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7 minute read

Framing Authenticity

We speak to Ryan and Heidi Browne about how they found using FUJIFILM X-S10, along with XF35mmF1.4 R and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR lenses, for a documentary video and a fashion photography session.

Ryan and Heidi are a husband-and-wife team from the Brooklyn-based photo and video collective, Forged in the North. They’ve been making images for commercial and wedding clients for many years and, in that time, they have learned that the last thing you want to be focusing on is the camera, be it in the studio or on location.
 
“With weddings, there’s a lot of moving parts,” Ryan tells us. “You have no control over lighting, sometimes you have very little control over location, and you don’t have control of exactly who you’re shooting, so we’re really leaning more on our experience and our ability to think quickly on our feet.”
 
Commercial jobs work in a very different way, but essentially come back to the same idea of eliminating as many distractions as possible, in order to focus on creating your art. “We try to prep as much as possible beforehand so that essentially all the work is done before the shoot day,” explains Ryan. “All the lighting would have been set up already. All of our ideas for posing, style, hair, and makeup, talent selection – all that stuff will be done ahead of time, so we can really just focus on the actual photography of it.”

Minimizing distractions from gear is not only important for the photographer, but for the subject, too. Just as Ryan and Heidi need to forget about the camera so they can focus on their art, they want their subjects to also not realize it’s there so they can achieve the most natural results.
 
This is a huge reason why Ryan and Heidi chose to use FUJIFILM X-S10 to create a documentary video focusing on Fredrik Berselius, head chef of Aska, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. Ryan wanted to explore Fredrik’s creative process when designing new dishes as the restaurant prepared to come out of lockdown.
 
“It’s a very raw mini-documentary looking into Fredrik’s process and how he works through creating a dish at the level he’s at,” explains Ryan. “He’s creating dishes that are world-renowned. People fly in from all over just to eat at this restaurant, so it is quite intense.”

 

Video © Forged in the North

 

Ryan continues: “X-S10 is quite small, it has a substantial grip, and it has a stabilized sensor, which all make it easy to shoot video handheld and makes for a great documentary camera. The last thing you want when you’re working with real people is to make them feel uncomfortable or intimidated by either yourself, your camera gear or your crew. So, what this camera allows me to do is really get in close and record a lot of frames that might be difficult if you had a big rig or a big camera setup.”

Photo © Forged in the North

For this reason, Ryan and Heidi wanted to keep it simple, using X-S10 in its most basic form: just the camera, XF35mmF1.4 R lens, a microphone, and footage straight out of camera using the ACROS Film Simulation mode. This digital black & white Film Simulation setting is inspired by Fujifilm’s NEOPAN 100 ACROS analog photographic film, which was known for its fine grain, rich gradation, and outstanding sharpness.
 
“It’s a very stripped-down setup, so I think that really showcases what the camera can do with basically no add-ons,” explains Ryan, going on to talk about how ACROS helped him achieve his vision. “When I think of black & white with video, I think of something that feels raw, not overly produced, and potentially more ‘real life’ for documentary work.”
 
Ryan adds that the lack of color also helped him keep the viewer’s attention where he wanted it to be. “If it were in color, it might bring almost too much attention to the food itself rather than the process that Fredrik’s going through,” he says.

The pair also used X-S10 in their home photography studio to create images of a clothing brand’s new collection. “We were making images of some new fall looks for a client that day and they wanted to emulate the look of natural, direct light through a window,” explains Heidi. “We wanted to show off the fact that even a small camera like X-S10 can perform really well in a studio environment with strobes.
 
“Our lighting setup was quite simple,” she continues. “Just a single strobe with a snoot to emulate window light. We wanted the model to feel like she was caught in direct light, creating harsh shadows on her face and the wall/floor around her as if she was outside in direct sun.
 
“We worked with XF35mmF1.4, which is just a great all-around portrait lens, along with XF16-80mmF4 for wider angle views of the looks.”
 
Both photographers were impressed with how X-S10 performed. The advanced features, such as five-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and fast, precise autofocus, all housed within such a small, lightweight body was a huge positive.
 
“X-S10 performed perfectly,” enthuses Heidi. “We used face-tracking throughout the shoot, which is useful when trying to achieve images where the subject is moving. Plus, using a camera so small and lightweight made it easy to approach a model up close and still have them feel comfortable.”

On the video side, Ryan was amazed at X-S10’s capabilities in a professional environment. He particularly praised the combination of IBIS and digital image stabilization, which can be used together for video. “That’s a massive component for us. You don’t have to rely on gimbals or stabilizers. You can just hold the camera and almost emulate any kind of shot you want. Whether that’s a locked tripod shot or a moving dolly one, you can pretty much accomplish all of that handheld, which is amazing,” he says.
 
Another area that impressed Ryan was the quality of the files that are produced by the camera’s back-side illuminated 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor. When recording straight to the internal SD card, it can generate 4K/30p 4:2:0 8-bit footage, rising to 4:2:2 10-bit via the camera’s HDMI port.
 
“The video files you can get out of X-S10 are amazing. There’s wiggle room in exposure, there’s lots of dynamic range, and the low-light performance is great,” enthuses Ryan. “The space we were in was very dark and moody, so having a camera that can perform in low light is super crucial and X-S10 performed really well in those conditions.”

Video still © Forged in the North

Ryan concludes by praising X-S10’s advanced autofocus and Face/Eye Detection AF, which he tells us performed brilliantly throughout the video project. “I didn’t have to worry about keeping the subject in focus, the camera did that for me. And I just focused purely on composition or direction, or one of the many other things you have to worry about when you’re shooting video by yourself,” says Ryan, smiling.
 
“X-S10 is great if you’re looking for a very capable video camera in a super-small package, but don’t necessarily want to add on gimbals or stabilizers,” Ryan concludes. “I would recommend it to people who are looking for a good, all-round travel camera, but also even as a professional body. I mean, we were shooting in a studio environment and it was performing great!”
 
FUJIFILM X-S10 is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.
 
Find out more about Ryan and Heidi’s creative process in this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!


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