Fuji X-E1 …OMG what have I done!!


Yep that’s what thought just at the start of my first pro shoot with the Fuji X-E1

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So, the time came to use my new Fuji X-E1 for the work that it was intended, as some of you know if you read my blog I have recently sold my Nikon DSLR kit and moved to the Fuji X-E1. This was not an easy decision, but having owned and fallen for the fabulous image quality of the Fui X100, I felt I could take a gamble sell the Nikon gear work with the Fuji system.
The X-E1 arrived 28th December so I had some time learning the X-E1, it had some new software, menus and setups that needed me to spend some time with the camera.
I had an extremely important portrait session of a group of three company directors to a new and chain of Boutique Hotels. So no pressure then !!

At the very start of the first few test shots having set up the lighting ready for the head shots I thought Oh no what I have done, I have made a huge mistake I wish I had my D300s in my hand right now and all this worry would disappear ….. Why !. It started with a massive defect visible on the test shots, at first I thought I was picking up a shadow from something in the room, nope, its on the lens then …. Nope ….panic starting to set in …. How did I not see this, I tested with speed-lights in my house, taken dozens of family test shots …why I had I not see this before… Ok it must be the sensor, sure enough taking off the 18-55 lens reveal a large dust particle causing me a minor heart attack 5 mins before some of the most important clients turn up….yeah ok so now your thinking why did I not have a back up camera …. I did it was the Fuji X100 it would have got me through the session but I would have had to make some serious compromises. Ok grabbing my dust blower the offending item was removed, a test shot taken and that warm friendly feeling of relief started to prevent the blood completely draining from my body when the defect had gone from the image…phew!
But my worries and woes didn’t stop there… This shoot took place on a building sight ….literally. It was planned for the early evening due to working commitments from me and my clients, therefore but the time we were ready to start taking some “serious shots” it was starting to get dark… ok not normally a worry as I had set up the lighting anyway…but the room was lit only by puny site safety lighting and was very dim and I soon ran into problems with low light focus….Arrrhggg… Not only did the EVF become very grainy due to the dim light it was very difficult to gain focus manually too,thinking quickly I remembered I had thrown in my mains powered continuous ring light into my kit case PHEW stoke of luck…..finding an extension lead I was soon back up and running, but now shooting one handed and partially on the tripod lighting the clients with a combination of speed flash and continuous ring light the other hand in order to nail the auto focus….
“STOP” I hear you shouting are you nuts this is your own entire fault … and yep it is. Thinking why I did I not take a breather at this point, set the ring light on stand in front of me and work with manual focus ….. No reason and that’s exactly what I would do if it happens again but with all the adrenalin running, thinking on my feet and needing to make sure the client was happy I carried on regardless and hey I was making progress, so I just keep going.
Its called the swan syndrome and I was in full speed … no one noticed ;-)

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So with all this going on next up as a problem to overcome is the Fuji X-E 1’s handling…At first all I can say and report is it sucks.. I wanted my old friend the D300s with is chunky heavy feel in my hands giving that sense of security I needed right now but, there is no decent grip for one handed operation…I kept inadvertently hitting buttons and dials and menus while moving the Fuji X-E1 to and from my face … Arrhhggg….next up is no markings on the aperture ring for me to look and see easily what my aperture setting s are arrhgg, (my fault again for not having the 60mm or even the 35mm lens yet), I have to use either the EVF or rear screen to check and move the setting, do I rotate left or right arrh …. Similar with shutter speed dial, the reading was obscured by the wireless trigger module sitting on the hot shoe its almost impossible to read from the top so again I had to keep using the EVF or rear screen…. Man this is such hard work….why did I sell my Nikon…..what on earth am I doing attempting to do such an important shoot this expensive toy camera ….I am such an amateur…..OMG what a mistake …
Ok so now you must be thinking what I was actually learning really quickly …. Why did I not spend way more time with this camera and had set up a few more less important shoots, got those under my belt making sure I was ironing out all these issues before NOW …. Don’t worry I was asking myself the very same questions in my own little mini nightmare and semi heat attack with a smile and a joke in front of my clients.
Ok I took a big breath and said to my self “concentrate you know your stuff you know how to take pictures with speed lights on location so start to settle into it”, sure enough it started to happen, that lovely zone where you see the images in the little EVF pop up just how you what … looking great And that is in fact a great thing with the Fuji X-E1, you get a preview of the shot just take in the EVF so not need to chimp… this is nice …really nice. It was not long before David the MD was done … with great results and he like the images when I showed him them on the rear screen …..”STOP” hold on a minute again ….. I never normally did that with the Nikon D300s they never looked there best until after post, I might show the odd model I shoot for TFP but not an important client like this am I mad? ….. But no, these shots were looking so dame good in camera I had the confidence to show David there and then the results, hey I was stating to calm down and enjoy this …. Now things started to fall into place I started to feel the camera a little more ….
Next up was the Marketing Director Ian, we had only met for the first time at this shoot but Ian’s a great guy and we soon had great results and super quality and very consistent with the colours and tone as with David’s shots …. Just what I needed some confidence… hey I can make this work tonight…. Now things started to flow and really move forward… next up the Financial Direct, John again meeting for the first time, and this is the guy making sure my invoice would be paid, really pleased with the shots and thank fully so was John. This little camera was producing the results I had hope for ….. Thank god that part was now going right.

