Since mirrorless digital cameras entered the photography scene in the late 2000s, the question has been whether they could be a better option than DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex). Since that time, the mirrorless system has grown in popularity, so it is clear photographers are increasingly making it their preference.
What’s a DSLR?
DSLR cameras (or digital single-lens reflex) use the design of old-school 35mm bodies, with light taking a path from the lens to the prism and then to the viewfinder, where you can see the preview of your image. As you hit the shutter button, the mirror flips up, a shutter opens and light reaches the image sensor, which retains the picture.
What’s a mirrorless camera?
The big difference with the mirrorless camera is that it has no mirror that flips when you open the shutter. Instead, light moves directly from the lens to the image sensor and the shot displays on your screen.
Which style is lighter?
Because mirrorless cameras do not need to store a mirror and a prism, they do not need to be as heavy or as large. If you like to travel with your camera or just enjoy a lightweight rig, then you may prefer the mirrorless system.
Which body has better focus?
Many years ago, DSLRs had the reputation of being the better – or at least faster – model for autofocus shooting. This is because DSLRs used phase detection, a quicker method that relies more on the camera’s electronic sensor, rather than contrast detection, the slower but more accurate system utilised in most mirrorless bodies. However, mirrorless cameras have since improved in this area. Now, many mirrorless bodies, including Fujifilm’s newer models, employ a contrast-phase hybrid autofocus system.
Which style is suited for continuous shooting?
If you want to capture fast-moving action, you may want a camera with the capacity for continuous shooting. Mirrorless cameras, with their simplified path for obtaining images, excel here. For instance, the Fujifilm X-T2, when photographing from its continuous shooting boost mode, shoots about 11 frames per second, well ahead of most other cameras on the market.
Which one shows an accurate shot in its viewfinder?
Mirrorless cameras also have viewfinders that display truer to what your photograph will become. Their electronic viewfinders allow you to see, in real time, adjustments to aperture and ISO, whereas the optical viewfinder found in DSLRs displays those changes only after you shoot the image. The mirrorless style has a big advantage here, as it saves you time from going back and forth between shooting and adjusting.
As with many debates over photography equipment, the choice comes down to your personal preference. If you find a camera that you handle comfortably and shoot naturally, then proudly make it yours and enjoy creating great shots with it!
There are many times that using a wide angle or telephoto lens just won’t get the results you want. They’re either too wide or too tight but you know in your heart that your viewpoint is correct.
It’s frustrating and causes many photographers to give up and go home without a shot they’re happy with. However you should persevere and with the introduction of photo-stitching software built into Lightroom and Photoshop you should try the third option which is to shoot a stitched panorama.
By stitching together individual images you can render your scene in greater detail and make extremely large prints without the image breaking up.
For those who want a bit of background early examples of a panorama include the Bayeux Tapestry, at nearly 70 meters in length it’ll take some stitching to get a photograph that will rival that!
I’ve shot panoramas for a number of years and find the discipline fascinating. The normal guidelines of composition do apply, but they also don’t – you have much more area for the viewer to explore, more details being captured and there can be cameo roles for people in the different areas of the image. These all come together to create a story or feeling that literally absorbs the viewer – well that’s the idea anyway!
To shoot your very own panoramic image:
Firstly, if you can – use a tripod
It’ll make stitching the images together far more straightforward. Make sure your tripod is level too – most come with a spirit level but luckily most of the Fuji X series have horizon levels built in. If you press the display/back button on the back of the camera a few times this normally brings it up on screen if it has one. To check that the camera and tripod are level, gently pan the camera from left to right and check the display to see if the level line is straight throughout the motion. When attaching the camera to the tripod – set it so that you are shooting a series of upright images (portrait orientation). You’d be forgiven for thinking that you should shoot three or four landscape images – although you can if you wish, but you will end up with a very strip like image. I have found the upright method to be far more rewarding.
Your focal length is generally a little longer than when shooting conventional landscape images.
For example, I recently shot a panorama in Paris using the XF50-140mm, to get the same result normally I’d have needed to use a XF10-24, but the detail in the bridge and the compression of perspective would have been lost.
In a perfect world you would use a panoramic tripod head and set the nodal point of the lens.
Basically this means the middle of the lens sits over the middle of the tripod – but with good stitching software you can get away without it being set, if you’re careful. The reason for this is that if you have the nodal point set correctly the perspective doesn’t alter as you rotate the camera, but when the lens is off-centre perspective from the lens to the subject distorts ever-so slightly.
Once you have chosen your composition and have panned the camera backwards and forwards a few times to check your image works, you must set your focus and exposure. Once set, do not alter them, otherwise you get very awkward tonal changes between the different images. The same applies to graduated filters – although you can adjust them slightly.
Finally you are ready to shoot!
Start on the left-hand side of your shot and take your first picture. Then turn the camera using a panning motion through about 15 degrees, or using the framing grid on the screen – move it round by 1/3 of the frame – this will give you enough overlap to avoid the distortion caused by turning your camera. Repeat this shooting process until you have completed your full composition.
Once have finished your series – shoot a blank frame so you know where the start and finish is.
