The weather cooperated and I had brilliant, sunny conditions. This is by no means a common occurrence at the coast just south of San Francisco as any Bay Area resident will tell you. There are plenty more grey, flatly lit afternoons on the coast than there are sunny ones. On the drive over, I was envisioning some or all of the following a la Ralphie in ‘A Christmas Story’:
Let’s just say I was pretty excited to go see what the combo of a world class wide lens and the best filters in the business were capable of.
The Gut Punch
One of the first things I did upon setting up and looking through the viewfinder was to curse out the lens and filter combo. The excitement of testing a new set up/playing with a new toy for the first time turned to immediate disappointment and irritation. Upon setting up the camera for my first shot, I saw these reflections in the bottom of the image. Clearly, the reflections were those of the lettering on the ‘beauty ring’ on the front of the lens since they’re legible in reverse:
But. There’s a fix that completely eliminates the problem.
My dad was an engineer. He instilled the critical thinking and problem solving skills that I use every day, all day: Make things better. Make them work better than they do right now. Be brave enough to think about what is in front of you and don’t be afraid of trying to think of a better way to do things (or, if not necessarily a better way, a different way). He taught me to identify the problem, get mad if necessary, work out and identify a solution, measure twice, cut once, implement the solution for minimal cost and effort.
With the lens tilted down relative to the horizon and the Big Stopper installed, light was striking the white letters on the front ring of the lens and reflecting onto the inboard surface of the Big Stopper, then back to the sensor. This happened regardless of exposure time or aperture. There was no light leak. The Lee filter holder was installed correctly using a 58mm Lee adapter ring. No UV filter or other screw in filter was in place. I took a look at the front ring on my X100 and, while it is also beveled slightly inward, I can’t replicate the issue with the Lee hardware in place.
When I reviewed the images on my laptop, it was clear that post processing wasn’t going to get rid of the reflections with any reliability. In the second of the two images above, the reflected letters showed up as white radial streaks that I was able to burn a bit so as not to draw attention, but they’re still there in the rock lower left and lower right.
The beveled ring on the front of the 14mm is a potential problem for long exposure photography when using the Lee Seven Five system’s Big Stopper and when there is a very strong light source in the frame. I was only able to get the reflections from the sun, but it stands to reason that the same may occur with very long exposures at night with light cumulatively filtering in, reflecting off of the back of the Big Stopper and causing issues in exposures that last several minutes or longer. I haven’t experimented with that, so I can’t really comment other than my scientific, wild-ass guess.
I’m writing this piece to advise both potential purchasers and Fujifilm about the issue.
I found later that I wasn’t the only one having these issues. There is a short thread over on the Fred Miranda forums that also details the symptom and a couple of different remedies. You can read that thread here: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1273977/0.