I’ve had a week to shoot with the Fuji XT-3 and I love this camera… but I WON’T be buying it because there is just one think I can’t get past. Maybe it doesn’t affect you but it’s the one thing that is holding me back. This video will walk you through the things I love and explain in detail why I just can’t make the leap to the Fuji XT-3.
Wedding photographer Booray Perry recently tried out a loaner Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless camera and decided that, though he likes much about the camera and the image quality from its APS-C sensor, he will not be investing in a higher-end Fujifilm camera just yet, especially given he relies on on and off-camera flash and long lenses for much of his professional work.
I have been trying out a Fujifilm X-H1 camera body lately in combination with my own and a couple of loaner Fujinon XF prime lenses, and I agree with much of what he says including that the X-T3 produces excellent images in general.
I have used some of the larger Fujifilm zoom lenses on loaner X-T3 cameras, as well as a number of Fujicron and non-Fujicron prime lenses, and have concluded that the X-T3 benefits from almost permanently attaching a Fujifilm VG-XT3 Vertical Battery Grip to it whether shooting documentary stills, documentary video and especially portrait photographs.
My preferred Fujifilm camera form factor for documentary photography remains that of the X-Pro2 digital rangefinder given my extensive background with analog rangefinders of all film formats, but have found that the X-T3 makes an excellent on-location documentary companion camera when using wider focal lengths than 18mm and longer focal lengths than 56mm.
But not too long.
Ungripped, the X-T3 is about the same size as the X-Pro2 and fits neatly with the latter into a small shoulder bag with four or so lenses, aiding in retaining a large degree of invisibility.
Passers-by rarely if ever take any notice of either camera and I have shot stills and video extremely up-close in a way I would ever have gotten away with if using larger cameras such as my Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
The X-T3 has proven to be an excellent handheld portrait camera, benefitting from its tilting LCD monitor, small size in the hand whether gripped or ungripped, and however large the lenses used on it.
For all-day work on location or in the studio, though, I found the X-T3 more fatiguing in whichever grip and lens configuration than my X-Pro2 and I would much prefer a camera of the shape and size of the Fujifilm X-H1 for that type of work.
The X-H1 has a surety of grip and a smooth shutter release button that I would love to see on the X-T3, and there is nothing so reassuring as always having the option of the X-H1’s in-body image stabilization given that none of my current Fujinon lenses come with optical image stabilization.
The X-T3 outstrips the X-H1 in every processor and sensor-based firmware feature, hardly surprising given the X-H1 contains previous generation internals as well as firmware features moviemakers and photographers have been requesting for ages now.
The lack of IBIS on the X-Pro2 and X-T3 will soon be met with up to six stops OIS on the coming Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4.0 R OIS WR zoom lens, easing my trepidation when needing to shoot in available darkness but I am keen to see what the X-H2 offers when it hopefully appears sometime early in 2020.
And then there is the X-Pro3 reportedly coming later this year and whatever new features may appear thereon.
If the X-H2 matches and preferably outstrips the X-T3 in its internals, then it will be a shoo-in for professional video production, studio stills and large lens work on location as well as documentary work in available darkness.
If the X-Pro3 gains the features I have long been wanting to see in Fujifilm’s digital rangefinder cameras, especially in a radically improved electronic viewfinder, then I will be glad to add one to my documentary stills kit.
Meanwhile the X-T3 is a fine candidate for top-quality non-raw Super 35 video in HLG or F-Log, and an excellent stills camera for portraiture and as a second available-light documentary camera whose APS-C X-Trans sensor matches as near as damn it to the image quality from my 5D Mark II and subsequently released DSLR cameras.
Fujifilm X-Pro2, X-T3 and X-H1 APS-C/Super 35 mirrorless hybrid cameras and lenses at Compact Camera Meter
The term “Fujicron” refers to the Leica Summicron-like compact prime lenses made by Fujifilm including the Fujicron XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR, XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR, XF 35mm f/2.0 R WR and XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR. Fujifilm needs to release a Fujicron version of its XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens in response to the longterm barrage of requests from the army of documentary photographers who rely on its 28mm equivalent focal length in the 35mm sensor format, but who find the operational speed and other quirks of the current, ageing 18mm lens irksome to say the least.
Booray Perry – wedding photographer based in Tampa, Florida.
“In this video I try to explain why the Fujifilm X-T2 just didn’t sit with me. I am much happier after switching to the X-Pro2. All of it is of course just personal preference based on how I like my cameras. And the X-T2 is also a great camera, truly fantastic. Its just that with expensive gear like this I get very, very picky. On cheaper cameras I would let it all slide. So if you have the X-T2, I’m not ripping on your camera. I actually like it a lot….”
