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Let's talk gear: Zooming in on new possibilities

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

In the previous "Let's talk gear" post, I alluded to the end of a love affair. This was more in the context that, as much as I loved the Fujinon 16mm f1.4, I needed more flexibility from my gear. Ultimately, I did not want to own too many lenses, certainly as I am not (at that moment in time) a professional photographer. My big takeaway from the experience was that I enjoyed shooting the wider field of view that the 16mm allowed; and that I really should have thought out my gear more carefully.

It became apparent to me that the flexibility of a zoom lens could be more beneficial to my overall kit as opposed to running the 16mm and 35mm options. Ideally, I would want to keep both lenses as they were fantastic offerings at what they do, and I really did enjoy shooting with them. I needed more flexibility in situations where the prime lenses would limit my capabilities. The 35mm was the focal length I fell in love with from the start, but the overall quality of the 16mm made it difficult to decide which one was to be sacrificed.

That decision was put on hold while I decided which zoom lens I ultimately wanted to add to my kit. The Fujinon 18-55mm f4 seemed like a flexible choice and one that was also relatively affordable. My preferred choice was the 16-55mm f2.8 as it had the wider reaching focal length of the 16mm that I enjoyed with the prime. It was also capable of shooting at a fixed f2.8 aperture which could be more beneficial in low light as well as the extra headroom regarding depth of field. The big (pardon the pun again) knocks against this lens option were the size and, ultimately, the cost. It was a significantly more expensive lens. In the end, I put purchasing another lens on the backburner while I mulled it over in more detail.

This decision paid off massively in the end. Not only did the lens get significantly discounted, Fujifilm also ran a cashback promotion. Both significant enough for me to give in to my impulses and purchase the lens at a much more affordable price. It was as good a time than any, I pushed this purchase through. To aid in financing this purchase, I had to return to the decision I did not want to make – selling either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2.

Ultimately, the factor that made this decision slightly easier for me; the re-sale value and demand of the 16mm f1.4. Since I am the type that tends to baby everything I own, my lens was pretty much in mint condition. As such, I could sell it for nigh on mint condition prices. This meant I was able to recoup a nice bit of cash that could offset the purchase of the new Fujinon zoom lens.

Now it was just a case for the 16-55mm lens to make its way to its new home. Here I was, ready to welcome it with open arms. It caught me by surprise, I knew it was going to be big, but once it showed up it put the 16mm to shame.

This made the overall package that bit more significant in size. Harkens back to when I was comparing the size of the Nikon D5300 with the Sigma 35mm lens. The combination of the X-T2 with the 16-55mm lens nullifies any of the size and weight benefits which was one of the big draws that brought me to the mirrorless camera system. Again, I understand that I am comparing apples and oranges at this point as the lenses and the form factor are different. This comparison is more about the rhetoric as an overall package; particularly so, that I tend more to street and travel photography.

Nevertheless, the expanded capabilities of having this zoom lens in my arsenal allowed me that level of flexibility. This setup also opened some possibility for video work as well, where the focal range and fixed aperture worked wonders on a few projects I worked on. Not so great handheld however, lacking any stabilisation features both in camera and the lens itself. It is functional in a pinch, but extra care is imperative to keep as steady hand as possible. To negate any of these cons, an option could be to purchase a gimbal or, if the situation allows for it, mount the camera setup on a tripod.

Overall, it was a worthy addition to my kit, but it did not have as big an impact as I thought it would. It really became a situational lens where having the various focal ranges would come in handy when I was not quite sure what I wanted to capture and where. The f2.8 aperture also gave that little bit more flexibility in situations where I may find myself in low light situations.

The Lumiere London 2018 and the Winter Lights show at Canary Wharf presented a great opportunity to test this lens. There would be a range of subjects and compositions at play at this event. Furthermore, the event would be taking place in the evening and low light conditions. I was incredibly pleased with the results.

As expected, I was able to adapt to various compositions as the zoom capabilities allowed for it. The f2.8 aperture gave me the head room to capture in low light and play around with a greater range of shooting settings. But what really got me was the colour rendition and the range that was open to me during post processing. The resulting colours were vivid and eye catching, which is what I wanted to showcase the lighting exhibitions.

While the Fujinon 16-55mm delivered on expectations, I still found myself reaching more towards the 35mm prime as it was still my preferred focal length and form factor. It just had that fun factor to me, and I became very accustomed to that FOV, to the point I could see what I wanted to capture before I even brought the camera up to my eye. It became instinctive.

At this point, I felt I had reached the level of kit that met my needs. That was... until I watched a lens review from a channel I follow on YouTube. The levels of desire inside of me were rising and the challenge this lens presented to me was starting to feel extremely attractive.

Tune in for the next chapter along this voyage of discovery where I reveal the lens in question, which goes on to become my primary lens and the one that would be glued to my camera if ever that time came.

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