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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

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

sensor_size_1

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.

sensor_size2

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.

highlights

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:

highlights_2

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.

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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.

shadows_1

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.

shadows_2

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.

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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.

noise_6400

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)

noise_12800

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.

Conclusion

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.