Over the last couple of months I have been playing around a lot with the Fuji XT1 camera that I got when I was out in Dubai. I have been on a campaign to tell everyone about how well that this camera has been performing. It’s been a completely different experience for me – finally a small portable camera that has a great featureset and amazing image quality.
Not too long ago, the folks over at Fuji asked if I would be interested in taking their new 18-135 Weather Resistant lens out for a spin and see what kind of images I would get of it. I jumped at the opportunity. I figured after some playing around i would share my findings – grouped in projects from “Oh, that’s nice – a little sprinkle” to “Man, you shouldn’t even be out there in that weather.” I wont focus too much on the technical particulars out there – I’ll just give my anecdotal experiences and share the images I did so that you may be the judge of it.
Tale Of The Tape
The Fuji XT1 is a Weather Resistant camera, with over 80 points of weather sealing in it. Because of this, the camera is dust resistant, water resistant, and freezeproof to about -10 degrees Celsius. This immediately made me want to try shooting out in the elements – but was stopped because the lenses that came with it were not weather resistant. That is, until this new 18-135 (APS-C is about 24-200.. roughly). So – with this lens paired with the camera, we have a water resistant, dust resistant, freezeproof beast.
Now, weather resistant is not weather proof. It’s not like you can take the camera and go underwater to make some shots (though lord knows I really wanted to try that). When I think ‘weather resistant’ it immediately makes me think that this is a camera that gets to stay out in the elements just a little bit longer than its brothers and sisters. Think to yourself – dust storm, rain storm, snow storm. Theoretically, the camera should be able to handle this well..
But just -how- much water can the camera take? Guess it’s our time to find out.
The Light Sprinkle – A Soldier’s Portrait
One of the hardest things I had to encounter when working with the camera was finding the rain that I wanted to shoot in. Tampa is legendary for out and out downpours of rain. The moment I got the camera in my hands, I stopped counting on the amount of storms that were destined to hit us – only to turn away at the very last minute. I font remember the last time that I prayed this hard for some rain.
That said, I wanted to make a picture. My buddy Gabriel is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Dubai. He’s back home for a couple of weeks, and we wanted to make a portrait of him. We headed out to Lakeland, FL to the Circle B Bar and Preserve to try to make a shot.
We headed out with my buddy Rob Hererra and scouted out places to go out and shoot. We only had 2 hours before sunset. There was a HUGE storm rolling in. Of course we are going to get rained on!
Nope. Not at all. Its like a giant dry cone encircled us.. and prevented us from getting the shot that we wanted to get – Gabriel in the bush, looking for a way to the next point. In the previous post, I had shared a picture that I did with my friend Tatom using the B1 Air and a Beauty dish – sans rain. Make sure you check that out!
As it was getting really dark, I pulled out a Profoto B1 Air and used it’s modeling light to provide a small amount of sidelight to the shot. I pre-cut a 1/4 cut of CTO and gaff taped it to the front. We used the B1 Air’s modeling light so we didn’t have to worry about triggering while we were shooting. The cover on it? A turkey roasting bag (Big thanks to Erik Valind for the tip on that)
We got a cool shot – and the lens did well.. but the rain eluded us.
Now, you would think all would be lost, right? No. Not quite. You see.. after we left the closed park and headed home, we drove into some rain – right by a CVS drugstore. Hey… If I go out for a shot – i’m not coming home empty handed. We quickly setup and framed in the parking lot – rain coming down, and customers looking at us with three heads.
We pulled out the B1 air for a left light, but I felt like it was missing a little bit of something on the right. Running back into the store- I came back out with some aluminum foil that we attached to a foamcore sheet. Bouncing a flashlight into it, we could get some side definition, at at least give Gabe something that he could go home with in terms of a picture. I wasn’t going to let him put all that gear out for nothing.
The camera? She took the light rain pretty good. So – we know a small drizzle wont really kill it. Lets take it up a notch.
Stepping it Up a Bit: WaterWall
There is an apartment complex in St. Pete, Florida that has a six story waterwall by their parking lot. I thought to myself – wouldn’t it be cool to have someone with a physique similar to mine just laying on the wall and having the water hit him (and me) in the process? Well… after a quick call to Leo, we were able to make that happen. The camera got just a little bit more rain than the Soldier shoot – but we couldn’t really setup a post production shot. Security got in there and was concerned for the chemicals in the water – he wanted to make sure Leo was safe. Something tells me Leo would be just fine.
