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Monday, 10 March 2014


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It's interesting that Fuji (or Fujifilm, I think) can't do anything wrong lately. It's probably not strictly true but it sure seems like it.

Fuji (or Fujifilm, I think) can't do anything wrong lately.

Not everyone agrees:

(Even if they do like the cameras.)

I don't think I'd call f1.2 on aps-c only "slightly less" depth of field than f1.2 on fullframe. F1.2 on aps-c is like shooting f1.8 on fullframe, and there's a noticeable difference between that and the 85L wide open.

I think calling a lens "fast" is tied to sensor size. I personally consider prime lens apertures of around f2 and larger as fast on fullframe, but, while F1.2 on aps-c is fast, in my mind, it's just not exotic like it is on fullframe. Any of the current 85/1.4 lenses out there on fullframe are "faster." By the way, I'm an aps-c shooter, so I'm not pushing fullframe.

It reminds of why I think it's odd that one would get overly excited about a constant f2 zoom on m4/3, which is no different than shooting a run of the mill constant f/4 zoom on fullframe.

[You're confusing speed with minimum possible d-o-f. They're related but not the same. And blur is not an absolute property that anyone would notice in any particular shot--the only way you can detect the "advantages" you're talking about would be if the exact same shots were taken with different equipment and compared side-by-side.

I'm sorry, but I find the current conventional wisdom on the Web about d-o-f to be fatally addled. Just my not-so-inexpert opinion. In any event, in keeping with my longstanding policy, we're not going to discuss this "issue" any further here. And doing my part, I will remove the word "slightly," leaving the statement in the text of the post completely neutral.... :-) --Mike]

It's definitely on my list!

This is an excellent size, and one reason I'm miffed that the manufacturers just haven't made a 55mm-58mm "normal" for their full frame cameras that us APS-C people can take advantage of. Back in the day, there were a lot of "normals" in the 55-58 size...

I really love what Fuji has been doing - they, along with Sony, have been making so many neat cameras, and trying new things, that is been fun to watch even if you don't own anything from either company. Fuji's approach is more my style - I really love the X100/s and X-T1, not for the retro style, but for the speed of operation. No mode switch plus manual dials, for me, is fast. Sorta wish Olympus had followed suit, an OM-D critter with the shutter speed back by the lens mount would be sublime.

The 56mm happens to be the lens that turned my attention to Fuji. I had just returned a Sony A7R that I tried as a replacement for my Canon system and the announcement of the 56mm lens made me review that system.
After a little bit of research I bought a little kit for landscape and all-around photography. And funnily enough, after comparing size and weight and taking into account the current rebates I ended up buying the 60mm instead of the future 56mm.
So in the end the 56mm was the lens that introduced me to the system but I don't (and probably won't) own.

It's funny, the reason I am completely in love with my Canon 85/1.8 on my 6D is that it is just so. ridiculously. sharp. even wide open. I take a picture of a guy on 1.8 and I can see the individual hairs on his mustache. Compared to that, my 40/2.8 pancake is just never sharp enough.

I do shoot mostly portraits and you raise some very important points, so time to fire up photoshop and blur things a lil' ;)

With respect to detail in portraits, Eleanor Wachtel has a interesting interview with Chuck Close in which he talks about the importance of detail and imperfections in his work.


I loved what my 90 mm Summicron R did when you popped it open to f/2. It went from sharp to smoothly softish and just slightly less saturated. Lovely portrait lens. And stopped down it was famously Leica-sharp, a beautiful landscape lens. I shoot Fuji and look forward to comparing the 56mm to my old Summicron.

[Jim, I know what you mean--I used the '70-'77 version, the one with the narrow focusing ring, designed by Walther Mandler. A wonderful lens. Although I never owned it--the one I used was borrowed. --Mike]

First first series of XF lenses, the 18, 34 and 60mm were excellent, and helped to drive adoption of Fujifilm X as an actual system. The 35/1.4 is optically superb, and regarded as best of the three, but has an older AF motor design and has been prone to chattering aperture blades at times.

