A Brief History of an Official Fujifilm X-Photographer
A bit of a strange post today, but stick with me. As an official Fujifilm X-Photographer, I get a lot of satisfaction and perks. But I also, more often than you’d expect, get emails like this:
Not so amazing, right? Well, not for me anyway. But I get these things every now and then. I’ll try and put my side of the argument later in this blog post.
By the way, this is the ‘clicky clicky think‘ thing I think he/she is referring to.
In the beginning, there was light (X100)
Actually, in the beginning, there was a Canon EOS 350D. That was my very first camera which I purchased in 2009. That was closely followed by my first ever wedding on 9th August 2009 by which time I’d migrated to the great camera that was the Canon 5D.
All was good. Kind of.
I wasn’t really sure why I didn’t enjoy shooting much, and I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t particularly loving my own wedding pictures. It wasn’t my Canon’s fault. It was doing the job it was made for and it was doing it bloody well.
But then, in 2010 at Photokina in Cologne Fujifilm announced the original Finepix X100. I was kind of smitten. It looked great, it was small, it was reasonably priced and I ordered one as soon as it became available.
And it arrived, fortuitously, on the day I had a wedding at Cripps Barn here in The Cotswolds.
So I took it, and I shot most of the day with my DSLR system and I took a few snaps with my new FinePix X100.
My first ever photograph with the FinePix X100
This is the very first “keeper” image I ever took with that X100, so in fact, the first ever shot with an X-Series camera:
Fujifilm FinePix X100: 1/240th at f/2, ISO 800
It’s alright, bit bright in patches but OK. When I came home and looked at the images I knew that the X100 had a massive amount of potential, but it wasn’t ready just then, for me to shoot a lot of the wedding with.
As those of you who were also early adopters will know, the original FinePix X100 was a little sluggish but the images it created were amazing.
Around the same time as I was getting my hands on the FinePix X100, my little boy Albie, came along.
Fujifilm FinePix X100: 1/60th at f/2.4, ISO 1,000
Fujifilm FinePix X100: 1/60th at f/2, ISO 250
And so, if you’ve read much of this blog before, especially my personal photography section, you’ll see that I mention a lot that I don’t think I’d photograph my own family anywhere near as much as I do if it wasn’t for the camera choices I made back then.
Of course, Rosa was already here then and together, they have been being annoyed by me pointing a camera at them ever since.
My scrapbook of memories, for me and my family, are in the form of photographs. Thousands of them, and sometimes I’ll collate them as a gift for my wife Gemma.
This picture always makes me laugh…
Fujifilm FinePix X100: 1/60th at f/2, ISO 250
…but not as much as this one. Pointy eyebrows and a chubby belly. Not sure where they came from.Fujifilm FinePix X100: 1/60th at f/2, ISO 400
And I suppose I was hooked on the little camera. But I hadn’t switched to Fujifilm for shooting weddings at that point.
Things changed when the X-Pro1 came on the scene.
Ding Ding, Round Two (X-Pro1)
It’s now March 2012 and I’m writing a regular business column for Professional Photographer magazine and the then editor, Adam Scorey asked me if I’d like to review “this new interchangeable” Fuji are bringing out.
At first, I was reticent. After all, what I loved about the FinePix X100 was that it was a fixed lens. No more worrying about changing lenses and all that goes with it.
But once I’d read up on the forthcoming X-Pro1 and the three launch lenses I conceded and wrote the review for the magazine.
I remember handing the review copy back in at Archant House in Cheltenham. As I got back in my car, I called up Warehouse Express and spent approximately £3,000 on the X-Pro1, the 35mm F1.4, the 60mm F2.4 and the 18mm F2 lens (all of which I still have).
Three. Grand. Good job I “get all my stuff for free”!
Fujifilm X-Pro1: XF60mm F2.4 Lens @ f2.4 1/125th, ISO 1,250
Fujifilm X-Pro1: XF60mm F2.4 Lens @ f2.4 1/125th ISO 1,250
Fujifilm X-Pro1: XF35mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.4 1/800th, ISO 400
Fujifilm X-Pro1: XF35mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.4 1/3,800th, ISO 800
The Fujifilm X-Pro1 actually did revolutionise the way I approached my wedding photography and I knew then, that this was the system I would continue to use for the foreseeable future.
At this point, I’d written on my blog about the lenses and about the cameras a bit but thought it was time to migrate the Fujifilm and personal photography content on a separate website.
