Tag: Fuji x-t1

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Digitising Film | The final solution – almost!

Digitising Film | The final solution – almost!

Over the past week or two I’ve been experimenting with ways of capturing digital images directly from film negatives. I’ve been trying to do this as cheaply as possible by using as much of the gear as I have to hand to keep costs down. I’ve already created a couple of posts on this topic and you’ll find these in the March archives if you want to understand more about this journey. So as not to duplicate what I’ve already written, I’ll just tell you that the most successful method I’ve found to date is to use a digital camera and a scanning mask. Now in fairness, you can pretty much stop there as this method really does work and the total cost, given that I already have the camera and lens, was just £32 for the scanning mask (including delivery). This ultra cheap method simply requires a decent lens, close focusing or macro if you have one, the scanning mask, this holds the film flat, and a window for the light source, ideally north facing as you need flat light for this job. This remarkably simple setup captures negatives quickly and accurately although you will need to do some basic post-processing on the captured images e.g. inversion, cropping, basic adjustments to exposure, whites and blacks etc.

The process is simplicity itself, just set the camera on auto focus, although manual works equally well, choose a shutter speed of at least 1/60s and set ISO to 200 or lower. That’s it really. Hit the shutter and you have your digital image in camera. With regards the light, a flat grey day is ideal for this job and you need to make sure that there’s no trees or buildings in the frame else they’ll show on the digital image. A perfect day for this job is a rainy, grey day where there’s no direct sun. North facing windows are perfect but this window is west facing and works equally well.

North windows provide ideal flat light. This window is west facing but on a grey day, it works just as well.
Holding the negatives against a flat light allows you to photograph them with relative ease using a tripod

Another approach that works well is to use your camera and lens with a light box, flash head, trigger and tripod. I made a simple light box from an A4 cardboard documents box with a lid. I cut a rectangular hole in the side, into which I pushed the flash head, a rectangular hole in the center of the top slightly bigger than a 35mm negative i.e. 45mm x 34mm works well. With the flash head pushed inside the box, I had already lined this with some silver foil to bounce the light around, I placed a piece of white paper under the flash head curving up the opposite side,somewhat like an infinity wall as found in a studio. I then popped a diffuser on the flash head. With that all done I set the flash power to 1/64 and, as the flash head is adjustable, I set the ISO to 100 and zoom to 14mm to help spread the light. On test, this setup was perfect for backlighting the negative.

My current digital setup. The flash head can just be seen protruding into the light box.

Moving on to the camera, I found that autofocus was problematic so I set the camera to manual focus. The next problem is that without any useful light on the negative surface, focusing was hit and miss despite focus peaking being available. An easy fix is to have a suitable light available to iilluminate the film surface but as I didn’t have one handy, I simply changed the shutter speed from 1/125s (set for the flash) to something really slow like 2s (this is good at night) or Auto if during the day. This lights up the scene allowing accurate focus to be set (using focus peaking) right on the plane of the film. You should also ensure that the mask is dead centre of your lens. Once set, I simply changed the shutter speed back to 1/125s and activated the shutter. The satisfying flash tells you the job’s done. Slide to the next frame and repeat. Here are some examples of images captured using this setup but please bear in mind that the resolution of these images is very poor because of the lens I was using. The best physical size I could create with this technique was 1080 x 760 and of course, dispaying on the web doesn’t help with quality as these are only 72dpi. However if you read on you’ll see I have some good ideas as to how to hugely improve focus, resolution and size and therefore capture the (almost) perfect digitised image.

Low resolution images. Enhancements to my setup will enable me to capture 6000 x 4000 images.

Before discussing “where to next” I just want to say something about converting the digitised images into positive images. I know many out there will be using Photoshop, Capture One or another pricey editor but I have been using On1 PhotoRaw a lot recently. Firstly, It’s a very capable editor and the more I use it the more I like it. It also operates now as a plugin to AffinityPhoto, my other favourite “heavy lifting” photo editor. In fact the two combined are a killer combination matching I would say, Photoshop and Lightroom, albeit Photoshop does have more add-ins and macros. That being said, why on earth would I want to shell out indefinately on a subscription when I bought a perpetual licence of AffinityPhoto and On1 2021 for just £70. On1 also has some really good features, not least image management, presets (and the ability to easily create your own presets) and of course it’s a 1st class editor. If there’s something I can’t do in On1, I simply pop over to Affinity calling On1 as a plugin if I need to in order to finess the final result. For the above images, given that this is purely a test, I created and saved a preset which inverts the negative, crops and levels it, applies a tone curve and then balances the whites, blacks, shadows and highlights. In a second I have my positive image practically finished and all I then need to do to finess it is to push up or pull down exposure or add some contrast and fine tweak the sliders. Getting to the finished image from the film strip takes a few minutes at most.

