For Photographers: “So, what are you shooting with these days?”

In For Photographers

Photographers are always curious about new gear. No matter if you’re a professional, a keen amateur, or a budding beginner, once photographers get talking to each other it’s usually not long before someone asks “So, what are you shooting with these days?”

Sometimes it’s just professional curiosity, or polite chat to break the ice; sometimes we’ve got serious Gear Acquisition Syndrome and need help and support to break free; and sometimes we really do need to buy some new kit. Whatever the reason, we talk gear way too much. Definitely guilty of that.

So why post a gear list?

Touché… I figured I’d post a list of my recommended Fujifilm cameras and lenses partly to satisfy the curious, and partly because I’ve fallen for Fuji kit in a big way and want to share the love. And to start with I’ve thrown in a couple of bag recommendations as well because hey, what photographer doesn’t like a bit of bag chat? I’ve probably got as many bags as I have lenses, used to be a big Crumpler guy but now I swear by Think Tank, and just ordered a pot of leather balsam for my Retrospective 30 bag actually, can’t wait to see how it looks all buffed up…

… I’m getting distracted by bags again. Anyway, I’m not saying you should run out and buy all this stuff, or that there’s anything superior about my choices to yours. Just that right now these are the tools and toys I love to use, and maybe you’ll find that interesting.

So enjoy nosing through my bags, and if you’ve got any questions or recommendations of your own please let me know in the comments.

Bags

Think Tank Street Walker Hard Drive
Amazon
This little beauty carries just about everything I might need on most shoots, except tripods and flash stands – which I try to avoid using anyway, so that’s fine!

I can get two X-T2 bodies, both pro zoom lenses, all my primes, a flash or two, a couple of Think Tank belt bags, my Spider Holster, a 15″ Macbook Pro, an iPad, and cables, plugs, business cards, batteries… EV-ER-Y-THING. It even fits as a carry-on bag on an international flight, so I often strip out the Velcro dividers and use it as regular luggage for a weekend city break. It’s AMAZING.

But to serve those functions it’s also pretty big and boxy. And if you fill it with everything it can take it becomes back-breakingly heavy of course. So, for something where I want to appear a little more suave carrying it around (say, a wedding) I prefer the next bag…

Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather
Amazon
I have a Retrospective 10 in Pinestone canvas which is really great for small event or family portrait shoots, but was starting to feel a little tight for a wedding day where I want to take a few more lenses, so I upgraded to the 30 with the leather trim, which looks and feels lovely. It’s a bit too big to carry during a shoot and stay discrete so I’ll drop it off in a corner of the room and only carry what I need.

Like the ThinkTank above it’s easy to overload it, but it can comfortably accommodate my two X-T2s, three or four primes, a flash, a couple of Think Tank belt bags and the Spider Holster. It can fit both pro zooms in as well, but after that it’s too heavy to be comfortable.

Cameras

Fujifilm X-T2
Amazon | Wex Photographic
I love this camera because it’s small, light, discrete, produces wonderful colours, and is so much fun to use (those dials aren’t just for show, they’re very practical).

The huge EVF lets me nail exposure in-camera, the tiltable screen is great for framing shots at unusual angles, usable ISO 12800 is a godsend in low light churches and reception venues, the wifi is great for beaming select images to my phone where I can email or Instagram them, and I can carry two cameras all day and not feel it the next day.

The only compromise is, perhaps, that it’s an APS-C crop sensor. I sometimes miss that tiny bit extra bokeh wide open, but I honestly think that between me and my clients I’m the only one that would notice, and for me all the benefits far outweigh this one drawback.

I recently upgraded from the X-T1 for the extra card slot, extra stop of usable ISO performance (from 6400 up to 12800), faster autofocus and better continuous focus, the tiltable LCD in portrait mode, the faster burst mode, and the EVF’s increased frame rate and vastly reduced blackout duration.

