My thoughts are still developing on whether my change from DSLR to mirror-less was a good one. I’m not 100% satisfied with the Fuji system plus I’m still tweaking my approach when confronted with different lighting situations. It may be a little early to be writing about my changeover but considering the number of emails I receive about the topic, I hope this will answer many of the questions you may be turning over if you’re considering the change from DSLR to mirror-less and specifically the Fuji XT1 cameras.
If you decide to make the change to mirror-less, you will be facing similar issues to the ones I share below as you progress and become familiar with your new system, that is, if you decide to go that way at all after all things are considered.
No one is paying me to write this, I’m not sponsored by any camera manufacturer, any views are 100% my own.
I’d like to state I’m no gear freak but deep down every photographer loves gear, especially new gear. I do love cameras and lenses and I’d love to own a Leica but see myself as a realist when considering that I need to do my job and what I’d “like” to have in my camera bag. If I’m honest, I do love having the latest model or version of what I’m using if I think it really will help my photography. An example is wanting to upgrade from my old Nikon D2X to the D3 (at the time) for it’s much better high ISO capability and again to the D4 for similar reasons. Or the move from my old Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 without vibration reduction (or image stabilisations depending on what brand of system you’re using) to the model with VR.
I made those decisions with the view my photographs would be better, sharper and more easily used at slower shutter speeds when hand held in the often low light situations I found myself shooting at weddings and occasionally portrait sessions.
I don’t buy photography magazines and I spend little time on blogs that promote and push gear, although I do like what Mark is doing over at Shotkit.com. It is interesting to see who is using what gear to produce the images they are. And as much as I wanted to believe it when younger, I know having one photographers brand and model of camera will not allow me to create what they do with their camera. If only it were that easy.
Like most professional photographers, when I do spend time looking and swooning over gear, sure I want it but know I don’t need it… so I move on. It’s a little like my Facebook feed or a television series; it’s so easy to get caught up in things that don’t have any bearing on my life and what I want to achieve or do.
Ok, ok, let’s stay on topic…
If you’re considering the move to a mirror-less camera system, the first thing you need to be able to answer is why. Why do you want to change systems? Without a good reason, there is no reason.
You do know changing camera systems will not instantly transform your photography, just like a new bike doesn’t make me a faster rider, or a new computer won’t make you better at photoshop – it just doesn’t work that way.
So, why do you want to change?
It’s expensive to change and you’ll get nothing near what you paid for the gear you already own. Just ask listener and friend Jarred Lindsay who was offered $685 for his Canon 6D which he bought for $1800 the year before!
New gear, even mirror-less systems still come at a price.
You’ll need to re-learn the new system which I can promise you will be frustrating, excruciatingly so at times.
On top of all that, your photography won’t change. Not overnight anyway.
Before you jump ship and commit, have a good reason and be prepared to work and think and problem solve like you probably haven’t done for a long time with your photography. Shooting in different lighting conditions with mirror-less camera systems will challenge and push you.
I’ve been very close to giving up and going back to Nikon a few times now. As recently as last week!
Why I made the change
A few reasons why I moved to mirror-less and ultimately the Fuji system with the main one being the weight of the new cameras. They are so much lighter than what I was using, the Nikon D4.
I don’t know if it’s an age thing, my back muscles or the number of years I’ve been carrying heavy cameras on my shoulders, but the day after a wedding, I’d feel just like the wrinkled and hunched over grandfather of the bride looked. You know, the one any wedding photographers would search out and stalk because he had so much ‘character’ – way too much character for someone my age!
Yes, that feeling of not being able to stand upright following a wedding or long days shooting may have something to do with all the cycling and racing I do. Couple the cycling with the heavy camera and lens combos for work and my back was getting worse. I just didn’t feel it was going to be sustainable for too many more years and I’m not giving up cycling to carry a heavy camera… thanks but lifestyle comes first for me.