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Next up was a few shot needing moving around of the lighting and sets, creating a few group shots. Hallways and landing with a huge copper bath tub !! …yep that really did happen…. Oh and don’t forget the Miami Film CSI “look” was also neatly done too. The main requirement for the evening was the head shots for the House Collection Website. HERE…. And these were in the bag so a few more causal shots were arranged and taken to end out the session that was a good joke and laugh at times…. I can say that it really was a great shoot in the end. I had very happy clients leaving and I was relieved and pleased they were pleased.
David, Ian and John I am sure had no idea until now when they read this blog that I had a new camera and this was my first professional shoot wit the Fuji X-E1 …. Sorry guys …. But hey the results are what counts at the end of the day …. And retouched finished images on your desktops the next morning ….PHEW it was a good.. The hotel internals will be fabulous.
OK so a summary and conclusion is need…

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What started as a complete core shaking “OMG I have made a mistake” turned out be one of the best shoots I have done in long while with some of the best formal corporate portraits I have ever taken.

So what have I learned….
1) NEVER turn up with a new camera that you are not FULLY in tune with to a very important shoot.
2) Make sure you bring a “Back up” camera that will do just that ….back you up in every way.
3) Don’t panic! if you know the technical stuff and you know how to get a good shots you will find a way to get great results. Work through the problems as they come at you..
4) I must now spend some quality time and give the Fuji X-E1 some TLC …. Let’s face it I have been shooting with the Nikon in my hands for some 5-6 years now and not 5-6 days so I am bound to have some issues.
5) If I learn the camera, work a little differently in set up and compensate accordingly this Fuji X-E1 will reward me with some stunning images.
6) Get the 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2 asap.
7) Learn when working in low light bring a permanent one with me or make sure I can see enough and have too hands available to manual focus. ( but if it get too low the EVF is too graining and is useless to nail the sharpness.. I will have to use the rear screen)

All in all where does that leave the original decision to move to Fuji as a Pro system. Well I think the jury is still out but not for long. I have a good feeling that I will master this camera and enjoy using it in a pro environment the results in image quality already show me the Fuji X-E1 way forward and had a good future. More to follow.

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16 comments

  1. Great story since it has a happy ending.
    It’s the ability to sort out problematic situation that sets the professional photographer apart from the amateur… ;)

    Out of curiosity, what remote triggers are you using? Did you run into any incompatibility issue?

    1. Hi, Thank you for you comment
      Yes glad it was a happy ending too, I am looking forward to shooting a lot more with this camera.
      I use the Ebay Yongnuo CTR-301 wireless trigger, I have had a few sets, they are very inexpensive, 90% reliable and a pretty good range. I knew well in advance of the shoot that they worked with the Fuji X-E1 as I have been using them with my X100 for a year or so now with out any problems, they worked just fine on this occasion too…
      regards
      Simon

  2. Stunning portraits. You and the Fuji did really well here. My only critique – if you are accepting them – is the ring light reflection in the eyes. The other two light sources are fine, but that ring light is distracting to me personally, maybe it does not bother others…

    1. Hi Chad and thank you for your comment. And yep always willing to accept critique. I agree with the ring light. As I mentioned in the story I should have stopped and set up the ring directly in front of me it wood have been much better. Next time :-)

  3. I Thought i was reading a train wreck lol, How is the fuji system growing on you, hope you have a update on your progress.

