Fuji X100s

Fuji 55-210 3.5-4.8 OIS is a BIG SURPRISE!

I have been doing some Fuji bashing lately, well deserved bashing might I add, but I thought I would take a break from flogging the Fuji horse and talk about something positive with the Fuji X system.  I am talking about the Fuji 55-210 3.5-4.8 R LM OIS!

We all know I have a huge issue with the claims that the new Fuji XT1 is a DSLR killer, which it is not by they way, but I digress.  I was in Houston Camera Exchange about 3 weeks ago and was looking to buy something.  Didn’t really care what, just knew I wanted to buy something, anything!  After looking around I spotted a few used Fuji X lenses and I asked mi amigo Craig what he had on the shelf and low and behold a used 55-210!  I asked how much.  He gave a price.  I scoffed and said, here is what I can pay today, and he said OK!  My mission was accomplished.  Plus I didn’t think I’d get hurt too bad at an out the door price of $350.00.

With my Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II long since sold I was concerned that when shooting weddings I did not have a lens that would be long enough to accommodate the Catholics.  We fellow wedding photographer know how the Catholics love to put us photographers way in the back, turn out all the lights and say NO FLASH!  With the lens costing a just $350.00, I figured it was a low enough price to take a calculated risk. An added bonus is the crop factor is 1.5x which make this a seriously long reaching lens.  I must say I did feel more comfortable and confident knowing I had this lens in my bag.  And now I could shoot a wedding without ticking off the Catholics LOL!  So now my thoughts:

I was on my way to shoot a wedding at the end of March with my newest lens (yes latest firmware installed) and had my XT1, X Pro-1, XE-2 and X100s in my bag.  The XE-2 held the 18-55 and the XT1 was adorned with my new’/used 55-210.  Right away I noticed how smooth everything was on the lens.  The autofocus was pert-near silent and actually pretty responsive.  Now keep in mind, I was shooting in the prefect sun-setting, beautiful light.  The zoom function was buttery smooth and the feel of this lens on the XT1 was substantial, in a good way.  Everything felt solid and well balanced.  Oh yea, you must use the new grip for the XT1 to get that balanced feel.  All in all the lens felt good, no, felt great in my hands.  But what about performance?

I must admit I had little to no expectations as to the image quality of this lens, after all it’s a “kit lens” and what pro would ever dream of using one of those things?  As I snapped the first few test shots before the bride strolled down the isle I noticed the images on the back of the camera where sharp, I mean fixed lens sharp.  The colors and contrast were what you would expect from the Fuji XF lenses.  To be honest I was stunned with what I was seeing and crossed my fingers that the quality would be the same on my iMac.  And so far so good!


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Fuji XT1 with 55-210 3.5-4.8 OIS.


 

As you can see from the .jpeg images above (Lightroom did not have a RAW plugin yet) not bad.  Not bad for a “kit lens and most of all not bad for $350.00!  I will freely admit that I was spoiled by the Fuji 35mm 1.4 on my X Pro-1. That combo just may be the greatest lens/camera combo to date.  Take that Leica lovers!  All kidding aside, the image quality was not only more than acceptable it was down right fantastic!  Will I use this lens more?  I already have. in fact I use it at every event I shoot now.  Understanding this lens is slow and therefore you will not do as well in low light, even with a superb OIS lens stabilization, but for what it is and for the price point, even new, this lens is a steal!  If you are trying to decide what to add to your bad I implore you to take a long and lustful look at the surprise Fuji 55-210 3.5-4.8 OIS.  You will be glad you did!

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Glaring Fuji XT1 failures!

FUJI XT1/XE2 YOU ARE A FAILURE FOR THE WORKING PRO!

As I continue to use the Fuji XT1 in the real world of professional event photography, the more I see Fuji’s failures. I am not calling them shortcomings because they are not things I can see Fuji fixing with a firmware update.  Here is a breakdown of where the Fuji XT1 fails:

LOW LIGHT:  No I am not talking about low light sensor performance.  I am talking about low light AF, or the lack thereof.  I have shot 2 weddings since I purchased my XT1 mid March, and I can say without hesitation I miss the optical VF (OVF).  Where the X100s and X Pro-1 excel in this area the XT1 fails.  One example was the wedding I shot on the 30th of March.  During the daylight part of the wedding, where the light was sunset light, the Fuji XT1, XE2 and X100s performed like magic!  It is when I got into the reception room that the failures of the XT1 and XE2 became apparent.

