Saturday, February 23, 2019

Fuji Love Continued

It’s been a while since I’ve published something here.  I’ve been spending most of my time lately writing over at but it’s time I provided a much needed update. 

My first BLOG entry on the CameraninjaBLOG (this site) was “Nikon, My First Camera Love”. It was appropriate since I’ve been driving Nikon cameras since the mid 80s, starting with an EM that my dad gave me.  I move up from there to my next favorites, FE-2, F5, then to a small digital, the D300, and now to my D800.  (I still have the FE-2).  I followed that article shortly after with “Fuji Love”, describing how much I enjoyed my new adopted platform, the FujiFilm X-T1.  This article is about continuing that journey on the Fuji train with my X-T2, and as of about 2020, I started using an X-T3.  I’ve been wanting to write this for a while and was inspired to get to it when someone reached out to ask what I thought about the Fuji cameras and what he should buy.  What follows is my answer.  Read Fuji Love because the X-T2 is just a better X-T1.
(Updated 12/28)

Fuji vs. Nikon and other DSLRs

I shot a wedding with the D800 a few of years ago and I was exhausted after spending the entire day holding the 5 lb beast up.  I had an XT-1 but I wasn’t familiar enough with it at the time to trust a wedding to it.  Also, I didn’t like the flash sync speed and most importantly, the fill-flash.  Nikon spent 30+ years honing their fill flash to perfection.  Later, I shot a large set of prom pics with both cameras (D800 and XT-1) with mono strobes outside.  I compared a couple of the shots and couldn’t tell the difference!  One of my absolute favorite landscapes was shot with an X-T1 and it’s enlarged and printed on canvas in my office (a dry brush effect was also applied). So, I loved my X-T1 so much that I wrote a review of it.  When comparing the heft of the same configurations of the D800 vs. Fuji,  with similar lens and vertical grips… FUJI WINS hands down.  Nikon weighs in at 5.3 lbs and Fuji at just under  2lb!!!  (Notice the top picture I had to have a prop to keep the lense from tipping the Nikon over.)

I’ve since upgraded to the X-T2.  It provides faster flash sync, focus speed, Acros film simulation, and most importantly, dynamic range.  The biggest issue for me at the time was focus speed, response speed, and sync speed on the XT-1 which is 1/180 (but many times I had to slow it down for proper sync).  Sync speed is important when shooting outdoor portraits given the lighting conditions.  When the images and reviews of the X-T2 started show up, the dynamic range improvement was a big draw.  Sure, it has more pixels, but that was only going to help improve digital crop post-production and possibly enlarging.  I also liked that Fujifilm stayed with the X Trans sensor, which in my opinion, provides better quality with fewer pixels.

I love my Nikon D800 but I just don’t use it as much anymore.  The XT-2 runs great with the Godox V860 II as well as my studio lighting.  I love the jpg off the camera but run with both jpg and RAW.  The RAW provides just a bit more dynamic range and post-processing capabilities when I need it.  I love the feel of the XT-2, even with the vertical grip.  As a bonus, it’s a lot quieter than the DSLRs from Nikon or Cannon.  Pull off the vertical grip and it’s the best landscape vacation camera ever made.  Put all of this together and the weight advantage seals the deal.  I clipped the X-T2 onto my belt on my Grand Canyon trip and had a blast.  I would have probably left the D800 at home if that was all I had.  I’ve since snapped a few shots at a wedding with it and outside shots like this put the max pressure on dynamic range of a camera.  The X-T2 definitely strutted it’s stuff.

I was happy (actually surprised) with the X-T1 image quality when I first started using it with it’s 16mp sensor up against the 36mp on the D800.  The XT-2 is even better at 24mp but more importantly, it’s dynamic range is killer.   I no longer count pixels or sensor size after doing my image comparisons.  Sure, there’s more usable crop on the higher density chips but that’s about it.  (Here is a good article on dynamic range of the X-T2 sensor).  I typically will shoot a little underexposed to get the best shots.  Fujifilm’s sensor is “ISO less” so it does the same things as amping up the dark areas in photoshop when turning up the ISO for faster speeds.

