Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

Mountain Waterfall Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

There’s a lot of discussion out there about what makes a great landscape camera. This month’s Outdoor Photographer magazine has a feature article on which camera to buy. The article touches on a few mirrorless camera examples but they’re mostly fixed lens cameras. For whatever reason, given the mirrorless technology that’s now available, a full blown, mirror slapping camera body is still considered superior. In the article, the tips they share don’t lean towards landscape photography with a mirrorless camera. There’s even a story on PetaPixel about photographer Gordon Laing being denied a permit into Antelope Canyon because he had a mirrorless camera. Clearly, mirrorless cameras haven’t been embraced yet for what I’ll call “heavy lifting” in the landscape photography arena.

The mirrorless camera category is a very exciting segment right now. It’s a rapidly changing, ever updating segment with a lot of fierce competition and oneupmanship taking place. Whether you like micro 4/3 cameras or something larger with a APS-C sized sensor or even a Leica with its full frame sensor, it all boils down to your needs, pocketbook and the subject matter you want to capture.

Rocky Mountain High1 Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

In my case, I was lugging either a Canon 7D or a 5D Mark II and several associated lenses, along with a tripod, into the field. That kit weighed a lot and I’m not always interested in carrying that much weight on my back. I began to consider mirrorless options when I started carrying a used Fujifilm X100. I fell in love with the camera because of its simplicity of operation and image quality. But it fell seriously short for me as a landscape camera because I wanted the ability to zoom in and out without always relying on my feet to do the zooming. After a lot of research, I settled on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and its APS-C sensor and the 3 associated prime lenses ranging in focal length from 18mm to 60mm. The combined weight of that kit was significantly lower which made hiking with gear more fun and easier on the knees.

My current kit for landscape photography:

 Birch Path2 Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

  • Fujifilm X-Pro1 body
  • Fujifim XF 18mm F/2.8
  • Fujifilm XF 35mm F/1.4
  • Fujifilm XF 60mm f/2.4

Accessories:

  • Really Right Stuff L-Bracket and grip for X-Pro1
  • Cable release
  • Extra batteries—expect about 250-300 shots per battery
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
  • Circular Polarizer
  • ND Filters—3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop
  • Tripod with ball head

It took some time to acclimate to this set up as I learned my way around the camera and its settings. By the way, as a guy not prone to reading directions, the manual was a wealth of information. Once I was comfortable, capturing the types of images I had previously shot with my Canons was no problem.

Are there negatives to this set up? Absolutely, but I think they are outweighed by the positives. For example, Adobe has yet to perfect the RAW file processing of the X-Pro1 RAW files. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Some images require processing through RAW Photo Processor instead because of the “smearing” of details in leaves, bushes, etc. I haven’t found it to be a consistent issue in my images. The included SilkyPix software is miserable from a user interface. In addition, I find myself wanting on the long end of focal length. 60mm really isn’t very long when you’re out in the field. Fujifilm shows a 55-200 zoom lens on its lens road map so we’ll see what that looks like when it comes out sometime in 2013. I also find that using prime lenses is a bit of a pain because it’s not always possible to zoom with my feet and changing lenses constantly gets old. Fortunately, the new 18-55mm zoom lens is about to ship in the United States and that will solve that problem. Lastly, I look forward to the 10-24mm wide-angle zoom slated to be released in 2013 as well. The 3 zooms with the X-Pro1 will round out what I’ll call the perfect landscape kit for me. 

Abrams Falls Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

As you can tell from the images here, the quality of the final images is incredible. The X-Pro 1 has different film emulations that you can use if you shoot in JPEG format but I tend to shoot in RAW exclusively. The vast majority of my processing takes place in Lightroom 4 with the occasional side trip into Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 or Silver Efex Pro 2.

