5 Reasons Why I Love the Fujifilm XF100-400mm Lens

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In all my years as a photography, I’ve never owned a lens longer than 200mm. Until now. I rented a 300 f/2.8 for an assignment once and borrowed a 300 f/4 a couple of times, but for my fast and light style of outdoor photography, I just didn’t relish the idea of carrying really big glass.

Earlier this year, Fujifilm released their new XF100-400 f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR lens, and I have to admit, I was wasn’t super warm to the idea of getting it. I make it a point to not own any camera gear I can’t run with, and I didn’t think this would fit that criteria. And, I wasn’t sure I’d really get much use out of it.

How wrong I was.

Turns out, I love the Fuji 100-400. I can’t get enough of it! This lens is serious fun, and during the past few months it’s seen more use than many of my XF lenses, including the 50-140, which is THE go-to long lens in my bag.

I plan on writing up a full review of this lens, but for now, here are five reasons why I think it’s awesome.

1. It’s Razor Sharp!!

The XF100-400 has excellent optics. Built with 21 elements in 14 groups, 5 extra-low dispersion elements and one Super extra-low dispersion element, this lens is ridiculously sharp. Fuji has a reputation for producing great glass, and this is no exception.

I’m really impressed at well it’s able to render crips, fine details, even at relative distance. One thing I learned when using long lenses is that when shooting subjects that are very far away, you’re looking through a lot of air. You can lose a lot of sharpness from heat shimmers, but if the air is cool and you’re not shooting at extreme distances, the 100-400 can hold an incredible level of detail.

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2. It Has an Extremely Fast Autofocus Motor

Before I got this lens, someone told me that the 100-400 actually has a faster AF motor than the XF50-140. I didn’t believe it, because the 50-140 is pretty darn fast, but when I got it in hand, I was blown away.

This thing locks and tracks like a champ. With AF technology that’s a year ahead of what went into the 50-140, and twin linear motors, it’s probably the fastest Fuji Zoom lens in terms of AF performance. Paired with the X-T2, it’s a highly capable, incredible quick sports and wildlife lens, hands down.

Having shot bike racing, flying birds, airplanes, moose, bears and a variety of other outdoor subjects with the 100-400, I’ve been impressed every singe time.

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3. It has 5 Stops of OIS Image Stabilization

This is perhaps one of the most impressive features of the XF100-400 lens. The image stabilization allows for hand holding this lens down to ridiculously low shutters speeds- speeds that you wouldn’t even think of thing to shoot with this focal length.

I’ve managed to hold it down to 1/80 sec when zoomed to 300mm, 1/100 sec at 400mm and 1/30 sec at 100mm. Seriously, I rarely use a tripod with this lens. How bad am I?

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Hand held 1/80 sec @ 300mm, 100% crop

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Hand held 1/100 sec @ 400mm, 100% crop

Hand held 1/100 sec @ 400mm, 100% crop

 

4. It’s a Reasonable Size and Weight, and Weather Sealed

Yes, for the record, I can run with this lens. It fits in my regular lightweight hiking and trail running pack, the Lowepro Flipside Sport 10L AW. Sure, I have to turn the hood around (I usually like to keep all my lens hood on all the time for quick access), but that’s a small tradeoff for being able to hike with a lens that, in full frame size, would be a 150-600.

Add the Fuji 1.4X Teleconverter and you’ve got an 800mm lens. Actually, with the current Fujifilm rebates, if you buy the 100-400 and the 1.4X TC together, you save $350.

Anyway, the very first thing I did with the 100-400 this past spring was stuff it into my Flipside pack and take it hiking. Not flat trail hiking, this was lots of steep uphill and big screefields on the way down. I didn’t feel like I was carrying a huge lens, in fact, it didn’t feel much heavier than if I were carrying the 50-140. The weight difference on my back was almost imperceptible. It’s even lighter when you remove the tripod collar.

Plus it’s weather sealed, so there’s that. Nice when you’re shooting in bad conditions. Like when the animals are out, or when the landscape has that… you know… special charm. Weather sealing is not a deal breaker for me, but for a wide range of outdoor photography, having it is nice.

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5. It’s Serious Fun!!!!!

I said this above, and I mean it. The Fujifilm XF100-400 lens is a blast. Really fun to use for shooting just about everything. The long focal length applies an extreme level of compression to your scenes, which makes your backgrounds loom large, with tons of separation.

You can really bring in the details and show things super close, whether it’s a nature detail, a portrait, oh… I don’t know… The Moon. How fun is it to shoot the moon, zoom in and see all the craters. Pretty amazing, considering that the moon is 238,800 miles away. I can’t wait to photograph the moon the winter so that I totally minimize heat shimmers. I’ll use a tripod then.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a really fun, relatively compact, highly versatile long lens to add to your X Series tool bag, you can feel good about the XF100-400. It’s a solid performer and like I said, it’s super fun!

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As I mentioned above, with the current Fujifilm Rebates, you can get the XF100-400 with either the 1.4X or 2X Teleconverter and save $350, and you can also save $350 if you buy the 100-400 and 50-140 f/2.8 lens together.


