Fujifilm Mirrorless Cameras

In December 2015, at the Boston public library, I photographed my last wedding with DSLRs. Every shot I’ve taken since has been on Fujifilm mirrorless cameras.

WARNING. The following is extremely nerdy Fujifilm camera-gear talk and meant for the curious photographer or techie. Click here to escape to pretty pictures.

Why switch?

First of all WEIGHT. Fujifilm X gear weighs ~ 1/2 of what most of the Full Frame Canon, Nikon & Sony gear does. Many of my jobs require carrying two cameras plus extra lenses for 8-12 hours. Therefore every gram matters. While switching I’ve consequently discovered other benefits: Fuji’s control scheme, AWB, detail, and film-like rendering are superior (or at least more my style). Especially relevant are the WYSIWYG electronic viewfinder, big manual dials, and the articulating lcd screen. Hence it’s a great system and I’m very happy using it.

Are there drawbacks?

YES:AF (auto focus) speed and accuracy is probably not as good as some DSLRs in low light. Though Fuji has continued to improve this (and add new features) via firmware updates.

Fuji’s release of the XT-2 addressed the biggest mirrorless camera drawback: AF (auto focus). This New AF is superior to my old 5D mark 3 DSLRs in most situations but might struggle in the dark. Fuji’s XT-2 is better in the dark than mirrorless cameras that preceeded it but there is room for improvement. Yet one can easily solve the AF issue in extremely low-light conditions by putting up one little LED video light. XT-2 has additional improvements over XT-1: less EVF lag, 512000 iso, 11fps, AF selection nub, dual card slots, more detail, 24mp, 4k video, etc.

What do you use for speedlights?

Fuji released their own flash system EF-X500… they stink.

Speedlights not intended for Fuji can be used (Canon, Nikon, etc) but you’ll be left with M only, no af-assist, TTL, HSS and likely no wireless OCF control. Canon 600-EX+Yongnuo controllers got me through the entire first year I shot Fuji.

Flashpoint/Godox has released Fuji versions of a lot of their products. I’m currently using Godox TT350F speedlights on camera & for controlling the R2 Li-ion speedlights on stands. Cactus, Nissin and Metz have also released or announced compatible flash products.

TTL on mirrorless maybe isn’t quite what it is on DSLRs: because there is an EVF blackout, while the flash and camera figure out the right exposure, you probably missed the shot. Because of this slower TTL performance I prefer to use M. Infrared AF assist grids do not help mirrorless so if your flashes are fully compatible with mirrorless systems their AF assist is just an LED.

Does anyone question you are using a professional camera?

Haters Gonna Hate. As a result there have been a few clients, family members and guests that expressed doubts. Furthermore a few of these same people later told me they were blown away by the results and bought themselves a Fuji X camera.

Ergonomics?

Fuji X bodies are much smaller cameras than pro DSLRs, and as a result some photographers find them uncomfortable to hold. I like the ergonomics but think adding a grip is essential for all-day pro use. I prefer the MHG-XT2, other’s love the optional battery grip.

How is the image quality?

Fantastic. X series cameras have great detail, low Chromatic Aberrations, accurate AWB, and the high-iso noise is similar to DSLRs. Fuji’s highlight holding is acceptable in RAW, even better in JPEG.

How are the RAW files?

There’s debate on whether Fuji’s “X-Trans” sensor produces better or worse results. Honestly the results are just different. Fuji RAWs, to me, look organic/more like film. RAF file have wonderful Dynamic Range and can be pushed +/- 5 stops in post. I also think the Fuji RAW files scale up better for huge prints. If you want to dig deeper into X-Trans (Fuji) vs Bayer (everyone else) camera sensors.

Did your post-processing change?

Yes, building all-new presets may be required. It seems like Fuji RAWs are different. Sharpening and noise reduction, most of all, require different settings in post-processing software from other raw formats.

How is the Battery life?

Mirrorless cameras power the sensor all the time and a small camera equals a small battery. One battery lasts about 3 hours, therefore it is necessary to carry a few extras in your bag. It takes seconds to change batteries. Fuji’s XT-2 has a new battery level indicator that’s more accurate and less likely, compared to other mirrorless cameras, to give you the dead battery warning out of nowhere. Fuji batteries also don’t hold a charge for weeks idle so charge them right before every shoot.

Is crop-sensor an issue?

Fujifilm X-Series cameras have APS-C size sensors. I do not think this is a compromise in quality compared to full-frame sensors anymore. APS-C has come a long way. You do need to multiply focal lengths x1.5 to understand a len’s field of view. Example: Fuji’s XF56mm lens works like an 85mm would on full-frame.

Are the available lenses good?

XF glass is really good and the selection is deep. Some favorites include: XF56mm f/1.2 (NON APD), XF35mm f/1.4, XF23mm f/1.4, XF16mm f/1.4. I own and use the XF90mm f/2, XF50-140mm OIS, as well as some 3rd party lenses. Examples from my favorite XF lenses:

Can I use lenses I already own?

Adapters currently available can’t control aperture or autofocus. Consequently they’re only $15. Adapting lenses can be fun but the native lenses are amazing and affordable. I do use an ultra-wide tilt-shift lens via an EF-to-XF mount adapter. Adapted TSE examples:

Shallow depth of field

I most often shot Canon L Primes stopped down to f/2.0-2.5 due to the chances of getting everything I wanted sharp was so slim with the aperture any larger. Fujifilm primes wide-open are VERY SHARP. DOF (depth of field) is multiplied x1.5, so the DOF at f/1.2 on Fuji X cameras is similar to the DOF at f/1.8 on full frame. Furthermore there is still plenty of gorgeous Bokeh. Shallow DOF examples:

What camera should I buy?

If you desire something other than your phone checkout the many Fujifilm models. Interchangeable-lens offerings included the XT-20, X-E3, XT-10, XT-1, etc. Fuji’s fixed lens cameras that might be a better daily/travel option: X100t or X100f. Yet if you have deeper pockets consider the XT-2 or X-Pro2.

XT-2 vs X-pro2?

Having used both I believe the XT-2 is for me because they feel different: balance, materials, button placement, and grip. There is a hybrid EVF/OVF-rangefinder on the Xpro2, which is neat, but I prefer the bigger/faster EVF on the XT-2. XT-2 also has a dedicated ISO dial.

What about Fuji’s GFX Medium Format system?

The GFX system is huge. As a result it might be better as an in-studio only tool. Results from the GFX system are impressive but I’m more interested in smaller/lighter cameras.

In Conclusion

Consequently Fuji probably won’t turn you into a better photographer. In my opinion, the difference between good photographers and truly great ones is what they can do with the camera (a tool) rather than what the tool can do for them. Fuji lets me get what I want, doesn’t hinder me, and just happens to be half the weight.

As a result what does your work look like shot on Fujifilm cameras?

Here are some of my favorite shots from 2016. 100% shot on Fujifilm X-Series mirrorless cameras.

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