RIAT 2017

Royal International Air Tattoo 2017, RAF Fairford, Sunday 16th July 2017

The forecast wasn’t great for this so photographically I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this event, certainly compared to last year when we had some fantastic light as the sun arrived after a rain spell in the morning. However, the flying programme was pretty incredible and early morning reports were buzzing around that a B-2A Spirit was in the air and heading over the Atlantic for a flying visit.

I was armed with the X-T2 (with Booster Grip) and the Fujinon 100-400mm and would be shooting handheld all day, mostly sat down. My camera setup was very basic, I essentially remained in Shutter Priority at 1/2000 as much as possible, leaving ISO and Aperture up to the X-T2. The only significant change to that was during helicopter or prop displays, where I would drop to around 1/200 to get a bit of prop blur. OIS was left on, I left the camera in AF-C all day and once again opted to stick with Single Point AF.

And that’s pretty much it, point, track and shoot (sounds easy!) My experience of tracking cars seems to come in handy at airshows as although I’ve only attended a few I’ve never found tracking 500mph jets particularly troublesome. That was the main reason I opted to stick with Single Point AF, as I very rarely found myself having any difficulty locking on and hanging on manually.

My little AF box would turn green seemingly immediately when getting a subject in frame, it was interesting to see it go black instantly on occasions when the aircraft would drift out of the box, and then immediately go green as soon as I got it back in. That little green box didn’t lie either, despite being in Release Priority 99% of the 1600 photos I took were correctly focussed.  

As expected the weather was pretty average for photos so these are hardly the most inspiring, flat grey skies most of the time with the occasional break in the clouds for a bit of a sunshine (but still got sunburnt!) Hopefully they give you an idea of what’s possible in more favourable conditions though.

As for the airshow itself, wow. I’ve attended RIAT on and off since I was a kid and this was easily the best year I can remember since those rose tinted days of the past. The US sent over the kitchen sink for their 70th Anniversary (including rarities such as B-1, B-2, B-52 and U2), meaning an incredible diversity and volume of static displays, and an 8 hour flying display that just never let up.

Fuji Motorsport Guide

I’m not a professional motorsport photographer (not the best way to start a guide, is it?!), I’m barely even an enthusiastic amateur anymore due to my wedding photography business and a 2 year old taking up most of my time. However, I have got experience on my side and my rather sporadic motorsport work these days still seems to be really well received. Amateur motorsport photography was where it all started for me 15 years ago and for a good 10 years or so I was attending upwards of 20 events per year. These days I have to be a little more selective, I’m lucky to get to 2 or 3 events…just enough to illustrate this guide with recent examples.


It’s also worth saying straight away that every single photo you see here has been taken from a public position; I have no special access so it’s through or over fences and limited elbow room for me. What you see here is perfectly achievable by anyone with a bog standard ticket to a motorsport event and some Fuji gear.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/60, f11, ISO100

Gear

Camera Body

Fuji X was never taken seriously as a sports system until the X-T1 arrived (and for many, not even then) but it has slowly been growing a following. Fundamentally there is no reason why you can’t shoot motorsport with any Fuji X kit (or indeed any system, it wasn’t that long ago that all sport was shot with manual focus), but on a practical level and considering basic expectations these days, it’s best to consider one of the following options…

  • X-T1/X-T10 - The X-T1 and X-T10 essentially share the same internals, image quality is identical but you’re giving up some external controls, weather sealing and a bigger viewfinder by choosing the X-T10 over the X-T1. The X-T10 is a perfectly usable sports camera (as you can see from many of the samples here) but some may find it a little small for the bigger telephoto lenses and it won’t take the same abuse as an X-T1.  

Both are very good cameras perfectly capable of excellent motorsport photography with a competent operator. Viewfinder blackout is at the manageable end of the scale, AF is very solid and if you like to mash the shutter they both fire away at a decent rate.  

  • X-T2/X-T20 - Like the X-T1/X-T10 relationship, the X-T20 is the smaller sibling of the X-T2 but will give you exactly the same output from the new 24mp sensor. The X-T2 gains a joystick and dual card slots this time around, but also the option of the Booster Grip which I’ve found to really useful for motorsport photography

Both cameras are faster and more powerful than their predecessors and effectively on a par with a decent DSLR.

Any of the above 4 are perfectly capable cameras that are unlikely to limit the average enthusiastic motorsport shooter in any way. 

Fuji X-T10 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 100mm. 1/15, f5.6, ISO200

  • A quick note about the XE/X-Pro Range

I’m not covering these cameras in great detail simply because the ergonomics are questionable for a long lens, however they balance pretty well with the 50-230mm and 55-200mm.  That’s not to say they’re not capable (they are, particularly the X-E2S and X-Pro2), just not ideal if you’re looking to buy with motorsport in mind. If you already have one of them though, go for it. 

