Many years ago, Ansel Adams photographed the Arizona desert in black-and-white. Many people might be unaware that he was a regular contributor to Arizona Highways magazine back in the day. Adams’ photographs of the desert have been an inspiration to me even before I captured a single exposure in Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not trying to compare myself with the legend. What I am saying is that Arizona and black-and-white photography go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s something timeless about it that just makes me feel good on the inside. It brings me back to those classic pictures by Ansel Adams that I carefully studied back in the early years of my own picture-making. As colorful as Arizona can be, to me it looks best in black-and-white.
I’ve passed through Nevada many times, often only stopping for gas or lunch. It never seems to be my destination. I’m headed somewhere else, and I have to go through the Silver State to get to where I’m going. While I have stayed longer than a few hours, most of the time I’m through Nevada so quickly that it’s easy to forget that I was ever there. The photographs in this article were captured during those times where I just passed through, and didn’t stay. In fact, many of them were captured from inside my car. I hope that you enjoy this set!
Part Two coming soon!
The Asahi SMC-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is a legendary M42-mount lens made by Pentax in the mid-1960’s through the mid-1970’s. There are four different versions of the Takumar 50mm f/1.4 that were manufactured. The first version is optically different from the three that followed. Versions three and four are Super-Multi-Coated and are slightly radioactive (version two might also be radioactive, but the first version is for certain not). My copy is the fourth version. Some say that the original version is better, while some say that versions three and four are better. There are endless debates, but, regardless of which Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens you have, you can be assured it’s a great lens!
The Asahi SMC-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is super sharp in the center at all apertures. Even at f/16, which is subject to diffraction, the lens is pretty sharp. Below f/4 there’s some noticeable corner softness, which is quite pronounced at f/1.4. There’s vignetting when wide open, but that disappears completely by f/4. From f/4 to f/11, this lens is “tack as a Tak” (as the kids used to say), and that’s where it optimally performs. I noticed some chromatic aberrations when wide open and focused close to the end of the lens. There’s a little distortion that you’ll only notice when photographing brick walls, and even then you’ll only barely notice. It’s a tremendous lens, no doubt about it!
A lot of people talk about bokeh, and it’s a misunderstood term. People get it confused with depth-of-field. The Takumar 50mm f/1.4, which when mounted to my Fujifilm X-T30 is equivalent to 75mm, has an excellent close focus distance of about 18 inches. That’s not quite macro territory, but when you combine the focal length with the close focus capabilities and the very small maximum aperture, it’s possible to get a super thin depth-of-field. This means that you can get a whole lot of the frame out-of-focus, which some people call bokeh by mistake. Depth-of-field is the amount of blur, while Bokeh is the quality of the blur, and it is subjective. Bokeh is pretty darn good on this lens, although in my opinion the Fujinon 90mm f/2 actually has better bokeh, if you want something to compare it to. Still, you won’t be disappointed by the blur, whether the amount or quality, especially at the larger apertures.
The coating on this lens, which controls flare only moderately well, has a yellowish tint that shows up in pictures. It’s easy to correct with white balance if you don’t like it, or perhaps it adds to the charm of the lens if you do like it. I personally like it. The lens has pretty good contrast. It feels solid and well built. It’s about average size and weight for a vintage “nifty-fifty” lens. You’ll need an M42 to Fuji X adapter to mount it to your Fujifilm camera.
The Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is an all manual lens, which means that you’ll have to adjust the aperture and focus yourself. The aperture ring and focus ring work very well on my copy. It may take some practice to get the hang of using it if you don’t have much experience with manual lenses. I used full-manual cameras for many years when I shot film, so I actually enjoy it, as it’s a bit therapeutic for me.
The Asahi SMC-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is an excellent vintage lens! It really is something special. It’s not perfect from a technical standpoint, but it’s those flaws that make it special. It’s super sharp and will produce lovely pictures. This is one of those must-have lenses if you enjoy manual photography. Below are some pictures that I captured using this lens with a Fujifilm X-T30. Enjoy!
