We’ve been together since 2004 when I got my first digital camera – the Powershot G6. I had a lot of fun with that little point-and-shoot and it reignited a love of landscape photography that had been dormant since I gave up on film-based landscape photography ten years before. It was also the camera on which I first discovered all about the power of RAW image files – it was a proper little powerhouse and I loved it. So when, six years later, I decided to join the big boys club and get a DSLR, it was an easy choice – I got a 550D.
My 550D was awesome and I pushed the shutter-count to the limits, shooting morning and evening most days of the week. It took me five years to out-grow the 550D and in the end that upgrade was triggered almost entirely by my growing frustration with its poor low-light capabilities. When I realised I had to upgrade my camera I couldn’t bear to let it go and so I still own it and use it regularly to shoot timelapses with.
And so, being a fan of the Canon brand, and a happy member of the Canon Collective, I bought myself a 7D Mark II. My 7D2 and I have been all over Australia and photographed many amazing scenes. I’ve found it to be a versatile and rugged camera that has never let me down and which has performed flawlessly over the last five years. I’ve got nothing but love for it. However over the years my requirements for a camera had, like many people’s, evolved to include increasing use of video. I was due an upgrade, but Canon’s reluctance to add decent video capabilities to most of its ‘prosumer’ cameras had me beginning my preliminary research into camera bodies from other manufacturers. Any photographer will tell you that ‘switching codes’ is no small undertaking, but I just didn’t see a way forward for me with Canon cropped sensor cameras.
The Times They Are A-Changing
Now I don’t want to bash the 7D2 as it was never hyped for its video capabilities. But all DSLRs can shoot video and the bottom line is that some do it better than others. Unfortunately the 7D2 had only the most basic video capabilities – a maximum of 50 frames-per-second in standard 1080p H.264 Intra-Frame. The footage was perfectly useable, but Sony and other manufacturers had been releasing 4K capable cameras since 2007. Everyone hung on for Canon to join the 4K club, but they moved so slowly and released new cameras with only the most modest updates. It was frustrating.
And so, five years on from my purchase of the 7D2, I found myself at the crossroads once again – ready to update my camera – and this time I was adamant that it had to be a proper hybrid with both 4K video and excellent stills photography capabilities. And as luck would have it, my five yearly upgrade cycle happened to coincide with the release of Canon’s statement-of-intent cameras – the R5 and R6. I’ve always preferred crop-sensor cameras and so it was the R6 that caught my eye, rather than its full-framed big brother.
I read the press release, watched the promotional films, checked out videos from the usual YouTubers and began the process of deliberation that would eventually land me on my new camera. On paper the R6 looked like a decent bit of kit but, sweet jesus, what a price-tag! There was also talk of over-heating that concerned me, particularly since I live in Australia and it’s known for getting a bit warm here.
After reading endlessly about cameras, both DSLR and mirrorless, and having watched countless videos from pundits small and large about the various advantages of different camera models I started focusing on Fujifilm. The people that used Fujifilm cameras spoke in glowing terms about how awesome they were in all regards. As I dug deeper it became apparent to me that either the X-T3 or the X-T4 would be a good fit for my photographic workflow and so I focused my research on them.
Then after months of procrastination and with a government Jobkeeper payment burning a hole in my wallet I placed my order for an X-T4 and three lenses. In the end the decision was actually pretty simple – everything I’d read about the X-T4 suggested it was the right camera for me, in terms of its functionality, construction and price. The body only purchase price of the R6 was a full $1450 more than an X-T4 and I found it hard to justify the extra money which could be spent much more usefully on new glass for my new camera. Along with the X-T4 camera body I purchased the 18-55mm kit lens, the 50-230mm zoom and the 10-24mm wide angle.
The X-T4 and my new lenses arrived a month ago and I have to say I’m thrilled with all of my new kit. There was a steep learning curve initially, getting to know the idiosyncrasies of Fujifilm cameras, such as the lens-mounted aperture dials, the menu system and the auto-focus mode buttons on the front of the camera. But after watching some helpful videos and spending some time actually taking photos with the camera, I started to get used to it. I plan on doing a full write-up on the X-T4, but here are some basic thoughts on the camera, one month in.
