It's been about a month now since I picked up a Fuji X-T10, but due to a combination of being busy preparing for a month in Indonesia next week, and how cloudless and uninteresting the skies are in Portugal right now, I haven't had much chance to go out and shoot landscapes with the camera. It was important to me to try and get the chance though, as I really wanted to be familiar with what the camera can do before I go away.
If you read my last blog you'll know that I'd made my mind up to switch completely over from shooting Nikon to Fuji gear for a whole host of reasons that I wrote about there. Even so, my plan in getting the X-T10 (rather than the X-T1) was for it to replace my backup camera and to shoot with it alongside my Nikon while in Indonesia, before switching completely when I returned. I always like to travel with a spare body because being in an amazing place and not being able to take photographs because a camera has stopped working is something I don't ever want to experience. The X-T10 is so small and light that I knew it would be easy to take along with me, and I knew it would be my go to camera for street and general travel shots. However, there are going to be a couple of demanding landscape shoots in Indonesia and I wasn't 100% convinced (notice the use of the past tense there) that the Fuji would be as capable as my D800E. It wasn't anything to do with image quality, in my last blog I'd proved to myself that the image quality the X-T10 was a match for the D800E in real terms for the way I shoot. No, my concerns were more about things like battery life for long night shoots, and the lack of weather sealing on the X-T10 for shooting waterfalls.
I don't have those concerns any more!
Last week I did a workshop and took the X-T10 along. On the second day we did a sunrise shoot at Lisbon's iconic Vasco da Gama bridge, and incredibly we were blessed with a beautiful cloud filled sky. It was my first chance to shoot landscapes with the Fuji and I was impressed by how intuitive it is. The articulating screen is incredibly useful for tripod shooting, and the realtime exposure feedback mean you know exactly what you're going to get before you press the shutter. This was even true with some longer exposures up to around 10 seconds. All the controls for exposure adjustment quickly became second nature, aperture adjustments on the lens barrel, shutter speed adjustments either via the dial on the top, or the rotating dial on the front, and ISO by clicking in the front dial and twisting. It was incredible quick and easy to rapidly change exposure settings in changing light and switching between long exposures with a Lee Little Stopper, and shorter exposures without the neutral density filter. Overall I just found the camera a pleasure to use, and the image quality was just superb. Shooting in Velvia film simulation mode, I could see the jpegs on the back of the screen looking great, and from my short experience with Fuji raw files in Lightroom, I knew that it would be simple to get the RAWs to match the jpegs.
I was also using the Fuji MHG XT10 metal handgrip, which is grooved along the bottom enabling it to connect with an Arca Swiss style tripod plate. This is great, as it means I don't need to have an additional quick release plate attached to the camera, and the handgrip fits with my Really Right Stuff ballhead while also allowing access to the battery/SD card compartment.
When I got the files onto my computer and into Lightroom, I found they were quicker to edit than my Nikon files, which can sometimes take quite a while to get the best colour and contrast from. The Fuji files have lots latitude in both the shadows and highlights, and getting the colour, contrast and sharpness to a level where I was happy with them was incredibly simple.
Then, a couple of days after the workshop, Fujifilm Portugal got in touch with me. I first spoke to them about a month ago, and right from the start I found that they are a company that is interested in photography and photographers, and who genuinely wanted to know what photographers thought of their cameras. I was incredibly honoured to be invited to become one of their X photographers for Portugal, and it's great that a company who's equipment I like so much actually take an interest in the people who actually use their stuff. They very kindly offered to lend me a couple of lenses and an X-T1 to test on on my trip, and this week I was excited to pick them up.
I wanted to give them a proper test, so I took the X-T1 and the 14mm f2.8 out to the coast to try some star trails. I went to the cliffs above Praia da Ursa, one of Portugal's most stunning beaches near Cabo da Roca, mainland Europe's most westerly point. I've never done star trails before, but I was interested to try out the camera's intervalometer. The D800E doesn't have anything like this, and I'd never really been tempted to try and do it. One of the things about Fuji cameras though is that they make me want to take pictures and try things out, so before setting off I had a quick look at the intervalometer and found that it was incredibly simple to set up and use. Because I was only doing a test shot, I didn't give a great deal of thought to composing to in such a way to capture the most stars, but instead found an interesting foreground where I could see the rock stacks in the ocean and was sheltered from the worst of the wind.
About an hour after the sun had set, it was dark enough to start exposing, so I turned off the camera's long exposure reduction and set the camera up to shoot one hundred and twenty 30 second exposures one after the other. After this, it was just a question of waiting for an hour while the camera took the shots. I was also curious to see how the battery performed in a test like this, so I switched view mode to EVF only with eye detection, so basically the camera wouldn't use the LCD, and would only activate the EVF if it sensed my eye close to it. Doing this meant that the camera saved as much battery life as it could and after exposing all the 120 shots the battery indicator was still showing full!
Climbing back up the steep cliffs I was thankful again for how light the camera is, I could barely feel it's weight in my backpack.
The next day, I processed the images to see how the star trails came out and was quite pleased with the results for a first attempt.
Also, the sharpness of the 14mm was incredible. To ensure sharpness throughout the image I'd taken two base exposures, one for the distant rocks and stars, and one for the foreground rocks and plants. I used Manual focus and the Focus Assist button, which made it incredibly easy to get focus absolutely spot on.
Here's a 100% crop that I took before it got really dark when I was setting up the composition and focus.
So this pretty much made up my mind about what to take away with me next week. The X-T1 is weather proof and rugged enough for any situation I can image shooting in, and my fears about battery life were unfounded. Sure, the batteries last longer on dSLRs, but with a fresh battery there's no danger of it running out in the middle of a star trail sequence. Besides, I've already got three spare batteries, so that's not a problem.
I'll be heading off on Monday with the two Fuji cameras in my bag, along with four lenses, confident that they'll manage perfectly in every situation I'm likely to encounter, from street shooting to landscapes. The Nikon gear? It's staying at home, and is already packed into boxes ready to sell when I return.