Q+A: Fuji X on Assignment

In GEAR, Travel by David51 Comments

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

You’d be amazed how many emails and comments I get that begin with the words, “I know you don’t like gear questions, but…” So to be clear, I don’t mind gear questions at all. I just don’t know why people think I’m the best person to answer them. I like gear. Hell, I LOVE some of my gear. But I ask of it some very specific, and limited things, and some of the people asking some of the questions are looking for a tool that can do the things that they themselves should be doing. Or maybe they’re looking for a justification to buy a new toy that maybe, just maybe, has the Un-Suck Filter. They don’t. My Fujis don’t, and neither do my Leicas or Nikons.  What I want my cameras to do is get out of the way as quickly as possible and let me do my job. So with that in mind, a few responses to some very sensible questions (I’ll spare you the non-sensical questions like: Should I get a Fuji? No one can answer that for you. Fuji. Leica. Nikon. Canon. All of them will make incredible photographs as easily as truly bad ones.)

20150221-BOMA-KENYA-351-2-2Why Didn’t I take my Leica M?
I love my Leica M(240). I adore it. But it’s fully manual and doesn’t do as well in really low-light / high ISO. I find it hard to focus quickly in those conditions. Blame it on my eyes. So knowing I’d be in some fairly fluid circumstances, and making portraits in dark huts, I wanted autofocus. And I wanted to bring only one system, because charging my Fuji batteries would be challenge enough, nevermind charging batteries for 2 systems.

Why take the 56/1.2?
I took a 10-24mm, 56mm, and 55-200mm. So why the 56/1.2? A few reasons. First, it’s several needed stops brighter than the 55-200 and I knew I’d already be shooting at high ISOs at times. Second, the 55-200 isn’t great with lens flare. Third, even in lighter portrait situations it’s a nicer portrait background at /1.2. And really, it’s easier to use, faster to focus, and smaller to carry. The 55-200 came out for distance stuff – shooting camels against sunrises, and isolating landscapes. When I do it again I’ll bring another lens, a 35mm, to bridge the 24mm – 55mm range because the huts are really tight and there were times the 56 was too long. 24 was too wide and not terribly flattering for the kind of portraits I wanted to do. 35 would be perfect.

What about the RAW files?
I keep hearing people asking me what I think about the RAW processing of Fuji files in Lightroom. Honestly, I’m not a pixel-peeper, and I haven’t noticed an issue with the processing. You have to choose the tool that works for you and if you don’t like the look of the files, try a different convertor or use a different camera. I’ve never been unhappy with the look of my photographs, and no one’s ever taken me aside and told me they’d look better if (a) I wasn’t using Fuji and/or (b) I used something other than Lightroom. For me it’s a non-issue.  (If you’re looking for some interesting information on sharpening for the Trans-X sensor, here’s something from Pete Bridgwood that I thought was worth the time.)

Were they fast enough?
The Fujis were really great. When they failed to focus it was mostly because changing the focus point on these cameras is quirky, and – to be frank – more of a pain in the ass than it should be. Are you listening, Fuji? Make the damn buttons more tactile or something. But you get used to tools and their quirks and for the most part I got the shots I aimed at. The high-speed burst mode was really responsive and I rarely had to wait for the buffer to create space. But I was doing mostly landscapes and portraits and only a few faster situations, like dancing. For me, the X-T1 bodies were surprisingly responsive.

What about the weather sealing?
I never took the 10-24mm off the camera, and the 56 got switched out maybe a couple times a day with the longer lens. I noticed very little dust. Water wasn’t an issue, but the dust in this desert region was insane and I had no issues I’ve noticed. I make it a practice in places like this to put each body into a Buff (a fabric sleeve you can pull over your head, use as a bandana), then wrap the strap around that, creating a little more protection in the bag, but I don’t baby my stuff and other than a wipe now and then I just trusted them to handle the elements.

Is it “Pro-Quality”
I don’t even know what that means. These cameras did the job I needed them to do. Just like some “pros” still use a 30-year old Nikon film camera or 80-year old 4×5. For some pro work it’ll do perfectly, for others, not so much. But that is true of every camera you can buy. A “pro” quality camera doesn’t create “pro” quality images; it creates images of the quality of the user. End of story. Know your needs. Get the camera that does that.