You may need to fine tune your shot so always check the image on the back of the camera to make sure you’ve got every aspect of the shot you need.
When you get home the process is very simple.
Load your images into Adobe Lightroom – highlight the pictures that make up your panorama – take your cursor across the top menu bar to the heading ‘Photo’ then scroll down to ‘Photomerge’ and select ‘Panorama’. Lightroom will show you a rough render of the image then simply press OK and a few seconds later you’ll get the stunning panorama you planned.
Occasionally Lightroom doesn’t quite do the job, so if that happens – open the images in Photoshop, use your cursor to navigate through File – Automate – Photomerge – Panorama – the same process will happen only this time you will have a layered Photoshop document to work with.
It will take a little practice to create the perfect image but it’s great fun to try. For more inspiration look at the work of Horst Hamann or Nick Meers
What better way to celebrate 5 years of Fujifilm X series than by hosting our own event at our head office in Tokyo?! I was lucky enough to be here so I’m sharing the experience with you.
The event started at 13:30 local time, while most (but not all) of you were probably tucked up fast asleep. We had a countdown that had been running on our X-Pro1 website for the last ten days.
At 13:30 sharp [3m 9s], Fujifilm President Shigehiro Nakajima gave an introduction speech about how our company has evolved in recent years. Film sales peaked in the year 2000 and since then has quickly declined. We took our core competencies and technologies and the diversified our business to ensure survival of the company. At the heart of our company is, and always will be, photography. This is why the X series is so important to us.
Afterwards, the top man in the whole Optical Division, Mr Takahashi, [13m 21s] took to the stage to explain in more detail about the last 5 years of X series. He explained the key benefits of using our APS-C system, including image quality, operability, and portability. He thanked all of the Fujifilm X users across the world, with a special nod to the Official X-Photographers, for not only using our products, but for helping us design future products. It has been the constant feedback that has enabled us to make these products we all love so much.
Toshi explained and demonstrated the advantages of the Hybrid Viewfinder. We all know that an EVF is great because it shows you the image you are going to get, including your exposure settings and any other Film Simulation or White Balance options you have changed. But in a world where EVF refresh rates and LCD resolution seem to make Optical Viewfinders redundant, why on earth would an OVF be required anymore? Toshi explained how having a Rangefinder style OVF allows you to see what is going on outside the frame. This is something that cannot be done on a D-SLR, nor by using an EVF.
Also, two ‘problems’ still exist with using an OVF: “Parallax”, where the angle of the Viewfinder is slightly different from that of the lens making it hard to know precisely where the edge of the frame will be, and Manual Focus is virtually impossible because changing the focus ring doesn’t affect the OVF on a rangefinder. The X-Pro2 has overcome both of these problems by displaying a small LCD panel in the bottom of the frame. This can be used to either show the entire frame in a miniature form, or it can be used to zoom in to the focus point to allow manual focus while in OVF mode.
The X-Pro2 contains the new X-Trans CMOS III – the third generation sensor, which at 24-megapixels, has 50% more resolution that our current. It contains technology that allows faster transfer allowing lower noise at higher ISO.
80 years of film development gives us the expertise to recreate skin tones and other colours with exceptional realism. Toshi also talked about the new Acros film simulation monochrome mode that features smoother gradation, deep blacks and beautiful textures
Next up, Toshi invited Magnum and National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey onto the stage to talk about how he has found the X-Pro2 since using a prototype for the last few months. Here is the short movie that was played just before he joined Toshi on stage
David’s approach to photography is nothing short of inspiring. David likes simplicity. He wants his camera to be as simple to use as possible, while achieving the quality he needs to do his work. He used the camera in full-auto mode most of the time, wanting to spend more time worrying about the content of the image than what shutter speed to use. This attitude towards photography is exactly what we are trying to get to when we made this camera. We want people to enjoy photography and in order to do this you need to not think about the camera, and instead think about your art.
Next up, Toshi introduced the new X-E2S camera. It’s basically a rangefinder brother for the X-T10. All of the technical features that made the DSLR-style X-T10 a more attractive camera have been matched, leaving the user to choose between the style of camera rather than the specifications.
If you want to be able to shoot with your right eye leaving your face fully exposed to engage with your subject, or you want the classic retro look of a rangefinder of days passed, the X-E2S will be for you. If you prefer the more modern look of a D-SLR, plus the advantage of having a tilting screen for shooting high or low angles more comfortably, the X-T10 will probably be your preference.
Either way, you now get to choose your camera based on who you are, rather than which one was better on paper. Current X-E2 users can also rejoice in the fact that the software enhancements in the X-E2S will be coming to the X-E2 via a FREE firmware update in the very near future.
Jeff has been a professional photographer for many years and he switched to Fujifilm on a recommendation of a peer. His chosen subjects to shoot vary massively from shooting at The 24 Hours of Le Mans race, to shooting landscapes near his home in Scotland. He’s been fully converted to the X system since 2014 and has most of the lenses in our lineup and finds a use for all of them. They went through a number of Jeff’s shots and discussed the lens lineup and direction and also his reasons for making his final switch and going full-Fujifilm X.
