MY USE CASE & HISTORY
I am a hybrid wedding photographer and videographer, specialising in being able to provide high quality photography and videography coverage as a single person.
I have personally shot weddings with Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony systems. The opinions below are just that, opinion. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and at the end of the day, you must settle on what suits you best.
CHOOSING A CAMERA SYSTEM THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU
One based on a lot of different factors. Cost, size, weight, sensor size, low light capability, ongoing support and many others. It is not only a decision for now, but for in a few years time too, as you don’t really want to have to take everything you bought, sell it all at a loss and buy all new equipment (unless you hit the big time).
Now, right off the bat, let’s get something out of the way…
THE "NEED" FOR FULL FRAME
That’s right! I know, probably one of the the first times you’ve heard that after so many people have told you otherwise. And whilst shooting full frame does give you some benefits, it’s up to you to decide whether these are needed for your style of shooting.
As a documentary shooter, super thin depth of field doesn’t really interest me too much, so I can throw that argument out of the window. Then there’s the added size and weight of the bodies AND lenses, which when I’m carting two cameras around for 8, 10 or even 12 hours, does become noticeable. I need to be quick and nimble, so carrying 2 breeze blocks around on my shoulders doesn’t allow me to be at my best.
For me, APS-C was a great fit. With f/1.4 lenses, it gives me just the right amount of performance for what I need whilst keeping the cost and weight down.
YOU (PROBABLY) DON'T NEED THE VERY BEST
You may feel that if you’re taking money for photography services, then you need the absolute best equipment available. But this is simply not true. Even most cameras considered as “mid-range” these days will do everything that most photographers need. There are the edge cases where a bigger sensor or more megapixels are needed, but for most people, the 20-30Mp range is just right.
There’s also a few perks to shooting with fewer megapixels, such as smaller file sizes and (some would argue) better handling of sensor noise. Now when it comes to weddings, smaller file sizes are important as you tend to process two to three thousand images per wedding, and they have to go somewhere… Yes, external storage for PC and MacOS is cheap these days, but large memory cards can be very expensive (I’m looking at you CF Express) and cloud storage isn’t free.
The 24mp sensor in most cameras these days is perfect for wedding and documentary photographers. And probably a lot more too.
SO WHY FUJIFILM?
1. THE FEEL
It’s probably one of the first things you notice when using a Fujifilm camera for the first time. It just doesn’t feel like any other camera system out there. Some may not enjoy the lack of a deep grip or dedicated buttons for things such as ISO, but there’s something about the top dials that make you feel more connected to the camera and to the images that you’re producing.
Now if you’ve never used a Fujifilm camera and are worried about the top dials slowing you down, then do not fret! All of the functionality can be re-mapped to make your life a bit easier. I personally have the front dial control my ISO, my rear dial controls my shutter speed, and I control my aperture directly on my lens. No awkward fumbling for an ISO button here (I’m looking at you Nikon Z6II).
2. VIDEO CAPABILITIES
Are they the very best video cameras ever? No. But they’re not trying to be either. To be honest, the very fact that we have the capability to shoot both high quality stills and video with the same piece of equipment still astounds me. We’ve come a long way over the years and it’s such a great time to be a part of.
Now I currently shoot with two X-T3 bodies and an X100f. None of these have stabilisation like the X-H1 or X-T4, but the video you can get from the X-T3 is fantastic. High bit rate 4K 60p video shot in LOG format? Yes please. Add in 10 bit colour too and you’re on to a winner! I’ve dabbled in Sony and Nikon too for hybrid shooting, but nothing has ever given me that look that I am after as well as the Fujifilm system.
3. SIZE & WEIGHT
So this is a benefit to me in a way… So I really do appreciate the small size of the Fujifilm bodies, and it really does make a difference on a long wedding day. But I never really notice the weight benefit as I also go equipped with 2 honking great vertical grips strapped to my cameras.
