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Hands on with the Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm X-T1 hands on blog

Sometimes I love my job…

Fujifilm X-T1 BoxAbout two weeks ago a special package arrived from head office in Japan. The special package contained a bunch of pre-production X-T1 cameras and was duly raided by the team. Being part of the initial raiding party, I managed to bag one to play with – I mean, thoroughly test – for a few days. This post will take you through my first thoughts as I got to grips with this lovely new camera.

As it’s a pre-production camera, it’s hard to judge the image quality itself so that’s not really covered here. What is covered is how it feels to use it, and my opinion on the new features that are unique to the X-T1 compared to the other cameras in the X series range.

First impressions – look and feel

I’d seen plenty of pictures of the camera before this point, and even a mock-up “real” camera a few months ago, but I was still surprised with how small it was. Even so, my hands fit the grip very well and I felt that all of the controls were laid out in easy to reach places from my fingers with minimal hand readjustment. The grip makes it very comfortable to hold with one hand and being a “lefty” with my eye, having the EVF in the middle rather than on the left makes it feel a bit more comfortable to shoot.

Personally I could live without the ISO dial because I change it fairly infrequently anyway, but no harm in it being there, however moving the “Drive” menu onto a dial at the top is pretty cool and useful for switching between normal and continuous shooting.

I think it’ll take a few more hours of shooting to unlearn my muscle memory that using an X100S for the last few months has given me but obviously the crucial things are still in the right place.

The EVF

Prepare to be amazed. This thing is seriously good. It was sunny when we got them so I took the camera out into the natural light and was seriously impressed. Yes you can tell it’s an EVF as you move around fast but only because you’re trying to tell. The response is something else and it really is seriously close to an OVF. When you turn the camera vertically, the GUI automatically changes to always display your settings the right way up and the fonts and vectors that make up the display are really clear and legible while not disturbing the view of your subject. And the level of detail is amazing. Definitely get yourself into a camera store and have a go at this thing if you don’t believe me.

The tilting screen

Fujifilm X-T1 tilting screen
Note: This image is of a pre-production model. The SD slot cover on the final version has the same finish as the rest of the body
Word up, pops
“Word up, pops”

I’ve used the X-M1 a few times and although the lack of viewfinder makes certain things difficult, I always seemed to find a use for the tilting screen. Whether I’m shooting kittens skittering around my kitchen floor and don’t fancy laying down there with them (see image to the right), or trying to shoot over the top of a bunch of people’s heads, the tilting LCD is a nice feature and I’m pretty sure it’ll get a lot of use.

Auto Focus

Fujifilm X-T1 Focus Switch

It’s fast. I have an X100S and I’m used to how it focuses. I also have a pair of jet black kittens that don’t exactly sit still and wait for me to shoot them. The X-T1 locks onto the kittens very fast, even in fairly low light and definitely felt better than my X100S, despite on paper being pretty much the same. Could’ve just been my wishful thinking so I’ll keep an eye out to see how other people find the focusing.

Manual Focus – Focus peaking + dual screen mode

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Being able to change the colour of the focus peak highlight is a nice option. Hopefully we’ll see it added to previous models via a firmware update. There’s also a nice feature that lets you use dual screen to frame your shot while also accurately focusing. The focus peaking feature still works but obviously it’s not as clear to see as if you were using the full screen with the “focus assist” button pressed. Although my images above are of the screen, the EVF does the same and is more effective.

Here’s a video published by FujifilmGlobal that demonstrates the dual screen:

Continuous shooting

According to the specs, this thing will shoot 47 shots in FINE jpeg mode while in High Speed Shooting mode. According to my rough and ready “see-how-many-times-you-can-count-to-ten-and-start-again” method of trying to count the frames, I think this is pretty darn accurate. Also, in RAW mode it seems to take about 36 shots before it slows down. Impressive stuff.

Setting the multiple function buttons

This is a lovely little UI feature to go with an amazingly good usability feature. The X-T1 has SIX (not one, not two, yes six) function buttons and they can all be customised to do whatever you want (within reason). This lovely little menu system lets you easily see which button you are changing to help you set up exactly how you want. I imagine once you’ve been using this camera a while you won’t need a visual key to show you which button is which, but certainly a nice little touch to help you get to grips with it at first.

