18mm f/2 vs. 27mm f/2.8

Somewhat to my surprise, this is a comparison I’ve not only had requested, it’s also a search term that lands more than a few people on my site. These lenses really only have two things in common, and that’s size and weight. It would seem lots of people are after an X100S form factors, but aren’t sure which of these two lenses will do it best.

Because the focal lengths are so different, I’ve left the pixel-peeping image comparison out. They may be added in the future, but for now, lots of impressions, comparison images, and even a few charts should help with which of these two tiny lenses you should get for a small interchangeable kit.

Read 18mm f/2 vs. 27mm f/2.8 here.

Get a grip

To all my American friends, if you’ve been putting off buying the X-T1, now might be the time to click “Buy!” Us Canadians were fortunate enough to get a free VG-XT1 vertical grip when we preordered the X-T1. B&H are making the missed promo up to you guys by providing the grip and an extra battery for $200 off. Not too bad.

As I noted in my review, the ergonomics of the VG-XT1 are fantastic, and maybe even better than the actual camera for some. I haven’t done as much event shooting as I once did lately, but when I do, you better believe I’ll have the VG-XT1 affixed to my camera.

Get yours here.

FUJINON XF 10-24mm f/4 vs. Primes

After much too long, my comparison of Fuji’s excellent 10-24mm ƒ/4, and the prime lenses its focal range covers is finally online. If you’ve been wondering which way to go, zoom or prime, this should really help you out.

Pitting one lens against many has resulted in one monster of a comparison, but I kept things as clear and concise as possible. I think you could easily bypass the pixel-level scrutiny entirely and still come away with a great understanding of how these lenses perform. For those of you you like poring over the 100% crops, you’ll definitely have your fill. Enjoy.

FUJINON XF 10-24mm f/4 vs. Primes

XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

What a handle. Fujifilm have announced their XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, and they’re getting a little carried away with the initialisms in their product names. We now officially have a new one, one whose purpose has been amended in the marketing materials, and another that’s been updated.

“WR” Weather Resistant

20 points of sealing, but Fuji are once again conservative with their language, and playing it even more safe. Weather Sealed sounds safer to me than Weather Resistant does, but Fuji state their latest lens features a “…dust-proof and weather-resistant design…”. I guess that air ventilator inside the bottom of the lens barrel is what allows them to make the dust proof claim. Does this mean the end of dust inside the the front and rear lens elements? Dust proof sure makes it sound that way. I’m interested to experience the improved feel and smoother operations the air ventilator also provides.

“LM” Linear Motor Technology

Not new technology, but based on the press release, this looks to be responsible for “near silent operation,” and not much else. Previously this feature was noted as being responsible for the 18-55mm’s compact size and fast autofocus. Perhaps the 18-135mm isn’t small enough to warrant the first claim, but I think copywriting may have let them down on the second. Anyhow, I don’t recall ever finding the 18-55mm, or anything other Fuji lens particularly noisy, so it will be interesting to see what kind of difference this newly described tech makes. Likely none.

OIS

Image Stabilization is now up to 5 stops thanks to high-precision gyro sensors with quartz oscillators. Fancy. If Fuji have actually achieved that, it’s an impressive feat. I remember getting excited about a mere 2 stops not that long ago. It makes me wonder what sort of handheld shutter speeds we’ll be able to get out of this lens.

Impressions

I have to admit that I’m not super excited about this lens. Its release has only made me more anxious for Fuji’s forthcoming FUJINON XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8. The 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 starts out pretty slow at the wide end, clocking in at just under ⅔ a stop slower than the XF 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 at the wide end, and just gets slower from there. About the only thing that excites me about this lens its weather sealing (or resistance), and what its new features should mean for yet to be announced lenses.

If you shoot landscapes in poor conditions, a good strategy might be to buy the 18-135mm now, use it for 6 months until the 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 comes out, and then sell it privately. You’ll lose a little bit on it, but it could be considered an extended rental. It also might be a decent option for those looking for a single, rain-or-shine lens solution. For travel it could easily be the only lens you need provided you aren’t shooting anything that’s moving quickly in poor light.

If you do decide to purchase the FUJINON XF 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, please consider using one of the links below for your preorder. You won’t pay a cent more, but it helps support the site and keeps me testing. Thanks!

 

Heavy Issues

I tend to get a bit obsessive when it comes to weight. I’ll agonize over things like bag purchases because of what material they’re made of and, as a result, how heavy they are. When it comes to tripods, carbon fibre wasn’t a possibility, it was a certainty. I employed the same methods when building a bike and ended up with a ride that goes everywhere with me, lest it get stolen.

