London from helicopter with Fuji X-T2 - Part2

Summer is coming and so it is the time for the last checks on my equipment before the travel season begins. A second doors-off helicopter flight (link at the end of this blog) over London was on my list to test two X-T2s with 50-140mm f2.8 and 16-55mm f2.8 lenses side by side. Both X-T2s were with battery vertical grips, as both lenses are rather large and heavy (by Fuji standards) and it is easier to handle the X-T2 body with one of the pro zooms when you have an additional grip. The flight was at about 5 pm, so we were expecting a lot of light and of course great scenery. The weather was (as usual) changing fast, but went into a very cooperative mood once we were in the air with some nice clouds lining up in the sky after a strong shower.
It was my second time in the doors-off flight and I wondered if I would get more used to it, doors are off to provide for the best quality shots and better freedom of view. For obvious reasons no lens changes can be made in the air and the same goes for hoods and loose filters being taken off, as no one wants anything to fly out of the cabin and hit the blades... Ideally one camera with one lens is the best option. It may give you less freedom of zooming, but whilst switching between cameras you may miss a good shot, as everything moves really fast and you do need both hands to support the camera when framing and shooting in strong wind and vibration. Both cameras were set at 1/1000s shutter speed, auto ISO from 200 to 800 and I only changed the aperture depending on the shot/light.  EVF on the X-T2 is a great help to see what you get whilst shooting, that is if you can hold camera to your face in that vibration, but the X-T2's EVF is large and bright making it easy.

Post-editing was done in Lightroom 6 using Fujifilm Classic Chrome profile with some further adjustments. BW conversion - with Nik's SilverEfex. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

The big view - with 16-55mm f2.8 @20mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Urban grid, Fulham -with 50-140mm f2.8 @50mm, f2.8, iso200, 1/1000s

I found myself using both 50-140mm f2.8 and 16-55 f2.8 lenses pretty much equally. The former has IS but I switched it off, as for the speed of shooting (1/1000s) it makes no difference. I did not note any difference in quality of shots, as both lenses did a superb job. In an ideal world I'd rather have one pro zoom, something like 23-70mm f2.8, that would cover most of my needs. Using joysticks for choosing focusing points was very easy, especially in a heavy vibration situation and both cameras were very comfortable to use. I used vertical grips on both bodies and that helped a lot as my hands are large and even with smaller primes I tend to use those grips, or a minimal leather half-case from Garitz when I want to travel light. Speaking of grips - I accept all the benefits the new X-T2 VG gives me, BUT I do miss the old X-T1 grip. In my opinion it was much better designed from an ergonomic point of view. There is not much difference between them (size and weight wise) but ideally (if Fuji is listening :) ) I would love to have the option of a lighter smaller vertical grip for the X-T2 (similar to the old X-T1 VG). Also, as much as I love the joystick on the X-T2 - dear Fuji - please put it higher, swapping it with the Q button, in the next version of the X-T body. It is so well positioned on the X-Pro2. I would rather have the Q button elsewhere too. The same goes for the movie mode on the left subdial where the brackets used to be on the X-T1. It would make much more sense to place it with the other trendy consumer extras on the right side of that dial together with panorama, filters etc.

Anyway, the test and flight were great. Second flight was much easier and both cameras and lenses performed well. The 16-55 f2.8 is a brilliant stellar lens - fantastic for aerial shooting and I would certanly fly again with it. Thanks for visiting and maybe see you on the next flight!

The Tower Bridge - with 16-55mm f2.8 @55mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Home of Champions, Chelsea FC -  with 50-140mm f2.8 @115mm, f2.8, iso400, 1/1000s

Urban living - boat houses on Thames - with 50-140mm f2.8 @50mm, f2.8, iso250, 1/1000s

Science quarter - Natural History museum, Science museum, Imparial College and Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park on the background - with 50-140mm f2.8 @140mm, f2.8, iso200, 1/1000s

Westminster - with 50-140mm f2.8 @98mm, f4.5, iso400, 1/1000s

House Guards Parade and Trafalgar Square - with 50-140mm f2.8 @115mm, f4.5, iso250, 1/1000s

St. Paul's Cathedral - with 50-140mm f2.8 @115mm, f2.8, iso400, 1/1000swith 50-140mm f2.8 @64mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

