I am not a photographer who writes a lot of reviews. The reviews of cameras I find online are usually there to get people traffic and are so boring. “Hey look I took a cool photo with this camera! It’s a good camera!” They completely lack hands-on reviews, and tests done in the fields for a long period of time. Well, let me now bring you: the Fujifilm cameras review… After a long 8 years of shooting exclusively with them.
I am a Fuji Boy
If you have been following me you know I am kind of a Fujifilm boy. Yes, I do love Fuji cameras, and I can’t be grateful enough as they have helped me evolve with my photography at the moment I was creatively stuck.
A few months ago, I bought a Canon R5 camera. Yes, it’s a drastic change. Why did I buy this camera? Why didn’t I stick with Fuji cameras? Here are my answers after 3 months of shooting travel and commercial work with the Canon R5.
Disclaimer: I would like to say that this review is not sponsored by any camera brand or anyone. These are just facts based on my experience, being the kind of photographer I am. You may disagree with some aspects of my vision (mostly when I talk about being a hardcore travel photographer who beats up his camera gear), but this is my opinion from my own experience. If you are a different photographer (and I bet you are), some of these points may not be valid to you.
A bit of backstory
I have been writing extensively about using the Fujifilm cameras (Xt2 and Xt3) as well as many of their lenses and third-party lenses (oh I am going to miss that Mitakon lens!).
And I really have to thank Fuji for what their cameras did to me. I owe a lot to them, as they came into my life at a crucial moment.
First, I was creatively stuck with my travel photography. After almost a decade of shooting with Canon DSLR and my favourite 50mm lens, I felt I was always taking the same types of images. Very travel style and often relies on using a shallow depth of field. And it felt wrong, that had to be more to it.
Then, several things happened to my life. First I met someone that has been and will probably remain one of the greatest influences in my life: Drew Hopper. This man continuously shows incredible creative moves, and I have seen such a huge and fast evolution in his photography. What took 15 years for me to achieve took less than half that time for him.
Thanks to Drew, I started diving into street photography and what it really is. And that forever changed my photography.
At about the same time Fuji came out with great cameras, and I had to catch that train. Their cameras seemed (and actually are!) so simple, easy to use, small and light. I got myself a Fujifilm Xt2, right before heading to Myanmar to run my photography tour. From then I never ever touched my Canon DSLR again. That poor 5D Mark 3 got suddenly abandoned and lost of love I had for it.
Why Fujifilm cameras helped my photography
As I was saying, I felt stuck with my travel photography. Shooting at f2.0 is nice and pretty but quickly has its limitations. The photos tend to become very similar (which is the same issue as when I talk about boring portraits).
On top of that, I was so busy running photography tours here in Hoi An and in the rest of Asia that I had no longer the time to be a photographer. I was shooting less and less commercial work, fewer and fewer weddings, and devoted most of my time and energy to my photography tours. So having a smaller, lighter camera, and ditching the full-frame sensor seemed like something I could do.
I got myself an Xt2 with the 23mm f2.0 lens. And what I did at the beginning was to force myself to shoot at f8.0. I wanted to break down all my former travel photography templates.
You may think now “why didn’t you just start shooting on a 35mm at f11 on your Canon DSLR?”. This is a very valid question, and I don’t really have a clear answer for you. Not being able to play with a very shallow depth of field on the Fuji made me think that I was instead going to play with it at f8. And the Fuji just felt like it was made to be at f8 and quickly capture a moment. Fuji cameras allow me to be extremely fast, shoot with one hand, and capture a moment when I see it happen. And it is easier to do this at f8.
This move to Fuji cameras made complete sense as I was getting more and more attracted to Street photography. Its ability to compose busy scenes while having everything sharp. Placing all elements in the perfect place in the frame, and waiting for the decisive moment. I do feel that street photography made me a much better photographer than before, and I think Fuji makes great cameras for street photography.
