Fujifilm House of Photography Photowalk in Sydney on Saturday 21st January, 2023

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I attended the Fujifilm House of Photography Photowalk and it was so good to be back in the streets of Sydney after so long away. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – sorry folks, it isn’t over yet and the infections and deaths keep coming – has kept us here in the suburbs living in our cosy little house amongst the giant French chateaus and Hamptons-style block-filling MacMansions with their automatic gates, security cameras and guard dogs. 

This first Fujifilm Sydney event was a welcome respite from the ′burbs and it presented the opportunity to try out a Fujifilm X-H2 with Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge wide-angle zoom, one of Fujifilm’s most impressive lenses for stills photography. 

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Fujinon XF 18-120mm f/4.0 LM PZ WR stills + video zoom lens on Fujifilm X-H2S. Image courtesy of Fujifilm Global.

The 8-16mm was a little redundant as I was carrying our Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera with Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR attached to it and XF 14mm f/2.8 R with its excellent manual clutch focus mechanism that should be on every lens.

I’d been hoping to try out the more action photography and video-oriented Fujifilm X-H2S with Fujinon XF 18-120mm f/4.0 LM PZ WR to get a feel for how the combination works for video but they were unavailable so I’ll have to go in and try them out another time.

Photographer Stephen Pierce ran the Photowalk and did a great job, leading the group from the Fujifilm House of Photography on Park Street down George Street, to Martin Place then through Hyde Park and back to Park Street.

The X-H2’s (& X-T5’s) 40 megapixel sensor: pros and cons

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Fujifilm X-H2 with VG-XH vertical battery grip and Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR zoom lens. Image courtesy of Fujifilm Global.

Our production computers are in need of upgrading and our current iMac is challenged by its age in GPU-heavy tasks like processing raw files and rendering video.

The X-H2’s 40 megapixel X-Trans raw files weigh in at almost double their 40 megapixels number at around 87.5 megabytes and after exporting average images from DxO PhotoLab Elite the TIFF files can weigh from 200 through to 250 megabytes.

Work sessions comprising editing, processing and exporting raw  files of 20 through to 26 megapixels in weight can be taxing and 40 megapixels raw files take their toll.

We’ll need to upgrade to latest generation Apple M2, M2 Pro or M2 Max system-on-a-chip aka SoC computers to reduce the strain and gain a speedy and efficient workflow.

As to which one precisely, we’ll have to seek some advice from the experts at the city’s Apple store in George Street.

Apple MacBook Pro & Mac Mini with M2 Pro & M2 Max System on Chip aka SoC

Right now though the question will be whether the X-H2’s 40 megapixels raw files provide enough extra information, enough extra detail in photographs to reward our poor little iMac’s processing strain.

The larger files may not be justified when considering most of what we do in stills photography – create images of people doing things in available light or more often available darkness – but will they add extra detail for cityscapes?

Quite likely, but is a Fujifilm GFX 100 megapixel camera a better choice for that and similar genres?

Only further try outs will tell, and then there’s the X-H2’s 160 megapixel pixel shift multi shot mode for more detail than that offered by a 100 megapixel sensor.

We have yet to try out Fujifilm’s large format GFX cameras and lenses so have no current basis for comparison.

Either way, more powerful computers are called for and it’s good to see Apple future-proofing current generation computers with its M2 generation SoCs.

The Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR

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Fujifilm X-H2S with Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge wide-angle zoom lens. Image courtesy of Fujifilm Global.

I’ve observed in the past that large and heavy lenses like the XF 8-16mm need to be counterbalanced by cameras with good built-in grips and often with vertical battery grips attached.

VBGs add more weight but they also increased safety and security as well as balance and I have no problem with that in cameras that are far from the largest I’ve ever used in the hand.

The 8-16mm doesn’t have provision for attaching screw-in UV or protection filters and while some companies have come up with innovative ways of attaching filter holders to lenses like the 8-16mm with their protruding convex front elements, I’d feel safer attaching a lightweight matte box even for stills.

That option will be cheaper than investing in a whole new set of large diameter screw-in filters and many matte boxes come with the benefit of flags that can swung into place to better shade the lens direct sunlight and skylight.

That aside, the 8-16mm does an excellent job handling the sun in photographs as we learned when photographing buildings with the sun directly above them several years ago pre-COVID.

Video makes greater demands for filtration than stills photography does and on days like these where the ultra-violet is as high as it has ever been you’ll need to consider adding more filters than ever before.

Breakthrough Photography makes our preferred brand of filters partly due to the heavily knurled brass traction frame of their circular screw-in filters as well as the sheer quality of the company’s products and service.

Is the X-H2 plus 8-16mm or X-Pro2 plus 14mm the better choice for urban documentary?

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Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R super wide-angle lens.

