Why I Moved to Fuji X Cameras for Engagement Work

Why I Moved to Fuji X Cameras for Engagement Work

As mirrorless cameras get better and better, the temptation to lose the weight and bulk of the DSLR is becoming very large for many photographers. Wedding photographers like V Opoku are opting for the smaller footprint of the Fujifilm X-Series, as is famed Music and Editorial Photographer Zack Arias. Humanitarian Photographer David DuChemin also has them in the mix, and much of his beautiful work in northern Kenya was shot on these small and light cameras. I have had a slightly tumultuous relationship with these cameras, but have come to love using them so much that I have found ways to work them from a toy for personal work into business.

I originally purchased the X100S, which like certain other habits, quickly lead to a desire for more and an empty pocket. The X-T1 was the next step, and I initially used it for a documentary project over last summer. Happy with the results, I began taking it with me as my exclusive travel camera. The ability to preview the exact image (exposure, color, flare, etc.) in the viewfinder and excellent built-in color profiles led to a shorter post-processing cycle as well. With the release of the 4.0 firmware, it became clear that Fuji was aiming to make this not only an enthusiasts' camera, but something that pros could rely on.

I began taking it along to my engagement shoots and using it as a second camera, with my D800 still being my primary workhorse. As I did this, I began to find myself liking the results from the Fuji more and more. I found that I was shooting less and disciplining myself more. With the release of the X-T10, I picked one up as a second body for the Fuji system and began shooting my engagements exclusively with them.

Image Preview

Unless I'm using flash, I simply have no need to check anything in the camera anymore. My images are exactly what I saw through the viewfinder at the time of shooting. As I depress the shutter, I get white balance, depth of field, exposure, color, and even things like the exact position of flare previewed in the EVF. I am able to make small adjustments on the fly to get the image even closer to what I want, much more than before with my DSLRs. This means I spend less time checking the back of my camera to ensure everything is going as planned. Sure, there is merit in knowing how things will look before shooting with a DSLR, but the confirmation in the viewfinder is an extra added benefit of shooting the Fuji system.

Size and Weight

I shoot with some beautiful primes on my Nikon system; I count the Nikkor 58mm and 85mm lenses amongst my favorites that I have used, but they are necessarily larger. Getting closer to the film plane and using a crop sensor has allowed these mirrorless cameras to have more compact and lightweight lens designs. The combination of Fuji's 35mm and 56mm primes weighs about two-thirds that of the Nikon kit, and the smaller body means that I can shoot for hours on end without feeling any fatigue. Also, with the tiny size of these lenses, I am able to take a smaller bag with me when working on engagement shoots. My full Fujifilm kit, along with a Nissin i40 and a Westcott Bi-Fold Umbrella, fits into a small messenger bag. Not only do I feel less fatigue, but I'm less obtrusive when working in the city.

Client Interest

I have found that another benefit of these cameras is that it piques my clients' interest in the photography. They are struck by its diminutive size, design, and quiet operation. Once shown an image on the back, they are impressed by its quality and a discussion often begins around photography and their desire for a small camera that performs well. This is a great way to get the guys involved in particular. At times, I've had guys asking to see the back of the camera more than girls. It's a great way to get everyone on your side for the session.

WiFi

Although this is in quite a few DSLRs now, I haven't had the luxury until the Fujifilm cameras. Being able to transfer an image to my phone and make a quick edit on the way home is a great way to ensure my clients get home feeling good about the shoot. I pick a frame where they both look great and text it straight to them.

It's Not All Good

There are a few trade-offs for shooting these little cameras. First and foremost is speed. Things are simply not as fast as a DSLR. Although the most common controls are on the body of the X-T1, simple things like white balance require you to bring up the menus. Shot-to-shot speed is also slowed down with the slower autofocus system, meaning you need to be ready for moments rather than making them happen as the camera locks focus. Small things like this force you to work in a different way that can be a little frustrating at first. One more consideration is that the small size and light weight can make the cameras somewhat difficult to hold steady. I find that I need to concentrate a lot harder at slower shutter speeds to achieve good results.

