I’ve been a London event photographer and a UK wedding photographer for over a decade now. Originally I was a Nikon user, but around the release of the Fujifilm X100S (now available in it’s X100F iteration) I decided to take a chance with it for personal use and absolutely LOVED it. I started using it as a second camera on event shoots, upgraded to the X-T1 as soon as it came out, and now I’m using Fujifilm X-T2 bodies for all my work.

I think the Fujifilm X series is fantastic for my style of event and wedding photography, so I wanted to share the lenses and other kit I’m using that helps me get the results you’ll see in my portfolio. Bear in mind my needs and tastes might be totally different to yours, so think of it more as a personal insight than a set of objective reviews. And if you’ve got any questions feel free to ask them in the comments, I love a good chat about gear, even though it inevitably leads to me buying something new that I didn’t even know I wanted/needed…

To keep things simple you can also click here to check out all these lenses and cameras collected in one handy list on Amazon.

Prime Lenses for Fujifilm X System

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8

VH Mackay 21st 50th 269 - My favourite Fujifilm X System kit for event photography
The Royal Automobile Club in London | Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8

The Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 is one of Fuji’s most impressive prime lenses for wide shooters, approximating a 21mm field of view on full frame cameras, for stunning rectilinear wide shots, and great storytelling shots of people partying, from very close quarters. It only opens to f/2.8 but even in dark venues that’s often enough to get a special scene-setting wide. I find it useful for those, especially as it has autofocus and it’s reasonably small to keep on me for a whole event, but I do find myself wanting to go a bit wider sometimes.

If you’d like a wider prime you could consider the Rokinon 12mm f/2 which is affordable, a stop brighter than 2.8, but doesn’t have auto-focus.

If you regularly want to go wider at an event I’d recommend Fuji’s 10-24mm f/4 with OIS, which I’ll add to this page soon. It’s expensive and a stop darker at f/4, but venues look absolutely incredible at 10mm, and with the OIS engaged you can slow the shutter down a little for a lower ISO, and even handhold some shots. Being a zoom it also gives you the flexibility to get decent group shots of various sizes at close quarters, although at f/4 if it’s dark you’ll want to bounce some flash.

 

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4

london 21st birthday photographer notting hill am 021 - My favourite Fujifilm X System kit for event photography
Distracted at the party | Fujifilm XF23mm f/1.4

This is a stalwart lens, equivalent to the incredibly popular full-frame 35mm focal length, and absolutely fantastic in low light. If I had to I could just about shoot an entire wedding or event with this and the 56mm, although it’s a bit too tight for impressive wide shots, which is where the 14mm shines. But it’s best at medium-close quarters to get story-telling shots that take in your subject’s surroundings, to give a sense of what’s actually happening in that moment.

It’s a sturdy metal build with one of those focus rings you pull back to unlock and use manually, revealing zone focus markings. The focus ring is really smooth too, and it works great with the focus peaking in the X-T2 for manual focus, which I often find quicker than moving an autofocus point about when I’m up close in low light. All in all, the Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 is easily one of my most used lenses.

 

Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2

Amadea21st 076 - My favourite Fujifilm X System kit for event photography
Surrounded by friends | Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2

Easily my most used and favourite ever lens, by a LONG way. Just stunning for portraits, and for filmic tight shots in low light events. Small, beautifully built, sharp, fast as hell, and gorgeous smooth blurry backgrounds. I’ve made such wonderful shots with this, I absolutely LOVE IT. I use it so much at events that I have to swap my X-T2 bodies around every couple of jobs to make sure they get used evenly. 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.

Downsides? Expensive, but worth it. And in very low light the autofocus is slow, and I’m sure I’ve missed some candids because of that, but it’s smooth and easy to focus manually, so in dark venues I often keep it in manual mode and use the back button to autofocus if I need it. Also, it can be restrictively tight at very crowded events in small spaces, so it’s worth keeping a fast 50mm around for those occasions – faster than f/2 ideally…

 

Samyang 8mm Fisheye f/2.8

dippy hintze hall
Dippy at Hintze Hall, Natural History Museum | Samyang 8mm Fisheye f/2.8

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 a 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 for Fujifilm X System

Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8

london event photographer fulham palace birthday go 004 - My favourite Fujifilm X System kit for event photography
Cocktails and Hedge Men at Fulham Palace | Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8

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 corporate PR work, or chasing around a family of kids in the park, and even if that’s not your bread and butter those two lenses are pretty essential to have just in case. I’ll often take the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 along as a ‘hedge’ whenever I know I’ll be outdoors, or somewhere with decent ambient light, or if I know I’m going to be running-and-gunning with an on-camera flash all night and don’t want to be swapping primes the whole time.

