Motorsport Photographer Jeff Carter has his say about the NEW X-T2

jeff carterAbout Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter founded MacLean Photographic after leaving the Royal Air Force in 1996.  The company name is from Jeff Carter’s full name – Jeffrey Stuart MacLean Carter.

With over 20 years’ experience in several fields, including sport, landscape, wildlife and travel, Jeff is based in Dunbar, near Edinburgh in Scotland. However he travels the world with his work in the motorsport and automotive industry and is constantly on the lookout for that next great image to capture.

As well as providing photographic services to editorial and commercial clients, MacLean Photographic runs a number of Photographic Workshops and Tours for individual or small groups of photographers of all abilities in and around the South East of Scotland.

Landscape photography with the X-T2 in East Lothian
Landscape photography with the X-T2 in East Lothian

Belhaven Bay in East Lothian
Belhaven Bay in East Lothian

Why did you choose Fujifilm?

A camera is the tool of my trade and the best tool is one that becomes an extension of my creativity, something that I can use without thinking about how to capture an image. I have used all different types of cameras over the last 20+ years but, for me, the three X Series cameras I use are like an extension of my eye and brain.

The first X Series camera I bought was an X100 black limited edition for a business trip to Shanghai. The X100 was like a mini version of the Fujifilm GA645 medium format camera that I had used in the early 1990s and the fixed focal length camera put a spark back into my photography, it was a joy to use. The ability to travel light and still get ‘the shot’ really opened up my mind to the possibilities of the compact system camera. This led to an X-Pro1 a year later, then the X-T1, an X-Pro2 in 2016 and now the X-T2, with a good selection of XF lenses to match.

The X-T2, X-Pro2, X-T1 and X100 I currently use, along with the range of quality XF lenses, are tools that allow me the freedom to be creative but they have also put the joy back into the image making process.

 


How have you found the new Fujifilm X-T2 camera?

This is the camera I have been waiting for ever since I moved from Nikon to Fujifilm in 2014.  Each step that Fujifilm has made in the past four years have culminated into this camera.  It is like an extension of my arm and eye when working trackside or in the pitlane.  The X-Pro2 is a great camera and pointed the way to the next step. And the X-T2 doesn’t disappoint.

On track battles during the TCR International Series at Spa-Francorchamps
On track battles during the TCR International Series at Spa-Francorchamps

I can follow focus a car moving at 200mph and I can follow focus a bird in flight.  I can also switch focus from one subject to another quickly and seamlessly.  The Electronic View Finder is beautiful, a joy to use, and doesn’t black out when shooting long bursts.  The 11 frames per seconds on boost mode adds to the flexibility of the camera, as does the ability to shoot 4K video.

The 24MP sensor produces the same stunning image quality as the X-Pro2 and 6000 x 4000 pixel images gives greater flexibility to crop the image in post production.  The film simulations are to the same high standard as always with Fujifilm and gives me the option to take the images straight off the camera if speed is of the essence, which in sports photography is usually the case.

The quality of the images when shooting at high ISO settings is really outstanding and I have no hesitation in pushing the dial to 6400 or even 12800 when needed.

The ergonomics of the X-T2 have taken the best that the X-T1 had to offer and improved the overall operation of the camera.  The new dials and locking mechanism are really good to use and the joystick on the back of the camera also speeds up the operation in the field.  Finally the new tilting screen which means I can shoot in a landscape or portrait format from down low or above my head is a big plus point and something I was using all of the time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The weather proofing got a thorough test at Le Mans too as it rained for most of the week leading up to the race and the X-T2 never missed a beat, which is more than I can say for the photographer!

For me this is the ultimate X Series camera!

Heavy Rain during qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans caused the session to be stopped fo r20 minutes due to deep water on the circuit
Heavy Rain during qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans caused the session to be stopped fo r20 minutes due to deep water on the circuit

What’s your most loved image taken on the X-T2 so far and can you tell us little bit about it?

Capturing the moment at a top international sporting event like the 24 Hours of Le Mans is hugely important for any photographer working in editorial photography, especially sport.  The new X-T2 allows me to react to a situation quickly and this was essential in capturing my favourite image so far.

The image is of the podium celebrations following the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Porsche had a dramatic win in the final five minutes of the 24 hour race when the leading Toyota stopped on the final lap, allowing the Porsche to take the chequered flag.  The emotions on the podium were there for all to see.

The winning Porsche drivers Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas were celebrating in true motorsport style and afterwards Romain Dumas was speaking to the circuit commentator on the podium after his second overall win at Le Mans.  While he was speaking he was ambushed by four of the other drivers and they tipped champagne all over his head.

I was able to react quickly and capture a whole sequence of images with the X-T2 and the XF50-140mm f2.8 + 2x converter.  This image sums up the relief and elation of winning the most famous motorsport event in the world and this is why this is my favourite image from my time with the X-T2 – so far!

Romain Dumas (FRA) celebrates winning the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche.
Romain Dumas (FRA) celebrates winning the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche.

What lens do you think best pairs up with this camera for your shooting style?

For sport most people would probably think I would say the XF100-400mm f4.5/5.6 but for me, the best all round lens is the XF50-140mm f2.8.  This lens gives me the greatest flexibility and produces images that can match anything produced on the XF56mm f1.2 or XF90mm f2 (which I own and use as well).

Photographing the Gannets of Bass Rock in flight. A good test of the AF capabilities of the X-T2 and 50-140mm lens
Photographing the Gannets of Bass Rock in flight. A good test of the AF capabilities of the X-T2 and 50-140mm lens

The XF50-140mm f2.8 coupled to the X-T2 is a powerful combination, especially with the improvements made to the continuous Auto Focus function on the new camera.  The ability to follow focus a fast moving subject, such as a race car, or a randomly moving subject such as a Gannet diving into the sea for fish, is a huge plus point for my work.

Another advantage of the XF50-140mm is the ability to fit the 1.4x and 2x converters, meaning I have a focal range of 50mm to 280mm available to me in a relatively small package.


To see more of Jeff’s work please visit his website and social sites:

Website:             www.macleanphotographic.co.uk

Twitter:               @macleancomms

Facebook:          www.facebook.com/macleanphotographic

Flickr:                 www.flickr.com/macleancomms/

Instagram:         www.instagram.com/maclean_photo/

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