In Conclusion

There are still many uses for my DSLRs. A good portion of my work is with young children, and I need the exceptional autofocus of my Nikons for the way I like to conduct those sessions. I also use them when I have clients that are impressed by large equipment. There are still times when the bulk of the Nikon kit inspires trust, and that can be crucial to making the session run smoothly. However, for my engagement, editorial, and food work, I am reaching for the mirrorless system straight away now. What are some reasons you do or do not use a mirrorless system for your professional work?

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32 Comments
Jordan Randall's picture

Never used a mirrorless before, getting a WYSIWYG preview in the viewfinder seems amazing though...

Mr Blah's picture

I bought an XT-1 and use it with old canon fd lenses. That preview is amazing.

With manual lenses, it's 100% of the fun of old film cameras, with 0% of the chemical hassle.

Justin Haugen's picture

I hope to see some convergence of mirrorless features in our DSLRS. Hopefully we get a hybrid viewfinder with the option in the future. But I guess we always have liveview. Liveview just feels cumbersome =/

Tom Jacobs's picture

Waiting for a ttl strobe for my xt1 - maybe early 2016? Otherwise love it. Just makes you want to go out and shoot. I can use manual flash with pocket wizards on Canon Speedlites though.

What Zit Tooya's picture

The Metz 44 AF-2 will start to ship in december

Tom Jacobs's picture

Awesome. Thanks.

Prefers Film's picture

This makes me think I should try my EOS M2 with a lens adapter, just to test the waters.

Jeff P.'s picture

Careful with the EOS M2. It might be difficult to evaluate mirrorless properly with this camera as it doesn't have a viewfinder and focus speed with an adapter might discourage you.
If you really want to try mirrorless, may I suggest renting an X-T1 or a Sony Awhatever?

Prefers Film's picture

My M2 seems to focus fast enough (for portrait work), especially compared to the original M, which my wife and daughter both have. For the price, I'd just as soon buy the X-T1, rather than rent one, but the lens options are a bit disappointing. So maybe this will be an experiment to remind me how content I am with my 6D. ;)

Jeff P.'s picture

Oh the 6D is an amazing camera! When I got my X-T1 I was torn between getting the Fuji or the 6D. I decided on the Fuji for a few key reasons personal to me but I'm sure I would have loved the 6D.

Jeff P.'s picture

I own an X-T1, moving from a Canon DSLR. While I wouldn't go back and I absolutely looove the X-T1, I completely understand how someone may not like it for professional use.
For travel, vacation, personal stuff, I believe it's a superb camera. For professional use like weddings, I would still hesitate. Focus speed is still a bit too slow and I have missed a few key moments due to hunting.
As the author said, yes it is usable for weddings but you will definitely need to change some habits in the way you work.

Anonymous's picture

I recently ditched all my SLR gear for an X-T1,x100T and an X-pro 1. I was getting serious wrist problems shooting weddings all year using 5d mk 2 with battery grip and big lenses. I feel I've made the right decision.

The quality from the x-t1 is unbelievable. I was a little hesitant to goto a crop sensor but after my first shoot I was hooked on the look and quality of the fuji cameras. The prime fuji lenses are beautiful. On par with Canon L lenses. Raw files are clean at high iso's as well. impressive for sure.

Seeing exactly what Im shooting in the EVF is a dream come true. It helps me concentrate on the moments and I rarely take my eye off the viewfinder. It is seriously impressive.

I haven't really found any trouble with the autofocus. Coming from the 5d mk 2 any autofocus beats it by a mile! Low light is a little tough but with the dual screen in the manual focus mode I don't find it hard to get a sharp shot anytime anywhere.

These little cameras have changed the way I shoot. I'm very very happy moving to a mirrorless system. I get some snide comments at weddings from guests that I'm not shooting "professional cameras" but my couples have always been happy.