But the reality is that for atmospheric 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. It also doesn’t have OIS built in, unlike both the 50-140mm f/2.8 and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zooms. Both the pro zooms are more useful since updating to the X-T2 with its amazing ISO 12800, but my primes will give me a couple stops more light, plus I find it’s true what they say about a fixed focal length inspiring more interesting framing.

So, not the most exciting lens, but so reliable that most event photographers will have already bought it without thinking twice.

 

Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8

london family photographer london belgravia w1 003 - My favourite Fujifilm X System kit for event photography
The family all together | Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8

Fuji’s equivalent to the 70-200mm, with built in vibration reduction, and like the 16-55mm it’s simply fantastic, a proper workhorse. It’s heavy, but it’s nowhere near as heavy as the full frame versions. I wish I got more use out of it, as so much of my work is in dark rooms where the widest aperture of the Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 just isn’t fast enough. But anywhere with reasonable light levels, and especially outdoors, wowsers, it’s just incredible. I’ve heard it called ‘the zoom that thinks it’s a prime’ and that’s about right in terms of the sharp images it produces, especially with the OIS activated.

Combined with the 16-55mm it’s the perfect pairing for chasing hyperactive kids about on an outdoor family shoot. It’s also indispensable for well-lit corporate conference stages, so you can stay in the aisles and get both tight shots of speakers on the stage, and wider down-the-line shots of audience listening, without needing to get too close to anyone. When it comes to wedding ceremonies and receptions I really want the shallow depth of field and the wider apertures my primes give me, but I always have it in my bag, especially in churches, as it’s useful for getting in close visually when circumstances keep you at a distance.

 

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4

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Espresso Martinis to go | Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4

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’ve 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 mostly stuck with my pro zooms and primes for professional work since then, but I kept this this lens for personal use as it’s so much lighter and smaller for travelling with than the 16-55mm.

 

Flash for Fujifilm X System

Okay, back when I switched to the X-T1 about five years ago, flash was the big thing that I had to compromise on. I didn’t use flash much, just bounce-flash at events for group shots really, but it was tough to switch from Nikon’s pro-grade TTL flash system to Fuji’s at-the-time amateur-level offerings.

The only Fuji-branded flashes were small and weak, with no 1st-party remote triggering. While there third party flashes and triggers available, it all sounded like a bit of bodge job and on the rare occasion I’m triggering remote flash I don’t ever want to be anticipating a fail.

But that was a long time ago, and there’s now loads of options for Fuji-friendly flash, both 1st party and 3rd party. I’ve not listed Fuji’s expensive flagship flash because a) I’ve not used it, b) it’s really expensive and c) from what I’ve read it isn’t worth the expense compared to the brilliant alternatives. Luckily, I found Godox

 

Fujifilm’s TTL quirks

Although I’m happy with Fuji TTL flash now I know the quirks, you should know before you start that when shooting TTL flash in anything other than manual or shutter priority Fuji’s cameras do not default to 1/60th like you might expect, but to 1/30th – 1/40th. I know. It’s weird.

They do this even in decent light where the shutter speed would definitely be higher without the flash attached. Googling around it seems plenty people have noticed this. I would love Fuji to explain why they chose this slow speed. Has anyone asked them?

Also, the Fuji approach to TTL with Auto-ISO is a bit backwards in my opinion. With my Nikon D700 I could put the camera on Auto-ISO from 200 to 6400 (its highest native usable speed) and for TTL flash shots the camera would generally stick to around 1/60th and balance out the ISO and flash power to get a nicely bounce-lit subject and some ambient background. Very rarely indeed would it ever top out the ISO to 6400 – the camera would prioritise image quality, effectively.

The Fuji system seems to do it completely differently. With Auto-ISO set 200-12800, for TTL flash the camera almost always sets shutter at 1/30th – 1/40th, then instead of balancing ISO and flash it pushes the ISO all the way up to 10000-12800, presumably to save flash power. ISO 12800 for a flash-lit group shot? Why? It’s so frustrating. If I’m doing something wrong here please educate me!

To thwart this I use one of the X-T2’s three Auto-ISO presets just for using TTL flash. I set the lowest and highest ISO to the same value, usually 1600, and the shutter speed to 1/60th, which the camera usually ignores, preferring 1/30th – 1/40th. I could set the dials on my camera to a lower ISO and 1/60th shutter speed, solving both problems in one, but in the dark that can be fiddly so I have the preset as a quick alternative.

Okay, that’s my rant about Fuji flash. Really it’s not that big a deal, it’s just quirky and I don’t like it. If I’m doing it wrong, please let me know!

 

Fujifilm EF-42

I’m listing this so I can tell you not to buy it. At the time I bought it this was the closest thing to a ‘proper’ flash Fuji did, and I made do with it for a few years (that’s how rarely I was using flash at events) but it’s awful, as some people have mentioned in the comments.

