Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hands and Faces

When I'm out hunting for images, body language and the way a person uses their hands often tell as much of their story as their facial expressions. It's as though this woman is describing the size of something, and the gentleman next to her seems to be saying, 'That's me she's talking about'.

Two hands, one up and one down....

Stop! In the name of love ....

And sometimes no hands are needed, a look tells the whole story ....

Friday, December 21, 2012

More Zoom Lens Shots

I usually don't post shots like this. Actually I usually don't take shots like this, but testing the 18-55mm zoom lens has been a priority for me the past few days. The first shot, of the Empire State Building which is on the corner of Fifth ave. and 34th street was taken from the corner of Fifth ave. and 38th street. I don't have the figures to do the math, but considering the height of the building the observation deck at the top had to be at the least six city blocks away. When I zoomed into a 1:1 ratio (100%) on the raw data, I could see the individual binoculars on the observation deck. Not sure what will come through on the jpeg rendering. It was shot at 55mm (82.5mm equiv.) at 1/250th second, f8 and ISO 320. I did minimal Lightroom processing.

The second shot, of the Chrysler Building which is on the corner of Lexington ave. and 42nd street, was taken from the corner of Fifth ave. and 42nd street From my position to the top of the building had to be, once again, about six city blocks. I did some Photoshop processing on this image to clone out an errant flag pole on the right side of the image. The exposure settings were the same as the previous shot. 

Quite satisfying detail and image resolution from the XP1 and the zoom lens. I'm back on the streets this weekend to practice with the zoom and image stabilization. It's a tough job!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

More on the Fuji 18-55mm zoom lens

After reviewing my images from my outing on the streets of New York, one thing is very clear to me. I need more time with this lens to get my zoom/longer focal length chops back to snuff.

Drat it! I guess I'll just have to go out and shoot a lot more. Just to recap what I said yesterday: the focus speed is very good at 18mm and 35mm but a little slower (not by a big factor) at 55mm, the IOS (image stabilization) works extraordinarily well so that I can hand hold at 1/30th second and get good shots, I miss not having the aperture indications on the aperture ring but as this is a variable aperture lens (f2.8-f4) those indications would be meaningless, and the lens hood mounting leaves something to be desired in terms of a secure fit on the front of the lens.

The images below were shot RAW, processed minimally in Lightroom and then put through my workflow with NIK filters. The first two shots below were at a focal length of 18mm, f6.4, and 1/125th second. Since I keep my camera set on auto ISO it varies - the first shot was at ISO 5000 and the second at ISO 6400. In my film days an ISO of 6400 would have resulted in practically no definition in the small details. The first NIK processing is with Dfine to manage the contrast noise, then into Color Efex Pro 4 to optimize the color contrast with my special (wink wink) tweaks, and lastly into Silver Efex Pro 2 for the conversion also with my special (wink wink wink) tweaks.

In the first two images, the woman on the right was quite striking looking (nothing gets my camera finger more twitchy than a pretty lady) and yet so sad.

After playing with focal lengths all afternoon I noticed on the barrel of the lens that 23mm was specifically indicated. I thought that was a bit unusual, and then I realized that the fixed focal length Fuji X100 has a 23mm lens. Many X series Fuji fans (should have been Fuji series X fans, but the alliteration wouldn't have worked) have been clamoring for an equivalent lens for the XP1. It corresponds to a 35mm focal length on a full frame camera. That and 21mm were my favorite Leica lenses to use, so I played for quite a while at that focal length. C'mon Fuji, let's get that 14mm lens out already! The image was shot at 1/250th sec, f5, ISO 2000 and put through the same processing as above.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fuji 18-55mm Zoom Lens Test Run

I received my lens on Monday and did some preliminary shooting with it, but today was the first day I had a chance to hit the streets of New York with this lens. First some caveats: my testing is by no means scientific, I'm not a pixel peeper. I can only attest to how the lens performs given the kind of shooting at which I am adept and love to do - street. What's important to me is how the camera and lens feels in my hand in the field, and the extent to which the quality of the images they produce satisfies my expectations.

