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21.08.2019 Brian Lloyd Duckett

Impression on GF50mmF3.5 R LM WR

Brian Lloyd Duckett

Brian Lloyd Duckett (‘Duck’ to his friends) is a documentary, travel and street photographer and he runs the London-based StreetSnappers and TravelSnappers workshop businesses. He is also a partner in a commercial photography business, shooting for corporate annual reports, advertising campaigns and other marketing collateral. But his real passion has always been for street photography.

Brian’s interest in photography started at school where he had access to a darkroom, the encouragement of a great art teacher (thank you, Mr Freear) and a firm belief that ‘the guy with the camera’ would be more attractive to girls. His first published newspaper picture, at the age of 15, was of a dead dog in a litter bin.

Brian runs street and travel photography workshops around the UK and in European cities such as Lisbon, Venice and Prague – with other cities to follow. He runs workshops for small groups and also one-to-one workshops and mentoring programmes. He teaches as a Visiting Lecturer on photography degree courses and is a lecturer and judge at camera clubs across the UK.

His first book, ‘Mastering Street Photography’, has become a best seller and the follow-up – ’52 Assignments: Street Photography’ – is hot on its heels (both published by Ammonite Press). He also writes for blogs and for travel and photography magazines.

Outside of photography, Brian’s passions for tennis and sailing almost compensate for his love of all things Italian – not least the food and the wine.

My ‘go to’ focal length for street photography has always been somewhere between 18mm and 24mm (in APS-C terms), so I was very interested to get my hands on the new GF50mmF3.5 R LM WR (40mm equivalent) FUJINON lens for the GFX cameras.

For a medium format lens, wow – this is small! I love the proportions – it just feels right on my GFX 50R body. It’s light, well-proportioned and nicely balanced. The lens comes with a hood which doesn’t protrude too much, helping keep everything discreet and low key. It feels reassuringly chunky and solid and able to withstand the rigours of life on the street. Overall, the form factor is ideal and just about right for street shooting.

So what else makes this lens a good choice for street? First of all, it’s weather sealed; it’s great not to have to worry about water ingress when you’re out shooting in all conditions.

Then there’s the ability to set the aperture ring to the ‘C’ (command) position, using one of the command dials instead of the lens ring to set the aperture, which is great when you need to make fast adjustments. Most of my shooting is done in aperture priority but if I need to change to shutter speed priority I can just flick the aperture ring to the ‘A’ position (which it locks into). Whatever the setting, the exposure values appear in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, which is useful.

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The aperture ring itself is satisfsyingly ‘clicky’ and tactile – and it’s reassuringly stiff so it’s difficult to change the setting by mistake; you can set the aperture value in 1/3 steps, which I find helpful, particularly in tricky metering conditions. The focus ring is smooth and nicely damped (and therefore not prone to moving by accident) – great for zone focusing.

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With a 62mm filter thread, it’s compatible with lots of my existing filters and rings – another added bonus.

But what about that angle of view? Is it too ‘long’ for street? No, not at all, and I found that I very quickly warmed to it. The angle of view is pretty much what the human eye sees, which I think lends a ‘real life’ perspective to the final image.

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In terms of performance, and whilst this isn’t a ‘technical’ review, I must say that centre to edge sharpness is good, as is contrast across the aperture range. At the widest aperture, F3.5, there’s a pleasing amount of bokeh, making this lens a good choice for street portraits. The lens focuses quickly and quietly, even in low light – another big plus for me.

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A lot of what I shoot on the streets is more what you would call urban landscape photography – where the buildings and the wider environment take centre stage and where people are less significant – and I found myself achieving the right composition in-camera rather than needing to crop in post-production

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This is a really versatile lens which, for shooting on the streets, is a perfect match for the GFX50R (or 50S) and the angle of view is a great compromise between the 45mm and 63mm alternatives. I can see this becoming part of my everyday kit for travel and documentary photography as well as for street.

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