Road Trip: Bonneville Salt Flats, Wendover, Utah

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Kids At The Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

The Bonneville Salt Flats are an otherworldly place in Utah near the Nevada border, just outside of the town of Wendover, along Interstate 80. It’s a remnant of Lake Bonneville, which was a giant lake that covered a significant chuck of Utah plus parts of Idaho and Nevada. The Great Salt Lake is also a remnant of Lake Bonneville.

You’ve likely seen this place before, even if you’ve never been there. Almost 50 movies, documentaries and television shows have filmed scenes at the Bonneville Salt Flats, including Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds EndIndependence Day and Con Air. Plenty of television commercials and advertisement shoots have taken place in the stark and salty landscape. Award-winning photographs have been captured there, too.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are perhaps best known for fast cars. The Bonneville Speedway is a section of the salt flats that has been set aside for motor sports. Many land-speed records have been set there, including a couple that exceeded 600 MPH! Even if you are not racing, many people take their cars out on the salt flats for fun.

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Bonneville Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

This was my second trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats and the first for my family. It might seem like this is just a flat and bleak desert, but upon close inspection there is plenty to find interesting. The kids had fun just exploring. The place is surprisingly photogenic, and it seems like every exposure is a keeper.

I used my Fujifilm X100F for a few of these shots. I was teaching my wife photography, and so she had that camera for most of the trip. The camera that I mostly used was my Fujifilm X-A3 with the 16-50mm zoom lens attached. Even though it is a cheaper camera model, it did just fine capturing great pictures.

All of these images are camera-made JPEGs. About half of the images captured using the X-A3 received some light post-processing using Nik Color Efex or Nik Silver Efex, and a few saw a little more robust editing. Many of them are straight-out-of-the-camera JPEGs using the different film simulations. I hope you enjoy these pictures that I captured at the Bonneville Salt Flats, an unusual place that’s unusually good for photography.

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Welcome, It’s Bright – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Salt Exploration – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Kids & Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Exploring The Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Deceiving Distances – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Baby On The Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Mountains Beyond The Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Salty Sasquatch – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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45 MPH Road – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Racing Stickers – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Almost Flat – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Desolate Desert Wandering – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Hopeful – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Umbrella Boy – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Salt Water Reflection – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Hills Beyond The Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Amanda, The Boys, Bonneville Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Joshua & Umbrella – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Stark Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Bonneville Bright – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Jon & Joy Exploring Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Salt Flat Fire – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Sky’s The Limit – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Sun Roof – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Salt & Light – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Inhospitable – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Rays Over Wendover – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Desert Circles – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Salty Tree Stumps – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Wendover Will – Wendover, NV – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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Concrete Curves – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

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A Sad State of Affairs – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm

Fujifilm X100F Firmware Update 2.1

Not a whole lot to get excited about, but Fujifilm just released firmware update 2.1 for the X100F. The update allows you to customize some display items. It also adds some functions when using Fujifilm X Acquire, which is their tethering software.

It’s a big deal that Fujifilm continues to update their products, even long after they were introduced. Many companies don’t do that, so even though this firmware update isn’t particularly robust, I’m still happy that it’s available.

My Fujifilm X100F CineStill 800T Film Simulation Recipe

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I had never even heard of CineStill 800T film until a couple of weeks ago when a Fuji X Weekly reader asked if I could help him develop a film simulation recipe that mimics the look of it. This film didn’t exist back in the days when I shot a lot of film. Even though companies like Fujifilm are slowly discontinuing some of their 35mm films, other companies have been introducing new ones. CineStill 800T falls into the latter category, as CineStill has only been around since 2012.

CineStill 800T is Kodak Vision3 500T motion picture film that’s been modified for use in 35mm film cameras and development using the C-41 process. It has a “cinema” look, which means that it doesn’t have a lot of contrast or color saturation, as motion picture film is rarely as punchy as most still picture films are. The “T” in the name means tungsten, which is a fancy way of saying that it is not white balanced for daylight (typically 5500K) but for artificial light (3200K). Even though the unmodified film is rated at ISO 500, the modified version is rated at ISO 800.