That feeling crappy following a wedding was the same for an all day commercial shoot and I was starting to feel it after my shorter portrait sessions which I was mainly shooting with the 70-200mm f2.8 lens and the D4 body. I knew I had to make some changes but didn’t dive right into the mirror-less camera system, psychologically, I wasn’t ready for that. I liked shooting with the big “pro” gear, it made me feel like a photographer.
I purchased the Sigma 35mm f1.4 ART lens and started alternating between it and my Nikon 85mm 1.4 in an attempt to downsize and down weight what I was carrying. Neither of these lenses are light but I was enjoying the move to prime lenses and shooting with these focal lengths. Having the one body with primes was a real pain but I just dealt with it to see if I could make these combinations work for me.
I could and I was enjoying the challenge and the look of my photography. This was a move in the right direction in regard to weight, creativity, style and enjoyment.
Ultimately, the kit was still heavy and I felt a second camera body would make shooting with prime lenses more practical. That meant another DSLR to hang off my other shoulder. That wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t an option.
Part two of the timing equation were rumours of a new flagship Nikon DSLR, the D5. The value of my D4 was going to drop fast as soon as the the new model was released. I made the decision to jump ship and move to the Fuji system but it didn’t come without concerns.
Looking back, even now, I have to remind myself just how tired I was of carrying the heavy gear when I’m fighting to come to grips with what the Fuji can and can’t do… or what I can do with the Fuji. There have been some frustrating times. More on them shortly.
My biggest concerns when moving to mirror-less
My initial concern about making the move from DSLR to mirror-less was pretty silly in hindsight. I was worried what other people would think when they saw me shooting with such a small camera. I liked “feeling like the pro” when I was at a wedding or a commercial shoot. I felt the big Nikon gave me an identity. Pretty dumb looking back, right?
If I’m totally honest, it wasn’t even the bride and groom I was concerned about, it was the other schmucks at the wedding with their DSLR cameras. I didn’t want to look like the amateur. Lame, lame, lame.
It didn’t take long to get past those feeling and I never actually had those feelings at a wedding. I did, however, feel a little of that inferiority complex at a Day In The Life Shoot when the father of the guy who hired me for the shoot turned up with his Canon 5D MK11.
I could see him desperately looking to see what I was shooting with. He eventually asked and I felt like a little kid trying to pass off last years footy cards as this years when I showed him my Fuji camera. He’s a tall guy too and looking down at me while shouldering his monster of a DSLR, I felt quite inadequate for those few seconds.
We made some small talk before I came up with an excuse to keep shooting and had to go. I’ve never had that feeling again and I’ll share why a little later.
There was plenty more I should have been worried about before I made the move which I wasn’t even aware of. In hindsight, I should have done more research. That’s not entirely correct. I should have taken more notice of the research I did do instead of only taking notice of the positive comments and somehow beautifully ignoring the negatives.
Why choose Fuji?
Once the decision was made to go mirror-less I had to decide on a system. I was seriously tossing up between Sony, Olympus and Fuji and honestly could have gone either way, particularly between Olympus and Fuji.
I tried the Sony in store, held it, shot a few frames and it felt good but I just didn’t like the look of it. I just couldn’t picture myself shooting with the Sony and in the back of my mind I felt like I’d be buying a brand famous for sound equipment. I know, it’s my hangup but it just wasn’t the brand for me.
I also felt with Sony, I’d be getting locked into a system that I was in no way familiar with in terms of photography.
The hangups with Sony are all mine and you just have to look at the work of JeZa Photography who I’ve interviewed on the podcast to know just how capable these cameras are. I’m also seeing more and more videographers moving to the Sony brand mirror-less cameras for their work.
One thing I know now, the Sony’s low light capability and image quality at very high ISO’s exceeds that of the Fuji cameras.
I was very close to settling on the Olympus system but the timing was just a little off. The time I tried the camera, I loved it. It felt good in my hands, focused fast (on moving subjects too) and the internal image stabilising seemed amazing. It did at the photography show demo anyway.
