An Australian Summer - through the 'eyes' of Nikon's FF and Fuji's APS-C

January 23, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

#fiona_fyrebird, NYE celebrations, Perth CBD, January, 2022.  Nikon Z6ii, Z50 1.8 @ 1.8, ISO 3,200 

As of my last blog – at the end of 2021, I had recently bought a Nikon FF camera.  If you’ve followed any of my blogs, you will know that I have been using Fuji for all of my photographic work now, for well-nigh 10 years.  I certainly was not disillusioned with my Fuji gear in any way.  I guess I may have been looking for a new challenge or raising my creative level.  I remember a friend passed me a link to her friend’s website (he travels the world shooting Indigenous tribes from around the globe), and I was blown away by the depth, quality and sheer punch of his images.  When I looked at his ‘gear’ section, I noticed he shot with a Nikon DSLR.  I filed that away in my brain and did not do anything with it for another year or two.

@brookestarflow, celebrations @ Perth CBD, Christmas, 2021.  Nikon Z6ii, AFS 50mm 1.8 @ 2.5, ISO 3,200 

After having a very busy year (I referred to it in my last two blogs), of moving cities, changing jobs and locations, buying and renovating a ‘new’ house - I was approaching our southern hemisphere summer, with a lovely long list of photographic assignments, and finally some time to relax and start using my cameras again.  Thanks to the dictatorial actions of our Premier here in Western Australia (the hecklers colloquially call him “Mark McClown”), we have been in perpetual isolation from the rest of the world throughout this whole pandemic.  As of this writing, our long looked forward to opening to the rest of the world in Feb 5, 2022, has also been indefinitely cancelled.  Because of all of this, we have had zero lockdowns here in Western Australia (and basically zero COVID cases), and it has been business as usual for the last 2 years - whilst the rest of the world suffered on.  Therefore, there seemed no cancellations ahead for all of my personal and events bookings.

Entertainers for the 'Adults Only Circus', Fringe Festival, Perth CBD, January 2022.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 160

I was set to cover NYE celebrations here in the Perth CBD, the opening of the Fringe Festival, Australia day celebrations, Perth’s annual night markets, Scarborough Beach markets, covering my man who gives free haircuts to the homeless in Perth City, and twice visiting my contact who runs a shearing gang in the Australian bush.  Looking down the barrel of all these lovely upcoming events, I started hankering back in Oct/Nov for the possibility of using and trialling a Nikon FF camera, alongside my Fuji APS-C kit.  As stated, I was not disappointed with the images and use of my Fuji gear, but wanted to see personally what all the hullabaloo was about in relation to FF.  I won’t go into any of those details here, if you wish to read them check out my last blog here:

@entertainmentperth, wind gusts and 'Angels', Celebrations @ Perth CBD, Christmas 2021.  Nikon Z6ii, AFS 50mm 1.8 @ 2.5, ISO 100

You will notice as you read along, that even though I loved the images from the Nikon, I had lots of misses with the autofocus, found the Nikon camera a pain to use, could hardly assign many tasks to the various buttons and basically said that if I had to choose one system, it would still be the Fuji kit.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now that I’ve had over two more months of using both kits side by side, and thousands of images later, I can now happily put this whole thing into perspective. 

'Skyscraper' the Drag Queen, Fringe Festival, Perth CBD, January 2022.  Nikon Z6ii, Z50 1.8 @ 1.8, ISO 100 

For those of you who may be interested and to get this out of the way early on (I don’t want this to be a technical revue), here are the pros and cons between the two systems.  The Nikon is not as intuitive to use as my Fuji. I can’t assign as many functions to different buttons as I can with Fuji and I’m always diving into menus on the Nikon (which I hate), but never have to on the X-T3.  The Nikon has a silly door for the two cards, that also doubles as the hand grip – it always flies open when I’m on assignment and I know I’m going to bust it off any time soon – this is a real worry!  The Fuji feels much better made than the Nikon – it feels as if it’s hewn from a lump of aluminium (the Nikon feels more plastic).  The X-T3 does not have IBIS – Nikon does (however, with 50mm being my longest lens, I hardly need it).  The high eye-point on the Fuji is better for my eye glasses.  I have the exposure triangle available on my Fuji with actual knobs and buttons – not so on Nikon.  The aperture ring on my Fiji 16mm 1.4 lens is diabolically loose – so loose it is unusable (every few seconds I knock it onto another aperture).  Luckily, I only EVER shoot wide open, so it is locked down on 1.4, with a wide thick rubber band, so it never moves – problem solved!  

