Photography at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

DSCF1553-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

Click any image to view in higher resolution!

Yesterday I visited the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC (a suburb of Vancouver).   My daughter is a bird fanatic so it was a great family day, but it was also a great opportunity to continue testing my review copy of the Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens to see how they handled bird photography.  Let’s talk first about this beautiful sanctuary and look at some photographs, then we’ll talk photography and nerd out  a little on gear (and my thoughts on Fuji’s new autofocus system for bird photography).

DSCF1391(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/8and 1/500th)

The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a 300 hectare (about 850 acres) piece of protected land made up of wetlands, natural marshes, and low dykes at the Fraser River Estuary.  The land was originally purchased by George C. Reifel in 1927.  In the 1960’s his son, George H. Reifel, leased the land to the British Columbia Waterfowl Society (a private non profit) to establish a bird sanctuary.  Assistance was provided by Ducks Unlimited, and the provincial government assisted by establishing a game reserve on nearby land.

DSCF1424(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/1000th)

Ideally located along annual migratory paths, millions of birds each year find feeding and resting areas at the sanctuary.   Depending on the time of year you may see Snow Geese, Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Herons, Eagles, Pigeons, Chickadees, Western Sandpipers, Hawks, Cormorants, and Osprey.  According to the official website over 280 species of birds have now been recorded at the sanctuary.

DSCF1638(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 and 1/2000th)

Visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary could not be easier.  There is ample free parking located right outside of the entrance.   Hours are from 9am to 4pm each day.  Admission fees are low ($5 for an adult, $3 for a child), and the sanctuary is open year round (including Christmas).  You can purchase food to feed the birds for $1 per bag, and there are benches, bathrooms, and picnic locations throughout the sanctuary.

DSCF1384(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 and 1/640th)

My daughter was a little intimidated by the charge of Canada Geese when we entered the Sanctuary (see photo above), but you quickly realize that the birds are very friendly… sometimes even photobombing a picture:

DSCF1559(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

And, they do love to talk:

DSCF1650(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8 and 1/2500th)

We spent approximately 3 hours wandering the sanctuary and found that to be a perfect amount of time to see everything we wanted to see.   Here are a few more photographs from the day:

DSCF1564(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/2000th)

DSCF1584

(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8 and 1/500th)

DSCF1453

(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5 and 1/1000th)

DSCF1376

(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ f/4 and 1/500th)

Perhaps the best thing for this trip was the total cost:  $5 for my admission, $3 for my daughter’s, $2 for bird food, and $4 for a souvenir .  $14 in total.

Kudos to the sanctuary, and the society, for making it so cost effective to visit. They even do a 50% discount for classroom visits when the teachers pre-book a visit!

And now, a quick note for my fellow photographers and Fuji lovers:

I shot all of these photographs on the new Fuji X-T10, using the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 lens.

Fans of mirrorless cameras know that the autofocus systems, when photographing moving targets, have not historically been as mature as those found in SLR cameras.   Fuji recently updated the firmware in their cameras, which gave us a new autofocus system that is damn near on par with SLR cameras in my opinion.

In the photos in this post you can see birds in flight, birds landing in water (screwed that one up a little – shutter speed was too slow @ 1/500th), birds fighting, birds moving towards the camera.  Heck, here is a HEAVILY cropped image of a dragonfly in flight:

DSCF1487

Not once did I miss a shot because the camera couldn’t handle the situation.  These little mirrorless cameras, and especially Fuji’s new autofocus system, are getting closer and closer to perfection in my opinion.  Here is a contact sheet from the first photo at the top of this post.   I shutter mashed these frames in AF-C, CH, with the new zone focusing.  You can click the photography to view it large.  They are all sharp:

AF4

Not too shabby, and another evolutionary step forward for mirrorless cameras for sure.

I’m reaching a little for something in the interest of keeping my review balanced, and If I had any “negative” comment about using the X-T10 in this situation it was that the buffer, write speed, and capacity for high rate shooting is slightly less than I get on my other cameras (i.e. the X-T1).

If I was a full time action or sports photographer I might opt for the faster Fuji X-T1 instead of this camera, but as you can see it was not a barrier to capturing images I am happy with.  It is simply a matter of choosing the right tool for the job, and at it’s price point ($899 Canadian at the time of this writing) I think the X-T10 did a great job.

End of nerdy camera talk!

I would encourage everyone in the Vancouver area to visit the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  It is a beautiful place and a great way to spend a day.

Cheers,

Ian

Vancouver Street Photography with the Fuji X-T10

DSCF1119(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

I recently wrote about my first impressions of the Fuji X-T10 that Fuji Canada sent me to review this summer.

Last week I had a chance to use it on the streets of Vancouver for a day of street photography, and also used it to shoot a concert this past weekend (more on that in a future blog post).

