27 March 2014

Fujifilm XF 10-24mm F4 test shots

The Fujifilm/Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 ultra-wide zoom has its range in 35mm equivalent as 15-36mm. A very well-made zoom lens.

Fujifilm XF 10-24mm on the camera with the 56mm F1.2 standing next to it.

Fujifilm X-E1 with the XF 10-24mm alongside the Nikon D5100 with the AF-S 12-24mm G.

Weight of the Nikon combination.

Weight of the Fuji X combination.

Some test shots of the new XF 10-24mm F4 showing how small the distortion is. Very impressive indeed.

Within an MTR station. 10mm, f4, 1/30, ISO 1600.

10mm, f4, 1/50, ISO 1600.

10mm, f4, 1/60, ISO 1600.

10mm, f4, 1/34, ISO 1600.

25 March 2014

Ivan Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra and Bruckner 9

Viva Bruckner

The 6th of March 2014 proved to be a very enjoyable evening. The Bruckner 9 concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Fischer was hailed by many of my friends as great and unforgettable. With due respect, I
’d take my feeling as a qualified concurrence.

The most interesting thing about this concert is the orchestral layout. Fischer places the entire French horn/Wagner tuba section directly in front of him so leaving the strings sections flanking it on both sides. The positive side of this placement is a very clear horn choir in many of the horn passages and particularly in the tuttis, but the downside is a lack of the very important misterioso in the opening movement. 

The conductor’s and the players’ tireless dedicated effort in this symphony is almost palpable, but there are times when I was left with the impression that Fischer tends to treat it as an orchestral showpiece in certain passages. No, he doesn’t spice it with heavy pathos, nor does he temper it with funny ritenuto or accelerando; in fact it is quite a “conventional” reading. However, despite the very beautiful and exact playing in the Scherzo and Trio, the way Fischer wears his jovial heart on his sleeve in this movement is a little incongruous in this context. When the symphony ends, what filled my heart with gratitude is Anton Bruckner the composer per se and not Ivan Fischer the conductor, but if you look at it from another angle, the conductor has done an excellent and admirable job in conducting Bruckner’s electricity to the audience and not standing in the way as a resistor or nonconductor for that matter.

Bravo Professor Bruckner!

16 March 2014

Two consecutive nights of sheer magic from two venerable Brucknerians -- Skrowaczewski and Haitink

Lady Luck has graced me with two Bruckner concerts on consecutive nights by a nonagenarian and an octogenarian respectively.

14 March 2014
Bruckner 3 (1889 version)
London Philharmonic Orchestra / Skrowaczewski
Royal Festival Hall, London

Sheer magic from a nonagenarian.

Skrowaczewski has made me love Bruckner 3 even more. When people are criticising the 1889 version of Bruckner 3, mainly due to the extensive cuts in the Finale, Skrowaczewski has magically made the Finale work, what with balancing the different parts of the Finale with fine adjustment of tempo (e.g. by adopting a slower tempo then usual in B) and what with gelling different parts, especially in the development, with tension and momentum. These only form part of his magic.

The LPO plays magnificently. The lower strings just sing in the opening movement and the Adagio.

A truly unforgettable experience. Mr Ken Ward and his friends all heap praise on the performance.

This concert is apparently recorded and will most probably come out on an LPO CD.

The London Eye under the moon.

15 March 2014
Bruckner 4
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Haitink
Philharmonie, Berlin

This concert marks the 50th anniversary of Haitink as a guest conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. When he first conducted the BPO in March 1964, he was only 35 years old. Now he is 85.

Haitink has given us a beautiful reading of Bruckner 4. The Berliners give him all and their joy in playing for him is almost palpable. The solo horn at the beginning of the first movement has such delicate nuances that right from the start you know it will be a special occasion. The Andante is lyrical and the Scherzo has a certain vigour and power that is rather special from Haitink, unlike his previous readings, e.g. his live recording of his concert with the LSO a couple of years ago. The Finale is crowned with a marvellous coda that shows how controlled the power of the brass of the BPO -- it is simply gorgeous and grand but never unpleasantly overbearing to the ears.

Then there is the attraction of the Berlin audience all through the years. All of them arrive BEFORE the concert starts and settle down quietly at least 10 minutes before the orchestra enters. The concert starts punctually. They are quiet apart from the inevitable coughs. 

They wait for many seconds for the music to die out before they applaud. Apparently nobody is trying to be the winner in a who's the first to scream Bravo competition.

Two nights in mid-March 2014 which I'm privileged to be present and which will remain in my memory forever.

09 March 2014

Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R Test Shots

The new Fujifilm XR 56mm f/1.2 R lens is beautifully made and attractively priced for such a wide-aperture lens. 

The Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 lens mounted on the X-E1. The old Leica 50mm Summilux on the M mount adapter stands next to it.

I was lucky to be able to get this lens today. Before I went to the London Symphony Orchestra concert tonight, I took a few pictures around the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. I just wanted to know how this lens performs, especially when it is maximally opened, i.e. at f/1.2.

All the shots below were taken at f/1.2 except otherwise stated and resized to 1600 pixels.

1/250s, ISO 200

1/45s, ISO1600

1/60s, ISO 1250

1/60s, ISO 1000

1/60s, ISO 1600

1/60s, ISO 1600

Misty Hong Kong; 1/60, ISO 1000

Chinese tourist posing for a shot; f/1.4, 1/40s, ISO 1600

The famous old railway station Clock Tower; f/1.4, 1/42s, ISO 1600