Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 Review: Portrait Extravagant

I posted a preview recent on this lens and this review is to complete it. I do mainly portraits and as such my review will look at how this lens perform in it. In the past 2 months, I used it extensively for about 7 portrait shoots in various conditions. In summary, this is the portrait extravagant lens: A no compromise, near optical perfection, bokeh monster for all condition from day to night with a price to match. Still interested? Read below.

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Firstly this functions closer to a 300mm F2.8 (or f3.0 if you want to be more exact) and its a really long lens. I won’t discuss on the purpose why one will use 300 mm for portrait, but most importantly the effect you obtain from this lens is probably close to indistinguishable from any FF with similar setup and maybe better. I mean in all aspect, from sharpness, to contrast and Bokeh. I highlighted the last word since one of the biggest purpose of this lens is to pop the subject out of the frame and compress the background as much as possible.

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It looks like a sticker on a colored backdrop.  The bokeh is near perfect, with minimal Longitude Chromatic Abberations (LOCA), making clean circles of everything. However on some busy background, especially if things have thin long sparkling shape like grass  and its not so far away, the bokeh may at times be a little rough. Else its pretty much as good as it gets, on a APS-C camera.

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Optically, the XF200mm is fantastic. CA is very well controlled but can be spotted in the form of yellow/orange outline at the edges of frame. I will estimate it to be only visible if you zoom around 200-300% and only on the most adverse condition. The auto CA correction in LR can remove them if needed to near perfection.

Sharpness is top notch.  It is sharp to the very corner, usable to 200% zoom if the lens is totally in focus. This is the catch, with such shallow Depth of Field, getting critical focus is more essential then the sharpness of the lens itself. Thankfully Fuji latest XT30 and its Eye-AF does it perfectly. The moment it detects the eye, 9/10 shots will be on the iris itself unless there are obstruction.

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Contrast affects perceived contrast and I am glad to report it is great on the XF200mm. At F2, its probably as contrasty as it gets and stopping down to F2.8 only improve it a little. The lens is quite resistance to flare, however shooting into bright light does haze it a little, losing contrast. Depends on your preference, that adds a nice touch of softness, great for portrait. Else use the hood and try not to shoot directly into a bright source of light.

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Now for the non optical aspect, the built is great, I can’t fault it anywhere. The buttons on the lens can be used to preset focus or AF-on. It would have been better if they can be set to anything like those on the Sony. The hood is large and well built, however do note you must align and check if its tighten properly. I had a few case the hood suddenly dislodge. It is probably ok if the hood drops from the lens, but some people may just pick the lens by the hood accidentally and the lens will dislodge.

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The weight is great and on an APS-C, the overall package is really light. I will digress a little here and talk about using it with my XT-30. It is literally mounting a camera on the lens, not the other way around. But the combination other then supporting the full weight on hand holding the lens, is pretty usable. The total weight is around 2.9kg with hood and XT30, lighter then every configuration out in the market by a good margin. Without the hood, the setup is closer to 2.7kg. To put into perspective, the next lightest 200mm f2 is the canon at 2.54kg just the lens alone. The weight saving lens wise is about 300g and the light weight XT30 will add another 100-300g of saving compare to most other cameras with similar capabilities. This may seem little but 400g can be translated to multiple F2 Fuji lens such as the 23mm or 50mm, like the picture above, all fitted into a thinktank spectral 14 bag.

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The two other aspect that is great is the Autofocus (AF) and Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS). The AF is extremely snappy, especially if set to 5m and beyond for portrait. You can also track moving subject quite confidently with the XT30. AF though is more of a function of the camera and believe the XF200mm can still be faster and more accurate as future firmware and camera comes out. The OIS is the next great thing on this lens. I tested and 1/25s sharp photos are quite repeatable. That is an impressive feat at 300mm.

200mm @ F2. No LOCA

In Summary: this lens is Portrait Extravagant, fantastically and probably even excessively for the purpose of shooting portrait. It is probably one of the best there is, regardless of format and form.

 

Nanguang RGB88 Light Wand Initial Review

This is initial review of the RGB88 Light Wand by Nanguang.

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It is a Bi-Color + RGB Led want with a few nifty function. It allows power from 0-100, Warm to Cool from 3200-5600 and finally 360 colors which goes from Red-Blue-Purple-Green. Some pictures of it in different colors.

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The light has an additional function, going from hard light to soft light. There is an almost 3x more power in the hard light mode but it will cause rough and multi line shadows.

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Looking at colour accuracy, this light is rather outstanding. Scoring between 95-97. Very impressive for a light not costing more then 200 USD.

