Fujifilm at Sahara Desert

· 21.May.2021

Fujifilm cameras are widely known and liked especially among people who deal with landscape photography. This is largely due to a kind of “magic” of colours. And if so, add extreme conditions to what we all know, i.e. beautiful photos of nature? What if there were fast cars and motorcycles in the desert?

How will auto focus work with objects moving at a very fast pace and popping up unexpectedly from behind the dunes? How will the construction of the body and the lens work against the ubiquitous sand and dust?

I was able to check this by testing the Fujifilm X-T3, along with three XF8-16mm f2.8, XF16-55mm f2.8 and XF50-140mm f2.8 lenses, in the Sahara desert during the March Fenix ​​rally.

Over 150 teams took part in the first edition of the Fenix Rally organised by Alexander Kovatchev and RBI Sport team in Tunisia. The riders and drivers had to face 6 days of fighting in the desert on the over 1000 km long route. It was also a big challenge for the entire RBI Media team, of which I am honored to be a part. Planning, logistics, segregation of duties – all that we needed to handle to provide high quality photos of all Fenix rally participants.

New rally in the calendar is a good occasion to test new system? Switching from one of the bests cameras designed for sport to Fujifilm makes sense? The answer isn’t that simple, but basically yes, there are advantages that make the decision justified.

Completely new system is a challenge, it is not only about the parameters, but most of all about the habits. In sport, we do not have time to play with the settings, everything has to be intuitive. Before the Fenix ​​Rally I did two test days and I must admit that it was enough. The ergonomics of the X-T3 cameras are impeccable, the buttons where they should be.

What are the main advantages of Fuji X-T3?

  • Film simulations, especially the Vivid profile – when you need to quickly deliver finished photos, Fujifilm generates jpg files that do not require editing. This shortens your time tremendously. Of course final photos were processed with RAW editing software.
  • Tightness – basically the body was permanently attached to the lens during the day. Never, a speck of dust was visible on the sensor, and whoever survived a sandstorm knows what sand means everywhere.
  • Image – Each of these three lenses is amazing. Fast, extremely sharp.
  • Weight! So far I have worked on a full frame, while the X-T3 body is similar in size and weight to the body I am used to, the difference is the lenses, those for the APS-C are much smaller and lighter. It seems that 200-300g is not much, but it is enough to wear two sets on a harness and walk in 34 degrees Celsius, on the sand, for 10 km, these differences matter.

Auto-focus was a bit of a problem. Initially, Fuji focused on the sand thrown from under the wheels, but I was able to minimise this by changing the AF settings. However, there is one thing what was a big problem. Battery. The one in the X-T3 is definitely a weak link in the hardware, but I am looking forward to testing the X-T4. 300-400 photos on battery is definitely not enough. On top of that, there is no way to charge the camera via USB while using it, and keeping the USB slot door open is not the best idea because of the dust. The solution was simple, have lots of batteries, but then you have to reign in the order of which are charged, which are not.

What was one of the biggest changes for me was the RAW editing software. Lightroom generates too much distortion (known as worms), so the easiest yet most difficult change was to switch to Capture One. And no, it is not possible to use additional RAW to DNG converter software. There is no time for that.

In short, there is always a question. Are Fujifilm cameras suitable for motorsport? The photos will show it best. But the players’ opinions are unambiguous. Beautiful pictures, reflecting not only the atmosphere of competition, but also the beauty and colors of the Sahara.