As almost everybody coming from analog photography, I’ve always been a big fan of full-frame digital sensors.
There are several reasons for it, among the others:
- you get better results
- there aren’t strange calculations to determine your resulting focal length (or I should probably simply admit that math is not my bigger strength)
- after many years shooting analog SLR, full frame sensors gives a sense of “home”
- bigger sensor means bigger pixels, and a resulting better signal/noise ratio
A few years back, as soon as I could let the crop-sensor’s camera behind me and finally embrace affordable full-sensor bodies (thank you Canon for leading the way with the first EOS 5D) I’ve always been an advocate of FF and I was very happy to see my beloved 35mm f1.4 to be again a 35mm f1.4, my beloved 50mm f1.4 to be again a 50mm f1.4, and so on…
Fujifilm came in to the game a few years later and introduced a game changer, the X100. A (relatively) small camera with a fix 35mm equivalent lens, fast (f 2.0) and APS-C size sensor with a quality to leave astonished. Damn it!
I love the 35 mm, I shoot 3/4 of my picture around this focal length! Clearly enough I couldn’t resist… it was love at first sight, I bought it and it became my daily companion! Not one day without it! Professional assignments, personal projects, family pictures…. pretty much everything done with it.
Three years later, and Fuji changed the game rules again with the X-T1.
It has pretty much everything I don’t like. It’s not a full frame sensor camera, there is not an optical viewfinder (come on! how can you even think to photograph without an optical viewfinder?) not a proper flash system… it is definitely not the camera to try or even to consider it…
The problem is… I tried it, and that was the biggest mistake – or the best thing – I’ve done in a while (well, ok, I also did a few other mistakes recently, but let’s focus on photography right now…) and I suddenly fell in love with Fujifilm once again.
Yes I know, I just wrote I hate electronic viewfinders, but as soon as I put my eye in to the XT1, it was like having a new world in front of me: you see thing you normally do not see! All is big, all is clear, all is there! Several ways to personalize the display and, when framing vertical, the scales and infos follow the camera orientation… so, soo handy!
Than, let’s talk about handling: I hate small cameras, they are hard to handle, pushing the right buttons is quite complicate, you always end up pushing the wrong one.. am I correct? I thought I was, but again, the moment I took the XT1 in my hand, I had the impression it was designed for my hand size and my fingers size… everything is exactly where it should be, every button is in the right place, all the dials are so ergonomic! It’s small, but it fit perfectly! I have regular hand-size, but a friend and colleague that has huge hands, says that it fit perfectly for him as well! how can it be?!?
Crop sensor. A nightmare, right? I love shooting with fast prime lenses, and with previous crop sensor cameras, my 24, 28, 35, etc etc, always had a different and wired equivalent focal length, becoming a 38.4mm, a 56mm and so on..
Fujifilm makes fast prime lenses that render the length of a 21, 28, 35, 50, 85…and soon 24 and 135! this is great! And having a smaller sensor is not related to focal issues anymore!
Bokeh. Akas the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light: again, I’ve been an advocate of the superior aesthetic quality of bokeh on full frame sensors. Have you tried to shoot with the Fujinon 56 f1.2? or even the 35 f1.4 and 23 f1.4? they all have an incredible and smooth bokeeh! hard to believe until you try! smooth, beautiful, natural.. perfect!
High sensitivity. Bigger sensor, bigger pixels, better noise/signal ratio, correct? yes, but… again, as I got the XT1 in my hands, first thing I did was pumping ISO up to 3200 and 6400 and start shooting. Even the jpegs straight out of the camera have almost no noise, and the noise present is very smooth, analog like: it’s a beautiful grain, not very digital and actually pleasant to see
Megapixel war. With mainstream manufacturer producing 36 MP (and more) full frame sensors, you’d think that a mere 16MP APS-C sensor is quite limiting. Again, I couldn’t be more wrong. I have a beautiful picture I took with the XT1 hanging on my studio wall. It is 4×6 feet (yes, feet, not inches) wide. All my friends and colleagues, especially the one coming form the fashion/art world (the ones spoiled to shoot with medium format systems) stick their nose on the paper to look for any artifact or pixelated area when I tell them it was taken with one of my little Fujis…
Size. With the size (and weight) less than half of an equivalent FF DSLR it’s a no-brainer. Here Fuji wins on every aspect. My average “on assignment” days are 12 to 16 hours long, and trust me your shoulders and back will be grateful for every single gram you can leave at home.
