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User review of useful lenses plus advice sought


Guzzi Jim
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I am at a juncture that I believe many of you are, or have been, at. Every now and again I find myself 'lost in tech' and need to ground my self again to improve my photography and focus on the things that really matter, not f stops, focal lengths, micro-contrast but photography;  painting with light.

I currently have a handful of fuji lenses, need to sell some and probably need to buy some to achieve something I believe will be better...maybe not. As we all know, but don't always admit to, the most important piece of gear we own is the 12 inches behind the camera. My best photos ever taken were on equipment seriously lacking in 'currentless'

So, to get to the crunch.... I want a selection of gear to capture my life events, in decent quality, to help others capture theirs through small photo shoots and to record beautiful places I have experienced. Could be the bar, the theatre, the wonders of the world or my garden.. it's all available.

 

I'll ignore my collection of film camera's for the minute and focus on Fuji X-series, why were here...

 

I have read reviews on all the lenses currently available and have decided on setting out my stage as buying the best I can afford without spending a fortune, I work in a normal job!!

 

I started out with an X100 and used it alongside my Canon 20D, and then 5DII full frame with some nice glass. I have now sold all Canon gear (apart from 430EXII speedlight) and ended up with X-Pro2 and X100T.

 

The X-pro2 is an amazing camera, my excuses diminish shooting with it.

I can split the rest of this blurb into 2 sections - my advice and my outstanding queries

 

Anything I say is purely user based. I dont really pixel peep, check for distortion levels and far corner sharpness when I dont look there..I want to see a nice looking capture of a nice thing, end.

 

Some focal lengths are definitely more suitable to the success of what you set out to achieve, nothing more, nothing less. I personally, and it's personal, like to capture, street, scenic, people images with a smattering of wildlife thrown in, so have based my lens selections on it...apart from a couple of them that came my way.

 

The widest I own is the 18mm, a fairly dis-respected lens, I love it, small discreet and nearly all my scenic stuff shot thought it. At f8 with a ND10 filter I have captured some beautiful images, well at least I like them..

 

I have the 27mm pancake bought as part of the X-pro1 promotion but have only used it for a handful of shots. I think its the lack of aperture ring on this FL that puts me off, a big reason for coming to Fuji was the lovely manual ring....more later on a lens I have bought today that hasn't!!

It has a great deal of sharpness but the f2.8 on this FL doesn't give a lot of scope of creating a nice background blur. It is however a great lens for setting at f5.6 or f8, zone focussing and just clicking away. Its quite liberating not thinking about the camera

 

The X100T following on from my X100 confirmed to me the usefulness of the more that useful FOV but I still went ahead and bought the 23mm f2 even though I already had it!! I convinced myself that I could leave my X100 at home and still have the FL when it suited me?? Kinda works as it does give me a smaller 'foot print' The 23 f2 on the X-pro2 is sharper and better contrast than the X100T at f2 but comes with baggage, the X100T is where it's at. Difficult to explain but feels so good. I have an olympus 35SP and a Rollie 35S that yields similar feelings.

 

On the 35mm front I own the f1.4 and the f2, the 1.4 came first on a instinctual ebay purchase one boozy night, I do like it but wanted the f2 so WEX helped me out. The form factor of the f2 is nice on the x-pro and the images are sharp and colourful, strangely almost too much. The 1.4 seems more 'natural', there is a very high chance I will sell the f2 as the subject matter I shoot doesn't demand the faster focus etc

 

I bought the 18-55 second hand, still have it but cant get excited. It allows flexibility and saves me moving my feet, but pics are only recording whats there, difficult to add artistic impression. I might use it for Thailand to record my holiday but will need some nice primes to capture it beautifully.

 

Now onto the the longer focal lengths...this is where it gets difficult for me. I bought the 56mm f1.2 as I needed a fast, short tele for a wedding, what a lens!!! I love it. The rendition whether optically perfect or not, is amazing. Once you get used to the razor thin DOF and the huge aperture/shutter speed selection the images it gathers are outstanding, it's 1.2 so I want to use it at 1.2. It is bulky but coming from a DSLR/Medium format film background it's insignificant. I'll ask a question later on the 50mm f2

I bought the XC 50-230mm today after much research and the reluctance to spend such a lot of money on the 55-200mm for something I only occasionally use. I'm going to Thailand later this year and doing a bit of nature park stuff. Hopefully it will help me yield decent images of creepy crawly, furry, jumpy things.

