It’s half way through the year and I was just thinking how lucky I’ve been to work on some of the weddings that I’ve been to this year.

They’ve given me the opportunity to create some beautiful wedding photographs at the likes of Chatsworth House, Claridges, Rivington Barn, Dewsall Court and Stoke Newington in London.

Here are some highlights so far..

Chinese wedding at Rivington Barn


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Vintage wedding in Stoke Newington

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Claridges luxury

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Chatsworth house

 

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Dewsall Court

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As some of you know, I’ve been using a Fuji X-T1 at weddings for part of the day. I love using it, but I’ve been concerned about the amount of hunting (sometimes very significant amounts of hunting) that the camera does when trying to achieve focus on a subject.

It made me wonder why and I did notice that the smallest focus point wasn’t particularly fast when using the centre 9 PDAF points. However, there was another issue…

Detecting focus with horizontal contrast

After some investigation it seems that the Fuji X-T1 really struggles to focus on horizontal contrast subjects. Watch this video to see this in action. Sorry about the very poor quality…

Originally my thought was that it might just be the centre 9 points which I had heard were single direction Phase Detection points, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Further tests showed all of the AF points that you can select suffer from the same problem. See below for an example with one of the lower left corner focus points.

These tests were with the Fujinon 56mm 1.2. I also tried the 35mm 1.4 and found largely the same issues, although it’s a quicker focusing lens so the issue isn’t as obvious.

I also wondered if it might be the lighting on that particular door frame, but I tried it on 4 others and received the same results.

This has all since been confirmed by another Fuji X-T1 user.

What this means is an unknown amount of the hunting that I’ve been noticing is likely to be with the camera trying to detect focus on (nearly) horizontal elements.

In tests, a subject needs contrast which is about 30-40 degrees from horizontal for the AF to find it easily. That’s got to be quite a lot of situations!

There’s no fix for this that I know of, unless Fuji can tweak the firmware to improve it somehow?

These tests were confirmed on an X-T1 with both V1 and V1.1 of the Firmware. Lenses also had the most up-to-date Firmware.

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  1. Joe Fischer
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    Hi Phil, have you tried this in portrait mode? My X-T1 then hunts on verticals. Regards Joe

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Preface

Please note that I am a real photographer and not a reviewer. This article is written with that in mind; I sell work and I know what I need in order to do that. It’s also important to realise these are my view only – if you disagree with these points, that’s fine!

All images in this article are shot with the Fuji X-T1 – either with the 35mm f1.4 or the 56mm f1.2. I’ve used it at 3 wedding so far. If my view changes over time, I’ll update this article.

The camera as a tool

I’m known for being incredibly picky about the gear I use. Photographers tend to say “it’s the photographer, not the camera” and they are right in a way. However, the truth is that the camera either does or doesn’t allow you to take the photograph which is in your mind. Would Da Vinci have created the Mona Lisa with finger paints? He might have produced something amazing still, but it wouldn’t have been the exact Mona Lisa. It’s also true that a camera (or lens) can make you feel great and more creative.

My view is that most photographers don’t push their equipment all that much. They take photos of relatively static subjects in not very challenging conditions.

That’s very different to my world.

I shoot moving subjects in dark and rainy conditions at very low DOF and I really push my equipment to the limit. I don’t want my work to be compromised by the tool used to create it. Some wedding photographers work very differently to me too – they might shoot mostly static subjects with flash at f5.6 all day for example, or they might be totally reportage and take only 300 photos in a day – so even within the wedding photography genre you have a massively mixed bag.

So … does the Fuji X-T1 compromise my wedding work? Or does it add to it? Read on…

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The mirrorless debate

Mirrorless cameras come with a clear few notable benefits over a traditional DSLR:

  • Weight; These camera systems are significantly smaller and lighter. When you’re shooting for a full day, it takes it’s toll on your body. Really. Honestly.
  • WYSIWYG; The viewfinder shows you the photo you’re about to take so no guesses are needed with the exact exposure and you see the shot as it will look on your computer.
  • Quieter shutter; At weddings this is a significant advantage. While the Canon 5d3 has a good silent shutter mode, I don’t believe Nikon offers anything particularly effective in this area.
  • Price; Currently a crop-frame mirrorless setup will tend to cost less (maybe around half?) than any decent full frame DSLR setup. That’s quite a saving!
  • Less imposing; Some people believe that they seem a bit more like cameras people are used to and that makes people a little less nervous.