In the dimly lit reception area it was impossible to actually “see” the subject through the EVF of the XT1 or XE2.  Meaning It was so dark (looking through the EVF) that I could not see where to focus.  I couldn’t see anything and evidently the AF on the XT1 was just as blind.  I tried the XE2 and it seemed to fair a tiny bit better.  I ended up having to switch to the X Pro-1 and the OVF to know where to place the AF focus point.  Even the slow AF on the X Pro-1 was blazing fast compared to the XT1 and it’s poor quality EVF.  I cannot begin to explain how disappointed I was in the low light performance of this camera.  This is something the “Fuji Guys” do not tell you.  In decent light this camera’s AF is good to very good but IF YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY SEE WHAT YOU ARE FOCUSING ON then do NOT use this camera in dimly lit rooms.  Epic failure Fuji!

FLASH….AGAIN:  I will continue to beat this dead horse until Fuji fixes this glaring and massive failure in their X system cameras!  The fact that you cannot integrate any sort of off camera TTL flash capability is becoming frustrating to the point where I am actually getting angry.  I am actually getting angry as I type this section.  You can tell because I am pounding the crap out of the keys on my keyboard!

Fuji has the brain-power to address this issue.  I know they can because they did so with the S5 Pro series of cameras.  I am forced to use Pocket Wizards with my Quantum Qflash T5D-R on light stands.  But if you know anything about shooting weddings you know you are constantly on the move and having the ability to put a flash on a bracket and actually have it work would be a Godsend!  Fuji fails again and again and again in this area.

The irony is that the tiny little fill flash that comes with the XT1 works great….AS A FILL FLASH!   Put the Fuji EF-X20 on the XT1 and it fails!  The EF-X20 works great on the X Pro-1 but fails on the XT1, go figure!  The EF-42 works some of the time but every 3rd shot the flash does not fire, and yes it was charged and ready to go.  And to piss me off even more you cannot take the EF-42 off camera nor hook up an external battery to increase recycle times.  I regret selling all my Canon gear to move to Fuji.  There I said it!

CONCLUSION:  Yes, as of this posting I officially regret selling my Canon gear and frankly I do not see true working pros moving over to Fuji.  I know the XT1 was never meant to be a DSLR killer, but come on Fuji you could have at least wounded them!  Take what I write with a grain of salt.  I am coming from the point of view of a full time, working, professional photographer who’s living depends on my ability to capture those rare and fleeting moment at weddings, and to be blunt Fuji is costing me.  My opinion may change but not until Fuji fixes the glaring failures I have listed.  Ok I am off to B&H to order a Nikon D800 with 24-70 and a couple of flashes.  Thanks Fuji!

First wedding with the Fuji-XT1

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Fuji X100s at 3200 ISO 1/60 with built in fill flash


 

I shot my very first wedding with 100% Fuji X gear and here are my thoughts:

I brought my Fuji X100s, XT1 and XE2 and my X Pro-1 as a back up, to shoot a wedding which was indoors at the Majestic Metro in downtown Houston, TX.  The lighting was complicated to say the least.  Every color known to mankind was there, I am not kidding.  It was dimly lit and white balance was next to impossible.  I was forced to leave the cameras set on AWB, which faired pretty well I might add.  There was one glaring FAILURE with the Fuji’s that night….FLASH!

THE BAD:  If Fuji is hoping to compete with the DSLR world and wants to be considered a viable option to working pro’s like me they must address their off camera flash failure.  A tiny on camera flash will simply not cut it.  I tried everything to get my Fuji EF-42 to do it’s thing, which it did but at stunningly slow recycle times. Please keep in mind I am accustomed to shooting with a Qflash Trio with a Quantum Turbo battery and less than 1 second recycle times.  With that said the Fuji flash was almost useless as a on camera flash.  You cannot shoot fast of a bride walking down the isle with the Fuji flash system, you just can’t!  I ended up setting up 2 Quantum T5DR flashes, bare bulb, in the corners with did help.  Fuji off camera flash is a failure, period!