The sales guy had me stand on a platform that rocked in every direction while shooting off a bunch of frames. It was indoors and while shooting moving targets (people moving about the exhibits) the camera didn’t miss with focus or sharpness. I was impressed.
The problem at the time was lens availability. There was very little in the way of large aperture primes, only limited zoom lenses with prosumer type apertures. Yes, there were adaptors to make this and that brand work with the camera but I wasn’t interested in going into a new system and having to doctor something up to get it to work from the start.
I haven’t revisited the Olympus range of lenses but I would if I was looking at making the change to mirror-less today.
The Fuji system did already have a large appeal for me, I owned and loved the X100s. That little camera rekindled my love of photography with it’s simplicity of a fixed 35mm (full frame equivalent focal length) lens, large f2 aperture and great look and feel. The X100s, now super seeded by the X100T is a real pleasure to use although it didn’t feel like a camera I’d use professionally because of it’s slow focussing and it’s “toyish” feel (at the time) compared to my Nikon. How things have changed.
The Fuji XT1 was the camera that really made me think I could make mirror-less cameras work for me professionally. I could realistically move away from the heavy DSLR and continue work as usual. That was the plan anyway. There were plenty of photographers using the camera professionally, the lens range was perfectly suited to my (new) style of shooting and the company were continually releasing firmware updates and new lenses to the line up.
I bought my first XT1 with a couple of lenses and started shooting with it for fun as often as possible with the aim to learn its capabilities and limitations. I also wanted to get accustomed to all the new buttons and dials and test if I really could use these cameras to shoot what I need to for work.
Linda, my wife, played model and crash test dummy at the drop of a hat and no matter the situation – she was fantastic! Driving, walking, watching the kids soccer, shopping, visiting friends, watching television, cooking… no matter when and where, I was shooting and testing and trialing the camera with Linda modelling. I’m sure she secretly loved all the attention although she drew the line at me sharing most of the photos taken during that time… something about model releases and usage rights…
Soon I was shooting portrait and engagement sessions solely with the Fuji before adding a second body, a couple more lenses, two flashes and taking the kit to weddings while leaving the Nikon in the car… just in case.
I did grab the Nikon from the car at one reception, I was that fed up with what I was getting from the Fuji but calmed down before getting back into the room. I took a deep breath, tried a different approach with the Fuji and continued on. Like I said, it hasn’t been all plain sailing.
I sold my D4 body shortly after. It was time to commit. I did keep the D300s, my Nikon backup camera and all my Nikon lenses though. I was committed, just not stupidly so. I was still hedging my bets and my fall back was the Nikon D750, it still was till this week when I sold all my Nikon lenses.
What I didn’t like from the start with the Fuji’s
I’ve been using the Fuji’s continuously and professionally for the last six months and there have been times when I wanted to smash them, go buy that D750 and never see them again. Other times I’ve been so completely happy with the move I question why I didn’t make the change earlier. I need to remind myself how much I disliked the weight of the old system, how much discomfort it was causing and I’m back in my happy place and comfortable with my decision to go mirror-less.
I’m still developing my technique (I’ll share what I’ve learnt and now know below) and one thing is a dead certainty, if you decide to change systems. You will be tested, pushed and made to think like you did when learning photography from the start, you’ll have headaches and you’ll become a better problem solver. I guarantee there will be times of frustration and cursing and head scratching and times when you’ll be questioning why oh why did I do this.
I also believe you will become a better photographer and you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun with these cameras. I’ve not looked so forward to making photos as I have since moving to Fuji. So much so, I’ve booked a holiday to India with the object of photography and discovery, I can’t wait!
Like I say, it’s not all rosy though. I’ve struggled with all of the following while shooting with the XT1’s:
- Slow Focusing speeds
- Miss-focusing for moving subjects
- Low light focusing ability
- High ISO image quality
- Different configuration of buttons
- Terrible battery life
- Small sized menu buttons
- The flash system
- The LCD viewfinder
Another thing you may not like is the camera only takes a single SD card – this may be a deal breaker for some?