Toshi ended his interview with Jeff by talking about a product meeting Jeff had attended a few months ago. (You may or may not know that Fujifilm REALLY listen to their users for product feedback). He asked him if he remembered a particular request that Jeff had. This particular request was for a flashgun that could fire continuously and would also be weatherproof to suit his X-T1. Jeff confirmed that he remembered the request, to which Toshi then presented the next product…
The only product not due to be released in February is the EF-X500 flash. Similar to our lens roadmap updates, we wanted our users to know that we listen to their feedback and we are working on a hotshoe mount flashgun to compliment the X series.
It’ll have a low-profile design that is perfectly suited to X-Series cameras, and will support high-speed sync up to 1/8000 sec. (the same speed as the shutter in the new X-Pro2). It will also be weather and dust resistant, just like the X-T1 and X-Pro2 cameras.
The final product that was presented was the X70,. This camera is essentially an X100T + WCL-X100, in a tiny body. It doesn’t have a viewfinder, which is the reason it can afford to be so small, but it does have a tilting LCD screen to compose your shot with.
The same sensor as the X100T, the same processor as the X100T and an amazingly high-quality lens made by Fujinon (like the X100T). Now you can have a camera in your pocket at all times that won’t sacrifice image quality at all. Coupled with a 180° tilting LCD that’s pretty handy for selfies, the X70 really is the ultimate travel camera for someone that really needs to travel light but wants great results still.
White Balance is a term that may seem foreign to most photographers. Especially as a setting that you could adjust that would make a drastic impact on your photos.
If you ever have taken a photo inside with fluorescent lights as your main source of lighting, you may notice a slight “bluish” look to your photos.
Why did this happen? All light sources have different colour tones based on a temperature reading scale ranging from red (warm) to blue (cold) known as Kelvin (K).
Your choice of lighting will impact the overall look of your image and the actual colours shown in your photo. A photo mainly lit with a candle will give off a slightly deep orange colour tone. Likewise a photo mainly lit by fluorescent lights will give off a light bluish colour tone. Usually undetectable by the naked eye, we only really notice the difference when we look and compare photos side by side.
The term ‘White balance’ (WB) is the process of removing unnatural colour tones in photos. All FUJIFILM Digital cameras have ‘White Balance’ controls to help change or correct these colour tones.
Why would a photographer need to change the camera’s white balance setting? Depending on the subject and lighting source used, a photographer can adjust the camera’s white balance setting to properly show colours as the naked eye sees them or to change the “mood” of a particular photo.
So why experiment with white balance?
You may find that the Auto White Balance setting corrects colour tones when you don’t want it to. This can happen with sunsets or landscapes, where the colour of the light is an integral part of the picture. By using one of the preset settings, you can better control the colour tone of your photos based on the light source used. In addition to one of these “preset” settings, most FUJIFILM cameras offer the ability to pick a custom white balance setting also known as colour temperature (measured in Kelvin).
Here are some of the most commonly found and used white balance settings in Fujifilm cameras:
Auto – this is where the camera takes continuous readings of the light sources and makes adjustments automatically to the colour tone of the photo.
Daylight/Sunny/Fine – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
Tungsten/Incandescent– this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors when traditional incandescent lighting is used. It generally cools down the colors in photos.
Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.
Colour Temperature – This option allows you to select the colour temperature using the measurement known as Kelvin, this gives you even more creative control. And without getting too technical here’s our handy hint: If your photos are coming out yellow/orange turn the temperature down (lower number value, for example 2500K) and if they are a bluish colour tone, turn the temperature up (higher number value, for example 8300K). You will soon pick up what lighting environments are around which value of Kelvin.
The other option you have is to shoot in RAW, select Auto White Balance and adjust later in post processing. This does give you more flexibility after the shoot but will add more time to your processing, plus a bit more technical know-how to get best results.
Cold colour tone
Chosen colour tone
Warm colour tone
As you can see above the white balance chosen for a shot can make a huge difference to the feel of an image and in some cases what season the image was taken in.
We hope you have found this tutorial helpful and that it will get you out and about experimenting with white balance.
And as an added bonus, check out FujiGuy Billy as he shows you how to get your White Balance settings up and running in camera here.
Light. There’s a lot of it about. And as photographers it’s up to us to harness it in every shot we take.
You may have a personal preference as to which light source you prefer, be it natural or artificial and, despite the combative title of this blog, we’re not for one minute going to suggest that one is better than the other. Instead, we’d suggest that it’s what you’re shooting that counts and should make your choice accordingly.
By way of demonstration, I set up a couple of still-life images, lighting one using artificial light from a humble desk lamp and the other using diffused daylight on a cloudy day. Along with the lighting being switched, I also changed the subject, but nothing else – the background is the same as is the kit – a tripod-mounted X-T1 with the spectacular XF90mm F2.