The most fun I have just now with longer FL's is the veritable Nikkor 105 f2.5 and the Zeiss 135mm f3.5. Both the lenses on the X-pro2 are amazing, they take some practice but with the focus peaking and EVF the results can be superb. If fact my favourite butterfly photo was through the Nikkor, the smooth rendition and colour reproduction  is to be lusted over. Hopefully the 50-230 wont make me sell them..

 

Onto my request for help

 

This week I went camping to a beautiful location, The Island of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. I was changing lenses way too often, lovely scenery with the 18 or 23 then the Zeiss 135 for the Golden Eagles. In the towns the pace was pretty slow so I managed to get some lovely shots of Tobermory harbour with the 23mm. I do wish I had the 50mm f2 at times though for detail capture around the town. I want to go prepared for Thailand with the right kit, I felt stressed on Mull getting the right gear together which did impact on my holiday, in Thailand i would like stress free so what do I take?

 

The 18-55/50-230 plus a fast short sounds the best combo, what do you think?

 

I have asked this forum on this before but without my experiences, please excuse me.

 

If you want me to share some pictures captured with the above lenses let me know

 

Please let me know your thoughts

 

Cheers

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When I am convinced that I need something new, I take out my "old" X-Pro1 with the 18mm or 35mm, and go for a walk (or go visit some event). That usually cures the urge.

 

Last vacation, I only had my X100T with me (in France). I had a great time.

 

If I personally would want to have "everything" covered, I would take a 18-55 with me (which I do not have anymore). I have a 18-135 because I bought it as a kit with the X-T1, but I seldom use that. Too heavy and large, and too many optical compromises. The X-T1 is my least used camera anyway (and an example of when I wrongly convinced myself that I needed something new).

 

I don't think it really matters which lens(es) you take to Thailand, as long as you limit yourself to two or three. Each focal length gives you unique opportunities to see.

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In general, my take on lens selection for travel is that I don't adjust my kit too far outside my comfort zone. Readjusting everything in the name of versatility can actually be self-defeating if by doing so it slows you down or makes you second guess your composition too frequently. I love my primes because I feel my shooting is instinctual and my composition is at its best. With the 23mm or 35mm, I rarely have to reframe my shot, the shutter is clicking as soon as my X-Pro2 hits my eye, and I rarely crop an image. If I were to leave behind those lenses for the 18-55mm on a trip, my photos would probably suffer even though I theoretically have more versatility.

 

Some people shoot much better with zooms. I shoot better with primes. My travel kit is usually 23mm, 35mm, and 55-200mm. Sometimes I'll throw in the 16mm. The biggest thing for me to get over was to learn to accept that I will miss some shots because I don't like to switch lenses frequently. Many times I pick one lens for the day and stick with it unless I realize I've made a horrible mistake. To me, there are always good photos around you with almost any lens, the trick is to have a short memory about the shots you aren't equipped for and focus on seeing the ones you are. 

 

Rather than approaching the trip with the idea of "what shots will I potentially miss without this lens," ask yourself "what am I most comfortable shooting with." Your photos as a whole will be better, even if you miss a few good shots. My one specific recommendation is that you are spot on with taking the longer zoom. I don't use mine frequently, but I always travel with it. Your feet can substitute for a zoom in the 18-55 range with primes, but not at 200mm.

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In general, my take on lens selection for travel is that I don't adjust my kit too far outside my comfort zone. Readjusting everything in the name of versatility can actually be self-defeating if by doing so it slows you down or makes you second guess your composition too frequently. I love my primes because I feel my shooting is instinctual and my composition is at its best. With the 23mm or 35mm, I rarely have to reframe my shot, the shutter is clicking as soon as my X-Pro2 hits my eye, and I rarely crop an image. If I were to leave behind those lenses for the 18-55mm on a trip, my photos would probably suffer even though I theoretically have more versatility.

