Seven Tips to Improve Your Fujifilm X Photographic Experience

Seven Tips to Improve Your Fujifilm X Photographic Experience

The Fujifilm X Series Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras have gained a dedicated, almost cult-like following over the last few years for their colors, ergonomics, image quality, and firmware updates. However, getting into the Fuji world, especially from a DSLR user's standpoint, can be a daunting experience. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most from your Fujifilm X Series system.

Keep Your Firmware Up To Date

Fujifilm has become almost famous for their dedication to their customers. "If they can, they will" has become the norm for Fujifilm firmware updates. Known in the community as the "Kaizen" (continuous development) updates, these firmwares have all but given users a completely new camera time and time again. The initial release of a camera doesn't represent its finished form in the Fujifilm world. This should be immediately apparent from the updates that were continuously released for the X-Pro1 over the four years of its lifetime. These weren't merely bugfixes like we're used to from CaNikon, but completely new feature sets as seen in the Firmware 4 updates for the X-T1. Considering the X-Pro2 and X-T2 are already formidable competitors to the DSLR world, one wonders what might be possible in the next couple of firmware releases. Not only the bodies get this treatment, though. Every time a new body is released or the autofocus system gets an update, lenses all get the same treatment as well. Keep your firmware updated is the cardinal rule in the Fuji world.

Use the Q Menu

As with all modern cameras, the menus on the Fujifilm X system are extensive and feature filled. Chances are, however, you won't need all those options all the time. To get you to your most frequently used options in a more visual way, Fuji has the Quick Menu. You can place a decent amount of the camera's settings into this menu and get to them very quickly. This makes it a breeze to select focus modes, white balance, shutter type, or custom settings on the fly. This is especially true if you don't want to take your eye away from the viewfinder. The larger, more graphic, display of the Q menu means that it is easily viewable, even in the smaller Fuji EVFs. Personally, I have shutter type on the first tile, and white balance, film simulation, and focus area one tile away from that. These are my most frequently changed options, and I rarely need to take my eye away from the viewfinder.

Switch Between Mechanical Shutter and Electronic Shutter

I love the electronic shutter, I really do. But the fact remains that you cannot use it all the time. It's not available when shooting flash and doesn't work well with artificial lighting that functions on AC current. It's also not great for super fast action, as the sequential read of the sensor often results in the skewing of quickly moving objects. Although this is also a possible outcome of using the mechanical shutter, it seems to be more pronounced when using the electronic shutter. It can also be a problem when shooting portraits, as your subject cannot hear the (already quiet) shutter. In any of these situations, I will switch to the mechanical shutter.
However, if I'm shooting street or something where I need to be discrete, I'll switch to the electronic shutter. Not only am I enabling complete silence on the camera, but also saving shutter actuations on the mechanical shutter, giving it a longer life.

EVF Preview Modes

EVFs are a polarizing feature of mirrorless cameras: they're both loved and hated in the photography community. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get style of shooting. It allows me to preview right away if I'll be blowing highlights or crushing shadows without even taking a shot. There are a few things to get used to with this style of shooting however, and if you're just starting out, you might be extremely frustrated with your EVF.
One of the most common things I see people struggle with is shooting in manual mode (especially when using flash). The photographer in question will set their ambient exposure to two or three stops under the 'correct' exposure in order to add flash, and then curse at the EVF for being too dark or automatically exposing itself to the surrounding environment, causing the photographer to get confused and have to chimp as much as they did when shooting on a DSLR.
The solution to both of these is setting your EVF correctly for the situation you're shooting in. If you're aiming to completely black out the background and use artificial light (as in a studio setting), you'll probably want your EVF preview set to off. If you're looking to get a preview of the ambient exposure and add flash to that, you'll likely want turn all the previews back on. These can be found in the menu under Screen Settings.

Customize Your Buttons

The Fuji X system, unlike many others, allows you to customize most of the buttons on the body. For those who like all their functions exactly where they want them, this is a great boon. Honestly, I hadn't customized any of the functions until recently, as I found Fuji's default layout to be just fine for my purposes. Then, I sat down for a libation or two with my good friend, Etienne Bossot, and he showed me his layout. I took one amazing tip from this. He had assigned the playback function to the DOF preview button on his X-T2. This allows you to quickly preview, when you want to, the last shot photograph in the viewfinder without taking your eye away from it. Little things like this are what make the Fuji X system special.

