Why I changed from Canon to Fujifilm

Why I Changed from Canon to Fujifilm

Regular readers will know that I’ve been using Fujifilm cameras since late 2014. In 2015 I sold my Canon EOS cameras and lenses and made a permanent change to Fujifilm.

I don’t want this to be another why I use mirrorless post, yet I know that there are readers interested in my experimentation with Fujifilm cameras. This post is for those of you wondering why I switched from Canon to Fujifilm, especially if you’re thinking about moving to a mirrorless system yourself.

Limitations of my Canon gear

I believe that you should only think about updating your camera gear when you start to bump up against its limitations. My EOS 5D Mark II was my main camera for many years. It’s been around the world with me and I took many of my favorite photos with it. But it has limitations that frustrated me.

Autofocus (AF) system

The camera has nine autofocus points in a diamond shape array, but only one of those, the central one, is a cross-type AF point. It was the only one precise enough to use for focusing at apertures of f2.8 or wider.

I tested the camera’s AF points, using my 85mm lens set to f1.8 to shoot a portrait. When I took five photos using the central AF point to focus on the model’s eye, five out of five were accurately focused.

But when I switched to one of the outer AF points, the success rate dropped to one or two accurately focused frames out of every five. That’s not good enough, and it lead to some restricted compositions, where I framed the portraits so that the model’s eye was in the centre of the frame.

And as for tracking moving subjects – forget about it.

Those autofocus problems have been overcome on the EOS 5D Mark III and Mark IV, but that doesn’t help with the next limitation – size and weight.

Portrait of woman taken with EOS 5D Mark II camera and 85mm lens

Above: The model’s right eye is in the centre of the frame for a reason – I focused on it using the center AF point of my EOS 5D Mark II. It was the only AF point capable of focusing accurately at the selected aperture of f2.5.

Size and weight

The EOS 5D Mark II is a big camera. It’s too heavy to walk around with all day. I tried to lighten the load by buying a BlackRapid camera strap and using that on portrait shoots. But it didn’t make the camera any lighter, just somewhat easier to carry.

It’s also awkward to hold vertically for taking photos in the portrait orientation. I would have liked to buy a portrait grip for it, but that would have made it even bigger and heavier.

In mid-2015 I intended to travel to China and Europe from New Zealand and needed a kit that is light and easy to transport. Airports in New Zealand are exceptionally strict on the carry on luggage weight limit (7kg) and don’t have much sympathy if you’re over the limit.

The primary reason for switching to Fujifilm – size and weight

So when my local camera store had an offer on the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Fujinon 34mm f1.4 lens kit in late 2014 I bought it.

I chose this model was because of the hybrid viewfinder. I genuinely thought that I wouldn’t like the electronic viewfinder much and wanted the option to switch to an optical one.

But to my surprise once I started using it I really liked the electronic viewfinder. Now I believe that good electronic viewfinders are superior to optical ones.

The camera was so light and easy to use (once I got used to it, which took a while). I didn’t need a BlackRapid camera strap for it (I’ve sold that too, since) – a wrist strap was more than sufficient.

Best of all, the image quality was really good. I did several shoots with both the X-Pro 1 and the 5D Mark II and compared the results. The results from the X-Pro 1 were better every time. Yes, that’s a camera with an APS-C sensor beating a (albeit older) full-frame one – easily. That really surprised me.

I was enjoying the X-Pro 1 so much that I decided to take it on a two week trip to the South Island and leave the 5D Mark II at home. I purchased a Fujinon f2 18mm pancake lens so I had a wide-angle lens for landscape work, a cable release and some extra SD cards.

I never missed the EOS 5D Mark II. I was just glad to be rid of the weight.

Image quality aside, the X-Pro 1 is a better tool for taking landscape photos. It has a built-in depth-of-field indicator that makes it easy to nail the hyperfocal distance. Plus it displays a timer on the rear LCD screen when you use Bulb mode. This simple feature made it much easier to time my long exposures.

I was so pleased with the performance of the X-Pro 1 that I bought a Fujifilm X-T1, a vertical grip and the Fujinon 56mm f1.2 lens when we returned. Which, by the way, were roughly the price of a single EOS 5D Mark III body. I knew at that point that I was going to sell my Canon EOS gear to fund the switch to Fujifilm.

Long exposure black and white landscape photo of the Wanaka Tree in New Zealand

Above: One of my favorite landscapes taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens. This photo would have been much harder to take using my EOS 5D Mark II. I used it on the cover of Mastering Composition.

Nearly two and half years later…

Do I have any regrets? None at all. I love my new cameras and I’m continually blown away by the quality of the images that they produce.

These are some of the reasons that I like the Fujifilm system.

