Fujinon XF 80mm OR Fujinon XF 90mm - Control of an outbreak.

As usual the good folks at Fujifilm Australia gave me couple of gear to try during my recent visit around Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. During my last trip to Vietnam and Sri Lanka I grew a tremendous liking for the Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 R LM WR as a portrait lens. However when Fujifilm released the Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro, my wallet started to worry once again. I fell into the pool of confusion which is frequently visited by Fujifilm GFX 50S and Fujifilm X-T3 along with the ‘kind’ words of my better-half when I last purchased a Fujifilm X-T2. Gear loans apparently save lots of marriages. The Fujinon XF 90mm F2 vs Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 dilemma is well recognised as an outbreak and every other Fujifilm fans out there were already affected by it. Photography is an expensive hobby, and travel photography is even costlier as we often end up without a penny for a foot spa. Even if Im a millionaire I still cant carry all the lenses I got or afford to buy to everywhere I go. As I never owned a Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 as it was loaned to me by Fujifilm during the couple of occasions it was needed, I took this opportunity to tryout the Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 to make a final decision on which lens to own or to nag Fujifilm for next time I need one.

Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro Vs Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 R LM WR
Disclaimer- This is a battle for the best for my own field of work. Both of these lenses are excellent performers and deserve a big round of applause. But only one can score gold here.

Fujifilm X-E3 + Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro - Taken with an Iphone 6S

Fujifilm X-E3 + Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro - Taken with an Iphone 6S

There are enough extensive comparisons and reviews done on these lenses which are readily available online. Some of them are done in a controlled spaces while others are in more practical environments. My photography work with Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 falls within the latter. The lens was used not for the purpose of a review but as required to make images for my portfolio during my travel. I love these focal length for portraits, and I always felt that I use it more often than I use my Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R. My ultimate question is - If I can afford either one of it, which one should I choose ? - I will answer it at last. I will post some of the pictures taken with it at the end and in-between.

Before we move-on Here are some pictures I took in Vietnam with Fujinon XF 90mm F2 R LM WR

So the immediate differences/similarities in the photography field with Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8  compare to Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 are as follow. I will also give a star rating to each feature in a Travel and documentary photographers perspective - on how importantly I will consider such features in my photography genre. I will talk about the main reasons I choose either one of it in relation to the Fujinon XF 80mm F2.8.

1. Weight and Dimensions- Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro as its name implies is approximately 200g heavier and bit more bulkier than Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 R LM WR. It means If you travel with couple more lenses as you would due to the love factor with Fujinon lenses then it will add up to the final weight of your camera bag and in my experience bigger the camera bag lesser the photography experience. It is pretty easy to overlook just the 0.2kg, however long hikes for landscapes or day long street photography means at one point you will start to notice every extra grams you are carrying.
Rating - 3/5


2. Auto-Focus speed- Bad copies of lenses, crooked fingers, poor techniques and poor contrast aside, if I pick up both lenses and shoot a scene in similar ideal conditions, I will choose Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 for its auto- focus speed. This difference is apparent due to the different physical mechanisms involved in each lenses. For a static portrait pose there wont be much difference in the end results, however if the subject need little more tracking then I feel Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro is lagging behind the Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0. Rating - 4/5


3. F2 vs F2.8- No explanations needed with this one. Even if we neglect the 10mm difference the larger aperture of Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 R LM WR (F2) means it is the ideal choice for the serious portrait works. With that lens the bokeh are better and has more nicely spread background butter. However as Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 has optical image stabiliser (OIS) in contrast to Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 it will have more advantage with handheld shots with low shutter speed. This is more useful in low light photography. But with Fujfilm camera bodies with excellent noise control I rather crank up the ISO and eventually the shutter speed and will happily settle with F2. Rating of 4/5.


4. Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS MACRO - I used macro feature during my tour to shoot the details of arts/architecture in numerous temples I have visited, and various food I ended up eating. But if I reflect on that experience, it was never a true macro work, rather only a closeup work with little bit more extra reach and handheld with the help of OIS. Of course travel and documentary photography involves some percentage of closeup works which I think could easily be done with Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 with its closest focusing distance of 60cm. Even when I try to push myself to do true macros I was reluctant to carry on with it, partly due to the fact I never had the interest in it and other reason is OIS didn't have much benefit as to achieve good end to end focus I had to increase the iso significantly to keep up with the large aperture value and thus the higher shutter speed for handheld shots (Unless the snail is sunbathing). One option is to use a tripod to take sharp images and of course spending time with focus stacking is out of question with my tight schedules as usual and the last tiny spider never stood still. But for a serious macro photographer or even a food photographer I think this is a hard to beat deal. Rating - If you do macro- 6/5, if you hardly ever do it- then maybe 1/5 for having that feature.


5. Sharpness- Both lenses are sharp. I don't believe in ‘Tact Sharp’. But if anyone coins the words ‘Brilliantly sharp’, then both of these lenses are stellar performers. You wont go wrong with either. At this stage you should factor in other differences and decide which one is best for you. Rating - No practical difference. Both of them are super sharp. I will consider other features.

6. Color- With Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 I accidentally changed the camera setting from RAW to JPEG and shot with it for sometime. The results were amazing and the color rendition was amazing too. Im yet to commit this mistake with Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0, however as a well known fact with any Fujifilm lenses, I won’t be surprised if the colors are great.
Rating- Similar performance. Do I need to worry about color if Im shooting RAW. Yes of course you can change the colors later. But accurate color rendition will make your photography life easier and also will do the justice to the actual scene.


7. Chromatic abrasion, barrel distortion and all those blah blah- Im not bothered, neither you need to with these lenses.


Fujifilm is well known to regularly update its lens lineup. So what is best today wont be the same tomorrow or at-least at the next photokina. Of course being a new lens Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro will expectedly should have better features, but when it comes to photography there are many other elements which play a part other than just pixel peeping or GAS (The infamous Gear Acquisition Syndrome). If you can afford to buy both lenses then you wont be reading this post. However many of the users are in the same group as Im now in. So to make things easier for all, I would happily settle with Fujinon XF 90mm F2.0 R LM WR for now which is the best practical choice for me as a Travel and documentary photographer. But if Im a macro shooter then the choice is obvious. However I will end up across a fine thin line to cross if Im a wedding/event/food photographer as closeups/macros are essential part of these genres in which case I would go with Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM WR OIS Macro, as Im sure I will be carrying another prime with F1.2/F1.4 for those creamy pictures.

Please share if you find this useful.

The Search - A decisive moment.

Usually when I enter a scene to photograph, first thing I do is to just walk around the place to identify the vantage points. This stage is crucial in any image making process. In contrast to many other photography genres, Travel, documentary or street photography does not have the luxury of planning ahead of the shooting day as most of the scenes are mostly candids. It can be helpful in Landscape photography where fixing a point of interest/view will avoid unnecessary disappointments of missing out an amazing sunset or anything of interest.  However, if you enter a human world confined to a small space then what you often end up with is the countless randomly occurring moments. While you look at one direction there could be a beautiful moment just passed behind you without ever being recognized. During the last few years this kind of scenario has happened to me few times, mainly during large gatherings and one of the important such occasion was during my recent visit to Vietnam. It was in fact special for me as one of the photo got shortlisted for the final round at the prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY 2017). Well it was not a winner, but being a finalist in TPOTY, little bit of bragging there.

Some times the decisive moment of a single frame can happen as a sheer luck. It is when something happens randomly, like when a large dramatic cloud gather unexpectedly over a landscape scene or a monkey grabs your camera and take a selfie. However, during the visit to the Dong Van market in northern Vietnam it was a search for the same moment but in an area in full of chaos!. This is a weekly market for the mostly northern minority hill tribes that happens on every Sundays. Everything get sold and bought here. It was a festival of its own, people meet their friends/relatives from the faraway valleys, have rice wine and share those interesting gossips. Kids running behind the ice cream vendors while their mothers busy bargaining for better price for those colourful traditional dresses. Often one can see a man or Two running behind those piglets just escaped from their cage and the bull raging on the crowd. With this kind of setting people are too busy in their own world, and my presence was completely ignorable which is often a great thing when photographing in these kind of places so I can work at my own pace and to be immersive in the environment as a part of it.