I searched the web up and down looking for photographs captured with this film to get a good idea of what it looks like. I’ve never used it myself, so I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of what the aesthetics are. I hope to someday try CineStill 800T, but I have probably 25 rolls of unused 35mm film that I’m looking at right now, and in 2017 I shot a grand total of three rolls. So far in 2018 I’m at zero. I just don’t shoot all that much film anymore, especially after purchasing the Fujifilm X100F.

I discovered that CineStill 800T is an excellent high-ISO color film. The options for good quality high-ISO color film are very slim as most color film that’s ISO 800 and higher look especially bad. There are a few good choices, all of which I believe have been discontinued over the last several years. CineStill 800T definitely looks like one that I would have used if it had been around 15-20 years ago. It seems as though that it is mostly being used for portraits under artificial light and after-sunset street photography, although there are plenty of examples of it being used in other situations.

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Where Was Your Head That Day? – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

The issues with nailing down some good settings to mimic the look of this film (particularly in light of the fact that I’ve never used it) are that, when looking at an image online, I don’t know how much the process of scanning the image has changed the look of it, I don’t know what was done post-scanning to adjust it (if anything), and if filters were used during exposure to change the white balance (a common film practice). Some people provided good notes with their pictures, and this helped tremendously, but most did not, and so I was left guessing. Despite these shortcomings, I think I was able to get a look that’s pretty close to CineStill 800T. It might not be 100% exact, but I believe it to be close enough that you could probably convince some people that you used the film instead of your digital camera.

Initially I was just doing this recipe to help out a reader and for the challenge of it, but I’m pretty happy with the results and I might continue using it occasionally in the right situations. It’s not something that I’d want to use all of the time, but in the right moments it looks quite nice. It has an analog feel and certainly a different “look” than what most people are creating with their X100F. I simulated using three rolls of 36 exposure film to get the pictures seen in this article.

PRO Neg. Std
Dynamic Range: DR200
Highlight: +3 (+2 when there is a bright light source in the image)
Shadow: +1
Color: -1
Noise Reduction: -3
Sharpening: +1
Grain Effect: Strong
White Balance: 3200K
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: 0 to +1/3 (typically)

Example photos, all camera-made JPEGs, using my CineStill 800T Film Simulation recipe:

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Pavilion Roof – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Watering Days – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Blue Bird – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Jets – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Red & White Floral – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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New Bloom – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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White Spring Blossoms – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Blinding Blue – S. Weber, UT – Fuji X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Jon Laughing – S. Weber, UT – Fuji X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Spoonful of Sugar – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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City Intersection – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Moving Trax – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Down Main Street – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Inside Looking Out – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Anxious To Cross – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Hospital Nights – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Hamburgers – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Red Circle – Farmington, UT – Fuji X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Lamp Post – Farmington, UT – Fuji X100F – “CineStill 800T”

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Max Illumination – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “CineStill 800T”

See also: My Fujifilm X100F Fujicolor 800 Superia Film Simulation Recipe

Lens Review: Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II

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I purchased a used Fujifilm X-A3 camera for $400 a few months ago with the intentions of using vintage lenses on it. The camera, which, by the way, is a great bargain, producing image quality that fits somewhere in-between X-Trans II and X-Trans III, came with the cheap kit 16-50mm lens attached. I was planning to sell this lens to bring the cost of the camera to somewhere near $275-$250 (figuring that I could get around $125-$150 for the lens). I had no intentions of keeping the kit zoom, but after capturing a few images with it, I decided not to sell it after all.

The lens, official called Fujinon Super EBC XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II, is Fujifilm’s bottom end zoom lens that usually comes paired with their cheaper cameras. In fact, starting with the X-A5, it’s actually been replaced by a new kit zoom. By all means this lens should be garbage. It’s meant for beginners. It’s meant for amateurs. It’s meant for cheapskates. It’s not meant for serious photography. Or is it?

There are some reasons why the lens is cheap. It’s mostly made of plastic and feels like it wouldn’t take a whole lot to break it. On the flip side of that coin, it’s very lightweight, which is a significant plus. The lens lacks an aperture ring like most other Fujinon lenses. The largest aperture, available only at the widest focal length, is f/3.5, which isn’t particularly fast. At the telephoto end the largest aperture is f/5.6, and there’s nothing impressive about that.