I love Arizona! It is perhaps the most beautiful state in America. Some might disagree with that sentiment, thinking that the desert is dull and brown, but I find it to be a colorful and diverse landscape. Others might consider California, Colorado or my current home state of Utah, or perhaps another state like Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, etc., to be more majestic, and they are each certainly majestic, but to me Arizona is at the top of the list, and my heart belongs there.
My family and I like to travel to Arizona whenever we can, which is usually once or twice each year. A few weeks ago we visited some family of ours in Phoenix, and of course I brought my Fujifilm X-T30 along, with a Fujinon 35mm f/2 attached to the front. I appreciate this setup for travel because it’s small and lightweight enough to not get in the way, yet can produce some stunning pictures. The film simulations I used were Velvia, Kodachrome 64, and “Classic Negative” (for Quit My Job). This wasn’t a photography trip, but as always I captured a number of pictures. I hope you enjoy!
Fujifilm’s autofocus is inferior, apparently. There’s been a buzz on the web lately about autofocus. There have been several tests recently comparing the autofocus capabilities of different camera brands and models, and Fujifilm hasn’t come out on top, and sometimes they’ve come in last place. There’s been a lot of negativity towards Fujifilm in response to these articles, and I want to talk about that.
I have no problem whatsoever with these articles. There’s always something, no matter how hard one tries, that someone points out as unfair in these type of tests. It’s the nature of it, and it’s nearly impossible to be completely fair and unbiased. There’s always something that you didn’t consider, there’s always an apples-to-oranges situation, and somebody will undoubtably point it out. I think it’s important to understand this, as taking these types of articles with a small grain of salt will alleviate some of the frustration that comes with them. In other words, don’t take them as gospel, even though they mean well and might contain useful information.
When I started out in photography, autofocus existed, but many cameras (mine included) didn’t have it, and autofocus wasn’t very good on those cameras that did have it. The best autofocus systems of 20 years ago are embarrassing when compared to those found today. That’s not surprising as technology advances quickly. The best autofocus systems of 10 years ago aren’t as good as the “worst” found in any of those cameras that were recently tested. Sony, Canon, Nikon or Fujifilm, it doesn’t matter which one “wins” and which one is rated last, as they are all great! No one could imagine 20 years ago that autofocus would become as good as it is today, and the autofocus found on “pro” cameras 10 years ago aren’t as good as some “entry level” cameras today. Context is key.
It’s easy to get caught up in the results of autofocus tests, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter in practical use. Just because one camera did slightly better than another doesn’t mean that you’ll “get the shot” with one camera and not another. You’ll either get it with both or you’ll miss it with both, because the skill and vision of the photographer is far more important than the technical capabilities of the camera in hand, especially when the differences are so narrow. Cameras are tools, and one tool might work a little better for you than another, but they’ll all capable of getting the job done just so long as the photographer is also capable. One camera over another won’t make you a better photographer.
I don’t doubt that Sony’s autofocus is superior to Fujifilm’s. They’ve been working at it a heck of a lot longer, so they should be. What I argue is that it doesn’t matter, or if it does matter, it matters very, very little. Those saying that Fujifilm desperately needs to “catch up” or else are speaking hyperbole. A lot of the reactions I have seen have been overreactions. Instead of celebrating just how far autofocus has improved, people seem to be far more concerned about being ranked number one. Trust me on this: it doesn’t matter one bit. Fujifilm has made significant progress, and they’re continuing to do so. Autofocus on X-Trans II cameras is plenty quick and capable for most people and circumstances, yet it doesn’t compare to X-Trans IV. There comes a point where the improvements are more “gee whiz” than anything practical. It’s great for the marketing department, but is it something you’ll even notice? Will it really make a difference to your photography?