Turmoil Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

All in all, I’m very pleased with the system. Based on the sales numbers of mirrorless cameras, a number of folks have taken to this type of system. I’d love to hear your thoughts on landscape photography with a mirrorless camera. Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

 

© 2012, The F/Stop Guy: Landscape Photography with a Mirrorless Camera

  • Aperture: ƒ/16
  • Credit: Ken Rowland
  • Camera: X-Pro1
  • Taken: 14 June, 2012
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/1s
This entry was posted in Black & White, Landscape and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

24 Comments

  1. Len Saltiel November 16, 2012 at 9:32 AM #

    Great images and thought provoking post Ken. I do a lot of traveling and carrying gear on airplanes is challenging. As a result, I sold my backup D300s and purchased a Sony NEX 7 mirrorless. I took it on a vacation and used it a lot when walking through some cities. Very happy with it so far. I need to try some long exposures like you have done to check it out.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..Indian Burial GroundMy Profile

    • The F/Stop Guy November 16, 2012 at 5:49 PM #

      Len, I’ve read great things about the NEX 7 camera. I prefer a camera with a viewfinder so I went the Fuji direction. It always boils down to what camera you’re most comfortable using.

  2. Mark Neal November 16, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

    Incredible images, Ken. I’m really tempted to invest in a different kit and your work with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is pushing me. I’ve actually researched the X-Pro1 and am pretty impressed with the specs. By the way, the first and last images are my favs since I’ve been using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 quite a bit lately.
    Mark Neal recently posted..Photoshopping with Shining ArmorMy Profile

    • The F/Stop Guy November 16, 2012 at 5:48 PM #

      Thanks Mark. I’m a big fan of Silver Efex Pro. I started with the original and updated to version 2 when it came out last year. Very user friendly and produces fantastic black & white images.

  3. Stephen Scharf November 16, 2012 at 3:50 PM #

    Ken, wonderful images. I bought an X-Pro1 a few weeks ago and I absoutely “love” using this camera. It has re-ignited a whole new passion for me for getting out and producing work after 10 years of working with Canon pro dSLR bodies. The Canon gear is great for what it does really well, like photojournalism, sports, etc. But like many folks, I don’t want to be lugging all that gear around when i just want to get out for the day to photography with a single compact camera. I got introduced to the X-series with the sweet little X10, and have used in Arches and Canyonlands Nat’l Parks to produce some very nice landscape images. I look forward to using my X-Pro1 for landscape work, as I am extremely impressed with the image quality that fine camera produces! Thanks for the review.

    • The F/Stop Guy November 16, 2012 at 5:46 PM #

      Stephen, I agree the Canons are great for what they were meant to do. I use my 7D for shooting high school soccer in the Spring. It’s perfect for that and something I would never try to use the X-Pro1 to shoot.

  4. Cody November 16, 2012 at 4:53 PM #

    I recently made the jump from a Canon DSLR to the X-Pro1 for the very same reasons. I wanted FF camera quality but didn’t want an even heavier camera to lug around, so I began to consider mirrorless, initially assuming it would be fruitless.

    I was surprised by the X-Pro1′s image quality, handling, etc. so, after testing one out, I bought the same gear you did. Love it and wouldn’t go back.

  5. Henry buchanan November 16, 2012 at 5:44 PM #

    Ken-
    Thanks for your beautiful pictures. I live up in the Smoky Mountains and your picture of the falls is great. I am using the X-Pro1 and I am very satisfied with my results.
    Would you mind explaining when you would use the different ND Filters. 3-6-10 in your set up.
    Thanks!
    Henry buchanan recently posted..Spring 2012My Profile

    • The F/Stop Guy November 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM #

      I used to start out using the 10 stop ND filter and working from there. But I found that if I used too long an exposure I would end up blowing the highlights out in the water. I believe the image is more believable with some texture in the water. I’ve now gotten to the point that I can pretty much tell which level of ND to use. I probably use the 6 stop more frequently now than the other 2 filters. The 10 stop is especially useful when the light is brighter.

      By the way, the Smokies are pretty much my favorite place, close to Georgia, to visit. We get there 4-5 times a year. Looking forward to getting there this winter to see some snow!

  6. Åke November 17, 2012 at 5:18 AM #

    First of all, nice pics and a nice review of the camera and your thoughts i general.
    I shoot mainly landscape and have used a 5D mark 2 for a while but switched it in favor of a smaller and lighter camera. I had herad of the Xpro 1 on a blog that i follow here i Sweden and when i saw the images it produced i took the dive and must say i love the Xpro 1 and its reel portabiltity.

