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.
Shooting in Kenya – Alan Hewitt
The X-T series was my first real introduction to the FUJIFILM world when I purchased the X-T2. The fusion of retro-design and modern photographic technology appealed to me instantly. I’ve since progressed onto the X-H1 and enjoyed using the medium-format GFX50s, but the tactile and enjoyable experience of using the X-T series has always earned my X-T2 a place in my camera bag.
As a wildlife photographer, the FUJIFILM X-T4’s features stand out to me as being favourable for action photography genres, but importantly, the camera maintains its overall classic aesthetic and ergonomic appeal in a very durable body.
For many, the big question will be how the new features of the FUJIFILM X-T4 can be beneficial in comparison to those of the X-T3. After all, the X-T3 is a very capable camera in its own right.
I was delighted to be given a chance to find out at the beginning of March when FUJIFILM UK handed me a new X-T4 and battery grip to use while I was in one of my favourite wildlife photographic locations… Kenya’s Masai Mara!
When I’ve used my X-T2 and X-H1, I would make sure I charged the batteries in between every safari drive. This was once in the late morning and again after returning in the evening.
The improvements in the new batteries are certainly noticeable, giving me a lot more confidence in their longevity. I used three batteries simultaneously with the battery grip attached and performance mode set to ‘boost’. After using the camera on a morning and afternoon safari drive without charging in between, there was still a significant charge remaining.
Connecting the camera via USB-C to the mains charger means all three batteries in the camera and grip can be charged together in about three hours. There’s no need to travel with chargers and plugs for the camera battery and the battery grip. That saves a quite a bit of valuable room in the camera bag!
In Body Image Stabilisation has come to the X-T series!
When photographing from a safari vehicle, it’s not always practical or possible to use camera support. I sometimes find that I’m holding the camera and lens waiting for a moment of action, sometimes at an awkward angle and perhaps over-stretching for long periods of time.
This often results in muscle tremor, especially when using the 100-400mm lens. The IBIS and lens OIS combine intelligently to provide optimum stability and cancel out any shake caused by tremor, helping keep my autofocus point firmly on the subject.
Wildlife action usually happens in fractions of a second, the moment a bird’s wings or a lion’s jaw open at their widest and most dramatic moment, the dextrous movement of an elephant’s trunk are good examples.
For me, this isn’t about keeping your finger continuously on the shutter. It’s more about taking 7 or 8 photographs in a fraction of a second. The FUJIFILM X-T4’s class-leading 15 frames per second (mechanical shutter) greatly increases the consistency and success rate of capturing the most dramatic moments of wildlife action.
The autofocus of my X-H1 was noticeably more efficient and responsive than my X-T2. When I’ve used the X-T3, I’ve noticed a similar significant improvement compared to the X-H1. The X-T4 continues to build upon these improvements with more efficient and accurate continuous autofocus tracking. Like the advantage of the frames per second burst rate, it increases the consistency and success rate in photographing moving wild animals.
Getting down to the subject’s eye level is something I like to do as much as possible, it helps create a much more intimate connection with your subject.
As I quickly dismounted a vehicle on a rocky track in the Masai Mara to photograph a tiny flap-necked chameleon as it crossed in front of us, while a couple of passing motorbikes and a lorry threw up stones around me was a reminder that time, space and comfort aren’t luxuries often associated with wildlife photography.
The new fully articulating screen mechanism is easier and quicker to use and more versatile than the hinged X-T3 and X-H1 screen. While climbing out of the vehicle and getting into position I was able to quickly deploy the screen outwards and angle it against the rocks to get my camera right down to ground level.
The newly designed mechanical shutter is quieter than the X-T3. With the increased frames per second burst mode in mind, the noise reduction reduces the risk of alarming or distracting your subject.
Also, the increased life expectancy of 300,000 actuations gives even more confidence in the longevity and reliability of the shutter and the cameras as a whole.
Stills / Video Mode
Although my main output is stills photography, I am finding myself becoming increasingly involved in video. It’s still a learning curve for me, so the inclusion of a dedicated stills / video toggle which displays mode-specific menu options helps me switch between the two much more intuitively.
Interface & Ergonomics
I regularly go between using shutter activated and ‘back button’ focus so the inclusion of a dedicated AF-On button for the first time on the X-T series is a welcome function. It’s well placed for the thumb, just to the left of the rear command dial which itself feels more prominent and obvious than on my X-T2 and X-H1.
