I was headed to several days of business in the Greater Phoenix area, a city I’ve traveled to and from on a variety of occasions. The city proper is… ok. But it’s the surroundings that always tend to grab me. So, in anticipation of my trip there, I prepared for my many meetings. And I also prepared for what might take place after them as well, choosing to delay my flight home by a day to allow for some planned wandering. This was to be, I thought, a jaunt west to Joshua Tree National Park. Internet research suggested the few hour trip there and back would yield a few good hikes and some wonderful photographic opportunities.
Fujifilm tops their line-up with two capable and internally (mostly) similar bodies: the X-Pro2, which I shoot, and the X-T2. Their marketing suggests that those who shoot with the Pro are refined, careful, more artistically plodding in their approach. They are hip and carry well worn leather messenger bags. They take their time as they walk along the ancient streets of Europe. T shooters are about speed, efficiency, gunning and getting. They don’t have time for anything but that. They often wear backpacks and hats of some type, and if need be, they will shoot in the rain. Oh yeah, Pro’ers use primes. T’ers, zooms. As I was headed out to hike in the desert, I wasn’t sure which of these two depictions more closely matched my objectives.
At the meeting, I mentioned to one of my colleagues from Arizona that I was going to spend my free day in Joshua Tree. He said: “Really? Do you know how far that is?” I shrugged it off. This guy has no idea to what extent I’ll do whatever it takes to get out there and early… staying up all night if I have to get a head start. Anything for the shot, I reasoned. He continued: “You’ll get out there, see your first set of Joshuas and think ‘that’s pretty cool’ and then for the rest of the day, you won’t say that again.”
“Get on out to the Superstition Mountains. They’re less than an hour out of here, at Lost Dutchman State Park. There are easy trails, hard trails and you’ll have a real challenge if you try to hike up the Flatiron.”
I google searched it on my phone minutes later and knew I had to change my plans.
As I own the X-Pro, there was no question on what body to bring. I was, however, pondering the lenses. I was hiking in the hot desert, so I knew I needed to minimize weight and because it was going to be dusty, I also wished to minimize lens changes. My choices were: 14/2.8 and 23/1.4 for lower weight and high quality – and because primes mate better to the X-Pro2 in general. Or, just take the 16-55 for added flexibility and no lens swapping. That 16-55 is a heavy beast, however. After some deliberation, I chose the second option. Reducing lens changes proved to be the deciding factor.
My colleague from the meeting steered me the right way. The Superstitions were spectacular, showcasing jagged cliffs and a hike up to and just beyond the base of the Flatiron that was reasonably challenging. I arrived by 6:30am so that I could be done before the heat of mid-day.
I appreciated the versatility of the zoom as the temperature rose. There was a hearty, dusty wind for the first hour or two out there and so not having to deal with lens changes proved to be a major plus… as I had anticipated.
I’m glad I mapped out the trails I was going to pursue ahead of time; though they were fairly well marked, it was not always obvious when on the trails themselves exactly which way to proceed at several of the major junctures. I’m also glad I opted to bring all six water bottles with me, even though that meant carrying them in a variety of awkward places (including side shorts pockets and dangling from the side of my camera bag lodged in the grips of a carabiner clip).
The 16-55 was sharp and I appreciated having the full zoom range with me; there were times when I wanted to shoot wide landscapes and there were times when a relative close-up on a micro level was more in order. And again, not having to change lenses was a significant plus. If Fujiflm could have figured out a way to keep a constant 2.8 throughout the zoom range while adding stabilization and preserving weather-sealing, then I would have been much happier. As it is, I am constantly wondering whether I would have been just as pleased with the excellent kit 18-55 zoom.
By noon, I was done with the hiking. The temperature had reached 96 degrees, my six bottles of water were long gone and I was ready for some serious shade. I didn’t make it all the way up to the very top of the mountains, but I have nothing to be ashamed of. It was a challenging hike for sure.
The 16-55 is front heavy on the lesser gripped X-Pro2 body. The X-T2 – better yet the X-T2 with grip – would be a more appropriate match for this lens. That being said, my kit set-up was superb. The lens performed quite admirably and I will bring a zoom lens the next time I hike for a long period of time and/or in 90+ degree weather.
And if you’re traveling in or near the Phoenix area, encounter your own Superstitions.