Fuji X-system: Does size really matter? Veterans prove it doesn't!
Does size really matter? Is full-frame better than APS-C? Internet forums, Facebook groups, camera clubs and trendy cafes the world over see some pretty lively debates on a daily basis as each side tries to prove the other wrong. Oh, and let's not even start with JPEG vs RAW! (although we may just touch on that in a wee while)
I will try not to bore you with all the technical stuff which you either already know or can find easily on Google. Instead, I will tell you about some experiences and why, for the stuff which feeds my family, I'm sticking with the the Fuji X-system.
In January of this year, I bought an X-Pro1 with an 18mm lens and I fell in love. Since then I've sold my Canon EOS 1Ds and added a 2nd X-pro1 with an X-E1 as a back-up, 35mm f1.4 and 60mm macro lenses and recently an X-T1 with 18-135 OIS WR lens found their way into my kit bag as well. Yes, my name is Kev and I'm a Fuji addict! I've found the reduction in weight to be a welcome bonus, especially when travelling overseas as my 'small' cameras don't get the same level of attention as my DSLRs when going through airport security checks.
Now, it's all very good saying that the cameras are smaller, less weight to carry etc. but that means NOTHING if the image quality isn't up to scratch! As a professional wedding and portrait photographer, any piece of kit must deliver the goods or it doesn't stay. One of the most common comments you'll hear about the X-system cameras is how great the jpegs are straight from the camera - and they're right! With a range of film-simulation presets from a company with the track-record of Fujifilm you can create the look you want before you press the shutter - fantastic! The amount of time you can save in post-processing is yet another welcome benefit. I prefer to shoot RAW + fine jpeg side by side, just in case, but find that most of the time it's the jpeg which gets used. I have considered whether it's worth shooting both and almost switched to just shooting jpegs until I recently shot an advertising campaign which reminded me that sometimes a RAW file can be handy to have.
I was hired to photograph some army veterans for ABF The Soldiers Charity (http://www.soldierscharity.org) as part of their No Mans Land campaign. As the ABF have a very specific look they want for their studio images, the setup wasn't a particularly complicated one (slightly off-white background, key light at a 45 degree angle to the sitter). Some of the shoots were in places where I could set up a portable backdrop, while others had to be shot in a living room or stairway and just include the surroundings in the shot. It was one of these shots which highlighted the need for a RAW file.
Douglas is a WW2 veteran who lives in Erskine Hospital (http://www.erskine.org.uk) and after taking the 'studio' shots, we sat on a chair by a window and chatted as I took a few casual portraits with an X-Pro1 and 60mm f2.4 macro lens.
As they were just a few 'snaps' to add to the story, I got quite a surprise when the ABF requested a larger file for one of the shots. I had supplied full-size jpegs at 300dpi, as per the original request but it turned out they had decided to use one of my casual shots on some rather large posters - 48 sheet and 200 sheet billboards to be exact! Would the wee Fuji be able to handle this? Will a file from a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor be good enough for such a big enlargement? Hell, it was shot at ISO800!!! I sent a full-size TIFF over and held my breath... the client was delighted!
The campaign is currently in operation and I have to say a massive 'Thanks' to John Davidson for sending me these shots of the billboards from several locations in Aberdeen - that's a pint I owe you. Its nice to see my work being printed so large and it gives me even more confidence in the ability of the Fuji X-system cameras.
The ABF give lifetime support to serving and retired soldiers and their families. Having met some of those who the charity have helped I can vouch for the huge difference makes to the lives of these veterans. Please consider making a small donation at: http://www.soldierscharity.org
As a veteran, it was a huge honour to meet Douglas and the others I photographed. Here are a few more shots from the campaign, all taken on a small, crop-sensor, camera.
Making a fraction of a second... last a lifetime