Fuji X-E1 & Fuji 55-200mm @ 141mm. 1/100, f11, ISO200

Lens Choices


It’s difficult to go wrong here. Fuji make excellent glass so just pick whatever suits your budget and jump in. A longer affordable lens would be nice (such as a 70-300) but the 4 existing lenses are all so good it's hard to complain.

  • Fuji 50-230mm

It would be easy to be dismissive of the cheap plastic lens that gets bundled in with some camera kits. However, this one is a great little lens capable of excellent results. It’s a remarkably sharp little thing and for day to day photography the OIS is fantastic. If you’re starting out or on a tight budget I’d highly recommend it. 

Fuji X-T10 & Fuji XC 50-230mm @ 63mm. 1/20, f22, ISO200

  • Fuji 55-200mm

The mid-range option and a very solid choice if the ‘big two’ are out of reach. I started with this lens (it was the first tele option) and don’t have a bad word to say about it. It’s really well built and AF speed is excellent. A world away from the cheap 55-200s found in other systems.

Fuji X-E1 & Fuji 55-200mm @ 156mm. 1/60, f16, ISO100

  • Fuji 50-140mm

Fuji’s equivalent to the workhorse 70-200 2.8s beloved by pros. Unsurprisingly Fuji nailed this one, it’s well built, super-fast and as sharp as you’d ever need. 

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/60, f13, ISO100

  • Fuji 100-400mm

The beast. You’d never call it light or compact but it’s not excessive either, I’ve used one on the diminutive X-T10 extensively with no issues. AF is seriously impressive, I wasn’t expecting it to be up to the standard of the 50-140mm 2.8 but it’s just about there.

Fuji X-T10 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 400mm. 1/60, f5.6, ISO200

Settings


I set up the X-T2 as follows, obviously as with all of this guide it is just a guide so feel free to try, tweak or completely ignore the following. Clearly there are many more settings than this, but if I haven’t mentioned them they are either left at default or entirely personal preference (i.e. JPEG/RAW etc). The vast majority of settings are relevant to all Fuji bodies, so I set up my X-T10 in the same way, the major difference being the AF-C custom settings found on the X-T2 but not on any other model.

Lens

  • Aperture: A (Auto)
  • IS: Off

Not much to cover here except to say that if your lens has IS (all the telephoto lenses do), switch it off. This can be done on the lens if it has a switch, or in the camera menu (IS Mode). Panning and IS aren’t really compatible as the whole idea of IS is to try and combat camera movement.

Dials

  • ISO: L (100)
  • Metering: Multi
  • Focus Mode: C (Continuous / AF-C)
  • Aperture: Auto
  • Shutter Speed: Variable (generally anywhere between 1/15 and 1/200)

I’m not a machine gunner so opt for the CL Drive Mode (set at 3fps) on the X-T2, obviously this can be adjusted to suit your style. ISO is generally left as low as possible when I’m panning, 1/60 etc in bright sunshine means I’m not normally requiring anything else. In most circumstances I let the camera figure out Aperture and just concentrate on the shutter speed. Metering is simply personal preference and occasionally adjusted to suit.

Function Buttons

Aside from shutter speed there are very few things I adjust on the fly once I’m set up for motorsport so I just leave the Fn buttons as per my preferred day to day settings. On the X-T2 one button is assigned to AF-C Custom Settings as I occasionally need to adjust those.  

Menus

  • AF Mode: Single Point
  • AF-C Custom Setting: 1, General
  • Release/Focus Priority (AF-C): Release
  • Shutter Type: Mechanical
  • S Mode: Off 

I’ve been a single point AF shooter since day one, clever tracking options are improving all the time but I’ve not found them necessary for large contrasty subjects like cars. The 3x3 zone AF mode on the X-T2 does seem to work well enough so feel free to try it out, you may prefer it if you’re not used to smoothly tracking objects in the frame as it does a great job of keeping locked on to subjects.
Mechanical Shutter (rather than Electronic Shutter) is really important unless you want distorted images, and choose the ‘Release’ AF-C Priority option otherwise you may be frustrated by your camera refusing to allow you to shoot at a critical moment (it doesn’t always confirm focus lock when panning).
That’s it, nothing particularly technical or clever, just a few tweaks to optimise performance and minimise frustration.

AF-C Custom Settings (X-T2)


Specific to the X-T2 are custom AF-C settings that are designed to tweak the AF system dependent on what you’re shooting. I’ll admit I was fairly dismissive of the concept at first as I’ve never felt the need to delve into complex AF options before, but they really do work. 

