Of Flare And Embracing Limitations

Yesterday I discussed some ridiculous psychological obstacles of owning great glass that was just not right for me. Namely the beast 28-70 AFS Nikkor. I have shot that particular lens more than any other if truth be told so even though I never really played with the flare characteristics of it I had a feeling of what it does and how it looks. The most likely reason I have never played with flare is because it doesn't really draw attention to that particular lens flaw in any major way. Quite the opposite of the Fuji X100.

If you use the little fuji more than a couple of times you will absolutely notice that it flares like crazy. Something extremely surprising given the modern design and relatively few elements it has. I am not complaining or casting dispersions on this technical fault. In fact it's one of the things that I find intriguing and unique about the X100 and makes me like it so much. Trust me the things that I do not like about all of the Fuji X-series have nothing to do with technical lens faults like this. If it were not for some of these characteristics I would never put up with the things that are the real faults for my use.

I feel kind of guilty about the little X100 because even having owned it for quite a while I have never really used it in a serious way. I have used it as a point and shoot rather than a serious tool. I really need to fix that and part of fixing it is really getting to know some of the things about it that I have casually noted and them put them to good use in the right circumstances.

In the spirit of embracing limitations - part of what my particular take of photography is all about rather than the futile pursuit of eliminating every single solitary one. If you eliminate every limitation you are really left with nothing from an artistic perspective. Photography is all about limitations starting with representation of three dimensions in a two dimensional space on to framing on to interpretation of light, on and on. I wanted to just put it out there that lens faults can definitely fall into one of those categories. Not every fault for every occasion but some put to proper use or even improper use can be quite magical in terms of particular photographic endeavors.

Being as neurotic as I am - I always feel the need to understand what will look like what under what conditions when using any photographic tool so yesterday I decided to spend a few minutes getting to really know the little Fuji's flare thing at various apertures and angles. It's quite nuts when compared to most modern glass. Heck it's nuts compared to some of my vintage single coated primes. The saving grace is that it can look really really good and is quite variable depending on lighting conditions, aperture, angle, etc.

The image at the top is just a random example shooting at f4.0. Quite nuts compared to the maximum flare I was able to coax out of the beast in the same conditions and the beast was wide open…

Here is one at f2.0 from the x100. Crazy…

A very slight shift at f2.0 and you get this, much different and more in line with what I expect with modern glass but still interesting. All lenses flare - it's just a matter of how to provoke them and some are easier than others. Even with live view how that flare looks can fool you compared to how the image renders - always good to actually get to know your gear visually.

Here's another at f2.0 from the Fuji. You can provoke a lot of very different flare characteristics at the drop of a hat and they all look a little different.

It doesn't really go away as you stop down but just adds a bit of control. A lot of modern glass becomes almost impossible to provoke into any real flare as you stop down. Not a bad thing and what most people want. Too bad when you do want it it can be very difficult to make happen in any visually useful way because the angles where it can happen are so limited. Here is f5.6…

Just food for thought in the context of embracing limitations - even optical limitations.


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