Remote shooting

I tried a dev version of the app but this feature is something special. Install an App on your SmartPhone (I was using an Android), link the devices together and you then get a live view of what the camera is looking at on your phone. All of the dials on the camera and then ignored and you change change shutter speed, aperture, sensitivity, white balance and film simulation. Just like on the screen/EVF of the camera when shooting normally, the brightest of the live view image updates to reflect what the exposure is likely to be like based on your settings. You can also touch anywhere on the live view and the camera will use that as the focus point for autofocus – nifty! I can imagine a lot of people will love this feature.

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Time lapse photography

You can set the length of interval, number of shots, and how long until it starts to shoot. You then set it on its way and the camera does the rest. The camera powers down after each shot to conserve the battery. It’ll wake up if you press any buttons and display how many frames it has captured and how long until the next frame.

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Thanks for reading. If there’s any specific features of the camera that I’ve not covered here and you would like to know more about, please feel free to post a comment or send me a Tweet and I can update the post in the future. Check out the Fujifilm UK website for further product information and specifications.

Guest post: Fujifilm X Series with flash Part 3 – Multiple flashes with radio triggers

By Derek Clark

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In this third and final part of The Fuji X Series With Flash I’ll be looking at using multiple flash guns and radio triggers with the X Series cameras. You can use any make of flash for this as the radio triggers are only telling the flash to fire. There’s no information about exposure or anything else, it simply triggers the flash.

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There are many different radio triggers available, but by far the most popular are the Pocket Wizards. I came from a Nikon flash setup and worked with the SU800 Commander unit, and because of this I never owned any radio triggers. But after buying into the Fuji X System I realised that my trusty SU800 would not be usable. The Pocket Wizard Plus III’s had just came out, but were expensive for a multiple flash setup. Pocket Wizard’s also don’t have hotshoes for mounting the guns directly on to them. Instead the work with cables. My older SB800’s have sync ports, but my newer SB700’s don’t (I replaced my SB900’s with SB700’s due to the overheating problem and so glad I did). In the end I decided to go for the Flashwave III system because they were reasonably priced, had both sync and Pocket Wizard size ports and most importantly the receivers have hotshoes. They come with a great verity of cables and adaptors that so far have coped with everything. The receivers have a tripod mount on the bottom, but also come with adaptors to change them into hotshoe mountable. So the flash mounts on top of the receiver and the receiver to the shoe on the light stand.

The transmitter’s are tiny and even look small on the X-M1. They include a test fire button and have a choice of 16 channels via small dip switches on both transmitters and receivers. An X-E1 or X-E2 can also be fired remotely by attaching a Flashwave III receiver to the microphone input on the side of the camera and triggering it using the test button on the transmitter. I’ve used this setup when doing long exposures instead of a cable release.

Lighting doesn’t come any more basic than a radio trigger setup. Lights are all set to manual and you adjust power settings on each one individually. I use anything from one light to six lights, but I only have four receivers. If I need more than four lights I set the extra guns to slave mode. The radio triggers fire one set and the extra guns are triggered by the flashes.

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I wanted to shoot some fresh portraits for this post and I’ve been meaning to do some up to date shots of my kids. So excuse the self indulgence, but if you’re from a modeling agency…they are available:o). I shot these using Nikon Flashguns and Flashwave III radio Triggers. As you can see from the photo above, I used a Lastolite Hilite background. The Hilite works well with two flash guns inside, tilting upward and back to blow the background to pure white. I also use the Lastolite Superwhite Vinyl Train and a piece of thick toughened glass for a reflection. For this shoot I used a Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox which is a fantastic modifier for the money. Some of these shots were with one light, some are with three. I used the X-Pro1 and the X-E1 with the 35mm f1.4 and the 60mm f2.4.

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Thank you for reading this series and I really hope you found it useful. Flash with the X cameras seems to be a mystery to a lot of people that are moving over from DSLR’s, so I thought this series of posts would help to clear up a few of the common questions.