Having atained some success then with my “Heath Robinson” method of negative film digitising, my next project is to improve on this setup by engineering a more rugged, reliable and accurate light box. Now, I had considered buying a Skier Light box and 35mm mask, about £160 including shipping from Taiwan, but I’m finding that the flash method I am using is working OK albeit that I need to better control negative position and focus. For example, I need to be able to position the scanning mask much more accurately over the cutout so that every image is the same and is always in perfect focus. I also need to be able to capture a bigger image. At the moment I’m using the Fuji x-t1 with an 18-55 f2.8-4. This is capturing an image considerably smaller than what I ideally need due to the fact that this lens is not close focusing or a macro lens. With these points in mind I have purchased the Nikon 105mm f2.8 AF-S D which I intend to use with my Nikon D600 full frame camera. This will give me a full size 1:1 image reducing the need to edit every frame, especially if I engineer the positioning of the negative accurately. The 1:1 ratio will also produce a digital image with maximum detail and resolution. It’s not a cheap solution, £195 on Ebay, but it the best solution for my needs. To improve the light box, I’ve just purchased a wooden box from Amazon, this cost £14, to which I will fix an indexed runner that the Lomography Digitaliser will move against. This will ensure much more accurate positioning of the scanning mask and negative over the cutout in the box lid. While I recognise that the scanning mask is a weak link, and indeed, I have found a much better solution which costs £90, I’m going to stick with my solution for a while to try it out. If I need to upgrade, I know where to go.

That’s about it for now folks. Take care.

Part 2: Digitising film with a camera setup!

Part 2: Digitising film with a camera setup!

If you are familiar with this blog you’ll already know that in recent times I have been experimenting with film, film developing and more laterly, trying to get my film negatives into the digital domain. Now, the constraints I have set myself for this experiment has been to use what I have readily around me. I no that to do a professional job I need to spend money but the brief here is to do it with the bits of kit l have easily to hand. If i go down the route of spending money to achieve 1st class results, I will document this with another blog. On y va (let’s go!)

If you have read Part 1 of this blog you will already know that I pursued the scanning route as an easy first option. For these experiments I used an old HP flatbed office scanner and a home made back lighting system to digitise the image to my PC. You can find out how this went by visiting the article here . This second part then is to photograph my negatives using either my Fuji x-t1 or my Nikon D600. Now, I’ve tried various lenses with the x-t1 with the most successful so far being the Fujinon 18-55 f2.8-4 albeit that the magnification of the image is pretty poor as you would expect. That’s primarily because the closest focusing distance is a tad under 12″. Other lenses for the x-t1 that I have tried include the Samyang 12mm f2 and the Viltrox 23mm f1.4, both of which focus closer but the short focal length is tending to cause problems. Before I go on to discuss the inadequacies of these lenses in any more detail, I just want to talk a little about the negatives I am trying to digitise as the quality of these is hugely pertinent to this post.

With regards working with film, in this case Kentmere B&W film, I have noticed several key factors that are going to affect the quility of the digitised results irrespective of the digitising method used. These issues are:

  • The film stock chosen (not all film is created equally)
  • The camera used to capture the images
  • The lighting / exposure associated with the film at time of capture
  • How well the camera focused on the subject at time of capture
  • The quality and consistency of the development process

Developing the film aside for one moment, one of the the bigger problems I have found is that what I thought were good negatives on initial inspection were in fact, incredibly variable across the roll. The biggest factor in this was thinking that my old Pentax SLR was going to behave in the same way to light conditions as my newish Fuji x-t1 digital camera. If I thought that, I certainly need to rethink that now! In addition, I am using a manual camera, the Pentax KM is fully manual, with a manual lens and so nailing bank on exposure and focus, especially with these old eyes, is not as easy as I remember it. I haven’t used this old Pentax KM seriously in about 40 years. As such, it is possible that the Pentax is showing it’s age as much as I am!  The two lenses I have for this camera are a Vivitar 35-70mm f2.8-3.8 zoom and a Pentax 50mm f1.7 pancake. Now, I’m prety sure that these lenses are probably more than acceptable if I have been using them at anything other than f8, which I am pretty sure I have, then I am likely to be on a hiding to nothing with regards image sharpness. For example, trying to use focus peaking on an old SLR is proving somewhat more of a challange for these old eyes than I imagined it would be. This all being said, my concern is that irrespective of the camera and lens setup that I use to digitise the negative, that setup is going to struggle if the base image is poor. More on this later.

