What? Nature Photography with a Rangefinder?
Now it’s time for something different. Because I love to shoot many types of subjects I decided to tell you about using the X-Pro2 with one of my favorite subjects, nature. This isn’t something that comes immediately to mind with a rangefinder type camera, but with a capable EVF (electronic viewfinder) and sensor I was pleased by the overall experience.
This is part 5 of my continuing X-Pro Tour of images from my travels, stories behind the photos, and my thoughts and experiences with the Fuji X-Pro2 system in many different situations (I posted Part 1 and Part 2 in May, Part 3 in June and Part 4 in Sept) In the captions I provide the backstory of the shot along with technical info (non-tech folks just ignore the part at the end of the captions.) This all started with my original review (recently updated), Fuji X-Pro2, A Love-Hate Relationship
I’ve blogged about how it works for travel in big cities, little villages, and how adept it is with people and even at my local county fair. Although these have covered a lot of different types of shooting, a lot them are really variations of street photography.
So, how is the X-Pro2 with nature?
I tested this out by using the X-Pro2 to scout for a couple workshops, exploring the nearby mountains for some great nature locations for my participants. These scouting missions were for my See The World in Black and White and Autumn in the San Francisco Peaks workshops I did earlier this year for Arizona Highways. This covered a lot different types of locations and situations from small details to broad scenics.
Scouting is when I get to do my own shooting. Once a workshop starts I’m dedicated to spending my time in the field with participants so I can rarely shoot. When I have the time I like to be deliberate and meditative with my nature photography. I love being outside, in beautiful places and the process can be just as rewarding as coming back with a meaningful shot. Not that the process isn’t enjoyable with other types of photography, just in a different way.
Here are a few things I noticed about shooting nature and landscape with the X-Pro2
1. Ahh, An Optical Viewfinder
I found myself switching back and forth between EVF (electronic viewfinder) and OVF (optical viewfinder.) You might wonder why I would even try to use the rangefinder when accurate framing tends to be important with nature and landscapes. The answer is twofold: First, it’s a quick way to remind myself what’s outside my composition, a luxury you don’t have with a DSLR. Secondly, it gives me a quick reference to compare whatever film simulation I’m using against the scene. I can make both of these comparisons without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder- just a quick flick of the lever.
2. Contrasty EVF
I noticed the deficiencies in the EVF. Don’t get me wrong, the EVF is great but not quite as good as my Sony A7R II. The X-Pro2’s EVF is a little too contrasty, hiding shadow and highlight detail that is really there. One can cheat this a bit by adjusting the processing parameters- you can decrease contrast, saturation and sharpening. Of course you sacrifice your JPEGs to benefit EVF viewing.
Personally I prefer my method above switching to OVF or just plain looking at the scene in front of me. This way I can take advantage of the built-in film simulations for my JPEGs (I generally shoot RAW+JPEG.) With a sensor this good I’m pretty confident of capturing detail in a broad range. If necessary I switch to spot meter and use the good old fashioned zone system to double check the most important parts of the scene will render properly (a topic for another blog.)
3. What? No Tripod?!
I’m surprised by how little I use my tripods these days, even for nature. I find myself using it more to slow myself down so I can enjoy the process and that meditative zone I get in when concentrating about what I’m feeling, communicating, and capturing. On the technical side one can go to very high ISOs and still make big enlargements with lots of detail.
4. Ergonomics…Grip or No Grip
I am currently working on another article about essential accessories but because I used the XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 OIS WR for some of the shots in this article I wanted to mention how this behemoth handles with the X-Pro2. The short version is that Fuji’s MHG-XPRO2 grip, although not very beefy, adds just enough extra bulk to wrap your fingers around and hold the 100-400 quite comfortably and steady. With all my other Fujinon lenses I prefer the camera without the grip. I was amazed at how slow I could go with the shutter speeds and handhold this lens, even at 400mm with the 1.4X. I don’t have a particularly steady hand but the combination of the image stabilization and the grip allowed me to shoot sharp images handheld down to 1/30 sec at 400mm (FF = 600mm) and 1/125 sec at 560mm (FF = 840mm.)
I should mention that for most of the shots in this post I used aperture priority and auto ISO, but making use of the shutter speed/ISO presets. Consequently I’m generally shooting at specific apertures and shutter speeds. It’s not that much different than shooting in manual except for moments when I have to shoot very quickly, then the floating ISO helps as a time saver. The X-Pro2 works well at high ISOs but when I have the time I prefer to be careful about highlight detail by shooting at a more nominal ISO range, which on this camera is in the 400-800 range. It has a nice low noise floor so shooting underexposed from the meter reading and boosting it in post capture yields nice detail from shadows through highlights.
The Bottom Line
A rangefinder doesn’t come to mind when thinking about shooting nature. However, the X-Pro2 with its EVF, LCD, superb 24 megapixel sensor and great film simulations as visualization aids, defies the usual rangefinder mindset. I really enjoyed shooting nature in all kinds of situations with this camera. I’m beginning to wonder why I still have my Sony A7R II system but that’s an article for another day.
The X-Pro Tour Continues (and other topics for future posts.)
I’m working on several articles for future posts including Is Fuji my new Leica? What about my Sony?, Will Microsoft Unseat Mac as the Photo Computer of Choice?, Essential Accessories for the Fujifilm X-Pro2, and more. And of course more about the Fuji X system as I continue to use it in other situations and types of shooting. Stay tuned for more photography, feedback, and insights!
Joel Wolfson is an internationally published photographer who loves teaching as much as shooting. He shares his 30 years of experience as a working pro with other photographers and enthusiasts by way of his workshops, 1 on 1 training, webinars, articles, blog and speaking engagements. His technical articles have been translated for use in more than 30 countries yet he is best known for his artistic images of nature’s fleeting moments and unexpected views of everyday places around the globe. He is one of the pioneers of digital photography having conducted digital photography seminars for Apple and other corporations starting in the early 90s. His roster of notable clients includes numerous publications and fortune 500 companies. He currently works with great affiliates like Topaz Labs and Arizona Highways to have more avenues for working with those wanting to pursue their love of photography. His goal is to make learning and improving one’s photography easy, fun and rewarding.
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