Fuji's APSC or Full-Frame - does it really matter?

March 06, 2023  •  3 Comments

   Mermaid Kat - Splash-Fest celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 60mm @ 2.8.

I know that this subject has been done to death, and people are sick of it by now, but as a working professional, who used Fuji cameras for over a decade, it was only very recently that I finally got this dialed-in for myself (maybe I’m a slow learner)!  Perhaps my ramblings here may help somebody who is navigating a similar journey.

Aboriginal Traditional Dancers, International Dragon Boat races, Fremantle, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8.

 I started my Fuji journey with the original X100.  It had lots of ‘teething problems’, and most notably the sticking aperture blades for the built-in lens.  Nearly all the units had to be sent into Fuji under warranty to have the blades replaced.  It was akin to a wobbly train leaving the station, but slowly the momentum for these little ‘guys’ started to build – many of them now have a cult following.  Around this time, I was documenting all my Asian travels on a Nikon DSLR.  The Nikon D3x was a beautiful 24mp camera, it was built like a German tank and was virtually indestructible.  For somebody bashing around Vietnam on a motorbike, it was almost the perfect tool.  However, the body alone weighed over 1.2Kg, so hulking that behemoth around in the unbearable heat of Vietnam, was a real chore.  Once I finally got a copy of the little Fuji in my sweaty hands, I was sold.

International Dragon Boat Races, Fremantle, Western Australia, 2023. Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8.

I wasn’t over-joyed with the fact that it was an APSC camera, but I put that to the back of my mind.  I remember thinking at the time that in photography there is no ‘free lunch’, everything is usually a compromise, so to lose all that weight and heft and have a much smaller kit, was a trade-off that I was willing to bear. As the years progressed, I cycled through the X-100s, X-Pro-1, X-E1, X-E2, X-T1, X-T2, X-H1, and X-T3.  At any given time, I always had two identical bodies to shoot with, so that represents over 16 cameras – I certainly was not a ‘tire kicker’.  Through most of those years, I was purely an enthusiast who ate slept and breathed photography.  Being very passionate about photography, I always kept up with any developments in cameras and I always wanted to have the best and latest gear.

January 26, 2023, 'Invasion Day' protest, Perth CBD, Western Australia.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8.

I was mostly happy with the images that I was creating in my travels, and I had positive feedback from folk who visited my website.  As I have already alluded – we all know that there is no perfect camera, or perfect lens or sensor – it is always a bit of a juggling act to try and get a balance in your ergonomic and technical requirements, with what your gear is producing in the way of stunning images.  With this mindset, I kept using Fuji gear for well-nigh a decade.

Perth Splash-Fest celebrations, Hillary Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 57mm @ 2.8

During this time, I was living and working in Western Australia – working as a high school teacher, then taking school holidays to travel and photograph Asia.  One weekend I decided to visit friends for a lunch catch-up.  They had a beautiful photograph hanging on their wall of an African man carrying a huge load during a rainstorm.  After enquiring, they told me it was taken by a friend who was a French photographer who travelled the world photographing remote communities.  I was blown away by how sharp and crisp the image was, the colour, tones and transitions between shadows and highlights were exquisite, particularly for a 1.5 meter by 1 meter image.  I found the details for his website and rushed home to my computer, thinking that he was using a medium format camera or even a Phase One.  I was surprised to find that the image was taken on an older Nikon FF DSLR. 

'Bubble Girl', Splash-Fest celebrations. Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8

I had often been disappointed with images from my Fuji files, particularly with images shot in very low-light and high ISO.  If one didn’t nail the exposure perfectly and had to try and pull up shadows, anything over about ISO 2,500, would turn to custard.  After seeing that beautiful image on the wall, and by then, around 2020, mirrorless cameras were starting to take over from DSLR’s - I was having to rethink my camera kit.  The days of needing to have a huge camera to get the advantages of FF, were starting to dwindle – mirrorless cameras were now the same size as my Fuji’s, but FF.  Also, around this time, I had started to be hired more and more for events and photographic gigs on weekends.  The event’s organiser whom I now exclusively shoot for, is very discerning with the quality of images that she requires.  She obviously liked the images that I was producing, but she often questioned the quality of some of them – particularly those shot outdoors with flash or indoor low-light, High ISO (the limitations of APSC).  Though I was still shooting with my Fuji kit, about 2 years ago, I bought a Nikon FF camera, and shot that alongside my Fuji X-T3.

