I took the XT-3 out for a spin for the first time today. Having only had it for a couple of hours, meticulously attaching the neck strap in the perfect fashion, and waiting for the bulb on the charger to dim, I was outta there! The weather has been pretty dire today, windy as, and grey to match. I picked Sonn up from school and wondered if I should even drag him out of the house, but I promised him a share in my pink Kit-Kat and we were off. Staying fairly local, we drove up to Catton, harsh skies and windswept images were key in these conditions. I did move the car once we’d parked because I was worried about the swaying oak tree looming over the bumper, so I backed it up in a safer spot.
I’d spent a lot of time at Catton park for a film project in 2017 aptly titled Meet me at Big Tree. I shot on 16mm Kodak film for the final shoot, but captured a hell of a lot of digi B-roll using the Canon 5DMKiii, plus a load of mixed-medium film which I ended up animating and degrading to make a sequence in the film. An experimental installation edit screened at an event at Nunn’s Yard earlier this year, and the imagery has never left me.
It’s a great place to shoot, in the middle of the park is Big Tree, a giant, monstrous fallen down tree, that’s been stuck there for 30 odd years. I’ve since spoken to a load of locals, who have many childhood stories of the tree. Picture children scaling the textural bark, and jumping off onto straw bales during the summer… A truly natural playground.
Today wasn’t much different, apart from the instinctual mum in me constantly shouting for Sonn to “be careful!” and “not too high!” because the winds are pretty strong, and stronger at the top of the cords of tree tangled around the field.
I pre-ordered the XT-3 over a week ago now, it was only released today, so I’ve eagerly been awaiting it’s arrival. This is the first digital camera I’ve bought since my old 400D in about 2006. I’ve primarily shot film in the inbetween years, occasionally digital formats on moving image through hire and crew work, but I’ve been stewing a new purchase for freelance work for the past two years whilst I’ve been studying my Masters. Originally it was the Canon I was after, and my shift onto a compact system has only been a recent thing. I like to shoot fairly carefree, I’ll happily roll around on the floor trying to get the right shot, so a smaller system would no-doubt be worthwhile. That and the ever urge to travel, and travel light.
On any trip I go on, I’ll easily pack 4 cameras (at least), there’s something in me, that will regret not bringing the Mamiya for a particular ‘look’ one day, or the Cosina on another… it’s a recurring issue. Decision making.
I wanted a digital camera that would handle video as well as stills, whilst still feel like I’m taking part in the practise of photography. I need to feel like I’m holding a camera. The XT-3 is small, but it is a little bigger and slightly heavier than the XT-2 which I originally had my eye on. With a lens, and handgrip or battery back, the weight soon piles on. I’ve always been quite anti when it comes to digital cameras looking too filmic, but Fujifilm have got it right with the X-series, the black body is really smart. I will get a new neck strap pronto, and the attachments are in a bit of an awkward place for shooting handheld, but I soon got used to it.
On first usage, I didn’t delve too deep, I was a little worried about the stormy weather, the camera is too new, too shiny to really put it through it’s paces just yet. But I used the 18-55 lens for all of the shots posted here, and mainly shot using the Provia setting, some Velvia (although I don’t like my images to be too contrasty). I didnt feel I was making the most of the sky so I tried one of the black and white settings, the Acros with contrast enhancement. And I must admit, I was really impressed with the Acros this time round. Fuji have definitely fine tuned their palette way past the gradient of colour vs monochrome where most other digitals have failed.
As we headed back to the car a lady spotted us and shouted “OH! A Brownie! I had one of those as a little girl!” It’s funny really, me and my uber-modern, and Sonny with a box-brownie, not even loaded with film, there for the enjoyment of looking, and simply seeing. It’s funny to think how much has changed, even from my first forage into photography as a 15 year old.
I tested out the video functions (I’ll upload these some other time), and shot entirely handheld. The XT-3 doesn’t have image stabiliser, it’s a con in many early reviews of the system, when compared to the full frame cameras like the Sony… But I shoot a lot of handheld in my own moving image, I push for motion in my shots, I’ll only use a tripod if it’s needed. I’ve learnt to work pretty fluid with my camera operating, it’s almost like a dance (sounds fucking pretentious I know - but it’s the best way to describe it). First impressions of the X-video and I don’t see it being a problem for me, far from it, looks pretty rad and I’m looking forward to shooting more.
So first impressions and I’m sold, it’s a bit of a relief, as I’ve kind of committed now. I’ll be shooting a lot of FujiFilm in the upcoming months, and hope to really dig into the intricacies of the camera in future sessions. It is extremely intuative as it’s described, I’ve not personalised the settings nearly enough yet. Focusing is where I’ll sign off for now, its a dream. For someone who shoots the majority of footage, film and stills, in manual settings, it felt really good to let the camera take over, and do the work during fast paced shots. I can definitely trust this camera, and I’ll be moving quickly ahead. Action.