So far I’ve avoided mirrorless systems, mainly for these reasons:

  • Poor quality Electronic Viewfinder (EVF); typically the resolution is too low and they are too laggy for me to see detail on peoples faces, which is very important to my photography.
  • Poor quality and slow focusing system; the contrast detection focus systems are often OK for static subjects, but as soon as subjects are moving, they have tended not to be as effective.
  • Poor low light performance compared with a full frame DSLR; I’ve become used to flawless ISO3200 and very usable ISO6400.

What are Fuji trying to do?

Currently, mirrorless cameras have tended to sell to enthusiastic amateurs or as second cameras for professionals. However professional photographers can’t risk a degradation in results based on the tool they’re using, no matter how much they might enjoy mirrorless cameras. The X-T1 seems to have been designed to appeal more to pros than any previous camera from Fuji.

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Fuji are, I’m sure, aware that Canon and Nikon don’t really want people moving away from DSLRs towards a mirrorless system. CaNikon have produced relatively poor mirrorless systems and don’t seem that serious about it. Fuji (and Olympus I suspect) can see an opening while CaNikon are dithering about.

Apple couldn’t get people to buy their desktop PC’s, so they went away and became a company about music and then phones. Now they’re a massive player in the entire electronics market. They gave people something new that they wanted. Effectively, they came a long way round but achieved their goal. Has Fuji the same plan?

What does an average wedding photographer need?

I’m going to talk about the average wedding photographer now, not me. Most wedding photographers need these things, but individual styles vary this list:

  • Effective 24-70 and 70-200IS lenses, usually f2.8 throughout the range. They need to be sharp at their widest aperture.
  • An effective flash system which works well both during the day and at night, whether bouncing or direct. Often these days, off camera flash options are important too.
  • Fast and accurate focusing in all conditions – both in good and low light. The system should work well whether subjects are moving or stationary.
  • Enough resolution; 12mp is acceptable as a minimum, I’d say.
  • Enough weather proofing; generally couples don’t want to go outside in downpoors, but walking into church and with the advent of “evening rain shots under a brolly”, it’s important for the camera and lenses to be weather proofed enough.

There are also some which go on the “strong want” list:

  • Backup of photos in the camera to ensure that they can’t lose the photos (dual card slots).
  • A camera that doesn’t “get in the way” ie. it’s not fiddly, difficult to use and has options right where you need them.

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What extra do I need?

For my own photography, I’d add these in:

  • I shoot at very wide apertures – f1.8 is very common for me on a full frame camera and I rarely go over f2.8, except for groups and some detail shots. This is for a combination of reasons; I dislike flash, I love low DOF and I like to keep ISO to a minimum.
  • Since I shoot low DOF, I need very fast prime lenses which are sharp wide open.
  • Since it’s a crop sensor, I need the widest aperture I can get, in order to approach the same DOF as my DSLR – f2 on my 50mm on my Canon is about the same as f1.2 on the Fuji.
  • I shoot natural light a lot, so I need the sensor to handle very low colour temperatures (<3000K)
  • I shoot a lot of walking shots,  so I need a continuous focus system which just works and is spot on all of the time, even when shooting in low light at f1.4. Here are some examples of what I use it for during the day:
    • Walking up and down aisle (low light)
    • Couple walking into the reception in the evening (low light)
    • Couple shots when walking through gardens (good light)

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Lenses

Lenses are important. I have the best Canon lenses available in my bag and my current line-up is:

  • Canon 15mm fisheye
  • Canon 16-35 f2.8
  • Canon 24-70 f2.8 V2
  • Canon 70-200 f4 IS
  • Canon 35L
  • Canon 50L
  • Canon 100L macro IS

The lenses I use most are the 24-70 and 50L. The lenses I use next most are the 100L macro and 16-35. The lenses I use least are the 35L, 70-200 and fisheye.

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Looking at the lens lineup, Fuji have most of this covered:

  • They have an excellent Fujinon 35mm f1.4 R, which is equivalent to the 50L.
  • They have 24-70 and 70-200 equivalents (Fujinon 16-55 f2.8 and 50-140 f2.8) coming soon.
  • They have released a 16-35 equivalent – the Fujinon 10-24 f4. It’s a shame this is an f4, but I understand it would be much heavier if it wasn’t. This might cause me a few issues as I’ll need to use ISO6400 rather than my current 3200, but I can make this work most of the time as the lens has IS (which won’t freeze motion, but at least it’ll help with shutter speed).
  • There is a very good quality 23mm f1.4 R, which is the equivalent of the 35L.
  • Samyang offer an 8mm fisheye for X-Mount. It’s not AF, but the X-T1 manual focus system is excellent so it wouldn’t worry me to much.

