Fuji Musings - First Experiences and Plans

"I've Never Owned a DSLR"

 

I don't like writing about camera equipment, in general I don't like writing blog posts as I'd rather be working through my massive to do list. It's perhaps an indicator of the Fuji feeling that it kind of makes me want to write about their equipment in the same way it just kind of makes me want to pick it up and take pictures.

 

Well.... that headline statement is kind of true.  I've dabbled occasionally in the world of a used Canon 5D Mkii but each time I quickly disposed of it due to the large size and the 'hefty look' of it.  I've also owned a couple of Sony cameras with the translucent mirror which are similar but always felt like the first step on the way to the true mirrorless trend with their smaller size.  It might also be relevant to say I've never owned a manual film camera either given what I'm about to say below.

I want to write a few thoughts on various pieces of Fuji equipment I've had experience with when I can, and thought I'd start with how I dipped my foot in the water and haven't really looked back, but kind of still keep my Sony equipment for comfort/looking back.

 

ENTER THE FUJI

  • I dabbled with a X100 about 3 years ago and kind of hated it. It was so far removed from the ease of the Sony NEX7 to use I wondered what all the fuss was about. I've kept about 4 photos from that couple of weeks including this one.

  • I then saw the X-E1 and 18-55 lens about a year ago, that seemed like a highly recommended travel setup for only about £400 so I took a dip expecting to return it after a week or so.
  • I messed around with a few nature photos and portraits on the way to the shops and when I saw them in Lightroom I was blown away by the image in terms of sharpness and that 'something else' which I couldn't put my finger on......

Flying Back from the ShopsA random photo of me taken by Timbobettso that just seems to have that Fuji feel.

  • I also enjoyed poncing around looking like a film camera hipster with manual controls but ending up with high quality digital images I could apply my own style too.
  • I decided I needed to see how the prints compared to my then current camera the Sony A7, especially for the nature shots I was into at that moment in time.  Again I was blown away with the prints which had an extra crispness and again that 'something else' about them.
  • The Fuji X-E1 suddenly became a camera that made me want to go and create more images, the way every camera does when you first purchase it but this feeling has really lasted.
  • Having seen the image output I decided to get the 60mm macro lens for the Sony.  It was much smaller than the Tamron 90mm I had for the Sony and I hoped to add a touch of the crispness I'd experienced with the 18-55 lens.  I wasn't disappointed at all and I soon found ways to make excuses to go out shooting more moody nature images.  Trips to the shops became hours long exciting routes taking in the wildflowers and hedges along the way with a small macro setup that produced images I love and looked all hipster cool to boot.  The idea of doing any of this kind of photography with the Sony or a DSLR seems unrealistic.  If i took the full size kit out I'd look like a photographer and I didn't want that, I still wanted to look like a person on the way to the shops mostly.

SONY v FUJI v SONY v FUJI v MYSELF v IMPOSSIBLE

So I now had a Sony setup which had served me really well and I'd fallen for the Fuji feel.  I searched for the kind of Fuji v Sony phrase so many times, looking for someone else to make my decision for me.  I'd really enjoyed using the Fuji but I'd also created so many of my favourite photos with the Sony A7 I couldn't think to just discard it.  There was also the technical differences at play which you can't fully ignore.

I literally resent myself every time I type such silly questions into google hoping for someone to have posted an impossible answer to an unnecessary question.  I still do it however and have read so many arguments about the Sony Full Frame mirrorless systems and the Fuji systems being the best.  In summary I can tell you if you want the best features of each camera model and brand you will need to buy both cameras and native lenses.  If you want to buy only one and like most people can only afford to invest properly in only one then you will lose something.  Here's my currently logic on the pro's and con's, not about the handling and the tech spec's as such but the practical aspect's for my photography style and subjects.

I currently own a Sony A7, Sony Nex 7, Fuji X-E1 and Fuji X-T10.  Yes that's too many cameras!

  • For me personally I want the extra megapixels offered by the Sony sometimes as I enjoy cropping and playing with images after taking them, especially with macro nature shots to isolate elements of the image.  I have from time to time been frustrated by the 16mp of the Fuji in this regard.
  • I also find the Sony is capable of recovering much 'nicer' shadows that are less noticeably noisy in landscape images.  I've processed some images with the Fuji which leaves me frustrated in this regard also and wishing I had taken the Sony A7 out to play.
  • I found the Sony FE 70-200mm lens on the A7 to be a wondrous combination for my landscape images, the Sony really allowing recovering of the shadows and the lens being consistently crisp.

  • However I simply hadn't fully invested in the Sony FE lenses.  I had the kit zoom lens and it had produced some nice images but always felt like a lens I wouldn't take out to anything but family trips due to it being a compromise from prime lenses and not matching the potential of the sensor.  I have the FE 70-200 lens but all my others (20mm f2.8, Minolta 50mm f1.7, Tamron 90mm f2.8) were A Mount lenses converted to the A7.  This added bulk and weight and extra bits of kit but it was way cheaper than the Sony FE offerings which weren't quite as numerous at that time.