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Now we look at using my 1/3 scale doll as a model to see the different effects. First we look at the hard and soft light function. Notice the background and shadow difference.

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At the same position, the hard light (second shot) has significantly more shadow and is more focused (notice the background). The hard light is acting like many raw bulb while the soft light is a diffuser over them. Its pretty nifty since you can use it at a touch of a button. Never seen something like this in any lights!

Next we look at mixing light.

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Overall its pretty fun to use as you can see above. Being above to turn into most colours and fine tune the power visually for usage. One last function of this light. 2 of them can combine into one!

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Look at the awesomely long led. I am sure this is really useful for human size lighting. It is just really costly….

Last notes, the light has 1 small led panels behind, showing power and color/temperature. It comes with an adapter but no battery. Battery has to be purchased separately with the charger. Luckily for those that has been doing video, the battery is the standard Sony NP-F series battery that doesn’t cost too much. If anything, it is common, easy to find and replace. At least the first thing that normally goes (the battery) can be easily sourced and replaced. Whats more it comes in different size, with the biggest one able to power this light wand for more then 2 hrs.

When I have time, I will bring this out and test on human subject for skin tone lighting which is the most essential for such lights. Till then, hope you enjoy this review!

Workshops!

I’ll be holding two workshops

One is a basic studio that covers how to do simple studio photography

https://www.facebook.com/events/385071658954411/?ti=cl

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There’s also a guided workshop that focus more on shooting and I will just explain some concepts. The theme is artwork like portraits.

https://www.facebook.com/events/266998334188357/?ti=cl

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If interested do sign up at the links or email me at Richard@zpeaktures.com

Review: Shangri-la Jr: Relax and Let it all go

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Thanks to AV-One for the close door review of the Shangri-La Jr. Priced at approximately $8000 USD, this place it near the top of the pecking order for headphones.

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Built with 4 pre-amp tubes, a metal chassis with a nice gloss surface for its energiser, a metal frame with leather ear-cups and headband, it looks luxurious as any other electrostat out there. The headphone is really similar to the Stax-009, infact even the weight is similar. The only difference is the cables, and this I say goes the the Shangri-La JR for its braided cables unlike the easy to twist flat cables of Stax.

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But enough with the build and exterior stuff, how does it sound? For the short summary: As flagship goes, it’s great. But if you listen to female vocals, chants and choruses, or love music with tones of treble like bells and cymbals, this is the one.

Setup used that day with a IPad (flight mode) -> Chord Dave -> Shangri-la Jr

As I dont have the luxury, my cross comparison is with the Abyss 1266 and Stax-009 for a few songs. Im not going to go song by song but directly what I think its great and what its competitors is slightly better. Why slightly you may say? Cause all this are flagship, and as flagship goes, its just hard to not sound good.

Straight on listening it, the sound is wide, diffused, airy and just relaxing. Listening to a few tracks from asian female vocals like Suara and Susan Wong, in one word, Sublime. This is coming from someone who listens to Abyss and KSE1500, the sound of the Shangri-la JR for asian female vocals it’s world class, if not chart topping. It has this really wide, laid back feel that makes the vocals surround you, ever so natural with no strain. Till the very last breath of each song, it brings out the type of music you will just want to kick back and relax the time away. Of course there is exceptions, being a more diffused then the rest, it lacks the high energy in the female vocals if the track demands it. In this, the Abyss does it way better, being concentrated and powerful. Male vocals on the other hand, I place it on par with the rest, I couldnt really say this, 009 or abyss is better in the limited time I had or even in the first impression.

Another area that its great is the treble. It’s better then both 009 and abyss, sounding really natural, distinct, and has a decay that just sounds just right. In the track Powder Snow by Suara, there are many japanese bells used in the song, and every time it appears, the Shangri-La Jr handles it like a champ, sounding ever so natural and smooth. From the built up of the bell sound to the really soft end decay, it is there and right. like a real bell getting jingled next to you. This is a truly defining sound feature that puts it over the Abyss.

The last thing that really was better was the darkness and transition within the songs. Its like listening to music in a sound treated room, even if there is a split second of silence, the Shangri-La JR replicates it. This is really important especially in slow songs with occasional instrument and alot of emphasis of the vocals to me. It allows me to concentrate and appreciate all the elements of the moment. When the music does ramp up, transitioning from silence to full blown and back down, it was masterfully handle. Leading Abyss by a small but noticeable margin.

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Now for the rest which was what I felt good but not defining features.

Soundstage is wide, not huge like the HD800, but definitely slightly larger and more surround then 009 or Abyss. It does have more headroom or Z-Axis to the sound compared to the Abyss which is just wide sideways. Is it however that significant, probably not to me but your mileage may vary.

