In the first edition of my Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer, I omitted the Fuji X APS-C mirror-less system because at the time, I felt it wasn’t built for landscape photography. That has now changed.
2014 has been a big year for Fuji and with the release of two new products, the Fuji X-T1, a weather sealed pro body, and the Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, a wide-angle lens with a full-frame equivalent of 15-36mm, it is time to take the Fuji X system seriously. Before purchasing one, I talked to some peers who had taken the plunge. There was an overwhelmingly positive response. People who purchased the Fuji body as a backup for their full-frame Canon or Nikon kit find themselves using the Fuji more, due to its light weight and overall quality. Would it be possible to use the Fuji X system exclusively? That’s a question I will be working on in the coming months. Before I share my impressions, it’s important to know how complete the system is. While the Sony A7R is getting a lot of buzz, that system is years away from being ready without the use of adapter. Take a look at the variety within the Fuji lens road map. They even have a super telephoto lenses coming in 2015 to expand the base to sports and wildlife shooters.
Fuji Lens Road Map
By the time you add the weather sealed lenses and the super telephoto zoom lens, the question becomes: what can’t you shoot with this system? Not only does Fuji have a great collection of glass, those lenses are universally highly rated. Fuji knows how to make lenses. Take the time to read reviews for any of these lenses and you will extremely impressed.
The X system is not a perfect first party solution, as there a few minor holes. A fisheye lens is missing, and while it’s a niche product, there is a third-party solution via Samyang. They make an excellent 8mm f/2.8 fisheye lens for the Fuji X system. Another nice lens that’s missing is any sort of tilt shift lens. I’m a huge tilt shift lens user, and rely heaving on my Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L and Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lenses.
Fortunately, I found a workaround for the Fuji system. Kipon makes a tilt shift adapter for the Fuji X series of cameras for $280 that allows you to use Nikon manual focus lenses. I have paired it with the Nikon 18mm f/3.5 (best found on eBay) and Nikon 35mm f/2 to have tilt shift lenses on my Fuji X-T1.
Let’s talk some first-hand impressions–starting with the EVF. The EVF on the Fuji X-T1 is a step above all the other mirror-less bodies I have used. It’s gorgeous. I especially love it for reviewing images in the field. I rely heavily on my Hoodman Loupe to view images on the LCD of my Canon 6D, but with the EVF for reviewing images I no longer have to carry the loupe. As if the camera system wasn’t light enough, I’m now able to leave even more gear behind!
The controls take some getting used to, but I put in the time and forced myself to reach a comfort zone. I have been shooting Canon bodies for years. They feel so natural and rarely get in the way or impede my progress creating an image. Picking up a new system can thus be extremely awkward. I find the best way to do it is to go on a trip and ONLY take the new system. You have one camera to grab and you’d better learn how to use it! I took a trip to the Czech Republic and only used the Fuji X-T1. I recently returned from the Palouse, where I exclusively used the Fuji for long periods of time. I can finally now say that I’m comfortable using the camera. It has back bottom focus! I’m a huge proponent of back button focus and I won’t use a camera body without it. It has fantastic manual focus controls with focus peaking. Whether you are utilizing back button focus or manual focus assisted by focus peaking, you will have no problem nailing perfect focus.
There are independent rings for aperture (on the lens itself), shutter speed, and ISO! You can truly control the camera without every taking your eye from the EVF. The size of the camera feels great and the lenses are compact and well-built. It doesn’t feel like a toy camera at all. I can’t stress how much smaller and lighter the system truly is. It’s a fraction of a DSLR kit. No more checking bags whenever you fly with your gear. And you can hike further with camera gear with less weight. As a long- time backpacker, we have seen a revolution in packs based on creating ultralight systems. I think photography is headed in a similar direction.
Let’s talk image quality. The lenses are tack sharp and fantastic performers. The dynamic range of the images far exceeds what I’m accustomed to with my Canon RAW files. Unfortunately, Adobe’s RAW processing of Fuji files leaves a lot to be desired. The Fuji files have a painterly, mushy look to the details. I highly recommend using Iridient Developer. There is a seamless connection using Iridient Developer and Lightroom so your workflow changes slightly. I use it on all my Fuji RAW files and I’m getter much better results than with Adobe RAW. The image quality is outstanding until you begin to magnify your image. At 200 percent, the full-frame sensor on the Canon 6D begins to outshine the Fuji APS-C sensor in terms of detail. This is to be expected with a smaller sensor. The question then becomes– do you print extremely large canvas, metal, or prints? At that point it comes down to how much detail can really be discerned using the naked eye. I do happen to print large, it’s part of my business. I look forward to printing files from the Fuji for comparison.
Before I conclude, I would like to share a few images I took recently in the Palouse with the Fuji X-T1. I hope you enjoy them; please let me know if you have any questions!