FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services

This week I had the need to return one of my X-T2’s for a repair. It has been worked hard and for some reason had developed an intermittent fault where it would not turn on.

Luckily I qualify for FPS – FUJIFILM Professional Services. Logging on to the page ( https://fujifilm-connect.com/en/fps.php ) , I selected the camera from the list of my registered bodies, entered the fault and accepted the quote. After paying online the booking was confirmed.

As the repair was not too urgent, I waited for the pre-paid packaging that Fuji send out (otherwise I could have sent in urgently myself). Fuji send a pre-paid Royal Mail Special delivery bag with custom box and packing for the item being returned which just needs dropping at the post office. 2 days later the camera was back in my hands having been delivered by courier back in the custom packaging. Nice and pristine it looked too, obviously having had a good clean as well as the main circuit replaced (according to the delivery note).

I have read varying comments on the Fuji service but I have to say my experience was very positive once I understood how it worked.

FUJIFILM Professional Services is also free for all people that register two qualifying X Series cameras and three qualifying XF lenses or free for all people that register a qualifying GFX camera body and a qualifying GF lens. It’s worth taking a look at . ( here )

Shooting interiors with the GFX50S

I mentioned in my last post that I had hired a GFX50S for a major interiors photoshoot (well, I’m not sure if I mentioned interiors).

Looking down on myself. BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

Given that I am mainly a press photographer, you might consider it a bit strange I am shooting interiors, the short line is, I actually started out many years ago shooting and teaching very technical architectural and historical building photography including producing rectified images that could be used for measuring features.

Back to the present day and I have reinstated building photography (well actually venue photography) to help grow my business (new website coming soon).

This led me to using the GFX50S with the 23mm and 32-64mm on a Tripod in the BFI Southbank in the second week of March.

Bar & Restaurant , BFI Southbank. GFX50S, 32-64/F4

Working in mainly performance venues and cinemas, my typical subjects have very bright lights (stage lights and projectors) in very dark rooms (with typically black dark walls). This means a very high luminosity range in most scenes and therefore my go-to method in the past has always been a form of HDR, bracketing all shots and then choosing how I combine them to get the get, most realistic result back at the office.

When I moved over the the X-Series cameras, shooting bracketed series became so much easier. On my old cameras I could set the bracket but I still had to press the shutter for every exposure i.e. Correct exposure, +1, +2, -1, -2 having to count each shutter press, every now and then I got out of sync and had to start again. With the X-Series (and now the GFX) this became so much easier, turn on the bracketing, switch to continuous and a single press fires the 5 shots. So much easier!

I shot the BFI with a mixture of X-T2 and GFX. For the larger auditorium the X-T2 and 14mm was mounted on a correctly set nodal ninja to produce a wide panoramic image (interesting note – although Lightroom has introduced panoramic blending, ptGui still does a better job with more control in my opinion).

NFT1 of BFI Southbank. X-T2, 14mm, Nodal Ninja

I triggered both the GFX and X-T2 using a Pocket Wizard PlusIII with a cable plugged into the 2.5mm socket. One thing to note that although the pocket wizzard can trigger the Autofocus, it is far more reliable to manually focus each shot, making use of the focus peaking to check the DOF. (For panoramas I never refocus, I choose an appropriate aperture and use hyperfocal).

So how is the GFX an improvement over the X-T’s for this work? If we ignore that the fact that the camera is producing bigger images there are 2 key points.

1. Detail. I know this has been covered to death but this camera really does capture all the detail and nuances of the scene in front of it. Even thought the delivered image might be no bigger than a file delivered from an X-T, the detail in even the downsized images still exceeds that rendered by it’s smaller cousins.

2. Dynamic Range. This to me is the real game changer. Scenes where I would still have typically used a second exposure just to add shadow detail, I could just lift the shadows on the GFX files. There really is so much more in the files as the comparison below shows.

Riverfront Upstairs BFI Southbank GFX50S, 23MM, Single RAF vs HDR comparison.