After a few days of shooting with the Fuji X-T10 the overwhelming thought I keep having  is:   “What’s the catch?”  Much has been written about how the X-T10 is a “stripped down” version of the Fuji X-T1, but I must say it handles beautifully and has been an absolute pleasure to use so far…. especially at the price point.  There is very little that feels “stripped down”.

DSCF1115-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

Setting the camera up for shooting street

When I shoot street I tend to let the camera determine the best exposure, and use either auto or manual focus depending on the situation.

For this day I set up the X-T10 as follows:

  • I paired the X-T10 with the superb Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens.  This created a small kit that fit easily in the hand and was very light to carry.
  • I shot in Aperture Priority Mode, with the aperture set between f/8 and f/11 (depending on the light).
  • I used Auto ISO, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th (to freeze most action), and a maximum ISO of 3200 (the Fuji sensor can handle high ISO brilliantly, so I have no concerns about going that high).
  • Single Point Autofocus was used 90% of the time, with manual and zone focusing used the other 10% as needed.
  • To try to keep the camera as discreet as possible all sounds were turned down as much as possible, the AF assist light was disabled, etc.

For the most part these settings allow me to walk around and shoot effortlessly, using just the exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera when an exposure adjustment was needed.

Shooting through the day

I started my day around 8:30am, and shot until about 4pm or so.  During that time (almost 8 hours) I walked over 10km with the camera in my hand the entire time (on a wrist strap).  It is such a small setup that I never once noticed the weight.  Of significant note is that I also did not have to change the battery once on this day.

Shooting street photography with a 35mm lens involves getting close to your subjects.  For this picture I was probably only a meter away:

DSCF1152-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

And, the same goes for this one:

DSCF1040-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

The camera and lens is such a small combo though that nobody really seemed to notice, even when I was that close.

Mirrorless cameras have often been faulted for their autofocus systems, which are definitely not as mature as DSLR autofocusing.  Fuji recently released a new firmware update for their cameras, however, and the autofocusing on the X-T10 handled these moments beautifully.  Not once did I feel I missed a shot due to poor focusing, something I could not always say in the past.

I usually split my time when street shooting between capturing candid moments, and stopping people to interact and make more of a portrait.   When I do this I try not to bring the camera up for the first few minutes.  My goal is to learn about the person, not just snap a quick photo, so I’d rather wait until I think they feel comfortable.   When I do bring up the camera there is rarely an issue, I think because of its non threatening size.  People also seem genuinely interested in these retro looking mirrorless cameras.

Here are a couple more impromptu portraits from the day:

DSCF1144-Edit(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

DSCF1182(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens)

The only time I switched to my X100t was when I needed a wider focal length due to working on a narrow sidewalk to capture this photo:

DSCF2786(Fuji X100T)

Final thoughts from the day

ONE:

I am used to shooting street photography with my leaf shutter Fuji X100t, which is COMPLETELY silent.  I realized this when I shot a candid photograph of somebody from about 3 feet away, and they turned to the sound of the Fuji X-T10’s shutter.

Oops.  🙂

It isn’t that it is a loud shutter, but when you are used to a silent camera it is noticeable and I wasn’t expecting it.  I’ll know for next time, and this is something that could possibly be mitigated through use of the electronic shutter.

TWO:

Those who have been around with Fuji for a while will remember the days of horrible battery life.  I was pleasantly surprised to make it through an entire day of shooting and still be on the first battery.  This was a welcome change, and reminiscent of my DSLR days.

THREE:

Coming from an X-T1, the X-T10 felt 100% comfortable in my hands.  So far there  has only been a minimal learning curve moving from one camera body to the next.  It feels great.

To end this post…

I’ll be writing about it in a separate blog post, but here is an image from the concert I also shot this weekend:

DSCF1324(Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 50-140 f/2.8 lens)

Cheers,

Ian

First Impressions: The Fuji X-T10

DSCF3356 Fuji Canada was kind enough to send me a review copy of the Fuji X-T10 for use this summer on a working vacation, on a personal project, and for several client shoots (athlete portrait sessions and a wedding or two).  I have literally only had it for a day or two, so for now I’d just like to share some initial impressions of the camera as it comes out of the box.  Throughout the summer I will be writing more about it on a shoot by shoot basis.

There are already many good sources online for technical information, and I highly recommend my friend Take at bigheadtaco.com.  Please check out his site and his Youtube videos.

My reviews this summer are going to focus on using the camera in real life scenarios.  How does it feel in the hand?  How does it fit in the bag?  How is the new autofocus system?  How does  it works for portraits? While traveling?  At a wedding?

