Photoessay : The art of Tango

I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of Argentinian tango recently. The event took place in a dimly lit concert hall. There was a band on the stage and the chairs had been removed to make room for a space to dance. The musicians were lit with spotlights but the poor dancers had to make do with overhead neon lighting.

Tango 2
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

I took some photos of the band (click here), then some photos of the dancers. I sat cross-legged on the floor and did my best to capture the essence of the dance. This kind of tango is not acrobatic and not a show, it is about the relation and emotion between the dancers.


I used my fuji x-t1 and the 50-140 f/2.8 zoom lens. Focusing was always going to be difficult in this light with the dancers moving at quite a speed around the room. There were some instances where the couple was moving slowly and this is when I tried to grab some shots. I took the photos in bursts and cut down my collection of over 200 pictures to a select few.


I edited in black and white in Lightroom because I love black and white photos and I think in this case it helps bring out the essence of the dancers.

Tango 3
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

The camera reacted very well, focus was fast and precise. Very few photos were out of focus or blurry. I culled my collection to keep the few I preferred. The 50-140 lens is excellent with lovely rendering and a very good sharpness.

Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/125s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

As you can see, the photos are all taken at 6400 iso, the maximum the fuji x-t1 can take in raw. The x-t2 and x-pro2 can go up to 12800 iso with a usable quality. There was no way to slow the shutter speed below 1/125s because of the movement of the dancers. Sensor stabilisation is useless in this kind of photoshoot too, so the high iso capability of the camera is a great thing to have.

Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400

This XF50-140 f/2.8 is a keeper, it is versatile, fast, precise and built like a tank.

Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400
Fuji x-t1 + XF50-140mm f/2.8 @ 1/250s + f/2.8 + iso 6400








In search of Fuji colours.

If you have taken any notice of the hype around fuji cameras recently, you will have heard about photographers raving about “fuji colours”. Most of my work is in black & white, I rarely keep a photograph in colour. My viewfinder is in black and white as I use a film simulation in the camera while shooting in raw. I have been using the acros green simulation recently with my x-pro 2 and I find it great to see the exposure and the light in the frame. I have browsed many a time through wonderful landscape pictures on 500px wondering what kind of photoshop magic the photographer is doing to get such lovely colours… my own landscapes always looked a bit on the drab side, maybe it happens to you too.

All this until this summer when I experienced a truly magnificent sunset. I was camping with my family and one evening I saw a bit of light in the sky. I took my tripod, my camera and a couple of lenses and headed out to a bridge across the river Dordogne, about half a mile from the campsite. When I arrived, the sky was on fire! I have rarely witnessed such a beautiful sky. I set the tripod down and took a few shots, bracketing to make sure I got the right exposure. When I got home the files (that are often a bit disappointing) were full of beautiful oranges and pinks.

Fuji X-T1 + 23mm f/1.4 @ 1/4s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 23mm f/1.4 @ 1/4s + f/8 + iso 200

As far as processing goes, I use lightroom to check the highlights and blacks, then pop into Color Efex Pro 4 where I use colour contrast and dynamic contrast. I then dodge and burn a little and voilà. Less than 5 minutes on each photo.

Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4  @ 1/35s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/35s + f/8 + iso 200

The beautiful sunset light didn’t last long, you can see the contrasts changing in the shots. This second shot was taken 5 minutes after the first. I had time for one last photo.

Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/8s + f/8 + iso 200
Fuji X-T1 + 10-24 f/4 @ 1/8s + f/8 + iso 200

I blended 2 exposures in Lightroom, effectively making an HDR photo here because the bridge was getting too dark but the sky was still quite bright.

The conclusion of this article is simple : landscape photography is really hard! It is all about location, timing and luck. I really like the output the camera gives me and I can also now say that fuji colours are great, but I was lucky enought to be in the right place at the right time on the right day. I admire photographers who can turn out photo after photo of lovely landscapes, they are working hard!


The 35mm in street photography.