Size and weight. The Fujifilm X-T1 is a very small camera. I’m accustomed to using it with the portrait grip attached, and I’m still surprised by how small the camera body is when I remove the grip. Yet it’s still large enough to use comfortably.

Image quality. Superb. Fujifilm cameras don’t have an anti-aliasing filter and the resulting images have a sharpness and clarity that I never obtained from my Canon cameras.

Beautiful lenses. Fujifilm’s Fujinon lens range is well thought out. The quality of each lens I’ve bought so far is excellent. Some of the lenses, being built for APS-C sized sensors, are also smaller and less expensive than their Canon equivalents.

Fujinon lenses come with lens hoods. This is a big deal. In my opinion all lenses should come with a lens hoods included. There is no excuse for camera manufacturers to leave them out.

The JPEGs are beautiful. I never liked the JPEGs created by Canon cameras. They have a kind of plastic feel, as if the in-camera algorithm used to create them smears detail. This never bothered me when I used Canon as I always shot in Raw. I still do, but it’s nice to know that with Fujifilm the JPEGs are high quality.

The Film Simulation settings are well thought out. Canon Picture Style settings (a different name for the same function) include options such as Standard, Landscape and Portrait. The idea is to choose the one most appropriate for the subject you’re shooting. While they are mainly aimed at JPEG users, they are helpful for Raw shooters too because when you get into Lightroom you can choose one of the camera Picture Styles and use that as the starting point for your processing.

Further reading: The Single Most Important Setting in the Lightroom Develop Module

Fujifilm has taken a different approach and named its profiles after brands of Fuji film. So the settings have names such as Velvia, Provia and Astia. But more importantly, they simply work better than Canon’s Picture Style settings. The Velvia setting brings out beautiful colors in landscape photos. Provia and Astia can be used for portraits and other subjects that suit more muted colors.

Fujifilm’s Contrast Detection autofocus works well. The Fujifilm X-T1 has 49 autofocus points laid out in a grid. I can choose any one of those to focus with when shooting portraits at wide apertures, without worrying about accuracy. It’s slower than the EOS 5D Mark II, but more accurate. Plus, as the camera reads the focus from the sensor there’s no need to calibrate lenses. The Autofocus Microadjustment feature found on higher end Canon cameras isn’t required.

I haven’t tried tracking moving subjects, but the latest firmware updates for the X-T1 promise a very good performance.

Smaller lenses mean I can use smaller filters. Good quality filters are expensive and smaller lenses means that I can buy smaller filters, which are cheaper. This applies to square graduated filters as well – Lee make the smaller Seven5 system aimed at mirrorless camera users.

Note that some Fujifilm lenses, such as the Fujinon 10-24mm f4 R OIS XF, require larger square graduated filters and aren’t compatible with the Seven5 system.

Fujifilm = Freedom

If there’s one word that sums up the benefit of using Fujifilm cameras it’s freedom.

I have the freedom to use whichever autofocus point I want, knowing the camera will focus accurately. In turn the 49 point AF array lets me compose photos any way I want.

The vertical grip on the X-T1 makes it just as easy to use the portrait orientation as the landscape one.

I can take the X-T1 wherever I want without worrying about the size or weight. It’s not as small as a compact camera, but it’s small enough, especially when coupled with a pancake lens.

I have freedom to travel without worrying about the weight of the camera and lenses. Two Fujifilm camera bodies and the four lenses I own don’t weigh much or take up much space.

I can process the photos more adventurously in Lightroom. The sharpness of the Raw files plus the beauty of the Film Simulation settings give me a better starting point and are leading to better results.

Will I upgrade to an X-T2?

At the moment I have no plans to upgrade to the Fujifilm X-T2. It’s a better camera than the X-T1, but I don’t need those extra features. I’d prefer to spend the money on a good lens or a trip away somewhere.

What happened to the X-Pro 1?

After I bought the X-T1 I stopped using the X-Pro 1. Plenty has been written about the merits of the designs of both cameras (the mini SLR form of the X-T1 and X-T2 versus the rangefinder design of the X-Pro1 and X-Pro 2). For me the design of the X-T1 works much better. But rather than sell the X-Pro 1 I had it converted to infrared (an article on that is coming soon).

The case for not changing to mirrorless

Let’s balance the article by looking at some of the reasons against changing to mirrorless.

Digital SLRs are best for wildlife and sports photography. It’s hard to beat the performance of a high-end SLR camera and a super-telephoto lens for sports and wildlife photography, or any moving subject. Fujifilm are working hard to catch up, and the autofocus system on its latest cameras is getting good reviews, but they are probably not there yet.

Remote tethering for Lightroom is enabled for Nikon and Canon cameras only. Fujifilm do have a plug-in for this but it isn’t free. If tethered shooting is part of your workflow, mirrorless might not be for you yet.

