That’s the question I’m most often asked. I wish the most popular question was “Why do you like to shoot portraits with hard light?” I’ll answer that one in a future blog post. Let me start by explaining the process I went through to get my current line up of gear together with reasonings for each step of the journey.
Warning: GAS inducing blog post (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) Reading this blog post might melt your credit card.
A bit of fun history: (Skip this bit if you want to and head straight to my recommendations below)
My first Fuji camera was branded as a Hasselblad X-Pan but it was in fact identical to the Fuji TX-1 (European and USA models were sold with the Hasselblad name). I won the camera in the photographer of the year competition run by Guild of Photographers way back in 1998.
My digital era camera and lens combinations: (Skip this bit too if you want to)
In 2001 we went fully digital with a pair of Fujifilm S1 cameras equipped with the best Nikon f/2.8 zooms
Then a year later came Fujifilm S2 cameras with the same Nikon f/2.8 zooms
Then a Hasselblad H1 camera with Phase One P25 back with 4 prime lenses (made by Fujifilm)
Upgraded to a Hasselblad H2 camera with Phase One P25 back with 5 prime lenses (made by Fujifilm)
I sold the Hassy on Ebay and bought a Canon 5D with Canon f/2.8 zooms plus a Nikon D200 to use with the Nikon f/2.8 zooms
Then I bought a Canon 5Dmk2 with Canon f/2.8 zooms Plus replaced the awful D200 with a fabulous Nikon D700 with a new set of Nikon f/2.8 zooms
(I sold the Canon zooms when we stopped shooting weddings)
My prime set up then looked like this: Canon 5Dmk2 with Zeiss 21mm, Canon 35mm L, Canon 50mm L, Canon 100mm L
I added a Fuji X100 camera on the day of it’s release and it was so good that I sold my Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens one month later.
I then added the X-Pro1 with 18mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses. It’s first proper outing was my road trip covering the full length of Route 66. My finance director (Julie) wouldn’t let me put the X-Pro1 camera purchase through the business as it was not an absolutely necessary expense saying “You have a perfectly good Canon camera kit already” so I paid for the Fuji X-Pro1 kit out of my own savings. It felt even more special for that.
The Fuji X-Pro1 was a joy to use and the images it gave me matched my Canon 5Dmk2 for quality. I never picked up the Canon again and I eventually sold it once I had bought the 14mm f/2.8 prime from WEX to replace my Zeiss 21mm on the Canon system. The big problem with the Canon was focussing, especially with the 50mm L lens. The camera often claimed a shot was in focus when in fact it had lied to me. I faffed with AF micro adjustment and a good setting for f/4 at 2 metres was a bad setting for f/1.2 at 1 metre. I became a bit paranoid and wanted to check each frame for sharpness. Incidentally, if I had bought a 5Dmk3 camera I might have delayed my switch to the Fuji system until the X-T1 was released earlier this year. I would have definitely switched systems though because the Fuji lenses are far superior and worth the switch alone. Then there is the fun and invigoration that comes from using fabulous tools. The X series is fun to use.
Next came the X-E2 as I needed a second body. It was such an improvement on the X-Pro1 that the X-Pro1 soon became my second body.
Luckily for me a Fuji X-T1 arrived from the team at Fuji UK for me to use when making my Illumination 1 and 2 videos earlier this year and that camera body remains my No1 camera choice to this day.
Julie now uses the Fuji X-E2 on her assignments in Africa choosing to take that camera rather than lugging the Nikon SLR kit. She shoots with the 10-24mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms. She will add the Fuji 120-400mm Super Telephoto zoom to her kit when it becomes available in 2015. I will keep the fabulous 50-140mm zoom in my camera bag for portrait work.
Our current camera and lens kit now comprises:
Fuji X-Pro1, X-E2, X-T1 and X100t cameras (plus a Nikon D700 and a Fuji X100 gathering dust). Fuji 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, 56mm, 60mm primes and 10-24mm, 18-55mm, 55-200mm and 50-140mm zooms. (plus a Nikon 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and 2x converter gathering dust)
- For interior portraits I use the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm lenses.
- For exterior portraits where I can get back a bit further and I’m dealing with greater distances beyond my subject, I use the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 50-140mm zoom lenses.
- For events/ weddings and some urban portraits I use and love the X100t
- Julie shoots her wildlife and travel photography on the X-E2 with the 10-24mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms
Might this line up change? Yes, as new kit becomes available, combinations might change and other kit will be sold on. I sold my 18mm lens when I acquired the 14mm and 23mm lenses.