The major missing component is a very usable ~100mm macro IS. They have a 60mm (90mm equivalent on full frame) which seems good quality, but it lacks IS and apparently it’s very slow at focusing. It was a very early lens, like the 35, so maybe due a refresh at some point. For now, extension tubes would be possible.

What’s really important is that I can shoot these lenses wide open. I shoot my 50L at f1.8 most of the time and if I can’t use the Fujinon 35mm at it’s widest 1.4, I’m not going to get a similar low DOF look. Amazingly though all of these lenses seem to be very usable at their widest aperture – way to go Fuji!

I would also say that, since I like my low DOF so much, I’d love for them to release a really high quality 35mm 1.2. I’ve found that the Fujinon 35mm f1.4 R doesn’t quite offer the same quality of bokeh nor quite as low DOF as my 50L, even at f1.4. It’s a great lens, but I think it could be bettered.

On the positive side, there is an exceptional Fujinon 56mm f1.2 (85mm equvalent). I’ve never purchased the also exceptional Canon 85mm 1.2 II since it’s very heavy and very expensive. The Fuji 56mm though is fantastic and light!

I am aware that the 16-55 f2.8 will have depth of field much closer to a 24-70 f4 on a full frame camera. Sometimes more “free” depth of field is useful, but on the whole it’s a negative for me. With that in mind I’d probably run two Fuji X-T1’s at the same time with prime lenses. I would get the 16-55 still but it wouldn’t be used as much as the 24-70 f2.8 on the 5d3. Fuji could produce something like the 18-35 f1.8 from Sigma if they felt they wanted to, in order to help photographers who want a fast wide angle.

Clearly Fuji know a thing or two about lenses. They have the key bases covered here I’d say.

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Weight

Some photographers will hold their cameras for a few minutes and put them down. Others mount them on tripods. For me though, at a wedding, it’s very difficult to get a break from holding the camera up.

When I first tried the Fuji my jaw dropped at how light it really is compared with the Canon equivalent! Even with the relatively small 50L on my 5d3 with the battery grip I was shocked at how much heavier the Canon was. Most reviews talk about Fuji kit being 40% of the weight. To me it felt like it was filled with helium, but still well built!

Viewfinder

One of my key reasons for avoiding mirrorless so far has been the poor quality (small, low resolution, laggy) viewfinders. I’m very picky about moment and I want to know exactly what’s happening in front of me. People have also said EVF’s have made them feel a little sick due to the lag.

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Well, I have to say Fuji have cracked it. The EVF is exceptional – and that’s not a word I use often. It has a truly tiny 0.005s lag (I didn’t measure this … they did). It does tend to strobe a bit under fluorescent lighting, but other than that it’s amazing. Truly. I showed my brother and he jaw literally dropped!

A few years ago this would have been a major blocker to me buying a mirrorless camera. Now I actually prefer to use it, compared with an optical viewfinder. It gives me more of a feel for the final shot and that makes things look more beautiful and exciting as I can see exactly how the light will look. Take for example a window which has light blooming in when in low DOF – on my Canon I can’t see that light blooming in but on the Fuji I can.

This is a key component in why I like the Fuji so much.

Flash

I’ve not had a chance to use the Fuji flash system but from the research I’ve managed to do online, it seems like the Achilles Heel of the X-Mount system currently. The top end flash seems to be mostly menu driven, which is way to slow for me. However, Nissin are bring out a very interesting i40 flash which is significantly smaller than normal flashes.

Auto tools

Auto exposure tools and auto white balance are used by a lot of photographers. On the whole I’ve found both can be a little skittish at times.

The white balance algorithm can produce noticeably different results with a very similar scene. Sometimes it just clearly chooses the wrong white balance – especially where there is a lot of green grass in the scene. I think more work is needed on this system. Since I post process in RAW it’s not an issue for me though.

With regards to exposure I’ve been happy on the whole. Again the exposure can move around a little more than I would expect, but it may be that my Canon does the same and I’m just not used to seeing it because it has an optical viewfinder rather than an electronic one. I’m pretty happy on the whole though.

Generally the exposure modes are effective. Spot metering is a welcome addition since Canon have resisted adding it to cameras under the 1d level (for no real reason that I can ever work out other than trying to encourage you to upgrade).

There is a good set of options for minimum shutter speed too. Activating this menu can be programmed to one of the buttons and I’ve taken over the wifi button for this function as I need to change minimum shutter a lot more often than wifi.

It would be nice to see the option to specify a minimum shutter speed per lens though – I’d set the 10-24 to 1/60th, the 35 to 1/80th and the 56 to 1/100th. It’s another thing I wouldn’t have to remember to do and would allow people to take into account their own hand stability.

