Long week. Much work. Much family time with Dad. Not enough sleep (blame Studio Dog).

I was down in San Antonio a week ago visiting my Dad in his memory care facility before heading off on my various jobs. I made it back in time late Wednesday to go down again on Thursday, with Belinda, to celebrate Thanksgiving with him a week early (the facility pulls out all the stops and does a nice family lunch with turkey, all the trimmings, four different kinds of pie and wine for family members (and those for whom it is not contraindicated...). The facility is in the middle of our old neighborhood and is incredibly good. I was back there today for lunch with the old man. I also had him sign holiday cards to send to my brother, sister and their kids. It's a three hour drive, roundtrip, and the actual drive can be a bit off-putting after a week of endless travel, but a guy is only 90+ years old once in his life and I don't want to miss even a week of it. I'm thankful for two things: One is that my dad can afford the best care available and, two, there is not a week that goes by where I would feel that he and I didn't part on a high note... We're both hanging in there for now and he's seems content.

I regaled you earlier with my crazy work schedule and the (short term) loss of my phone last week so I'm not going to re-hash that but I am going to quickly discuss why I'm in advanced flirtation with the Fuji system at the moment.

With all the advancements for video in the X-T3 they finally crested the hump into total hybrid usability. The video rivals the GH5 and almost pulls even with the GH5S but it does so with a different visual personality. You can have analytic or romantic based on the system you choose to use. I have yet to do more than shoot some cursory comparison footage (antiquated terminology..."footage") and quickly compare in Final Cut Pro but each has its strengths. I find the GH5S footage to be more accurate and the camera to be better set up for video (menus, buttons, peripherals, connection points) but I do like the softer flesh tones and perhaps more tonally nuanced files of the Fuji.

But the reason I bought the first Fuji camera a few weeks ago was to see if there would be much improvement over the m4:3 cameras in photographic portraits. There is a longer tonal range in the X-T3 which also translates to a bit more dynamic range. Plus, I like the colors better than the files from the D800e or the G9. The G9 is a close contender but the X-T3 is just better. I'm not seeing a huge difference in overall sharpness or total resolution but I chalked that up to a difference in the quality of the lenses I'm using between the two systems. The 40-150mm f2.8 Olympus Pro, even when used wide open, is tough to beat. While the Fuji 55-200mm f3.5-4.8 is a decent lens (actually a good performer, one stop down) the Olympus is exemplary and goes a long way, where resolution and sharpness are concerned, toward ameliorating the differences between formats. The APS-C format will have a different de-focus ramping and there's nothing that really changes that vis-a-vis lenses.

No, where I really wanted to test was in the realm of portraiture and so far I'm finding much that Fuji fans say to be true. The Jpeg files are very, very nice and the raw files are very malleable. There's just a bit more safety margin for shooting error in the bigger format. With the latest update to Lightroom (8.0) I don't see any quality difference between Nikon, Panasonic and Fuji file processing...

The fun camera for me though is the E-X3. I warmed up to it quickly. With the little 50mm f2.0 on the front it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite older film cameras, the Leica CL. The Leica CL was kitted for a while with two lenses. One was a 40mm f2.0 Summicron which was one of the best lenses I ever shot in the Leica system (and I shot a lot of different lenses!), and the little 90mm f4.0 was plenty good as well. The size, shape and output of the XF 50mm f2.0 reminds me of those lenses and the very early results I've gotten with the lens have me considering the 23mm and 35mm versions as well. I just wish there was also a 60 or 70mm f2.0 in the same style because I'd order that one so fast it would be here before I finished the transaction.

The E-X3 uses the same sensor and processor that Fuji had in the X-T2 and according to all sources it's pretty darn good. It comes in a 24 megapixel resolution and eschews the AA filter so it's plenty detailed but also presents Jpegs with the pleasing palette of the other cameras in the system. The camera is small, exceptionally light and not much of a burden to carry pretty much everywhere. (The nemesis of all the Fuji's appears to be the tiny batteries and limited charge endurance..).

