Small Camera with Malaysia Top Model

Few days after I got my hands on Fujifilm X-T1, I received a fashion editorial assignment, to shoot Amber Chia for a magazine cover story. A fashion icon, Malaysia top model, the first Asian model being featured in GUESS advertisement. You just don't want to screw up this assignment.

During that time, my Fujifilm gears were limited. Only X-Pro1, X-T1 and XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens and I still haven't tested my X-T1 for assignment such as this, especially when the model is Amber Chia. The order I made on XF 56mm f1.2 was still on it's way and I won't be able to get it on time for my assignment day. So the most logical way was to use my trusted Canon system for it (you would agree too, right?).

On the shooting day, Amber arrived right on schedule. Yep, not late. Not even a single bit. She is one of the friendliest celebrities cum models and talking to her was a breeze. She practically greeted everybody in the studio with a very friendly smile on her face, making everybody comfortable working with her.

During her makeup and interview session, I was busy setting up my lighting and camera equipment. Artistic director's concept was very simple: everything white with some colourful decoration on her hair and body. White hair, white outfit, with white background. It was very challenging for my lighting setup I must say.

After I have done with my lighting setup, I stared at my cameras. The big Canon and the small Fujifilm. So I paused and thought: hmm, why not use my X-T1 with 18-55mm for this shooting? Well you may say this is too risky because it is almost a suicidal move to my career such as "what if something go wrong", or "what if the images you take turn out to be useless". I took that leap (if that is what it is to you) because I know I can succeed. A real breakthrough comes with risks. So without second thought, I took out the flash trigger from 5D3 and put it into X-T1's hotshoe.

The moment Amber stepped into the backdrop, everything just came naturally. Being a top model with international standard, I can only say her performance was perfect. I didn't have to give much instruction and she always, always give her best angle to me. The synchronization of her posing with my lighting timing was just right, JUST RIGHT, as if she was dancing with the light.

Honestly I did have some uncertainties prior to the shooting (about the camera) but they were all gone soon after a few shots. The focusing speed was fast enough to keep up with Amber's pose changing frequency. X-T1 didn't disappoint me throughout the whole shooting process (woohoo!).

Many people thought the colourful splashes were photoshopped when they saw the outcome being published in the magazine. Even my fellow photographer friends also thought they were post editing.

I can firmly tell you: they were all handmade, by the very talented artistic director, Berg Lee. I have been working with Berg for endless times and I must say he is one of the most gifted artists I have ever worked with. His skillful touch, accuracy in achieving what mind intends to present, and to act and react when stumble on unforeseen on site hiccups. So why bother doing photoshop when you have someone who is capable of get it done right at the beginning?  :)

The shooting was great. We had a great wrap up with my little Fujifilm X-T1 (yay!).

Thank you Amber for the very pleasant experience. :D

Thank you Fujifilm for the assurance in my skill.

Thank you Canon for taken me in and now ready to let me fly further.


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

How should I describe X-T1? It is basically everything I wished for a camera that suits my line of job and requirements. It has image quality of the X-Pro1 but much much better focusing performance as well as the weight and feel in my hand are just right. And the EVF? I never thought EVF can be as good as this! It is huge with fast refresh rate, it has 100% viewing coverage and the ability of rotating the image to portrait orientation view when you rotate the camera 90 degrees. Another feature that I really like about this camera is the real time exposure preview through the EVF. You have the freedom of using it or you can always switch it off if you like to simulate the use of OVF. What I always do is I will mostly switch it on for assignments like wedding, event and stage shooting, and switch it off for studio works. Anyway, it does produce quite a bit of noise though when lighting condition is poor.

Since then, X-T1 has become my main camera for most of my works and I finally gave up most of the EF lenses and 5D Mark2 after a month or so. Not only that, I too at the same time added another new member to my X system, the XF 10-24mm f4 (15-36mm full frame equivalent) super wide angle. It is a very good substitute to the EF 17-40mm f4L that I owned. In terms of sharpness and distortion, Fujiflm totally outperformed Canon with this lens. The only Canon equipment that I have left with me at that moment were the 5D Mark3 and EF 70-200mm f2.8L II. For events and most importantly performing arts shooting, I still needed this focal length that Fujifilm has yet to release a similar one.