THE CAMERA:

DSCF3384 I had been intrigued by this camera since it was announced, as I had been looking for a backup to my Fuji X-T1.   I always bring my Fuji X100t with me on shoots, but a backup interchangeable lens camera is a must for paid client work. I was looking for something that felt familiar in my hands, worked with my existing lenses, and for something that wouldn’t break the bank.  I had initially set my eyes on a used Fuji X-E2, but a good friend reminded me of the importance of working with two camera bodies that are similar so your muscle memory can take over when it counts.

You can’t really talk about the Fuji X-T10 without referencing its big brother, the Fuji X-T1.  On first glance you will realize that the X-T1 and the X-T10 have far more things in common than not:  both have similar all metal bodies, both have a tilt screen and, most importantly, both have the same image sensor and processor.

So, where do the differences lie?  For that we need get geeky and look at the specs briefly:

  • The X-T10 is not weather sealed
  • The X-T10 viewfinder has slightly less magnification compared to the X-T1 (.62x versus the .77x of the Fuji X-T1).  It does share the same refresh rate and resolution as the X-T1, however.
  • The X-T10 LCD has 920k dots versus 1040 dots in the X-T1.
  • The X-T10 does not have a flash sync port.
  • The X-T10 has less” burst potential” than the X-T1, due to a smaller buffer and because the X-T1 can use faster SD cards.

There are a few small differences for sure.  But, those small differences give you:

  • A camera body that produces images every bit as beautiful as the Fuji X-T1 (same sensor, same processor).
  • A camera body  that is lighter that the X-T1 (381g versus 440g).
  • A camera body that is smaller.
  • A camera body that is extremely customizable:  There are 7 function buttons versus the X-T1’s 6.
  • A camera body that has an advanced auto switch.  I have to admit that this sounded a little hokey to me at first, until I thought about all the times I’ve tried to hand my X-T1 or X100t to someone to grab a snapshot with.  The auto switch allows you to quickly give it  to someone for a snapshot, yet still retain all of your custom settings when you get it back.  Brilliant, really.
  • A camera body that has a built in flash.
  •  A camera body that is about $500 USD less than the X-T1 at the time of launch.

IN THE HAND AND IN THE BAG:

We talked about the X-T10 being lighter and smaller than the flagship X-T1 camera body.  You can see this a little in the picture at the top of this post,  but trust me the size difference is very noticeable when you hold it in your hand.  I’m sure there will be an adjustment period getting used to gripping the camera (coming from the X-T1), but I don’t anticipate any problems.

For me, however, you really notice the size of these cameras when you start putting a system together.   Many of us switched to mirrorless because we were tired of lugging around a backpack full of DSLR gear.  When you look at the pic of the three cameras at the top of this post you can see the Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens on it, sitting between my X100t and my X-T1 with the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens on it.

Here are those 3 cameras, with assorted accessories, in a small Think Tank Retrospective 5 messenger bag:

DSCF3382

I have long evangelized the benefit of switching to mirrorless cameras.  Let’s consider this picture though to truly realize how far Fuji has come, not just with the new X-T10, but with their entire lineup. In that tiny little messenger bag you will find:

DSCF3378

  • The Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens (85mm equivalent)
  • The Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens (50mm equivalent)
  • The Fuji X100t with its 23mm f/2 lens (35mm equivalent)
  • The Nissin i40 flash
  • Extra batteries, cards, cleaning cloth.

That’s pretty incredible when you think about it:  2 interchangeable lens camera bodies, and 1 rangerfinder-esque camera, that all share the same sensor.  Add in 3 fast lenses, a flash, and assorted accessories all packed into a camera bag the size of a large purse (or, you know, a “satchel”  for the men).

You could rock out a day long wedding with that bag no problem and your shoulders wouldn’t complain once!

THE BOTTOM LINE SO FAR:

The Fuji X-T10 is small, light, and cost effective… all while using the same sensor and processor as its big brother the X-T1.  Fuji seemed to only make a few compromises to achieve this (slightly decreased viewfinder magnification, slightly lower LCD resolution, no weather sealing, and no flash sync port).

It also provides an automatic mode and pop up flash for use when you just need a quick snapshot, perhaps making it the most versatile “family camera” in the X line up (as it can  be shared easily by the photo enthusiast and the point and shoot family member).

Finally, it retains the user interface and customizable characteristics that made the Fuji X-T1 such a success.

On first glance that seems to be a whole lot of win, at a very attractive price.

The Fuji X-T10 can be purchased as a body only, or in two kits (paired with either the Fujinon 18-55mm or the entry level Fujinon 16-50mm).  What has been interesting for me, however,  is how I instantly paired it with the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens.  The X-T10 and the 35mm just seem made for each other, and that lens has been bolted to the camera since I took it out of the box.

The X-T10 will be my main camera body this summer (alongside my X100t), and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you as the summer progresses.

Best wishes,

Ian