Completing the transition to Fuji X system

English Defence League march, Nottingham - PH060098

As far as my equipment is concerned I am in the final stages of transition to just using a Fuji X system. I have sold my extensive Canon kit (1Ds3,1D and "L" lenses); the money from that sale is now waiting for the arrival of Fuji X-T2s and some accessories that I have on order.

It means currently I am having to work with a single Fuji X-T1 which is making me think about what I need as my default news photography outfit. I have covered some events recently and I am beginning to get a feel for what I need. Nottingham Pride and Pagan Pride were two events where I would have liked to work with two cameras, one with 16-55mm (24-80mm 135 equivalent) and the other with 50-140mm (75-210mm equivalent). However until my new cameras arrive I am restricted to one camera, in the recent past I would have switched to my now-departed Canon outfit when I needed two bodies.

So, for the two Pride events I stuck with the 16-55mm and worked in close. That was easy to do as people were outgoing and happy to be photographed. They were having fun and so was I. In fact it was great to be engaging with people, talking and understanding why they were there, their costumes and their take on the event. In fact it rather reinforced the view that avoiding engagement as suggested in a previous post is not the basis for great pictures. Indeed the judging panel on the Sky Arts television Master of Photography competition frequently make the point that many of the photographers were not getting close enough or properly engaged with their subjects and that they were not putting their own personality and style into their images. I am beginning to understand what they were saying.

All in all the two events, Nottingham Pride and Pagan, Pride were great fun and I had a very enjoyable few hours covering the events; even if, sadly, it did show me that I was somewhat out of practice, at least I recognise it and know what I have to do. By working close I got better shots and did not miss the longer lens so it was a valuable insight into what I will need to carry in future.

In between times I covered an English Defence League protest march through Nottingham. That was a very different experience—the EDL marchers and the counter-demonstrators were very aggressive. As a result there was a major police presence, in fact probably as many police as protestors. I could neither work in as close as I had with the Pride events nor would I want to as it would not have been safe, even if the police had allowed it. I had forgotten how much adrenalin is released working in such situation; it was a long time since I had covered such an aggressive protest. Even though it was small and comprehensively policed I actually got the shakes with the first adrenalin rush. It soon settled down and I got into the zone as worked around the edges of the march and the subsequent face-off between the two groups. It meant that I needed a much wider lens range than the other, more friendly, events.

Also as the situation was much more dynamic I realised I would not want to be encumbered with two cameras and a bag. I use a small backpack to maximise freedom of movement and to limit shoulder strains. I find it works well albeit at a small cost to ease of access to its contents—I put batteries and cards in my pockets. As I currently only have a single body I decided to use my 18-135mm (28-200mm equivalent) and as it was a bright day I was working at f5.6-8 so I did not need my fast zooms. In the end it was a good choice even if the 18-135mm is not my fastest focussing lens. It allowed me to get wide views as well as pick out details in the crowd.

As a result of this spread of recent events coverage I am getting a clear sense of my core Fujifilm equipment choices for news work. Most of the time I will use two bodies (when the Fuji X-T2s arrive) with the 16-55mm and 50-140mm, both f2.8. I will often back them up with either a wide-angle zoom, 10-24mm (equivalent to 15-36mm on 135) or fast primes depending on what I am expecting. I will use the 18-135mm with a single X-T2 where I need freedom of movement or  I may revert to using it with my X-T1 in particularly risky conditions or seriously inclement weather. I plan to keep my X-T1 and will get it serviced when the X-T2s arrive; the service should give me a new twelve month warranty and make it water-resistant again.

In addition I carry a laptop with a 4G data dongle for uploading to agencies. The Fuji X system has made that possible. With the bulk and the weight of my old Canon kit I would not have been able to work as freely and would have struggled to carry a laptop and other lenses. I was talking to a younger (to me, most are!) photographer from my local paper who acknowledged the weight challenge when he needed two cameras (Canon 1Dx). The final, occasional, item would be a flashgun although I rarely use one, especially now digital cameras work so well at higher ISO than we could ever dream about with film.

That of course is for general news type photography; for sports and other more specialist coverage I will tailor the contents of my bag according to the needs of the event. I am, now comfortable that with the new X-T2 bodies I will have all bases covered and the Fuji X outfit will meet all my photographic needs. Even now I do not miss my Canons, except for my now rare sports work. I may return to sports coverage when I get the Fuji X-T2 which reviews suggest is a much more capable action camera than the X-T1, which is almost good enough for many sports.

It has been a useful couple of weeks and I now have a sense of how I need to work, and the equipment I will generally need. I have found the experience stimulating even if it is not, yet at least, proving particularly financially rewarding. It is good to be getting back into the swing of things though. Need to keep working at it though, constant practice, thought and planning is the key; I will have more thought s to share on that in due course.

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