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Fuji X-T1 The best cowboy camera? – (Guest Post by Mike Anfield)

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Guest Post by Mike Anfield – facebook.com/cowboyphotos / www.cowboyphotos.ca

On our community Facebook photography page new photographers are often asking the question, “What camera should I buy?” A deluge of replies usually follows extolling why Canon is better than Nikon or vice versus. Rarely does anyone ever ask , “what type of photography do you intend on doing?”

I think one would be hard pressed to buy a bad camera these days but clearly different makes or models are better suited for certain applications. I have been a Canon shooter for many years, primarily because when I started buying digital cameras their system was the best for bird and wildlife photography. I’m not sure they hold that advantage anymore but after you are heavily invested in lenses there seems little incentive to change.

A new photographic journey led me to having a pretty unique set of requirements for a camera. My family and I had moved from Vancouver to Kamloops in the interior of British Columbia Canada. This is an area of expansive grasslands most of the grasslands used for cattle ranching. Somewhat to my surprise I discovered that much of the work was still performed by cowboys on horseback. A chance encounter led to the taking of some photos of working cowboys; I was hooked and started getting to know some of the ranchers and photographing the cowboys as often as I could.

I was getting some good photos but I was pretty limited as to the activities and locations I could access. The only solution was to ride with the cowboys. It was a long progression taking a number of years but I now try to take most of my shots from horseback while working alongside the real cowboys.

This brings us back to our topic, is the Fuji XT-1 the best cowboy camera. One of the photo related businesses my wife and I operate includes camera and lens rentals so I had no shortage of options available to me. Nothing in our inventory was really working me while on horseback. I started researching the alternatives and, as size and weight was a major consideration, looking for the first time at mirrorless cameras. My requirements were:

  • Image Quality – this is not a get rich quick scheme by any stretch but I do sell images and prints so I could not sacrifice image quality for some of my other requirements.
  • Size and Weight – I am getting a little long in the tooth but still capable of carrying a full size body around, it is what happens to a larger camera when you are riding that is the problem. Sometimes we have to ride pretty hard in rough country; the bigger cameras were getting thrown around and smashing against the saddle at times.
  • Dust and Weather Resistant – We occasionally get rained or snowed on here but this is a pretty dry climate, moisture is not a huge concern, dust is!
  • Durability – I have been tossed off a horse (more than once) wearing my camera, roped a calf wearing the camera and generally treated it like no piece of photographic gear should ever be treated.

I’m not sure Fuji is going to find a huge market here but I have found the XT-1 to be just about the perfect cowboy camera. It has met all my requirements and continues (touch wood) to produce great images, even after all the abuse. In addition to all the banging and crashing I have been shooting in the branding and sorting pens where I have ended up with 6 or 7 millimeters of dust on my camera.

The image quality has really surprised me to the point that I use it, almost exclusively, for all my other photography. The exception being bird photography but I am excited about trying out the 100-400 as my 400 2.8 is really heavy and I have never come up with a suitable response to the inevitable, “boy that is a big lens!”

One of the other big plusses for me was the 18-135 lens. Carrying extra lenses and changing lenses just isn’t a viable option while working cattle on horseback. The 18-135 covers most of the focal lengths I require, performs extremely well and is a WR lens. It is a little slow for some of our, before sunrise starts, but I wouldn’t want the extra weight and size of a faster lens of this range.

My kit when riding includes the XT-1 with 18-135 and that is it. I seem to get just enough battery life to last most rides. The camera resides in a small binocular case strapped to my chest. The bag has a magnetic closure at the top and safety straps that attach to the camera. It just fits the XT-1 ,18-135 combo with the lens shade on.

There are a few small issues; the well documented flimsy card door is annoying and the diopter adjustment does not stay where I set it but overall I have been very pleased with the performance and the results I have been getting.

