Pentax 645D • 75mm lens • f4 @ 1/125, 400iso
A Wedding with the Pentax 645D and the Fuji X-100
Note: all of the Pentax 645D images were shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 3. Images have white balancing, exposure bumps or black level adjustment but no other enhancements have been made. These are Photoshop-Free Images. The bride had perfect skin, and we didn’t even need to use the healing brush. The Fuji X-100 images were shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 3 with ONLY white balance adjustments. Camera settings were all manual.
We’ve put together a unique gear kit for photographing weddings this year. After selling all of our Canon DSLRs earlier this year we invested in some new and unique cameras for capturing our images. I believe we are entering an exciting time in camera technology. For the last 10 years the only real camera option for professional photographers photographing weddings and portraits has been a Canon or Nikon DSLR. It’s true that these are amazing cameras that can do nearly everything well. However, I do feel that sometimes a DSLR is not always the right tool for the job.
Back in the days of film you had a range of different camera body styles to choose from including single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, twin-lens reflex (TLR), and rangefinders, to name a few. Each of these cameras had distinct advantages and disadvantages for a particular type of photography. A photographer was free to use the same kind of film in any of these, and could choose the camera body that best suited the assignment at hand. Everything changed when digital arrived. Until very recently the only option you had when purchasing a quality camera was a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) like the Canon 5D or Nikon D700 with a sensor slightly smaller or the same size as 35mm film.
In the last year, thanks to innovative cameras from Fuji, Pentax, and others that is beginning to change.
Last year Fuji introduced a revolutionary camera in the X-100 that combined all of the modern benefits of digital technology with the advantages of a classic rangefinder body. This is a photographer’s camera to the bone with manual dials for shutter speed, iso, and lens aperture. It also features an amazing hybrid optical viewfinder that provides a view of the world far beyond anything a DSLR can provide. It’s virtually silent and is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. It’s the perfect form factor for documentary work, photojournalism, and candid wedding photography. For me, it’s the most significant advancement in digital cameras since the Canon 5D. Things are getting even better with the soon to be available big brother to the X-100, the Fuji X-Pro 1 that features interchangeable lenses, an new and advanced sensor design, and refinements to all of the technology introduced in the X-100. These two cameras will be our tools of choice for all of our wedding coverage except for portraits. We’ve got an even better tool for that.
The workhorse camera we’re using for all of our portrait work is the medium format 40 megapixel Pentax 645D. The Pentax is a revolutionary camera in that it brought the quality and size of medium format sensors into a DSLR package that managed to break the $10,000 barrier. Much has been written on it both online and on this blog, so please check out our other articles for more of our thoughts on this amazing camera. This article hopes to focus on it’s use during a typical wedding.
Pentax 645D • 150mm lens • f5.6 @ 1/125, 400iso
Pentax 645D • 150mm lens • f5.6 @ 1/125, 540iso
After much consideration on which lenses to buy to offer the coverage I needed for both wedding and portrait work on the Pentax 645D I settled on three lenses: 45mm f2.8, 75mm f2.8, and 150mm f2.8 primes. Pentax doesn’t have much in the way of zoom lenses that suit my needs, so figuring out which primes to go with was a difficult choice. You have to remember that while the focal lengths of the lenses are the same on medium format as they are on 35mm systems, the angle of view and depth of field is different. On 35mm cameras a 50mm lens is considered a ‘standard lens’ that is roughly equal to the perspective of the human eye. On medium format cameras, however, a 75mm lens is the ‘standard’ lens because of their larger sensors in relation to the lens. To further complicate matters the Pentax 645D is not a full frame medium format sensor – it’s roughly 30% smaller – so there’s a multiplication factor involved to figure out what focal length equivalent each lens has on the Pentax body. To do this, you have to multiply the focal length of the lens by .78 to find it’s true perceived focal length on the Pentax. By that standard, the 75mm lens is equal to a 58mm lens on the Pentax 645D.
I found the 75mm gave me the greatest flexibility while shooting the wedding and used it for most of the indoor formal portraits with the exception of the large wedding groups, the ceremony procession, most of the outdoor portraits of the bride and groom, and the majority of the reception.
Pentax 645D • 75mm lens • f8 @ 1/350, 200iso
Pentax 645D • 75mm lens • f4 @ 1/60, 400iso
The 45mm lens worked better during the preparation coverage I shot of the groom since we were working in tighter spaces. I also used it for the larger group portraits and sparingly at the reception for environmental shots.
Pentax 645D • 45mm lens • f8 @ 1/60, 560iso
The 150mm lens worked well during the ceremony. The church was only 12-15 rows deep so it had adequate reach to cover the details of the ceremony from the rear of the church. I’m definitely going to need to add a longer telephoto to my kit when money allows to cover larger churches. One benefit of a 40 megapixel chip is that I will have the ability to crop very tightly into an image to compensate for shorter lenses while still retaining excellent detail in the final photograph. Not ideal, but it will work until I can pick up a 200mm or larger lens. I did use the 150mm lens for some of the outdoor portraits. However, one thing I do miss from my Canon kit is the image stabilization. None of the Pentax 645 lenses include that technology and I did not have enough light to use a shutter speed I was comfortable with for most of the outdoor portraits. I discovered that my limit for tack sharp photos on that lens during the ceremony was 1/125 of a second. I was 50/50 for keepers at 1/60 of a second. With the Canon 70-200 f2.8 I used to shoot with, I could easily shoot at 1/30 of a second at 200mm with the image stabilizer assisting me. I’m going to be carrying a monopod with me to future events just to be on the safe side.