  • Set 1 Multi Purpose

This is the default setting and works perfectly well for general panning and head-on shots. If you’re ever in any doubt just leave it on this setting

  • Set 2 Ignore Objects and Continue to Track Subject

This is pretty clever, basically once you’ve locked on to a subject it will do its best to ignore everything else. I did my best to trick the system by tracking and shooting a fast moving car through a large crowd of people and was amazed at how well it held up.

Fuji X-T2 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 100mm. 1/20, f18, ISO100

  • Set 4 Suddenly Appearing Subject

At the Festival of Speed there are a number of locations where vehicles suddenly appear from behind walls or from obscured areas, something I rarely come across at big wide open circuits. Quickly locking and shooting subjects in these situations is pretty tough for operator and equipment. This setting tweaks the AF system to lock on as quickly as possible. Compared to the Ignore Objects setting it’s hard to gauge how effective this is over and above the basic default setting, but I had no trouble gaining quick locks on cars and bikes suddenly appearing at speed, so it appears to be doing the job.

Fuji X-T2 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 400mm. 1/2000, f5.6, ISO640

Technique

Side-on Pan


1. Ensure you’re comfortable and well balanced with steady footing. Ideally you want your feet spread comfortably apart with your body facing the point at which you want to capture the photo
2. Firmly hold the camera with your right hand, for anything other than the smallest of lenses I highly recommend gripping the lens rather than the camera with your left hand
3. Track the car through the viewfinder at the earliest possible opportunity
4. Hold the shutter release down half-way to initiate focus
5. Continue to smoothly track the car with the button half-pressed, the camera will continue to refocus
6. Fully press the shutter release at the point where you want to capture the car
7. Continue to track the car in a smooth movement
The most important thing is to ‘follow through’, there should be no pause or abrupt end once you have taken the shot, continue to pan smoothly and you are more likely to get the shot. If you have a viewfinder I highly recommend using it over the LCD, it’s inherently more stable and smooth to pan with the camera pressed against your eye rather than at arm’s length through the LCD.

Fuji X-T10 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 107mm. 1/60, f20, ISO200

Head-on / Rear Shots


This one’s simple to explain, just choose shutter priority mode and select the fastest shutter speed you can, you will need a shutter speed of at least 1/400; depending on light conditions this may require increasing ISO. Fire away, no panning or any particular technique is needed, the shutter speed will be more than fast enough to freeze the car.

Fuji X-T2 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 400mm. 1/2500, f5.6, ISO640

General Tips


A few general tips to consider, these aren’t rules by any stretch of the imagination, but they may help initially…


1. Get Down Low
Whilst it isn’t always easy, a shot from a low angle is generally recommended over a shot where the car roof is visible. 

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 55-200mm @ 141mm. 1/320, f5, ISO1600


2. Use Space
Leaving more space in front of the car than behind will generally give you a more appealing composition.

Fuji X-T10 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 100mm. 1/15th, f14, ISO200


3. Avoid Cluttered Backgrounds
The aim of a motorsport photograph is often to capture a particular vehicle, as a general rule anything to take your eye away from that is not good for the final image. Try to avoid shooting from positions where marshals (in their hi-viz gear) or unsightly scenery are visible in the background. If that’s not possible, blur it out by panning at a relatively slow shutter speed.

Fuji X-T2 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 100mm. 1/30, f10, ISO200


4. Try a Monopod
Some photographers find that monopods make motorsport photography more difficult, however they do significantly stabilize your lens which is important for both panning and standard shots. When panning it removes nearly all vertical movement, this is one of the major factors in ensuring a nice sharp panning shot.


5. Be Prepared
Expect the unexpected, and know how to adjust your camera quickly to capture moments that may require completely different to those that you are using. The X-T2 has a lock on the shutter speed dial, I always leave this unlocked so I can quickly adjust it to suit different situations.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 50mm. 1/3500, f2.8, ISO400

6. Go Wide
It's easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need to shoot as close as possible, always looking for extra reach. Sometimes it's nice to look at the bigger picture and go wide. If you have a wide angle lens, use it, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 16mm f1.4. 1/30, f16, ISO200

7. Go Mad
The most important advice I can offer is to go a bit mad, particularly once you are reasonably competent with the basics of motorsport photography. Whilst it is good to get some ‘record’ shots saved, I find that my best images actually come after I’ve got a few standard safe shots and then decide to experiment and do something a bit silly, in many ways this helps you to develop as you are pushing your abilities to the limit.

Fuji X-T2 & Fujinon 100-400mm @ 100mm. 1/20th, f18, ISO100


Exploring Shutter Speeds


Aside from focal length the most important tool you have at your disposal when shooting motorsport is shutter speed. A quick and simple change to that one setting can completely transform the image you capture. It also plays a huge part in how difficult motorsport shooting can be. Before I go into depth the one thing I will stress is that practice and experimentation are absolutely everything, there are no short cuts when it comes to motorsport photography and crucially in this day and age – no easy way to replicate good in-camera technique when you get home and start playing around with Photoshop.