'Mad as a Hatter', Fringe Festival, Perth CBD, January 2022.  Nikon Z6ii, Z50mm 1.8 @ 1.8 ISO 100

The images from the 16mm 1.4 have an artistic character and ‘magic sauce’ that the Nikon Z50mm does not have.  However, the images from the Nikon Z50 are probably the sharpest I have seen in over 35 years as a photographer – even more than my Fuji 90mm had (some say it’s Fuji’s sharpest).  I have never even held a Leica camera, but I can imagine the Z50 is Leica sharp.  The images from my X-T3 and 16mm 1.4 are gorgeous and I will never sell that combination – nothing I’ve used in 35 years can give me that look.  However, shoot them over about ISO 1600, and they start to fall apart rapidly.  The images from the Nikon are magical.  Incredible depth, clarity and sharpness – with great definition and a pleasing separation between subject and background, even at ISO 3200.  I have much better dynamic range on the Nikon and can shoot at much higher ISO.  Having said that – the Nikon images on C1-21, are a pain to work with and I find it much harder to get the look I want.  My Fuji images are a dream to work with on Capture One, and I can get whatever look I want very quickly.  There you have it – that’s as technical as I want to get for this blog. 

Hoop Girls, Celebrations @ Perth CBD, Christmas 2021.  Nikon Z6ii, AFS 50mm 1.8 @ 2.5, ISO 1,600

It slowly dawned on me as I used both systems and had good and bad images from both, that this whole photographic enjoyment/results thing is not really about the cameras.  I am more than sure that if I had chosen two of any of the other systems out there (say Sony and Canon), that I would have had similar results and similar highs and lows.  The thing that I realised at the end of this journey is that it was simplicity all along that I had been slowly aiming toward.  I’ve always hated changing lenses and carrying bags full of gear around.  I’ve always had each camera with a lens attached, and that seemed to have met most of my photographic needs.  However, it is even more so now, and I’m enjoying every moment of it.  I recently sold my last X-H1, my second X-T3 my beloved XF 90mm F2, and my XF 50mm F2.  This has totally freed me up now, when I’m on assignment – I have two cameras on my body.  My Z6ii has the Z50mm 1.8 attached and my X-T3 has that gorgeous 16mm ‘bolted’ on – that’s it (no other lenses in bags to tote around).  Yes, you also read correctly – my longest focal length lens now is 50mm!!  However – with FF I can cheat a little bit!  If I really need to get in a bit closer, I just whack the Nikon on ‘DX Crop’, and whamo – I now have a 75mm equivalent lens.

'Drew', shearing in Country Western Australia, January 2022.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 3,200

The great thing about all of this now is that it is not a Nikon vs Fuji thing, or anything like that.  I have two cameras that have good and bad points, but I always come home with 95 plus percent of my images in focus, many keepers and people are satisfied with their final images. The reason I don’t need any tele lenses now, is that I’ve always been a bit of a Bruce Gilden.  I really love getting in close and getting my lens right into people’s faces.  That is why the Fuji 16mm 1.4 is perfect for my style of photography.  I only EVER shoot people and have zero interest in architecture, or dogs, or landscapes or anything else. 

'Drew', shearing in Country Western Australia, January 2022.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 800

Look on my website and you will see nary a sunset, a beach or an animal!  For this reason – because I’m always in so close, the 50mm is really the longest focal length that I need.  One benefit of the FF system is that we all know you get better subject isolation and less depth of field than equivalent lenses on APS-C.  The 50mm on the Nikon gives me even better subject isolation that I was getting on my Fuji with the XF 50mm F2 (75mm equivalent).  That is why I sold the 90mm F2 Fuji.  I now shoot all my portraits on the Nikon 50mm.  The Z1.2 would be better (but it is huge and nearly $4,000 in Australia), so my 50mm on 1.8 still gives nicely separated backgrounds, for my portraits.  As I said, I’m really getting a kick out of keeping it really simple and a really small kit.  The money I got from the sale of all the gear was used for travel and other just as important stuff.

