Friday, January 31, 2014

Tilt-shift adapter on the Fuji X-E2, X-Pro1, and X-T1 cameras

One of my favorite lenses for still life photography is the Nikon 85mm tilt-shift macro. I like working my lenses with wide open apertures, but at close distances where the depth of field is at it narrowest I often lose too much detail in the subject. Stopping the lens down increases the depth of field for to include more in focus, but it also destroys the totally out of focus bokeh of a wide open aperture. The tilt shift lens allows me to selectively include more areas in focus while still maintaining a wide open aperture and good bokeh.

A Fuji X-E2 with Kipon tilt-shift adapter and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D lens.  It is in full tilt position.
I often do a lot of spontaneous still life photos at home where I have a soft window light, but I keep my Nikon tilt-shift at the studio. On ebay I found a tilt-shift adapter made by Kipon to fit the Fuji X cameras. Kipon makes a several models for adapting a variety of lens types. I was interested in the Nikon to Fuji X series, which I wanted to use with 50mm and 35mm Nikon D lenses, and a 60mm Nikon macro giving me effective focal lengths of 75mm, 50mm, and 90mm on my Fuji X-E2. The adapter also comes in a Nikon G mount which adds aperture control.

The Kipon tilt-shift adapter in closed position. 

Here the adapter has a full shift to the right and full tilt away from us. See below for how this looks on the camera with lens attached.
The Kipon adapter has a maximum tilt of 12° and maximum shift of 15mm. The lens will still focus to infinity on the adapter, but there is no pass through of any information from the lens.  As a result there is no auto-focus so the lens must be use in manual focus, which is typical for tilt/shift lenses in general. The adapter rotates 360° enabling you to place the tilt anywhere, even on an angle.

The brass knob on the side of the adapter is to tighten the tilt movement in place once it has been set. To adjust the tilt, you loosen the brass knob and slide the lens to down.  It only moves in one direction.

The significant drawback to this adapter is that the tilt movement and shift movement are not independent of each other. They must be rotated together.

On the left the lens has a full shift to the left.  On the right the lens has a full tilt downward. 

With the 50mm Nikkor mounted on the adapter and set to f/1.4 there the depth of field is very narrow at such a close distance. For the photo below I still kept the aperture set to f/1.4 but tilted the lens forward to change the plain of focus so it would  include some of the background cameras. Several areas are still soft, but that is the effect I want. 

Below are two photos I took to illustrate the extremes of tilting the lens. The top photo was taken with a Nikon 50mm f/1/4 lens at f/1.4 and no tilt on the adapter. The photo below it is shot with the same lens and aperture, but with a forward tilt of the adapter to include more focus in the background while still leaving some selective out of focus areas. These are the two extremes. In normal use I pick something in between these two, usually with a slight tilt to include just a bit more story-telling detail in focus.

This is a more subtle and practical application of a tilt. In the photo above only the end of the violin is in focus with the 50mm lens set to f/1.4.  For the photo below a slight forward tilt of the lens extends the focus down the strings and includes the foreground bow and sheet of music to add a some story-telling detail to the out of focus areas. In this case the adapter was also rotated slightly off axis to align it with the diagonal of the violin.

This photo and the one below are more typical of a subtler use of the tilt feature in still life. Both were taken at f/1.4 aperture with the lens tilted slightly forward. The tilt adds more detail to the foreground objects and surface areas, while still keeping the background very soft. 

The tilt-shift lenses I have used by Nikon and Canon are very well made, but only the newer Canon model adds independent control over both tilt and shift movements. So you can tilt and shift it at the same time for ultimate control of perspective and focus. The Kipon model can tilt and shift, but the shift is only in one direction that is opposite to the tilt, meaning you cannot have a tilt and shift in the same direction -- not so good when photographing architecture or landscapes. This is not so much of an issue for anyone doing post-processing on the images, as it is easy to correct perspective distortion afterwards. It is not possible to correct for depth of field. In those situations it would be best to just use the tilt function to increase the focus and perform the perspective correction later.

I don't use a tilt-shift lens for architectural shots anymore because it is so easy to correct perspective in post-processing. Nonetheless, it is the primary use for this lens type so I thought I would include some examples.

