Over the weekend Master Shi Yan Feng of the American Shaolin Kung Fu school accepted my offer to shoot the Texas Kung Fu Festival. I wanted to shoot this event for two reasons. Firstly, my wife is one of Master Feng’s students and loves what she is learning. Doing something for her teacher was my way of showing my appreciation. Secondly, and more relevant to this website, the shoot was going to give me a great opportunity to put my Fujifilm XT-2 through its paces. Most of the photography I do is portraiture so this was a chance to do something different. I planned to do a mix of shooting individuals in isolation and groups of performers. This meant varying the aperture for composition but it also meant I could practice new skills while testing three of the camera’s capabilities:
- Tracking moving subjects.
- Dealing with high contrast lighting.
- Battery life.
To test battery life and make sure I could use the camera’s boost mode I went with a fully charged set of 3 batteries (one in the camera body and two in the VPB grip). I took three lenses (35mm f2, 56mm f1.2, 16mm f1.4). As expected, I used the 35mm almost exclusively for the action shots. Its field of view and faster focus were ideal and I did not need to use a wider aperture than f2. I used the 56mm for a few portraits and the 16mm for only about 3 shots. All the shots in this post were taken with the 35mm.
How did the testing go?
1. Tracking fast moving subjects:
Most of the day the camera was set to continuous focus and zone focusing with tracking option 5 (erratically moving objects) and electronic shutter only. As you can see from this sequence of shots, keeping the performers in focus as they moved across the stage was very successful.
Keeping two people in focus obviously meant closing the aperture a little for more depth of field. Keeping a whole line of people running across the stage was another good test but I had the aperture a little too open to keep them all in focus. My fault, not the camera’s.
Perhaps these are not the harshest tests of focus tracking. How about tracking one person and using a wider aperture?
Very successful, I think. Let’s make it even harder: Tracking one person’s face with a wider aperture. These were at f2 and I was not using face recognition. Instead I put the focus area (not zone) on the performer’s face and moved the camera with her as she jumped. It’s not easy to tell in these small versions but in the full size pictures her face is sharp.
Additionally, obstacles did not confuse the camera’s focus tracking.
2. High contrast lighting:
The entire event was obviously outdoors. The Texas sun was bright but there were a few dark clouds and even a couple of showers. I was there from 11am to 4pm so the light changed a lot during the day. Since it was so bright I set the ISO to 200 and the shutter speed to A (essentially aperture priority mode in Fujifilm terms). This seemed like the easiest way to operate because bight sun gave me shutter speeds that were always over 1/1000 of a second (sometimes more than 1/8000, hence using the electronic shutter all day). I wanted to freeze the action so having a fast shutter was the most important thing. As you can see in the examples below, the exposure changed quite a lot. I was using spot metering throughout. Occasionally I would track a performer from one end of the stage to the other. With the focus engaged and sideways movement you could have a performer start their movement in very bright light, move into the shadow cast by the banner and than back into direct light at the other end of the stage. For example:
This variation can easily be corrected in post but I wanted to leave it visible to illustrate the point.
3. Battery life:
As noted, I took the VPB and 3 fully charged batteries. All told I shot 1443 frames. When I got home the first battery was empty, the second was at 80% charge and the third was 100% full. Honestly, using 1.2 batteries is a lot better than I expected. Granted I don’t leave the camera on all the time and powering it off when not actually shooting saves the power but I was using AF-C, CL and CH modes all day.
The overall verdict? I am impressed. Very impressed. Here are a few more shots if you are still reading all the way down here.