Moving from Canon to Fuji

I was once taking photos in a bar in Melbourne and the guy next to me started asking a few questions about my camera. We chatted for a few minutes about the relative pros and cons of Canon, and then he said ‘Well, no prizes for guessing what I shoot with’ at which point he lifted his suit pants up to his knee to reveal a tattoo running the length of his calf saying ‘Pentax’. Up until that point, I didn’t even realise that Pentax still existed, and yet here was a businessman who had their logo permanently etched into his skin. It really brought home the fact that photographers do tend to invest themselves in their photo brand. You learn the form of the camera, you know how to quickly navigate settings, you know what the capabilities of your camera are, and most importantly, you’ve probably dropped a sizeable amount of money on lenses and other gear… so when you make the jump from one brand to another it can be a scary and cathartic experience. I should know, as I’ve just moved from a Canon 550D to a Fuji X-T1. So if you’re thinking about jumping ship, here are some things to consider.

My first portrait shot on the Fuji
My first portrait shot on the Fuji

Do I really need a new camera?

New gear is awesome. It can be smaller, lighter, faster, have a bigger sensor, make us look more pro…and in truth, it can help us take better photos. But it can also cost a shirtload of cash, and can sometimes be used to hide our inadequacies. So I reckon you need to be confident that you’ve learnt everything that you can from your current camera. You need to make sure that the new camera will make you a better photographer…not just give you nicer photos.

I’ve been shooting on the 550D for five years now. In five years the technology in cameras has come a long way. Things like ‘face detection’ and built-in wifi, just weren’t on the table when I bought my 550D…and the thought of taking a decent photo at ISO800 was fanciful. So any new camera was going to make life easier right away. But I also felt that I had pushed the camera as far as I could. I had learnt a hell of a lot on a great entry level DSLR, and now it was time to upgrade to a few bells and whistles.

Daylesford-4
Blinded by the light

How deep is your love?

If you’re not really into photography and you’ve made it this far, then well done…or commiserations on your lack of alternative things to do with your time. But you should probably know that a lot of information is sent from the lens to the camera, not just the image, but a whole lot of information about the image. For example, autofocus is sent as a message from the lens to the camera. So, while you can always buy adaptors, it makes sense that Canon lenses talk better to Canon cameras, than say a Sony lens talking to a Canon camera, or Fuji lens talking to a Nikon. So while you may be able to mount the lens on your camera, you may find that it doesn’t autofocus because the lens and the camera work on different systems. The long and the short of it is, if you’re looking to change to a new brand of camera, you may find that a number of your lenses will not make the transition. So your new purchase of a camera may require additional lens purchases as well. Which can make for a pretty expensive exercise.

Fuji, Canon & GoPro...and it all fits in a backpack!
Fuji, Canon & GoPro…and it all fits in a backpack!

For better or worse, I was pretty lucky that I only had the two Canon lenses (a 50mm f1.4 and the 17-55mm f2.8). But if I was to move to Fuji, then I was pretty much writing them off. I had come to terms with this…until a friend offered a 2nd hand Canon 5Dmk3 with some really nice lenses. Which leads nicely to my next point…

Shallow Inlet
Shallow Inlet

Dollars and sense.

There is no shortage of really good cameras out there. By the time I’d done all of my research I had reduced my list to; the Fuji XT-1, the Sony A7r2, the Lumix GH4 and the Canon 5Dmk3. Should the Olympus OM-D been on that list?…yep. But was I having so much trouble  choosing between 4 cameras that adding a 5th camera was just going to make me cry?…also, ‘yep’.

They all had different pros and cons, the 5D would let me stay in the Canon ecosystem and let me go full-frame…but then it’s a big camera, and the lure of the mirrorless was strong. The GH4 shoots beautiful video and I could get the body with a good range of lenses for the same price as the body of some of the other cameras…but it wasn’t a considered a great stills camera. The Sony was the way of the future, great video and great stills…but at a price to match. My original idea had been the Fuji…but with more video work coming my way, its shortcomings on the video front made it less attractive.

