During the summer of 2016 I started wild camping, and I loved it. I quickly realised the importance of the weight of kit, or more importantly the importance of the lack of weight of kit. I ordered a lightweight tent, small, lightweight sleeping bag, a stove no bigger than a large beer can and I happily plodded on up the fells. But my camera, my trusty Canon 5d mark iii became known as 'The Brick'.
It's a fabulous camera, but I knew it was the wrong tool for wild camping, so began a search for a smaller, lighter camera that would give me images that were as close to as possible, the same quality as the pro level DSLR was giving me. Obviously I thought they won't be as good, they're going to be on a mirrorless camera (there's still quite a bit of snobbery in the DSLR vs CSC discussion. I'll admit to being guilty of it myself to some degree). I had no intentions whatsoever of converting.
So what is a Mirrorless camera?
As the name suggests, they're cameras that don't rely on mirrors. This makes them smaller, lighter and mechanically less complicated. Generally they're also quite a bit cheaper (not including the Sony A7r ii in that statement). My research led me to conclude that there are currently 3 main players in this market, Sony, Olympus and Fuji. The big boys Canon and Nikon are dipping their toes in, but I got the impression it was more because they felt they should, rather than felt they wanted to. Thats fine, concentrate on DSLR's for which they still hold most of the market.
When Fuji announced the launch of the X-T2 in the Autumn, I knew that was the animal for me. It has a similar resolution to my Canon (24.3megapixels against the Canons 22.3), an APS-C sensor that was getting rave reviews on the Fuji X-Pro2 (which I had accepted was a crop sensor, and everybody knows a crop sensor isn't as good as a full frame sensor, but this is my second camera, so its a compromise right??), weather sealed, and with a decent choice of lenses to go with it. The range of lenses is not as good as you get with Canon or Nikon's DSLR equipment, but this is my second camera, right?
To cut a long story short, my new Fuji X-T2 arrived in October, along with a 16-55mm f/2.8 lens and a 50-140mm f/2.8 lens.
Size wise its everything I want. Its not too small that I'm frightened that if I squeeze the shutter too hard it will break, but light. The body itself is very light (just 507g against the Canons 950g). The photos above compare the camera with lenses with the same focal lengths (24-70mm in 35mm terms) This is a big lens, but overall its still a huge weight saving. If I was to attach a prime lens (with a fixed focal length) that saving would be even more noticeable.
You might notice the number of dials on the top of the Fuji. This might look retro to some, but all of the functions I might need to change are right there in front of me. Theres no complex menus to scroll through to change a setting. ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and aperture compensation are all there. Want to change from a single shot to a bracketed shot? Its there, on a dial....perfect, I love it.
With my Canon I tended to use the live view screen on the rear of the body and manually focus (in truth I never quite trusted the autofocus). This 'small' camera has a whopping 325 AF points (against the Canon's 61) and seems to lock on much, much faster, so I decided to give it a whirl. I also made the decision to go out without a tripod and filters to see how I got on.
All of these shots were taken hand held, using auto focus. I found being free from the tripod was making me search for the best angle. Also, using the viewfinder (an electronic viewfinder in the X-T2 which provides the user with all the information he needs, including a live histogram, without taking your eye away from the camera) was assisting me with framing. There is very little, if any cropping done to these 3 images.
And as for image quality, I think they're equal to that of the Canon, if not slightly better. I'm not sure how many stops the Fuji has on its dynamic range, but I would be interested to see the results against the DSLR. In short, its everything I need, but more than I expected.
But what about in low light?
The camera seems to cope really, really well. This is a well known spot (but rarely photographed). Its possibly rarely photographed because its a roadside snap from a bend on a busy road out of Ambleside where there are no pathways.
This isn't a spot you would want to dawdle at so there was absolutely no time to set up a tripod. The light was fading, but the smoke from a small fire just behind the trees made the atmosphere just too tempting to resist.
