1 year on with the Fuji XT-1 and a myriad of other FujiFilm gear.
Honestly, I pondered this post today, started collating some of my favourite photos, and then realised that today is my 1 year anniversary with the FujiFilm XT-1. Spooky?!
Nah. Just math.
Well, I must say, it has been a fantastic 12 months using Fuji's X-series 100%. I have traveled a fair bit of the world with my kit and put it through a heck of a lot of varied circumstances. On the streets, through weddings, in the sweat of live music, the pace of MMA, and through various nations, it's been a fantastic journey developing as a photographer, and as a person, refining my creative path through the medium. Not only that, but my hipster factor has grown exponentially with the XT-1's retro dials, coupled with my hair.
What started with just the XT-1 and XF56 (added to my X100s, which I later parted with for an XT-10) soon grew. At year's end my Fuji kit contains an XT-1 & XT-10, Xf16, XF27, XF35F2, XF56, XF90, and the underrated XC 50-230, along with my Instax printer for sharing the love. With various combinations of this gear I explored regions of my home country Australia like never before, shot weddings in Ireland and Vietnam, and most importantly, met so many incredible new people and took part in many great stories.
This post is my first retrospective and quite significant to me personally. I'm not going to say how long I've been shooting for but it's not that long. Happy for you to have a guess!
More importantly, I just want to send a massive thanks to all you curious folk out there. It's been awesome hearing from so many of you over the 12 months and I hope I can help you more and more and perhaps even connect with you too! Enjoy!
Weddings across the world.
Sweating and thrashing through the pits of live music.
Exploring my home country like I never knew.
And exploring a few new ones too.
Got to meet and shoot a lot of lovely people.
Trained and shot alongside some of the best.
And sometimes just watched life go by.
It's a lovely Wednesday morning here in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam, as I write this post buzzing on iced Vietnamese style coffee - the juice of the Gods! My wife and I have arrived to shoot a very special wedding in a few days time and it's an honour to be involved.
About 10 hours before leaving Melbourne, Australia I picked up a little something that I'd been eyeing off for some weeks, the newish Fujifilm XF35 F2. As always, I saw the good folks at DigiDirect in the city and they hooked me up with the best price around, just as they've done with my entire Fuji kit. They were also super patient about me trying the original XF35 F1.4 back to back against the new F2 version, and although the F1.4 certainly has its merits, the F2 won out in a few key areas, which I'll discuss soon.
I'll be straight up. The photos in this post aren't intended to be about photographic prowess nor highly technical breakdowns of the XF35's features, construction, and all that camera nerd stuff. I get enough of that in the world of high end guitars, so cameras are a safe haven for me where I can focus more on creativity rather than technicality. Enough coffee induced rambling.
For a little challenge on my first day shooting the XF35, I decided to go with a bit of street style approach by firing from the hip and seeing how well the lens could keep up in the Auto Focus (AF) on Saigon's busy and beautiful streets. I must say, I am damned impressed by this tiny high performance lens.
Onto some stuff about the lens (I suppose). Something that is immediately clear about this lens is just how responsive the AF is. If you've ever been to Vietnam I'm sure you can understand that you need to keep moving in the busy streets, particularly in high traffic areas, which when trying to capture sharp and in focus pictures is not a great combination since your field of focus changes so quickly through movement.
The XF35 is quick, and I mean quick. It's the kind of speedy and accurate responsiveness that makes this such a different beast to many other Fuji lenses, particularly its predecessor, the XF35 1.4. Not only is it dead quiet and has no feel of movement from its internals, the XF35 F2 does not hunt!
In the past with some Fuji gear the AF has left me frustrated due to a missed shot or slightly lagging response time. This little piece of gear absolutely slays its siblings. My time at DigiDirect comparing the two 35's back to back quickly showed that although the 35 1.4 is still awesome and has that extra stop of light, it simply feels outdated in performance and feel when compare the the new 35 F2. When I compared them in continuous focusing with heavy back-light, the 1.4 didn't know what to do, and in single shot mode it had that slightly nagging back and forth hunt for a moment before acquiring focus. The 35 F2 displayed none of these features and made it very easy for me to make a decision on which one to take home, even though the original 35 had a $200 cashback on offer, making it around $100 cheaper than the new 35 F2.
