Long Exposure Photography with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1

« An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Fong |  Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro »


You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.

Thanks for reading! Andrew.



Long exposure photo taken with Fujifilm X-Pro 1 camera

Anyone familiar with Wellington will know that the high winds and variable weather are a frustration for landscape photographers. We had some beautiful calm days this week so I took advantage of the conditions to test out my new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 for long exposure photography.

I bought the X-Pro 1 primarily because my EOS 5D Mark II is just too heavy to carry around comfortably all day. But it has also been interesting to test it out in situations where the EOS 5D Mark II excels, to see how it compares as an image making tool.

One of those is landscape and long exposure photography. The 5D Mark II is an ideal choice for this type of photography as the full-frame sensor guarantees excellent image quality.

So how did the X-Pro 1 compare? Let’s take a look. I’m going to leave the discussion of image quality aside for the moment, as the question I’m asking is simply which is the best tool for the job.

These are my thoughts, based on my experience so far:

The camera is very light. You know that already, but it’s surprising what a difference it makes. The photos in this article, all taken with the X-Pro 1, were taken at a location five minutes walk from my house. Yet even over that short distance I appreciated the lighter X-Pro 1.

To give you an idea of the difference in weight, my EOS 5D Mark II fitted with an EF 24mm f2.8 IS USM lens weighs nearly 1.2 kilograms. The X-Pro 1, fitted with a Fuji 18mm f2 R Fujinon lens (which has a similar field-of-view to the Canon 24mm) weighs a touch over half that at 600 grams.

Given that Fujifilm lenses are lighter than their Canon equivalents, the difference increases the more lenses you carry. I can probably use a lighter tripod with the X-Pro 1, potentially saving even more weight.

You can see where the lens is focused in the viewfinder. There’s little point in using autofocus for long exposure photography. The best way to focus is to use manual focus and focus on the point that maximises depth-of-field. Then you can forget about the focus setting until you move the camera or change lenses.

With the Canon 24mm lens I have to look at the barrel markings to see where the lens is focused. What’s more, the distance between the one metre and infinity marks is quite small, making it hard to focus accurately anywhere between those two points. That makes focusing on the hyperfocal distance (the closest point to the camera where infinity is still sharp) problematic.

Speaking of hyperfocal distance…I need to look into this more but before I took the photos on this page I looked up the hyperfocal distance points for the Fujinon 18mm lens at different aperture settings and wrote them down to use. For instance, with the lens set to f8, I should be able to focus on a spot 2.1 metres from the camera and get everything from 1.1 metres to infinity in focus.

However, when I tried it, the island you see in these photos was out of focus. So something seems amiss with those depth-of-field figures.

The electronic viewfinder of the X-Pro 1 doesn’t just show you where the lens is focused, it also displays a white band to indicate the distances that will be in sharp focus. So after I realised the information I had was incorrect, I simply adjusted the focus until the white band touched the infinity icon, giving me maximum depth-of-field according to the camera’s data. Simple!

The lowest ISO setting on the X-Pro 1 is 200. I’ve not yet decided whether this is a disadvantage. The lowest ISO on my 5D Mark II is 50, which comes in handy for long exposure photography in brighter light. However ISO 200 seemed to work well shooting at dusk. Of course, I realise that you can set the 5D Mark II to ISO 200 as well, but if you’re working on the basis that you should use the lowest available ISO to maximise image quality then this may be a factor.

Long exposure photo taken with Fujifilm X-Pro 1 camera

There is no mirror lock-up on the X-Pro 1. As the X-Pro 1 doesn’t have a mirror between the lens and the sensor, there is nothing to flip up out of the way before taking a photo. When I use the 5D Mark II for long exposure photography, I’m in the habit of engaging mirror lock-up. This creates an extra step in the photo taking process: press the remote release button once to lock the mirror up, wait a few seconds for the vibration to die away, then press the shutter button again to commence the exposure. This extra step isn’t required on the X-Pro 1.

It should be noted that mirror lock-up isn’t strictly required for long exposure photography. The theory is that with exposures longer than ten seconds or so any vibration caused by mirror slap has no effect on image sharpness. But I always use it just in case.

The electronic viewfinder remains bright even with a neutral density filter attached. It’s much easier to see the electronic viewfinder than an optical one. Although on my 5D Mark II I get around this by using Live View, so it’s not much of an issue.

I can set Film Simulation to one of the black and white options and the camera displays the scene in black and white in the viewfinder. On Fujifilm cameras the Picture Style options Canon users are accustomed to (Landscape, Portrait, Monochrome and so on) are called Film Simulation settings. Fuji has named the Film Simulation settings after actual Fuji films such as Velvia, Astia and Provia.

