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Fuji camera gear selection 2013 vs 2017 (part 1: lenses)

When I last travelled to Nepal the Fuji X system had recently launched and there were few lenses to choose from. I still agonised over what lenses to pick which seems funny looking back now as I had a lot less lenses to choose from back then.

So many choices!

I finally went with the following selection:

  • X-Pro 1 body
  • 35mm f1.4 lens
  • 18mm f2 lens
  • Sigma 100mm f2.8 macro lens (manual only)

It was a pretty well rounded setup as I had a wide angle, a portrait lens and a telephoto lens which I felt covered everything I would need. In the end the 18mm and the 35mm were clearly my most used lenses. The 100mm was used for one day only and was a bit of a waste.

Over the years since then I slowly transitioned to travelling almost exclusively with my X100S. I’ve grown very accustomed to my 23mm (35mm equivalent) field of view and I feel it covers most situations I run into. However for this trip I’ve decided to go back to a multi-lens setup as I will be travelling with my X-Pro2 and would love the flexibility of being able to swap lenses.

I know I will be taking the following items for sure:

  • X-Pro 2 camera
  • Rokinnon 12mm f2 manual lens
  • Fuji 23mm f2 lens

This has me well covered for wide angle shots and most travel photos. the 23mm can also be used as a portrait lens in a pinch but I’d prefer to have something longer for that purpose. I have though about also taking the 35mm as it is a very fast lens and great for portraits but I feel like the difference between that and the 23mm is not huge.

Now I need to figure out how to get these shots!

My biggest struggle now is covering the telephoto side of things. I plan on going on a mini safari during this trip and also going up to the Himalayas to see the sunrise so having a long-ish telephoto would be very useful. The possible options I have are:

Sigma 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

Cons:
Not the sharpest, not the fastest, no autofocus, a bit too long for portraits.

Pros:
It is relatively light and allows me to do macro work if the need arises.

Rokinon 135 mm f2

Cons:
Heavy, not very flexible use, no autofocus, limited portrait work.

Pros:
Tac sharp, very fast, that BOKEH!

Fuji 50-140mm f2.8

Cons:
Heavy, expensive, not the fastest lens

Pros:
Flexible, Image stabilised, can be used as all round portrait and landscape lens, very sharp.

As you can guess I am leaning towards the 50-140 lens. My biggest problem is the extra kilo of weight it adds. A kilo might not sound like much but when you’re lugging it up a mountain, it makes a big difference!

I’m still not sure which way to go so if you have any opinions, please let me know as I’d love some help!

In my next post I’ll cover the accessories I’ll be taking to help me get the images I need and also what I’ll be using this time around to blog while on the road.

 

 

Off we go Again!

This blog has been dormant for a very long time. Life has been crazy over the last few months but fear not I have not forgotten about my travel bug!

I am leaving for my next crazy trip tomorrow. Off to Japan this time! As usual I will be keeping this blog up to date with my adventures so please keep an eye out here for future updates!

Living la Dolce Vita

As you may have guessed from my previous post, I love Rome. And I can happily say that today I rediscovered why! The streets, the people, that crazy mix of tradition and modernity. Rome seems to be grasping to its old traditions with strength while the modernity slowly seeps in through the cracks. You can see groups of locals chatting around a car straight out of 1950s while a young hipster with his headphones on walks right by them. I think I missed more photo opportunities today than ever but I was just in a state of catatonic happiness so I didn’t really care.

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let the light in

Some things have changed since the last time I was here. For example, the movie Gladiator had not come out and now one of the staples of all the tacky souvenir stall is a replica of Maximus’s helmet. Another thing that has changed for the better is the Underground. It is still a bit dirty but the trains are so much better than they used to be! Even the traffic felt less crazy than usual.

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out with the old!

Another way in which my experience in Rome is different this time is due to a change in me. The last time I was in Rome, I was an agnostic which was searching for my path. This time I come back as a convinced atheist and I have felt that this has changed a few things. I have always felt a sense of awe when visiting a church, especially in Rome. I associate this city with many religious experiences and I found myself feeling almost obligated to be reverential when I was visiting a church. Old instincts would kick in and I would find myself thinking about the rituals that I used to go through in church. It was a strange feeling to be able to just say no and realise that these are learned habits. It was even weirder to not do them and realise that nothing bad would happen. Maybe I’m over thinking this but it felt very cathartic to be able to cross in front of the altar of a church and not kneel and do the sign of the cross. It felt liberating, as if a weight had been lifted.

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The elephant in the room?

As you can see I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Rome, thinking to myself. It was a great morning of wandering around randomly, followed by a delicious lunch of pasta and saltimbocca. I then made my way to the Colosseo to meet Sara whom I had not seen in over 17 years! We met when I was in my last year at the Italian School in Madrid and I then went to visit her in her hometown of Teramo. We then lost contact with each other until she popped up in my Facebook last year.

