Along came the Fuji X cameras with their smaller, but powerful APS-sized sensor and small footprint. Their sluggish EVF finders, made them problematic initially, but rapidly improved to a point where they can keep up with the action, and keeping up with the action is one of the most necessary parts of lifestyle shooting, at least the way I shoot it. For most of my lifestyle photography I try to keep the model in constant motion. It might only be a slight movement of the head moving about, or a cyclical action I call a "loop", after a film loop, where a small scene repeats itself over and over again and I try to stop it at the peak of action. When the models are kept in such a fluid state, they tend to look more real when they are caught in the middle of a movement as opposed to when they are positioned statically in an environment. Easier said than done, and very subtle in terms of results, but this is what makes some of these very simple situations have a bit of life to them.
There are other tricks I use. Shallow depth-of-field with areas of foreground and background out of focus. This, of course, means relying on fast aperture lenses wide open to further complicate of freezing action when the model is in motion. The object is to focus on the eye, preferably the near eye. In close, the eye may be the only thing in focus. Even the ears and tip of the nose will be soft. This calls for a camera system than can pinpoint the focus and allow me to follow it as the model moves about, That is a lot of stress on a camera's autofocus system. Modern Nikon DSLR cameras do this beautifully, even in the worst -- as in dark and backlit -- situations.
One thing most full frame DSLR cameras cannot do is extend their focus selection to the very edges of the image frame. This often calls for the image to be cropped later just so a focus point can be put on a remote part of the frame. Cropping an image means you want to have enough resolution so you can throw some of the area away. Full frame, high megapixel cameras help with this. A camera like the Fuji X-T1 has a smaller sensor and low 16mp resolution. But it has the advantage of having a lot of focus points distributed over the entire area of the frame, even into the remote corners, and this does away with the need to crop the image. Because of the proprietary design of the sensor in a Fuji X camera, when the full frame is used the results are really almost as good as one from an actual full frame camera.
The optics available for the Fuji X cameras are superb. Fuji lenses have always been good, but now that they only have to cover a smaller image area, they are even better. It's difficult manufacturing a fast aperture, quality lens to cover a large area. Really good full frame lenses are harder and more costly to make.
The scenes below are from a fairly simple lifestyle we did over two hours in the studio with (mostly) available light. I had decided to use only the Fuji X-T1 with three fast primes -- 56mm, 35mm, and 23mm -- for the entire shoot. I had the Nikon D750 ready as backup, but didn't want to use it because dealing with the RAW images from two different cameras only complicates the post-processing workflow.
I like using the X-T1 when shooting RAW for post-processing in Adobe Bridge and Photoshop. The RAW images coming out of the Fuji are so good that then need very little tweaking in post. Naturally, this makes my job a lot easier, and that makes me a lot happier.
Dealing with the Nikon DSLR shots in the same work flow of ACR and Photoshop requires much more work. The Nikon RAW files are not idealized for Adobe. They are set up to work with Nikon Capture NX-D software. This software is limited, but if I pass a Nikon RAW image through it, it, too, is much easier process because the Nikon software integrates with the Nikon camera RAW file to make all the lens and built-in camera corrections of the system. On thing I have tried is first passing the Nikon files through its Capture software first to create a 16-bit tif file, and then processing the tif file with Photoshop. Why Photoshop? Well, it's a powerful program and I've been using it since it first came out so I'm very familiar with it. Plus the Capture software is very limiting in what it can do. But enough of that. I'll save post-processing of a Nikon RAW file for a future blog post.
One reason I do these comparative posts is that I know other photographers have been thinking, as I have, about switching -- or at least supplementing -- their DSLR systems for smaller, lighter, more compact, and less expensive mirrorless systems like the Fuji X-series. I've been trying the Fuji X-T1 out on many professional shoots to a point where I prefer it not just for its compactness, but also for its image quality. It takes me a long time to switch camera systems. I run them in tandem for a long time. I am often asked what is the difference between a pro and an amateur, and my response has been: When shooting, a pro must come back with results. An amateur can say, "Oh, that didn't work. Maybe next time." A pro cannot say that, otherwise he or she won't be a pro for very long.
|The girl was moving abound quickly, focus was shallow with a lot of disturbing elements to add confusion to the AF system. Nonetheless, the X-T1 with 56mm set to f/1.6 had no trouble holding a focus on the girl's eye.|
|Hmmm...looks like I'm in for some competition.|