To make matters worse, there’s some significant corner softness at f/3.5, and it doesn’t completely go away until f/8. Diffraction begins at f/11, although it’s not really a problem until f/16, so the range where this lens is at peak sharpness is quite narrow. Thankfully, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are very minimal and there’s only a tiny amount of distortion, even at 16mm.

So what is there about this lens that convinced me to keep it? Three things: focal length, close focusing and sharpness.

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The focal length of 16-50mm, which, because this is an APS-C lens, is equivalent to 24-75mm in full-frame terms, is just about perfect for an everyday walk-around lens. Almost-but-not-quite ultra-wide angle at one end, and portrait-length short-telephoto at the other end. It’s a very versatile range of focal lengths. Even though it seems like there’s no real difference between 18mm (the typical kit zoom wide-angle focal length) and 16mm (the wide-angle focal length of this lens), it’s actually quite significant, and 16mm is noticeably more dramatic.

I was surprised at the close focus distance of the 16-50mm lens. At the wide-angle end, the closest focus distance is a little less than 6″. At the telephoto end, the closest focus distance is a little less than 14″. What this means is that it’s not quite a macro lens, but it is not far from it, and it is possible, with a little cropping, to do some borderline macro photography. It also means that if you place the subject as close as possible to the end of the lens (but where you can still focus on it), it’s possible to achieve a narrow depth-of-field and separation from a blurry background. And the bokeh on this lens is actually pleasant.

The biggest surprise for me with this lens is the sharpness. I was shocked, really. When in the sweet spot, which is roughly f/6.4 to f/10, the lens is crisp edge-to-edge, with sharpness that’s on par with a lesser prime or higher-end zoom. It’s definitely sharper than one would expect for an inexpensive zoom! At f/5.6 center sharpness is still very good, but the corners are just a tad soft; however, it’s still an excellent aperture. As you open up the aperture from there (which become increasingly available as you zoom out) the corners become softer, as does the center, and by f/3.5 you get mediocre (but still usable) results. Diffraction begins at f/11 but it isn’t really noticeable until f/16, and even then it’s not a huge deal.

The Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II lens has an MSRP of $400 brand new, and I would never pay that amount for it. You can find the lens used pretty easily for under $200, and I’ve seen them as cheap as $100. I was planning to sell mine for somewhere around $150-$125, and for that price it’s well worth having, even if you only use it occasionally. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, has a great focal length range, can focus close and is quite sharp when in a narrow range of apertures. It has some flaws, but they can be worked around. It’s certainly possible to capture great photographs using this cheap zoom. While Fujifilm made this lens cheap, they didn’t sacrifice on the optics, and it becomes obvious in use that this is indeed a Fujinon lens.

Example photos:

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45 MPH Road – Wendoever, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/10

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Kids At The Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/11

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Welcome – Lake Point, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/4.5

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Dry Brush – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

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Red Tree Berries – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

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Sky’s The Limit – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/10

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Stark Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/9

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Pyramid – Antelope Is. SP, UT – Fuji X-A3 & 16-50mm @ f/10

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Ivy Leaves – Ogden, UT – Fuji X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/8

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Penned Horse – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

The Camera Comparison That Almost Happened – Or, I Bought A Broken Sigma DP2 Quattro

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Sigma DP2 Quattro

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

A few weeks ago I found a used Sigma DP2 Quattro for sale from a large camera store for a ridiculously good price. It claimed that the camera functioned properly and was in good shape, with only some minor signs of wear. I quickly snatched it up!

I was excited to give the camera a try. Several years ago I owned a Sigma DP2 Merrill, and it was simultaneously the best and worst camera I’ve ever used. It was incredibly slow, frustrating and particular, but, in the right conditions, it delivered amazing image quality, better than any camera I’ve ever shot with. Some of the issues that I had with the DP2 Merrill had supposedly been improved with the DP2 Quattro, while also delivering even higher quality images, so I didn’t want to let the opportunity to purchase it pass me by.

Now the Sigma camera isn’t necessarily expensive. It has an MSRP of $1,000 but can pretty easily be found brand-new for $900, and it can be had used for about $700 if you shop around. That’s still a lot of money to drop on a camera considering that I could spend that money on other things, such as feeding my four kids. Like many people, I have a limited budget to spend on camera gear, and so I have to choose what I will purchase wisely. I saw the chance to buy what was supposedly a great condition DP2 Quattro for under $600, so I clicked “add to cart” and figured that if I didn’t like it I could turn around and sell it without much trouble.