Which, is the website you are reading this on now. Well, actually, it used to be called “The Owl” (don’t ask…..not one of my wiser choices (see what I did there?)) and there was a lot more content which I’ve culled back now.
I continued to use and love the X-Pro1 and eventually, shot my first full weddings using just my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the FinePix X100.
I’d already started getting some negativity from the “wedding professionals” about these “toy cameras” and so, whilst I know everybody should shoot with what works for them, I didn’t really appreciate the implication that I wasn’t taking my job seriously and that professionals “only use DSLRs”.
Around this time, I popped this little photo film onto Vimeo. Now, to a certain extent, my style has changed quite a bit since then, but I really wanted to show the potential of this little camera (in my hands).
Some of the images in this collection probably wouldn’t make it back in now, but this was 2012 and I was really beginning to embrace the Fujifilm cameras.
This was the film where people started emailing me lots and asking how I shoot etc.
And of course I continued shooting my family, and personal photography too.
Fujifilm X-Pro1: XF35mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.8 1/4,000th, ISO 200
I suppose this is when things started to get very interesting. Fujifilm UK had asked me to supply some images for (what was then) Focus on Imaging. I was really flattered of course and obliged.
I started to receive a LOT of emails and Facebook messages about how I use the X-Pro1 to shoot weddings.
I found myself explaining how I’d adopted a sort of “back button focusing” technique to counter the somewhat pedestrian AF speed of the original X-Pro1.
I decided to write a blog post, title Shooting Weddings with Fuji and that blog post still exists. I’ve updated it several times, and I’ll continue to do so.
There isn’t so much in that post now about the X-Pro1, but the principles remain.
When I updated this post last, I spent in excess of 35 hours on that blog. The first incarnation was perhaps another 30 hours and the one in between, possibly the same. Let’s just say I enjoy writing them, but they take a lot of time and effort.
To put that time into some sort of context. Since 10th April last year (the last time the article was updated in any substantial way), there has been in excess of 130,000 unique visitors to that page. Between them, they have visited the page 276,000 times.
I don’t have the stats for the previous versions of the page, as it was on The Owl (facepalm), but I’m guessing the numbers would have been in the high tens of thousands too.
Since that article went live, and coupled with the Facebook group for Wedding Fuji Shooters I get around 10-15 email or direct mail messages each week asking about the cameras.
This is good. I’m not complaining AT ALL. I encourage it in fact because if I can answer any specific questions, I will. The reason I’m bringing this up at all is because I believe it’s part of my role as an official Fujifilm X-Photographer.
Skip forward to the X70
I remember being in a meeting in Photokina three or four years ago and there was a brief discussion about a very small X-Series type camera.
I was excited and gave my nods of approval to the idea to the assembled dignitaries. I didn’t think or hear anything else about that until the day the camera was announced and released.
This was the X70 and the X70 is in my top three favourite X-Series cameras of all time.
Fujifilm X-70: f8 1/950th, ISO 200 Fujifilm X-70: f2.8 1/125th, ISO 640Fujifilm X-70: f5.6 1/900th, ISO 200
Fujifilm X-70: f2.8 1/125th, ISO 400
I’m delighted that that embryonic meeting in Germany went part of the way to ensuring the fine camera that is the X70 became a reality.
I really hope it’s not at the end of its days though. I have zero insight into the future of the X70 but my current understanding is that Fujifilm has stopped making the X70 – which is sad. I hope there is an update sometime.
Hi Kevin, Do you know who I should call at Fuji to get Free things too?
Honestly. H.O.N.E.S.T.L.Y – I could buy a new Leica if I got a fiver for every time I have been asked this question. OK, maybe not a Leica….but you get the idea.
And I don’t want to be disingenuous here.
There are some great photographers who do genuinely work with Fuji gear and perhaps want to reach out. That’s cool. I get it.
But honestly, for me, and I hope/think this is the same for the people at Fujifilm, I just want to have a good work ethic, a strong business behind me and be totally invested in the brand through my own hard earned money.
Did I mention I was terrified of flying?
Well, I am. Though not so much these days. However, let’s head back to 2013. Summer. And I get a call from Fujifilm asking if I’d like to attend the first Fujifilm X-Photographers meeting in Tokyo. Other photographers to be there would be Bert Stephani, David Hobby and Zack Arias.
They wanted me there on a Monday morning to give a presentation about my work and also speak to engineers and designers.
