West Africa with the Fujifilm X-T2

· 28.April.2018

I love my Fuji camera. Nothing remarkable about that, not for these articles, right? That’s why we’re all here. I’m an amateur photographer; this is just a hobby for me. A hobby I spend way too much money on, I’ll admit, but still, not my life or career. And, for most of my life, I have not put a lot of thought into camera brands because I viewed them all as basically the same thing in a different wrapper. I have Canon gear for the simple reason that my first film camera was a Canon, and I would upgrade lenses and bodies over the years based solely on what would work with what I already owned.

 There was nothing emotional about it.

That changed in 2016. My girlfriend and I planned a trip to Peru, and I started to think about what lenses I would take with my trusty 5D Mark III, which led me to poke around the internet to see if there was anything cool for Canon mounts out there, and I stumbled onto all the buzz regarding Fujifilm’s soon to be released X-Pro2.

Kuelap, Peru, 2016, X-Pro2 + 16-55mm f/2.8

Ussher Fort, Ghana, Jan 2018, X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8

I was intrigued.

Looking back, I’m still not sure what exactly triggered the change, I’d already ordered a Zeiss lens for the trip, but something stirred in me and I called The Camera Store to ask if I could swap the Zeiss order for an X-Pro2 and 16-55mm f/2.8.

They said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have to admit I was a bit anxious while I waited for it to arrive. I’d read a lot of articles by pros doing amazing things with their Fuji gear, but that’s what you expect, right? They’re professionals, they should be able to take great shots with pretty much anything. Will the system work as well for the average hobbyist? 

The short answer is yes. I took my X-Pro2, some extra batteries, and the 16-55mm to Peru, where it worked flawlessly and captured some amazing images. The mists of Lima and bits of rain in the northern part of the country were no issue, and when I got home and got the images on my computer I knew I’d made the right decision.

Fast forward to early 2017. My brother suggests a trip to West Africa to see a Voodoo festival in Benin that happens every January 10, and once I get the okay from my love, I’m all in. A once in a lifetime trip, and being who I am, I start to think about gear. I love my X-Pro2, but I really wish it had a flippy screen. It would have come in handy on so many occasions while in Peru or even just walking around Calgary.

So I sold some more of my Canon stuff and picked up the X-T2. 

I’m set.


Having been converted to a Fuji fanboy I’m now reading all about Fuji all the time, and there’s a lot of buzz about the 80mm macro lens that’s going to be available shortly before I leave, so I take the plunge and get it for the trip as well. 

Coconut vendor, Accra, Ghana. X-T2 wth 16-55mm f/2.8

 My girlfriend thinks I’m a bit insane, but that’s normal, and after getting more vaccines than I can remember, January 2018 finally arrives and I say goodbye to -30 Celsius Canada and hello to +30 Celsius Ghana.

It’s hot, humid, and hazy. The harmattan in is full force, blowing sand from the Sahara down through West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. The fine dust is high in the atmosphere, but some of settles to earth, and it gets into everything, so I’m quite happy I’m packing a weather/dust sealed camera and lens. Especially when I talked to another member on our group who is an avid traveller and carries a Leica D-Lux 109. She told me that she has had to take it in to get it cleaned out three times since she bought it due to its lack of weather sealing.

Sometimes when travelling you get to take your time and compose the shots, and other times you just have to be ready. With the dusty sky coming and going the light changed frequently, and Fuji’s manual dials made it easy to adjust the camera’s settings so you’re less likely to miss the shot, like this one of the wee girl below holding her sister, or the gentleman above telling me I’d better buy some coconuts if I’m going to take his picture. 

I did. Paid the tourist price as well. 🙂

Street scene, Sokode, Togo, X-T2 & 16-55mm f/2.8

The majesty of tropical Africa can be hard to capture. I took over a lot of pictures, and have 500 plus up on the website that I felt were good enough for friends and family to see. I shoot in raw, and had the second memory card set to act as a backup for the trip. Chances of me going back to West Africa anytime soon are pretty remote, and I did not want to take any chances with a memory card failure. As slim as  that risk is, it wasn’t worth it to me. 

Sokode, Togo, X-T2 & 16-55mm f/2.8

That meant, unfortunately, that I could not use the app to transfer the shots to my phone. This is something I wish Fuji would look into. Ideally I would like to be able to wirelessly get the raw image on my phone and then use Lightroom CC to tweak it before posting, or emailing, or doing whatever with the shot. 

Lome, Togo, X-T2 & 16-55mm f/2.8

Other than that one complaint, I am overjoyed with the Fuji system and how easy it is to get great images. I generally set the controls manually, but there are times when I put the ISO on automatic, and I seem to get so many more great pictures than I was able to do with my Canon. Fuji’s size and weight are an added bonus, especially when the temperature is +38C and humid and you feel every ounce that you are carrying. 

A gentleman of Togo. X-T2 & 16-55mm f/2.8

Below are some general shots from some of the different places we went.

Ouidah, Benin, X-T2 & 80mm macro

Ouidah, Benin, X-T2 & 80mm macro

Voodoo Festival, Ouidah, Benin, X-T2 & 16-55mm/f2.8

Generally, I’d wake up at 6am, put on the macro lens, and see what I could capture where ever we happened wake that day. For the touring I’d use the 16-55mm since it’s more flexible. I have Canon’s 100mm macro and I have to say I like what I get with the Fuji better. A good example is the crab below, taken near Elmina, Ghana.

With constantly changing light, and not having the luxury of waiting for a better opportunity, I really wanted something I could depend on. These events happen when they happen, and you as the photographer have to be ready to capture the moment regardless of the weather, light, time of day, or anything else that will get thrown in your way. 

Both of my Fujis are capable of pretty much anything, including an impromptu shot of some ladies in Sokode, Togo, who stopped briefly to say hello to the obvious tourists, and were happy to have their picture taken. You don’t always get a second chance, so pick gear that’s easy to use, and take the time to learn how to use it.

So, what’s next? I need to get a flash and spend some time with the 80mm macro. After reading Damien Lovegrove’s articles, I’ll probably pick up the Godox v860 ii and the remote trigger. It looks like Calgary is going to have a long winter and there is nothing like a macro lens to fill the time. And you don’t need to go outside to do some amazing things with it.  

This summer we’re planning a trip to Ireland. And now Fuji has released the X-H1. IBIS would be helpful, and part of me feels like I’ve set a precedent with a new camera for each off continent trip, but I’m not sure I have enough Canon gear left to sell to fund it. 🙂

About Author