Pete the 'Presser', 74 yrs young and still going strong.  Shearing, Country Western Australia.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm, 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 640

I really enjoyed taking this bunch of photos.  I have the X-T3 around my neck on a neoprene strap.  With the elastic stretch, it feels like I’m only carrying half the weight.  The Nikon is over my shoulder on a Black Rapid strap.  They are both fairly small cameras and lenses (compared to DSLR equivalents), so I can literally shoot all day and not feel weary at the end.  I can grab either camera in a split second and just drop the other one.  I have contacts with the ladies who do the fire hoops, the angel’s wings with LED lights and the lighted scarves.  They usually perform in the evenings, and I had great fun following them around for NYE celebrations and for the Perth Night Markets.  With the low light and fast-moving subjects, my cameras and myself were tested to their limits. 

 'Kane', Shearing, Country Western Australia, 2022.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm, 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 800

My main employment is as a high school teacher here in Perth.  We get six weeks holiday over the Christmas break, while schools are all closed.  That is why I have the time off to do my photography as a second job.  I was able to go out to the countryside and see my contact Jack, who runs a shearing gang.  Here in Australia (and I think it is the same for my home country New Zealand), the occupation of shearing has kind of slipped between the cracks.  They have no strong policies or Trade Unions directing occupational health and safety issues – in other words, anything goes.   For most of the other occupations here in WA, there is a very strong COVID vaccination mandate policy etc.  I as a teacher was forced to get vaccinated, or I would not be teaching this year (please don’t get me started on that……).  There are no such mandates for shearers.  Meaning my friend Jack is like the Robin Hood of shearers.  Many of the guys shearing there have had to leave jobs in the cities because they refused to get vaccinated.  They have a haven in Jack’s company, because nobody is harassing them to be vaccinated and they can work in rural areas and farms without being harassed.  These are very lovely people and do a great job.  Every time I put on my beautiful merino woollen garments during winter, I think of Jack and his crew.

Hayden the 'Rouseabout', shearing gang, Country Western Australia.  Fuji X-T3, XF 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 3,200

I also had the chance to go out twice more with my friend Floki.  I spoke about him in my last blog.  He is the one who has a passion giving free haircuts to the homeless.  To me it seems a rather thankless job, because he is often hassled and harassed.  He said he has been punched in the stomach before, but he loves these people so much and wants to minister to them – he always goes back.  It was a real joy to go with him and witness what barriers a kind word and a free haircut can break down for people who are used to being marginalised and down-trodden.

Free haircuts for the homeless, Perth CBD, Christmas, 2021.  Nikon Z6ii, Z50mm 1.8 @ 1.8, ISO 100

No matter what I was photographing these last couple of months, my Fuji X-T3 with that wonderful 16mm lens and the Z6ii with that amazingly sharp 50mm lens, were at my side faithfully recording life as it happened around me.  For all the folks whom I was so privileged to shoot – none of them posed or put on any ‘airs and graces’.  Many of them know me from prior shoots, so they just did what they do best, and totally ignored me.  I was able to move around, get in close, push in front of huge crowds, (I wear my ‘Media’ lanyard around my neck) and have been blessed and furnished with this beautiful collection of images – photos that could never be posed for or ‘set-up’!  That’s what I love so much about photographing human beings getting on with their ‘dailiness’!  We all know that for many now, life is pretty crappy.  I am very blessed to be able to still get out and journal what is happening around me.  Maybe the day is coming when I will not be able to do that.  At least for now my Fuji and my Nikon system will faithfully be there to record those special moments.  I challenge each of you out there to get out and do the same.  Sell off all of your surplus gear and all the extra stuff that is dragging you down or making your photographic journey burdensome.  Get one or two small cameras, a couple of light lenses, and get out and make photography the enjoyable experience that it was always meant to be!

Drag Queen, Fringe Festival, Perth CBD, January 2022.  Nikon Z6ii, Z50 1.8 @ 1.8, ISO 100 














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