Monday, February 16, 2015

Published 2:31 PM by with 5 comments

A Love Affair with the Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Camera



Photography rules my life. It's not just a passion. It dictates everything I see and a lot of what I feel. I wake up appreciating the miracle of modern technology every day. When I decide to change a camera system, it's a huge deal because I invest a lot of importance in the tools that help me express my creativity.

For years I was a videographer/filmmaker and spent hours, days and weeks researching and learning about every camera in my budget range before I would settle upon one that stood out above all.

The Canon 5D Mark II was one of those cameras that changed my life. It helped me capture what was in my head. I put the homework in over the years to reach a point where I technically knew how to make a photograph from what I was seeing in front of me. I loved my 5D Mark II. It made beautiful and huge photographs. Of course, I needed some good lenses and I also needed a battery grip and then I needed to buy some heavy duty accessories to support all the added bulk and weight. I'm not gonna lie, I went through a period of time where size mattered and I wanted to impress clients and just regular people in the street. And I got lots of attention. "That's some camera you've got there!", "Wow, what kind of camera is that???", etc. I loved it for a while and then I didn't. Then it became a distraction from what I was trying to accomplish.

It even got to the point where I didn't want to drag it around with me for a whole day. I was fatigued with all the gear. I could never make my mind up about which lens I should bring with me so I brought a bunch. The weight hurt my back and it took away the spontaneity of shooting from the hip (mainly because my hip was in pain, LOL). Still, when the 5D Mark III came out, I immediately sold my Mark II and got it. It had a tiny increase in resolution and had better moire management for video and a few other things I can't even remember at this point. 

Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. ISO 800 1/40s  f5.3


I had never taken mirrorless cameras seriously up to that time. I looked at them the way I would look at cheap point and shoot cameras. There was no way the image or the experience of shooting would ever come close to that of my big ass DSLR.

In August of 2014 my wife and I fulfilled a dream we had had for nearly a decade. We sold our house, quit our jobs and got ready to travel around the United States in a motorhome. We downsized everything. We had an estate sale. We sold it all. We whittled everything down to what could fit in our tin can on wheels. We were happy and the more I simplified my life, the bigger and bulkier my DSLR became. It was psychological but also very real at the same time. The space all the gear was taking up and then dragging it all out when we reached a new place to photograph was really cumbersome.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-35mm lens. ISO 200 0.1s  f4.3


I read a blog post by a photographer I follow and she had just sold her DSLR in favor of a mirrorless camera. She said it was liberating and that she could get back to the business of enjoying her craft. I was halfway through the short post when I had that Eureka moment. I knew I had to get rid of my albatross. 

It was hard to ignore all the buzz around the Fujifilm X-T1 over the past year and I began to read the articles. I thought it was just hype until many photographers I highly respect start incorporating this little mirrorless wonder into their workflow. Some just let their DSLRs flounder on the shelf indefinitely. They raved about the EVF like it was the second coming. I read the same blog posts and articles all over again and spent many a sleepless night figuring out if I should jump on the bandwagon.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. ISO 200 1/220s  f5


I didn't have the luxury of buying a new system and keeping the DSLR. I had to either be happy with what I had or take the risk of selling it all and trying something completely different.

A friend suggested that I rent the X-T1 before I decided but I couldn't wait. I immediately started listing my lenses on eBay and Craigslist. When I had sold a few of them, I bought the Fujifilm X-T1 kit with the 18-135mm lens. Before it arrived, I had night sweats. Was I making a big mistake? Was this going to be a major step down from my beloved DSLR? I was past the point of no return because I had by now sold nearly all my DSLR gear.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. ISO 200  1/300s  f5






The day the X-T1 arrived and I took it out of the box (I managed not to rip the box apart in my excitement), I remember thinking that it was so much smaller than my Canon DSLR. It almost felt like a toy at first. At the same time, It felt substantial because of the amount of metal in the body. The lens felt really solid too. I couldn't try it until I charged the battery up a little. When it was finally ready, I turned it on, looked into the EVF and my heart almost stopped.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. ISO 200  1/350s  f5




I'm older than a lot of photographers but I remember the thrill of looking through a kaleidoscope when I was a kid. It was like looking into another world, a magical world. That's how I felt when I looked through the EVF. It was not only as good as people had described, it was better. Way better. Within about 5 minutes, the camera felt like it fit my hand like a glove. My limbs had become used to handling the beast (my DSLR) so it took them a minute to get used to something more natural.

Not having to dive into menus for things that are commonly changed (like shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc.) was a dream. I realize that you don't really need to go to the menu in a 5D for such things but there is something much more organic about the X-T1. It's like a bunch of scientists studied the way we intuitively do things and reinvented the wheel all over again but this time more efficiently and logically. They made a new kind of camera, not dramatically evolved from what we are used to but enough to make me sit up and take notice and once again get excited about photography.

Fujifilm X-T1 with18-135mm lens. ISO 200  1/240s  f8


Seeing in front of me how the photograph will look before I shoot is liberating. It takes a lot of the thinking part out of the experience and lets me pay more attention to the creative part. The quality of the images is amazing which is no surprise given Fuji's reputation.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 56mm lens.  ISO 800  1/850 f1.2


My new camera now perfectly complements my new lifestyle. I no longer have to drag around heavy equipment and I don't miss my DSLR one little bit. Not a shred.

I was a Canon fanboy for a long time but I am completely confident about my new-found commitment and dedication to Fujifilm. They have proven over and over again that they listen to and care about their customers. They stand tall and reintroduce excitement into the world of photography and I, for one, am grateful  and better off for it.
      edit

5 comments:

Fred Wishnie said...

So good to see you back. I was beginning to wonder whether you had taken up a new hobby. :-)

Steven Dempsey said...

Thanks Fred. Sometimes you just gotta regroup.

Margaret Wright said...

I've been thinking about it. I'm not quite there yet but you make a good case!

Bill said...

I went through this in the 35mm days, but the lighter cameras were no where near as good as you can get today.
Glad to see you went to Rustlin Robs, we expect to be there in March.

tricia mckellar said...

Steven,

I love so much about this post! The fuji mirrorless cameras get great reviews for image quality-- I'm looking forward to seeing more of your fuji shots.

For me, paring down was a kickstart to my creativity. For some reason less gear, smaller gear, fewer choices got me more inspired to create and think about my content even more.

And I totally relate to this: "I'm not gonna lie, I went through a period of time where size mattered and I wanted to impress clients and just regular people in the street." I went through this too! I wanted people to know I was serious about my photography with my big camera and big lenses. Now I'm not sure what I want them to know. I don't know. Am I serious about my art? I don't know, but I'm loving every minute of it. :)