When Fuji announced the 3.00 firmware update for the X-Pro 2 (also 2.00 for the X-T2), there was one feature that got my attention. After 3.00, the X-Pro 2/X-T2 was given a set of long exposure speeds buried in the "T" option on the shutter speed dial. The X-Pro 2 got built-in, user selectable times of 1 - 2 - 4 - 8 - and 15 minutes (!holy crap 15 minutes!). I've always had fun shooting long exposures, so I was stoked to see this rarely implemented feature make it's way to an X-camera. Thank you, Fuji!
(Moonrise over Halona Cove. X-Pro 2 + 16mm @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 8 min)
Has anyone else experimented with their X-cameras and long exposures? I'll arbitrarily define "long" in this case to be 60 + seconds. For the X-T2 and X-Pro 2 users who have used the long exposure mode, what settings have you used? What have you noticed?
I've been experimenting with my X-Pro 2, 10-24mm, and a 16-stop Formatt-Hitech Firecrest ND filter, as well as doing a few long night exposures. I shot mostly at base ISO, RAW uncompressed, in low power mode, and with the long exposure NR turned on. I've noticed a few things:
- Leave the Long Exposure NR ON. Always. Yeah, it sucks because it effectively doubles the exposure time while your camera fires off a dark frame. It really sucks when you're shooting 15-minute exposures in the hot sun. But without it I got a lot of weird white dots all over the place in exposures >2 min, obviously these were most noticeable in shadow areas. This wasn't a deal breaker all the time during the day but at night it could ruin an otherwise amazing shot.
- Shoot Uncompressed RAWs. Now I haven't gone and shot a test scene or pixel peeped obsessively or done any kind of empirical testing. And I think that resolution charts have ruined the way we design modern lenses so none of that BS. But, I capture and process digital images as my 9-5 and from what I can see, the uncompressed RAWs look "cleaner". I honestly can't see a big difference between compressed and uncompressed RAWs captured at "normal" exposure speeds. I normally shoot compressed RAW for most things. But if its an 8-minute exposure, the shadow areas seem to respond better to detail recovery in the uncompressed RAWs. Plus, if it's gonna take you half an hour to capture a freakin' 15-minute exposure, do you really want to cheap out on a few MB?
- Save power. Go low power mode, you don't need fast AF for this anyway. Turn off your back LCD and activate Viewfinder EVF + Eye Sensor (this is also a good way to preserve your night vision in the dark). Shooting long exposures seems to kill batteries. Then again, exposures that are orders of magnitude longer than usual could do that to a camera. I can get about 2 15 min exposures + about a half dozen 4 min exposures on a topped off OEM battery.
- I haven't experienced any overheating, not even with the camera in the blazing 95F sun. This is better than most other cameras I've pushed to the 15 minute mark. The X-Pro 2 shot 4 back to back 15 min exposures in full sun which kept it running for 2 hours straight when you count the NR, and even though it drained a battery after 3 frames it functioned without issue.
- Exposure preview mode on the EVF/LCD does NOT work, so you must calculate your exposure times yourself. I use an iPhone app called LE Calculator when I am shooting in the day with an ND filter. I prefer it to Lee's app because it lets you select any number of stops you want, convenient if you have an oddball 16-stop filter. And it's free. At night I simply get an on-camera meter reading at a higher ISO and extrapolate.
- "Sunstars" from streetlights show weird artifacting in exposures >2 min. I am seeing weird radial "bands" around sunstars formed by points of light. If you guys want I can dig an example up, but I didn't bother putting the shots online because they looked pretty crappy. These occurred with the 23mm, 16mm, and 10-24mm lenses at apertures varying from f/8-f/22. I'm pretty sure it isn't an optical phenomena due to the occurrence across several lenses, and it seems to occur in areas of extreme overexposure/clipping which are bordered by areas of darkness (like a sunstar). It's a bummer but for me it makes extremely long urban exposures a little less appealing with the X-Pro 2 as it occurs consistently. I've been sticking to nature instead. Hopefully its something fixable.
Hmm, what else? The Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm 16-Stop ND filter is simply fantastic! It's a nice 85mm size which accommodates the 10-24mm with ZERO vignetting at 10mm if you only use 1 filter in the holder. I think I saw online somewhere that if you stacked 2, you'd get 12mm. It's smaller and more affordable than the Lee 100mm system, and doesn't have the vignetting issues Lee's mirrorless ND system has with the 10-24mm. So far, I've had no color cast issues, and aside from wishing Formatt-Hitech had a big ass hood for their system, I'm happy.
So how has everyone else's long exposure experimentation been going?
(Sandy's. X-Pro 2 + 10-24mm + 16-stop ND @ f/14, ISO 200, 4 min)
(Black Point. X-Pro 2 + 10-24mm + 16-stop ND @ f/9, ISO 200, 2 min)
(Makapu'u. X-Pro 2 + 10-24mm + 16-stop ND @ f/10, ISO 200, 2 min)
(Second's. X-Pro 2 + 10-24mm + 16-stop ND @ f/9, ISO 200, 2 min)