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Meet Eva!

Sara came to meet me with her boyfriend and her beautiful almost one year old baby daughter. We spent a few hours going back and forth the same streets of trastevere and then she invited me over to her aunt’s house for dinner. We had a great dinner of healthy food as Sara’s boyfriend does not unhealthy things. It was surprisingly good!

Sara’s cousin then dropped me off at the Metro station and I made my way back home. I spent the trip back trying to ignore the conversation of the girls next to me. They were a bunch of American girls that were discussing how they would never wear the same dress twice if they had appeared in a picture with it. Basically they bought 80 dollar dresses, wore them to a party, did some selfies, never wore them again. I bit my lip and refrained from giving them all a well deserved smack over the head.
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I don’t think there will be a post tomorrow as I will be flying to Shanghai! Stay tuned for adventures from the far east!

Hello Rome my old friend

So, the adventure begins again. Once more I find myself getting on a plane headed to faraway lands without a good idea of what I’m going to do when I get there! Before every trip I go through  period of nervousness and even feel that this might not be such a great idea. I have taught myself to ignore it and remind myself that there is method to this madness. I have never enjoyed myself as much as when I have had the freedom to go wherever I wanted to go. Some anxiety is a small price to pay for that freedom.

Anyway, this trip is being a true exercise of me repeating to myself: it will all work out in the end, it will all work out in the end… and so far it has! To give you an idea of how little I have done for this trip, I had a bit of a celebration yesterday and came back home shortly after 8am and my bag was still not fully packed! I also only bought my Thailand guide 4 days ago, so…yeah. If this trip goes well, I have a feeling on my next one I might do even less!

I boarded my plane this afternoon with 2 hours of sleep and a rather nasty hangover. I was unlucky enough to get seated in the middle of a large group of 15 year old Italian students that were returning to Rome after a field trip to Dublin. Luckily I was so knackered that I crashed and only woke up once in the whole flight.

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Roma, arrivo!

Getting to Rome was such a relief. I adore this city. It’s a city I have visited repeatedly throughout my life, as a child, as a teen and as an adult. I have spent many hours wandering its streets and there are so many memories hidden round every corner. I also love the Roman imperial time and simple things like seeing all the streets named after emperors whose history I know just adds to the magic of the place for me.

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What a view!

Due to a last minute change, I am staying at a B&B near the Vatican city. I have a beautiful view of St Peters basilica from my window and the owner is very nice. He recommended a great pizza place for dinner. I love this town! Cheap pizza, friendly staff, fast service. When Rome is good, it’s amazing!
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After dinner I went for a stroll around the Basilica until we got kicked out at 11pm as they close the piazza. I am really looking forward to tomorrow! My plan is to wander the city, meet up with a friend of mine I haven’t seen in 17 years and take a lot of pictures.
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Homophobic is not an offensive word

Today I am going to write about a subject that is very close to my heart, homophobia. It may seem a rather strange subject to write about but it has been in the news quite a bit here in Ireland and I have had a lot of time to think about it . Just to be clear, I am not going to talk about gay rights but rather about the word itself and why it can be used to denounce people that are against equality for LGBT people. I would also like to apologise if I offend anyone, these are my opinions and I am not the most politically correct of people. I would encourage you to post your own views, opinions and feedback in the comments below.

To give a little bit of background as to why I am going on this rant, recently on Irish television there has been a lot of talk about whether it is appropriate to refer to people that are against marriage equality as homophobic.  According to the conservative line of thought, homophobic is an offensive term as it implies that people that are against marriage equality hate or are afraid of gay people. They insist that they are perfectly fine with gay people, they just don’t want them to be able to marry. At the base of this argument is the root of the word –phobia which means “fear of”. There is an attempt to distinguish between “true homophobia” which is classified as any “serious” act that discriminates against the LGBT community and “having traditional values” which is the exclusion of LGBT couples from marriage.

Let me begin by drawing a comparison to another word, xenophobia. As you all probably know, xenophobia is the fear of what is different, also known as racism. It contains the dreaded suffix -phobia as well but nobody disputes that precluding black people from marriage is xenophobic. Nobody would dare come up nowadays and say that black people should not get married to white people and that is “just their opinion”. If anybody tried to justify that they were not xenophobic because they were perfectly ok with “the blacks”, they would be rightly thrown off the stage and might even end up being prosecuted.

If we go back 70 years the opposite would have been true. Hiding behind the original Greek meaning of the suffix -phobia is a weak argument. It is similar to me arguing I am not white because my skin is technically pink, or saying that you are not having breakfast (comes from breaking-fast) because you had a coffee beforehand. It is grasping at straws and does not stand. To get a glimpse of how pervasive and subtle homophobia is in modern society I highly recommend watching this incredible speech by Panti, a well-known Irish gay rights activist.

