11.08.2018

I blame it all on my birthday. Why else would I decide to buy a new camera once I got home from Iceland?


It was a strange moment. I had a long layover in the JFK airport before my flight to Reykjavik. That's sometimes the nature of living in a city that's not a hub for a major airline. I was cooling my heels and reading some work by Emmaneul Kant (doctrine of transcendental idealism) when I decided to take a mental break and pander to the primordial side of my brain. I wanted something vapid and easy, like cotton candy, to read. Of course, my first thought was the lugubrious equipment reviews at DP Review.  So I pulled out my laptop and went for a look. Morbid curiosity? At any rate they had a review of a camera from a company whose cameras I haven't used since well before 2006, and that would be Fujifilm. So, there was the new review for the XT-3 and looking at photographs of it sure reminded me of dozens of old, film type cameras I remember playing with. It's festooned with all sorts of dials and buttons that harken back to the days when living, and shooting, was easy and straightforward.

I made a mental note to do more research when I got back to Austin. In my sometimes jejune manner I reasoned that a long journey, with arduous periods of enforced inactivity, on my birthday, had somehow earned me the right to pop for a new camera. A 63rd birthday present to myself.... I knew no one else was going to get me one...

In the intervening nine days I worked with my Panasonic G9 and was delighted by the technical quality of the files. The color, especially, is exactly to my liking --- even in Jpeg files pulled directly from the camera. But once the glands in my brain that secrete hormones regulating (or accelerating) acquisition come into play my desire for something new and different can be very difficult to dislodge.

I was back home for a couple of days and decided to go to Precision Camera...just to replace the Godox AD200 flash unit I demolished in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I had a little free time so I handled the new cameras I'd been reading about. They had the Nikon Z7 and I liked the way the shutter sounded and felt,  and the quality of the EVF, but I wasn't crazy about where my pinky finger ended up when holding the camera; with my average hands that finger falls right off the bottom of the camera.

I took a look at the new Canon R but it didn't budge the excitement meter that should at least register when one holds a brand new camera in one's hands. "Have you played with the Fuji?" Asked my professional camera equipment consultant. No, I had not. For some reason I'd been subconsciously been avoiding contact with the brand, even though my friends who own them have raved about the files they get from theirs.

I guess it's the tales of weird and wacky raw conversions from the X-trans sensors and solemn denouements of the older Fuji cameras' autofocus that stopped me cold. I kept waiting for stuff to smooth out over successive updates to the line. But with a nice, new BSI sensor, new AF performance improvements and a total revamp of the video capabilities, the XT-3 camera suddenly became interesting to me.

I bought a black one with the basic (and well reviewed) 18-55mm f2.8-4.0 OIS zoom lens. I thought about having it gift wrapped for me but decided that was one step too far.

I've had the camera for three days now but I haven't shot anything with it yet. I've had so much to catch up on, including downloading about 100 Gigabytes of material from Iceland and another 50+ GB of material from my corporate shoot before that. I also needed to head down to San Antonio for a first hand visit to my dad. I wanted to be sure he had been well taken care of during my absence. He was.

I took the camera along with me today to shoot some promotion images for a renowned magician but I ended up lighting everything with studio flash and, at the time, didn't know what Fuji calls the setting which gives you a bright view of a scene instead of a preview. You need that if you are going to shoot with studio electronic flash. Now I know what they call it and where it lives in the menu. (Vital info). I keep meaning to head out the door and head downtown to do a circuit with the new camera but it's gray, cool and rainy outside and I'm still a bit jet-lagged (actually, make that: Lay over lagged). I have time tomorrow, I'll give it a good workout then.

I've already identified a missing lens from the Fuji line up. I want a 70mm f1.4 or f2.0 as a portrait lens. I might order a Pen F to Fuji adapter and see how the ancient Pen F 70mm f2.0 and the 60mm f1.5 work on the new body. I hope I warm up to the camera and lens soon. I really can't return it as it was a gift from someone special...

Seriously though, does this presage a plunge into the Fuji camp? Only time will tell.

If you are a Fuji user and feel like providing me with good, operational tips or lens selection tips I'd love to read them in the contents.

