What gear do I use? Part II: Making the jump from Nikon to Fujifilm

One of my realisations during the Phantasmagoria job (see here) was that my borrowed Fujifilm X-T1 was a very, very good camera. The lack of mirror flipping noise meant I could use the X-T1 at moments when I couldn't use my Nikon D750, and the image quality and high ISO performance was surprisingly good. I certainly had more missed shots due to bad autofocus than I did with the Nikon, but I think that was outweighed by the convenience of the electronic viewfinder.

So to cut a long story short, I was impressed enough to buy an X-E1 and 27mm F2.8 lens, and since then I've added a Samyang 8mm f/2.8 II, Fujinon 16mm F1.4 R WR and Fujinon 50mm F2 R WR, and have hardly taken my Nikon out of the bag!

Fujifilm X-E1, Fujinon 27mm F2.8, f/3.2, 1/60th, ISO 800, four image stitch

Fujifilm X-E1, Fujinon 27mm F2.8, f/3.2, 1/60th, ISO 800, four image stitch

Obviously the $360 X-E1 is not a viable professional camera, but I think the X-T2 might be. It has dual SD card slots, better autofocus and a 24 megapixel X-Trans III sensor that the internet tells me has much improved low light performance. So as I write this, my Nikon kit is on eBay, I've sold my oversized Lowepro Whistler pack, and I'm looking forward to a much lighter kit based around the X-T2 and a quiver of fast, compact primes!

Phantasmagoria

Last month I had the pleasure of documenting the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture's Phantasmagoria festival up at Bogong Village. Most of the events took place at night in a no-flash, no-noise environment, but it was a stunning venue up in the mountains and there were some great performances and art installations. Thanks to the organisers and artists!

What gear do I use?

I'm just starting out in my photographic career, but I thought it might be interesting to go through my core equipment and the reasons for my selections.

My main camera is the Nikon D750. I love its high dynamic range full frame sensor and DSLR ergonomics, and it manages to pack in some pro features like weather sealing and dual card slots in a smaller body than the D800. It's a better camera than the Canon 5D Mk III for 500 AUD less. For landscapes, handheld night shooting or when I want to get really close to the action, I use my Nikkor 20mm f1.8 G. This lens is very fast, very sharp and very lightweight for such a wide lens. I use the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 G for general street and documentary photography. This lens isn't particularly sharp (the older generation 50mm f1.4 D is much better), but it has weather sealing and silent focusing. I use the Nikkor 70-200mm f4 VR G for sports, portraits and landscape details. It's a good lens, at half the price and weight of the f/2.8 versions. Occasionally I wish for shallower DOF, but mostly I'm just glad to have a telephoto lens that weighs only 850 grams.

I've also just picked up a Fujifilm X-E1 as a second camera, which is my first foray back into mirrorless cameras after some mixed experiences with my old Sony a7. You can find the X-E1 for around 360 AUD now, and might be the best camera ever at the price. I have a Fujinon 27mm F2.8 pancake lens on it, giving me a full frame equivalent of 41mm. This lens isn't particularly sharp and flares badly, but I like it for street photography.

Now that Fujifilm are releasing more weather sealed lenses and cameras with dual card slots, I'm seriously considering a total switch to the X system for a more lightweight kit and electronic viewfinders, but I'm just not sure that I'm ready to say goodbye to the low light performance and 14 stops of dynamic range of my full frame D750. There's always a tradeoff! However, two X-T2 bodies, one with the Fujinon 16mm F1.4 R WR (24mm full frame equivalent) and the other with the Fujinon 50mm F2 R WR (76mm full frame equivalent) would be a killer combination for lightweight all-weather documentary or event coverage. There's not much you can't do with these two focal lengths. A Rokinon/Samyang 8mm f/2.8 fisheye and Fujinon 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR with a teleconverter would add a bit of reach at each end for architectural and sport photography respectively, and the Fujinon 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR is a versatile weather sealed single lens option for photographing adventure sports like climbing, skiing and mountain biking.

I only own one flash, a secondhand Nikon SB-600. I don't do a lot of strobist photography, so I just went for something affordable and durable. I also picked up a secondhand Phottix Stratos II flash trigger set, which I'm stoked with.

I found a very packable Kenko tripod at BIC Camera in Tokyo, which is now my usual lightweight option. I'm not sure where to find them outside Japan, but they are great for the price. I also have a heavy old Manfrotto tripod that I use when I don't have to walk too far. Light stands have a very simple job - holding up a light - so I went for the cheapest one I could find. I ended up spending $30 on ebay for two 190cm light stands and two umbrellas (shoot-through and reflecting). They do the job for me.

My video kit is pretty basic. I shoot on my D750, which does 1080p 60p video with excellent dynamic range. From what I've seen so far, the 4K video from the X-T2 looks beautiful, and would be a big improvement over the Nikon. For sound, I use a Rode VideoMicro on-camera mic and a Rode SmartLav+ lavalier mic. I record sound from the VideoMicro to my camera, and from the SmartLav+ to my smartphone, but if I find myself doing a lot of sound work I might look into getting an external recorder. For lighting, I use the Viltrox L116T LED video light, and have been blown away by it. It's only 55 AUD on eBay, with adjustable brightness and colour temperature, solid build quality, and compatible with the very common Sony NP-F batteries.

I hope you found this useful - please comment if you have anything to add!

Anti-immigration protests in Melbourne

I spent a few hours today documenting a clash between right and left wing protesters in Melbourne. A police-protected march by the True Blue Crew, a far right organisation operating on an anti-immigration platform, was blocked from reaching Parliament House by police and peaceful counter-protesters from various groups including No Room for Racism. The march was redirected to the Royal Exhibition Building, where hooded Antifa (anti-fascist) members set fire to an Australian flag, lashed out at photographers and attempted to confront the flag-waving TBC protesters before being beaten back by riot police.