Putting all that aside, I do believe that the argument against marriage equality does come from a position of fear. Fear bred from ignorance and the refusal to empathise with your fellow human beings. It stems from the realisation that your cosy little world is no longer as small as you want it to be and that perhaps you will lose the moral high ground that you desperately require. Realising that the way you have though all your life is wrong is not an easy step to take and many people are not able to take it. They are also afraid to admit this and are therefore very offended when anybody points a finger at them and says “you are part of the past”. By eliminating the word homophobic from the discourse, they intend to maintain the upper ground and not be called out for the small-minded bigots they really are.

I strongly believe that denying LGBT couple the right to marry is homophobic. It is a clear form of discrimination and should be called as such. Being a homophobe does not mean you will run down the street if you see a gay person, it means you are afraid to let them share your rights, it means that you still consider some territories out of bounds for “the gays”.

I would propose one rule of thumb: for any given sentence about gay people, substitute the word “gay” for “black”. If it makes you cringe, then the original sentence was homophobic. For example:

  • It’s my opinion that gay people should not have the right to marry turns into It’s my opinion that black people should not have the right to marry: homophobic.
  • It’s my opinion that gay people are fun to be around turns into It’s my opinion that black people are fun to be around: not homophobic, just your opinion.

What to do now I’m grown up

Lately I have been spending a lot more time with people that are a lot younger than I am. I love spending time with them and they have made me rethink a lot of things about my life. I have come to the realisation that I enjoy spending time with them more than I enjoy spending time with people my age. Don’t get me wrong, I have great friends that are my age but none of them act like they are in their mid 30’s. I have come to the realisation that I don’t feel “grown-up” and, the truth is, I don’t want to be.

I want to do more of this!
I want to do more of this!

Maybe I should define what I mean by acting my age. I am currently 35. Whenever I hear that number in my head a whole bunch of responsibilities come to mind. I was 3 years old when my dad was this age, I see friends of mine buying houses, getting married, settling down, saving money and talking about growing up and being serious. I have at one point or another also had these thoughts but they never stick.

Instead of thinking of settling down, I dream of picking up and moving on. Instead of saving money to buy a house, I want to save money to travel the world. I want to change career instead of progressing in mine, I want to dabble in many fields instead of becoming a specialist in one. Most of all I feel like I have no idea of what I want and need to try a lot more things before I decide!

I want to see more places like these!
I want to see more places like these!

So, I guess the big question is: what I am I doing to get to where I want to go?I guess it’s kind of hard to decide when I have very little idea of where I want to go. For now I’m happy to finish my acting course and seeing where I am at summer. Hopefully interesting things are coming down the line, stay tuned to see what happens!

Looking back and planning ahead

When I started this blog back in September last year, I had planned to keep it updated quite regularly. As we know, I have not been very successful. Though I have posted quite a bit initially, I have struggled to find inspiration on topics and keep engaged.

Last week I stumbled upon the Zero to Hero series of blog posts. They propose a series of 30 steps to take over 30 days to refresh your blog. The step for the first day is to write a new introduction post so  here I go.

I am a 35 year old Spanish expat that emigrated to Ireland at the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. I have worked as a freelance translator and interpreter, as a translator and then community manager in a videogame company and I now work as a Product Manager in an online company. As you may have guessed I love photography and travelling and would someday love to make a living out of those hobbies. I am also studying acting and will hopefully be taking part in a few plays in the coming years.

The reason I started this blog was to share my work as an amateur photographer and to document my trips. I had also intended to post the occasional random post on subjects that matter to me. Over the last 6 months I have had moderate success in blogging my travels in Nepal but have really not posted much on the other subjects. I intend to ramp up my posts and will probably be splitting up the blog into different sections as I feel it will help me categorise what I write and not feel I am going off topic.

Another goal with the blog was to connect with fellow travel bloggers and photographers. I have read many blogs in my life but never really considered the social aspect of this. Whenever I heard of the blogosphere I considered it similar to a collection of individual contributors, I never stopped to consider the amount of interaction that happens between the different authors. Hopefully by focusing on this effort during 2014 I will build up a solid groups of followers and friends that I can share my work with.

I also love to interact with my readers and provide the content you would be interested in reading so if you have any ideas, please let me know what you want to read about!

Why I have a second camera

I am they very proud owner of an X-Pro1 camera. I bought this camera last year and I am extremely happy with it. While it is a lot smaller than my previous camera and allows me take it a lot more places, it still isn’t a truly pocketable camera. I was looking for a camera that I could take everywhere but as usual I needed it to meet some pretty stringent requirements.

Play the game!
Play the game!