Shooting in artificial light
The beauty of artificial light is that it’s completely controllable. Even a simple desk lamp, like the one I’ve used here, can easily be moved around so you can direct the light where you want it. The same, of course, applies to flash, LED and fluorescent light sources. Compared to daylight, artificial light sources are comparatively small, meaning the light they emit is more harsh. You can diffuse it or you could simply play to these strengths, as I did here to light my spanner collection. Metallic objects – among others – are great for this kind of light, which throws deep shadows on the opposite side to the light source. For the collection of images below, I simply moved the light around the set up to get a variety of different effects.
Light to right of spanners
Light held above the camera
Light held below spanners
As well as being a harsher light source, artificial light like my desk lamp tends to be less powerful, so you may need to increase your ISO if you want to shoot hand-held or – as I did here – mount the camera on a tripod. You also need to consider your white balance settings, but we’ll come to that a bit later.
Shooting in daylight
Putting my desk lamp to one side for a minute, I moved on to shooting with daylight, using a large, north-facing window in my house as the light source and opening the curtains completely. North-facing windows are best because no matter what time of day you shoot, the light will always be soft as the sun will never shine directly through it. I had no such problems on this dreary day. Daylight like this is lovely and soft, so it lends itself perfectly to flattering portraiture. With no willing human subjects on hand, I switched to this gerbera, which benefits just as well from the diffused light.
I started by setting up with the window directly behind me, which created the shot above. It’s OK, but the light is very flat and the background is a little more prominent than I would have liked. To solve this, I moved the flower round by 90° to help create some shadows between the petals and tried again. Much nicer – there’s some improved definition on the stem of the flower and the background is darker!
The daylight was a little brighter than my artificial light set up, but not by a huge margin and, wanting to keep the ISO down, I shot tripod-mounted again. With a human subject, I’d have pushed the ISO higher. Despite the fact that I was shooting within one metre of a floor-to-ceiling window, daylight levels do drop off quickly as you move away from the window. To counteract this, I used an A2 sheet of white card as a reflector to push light into the left hand side of the flower.
A question of white balance
Every light source has its own colour temperature, which is measured in Kelvin, essentially this means that different types of light have different colours. The human eye automatically corrects for this, but cameras can’t so you need to make sure you set the correct white balance setting to make sure colours are accurate under different lighting conditions. It’s tempting to shoot with white balance on Auto, but this one size fits all approach can get caught out. Which is why I always change the white balance setting myself when I shoot. Shooting in Raw is also an option as you can change the white balance setting in post production; a luxury that isn’t available with JPEGs.
Your X series camera comes with a variety of preset white balance options – daylight, incandescent, shady, fluorescent etc – in the first instance, use one of these. But the X-series cameras also have a Custom white-balance option which helps you get super-accurate colours 100% of the time.
Auto white balance
Incandescent white balance
Custom white balance
Using it is simple, just frame the shot as you want it, select the Custom white-balance mode and then follow the on-screen instructions. Essentially, you need to hold a piece of white paper or card in the same lighting as the subject and then let the camera do the rest. I did that on both set ups, as well as used some presets, the results of which are shown here. Of course, there’s no right or wrong here, you can simply pick the shot you like the best, but it’s well worth playing about with white balance settings. Give it a go, whatever lighting you’re using!
For more help with white balance & settings please find our dedicated tutorial here.
Witnessing a lightning storm can be frightening, but it can also be energising, certainly to photographers. The thrill of capturing lightning in a frame is like nectar to a photographer’s calling. Before we get consumed by this exciting subject it is important to remember that lightning storms can be extremely dangerous so please take suitable precautions when around a lightning storm; photographing lightning is great but it is not worth putting yourself in danger.
Lightning occurs all around the world, at different frequencies and strengths. I’ve been lucky enough experience a good few lightning storms, with my most memorable occurring in the tropics. But this isn’t to say that you can’t get great lightning shots wherever you are, all you need is some knowhow and then the lightning! Here is a brief 101 of lightning photography to get you started.
“It’s all about the light”
Like a flashgun, lightning is over in but a moment, and like flash if it is the predominant (or only) light source then it acts rather like its own shutter speed.
When using a flash at night for example, you might set the power output of the flash and then move to the camera settings. Generally speaking you turn the shutter speed to the maximum flash sync speed and then use ISO & aperture settings to compensate for the power of the flash. If it is too bright you increase the aperture and/or drop the ISO, if it is too dark then you do the opposite; much the same applies to lightning photography.
The intensity of the light from lightning is affected by two things:
The first is the power of the lightning: if it is a particularly large strike then if you’re set up for some previous strikes that weren’t as powerful, it’s more than likely the lightning will have blown out your highlights in the image.
The second thing to affect the light intensity is the distance between you and the lightning itself. Generally, lightning storms are large storm clouds which means that the lightning can be very close by one moment and then many miles away the next. These fluctuations in light can’t really be predicted but it is something to be aware of, and even to account for by increasing your aperture by a stop more than required to save your highlights.
Lightning is spectacular by itself but sometimes a scene can be made all the more special by being aware of your surroundings and looking for things that could add to the moment.
If you’re lucky enough to have something of interest in the foreground then see if you can add this to the electric scene. If there is still some ambient light around then you should be able to illuminate the foreground via your long exposure. If not, then illuminate using a torch or flash. This simple addition to the frame can help to better portray the scene. However bear in mind that you want to photograph as much of the lightning as possible so a sky-dominant frame will help to ensure this.