That’s a pretty crappy list of issues for any professional photographer to see, no matter the genre you shoot. I reckon if I had seen a list like the one above before making the jump, I’d still be shooting with a DSLR.
The good news is the list is not as bad as it appears. Maybe a better description is… the list is not as bad as it once was, even after six months.
After using the kit for a while
What I love and appreciate about Fuji the company is they appear to be listening to their customers. Also, just how easily they can make their cameras and lenses better with firmware updates, truly amazing.
Since owning the XT1’s there has been one major update which made the camera seriously better for pro-photographers. The focusing was made faster, the button functions became more customisable for the user and overall performance was improved.
I believe there is another major update coming for the camera in July 2015 which will make the camera better again. Still, it’s not perfect and it’s no DSLR.
NOTE: A firmware update can be likened to a software update. Camera owners download an update to their computer, transfer the downloaded file to a formatted SD card, insert the card into the camera and install the update. Amazingly, these updates make the camera better without having to spend a cent or having the shits with a company that continually releases new models.
Since making the move to mirror-less, I’ve photographed multiple weddings, portrait sessions, Day In The Life shoots, Commercial Assignments (with and without studio lighting), head shots and personal fun shoots so it’s an all-round assessment I can offer.
Below is a snapshot of what I’ve learnt and how I’m dealing and coping with the issues listed above.
Slow Focusing Speeds
This really hasn’t been an issue since the last firmware update and it’s not something I notice anymore, except in low light situations, more on that below.
With the last firmware update, moving the focus area around the frame is as simple as my Nikon – like it should be. Simply press the directional buttons on the back of the camera to move the focusing point. Before the update, another button had to be pressed first before being able to move the focus point. A totally ridiculous set up but the techs at Fuji listened and it’s a non issue now.
Focusing speed can also be increased by putting the camera into “performance mode” which drains the quick draining batteries even faster but it’s a no brainer in regard to choice. I’ll sacrifice battery life for fast focussing any day.
It’s also agreed amongst XT1 users, setting the focus area two increments larger than the smallest option yield the best results when taking focus speed and accuracy into account. A larger focus area focuses faster but is less accurate if say you’re attempting to focus on the eyes of a subject.
I was using the shutter release button to focus initially but found it a real problem. With my Nikon, I was able to focus and continually releases the shutter with a subtle press of the release button over and over again when required. With the Fuji that’s not possible. Pressing the shutter has the camera focussing before the shutter is released. Taking another frame right after by pressing gently again does nothing – the camera will not fire. The shutter button has to be completely released then regain focus before firing again… too slow in some situations.
The solution is to select manual focus and use the back button focus. Pressing the back button focus while in manual focus mode will tell the lens to auto focus (sounds confusing but works great). You also have the option to manually focus the lens (or manually override the autofocus) – more in a minute on that.
The beauty of using the back button focus is once focus is acquired, you are free to press the shutter over and over again while retaining focus – if you or the subject doesn’t move. This is how I’m focusing in most situations now for wedding and portraiture work.
Manual focusing is great with the Fuji’s and their prime lenses. What makes them so special and easy to focus is the “focus peaking” which puts an obvious “white noise” over the area in focus. Again, sounds confusing but it’s very easy to see where focus is. The focussing barrels on all three of my prime lenses is silky smooth and great to use.
The XT1 also has the option to fine tune focus by using auto focus (with the back button focus) then rotating the focus barrel on the lens to fine tune. What I don’t like with this function, which does sound great, is the viewfinder zooms into the area of the focus point and the rest of the frame is hidden from view in the viewfinder. I find it disconcerting and strange but some photographers I know love this option. It may be one of those things I’ll learn to love but for the moment I have that function turned off.