Fuji lenses are high quality, lower cost, and lighter.  I take the X-T2 everywhere because it’s lighter and I like the retro look, the feel and the shutter sound.  The user interface, sort of retro with all of the creative controls that I use the most on the outside,  makes this camera an awesome platform.  It looks a lot like my Nikon FE-2, maybe that’s why I like it... not sure.

Finally, the most important part.   I get real joy from shooting with the Fuji system, from the feel, the sound, and user interface and what comes off of the sensor.  And once you have an in-viewfinder exposure curve, you’ll never want to go back.

Some nits:
     Ork is right, they still have some work to do in the flash department.  The V860 rocks though.

     If you really need max bokeh, physics says you need to run with a larger sensor, 35mm or medium format but I've been very happy with a 80mm equiv on the Fuji system.  I’ve done some comparisons with my full sized 35mm sensor and struggle to see the difference.  I’m happy with with the Fujinon lenses and shooting with the Fuji glass wide open provides butter smooth bokeh.

     Nikon has a slight edge on focus speed at low light but it’s never stopped me from getting the shot and I’ve never had to resort to manual.

     If you want to pack your bag with all the focal lengths known to man, Fuji and the aftermarket manufacturers aren’t quite there. But here’s the thing, I have everything that I need or want with Fujinon.  The biggest zoom tele that I have on my Nikon is a 80 - 200 F/2.8 and the Fujifilm 50-140 (75 - 210 equivalent) fits out my kit perfectly.  They both offer a 1.5x teleconverter that I use for nature shots so I’m fully set for 300mm. 

     It's too easy to bump the servo mode on the front of the XT series cameras, I would like to see a lock on that  future.
In summary, the X-T2 is a great step up from the X-T1 for my needs and I really enjoy using it.  Fujifilm has come out with the X-T3.  
The X-T3 is a nice bump in not only sensor density (24MP) but the dynamic range rocks.  This is now my pro platform.  If forced, I'll go to the current X-T5 (two generations up) but the X-T5 image quality really isn't that much better.

What camera should you buy?

Recommendation:  Shop for a camera that you are going to love.  I’m serious.  Stay with me here. 

Go down to the dealer, pick it up, use it for a while, listen to it, adjust the controls and shoot a bunch of lighting situations with it.  Also, try a couple of lenses on it in the store.  Do you like the way it looks, feels, sounds? 

Fuji, Nikon, Cannon, Sony…, they are all going to give you images that are close in comparison.  Equipment enthusiasts love to compare, pixel peep and wax about the quality of one DSLR over another or APSC vs. 35mm sensors but it’s all a wash now to me.   It’s really a personal and somewhat emotional choice.  I along with others, are obviously real fan boys of this system but there are other great choices out there.  Try not to pixel peep, count pixels, measure sensors, but find something that you want to pickup and shoot with.  If you scan the blogs of pro photographers and others, they all gush about the quality of their gear, but under all of that is an emotional response to shooting with their system.  After reading this far, I’m sure you will say the same about me.  :)

Get something that exceeds your creative capabilities.  Get a camera that you can grow with.  The camera is just a complex brush. Make sure it can deliver on your vision today and in the future.  It also has to fit your capabilities and your style.  If you get real enjoyment from picking up your camera, you’re going to create more images and with more images comes learning and continuous improvement. Get a camera that makes you want to pick it up.

My son is using the X-T2 now and really enjoys it.  I like watching him enjoy a new hobby and his photography improve.  His friend is using my old X-T1.  These cameras have some awesome features and film simulations that are awesome.  Fuji is known for their color science, developed over the last 50 years in their film products.  They poured all that knowledge and expertise into their camera systems and it shows.

Thanks for reading.

Note:  Image of the X-T2 were taken with the X-T1, all other images here are from the X-T2.

Christian Claborne - The Camera Ninja
(aka chris claborne)

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