ULTIMATE LANDSCAPE : PART 1

With their X-series cameras, Fujifilm are creating the ultimate tools for Landscape Photographers. The soulful images created by X-trans sensors have a characteristic ‘feel’ that’s impossible to achieve using anything else. X-series cameras are also incredibly intuitive, they are a joy to use, and that translates into a more emotive overall experience; the landscape ‘aesthetic’ is no longer so restricted to experience of the final print, but extends right back to the image capturing stage, on location.

Given such tantalising possibilities of artistic enlightenment, it’s no surprise that so many photographers are making the switch to Fuji, but for many Landscape Photographer converts, these are often secondary discoveries. The decision to switch systems is often driven by the massive size and weight advantages of the X-series cameras over their outdated alternatives.

Full-frame vs Fuji

There is an undoubtable profound advantage in using these cameras to shoot landscape, but the magnitude of this advantage is often only fully realised once you’re actually using the system. The disappearance of the familiar full-frame encumbrance is emancipating, and whatever our level of physical fitness, it translates into a greater willingness to go further and to stay out longer; it increases our ‘creative reach’.

The evolution of the X-series has been paralleled by an exciting array of accessories that allow customisation of our kit to exacting requirements. In this article, I’m going to share my personal preferences for what’s included in my own kit-bag: I’m going to reveal the optimum setup for shooting landscape Fuji-style according to yours truly. Clearly this is all just one photographer’s opinion, so it’s naturally very subjective, but it’s an opinion that’s been slowly cultivated after several years of experimenting with many different combinations of kit and learning from my mistakes. If you’re making the Fuji switch yourself, or have already made it, then I hope you find some of these recommendations helpful.

THE ULTIMATE CAMERA

I started my love affair with X-series when I first saw the X100 at a trade show. I was mesmerised by the nostalgic mechanical exposure selection dial and aperture selection ring on the lens. Over the following months, I fell in love; the camera reinvigorated a sense of play and enjoyment for me.

The X100 reminded me of the ‘analogue’ film cameras I first used to learn the craft back in the 1980’s. For pure street photography, I still can’t think of a more cost effective or perfect solution than the current iteration of the X100, the X100T; but for shooting landscapes, the ability to change lenses is essential. The emergence of the X-Pro1 was a game changer for me, I had the same magical mechanical selection dials that I had come to love on the X100, but with the ability to change lenses.

The more I used the X-Pro, the more I loved it, and the images it created. Although I could get slightly better overall IQ using my full-frame pro-body DSLRs; after creating many large exhibition prints, it became increasingly apparent that real-world print differences between X-Pro and full-frame were smaller than expected. As my confidence increased, I used the Fuji more and more in preference to my DSLR; here was a camera that allowed me to visually express feelings, in a way I’d never experienced before.

Then, along came the X-T1, with all the benefits of the X-Pro1, but weather-sealed and an extension of the mechanical selection available to now include ISO. The X-T1 is shaped like the traditional SLRs I’ve been brought up with, and for ‘traditional’ tripod based landscape work, it’s second to none. Since the X-T1 is the most technologically advanced member of the X-series, it’s become my first choice for landscape work, but I still use the X-Pro1, as my ‘carry around’ camera, with either the 18-55mm zoom or the 35mm prime attached. I find the range-finder style of the X-Pro1 lends itself to non-tripod based landscape shooting, working a location ‘handheld’ in a more traditional and reactive way, using the viewfinder.

Amazon link : Fujifilm X-Pro1 Digital Camera (Body only)

The X-Pro1 has a unique charm all of it’s own, it’s a beautiful device, and of all the camera’s I’ve ever used, it’s the one that most closely fulfils the dream of a camera feeling like an extension of oneself.

My current choice for a single camera to cover all landscape shooting situations is the Fujifilm X-T1. It allows direct mechanical tactile control of all three exposure variables and creates beautiful rich imagery with a soulful feel; all in a weather-sealed body.

Amazon link : Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP Compact System Camera (Body Only)

THE ULTIMATE LENSES

The quality of Fujinon lenses is second to none, together with the X-Trans sensor, they create images with a wonderful ‘feel’. I initially used primes on the X-Pro because they were the first lenses available; the image quality was astonishing, but the most amazing revelation came when I started using the zooms. Although not capable of the wonderful bokeh and shallow focus possible with the fast Fujinon primes, the zooms offered similar image quality. And yes, I’ve previously championed the ‘why don’t you just use your legs?’ advice to photographers extolling the virtues of zooms, but there is a very good reason why zooms are a superior choice for landscape. The thing is, when shooting landscape, viewpoint can be limiting; it is often impossible to move towards or away from our subject without either falling to our death or getting very wet. So for me, it’s zooms all the way with my choices for the Ultimate X-Series Landscape Kit.

