Friday, June 30, 2017

The Incredible Reversible Lens + The Case For 1 Camera & 1 Lens + Fujifilm X Camera & Lens For Under $300

Coffee & Camera - South Weber, Utah
Captured with a Fujifilm X-E1 & an X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm lens.
This post includes three separate articles that are closely related to each other. To begin we have The Incredible Reversible Lens, followed by The Case For 1 Camera & 1 Lens, and concluded with Fujifilm X Camera & Lens For Under $300. Feel free to jump to what interests you most, but I think you'll appreciate all three articles.

Why a three-in-one post? These three stories are closely intertwined, so it only makes sense to share them together. I hope you enjoy reading them. Maybe you will find something useful that you can apply to your own photography. So grab a beverage of choice and dive right in!

The Incredible Reversible Lens
The Incredible Reversible Lens - South Weber, Utah
I love pairing vintage lenses with my Fujifilm X series camera. It reminds me of pre-digital-photography, back in the days when I shot 35mm film. I get the look and experience that I want, but with the convenience of modern digital capture.

One of my favorite vintage lenses is the X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM, which I paid $20 for. This is a fully manual lens made for Fujifilm Fujica 35mm cameras back in the early and mid 1980's. Today's Fujinon lenses are great, and they were great back then, too. The X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM is a solid option that produces excellent results. It has a 75mm equivalent focal length on an APS-C camera, making it slightly telephoto.

Even though this is a Fujinon lens, it won't work on your Fujifilm X camera without an adapter. X-Fujinon and Fujinon-X are two different mounts. Thankfully adapters are really cheap, mine was about $10.

Here are a few examples of photographs that I've captured with this lens paired to my Fujifilm X-E1:
Even Open On A Rainy Day - Ogden, Utah
Birds On A Vase - South Weber, Utah
The Tetons and the Snake River, 2017 - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
A few weeks ago I wrote how I accidentally made macro lenses with some old Russian glass. Ever since then I've been playing around with macro photography. I reignited an old interest! I used to have a macro lens when I had a Nikon DSLR, but I didn't purchase one when I switched to Fujifilm.

One way to turn a non-macro lens into a macro lens is to use it in reverse by mounting it backwards. I found an adapter that has filter threads on it specifically for backwards mounting a lens. The adapter has 58mm threads on it, and the X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm lens has 49mm threads, so I had to also purchase a step down ring. Both items together cost $7, including shipping.

When mounted backwards on my camera, the lens gives the images a completely different look than when mounted normal, and not just because you focus close. There is a ton of character that comes out, some of it good and some of it not.

There's a ridiculous amount of softness in the corners and on the edges. So much so that I decided to shoot in a square crop. There's still a fair amount of corner softness when shot square, but not nearly as much when in 3:2. It's a little Holga-esque, but without the vignetting.

Prior to this I'd never shot square with a digital camera. I'd cropped to square after the fact occasionally, but never shot square in-camera. However, in the past I've used medium-format film cameras that shot square, so I'm not entirely a stranger to the shape. You have to think about composition differently.

Here are a few examples of photographs captured with the lens mounted backwards:
Spring Dragonfly - South Weber, Utah
Velvia Fujichrome - South Weber, Utah
Bag Strap - South Weber, Utah
The reason that I call it "the incredible reversible lens" is because I leave all of the adapters attached, and I switch it back and forth (or normal and backwards) depending on what type of image I'm capturing. One lens, two uses. That's pretty incredible, right?

For only $7 I was able to turn a favorite lens into an even better lens because I made it more versatile. I'm able to use it as I normally would, and quickly switch it around when I want to focus close. You can do this with any lens, and not just the X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM.

Here's what the incredible reversible lens looks like in normal use:
Fujifilm X-E1 & 50mm Lens - Normal Use
And here's what it looks like mounted backwards:
Fujifilm X-E1 & 50mm Lens - Mounted Backwards

The Case For 1 Camera & 1 Lens
Photography Essentials - South Weber, Utah
Captured using a Fujifilm X-E1 & an X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM lens.
My fourth child was born a month ago. Over the last several weeks I've watched a bunch of photography documentaries on Netflix, YouTube and other on-demand streaming services. Typically at two or three o'clock in the morning while feeding the baby a bottle.

One thing that struck me is how many photographers use only one camera and one lens. I'm talking about very successful photographers, those who are household names within the picture taking community. One camera and one lens. For years. For decades, even.

Some actually had two cameras: a 35mm and a medium-format, with one lens for each. But they never had two on them at once.

Obviously there were plenty of other photographers in those documentaries that had all sorts of gear. Everybody is different and everyone makes their own choices when it comes to cameras and lenses. Different strokes for different folks. It was just surprising to me how many highly successful photographers keep their gear choices super simple.