The latest primes, though, staring with the 14mm and 23mm (and now the 56mm) have been exceptional; amongst the finest lenses I have ever used. They also have a new AF motor system that is much faster than the original primes, they have zero to vanishingly small levels of optical distortion, they have manual focus clutch rings that allow fast and easy manual focus. Most importantly they are superb optically and produce really beautiful images.

In my experience with this line from the fall of 2012, not only have Fuji's lenses been excellent, they've actually gotten significantly *better* since the system debuted.


thanks for your comments about lens properties in this post. While a bit of a doh! moment for me, it's some of the best practical info I've seen for ages. Cheers much.

So Mike, since you brought it up, what are the short tele's from the old 35mm days that you thought had "beautiful properties"?

"All fast lenses are worse—less sharp—wide open than stopped down, as anyone can see from any sort of quantitative lens test."

But there are differences. For an MF lens with amazingly even performance across apertures, should one need it, there is the last version of the Zuiko 50/1.4, serial #s over 1,000,085.

50mm f/1.4 Zuiko (multi-coated)
OM-2000 with mirror and diaphram prefire; lens with >1,100,000 serial number
Vignetting = D @ f/1.4, B @ f/2, A- @ /2.8, A @ f/4
Distortion = none

Aperture Center Corner
f/11.0__ A-___A-

Even more so on APS or µ4/3, where f1.4 will be slightly less sharp, but all other apertures are equal up to where diffraction takes over.


"What is that low-pitched rumbling noise? Oh, I think it must be the sound of Yousuf Karsh rolling over in his grave!"

His kind of LF portraiture is a different game. I've known this for some time, but it was brought home to me more strongly a couple of years ago, when I had the luck to be able to stand undisturbed for quite some time in front of a very large print (4x5'?) of his famous portrait of Winston Churchill.

The combination of a great deal of clear detail with absolutely no edgy, excessive sharpness is something I think may simply not be possible on 35 mm or even small MF film, let alone smaller formats.

One may speculate all day as to why this may be so, or should not be so, but it has been my experience that it is so so far.

I've seen images taken with the lenses from that era on smaller formats. I've experimented with various techniques. I've trolled the web for images. I've yet to find where anyone has managed to lose the edge and bokeh characteristics of smaller, shorter FL lenses on smaller media - without just going fuzzy, losing detail that is held in the old LF images*.

It seems to me that Mike's discussion doesn't necessarily apply outside of 35 mm and smaller formats.


* It is, of course, still possible to do something almost identical on LF today with old lenses and at least one new one.

For the most part, the current generation of lenses for APS-C cameras have superior performance to the previous generation film camera lens equivalents.

In 35mm film cameras a range of 80 to 135mm were popular choices for making portraits. To maintain the same angle of view for an APS-C sensor this roughly translates to 50 to 90mm focal lengths.

There are many techniques to achieving a pleasing portrait where total sharpness is not desired. The choice of the lens and the selected aperture will set the character of the final image.

The Fuji, Sony and Micro 4/3 cameras have inexpensive adapters that can take film camera lenses and attach them to the mirrorless bodies. There are a lot of fast (F1.2 or F1.4) and inexpensive lenses in the 50 to 58mm range that would be a good choice for pleasing portraiture.

That would be my way to go for making portraits using a mirrorless today.

looks like a very cool lens, but a little too well corrected for me probably. i like a healthy dose of spherical aberration to distribute dof around on my f/1.2 shots.

for anyone interested in perusing (or posting) images of (mostly old school) superspeed lenses, i've had a thread for that going at fredmiranda for a few years: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1104043/0

Should not be too much of a surprise - Fuji make some of the world's best cinema and broadcast video lenses, and of course collaborate with Hasselblad for their MF system lenses.

They have all the resources and expertise required it seems.

