I bought the latest Fuji in Hong Kong. Herewith the how and why, and twenty-four Chinese-flavored photos as supporting evidence. Um, if you’re visiting on a less-than-fast Internet link, you might have to wait a bit for ’em. Sorry ’bout that.

[This is part of The Surface of China series.]

Hong Kong apartment towers

Hong Kong cliche #1. 35mm, 1/680, f/4, ISO 320.

The Star Ferry heads for Central

Hong Kong cliche #2. 18-55mm@18, 1/340, f/7.1, ISO 320.

Hong Kong bamboo scaffolding construction

Hong Kong Cliche #3. 18-55mm@30.2, 1/220, f/3.6, ISO 1250.
These guys yelled at me to stop shooting, but with a camera small and fast enough you can get a couple before they notice.

I’ve been shooting with the Fujifilm X-T1 for five years and it’s made me very happy. Not too long ago, I bought an X-T2, and then a few days later dropped it four feet onto pavement. Sob. Then Fuji shipped the X-T3 and I’d decided to pick one up for the Chinese excursion, but before I did they followed up with this thing.

Lunch break in the Forbidden City

Lunch break in Beijing’s Forbidden City.
35mm, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 160.

Let’s see… same sensor and processor, smaller and lighter (383g as opposed to 539), not waterproof (but most of my lenses aren’t either). Slightly less video mojo (I use my phone for that). $600 cheaper. Of these criteria, the size and weight were the biggies for me; it was compactness that moved me from SLR to the mirrorless space six years ago, and remember, I was just heading out on a walking-oriented trip that was listed as “challenging”. This was not a difficult choice.

A treasure from the Forbidden City

Forbidden City treasure #1. 35mm, 1/340, f/1.4, ISO 160.

A treasure from the Forbidden City

Forbidden City treasure #2. 35mm, 1/50, f/1.4, ISO 400.
Bit of a Miyazaki flavor here.

Problem was, the camera hit the shelves on March 20th, the same day I was getting on a trans-Pacific flight at noon. No problemo! Because 萬成/永成攝影器材 (Wing Shing photo) was right around the corner from my Hong Kong hotel, so when I arrived (on the 21st) I went there for a walk after supper.

The exterior wall of the Forbidden City

By the Forbidden City’s exit. 35mm, 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 160.

The X-T30 was in stock, in all the color trims. I asked “how much?” and they told me, I said “let me check the price back home” and used my phone to pull up the Canadian price. The store was a little quiet and the other Wing Shing dudes gathered around, amused. Turns out Fuji has steely price discipline; the prices were within $10. The dudes were impressed. They threw in a 64G card and HK doesn’t have sales tax. And when I got back home the Canadian customs lady decided not to charge me the sales tax, which she could have.

Canal outside the forbidden city

Forbidden city canal corner. 35mm, 1/140, f/16, ISO 160.
Maybe my favorite China picture.

Findings · None of these should surprise anybody who keeps an eye on Fuji.

Item: Oh, it’s so light! And as will become apparent when I tell climbing-the-Great-Wall stories, that really matters.

Great wall with flowering tree

On the Great Wall! 18-55mm@55, 1/80, f/20, ISO 160.

Looking north from the Great Wall

Great Wall view north. 18-55mm@27.7, 1/1250, f/6.4, ISO 160.

Part of the great wall

Jiankou Great Wall at dusk. 55-200mm@74.1, 1/120, f/3.7, ISO 160.

Item: It’s noticeably faster than my X-T1, both turn-on lag and shooting time.

Item: Moving from 16 to 26 million pixels slows down Lightroom import, but lets me crop more aggressively to fix composition mistakes.

Jiankou Great Wall section, snowy

Snowy section, Jiankou Great Wall.
55-200mm@55, 1/680, f/5.6, ISO 160.
Hmm, a little research is called for. The original is razor-sharp but there’s loss of detail in this Lightroom export.

Snowy trees from Jiankou Great Wall

Snowy flowery trees, Jiankou Great Wall.
55-200mm@60.7. f/5.6, ISO 160.
I wish you could see this on the big retina screen.

Item: The dumb “Q” button, which I don’t use anyhow, is idiotically placed so it really takes practice to avoid hitting it all the time.

Tree near Gubeikou

Tree near Gubeikou. Samyang 135mm, 1/800, f/?, ISO 160.
I haven’t really mastered the Samyang/X-T30 combo yet; that’s OK.

Item: Some combination of the touch-screen and overly thorough state retention meant that a high proportion of the times I picked up the camera, the focus area was off uselessly in some corner or another. I changed multiple settings: Disabled the touch screen, required punch-to-activate on the joystick, maybe more; and eventually this stopped happening. Now I can go back and judiciously relax the settings.

ProTip: When this does happen, press the joystick down (twice maybe) and that recenters the focus. This is terribly important to me because I’m a reaction shooter and when I bring the camera up to my eye and aim at what I’m reacting to, I don’t want to waste time moving the focus around.

View near Gubeikou Great Wall

Gubeikou Great Wall view. 55-200mm@57.8, 1/600, f/5.6, ISO 160.
This picks up quite a bit of drama if you expand it.

