Into the future with Fujifilm X series mirrorless

This is a long read but it has plenty of pictures – Not all weddings either – so stick with it. When I bought my first camera I chose the best I could get with the money I had. At that time the best I could get was a Canon 400D. I got a kit with two lenses. I didn’t have any intention of becoming a professional wedding photographer I just liked photography. That was back in 2007.

Why we moved to Fujifilm X series mirrorless cameras

Carol standing in for the bride and groom

Carol with her X-T1 and 16-55mm lens stands in as I test the light for a portrait while the couple are eating.

Nowadays DSLRs are mainstream and we see a lot of guests with them at weddings. Sometimes with the full pro cameras, lenses, battery grips and flashes. Unlike children and computers however, DSLRs are not the future. The future for the time being does not include a mirror. Times change. We no longer use DSLR cameras. We sold the last of our Canon gear last week. It hasn’t been out of the bag for months. We were using it as a backup, so it would come with us in the car but never came out.

We have been telling our clients for ages that we were getting a new silent camera. One that would help to soothe belligerent vicars; vicars who upon meeting us announce that photography is “too distracting”, “it’s not a performance”, “I don’t want clicking in my ear.” and so on. We do get the odd registrar that won’t allow photography but it’s mostly vicars. There are two reasons for banning photography. 1. Photographers who are annoying. “We once had a photographer who was jumping around, shooting over my shoulder, crawling up the aisle..” and so on. 2. Noise “All the clicking is too distracting.”

No.1 is easy. If the celebrant asks us not to move around then we don’t. If they say we can do whatever we like then we do. No.2 With noise in mind we wanted to get a camera that we could use in a church, that would be silent. Not silent as in “I’ve heard that before. Until you start” Not silent as in slightly quieter. Totally silent. 

As this was our fifth season I wanted to change everything. I had my combo of 5Dmk3 and two lenses. The 24-70 and the 70-200. I also had a little 50 which was taped up to use for freelensing. Freelensing is when you take the lens off the camera and move it around to focus. It gives images a beautiful look with a very narrow depth of field. Also because the lens is angled away from the sensor the focal plane shifts. This means that things that are both far away and close to the camera are in focus while other things parallel to the camera are out of focus. It’s hard to explain but here’s an example – You can see that both Hayley’s eyes are in focus and her hair band. The focal plane is not parallel to the camera sensor.

Freelensing

Freelensing

50mm held off the camera body f/1.8 ISO 3200 1/500 sec

Time for change

In March we were at the photography show at the NEC and just inside the door was the Fujifilm stand. We looked at the X-T1. It’s a lot smaller and lighter than a DSLR. I always had a battery grip on my cameras. I felt that the camera was more balanced and I could hold it better. A large camera felt better to me. The X-T1 was tiny in comparison. The lenses were a lot smaller too. Would I look less professional using tiny cameras? Did it matter?

We weren’t switching systems right away, we were planning on augmenting our line up with something extra that would help in certain situations. …and we weren’t buying that day, we were just looking. Trying it for size. We would decide after the show. Once we had looked at other systems and could make a qualified judgement on what would be best for the business. Once decided we would get one, evaluate it and take it from there.

Next to the Fujifilm stand there was a Cameraworld store. 2 minutes later we were the proud owners of an X-T1 and 23mm lens.

The next weekend we photographed Jo and Jake’s wedding at Kingscote barn. The X-T1 was a revelation. It could do things that my Canon could not. Because of its small size and by using the flip out screen I could get it into situations that would require contortions and a large looming camera. With the X-T1 I could just hold it at arms length see what I was focusing on and fire away. I was still nervous of using it too much as it was untested and I didn’t trust that I would get the results. The final images were outstanding. Easily as good as my Canon.

Bride reflected in mirror putting her wedding dress on

One of the first images taken with the X-T1. Pushed into a gap between the door and the veil. Fujifilm X-T1, 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400

So now our Canons are sold and we are totally Fujifilm X. Carol has an X-T1 with a 16-55mm and I have an X-T1 and an X-pro2 with a small range of lenses. As I said earlier I wanted to change everything and as I was using two zoom lenses I decided to switch to using only primes. A prime lens is one that has a fixed focal length. I use a 16mm, a 35mm, a 56mm and a 90mm. The original 23mm that I bought at the Photography Show was swapped for the 16mm. I just found that it wasn’t quite wide enough for me. In quality terms the Fujinon lenses are also a match for the Canons that I was using. I have also dropped one on to a hard floor and it survived just like the L lenses I used before. I wouldn’t advise this as a standard test but I was delighted that it worked just as well after the fall as before. Just in case you wondered, it wasn’t the 23mm that I dropped. It was the 56. I have dropped a Sigma lens before and that didn’t fare so well. It broke in half.

