Gear Inspiration

XF lenses in Cambodia

· 6.March.2016

My name is Hervé Delplanque and my favorite hobby is photography. I switched to the Fuji X system in 2014 after many years with the Canon DSLRs and some Micro Four Thirds cameras. Last year I felt that I had reached a “plateau” and I decided to follow a photography class. By complete coincidence I ended up in a “masterclass” led by a Singaporean X Photographer, Keith Low, who really helped me to be more rigorous with myself when taking pictures. I believe that the photos in this article are a direct result of his great advices. I hope he won’t be too disappointed.

I live in Singapore since 2014 and this gives me the opportunity to spend short getaways in South East Asia. In one year, I had the chance to go several times to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Each trip was short so I’ve only seen a little.. I definitely plan to go back to each of these countries and visit many more in the next few years.

My favorite trip so far was Siem Reap in Cambodia. The name Siem Reap is actually less known than the Angkor temples which are surrounding it. I recommend this trip to anyone because of the majesty of the temples and the kindness of the population. I’m not a tourist guide, but I’ve traveled quite a bit, and believe me, this is one of the nicest place to visit in this region.

Photo 1


A view of the South Bridge of the Angkor Thom temple, my first contact with the multitude of Siem Reap temples. As soon as you enter this area, you understand its uniqueness. So many temples, over such a large area, with a population over 1 million people at its peak, it used to be the largest pre-industrial city in the world. The Angkor Thom temple itself is huge, much larger than the airport, and there are hundreds of temples in Siem Reap.

This photo is one of my first attempts at landscape using the XF 23mm F1.4 and I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of this lens. Previously, in the wide angle department, I was only using my Samyang 12mm F2.0 and the XF 18-55mm, and although I really enjoy both of these lenses, the 23 belongs to a different league and has become my favorite lens. This was shot quite early in the day and the light is quite harsh but  the X Trans sensor managed to deliver a good dynamic range. I used ISO400 to be able to increase DR a little thanks to the DR200 setting, one of the first tip I learned when I discovered Fujilove :-).

Photo 2


Another sharp shot from the XF 23mm F1.4, I used aperture priority @ F8 and maximum sharpness to maximize the grain of the carved stone.  I tried very hard to align the bottom of the picture with the bottom of the frieze but unfortunately I didn’t frame correctly the right and left borders… I still like this picture because it shows how fine the work of the sculptor is and when you know that Angkor temples have thousands of this friezes covering the temples walls, you realize the amount of work that was needed.

Nowadays, a simple click can give you a nice photo, this is so much easier and you get an (almost) instantaneous result !

Photo 3


This picture was shot from the Elephants’ Terrace, with the 18-55 “kit zoom”. I know most of us know this lens has nothing to do with a kit zoom, thanks to its wider aperture and sharpness. In fact, I have to say that I neglected this zoom when I started to use prime lenses but I’m glad that I “rediscovered” its qualities during this trip.

The minibus is one amongst hundreds, because of the growing tourism industry in the Siem Reap region. A difficult balance needs to be found between the benefits of tourism for the local population and its drawbacks, like for example the broken stones you can see on the photo.

Photo 4


This picture was taken in one of the very long corridors in Angkor Wat, the most famous Siem Reap temple. As on many of the Angkor sculptures, the head is missing, because this is the easiest part to rob.

I used the Samyang 12mm F2.0 which was the 1st lens I bought after getting my XT-1 (with the 18-55 zoom). This is my first wide angle lens ever.

Despite it’s relatively low price, I’m very pleased with the optical and build quality of this lens. Of course, the manual focus and the lack of electronics in the lens gives a different experience than using the AF-enabled Fujinon lenses, it feels a little “low tech” but this is actually something I enjoy because it’s closer to the way photographs were working decades ago and Fujifilm’s cameras are heavily influenced by this past.

One think I wonder about this picture is whether I should have focus on the knee rather than the torso. Feel free to give your advice in the comments.

Photo 5


Civilization clash.. or rather that is what I was thinking in the first place, but in fact, those kids are as comfortable with their mobile phones and tablets as any other kid of the same age…

For this picture, I used the XF 56mm at F1.2 which really helped to capture the moment by isolating the young monk in the center and also by allowing me to be far enough from them (or maybe they just didn’t bother because what they were doing on the iPad was more interesting 🙂 )

Photo 6


Angkor Wat sunrise. This is one of the most popular attractions in Siem Reap. Despite the early wake up (4am), several hundreds of people were here and I guess it’s the same every day. I still recommend this, because the majesty of the place is one of a kind.

The XF 55-200mm allowed me to isolate the 3 emblematic towers of the temple. I was quite far from the towers, probably several hundred meters away and I shot at 1/200s. I think the lens OIS helped a lot in getting the picture in focus.

Photo 7


Ta Prohm is also a very famous temple because it was used for the “Tomb Raider” movie. But actually, the most distinctive feature of this temple is the fact that it was abandoned for centuries and because of that, trees have grown freely and are now completely entangled in the stones, giving this place a unique atmosphere. I was feeling like if I was on Pandora, the Earth-like moon in Avatar, another movie reference :-).

This picture is a JPEG shot using the Velvia film simulation. I haven’t edited the colors on this picture yet it has a specific look that I cannot explain, almost like if it’s a drawing. It’s also a good example of sharpness from the XF 18-55.

Photo 8


In the surroundings of Banteay Srei, the pink sandstone temple of Angkor, I saw this pond with a small footbridge and I liked the greenery and peaceful atmosphere.

I had to crop the picture a little bit because of some branches in the top right corner. Despite this, I’m still pleased with the overall detail of the shot. I read many times that the X-Trans sensor wasn’t good for foliage, I honestly don’t see any issues here.

Photo 9


The sunset from the floating village on Late Tonlé Sap was really nice on that day, it was the last place I visited. It’s a very different experience than visiting the temples: after about 1 hour drive from Siem Reap and 30 mins on a long tail boat, we reached a floating platform where a few crocodiles are raised. This also serves as a tourist shop where you can buy local crafts. Unfortunately, it was too late to visit the actual village where people live.

I liked the contrast between the shades of grey in the cloud and the warm yellow/orange tones of the sky, but this was not enough to get a nice picture, I wanted something more “constructed”.

Boats were passing quite often, so I had time to plan my composition: I framed the shot so that I could see the “wave shape” of the cloud line, just above the sun and I waited for the boat to be on the right side of the picture.

Photo 10


This 2nd sunset was shot at 1/180s, F6.4 and ISO800 to take advantage of the DR400 extended dynamic range. It was actually quite dark already and I was amazed by the ability of the XT-1 to render a much clearer image than what my eyes could see.

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