Camera manufacturers love to go into megapixel war. In fact, a lot of photographers love to argue over megapixel when it comes to camera comparison. From Canon's 20MP and above to Nikon's 36MP, endless debates and argues happen all over the internet, same as full frame vs APS-C. I don't deny that more megapixel will have more advantages if you are a photographer who crop your works a lot or if you are one who produces large prints for close viewing distance. But seriously do you think it will affect your image quality if your prints are not-that-big or just-computer-screen-viewing?

Recently I had my second solo photography exhibition at The Camera Museum. There were nineteen photographs exhibited, eighteen of them with the size of 24" x 36" and one with the size of 30" x 84". Three out of eighteen were shot by X-T1 and the rest were done using 5D Mark3.

I gave my friends and fellow photographers a small challenge during that exhibition: please find out which three were shot using X-T1. Not to my surprise, nobody succeeded. It was a 22MP full frame vs 16MP APS-C printout, with the printing size of 2 feet times 3 feet on photographic paper my dear friends. :)

Feel free to keep on debating or arguing over the internet, or zoom to 200% on the computer screen for pixel peeping. I prefer to printout my photographs and hang them on the wall. :) Am I being snobbish? Maybe a little bit But I am really sick of hearing all the arguments over paper specs or MTF charts. Photography is my passion, not photography equipment.

By the time I am writing this, news of "Canon 5Ds with massive 50MP will be released soon" is all over the internet. There goes the megapixel war again. Sooner or later, I can foresee comparison between 5Ds full frame and Pentax D645z medium format will hit the internet - a new warfare will be in it's way, full frame vs medium format.

Now back to the topic. Months I have waited for my EF 70-200mm f2.8L II replacement. When Fujifilm's XF 50-140mm f2.8 (75-210mm full frame equivalent) launched, I knew that this is the one. I need the extra reach to the stage when I shoot concert or performing arts with the flexibility of the zoom range. So I traded in my 5D Mark3 and 70-200mm f2.8L II for XF 50-140mm f2.8 and another X-T1, graphite silver edition when the lens is in stock.

I am talking about nearly half of the weight of 5D3 with 70-200 f2.8L II, with equally great image quality and focusing performance. Of course I am truly satisfy! I thought my previous EF 70-200 f2.8L II was sharp enough at wide open but I got blown away when I see the sharpness of my new XF 50-140 f2.8 at wide open.

One thing that I must say is the latest firmware of X-T1. The total silent electronic shutter, 1/32000th sec shutter speed and most importantly, interlocking of metering and focus areas. Canon never put this feature into the 5D series. Only it's 1D series will have such ability. What a god send by Fujifilm! I will talk more about these in my future blog post about performing arts photography.

Anyway there is one weakness that I need to mention about Fujifilm or any other mirrorless systems: the battery life. Although I managed to max out the battery life with about 500 shots with my X-T1 when the battery's spec sheet said it can lasts for 350 shots per full charge but with Canon I was able to easily hit more than 1000 shots per battery. Well one thing good about this: it tells me to take my shots carefully, quality over quantity though. And although I never max out the Canon battery power during a full day shoot with 2 batteries per camera, but I bet no one will disagree that more juice will come in handy sometimes.

Another thing that I notice is there is always a short delay which will halt the camera for a while when the camera try to switch power from the depleted battery to the second battery (using battery grip). It always happen when your are switching on or waking up the camera in sleep mode (with a depleted battery in the battery grip). The halt might cause me some critical moments during photo shoot and it does somehow annoy me.

By all means, I don't switch system for the sake of loving Fujifilm or hating Canon. It's just that currently I found the system that suits me more, with the right weight and feel. But of course image quality and performance are my concern too. A system that is much lighter and cheaper, with comparable image quality and performance, I don't see any reasons not to switch.

Who knows maybe in the future, Canon might come up with something that make me switch again? But one thing I can assure you is that it won't be the 50MP 5Ds.  :)

My fellow photographer friends asked me whether Fujifilm pays me in writing these 3 parts blog? My dearest wife is a creative writer and she always tells me writing can be a meditation journey. It helps you to organise your thoughts and arrange them into proper order. With that achieved you will have a clearer picture of what you have done, what your are doing right now and what will you do in the future. It does make sense to me. So if you really want me to answer the question then the answer is NO. I don't get anything from Fujifilm by sharing all these experiences and thoughts of mine.

I will continue writing blogs about my photography journey, be it in fashion editorial, performing arts photography, sometimes wedding photography, or maybe the equipment that I use. It won't be technical reviews about photography equipment as those are widely done by many other photographers. As I said before, I am not a technical kind of person and I hope you all enjoy reading my blogs. :)

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 2)