Fuji X! The Light Weight Really Matters! By Mohamed Hakem

The Light Weight Really Matters!

By Mohamed Hakem

I’ve written before on how Fuji helped me unhinge new passion in the street photography but now I’m back with a new experience. After the switched from DSLR (Nikon D800) to Mirrorless (Fuji X-T1). I wrote before on how this switch helped me discover new genres in photography as street and people. But what I couldn’t imagine is that the mirrorless could outperform the DSLRs in landscape also! I am a landscape photographer and I’ve been a loyal Nikon user all my life. Coming from a monster in the shape of a camera (D800) made me see all other cameras as toys. Huge dynamic range and massive pixels. When I first got into the Fuji’s I was never expecting that it will one day be my main camera and replace the D800, and it did!

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People tend to look at the technical factors only; dynamic range, color depth and charts and come up with a conclusion that DSLRs are much better for landscape. Yes the D800 is much more capable on paper than the fuji, but the fuji can come to you to places that the D800 would be a burden! The Fuji can provide colors and of the nature and sand the Nikon never ever did provide!

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I was going to a hike in Mount Mousa , Sinai,Egypt. This is the second highest mountain in all Egypt 2422m above sea level and it has extremely rough terrain. Its a challenge for an unexperienced hiker like me. Its an over night non stop climb that lasts for 5 hours and you stay up there for 2 hours then come back. So you have to save your energy as everybody will go up there to rest while you will be setting up for your shots. Everybody’s major tip was leave behind all unnecessary things. for me I carried the fuji X-T1, 10-24, 55-200 and 8mm samyung lens and a small 3leggedthing tripod. As we climbed things got heavier and heavier and it was really hard towards the end but we made it.

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I never thought of climbing a mountain before as I would die if I go up without a camera and my corresponding Nikon setup would be (Nikon D800 1KG, 14-24 1KG, 70-200 2KG, tripod 3KG. fisheye 0.5KG. and a decent backpack would sum up to roughly 10KGs! All of this on my back and I could barely walk! Compare this to a 3KG of the Fuji system. So I went up, setup my equipment and was really happy with the results and they sold well on my website. If I were to take the Nikon I would have either gave up during the climb or would have reached the top with no strength to compose and shoot!

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35 Comments

  1. Great great shots Mohamed!!
    (Btw, not long ago I changed gear from Nikon to the Fuji X Pro 1,same reason)
    But that’s not why I am writing. Many,many m a n y years ago I spent 2 months in the Sinai. I also climbed Djebel Musa, but with a Minox camera.(Amazing how the little gem produced)Most part of the time I (we-being 4 guys)were guests of a bedouin tribe(our guide was a tribesman sheik )
    What hit me like a rock are the memories coming back due to your fantastic skills! This is how I remember Sinai. Thank you greatly for sharing. (Btw, I am a great admirer of your work and a follower.)
    Salaam!
    Gerard

  2. Wow, steve huff dot com is on fire! These photos are gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I just want to forward myheartfelt positive feedback to the photographer.
    I’ve been pri ting my x100s photos for the first timr and can now really say that computer screens only tell half the story. Big prints look awesome on these!! It really puts out.

  3. I took both D800 as well as X-T1 up above 6300m in Nepal on two distinct climbs. Weight is definitely in favour of Fuji. Image quality is comparable when disregarding the resolution. Nikon is much better to handle in thick gloves though (if you manage to get it up there). I had to take the gloves of for Fuji and I got frostbitten just after a minute without gloves. But this can be solved with specialised gloves and most people will not get this extreme. My D800 is up for sale

  4. Most important point first -your photos are beautiful -love the starry night the wonderful vistas and the camp fire as well. As for the cameras- lets face it there are no perfect all around cameras -just compromises but compromises between two superb systems -Fuji and Nikon- each will see benefits that suit particular applications. I would be happy with either -maybe Steve is right when he said “You can never have enough cameras ” So get both ! or just enjoy the one you have- whichever -both are excellent.

    Rgds

  5. I agree both with Mohamed and EJPB.

    Also me, I go hiking in the mountains, so far, rarely was gone with little weight because I did not want to be too restricted. I want to obtaining the maximum quality possible.
    However during the return and then at home, I feel like a Christ on the cross, aching all over, especially in the back.
    Later the pain go away, in a couple of days, almost completely, but the good quality of the files, that can remain for ever.

    A few days ago I wanted to try to do a walking trip of a few hours in the snow with a smaller and lighter tripod, the Fuji X-T1 + 18-55 (Grrr! I hate those stupid microscopic keys, I have them modified), the Sony A7S and 4 or 5 fixed-focal lenses.
    Only 2 camera bags, one small and one large.
    I did not bring with me not even the usual backpack.
    I was quite happy because I felt less plagued by the weights, of course and I am thinking to go again more often in this “light direction”.

