My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 2)

X-Pro1 was my walk-around-camera for self leisure and behind-the-scene-camera during fashion editorial shoot (replacing the 7D) for the first two months after I bought it.

I also borrowed my brother's 35mm f1.4 (50mm full frame equivalent) and 14mm f2.8 (21mm full frame equivalent) few times to play around.

I really love the straight out of camera jpeg's skin tone and the accurate white balance. And the most beautiful thing about it was when I use the 35mm wide open at f1.4, the sharpness was amazing compared to my Canon system! Another thing I love about my X-Pro1 was the spread of its focus points in the viewfinder, not cramping in the center like DSLR does.

Then, I started to use it as my second camera, replacing my 5D Mark2 for wedding assignments. The firmware upgrade did improve a lot for the focusing speed but one thing for sure is that X-Pro1 is not built for fast pace shooting. The focus locking on target was not as good as my Canon, not even close. However, if it's lock on, you will be damn sure the target is in focus.

Being used to 5D Mark3's 100% viewfinder coverage, It took me a while to get used to the X-Pro1's OVF for composition. I never bother using the EVF for moving targets anyway. The frame rate was just too slow and I missed a lot of moments. The only time that I might use EVF is probably when I shoot still targets, easier to get correct composition. Low light performance? It hunts a lot with 35mm, slightly better when using the newer 18-55mm.

Despite having all these "inconveniences" by using X-Pro1, I never had the thought of get rid of it. The usage of X-Pro1 became more and more frequent in my workflow. I just love the image quality of it! Not to mention it's weight and feel in my hand. Somehow without my early realization, I became a slower shooter. I can hear my own breathing when I look into the viewfinder of X-Pro1. I can feel the moments and press the shutter when it is time.

The straight out of camera jpeg's dynamic range is also very nice. Details of the highlight and shadow are nicely rendered even in high ISO.

However, for critical moments such as wedding or any other events, I still relied on my Canon. Not to mention fast pace fashion shoot when the model keep on changing pose, X-Pro1's capability ends here I'm afraid.

People love to discuss about full frame vs APS-C high ISO performance. Indeed there is a huge gap between my 5D Mark3 and 7D in terms of noise level and details. Unless you zoom everything to 100% in the screen for pixels peeping, there were not much of a difference between Fujifilm APS-C and Canon full frame though my ISO usage were limited to 6400 only. Besides, I never make large print with high ISO images.

The biggest print I did was like 8"x10" at ISO1600 in photo album. The advantage of full frame sensor with cleaner and more details in high ISO no longer apply to me. I am pretty sure along the way when sensor technologies evolve, whether it's a APS-C, micro four third or any other smaller sensors, the performance will be beyond your imagination. But what about megapixel? This is also another topic that creates a lot of discussions. I will talk about it later. :)

Although X-Pro1 has the image quality and weight that I wanted, I was still waiting for Fujifilm to release the camera that will actually "Wow" me. At that time, X-E2 was already in the market but with only EVF that perform slightly better than X-Pro1, thus I don't see the need of it. Then came the launch of X-T1.

I have always fascinate Canon F1 from the old days but I never owned it. The fascination was triggered by a Japanese movie, "Love Collage" starring Ryoko Hirosue. X-T1's SLR form factor actually looks similar to Canon F1. That was the first thought when I first saw X-T1. So you can imagine I was a bit disappointed when i learned that X-T1 only comes with EVF but disappointment became excitement after I gone through extensive read up of X-T1 reviews.

The decision was finally made: a X-T1 together with XF 56mm f1.2 (85mm full frame equivalent) shall join me in my photography journey!

One of the biggest reasons that I decided to acquire X-T1 was the future lens road map promised by Fujifilm. Most focal lengths that I used, be it prime or zoom, are in the list and I am pretty sure the quality will be guaranteed.

Do stay tune for part 3, which will be the last part. :)

Further reading:
My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 1)

My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 3)


My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 1)

Being a professional photographer for 6 years, I was very loyal to Canon system. 

I came from film era, started as a hobbyist from EOS 50 to EOS 3, not to mention the Canonet QL-17 G3 rangefinder which I got it from my dad, and stepped into the digital age with a EOS 20D.

During when I decided to go full time as a photographer, 5D Mark2 was the first full frame camera that I got. I was always fascinated by the image quality of a full frame system - the colour, the contrast, the high ISO performance etc., practically everything of it! 

