Concert photography with a Fuji X-T2 | Montreal Photographer

I’ve been looking at a camera solution for everyday use.  I had a Fuji X100S a few years ago (sold it to buy a lens I needed for a recurring contract) and I loved how portable and simple the camera was.  I miss shooting with that camera and how it fit into any bag… which can’t really be said carrying my Canon dSLR kit with me, even with just one lens.  When I heard Fuji was coming out with an X100F (which replaces the X100T which replaced the X100S), it got me wanting.  A good friend of mine sold off his Nikon gear to go full Fuji for portraits, street and even shows.  His work is always stellar (check it out Vitor Munhoz to see for yourself) , so I had a nice sit down with him to hear his thoughts.

Long story short, after selling off unused gear and my 2nd backup Canon body, I now own a Fuji X-T2 with an XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens.  Reason I went for this instead of the X100F? Weather sealing, fast processors, price tag not hugely higher (hugely in the photography world 😉 ), interchangeable lenses.

I have had the camera and lens for a week and it’s intent is a carry around camera (hence the small pancake lens).  I went out a grand total of 1 time to try it out for night shots.  Then I got my go to cover the Arkells show last Saturday with Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls opening.  Side note, I love Frank Turner.  One of the best showmen today.  As my media did not require images of the opener, I decided, with only a few hours of experience with the X-T2 to give it a go for a song or two during Frank’s set.

Here is what I look for in camera to be an adequate camera for concert photography:

1- Fast and precise auto-focus.

What I found with the X100S was that I needed time to grab the focus right on the subject.  This was fine when I had full show access for a client (see my X100S vs 5d3 article), but when I am in the media pit and have 3 songs to produce a variety of images?  I need the camera to respond quickly with a focus right on where I need it to be.

How did the X-T2 do?

I knew the focus system was redone.  But I still had my reservations.  However, the camera was right on for my shots.  The few out of focus shots were truly user error.  It would lock on fast.  I would want to shrink down the focus point so that I can be even more precise, but overall, it still a stellar job.

In fact, I was a bit worried at first as the EVF, while having a refresh rate of 100 fps, was a bit laggy with the fast moving band.  So I thought that my shots would match the somewhat blurriness of the EVF.  A quick chimp to the LCD and woah… all tack on.

2- Great high ISO

It goes without saying that concert photography can be the most gear demanding styles of photography.  We aren’t always working in perfectly light arenas, we sometimes have less than perfect lights in bars and smaller clubs.  So having a camera that can output nice quality images at a higher ISO (ISO 3200-12,000) is important.  The higher ISO will allow us to have a high shutter speed, reducing camera shake and freezing a moment in our frame.

How did the X-T2 do?

I worked mainly at ISO 3200 during the show as it gave me a good enough shutter speed to capture the images I wanted.  The results were again, better than my expectations.  Better ISO performance is often linked to the size of your sensor (the bigger the better), and rightfully so.  While the Fuji has a crop sensor (x1.5 crop factor) which is on par with mid level dSLRs, the results surpassed what I am used to seeing with similar sized sensors.  Props to Fuji and their X-Trans CMOS sensor.

Check out the image below and the close up crop on the face to get an idea of how clear the images can be.

3- Quality and diversity of the lenses

My test shoot had me somewhat limited as I was only using 1 lens that had an effective focal range of 47mm.  The pancake lens opens up to a f/2.8, but in terms of cost and quality, it is similar to the nifty 50 f/1.8 sold by Canon (although a better build).  Whether you shoot primes or zooms, being able to cover all the focal ranges that you need is essential, from ultra wide (15mm) to long telephoto (200mm+).

How does the Fuji lens lineup hold up?

In recent years Fuji has built a nice reputation with quality lenses.  And their current lineup for the X-T2 includes a big variety of professional grade lenses.  Some weather sealed too.  From 1.4 primes to 2.8 zooms, along with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, you can pretty much find what you need.  Considering my little pancake lens isn’t the best, and it was not built with fast focus in mind (many Fuji lenses are built for fast focus), I’d love to try out some of the other lenses and see what they can do.

4- Ease of changing settings

I once had a friend watch me use my camera in a show and she couldn’t believe how much button manipulation is involved when you are in a pit.  From changing that ISO when the light of a song is suddenly different, changing your shutter and even aperture pretty much throughout the whole show, having a good button layout and proper camera ergonomics are very important.

How easy was the Fuji to use?

It does take some getting used to as the dials and knobs are not all in the same place. When you have been shooting a single camera system (in my case Canon) for decades, your brain gets hard wired to where all the buttons are.  But once you start learning the Fuji placement, things become quite natural.  Having all the important settings (shutter, ISO, aperture) readily available are a no-brainer.  Everything else can be found around the camera body somewhere, from exposure compensation to anything else can be easily found.

Take a look below at the results of shooting with the Fuji XT2 and the Pancake 27mm lens at the Frank Turner concert.  Those who have photographed concerts know that it can be very challenging to pull off the shots you want.

I purposely shot some images with next to no light on the face to see how the shadows would be rendered.  I threw in a few flares, some action shots… essentially running the rounds of what I like to photograph in a show.