Fujifilm Fuji X-T1
Since exchanging my full frame Canon kit for a Fuji XT1 kit I have made over ten thousand photographs. I now feel comfortable with the camera and very pleased to have made the change. As a professional I get to shoot a wide range of subjects, which is one of the joys of being a photographer. So how has the Fuji coped with the variety of work? See my conclusions much further down or follow the journey I have taken so far with this camera.
Below are my thoughts on working with models, products and buildings with the Fujifilm X-T1.
The first shoot was a test shoot with a professional model the aim being to test the camera under working conditions. I wanted to test the high ISO performance, the fast 35mm lens and the OIS in the 18-55 lens. Very unusually for me I left the the tripod and Elinchrom studio lights in the car.
Photographing models with the XT1
When using a camera it should be easy with no conscious thought of where controls are or what the camera is doing, therefore allowing me to concentrate on the model. The very good ergonomics of the XT1 really helps here, lifting the X-T1 I can see all the important settings straight away and my hands fall naturally on the important controls.
In this photograph above I can see;
- Drive mode
- Metering mode
- Shutter speed
- Exposure compensation
- On off swith
It takes a brief glance when taking the camera out of the camera bag to be sure that the camera is correctly set and ready to go .
Back to the model…
We set to work I have the camera set to show a preview of the exposure which is a great feature as you can see the exposure, in the viewfinder, changing as you make adjustments, seeing a live histogram also speeds things up. I usually have the screen set to show me the exposure I have made show on the screen/viewfinder for 1.5 seconds, useful sometimes but not today as for once I want to keep up with the model as she changes poses, so I have turned this off. I have not used noise reduction in the post process on any images in this post.
My initial thoughts after the test shoot.
The shoot went very well, the X-T1 is a joy to use handheld and the high ISO noise and colour performance is very good. The high image quality from the 18-55mm lens is very impressive for a zoom lens. The 35mm f1.4 has exceptional optical performance and is a match for any lens that I have used. Having a “proper” aperture ring on the lens is welcome and suits the way I work. The auto focus on the 18-55 was good as was the OIS, the 35mm had occasional problems with very bright back light but nothing that could not be easily dealt with.
Handling, the camera is very comfortable and despite the small size it felt secure in my hands. All the controls are easy to reach and use, I have set all the four-way controller buttons to activate the AF point selector this means that I can activate the AF selector and move the AF point very quickly.
To move the focus point right, press the right buttton once to activate, again to move the point.
The viewfinder is amazingly large even after using full frame cameras for years, having the exposure linked to the viewfinder so I can see on the effects of changes on the viewfinder is very useful. I tend to make a lot of upright images so having the info in the viewfinder rotate as I turn the camera is also very helpful.
I am very happy with the camera and the photographs, I was ready to use it as my work camera. I have a commission from Fox and Rose to photograph a large range of lingerie, it will only be a one day shoot which will mean working quickly but the XT1 is well up to the task.
Shoot for http://www.foxandrose.com
The shoot was in a local house and we shot 700 photographs in six hours, I say we as there was a model, MUA and my client. The XT1 performed very well and I did not have to give it much thought while working which is the way that it should be. We worked quickly and I used the X-T1 hand held and rode the ISO where needed.
Because I was working handheld I set a minimum shutter speed and allowed the camera to set the aperture, I then added compensation where needed. This worked well and when I ran out of light I moved the ISO up. I used two lenses, the 18-55mm for flexibility and the 35mm for it’s light gathering and exceptional sharpness.
Battery life was good, a full day’s shoot of 700+ images needed one battery change, the second battery was not completely used up.
The more I use the X-T1 the more I like it, it reminds me of cameras I used years ago especially my Hasselblads. I know it looks nothing like a ‘blad but all the controls are where I expect them and it works at the same speed as I do.
Most importantly my client is happy.
Photographing products with the XT1
Talking of clients I had hampers to photograph for the Champagne and Gifts company. The plan was to shoot the products on a white background lit by my Elinchrom studio flash units, we did shoot some images this way but the garden and sunshine beckoned. I worked fully manual at base ISO of 200. Working from a tripod I used the 55-200mm for a few shots and I was very pleased with the results. I am tempted to try the 60mm macro for products, when time allows. I do miss camera movements for photographing products where the control of geometry is very useful.
(I have just seen that Cambo may have a solution coming up.)
Between the garden and pop-up studio we made 700 images, (a few below). The X-T1 performed well with the Elinchrom flash units.
Photographing buildings with the XT1
I used to work for architects but photographing exteriors in British weather is a pain. Weather forecasts are vague and I have often set off full of hope only to be washed or clouded out. So I sold my tilt/shift lenses and moved to more predictable work.
But I have just been asked by a local property agent to photograph their larger, more expensive properties. Being local I can react quickly to the weather so I agreed to take on their work. Fuji do not make shift lenses so any corrections would have to be made in Lightroom. I decided to shoot the first property as a test before committing to more because I was worried about quality, compared to my 5D II with shift lenses the X-T1 seemed a bit under powered.
