Monday, March 16, 2015

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY PRIME TIME in NEW YORK with the FUJIFILM XF 23mm 1.4

New York remains my nr 1 “Street Photography paradise”. Even more pronounced than Paris, the opportunities for a street photographer in this mega-hub are endless! 

Ny gifts

Whenever I go to the Big Apple, I try to do at least a few hours of hardcore street-photography, preferably shooting Black and White with a prime lens. For you non-photographers out there, a prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal lens; the opposite of a zoom. As an example, your iPhone or Android phones all have prime lenses. 

Last week, I got a Fujinon XF 23mm f1.4 lens on loan from Fujifilm Middle East, which I took to New York. I do own the 27mm pancake lens (right in the image above), but have been hesitating to purchase the 27mm (left in image above) for a while.

What is below, is not going to be a full on review, but rather a practical look on how I used the lens for my street photography in New York city.

So why a 23mm prime?
Depending on who you speak to, scientists claim that humans see around a 24 to 35mm focal length. Given I shot the lens on a 1.5 cropped sensor, i.e. Fujifilm X-T1; the 23mm becomes a 35mm full frame equivalent.

Waiting for the subway

The advantage of using a prime lens for street photography, is that one quickly learns to see in a specific focal length and after a while will know exactly where to stand to frame a perfect shot; this even without looking through the viewfinder. 

Like your trousers

As it has the same focal length, the lens is often compared to the Fujifilm X-100 series, of which I tested and reviewed its latest iteration in a blogpost called; "Two weeks on the road with the X-100T".

Obviously the size and weight of the X-100T are considerably less than the 23mm lens mounted on an X-T1. Image quality wise, I found that the latter is a little bit better; but only ever so slightly. It is very sharp all over the frame, even at large apertures; unlike the 27mm I own which is a remarkable lens for its size in the center of the frame, but not so much on the edges.
What are you waiting for?



Negatives
There are very little things I don’t like about this lens, but the size of the lens-hood is one of them. The 23mm is not exactly very small to start with, but the huge lens-hood which is included is clearly overkill! Online research, reveals that I’m clearly not alone; some photographers have bought a cheap metal hood which screws on the 62mm filter thread. These mostly seem to fit well, causing no or minimal vignetting.




The second one being the aperture ring, which is a little too loose for my liking. On more than one occasion I changed to aperture without knowing; not a showstopper but something to be aware about!
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Positives
Overall I'm very impressed with the XF 23mm f1.4 lens. The metal lens feels top quality and creates outstanding image quality. It has the same "pull for manual focus" ring of the 14mm f2.8, which I'm a fan of! When pulling the ring backwards, a hyperlocal focus scale is exposed, something which is especially useful for street photography.

I had been playing with the idea of picking up an X-100T for my street photography, but this 23mm prime might do the same job

Settings
One of the main advantages of the X-100 series, was the fact that one can shoot 100% silent. After the latest X-T1 firmware update, I can now do the same with the electronic shutter and this is exactly how I shot in New York!

Grafitti in Manhattan

Other settings I commonly use for Street photography are, black and white with the yellow filter, RAW or RAW+jpeg, Face detection ON, Auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/250s and a max ISO of 3200. 

I used to shoot a lot in manual focus using the hyper-focal technique, but given the face detection auto-focus has become so good, I almost have completely given up on it!

My favourite time to shoot in Manhattan is when the sun sits low on the horizon. As the light bounces of the buildings it makes for some dramatic images.


Cool guys

My preferred way of shooting candid street photography is by shooting “from the hip”; I often pretend fiddling around with my camera settings while taking shots. 

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Another great tip to shoot candids is pretending to take a shot of for example the top of a facade and then eventually taking the actual frame while checking out the so called first image on the LCD. An example can be found below.

You are weird

The X-T1 tilt screen has also been a great help in getting different perspectives! 

Those shoes are not made for walking...

One should not discard shooting in and around the New York subway; it is full of great photo opportunities and security seems to be fine with it...

Subway driver

When shooting in the trains, I often try to frame interesting photos by using the background of some of the advertisements displayed.   

Those shoes are not made for walking...

It looks like another Fujinon lens, will join my lens arsenal soon!

BJORN








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