiva.

6. M.Zuiko Premium 75mm f1.8, 1/250 @ f4 ISO 16000_3090335-copiar

A ISO 16000, a Mark II consegue manter gama dinâmica suficiente para reproduzir a cena com verosimilhança e tons muito agradáveis. Ruído visível, mas aceitável para este ISO. Imagem perfeitamente utilizável.

7. M.Zuiko Premium 75mm f1.8, 1/50 @ f1.8 ISO 8000_3090178-copiar

Um dos problemas mais comuns de muitos sistemas é a falta de detalhe nas imagens registadas com ISO elevado. A redução de ruído produzida pelo processador da câmara acaba por tornar a imagem algo “empastelada”, levando ao desaparecimento de finos detalhes na imagem. A ISO 8000, 1/50 @ f1.8 (abertura máxima desta lente), nada se perdeu. Reparem nos finos pêlos da mão do fotógrafo, fielmente reproduzidos, já fora do centro da lente, numa zona do frame em que objectivas de custo muito superior teriam imensa dificuldade em reproduzir tanto detalhe. Esta imagem demonstra igualmente a vantagem do IBIS – absolutamente indispensável – bem como a precisão de foco do sistema híbrido da Mark II. Ruído?

8. M.Zuiko Premium 75mm f1.8, 1/1600 @ f2.2 ISO 10000_3100795-copiar

Mais um exemplo notável a ISO 10000. O processador da Mark II consegue eliminar boa parte do ruído preservando detalhe na imagem. A gama dinâmica não permite ir buscar detalhe às mãos do músico, mas este é um trade-off aceitável quando precisamos de “esticar” o ISO. A f2.2 estamos ainda longe da resolução e recorte possíveis de atingir com esta objectiva da gama Premium da Olympus.

9. M.Zuiko PRO 300mm f4, 1/400 @ f4 ISO 2500_3110343-copiar

A ISO 2500 a fotografia produzida pela Mark II é limpa – com detalhe soberbo, ampla gama dinâmica, ainda que as condições de iluminação não sejam as ideais (para fotografia). Precisão de foco e IBIS sem mácula, objectiva a plena abertura.

10. M.Zuiko Premium 12mm f2.0, 1/160 @ f2.5 ISO 4000_3090561-copiar

Mesmo em planos abertos, com grande angular (esta lente 12mm f2.0 pesa 130 gramas), a ISO 4000 a imagem final tem excelente recorte (f2.5), pouco ruído, boa gama dinâmica.

11. M.Zuiko PRO 45mm f1.2, 1/150 @ f2.8 ISO 5000_3090468-copiar

ISO 5000, excelentes resultados. Completamente utilizável.

Todas as imagens ©Chappa/John Gallo e ©Município de Alfândega da Fé (peça de Teatro “O Último dia de Um Condenado, com Virgílio Castelo).

Todas as fotografias com Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, firmware 2.1

Ficheiros RAW (ORF) convertidos em ACR (nitidez, correção de exposição, correção de brancos e negros), Photoshop “a gosto” (níveis, brilho/contraste, equilíbrio de cores).

Link para download ficheiros TIFF:https://1drv.ms/f/s!AmnTXdi-o89xyB46R7QLhhZKXQcW

Link configuração Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, firmware 2.1: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AmnTXdi-o89xyCnWKYbehrzcRV7g

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Review of the Profoto A1 – The Future in Mobile Flash? By Tina Eisen, Lens Rentals blog

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A couple of months ago I got my hands on the newest addition to the Profoto family, the Profoto A1. The first on-camera flash of the Swedish brand, which can be doubled up as an off-camera flash and as an air remote with built-in TTL for triggering additional A1 units, as well as the other models of the Profoto universe.

As one could imagine, this announcement came as a surprise to many, as Profoto is known for creating premium studio strobes, particularly their Pro Pack systems, which outclass (and out price) much of the competition.

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Being 99% studio photographer, I had my reservations. A speedlight? Oh, no way, speedlights make everything look so artificial! But then, Profoto is known for their superb quality of light, so I might just give it a shot in the hope to have my prejudice proven wrong.

More here:https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/11/review-of-the-profoto-a1-the-future-in-mobile-flash/

Weather sealed does not mean waterproof, Richard Butler (DP Review)

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It shouldn’t need saying, but weather resistant, weather sealed and environmentally sealed do not mean waterproof. A cursory glance at your warranty should make this clear: no matter how good a reputation your brand has, if it isn’t covered by the warranty, you’re in ‘at your own risk’ territory.

Roger Cicala’s latest blog post over at Lens Rentals shows the damage that can occur when a nominally weather sealed camera gets wet—both the damage and the detective work made clearer by the fact that this particular camera took a dip in salt water. Cicala follows the path of the corrosion throughout the camera and explains why an encounter with seawater may render your camera not just non-functioning, but completely irreparable.

As is so often the case with Cicala’s ‘big picture’ blog posts, don’t get too hung up on the specific model he’s dissecting. As he points out in the comments, he’s written off some of every brand from salt-water damage.

Check out some of the pictures from this particularly painful teardown at the top, and then click the big blue button below to see the full post on Lens Rentals.

Keep reading here: https://www.dpreview.com/news/4176919219/this-is-what-happens-when-a-weather-sealed-camera-takes-a-dip-in-salt-water

 

 

Pixel peepers, how much resolution do you really need?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How Much Resolution Do You Really Need?

By Bing Putney on October 11th 2016, SLR Lounge

 

The spec sheets on today’s flagship digital cameras are impressive to say the least. Nikon offers 36, Sony 42, and Canon’s 5DS a staggering 51 megapixels. And that’s just right now, and that’s not touching the likes of Hasselblad and Phase One 100MP offerings. Ever since digital cameras began to supplant film as the industry standard, resolution has been the headline feature of every camera along the way.

The trend of packing more and more pixels onto our image sensors doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as every year we marvel at the newest staggering megapixel number, only to see that number surpassed mere months later. However, in this relentless contest for king of the resolution mountain, it seems rare that we stop and ask the question: how much resolution do we actually NEED?

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Naturally, the answer to this question will be a personal one and dependent on a number of factors, but there are a few constants that can help you as a photographer, to answer it for yourself. For example, we have standards in place to describe the abilities of the human eye, and unless your intended audience is a nest of bald eagles, these guidelines can suggest the point of diminishing returns, resolution-wise.

What Is Resolution?

First, it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we describe the resolution of a photo. Resolution is essentially the ability of the human eye, camera sensor, printer, or screen to differentiate between two points. To calculate this ability, you need two key pieces of information: the distance between the two points, and the relative viewing distance from those points. Imagine that you’ve lit two candles, placed them 1 foot apart, and drove a mile away from them. At this distance, you would most likely be unable to tell if you were looking at one candle or two. In order to see that there are, in fact, two candles, you would need to move them further apart, or get closer to them.

Keep reading here: https://www.slrlounge.com/how-much-resolution-do-you-really-need/

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

untitled-1

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.

35-8-example

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).

fujifilm_18-55ois

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