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The death of professional photography

I am sure some of you who read this will take exception to what I am about to say, and well, ok then.  But for most of you my opinion will make sense.

I have been a professional wedding and portrait photographer for over 14 years.  And in that time I have seen many trends in photography.  From the use of caution tape to models posing with pit bulls.  All of that, as cliche as it was, were trends with relation to style and concept.  The trend that I am seeing now is far more troublesome to the professional photographer.  And that is the “dumbing down” of the client.

When digital came into it’s own the debate over the death of film raged.  I always held the opinion that film use would diminish but not disappear.  The same way that photography diminished the painter.  Instead I took the stance that with digital and the internet would be a vessel that would contain millions upon millions of images.  On the surface this seems like a great idea but in reality it is very dangerous to us professionals out there.  The “how” is simple really.  The internet viewer is bombarded with these images and 99% of which have no regard to quality.  From the duck-face photo of the hot chick on Facebook to the ever so classy “look at my ab’s in the gym mirror” photo.  All of which are taken with cell phone cameras with zero regards to quality.  This list could go on and one but I will spare you this time.

Now, here is where it gets a little more complex.  With each crap photograph piling upon the other crap photographs, the viewer, aka, bride to be, actor needing head shots, family wanting portraits and so on, are lead to believe what they are seeing is what is now considered a “quality” photograph.  The are being brain washed into accepting low quality crap images are the norm and sadly this has become the new standard.  Try as we professionals might, the dumbing down of the average viewer will have a permanent impact on those of us who make a living with out cameras.

The flood of digital images have forced most professional to lower their pricing to try to stave off the influx of so called”wanna-be”, Cragislist photographers.  These  part-time, weekend warriors are the ones that will do a whole wedding for $500.00.  My issue is not the GWC (guy with camera) trying to make a buck.  My issue is with the client.  The bride who has been so condition into believing that what she is seeing on Pintrest and Facebook is the norm.  She has become oblivious to the fact that she should to expect MORE in the way of quality from her photographer rather being forced to settle for low quality crap images.

Most clients have devalued true professional photography.  They are willing to settle for low quality images for the sake of savings.  The real issue is that the clients are right!  They know they can hey a GWC for $500.00 and be ok with just “ok images.  The super majority of photographers are not professionals, they are simply GWC’s and don’t care about quality or customer service.  And this is the core issue.  The clients are being duped into accepting low quality because that is all they have seen.  And to be frank, I do not see this trend changing.  So what can we do?  Nothing really.  We can keep buying the newest $3,500.00 digital cameras and hope for the best!

Fuji XT1, my first impressions!

XT1-1W XT1-2W

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!