A whole wedding on Fuji X-E1 / X-Pro 1

I didn’t know it when I got up in the morning, but Sunday was to be the day that I shot a whole wedding on Fuji X-series cameras.  I’ve been using an X-Pro 1 for bridal prep shots and a couple of set pieces for a while now but I’ve long wanted to make the shift to all Fuji.  The reason is right in front of you.

On the left is a bag fully packed and ready for a wedding.  It contains two Nikon camera (D3 and D3S) plus a couple of zooms, 3 primes, flashguns, spare batteries and other odds and ends.  It weighs about 20 kilos.  It has wheels and I often have an assistant just to manage the vast quantity of stuff it contains.  Even carrying two 3 kilo camera rigs on your shoulders all day is very tiring.

On the right is a Fuji wedding kit.  It contains 2 cameras, 3 primes, one zoom, flashgun (more on this later), batteries, memory and associated “stuff”.  It weighs about 3.5 kilos which is roughly the same as a D3S with 70-200 zoom and flash.  Less kit means you can move faster and be less tired at the end of the day.  And less tired should mean better pictures.  As long as you have sufficient kit.

A couple of things came together and made Sunday an ideal time to make the switch.

  1. The X-E1.  Now I have 2 cameras that work essentially the same and take the same lenses.
  2. The 18-55 zoom.  I was actually against the idea of a zoom on the X-series since it goes against the design ethos.  However, the 18-55 is a wonderful zoom.  It makes it easy to carry one camera with a “planned” lens (18 for wide shots, 35 for “normal” shots, 60 for portraits) and still have another camera ready to cover whatever comes up.
  3. Vastly improved autofocus in the recent firmware updates.

So I decided to shoot as much of the day as I safely could on X-series and see how it went.  Before I get flamed for being irresponsible with my clients’ day I should point out that I had the “bag on the left” within reach all day.  As it happened I shot 4 frames on the Nikons – as I was moving the camera from one place to another a shot presented itself so I took it.  They aren’t likely to make the cut.  I’ll also point out that I was sole and only professional photographer hired for the day and that I was working on my own.

As always, I learned more in a day’s live shooting than you ever can in hours of studying forums, reading manuals or even in safe practise shoots.  At one point you just have to make a leap of faith and deal with anything that turns up.  None of this is really news but here are my main pieces of advice from the day:

  1. Forget multi shots – I typically leave a Nikon in “continuous low” mode and shoot either single shots or “double taps”.  In marginal light the second frame is usually sharper.  Forget that.  On an X-Pro 1 or X-E1 (can I just call them X-CSCs and we’ll agree it means this?) the burst mode can lock your camera for a considerable time.  Stick to single shots – first shot is the best, right?
  2. You’ll need spare batteries.  More than you think.  An X-CSC goes from “everything is great” to “I don’t have enough battery to turn on the low battery warning” in about 2 shots.  Change early, change often.  In 8 hours’ shooting I made it all the way to the 5th battery I had with me.  The 16GB cards I had in each camera weren’t full.
  3. The Q button is your friend.  I have a number of shooting profiles set up under the quick menu which are identical on both cameras and can swap to my preferred black and white or macro settings at the push of about 4 buttons.
  4. Auto ISO is not your friend.  This has been pointed out all over the web and hopefully Fuji will fix it in a firmware upgrade.  The floor setting for shutter speed in auto ISO are way too low.  If you shoot auto ISO you will get blurry pictures.  I can handhold an X-CSC at slower speeds than a DSLR but still I got blurred pictures if I nudged it to auto ISO.
  5. Strong backlighting can confuse autofocus.  When a subject has their back to a bright window I’ll often dial in +2 EV of compensation or more on a Nikon.  On the Fujis +2 is your max and there seems to be a risk that the autofocus will be wildly out.
  6. I took the EF-20 flashgun.  This isn’t really versatile enough for me.  I shoot a lot of available light (or off camera lit pictures) but when I need flash I need more.  I’ll look at some other options – there seem to be plenty.
  7. Speaking of flash, the X-E1 hotshoe seems to have a little play in it.  I was using a remote trigger to run my Strobeam lights.  This has worked perfectly on a number of cameras but if it gets the tiniest knock in the X-E1 then it won’t make contact and the lights won’t fire.  If you’re shooting on flash then consider leaving image review set to “on 1.5s” so you can double check.  I usually leave it off to avoid confusing myself.
  8. I would have changed to using the X-Pro 1 with flash but for some reason I couldn’t get it to fire at all – I know that’s my fault.  It will be a menu setting.
  9. It’s too slow (for me) to change AF point on the fly in a live fire environment.  Focus and recompose.  Be careful with that at f/1.4….
  10. Fuji need to make a decent portrait lens stat.  Sadly it’s not yet on their roadmap.  If the 18-55 is anything to go by then the 55-200 could be quite nice but at f/4.8 it will be a little “slow” for me.  I had the Nikon 105 DC and adapter handy but didn’t feel confident nailing focus with it on the day.

That probably seems like a long list of “issues” let me add one counter argument.  I loved it!  I was much less tired at the end of the day, the Fujis far surpassed my expectations and this is definitely something I’ll do again.

And as for the pictures?  Well, with everything else going on I kept things conservative and deliberately tried to shoot as normal.  I showed a couple of friends the images without telling them the story and they agreed they pretty much fitted in with my “usual” work.  I wouldn’t expect anybody but camera geeks to spot the difference.

You can take a look at the wedding post on my wedding photography site.  If you’d like to tell my clients how awesome they look that would be great!  If you have any technical questions or feedback then please leave them on this site.  Remember this is their wedding day – not a camera geek fest.  And feel free to ask any questions either below or by email.  I’ll either answer them directly or round them up into a future blog post.

Disclaimer: all Fuji kit was bought with my own money.  Neither Fuji nor anybody else offered me any incentive to use this equipment – though if they would like to in the future then they are welcome to get in touch.  I also had a Sony compact with me mainly for shooting video clips.  One picture from that sneaked into the blog post.  See if you can spot it….

4 Responses to “A whole wedding on Fuji X-E1 / X-Pro 1”

  1. Norman says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the X-E1, am waiting for mine and while waiting I read as much as I can about experiences from others. Too bad it doesn’t have the nice panorama mode Sony is famous for. Keep shooting, keep posting and good luck.

  2. An interesting and informative write-up, thank you Jonathan. As you say there may be some (unfounded) resistance from clients who believe a big camera makes the picture, with little regard to the skill and experience of the photographer. You’ve put that to rest and I personally will be using CSCs quite often on my upcoming professional assignments. I agree that Fuji’s lens roadmap is deficient in several areas and for the reasons you state the long zoom will not be of interest to me. I hope the matter of minimum shutter speed in auto ISO can be addressed via firmware. Given the minor constrains of using small kit you’ve done a great job (as expected) and it’s refreshing to see professional photographers scaling down their tools – there really is nothing worse than suffering the crippling fatigue and joint pain which has been a feature of our work for too long now. Regards, Lindsay.

  3. Nhat Le says:

    How did your client and their guest react to you using the x-pro1?

    • ryan says:

      Good question ;) I was actually slightly concerned about this.

      As it happens – no comments at all. The only raised eyebrow was when I took out my Sony RX100 to shoot some video ;)

      End of the day, clients want images not cameras.

Leave a Reply to ryan