So after weeks of cross referencing tables, drawing up lists of pros and cons, and boring everyone to tears with my constant analysis of these tables and lists…I went with the Fuji. Why? Because, that’s what I really wanted. The other cameras all made sense, but when it came down to it, the Fuji is the one I had my heart set on. Also…

TCE Fed Square-2

Zack Arias told me to do it.

Looking for information about cameras on the internet is a bit like drinking from a firehose. There is just so much information, and so many opinions (most of them differing) that it’s overwhelming. What you really want is a professional photographer who can take you through all the relative pros and cons of a camera. To tell you what lenses would be best suited suited to your style of shooting, and to walk the talk by actually using the camera they recommend. Fortunately for Fuji, they have Zack Arias doing just that. He goes through all of the cameras, then all of the lenses, then breaks people down into a range of users and suggests the best combos for them.

Fuji X Buyer’s Guide :: Part 1 :: Cameras

Fuji X Buyer’s Guide :: Part 2 :: Lenses

This information was invaluable. So much so that I pretty much followed his recommendation verbatim. So if you’re looking to make the move to a new system, make sure you find a source you trust and then work out exactly what you want, because now it’s time to take the plunge and purchase your new gear.

Country wedding
Country wedding

Clicks and mortar

If you live in Australia, then you know that buying online is going to save you about 30% over buying in an actual store. But you will also know that websites don’t have a ‘haggle’ button that  you can press and knock some money off the price…which is something you can do in store with an actual person. Also, there is a lot to be said for supporting a company that pays local people. So in the end I decided that if I could get the gear that I wanted from an actual store, for within 10% of what I could get it for online…then I would buy it locally. While I couldn’t get the camera body and lenses for this price, by the time I had haggled getting a camera bag, SD cards, a spare battery and mic adapter thrown in, I was there! So on the day of my 40th birthday I got to walk out of the store with my new camera and a bevy of lenses (for the record; an X-T1, 10-24mm f4, 35mm 1.4, 56mm f1.2 and 50-150mm f2.8).

That new camera feeling
That new camera feeling

Post-purchase regret

The best thing about dropping a large amount of cash on a new camera system is that it will change everything for the better! You’ll be faster, shoot better photos, look more pro, become a better lover (actually you may have to chose between the first one and the last one). Which is awesome right up to the point where you miss a shot because you where you normally stab your thumb to adjust the auto-focus has instead changed the ‘film stock look’ of your photo, or you can’t for the life of you work out how to make your flash fire remotely, or you discover that you have to upgrade Lightroom because your camera isn’t supported by the version you have. This isn’t what you signed up for!!! Why did you change?! Why couldn’t you just leave well enough alone?!!! I wonder if you can sell this and return to the warm embrace of the ecosystem you chose to leave?!
Stop.
Calm down.
It’s all going to be alright. Remember when you bought your first good camera and you spent weeks freaking out at all of the options at your disposal? Remember how you spent ages just shooting on ‘automatic’ or ‘aperture/shutter priority’ until you got the hang of things? Well you’re just going to have to do that again…but now you have the advantage of years of experience in working with people, and framing a shot on your side. So while you’re not as good as you were on your previous camera yet, you’re also not back to square one. So get out there and shoot!
However, if after a month or two you are still getting photos that are as bad as the ones you bought new gear to improve…then the problem may be with you. So go and do a photo course and brush up on your skills…or take up macrame…macrame’s nice.

Yurts and universes
Yurts and universes
'I stop and think, this is Australia'
‘I stop and think, this is Australia’

Four months in

It’s now four months since I jumped head long into the Fuji world. In that time I’ve shot over 1,000 photos on the Fuji (well, I’ve shot a lot more…but I’ve kept that many). I’ve shot a wedding. I’ve followed a guy doing 8 Ironman’s in 8 days and shot both photos and videos. I’ve captured some treasured memories of my family, and most importantly I’ve really enjoyed getting out and taking photos again.
So if a fear of the unknown is the only thing holding you back from taking the leap to a new brand, then just remember ‘Life begins on the other side of your comfort zone’.