Autofocus

It’s extremely important for me to have fast and accurate focusing in all conditions even at the widest apertures. The conditions usually are:

  • Static subjects, good lighting. An example would be a portrait of the couple outdoors.
  • Static subjects, poor lighting. An example would be inside the church.
  • Moving subjects, good lighting. An example would be the confetti shot.
  • Moving subjects, poor lighting. An example would be walking down the aisle.

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My 5d3 is exceptional on the whole, although pin sharp accuracy is slightly less likely as the light goes down – even using micro adjusted lenses.

Accuracy and speed

Auto focus speed on the Fuji is mixed. The Camera Store tested 4 mirrorless cameras and the Fuji came bottom and other pro photographers are telling me they have issues too.

The biggest overall issue – and it is a really big issue – is that the camera will significantly de-focus at times ie. it focuses a long way out and back again before locking. That delays AF by a second or more. It can also be a bit “skittish” sometimes – focusing in and out and little bit before settling. This is more pronounced with the 56mm, which is a larger piece of glass, than with the 35mm. This issue is new to me because my Canon just knows which way to go and it gets there quickly.

Sometimes I think this may be caused by people are moving slightly when they’re chatting. However, in further tests I’ve found that using the smalled sized focus point with the centre 9 PDAF points increases the focus hunt. The biggest issue, though, is focusing when there is only horizontal contrast. See a specific article on this here. This is so frustrating! I’ve missed shots due to this issue.

Another issue is AF with backlight. My 5d2 was generally inaccurate and would fail at times, although it was solved with the 5d3, but the Fuji literally will not AF with a moderate to strong backlight. Right now, I’d have to use manual focus.

Looking at the AF sensor, there are 9 phase detect points, but I believe Fuji made these non cross-type (I’m not 100% sure?), which means the AF probably ends up using contrast detect more than it needs to and may contribute to the issue above with horizontal contrast AF subjects.

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Other tests on the X-T1 have been very positive. The Fuji would focus in light that the Canon would just give up on! That surprised me! I also think accuracy on the whole is as good as the Canon in good light and maybe a bit better in low light. I guess part of the reason is that it uses contrast detection at least some of the time.

Continuous focus

Focus on moving subjects seems to be very good on the whole, but you can only use the centre 9 phase detect points accurately for this. However, there is very little information about which those 9 points actually are. I’d like the viewfinder to indicate this to me.

What I really don’t like is the way it focuses in and out while you have the button pressed down. If there was any way to stop this happening I’d have a lot more confidence in it, but I suspect the camera is trying to work out where the focus currently is and where it’s moving to? If you believe in it and just go for it, though, it seems accurate, even at wide apertures and in low light. Initial subject lock isn’t particularly instantaneous, but once it’s locked on, it’s good.

What I wonder is whether it would handle how I approach walking down the aisle shots. I tend to take a few burst shots of each person as they come down the aisle, then stop shooting to let the buffer write, then take a few more and so on. To ensure this works on my DSLR, I keep continuous focus running with the back button and just take a few shots when I want to. This might be more tricky with the X-T1.

 

It’s a serious issue that I can only do this with the centre 9 points though. That limits my creative composition options significantly. More phase detect points please Fuji! And make them cross type too, if they aren’t already!

Another improvement would be with continuous focus in Low Speed burst mode – the viewfinder blacks out for long periods so I lose sight of the subject enough to lose tracking. This doesn’t happen so much with High Speed burst, but then I’m taking more photos that I really want to.

Back button focusing

The Fuji doesn’t really have a particularly effective system for back button focus. The AF-L button is in a really unhelpful place; I really want to switch it with AE-L – which I literally never use. It’s also too recessed into the body so it’s hard to find.

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Outside of the placement of the button, the system doesn’t work how I’d like it to. There are a few options:

  1. To lock and hold focus while pressing and holding the AF-L button.
  2. To lock focus with the AF-L button, but then you have to click it again to turn it off to change focus.

I much prefer how my DSLR does it – turn AF off on the top button entirely and just move it to the back button. This really is just a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – it didn’t need a new way of working. So far though I’ve preferred option 1 on the Fuji and it does work OK.

I even looked at manual focus as a way of doing this. However, when you switch to manual focus, the movement of the focus point around the screen is just to tell the camera where to zoom into when you click “focus assist” (I think), rather than allowing you to select the focus point and it’s size. However it nearly worked just how I would like it to.

It might not seem like much, but I do this for 11 hours on most days! Those extra button clicks or holding my thumb in a weird position can mean missing moments or a tired thumb, especially with the placement of the button not being that ergonomic. I will say I’ve got used to it a bit, but it’s not fantastic.

