Fujinon XF 200mm F2 and the Dancing Queen

From the August Bank Holiday with Frightfest through to the start of October via the Liberal Democrats and Labour to the Conservatives is always a ridiculously busy time for me.

The final week always catches up with me but at least this year I had something to smile about, the loan of the latest “big” lens from Fuji, the XF200/F2. The images below are not the most exciting or even (depending on your political viewpoint), the most lovable, but these were my subjects for the week and as I always use images from my every day work in the real world of press photography, these are all I have.

XF 200mm F2 with 1.4TC

Let’s start with some things this lens is not… It is NOT a walk around lens (despite being on my shoulder for the best part of 4 days).. It is not a subtle lens (its BIG and light in colour unlike all the other black Fuji lens) … It is not just a sports lens (as I have heard quoted) … It is not cheap (with a list price of approximately £5400.00) … Bottom line.. it is not your typical mirrorless camera lens…..

That’s the negativity out of the way…

So what is this lens? In short.. It’s BIG … It’s smooth (to focus) … It’s quiet … It’s snappy … The Aperture ring feels lovely … It feels worth every penny of that price tag … every penny (if you will use it often enough to justify it).

My original plan was to keep the lens locked away when walking around the conference venue, only taking out to use in the main halls but once I had shot a few frames out and about including at an Anti-BREXIT demonstration and taken a look at the images, it stayed on my (protesting) shoulder all the time.

Conservative Party Conference: 200mm/F2.0 1/125 at 100ISO

This meant I was walking around with 3 X-T2’s loaded with a 16-55/2.8, the 50-140/2.8 and the 200/2.0. As it was pointed out to me multiple times over the past few weeks, “what was the point of saving weight by switching to mirrorless if you just carry more kit”. They had a point. Of course the key is, at no point did I need to switch lenses, I traveled with 3 bodies, 3 lenses, job done.

The configuration 200mm F2.0 has quite a history with both Canon and Nikon having versions going back to the 1980’s which are often still raved about by photographers that have used them (in fact Canon had a 200/1.8). One Nikon shooter commented to me “I’ve never thought of that, putting a 200mm on a crop body to make a 300/F2” … That is, in a nutshell, the point of this lens. On the crop body of an X-T or XPro , the result is the equivalent field of view and depth of field of a 300/2.8, but letting in the amount of light of an F2! In low or difficult light situations it’s wonderful!

Jacob Rees-Mogg: 200mm/F2.0 1/160th at 2500ISO

Jacob Rees-Mogg: 200mm/F2.0 1/125th at 4000ISO.

The above pictures of Jacob Rees-Mogg were taken in very low light (particularly the second one), in a smaller fringe event off of the main conference. I had absolutely no problems focusing or hand-holding the lens in this light.

Liam Fox: 200mm/F2.0 1/250th at 400ISO

The above picture of Liam Fox was taken the more “helpful” light (TV broadcast light) and below is a 1:1 portion.

Liam Fox: 200mm/F2.0 1/250th at 400ISO at 1:1

In the hall, having the additional 2 – 3+ stops of light over my usual XF100-400 enabled nice, bright images at a lower ISO than I would normally use, giving me the confidence to send initial images direct from the camera, via shuttersnitch on the iPhone, without editing.

 

Prime Minister, Theresa May: 200mm/F2.0 1/320th at 1600ISO

Esther McVey: 200mm/F2.0 1/320th at 1250ISO

I love the depth of field of these images, although the Theresa May image probably shows I should have used the Facial Recognition option more (when I did use it, it worked well), as well as AF-C.

The product image at the start of this piece showed the lens along with the 1.4TC which was included in the package. Adding this to the lens (a smooth and easy fit, a change I was able to complete somewhat quicker than I am able to fit the 1.4TC to my XF100-400), increases the focal length to 280mm, a Full Frame equivalent of 420mm, although sacrificing  some light. Mind you a 400/F2.8 is a very useful lens and as there is very little drop in sharpness, its a very usable package.

Philip Hammond: 280mm/F2.8 1/320th at 1600ISO

Boris Johnson: 280mm/F2.8 1/320th at 1250ISO

All of the images above are edited as I sent them from the conference, mostly with the middle of the tone-curve lifted, a bit of clarity added and black/white levels adjusted. The lens is not only sharp but it felt like it was one of the more contrasty of the Fuji line up, producing punchy images and nice colours. In the main hall images, with a screen behind the speakers, fringing is visible but not at an alarming level and nothing that could not be reduced in Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom.

IN CONCLUSION.

This lens is an amazing addition to the Fuji line-up and I feel shows a huge commitment, not just to the large main markets but also to the more specialist, lower grossing markets such as press, sports and wildlife.

