I started with the X-T1 and two lenses. Now, over five years later, I have 25,000 Fujifilm X photos from four different camera models and a dozen different lenses. Is Fujifilm X still the right system for me?The X-T3 and most of my current lenses (the 50mm lens was busy taking the photo)
Fujifilm X camera bodies have been built with an impressively array of designs. With other brands, all camera models are minor variations on the same design. But Fujifilm has given us multiple sizes, shapes, and ethos in their camera bodies – from SLR-esque to Rangerfinder-ish, from small to large, from basic to experimental. This variety is impressive, but what it enables is even more incredible. In one camera system – one set of lenses, accessories, techniques, software – we have choice in the way our camera guides the interaction with our subjects. And no matter which camera design is chosen as appropriate for the situation, the photographer gets consistent and predicable results.
I appreciate this flexibility in my small way, as over the generations I've switched back and forth between camera styles. I've gone from the X-T line to the X-Pro line and back again, not even because I really needed to, but just because I could. I now use an X-T camera as my main body, with an X-E as the second shooter.
And with each successive generation of body, Fujifilm continues to improve the system's capabilities. I don't just mean the numbers in the 'specifications' sheet, I'm talking about real improvement to the image quality, to the cameras' capabilities, and to the cameras' ergonomics. Boundaries are pushed and expanded, and new possibilities sneak into the system in subtle, natural ways.The X-E1
As of this writing, Fujifilm has not released a second generation for any X lens. I doubt this will always be the case, but as it stands now, it speaks to the confidence Fujifilm has in the longstanding quality of even their earlier models.
I'm currently sporting seven Fujifilm X lenses – the 16mm f/1.4, 18mm f/2.8, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/2, 90mm f/2, and 100-400mm. There've been some lenses I've found wanting and have sold: the 27mm (unreliable focusing), 18-55mm, and 55-200mm lenses (neither zoom lens as sharp as I've expected). And rounding out my lens setup is one 3rd party lens designed for the X system: the Venus Laowa 9mm, giving me an extreme wide angle in a compact optic, something Fujifilm doesn't have on offer.
I've also got the 16mm extension tube, which allows the 90mm to double as a macro lens. I haven't found the extension tube useful on the shorter lenses. And new to me is the 2x focal length extender, which on my shelf only fits the 100-400mm lens. I owe both of these full write-ups on their own.X-Pro2 vs the X-E1
Every prime lens (except the 27mm f/2) has truly excellent optics. Some complain that the Fuji camera firmware hides the aberrations in the lenses through software trickery. I don't care. What is important is that putting these lenses on my camera means consistent, predictable results. Each of the prime lenses is immensely capable and reliable in image, focus, and look.
The zoom lenses I have found less spectacular. The 100-400mm bazooka has great image quality, but it comes at the cost of an obnoxious size.
The two other zoom lenses I've used – the 'kit' 18-55mm, and the 55-200mm telephoto – proved to be poor performers when paired with the increasing resolutions of the newer generation bodies. That wasn't great, and I prefer primes anyway, so I sold them.
Most of the recently announced Fujifilm lenses are high-quality zoom lenses. But they are all greatly expensive and physically large, so they do not attract my interest.X-Pro2 vs the X-T3
Well, obviously I felt the extreme ultra wide angle was missing, which I solved with the 9mm Laowa.
The only other lens I wish Fujifilm would create is a long, slow prime – something like a 180mm f/4. I would snatch that up in a heartbeat, and probably sell the 100-400mm lens at the same time.
Fujifilm did release a massive (and massively expensive) 200mm f/2 lens, but this is a far faster optic than I would ever ask for, for the types of photos I take. And the 100-400mm lens is nice, but gigantic. So something that could shoot in this range but be compact (or more compact) would be perfect.
Alas, nothing like this appears (or has ever appeared) on Fujifilm's lens roadmap. In fact, the roadmap's future plans are looking mighty sparse right now.
The images are great.
I shoot JPG unless there's a specific reason not to, which there rarely is. I run at ISO 800 at lowest. I can't see any less grain at the lower ISOs, and ISO 800 is the lowest that allows the Dynamic Range setting to stay at a full 400. I use all the film emulations, depending on what I'm taking photos of and how I feel. I used to specify white balance, but lately I've found the auto white balance to be perfect most of the time. I am always fiddling with the exposure compensation and metering knobs. I use the camera in Aperture Priority 99% of the time.
The images are great, but instead of me telling you so, here are some samples.2014: X-T1 with the 18-55mm lens 2014: X-T1 with the 18-55mm lens 2019: X-T3 with the 100-400mm lens 2019: X-T3 with the 50mm lens
The next generation of Fujifilm X gear is already out – the X-Pro3, X-E3, and X-T4. But I have held back. Primarily, I'm shooting film most often. I do use my digital cameras, but more for family and travel photos. And in that vein, the X-T3 is plenty awesome, I'm not feeling any need to step up.
The other thing that's made me hold back, is curiosity about the Fujifilm G line – the medium format digital gear. While the stuff's several times more expensive, my flirtation with the Pentax 645D let me whet my appetite for medium format digital. While I struggled with some of the Pentax peculiarities, I'm seeing reviews saying the Fujifilm G is similar to X, so I'm suspicious that by sticking to Fujifilm, I'll have an easier transition to the larger format.
But for now, I still love my X setup, and I'm sticking with it for the long term.
I began writing this article before the COVID-19 wrecked the economy, with camera sales in particular taking a huge hit. It's too early to see how this blow will change the industry. I don't consider it likely, but even if Fujifilm X ends up orphaned, it doesn't change any of what I've written above, and it will still be my system of preference.
But for now, keep on shootin'!