At the end of June I was second shooting on one of my fellow fujiboy, Tomin's wedding assignments. Our plan was to shoot a video of using Fujifilm X-cameras on a wedding shoot. But Tomin is still relying heavily on his Nikon gear to get the job done when shooting weddings and with limited time on hand we didn't get to shoot much video. Instead I mostly second shot and assisted Tomin.
The happy couple, Christine and Vegard got married in the medieval St. Olav's Church at Avaldsnes. Avaldsnes is Norway's oldest throne and the area is known as Norway's birthplace and the Homeland of the Viking Kings. So we were shooting on historical ground with lots of nice locations for weeding shots. Tomin was hired to shoot the formals of the wedding couple, the best man and maid of honor between the ceremony and the reception. The wedding couple had arranged to arrive at the reception by the beautiful wooden yacht Alma, which during a period of 12 years was build by Holmen skole, a school alternative for youth who fail to finish the normal school for psycho-social reasons. Half of the photo shoot was to be done in the area around the church and the other half was to be done on the boat. We even had a following boat so that we could shoot from a distance.
As I was only second shooting and assisting, I didn't bring any of my lighting equipment, only my X-E2 and the X-T1 and my fujinon lenses. This is the sunny side of going all in on Fujifilm X-series. I can fit 2 cameras, 2 flashes and 4 lenses into my messenger style bag and it still weigh much less than my former Canon with 2 lenses. Tomin on the other hand brought his X-T1 and a roller bag full of Nikon gear:-). I have shot all images in this blog post with natural light only.
The Fujifilm X-series cameras have been embraced by "natural light" wedding photographers all around the world. The autofocus of the latest X-series cameras, the X-E2 and X-T1, combined with the excellent primes XF 23mm 1.4 and XF 56mm 1.2 are winning combinations that give image quality equal to full frame in small packages.
So how did the fujis handle this kind of wedding assignment? They handle very well:-). Personally I like to have the flexibility that high quality zooms gives me when doing these kinds of shoots. Outside in daylight the fujinon zooms perform flawlessly. Their image quality is great and the XF 18-55mm stayed on my X-T1 on the whole of this shoot (a side note, but indoor I must admit that I sometimes miss the f/ 2.8 zooms I had with my Canon). The only "problem" I had with the XT1 is that it struggle a bit when trying to focus in backlit situations. All cameras struggle a bit in backlit situations because what you try to focus on will be in the shadow with very low contrast. But my fujis are struggling more than I remember that my Canons did.
Also, coming from pro full frame gear, I have not gotten used to the fact that I loose a lot of room for adjustments when I want to shoot with shallow depth of field. This is because the fujis max out on 1/4000s and can't shoot raw at iso settings below iso 200 meaning that we loose at least 2 stops of adjustment flexibility. Also I need to open up aperture a couple of stops to get equal DOF to a full frame. With my former Canon gear I could put my lens to f/2.8 and camera to iso 100 and I would have enough room to just shoot away in Aperture priority no matter how bright the light was, without having to worry about blowing out the images. To get equal DOF from the crop sensor in the fujis I have to use my 56mm at f/1,2 and that means you have to use ND filters or you will blow out your images. I must admit that I sometimes forget about the ND filter in situations were I have to work fast and adapt to the surroundings. Luckily when shooting raw you can pull back highlights a couple of stops in post and hopefully rescue some of the images. So the tip is to always pre mount ND filters to your fast primes before setting out for an outside job and, this is mandatory, ALWAYS SHOOT IN RAW!
When I have to work fast outside on this kind of assignments I normally use these settings on my X-series cameras:
- Aperture priority. This is a personal preference. Some photographers work only in full manual mode (and are often very proud of that:-)). I prefer to control my DOF, focus on my shooting and leave the rest to the camera. I do adjust the exposure compensation according to the scene if the scene is backlit or very bright/very dark. I do use full manual mode when shooting with flash.
- Multi metering. I think that this gives me the best metering for outside scenes. On my Canon I used Center-Weighted Average Metering most, but I don't like average metering on my fujis. I sometimes use spot metering when shooting indoor and I wish that spot metering could follow the focus point as with pro DSLR's.
- Auto iso. I never had auto iso before and never missed, but on my fujis I find it to be a very useful feature. I set the base iso to 200, maximum iso to 3200 (the X-series have excellent iso 3200) and most important minimum shutter speed to 1/125s to ensure that the shutter speed is always fast enough so that I don't blur the i image because of camera shake.
- The focus point set to smallest size and on my X-T1 I have set 3 of the D-pad navigation buttons to change focus point. Out of the box the bottom D-pad button is used to activate "focus point changing mode". This button might be hard to find while shooting, so I have set 3 of the D-pad buttons to activate focus point changing. This makes it much faster to change focus point or the size of the focus point while shooting. In backlit situations and when using continuous focus I increase the size of the focus point to help the camera to hit focus faster.