With the impending release of Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019, the first version that allows me to quickly and easily obtain the emotion-laden, infromation-rich image renderings I have been visualizing ever since getting back into photography with digital, I have been excited about seriously getting back into portraiture again.
Portrait photography was how I made a living for some time shooting for magazines and newspapers colour supplements, and I loved it with a passion, and I have missed doing it for years.
Working out how to do it in digital in the way I used to in analog is proving to be something of a quandary as that hardware and those processes are no longer available to me and nor should they, given the environmentally unsound nature of photochemical processing and the fact that contemporary cameras are an altogether different proposition.
My favourite analog films no longer exist and never will again, and my favourite analog cameras are long gone, broken down and unrepairable, or stolen.
The task now is for me to bend the digital gear I have now to making something as close to or better yet surpassing how I used to make portraits, and the biggest challenge is in doing that with full-face close-up portraits where little more than one eye is in sharp focus, with either my beloved Fujifilm X-Pro2 or my trusty Panasonic DMC-GX8.
Eye Detection AF automatically detects human eyes: Choose Face Detection to automatically detect human faces, or turn on Eye Detection AF to automatically detect and accurately focus on human eyes for successful portraits with a shallow depth of field. You can also define the area of priority focus, for example right or left eye, or the eye closer to the camera. These functions have been upgraded for improved accuracy to a level that will impress professional photographers. They are particularly effective when shooting with the XF56mmF1.2 R / XF56mmF1.2 R APD or XF90mmF2 R LM WR lenses.
Pinpoint accurate focusing in MF mode on both the X-T2 and X-T3. “The FUJIFILM X-T2 has a variety of functions that assist pinpoint focusing in the MF mode. Set the Focus Mode Lever to MF and rotate the focus ring to access a variety of MF Assist functions. These include Focus Peaking, in which color is used to show the parts of the image that are in focus, and Digital Split Image, where focus is achieved by lining up the split image strips in the center. These features are particularly useful in macro photography and portraiture, which involve a shallow depth of field and require focusing precision.”
Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds sensors with their 4:3 in horizontal or 3:4 in vertical aspect ratios are often better suited to portraiture and the printed page than Fujifilm’s APS-C sensors’ 3:2 and 2:3 aspect ratios when uncropped.
Visualizing within a sensor of the best aspect is always easier, more accurate and more satisfying than shooting with one that is too long in one dimension then cropping later.
Right now though I am leaning towards shooting full-face portraits more with my X-Pro2 than my GX8, mostly because I have the amazing Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens and I have nothing equivalent in my Olympus and Panasonic lens set.
The difficulties with getting pinpoint accurate focus on an eyeball with the 56mm’s aperture almost wide open are casting my thoughts back to trying out the Fujifilm X-T2’s ability to manually focus accurately enough, and really liking it.
If only Fujifilm’s engineers had seen fit to give the X-Pro2 a better, brighter electronic viewfinder that worked in almost the same way as the EVF in the X-T2.
Will the X-Pro3 be improved in that regard, and will it be appearing any time soon?
Or should I be looking at the X-T3, or the X-H1 or better yet the X-H2 that surely must be following along on the heels of the X-T3 sometime next year?
Or might the coming rangefinder-style Fujifilm GFX 50R offer a more viable solution along with bigger file sizes more suitable to large exhibition prints?
“I discovered the other day, quite by accident, that my Fuji X-Pro 2 is two years old this week. Tomorrow in fact. What a few years it has been. I’ve had ups and downs with the camera, but it’s also been good to me. Writing about it and processing Fuji files has undoubtedly made a name for me in certain corners, and I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it hadn’t been for buying that camera….”
I have had my X-Pro2 for almost as long as Thomas Fitzgerald has had his, and I have benefited from his hard-won insights into how to get the best out the camera’s X-Trans raw image files thanks to his ebooks on the subject.
Unlike Mr Fitzgerald, I had passed on the X-Pro1 after some extensive hands-on testing at the sadly now defunct Sydney city CBD professional camera store Foto Reisel, due to its lack of diopter adjustment, the disappointing optical quality and mediocre mechanical operation of the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, one of my most important focal lengths for documentary photography, the slow autofocus of that lens and its then companions the Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro and the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 , one of my least favourite focal lengths.
That is puzzling given the need for fast and accurate manual focussing and focus pulling for video or for available light photojournalism that often cannot be usefully met by relying on autofocus alone or focus-by-wire only lenses such as the majority in Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF collection.
Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R prime lens with manual clutch focus.
Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR prime lens with manual clutch focus, equivalent to 24mm in the 35mm sensor format.
Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R WR prime lens with manual clutch focus, equivalent to 35mm in the 35mm sensor format.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Fitzgerald’s dislike of the X-Pro2’s video implementation which turned out to be rather disappointing.
Although the X-Pro2 finally received its long-promised 4K video capability via firmware, Fujifilm just plain forgot to make it usable enough and left out all the associated video controls needed for quality moviemaking – see my list below.
I love the X-Pro2’s form factor, its size and weight and most of all its Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder that I mostly use in ERF-in-OVF mode, that is, with the small electronic rangefinder window active lower right of the optical viewfinder window.
I tend to bypass the X-Pro2’s electronic viewfinder aka EVF much of the time, especially when working in available darkness, as it is not up to the standard of, say, my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 rangefinder-style hybrid camera with its tilting 2.36m-Dot 0.77x OLED EVF or my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4’s 2,359K-Dot OLED Live View Finder.
Unlike those two Panasonic cameras and all others made by Fujifilm, the X-Pro2 is remarkable in being three cameras in one, with its optical viewfinder, electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.
In effect it is a rangefinder camera, a DSLR-style camera and a view camera all in one and of a size and shape in-between a classic Leica M-Series rangefinder camera and one of Fujifilm’s incredible 120 roll-film format “Texas Leicas”.
Leica M7 rangefinder camera for analog film photography. The perfect analog rangefinder camera, though Zeiss produced some great electronic analog rangefinder cameras too. Photograph courtesy of Leica Camera.
Fuji Professional 6×9 aka Texas Leica with standard lens. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Fuji Professional 6×9 SW aka “Texas Leica” with wide-angle lens. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
I am hoping that Fujifilm’s coming X-Pro3 will correct some of the X-Pro2’s shortcomings just as that camera was a huge advance on the X-Pro1, but in the meantime Fujifilm needs to issue another firmware update for the X-Pro2 as follows.
Custom settings for video – Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone, Shadow Tone, Color and Sharpness.
Exposure zebras – instead of the dreaded non-programmable overexposure “blinkies”.
Focus bracketing – for focus stacking for product and microphotography.
Eterna film simulation – for a flatter, more gradeable look for video.
Pixel view – for professional operation in all image review functionality and not just when ‘Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display’ is selected.
The X-Pro2 got it right in so many ways that the X-Pro1 got it wrong, but its successor the X-Pro3 can be much better again with an OLED electronic viewfinder and more, making it the perfect companion camera for longer and wider lenses than the X-Pro2’s OVF comfortably allows.
Fujifilm’s ongoing Kaizen firmware updates for the X-Pro2 has made it a much more usable camera than it was on release, and I am deeply grateful for that, but more still needs to come.
“Equivalence. It’s the bugbear of anyone who reviews Micro Four Thirds lenses. You are being conned says the incoming mail. Your f/1.4 lens is really an f/2.8. And your so called shallow depth of field is commensurate with f/2.8, too, not f/1.4. It’s an argument I’ve heard so many times and while factually true, is pointless and irrelevant. The only rational response is -so what?…
Put simply, a native Micro Four Thirds lens is just that. A native Micro Four Thirds lens. It isn’t a Full Frame lens. It won’t fit a DSLR and if it did it wouldn’t cover the whole frame. I’ve tried more and more to describe lenses according to their angle of view since that is universal. If you know what angle of view you want, you can choose a lens to get it. Thus, I know that I like as a standard prime a lens with a moderate wide angle, around 54° horizontal. A quick calculation at Points In Focus Photography tells me that for a Micro Four Thirds sensor it would be 17mm, for FF 35mm and for Medium Format 55mm. Easy.”
Former Fleet Street newspaper photographer David Thorpe is in my humble opinion one of the best and most useful writers and reviewers on Micro Four Thirdscameras and lenses though it is a pity that camera and lens makers don’t give him the credit and access to review gear that he deserves.
Mr Thorpe comes from a 35mm and 120 roll-film single lens reflex (SLR) background during the analog era whereas I have always relied on rangefinder and view cameras and prefer digital cameras that give me some semblance of those unique ways of seeing and photographing.
The other big difference between Mr Thorpe and I is that I rely on all my cameras, to varying degrees, when making photographs as well as videos and video is better served by fully manual lenses or at least manual clutch focus lenses such as those made by Fujifilm in APS-C X-Mount format and Olympus in M43.
As a result there are M43 lenses, especially small, light and relatively affordable prime and zoom lenses, that I quite like for stills photography but that are ruled out for serious video production, and more specialized M43 lenses such as those made by Veydra in their Mini Prime range, and those made by Olympus under their M.Zuiko Pro brand.
“… I can understand and agree with every reason put forward for those big, expensive optically superb f/1.2. And yet, in my heart, ever since I bought into Micro Four Thirds I’ve retained my original reasoning. Put an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 on a Panasonic GX9 body and go out street shooting in Soho. Now go out with a 17mm f/1.2 on the front. What can I say? Little and good, big and bad….”
Not quite, insofar as hybrid street shooting goes.
Although I have been tempted by the idea of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 given its focal length is my own perfect all-in-one go-to, in reality this lens is apparently a little too compromised for documentary video production, according to a number of pro video reviewers.
I have yet to lay my hands on one for serious try out and review, but the first thing to consider is the practicality of attaching fixed or variable neutral density filters to its 46mm filter diameter via a step-up ring.
I have standardized on 77mm and 82mm diameter variable and fixed NDs in order to keep down costs, but need to maintain a selection of step-up rings to fit those NDs on a range of lenses.
Experience has taught me to stick to brass step-up rings to avoid binding, preferring brands that knurl the outside of their rings for best grip in challenging conditions but then that narrows brand choice down to Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, PolarPro and Sensei Pro.
Of those only Heliopan makes rings for smaller filter diameters like 46mm but they don’t step-up to 82mm; for that you will need to attach a 77mm to 82mm step-up ring for which I would automatically choose the one made by Breakthrough Photography.
The same goes for other small M43 lenses some of which may be more suitable for video production such as Panasonic’s Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Aspheric Power OIS with its 37mm filter diameter, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Aspheric Mega OIS with its 46mm filter diameter, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 with its 46mm filter diameter and manual clutch focus, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 with 46mm filter diameter but no manual clutch focus and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8, again with no manual clutch focus but with a 46mm filter diameter.
Some made by Olympus, some by Panasonic. some with manual clutch focus, some without, none with wide filter diameters and all needing one or two step-up rings to get them to the magic 77mm or 82mm filter diameter, the latter of which I have chosen as my new default given better ND filter choice in that size now.
Digital Trends – Olympus M. Zuiko F1.2 Pro lenses prove there’s life left in Micro Four Thirds – “Naturally, these lenses are fantastic for portraiture. The sense of depth they give at f/1.2 is like nothing else we’ve ever seen on the format. In fact, the remark that kept coming to mind was, “This looks like film.” It is probably the first time we’ve ever felt that way about Micro Four Thirds…. Olympus’ goal with the F1.2 Pro series was to craft a specific quality of blur, which the company calls “feathered bokeh.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro review – “… until now, there hasn’t been a fast, wide-angle prime that really targeted high-end and professional users. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro changes that, combining the largest aperture of any wide-angle lens available for the format with exceptional build quality.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro review – “… [the] Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro, however, is a technically excellent lens that may also just be special enough to inspire you emotionally. It highlights the impressive move that the Micro Four Thirds system has made into the world of professional photography.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 Pro review – “… the 45mm is perhaps the most exciting entry in the series — everything about it is finely tuned for portrait photography… In fact, it is our favorite portrait-length lens for the MFT system.”
“… So it’s that time of the year, when the whole industry looks at Vegas, eagerly awaiting the new game-changer collection. And this time, Blackmagic pretty much mopped the floor, with all the other new cameras that came out this year, by taking the GH5s (IMX294 or variant) sensor, building a better camera with it, and selling it for have [sic] of the price, while throwing in a full blown, Hollywood grade postproduction package on top of it….
… It’s not as small and stealthy as the original Pocket, but it’s a pretty amazing camera, that still lets you steal shots, while looking like a tourist with a DSLR, if you have to (come on – we all did that at least a few times).
It’s a good size and weight to put it on a one hand gimbal and run all day with it. And if you don’t have the budget for an Ursa, it’s a great camera that you can rig up cine style with all the bells and whistles, and shoot commercials or even narrative….”
Blackmagic Production Camera 4K aka BMPC 4K in EF and PL mounts
Now that Blackmagic Design has removed the pages for its Blackmagic Cinema and Production cameras with Canon EF, Micro Four Thirds and PL lens mounts from its website, good quality product shots are harder to find and so worth preserving here for future reference and comparison with new products like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.
The images in this gallery are of the last models in Blackmagic Design’s now-defunct camera series, the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K with EF or PL lens mounts, and apparently were intended for use in the production of serial television series rather than cinema productions.
I have not had the pleasure of using any of Blackmagic Design’s cinema or production cameras, but the proprietor of a production equipment rental service once told me that local well-funded documentary producers were particularly fond of using his Blackmagic rental cameras with Canon EF L-series lenses and adapted Nikon stills photography lenses.