THE AVERAGE: The XT1 performed well, but not any better than the XE2.  The auto focus seemed the same and neither performed well all in low light.  In fact none of the Fuji’s autofocus performed well in low light.  To be fair by 5D II was not all that and a bag of chips when it came to low light AF, so there’s that.  The X100s actually performed the best of all the camera.  The AF was average but at least accurate and the lens/ISO combo and 5000 actually looked very good, especially in B&W.  One HUGE weak point was that Adobe Lightroom as of this post, does not support Fuji XT1 RAF files, so I was forced to shoot in JPEG which I prefer not to do at weddings.  The XT-1 JPEG files made the skin very “plastic looking” and odd to say the least.  I did not rate that as “bad” because PS CC Camera RAW does support the files and Lightroom will soon follow.  This caused me to use the XE2 a lot more.

Another really noticeable thing about the XT1 is that without the grip (VG-XT1) the camera is very out of balance with the 18-55 or the 60 2.4.  It was OK with the 35 1.4 and better with the 14 2.8.  The fact that Fuji did not release the grips at the time of the camera release is a head scratcher but luckily my grip arrived form B&H today, just in time for my wedding Sunday the 30th.  I will post a follow up to this section afterwards.

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Fiji X100s at 3200 ISO f2.2 @ 1/60th AWB


 

THE GOOD:  Ok now the good to really good points to that night.  Low light shooting at 3200 to 500 ISO was stunning!  I was able to really work the reception room well with the 35 1.4 and got pretty much noiseless, tack sharp shots consistently at 3200 ISO.  I set my camera to auto ISO at 3200 with min shutter speed of 1/60.  Not because I am shaky but because at a wedding rarely are people still.

The colors were, well, Fuji!  I got great color and of course stunning B&W.  It is here that I feel the Fuji X system really separates itself from all others, including Leica.  There is something flat out amazing about the Fuji X B&W photos!.  The other really good thing was the weight.  Ahhhhhhh no more Canon back pain after a long wedding shoot!  The lightweight and ergo friendly cameras made it a joy to shoot the wedding and with the new grip added to the XT1 things will only get better!

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Fuji X100s @ 5000 ISO f 2.0


 

CONCLUSION:  Do I regret selling all of my Canon gear to go 100% Fuji?  At times I guess, but I truly believe it will get better as I learn the nuances of the Fuji System.  If Fuji address their glaring failure in regard to wireless TTL off camera flash issues, then I will say without hesitation NO, I do not miss Canon.  Fuji has something special here but for a working pro there is a lot of room for improvement and I feel confident Fuji will listen to pro’s and make the changes, and soon!


 

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Fuji XE-2 ISO 400, f4.5 1/100 35mm 1.4 XF

Fuji XT1, my first impressions!

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When you are stricken with the incurable disease that is photography you find yourself on a mission to own the perfect camera.  I have owned everything from Leica M and R’s to Hasselblad 50o CM and everything in-between.  But with digital the world is upside down and sideways and it seems as if you are standing on the shifting sands of rapid changing technology, which can be both good and frustrating.  Then sort of out of nowhere (remember their S5 Pro) comes Fuji and their cute little “X” systems cameras, (as if my lust for the holy grail of cameras needed to have the their embers stoked) first the X100 and now the newest creation the XT1!

My first impressions are admittedly biased, but they are honest nonetheless.  I will give you my straight up view of the Fuji XT1 as I see it:

BUILD QUALITY:  As soon as I unboxed the camera and picked it up the differences were immediate and pronounced.  The hand feel is solid, as in rock solid.  The texture is reassuring without being obnoxious.  The buttons move with in a solid, reassuring way.  The dials are just firm enough to make accidental adjustments a thing of the past.  Am I right you XE-1 users!  Can I get a Amen!  But one awesome feature are the dials themselves and what they control and how brilliantly laid out they are.  No more riffling through confusing menus to change the ISO or shutter speed.  Nikon DF tried the retro dial thing but failed in their execution, whereas Fuji XT1 succeeded.  For me I will need the grip ASAP because the camera is still small.  I would dare to say X Pro-1 size.  And for adding a second battery to insure longer shooting before battery changes.  Speaking of the battery.  It is the same as the X Pro1 and the XE-2, which is great.  In addition the battery has it’s own compartment and so does the SD card slot, FINALLY!

