This year I had the privilege of shooting Formula Drift again for Drifted.com. Things went in a whole new direction photography wise, I had access to a 5D MkIII this year, and didn't use it. I used to own a 7D and L lenses, and that's what I used last year to cover the event, but I sold it all recently.
Click the images to view full size.
Probably ~90% of media at the event were using Canon or Nikon, and the small percentage of people using Sony, RED, etc, I was probably the only photographer using a mirrorless camera as a main body. Many factors played into a decision I made a couple of months ago, and my main camera now is a Fuji XT1. All the photos in this post were taken with this amazing camera, and 2 Fuji lenses. I also had a large battery grip attached to give it some more stability, as it's is a pretty small camera without it.
The camera game is changing, large cameras needing to house a mirror system are slowly being creeped up upon by the mirrorless tech. The Fuji XT1 is part of Fuji's new line of semi-Pro level cameras. There are plenty of professionals making their living on the FUji X system, and their cameras and lenses deliver more than I had hoped for.
Image quality is, in short, incredible. Fuji's X-Trans sensor packs the quality, and while 16 megapixels its not something totally impressive, I have no problem cropping and printing large. I still crop every photo I take to some extent, whether it's rotating a single degree or my usual 16:9 crop I've become fond of. The retro styling and the abundance of dials on the camera makes you slow down your shooting a bit so I find I'm not cropping in too much in post. At least that's what I've found.
The camera itself packs a APSC sized sensor, and with a crop factor of 1.5, it's actually slightly larger than my former Canon 7D. I've actually shot a local drift event on a Panasonic GF1, which uses a smaller micro 4/3 sized sensor, which came out years ago. Managed some great photos with that M43 camera, and I knew the Fuji would blow it away. It's all about that large sensor size, and the XT1 delivers.
The first area of the track I went to when I arrived at the event was the 5/8th bank. Shots were a breeze, on both manual and automatic focus, as long as you've a steady hand. My only gripe is when panning whilst shooting and rapid fire, the slight delay in the viewfinder sometimes messes with your left to right rotation.
I got used to it after a while and learned to anticipate shots I wanted and adjusted accordingly. It's kinda hard to describe without seeing it first hand, but since you're looking through the sensor and not the lens like you would with an SLR, it throws you off a bit with the slightest delay and black viewfinder. That in turn will lower your keeper rate of sharp photos, but memory cards and batteries were of little issue that day.
I was using continuous focus for a majority of the shots that had movement, there were a few times where I would manualy set my focus and pan to get a specific shot. The continuous focus is very good, better than I expected.
As far as shutter speed goes, I was playing it safe for the most part, 1/125th is where I usually keep it at for bank shots when I want the blur, but also want a guaranteed sharp photo. A couple of my photo friends were playing the shutter speed game, I went down to 1/60th and got a few good shots. I was switching between manual focus and continous focus, with good results from both. Both photos above were shot at 1/60th.
I'm definitely shooting a lot more to attain a sharp photo and throwing away a lot more blurry photos, but the shots that come out sharp blew me away at first. Comparing to last year when I was still shooting Canon, the shots that ARE sharp and in focus are sharper and more in focus than some of my favorite shots done on my 7D.
Focusing in the infield when cars are coming at you really shows the power of the autofocus, I was able to get shots I wasn't able to in previous years using Sigma/Canon lenses. Could be technique or lens choice, but the autofocus on the XT1 is impressively fast on moving subjects! I'll mention again how impressed I was with the continuous focus, specially for shots like below where the car is basically coming straight toward you.
The camera does kill batteries pretty quickly, I shot around 4,000 images total, and went through about 8-10 batteries. 300-350 shots per battery is what I was expecting based on reviews of the camera I had read.
So, is the Fuji XT-1 a sports camera? No, not really. Could it be considered an entry level sports shooter? I'd be hesitant, and definitely say no to an entry level shooter. Get a Canon SLR. But for someone like myself who's been photographing for a while and knows the ins and outs of what to do and what not to do, and when, it works fantastic. The size factor doesn't take much away from the camera, and still packs more useful features than Canon ever put in their SLRs. Just be prepared to stock up on batteries. I shot around 4K images and went through about 10 or so over the course of the 3 days I was covering Formula Drift.
In closing, The Fuji takes everything you love about digital and film photography and combines it in a small compact package that doesn't compromise on image quality or functionality. It's got its quirks, but I don't miss Canon one bit, nor did I ever expect I would leave and be so happy with Fuji and mirrorless. the pros far outweigh the cons, which amount to little.
Read more about the Fuji XT1 - http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_t1
Drifted.com Blog Post: http://www.drifted.com/event-formula-drift-round-5-a-photo-story