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Sigma DP2 Quattro & Fujifilm X100F

I was particularly excited to do a side-by-side comparison with the Fujifilm X100F. I was already planning on how to write the article to post on Fuji X Weekly, even before the package arrived. I thought it would be fun to see how these two very-different-but-kind-of-similar cameras would perform when pitted against each other.

Sadly, when the package arrived, after charging the battery, I discovered that the Sigma DP2 Quattro that I had purchased was a dud. It was broken. The rear screen would flash alternating purple, green and white and nothing else. It would not capture a photograph or recognize the SD card. Besides that, it was not in the condition that had been advertised, and it looked like the previous owner didn’t take good care of it. It was not at all what was advertised on the website.

The camera store offered to fix it or give a refund. I chose refund. I didn’t want their junk. Thankfully it wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a waste of my time. I’m disappointed that they would be deceitful about the condition of their used item, and it might not have been intentional, but it was deceitful no less. I won’t be buying from them any time soon, if ever. The whole situation is too bad.

The lesson, if there is one, is if something seems like it’s an unbelievable deal, there’s probably a reason for it, and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself disappointed. At least that’s my take on it.

Back To Basics: Exposure Triangle

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My wife, Amanda, approached me a few weeks ago and asked that I teach her photography. I was honored, and, really, I was hoping that this day would come. She’s creative and has an interest in art, but she’s never had a fascination with the camera. I’ve always tried to include her, one way or another, in my photographic pursuits. To say that I’m happy that we can do something photographically together would be an understatement. I’m thrilled to teach her photography!

One thing that I realized is that the Fujifilm X100F is an excellent camera to learn photography on. It has easy-to-access manual controls. If you want to learn how to use a camera, the auto functions need to be disabled. You learn by doing. You learn by messing up. You learn by practice. Each exposure is an educational opportunity. My wife is learning photography on the X100F one frame at a time, in a similar way that I learned photography one frame at a time on a Canon AE-1 two decades ago.

Her first lesson was on exposure and the exposure triangle. I thought it might be helpful to some Fuji X Weekly readers to bring my wife’s lessons to written words and share them here. Even if just one person finds it useful it will be worth the time it took to type this out. If you’re the person who keeps everything in “A” because you’re not sure what it all means, I invite you to continue reading.

In photography, exposure is the amount of light that reaches the sensor or film combined with the sensitivity of the sensor or film to light. There are three aspects that determine exposure: aperture, shutter and ISO. In a moment we will look at all three in-depth, and how they affect each other, working together to make an exposure.

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The goal is to achieve a correct exposure. Not enough light and the frame will be underexposed. Too much light and the frame will be overexposed. The window for a correct exposure is actually very narrow. It doesn’t take a whole lot of variance to move outside of a properly exposed photograph.

That brings up the question: what exactly is a correct exposure? The answer is subjective, and there is a bit of grey area. One picture might look good dark, or what some may call “low key” and what some might consider underexposed. Another picture might look good bright, or what some may call “high key” and what some might consider overexposed. Due to the limitations of the sensor or film, there is an issue where highlights can become overexposed and lose details, and this is known as “clipped highlights.” And there is an issue where shadows can become underexposed and lose details, and this is known as “blocked shadows.” Camera sensors and film have a limited ability to capture the full spectrum of tones, and this is known as dynamic range.

Exposure is a balancing act, where the picture is appropriately bright for whatever the subject is, and clipped highlights and blocked shadows are kept to a minimum, except in cases where they are purposefully included for effect. What exactly that is must be determined by the photographer. It’s the photographer’s job to decide what exposure is most appropriate for the subject.

There are tools to aid the photographer in determining the correct exposure, and the main one is a light meter, which reads the light and displays what settings it thinks would be good for a proper exposure. All modern cameras have a light meter built-in. There are usually a few different options: spot, center and matrix. The Fujifilm X100F has spot and center meter options, and two different matrix options called multi and average.