- Single frame mode and single AF. I usually start out in single frame and single AF mode but I change these according to he situation throughout the shoot.
Another personal preference is that I always have the VG-XT 1 Vertical Battery Grip attached to my X-T1. I love this grip. The battery grip is very well built and it does feel like it is part of the camera when attached. I find the X-T1 to balance the bigger fujinon lenses much better with the grip attached and it gives me the "workhorse feeling" from a pro DSLR while still being small and lightweight.
When buying the X-T1 Tomin hoped it would be the camera that could make his Nikons redundant. So when the fujis are performing this good, why is Tomin still dragging his roller bag full of Nikon gear to shoots like this? The answer is simple, when you do this for a living you have to deliver on every shoot and you use the tools that you know you can rely on and you know that will get the job done. Much of this has to do with the way you work and the habits you added to. Also, as much as it hurts a fuji heart to admit it, the X-series is still lacking in some areas compared to a pro DSLR. When reading the first hyped reviews of the X-T1 these lacks often drowned in all the positive feedback.
One of the most important area where Fujifim is not up to the standard of Canon and Nikon is the flash system. There is at the time of writing no options for wireless, off camera TTL flash and there is no High Speed Sync. So we have no way to sync you flash above the sync speed of the camera. You might, with some radio triggers, be able to go a little above 1/180s which is the sync speed, but not much. Whether the shortcomings with the flash system is important or not, depends on the way you shoot. For natural light only shooters this is probably not an issue at all. Personally I use flash a lot, but I always use manual flash off camera anyway, so it is not very important to me. What would have been nice though would be an opportunity to trigger the flash signal early, as you can do with HSS capable cameras, so that you could sync HSS capable flashes at higher sync speed. Now you have to use ND-filters if you want to combine shallow depth of field with flash to get your shutter speed down to the sync speed.
Tomin on the other hand rely heavily on TTL and high speed sync when using off camera flash outside. It is just a habit, but it is an easy way to get good results and you don't start experimenting on paid shoots. Often the best man is assisting and holding the flash and softbox on a boom arm. Using TTL you don't need to worry about keeping a constant flash distance and so on, making it easier to work with inexperienced assistants.
Another area where X-series is lacking compared to pro DSLR is on tracking autofocus. When the Fujifilm XT1 was released it got lots of praise for it's impressive tracking autofocus that was almost up to the level of the pro DSLRs. And the tracking autofocus is very good. In continuous shooting mode it tracks almost as good as the best. But it struggles a bit in low light and I find it to be unreliable in single shot mode. When shooting in natural light, this is not much of a problem, we just shoot in continuous mode and you will probably get the shot. But in continuous mode the X-T1 won't trigger a flash. When shooting Canon, my cameras was always in continuous shooting mode. One quick press on the trigger would give one shot, keep pressing and the camera would continue to shoot. And of course it would trigger my flash. The fujis work in another way. One quick press on the trigger might give you 2-3 frames. And there is no flash triggering. I hope there will be in the future, because even though very few flashes can shoot 8 flashes pr second I would really like them to get the signal. This was not much of an issue on this shoot and it is an issue that can be overcome by changing the way you shoot, use pre focusing, manual focus with the excellent focus peaking feature or just use single AF and single shot mode and press the trigger without pre focusing. The single AF mode is fast and if camera is set to focus priority in Single AF, pressing the trigger without pre focusing would probably get you the shot. But even so, when your Nikon just does this right without any hiccups, it is a good reason to keep shooting with it.
A third issue that I mentioned earlier is that you don't get raw files on uncalibrated isos with the X-series. I don't know why this is so. It might be because of some technical issues with the sensor or something. But regardless, even my 10 years old Canon gave me raw files at uncalibrated iso. Not getting raw files at iso 100 outside in bright daylight is an issue when you want shallow depth of field. I hope this will be fixed in the future.
Shortcomings aside, we had a fantastic day together with bride and groom and their witnesses. A day with lots of laughter and fun. I have adapted to the Fuji way of doing things and I am very pleased with the performance I get from my Fujifilm X-series cameras and the Fujinon lenses. The IQ is top notch and to quote Tomin "There is something almost magical to the way the fuji files are rendered", The files from the Fuji seems to require far less post processing than files from the Nikons and quite a few of the images from the fujis found their way into the happy couple's wedding album.
But even though I have completely jumped ship and am a X-series only shooter, I can understand why Tomin who is doing this for a living, still relies on his Nikons to get the job done. Because even though I love my fujis and I do not regret changing system to the Fujifilm X-series, I must admit that the X-serie is still immature and lacking in some areas compared to the pro DSLR systems from Canon and Nikon. But the X-series get closer and closer with every new release and I think it is just a matter of time before they are a full worthy alternative. Until then I will live happily with the system's lacks.
Here are some more images from the weeding shoot: