The Allure of Fujifilm X

Fujifilm
So happy to find a bit of time to make this entry. There have been many exciting (well, for me at least) photo related events to report.
I’ve shot a great deal of images in the past several months: Pan Am Games and events, Para Pan Games and events, assorted other work for the city, Trees Foundation, some commercial work, portraits and events. Additionally I’ve participated in and prepared for an assortment of shows at Arts events such as Pelham Fine Arts, Contact 2015, Cobourg and the Buckhorn Fine Arts Festival – even a photo contest in which I was selected a finalist {I say this because the chosen image for this was shot with some of the Fuji equipment discussed in this entry).
But this is mostly an update to the love affair I have with certain Fujifilm products.
Ok, allow me to clear up one thing. I have for a number of years always relied on Nikon cameras and lenses for the bulk of the shooting that the Fuji system will now do. Yes, Nikon film cameras, going back to the F2, FM2, F801s and many of the new crop of DSLR Nikons. I still use them (even the film cameras) and have no concern with their quality and reliability – or the sharpness, of Nikon glass. Fabulous products which (in my case at least) don’t even break down.
But I consider it good fortune that this past July, Fujifilm Canada asked me to become an X Series photographer. This is an honour that I accepted readily. Kind of makes me a Fuji ambassador, as I get to try out an assortment of new cameras and lenses. Yet, promoting Fuji comes naturally for me, as I’ve always loved love their products – going back to Fuji film such as Fuji Velvia colour slide, Fuji Portrait NHP 400 neg film and their beautiful silvery, Neopan black and white films such as Neopan Acros 100, which I still shoot. Pretty magical film stock.
I also want to say that this is NOT going to be a technical analysis, complete with lens test charts, resolution data and detailed pixel information. There is enough written by those far more adept at this. I want only to show samples and relay some of the experiences I’ve had.

The Allure of the Mirrorless Camera
But I want to discuss Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras: In particular the Fuji X-E2, the X-T1 and a few lenses that work so well with either of these cameras. No, I’m not discussing the X Pro 1, the X100 series, or even the new X-T10 (which I understand to be mostly a slightly scaled down X-T1). Besides, I have really only used these two.

Why go mirrorless? Let’s face it, recently there has been an increased movement towards mirrorless cameras in general and not without reason. They are small, sleek, quiet and compromise very little when compared to the venerable DSLRs (in common use now for close to 15 years). Of course the small size is largely a result of the absence of the big flopping noisy mirror.

Fuji X-E2 with 18mm f/2 lens and RRS L-Plate

Fuji X-E2 with 18mm f/2 lens and RRS L-Plate

My introduction to the world of the Fuji X series was the X-E2. It was acquired just over a year ago. At the time I felt it would fulfill all my requirements of having a small precise camera with super sharp interchangeable lenses. The X-E2 – pictured here – is the camera that feels so solid, so small; almost Leica like. I immediately found a Really Right Stuff (RRS) grip (used) as I am accustomed to using these on my cameras. This Arca Swiss style grip allows the photographer to quickly mount the camera body to a comparably equipped tripod head.

Fuji X-T1 with Fuji grip. Not an L bracket but still an Arca Swiss fitting mount.

Fuji X-T1 with Fuji grip. Not an L bracket but still an Arca Swiss fitting mount.

The X-T1 camera has the Fuji grip fitted with the Arca Swiss type mount. Both of these are beautifully manufactured. Additionally, with the grip they fit nicely in the hand.

The X-T1 is more expensive, slightly larger and 90 grams heavier. It is weather sealed and has an articulating screen. Weather sealing is great if you shoot in the outdoors in rain and sleet, but only if the lens you have mounted is also weather sealed. Well, I suppose it is good to have the camera protected at least. Only some of the Fuji lenses are built this way. The tilting screen (to some), isn’t a game changer;  but I’ve come to realize after all that this can be important. Getting the camera low enough to shoot from the ground level – with ease, is very helpful and a reminder why waist level medium formats were appealing to me in the same way. The screen can be useful in other ways as well.

But the differences between these cameras are really quite minor, because at the core of both is that superb 16MP X-Trans CMOS ll Sensor which is capable of delivering images that are simply beautiful. And the beauty isn’t only when shooting at low ISO settings. I have shot images at 3200 – 6400 ISO that continue to surprise.  But whether the photographer needs the speed, faster focusing, slightly higher shooting rate – an astonishing eight frames per second vs seven for the X-E2  – articulating screen and more: these are the deciding points to consider before the purchase. If they’re not important factors, then honestly, I think that most people would be happy with the X-E2.

This image shows the two cameras side by side. Both sleek, with beautiful finishes.

X-E2 left and the X-T1. the X-T1 is larger but not but by much.

X-E2 on the left and the X-T1. The X-T1 is larger, but not but by much. RRS, Arca-Swiss type plate on left, Fuji plate on right.

The Lenses & what they can deliver
Initially, I ended up getting two lenses; the kit Fujifilm XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom and the  Fujifilm XF18mm f/2. They were indeed a great introduction.

