Sekinchan: The Fishing Village & The Paddy Field

Sekinchan is a small town in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. This town is known as “鱼米之乡” in Mandarin, which simply means “the village of fish and rice”. This name came about from the two main activities that happened in this small town, namely the fishing and paddy plantation.
I took the chance to pay this town a visit during one of the weekend, together with a photography group. First stop we arrived at the shipyard to check out the ship building and repair work, followed by visiting the fishing village. Fishing usually done in the early morning, by the time we arrived is already late afternoon, the fishing was already done and boats were back to the dock. The fishermen were busy repairing the fishing net, while the ladies and children were busy processing the seafood before selling them to the fish monger or the dried food and canned food industries.
A quick chat with them and I came to realize that most of them are not locals. They came from neighboring country such as Indonesia and Philippines in search for a living here. “The youngsters are not interested in this industry. They just can’t bear with the sun, the tiredness and the smell of the fishes. They rather work in the comfort of air-conditioned environment, far away from their hometown.” That was what the owner commented when I asked about his age and his children’s whereabouts. In his late 60’s, he can only rely on hiring others to help him out in his business.
“The business was passed down to me from my dad. During the old days we simply got no options, unlike today.” I asked the owner how much the workers get paid for helping out in processing the seafood. I was told that it’s based on the weight of the seafood one managed to process in a day. “Some housewives will just drop by for part time job. Well, they are free at home most of the time anyway, so it’s a good source of income for them as well. If they are hardworking enough, they can earn about 30 Ringgit per day, which is quite significant to feed a household in a small town like this.”
Later on, we took a ride to the paddy field nearby to take a quick look on the golden paddy field. Harvest season has been ongoing for awhile now, and some of the paddy has already been harvested. There wasn’t any harvesting activity going on in the evening, but from conversation with the locals, we get to know that nowadays all harvesting work will be done via machines instead of labour work. Harvested paddy will be sent to the factory nearby for further processing into packaged rice.
We also get to witness the field burning activities on the harvested field. “This has been the tradition that we followed since the old days. Upon completion of paddy harvesting, we burn the field to prepare it for the next plantation. The burning process will provide nutrients for the soil and to ensure good harvest for the coming season.” Said the 82 years old farmer who has been working for years in the paddy field. “As more and more of the harvesting work is taken over by machines, it helps to relief our workload as we are all getting older.”
Just like the fishing village, the paddy plantation is also facing the problem of aging workers. Fewer youngsters choose to work in the paddy field, which leaves a lot of the aging worker with no choice but continue to work. They love their job, and it’s hard for them to see it collapses. “Well, the good thing is that we started to see more youngsters working in the factory instead. As the industry gets modernized, they started to come back and work in their hometown.”
With more and more people moving to the big cities in search for a job with higher pay, better quality of living and more opportunities, it’s hard to imagine what will happen to these industries in the near future as the current generation of workers aged. Perhaps with modernization, machines will fully replace manpower from carrying out the job. However, the loss of succession in skills and professionalism for both fishing and paddy field plantation makes me feel a little… pity and unfortunate. I do hope in years to come, we are still able to show our kids on how things are done in the old and traditional ways, allowing them to appreciate and cherish the hard work from the older generation.