Even after dropping it, it still produces gorgeous images at f/1.2

Bride and groom photographed at f/1.2 with the 56mm lens

X-pro2 56mm f/1.2 ISO 200 1/9000 second using the electronic shutter

Do I feel less professional now I use smaller cameras? No. We use the best tools to get the job done. Having a smaller system means that I can get two cameras and 5 lenses in my bag plus a flash and assorted other bits and pieces. Before, I couldn’t get one camera and two lenses in and zip it up. I can also use a holster and hang a camera from my belt without my trousers falling down. I can still use my old flash guns and triggers and do everything I used to. But it’s not about staying the same. The new system is exciting and fun to use. It has features like connecting to a tiny printer or being controlled from my phone that are useful. The biggest benefit apart from size is being able to compose and shoot using the back screen. On the Canon’s it was possible but slow and clunky. On the Fujis it’s quick and easy. It allows images to be taken from low angles without laying on the floor or from high up at arm’s length without hoping that the composition is ok. Fujifilm X system cameras make our lives easier and help us to make better images.

Did I mention that they have a silent mode? When you switch to electronic shutter they make no noise. No noise makes happy vicars. We are often able to overcome the “No Photography” rule with a quick demo of the silent shutter and a promise not to move. There are downsides to electronic shutters so they can’t be used in every situation. They way they work is to scan across and down and even though with is done in fractions of seconds too much movement can create weird stretched images. Also because LED lighting flickers it can cause banding as the sensor scans and the LEDs flicker on and off. So the silent mode isn’t always possible but churches tend to be well lit with natural light so it isn’t usually an issue and there’s not much movement during the ceremony from them as well as us so to date we haven’t had any issues. Venues can be a different matter but registrars tend to be more lenient and the cameras are quieter than a DLSR anyway as you don’t have the mirror flipping up and down. The mirror is the thing that really makes the noise in a DSLR.

Silent, Electronic shutter example images

Grittleton-wedding-photography-159

Fujifilm X-T1, 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 Electronic shutter

Greenlands-Henley-Wedding-Photography-017

Fujifilm X-T1, 1/125 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1250 Electronic shutter

The bride and groom laughing

Fujifilm X-T1, 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000, Electronic shutter

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Electronic Shutter speed

One other bonus of having an electronic shutter is that we can shoot beyond the physical limit of the mechanical shutter. The mechanical shutter is limited to 1/8000 second on the X-Pro2 (1/4000 on the X-T1). The electronic shutter goes up to /32000 second. That means that we can shoot at wide apertures in bright conditions. Something we couldn’t do before. We would have to stop down – use a smaller aperture – which would give a greater depth of field. Having the ability to shoot with a shallow depth of field gives us more creative freedom which is always welcome.

Kingscote Barn wedding photography

Shooting into the sun with a super wide aperture. Fujifilm X-T1, 1/25000 sec, f/1.2, ISO 400

 

Fujifilm X series mirrorless system

So in summary we have switched camera systems to the Fujifilm X series mirrorless camera system. Something that I thought I would never do. I always asked the question “Would a different camera make me a better photographer?” If I flipped from Canon to Nikon would it make a difference to my images? To the way I see things? The answer was always no. I think though that the Fujifim X series. The X-T1 and the X-Pro2 do make a difference. They are used in a different way. We don’t always have to hold them to our eyes. We can get into small gaps. We don’t make eye contact with the subject. We can shoot from the floor without having to lay on the floor. It’s not always obvious what or who we are shooting which makes us more unobtrusive and makes for better candid images. Switching from one DSLR system to another would not have made any difference. Switching from DSLR to mirrorless has, right from the start. That’s why all the old gear has gone and new cameras the X-T2 have been ordered. I’m not an early adopter I usually wait at least for the price to come down but I believe that the X-T2 will be the perfect cameras for us. Light, agile, fun and offering new creative opportunities that we wouldn’t have if we stayed on the same slow evolutionary path we were on. So they are on order.

Not just weddings we do other stuff too

Like the Royal International Air Tattoo VIP enclosure. “That’s not the camera I expected you to have.” Said David, The VIP event manager when I saw him in the morning. I think we had the smallest cameras on the base.

AH64D displays at RIAT A US Marine General at RIAT One of the red arrows lands at RIAT VIP Guests in conversation at RIAT The cadet band at RIAT The romm set up for the gala dinner with an F35 Lightning 2

It was time for a change so we made it.

The future is bright. The future is mirrorless.

Example images from recent weddings

Bride portrait shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Bridal hairspray shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Bride and groom portrait shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Bouquet toss shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Bridal preparations shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Magician's reveal shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Groom and groomsmen jump shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 First dance shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 Couple portrait shot with the fujifilm x-pro2 An engaged couple on Blackpool pier at sunsetThe groom and his band Bride and groom laughing on a boat on the Thames The bride and groom in the carA magician performs for guests

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