 

Some people shoot much better with zooms. I shoot better with primes. My travel kit is usually 23mm, 35mm, and 55-200mm. Sometimes I'll throw in the 16mm. The biggest thing for me to get over was to learn to accept that I will miss some shots because I don't like to switch lenses frequently. Many times I pick one lens for the day and stick with it unless I realize I've made a horrible mistake. To me, there are always good photos around you with almost any lens, the trick is to have a short memory about the shots you aren't equipped for and focus on seeing the ones you are. 

 

Rather than approaching the trip with the idea of "what shots will I potentially miss without this lens," ask yourself "what am I most comfortable shooting with." Your photos as a whole will be better, even if you miss a few good shots. My one specific recommendation is that you are spot on with taking the longer zoom. I don't use mine frequently, but I always travel with it. Your feet can substitute for a zoom in the 18-55 range with primes, but not at 200mm.

 

Great advice there is a lot I agree with here.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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In general, my take on lens selection for travel is that I don't adjust my kit too far outside my comfort zone. Readjusting everything in the name of versatility can actually be self-defeating if by doing so it slows you down or makes you second guess your composition too frequently. I love my primes because I feel my shooting is instinctual and my composition is at its best. With the 23mm or 35mm, I rarely have to reframe my shot, the shutter is clicking as soon as my X-Pro2 hits my eye, and I rarely crop an image. If I were to leave behind those lenses for the 18-55mm on a trip, my photos would probably suffer even though I theoretically have more versatility.

 

Some people shoot much better with zooms. I shoot better with primes. My travel kit is usually 23mm, 35mm, and 55-200mm. Sometimes I'll throw in the 16mm. The biggest thing for me to get over was to learn to accept that I will miss some shots because I don't like to switch lenses frequently. Many times I pick one lens for the day and stick with it unless I realize I've made a horrible mistake. To me, there are always good photos around you with almost any lens, the trick is to have a short memory about the shots you aren't equipped for and focus on seeing the ones you are. 

 

Rather than approaching the trip with the idea of "what shots will I potentially miss without this lens," ask yourself "what am I most comfortable shooting with." Your photos as a whole will be better, even if you miss a few good shots. My one specific recommendation is that you are spot on with taking the longer zoom. I don't use mine frequently, but I always travel with it. Your feet can substitute for a zoom in the 18-55 range with primes, but not at 200mm.

 

Thanks for the good advice.

It's looking like the 23 f2, 50 f2 and the 55-230, I've just bought the latter 2. The 35 might sneak in but I doubt it would get much use, might even sell it as for me I feel the 23mm is more versatile the 35 often feels a bit tight when out and about busy places. The pixies may pack the 18 as it is so light and it the only lens I have a 10 stop ND for...

Cheers

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would recommend the 18-55 and the 55-200. They will cover all of the focal lenghts you are using and then some. The 55-200 is a sharp lens. There is nothing to stop you using a zoom in the same way as a prime. If you feel the need to zoom around too much apply some electrical tape!

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I would recommend the 18-55 and the 55-200. They will cover all of the focal lenghts you are using and then some. The 55-200 is a sharp lens. There is nothing to stop you using a zoom in the same way as a prime. If you feel the need to zoom around too much apply some electrical tape!

 

If you are comfortable with the two zooms, as BobJ says, you are pretty much covered for everything. I would recommend the addition of either the 23mm or 35mm f/1.4 for indoors and night photography. Considering how well the camera handles high-ISO ratings, being able to shoot wide open or just a stop or two down will open up a whole new and fascinating world. I have not shot with the 23mm, but use the 35mm constantly in low light. With an ISO6400, you get a decent shutter speed and the quality of the content more than makes up for the small amount of noise.

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Back in 2015 I sold the farm. I had an XT1/grip, the pair of 2.8 zooms, 56mm f1.2, and 35mm f2.0. I decided to keep my D810 kit for my wedding business.

 

Fast forward to this summer. I've taken less weddings than I have in year (total of 9 this year) because the weight is killing me, and banks wanted reliable income so I got a dayjob as well. I am a strobist by nature and this was a key reason for keeping the D810 kit. With the XT2 and Profoto collectively curing 90% of my concerns with Fuji I have started to rebuild my fuji kit.