Turn On High Performance Mode

This should be a given, but not everyone requires the performance boost. Most of the Fuji X models have the ability to switch between Standard and High Performance mode, and newer models have three settings. These basically give your autofocus and overall operation speed a boost at the expense of battery life. With newer models, your EVF will also gain a refresh rate boost.
The 16-megapixel X-Trans II series of bodies gain a significant boost in overall speed through using the performance mode. In addition, the X-Pro2 and X-T2 have seen a further boost, taking them into DSLR territory in overall operation speed. This is amazing in these tiny bodies and has meant that I'll use them for nearly all of my professional work now.

Older Models (Pre-AF)

While the newer 24-megapixel X-Trans III sensor and X-Processor Pro Engine have enabled significantly faster autofocus in X Series cameras, the older 16-megapixel sensor cameras still have wonderful image quality and a place in your bag. If you find that single focus is taking too long for you, you can enable Pre-AF in the autofocus menu. This mode, although taking more battery power, forces the camera to continuously focus at the focus area you have selected, even when the shutter is not halfpressed. This means that when you do half-press the shutter, the camera will be closer to the focus you require and less hunting will be necessary. If you have a pocket full of batteries and are willing to watch the camera constantly hunting through the viewfinder, this can really give you a boost in focus speeds.

In Conclusion

These are my tips for getting the most out of your Fuji X system bodies. If you have some of your own performance or usability tips, we'd love to see them in the comments below!
Dylan Goldby's picture

Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer living and working in South Korea. He shoots a mix of families, especially the adoptive community, and pre-weddings. His passions include travel, good food and drink, and time away from all things electronic.

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Don't make the same mistake I did. Think twice before getting into the Fujifilm system. Too many shortcomings, too many headaches.

... such as?

AF is still not there yet not matter what you read. I have to admit I'm shooting with the X-T1 and I heard the X-T2 is much better. But how much better really? The X-T1 with firmware 4 got such good reviews with how good AF finally was...yeah right.

X-Trans is hard to process by many converters, makes Lr slower and it lacks detail.
So you'll end up either being frustrated with Lr or you'll want to switch to a different tool i.e. different workflow. Not fun.

Try finding a proper flash system.

No 3rd party lenses (except manual Samyang/Rokinon). But Sigma doesn't want to support Fuji at the moment.

It's not a bad system per say but after the honeymoon is over, you start seeing all these little details that add up pretty quickly.

What kind of photography do you do?

Fuji shooter here - I shoot weddings, so good AF with good ability to track is key. I agree that the XT1 AF system couldn't hold a candle to my old Nikon system (I had a pair of D4s bodies).

The XT2 however, is a completely different story. It tracks and nails focus as good as my Nikon system. Yes, it has it's quirks, but it's not fair to judge an entire system on one, outdated and since-replaced camera body.

Rent the XT2 if you can. It'll run you about 150 bucks if you tack on a lens (try the 56 f1.2). I think if you did you would be shocked at the tech they packed into the 2.

I have the 50-140, that would be a good lens to test the X-T2's AF.
I don't think I have an option here to rent it here though. My local camera store only rents Canons and Nikons (and the Sony A7) :(

I've read good things about the T2's AF but I also read that it still wasn't there yet. So I'm not sure what to believe. You're right though, I should really try it out.

Still, AF isn't the only thing about a system. Flash is still a bit of a problem, X-Trans still requires the use of tools other than Lr if you want to get the best out of it. I'm using Iridient's Fuji X Converter. It's really good but it's not perfect and it adds another step to my workflow.

But don't get me wrong, it's not a bad system. I actually like my X-T1. But one needs to think about it twice before buying into it. The Fuji system has quirks that you didn't have with either Canon or Nikon.

I have to agree about the flash. It's really maddening even getting manual off-camera flash to work, actually.

This is just false. For almost every shoot I do, I use "manual off-camera" strobes. Either my StreakLight 360's or XPLOR 600 work 100% of the time with my Xpro2 in manual mode. If you can't get a manual strobe to work with an x series camera it is user error. Yes you don't get HSS or TTL but strobes work just fine with Fuji cameras.

I don;t know what FF is talking about. I do this all the time with little effort. Maybe he doesn't know how to turn preview mode off.

AF is okay in my opinion, not better than my Nikon D750 but sometimes a lot better.. It's not a lot worse in worst cases.

Well, Lightrom is used by a lot of enthusiasts while people wanting quality go for CaptureOne Pro 10, and I think I manage to squeeze out more details in C1 than LR without making image look like waterpainting. I use C1 and have no problems with Fuji RAW files, altho I had to tweak noise reduction a bit to my liking.. But why shoot RAW if I'm not editing (?) Well.. I shoot JPG and RAW all time.