A quick perusal of my snaps in Lightroom shows that most of my first day's snaps were taken between F2 and F4, so it's not as if the lens and camera have taken the easy path of narrow apertures, and thus, depths of field where focus is easier to acquire. So, keeping in mind that I was not holding the camera up to my eye and stopping for creative and stable framing, I think the XF35 F2 has really shown how much it's the new generation of what Fuji has to offer in terms of high performance gear.
So what about sharpness? Bokeh? Weather sealing? Well, it's the first day. I've got a wedding here to shoot that I'm sure will feature heavy use of the XF35 F2 and its brothers, but so far, for its size and performance, this is possibly Fuji's best XF lens to date. I cannot wait to see how this thing performs the new bodies rumoured for 2016, like the X-E2s or X-PRO2.
Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia. It's a truly remarkable part of the state, and what's great is it's readily accessible for inner-city folk like myself at only 1 hour's drive away. At the spark of inspiration, my wife and I took off on a drive out there one Sunday for a good bit of fresh air and stunning, natural Australiana.
As you'd expect for this time of year the weather was a somewhat warm 30 degrees celsius, however many areas of the reserve were very refreshing due to different wind tunnels and the natural chill of many of the large shadowy rocks.
For this outing I wanted to keep it simple, light-weight and tack sharp.
Can you guess what I took?
As you may have guessed by the title of the post, I packed the XF16 1.4 and my XT-10. Two extremely powerful pieces of gear that are light-weight, responsive, and can wrestle (and win!) with the big boys. They're also incredibly robust, based on my awful experience of dropping the XF16 from waist height onto concrete some months ago. Watching it bounce several times made my heart skip a beat. Literally.
The temptation to shoot at wide apertures with this lens is always there, but with so much detail going on at Hanging Rock, I chose to shoot just about all these images between F8 and F11. I'm sure you can pick the few that are shot nice and shallow at F1.4 though.
There's really not much I can say about this combo that I've not said or shown before. Every time I pull an image off from this combo I'm just amazed at how much detail there is in the RAF files. Being able to pull shadow details from the way I expose images leaves my Canon rig for dead. I must also add for fellow Fuji X users regarding sharpening with Lightroom. Don't go beyond ~80 the amount of Sharpening and start with Masking at 100 and pull back from there. I like to sit mine around 70-90 depending on the style of photo. Trust me, it'll do your images justice.
Thanks for viewing!
As the weather starts to warm up down here in Australia (Yes, we do experience temperatures other than stinking bloody hot) and the season to be wed kicks off, I have been out getting my eye trained up for some moodier portraits, and further venturing down that road of posing models to achieve the results I'd truly like to see. I also recently had the pleasure of attending an incredible 2-day workshop here in Melbourne with David Talley Photography, Rob Woodcox, and Kiara Rose Photography, all of whom are incredibly inspiring people and artists whose level of achievements and business savvy for their ages is somewhat confronting and mind-blowing. Truly awesome young creatives!
The love for Fujifilm gear continues on for me and I am so inspired by the XF90 135mm equivalent lens that I purchased a few months ago. It's a focal length that just works for me and the quality of the product itself demonstrates how much Fuji is still evolving, leaving me to wonder what 2016 will mean with the X-Pro2 and potentially, the XT-2. Of course, photography isn't all about gear, but having an inspirational piece of equipment or gear certainly helps!
As I look to the summer months ahead I am eagerly looking forward to a very special wedding that my wife and I will be shooting in Vietnam over Christmas, as well as some other lovely couples here in Melbourne, Australia. With the long days of shooting and travels comes preparation in the gym and good eating, which will hopefully serve me well in the more rural areas of Vietnam and some of long wedding days ahead.