 

I just shot an entire 12 hour wedding with nothing but my XT2, 35mm f2.0, 50mm f2.0. I'm adding the 90mm f2.0 this weekend.

 

Do I miss the 56? Yes, a lot. the 50mm is very nice, focuses closer than expected, is very sharp, and delivers on all accounts. But it does not have as much subject separation as I would like. The Bokeh is not as creamy. I will eventually get the 56mm again, but for now the 50mm f2.0 is perfectly fine. It's compact, sharp, focuses fast... it's great! I was originally going to exchange it for the 56, but I've decided to go get the 90mm instead.

 

 

I think if I was building a travel kit I would go for the trio of f2.0 WR lenses (23/35/50) and be good. If the kit lens came up on the cheap I'd grab it too as it is also a very nice lens. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for all your input, your time is appreciated!!

 

I leave soon for Thailand and have decided on the following kit. As I enjoy using primes more the only Zoom I will take is the 50-230 because I cant zoom there with my feet.

 

My bag:-

Billingham Hadley Pro

X-Pro 2

18mm f2 for tight spots, temples etc and waterfalls with my ND1000

23mm f2 general walk around (my favourite FL)

35 f2 or maybe f1.4 for low light. This will also feed into my decision of which one to sell. I dont use them very often so one must go.

50mm f2 Just bought it but like 'getting in' that wee bit more, I intend using this lens a lot

50-230mm zoom for wildlife parks and other occasions I want to take candid moments without intrusion

Pixi tripod

Nissin i40 for fill essentially. I have had the firmware upgrade for HSS TTL

 

I'll feed back my findings

 

Cheers

 

Again, thanks for your help

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  • 2 months later...

Here's some feedback on my trip, late I know but hopefully might help someone :-)

 

The X-pro2 performed without fault, with fairly high humidity and around 28-30 deg C. I did have to change lenses quite a bit but still no issues.

 

The 18mm f2 was soo needed for the Grand Palace in Bangkok and for some temple internals, the 23 just didnt cut it, too narrow for these situations. The 16mm would be even better but I don't own one.....yet

 

The 23mm f2 was my most used length looking at the metadata in lightroom, I had 35mm 'days' but often had to step too far back to get it all in for the busier places, however I did get some nice candid portraits of street vendors etc with this lens. I should have taken the 35 1.4 instead tho, I found when I wanted to use the 35 a bit nicer bokeh would have helped.

 

A fairly big surprise to me was the 50mmf2, I hardly wanted to use it, and when I did I was disappointed at the lack of subject separation with the busy backgrounds pretty much anywhere. One benefit is that I now know there probably isnt a place in my collection for this lens.

 

On Koh Chang island and in Chiang Mai the 50-230 was used quite a bit with some lovely images. The weekend we landed in Chiang Mai was the annual festival for the end on the rainy season, long distance candid or even posed shots were great, hundreds of people in national dress from various regions of northern Thailand.... spectacular

 

The Nissin flash got used once or twice to illuminate my wife's face with sunset background shots but to be honest I dont really liked the results. Maybe a diffuser of some sort would have been handy.

 

We liked Chiang Mai so much that we leave again very soon for another 2 weeks there. Slightly different camera bag this time, oh and on that the Billingham Hadley Pro was a great travel bag but found it a wee bit big for walking around the streets so gonna take my small hadley with me in the case.

 

I have since bought the 55-200 at a great price in Edinburgh airport so thats coming this trip.

 

One thing I did notice, and I suppose it applies to a lot of vacations but there was a distinct difference between what I wanted to carry daytime and nightime. So that has 'tuned' my bag also for this trip.

 

So this trip will be

X-pro2 with Fuji handgrip

18-55 and 55-200 zooms (I did miss the ability to frame a shot quickly without using my feet, there is so much happening at a fast rate there)

18mm f2

35mm f1.4

X100T

 

I take my pixi tripod and smaller EF-X20 flash, just in case

I have a small photo shoot set up with someone this trip so will take my 56mm f1.2 mainly for that occasion

 

So soon on ebay will be a 35 f2, 50 f2 and a 50-230 all hardly used, they just don't suit my shooting style

 

Thanks for reading, please leave your comments

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