Fujifilm… Momentum Defined

This September will mark 8 years since Fujifilm announced the FinePix X100, the little camera that changed photography forever for so many of us.  Over the next few years Fuji enthusiasts and brand ambassadors wrote passionately about each new camera, each new lens, and each new firmware update.  We celebrated successes, noted milestones, provided feedback and enjoyed gatherings with other Fuji X Series users.  I can only speak for myself of course, but it has been a wonderful ride.

This past February I was in Vancouver with Billy Luong (Manager – Product and Marketing Specialist Group) and three of my Official Fuji X Photographer peers for a presentation on the brand new Fujifilm X-H1.  After the presentation, I had long conversations about the Fuji X Series with several of the attendees and went for dinner with Billy and the X Photographer team.  Driving home, I distinctly remember thinking about how far the X Series had come and how mature the system was now.

Well, that was 5 months ago and a lot has happened since then:  Fujifilm have released two more new cameras, 3 new lenses, delivered more than a dozen free firmware updates and even brought out a new colour option for the esteemed Fujifilm X100F (pictured above).  The lens roadmap has also been updated, with three new lens that will be released in the coming years.

And, it is only July.

I have had the privilege of working closely with Fujifilm as a brand ambassador for several years now.  I know how they listen to their user base, and I know how hard they work to release products that meet the needs of their customers.  Still though, when I look at the aggregate of their releases over the last five months, I have to say that I am blown away.  In my opinion, there has never been a better time to get into the Fuji ecosystem… it is mature, robust and, clearly, still growing!

I have a bit of free time right now, so let’s take a look at these new products:

HARDWARE

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

The Fujifilm X-H1

The X-H1, the first release in 2018, is a new body that exists alongside the other flagship cameras in the Fuji X Series (the X-T2 and X-Pro2).  At launch, it brought a lot of improvements that were welcome additions for many X Series users, including a stronger, more scratch resistant body, a new shutter, an improved auto-focus system, 5 axis / 5 stop in body image stabilization, an improved electronic viewfinder, new shooting options like flicker reduction, and a plethora of new video options.  While some people struggled a bit with the larger size, I found that the X-H1 balanced extremely well with the Red Badge zooms (like the XF16-55mm f/2.8) and with the larger primes (like the XF90mm f/2).  There is no other way of saying it:  the X-H1 is a beast, ideally suited for action and wedding photographers as well as those who are focused on video.

You can learn more about the X-H1 on Fujifilm’s official page here:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_h1/

And, be sure to read my buddy Jonas Rask’s review here:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/02/15/the-fujifilm-x-h1-review-technicalitus-maximus/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

The Fujifilm X-T100

When mirrorless cameras were first gaining momentum there were many strong arguments in their favour:  the compact size, the ergonomics, the image quality, the “what you see is what you get” nature of the viewfinders, the price point compared to DSLRs, etc.  As these cameras became more advanced, however, the price gap between mirrorless and DSLR narrowed somewhat.  That is why I was so excited to see Fujifilm release the X-T100, an affordable product at an excellent entry level price ($699USD with the kit lens).

There are some differences between the X-T100 and the other cameras in the X Series of course (it uses a traditional Bayer sensor and not the X-Trans sensor, for example), but it is a very capable camera, which makes it an easy recommendation for people who are looking to switch to Fujifilm but who can’t afford the other models.

I also think that this release speaks to the maturity of the Fuji X Series.  Within a few months Fujifilm added what is arguably the most capable camera in the X Series line (the X-H1), and then followed that by releasing a new entry level model.  Something for everyone…. a mature system.

Here are a couple of  links where you can learn more about the X-T100:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_t100/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/05/24/fujifilm-x-t100-review-quality-on-a-budget/

Photo credit fujifilm.com

The Fujifilm XF10

A few years ago Fujifilm released a camera called the X70.  It was not one of Fujifilm’s most successful cameras, but it has developed a very strong following since.  The X70 had an X-Trans sensor, a tilt screen, a fixed 18.5mm lens (a 28mm equivalent), and touch screen functionality.  In many ways it was the perfect “always with you” street photography camera and many people (myself included) were sad to see it discontinued.

