The Big Switch

After many years of happy shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (and its Mark II upgrade) I’ve made the switch to the Fujifilm X-T4. It’s really more of a switch back because I shot a Fujifilm X-T1 immediately before the Olympus. So why the flip-flop?

A feature that I have always loved about the X-Tx series of cameras are the physical dials for selecting aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation. Not only do they look retro, they allow me to quickly see how the camera is set up. If changes are to be made, there’s no need to remember what unmarked dial does what or which menu item is right.

Focus mode (manual, single, or continuous) and drive mode (single, continuous low, or continuous high) have their own switch and dial, respectively. The ergonomics of the controls suit me well.

Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8

In general, the Fujifilm and Olympus systems are comparable. Both have some excellent lenses that cover all the bases. Both have weather resistant lenses that are better constructed and better sealed. And both will do the job for any but the most demanding photographers.

Some of the key reasons I wanted to switch back are that Fujifilm now has In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) – the X-T1 did not, the APS-C sensor which is a nice happy medium between the Olympus’ micro four-thirds and a full frame, and the Profoto light system I picked does not support Olympus in its newest controllers. Nor does Elinchrom; there are just too few Olympus shooters for them to provide for.

APS-C sensors, being larger than micro four-thirds sensors, offer a few advantages over them. Their photosites can be larger with the same megapixel count allowing for better low-light noise performance. If a shallow depth of field is important to you, APS-C sensors offer less depth of field at a given aperture.

The aspect ratio of micro four-thirds sensors is 4:3 while the APS-C sensors are the traditional 35mm film ratio of 3:2. You can, of course, crop either sensor to the aspect ratio you prefer, but many prefer 3:2.

The key advantage for micro four-thirds over APS-C is the same advantage APS-C has over full frame. A smaller sensor allows lenses to be smaller and lighter. And that smaller sensor offers a crop factor advantage for longer distance photos. To get the same reach as a 300mm lens on a full frame camera, an APS-C camera needs only a 200mm lens and a micro four-thirds camera needs but 150mm.

Camera choice is often both a technical and a personal decision. In this case, I am just more drawn to the Fujifilm system (now that it has IBIS) than Olympus.

I started with the ‘holy trinity’ of lenses for the X-T4: XF 8-16mm f/2.8, XF 16-55mm f/2.8, and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 (matching the 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8 in full-frame equivalent). Those together make an excellent kit covering the full-frame range of 12-210mm and will suit most photographic needs. I’d like to add a long telephoto lens to shoot wildlife and it seems the XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 fits the bill, even though I am not fond of variable aperture lenses. But the XF 200mm/f2 is $5,000!

Which brings up a point. With most Fujinon lenses having a real aperture ring, a variable aperture lens messes up the consistency of the human interface. Some of their variable aperture lenses (such as the XF 100-400mm) have an aperture ring with no markings and no stops in either direction. You can change the apertures with that ring, but you can’t see what the aperture is without looking in the viewfinder. Some lenses (such as the XF 18-200mm f/4) don’t even have a ring and the aperture must be set with a body dial and confirmed in the viewfinder. Oh, well. I’ll be sticking to constant aperture lenses to the extent I can.

Something to be aware of is that not all RAW converters convert Fujifilm X-Trans sensor RAW files equally well. Most notably, Lightroom Classic does an adequate, but not exceptional, job. I use Capture One Pro, which makes an excellent conversion. Reviews suggest that DxO PhotoLab does a fine job, too.

It’s not cheap, but it is easy, to change systems as I have done. I’d recommend using MPB; they did a wonderful job for me and met their quotes and deliveries on the things I bought and the kit I sold. To ease the expense, I elected to buy used equipment at their like new and excellent ratings and was well pleased with the condition.


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