Buckingham Palace - with 50-140mm f2.8 @94mm, f4.5, iso250, 1/1000s

South Kensington - with 50-140mm f2.8 @60mm, f2.8, iso200, 1/1000s

Urban jungle - City of London - with 50-140mm f2.8 @50mm, f4.5, iso64with 50-140mm f2.8 @115mm, f2.8, iso400, 1/1000s0, 1/1000s

St Paul's Cathedral - with 50-140mm f2.8 @64mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

Walkie-Talkie - with 50-140mm f2.8 @50mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

The Tower of London - with 50-140mm f2.8 @50mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

St Katharine dock marina - with 16-55mm f2.8 @36mm, f2.8, iso200, 1/1000s

Welcome to London- Canary Wharf and beyond - with 50-140mm f7.1 @52mm, f2.8, iso320, 1/1250s

Canary Wharf - with 16-55mm f2.8 @20mm, f2.8, iso200, 1/1000s

KAyakers at Canary Wharf - - with 16-55mm f2.8 @16mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

Millennium Dome - with 16-55mm f2.8 @31mm, f5, iso200, 1/1000s

Royal Docks - - with 16-55mm f2.8 @47mm, f4.5 iso320, 1/1000s

Tide is coming... River Thames Barrier - with 16-55mm f2.8 @23mm, f4.5, iso500, 1/1000s

Shard and bridges - with 16-55mm f2.8 @28mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Charlton Athletic ground, The Valley -  with 16-55mm f2.8 @55mm, f3.6, iso200, 1/1000s

Old Royal Naval College, Greenvich- with 16-55mm f2.8 @42mm, f5.6, iso320, 1/1000s

Isle of Dogs and Greenvich- with 16-55mm f2.8 @30mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

Old Royal Naval College and the Queen's House, Greenvich- with 16-55mm f2.8 @45mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

Over the prime meridian, Greenvich- with 16-55mm f2.8 @31mm, f4.5, iso200, 1/1000s

The big view from above the Canary Wharf - with 16-55mm f2.8 @20mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Chameleon - The Shard - with 16-55mm f2.8 @23mm, f4, iso320, 1/1000s

Westminster - with 16-55mm f2.8 @32mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Buckingham Palace - with 50-140mm f2.8 @140mm, f5.6, iso500, 1/1000s

The Waterloo Station- with 50-140mm f2.8 @58mm, f5, iso500, 1/1000s

Over the London eye - with 16-55mm f2.8 @42mm, f3.2, iso200, 1/1000s

Battersea Park - with 16-55mm f2.8 @16mm, f8, iso800, 1/1000s

Battersea Power station being redeveloped into luxury living complex - with 16-55mm f2.8 @28mm, f6.4, iso500, 1/1000s

Battersea Park - with 16-55mm f2.8 @38mm, f8, iso500, 1/1000s

The Tower Bridge - with 16-55mm f2.8 @55mm, f4, iso200, 1/1000s

Winter lights with X-Pro2

Winter is over and the spring light is back in force, so here is a mixture of London's winter low light or rather night shots which were done mostly (except for Kew Gardens' Christmas lights) on my way back home from work. Most of the shots were made with Fujifilm X-Pro2 combined with 35mm (f1.4 or f2) and 16-55mm f2.8 lenses, the latter using a Gitzo tripod. The X-Pro2 sensor has a great dynamic range and all lenses handle tricky light very well. Despite having X-T2s bodies, which come in handy for architecture shots and landscape shots, I find myself having the X-Pro2 in my bag every day with the 35mm f1.4 attached and the 35mm f2 lens as a spare for rain shots. The new 35mm f2 WR is a great versatile lens, but the old original f1.4 glass is still my favourite by far. As usual post-editing was done in Iridient Developer and Lightroom 6. Click or tap on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