Photographing The Amazing Action of Cyclocross

Every fall, a very special thing happens: At the tail end of summer, before the snow starts to appear and the chill of winter sets in, there’s an in-between season that’s absolutely wonderful to photograph, and it’s called Cyclocross.

This is the time when cyclists who are in no way deterred by the onset of cool, wet weather, grab their knobby-tire road bikes and race short, fast circuits over dirt singletrack, spongy, rain-soaked grass, puddles, sand and mud.

And when I say mud, I mean lots of mud. Deep pits and trenches of sloppy muck that suck down both feet and tires, steal huge amounts of momentum and energy, and pretty much negate all hopes of pedaling through it, unless you’re one of the few, strongest superheroes of cross.

Oh yea, and then there are the barriers and hill climbs. This is when you have to get off your bike and carry it up and over double, 2-high wooden blockades, up stairs and ridiculously steep hills. And for what? For extra lung and leg busting punishment and pain. And for the further enjoyment and heckling of spectators.

Originating in Europe in the early 1900s, it is said that the sport began when off-season road bikers would race each other from town to town, with the added challenge of cutting through forests and farmers’ fields, and taking shortcuts over fences and through terrain that road bikes are clearly not designed for.

Running/carrying sections and hill climbs were incorporated for their cross training benefits, and also to help warm up hands and feet in cold temps. With the first official cyclocross race occurring in 1902, the sport has taken on great popularity throughout Europe during the past century, and since the 1990s, through the US. Today, most riders use dedicated cyclocross bikes that have wider tier clearance, sturdier frames and lower gearing.

I LOVE cyclocross. I love everything about it. I love to race it and I love to photograph it. Even fall, I look so forward to this amazingly fun time when I get to enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow bikers and challenge myself on the bike, and practice my action photography skills.

For me and the style of photography I love to shoot, it has everything: fast action, quick moments, awesome expressions of physical exertion, elation and pain. It’s also an excellent opportunity to practice a wide variety of compositional and creative skills and hone your camera skills.

Since courses are usually one to two mile circuits over that run from about 45-60 minutes, shooting a cyclers race allows you to set up in one spot and capture any number of racers, before moving to a new spot and trying out a completely different set of creative and technical ideas.

Since I typically shoot numerous races through the season, I often try to vary the look of each race by using different lenses, vantage points or even processing techniques after the fact. With the Fujifilm X Series cameras, I often like to play around with different film simulations and even shoot in black and white.

I might shoot one race in Velvia mode to saturate colors, and another in Classic Chrome for more muted colors. I’ll often switch to Monochrome or ACROS mode throughout each race, and sometimes crank the ISO way up to get more grain and grit.

Sometimes I shoot close, other times far away. I like to capture multiple elements of these races, which may include details, expressions, cool lines and overview shots. One lens I’ll shoot a zoom, maybe another week I’ll bring a couple of primes. Like I said, it’s an awesome opportunity to practice and hone my skills.

I’ve shot cyclocross with numerous cameras over the years. I started with my Nikon DSLRs, then shot with the Fuji X10 and even the X-E1, before getting the X-T1. This year, I’m using the new Fujifilm X-T2, which hit store shelves right before cyclocross season started. Coincidence? I think not. ;D

In fact, the second I got my hands on the X-T2 back in May of this year, I couldn’t wait for cyclocross season. With its new ultra-fast AF system and increased frame rate of up to 11 fps, it’s truly an amazing action camera; by far the best I’ve ever owned. (You can read my full review of the X-T2 here.)

Paring it with the XF50-140 f/2.8 lens is an incredibly capable combo for shooting action and capturing all the variety that sports like this have to offer. If you’re a Nikon or Canon shooter, it would be equivalent to the classic 70-200mm f/2.8 or those 70-200 f/4 VR from Nikon, or the 70-200mm f/4 IS USM from Canon.

Also, with it’s new updated image processor, the JPEGs and film simulations look even better, especially the black and white and high ISO images. I often crank the dial up to ISO 3200 and 12800, just to go something different.

Of course, any camera will work. If you’re not a Fuji shooter, just use whatever gear you have. Like I pointed out above, the key here is practicing and trying out different techniques, creative ideas and equipment.

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Here’s a shot of me racing before my big crash on Sunday!

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Post Crash!

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Mommy… I fell down and now I’m bleeding!

Shooting, bike riding… like I said, it’s a blast. And the other thing I love? I’m hanging out with a great group of friends and making them all look like badasses! It’s so much fun to share my photos with everyone on Monday morning after the race.

If you like shooting action and sports, or if you’re into biking, I would highly encourage you to look for cyclocross events in your town and go try and photograph a race or two. Bring a cowbell, or a loud voice for cheering on the racers- that’s sometimes the funnest part of the whole day! Better yet, bring you bike and try it out for yourself! Be careful, though, you might get hooked.

Do you already shoot cyclocross? Post a link to your photos in the comment section, I’d love to see your images!

