I recently bought a Fuji X-T4 with a specific goal in mind: To set it up as a compact cinema camera for small narrative productions.
While I already own other cinema cameras including the Arri Alexa 4:3, none of them are optimal for projects where I need a small footprint – like guerrilla shoots, indie productions, and personal films.
In all of the above instances, I am looking for a best of both world’s scenario: Incredible image quality in the smallest possible package.
There are many other great mirrorless/DSLR cameras out there that could have worked for this setup too – Some with even more dedicated video features than the X-T4. But for my needs and priorities, no other camera ticked as many boxes.
The X-T4 is just compact enough to be discreet, has an amazing Super 35mm sensor, high bitrate recording, image stabilization, and tons of other pro video features.
A Minimalist Fuji X-T4 Setup
From the get-go, my intention was to keep the X-T4 as stripped down as possible, only adding absolutely mandatory accessories to make it workable as a dedicated cinema camera.
Many filmmakers like to rig up their cameras to look bigger and more aggressive. They add cages and rails and to give the camera a more “professional” appearance – but this is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I have plenty of options for larger form factor cameras when I need them, and with the X-T4 I wanted to go the exact opposite direction.
I knew that if my X-T4 wound up being even 1/4 the size and weight of my Arri Alexa, it would have been too big to serve my purposes.
So with that in mind, I went out and purchased the bare essentials to make the X-T4 operate as a cinema camera. Below is a breakdown of the few items I actually purchased – I will likely not get anything else above and beyond what is outlined below…
Atomos Shinobi 5″ Monitor
There were really only two choices for me when it came to monitors. The Atomos Shinobi or the Ninja V.
Both are available in 5” models, which is just compact and discreet enough for my needs. And both monitors are 1000nit, making them suitable for shooting in bright sunlight.
The main difference between them of course, is that the Shinobi is a monitor only, whereas the Ninja V also acts as a recorder.
This made the choice really difficult, as I liked the idea of having a recorder that could also capture the full 4:2:2 color the X-T4 (as opposed to only internal 4:2:0). I also liked the idea of recording natively to ProRess 422 HQ for a more seamless post-production pipeline.
But ultimately, I decided against the Ninja V.
After doing some tests with internal recording, it was clear that the X-T4 footage held up incredibly well – even in 8bit.
Yes, the 10 bit would offer some marginal benefit to image quality, but in the real world it would be negligible if not invisible.
And as much as I would have loved that easy ProRes workflow, it was a worthy sacrifice to take advantage of some of the other benefits of the Shinobi.
Notably, the battery life on the Shinobi is significantly better than the Ninja V. I haven’t done a side by side test, but would estimate the Shinobi’s battery life to be at least 2 – 3 x better than the Ninja V. On a single Sony battery, the monitor can run nearly all day without a battery swap.
This, coupled with the slightly smaller design of the monitor and the lighter weight, made it a no-brainer. And the fact that it only cost $299 + $100 for the battery kit was pretty great too.
So far I’ve been really impressed with the monitor. It does feel somewhat delicate given its size and build profile, but it’s quality and functionality are really impressive.
Leica 50mm R Lens With Adapter
While I will of course use many lenses with the X-T4, I wanted to have a default “go-to” lens that could stay on the camera at all times.
It would have made sense to find a zoom lens for this purpose, but they are too slow and (usually) too big for my needs. Ultimately a single prime lens was the way to go.
As I’ve written about before, the 50mm focal length is my favorite for all round cinematography. I would even shoot a whole film on just a 50mm if I had to, much like these films did using other focal lengths.
When I bought the camera I also purchased a TT Artisan 50mm T1.2 lens for Fuji X-Mount. The quality really surprised/impressed me, especially given the $97 price tag! I plan to do a dedicated review on this lens in the near future for those interested.
Initially, I assumed this would be the lens that would live on my little X-T4 setup.
But I couldn’t help but wonder how my Leica R 50mm lens (also purchased used for about $100) would pair with the X-T4.
So with that, I picked up a $20 Fotsay adapter from Amazon and tried pairing the camera with the Leica 50mm. After some quick test shots, it became clear this was a winning combo. The Leica R glass added just enough character and softness to the 4K footage to give it a slightly more natural/organic feel.
It’s also pretty fast at F2.
The lens hasn’t been adapted for cinema use, but that’s perfectly fine for my specific needs. I don’t plan to add rails or a follow focus to my setup, so I don’t need gears or a de-clicked iris. I can work with it as a stills lens and get exactly what I’m looking for.
As for ND filters, right now I am using screw on (non-variable) Tiffen ND filters with a step up ring. I may upgrade these in the future after more testing.
Small Rig Tilting Hot Shoe Mount
The only other item I purchased for the Fuji X-T4 (other than an HDMI cable) was this tilting hot shoe mount from Small Rig:
I’ve always been a fan of top mounted monitors, in part because I’m tall. A side mounted monitor forces me to hold the camera up higher, creating a downward point of view when shooting handheld. Top mounted allows me to hold the camera below my own eye level, which is usually a better position to be in.
Mounting the monitor straight to the camera keeps everything more compact too.
Even a small arm connected to the hot shoe (or a cage) would make the setup less discreet. The most low-key configuration is a top mounted monitor, ideally angled close to 90 degrees.
I didn’t know what to expect with this little mount, but so far it’s been great. It comes with a little allen key for adjusting the tension, and it sits really snug on the camera body.
The Shinobi is really light too – even with a battery – so I don’t worry about straining to the hot shoe mount on the X-T4. It never feels overloaded… Although just to be safe, I tend to take the monitor off when the camera is resting.
Final Thoughts On A Minimalist Fuji X-T4 Rig
Right now this setup is working perfectly for my needs. It’s about as small as I could get, but still perfectly functional. Shooting with it is really comfortable, and so far it has led to some amazing visual results.
Obviously this type of minimalistic approach isn’t best for everyone. If the Fuji X-T4 is your main camera, you may want to rig it up to be bigger and better with additional peripherals.
But if you’re like me and you prefer to keep your X-T4 lean and mean, this is about as compact and efficient as it gets. And for under $500 including some awesome glass, you can’t beat the price.
I’m going to be posting lots of X-T4 material shot with the camera, and more detailed thoughts on each peripheral soon. Be sure to stay tuned for that!
What’s your ideal mirrorless setup? Leave a comment below.
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