Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Going to San Diego Comic Con with my Fuji X-T1 and Sony A7II

Taken Tuesday evening, the week of San Diego Comic Con.  It is always fun to see SDCC transform right in front of you. I have read articles indicating how important this event is to the local economy. Taken with the Fuji X-T1 and Tokina EL 28mm lens. 
For the past six years, I have exclusively taken a micro four thirds camera with me to Comic Con. It started with the Panasonic GF-1, then the Olympus OMD E-M5 and finally my favorite camera, the Olympus OMD E-M1. My confidence with the system grew and grew with each passing year and I never felt the need to bring any other system. These mirrorless cameras delivered on image quality, speed, usability and most importantly weight. I loved the fact I could walk around all day and never feel burdened by carrying more than 2 or 3 additional lenses. I wanted to change things up a bit this year and see what I could do with a different set up. The the only toll was on my body, as I had to significantly increase the weight of my backpack. Below is a list of all the gear used:

  • Kata KT DL-DR-466 Digital Rucksack (my favorite mirrorless backpack)
  • Manfrotto Tripod MK393-PD
  • Slik SBH-100 Tabletop Tripod
  • Sony Alpha A7II 
  • Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G Lens
  • Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens
  • Fuji X-T1 - pre firmware 4.0
  • Fuji 56mm f/1.2
  • Zhong Yi Lens Turbo II m42 to Fuji X mount adapter
  • Tokina EL 28mm f/2.8 m42 lens
  • Zenit Helios 44M-4 58mm f/2 m42 lens (my Russian Wonder)
  • 2 Cheetah V850 flashes with triggers
The shallow depth of field really helps isolate this zombie cosplayer. Taken with the Sony Alpha A7II with the 55mm @ f/1.8
While this may seem like a lot of weight, I will assure you it was manageable and I did not carry it all at once. Our hotel room was close enough to the convention hall that I could leave the tripod and FE70-200mm lens in the room and pick it up if I knew I would be working the Gaslamp District. For the most part, I carried only primes with me as I knew I wanted to use a fast lens within the not-so-perfectly lit convention hall. The added benefit of using a fast lens with either an APSC or Full Frame sensor is the ability to separate your subject from the ever so busy background that is SDCC. While "too much bokeh" can get tiresome, I find that it really helps to accentuate the cosplayer I am trying to photograph. The crowds have in many of my shots ruined what is otherwise a pretty cool image.

A panorama taken straight from the A7II. The was really well received by the Killer Pumpkins crew. 
The patience of cosplayers is astounding. They will stand and pose for you without complaining even when guy-with-camera decides to take advantage of a situation and snap more than 20 shots (it happens).  While I can comment on the autofocus speed, I think it is not as important as autofocus accuracy. Being that they are both contrast detect platforms, it is safe to say they are both very accurate. However, I must say the Sony A7II seems to have that slight edge on the Fuji X-T1. I had a higher percentage of perfectly focused (on a subject's eyes) photographs with the A7II, but this was only a marginal difference. It is possible that I was using too slow of a shutterspeed with the X-T1.

Psylocke from the X-Men - Sony A7II with the 55mm wide open. 

That is the glaring difference I noted with the Fuji and Sony cameras. The Fuji could truly benefit from an in-body image stabilization system (IBIS). While I could get away with 1/80th with solid technique, I found most of my shots came out clearer at 1/125th or higher whenever I use the Fuji 56mm. IBIS would certainly help with those minor movements especially when shooting wide open. The slightest bump or shake could shift the focus from the eyes to say the eyebrows.  I was not only able to capture shots consistently  at 1/60th with the A7II and the Zeiss 55mm, but I was also able to keep my ISO down to about the 200-640 range. Speaking only for myself, my future camera purchases MUST have IBIS. Not to say the X-T1 is a bad camera, I just know what I want after shooting several cameras and in-body image stabilization is a feature I would rather not live without.

The world outside of the convention has a significantly different feel.  The characters and cosplayers alike seem to have a different and wild energy. Never a dull moment at the Gaslamp District - Taken with the Fuji X-T1 and the 56mm (Classic Chrome photo setting)
Ms. Sinister. I truly love it when the roles are reversed. Another image
taken with the Sony A7II and the Zeiss 55mm.
Before I come off sounding like a Fuji hater, I can't help but gush over their JPEG output. My dedicated travel laptop only has Lightroom 4, which cannot process A7II or X-T1 RAW files. I don't normally recommend processing JPEG files, I would however make an exception for Fuji's. Simply put they are great straight out of the camera especially with my favorite Classic Chrome photo setting.  In my last post, Concert Photography with the A7II, I talk about how mushy Sony files can look zoomed in. This is a huge plus for me when I have to post photos for Killer Pumpkins, the Company who brought me on board and is the reason why I have access to San Diego Comic Con every year. It is important for me to be able to provide photos that I am proud to present to third parties and you can bet I would rely on Fuji in a heart beat. 

Not really a cosplayer, but more my partner in crime. I am in love with the bokeh quality of the Fuji 56mm lens. 
Overall, I was very pleased with my experience and I have zero regret about bringing two different mirrorless systems.  In fact, this past experience continues to solidify my love for mirrorless cameras. The paradigm shift is becoming more and more evident. I would say that I saw a significant amount of mirrorless owners roaming around San Diego. Of course DSLRs remain supreme and dominates the camera population, but I saw more and more people donning the Sony A6000, a Fuji X-100 variant or various Olympus OMD models.  The following two posts will be photo essays showing my favorite shots from both my Fuji X-T1 and the Sony A7II. As always, thanks for stopping by. 

For images from the Sony Alpha A7II - CLICK HERE
For images from the Fuji X-T1 - CLICK HERE