Another use of the shift function is to use it for panoramas. With the camera on a tripod, one exposure is taken with the lens shifted to the left, and a second image is taken with the lens shifted to the right. To widen the panorama even more a third exposure can be taken in the middle with no shift. All the images are stitched together later in something like Photoshop or ArcSoft Panorama Maker to make one wide panoramic scene.

These three exposures, each with a different shift, were used to create the panoramic image below
This panorama of the new World Trade Center area is an assembly of three exposures done with the shift control -- one shot with left shift, one with no shift, and a third with right shift. The images were assembled in ArcSoft Panorama Maker 6 and some final perspective correction done in Photoshop. A side benefit of this technique is that you obtain larger resolution files to make enlarged prints. In this case, for instance, the resulting of combining the three images provides a 27mp file from the 16mp X-E2.

For this interior image the adapter was used with a Nikon 20mm lens and has a downward shift to keep the room lines parallel while eliminating the ceiling and showing more of the bottom couches. In this case it would have been nice if the lens was able to tilt forward at the same time as the downward shift in order to increase the focus depth in the scene. Most professional tilt-shift lenses can do this. The Kipon adapter cannot. 

These three views were taken with a 12mm focal length on a Sigma 12-24mm lens. On the left there is no correction made with the adapter. In the middle the lens was shifted down about half of its fill distance, which is about where I would want it for a shot like this. On the right the lens is shifted to the maximum distance allowed by the adapter. There is obvious image cutoff in this final image, but for practical purposes, as in the middle image, there is no vignetting. 

Almost a full upward shift with a Nikon 20mm lens on the Kipon adapter fully corrects the perspective of the buildings..

This shot of tulips was taken with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 at wide open aperture and no tilt on the Kipon adapter. Focus was placed on the petals of the larger tulip on to the right. Very little else is in focus. 

For this version I tilted the lens forward slightly to extend the focus to more of the foreground tulip petals, and at the same time decrease it on the foreground leaves to soften them. Not everyone uses a tilt/shift for this subtle type of correction, but it is what I mostly do with it.

For my purposes, namely using primarily the tilt function in still life applications, the Kipon adapter works perfectly fine on a Fuji X camera. I use it with Nikon D lenses, which I prefer because they have a manual aperture ring. Although there is another version of the adapter to accommodate Nikon G lenses, it doesn't allow you to see the exact aperture you are selecting when you use it.

For architectural photography, the adapter is handicapped by not allowing rotation of the tilt and shift mechanisms separate from each other.

A chief advantage to using an adapter as opposed to a dedicated tilt/shift lens is that the adapter can perform multiple duties by accepting a variety of focal lengths. Since the lenses being used were intended for a larger format sensor, their image coverage can cover a fuller area of the APS-C sensor when the lens is shifted.  This may minimize vignetting a bit, although not entirely. A drawback is that it means working at the corners of the lens where the optical quality is not at its best.  I found this to be especially true when I used the Nikon 20mm lens.

Bottom line is, the Kipon tilt-shift adapter is easy to use, works well given its limitations, and will do the job until a dedicated tilt-shift lens is added to the Fuji lens roadmap -- something I don't anticipate anytime in the near future.

The Kipon Tilt & Shift Adapter for Nikon F Lens to Fuji X-mount is now available here on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Featured photographer -- Randy Santos: images of Washington DC

Randy Santos is a photographer whose artistic vision and unique personal perspective on the world around him has established him as one of the Washington DC area’s preeminent photographers. He specializes in creating iconic stock images of Washington DC, selling them through his own company, dcstockimages, which is housed on the PhotoShelter platform.  He lives in the DC area and so is always ready to capture the city in its best light. His photographs appear in commercial advertising, coffee table books, calendars, and as fine art prints.

A native Washingtonian with over 30 years of photographic experience, Randy’s work reflects his passion and drive for creative self-expression, a mastery of the medium of photography, and his love for the architectural beauty and history found in his hometown. This spring his images will be featured in the book,  "WASHINGTON D.C.: A PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT".

Randy does most of his photography on a Canon 5d camera with a complete assortment of the Canon pro zooms. Below are a sampling of some of his photos of DC. To see more, visit his website listed above. 

Sunrise, United States Capitol Building Washington DC

World War 2 Memorial Washington DC

White House Washington DC in winter

Rotunda US Capitol Washington DC

Iwo Jima Memorial - Marine Corp Memorial Washington DC Arlington Virginia

Cherry blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial in the background

Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Sculling on the Potomic

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. 