A big wind up here but no big pay off. Just another somewhat irrational camera purchase. I wish I could tell you I finally broke down and bought a 100 MP Phase One camera and a box of lenses to go with it but I can't bear the idea of working with those huge files.

Just getting work done here. Four days booked next week and I'm still behind on laundry. Some things never change.


46 comments:

  1. My favorite Fuji lens is the 35 1.4.

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    Replies
    1. So far my favorite is the 18-55mm. But I'll probably branch out...

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    2. there's a relatively inexpensive zeiss 35mm or something with autofocus, and a samyang 16mm 1.4 (from memory) which is manual, it might be tokina in the usa

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    3. Have to second anonymous Kirk. The Fuji 35mmf1.4 is noisy, even quirky but one of the greatest lens ever made.

      You will succumb to it’s wily charm very soon.

      Max from Down Under

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  2. Although I am not a professional like you, I am an ardent amateur and have shot with a number of different "systems" over the years. Frankly, one of the most attractive things about Fuji is that they update their software/firmware quite often...not only fixing issues but actually adding features to their camera bodies! Seems to be fairly unique, especially compared with Nikon and Canon. I did add a hand grip to my X-T1 which helped since I have rather large hands. I had the 56 1.2 for a little while but the focus hunting grew to be a bit tiresome. The f2 "Fujicrons" are wonderful little lenses...

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  3. Hi Kirk,

    Happy Birthday! Like you, I am the owner of a Fuji xt3. I also own the Nikon z7. I must admit that the Nikon z7 files have much better resolution but they are big beautiful files.

    The Fuji xt3's files are almost as beautiful and a lot smaller. I just shoot jpegs with it as I absolutely love the Classic chrome for color and Acros for black and white. I know that Lightroom has the simulations for raw but forgive me if I say that the OOC jpegs turn out better! Enjoy your toy; tis wonderful.

    Ed

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  4. Wow,
    You finally added Fuji to your camera belt. So next you just need to pick up a Sigma camera and you will covered all the brands.
    But seriously, I look forward to your thoughts.

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    Replies
    1. But wait! I haven't played with any serious Pentax cameras either. Are they still in business?

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    2. Your brief affair with the k-01 I think counts. I can't see you ever picking up a K1. If still in business is a question mark. We may find out in March as there is a rumor for a new camera or something.

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  5. I too endured the Fuji S2's - the less said the better, though at the time the files were quite nice. Now with X-Pro2, X-T2 among others and a slew of lenses (I think 13), I'm pretty satisfied w/ the system. Coupla things - watch out for worms in your RAF files thru Lightroom. I don't use it, but apparently the deal is that default is not close to what RAF files need - which regarding Sharpening would be a small Amount and a great deal of Detail. I prefer Capture One which renders beautiful files without worms. If you're wedded (welded?) to LR, look to Iridient X-Transformer to convert to DNG and go from there. No worms, very sharp - but be careful of skin tones. Again no worries w/ Capture One. The lenses ......... gee whiz, I think they're just phenomenal coming from hi end Nikkors, HBlad Zeiss and Nikkor Large Format. 14/2.8, 16/1.4, 23/1.4, 35/1.4, 56/1.2!!!!!! and 50-140/2.8 w/ 1/4X TC are likely the best set of lenses I've used on a regular basis. Dead sharp from wide open on down. Don't overlook the Mitakon 35/0.95 - real nice too. The "kit" 18-55 is no slouch, but not up to the level of the primes. I'll admit it's a bit of a pain to set to Exposure/Film sim preview for available light then having to null out to shoot w/ strobe, but I've finally gotten used to that too and it's fine. The big deal for me that resulted in the final Nikon sell off was full Capture One support. Tethering is seamless and straight forward shooting w/ strobe now. Haven't tried LR, but used the clunky Fuji Acquire to feed to Bridge and Adobe ACR. Works. Clunky.

    Fuji Downsides? Batteries. Morons in the service/repair department. Overall - worth the switch. Will be interesting to see what you think of the video v. the Panny GH5(S).

    HBD and Cheers from an older 60 yr old.

