Fitness and Kit
So let me say something up front. This was the very first time I've ever photographed golf. I have to give a massive amount of respect for those photographers who cover the various tours. In the 5 days (4 days of the tournament and 1-day Pro-Am) I walked 52 miles, climbed the equivalent of 120 flights of stairs (links course) and took just over 100k steps.
I guess that in itself is a great place to start this review given the amount of walking involved that the kit I was carrying would of course also have an effect. On a typical day my kit bag consisted of the following;
- Fujifilm XT2 + 100-400mm (+ power grip with 2 additional batteries)
- Fujifilm XT1 + 10-24 (or the 18-135)
- Fujifilm XE2 + Samyang Fisheye (although this didn't get any use)
- Fujifilm X100T (only on the last day)
So forgetting about the X100T and XE2, for now, the typical weight I would imagine I would travel around the golf course with in the future (XT2 + XT1 configurations) would be under 3000g. I have to say apart from sore legs and waterlogged feet I felt completely fine and was able to be quite nimble around the course with my kit.
I've already talked about the image stabilisation on the 100-400 so I was also without a monopod, again a weight saving. I think the one thing I would add to this would be the 50-140 (2.8) which would give me the equivalent of around 70-200 (the sports photographers workhorse).
So for golf in the future I think a couple of XT2s (with power grip) along with the 100-400 and 50-140 would be perfect.
The Weather (and build quality)
A golf tournament in Ireland means one thing - rain is pretty much guaranteed and that is what we got, especially on the Sunday. Now I don't own any weather protection for my Fuji cameras so for most of Sunday the XT2 + 100-400 took the full brunt of the rain and performed perfectly well. I wish my so called water proof boots would have performed half as well. Of course in the future, I'd look to add some kind of weather cover to the system as even the best weather proofed kit can have issues when subjected to hours and hours of rain.
One test I wasn't expecting to conduct however, no more than 5 minutes into the tournament, was the *drop test. Yup, I had just picked up my media pass, set up my workspace and left the media area when my brand new XT2 (only bought it the day before) along with the 100-400 was dropped. Phew, both camera and lens were fine.
*not a test I recommend
One of the 1st rules you need to remember when covering golf is that there are certain times you are not allowed, under any circumstances, to fire a shot. Typically on the golfer's backswing and, of course, when they are about to attempt a putt. Basically, you can only fire your shutter in the moments after they have hit the ball. Sometimes even on their second shot on the fairway, when you are sometimes several hundred feet away, you still can't shoot as the wind, depending on direction, could carry your shutter noise across to the player.
So basically don't hit that shutter until the player has hit the shot, got that? Well, that is unless you have a totally silent shutter as is the case with Fujifilm Cameras when you are using the Electronic Shutter. I must be getting old as I used to love the sound of a Canon rapid shutter in the morning, but now I simply adore the silence.
This, I can see, being a huge deal for sports where you have to be 100% silent (Tennis, Snooker and of course Golf). This shot below, for example, of Miguel Angel Jimenez would not have been possible, as I would have been firing the shutter as he was on his back swing (even though it's only a pracrice shot)
Another time when I was able to maximise the silent shutter was after Rory McIlroy had completed his second round (exiting the competition in the process). He was obviously pretty annoyed and did his usual hair fixing (after removing his hat) with a look of someone who wanted to simply get off the course as soon as possible. As he was doing this John Rahm (the eventual winner) was playing his shot so it would have been impossible to fire of any frames. With the Electronic shutter however, I was able to shoot a sequence.
In an industry where uniqueness can sometimes help you I can see the totally silent shutter of the Fujifilm cameras come in very handy.
Given the golfers were not moving around too much I was able to keep my focus on AF-C with a single point. I did try out zone and tracking as well as enabling face tracking, but found single point to be the most successful (or indeed the only one I really needed). Face tracking worked 50% of the time, the tother 50% it picked up a face in the crowd, quite often picking their nose.
I am hoping to check the other AF tacking modes very soon.
I had three batteries in my XT2 at all times (2 in the power grip) and never had an issue with running low on power. I was normally out on the course for several hours at a time, shooting several hundred frames. Typically I'd see rundown of around 50% of my power. I was however able to come back into the media room and plug directly into the a power source to re-charge the power grip batteries so perhaps not a totally fare test. I'd like to see how 3 batteries lasted during a football match. Direct charging to the power grip is a nice touch but it's a shame I have to remove the power grip to charge the internal battery.
Despite being the middle of summer, the light on a few of the days was severely lacking and this combined with the fact that my 100-400 has an aperture of 4.5-5.6, forced me to push the ISO up.
Now I already knew that the ISO performance on the XT1 was very good (see North West 200 2017 blog) but the XT2, as hoped, takes this to a whole new level.
An example of this is shown below. This is an ISO 3200 direct from camera JPEG with no noise reduction or other editing done in post.
I already love the articulated screen for my landscape work but it also came in handy on the golf course as there were a few occasions when I was trying to look for something different and rather than simply hold my camera up blindly from behind the crowd I was able to compose the shot as well as fire the shutter at the best time.
The 100-400 Details
I simply love the 100-400 lens for a whole host of reasons mentioned already but what I just didn't consider was the absolute pin sharpness of the lens. It's not a portrait lens though, right? I think this is demonstrated through the image below which was taken on the Pro-Am day. I can almost count the strands of hair of James Nesbitt's head.
No really ... I can count them ... 1,2,3,4, ...... For a 100-400 varaible aperture lens handheld I think that's pretty spectacular myself.
Overall I have to say I was extremely pleased with the performance of the kit. There were a few times on the more overcast days when the lens hunted slightly (back and forward) for focus, but these occasions were few and far between. I had only owned the XT2 + Power Grip for 24 hours before starting on the golf and didn't really have too much of a chance to play with different settings and performance options. I did however switch to boosted performance a few times and with a better refresh rate on the EVF combined with the 11fps I honestly struggled to see the difference between this and when I used to peer through the viewfinder of a 1DX. Oh and on the electronic shutter a buffer of 73 frames - yes please.
At some point I'd love to give the XT2 (along with the power grip) and the 50-140 f/2.8 a go at covering football. Obviously it would be the closer action only, but still would be extremely interested to see
Oh and Fuji, if you happen to be reading this, then a 300mm f/2.8 would be top of my shopping lit should you ever consider producing one.
For now though, I'll leave you with a few more images from the weekend.