As a final issue, back button focusing doesn’t work with continuous focus mode – it uses only single focus. You could say this is a good feature, but it’s not really, because it means continuous focus in single shot mode doesn’t really work at all. What I’d like to happen is to hold the back button down, have the camera continuously track focus and then click the shutter when I want to in order to capture the shot I want. This just doesn’t work. I miss this from my DSLR..

Moving focus points

Since I got my 5d3 I’ve been introduced to the joys of using focus points other than just the centre one … and I’m hooked!

When I first looked at the Fuji I was seriously concerned about the lack of a joystick (or similar) to move the focus point around. I did soon learn though that you can redefine the four direction buttons to enter the focus movement mode. Without this option I simply wouldn’t have been able to use the camera for weddings since I change focus points so regularly and rapidly and I’m not willing to go back to focus-recompose.

Talking about these four direction buttons, I found they are too recessed into the body and it’s hard for your finger to find the right one – especially with the right-most ones next to the grip. They also don’t have a very positive feel.

However, it works acceptably. I would love Fuji to include a joystick though – on the grip and the camera body.

Another thing I love on my 5d3 is the ability for the camera to remember the previous focus points as orientation changes. It would be quite unusual for you to want to use the same focus point when you were in vertical and horizontal orientation so this makes total sense. I often find myself setting my 5d3 up with a top focus point in both orientations when doing “coming down the aisle” shot, so it’s ready.

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Manual focusing

I’m not a particularly big fan of manual focus, but I would say that the Fuji system is the best I’ve ever used. The focus peaking especially is fantastic; fast and accurate.

However, great though it is, I’ll always see it as a backup for when AF fails. Other photographers have a different view and that’s fine.

Improving the focus system

I know there are several options you can specify such as pre-AF to make focus more accurate and able to keep up, but the honest truth is that I don’t have time to fiddle with menu options during a day. Things happen fast and I pack a massive amount into wedding days.

In reality I just need it to work with the minimum of fuss.

On the whole the focus system is usable but it’s one of the areas where I believe there is most room for improvement, at least for my style of wedding photography, which is fairly free and flowing.

Fuji should take note of how professional photographers use their DSLRs – many don’t “click and take a shot”. Many do use back button focus. Many also use continuous focus, move focus points and pick shots off as they are found.

You could certainly say “get used to a new way of working” and that is a valid view, but why reinvent the wheel? By providing photographers with the same system they had before, more will switch. Certainly I would say that action and wildlife photographers are telling me that the Fuji is nowhere near as usable as their DSLR currently.

Final words: give us a focus system that works as well as and in the same manner as our DSLRs and you’ll hear nothing more on this subject. That might take a generation or even two, but it is what’s required to court as many professional photographers as possible.

Camera handling

It’s hard to judge this one without remembering that I’m used to the Canon. However, I do have some clear issues with the Fuji. These are:

  • Moving focus points is fiddly and awkward. With my 5d3 I can make changes with one button click. With the Fuji it’s a two button click. If you couldn’t redefine the direction buttons it would be even worse! Moving focus points is very important to a lot of pro photographers.
  • The buttons on the camera are too flush with the body, making it hard to find them without looking. I’m sure I’d get used to this a little more, but I don’t really want to have to.
  • Fixed with V 1.1 Firmware – thank you! The video record button is too close to the shutter button and is too easy to click accidentally. I’ve done this twice per wedding on average. 
  • The AE lock and AF lock buttons should be able to be switched. Back button focussing is used by a vast amount of photographers whereas AE lock isn’t as popular and it currently takes the most ergonomic spot.
  • The shutter speed dial on the top of the camera is fiddly and difficult to use. It’s made worse by only allowing you to change full stop shutter speeds and then needing to use a front dial to change third-stops. I’m used to being able to use a single spin-dial. A friend said that the camera is not set up to be used in manual mode. I sort of agree.
  • The ISO speed dial is also a little fiddly to use in it’s current place. On my Canon it’s a one button option using my right hand (if you redefine the SET button).
  • While I don’t mind the placement of the exposure compensation dial on the X-T1, it is slower to use than my canon. However, I really don’t think +/- 3 stops is enough. It needs to be 5 stops.
  • I really miss the custom menu of my 5d3, which allows me to pull together all of the menu options that I use frequently onto a single customised menu page. These include things like format the card.