    TB

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  6. You may want to reconsider the spelling of Immanuel Kant :)

    The Fujifilm X series is in an interesting spot right now. Good price to performance ratio. But I personally just want full frame for adaptation of Ai-S and M mount lenses.

    Transcendental Idealism is such an intriguing proposal, even though there are other authors and sources that make Idealism more accessible as an idea. Cheers!

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  7. You've been listening to Mike Johnston to much as he goes on and on and on about how wonderful Fuji's are. He finally got in your head did he lol. That was the first camera that came to mind when you first teased us but I figured it really wouldn't give you anything over what you already have except some retail therapy.

    Eric (who hasn't drank the Fuji coolaid - yet) Rose

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  8. I check on the blog: Littlebigtravellingcamera.com to read about Fujis and look at short notes about travel with a few pics. Periodically he comments on the Fuji lenses and bodies, etc. I picked up a couple X-E2’s over the last year, didn’t expect to like them that much, but now they’re my favorites for walk around. Small and quiet. Got a zoom for when stabilization is needed, but mainly I use them with my Pen FT lenses. Small adapter, a neat package.

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  9. Another vote for the Acros black & white film simulation. Enjoy.

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    1. The really fun part is you can shoot in B&W, see B&W on the screen after shooting and then still have the color data in the RAW file for processing.

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  10. Happy Birthday, I own an Olympus OMD II, several Fuji, and a Sony full frame. There is something special about the Fuji cameras. You are too young to remember but the great Nikkomat, it was just plain fun to shot. Fuji gives me the same rush! My favorite lens for the Fuji are the 35 (50mm), 56, 10 to 24, and the do everything 18 to 55, I believe the 35 & 56 are magic. I can’t wait to hear how you feel about the images.

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  11. I used to do 95% of my work with just the 23/1.4 and 56/1.2 lenses, and they are a great combo. But I recently got the 90/2 and it is fantastic. It's a bit longer than the 70mm you ask for, but it's now my favourite portrait lens. But still, if I could only have two lenses, or wanted to rationalise, the 23/56 combo is hard to beat.

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  12. My favorite little trick is to shoot RAW plus JPEG. If you have the RAW file, while viewing a picture, press the Q button. It will let you tweak the JPEG rendering engine and then re-render the JPEG.

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  13. Kirk, given your preferred subject matter, for lenses:
    XF90 f2 fast focus, beautiful for portraits, etc
    XF50-140 f2.8 stunning lens with a 75-210 equivalent, no weight savings on this one, but wow! What a lens, same is rue of the other Red badge lens XF16-55mm
    For the F2 series of small “Fujicron” 50mm, 35mm and then 23mm in that order. The 50 also makes a sweet portrait lens and is on one of my Fuji’s more often than not.
    The 18-55 is an amazing lens, punches well above its weight, as I thought no you will find out.,
    27mm is an underrated sweet pancake lens think Lumix 20mm, but faster focus.
    55-200mm is the first long telephone they released, surprisingly good, sharp and easy to carry.
    80mm Macro - slow focus on X-T2 but for Macro, awesome as at most Fuji lenses. Fuji knows how to make great glass.
    Lastly, the original 35 and 23 f1.4s - both great lenses, love the way they render, even if a little slower on AF, but better on the X-T3
    And, lastly adapters and your lens collection should be a great deal of fun to explore. canon FD and Minolta Rokkors have been wonderful.

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  14. II have an X T-2 but I think these setting will apply. F stop set on the lens, ISO dial set to “A”, Shutter speed dial set to “T”, Front wheel ISO adjustment, Back wheel Shutter speed, Electronic shutter, (As shown on the Q screen) Provia, Single focus point, DR - auto, WB - auto, NR - 2, L - 1:1, H tone -1, S tone -1, Color +1, Sharp +2 . Acros H tone & S tone - 0, otherwise same as Provia. I use LR Classic CC and it is dramatically better than my old version. I have large hands so I bought the MHG hand grip which really improved my comfor level. Looking forward to the arrival of the 16-80 f4 next year. That should be a very useful lens. Happy Birthday.

