Fuji X100S vs. Full Frame DSLR Part II

Yesterdays Fuji X100S vs Full Frame DSLR Part I post generated quite a bit of conversation on various forums, twitter, email, etc. All of it good. Those discussions were all over the map and as usual a lot of them I would have never predicted. One little conversation which was not at all adversarial but may sound so when I paraphrase it out of context was along the lines of well that's not a fair comparison… followed by all of the reasons that it wasn't fair.

You know all the reasons right - sensor size, blah, blah, blah. I thought I was pretty much clear that this was far far more of a 50mm field of view vs a 35mm field of view type of comparison than it was specifically about any clinical bake-off between the little Fuji X Series and the Nikon D600. Right? Okay, okay to a lesser extent it was also an evaluation of focal length vs depth of field vs subject distance as well. All this in the context of being a 50mm guy. My response to all of that was along the lines of…

F@#k fairness. I don't care about fairness. I only care if I can make the pictures I want to make or not.

I could probably phrase that a bit more eloquently but hey - it was a twitter conversation. I stand by my response which is really all that counts in terms of fair/unfair. I do want to point a few things out regarding the images I chose to illustrate the post with though. Not in the name of fairness but more along the lines of full disclosure for the more persnickety of you - or the curious. I happened to process the RAW files for that post in Aperture 3 - doesn't really matter because they are not at all fine tuned. You absolutely will see far far more distortion and vignetting with the D600 50/1.4 images than the Fuji images - mostly because there is no correction applied to the Nikon where I suspect (strongly) that corrections are applied via Aperture 3. Yes Aperture 3 does lens corrections to some camera lens combos, I don't have a list of which ones but I figure this out with my little micro 4:3 experiment a few years back. Want proof? Go look at the bug fixes for the minor release just a little while ago… Any way - lens corrections on one but not the other that's not fair is it. Take it for what it is. Rough quick and dirty results that is not meant to evaluate some ultimate "quality" but more of what kind of pictures I can make with a focal length I don't tend to gravitate to.

On with part II. This is going to be a bit different and you will have to give me a bit of leeway here. Part of this is what you can't do with the X100S. On the other side of that is where the 35mm comes in really handy. Also a dash of some perspective coming at this from being a 50mm guy and how shooting at 35mm kind of throws you off when trying to use it like a 50mm - or make the same kinds of pictures that just flow with years and years and years of living that particular field of view.

First up. The fairly obvious image at the top. Cannot be done with the X100S. This was actually the very very first frame shot in washington DC while chit chatting and drinking coffee. Just me getting warmed up to the light in the room and messing around. Heck you can't get this look from an X-Pro-1 and 35mm/1.4 combo either. One of the reasons that I like the D600/X100S together and decided on those as my final digital choices. Do I absolutely always want this look - no. I know that but also proved it to myself.

One of the things I mentioned is virtually all the shots I made were wide open during the trip. Fact is that I shot 100% of the D600 wide open at f/1.4 and actually stopped down the Fuji for a few shots. That might be counter intuitive but more on that in a moment. In the last post if you take a look at the indoor shots all of them were wide open on both cameras and for those images it wasn't night and day like the shot at the top. In fact I have more than one person mentioned that they really liked the OOF/DOF of the X100S in comparison. That little 23mm happens to be one of my favorite lenses ever because of how it looks and more to the point how it can be manipulated to look via aperture. It's very flexible and nearly always attractive in it's flaws.

Let's change that up a bit and show an example where I am really glad I had the 35mm FOV. I wanted to do some full length shots but in horizontal orientation in the alley way I was shooting later. Making myself as thin as possible, literally smashing myself up against the far wall of the alley this is what I could do with the 50mm.

That's it - that's all there was. No room at all for cropping or straitening and a completely different image if I was to shoot it at more of an angle. Different geometry. Note the same jeans as the top shot - completely different feel with a little bit of styling input from me. How chic. ;-) Now for the Fuji and 35mm FOV - tons of flexibiliy.