To answer the question in the title of this article, Fujifilm’s autofocus is indeed good. Very good, in fact! It’s more than capable, just as long as you are as well. So don’t worry so much where Fujifilm (or any brand) ranks compared to another in some test. It’s not important. Creating art is important, and you can use any camera to do that.
Someone asked me what the differences are between my “Classic Negative” film simulation recipe and my “Color Negative” film simulation recipe. They’re pretty similar, but they’re not exactly identical. I thought it would be helpful to see them side-by-side, so I applied my “Color Negative” recipe using the in-camera RAW converter on my Fujifilm X-T30 to a few recent exposures that I had captured using my “Classic Negative” recipe. Check them out:
As you can see, while they’re quite similar, the “Color Negative” recipe is more saturated, has a tad more contrast, and is a little warmer with a bit more red. The “Classic Negative” recipe is slightly more bland, but with a nice vintage negative-film aesthetic. So which film simulation recipe do you like better, “Classic Negative” or “Color Negative”? Let me know in the comments!
The Fujifilm X-Pro3 has a new film simulation: Classic Negative. This film simulation is supposed to mimic the look of Superia film. The Classic Negative film simulation is expected to make its way to the X-T3 and X-T30 via a firmware update at some point in the near future, but for now the X-Pro3, which is still a couple weeks out from shipping, is the only camera with it. I’ve already had a number of requests for a film simulation recipe that resembles Classic Negative, despite it being so new.
To be clear, I have absolutely zero experience with the Classic Negative film simulation. There’s only a small sampling of examples that I could find online. I have used Superia film before, but sometimes the film simulations aren’t exact matches to the film they’re supposed to look like. From what I can tell, in this case Fujifilm did a decent job of creating a film simulation that resembles the film.
Classic Negative is actually a little different than other film simulations. Fujifilm has increased the color contrast in it compared to other film simulations. How it renders the picture depends on the lighting and exposure. The darker the light, the lower the saturation, while the brighter the light, the stronger the saturation. In addition, warm colors seem to be a little more vibrant, and cool colors appear a little less so. Highlights seem to have a creamy quality to them, while blacks look a tad faded. This is unlike any other option Fujifilm has given us, so you can imagine creating a film simulation recipe that mimics this is very difficult.
According to Fujifilm, this new film simulation has the second-most contrast out of all of them, only behind Velvia, while the saturation is in the range of PRO Neg. Std. I found it difficult to create a high-contrast look that doesn’t blow out highlights or create blocked shadows. I also found it difficult to recreate the look of warm and slightly vibrant skin tones while also creating cool and dull shadows, as you can only get one right. I tried to find a happy middle ground that’s not very far off on anything and generally provides a similar aesthetic. I hope that I succeeded, although I’m not completely confident in that I did.
I didn’t initially intend to share this recipe until I had a chance to see Classic Negative for myself. When the Eterna film simulation came out, I created a recipe for it for my camera that didn’t have it. Some time later, once I had a chance to shoot with Eterna, I realized that my recipe wasn’t as close as I thought or hoped it would be. I’m guessing this one might turn out to be the same. However, a Fuji X Weekly reader urged me to share it, even if it might turn out to be wrong, as some people might like it anyway. I hope that you do like it, whether or not it is completely accurate to the real Classic Negative film simulation.
PRO Neg. Std
Dynamic Range: DR400
Noise Reduction: -4
Grain Effect: Weak
Color Chrome Effect: Off or N/A
White Balance: 6700K, -2 Red & +7 Blue
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: -1/3 to +1/3 (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs made using this “Classic Negative” film simulation recipe:
See also: My Film Simulation Recipes
As you know, my film simulation recipes rely heavily on white balance shifts. Unfortunately, you cannot save white balance shifts with custom presets. You can only save one white balance shift for each white balance type in the White Balance Menu. In other words, whatever shift you set for auto white balance will be applied to all custom presets that use auto white balance. If all of your C1-C7 presets in the Q menu use the same white balance, one white balance shift will be applied to all of them. For many people, this means that whenever you change recipes you’re also having to adjust the white balance shift, which is a pain sometimes.