Here are just a few of my favorite CX photos from the past weekend. To see more, check out my Saturday race gallery and Sunday race gallery. (I think I like the Sunday photos better. The really close up one immediately below is probably my favorite shot of the entire weekend. I can’t believe I nailed that one!)

Enjoy, and stay tuned, I’ll be posting more CX images during the next few weeks.

My Blog Made the List of Best 100 Photography Blogs on The Planet!

Learn Photography Online with the Pros

I’m excited to share that my blog has been selected as one of The Best 100 Photography Blogs on the Planet!

In a list compiled by Feedspot last week of the Top 100 Photography Blogs Every Photography Should Read, I made the cut at number 67, in such company as 500px, PetaPixel, Fstoppers, Light Stalking, Strobist, Chase Jarvis, Scott Kelby, Joe McNally and David duChemin.

This is a huge honor for me, coming in on the heels of my 2 millionth page view, which was reported last month, and the fact that I shared the Keynote Speaker slot with Scott Kelby at the recent Bedford Camera Photo Expo.

According to Feedspot, blogs were ranked based on a combination of Google reputation and raking, influence on social media, quality and consistency of posts and expert review by their editorial team.

The goal was to put together a list of blogs for beginners and experts to follow, that provide photographers with inspiration, tutorials, tips and articles geared to help people capture the best photos possible in all styles of photography.

I’m extremely honored by this award, given that I don’t have anything close to the number of social media followers and monthly traffic as many of the hugely popular blogs, like PetaPixel and Digital Photography School. To me, this fact would imply that my blog was reviewed and ranked more on content than by straight numbers.

Although I strive to create the best possible blog I can in order to provide my readers with what I feel is an original style of content, photography tips and insight, I never would have imagined getting this kind of award and recognition back when I first started.

I wrote my first post back in March of 2007. In fact, my first few posts included a few featured images of a recent ski trip in the Canadian Rockies, a link to a feature article that Outdoor Photographer Magazine had just written about me, and a retrospective about having just past my 10 year mark as a pro adventure photographer.

Early on, I was driven to impart my knowledge in order to help other photographers, and during the past 9 and a half years, it seems that I’ve been doing something right. Of course, none of this would be relevant if it weren’t for the people who actually read my posts.

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Sunset on the Cook Inlet Mud Flats, Anchorage, Alaska.

 

I know that some of my readers have followed me since around 2009, back when I was writing as Senior Contributor for The Photoletariat. (Show me your hands if you remember my column!) After that site went down, I ramped up my own site here and that’s when things really started taking off for me.

Again, I don’t have giant numbers in traffic or even comments, and I don’t have an editorial staff. It’s just me banging away on the keyboard every week, coming up with ideas, writing articles, reading and answering comments, emails and social media posts. I try to answer everyone who sends me a message, whether they have a question about their camera or if they’re looking for tips on how to shoot a bike race or wanting gear recommendations for their upcoming adventure. Despite the fact that this sometimes takes a lot of time each week, I do it because I enjoy helping and connecting with other shooters.

I think that despite my relatively small size compared to the big blogs, that’s why I have a dedicated following of readers who enjoy my posts and who regularly interacts with me on the web. Whether you’ve been following me for awhile, or if you just recently discovered my blog, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks for your support.

Writing this blog has brought me tremendous rewards on both a personal and professional level. It’s led to all of my eBooks, my two published books, my online video course, recognition and support from a number of photography industry companies and entities, and it’s connected me with a number of friends who I’ve met both online and in person during my travels out in the world.

In addition, for all the knowledge I’ve shared over the years, writing this blog has been a tremendous learning process for me. It’s even led me to explore other styles of photography. It’s been a very exciting journey so far, and I look forward to the future.

I promise to keep doing my part here, because I truly love photography and I love it when other people find personal joy and success in photography as well. As I like to say, just because I’m a pro, doesn’t mean I love it any more than someone who does it as a hobby. We all feel the same excitement and exhilaration when we nail a great moment and capture a killer image.

I try hard to make this blog relevant to everyone. It’s not just about Fuji, or Nikon or shooting mountain landscapes or mountain biking, it’s about outdoor photography, and that encompasses a very wide range of styles and subject matter.

If you’re new here, there’s a lot of great stuff in  my archives. Dig through some of my categories and fritter way some valuable office time checking out some of my older posts, I guarantee, you’ll find something that resonates with you. Also, consider signing up for my newsletter, so you don’t miss any of my future posts.

So, thanks so much to the editors at Feedspot for including me on this list, and thanks again to you guys, my readers. This is a very big milestone for me, but in some ways, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up!

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The Fujifilm X-T2 is Now Shipping!

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A Look at Tokina Lenses for Nikon, Canon and Sony

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Why The Fujifilm X Series Images Are So “Film-Like”

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The Secret to Shooting Better Photographs

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There is no secret, really. You know how to shoot more interesting photos? Stand in front of more interesting subject matter. That’s it. At least that’s about 90 percent of it. No matter how good a photographer you are, no … Continue reading