Shaz & Lofty
Shaz & Lofty
Suns & daughters
Suns & daughters

 

Shooting your first wedding

Last year a mate of mine (the inimitable Tim Arch) asked if I would be interested in shooting a wedding. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to work with someone who knows what they’re doing and to learn a few tricks of the trade, so I said ‘Sure.’ But a few days later I re-read his message and suddenly realised that he hadn’t actually said that I would be assisting him, and after a flurry of DMs on Twitter I came to realise that in fact Tim would be attending the wedding…and I would be shooting it by myself. So I explained that while I felt happy with the way my photography was progressing…I didn’t really feel comfortable being the ‘be-all and end-all’ for someone’s wedding day. So Tim said he would explain this to the Bride and Groom, and a few days later he let me know that they were still happy to have me shoot their wedding. So it was time to HTFU and shoot my first wedding!
Was it terrifying? Yes. Were there things I could have done better? Yes. Did I learn more in about 4 hours than I had in the previous year? Yes. Will I ever shoot another wedding? I don’t know…but at least it’s not a definite ‘No!’.
So I’m no expert on wedding photography…but here’s what I learnt.

Preparation

Admittedly this is not going to come as a massive surprise…but the more prep you do, the easier the day will be. I had a few meetings with the groom before hand and a meeting with the bride and groom about a week out from the wedding. This was invaluable for making sure we were all on the same page in terms of what I was going to shoot.
I also headed over to the venue the day before at about the same time as the wedding was going to be to make sure I had a few good ideas for where I could shoot the group shots. While I was there I also roped a friend into walking towards me so that I could work out what shutter speed I would need to get shots of the bride walking towards me.
You may not use any of the the info that you glean from this preparation  (Lord knows I certainly did!), but you will be able to carry yourself with the confidence that comes with being prepared.

I discovered this location on a walk a few months earlier and thought it would make for a great shot.
I discovered this location on a walk a few months earlier and thought it would make for a great shot.

Improvise

Preparation is great…right up until that moment you when the spot you had in mind for the group shots suddenly isn’t available and you have to come up with another option. Or when the bridal party is crossing the road to get from one location to another and you see a chance to shoot them with an iconic Melbourne tram in the background (admittedly this shot didn’t work…but at least I got it!) So keep your eyes open for opportunities, and don’t freak out if you have make a last minute change.

Make sure you get a few shots that 'tell the story' of the day. This one serves as a good introduction.
Make sure you get a few shots that ‘tell the story’ of the day. This one serves as a good introduction.

Carry a shot list and ideas for shots

I’m sure that once you’ve done a couple of weddings you will know what shots you need and how to get them. But for me, having a list on my phone of the shots I needed to get and a few ideas for setups was invaluable. If you’re shooting the wedding by yourself you’re going to be flat out trying to keep people happy for the camera, taking the shots and making sure that they are working. You won’t have a whole lot of time to think about where you should be shooting next, or what would be a good set up. So if you’ve got a list, you can just refer to that and know that at the end of the day you’ve got what you needed to get.

I hadn't intended to take a shot here, but the light was great and the grey background really made the bride and groom pop...also the bride suggested the photo and I'm too smart to refuse.
I hadn’t intended to take a shot here, but the light was great and the grey background really made the bride and groom pop…also the bride suggested the photo and I’m too smart to refuse.

 

Go with what you know

I spend a lot of time taking photos of my kids, so I know the importance of waiting for a shot to happen, rather than trying to manufacture it. I’m also more comfortable shooting people with available light than with a flash. So there were moments like these where I knew I had nice light and I knew I could get a good shot if I waited for the right moment

Future bride and groom
Future bride and groom

And there was a moment where the bridal party wanted a photo in front of the fountain with late afternoon sun behind them. I thought that with about half an hour of mucking around with the flash I could get a good shot…but I also knew that I didn’t have that sort of time, so I had to just say ‘I’ll take the shot, but I think the sun is going to be too bright behind you.’ They were happy that I took the shot, and in the end the shot was too blown out…but I’m glad I didn’t waste precious time trying to make a shot that my skill level was unlikely to achieve. Because two minutes later I got these shots that I wouldn’t have got otherwise.