About Derek

Derek Clark is an award winning Documentary Photographer and a member of The Kage Collective, an international group of documentary photographers that are committed to telling stories with a camera. To see more of his work you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter or you can  follow his blog.
This blog post was taken, with permission, from Derek’s blog. You can see the original post here.

Guest post: Fujifilm X Series with flash Part 2 – Off camera TTL

By Derek Clark

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What is TTL?
I’ll start part 2 (part 1 is HERE) by describing what TTL actually is. Feel free to skip this part if you already know this.

8Back in the good old film days a lot of flash guns had a small calculator in the form of a chart or a small disk that rotated. These things basically calculated what setting worked for the Guide Number of the flash you were using. I had a Vivitar 283 back in the early 80′s, which was one of the most popular and reliable guns of it’s time. It had a dial built into the hinge of the bounce head (photo left). You set the dial to whatever ASA/Din number your film was (now called ISO) and the dial told you what distance you would cover with the varies apertures. The coloured sections corresponded to a dial on the front of the camera. It all goes a bit hazy after that…it was a long time ago. But I do remember having a cable that plugged into the front of the gun to use it off the camera.

Fast forward to today and we have much more sophisticated flashes that talk to the camera and vice versa. The camera takes it’s exposure reading through the lens (TTL) and tells the flash the information it needs to know. The flash then works out how much power it needs to put out to achieve a good exposure. The flash gun can also let you know via it’s display if the right exposure was obtained.

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What TTL Cable Works With The X Series
If you want to do off camera TTL photography with your X Series camera, you will need an EF-42, EF-20 or an EF-X20 and a TTL suitable for a Canon (usually called ETTL in Canon speak). The Canon hotshoe pins match the Fuji ones and allow TTL flash with a Fuji X camera. Nikon has a different pin arrangement and definitely won’t work in TTL. Remember to turn off both camera and flash when attaching a TTL cord as the contacts are sliding into position and could short out. I’ve never been a Canon shooter so I don’t have access to their flash guns and I can’t say if an X camera and Canon flash can speak to each other and work in TTL harmony. Nikon guns do not work in TTL. Nikon flashguns will work on an X series camera in Manual or Automatic, but not in TTL. If used on an X camera’s hotshoe or with a TTL cord, A Nikon flash is only being told by the camera to fire – exposure settings are up to you the photographer. The flash must be set to Manual (not TTL) or it won’t fire.

The Pixel FC-311/S TTL Flashgun Cable
Canon’s own ETTL cords will be great for the job, but they do tend to be a bit spendy. I bought the Pixel FC-311/S 1.8m cable (for Canon) from Amazon UK for £17 and it works fine. A really nice feature with this cable is that it has both a tripod mount and a cold shoe for attaching it to a light stand. This could come in really handy (although a longer cable might be better for using on a light stand). I’m using an SB700 soft case to hold the Fuji EF-42 and the TTL cable and there’s even space for a plastic foot too.

Hand Holding For Off Camera Flash
Obviously if you are doing off camera flash without the use of a stand or tripod, you have to be careful of camera shake as you’ll be holding the camera with one hand. Thankfully X cameras are great for hand holding due to their size, weight and the lack of a mirror popping up and down. But having a good solid grip and steadying technique is very important. In the photo below you will see the grip I use. By holding the flash in the left hand and crossing it over to the right, you can rest the camera on the left shoulder, the flash can be stretched out as far to the right as you like, as long as it’s pointing in the right direction a bit of shake won’t make any difference. If your TTL cord has a hotshoe or tripod mount at the flash end (Like the Pixel cord), you could easily use a handle. Lastolite do an extending Handle and a Brolly Bracket.

The left shoulder supports the camera and reduces shake.
The left shoulder supports the camera and reduces shake.

So that’s off camera TTL, what you do with it after that is up to you. There are some interesting accessories available like the Rogue Flashbenders to spread or direct the light, or Rogue Grid to focus it exactly where you want without light spilling all over the place, which is a must if you have a coloured gel on the background. The possibilities are vast and a lot of fun.

About Derek

Derek Clark is an award winning Documentary Photographer and a member of The Kage Collective, an international group of documentary photographers that are committed to telling stories with a camera. To see more of his work you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter or you can  follow his blog.
This blog post was taken, with permission, from Derek’s blog. You can see the original post here.