The basic side-on pan is the best way to demonstrate shutter speed, so I popped out and shot a bunch of Alfas all moving at roughly the same speed from the exact same spot…

  • A shutter speed of 1/320 is about as fast as you can realistically shoot cars moving at 60mph whilst still showing some signs of movement. It doesn’t look terribly dynamic, but it’s obvious the car is moving and it is very easy to achieve.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/320, f9, ISO100

 

  • At 1/200 you start to get some nice background blur and can see a reasonable amount of movement in the wheels of the car. This is quite a nice sweet spot as it’s still relatively easy to get sharp shots at this shutter speed but you get a nice sense of movement.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/200, f11, ISO200

 

  • Once below 1/200 you start really sense the speed of the subject. Wheels will be completely blurred and the background features will begin to merge into one.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/180, f11, ISO100

 

  • Below 1/100 you are starting to get into challenging territory, good technique is required to consistently achieve sharp shots from this point onwards. Note how the wheels are completely blurred and the vehicle really stands out from the blurred background.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/80, f16, ISO200

 

  • Once you reach 1/50 things start to get pretty tough. Scroll back up to the 1/320 shot to appreciate just how little detail in the background there now is.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/50, f22, ISO200

 

  • At 1/30 life starts getting really difficult. You can see that although some of the car is quite sharp, other parts are very blurred. This is unavoidable once you reach these kinds of shutter speeds unless you can capture the car absolutely parallel to you.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/30, f22, ISO200

 

  • Here is another example of the loss of focus I was describing in the 1/30 image. At 1/60 with a car heading away from you at an angle only a very small area of the car will be sharp. I personally work on the basis that I only keep these kind of shots if a recognisable part of the car is still nice and sharp, that would normally be the front end as with the example above.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 140mm. 1/60, f18, ISO200

Most of the cars photographed in this section were travelling just below 100mph. For cars travelling much slower you would need to start at a slower speed than 1/320 to see much evidence of movement, conversely if you were shooting cars travelling at 200mph you would see plenty of movement at 1/320 and by the time you reached 1/30 you would probably be thinking about giving up!

As I mentioned at the start, practice is everything and everyone will have a different comfort level, I learned by gradually reducing my shutter speed, once I was getting 4 out of 5 sharp at 1/320 consistently I would move down a notch to 1/250 and so on.

Fuji X-T1 & Fujinon 50-140mm @ 50mm. 1/10, f22, ISO100

FAQs

  • What accessories do you recommend?
  1. Batteries – You’ll probably find you’re able to squeeze far more photos out of a single battery when shooting intensively for a day of motorsport than you would otherwise for day to day photography. That said, it’s still handy to have a spare or two. As a rough guide I comfortably get 1200+ photos out of a single battery in the X-T10, X-T1 and X-T2.
  2. Rain Cover – Even with a weather resistant body and lens I always feel much happier with a rain cover to hand, especially during the ‘Great British Summer’. Op/Tech produce disposable transparent sleeves that are only £5 for two, alternatively I use a Storm Jacket, which seems expensive at £40 but mine has lasted 9 years and still works perfectly.
  3. Monopod – This is a very personal choice. I used one for an event and hated it, but others swear by them. 

As always if you’re spending a whole day outside in the Great British countryside (circuits are invariably in exposed locations), good shoes, layers, waterproof coat etc are all good to have.

  • JPEG or RAW?

After several hundred thousand images and a fair bit of toing and froing in the early days, I found no practical benefit to shooting motorsport in RAW. It’s usually slower, both in terms of the shooting experience (buffer, image review etc) and the editing process due to the larger files; and it’s unlikely that you are going to be taking advantage of the extra flexibility RAW gives you anyway. As a bonus Fuji JPEG colours are generally really nice straight out of the camera, often better than I could have processed the RAW file anyway.

  • Why do you recommend Single Shot?

I get asked this a lot. Say you were learning to shoot a gun and the teacher gave you an automatic rifle, you fire off 100 rounds and one hits the bullseye, the other 99 are way off, most aren’t even on the target. The teacher gives you a certificate saying you’re a competent marksman (you did hit the bullseye, after all). Would you say you’ve learned anything?
Panning in full banzai 14fps mode is no different. Slowing things down and concentrating on one shot will give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t; it helps you learn from your mistakes (e.g. ‘should I be panning slower, or faster?’)

  • Why should I switch off Image Stabilisation?

IS/VR systems are designed to compensate for movements you make whilst taking photos, but when we’re shooting motorsport we are intentionally moving to track cars, so the IS systems are then working against you. Some systems do allow you to set stabilisation on just the horizontal plane, which in theory may help with conventional panning, but in my experience it’s best just to switch it all off.