Fuji kit lens: XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS

Fuji kit lens: XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS

The kit lens is so sharp. This 18-55mm zoom is the equivalent of a 27-84mm in the 35mm format and most anything may be photographed in this range. Additionally, with the lens’ f/2.8 aperture at its widest setting, built in OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), combined with a small body without the vibrations of a large mirror, it becomes a rather fast walkabout lens, as it can provide several longer shutter speeds of sharpness without resorting to a tripod.
The 18mm was a promotional gift available to anyone purchasing at the time. Seems redundant having two 18mm focal lengths, but the 18mm at f/2 is faster, so small and I simply love its size for shooting in a completely unobtrusive way. Besides, it was free!
These tools are reliable and work flawlessly as they should.
Here are a few samples of images shot with both of these lenses. The first two are with the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit and the third, the 18mm f/2:

X-E2 • 18-55mm f/2.8-4 • at 18mm • 400 ISO

X-E2 • 18-55mm f/2.8-4 • at 18mm • 400 ISO

18-55mm f/2.8-4 • at 18mm • 200 ISO

X-E2 • 18-55mm f/2.8-4 • at 18mm • 200 ISO[/captio
 

18mm f/2 • 400 ISO 18mm f/2 • 400 ISO

Red Badge” lenses
This past summer I shot a series of events including some sports, relating to the PanAm and ParaPan Games held in Toronto. It was about this time that I became an X Photographer for Fujifilm Canada and so I took that opportunity to try out some other lenses along with the X-T1 camera.
Initially I received the following remarkable prototype “Red Badge” products:
Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM W
• Fujifilm XF50-140.. f/2.8 R LM OIS WR
• Fujifilm X-T1 Camera Body
The 50-140 soon became my go-to lens. Fast, sharp, weather sealed and of course lighter that my 70-200 f/2.8 Nikon. (Here’s a fun fact; with the Fotodiox adapter – available from Amazon – Nikon, Canon and many other lenses, may be fitted onto Fuji X Series cameras for use in complete manual mode!).

Here is what it can do with fast moving subjects and a high (3200) ISO setting. Oh yes, this image has been seriously cropped – to about a third of it’s original size:

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 3200 ISO

X-T1 • 50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 3200 ISO

As a portrait/event lens it can make ‘in focus’ areas pop gorgeously, as seen in the next images:

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 400 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 400 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 800 ISO

50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 800 ISO

X-T1 • 50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

X-T1 • 50-140mm f/2.8 • at 140mm • 200 ISO

The Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge series lens shows incredible resolving power, is also weather sealed, at f/2.8 is fast and it’s focal range is equivalent to the other 24-70 pro zooms out there. Is it as sharp as the Fujifilm 56mm f1.2? Perhaps not, but it is a different lens, meant for different purposes and truthfully, is so good it may be hard to tell the difference. Take into account it’s versatility and it really becomes a winner. Too bad it is not a bit smaller (lighter) like its baby brother – the previously discussed Fujifilm XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS. These images were shot with the 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Red Badge lens:

16-55mm f/2.8 • at 16mm • 400 ISO

16-55mm f/2.8 • at 16mm • 400 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 • at 55mm • 200 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 • at 55mm • 200 ISO

Here are some other lens samples shot with these cameras. Some colour, some not. This one with the wild Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS lens. At it’s 10mm widest it is the equivalent of a 15mm on a full frame or 35mm film camera. A very wide 110 degree angle of view indeed!

X-T1 • Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens • 200 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens • 200 ISO

The next few vary in focal length. Either the fast Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 and the even faster Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2. Love both of these so much.
Note that the Fuji black and white images really do have a special quality: Almost film-like, and I do love film!  It is hard to put one’s finger on it, but there is just something special about that sensor! And when combined with these very special lenses the results are quite magical. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting landscapes, portraits, architecture, or street photography – these cameras and lenses pleasantly surprise. And oh my, the look, feel and results are wonderful.
Will the X-E2 or X-T1 force me to sell my Nikon gear? No. Besides, film cameras remain another option, whether Nikon, or others. Not about to give that up either. And, when it comes to events where a flash is required, Nikon and Canon are far ahead.  If Fuji wants to compete in that area it has some catching up to do. But I would bet that Fuji, being aware of this, will introduce a pro flash system to match their cameras very soon. Is the Fuji system perfect? Hardly. Although the lenses are spectacular in terms of colour, sharpness and contrast they do not always focus quite as well as a high end DSLR (although, I confess they are very close). I do recognize that this is not even an issue for some: Landscape photographers immediately come to mind. Fuji doesn’t have the range of specialty lenses either (yet). But if I am asked which digital camera I want to carry for a full day of shooting super sharp, rich images – at almost half the weight and size? Fuji easily gets the nod.
jd

X-T1 • 35mm f/1.4 • 500 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 • 500 ISO

X-E2 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 320 ISO

X-E2 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 320 ISO

 

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 1600 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 1600 ISO

 

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 200 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 200 ISO

 

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 1600 ISO

X-T1 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 1600 ISO

 

X-E2 • Fujifilm 56mm f/2.8 • 200 ISO

X-E2 • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 • 200 ISO

 

 

 

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