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However, the Fuji also has some great options too, and they are:

  • I really like the idea of moving away from aperture priority and shutter priority etc.. Instead, you can just list any of the options as “A” and it will be automatic. Great!
  • I love having the aperture selection on the lens. I do think they should label each lens though – currently some lenses don’t have the apertures written on them.
  • I like the placement of the drive mode (bracketing, fast and slow shooting etc…), the focus modes (single, manual and continuous) and exposure mode dials. Others have said it’s too easy to accidentally switch out of single shot, fast and slow shooting to bracketing though.

On the whole the Fuji feels slow to make frequent changes to exposure and focus. EC is limited to only 3 stops. Generally, a layout closer to a current DSLR would increase speed of use. However, it might also be unpopular with a portion of Fuji fans.

Single card slot

This is the biggest issue when creating the hardware spec for X-T1 in my eyes. It’s the one thing that has been mentioned to me time and time again by other wedding photographers – not all, but many.

It’s important to realise that card failure is extremely extremely rare if you’re using a top brand card. I’ve never had one fail but I do know others who have. With my 5d2 I used to use 8Gb cards and switch regularly, which was a total pain, but since I’ve had the 5d3 I keep half of the day on a single card and only switch once. I feel comfortable with that since the camera is constantly writing to two cards and I can concentrate on the wedding and the couple, rather than where my cards are up to.

mirror-shot-fuji-xt1

This one decision will discourage some / many wedding photographers from investing in Fuji at the moment. You can of course say “well, we coped before dual card slots” but with the technology available and being used in the market, “why cope”?

What can you do? Well, my only feasible option would be to buy two X-T1’s and make sure I take plenty of pics on each. If I lost one card in one camera, at least I’d still have the other.

Could the second card slot be put in a new battery grip maybe? This was something that came out of a discussion with a friend. I’ve no idea if it’s technically possible.

All that said, this is a serious problem for me. I never want to be in a position to tell a bride I can’t deliver her photos. This was my top desired feature for the 5d3 before it was released.

1/4000th second plus base ISO 200

This won’t matter to all wedding photographers, but it is really important to me. Not everyone will realise, but f1.4 or f1.2 outdoors on a bright day will require around 1/8000th at ISO100. This isn’t an option that Fuji offers.

couple-flowers-fuji-xt1

The solution for now is to use ND filters, but it’s something else to put on and take off and keep somewhere close by. It’s just an annoyance and wastes time. I have forgotten to take it off a couple of times, resulting in a few shots with higher ISO than was necessary before I realised.

I’m hoping that the new organic sensor from Fuji (is it real?) will have base ISO 100 and they will introduce 1/8000th second shutter.

Battery life

I get a full day (and more) from the two batteries in my 5d3. I would get about a quarter to half a day from a Fuji. However, while the battery is rated to 350 shots I find I get more like 700-800. It may be because I take a lot of near-duplicates.

Really I just need to buy more batteries and have them closeby. There’s no solution to this really.

RAW file size

Why are the RAW files about 10-20% larger than my Canon RAW files, which are 22MP compared with the Fujis 16MP? I was actually looking forward to saving some card and disk space with a move to Fuji… but instead I have the opposite.

Not a biggie .. but I was surprised.

Buffer size

I don’t know exactly what the size of the buffer is with the Fuji. However, I believe it’s larger than my Canon. I would certainly like the viewfinder to tell me how many images I have left in the buffer so I can keep an eye on it and not run out just at the wrong time.

I use relatively slow cards in my cameras for cost reasons – I have about 20 SD cards and I keep a copy of the photos until I have delivered the wedding, so any extra buffer space is very welcome.

I simply couldn’t afford to have the extreme speed cards, unless I was to copy them off at the end of a day – it’s just another thing I’d have to do, so I would prefer not to.

“It’s better quality than my DSLR”

I see a lot of people saying this online. It seems people are copying what a few big name photographers have been saying. The truth is, it is in some cases and not so much in others.

fuji-xt1-benzier-effect

High ISO is still not as good as a my 5d3, but it’s only 2/3rd stop worse. That said, the noise pattern is definitely nicer. Given that most of the time I shoot a maximum of ISO6400 on my 5d3, normally at f2.8, that’s fine with me. I’d happily shoot the Fuji at ISO3200 or maybe ISO4000 and that’s enough since I’m not really looking at zooms – ISO5000 f2.8 on my Canon is “around ISO2000 f1.4″ (I’ve not done the calculation so this is probably not quite correct) so as long as I’m using fast primes, I’m good.