Miss-Focusing for moving subjects
This is something I really struggled to come to terms with in the early days. Shooting moving subjects coming toward or moving away from me is pretty standard for my style of shooting and not something I want to be changing or missing.
After trialing a few different suggestions, I’ve settled on a technique I don’t love but seems to be the best solution. I’m hoping there will be a better way in the near future but here’s what’s working for me right now.
Put the camera into high continuous shooting mode, choose continuous focus and fire away. Not every frame will be sharp but most are. The camera seems to handle slow moving subjects pretty well but it’s no sports camera.
Shooting moving subjects on single focus and single shot modes also work surprisingly well but if I have a bridal party coming down the aisle, I’ll be playing it safe with the first method described above and have too many photos opposed to none in focus.
I’ve also found focusing on a moving subject that is small in the frame; picture a couple walking along a beach in the distance, the camera will struggle, particularly if there is an easy to focus on headland in the distance behind the subject – the focus will jump straight to the headland.
In these cases, I’ll pre-focus on an area and wait for the couple to move into that area. I’ve used both manual and auto focus for these situations with success.
Low light focusing ability
No beating around the bush here, theses cameras suck when it comes to auto focus, lowlight and any kind of moving subjects – think dance floor action at a wedding reception. This has been my biggest struggle and area of most “experimentation” to date.
Here’s what I’m doing right now – choosing a highish ISO, between 800 and 3200, a slowish shutter speed of between 1/8th and 1/60th of a second and an aperture around f5.6. I know these are a little general but it depends a lot on the ambient light in the room.
From here I go to manual focus and set the lens to focus at about 2 metres (zone focusing). Now it’s simply fire away at the action from about 2 metres away. I like the effect of the movement and the freezing of the action from the flash and it’s working well for me. Using a 35mm lens gives a little leeway with depth of field and most shots are coming back great but not as consistent in regard to exposure as my Nikon body, lens and flash combinations. This has more to do with the rubbish flash system than the camera.
Shooting RAW I think this would be a non issue to get perfect exposures in post. I shoot JPG so would really like to fine tune this for more consistent results.
One recent tip I learnt from Jonas Peterson’s workshop was to zoom my flash head to say 50mm with a 35mm lens to add a natural vignette or light fall off from the edges of the frame. It’s a cool effect and worth giving a try if you haven’t.
The biggest problem I can see with the lowlight focusing is the flashes I’ve used, do not have in infrared focusing assist beam – I’d really like to see this added in the future. Here’s hoping the techies at Fuji are listening or reading.
NOTE: It’s been suggested I try the “face detection mode” when facing focussing issues and to not discount the setting as a gimmick. It’s a setting I did notice but totally skipped over with the thought “amateur” when I saw it. Seeing the suggestion was made by Kevin Mullins, (interviewed in episode 57 of the podcast and will appearing again very soon) I intend to test it out but haven’t yet, not in tough lighting conditions anyway.
The flash system
While on the subject of low light shooting, the Fuji “flagship flash unit” the EF-42 is hopeless! Do not buy this flash if you’re considering the Fuji system. I’ve found the Nissin i40 flash a much better light source and match for the XT1. It recycles faster, looks better, is better sized and yields more consistent results than the EF-42.
I’ve use off camera flash with the Fuji’s but unfortunately, my Nikon version triggers and chords don’t work with Fuji. If you’re moving from Canon to Fuji, you’re in luck because your stuff will be compatible in regard to triggers and cords. Your flash will also fire in manual (no TTL though) whereas the Nikon flash heads won’t fire.
I’ve been using the Yongnuo triggers and they fire more consistently than my expensive Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 triggers with my Nikon gear. Again, make sure you buy Canon compatible triggers and accessories for your Fuji’s, the Nikon stuff won’t work.
Another annoying thing is the slow flash sync speed of the XT1 at 1/180th second. That’s the speed they’re meant to work at but from my use, I’ve found 1/125th second is the fastest speed I can use without problems.