Andrew Strother's picture

The focus peaking in Fuji bodies is amazing as well. I often find myself shooting manual focus on my Fuji bodies simply because nailing focus is so easy with the XT-1.

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

Bought a Fuji X100s a year ago and I'm still trying to like the camera.I was about to pull the trigger on the X-T1 at the time but on second thought I decided to hold and try the X100s instead to see if the hype was true..

Apart from the looks and the lightweights the camera is a disaster...edned up being my instagram/vacation/street toy

1) f/2 is pretty much unusable (X100s only)
2) Macro mode is a joke (X100s only) Makes me wonder why they even bother...
3) WYSIWYG thing. Not entirelly true...
OVF is nowhere near to frame accuracy even with the "corrected af frame" feature nor to the focus confirmation..countless times I had focus confirmation on the subject 2ft away from me and actually focused on the wall at 6ft.had to wait for the (much hated) 0.5 preview to see what happend...
EVF is not ENTIRELY colour or exposure accurate as well.
Ended up using the back screen most of the time and I hate using back screens to shoot!!!!!!!!!!!!
4) 0.5 sec preview, If you're using the OVF you have to wait for the EVF to kick in and then show you a false preview of the image you just took..for true preview you have to press the play button.
5) Sluggish performance overall, This camera is super slow..Have fun with it.
6) Image Quality, It's not that its bad but it's on par with almost every other APS-C camera on the market...That's not a plus either..

Totally keeping my Canon gear for now...

Anonymous's picture

The evf on the x-T1 is much better than the x100s. it's wysiwyg 100%. Honestly the x-t1 is miles above the x100 line. it's fast, pretty decent autofocus. Great image quality.

The x100t is the best out of x100 line up. I still wouldn't have it as a my only body though. The x-t1 on the other hand I would. The x lenses are beautiful.

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

As I said.. Originally I wanted an X-T1 perhaps I should have bought one in the first place.

Anonymous's picture

Yep I got that. Just trying to say don't judge the X-T1 on the x100s. It's miles above. I've been shooting weddings/engagements with it a lot and its performed well

Chris Ferreira's picture

Out of curiously, what makes the x100 at f/2 unusable?

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

Its softness.....for a fixed lens designed specifically for this body it's kind of unacceptable at f/2 and considering the cost of the camera itself makes me furious.

My aperture ring stuck at f/2.8. things are better there.

Rob Barnes's picture

Agreed! The X100 at f2 is unusable. 2.8 and above is awesome though!

Rob Barnes's picture

All these reasons you list for not liking the X cameras are the exact reasons I sold my xpro1, ex1 and x100(although I did buy another x100 as its a nice travel camera).

Also, im sorry but the watercolor effect is still a huge issue with these x-trans sensors. I dont care if Adobe and Fuji say theyve worked it out, it still looks like a oily mess in any version of Lightroom and Photoshop.

FYI - I like the original X100 because its NOT an xtrans sensor. I cant shoot anything that moves with it but its nice to landscape and travel.

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

I gonna keep my X100s as well! it's a perfect pocket/holiday/street camera but other than that it's also a bit hard to shell (at least in my country)..They don't keep much of a value..

As for the watercolor effect..yes it's there, but I had more serious problems with the camera to begin with..and my list surely goes beyond these 6...(battery life, flash features, etc).
This at least you can bypass with different raw converter (Capture One)

X100 was awesome when it came out and when I decided to buy the X100s instead I checked the X100 as well!! Great daylight camera but sooooooo slow, even by X100s standards..I think with firmware updates got a lot better though!

One reason I am mad at Fuji is that when the X100s came out a firmware update made the original pretty close to the X100s...when the X100T came out though..............cmon fuji give us the Classic Crome film simulation!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gerard Van der Weyde's picture

This water color problem, isn't that the well known LR problem with X-trans sensors?