At the moment I don’t have the capital nor the justification to purchase my own, if I could, I would not hesitate. However you will see me using this lens again, when the task at hand suits it, as soon as it’s available for hire… It’s a brilliant lens and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

J x

Trumping with the Fuji’s

In July two of my assignments were covering President Donald Trump meeting our Prime Minister Theresa May and then two days later, The Queen.

It was no surprise that on such high level jobs, that most (if not all) the other photographers were using the traditional press photographer kit of “Nikcanon” with 400/500mm glass – big heavy kit…

I travel on my bike.. 2- X-T2’s a 16-55mm, 50-140mm and the trusty 100-400mm – the lens that I knew would be the workhorse for these two events… So thats 2 bodies and 24mm – 600mm equivalent..

APC_0853-hdr

Being lightweight and easy to transport though does not mean a thing if the kit does not do the job…

The 100-400mm is a stellar lens, it’s pretty quick to focus, handles well on an X-T body with a grip attached (it’s very unbalanced on bodies without the grip) and the impressive OIS means I rarely need to reach for a monopod to keep it all steady.

The event at Windsor Castle was covered by a limited number of UK photographers (plus a few of the US press corp) in strategic positions, with pictures going out worldwide. Being one of a few photographers to cover such a major event always adds a further level of stress meaning that the kit just has to work, you really have no time to worry about it…

So how did it go?

Versions of this image (by other photographers & I) are probably the most widely reproduced of these events..

The Queen meets the President of the United States of America and Mrs Trump at Windsor Castle on 13/07/2018

For a wider selection of images from both events see here…

The kit, as always just did what I asked.. Hopefully what I asked of it were the right questions….

IPad Workflow (Again!) – IOS11 & ShutterSnitch

It’s been a while since my last iPad (Pro) workflow post and I thought it was time to share how it’s changed and how I have moved on.

This time last year I posted how I was using the iPad for all of my editing, captioning and sending from out on location, I detailed how well it was working at Cannes 2017. Then something changed. Specifically IOS11 came along.

IOS 11 was touted as the great update that will make the iPad a real contender for replacing the laptop (which I had already done), it would make running multiple programs easier, moving information from one app to another would be easy. Yep – this was the “update we were waiting for”. So in September/ October last year I installed it… and the crashes started… I assumed it was Lightroom not updated for 11 so I waited for an update.. then I assumed that maybe IOS11 did not like my SD reader so I got the new and latest. Still it crashed, still it would not read JPG images off of the SD card.

Finally I gave in and went back to an Apple Store “Genius”, showed them the crashing. They got out a brand new empty iPAD Pro with IOS11. Again crashed reading the JPG’s. Dug around and found an iPAD in stock with IOS10 installed. Bingo, 900 JPG images imported no problem. Back to IOS11 – crash! SO they replaced my iPAD with the “new” one running IOS10.

This replacement worked for a couple of days, until it decided not to allow me to connect to the mobile network unless I updated to IOS11 – It seems once your account has updated to the latest OS there is no way back.

So here I was, left with a £900.00, powerful, fantastic device that would not pull more than 156 Fuji JPG images from an SD card.

The problem was reported to Apple back in November 2017. If you want my support case number, it’s 100365002050 its been open since then. My support engineer (yes I have an assigned engineer at apple), whom I contact after every update to let him know that I have tested it again and its still not fixed. No still not fixed after Apple have logged in and connected to my iPad 3 times. They have had the files that I am trying to import, the crash dump files from my iPAD, a video showing the crash. They have acknowledged the problem, my engineer is very pleasant but the bottom line is 6 months later and my iPAD will still only import 156 JPG images from an SD card (RAW / RAF files are fine).

My iPad is not totally useless though, I did write this on it. Actually its not that bad – I still use it when traveling for non-urgent work where I would work in RAW and I also use it for smaller news jobs where I will be importing less than 150 images or where I will be using WiFi to transfer the images.

ShutterSnitch is still my main stay here. With this simple switch to enable the Fuji WiFi on the app, I can either connect as normal and transfer selected images or I can wirelessly tether to the iPad and transfer every jpg as it’s taken.

The images import into a collection where I can edit them using the recent in-app-purchase of image adjustment to do basic crops and corrections.

I can apply a metadata preset and edit meta data using the Metadata Editor in-app-purchase

Before exporting via FTP or Dropbox to wherever I need them.

ShutterSnitch has come a long way over the past few months meaning for live news work, it is now a one-stop-shop. (So I no longer have to work with the unsupported PicturePro) .

I am more than happy to do a detailed review and technical post on ShutterSnitch if anyone is interested – let me know if you do!

As I am just finishing this post, Adobe Lightroom Mobile has just been updated, my initial look indicates its almost there in terms of capabilities now – cloning and custom presets are supported! I’ll look at this in a future post also. Let me know what you would like to know about first!

I look forward to your comments.

Julie x

HSS – The Godox TT685F & PocketWizards

As is my morning ritual (especially at the weekend) I headed down to the beach for 10 minutes peace before the day starts proper.

