London from helicopter with Fuji X-T2 and X-Pro2

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Andro Loria

"I am a self-taught photographer. My day job is an academic researcher/ lecturer based in London, UK. I started photography properly about four years ago when I switched from Canon to Fujifilm X system, that was X-Pro1 camera, and I have stayed with Fujifilm ever since. I like moving between styles: street, architecture, landscape and travel photography as it helps me to explore the world. I currently use X-T2 and X-Pro2 (lives in my bag) camera bodies and Fujinon prime and zoom lenses."

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Time has come to upgrade my old trusty pair of X-T1s so what better place is to test new X-T2 than a doors off helicopter (link at the end of this blog) ride over London?

After some thinking and web searching I opted for the X-T2 (with battery grip) and 50-140mm f2.8 lens combo, and X-Pro2 with 35mm f1.4 as a second camera, as I wanted to test a fast prime and was not sure how much light we would get at the end of the flight.

The flight was planned for just after 3pm and the idea was that we would fly over the Tower Bridge about half an hour before sunset. With luck we would have good light and great scenery. In fact we (three photographers sharing the flight) were very lucky and the dull grey sky broke into clouds and gave us what we were hoping for.

To get the best quality shots and relative freedom of view one needs to take doors off. This requires a proper secure harness with several attachments points to the helicopter, plus safety belt, plus both camera straps having to be secured by carabins too.

Despite all that, being strapped to a chair 1600 ft in the air still makes you being rather cautious when you lean out to take a shot. Having dual cards slots in both cameras and extra batteries in X-T2 comes handy as changing anything during the flight is not allowed, as no one wants anything to fly out of the cabin and hit the blades… for the same reason the lens hoods were removed too.

Once in the air you get very strong vibrations, noise and wind so my cameras were set at 1/1000s shutter speed, auto ISO from 200 to 800 and I would only change aperture depending on the shot I was taking.

Saying that, and you can see from the shot info I attached to each image, most of the shots were made with large apertures. I stopped down both lenses ocassionaly and only once used f8 when light was hitting me too hard – EVFs on both cameras are great to see what you get, that is if you can hold camera to your face in that vibration.

Post-editing was done in Lightroom 6 using Fujifilm Classic Chrome profile with some further adjustments. Click on any image to adjust it to your screen size.

London’s golden hour; X-T2 ISO640 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s

I found myself using both X-Pro2 with 35mm f1.4 and X-T2 (with vertical grip) and 50-140mm f2.8 lens pretty much equally. I did not note any difference in quality of shots as both cameras (and lenses) did a superb job.

Using joysticks for choosing focusing points was very easy, especially in a heavy vibration situation and both cameras were very comfortable to use. The only thing I would have liked differently is a tighter aperture ring on 35mm f1.4 – it is too soft, so it is too easy to move under helicopter flight conditions.

And yes, here comes a small rant, Fuji – why still only three frames per bracket? And why put movie mode onto the left subdial where brackets used to be on X-T1? It would make more sense to place it with the other extras on the right side of that dial together with panorama, filters etc.

Also it would make sense if info icons on EVF were to have the same locations on both X-Pro2 and X-T2, for the sake of clarity and simplicity … and finally, how about an option of saving your camera body settings onto an SD card as a file so you can quickly set up another new one?

Anyway, would I fly again – absolutely yes (see link below), would I take the same cameras – yes, may be swapping 35mm to 23mm f1.4 or 16-55 f2.8 lens.

St. Katharine Docks Marina; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f2.8 1/1000s
Wapping area; X-Pro2 ISO250 35mm f2.8 1/1000s
Canary Wharf; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f2.2 1/1000s
Waterloo Station; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f3.6 1/1000s
IMAX cinema, Waterloo Station; X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f3.6 1/1000s
Over the Archbishop’s Park, Lambeth area; X-Pro2 ISO540 35mm f3.6 1/1000s
Oval cricket ground X-Pro2 ISO320 35mm f3.6 1/1000s
Battersea power station being redeveloped; X-Pro2 ISO640 35mm f5.6 1/1000s
Battersea park; X-Pro2 ISO2800 35mm f5.6 1/1000s
Battersea park; X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f2 1/1000s
X-Pro2 ISO320 35mm f4.5 1/1000s
Parsons Green, Hurlingham Park; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mmf5.0 1/1000s
Battersea area; X-Pro2 ISO800 35mm f4.5 1/1000s
Saint Mary’s Church, Battersea Church Rd; X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f4.5 1/1000s
Battersea area opposite Imperial Wharf, X-Pro2 ISO400 35mm f4.5 1/1000s
Battersea Park; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
Barnes Wetland Centre; X-T2 ISO640 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
Imperial Wharf, Chelsea; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea Creek. Originally allowed to switch District line trains from steam to electricity. Being redeveloped now. X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
Worlds end estate, Chelsea; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1000s
South Kensington; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f5.0 1/1000s
Palace of Westminster – House of Parliament, Bridge and London Eye; ; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Westminster Cathedral, Victoria; ; X-T2 ISO250 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Palace of Westminster – House of Parliament; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs (left) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (right). Grey building on the right – 10 Downing Street. X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Buckingham Palace and St. JAmes Park; X-T2 ISO3200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Centre Point (left) and Central Saint Giles (colourful buildings) ; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
British Museum; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Aldwych, Strand meets Kingsway; X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
St. Paul’s cathedral; X-T2 ISO320 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Looking north between Bank and Moorgate. Guildhall bottom left, Finsbury Circus (right)X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
Looking north between Bank and Moorgate. Guildhall bottom left, Finsbury Circus (right)X-T2 ISO200 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
walkie talkie – not the prettiest skyscraper in London even from above .. X-T2 ISO320 50-140mm f3.6 1/1000s
London City; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s
London Shard and renovated London Bridge Station; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s
London City; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s
X-T2 ISO500 50-140mm f2.8 1/1250s
Limehouse area; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s
Canary Wharf; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f3.6 1/1250s
Millenium Dome (The O2 arena), North Greenwich; X-T2 ISO250 50-140mm f2.8 1/1000s
London City Hall, X-T2 ISO800 50-140mm f2.8 1/1600s
London City Hall; X-T2 ISO800 50-140mmf2.8 1/1600s
Grand Finale – every cloud has a golden lining in London 🙂 X-Pro2 ISO200 35mm f8.0 1/1000s

The London Helicopter


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  • Karlon Cromwell

    NICE WORK!

  • JT

    Great pictures and a wonderful light!