Which Fuji Normal Prime

It's no secret I've wanted a 35mm prime for my Fuji X System since the day I bought my XT-1. I've been hamstrung in deciding on which particular 35mm since then. A big factor in not pulling the trigger on one or the other is that blasted 18-55 XF I got for free with the camera. It's good enough for the most part. Thinking back it's exactly the reason I didn't order one of the 35mm primes when I ordered the camera.

The Statistics

Four days, two fun female friends, one-hundred percent horrid weather, one power outage, three occasions where I picked up my XT-1 and made pictures. If I take any of those three occasions and take a look at the handy-dandy metadata filter in Lightroom's library module my focal length choices are a bit surprising to myself.

The first time Alicia deciding what to wear that evening. The afternoon light was so nice I just had to make a few pictures.

The first few were obviously not 35mm/50mm equiv. They were 18mm at the wide end of the Fuji 18-55.

With the evening's outfit sorted and having a few hours to kill before dinner combined with the horrendously cold May we're having in the mid-atlantic Alicia decided to have some fun with a few toys.

A perfect opportunity to make a few photographs contributing to this study in body language. Here's the statistical surprise…

  • 152 exposures total for this occasion, not a lot given the few hours Alicia wanted to play with the cuffs
  • 62 frames at 18mm
  • 1 frame at 23mm
  • and finally a whopping 82 frames at 35mm

If you would have asked me I would have guessed that I used 35mm a good bit but probably less than I did 18mm or 23mm. I never would have guessed I used 35mm for the vast majority of what I made. Turns out the other two occasions are even more skewed towards 35mm.

So what? Who cares, right? The 18-55mm is perfectly fine. Sure it's not quite as sharp as the primes, not quite as fast, and has a bit more flare in some circumstances buy hey, it's got great stabilization so it's all good. That's what I've been telling myself as I've flip-flopped back and fourth between the 35/1.4 and the 35/2 for a couple of weeks more than a year now.

Who Needs A Prime?

The extended weekend with Alicia and Tricia proved that I do. Sure I made quite a few photographs I absolutely love with the 18-55mm but that's far more a factor of spending a lot of time with circumstances that lead to opportunities that were exactly what I was looking for more than it was gear related or making a ton of pictures.

Technical Considerations

The photograph above is one that worked out. I tend to release the shutter while people are in motion to one degree or another. I like dynamic circumstances, especially for this project. I introduce bits motion blur with slow-ish shutter speeds as you can see in Alicia' hands. At 35mm the 18-55 was wide-open.

That's all well and good but there's more than a few where I really wish I had a bit faster shutter because they would have been great but the overall motion blur kills them. Not localized enough and/or not enough but going for way more is an effect and not really what I was after for those missed shots. Another 2 or 3 stops would have been fantastic. Ether 35mm prime for the win.

Handling, Etc.

On this occasion with the exception of slow shutter speeds the 18-55 was theoretically a better choice than say the 18mm and 35mm primes in terms of handling. Why? No wasted time, or worse missed shots while changing lenses. Theoretically being the key word. In reality the frames made at 18mm are all on the front end. The vast majority of the time spent after that are all 35mm. Not quite true there are 11 frames at the very end when I stuck Alicia up on the window to camera left.

This was a private setting so I could have cared less about size and discreteness. The other two occasions were a completely different story. On those occasions the 18-55 felt too obtrusive, especially at 35mm. At 18mm it feels a tad long. At 35mm it feels really long.

I have no idea if it really makes any difference but I certainly would have been far more comfortable with the 18mm and definitely 35mm/2 primes instead of the telescoping front end of an already long-ish lens on the front of the XT-1. How I feel in public making pictures is a huge influence and god I wish I had smaller lenses for both of the other occasions I made pictures over those four days.

Which 35mm?

I can't believe I'm still waffling over this. Does it really matter? Probably not both are smaller and 2 or 3 stops faster than the 18-55mm at 35mm. Half of the reason I'm writing this is to remind me how much I really want/need a 35mm prime. I did love the 35/1.4 on my original XPRO-1 but taking a look at what I just wrote it would seem the real motivation is for something more discrete. Obviously that suggests the f/2. It's cheaper, faster focusing (so I hear), and definitely smaller.

Unless I change my mind by the time I'm done typing this, that's the call. I'm going directly to the buy button over on Amazon and grabbing the 35mm f/2 WR. I have a feeling I'll end up with both of them but for what I want to make here and now the 18/2 and 35/2 are probably the perfect pocketable, bag-free combo for me.

End Notes

All photos made with the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55mm XF. Processing via Lightroom CC with VSCO FILM 06 TRI-X+1 applied on import.

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've not been sitting still by any means. In fact I've finished the fragments side-project and have made an immense amount of progress in getting down to selects to be printed.

I've also gone thru all of my experiments for what I consider the main project I've been documenting here from the start of it. In doing so I've also looked thru some earlier projects that I've never completed or pursued and decided that a few of those are really this project just coming at it from a slightly different direction. From this point forward I think I'll review a few of those and decide which of those actually belong here and should be pursued in parallel or merged in or more likely separated out into a more manageable set of sub-projects.

More on that later.