It's also a good fit with the 18-55mm lens, which I also like a lot.

But here's the bottom line at the VSL headquarters: There's no real brand loyalty left here. I can find something compelling about nearly every system out there in the wild. Now that I no longer have to pay for the kid's college (and he is happily and well employed) I have a new game plan for gear --- buy whatever I want.

My plan right now is to use the Panasonics for video, the Fujis for portraits and ad/commercial work and then add in a Fuji medium format camera and portrait lens as the premium spread. I can't see much advantage to the older, mirror-driven, full frame cameras so they are all headed for the trade-in department at my local camera store. Part of my relentless downsizing; which happens in fits and starts.

Yeah, I guess I'm having a hard time being "just" a two system guy but I feel well enough established in my industry to use whatever I like. My clients never suggest systems, formats or other parameters, they do ask me to do my "style."

I'm no longer worried about what something may cost because I'm comfortable with the almost certain knowledge that I'll be able to pay for whatever I buy with projects for clients using that same gear. I no longer feel financially responsible for anyone else and my financial advisors tell me I've planned well and invested well (never in my own industry!!!).

If you want to stick a toe in the Fuji world my friends who've been shooting it for a while suggest either the X-E3 or the XT-20 as starter cameras. Toss in an 18-55mm and you've got a nice upgrade from point and shoot cameras and access to the same sensor and color "science" (I'd say it's more of an art...) as the bigger and more expensive cameras from Fuji.

Knowing my buying patterns as soon as I get comfortable with the Fuji system I'll be snapping up various lenses that most people agree are exceptional. I have my eyes on the 60mm macro next but I'm taking suggestions from the cognoscenti.  Weigh in. Have a great Sunday. I'm off to photograph a dress rehearsal. Now, which cameras should I take???


Rufus said...

The 60mm macro is sharp but the AF is not so fast and you already have the 50mm f2.

The 35mm 1.4 is great and that'll make a nice equivalent nifty-50mm.

I also enjoy the 18mm pancake a lot. Makes the camera super small and I like the 27/28mm focal length.

Dano said...

Great article, I have been waiting several years to hear this, in addition Fuji is just plain fun, the way photography should be.

Rosco P Coltrane said...

I've been tempted by the Fuji's but the one thing stopping me is having to change to another editing system as DXO (which I really like!) doesn't work on them.....

Dano said...

Fuji is one of those cameras that makes a difference how you set it up. Talk a little about your set up.

Eric W said...

Kirk...Thanks for confirming what I thought...but still did not want to believe in missing my X-T2 and X-E1. I currently shoot a nice G85/E-M10II with great Oly glass. Results wise I know most of the time I can get the same except for holding highlights. When shot properly I get great photos. I like the E-M10II files better, but the G85 is a whole lot more capable camera. Still I could not explain what I felt like I was missing. You said what I thought but could not explain: "You can have analytic or romantic based on the system you choose to use." Unfortunately I like the romantic portraits and photos more since I do less "technical" photography than you do. I can see keeping both systems as well, but I now can articulate what I was missing in the results. I can however also completely understand why the G9 is a better handling camera than the X-T3. Choices choices choices...and I have my first of six headed to college in 18 months...congrats on being on the other side of those costs. Enjoy your work and the fun you can now have.

Derrick said...

I've been a Fuji shooter for years and tried most of their lenses. Two of my favourite portait lenses are the 35/1.4 and the 60/2.4. They both render beautifully. Funny thing is I no longer own those lenses. I changed to the 35/2 and 56/1.2 which are both great lenses but when I look back through my LR catalog, I find that I prefer the photos from the aforementioned older lenses. The 16/1.4 is also a stellar lens.

Frank Grygier said...

From Mr. Fuji himself.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I think the Fuji 60mm macro is way overpriced for what you get, a slow focusing lens for close-ups, no macro. The diaphragm ring has very weak stops. May be suitable as a studio portrait lens, not for macro. The older Panasonic Leica 45mm F2.8 of same eq. AOV is cheaper, smaller and has OIS and is more a macro lens than the Fuji. I own both.


jtsmall said...