More of my work can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/cowboyphotos/ or www.cowboyphotos.ca

The Fashionable X-Pro2 – by F. James Conley


Submitted via GUEST POST PAGE

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guest post by F. James Conley:  f-eleven.com / @philatawgrapher

Hi Patrick. I wanted to share a fashion editorial with you, and my experience using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in the studio.

For a few years now, I’ve relied on Fujifilm’s X-Series as my workhorse system for documentary, street, and travel photography. Originally working with an X100s and an X-E1, I’ve now added the X-Pro2 to the stable. (These days, the X-E1 is a backup body.) However, for studio work I’ve continued to rely on Canon.

Studio work involves different kinds of habits from those of the photojournalism I usually do. The thought process in working with lights, settings, models, and scenes is nearly quite the opposite kind of thinking required to capture unfolding moments on the street. Studio work is slower and more deliberate, and the distractions of the equipment cannot be avoided, with each shot requiring manual adjustments of light stands and strobe settings.

For studio thinking, I always found a Canon DSLR a good match. The studio is about controlling light, and it’s often a dim place to work. Seeing directly through the lens is not only easier in low light, but it also makes me feel more connected to the model. Fleeting expressions are easy to catch, and small framing adjustments are quickly comprehended when looking through an SLR.

The X-E1 was impossible to consider for the task. The slow refresh rate of the EVF is very frustrating in low light. The X100s was too limited with its lens options (even taking into account the WCL and TCL). Its EVF suffers the same problems as the X-E1, and the rangefinder is not an acceptable solution because of parallax issues. So it was Fuji on the streets, and Canon in the studio.

With time, however, the Canon system has shown its age. Not the least of the frustrations is a limited number of focus points. Especially when shooting with wide apertures, “focus and reframe” can introduce a host of issues. There are also issues with low light performance. Working with an SLR, it is much harder to tell if the focus is correct in low light, and many times it isn’t.

Newer Canon bodies have more focus points and better low light performance, but that necessitates buying a newer body. I have a substantial investment in Canon glass, but unfortunately the technology has left them behind and there are many frustrations with focus speed and lock on. What was a great L-series lens a few years ago is now a slow-focuser with a lot of chromatic aberration.

With the X-Pro2 in hand, I finally had an option. The EVF is fast enough not to be a distraction, and the low light performance is excellent. Faced with the choice of upgrading the Canon system or testing the X-Pro2, it was easy to decide to get the Fuji hooked up to the lights see what would happen.

My approach to studio light is very simple: one or two Paul Buff lights, with a variety of modifiers. The lights are on radio triggers, with a transceiver on the camera. I shoot the camera in manual, and make adjustments to the lights as needed to achieve the exposure I want.

The first problem came when the radio triggers wouldn’t trip the light. Investigation into the issue led to no satisfying answers. I’ve used Yongnuo 603Cs for years with no issues. My first fear was a hotshoe issue with the X-Pro2. (In the past, I’ve found that Canon studio accessories worked with the Fujis.) Forging ahead, though, I made the assumption that the issue was with the Yongnuos and not the X-Pro2, and purchased a set of RadioPopper receivers and a transmitter. They worked straight out of the box with not a single misfire, so I’ve concluded that the pins on the Yongnuo 603C’s aren’t correct for the X-Pro2.

Although a stressful one, the trigger issue turned out to be the only issue. The X-Pro2 is a delight to use in the studio. The EVF gets out of the way, and there were very few focus issues—and only when there were a lot of shadows. The sensor on the X-Pro2 is fantastic, and gives a very film-like quality to the images, with incredible amounts of latitude.

Getting the X-Pro2 set up for studio use is short work:

  • set the shutter speed to 1/250th
  • set the ISO to 200
  • turn Preview Pic Effect off
  • turn the flash mode to on

Manually set the aperture, and away I go.

I’m looking forward to continuing to use the X-Pro2 in the studio. Even more, I’m looking forward to not having to buy a new Canon!

More images can be seen on my website: http://f-eleven.com, and on Instagram: @philatawgrapher

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