The first shoot went well using the X-T1 with my off camera Canon strobes triggered by a ST-e2 for the interior photographs, I could only synch at a 60th or slower but for interiors this was fine.
Once back to the PC I opened the first image (to be used A4 as A4 on the cover). I corrected the converging verticals using the tools in Lightroom, when printed it was fine, the client was over the moon with the images, phew. So happy that they sent me more work, lots of work. During a run of good weather I have been flat out photographing buildings.. I did buy a 10-24mm lens for this work and it is a fantastic lens and used carefully I can create wonderful interior images.
A few interior and exterior photographs below.
Edit, when shooting interiors it can be difficult to match the indoor light with the outdoor light leaving blown out highlight in windows. I have noticed that a lot of highlight detail can be recovered from the XT1 raw files, a lot more than I have been used to. The image above shows a large room not lit directly by sunlight, outdoors is very bright, there were clear blue cloudless summer skies. The difference in the light between indoors and outdoors was huge and I was surprised and pleased to recover as much of the outdoors as I have.
The Fujifilm X-T1 is one of those cameras that just feels right, it suits the way I work and the large variety of work that I do. I do not shoot sport or wildlife but I would be happy to tackle most other work with the X-T1. Some cameras encourage the photographer to make photographs, for me the Hasselblad, Sinar P2, Linhof 6×9, Mamiya 7 were such cameras and I would add the X-T1 to this list. I take the X-T1 most places with me even when not working. I have made more photographs for the joy of it than I have for a long time and of course the image quality from this camera is very good
Handling is excellent I had to change my grip a tad as when working in portrait as the pad of my thumb would move the drive dial. I will try the battery/portrait grip sometime as it will allow me to work longer and change batteries faster. Using faster SD cards makes a big difference, the camera is fast when using 95MB/s cards, it goes into supercharged mode with the 280MB/s cards.
Battery life is better than I expected, I seem to be averaging just over four hundred exposures per fully charged battery, not bad from such a small battery.
The tilting LCD screen seemed like a feature that I would not use but for the product photography and the architectural photography it got used a lot, it aids composing and it was a good way to show clients what was happening. The quality of the LCD screen is excellent.
The stand out features of the XT1 for me are;
Image quality which is very high.
The EVF which is huge with clear, easy to understand displayed information, the displayed information rotates when I turn the camera to portrait and back. The live histogram is very useful. All of this means that it is easy to use the camera quickly ie keeping up with a model as she changes poses.
Being a mirrorless camera means that when focusing I am seeing the image direct from the sensor not an image on a mirror thus ensuring accuracy.
When shooting products or buildings I tend to use the LCD screen, the benefits of this are the large display and the screen folds out making it very versatile. I have the camera set to give me an instant view of the image on the screen or in the viewfinder as soon as I have taken it. I like focus assist , zooming in to check focus I use this a lot.
Weight, the weight of my camera bag has dropped considerably since switching form Full Frame to the XT1, this leads to less fatigue during a long working day or when up and down scaffolding and ladders.
Highlight recovery is excellent.
The indefinable “something” that theX-T1 has, the something that makes me enjoy the process of making photographs.
The high quality of Fuji lenses comes from their long tradition of optical excellence, Fuji make some of the best digital HD motion picture lenses available, they also make the lenses for Hasselblad.
The lenses that I have so far;
Fujinon XF 18-55mm f4, some call this a kit lens but it should not be under estimated. Optically it is very good, the stabilisation works well and it is well built but small and light. I like this lens as a walkabout lens but it also performed well during the lingerie shoot mentioned above.
Fujinon 35mm f1.4, this is tiny, solid but lightweight. This lens is a tad slow in autofocus performance but I will forgive it anything because of the optical performance. The resolving power of this lens is high and it reproduces fine detail beautifully.
Fujinon XF 55-200mm, a quality lens which I have mostly used for shooting stock library images and products.
Fujinon XF 10-24mm, this lens lives on my camera, it is large and heavy compared to the other lenses but its range and optical quality makes it a must have (must use) lens.
I should say what I do not like about the camera but I have not found anything that interferes with image making or annoys me.
Is there anything missing from the XT1?
1) yes I would like dual card slot for those shoots that have be right and cannot be re-shot because of a card failure. Some shoots that I am involved in have products that are only available for the day of the shoot, expensive models, makeup artist and hair dresser have been booked. The client does not want to hear that the images were lost on a duff card.
2) A good flexible flash system.
3) Fuji missed a trick with their app. It is able to run the camera remotely, changing exposure setting and focus point works well and at a good distance. It is also possible to select an image on the camera and send it to my Nexus via wi-fi. It was simple to set up the wi-fi to my Nexus. But I would like to use the camera and have low resolution photographs sent straight to the tablet as I make the exposures. Clients like this as they can see what is being shot. I would like this option even if it needed a cable ie tethered shooting.