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First Long Exposures with the Fujifilm X-T1

Since the Fujifilm X-T1 was announced in January, I've been on the fence about purchasing one to replace my X-Pro1. As much as I like the X-Pro1, the fall it took in September last year seems to be slowly taking its toll. After considering my options, I went ahead and ordered the X-T1 kit which includes the XF 18-55mm lens.

My X-T1 arrived Friday and this past weekend, during a break in the rain, I took it along with the XF 18-55mm to Huntington Beach to shoot a few long exposures. After one morning of shooting, here are my first impressions on using the X-T1 for long exposure photography.

The Good

The Images - no surprise here since the X-T1 uses an updated version of the X-Pro1 sensor which is also in the X100S. I haven't processed any RAW files yet since they aren't supported in Lightroom, but the JPEGs are typical Fuji.

The Viewfinder - I'll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the new electronic viewfinder at first. Perhaps, my expectations were too high because of all the glowing reviews I had read. Once I put it to use at Huntington Beach however, I started to see and understand what all the fuss was about. In good light, the viewfinder along with all its new technology is really something to behold. Since I often focus manually when shooting long exposures, the new dual screen display made checking focus much easier. Especially now that I can set the focus peaking color to red, what a difference!

The Tilting LCD - this is definitely a nice addition. Not something I needed, but it really does help when shooting on a tripod. I found the display a little dim when I was composing in bright sunlight, perhaps I should've adjusted the brightness setting. In any case, I ended up using the EVF when this was the case so having both options was a big plus.

The ISO Dial - on the X-Pro1 and X100S, I leave Auto ISO on unless I'm shooting long exposures. To make things faster and easier, I program one of the custom settings on both cameras to set my ISO to 200. With the X-T1, this wasn't necessary since it can now be done with the turn of a dial. The locking ISO dial works for me because I don't need to change my ISO very often or very quickly. For those that need to change ISO frequently, the lock button on the ISO dial may slow things down a bit.

The Bad

The Buttons - by far, my biggest complaint about the X-T1 are the buttons, especially those on the 4-way directional pad. They are too recessed and don't provide enough feedback to know when they've been pressed. I understand that changes were probably necessary to accommodate weather sealing, but these are the buttons many people use the most. I now find the task of changing my AF point to be a more difficult and slower process. While this isn't a deal breaker for me because my subjects tend to be stationary, it may be for those that need to change their focus point quickly.

The Threaded Shutter Button - or lack there of, most likely another trade off to accommodate weather sealing. This won't matter to some, but for anyone that wants exposure times exceeding 30 seconds, a $50 remote from Fuji is now required (at least until something cheaper comes along).

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the good for me outweighs the bad. While the X-T1 isn't perfect, it does offer several improvements for long exposure photography over the X-Pro1. The biggest ones being the new EVF and tilting LCD. Are these must have improvements, not by any means. But since I was in the market for a new camera, they are certainly welcomed.

My recommendation to anyone considering the X-T1 as an upgrade from the X-Pro1 or X-E1/2 is to try it out in the store first. While the new EVF really is great, it may not be enough to warrant an upgrade. Especially if you are using an X-E2 which already has the updated X-Trans sensor found in the X-T1.

With that, I'll leave you with my first long exposure images from Huntington Beach shot with the X-T1 and XF 18-55mm.

3.2 seconds at f/11

3.2 seconds at f/11

9 seconds at f/16

9 seconds at f/16

12 seconds at f/22

12 seconds at f/22

17 seconds at f/22

17 seconds at f/22

9 seconds at f/22

9 seconds at f/22

Chasing Clouds with the X-Pro1

This weekend was a good reminder of the importance of being flexible, especially in long exposure photography. I set off Saturday afternoon to photograph Arch Rock in Corona del Mar and to test out a Fujinon XF 60mm I purchased a couple weeks ago. When I got to Corona del Mar, the skies in the area were completely overcast making the conditions less than ideal for shooting long exposures. As I looked out over the water and contemplated heading home, I noticed that the clouds over Newport Beach showed much more promise. So with an hour before sunset, I jumped back into my car and headed towards Newport Beach. As I made my way towards Newport Beach, I thought that the cloudy skies would make a good backdrop for the Balboa Pier. Upon arriving, I abandoned the idea of testing out the XF 60mm and switched to the XF 14mm so I could capture the pier along with all the details in the sky.

Here are three of my favorite long exposure images from a Newport Beach sunset that I nearly missed all together. For all three of these, I used my XF 14mm and Lee Seven5 system which consists of a Big Stopper 3.0 ND and a Soft-Edge 0.9 Grad ND.

90 seconds at f/16

90 seconds at f/16

85 seconds at f/8

85 seconds at f/8

180 seconds at f/11

180 seconds at f/11

NYC Long Exposures with the Fujinon WCL-X100

Having rented the Fujinon WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens for our trip to New York, I thought I would use it for a few long exposures during an afternoon visit to the Dumbo area in Brooklyn. As the sun began to set, I set up the X100S, conversion lens, and a 10 stop ND filter to shoot the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The good thing about the conversion lens is that the filter thread is the same size as the X100S. This meant that I didn't have to buy an additional step up ring to use my ND filter. The bad thing is that you need to tell the camera the lens is mounted to get the right Exif data. Not a huge deal, but I did find myself constantly forgetting to switch this setting on and off during our trip. Aside from that though, I have no complaints about the Wide Conversion Lens. My images shot using it were all plenty sharp and the wider angle of view, while subtle, really helped for capturing these iconic New York City bridges.

Brooklyn Bridge - 125 seconds at f/8

Brooklyn Bridge - 125 seconds at f/8

Manhattan Bridge - 58 seconds at f/11

Manhattan Bridge - 58 seconds at f/11

Brooklyn Bridge Sunset - 28 seconds at f/11

Brooklyn Bridge Sunset - 28 seconds at f/11

Simplicity and the X100S Part 2

As I've mentioned in the past, the X100S is the camera I turn to whenever I want to keep things simple. Without having to worry about zooming or changing lenses, I'm left to focus on creating images. By concentrating on what I see in the viewfinder, I find that I'm not only more creative with my compositions, but more able to find a narrative in the images I bring home. Here is a series of images from my latest exercise in simplicity.

Red Rock Canyon and the Fujinon XF 23mm

Having read so many positive reviews about the Fujinon XF 23mm, I decided to rent it for a quick weekend trip to Las Vegas. Since we only planned to be there for 24 hours, I knew my opportunities to shoot with the XF 23mm would be limited. Nevertheless, I thought spending a couple days with this highly regarded lens would give me an idea of how using it would compare to shooting with my X100S.

Well, after spending the weekend with the XF 23mm, I must say that everything I've read about it is true. Optically, it really is a great lens. From my completely unscientific testing, sharpness, resolution, etc all appear to be excellent. On my X-Pro1, I found the focusing to be a tad slower than the XF 35mm, but not enough to make a difference for the subjects I normally photograph. The one issue I did have with the XF 23mm was that I found myself missing focus quite a bit when shooting at f/1.4. Much more so than with the XF 35mm. Since I didn't have an X-E2 to try this lens with, it's hard to know if the X-Pro1 was the problem. Regardless, I was thoroughly impressed with the lens and the images it produced.

As much as I liked the XF 23mm however, I just can't justify purchasing one right now. For my style of photography, my X100S works just as well and allows me to have a second body just in case my X-Pro1 acts up. With that, I'll leave you with a few images from our early Sunday morning drive through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.