Built into many of the X-Series cameras, an intervalometer allows you take a set number of photos with pre-determined intervals between each shot, this is set by the photographer and can be between 1 second to 24 hours. This is very helpful for lightning photography as you can set the camera to take a series of 30 second exposures (or less if this is overexposed) and sooner or later you’ll capture a lightning strike within one of those frames.
The curse of photographing lightning is you can never guarantee where or when it will strike so you should always be prepared to wait a while for a good shot! At the same time though, be aware of where the storm is moving to and adjust your composition if it is moving out of frame.
This really can make all the difference! Because the exposure changes so frequently due to the intensity of the lightning, you cannot always achieve the perfect exposure 100% of the time. A RAW file records so much information compared to a JPEG that you can recover many more files which have the highlights blown out according to the histogram.
If you come across a lightning storm during the daytime my method is to set up the aperture and ISO to the most light-demanding settings possible (e.g. F22 ISO 200) and then simply use the intervalometer to repeat the suitable shutter speed. It can produce some interesting results.
Let us know if you’ve caught any lightning photos using the hashtag #fujilightning
A little about Ben – Ben is an environmental photojournalist, zoologist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. His passion is showing the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Find more of his work at:
So how do you get on with using flash? If you’re like 90% of the world’s photographers the answer to that will be ‘pretty badly’. You’re never quite sure what it’s up to, never feel fully in control of what’s going on and are never completely happy with the results you get. And that’s a shame because, when you come to think about it, flash is the most controllable light source you have at your disposal. You can fire it when you want, put out lots of power (or very little) and you can even shape or colour the light. Just imagine what brilliant landscape photographers we’d all be if we had the same amount of control over daylight! So, flash isn’t the bad news that many photographers consider it to be, it’s simply a question of learning the functions you have at your disposal and how to bend them to your creative will.
No doubt, after the rousing words of my opening paragraph you’ll be wanting to get to grips with multiple flash set ups right from the off. But that’s a little like competing in the 100m at the Olympics before you can walk. Let’s ease you in more gently by giving you an overview of the flash features you have at your disposal on a Fujifilm X-series camera and when you might press them into service. In this particular case, I’m heading to the Flash Set-Up menu on an X-T10.
Within that menu you’ll find the Flash Mode option, which gives you five choices: Forced Flash, Slow Synchro, 2nd Curtain Sync, Commander and Suppressed Flash. The last option is perhaps the most obvious; selecting Suppressed Flash means the flash won’t fire even if it’s popped up ready for action, nor will a hot-shoe flash fire if it’s attached to the camera and switched on. But seeing as this a guide to firing the flash, we best move on.
Forced Flash is the polar opposite of Suppressed Flash. As long as the integral unit is flipped up or a hot-shoe flash is attached and switched on, the flash will fire on every shot, irrespective of how bright the light in the scene is. This may sound a little odd, but you’re actually most likely to use this mode in bright daylight for a technique called fill-in flash. This is where you ‘fill-in’ shadows – typically in a portrait – with a low powered burst of flash, which is achieved by combining Forced Flash and the Flash Compensation mode. Take a look at the two shots above. The one on the left is taken without flash. It’s OK, but the subject’s face is in shadow. By using Forced Flash and -1 Flash Compensation, we got a lower powered burst of flash that filled in the shadowy area and put a nice catchlight in our subject’s eyes.
Next on the menu is Slow Synchro, which is used to add a touch of dynamism to action images or to shoot portraits in low light conditions. Selecting this function and a slower shutter speed produces the sort of image you see above on action shots. Panning the camera during the exposure introduces the blur, but then the burst of flash momentarily freezes the subject so you get this look. The shutter speed doesn’t have to be too slow – the shot above was taken at 1/8sec, but it adds an extra dimension to your shots.
Equally, using Slow Synchro can help capture more ambient light in low light conditions. Take a straight shot with flash at night and you’ll end up with a shot like the one below left – rather dull. Use Slow Synchro and the longer exposure ensures the background appears while the flash illuminates your subject perfectly. In this case you’ll need to keep both the camera and the subject still – we’d recommend a tripod and a head brace. Ok, maybe just the tripod.
Note: It’s worth noting that Slow Synchro is only available on the menu in aperture-priority and program exposure modes. If you want to combine a slow shutter speed in shutter-priority or manual modes you still can – just switch to Forced Flash and select the shutter speed you require.
2nd Curtain Sync is another one for those who want to make movement look natural and, much like Slow Synchro is a question of combining a burst of flash with a longer shutter speed. The ‘curtain’ part of the equation refers to the camera’s shutter curtain. In any given exposure, the first curtain begins the exposure, the second curtain ends it. Typically, when you’re using flash, the flash is fired at the start of the exposure – when the first curtain moves. But switching to 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure. This is largely irrelevant if the exposure is a fraction of a second. But it’s important with a longer exposure. Take a look at the two shots below. For the shot on the left, the flash has fired at the start of the exposure and then the car has moved to create the blurred light effect. The trouble is, it looks as though the car has reversed. It didn’t, it moved forwards. By selecting 2nd Curtain Sync, the flash fires at the end of the exposure after the car has moved, so you get a more natural-looking effect with the blurred lights.
