24.02.2022 Alan Hewitt

#10YearsOfXMount | My Fujifilm Wildlife Journey

Alan Hewitt

Alan is a professional wildlife photographer and writer based in Northumberland in the United Kingdom.
From the seabird colonies of the British coastline, to the mega-fauna of the vast savannahs of Kenya’s Masai Mara and South Africa’s Lowveld, Alan’s passion is to photograph the diversity of the natural world. He is increasingly drawn towards documenting wildlife behaviour and the relationships between species and their habitats.

Alan hopes that his photography can be used to inspire others to appreciate, enjoy and conserve our incredible natural history. Alan has worked with various UK and international magazines, newspapers and publishers on wildlife photography features. He leads wildlife photography workshops and safaris as well as speaking at events throughout the UK. He is also a UK brand ambassador for Formatt-Hitech filters.

January 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of Fujifilm’s X Mount range of mirrorless cameras. During a journey of just one decade, from the inaugural X-Pro1 to the X-T4, we’ve seen the evolution of an incredibly versatile range of cameras, design and technology.

My Fujifilm adventure started in 2017. A need for a more compact and lightweight photography solution, with a wide to mid-range lens, was satisfied with the FUJIFILM X-T2 and XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS. Together, they were lighter than the damaged lens I was replacing!

As well as ticking the boxes for logistical requirements, the X-T2 made another immediate impression. I couldn’t help but appreciate the fusion of retro design and modern technology. Lens aperture rings, alongside engineered dials for shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation, presented a much more enjoyable and tactile user experience than other cameras.

Red squirrel, wide angle wildlife, X-T2 and XF18-55mm

Despite warming to the X Mount system, I never intended to use Fujifilm cameras and lenses for all my work. But when a friend offered to loan me their XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens and XF1.4X TC WR teleconverter, curiosity got the better of me – so, I visited a local nature reserve to put the pairing through its paces.

I was quickly impressed with the XF100-400mm. The image quality and sharpness surpassed expectations. When coupled with the X-T2, the combination was so much lighter than my other kit – it felt liberating using the lens handheld, rather than being constantly encumbered by a tripod and head. When I added the XF1.4 teleconverter to photograph small woodland birds, the system’s quality shone through.

Nuthatch, Newcastle upon Tyne, X-T2 and XF100-400mm with XF1.4X

Over the course of a few days, I delved into the detailed autofocus settings, experimenting with optimising the electronic viewfinder, while customising the overall camera set-up to my preferences.

Photography takes me around the world, travelling with lots of equipment. Large lenses are always challenging – particularly when flying with multiple airlines. I’ve never liked the idea of two different camera systems. And the more I used the X Mount, the more impressed I was.

After hesitation, procrastination and research, my FUJIFILM X Mount epiphany happened. Previous DSLRs were consigned to trade-in, and the newly launched FUJIFILM X-H1 found a space in my bag – along with my own XF100-400mm, a XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR and the XF1.4X teleconverter. I prefer cameras with vertical grips when spending extended time shooting in portrait orientation, so these were also added for each body.

Red squirrel, Northumberland, X-T2 and XF50-140mm

The X-H1 became my primary camera. Its larger recessed grip felt more ergonomic for my hands, and the introduction of IBIS was beneficial when shooting handheld with the XF100-400mm lens. Despite the incredible technology introduced by the X-T3 and X-T4, the X-H1 is still my workhorse, matching my preferred construction.

Atlantic puffin, Farne Islands, Northumberland, X-H1 and XF100-400mm

My experience with Fujifilm cameras doesn’t end with the X Mount system. In 2018, I decided to take what many would describe as an unconventional approach, using the FUJIFILM GFX50S and GF250mmF4 R LM OIS WR at Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Wildlife photography with large format – why not?

Although the GFX50S’s three frames-per-second felt a little pedestrian compared to the X-H1’s 11fps, the GF250mm was a great focal length for the large mammals of the Mara savannah – and the potential for huge prints was a great prospect. I’m hoping to take the FUJIFILM GFX100S on my next trip later this year, to further explore this format for wildlife photography.

Lion, Lemek Conservancy Maasai Mara, GFX50S and GF250mm

The XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR is the lens I feel most privileged to have used on the X Mount system. Like the GF250mm, it is a superb focal length for larger mammals. The F2 aperture is wonderful in lower light and, with or without the dedicated 1.4X converter, it’s probably one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. To round it all out, the defocused ‘bokeh’ is incredibly smooth. It’s certainly a lens I’d like in my bag on a permanent basis!

Lioness, Lemek Conservancy Maasai Mara, X-H1 and XF200mm

Fujifilm’s cameras rekindled something I didn’t realise I had lost over previous years. The enjoyable, tactile user interface brought simple joy and fun back to my photography. A compact and lightweight system helped make me a more versatile wildlife photographer, no longer encumbered by heavy rucksacks, limiting movement.

Today, my photographic journey increasingly includes the art of filmmaking. Fujifilm’s commitment to developing hybrid solutions is an important part of the overall exciting and ongoing evolution of the X and G Mount cameras and lenses. So much has been achieved in just ten years. It’s amazing to think what the next ten will bring us.

Happy birthday, Fujifilm!