5 years of X

Last week it was a facebook memory that reminded me that I shot my first frame with the Fujifilm X system 5 years ago. A test shot of our cat, made with the original X100 while I was skimming through the manual. A picture I didn’t pay much attention to at the time. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago we lost our cat, and that makes this picture a memory. One that wouldn’t be there if I didn’t take that picture at then & there.

For 5 years I’ve been happy using different Fujifulm X-Series camera’s to take pictures of my children, my family, our holidays. They are camera’s I don’t mind to snag from the shelf and toss over my shoulder when I go out the door. So if you look past all the technical aspects and megapixels, for me, this is the biggest accomplishment Fujifilm has made. So thank you for 5 years of memories!

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Some random images from the archives

Meet Winston. The most unusual thing I ever photographed // Product photography with the Fuji X-T1

One attic , 4 guys with an unusual idea and 2 years of perseverance and meetings on Tuesday.

Meet Winston, the robotic bartender.

I met Nick through our 5 year old’s school “posse”, we are “the dads”. We seem to be sharing the same geeky interests and when he first told me about a project that he and his friends were working on I was intrigued to go and meet Winston. Later I learned that that they wanted to launch a Kickstarter campaign and because I like a good challenge …. I proposed to pimp their product shots.

Winston is the most unusual thing I ever photographer and that posed a couple of problems.

  • One glass bottle isn’t the most easy thing to photograph. Let alone 10!
  • The attic that would serve as the studio was fitted with TL & tungsten and one small attic window.


  • I wanted to create a cocktail bar atmosphere. Your typical attic mancave doesn’t fit that description.
  • I wanted the prototype to look as good at possible. Like a MUA would do for a bride.
  • I didn’t want to show the wooden panels where the bottles were mounted on it too much. (this is a prototype remember)
  • The star of the show is the robotic arm, I wanted to focus on that too.
  • For a more dynamic shot I wanted to have some movement.
  • I wanted to solve as much as I could in-camera and limit post production.

Before – After
Let me jump right in and show you the before and after. I’ll dive in to the technical details further down.

These are some of the snaps that the guys had made. (They are still on the kickstarter page to show the real basement project feeling of it)


Room for improvement … no critique on the guys because I wouldn’t be able to create a robot arm either. First thing we did was to switch out the test bottles for the real deal.

My test shot with the available light as it was. Better? but not nearly there…


(click on the pictures for a full screen view.)

Technical Deep dive

Using a softbox & flashes to light Winston would cause me too many headaches with all the reflective materials. It would also be very difficult to light the bottles and the robotic arm separately without having too much stray light on the wooden panels of the device.

We gaffered up the windows to block out any remaining daylight from entering and killed the TL & tungsten. To accompany the colored LEDs that Winston has in the console & underneath the fluid recipient area AND to get that coyote ugly cocktail bar vibe I opted to use a blue gelled LED panel. The camera was set to ISO200 and F11 (for lots of detail) and I chose a long exposure. Using a long exposure for reflective surfaces washes out most of the specular highlights you would normally get when you would use a single short burst of light.

Our single exposure was created in two steps:

  • To light the bottles we used the first seconds of our exposure to light them slightly angled from above. With the barndoors on the LED we could control spill.
  • To make the robotic arm stand out we handheld a small flashgun with a snoot & some CTO gels. In the last part of the exposure we simply manually fired X number of small pops of lights onto the arm from close range to make it stand out. Using an orange gel gave me some color contrast and separation from the background.

We experimented with shutter times from 4 to 10 seconds and the only trick was to time our movements a bit. It took us about 20 for each setup to find a good balance to light everything the way we wanted to. Being able to review your work on a computer monitor is essential.

Camera: Fujifilm X-T1 mounted on a tripod and tethered to Lightroom via a plugin.
Lens: Fujinon XF 56mm
Light: An ebay LED panel with a blue frosted gel

Post processing
Minimal really.. some basic dodging & burning for the black areas. And I merged part of another picture to get a good exposure on the console & the cocktail glass. (Winston his LEDs have a life of their own)

So guys, that’s it. I hope this has been useful to some of you. I never did any sponsored posts but I really hope you take some time and go check out Winston on Kickstarter. Even if you only the SparksNCave crew for 5$ you’re helping them to reach their goal. And maybe someday, you’ll find yourself in a bar or on an event talking to your friends standing around Winston while he is serving you a cocktail. You’ll have a good story to tell!

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A wider angle with the Fujinon XF16

I’m a prime shooter and I live at 50mm (full frame terms). When I switched to Fujifilm, the XF35 1.4 filled that spot with ease. It’s my goto lens, I love the images it produces, how it makes me feel and, how I even loved to hate that ugly lens hood. The rest of my kit consists of the the XF23 (35mm) & XF56 (85mm)… That is what I roll with on any given wedding. The XF35 (almost) never leaves my primary camera body. The other body gets fitted with what I think might come in handy.

The XF23 is there as my wide angle … to be honest, it’s not my thing … I can’t explain it. It’s supposed to be my storyteller lens but I feel that it never completely tells the story or I can’t frame it like I want it … because it’s not wide enough or perhaps because it lives too close to my comfort zone (50mm) and it doesn’t push me enough. Watching a lot of photographers produce great images with a 24mm focal length , I wanted to try myself …

I do own the original XF18 2.0, while this is a great little compact lens and the perfect travel companion I always felt it lacks the color & sharpness of my main 3 lenses to use it for wedding work.

Enter the Fujinon XF 16 mm f/1.4 R WR

Don’t expect too technical stuff here. I choose a lens because of how it makes me feel and for what type of images I can produce with it. These are the things that stand out of me.

The good:

  • Focus is accurate/quick & silent
  • Built like a tank, weather sealing (living in Belgium that might come in handy in once and a while..)
  • Distortion is very acceptable.
  • It produces crisp images, corners are sharp (pixel peeper TIP: You can compare the XF18 & XF16 on http://fujifilmxmount.com )
  • Paired with the 20Megapixels of the XPRO it allows me to crop to 35mm in post production so I don’t have to switch lenses when there is no time for it.
  • Close focusing distance

The Bad:

  • Unfortunately the extra buck also buys you a lot of added weight compared to the XF18. And paired with the XPRO2 .. well it’s a bit bulky and a rather heavy combo.
  • Colors are a bit less virbrant than other lenses. (XF23,XF35 & XF56)
  • The standard lens hood doesn’t really protect the glass that well and the LH-XF16 hood is a 100$ expensive *kuch*

Having a new focal length to play with has been really fun and pushes me to try different things.

Before I bought this lens it was obvious that it should outperform the XF18 in every way. The most important question I had about this lens was if I could adjust to this new focal length well enough and make it “mine”. I have it in my kit for two months and now I’m surprised by how much I have been using it. Having a new focal length to play with has been really fun and pushes me to try different things and step out of my comfort zone.

X-PRO2 / XF16 Combo

XF18 Vs XF16

XF16 – XF23 – XF56
Above pictures are taken playing around with a blue led panel and an X100S…

Some sample pictures, a mix of work & personal pictures.

Simple distortion / straight line test. (yes that is an actual crooked ceiling in the upper left corner…)

Close focus distance!

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