It was a glorious day in Austin, Texas. The temperatures were mild, the skies were clear and blue and with the NCAA Swimming National Championships in town there is swimming in the air and beautiful swimmers all over downtown soaking in the Austin vibe. Rumor has it that the Stanford team is doing some of their practices at my home pool, WHAC.org. Of course I went out for a walk with a new lens. Think of it as the break in period. And what a nice day on which to do it.
So, what lens are we talking about?
It's the recently introduced 8-16mm f2.8 XF (Red Badge) lens from Fujifilm.
The lens has somewhere over twenty elements and many of them are either aspheric or some other speciality glass. The lens is big and heavy so it's not my first choice for a "walk around" lens on any of the Fuji cameras. Here's what the lens has: a short zoom range of 8-16mm. A non-changing maximum aperture of f2.8. A very nice aperture setting ring. Weather sealing. A permanently attached lens hood. No front filter ring and a big, fat front element. It also has sharpness. Lots and lots of sharpness.
While I'm not very cozy with wide angle lenses I'd like to do more architecture and industrial photography and the consensus is that having a few good wide angle lenses might be a positive thing for dealing well with that sort of work. I much prefer those telephotos that are just a bit longer than a "normal" lens but I'm trying hard to figure out what my wide angle vision is and how to nurture it. I know from endless reading and some lucky shots that it's great to have a foreground element in order to create more impression of depth. And I definitely know that, if I am foolish enough to attempt doing portraits with the lens, I should never put my portrait subject on one edge or the other. If I want any chance at selling a portrait with this beast it will be because I put the subject directly in the center and that someone other than the subject is actually paying for the assignment.
I am keenly aware from reading reviews on both Lenstip.com and OpticalLimits.com that the lens measures well and produces very sharp files but that some of the performance superiority comes from crafty software corrections and enhancements. Had the lens been introduced in the days before built in lens profiles I would have my doubts about its value proposition. Since I can't see the faults through the opaque machinations of the software I'm blissfully unbothered by theoretical limitations due to it's actual optical performance. If it looks sharp and it measures sharp then I'll just applaud the work of the programmers and venture forward.
I picked up the lens from Precision Camera yesterday, along with a second lens which I hope to test out tomorrow. I have only had a few hours to walk around and get used to shooting such a wide angle view. I've read that it's at its very sharpest at 12mm and at f4.0 but I tried all sorts of combinations with it. It's big but handles well. It's heavy but then most fast, well made zooms are. Is it worth $2,000. USD? I have no idea if it's worth that for anyone but me. From my point of view the right project pays for the lens and then I get to use it again and again. If I were shooting just for fun???? Right, I'd just be shooting with the old 50mm on some ancient (but perfect) body.
More to come but I'll try to do some sort of from memory captioning on the images below.
Shot at 14-16mm f5.6
Shot at 8mm f5.6
Shot at 12-16mm on f5.6
Shot at 8mm at f5.6
I have my fingers crossed for luck. Luck that I'll learn the ins and outs of shooting wide.
So many people seem to like crazy, wide. Maybe I'll become acculturated.