But! If I am out on the streets, trying to be discreet, then at least I have the option of removing the grips and having a smaller profile and it really makes a difference. Especially when paired with the wonderful 35mm f/1,4.
Now I probably could shoot a wedding without the grips, they’re absolutely not a ‘must-have’ but they do improve the ergonomics (for me) a lot. And then there’s the added bonus of being able to have three batteries in the camera at the same time, which will last (almost always) a full day of hybrid shooting.
Another bonus of the smaller weight is that you can balance the camera on smaller gimbals. I personally use the Ronin SC for my wedding videos, giving me a nice and compact setup for video coverage.
4. ADDITIONAL FEATURES
If the photo and film features of the cameras aren’t good enough to make your decision, then what about the additional features?
Well one that I have started to use more and more is the ability to use the cameras as a webcam through the native Fujifilm software. During these times where video meetings have become more and more prominent, a nice and easy webcam solution using a professional camera body beats any webcam you can get your hands on.
Then next up is one of my favourite features that I have ever used in a camera. Integration with Fujifilm’s Instax printers! You can print straight from the camera to a wireless printer (I use the SP3) giving you instant access to physical versions of your images. Why would you want this? Well my use cases are mainly; 1) printing images from a wedding for a couple to take home on the day, and 2) printing off street portraits! It is a great feeling to hand someone a picture of themselves when you’re out wandering the streets.
Probably one of the most important aspects of a camera when it comes to photography, for me at least. I am a big fan of that classic look. And I absolutely love the way that Fujifilm has developed their sensors and cameras in such a way that you can get absolutely beautiful images straight out of the camera.
I am a huge fan of shooting in Classic Chrome, and I feel that it fits my style very well. It’s actually the base of my pre-sets that I put together in C1. I just love the way that it looks.
Skin tones are silky smooth, the highlight roll off is subtle and flattering, and the overall feel of the images produced are just *mwah*. It’s just a result I never got with my Sony cameras. Now my Nikon systems were probably just as good, but at twice the weight and cost, it could only be the Fooj.
It can’t all be positive. Everything has it’s flaws, no matter how much we like and appreciate it. So what are the things that I don’t like about the Fujifilm system?
1. BATTERY LIFE
OK. So this has now recently been addressed in the X-T4 (and hopefully in future cameras too) but the battery life in the X-T3 is traditionally “mirrorless”. Or at least what mirrorless cameras were expected to be like when they were first introduced to the world. Not terrible, but not what you’d be used to if you started your journey in the world of DSLRs.
I still manage to get through a whole wedding day with just a handful of batteries, but the battery grips are certainly a ‘must-have’ for me as I really don’t want to start switching out batteries in the middle of the ceremony. Now I have shot with the X-T4, and it is a lot (and I mean a LOT) better. So maybe this is something that I can remove from the list once new battery tech becomes the norm.
This is a very subjective one and will depend entirely on your preferences and physical specs. So for those of you with large hands, you may find that the grip design on the Fujifilm cameras (bar a few such as the X-H1) a little lacking. I love the smaller grips as it helps to keep the profile down to a minimum, meaning I can fit either more into a big bag, or sneak a camera into a small bag.
There are lots of options though to make them more comfortable, from third-party grips (such as Small Rig) and the aforementioned battery grips. But these won’t move the shutter button to the more traditional DSLR location overhanging the front of the grip. The only way to know is to go and try one yourself.
I am under no illusion that the Fujifilm system is perfect. It does have its floors, but then I think every camera system has that one compromise that you decide to take on anyway. I have thought about moving away to another system recently, I even went through the motions of renting a load of new Nikon systems to see if they fit my needs. But I just went back to Fujifilm as the grass isn’t always greener.
If you’re into documentary photography, then I can’t think of a better camera system to get into. There’s a whole range of bodies to choose from and, apart from the GFX bodies, the lenses that you buy for one will work for another as they all use the Fujifilm X Mount system.
They may not be for everyone, but I can’t think at this moment in time anything that I’d rather be shooting with.