Will you do it again?
Absolutely. I love these cameras. My sweet spot for image size would be 24mp, and the Fuji gives me 16mp but the quality is excellent. They’re light. The ergonomics mostly work for me ( I love manual dials), and other than the need to carry a few more batteries (bright LCD, high speed bursts, shooting all day) than you think you’ll need ( I carried 8 and used them all at times), there are few reasons I can think of not to keep using the Fujis. I just got a waterproof housing  from Nauticam and will be using the X-T1 for diving as well. (Update, July 2015. I got the housing, but it was a real disappointment. I wonder if it was just a first-gen product that forgot to get field-tested, but I sent it back. I’m now diving a Nauticam housing for my Nikon D800, and it’s much bulkier but it does the job extremely well)

Anything Else?
I’m adding this in July, 2015. After using my Fujis a while I am more and more in love with how quickly they get out of the way. The optics are excellent. The ergonomics are excellent. Should you get one? I have no idea. But here’s an episode of my Vision Is Better show on YouTube that discusses this very issue.

Got any other questions that might be helpful? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do what I can to respond. But if you want really techy stuff, you might want to try DPReview or something similarly supportive of the geek/nerd agenda 🙂

Comments

  1. I love reading your honest reviews. I fell in love with my Fuji XA1 because I love the look & feel of the photos. I hope to purchase an XT1 in the next year or so.

    For now if I need a little more horsepower I use a Pentax K5. Not a bad camera just not as keen on the look and feel it produces. It is awful for for Black & whites!

    I also love playing around with my film cameras. Never been about brand just the end result.

  2. Hi David,

    wonderful article, really appreciate your writing. I got the XT1 recently in addition to my D810, and I love it. But I see a difference in the Fuji’s responsiveness, which sometimes, in street photography shooting, causes me to miss critical moments. I think it happens when the camera goes to “sleep” after a few minutes of not being used (although it’s still on). When I bring it up to shoot, and the eye sensor is supposed to work and “wake up” the viewfinder, nothing happens for a few seconds, until I actually half-press the shutter button to wake the camera up. By that time the shot is gone. I think it happens in both “View Finder Only” & “Eye Sensor” modes.

    Maybe I am doing something wrong, but have you noticed something similar?

    Thanks a lot!
    Best regards,
    Manos

    1. Also make sure that you have High Performance Mode turned on. It will give a small boost to AF speed, viewfinder refresh, and processing. The down side is a small, maybe 20%, loss of battery life. Basically it runs the processors at normal speed instead of being underclocked.

  3. Great non-review review David! Echoes my sentiments exactly. For some things my Fuji XT1 is the best camera for the job, for others my Canon is the tool of choice. It’s great having both systems.

    The article by Pete on sharpening is spot on. I’ve spoken to him about it and seen his prints up close and they are lovely. As he says, you need to adjust to taste but you do need a different approach to get the most out of the files.

    Manos, the overall responsiveness of the XT1 is one of its weak points. Although I find its low shutter lag is great, it’s ‘wake up’ time is bad. Sometimes I’m so busy mashing the shutter to get it to wake up that I not only miss the moment but end up taking random photos while I’m wondering if the battery has died suddenly on me (another big weak point). It also seems inconsistent in how easily it wakes, sometimes it’s ok and others it takes what feels like seconds. That’s the worst part I think. I’m surprised they haven’t resolved this as it’s been an issue since I bought my XE1. The best solution I’ve found is to actually switch the camera off – it is much easier and, importantly, more affirmative to flick the power switch back on when you need the camera than to hope the shutter button will do the job. Given it’s well around the shutter, it’s really quick to do as well.

    1. Hi Duncan,

      thanks for the reply, and for the tip on actually shutting the camera off and on again. I agree it’s a shame they haven’t fixed this yet for an otherwise amazing camera – actually it’s the main reason I still prefer to occasionally carry my heavy DSLR around (as a side note this lead me to re-appreciate the use of primes – as opposed to the heavy zooms – on the DSLR).

      But I am very glad that David is using the XTs on his trips and we get so valuable feedback (and amazing stories too! 🙂

      I am still curious to hear if he uses the same technique (shutting off and on again) or something else, or, well, just lives with this quirk…

      Thanks all!

