Is the X-T20 a Wedding-Photography Camera?

· 25.May.2017

It is now more than two years that I use exclusively Fujifilm gear for my commercial, fashion, and personal projects. However, until last month I never really felt OK to use that same gear for wedding photography. I know there’s plenty of excellent wedding photographer who are using Fujifilm gear with great success, so I’m not saying it can’t be done, but as for everything else wedding photography is different for every photographer, in terms of approach, style, and pace. My personal history with Fuji was that while image quality and user experience have always been top notch, the autofocus, the buffer speed, and the general slow responsiveness of Fujis (as well as of almost all of the other mirrorless cameras) made me always prefer my Nikon DSLRs for weddings.

Last month two things happened. First, I got a new X-T20, which compared with my beloved X-T10 was supposed to have improved responsiveness, a better sensor, a faster buffer, and a way better auto focus performances. Secondly, I hurt my back very badly and I couldn’t afford to wear my usual wedding gear: two big Nikon DSLRs (a d800 and a d750) mounting two fast prime lenses (a 35mm f1.4 and a 85mm f1.8). So I decided to keep the lighter of the two (the d750) with the 35mm and to give the X-T20 with the 56mm f1.2 a try.

How did it go? Let me start by stating that it was such a success that since then I shot three weddings, two couple shootings, and a maternity portrait session with the X-T20 and the 56mm coupled with the D750 and the 35mm. And that I am seriously thinking about getting a second X-T20 or a X-T2 with the 23mm f2 to complete my gear. However there are some limitations that prevented me from going full Fuji so far, and I am going to share them with you at the end of the article.

I shoot weddings using two (and only) focal lengths, the full frame equivalent of the 35mm and of the 85mm. I wear both focal lengths at the same time, mounted on two camera bodies. I use a Black Rapid Dual strap to wear two cameras easily and comfortably. This way I have a camera for “action” and “reportage”, and one for “portraits” and “details”. Obviously I’m not that strict, meaning I often take portraits or details with the 35mm, or take a few steps back and get reportage shots with the 85mm, but it’s no secret that the vocation of a 35mm is to “tell the story”, while the 85mm excels in portraiture.

If the X-T10 with the 56mm was a great combo for portraits, the X-T20 with that same lens produce five stars performances, overtaking the X-T10 in several, crucial, aspects. First of all, the autofocus is way better, generally faster and more precise in all conditions. Like the X-T10, the X-T20 has the fantastic face-recognition autofocus technology, which makes it even faster to get faces tack sharp, and with the addition of the touch screen Fuji managed to pack in an extra great tool for focusing: just touch the screen on what you want to be in focus, it’s that simple.

Secondly, the sensor: the extra pixel count finally allows for some serious cropping, something really important in weddings, where you can’t stop the guests from randomly (and uninvitedly) getting in the frame, while at the same time improving the high iso performance by what I’d measure as half a stop. So, while with the X-T10 I would have stopped shooting at 3200ISO, with the X-T20 I pushed to 5000ISO in critical situations while getting similar results.

Thirdly, the whole system is more responsive: the camera is quicker to turn on, to come out from standby, to de-buffer a shot, to show it on the screen, to navigate through the menus, and the list could go on.

The overall performances have been improved to the point of being impressively close to those of my Nikon DSLRs. And when I take into account how bad the Live View performances of DSLRs are, from the slow and inconsistent autofocus to the rough exposure preview, and how, instead, mirrorless cameras with their electronic viewfinders permit to get always the right exposure, even in very hard situations, I really really start thinking about getting rid of the DSLRs and getting the whole  Fuji gear set-up, with another body, a couple of lenses, and flashes…

And there come the problems. First of all, the body. We have two options right now, which share the exactly same performances and specs in almost all regards, but with one, the X-T2, being water resistant (though only when mounting a bunch of lenses, and not the brightest), with even better buffer performances, with the screen that can swivel in all directions, and accepting vertical grips and two SD cards, and the other, the X-T20, having the touchscreen (quite nice when using the screen view) that however swivels only horizontally, quite small, maybe too, but for almost half the price. Should I buy another Fuji body for weddings I would probably go for the X-T2 just because of the water resistance, coupling it with the 23mm f2. But I already know I would miss the touchscreen and the extra stop of light that a f1.4 would have given me. Cause the light is still of great importance, since for as well as they did at Fuji, the APS-C 24MPx sensor is still behind any 24MPx Full Frame sensor on the market. I would say of a full stop. And shooting f2 at ISO3200 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/100th (shooting unaware people, remember) sometimes is just not enough. Sure, I could use a flash, and here it comes the second problem.

There’s no proper flash on the market! OK, that was a strong statement, I mean, I know they just released the professional EF-X500, but the fact that they swapped the good old red AF assistant light with a white led for videos is a MAJOR drawback. There’s a reason for the red light. It is discrete, the subject doesn’t feel it, it projects a pattern that makes AF faster and easier, and it is very low power consuming. The white led for video, on the other side, is strong (otherwise it doesn’t work either for focusing or for video), makes the photographer way less discrete, it is hard in the eyes of the subject, it changes the whole atmosphere, and consumes a lot of battery. Again, I know there’re plenty of photographers who found a way to work with the X500, some of them may actually love the bright led light, but in these years I developed my way of working and I feel that, right now, the X500 wouldn’t fit.

At the end of the day this little (or major) design choices matter. While Fuji has impressed me by delivering a new generation of mirrorless cameras that finally fit in my way of working on weddings, which to my experience is one of the most demanding fields in terms of gear, it’s still at least half a stop of light and a flash short on becoming my true and only brand. On the other side, I will probably keep using the X-T20 with the 56mm f1.2 as the “portrait camera” at my next weddings, because I always used to keep one of the cameras without flash so to capture some “natural light” even at night (during speeches, dances, etc.) and at full aperture the lens is able to recover the stop of light I loose with the sensor. Should Fuji deliver a second version of the EF-X500 swapping the white led with the good old red AF assistant light, I might reconsider adding an X-T2 with the 23mm f2 to my set and going full Fuji to my weddings.

That said, I’m curious to know if any of you is a wedding photographer using Fuji and, if you feel the same limits I’ve listed here, how you did overcome them. Feel free to comment down here or to write me personally, if you prefer. You’ll find my email on my website, but if you have a little extra time you can have a peek at our weddings website. Cheers!

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