The shot was taken at ISO800, f/5.6, 31mm at 1/8second with the camera resting on my crumpled up wooly hat, sat on the dry stone wall.
The Fuji makes me want to take photos where I wouldn't in the past.
What about harsh light?
I rarely take photographs pointing into the sun, so I avoid the harshest of light, but on this late Autumn day, when the sun was already making its way to bed, I knew that the difference between the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows would be too much for the dynamic range of almost every camera.
For this shot I used a tripod, and set the camera to take 3 shots a couple of exposure settings apart in rapid succession. A technique known as a 'bracketed exposure'. I could then manually blend the 3 images into one once I got back to the computer.
The effectively extended the dynamic range enough so as not to blow any highlights in the sky, yet recover detail in the shadows.
I don't use this technique often, but its very, very easy to do on the fuji.
Stitching photographs together to make up one wide panorama is something I like to do a lot when faced with a scene like this. I had taken some images on the Canon this way that I had been really pleased with, but could the Fuji allow me to do the same thing? Well this is a series of 5 images, taken hand held inbetween hail showers and in strong winds. I was pretty pleased with the sharpness throughout and the stitching (thanks to lightroom) is seamless. Im certainly not put off doing more and more of this type of image now I'm using a smaller camera.
So what about the downsides......
Well its not perfect, but maybe I just haven't worked out how to make it work perfectly for me yet? It gets through batteries quite quickly, possibly down to the fact the camera must be turned on to use the Electronic View Finder. I just need to buy and carry a few more cells with me. The EVF (electronic viewfinder) does slightly lag when panning, which I should imagine would make shooting action shots, or a moving target a little more tricky than with a traditional optical viewfinder. But as I rarely shoot things that move, thats not a big problem to me. I haven't quite got used to the white balance options yet. But as I always shoot in RAW this can be corrected back at the PC (I'd just rather get it right in camera). Theres also a little cap on the front of the body that covers the sync terminal. Watch this, it can easily fall off without you noticing. This happened to mine within a couple of weeks, but it was easy to get a replacement and now I just make sure its on tight every couple of times I use it. Its integral to the weather sealing of the body, so important.
The final downside was that I needed to ditch my standalone PS and LR packages and sign up for the Adobe Creative Cloud monthly subscription. Its something I had avoided for over a year, reluctant to pay for the same software I had already paid through the nose for previously. Alas, the standalone package did not support the Fuji RAF (RAW) files, so I had to pay up.
Other than that I'm struggling to find too many negatives. After all, this is my second camera isn't it? I would use the Canon for the proper shots like this....
Well thats the kind of problem, this wasn't shot on the Canon. I love the Fuji X-T2 so much that I have hardly used the Canon since its little brother arrived. Its been gathering dust in the corner of the spare room, which is in my opinion a shame and a waste. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Canon, it does everything I want a camera to do, really well. Its the camera with which I have had a lot of success and therefore will always hold it in high regard. But for me the Fuji does all the same things as the Canon, just as well, but its so much more practical and, dare I say it, fun.
My Canon had become an expensive second camera, eclipsed by the mirrorless upstart. I had ended up with 2 machines that could do pretty much the same thing, but one I didn't want to use, and a whole lot of lenses that were not compatible on both bodies.
I held back making any further decisions until I saw what Canon were going to do with my mark 3's replacement, but when the spec for the mark 4 was released, and then the cost (£3,499 for the body alone, against the Fuji X-T2's £1,399) it cemented my decision.
So today I finally let it go. The Canon is heading off to pastures new and will hopefully get plenty more hours out in the field taking landscape photos. Or maybe a wedding photographer, or baby portrait photographer will pick up a bargain and it will have an entirely new life. I hope its looked after, as well as it looked after me.
I hope Canon are taking notice of the improvements in the CSC (Compact System Camera) and develop a new generation of DSLR's that once again widen the gap between the two. But for now and the immediate future I'm all in to Fuji. A second body and a bag full of prime lenses arrive next week so lets see what happens next...