My interest in Fujifilm started when I purchased the Fujifilm X10 for street photography back in 2013. I quickly sold it and upgraded to the X-E1 and the legendary XF 35mm F1.4 R and used it for street photography for many years, but dismissed it for any type of “action” photography due to the slow speed of its operation. I also have since started to work from home so unfortunately my street photography went from every day to very rarely and I eventually put it on a shelf. While the X-E1 sat there on the shelf I have been shooting my kids sporting events with some Nikon full frame DSLR’s, and went from being a hobby shooter to a semi professional sports photographer. I recently purchased an X100T for a every day camera and that reignited my interest in the Fujifilm line of cameras. As you can imagine the X100T is also not even slightly suited for fast moving photography, but there is just something about using the Fujifilm cameras and the images that they produce that I love and it really does inspire you to go out and use them.
After many years of shooting Action Sports with Nikon Full Frame cameras I decided that I had to give a Fujifilm interchangeable lens camera a try again. Trying something different is not due to a shortcoming of the DSLR because I do not have a problem with them, besides maybe the weight. Trying the X-T4 comes from missing the “feel” of the Fujifilm cameras, it is this feel that makes you want to take pictures. When I decided to purchase a new Fujifilm camera it was hard to find a large amount of reviews and info about using them for sports photography, and that is why I am writing this. Hopefully this review will help someone out there looking to do some sports based shooting with the X-T4.
Now I do not think I am not the typical sports photographer, I do not shoot in burst mode and I shoot almost exclusively with off camera flash so every image has to be perfectly timed. Off Camera Flash is used in most of my work, and I used it for all of the images in this article.
With overcast skies I set out on Sunday, for the last race of the season at Cedar Park BMX in PA for my first outing with my newly purchased X-T4. For my OCF I used three Interfit S1’s, one had the regular reflector and two had the long throw 45 reflectors, I used the Interfit banded Nikon trigger and shot everything at 1/250th or less (This is one other bad part Interfit does not make a Fujifilm trigger with HSS that I know of).
I shot everything in Raw + JPEG Fine, but in the end used the RAW files and processed them in Lightroom. For now I am sticking with RAW until I have some more time to setup the JPEG in-camera settings, however the JPG files are very close to what I processed, I think that they are just a little flat for my liking but that can be changed in the camera settings. A comparison image below shows the RAW vs JPEG image zoomed in, and as can be expected the JPEG is great, and with some in camera changes I should be able to use them in most cases. I think that this was set on Velvia for the JPEG setting but I could be wrong, I switched between different ones at times.
I found that the auto focus was incredibly fast and accurate, even with the older slower 35mm and it’s slow focus motor, so I feel confident that most of the other lenses should fair as good or much better. Focus speed was my biggest worry when trying a Fujifilm camera again, and to my surprise I think it is a non issue. I did feel however that camera operation in general is significantly slower than my D850, things that you wouldn’t think would matter like image review, menu operation, changing settings through the d-pad’s quick menus just feel slower. I think most of these I will get used to, but it is very noticeable. When you shoot sports everything is incredibly fast paced and some times when a group of riders would come by I would miss one or the image would be captured slightly later than I expected. I very rarely miss a rider with the D850 I have quick reflexes and I can scan back and reframe very quickly with the optical finder. Using the EVF is quite different, I tried different EVF modes but they all felt a little slow. I think that the delayed shots could have been a setting, maybe something to do with obtaining focus lock before release and I will have to try this again when sports pick back up. In the end the EVF slowness will probably be mostly a non issue but I wanted to mention it because it surprised me.
For AF Mode I used “Zone” and tried it with and without face detection, and both ways I ended up with great pics. Now it is somewhat hard to tell if you nail focus when shooting moving images at 1/250th of a second but compared to my D850 I actually may have had slightly better focus results. I will have to keep testing but this has me very excited, because with sports focus is accuracy super important since you only have one chance to get the shot so not getting it every time doesn’t cut it.
One more advantage that the X-T4 has is the IBIS, when shooting at slow shutter speeds and quickly following someone shooting past you I think that the IBIS will help keep the blur smooth if you can call it that. I am not certain that this is the case but I am hoping it will and from my shots so far that is the way it looks.
So what’s the verdict, I think it is far too soon for me to tell but I will keep testing to see if I can use it as a main camera for Action Sports. Based solely on the one time at the track with very limited use I honestly think I could use it as a primary camera. That being said based on what I have shot so far I know I will miss some shots so that is what you would have to be comfortable with…
If you would like to check out the rest of the shots from Sunday they can be found HERE