London from helicopter with Fuji X-T2 & X-Pro2

Time has come to upgrade my old trusty pair of X-T1s so what better place is to test new X-T2 than a doors off helicopter (link at the end of this blog) ride over London? After some thinking and web searching I opted for the X-T2 (with battery grip) and 50-140mm f2.8 lens combo, and X-Pro2 with 35mm f1.4 as a second camera, as I wanted to test a fast prime and was not sure how much light we would get at the end of the flight. The flight was planned for just after 3pm and the idea was that we would fly over the Tower Bridge about half an hour before sunset. With luck we would have good light and great scenery. In fact we (three photographers sharing the flight) were very lucky and the dull grey sky broke into clouds and gave us what we were hoping for.
To get the best quality shots and relative freedom of view one needs to take doors off. This requires a proper secure harness with several attachments points to the helicopter, plus safety belt, plus both camera straps having to be secured by carabins too. Despite all that, being strapped to a chair 1600 ft in the air still makes you being rather cautious when you lean out to take a shot. Having dual cards slots in both cameras and extra batteries in X-T2 comes handy as changing anything during the flight is not allowed, as no one wants anything to fly out of the cabin and hit the blades... for the same reason the lens hoods were removed too. Once in the air you get very strong vibrations, noise and wind so my cameras were set at 1/1000s shutter speed, auto ISO from 200 to 800 and I would only change aperture depending on the shot I was taking.  Saying that, and you can see from the shot info I attached to each image, most of the shots were made with large apertures. I stopped down both lenses ocassionaly and only once used f8 when light was hitting me too hard - EVFs on both cameras are great to see what you get, that is if you can hold camera to your face in that vibration.

Post-editing was done in Lightroom 6 using Fujifilm Classic Chrome profile with some further adjustments. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

London's golden hour; X-T2 ISO640 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s

I found myself using both X-Pro2 with 35mm f1.4 and X-T2 (with vertical grip) and 50-140mm f2.8 lens pretty much equally. I did not note any difference in quality of shots as both cameras (and lenses) did a superb job. Using joysticks for choosing focusing points was very easy, especially in a heavy vibration situation and both cameras were very comfortable to use. The only thing I would have liked differently is a tighter aperture ring on 35mm f1.4 - it is too soft, so it is too easy to move under helicopter flight conditions. And yes, here comes a small rant, Fuji - why still only three frames per bracket? And why put movie mode onto the left subdial where brackets used to be on X-T1? It would make more sense to place it with the other extras on the right side of that dial together with panorama, filters etc. Also it would make sense if info icons on EVF were to have the same locations on both X-Pro2 and X-T2, for the sake of clarity and simplicity ... and finally, how about an option of saving your camera body settings onto an SD card as a file so you can quickly set up another new one? Anyway, would I fly again - absolutely yes (see link below), would I take the same cameras - yes, may be swapping 35mm to 23mm f1.4 or 16-55 f2.8 lens.

St. Katharine Docks Marina; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f2.8 1/1000s

Wapping area; X-Pro2 ISO250 35mm f2.8 1/1000s

Canary Wharf; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f2.2 1/1000s

Waterloo Station; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f3.6 1/1000s

IMAX cinema, Waterloo Station; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f3.6 1/1000s

Over the Archbishop's Park, Lambeth area; X-Pro2 ISO540 35mm f3.6 1/1000s

Oval cricket ground X-Pro2 ISO320 35mm f3.6 1/1000s

Battersea power station being redeveloped; X-Pro2 ISO640 35mm f5.6 1/1000s

Battersea park; X-Pro2 ISO2800 35mm f5.6 1/1000s

Battersea park; X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f2.0 1/1000s

X-Pro2 ISO320 35mm f4.5 1/1000s

Parsons Green, Hurlingham Park; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mmf5.0 1/1000s

Battersea area; X-Pro2 ISO800 35mm f4.5 1/1000s

Saint Mary's Church, Battersea Church Rd; X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f4.5 1/1000s

Battersea area opposite Imperial Wharf, X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f4.5 1/1000s

Battersea Park; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

Barnes Wetland Centre; X-T2 ISO640 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

Imperial Wharf, Chelsea; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea Creek. Originally allowed to switch District line trains from steam to electricity. Being redeveloped now. X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

Worlds end estate, Chelsea; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1000s

South Kensington; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s

Palace of Westminster - House of Parliament, Bridge and London Eye; ; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Westminster Cathedral, Victoria; ; X-T2 ISO250 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Palace of Westminster - House of Parliament; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs (left) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (right). Grey building on the right - 10 Downing Street.  X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Buckingham Palace and St. JAmes Park; X-T2 ISO3200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Centre Point (left) and Central Saint Giles (colourful buildings) ; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

British Museum; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Aldwych, Strand meets Kingsway; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

St. Paul's cathedral; X-T2 ISO320 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

Looking north between Bank and Moorgate. Guildhall bottom left,  Finsbury Circus (right)X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

walkie talkie - not the prettiest skyscraper in London even from above .. X-T2 ISO320 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s

London City; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s

London Shard and renovated London Bridge Station; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s

London City; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s

X-T2 ISO500 50-140mm f2.8 1/1250s

Limehouse area; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s

Canary Wharf; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s

Millenium Dome (The O2 arena), North Greenwich; X-T2 ISO250 50-140mm f2.8 1/1000s

London City Hall, X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s

London City Hall; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mmf2.8 1/1600s

Grand Finale - every cloud has a golden lining in London :) X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f8.0 1/1000s

London from an air balloon with Fuji X-T1 and X-Pro2.