Nissin i40 is just one of very many examples. You can also use Canons own cables and speedlites if I'm not totally wrong. Just google this. So basically you have access to not only one system - but two.. Thats one more than my Nikon can and I can trigger my Nikon speedlites in SU4 mode with Canon flash or Nissin i40.. I don't see problem.

I can see why people want to use adapters and vintage lenses on Fuji because of the bokeh and other qualities, but why put a cheapo new lens on a expencive new camera? Would you put a Sigma (f)ART on a PhaseOne iQ 280 if you had adapter for it? Fuji's own lenses is made by same guys (Fujinon) that makes optics for Astronomy, satellites, military binoculars, etc.. The Fuji optics is superior to anything else and I do believe my Fuji 16mm 1.4 is the sharpest lens I've ever had with least distortion at that focal range. The Sigma (f)ART series is a joke compared to Fuji in MY opinion and the build quality of AF is worse than oreo crackers. Yeah, I've had Sigma on my Nikon and Canons (some years ago). Some thing never change. Rokinon and Samyang is same shit just different logo btw, and I would not put that on my Camera. I think people forget that camera is the tool that records the image, but the lens is a lot more important. I have maybe 8x 50mm vintage lenses for my Fuji and every single one of them have different look, rendering, feeling etc. Sigma ? And you talk about the honeymoon? My last Sigma lens broke just right after warranty and it was not repairable, AF gear/helicoid problem.

I've had Fuji for 4-5 months now and I love it. I basically "forgot" my Nikon D750 and $5000 of Nikon lenses home when shooting street, portraits and travel.

Sorry for bad English, I'm not a native speaker/writer.

"Well, Lightrom is used by a lot of enthusiasts while people wanting quality go for CaptureOne Pro 10,"

Do you mean in regards to the Fuji X cameras? Because otherwise Lightroom offers no less quality than Capture One. It also does it with a far easier and more intuitive user interface.

The water paint look is the result of the unique design of the X-Trans sensor. Even when using RAW editors that better support that sensor, you can still see it.

"The Sigma (f)ART series is a joke compared to Fuji in MY opinion and the build quality of AF is worse than oreo crackers. Yeah, I've had Sigma on my Nikon and Canons (some years ago). Some thing never change."

Obviously much has changed at Sigma. They now make some of the best lenses in the world. Some years ago? Probably before Sigma's Art lenses even existed.

"Because otherwise Lightroom offers no less quality than Capture One..."

You are wrong, the difference is huge. Thats not only my opinion, google comparisons. PhaseOne shoot 700 images to proof every single camera and calibrate for color, Adobe don't do such things, they just slap on a general profile and you have to do the rest.

"..unique design of the X-Trans sensor..."

Strange, I have no such problem in Capture One with my own settings. You must be using Lightroom (?). I use CaptureOne on a daily basis with Fuji and Nikon.

"They now make some of the best lenses in the world."

Based on? A chart at DxO? Have you seen a MFT chart from Fuji? Have you seen distortion-data from Fuji's lenses? I think Fuji proves why they still are the Fuji/-non we all know.

To be honest, Sigma make some good lenses but why pay Zeiss price for a non-Zeiss lens? Zeiss outperforms Sigma on iQ, maybe not sharpness but color, rendering etc.

It's only 3-4 years ago my Sigma lens died and I'm never going back to that brand. Not only bad build quality but the customer service was terrible "back then".

I've done extensive testing and comparing of Lightroom to Capture One throughout many different versions and updates and there is no relevant difference in image quality, and none when it comes to showing detail. The biggest difference with Capture One is that by default it has more user adjustments made, where as Lightroom only adds a bit of sharpening and only color noise reduction to start you off.

As for trying to match camera manufacturer JPG color profiles, I again see no relevant differences in Lightroom compared to what the camera manufacturers offer.

I have no idea what you are referring to in your "strange..." comment.

I'm well aware of how good Fujinon lenses can be; I used two of them in my darkroom back in the film days. That of course has nothing to do with the fact that Sigma *today* makes some of the best lenses. That's "based on" extensive experience from reviewers and users, both serious amateurs and professionals. Sigma lenses are also nowhere near Zeiss prices.

Did the Sigma Art lenses exist 4 years ago?

Have to write fast so excuse bad english (not native)

And just to add, this is only a few of advantages CaptureOne have over Lightroom, the list is long:

Love to use Luma curve, RGB curve, and advanced color edits straight on the RAW file without having to open Photoshop with a "lesser file". In new v10 I can proof while editing whole file and look at final image in the resulting color space. Sounds like something LR can but it's not the same thing as LR call proofing.

