I love Fujifilm's X Series cameras. They're small, light, quick, and have wonderful image quality. The lens collection is at the top of the game, especially the primes. I went back and forth for quite some time in the lead-up to my recent personal work trip to Myanmar. I would be creating a book and needed to choose carefully. Which gear should I take? Should I take my DSLR system, or should it be the Fuji X system? In the end, I went for the Fuji X, as it allowed me to carry a couple of extra lenses and fit all of my flash system in the same pouch as well. But how would they perform?
My main concern with the Fuji system was reliability. In the past, I've had a few issues with water getting into the X-T1, battery doors jamming, and flash triggers not working on the hotshoe. In the end, though, the kit of two bodies, eight batteries, and sevens lenses weighed in at a little over a kilogram less than my Nikon kit and took up a lot less space. I didn't think I'd need the speed of the Nikon body, so I settled on the Fuji system. The experience on the ground was varied, and I'd like to run through a few of the pros and cons of the system as I felt them during the trip.
Most of the time when I use the Fujifilm system for travel, it's for personal work, so absolute performance hasn't really been an issue. As this trip was personal, but with the goal of creating a book, I started to feel that the Fuji system was a little sluggish and unresponsive when compared to my Nikon system. Menus take a little longer to load, and quickly switching the camera on to grab a fleeting shot really doesn't happen with the Fujifilm cameras. Simple things like changing focus modes take quite a bit longer on the Fujis. However, by adjusting my shooting style, I was able to overcome most of these and still get everything I needed.
Ah, the dust. Working in villages means lots of it. By the end of each day, we were caked in the stuff, and the cameras didn't fare much better. We kept them as clean as possible throughout the day, but it took toothbrushes and rags at the end of the day to clean out all the nooks and crannies of the Fuji bodies.
The biggest issue with dust of course was on the sensors. Keeping those clean was a constant battle. Most of my work is shot at reasonably wide apertures, and the dust didn't really show up in images, but it's not something you want attaching itself to your sensor. A few blasts with a rocket blower a few times a day helped. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, so that was a plus.
Photo courtesy of Wesley Chang
This was one area I didn't expect to see a problem. I've done Myanmar before with my D800 and walked it around all day in the blistering sun. As with all electronics, using them in direct sunlight on hot days is not always advisable, but I had expected the Fujis to hold up as well as the D800 had.
Most days, everything was fine, but there were two separate occasions when the X-T1 stopped writing to memory cards or the buttons stopped responding. Putting the memory card into the X-T10 showed that it was working just fine, and an hour in the my bag in the shade brought the X-T1 back to life. At this time, I was extremely glad to have a backup camera so I could keep shooting. You can pick up two X-T10s for the price of a prosumer DSLR and carry a backup with you.
This was one area that I found the Fuji bodies to really shine. Focus is a touch slower, and it is more difficult to switch modes than a Nikon body, but I have found it to be far more accurate. I have a much higher hit rate with wide apertures when using the Fuji bodies. One other thing is the speed of the PDAF system. I used the tilting screens on the X-T1 and X-T10 quite a bit to get low and high angles, and the AF system is so much faster than live view on a DSLR.
Here was the biggest surprise for me. The NP-W126 batteries are rated for approximately 350 shots and less if you use the big screen on the back. Knowing this, I took eight batteries and USB chargers that I could plug right into my solar panels to ensure I could keep the cameras powered at all times, even if we couldn't charge some days. On the busiest day of shooting, I cam back with almost 1400 frames, and it was only towards the end of the day that I had to swap the battery in the X-T1; the X-T10 was still going strong until the end of the day. I had been prepared for much shorter battery life, but found the Fujis to be more than adequate for a full day of shooting.
Both my X-T1 and X-T10 needed to have their rubber grips replaced at the end of this one month trip. The glue on both bodies had simply let go, and much of the rubber peeled off. This has been a recurring problem with my X-T1 that Fujifilm Korea has not been able to correct. It is a little disappointing on a product of this caliber, where care has been taken in every other aspect to make it a high quality tool.
Pros of Traveling With Fuji
- Autofocus speed in live view
Cons of Traveling With Fuji
- Durability and dependability
- Speed of operation
All in all, the Fuji cameras are great travel companions. Even in these tough conditions, they performed admirably except for the two small hiccups mentioned earlier. I really enjoyed working with the Fujifilm X Series on this trip and can't wait to get them back in the field again.
Lead image used with permission of Wesley Chang Photography.