I needed a camera that I could use in low light, gave excellent image quality and I could slip into my jacket pocket. I looked at many cameras on the market and ended up having my eye on the excellent Fuji X100s. The only limitation of this camera was its fixed focal length of 23mm (35mm equivalent in Full Frame) but I see this as almost an advantage. It forces me to think more about my photos and get closer to get a good picture. I will post about this camera a lot more in the coming weeks. 🙂

This is the kind of picture I'd be missing!
This is the kind of picture I’d be missing!

If I hadn’t bought this camera, there are a lot of photos I would not have taken over the last month. I find it incredible to think that I can pull it out and take amazing pictures whenever I see something that catches my eye. It also makes it so much more fun to walk anywhere as I can always keep my eye open for photo opportunities.

Biking at night
Biking at night

It also allows me to take pictures of my friends and nights out. It is also so small and silent that I get as many pictures as I need. I am loving it and my friends are loving it as well.

Party!
Party!

I would highly recommend getting pocket camera if you find you’re not taking as many pictures as you want. It really has changed my outlook on photography and allowed me to get a lot of images I would have missed otherwise.

Why I sold my DSLR and switch to Fuji

Back when I was preparing for my trip to Nepal, I realised that I was not looking forward to lugging my DSLR around with me. Back then my workhorse was my Nikon D7000. This is a brilliant camera that I had owned for over a year but which I was using less and less. For any of you out there with DSLRs you have to admit that lugging them around with a decent lens on them is a bit of a pain. It is also not the best for street photography as people see you coming from a mile away.

I had my eye set on a Leica M9 back then but they were/are prohibitively expensive. A second hand Leica plus a decent 50mm lens would set you back at least 5000€. I was doing all sorts of mental justification to try to convince myself I could afford one when I stumbled across Zack Arias’s post on the Fuji X-Pro1 (see here). While I will admit that he is not the most unbiased of reviewers, he did manage to pique my curiosity. At that time a new X-Pro1 with a 35mm lens and a free 18mm lens were going for 1500€. This was more in my price range though still a lot of money to spend on  a camera!

I started reading up on the Fuji X cameras and the more I read the more I was convinced it was the camera for me. Not only was the image quality one of the best out there in low light (when I do a lot of my day to day shooting) but Fuji was continuously upgrading the firmware of the cameras and adding new features that the customers wanted. When I saw someone selling one on-line for 900€ I pounced and bought it.

One of my first pictures with my new camera
One of my first pictures with my new camera

 

What I love

The thing that first impressed me about the X-Pro1 is its size and shape. It fits perfectly in my hand and all the controls are within easy reach. I own the 35mm f1.4  and 18mm f2 lenses and the whole pack fits easily into a very small bag. For my entire trip to Nepal I could carry all my electronics gear in an over the shoulder carrier bag. This would have been impossible with my DSLR. 

I also love the control set-up. All the functionality I need is easily adjustable without having to delve into any menus. This makes me forget about settings and just focus on taking pictures. Add to that the highly innovative combination of optical and electronic viewfinder and I’m almost back to shooting film but with infinite (almost) film!

The combination of size and almost silent operation volume means it is great for street photography, theatre photography and anywhere else where you don’t wish to be seen taking pictures. As I can easily shoot with extremely high ISO with almost no loss of quality I do not need to use a flash and can capture great candid shots without ever being seen.

The thing I love the most and which still blows me away every day is the quality of the images I get from this camera. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft the people at Fuji did but this camera produces the best images I have seen. The colour and dynamic range in these files is hard to understand. Add to that the outstanding quality of the Fuji X lenses and it’s hard to get a bad picture!

Look at those colours!
Look at those colours!

 

What could be better

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is perfect with this camera! The focusing is sometimes hit and miss, you do need to pre-focus or be patient but it is getting better with every firmware upgrade. You will also sometimes end up focusing on the wrong thing, especially when focusing close and using the Optical Viewfinder. I would never recommend this camera for a sports photographer.

The battery life is also pretty bad, especially when used to a DSLR. I carry around 3 spare batteries and have to switch them out every 150 shots or so which is not great.

Most of these quirks are easy to work around and not much of an issue for street photography. They have also mostly been addressed in the X100S which I also now own (more on that in a future post).

While still a nice picture, I would have loved to have the focus on the eye where I pointed at!
Still a nice picture but I would have loved to have the focus on the eye where I wanted it!

 

Conclusion

As I gave away in my title, I have finally taken the step and sold my Nikon DSLR. It wasn’t an easy decision but I realised I had not used it a single day since I bought my Fuji. I am currently in the process of selling most of my old lenses as well as my big, cumbersome carry bags. I am keeping my sigma 105 macro lens as I have an adapter to use it on my Fuji and it works like a charm.

I am now a convinced user of the Fuji X system of cameras and am saving up to get my hands on the 56mm f1.2 lens sometime in the future. If you have any questions on this camera please feel free to let me know below.

Did I mention it's discreet and quiet?
Did I mention it’s discreet and quiet?