Fujifilm X-Series for Wedding Photography | X-Pro 1 & X100S Review
After shooting weddings exclusively with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and X100S cameras for about 19 months, here are my thoughts and findings on the Fujifilm X-Series for Wedding Photography.
Now this is not a technical review but rather a general conversation with my good friend and fellow Wedding Photographer, Jonathan Ellis which segued into a discussion on my experience shooting weddings with the Fujifilm X-Series cameras.
I decided to hit the record button on my phone and here is a transcript of some of the topics we discussed.
I don’t even think this is a format for writing reviews, but I hope it works out OK and the topics discussed provides an insight for anybody out there considering the Fujifilm X-Series for Wedding Photography, be it exclusively or to supplement their existing DSLR systems.
What to expect:
Well my name is Vincent, but commonly known as V ; so whenever V appears before a body of text, that was me talking/responding to Jonathan’s questions. For consistency sake and laziness on my part, Jonathan will be J in this article.
Jonathan asks the questions and I respond ; I share my experience on the Fujifilm X-Series for Wedding Photography, my likes and dislikes, the strength and weakness of the system as a whole, the things to improve on and my conclusion.
My kitbag on a typical wedding day consist of two X-Pro 1 bodies, an X100S, 35mm 1.4 & 18mm 2.0 lenses, extra batteries – two for each body, a flash gun (Canon 430EX II), memory and a few business cards. A notebook, a pen and my iPhone5S+VSCOcam for some insta-fun moments (like the image above).
I usually have an X100S around my neck with an X-Pro 1 + 35mm 1.4 on my shoulder, its about a 50/50 usage between them. The second X-Pro 1 + 18mm 2.0 stays in the bag and most of times I don’t even use it. I shoot in RAW and Lightroom 4 is my tool of choice for Post Processing.
I wouldn’t say I switched to the Fujifilm X-Series but rather I made a discovery. I was not committed to any camera system during the time I started to seriously consider the Fujifilm system, my Nikon kit which consisted of the brilliant D700 and some primes were stolen in the summer of 2012.
The likes of yourself and a few others borrowed me their gear to enable me to shoot the remaining weddings that I had for that year. Ironically, every gear I borrowed during that period was a Canon! – 5DMK2 & 7D.
Once the wedding season was over, I took about 5 months off during which I did not shoot anything at all.
When the time came for me to invest in gear again, I wasn’t sure on what to get. The Canon’s I borrowed got the job done but it wasn’t really me and as much as I loved the D700, its replacement was on the way in the form of the D800 but for some reason I wasn’t really interested in it.
Not being committed to a system allowed me to look at other options besides the “big two.”
The original X100 caught my eyes a few years ago and I wanted one as a fun camera but I never got around to parting with money for one. A little online search and I found out that there was something called the X-Pro 1, an interchangeable version of the X100 aimed at professional photographers.
Curiosity got the better of me, I started to look further into the X-Pro 1, that was when I came across these two websites : the brilliantly curated work of Thomas Menk here and Patrick’s relentless effort at providing reviews and rumours on fujirumours.
They contained fantastic examples of fellow photographers using the Fujifilm X-Series cameras to create various types of work, some of which were truly inspiring ; however since the system was new I struggled to find examples of wedding photographers who had adopted it.
Then I stumbled across two posts that influenced my decision : the images from Ryan Brenizer’s X-Pro 1 review and a Portrait session from a wedding by Dan O’Day, two brilliant wedding photographers who had created stunning images using the X-Pro 1.
“If those two have made it work, then maybe I could too?” I thought. Just go for it, I wasn’t tied to any particular system, take the risk. It can either turn out to be amazing or go horribly wrong, those are the only two options.
And with me being who I am, someone who likes taking risks I went for it – if what you want to do doesn’t excite & scare you at the same time, then it is probably not worth it. So I pulled the trigger, and lucky for me it worked out.
There you go, it’s one of those things. You have been shooting weddings and travels with these Fujifilm cameras for the 19 months now. How have you found it if you compare it to your Nikon days? Obviously you wasn’t as develop back then as a photographer but how has your vision changed from then to now?
I feel like those 5 months away from photography helped me determined the direction I wanted to go once I started shooting again. I did a lot of reading about what documentary wedding photography / wedding photojournalism really is and I came to the conclusion that for me, it was about building connection with people whilst documenting and creating a body of work that they are going to appreciate for years to come.