    But I agree with EJPB, the results that are obtained, almost always, with the X-trans sensors, I mean the chromatic results around some fine details on a more uniform background, like the branches of the trees against the sky, (to name just 1 of the most obvious and common situation) are horrible, kneaded-smeared colours. Really unacceptable, for me!
    These results are the opposite of those obtainable with Sigma Foveon.

    I also just got a Fuji X-A1 (that have a traditional Bayer sensor) to make testing and evaluation, but this camera has other limitations of use, although the pad keys are more ergonomic, more near to those on the X-E1.
    I will see if the new X-A2 is less limited and if, at the end, to go lighter on mountains, the mirrorless by Sony FF (A7 series) and APS-C (A6000) could be a better and overall easier solution.

    I think could be so, but must consider that almost all Fuji lenses are really excellent …
    I stop myself here, for now, do not think about the good m4/3 system, that also I have and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 MKII new entry.

  6. The campfire shot is just great! I like the stars, too. The satellite trails look beaded, though. Is that just an issue with resampling to lower resolution?

  7. I agree, magnificent pictures. But is this fully telling the truth? How do these pictures look when you start zooming in closer and observe the RAW conversions? Weight isn’t the only aspect of photography. Both owning the X-T1 (previously the X100, X-Pro1) and the D8X0 + about the best glass available for it I can only say that the D800 beats the Fuji X image quality hands down Yes I like the Fuji but know to use it for which purpose and of course, weight is one of those concerns to take in account (also the reason why I own Fuji X). The X-T1 is finally a decent performer but the X-Pro1 was so off road in low light I really started to hate the system. One of the biggest fails is that Fuji RAW-conversion quality in LR is still a very average looking compromise (f.i. with trees, textures,…) and nobody seems to care about it. In landscape photography this matters a lot, in particular when you also needs some extra room for cropping into different formats. The 16MP X-trans hardly allows you to do so. Even in printing on larger formats I notice how people systematically pick my Nikon pictures over the Fuji ones (which are after all very OK, but somehow some of my F-mount glass makes the D8X0-concept shine like nothing else). The more I start appreciating Fuji X back again after purchasing the X-T1, when I finally had to make a choice between both systems, it would be Nikon F for me as a no-brainer. In LR, with the right glass it’s offering me even in a practical sense about twice the pixel ergonomics of the current X-series. The D8X0 and X-T1 are just different tools for different purposes.

    • When I took the decision and switched, I thought of the camera as a package. And my kind of photography requires portability and mobility. Of course the D800’s are a much more capable camera, if you tweak your raw files that much or need the insanley big files then ofcourse the D800 is the way to go. but for me the Fuji eased my work flow, decreased the post processing and gave me very decent images. the images are very good when cropped.

    • I own X-T1 and Capture one 8 so I can comment on this software and conversion, also compared to the Silky Pix (By Fuji) converter provided with the camera. The default settings seem to put the Silky Pix on the winner side but if you just tweak the C1 a little it wins. Moreover the C1 noise reduction automation is much better the the SilkyPix so I do not even touch it to get a great results for ISO 3200 or even easily 6400.
      Compared the results to my Petax K-x and Nikon D700 (yes, not new cameras but with capable sensors) and the Fuji is simply better. Also compared the Fuji RAW conversion with a couple RAWs from recent cameras from Olympus, Canon and Sony offerings and they just work well.
      One can argue that it is worse or better in some technical aspects but nothing to be worry about and rather a lot to be pleased about. Frequently it is very subjective.
      And last comment: you better spend you time on improving your photography (saying you I really mean we) rather than endless pp. the latest cameras are so good to make you (us) the weak link in the system.

