Cameras

The right gear for the job – Wildlife

I thought this could be a helpful blog series for individuals looking to invest in equipment with particular interests in mind. This blog series will hopefully cover gear and techniques to help those getting into photography, who want to develop their skill set and knowledge. Because one of my main subject matters is wildlife I thought I’d start off with this genre.

Wildlife photography is a genre that can massively benefit from having suitable equipment, in my eyes more so than many other photography genres (but I’m biased!). To that end it’s good to be prepared with the most suitable gear for the task.

Best Camera – X-T1

The X-T1 has a number of features that make it the most suitable camera for wildlife:

Dolphins

Knowing that my X-T1 and 18-135mm lens set up was weather sealed meant that I could stop worrying about splashes and focus on capturing the dolphins.

First of all it is a weather sealed camera, so when used with a weather sealed lens you have a completely sealed system which is important when outdoors if you’re having to counter water in wet conditions or dust in dry conditions.

Then there is the fast auto focus, which the X-T1 is definitely the best at in the X-Series at this moment in time. The auto focus is very quick in single focus mode with basically every lens available and the continuous focusing mode is also very reliable and quick once focus has locked.

Terns

Fast continuous focus and 8 frames per second meant that I could get the composition just right as these terns flew at me on the Farne Islands.

Being able to shoot at 8 frames per second and take advantage of the latest UHS-II SD cards for fast writing speeds means that this camera can cope with quickly evolving situations where you need fast bursts to capture the action and to be quickly ready to repeat the process.

As well as the camera being great, the accessories can be really helpful, namely the battery grip. Often with wildlife photography you are out and about for many hours and the last thing you want to happen is to be stuck changing batteries just as something exciting is happening (this has happened to me far too many times!). The battery grip holds an extra battery so doubles the time before you need to change your batteries.

Finally, the big thing about to come to the X-T1 (black version) is the electronic shutter. Being able to shoot at up to 1/32000 second is great but is generally not necessary for the lenses used with wildlife photography; but what will be very beneficial is the silent shutter. If you’re close to wildlife or in ear shot then even the slightest sound can set off a timid animal. The X-T1 shutter is by no means loud but certain animals have such finely tuned hearing that the mechanical shutter sound can be enough to scare off your subject.

Back up camera – X-E2

Having two cameras is a good idea for wildlife photography. It is often helpful to have two different lenses on the cameras so you can quickly capture images at different focal lengths, going from the close up headshot to the animal in environment shot. If an X-T1 is out of the question, let alone two of them, then the X-E2 is a brilliant compromise. It offers a more affordable option and though it may not have weather sealing and all the bells and whistles I mentioned above it is still a very capable camera. With 7 frames per second and a hybrid AF system that includes contrast and phase detection, this camera is able to capture fast paced action almost as well as the X-T1.

Lenses

Puffin

The 55-200mm in action.

The 55-200mm is currently the longest lens available for the X-Series until the 140-400mm comes out very soon. Covering a good range with a very useable widest aperture (F3.5-4.8), this lens is a super lightweight option for wildlife photography. The auto focus is fast and accurate plus the lens has OIS (optical image stabilisation) which is great to help you capture sharp shots if you’re handholding.

Moving into the weather sealed lenses, the 18-135mm lens is a brilliant all-in-one wildlife/nature lens to carry around if you’re wanting a one-lens solution. When used on the X-T1 this is a sealed system that has snappy auto focus and OIS to help make sure your shot comes out sharp. If you’re looking to have a more specialist lens(es) then the new 50-140mm is a good place to start, though not as long as the 55-200mm lens it offers a widest constant aperture of F2.8. This is brilliant for photography in darker conditions, such as golden hour at sunrise and sunset. This has been combined with OIS and the world’s first triple linear motor auto focus system to ensure you focus in on your subject quickly and get sharp results. This lens has internal focusing and zoom, helping ensure that no moisture or dust can get into this weather sealed lens.

Wildlife doesn’t always require the longest focal length possible. Often framing your subject within the environment can have a much more powerful effect than the classic headshot close up. The soon to be released 16-55mm lens will be the perfect partner for the 50-140mm lens, providing another weather sealed option with a fast widest aperture of F2.8.

Highland cattle

Highland cattle of the Isle of Skye at 18mm. Not the best ‘wild’life photograph but it helps emphasise the point of framing an animal in its environment.

If you’re interested in macro photography then you have two options, the Fujifilm XF60mm F2.4 or the Zeiss 50mm F2.8. I have used the Fujifilm version and love it, though if you want 1:1 scale then the Zeiss is the way to go. These lenses are also great general purpose lenses, the orang utan photo at the top was taken with the XF60mm.

Ants

Ants crawl over a vivid red plant in the heart of the rainforest in Borneo.

Beetle

An emerald green beetle’s shell glistens from my off camera flash. The XF60mm is a great lens to cover a wide variety of shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this has proved helpful to those of you that are looking to invest in the Fujifilm X-Series for wildlife photography. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or contact me via:

Twitter – @benji_cherry

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography

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