Wildlife Photography With FujiFilm XT-2
Wildlife Photographers Perspective
Wildlife photographers are a tough breed. They can be found dotted around the world in the harshest of landscapes plying there trade. They can spend days, weeks or months trying to make photographs to tell a story. They endure extreme temperatures and often put their lives at risk albeit calculated, photographing dangerous animals. Sometimes they will not have contact with the outside world and can be so far off the beaten track they may not see another a living soul for days.
That is why it is imperative for a wildlife photographers to have the right camera equipment. It must be robust, weather proof and reliable. Until now DSLRS has been the equipment of choice of most wildlife photographers. These big bulky bodies and massive lenses have journeyed with photographers to the 4 corners of the earth.
Over two years ago I moved from DSLR to the FujiFilm mirrorless platform. It was not a decision I made lightly. After all wildlife photography is how I make my living. I had two issues with my beloved DSLR, one was weight the other was mirror vibration. Due to weight restrictions on handhold luggage, travelling overseas was always problematic. Most of my photography work in Africa is captured from the driving seat of my 4x4. It was always a mission photographing a subject as they moved closer, to remove the lens from a gimbal head and replace it with the correct lens. Valuable seconds or minutes could be lost. Resulting in missed photographs. The mirror vibration using my long lenses caused some of photos to lack that critical sharpness. It was very frustrating.
My decision to move to mirrorless had not gone unnoticed by my wildlife photographer peers. The usual banter was mixed with some serious concerns about my choice. Auto focus, lenses and sensor size were the issues raised most often and quite rightly.
After all, if you had equipment that delivered quick auto focus, lenses for all focal lengths and a quality sensor. Even if this equipment was big bulky and difficult to carry around (a price wildlife photographers are prepared to pay). Why would a wildlife photographer change platforms? Unless they have an alternative that's just as good but lighter.
Enter the FujiFilm XT-2. I cannot emphasis enough how impressed I am with FujiFilms new flagship camera. It was a huge sigh of relief when testing the prototype FujiFilm XT-2. The auto focus issues that had plagued Fujifilm has now been put to bed as far as I am concerned. Paired with the new vertical booster (that holds 2 batteries). The focus is quick and accurate and AF custom presets for all situations. The vertical booster feels good in the hand too.
It is no point having a quality camera without quality glass. This is one area that FujiFilm has excelled in for decades. Their optics are renowned for quality of sharpness, contrast and lack of chromatic aberrations.
The XF 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens is one of the most versatile quality lenses I have ever used. It is light, robust, weather proof and covers a focal length from 150-600mm. This paired with the Fujifilm 1.4 Tele Converter will give you a focal distance of up to 840mm(35mm). You can easily handhold this lens although I very rarely do I prefer to use a stable platform whenever possible. This focal range has allowed to me track my subjects from a far to near without having to change lenses and take my eye off the subject as in my old DSLR days.
There are many things I love about my mirrorless system. but there are two particular features I love. The EVF (electronic viewfinder) and focus peaking. The electronic viewfinder has made a huge impact on my photography. Why? I know before I press the shutter what my final photograph will look like. No more chimping to see if my exposure is correct. I never have to take my eye away from the viewfinder. To change my settings, the iso, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials are located on the top plate and easy to use. Why on earth would I want to go back to an optical viewfinder?
The focus peaking really helps in difficult focusing situations, with a twist of the focusing ring on my lens, a red/blue/white outline appears in my EVF showing me exactly what is in focus. This tool is invaluable. Especially in low light situations, like the photograph below.
I print most of my work. It is important that my file size can print up to A0 and with good detail. The X Trans sensor on the XT-2 is impressive, this 24mp sensor has unbelievable colour and detail. Fujifilm had always been synonymous in days of old with their film. This expertise and knowledge has been transferred to their sensors. Photographers worldwide have been raving over the quality out of the camera Jpegs and Raw files.
All the issues or concerns my fellow wildlife photographers had with the mirrorless platform are no more. The Fujifilm XT-2 has fast reliable auto focus, quality sensor, and a top range of lenses from wide to telephoto zoom. The XT-2 has a tilt LCD screen, WifI, film simulations, and a host of other features. Fujifilm as a company listens to their photography clients. They release firmware updates regularly. They have an excellent service department. They are committed to this platform and will be releasing more lenses and cameras in the future. What more could a wildlife photographer ask for? Well, we are never really satisfied are we? For me I would love a bigger back focus button. And I know photographers would love to see a fast prime telephoto.
I often get asked about what camera equipment I have and settings I used for Wildlife Photography Action
Wildlife action settings ~ continuous focusing ~ continuous low ~ AF mode on zone ~ AF custom on preset 2. Majority of the time I use this setting for moving subjects. From time to time I will change from zone to single point and continuous low to continuous high.
XT-1 and XT-2, will buy a second XT-2 body.
XF 18-55mm kit lens,
XF 50-140mm F2.8, and
XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6.
1.4 TC I use when I need that extra reach.
All this equipment fits easily in to my Think Tank Airport Express bag. (plus batteries, chargers etc)
In conclusion, If you are considering on taking up wildlife photography or making a move from DSLR to mirrorless. The Fujifilm mirrorless system is a light robust and weather proof with auto focus matching mid to high end DSLRs . It will deliver unbelievable quality colour files at half the cost of equivalent DSLR system.
Another important point, is paring down, I can remove the booster grip and my telephoto zoom lens and put on my 18-55mm lens and I have travel/family/landscape take everywhere camera.
I certainly could not do that with DSLR. As a result I am taking my camera everywhere and enjoying my photography like I never have before.. Isn't that what photography is all about.