Normally I take with me an X-T camera of some description and a sketch pad – quite often I use the sketch pad and not the camera. This morning being bright and sunny I thought I would take the opportunity to see how the new Godox (On camera)  TT685F would work in conjunction with PocketWizards for remote camera use at Red Carpet Events.

My PocketWizards are a set of Plus3‘s which connect into the X-T2 via the Mic-In socket. This necessitates a 3.5mm to 2.5mm lead (using Younogo’s a 2.5mm-2.5mm lead is the requirement) .When first connecting the cable into the camera it prompts you to ensure the socket is set to the correct use – Remote Control or Microphone. (Edit: To clarify – this is to trigger the camera remotely and nothing to do with the triggering of the flash unit). The next key step is to pre-focus and set the camera to manual focus as it would not fire when set to either of the AF modes (I have not noticed this before when shooting interiors, however most of the time I am bracketing & pre-focusing on manual to ensure the focus does not change between brackets for the HDR merge).

Once this was working ok I fitted the Godox to the camera and had a play. This is not a particularly flattering image but it does demonstrate why HSS (High Speed Flash Sync) is such an important tool.

Self Portrait at Worthing, UK, 19/08/2017 : Julie Edwards. Picture by Julie Edwards

The key things to remember when shooting outdoors with flash are –

  • Shutter Speed only affects the ambient light (sun / surroundings)
  • Aperture affects ambient & flash brightness
  • ISO affects ambient & flash brightness

Therefore, shooting into bright sun I was able to balance the ambient (sun and background) by raising the shutter speed to 1/1250, setting the aperture and ISO to suit the flash output (in this case TTL output for laziness but probably near or at full output).

So.. The key is Shutter Speed! Actually no, I stand by the T-Shirt, the key IS motivation!

Have a great weekend!

Hyde Park in Classic Chrome

Since upgrading to the X-T2’s my X-T1 has become my standard “walk around” or “sanity” camera with the 35/1.4 fitted (as I also sold on my X100).

Most of the time my walk-around’s are set to Monochrome as I still really love the way it cuts straight through to the essence of a scene, letting the light and composition “speak”. I feel you really have to nail these two aspects to make a Black and White image really work but it’s clear from comments that quite a few [fellow press photographers] feel that its an “easy way out” or a way to disguise shortcomings in a colour image. So recently I have switched my walk-around to colour, well I say colour, sort of colour – the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation. When this film simulation was first added to the cameras a few years back it was really overused but now the Acros simulation has been added and Chrome being a few years old, it’s over use has diminished.

As always my “walk-arounds” are set up to shoot JPG Fine only and I have also set both the Hi-lights and Shadows to +2 for a really contrasty look. Set this way the shadows do really block up a lot but I kind of like the look.

One of the places I shoot often is Hyde Park as I walk through. Today the mixture of clouds and strong light pushed the contrast further. The images were downloaded through ShutterSnitch over WiFi and edited on the iPADPro in Lightroom Mobile where I mainly pushed the curves further, added clarity and a vignette.

 

The formation of the blue boats in relation to the tower block, along with the dark trees and contrasty sky took my eye here.

 

Here I pushed the sky a little further with a graduated filter in LR but again I really like the layers and mood of this with the boat contrasting against the cafe which contrasts against the trees and sky.

 

Diagonals and Contrast. Its like a Monochrome image – but its not!

 

This tunnel always reminds me of the “Death Wish” series of films with Charles Bronson (filmed in Central Park, NYC).

 

Running in and out of the shadows.

Having an X-T1 as a walk around is kind of nice – now all of my cameras are basically the same format with mostly the same controls and handling, but being able to change what comes out of them in terms of images is really powerful aspect of the Fuji system. Why not give it a go next time you go for a wander?

Happy accident with the 100-400

With a few “long distance” jobs coming up in the next few weeks I thought it was time to purchase the XF100-400, I added the 1.4TC as the saving is reasonable and you never know when it might come in handy (as it works well with the 50-140 as my previous post proved).

As when I last used the 100-400 I did not have the converter I thought, despite the poor weather and light I would take the pair down to the beach and see what they made of the wind-farm that is sprouting off of the Sussex coast.

I took this image at the full 840mm 35mm Equivalent reach (ISO 800, 1/450th and F8 on an X-T2) because I liked the contrast between the old torn stark fisherman’s marker flags and the modern windmills softened by the atmosphere and weather. As I processed the from RAW (pushing the Velvia simulation to extreme) I noticed a dark patch in front of the windfarm.

Zooming in at 1:1 I saw this..

Im not sure how far out the Dolphin was (please don’t correct me on type / species etc, I understand I am probably wrong) but I was unable to see it by eye and although not a very technical test, given the conditions (it was blowing a gale, I was hand holding etc ) I am pretty impressed.

Ill follow up with more considered thoughts later.