Following on from many articles that wax lyrical about the virtues of the Fujifilm X system I thought that I would write a post that shows that there is still some way to go before it could be considered a comprehensive system. I have been using the X system for almost half a year now and although there are many great things about it there are still some areas that need more work and some of these are becoming issues for where I want to go photographically. Whilst it is certainly possible (and probably cheaper) to persevere with the X-system it will be much easier to go to another system that has what I need today and not at some point in the future.
So in no particular order the areas I will discuss are as follows:
Thanks to their lens road map we know that the lens line-up is improving but I also hope that Fujifilm will look at releasing some of the more “exotic” lenses in 2015. I would like to see some telephoto primes as well as more specialised lenses (such as fisheyes, tilt-shifts and better macro lenses) on next year’s lens road map.
Today Fujifilm UK released an updated lens road map and the lens that I was really interested in, the super telephoto zoom has been pushed back to the end of 2015. This is a show stopper for me as it was probably going to be somewhere in the 120-400mm focal range.
Although I like the fact that Fujifilm have standardised on a single battery (the WF-120) for or all of their interchangeable lens cameras, it really needs to be updated. The number one criticism of mirror-less cameras in general is their short battery life and Fujifilm cameras are among the worst. Many pro photographers who use Fujifilm ILCs take a large number of batteries on their shoots so that they don’t run out of power – a far cry from the days where a DSLR (especially with a portrait/battery grip) would last all day on a single battery.
At some point (when Fujifilm releases one of their new cameras) I expect to see a new battery and unfortunately there is a strong likelihood that this won’t be compatible with the current generation of cameras. Batteries are rarely backwards compatible; however, Fujifilm could surprise us?
Any new battery needs to provide more accurate charge and health information to the cameras that support them. The current information is unreliable and means that you should consider replacing the battery as soon as your camera shows battery life as anything other than full charge as you will only have a few shots left. Almost everyone else has moved to these “intelligent batteries”: Canon, Nikon and Sony for example.
Full TTL Flash System
Fujifilm need a more comprehensive TTL-based flash system. The re-badged Sunpacks are not good enough in this day and age. Whilst you can use Manual flash systems when you have total control of the flash to subject distance, these are no good when this distance is variable.
Although the EFXF-20 compact flashgun is a good albeit small flash we need bigger versions with better guide numbers in the same build quality. They need to support all of the various flash modes from second-curtain sync to high-speed sync and have a good wireless system too. I am looking at Radio as well as Optical; this is the way that Canon, Yongnuo and Cactus are going
How about a full TTL Macro flash gun too? Something between Nikon’s R1C1 and Canon’s new MR14 EX II ring flash would be great; add a few TTL cords and you have a fantastic system. I am not the only photographer who would like such a system, we all see this a hole in their otherwise excellent line-up.
One of the only things I was missing from my previous Canon set-up is the comprehensive flash system that the EOS based cameras have; this is also shared by a number of their other models such as the EOS M and some of the higher end Power shot models too (i.e. the G1 X).
Canon have upped the ante by building in Radio technology to their flagship Flash gun (the £470 Speedlite 600EX-RT) and they have also released a companion flash trigger the ST-E3-RT (now around £240). The “RT” in the model names denote the Radio Technology. Canon’s flash system also supports control of the flash from the camera on most of their models over the last few years; the most recent EOS cameras also support full group modes whereby different groups can be in different modes too. The flash system naturally provides full TTL support (latest version is ETTL-II), second-curtain sync and High Speed sync as well. They have a number of models and two macro-based flash guns with an optical trigger complete their system.
What does Fuji offer in this area?
There are some third party manual only options by these are difficult to source in the UK, they nearly all seem to come from China.
Other missing accessories
When I am taking nature/wildlife pictures I like to have my pictures geocoded and there is simply no Fuji or third party accessory to do this. Both Nikon and Canon have GPS accessories that will inject the coordinates directly into the EXIF of the pictures as they are taken.
There is a very good iOS program called “GPS4Cam” that can perform the same function in a very logical manner. You have to remember to start the application as you commence your photo shoot then take a picture of a QR Code on the phone at the end. The final step is use the Mac/Windows companion software to add the geocode to the EXIF files automatically before importing them to your RAW editor. I wrote a review of the software which goes into greater detail here.
I must admit I prefer the GPS device, of the two out there Canon have the better system as there is no cable required, the transmission of the GPS data is via the hot-shoe.
File Size and RAW conversions
After reviewing some of my RAW files there was something that I didn’t realise until today and that is that the X-Trans II Sensor (X-T1 and X-E2) RAW files are much bigger than the files that I took with the Canon EOS 70D.
- The Canon EOS 70D RAW files were between 20 and 22 MB
- The Fuji X-T1/E2 files were between 31MB and 33MB
I also noticed another phenomena, the X Trans sensors in the X-E1 and the X-Pro1 always produced a RAW file that is exactly 24.9MB
The number one RAW conversion software in use today is Adobe Lightroom. And although the software’s interpretation of X-TRANS has improved they still haven’t got the RAW conversion quite right yet; it is debatable if they ever will. Personally I haven’t noticed most of the problems that other people talk about for the pictures that I take; however, this thought will always be in the back of my mind. We don’t seem to have as many problems with DSLR files (well Canon ones anyway), no doubt someone will correct me on this.
So there you have a few reasons why for now the Fujifilm X-system isn’t as mature as some of the DSLR systems out there. Maybe this isn’t fair as they DSLR manufacturers have developed their current systems over many more years. However the reason for the switch is that maturity that they offer today. I would also add that the DSLR companies have squandered some of the time advantage they have had as there are some holes in their systems too; when they realise that the world doesn’t only revolve around full-frame DSLR cameras and lenses we will see these holes close.
The many advantages of the system are now outweighed by the disadvantages (for me anyway) and I will be going back to a more bulky Canon DSLR system that to be frank isn’t that much more bulky. This will allow me to experience their fantastic flash system, add a GPS accessory to my hot-shoe and bring back a vari-angle touch-screen display. Sure, some of the full-frame lenses will be big and heavy but I won’t have many and I will only bring them when I want to use them (EF 400mm L f5.6 lens for example).
The final point that I would like to make here is that I have tried the X-system twice before and the reasons for leaving then are quite difference to the reasons today. This shows that Fujifilm HAVE progressed much more quickly than many of their competitors and I won’t be surprised if I try the Fuji again – but as a companion and not a replacement camera system. This is unless Canon can figure out what photographers want in a mirror-less system or large sensor compact camera – they may even do this accidentally :).