Here’s some of the things I hate: low power rating, so if your ceiling is too high the classic ceiling-bounce won’t work well; cheap rattling plastic build quality; a small, horrid dark red-orange LCD; basic controls – one button to move the cursor, and one button to change the value, so if you’re on 1/16 power and want to get to 1/8 power you’ve got to cycle through 1/32, 1/64, 1/1, 1/2, and 1/4 first; an easily flipped power switch; an woeful screw-tight hotshoe connector that can easily work itself loose, and no locking pin (seriously!), so a hard jolt can actually knock the flash off the camera; a shoddy battery compartment cover that eventually stopped making full contact with my batteries, leading to the flash sometimes not turning on unless you taped the battery cover down tight to close the connection, and could just turn itself off mid shoot (!!).

Here’s some of the things I like: it’s smaller than your average pro flash, so it’s a little lighter, and balanced okay with the X-T2, especially when gripped. That’s it. Don’t get this flash.

 

Accessories for Fujifilm X System

SpiderHolster SpiderPro

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

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

Designed for DSLR batteries, these work great with the Fuji X-series NP-W126S batteries too. I keep batteries with the contacts face up for ‘full’ and face down for ’empty’.

 

Think Tank Pocket Rocket Memory Card Holder

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. Rather annoyingly they went with a Velcro fastener though, so make sure you’ve swapped cards before the ceremony or speeches start, to avoid ripping through the atmosphere as you tear back the fastenings.

 

Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards

Don’t skimp on memory cards for professional work! There are many websites that analyse the read and write speeds of the various cards and brands available, and you could argue that Lexar is better than Sandisk, or Sandisk is better than Lexar, for hours. I’m happy with Sandisk, so I just stick with the fastest Sandisk Extreme Pro cards my cameras can take. The Fujifilm X-T2 slots both accept the faster UHSII cards, by the way.

 

Eneloop Pro AA Batteries

Utterly amazing batteries, just stop buying other brands and get Eneloop Pro batteries for all your pro photography kit that needs AAs. I have two dozen of these all boxed up in sets of four ready to go. They’re recommended by pros everywhere for a reason: they hold charge when not in use for a long time, and they provide consistently excellent cycling times for your flashes.

 

Technoline BL-700 Intelligent Battery Charger

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.

 

Bags for Fujifilm X System

Think Tank Street Walker Hard Drive

This little beauty can hold just about everything I might need on most shoots, and you can even strap your tripod or stands to the outside – which I try to avoid using anyway, but it’s good to know I could if I needed to.

In terms of how I use it, I can get two gripped 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

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 Retrospective 30 with the leather trim, which looks and feels lovely. It’s still too big to carry throughout a shoot for swapping lenses etc, so I 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 belt. It can fit both pro zooms in as well, but at that point I’d rather take the Street Walker Hard Drive to the shoot.

 

Fujifilm X System Cameras

Fujifilm X-T2

I absolutely love my Fujifilm X-T2 cameras. Everything on my blog for the last couple of years was shot with them. They’re light, discrete, produce wonderful colours, and are great fun to use – those dials aren’t just for show, they’re very practical.

Here’s just some of the reasons I love it: the huge EVF lets me nail exposure in-camera, and with the battery grip attached the refresh rate gets to 100 fps, for a lovely smooth view even in low light. The tiltable screen isn’t a gimmick, letting me get to unusual angles without my eye on the viewfinder. The native ISO 12800 is a godsend in low light, with noise that looks more like film grain than digital mess, and barely visible after a quick tweak in Lightroom. The wifi is great for beaming select images to my phone where I can email or Instagram them.

The only compromise is obviously the crop sensor. That and flash support were the two things that made me pause before going full Fuji (Flash is pretty great now too, see below).

Because I often work in low light I use pretty much just fast primes, wide open, and you get plenty of gorgeously out-of-focus backgrounds. I know the depth of field would be a tiny bit shallower on a full frame body but I honestly think that between me and my clients I’m the only one that would have any idea about that, and in the end I didn’t think it was worth basing a whole system choice on alone.

For it’s size, weight, low light performance, and experience to use, I love it.

 

Fujifilm X100F

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 Fujifilm X100F, which adds wifi, a new colour mode, and the same sensor as the X-T2, all built into pretty much the same body as the original X100. The smaller EVF is much more cramped than the X-T2, although it does have an rangefinder-style optical, but I never really got to grips with that. 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: the size, ease of use and quality of the pictures it produces are the reason I keep it around. I sometimes take it on a job as a backup but mostly I use it for holidays or street photography.


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A bit about me


I'm originally from Glasgow, and I’ve been a documentary-style London event photographer since 2007. You'll always be able to get me chatting about time travel movies, Alan Partridge, homemade bread, and craft beer...

My event photography


I think the best event photos are about the people and the atmosphere. I'll fit in around you to capture it all just the way it happened with stylish, reportage photography, so you can forget about me and enjoy the party.

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