Fujifilm X100S
Amazon | Wex Photographic
The camera that got me hooked on Fujifilm’s X series. I don’t think it’s available any more so I linked to it’s replacement, the X100T, which adds wifi and a new colour mode but other than that is essentially the same camera. The EVF is much smaller than the X-T2 and feels like the white balance or tint is a bit off (although the actual picture colours are spot on), and the f/2 lens isn’t quite as fast or as sharp as I’d like wide open.

But like the X-T2 the drawbacks are balanced by the benefits: weight, size, styling, ease of use and quality of the pictures it produces. I sometimes take it as a backup but now I’m using two X-T2s I mostly use this for holidays or street photography. Yes, the way it looks is a factor and lots of people ask if it’s a Leica – call me a hipster if you like, I can take it! – but I wanted photography to feel fun again and this put me back on that road.

Prime Lenses

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Just that little bit wider than the standard 24mm-equivalent (it approximates a 21mm view), and makes for visually impressive rectilinear wide shots. It only goes to f/2.8 but even in very dark venues that’s often enough to get those really special scene-setting shots.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4
Amazon | Wex Photographic
One of my most used lenses, equivalent to 35mm and absolutely fantastic in low light. If I had to I could shoot almost an entire wedding or event with this and the 56mm and 90mm primes, although it’s a bit too tight for impressive wide shots, which is where the 14mm shines.

Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Probably my most used lens, even more than the 23mm. Just stunning for portraits and tighter shots in low light events. Small, beautifully built, sharp, fast as hell, I’ve made such wonderfully filmic shots with this, I absolutely LOVE IT. If I had to pick just one lens for my X-T2 it would be this one – so long as I could keep my X100S for the 23mm lens.

Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2
Amazon | Wex Photographic
A recent addition for longer shots at low-light events when the comparatively slow 50-140mm f/2.8 won’t do, and for wedding portraits when the 56mm isn’t long enough. Slightly slower than the 56mm at f/2, so it isn’t competing with the 23 and 56 for Most Used Lens just yet.

Samyang 8mm Fisheye f/2.8 (Fuji mount)
Amazon | Wex Photographic
The fisheye look is distinctive and can be quite ugly and gimmicky but used sparingly, especially in huge venues where the distortion won’t be so noticeable, it can be an absolute belter. One of my favourite images of all time was made with this lens, overlooking an 800-strong private function in the Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum – just stunning. It’s also fun to play with for personal work, especially in the interchange tunnels on the London Underground! It’s manual focus only and you’ll need to set up your camera to work when it thinks there’s no lens attached, but it’s cheap and fun, and I like fun, so there.

Zoom Lenses

Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Fuji’s version of the ubiquitous 24-70mm full frame lens, favoured by many press and event photographers. Sharp and relatively fast with a fixed f/2.8 throughout the range, and not quite as heavy as the full frame equivalent, although it can still be quite intimidating at close quarters.

I felt I needed this and the 50-140mm as a ‘failsafe’ option especially for occasional corporate PR work, or chasing around a family of kids in the park, but the reality is that for atmospherically lit indoor events and weddings f/2.8 can be a bit too slow unless you top-up with flash, which I try to avoid where possible. They’re more useful since updating to the X-T2 with its amazing ISO 12800, but actually I seem to be happier with the shots I make with a prime than with a zoom – something about a fixed focal length inspires more interesting framing.

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Fuji’s equivalent to the 70-200mm, with built in vibration reduction, and like the 16-55mm it’s simply fantastic, a proper workhorse. Again it’s nowhere near as heavy as the full frame versions but I wish I got more use out of it. Combined with the 16-55mm it’s the perfect pairing for chasing hyperactive kids about on an outdoor family shoot, but as I say once indoor light levels start to get ‘atmospheric’ this lens becomes much less useful to me than the faster and more discrete 56mm and 90mm. That’s just my experience though – it’s a solid beast and won’t let you down!