      • It just depends on what you’re doing. I’ve really done a very wide variety of work with both Nikon and Fuji X. I’ve gone through a quite a few missions where my X100 & X-Pro1 were going seriously off-road, mostly in low light. Where the system also went unreliable (I’ve been a very early adopter). Where I lost precious studio-time because the transceivers refused to work with Fuji’s crazy flash options. At the end everything is possible but I’ve never had one complaint about Nikon or the F-system over the last 35 years. The X-T1 has gone through a lot of improvement so yes, there are quite a few irritating tricks I can scratch off the list now – it has become a mature system now. What still stands is this RAW demosaicing story – being really completely ridiculous for a major camera manufacturer. I know, Fuji can try to shift the issue to the software developers and keep on selling, but to me it feels like a well designed sportscar having an engine that requires a kind of fuel for its true performances nobody can ever deliver. I’ve been testing almost any demosaic-tool/convertor/library tool on the market and the X-trans conversions remains a huge challenge if you want to preserve detail in f.i. landscape and nature pictures. Trees, leaves and texturized surfaces can really look horrible. C1 is not perfect either – it’s only a bit better than a LR out of the box and I don’t find it particularly sharp unless you start playing (again) with some sliders. Iridient feels the most solid, has again some particular sharpness algorithms that need some tweaking to get the best result, but tell me is this now the workflow I want to maintain for the rest of my life? Using a market standard tool linked through to a 100$ utility to keep the quality level up? When it comes to results… despite all the Fuji hyping, in environments where I both shot with Nikon and Fuji I’m always surprised people systematically pick my Nikon images over the Fuji ones. I started noticing this a while ago. I don’t understand why all those forum posters suddenly want to express such negative feelings about DSLRs, Nikon and Canon in particular, what have they done wrong? Professional gear is intended as a compromise-less tool, not a toy, not a travel solution, not a lightweight, invisible point and shoot kind of thing and certainly not as a kind of status symbol or trophy. If they complain about this they just bought the wrong thing and indeed, Fuji would be one of the very best light weight, compact solutions on the market – if there wasn’t that poor software support – that’s where it stays for me. Really, after about 3 years now, it’s really getting time we can scratch this one off the list as well. Anyone listening at Fuji’s R&D dept? Adobe, are you still there in your creative cloud?

        • ” I don’t understand why all those forum posters suddenly want to express such negative feelings about DSLRs, Nikon and Canon in particular, what have they done wrong? ”

          They refuse to abandon old ineffective technology like, for example, the mirror+pentaprism solution and doing so they condemn everyone to still use cameras that could be lighter and very effective but in their present form are a chore to use. Tech stuff should be about helping the Man to do his work, not imposing onto him THEIR world view… 🙂

          • What is ineffective? An MILC camera with a delicate, open sensor concept catching dust while you’re looking at it? MILCs are just now getting mature, but gosh, that has taken a while to get rid of all quirks. Going back to Fuji, well – I’ve spend more time in frustrating RAW conversions & settings, than I ever did do looking through a nice, clean viewfinder, showing a perfect bright reflection of my subject. No shutter lag, waves in my EVF, colour noise, whatever.

    • Re EJPB’s comment on the Lightroom processing of X-trans RAW files, I have read a couple of photog’s articles on getting the best results with processing. I haven’t tried them myself as my laptop is too old to run W7 for LR5 or 64 bit needed for C1-8, so I am stuck at the moment with JPEGs (which aren’t too shabby anyway from my XT-1). Have a look at Pete Bridgewood’s blog article which explains the specific settings & algorithms used by LR5 for best results (he’s a multi-award winning landscape photog from England). The settings are a bit counterintuitive, coming from a Nikon sensor but his results sure speak for themselves. Also, check out Thomas Fitzgerald from Dublin, who writes his own plug ins/ presets for LR & works exclusively with X Trans files. Apologies I can’t grab the links. Like I said, I haven’t tried them myself, but the pix on their sites are pretty fine. And they both do gallery size prints. Btw, I switched from Nikon to Fuji XT-1 mainly for the weight issue too….I live in Dubai & during the warm months, every extra ounce feels like a ton!!
      Mabrouk, Mohamed…..great shots!!

  8. Truly an inspirational set. Thanks for the reminder of my tour leading days, and the push to use my X-T1 for landscapes as well as portraits. My inclinations make the campfire shot the favourite

  9. Mohamed, thanks for sharing – these are wonderful! I think my favourite is the first one. And I love the flare in #7. What’s interesting is that the Fuji handles stars very well. They are rendered very cleanly with no halos. Other cameras, like those by Canon and Leica, don’t do very well in these situations.

    Your point about DSLRs being unnecessarily bulky is a very good one. It’s almost crazy, like the digital revolution stopped half-way!

  10. Hi Mohamed–no surprises here–just what we have come to expect from you–great shots!! I respect how hard you worked physically to put yourself in a position to capture these moments and views. I am grateful to Steve for having previously introduced you to us. I enjoyed all the images–the last of course is damn sweet. The donkey bearing the load, ears laid back (it is angry), the switch in the masters hand, rock and hoof– rugged climb for man or beast. Just a note–the porters on Mt. Emei, Sichuan, China haul 100 kg (200lbs) plus on their backs up to 10,000 plus feet, the Sherpa’s in Tibet lift “heavy” to even greater heights. Thank you for sharing “The Grandeur of Altitude” ….

  11. Love the images. If Fuji had long lenses (300-500mm), I would switch from my Sony. Fuji just gets it better than Sony does, despite all of their innovation.

  12. A nice series! Fascinating landscape. I once went to the Sinai myself but it was for diving, not taking photographs. Too bad that it isn’t quite the safest place to be right now.
    Keep up the good work!

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