The sync speed hasn’t been an issue at weddings so far but it has been limiting at a couple of commercial shoots with strong ambient light where a faster sync speed would have made life easier.
This is where the X100s comes into its own with it’s leaf shutter and the ability to sync at speeds up to 1/4000th second! I have played around with the X100s and off camera flash for fun but not at a wedding yet – I do know photographers that have with great success and results.
Earlier I mentioned there’d be no way I’d consider using the X100s at a wedding, it just didn’t feel “pro” enough and the focusing isn’t fast. After more time using the X100s and now the XT1’s, the last thing I think about is the size of the camera. If it can do the job I want it to do, I’ll use it, no problem.
I’ve since used the X100s at engagement sessions and always have it in my car for day to day shooting. It won’t be long before it comes out at weddings I’m sure.
The LCD viewfinder
The digital viewfinder was one of my biggest concerns moving to mirror-less but it’s been much less of an issue than I thought it would be. It’s easy to see through and use, even in very bright conditions (think beach weddings in summer) and I’m still using the factory eye cup. There are after-market larger eye cups that wrap more fully around the eye – I thought these would be a necessity but I haven’t found that to be the case.
It’s possible to set the viewfinder to show the exposure you have set with your controls which is fantastic for normal shooting. Let’s say you have a back lit subject, you can see the effect of slowing the shutter speed to overexpose through the viewfinder – this is awesome for tricky lighting situations.
I love how I can see the effect of changing aperture, shutter speed and iso through the viewfinder as I make the changes, it’s a very cool feature of the system.
If you intend to use your XT1 camera with studio flash (strobes) it works perfectly. You will have to set the viewfinder to display the ambient light, not what your exposure settings are. Let me explain if you’ve never looked through the XT1’s digital viewfinder.
The problem when shooting with strobes is your camera settings will be dramatically underexposing the ambient light to allow the strobes to do all the illuminating. With these settings, the viewfinder will appear black or almost black – not good. Luckily you have the ability to set the viewfinder to not show what the camera settings will give you but show what you can see with your eyes – the ambient light.
NOTE: When first shooting with strobes, I noticed there is no “flash” white balance setting which I used a lot with my Nikons. The closest I have found is the “daylight” setting which gives results I’m happy with. This won’t be a concern if you shoot RAW but will be a consideration if you’re a JPG shooter and you use strobes. It is possible to create custom white balance settings too.
You will need to use this same viewfinder setting when shooting with flash at receptions too… or your viewfinder will appear black and you won’t be able to see a thing. A good recipe to be a victim of or on the dance floor!
Different configuration and size of buttons
I have small hands but I still found/find the small buttons annoyingly small and difficult to find at first. I’m getting better at finding most buttons by feel but the damn back focus button on the vertical grip must be in an unnatural spot because I can never find the thing when the camera is up to my eye.
If you have big hands or fat fingers, you will struggle with the buttons, especially when starting out.
I know some photographers are using a rubber compound that can be stuck and moulded to the existing camera buttons to make them bigger and more easily found by feel. By all accounts this is an effective workaround. I’d love the buttons to be larger or more bulbous and easier to locate by feel. Maybe we’ll see this change in future models. Unfortunately, this won’t be an upgrade fixable via firmware.
Short Battery Life
Battery life in the Fuji’s is nothing like any DSLR batteries I’ve used. I guess it’s expected with the much smaller batteries and it’s something you will need to be aware of if shooting weddings especially.
The bad news is genuine Fuji replacement or additional batteries are expensive. The good news is the non genuine versions are much cheaper. With my two bodies, I have 10 batteries and two chargers. Overkill maybe but I rest easy during a wedding ceremony and never find myself staring at the charger LED praying for it to go green before the couple are pronounced man and wife. I don’t need any extra stress!
Most weddings will see me use six batteries, occasionally seven.