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  15. Hi Kirk, I am sure you will love your Fuji. Some suggestions, as you requested:
    1. The 14mm f/2.8 lens is really a gem if you do wide-angle work. I use it more than I expected to,
    2. The tiny 27mm f/2.8 is an excellent lens for times you want a compact package.
    3. Tom above said watch out for morons in the repair department. My experience was the opposite. My out-of-warranty 27mm lens developed a fault with one side being out of focus. I sent it to Fujifilm USA, and after a couple of weeks, they sent a totally brand new lens, all for about $125.
    4. I occasionally mount Leica M or Olympus OM lenses with appropriate adapters. No problem manually focussing with the help of the highlight-shimmery function (I forgot the term).
    5. Black and white jpegs created in-camera are amazingly good. If I set it up for square format, I can pretend that I used a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad.
    6. For RAW conversion, PhotoNinja converted RAF files cleanly years ago, during the time the Lightroom crowd were complaining about the worms or whatever it was.

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  16. I had a Fuji X100T. Enjoyed using it, especially the clicks of the dials. Lovely experience. Color profiles are superb. The downsides are the menus and xtrans (sometimes) for foliage and landscapes as a LR user. The AF on the XT3 is much better, so not an issue, but I also did find the AF on the X100T a bit slow for my style. If I had a larger photography bankroll I'd consider XT2 or XT3 plus some lenses. For now I'm happy in M43.

    What about the 90 f/2? What you really want though is the 56 f1.2 You know it's calling your name!

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  17. About a month ago I upgraded from my ageing x-e1 to the x-t3 so for me it is a significant step up in performance. It has also transformed my 35mm f1.4 considerably.
    I spend a lot of time in Vietnam and bought my x-t3 here.
    Fujifilm Vietnam ran a promotion for the month of October where if you bought the camera with the kit lens they included a sandisk 32gb card, a peak design wrist strap and neck strap, a manfroto uv filter and tripod, a fujifilm shoulder bag and two extra fuji batteries. All for cheaper than if you bought the camera with the kit lens alone in the USA or Europe. They also included a $100 off voucher to be used for one of the more expensive lenses before the end of October. I passed on the voucher but the day after the voucher expired I received a call to say that they'd noticed I hadn't used my voucher so if I was to call in that day they would give me an additional two extra batteries. A sweet deal indeed!
    I'm very happy with the camera and especially the kit lens which has surprised me. I have experienced a couple of lock ups but I'm sure it'll be fixed soon in a firmware upgrade.
    I have read your blog for years but rarely comment. I'm really looking forward to your assessment of this camera and any tips and tricks you can pass along.
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Thanks.

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  18. If offer my two cent’s worth, but you would toss it aside, as I have and live a FF DSLR camera. That makes me, by your estimation, both an idiot and a moron.

    But, hey, Happy Birthday and I really do hope you enjoy the new camera.

    Ernest Zarate

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  19. Here I was thinking you new camera was an accessory for your car. Not reading your blog properly obviously.
    I switched to Fuji from Canon early after trying an X-E2 and seeing the writing on the wall for cameras with mirrors. Quite a few things annoyed me about that camera but I decided to just get over that and make it work. And Sony at that time didn't have the lenses.
    At present I'm not upgrading to the T3 because the T2 is good enough for what I do (printing no larger than 24 inch roll paper). The resolution is good enough. As is the T1 actually if I don't crop much. The dynamic range is good enough. I can shoot in candlelight and get perfectly usable 12 inch prints. If I wasn't mad enough to try not over exposing the candle flame I could go bigger.
    The lenses are good enough. Stay away from the 50-140 though. It will ruin your life: you'll not want to use any other lens.
    On my camera Sandisk cards in slot one cause the camera to lock up randomly. Sony high speed cards don't have this problem, and at 4 frames/sec I can hold down the shutter until I run out of battery and the buffer will never fill. I don't know why I would want to do that, apart from useless bragging. Speaking of the battery, it's good enough. I've managed 700 raw files plus the jpegs by turning the camera off when not in use. Four hundred is more normal.
    The only accessory I've bought is a RRS L plate. The engineering is a thing of great beauty and the cost eye watering.
    Like every camera you'll set the dials to suit your hands. I have the front wheel set to exposure compensation and the button underneath that to focus. And the AF-L button on the back to show the histogram. Not that with mirrorless you need to use it that much. IS always on.
    Another vote for X-Transformer for raw converting when using Lightroom. Though the jpegs are often good enough and quite malleable. Never thought I'd ever say that.
    Have some fun with it. If it doesn't end up in your professional kit it will still be a great birthday gift. I still have some antique film cameras in my kit to keep me on my toes. Every now and then I fall victim to gear madness and check out the larger sensor cameras. But looking at the images people make with them I can see no improvement at all in real life over what I have.
    Many happy returns,
    David

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  20. Some of the older lenses are too noisy (AF) for video.

