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Gear Inspiration

30 Days with the XF18-55mm F2.8-4

· 4.March.2021

I set myself a challenge. The challenge was to shoot exclusively with my X-Pro2 and the XF18-55mm F2.8-4.

I have had this lens for about a year but not really used it. I was shooting with my primes. It occurred to me to give this lens some love, documenting my neighborhood and community – all during the lockdown pandemic.

A little background information: I am a professional magician and before the pandemic, I was traveling all over the world on various assignments. When the pandemic hit in 2020, my career was put on hold, it still is. I am also deaf so this means no work; very little income and I look after my mother who suffers from dementia.

Creating images keeps me engaged with life. The X-Pro2 and the XF18-55mm make a formidable partnership. I can understand why this lens has been somewhat underrated.

Other brands sell their cameras with kit lenses in the same focal range. Fujifilm did the same and their lens appears to have been passed over. I am speculating here because I have read a few reviews speaking highly of this lens.

I wanted to experience this for myself. During this time I discovered a few things pretty quickly.

Firstly, I LOVE THIS LENS; I would happily travel the world with it and the XF55-200mm and happily create images without feeling I am missing anything.

The XF18-55mm is a stunning piece of engineering. It’s a Fujinon lens after all. All of their lenses are built to the highest standard and have optical magic. This lens is no different and is a worthy champion in my toolbox. It is small, light and agile. It delivers stunning images with gorgeous contrast.

Let’s look at the focal range options: we have 4 prime options in one compact unit.

This is a variable Aperture Lens:

F2.8 – 18mm
F3.2 – 23mm
F3.6 – 35mm
F4 – 55mm

This to me is interesting because when I am out shooting, at 18mm, my aperture begins at F8 and continues right up to F22; street photography, scenic subjects and landscape.

At 23mm I shoot from F8 to F11; street photography, environmental studies, layers, full length portrait.

At 35mm – F3.6 up to F11; portraits, singular theme subjects with a little context.

At 55mm – F4; primarily headshots.

I think this variable aperture works to the advantage of this lens because F2.8 is my starting point for portraits on a faster lens. I actually prefer F2.8 to F4 when doing portraits because I like my portraits in focus, not just the eye nearest camera, the whole face – this is my taste. At 18mm I don’t shoot at F2.8 for full length portrait, I am starting at F5.6

I set my Camera up as follows:

Auto ISO 200-6400
Shutter Speed 1/250 minimum
White Balance –  I set it to Kelvin 5600 and it varies depending on how the colour temperature feels on a given day
Aperture Priority with Manual Zone Focus to 3-5 meters for Street Photography
Auto Focus for Portraits

I choose my focal length based on my subject and zoom with my feet. I don’t treat this lens like a zoom – NO. I treat it like 4 primes in one. This is my discipline.

Here are some moments from my neighbourhood in London. I live in Maida Vale, which is a few minutes walk to Little Venice. It’s really beautiful with The Grand Union Canal cutting right through London from Camden all the way up to Oxford.

Maida Vale is very photogenic; the community is full of cafes, bicycles and fast cars.

So this lens is a keeper. I bought this for my travels because I wanted a light and powerful kit along with my flash. This with the X-Pro2 works perfectly.

Being locked down, I think like a tourist and go for long walks as part of my daily exercise. One final thing: I noticed that on a given day, I would set my focal length at say 23mm and just leave it. My brain automatically switches to seeing layers.

For my street portraits, without thinking, my left hand would instinctively adjust to 55mm and instantly switch to F4 on the aperture ring, all this while building rapport with my subjects.

My brain is tuned in to my lens and my vision adjusts accordingly. Each focal length has its own vocabulary and this project has taught me the specific visual language pattern of this zoom. It’s really quite amazing. I have come to trust this process. It’s a part of my nervous system now – I feel it.

Shooting is a seamless magical experience. Once the gear gets out of the way, it’s just my vision and being at one with the moment.

I see, I feel, I create.

Thanks for reading.

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