Going back now to the lenses I do have access to, while the Samyang has the closest focusing distance of the three, it’s about 9″, it’s really difficult to focus manually especially in a setup where you can’t easily access the viewfinder. The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 has improved on this situation in that it has automatic focusing and is tack sharp at f8 but it’s closest focusing distance is about 11″ so i moving further away from the negative, not getting closer to it. That leaves me with the 18-55mm which has improved on the situation again, especially at f8. The down side to all these lenses is that the shooting speed has been down around 1/4s when I really want to be shooting at 1/30 -1/60 so as to avoid any shutter shake which will undoubtadly make the situation even worse. This is because I really don’t want to push the ISO up, I am using 200 for these experiments, as this will degrade my images. Besides, in order to achieve 1/30s I’d need to increase ISO by 3 stops which would mean an ISO of 1600 and that will mean a degredation of the image and a big injection of noise and that is not something I want to do.

So, given all of this playing around, am I getting anywhere? Well actually yes, I think I am. The results of using the 18-55 @ f8 despite the slow shutter speed produce the best IQ I have managed to achieve so far. Substantially better in fact than the Heath Robinson scanner experments I outlined in my first blog a day or so ago. It’s clear from what i am finding that, irrespective of the quality of the image I am starting with, that using a mirrorless or DSLR camera with a good close focus lens and a suitable, high quality light source and negative holder is going to yield dividends.

The images above are part of a 6 image strip that I have been playing with. I have digitised them using the Fuji x-t1 and 18-55mm setup discussed above. While they do suffer from the shooting defects I have been talking about e.g. poor focus and highly variable lighting conditions, they are better than anything else I have so far managed to digitise. Here’s the gear I used for this experiment.

  • Fujifilm x-t1 mirrorless camera with Fujinon 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens
  • Manfrotto tripod with multi-adjustment ball head
  • Huwaei P20 Pro with a downloaded white backlight app
  • Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Scanning Mask

So, what next? Well, I feel at least that I am on the right track using a camera rather than a scanner to transfer the images from negatves to digital. The problem I have is that it’s becoming clear that I am going to need a decent close focus lens, ideally a 1:1 macro lens. I also need a more robust light source so that I can shoot at higher shutterspeeds as well as maintain f8.  The images above were back lit by my old Huwaei P20 Pro which although doing an admirable job, is not ideal so I need to find a more consistent, high CRI rated light box. Finally, I’d also like to use the Nikon D600 purely because it’s a good quakity 35mm digital camera so the IQ of the image with the right lens should be much better than from the Fuji x-t1. Another reason for wanting to use the D600 is that it is sitting in the cupboard gathering dust so this would give it a new lease of life. Besides, with a decent macro lens it might prompt me to take it out a bit more as it shoots great photos.

A Single Image | Feb 27th

A Single Image | Feb 27th

Gorgeously clear skies today so yet more opportunity to put the Fujifilm x-t1 and Viltrox 23mm f1.4 through it’s paces. This image, taken in the Geopark in Paignton, caught my eye purely for the colourful paintings on the sculpture against the bright blue of the sky. As usual, this image is a jpeg SOOC so no post-processing needed. It is based on my Superia 100 (Classic Negative) film simulation. The falloff at the top corners is not something I have noticed in other shots but here it is very apparent. I’m not too bothered by this as it’s quite reminiscent of the effect I have seen on film.

A Single Image | Feb 26th

A Single Image | Feb 26th

My mate Paul is a budding musician who’s been playing the saxaphone now for a couple of years. He’s been a great friend so I was really pleased to give him his first saxaphone, a student something or other, that I had from when I closed down my music shop a few years earlier. He’d mentioned his interest in learning the clarinet on several occasions and while I knew I had a clarinet knocking around somewhere, I couldn’t lay my hands on it at the time so I persuaded him to take the alto sax instead. Paul was somewhat reluctant but my way of thinking was, it’s free and you blow in to it so how different could it be!! Persuaded, he took on the challange.