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  21. +1 Mr Rose
    Has TOP been seeping into your mind ;)
    Still, if it does what you want, you enjoy using it, and the finances are in tact, your readers look forward to your thoughts and insights.
    Cheers,
    Not THAT Ross Cameron

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  22. Surprise finally Fuji, your wonder soul will wonder no more, however you must be patient, I have come and gone with Fuji 3 times. For work I use two Fuji’s T-2 and a T-20 and a 35 and 56 lens(restaurant reviews.) For travel I still use two Fuji’s with two zooms a 10 to 24 and a 50 to 230 and I also carry the 35 for low light. Remember be patient.

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  23. I’ll commit sacrilege here and say I think Fuji’s colour science is over-rated. I don’t really like any of the basic profiles except perhaps the Acros, which I think you’ll love. Shot at ISO 2000, even in normal light, the baked-in grain effect is wonderful. Confusingly, that’s separate to the Q menu grain settings, which can be added to any of the colour or B&W profiles, but aren’t necessary with Acros.
    Having said that, it’s easy enough to tweak the colour settings and Fuji jpegs are remarkably resilient to a bit of post-processing if you want to avoid working with raw.
    Ultimately I’ve stuck with Fuji and currently have an X-Pro2 and X100F. Usability, firmware upgrades and awesome lenses trump any minor colour niggles for me.
    I’m not a portrait shooter but agree that the 18-55 zoom is a fine lens. The original 35 1.4 is outstanding. I wouldn’t rule out the 60 2.8 macro for portrait work although it’s a bit sharp. There seem to be plenty on the used market as people have traded up to the 56mm lens.
    Happy Birthday and enjoy your new gear!!

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  24. After some initial explorations with a well used X100S, earlier this year I, with breath held, traded in all of my modest Nikon kit towards a Fuji XT-2 with just two lenses, the 18-55 f/2.8-4 and the 50mm F/2 (aka Fujicron). My teen daughter is an emerging filmmaker and photographer and made it clear, after we briefly owned a kit of Oly and Panasonic m4/3 gear, that she has no use for DSLRs.

    I will never look back. The Fuji kit has scaled from family trips to the ambitious first steps in filmmaking by my daughter. It is small enough to be easily utilized on a Zhiyun Crane gimbal, but capable enough to shoot theatre and dance when asked. It has exceeded our expectations in its video capabilities. It is one of those cameras that, every time either one of us picks it up, makes us smile. My daughter now expects all cameras to have the traditional controls for exposure on the surface of the camera and lens.

    It isn't the "perfect" camera, but it is the perfect camera for our needs and I have zero regrets in committing to the Fuji platform.

    That said, the versatility of your Panasonic kit, between the three bodies and the scenarios they easily cover, probably makes it the perfect solution for your needs. But the Fuji XT3 will still likely make you smile every time you shoot with it.

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  25. I have had several Fujifilm Cameras since my first X-E1. I am now using the X-T2. I think you might enjoy setting the camera to JPEG only and use the Film Simulations Bracketing of 3 choices. This will let you sample different flavors. I set my for Bracketing ASTIA, ACROS with the Yellow Filter, and Classic Chrome. I tend to shoot at minus -1/3 exposure compensation most of the time for bright days. I would use the kit lens for a few months, it is a quality lens that is not too big and it is relatively fast. I would set it on automatic and just walk and shoot everything and then go back and work and look at the files. It is fun and a nice change. I find I use my Panasonic GX9 more, because I have longer and affordable lens already.