The problem with Fujifilm cameras
I have been almost preaching the Fuji cameras for so many years. I have got so many of my students and friends who got into Fuji after spending some time shooting with me. It’s true that when coming from the DSLR world, these small, lightweight and easy-to-use cameras are amazing!
But I haven’t been completely honest with you.
Already after a few years of owning my Fujifilm Xt2, I started to feel its limitations. Later on, I purchased an Xt3 camera, also an amazing tool. But once again, after a few years of using it, the same problems started showing up. Not massive problems at the beginning, but problems big enough that I started being very frustrated when using my Fuji gear.
Here are the things that I do not like about the Fujifilm cameras.
Fujifilm cameras are not strong
And that really is my biggest negative point about the Fujifilm cameras. I can’t just keep sending my Fuji to be fixed once a year. Whether it is the screen that stops working (and this happened to MANY photographers I know!) or cleaning up the shutter button because it is full of dust and only works half the time.
I am a travel photographer and I visit the best places for photography, often involving smoke, dust (and yes sometimes salty water!). I need to have a camera that doesn’t break down every year. It is as simple as that.
Right now as I write this article, I have to send my Xt3 and Xt2 (again!!!) to Ho Chi Minh City to be fixed. My Xt3 screen is about to die and my Xt2 only takes photos half of the time as the shutter button is stuck. This is unacceptable. I am done doing this.
And yes maybe I am rough with my camera gear. But I never ever had any issue with my Canon 5D cameras and believe me, I beat them up real good!!! And I had several issues with my Xt3 during the pandemic when I was quietly taking photos of quiet streets in Hoi An old town. And it was all very quiet and smooth, my camera didn’t have to endure anything special.
Below is my Canon r5 after a few minutes of shooting on some stone carriers in Bangladesh. If you want great photos, you need great locations!
Fujifilm cameras’ autofocus is not great
Now if you are also a Fuji boy like me, and you only praise Fuji, you still can’t deny that its autofocus system is far from being as good as other brands. Mostly when compared to full-frame cameras. Of course, I can’t compare a $2000 APS-c sensor camera with a $5000 full-frame camera. But I do anyway. See?
Trying to track faces when shooting video with the Xt3 was just unfathomable. Even using the continuous focus in general for video or photos was to do at your own risk. We often modified some of our commercial video storyboards to avoid having anything moving in our shots because we knew it was going to be hell to make it happen.
And this was fine, or “could” be fine to an extent. If I only post my images to Instagram, no one is going to notice the lack of sharpness. But for selling prints, or for commercial work, I can’t be that relaxed about it.
Fuji’s high ISO is not great
The first time I shot with my Fuji Xt2 and shot at high ISO, I found my subjects’ skin tones looking very bad. The skins look very grainy and pixelated, definitely not as good as what my Canon used to capture. I thought it may be a problem with Lightroom, or something else, and I kind of ignored it, and honestly didn’t care much for a number of years.
I was not shooting fashion or commercial portraits but mostly layers of silhouettes. Who needs nice skin tones for that?
But as I got back into commercial photography, including corporate headshots and fashion, I could no longer ignore these issues.
Clearly, Fuji is not doing a fantastic job handling the noise when shooting at high ISO. And yes, I know, technically a smaller sensor isn’t as good as a full-frame one. But let’s not go into details. Once again I put it simply: I found that high-ISO images did not look so good on Fuji.
No easy way to switch from single to continuous focus
Let’s be honest, that tiny dial on the Xt2 and 3 is almost impossible to handle quickly without switching to the wrong mode… Now add a rig on your camera and forget it completely, you won’t be able to access it anymore! I don’t understand why they do not replace that AF-S / AF-C / Manual focus button. That’s all I have to say about this to Fuji. Fix this.
Canon R5: a beast of a camera
So my wife did something quite amazing: as she was fed up hearing me complain about my half-broken Fuji cameras, she bought me a Canon R5 (well, I did suggest this one!). I know what you think, my wife is incredible. And yes, she is. Call me lucky 😉
I mostly chose this camera because of my commercial photography and video. I wanted to get back to a full-frame camera for a better dynamic range (mostly for hotel and resort shoots).
