Fuji XT-1

Fuji XT-1, is it as good as the D800?

In order to fill the void between wedding shoots I offer actor head shots and am learning the art of food photography.  While learning the latter I noticed something interesting.  I notice there are glaring differences between the Fuji XT-1 and Nikon D800.  The first difference that jumps out at you are the colors.  One is not better than the other but the differences are eye-popping and very noticeable.  The second and equally as noticeable difference is the sharpness and resolution with the clear winner being the…

When it comes to gear I hear all the time that: “the camera is just a tool”.  While that much is true I would like to point out that you would not use a roll of paper towels to hammer a nail now would you?  A ridiculous example I know but back to my point.  Yes, the camera is just a tool and each tool serves its purpose and the Fuji XT-1 is no different.  I am a huge Fuji X fan, I mean HUGE fan of these cameras.  I use the X-Pro1, XE-2 and the XT-1 and by use I mean this is what I carry to shoot 100% of my weddings!  The reasons why I shoot the Fuji X series for wedding are many, and I’ll list some (but not all) of them for you:

  1.  Light weight
  2.  Amazing low light shooters
  3.  Great skin tones
  4.  Stunning B&W images
  5.  Amazing fast lenses with my favorite being the; 56mm 1.2, 23mm 1.4 and 35mm 1.4

When it comes to flash photography the Fuji’s do just OK, but wireless manual flash using my Pocket Wizard in tandem with my Quantum T5-dr’s are as good as anything else compared to any other camera.  Because the Fuji X system cameras are such amazing low light shooters I find myself using less and less flash.  With that said there are some limitations to these cameras the caused me to pick up a Nikon D800 and I’ll get into these reasons now.

Back to my opening statement.  The D800 is not only a great camera but it nicely fills the void left by the Fuji’s.  What void you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.  First off the D800’s auto focus is, well, better.  As in, no comparison, even with the newest firmware update on the XT-1.  Yea, yea, yea, I know that XT-1 is not designed to compete directly with the pro end DSLR’s, but I am a pro and I am going to talk about this anyway because using the right tool for the job matters!  The other area of difference is the resolution.  At 36 megapixels the D800 captured more detail, period!  Where I noticed this was when I was shooting food and this is where detail is critical and the D800 did not disappoint.  When severe cropping is needed he D800 retains all of the detail, even at a 100% crop which makes the Nikon D800 is the clear winner.  The sharpness, colors and full frame-ness of the D800 really shines in this and other areas of photography.

Where Fuji has the advantage is in the area of mobility and stunning black and white photography.  For all of my street photography the only thing I will use is my Fuji X-Pro1 and 35mm 1.4 & 23 1.4.  I adore the Fuji as a travel camera.  In fact that’s all I ever take with me when traveling.  I am headed back home to New Orleans in August and my XE-2 and X-Pro 1 will be with me for sure.  They are do wedding dresses better than anything else I’ve used.  They are almost noiseless up to 3200 ISO.  They are silent, discreet and most of all my back is not killing me at the end of a 12 hour wedding.  The auto focus is much improved and the lenses, well those lenses are simply put, YUMMY!

So, is the camera “just a tool”? In short, yes. The right tool for the right job in the hands of the right person matters more in my humble opinion.  When you need the most in the way of detail, sharpness, resolution and cropping the clear winner is the Nikon D800. But when you want B&W photos and for shooting brides the Fuji wins.  So is there room for both a DSLR and a Fuji X camera in you bag?  Yes, there is plenty of room for both and the amazing thing about living in “Merica is that you can have both!

JamBall1-WIG

Above D800 100% crop

JamBalls2-W

Above XT-1 10% crop with 18-55 2.8-4.0 R

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Above Fuji XT-1 with 56mm 1.2

PastryD800-W

Above D800 no crop

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