I have it on good authority that the new Fujinon 80mm macro is both the fastest and sharpest lens in their catalog. I have tried it on my X-T3 at the local shop and it shocked me with its near instantaneous focus lock going from distant to close focus, back and forth. It also feels good in the hand and balances nicely on the T3. By the same authority the 16mm is said to be Fuji's finest, but I've not handled it ... yet. Then there's the 50-140mm f2.8 which is of similar quality and also balances well. Finally, it seems many eventual migrate from the excellent kit zoom to the 16-55mm f2.8 non-IS lens. I find your reports as ever well written, informative and instructive and so, I'm grateful you've choosen to work with Fuji's platform at this time. I've just started my journey though I've followed Mike Johnston's blog for years.

ODL Designs said...

I've had my suspicions this was a swan song for the full frame Nikons.

I have been eyeing the mf Fuji cameras for a while, not the APSC as I don't feel the advantages are substantial enough to justify a system swap, but there is definately something appealing about the look of those mf files.

Looking forward to living vicariously through your purchasing decisions :)

EdPledger said...

In the manual focus department, the adapters are nice and small for the PenF’s and M’s. I like the Pen’s of course, but also my 35 Summaron. The stabilized zoom with auto focus for when my jitters need to be tamed, but walk around, take the old mf lenses. This is all on my X-E2, a little larger than the 3, but with a solid rangefinder feel. For grins these days I have been messing with old Olys with the Kodak CCDs. Ciao.

Turbofrog said...

If you are interested a 60-70mm/f2 for APS-C, you might be very happy with the new Sigma 56mm/f1.4 for your Panasonic cameras. Both angle of view and depth of field should be very similar (actually somewhat shallower with the Sigma on M4/3). And the 56/f1.4 is a refreshing break from Sigma's typical habit of making enormous lenses, at just 280g and the size of a teacup.

Dave said...

How do you like the xe-3 compared to the Olympus OMD EM-5. I had the Olympus and it was too darn fiddly for my cave man hands. I have an x100-F and I love shooting with One-Camera, One lens, but I've been thinking I want to do some other things and the F is starting to feel limiting.

Dave Jenkins said...

If I could afford it, I would get the 80mm macro. I thought about buying the 60, but gave up on that after trying one on my camera at a photo show and finding the focus to be unacceptably slow.

Probably not your cup of tea, but I really like the 27mm f2.8. Its 42mm equivalent field of view is just right for me, so it pretty much lives on my X-Pro1.

I haven't tried the X-T3, but my X-T1 is the "friendliest" in-my-hands camera I've owned since the Olympus OM2n.

If I were you, I would hold on to the Nikon D700s. They didn't cost much, they don't take up much space, and it may save you buying them back sometime down the road.

Anonymous said...

Fuji lenses - my take:

Fast, quiet AF and Sharp
16 1.4
80 2.8 OIS Macro, but fish-eye bokeh
90 2.0
16-55 2.8 Zoom
50-140 2.8 Zoom with great OIS
100-400 Zoom with great OIS
the 1.4 TC works great with the 50-140 and 100-400 zooms

Slower AF but sharp
23 1.4
56 1.2

Noisy AF with beautiful rendering
35 1.4

Lenses I have skipped
60 2.4 not a 1:1 macro very slow AF
the small 2.0 primes, 23, 35, 50...the 1.4 primes are small enough
10-24 f/4 OIS - waiting for 8-16 2.8 zoom
14 2.8 - skipped
27 2.8 - skipped
56 1.2 APO I have the 56 1.2
18-135 zoom, 16-55 and 50-140 are sharper
200 2.0 - Not needed for my type of photography

Fujifilm lenses I am looking forward to
8-16 2.8 zoom not out yet - Dec 2018
16-80 f/4 R OIS WR - on road map - sometime in 2019

Dave Jenkins said...

Thinking about how much you liked the D700 files made me think about other 12-megapixel cameras with lovely files. If you take a notion to rummage around the past again, you might look into picking up an Olympus E3.