As it was an early hour the sun was not too harsh and it was casting beautiful lights through every possible corners and cracks. It was a light hunting for me. There was this food court with the broken roof and the light rays were making the scene more dramatic and it was challenging and at the same time interesting to try different compositions using the light.

I have been to such gatherings in the past as a travel photographer and what is different this time was the 'stealth' part. I was carrying 3 camera bodies with lenses attached. Couple of years back I switched to Fujifilm and following are the gear list during this shoot,

1. Fujifilm X-T2 + Fujinon XF90mm F2 R LM WR for those long range stealth attacks for the crispy images with creamy backgrounds.
2. Fujifilm X100F - Which is probably the only camera I would select given only one choice. It has a fixed 23mm (35mm FF equivalent) which is almost matching the normal viewing by naked eyes, thus the 'Normal appearing candid moments'. Given its lightweight you can put it overhead, down on the ground, at your sides, supine, prone, etc. Just click click click !!!..
3. Fujifilm X-E2S+ Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS- In case of extreme wide angle images which I didn't use as much during this shoot.

Let me pause there and resume the search.

In contrast to the bigger and heavier SLR type cameras, the newer mirrorless cameras are far more oriented towards travellers and people working in rapidly changing environments. One advantage is people looking at my camera most likely will think the smaller the camera, the more I can be ignored as any significance which is great for candid moments. Other important point is the easiness of navigating an area for hours with relative ease of carrying lightweight gear. Performance wise they work amazingly well with their improved autofocus mechanism, picture quality with great straight out of the camera contrasts and excellent shadow recovery without the loss of quality or introduction of noise during post processing. All these with excellent consumer oriented price tags. 

A big shout-out to the amazing folks at Fujifilm Australia for generously loaning the Fujifilm X100F and Fujinon XF90mm F2 R LM WR for this Trip. Their support particularly in Australia is worth mentioning. It is one of the main reason for my switch to Fujifilm, the level of community involvement no matter whether your are a seasoned pro or a brand-new amateur is I think unmatchable by any other brands. It is one of the many reasons for the rapidly increasing Fujifilm community in the country. Other major factor is the cost effectiveness. Most of the lenses are really affordable even for beginners and the bodies are in various categories to suit people with various budgets. The image quality at any price range is excellent. There are no 'KIT' lenses in fujifilm in relative terms. A killer combination. I had nothing to complain against Fujifilm gear except the cameras are being too sexy. If there are any flaws then it never interfered with my style of photography.

So my search in the market continued until I stumbled upon this scene. A restaurant table with people enjoying their pho and a single column of light through a cracked roof Just right onto the white bowel with the potential of getting over-exposed. However the way it was helpful in this scene was how it reflect the light onto the faces. The pattern of the light casting was dramatic at that occasion, thus the wait for the right timing. It is not practical to cover the whole scene in a meaningful way, so I decided to isolate only one subject - the boy at the right hand corner.

Then this happened.

Out of all the gear I had to choose the Fujifilm X-T2 + FUJINON XF90mmF2 R LM WR . I wanted an uncluttered background, a safe distance from the comfort zone of this little boy, fast prime for better subject isolation and quick response to capture the moment. I had to convert the final image to black and white to avoid any distractions by the various colors and just to isolate that particular moment. Shortlisted finalist in Travel photographer of the year 2017

Until next Time. Search for the moments.

