GF80mmF1.7 R WR: Opening Night

Advertising, fashion and portrait photographer, Chris Knight, uses FUJINON GF80mmF1.7 R WR to convey the dreamy romance and timeless style of a trip to the theater in one of the world’s most iconic cities

The release of FUJINON GF80mmF1.7 R WR portrait lens brings with it a new era in large sensor photography. This extraordinary optic is the world’s fastest ever lens with autofocus for a medium or large format mirrorless digital camera system. Such an impressive accolade deserves a challenge to match – and professional photographer and educator, Chris Knight, knew exactly how.

“My goal for this project was to create the hardest possible photographic situation,” says Chris. “It’s basically me doing large format at night, almost completely wide open, relying on the face tracking autofocus while I’m moving, the subjects are moving, other people are walking into the frame, and it’s constantly backlit.”

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/125 sec at F1.7, ISO 200

Chris chose the Theater District of New York City as the location for the project. On one hand, he wanted to celebrate the romance and iconic style of the area, while on the other, he knew the busy environment would help to illustrate what GF80mmF1.7 was capable of.

“I was inspired by a couple of old Gordon Parks images,” explains Chris. “One was a beautiful image of a couple coming out of a theater at night and I was set off on a path. So, we chose the Theater District and went for this really cinematic look.

“It’s also one of the busiest places around, so we wanted to show how you can create that separation, using the lens to isolate people and make it feel like they’re in their own kind of world,” he continues.

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/125 sec at F9, ISO 3200

Chris tells us that, although GF80mmF1.7’s equivalent focal length of 63mm is not one that he is used to, it is definitely one he will be using again. “I photographed a lot on the GF63mmF2.8 R WR as it’s a good midrange lens, and I photographed a lot on the GF110mmF2 R LM WR as it’s a really nice portrait lens. And this sits beautifully between the two, giving you the best of both worlds.

“Sometimes GF110mmF2 is just way too close and sometimes GF63mmF2.8 isn’t intimate enough, so the fact that GF80mmF1.7 lets you go a little bit longer, but then also opens up to F1.7, is incredibly useful.”

Chris combined GF80mmF1.7 with FUJIFILM GFX100 to make these images – and such a combination proved to be a great setup for the conditions he faced. He tells us how the lens’s superwide aperture perfectly complemented the camera’s advanced phase detection autofocus, resulting in the ability to track subjects across the frame, right down to -5.5EV.

“With all of the advanced technologies in the system, I don’t have to worry as much about the extreme technical considerations of making images like these. That means I can focus more on directing my subjects and getting emotion and story out of the image, instead of going, ‘Alright, well, what are the 8000 different steps that I have to do just to make sure this thing shows up?’” he smiles.

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/250 sec at F2, ISO 500

So, does GF80mmF1.7 live up to expectations? The combination of speed, portability, and reliability means Chris can depend on the lens to deliver a level of image quality that simply wasn’t possible before in such conditions. “The point of this project was to push this lens and the GFX system to the absolute limit by doing things with it in terms of speed, functionality, and versatility that you wouldn’t necessarily think of doing with a larger format system,” he explains.  

“These systems can often require so many people or so much complexity to operate, and photographers usually want to do it in a more controlled setting, whether it’s in studio or with a full crew. However, for the vast majority of this project, it was me just doing a run-and-gun.”

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/125 sec at F2, ISO 2500

Chris concludes by telling us that GF80mmF1.7 has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, both practically and creatively. “I think if you are a portrait photographer or a wedding photographer, it is a tremendous portrait lens,” he enthuses. “I didn’t use this focal length that regularly before this and I was really surprised with how much I loved it. And then being able to open it all the way up to F1.7 made it even more useful, because of that clean separation.

“The combination of that focal length with that aperture on a larger format sensor gives you all the compression and scope of 80mm, but it just feels so much wider than what you’re used to. And it’s just lovely. It’s really, really great to work with.”

Find out more about the project, the lens, and Chris’ creative process with this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!

Photo © Chris Knight | FUJIFILM GFX100 camera and GF80mmF1.7 R WR lens, 1/125 sec at F2, ISO 2500