Last week Fujifilm announced the XF10, a new fixed lens compact camera.  Now, this is not the successor to X70 for several reasons, but it does share a similar size and focal length.  I have not used the XF10 yet but, at its price point of $400 USD,  it is another strong addition to the entry level of the Fuji X Series.

You can learn more about the XF10 here:

http://www.fujifilm.ca/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_xf10/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujinon XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR

Early in the development of the X Series it was not uncommon to hear people say things like, “I would love to switch to Fujifilm, but I need fast, long glass for the the sports that I shoot.”  Or, “I really need dual card slots for my wedding photography”.

Fujifilm moved quickly to fill those gaps though, and last week they announced the new Fujinon XF200mm f/2 telephoto lens.   I have friends who are absolutely thrilled with this announcement, who are already deciding which vehicle or child to sell to get this lens.  The XF200mm has a full frame equivalent focal length of 300mm, but it also ships with a 1.4x teleconverter, offering a fast equivalent focal length of 420mm.  When you add in 5 stops of optical image stabilization, and weather sealing, you can really see that this lens is purpose built for professional work.  It will become a workhorse for those who need it.

Here are a couple of links to learn more about the new XF200mm lens:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf200mmf2_r_lm_ois_wr/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/07/20/fujinon-xf200mm-f-2-mini-review-the-crown-jewel-of-x/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujinon XF8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR

Nikon and other DSLR manufacturers have long had their “holy trinity” of lenses.  Years ago, when I shot Nikon, the trinity consisted of the 12-24mm f/2.8 zoom, the 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom and the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom.  Odds are that if you were a “working pro” shooting Nikon you would have a bag with two full frame DSLR bodies, these three lenses, a bunch of accessories, and the contact information for your chiropractor.

Several years ago, Fujifilm released the first two Red Badge Lenses in the Fuji X Series, the XF16-55mm f/2.8 zoom and the XF50-140mm f/2.8 zoom.  These fast f/2.8 lenses are weather sealed, have fast autofocus and provide amazing image quality.  I am a prime lens shooter through and through but, as a working photographer, I would never be without these two lenses in my bag.  In my work they don’t come out often, but they are indispensable when needed.

And now, finally, we have the third lens in the Fujifilm trinity:  The XF8-16mm f/2.8 zoom lens.  I do not shoot a lot of wide angle myself, but this lens is going to be a welcome addition for those who want the best wide angle lens they can get for their X Series cameras.

Here are a couple of links to learn more about the new XF8-16mm lens:

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf8_16mmf28_r_lm_wr/

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/07/20/fujinon-xf8-16mm-f2-8-mini-review-a-wider-shade-of-fujifilm/

Photo credit Jonas Rask (https://jonasraskphotography.com)

Fujifilm has also been busy on the GFX front over the last few months, releasing the following products:

GFX 250mm f/4 with a 1.4x adapter:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/04/12/behemoth-obscura-fujifilm-gf-250mm-f-4-and-gf1-4x-tc-wr-mini-review/

the MCEX-18G and MCEX-45G:

https://jonasraskphotography.com/2018/04/12/moving-in-close-a-look-at-the-fujifilm-mcex-18g-and-mcex-45g/

As you can see, things have been very busy on the hardware front this year.  Now, let’s talk about software…

FIRMWARE UPDATES

(A “class photo” from a recent workshop I taught.  I would say that Fujifilm was well represented!)

All companies work to innovate and introduce new products, but no one supports existing products the way that Fujifilm does through their ongoing firmware updates.  Sometimes an update may be small, perhaps just a bug fix or compatibility with a new lens, and other times Fujifilm adds entirely new features to their products.  

And, they do it for free!

The X-Pro2, for example, is now a 2.5 year old camera.  It just received an update this past week, however,  that adds additional customization options for the viewfinder, Flicker Reduction for when you are shooting under fluorescent lights, new improvements to the camera’s auto-focus system and several other small feature updates.

…how cool is that?

