Model: Thalassa Blaguiere
What advantages are there to shooting video with Fujifilm’s cinema zoom lenses that were designed for use with mirrorless cameras? How much improvement in image quality have they achieved? I was intrigued by these lenses ever since they went on sale.
I shoot both still and moving images; I’m what you might call a hybrid photographer. I shoot both mostly with a mirrorless and still lenses. There are issues that arise when shooting video: for example, there is the rotation angle of the focus ring, and the shift in field of view due to lens breathing can result in a loss in image quality integrity. To resolve these issues, I realized it would be necessary to upgrade to a cinema lens, but your average cinema lens is large and expensive. Price aside, these weighty lenses make it difficult for someone who operates alone – and who tends to shoot still and moving images concurrently – to use them for a hybrid-style shoot.
Photo Artist / Flower Stylist: Takashi TAKANO
Takashi TAKANO, a photographer and floral stylist for “Hananingen” at Studio FRAGILE located in Hiroshima, joined me on this shoot. “Hananingen” (“flower” + “person”) is popular for its decorative approach to modeling using an abundance of flowers to create a distinctive look. TAKANO used the X-T3 and “still lens” from the X series for the modeled photo shoot, and at the same venue, shooting concurrently, I used the X-T3 and MKX for the video shoot to achieve a documentary style BTS shoot.
In order to harmonize the aesthetics of the photos and images with the direction we wanted to go in, not only was it important for the lighting to be the same, but also for us to use the same camera body: the X-T3. The X-T3 for photography and the X-T3 for video both employed the same film simulation (ETERNA) and WB set up.
When shooting both photos and moving images, one of the remarkable things about the Fujifilm camera is that there are no color grading issues. You can use it as is and expect to see the same color and tone. This is a life-saving feature for shoots.
X-T3’s Video Function
The X-T3 we used this time has an enhanced bit rate over the X-T2 or X-H1, which had excellent image quality, and it’s easy to see that they have taken steady and great strides by adopting a new compression system and incorportaing 4K/60P.
When using film simulation with the X-T2 and X-H1, you could create strong images that had character without having to rely on editing in post. Compared to the camera specs of other companies, it had been strangely resistant to color correction, but now it’s possible to record the image data so that it can be worked on during actual post pro.
This time we shot 4K/60P, and we didn’t have to use an external source for the F-log; we used the most convenient equipment settings and basic film simulation, and a bit-rate with the standard image setup. And with just that, we were able to achieve image quality beyond what we’ve ever had before. However, in post, the use of H.265 and the volume of data can get overwhelming, and the iMac and Final Cut ProX that I use had to carry a heavier load compared to the past.
Regarding the use of a manual lens, the X-T3, I couldn’t find anything negative about it. Autofocus, in general, and continuous AF have evolved a lot compared to the past. It’d be nice if, like the SONY α series, it allowed you to switch over to AF when you need to while you are shooting video in the MF setting.
Overall the image quality has been brushed up considerably, and it’s my impression that the other aspects of the video shooting features have also improved. The major difference with the X-H1 is that this is not equipped with IBIS (in-body image stabilization), but if you only take into account the image quality, there are some areas where it is superior to the X-H1. Either way, I go back and forth when I want not only better image quality but also IBIS.
The Allure of ETERNA
One major appeal of the X series for photographers who used to shoot with positive film and negative film is that it allows the user to select the film simulation mode, and I think the film simulation ETERNA setting will become the industry standard for video shoots.
With a natural, soft tone similar to that of a negative, at a glance it doesn’t appear to have any quirks, but on its own it still has a certain moodiness, and was easy to touch-up during post. Its response to color and light was consistent and could produce natural images even in strong lighting conditions, which was something I particularly liked. In all honesty, these days I use ETERNA most of the time with the X series for my video shoots. The only time I use it with Classic Chrome is when I can match a clear image.
On this shoot, I did use the ETERNA with the still X-T3, but I also want to try it out with other film simulation programs and use it the way I would with variations resulting from negative film.
Advantages of MKX
The major advantage of the cinema lens is that there is consistency to the look and color of each frame within the focal range for each lens. With the MKX, with just 2 zoom lenses, we were able to cover a fair number of angles, and though it’s not a standout feature of this lens, during shooting there were several frames taken with the still lens that even I, who am not so discerning, could tell that they were shot with the still lens. The contrast was that obvious.
In the end, be it during the grading or during shooting, there are so many things that can happen to create variations within each frame, but as long as you have a cinema lens like the MKX you can avoid these issues.
MKS is mounted on the X-T3 body, and if you were to compare it to a still zoom lens in terms of aesthetics, it is like a 70-200 F4. This time we equipped it with the minimum for video: microphone and follow focus, since it already has a focus ring with gears, and so it resembled something appropriate for a motion picture shoot. But still, compared with authentic equipment meant for video shoots fitted with a cinema lens, it was incredibly compact and lightweight, and we could easily use the tripod, slider and other support equipment we normally used for a regular still lens shoot.
Depending on the focal length or lens you select, each still lens will produce images with distinctive characteristics, so you can make adjustments in your camera settings to compensate for this. You can do proper calculations to account for these quirks, too. But based on personal experience, without making those kinds of changes to the camera settings and operations, when I’ve gone back and looked at the material I’ve shot when I didn’t do that and just matched the angle using my favorite “still lenses”, I felt bogged down by having to deal with all the variations in grading afterwards.
Whether you have a prime lens or a cinema zoon lens like the MKX, what’s important for video production is not just whether a lens has superior focal point or zoom mechanisms or other such mechanical features, but also whether when you go to edit it all together, that the tone, the depiction in each frame, and the color are all consistent – that you have control over them. That’s what stood out most to me after using the MKX.
Linear Settings for Video Shoots
What amazed me and made me think that Fujifilm X system put a lot of thought into video shooting was that the X-T3 allows you to set up the lens performance linearly. Even with an AF lens that uses fly-by-wire focusing, when you go with a linear setting, depending on how much you turn the focus ring, the focus shifts, and it’s a fantastic idea to create the feeling that you are operating a cinema lens. With regard to video shooting, when you use the MKX and a still lens, it is really effective with the follow focus feature.
The MKX lens is best suited for still photographers using the still system but who are looking to enhance their current video shooting system to something more professional.
Out of curiosity, I also tried using the MKX for photography. When you want to focus quickly, you are limited to using the cinema camera’s swivel range on the focus ring, but aside from that there was no shifting focus due to the zoom (lens breathing), and its inherently superior optical performance
and cinema lens style focus function made me think, “Why not use this for photo shoots, too?” On shoots where there’s no need for AF, if you have the MKX you’ll be able to handle most photo shoots.
・Compact & lightweight construction as a cinema zoom
・Appropriate lens to let still photographers , who use X series, easily enter the cinema world
・Cannot use with cameras that have a different mount
・Lacks a wider angle (could do with one more super wide angle)