The in-camera battery charge indicator on the XT1 is something else you will need to be aware of. The indicator goes from fully charged to 2/3 to 1/3 to empty very quickly… almost with no warning you’re out of juice. I learnt to pack a spare battery in my pocket at all times when shooting the body without the vertical grip, which does hold an extra battery too.
The nice thing about the vertical grip is the battery stored here is used first. Once empty, the camera switches over to use the second battery (if you have it inside the camera body) and takes its power from there. This is better than you may know because the vertical grip needs to be removed to access the battery stored in the camera body. No big deal until you’re in a mad hurry to change batteries!
If you’re wondering why I have one camera with a vertical grip, one without – I prefer the small size of the bare camera when using the 35mm and 50mm lenses. A total turnaround from when I was embarrassed to be shooting with a small camera. Now I love it! The body with the vertical grip I use mainly with the 56mm (85mm equivalent) which balances it beautifully. Awesome lens too!
NOTE: I recently read on the X-Weddings Facebook Group that turning the camera off between use will dramatically increase battery life and the camera is actually quicker to respond when turning from off to on when compared to “waking” the camera from sleep mode. Photographers are electing to turn off one camera when switching to another and vice versa. As they lift the camera to shoot, they instinctively turn the camera back on as they raise the viewfinder to the eye.
What I Loved from the Start
Enough of the negatives, let’s focus on what’s to love about the Fuji system right from the start because there is plenty to shout about.
- The size and weight of the kit
- The look and feel
- The quality of the files
- The beautiful and usable film profiles
- A new excitement to shoot
- Fuji’s constant firmware updates
The size and weight of the kit
A no brainer for me and one of the biggest plusses about the system. I absolutely love the light weight and can happily shoot day after day with the system. I look forward to it!
At the moment I’m shooting with two bodies, one on each shoulder when required during the ceremony for example but will often leave one body in or on my camera bag when shooting the bridal preparations or on location and the reception.
I’ve been thinking about a shoulder harness system like the Holdfast Moneymaker but feel it’s overkill for the weight of the cameras. Plus, I love the freedom of shooting with a single body and lens when I can. It’s totally unobtrusive and it really is possible to move around and be seen as a guest – not something possible with the gun slinger set up of a shoulder harness system.
If I do decide to go the harness option or give it a try, I like the look of the Kawa brand of straps which are smaller and look better suited to the mirror-less systems.
Another option is the Spider belt clips but I’m not sold on the idea with the amount of time I spend squatting or laying down while shooting.
For the moment, I’ll stay with my Lucky Straps which are working perfectly and look the goods. Plus, the manufacturer is local Australian photographer and podcast listener Justin Castles.
The look and feel
Ok, I know earlier I said I’m no gear freak but I do love the look of the Fuji cameras and lenses. They look and feel like real cameras. They have old fashioned dials for shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation. Aperture is adjusted on the lens barrel – so good!
If size is still an issue for you, adding the vertical grip means the kit will looks like a serious package in your hands.
Remember I thought the XT1’s size was going to be a problem for me following the Day In The Life Shoot with the grandfather and his 5d MK11.
I was a little embarrassed at the time when he walked up with his Canon – it felt like I was holding a toy camera at the time. Until I returned to the studio that is. Once I saw the images I realised (as I should have earlier) the camera has very little to do with the photos I create. I love the files from that shoot and haven’t given the kit size a second thought since.
Put aside the small and occasionally hard to find menu buttons the camera as a whole feels great in my hands and the old school dials are quickly intuitive and maybe a touch slower to use never seem to be an issue once I committed to the system.
The flip out screen
I didn’t think too much about the flip out screen until I started shooting, now I LOVE it. It’s perfect for getting the low angle shots without laying in the dirt, seaweed or sand and equally perfect when shooting with arms raised overhead into a crowded dance floor.
I use the flip out function more than I expected to and I know you will too if you make the change.