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Spot metering reads the light in just one location of the frame and ignores everything else. Center metering reads the light in just the center of the frame and ignores the edges. Matrix metering takes readings at different places within the frame and determines what would be the correct settings based on what it finds all over. There are reasons to use each of these, and in different situations one option will produce better results than the others.

Even if one doesn’t have a light meter, there are rules of thumb that could help determine the correct exposure, such as the “Sunny 16” rule. If the scene that you are photographing is in bright sunlight, then the ISO and shutter speed should be (roughly) the same number (e.g. ISO 100 and 1/125) if the aperture is f/16. From there you could figure out the approximate correct exposure no matter the lighting conditions. It’s not important to remember this rule, I simply wanted to illustrate that with knowledge and experience it’s possible to be able to fairly accurately guess proper exposure even without the assistance of a light meter.

Many cameras, including the X100F, have a histogram, which is a graphic display of the luminous tones in an image. It shows exactly where the highlights and shadows fall. Some photographers use this to determine if an image is or will be exposed correctly. Many cameras, including (again) the X100F, have the ability to give a clipped highlight warning, and some people use this as an aid to determining correct exposure.

Another method that is popularly used is exposure bracketing. Typically one will set up the camera to make three exposures (with one press of the shutter release button), with exposure compensation set to -1, 0 and +1. It can be customized to be different than that, but the idea is to underexposure and overexpose (as well as properly expose) what you believe is the correct exposure, just in case you got it wrong. One of the three will most likely be right.

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In my opinion, the single best tool for achieving correct exposure is to review the image on the back of the camera. Take a picture, and if it’s too dark increase the exposure and if it’s too bright decrease the exposure. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The fact is that most cameras nowadays have phenomenal light meters that will give you the correct exposure 95% of the time. It’s just a matter of verifying that it is indeed correct, and making adjustments if it’s not.

I mentioned earlier that aperture, shutter and ISO work together to make the exposure. All three of these functions will change the brightness of an image. The value settings of each are called “stops” and adjusting them one way or another will either double or half the light from that feature. To make things more complicated (and precise), many cameras also have intermediate stops (usually 1/3 stops, sometime 1/2 stops) in-between the regular stops.

The aperture is an opening in the lens that controls the amount of light that’s allowed to enter the camera. On the X100F this is adjusted by a ring around the lens. Common settings, known as f-stops, are f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, and f/16, although some lenses also have larger and/or smaller apertures. The smaller the number (for example: f/2) the larger the opening is in the lens and the larger the number (for example: f/16) the smaller the opening is in the lens. Obviously the largest opening will allow the most light in and the smallest opening will allow the least light in. Aperture f/4 will allow half as much light to enter the camera as f/2.8 and twice as much light as f/5.6.

The aperture does more than just regulate light. It also controls the depth-of-field, which is the amount of the image that’s in focus, and can effect things like sharpness, chromatic aberrations and vignetting. For a large depth-of-field (lots in focus) choose a small aperture such as f/11. For a small depth-of-field (little in focus) choose a large aperture such as f/2.8. Typically, although not always, the middle apertures tend to be the sharpest. Oftentimes the largest apertures will be less sharp away from the center of the frame, and the smallest apertures suffer from diffraction, which softens the entire image.

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Amanda & The Boys, Bonneville Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3

When setting the exposure, it’s important to consider what aperture you want in order to achieve an appropriate depth-of-field and maximize image quality. For some images a large aperture may be required, for others a small aperture might be necessary, and for some a middle aperture could be best. It’s up to the photographer to determine this.

The shutter is like curtain that briefly opens and closes, and it controls the length of time that light is allowed to hit the sensor or film. Most of the time it’s a tiny fraction of a second. On the X100F this is controlled by a knob on top of the camera. Some typical settings are 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, and there are many others, including “B” which allows you to control a long shutter speed. Yes, those numbers are fractions of a second, and you’ll notice that they double or half the length of time that light is allowed to enter the camera.

A quick shutter will freeze motion while a slow shutter will show things that are moving as a blur. If you want something that’s moving fast (kids, pets, automobiles, etc.) to be sharp and not blurry, a shutter speed that’s also fast must be selected. How fast exactly depends on the speed of the object and its proximity to the camera, but 1/500 is a good starting point. You might find that 1/250 or even 1/125 will work, depending on the situation. If you want something to be blurry, such as a flowing river or panning (which is when the subject is sharp but the background is streaked), then something slower must be selected, and 1/15 or 1/30 might be appropriate.