That said, after one afternoon on the street in Manhattan I can easily say I love this lens.  I haven't shot with a zoom lens since I put down my Nikon D700 (I mean put down as in laid it on the table, not as with a pet). Since I got my XP1 I've shot exclusively with the prime 18mm and 35mm lenses. It's a totally different mindset. I've got a lot of practicing to do to get up to snuff with a zoom lens again.

The minimum focusing distance with this lens is about a foot, give or take a few inches (Fuji says 11 inches). When I first unpacked the lens I noticed a little noise when shaken gently (not stirred). So I called the Fuji support line and the tech with whom I spoke confirmed he heard the same noise when he  gently shook his lens. Don't know what that is, but apparently it doesn't adversely affect the lens performance. I found the camera and lens feels very different in my hand. I'm used to the lightness and shortness of the two primes, this lens is heavier and extends further out so my right hand had to work harder over the hours of handling the camera. I'm a little disappointed with the lens hood. No matter that it's plastic (the prime lens hoods are metal), when it snaps into place on the front of the lens the connection doesn't feel very secure, and in fact it can easily be dislodged. But in the grand scheme of things it's a very small matter.

I looked for chromatic aberration at 18mm, and found it. It's about the same as the CA on the prime 18mm lens - so that's no big deal, easily corrected in Lightroom. I turned off the image stabilization on the zoom (more about the IS later) and took a few test shots at 18mm and 35mm so that I could compare the sharpness to the two prime lenses. At 18mm it's pretty much the same. At 35mm the prime has a thick hair's advantage.

I didn't have any complaints about the focus speed of the prime lenses right out of the box, clearly this wasn't a clunky DSLR with huge, heavy lenses so I had realistic expectations. After the firmware updates the speed of focus was a non-issue for me. At 18mm and 35mm the auto focus speed of the zoom lens is the same as the primes. The response is a little slower at 55mm, but I don't have the 60mm prime to compare.

I had only one lens for my Nikon D700 with image stabilization, a 70-300 f3.5-5.6 zoom. I rarely used the lens, so I have nothing to which I can compare the Fuji's IS. I am, however, totally impressed with the increase in flexibility that the IS allows. I have been able to hand hold the camera and shoot comfortably at shutter speeds down to 1/30th second. I pushed some shots one stop slower - to 1/15th sec. - and the results are quite satisfactory considering that the slower shutter speed buys some ISO speed and lower noise in the image.

The first of these shots was taken at 1/60th second, f4, ISO 5000, these are jpegs, generated from raw data by Lightroom, without any processing.

This second shot was taken at 1/15th second, f4, ISO 1250.

If you were to pixel peep, you could argue that there is some slight blurring in the second shot, but the difference in the pixel noise makes the first shot seem a little soft at the edges of lines. So I guess if you want to shoot in low light you have to pick your poison.

One of the pleasing surprises for me in using this lens was that there is a 23mm focal length marking on the barrel. That puzzled me at first, but then I realized that it translates into about a 35mm equivalent. So I tried shooting at that focal length. If felt much more comfortable than the (approximate) 50mm equivalent of the Fuji 35mm lens. I've always been more comfortable shooting at wider focal lengths, so learning to shoot at the longer end that this lens provides is going to take some patient practice. I'll suffer through it.

The next time I post, I hope to have some real street shots from today's outing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Kids Are Smiling

I attended a mini-photo-expo on Friday at Unique Photo in New Jersey. I had been invited to have a show in their gallery space and needed to see the space and work out the logistics for the show. I'm planning to exhibit a series of photos that are part of the 'I Hear A Voice Calling' collection on my website.  

My visit to see the space at the same time as the expo was really coincidental. Honest ..... Really .....

But I found a camera bag that takes my current configuration (incuding my iPad) and is 1/4 the weight of my current bag. And then, I happened to stop by the Fuji counter to chat with the national sales rep. I had a chance to play with the real 14mm lens which won't be available until the end of January, 2013. And I tried out the 18-55mm zoom lens which is now available in limited supply. Mine is coming tomorrow and I hope to post images from it later this week. 

Yippeee!!! A new toy! Maybe that's why those kids are smiling.