On being a Fujifilm X Photographer

I’m really excited to share that Fujifilm have asked me to become one of their ambassadors. I am now a Fujifilm X Photographer, one of a worldwide group of photographers selected to help the company show what its gear can do.

As an ambassador I will assist or speak at various Fujifilm NZ events, review new Fuji equipment, write some social media content, and provide Fujifilm with some publicity images shot on my GFX-50S, XT-2 and XT-1. I’m encouraged to express my unbiased, honest opinions in my reviews, in case you’re wondering!

And no, they don’t give me free cameras and lenses, sadly. :) I do get a discount though, and if I ever want to try out equipment I don’t own, they’ll send it down from Auckland so I can have a play with it for a couple of weeks. Where possible I can preview new equipment before it’s released to the market, and my work will feature (soon) on the Fujifilm Global X Photographer website. And I get a free t-shirt. :)

Retired engineer Martyn Spencer, Wellington, May 2017.  Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR, 1/125th at f4, ISO 1000

Just recently I was in a quandary over which portrait lens to buy for my medium-format GFX-50S; the 120mm f4 macro or the new 110mm f2, so I was able to test them side by side. If I hadn’t, I reckon I would probably have gone for the 110mm, because I tend to gravitate toward shooting wide open. But you get less depth of field at a given aperture on a medium format camera, and at f2, it’s such a fine sliver that you’re talking some eyelashes sharp and others on the same eye out of focus. That is a beautiful but potentially dangerous thing! Especially as I’m often shooting fast-moving children; I could imagine having to throw out heaps of photos because I’d totally missed my focus. A medium-format camera is already naturally a slower beast than a 35mm dSLR, so I don’t want to restrict myself too much.

The f4 maximum aperture on the 120mm still offers a gorgeous drop-off in depth of field while giving me a little more of a safety net, and it has the added benefit of the macro capability. The 120mm focal length is the equivalent of 95mm on a 35mm format camera, so it’s a beautiful length for portraits. Neither the 120mm or the 110mm are cheap lenses, so it was great to be able to make the decision with confidence.

Artist James Ormsby with his 2x4m charcoal drawing of ancestor King Tawhaio, Wellington, July 2017.  Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR, 1/125th at f14, ISO 1600

It’s funny because I didn’t ever set out with a plan to switch to Fuji from Canon, but a few things happened along the way that made it the logical choice. I loved my Canon gear! But in 2015 I started looking at getting a medium format camera too, and borrowed a 10-year-old Hasselblad H3D with a view to buying it. It was glorious at ISO 50, great at ISO 100, and pretty awful at ISO 400. So I decided against it, but looking at the incredible details and colour at ISO 50 certainly planted a medium-format seed, so to speak. At around that time Hasselblad announced a completely different (and much cheaper) style of medium format, the compact, mirrorless X1D-50C. Still a very expensive camera, but nothing like previous Hasselblad prices. I was seriously tempted, but then Sean Aicken at Wellington Photographic Supplies mentioned that Fuji was about to come out with a competitor.

Three years ago I had bought a Fuji XT-1 as a ‘handbag camera’ to take on a trip to Sweden, and I fell in love with the old-school styling and the way most of the key controls were on quickly-accessed dials. There’s something wonderful about making quick adjustments with your hands, rather than beeping your way through electronic menus. That was quite a big reservation for me with the new Hasselblad X1D actually; it’s a beautiful camera to look at, but it didn’t feel as good in my hands as my little Fuji. So when Sean said Fuji was coming out with a medium format camera, and at a similar price level to the Hasselblad, I was pretty much sold already.

Ramso, Sweden, July 2015. Fujifilm XT-1, XF18mm f2 R, 1/1000th at f5.6, ISO 200

I bought my Fuji GFX-50S medium format in March, and now have two lenses for it – the versatile GF32-64mm, and the GF120mm macro. That was obviously a big outlay. I still had a big Canon kit; two DSLRs, two flashes and seven lenses. For a while I used both systems, but when I made the decision to cut right back on my wedding work, I realised it didn’t make financial sense to keep straddling the Fuji/Canon fence. So, much as I love Canon, I found myself jumping down on the Fuji side. I now have an XT-2 as well, so I mainly use the two small mirrorless cameras for location work, and my GFX in the studio, although there’s a degree of crossover.

Shand Shelton architects Phil Conroy (L) and Roger Shand backstage at the St James Theatre, Wellington, August 2017.  Fujifilm GFX 50S, GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR, 1/60th at f14, ISO 1600

And now here I am, part of a group of passionate X-Series and GFX users worldwide who’ve been selected to represent Fujifilm’s commitment to image making, and to the tools used to create those images. I feel very honoured to have received this invitation, and hope I can inspire other photographers using X cameras and lenses. I’m excited to meet some of my fellow New Zealand X photographers next month in Auckland – will keep you posted!

Wendy Brandon - January 10, 2018 - 2:51 pm

Congratulations Catherine. Interesting to see you made the switch. I’ve H5D and agree re the ISO, I rarely shoot above 200, which means I have to use the tripod a lot! I’ve been thinking about a change medium format-wise so food for thought. Thanks

Catherine - January 10, 2018 - 4:01 pm

That’s interesting – I assumed the H5D would be a lot better! I thought it was just because the H3D technology was 10 years old, which is a lot in camera years. :) But I guess a lot of Hasselblad users are doing tripod work and it wouldn’t really matter. It’s certainly magic at low ISOs, that’s for sure…

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