Yes, I still choose to shoot JPG and this was a big consideration when choosing the Fuji camera. I wanted something that could produce good looking files right out of the camera… the XT1 does not disappoint, in fact, it’s truly fantastic. The files are as good as or better than anything I was getting from my Nikon.
I can’t comment on the RAW files, never shot one with the Fuji but I’m guessing they’ll be good – doesn’t really matter anyway, if you shoot RAW, you’ll happily fix the files in post.
The XT1 has a range of film profiles from Astia, Provia and Velvia to Classic Chrome and others. JPG shooters will love the choice and I’ve found myself using different film simulations for different shoots and effect.
The standard Astia is what I’ve mostly shot with for clients but Classic Chrome is fast becoming a favourite. If you come from the film shooting days, you really will love the film simulation choices and just how accurate to the original films they are.
I’m guessing you’re a RAW shooter (there’s not many of us shooting JPG anymore) but don’t discount the options to use the XTI in JPG mode for your day to day “fun”photos. If you’re anything like me and don’t really consider grabbing your DSLR when heading out for a walk with whoever, that will change once you’re a Fuji owner.
A new excitement to shoot
Earlier I wrote the Fuji X100s is the reason my love of photography was rediscovered. The XT1 has continued and grown that love, it’s that much fun to use and I’m seriously loving my photography and shooting more than ever.
A couple years ago, the sight of my camera bag full of Nikon gear did not excite me in the least. That bag simply said work to me. Pretty sad hey.
Now, I find myself grabbing an XT1, the X100s or the whole camera bag wherever I’m going. Shooting is more fun than ever and I think the camera system has everything to do with that. I drive Linda mad with all the shooting I’m doing and all the testing I’ve done with her as a subject but secretly, I think she loves my new found motivation to shoot, experiment and create. She hasn’t seen me so enthusiastic to shoot in a long time. It’s a good feeling.
I’m not the only one getting excited about the Fuji system, there are so many photographers making the move and the beauty is so many of the best shooters are happy to share everything and anything they can. There are so many wonderful communities available to us and one I can highly recommend for wedding photographers particularly is the Facebook Group X-Weddings (Wedding Photographers shooting Fuji).
The group members are supportive and excited to share and help with any question I’ve thrown at them. Much of what I’ve learnt has been made so much easier with the help of photographers like Andrew Billington (interviewed in episode 106 of the podcast) and Kevin Mullins, both active members in the group and so quick to offer tips and suggestions, share experiences and lessons they’ve learnt. If you buy a Fuji and shoot weddings, join this group!
If you decide on a Sony, Olympus or something else, go looking for a similar helpful group to help shortcut your learning process. It’ll save a lot of time and shortcut the learning process if you find the right group.
Would I do it again?
I love shooting with the XT1’s but what should you do? You know I can’t answer that but here’s a final thought or two.
If I didn’t have an issue with the weight of DSLR camera, I’d be shooting with one, maybe two Nikon D750’s today… no question.
Now that my photography style is developing and changing to a more photojournalistic approach, I’m loving the small Fuji’s even more and I’m happy to be using the system.
I wish the Fuji’s were better but they are what they are and there is something pretty special about the way the system is limiting. I do have to think more, plan more and problem solve more to get the shots I want but there’s something very satisfying about making it work. I’m sure my photography and style is developing as a result and I love that.
Would I do it again given the choice? Mostly, yes and the days it’s a no I just have to think about lugging my heavy DSLR kit all over the Central Coast, how crappy I felt following a full days shoot and I know I’ve made the right choice for me.
Some more sample work
If you'd like to see more samples of my work shot with the Fuji XT1 here are a few links:
You can also find a stack more photos on my Instagram feed, where all (or nearly all) have been shot with the X100s or XT1. Check the hashtags if you're interested in knowing which camera was used: https://instagram.com/andrew_hellmich/
Got a follow up question for me?
If you have a follow up question for me, want to correct something I’ve said or just make a comment, feel free to add them below – I’d be happy to help if I can.