I know that is my vision and whatever my tools are, I will have to utilise them to achieve it. But I feel like my current kit has really helped me bring that vision to life. In the sense that, the smaller and more discreet cameras helps me blend in much easier.
In my line of work, most of my subjects are normal people, they are not professional models and some of them don’t like being in front of a camera, they just don’t know how to. Interacting with clients / wedding guest with a smaller camera around my neck is a brilliant way to ease in and make people more comfortable around me.
Am I invisible? – hell no! But I am visible as a person first, then a photographer second and that brings forth interesting photo opportunities.
You and I have shot weddings where despite the fact that you are the second shooter, your equipment draws more attention.
At those weddings where people not perceiving you as the main photographer, has that helped you do your job any easier?
There seems to be an element of freedom that comes with it, I can get to the point where I am covering a portion of the wedding with just one body (Bridal preps & Evening Receptions). I will have the camera around my neck, roam about and document the events that unfolds around me.
The smaller footprints of these cameras helps one blend in, along with good social skills of course, after all you are able to tell a story better when you are part of it.
So in terms of the way you approach shooting with the system itself, how have you found it? With Canon or Nikon everything is much the same in the sense that if you have used one camera you have used them all, but these Fujifilms are different.
How have you found the transition from going from the conventional way of doing things to changing your aperture on the lens and your shutter speed with a traditional dials?
What about the offset OVF as to the viewfinder down the middle on most DSLRs and the ergonomics of the camera bodies?
The offset OVF – having to compensate for parallax when focusing using the OVF, that shooting experience has given me something that no DSLR ever had.
These rangefinder-styled bodies offer a unique way of doing things; the whole process of creating an image becomes an experience, and I have really taken to it. I really dig the rangefinder styled bodies so much that I don’t think I will be getting an X-T1, I am holding out for the X-Pro 2 whenever Fujifilm decides to get that out. To be honest, I will probably take all the changes and improvements they have made to the X-T1 and the X100T if they were to put them an X-Pro 1 body right about now!
I also dig the traditional dials, I didn’t grow up in the film era – I know that is a big draw to some shooters but for me it was all a new experience, just like yourself Jonathan I grew up in the digital era, so it was all new. But it is fun changing my aperture on the lens, knowing my shutter speed by just looking at the top of the camera, with time doing so becomes second nature.
I think the X-Pro is a better fit in my hands than the X100S, hence why the X100S is the one usually hanging around my neck, but it is relatively easy to find your way around these cameras.
How do you find it as a travel companion? I know that whenever I travel, the last thing I want to do is have a big camera with 5 lenses, I just stick to one camera , one lens – and sometimes even that is a bit of an inconvenience because my 5D’s are still big. How do you find travelling with those cameras?
I think that will have to be separate blog post but I will say this, for my personal travels I take just my X100S – YEP! One camera and the fixed lens that comes with it.
Whenever I go away it is for the culture, the experience, the food etc and never for the purpose of photography, so the last thing I want is to feel like a photographer ; I just want to have fun, explore and if I am able to capture some of that experience in photos then great! And this is what makes the X100S a brilliant travel camera, it allows me to do just that.
But if I am traveling to photograph a wedding, then I pack the other two X-Pro 1 bodies and lenses as well.
Oh and whilst were are on that subject, here are my thoughts on why the Fujifilm X-Series system brilliant for destination weddings:
1. Travelling light, I pack my camera kit in my carry on bag and take them on board planes with me. I don’t have to check them in (saves times) and it is easier to carry a smaller luggage around once I arrive at my desired destination.
2. Wedding days are long hours, for example I can start documenting from 10am and it will be until about 12 midnight before I pack it all in. That is over 14 hours of coverage – anything heavier, especially as a two-body set up will kill me.
3. Documenting events pre and post the wedding day. This is where the X100S is a gem, I am able to hang out with my clients, their family and friends effortless with a camera that hardly anyone reacts to and capture moments without a photographer sticker on my forehead.
So 19 months down the road, I am pretty sure you know your camera system inside out, obviously every systems has its Pros and Cons but for you, what are you Likes and Dislikes – What is it about the Fujifilm X-Series that does it for you and what are the things you feel needs to be improved upon?
I will be honest with you, the results from the first wedding I ever shot with the system blew me away.
Hold on! You was at my house when I transferred the files unto the computer, and after going through them you said “if I didn’t know what camera you shot this with, I couldn’t tell that these were from a non-fullframe body.”