Image courtesy of Fujifilm

Image courtesy of Fujifilm

Size and weight are the two main reasons I switched from DSLR to mirrorless, and while Fuji’s clever marketing graphic doesn’t perfectly illustrate the evolution of my gear, it captures the sentiment perfectly for me. I have evolved into a more nimble photographer thanks to “downsizing” my camera system, which also allowed me to downsize other things like my tripod.

The reduction in weight means I’m much more willing to bring my gear with me. I had become a vacation and special events photographer when it came to personal photography with my DSLR. Now I find myself with a camera and shooting much, much more.

Find out how much weight can be saved by going mirrorless in my article, Heavy Issues, Mirrorless vs. DSLR weight.

FujiCloud

Now that I’ve had a couple days to consider Apple’s WWDC announcements, I put together some thoughts on how they will, or could, impact us as Fuji photographers. Perhaps the initial response is one of dread, doom, and gloom. Yes, Apple is opening up the iPhone’s camera API to allow for manual control, but as I’ve stated elsewhere on the internet, we are a long, long way from a smartphone becoming my primary camera. I use my iPhone for photography when it’s all I have or for less important images like pictures of prices and dimensions of furniture or images headed directly to one social network or another. Smartphones are perfectly capable of producing great images, but I don’t enjoy using them as a camera, and will always have that nagging feeling that the image could be better if shot with a proper camera.

 
 

The things I think will be interesting for Fuji shooters are Apple’s cloud offerings, and the potential for Fujifilm within their app. With the iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Drive announcements, even more people could switch over to using an iPad as their primary photo management and editing platform, complete with remote backup of all your photos.

Initially this might mean shooting JPEG as iPads and RAFs don’t exactly play well together where editing is concerned.1 Even that might be ok—since switching over to Fujifilm, I’ve been shooting JPEG a lot more—but this is where Fuji needs to step in. What’s stopping them from giving their iOS app the ability to process RAF files the same way their cameras do? In fact, now that I think of it, why doesn’t it already?2 Fuji could also conceivably let users shoot “tethered” wirelessly to an iPhone or iPad. JPEGs get pushed merrily along, complete with GPS coordinates to the Photos app and then to the cloud, RAFs sit in the app waiting to be processed out to JPEGs. RAFs could also be stored on your iCloud Drive,3 or deleted when you’re done editing or your device runs out of space. Making use of extensions, our photos will gain access to VSCO filters via their iOS app which is considerably more affordable than their desktop alternative. That’s just one example of photo-editing.

Even if the idea of using an iPad exclusively doesn’t sound appealling, iCloud Drive offers some great potential features. Go on vacation, shoot for a day, then copy all your photos to your iPad. They’ll be backed up, and waiting for you to edit back home on your Mac.

In short, I hope Fuji have their devs working hard on adding as many iOS 8/Yosemite/iCloud features as possible, as soon as possible. Getting my photos onto my iDevice needs to be even faster and easier than it is now. There are too many hoops to jump through, too much back and forth connecting, reconnecting. I want to open my Fujifilm app, select my camera, and start mucking with images. I want to edit on my devices with real Fujifilm X-Trans demosaicing algorithms and Lens Modulation Optimizers.4 This, in my opinion, is how Fuji will come away from the smartphone camera slaughter as unscathed as possible, and ahead of their competition. By embracing it.

  1. There should be no trouble storing RAF files on your device, and iCloud via Fujifilm’s app.
  2. Manually processing photos in-camera is not fun.
  3. At $3.99/month for 200GB, this is a decent-sized photo library and isn’t a bad price for a remote backup of all of it. Now if only Fuji offered lossless compression of their RAF format.
  4. Not Adobe’s reverse-engineered Camera profiles.

Zeiss X-Mount Deal

I’m not normally one to do deals posts, but this just landed in my inbox. If you’re looking to round out your X-Mount prime collection, now is the time to do it. B&H Photo have Zeiss’s Touit 32mm ƒ/1.8 and 12mm ƒ/2.8 lenses on sale as a kit for $919 USD. That’s the cost of the Fuji’s 14mm ƒ/2.8 on it’s own right now. It’s better than a two for one deal.

