Although I have switched out almost all of my Canon gear for Fuji, there are still a few areas that Fuji are lacking in for me, when using them for press work. These are areas that I have mentioned previously, and hopefully Fuji will start listening again and bring a few changes in, via an update or new hardware. During press jobs, I don’t have spare time to be adding ND filters, nor do I always have spare time to be working with manual settings on a flash. There are many photo journalists that are comfortable with the above mentioned, but it is not something that I, whilst on a press shift like, as my time is as limited as it gets with jobs, sometimes having to travel all over Derbyshire/South Derbyshire/Leicestershire and Staffordshire, UK, completing up to 13 jobs, and in some cases, more, each and every day.
Not having a capable flash system that can even come close to the likes of Canon or Nikons offerings, I decided to keep my Canon 5D3 for this purpose alone. My 5D3 is solely my Press camera, with an X-T1 as backup. Recently my 5D3 took some damage and is off for repair. With this I have had no choice but to use my X-T1 as my main press camera, and my X-E2 as my backup camera.
So my findings, using the Fuji system for press photography.
Whilst on a press shift, I can not shoot just RAW. Images have to be provided almost instantly, with no time to be editing and exporting a RAW file. This is something I never liked with Canon, or Nikon, as I was never impressed with the JPEGS compared to a processed RAW file. Thankfully Fuji bodies produce AMAZING JPEGS! Whilst shooting RAW, Film simulations in camera are somewhat pointless, unless you want to preview that particular simulation on screen whilst shooting. When shooting JPEGS, the film simulation settings have come in overly useful more than one occasions, bringing out the atmosphere and colour with Pro Neg Hi, Toning the colours down with Classic Chrome, or for the General View shots that news organisations like to archive, Velvia works a treat.
Size of a Fuji body compared to a DSLR is mentioned so many times, all over the internet, by those that have made the switch, and for good reason. The size of the X-T1 compared to a full frame DSLR is so much less intimidating to those I am photographing, especially when they are wary for what ever reason, or overly curious but at the same time unsure, like pets are. The size of the camera seems to make them feel more comfortable. Another huge plus is the weight difference. A motorbike is my only source of transport. My bike and my back are overly grateful to the weight difference using a Fuji system. Having said the above, how much I love the JPEGS, and the weight saving, there are so many challenges I face as a Press photographer using the Fuji system.
The jobs I am sent to throughout the day, vary immensely, ranging from social events, sporting events, news stories, political stories, tragedies, celebrations, promotions and more. Every job is different, and every day is completely different. Whilst on press shifts, I need my camera body to perform 100% in Manual and Aperture Priority (which Fuji does perfectly), and my flashes to work perfectly in TTL (no Fuji support), as well as manual.
The Pro Fuji System (X-T1) for me only has 2 downsides when it comes to press photography, which I find are 2 MAJOR downsides which are hard to overcome in this line of photography, and thats a good, powerful flash system with High Speed Sync support. I mentioned this a while ago to Damien Lovegrove and he said that for him, this wasn’t an issue as he uses ND filters all of the time, when strobes etc are needed. For me, everything other than press photography, I completely agree with what Damien said, but… 1/180th shutter speed is not fast enough to completely freeze action when you need to use a flash. I have brought this up before to others, with their answers being “well why would you need to use flash when shooting fast paced action?”.
Whilst on a press job, I don’t have the luxury of choosing the location, nor the type of job I shoot, nor the ability to process RAW files, bringing the sky back, or bumping the shadows. The images I shoot have to be as correct as can possibly be, straight out of camera. IF for example, a story is being written on an athlete, a olympian, and the shot needs to reflect the athletes speed or type of sport, then the shot would have to be of said athlete in action. Low angles, focusing on an athlete approaching (for arguments sake, we’ll say a hurdler), there is no way you can expose correctly for the sky/background, and also expose correctly for the athlete without flash (if a dramatic or well exposed background and sky is what one was after), nor can you freeze action at certain speeds with 1/180th sync speeds, so a flash can’t be used if I am wanting to freeze motion. One or the other will be under or over exposed. This is why High Speed Sync is so important in my line of work. Its not a want for convenience but a NEED. Not so much for correct exposure when shooting at very wide apertures, as those particular situations, regardless of system, you would need to use an ND filter anyway, if in bring sunlight. It’s for the ability to use a shutter of at least 1/500th, and in a lot of cases up to 1/1000th and still use a flash to expose the subject correctly, freezing everything and having that perfectly exposed JPEG is an absolute MUST.
As much as I love my Fuji system, as it stands, I can’t wait to have my 5D3 back for press photography. Fuji has replaced my DSLR for all aspects of my photography career, and not for one moment have I regretted it. Using the Fuji system has made me really enjoy photography again, more than I have ever done, but it still isn’t up to the standards needed for a professional press photographer, even less so for the Paparazzi. Once you understand the limitations of any system in particular situations, setting and environments, in most cases, you can adapt to make the system work for you.
I cover all aspects of photography, with press only being one area. Every situation I have thrown my Fujis into, they have come out on top, even areas that I assumed they would fail (like those mentioned in previous articles). The quality I manage to get and provide, always amazes me, as I never thought I could achieve some of the results I have done from a mirrorless system, especially one that uses a cropped sensor over a full frame sensor.
They have performed amazing for wedding photography, perfect for portraiture, landscapes, commercial, street, festival, personal, and to some degree, sport. The one area that I can’t see them being perfect for, or any time soon (unless Fuji address the flash system), is press photography.
Whilst shooting, I always shoot JPEG plus RAW. JPEGS to provide instantly, ready for next day publication, and the RAW files for me personally, for that 1 image I want to add to my personal collection. Images shown are a mixture of RAW processed files, and JPEGS. These images are just a random selection from my press catalogue, as due to contracts, there are many that I can’t show.
I hope those that are loyal to the Fuji system, don’t take this as an insult to Fuji, but more my professional findings in 1 photography area. The only area I don’t feel Fuji is ready for, and unless they address the flash system, they never will be.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and the images. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments, or message me on twitter @DeanMartinPhoto, and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Amazon links to the main gear I use below: