Excursion trains are a perfect opportunity to test photographic equipment. I’m always looking for new glass. It’s not that cash is burning holes in my wallet, but every lens offers new ways of making photographs, and I’m curious to know what each is capable of.
Sunday, I had the loan of a Fujinon XF16-55mm f2.8 zoom. I already have a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom for my X-T1, so I wanted to know what could this lens offer me.
First of all it has a slightly wider field of view. More importantly, it’s faster (f2.8 across the range instead of f4-5.6) and the aperture control is with a conventional ring on the lens with traditional f stop markings.
I found the lens easy to use, quick to focus, and very sharp. On the downside, it is heavier and larger than my existing zoom. Also, from the moment I attached it to the camera I wanted it!
Here are two photos exposed hand-held with the zoom. I’d photographed the same train at this exact location on the previous day using my Canon EOS 3 and Provia slide film.
Now, is this a fair comparison? Pat Yough lent me his Carl Zeiss Touit f1.8 32mm lens to test on my Fuji X-T1. So I made two similar photographs at the same spot of successive MBTA PCCs at Cedar Grove (first stop west of Ashmont).
A more conventional comparison would have taken a more scientific approach by perhaps mounting the camera on a tripod and photographing a static subject with constant light.
And that would be a good test, its true. But that’s not what I was going to do.
Lens in hand (or more precisely, attached to my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera), I wanted to see what the lens could do as a working tool. How does it handle? How quickly does it focus? What is the color like? Does it seem sharp?
I was comparing it against my ‘catch all’ Fujinon Super EBC XF 18-135mm zoom. At the moment this is the only lens I have for my Fuji X-T1 and I’ve been using it for just about all the photos I’ve made with the camera.
First I used my Fujinon lens of PCC 3262; then 8-minutes later the Zeiss of PCC 3260.
While the 18-135mm is a great lens, it has two drawbacks. It’s bulky and relatively slow (f3.5 –f5.6 depending on the focal length). The Zeiss lens by contrast is lightweight and very fast.
But the really important point of this exercise is the end photos. Which is better overall?
The Fujinon image was made with a slightly wider focal length. Well that’s the advantage of a zoom-lens, right, the ability to adjust the focal length on the spot.
However, one of the unspoken advantages of a prime lens (a fixed focal length lens, such as this Zeiss 32mm) is that it forces the photographer to work within the limits of the given angle of view. Sometimes this makes the photographer (me) work a little harder when composing the photograph.
I found the Zeiss to be fast-focusing, very sharp and it provides excellent clean color. On the downside, the field of view is slightly narrower than I like.
Using the Zeiss 32mm on the Fuji camera reminds me a lot of my old 50mm Leica Summicron (which owing to my use of it with a traditional 35mm-film Leica M, provided nearly the same field of view as does the Zeiss on my X-T1.). The 50mm Summicron always seemed a bit too narrow, but the results I got from the lens have really stood the test of time.