We all spend hours pouring over spec sheets, watching youtube reviews on cameras and lenses. But it isn't until it's in your hand that you really know for sure whether you made the right decision. In this instance, I am extremely happy with my new addition to the family. Hopefully, my thoughts can help you when it comes to your next purchase.
The following is a summary of the research I conducted before purchasing my latest street photography camera and the results from my first street photography shoot. I set myself some criteria as you should with any photography purchase:
- Relatively light and inconspicuous.
- Not extortionately expensive.
- Good viewfinder.
- High-quality images.
- Weather sealing.
- Good re-sale market (just in case).
- Interchangeable lenses?
Street photography has always been a passion of mine. Since moving to London and having some distance between nature and myself I thought instead of fighting this, go with it. Make the most of the urban photography.
I initially started shooting with a Fuji 100S which (despite its high praises) fell well short of my expectations. The focus was slow, the viewfinder was mud, it felt a bit too light and the inability to change lenses was what ended up me finding a new home for him.
Since selling the X100S I went back to shooting street photography on film with the Leica M6. This is a fantastic process and I really enjoy the simplicity of shooting film. There is no editing time, more dynamic range and no one can tell you to delete a shot! However, the turnaround time from shot to publish is massive, by today's standards.
After a lot of research, there were a few cameras that kept cropping up. I knew the Fuji has a big foothold in the street photography space so I thought I would stick with them. However, this time I had my shopping list (criteria above).
- Fuji X100T - I heard the experience is much improved but after my X100S experience I couldn't make myself purchase this camera. Priced at around £750.
- Fuji X-Pro1 - Released in 2012 it is getting on now. It has similar lag to that of the X100S and the viewfinder was never given high praise. Priced at around £420 (used).
- Fuji X-Pro2 - A huge update over the X-Pro1 and serious contender. Updated everything to become one of the better cameras on the market. Priced at around £1280.
- Fuji X-T1 - Released in 2014 this camera had very high praise. Best viewfinder, no lag, good image quality, flippy tilty screen and weather sealing. Priced at around £420 (used).
- Fuji X-T2 - Again, a reasonable update over the X-T1. New sensor, 4K video, dual SD cards, faster and a big step toward becoming a viable DSLR replacement. Priced at around £1400.
Ultimately the choice was down to two the X-T1 and the X-T2. They seem like much more superior cameras for what I was trying to achieve. A dedicated street photography camera that would become part of my everyday carry in London.
Fuji X-T1 / X-T2 Technical Comparison
There are some differences between the cameras. Technical improvements are inevitable over the three years since the release of the X-T1. However, are they enough to warrant the (over) triple increase in purchase cost?
There are a lot of similarities between the cameras. As usual with an incremental update, it produces better images, is faster, more powerful and has lower noise at high ISO. However, not that much better. A used Fuji X-T1 retails around £420 and a new X-T2 is £1400. To be honest that is where my research ended. I went with the Fuji X-T1. Opting to spend on better quality used glass.
The sweetener to this deal is that since it's release in 2014 it has undergone some massive upgrades in firmware. Fuji have listened to what the users have said and made the necessary changes. This shows me that they haven't abandoned this camera and are still working on it to make it the best camera it can possibly be. All at no additional cost!
The Best Fuji Street Photography Lenses
The next phase was the lens. Ultimately it is the lens that takes the photo. You could argue that the camera does, but lenses have a much greater effect on the photo. Many Canon or Nikon fanboys have found themselves entrenched in a camera system, not because of the bodies, but the collection of lenses.
For shooting street photography, my preferred focal length is the 35mm. I have had a 35mm lens on my Leica ever since purchasing it. It is the perfect balance between wide angle and normal. You can still achieve some beautiful bokeh, should you need it (difficult at 24mm or lower). Capturing the entire scene is not out of the question. It is my favourite focal length.
50mm is too tight (for a first lens) and I find that you need to create too much distance between you and your subject. This is great if you are the nervous type, but when it comes to putting a subject in a surrounding you'll often find that you have to walk a country mile away.
As this is an APS-C (cropped) sensor you need to ensure you account for this when purchasing your first lens. People often start by purchasing a cropped sensor camera and a "nifty fifty" 50mm lens. However, when you do the maths you end up shooting with an 80mm lens (50mm x 1.6). You have now purchased a mild telephoto lens instead of an everyday lens.
I gave myself a few options for lenses. All around the 23mm focal length but when you do the maths 23mm x 1.6 (crop factor) = 35mm. Fuji make some absolutely beautiful native glass that is sharp edge to edge. Here were the two best options for me:
Fuji 23mm F2 WR
The 23mm (eq. 35mm) f2 retails around £400. It is a weather sealed lens that is their most compact 35mm equivalent. It is fast at autofocusing and not terribly expensive given the quality of the images it produces. The design is compact which makes for an overall more stealthy set-up.
The problem with me for this was the f2. I remember back to the f2 23mm Fuji X100s. I often found myself wishing that I had that extra light coming into the camera.
Fujifilm XF 27mm f2.8
The 27mm (eq. 43mm) f2.8 pancake lens at around £300 is a favourite of many photographers. If you are looking for the ultimate in compact camera without sacrificing on image quality then you have found the lens that you are looking for. During the day you'll have no problem as the majority of street shooting is above f5.6-8 anyway.
The problem for me again was light. I love shooting handheld at night time. I know from experience when shooting with my Canon cameras that at f2.8 I will need a very high ISO to take anything at night.
Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 R
Then I found the 23mm f1.4 (eq. 35mm) at around £700. It is slightly heavier than the 23mm f2 but can collect a stop more light. The sharpness of the shots and quality of the bokeh that is produces are second to none. Prominent lens reviewer Ken Rockwell had this to say: "The Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 ASPH is an extraordinary lens. When a lens is just about optically and mechanically perfect, there isn't much to say, other than to go get one."
So I picked up the Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4. Worst case, I can onsell it without any trouble as it is a very soughtafter lens in the second hand market.
The Final Product
I am very happy with this as an everyday carry street photography camera. It hasn't been out of arms reach in the week of owning the camera. In terms of looks, it's a stunner. Especially when I put one of the Cultured Kiwi camera straps on it.
I can't just be one of those guys that posts pictures of cameras on a website. That is easy you don't have to leave home. However, the true beauty of this camera lies in the joy of using it! I have been using it daily over the past week.
Here are some of the moments I have captured throughout East London, UK. The majority of these shots were shot at an ISO of 6400, a shutter speed of 1/250 and Aperture of f/8. The Fuji Velvia/VIVID preset was then applied to the RAW file in Lightroom.
Do you have a favourite fuji street photography camera and why? Drop it in the comments below. I would genuinely start a discussion around this. Gear is such an often spoken about subject, but as time goes on I think it means less and less. It is more about what you put in front of whatever gear you have that counts.
Thanks for reading and if you need anything please let me know.
Ben - Cultured Kiwi Photography
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