Shooting concerts with the Fujifilm X series – what’s in my bag?
By photographer Kim Matthäi Leland
I shoot concerts – from upcoming bands at small venues to internationally known artists at large music festivals. My work has been published widely in Danish and international media and in a few books.
In this blog post, I’ll talk about what gear I use for my concert photography work.
For years, I used to shoot with two full frame Canon DSLR cameras and L lenses. But someone showed me the Fujifilm X100S, and that little gem of a camera became my “gateway drug” to the Fujifilm X system. All my DSLR cameras and lenses have been sold now, and for about a year I’ve been shooting exclusively with Fuji cameras and a combination of Fuji and third party lenses.
Ideally, I like to get shots of the whole venue, the audience, the entire band and – most importantly – close up shots of the artists. To get that variation, I need several lenses. I could use one camera and 3-4 lenses, but that would mean wasting precious time changing lenses plus a risk of getting dust etc. inside the gear while changing. So I usually bring three cameras to the concert.
Here’s my current setup:
It’s a pretty compact kit compared to the Canon days. That’s great, because it takes a lot of weight off my back, and it’s easier for me to get around. I often take my bike to gigs.
Lens: Fujinon XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR
The close ups are the most important images to me. These are the shots where I get in close and catch the expression of the artist, so here I want to use my best gear. The choice within the Fuji ecosystem is pretty obvious: The X-Pro2 is the best Fujifilm camera at this time (I’m waiting anxiously for the X-T2!), and the 50-140mm is an ideal telephoto lens for most venues and bands. In terms of both focal length and maximum aperture, it’s quite like the 70-200’s of the full frame DSLR world. If it’s a large venue and photographers are not allowed in the pit, I’ll bring the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. I carry it in a separate bag, a LowePro Toploader Zoom AW 55.
Lens: Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
I use the medium range focal lengths for shots of (part of) the band or full body shots of an artist. The X-T1 was the flagship of the X series until the X-Pro2 came. In terms of lenses, there are a few more options here. For the medium shots, I’ve used the 16-55 f/2.8, the 10-24 f/4, the 35mm f/2, the 16mm f/1.4 – and in the beginning, when I only had one interchangeable lens Fujifilm camera (X-T1), I used the X100S for the medium shots (23mm, full frame equivalent 35mm), sometimes with the Wide Conversion Lens, which results in a FF equivalent of about 28mm. At the moment, my favourite lens for the medium shots is the 16-55. It’s faster (aperture-wise) than the 10-24 and more versatile than the primes. Like the 50-140, it’s weather resistant, which means that the setup (cameras and lenses) for close ups and medium shots will be OK in case of rain showers when I shoot e.g. at an outdoor music festival.
Lenses: Samyang/Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II and Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS
For images showing the whole venue or the whole stage I use either a fish eye lens or an ultra wide lens. The X-T10 camera is very similar to the X-T1, it has the same sensor. It is not weather resistant though, and neither are the two Samyang lenses I use with this camera. So for outdoor shows I keep the X-T10, 8mm and 12mm in a belt pouch, the Think Tank Slim Changer where they can be safe and dry in case of rain.
The 8mm can give you a really cool look if you like the fish eye style. It’s also possible to de-fish the images using the Photoshop plugin Fisheye Hemi 2, but you will still have some curved lines. For a more rectilinear ultra wide look, I’ll use the 12mm.
Both the 8mm and the 12mm are manual focus lenses. Especially with the 8mm fish eye that is really no problem. At f/5.6 and the focus set to infinity, everything is pretty sharp. With the 12mm you need to pay a little more attention to focusing.
I hope this blogpost gave you some inspiration. In future blog posts, I hope to cover how I shoot and post process concert photos.