Thoughts from The Photography Show 2016 - Ben Cherry
Fighting Talk

I have recently been using the XF100-400mm as well as the new X-Pro2 around the UK and as a result Fujifilm approached me with the idea of helping them out on their stand, giving some hands on experience. The four days were fantastic, the buzz around the Fujifilm stand was electric. From those who have been with the system since the original X100, to working professionals who have seen the ability of the system and are looking to switch to a smaller set up than their SLRs. There were many photographers who were won over once they had some hands on time with the X-Series. 

What I am going to try and do is relay the common issues/queries that I was asked across the four days so those that weren't able to attend will hopefully get a better idea of the X-Series system. 

Meeting fellow X-Photographers Matt Hart and David Cleland

Photo credit: Marc Horner

Product Notes

- X-Pro2

I actually find it difficult to describe this camera to those that haven't handled it as I end up going all gooey saying how beautiful it is and that it's a joy to use, much to the bemusement of those who haven't experienced it. However, being at the Photography Show with hands on opportunities, it was great to see how quickly others echoed those thoughts. 

The X-Pro2 is a truly refined camera, compared to the X-T1 there is a clear progression from the technology encompassed to the build quality which feels a step up. It isn't for everyone though - I describe the X-Pro2 as a camera for the purists, ideal for photographers that use wide to short telephoto lenses. I spoke to a huge amount of wedding/portrait photographers  who realised the potential for moving to this set up from their SLRs, from the file sizes and quality of lenses to the ergonomics and ability for greater interaction with their subjects. This is probably the biggest point I try to get across to those thinking about switching, if you use your right eye, the X-Pro2 opens up the vast majority of your face for subjects to see, this can make a huge difference. From my experience, when working in foreign countries with little common language, a simple smile and eye contact while shooting can make someone feel so much more relaxed. 

The only critique I heard multiple times was the lack of articulating screen - an issue for some and hence why I recommend this lens for those that want to enjoy the 'purist' experience, particularly with the wonderful prime lenses like the holy trinity - XF16mm, XF23mm, XF56mm.

I could talk about this camera for ever and will try to write a proper blog on it soon. Fundamentally, those who had hands on opportunity with the camera instantly realised that this camera can offer so much and has the ability to do 95% of what SLRs can. 

- XF100-400mm

One word answer - stellar. 

I'll have a lot more on this lens soon but for the meantime here are general customer reactions.

"it's a lot lighter than it looks!" If I had a pound for every time I heard that comment, wow it would have been a profitable show! The lens is the biggest in the system but it is still a lighter alternative to SLR options (especially when you take into account camera weight difference). Many people looked at the size of it and thought it was going to be a fairly heavy piece of glass, only to be pleasantly surprised. Compared to the size/weight of the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm which feel about as heavy as you would expect for their size, this lens definitely feels lighter. 

It's sharp, fast and has the best OIS I have ever used. I did a simple experiment with those testing out the lens. I would have them zoom out to 400mm with the OIS off (or even with the 1.4x teleconverter attached), I would then switch it on while they kept looking through the EVF. EVERY SINGLE PERSON WAS IMPRESSED! I would then demonstrate how easy it was to take photos at low shutter speeds, all the way down to 1/8 second (no typo), again the same being possible with the teleconverter. So an 800mm equiv. F8 lens that can be handheld down to 1/8 second... Show me one other lens that is genuinely capable of that!

Anyway, I'll have a lot more content on this lens soon with proper examples so before I get carried away again, lets move on. 

Amazing company on the blackboard!

But Fujifilm can't track...!?

The X-Pro1's limited AF functionality has seemingly followed the X-Series despite its continued and rapid development. The X-T1 was a significant step up, particularly with the latest firmware updates. However the X-Pro2 takes that further thanks to the newer hardware. 

Again the benefit of getting some hands on time, The Photography Show allowed me to demonstrate to people the potential of the X-Series, despite the nasty exhibition lighting. Mark Simpson was one photographer I demonstrated this too and he has kindly sent me a giff tracking series that shows this system can track. Taken with the X-Pro2 and XF100-400mm, despite the poor lighting , using the lens wide open at F5.6 and bumping up the ISO allowed us to see what can be achieved. 

X-Pro2 with XF100-400mm in wide tracking mode

Thank you to Mark Simpson for allowing me to share his video.

This was taken at 8 frames per second using wide tracking in continuous focus mode on the X-Pro2 with XF100-400mm attached.

Comments

Here I'm going to briefly address the key points that would come up in conversation.

Weight

This was my main reason for switching three years ago and it is clear that many others are thinking about doing the same. Some products have bigger weight saving benefits over others, but what is clear is that when all the products required to produce a system are put together there is a significant difference over an SLR system. Yes micro four thirds is lighter but, for me, I feel the Fujifilm X-Series has the best balance between image quality and size/weight of any of the current systems. I know Sony's mirrorless range is wonderful and a brilliant option but other than all the other benefits of the X-Series from lenses to files, handling and colour - I think full frame Sony (which lets face it is the one every Sony user really wants) set up is moving away from my weight saving priority.

Files

Coming from a Canon 5d3, I find the X-Trans files so much more flexible. They can be pushed to pretty extreme levels partly thanks to the noise control of the system. More than that, using the X-Series has allowed me to produce much better colour images, partly thanks to the genuinely brilliant film simulations. I would often revert photos to black and white with my previous system as I never felt that I optimised my images for colour. That isn't a critique of another brand, that is a personal critique. It does however highlight how much easier it is to produce good colour images with the X-Series. 

Building on ease of use, this is the only camera system I have used that produces good enough jpegs straight out of camera that I can send to clients. Saving me time, which at the end of the day can be spent shooting more or dare I say it... relaxing.

Durability

Understandably some people are concerned as to whether or not mirrorless cameras are up to the standard they require. I answer that by showing them my equipment after spending 9 months in tropical rainforests last year. Still working, still producing great files and still looking in good condition. Yes the X-T1 has some quirks with one of the doors warping if it gets consistently hot and the rubber covering weathering over time. I have noticed that the X-Pro2 is just that bit better, I don't expect it will feature the same niggles. As for the lenses, well they are nothing short of beautiful and as all new lenses are seemingly WR (weather resistant), they give you the confidence to use them in bad conditions. 

Handling

"I tell the camera how I want to create an image, not the other way around" A line regularly used to describe my enjoyment of the aperture ring, shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial. The retro but functional design removes distractions, allowing you to focus on your subject, but also offering technological aids if and when required.

Enjoyment

It was so enjoyable to talk to fellow Fujifilm X-Series users who echo the fact that the system makes photography fun again. The cameras are small enough (depending on set up) to carry around everywhere, not just commissions which is what happened to me before Fujifilm. Having the dials, film simulations, EVF and high quality files makes this such an enjoyable photographic tool. Many working professionals attribute the X-Series to reigniting their love for photography, partly due to not having as much gear and as a result more energy when shooting. 

Thank you Fujifilm

I had a brilliant four days with the Fujifilm team. Despite being long, they flew by thanks to being around such charismatic people who are clearly proud of the products they are showing. Particular thanks to Jeannie Corby, Marc Horner and Dale Young for getting me involved in the show and making me feel so welcome. 


If you have any queries regarding the X-Series feel free to drop me an email or find me on social media. 

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