Natural light

Group shot

The Gear

Going into this, I think I was more concerned about the gear side of things than actually taking the shots! Will I need two cameras? Will I need a full-frame camera? How will I go shooting on a different camera when the pressure’s on? What lenses should I pack? Should I take a prime or zoom? How do I carry it all? AAAGGHHHH!!!!!
In the end I was very lucky and got to borrow a Canon 7D and a 70-200mm f4 lens. I also took my 550D with a 17-55mm f2.8 lens and a 50mm f1.4 lens. I had one camera on a sling and the other camera just on a strap and so carried them everywhere. I also had a tripod, flash and reflector.
So, did I need two camera bodies? Yep. There’s no way I could have changed lenses quick enough to get both this shot on the 70-200mm lens and then this one on the 17-55mm.

Bride and Father of the bride

Perfect...apart from that creepy photographer in the background.
Perfect…apart from that creepy photographer in the background.

Did I need a full-frame camera? No, I’m happy with the shots I got on the 550D and 7D. How did I go shooting on a different camera when the pressure was on? Fortunately the navigation on the 550D and 7D are pretty similar, so I didn’t have any issues. But had I been shooting on a 5Dmk3 or different brand of camera, I think it would have ended in tears.
Should I take a prime or zoom? Given that so much of this was just running and gunning I definitely could have left the 50mm prime at home. I toyed with the idea of borrowing an 85mm for the portrait shots, but I’m glad I didn’t as I don’t think I would have had the time to change lenses and it would have just been another thing to carry.

One of the few shots on the 50mm
One of the few shots on the 50mm

How did I carry it all? Well…I just carried it all. It was freaking hard work. My shoulders were cactus by the end of the day, and there was one awesome situation where I had a camera set up on a tripod in preparation for the group shot, and then was asked to take some photos 100m away in another part of the park. So I was left getting people to pose for some photos, while desperately checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was running off with the camera and tripod I’d left set up. This was not in any way, shape or form relaxing, and if I was doing it again I would definitely rope someone in to assist me.

Eating and drinking

If you’re someone who likes to eat (and I am) then you should definitely try to get some food into your system before the ceremony begins, as there will be very little chance for you to eat anything other than snacks for the next couple of hours. Fortunately I was pretty much running on adrenaline for 4 hours straight, and it wasn’t until I stopped that I realised just how hungry and tired I was.

I would also recommend taking a water bottle with you if you can. I was shooting in the late afternoon of a warm Summer’s day (about 30 degrees) and knew I would get pretty dehydrated if I didn’t drink a fair bit of water before the ceremony. So I drank plenty of water in the lead up to the ceremony and carried a water bottle with me. While I certainly didn’t get dehydrated, spending the next 2 hours with a full bladder and standing next to a fountain was not ideal.

Conclusion

What I don’t know about photography could fill a library…but fortunately what I do know about myself could fill a small self-help pamphlet. I know that I achieve the most when I push myself out of my comfort zone. So while I was terrified about taking on the job of photographing someone’s wedding, I just told myself that it was like any other photography gig and went for it…although admittedly it is ‘like any other photography gig’ except for the fact that it’s one of the biggest days in most people’s lives…and you only really get one shot at getting the photos…and people are almost definitely going to print the photos and look back at them over the years…in hindsight, I should never have done this.

But I was also really lucky to have a really lovely couple to work with. They said from the outset that they were going to be relaxed and easy going…and they were. I think that if they had been a high-maintenance couple then this would probably have been my last wedding…but as it stands…if the right couple came along…I reckon I’d do it all again.

How to deal with pesky onlookers telling you how to do photography.
How to deal with pesky onlookers telling you how to do photography.