White Smoke Studio
Dorota Kaszuba and Michał Warda; they both live in Warsaw. Dorota is a graduate of the ZPAF (Polish Association of Artistic Photographers) and Photography University and the Faculty of Multimedia Communication of the University of Arts in Poznan. Michał is a self-taught journalist who has gained his journalistic skills working for news agencies. The main area of their activity is photography and videography. Their main activities in photography are reportage street photography. In 2006, they founded the WhiteSmoke Studio, which was a pioneering team successfully transferring street and fashion to wedding photography. They gained experience and reputation in portrait photography working for the press and advertising agencies. They published in the most important polish and foreing journals.
Italian Magazine JM: JUST MARRIED two years in a row (2009 and 2010) have recognized WhiteSmoke Studio as some of the best wedding photographers in the world. They are winners of numerous international industry competitions organized by the WPJA, AGWPJA, ISPWP and Fearless Photographers and the IPA.
Speakers / Lecturers: 2015 Fearless Photographers Conference, Bucharest, Romania and 2016 Snap Photography Festival in Wales, UK and many appearances at Polish conferences dedicated to wedding photography. They are one of the best known polish wedding photographers. They are jurors in international industry competitions. Since 2012, they have been running their own photography workshops, where they host photographers from all over Europe.
TOP SECRET PROJECT X by Warda & Kaszuba – WhiteSmoke Studio Team
The phonecall from Fujifilm Polska reached us at the exact perfect moment: Michał was looking for the perfect hybrid camera (photo-video) for everyday use, and Dorota was in search of something that would allow her to let go of heavy DSLR’s and large lenses, but maintain full usefulness when working with a flash or in low light conditions.
We did notice Fujifilm because it’s one of the few companies that really listen to photographers and constantly improve their products based on feedback from the target group. I mean, they listen to users. Add a wide range of lenses, from fast primes to weather-sealed zooms for work in difficult conditions, and virtually any conscious photographer will find something for themselves. There is one more fact, perhaps the most important – you >will< want to work with this gear. It might be due to a combination of factors:
- The design is based on classic cameras with good ergonomics,
- Excellent X-Trans sensors.
For us, reproduction of natural skin tones is key, and with Fujifilm, this is first-class. We want our everyday family photos to be ready “straight from the can”. We have enough work to do with the processing and editing of commercial photos, and don’t need to get even busier. A good jpg straight from the camera is great help. Also, we know photographers who work mainly in jpg and treat RAW files as backup only.
The new bodies in the X-Series allow the colours of your favourite analogue films to be reproduced with tremendous precision, and you can find a number of recipes online for settings that simulate specific photographic films. Fujifilm’s philosophy and film simulations are very good stuff. So, when we received the call asking if we’d be interested to test their new “secret” camera, with the requirement being that you have to work in jpg, in a specific, selected simulation, and with one selected lens, we didn’t hesitate for even a moment. And so, our Secret Project began 🙂
As we mentioned at the very beginning, Michał had been searching the perfect hybrid camera for several months. He was after a body small and inconspicuous enough for street photography, a longer trip, a video for a client’s social media, a photo shoot, or reportage. In spite of appearances, our priorities do not include a high ISO or an AF system that tracks a seagull in flight – we’re no sports photographers. The highest ISO we’ll most often work with, is 1600-3200. However, there are some functional features that are high on our list of requirements. The camera is supposed to start up in the blink of an eye, work reliably in a wide range of weather conditions, have good ergonomics and basically not obstruct your work.
The list of requirements a hybrid should meet is a bit longer in our case. There are also the VIDEO specs – the minimum is 4k 24p, 10bit 4: 2: 2, log, IBIS and a sharp 100 frames per second in FHD. We personally don’t feel that social media videos need to be done in 4k. Yes, 4k helps. You can do a little framing or add camera movement in post-production, but it’s not a must-have.
Now, back to the mysterious Project X. We agreed to the jpg option with a specific film simulation, signed a confidentiality agreement, selected the lens we wanted to work with, and a day later, received a parcel with Fuji’s newest baby.
This was the first time we’d tested a piece of equipment that we knew absolutely nothing about. We’d find out everything as we go along. What an amazing challenge! Discovering the little one’s potential was a lot of fun: the camera makes a very good impression from the moment you lay your eyes on it. Its solid build suggests that it can survive a lot. We don’t know what the sealing parameters are, but we worked in the rain and it never failed. Despite the small size, it’s easy to keep a firm grip; this is probably the first X with such a large and comfortable grip. It’s important to keep in mind that for the camera test we chose the XF23mm F1.4 R, one of the “classic” lenses for the X-series cameras. It’s slightly bulkier and heavier than its “darker” brother, but the body has an excellent grip and works amazingly well with larger lenses such as the XF23mmF1.4 R.
We worked in Classic Chrome simulation with additional modifications. Grain: weak, colour chrome effect: strong, colour chrome fx blue: week, tone curve: H-1, S-2, colour: +2, sharpness: -1, high ISO: nr -4. And, most importantly, we set the white balance to sunny. For the purposes of the test, we treated the new X as a film camera. At first, we thought that after years of working on digital only, it would be a bit of a problem. Still, we were quick to discover that the experience was refreshing. One we’d recommend to anybody. We tested the body for two weeks. The word ‘tested’ sounds appropriate here – we didn’t treat it as a basic work camera, but rather as an everyday tool. It was with us on several photo shoots, at couple of weddings, and on countless walks. We travelled over 1000 km together, and carried it almost everywhere as a handheld camera. The light did not spoil us during the tests, and the single most exotic spot we visited was an off-season Międzyzdroje 😉
From the moment we first switched it on, there were two things we took to: instant readiness to work after switching on and the small number of buttons. Only what’s necessary. A perfectly placed ISO button, next to the Q (the quick menu we can configure), the shutter knob (placed where you’d normally expect exposure adjustments). The second knob on the left is set by default to changing film simulations, a suggestion that the new X might aspire to the role of filming companion on everyday walks for the jpg fans. All knobs and buttons work very smoothly. Especially the shutter knob – a solution we prefer instead of the traditional dial, as is the case with other Fujifilm cameras. Michał often photographs on the street, while walking his dog. The new X can be used with just one hand, which only proves how high and well thought-out its ergonomics are.
A quick menu review revealed two interesting things:
- An extensive movie mode,
- Sensor stabilisation, proved very effective.
Add a tilt and swivel screen that will appeal to vloggers (we used it for selfies), and you have a clear signal that this baby will win the hearts of photo-video creators by storm. And, we have HDMI 10 bit 4: 2: 2 in log. Upon unpacking, we immediately set the camera to Boost mode with priority to EVF refreshing. It ensures good quality image in the viewfinder even at night, and there are no annoying lags. The AF system doesn’t disappoint either. I was glad to see this gear allow you to work comfortably at night, at large apertures, with flash in AF-S mode. Nothing freezes, nothing slows you down.
Of the minus side, I would perhaps mention two elements:
- One memory card slot,
- The same battery as in other X’s,
Overall, the camera promises to be very cool. We’re very curious to see what the final version will look like. The model we tested is a pre-production version. Fujifilm has once again proved that they take into account the opinion of photographers and the changing market reality. The introduction of extensive film options in subsequent cameras, sensor stabilisation, a tilted screen and a comfortable grip for stable handling are all steps in the right direction. It’s not a revolution yet, but an evolution into interesting fields. We’ve been given a tool that really allows a lot.
Dorota Kaszuba & Michał Warda, WhiteSmoke Studio