Up front I need to say this: Yes, this is indeed another “Why did I switch to Fuji” article, but I will make no excuse for it. Each has ones own reasons for switching, and although there might be general tendencies, there will certainly also be wildly diverse motivations at play.
X100T. Using leaf shutter sync to kill the VERY bright ambient light in Cape Town. At 30 knots wind, sand is in the air as Jesse Richman prepares for the Red Bull KOTA 2016.
One thing is sure: The Fuji X100T was definitely the catalyst for the process. But let me get back to that later. First let me explain where I was coming from.
My camera was a Canon 5d MK III (backed up by a Mk II) and I had a handfull of top-shelf glass for it. In general I liked my setup, and had no plans of changing it.
My main tool was the 70-200 2.8 II, with which I was doing studio headshots, but lenswise I was covered from 16mm to 600 mm.
Around fall 2015, something began to bother me. My “walk-around” was the Mk III with Sigma 50mm ART, but the bulky 2 kilograms of that kit, was not really inviting for any walking around. Kind of a luxury problem, but it made me start investigating the market for compact high-end cameras.
I discovered, that several of the candidates were equipped with leaf shutters, something I had been fascinated with for a long time, for their unparallelled flash sync performance.
Occationally, I shoot kiteboarding with flash, and killing ambient light is a big deal in that respect. So I figured that one side-purpose of getting a small camera, would be getting one with a leaf shutter, to be able to explore those sync possibilities.
Naturally the beautiful Fuji X100 cameras caught my eye, and after some time of research and contemplation, I decided on a used X100T. So far so good.
X100T. My ongoing project of landscapes with flash.
I now had a proper camera I could easily stuff in my coat pocket or throw in any bag. I began taking it for long walks, greatly enjoying my new companion. I also began bringing a remote flash on these walks, and a new art project developed out of that.
The important finding in this context is, that I found the Fuji files to be an absolute joy to work with. I seemed to have greater dynamics, and I found noise to have a much more likable, grain-like quality, than I was used to from Canon, where there is just nothing good to say about noise. And the sharpnes! The missing anti-aliassing filter combined with great glass was noticable.
Being very enthusiastic about my X100T, I found myself reading lots of Fuji articles and blogs. And here I must have stumbled upon reviews of Fuji X-T1 and XF lenses. At some point it dawned on me: In the land of Canon, it does not really make any sense to have a crop sensor body (unless you want extra reach). Because all the good glass is made for full frame. Nothing is really gained, only lost. You will pay for big lenses, you will not fully use. So with Canon, a crop sensor camera is something photographers naturally “grow out of”. (Except perhaps 7d II for some special purposes.)
With Fuji X, I could suddenly see that a system built around an APS-C sensor can make sense, when all the glass is stellar. And exept for a couple of “consumer” level lenses (for pairing with the cheapest bodies), it feels like Fuji has put together a friggin all-star team of lenses.
For the first time, I felt compelled to investigate switching system.
So I gave it a good thought. What would I loose? What would I gain?
X100T. Nick Jacobsen and Graham Howes enjoying the last light of the day in Langebaan, SA.
One thing is obvious, when going to a smaller sensor: At an equivalent focal lenght, you will effectively end up having a wider depth of field. That would be a no-go, if I was a bokeh-fetishist or if my life’s work was all about razor thin DOF. But, you know, – it´s not. I do like a good background separation once in a while, but I can easily live with a bit less. And my personal (art) work is usually done at f/11-16.
Then there was the focusing issue: Most people were saying, that focusing was not great for fast moving stuff. But the thing is, that the sport I shoot is primarily kiteboarding, and what I like most, is shooting with flash on close range with manual prefocus. So yes, I would probably lose some performance shooting with continuous focus, but that did not feel like a big issue.
And off course I would have a bit lower resolution, since I was going from 22 MP to 16 MP. This was not worrying, as I could already see how much detail I had in the x100t files, plus the rumour about X-Pro2 having 24 MP seemed very plausible.
And the positives? Size and weight is an obvious one. Not that big a deal for me, but I like that the whole kit is just smaller and lighter. Once in a while I shoot a long event, and having two big Canons over your shoulders, does wear you down faster. And put a small prime on X-T1 (without grip) and it is very light and compact.
Less money. The Fuji lenses are not exactly cheap, but an X-T1 is less than half price of a 5d MK III. All in all, definitely a smaller investment than Canon.
And then the more technical stuff: I was very curious about Face Recognition with Eye Recognition. Doing a lot a headshots with quite a thin DOF, I had a rather high percentage of mis-focused shots with Canon. This sounded like great potential for me. Also the ability to shoot with exposure preview off, sounded very promising to me, due to my current studio flashes having too much power. (This would enable me to shoot portraits with open fast lens with ND filter. Not possible with DSLR as the viewfinder will go too dark.)
Faster frame-rate than 5d Mk III: Nice. Can be 100% silent: Nice. No more micro-adjusting lenses: Nice. Tilting screen: Nice.