Two years and a huge amount of practice later, Paul has without any doubt mastered the saxaphone, so much so that he recently asked if I would take a few photos for his facebook profile. Of course I said yes. Social distancing when taking photos is not paricularly difficult and current rules mean that we are allowed to meet one friend socially for some exercise and unusally, the sun was out so I felt that some nice colour shots might help him out.

The above shot is a one of a handful I took using the Fuji x-t1 with what I tend to call, a Superia 100 feel. Actually, looking at some old photos from the 90’s, I think it’s a cross between Fuji Pro 400H and Fuji Superia 100 but I’m quite happy with that. The Fuji x-t1 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of let’s say an x-t4 or x-pro3 so achieving something as “film like” as this is a real bonus for me.

For the most part, this image is SOOC but for those pixel peepers out there, I did add a small amount of grain using On1 PhotoRaw 2021. Sadly, there is no way to add grain in the x-t1 which to my mind and experience is what makes film look so uniquely different to digital. Anyway, here’s the Fuji recipe for anyone who’s interested in recreating or improving on this look.

  • Camera: Fujifilm x-t1
  • Lens: Viltrox 23mm f1.4
  • Target Film Look: Fujifilm Superia 100
  • Film Type: Pro Neg Hi
  • Custom White Balance: Grey card -1B -1R
  • EV: +1/3
  • DR: 400
  • ISO 800
  • Shadows: +2
  • Highlights: -2
  • Colour: -2
  • Sharpness: +2
  • Noise reduction: 0

I have to say that part way through the shoot I did reduce the ISO to 400 which results in the dynamic range being reset to 200 in camera and I also reduced the EV from +1/3rd to 0. This was because it was an incredibly bright day and the camera was shooting at such high shutter speeds that the electronic shutter was kicking in. No problem with this but I just felt I was pushing the envelope a little and backing off on the amount of light entering the sensor might yield a bonus. I cannot in all honesty say then that the shot shown above was at the exact settings I have outlined, it could have been at ISO 400, DR200 and EV 0.

Before I finish, a word on the Viltrox 23mm f1.4. This lens is crazy good for the money. Fast, sharp and colourful and a great addon to the Fuji x-t1. I have shot this lens with a few film simulations now, for example classic chrome, astia and pro neg but I come back mostly to the custom settings shown above.

SOOC – What, Why & How?

SOOC – What, Why & How?

Torquay Pier, February 2021
Torquay Pier, February 2021 SOOC Image

Spolier alert, this article is about using customised settings in your Fujifilm camera to create unique and interesting jpeg’s straight out of camera (SOOC). RAW shooters may want to turn away now 🙂

My interests in photography are coloured by the work of others, especially those involved in documentary, candid and so called street.  Photography of people doing everyday things in particular move me in a way that landscapes and formal portraits never have, despite the fact that I value them for the techical and aesthetic value they often bring to the table. This love of history and the photographers that trudged around the the streets 40, 50 and more years ago, push me inexorably to explore ways in which I can create my own style. This article looks at one such way.

While for the most part I’ve only been shooting digital for the past few years, my interests in photography go back to the 1970’s. My first serious camera was a Pentax KM complete with 50mm f1.8 kit lens although I also loved to play with Polaroid’s and instant film. Like most then I shot mainly in B&W, primarily because this afforded the opportunity to sit in dark cupboards and develop film but also because B&W was, and remains, enigmatic. It is as if by stripping away colour we are able to better see and enjoy the subject for what it is, rather than be confused by everything going on around it. Of course, I also shot in colour, why wouldn’t you, and although I preferred B&W as a medium for my photography, colour images of the day always offered a different take on the world primarily because of the limitations of the technology at that time and the vageries of the various emulsions on offer.

My first serious digital camera, apart from an old Nikon Coolpix from the mid 2000’s, was the Panasonic Lumix GX85 with a 12-32mm f3.5 kit lens. I updated the lens fairly quickly to the 12-60mm f3.5 although I have to say, that kit lens is a cracker. In fact, the GX85 was a great buy, technically capable of producing some great images despite its diminutive 16MP micro four thirds sensor. I still have that camera today but laterly, it’s been a little overshadowed by a move towards Fujifilm technology. It wasn’t supposed to be like this though, up until I bought my Fujifilm x-t1 I was looking to buy the Nikon Z6, newly released and getting excellent reviews. It was a chance article online where I learned about Fujifilm simulations, or so called straight out of camera (SOOC) jpegs that made me rethink that purchase. Although my GX85, and indeed my Nikon D600 and Canon G7 mkII all offered some interesting in-camera effects such as bleached bypass, monochrome, sepia, toy camera, vivid, subdued etc, none provided the tools to allow me to create my own unique style. Fujifilm did and that was a game changer for me because the one thing that I really wanted to do was to get closer to the tones and colours of my photography from the 1970’s. Fujifilm seemed the way forward to achieving that.

Although I could have waded in and bought the Fujifilm x-t3 or x-pro2, I decided to play safe and buy the older but very competent Fujifilm x-t1. My purchase, a 2016 model bought on Ebay, came boxed and still wrapped with all the extras for just £180. It looked brand new although how much use it had actually had I’ll never know. I also bought the 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens and a motor drive, to complete the setup figuring this would offer the perfect opportunity to explore SOOC without breaking the bank. If it was a success, I could always trade up or buy a second body, perhaps the x-t4 which was about to launch or even the x-pro3 which was an even better fit to my documentary interests.

So, what exactly is SOOC and why does it create so much interest? I don’t know about others but the attraction of SOOC to me is the ability to flavour what I capture through manipulating some of the key sensor parameters available to me. In the case of the x-t1 you start by choosing a base film emulation eg Classic Chrome, Pro Neg, Astia, Provia etc and then further modify this to provide a unique and interesting film intepretation. Factors you can control in the x-t1 include dynamic range (which is controlled by ISO), shadows, highlights, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction. Additionally, custom white balance with micro adjustments can be created to push or pull blues, push or pull reds. Changing any of these settings creates a new result SOOC giving the photographer access to literally an infinte number of looks to their jpegs.  

Of course to some people, especially those used to shooting RAW, why bother.  Jpegs after all have their colour and tone baked in and offer little scope for further processing without detriment to the original image. True. Fortunately, and like other systems, the Fuji is able to shoot both RAW and JPEG so you get the best of both worlds by choosing this option if you feel that the resulting output needs soem post-processing later. The primary difference to say Nikon or Sony is that, based on the ambient lighting and  your custom white balance, you are able to create a unique film-like jpeg SOOC plus you still have your RAW image to fall back on in post should you need it. The result of these manipulations to the jpeg is that they tend to have a milky, film like quality rather than the super sharpness you often associate with modern digital sensors. The image at the top of the page is an example of an unprocessed jpeg taken straight out of camera (SOOC) which uses various modifications to the tone curve as described above. I have also included a gallery of images at the end of this post that are created in a similar way, all SOOC from the Fuji x-t1. Later Fuji cameras BTW, such as the x-pro3 and x-t4 have even more features which provide for even better filmic experiences, for example the ability to add film grain.

The final part of this article is to look at the how in more detail. I mentioned that all of the images on this page have been created using a particular recipe. So that you better understand what this recipe looks like, I am going to outline the various parts in a little more detail. Importantly, this recipe is based on Pro Neg Hi, which pushes my jpegs towards Classic Negative or Fujifilm Superia 100 as it is better known. Superia 100 is a relatively unsaturated film stock pushed slightly towards blue and red. It has a harder tonality than say Pro Neg Hi which is can be achieved by adjusting the tone curve. Unfortunately, the natural start point for Superia 100 would be to start with a Classic Negative film emulation but this not an option on the x-t1 hence the reason I started with Pro Neg Hi and then modified the various parameters as explained above. So, here are the changes I made to the custom settings:

  • Film Type: Pro Neg Hi
  • White Balance: Grey card / B+1 R+1
  • Dynamic Range: 400
  • ISO: 800
  • Saturation: -2
  • Shadows: +2
  • Highlights: -2
  • Sharpness: -2
  • Noise Reduction: 0
  • EV: +1/3 – 2/3

This recipe is the base for all of the images on this page and as you can see, the ambient light conditions play a big part in what the final image looks like. Many photographers fall into the trap of labelling their images as Pro 400H, Superia 100, Portra 160 etc but in reallity I don’t feel that it’s possible to label a set of images in this way purely because as the light changes, so does the look of the image. I prefer to call my sets “like” Superia 100 as this is more appropriate in my eyes.

Fuji have in my eyes nailed the ability to take photography away from the pixel peepers into a whole new and exciting realm where the subject and composition matters much more that the sharpness of the image. Of course, my Sony shooting pals think I’m nuts but to me, it’s the imperfections in what I capture that make the image perfect for me.

The next phase of this particular “let’s get back to an analogue world” is to use my film results from the expired Superia 100 and Reala 100 films I have to help me fine tune my recipe. Although I love the Fuji x-t1 I fear that eventually I am going to have to upgrade to a later version in order to have access to some of the newer tweaks those cameras have with regards recipe formulation.

A not so nice day at the seaside!

A not so nice day at the seaside!

DSCF3340

The weather here at the moment is bloody aweful. Rain, rain and yet more rain. Oh, and grey skies!! While getting out and about isn’t a huge amount of fun at the moment, it does offer some interesting opportunities for photography, especially if you’re into street / documentary as I am. Normally I seek out umbrellas as I just love the images this prop creates but this photo is quite typical of others I search out. Here, i’ve gone for what is called SOOC (straight out of camera), a technique I have been leaning towards more and more recently as I’m a big Fujifilm camera fan. I’m also a big fan of analogue film so getting “non digital looking” shots is a pastime of mine. This puts me at odds with many of my Sony, Canon and Nikon friends who all seek pixel perfect shots of everything from daffodils through to mountains but even so, it’s a technique and a style I enjoy.  My most recent digital stuff also looks remarkably like the photos I have from the 60’s, 70’s and later so a big plus there.

This shot, taken with the Fuji x-t1 with Viltrox 23mm f1.4, is typical of the jpeg’s you can get SOOC with the Fuji. The recipe I’m using is based on ProNeg Hi with modifications to shadows, highlights, WB, noise reduction, sharpness and dynamic range (through manipulating ISO). Top end Fuji’s have even more options to play with such as more film stocks eg Classic Negative (Superior 100) and grain which adds to the analogue realism that can be achieved. Although this photo has not been processed in any way,  I might sometimes lift the shadows a little as well as add a little film grain but here I haven’t bothered as I just like the simplicity of the image. It’s quite nice not to spend hours on editing.

A Single Image | Feb 22nd

A Single Image | Feb 22nd

A quiet day today taken up mostly with paperwork. One bright spot was a short trip out to the park and a chance  encounter with two of our grand children who live quite close to us and who were down in the park playing. Ever willing to act as supermodels I was pleased to capture this one frame that I really liked.

The camera was the Fuji x-t1 with Viltrox 23mm F1.4,  a lens that I bought on recommendation but have had very little opportunity to use. My early thoughts that it lives up to the hype and for the price, it’s hard to justify buying more expensive Fuji glass. However, some additional time with the Viltrox will prove handy, especially if we get some better weather.

This image is SOOC jpeg and is based on a ProNeg Hi simulation recipe I created which is reminiscent of Fujifilm Pro 400H colour film. On older Fuji camera

DSCF3338

Hands on with the Viltrox 23mm f1.4

Hands on with the Viltrox 23mm f1.4

If you are thinking of buying the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 then hold on a moment, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s not pulling his punches!! The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is pretty much a no brainer when searching for the ideal 35mm equivelent street lens. With a full frame equivelent focal length of 35mm the Viltrox 23mm has to be one of the best bang for the buck prime lenses on the planet and an ideal companion lens for anyone shooting candid, street or documentary. Sure the Fuji version might be better optimised for use on Fuji equipment but I doub’t you’ll notice any difference whatsoever let alone anything significant. It’s an amazing lens at a steal of a price. I think mine cost me £230 here in the UK.

The Viltrox 23mm renders colour extraordinarily well, has very limited distortion and weighs practically nothing. Supplied with a lightweight metal hood, the Viltrox 23mm oozes class. It looks great, works great and feels great. It there is one tiny flaw it is that is has no detent on the aperture ring (distinct click) so you may inadvertantly open or close the aperture in use. Personally, I prefer a detent click but for £500 less that Fuji version, I’m not going to get too precious about that.