The 35mm lens (23mm on apps-c and 17mm on micro four thirds) is the most used focal length for confirmed street photographers. The other popular lenses are the 50mm that has been used for decades and the 28mm. For information on the 50mm focal length, click here and here.

Fuji X100T @ 1/210s + f/3.2 + ISO 200

After lauding the qualities of the 50mm focal length, why am I now saying that the 35mm is better? Well, I’m not saying it is better, nor that you should ditch your new 50mm! There are certain qualities to the 35mm lens that you should take into consideration.

Fuji X100T @ 1/350s + f/2.8 + ISO 200

First off, 35mm are more difficult to make so they are more expensive. More often than not, a photographer will start out with a nifty fifty and I stand by the idea that it is a great lens whether you are a beginner or a confirmed photographer.

Elderly lady
Olympus omd-em5 + 17mm f/1.8 @ 1/320s + f/2.5 + ISO 200

The 35mm lens is wider than the 50mm so to capture the same scene, you need to get closer. Frank Capa famously said : “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”. He is telling us to get closer, and that is intimidating to a lot of us. The fact of the matter is that if you a close to your subject, the photograph will have a more dynamic quality. The viewer will get the impression that he is in the scene. This focal length sucks us into the scene.

Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/2.5 + ISO 1000

In in more crowded areas it is often difficult to get far enough away from a subject to capture it. I’m talking about crowded streets, buses, metros. You may find that a 50mm is too long and it is not always possible to move backwards. To remain discrete in the streets, your movements must be natural. Moving forwards is natural, stepping backwards is not and you will attract attention. If you notice someone you want a photo of, pick up some courage, take a few steps towards them, raise you camera and take the picture. You’ll be surprised how often the person won’t even notice or be bothered about it. If you are shy, don’t make eye contact and move away fast. If someone challenges you, say hello and explain what you are doing. If the person is offended then offer to erase the photo. Don’t get into an argument for a picture, it is not worth it and it is important to respect other people’s wishes.

Dancing in the rain
Fuji X100T @ 1/125s + f/4 + iso 400

The wider angle of a 35mm lens enables you to capture quite a lot of background. That means buildings and also other people. You’d be surprised how this enriches a photo it carries much more information.  I’m persuaded that this gives your photography a timeless quality. People will always be people but buildings and streets change over time. When looking at old street photos, I often look around at the background and wonder at how our urban environment has changed over the years. This is also true for clothes and style too.

Fuji x100T @ 1/1000s + f/2.5 + iso 200

The wider angle gives a perspective distortion that you can use to good effect. A close up portrait with a 35mm might not always be flattering (with a bit of care you can still get a good portrait) but for pets it can be amusing.

Olympus omd-em5 with 17mm f/1.8 @ 1/80s + f/2.8 + iso 200





The 50mm in street photography.

Let’s start at the beginning. It is commonly accepted that a prime lens in preferable over a zoom in street photography. But why? There are several good reason:

  • First of all, a prime lens is smaller than a zoom and being inconspicuous is important. The camera is also smaller and fits into a smaller bag.
  • Prime lenses are lighter. You shoulder/neck/back will thank you.
  • Framing and shooting needs to be done quickly because in street photography a scene can be very fleeting. Sometimes you can find yourself moving your camera to your eye and before you can press on the shutter, the scene has changed, the moment is gone.
  • Prime lenses are reputed to have a better image quality than zooms, although IQ (image quality) is good to have, there a few bad lenses. More importantly, prime lenses are faster : ie. they let in more light. A good (expensive) professional zoom will open to f/2.8 but  a “nifty fifty” (cheap 50mm prime) opens to f/1.8. A better quality prime will open to f/1.4 and it will let in 4 times more light than more expensive f/2.8 lens at a lots more that the kit lenses usually sold with cameras.
  • Some prime lenses are very special in the way they “draw” the photo. Leica lenses have this reputation. I own the fuji x35f/1.4 and in my opinion, it has an extra something…

    Fuji x-e1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/4 + 1/2700s + iso 200

As you see the 50mm lens is a great candidate to be the street photographers friend. It is also the cheapest prime lens.