To those of you who read and view my posts, and keep my website traffic at some pretty inspiring levels, I thank you for your support and hope that I can continue to keep you returning in the months and years to come.
You may have seen my earlier post about my First Day Impressions of the Fujifilm XF90,
which details my Fuji fan-boi experience with the new kid on the block. One month on and a fair few more shooting experiences later, this lens has done nothing but impress and inspire me. At my favoured full-frame equivalent focal length of ~137mm, the XF90 fits me like a glove and allowed me to move completely away from my Canon system, which had always been a go to when I needed the sharp and speedy 135mm F2 L.
This past month with the XF90 saw me checking out temperate rain-forest waterfalls in Victoria's east, shooting in stunning Western Australian sunsets with my dear friend Dan at Matsu Photography, exploring the historical sites of federation era Australia, and shooting for Ormsby Guitars and the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival. On each and every varied occasion the XF90 never missed a beat and I have been left pondering how FujiFilm will outdo themselves next in their world of supreme, high quality consumer photography lenses.
There's something really frustrating about the XF90 - it leaves many of its brethren feeling somewhat inferior (emphasis on 'somewhat').
What Fuji have managed to achieve with this lens and its new quad-motor system is a lens that is incredibly responsive, accurate, and works extremely well in tough lighting conditions, such as low light and heavy back-lighting. I couldn't believe how well it focused on my mate Dan (below) during sunset, or at night as I often put it through its paces targeting objects near and far. As much as I love the XF56 1.2, after using the XF90 it feels somewhat slow and outdated and simply doesn't perform anyway near as well. Also, the XF90's bokeh trumps it by a long shot. Sorry, I know that F1.2 is still a hell of a feature and I'll continue to use mine, but the bokeh it produces simply isn't as smooth and rich.
Something sports and action photographers are going to love about the XF90 is how well it plays with continuous focusing mode, zone focusing and bursts, even at F2. It's smooth, accurate and damned responsive! Overall, a consistently high focus hit rate on par with what I was used to when using my Canon 7D/6D and the 135mm F2.
Did I mention that the XF90 is sharp?
Take a look at the 3 pictures above. I'm not normally a 'here's a 1:1 crop guy' but in this case I had to provide a quick screen grab at that ratio from my LR module (post grain added). I'll just leave you with those snaps to ponder.
If you're considering this lens be aware of how beneficial it is to have a ridiculously close minimum focusing distance on a lens of this focal length. I have loved utilizing the 60cm min. focusing distance so often and cannot wait to try it on some detailed wedding ring shots soon. If you like getting out and shooting a bit of wildlife like me, it's also particularly useful for some more intimate nature shots or flower snaps that provide a beautiful level of compression at this focal length.
I'll keep my conclusion simple. If you're a Fuji X-series user, buy this lens.
If you're on the fence about coming on board to the Fuji-side, get this lens and an XT-1 or XT-10 and be prepared to be blown away.
Spontaneity is incredibly underrated. And sometimes, simply saying 'yes' to an opportunity is the best way to go.
I'm sure many of us feel our work-life creep into our weekend-life, which invariably leaves us feeling unrested and often stifled by a job that we otherwise enjoy. The idea of driving 6 hours on your 2 days off a week is often too great of a sacrifice, and one that we don't see the true value in doing until we finally do it. That was my weekend. A short Saturday getaway with a good mate to Victoria, Australia's south west to the Great Ocean Road and down to the awe inspiring Twelve Apostles.
Our trip saw us travel to some pristine temperate rainforests in Otway, where the endangered black snail can be found, amongst rich, moist forest floors. This experience provided ideal circumstances for me to use my favourite FujiFilm gear to get up close and really craft an image that I wanted, first time, using the ever useful EVF of the XT-1. As we walked among the native blackwood and ash trees, some 25 floors up, I got to capture native flora that I never knew existed. In one small reserve the biodiversity was truly something to behold and had me appreciating, yet again, the beauty that exists in my own backyard.
