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Going full frame... well, partly...

So Fujifilm decided not to develop the long expected 33mm F1 lens, which I wrote about in a previous post. Although I regret that decision, I definitely understand it. This lens was obviously going to be a big, heavy, and expensive behemoth. It would probably have put off many Fuji users, who primarily opted for the Fuji X system because of its compact size. Instead of the 33mm, Fuji is now developing a 50mm F1 lens, which is going to be around a third smaller and lighter. Other than bringing these size and weight benefits, Fuji’s decision to go for 50mm does not make a lot of sense, as they already have a 56mm F1.2 in their lineup, which offers a pretty wide aperture at a slightly longer focal length. More important to me, however, is that a 50mm lens is going to have a completely different field of view (FOV) than a 33mm: In full-frame (FF) terms, it will be 75 versus 50mm. For my intended use, environmental portraiture, 35mm totally hits the sweet spot; 50mm is still quite close, but 75mm is definitely too far off. Fuji does offer 23mm and 35mm F1.4 lenses, which give you a FF-equivalent FOV of 35 and 50mm respectively, but as I explained previously, the sharpness fall-off that these lenses produce at F1.4 is not pronounced enough for the “3D pop” that I’m after (DOF is roughly comparable to F2 equivalents on FF).

For quite some time, I have been considering an affordable full-frame solution and, eventually, I have picked up a Sony α7 Mark III with a Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art series lens. I have no intention to review this combo here. Suffice it to say that the Sony by no means approaches the charm and usability* of my trusty X-Pro2 and that the Sigma is a hefty lens** compared to its Fujinon counterpart, the 23mm F1.4. No surprises here. What I do want to show in this post is the fantastic pop the Sony/Sigma combo delivers compared to the X-Pro2 with 23mm F1.4. I can’t even begin to describe how much I like this effect and how much I miss it in my Fuji X cameras. Just look at the samples below. Look at how the subject is sort of detached from the background with the Sony (first), but significantly less so with the Fuji (second).

Respectively Sony A7III with Sigma 35mm and Fuji X-Pro2 with Fujinon 23mm, both at F1.4.

There are people who say that you can acquire the same effect with an APS-C camera by simply moving towards your subject. But that is the whole point: I don’t want to move towards my subject, and that’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because moving forward tightens the frame around the subject, which is definitely not what I want when shooting environmental portraits. There are also people who say that shallow DOF is overrated and that people should stop drooling over it. Although at times, I definitely drool over super smooth sharp-to-unsharp transitions, I’m not simply trying to achieve an as thin as possible DOF. I just want the DOF to stay thin enough for the desired pop if I take some distance from my subject. I also want DOF to stay optimally thin when I do so at focal lengths that I find particularly suitable for environmental portraiture: 35 and 50mm. All this is what FF simply does better than APS-C, given the same FOV and maximum aperture. The only way for APS-C to match up would be to develop extremely wide-aperture lenses. Fuji’s 33mm F1 adventure has shown, however, that this comes at a price in terms of size and weight, which basically nullifies the compactness that the X Series intends to offer.

Now, the last thing I want, is to engage in these tedious and nonsensical discussions about “equivalence” across different sensor systems that I see all too often in the popular forums out there, and which are usually hijacked by people who value the intricacies of physics more than the art of photography. I also don’t want to advocate the use of FF over APS-C, which would be equally nonsensical. Bottom line of this post is that I like both systems for what they are. My new A7III offers what my X-Pro2 does not in terms of control over DOF and, thus, perfectly supplements my Fuji X system.

*I very much enjoy the wonderfully snappy face- and eye-detection autofocus of the A7III, however, which is still far superior to what Fuji has delivered so far.

**Although, at 665 grams, perhaps not as hefty as the Fujinon 33mm would have been.

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