Whichever one you select affects the view you see in the electronic viewfinder. Set it to black and white and the camera displays the scene you’re looking at in monochrome, helping you visualise how it will come out. Shoot in Raw, and you will have a full colour file in case you ever want to create a colour version of the photo.

This setting is useful because many long exposure photographers work almost exclusively in black and white.

With my 5D Mark II, I can get around this again by selecting the Monochrome Picture Style and using Live View.

The Velvia Film Simulation setting brings out colours that I couldn’t see with my naked eye. I’ll have to play around with this more (it intrigues me) but the Velvia setting displays hues that I didn’t detect with my own eyes.

Long exposure photo taken with Fujifilm X-Pro 1

Smaller lenses mean smaller filters. Canon L series lenses tend to be large and heavy, with typical filter sizes of 77 and 82mm. The Fujinon lenses are much smaller. The 18mm f2 takes filters with a diameter of 52mm. 52mm filters are much cheaper than 77mm ones.

The bulb count shows on the rear screen of the X-Pro 1. This makes it easy to see and unlock the cable release when the required time is up. On the 5D Mark II the count is displayed on the camera’s top LCD plate. It’s hard to see up there, and in fading light the easiest way for me to keep count of time elapsed during a bulb exposure is to use the timer on my smart phone. That’s no longer necessary with the X-Pro 1.

Conclusion

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 for long exposure photography. This is an area where I though my EOS 5D Mark II would be a much better tool. But after testing it out I have to say I’m very pleased with the X Pro-1. It’s mainly little things that make the difference, but they add up.

None of this is relevant if the image quality of the X-Pro 1 falls short of what you can get from the 5D Mark II, and so far I can report that the results from the X-Pro 1 are very encouraging. I’m going to do a shoot out between the two cameras soon, in the same conditions with similar lenses and settings, to see which one performs the best.

Long exposure photo taken with Fujifilm X-Pro 1

Further reading

If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, then you should read some of my interviews with some of the most well known practitioners in this genre. There’s a wealth of information on both the technical and creative aspects of long exposure photography.

Slow

Slow: The Magic of Long Exposure Photography ebook by Andrew S. Gibson

If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, my ebook Slow takes you through the creative possibilities of using slow shutter speeds, from blurring motion with a shutter speed of 1/30 second all the way to long exposure techniques using shutter speeds of five minutes or longer.

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

3 Responses to “Long Exposure Photography with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1”

  1. Emrah Erduran says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Very interesting article and a great web-site. I have been considering Fujifilm X-Pro1 recently and currently it is almost 50% off right now where I live (Norway). I have been using a Canon 7D for 4 years now and I am very happy with it except the weight. After our son was born 2 years ago it was impossible for me to have my 7D to our family vacations so I bought a Canon M. I have been using it with Long exposure photos and it is great. It has (almost) identical sensor with 7D and I use live view anyways when doing long exposure so now I am not even taking my 7D when I am going for long exposure. My guess is Fujifilm X-Pro 1 may have even better IQ then my Canons. But yesterday I have once again realized why I cannot let go of my 7d yet in favor of Canon M (or any other mirrorless) just yet and that is because autofocus for fast moving objects (i.e. my 2 year-old).

    In short, I am not surprised at all that for long exposure, the X-Pro 1 has several advantages on 5D and not many disadvantages. I can even say that for the much maligned Canon M against 7D. My main concern to commit to X-Pro 1 would be situations where I need speedy auto-focus – I am an enthusiast and I cannot justify maintaining two systems. I would be very interested hearing your experience with X-Pro 1 in situations where you need speedy autofocus.

    Emrah

    • Hi Emrah,

      Thanks for your thoughts and I have to say that I agree with every word. I have to admit that I’d never thought of using the EOS M in this way before. I’ve just taken the X-Pro 1 on a trip to the South Island and it was perfect for long exposure and landscape photography, and I can see that the EOS M would probably be just as good in terms of function and handling.

      Your concerns about the X-Pro 1’s autofocus are justified, especially compared to the EOS 7D which has an excellent autofocus system. While I haven’t tried the X-Pro 1 with a moving subject my thoughts are the same as yours – it probably wouldn’t cope as well. The autofocus on the XT-1 is meant to be much better, and while it’s impossible to know without testing it I doubt it would match the 7D.

      I guess it’s really a case of making sure you buy the right tool for the job at hand. While mirrorless cameras are great for anything where portability is a benefit, the digital SLR is still the best all round tool. It’s just that it comes at a cost of weight and size.

      Hope that helps!

      • Emrah Erduran says:

        Hi again Andrew!

        Thanks for your reply. I totally agree with you on “right tool for the job at hand” and, no matter how intriguing Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is, I think I will stick with my current line up, which serves me very well for all purposes.

        Emrah

« An Interview with Portrait Photographer Natalie Fong |  Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro »

Sign up for the free Mastering Lightroom email course