I love the discipline of choosing one lens and one camera for my own walkabouts in the city as a way of quickly forcing my eye and mind into the zone by visualizing the frame relating to the lens floating as I walk, darting hither and yon as I see.

It’s like the bright line in the X-Pro2’s optical viewfinder has jumped out of the camera and into the world.

I’ve used rangefinder cameras for years, from 4″x5″ through 120 roll film down to 35mm or what the marketing men so absurdly refer to as “full frame” nowadays.

All those formats, even 8″x10″ which I used far too little due to the cost of film, processing and printing, are full frame except if cropped when printing.

There’s a fundamental difference, a rarely mentioned advantage, in using rangefinder camera optical viewfinders: they allow you to see everything in focus all at once and not just the thing upon which the lens is focused.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder with OVF, EVF and ERF

The OVF’s plane of focus is infinite and stretches from the front of the lens through to as far as the eye can see.

To illustrate this and its benefit, look at the fourth and fifth photographs from the top, shot inside the Fujifilm House of Photography.

In picture four I lined up the image of the Fujinon XF 18-120mm f/4.0 LM PZ WR on the vertical LCD screen with the back of the man on the left so the lens just barely touched him despite being a couple of metres behind him.

In picture five I lined up the nose of the man on the left with the patch of white a couple metres behind him so his face was better separated, same as I lined up his hands against the second man’s shorts.

I do this all the time when using a rangefinder camera’s OVF and it’s fun to place close-up elements against other elements mid-space and deep space, the more the merrier.

It communicates the feeling of being a moving object surrounded in deep space by other objects always in independent motion.

OVFs versus EVFs
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Fujifilm X-H2 User Manual in HTML, SHOOTING SETTING (Still Photography), Sports Finder Mode with crop of 1.29x. A 14mm lens becomes an 18mm lens in effect.

It’s much easier doing this with OVFs but while it’s possible to do it with electronic viewfinder cameras, by guessing where moving objects will be when the shutter is released, my hit rate with an OVF is greater than with an EVF.

Judging from the photographs above, the Fujifilm’s fast refreshing EVF has helped me do a pretty good job of aligning near with far while anticipating where figures left and right will be when the exposure is made.

The EVF’s default refresh rate is 120 frames per second but I chose 240 fps to better follow rapidly moving people.

High performance mode remands more battery power but the X-H2’s larger battery size than the X-H1 meant low battery draw and it would be better again with a vertical battery grip attached.

The X-Pro2 doesn’t have a 14mm bright line as it’s widest is for 18mm, but I use the OVF’s dual magnification function so the whole view through the OVF corresponds with the 14mm’s field of view, a deep space window on the world.

I use OVF and EVF cameras for all forms of documentary photography but prefer OVFs when photographing the urban scene and would select an 18mm lens as my default with a 14mm as my superwide backup.

Fujifilm doesn’t offer an 18mm Fujicron, a lens that doesn’t occlude the OVF’s lower right corner, and I wish the company would as it’s a perfect companion lens for the X-Pro series and would be a sensible evolution of the company’s original Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R.

Another solution I need to explore for achieving optimum alignment of object in-camera is Fujifilm’s Sports Finder Mode.

With its 1.29x crop, a Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R lens becomes an 18mm lens and that’s not bad considering my default focal length for documentary photography and video is 28mm in 35mm sensor terms, or 18mm in APS-C and Super 35.

The 18mm focal length’s width and rendering of near to far best creates the feeling of being right there in the centre of the action while not exaggerating perspective so much that it draws viewers’ attention to the perspective effect to detriment of the image’s content and story.

I discovered the many joys of 28mm equivalence with Leica M System cameras and lenses soon after taking up documentary photography.

The one outstanding question about Sports Finder Mode is whether it will provide a workable approximation to the OVF’s deep focus.

What if Fujifilm’s compact lenses were more like Leica’s Summicron-M, Elmarit-M, Elmar, Super-Elmar-M & Telyt primes in size & shape?

Fuji Rumors reader Pablo shared some mock-ups of lenses he’d like to see in Fujifilm’s “Fujicron” range that are well-suited to X-Pron cameras as well as the X-T5, X-Snn series and other, smaller non-flagship cameras.

I’ve published my list of “Fujicron” compact prime lenses that I’d like to see Fujifilm upgrade or newly create, but the jury is still out on prime lenses suitable for video.

A surprising number of Fujifilm camera owners, especially videographers, agree with my assertion that Fujifilm’s abandonment of the manual clutch focus ring on its Fujinon XF14mm f/2.8 R, XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR and XF 23mm f/1.4 R was a mistake.

I did a quick and dirty test at an event last night to remind myself of how fast and accurate manual clutch focusing aka MCF is especially in available darkness, with my Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R.

