Nikon to Fujifilm
Sometime during the summer of 2016 I bought a Fuji camera – the Fujifilm X-T1 – and the 18-55mm lens. I had been shooting Nikon digital cameras since 2008, starting with the D300, which was a fabulous camera at the time. In time I upgraded to a D3s, a monster of a camera, very capable, and very heavy. Very heavy! I added more flashes, a bunch of lenses, a D7100, and was a fully fledged Nikon shooter.
All was great until the summer of 2015, when tennis elbow came along. It was so bad that I couldn’t shake hands with someone without wincing, and 12 hour weddings became agony every time I lifted 2kg of Nikon to my eye. The season finished, and I began to look around for something lighter.
Fujifilm had been making headlines since the introduction of the X-100 fixed lens camera back in 2011. I borrowed one from a friend not too long after it came out. The photos were beautiful – lovely colours, sharpness, tonality. But I wasn’t sure about the rangefinder style, the autofocus was slow, especially in low light, and the controls seemed fiddly. I gave it back glad to have tried but .. it wasn’t right for me. A lovely camera for working slowly, but in the high speed environment of a wedding I didn’t think it would be able to keep up. I kept an eye on Fuji as they introduced the x-pro1 and then the x-t1, which seemed to be a game changer. It got big thumbs up from people like Zack Arias and David Hobby. So I decided to try again, as my tennis elbow was driving me nuts!
My xt1 arrived and it was beautiful – small and light, dials for iso, shutter and exposure compensation. An aperture ring on the lens, where it should be. I tried shooting jpeg-only, but didn’t see much of an advantage over shooting raw, and I prefer to make decisions on b+w and colour balance when I’m editing rather than on the fly on the day. Lightroom has the Fuji film simulations installed, so it was easy to get back to the Fuji colours when processing the raw files. The internet raved about classic chrome, but I wasn’t mad about it, preferring Astia. It seems to work better under overcast Irish skies and pale Irish skin! So I use Astia in Lightroom, with colour and tone and so on set with my own special sauce.
I have always shot fully manual – ISO, shutter and aperture. I tired quickly of the ISO and shutter speed dials on top of the camera, and moved the shutter to the back command dial. Much easier to change from there, and eyeball the speed in the viewfinder. With the X-T1 you are stuck with the ISO dial on top of the camera, but the X-T2 allows you to assign it to the front command dial. Brilliant! ISO at my forefinger, shutter at my thumb and aperture in my left hand, right where I cradle the lens.
The evf (electronic viewfinder) is a revelation. The light weight has cured my tennis elbow (yay!), but the evf is the hook that keeps me going back to Fuji. Why? Because you see the exposure change as you dial in changes. I stopped looking at the exposure meter in the camera because I could see the correct exposure as I dialled it in. And the view was so beautiful – bigger and brighter than the pretty decent Nikon optical view finder that I was used to. As long, that is, as the scene itself is bright. In low light such as dancing late at night, or in the studio, the evf goes dark. Basically you can’t see anything!
So you have to turn off the exposure preview, which allows the view finder to ‘gain up’ so you can see what the camera is pointing at. In the studio this is fine – you are lighting by flash, and everything is controlled. For dancing at a wedding everything becomes a bit swirly as the view finder image tries to keep up with disco lights and a moving camera. This is where I stuggled most with the Fuji, and tended to bring out the big Nikon for the dancing. But! But at the last couple of weddings I shot, I got it. Focusing in zone mode af, nine points, give the camera a little more time to focus than with the Nikon, but trust it. My dancing shots became more accurately focused than the Nikons, more ‘keepers’
Fujifilm very kindly lent an XF50-140mmF2.8 and an XF90mmF2 lens, and I bought a Fuji X-T2. I found the X-T2 to focus more quickly than the X-T1, and the buttons and dials, while looking much the same as the X-T1, somehow feel better. The ISO can be assigned to the front dial, which is brilliant because it means that you can change ISO without taking your eye from the viewfinder. The autofocus is better, and after a fair bit of practise, I’m confident now of shooting in low light, such as when the bride is walking down the aisle. For this I switch to continuous autofocus, and ch burst mode, something I never did with Nikon. It hits the target pretty well, though can struggle a bit with back light. I bought the XF23mmF2 lens which is perfect for when the bride gets to the top of the aisle and meets her groom. Just wide enough and zippy autofocus. Oh, and the focusing joystick at the back, which the X-T1 does not have, is great.
I though I’d use the XF90mmF2 a lot, but in the end it mostly remained in the camera bag. The 90 is a beautiful portrait lens and I would really like to put it to use as a portrait lens, but for weddings I preferred to use the XF50-140F2.8 due to its versatility. Although a stop slower than the 90mm, it seems to autofocus more quickly, and is sharp wide open. I now find myself shooting the X-T1, with battery grip, and the 50-140f2.8 on one shoulder, and the XT-2 with the 23mmf2 on the other shoulder. I think though that the 50mmf2 and the 23mmf2 combination would actually work best for me for most of the day, as I don’t always need the reach, and often find myself shooting the 50-140 back at the 50mm end. Next purchase!
It has taken me a while to get used to the Fuji. After so many years with the Nikon system, it surprised me how much I had to change my shooting style when adapting to the Fuji. I found the autofocus in low light particularly difficult to get used to, but as I said above, once I mastered it, it was fine. An X-T2 with 23mm lens is tiny compared to the big Nikon, and much less in the face of tipsy dancers and flying arms and legs! I like to go right into the middle of the dance floor and shoot away, bopping with the party, so the more discreet the camera is the better!
My D3s could be used as a weapon, it’s so big and heavy. And after nearly five years of hard use, nothing has fallen off it, stretched or broken. My X-T1 after a year has had the hdmi cover stretch and buckle, the right hand grip has come a little loose, the eyecup has gone missing and the top of the prism has lost paint. So it’s not as tough as the Nikon. But it’s also a third of the price, is smaller and lighter. The X-T2 seems a bit sturdier with no scratches and nothing loose – they changed the hdmi cover to a harder plastic which shouldn’t buckle, and added a click lock to the card slot cover. I can live with the slightly more fragile nature of the cameras, given how much lighter and less expensive they are. The image quality, despite a smaller sensor, is superb. The colour and tonality of the Fujifilm photos is superb, and the b+w conversions are gorgeous.
Sometimes I can’t find the autofocus square as I move it around the viewfinder. It’s white, and can disappear against the background. Maybe it’s possible to change this in the settings, I don’t know.
One last gripe – although I love the lack of weight, I would actually like the camera to be a little bigger. Well, specifically the right hand grip to be bigger. I don’t have big hands, but still I find that the grip is not chunky enough, and my hand gets a little sore at times, particularly with the heavy 50-140 lens.
Here’s some more photos taken over the past year or so with my two Fujifilm cameras.