Working with the Fujifilm X-series cameras and flash
Funny thing about expectations, time can really change how you view things. I have worked with the XPro2 for a year and the XT2 nearly that long, and with the EF-X500 flash for the past few months. This equipment works so well now and is so transparent, I have to remind myself what a change this is from working with the first-generation X100 and the XPro1.
The combination of the two second-generation camera bodies with the excellent lens selection has made my work photography, if not without any cares, at least predictable and very satisfying. In other words, my expectations have changed a lot since 2012. The first-generation Fujifilm X-cameras were a welcome departure from the same-same world of shooting with Nikon/Canon DSLRs. They weren’t without there quirks, but they were workable and the results were fantastic. Yet, they didn’t always work as well as I would have liked.
With the release of the second-generation flagship bodies, Fujifilm has met most and exceeded some of my expectations for both work and pleasure photography (OK. I admit, there is some GFX lust too. More on that in another post). The ever-expanding lens lineup and the recent introduction of the EF-X500 flash has really consolidated the X-series. So, it would seem that all is right with the world. Is there nothing to improve upon? Well actually…
My happiness at having reliable, fast cameras, sharp glass and a TTL pro-quality flash hasn’t completely blinded me to the fact that there are some issues that Fujifilm can address.
I’ll start with the two bodies that I currently own, the XPro2 and the XT2. I love shooting with the XPro2. To me this is the perfect camera. There are also many things to love about the XT2, particularly for work. It is one fast, robust and versatile camera. Add the battery grip and it handles every type of photography that I can throw at it. The XPro2 is the equivalent to my beautiful road bike, lovely to look at and to use. The XT2 is more like my do-everything city bike. Perhaps way more practical for many things, but it doesn’t quite make my heart sing, like it’s sexier sibling.
Given the advancements in both cameras, there is little that needs changing. However, I do wish that they worked more similarly. There are three things in particular that I wish Fujifilm would update, so that the XPro2 and XT2 worked the same: tethered shooting, shutter speed rear dial adjustment control and back button focus in all focus modes.
Currently, only the XT cameras support tethered shooting. The upcoming GFX will too. But why not make this possible with the XPro2?
Conversely, the XPro2 has a feature that the XT2 could use. On the XPro2, you can turn off the shutter speed adjustment with the rear command dial. Not just switch it from back to front dial, but entirely turn it off. Not so with the XT2. I have this function turned off on the XPro2, so I don’t think about it until I am also shooting with the XT2 and I have the shutter speed set to a particular speed, such as 1/125. The next time I scoop the camera to take another shot, the shutter speed is now 1/80. No! That’s not what I want. Argh, I am constantly fixing the shutter speed, when all I want is to have stay at 1/125. I recently switched this control to the front command dial, but what I really want is be able to turn off the adjustment all together.
Lastly, Fujifilm added a welcome feature to the XT2 in a recent firmware update. We now have the option to disassociate focus entirely from the shutter release, no matter which focus mode the camera is using. Now, if I’m in continuous or single AF mode, I use the AF-L (or whatever button you want to assign the task) to achieve focus and trigger the shutter with the release. Unfortunately, when I pick up the XPro2, I only have this option in the manual focus mode. I just want the two cameras to behave as closely as possible in the same way, so that I don’t have to change how I shoot, depending upon which camera I pick up. Is this too much to ask?
I really have little to quibble about with the excellent lineup of Fujinon XF lenses. Well, I do wish I could afford to own more of them, but I have a really workable group of lenses. I recently acquired the fantastic XF23mm f/2.0 (Fujicron) lens, which fronts my second XPro2 body. A pairing that accompanies me wherever I go. I have also used the XF23mm f/2.0 lens for theatre work, to great effect. It is truly fantastic. For work, I rely upon the XF16-55mm f/2.8 and XF50-140mm f/2.8 lenses. I nearly always carry the XF14mm f/2.8 and the 1.4 teleconverter for the 50-140. This is a really workable combination that doesn’t take up a lot of room and covers an impressive focal range. Of this group, the XF50-140 is my favourite lens. It is just stellar. I still struggle with the XF16-55 lens, but rely upon it heavily for much of my work photography and some personal shooting. The XF35mm f/1.4 (still a favourite), XF18mm f/2.0 (great on the street) and the XF56mm f/1.2 lenses round out the collection. I shoot all portraits with the XF56mm. In the studio and out, this is an amazing lens.
Since the release of the original X100 and XPro1, the system has lacked a pro-quality TTL flash. Until this past Fall, I made due with my Nikon SB800s and a SB900, for on-camera flash photography. These solutions worked well enough to produce good work. Yet, it was only a stop-gap solution.
The release of the EF-X500 flash was welcome news. I have been using it for a several months and increasingly so in the past weeks. I am learning more about the flash with each job. Average camera exposure metering tends to be fooled less by extreme light or dark colours or clothing in a scene and this results in more consistent flash exposures.
I have used the flash off-camera, in manual mode with my Nikon flash cable, to shoot on-the-fly portraits. I’m waiting delivery of a Canon compatible TTL flash cable, which seems to work with the EF-X500. I will report more, once I have used it.
Finally, I am also learning the limits of how much the flash can work until it shuts down due to overheating. Something that happened to me at an event the other night. Fortunately, I had a spare SB800 to throw on the XT2. I also picked up the extra battery pack when I bought the EF-X500, which cuts recycle time in half.
What is next is a period of contented shooting with a very complete and professional camera system that will meet most people’s expectations. I would like to see firmware updates to both the XPro2 and XT2 to fix the problems mentioned above. I would always love to have more great lenses, but things look pretty good on that front. I am still coming to grips with the new flash. I do wish it could shoot longer without overheating. Hopefully, I can adjust how I shoot to minimize the issue and, perhaps, there is a way for Fujifilm to address it as well.
Now, back to work. There are many more events to photograph before May!
All images captured by either the Fujifilm XT2 or XPro2, fronted by Fujinon XF lenses. A few were lit with an EF-X500 flash.