Overall, this gave me a good feeling about making the big switch. On a more emotional level, I felt that Canon had for years been extremely conservative, making only minor improvements here and there. The idea of getting rid of the flapping mirror, makes totally sense to me, and I felt, that Fuji seemed to be doing the right thing at the right time.
I went to a shop a couple of times, just to get the feel of the X-T1. And then I jumped ship.
Within a week (just before Christmas), I had sold enough Canon gear, to buy the package I had decided for:
XF 50-140mm f/2.8
XF 16-55mm f/2.8
Xf 56mm f/1.2
Samyang 12mm f/2.0
Yup, that’s right. No dipping the toes first. This was a head first dive.
X-T1 + XF 50-140 f/2.8. Studio headshot of my sweetheart.
The first thing I needed to get in order was tethering. I knew I had to give up CaptureOne (no Fuji support there) and use Lightroom for tethering. How well would it work?
I was very relieved to find, that it worked smoothly and reliably. Definitely not as fast as CaptureOne, but workable.
And Eye Recognition? Yes! Dammit! It works well enough to be a huge improvement for me. On shallow DOF headshots, my mis-focused percentage came down to 1% with Fuji. What might sound like a gimmick, was actually greatly useful.
And my new workhorse, the 50-140mm: Wow. So sharp, and the IOS is simply ridiculous. The stabilising system surpasses Canon by very far, making it such a pleasure to use. And here I am simply talking about how nice it is to look at the subject through the camera because of IOS. Of course it is nice that you can handheld very slow shutter speeds too, but that is actually not that important to me. (Downside is that an IOS this good is actually addictive.)
The 16-55mm is equally sharp (not quite at its longest), and a rather big improvement in relation to the Canon 24-70 2.8 I was used to. (Not the new mkII, though).
Did I have some WTF?-moments? Absolutely. One thing you can say about Canon, is that it is a very mature system. Things have evolved over many generations of DSLRs, and there are really no weird surprises anymore. In some ways, X-T1 is a first generation camera, and there are details that simply have not been worked through thoroughly enough. By now I have probably forgotten many of the weird moments already, but one thing comes to mind: Flash hot-shoe does not trigger when shooting continuosly. How do Fuji know, that I do not have flashes that can keep up with 8 frames/second? Clearly this is an oversight, but, tada, they have fixed it in the newest firmware. Also the lack of ability to put ANY menu parameter in a quick-menu for easy access, is for me odd. But I hear, that in X-Pro2 there is at least a “MyMenu”. (Although, I have also heard, that you cannot put any parameter in MyMenu. Hrmph.)
X-T1 + XF 16-55 f/2.8. Shooting natural light at Luna´s Confirmation.
So, having made the switch, did I get what I expected? Absolutely! I got more. The biggest positive that was not one of the expected ones, was what the EVF does for my workflow. I am now convinced, that I will never again shoot without EVF. Here is the deal:
In the studio, it allows me to keep shooting while I guide my subject, because after each shot, I instantly see the image in the EVF, so without moving my eye from the viewfinder, I get all the feedback I could ask for. So the need to stop and look at my Macbook (when tethered) is now reduced to taking a break to show the client how we are doing.
Outdoors, in very bright light, it is also a godsend to be able to look at the image in the EVF and not on the back of the camera.
For an eyeglasses wearing person like me, it is even better. With DSLRs I had to shoot wearing glasses, because otherwise I could not take a glance at the back screen. Now I shoot without, because I can get the image in the EVF if I want. And shooting without glasses is just soooo much more pleasant for me
If things move very fast, I disable Show Image (in EVF), but mostly it is on.
And I absolutely love the electronic level. I have it on at all times.
All in all, I just love the quality of the lenses, and in many ways they have surprised me. Latest it was the 1.4x tc that I bought for my trip to Cape Town. If it degrades the IQ it is very marginal. I can shoot the 50-140 plus tc wide open, and it is still tack sharp. Something that Canon just cant seem to get right with their teleconverters.
One more bonus thing: A smaller system makes other things shrink too: Now I have a smaller lighter tripod, and my ThinkTank Airport roller was suddenly ridiculously big (so I sold it).
A behind-the-scenes shot from my X100T: A Yoga For Kids book by Sisse Siegumfeldt is in the making. (Publisher: Gyldendal.) Tethered shooting is a must for me.
How about unexpected annoyances? Well, as I mentioned, the X system still has some “immaturity” stuff to deal with, but nothing that worries me. The foundation is the lenses and the sensors and in those departments Fuji is totally killing it. All the changes I wish for, could be made in software.
At the top of my fix-it-please list, is when you are using back-button focus, and you move the focus point. Then you need to click center button or halfpress shutter, before you can aquire focus. The focus button itself should be the “aknowledge new point” that the camera is waiting for.
Next on my list, would be the above mentioned lack of ability to put any menu parameter in a quick-menu. Also, why not be able to assign any function to the Fn buttons? An example: I like to turn “Show Image” on and off according to my needs, but that function is burried deeeeeep in the menu.
