Friday, May 8, 2015

Fuji 56mm f/1.2R a perfect lens for portraits and lifestyle

An 80-90mm fast aperture lens has always been my favorite for portraits. When I did photography advertising for cosmetic companies, however, I used instead a Nikon 105mm macro because it was very sharp, had a flat field, and could get in really tight without a need for close-up filters or extensions. Of course that was in the days of shooting film. Today there are many more fast lenses out there in the 85mm range. They still don't get in quite close enough without some help from an auxiliary filter or extension, but they are super sharp, flat, and often have very fast apertures.  Nikon's 85mm f/1.4 lens is one of the best lenses the company makes, and from what I can tell Fuji's 56mm f/1.2 (84mm equivalent) is easily its equal.

Many lenses are now available with fast f/1.4 apertures, but not all of them deliver superb performance at that opening.  I routinely use the Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens in a range of f/2-f/1.4 to preserve its bokeh effect.

The minimum focusing distance of the Fuji 56mm lens is 2.3' (70cm). At that range you can pretty much fill up a vertical frame with a person's head, but to get in closer you need some help.  I use a set of special 5T and 6T close-up lenses made by Nikon. These are not ordinary close-up filters. Filters are made from one piece of glass. The Nikon close-up set is an achromatic doublet made up of one flint glass, the one crown glass to reduce aberrations. Coincidentally, the 5T/6T set is 62mm making it a perfect fit for the Fuji 56mm lens. The 5T is 1.5x magnification, and the 6T 2.9x. They are no longer sold new, but can usually be picked up on eBay. I will be doing an extensive blog post on these Nikon close-up lenses and the Fuji lenses at a later date.

This is the setup I use lately for most of my real portraiture. Soft window light from the left is the main illumination. I lit the model's cheek with a tungsten lamp from behind, and put a 1/2 CTB filter on it so it wouldn't go too warm. In addition there is a small gold/silver reflector in front of the model at about her waist height. This is kicking in a low fill light from the window to brighten the shadows under the eyes and chin. I use apply the Classic Chrome setting to the RAW file in Photoshop and mute the colors even further. I am trying to go for a very natural, pleasing look that is not overly dramatic in an attempt to reveal how the person really appears in daily life. I even leave the hair a little messy on purpose. 

Outdoors at f/1.6. On a full frame camera that aperture would cause me focusing problems. The smaller APS sensor of the Fuji handles it with no trouble.  

An aperture of f/2, even in close like this gives the right amount of sharpness to the face and bokeh to the foreground dna sample the model is holding. 

Fuji's Classic Chrome look mutes the colors naturally and provides just the right amount of contrast. 

To obtain the foreground softness I was shooting past glass objects placed close to the front of the lens with the aperture set to f/2. 

Here the model was photographed against a white wall using my portrait light set up from the top photo. All the rest was added later in Photoshop. 


  1. On these photos which ones made use of the 5T and 6T
    Thank you these are really nice to look at. Have you used the 90mm?

  2. The first, third, and fourth photos were made with the 5T close-up.