I agree, the initial adjustments is more than Lightroom, but you can still go back and even go FLATTER than Lightroom ever can do with its "Adobe Standard" calibration, try Linear curve in CaptureOne, thats "real RAW" with no gamma curve. Adobe can't go that flat - if you ever need it for difficult exposures.

The color profiles Lightroom provides match quite good but its not exactly the same as JPG profiles, if you like to use such things.. If I shoot RAW I shoot for my own vision and not a JPG profile some guy at Fuji or Adobe make. On the other side, CaptureOne have from the "get-go" more realistic skin tones, realistic overall color of landscapes, etc, because they color calibrate every camera. I can get my Nikon D750 to match my Fuji Xpro2 easily, and thats worth a lot for me since I use it in events and such.

I have no problem with waterpainting look in CaptureOne, in Lightroom that is a real problem no matter how you turn it.. So its not a problem because of sensor type, thats a software engineering problem. This is because of the different demosaicing algorithm the different applications use, and in LR it get worse the more sharpness you try to "shoehorn" into the image, or the more NR you try to apply.. I have both applications (LR because of PS CC) and latest CaptureOne Pro 10, difference is huge on my calibrated monitor in terms of color and rendering with my Nikon D750 and Fuji X-pro2.

I have know good reviews for Fujifilm, professionals and amateurs testing lenses and the cameras but maybe noone saying its the "best in business". Do you have links to the comparisons if there is any, or the places stating Sigma is the best? I would love to read those.. I got links to tons of MFT charts of Fuji if you are in to those things. The new ART series is in Voigtlander and Zeiss price range where I live, well, not very far off Sigma price.

I don't know, did it exist 3-4 years ago? I think so, at least 3 years ago. Does it matter? Same experience, I doubt their warranty and customer relations changed that much. My friend have a ART lens on his Canon fullframe and he is not impressed compared to his manual Voigtlanders and Zeiss, is that maybe Canon's fault? He also have a broken Sigma lens, its like everyone have a broken Sigma lens, coincidence?.. I bought Sigma lens around 4 yr ago and it was "too expencive to repair", internal failure with AF. AF motor sounds like it was chewing oreo crackers and AF ring was stuck. No way to discuss warranty with them. Luckily our new laws give us 5 year warranty no matter what, but I wish I had that back then..

Why would you want/use 3rd party lenses? One of the main reasons to shoot with a Fujifilm x series camera is to have access to Fujinon lenses!

Options, and Because other companies make excellent lenses too.

Check Fuji 16mm 1.4 and compare the sharpness, distortion data, etc with any other lens in world, there is no better 16mm (24mm on FF) in any other camera brand. This is a bold statement but you are going to be surprised how accurate the statement is. Thats only one of many superior lenses Fuji make. I don't know why people spend $2000 on a camera and slap on a $500 lens, don't people know light travel through that thing? It's just as (if not more) important as the camera itself.

I would be all in on Fuji if my photix Odin worked on it, the af was a bit better in low light and there was a 70-200mm equivalent that could get close to the look of the canon 2.8 is ii. Besides those points, the Fuji cameras are better in nearly every other regard, a real joy to shoot with :)

I own or have owned or used almost all Canon cameras made with the exception of the 1dX ii and my favorite camera is my fuji x100T. It is the only fuji i have used, it has no issues, of course its not great for lot of things, however it dominates the small camera game

I have some general X series tips and tricks here:

I switched the Fn2 button (DOF button) to work as my back focus button. The middle finger naturally sits there, making it ideal to use for focussing.

Yeah, that's an obvious mistake that needs correction...

i want to get fuji XT2 just to have small and cheap-good lens.
But the price for XT2 body is ridiculous hight price compare to Sony full frame price.

I think it's priced just fine at $1,600. Comparing to the a7R II and a7S II that cost a grand more? Or the aging a7 II which is about the same price... What are you expecting?

you serious ?! it's easily half the price in most lenses and camera bodies.
If you don't like the fact that it's APS-C, that's an entirely different story. But price wise and lens quality, it's clearly one of the best brands in the photography market at the moment.

The only thing that turns me off Fujifilm X cameras is the unique sensor design simply doesn't generate sharp images. Fine detail in images is mush. The unique sensor design also generates odd artifacts that are often visible no matter what RAW converter is used.

If Fujifilm were to switch to a standard Bayer sensor I would buy a Fujifilm camera right now. I wish they would because Fujifilm is easily tops when it comes to how attractive in-camera JPGs look.

Good news! The X-T100 has been available for a while.

I just did a shoot last night where I needed some of this info. Thanks!

Glad to hear it, Jim!