Australian-based Director of Photography John Brawley has often had early access to Blackmagic Design cameras and has shared early footage from them, so it is worth checking his blog every so often.
Mr Brawley is an enthusiast for Micro Four Thirds system lens and Olympus M43 cameras, and it will be interesting to see what he makes of the BMPCC 4K in conjunction with his ever-growing collection of Olympus and SLR Magic lenses, illustrated above.
Panasonic has been scoring some especially impressive runs with its Micro Four Thirds stills photography and video cameras lately, the Lumix DC-GH5, the Lumix DC-G9 and most recently the Lumix DC-GH5S, so it is deeply disappointing watching them drop the ball, even hurl it over into an adjacent field, with yesterday’s announcement of the Lumix DC-GX9, supposedly the replacement for the Lumix DMC-GX8.
Perhaps “drop the ball” is too delicate an expression to describe the magnitude of what has occurred with the GX9 so I will borrow a phrase from Amazon’s DPReview and instead name it a fail.
More accurately, a major fail.
The GX9 with either of its apparently bundled kit lenses may be a good entry-level camera and lens combination for those new to the Micro Four Thirds sensor format or to the GX9’s rangefinder-style form factor though it is a rather costly entry-level combo compared to, say, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85, also named the Lumix DMC-GX80 in some territories outside the USA.
The Lumix DC-GX9 comes with a kit lens, which one depending on where you live
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS collapsible standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 Aspheric Power OIS standard zoom lens.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens. Narrower than a 28mm-equivalent 14mm lens in Micro Four Thirds format, but at least it is generally available whereas Panasonic’s 14mm pancake lens seems to have vanished.
The camera known as the Lumix DMC-GX7 in Japan appears to be the same as the camera called the Lumix DMC-GX7 elsewhere.
Panasonic Japan’s naming is at odds with the company’s convention everywhere else where, for example, GX8 denotes the professional, top-end version of a line of cameras, GX80 and GX85 denote the second-level version of the same line and GX800 and GX850 denote the third-level version of the GX rangefinder-style line.
Panasonic’s coming and current GX-Series rangefinder-style cameras
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 with Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Power OIS lens
Panasonic Lumix GX8 with Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric II Mega OIS kit zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-85, also named DMC-GX80 in certain territories and Lumix GX7 Mark II in Japan, with the excellent and tiny but grossly underestimated Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 collapsible kit zoom lens. The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS collapsible zoom lens makes a fine telephoto companion lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX850 aka DMC-GX800
If we borrow Canon’s camera naming convention, then Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GX850/800 is their rangefinder-style camera for beginners, the DMC-GX85/80 their rangefinder-style camera for enthusiasts and the DMC-GX8 is the camera for professionals, which indeed it is in my experience and that of a number of other professional moviemakers and stills photographers of my acquaintance.
Three highly-esteemed photojournalists and one documentary moviemaker who use Panasonic Lumix GX-Series cameras
Photojournalist Ian Berry of Magnum Photos using Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7.
Photojournalist Thomas Dworzak of Magnum Photos using Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7.
Australian expatriate photojournalist Daniel Berehulak who shoots for The New York Times amongst others, using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8.
Australian expatriate documentary cinematographer Rick Young uses several Lumix DMC-GX8 cameras and many Panasonic lenses for TV production clients, and he is not the only professional moviemaker doing so.
And then there is the Lumix DC-GX9.
Judging by the product itself, its specifications and its marketing material including product and lifestyle photographs, the GX9 is not aimed at professional cinematographers and photographers including those working in the fields of documentary and photojournalism, but rather at “street photographers”, beginners and enthusiasts, to borrow Canon’s terminology.
Professional users are conspicuously absent from the Lumix DC-GX9’s marketing material in contrast to that of its predecessors, the Lumix DMC-GX7 and Lumix DMC-GX8.
Magnum photojournalists Ian Berry and Thomas Dworzak were depicted working with the GX7 while Australian expatriate photojournalist Daniel Berehulak produced photographs and video footage in Cuba with the GX8.
In the GX9 press kit, the sole user image is that of an unnamed young woman holding a GX9 with optional though reportedly essential accessory eyecup and optional though reportedly necessary plastic hand-grip, sporting a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Aspheric prime lens.
I suggest that this pairing of the GX9 with the Leica 12mm f/1.4, the lens costing far more than the camera plus kit lens much less camera body only, is a highly unlikely choice for the camera’s apparent user base, whether beginner, enthusiast or street photographer.