The slight movement of the photographer holding the camera can cause blurring, known as camera shake. To prevent this, the slowest shutter speed that one should choose is the same number of the lens focal length. For example, the lens on the X100F is 35mm (equivalent), and so the slowest handheld shutter speed should be no slower than 1/30. For anything slower than that a tripod should be used. Using good techniques I’ve been able to achieve sharp results handheld using the X100F with a shutter as slow as 1/4, but I’ve also experienced camera blur when not using good techniques with the shutter set to 1/60. It’s important to use a steady hand, brace yourself if possible, and regulate breathing when using a slow shutter in order to prevent camera shake.

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Caramel Macchiato – Sandy, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/4 – shallow depth-of-field

The shutter does more than just regulate light. It controls how motion will be shown in an image. Will moving objects be frozen still or will they be a blurry streak? It’s the photographer’s job to select an appropriate shutter speed that will allow motion to be shown in a manner that the he or she wishes.

ISO, which is sometimes called ASA or film speed, is a value that represents the sensitivity to light of the sensor or film. Digital and film work a little different with regards to this, but the outcome is similar. Low ISO images will look clean while high ISO images will look grainy or noisy (grainy being a film term and noisy being a digital term). On the X100F the ISO is controlled by a ring around the shutter knob.

Once upon a time ISO was a big deal, because what we now would consider high-ISO looked pretty awful, especially for color photography. Most photographers would keep the ISO as low as possible, and many tried hard to never venture above ISO 400. Those days are gone thanks to advances in digital technology, and most cameras nowadays are capable of producing good results to ISO 3200, and some cameras can go much higher than that. I find that the X100F looks good at ISO 6400 and can sometimes look fine at ISO 12,800.

Even though ISO choices aren’t nearly as critical as they used to be, the best image quality results are still found at the lower ISOs. It’s still a good practice to keep the ISO as low as the situation will allow, and only increase as necessary. But don’t be afraid to go higher when needed, and don’t hesitate to use ISO 6400 on the X100F when the situation calls for it.

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Old Log In Zion – Zion NP, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/11 – large depth-of-field

Typical ISO values are ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, although some cameras and film have ISO values that are higher or lower than those. Increasing the ISO value doubles the sensitivity to light and decreasing the ISO value halves the sensitivity to light. ISO 800 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 400. ISO 200 is half as sensitive to light as ISO 400.

Adjusting the aperture, shutter or ISO by one stop has the same effect. It’s should be pretty easy to see how they relate to each other. If your light meter told you that the correct exposure is aperture f/8, shutter 1/125 and ISO 400, you can manipulate those settings and still maintain a correct exposure. For example, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/250 and ISO 400 would give you the same exposure because, with these new settings, the aperture is letting in twice as much light while the shutter is open for half as long. Aperture f/4, shutter 1/250 and ISO 200 would also be the same exposure. Aperture f/16, shutter 1/60 and ISO 800 would give a correct exposure, too. You can adjust the settings any number of ways, you just have to think about how much each adjustment, either plus or minus, is changing the exposure, and then compensate with a different aspect of the exposure triangle.

Your job, then, is not only achieve a correct exposure, but to have the right depth-of-field by selecting an appropriate aperture, to either freeze or show motion through the shutter speed, and to have as clean as practical image through the ISO selection. You might have to sacrifice some things if the lighting isn’t just right. You might have to choose a larger aperture than you really want to. You might have to select a slower shutter speed than you really want to. You might have to use a higher ISO than you really want to. The photographer must decide what’s most important and what can be bent a little. A lot of times it’s not about being perfect, but about being as perfect as practical while considering what you can get away with.

If you are learning photography, this is a lot to take in at one sitting. My recommendation is to take the camera out of “A” and just take some pictures, playing around with the different settings. You probably won’t capture anything great right away, and you might even delete most of the exposures, but you’ll learn quite a bit through the process. Don’t be worried about making mistakes. This is about learning how it all works so that when the time comes to capture a great photograph you’ll have the technical know-how to do so.

