About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Video: "A lazy Sunday Morning In Dublin City" - Shot on the Fuji X-Pro 2

Video: "A lazy Sunday Morning In Dublin City" - Shot on the Fuji X-Pro 2

It was a beautiful sunny Autumn morning here in Dublin last Sunday, and so I set about doing something I had wanted to do for a while, but I had kept putting off for various reasons. When I saw the beautiful light, I decided to head out and shoot some video (semi-properly) on my Fuji X-Pro 2. I had shot some clips before, but I hadn’t set out to do a proper shoot. For this test, I wanted to try and shoot reasonably properly, so I took my tripod, and more importantly, a proper variable ND filter. While I had a few hiccups, for the most part I’m happy with what I shot.

Dublin is quite peaceful early on a Sunday morning, especially if you’re away from the very heart of the city centre. It’s only a small city, so the centre isn’t very big. A 15 minute walk from the commercial heart, and you’re in the leafy surroundings of the Canal and the Georgian part of the city. This is where I started my journey, and I tried to film the relaxing nature of the capital coming to life. I got some nice shots and I think the overall theme came together reasonably well. I didn’t really plan it or anything, and I could probably do better had it not been sort of a last minute decision.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I did have a few hiccups. These were entirely my own fault, both from being impatient, and also for not taking the time to get to know the camera a little better. The first thing that wen’t wrong, was a really stupid mistake on my part. I didn’t clean the ND filter. While I didn’t notice it for a while, you can kind of see the effects in the footage. It gives a sort of glow in the middle of the frame. It’s not horrible or unusable, although there were a couple of really bad shots which I ended up not using.

The second thing was also a stupid mistake. I had set about shooting in manual mode to make sure I could get the right shutter speed so the motion looks right. I was shooting at 25 frames per second (the standard here in Ireland) and I wanted the shutter speed to be a double of that, the nearest of which is 1/60th. That was fine, but I had forgotten that I had the ISO set to automatic. I was getting really frustrated wondering why the exposure kept changing, until it finally dawned on me half way through the shoot. Again, entirely my own fault.

Shooting video with the X-Pro 2 is an interesting experience to say the least. I know there will be passionate opinions on this subject, so I’ll try and not say anything too controversial! The video capabilities of the X-Pro 2 are good, but not great. There’s a couple of issues, most of which could probably be fixed with a firmware update, that make the experience a little frustrating. None of these are really deal breakers, but it does add some complications to the ergonomics and workflow. I’m not trying to bash the camera or anything, I’m just pointing out my experiences.

There’s a few little things, that may seem quite simple, but are actually quite annoying. Here’s what I found in no particular order…

  1. If you look through the viewfinder and start shooting, it won’t switch back to the LCD when you take your eye away. Because the light was quite strong, I often found myself looking through the viewfinder (EVF) to make sure the shot was right before I hit record. The problem is, if you hit the record button which your eye up to the viewfinder, and then you go to look at the LCD you can’t. The image will only display on the viewfinder. The same goes for the other way around. If you start shooting on the LCD but want to see how it’s looking on the EVF you can’t.
  2. Because there is no dedicated video mode on the camera, you have no guide for lining up your shot before you start to shoot. The still aspect ratio is 3:2 and the movie aspect ratio is 16:9 so when you hit record, you will often have to re-frame your shot. There is a work around, and that is to set the stills aspect ratio to 16:9 so that the framing would be the same. This is a problem if you’re shooting a mix of stills and video though.
  3. I found that sometimes when I started shooting, the brightness level of the scene would change once recording started. I though this may be to do with my mistake of not switching to manual ISO, but even with auto ISO this shouldn’t be happening. I didn’t figure out what the culprit was, but it was seemingly random. I’m sure it was something I was doing though.
  4. If you start shooting in autofocus, you can’t seem to change to manual focus without stopping recording. Again, this could be just me, and I need to do some more tests to figure out why this wasn’t working, whether it is a “feature” or just something I was doing wrong.

In terms of the actual quality of the video, there’s both good and bad aspects to it. The images are nice and strong out of the camera. They’re certainly better than the older generation Fuji’s. I was pushing it a bit too though. The scenes, while they may seem a bit mundane, where very contrasty, and there was a considerable difference between the bright and shadow parts in some of the shots. There was also a lot of moving, fine detail in a few of the scenes, and this pushed the codec to the limits.

In terms of the codec, while format that the camera records in is a very useful and nicely formatted quicktime .MOV file, the bit rate is quite low, and you can see compression artifacts in a few of the scenes. In the shots with the trees and the water, there is a lot of fine detail, and because the wind was blowing, all of it is moving. This is about as difficult as it gets for this type of compression, and so it is asking a lot of it. Some scenes are fine, but it does break up a bit in other shots. The bit rate is relatively low, and I think this lets down the results you could be getting if it was higher. (I can’t seem to find out if you can record from the HDMI port or not, and I don’t have the tools to test it)

There’s a few other frustrations regarding the video quality too. The only thing you can really set not he camera is the Film Simulation mode. All the other parameters are ignored when shooting video. This means that the highlight and shadow tone modes are disabled, but more importantly, you can’t adjust the sharpness. In my opinion, the video is slightly over-sharp. Again, it depends on the scene, but I would liked to have turned it down slightly. I actually ended up using a very fine gaussian blur (.5 radius) in Premiere Pro to soften the images slightly.

Because there’s no flat profile, and because I was shooting scenes with a very high contrast range, I had to try and use the flattest of the picture profiles. A reader had recommended pro-neg standard, and I sued that for most of the shots. I also tried Astia a few times too, but they both give similar results in terms of dynamic range. I shot entirely with the 18-556 f2.8 to 4 which was fine. I’m not sure if a different lens would have made the results any better, and I think they’re ok for the most part. I’m not 100% happy with some of the shots in the video, and I’m a little frustrated with how some of them came out. This is more at my own inability to get them right mores rather than anything directed at the capabilities of the camera.

I edited the footage in Premiere pro and I only did a very simple grade to it. I tweaked contrast levels a bit here and there, and tried to even out the colour in the shots where the light started changing. I didn’t put any “look” on it as such, so what you’re seeing in terms of colour is purely form the Film simulation modes in the camera.

Overall, it worked out relatively well, apart from a few screw ups by yours truly. I would like to try some more footage with some adapted lenses to see how that would turn out. I would also like to shoot something in a more controlled environment, with people to see how that would turn out. I expect it would be much better, as you would have more control over the lighting and contrast levels in the scene. A shot without all the moving fine detail would also be a lot friendlier to the codec too.

While I think the video on the X-Pro 2 is much improved over previous Fuji’s but I suspect that if you’re planning on shooting video primarily, and you want to use a Fuji, then you would probably be better off waiting for the X-T2. Compared to my experience of shooting video with the Sony A6000, I think that the Fuji is sharper by default, but the X-AVCs codec on the Sony is much better, and you have much more control over the picture. They both have pros and cons.

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