TROMPIE VAN DER BERG - A love affair rekindled

Fujifilm: A love affair rekindled

My love affair with Fujifilm started when my friend and fellow photographer, Warren James moved over to the X-T2. Seeing what the camera could do in the hands of a professional won me over, while the cost of the kit sweetened the deal.

However, the relationship had hiccups. I have big hands and struggled with the ergonomics of the X-T2 - it was simply just too small. I thought muscle memory would kick in and I would get used to it, but after shooting seven weddings with the system, it still felt strange in my hands.

Another problem was that lighting systems, such as Profoto, did not fully support the Fujifilm system at the time. I am known for my lighting, so that was a big concern. These two problems combined made me move back to DSLR.

The love remained

It was a shame, since I loved mirrorless for a number of reasons. One of the biggest was the Electronic Viewfinder, through which you can see the exact exposure and colour, before even taking the image. It helps you interpret a scene more efficiently as you immediately get a sense of how the camera ‘sees’ a scene, instead of your eyes with their huge dynamic range capabilities. 

Another thing I missed was the personal service received from Fujifilm South Africa. I dropped my X-T2 after only two weeks, busting the body and shattering a lens. A quick call to Fujifilm and they made a plan to have me geared up and ready for my next wedding the following weekend.

Finally, and perhaps a reason that’s easily overlooked, the community spirit and camaraderie from Fujifilm shooters in South Africa is unique. It’s not uncommon for pros and amateurs alike to share tips, have a chat or go shooting together.

X-H1: The game changer

Enter the Fujifilm X-H1. When Warren James handed me the camera at this year’s Admired in Africa event, I immediately regretted moving back. The X-H1 was everything I wanted the X-T2 to be. It’s bigger and feels more like a DSLR in hand, the button placement and size are well thought out, and importantly, there is now also a dedicated Profoto trigger available for the Fujifilm systems.HSS and TTL is supported and usable on the Fuji camera range. This guarantees that the systems work seamlessly together – a big must since I’m a Profoto ambassador.

I missed what I had at Fujifilm, and when these two problems were solved I tested the X-H1 for a few weeks. The decision to move back to Fujifilm was an easy one.

My reasons why

Fujifilm appears to have listened to the photographers out there who wanted a more robust and ergonomical system. In terms of the size, controls and button placements on the camera, Fujifilm’s got it right with the X-H1. For those switching from a DSLR to mirrorless, it will now be a much easier and familiar process.

Fujifilm’s JPEG quality is also legendary, which is another reason why the move for me couldn’t come at a better time. In order to cut down on my post-processing, I’m working on switching to a JPEG workflow in the long term. That said, the dynamic range in the RAW files are incredible. I like to underexpose in-camera and then pull back details in the shadows in post. The EVF allows you to get much closer to the exposure you want, which means less work in post-processing.

While firmware updates usually bring minor fixes to other systems, if at all, it’s actually a big thing for Fujifilm shooters. Constant firmware updates are there not only for bug fixes, but unlocks new functionality on the hardware, or improves on what is already there. It seems like Fujifilm doesn’t pay only lip service to listening to their photographers, since considerable effort is put into these updates, and it’s something I love about the system – there is always a new feature or improvement coming. 

I touched on this a bit previously, but cost was also a big consideration on the move. As a pro photographer you need good insurance, which I have. But I also want to know that if a lens drops, I can walk into a camera shop and buy a new one immediately while waiting for the insurance to settle the matter. This is not the case with most competitors’ lenses! 

Lastly, the question pops up of full-frame versus the APS-C sensor of the Fujifilm X-H1. I trust the image below with a 100% crop will settle that discussion. In terms of what I deliver to my clients and what I expect from a professional system, the X-H1 delivers on all my needs. If there is a need for more megapixels and dynamic range on a job, the incredible GFX 50S medium format is a viable option. It’s not only an outstanding system with mind-blowing IQ, it’s also affordable and a camera for mere mortals to own, compared to its medium format competitors.

Feel the love

There’s not a lot more that I can say except that my love affair with Fujifilm is now stronger than ever. While the X-T2 didn’t quite cut it because of the reasons mentioned above, it all changed with the X-H1. It’s a pro camera in all regards, proving that Fujifilm listens to its users.

With the cost of the system minimal compared to what amounts to ludicrous prices on other camera bodies and pro lenses, it’s easy to recommend the X-H1 and Fujifilm ecosystem to anyone considering the move to a mirrorless system.

By Trompie van der Berg
www.trompievanderberg.co.za

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