Ultimate lens set : 10-24mm zoom, 18–55mm zoom and 55-200mm zoom

The latest Fujinon fast zooms are all weather-sealed, and clearly this is a big advantage for landscape work, but for me, this is trumped by the smaller size and weight of the original line-up. Granted, these earlier zooms aren’t weather sealed, but it’s rare for me to want to shoot fully immersed in pouring rain, if for no other reason than the difficulties in keeping raindrops off the front lens element or filter. We recently did a shoot in the Lake District, renowned for it’s bad weather: even the locals were saying that they were experiencing the worst weather for 6 years, but I shot with the original non weather-sealed zooms, I just ensured constant cover with a large gust-proof umbrella (more about this in ULTIMATE LANDSCAPE PART 2 : TOP 10 ACCESSORIES). The perfect lens line-up for me would be Mark II versions of the original zooms with weather-sealing, but until my prayers are answered, the ultimate lens line-up is the Fujinon XF10-24, XF18-55 and XF55-200.

Amazon links:
Fujifilm XF 10-24mm F4.0 Lens
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 lens
Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 lens

To keep size and weight to an absolute minimum, I occasionally replace the XF10-24 with the XF14mm prime, which has stunning image quality and is much smaller in comparison.

Amazon link : Fujifilm XF 14mm lens

Ultimate lens set : with 14mm prime replacing 10-24mm zoom

THE ULTIMATE KITBAG

In my full-frame days (unless I wanted to restrict myself to just a few filters and an extra lens, which could be carried in the pockets of a photographer’s jacket) I had no choice than to carry either a heavy shoulder-bag or photographer’s rucksack.

Full-frame vs Fuji

Even with mirrorless full-frame systems, both of these solutions could become irritating after standing or walking for any length of time. True, mirrorless full-frame cameras are much smaller and lighter than SLRs, but unfortunately the lenses are all the same weight and size, full-frame lenses are by definition ‘full-frame size’ so there is no real advantage.

From my very first days using the X-Pro1, my go to bag for X-series has always been a waist-pack of some description. My current choice, after a lot of deliberation is the Think Tank Speed Demon V 2.0, and it’s awesome, an almost perfect match for X-series.


Amazon link : Think Tank Speed Demon V2.0

Unzipping the Speed Demon reveals three compartments, the X-T1 body with XF18-55 lens attached sits in the central compartment and the other two zooms sit to each side. There is a velcro flap revealing an internal front pouch for SD Cards. Spare batteries and other accessories (more about this in ULTIMATE LANDSCAPE PART 2 : TOP 10 ACCESSORIES) are placed into external elasticated side-pockets and my full filter kit resides in the separate front zipped compartment.

When I arrive at a location, I put on my wellies, pick-up the Speed Demon from the back seat of the car, fasten it around my waist with a single click of the heavy-duty buckle, grab my tripod, and I’m away. I can then comfortably walk for miles and stand around shooting for hours, I have full access to my camera, three lenses, a full filter kit and all the other accessories, from the Speed Demon hanging in front of me, without ever wishing to remove the bag, without ever needing to find a dry place to put it down on the ground. Even if I’m standing in the shallows of a lake, I have everything with me and instantly accessible, it’s wonderful, and it translates into a calmer overall experience, which is always a great thing if we’re trying to optimise creativity.

In the next part of this series, I’m going to reveal my Top 10 Ultimate Landscape Accessories. Coming Soon.


Here are the Amazon links (with current prices) for all the items in this review. The current price for the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is incredible:



If you would like more hints and tips about creative landscape photography or using Fuji X-series cameras, then please follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and like my Facebook Page


DISCLAIMER

The views expressed in this article are my own. I’m a Fuji X-Photographer, I occasionally speak on behalf of Fujifilm at events and I offer honest feedback about the use of their products. However, my evangelistic enthusiasm for X-series is entirely heartfelt and genuine, I do not receive any payment from Fujifilm.

To make life a little easier for those wishing to make purchases when reading about equipment featured on this blog, I occasionally include direct links to the Amazon UK website. These affiliate links earn a small commission on any purchases made from Amazon. I hugely appreciate you using the links; though the price you pay for items is exactly the same, when using these links you are helping to fund upkeep of this website. Thank you.


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