Since then, I have owned many of Canon equipment, from camera bodies including 7D, 1D Mark3, 5D Mark3, zoom lenses such as 24-70 f2.8L, 70-200 f2.8L, 17-40 f4L, 24-105 f4L to prime lenses like 35 f1.4L, 50 f1.4, 135 f2L and 100 2.8L.

Trust me when I say I was convinced that I am going to be a Canon hard core supporter for as long as I am taking photographs!

I started my photography career as a wedding photographer. Of course that was not what I wanted to be. 

My passion is always in other genre such as performing arts photography, stepping into the world of fashion photography and doing my own photography projects, particularly conceptual portraiture. 

There was no doubt Canon had helped me in getting the images I wanted and achieved my goals and dreams.

I always use prime lenses for wedding assignments because of their super wide aperture. They are very useful in low light condition and very handy in helping me to create the creamy background that I love. 

But one thing bothered me. 

These prime lenses, when in wide open, couldn't seem to achieve the sharpness that I required. I always need to step down the aperture to get the desirable sharpness. So I asked myself, why do I pay such a fortune for these high end gears if I can't use them to its fullest? For example, when using 35 f1.4L, I needed to step down to f2.0 to get acceptable sharpness, not to mention 50 and 85 f1.2L that totally failed me. 

After all tryouts I finally came to a conclusion: they can never perform to the extent of what they portray. That makes me feel that they exist merely to fulfill the ego of owning a big aperture, heavy and pricey lens.

There is no doubt Canon did a great job in its focusing system. It is very fast. But not always accurate, unfortunately. 

5D Mark2's focusing system was crappy. Luckily 5D Mark3 made a huge leap on this from 9 focus points to 61 focus points, which helped to increase the accuracy by narrowing down the gaps. 

Canon's high end bodies even have this autofocus micro adjustment feature. You can fine tune each and every lens that you use to achieving maximum autofocus accuracy by millimeter. Sounds cool right? But not to me. My passion is to create images that I love, and earn my living with it. So spending my time on micro adjusting the autofocus accuracy is definitely not for me. Why on earth would I spend my precious time on adjusting the accuracy by millimeter if I have already paid so much for the lenses? They are supposed to perform right like they should instead of asking me to do their job.

I know many tech-junkie photographers love to play with that. Achieving tag-sharp focus after the micro adjustment will make them very happy. But what makes me happy is to create images with almost zero hassle with the equipment I use. As I said, I paid professional price tag for professional equipment that I use to create my desired professional images instead of using the so called professional features on the equipment, if you know what I mean. 

I am just not that technical kind of guy. 

The 24-70 f2.8L was a pain in the a$$. I'm not saying that it's a bad lens. I needed to check the focus from time to time to make sure I, or the lens, nail the focus. I needed to micro adjust the focus from time to time as well for better focus performance. Who knows maybe I got a bad copy. It was my primary lens for fashion assignments but I had to let it go, replaced it's role with 24-105 f4L as I don't really need f2.8 . I did consider the mark2 version though but it finally did not happen. :)

But you know what really bothered me most? The weight of the equipment. 

Well this could probably due to my aging muscle but hell carrying two bodies with 24-70mm and 70-200mm or even 35mm and 135mm the whole day was no joke. Studio work is not much of a problem as I can occasionally put down the camera but assignments like wedding and corporate event will not give you such privilege. The equipment were practically hanged on me all the time in a much bigger working perimeter. Seriously I didn't enjoy running here and there carrying two cameras. Again, I guess I must be getting old. 

I always bring my cameras with me on my vacations. To tell you the truth, after a few trips there were more time the cameras resting in the bag than going out on my shoulder. Occasionally, I will grab my camera for street shooting. But I got lazy over time and my street shooting became lesser and lesser. Not so fun anymore by carrying a bulky camera around outside my working schedule. 

That was the time the urge of getting a smaller camera kick in. Being “used to” a full frame, I can never compromise to the image quality of any ordinary compact cameras. However, I was not very sure what was I looking for. I have tried Canon’s Powershot G series but the look of it just didn't feel right to me. Creative field people always go with feeling right? :P

Micro four third system did catch my attention for a while but I am not a fan of Olympus's colour rendition, be it a PEN or the retro style OMD. Then came the launch of Fujifilm X-Pro1. 

Honestly Fujifilm's DSLR never caught my eyes as it is not full frame. I did hear a lot about the nice skin tone of Fujifilm but I never really laid my eyes on the actual output because it was not “full frame”. Haha! To me, DSLR was just Canon and Nikon and I really dislike Nikon's skin tone and white balance. These were the two major factors that I chose Canon over Nikon.

