15 May 2018
So you find yourself with a few days free in LA before NAB. Naturally I was going to take a Fujifilm GFX with me again – I absolutely adore the camera and since my last trip (when I toured with Canon photographer Dave Newton), new lenses have been released so more to try! Last year I partnered the GFX with a GH5 to film our adventures. This year was more about photography so I was keen to try out the Fujifilm X-H1.
I landed into a very grey LA – it wasn’t that warm and no sun meant little contrast. So I walked along to Venice Beach Skate Park to see what I could capture with the X-H1 and 16-55mm lens. I have to say the autofocus was hugely better than I thought it was going to be and I shot RAWs with the battery grip on and never had any issues with speed. Sure, it wasn’t in the same league as a Sony a9 but then not a lot is (and the a9 is a whole lot more expensive!). Image wise, I could really pull the shadows on the RAWs without much noise at all. Plus there is just something about the colours the X Trans sensor produces.
That evening, a break in the clouds started to appear so I headed onto Venice Pier to see what I could shoot. Once again the GFX delivered and the final images flatter my lack of talent.
You need to zoom in to just see how good they are, see downloadable files at the end of this post!
The next morning saw yet another grey start. I was keen to test the X-H1 some more so headed down to the beach to shoot the surfers. Again, I was impressed at its performance with the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens. The light was awful so I was surprised I was able to pull as much out of the images as I did. In fact, when editing the RAWs, the images showed a very respectable dynamic range without horrendous noise (as long as the ISO level was kept in check).
Time to head off to pick up the hire car. Clearly with the Malibu Canyon roads on my door step, a Toyota Camry it was not going to be! I quickly headed up into the hills and managed to luck out with a break in the weather. With the GFX and 32-64mm lens to hand, I shot some car photos as a favour to the owner (if you’ve never used Turo, have a look – it’s like the Airbnb of car rental). Once again the difference between processed RAW and jpeg was stunning. I’ve used the GFX time and time again yet it never ceases to amaze me as to what it can do.
The next day was an early start, heading over to the Griffith Observatory. My first mistake – I should have got there much earlier. The sky was beginning to brighten as I arrived, so it was all a bit of a rush. I am still kicking myself I didn’t get some night shots of the place. Anyway, tripod and GFX to hand, I still caught the sun coming up over LA.
Being the idiot I am, I had left my two charged GFX batteries back at the hotel so I put that back in the car and headed up Mount Hollywood with the X-H1. It’s a 3-mile trek up to the top but the views are pretty stunning.
If you’re a bit of a car nut and find yourself in LA, I would recommend popping into the Petersen Automotive Museum. I’d also suggest you pay extra for the Vaults Tour as the cars downstairs not on public display are just jaw dropping. Sadly they don’t allow photography. Upstairs though you can shoot to your heart’s content. GFX to hand with the 32-64mm and 120mm Macro IS, I shot away. Really I should have taken a tripod as well but as it was, I got enough looks from the security guys in the Ferrari room!
So, last morning before heading to Vegas, I headed back up into the Malibu hills. I wasn’t really aiming to shoot much – it was more about an early Saturday morning blat in the car. I came out of a tunnel to the more jaw dropping vista overlooking Malibu Creek State Park. I realised I was way too late for a decent sunrise but equally I suspected I could probably still pull something out of the bag with the GFX, just look at the detail in the foreground!
So onto Vegas. Having picked up a car and dropped my kit at the hotel, I drove over to Red Rock Canyon. It’s not far from the strip but well worth the trip. Normally it wouldn’t take long however the Saturday early evening traffic was horrendous. As I neared the official park, I could see the sun disappearing with the red glow fading. Once again I was too late!! Yet another scramble out of the car with camera kit and tripod. I managed to at least get something. Another trip filed under the 'I'll know the layout and where to shoot next time' folder!
Sunday saw me with a day off so I headed over to Hoover Dam. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a trip down into the Dam itself – fascinating. Also have a walk along to the overflow drains – the size of them is quite extraordinary. Anyway, I wanted to do something different this time so jumped in a helicopter (which at $69 I thought was a bargain – best of all I had it to myself!).
Realistically I could only take the X-H1 and it delivered. What you see here are processed RAWs – the massive contrast between inside and outside the helicopter tested the camera to the full.
So there you go, a short trip this year but still enjoyable. I came back with some real respect for the X-H1 – it was a lot quicker than I had given it previous credit for and the image depth was closer to the GFX that I had thought. As for the GFX, it will take something pretty amazing to surpass it.
Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR
Fujifilm XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm GF 32-64mm F4 R LM WR