      Manos

      1. Hi Manos

        I also just turn it off, I find it quicker and better for battery life overall. I have a X-T1 and an X-E2, I would sell the T1 if the E2 had a few serious issues resolved via firmware (like the view options – aaaarrrg!), but Fuji seems either reluctant or unable to address this problem. The T1 is a great camera overall, and I love the XF glass, I am in with Fuji for the long haul 🙂

        I suspect the X-Pro2 will be another quantum leap for them and hopefully all most of us will need for the time being.

  4. David, you mentioned the difficulty you had changing the focus point on the X-T1 owing to the D-pad buttons being too flat. If you haven’t already seen it, Matt Brandon describes a mod for the X-T1 involving a rubber compound called Sugru:

    http://thedigitaltrekker.com/2014/05/how-i-modified-my-x-t1-with-sugru/

    This has transformed the D-pad buttons on my X-T1; moving the focus point with my eye to the viewfinder is as comfortable as it is with my Nikon system. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.

    1. Author

      Brilliant! I had thought of exactly this solution but had never heard of Sugu. This is perfect, thank you for showing me this, Ian!

      1. Glad to help David – Rob Mitchell (@stillmation) is the originator of the idea, I believe, and thanks to Matt Brandon for bringing the idea to a wider audience.

  5. Hi, I also wanted to suggest the Sugru mod but Ian already beat me to it. I did it on my 2 cameras and it’s a gigantic difference. I also set them up so that all four buttons that surround the OK button can initiate the change of AF point.
    Try it. You’ll wonder why each X-T1 doesn’t ship with a pack of Sugru.

  6. I agree completely, I just did my own post on a similar thing yesterday. Knowing the limitations of our gear and how to get the most out of our gear is what makes is photographers. It’s why people hire us, along with our vision, and style, etc… of course!

  7. David,

    A great post as usual.

    Here’s my gear question: What Filson bag are we seeing the the images you’ve posted. I love Filson, and that bag looks perfect for travel, but can’t seem to find it on their site.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  8. Damn… I REALLY wish Fuji would make a 24mp camera… I read your reviews, hear my friends rave about the Fuji sensor and the lenses, and I love the small size… But, I need more than 16 mp. We regularly make 24×36 prints, and 32×48 canvas. I think a Fuji needs to put out a 24 mp camera.
    Otherwise, Sony is going to get my money. 😀

    1. For those who don’t follow Fuji closely, it is all but a given that Fuji will introduce a 24MP rangefinder-style X-Pro2 body by end of year.

  9. Hi David, thanks for the review! Do you see any differences in the “fun factor” using the Fuji compared to other cameras? In terms of picture quality, I think lots of cameras are doing their job quite well – what I sometimes see, is that the camera is (as you described) “getting in the way” in some situation. E.g. my 5DM2 is flawless for my landscape work, but doing family pictures is no fun with it. Would you describe the Fuji xt1 maybe as a good “all rounder” for travel photography or is it more towards people photography?
    Regards,
    Andreas

    1. Author

      I think it’s a great “all rounder”, Andreas. And fun? Absolutely! It’s nice not to be carrying so much gear and focusing on the process again.

  10. Thanks David for taking time to help us solving these gear questions.

    Yes you’re right: all we want in the end is to stop thinking about new gear and focus on our passion. But it takes money and/or trials/mistakes to find one’s “perfect” match, and professionals feedback is one easy way to get there while spending more time actually reading books and learning from the masters.

    By the way, thanks to you I happily gave up my Nikon gear in 2013, went the Fuji way, saved money in the process and never since had to test/change equipment. On the other hand more books from Kerouac, HCB, Magnum, Griffiths, Karsh, Adams… 😉

  11. Hallo David,
    Thank you for making me open my mind to fuji again and to mirror-less cameras..
    years back when the digital photography revolution started, I started with Fuji’s DSLR S1 S2 and S3 since i had a set from Nikon, I LOVED so much the results and the beautiful colors.
    I just didn’t understood something about the Focal length , Is 56mm on the Fuji XT-1 is the same as 56mm on a full frame DSLR?
    Great Photos from Africa, Where gonna be published?
    Thanks again and keep inspiring us,
    Kfir Harbi

    1. Author

      Kfir – Right now, if you buy a Fujinon 56mm it is the full-frame equivalent of 1.5x that number – so in this case, 84mm equivalent. The angle of view for the Fuji and a Nikon 85, for example, would both be 28.5°

  12. Thanks for this!
    about to head out for a week long shoot taking both Nikon and Fuji. Between your article and Kate’s, now have confirmation on what I have found out. Proof will be in the assignments for me, but always good to know that others have similar concerns or experiences. Looks like a 2 bag situation.