In the last six months alone, the following cameras have received firmware updates:

  • X-A3:  June 28th, 2018
  • X-A5:  June 28th, 2018
  • X-A10:  February 10th, 2018
  • X-A20:  June 10th, 2018
  • X-E2:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-E2S:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-E3:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-H1:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-Pro2:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-T2:  July 19th, 2018
  • X-T10:  July 24th, 2018
  • X-T20:  July 24th, 2018
  • X100F:  July 24th, 2018

Note:  This list does not include updates made to lenses within the system, of which there were several this year.  

You can check for the most recent firmware updates here:

http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/

THE Lens ROADMAP

Some organizations are famously secretive when it comes to future product releases (Apple comes to mind), refusing to say anything about future product development or launch cycles.  As a working photographer, however, I want to be able to plan and knowing what is coming allows me to invest in my tools appropriately.  Fujifilm helps us in this regard by publishing the Lens Roadmap (see above).

The current roadmap, recently updated, announces three new lenses that will be coming in 2019/2020.  I can say, from many frequent discussions, that these are all lenses people have been requesting for quite some time now:

  • A 16mm f/2.8 prime lens.  I hope that this lens will be the perfect wide angle companion to join the 23 f/2 and 50 f/2 lenses that I love so much.  This will be an instant buy for me if it is.
  • A 16-80mm f/4 zoom lens.  I am not usually a zoom shooter, but I am actually quite excited for this one.  The 24-105mm f/4 zoom has long been a mainstay in the Canon world, and back when I shot Nikon I often used a 24-120mm f/4 (on a full frame) as my travel lens.  I think that a weather resistant, optically stabilized 16-80mm f/4 will be the perfect addition to my travel bag.
  • A 35mm f/1.0 prime lens.  When the topic of future Fujinon lens releases comes up the 35mm f/1.0 often gets discussed.  It isn’t a lens that would get used very often in my work, but I think this one is going to make many Fujifilm shooters very happy!

In Summary

This post turned out much longer than I originally intended, but I think the main take home is that Fujifilm is clearly not content to rest on their laurels.  On the contrary, they are constantly innovating and working to make the X Series the best camera system possible.  Just look at the last 5 months:  3 new cameras, 3 new lenses and over a dozen new firmware updates.  When I see this I get excited, thinking about what may come in the next generation of the X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F cameras.

If you are considering a move to the Fuji X Series I can only say that you should jump right in… the water is fine.  You will be working with a camera system from a company that is constantly innovating, constantly listening, and constantly delivering.  Is the X series perfect?  No, nothing is, but as a working photographer I can attest to how well these cameras perform and to how great it is to see a company constantly expand their product line and support their users.

What more can we ask for?

Cheers,

Ian

406 Days With the Fuji X100F

406 days ago my friends at Fujifilm asked me if I would like to be one of 50 Official Fuji X Photographers to beta test the new (at the time) Fuji X100F.

390 days ago the camera arrived.

12,942 frames later, I am still shooting 90% of my personal work with the X100F.  I simply love this camera.

Over the past few years I have worked with pre-production models of many Fuji products but, as a long time X100 series user, this was the camera that I was really looking forward to.  I, like many others, have tried to put into words what it is about this camera that inspires me so much; but to be honest, I still can’t.  The X100 series, and especially the X100F, really is the embodiment of the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.  I am very fortunate to also own an X-T2 and an X-Pro2, both incredibly capable cameras, but it is the X100F that I always reach for first unless I have a specific need for one of the other cameras.

Two years ago I wrote an article entitled, “What’s next for the Fuji X100T?”, in which I shared my wish list for the successor to that camera.  Earlier this year Fuji not only delivered, but surpassed everything that I had hoped for (other than weather sealing).  As I sit here, contemplating what I would love to see in the successor to the Fuji X100F, the truth is that the list is pretty small as the “F” ticks all of the boxes for me (key words:  “for me”).  Yes, I would like to see weather sealing come to the next generation of this camera, but I can also say that I have shot in rain with the X100F many times and have not had any problems.  I would like the ability to select the number of film simulations I can bracket (I usually only want two), and I would like to be able to save a RAW file alongside an Advanced Filter image.  Sure, we could always use faster autofocus, but there is nothing in this camera that is a barrier to creating the work I see in my head.   On the contrary, there is something elusive about it that inspires me to go out and make new work.  As many others have said before me:  this is definitely my desert island camera.