Whilst there are a number of DSLR’s now with around 50MP, offering a similar sized file, what the GFX50 offers with its larger sensor are less tightly packed pixels compared to standard full frame (simplifying it somewhat) . This very visibly leads to better quality pixels, resolving more detail and packing a greater range of light sensitivity, giving greater detail and smoother graduations in colour and light/shadow.

Obviously there are downsides. Autofocus is not fast enough for my press or red carpet work (although I have ideas here). It is expensive (compared to the remainder of the X series, less so it comparing to the high end professional Full Frame Nikons & Canons like the D5 & 1DX). I am going to try the GFX50R next to see how it compares which at it’s lower price point, may be a more viable option (although no vertical grip may make this too much of a compromise).

BFI Southbank GFS50S, Handheld 32-64/F4

So the bottom line, what value will it add to my business? Would it just be improved image quality or are there other benefits? Would these improve my profitability? These are the difficult questions every professional photographer has to consider when new cameras and technology are released.

At the price point, this camera in my mind is without comparison for photographing interiors and I will ensure I price all future work of this nature to enable me to hire this in. In such a technical genre of photography, this camera can feature as a sales point as well as production tool. The same is true for studio based portrait work where again, I will hire it in for the higher-end shoots.

The Riverfront , BFI Southbank. HDR GFS50S, 32-64/F4

At the moment I cannot quite justify adding this system to my owned arsenal but should the pricing change with the introduction of the GFX100 (100MP version), this point of view might change.

If you photograph buildings or landscapes, I highly recommend trying this camera if you have not already.

GFX50S – First Touch for a digital medium format 1st timer.

Next week I have the first of a couple of large interiors architecture shoot. As I was planning the shoot I realised this would be the ideal test bed for the Fujifilm “medium format” GFX50S camera.

Until this week my only experience with medium format is my vintage Rolliflex, so I have never shot with anything other than Full-Frame or APS-C on digital. With this in mind I arranged to hire a GFX with the 23mm and the 32-64mm for a good few days before the shoot. My plan was to carry it with me instead of a little X-T to get the feel of the camera.

The first day I had it I needed to pop up to Gatwick Airport. Shot with the 23mm at F20, ISO800 (Not the ideal settings, I was rushing!!) , this JPG was shot in ACROS. I love the graduations in the greys, which given it is a JPG with it’s limited grey levels is quite an achievement.

I was struggling to find the limits of focusing, reframing and at what speeds I could hand hold the camera. It’s not really that much bigger or heavier than the full frame Nikon’s I used for years but there is a whole different feel (especially where depth of field is concerned) . This is another ISO800 JPG.

(Sorry for mixing colour and monochrome, a big no-no normally).

I’m sure every photographer has a long suffering partner that is asked to pose of “just look up” again and again and again. This RAF was shot hand-held at 1/40th on the 32-64 at 64mm. At 3200ISO and F4, using the Classic Chrome profile in lightroom mobile I love not only the colours and the graduations from light to dark, but also the way the sharpness in the eyes transition to the milky soft out of focus areas.

Its this transition in sharpness that give medium format its “almost 3D” quality.

This final picture was shot this morning, at 1/3000, F9, ISO100. The RAF edited in lightroom mobile has had the Velvia Profile applied and a couple of selective edits. This is only a small version of the image, you will have to take my word on how much detail there is in the wave.

So after a couple of days, what are my initial thoughts?

It’s not as big and as heavy as I thought it would be, its not much worse than say a D800 with a decent lens on it. Of course it is slower than its smaller Fuji cousins but I kind of like that, it reminds me to slow down and this about the shot I’m taking, I cant take 2 or 3 frames at high speed so I have to concentrate on the moment.

I was nicely surprised on how well Lightroom Mobile handled both the JPG and RAF files on my 2018 generation iPad Pro . Sure the previews took a while to build in the photos application import but copying over was fast, as was the ingesting into lightroom and editing.