Looking back on these images now I wonder what I am doing considering taking up the Fuji system full time and putting all the Sony equipment up for sale.  Maybe this article is a farewell to the Sony equipment that has led to much loved images. Certainly the Sony A7 made me feel like a legitimate photographer who could deservedly hold his own getting up in the morning for sunrise, setting up the tripod and developing more creative images.  I had always felt the NEX 7 was a functional camera but without a Full Frame sensor to complete with the 5d Mkii I'd feel inferior rummaging around the trees of Bole Hill Quarry and bumping into a 5D wielding professional.

 

MY CURRENT THOUGHTS AND PLANS

As I say above there is no single system to suite my needs, if I could or can afford it maybe holding onto both is an option but keeping the A7 and sticking with the A mount lenses doesn't seem to make sense given there are now well regarded native FE lenses available.  To get the lens setup comparable to my current A Mount lenses would however set me back around £1,700.

I have recently bought a Fuji X-T10 taking advantage of some black Friday discount as one of the frustrations with the Fuji X-E1 was it's slightly slow operating speed (bracketing would take an age), it's lack of a couple of buttons and it's lack of a flip screen for the low down close up nature photos I regularly take.  For £350 it seemed like a small price upgrade from the £200 I'd paid for the used X-E1 for a lot more functionality, it's also a little smaller and lighter.

I also now own the Fuji 55-200mm lens so have a fairly complete focal range covered in with the sharp zooms and along with the 60mm macro I can take all the images I love at high quality with three fairly small lenses compared to perhaps 5 larger lenses with my Sony setup. The 55-200 is a nice sharp lens (up to 135mm) and smaller in the bag than the Sony 70-200.

What I lack however is a wide angle lens for the Fuji and some of the juicy sounding prime lenses, especially a comparable 50mm prime a focal length I've fallen in love with since owning the Minolta f1.7.  To add the primes & wide angle option would probably cost around £1100 with used lenses, so less than getting something comparable for the Sony setup.

If size and convenience wasn't a consideration the perfect setup for me would be the Sony A7 with 20mm f2.8 for wide angle work and the FE 70-200 for tele zoomed work.  The Fuji would then cover the macro work and general travel camera with it's zooms and a mid range prime, it doesn't seem sensible however to have two completely different camera setups in your bag with such added weight and accessories etc.

My final though is how much I love the feel of the X-T1 when's I've briefly played with it and it's weather sealing would be an added bonus for Lake District trips and the like.  If I do stick with the Fuji system I'd probably end up getting one second hand for around £400 after selling the X-E1 and maybe the 18-135 lens as the ultimate 1 lens travel kit (adding another £350 for a used lens).  This takes the Fuji option for me up to around £1,900 I think I could then sell the Sony equipment for something like that amount to be cost neutral have 2 lovely Fuji cameras with a lovely set of lenses..........

........but only 16mp and those slightly too grainy landscape shadows.

dagnabit

I suppose if I went for the Sony lens investment option I could sell the Fuji kit for around £600 reducing that option to £1,100 investment, hmmmmmmm.  Then again what about the Sony A7rii, perhaps the ultimate camera! Small enough in size with a 35mm f2.8 on it, high resolution, in built stabilisation, good shadow recovery. I don't need it now but in a year's time with a price drop that's one hell of a camera to stick on the back of my existing lenses.  Then again would be A Mount lenses really get the best of out such a high res camera. It certainly wouldn't produce quite the same quality and feel or images as the Fuji. Do I really need such high resolution.  In truth yes sometimes.  Not for large prints sizes but for allowing crops on some of my work and still leaving a useable image.

As you can see I'm still undecided in so many ways and I'm trying to wait and see what Fuji do next in terms of sensor technology and to get my hands on some of the Fuji primes to see how much they improve from the zoom lens.  I have also ordered a silver 27mm prime lens to attach to the X-E1 just because it's silver mostly and small.

It's funny how a big part of any future decision has a tinge of emotional factoring, knowing which images I've taken with each camera etc and the love of the Fuji look and feeling. None of those things relate to technical spec, jargon or cost really.  I mean just look at all those dials they do exactly the same as the boring black Sony dials but I mean, just look at those dials ...........

Fuji X Series DialsFuji X series dialsLook at all those dials and retro vibes.

In future posts I'm going to talk more about my experience with each Fuji lens and some examples of image processing that has worked and where I've struggled with each system.

 

Until then, thanks for reading.  Hopefully this is a bit different from all the standard camera reviews and is based on a genuine long term experience related more to photography style that the camera numbers game.

 

Please feel free to get in touch via comments or email with your thoughts, experience & questions.

Also check out my latest work, styles and subjects.

http://dan-scape.co.uk/latest-danscapes

Fuji X series dialsThe Fuji feeling from behind the camera.

 


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Dan is a landscape & nature photographer from Sheffield in the UK.

Catch my latest travels on Instagram here.

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