As the sun began to set low in the afternoon sky, we made a last hour drive to the legendary Twelve Apostles and were fortunate enough to arrive just in time for sunset, with thankfully low numbers of other tourists to be found or hinder the experience. The sea salts rolled in through the air and I took that breath that many of us forget to take in this working life of ever-digital-connectedness. That investment of an afternoon and an evening was worth more than 2 weeks away in a tropical paradise, and it won't be the last.
Well not quite 2 weeks....
But there was a lot packed into those 11 days - a crazy big Irish wedding, amazing ancient sights and scenery, and a heck of a lot of good food, people, and beer. Oh yeah... and the XT-10 & XT-1 with the new Firmware 4.0 plus a few rather nice pieces of FujiFilm glass.
After many months of dreaming about this big trip and even bigger wedding in Ireland, the time finally came. The lead up to the trip and shooting said wedding was made even better with the arrival of the XT-10 and the new firmware 4.0 update that proved the XT-10 to be a formidable force in 'budget' mirrorless cameras, and breathed new life into the XT-1, even though it didn't really need it.
For this trip, my wife and I were primarily hired to shoot a wedding on the west coast of Ireland in the incredibly picturesque town of Dingle. Jaw-dropping would be an understatement. Of course, it would be a pity to not see more of a country than just one place and Ireland is a place of wonder and awe. We packed a rather nice bit of kit for this one, including the fresh and sharp Fujinon XF16 and XT-10.
So how about that XT-10?
Well, what can I say? It's a damn fine camera and a perfect match for the XT-1 for shooting weddings in a discrete and professional manner. I actually ended up using the XT-10 for most of the trip because of its compact size and to give it a fair run for its money. Did it impress me just like almost every Fuji product I've used before it? Absolutely!
For the wedding I shot with the XT-1 over my shoulder with the XF56 and had the XT-10 on a holster with the XF16. A light-weight combo that after 16 hours of shooting did not leave me sore, fatigued or in any state of pain. The only ailment was the tiredness that was to be expected from shooting a day that long! I also got to experience the true value of the SP-1 Instax printer and how integral it is for creating a truly memorable wedding photography service that leave clients overjoyed on their big day! Alas, I cannot share their photos just yet.
XT-10 or X100?
Something that's fairly obvious and should be considered by anyone buying into the Fujifilm X-series is the power in a small package with the XT-10. Shortly after the announcement of the XT-10, I did the usual level of research regarding its specs, size and reported performance, and well, it's almost the same size as the X100 series but does a heck of a lot more! So, I sold off my X100s and jumped on the XT-10 the day after it was available in Australia. I also made a point of picking up the XF27 so I had a very pocketable and discrete option for shooting streets and other settings. Do I miss the X100? Absolutely! Does the XT-10 rock! Yes! I will probably get back into the X100 game when they announce their next model. Until then, the equally discrete and lightweight XT-10 paired with the XT-1 will continue to suit my needs appropriately. More on the XT-10 down the page.
And what about the XF16? It's fair to say that it got a good work out, and yet again, the weather sealing was tested and passed wonderfully when paired with the XT-1. Irish summers aren't particularly summery at times, so long exposure shots with the XT-1 and XF16 on a tripod often meant it got rather wet. Well, quite wet. It really is a sensational combo and the close focusing ability of the XF16 (10cm) is rather useful in a country full of beautiful flowers and other majestic scenery.
Let's get to the burning question - XT-1 VS XT-10
At the time of purchasing the XT-10 there were great end of financial year sales going on and the lovely folks at DigiDirect offered me a killer deal on a second XT-1 rather than the XT-10 (think $100 price difference). Sure, it was tempting but I took the XT-10 instead. Why? As I said before, it's almost the same size as the X100 series (it's actually shorter) and when paired with the XF27 is only slightly deeper in size, which makes it 'pocketable' for me. I also liked some of the new features not present on the XT-1, most notably the full-auto switch that can be useful when handing over your camera to someone who doesn't know what to do, or when teaching a friend casually about composition or something similar. The buttons and dials also feel a bit firmer too, and the d-pad buttons are far more pronounced making it just a little better than the XT-1. Reality is, I simply didn't want a copy of another camera body that's going to sit in storage frequently. I wanted a different option when weather sealing wasn't required and when I wanted the tidiest and most discrete camera option.
