The above question is one I asked myself a few times this year, especially when I was about to make the full shift from Canon to Fuji. I have since answered the question myself, and I will share my findings here. However, I feel like I should start from the beginning of the transition. My experience may be helpful to some who are thinking of going down the same path.
What Kind of Photography I Do
As gear is all relative to needs, I should probably start by explaining what kind of photography I do. My professional work usually involves event coverage, location portraits for families and couples, and editorial work for travel and corporate magazines, as well as the occasional wedding and commercial product shoots. Overall, I need a kit that is versatile and capable of producing results in a variety of situations. For me, zooms are perfect for most applications. It keeps things simple and let’s me concentrate on making images.
Why I Shifted
It all started with my purchase of the X100S a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with the compactness, quality, and the wonderful Fuji colors, not to mention the tactile ergonomics of the cameras. Interchangeable bodies and lenses soon followed and I found myself owning two systems, Canon full frame bodies for work and Fuji X for play. With the release of faster AF lenses like the XF 35mm f/2.0 WR and bodies like the X-T1 (and succeeding firmware updates), I soon found myself thinking that a full transition to Fuji X would indeed be possible.
The desire to go full Fuji was fuelled even more when I picked up an XF 16-55 f/2.8 WR and paired it with the Fujifilm X-T1 which I already had. This was meant to be a direct replacement to my 5D Mark II and EF 24-70. By most accounts, it has fulfilled that role and more. The only thing I really missed from the 5D was the shallower depth of field at f/2.8, which was great for portraits and isolating subjects a bit more. However, the compactness, faster performance, sharpness, and countless other things offered by the Fuji have more than made up for that. Plus, the fact that the 5D II and 24-70 were already quite old made the decision fairly easy. The used prices of the body and the lens was enough to pay for a new Fuji 16-55 and some change.
Fast forward a few months and I was shooting the X-T1 and a Canon 6D + 70-200 f/2.8L for work. The 6D was a bit harder to replace as it is so good in low light and I had some apprehensions about the Fuji XF 50-140mm f/2.8, which is the Fuji equivalent of the 70-200. I was finally convinced after going on numerous out of town jobs and literally feeling the weight on my shoulders. Moreover, it was around this time that Godox had begun releasing their excellent Fuji flash system. The decision was made.
X-T1 vs. X-T2
Since I had finally decided to get the 50-140mm and complete my shift, I was going to need a new body as well. This was in the early summer of 2017 and the X-T2 was already available. However, budget constraints and an upcoming international trip eventually made me choose to get a second X-T1 on the used market instead. The price was great at less than $600 USD and I felt like it would be fine for at least the next few months and for my needs. I also wanted exact matching bodies for a more seamless workflow. I’ll tell you a bit later if that decision has been a good one.
So here’s my current working kit, which is what I bring for most assignments:
Two Fujifilm X-T1 bodies, one with the VG-XT1 grip and one with an L-plate, which really help with balance.
Holdfast Moneymaker dual camera strap
I also use various light modifiers and support for run and gun portraiture, which I will discuss at a later time.
To simplify, here’s what I feel like I’ve gained and lost in the transition from Canon to Fuji:
- Overall weight reduction and compactness – yes, the Fuji zooms are big and heavy for mirrorless, but there’s quite a significant size and weight reduction relative to the gear they replaced. I can now pack more gear into my backpack, like the DJI Mavic Pro as well as my Macbook Pro, extra flashes, even clothes and snacks, etc while keeping the weight acceptable. On the job, I feel the weight reduction even more as I can shoot all day long with the two bodies attached to the dual strap.
- Fuji colors and quality – this is a huge gain for me. Fuji has their color game on point from years of experience making film. I also love the look of the X-Trans files. Great skin tones, punchy colors for landscapes, and that gorgeous Classic Chrome profile for documentary photography.
- Ergonomics and handling – for me, having the dials to adjust aperture, ISO, and shutter speed have helped me to work better, especially with the Fuji X-T style bodies. The excellent Auto ISO performance of the Fuji’s are also very useful for fast-moving event and documentary work. Plus, having exact matching bodies has been very good for my workflow.
- Autofocus technology – having come from the Canon 5D2 and 6D, I wasn’t really missing much in this department. That being said, the AF speed and accuracy of the X-T1’s and pro zooms has resulted in less throwaway shots due to blur and missed focus. The face tracking has been super useful as well.
- Silent electronic shutter – this has been so good for documenting very quiet events and when discretion is very important. There can be banding issues with AC powered lights, but for outdoors and suitable lighting situations, it is a godsend. Also very useful for large apertures outdoors.
- Overall simplification of gear – in my opinion, having two systems was quite unnecessary and it just feels great to declutter and simplify.
- Shallow DOF capability – admittedly, I do miss having the true f/2.8 depth of field in the zoom lenses. There’s just that little extra shallowness available on full frame that you lose with the crop sensor. However, the tradeoffs are worth it in my opinion.
- Low light performance – it is a well-known fact that larger sensors will absolutely outperform same-generation crop sensors in this department. However, the Fuji’s perform just fine in low light up to ISO 6400 and that’s enough for my needs. Newer bodies will continue to get better in this department, so I also have that to look forward to.
So is the Fujifilm X-T1 suitable for professional use, even in 2017?
For me, the answer is yes. For the type of work I do and the way that I work, the X-T1 has been up to the task. They are perfectly capable for the applications I previously mentioned and clients (which include corporations and international publications) have been happy with the results. Of course, I will eventually upgrade to newer bodies. But an important point to take away here is that older bodies, especially higher-end ones such as the X-T1 don’t suddenly become obsolete just because the new model has come out.
On the other hand, having handled the X-T2 and the X100F, I’d have to say these are the main things I look forward to when I do upgrade (hello X-T2S? ?):
- Faster AF and tracking – while the X-T1 is perfectly useable and my throwaway shots due to missed AF are minimal at the moment, the newer generation auto focus is significantly snappier and inspires even more confidence. Moreover, the face tracking on the X-T1, while useable most of the time, does leave a bit to be desired. Definitely choose the X-T2 (or other X-Trans III bodies) if fast AF and tracking are crucial for your work.
- Dual card slots – this is a pretty important one. The extra security you get from having another image backup may be worth the upgrade alone. However, I’ve never had a card go corrupt in the 10 years I’ve been doing this, and I can wait a little while longer. Just don’t cheap out on the SD Card.
- Improved low light performance – this is another pretty important one for what I do, but the X-T1 is no low light slouch either.
- Megapixel count – the X-T1’s 16MP files are plenty for most applications. I’ve printed them large and used them for albums and posters. The files are gorgeous. However, I think that having that extra 8MP to work with would give more cropping options in a pinch and may be better for very large prints.
- Video features – this is a feature I use less of, but I do make the occasional YouTube video. The enhanced video capabilities of the newer bodies would be good for this.
Overall, I’m very happy with my current working kit and I imagine I will be for many months and quarters to come. I love the Fuji system and it has helped me with my work immensely.
Regardless of manufacturer, upgrading is imperative only if the gear is holding you back. If your current gear does the job fine, then money might be wiser spent in other ways.
I’ll end this blog post with some of my favorite images from recent jobs shot with the Fuji kit I discussed here. I’ll let you guess which lens took which. 😉
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