So the camera is hunk and sprinkle proof… Let’s move it a little further…
Full On Spray: Super Kid and Beenie!
While I know that Im going to look at this camera as a pro photographer – I also want to look at the camera as a Dad. There are plenty of people that are out there looking for a camera that don’t shoot for a living, or don’t want to see themselves on workshops or making prints. They want pictures of their families – and want the images to come out great without schlepping a ton of gear. What a better way to see how well it takes a picture than to just break out the water hose and take a shot right in the middle of the spray. My buddy Jen’s son Issac got together with my daughter Sabine and we decided to put that to the test.
Instead of running from the water when the kids are playing with the hose, you can now run to them.
The setup? My wife Jenn is -covering- us with a hose, while my friend Jen takes this shot. A gold reflector kicks a little light right back into the space.
No two ways about it… this camera was getting some water time in…
The camera never missed a beat. I was emboldened by this… I bet this thing can -really- take some rain in here..
The other thing that I was pleasantly surprised about what how I started thinking about things when I didn’t need to worry about whether the camera was going to be OK. Since i’m not doing the “Oh, snap. Run! Its Water” I kinda got into the moment and started seeing what would happen if I played around a little… got a little more artistic with things. Dragging shutter, playing with focus… The other shots show that yes, the camera is totally capable of surviving the hose down.
This shot is the one that reminds me of the moment we played. Being freed of the worry let me be more artistic.. and for that, i’m grateful of the technology.
That said… we need more Cowbell! I want the downpour. Will it take the Downpour!
The Downpour: Shannen’s Portrait
Yup… a downpour did come. I had scouted this spot for several days with my friend Shannen – a local model. We had traveled to it on several occasions – ready to shoot – only to be thwarted by the lack of rain (I did get a good shot of her without rain.. posting below). This time, I was there when the radar said it was severe.
I was getting text messages from friends saying “Dude.. you should be inside.. the thunder and lightning are gonna get bad”. I had waited for a while to make this shot – no way im leaving! (Thats my RRS TQC14 Tripod out there… when weather gets bad, thats the puppy I throw out there… thing is like a tank)
Its taking some good rain in there… but holding on just fine. Shannen sets up, and we make the shot we’ve been working on..
Just was digging the moodiness of the rain against her look. Felt very soft.. We kept shooting a little longer and the rain started letting up.
Does the 18-135 Survive The Downpour?
So… how did the camera and lens hold up?
Like a champ. The camera didn’t skip a beat. The only thing that was a pain during the shoot in the storm was scrambling to wipe off all of the water collecting in the front of the lens. Not doing so would just get in the way, so you had to do that often (in all of the shoots). That said – its no different than any other shooting.. keep the glass clear… keep the glass clear.
The camera focused well, shot great. Image quality was great – even when the storms and time warranted us pushing the ISO up higher. I’d take this camera and lens out in pretty much any rainstorm that we get out here.. and expect to from here on it. It was an absolute joy to shoot and performed better than I would have Imagined.
I Loved It Without The Rain
There was also one pleasant thing that happened during the testing of the 18-135. While i was fixated in seeing how much water I can throw onto the camera to see if it would work – there were small moments where I just took a picture with no water whatsoever. I couldn’t see a person just buying the lens as a ‘Storm’ lens and not take it out and shoot with it in normal use.
While I waited for the rain to come on one of the occasions with Shannen, I asked her to sit on one of the sides of the bridge and just hang out. My buddy brad used a silver relector off camera left and we were able to catch a great shot of her – at least to pass the time on a shoot that we know went ‘bust’
While we were doing the “Water Wall” shoot in St. Pete – I took my wife and daughter out for lunch. There was this cool little italian restaurant right across the street from the shoot location. We went in and I asked to be seated at a table by the window in a corner. I saw that there was a second window above my wife’s head throwing a cool kicker. I also saw that there was a neat fabric in the curtain. Move her to the left. Step back and rack in. The window to the right will be the main – the above window will be the kicker.
I’ve been shooting Raw+JPG fine for all of this… just to give the folks at Fuji as much info as I could…
Yeah… these are the JPG’s out of the camera.
Summing it Up
The XF 18-135mm f/ 3.5-5.6 WR lens has been an absolutely joy to shoot with. Without rain, the lens delivers some stunning images and is a great complement to the XT1. From a light sprinkle to a Florida thunderstorm downpour this lens did not skip a beat and delivered great images. I would highly recommend it!