This past week was the Palm Springs Photo Festival. In it’s 14th year, it brings 1,000 photographers from around the world to participate in seminars and workshops and presentations with some of the most honored and respected photographers today.
For the second year I was host for one of those workshops at the Palm Springs Air Museum by the acclaimed Sandro Miller. At the Air Museum, I also hosted the walking around tour for photographers by Fujifilm. My own participation in the Palm Springs Photo Festival actually dates back to it’s very beginning.
Since the introduction of the X-T1, I have been a Fujifilm fan. The smaller physical size and light weight was just what I wanted. And the completely silent mode made it ideal for shooting on motion pictures etc. But I have other needs too and that includes aviation photography.
Many camera systems brag about how their fast operating systems are great by showing you photos taken of kids on skateboards or even race cars going by at 150+ mph. Well for aviation those capabilities don’t cut it. An airplane going by at 250+ mph and changing direction is entirely different. Then push it out to 400mph and well, forget these other systems.
I had skipped over the X-T2, it did not look like it was going to give me what I needed and I still had my Canon camera systems for shooting fast. But the Canons did not give me the ability to shoot video through the viewfinder. That is an absolute necessity. Then came the Fujifilm X-H1 which is a big improvement. And for shooting stills and video with the built in 5 axis stabilization for air to air shooting, the X-H1 is superb. The improved focus speed, bigger buffer and faster viewfinder made the X-H1 work for me.
Now came the announcement of the X-T3 and this looked like it was really going to meet my needs. Much faster autofocus, 30fps, bigger buffer, faster tracking and blackout free continuous shooting. I have been lucky to have known the reps at Fujifilm for a number of years and as soon as an X-T3 was available they offered to send one out to me. They also wanted my opinion of the camera for my aviation needs.
The time came and also there was a new development, the Fujinon XF200mmF2 lens. It also comes equipped with the 1.4 extender. The reps at Fujifilm pointed out that not only was this an optically magnificent lens but it was a fast focusing speed demon. So shortly thereafter I had in my hands both the X-T3 with booster and this XF200F2 lens.
The lens itself looks huge but half that length is lens hood. Certainly a huge hunk of glass up-front but actually not heavy and balances out well with the XT-3 with the booster. Quite readily handheld even when using the 1.4 extender bringing it to 420mm with the sensor 1.5 multiplier. Now off to use it!
At the Palm Springs Air Museum we had just finished restoring a T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer. At the Air Museum, I am photographer, social media manager, content producer for projects and also work in flight operations. Anyway I was really excited to use this Fujifilm system with the first flight of the restored T-33.
Next up was the Palm Springs Air Museum very famous P-51 Mustang “Bunny”. Dedicated to the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, this “Red Tail” has also now twice successfully raced in the prestigious National Championship Air Races at Reno.
So let me cut right to the results… The X-T3 does the job! It keeps up with fast moving aircraft and let’s me shoot 4K video through the viewfinder. Image quality is superb. I would expect nothing less. As for that lens… WOW! There is a quality of the images both video and photos from that lens that I find hard to describe, look closely a few times. Perhaps what I have expected from medium format digital or perhaps cinematic. And fast focusing for sure. From what I can see, yes faster than my other Fujifilm lenses. I fully expected that I was going to say that this lens was just redundant for me, but the image quality and use makes me say otherwise.
I am not going to go into all of the tech features about the body and lens. I am not that much of a tech geek. You can read all about it on the Fujifilm dedicated X-Series website. For me I am more interested in actually using the gear and the results. Most of the time when I get loaner gear, rental gear or even my own new gear, I am putting it into service the next day and seldom if ever get to do more than charge the batteries and go through the menus. I just usually do not have the time.
I will tell you why I have gone Fujifilm. First off is the form factor, smaller and lighter and tough build. Most of you when you fly somewhere are looking for the right roller bags or Pelican type cases. I am often trying to jam what I can in the smallest bag possible to go into the ammo compartment in the wing of a P-51 Mustang. The Fujifilm bodies and lenses are just smaller compared to the competition.
Something else I like is the film situation modes. I was still shooting film for much of my studio work and other projects when others were on the many generations of models numbers down the digital road. I was getting the urge to shoot film again when I remembered these film simulations. Tried it and love it!
Another very big and perhaps the most important to me is customer support and service. Fujifilm is among the best. Other companies who have in the last five years or so just come into the “professional” market still have not gotten away from treating photographers like they are bringing their television in for service. I have known sponsored photographers who have waited months to get their gear back from service. Well we depend on our gear and must depend on the company. And I have been able to put my trust in Fujifilm for that support.
So I guess this is not your typical geek gear report. That is not what I do. I am a photographer and I need gear that works for me. Fujifilm does. Any questions, just send me a note to Ian@SecondFocus.com. And Thanks!
Yes you can fly! Flying season starts on Saturday November 4th! Take to the skies in a classic and beautiful Boeing Stearman biplane trainer. The military training aircraft of the 1930’s and 1940’s. This is a real flight experience for you or as gift to someone. On Saturdays at the Palm Springs Air Museum where I do the photography, video, Social Media Manager and handle special projects. Stearman biplane flights only $175! Call in to hold your spot at 760-778-6262. Now that is fun!
Extra benefit of being the photographer for the Palm Springs Air Museum is flying! Yesterday in a World War II Mitchell B-25 bomber. The United States Marine Corps version PBJ, the only one still flying in the world. My duty station for the Memorial Day weekend, the Palm Springs Air Museum. Come on out!
From Saturday at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Watch this plane takeoff in barely the length of a couple of regular home driveways. Owner and builder Steven Lund doing a flight demonstration in his replica World War II Fieseler Fi 156 “Storch”.
Not something you see everyday for sure! The P-51 Mustang “Bunny” and a Japanese Zero starting up and headed out for the El Centro Air Show. Leaving the Palm Springs Air Museum where “Bunny” calls home, dedicated to Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Bob Friend.
No that is not some term used when astronauts maneuver in outer space. I am talking about the electronic viewfinder on the Fujifilm X-T2 camera I used yesterday in Joshua Tree National Park. However through the viewfinder on this camera, outer space would look incredible!
As a photographer, viewfinders have always been one of my very big important factors I consider in cameras. I really do not like looking on the back of screens, you can’t see them in bright sun anyway. I do not like sub-frame tiny viewfinders. And I have not been enthusiastic about electronic viewfinders. Although I have two Fujifilm X-T1’s and an X30.
Well the viewfinder on this X-T2 just blows me away every time I look through it. Big and bright, color and contrast are breathtaking. There is no blackout or lag at all when you are shooting even in high speed at 11 frames per second. So for that alone, I am very sold on this Fujifilm X Series camera. Most important however is the image quality which is also just incredible. Thank You Fujifilm! In my personal “viewfinder” this is a really important camera.