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.