Low ISO shadow quality is significantly better than Canon cameras though and that’s sometimes useful. I suspect it’s a little worse than a d800 still. It’s a very good performance though. It was noted by a Nikon user that the Fuji seems to allow more exposure changes in post with high ISO shots than his D800. I can’t comment on that. However, if it’s true, it might be that the Fuji sensor has a really fantastic balance of post production exposure changes across the ISO range.

low-iso-dynamic-range-fuji-xt1

Sharpness from Lightroom is not fantastic. There are a number of threads around the internet about this and you can read about my own experiences here. I hope Adobe will improve it over time. That’s not Fuji’s fault, but it would be good for them to help Adobe (who are clearly struggling).

Colour wise, I find that under (deep) tungsten light (maybe around 2500K) the orange, red and pink colours all blend into one a little bit, which isn’t great for lipsticks versus skin. I’ve been unable to determine whether this is the sensor or Lightroom. I did try to produce my own profile using a colour checker passport and I couldn’t quite get it there colour wise, so maybe it’s the sensor? I’m not certain. I’m not enough of a colour expert to say.

asian-ceremony-fuji-xt1

So IQ is a mixed bag when compared with my 5d3 but the differences are largely irrelevant since it’s more than good enough. This is a really key point. For a crop frame camera it’s certainly very good and Fuji should be very pleased with themselves. People may also say it’s not fair to compare it to full frame, but I don’t care what size sensor my camera has – just the output.

Where it certainly does excel is in JPEG colour reproduction and quality straight out of camera. I shoot RAW so this doesn’t affect me, but Fuji have made excellent quality JPEGs. Again, good job!

If the rumours about the organic sensor are true, my next Fuji sensor might be much better quality than my Canon. Wow!

Advantages of the X-T1 compared to a full frame DSLR

In order of importance, the key advantages are:

  • As mentioned, the X-T1 is about 40% of the weight of my 5d3 with the equivalent lens.
  • The viewfinder shows you the exact photo you’ll take, so no more needing to use your judgement to get the exposure correct. This should speed up photography and improve accuracy. It also seems to make you a little more creative and excited about taking photos somehow..
  • The X-T1 is less obtrusive; it features a quieter shutter and the camera looks less imposing.
  • The flip out screen is great for taking shots high up or low down. Really saves your knees and getting wet in grass!
  • It’s significantly cheaper.
  • It provides much higher quality shadows at low ISO for a larger dynamic range (compared with Canon cameras)

wedding-reportage-photography-fuji-xt1

Disadvantages of the X-T1 compared to a full frame DSLR

In order of importance to me, the key disadvantages are:

  • Flash system is lacking currently I believe.
  • Many DSLRs have dual card slots whereas the Fuji only has a single card, which means backups in camera aren’t possible.
  • AF tends to completely de-focus too much.
  • Moderate quality continuous AF and a weird system of focusing in and out which is very off putting.
  • Fewer phase detection AF points spread across the frame than I have with the 5d3 and Nikon have on their equivalent cameras.
  • Fiddly controls (exposure and focus and back button focus mainly).
  • 1/4000th of a second and ISO200 base means shooting at f1.2 / f1.4 in full bright sunlight is impossible without ND filters.
  • Only +/-3 stops exposure compensation.
  • Inability to get the same level of DOF with primes compared with running my DSLR lenses at f1.8.
  • Need lots of batteries (maybe 4?) for a full day wedding.
  • Maybe 1/2 stop worse for high ISO (>3200) photos.
  • A few missing lenses in the lineup (currently).

wedding-moments-fuji-xt1

What are other people saying?

One other interesting balanced review from a wedding photographer on the internet compared with the Olympus said on balance the Fuji was the better camera for wedding mainly because of the sensor size. That seemed fair enough. He also noted the issues with focus speed.

On my Fuji professional photographers group, the top likes were:

  • Size / weight
  • IQ
  • Lenses
  • (4th place was fairly tied amongst WYSIWYG, build quality and discrete)

The top dislikes were:

  • Flash system
  • AF
  • ISO100 & 1/8000th second shutter speed (or built in ND filter)
  • Dual card slots

Will I be putting my money where my mouth is?

Short answer – yes. I have bought and am now using an X-T1 at weddings. I much prefer to use it compared with my Canon and it’s more than just “shiny new toy” syndrome.

What is most surprising is that I’m enjoying using an electric viewfinder more than an optical viewfinder and I never thought I’d say that. I do “feel” the photo more as I’m taking it. I get excited about seeing the photo closer to how it will be on my screen due to the EVF.

However, I personally can’t totally get rid of my Canon kit until:

  • They solve the AF issues to the point where it’s no longer an issue for me. It may be that this will require a new body, or it might be that it’s a firmware update.
  • They significantly improve the flash system. Winter weddings just wouldn’t work.
  • They bring out a camera with dual card slots.