As I reflect back on this past year in my photographic life, I’d like to share two dozen images taken with the Fuji X100F (some that were posted in previous articles and some that haven’t been posted before).  The versatility of this camera never ceases to amaze me and I can’t wait to see what Fuji does next.

Do you shoot with an X100 series camera?  If so I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments below!

Cheers,

Ian

 

Processing Street Photographs in Classic Chrome

There has been a lot of black and white imagery on this site lately as I shared my “96 Hours in Paris” series, so I think it is definitely time for some colour.  In this post I’d like to share 15 new street images that I have taken recently, talk a little about Classic Chrome and highlight a few steps in my post production workflow.

One of the questions I get asked a lot via email, and one of the things we discuss during my street photography workshops, is how I post process my images.  While some people consider “post processing” to be a dirty word (I know, I know, it is two words), the truth is that working with images in post has been done since the early days of photography.  I definitely subscribe to the “get it right in camera” approach, but I also recognize that many images benefit from a little extra work.  My goal then is to get the photo as close as possible in camera through the careful observation of light and good camera skills; and then, I give the image a final polish in post production as needed (maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes per image max).

I LOVE using the Classic Chrome film simulation found in the Fuji X Series of cameras for colour street photography.  There is something about it…the colour palette matches my aesthetic perfectly and has a look that I was immediately attracted to when it first came out.  I think it is worth emphasizing that last thought though… “it matches my aesthetic”.  This article is about processing colour street images the way I like to make them, which usually involves contrast and bold colours.  Other photographers may have a different look or approach that they like and that is 100% okay.  After all, art would be boring if we all did it the same way, wouldn’t it?

I have used Classic Chrome extensively since its release and I find the key to making compelling images with it (as with most photos actually) is to have the right light.  When the lighting is flat and muddy I definitely don’t have the same success with Classic Chrome that I do when I have good light.

Let’s use the following image to look at my processing workflow.  Here it is, shot in RAW, straight out of camera in all of its unedited glory:

For context:

I was walking from a meeting with one of my students in downtown Vancouver when I saw the elements of this photo coming together quickly:  the bright, late afternoon sun casting light on the building, the shadow of the pole on the wall, the orange colours and the subject walking toward the intersection.  This photograph is an example of why you should always be ready when on the streets.  Now, being ready doesn’t have to mean being intense, being “in the zone”, etc… but you should always be seeing and your camera should always be ready (you can click here to see how I set up my cameras for street photography).

The first thing I do when I am editing images is decide if it is going to be a keeper or not.  Sometimes this is obvious, other times less so.  This photo came out a little under exposed and the white balance is off a bit, but I love what is happening at the centre of the frame (the light, the subject, the shadows, the colours, etc).  There are a few distracting or unnecessary elements in the scene though, like the car on the right, but a square crop should clean those up:

That’s better.  The exposure isn’t quite where I want it yet, but I like the frame.  I usually wouldn’t crop this much out of a photo, but the moment happened fast and I was across the street when I took it.

Now, let’s apply the Classic Chrome film simulation:

See how the contrast changed?  I love contrast.  I get giddy when I see beautiful shadows to be honest.  This is usually where I adjust my blacks and whites to maximize the tonal range, then make a slight adjustment to the white balance as needed.  I find this is where Classic Chrome comes to life for me:

That’s what I’m looking for.  At this point I always take another look around the photo and see if there are any distracting elements that may lead the eye out of the frame.  In this case, I think there is a hotspot along the lit wall at the top of the frame that is distracting.  Luckily, this is easily fixed with a local adjustment:

That is pretty close.  A bit of export sharpening and this one is good to go.

Could I achieve this look in camera shooting jpeg only?  I could definitely get close by selecting the Classic Chrome film simulation and pushing the blacks and whites, but I find I still often make little tweaks in post.

Here is a series of street images captured over the last few months at random times, all taken because I saw the light first and then processed as described above:

In a future post I’ll also go through my workflow for processing black and white street images; and, if you are interested in learning more about making images like these (and many others) definitely consider attending one of my street photography workshops!

Until next time,

Ian

p.s.  If you enjoyed this article I also have one on shooting silhouettes on the street that you may find interesting.