The sound on the whole felt more balanced. It is not flat like say KSE1500, but it feels just nice with good emphasis on all spectrum of the sound, no one overpowering the other. However when required to standout by the music, it brings out the dynamics, making it enjoyable. Again this is a taste, and if your like thumping mid bass, Abyss is a much better choice. More emphasis on the mids? The 009 does a better job. If anything, your choice of song and preference is more important then the technicalities.

Now for things that I felt that the competition may do better

The bass of the Shangri-La Jr is good. Deep with good impact when needed. This is especially apparent versus the 009, which if anything is what I feel a little light on it. The Abyss may not go as deep, but if I was to choose a headphone to enjoy tracks with drums, the Abyss is the way. It has more impact, more energy, and just more enjoyable. That said, the Shangri-La Jr is still probably the best electrostat I heard for Bass, that itself is definitely an achievement. Do note, I never got to hear the Shangri-La Original or the Orpheus Series in a quiet room, so if anyone has comments on this do add on.

The other part is the energy of the sound. If the track needs energy and fast paced, the Shangri-La JR can definitely keep up and is a enjoyable experience. That is of course if no cross comparison is done. The Abyss and the 009 just had more energy in the songs I listen. The vocals when they scream or when the instruments rises in tempo, the Shangri-La Jr just felt a touch lower in that excitement and power that the competitors bring out.

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The above pretty much are all the key points I picked out during my session. Other then those, the Shangri-La like every electrostat, is airy, transparent, with great details and seperation. If there is a last note I want to add, it is sibilance or the lack of it, essential if you are one to enjoy pop music. If you are the type that listens to whatever you like, and loves modern pop songs, the Shangri-La JR is high up the list.

I hope you enjoy my impression on the Shangri-La Jr. It is a truly enjoyable experience. Once again thanks to AV-One for the close door demo session and Hifiman for the demo set.

 

 

Behind the Scene: Tatsumaki One Punch Man!

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Nikon DF 20mm F1.8 @ 1/200, F2.5, ISO400, Flash Fired

Its time for another behind the scene article! Today it will be Tatsumaki from the series One Punch Man!

Tatsumaki is pretty much a haughty girl with the ability to manipulate objects via psychic. Shes perpetually floating in the series due to her powers and will not hesitate to rain terror on her opponents!

The key points of this shoot:

  • 4 lights were used with 2 for lighting up the alley
  • A portable smoke machine was used to create airflow like effects
  • The floating was done via a chair and some muscle training by the subject
  • The floating parts of her skirt was done using fishing lines and holding them

Bye tatsumaki

The Light Setup:

A total of 4 lights are used in 3groups:

2 lights consisting of 1 speed light and a B1 with a zoom reflector gelled with blue to light up the alley. The B1 was facing towards the camera to give a glow to the subject and light up the alley/smoke.

1 B2 on boom stand using OCF Octa Softbox+grid with green gell for the highlights and some green in the smoke. Grid is to ensure the green light is just over her as that is her signature color effect when using abilities.

1 B2 with a OCF 2’x3′ Softbox+grid to light the subject and prevent spilling of the light. The grid also minimizes reflected light form the boom green light.

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The Scene:

The subject sits on a chair. The various parts of her skirt are pinned and then held with fishing lines which are easy to remove in post. On ready for the shot, the subject will curl up on the chair and a shot will be taken.

This is followed up by the removal of the chair in post processing and some of the fishing line in the frame. Then some touch up with the smoke to give a denser fill.

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Nikon DF 20mm F1.8 @ 1/200, F4, ISO800, Flash Fired

Notable Points:

The shot is done at high ISO. Some may ask why were higher ISO used when the whole scenery is litted by flash. The answer is simply cause the flash did not have enough power to light up the scene to the lighting I desire. As such the ISO is lifted to the extend that the background is barely visible then the lights will go in. High ISO also facilitate multi-shots done in certain part of the shoot where you desire to capture a relatively fast moment.

Thanks for reading my behind the scenes! Will write more the next time I have something interesting! Do remember to visit ZerartulPeaktures for more photos!

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Nikon DF 28mm F1.8 @ 1/200, F2.5, ISO200, Flash Fired

Equipment used:

  • Nikon Df with 20/28/50mm lense
  • 1 Profoto B1
  • 1 Profoto B2 with 2 Heads
  • 1 Yong Nuo 560 Mk4 Speedlight
  • Lee Filter gells
  • 1 Jinbei m1 Boom Stand
  • 1 Antari M1 Mobile Fogger