Paying the rent

Working with the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens

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As great as the Fujifilm X-cameras and Fujinon XF lens are for my personal and freelance photography, I also try to use them for my day job.

I shoot for a living, as a photographer for the government of British Columbia. At work, I have a couple of full-frame DSLRs with fast zooms (24-70mm and 70-200mm). I use them when appropriate, but in most cases, I would prefer to use my X-cameras and XF lenses. One situation that has always required the use of the DSLRs has been shooting indoor events, like conferences, which require a fast, long zoom. In these circumstances, I will carry my X-Pro1 with the XF35mm lens and a DSLR with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.

UBCM 2013 UBCM 2013

This past week, I was shooting a four day conference in Vancouver and I was able to leave the DSLRs back at the office. I used only my X100s and XP1 with a variety of lenses. The missing lens that allowed me to do this was the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom, which Fujifilm Canada loaned to me to test. Based upon other reviews of the lens, I believed that I could make it work for me, but I did have reservations about the variable maximum aperture of f3.5-4.8. So, how did it go shooting for a week with this long zoom?

Shot story: the XF55-200mm lens did the job. Really well.

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OK, here are the particulars. In shooting conferences and events, I am frequently a good distance from my subject or I want a tight close-up with the background out of focus. Fast, long telephoto lens are the right tool for the job. On top of that, the lighting is relatively poor, set up to work for video cameras, and focused just in a small area of the stage. So, I typically shoot at 1/125 of a second or faster and at f2.8 (ISO is around 1600 and sometimes goes to 3200). This ensures that I can freeze a speaker as they talk and move at a podium and I can safely hand hold the heavy camera/lens combination.

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To use the XF55-200mm lens, I would need to shoot with a larger aperture which means my shutter speed would have to drop and ISO would almost always be up around 3200. At first, I tried to keep my shutter speed at 1/125 sec, but images were underexposed. Instead, I dropped the shutter speed to 1/90 sec and, finally, to 1/60 sec. That’s right, I was hand holding this relatively large lens on the XP1, with it zoomed to 200mm at 1/60 sec. I know that I was not keeping particularly still either. I was impressed. Thank you image stabilization! The OIS works really well. That, combined with the X-trans sensor’s superior image quality and amazing high ISO performance, meant that I was happily shooting an event with the XP1 and a Fujinon lens which previously required me to use a DSLR and a giant zoom lens.

UBCM 2013

I have also used the lens in my free time, mostly outside. As you would expect, it is really top notch for shooting a variety of subjects outside, with fast AF/MF (love focus peaking on the XP1!). Build quality is very solid, as we have come to expect from Fujinon XF lenses. After shooting with the lens for a day, it felt completely natural. I would happily use it again for work.

Would I change anything with the lens? Well, I wouldn’t mind if it had a tripod collar or attachment point. This would improve the balance of the camera/lens combination when I hang it from a diagonal strap as well as when attached to a tripod. However, the balance of camera and lens is still good without one, so this is only a would be nice to have, not a must have. Would I be happy with a constant max aperture of f2.8? Who wouldn’t? That said, the image quality, build and handling make the XF55-200mm a lens I am happy to use for my rent-paying photography.

Unfortunately, I have to return the lens to Fujifilm. But, I plan to purchase my own before the year is out!

Notes: All photos shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens at or near 200mm and at maximum aperture for the focal length. Shutter speed for the work shots was 1/60 sec except for the top BW (1/90 sec) and the last shot of the Premier (1/125 sec).  ISO was at or near 3200.

13 thoughts

  1. Hi Don

    I also shoot conferences. I’m also used to use my DSLR gear. But next time I will take my Fuji gear! You inspired me.
    Some questions: 1. Do you use AWB? I’m used to use a white card for RAW development at the beginning of a shooting. 2. How do you use Autofocus? pointing and recompose?

    Andreas

    • Andreas, thanks for the good questions.

      Although I have started to shoot more and more in JPEG, I found that I was getting the best White Balance results if I shot in RAW at the conference. The lighting was quite mixed and the camera JPEGs were tending to be influenced too much by the ambient light, when shooting in AWB. I switched to RAW and continued to shoot in AWB. Then, in post (Lightroom), I select them all and globally adjusted the WB to the light around the stage area. If you have shot a frame of your white card, then use that to adjust WB in post for the rest of the photos.

      I rarely use AF, unless I have to shoot with a DSLR. I prefer to shoot in automated MF with the X cameras. Typically, I hit the control wheel on the back of the camera to zoom into the focus area and then hit the AF-L button to focus the camera. I might tweak the focus manually, just to confirm that I have the focus I want. Of course, focus peaking is a huge aid in working this way! Once I have focus, I can shoot a number of frames from that same position. If I move or want to shoot something else, I re-focus the same way. I can actually do this fairly quickly and feel like it is as fast as using AF, at least for me, and I have the added benefit of knowing that I have achieved focus. In other words, I feel like I actually end up with more keepers working this way.

      Don

  2. Pingback: Working with the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens | Don ...

  3. Great shots Don, and very sharp and clear. I have just sold off all of my much beloved Nikon DSLR gear and only have the X-e1 with 55-200 and kit lens. I also take the X100 as well for the quick stuff. I too am impressed with the quality of the 55-200 and am glad that you can leave the heavy gear at home and still pay the rent. Did you noticed that it was less intimidating for people with you using the smaller setup, and did you get any comments?

    cheers

    Philip

    • Philip, first, thanks for the comments.

      I sold my DSLR gear to shoot with rangefinders and then onto the Fujifilm X cameras. So, now when I pick a DSLR, I am astounded at the bulk and the weight. The comments I receive when I have the DSLR and a large zoom are always about the impressive size of the gear. When I shoot with the X cameras, I’m most often asked if I am shooting film. I am asked this a lot. During this conference, I must have been stopped a dozen times to ask what type of gear I was using.

      You’re correct. The X cameras are much less intimidating. I can get much closer to the action, without people being very aware of my presences. I have particularly noticed a difference in shooting portraits with the X-Pro 1. My subjects can see me and they are not looking at a giant lens. It has really liberated my portrait shooting experience. And, when I have it on a tripod, I use the LCD screen to compose, much like a large format camera, which means I’m not glued to the viewfinder, giving me a better interaction with the subject.

      Don

  4. Hi Don,
    Great shots as usual…
    And the skin tone is beautiful.
    Could you tell me which film simulation did you choose ? And if you changed some settings on the film simulation ?

    • Robin, I use the Standard film simulation when shooting JPEGs. That gives me the most flexibility in post processing. The shots of the Premier, she of the great skin tone, are straight out of camera with only minor exposure adjustments. The X-trans sensor gives really beautiful colours. So much so, that I often try something in post that I decide can’t improve on the quality of the photo out of camera. Therefore, I leave it alone. Of course, when I convert to BW, I am looking for a grittier, more film-like look.
      Don

  5. Well, the article was very technical (and very informative !!). So, I have to admit I did the same “mistake” at first. Now looking a second time: The images are indeed beautiful. The middle bw one is one of my favs. …

    • Peter, thanks for the comments.

      I don’t know what you mean by the “same mistake,” but I did have a great work experience with the XF55-200mm lens. And thanks, I always really like BW shots.

      Don

  6. Pingback: Paying the rent | Fujifilm X Serie APS C sensor...

    • Thanks CHope. The lens did a great job with the flower shots. And, these are out of the camera JPEGs too! Funny, no comment yet about the beauty of the work shots. I wonder why?

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