The two kit zoom lenses are more appropriate choices priced well in line with that user base, with the Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 prime lens a more appropriate choice for a street photographer, however that is defined, with something of a purist’s attitude to lenses.
I own a Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS zoom lens bought as-new secondhand from an eBay seller whose camera came with it as kit lens.
The collapsible 12-32mm is a perfectly fine, sharp and well optically-corrected lens despite its tiny size and pancake prime lens dimensions that I bought for use when photographing in the middle of daylight outdoor events where I need to be as discrete, as near-invisible as possible.
In other words, classic photojournalism, documentary and breaking news situations.
The Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 might be a useful choice for those purposes, too, but I find it an odd focal length almost halfway in-between my two preferred prime lens choices, 14mm and 17mm or 17.5mm, though I may change my mind if I manage to borrow one for some extended real-life testing.
I would choose none of these kit lenses, 12-32mm, 12-60mm or 15mm for shooting video though the latter may be appropriate if attached to a drone camera.
Documentary video requires the use of lenses with good manual clutch focus, or linear focus-by-wire or fully manual lenses for fine control of focussing as a graphically creative and emotive storytelling element, and my preference is Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lenses while cinematographer Rick Young carries a large set of upper-end Panasonic Lumix and Leica lenses.
The Panasonic marketing staff’s apparent confusion over the Lumix DC-GX9’s naming, user base, best choice of lenses and indeed overall message is reflected in their marketing materials and website content.
If going by the press kit user photograph then I would give them benefit of the doubt and assume their main GX9 user base is street photographers.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 would have been best choice if going small for street photography
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 with interchangeable Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS zoom lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5, the perfect tiny top quality interchangeable lens camera for discrete, near-invisible documentary and street photography.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5, the perfect tiny top quality interchangeable lens camera for discrete, near-invisible documentary and street photography.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5, the perfect tiny top quality interchangeable lens camera for discrete, near-invisible documentary and street photography.
I make no claim to the title street photographer though I do keep my eye and hand constantly exercised by carrying a camera every day and making storytelling urban documentary photographs so I have some well-qualified thoughts on best cameras for street photography.
Were Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GM5 still in production, I would choose it due to its tiny size, good-enough 16 megapixel sensor and for looking as little like a serious camera as possible while delivering excellent quality results.
Even better, the cigarette pack-sized GM5 was made in three colourways, all black, red and black, and silver and green, the green and red being, one hopes, fake leather.
Street-bound members of the public glancing at a street photographer equipped with one of these would be even more oblivious to the presence of a serious photographer than if spotting somebody with a GX9.
Panasonic’s DSLR-style stills camera solutions, the Lumix GH5 and Lumix G9
If that photographer were toting a DSLR-style camera of any size and brand with prime or zoom lenses of any size and shape, I can guarantee the street photographer in question would be noticed and their presence would adversely affect the images they produce, no matter how terrific the camera.
There is one feature that the GX7, GX8 and GX9 can boast and that remains unique amongst contemporary digital cameras and that is their tilting electronic viewfinders.
It also tilts, as it were: the Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex
Rolleiflex f/2.8 Twin Lens Reflex with standard lens. Photograph courtesy Franke & Heidecke.
Viewfinder and filter options for Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex aka TLR cameras.
I value my Lumix DMC-GX8 for many things but foremost is for its tilting EVF, the closest thing I have nowadays to the tilting or upright magnified viewfinders of one of the finest analog cameras for unobtrusive, fly-on-the wall documentary photography and photojournalism.
As with the Rolleiflex and its telephoto and wide-angle variants, the Lumix DMC-GX8 with its tilting EVF and fully-articulated monitor is a brilliant solution for those two forms of photography as well as portraiture where you need your sitters to rapidly relax on being confronted by the top of your head rather than staring down the barrel of a sniper rifle-like DSLR.
Panasonic, please give us the fully up-to-date GX8 successor we need right now and well deserve, and stop trying to fob us off with this aptly also-named Lumix GX7 Mark III waving the false flag of “GX9”.
“As the song says, everything looks worse in black and white, and if there’s only one color film that could make “all the world a sunny day,” it was Kodachrome. Or so it seems. Like many film shooters today, I was born into an era in which Kodachrome was nothing more than an old, expensive film, slow to process and cumbersome to display (what’s a slide projector?). So any time I hear photo geeks of a certain age wax poetic on Kodachrome, I have to wonder, was it really so good?…”
Kodachrome was good but it certainly was not the bee’s knees or the answer to everything.
Sometimes Kodachrome almost drove me mad with its less than stellar rendition of blues and greens and its too-reddish rendering of skin.
Kodachrome was the very first colour film that I used and I used it for years until there were too many problems with buying it and having it processed in Australia.