Owain Shaw's picture

I actually went to check out some X series cameras in hand today. I've been interested for a while but now is as good a time as any to buy because I'm selling off gear I only used for work now I'm just looking to enjoy photography ... down to a Canon body and one inexpensive lens plus an adapted manual lens for now. When my 24-70 sells, I was planning to buy a 50mm and 85mm but a friend who shoots weddings was interested in my 5DII so I could sell that to him, which saves him buying new, and move to Fuji rather than reinvest in more Canon gear.

The Fuji cameras really interest me for travel/street-ish stuff, but I'd like to keep being able to shoot a theatre performance if the need arises ... I'm not looking for work any more but I have friends who are actors and actresses doing it for the love of it and not getting paid either, I'd like to be able to help them out. (Shoot me!)

Theatre (let alone Dance) can be quite tough with both low light and movement (though that's more Dance) so this is my only real worry for these cameras - particularly as I'm looking at the X-Pro more than the X-T1 ... anyone with any advice to offer on this front? Experiences with (ideally) theatre and/or music would be appreciated.

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

For what you are going to shoot the X-T1 is your only choice...X-pro1 is very old and sluggish (not a bad camera but not for these type of shoots) ...

Maybe your other choice should be an X-E2.

Owain Shaw's picture

Thanks. These were my suspicions to be honest. It would only be occasional use (haven't shot any theatre professionally or as a favour in over a year), but it is something I'd want to be able to do.

Looking at UK prices, the X-T1 isn't beyond the realms of possibility. Depends on what I get for my current gear, I guess. Thanks again.

Owain Shaw's picture

In the end, I caught a Black Friday deal on an X-Pro1 with two small lenses - 18mm f/2 and 27mm Pancake - for £500. I had a bit of money and the price was too good to resist. I get to try out the X system at a really good price, without selling off my DSLR, and worst case scenario is I'll have an amazing travel camera ... I'm pretty excited about it.

Michael Heath's picture

Dylan: Nice write up! As a person who uses both DSLR and mirrorless, I can certainly appreciate the advantages of both. I'm traveling for a photoshoot late next month, and I plan on leaving my DSLR at home to see how far I get with just the mirrorless kit.

One item of note, since you mentioned the lighter weight for APS-C mirrorless cameras and associated lenses, the difference has more to do with the sensor size than any other physical attribute. (I'm not getting into equivalency of focal lengths or depth-of-field here, don't worry. I've had enough of that, myself.) Since the APS-C sensor requires a smaller exit pupil than full-frame, that alone allows lenses to be smaller than if they had to cover a full-frame sensor. If you look at lenses with similar light gathering capabilities to the 35 f/1.4 and 56 f/1.2 - which would be roughly approximate to a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 - you'll notice there's not much of a weight difference (and I assure you, I did plenty of math to reach that approximation, though it's not a perfect apples-to-apple comparison).

Dan Chippendale's picture

I've been struggling to love my XT1 since purchase. While the files are nice at lower ISO, it generally feels a little bit small and toy-like for anything other than personal work. I've sold all my fujinon lenses and am just about to list the body with kit lens for sale. End of the affair. Give me a full frame fuji and I might rekindle my love

Dexter Robinson's picture

Just bought an XT-10 as my first digital body, coupled with a 27mm prime & 16-55 zoom. Interesting read as I'm looking to pick up some work & whilst I primarily shot film I couldn't justify the expense of developing yet. This camera is almost a bridge for me to get into the digital world, small enough to match my Olympus OM cameras yet hopefully good enough to get some work with.

Ville Kotimäki's picture

As far as I know the flash options with X-T1 are pretty weak. 1/160 sync speed, the lowest iso is 200 and no hss capability. These are the reasons I have stayed with my Nikon system.

The X-system and m43 are pretty good for natural light work.

Dylan Goldby's picture

Sync speed is 1/180. Not a huge difference from the Nikon system. HSS is a loss, but we can just do it all the old way and use ND filters. There isn't actually a huge difference when using the Fuji system for flash; all you really need is an ND filter one stop darker than you would normally use.

AF is the major reason I still use the Nikon system for a lot of applications. There is nothing quite like working with the blazing fast AF of the newer DSLRs.