Getting closer and wider with Fujinon XF16mm F1.4 R WR

A big thanks to my friend Charles for lending me his XF16mm F1.4 R WR. With his kind heart, I managed to put this lens through some paces during my recent trip to Sekinchan, Malaysia. It’s a 2 days weekend getaway and I have managed to shoot on various scenes and getting to know the lens a little better.
This is the first Fujinon prime lens from Fujifilm that spots weather resistance and the all new Nano GI coating. It’s a 16mm lens, hence an equivalent focal length of 24mm. The built quality of this lens reminds me a lot of the also superb XF23mm F1.4 R. They share the same clutch manual focus mechanism, which is something I like about. The lens really gives you the solid feeling that it is ready to take on whatever challenge that you are about to throw to it, which is always a nice feeling that gives you that confidence to go out and shoot.
A notable feature from the XF16 is that the minimum focusing distance is 15cm from the sensor, which means your lens front element can literally go as close as a few centimeters away from your subject and yet the lens will still able to focus. The large aperture of F1.4 is good for astrophotography and some shallow depth of field shots to isolate the subject from the background. Focusing is quick for general shooting, though it still suffers a little under the low light (probably due to the sensor rather than the lens).
The good thing about this lens is the distortion is very well controlled. If you have shoot with the XF10-24 before, you will notice the distortion of the lens is quite obvious. But for the XF16, everything falls in neatly. I have been shooting the fishing village with this lens and it gives some very nice perspective as opposed to those provided by the XF23. Here’s a rather dirty comparison of pictures from both lenses on the same subject, as you can see, I can get almost identical framing and look from both lenses, which is why the XF23 was left in my bag all the time. There are of course some minor difference in terms of distortion and the pushing effect from the wide angle lens.
This lens is really good for shooting in tight spaces as get to cram in a lot of things into your frame. The ability to focus so close to your subject gives you a more intimate shot as you will need to get much closer to fill up the frame. Since distortion is well under controlled, this lens is good for environmental portraiture. I didn’t get to try out shooting some stars or milky way as the weather doesn’t favour me during my trip, not even some nice sunrise and sunset shot. Nevertheless, I still managed to grab some shots over the paddy field with this lens.
As a lens for landscape, the XF16 is performing well just like any other Fujinon lens. The only let down is probably the loss of flexibility of the zoom range from the XF10-24, and ironically, the distortion from the XF10-24 itself which can sometimes be quite useful to exaggerate your foreground to create more impact on your landscape shot. For now, I still don’t see this lens to be able able to replace my trust worthy workhorse XF10-24 for my landscaping work. But this lens does resulted my XF23 being stored in my camera bag throughout the trip, which is something to be pondered about.
So should you get this lens? I can’t give you an answer of yes or no, but I hope my user experience above will be helpful foR you to make your decision easier. If you want to go wide with fast aperture and on a budget, do take a look at the other offerings such as XF14mm F2.8 R and XF18mm F2 R. The Zeiss 12mm F2.8 is another good option if you managed to snatch a good deal for used lens. As of now, I will not get this lens yet. I’m tempted to test out the XF16-55mm F2.8 R WR and see how  it performs as compared to the XF16. Till then, I’ll continue to shoot with my XF10-24 for my landscape work and XF23 for my daily and streets work.

Going wide on Fujifilm X-Series Camera

It’s been awhile since my last post. I have been busy with my work and my trip to Japan for the past 10 days or so. I’ll get my picture processed and share some over here soon. For the mean time, it seems that there’s a hot debate going on recently in the Fujifilm X-Series Camera circle. Yes, this is mainly due to the release of a new lens from Fujifilm, which is the XF16mm F1.4 R WR, a fast aperture wide angle prime lens. People has been asking whether to get the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R or this XF16mm F1.4 R WR. Some were asking whether they should sell their XF10-24mm F4 OIS R and buy this lens instead. Honestly, I have the same thought of selling mine and getting the XF16mm F1.4 R WR initially. But now, I think I won’t. I have been shooting extensively with the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R, so I know how it performs, and I managed to play with the XF16mm F1.4 R WR for like 30 minutes in the Fujifilm showroom. Here are my thoughts about them, and they are just generally my feeling about them.

XF10-24mm F4 OIS R

This lens has been the top Wide Angle lens for Fujifilm user, as this is the widest lens to date in the line up. Here are some of the thoughts I have on this lens:

  1. Being wide angle lens, extra care needs to be taken when shooting with this lens to avoid flare and reflections within the lens glass elements. You will get to know the limitation when you shoot more on this lens.
  2. It’s a F4 lens. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get shallow depth of field shot, I would say it is harder to get isolation on your subject, you need to get really close to your subject to get the background blur off, which is not what you can do all the time. There’s obvious distortion at the wide end, but Fujifilm has done a good job with their Lens Modulation Optimizer to correct the distortion in camera.
  3. It has OIS, which compensate on the slow F4 aperture. I have not found any issue with the OIS so far.
  4. It’s a little bulky and heavy, even on the X-T1. This is just my personal feeling, I have asked others for their opinion and they feel the lens is pretty balance on the camera. Well, I must say the size is indeed compact and light if compared to similar offering to other brands.
  5. This is a lens that’s good for landscape, cityscape or indoor. The zoom is versatile enough to allow composition in tight spaces. This is particularly useful as not all the time you’ll get the luxury to zoom using my leg. And the 16MP sensor on current Fujifilm camera doesn’t really give you a whole lot of room for cropping later on.
  6. This is not my kind of lens for street. If you shoot streets with F5.6 onwards, this lens will still make it. But if you like to shoot wide open like F1.4, F2 or F2.8 for streets… you are out of luck. The size and weight of this lens does not feel right to me as a street shooting lens either. But again, your definition on size and weight may varies with mine.
  7. Is it possible to shoot stars with this lens? I have never tried before, but I believe I have seen shots of milky way from this lens before, somewhere. At F4, likely you will need to bump up the ISO to 3200 or so, it’s not impossible, but of course lens with faster aperture do have advantage here.