I waited for this flight for a year but it was absolutely worth the wait! The air balloon flights in London are restricted to weather, early mornings, wind directions and speed. The link to the air balloon company site and more information on air ballooning is at the end of this blog. So after seven or eight cancellations, we finaly flew over London from Hyde Park to Wanstead Flats. Starting at about 5:30am the flight lasted for just under an hour. I took my usual trusty Fujifilm X-T1 paired with Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8 and my new best friend - X-Pro2 paired with 16-55mm f2.8. The images below more or less reflect the flight path and have area and building annotations. The general direction with a south westerly wind was from Hyde Park - Marble Arch, Marylebone towards Fitzrovia and Kings Cross, flying further towards Angel and Islington, then swinging towards the east over Hackney and Victoria Park, over the Olympic Park at Stratford and landing at Wanstead Flats, between Forest Gate and Manor Park. I found myself using both X-Pro2 with 16-55 f2.8 and X-T1 (with vertical grip) and 50-140mm f2.8 lens, with slight preference to X-T1 once in the air. Post-editing was done in Lightroom 6. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

Pilot checks the air balloon. ISO800 16-55mm f5.6 1/60s

Time to fly. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/640s

Hyde Park, looking towards South Kensington. ISO500 16-55mm f8 1/100s

London towards city and Canary Wharf. ISO200 16-55mm f8 1/100s

Mayfair. ISO500 16-55 f2.8 1/100s

London towards city and Canary Wharf. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/320s

London towards city and Canary Wharf. ISO200 50-140mm f5.6 1/60s

London towards Westminster. ISO500 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

Regent Street from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus. ISO200 16-55mm f2.8 1/75s

London towards city and Canary Wharf. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/200s

Cruciform Building (old UCLH now WIBR, UCL) and UCL. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/80s

Cruciform Building (old UCLH now WIBR, UCL). ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/25Cruciform Building (old UCLH now WIBR, UCL) and UCL. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/80s

University College London (UCL). ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/300s

Cartwright Gardens, St Pancras. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/80s

Foreign & Commonwealth Office, HM Treasury and HM revenue & Customs, Westminster Abbey and Palace of Wetsminster. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/220s

British Library, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/180s

St Pancras and Kings Cross stations. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/180s

Essex Road, Islington. ISO500 50-140mm f5.6 1/250s

Mount Pleasant Mail Centre. ISO200 50-140mm f2.8 1/110s

Mount Pleasant Mail Centre. ISO250 50-140mm f3.2 1/250s

Angel (at the top),  Islington. ISO640 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

St Pancras station and Brish Library. Top right- new Francis Crick Institute. ISO800 16-55mm f2.8 1/250s

St. Paul's Cathedral and The Shard.  ISO200 50-140mm f3.2 1/250s

London City, ISO200 50-140mm f3.2 1/250s

London Eye and Westminster, ISO400 50-140mm f5.6 1/250s

St Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern. ISO500 50-140mm f5.6 1/250s

Packington Sq and Arlington Square Garden, Islington. ISO640 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

Victoria Park, South Hackney. ISO400 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

London City, London Bridge and The Shard. ISO640 50-140mm f5.6 1/250s

West Ham Cemetery. ISO640 50-140mm f7.1 1/250s

Canary Wharf and Greenwich. ISO320 50-140mm f5.6 1/250s

Banbury Rd. South Hackney. ISO320 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

Docklands - Canary Wharf and North Greenwich. ISO200 16-55mm f5.6 1/250s

White Chapel Hospital (blue) and The Shard. ISO640 50-140mm f7.1 1/250s

The Olympic Park - Stratford. The stadium is now home to West Ham FC. ISO640 16-55mm f9 1/250s

