The lens with soul – Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4

When I think back over all the various lenses I’ve owned or used in the past decade, the Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 definitely stands out as one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love a good 50mm equivalent focal length, right? It’s incredibly versatile, has a wide aperture for use in the darkest of situations, and like other Fuji prime lenses, it’s lightweight and compact.

Then there’s the “magic” factor. Call it hype if you want, but it’s true. I hate following the trends so much that I actually wish it was false so I could go against the grain…but I do think there’s something to this unorthodox and subjective claim.

I’ve owned the 35mm f/2 as well. Unlike it’s predecessor, the 1.4, the f/2 version is weather sealed and oh, so quiet. For some, that’s more important than any unseen magical quality. I freely admit that the 35mm f/1.4 is a little on the slow side these days, with a focusing motor that can’t compare to the leaf shutter in my X70 or even the newer tech in the 35mm f/2.

But there really is something special about this lens in my book. Over the years I’ve found myself relying on it heavily as a portrait lens, which despite it’s versatile focal length, is where it really shines.

When I’m looking to document my kids, this lens is one of my go-to’s (along with the 18mm f/2 – but we’ll talk about that one in a different post). The 35mm f/1.4 is very sharp, even wide open, and because of it’s unique rendering, I find that it gives the images a bit of a filmic look – it has less of a digital, clinical feel than the rest of Fuji’s lineup. Corny though it may sound, I think this lens has soul. I know, I know, completely subjective.

Well, let’s be honest…isn’t most gear?

I think there’s a good reason that Fuji has never updated this lens with a Mark II. It is beloved of many and if it isn’t broken, don’t “fix” it!

My first impressions of the Fujifilm X70 in 2021

Let me begin by saying that this is a hard camera to find. In fact, I’ve been on the hunt for one for over six months. I think it bodes well when photographers don’t want to trade in a five year old piece of gear. But Lea, why would you want a five year old camera? I’ve discussed this in regard to my recently acquired X-T1, a body that is even older than the X70. I won’t rehash it all but I will highlight a few points of interest.

Having purchased and used newer Fuji gear, I just really love the 16 megapixel X-Trans II sensor found on both the X-T1 and X70. The X-T1 handles low light better than many of the newer bodies, and I shoot in low light A LOT so this is a major consideration for me. It’s not quantifiable, but the images that come from the X-Trans II sensor are more appealing, straight out of camera. While this is somewhat subjective, check out this video. I’m not crazy here. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Given that the X70 shares the same sensor and processor, I fully expect this to be the case for this little workhorse of a camera as well.

More megapixels means the need for better, faster computers to process the images (something I don’t really want to invest in because newer MacBooks lack a dedicated USB port and SD card reader – I love my 2017 model because it has both of these things which further simplifies my workflow). Higher megapixel files take longer to load and require more space to store. Given that I rarely print anything over 8×12, I have no need for the highest resolution. (To be fair, I have heard from many sources that printing up to 20×30 from these files is no problem. I myself have not printed larger than 16×20 but I had no issues).

Other things I noted:

  • Size – just wow. So small, so compact and yet so capable. Despite it’s small footprint, it feels great in hand. (Keep in mind that as a woman, my hands are smaller than most men’s hands, but I do have rather long fingers which balances that out a bit). Despite the diminutive size and minimal weight, it feels solid. I like to switch my handbags out periodically and I’m happy to report that this little thing fits in even my smallest one.
  • Usability – coming from other Fuji cameras, everything was intuitive and I had no trouble finding the settings I was looking for, even though the menu layout is slightly different. I was able to set the function buttons and custom settings to mimic the layout of my X-T1 relatively quickly.
  • ISO dial – no dedicated dial but this doesn’t bother me as the camera has three custom “Auto ISO” options and I can quickly assign a custom function button to access these with ease. (My X-T1 has only one programmable Auto ISO setting, which doesn’t do a great job of handling various conditions so I rarely use it – I can see myself using this feature almost exclusively with the X70).
  • EVF – no actual EVF or optical viewfinder of any kind but again, this doesn’t bother me. Even on cameras that sport a viewfinder, I typically use the live view LCD screen anyway. I’m left eye dominant and using a viewfinder means blocking a good portion of the buttons with my face. As you can imagine, this hinders usability quite a bit, especially on rangefinder style cameras (which is part of the reason the X100V wasn’t a good fit for me, even though it’s a stellar camera and I loved it).
  • Leaf Shutter – so quiet! I’m able to get pictures of my kids without them knowing! High five to mom-tographers everywhere! I thought this amazing feature was only available on the X100 line so this was a pleasant surprise.

I’ve only shot a handful of images with it but I look forward to more. This camera fills a niche that I had hoped the X100V would fill for me, but ultimately, the V’s bells and whistles (which I largely didn’t need and didn’t use) and the 35mm equivalent focal length (not my favorite) just didn’t fit my style of shooting. I really was looking for something pocketable, and I really couldn’t justify the cost of the V for the way I used it.

All in all, my first impressions of this tiny X Series premium compact camera are very favorable.

VSCO is the anti-Instagram. And I more than love it.

I’ve spent the better part of the morning looking through my old pictures – specifically, my VSCO feed, which are all iPhone shots, dating back to 2013. I’ve been a fan of VSCO since the beginning. I purchased their Lightroom presets the weekend they launched. And when VSCOcam was released, I jumped on that bandwagon pretty quickly as well. I have long since held that my VSCO feed houses the truest photographic representation of my life…why?

VSCO has no likes or comments to keep track of. There is no sense of algorithms or trying to please anyone but myself. And that’s what I do. There, I share the images that personally speak to me, taken with the one camera that is always with me – my iPhone. I don’t worry about whether it’s “good enough” – either creatively or technically. In fact, that’s partly why I have made a conscious choice to only share iPhone images on my VSCO feed. It’s more or less a photo journal of my life and truth be told, as much as I love my Fuji gear, I don’t bring it with me everywhere.

I feel like the platform offers me complete freedom to share my world authentically, as I’m living it. And what’s more, I can peruse the feeds of others who are experiencing that same thing. Creativity skyrockets when we’re not worried about how it will be perceived by others. I think we all want to share our work and want it to be appreciated and valued. Finding a way to do so without falling prey to the social pressure to conform is a challenge. One I constantly battle with.

I’m so thankful for a platform like VSCO, which allows creatives to share, learn, grow, be challenged, and build community – all while letting the images, the creativity, and the vision of the artists take center stage.

*All images posted are from my VSCO feed, taken and edited on iPhone.