My Gear of the Year pick relates to the photos I've most enjoyed taking and the ones I'm most proud of. I've chosen the kit I used to shoot my favorite images of the year: all 17,100 of them. Specifically two series of 8MP images. Shot at a rate of 23.97 frames per second.

Because, while I've been rather enjoying thinking in 1:1 terms for Instagram this year and have had a chance to engage with and shoot some experienced models in pre-lit setups, the thing I've enjoyed most of all this year has been shooting and editing 4K video from the Fujifilm X-H1 and X-T3.

The great outdoors

The first opportunity came in April, when I took some time off work to walk Hadrian's Wall: the path of a Roman fortification that ran across the North of England. I had to choose a camera that I could carry on my back for five consecutive days, along with a week's clothes and full wet-weather gear. This ruled out the GFX 50S because, while I thought it would be funny to haul a massive great medium format lump out of my bag every time I wanted to take a picture, it also struck me as the kind of joke that would wear thin pretty quickly.

When planning for my trip, I wasn't sure what sorts of things I'd be shooting.
Framegrab from 4K footage

My next thought was the Sony a7 III. It's a terrific camera for both stills and video, but the more I thought about which lenses to take, the more it started to creep towards GFX proportions (the Sony 35mm F1.4 is optically very good but it's neither small, nor especially light).

The compromise ended up being the Fujifilm X-H1 paired with a 23mm F2 and 18mm F2. This little kit, plus a vari-ND filter, filter adapter so it would fit both lenses and a USB battery pack to keep both the camera and my phone alive during the trip, ended up being pretty convenient. Two card slots meant I could have a big, fast card dedicated to video and stills going to the other slot (perhaps the first time I've found this feature useful).

The X-H1 and a pair of lenses was light enough that I didn't mind carrying it for five days.
Framegrab from 4K footage

The video I captured is somewhat shambolic: I'd not really decided whether I was going to shoot video or stick mainly to stills until the second day of the walk, by which stage I was a Transatlantic flight away from any of the audio equipment from the office and a day's walk from anywhere I could buy some. The result is an audio track that's primarily WHSSHHHSSSSSWUHWUHWUHHHHHHHHHind noise.

There were certainly times I wished for something wider than the 34mm equiv that the 18mm lens gives with the X-H1's cropped video.
Framegrab from 4K footage

But the footage itself is better than I could have hoped for. Highlight warnings gave me enough information to exposure correctly and the camera's stabilization meant I could shoot hand-held, so long as I didn't try to pan (which the IS would try to fight against). But the levels of detail are stunning, even when downscaled for playback on a lower-res device.

It's hard to argue with this level of detail (shot hand-held into a significant headwind).
Framegrab from 4K footage

The final result is too long, too rough and too personal to be shared here, but it's ended up being an excellent memento of something I hope to remember for the rest of my life. Which presumably isn't why the color mode is called Eterna, but still.

Back in Seattle

The video I shot with the X-T3 has things in common with my X-H1 project in that both depict events with an inherent narrative: The X-H1 video follows a path from Carlisle to Wallsend, and the X-T3 follows the creation of a sculpture from a roughly-shaped lump of clay through to being a finished, painted object. But beyond that, they couldn't be more different. The X-T3 project was much more planned, in the sense that I went into it with a much clearer picture of what I wanted to shoot. I even remembered to think about audio for most of the shoot.

Without any in-body stabilization I had to teach myself how to use a handheld gimbal if I wasn't going to be limited to tripod shots (itself an enjoyable process). But, unlike the X-H1, I was able to use the full width of the sensor. (I'd ended up using the 18mm lens for almost all of my UK video, since the X-H1's 4K crop gives it a wide-ish 34mm equivalent field of view, leaving me without the wide and wide-ish combination I thought I'd packed). Moreover I felt much more able to trust the camera's autofocus than I had with the older camera.

Again, I shot primarily in Eterna, but the T3 also gave me the option to shoot 10-bit Log, for the times I needed to capture more dynamic range, with the knowledge that Fujifilm provides an F-Log to Eterna LUT to make sure it matched the rest of my footage.

The final video is one of the best things I've done in any medium for quite some time, in part thanks to the lessons I'd learned on my UK trip.

To end the video I had the idea of a matched transition: lining-up the two shots I wanted to fade between.
Framegrabs from 4K footage

Both are really good stills cameras, of course and I've had a number of positive experiences of shooting with them both. But it's been the process of shooting and editing these two videos I've really enjoyed. For instance, I knew I wanted to start and finish the X-T3 video in a natural setting. I'd worked out the transition at the beginning, but I couldn’t work out how to get back again at the end. Having the idea of a matched transition (even if I've not edited it perfectly) was one of the single most satisfying creative moments I've had in a very long time.

I remain primarily a keen stills photographer, and both the X-H1 and X-T3 are superb stills cameras, as well as really capable video tools.

I still think of myself primarily as a keen amateur photographer. But after my experience along Hadrian's Wall, my favorite cameras are increasingly the ones that make it easy for me to shoot some stills, grab some video, then go back to shooting stills. All the brands are getting better at this, but with the X-H1 and X-T3, Fujifilm got closest, first.