The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017 – Part II

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part of “The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017” please do so before you read any further.

In the first part, we said that our gear-choices are vision-related, rooted in our own seeing and years of shooting with numerous X-series cameras and lenses. The most important takeaway is this:

START WITH ONE FOCAL LENGTH ONLY!

Despite the rush of excitement associated with purchasing new gear, some restraint in the early stages of your photographic adventure is essential. Starting with one camera and one lens will allow you to focus on observation and seeing. You will be forced to scrutinize your frame and perspective and craft your imagery rather than hassling with a bag full of gear.   

When you purchase your first lens, you should have two objectives in mind:

  • The first objective is to learn how to switch from practical seeing (you don’t want to bump into a lamp post while walking along) to a new level of observational and creative seeing. In other words, for the first year, your objective should be to learn how to concentrate, observe and eventually craft strong imagery.
  • The second objective is to achieve the level of seeing which allows you to observe and craft your imagery without looking through the viewfinder. Your vision must become your camera and vice versa. You must fine-tune your seeing to the focal length you are using. The more often you change lenses (focal lengths) the more difficult this task will be.

We recommended starting with the 23mm F2 lens (the X100F/T/S) or the 35mm F2 lens, shooting with this one lens of your choice for a year and only then adding another focal length. 

So now, as you have been shooting for an extended period with just one lens and your seeing is accustomed to this focal length, it may be time to expand your lens selection.

There are two ways to go, depending on your interest in photography: to go wider (a wide-angle lens) or to get more compressed (telephoto).

WIDE-ANGLE: 14mm F2.8

For those of you who are considering architecture or landscape as subject matter, my first choice would be the XF 14mm F2.8 lens (in full frame terms the 21mm lens). Not only is it a small and portable glass but it is also sharp with no visible distortion. Once you move from the 23mm or 35mm lens to 14mm, you will face a totally different world of seeing. In fact, once your excitement from owning a new piece of glass dies down, you may find shooting with your new 14mm lens is a frustrating experience. No, there is nothing wrong with the lens. It is just that many people don’t realize wide-angle lenses are one of the most difficult to shoot with! Three key challenges emerge when starting to shoot with wide-angle lenses:

  • You must get unnaturally and uncomfortably close to your subject and then get even closer. It’s much harder than it sounds!
  • A critical examination of your entire frame is a must. When using the wide-angle lenses, elimination of elements from your frame is much, much more challenging and requires extra work.
  • Not every subject will be suitable for wide-angle lenses.

Having said that, those who master the 14mm lens have a great opportunity to make visual impact with their imagery especially in architecture, landscape and occasionally street or documentary photography.

Note: Some of you may ask, “So why not the XF 10-24mm F4 lens?” It is a very fine glass but given the challenge of working with wide-angle lenses, starting with the zoom could seriously harm your effort. Not only will you need to deal with a drastically expanding frame (which is hard enough) but also a confusion of zoom.

Here are a few examples shot with the XF 14mm F2.8 lens.

   

 

TELEPHOTO: 56mm F1.2

Courtesy of Jonas Rask

If your interest is in portraiture, your next lens should be the XF 56mm F1.2. In my view, it is one of the finest Fujifilm XF lenses ever produced. With a fast aperture, beautiful bokeh (out of focus areas), abundance of sharpness and the right amount of micro-contrast, this lens is a must-have. With the 56mm focal length you can shoot stunning headshots but also incorporate enough background to spice-up your vision.

The 56mm F1.2 lens is much more than just a portrait lens. I have been using it quite extensively for my R-A-I-N project, as well in situations when there is very little light available. Due to its fast aperture and extra-creamy bokeh, this lens is an excellent tool for some visual risk-taking.

 

To recap our recommendations:

Start with one focal length only: 23 or 35mm. After shooting extensively with one focal length you can add a wide-angle lens (landscape, architecture), or go the other way and go with a telephoto (portrait).

In the third and final part of “The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017” series I will make suggestions to expand your lens line-up but keep it simple and productive.

 

Next time we will share with you our latest street work from San Francisco.

P.S. December should bring an array of exciting announcements which I cannot wait to share with you. Stay tuned!

 

   

 

2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “The best Fujifilm lenses to start with in late 2017 – Part II

  1. Even though I’ve been shooting for some time, and have some professional assignments, I think that all of us could benefit from repeating this advice at least once a year. Just go back to 35 mm for a few months, or during a trip. Excellent article, concept, writing and photos.

  2. It‘s very hard to predict what you like in terms of focal lengths, but my first and only lens for a while was a 35/1.4 – and it did not really fit me, although I like the rendering and images. I needed a wider view – and the X100T became my favorite tool and focal length. So I‘d also start with one of the two focal lengths…after that it really depends. 14 or 16 are good, but some might also go for the good ol‘ 60/2.4 to shoot portrait and macro.

    1. Immo,

      You are right. An ideal starting point is somewhere in the 23-35mm range and then it may go in different directions…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Looking forward to your future comments.

      Cheers,

      Olaf

  3. Olaf
    I am not beginner but still found your blog excellent and useful.
    It was very logically set out, well illustrated and quite clear in the target audience.
    Well done and Keep it up

  4. Hey Olaf, I’m curious about the 56mm f1.2, because you mention you use it a lot for your R-A-I-N workshops. How do you manage that when it is not WR? Do you find you have to be extra careful?

    Great shots, and awesome article 🙂

    1. I am glad you enjoyed my photography. After all, this is what really matters.

      “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
      —Margaret Atwood

  5. Greetings Olaf:

    What about the 16 f1.4? I got it for fast aperture. Is the 14mm really better than the 16mm in order to learn? I come from a 23mm f2.

    Thanks in advance and best regards

    1. The 16mm lens is quite different from 14mm wide angle. It appears that the difference is quite small on paper but in real life the 14mm has much, much wider field of view. It is not a matter of “better or worse.”

    1. No. I love the 35.1.4

      Please note that recommendations listed in the series are for people starting in photography. At this stage, I prefer someone spending money on education than on more expensive glass.

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