As we would expect, the AF-On button is also present on the vertical battery grip, pretty much mirroring the position with the command dial as on the camera body. When attached, the battery grip provides a deep recess for use in landscape orientation, similar to the X-T3 and X-H1 but much more prominent than my X-T2. From experience, this grip feels more reassuring, especially when using a lens like the 100-400mm and panning or moving quickly between subjects.
Comments from Andy O’Brien
Wild animals and photography entered my life relatively late following a career in the police service.
In 2016 I purchased my first wildlife DSLR camera and lens set up and soon fell in love with the sounds & sights of the countryside. I started solely using FujiFilm equipment with the introduction of the Fujifilm X-T3 and now own that body along with the X-H1 and a host of lenses from wide angle to telephoto zooms.
We have unpredictable weather and light conditions in the United Kingdom, which was the main reason for me to start filming wildlife as well as capturing still images. Generally, a much lower shutter speed is required for filming and as a result I could stay longer in the field as the light faded.
I also enjoy the challenge of attempting to tell a story with one still image or with film
The vast majority of my work is carried out in my home county of North Yorkshire, the landscape and wildlife are so diverse, Puffins and Gannets on coastal cliffs, raptors and birds of prey on rugged, unforgiving moorland, the annual Red Stag rut and the rivers, where the Otters, Beavers, Kingfishers and Dippers earn their keep.
When Fujifilm UK invited me to visit the Masai Mara to film the wildlife of Kenya using a pre-production Fujifilm X-T4 I jumped at the opportunity!
My brief was to hopefully capture snippets of video to be used in the official Fujifilm X-T4 promotional release film.
I would be in the company of Official Fujifilm X-Photographer Alan Hewitt who would concentrate on capturing still images.
The lack of size and weight is one of the many strengths of the Fujifilm X Series, for this trip I packed all of my equipment into a single carry on Case!
Our time in the field was going to be very limited, two and a half days to be exact. Alan had visited the area many times before and he’d arranged for our guide Boston to meet us at the grass airstrip. Alan advised our cameras should be at the ready and he wasn’t wrong, Giraffe, Zebra, Hippo’s and Gazelle were seen, filmed and photographed within the first few minutes of leaving our small aircraft! An amazing start, but things would get even better.
I had the Fujinon XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR attached to the X-T4. I love this zoom lens, such a flexible focal length and lightweight in comparison to its DSLR counterparts, which is so important when your hand holding the camera for long periods of filming.
The addition of the Still/Movie lever on the top panel allows simple switching between photo and video recording, each with their own menu. This is a game changer for the hybrid shooter! In effect this eliminates the need to make major setting changes for each discipline, when working with unpredictable wildlife time is of the essence so this is one less thing to worry about.
The X-T4 features an all-new fixed axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) mechanism, as well as digital image stabilisation (DIS) for more powerful stabilisation. This can be further enhanced with the introduction of the “IS (Image Stabilisation) Boost” mode.
I programmed a couple of function buttons to facilitate their use.
Due weight restrictions and logistics, heavy video tripods with specialist video heads were out of the question. I’d travelled with a beanbag to which I attached a lightweight video head but the vast majority of my filming was carried out handheld.
All aspects of the IBIS system worked flawlessly, and believe me, when you’re a matter of feet away from a hungry Leopard, you daren’t breathe, and the pressure is on to get the shot, you really need the help of the camera!
The introduction of the all-new battery was welcome, allowing for much longer shooting. The X-T4 grip allows for two further batteries, although generally a long mornings video shoot only used 80% life of a single battery.
The X-T4’s vari-angle LCD touchscreen really assisted in framing challenging shots from various angles, as my movements were restricted due to being confined to a vehicle.
I’ve always been impressed with the Auto Focus performance of my Fujifim X-H1 and X-T3 and this has been improved upon in the X-T4, in my opinion it’s faster and more accurate.
I’m now able to reduce the size of the focus point in movie mode as well as stills, this may seem a small addition but when critical focus is needed on an animal’s eye for instance, it’s now far easier to achieve.
The continuous auto focus in movie mode was very accurate even when animals such as Hyena and Cheetah walked directly towards the camera.
The Full HD 240FPS Ultra Highspeed recording is a great feature, being able to capture animal behaviour at 10x slow motion in camera is astounding.
I filmed a female Cheetah called Kisaru with her six cubs in Highspeed recording and the detail was truly remarkable.
The whole experience of travelling to the Masai Mara with Fujifilm has been life changing, I felt privileged to be in the company of such beautiful, wild animals some of which are endangered species. I will definitely return!
As for the Fujifilm X-T4, what a great hybrid professional camera, tough, weather sealed, function packed with incredible stills and video capabilities …. A game changer!