Lots of room to fix minor geometry faux pas. As an aside this and a bunch of others were shooting things on purpose I never do. Like centering the subject with asymmetrical backgrounds and seeing what I could make work. More importantly to see if I could actually make it work in a way I really like. Maybe a post on successes, failures, and not sure on some of those things soon…

Of course that comes with a downside that we all know intellectually but if you are a 50mm guy god it throws your shooting rhythm and reactions off a bit. Here are two examples where my reflexes, muscle memory, geometrical relationship sensitivity and 50mm on the brain were way ahead of what was actually going on…

Fuji X100 ooops #1…

Fuji X100 ooops #2…

Notice anything wrong here? I certainly do. The geometry is screwed for what picture I wanted to make. Are they terrible? No. Could I fix them in post. Probably. Not really the point. As you can see the issue gets worse as you get closer - we all know this which is not the point. Having shot primarily with 50mm FOV and having that completely ingrained in your shooting rhythm has it's advantages. One of which is you develop an inherent feel for what you can get away with in terms of adjusting your framing based on where you are standing and when you actually have to move your feet. Going shorter will through that off unless you pay a lot of attention and the only way to deal with it is time spent shooting. Something I have been trying to do. Am I better at it than I was six months ago - sure. Am I where I am with a 50mm - no way.

That brings up another topic regarding shooting rhythm, being in the right place at the right time, etc. All of the things that really need to become reflexive. Intellectually you may (or may not) know that all of those subject size in frame, etc, etc change more quickly the shorter and shorter you go focal length wise.

It's not just linear geometric relationships in terms of lines changing. Everything changes. How big something is based on one step back or forward. How far you have to move to make a what difference you want to see. Where you want to stand at what angles for various foreground background size relationships. Even the fine tuning of that changes to quite a large degree from 50mm to 35mm. Knowing this is one thing - developing where and how far to move as second nature is another. Again time spent is the answer.

Moving back to things that the little Fuji and more so it's 35mm FOV just cannot do well for things I like to make. Used in a certain way a 50mm can look a whole lot like a short tele. Especially on FF at larger apertures - like this.

or this…

or this…

Note that the DOF effects are not wild like the shot at the top - they are not too far off from the shots I used yesterday that were far more similar from both camera/lens combos then they were different. Yes the shallowness plays in these images but not a whole lot more than they did in yesterday's post. It's really really really hard to make a 35mm feel like a short tele. Maybe impossible unless you stand in the same place and crop it down in which case you will still loose a heck of a lot of the shallow DOF which is a big part of that short tele feel. Understand that moving in closer with the shorter lens is what makes the DOF play in a similar way for the part I illustrations. If you do that then the size/perspective relationships change and that short tele property goes away. I tend to use this quite a bit with a 50mm but less than I would have imagined in practice.

At 2000 words this is bordering on needing a part III. Yes there will be a part III but that may just be more general Fuji X100S celebration month rather than some sort of direct comparison of the X100S from a 50mm shooter's perspective. I will wrap this up with one last image that as a 50mm fetishist/connoisseur I can see from a mile away. For those less inclined to idiotically small image differences/relationships and giving a crap it will be more like "what… huh… ".

You cannot do this with a 35mm FOV either…

Right now you might be saying - well that's really close to the crap you posted yesterday, I don't get it… Well I made the images in the mirror (background) seem larger by making the mirror physically closer to me and messing about with camera angles. This shot at this angle with the 35mm would make that image in the mirror (background) a whole lot smaller. I can live with that myself.

The bottom line for me is I have learned for me and some of the imaging properties I really like in a 50mm/FF combo are unique but I don't depend on them for nearly the percentage of images I actually want to make as I thought I did. Am I now a 35mm guy? No but I do have a heck of a lot more confidence in just grabbing the little Fuji and that's it. Most of the imaging constraints of how I want things to look were in my head. Is it going to take some serious time where my shooting rhythm and sensitivity to where to stand, how far to move, etc are just second nature - absolutely but I am making the call that the Fuji X100 and it's 35mm FOV are absolutely worth that for me.

Any surprises here for you? Been there done that? Thinking a little harder about the X100 if you were a 50mm guy/gal?


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