  13. Very interesting read, I think this really highlights the truth behind our gear. There is an extent to which cameras can be seen as simply better such as the amount of MPs, though even with this its a use case basis as not every photos needs the finest level of detail, but past that our choice of gear really is personal preference.
    It’s really about finding out what gear works for you and your particular style, there will be some jobs that you can handle yourself that the camera’s aid in may become intrusive whereas other people may love it for that feature.
    To an extent you can look online or in magazines to find the well balanced, well regarded cameras but theres always going to be that bit of personal preference . Where funds permit its worth just trying out a few different cameras regardless of other feedback in my opinion, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure as they say.

  14. “So to be clear, I don’t mind gear questions at all. I just don’t know why people think I’m the best person to answer them.”

    David, how many gear reviews have you read with inspiring photos in them? Normally they’re dull as ditch water. Could it be that people are interested in the opinions of someone who A) knows how to produce great work, and B) Actually uses this stuff out in the field, rather than shooting test charts and underexposed book cases?

    1. Author

      Point humbly taken, thank you. But the spirit remains, perhaps more of a caveat so the pixel-peepers don’t burn down my house because I got some key thing wrong. 🙂

  15. Hi David
    Thanks for post about your experiences with the Fuji X-T1. I am currently on a 10 month tour through Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Nepal, Turkey, France… with a X-E1 and X-Pro with the 14mm, 18-55mm and 55-20mm lenses. Compared to lugging around my usual full frame (and heavy) DSLR, these little Fuji cameras are a back -saver, and are far more discrete when doing street photography. Image quality is also superb. I have been shooting both RAW, and JPG – and in most occasions the JPG image is high enough quality, unless there is too much dynamic range in the image, and do all processing in Lightroom. One more item in my camera bag is a sensor cleaner (arctic butterfly). Thank you Steve

  16. I love this phrase that you used – A “pro” quality camera doesn’t create “pro” quality images; it creates images of the quality of the user.
    Brilliant !
    thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    -MP

  17. Hi David,

    I came across your photography through Maptia and absolutely love it! So much so, I bought four of your e-books which I have been thoroughly enjoying! I am a humanitarian worker and photographer enthusiast – I photograph what I see through my work and blog for the purpose of raising awareness about the challenges people face across the world. The way you are able to capture a story with one photograph is a real inspiration and is helping better to push and hone my work much further. I’ve found your advise on portraits especially helpful most recently – I never fully understood what it is about a portrait that makes me love it so much until I read your book – it’s helping me to see my own portraits as well as other peoples with new eyes.

    One thing I noticed though is that the photos in your e-books don’t come through amazingly sharp when I’m reading on my laptop, compared with say your maptia posts. I guess it’s a compromise you have to make in order to keep the download size down on the e-books, but thought the feedback might be useful anyway. Would love to learn more about how you use the wide angle lens in your images to capture more of a story – Its something you seem to do really well, and yet I often shy away from wides because they so often come out badly for me. Is this something you cover in your most recent book? I hope to get that one soon.

    Keep up the amazing work,

    Rachel
    http://www.friendsoftheweather.com

    1. Author

      Hi Rachel – Thanks for the kindness. I’m honestly not sure about the image quality in the eBooks. It is a compromise, for sure, but I guess it all depends on the resolution at which you’re viewing the images. I’ll ask the ninjas about this.

      The wide angle is definitely harder to use. The only thing I can suggest (before thinking more about a teaching resource on the matter 🙂 is (a) get in closer and (b) be really mindful of what you allow into the frame. It’s one reason my POV is often very low, if not ground level – it allows me to exclude a lot of the stuff that would normally get into the frame if I were standing and shooting at eye level. The rest is trial and error and knowing when it to use a different focal length. Wide angles, for me, are more about energy and lines, and if those aren’t there I start thinking tighter.

