Let’s get a few things straight from the beginning. I am an avid photographer but I am not a professional photographer. I am not an engineer or some type of computer geek so while technical testing is of interest, it does not define what I do or what I buy. I read reviews of new equipment; cameras, lenses, bags, etc… but ultimately, I decide what I like and what I don’t and what works for me. Canon doesn’t pay me. Fujifilm doesn’t pay me. I don’t get discounts on anything – although I surely would like some. These are my thoughts about carrying both Canon and Fujifilm cameras on my recent 3000 mile trip through the Southwest African country of Namibia.
The trip was a photography workshop. Four internationally award winning professional photographers leading 5 clients. 15 days through some of the starkest, driest (sandiest) landscapes on the planet.
We were up and in the field before sunrise and out in the field until late at night. This was no vacation. Unlike many African safaris, we had no weight limitations other than those imposed by the airlines. 50lbs per checked bag, 18lbs per carry-on (both my carry-ons well exceeded this).
For me, this was potentially the trip of a lifetime – although since I’m only in my mid-50s, I certainly hope not. As such, I was bringing my best gear. My “main” kit included a Canon 5Dmk4, Canon 1Dmk4, 14/2.8 Rokinon prime (for astro-photography), Canon 16-35/2.8L II, Canon 24-70/2.8L II, Canon 70-200/2.8L II, Sigma 150-600/4.5-5.3 (sport), Canon 1.4 ext series III, Canon 2.0 ext series III, Canon EX600II Flash, 1TB CF/SD cards and a 3TB external HD.
So where does Fuji come into play? I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for for Fuji. My first “real” camera was a Fujica ST701 (I still have a ST901 on my desk). When the X100 came out, it seemed like the perfect walk-around camera and it was beautiful and it was a Fuji. So I purchased it. It was beautiful but it wasn’t perfect. Let’s face it, the menus kinda sucked. A lot. The 23/2 fixed lens was stunningly sharp but for me at least, very limiting. So I got rid of it. But I continued to follow its developments and when the X-Pro1 came out… well that really caught my attention. But I wasn’t quite ready to jump back in. Then the X-Pro2 was released – the X-Pro1, but improved in every way… and I was back. I started with the 35/2, the 56/1.2 and the 10-24/4. The menus still left something to be desired but the images…. WOW!
I sold off some Canon stuff to help finance my new “habit”. Since I shoot a lot of wildlife and birds, I wanted more speed so I ordered the X-T2 (with the 18-55 kit lens) and the 100-400 + 1.4 package. The lens arrived well before the camera which only came about 3 weeks before I left for Africa.
I added the 50-140/2.8 to the collection one day before I left. What the heck, right?
My Africa Fujifilm kit:
- X-T2 w/battery grip
- XF14mm f2.8
- XF10-24mm f4
- XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6
- XF56mm f1.2
- XF50-140mm f2.8
- XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 + 1.4x teleconverter
So off I head, 18 hours of flying time. Two complete camera systems, multiple lenses for each. Plenty of memory (or so I thought) for each. Honestly, I brought the Fuji stuff as a “just in case”. I’ve had cameras fail before while I was on the road. I figured I’d be 95% Canon and 5% Fuji. By the end of the trip, I was 100% Fuji.
So what happened? Why the switch? To be fair, as expected, the Canon images are sensational. The cameras performed wonderfully (although the “info” button on my 5D became jammed with sand or dust and the rear screen wouldn’t turn off). The Canon’s battery life is great – except when you can’t turn off the rear screen. But essentially, the Fuji equipment performed or outperformed the Canon in every way (except for one major way – which I will get to shortly). Let’s face it, a Canon 1Dmk4 with a Sigma 100-600 attached is heavy. A 5Dmk4 with a 70-200 + 2x is heavy. And after little sleep and hours pounding over unpaved roads, hauling cameras into the field and out again becomes an issue. Especially when you’re hiking miles over large dunes of soft sand in desert heat. So on each hike, I’d bring along the X-Pro2 usually with the 14/2.8 or the 10-24/4 and shoot a few with it – so it didn’t feel left out (yes, equipment has feelings too). And the images it was producing were… amazing. To me, every bit as sharp and well exposed as the canon… at 1/3 the weight. We all know the battery life stinks… but who cares. I threw a few extra batteries into my pocket and I was all set.
I simply couldn’t tell the difference between the images shot with the Canon and the ones shot with the Fujis. Since the layout of the Fujis by and large allows you to avoid the menus, the cameras are a joy to use. The gripped X-T2 feels great in my hand. It is light and responsive. Autofocus is a dream (I mainly use centerpoint focus). And for tricky exposures, the compensation dial is right at your thumb (hey Fuji, put a lock on that thing please!!!). During the image critiques, the professionals couldn’t distinguish either (I think several of them are now looking into the Fuji).
Towards the end of the trip, we had the fortune to shoot at the Etosha National Wildlife Refuge and it was time to pull out the long lenses. Most importantly, in daylight, the 100-400 with the 1.4x was beautifully sharp. Did it give away some sharpness to the folks shooting with the Canon 1DxII’s and the Canon 600s? Probably a little. But very little. Certainly nowhere near as much as the $18,000 price difference would warrant. Did it give away sharpness to my 1D4 with the Sigma 150-600 (Sports)? Not that I could see. And the autofocus and the FPS were right there too. The 10lb weight difference didn’t suck either. And surprisingly, the X-T2’s tilting screen was fabulous. At my age, you can only lie on rock and gravel for so long…
And so, in my real world experience, at a place I may never return to, shooting in excess of 20,000 frames, I put the Canon down and picked up the Fuji and won’t go back… except….
…except at higher ISO (above 800) the 5D4 beat the pants off the Fuji. Not even close. As daylight wained and pushing the ISO higher was necessary to keep the shutter speeds up, the Fuji couldn’t compete.
The astrophotography images were shot full frame at ISO 5000, 14/2.8 @ 30 seconds. The night water hole photography was shot at ISO 3200-5000. The Fuji could not do this and produce the remarkably clean images the Canon could. Now, before you get your shorts in a bunch, I understand the technical reasons for this. Bigger sensor…. blah blah blah… For this type of shooting, the Fuji is simply not as good.
My conclusion: I’ll now be “Fuji-first” unless I’ll be working in low light or can use a tripod and keep the ISO down – 80% of the time. So while I’m not ready to sell off my Canon gear quite yet, I see a time in the not too distant future where I will be. When is the X-T3 coming out?