During the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with my new Fujifilm X-T1digital camera by making photos on the streets of Dublin. I’ve presented a sampling of my results on Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page (CLICK HERE).
The camera can yield fantastic results, but successfully manipulating its various modes, colour profiles, features, switches, levers and other controls takes patience to master.
Compare the Fuji’s results with the myriad of images on my Dublin page exposed over the last two years.
Sunday, February 22, 2015 had been a wet windy day, but as evening approached, I saw the clouds clearing in the west. I made an opportunity to experiment with my X-T1.
The dramatic lighting effects of a winter evening in Dublin are as good a time as any to make photographs, and I’ve found that among the strengths of my new camera is working in low light.
To retain the hues of dusk, I switched the white balance setting from ‘auto’ to ‘daylight,’ while I upped the ISO dial to its higher ranges, and selected the ‘Velvia’ color profile.
My 18-135 lens is a remarkably sharp piece of glass and its built-in image stabilization allowed me to work hand-held in lighting situations that would have been all but impossible with my film cameras.
I exposed about 140 images over the course of an hour and one half. That’s equivalent to just less than 4 rolls of slide film. I admit that sounds like a lot, however when I found an interesting scene, I’d bracket my exposure, while experimenting with various metering and focusing modes while pushing the limits of image stabilization.
This was an opportunity to test the camera’s capabilities, while working in a visually familiar environment. So, I revisited streets where I’ve photographed frequently over the years.
This is a sampling of Sunday’s efforts. I exposed RAW and Jpgs of each photo; presented here are scaled versions of the Jpgs. Other than the necessary size reduction for internet presentation, I’ve not manipulated, adjusted or otherwise enhanced these photos in post-processing.
One of the great challenges of working with long telephoto lenses is getting the focus where you want it.
The inherent nature of a telephoto lens produces a comparatively shallow depth of field (relative field of focus). The longer the lens, the less depth of field.
So where precision focus is important with a wide angle lens, it is critical with a long lens, unless, of course, your intent is to make soft images.
Placing focus is important to me, as I’ve learned various visual tricks for directing the eye within an image by clever use of sharpness. Sometimes when photographing trains, the optimal focus point is not at the front of the locomotive; however, in this case, that was precisely my objective.
One of the reasons I’ve embraced auto-focus cameras, was that about ten years ago I concluded that I couldn’t trust my eyesight to make precision focus, especially when I had to do it quickly.
Using my new Fuji X-T1, I made this image on Friday February 20, 2015 of an Irish Rail continuous welded rail train crossing the River Liffey at Islandbridge in Dublin.
I arrived at my location a bit winded and had only a few moments to make a test photo and set the focus point (the Fuji allows for easy adjustment of the desired focus point) before the train came into view.
The equipment performed perfectly! The front of the 071 class locomotive is razor sharp. Hurray!
Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.
It helps to be near the tracks. In Dublin, my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction is only a five minute walk away.
It wasn’t the brightest day, last week when I made the opportunity to make a few photographs of Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner. This is a freight train that I’ve photographed very often owing to its operational regularity and proximity. It was the perfect subject to try out my new Fuji X-T1.
I wandered up to my location as Irish Rail was shuffling some 22K series ROTEM-built Intercity Railcars (ICRs). While these are a dime a dozen (or is that ten euro cents for ten?) and the light was flat, I put the camera to use. What better time to practice?
The liner made its appearance and I exposed a burst of images in ‘Provia’ mode. (The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera has traditional Fuji film profiles programmed into it.)
As luck would have it, the liner wasn’t moving very quickly and it looked as if it wouldn’t stay ahead of the 11 am passenger train to Cork, so my friend and fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan traveled to Hazelhatch at the end of the quad-track.
We made it in enough time to watch the 11am passenger overtake the IWT Liner and made some photos of the train.
My Fuji X-T1 has a tilting rear display, a first for me. This allowed me to hold the camera high over the railing on the footbridge at Hazelhatch and frame up a series of images.
After the train passed, I could hear the class 071 diesel-electric roaring away in ‘run-8’ (maximum throttle) for at least five minutes. I grew up to the sound of turbocharged EMD diesels, so its always a treat to hear an old 645E3 working.
When I got home, I pored over the files fresh from the X-T1. These were some of the first action shots with my new camera. Not too bad considering the dull light. More to come!
Back in December and January, I borrowed Pat Yough’s Fuji X-T1 and exposed a few photos.
Quite a few in truth, and often more than I was expecting because I’d set the motor drive to its highest setting (I call this ‘turbo-flutter’) and every time my shutter finger drifted anywhere near the shutter release I’d record bursts of images.
Despite this haphazard approach, I managed to make a few reasonable images, some of which I’ve presented here on Tracking the Light, and rapidly convinced myself that I really needed a Fuji X-T1.
Actually, I’d previously experimented with Pat’s Fuji X-E2 and was quite convinced I wanted one of those as well.
So after weeks on contemplation and pondering, I finally ordered the camera. Now comes the hard part; learning to use it efficiently.
Based on past experience, I figure it will take me about six months to really get in-tune with this new equipment.
When I’m out making photos, I want my manipulation of a camera to be second nature. If I’m fumbling for the correct settings, or wasting time consulting camera manuals, I can’t really make the best possible images.
Also, every type of equipment has its strengths and weaknesses. Finding those and exploiting this camera to best advantages will take time.
In the meantime, I’ve turned the motor drive setting down a few notches and experimented with the camera’s capabilities. I’m still trying to figure out the focusing options . . .
In an ideal world, my new camera would arrive on a fine summer morning and I’d have nothing more important to do than to spend days and weeks to play with it unhindered. No joy.