The first difficulty when starting street photography is getting close enough. When you are close, people will see you. That makes it all the more difficult to raise your camera and take a photo. The 50mm is a “normal” lens, it is wide enough to let you capture a scene and at the same time it is “telephoto” enough to let you stay far enough so you are not noticed.

Marché des Jacobins
Fuji x-e1 + xf35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/2000s + iso 200

The longer the focal length, the better bokeh you get when you are close to your subject. Bokeh is a Japanese word that means he visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image. It is noticeable especially in the highlights (the bright areas) of a photo. With a lens that has good bokeh, the subject is well separated from the background and stands out well. With a 50mm prime lens open at f/1.8 or f/1.4 it is relatively easy to get a good background separation. This is not the case with the standard kit zoom lens that is bundled with a lot of consumer grade cameras.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/280s + iso 200

The 50mm focal length is great for portraits as well. Be it a head shot or a head & shoulders shot, this focal length gives great rendition of faces. Beware though, it is not the focal length studio photographers use for portraits usually : a small telephoto (90mm to 135mm) is often preferred because you can stay further away from your subject while keeping a good bokeh and getting much less distortion on the face.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/2 + 1/1500s + iso 200

In conclusion, the 50mm prime lens is cheap and lightweight, versatile in the sense that you can capture a scene and grab a portrait, and you get fabulous image quality! If you are starting out in street, travel or documentary photography , you should seriously consider getting one.

Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.4 + 1/40s + iso 200

A few words on equivalence…

Photographers speak in focal lengths when talking about lenses. When I talk about the 50mm lens, I am talking about a focal length on a 24×36 film camera or on a “full frame” digital camera. Most of us own a camera with a small sensor called apps-c, micro four thirds, 1 inch or even smaller. There is a “crop factor” to consider in these cases so that the apparent focal length stays the same. (That also goes for the aperture of the lens in the way it blurs the background). A smaller sensor give less blur.

  • On an aps-c sensor (Fuji x series, Nikon D3000, Nikon D5000, Nikon D7000 series, Sony 6000 series etc) the crop factor is 1.5 and 50/1.5 is roughly 35 so a 35mm lens on this sensor will give you the same field of view as a 50mm on a full frame. I own the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 and I say it is my 50mm lens.
  • Canon apps-c sensors have a crop factor of 1.6. Their crop sensors are smaller.
  • On a micro-four thirds sensor, the crop factor is 2 so you need a 25mm lens.
  • On smaller sensors there are no interchangeable lenses to my knowledge now that the Nikon 1 series is discontinued…(just a rumour so far…)
Fuji X-T1 + XF35mmF1.4R @ f/1.8 + 1/1500s + iso 500


Upgrade from X100T to X-Pro 2 : is it for the image quality ?

For those who are not fuji fans, the x-trans II and III are the sensors in the fuji interchangeable lens series.They are both aps-c size sensors mesuring 23.6 x 15.6 mm (compared to what is called full frame that measure 36×24 cm).  The first 16 megapixel x-trans sensor came out in 2012 on the x-pro 1 camera and was also used in the x-e1 and x-m1. In january 2013, the x100s, successor of the orginial x100, was introduced, sporting the new x-Trans II sensor. In October 2013, the x-e2 was introduced using the same sensor, then the x-t1 (2014), x100T (2014)  and x-t10 (2015)..

As of January 2016, the X-Trans III (24 megapixel) is the new shiny sensor in the Fuji world. This sensor is also used in the new X-T2 (September 2016).

I have recently upgraded from the X100T (the one with the hybrid viewfinder) to a X-Pro 2 (and the new hybrid viewfinder). The main reason I upgraded is the newly announced 23mm f/2 lens. It is calling to me already! I can now have a x100T-like camera with weather sealing and the abilty to carry an extra lens if I feel the need. And sometimes I feel like using the 35mm feld of view for my street photography, sometimes the 50mm.