'Unicorn Ponies', Splash-Fest celbrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 50mm @ 2.8

As different images started to cycle through my workflow on Capture One, it became quite obvious that there was a difference between APSC and Full Frame.  Mostly, the images from my Fuji X-T3, compared well with the images from the Nikon FF.   A lot of the gigs that I cover, here in Western Australia, are shot outdoors with lovely lighting.  Perth is world renowned for its moderate weather and beautiful blue skies and sunny days.  Under these conditions the Fuji RAW files were mostly fine and compared well with the images from my Nikon Z6ii FF camera.  However, the differences started to show in darker shooting situations (low light), and outdoor fill-flash. 

International Dragon Boat Races, Fremantle, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z70-200 2.8s, 140mm @ F5.

Shooting stage shows and music venues, I’m always shooting around ISO 1,600 to 6,400.  The Fuji files often don’t cope well in these situations.  With the Nikon files, even though there is some discernable ‘noise’, it is quite film-like, and I very seldom need to process it out.  Even if I don’t nail the exposure perfectly, there is still latitude to pull up the shadows, without the image deteriorating.  One thing though, one must not overexpose, it is much harder to pull down overexposed images, than if they were underexposed.  

 Girls from Dene Selby Modelling Agency, Splash-Fest celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 36mm @ 2.8.

We all know that shooting in harsh midday sun is not conducive to lovely looking images (just ask a wedding photographer).  Unfortunately, nearly all my day-shoots, are from around 10am to 4pm.  The bright sun here is very harsh and unless one does something to counteract this, the images look horrible.  People have harsh shadows under their eyes, and they all look like they haven’t slept for a week!  In order to allay this, I always shoot my outdoor gigs with daylight balanced, high-speed sync flash.  This is where the full frame truly comes into its own.  I had tried this on the Fuji cameras with the APSC files, but it was never seamless, and the images were often over or underexposed, and they never quite looked right.  With my current setup, I have a Godox V1 flash on the hotshoe of my camera.  I bought the accessory kit for this flash, and it has a magnetic diffuser and a dome that I can clip onto the front.  I then set the unit to TTL, and HSS, and underexpose the flash by 1.7 - 2 stops – and that’s it.  I get beautifully exposed images all day long, and they really look great – none of those harsh shadows that we see in bright sunlight.

'Choreography', Chinese Near Year Celebrations, Perth CBD, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 70mm @ 2.8.

That is one of the main reasons I swapped over to shooting all my working images on the FF kit.  I get beautiful images that I can quickly grab on the run, knowing that each time the flash will perfectly expose the image and it won’t look like it’s been shot on flash – it’ll still have that balanced daylight look.  Though I hear that Fuji has now fixed their perennial autofocus woes with the new X-H2’s and the X-T5, (my last Fuji camera was the X-T3), I can safely use eye tracking on the Nikon, and even in dim stage lighting, it quickly grabs the eye almost every time. 

Splash-Fest celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z35mm 1.8s, @ 1.8.

These thoughts are purely my experiences and I still think Fuji cameras are great.  I know there are a plethora of happy professional photographers who use Fuji APSC cameras, and many folks will probably not agree with this missive.  I also miss a lot of things about Fuji, like their tactile dials, aperture rings on most of their lenses, and the fact that I rarely ever had to dive into a menu.  Furthermore, the Fuji RAF files make it so easy to settle on a suitable look for each image.  On Capture One, there are so many different embedded profiles, that I needed to only click on one of many, and I would have my final image.  With the NEF files for Nikon, this is not the case.  There are hardly any different profiles on Capture one, and most of the ones I have now, I’ve had to make these by trial and error. 

Chinese Near Year Celebrations, Perth CBD, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8.

I guess the takeaway from this article is to shoot the gear that suits your needs, your style of photography or those whom you shoot for.  I know for most photographers, having gear in your hand that inspires you and fires your passion for taking memorable images is very important (it’s not just about the final image, it’s also about the process of getting there).  Owning a Leica makes no sense for the uninitiated, however, there is a veritable army of happy photographers sporting their red dot emblemed masterpieces.  There does come a point though where we must put the final image above convenience, passion for a particular brand or loyalty.  I would have loved to have continued shooting with Fuji for years to come and I was in fact looking forward to buying the new X-T5 camera.  However, when the gear I was using was getting in the way of me producing the images that my clients needed, I had to rethink my equipment needs and adjust accordingly.  Let me add though that this is not for the faint hearted.  Here in Australia camera gear is excessively expensive.  With our low exchange rate and the excessive tax excises on ‘luxury’ equipment, changing systems is very expensive.

