Low Light Performance of X100T

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Bellatones performing at The Musician, Leicester. Saturday 3rd January 2015. X100T 1/100 f2.8 ISO 3200.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I enjoy taking photos at small local music venues. In the past I’ve shot them with my various Canon EOS bodies, 20D, 40D, 7D and latterly the 6D. The lenses I use most for this are the 70-200mm f4L and the 100mm f2.8 macro. The 70-200 has pretty nice reach and I appreciate the wider aperture of the 100mm macro. Sure, I’d like something longer and brighter but as we all know long, bright lenses are the ones which cost the big money.

I did invest in a Fujifilm X-Pro 1 about a year ago following my falling in love with the X100. It’s a great camera, and I have three wonderful lenses to use with it, the 18mm, 35mm and 55-200mm. I took the X-Pro to Rome with me last year and it performed superbly whilst giving my back and shoulders an enjoyable holiday at the same time.

However I couldn’t seem to get the X-Pro 1 to perform the way I would like at these local gigs. Low light and musicians bouncing around the stage didn’t seem to be a combination the auto focus system was particularly at home with. This seemed a shame as that body puts out nice clean files at high ISO and the image stabilisation and reach of the 55-200mm lens might prove handy.

So I returned to using my 6D for shooting these gigs. Good low light focussing on a moving target and low noise levels combined with the fact that I drive to these venues and don’t have to worry as much about the weight of the equipment made using the Canon system my de-facto choice for those occasions.

And then I was at a gig at The Musician in Leicester on Saturday night. I decided to take my X100T along just to see how it handled the low light. I knew that most of my shots would be taken with the 6D and 70-200mm, but I was sat very close to the stage so that 35mm equivalent point of view would be just about right for a stage wide view.

I set to work with my 6D and occasionally brought out the X100T for those wider shots. I was immediately impressed with the autofocus performance under those challenging lighting conditions. It locked on quickly without any noticeable hunting around and proved to be very accurate. Meanwhile my 6D with that L glass was doing pretty well but it was occasionally hunting for focus and I missed a few shots due to this.

I mostly shoot in raw and process using Adobe Lightroom. I know that Lightroom has picked up a reputation for not being the best solution for processing images produced by an X-Trans sensor but I’ve been happy enough with it and as I shoot with lots of cameras I don’t really want to fragment my post processing to two different packages depending upon what camera I’ve been using.

All of the shots I’ve put up here were from the X100T and processed using Lightroom from raw files. I’m thinking that I might load some of them back onto the camera to see what I can produce in the way of jpgs using the camera’s own raw converter. I know that the Fuji cameras do turn out excellent jpgs, I just always feel “safer” shooting raw somehow. I’ve yet to process any of the shots taken with the 6D.

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James Cull performing at The Musician, Leicester. Saturday 3rd January 2015. X100T 1/110 f2.8 ISO 5000 (they’d turned the lights down a bit at this point in the night).

Having seen the results and having experienced the performance of the camera throughout the night I was left with two main thoughts :-

  1. I should have shot way more with the X100T that night.
  2. Having experienced the autofocus system of a more recent X System camera I’m now wondering how something like the X-T1 or X-E2 might cope with more challenging lighting conditions. If they’re as good as the X100T then maybe I could get the 55-200mm back into work at a gig.

Plus it might just have convinced me to give the X-Pro 1 another go, see if I can work around the issues I was experiencing. If there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of it’s that Fuji have been turning out some quite wonderful lenses for the X System. I’d like to see what the effective 300mm reach of that 55-200 could do at a gig. But might I need to bolt it onto the front of an X-E2 or X-T1 to make the most of it?

Edit – After publishing I’ve just remembered one thing which I really should have mentioned here. The new feature in the X100T firmware (new to me having used the X100 for the last three years) of having the spot metering follow your selected point of focus is absolutely fantastic in these lighting situations. Pop the camera into spot AE mode, move your point of focus over a face and – click. Of course with the X100 series of cameras it’s a very, very soft click indeed – but you get what I mean. It’s fantastic in contrasty lighting situations and that is the lighting I love.

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Abandon Her performing at The Musician, Leicester. Saturday 3rd January 2015. X100T 1/60 f2.8 ISO 1600.

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Initial Thought performing at The Musician, Leicester. Saturday 3rd January 2015. X100T 1/105 f2.8 ISO 5000.

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