I don’t have experience with the 32mm ƒ/1.8 yet, but my tests comparing the 12mm ƒ/2.8 lens to the 10-24mm ƒ/4 and 14mm ƒ/2.8 are showing it to be a worthy opponent. It’s not quite as sharp as the 14mm ƒ/2.8, but those extra 2mm make a remarkable difference. Wide-angle nuts will appreciate Zeiss’s offering.

Buy the Zeiss Touit 32mm ƒ/1.8, 12mm ƒ/2.8 package from B&H

For my fellow Canadian Fuji fans, this deal might be even better. Remember that “photographic lenses” are duty free. You can happily order from B&H and only pay the taxes and a few other very minor fees. It ends up being about $1,060 USD, or $1,150 CDN total with taxes 2-6 day shipping if you let B&H handle customs clearance. That’s $100 less than the 12mm alone before tax here in Canada.

Already have one of the Zeiss lenses or either the 14mm ƒ/2.8 or 35mm ƒ/1.4 already? You can grab either Zeiss for $200 off which isn’t too shabby.

Filters for “Protection”

I remember buying my first expensive lens—Nikon’s 18-200 super zoom—like it was yesterday. It was hopelessly out of stock just about everywhere, but I stumbled upon one at “Japan Camera” in my once sleepy local mall, and snapped it up. With that lens mounted in my trusty D70s, I was ready for anything. Soon after, I walked into Henry’s1 to inquire about a Circular Polarizer. The sales-guy asked, “For what lens?” As I proudly swung my camera ’round to show off my new baby, the sales-guy gasped and exclaimed “You’re running that thing ‘naked’?!?”

He totally got me. While I knew I could probably find a “protective UV filter” online for less money, I didn’t want anything to happen to my precious before I got it. The sales-guy hammed it up, carefully placing the LCD-side of my camera on a cloth, took out his Rocket Blower, and gingerly puffed what little dust might have found its way on the front element like he was performing heart surgery. Out I walked with a genuine Hoya Super Duper HMC Deluxe filter with about 8,000 coatings and 99.999967% light transmission or whatever.2

I bet a lot of you reading this have similar stories or have seen sales-people in action, preying upon an unsuspecting lens purchaser with a filter to protect their “investment.”3 I heard the “protective UV filter” line at Exposure just this past weekend and couldn’t help but cringe.

I’ve learned a lot since that filter purchase. First of all, that 18-200 was pretty terrible, optically. Secondly, if I want constant “protection” for my lens, I’ll use the hood, which can improve picture quality, rather than degrade it. For those of you who want to keep your lens as compact as possible and hate the idea of sticking a huge hood on the end of your lens, leave it at home, leave the filter locked up behind the counter, and take some care not to smash the front of your lens into tree trucks.4

Now before you pop open a new tab to search for that example of some dude who dropped their expensive lens and was saved by their $100 filter that smashed into bits, I’ve probably already seen it. Yes, accidents can happen. I myself dropped my Nikon 24mm ƒ/1.4 lens on a hard tile floor, denting the front filter ring. That is not an inexpensive lens, I was careless, and it cost me. The repair was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250. Ouch. It would have been fine if I had the hood on. It might have been fine if I had a filter on, but you know what? I haven’t bought a “filter for protection” for any of lenses I’ve owned since then, and I’ve owned a lot of lenses. There is no doubt that I’ve saved significantly more not buying filters for all those different lenses5 than I’ve spent repairing lenses due to lack of protection.

Of course there are other reasons for attaching a neutral clear filter6 on the front of your lens. Some hate lens caps, preferring a filter in their stead. Others shoot at company parties where cocktail spills are a certainty, not just a slim possibility. Totally understandable, but if you’re not in hazardous conditions and you’re after absolute lens acuity, shed that filter with impunity, never mind dust, get yourself a Rocket Blower, and put your hood on to reduce flare and really protect your lens.

 
  1. The largest photography chain in Canada.
  2. No matter how good the glass is, at certain angles it will refract light. This is another problem I have with putting a piece of glass that doesn’t alter my image creatively in front of a very expensive lens. If you have to protect your lens, get a hood.
  3. Unless your lens appreciates in value, it isn’t an investment.
  4. See video.
  5. Step-up rings will only cover so many sizes, and having to swap lenses is already a pain. I can’t imagine having to swap filters too.
  6. This is the kind you want, not a UV filter which doesn’t nothing for digital cameras outside of degrade picture quality and cost more. I personally like Hoya’s HD line of filters for anything that’s not neutral density where I go for B+W’s 10-stop “3.0 1,000x” filters.