Agree with your comments completely, it can be said that a lens can be too sharp for its own good. Unfortunately the fanbois and girls who mainly measure a lens by pointing the lens at a wall or test charts seem to be in the majority on the interweb. Nikon have bucked the trend I think with their 58 f/1.4 hence its muted acceptance, the Pentax 55 is or can be soft enough if you get the distance just right but I shudder to think what the new Zeiss Otus or Sigma's new 50 will do for portraiture. Seems like my FA77 still rules, it can be sharp enough or soft enough depending of what I need it to be.

Moose very much hit my thoughts on the differences between 4x5 (or larger) formats vs. 35mm. I found it pretty well impossible on 35mm film to get the level of fine detail I like in a portrait without the prints becoming harsh or edgy. I went through any number of lenses, filters, enlarging tricks and just about every film and paper I could get my hands on without ever getting it exactly right.

I want to see fine detail in the eyelashes and the corneas of the eyes, but not harsh skin texture. I want to see realistic skin without the kind of grating edges that distract from the overall impression of the person.

With digital I can get pretty close - at least on my better days - through a combination of sharp lenses, selective sharpening in the computer, and sometimes a bit of blur. Even with tiny 4/3 sensors I get closer to the large format look than I did with 35mm. But I'm still looking for that magic lens that gets it on the sensor just the way I see the subjects and want them to look.

Like Moose, I have seen large Karsh originals. In my case at the Chateau Laurier where, at the time, Karsh still had his studio. They absolutely blew me away.

Like Moose, it is a "different" kind of sharpness. Or maybe it's not just sharpness. I think it's a combination of sharpness due to negative size, along with lighting technique and film processing. I don't recall what developer(s) Karsh used, but the look leads me to think of Harvey's 777. Creating that look in a digital workflow would probably be a serious challenge, though I'm the last person to comment on digital processing.

One cheap left-field suggestion is to use a Soviet Helios-44 58 mm f/2 lens (available in M42 mount as the many variants of the Helios-44M, or Pentax K-mount as the Helios-44K). On APS-C this is pretty-much a 90 mm-e lens with an f/2 maximum aperture. The design is antique -- it's a 1939 Zeiss Biotar double-Gauss -- and has certain quirks: for example, whilst the lens is f/2, the front element isn't large enough to prevent vignetting of bokeh, so off-axis an OOF disc is clipped into an oval shape; this may be used to effect to give 'swirl' in the OOF background. Some examples of this lens are single coated, some multi-coated, but all are cheap. Note that the lens is over-corrected for spherical aberration (only now-deceased Zeiss engineers would know why), so rear bokeh can exhibit a bright line around OOF discs. At the price, it's worth investigating. Note that the Helios-44-2 (single-coated) is a preset diaphragm design: you set your aperture with one ring (but the lens remains wide open), focus, then spin the ring behind it to stop down to taking aperture; I cut my teeth on a Soviet Zenit-E SLR with this lens. Post-WWII West German Zeiss Planars were based on this design, as were the East German Zeiss Pancolars. You might want to look at the appropriate websites to see what the various designations for the Helios-44 mean.

Oh, if you're feeling adventurous, you can unscrew the block of the rear three elements to get a 116 mm f/4 telephoto with horribly uncorrected spherical aberration. I used to do this to my Helios-44-2 on my Zenit, and use extension tubes to obtain focus. The results wide-open were wonderfully etherial soft focus images. Unfortunately, that lens modification is a bit long for portraiture with APS-C, at 174 mm-e.

responding to Nigel ... well, really to Reichman:

"But, here's the "gotcha" with the X-T1, and indeed all X series cameras thus far. The instant review image is just that, a full screen image with no shooting data, no histogram and no flashing highlights or shadows. To see if you've got a proper exposure without blown highlights you need to take the shot, remove the camera from your eye, and then press the manual review button. Then, one of the available review screens will show you what you need to know. Sorry Fuji, this just isn't fast enough or good enough."

Oh, whaaa, whaaa. Sorry, but I'm really flummoxed by the "need for speed" ... sometimes good work takes time, and a good, perhaps excellent tool, doesn't meet one's high-fallutin' requirements for "I need it yesterday!".

I'll stop before I slip into samsara.