  • Which circuit is best for photography?

To keep costs down it makes sense to visit your nearest circuit, particularly if you want to visit regularly. Silverstone and Rockingham are generally regarded as two of the most restrictive circuits to the public, but most other UK circuits have a decent number of angles available to spectators. 

It’s also worth investigating events like hill climbing, motocross or rallying, all of which are far less restrictive and generally ‘fence free’ so you’re likely to find yourself much closer to the action.

  • How can I get a media pass?

The clue is in the name of the pass. If you’re working for a media organisation you can apply for a pass for the event you’re covering (even with media credentials some events are more restrictive than others). The overall standard of your work does not necessarily have a significant bearing on this, opportunities are normally down to hard work, perseverance and getting to know the right people.
Hopefully my images (all taken from public positions) show what’s possible without needing special access.

  • What events are best for practising motorsport photography?

Don’t expect to turn up at 10am on the Saturday of a GP weekend at Silverstone and find lots of places to take photos. However, Castle Combe on a chilly Saturday trackday in March? You’ll have the circuit to yourself. Fortunately here in the UK we have lots of venues and hundreds of events, many of them free. Look at the calendar for your local circuit, there are often car club days, sprints and smaller events which are cheap or free and rarely attract crowds.
Generally speaking, for bigger two day events the Saturday (Qualifying) day is much quieter (and cheaper). If you really want to photograph at popular International events (such as WEC or F1) go along on the Friday practice day, which again is cheaper and quieter. 

  • Can I find a list of all motorsport events in my area?

www.racedates.com list a huge number of events, however it’s always worth visiting circuit websites directly to confirm dates/times.


Find me on Instagram (@fuji_fun), Flickr (Harry_S) and Twitter (@charrison_photo)

Disclaimer

All gear used has been personally paid for by myself. I have no affiliation with Fuji. I attend events as a regular member of the public and receive no special access or benefits, all photos were taken from publicly accessible areas.

D750 vs X-T2: Motorsport

Due to being a creature of habit more than any master plan to compare these two cameras, I ended up shooting the hill climb at the 2017 Festival of Speed with Fuji kit from near enough the exact same spot as the 2016 event with the Nikon. I also realised that (again being a creature of habit) the gear used for each system was pretty similar. I thought it would be interesting to throw together a comparison of the two systems.

I know how these things can often go, so I’ll list the caveats in an easy to digest list before I get started:

·         This was never planned

·         Had I planned it, I would’ve thrown in the Fuji 56mm 1.2 to give a true equivalent focal length comparison (with the Nikon 85mm 1.4).

·         Had I planned it, I would’ve aimed to grab a few more comparable shots in the paddock

·         Had I planned it, I would’ve used similar settings on the hill instead of whatever felt right at the time

·         They are a year apart, so clearly weather/light and angles are different, the light was beautiful in 2016 (Nikon), but pretty terrible in 2017 (Fuji)

·         I’ve been using various Fuji and Nikon gear concurrently for the past 4 years, so know both systems inside out. The X-T2 was however new to me and literally unboxed just before I arrived at the event 

2016:

·         Nikon D750

·         Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art

·         Nikon AFS 85mm 1.4

·         Nikon 200-500mm f5.6

·         Nikon D300 (Spare/Backup)

Total Weight (with batteries): 5165g

2017:

·         Fuji X-T2

·         Booster Grip + batteries

·         Fuji 23mm 1.4

·         Fuji 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

·         Fuji X-T10 (Spare/Backup)

Total Weight (with batteries): 3150g

Clearly the Fuji is missing a an 85mm equivalent which would have made a small difference to the overall difference in weight (although only 400g). Due to the additional security checks required I heeded the advice not to take a bag and slung the Fuji's over my shoulder, not something that would have been comfortable with the Nikon kit.

So, all of that out the way, here are a bunch of photos:

The above shots are a mixture of Fuji and Nikon (4 each, in no particular order), so you can probably see why I thought a comparison would be interesting.

Weight & Handling

Despite the low angle of many of these photos, I shoot everything from public positions. That means getting into unnaturally low and awkward positions and handholding the camera for long periods crouched or bending down (panning whilst unbalanced is seriously hard work). The D750 and 200-500mm was brutal in that respect at around 3kg and I felt it in my arms for a few days after. The X-T2/100-400mm combo is hardly lightweight, but at around 2kg it was significantly lighter and easier to handle than the Nikon.

In the paddock the difference was less noticeable (aside from having much lighter gear on my back), but the Fuji really came into its own with the full AF system available via the clever LCD screen. The D750 live view implementation is ok, but it doesn’t come close to the full AF with joystick goodness of the X-T2.

