03 November 2013

Fuji X-E1 with Minolta 50mm and 100mm Manual Lenses

I made the decision to get a Fuji X-E2 about two weeks ago just after it was introduced. At that time I ordered the camera with the 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom and the 35mm f1.4 lenses. Unfortunately the camera would not arrive on time for me to use it on a trip to Europe.

That was the reason I was keeping an eye on the used market for the current model, the Fuji X-E1. On Friday I was able to get a used camera and also two old manual lenses for a very good price.

Here's what the package looks like:

Fuji X-E1 with 50mm f1.4 lens mounted, 100mm f2.5 next to it

The camera is just the plain X-E1 model, I already had a fast 32GB memory card and spare batteries for it as they are the same as for the X-E2 model, very handy!

Let's start with the lenses:

Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f1.4

This is a "standard" lens from the late 70s. The particular model I have is the older one with the 55m filter mount which was built from 1977 to roughly 1979. This lens is in absolute mint condition, has a very solid feel to it and focuses smoothly. The aperture ring moves great and the whole lens gives a feel of quality.

The lens needs an adaptor to mount to the Fuji camera. These adaptors are basically just distance rings which have a camera manufacturer specific mount on the rear end and a lens manufacturer specific mount on the front. They couple the camera and lens in a way together that the distance between the rear element of the lens to the camera's sensor is the same as it was on the original camera - only there it wasn't a sensor, it was 35mm film. What this also means is that there is a "focal length multiplier" involved, 1.5x with the APS-C sized sensor of the X-E1. These adaptors range in price and quality from around $15 up to $100. The one I have seems to be one from the $15 category, although it looks okay and seems to provide a solid coupling.

The challenge with using this type of old lens is that you a) have to make a manual aperture selection and b) have to focus manually, too. The first one is how I prefer to shoot anyways, I use Aperture Priority as my preferred shooting mode where I select the aperture and let the camera figure out the rest (shutter speed and ISO) to get a correct exposure. This works absolutely great with the Fuji as you can see in some of the shots I took yesterday:

A wild animal in its natural habitat - focus on the mane, 50mm wide open

Colors - again shot fairly wide open, I believe it was set to f2.8

We were doing some walking around in the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose and after that also in Santana Row - a fancy schmancy street for the rich and the beautiful with restaurants and overpriced shopping. Anyways, it's a great place for trying a out a camera.

Relaxing in Santana Row - X-E1 with 50/1.4

A small side road has some older looking doors, again a great opportunity for close up shots:

X-E1 with Minolta 50/1.4

And the last shot for now from this camera/lens combination:

Brooks Brothers - X-E1 with Minolta 50/1.5

As you can see, the lens produces very lovely results, sharp focus areas, smooth bokeh, and great color rendition and contrast. You can get lenses like this from $10 up to $80 depending on the condition. Mine is absolutely mint, so it would be in the $60 to $80 range on eBay if not sold in a package. An incredible value!

I also used another lens a little bit to get some more intimate shots.

Minolta MC Tele Rokkor-X 100mm f2.5

This is a short telephoto lens which produces an actual 150mm equivalent on my APS-C camera. The lens itself is tiny for what it actually is. That's one of the benefits of no zoom and no motors for autofocus. It's a very solid, all metal lens, feels great and also is in very good condition.

Again the focus ring moves very smoothly with a solid and quality feel, the aperture ring feels excellent, too, just from 2.5 to 4 it feels slightly loose. Might be because the previous owner(s) used this end of the aperture setting most often. There is no functional issue with it, it just clicks ever so slightly different than the rest of the settings.

I didn't use it all too much, so more photos will be coming in the future as I really like the focal length to get some more sneaky shots and also really, really nice portraits and detail shots.

Here are two examples:

Melancholy in B&W - Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MC Rokkor-X 100/2.5

Beautiful Colors - Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MC Rokkor-X 100/2.5

The 100mm Tele Rokkor produces even nicer results and much smoother bokeh than the 50mm. It's a bit harder to focus as the picture moves and stumbles in the View Finder when in the 3x magnification mode with focus peeking to get the exact area you want sharp into focus.

I believe 100mm or maybe 135mm might be the upper end of what I would use with manual focus on a camera that doesn't have in-body image stabilization. It's important to position yourself correctly, stabilize the camera, hands and arms against your body to focus shots like the one above. But the results are incredibly rewarding.

So far I love using both lenses. I have not tried to get any specific shots to gauge sharpness or distortion or whatever other things gear heads are into, they don't mean much to me in the real world. I want my photos to look great and these lenses certainly deliver in that regard.

The only thing I noticed is that bright backgrounds/highlights can look slightly harsh on the 50mm lens. The 100mm does these much smoother. But that's a fairly minor concern. Overall the out of focus highlights with the Minolta 50mm are on par or better than the 35mm/f2.0 Canon EF lens on our 40D. So far, I'd say, it's slightly better, but of course due to the manual focusing harder and slower to use.

Btw: all of the photos above where shot in JPEG mode, the photos pretty much as they came out of the camera, with just the typical Apple Aperture import adjustments and very small exposure corrections.

Overall Impressions

So far I am incredibly happy with that purchase. For a small price, less than half of just an X-E2 body only, I got an incredible package. I will still keep my order for the X-E2 and decide then what to do with the X-E1. I've also notified Adorama to split my order and send the Fuji 35mm lens right away so I can use it in Europe.

The camera certainly is different from the typical DSLR but I haven't found that to be an issue, on the contrary, I'm fast and comfortable making exactly the adjustments as I want them for each photo. It feels actually more natural to me to use the Aperture ring on the lens, the shutter speed dial on the camera and the perfectly placed dial for exposure compensation. In combination with the Electronic View Finder it gives a perfect impression of what your photo will look like. One benefit of the fully manual aperture selection is that you get immediate depth-of-field preview in the view finder while composing. Incredibly helpful for a photographic dilettante like me.

The focus peeking works good, I wish though I could change the peeking color to something more "intrusive" than white. Like neon green or red would help in most shots. On the other hand, red wouldn't have helped with the photo of the rose above ... ;-)

So, more to come. Especially more photos and probably also more thoughts about the camera overall.

Right now, I just love it!

Teaser from new Camera

The typical rose photo, but here's a teaser:

Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MC Rokkor-X 100mm f2.5 (~1972)

I got a used X-E1 plus two manual focus Minolta lenses as I really wanted a camera for the trip to Germany later in November.

Writing a longer entry later, so wanted to get started ... one more teaser:

Fuji X-E1 with Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f1.4 (~1979)

01 November 2013

50mm and the Morning Light

Saw this through the window this morning, had to jump up and take a photo in our backyard:

Red Rose in Morning Light - Click on the photo for larger view