The Razor's Edge p2: Studio Sessions.

UPDATE: Added a 100% crop image shot at f/9.

As you may know by now, I had the great privilege of shooting a pre-production XF 56mm F/1.2R for Fujifilm over the holidays, to create sample images for the lens. Some of those pictures are now online as part of the documentation and promo material that you'll find on the official product page.

I've been looking forward to posting some of these images for quite some time now and I've made them a bit larger than usual for the occasion — Apologies to your bandwidth ;)

If you've seen some of these on the sample pages you'll immediately notice differences with the ones below. That's because Fujifilm (and I imagine most camera makers) are extremely rigorous when it comes to samples: we had to hand in the raw files, could not do any sort of retouching, processing, sharpening... Nothing. Which makes perfect sense from an ethical standpoint since it ensures that the samples shown are in no way the results of clever post-processing. In fact the idea is to present something as neutral as possible. But... I'll be very honest with you: it's a little unsettling to see your images published this way. You know that dream where you're in class with no clothes on? Yeah, that. Let's just say I now have a newfound respect for sample pages everywhere ;)

That said, it's a lot of fun to take on a challenge like this and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity. It's the sort of gig that ends up pushing you in directions you weren't necessarily aiming for and that's part of the beauty of the work we do: we get to re-invent ourselves just by shining a different light on things...

I did two separate studio shoots for the job. I had ordered a curtain made out of glass beads but it got stuck in The Great Holidays Shipping Mess of 2013, so I had to come up with something else on the first session. All of the images were shot with a specially formatted X-E2 camera that was sent along with the lens.

Shoot#1: Juliette

Images #1-2-3-5 were shot with an Elinchrom Deep Octa 100 fitted with a Nikon SB-900 using a speedlight to Elinchrom adapter. On #8 I used an SB-900 up close in an Orbis Ring Flash (you can see the reflection in the glasses). Images #4-6-7 were shot with a single Elinchrom BX500ri in a medium Portalite softbox


Shoot #2: Cynthia

Same basic setup for this shoot except when the glass beads are used as part of the background: on #3-4-6 I've added a bare speedlight behind the curtain to get more sparkle from the iridescent beads. All shot with the Deep Octa and SB-900 except for #1-2 which use an overhead BX500ri in the same medium Portalite softbox.


A word about sharpness in the land of samples

One of the thrills (!) of having your work on the web at full size and available for scrutiny is the inevitable pixel peeping backlash: it's not sharp, it's too this and not enough that... Par for the course and, I guess, perfectly normal in this day and age.

But please keep a couple of things in mind: for one, shooting portraits at f/1.2 is a heck of an exercise. The closer you move in to your subject, the shallower your depth of field becomes and the thinner that plane of focus. And since human beings are movable objects (as opposed to say, brick walls), you end up working within very fluid boundaries. I was shooting on a tripod for many of these but at very close range, a simple breath intake from the model meant just enough of a shift in focus to miss the shot. I also had the impression — and this may be wrong or due to pre-production status — that this very shallow DOF would throw off the focus peaking algorithms when shooting close to the minimum focussing distance of the lens. Secondly, when looking at web samples you also need to take into consideration what I mentioned earlier: on the one hand it's great to see untouched results; on the other, it isn't necessarily representative of what's usually out there... The type of material we deliver and consider as a reference. I'm not making excuses here, just trying to put things into perspective and hopefully help you decide what's best.

Here are some 100% crops to give you an idea of the sharpness vs DOF when shooting this lens wide open. Bear in mind that these are from an early pre-production unit. I recommend clicking on them to get a larger and clearer version. FYI: the images have been converted to jpeg, compressed between 65 and 75.

 1:1 zoom from image #1 of the 1st shoot.

 1:1 zoom from image #9 of the 2nd shoot.

 1:1 zoom from image #4 of the 2nd shoot.

1:1 zoom from image #2 of the 2nd shoot. Shot at f/9.

These are screen grabs from the LR5 Develop module, which means no output sharpening has been applied (RAW sharpening HAS however been tweaked to get the most out of the files, which is normal). And we all know how much of an understatement it is to say LR isn't the king of RAF rendering. So I don't know about you but... I'm good with this. I really am.

Good enough that I'm eager to use this lens as part of my main setup.

Next up: some slightly more quotidian photography with the 56...