Back in the days when I shot 35mm film, I had one camera and one lens: a Canon A-E1 with a 50mm f/1.8. For years that's all I had and that's all I used. I didn't have multiple cameras and lenses until I got into digital photography about eight years ago. And I kept my film gear for a long time, while my digital gear seems to get "upgraded" every year or two.

Last week I went camping in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. It's a beautiful hidden gem along the Portneuf River in southern Idaho about halfway between Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole. My family and I had a good time over the three days we spent there.

For my gear I brought along one camera and one lens: a Fujifilm X-E1 and an X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM, set up as described in The Incredible Reversible Lens above. I kept it simple. And I very much enjoyed the simplicity of it. I appreciated not carrying around a camera bag loaded with stuff. It was nice not having to think about what camera and lens combo would be best for a particular image.

Occasionally I wished that I had a longer or wider lens to get some shot, but not very often. Knowing that I had what I had, I looked for compositions that I could make and tried not to worry about what I couldn't do. I think that the restriction of one camera and one lens was actually beneficial, because I had to look at some scenes differently than I otherwise would have.

Pablo Picasso said, "If you have five elements available use only four. If you have four elements use three." Applying this principal to photography gear, don't bring all of your gear with you, but instead limit yourself to some extent. Poet Charles Bernstein said, "Art often thrives on limitations."

Imposing a restriction of one camera and one lens might seem disadvantageous, but I think it was actually beneficial to my art. Oftentimes less is more. I plan on taking this approach more often.

Here are the photographs from that camping trip, captured using one camera and one lens:

Black & White
In The Portneuf Mountains - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Clouds Over Portneuf Mountain Ridge - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Tree By The Portneuf River - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Bush Between The Trees - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Misty Monochrome - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Tree Branch Over Portneuf River - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Tent By The River - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Bristol Park - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Bridge Over Portneuf River - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Indoor Plant - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Ace Is The Place To Pet A Dog - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Monochrome Joy - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
No Public Restrooms - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Play Here - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Pick-Up Window - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Color:
Purple Lupine - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Rain Drops On A Flower - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Tiny Purple Wildflowers - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Small Spring Bloom - Lava Hot Springs, Idao
Ladybug On A Leaf - Lava Hot Springs
Wood Table - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
When - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Jukebox - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Boarded Window - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Hot Spring - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Hidden Waterfall - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Bridge & Blue Car - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Camping Chairs - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Riverside Tent - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Ca,ping Along The River - Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
All of these images were camera-made JPEGs, shot using Astia, Provia or Monochrome+R film simulations. They received a light post-processing in Nik Collection software and/or Alien Skin Exposure X.

Fujifilm X Camera & Lens For Under $300
Fujifilm X-E1 & 18-55mm Lens
Cost is something that for years kept me from buying a Fujifilm X camera. Now you can get into the system for under a grand, but a couple years ago that wasn't really possible. While the cameras are cheaper than full-frame, it's still a healthy investment to switch to Fujifilm. Like a lot of people, I'm not made of money and I can't drop a bunch of cash on gear.

One year ago I purchased a gently used Fujifilm X-E1 with the kit 18-55mm lens for $575. I just love the camera and couldn't be happier with the decision to buy it. I've had a number of different digital cameras (it's my ninth digital camera, and my sixth interchangeable-lens digital camera), and I've never had one that I enjoyed using more--not even close!

While the X-E1 is about five years old now, it's still an excellent camera that produces great images. It's a couple of models old (the X-E2S is the current version, and an X-E3 is rumored to be on the way before the end of the year), but it doesn't seem outdated when I use it. I love matching it with vintage glass, such as the X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM lens mentioned in the two articles above this one. The camera seems perfectly made for pairing with manual lenses.

For those who have wanted to get into the Fujifilm X series but could never afford to, I have a great solution! You can actually get started for under $300!

I mentioned that I purchased my X-E1 for $575 with the kit 18-55mm lens. I used that lens for about 10 months, and recently sold it for $315. That means I paid only $260 for the camera body! The X-Fujinon f/1.9 50mm DM lens cost me only $20, and I paid $10 for the adapter that allows me to attach it to the camera (X-Fujinon and Fuji X mount are two different things). I also purchased an adapter for reverse mounting and a step down ring for $7 as described in The Incredible Reversible Lens at the top of this post.

To recap, the X-E1 camera was $260, the lens was $20, and all of the adapters and such were $17. That totals only $297! I don't think there's a better bargain in all of digital photography. Looking at eBay, you can actually buy an X-E1 body for even less, and you might be able to get this whole arrangement for as little as $250.

So if you've wanted to try a Fujifilm X camera but couldn't afford it, well, now you can. There are no excuses. Even if you don't have $300 today, look into PayPal credit, they have options for six months with no payment and no interest. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and give the X-Trans sensor a try!

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