The lotus pond

It was towards the end of my Vietnam tour in 2017 - wait, my next post was suppose to be from the far mountains of Vietnam- well the story from the mountains are too long to be told in one post, Im still working on categorising it into little bits. Let me post an interesting shoot I did while in Vietnam. So towards the end of my tour I had this idea of visiting the perfume pagoda- one of the interesting tourist attraction where you basically travel by boat then climb few hundred steps to the ancient pagoda. But as I used to be away from the usual tourist tracks an alternative was to use the architecture, waterscapes of the area and to do a possible model shoot. Soon the day was fixed and models were hired along with their dresses. It was a day long shoot without much preparation as I had only a day to prepare everything in a rush. There was this beautiful river lotuses, an amazing sunrise, a quick shower and a fantastic temple complex covered with moss. It was a time to test my new Godox Witstro AD200- Which was a great travel photography companion during my 2 weeks long trip. Without further delay here are some selections.

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm X-E2S, Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R, Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR

Around the corners....Hello Hanoi...

Having lived in Sri Lanka and Australia, the "different world" experience of Hanoi, Vietnam started with opening the drivers side door of my Taxi. A smile is the only language without any barriers and I had a fair share of it. So I still don't know what exactly the driver told me, but at the end we both smiled.

It was an evening flight and arrival was almost at dusk. The taxi flew though- under the legal speed limits- small crops of towns and I can almost sense Hanoi. The Chaos started to built up. By statistics motorcycles were taking over the street by sheer force of numbers. The appearance of the centre of Hanoi was similar to the ant colony I disturbed when I was young. Motorcyclists running in every directions, people trying to lurk into the roads and hit the opposite pavement by grace of god, wide opened shops selling various stuffs I have never seen or never want to eat, street sellers with large baskets they can barely carry, diners sitting on those tiny red plastic chairs slurping the pho noodle soup with sips of Bia(Beer) Saigon and my driver who was navigating the same street once again for the Third time trying to find the hotel among all these scenes- Chaos, plus it was a Sunday- Contrary to a Friday in Sydney. It was indeed a culture shock.

Tired and straight to bed!!!

Next day, I was not expecting much of a difference between the night and the day. Everything was same except some locations of Hanoi Old Quarter particularly the Hoan Kiem Lakeside which had some morning ritual being performed- badminton, riverside open gym, Spanish dancing practices and various other community activities. Hanoi is a street and travel photographers paradise where the days can be endless- Enough said and well deserved. Negotiating this part of Vietnam while carrying multiple photography gear is always a painful process. However recent switch to Fujifilm made the process much easier. I was carrying a Fujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm X-E2S and a Fujifilm X100F which was generously sponsored by Fujifilm Australia for this trip, the latter is something special and it will make you feel special. Often I was carrying all three of them at the same time with different lenses except the Fujifilm X100F which has a fixed 23mm (~35mm equivalant) lens. Thanks to the technology behind all these new machines with great qualities and feather weights in relative terms. I got so much to share from Vietnam, so here are some pictures. In the Next post I will be trekking around the tribal villages in Northern Mountains of Vietnam.

Ladakh - Land of Landscapes

Ladakh, a majestic land full of sceneries. Its part of Jammu- Kashmir state in India. It would take a lifetime to see the endless magnificent views of the Himalayan region. Ladakh make it short by providing us a summary of Himalayan ranges – Valleys, rivers, crops of villages, man-made structures, etc. Both winter and off-winter seasons provide spectacular display of colors and the vicious cycle of life in this region. It was a 2 weeks trip into this region, which is sort of a rapid tour around the key destinations to act as a precursor for an in-depth tour in the future. I will write on “How to Cover most of Ladakh in 2 weeks” Travelogue in near future. This post is about some of the key landscapes I came across. There are plenty more which I didn’t cover due to the lack of time as my intentions were to admire Ladakh as a whole for the first time, then to jump in again to see everything in fine details.

It was also a time when I was testing out my new Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM as a sole lens for the travel. Indeed it was great to use this lens and the Canon 6D during this journey. I would recommend this pair to any die hard fans of Canon who wants to travel light. However I also saw the potential of the mirrorless camera systems which wont break my back during my day long shoots and still maintain the best image quality like the bigger SLRs and huge lenses. After many months of research on various brands I settled with Fujifilm system recently. 

Following images were cropped to 16×9 size for more cinematic like experience.