It happened I had a wedding in Rome on Saturday before so there I was (remember I’m not a fan of flying), heading from London to Rome, Rome to Tokyo and Tokyo to London all in the space of five days.Here we all are with our X100s that we’d all bought with our own money.
But what a great experience. I won’t talk too much about it as you can read about my first trip to Tokyo already on this site.
In summary, though, this trip involved:
- Giving two big presentations on two separate days (one to press and one to engineers).
- Spending eight hours in a small, hot room with the marketing team helping with ideas for the future.
- Writing a long report about our ideas in advance of the meeting.
- Another five hours or so meeting in a hot, small room with the colour engineers.
- Being interviewed for hours on end by press and journalists.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It was GREAT to go, and I’m proud that I was asked. But it was work. We worked. Hard. Very hard.
If you want to see me saying “Umm” a lot, and popping out of my shirt, you can still see the interview on Youtube (I’m older and even more grumpy looking now);
This is where the first “free” item came from though. I was gifted an X-M1 on this trip (which actually was a camera I never really liked much).
It was free – and I don’t hide that. But I felt it was more of a reward than a gift. We worked hard whilst on that trip and on the subsequent trip also.
My Camera Cupboard
I actually feel like this X-M1 was my only “free” thing anyway.
My wife always tells me I’ve got way too much equipment and bags. She’s right too.
Here is a list of my current equipment that I have purchased myself and where they came from:
- Finepix X100 – purchased from WEX
- X100S – won in a competition at SWPP believe it or not.
- X100T – purchased from WEX
- X-Pro1 – purchase from Wex
- X-Pro2 #1 – purchased from Wex
- X-Pro2 #2 – purchased from Castle Cameras
- X-T1 #1 – purchased from Wex
- X-T1 #2 – purchased from Wex (and sold)
- X-M1 – as above
- X-30 – purchased from Wex
- X-T10 – purchased from Wex
- X-E2 – purchased from Wex (and sold)
- X-T20 – purchased from Wex
- X-T2 – purchased from Wex
- X-70 – purchased via the Fujifilm UK Online store
- 18mm – purchased from Wex
- 27mm – purchased from Wex
- 35mm 1.4 – purchased from Wex
- 23mm 1.4 – purchased from Wex
- 35mm f2 – purchased from Wex
- 23mm f2 – loan from Fujifilm. To be returned (you know as pro you can loan gear from Fujifilm?)
- 50mm f2 – loan from Fujifilm. To be returned.
- Instax Share 1 – purchased from Wex
- Instax Share 2 loan from Fujifilm. To be returned.
- 56mm f1.2 – purchased from Wex
- 14mm f2.8 – purchased from Fujifilm online store
- 16mm f1.4 – purchased from Wex
It’s a lot of stuff. And a lot of money that I’ve spent.
What happens when you test a camera for Fujifilm?
I have been honoured, and proud to be part of the testing for three cameras. The X100F, The X-Pro2 and the X-T2.
Part of the contract with Fujifilm when involved with this kind of thing is that you will get payment for time and effort in the form of a retail version of the camera you are testing. It’s a contract. We sign it and if we want to get spare’s or backups (as I often do), we have to buy them.
For example, I have purchased two X-Pro2’s and an XT-2. All at full retail price.
If Fujifilm chooses to use sample images we supply, they pay us hard cash. Business.
If we are not involved in testing, we have no idea about the project. For example, I was not involved in GFX at all and the first I even heard about it was at the press launch in Photokina.
Now I can understand when some people think that we just get this stuff. I honestly can. But I want to put into context what happens for me when I’m involved in testing a camera.
Firstly, I try and feedback as much information as possible from other photographers that I speak to.
When the camera arrives, we test it. We spend time with it at weddings, on the streets, in the studio. Testing. Hopefully giving feedback all the time to make the cameras better for when it is finally released.
For example, here is one of the emails I received after spending considerable time explaining via private youtube videos a problem with the prototype of the X100F (obviously I can’t go into details exactly):
We found the solution to eliminate this type of <problem description>
We will fix with FW before launching the product.
Let me convey thankfulness to your kind suggestion on behalf of our R&D team.
Then we make the video. The video that I made for the X100F and also for the X-Pro2 took two days each. I don’t get paid for those videos. The videographer get’s paid separately, by Fujifilm.
Here is the X100F video by the way:
After that, I write a review of the camera.
Now, I think it’s important to point out that my contract with Fujifilm for testing the cameras does not include a request to review the camera.
I do this because I want to, and I do it hopefully from the point of view of a professional photographer.