People on Gubeikou Great Wall Tower

Tourists on Gubeikou Great Wall Tower.
55-200mm@200, 1/300, f/8, ISO 200.
Damn that Fuji glass is great.

Item: I haven’t figured out how to get much benefit from the touch-screen. When I turn it back on I’ll have to put some study into that.

View approaching Jinshanling Great Wall

Approaching Jinshanling Great Wall.
55-200mm@90.4, 1/320, f/8, ISO 160
Needs to be blown up room-size.

Item: The controls take the usual Fuji loads-of-dials approach, but the ISO dial has been subtracted, replaced by a mode selector (single-shot, video, panorama, bracketing, motor drive, yadda yadda) that used to be squashed underneath it. For me this is a win/win, since I hand-selected an ISO exactly once in the six years I’ve been in Fuji-land, but I regularly want to switch modes. Way back in 2013, I pronounced the Fuji controls “perfect” and I pretty well stand by that finding. Everything I ever want to change is available on a handy physical dial, and nothing else is there getting in the way.

Tree blossoms near Gubeikou Great Wall

Blossoms near Jinshanling. 35mm, 1/680, f/4.5, ISO 160.

Item: The EVF is not as big as I’m used to and I miss that, but I can’t honestly claim that it’s cost me pictures.

In the Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum

In the Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum.
35mm, 1/1250, f/6.4, ISO 160.

Item: The new joystick on the back is really well-executed; just the right size, just the right sensitivity, does just the right thing.

At the tomb of the Dowager Empress Cixi

At the tomb of the Dowager Empress Cixi.
55-200mm@115.9, 1/850, f/5.6, ISO 160.
Enlarge and see what’s looking out that door.

Who’s it for? · It’s like this: Some people plan their photos, others find them. I’m a finder, 100%. Which means I need the camera to be always with me, and shoot fast, and have really good ergonomics. If you’re like me, the X-T30 might just be the best camera in the world.

Lauren at 京A Brewing

Lauren at 京A Brewing, Beijing. 18-55mm@18, 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 320.
Mother by daughter.

One is not enough · I carry two cameras, of course: this and the Pixel-2. Of the China-trip photos I decided to keep, 167 were Pixel and 283 were Fujifilm. That’s a little misleading because there are a few X-T30 motor-drive action sequences of kids cartwheeling and swinging on ropes and so on.

Ducklings on a Stick near Wangfujing

Ducklings on a stick near Wangfujing. 35mm, 1/120, f/1.8, ISO 160.
Wish I’d gone for a bit more depth-of-field.

Phones aren’t going to replace “real” cameras until someone figures out how to install long lenses on them. Also, a phone is a general-purpose device while every atom of the X-T30 is optimized for making shooting easy and productive. But the Pixel is so fabulously effective at wide-angles and close-up shots and people, I don’t think of it as being a “better” or “worse” camera than the Fuji, just different.

Beijing small vehicles

Beijing micromobility. 35mm, 1/50, f/8, ISO 160.
There’s a big cool photo-project in this.

Lensing · I took four: 18-55mm F2.8-4 (135 photos), 35mm F1.4 (86), 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 (49), Samyang 135mm F2 (12). The 18-55mm has lightning autofocus and on the X-T30 is just insanely fast and flexible, ideal when you have no idea what kind of thing you’re going to shoot but you’re going to need to shoot quick. The 35mm is my all-time favorite lens, its autofocus is klunky but it makes everything you point it at look better. The 55-200mm doesn’t have much personality but if you’re going to be climbing mountains and so on, you sometimes really need all those millimeters. The Samyang is maddeningly difficult and super-opinionated, not to mention cruelly bulky and heavy, but when you find the right subject, it’s a miracle-worker.

Blossom in Jiaomen, Beijing

Blossom in Jiaomen, Beijing. Seven hundred twenty-third.
35mm, 1/1600, f/4, ISO 160.

I consciously adopted a discipline of going out with one flexible zoom and one difficult/opinionated prime: Usually the 35mm and 18/55 in town, then in the country, either 18-55 and Samyang, or the 35 and 55-200. I refuse to carry a big camera bag so two lenses is about all I can manage out on the trail. I liked this formula and think I’ll stick with it for a while.

Wrapping up · Assuming I avoid dropping this thing, it should last me a long time. I still have the X-T1; I give it to my twelve-year-old daughter with the 18-55mm screwed on and everything set to auto, and she goes nuts, taking hundreds of photos of which a few turn out great.

I don’t think you can get more camera for the money. I don’t think I can get a better camera for my style for any money.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Jarek (Apr 12 2019, at 06:15)

Hi Tim, thanks for sharing the pictures. Inquiring minds would like to know if it's possible to share the more wallpaper-looking of them (mostly the mountains-into-the-distance-ones) in slightly higher res. 1080 would be great.

[link]

From: Lucian P. (Apr 12 2019, at 12:58)

Hi,

As always, pictures on "ongoing" are nice. A lot of jagged backgrounds, I like that.

One small correction in the photo descriptions is required though: I really doubt those poor skewered birds are ducks. They look like chickens to me.

[link]

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