Currently it will the remain the camera I want to use, but professionally I just can’t quite bring myself to switch completely yet, as some others have done. Currently it’s taking about 30% of the photos on a wedding day.

I would definitely like to switch to an X-Mount mirrorless system though. I’ve not been as excited about a new camera for quite some time. Who knew!

wedding-guest-reportage-fuji-xt1

 

Fuji – are they the future?

While it might seem that this review has a lot of negative “It can’t do this and that doesn’t work that well” I’d really like readers to see it as anything but.

It’s important to remember that I’m a very technical and picky photographer. There’s no doubt at all that many wedding photographers will be happy to make the switch today and I know of some very competent photographers who have done that already.

If I didn’t love using the Fuji I wouldn’t have bothered getting this far or writing this review. I’m hoping this will encourage others to start to integrate Fuji into their day and not to discount it, because I believe it has a future.

Fuji should be incredibly pleased with what they’ve achieved and the next steps to improve it all seem technically possible.

I do hope that Fuji can work on some of the issues because I think they have an incredibly bright future ahead of them. Over the next few years, with the right camera body, I think they can take a large chunk of the DSLR market. It’s time for a change for the sake of our backs! They have the viewfinder. They have the lenses. They have the sensor (and it looks like this will only get better). They just need to concentrate on the list above and also the speed of use for common actions like exposure changes (not a deal breaker for me, but it is for others).

For me, I’d happily pay an extra 20-30% on top of the price of the X-T1 to get everything I need and I suspect may pro photographers will feel the same, having been used to DSLR prices.

Fuji X-T1 vs. Olympus OMD and Sony A7

It’s worth at least a mention about the alternatives and why I won’t be choosing them.

The Olympus OMD system is a very well rounded system and has been a firm favourite of photographers. However, the 2x crop sensor is a step too far for me – the reduction in high ISO quality and increase in DOF mean it’s a system I wouldn’t choose.

The Sony A7 is an interesting option as it’s a full frame mirrorless camera. Might this give me the best of both worlds? Well, no, not really. While the sensor is fantastic quality, I’m back into the heavy lenses, which I’m trying to move away from. In order to counteract this, Sony are releasing f1.8 primes and f4 zoom lenses. Since I’m losing a stop of light with these f1.8 and f4 lenses, I might as well have the Fuji with it’s crop sensor and overall smaller size and weight. There’s no advantage to the Sony for me.

I should point out I don’t know either system particularly well, but the sensors would dissuade me from looking further. For me Fuji picked the right sized sensor.

Get involved!!

Finally, if you’re interested in Fuji as a professional or serious camera system (and I hope you are), please feel free to request to join my Facebook group. It’s a place which welcomes professional and serious photographer who want to support each other.

Fanboys, though, are not welcome – sorry.. If it annoys you discussing the camera as it really is, it’s not the place for you.

comments 5

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  1. Andrew Billington documentary-wedding.com
    Reply

    Well Phil – I think that about covers it. I agree with you pretty much but I’ve learnt to accept the short comings (like you) for the advantage shooting with the small and beautiful X-T1 cameras offer. They will get better in the next generation but, even at the moment, I’m photographing weddings 100% with them.

  2. Reply

    this review is what i was looking for. since i have both mentioned cams, fuji and canon. i am vry interested in some real world tests and opionions and not fanboy talk. so far i am using my fuji only for travel, but i guess i will give it a try for weddings as a second body next to the 5d3. thank you so much for your objective and intensive review. cheers from germany, chris

  3. Kevin Lam kevinlamphoto.com
    Reply

    Well thought out comparison! Lots to consider. I shot with the E-M5 last year for a few weddings side-by-side with my 5D3’s, but haven’t had the chance to give my X-T1 a try at a wedding yet.

  4. Erick
    Reply

    I wanted to say that I used a D800, XT1 and Olympus EP5 with primes on my last wedding gig and decided to keep the olympus. The 2x Crop factor is something to look into since you aren’t exactly losing that much shallow DOF when compared to xt1. It is the same principle of full 35mm frame vs 1.5 crop factor controversy. If you want light, fast, sharp and less expensive lenses and body. Look into Olympus. I did. But if you have already settled for fuji, don’t try the VF4 finder from olympus, it’s sharper and brighter.

  5. Paul Richards albionrow.com
    Reply

    Very detailed review. I agree with most of what you say, though I personally love the dial based ergonomics, each to his own. I’m using two xt1s with the 14, 23 & 56 lenses for weddings now. I keep a Canon 6d and 50L in my car for extremely low light venues, but I haven’t needed it yet. All the best.

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