One feature I really want to see Fujifilm adopt from Panasonic is the option to set monochrome live view with focusing peaking enabled.

Last night I set the camera’s film simulation to monochrome, the focus aid to red focus peaking, and tried focusing with the LCD screen, the EVF and the OVF with ERF at lower right.

Each option performed quickly and accurately, more than justifying MCF in all lenses that are large enough to accomodate it and making a good case for keeping both our MCF lenses even if other versions of those focal lengths appear as the XF 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR already has.

I learned about the joys of MCF with Olympus M.Zuiko lenses when I took a detour away from Fujifilm into Micro Four Thirds video as a volunteer for a human rights charity and I still have our M43 cameras and lenses despite loving Fujifilm’s X-Pro series, their APS-C/Super 35 and colour science.

How does the X-H2 and 8-16mm combination feel in the hand?

It’s pretty good considering I wasn’t using a vertical battery grip and that better balance of lens with camera can be attributed to the X-H2’s size, shape and the experience was leaps and bounds ahead of using the same lens on un-gripped X-T series cameras.

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Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4.0 R OIS WR wide-angle zoom lens. Image courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.

It’s a shame that Fujifilm is not offering a vertical battery grip for the X-T5, first time for any X-Tn camera, but is there an assumption that X-T5 users will prefer lighter and less costly lenses?

If so then the more appropriate wide-angle zoom lens for the X-T5 would be the Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4.0 R OIS WR with 2 millimetres less on the wide end but 8 millimetres more on the long end, making it more of a general-purpose walk-around wide lens than the 8-16mm.

In 35mm sensor equivalence terms, that’s 12mm to 24mm for the 8-16mm zoom and 15mm to 36mm for the 10-24mm zoom.

Although I prefer carrying one or two rangefinder cameras with three prime lenses for most documentary photography projects, one camera with a just the right zoom lens and enough focal lengths in it to cover any event is an ideal I have yet to achieve.

I’m hoping that one of Fujifilm’s X-H2 or X-H2S cameras with vertical battery grip, or even the coming X-Pro4 with metal hand grip and in EVF mode, might provide a useful platform for a Fujinon XF 18-120mm f/4.0 LM PZ WR zoom lens so long as I also have the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R or, perhaps, the coming Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR though that focal length may be a bit too wide for some purposes.

Now to see if I can try out the 18-120mm f/4.0 on either of Fujifilm’s flagship cameras but preferably the X-H2S for the sake of its video capabilities!

What is documentary photography?

Another Photowalk attendee asked “what is documentary photography, I’ve never heard of that” when I told him what form of photography I mostly do these days.

He appeared to have genuinely not come across the term and I suppose that’s reasonable enough given the low profile documentary photography has in Australia compared to other places in the world.

To answer him and others, here are some links:

More Sydney Fujifilm House of Photography events are coming

Photowalk tutor Stephen Pierce informed us that there will be more events coming to the Sydney Fujifilm House of Photography, for free as in today’s as well as fee-paying.

Best way to keep informed in advance is to get on to a mailing list but we’re not sure of exactly how is the best way – we’ve been on a Fujifilm Australia mailing list for some years now and we don’t have a direct email address for them or the Fujifilm House of Photography.

Following Fujifilm Australia at Eventbrite may be your best bet.

Meantime, it may be possible to get some time with Fujifilm cameras and lenses at the Fujifilm House of Photography:

“STEP INTO THE STUDIO

Put the Fujifilm X Series and GFX System products to the test at Fujifilm House of Photography’s in-store studio. Featuring a full set-up, with lights on boom stands, display stands and a tripod, allowing you to try out our cameras and lenses.”

I haven’t seen inside the studio yet.

Before visiting the House or booking time in the studio it may be wise to read through the manuals for the cameras and lenses in which you’re interested.

That’s an especially good idea if participating in a Photowalk or other hands-on event.

The Fujifilm X-H2S User Manual: Custom Settings, Reset & Initialize

The menu options in the current generation of Fujifilm cameras are even more than ever and the X-H2 and X-H2S in particular offer the ability to tailor them through the cameras’ custom settings.

Alternatively, reset or initialize the camera or set P for Program mode when making photographs.

I didn’t do any of those three things and I should have, but there was limited time in-store before the Photowalk began.

Working it out as you go along in the street is not ideal!

Image Notes

These photographs documenting the Fujifilm House of Photography event were made with our own Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R and XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR prime lenses and a kindly loaned Fujifilm X-H2 digital SLR-style camera with Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge super wide-angle zoom lens.

The Fujifilm X-Trans raw files were processed to proof quality, not finished quality, in DxO PhotoLab Elite and its plug-ins, DxO FilmPack Elite and DxO ViewPoint, using the skintone-friendly Fujifilm Astia film simulation.

Links

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