Note: When using 2nd Curtain Sync with a built in or hot-shoe flashgun, two bursts of flash will fire. The first at the beginning of the exposure, is purely designed for the camera to get an exposure assessment and does not effect the actual exposure. The second flash, at the end of the exposure, is the one that actually illuminates the subject.
Finally, we have the Commander mode, where you can use the camera’s integral flash to fire a second flash away from the camera. This is used for more creative on-location effects, like the one below. It’s simple enough to do and produces professional looking results.
So that’s the top line when it comes to shooting flash. Hopefully, this top-line introduction has armed you with enough information to start getting to grips with the flash modes you have available. But we’ll be going into more detail on each of these techniques in subsequent blogs over the next few weeks.
Most people know what it means to focus with your camera lens. To do this, you adjust the distance of the lens (or an element inside the lens) from the sensor. There are two ways you can focus your camera – automatically (Autofocus or AF) or manually (MF).
As you probably already know, autofocus is there to do the hard work for you, and in most shooting situations this is all you will need to take great in-focus photographs. What you might not know is that there are different types of autofocus for different situations; this is what we hope to give you a better understanding of here.
The focus modes are generally set using a dial on the front of your camera. On some cameras this control is a switch on the side of the camera.
Single Autofocus (AF-S)
With single autofocus, once you half press the shutter button, the camera will focus on the closest object within the focus area (which we come onto shortly) on the screen. You can then take a picture knowing that the subject is in focus. This can be a very useful setting for portraiture, still-life, macro work and landscape photography.
Continuous Autofocus (AF-C)
When using continuous autofocus, half pressing the shutter button will focus on the closest object in the focus area, and then while you hold the shutter half pressed, will continue to refocus on that point. This mode can be very useful for sports, action, children & pets who are moving and wildlife photography – a great choice for moving subjects.
Manual Focus (MF)
As useful as the autofocus modes are, there are many situations where using manual focus could be the better option. Don’t worry, we’ll go into the manual focus mode in a bit more detail later on.
The “Focus mode” lets you choose how often the lens will focus while the shutter button is held half-pressed, while the “AF mode” determines where in the frame the camera will focus.
Most of our Fujifilm X-series cameras offer 49 focus points. From this you can select a single AF point, a group of points, or even make all of them active. Let’s look at the different options available:
AF mode: Single Point
When combined with the AF-S focus mode, this delivers highly accurate autofocus on a specific area. You can choose one of the 49 available focus points and also change the size of the focus point to suit your subject. This is your “go to” focus configuration.
When combined with AF-C focus mode, this tracks a subject with a fixed direction of movement, e.g. moving straight towards the camera. Again you can choose which of the 49-point focus areas to lock onto and also change the size, however this time when you half press & hold the shutter button you activate the continuous tracking on that area. Fully press the shutter button when you want to take the shot.
AF mode: Zone
This setting is effective for a subject with moderate movement which the Single Point mode may have difficulty capturing. You start by choosing a 3×3, 5×3 or 5×5 block of AF area points and then position them where you want them in the frame. We recommend you choose the phase detection AF areas for faster autofocus speeds – these appear in a different colour and make up the middle 5 x 3 points.
When combined with AF-C mode, the camera will continue to refresh the autofocus while the shutter is half pressed and this is how we recommend you use this mode. This way you can “lock” onto your subject once it enters your chosen block size by half pressing and holding the shutter button, the camera will then continue to re-focus as you follow the subject with your camera.
If you use the Zone AF mode with AF-S, the camera will simply lock onto the closest object within your block of focus points once and then stay focused at the same point. If the object then moves it is possible your image will not be in focus.
AF mode: Wide/Tracking
This mode is perfect for capturing a subject that moves unpredictably up/down, left/right and closer/further from the camera, where you do not wish to move your camera around to “chase” the subject.
Decide the composition and layout of your shot first and then move the AF point to the point where you want to start tracking the object from. When combined with AF-C, half press the shutter button while your subject is within the AF point and the camera will lock onto the subject and follow it wherever it moves within the whole frame while the button remains held. Fully press the shutter button to take the shot.
Note: The Zone and Wide/Tracking modes are only available on the X-T10 and X-T1 (firmware 4 and above) cameras.
More about Manual Focus
Here are some examples of how and when MF might be used:
When the light is dim. The autofocus sensor in your digital camera needs light and contrast to perform properly. When you’re shooting in low-light, AF may not be able to see subtle, indistinct details, so it will have a hard time locking onto a specific area of your subject.
When you’re shooting fast action. With manual focus, you can set up your camera to capture a certain area. Then when your subject comes into the frame, you can shoot continuously to get the best exposure. This is ideal for shooting at races and can even be used for street photography.
When AF gets confused. Sometimes you are shooting something that has another object in front of it, like a fence or a branch. AF will try to focus on the closer object. This may also occur when another moving object moves into the frame. So, if you’re shooting animals in the wild or active children, manual focus often makes more sense.