Canon and Nikon have the most advanced portable flash systems. While you can configure third party off-camera flash units to work in manual mode with Fujifilm cameras, the Fujifilm flash system is not as developed as those from Canon and Nikon. If portable flash is your thing, and you use E-TTL metering, then Fujifilm may not be for you at this stage.

Switching systems costs money. Especially if you are heavily invested in lenses, camera bodies and accessories for your current system. It may make more financial sense to stay where you are.

Canon has small digital SLRs and is developing the EOS M compact camera system. These cameras may solve the size and weight problem for you.

If you have any questions about my switch to Fujifilm cameras, please ask in the comments.

Photo gallery

Here are some photos taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 camera in China.

Street photo of a woman inside Prince Gong's mansion in Beijing, China

Street photo of two people with Tibetan prayer wheels in Prince Gong's mansion in Beijing, China

Street photo of elderly woman looking at old buildings in Beijing, China.

Street photo of a man sitting on a step in a hutong in Beijing, China

Street photo of a boy posing for a photo in a hutong in Beijing, China

Street photo of Chinese family posing for a photo in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

Street photo of a young couple posing for a wedding photo by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

Photo of Chinese boy taking a photo of trees in Hangzhou, China

Street photo of young girl posing for a photo in Shanghai, China

The Candid Portrait ebookWhat to read next

You can learn more about the street photography techniques I used to make the above images in my ebook The Candid Portrait.

 

 

 

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About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, publisher, traveler and photographer based in the UK. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He currently writes for The Creative Photographer, Digital Photography School and Craft & Vision. He is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences.

Comments

  1. I still use a Fuji X_E1 as my primary camera with the 18-55 “kit”lens. Coupled with a 14/2.8 lens, the system is lightweight and covers 95% of my needs.

  2. Thank you Andrew for this balanced and detailed article on your switch to Fujifilm. Very illuminating!

  3. Hi Andrew,
    very interesting review and point of view.
    I have one question often times raised with regards to Fuji’s x-trans sensors. I have heard rumors that Adobe does not support it that well meaning there are often times some artifacts during post-processing in Lr and other glitches.
    Have you experienced yourself any issues as I would believe you would pointed it out in your article.
    Many thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Lukas, good question! No, I haven’t had any problems processing Fujifilm photos in Lightroom. I believe the criticisms stem mainly from the early days of the Fujifilm sensor when Lightroom struggled to process the X-Trans sensor files properly. But those days are long gone and you have nothing to worry about.

  4. Perfect Andrew!
    Many thanks for your feedback. I would have one more question. I have a friend (he will be 60) and he shoots with Canon 5d MkIII which is pretty heavy setup more than ever now when he has been struggling with his knee. Due to his medical issues he has started to think of switching to lighter setup and was bit hesitant about Fuji while I am very positive here. His main subjects are churches and people in there along with people on the market and so. We could call him a photo-journalism guy.
    Based on your review I have a strong impression that Fuji would fit him well as he does not shoot sport or wildlife.
    What is your opinion?
    Thank you again!
    lukas

    1. Author

      I think a Fujifilm camera would suit him very well. Cameras like the X-T2 are great for documentary photography as they are unobtrusive and give good low light performance.

      If you look at the Fuji Love website you’ll see examples of people using Fujifilm cameras for documentary work. It also has lots of good articles about the Fuji system. Your friend will probably find it helpful to read about photographers using the cameras for work similar to his.

      https://fujilove.com/

  5. I am also another fujifilm switcher from Canon. For me, now I am enjoying taking more photos because my setup is light weight and image quality of fujifilm is excellent I have no regret. I bought Fujifilm X-T2 with 18-55 + 35 f/2 + 16 f/1.4. In travel I mostly use 16mm and sometimes 18-55. So my bag is lighter to carry all day long. My flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mahmudahsan/

  6. Thanks Andrew… can you tell me how the Fujfilm cameras handle higher ISO’s (800-1600)? Also, have you tried any night photography of stars and the Milky Way?

    Marvin

    1. Author

      Hi Marvin, Fujifilm cameras handle higher ISO’s very well. The photos look good at ISO 3200 and 6400 too. I’ve done a little night photography of stars and was very happy with the results.

  7. Thanks, Andrew … I’m using 70 and feeling the weight of all my gear. Downsizing to the Fujifilm camera line looks like a real solution!

  8. Thank you for writing this article. It’s especially timely for me because in the past few weeks I’ve been obsessing over Fuji’s X-Pro 2 and X-T2. I own a Canon 6D, 4 lenses (2 L’s) and am tired of lugging the weight. I am not a pro but I am passionate about photography. I never thought about switching to Fuji until I read an article a few weeks back about the X-Pro 2 regarding the viewfinder and the film simulation choices. I can’t stop thinking about it. I love the beautiful creamy look you can get with film and I miss the old school split-prism focusing that the old Canon lenses had. I read that the Pro 2 has a rangefinder-like focusing option that I am really interested in. I hardly have the money for a new system but am truly obsessing over this. Anyway thanks again for your article, it added fuel to the fire!