AF Speed/Accuracy

The D750 AF system is awesome and practically infallible once you’ve hit your stride. With the lenses micro-adjusted to death it all just works, I took around 2000 photos at the 2016 event and looking back I’m struggling to find a single one binned due to being out of focus; as I said, it just works. Considering the 200-500mm isn’t the fastest lens in the world it performed brilliantly and (in good light, as that’s all I had to go on) didn’t feel far off usual workhorses such as the 70-200 2.8.

The X-T2 puts up a surprisingly good fight though. For static stuff in the paddock it inspires far more confidence with the EVF and instant review in the viewfinder, and as mentioned earlier full AF through the LCD is miles ahead of the Live View effort from the Nikon. Out on the hillclimb I was really interested to see how the Fuji would perform as this would be the first time I was close enough with a long enough lens to get some true head-on shots (much, much tougher for the AF system than panning).

The overall hit rate wasn’t as consistent as the D750 but it also wasn’t far off; aside from the very occasional momentary lapse into AF hunting (only a few times during the day) it inspired plenty of confidence, locking on quickly and accurately and then tracking with ease.

I briefly tested the tracking systems for both cameras, but as usual quickly returned to AF-C and bog standard single point for both. They both worked absolutely fine, but fancy tracking simply isn't needed for large contrasty objects like vehicles and I like to choose exactly where to put the AF point, not have it decided for me.

EVF v OVF

The EVF in the X-T2 is exceptionally big and bright and particularly with the booster grip it’s super-smooth and virtually lag free. It’s pretty amazing how far things have come since the X-Pro1.

For relatively static stuff it’s a slam dunk for the Fuji, I had 100% confidence in the AF as I could see exactly what I was getting instantly. Features like magnified focus and focus peaking were just the icing on the cake.

Out on the hill I was really surprised at the noticeable improvement of the X-T2 EVF. The lag, blackout and smoothness really is a significant step up from even the X-T1. It’s probably not particularly noticeable when shooting day to day stuff, but a Ferrari passing at 100mph? Big difference. Clearly there is still some lag compared to an OVF, but I honestly didn’t notice it and it certainly never held me back at all.

This really is personal preference, but the EVF has come far enough now that I wouldn’t want to go back. Sure the OVF is fundamentally easier to use when shooting action, and for peeps who like to machine gun the EVF would probably be an exercise in frustration if you’re used to a DSLR, but the X-T2 EVF is comfortably good enough not to have got in my way at all.

System Speed

As expected for a DSLR (and one loved by wedding photographers), the D750 does pretty much everything as quick as you'd ever need it to. It does fall down slightly on buffer size and clearance speed, but in terms of operation it's hard to complain about any aspect of it. 

The X-T2 is again a big step up from previous Fuji bodies. Start up to shooting is probably the biggest and most obvious improvement but it's also much quicker to jump from image review to shooting. I found the buffer quite slow with a UHS-I card (much slower than the quoted numbers) but understand it's a much quicker beast with UHS-II cards installed.  

Clearly they are both fundamentally different systems with different philosophies. With the X-T2 pretty much everything is to hand (and if it's not there is a spare function button for it) including the excellent AF joystick. The D750 is slightly more menu driven but has the benefit of U1 and U2 custom settings on the dial, meaning you can switch vast swathes of settings instantly.

Full Frame vs APS-C

Without delving into the equivalency debate I thought I better give a mention to this as I know it’s a favourite subject of the internet. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART gives a lovely sense of subject isolation even at that relatively wide angle, the Fuji 23mm 1.4 is a peach of a lens but it simply doesn’t make larger subjects like vehicles ‘pop’ quite like the Sigma can. One interesting point to mention, f1.4 with the Nikon is all well and good but on a sunny day and without filters in my bag the 1/4000 maximum shutter speed limited the usefulness of the wide aperture. The Fuji goes to 1/8000 with the mechanical shutter and 1/32000 with the electronic shutter so even with the 56mm 1.2 you can shoot static subjects wide open. Out on the hill the differences are pretty much irrelevant as I’m usually aiming for a sense of movement rather than throwing backgrounds out of focus; with shutter speeds anywhere from 1/30 to 1/200 I’m never going to troubling the maximum aperture on any system.

Battery Life

I didn’t give this any thought on the day so I wasn’t going to include it, but ‘the internet’ has a tendency to pick up on mirrorless battery life - mainly due to the CIPA ratings - so I figured it was worth a mention. I remember reading with amusement when people jumped on the Sony a9 and suggested it could fully discharge a battery in about 24 seconds because of the frame rate and CIPA rating. OK then.