I always want my reviews to be based on real life, real work and have integrity. So if there is a negative element, I’ll mention that too (such as the Q button I talk about in the X100F review for example).
I genuinely want the content on this website to be helpful. I *think* people believe that I’m honest and I also *think* that people like that I share as much knowledge as I can.
However, this all takes time and cost too.
For example, the X100F review (just the writing of the review, prepping images etc) took in excess of twenty hours.
The statistics for that blog piece are quite mind blowing (this is just for the X100F Review posted on the 19th January):
- 116,000 unique visitors
- 1,816 Facebook Shares
- 170 on page comments
I estimated that I made less than 32p per hour earning it though. I could sweep the streets and get thirty times more.
I know, I know, I drive workshops too from this site but really, my business is 90% shooting weddings and 10% workshops. I’m a working professional who likes to share. That’s pretty much it.
Being a Part of a Community
I don’t think it’s true that there isn’t a community spirit in other camera brands’ worlds. I’m sure there is, but I do get a great sense of that spirit with the Fujifilm world. And it’s great.
For the most part, people help each other and again, I see it as part of my role as an official Fujifilm X-Photographer to do my best in that respect too.
For example, I created a Youtube video about my X100F Settings;
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not had a huge amount of views. The Youtube video itself has been viewed 27,000 times but hopefully, those views have helped people to a certain extent.
And Now, we are Here
The X-Pro2 and the X-T2 (and I guess also the GFX), has moved on so much from that original FinePix X100.
These cameras are super capable for pretty much everything I need to do and shoot. I love using them, which is important, but far more importantly is the fact that I achieve the results my clients require (in order to feed my family) using the gear.
And this is the key point. The integrity of my work as a full-time professional photographer is so important to me.
I have always said that if something better comes along, that allows me to deliver better results to my clients, then I would look at it.
I’m a professional photographer. I don’t make all my money from training other photographers. I don’t make any money Youtube etc. This isn’t a hobby. I don’t have another “day job”. Photography is my living.
It annoys and upsets me when I receive the comments like the one at the beginning of this post. And this isn’t the only one.
I see a lot of similar comments on Fuji Rumors (and I’m not blaming the guy who runs that site, he’s running a business himself and he often gives good exposure to many Fujifilm X-Photographers). It’s normally in the comments section where the comments are something like (recently):
“guy with lots of Instagram followers get’s free camera from Fuji. Shock, horror”.
I assume (and I hope) that even if the camera is a review copy, it will be returned in this case.
My experience with Fujifilm UK and Tokyo is based on sound integrity and I really, really hope it remains that way.
Fujifilm X-Pro2: 23mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.6 1/125th, ISO 400
Fujifilm X-Pro2: 23mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.4 1/125th, ISO 1,250
Fujifilm X-Pro2: 23mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.4 1/125th, ISO 1,250 Fujifilm X-Pro2: 23mm F2 Lens @ f2 1/125th, ISO 400Fujifilm X-Pro2: 23mm F1.4 Lens @ f1.4 1/125th, ISO 4,000
And so, I have a lot to be grateful for.
I have a lot to offer thanks for. To Fujifilm for the opportunities, of course, but wider than that and more generally to the Fujifilm Community. Thanks.
I think Fujifilm as a company, and definitely, my local office in the UK have really stepped up to the mark when it comes to listening to people, to putting systems in place to be accessible and just basically being a very forward thinking and dynamic company right now.
Without them, I would not have met my great friends at Kage, would not have visited half the places I’ve been and perhaps not put as much food on the table for my family.
I really hope none of the waffle sounds patronising or disingenuous, I really don’t. In my inbox right now I have six emails that have arrived overnight from random people around the world asking questions about their cameras. And I’ll answer everyone as best I can. I enjoy it. I like to help. I’m not complaining at all.
But I do feel I work hard. And I feel that the official X-Photographer’s out there work hard. Those X-Photographers who see being a Fujifilm X-Photographer as just a ‘bit of Kudos’ (and there are some I’m sure) perhaps should be filtered out. But I feel a vast majority are X-Photographers for the right reasons.
And I hope, maybe just a little bit, that this blog post explains a bit more about what I see my (our) role as a Fujifilm X-Photographer is and hopefully helps others understand it a bit more too.
I’ll leave you with a short slideshow of just twenty-five of some of my own personal favourite wedding shots:
- Happy Snapping – Kevin (in my Studio in Malmesbury, listening to Live from South Africa, Mumford & Sons – again))