To see more of Randy's work visit his personal website and stock image company here:

For an article on how Randy photographs the cherry blossoms, check out this article in Pop Photography: "Photograph Washington D.C.'s Infamous Cherry Blossoms".

To read more about how Randy successfully markets his work check out this PhotoShelter post: "Building a 'Monumental' Photo Business".

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fujifilm introduces the new X-T1 mirrorless camera

One thing you have to hand to Fujifilm: They don't give up on improvements and additions to their X camera lineup. The X-T1 -- a DSLR-styled design that initially took many of us by surprise -- is a divergence from the retro-rangefinder look that has popularized the X series and made it something of a cult camera. For obvious reasons, Fuji could not fit such a sophisticated finder into a body like the X-E2 or X-Pro1. I am a big fan of rangefinder cameras and love the X-Pro1 design, but realize the lack of more sophisticated finder options when work requires a quicker, larger finder. For convenience and speed, many pro photographers like to carry at least two camera bodies when shooting. Fortunately, the X-T1 is reasonably priced at $1299 making it a bit easier to add it as an extra body along with one of the other X cameras. So we don't have to give up our rangefinders just yet. And lest we forget, there is still an X-Pro2 model lurking somewhere in the future of the Fuji lineup.

Fujifilm's latest addition to the X camera lineup is the X-T1 with a new EVF finder that takes optical viewing to a higher, more practical level.  Eyeglass wearers are going to be extremely pleased with the view finder stats. At .77x magnification and with a speedy lag time of only .005 seconds (as opposed to .05 second on an X-E2), it boasts the highest magnification and quickest refresh rate of any digital camera finder, and moves mirrorless cameras one step closer to closing the gap between them and pro level DSLR's. In comparison, a Nikon D7100 has a finder magnification of .63x.  Eyeglass wearers will by happy to hear that the viewfinder eyepoint is an impressive 23mm.

The ISO range is 200-6400 with AUTO control up to 6400, and an extended sensitivity range up to 51200. It can shoot continuously at 8fps up to 47 frames (in jpg), or 3fps continuously until the card is full.  The X-T1 is the first camera to capable of using the ultra high speed UHS II SD cards. 

The X-T1 maintains its retro styling that is bristling with dual function dials (a la the Nikon Df) on a weather sealed body. The left dial set controls ISO and continuous drive options. The middle dial to the right of the finder controls shutter speed, as it always has, and adds finder meter choices. On the far right is larger, re-designed exposure compensation knob. In keeping with the new weather-sealing, the screw-in cable release that used to be on the shutter button has been replaced for a usb type socket elsewhere on the body. Personally, I am sad to see this convenient feature go, but understand the trade off for better weather protection. 

The body itself -- approximately the same size as the X-E2 -- is die-case magnesium with 80-point weather-sealing and functionality down to -10. An optional battery pack (shown in the top photo) extends the shooting life from 350 to 700 shots. 

Fujifilm has introduced a new lens roadmap that includes mid-range and long-range, pro-quality f/2.8 zooms, a 16-55mm and 50-140mm. These lenses will also be weather sealed and are expected to come out later this year. Such sophisticated lens support coupled with the new finder and continuous shooting features of the X-T1 should help boost this camera into the pro-level major leagues. 

The X-T1 does not have a built-in flash, but does come with an auxiliary, folding flash that fits in the hot shoe, and of course still accepts the other available Fujifilm flash options.

WiFi is built-in and has been raised to a new level of sophistication. You can control the focus point and take a picture using a smartphone with a remote camera APP, but, more importantly, many camera controls, such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. can also be controlled directly from the mobile device. 

