I’ve recently got hold of the Fuji 27mm pancake lens for a bargain price on ebay. I’ve secretly been hankering after the awesome Fuji 23mm but the price has been just a little bit out of my reach so I though the 27mm would be a close second to it. After all, 4mm is hardly anything right?
Now these lenses are very different, I don’t have the 23mm to do any side by side comparisons and I’m not the most technical of people when it comes to the finer details of whether one thing is better than another, I just use it and if it performs it’s job then it’s alright by me.
So what is the job of this little pancake lens then? Well, I suppose like any lens it’s got to focus quickly, give clear and sharp images and basically not be an obstacle to getting a decent photo. The 27mm doesn’t have an aperture ring on it, it’s so small that there probably isn’t room for one and initially I though this may be a problem. After a bit of thought about how I shoot, I realised that I very rarely fiddle with aperture settings. I shoot with aperture priority so the camera works out the shutter speed for me, but I also shoot using auto ISO a lot of the time, unless I’m using flash, so with the camera doing the technical work, I can concentrate on the job of taking the photo. So, no aperture ring…. who cares.
The 27mm is tiny. Tiny means unobtrusive. Tiny means subtle. Tiny means great for street photography. So coupled with the awesome Fuji X-Pro2 I now had a weapon of mass exposure. Now I needed to test it out.
(sorry about all the dust on that shot)
I took a bold decision when planning what to take on a holiday to Spain. Previously I’d had a fuji x100s and actually enjoyed the restriction of one fixed focal length, so I thought I’d do it again. The fabulous 35mm f2 stayed at home. The monster 16-55mm f2.8 stayed at home. I was travelling light this holiday so all that came with me was the X-Pro2, the 27mm, spare batteries, spare memory cards and a lens cloth. Not taking anything else freed me up to only worry about taking photos, and my wife wouldn’t get annoyed about me lugging along a camera bag and stopping every few minutes to change lens.
So, here I was in Spain, at a local market, camera at the ready. Let’s go! I’ve been using the ‘shoot from the hip’ technique a lot lately, or rather ‘shoot from the stomach’. With the camera strap round my neck giving it some stability, I rest my hand on top of the camera and use the lower part of thumb to press the shutter. It’s a technique Matt Hart uses a lot and teaches on his workshops, as do lots of other photographers, and once you get into the swing of it it works out ok. You miss a lot of shots, cut a lot of heads off etc etc, but the view point it gives is great. Much better than if I was to hold the camera to my eye at over 6 feet off the ground, as the view from up there is very different to my stomach level. Much more Vivian Maier.
Now, in Spain in June it’s hot, the sun is out and there aren’t many clouds about, so harsh lighting are the conditions I had to put up with. Harsh light means lots of shadows, this could work out quite well. After my first lap of the market I checked my shots. Ok, so shooting into the light isn’t the best idea in the world, unless you like silhouettes against a bright blue sky. Time to adjust my tactics and keep the sun behind me. Simple photography stuff that, but it works. Damn I’m so good at this…. ahem.
I wandered amongst the crowds of people, taking lots of photos of the many characters, both tourist and local, trying to not look like I was taking their picture and of course ‘blend in’. Blending in has always been a bit tricky for me. At 6ft 4in tall, I do tend to stand out a bit. Anyway, I did my best and it seemed to work.
So how was this little pancake lens doing I hear you ask? Well, I mentioned at the beginning of this article that the lens’ job is to not be an obstacle to taking photos. Well this little Fuji 27mm lens certainly performed it’s job well. Having no aperture ring was actually a bonus as it meant I wasn’t accidentally changing the aperture using the technique of resting my hand on the camera. It focussed quickly, didn’t seem to suffer any real lens flare from the harsh lighting and gave me some nice sharp images. Job done, £150 well spent and I think I’ve now found my new street photography lens. I do have a habit of calling it a 23mm lens though. Not sure why, but I hope it doesn’t get a complex.
So here are a few more shots from the trip around the Market in San Pedro, Southern Spain.
I thought it was also worth a mention about editing these shots in Adobe Lightroom. I mentioned lots of silhouettes earlier where the sun was behind the subject. A bit of a nightmare, but even though I was just shooting jpeg, the way I could bring out the shadow detail using the shadow adjustment in Lightroom was amazing. It saved a good number of photos from being deleted. So don’t be too hasty to throw shots away. A few minutes work, and I do mean only a few minutes at most, in Lightroom can get that image back to something to be proud of. Look at this shot for a before any after:
Not the best shot in the world, I’ll give you that, but it does just show the amount of adjustment you have to play with, even on a jpeg image from the mighty X-Pro2 camera….. and no doubt other types of camera too of similar quality.