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Kiki – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ 1/240 – frozen motion

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Ghostly – Fort Casey, WA – Fujifilm X100F @ 1/6 – blurred

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Girl By The Escalator – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ ISO 8000 – noisy image

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Walking Man – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ ISO 400 – clean image

 

Fujifilm X100F Aperture Series: f/2 – Ordinary or Extraordinary?

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This is the first in a series of articles on the Fujifilm X100F’s different apertures. While I will write words for each article, it is more of a photoessay. I hope that you enjoy the photographs!

When I purchased my Fujifilm X100F last July, I immediately put it through the rigors to figure out how to best use the camera. I wanted to discover its strengths and weaknesses. I took some test shots at all of the different apertures, and looked at things like center sharpness, corner sharpness, vignetting and chromatic aberrations. One conclusion I made was that aperture f/2 was the weakest. The corners were soft. The center wasn’t nearly as crisp. There was some minor vignetting and even a tiny amount of chromatic aberrations. Things improved noticeably by f/2.8.

Interestingly enough, Fujifilm lists the softness of f/2 as a feature on the X100F. I figured that this was nothing more than marketing drivel, claiming a weak point about a product as a reason to purchase it. I dismissed this aperture, deciding to use it only when absolutely necessary. Of all the apertures, f/2 seemed the most ordinary, the one to be the least excited about. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until recently, after many months of using the X100F, that I discovered there is actually something very special about f/2. There were a lot of pictures that I could have used this aperture with, and they might have turned out even better. Instead, I opted for f/2.8 or f/4, which are fine apertures, but they don’t contain the magic that is found at f/2.

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Island Joy – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

I liken f/2 on the X100F to Antelope Island State Park in Utah. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. As you drive in you are greeted with a rotten egg smell. The landscape is often bleak, like it drew the short end of the stick, almost-but-not-quite desert. Then you discover the bugs: biting and non-biting flies, swarms of mosquitoes, brine flies that literally cover the shore like a cloud, wolf spiders, black widow spiders, and orb weaver spiders that seem like they’re everywhere. The beach looks inviting, but it’s a long walk out there and when you finally arrive to the water you realize that it’s kind of gross. But put all of that aside, and the place is amazing with a unique beauty. There’s something about the reflections in the still water and how the mountains and rocks rise from the grass that can be breathtaking! Wildlife abounds, including bison and deer and so many different birds. It’s hard to put into words, but the place has the “it” factor for me that keeps me returning over and over with my camera. Even though Antelope Island shouldn’t be a great place to visit with all of its shortcomings, it really is wonderful.

Aperture f/2 on the X100F has plenty of shortcomings, but it also has the “it” factor. The way it renders photographs, which is sometimes almost dream-like, can be stunning. The shallow depth-of-field, which, when used correctly, separates the subject from the background wonderfully. One has to set aside the test charts and other such nonsense and just use this aperture in the real world to appreciate it. Now that I know this, I want to use it all of the time. It is indeed extraordinary!

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Pillars – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Joy As Sacagawea – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Girl Fingers – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Tirelessly Determined – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Jon Laughing – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Eight Car Joshua – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Flamingo Baby – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Aspherical – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Max Illumination – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

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Fireplace – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100F @ f/2

f/2.8  f/4  f/5.6  

Coming Soon: Fujifilm X100F Firmware Update 2.1

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Fujifilm announced that sometime in “late April” a firmware update will be released for the Fujifilm X100F. What’s new? Nothing exciting. The 2.1 firmware update allows you to customize some displayed information on the LCD or viewfinder. No big deal, unless that’s something that you’ve been itching to do.

All the other X-Trans III cameras are set to receive more robust updates. Last time around the firmware updates included more for the other cameras, and less for the X100F. It’s my understanding that’s how things typically go for the X100 series.

Don’t be surprised if this is the final firmware update that Fujifilm puts out for the X100F. I could be wrong about that, but my feeling is that the new X100 camera, which will include the new 26-megapixel stacked X-Trans IV sensor, will be announced before the year is over, and once that happens that will end all “kaizen” love for the X100F.

But this is nothing to be upset about. There is no reason to be down in the dumps. Fujifilm certainly doesn’t have to offer these kinds of updates. Most camera makers only update their camera’s firmware to fix bugs and not to offer improvements. The fact that Fujifilm goes above and beyond is something that we should all be very thankful for, even if we didn’t “get what we want” when the new firmware was announced.