I have acquired every Fujifilm XF prime except for the 60 mm macro. I am pleased with each of them. I pre-ordered the 56/1.2 from my local camera shop quite a while back.

I use to spend my money on Nikkor primes. I've sold those. It seems likely I won't own anything made by Nikon by the start of summer.

Coincidentally I got a Fuji to Pentax-K adapter today. So here's a portrait from the Pentax-F 50mm at 1.4 on an X-T1 (no post-processing):


IN fairness to Fuji, I've been using cameras with X in them for decades - granted, it's Tri-X, but...

I got a CCTV 25/1,4 lens with adapter for nikon 1 v2 - $20 and plenty soft for portraits :-) and swirly bokeh !

The issue of over-much skin detail is not a new one. Jonathan Swift mentions this in Gulliver's Travels in the Voyage to Brobdingnag, where the inhabitants were giants. Up close, "emotions [were] those of horror and disgust: their skins appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously coloured, when I saw them near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher," Perhaps an f/1.0 set of spectacles would have helped.

Don't forget...the files from the Fujifilm cameras are......X-FILES!

As a Leica M6 user unable to justify the cost of a digital version, I am totally in love with my X100s. It's so perfect (for me) that I seem to have been deGASsed.

Except for portraits, where I envy those able to use the upcoming 56mm (85mm equiv.), and now I want the also upcoming 50mm (equiv.) teleconverter lens - possibly the closest we'll get to an X100(s) version of a portrait lens.


Yet another lens no one needs.

Geets, Ed.

[I don't usually disagree directly with commenters, but, as I explained, I think that's wrong. I think a lot of people need it. And I think the X system needs it. And I'd bet dollars to doughnuts it'll sell well. --Mike]

I remember in the late 70s when I was shopping for large format gear, the prevailing wisdom was that many small format lenses were slightly overcorrected for spherical aberration which made them sharper but also gave them a bright ring around the out of focus highlights and generally funky blur. The he prevailing wisdom also held that the Nikkor large format lenses were designed to behave the same way which was supposedly great for tabletop photography but not so great for some other photography. The salesman's first question was "Think you might ever take pictures of trees?" then pulled out some really icky tree photos taken with the Nikkor.

I ended up very happy with some old Ektars.

Well, Mike, one of these days you'll finally break down and try the sensible combination of expertly-implemented retro-style controls (not just retro styling, which is purely cosmetic), well-developed portfolio of lenses, and amazing sensor performance of the Fujifilm X system and I think you'll be hopelessly, desperately hooked. I went in confident I'd be happy to have sold my D700 and four prime lenses, but I've been shocked by how much I've not just taken to these cameras and lenses, but how much they've inspired me to work more.

XE-1 with 18,35, and 60 led quickly to an X100s to back it up. Couldn't be happier with my kit, which all fits with an iPad Air in a small and light Think Tank Retro 7. Paired with a couple of EyeFi Mobi cards, I'm shooting and sharing all the livelong day, and having a blast doing so.

Those looking to save money might buy a Pentax K 50/1.2 and an adapter. They go for a ridiculously low $400 IIRC. Soft wide open, softer stopped down and wicked sharp if you like.


My 56/1.2 XF lens arrived today. It is a welcome addition to my lens line up. The out of focus rendering is quite nice. It is a bit smaller than I thought it would be. Of course it is by no means compact. Moving that much glass around does make a little more noise than my smaller XF primes.

I quite enjoyed using it in manual focus mode with the XT-1 on a tripod. Obviously focus at f 1.2 is quite critical for objects that are realtively close to the camera. The AF in M mode was snappy. Still I enjoyed fiddling with the focus collar and the different manual focus display modes.

Ah, but who needs the X-system :), when you've got a D800 at you're disposal....when stepping up from the OM-D, it's like.....who the hack have I been kidding in thinking that is a camera and not a toy.

Greets, Ed.

Of course when you have access to this:


who needs a camera anyway :-)......2D photography is so 19th century :-).

Greets, Ed.

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