    1. Author

      Glad it was helpful Donna. It doesn’t sound like you’re ready to buy yet but you need to try out both cameras in the shop to see which suits you best. Personally I dislike the rangefinder style of the X-Pro 2 and prefer the mini-SLR design of the XT-2 (which is also a much smaller camera). The handling and feel of both cameras is very different. Plus there is no vertical grip for X-Pro 2, if that’s important to you.

  9. I was thinking I might rent the X-Pro 2 for a weekend to see if I like it but trying it out in a camera shop is a good idea too.
    What is it about the rangefinder style that you do not like? Is it the look or the way it operates?
    Thanks , I appreciate your opinions about these cameras.

    1. Hi Donna,
      if budget is of a concern and you end up thinking of buying x-t2 rather than x-pro2 then you might start thinking of x-t20 which is half price of x-t2. It misses just few things of x-t2 while it offers even some extra functionalities like touch-screen.
      Good luck with your consideration 🙂

    2. Author

      It’s the larger size plus the awkwardness of having the viewfinder at the side of the camera instead of in the center. I’m left-eye dominant so I can’t use a rangefinder the traditional way – where one eye looks through the viewfinder and the other looks at the scene. It seems easier and more natural to have the viewfinder in the center of the camera. I also dislike the optical viewfinder on the X-Pro 1 (I haven’t tried the X-Pro 2) and prefer the electronic viewfinder of the X-T1.

      When you try the cameras out you’ll see that the handling of each is very different and I’m sure that you will find yourself preferring one over the other, depending on the way you like to work.

  10. I hadn’t considered the position of the viewfinder, I’m glad you brought that up. I also look through the viewfinder with my left eye, I never really thought about it before. Thanks for your input, very helpful.

  11. Hi Lukas, thanks for the input, I’ll look at the X-T20, good idea. I’ve never used a Fuji camera but from what I’ve been reading they sound like great cameras. I’ve used Canon since my first slr in 1978 and never considered any other brand until recently.

    I’ll check out the refurbished cameras on Fujis site also.

    1. Hi Donna,
      welcome to the club of Canon users who have been deciding to switch. I had Canon Rebel (film camera), then Canon 30D, 5D mkI and 5D mkII which I sold 2 weeks ago in order to save money for my next purchase. And only God knows what it will be as it is really tough to switch the system once you own lots of Canon lenses. I have been considering almost everything so far :), starting from Canon 5D mkIV which I had from my friend for 1 entire week. It is indeed a great camera but for the price I would expect more innovation in it. Hence why I started to look at Fuji (firstly X-T2, then X-T20), then I was even considering Nikon D810, most recently Sony A7R II but also I am thinking of waiting for Canon’s new 6D mkII and Sony’s A7R III.
      Currently I have all my Canon lenses to be used with my probably 11 years old 30D + I am learning to use my wife’s Sony a6000.
      We live in a fantastic era where we have so much to choose from which sometimes causes us headaches :). Still I like it.
      Have fun and most importantly whatever you decide to go with I wish you it will be a right choice.

  12. Hi Lukas,
    I purchased a Fuji x t10 with an 18-55 mm f2.8-4 lens hoping to replace my 5dmkii. I am having a hard time getting sharp images with the Fuji, everything seems a little soft. I am shooting RAW, auto ISO to 800 and trying to keep the shutter speed at 1/500. I am shooting spot focus . I shoot landscape, portrait, etc. any suggestions to get my photos sharp.
    Thanks
    Scott

    1. Author

      Hi Scott, the two main causes of soft images are using the wrong shutter speed or focus problems. It sounds like your shutter speeds are fast enough to prevent camera shake. So maybe you are having problems focusing? Does that sound like it may be possible?

  13. In many ways I agree with you. I decided to become a good amateur photographer just about 2 years ago. I had and have no interest in it becoming a profession. After having read several articles on mirrorless cameras, I decided to purchase the Samsung NX-1. It was a great camera with only a few lenses available for it. Surely that would change in a year or so. In a way it did, Samsung, without notice, stopped making the NX- 1 series of cameras. Now there were no new lenses nor would there be. Adapters do not work. For me, this meant selling my Samsung equipment and buying only Canon or Nikon. I chose the Nikon D500. Now there are a plethora of lenses from which to choose. The moral is stick with the big boys and for sure not Samsung.

    1. Author

      That’s not a very nice experience, is it? Continuity and plenty of choice regarding lenses and accessories are good reasons for sticking with Canon or Nikon. But Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm are all doing interesting things in the mirrorless space and will be around for a long time as well.

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