Kodachrome intimately shaped my way of seeing and of photographing for decades and I would do well to remember the many lessons about limits and constraints that it taught me.
Limited Kodachrome was, especially due to its high contrast that threw shadows into almost pure black, but limitations can be beneficial when creating an original style and they were so for me.
When Kodachrome became impossible to use, I switched over to Fujifilm products and my vision and photographic style altered accordingly.
Nowadays I rely on some of the many excellent image editing software products like Alien Skin Exposure, Capture One Pro with third party presets and styles, DxO FilmPack with DxO OpticsPro and a number of commercial presets for Adobe Camera Raw to achieve looks not unlike Kodachrome in its many iterations and versions over time.
Doing that is not the same thing as visualizing in Kodachrome, shooting with Kodachrome, scanning Kodachrome and printing for exhibition from Kodachrome.
But then, I am glad that I no longer have to work in analog photography given that its environmentally destructive photochemicals eventually wrecked my health and ruined my photographic career.
“The Nikon D850 is quite the beast of a camera. It holds a massive 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor that can record 4k video and create 8k time-lapses…. The only problem with such an amazing monster of a camera is that Nikon thinks it’s too much for women to handle….
… I myself can think of a large number of women photographers that would be more than capable of producing spectacular images with any camera, let alone this camera. But when Nikon created a team of 32 professional photographers to be the faces of the Nikon D850, they didn’t choose a single woman photographer….”
I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera and have no regrets buying it despite its current inability to shoot 4K video, relative lack of other videocentric features and unimpressive electronic viewfinder (EVF).
As a longtime user of rangefinder cameras in all formats from 8mm (movie film) and 35mm (stills) through various 120 roll-film aspect ratios (6×4.5cm to 6x12cm) up to 4″x5″, it has been such a relief to once again have a very capable rangefinder camera in my hands.
I wavered on the somewhat slow XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom and a shortage of funds finally made that decision for me, compounded with the Fujinon X-mount lens series’ current 18mm focal length situation.
A fast medium wide-angle of 18mm in Fujifilm’s APS-C format, equivalent to 14mm in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format and 28mm in the digital 35mm format (I refuse to use the silly term “full frame”) is my number one choice for immersive documentary photography in combination with a moderate telephoto focal length like 50mm in APS-C, 30mm or so in MFT and 75mm in 35mm format.
Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 f/2.8 ultra wide-angle lens.
I have applied that moderate wide/moderate long combination to almost all formats and aspect ratios in the past, occasionally adding something in-between, preferably on the wide side of “standard” or “normal”.
In other words, 27mm in APS-C, 20mm in MFT and 40mm in 35mm rather than the more usual “normal” focal lengths of 35mm in APS-C, 25mm in MFT and 50mm in the 35mm format, all of which feel like short telephoto to me.
My choices can vary, though, in shooting video when a longer “normal” lens offering clutch focus functionality for repeatable, accurate manual focussing may override my creative preference for a slightly wider focal length.
The X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid optical viewfinder (OVF) was the clincher in buying into APS-C, aided and abetted by the existence of those 23mm and 56mm focal lengths.
Lenses are, for me, key influencers in camera choice, with sensor aspect ratios coming second followed by a myriad of other often interrelated usability and functionality factors.
I shoot documentary and portrait photographs and documentary videos, am self-funded, and the gear I need must be affordable, small, portable, self-contained and capable of the best quality possible.
No single camera system can provide all that so I use APS-C/Super 35 and MFT/Super 16 cameras and lenses.
Right now, the Lumix GH5 has the edge over Fujifilm for video by a long list of remarkable top-end professional moviemaking features, which is little wonder given Panasonic has been working on video since the GH1.
We have yet to see any Fujifilm camera approach the GH5 in terms of its video feature set and its self-contained usability, and one can only wonder what may turn up in the X-T2S or what might have been of the now-abandoned Fujifilm APS-C/Super 35 “super camera” project.
Playing the waiting game wears thin especially when gaps persist in both sensor formats’ lens and camera offerings, and each has its pros and cons.
The 3:4 (vertical) and 4:3 (horizontal) image aspect ratio is optimal for portraiture and I often find 2:3 (vertical) and 3:2 (horizontal) irritating for that purpose while it is much more suited to documentary photography in horizontal aka landscape orientation.
I love the 1:1 image aspect ratio for monochrome portraiture and urban documentary, combined with the tilting EVF built into only one current camera, the Lumix GX8, allowing me to shoot as I used to with my Rolleiflex twin lens reflexes (TLRs).
I prefer rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras for photography and cameras with fully-articulated monitors for video.
