I love fish tanks. I had one when I was a boy. When on vacation I always visit an Aquarium if there is one. Like the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.
Aquariums look very impressive but they are dark as hell. Some of the tanks are so dark that it is hard to see what’s going on in there. But like in most places tripods are not allowed. When I shot slide film there was no way to take images there. Today it’s different. Aquariums are the perfect playground ground for a modern digital camera.
I never forget the first time at the Monterey Aquarium in 2010. I had a Canon 5D but I shot mostly with my brand new Sony NEX5 because it was the better low light camera. One guy with a DSLR asked me about the camera because he didn’t understand why I was happily shooting with a compact camera in these conditions. The Sony NEX5 was a true game changer.
But the Sony NEX5 performs poor compared to a Fuji X-T1. Plus I had a super fast prime instead of a slow kit zoom.
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/1.4, 1/60 sec, ISO1000)
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/1.4, 1/60 sec, ISO1250)
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/1.8, 1/60 sec, ISO1600)
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/2, 1/60 sec, ISO2500)
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/1.6, 1/110 sec, ISO200)
FUJIFILM X-T1 (23mm, f/2.8, 1/80 sec, ISO640)
But a fast lens is of no use without a precise and reliable autofocus. It was always a pain in the neck to shoot a fast prime on a DSLR. The number of miss focused shots was very high. It was a frustrating hit and miss game.
With the contrast AF of mirrorless camera this problem is gone. AF is a little slower especially in poor light but it nail focus almost all the time. Slow and sharp beats fast but soft. With mirrorless cameras it is a true joy to shoot fast primes wide open or close to wide open.
I prefer a fast aperture prime over a zoom with IS for two simple reasons:
- IS can’t stop subject movement.
- the shallow depth of field helps to isolate the subject from the background
One of the best examples is the first image from the series above. Aperture f1.4 really helps to isolate the fish from the rather colorful and busy background. Same is true for the image below. Even at f2.8 the fish in front is clearly separated from the other fishes in the back. The X-T1 plus the Fuji XF 23/1.4 R is a extremely powerful combination in low light. I just wish that I had such a camera when I started to travel a long, long time ago.
The Birch Aquarium is nice but it’s rather small. It can’t compete with the one in Monterey which is simple amazing. I will definitely visit the Monterey Aquarium again. Maybe in the very near future.