The CIPA rating for the Fuji X-T10 is 350 shots; at the last motorsport event I covered with the X-T10 (a 24hr race) I passed 2000 (two thousand) frames on a single standard battery before the ‘imminent death’ symbol (otherwise known as the battery dropping one bar). Bear in mind I’m not a machine gun shooter either, the vast majority are single shot, or two/three frames in quick succession at most.

It should be noted at this point that the D750 (CIPA rating: 1230) used in a similar way will also laugh at its already impressive quoted ‘life’ as well, but not quite to the same degree as a mirrorless camera.

So, the X-T2 (CIPA rating: 340). I was using it with the Vertical Booster Grip and left Boost Mode switched on all day, as expected the 3 batteries installed were comfortably enough to see me through even with lots of EVF chimping and WiFi transfers throughout the day. I finished the day on near enough 2700 shots (around 6 hours of shooting), to show for it I had one fully depleted battery and the remaining two discharged to around 50%.  

Processing

D750 RAW files are really nice to work with in terms of exposure, you can really push shadows or claw back highlights without major penalty. However I’m not a huge fan of the colours out of the camera even with white balance nailed, so they take a bit of work in that respect.

The Fuji RAW files are also super flexible but not quite to the degree of the Nikon, however the colours are just spot on and files generally require very little work. It’s also perfectly possible to shoot JPEG all day long with confidence that the files are going to look great, Fuji just knows how to nail colour. That’s all quite handy, as for whatever reason I find Fuji files are really quite slow to load in Lightroom (I’ve tried a very powerful MacBook Pro and a Surface Pro 4, both with the same results).

Conclusion

The D750 is an awesome bit of kit, I remember well the derision it was met with from many when it was announced, but it’s gone on to be a much loved professional workhorse that simply does everything really really well with the minimum of fuss. Is it fundamentally a ‘better’ camera than the X-T2, considering image quality, AF, battery life, low light abilities etc? Yes, it would be hard to argue otherwise. But, is the X-T2 close enough that it probably won’t matter for most people? I’d argue that would be a yes too.

The X-T2 does the fundamentals well enough that the inherent benefits for me (size, weight, electronic shutter, EVF, full LCD shooting etc.) just make it a more enjoyable camera to work with. The tactility of the controls and overall experience of simply operating the X-T2 are a genuine joy. What I lose in AF speed I gain by being able to hold the lighter kit for longer in odd positions etc. What I lose in creative DoF control I gain in the angles I can explore with amazing flexibility of the clever LCD screen and so on. As ever there are compromises on both sides, it’s up to individuals to decide which of those things mean more to them. Hopefully the images here show that the end results can be good either way.

By the way, all D750 images are on the left, X-T2 on the right.


Find me on Instagram (@fuji_fun), Flickr (Harry_S) and Twitter (@charrison_photo)

Disclaimer

All gear used has been personally paid for by myself. I have no affiliation with Fuji or Nikon. I attended the Festival of Speed as a regular member of the public and received no special access or benefits, all photos were taken from publicly accessible areas.

Festival of Speed Guide

I like having big international events within a few hours’ drive to go and photograph, but I’m not a fan of sitting in traffic or wrestling through massive crowds. You might think one has to come with the other, but there are ways of minimising the stress (and costs) at most big events, and it’s no different with the FoS.

Choosing a day

Thursday: Moving Motor Show

The Moving Motor Show is not technically part of the Festival of Speed proper, so don’t expect to see F1 cars on the hill, however for 2017 they have added Supercar runs to the usual test/demo drives on the hill. In theory the paddocks will be filling up with the main ‘event’ cars, but you’ll probably find some of them are missing or covered up for much of the day. If you want to enjoy the trade stands and have a good look at road cars from many manufacturers it’s the best day to go, but expect to be frustrated if you want to use it as a cheap/quiet day to get the full Festival of Speed experience.

Friday – Sunday: Festival of Speed

The event used to be run with Friday as the ‘enthusiasts day’, which was all about the cars rather than the stars, with Saturday and Sunday being the main event days when the F1 drivers etc would show up. Friday has pretty much morphed into a full-on day now, but it’s still by far the best option if you want to experience everything FoS has to offer without it being quite so busy.

Technically the main hill climb event is a competition with a final shootout on the Sunday, but in reality (particularly if you’re not near a PA or screen) it’s a bunch of cars hooning up the hill all weekend, which is fine by me.

Before the Event

If you’re on a budget visit the Goodwood website and note down the schedule for the day. You’ve immediately saved yourself £10+ on a (bulky) programme. I personally also take my own lunch and water, which saves a small fortune on the day. There are no specific restrictions on taking food and drink into the event but bear in mind that with the enhanced security checks required these days you may need to empty your bags at the gate.

Arriving

If you’re driving aim your satnav at PO18 0PX and follow the yellow AA signs once you get near. There are a number of car parks depending on which direction you arrive from, just be sure to remember the car park letter and location of your car (there are markers dotted around) before you head over to the event itself.