Splash-Fest Celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 24mm @ 2.8

I bought 3 primes with my two bodies and the impressive 24-70 2.8 professional lens, the Godox V1 flash, and it cost me around $10,000. It is always a big deal having to change to a different camera system, especially after having the Fuji kit for over a decade.  By then, one has collected so many lenses and flashes and accessories that pertain only to that brand.  If you change brands or systems, then all this gear is mostly obsolete.  I hope this shows that I did not change cameras on a whim or fancy, and this was only undertaken after several years thought and careful testing.  I can say that even after forking out 10K in new gear over the recent months, it was very worthwhile and it has not only elevated my image taking quality to a new level, but it has endeared me more to my clients and has made my services more sought after because of the higher quality of my images.

Splash-Fest Celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Western Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z24-70 2.8s, 25mm @ 2.8.

In closing, it doesn’t matter what camera brand or sensor size that you settle on. Just put in the research and be sure that you are using the equipment that will fully utilise your skill and expertise to help you produce images that will not only bring great satisfaction to yourself, but endear you more fully to your clients and customers.

'Nurture' - Mermaid Kat - Splash-Fest celebrations, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth, Australia, 2023.  Nikon Z6ii & Nikon Z35mm 1.8s, @ 1.8.

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


Comments

Hank R.(non-registered)
Hi Philip:
Thanks for the quick, detailed insightful reply!
Based on the subjects you photograph, I understand why an f/4 lens would be too slow for your needs. Regarding the 70-200mm f/2.8 S lens, I’m sure it’s a fantastic performer as a 70-200mm has been a stable in Nikon’s line up for years. Not to mention that their “S” line is now the “cream of the crop” in terms of technology and performance. It’s a lens that one mainly associates with use in landscape, sports and short distance wildlife photography. It’d be great for events too, but given the weight, as you mentioned, it’s not a feasible option.
Currently, I have an X100S and a Nikon Fe2 film camera. I’ve been away from photography for quite a while, and wanted to get a system that could be used for a wide variety of genres. These include landscape, astro/landscape, portraits, street, documentary, wildlife, macro and sports. I love the retro dials on Fuji cameras, their compact size and great lens selection. I’m thinking of buying an X-T5, which would be an excellent choice for street (XF 23mm f/2 & XF 35mm f/2), documentary (XF 33mm f/1.4), portraits (XF 56mm f/1.2) and macro (XF 80mm f/2.8). While I could certainly shoot all the genres I’m interested in with the Fuji system, Nikon’s full frame Z system is better suited for landscape, astro, sports and wildlife (especially birds in flight). Consequently, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to invest in two systems to maximize the strengths of each.
I’m looking forward to spending more time outdoors and photographing, now that the pandemic has subsided. As retirement nears, travel and outdoor photography loom ever present.
Take good care, Philip and thanks again for your informative com
Philip Sutton Photography
Hey Hank - always great to hear from you. Yes, I think I need to update my lens list because it has changed slightly. I tried the 24-120 F4 lens and it is very sharp and a nice lens to use. However, it just couldn't fulfil my needs as a pro shooter now. I couldn't blur out the background at F4, so my subjects never stood out nicely. Also, losing a stop when you are shooting in dark venues is a big deal. I sold it and bit the bullet and bought the expensive but amazing 24-70 2.8s. With my Godox V1, I use this lens for everything. It is fast enough for venues and with the 2.8 I can just blur backgrounds enough for the subjects to stand out. It is every bit as sharp as all my primes. The only thing the primes do better is being lighter, one stop faster so their backgrounds are nicer and lower ISO by one stop. The other 3 lenses I have are primes, but unfortunately, I don't use them very much (Z24 1.8, Z35 1.8, Z50 1.8). When I'm shooting my fast-paced events with action happening quickly, I find it better and easier to just have the one camera with flash on top and the 2.8 zoom.

The other zoom you saw for this article was the Z70-200 2.8s. I hired that for the day because it is a $4,000 lens here in Australia. I didn't like it at all and glad I did not buy it. It is hugely heavy and I don't need a long focal zoom, all of my events are usually shot up close so the 24-70 is all I ever need. I only hired the longer zoom for the day because I was in a boat chasing the action on the water and for that day needed a longer lens. I hope that helps Hank? What camera and system are you using now?
Hank R.(non-registered)
Hi Philip:

I hope this email finds you and yours well!

I enjoyed this article and your pictures; you took some terrific images.

Good luck with your new Nikon gear! I was curious as to which three Nikkor primes you're using. I only saw the 35mm f/1.8 S under one of your pictures. I also saw (and read) that you are using three Nikkor zooms: 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 70-200mm f/2.8 S, and the 24-120mm f/4 S. Are these all your new S lenses?

The reason I'm inquiring is that I'm debating between both the X (for street and portraits) and Z (for wildlife, landscape and sports) systems.

Thank you and stay well!

Sincerely,

Hank
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