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  26. Hard to say whether or not you will like the Fuji system, Kirk. Those who like it tend to like it very much, and those who don't like it don't like it at all. For myself, I like it a lot, but if you ultimately decide it's not for you, my feelings won't be hurt. :o)

    I only have a few of the cheaper lenses, but they are very sharp and do what I need to do. The 27mm f2.8 stays on my X-Pro1 most of the time and gives a Leica-like experience. For architecture, I have an Olympus 24mm on a shift adapter that gives a 35mm field of view. I did a great deal of architectural photography with a 12-megapixel Canon 5D and my clients were happy with the quality. The 24mp files from my X-T20 are even better.

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  27. The Fujicrons are excellent, f/2 and reasonably priced. Also the 16 f/1.4. Very good even wide open. The 23 f/1.4 is also a superb lens.

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    Replies
    1. Wait til you try the Zeiss 12mm. One fine lens.

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  28. I know you are a dedicated Lightroom user, but you might want to take a look at Capture One Express for Fuji. It's free, and Capture One has always played very, very well with Fuji's X-Trans files. Here's a link: https://www.phaseone.com/en/Capture-One/Download/Capture-One-Express-Fujifilm.aspx

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  29. Settings are more a personal choice- and almost every button on the Fuji cameras can be configured in whatever way seems natural to you.

    The one thing that the X-T3 excels at is video... Many modes- I normally don't shoot video, but I used the 120fps mode for some waterfalls and the 'blue bubble' at Geysir when I was in Iceland last week (!). Worked well.

    Silent mode of course (electronic shutter)- pretty common on EVF cameras these days and great for shooting theater or concerts.

    There's a "pre-capture' mode which works with the electronic shutter. When you half-press the shutter button, the camera starts recording images to its buffer, only keeping the most recent ones once the shutter button is fully depressed.

    Etc...

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  30. You have awoken the sleeping hordes of Fuji users who read your blog. :)

    I can tell you are no longer paying for tuition because you are now the proud owner of three mounts!!

    I borrowed a Fuji for a few days as they have a deal with a chain of camera stores here, two lenses and a body for free for 2 days. I found them very nice to use, but something about skin tone color seemed off to me, too rich, too beautiful ;)

    Enjoy your new camera.

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    Replies
    1. Abraham, I laugh because you are perceptive. With the weight of college expenses lifted from my shoulders, and with the boy gainfully employed and self-sufficient, I don't feel at all guilty buying and trying new stuff. Must be contagious since my spouse bought a new car while I was out of town. A better car than mine. Now I'm not jealous of my neighbors but just my own family... But I do have the better collection of cameras.

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  31. Kirk, you might also like to check out the X Raw Studio (http://www.fujifilm.com/news/n171130.html).
    Basically the camera is connected to your computer and a .raf file on the hard drive selected, and the camera's processor is used to do the conversion to a jpeg.
    It's a easy way to explore the film simulations without fuss.
    Some aspects of the film simulations can't easily be reproduced in Lightroom or Capture 1. For example the film grain appears to be processed differently in different parts of a photo depending on luminance.
    David

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  32. I own two Fuji cameras: Fuji X100 and Fuji X-E1. Luckily, I stop there. I disagree that the color from them looks like film. I think it is easy to get good pictures from Fuji cameras because they have very good automatic color white balance and very well tuned JPEG engine. I can get equally good pictures from my other Canon cameras with middle price lens.

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  33. Hi Kirk, I know what you mean about freedom when you are not paying for college and your kid(s) are gainfully employed.

    Maybe it is time for you to try the Nikon Z7. As I stated above, while I love the Fuji xt3, the files from the Nikon are a step above.

    In any event, enjoy the new toy.

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  34. I think you may find use of the in-camera Focus Bracketing for some of your work. Both commercial and personal. Fuji does a very good job of implementing it.

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  35. Hi Kirk,

    As a fan of the short telephoto you may want to check out the legendary 56mm 1.2

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  36. Hi Kirk, I hope your spouse does not collect cars like you collect cameras? :-)

    Henk

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  37. Kirk, you will also want to consider a radio flash unit ... the Godox TT685F with X-Pro F controller ... works perfect and is typical great value from Godox.

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