First Impressions Count
The first thing you notice about the X-T4 is its construction. This is a solid, beautifully put-together camera that makes my Canon DSLRs look and feel like Fisher Price toys. I know I said I loved my old 550D and 7D2 and I still do, but this Fujifilm camera is in a whole other league. It has heft to it, but it is not heavy. It has a beautifully refined layout, but it is not complicated. It looks like cameras used to look, but it is cutting edge technologically. I like just picking it up and holding it in my hand and when I do I feel a smile creep across my face.
The three lenses I have bought are all brilliant. The cheapest is the zoom, because I’m not much of a zoom lens user and I never spend big in this area. It’s the 50-230mm f4.5-6.7 and it cost me $199! 199 Australian dollars! As Ken Rockwell said when he reviewed it, it has excellent optics as sharp as as any “pro” XF lens. For $199! Ken also said that it produced astoundingly sharp pictures at an ultra-low price. And he’s absolutely right. It’s a bit slow to focus and not great for very fast moving wildlife, but other than it’s a cracking bit of kit. Did I mention it has OIS2 stabilisation built in too?
My next lens is the 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens. I bought his as my walk-about, vlog-friendly, lens-you-can-always-rely-on lens. Turning to Ken Rockwell once more, he said that the 18-55 was optically just about perfect, excelling at sharpness, falloff and distortion, as well as bokeh. Further more he added that it feels better then almost anything from Nikon or Canon, with its almost all-metal construction. And I have to say again I completely agree. This lens produces downright gorgeous images and the lens feels amazing to use – solid, refined and just brilliant in every regard.
My third lens was my most expensive purchase, but as with all things Fujifilm you get incredible bang-for-your-buck. The 10-24mm F4 is everything I ever wanted from a wide angle lens. On my Canon 7D2 the 10-22 hardly ever came off the camera and so the 10mm (15mm effective on the APS-C) is right in my wheelhouse. Like the 18-55 it’s so beautifully engineered that it’s a joy to use and the photos it produces are sharps as a tack from edge to edge. Ken said that it was the world’s best APS-C ultrawide zoom. So there’s that! I love the satisfying way all three lenses click solidly into place when you mount them on the camera.
The camera body is a delightfully refined bit of kit that has been designed by people who love photography and love taking photographs. I’ve been taking photographs for well over 40 years now and when I began, during the 1970s, I had film cameras. My X-T4 feels like a film camera and has many of the dials and switches I remember from those days and that makes me happy. I love the flip-out screen. I love the easily-accessible ISO, shutter and aperture dials. I love the clever EVF. In fact just about the only thing I don’t love about it is that it does not have GPS. It seems like such a weird thing to leave out that it never even occurred to me to check if it had it when I was poring over its specifications pre-purchase. So I’m back to using GPS logging apps on my iPhone and sometimes I forget to start those and I have to manually add the GPS co-ordinates in Lightroom. But honestly, that’s my only complaint.
I thought I might feel slightly sentimental leaving Canon or perhaps suffer from switchers-remorse, but honestly it’s the smartest and best move I’ve made in my photography journey since I rediscovered the hobby back in the 1990s.
I strongly believe that my X-T4 and my lenses are superior to the R6 and its equivalent lenses. But even if we gave Canon the benefit of the doubt and said that the two systems and respective glass were largely equivalent, the price of the Canon gear is so high as to appear to be a piss-take. My X-T4 and all three lenses cost me a grand total $4636. The R6 and three (broadly) equivalent lenses would have cost me a gnat’s chuff shy of $10,000. In what parallel dimension would anyone ever consider that a good deal? Well not me that’s for sure – I just thought that Canon were taking the piss.
So I’m sorry Canon, but it’s over. We’ve had some good times over the years, shared some great adventures and enjoyed exploring the world through a lens and a viewfinder, but we’ve come to the end of the road. Oh and Canon, it’s not me, it’s you.
I’ve taken my stuff and I’ll post the key through the letterbox.