The Fujifilm X-Pro3 doesn’t have this problem from what I’ve heard. You can save unique white balance shifts with each preset in the Q menu. You can set it and forget it! There’s a decent chance that this ability will be added to the X-T3 and X-T30 via a firmware update at some point, but right now the X-Pro3 is the only camera that can do this. There’s an outside chance that X-Trans III cameras could also be given this feature, but most likely not. Don’t fret! I do have a solution. There’s a simple work-around that might make things much easier for you.
The issue is that only one white balance shift can be saved per white balance, but in that statement lies the answer! What you need are presets that use different white balances. Or you can have presets that use the same white balance and the same white balance shift. What do I mean?
So you have custom slots C1 through C7, right? Maybe you use all seven of them for color. Or maybe you set aside one or two for black-and-white, in which case white balance and white balance shift may or may not be important. For each color preset you simply use a film simulation recipe with a different white balance. If each recipe uses a different white balance, then you can set the shift for that recipe and you’re good to go. It will always be set to that unless you decided to change it.
For example, you could have Kodachrome II, which uses auto white balance, set to C1, Kodacolor, which uses a kelvin white balance, set to C2, Kodachrome 64, which uses daylight white balance, set to C3, Lomography Color 100, which uses cloudy/shade white balance, set to C4, Color Negative, which uses fluorescent 1 white balance, set to C5, Fujichrome Sensia, which uses flurescent 2 white balance, set to C6, and Portra 400, which uses a custom white balance, set to C7. If you did that, since each recipe uses a different white balance, you wouldn’t have to adjust the white balance shift when going between different presets. Also, there a few recipes that share the same white balance and white balance shift as others, such as Kodachrome II and Ektachrome 100SW, so you could use both of those and never have to change the shift.
To make things easy for you, I’ve organized the color film simulation recipes by white balance. Choose one from each until all of your available presets are filled. It’s pretty simple. Unfortunately, you might not be able to use all of your favorite recipes, depending on exactly what the white balance and white balance shifts are. But I hope that you find enough options you like to fill your available presets.
Since I set up my custom presets this way on my camera, it’s made a world of difference to me. It’s so much easier moving between recipes! The user experience has been greatly improved. I hope that you find this just as useful as I did.
Daylight Savings Time ended last night in America, so be sure to check the clocks on your cameras. Many of them didn’t automatically “fall back” an hour last night, and so you will have to manually adjust it today. If you forget, the timestamp on the EXIF will be off one hour until spring. While you are thinking about it now, take a quick look at your camera to make sure it shows the right time.
I’ve made a list of all my film simulation recipes that use auto white balance. Previously I organized them by dynamic range setting, so that they could be seen in a different arrangement. Now I’m doing it by white balance. The film simulation recipes below all use auto white balance. Just in case it’s helpful, I’ve also included the required white balance shift.
X-T30 Eterna (+5R, -5B)
Expired Eterna (+5R, +5B)
Faded Color (shift variable)
“Warm Contrast” (-2R, -4B)
X-T30 Velvia (+1R, -1B)
X100F Velvia (+1R, -1B)
Classic Chrome (+1R, -1B)
Dramatic Classic Chrome (+1R, -1B)
PRO Neg. Hi (no shift)
Vintage Kodachrome (+2R, -4B)
Fujicolor Superia 800 (-2R, -3B)
“Eterna” (+2R, +2B)
Ektar 100 (+3R, -2B)
Cross Process (-3R, -8B)
Kodachrome II (+3R, -4B)
Ektachrome 100SW (+3R, -4B)
Vintage Agfacolor(-3R, -4B)
Aged Color (+5R, -3B)
Fujicolor Pro 400H (+2R, +1B)
Agfa Optima 200 (-1R, -1B)