Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming recently shared his recommendations to Fujifilm on how to make the X-T2 Super 35/APS-C hybrid mirrorless camera into a moviemaking powerhouse with the addition of some essential video functions to the next iteration of its firmware.
Paul also shared a list of hardware changes that he wants to see in the X-T2’s successor, “in case you want to blow the industry wide open.”
I am hoping that Fujifilm wants to do that and that they will read, digest and act upon Paul’s list of hardware and firmware recommendations as well as ask him in to consult on them on video in both Fujifilm X-Sensor professional hybrid cameras.
And by that I include the X-Pro2 side-by-side with the X-T2. The rangefinder-style X-Pro2 may not be the obvious choice for pro-quality video that is the DSLR-style X-T2. The X-Pro2 reportedly will never be receiving the post-X-T2-release firmware update of its sensor’s 4K capabilities that some industry experts spoke of as a certainty earlier this year.
But, the X-Pro2 has the makings of an excellent 1080p/720p video camera for the sort of documentary and photojournalism video assignments for which Canon added Live View video to the groundbreaking Canon EOS 5D Mark II back in 2008.
That may seem like ancient history now in today’s time-accelerated world, but that one little act sparked the wave of affordable digital video innovation that we continue to surf via further, smaller revolutions from camera and lens makers other than Canon, and Nikon for that matter.
If Canon unintentionally managed to “blow the industry wide open” for video with the 5D Mark II, then Fujifilm certainly blew “the industry wide open” for stills photography in 2011 with the Fujifilm FinePix X100 premium fixed-lens compact camera when it was announced at photokina in September 2010.
As the X100 began landing in the hands of professional and enthusiasts from February 2012 onwards, including mine later that year, it managed to not only “blow the industry wide open”, it blew minds open that had remained closed, constricted and DSLR-centric as a result of the dominance of the industry by the two DSLR-only makers.
I had adopted the 5D Mark II on advice from my partner who worked at Canon at the time but I failed to fall in love with it as a stills or video camera. Same with the SLR cameras I owned during the analog era.
My early, almost-accidental, photography and moviemaking education had begun with OVF-equipped stills cameras, rock-solid Arriflex movie cameras and technical stills cameras with everything including the kitchen sink built-in, like the Linhof Master Technika Classic.
I found DSLR kludges like the 5D Mark II exciting and inspiring but frustrating.
On the other hand, DSLR-style “kludges” like Panasonic’s Lumix GH2 through to the current GH4 have contained so many professional moviemaking features that cinematographers/directors like Paul Leeming, who previously relied on his RED Super 35 camera systems, have made the switch whilst dreaming of a similarly affordable and user-friendly Super 35 4K mirrorless video camera.
Until the advent of the Fujifilm X-T2, Samsung’s NX1 was on course to be that camera, then Samsung killed off its entire camera division as well as the DSLR-style NX1 itself.
The rangefinder-style Samsung N500 was another 4K mirrorless victim of that mass execution along with the range of Premium S and other stills and video-capable lenses for which NX1 and NX500 owners had been eagerly waiting.
Both Samsung cameras inspired respect and devotion rarely accorded to others – the closest I have seen is with the Panasonic Lumix GH4, GX8 and GX80/85 hybrid video/stills cameras and they are Super 16, not Super 35.
We need industry-leading Super 35 DSLR-style and rangefinder-style mirrorless cameras. Fujifilm has the means and the moxie to do that. They also have the lens designing and manufacturing know-how that makes the company “one of the world leaders in optical technology”.
Paul Leeming is correct in averring that the DSLR-style Panasonic Lumix GH4 is “the most well-designed consumer-facing mirrorless” Super 16 4K camera, with the proviso that the GH5 is set to best it in that come 2017.
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 makes a fine rangefinder-style companion for the GH4 or GH5, an accolade to which I can attest and have supported by purchasing a SmallRig cage for mine. I want the same main camera plus second camera scenario for the Super 35 X-T2 and X-Pro2, even with one being 4K and the other 1080p for now.