The perfect lens set comprising the right focal lengths combined with manual clutch focus, stabilization and fast non-variable maximum apertures with excellent mechanical and optical construction remains something of a pipe dream.
So, I compromise on APS-C/Super 35 mostly for photography with MFT/Super 16 mostly for video with a mix of Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic cameras and lenses.
Right now I am prepping to photograph a human rights rally tomorrow, the sort of event I have often covered at the same time with gear from all three brands and in both sensor formats.
In a DSLR-fixated culture, event participants are effectively rangefinder-blind, allowing me to photograph centimetres away from them without objection.
At this event, I have some constraints imposed by carrying my gear in a small shoulder bag that I have received for review.
The bag is capable of carrying one mirrorless camera plus three lenses in its default internal divider configuration, or up to four small lenses, or two mirrorless cameras-plus-lenses with a minor divider rearrangement.
I don’t currently have the ideal one-plus-three, one-plus-four or two-plus-two set-up in either mirrorless sensor format, so may limit myself to my X-Pro2 with 23mm lens on-camera and 56mm ready to swap should the portrait opportunities for which that lens is best suited arise.
I would much prefer two cameras with an 18mm lens on one and a 50mm lens on the other but that ideal set-up must wait for our self-financing effort to bear fruit.
I could carry an MFT Lumix camera with fast fixed maximum aperture standard zoom lens attached to cover the event with all my desired focal lengths and more, but I relish the discipline of carrying a limited set of fast prime lenses, and this new bag warrants a realistic test according to its default design parameters of one camera and two to four lenses, size dependent.
The coming release of Fujifilm’s X-E3 has me musing on another possibility this bag presents via rearranging its dividers, X-Pro2 with 23mm on one side and X-E3 with 56mm on the other.
A less tight fit might be the 18mm on one and the 50mm on the other but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
What remains to be seen is whether the X-E3 will be a worthy companion to the X-Pro2, filling the gaps that the other camera cannot fill.
Based on its specifications list, I suspect that might be the case, with one exception, Fujifilm’s crazy ongoing failure to add crucial exposure zebras functionality for stills and video to all its cameras’ firmware.
Video on X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras
Although Fujifilm’s cameras have some way to go until they approach Panasonic’s video feature set, especially that of the GH5, they already possess certain advantages.
I enjoy shooting video via my X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid OVF with ERF in lower right of frame set to show the whole scene as seen through the lens, in close-up or in mid-view as desired.
Fujifilm’s manual clutch focus primes are a joy to use as are their aperture rings when needing to ride constantly changing available light.
Fujifilm’s film simulations that work so well for JPEGs apparently look terrific in video, as demonstrated by Andrew Reid at EOSHD with a still frame from a Fujifilm X-T20 which permits customization not currently possible on the X-Pro2.
The lack of 4K in the X-Pro2 is the only factor against using it more for video given I generally use multi-camera 4K set-ups for editing in 4K and increasingly, release in 4K, Australian fraudband’s lousy upload capabilities permitting.
All Fujifilm cameras have their persistent video annoyances, however, and Fujifilm does not appear inclined to correct them any time soon.
None has an integral headphone jack for audio monitoring.
Each has a non-industry-standard 2.5mm microphone jack, demanding the use of unreliable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters or microphones with interchangeable audio cables like Røde’s more recent on-camera models like the VideoMic Pro+.
Interchangeable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cables have proven hard to find but I eventually located and ordered several Beachtek SC25 coiled cables.
Fujifilm has proven deaf and blind to the crucial need for customizable exposure zebras for video and stills, instead substituting a blinking highlight overexposure indicator on the X-E3.
Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming explains how to use exposure zebras at his Leeming LUT One webpage.
While the exposure zebras problem can be remedied by a Fujifilm with a firmware update, the best solution right now for effective audio monitoring is by connecting compact audio adapters or field recorders beneath your camera.
Hmmm, looking at all the many themes and variations of acquiring top quality audio as a solo documentary producer/director/cinematographer, perhaps I should do an article on that alone given some cameras provide for audio acquisition and monitoring very well and others much less so.
ALL Fujifilm cameras need grips
One thing that was immediately obvious when I bought my first Fujifilm camera, the X100, is that it desperately needed a hand grip for better grip of the camera in all conditions when shooting on location.
My assessment remains the same for all subsequent Fujifilm cameras that I have tried out or purchased, including the X-T1, X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F.
Fujifilm does not make a hand grip for the X100F, a truly bizarre omission given the camera’s very slight built-in grip and slippery leather-look plastic covering, which has contributed to placing the X100F lower down on my wishlist than it deserves.