With the launch of X-Pro1 together with the three prime lenses, I started to lay my eyes on Fujifilm system. It reminds me of my dad's Canonet QL-17 rangefinder. It might be a nostalgic feeling as I do like the look of X-Pro1. But I never really “want” it as it is not Canon. Ya...I was a Canon fanboy I guess. Somehow I was hoping for Canon to come up with a new line of camera system just like Fujifilm’s X Series. For a period of time I tend to forget about X-Pro1, until I attended a photography festival...or maybe a camera fair? I can’t really remember.

There was a booth of Fujifilm, featuring all it's camera from compact to DSLR, and the spotlight was on it's X Series, the X100, X-E1 and of course X-Pro1. That was the first time I touched a X-Pro1. It felt good in my hand with the 35mm f1.4, together with the square type lens hood. One word to describe the whole setup - sexy! The feeling in my hand was just right! 

"Is this the camera that I am looking for?" I asked myself. 

By judging at the look and the feel of it in my hand, the answer was definitely yes! With the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed dial on the top plane, I suddenly had the true feeling as a photographer. I never had that kind of feeling using a DSLR. Then I tested it. The optical hybrid viewfinder and the electronic viewfinder was new to me. I can easily get use to the optical viewfinder, seeing the lens in the viewfinder was nothing new to me as I have used a Canon rangefinder before. But for the electronic viewfinder, I would say I rather not use it. If I would to describe it, it was like watching a delayed playback of the scene. After a few test shots, the focusing speed and the sound of the focusing motor did annoy me. I asked the sales person for the price tag and decided it is definitely not for me after I got the figure. And so I went on my photographing journey, sticking to my one and only Canon.

However, the feeling of the die-cast aluminium alloy body in my hand somehow “haunted” me for quite some time. I did some online research about it. "Good looking camera, great image quality but bad focusing" pretty much summed up X-Pro1. The focusing system was a major drawback to me, not to mention its high price tag. With that amount of money, I can easily acquire decent equipment to further enhance my Canon system.

My hope to Canon in releasing a similar system ended with the launched of EOS-M, a large APS-C sensor modern looking compact camera, promising great image quality in a compact body. What turned me down with this EOS-M system was the absence of a viewfinder on it. Everything was about the LCD screen...duh?! Another selling point of the EOS-M was the ability of making use of your EF lenses with an extra adapter. Seriously? Mounting those huge lenses on a compact body? It looks hideous and ridiculous to me. I definitely won’t put my EF lenses on a compact body for the sake of "make use of it" for my leisure photography, period! 

Reviews said that the focusing was terrible if using EOS M body with EF lenses. But I never bother to test it out. It does have a few EF-M lenses but again, the feeling was totally wrong. No viewfinder! Not retro style body! Seems like Canon F1 style digital body will not happen anytime soon...

So what actually happened that “recalibrate” my photography camera system? 

I have to start the story with my younger brother. 

My brother is a photography hobbyist, like it or not I was the influence. :) He owned 5D Mark2 with a few L and Carl Zeiss lenses. Yes, you heard me, owned with the past tense. One day with surprise, he told me he ditched his Canon system and acquired the Fujifilm system with X-Pro1 and few XF lenses. I was like huh? You know X-Pro1’s focusing problem right? His answer actually shocked me: Fujifilm upgraded the firmware of X-Pro1 with much better focusing performance, and he got his stuffs at a very attractive promotional price! I quickly grabbed his X-Pro1 and did a few test shots and almost immediately I can feel the difference with my previous encounter with X-Pro1. Not as good as Canon but it was acceptable to me. The move of Fujifilm putting effort into upgrading the camera firmware really amazed me. I did get firmware updates for my Canon system but those were just minor stuffs like correcting a spelling error in the camera menu or fixing various so called “phenomenon”. That was the time I’m in serious consideration of the Fujifilm X Series. But wait...I thought I was the influence?? O.o

Before I actually make a decision, I always like to do some digging online. Seemed like Fujifilm is continuing to gain positive feedback by upgrading it’s X Series cameras’ firmware. After gaining sufficient assurance, I got my first X Series camera, the X-Pro1 with XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 zoom kit. Yup, not the XF prime lenses as this kit lens got a very good review by many photographers. Besides, I have my younger brother’s prime lenses to play with. :P

Well, this was how I began my "downgrade" journey from a full frame to APS-C.

Further reading:

My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 2)

My journey of "downgrading" from full frame to APS-C (Part 3)


This is my boy