  7. ashok viswanathan November 17, 2012 at 8:12 AM #

    i just got my xpro body and waiting for the 18-55mm lens to be available in india.every week fuji reps in mumbai tell me to wait a few more days…. its coming sir.!!!! despite the unavailability, fuji india launched the lens a short while ago but i fail to understand how there can be a launch of a product tht is unvailable.? maybe some one in fuji will explain….am left hoping they will make available the eyesight correction lens also. so far no mention of this product locally…

    • The F/Stop Guy November 17, 2012 at 8:15 AM #

      I to am excited about the 18-55. I ordered the lens on September 6th. The delivery date has been pushed back twice now. We’ll see when it actually arrives. I’m looking forward to it.

    • Archie Noble December 30, 2012 at 5:16 PM #

      Mr. Viswanathan: I have found that diopters made by Nikon for the old Nikon FA, FM, FM2, FM3A, FE, and FE2 work perfectly. Not sure Fuji has produced diopters for the X-Pro1 yet.

      • The F/Stop Guy December 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM #

        Fuji has just started supplying Fuji brand diopters for the X-Pro1. They’re $12.99 from B&H which is far cheaper than the Zeiss version I bought when the X-Pro1 first came out.

  8. duncan November 18, 2012 at 9:15 PM #

    Interesting write up and great images. How do you find working with the viewfinder? I’ve heard it’s difficult because it does not accurately represent what the actual picture will include.

    • The F/Stop Guy November 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM #

      I personally don’t think it’s as bad as some make it out to be. When I’m using the OVF and I’m concerned about whether I’m getting the image I want, I can switch to the EVF to ensure it’s right.

  9. Mike November 23, 2012 at 1:25 AM #

    Great picture Ken, and thanks for dropping by my site. I’ll be avidly reading your experiences in preparation for my first landscape outing.
    Mike recently posted..Fujifilm X-E1 first impressionsMy Profile

  10. Greg Efner November 29, 2012 at 10:12 AM #

    Hi Ken,
    beautiful work.
    I live in Greenville SC and love shooting in the Blue Ridge.
    I have been tempted to go the xp1 route,but I also shoot in raw and am concerned about problems with ACR.
    Has acr7.2 successfully addressed the problem?
    should it be a non-starter?
    I tried the x100 and loved it but fixed 35 has me concerned.

    • The F/Stop Guy November 29, 2012 at 9:02 PM #

      Greg, thanks for the comment. ACR works OK but as I said, not great. In my opinion, it’s essentially a non-issue when there’s not much foliage but the each image can be different. It’s not a non-starter. I would definitely encourage you to consider the XPro1. Adobe and Fuji will get it right in time and based on the new X models that are out and the long-term lens road map, this sensor is here to stay.

      I really enjoyed the X100 as well but I agree, the fixed lens is not ideal. Good luck with your decision. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  11. Julius December 30, 2012 at 1:26 PM #

    Wonderful pics and an interesting comment. I also learned to love the X Pro with its incredible results. After a few weeks with the Xpro I decided to sell my Canon Mk2 and some L lenses and i still think that was a good idea.

  12. Vlad December 30, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

    Would it be possible for you to expand a bit on the topic of smearing. How often do you see the problem and how well is it addressed? have you tried the C1 beta yet?

    • The F/Stop Guy December 30, 2012 at 10:14 PM #

      The “smearing” looks like just that, smeared colors and a loss of fine detail in leaves, etc. To me, the issue can be particularly prevalent when you have quite a distance between the subject i.e. a landscape photo and the camera. In a large, expansive image, it’s less of an issue.

      The C1 beta sounds like it has tremendous potential. $200 is a lot of money though to spend for RAW processing. I’d have to evaluate whether it would replace Lightroom 4.

  13. Joseph Henry March 10, 2013 at 1:13 PM #

    What is the largest print you can make and still not see a difference between your mirror less system and you Canon 5DII and L canon lenses?

    • The F/Stop Guy March 10, 2013 at 3:29 PM #

      So far, the largest print I’ve made from an X-Pro1 image is a 16×20. When viewed from a normal distance, I don’t see any difference in the quality of the images vs a Canon 5DII.

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