Key features of the Fujifilm X-T1
Evolved electronic viewfinder
  1. 1.High-precision 2.36 million dot OLED viewfinder
  2. 2.Highest viewfinder magnification for digital cameras of 0.77x*
  3. 3.Wide viewing angle (diagonal 38° and horizontal 31°)
  4. 4.Ultra fast Real Time Viewfiner with a lag-time of 0.005sec** (less than 1/10 of existing models)***
  5. 5.Four different display modes: Full, Normal, Dual and Vertical.
    • Full mode: Displays shooting information at the top and bottom of the screen to avoid obstruction of the view.
    • Dual mode: Adds a small second screen for checking focus point with Focus Peak Highlight or Digital Split Image*4.
    • Normal mode: Lets you concentrate on framing the shot in Auto Focus mode while keeping you aware of how the shooting conditions are changing, making it the perfect setting for sports and action photography
    • Portrait mode: When in Full or Normal modes, it rotates the shooting information interface when the camera is turned vertically.
Ultimate high-speed responses, including the world's fastest AF
  • World's fastest AF of 0.08 seconds*5 is achieved with Fujifilm's proprietary imaging area phase-detection. Startup time of 0.5 seconds*6, shutter time lag of 0.05 seconds and shooting interval of 0.5 seconds*7have been achieved with the image processing engine EXR Processor II — with more than twice as fast a processing speed as the previous processor.
  • Phase detection AF and motion predictive AF for continuous shooting up to 8 frames per second*8.
  • World's first compatibility with Ultra High Speed UHS-II SD memory cards.
Weather resistant structure
  • Dust and water-resistant body with approximately 80 points of weather sealing. Freeze resistance to -10℃.
  • Vertical battery grip VG-XT1 and three new zoom lenses offer the same weather resistance to secure the entire system.
High resolution, low noise and unique color reproduction
  • 16.3 megapixel APS-C size X-Trans™ CMOS II*4 sensor with original color array to control moirĂ© and false colors without a optical low path filter.
  • Resolution and low noise comparable to that of models with ‘full-frame’ sensors.
  • Proprietary image design technology reproduces true-to-life colors.
  • Redesigned circuit board design enables high ISO 51200 setting*10.
  • Lens Modulation Optimizer technology maximizes each lens' performance.

The X-T1 can be ordered from B&H here: Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Remembering the good old days of film...

We had a bunch of old film cameras out in the studio to use as props for a photo shoot we are planning. They looked so interesting, I thought I'd photograph them by themselves.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A wintry blue week in New York with my X-E2

Looking over some of the grab shots I took this past week, I noticed how many blue images there were. At this time of year the sky is very clear, and the color more saturated than other times of year. Below are a few of the images on the blue theme, all taken with the 55-200mm zoom mounted on a Fuji X-E2, the camera I almost always have with me while walking about.

I took this shot just this morning of a solitary cloud as it slipped by against a clear, early morning sky.

 One late evening I found this lone bird sitting within the bare branches of a tree and silhouetted against the sky.

I recorded this scene while leaving Central Park just after sunset on the day of the blizzard. I liked the contrast of the blue scene with the bright red stop light and the warm colored reflections in the foreground snow.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The day begins with a cold dawn in New York

City roof tops with steam hitting the cold air just before dawn.

Photographed with a Fuji X-E2 and 55-200mm zoom.

First mug of hot coffee on my desk -- Leica I looking on.

Photographed with one of my favorite close-up rigs -- a fast 35mm on the X-E2 with +2 close-up filter, wide open at f/1.4. 

Turn on the music. 

All set for a warm day indoors and some Photoshop editing.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shooting for platinum with the Fuji X-E2

After completing my shoot with a model in the snow storm in Central Park yesterday, I stayed on through dusk to photograph scenes in the park to add to my platinum series of photographs. All were shot on the Fujifilm X-E2 with either the 18-55mm zoom or 55-200mm zoom in the 1:1 format for later conversion to platinum prints.

Ultimately, these photos will be converted to real platinum prints by making an inter-negative first. For display on the internet, I make digital representations. I do this whenever I intend an image to be converted to platinum so I can see how they will look beforehand, and decide whether of not I want to go ahead with the conversion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Fuji X-E2 weathers a snow storm in Central Park

We had a mini-blizzard of snow falling in New York yesterday. After finishing the shoot I was doing in my studio that morning I arranged to meet a model I knew in Central Park to take a few photos while the snow was still falling and blowing around.

Normally I would have used a Nikon outfit for a shoot like this, particularly because its resistance to inclement weather, but I had already done a shoot in the morning and just wanted to have some fun in the park without being bogged down with a lot of equipment to carry. So I decided to go with just my Fuji X-E2, some extra batteries, and the Fuji two zooms -- a nice light-weight kit that would fit in my coat pockets. To make things even easier I set the camera to auto-exposure with an exposure compensation of +1 stop to allow for the bright snow.  We shot for about an hour late in the afternoon. Here are just a few of the results.