The dial, doors, hatches, portholes and every other orifice is weather sealed.  Not water proof but sealed enough so the next time I am shooting a wedding at the Texas Renaissance Festival and it decides to rain as if we are in the Costa Rican rain forest I will not fret as much.  In order to truly take advantage of this weather sealing you need the lenses to be the same, which as of now, are nonexistent.  With that said great job on the build quality.  The first real, “DSLR like” body from Fuji in the X mount system and hope this is a trend from Fuji.

VIEWFINDER:  This is going to be a super short review of the viewfinder.  Think IMAX when looking through this viewfinder.  It is brilliant, responsive and most of all 100% coverage and color accurate.  I crave a WYSIWYG viewfinder, hence my love for the Canon 1V HS.  Told ya it would be short 🙂

IMAGE QUALITY:  Boy, am I spoiled!  I have the X Pro-1, X100s, XE-2 and now the XT1 and to be honest they all produce the same stunning, detail rich, sharp images day in and day out.  Fuji XT1 did not deviate far from the sensor and processor that is in the XE-2, and nor should they.  The control you have over the images in camera is perfect and the JPEG’s are as good of a JPEG can get out of camera.  White balance is very good and of course the B&W are, as usual, simply stunning.  Never mind the crazy good, and I mean CRAZY good low light performance.  Fuji done got this one right!

AUTO FOCUS:  The thorn in the side of Fuji X system has been their auto focus.  The X Pro-‘s auto focus on day one was miserable.  Now, it’s not bad at all.  I am a wedding photographer I must have fast, accurate auto focus and so far I can say the XT1 delivers.  The XE-2 is pretty darn good but I needed better than good.  I needed really good and a really good focus tracking system.  Hey, the Canon 5D II aint no track star in the auto focusing department.  I missed as many or more shots with the crappy 5DII AF system than I care to admit.  But, that’s all there was in Canon until the 5DIII, which I REFUSE to pay $3499.00 for!  Arrrgg, the arrogance of Canon!!!!

Anyway, back on topic.  The XT1 auto focus is snappy and seems to be spot on accurate.  I need to do more low light testing to see how it truly performs.  If the single shot and focus tracking performs the way I think it will I might be able to finally dump all my Canon gear for good!   I do wish Fuji would add two thing to their focusing, one is multiple point focusing.  Not like a zillion focusing points but 9 to 12 would be perfect.  I would love to see Fuji change the color of their focus peak highlights to red like in the Sony A7 and A7r.

FLASH:  This is the one glaring failure in the Fuji X system.  I say failure because I use flash and for me the ability to take flash off camera is paramount and down right mandatory.  Yea, yea, yea I know you can use Pocket Wizards with strobes.  What I mean is the ability to take my EFX-20 and EFX-42 off camera and retain TTL functionality.  Or at the very least be able to adjust flash output off camera wirelessly.  EVERYONE else does this why can’t Fuji?  This is a big deal to me because I (and many other pro’s) invested heavily into the Quantum Qlash system.  When I use my Canon there is no problem.  But with the Fuji, this is a big problem.  If Fuji is going to delve into the pro market I feel they need to address this glaring weakness.  The lack of ability to use any Fuji flash off camera is very limiting and almost debilitating.  The nice surprise is the little flash that comes with the camera.  It is rather nice and is powered off your camera batter so no need to carry extra batteries for the flash!

VIDEO:  I do not do video and neither should you 😉

In conclusion, the Fuji XT1 is exactly what I was hoping it would be, well almost.  The lack of off camera flash issue is the cactus in my Speedo.  However I am willing to deal with that glaring deficiency to get a light weight, fast, well built and beautiful image producing work of art.  The Fuji XT1 is the only camera where I declared prior to its release that regardless of my situation I am buying one the day they are available in Houston.  If you are debating on if it is worth it $1,299.99 price tag.  In one word; oh hell yes!  This is the Fuji that has been needed for a while.  The XT1 is a real working photographers camera.  Yes, it will piss off the hipsters because it’s not “ironic” and “retro” but who cares.  Plus pissing of hipsters is FUN!

Thanks to Craig at Houston Camera Exchange looking out for me and putting one aside until I could get their to pick it up, big man hug to you Craig!