CitizenM hotel staircase with X-T1

A stonesthrow away from the Tate Modern there is a small hidden gem of London's spiral staircases. CitizenM hotel has a modern wooden staircase, which will blow your mind. Fortunately the helpful staff have placed a couple of swivel chairs at its foot so you can either zen meditate or comfortably take a few shots of this masterpiece. As usual for architectural shots I used three lenses - Fujinon 14mm f2.8, Samyang 8mm f2.8 and Fujinon 10-24mm f4, all with the Fujifilm X-T1. The latter has a tilting LCD screen which is perfect for shooting this kind of photography. The space of the staircase is rather tight so the best shots to my liking were made with 8mm and 14mm f2.8 lenses. The 10-24mm f4 zoom was used close to its its widest ~12mm but this lens does not impress me in a low light conditions. The X-T1 combo with 8mm or 14mm lens is light, even with the vertical grip attached, which I have most of the time, and great to shoot handheld. Post-editing was done with Iridient Developer, Photomatix and Lightroom 6. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

 

Wellcome Collection staircase with X-T1

The Wellcome Collection is full of wonders, but the new spiral staircase by Stirling Prize winning architects Wilkinson Eyre completed in spring 2015 is a masterpiece. The steel staircase spans three floors and is a visual feast. Unlike other stairs it feels like a living form with its irregular shapes and changes in width and direction. I used three lenses - Fujinon 14mm f2.8, Samyang 8mm f2.8 and Fujinon 10-24mm f4, all with the Fujifilm X-T1. The latter has a tilting LCD screen which is perfect for shooting this kind of photography. The best shots to my liking were made with 8mm f2.8 and 14mm f2.8 lenses. The 10-24mm f4 zoom was used pretty much at its widest - 10mm. This is an emerging pattern after a few months of shooting with all three and I feel that 10-24 zoom will get swapped for a 10mm or 12mm prime in the nearest future. The X-T1 combo with 8mm or 14mm lens is small and light, and great to shoot handheld, try to hold DSLR with similar focal length lens in outstreched hand and shoot 1/30. Post-editing was done with Iridient Developer, Photomatix and Lightroom 6. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

 

The Brewer staircase with X-T1

The Brewer staircase is the beautiful spiral staircase at Heals department store, Tottenham Court Road, London (map attached). Designed by Ambrose Heal’s cousin Cecil Brewer, the stairs were completed in 1916. Despite a large amount of people passing through the store not many are aware of its existence. All you need to do is to enter the store, walk about 20 steps and turn left, walk straight for another 30-40 steps and the entry to the staircase is in front of you. The store staff are very friendly and as long as you are not obstructing other people's activities you are welcome to take pictures. Some images were taken during the Christmas holidays, thus extra decorations along the stairs. Shooting this beauty is challenging and gives anyone a good run for their wide-angle glass collection. Getting the right exposure is tricky and sometimes shooting upwards into the light I used an ND4 filter. I used three lenses- Fujinon 14mm f2.8, Samyang 8mm f2.8 and Fujinon 10-24mm f4, all with the Fujifilm X-T1. The latter has a tilting LCD screen which is perfect for shooting this kind of photography. Post-editing in Iridient Developer, Photomatix and Lightroom. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

10mm f5 1/60 ISO 1600

10mm f7.1 1/15 ISO 1600

10mm f5 1/60 ISO 1600

8mm f5.6 1/125 ISO 1600

11.5mm f4.5 1/30 ISO 1250

10mm f7.1 1/15 ISO 1600

8mm f8 1/3 ISO 200

10mm f7.1 1/15 ISO 1600

8mm f8 1/60 ISO 800

10mm f5 1/30 ISO 640

8mm f5.6 1/30 ISO 3200

8mm f5.6 1/125 ISO 1600

8mm f5.6 1/60 ISO 1600

8mm f8 1/60 ISO 1600

8mm f5.6 1/60 ISO 1600

8mm f8 1/60 ISO 2500

8mm f5.6 1/125 ISO 3200

8mm f5.6 1/10 ISO 3200

14mm f5.6 1/25 ISO 1600

8mm f11 1/9 ISO 3200

8mm f8 1/60 ISO 1600

 

London's City Hall with Fuji X-T1

London City Hall is a wonderful place, it is easy to get lost there just wondering around and admiring its unique skewed bulb shape with helical 500-metre (1,640 ft) walkway that goes the full height of the 10 storey building. It was designed by Sir Norman Foster and opened in July 2002. Its space is filled with light, glass and refections - a paradise for photography. It is open to the public on Open House Day (typically one of the weekends in September). All shots were made with X-T1 Fujifilm cameras paired with either Fujinon 14mm f2.8 or Samyang 8mm f2.8 lenses. Post-editing in Iridient Developer, Photomatix and Lightroom. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.