Fujifilm X-T2 W/XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens
I've gotten lot's of emails about my post several days ago following the launch of the newest Fujifilm lens, the Fujinon XF80mm F2.8 Macro. I think rather than reply to each one I would just post a general set of answers here.
NOTE: The shot above of the Melanoplus Grasshopper is UNCROPPED (6000X4000). Editing was done in the Silkypix RAW FILE CONVERTER software which you can download from Fujifilm's website.
Before we get to the Q&A from the XF80mm F2.8 post let me just pass on a few thoughts.
I appreciate the feedback, even the not so nice ones. My replies are sometimes late because as you can appreciate I'm always working one way or another whether it's client focused or my own personal projects. We grow as much from work as we do from play and I try to get equal amounts in whenever possible. The first thing I want readers to know is this: Don't consider anything I say here as a rule. Every single photographer I've ever met has his/her own way of making images. I've seen everything from DIY photography tools all the way to top dollar equipment.
It can probably go without saying that as a Fujifilm X-Photographer I get to use some very fancy and expensive equipment. I also give a fair shake to the hobbyist/enthusiast level gear too because in my experience you can find some real "sleepers" like the XC16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II lens that works great and cost very little by comparison.
Second, if someone quotes you photography rules, apply my advice: Listen, look and learn from people who's work you admire and/or are inspired by. That's how I learned. But those rules, BREAK THEM. It's the only way forward.
Q: Did you crop any of the images
A: Yep, absolutely. In some cases I cropped moderately for a more dramatic composition. You will find that cropping is a fact of life when shooting macro or wildlife images. Sometimes you can't get close enough to a subject for a variety of reasons...focal length, safety, or a restrictive minimal focusing distance of a particular lens. Also, in most cases wild animals and insects don't like us.
This reptile let me get fairly close but well outside the minimum focus range of the XF80mm F2.8. The other factor was that to get the shot I had to stand in thigh deep water with one foot on the slopes of a slippery rock. I wasn't very stable to push the shot much further. The finished image is cropped to 5096X3397, pretty moderate but just enough to get the composition just right.
Then there are the interesting but not so friendly critters.
Get too close and they either escape or attack. Neither of those outcomes usually get's the shot. I've never personally met anyone who has been bitten by a dock spider and I don't want to be the first among my friends either. My respectful distance required a crop to 4770X3180.
Q: Did you use a tripod
A: Yes, but for very few shots. Many of these were taken in the full heat of Summer and the little critters were moving around quite a bit. I found it easier to just hand-hold which allowed me to contort into whatever position worked best for the composition. The XF80mm has a 5-stop image stabilisation system which helps quite a lot, however you still need a subject that is relatively static when shooting at slow shutter speeds. For subjects like food, jewelry etc. I definitely use a tripod though. I did film a fair bit with a second X-T2 camera and in that case I alternately employed a regular and video specific tripod.
Q: What Apertures Do You Use
A: Depends on the subject and desired depth-of-field. Left to my own devices though, I prefer as wide an aperture F2.4/2.8/5.6 as I can get away with while keeping the parts of my composition that are important..in focus. I like blurred out backgrounds and bokeh while the subject remains very sharp and isolated. With close-up subjects you tend to stop down anywhere from F8-F16/22 in order to keep most of the subject in-focus. Sometimes even stopping down isn't enough or desirable. All lenses have a "sweet spot". That aperture where they exhibit their best qualities and going beyond that introduces softness to the images (diffraction). One way around this is to Focus Stack where you take a series of images at different distances along the subject, then use software such as Adobe Photoshop CC to stitch them together in a final photograph.
Q: Do you Shoot With Natural Light or Flash
A: Again it depends on the circumstances...my preference with wildlife and insects is natural light. If you are shooting at very small apertures (F10-22) or in low light conditions then using an artificial light source is a must even if the camera is set up on a tripod. Poor lighting usually results in a poor image.
Q: What Software Did You Use
A: For my general workflow I use Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. They aren't perfect but for images displayed on the Internet or Mobile Devices it does a good job. For more exacting editing I default to the Silkypix software. It's slow, not very intuitive but once you learn your way around it your images will usually be a near copy of what you saw in the cameras' viewfinder right down to your Film Simulation of choice.
As with anything though...the final image is no small amount of technical execution and lot's of "art". We can both photograph the same subjects and end up with very different images because it all boils down to "art"..or taste.
Q: Which Lens Do You Prefer
A: Definitely the XF80mm F2.8 because of the Optical Image Stabiliser, Linear Motor focusing system and Weather Sealing.
Basically everything my older XF60mm F2.4 lens isn't. When photographing insects I prefer the longer focal length of the XF80mm over my XF60mm lens. It allows me to stay a respectful distance from certain subjects...and providing them with enough comfort to tolerate my presence.
The icing on top is the compatibility with Fujifilm's 1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters which make the lens even more useful.
Q: Which Camera Do You Prefer
A: Any of the ILC X-Series cameras will do just fine but you have significantly more resolution for cropping with the X-T2/XPro2 cameras. Then there is the much improved auto-focus system and expanded video features.