Even I was surprised, because prior to investing into the system it was difficult to find examples of weddings that were shot with these cameras and as I have already mentioned, Ryan Brenizer and Dan O’ Day were the two guys who created images with an X-Pro 1, I saw their results and I was like WOAH! This is actually impressive. Then to obtain the results I did on my first wedding killed any doubts I might have had about whether or not they could deliver the quality I needed. Whatever Fujifilm did with the X-Trans sensor seems to work pretty damn well.
However, I cannot comment on the JPEG’s side of things or on any of the film simulations as I shoot everything in RAW.
A great strength and a contributing factor to the IQ that this system delivers ; the Fujinon lenses created for X-Series are pretty damn good!
The build quality of the primes are superb , sorry I can’t vouch for their zooms as I don’t owe any. In fact I only have 3 lenses and I only really shoot with 2 of them, that is a personal choice – I want to master seeing things at the 35mm & 50mm FOV and also to tell wedding stories in context. I use the 35mm 1.4 (my 50) and the 23mm 2.0 lens of the X100S which doubles up as my 35mm and a second body.
The 35mm 1.4 delivers terrific results and the lens fixed on the X100S is pretty good too. My third lens, the 18mm 2.0 is OK, but I hardly use it – the 28mm FOV feels like a bit of a no man’s land to me, a 24mm FOV will get more use.
I have played about with the 56mm 1.2 and it is flipping awesome, I can’t wait to grab my own copy soon – I mean, I have always had an 85mm 1.4 in the bag from a Zeiss to a Nikorr so it’s only a matter of time really before I throw one in the bag.
I am very interested in the 16mm 1.4 and possibly the 90mm 2.0 These plus the other primes such as the 23 1.4 and 14. 2.8 that are already available and the Fujinon prime lens line up looks very impressive.
The ISO range of these cameras are pretty neat! I can go up to 3200 without batting an eyelid, noise is well controlled I feel. For my line of work this is good to know as I prefer to shoot with as much ambient light as possible and supplement my lighting with flash only when I must.
However, I have never used the Auto-ISO feature on any of my cameras so I can not comment if this function works well or not on the X-Series cameras.
The Hybrid Viewfinders:
I love it! I am an OVF guy but I don’t shy away from the EVF either. The X-Pro 1 and X100s have the innovate hybrid viewfinder for a reason ; each mode compliments the other to create a complete, fun and unique overall shooting experience.
In silent mode, the X100S is nearly dead silent – a big plus for moments when you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. For example at Dionne & Rowlando’s wedding where we were told we couldn’t move during the church ceremony and how important it was for us to remain silent, well you witness how the X100S came into a league of its own – I was able to take images without any sound. The priest didn’t know I was shooting – he couldn’t hear the shutter! Where as it got to the point where you was hesitant to take shots because the shutter of your Canons were too loud.
Also for bridal preparations, I usually start the day with just the X100S whilst roaming about the house / hotel grabbing the frames I want without making too much noise.
Size & Weight:
We have already discussed the benefits of these for destinations weddings but even for weddings at home, especially when there are multiple locations to travel to on the day, it is easier to move around with smaller and lighter equipment.
That alone though is not a good enough reason to ditch your current system if you are happy with it. Jonathan you are happy with your Canon 5D series, I don’t think the size/weight alone should warrant a switch because everything is about sacrifices, if your current system is delivering the results that you want, then just hit the gym, get your arms stronger!
But having said that, I know the benefits that comes with shooting with a lighter system when you work long days, especially when they are capable of producing the results they do. Because in all honesty if the image quality of these cameras were not good enough, then the size/weight benefits will be meaningless, the trade off wouldn’t be worth it.
A simple, quick and fun way to create images, the traditional shutter speed dials & the aperture value on lenses makes things faster to use once you get use to it.
For example, if I have the X-Pro 1 with the correct exposure at 1/125, @ f2.8 with an ISO of 400 but I want to grab a frame with the X100S at the same ISO but I want a larger DOF, by looking at the top plate of the first camera and seeing those numbers, I know that all I have to do is set the aperture value to f4 and a shutter speed of 1/60 on the second camera to have the same exposure as the first camera. Seeing those physical engravings makes things quicker for me.
