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.)
Why 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)
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 🙂