Gerry van der Walt - Fujifilm - Mirrorless

Going Mirrorless on Safari

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 3 Comments

Yes, I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.

Gerry van der Walt - Fujifilm - Mirrorless

So here’s the deal.  During the past few months two, maybe three, things have happened that has made me think about and pay more attention to the mirrorless technology out there.  The first was during my recent Svalbard expedition where there were a few of my guests who, between them, shot different brands of mirrorless.  I was impressed, very impressed, by the quality coming out of these little cameras and some of the functions and ease of use really made for an attractive package.

While then traveling back from the Arctic, and having a lot of airport-time, I followed the Photokina hashtag on Twitter and the new tech and cameras that was being introduced by brands such as Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm made for some very interesting reading and for the first time I sat down and had a serious look at mirrorless systems.

Then, and this is something I touched on in this post a while ago, I feel like I’m close to running out of images – creatively speaking.  It’s been a long year and I feel like my photography is a bit flat.  Like I mentioned in the post I’m not worried at all – read the blog post – but now the idea of trying something different, going mirrorless, I find quite attractive.  Not too mention the idea of traveling light – very light – which after 20 different destinations this year is VERY attractive.

So after a long and quite detailed Twitter conversation with a few photographers Fujifilm SA was kind enough to offer me some loan gear for my upcoming safari to Madikwe, Londolozi and South Luanwga so for the next few weeks I will be shooting the following mirrorless system:

Now I will be doing full review when I get back from safari but for now a few thoughts on what I’m expecting and some of my concerns of using a mirrorless camera for wildlife photography.  I’m not going to go into too much details here but for now, if you’re not sure what the difference is between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera check out this article Techcrunch.

So this last weekend I took the X-T2 with the 18mm f/2.0 to Hartebeestpoort dam to get to learn the system and the short version is – I like it.  A lot!

In no particular order here are a few of the things I like so far:

  • The small size is awesome!  When you’re used to lugging around a very heavy bag of gear this is absolutely golden.
  • The X-T2 feels good – well made.
  • Love the retro look of the camera.  Very sexy.
  • The menu system is easy yet deep.
  • Customizing the EVF (electronic viewfinder) and being able to see a lot of info while photographing
  • I really enjoy the many dials and being able to customize a lot of buttons is great.
  • The battery grip is almost a must, adds lots of power and makes the camera feel solid without adding lots of weight.
  • Ergonomics in general is great as I was expecting the smaller camera to be more difficult to ‘drive’.
  • At 24 Megapixles and a 50MB RAW file the detail, dynamic range and depth of the files are seriously impressive.
  • Image quality and the feel of the images – I like!
  • WiFi straight to smartphone app.
  • Did I mention the small size and not having to worry about weight?

Now based on playing around and getting to know the X-T2 a bit the last weekend and from what I’ve read on mirrorless systems there are a few things that I am a little nervous for with regards to pointing the camera at wildlife.

  • I have a feeling fast moving subjects will be challenging to shoot.
  • Tracking moving subjects might be a challenge.
  • Changing some of the settings on the fly might take a little longer than on a DSLR.
  • The EVF is pretty good but still leaves me with a feeling of not ‘seeing’ the real scene.

Other than that there is not a helluva lot that I can think of.  Off the bat – and I will reconfirm or contradict this when I am back from safari – there are two types of photographers who I would not recommend using this camera.

The first is the wildlife photographer who just rattles and basically relies on a spray and pray approach in order to get their images.  At the best of times I find this kind of wildlife photography boring while lacking  creativity and thought but I feel a mirrorless camera won’t do well here.  Sure, the X-T2 can do up to 11FPS with the booster grip but it’s not what it’s designed for.  If you think about you photography and are happy to shoot short bursts – and this really should be all of us – then this is a definite option.

I would also not recommend this to anybody who does not have a solid understanding of the relationship between Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO.  DSLR cameras are quite forgiving in the way they help us manage the three variables but you might find yourself coming up short on this one if you don’t have a solid grip on the basics of photography.

Overall I am quite excited to see what the X-T2 mirrorless system can do and I plan to push it hard in various and very different lighting and shooting conditions.   Make sure to follow my Snapchat for regular updates and thoughts as well as a look at all the gear I will be taking on this upcoming safari.  Yes,  I will be taking one DSLR and one long lens (1Dx2 and 400mm f2/8) as well mostly because of the fact that my client will be shooting the same camera and I can then best assist his shooting style and goals.  Looking forward to comparing these two different systems in the field under real-life conditions.

So, here we go.  I am quite excited and perhaps a little nervous but am seriously looking forward to shooting the X-T2.  Full review and update to follow but at this point I would seriously consider looking at a body like this as my main go to camera body.  Small package, seriously big value proposition.

On a separate but related note.  I have spoken to a few wildlife photographers recently who dismiss mirrorless cameras off the bat.  Not only do I find this quite short-sighted but I also reckon this points to the fact that some of us are more in love with the gear we shoot with rather than with the craft we use the gear for.  Remember, your camera is just the tool you use to help you to execute your photographic and creative vision. Perhaps a thought for another time but one I feel we need to be aware of and address if our focus becomes so very misplaced.

If you’ve shot mirrorless on a wildlife safari in the past let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions I can try answer for you while I am out in the field let me know!

Mirrorless…  here we go!

Until next time.

Gerry

About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at www.gerryvanderwalt.com or follow my journey on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope.  I look forward to changing the way you see the world! Have you checked out The Wildlife Photography Podcast?

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Comments 3

  1. Guy Parkes

    I will be following this with interest Gerry, being the creative person you are I think you will find a lot to interest yoh in mirrorless, especially as you enjoy video so muc h. There are still some weaknesses over the top of the line canons but given your style of photography there will be much to be creative over.
    Look forward to the update

  2. Pingback: Going Mirrorless on Safari - Africa Freak

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