They cover nearly the whole frame, especially in EVF mode. In the OVF there are 25 different focus points to choose from and 49 different focus point to chose from when you shoot with the EVF or the LCD. I do not focus and re-compose, so having all these options points is good to have.
A quick way to make various adjustments without having to dive deep into the main menu.
AF Speed in Lowlight:
It is well documented that the biggest weakness of the Fujifilm X-Series system is the auto focus capabilities, especially in lowlight. When the light is good, the AF is quite responsive but it does take longer to acquire focus in low light situations. The lens attached has a bearing on the focus speed, I find the 18mm 2.0 snappier than the 35mm 1.4. and the X100S as a camera also focus faster than the X-Pro 1. But this is an area that Fujifilm needs to keep improving on and it is not even a question of accuracy but of rather speed.
Also, I have never used the AF in Continuous mode so I cannot comment on its performance in regards to focus tracking.
Shutter Speed Limit:
These cameras shutter speed max out at 1/4000, an extra stop or two up would be useful at times. I have run into situations in Jamaica & Zambia where I could have done with an extra stop or two on the shutter speed side of things, especially as I wanted to shoot wide open in the sun.
I mean primes are made to be shot wide open right?
Expandable ISO Range Limit:
The ISO range of these cameras are expandable from 100 to 25600, however 100, 12800 & 25600 are only available in JPEGs but I shoot in RAW. If you are going to make them available, make them available in RAW format also and whilst you are at it, make them even cleaner at higher sensitivities. I could have done with shooting at ISO 100 in those situations when a max shutter speed of 1/4000th was not enough and I will take shooting at ISO 6400+ with cleaner results any day!
I bring along two spares for each body. It could be the Achilles Heel of most CSC’s perhaps? – smaller battery size = smaller capacity, I could be wrong though! But the one thing Fujifilm needs to sort out is accurate indication of battery performance, tell me exactly how much juice I have left, in percentage perhaps?!
Also, am I the only one that has had issues with their X100S charger? I am on my third one but I have never had any issue with the X-Pro 1 chargers.
Something to consider going into the future, so I know that everything is in the same place, whether it is the X-Pro 2, the X100T or the X-T1.
The OVF / EVF switch should face the same way on both the X100S and the X-Pro 1.
The LCD screen at the back of the X100S – they should have given me the same quality screen that is at the back of the X-Pro 1.
Also the exposure compensation dials can be easily bumped accidentally, especially on the X-Pro 1.
Focus Point Activation:
The four way controller should automatically move the focus points. I should not have to hit the AF button first (up on the X1oos or customised as down on the X-Pro 1) in order to activate the focus point selection and then select my desired AF point. That is a slow way to do things, a shame really, as you can select up-to 49 different focus points. I want access to these focus points in one step.
Suppressed Flash in Silent Mode:
I shouldn’t have to take it out of silent mode in order to fire an external flash gun. I think once a external flash gun is attached, you should be able to fire regardless if the camera is in silent mode or not.
Wake Up Time:
Waking the cameras up from sleep does seem a bit sluggish, definitely an area to improve on. The X100S responds a tad bit quicker than the X-Pro 1 I think.
The X-Pro 1 bodies have a screw-on diopter as to the built in ones found on most DSLR’s or even on the X100S, and that does kind of suck once you start to lose them.
Durability & Reliability:
What about the durability of the bodies, are they strong?
You know how I am with gear buddy. I can be pretty rough on them at times, for me they are not trophies to be put on the shelf to look at. I tend to put them through their paces, I have dropped them on several occasions picked them up back up and carried on shooting.
The only time I had to send one of the X-Pro 1 bodies in for a repair was when I was caught off-guard by a wave and it got water damaged. Fujifilm_UK repaired it within 7 days of sending it in. But they should make the next iteration waterproof, as more and more people adopt the X-Series, they are likely put to them through extreme conditions.
We have already spoken about the durability side of things, being rugged and being able to handle the stress of different environments and obviously as professional it is essential that you have backup gear, but at the same time there is only so much backup gear you can have, you can’t have 8 cameras sitting there incase one fails. So the cameras you have must be reliable, are these reliable?
Yeah, so far so good I think but a dual card slot will be a welcomed addition in the near future. I already mentioned waterproofing the bodies, but they should look to do so for the lenses too.
For you Jonathan what areas matters, gear wise as a Wedding Photographer?
For me, I like to feel like I have something in my hand but I don’t like it too heavy though, so I don’t shoot with grips etc and as for lenses, just like yourself I am not a zoom shooter, I love my primes! I take any opportunity to shoot wide open.