The XT-10 performs just as well as the XT-1 on most fronts. Obviously it can't handle burst shooting anywhere near as good but I have found it to be adequate in JPEG only mode when shooting kids playing sports. I'll be honest in saying that I do miss the metering switch that sits atop the XT-1, since I do like to switch between 'average' and 'spot' metering a fair bit. Other than these points they're very similar cameras with enough subtle differences to warrant their individual existence and purpose.
Ireland is a truly magical country. Whether it's the rolling green hills and mountains, decaying ancient ruins along roadsides, or incredible calorie filled Irish breakfasts, it is always a welcoming and inspiring place. My wife and I can't thank the couple who made it all happen enough (wedding blog to come soon) and the wonderful people who took care of us, fed us, gave us beds to sleep in, and most importantly, took me to the pub. A truly hospitable and generous bunch! I can only hope it doesn't take us another life-time to get back there and explore it even further.
I recently spent an incredible weekend down in Tasmania, Australia (that's the little piece of Oz that's detached from the mainland at the bottom) with the brand spanking new Fujinon XF16 F1.4 R WR Lens, XF56 1.2 R, and my trusty XT-1. FujiFilm, you made my 30th birthday extremely memorable and blew my expectations for the XF16 out of the water, and those expectations were already very high.
As with my previous post, these are all in-cam JPEGs with Chrome simulation and my own tweaks.
Given how busy my life has been for some time now, as well as my wife's more than hectic schedule, I figured a weekend away in a part of Australia we've never been to was the best way to celebrate my 30 years on this wonderful planet. Little did I know that my dearest friend from the other side of Australia, Western Australia, was scheming to get the XF16 for me as a combined birthday gift with my family.
See why we're best mates?
After waking up in a Hobart hotel with my wife presenting me with the XF16 on a Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast from a hipster cafe and embarked on our drive to the awe inspiring Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair. The drive took a little longer than it should have though because there were simply too many places to stop at and shoot with this 24mm equivalent lens.
A common criticism of FujiFilm's X-cameras is the speed and accuracy of AF, which will hopefully be long gone once they drop the Firmware 4.0 update for the XT-1. So what's the XF16 like on an XT-1 with Firmware 3.0? ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS! It's focuses quickly, hits the mark with very high accuracy, and doesn't go on hunting trips! LOVE IT!
The XF16 paired with the XT-1 is my favourite combo to date, when considering how it balances on a body with no battery grip and the size and weight of the lens additionally. It just feels right and it has a rather attractive lens hood too. It also features the clutch focusing mechanism that is featured on several other Fujinon XF lenses, which is total gem for street shots fired from the hip. The XF16 was also my first Fujinon lens that has the Weather Resistance (WR) treatment, and believe me, I put the WR of the XF16 and XT-1 to the test though rain, hail, and unexpectedly, snow!
For most of time we spent in Tasmania it rained and snowed, which gave me an awesome opportunity to test the XT-1 and XF16 in some rather rough conditions and see if Fuji is worth their word on their weather sealing. Heck, I even used the XF56 in some less than stellar conditions. Needless to say, the whole kit held up perfectly and in the days I have been using it since, I have not had a single issue. *fingers crossed
I could ramble on about how good the lens is and attempt to get into highly technical language about why it's good, but I think enough has been said in pictures alone. FujiFilm is making the best 'affordable' professional glass out there. The XF16 is a sensational lens and I highly recommend even non Fuji owners get out there and try it out. My wallet is going to hate me though, because with the impeding release of the XF90 and the fact that it's going to be at least on par with the XF16 for IQ, I am going to have to buy it.
One last little snap with the XF16. We are going to be shooting this little man's mum and dad's wedding in Ireland in a few weeks! I think he's a bit excited.