Fuji on the Italian Job

I think it was possibly in 1992 that I first photographed the procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which takes place every year in Clerkenwell. Since then I’ve been back most years, though sometimes more to drink the red wine and enjoy the atmosphere rather than to take pictures. Over the years the actual procession has got a little more organised and become harder to photograph, and certainly harder to find things that interest me.

Slow focus on the X-Pro1 made this moment hard to catch

It was a warm day, very hot in the sun and I decided not to take my usual heavy Nikon kit, but to try out the Fuji X system I’m beginning to build up. At the moment this is a little limited. I do have two bodies – an X-Pro1 and an X-E1, but the only actual Fuji lens is the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom.

Focus isn’t a problem with the Voigtlander 15mm, but lighting was, with the faces needing rescue from deep shadow

Of course there are adapters to fit most other lens mounts to the Fujis, and probably the most useful of these is the Leica M adapter. For events like this I like a wide angle lens, and the 18mm of the zoom often isn’t wide enough, so I had the 15mm Voigtlander on the X-E1, where it does a very good job. Mine is an old Leica screw version, but with a cheap (from eBay) M adapter and is ridiculously  small and light. While it may not greatly impress the Leicaphile test chart fanatics, for all normal photographic purposes it is fine, with low distortion, little chromatic aberration and at least when stopped down a little (even from full aperture f4.5 to f5.6), good sharpness across the frame – it was after all designed for full frame 35mm.  Even after I’ve dropped it a few times and severely dented the built in ‘lens hood’.  The electronic viewfinder of the X-E1 is fine for the Voigtlander too.

Fuji do have an excellent 14mm f2.8, but it isn’t cheap, and is significantly larger than the Voigtlander. If I really get to love the Fuji system I’ll probably buy one, but at the moment I’m still slightly unconvinced. I think my main reason for getting the X lens would be for the EXIF data, though very occasionally autofocus might be useful. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the promised XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS for both size and quality too.

For most photography with ultra-wides it makes sense to turn off AF, set the distance to 2m and leave it there. Even at f5.6 things will be sharp from 1 meter more or less to infinity. It beats even the fastest of autofocus systems.

Autofocus on the X-Pro with the 17-55mm was occasionally slow enough to miss the moment, but generally did well. Still the most annoying feature of both cameras is their hibernation if you’ve not made an exposure for a few minutes.  Generally the fastest way to prompt them back into the land of the living seems to be the turn them off and then on again. It’s a real pain and such a difference from using a Nikon, where whatever state the camera is in, so long as it is turned on it reacts instantly to a finger pressing the release.

Probably the best of a series of rather confused images, with 5 doves in frame, 2 hard to see

The only time I really needed a wider range zoom at the telephoto end was during the release of doves at the start of the procession, when I would have liked to have been able to zoom in on one of the children holding the doves, since it wasn’t possible to move closer in front of the line of photographers waiting for the release. For the actual release I used the X-Pro set on continuous shooting mode – nominally 6 frames per second, and got a number of images.

None of them was particularly interesting, with some children releasing their dove rather slower than others, and the doves not getting into an interesting formation. There is an awful lot of luck involved in such situations and this year I wasn’t getting a great deal.

And yes, I should probably have crouched down to get them against a clearer background. You can see most of the others from the sequence, as well as more pictures from the Sagra and procession in Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Overall I think the Fujis came out quite well, particularly the X-E1 with the 15mm. But the Nikon D800E with the 18-105mm would have been rather better than the X-Pro1 and 15-55mm, though of course around twice as big and much heavier.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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