Long lens love affair - Fuji X-T1 and the 55-200

Andy Gallacher is an International TV correspondent

Jalousie slums, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. 200mm at f/4.8 on the XT-1

3.5 - 4.8

It was those numbers that initially put me off buying the Fuji XF 55-200 lens. I'd worked a lot with the Canon 70-200 MkII previously and with a constant f/2.8 aperture surely this lighter and much cheaper Fuji couldn't compare? The purchase was made back when I still had the X-Pro1 and a trip to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador was booked. In the end it was the 55-200 that made it a memorable visit. The lens, which felt a little awkward on the X-Pro1, stayed on the camera for almost the entire time and constantly surprised me with its razor sharp images and creamy bokeh.   

Albatross, Galapagos Islands. 200mm at f/5.6 on the X-Pro1


But it's when I paired the lens with the X-T1 that it really began to shine. I'd already been impressed with the image stabilization on the 55-200 but combine that with the new Fuji's constant focus and 8fps and it makes for a compelling combination. I got to test that out when I recently filmed a feature on the Angola Prison rodeo in Louisiana. I was 'placed' in the press box at the back of the stadium and told not to move by the slightly over zealous press officers from the prison but there are moments I just didn't want to miss and I didn't. Despite being stuck in the nosebleed section I managed to grab some key shots, most taken at the long end of the lens, and the hit rate was impressive. I'm really beginning to think this is one of the most underrated lenses in the Fuji lineup.

Angola Prison rodeo. 121.8mm at f/8.0 on the X-T1

Convict pinball. 134.5mm at f/5.0


It's also a piece of kit that doesn't take up too much room or look too intrusive, an important factor for me given some of the places I end up in. It's not a lens that screams 'expensive' and it certainly isn't a back breaker. But the Fuji 55-200 certainly is well made and more importantly has produced some lovely images on both the X-Pro1 and X-T1. 

Surf Haiti - a project teaching kids to surf in Jacmel, Haiti.

Haiti's southern coast. 200mm at f/7.1 on the X-T1

Port-Au-Prince slum. 55mm at f/10 on the X-T1


Sony A7Regret and Fuji XT-1 Uncertainty

Andy Gallacher is an International TV Correspondent

The amount of detail from the A7R's gargantuan sensor is breath taking. 

Alright so I don’t have much to whine about. I own two of the finest mirrorless cameras on the market and have a job that constantly puts me in front of interesting things to take pictures of. But none the less a compare and contrast between the Fuji and Sony at this point is something that's warranted. You should know that this isn’t my first foray into the mirrorless wonderland, for the past couple of years I owned, swore at and eventually fell in love with a Fuji X-Pro1. Like many people I loved the handling, look and image but sometimes wanted to throw the bloody thing off a bridge. Focusing speed, shutter lag and a myriad of other issues were a pain at first but after a series of firmware updates things got much better. But I was still yearning for a full frame camera and then along came the Sony A7R.

Sony A7R and the incredible Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 in Haiti. Notice how it handles extreme shade and light.

I ordered it immediately and got one of the first out the door but initially found it to be an unforgiving little beast. It seemed as unwieldy and alien to me as the X-Pro1 did when I first bought that and the tiniest adjustments made huge differences to the images I was getting. Regret set in, compounded by blogs about light leaks and shutter vibration, but I'm not easily dissuaded (and I'd spend a wad of cash) and despite everything this little boxy bugger was starting to grow on me. Maybe it was going from APSC to FF that was causing me problems initially but with each consequent frame came vast improvements. And then there is the image quality. The sheer amount of detail, information and latitude that this little metal box exudes is beyond impressive. Having said that all that processing power and megapixels in the world won't help you take pictures of your kids. Movement is no friend of the A7R but the same can't be said of the Fuji X-T1. Now the first thing I thought when I frantically unboxed the X-T1 was just how good looking this thing is. It's the Brangelina of cameras, I mean this thing is just beautiful and it's not skin deep. It feels leaps and bounds ahead of the X-Pro1 in terms of speed and usability. For me the key reason to trade up from the X-Pro1 wasn't the image quality but the tracking focus and ability to fire off 8 frames a second. I recently got a chance to test that under pretty tough circumstances and X-T1 passed with flying colors. When I took shots of the Angola Prison Rodeo in Louisiana I was at the back of the stadium in the press box at the long end of the 55-200 and barely missed a shot. Tell me these shots don't look at least as good as anything you've seen come out of a hulking DSLR and huge lens? 

The XT-1 with the Fuji 55-200 lens and 8fps is a compelling combination.

The combination worked so well that I used it to publish a picture gallery for work. 


A7R in the Wynwood district of Miami.

So the big question I guess might be which camera is the best? Well if you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose I would probably take the bullet; I just love both of these cameras that much. The A7R is amazing for landscape, urban and portrait shots and suits the pace that I work at for the most part. The Fuji replicates all that, albeit with much smaller files and detail, and throws in the bonus of being fast and, I think, better looking. If you're on a  budget the Fuji will not displease but it's what I can do with the A7R files that continues to impress. Pictures that I have been convinced were average or just lost have turned out to be stunning. But whenever I am packing for another trip I go through the same dilemma - Fuji or Sony. It's most definitely a first world problem but the fact that I lose sleep over which of these small and highly capable cameras to take with me is a testament to how much choice and quality mirrorless shooters have these days!

A7R - forgiveness is a wonderful thing....

Fuji XT-1 and the trusty 35mm f/1.4

Costa Rica and the X-Pro 1

Andy Gallacher is an international TV correspondent based in Miami. 

The drug runners blast up and down the Rio Colorado with impunity, they aren’t afraid of much in this remote corner of Costa Rica. We’re about 6 miles from the border with Nicaragua at a Tarpon fishing lodge run by Dan Wise a former judge from Mississippi. He’s been here for years and tells us when drugs do wash ashore they’re sold straight back to the cartels at a handsome price. He also tells us it’s not hard to tell who found what locals refer to as square fish. ‘If they’re in rags one day,’ says Dan with a wry smile. ‘And the next day they’re in gold chains with a Rolex you know who got lucky.’  It’s the perfect place for my X-Pro1, stealth is a way of life on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline. 

When I stumble across Dan’s abandoned boat yard the timing couldn’t be better. The sun is low over the jungle casting a golden light across the unkempt clutter surrounding the lodge. As a photographer moments like this are when you lose yourself. The setting is perfect, the light and subjects inspiring but time limited. For the next few minutes I maneuver through the long grass trying to capture the splendor of Dan’s cast aways aware that the sun is setting fast. My little Fuji, and its almost constant companion the 35mm f/1.4 lens, cope admirably with the changing light and before I realize it an hour has gone by and the sun is almost gone.

costa rica-1-6.jpg

This was the last part of my assignment in Costa Rica and a fitting end to a great trip. We’d traveled from the west coast, through the central highlands to Dan’s lodge on the east coast and been thoroughly charmed by the entire country and its people (well maybe not the drug runners). As ever my X-Pro1 was tucked away in my ThinkTank bag and performed beautifully. All those initial gripes and frustrations have been melting away with each firmware update and although it's still not a perfect camera it is a perfect traveling companion.  

My patient cameraman Jim Hoffman.