      1. Thanks David – this is really helpful! I think I will head outside on a mission with the wide on to trial it out again with your trips in mind. It’s time I made more of an effort to learn how to make composition work for wide angles.
        Rachel

  18. Pingback: Q+A: Fuji X on Assignment | David duChemin

  19. David, great review from a working perspective. After converting to the Fuji XT1 system, I became an obsessed with the raw conversion issues to the point I wasn’t producing quality work. I finally gave it up and said to heck with it and just starting loving it for what it is. Instantly my work improved by leaps and bounds. The truth be known, I never was able to see the smearing issue others talked about. I agree that Peters insight on sharpening was the best I read on the Internet. My only regret was allowing pixel peepers to rob me of 3 months of fretting over nothing. By the way, for those that are worried about printing large with only 16 megapixels, another non-issue. I have printed well focused, properly exposed images up to 40×30 and couldn’t be happier. Look forward to reading more from you.

  20. Thanks for some good insights, and also a bunch of very inspirational pictures. I agree that especially moving the focus point with the X-T1 should be more tactile and with an immediate feel. So I put Sugru on a selection of my X-T1 buttons. That way my thumb can instantly feel where the button I’m looking for is, and especially moving the focus point (without taking my eye off the EVF) has improved drastically.

    I made a YouTube video to show what I did, so if you’re curious, you can check it out here: http://youtu.be/QnjmJEo_xmI

    Cheers,
    Eivind

    1. Author

      Thanks Eivind – I’ve also found a way to reprogram some buttons to make this easier as well. If Fuji won’t help us, we’ll help ourselves! 🙂

      1. What I have yet to understand is why Fuji went backwards regarding button. I am an X-pro1 and X-e2 user. The button on those camera are perfect and I like the moving of the AF to the pad rather than being side button.

        Fuji are good at responding to user request, but if no body is complaining about something leave the same in future models. The old saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

        Love your review David and love the quality of images that can be achieved with fuji x cameras ( in the right hands)!! – even with lightroom ( hehe – no pixel peeking here either) 🙂

      2. We sure will! 🙂 But if only they’d listen to you about that un-suck filter… My clients would be thrilled! 😉

        Cheers,
        Eivind

  21. Hi David,

    Quick question: I’m on assignment in Niger right now, with a climate probably similar to northern Kenya (i.e. dry and extremely hot). While I’m generally happy with my X-T1, I’m so far rather appalled by the performance of its batteries. On our field trips I was able to shoot around 50-60 frames before they gave up on me. Seems to be the same both for the original Fuji and my Chili Power-spares. I do switch the camera off between shooting opportunities (i.e. approx. 20-30 times; as I’m here for work the photography happens only in-between), performance mode is high and I hardly do any picture reviewing on the LCD-screen.

    Did you have a similar experience, meaning that perhaps the climate is to blame? Or could there be something faulty with my camera…?

    Cheers,

    Frederik

    1. Hi Frederick – Yes, I have. Though not to the extremes as you, I found my batteries drained faster the hotter it got. After-market batteries drained faster than the fujis. Of course it could be something wrong with the camera as well – as I said, I got more than 50-60 frames – more like a few hundred. I found keeping the camera in my bag helped a little, shading it and keeping it from the direct heat. But the next time I do work in similar conditions I will bring another 4 batteries. I had 8, I think, and on some stretches it almost wasn’t enough. Good luck!

      1. Good to hear, somehow. I now tried to shoot in my hotel room till the battery stops incl. refocussing at each shot and switching the camera off once in a while, reached 400+ shots and got bored. I guess the camera’s fine. I guess it must be the heat and my constant on-and-off switching, then. Anyway, thanks for the reply! I’ll indeed try to keep it cool on the next field trip and see how it goes.

        Cheers!

        Frederik

      2. This is a surreal conversation. The only time my batteries/cameras haven’t performed optimally was while shooting an aurora storm at about 54 below zero:D

  22. Pingback: Q+A: Fuji X on Assignment – news.iNthacity

  23. Pingback: Why I Moved to Fuji X Cameras for Engagement Work – Fstoppers | Deals to find

Leave a Comment