And then there is the histogram: When shooting manual with Exposure Preview off, the histogram is active, but is now correlated to the display and not the exposure. This exacly the time when the histogram would do some real good, but oddly it doesnt.
X-T1 + XF 56 f/1.2. Studio headshot of Christopher Tolley. Eye detection working its magic.
Oh, and since I am using face/eye recognition so much, I would love it to improve on people wearing eyeglasses. Some times it will fail recognising a face with glasses.
There are some hardware stuff too: I would be happy to see the play button (well all buttons actually) to be right hand operated. I can not think of any reason to have buttons on the left side.
Doors: Beef them up a bit please. Battery life: Why not put in a bigger battery? I am quite sure, that most X-T1 users would not mind a slightly bigger grip.
I would also love to see a bit more button customisations. The one I want the most, is the ability to remove alternate focusing methods from the Focus Assist button. If I inadvertedly hold that button too long, the camera thinks I want to change the focus help type, but I *never* want that. It is distracting and I want to remove that feature (and put it in Q-menu instead).
Finally, I miss being able to change ISO without moving either of my hands at all. With Canon it was such a fluid operation to change ISO. Not exactly so with X-T1.
To sum up my new system (in relation to Canon):
Fuji pros: (in no particular order.)
- Better auto WB
- Face detection with eye detection = fewer misses (headshot/portrait).
- Less weight: Long events = less tired
- Less bulk.
- Lower cost: Lenses somewhat cheaper. Bodys a lot cheaper.
- Seems to have better dynamics. Photos that I was sure was overexposed could be saved.
- Better flow, keeping camera to the eye all the time.
- Wysiwyg in evf is just awesome in general.
- More sharpnes. Lack of AA-filter and awesome lenses.
- Battery life. Batteries, batteries, batteries. Buy them, charge them.
- Ergonomics: Changing ISO is awkward when the camera is at your eye. And please move all controls to the right like X-Pro2. Having the Play button to be operated by your right thumb (without changing your grip) would be much nicer.
- Can be bad at focusing in very low light with some lenses. (56mm is rather slow).
- Not yet the best choice for subjects with random and rapid movements. I am not going to say “not good for sports” because that is a ridiculous stereotyping of what sports photography is.
- When shooting at 8 frame/second, it takes some practice to follow a fast moving subject, as the blackouts are far longer than a DSLR. (I do envision a future, where mirrorless means virtually no blackout. I can’t see why that shouldn’t be possible. Perhaps using global electronic shutter, which should also give us unlimited flash sync. One day…)
- There is a freeze of the viewfinder when focusing (AF). I am sure there is a good technical reason for it, but e.g. when panning a moving subject, this can be quite distracting.
X-T1 + XF 16-55 f/2.8. I love the way snow can change a scenery.
So, having my new X system, where does that leave my X100t? Well, if it was not for the leaf shutter, I would probably swap it for another Xt1 and perhaps a 23mm. But that shutter is a daylight killer, and I love it! (Insert CT pics). And I love using it as THE tool for my personal art. The dogmatic approach works well for my creativity, so I am keeping my first X.
What do I see on the horizon? Well, X-Pro2 just came out, and I am very happy about the promises that gives for a future X-T2. There are two things that make it very easy for me, not to be wanting the X-Pro2:
- The evf is smaller than X-T1.
- (This is really the show-stopper for me.) Apparently, sources from Fuji confirm, that tethered shooting will NOT come for X-Pro2. This is a rather disturbing matter for me, as it shows that Fuji has tethering as an extremely low priority. In a really narrowsighted way, this pigeonholes X-Pro2 (and all other Fuji cameras except X-T1) into being cameras you will not buy if you shoot tethered. Hi Fuji, would you mind looking around and see what is going on in photo studios around the world? And seriously: I am not asking for a sparkling unicorn here. I mean, when one Fuji camera has tethering, how hard can it possibly be to do the same on other Fuji cams that definitely share A LOT on the software side of things. I would love to use my X100T for total motion freezing (leaf shutter), tethered in the studio, but regrettably that is not possible either.
On the other hand, the soon-to-come X-T2 will without doubt be my next camera (as soon as they have tethered support for it).
X-T1 + XF 50-140 f/2.8 + TC 1.4x. As much as the everchanging weather in Denmark can be annoying, it always rewards us with beauty. The 1.4x Fuji teleconverter is ridiculously good. Tack sharp wide open. (When you are used to Canon, this is quite weird.)
Note 1: I practicly never shoot video, so no mention of that.
Note 2: In this article I have used the terms “crop” and “full frame”. I do not support that terminology at all, but I just wanted to say something that everybody understands. In my opinion, sensor size should be referred to using, well, their size. Like back in the days of 8×10 inch, 4×5 inch , 6×8 cm or 6×6 cm. What is known as full frame, is just another size. There is abslolutely no “holy grail” about it.
Note 3: I (like everybody else) say “Fuji”, but in reality the brand is named “Fujifilm”. I guess you knew that already, but it is just a peculiar thing. (- that just got more odd, since it seems that Fuji now is in the process of leaving film manufacturing behind for good.