W. of Mustang Creek:1/1600 f6.4 55-200mm @ 200mm ISO
I've had my Fuji X-E2 camera system since December, but really hadn't had the opportunity to take it out on a true "hard core" train chase trip until last week. Until then, I'd not had too many chances to try out the camera's continuous focusing ability on moving targets (no, I wasn't about to stand on the shoulder of the highway just to satisfy my curiosity!).
The Fuji acquisitions began with the first X-E2 body and "kit" 18-55mm 27-80mm 35mm equivalent) zoom and the 55-200mm l(80-320mm 35eq) long zoom. I added an 18mm f2 (27mm 35eq) prime lens in January, and last month, Fuji ran a very good sale on certain lenses, including the 27mmf2.8 (43mm 35eq) for over half off. And I added a second X-E2 body, used, at a very good price. So there's a good kit in the bag: two zooms for light travel, two primes for even lighter urban photography.
It's been a busy year for photography so far, partially inspired by the new gear, partially inspired by wanting to learn how to use the new gear. A mirrorless camera with electronic viewfinder is a different beast than a digital single lens reflex: 30 years of using SLR's for film and digital photography has trained my reactions to that kind of gear, and it is a learning curve to learn how to unthink using an SLR and retraining myself to the ways of the electronic viewfinder.
The transition has gone pretty good, but there's a lot to learn with the X-series cameras; I'm more than pleased--tremendously pleased--with the files these cameras produce: though I've been shooting everything both JPEG and RAW, I've not processed any raw files through Lightroom, so impressed have I been with the quality of sharpness and tonality (color and black and white) of photographs directly from JPEG files. I've shot a fair amount of documentary-style photos, "street" photos, graphic compositions--I'm very happy with the results. And I've put a bunch of them on my gallery site, www.bkooistra.smugmug.com.
But the one thing I hadn't tried with the X-E2 that was a staple of my years of SLR photography was the action railroad photograph. The digital Canons, incommon with all medium- and high-end DSLR's, are tops in continuous follow-focus: This is why professional sports photographers prefer DSLR's to, say, rangefinders or even mirrorless cameras. It's been a struggle for mirrorless camera producers to match the ability of the DSLR's to stay in focus while following a fast-moving subject. And while the typical moving train is certainly not the equivalent of a race car or tightly-focused athletes moving through the viewfinder, I was not fully convinced that the X-E2 could handle the task passably.
So, the Sunday afternoon meet-up with fellow rail photographers Dan Munson and Chris Palmieri would be my first test of the Fuji's train-chasing ability. Now, friends well know my aversion to any contemporary BNSF or Union Pacific locomotives, so the opportunity to chase old-school EMD conventional cab locomotives on the Fort Worth & Western Railroad was not to be missed.
We followed the four old EMD's--a pair of SD40's and a pair of GP38/40 types--out of Fort Worth on a trip along the former Santa Fe to Cresson. The day was beautiful, and after around 90 minutes waiting for the train from atop a parking garage on Fort Worth's near west side (i.e. "Seventh Avenue"), we jumped ahead an began a run-and-gun chase the last 10 miles or so across rolling prairieland into Cresson.
How'd the X-E2 do? I was curious, of course, so if Dan was giving me shit for "chimping" my LCD after each train runby, I plead guilty by explanation: I wanted to see if the Fuji was up for the task. And it was! It actually reacted quite similarly to the Canon DSLR's by wanting to search for a focusing target when encountering headlights or ditchlights, so in that respect the experience was the same. The camera kept up with the train with regards to continuous re-focusing. I didn't miss any shots due to shortcomings of the camera.
So, I'm ready for a longer trip now--carrying a MUCH lighter camera bag!
Herewith the gallery (click for full-size files):
Passing Montgomery Plaza, Fort Worth--18-55mm @ 24.3mm, 1/800 f/8 ISO400
W. of Mustang Creek--55-200mm @ 200mm, 1/1700 f6.4 ISO400
Nearing Cresson--55-200mm @ 200mm, 1/1900 f6.4 IS400
Nearing Cresson--18-55mm @ 48.4, 1/1000 f9 IS)400
Arriving Cresson--55-200mm @ 200 1/1800 f6.4 ISO400
Arriving Cresson--18-55mm @ 18 1/800 f10 ISO400
At Cresson--55-200mm @ 190 1/1000 f/9 ISO400
At Cresson--55-200mm @ 104 1/640 f/9 ISO400
At Cresson--55-200mm @ 141 1/110 f9 ISO400 (B&W conversion)