Exploring Japan With the Fujifilm X-T30

In the middle of March, I decided I would go to Kyoto for cherry blossom season. Cherry blossom season, mind you, was to start two weeks after having this thought. Reasonably this meant I should have postponed my trip for the following year, but that’s not how I roll. I booked my flight and accommodations on the spot and I was ready to go. I would spend two weeks traveling between Tokyo, Kyoto and everything in between.

I wanted to travel as light as possible, this meant my full-frame Canon was to be left behind. The idea of not being able to properly photograph during my first trip overseas was making me anxious, so I had to dive into B&H looking for a relatively affordable mirrorless camera. Since I had owned a Fuji X camera before (and absolutely loved it), this was my first option. Fortunately for me, Fuji was coming up with the new (and very budget friendly) X-T30 and I was able to preorder it and get it a couple of days before leaving the States.

I didn’t even do my research about this camera; all I knew is it was made by a brand I love, it was small, I could afford the camera + lens bundle, and I was to spend the next 15 days documenting with it. I can’t stress enough how close I got this camera before leaving, so much so this was the first picture I took with it:

Kyoto, Japan. April 2019.

Kyoto, Japan. April 2019.

Being in Japan was an absolute dream, and photographing with the X-T30 was so easy and fun. The camera is extremely tiny yet ergonomic. One of the things I love so very much about Fuji x cameras is how easy it is to control your settings using the shutter speed dial and the aperture ring on the lens. Auto focus was the easiest I have ever experienced in a camera; in spite of having 91 focus areas, moving the focus point around the screen was extremely fast, easy and precise. On top of being an amazing camera overall, I paired it with the Fujifilm Cam Remote app to send to my phone my favorite images of the day to share with friends and family.

Since the purpose of this trip was not to get “professional” looking images, I didn’t give enough time to explore many functions of the camera other than what I needed to survive using manual mode. This led me to what I thought was the most terrible (and stupidest) mistake: when I imported the images to my computer back at home, I realized all of my images, and I mean all of them, where in jpeg. I was beyond frustrated. In my experience, RAW images are essential to get a decent looking image. I didn’t even want to look at the photos at this point, I was mad I didn’t realize this sooner.

Weeks after this heart-breaking realization, I decided to sit and go through the images to try to “rescue” a few. And, boy, was I surprised. The quality of the images are beyond my expectations. This camera renders images so, so beautifully. The transition from mid-tones to highlights is very smooth, the detail is exceptional, the colors are beautiful and vivid, and the dynamic range is astounding. The look of the images is very cinematic without even trying. Shadows are rich in detail, and images taken in low-light conditions were incredibly detailed. Just look at this straight out of the camera picture my friend Francisco took of me while on a train:

Arashiyama, Japan. April 2019.

Arashiyama, Japan. April 2019.

I went through the photos I thought would be the most troublesome: those with very high highlights and very dark shadows, those taken with low-light conditions, landscapes where I thought the sky would be lost, and pretty much any other disaster situation. And they were all (almost) perfect. I should probably mention a lot of the photos I took, I specifically took thinking they were in RAW. For example, taking photos during twilight with the white balance set to daylight thinking it's an easy fix in post. I thought for sure those images were dead, but most of them were rescued. These jpegs are much more malleable than I thought they would be.

Here is a selection of some of my favorite images:

Like I said, I didn’t research the camera before getting it, and I didn’t explore it much before starting to use it. So there are some features I didn’t even know it had, for example face/eye detection auto focus, which would’ve made my life easier when handing the camera to strangers to take my picture. I also found out the auto focus options are highly customizable. And as an added bonus, the camera shoots 4k video. Since I specialize in shooting portraits, I can’t wait to play around with the face detection auto focus plus video to create moving portraits.

I mentioned earlier I got a camera + lens bundle, so as you can imagine, I didn’t get a top notch lens. I chose the 23mm f/2, which is equivalent to a 35mm on a full-frame sensor, and it’s the cheaper version of the dreamy Fujinon 23mm f/1.4. But it gets the job done, and it does it much better than I would have expected. For an APS-C sensor and a “cheaper” lens, the detail is in-cre-di-ble, and the images are beautifully sharp.

Before concluding this entry, I’d like to point out the flaws as well. Chromatic aberration was evident in some images, particularly those of cherry blossoms with a very bright sky as background, however I think this would’ve been an easy fix if I had taken the pictures in RAW. In some photos, the vignette of the lens is pretty evident, but again, easy fix even as jpegs, even easier with profile lens corrections if in RAW.

I’ve never been a highly technical photographer. I don’t dig too much into specs or test cameras and lenses too much. I do not intend this to be a professional review more than my personal experience and observations using the camera. So far, I like it more than my Canon for travel, but I haven’t tried it in my element: studio portraiture. I hope I can soon get my hands on a lens better suited for portraits and a transmitter to explore portraits with it.

In conclusion: I highly recommend this camera for travel, personal use, and possibly for portrait work. But more on that later. <3


All images, except for the SOOC, edited using Jose Villa’s DVLOP presets.