The only real niggle I have at the moment is a user interface issue. The GFX50S has most of the buttons (in similar places) that the X-T range have. Why then can I not assign the front dial to ISO like on the smaller cameras. I could argue with myself that “well fast use is not what it is designed for, you are probably not going to be following action with the GFX50S up to your eye needing quick adjustments”. This is true, on a tripod or in a studio the top-plate dial is fine but why limit it? It’s only software. Why are these things not more consistent??

I had avoided this camera since its release because I was worried that I would love its image quality, I was right to worry….

More to follow….

Snow on the Beach

I quite often enjoy a wander along Worthing beach first thing on the morning, usually with a cup of tea in my hand (I do not live far back from the beach). However this morning that tea would have gone cold rather quick.

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

Photographer on the beach :  X-T2 + XF100-400 @400mm 1/100 F5.6

Worthing quite often misses the snow when the country is hit, probably due to being shielded by the South Downs. However, this morning, last night’s snowfall remained and the beach still had a slight dusting. Having lived here for over 11 years now, I think this is only the 2nd or 3rd time I have seen the beach like this.

Snow meets the sea on at beach as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Snow meets the sea : X-T2 +XF100-400 @ 1/200 F5.2

The combination of having the white of the crashing waves vs the white of the snow I thought looked quite surreal.

Commuters walk along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

Commuters walk along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F6.4

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade as Snow hits the South East of the UK on Friday 1 February 2019

A cyclist rides along the icy promenade : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/250 F8

While snow and sea makes for nice landscapes, as a press photographer it’s the human aspect that is important, which means hanging around, watching and trying to show people dealing with the weather whilst at the same time trying to make a pretty picture.

The range of images here show working with the 16mm end of the standard zoom all the way up to the 400mm end of the long telephoto zoom (24mm to 600mm equivalent)

UK Weather: Snowy and icy seafront at Worthing, West Sussex

The sun rise & Ice : X-T2 + XF16-55 @16mm 1/1000 F8

Finishing with a nice pretty image – where I placed the camera in the snow and used the adjustable rear live view to see what I was doing….

Always be on the look out for those different angles..

 

Fuji and Godox at an event.

Once a month I can be found at the British Film Institute (BFI) working as the official photographer at film critic Mark Kermode’s live show.

Steve Coogan, Nadine Labaki, Mark Kermode, Liv Hill, James Gardner and Cyril Nri backstage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. The guests gather backstage before the show. Picture by Julie Edwards.

This entails working backstage to get a nice group shot of Mark with all of the guests as well as joining everyone for a pre-show run though to make sure I know the order as well as the host and the guests. This way I can make sure that I am always positioned in the best possible position to get good images of both Mark and the guests which are suitable for both social media and press. For the group shot I use an X-T2 with the 16-55/F2.8 coupled with a Godox TTL wireless controller and an Ad200 handheld high above me near the ceiling. This way I can be sure to get (fairly) even lighting without flash fare or reflections in any spectacles.

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie which he is watching here. Picture by Julie Edwards.

During the show I work with 2 X-T2’s, usually in Astia film simulation, preset to a fixed kelvin white balance, one with the 16-55, the other with the 50-140. As well as photographing the obvious, I am always looking out for the less obvious, the images that might capture the atmosphere of the event. The image above was shot at 10000iso, 1/100th and F2.8, and as you can see, with a little bit of an edit on the RAW file, its fine for social media and press use.

Nadine Labaki on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Nadine joined Mark onstage to discuss her film Capernaum. Picture by Julie Edwards.

I tend to have the focus set to “s”, sometimes with Face Recognition, sometimes without. Using it makes images like the above a whole lot easier to capture.

Mark Kermode on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

Within minutes of the show ending, the images are on my laptop, loaded into lightroom and I start posting to social media (facebook, twitter and instagram) to publicise the event (with fully researched hashtags and handles where appropriate). At the same time, appropriate images are syndicated to press.

Working this way I am able to help build the reputation and visibility of any event I am employed to cover…..

Steve Coogan on stage at Mark Kermode Live in 3D on Monday 28 January 2019 at BFI Southbank, London. Steve joined Mark to chat about his film Stan and Ollie. Picture by Julie Edwards.

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….