XF16mm F1.4 R WR

Now, here comes the new challenger… the super fast wide angle prime lens:

  1. I have not tested the lens on the field, no comment on the flare of this lens. However, do note this lens does come with the new Nano GI coating from Fujifilm, which should give better result in flare resistance.
  2. It’s a F1.4 lens. Yes, I know a lot of people will like to shoot it wide open. Couple with the short minimum focusing distance, you can do a lot of shallow depth of field shots with ease. You can get subject isolation that is much better than the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R. Distortion is very well control in my opinion.
  3. No OIS, just like all the prime lens Fujifilm offers. But it does have Weather Resistance, something the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R does not have.
  4. It’s rather compact and light weight, similar to XF23mm F1.4 R and XF56mm F1.2 R. Well, prime lens being prime lens will have slight advantage in terms of resolution against zoom lens… but will you be able to notice it?
  5. This lens itself is good for what the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R is good for. Though I have not tested it on field, I believe it will be a very good lens for street, just like my trust worthy XF23mm F1.4 R. Prime lens shooter will love this lens.
  6. Talking about shooting street, this camera has depth of field scale engraved on the lens… but as a focus by wire lens, to me it’s hardly accurate to judge the focusing using the engraved markings on the lens. It’s not as easy to use as those manual lens for sure. And the worst part is, being a clutch mechanism lens, the depth of field scale will not shown on the LCD/EVF when you turn the focus ring. This make it difficult to judge your manual focusing correctly. Well, maybe this is my problem, but so far I’m having difficulties in reading the scale on my XF23mm F1.4 R.
  7. Being a fast lens at F1.4 and wide angle, it’s only obvious that people will use this lens to shoot stars and milky way. I believe there are samples picture already available on the internet. This lens should be able to get the job done nicely.

So, at the end of the day, which lens should you get? Well, you need to ask yourself a few simple question:

1. Do you shoot more on landscape or street?

If landscape is your answer, I would recommend you to go for the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R. It’s not that the XF16mm F1.4 R WR will not be a good landscape lens. It’s just that the wider perspective of the 10mm end will surely benefit you when shooting landscape. If street is your answer… both lens will do the job, but this will go to the next question.

2. Do you need the F1.4?

People always like fast aperture lens for their creamy bokeh. Well, creamy bokeh doesn’t mean good picture. So you must really know what you want to achieve and why you need it. If you need to shoot stars, I believe the XF16mm F1.4 R WR will be a better choice. If you want subject isolation like environmental portrait and etc., the faster aperture surely will help you to achieve that.

3. Do you need WR?

Well, I have been shooting my XF10-24mm F4 OIS R in the drizzle during my Japan trip. Of course I will shoot more if I know my lens is weather resistance. But still being a non weather resistance lens doesn’t mean that your lens will spoilt at the moment water hits it. So you need to weight how important WR is to you. I know people who bought all the WR gear and yet keep them in their bag and stop shooting when it rains. So ask yourself and be true to yourself. If you need WR, your obvious choice will be the XF16mm F1.4 R WR (or the XF16-55mm F2.8 R WR).

So, at the end of the day, what do I recommend? Well, it’s all up to individual to understand your need and buy accordingly. I was tempted to sell off my XF10-24mm F4 OIS R initially to fund for this XF16mm F1.4 R WR. I want the WR, and I would prefer to shoot streets with this lens than the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R. If at 24mm equivalent is not wide enough for me, I can always do a panorama and stitch them up later to get as wide and I want. But after shooting a whole lot of landscape in Japan, I came to realized that I still need the versatility of the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R. Does this mean I should only stick to this lens and not getting the XF16mm F1.4 R WR? Well, not really either. From my point of view, the XF16mm F1.4 R WR can be a good companion lens to the XF10-24mm F4 OIS R. Just like how my XF23mm F1.4 R being a good companion lens to my XF10-24mm F4 OIS R right now. They serve different purpose all together even though they share the same focal length. So if you are really on tight budget and can only afford one, ask yourself those questions and I believe you will know which is right for you. Otherwise, get both and you will live happily ever after 🙂

P/S: not to forget there are other options for fast aperture prime such as XF14 F2.8 R and Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8. They are equally good, small, compact and light weight prime lens. You can easily get a used one at a bargain price and shoot with it. Though they are not WR, but still will be a good option for those who is looking for prime, and yet WR is not their priority.