I had to dig a trench through a snow drift more than two feet deep so that UPS could deliver my camera, and this was the second or third revised scheduled delivery, as repeated weather events had conspired to postpone my camera’s arrival.
I’ve been working on no less than three (four really) book projects, all competing for my time and attention. And, in the middle of all this I had to prepare for a trans-Atlantic crossing, which was advanced with little warning owing to more snow.
Jetlag hates me, or loves me, I don’t know which, but crossing five time zones leaves me bewildered, disoriented, and tired. Great time to make photos with a new camera . . .
I pressed the shutter release; nothing happened. I turned the camera on and everything was dark. What’s this switch for? Why won’t the camera focus? Why does it have a double exposure mode? How to do I change the focus mode? Eight layers of menus! You must be joking?
In the last few months, I’ve sampled several mirror-less cameras. I played with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, and bought one. Thanks to Eric Rosenthal, I put a brand new Lumix LX100 through its paces. Thanks to Pat Yough, I’ve experimented with both the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1.
Where the Lumix LX7 and LX100 both use a permanently attached zoom lenses, the Fuji X-E2 and X-T1 use Fuji interchangeable lenses.
I view these types cameras as augmenting one another rather than competing for space on my roster of equipment.
To make an analogy, back in the 1950s when a railroad dieselized, it often bought different types of locomotives for various assigned services.
For me the Panasonic Lumix LX7 is like a 1,000hp switcher; the LX100 is a 1,350hp switcher with road trucks; but the two Fuji’s are like 1,600 hp road switchers—jacks of all trades—with enough power to work heavy road trains in tandem with other equipment.
My goal is to supplement my Canon EOS7D and/or replace it when traveling without a car.
As regular viewers of Tracking the Light are aware, I often travel on public transport (trains, trams, planes & whatnot). When I travel, I carry my cameras plus a laptop in a backpack. Every ounce counts. Since my Canon’s are relatively heavy, I’ve been looking for a lighter option.
I’ve determined that the Fuji mirror-less cameras will allow me to significantly reduce the weight in my bag, while simultaneously upgrade to a new generation of equipment.
I like the Fuji lenses because they are exceptionally sharp and offer a very desirable color palate.
Of the two Fuji cameras, I’ve come to favor the X-T1 over the X-E2. Both camera’s use the same lenses, and while the X-E2 is slightly lighter, I found the X-T1 easier to use. It has a superior digital viewfinder. (Also it seemed to have a superior auto focus system, but I can’t confirm that.) Both are excellent cameras, but Given a choice of the two, I’d reach for the X-T1.
Another potential benefit of the Fuji system is that I can buy lens adaptors that will allow me to use both my older Nikon and Leica lenses with the Fuji digital cameras. This will offer a level of redundancy when I choose to bring a film body. If I carry my old Nikon F3, I’ll be able to take advance of the Nikon lenses in event of a Fuji lens failure or if the Nikon glass offers a pictorial advantage.
I’ll still plan to carry the LX7 as my ‘everywhere camera’, and I may someday upgrade to the LX100. My Canons will also remain active. Regarding my steam fleet (that would be my film cameras), YES, these will all remain active too—although they see less service now than they did back in the day. Each tool has its place.
An ideal test of new equipment might include a thorough tutorial, followed by a gradual immersion into the camera’s distinct features in order to be operationally confident prior to making any serious photos.
I didn’t do any of that. It was a sunny day in Philadelphia. Pat Yough and I were following SEPTA’s Route 15 streetcar line (famous for its use of ‘retro’ PCC cars).
“Here’s my X-T1, try that.”
This was initially fitted with an older Fuji 55-200 zoom lens. I made a few photos of a static PCC car, but found the lens slow to focus. In back lit situations it didn’t seem to grab a focus point at all and hunted incessantly.
“This doesn’t like glint,” I said, “What other lenses do you have?”
“Try the 18-55mm kit lens”
This worked vastly better. It focused quickly. And I was soon snapping away.
We drove around Philadelphia, finishing daylight along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. By the time the sun had set I’d exposed 15 GB of photos!
The X-T1 is a mirror-less camera formatted similar to a SLR but without the ‘reflex’. The viewfinder is digital. The camera has an excellent ergonomic shape—I found it comfortable to hold and easy to use.
On the down side, there’s a lever on the left-hand side of the body beneath the dial to set the ISO, which I kept inadvertently knocking with my thumb. This adjusts the motor-drive and introduces such novel features as ‘autobracket’ and an in-camera filter set.
The details of these features must be programmed by scrolling through fields of menus and making some intelligent selections. All very well, except I didn’t know how to do any of that at first, and suddenly found I was getting bursts of photos everytime I released the shutter.
At one point Pat joined a queue at Tony Luke’s Philly Cheese Steak to procure lunch, while I fiddled with the X-T1’s menu options. This allowed me to finally, tune, and then exit the bracket mode.
Along the Northeast Corridor, I was able to test the camera’s ability to work in low light and stop the action at its higher ISO settings.
The rapid fire motor drive is a real boon when picturing Amtrak’s Acela Express at speed. I was able to wind up the ISO to 6400, which impressed me. At lower ISOs, I was able to pull off some creative pans and photographs that incorporated movement.
I walked away from my brief time with the X-T1, very impressed by the camera. It can output both a Jpg and RAW files simultaneously and has an impressive dynamic range. It has color profiles designed to emulate some of my favorite Fuji slide films, and has excellent high ISO response and output.
Pity about the slow focusing zoom, but Pat indicated there’s other options for longer lenses, and I hope to explore that at a later date.
All the X-T1 photos displayed here have been scaled for internet presentation, but are otherwise unaltered. I have not sharpened, cropped, or enhanced the files.