Guest post: Fujifilm X Series with flash Part 1 – The EF-42 TTL Flashgun

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By Derek Clark

This is part one of a three part series on using flash the Fuji X Series. This part is a review of the EF-42 flash and this will be followed by “Part 2 : TTL Off Camera TTL” and then ending with “Part 3 : Using Multiple Flashes With Radio Triggers”.

I often get emails asking about using Flash with the Fuji X Series. Mostly the questions are about using TTL, Nikon or Canon Flashguns or the Nikon SU800 Commander with the X series. Another big question is – Can an off camera TTL cord be used and if so, which one? So I thought I’d take a fresh look at using Fuji X cameras with flash. My friend John a commercial photographer and he’s really tempted by the X-Pro1, but he uses flash most of the time and isn’t sure if the X system is up for it. I have a job at the end of this week that might need flash due to the time of day in January and a dark venue. There won’t be time to use one of my Nikon guns in manual mode with a radio trigger, so TTL will be a must. This all added up to a good excuse to pick up a Fuji EF-42 TTL Flash and give it a blast.

FUJIFILM EF-42 TTL FLASH
The EF-42 is basically a Sunpak PZ42X with a jacket on (the EF-20 is also a Sunpak model). It’s not as well made as a Nikon or Canon flash gun, but at half the price, it’s good enough. When you mount the flash on the camera and switch it on, autofocus won’t work until the flash charges and the Test/Charge light is illuminated and like a kettle boiling, it seems to take a long time when you’re watching it. But when it’s lit there’s no problem and everything works as it should after that. But I would rather take a shot without the flash firing than miss the shot as it could maybe be recovered in Lightroom with a bit of exposure and a possible conversion to black and white.

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Minimalist controls on the rear
Minimalist controls on the rear

The back panel on the EF-42 is minimalist compared to a Nikon or Canon unit, with buttons for Mode, Select, On/Off and Test. It’s certainly easy to understand how the controls work, which is a breath of fresh air if you have ever used an SB800 at any point. But it would be nice to have dedicated a couple of buttons for -EV & +EV, as there’s too many button presses to move up and then down EV. TTL works well and the handy pop-out wide angle lens is useful. I think it’s a bit mean not to include a dome diffuser or a foot/stand, but I picked up a diffuser from eBay and I had a spare Nikon foot. A Nikon SB600 Dome Diffuser will fit, but it’s very tight and once attached it would be a good idea to leave it in place. A soft case would also have been a welcome addition, but I have a solution for that in Part 2. The hotshoe mount at the bottom of the flash is plastic and looks cheap, plus a switch style lock would have been preferred over a screw down plate.

I would recommend buying a Dome diffuser as the bare flash can be a bit harsh. With the diffuser attached and the flash head tilted up you will get great soft and even light that can fill a small room without any problem. You can find a suitable diffuser on Ebay for very little money. There are even packs of three available (one white and two coloured) that allow balancing the colour of the light from the flash with the room (I prefer gels).

In conclusion, the EF-42 does the job well, but could be a bit better on the built quality front. I think if Fujifilm had made this flash from the ground up, it would have been a much higher quality unit. Now that the X Series lenses are plentiful (almost), it would be nice if Fuji could dedicate a little time to develop a flash system on a par with Nikon’s CLS system, but with built in radio instead of infrared and a dedicated commander unit that allows the user to set the power on multiple flashes without moving from camera position. A dedicated flash system is about the only thing the X Series is lacking now.

So that’s the EF-42. Stick it on the camera, set it to TTL and you’ll get a pretty decent job. But a flash on a camera hot shoe is not the best look for your pictures. The shots look flat, lifeless and can make ugly shadows in the background. So in Part 2 we will look at getting the flash off the camera using a TTL cord and what cord will work with the Fuji X range.

The EF-42 is available on Amazon UK for £155

About Derek

Derek Clark is an award winning Documentary Photographer and a member of The Kage Collective, an international group of documentary photographers that are committed to telling stories with a camera. To see more of his work you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter or you can  follow his blog.
This blog post was taken, with permission, from Derek’s blog. You can see the original post here.