Price. Again, if you compare it with a full frame DSLR and equivalent lenses, we end up at about half of it (or even more)… that’s an easy one.
Coolness factor. Probably not the first concern, but hey, it’s a great feeling to be using a cool system. Like it or not, Fuji cameras are seen in many star’s hands, so if they use it… must be the coolest one! (and of course I am joking here, I couldn’t care less)
Electronic shutter. There are quite a lot of debates on the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical shutter vs. electronic shutter. Fuji kills the problem, you get both on the same camera! Want to go the “old fashioned” way? you have it! Do you want the stealth-mode option? that allows to take picture with NO noise from your camera? you have it too!
Unique factor. I was recently shooting the Tour De Suisse bike race. The final day (and final race) of the tour, on the arrival line, with all the press photographer forming a line with several white can(n)on ready to fire at a billion images per second, I arrived with my little bag and my Fuji.
First, the security didn’t want to let me in, even showing the press-badge, because they thought I stole it from another real photographer.. 😉
Second, as I stood next to the other colleagues, it was kind of cool to see their reactions and (not too) hidden smiles, wondering what the hell I thought I could do with that… All I know I got the job done, and I also converted a few fellas to the magic world of mirrorless….
Filter system. For those of you dealing with filters, especially the ones using square or rectangular ones, you might want to know that big names like LEE steeped in with the 75 system, specifically dedicated to the mirror-less market with Fuji in mind. I am using one and have to admit is quite a sweet and useful toy!
Flash system. True, not a proper one yet. But I have my trusty PocketWizard Plus, and several Speedlites I can connect and fire at any given time…. so not an issue for me yet! Plus I do not shoot TTL, I only shot manual flash, so I can pretty much use any system/transmitter working on the Fuji..
On top of this I am now waiting to receive in the mail a new toy (another one?!) called Cactus: it’s a flash wireless triggering system that allows to remotely control the power of Speedlites like Canon and Nikon! can’t wait to put my hand on this (and of course a blog post will follow)
Fidelity. Not sure that’s the way to call it, but think for a second: how many other brands do you know that are trying to make your photographic investment more durable? normally it is the contrary… In the company’s own words, Fuji “is striving to keep the level of technology offered on the models as up to date as possible so that purchasers .. will have greater longevity of use”. XT1 firmware update 3.0 anyone? Do you realize how many improvements in one update? how much more freedom, speed of use, and possibilities (ergo creativity) are offered now? X100 (not S, not T) firmware update 2.0 anyone? De-facto a new camera thanks to the update? at the same time the new version – X100S – was launched? X-Pro 1? from camera with lot of potential and useless autofocus to an actual great usable camera? Call it “kaizen”, call it “respect”, call it as you want, I find just incredible a brand is not (only) looking at numbers but also at humans (we, the users).
So what is my point here? why all this talking?
Since the first X100, I slowly migrated to the Fuji X system, which is now a trusty companion in every aspect of my profession. With a camera (almost) always in my pocket or on my neck, I can capture moments I couldn’t even imagine before. As an added value, one of the images I took with my Fuji, has been reposted from Nat Geo Travel’s Instagram account, and made in one single day over 45k likes…
In a nutshell, Fujifilm made me love everything I hated and made me hate quite a lot of things I loved (of course we’re still in the photography field) so I kind of hate Fuji for that!… (and I am joking again).
And now they’re out with the X100T, the sexyest camera ever made… it’s basically the same of the first X100, but it’s not! so damn cool to use and to keep in my hand. Who ever has a bag for this camera is on the wrong path, it has the be always on the neck! (but this is my personal opinion).
One thing is sure, I am totally in love with Fujifilm cameras (I am a long time lover as I’ve always been using their slide films) and am grateful to them for being such great folk, to be not just a brand but a group of people constantly willing to improve and make better products, and mostly for bringing on the scene some new and great ideas. Looking forward for the next steps!
Peace and love!
(Oh, yeah, and happy Xmas!)