A walk in the park

Fujifilm X-camera thoughts…

Don Craig Fuji Walk
Photo courtesy of Clive Camm (http://clivecamm.tumblr.com/).

This past Saturday, I spent a few hours with the Fuji Guys and their sales team in Vancouver.

Oh. There were about one hundred photography enthusiasts there as well, most of whom seemed pretty keen on Fujifilm X-cameras. The setting was a walk in the park, sponsored by Fujifilm. Aside from a few minutes of a very soft sales pitch from Greg, Billy, Gord and their team, the morning was devoted to shooting in Queen Elizabeth Park, trying out the new X-T1 and a variety of Fujinon XF lenses.

What was I doing there? Billy and Greg were nice enough to ask myself and fellow X-photographer, Kale Freisen, to join the party. As the large crowd was split into smaller groups, Kale and I each joined a group and answer questions about how we use X-cameras, as we strolled the grounds. After reflecting on what I was asked, I decided to give more thoughtful answers in this post, than I could on the walk.

My apologies in advance, but this a completely nerdy post.

Focusing

The most popular bit of info that I provided during the day related to how I focus the camera. Those of you who regularly read my posts will be familiar with what I call “automated manual focus.” Apparently, there were people on the walk who don’t read my blog. I know, it’s hard to believe.

In short, I shoot 90% of the time focusing manually and using the focusing aids that have been refined on the X-cameras. Depending on the camera, that involves pushing the command dial or focus assist button to zoom in the on the focus area. A push of the AF-L button focuses and a small twist of the focus ring to refine, if needed. This is very similar to using back-button focus on a DSLR, with the added benefit of being zoomed in to the critical area that you want in focus. I also rely upon Focus Peaking to clearly indicate what is in focus.

This method may seem slower than using AF, but I don’t agree. Most of the time, I need to shoot multiple shots from the same distance and of the same subject. Once I have focused using automated MF, I don’t have to wait for the camera to focus for each subsequent shot. I can continue to shoot until I move or I want to shoot a different subject. An added benefit is that I’m much more certain that I have shots in focus, because I have confirmed that with the focusing aids, which are not available in AF mode.

Full-frame vs. APS-C

I have shot with FF cameras (Nikon D3, D700, and D600, and Leica M9) in the past and still do on occasion. I was asked whether or not I missed FF when I switched to X-cameras. The short answer is no. Of course, the long answer is more complicated, but it ends up being the same.

The reasons that I don’t miss shooting FF are the following:

  1. The X-Trans sensor produces a wide dynamic range and one of the best high-ISO renderings on any camera I have used.
  2. The high-quality Fujinon XF-mount lenses rival anything that I have used, including my Leica 35mm Summicron and 50mm Summilux lenses.
  3. The fast aperture of the XF lenses, down to f/1.2 on the XF56mm lens, provides plenty of control over depth-of-field.
  4. I don’t need a 36-megapixel image. The 16-megapixel, X-trans sensor is ideal for my work photography and also serves my personal photography well. I wouldn’t say no to a 24-megapixel sensor, as long as it doesn’t increase noise.
  5. The X-cameras are a great balance of size, image quality, lens lineup and overall value. A balance that I don’t find with FF cameras.

This brings to mind the comment from someone holding a Sony A7 (which appears to be a lovely camera, BTW). He mentioned that the poor lens lineup for the X-cameras was why he wasn’t shooting with them. Unless one shoots with an adapter and legacy lenses on the Sony, I believe that statement would more correctly be made about the A7. The current lens lineup of XF lenses covers nearly every situation that I shoot. Once I have the XF50-140mm f/2.8 in hand, I know that all of my work needs will be covered. So, I’ll attribute that person’s comments to needing to bark loud enough to be heard above the happy babble of X-shooters.

AF points

I was asked if I rely upon the centre AF point and recompose when I shoot or whether I move the AF point to the area in the scene where I want to focus. The answer is mostly the former, but I do also use the latter technique where it makes sense. The reason it’s important to know when it makes sense to move the AF point or to centre focus and recompose has to do with shifting your focal plane.

When I am shooting events, which is much like street photography, I use the centre-point focus technique and recompose. This means that I am shifting the focal plane, but I don’t believe that it is making enough of a difference at the subject to camera distance to warrant not doing it and it is way faster than moving the AF point to the desired point of focus. Even shooting wide open, where the area in focus will be quite shallow, I am usually far enough away from my subject that the minor move in recomposing doesn’t affect focus noticeably.

When I am shooting portraits, long exposure, architecture or anything that requires that my camera’s focal plane remains constant to the subject plane, I move the AF point to the desired point of focus. So, like most techniques, use the one that best suits your situation and recognize that you will need to implement different techniques in different situations.

XF56mm f/1.2 v. XF60 f/2.4

I have owned and/or used every Fujinon XF prime lens except for the XF27mm pancake lens. I recently purchased the XF56mm lens and sold my XF60. I was asked by one participant why I made the switch and how they were different.

I have used the XF60 since it first came out. It has been my portrait lens for all of the studio work that I do and my long lens option for most event photography. The XF56 will effectively fill the same role. I have loved using the 60 and recommend it. I made the switch to the 56 because of the extra light gathering capabilities, which will be most helpful when shooting events and less so for portraits. For portraits, it is rare that I shoot wide open. It is more likely I will shoot a portrait at f/2.8 to f/4.0. For events, being able to shoot at f/1.2, 1.4, 1.8, and 2.0, will be very useful and with the subject to camera distances involved, the DOF won’t be as minuscule as when shooting a portrait. I may miss the XF60 for close-up work, but I really couldn’t justify keeping it for just that.

XF18mm f/2.0 lens

This is a lens that has received mixed reviews from a few sources for reasons I have never understood. I was reminded of this when I was chatting to someone at the event about the new XF23mm f/1.4 lens. He was complaining about the lack of a scale in the OVF/EVF on the X-Pro 1 with that lens. I suggested that he consider the XF18mm lens instead. As Kale Freisen says, it’s one of our goto lenses. I would guess that I shoot half of my jobs with the 18mm lens on one body and the 35mm lens on a second body. It is incredibly versatile and very, very good for shooting in tight spaces and on the street. Given that it is not as sexy as the new 23mm f/1.4 lens, I don’t think many people are considering buying the 18. If you like a 28mm angle of view, don’t hesitate. This is a really great lens at a very good price right now.

Best advice for anybody

It was really enjoyable meeting people, some of whom actually have read this blog, and answering questions and talking to them about what they shoot. Here is the one piece of advise that I think will serve everyone well, no matter what camera you use: learn how to use all of the controls on your camera so that you will be able to get the results you want under all circumstances. There is only one way to do this; spend time making photos with your camera of choice. Look at other people’s work and try to replicate what they are creating. I continue to do this every day.

I can only hope that I figure this photography thing out one day!

Photos shot with Fujifilm X-T1 and XF35mm f/1.4 lens and the X100s.

 

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