I’m very happy with my X100F and with Fujifilm in general. I think it was a great decision to buy the camera, and I don’t regret it for a minute.

 

X100F Firmware Update Coming Soon

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According to Fujirumors, Fujifilm plans to announce a firmware update for the X100F on Thursday April 12th. No word yet on when the update will be available or what it will entail, but I’m always glad to see things like this.

One thing that I love about Fujifilm is that they keep improving their cameras through firmware updates, even years after it was originally released. Other companies typically only offer firmware updates to fix bugs. While Fujifilm also uses firmware updates to fix bugs, they’ll often throw in some upgrades and even do so when there are no bugs to fix. They call it “kaizen” which is a Japanese business term that means “continuous improvement.”

The number one thing that I’d like to see addressed in a firmware update for the X100F is the ability to custom set the red and blue white balance adjustments with each preset. Right now I have to remember that my Vintage Kodachrome recipe needs +2 red and -4 blue and that my Superia 800 recipe needs -2 red and -3 blue, and that other film simulation recipes have their own custom adjusted white balance settings that need to be set each time I select them. It’s kind of a pain, not a huge deal, but it could be fairly easily fixed by Fujifilm.

I think another possibility, and the one most likely to happen, is that the Eterna Film Simulation could be added, which right now is only available on the X-H1. I speculated that only cameras capable of 4K would get it, but I hope that this update proves me wrong. There is a remote possibility that the ability to shoot 4K on the X100F could be made available through this upcoming firmware update, but I would not hold my breath for that one!

When the last firmware update was made available for the X100F, which was back in December, I was hoping to get some of the upgraded auto-focus features of the X-T20, X-E3 and X-T2, but it didn’t happen. I’m still hoping for that, and there is a chance that it could happen, but, like 4K, I doubt it’s going to. But it’s something that I’d be happy to be proved wrong about.

Whatever will be included in the firmware update, even if it’s nothing major, it’s good that Fujifilm continues to offer improvements to the X100F. We’ll soon know exactly what it is, as Thursday is only a few days from now. Stay tuned!

 

 

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 3: Industar 61

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Part 1 – Helios 44-2  Part 2 – Jupiter 21M

The Industar 61 is another vintage Soviet Union lens that I’ve paired with my Fujifilm X-A3. This lens came attached to a FED 5c 35mm rangefinder that I purchased for $40 a decade ago. I really appreciate the photographs that I’ve captured with it on the film camera. I used to also pair it frequently with an X-E1 that I once owned. It’s an excellent lens with plenty of character.

My Industar 61 was made in 1983. It has an M39 screw mount (some were made with a M42 screw mount) and a focal length of 55mm (some versions have slightly different focal lengths). Because of the crop factor, it has an equivalent focal length of about 82mm on the X-A3. Even though it was intended as a “standard” lens it’s more of a “portrait” lens on the Fujifilm camera. The maximum aperture is f/2.8.

This lens is a German knockoff. It’s basically a modified Leitz Elmar 50mm f/2.8. It is very sharp but with some significant pincushion distortion. It’s known for “soap bubble” bokeh, which is highly sought after by some photographers. There is a radioactive coating on the lens, and that might frighten some people, but it’s safe to be around, since only a tiny amount of Lanthanum was used in the production. I find that it delivers a slightly warmer tone than other lenses, even on digital cameras.

What’s great about pairing the Industar 61 with the X-A3 is that it’s a small and lightweight setup. The lens is smaller than the kit lens that came with the camera. It sticks out about as far as the X100F lens does with a lens hood. It can fit into a large pocket. I’ve carried the X100F in one jacket pocket and the X-A3 with the Industar 61 in the other. It’s great for travel or street photography.

You can find Industar 61 lenses for next to nothing (and the adapters are usually about $10), and for very little money you can add a quality manual-focus prime lens to your camera. No doubt about it, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this lens and then some. While the Industar 61 isn’t my favorite lens to attach to my X-A3, it’s still a good lens that certainly has its place.

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Patio Lights – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Red Knobs – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Be Careful – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Industrial Patriots – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Coffee & Paper – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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To Go Cup – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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– Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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SP & UP Railroad – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61