For full maximum control. Some photographers actually prefer to use manual focus on a regular basis as it gives them more creative control. With advanced functions like focus peaking, techniques such as focus stacking and panning shots, MF allows the photographer complete control.
I went down with a crash. Almost immediately the mud started to seep through my trousers which were already soaked by the rain. I had cradled the two X-T1s in my arms as soon as I felt my feet sliding away from me. The rain had no affect on them, it just collected into droplets and ran off. The rain that fell on me however seemed to go into my bones. I sat up and looked around. I was surrounded by thousands of people all bent on having a good time – and succeeding. I looked down at the rain soaked cameras, it was then that I realised what I had become. How on earth did this happen?
But first, a bit about me.
I first became interested in photography at the age of 8 or 9. My parents bought me my first camera as a birthday present shortly afterwards. As my interest grew I went to the public library to learn about processing and printing. I managed to acquire a second hand enlarger, a developing tank, some dishes and had managed to blackout my bedroom by hanging all the clothes I possessed over the window. This was well before the days of central heating, and I had a wall mounted infra red heater that glowed red which I used as a makeshift safelight when printing. Surprisingly this rather makeshift approach worked and the experience of seeing a print gradually appear as it was gently rocked in the developing tray was magical. I still have that sense of wonder when I look at prints today. The technology is different but the magic of creating a record of a moment that makes up life’s experiences remains. It gets even better when I can create an image that goes beyond straightforward recording something and which connects with other peoples emotions from when they saw or experienced something similar. That’s the reason I love combining travel and photography. It creates so many privileged situations and I find it increases the possibility of creating the types of images I love.
I continued to dabble with photography into my 20’s but life gets busy and a career in Public Service refocused my priorities until much later in life. Now with that career behind me (and contrary to public belief Public Service can have high job satisfaction and be fun) I have reengaged with photography and am now building a second career.
Why indeed. To be honest it all came as a bit of a surprise to me as I considered myself to be a Canon shooter. I did buy an X100 when they first came out. I was seduced by the look and feel of it. The handling reminded me of and old Leica I used to own. I loved the simplicity, the clear controls and small size.
Unfortunately it did not work out for me. I found the focusing too slow and the camera stayed in a draw for a few years. In time the X100s was released but I was still not tempted. Eventually someone told me that Fuji had released updated firmware for the X100. It took me another few months before I downloaded it and gave it a try.
What a difference! It became the camera I thought I had bought in the first place. What impressed me more though was the fact that Fuji made the firmware available for the X100 rather than withholding it in order to get more people to to buy the X100s.
I thought that it was remarkable that a company would show such loyalty to its existing customers, especially in this day and age where incentives are only offered to new customers. I was so impressed with the improved handling that, when the X100t came out I bought one. I took it with me that same day when I took the dog out for a walk with the intention of trying it out. Nothing spectacular, just a nice shot of sheep and lambs in the sunshine on the Dorset coast with the sea as the background.
I was wondering if I could use the WiFi app to simplify my news workflow so, just to test things out, I used the Fuji app to put an image on my phone and from there uploaded it to the news agency. It was only when the license fee arrived some months later that I realised that the image had been published on the Telegraph Online website before I got home. I love the simplicity and size of this camera, and unsurprisingly, my Canon 5D large and heavy by comparison.
I had a trip to Spain coming up and I really wanted to reduce the weight of the gear I was carrying in the backpack, so I decided to buy the X-A2 with the kit zoom lens and the 10-24 f4 lens. Although there were clear limitations compared to using the 5D kit there were also wonderful benefits. It was not just the weight either, I was less “visible” as a photographer. I could hand hold at lower shutter speeds, the electronic screen was wonderful in dark environments, the lenses were sharp and significantly I found that I was using the Jpeg files with little or no tweaking rather than the RAW files which resulted in less time in front of a computer screen. The GPS tagging via the Fuji phone app helped enormously when it came to captions and keywords. Overall a considerable saving of time.
It’s a slippery slope. I went and tried out an X-T1 with the idea of trading in my 5D mk 2 but keeping the 5D mk3. The logic being that I would have a lightweight travel kit and shoot news stuff using either the X-A2 and the X-T1, or the Canon 5D mk 3 and the X-T1 depending on the circumstances. On trying the X-T1 out, I found I loved it as much as the X100T, and it has the same WiFi capacity. I also found out that Cactus make some speedlight triggers that will allow Fuji cameras to use canon speedlights using the Cactus transmitter to control the power of the flash. That was it then, I bought one and a 50-140 f2.8 lens. I was intending to use it and the Canon 5D mk 3 a couple of weeks later at the Glastonbury Festival where I was one of the team of accredited photographers. As I prepared the kit for the event I wondered if those nice people at Fuji would lend me another X-T1 and a couple of lenses so I could cover the festival using only the lighter Fuji gear. Well-they can only say no.