If you have a choice, I find Car Park A (West) one of the better ones if you want to jump straight into the paddocks on arrival. It’s big and flat (therefore copes with wet weather reasonably well) and the entrance brings you through the Moving Motor Show and into the paddocks, which is a nice natural way of seeing things whilst it’s quiet in the morning.

Car Parks open at 6:30 with the actual event gates opening at 7am. I always aim to arrive in the car park for 6:30 and have always driven straight in, there is very rarely any traffic at all to worry about at this time. I then stroll over to the entrance gate ready for opening. Queues are usually very small at 6:30-6:45 but start to build a little towards 7am.

The Static Displays

7am in the paddock is a revelation if you’ve only ever experienced it in the day or have seen pictures of crowds as far as the eye can see. I gradually head through the Moving Motor Show, into the Supercar and First Glance paddocks, then across to the Cartier Style Et Lux lawn, past the central feature and then up to the F1 and Motorcycle paddocks (which also contain all the other cars competing in the hill climb). As it’s fairly quiet you can work through all of that in a couple of hours quite comfortably. What you won’t get is the fun of large batches of those cars firing up and heading to the start line, but I tend to experience a bit of that on the way back down in the afternoon.

At this point the first batch of cars is usually hitting the hill, so I head for the top, but you can detour through the main manufacturer stands on your way up if you like.

The Hill Climb

The hill gets quieter the further you climb, with that in mind I go straight to the top! If you plan to do the same make sure you head up with the hillclimb on your left (i.e. the side with the manufacturer displays, not the paddocks), crossing via the bridge near the central feature. You can no longer get very far at all up the hill on the paddock side and the foot crossings are unreliable at best (20 minute waits are not uncommon).

I always position myself in the very last open section. Much like the paddocks at 7am it’s amazing how relaxing and quiet it can be up there. The area is sparsely populated during much of the day and it’s never difficult to get a spot at the rope. The only peaks are when the F1 cars take to the hill and when the supercar batch is running.

Vehicles are separated into 5 or 6 batches (Americana, Pre War, Supercars etc) and these are repeated in the afternoon, so if you don’t want to see everything again you can make the short walk onto the Rally Stage or head back down into the madness.

Photography

You really don’t need a long lens to make the most of Goodwood, if anything you’ll want to make sure you can go wide enough for the hill. I took a 200-500mm in 2016 (on a full frame body), 200mm was way, way too long for standard panning shots on the hill so I reverted to my 85mm prime. A 70-200 or similar is perfect.

Cars often appear out of the shadows and if they’re pressing on will be gone before you can even lift your camera up, so it pays to be prepared. Race cars are generally loud enough to hear coming, but with rally cars and off-roaders in the background it’s not always as obvious as it seems. It’s surprisingly easy to miss the supercars during their run, they follow each other fairly closely, don’t hang around and relatively speaking aren’t particularly loud.

A batch concludes with support vehicles and a safety car (usually the Mercedes F1 or DTM safety car), after a short break they will then come back down the hill (slowly, in theory) to return to the paddock, again concluding with the support vehicles and safety car. You therefore get two bites at the cherry, once when they’re attacking the hill proper, and once when they’re heading back down.

My favoured location at the top of the hill is so good because you get a nice clean background for panning on the way up, and a lovely angle of the cars coming back down the hill out of the trees. If you’re quick and have a zoom lens you can capture cars twice on the way up, the second time a rear view when they enter the final corner.

Leaving

I tend to leave mid-afternoon if I’m not staying in the area, 3pm seems early but having left the house at 4am and started in the paddocks at 7am that’s a solid 8 hours covered, tiredness is normally setting in by that point anyway! The other advantage is of course the lack of traffic getting out and missing the worst of the rush hour traffic in and around Chichester (although it’s still pretty bad). The other option is to stay pretty much to the end, the paddock remains open until 7pm, the crowds have usually thinned out and the roads are generally a bit clearer by that time.

Accommodation

As soon as the dates are announced local accommodation fills up; as the event draws closer you will need to look further and further afield to find anywhere to stay. It’s worth bearing in mind that Goodwood usually announce the date provisionally at first and do not confirm until the Formula One calendar is set in stone. For the 2017 event, for example, the provisional date subsequently clashed with the revised F1 calendar, it was immediately clear which weekend FoS was likely to move to but a little while before they announced it; this opens up a small window of opportunity to speculatively book some (hopefully refundable) accommodation.

Other than that, hotels around Portsmouth tend to have availability right up to the event itself. It’s a bit of a drive (45 minutes or so) but if you’re travelling from the other end of the country or something it’s a pretty good option. I managed to book a nice little hotel with breakfast for £70 just two weeks before the event this year.