As you can see from my journey above, the route to my current working kit was not straightforward. In my case the order that lenses and cameras became available from Fuji affected my working kit at that time and then the lenses I owned often dictated what ones I bought next. The list below ignores the ‘journey’ and assumes a complete system swap or starting from scratch.
Here are my recommendations for those photographers starting out with the Fuji X system from scratch or doing a system swap. Genre followed by recommendation:
Landscapes and architecture: Fuji X-Pro1, 12mm Zeiss, 16mm, 23mm, 35mm Fuji primes and the 55-200mm Fuji zoom
Landscapes with minimal kit: Fuji X-E2, 10-24mm zoom, 35mm prime and the 55-200mm zoom (The X-E2 is smaller, lighter and faster than the X-Pro1. The X-Pro1 is cheaper than the X-E2 and has an optical finder as well as EVF).
Travel: Fuji X-E2, 18mm, 35mm and 60mm primes or Fuji X-E2, 18mm, 35mm and 55-200 zoom
Travel with minimal kit: Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm zoom (The 18-55mm zoom is a stellar optic and has image stabilisation built in too)
Interior portraits: Fuji X-T1, 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 56mm. (I shoot wide interior portraits so the 14mm is my wide lens of choice, others may choose the 16mm)
Interior portraits with minimal kit: Fuji X100t ( I could shoot all day with the X100t and not miss interchangeable lenses, it’s that fabulous to use)
Exterior portraits: Fuji X-T1, 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 50-140mm zoom (The big zoom is the way to go for the tight end of the range. At f/2.8 it is spectacularly sharp and you can have both eyes in focus with a wonderful bokeh too)
Exterior portraits with minimal kit: Fuji X-E2, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm (The X-E2 is smaller and lighter than the X-T1 and has the same image quality too)
Street shooting: Fuji X100t plus WCL and TCL (If you like optical viewfinders this is the way to go. If we ever see an X-Pro2 it is likely to be made with street shooters in mind. Until then the X100t is the way to go)
Street shooting with minimal kit: Fuji X100t or Fuji X-E2 with 27mm (The X100t and the X-E2 are the same size. The 27mm pancake lens for the X-E2 is lovely and compact and offers a slightly tighter field of view, it’s your choice)
Weddings with zooms: Fuji X-T1, 10-24mm, 16-55mm, and 50-140mm Fuji zooms Plus X100T in the bag for guests milling and candid shots. (I’d also have the 60mm macro lens to shoot the rings but I’d leave it in the car after that. The 16-55mm lens is due with us before next season gets underway)
Weddings with primes: Fuji X-T1, 14mm, 16mm, 35mm and 56mm primes plus Fuji X100t (never underestimate how unobtrusive and silent the X100t is. You can shoot the guests at a wedding without them getting agitated or turning their backs. No more having to be sneaky with a long lens)
Studio portraits with flash: Fuji X-T1, 35mm and 60mm primes (The 60mm is far better at f/11 and f/16 than the 56mm lens so is perfect for strobe shooting)
Studio portraits with continuous light: Fuji X-T1, 35mm and 56mm primes (At f/1.2 the 56mm prime is perfect for that Hollywood portrait look of the good old days)
Motion photography including sport, action and wildlife: Stick with an SLR for now. (2015 might be the year that Fujifilm give us the focus tracking speed gains required for motion photography plus the long awaited organic sensor)
Why I find the Fuji X system is faster to use than an SLR: With an SLR I used to either use aperture priority AV, A or manual M mode depending upon what I was shooting. Either way required me to take a test picture, assess exposure then adjust the settings or exposure compensation as required. I could then start shooting. If I missed out the review and adjustment stage I’d come back from a wedding with some strings of shots that were too dark or light. With the Fuji X system I shoot in M manual mode and it shows me the exact exposure and white balance I’m going to get before I press the shutter. I can tweak it as required and voila I get perfect exposures every time. No more exposure variations or test shots when I get back to the studio. The time saved at the shooting stage more than makes up for any difference in focussing speed.
It’s easy to forget that the Fuji X system is only about three years old and in that time Fuji have come from nowhere to produce 4 professional grade cameras and 14 top flight lenses. In the next year I fully expect them to become world beating by developing at least two more top spec camera bodies and designing a further three or four lenses. So for some photographers the question is not why change from SLR to Fuji X but when is the right time to change.
Please make comments or suggestions below so we can keep all useful and relevant additions in one place. I may well be adjusting my recommendations as good advice comes in. Damien.