Disclaimer: this is not really a wedding related article so any clients looking for that please skip past this post unless you are also interested in camera geek talk.
The X range of cameras has received a huge amount of critical acclaim and their fair share of criticism too. There are an awful lot of both professional and enthusiast photographers out there making some wonderful images with the Fuji line up, across a wide range of disciplines. One group of photographers that I think the Fuji line up makes particular sense for are wedding photographers.
I’ve been using Fuji X-cameras as secondary cameras at weddings for about a year now and have found them to be very useful as an addition to my regular Canon 5d3 setup. Inspired by Kevin Mullins excellent wedding reportage work, I’d used both the Fuji X-Pro and Fuji X-100s, with mixed success. To be honest, while I loved using them as a backup and in some of the quieter moments of the day, I didn’t feel that I could completely convert to them from my DSLR’s.
That has all changed now…
Enter the Fuji X-T1
If you don’t want to read any further here is my one word review. Fantastic!
There are so many reviews out there of this camera that I won’t go into laborious detail about how good it is; instead I am going to write about how it works for wedding photography, and what it brings to the table that I find refreshing after using a DSLR.
Room with a view
The much lauded EVF is big, bright, & fast. What you see is what you get, and checking exposure & critical focus is simple and seamless. I no longer need to check my images afterwards, as I just know they are exposed correctly when I press the shutter. I have no desire for an OVF anymore, finding an EVF far superior for my style of work. Additionally, on the occasion when you do want to review an image, being able to do so in the EVF is lovely, no more shading the rear LCD screen, and you can zoom in and see focus and crisp detail without distraction.
To tilt or not to tilt?
I find that I am using the tilt screen way more than I expected. A lot of people seem to be anti-tilt screen, but I cannot think of a single reason why. My main and unexpected use of this has been in conjunction with wide (14mm) and semi-wide (23mm) lenses, as a waist level viewfinder. I set the camera up to enable focus peaking when on manual focus, and then flip the screen out and shoot away. This is fantastic for reportage shooting throughout weddings and has allowed me to get up close to groups and people without interrupting them, and I also find it encourages me to try creative angles. That moment when you raise the camera to your eye can be very obvious and distracting to your subjects and this method avoids that. It also comes in very handy as an additional tool to use during posed portraits allowing you to maintain a connection with your subject, instead of hiding your face behind the camera. Switching between the EVF and LCD is also completely seamless and fluid, unlike the switch between OVF and LiveView on a DSLR, which is clunky and slow at best.
Choices, choices, choices
The more I use it, the more I am finding the different focus modes to be a plus. Single AF is generally fast enough and very accurate, I have not felt that it was letting me down. The continuous AF is strange but I am beginning to trust it more, I just wish it wouldn’t zip in and out of focus before you press the shutter. It does deliver good results in use though, but it is not as quick as the 5d3 by any means, however I do not use it very often on a wedding day and it is plenty good enough for the occasions when I do need it, like the walk down the aisle. The manual focus is a revelation compared to a DSLR in that it is actually very usable, quickly and easily, and with a variety of choices. Focus peaking, split panel or good old fashioned ‘using your eyes’ combine with the wonderful EVF and its basic large view, or dual view (with a small window zoomed in to the focus point), or a quick press of the ‘focus assist’ button to zoom in.
The magic glass
Oh the Fujinon lenses are superb, so very superb. I honestly believe that you are not sacrificing anything in the lens department to any other system I have used.
My main trio of lenses at the moment are; the excellent 14mm f2.8, the gorgeous 23mm f1.4 and the outstanding 56mm f1.2. This gives me, in full frame terms, a 21mm wide angle, a fast 35mm and a very fast 85mm or in other terms wide, normal and short telephoto lenses. I can cover whole weddings with these three lenses and they come to a paltry combined weight of 940g (~33oz). Compare this to a Canon 85 1.2L at over a 1025g on its own, and you can see that the weight advantages of the lenses are huge.
I have also used the 18mm f2, the 35 f1.4, the 60mm f2.4, the 18-55 f2.8-f4 zoom, and the 55-200 f3.5-4.8 zoom. They are all, in my opinion (and with a healthy disregard for test charts at 100%), fantastic lenses that create beautiful images, and I would not hesitate to use any of them in the right situation. If I could own them all I would. I would love to get my hands on the 10-24 f4 zoom, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the two weather-sealed pro zooms that are coming soon. Also on my radar is the 16mm f1.4, which may well take the place of the 14mm in my wedding kit bag.
I cannot get across how stellar the Fuji lens range is, and probably one of the most consistently excellent lens line ups that exist; you really cannot put a foot wrong when choosing.
The right tool for the right job
Recently I have been trying to refine my gear for shooting weddings, and I’m attempting to stick with a small and very simple setup to enable it to truly become second nature and allow my creativity to flourish. This is my current setup:
I shoot with two X-T1’s, and they are both setup for different things. Basically the way I think about it is that I have one ‘wide’ X-T1 and one ‘portrait’ X-T1.
The wide X-T1 is with the large hand-grip, set up with focus peaking when in manual mode, and with either the 14 or 23 lens.
The portrait X-T1 is with the vertical battery grip, setup up with dual view when in manual mode, and with the 56 lens or, very occasionally, the 55-200 if I need that extra reach.
Both the cameras have otherwise identical settings; I have the custom buttons setup so that all of the 4 way buttons initiate AF point selection, the front Fn button lets me adjust auto ISO settings, and the top Fn button lets me choose the film mode, as sometimes I like to view the world in black & white, even though I shoot in raw.
Ergonomics are a very personal thing, but to me the dials on the Fuji just make sense and get out of the way.
In general I shoot with camera in single point AF, with the drive on CL (3fps). I regularly shoot in aperture priority, with auto iso, and find that the speed with which I can shoot using the exposure compensation control really simplifies things allowing me to concentrate on composition and timing. However, if I find myself in a situation that calls for it, then it is so quick to switch over to full manual control using the external dials.
The camera itself is very comfortable to hold and for me is a perfect compromise between size/weight and access to all of the necessary controls.
The Fuji X-T1 ticks a hell of a lot of boxes for me, as you can tell by the glowing review. With that said, nothing is perfect and I think the next iteration could be even better with a few changes. Here is my personal wish list, in no particular order:
- Battery level indicator: Come on nowFuji, you know it is useless so just get it sorted please. A percentage indicator just works, so please make it happen.
- Buttons: they need to stick out and be easy to find with your face smooshed up to the viewfinder. Sure I’ve fixed mine with sugru, but I shouldn’t have to. Perhaps a 5d3-esque joystick for AF point selection.
- Continuous AF: If there is any way Fuji can stop the C-AF from doing that thing where it moves in and out of focus until you start shooting, that would be a huge improvement, it is a bit distracting.
- AF button: How come the focus box suddenly goes bigger when you switch to MF mode? Back button focusing is great, but I find the larger size of the focus box restrictive.
- Portrait grip: given the obvious shortfall of a smaller battery, which I can understand, is it not possible to squeeze two into an optional vertical grip, it just seems like they could fit in there?
- If the spot metering could be linked to the focus point that would be pretty nifty.
- 1/8000 shutter speed and a lower base ISO would be very beneficial with all the fast primes.
The bottom line is that this is a camera that has changed the way I work. Not in huge ways, but in a myriad of smaller ways, that all add up to a feeling of refreshed creativity and, I think, a better result for my clients.
All the pictures in this post are from a single recent wedding which was shot entirely on my Fuji’s. I could include photos from other weddings but I wanted to show that you can use it throughout the day without any worries. Some more images follow below but if you want to see the entire blog post from the wedding it is here.