They said yes, which is how I came to be sitting in the mud in the company of 175,000 festival goers, countless volunteers, specialist staff, police, performers and somewhere on the site, that nice Mr Eavis. As I wiped the rain off the cameras and checked them for damage I realised I had become a “Fuji shooter”.
So how did it go?
Well it all went rather well, which was pleasantly surprising considering that the X-T1s were a new camera to me. The firmware in the cameras was 3.11. I had been hoping that version 4.0 with the significantly improved focusing would be available by the time the festival began. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Despite that, the focusing on the X-T1 was better than I expected. In most conditions it worked well and was accurate. I struggled with it a little in low light though and it was too slow for some fast moving situations. Having said that, I changed my technique over the course of the festival and my results improved.
Shooting the Pyramid Stage at night was the most difficult environment because of the rapidly changing lighting and the continually moving musicians. I ended up using continuous focusing, with the pre focusing switched on and the drive set to continuous fast. I also ramped the ISO up more than I would normally do and stopped the 50-140mm lens down a bit rather than using it wide open. To keep the speed up I shot Jpegs. With this combination, the number of sharp images increased dramatically. Unfortunately so did the overall number of images shot resulting in taking considerably longer to edit them. Up until then I had been shooting Raw and Jpegs intending to use the Jpegs and have the RAW files for anything where the Jpegs were inadequate. It’s a credit to Fuji’s technology that, despite some challenging lighting conditions the Jpegs remained superb throughout. With exquisite bad timing I picked up an email as I walked out of the festival on the Monday morning saying that Fuji just released the significantly improved version 4 Firmware!
The camera’s handled well and sat in my hand nicely with most of the controls easily accessible. It was a bit tricky at first to change the focus point with the function buttons on the back, but that improved as I got used to the camera. Even so replacing the OK/Menu button with a joystick control that would perform both the OK/Menu control and move the focus point would be wonderful. Like all these things though, its about getting the right balance and I am aware that such a change may not be possible without compromising the size and style of the camera body.
Having the shutter speed, the ISO setting, the drive and the exposure compensation easily accessible via dials on the top of the camera was wonderful. Perhaps it was because I spent my early life using cameras with that sort of arrangement but I took to it immediately and it felt more natural that having to go through a menu system, especially with the ISO setting. This ease of access combined with the Electronic Viewfinder meant that I could accurately assess difficult lighting conditions and make the necessary exposure compensation without having to take a shot and play it back on the LCD to check the histogram.
The combination of one body with the 16-55 f2.8 and the other with the 50-140 f2.8 worked really well. Most of the images were created with these two lenses. It made working fast and easy. Given small size and low weight of the kit it also made swapping between cameras fast and easy. I don’t like changing lenses when I am working in this sort of environment as I have to work fast and upload news pictures soon after they are taken. Dust on the sensor slows down the processing stage enormously. When I did change lenses though, I did not get any dust problems, or if I did the built in sensor cleaning mechanism got rid of it. I don’t know if I was just lucky of if the design of the Fuji sensor made a difference but it was a refreshing change.
After a couple of days using the cameras, when I had got to the stage of not having to think about it I began to really enjoy them. The fun and experimentation of photography seemed to be coming back and I really enjoyed using the tilting LCD screen which made it easier to shoot from unusual angles. I also was not getting the aches and pains I was used to in these sort of environments. Given that I was on my feet and working from about 7:00 am to 1:30 am the next morning (with a short break sometime in the afternoon) I felt remarkably relaxed.
As I enjoyed this new found freedom it all went wrong..
I had found somewhere to sit and have a coffee. As I stood up I realised that I had lost a camera. As the knot in my stomach formed my mind tried to work out where I had been and where I could have left it. My pulse rate went up as I started to take straps belts and bags off so that I could find out if I had lost my camera or the one Fuji had loaned me. Neither, they were both still there. So what had I lost? I checked the other lenses, the Speedlight, the other accessories. They were all still there.
All that had happened was that I had got used to using the cameras and had forgotten about them. I had stood up, and being used to carrying two Canon 5Ds with L series lenses attached, the load I was carrying was so light that I thought I had lost a camera. This happened a few times over the subsequent days, that sudden feeling of panic followed by a feeling of relief, then foolishness.
One final thing worth mentioning is the viewfinder. Its fabulous.
One of the reasons I bought full frame cameras in the past was that I had used the C type sensors and was not impressed with the size of the image in the viewfinder. The X-T1 viewfinder with its magnification factor and “Full” mode is a joy to use. For me it was a game changer.
So in summary, as I said earlier, it all went rather well. In a couple of heavy downpours the cameras, the 16-55 f2.8 and the 50-140 f2.8 were unaffected, It seems that the weather resistance really does work. The X-T1 is a joy to use, handles well and is robust & light. The lenses are sharp and considering the max aperture, remarkably light. The combination of the 16-55 and 50-140 were used most of the time (although I must confess to having a soft spot for the 10-24mm). The focusing with the 3.11 firmware is not up to the speed of a DSLR but the version 4 firmware seems to be a considerable improvement.
So what next?
Well I have just started the planning for a 6 week trip to India and its definitely the Fuji camera’s that will be coming with me. And, if you would like to see more of my work please visit me at: