11.02.2022 Patrick La Roque

X-T5 x Patrick La Roque

Patrick La Roque

Je m’appelle Patrick La Roque et je suis photographe indépendant basé à Montréal, au Canada. Je photographie les gens, les espaces, la rue, les produits ; je photographie pour écrire un récit, peu importe le sujet.
Je suis membre fondateur de KAGE COLLECTIVE, groupe international de photographes indépendants axés sur des essais visuels et des projets documentaires. Je dirige un studio spécialisé dans le portrait et les travaux commerciaux.
Mais finalement, je suis juste quelqu’un qui cherche à raconter une histoire.

New Foundation

I remember the day I got my hands on an X-T1. First impressions? Compared to my X-Pro1, this thing was tiny. I was also puzzled by its form factor, initially: why were we suddenly back to an SLR design? In those early days, I’d come to expect Fujifilm’s cameras to follow the rangefinder ethos that was fuel-ling the line’s renaissance for so many photographers. And why was video recording—of all things—given its own dedicated button, so close to the shutter? This seemed like heresy to me—“I’m a photog-rapher Jim, not a filmmaker”…

But then I looked into the camera’s viewfinder: this EVF wasn’t a novelty anymore, but a wide, bright, and sprawling canvas, its technology leaps and bounds over that of the previous generation—a clear signal of the future ahead. The X-series, it turns out, would be much more than anything I’d originally envisioned.

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF35mmF2 R WR

In retrospect, the X-T1 looks a lot like an experiment that paid off. It laid the foundations for expansion, for cameras with distinct personalities and strengths, each one aimed at a different type of photographer. And of course that video button was prescient. Over time, the X-T cameras transformed into a powerful line of hybrid workhorse machines, pushing specs and limits with each new release.

But while still photography and video have, for all intents and purposes, merged these past years, filming remains a craft that, ultimately, requires its own set of dedicated features and tools. With the recent X-H2S, Fujifilm has created exactly that kind of no-compromise, hybrid shooter.

And now, the X-T5 gets to reclaim its soul.

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

The X-T5 has a deeper, more comfortable grip, but it’s also slightly smaller than its predecessor, more compact. It reminds me of my X-T1 to be honest (although that’s just from memory—my niece has that camera now). What’s interesting is that it achieves this while retaining all the capabilities and features of its predecessor, AND with the addition of a brand new 40MP sensor. That, folks, is a biggie.

X-T5 & XF35mmF2 R WR

X-T5 & XF35mmF2 R WR

I had a chance to test this camera with the new crop of XF lenses, which I’m told were all optimized for this new, larger, sensor. Seeing the results, I certainly have no reason to doubt this. Not only are these lenses insanely sharp, but the combination of linear motor with the X-T5’s new processor translates into very fast, smooth, and silent autofocus. In terms of sheer performance and reaction time, it’s hard to beat. But I’m old school, and I just can’t shake my affection for the original lenses: I’m pleased to report that the XF 35 mm f/1.4 still works its undying magic.

X-T5 & XF35mmF1.4 R

X-T5 & XF35mmF1.4 R

Most of my personal photography is reactive, but not in the usual sense. Because the camera itself is usually the trigger. For me, the camera is an attention machine, it’s a device that immediately generates a certain mindset, inducing a state of calm, but focused alertness. It’s a relationship that becomes almost symbiotic. And when it works right, I see differently, suddenly noticing what exists around me. So, I rarely grab a camera because I see something worth shooting: instead, I see those things when I pick up a camera. It’s topsy-turvy, I know. Ultimately, it might be a kind of meditation.

Client work, however, is obviously different. It benefits from this approach, but it also typically requires a certain amount of preparation to insure proper results. The trick is to find the right balance between control, planning, and randomness.

As part of the X-T5 project, I wanted to replicate this type of work by simulating a controlled shoot, to see how the camera would behave. I set up two wireless strobes in our driveway, enrolled the services of our son one evening, and fired-up the gear. I started on a tripod: I wanted to create an establishing shot using a smaller aperture at a lower ISO, but also retaining the ambient light of the car’s dashboard. There are different ways to achieve this: I could’ve shot two separate images and combined them in post. Easy. But I chose the one-take option, instead:

  1. I tilted the LCD and set the camera to Preview Manual Exposure (so the screen would provide an actual preview of the final capture).
  2. I set the ISO and aperture to the values I wanted (ISO 640 and f/7.1). At this point, the LCD went dark (perfectly normal).
  3. I then dropped the shutter speed until I reached a proper exposure again—keeping in mind that I’d be adding flash as my key light. I ended up with a pretty slow shutter speed of 1/4s (hence the need for a tripod).
  4. I added flash to taste. A few test shots, a few tweaks, and we were off.

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

With this done, it was time to “get off the stick” and switch to something more freeform. With the lighting in place and the strobes set to TTL, I selected a wider aperture, and raised my ISO and shutter speed as well, just enough. I also turned IBIS/OIS back on. The goal was to maintain the ambient look, but work handheld from this point on. What I love about this type of setup is how we can eventually almost forget about the technical part of the process. With the lighting in place, the set becomes just like any other location where we’re just looking for images, moving around, adjusting camera settings, coming in close or stepping back. Those lights are, in essence, fixed, and it’s our relative position that transforms the look of the subject. We’re shooting inside an artificial framework but, in a way, we’re now making it real. It’s a film we’re suddenly living in. But to maintain the illusion, and achieve results, the gear needs to follow along. It needs to perform.

The X-T5 never skipped a beat.

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

X-T5 & XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR

I’ll be honest with you: I truly believe I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this camera can deliver. Plus, a new sensor always brings nuances that become clearer and more obvious over time, as our tools evolve, and we come to grips with the possibilities it offers—because resolution is only a tiny fraction of that equation. I tend to believe that sensors are the new “films”, which is so much more interesting.

But what I do know, however, is that the X-T5 is now free to be a photography-first tool again—and that makes me perfectly happy.
Reboot.
New foundation.