The way I see my pictures before I take them, I already know what I want and for me my system, sensor , lenses whatever, the way they rendition a frame needs to be how I want the end product to look. I am not loyal to any system, I am not a brand snob but it just so happens that obviously Canon is what I use to get the results I want.
Oh and the battery life is good – I don’t have the need to change them during a wedding (cheap shot).
Overall Strengths & Weakness of the X-Series System:
I feel that the overall strengths and weakness of the X-Series system is due to the target market that Fujifilm might have had when they initially created the first X100 in 2010.
An impressive sensor in a compact and lightweight rangefinder-styled body, the fixed focal length and I am thinking Street and Travel Photography.
Even when the X-Pro 1 was introduced, the size and weight of the body and the three initial primes that accompanied it ensured that this philosophy was carried on, albeit in an interchangeable mount.
I can vaguely recall an interview I saw on fujirumours a little while ago where a Fuji rep said that Wedding Photographers were “outliers” to the X-Series system and I think that goes for the likes of Concert, Commercial, Wildlife and Sports Photographers too.
I don’t think they were expecting us to take to the system like we have, for example us Wedding Photographers shoot in extreme conditions at times, fast moving subjects, dim lit churches, situations where these cameras might be found wanting.
Many photographers have taken to the X-Series due to their reputation of being able to produce high quality images and I for one can vouch for that! I believe that the system has the potential to be fantastic wedding photography cameras.
But in order to achieve that, issues such as the overall responsiveness of the cameras, AF speed in lowlight and AF tracking ability needs to be improved.
Fujifilm also need to invest in a proper native flash system for the X-Series : with TTL support, Fast Recycle Times, Continuos Burst Support (currently the hot-shoe flash fires only in single shot mode), flashguns with I.R AF assist and tilting heads. Faster sync speed, which currently limited at 1/180 on the X-Pro 1. Having said that, the X00S has the ability to sync at-any-speed (yep, unto 1/4000th) due to its leaf shutter – a delight for the strobist amongst us.
If the aforementioned weaknesses can be addressed and improved upon to compliment the strengths of the system – size/weight, brilliant image quality, fantastic prime lenses, and a fun shooting experience then oh boy! The X-Series will grow into a system that will be adopted and loved not just Street and Travel Photographers, but also by the “outliers” such as myself, and fellow Wedding Photographers wether as a complete replacement for or as a supplement to their DSLR system.
I have shot two full wedding seasons exclusively with the Fujifilm X-Series system.
During this period I have pushed the system to its limits! I have shot a variety of weddings, in various parts of the world and in some challenging lighting conditions, as well as some personal travels and as Jonathan puts it “I can’t see you shooting with another system anytime soon” and I have to agree with him.
It has been a very interesting experience – the range finder styled bodies, the traditional dials, the size and weight, and the brilliant hybrid viewfinder have all been a breath of fresh air, a new way of doing things.
These cameras are more than capable of delivering outstanding results. I will be honest, I did have my reservations when I initially started using the system because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and it hasn’t been all roses but it has been fun.There are some things that I really like and there are some things that I clearly don’t! But when it comes down to it, the image quality that these cameras are capable of are amazing and that is what does it for me. If the image quality wasn’t there, I would have sold it all by now, none of the other benefits would mean a thing. I shoot weddings for a living, there is no way I will compromise on delivering the best results I can for my clients just for a fun experience.
No two photographers are the same, as individuals with different experiences & perspectives we all have our own unique vision that determines the body of work we create ; I have found my way of doing things and these cameras enables me to do so.
The tools that us photographers invest in (cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, presets etc) should aid us in achieving our vision, my change in mind-set to slow things down a little bit coincided with shooting with the X-Series cameras.
These cameras happens to be the right tools in my hands at the right time. I mean, it could have been a DSLR system, it could have been another CSC, but the Fujifilm X-System became and still is my tool of choice.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting examples of full weddings I have covered using these cameras, so keep an eye out for those.
Wedding 1: R+J’s amazing 3 day Indian Wedding: http://vopoku.com/rakhee-jack-hindu-wedding-photographer-london/
Wedding 2: A+G’s destination wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica: http://vopoku.com/montego-bay-wedding-photographer-ashley-garret/
If there are any questions, feel free to get in touch and I will get back to you ASAP.