By John Rourke
As a Motorsport Photographer and the Director of Adrenal Media, the Official Photographic Agency for the FIA World Endurance Championships and the European Le Mans Series, I spend a lot of my time shooting at many different race circuits around the world. a lot of these race tracks we have to cover are big! And I mean BIG!
This means we need big glass to cover the distance from the edge of the track to the car. Circuits vary massively in width, with many of the race tracks having large run-off areas or fencing to keep the car within certain boundaries of the track. These also keep us photographers safe and out of trouble… Mostly!
While it’s always great to be safe, the drawback is that we are kept further from the action than we would like to be. To compensate this we use big glass.
Fujifilm answered our prayers when they introduced the Fujinon XF50-140mm with the 1.4x tele-converter and then when they brought the XF100-400mm into the mix as well – This brings us in line with DSLR photographic ranges. I also use my favourite lens, the Fujinon 90mm F2. This lens has a place at the track too and should not be ruled out. All three of the lenses are not only perfect for the racetrack but are also exceptional in the pit lane.
Okay, Okay, I admit the 90mm has limitations on the track itself but for those places where you can get closer, the F2 aperture provides a stunning shot. I also like the 90mm for the environmental images. For example the car with track included so the viewer will know which circuit the car was racing at. This is an important image in our ‘shot list’ as part of the race week narrative.
In the pit lane the 90mm is mind blowing. For pit lane portraits, detailed shots and subject isolation, such as a car standing on its own in the pit lane, the F2 aperture helps pull the eye through the frame to tell the story. This lens replaced my 135mm F2 when I switched over from the DSLR system of old. However, I really wish it was able to take the 1.4 converter like the old 135 could. This would be my only negative thing I can find on this lens. I frequently use this lens for effect, isolation and arty images.
Find out more about the XF90mm lens here.
The XF50-140mm is my workhorse, if you could buy only one lens… oh, okay you really do need that 18mm F2 in your life too! That and a 50-140 you can shoot anything! Well, okay get the the 1.4 converter as well then you really can shoot anything – so anyway I digress and the shopping list grows.
The 50-140 or 75-210 equivalent is for everything! Stunning at f2.8 with an awesome image stabiliser to go with it. The pull on this lens is great on the track and in the pit lane night and day. You can attach a 1.4x converter and you then have a 70-196mm F4 lens that you can carry in a coat pocket giving you a total range of 75-297mm in a 35mm equivalent that’s money well spent if you ask me. This lens is really fast focusing, the camera can react quickly to oncoming and passing cars and pitlane action, this is my go to for track and pitlane.
“I would not leave the media suite without this on one of my cameras.”
Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here.
Then you have the XF100-400mm, well what can I say? This is all manners of Boom Shakalaka! This lens on the track is just mind-blowingly sharp. The money shot for me has to be a few cars fighting on the corner for a lead or ‘battle shot’ as we call it. Many photographers shoot catalog style at the track, that’s one car per frame, for me it’s boring! Thankfully our clients tend to think so too. We love battle pictures, they really show the dynamics of the race, the tension, drama and emotion…this is the lens for that!
Even if you have a 50-140mm already, don’t worry you will still want a 100-400mm in your life for sure…. This lens will pick out details in the heat – the shimmer around the cars and in the sharpest of action details. Images shot at the 400mm end have a gorgeous bokeh and lens compression that really helps to isolate any subject matter whatever the distance.
When I first got the lens I thought I would struggle with the f4.5 to f5.6 aperture, but now I’m used to it I can use the lens all day long. It will even take the 1.4 converter, this takes the equivalent 150-600mm focal length, with the 1.4x to 840mm that’s pretty awesome if you ask me in such a compact lens.
I have used this lens a lot since I got it and even in the pit lane the versatility of this lens makes it worth buying. Shooting through pitlane clutter to pick out details and action is so easy and stunning.
Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here.
As you can see the differences are clear enough but all are usable in motorsport. It’s really just down to personal preference of the individual, to which one you use and the style of image you require, if you have any one of these lenses you could easily walk away with some epic shots from the day.
Poor Nicolas Minassian looks like he has just washed his face with Bovril and then dipped his chin in iron filings….. #holdtheclarity
loved your work and blog John, cars are one of my main passions, photography my other.
I have an X-Pro1 and X-M1 and 4 XF lenses plus an old Canon EF F1.4- 4.8 35-80 which looks pretty mediocre compared to Fuji glass.
I think these lenses show just how far Fujifilm has come in terms of professional level cameras and lenses. I have had the 50-140 for a while and loved it and hope to use it again. Great post thanks
Thank you for this review. It’d be nice to have a visually clear size differential for the three lenses, on the same scale. In the pic above 90mm looks as large as the 100-400, because the field of view and scale are different, which defeats the purpose of lining them up. Secondly, what I came looking for is totally missing from the piece although the title kind of promised it: I’d like to see the same picture taken by 90mm, but also by 50-140mm at around 90mm, and the 100-400mm at 100mm. To test equivalence of the same pic, and maybe pixel-peep. I know this is a free blog (and one I come to often, love the content), but I hope
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