Let’s not forget that plenty of movies and television shows are still shot on sub-4K systems. Most high definition television is broadcast at 720p, not 1080p or 1080i, with Full HD and 4K UHD broadcasting some years off.
1080p acquisition will continue to have a place in television as well as the movies – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, anyone – for some time to come, so quality 1080p video on the X-Pro2 certainly has a place.
Fujifilm X-T2 Suggested Improvements, by Karin Gottschalk
With reference to Paul Leeming’s excellent letter to Fujifilm, here is my much shorter list of firmware improvements that Fujifilm needs to make so the X-Pro2 becomes a video-shooting companion to the X-T2:
1. White Balance in Video Mode
This is one area where the X-Pro2 outstrips the X-T2 right now. In fact, when shooting his tests for the next round of Leeming LUT One, Paul used my X-Pro2 for custom white balance then transferred those settings over to the X-T2 which lacked the same white balance ability.
Give me zebras and I can do without a persistent histogram if I really, really have to. Zebras are the perfect ETTR – expose to the right – tool. You should be shooting video in manual mode, with your shutter speed set correctly for video. If you are seeing zebras then you will be overexposing. Set your aperture narrower until they disappear.
But, a histogram that is persistent, that is, does not disappear when shooting video or stills for that matter is a real asset.
- YouTube.com: DSLR tutorial: Reading the histogram | lynda.com
4. F-Log, F-Log internal recording, F-Log 10bit HDMI output
Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT One recommended camera settings and camera-specific custom LUTs are paying dividends. In the case of the GH4, it has made Panasonic’s V-Log redundant and soon I will be able to apply a GX8 LUT to GX8 footage shot alongside GH4 footage to which I will apply the GH4 version of Leeming LUT One. I suspect it will be the same with the X-T2 and its companion camera the X-Pro2.
- YouTube.com: DSLR tutorial: Why should you shoot Log? | lynda.com
5. Noise reduction, highlight tone, shadow tone, color, sharpness
Making these available for video as they currently are for JPEGs is surely something of a no-brainer. Please, Fujifilm, give these to us without delay. Over-grainy, over-sharpened footage with crushed blacks and burnt-out high values is a pain to grade and match up with footage from cameras that allow us to control them, like the X-T2.
6. Film simulations
For these Fujifilm gets a big gold star and my thanks. I would, however, like to see an even more neutral color choice in there amongst all the wonderful evocations of Fujifilm’s greatest analog film stocks.
As to Paul Leeming’s other X-T2 wishlist items, if any can applied to the X-Pro2 then the more the merrier. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera is begging to be used for the sort of immersive journalistic 1080p FHD video for which the Canon 5D Mark II received its video functionality back in 2008.
I would love to try out the XF 18-55 f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS zoom lens on my X-Pro2 to shoot video with OIS switched on, focal length at the wide 18mm end, immersed in a Sydney city lunchtime crowd.
With or without recording audio as well and sighting through the X-Pro2’s amazing optical viewfinder with ERF switched on so I can see the whole scene with focus peaking despite the lens protruding into lower right of the window.
Granted, the X-Pro2 does not have a headphone jack for monitoring audio but plenty of moviemakers have long since adapted to dual-system sound using some of the many excellent small audio recorders on the market.
My Tascam DR 70-D four track digital recorder sits comfortably beneath any camera in my collection, has its own stereo microphones and can accept up to four XLR or 3.5mm stereo input connectors.
Its slightly bigger sister, the Tascam DR-701D, records up to six tracks and is Tascam’s “flagship recorder for single-shooter video production”. Both recorders are light enough to be used in the hand when attached to the X-T2 or X-Pro2, over-the-shoulder as field recorders, on a tripod or as a component of shoulder-mounted rigs.
Most video work I do these days is multi-camera or edited together from footage shot on several different cameras at different times. The work Paul Leeming and other LUTmakers do in producing camera profile input LUTs for making footage from multiple cameras look as similar as possible before we launch into serious colour correction and grading is invaluable.
Camera makers like Fujifilm need to contribute by adding as many professional-quality video features in their cameras as sensors, processors and heatsinks allow. Fujfilm, over to you.