When I’m shooting lazy street I simply set the ISO to 800, aperture to f4 or f5.6, put the Fuji x-t1 on auto and start snapping. The autofocus is super quick so you simply can’t miss any shots with that setup. Why such a high ISO? It’s because I like to shoot SOOC and with the ISO set to 800 and dynamic range set to 400, the shots I get have maximum dynamic range. The photos above are from a while back when I had just bought the Fuji x-t1 so I think I was shooting classic chrome simulations then. Nowadays, I tend to use ProNeg Hi as the base film with DR400, ISO800 and EV +1/3 – 2/3rd but that very much depends on the light I’m dealing with. The images below are from today and these were taken at the same basic settings as above but with EV 0. I was using ProNeg Hi with a custom white balance based on the ambient light and a grey card. I set the WB at the beginning of every shoot as well as if the light changes throughout the shoot. If I was taking these images again now, I would use EV +1/3 just to lift the expsore a little plus I would probably softent the shadows. I suspect with this recipe I am using Shadows +2 whereas I think for this lens, +1 would be better. Something to think about for next time.

I personally don’t chase pixel perfection in my images. I’m a child of the 60’s so my earliest photographic moments were with a Pentax KM with manual everything. Nowadays, I prefer my images to look look like they were taken on an old SLR rather than a super sophisticated digital camera. If I wanted that I’d buy a Sony.

The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is something every Fuji shooter should have in their camera bag, whether you’re into landscape, candid or documentary. I personally wouldn’t use it for portraiture as I prefer a nifty 50mm or 85mm lens but it renders colours accurately so no reason why you couldn’t, especially for candid / street portraiture. The Viltrox coupled to the Fuji x-t1 is also something else. The x-t1 can’t compete with it’s younger sibblings e.g. the x-t3, x-t4, x100v or x-pro3 but my gosh, what a sweet camera to have with you when you’re out walking the streets. It compares nicely to my other favourite street camera, the Lumix GX-85 which when coupled to the 12-60mm is a dream boat of a date. These two cameras are simply amazing for street work but either will equally excell at portraiture or landscape given the right lens combo.

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

It’s no secret that I am a great fan of Fuji tech. I think that their X series in particular offers some amazing opportunities for photographers of all interests and abilities. Not only perfect in size, even the top of the range x-t4  is easy on the shoulder, but in operation too especially with those sexy retro dials and yester-year looks. Add to that the second-to-none jpeg engine every model of the x series has access to and we are talking special.

At the moment, my squeeze is the x-t1 pictured here. Old by today’s standards but no less a gold mine of useful functionality from the amazing viewfinder to it’s retro looks and styling. Show me another camera outside of the Fuji range, and I’m not an old-school SLR, that looks like this and I’ll (maybe) eat it. Now, don’t get me wrong, the x-t1 isn’t going to knock spots off even some of the lower end of the Sony range  but that’s not the point. It’s a joy to use, a joy to experiment with and it produces some great images, especially jpeg’s SOOC despite its diminutive 16Mp X-Trans II sensor. Recent enhancements bought Classic Chrome to the firmware making it possible to get somewhere close to vintage Kodachrome styled jpeg’s albeit that a little bit of tweaking is required in post to add some grain and modify the tone curve very slightly to get the true film experience. That being said, there are plenty of SOOC jpeg’s that will pass muster “as is” especially in the right lighting conditions. My personal preference for achieving a true film look is shooting contra-jour, or against the light as this just seems to roll off the highlights in a way very similar to film.

With regards lenses, to-date I’ve persevered with the 18-55 f2.8-4 kit lens, although I actually bought mine seperately from the camera, the Samyang 12mm f2.0 which I bought for a interior photo shoot and the Viltrox 23mm F1.4 which I have had little opportunity to use at present. Other than these, the 16-80mm f4 definately interests me as well as maybe something a little longer. That being said, I haven’t felt that I am overly limited in any way because I tend to shoot documentary and candid so you’ll generally see the whites of their eyes when shooting.

In terms of outlay, the Fuji x-t1 cost me just £180 in perfect almost unused condition, and I picked up the 18-55 on Ebay for another £180. I also splashed out £130 on the battery grip from MBP as I’d read this makes the camera so much more useful on long shoots. All in all, I put this kit togther for just £490 which I feel is a good price for what is an amazing bit of kit. Since buying the x-t1 it’s been my primary camera despite the fact that for candid / documentary I loved using the diminutive Lumix GX-85 with go-to 12-60mm lens. That’s a great street camera by anyone’s standards and well worth looking out for if you like the idea of a touch screen and a great menu system.

Given that you can pick up the x-t1 for a song, especially if you already have a cupboard full of x-mount lenses, the x-t1 makes an ideal 2nd body or even a primary shooter if you’re on a tight budget. It’s a great way to get started with Fuji and I’m pretty sure that it won’t be the last Fuji you buy.