It’s been 3 months now that I have been shooting with the Canon R5. I took it on 2 different photo tours (in North Vietnam and Bangladesh) and shot thousands of images. In all kinds of situations. And I love it!
That face detection is just incredible! I feel like it makes things almost too easy compared to Fuji. I just have to press one button and the camera locks on my subject’s face instantly. Every single image will be sharp where I want it to be sharp. I have nothing else to do but compose my image. It is truly brilliant.
Oh, and the full frame depth of field, for travel photography and portraits, is definitely something I had missed! I have found myself shooting a lot at f2.0 again, playing with the depth of my different layers, and applying a few twists to my classic images. Let’s see, for the next few years, where this is going to lead me and my photography.
Canon full frame for commercial photography and video
I am now shooting more and more commercial photography and video with my business Danang Photographer.
Being a full-frame camera, the R5 obviously performs better. No surprises here. It has a better dynamic range and more resolution of course. It makes total sense for me to go back to the Full frame world for this type of work.
On top of that, its video recording capabilities are just awesome, and its autofocus, once again, is almost flawless.
What I miss from my Fujifilm camera
The magic tilt screen. Even though my Fuji screens keep breaking down (Argh!!) I do love the way they pop. I can very easily use the camera with one hand only. With the Canon, it’s a different story. I need both of my hands to operate the camera and the tilt screen that pops from the side. I lost a lot of my freedom when shooting, and it also makes me much slower.
The film simulations. I find the images of my Canon to be too yellow. I do miss the classic chrome colours, that’s for sure!
The size and weight. What else to say here?
Obviously, I wish I could always shoot with the smallest and lightest camera. But it is just not possible. My Canon R5 with the adaptor and the Sigma 35mm Art lens is huge and I needed a few days to rebuild muscles in my arms that were gone since I switched to Fuji!
I miss the look of my Fuji. As much as I don’t care about the way my camera looks, I loved touching all these little dials on top. Fuji you still sexy!
Well, yes. Fuji cameras do look very cool!
What should you choose?
Many of my students who are Fuji shooters are now looking at me and asking how I feel about my new Canon, and whether or not they should also ditch their fuji cameras. Some may think that if I decided to go back to Canon, then they should follow in my footsteps, mostly when I tell them that I am very happy with that camera.
But I am not the photographer they are, and they are not the photographer I am. It all depends on what you are going to do with your camera. Let me explain with an example.
Someone recently asked me if he should get the brand new fancy Sony full-frame camera. I asked him what would he use it for. He wants to keep doing what he is doing: street photography.
I told him that I thought it would be a mistake to get a big and heavy full-frame camera for some quiet and inconspicuous street photography. If his problem was with the autofocus or the bad ISO management of his Fuji, then he should better wait for a better Fuji, like maybe the Xt5.
Don’t get me wrong, if you ask me what camera you should get for your travel or street photography I would still recommend you get a Fuji. You probably do not beat up your camera the way I do. And they are definitely smartly designed cameras. I love the dials on top and the simple menu.
Get the camera that is good for you
And not the camera that was recommended by the latest photographer on Youtube. Think before you buy. Is what you need pixels, or freedom of use? Do you want to be a fast shooter or do you take your time?
If I was only doing street photography I would definitely stick to Fuji only. And simplify things even more by getting something like the x100v. (sorry but I won’t buy any cameras from the XT series again after what happened to mine). I could carry it around everywhere, and it would also be the camera to take photos of my family. Because I could always have it around with me.
But for commercial and travel photography I prefer my new Canon camera. It is super reliable when I bring it to the craziest locations for travel. And it’s solid for all the commercial work I do.
I still hope I get myself a smaller X100v that I could take around with me all the time, to take photos of my family or some street photography. And I may get one. But I think I will wait a few years for Fuji to build stronger cameras.