  4. Hi Simon,
    Some nice portraits there – but in the final shot with the ‘bossman’ in front what happened to his no-longer-so-white shirt? did you blow the highlights and then tried to dodge&burn homefree? Btw just had a friend of mine doing the same ‘mistake’ as yourself (bringing an untested camera for a gig tryin’ to wing it;-) – damn, i would never have had the nerve – lol. Hope You’re enjoying Your X-E1, Im using the X-Pro1 (when talking Fuji’s) myself and really cant say anything really bad about it – skin tones and auto whitebalance is just such a pleasure + the lenses, well price/performance-wise they are killlers!
    Best
    klehmann

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment, yes i see what you mean, it does look a little blown out, I do find that some images look great on my Apple monitor using Aperture when editing, but then find once up loaded look a little blown out… often with white and sometimes with bright reflective areas, maybe I need to look at re calibrating my monitor. Oh and i don’t think it was not a “nerve” that took me to this situation it more like taking calculated risk from time to time …. keeps you on your toes eh!
      Its life sometimes…

  5. You brave bugger! And pro shoot with a kit zoom? How cool is that? Great shots, so glad it all came good for you. You’re going to love the primes, especially the 35 :)

    1. High Andy. Not brave confident I know how to take pictures. It’s like they say the best camera is the one you got with you :-). Seriously I have seen images shot with an iPhone 4 triggering studio lights make it to the front pages of top fashion magazines and win competitions.
      And how good is this lens for a “kit” lens eh. It is better than any of the 6 lenses I had. 1/3 the price too. Yes I am looking forward to the 35m f/1.4 and the planned super wide 10-14mm.

  6. Hey Simon,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. That was a good read.

    I can totally imagine to how you were feeling. It must feel like doing your first paid photo-shoot all over again!

    I bought the X-E1 for personal use, but am taking it out of my camera bag more and more, when shooting on assignments. Just to take some extra shoots besides shooting with the Canon 5D. Already a few times I’ve noticed, I like the X-E1 photos much better, so in time I also might switch to the X-E1 as my main system… But I’d like to spend some more time with it, before totally changing.

    Kudos for just taking the plunge. I’m happy for you things turned out fine in the end…

    1. Hey Randy
      Thanks for you kind comments and support. You will find over time the 5D stays in your bag. Once you see the Fuji quality more and more it grows on you and then everything from other cameras looks odd. Good luck.

  7. Thanks Simon, for showing me the whole psychological change during the photo session, I coudn’t stop myself from reading the whole passage; also for showing me the potential for this little lovely camera!

    I brought my X-E1 to a prewedding session in studio with my 5D3. Of coz I get my more-than-90%-shots done with my bulky DSLR while the poor X-E1 was used when I took pics on the wedding rings because my 100 macro was at home while X-E1 has a macro mode. After seeing your pics, I now regret that I did not try to take some formal portrait shots on that day!! Undoubtedly I was not familiar with my Fuji and thus did not have the confidence… I will surely spend more time with it from now on and hope to explore its power!

    Happy shooting!!

    kui

    1. Hey Kui.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have to admit at the start of the shoot I think I would have choked and changed to the Nikon d300s if it had been there. It was like a fire but I am so glad I did it. The studio shoot I have just finished is fantastic quality with this Fuji. It’s a little slow focus but it makes you take your time and that’s a good thing. It makes me think more about each and every shot and not just snap away like a machine gun. The tone and dynamic range is so good I can almost send direct from camera it’s really that good. You should leave your canon home on a few shoot so you have to use the Fuji. Trust me if you know how to take pictures you will be just fine and do not worry about image quality it’s easy good as 5d3 personally I think it’s better. Good luck wish you the very best.
      Regards
      Simon.

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