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4
Amazon | Wex Photographic
This is the kit lens available with many of the Fujifilm X camera bodies, but it’s without doubt the best kit lens I’ve ever owned. It’s not quite as wide as I’d like – equivalent to 27mm rather than the usual 24mm – but whereas most kit lenses range from f/4.5 to f/5.6, this one starts at f/2.8 up to f/4! And it’s got built-in image stabilisation, something even the pro version (16-55mm, above) doesn’t have. I have actually photographed an indoor private event using this as my wide lens all night and the results were just fantastic, you would never have known I was using a ‘crappy kit lens’. I’ve stuck with my pro zooms and primes for professional work since then, but I keep this lens for personal use as it’s so much lighter and smaller for travelling with than the 16-55mm.

Flash

Fujifilm EF-42
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Okay, flash is the other thing that I had to compromise on by switching to Fujifilm from Nikon. This flash was at the time I bought it the closest thing to a ‘proper’ flash Fuji did, but it doesn’t compare to something like the SB-800 from Nikon.

It has a horrid back panel, an easily flipped power switch, and a woeful screw-tight hotshoe connector that can work loose during a shoot. The only thing I keep it around for is emergency TTL flash at dark events, especially once the dancefloor gets busy. Sadly it can’t hold a candle to Nikon’s excellent TTL: with my Nikon D700 I could put the camera on Auto-ISO and set the flash to TTL at a low power level, and the camera would pick a low enough ISO to capture ambient at around 1/60th to 1/100th, while putting out just enough bounce flash for my subject.

The X-T2 doesn’t seem to handle TTL and Auto-ISO with the same intelligence. It seems to set ISO as normal for the shutter speed selected, then fill in with a bit of flash and there’s no predictable rhyme or reason for the power level it chooses. Sometimes it makes no difference to the exposure, other times it’s so powerful that the entire frame is blown out.

So when I need to use flash at an event or wedding I’ll switch to a manual ISO for the ambient, then adjust flash power till the TTL is giving the balance I want. It’s workable but it’s not something I want to be fiddling with when stuff is happening all around me.

Accessories ‘n’ Stuff

SpiderHolster SpiderPro
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Carrying two cameras with straps means that there’s always one swinging around as I lean or crouch or even run to get a shot. The SpiderHolster has them hanging off my hips a bit like a cowboy, no more strap tangles or swinging cameras. You just screw a peg with a metal ball bearing into the base of your camera and the bearing slots into a metal grip on the belt, where you can lock it in place so it won’t bounce out while moving around. It might look a little odd, but it takes the weight off my shoulders and makes movement much easier.

Think Tank Modular Skin Set V2
Amazon
These are designed with DSLR-sized camera bodies and lenses in mind, but they work great with mirrorless kit. The bags aren’t padded (there’s another set available that are) but they’re less bulky as a result. I usually have the mid or large sized bag attached with memory cards, batteries and spare primes, plus maybe another with my flash and another with the 50-140mm. Beats having to carry a proper bag of lenses around all day.

Think Tank Battery Holder
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Designed for DSLR batteries, these work great with the Fuji X-series batteries too. I keep batteries with the contacts face up for ‘full’ and face down for ’empty’.

Think Tank Pocket Rocket Memory Card Holder
Amazon | Wex Photographic
Designed for CF cards, it’s also perfect for SD cards in their cases, and comes with a strap you can attach to a belt loop so you’ll never drop it, and a pocket for business cards too. Velcro fastener though, so make sure you’ve swapped cards before the ceremony or speeches start – which you should do anyway really!

Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
Amazon
Fast, reliable. Don’t use cheap cards for professional work!

Eneloop Pro AA Batteries
Amazon
Utterly amazing batteries. I have two dozen of these all boxed up in sets of four ready to go. Hold a charge for a long time, and recommended by pros everywhere.

Technoline BL-700 Intelligent Battery Charger
Amazon
The best battery charger I’ve ever used! Can recharge at variable power levels, and can also refresh apparently-dead rechargeable batteries, giving them a new lease of life.


Disclaimer: Sometimes I link to an online store or service with an affiliate link. If you then make a purchase I may receive a few pennies commission, which go towards an occasional crate of Brewdog – cheers! Affiliate links will never influence my opinion or recommendation in any way. More info here.

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