The body of the x-pro 2 is heavier however.  (440g for the x100T lens and all vs 495g body only). We are talking full magnesium alloy for the x-pro 2 body and and mixture of aluminium and magnesium alloy. Don’t get me wrong, the x100T is solid, but the x-pro2 feels good!

So now on to image quality : from 16mp to 24mp. With all the hype around the x-pro2 and x-t2, I’m entitled to thinking I’m going to get a whole new level of picture quality, so I took a few pictures with my x-pro 2 and with my x-t1 (because I sold the x100T but they use the same sensor). The lens I used was my beautiful 35mm f/1.4 and the 23mm f/1.4.

1) Details


I took a photo of the same closed down pub in our town, one with the x-pro 2 and one with the x-t1. I then did a 100% zoom on each picture.


The difference in detail is obvious. The photo on the x-pro 2 is 6000 x 4000 pixels. On the x-t1 it is 4896 x 3264. This is very good news for printing very large formats and for those who like to crop their images while editing. You can take off 1/3 of the picture and get the 16mp of the x-trans II sensor. I like macro photography too, and in that field framing is not always very easy to get right.

2) Dynamic range.

I overexposed by 3 stops the following photo.


In Lightroom, I then reduced the exposure by 2 stops and used the Hightlights slider at 0 to recover what I could. Here are the results:


Yep! Not much differnce there! The skies are white and the cobble stones too. What is gone is gone forever… so don’t overexpose your highlights. I’ve found that I can recover about 1 stop and thats it.

I also did a shadow recovery test but the x-t1 photos came out with a lot of flare…So here is a before and after shot on the x-pro 2 shooting into the sun.


I added 1.7 stops of exposure, set the shadows to 100 and the highlights to 0. No hdr needed here! The x-trans sensors have excellent dynamic range, the shadow recovery is extraordinary.

The next photo is taken in the doorway of a local museum.


With the same settings, the x-pro 2 shows more detail in the shadows which gives a natural look to the photo while retaining detail. When I pushed the shadows up and highlights down, here is what I got.


The same picture on both cameras!  I can’t see much difference here. I’d say the dynamic range is the same in real world use.

3) Noise

I went into our Cathedral and shot a statue at ISO 6400.


This is a slightly cropped version with the x-t1 (16 mp x-trans II) sensor. I find it very usable indeed. Notice the blow out highlights wooden base (on the right). At ISO 200, I think I could have pulled those back but here at ISO 6400 they are gone.

Here are a couple of crops at 100%. I had to downsample the 24mp x-pto2 photo to show the same amount of detail.


I can’t see much difference… and when I try the x-pro 2 at ISO 12800 (the x-trans II sensor can go up to 6400 max in raw)


The noise is noticeable worse here but the detail is still there mostly and with a bit of processing I think I could get a decent quality picture out of this.


A quick look at the different aspects reveal little difference between both sensors in dynamic range and in noise levels. The huge difference is the pixel count. There is a 50% increase between the 16mp x-trans II sensor and the 24mp x-trans III sensor. It is no small feat to keep the same image quality while reducing pixel pitch. I imagine the new X Processor Pro is working hard in the background !

My conclusion is simple : if the only reason to upgrade to a camera with the new sensor is the image quality then cost seems unreasonable. I have got large prints (70cm x 50cm) with the x-t1 (and also with a micro four thirds olympus e-m5) and cannot see any failure in the image quality.
The major upgrade from the x100T to the x-pro 2 (apart from being able to change the lens) is the autofocus, the new hybrid viewfinder, the dual sd slots, the new layout of buttons (I can do everything with one hand), the new menus, the mult-meter exposure setting, the joystick to choose autofocus points, the number of configurable buttons, the new acros film simulation, the new mechanical shutter that goes to 1/8000s … the list goes on and on. The x-pro 2 is part of a new generation of cameras.