Pentax 645D • 150mm lens • f2.8 @ 1/60, 1600iso
While the Pentax 645D was the primary camera at this wedding, it was only used as such because the newest camera to be added to our kit has not yet been made available in the United States. We’ve pre ordered a Fuji X-Pro 1 to be the main camera for all but the portraits during our wedding coverage. Using the Pentax for most of the weddings shots is a little overboard. It’s like using a sledge hammer to hang a picture. However, after shooting a complete wedding with the camera I can say it is more than capable in every respect. While it’s true it lacks the responsiveness and autofocus prowess of any Canon or Nikon DSLR, I found it more than adequate in these respects while still delivering stellar image quality at all ISO settings. All of the portraits were shot at 400-640 ISO and the preparations and ceremony shots were taken at 1600 ISO. I was very impressed with how well the images held together at the high ISO settings.
While the Pentax was on the slow side to focus during the dimly lit reception, I found that using the dedicated autofocus button on the rear of the camera to prefocus with my thumb while waiting to trigger the shutter with my index finger solved this problem. I had little trouble achieving quick focus after that, and found the autofocus system to be very accurate. While not as good as the Canon system found on the 1-Series bodies, it was better than both the original 5D and 5D Mark II we’ve shot with in the past.
Pentax 645D • 45mm lens • f8 @ 1/60, 400iso
My second shooter photographed with the Fuji X-100 during the entire wedding. Her main focus is to cover the Bride’s preparations, the rear ceremony shots, and ‘grab’ shots during the reception using on-camera bounce flash.
We have to admit that after photographing over 300 weddings with Canon DSLRs, the Fuji is the most fun we’ve ever had using a camera. It’s a perfect camera for the candid, photojournalistic shots we strive for as part of our wedding coverage. It’s virtualy silent and is small and unintimidating to our subjects. It excelled at capturing images using just the ambient light only. We found the high ISO noise performance to be equal to the benchmark 5D Mark II, but the Fuji images have something special to them that you can see, but not describe. It’s something about how the camera renders the transitions from shadows to highlights, and the beautiful, saturated colors it captures that sets the Fuji apart. Something that’s only apparent after a 7 hour wedding day is how much lighter this camera is than lugging around a full compliment of Canon gear.
Fuji X-100 • 35mm equivalent • f2.8 @ 1/60, 1250iso
We’ve shot extensively with the camera in personal use and have loved the results we’ve gotten. However, I’ve spent hours reading reviews online and forum posts complaining how the camera was too quirky and had focus and speed limitations that prevented it from any serious use. I completely and whole-heartedly disagree. We had nothing but perfect performance from the camera with quick and accurate autofocus and never found ourselves waiting for the camera to catch up to our work. My second shooter has photographed with a Canon 1D Mark III for years and has come to expect speed and responsiveness from her gear. She never once longed for the Canon while shooting with the X-100 this weekend.
The 35mm equivalent lens on the X-100 was an excellent choice by Fuji for the type of work we used it for this weekend. It was a perfect compliment to the longer lenses used on the Pentax during the ceremony and reception and provided an excellent angle of view for preparation coverage. While working in tight spaces we were still able to create the shots we needed and we were able to work in close without becoming part of the action as well. It’s amazing how freeing it can be to have a camera with a single focal length. You become a lot more involved in the process, zooming with your feet instead of your lens and working a little more on composition. Having such a simplified camera also leaves you to focus on the images your making rather than changing camera settings.
I do have to point out one thing in particular about the viewfinder technology in the Fuji X-Series of camera: combining the beauty of the optical viewfinder with the ability to have an instant review of the image you just photographed appear in the viewfinder is a brilliant idea. This feature virtually eliminates the need to ‘chimp’ by looking at the back of the camera at the LCD after every other shot. You can keep your eye to the finder, see the shot to check exposure and composition, and be instantly ready for the next shot. It’s a very freeing thing to still have the ability to review your images as you shoot without missing a moment of the action.
Fuji X-100 • 35mm equivalent • f2.8 @ 1/60, 1250iso
Fuji X-100 • 35mm equivalent • f2.8 @ 1/60, 1600iso
Fuji X-100 • 35mm equivalent • f2.8 @ 1/60, 1000iso
Due to the fixed lens nature of the X-100 you certainly couldn’t use it as your only camera during a wedding and provide the necessary coverage. However, with the interchangeable lenses of the X-Pro 1 we have coming later this month I truly believe we have a perfect duo for our work. The difference between using the optical viewfinder found on the Fuji X-100 compared to looking through the lens on a DSLR helped us to be more engaged with our subjects. It was a completely different feeling working with a rangefinder-like camera. In the past people sometimes acted like pointing our big Canon DSLR at them was like aiming a gun at their heads and they would duck and hide. Using the smaller Fuji camera left them feeling much more comfortable. The camera is so quiet they never knew when we were photographing them – an advantage I had never imagined before that further helped us document the wedding without intruding on the special moments.
We light our receptions with two Einstein strobes to better control the quality of the light during the event. We used the Pentax 645D to trigger these lights remotely and used a non-dedicated LumoPro flash (similar to a Canon 580EX) mounted on the X-100 so that the photographer can move freely around the reception venue to capture candid shots of the guests. The Fuji worked very well using the external flash, producing balanced and pleasing images.
Being our first professional outing with both camera systems, we have to say they exceeded our expectations. We’re even more excited to use the Fuji X-Pro 1 when it arrives later this month as we’re certain it will outperform X-100 by a significant margin. Check back soon as we continue to update you on our experiences with these new cameras. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!
To see more of the images from this wedding made with the Pentax 645D and Fuji X-100, check them out on our blog.